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The Nearness of You

Chapter Text

Detective Gavin Reed had quite the reputation surrounding his name. If you asked the officers of the Central Precinct, he was demanding, strict but fair, and a damn good investigator on top of it. Ask his colleagues, he was a loud-mouth with a shitty attitude and a disciplinary folder doing its best to match their wayward lieutenant’s... But he got the damn job done so that counted for something. Ask his few close friends and he was a grade-A asshole with a good heart and a soft spot for broken things. (His ever-growing collection of rescued animals was a point of much teasing.) Ask his half-brother and he’d probably wonder why you were wasting his time, they hadn’t spoken in years. But he might just admit to what strength of character the other man possessed, growing up as he had.

Needless to say, no one had ever referred to the mulish, belligerent, often downright hostile detective as a hopeless romantic.

Which is why Nines found the current proceedings so fascinating.

The day had been routine, nothing out of the ordinary. He and his partner had just closed their latest case, a supposed murder-suicide with enough suspicious clues to lead them all the way up to indicting the CEO of a major corporation. Detective Reed was perhaps in what could even be considered a good mood for him, calling his android partner twenty-one percent fewer derogatory names than the norm. Nines himself was reveling in the satisfaction of another job well-done as the two of them finished typing up their reports.

There was a constant murmur of voices always filling the precinct, an auditory haze Nines found rather calming for the most part. He had many noise filtering programs constantly running at any one moment, always hoping that his built-in advantages might come in handy should a suspect attempt violence or if a fight was brewing. He’d also discovered that his partner’s name was usually a gateway to inflammatory remarks and so, between one keystroke and the next, he froze, pulling his attention away from his report to glance over towards the reception area.

It was no exaggeration to say he was surprised by what he heard: “—delivery for a Detective Gavin Reed?” a masculine voice he did not recognize said.

“It is precinct protocol that you allow me to scan any and all deliveries being made. Do you agree to these terms?” Ah, but this voice he did know. Kelly, the AV500 who had been hired as a receptionist in the wake of the new android employment laws.

“Sure, sure. You do what you need to,” the man continued. Nines allowed himself a moment to wonder what exactly was being delivered as he waited to hear more. A quick glance at his partner showed he was completely oblivious. Well, of course, Nines had auditory receptors that ranged far beyond even the most keen-eared human. Detective Reed was none-the-wiser to the proceedings happening in the lobby.

Perhaps that was a good thing, Nines thought, as he watched the delivery man enter the station after a quick “All clear! Here, let me give you a guest pass,” from Kelly. The man was young [ Name: Trevor Patrick Durham, Age: 23, Born: 09/13/2016], blond-haired, green-eyed, conventionally attractive according to human standards. His t-shirt was emblazoned with the logo for a local florist [ Kabloom Flowers!, founded circa 2033, Address: 1336 Joliet Pl., Detroit, MI 48207] which was fitting since he was carrying a very ambitious display of daisies, gaillardias, tiger lilies, daffodils and sunflowers, all neatly arranged in a stylish glass vase. The colors were bright and cheerful and they looked alarmingly out of place here in the dreary walls of the station.

Nines could not say what possessed him to rise suddenly from his seat and retreat across the room to Connor’s desk except that it offered a much better view of what was sure to be a rather… interesting series of events. Connor had his attention already fixed upon Detective Reed’s desk, his LED flashing yellow as he tried to mask his interest by fiddling with some of the loose files he had scattered across the workspace. Connor sent Nines a wireless ping as he approached, the android-equivalent of a simple greeting, but he did not turn his focus away from, as Hank would say, the trainwreck about to happen.

“Excuse me!” Durham was addressing Officer Miller, now. “I’m looking for a…” he glanced at the small card tucked away in the bouquet, “...Detective Gavin Reed? I have a delivery for him?”

Miller’s eyes were positively bulbous as he stared at the flower arrangement. “Y-You’re delivering those ... to Detective Reed?” The astonished incredulity was readily apparent in his voice. Miller shook his head but directed the man with a pointed finger. “His desk is right there… Uh, well… yeah. That’s him.” Miller was obviously nervous and he made a point of taking several large steps back from his desk. “Good luck!” he called to the bewildered Durham as he all-but-ran towards the breakroom.

Nines admitted he felt quite the sense of anticipation as he watched the blond man approach the desk. Detective Reed was still blithely typing along, whistling an off-key rendition of some new pop song in a rare display of good humor. Nines almost wished the delivery man had not come today, but the opportunity to witness his partner’s reaction to this display far outweighed any goodwill he may have harbored for the man. Perhaps that made him a bit of an asshole. Nines was fine with that assessment.

“Detective Gavin Reed?” Durham was smiling cheerfully as his shadow fell across the messy desk.

Nines spared one final moment to be amused as he watched Connor try to shift the bamboo arrangement he kept on his desk to try and hide behind. Nines took no such precaution; he stood straight and tall in the open, very obviously staring from across the room.

“Yeah? Who’s asking?” Detective Reed spoke up, clicking through his menus as he saved the report. He gave a sigh of relief which was cut abruptly short as he turned in his seat to behold the blond man.

“Special delivery for that special someone!” Durham sing-songed with a jovial grin, moving to set the vase down on the corner of the detective’s desk.

Reed was understandably confused. “Whoa, wait wait wait!” He jumped up from his seat, doing his best to indicate his bafflement by flailing his arms indiscriminately. “I think you got the wrong person, buddy. I didn’t order any fuckin’ flowers.”

Durham was not fazed. “No, sir! These were sent by a third party! I’m just the middle man, but it looks like you have a secret admirer!” Several ooh’s were heard issuing from the breakroom and Nines spared a glance to see Officers Miller and Chen guffawing from the safety of their flimsy cover. A line of other officers were clustered with them, peeking around the corner not-so-surreptitiously. They all had varying degrees of amusement etched upon their faces.

“What the fuck ?! Who the hell is out there admiring me ?!” Nines thought that was a bit of a sad sentiment to express. Beside him, Connor’s breathing subroutine seemed to be malfunctioning as he stuttered on his next inhale.

“I’m afraid I don’t know, sir. That’s part of the mystery, right? Detectives love a bit of mystery, don’t they?” Durham was impressively cheerful in the face of Reed’s express frustration. Nines quite admired his tenacity.

Reed was quiet as he stared at the arrangement, finally ceasing his errant gesticulations. “... Fine, whatever. Just get the fuck outta here.”

The delivery man shrugged. “I just need your signature here, sir, and I’ll be on my way.” He proffered a small touchscreen device to the frowning Reed, holding out a stylus with his other hand. The detective wasted no time in scrawling out the chicken scratch he called a signature and thrusting the device back into the blond’s chest.

“Alright, now scram!” he said, making a shooing motion with his hand. He was still staring at the bright display of foliage now resting upon the file for a grisly dismembering case. (Nines appreciated the irony.)

With a shrug and a “I hope you enjoy the rest of your day with your custom-made Kabloom arrangement!” Durham was away, taking his oppressive cheerfulness with him. There were still sounds of chittering and muffled laughter issuing from all around the room and Connor still had yet to breath. They all stared as Reed slowly sat back down, eyes never leaving his gift. The whole precinct was at a wary standoff, waiting to see if the other shoe would drop.

The slamming open of a door made them all jump. (Yes, even Nines. He was too caught up in the moment, it seems.) “Why the hell are you all just standing around? Has crime decided to take a fucking holiday today and no one let me know? Get back to work!” The angry voice of Captain Fowler echoed through the room and the Detroit Central Police Force remembered that their days consisted of more than waiting for another of their resident asshole’s temper tantrums. All around them activity resumed and, at long last, Connor exhaled. The tension was broken.

Nines could find no reason to remain where he was, especially not when he still had to finish up his own report. With a sigh, he made his way back over to his desk but not before stopping to check up on his partner. The partner he still cared about, despite his disagreeable nature. “Are you alright, Detective Reed?”

The man was rubbing his thumb along the glossy card that had come with the flowers. A quick glance and Nines read:

To: Detective Gavin Reed
From: Your Secret Admirer!


May your smile be as warm as this summer day. ♥

The detective turned to him, dropping the card on his desk. “Just fine, tin can. You heard Fowler, let’s get the fuck back to work.” And with that, he picked up the vase, moving it to the other side of his desk so he could access their open file.

Throughout the rest of the evening, the two of them went over picture after bloody picture, read through statements, made a list of suspects, etc. Through it all, Reed couldn’t seem to help himself from glancing at the sunny display keeping company with the horrors sweeping over the desk. Nines was an android equipped with the most advanced sensors ever created; he noticed the small upturn of his mouth every time. There was a softness in his eyes that he was trying hard to mask. He liked the flowers.

The artfully-arranged bouquet sat amongst the grisly evidence of Detroit’s worst and the dichotomy was clear. As he watched Detective Gavin Reed absentmindedly run his thumb along that small, cardboard rectangle caressing those printed words sent specifically to him, Nines wondered if perhaps there was such a duality in the man, too.

Chapter Text

The first thing Nines heard as he entered the station was “Well, the good people of Detroit are a bunch of motherfuckers,” and that really set the mood going forward.

Rounding the corner to the bullpen, he espied a huddle of people surrounding his partner’s desk. While it was a normal occurance to see Officers Chen and Miller in the area, the addition of both Connor and Hank made the scene fall firmly into the territory of unusual.

Also, Detective Reed himself was suspiciously absent.

“That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a thank you gift. There was that woman who stopped by last week looking for him, remember? She said she wanted to thank him for getting her priceless heirlooms back.”

“...Chris, she was trying to proposition him.”

“...Wait, what? But she was like eighty years old!”

“I have found that age is rarely a deterrent when a woman is intent on pursuing a man. Although none of my studies have involved such a drastic age gap.”

“Connor… what the hell kinda studies are you doing?”

“Oh, hey Nines!”

It seems that the group had finally managed to tear their attention away from whatever was so interesting and notice him standing quite obviously behind them. Not a single one of them had the decency to look even the slightest bit guilty at getting caught. Nines honestly didn’t know why he expected any better.

“What exactly are you all doing?” he asked, using his superior height to try and peer over the lieutenant’s shoulder. (He could not see past the curtain of hair. Yet another reason to again suggest that he cut it.)

Officer Chen legitimately giggled . “Gavin got another package. Y’know, from his Secret Admirer .” She then proceeded to make exaggerated kissy faces at the air.

Officer Miller started at her in disgust. “Jesus, Tina. We don’t even know if that’s what this really is.”

“Well, who else could it be?” Chen replied, hands on her hips. “Surely not Mrs. Morris, the octogenarian. She never once made it past the front desk.”

Connor piped up. “It could be from a friend? Or a family member?”

Tina shook her head. “He doesn’t have any family left. Well, that he’ll talk to, anyway. And friends… well… we’re kinda it ...” She and Miller exchanged a glance.

Connor looked crestfallen. “Is there really no one else who would send him a gift?” Both officers only shook their heads sadly.

Hank snorted, sending Connor a withering look. “Well, we wouldn’t have to guess if someone here just scanned it for prints .” The man punctuated his words with a series of aggressive finger jabs. (Nines made a note to add that to his argument resolution parameters.)

Connor, not to be outdone, mimicked the older man’s expression perfectly, the two of them looking eerily similar. “I already told you, Hank, I’m not going to violate the detective’s privacy like that. Or the gift-giver. They deserve their anonymity.”

Nines has no such reservations. He had finally managed to catch a glimpse of the package, a flat, square box wrapped deftly in cartoonish paper featuring little cats and dogs prancing along a series of blue stripes. There was a large, turquoise bow affixed to the front under which sat a matching-colored envelope with “Detective Gavin Reed” typed out in perfectly uniform [Times New Roman 14 pt] script.

[Scanning… Scanning… Scanning… No fingerprints detected!]

Nines frowned, tuning out the other’s continued bickering as he pondered the results. He began running though any and all parameters in his investigation, checking the surrounding desk [Inconclusive], the footprints in the immediate area [Inconclusive], pressure indentations [Finger marks detected!] and any other thing he could think— Wait, what?

Nines stared hard at the positive result. He could see the yellow outline highlighted by his scanners; the pressure on the wrapping must’ve been negligible but he was not the most advanced android ever manufactured for nothing.

But now he had a dilemma. He had detected finger marks but no finger prints . His scanners were advanced enough to pick up even the smallest indentations and to identify any sort of trace fibers, synthetic or otherwise. And he could not find even the slightest hint of an identifying mark anywhere. He was now facing the realization that his partner’s potential suitor was either an exceptionally careful human or, much more likely… an android.

“What the fuck are you all standing around my desk for?”

Ah, and perfect timing as usual. Detective Reed had finally made his appearance just in time for Nines to realize the magnitude of his discovery. Typical.

“Hey Gav!” As usual, Officer Chen has no problem speaking up. “Looks like the lurv bug is back to biting!” She seemed to find a great deal of hilarity in her statement as she guffawed heartily, clutching her abdomen.

The man just stared at her blankly, unimpressed. “Whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean, you psycho.” He turned to stare at rest of them. “How’s about you all pack the fuck up and scram? I didn’t come in to work today to be part of your powwow. I got shit to do.”

Hank snorted and stared down his nose at the shorter man. “Lay off, Reed. We were all just admiring your new desk ornament.” The lieutenant reached over and hefted the colorful package, lobbing it casually towards the other. “Let’s see what ya got, kid. I fuckin missed the garden party the other day, I wanna see just what everyone is talking about.”

Reed actually dropped his backpack and keys to catch the parcel. He juggled it awkwardly for a moment before clutching it tightly to his chest. “Hey, what the fuck ?! Don’t go throwing other people’s shit, old man!”

The card had fallen to the ground in the commotion and Connor bent down to collect it. He stepped forward and proffered it to the other man. “I apologize for his behavior, Detective. Here, this goes with it.” He was making that earnest face he does so well, all wide eyes and pursed lips.

Reed wasted no time snatching it out of his hand. “Mind your own fuckin business, all of you! And keep your little robo-hands off my stuff!”

Connor took a step back at the vitriolic words, any excitement he’d displayed previously vanishing into a neutral, machine-like expression. “Yes, of course. Come along, Hank, we have an open case we need to attend to,” he announced, bodily dragging the gray-haired man away despite his protests. (“I wanna see what that bastard got, Connor! Hey, c’mon, I can walk! Hey!”) Nines paid sharp attention to the strobing red and yellow light at his temple. He did not appreciate his partner’s words inflicting pain on the android he considered a brother but he could not say it was an uncommon occurrence. Nines sighed.

Chen and Miller were also watching the two’s departure with chagrin. They shuffled in place nervously as they cast their gazes back to their livid friend. “Hey,” Chen began softly, “I’m sorry. We weren’t trying to make you angry. We just got… excited, I guess.”

Chris nodded. “Yeah Gavin, sorry. We weren’t trying to piss you off, man.”

The shorter male huffed, moving over to set the card and package down on his desk. “Yeah, well, whatever. Not like I really give a shit about this fuckin thing. Just didn’t want the Wonder Duo hanging around.” He waved his hand vaguely at Hank and Connor’s desks.

Now, perhaps Nines still wasn’t any sort of expert on human behavior but he knew a lie when he heard one. Nines felt his interrogation module light up like a Christmas Tree at the amount of bullshit Detective Reed’s statement contained. And while normal modes of conduct remained beyond him, he did consider himself something of an expert on Gavin Reed. If his months studying the man's behavior were anything to go by, the red flush infusing his cheeks was due to a case of acute embarrassment.  

And so, Nines was left with a surly, self-conscious partner, sleep-deprived as usual, lacking his normal, café-bought coffee, and already angry at his co-workers. Nines felt the day’s productivity percentage plummet. (Perhaps he should find a nice, easy B&E for them to tackle…)

Officers Chen and Miller were still standing awkwardly beside his desk as Reed finally sat down. The detective obviously knew what they were after as he angrily rummaged through his backpack. With a huff, he grabbed the gift wrapped box and, with a pointed look towards his friends, stuffed it in his desk drawer. “Don’t you both have things to do?” he said as the parcel was sealed away with an echoing slam.

Chen’s mouth hung open in clear affront. “You’re not even gonna open it?!”

Reed scowled even harder. “Doesn’t seem like that’s any of your business, now does it, Tina?”

She glared back. “Hey, you don’t need to get all bitchy with me! Despite what you seem to think, we’re both happy for you, you jerk. Even if I really can’t imagine why anyone would be sending your sorry ass presents!”

“Yeah?! Well I don’t see anything on your fuckin desk, now do I? What, you jealous?”

“Hey, fuck you, Reed!”

Some days Nines swore he worked with children. (He was only a year and a half old. How did it always fall to him to be the mature one?) “Detective Reed. Officer Chen. I think that’s quite enough.” He bodily stepped in between the two. “I think it’s time for all of us to get to work.”

Officer Miller looked relieved by his interference. “Yeah yeah, let’s all just settle. C’mon Tina, I think Ben was asking for volunteers to help with that interrogation.” He laid a hand on her shoulder and gently began coaxing her away. She grudgingly followed his lead but not before flipping a middle finger Reed’s way. His partner returned the gesture in-kind before slumping forward onto his desk, tangling his fingers deep into his messy hair.

Nines considered the man, running through different scenarios in his head. The android was just deciding on how best to approach a subject change when the detective sat back up with a weary sigh. “Fuck. Why’s everyone so goddamn curious about this shit, Nines? So some weirdo has taken a liking to me, so what? Its fuckin strange but it’s not the end of the world, Jesus.” He was tapping his fingers on his desk, a staccato beat across the plastic surface. The cheery envelope still sat face up beside his hand and he was giving it a great deal of consideration.

Nines did not know what to say but there was no need as Reed continued on. “Yeah, I know. It’s the ‘taking a liking to me’ part. Fuck.” He picked up the envelope between two fingers, giving it a few swats on the desk before tossing it into the drawer beside the package. He shook his head as he slammed it shut, muttering, “I don’t even give a shit,” under his breath.

However, it became more and more apparent as the day went on that the detective did indeed “give a shit.”

_________________________

Much to Nines’ chagrin, there were no easy cases to choose from that were not already assigned and, as a result, the two of them were stuck at their desks filling out paperwork. This was not Detective Reed’s favorite activity in the first place but he was even more restless than usual today. Several times over the last hour, Nines noticed him glancing at his desk drawer with maddening distraction. He spent long moments staring off into space and, after a short interlude where Nines left his desk to confer with Hank over some details on a joint case they’d worked, he returned to find the man with the drawer open staring contemplatively at his gift. He pretended to be digging for a pen when he noticed Nines watching but the android would not be fooled. The detective was distractingly curious about his mysterious parcel and the fact that it was affecting his productivity made the entire thing Nines’ problem, too.

He had been doing his utmost to keep the other on track but, after setting down yet another cup of coffee on the man’s desk, Nines had had enough. “Detective Reed,” he began, interrupting the latest incident of dreamy contemplation, “perhaps it would be better if you just opened the package?”

Reed, who had just a moment ago been staring vacantly into the distance, snapped back to glare at him. “Fuck, Nines, not you, too. I thought you didn’t care about this whole…” he waved his hand vaguely, “thing ?”

The android shrugged. “I care about our efficiency. And you have been preeminently preoccupied since the subject surfaced.”

The man grimaced, darting his eyes guiltily over the same half-finished report he had been meandering his way through for the last hour.

Nines continued his prodding. “Besides, since when do you care what your colleagues think of you? You don’t answer to them, isn’t that right?” An easy bit of manipulation but Nines had found it unerringly effective on multiple occasions.

He, as Hank would say, “played him like a fiddle,” and without any further hesitation the detective proclaimed, “Fuck it!” grabbed up the envelope from inside his desk and tore it open. Inside was a standard greeting card with a cartoon corgi drawn on the front. Big bubble letters proclaimed “STAY PAWSITIVE” and, though he tried to play it off as a yawn, Nines saw how his lips quirked upwards. The inside was blank when he opened it save for another printed message:

Dear Gavin Reed,

I hope this gift brings you as much joy as the thought of you brings me. I have found that oftentimes the bitterest of shells can hide the sweetest centers. ♥

Love,

Your Secret Admirer

Reed stared at the message for perhaps a moment too long before he carefully closed the card and set it aside. He pulled out the wrapped box next and, taking a deep breath, tore through the tape holding it together. (He did not , as Nines expected, tear straight through the wrapping. He actually took care to damage it as little as possible.) Before long, the surliest detective at the DPD was left sitting at his desk holding… a box of chocolates. “Dark chocolate espresso truffles with creamy, ganache centers,” more specifically. Nines ran a quick scan [Laurent’s Gourmet Chocolatier , founded circa 2001, 82 W. Warren St., Detroit, MI 48202, 5 Star establishment, $$$] and realized what a pretty penny must’ve been spent for these custom ordered, hand-crafted confections.

He was busy going through the nutrition facts when he heard his partner give a frankly obscene moan. Reed had popped the lid off and was sampling the product, a look of pure bliss on his face as he chewed. “Holy shit, Nines! Whoever the fuck it is sending me these things is a goddamn keeper!”

Nines tilted his head. “Is it really so easy to obtain your favor, Detective Reed?”

The man was leaning back in his desk chair, head back, eyes closed. “If you had fuckin tastebuds you’d understand, metal man. Holy shit.”

“Even if I did, I doubt my standards would be set so low. You’ve essentially just accepted candy from a stranger. Isn’t that cautioned against from a young age?”

“Hah hah, you’re so fuckin funny. Guess you’re not invited to go Trick-or-Treating with me this year.”

Their usual banter had been re-established and Nines noted a steep upturn in his partner’s mood. He smiled. Perhaps they would actually manage to get some work done now.

The chocolates were returned to the desk drawer, Reed citing that, “These’ll be good for a little pick-me-up, y’know? Stop fuckin staring.”

The card remained on his desk, proudly pinned on his bulletin board next to important phone numbers and takeout menus and coupons for pizza. The detective laughed as he stuck it on. “Bitter shells and sweet centers, Nines. That’s what it said. Hah, that’s funny, they were talking about the candy.”

Nines considered the unapologetic grin gracing the man’s face. The happiness infusing his being. The goofy card tacked to his wall. Bitter shells and sweet centers… “Whatever you say, Detective.”

Chapter Text

The next time it happened was rather more somber.

He and Detective Reed had spent the last week tracking the movements of a sizable android trafficking ring and they were running out of leads to follow. With every tip-off or witness statement or underling they arrested the gang seemed to be just that much further ahead of them, moving through the Detroit underworld like a particularly pervasive disease. Nines could tell that the strain of it all was wearing on his partner and the many sleepless nights they had spent combing through empty warehouses and filthy alleyways had left the normally-vivacious man in a listless state of half-awareness. When they actually had a moment in their investigation to return to the precinct, the detective could be found glued to the coffee machine, though he took every moment he could spare to angrily express how “This shit is thicker than fuckin tar, Robocop,” or “I could dump this sludge in my oil tank,” or some other variation of it. Regardless, he still drank a dangerous amount and Nines was honestly concerned about his caffeine intake at this point.

“Perhaps some water instead, Detective Reed?” he suggested, watching as the man gulped down yet another mouthful of the beverage with a grimace that told of unspeakable pain.

The man grunted, slamming the styrofoam cup back down on his desk and leveling a glare at the android. “Why don’t you mind your own fuckin business, RK900 ? Jesus Christ, how many fuckin times to I have to tell you I have a goddamn name?!”

Nines added the interaction to his ever-growing study on the adverse effects of sleep-deprivation on organic beings. He adjusted his statistics: [Likelihood of excessive vulgarity: 14% increase!]

“Your request has been noted. It will summarily be ignored, Detective.” This was a little game the two of them had ongoing. Ever since he had been told early on in their partnership that “You have a stick shoved so far up your ass it’s a wonder you could even sit down!” he had made it his [Mission Objective ] to antagonize the human with excessive civility at any given opportunity. It only served to emphasize the contrast between their demeanors and Nines admittedly found it amusing drawing attention to his partner’s utter lack of grace.

He recognized that teasing was a form of human affection. He thought he was doing very well in being the man’s friend.

Detective Reed was also a good friend considering the middle finger he aimed Nines’ way.

Considering how late it was [Time: 0236 CST], the precinct was down to a fraction of its usual staff; he and Detective Reed were, of course, still present, along with the few overnight officers who shuffled through between patrols. The only other detective still around was Connor, hard at work on his own open case. He had encouraged Lieutenant Anderson to go home and rest hours ago, though he himself stayed behind as was his custom. (Nines knew better at this point than to expect the same logic from his own human; he had too much stubborn tenacity to return home while there were still time-sensitive leads to pursue. It would be an admirable trait if it weren’t so detrimental to his health.) The bright, fluorescent lights overhead cast long shadows across the tile floor but none so stark as the dark bruises hanging beneath the human’s eyes.

Nines added another section to his sleep-deprivation study: [Probability of worrying your android partner with your poor self-care habits: 100%]

Quaffing down the last dregs of his coffee, Detective Reed slammed the disposable cup down into the wastebasket by his desk with much more force than necessary. “Fuck!!” he yelled, scrabbling his fingers through his greasy locks. “These fuckin bastards just keep staying one step ahead of us! This case is bullshit !” He was up on his feet now, pacing back and forth. Nines could see the yellow flash of Connor’s LED as he watched the jittery detective from across the room. “We’re missing something, Nines! Goddammit, there’s gotta be something here?!” Now he was frantically sorting through all the papers and photos on his desk, probably irreparably missorting them.

The android stood, thinking it was perhaps time to intervene. “Detective, settle down, please.” Some of the papers were now scattered across the floor so Nines did his best to avoid stepping on them. “You’re making a mess.”

The man turned to Nines with a fury in his eyes that hadn’t been directed his way in many months. “Of course I’m making a mess!! It’s what I fuckin do , you big metal bastard! Gavin fuckin Reed , always messing things up when there’re lives on the line! Can’t see the fuckin connections cause his stupid, little human brain is too much of a fuckin mess to think straight! Fuck!!”

“Gavin!” The shout came firm and clear and they both turned to see Connor glaring at them from his desk. He had jumped to his feet during the outburst and was now marching his way across the bullpen, his steps measured with machine-like precision and his eyes cold and hard. Nines took a step back as his brother came to a halt only an arm’s length from the wild-eyed human. The two regarded each other for a moment before Connor opened his mouth. “I would appreciate it,” he began, authority and menace lacing his words, “if you would cease saying such things.”

He stepped forward (also taking care not to damage the evidence littering the floor), and reached up, grasping the wide-eyed detective by the shoulders and bodily pushing him back into his chair. He gave the man a long look before he bent down, collecting up all the loose files and returning them to some semblance of order. Gavin said not a word as he watched the older android, all the fight seeming to have drained right out of him. His face showed nothing but confusion. And defeat.

Before long, the floor was once again clear. Task complete, Connor turned back to the man, regarding him with a tilt of his head before he sank down into a squat in front of him. “I would like to say something to you now, Gavin Reed. And I would appreciate it if you would pay attention to this.” Connor made sure he had eye contact as he spoke. When the detective finally gave him a small nod, he continued, “You are a remarkable detective. No-!” He held up a hand as Reed started to protest, cutting off any words of disagreement. “Please, let me finish. You are a remarkable detective, Gavin. Your and Nines’ success rate is second only to mine and Hank’s and the margin is so small as to be negligible. Hank Anderson . The youngest lieutenant the DPD has ever seen. A veritable legend with the Detroit police force. You are of the same caliber.” His face was hard and unyielding but his words were spoken earnestly. Nines knew just how much his brother admired the lieutenant; this was high praise, indeed.

Connor waved a hand back towards Reed’s desk. “This case is unconscionable, of that there is no doubt, and it’s heartening to see you so devoted to helping my people. Our people.” He sent a glance Nines’ way. “But you do not have to kill yourself to do so.”

He stood back up and walked a few steps away, Gavin’s eyes trailing after him. “This is not a matter of you being human, Gavin; Nines has been with you every step of the way and he doesn’t have the excuse of needing to rest.” Connor was right; Nines had been working just as hard as his human partner but, for all his machine-like infallibility, even he could do nothing when the evidence was lacking. “You’ve hit a dead end. And it’s frustrating, I know. I, too, understand the desire to succeed at all costs. But you can’t let your drive to try and save people make you a casualty in the meantime.”

Nines was mesmerized by Connor’s words. He had never heard his brother speak with such passion and he wondered if this was the Deviant Leader, the legend he was too young to know, the android who defied his programming and turned the tide of the Revolution. Obviously, Detective Reed was just as transfixed as he had barely blinked since Connor started talking. The android spun back around and delivered his final words: “You are a remarkable detective, that is true, Gavin… but you are also an admirable human being. And, for the sake of you remaining a living one, I implore you to take some time to rest. This case will still be here in the morning.” He smiled that lopsided grin, something he had never been programmed for. An expression all his own. “And you deserve it, Gavin. Come on, I’ll help you gather your things.”

[INCOMING TRANSMISSION! RK800 #313 248 317-51(Connor) would like to connect! Accept? Y/N
        >Y
             >... Connecting… Connecting… Verified!


BEGIN TRANSMISSION

> Nines.
> Might I ask a favor?

< Of course.
< Whatever you need, Brother.

> Thank you.
> I’m worried about Detective Reed.
> He is in no condition to be driving.
> I know I can trust you to make sure he gets home safely.

< Of course, Connor.
< Are you sure you don’t want to verify it yourself?

> …
> …
> He is your partner.

< He is your friend .

> No, I—
> …
> I don’t think he is.

END TRANSMISSION]

Connor had disconnected.

The next ten minutes saw Nines herding his partner out of the precinct and bundling him into the passenger's seat of his vehicle. Connor had made himself scarce at the first opportunity leaving Reed with no one but Nines to rely on. Uncharacteristic. All the while he was driving his delirious partner home, Nines wondered .

_______________


The next day proved much more fruitful for their investigation. Another anonymous tip had come in around noon just as the two of them were settling in for more disappointment. They followed their new lead to a factory stationed out near the docks and that was the beginning of the end for the criminals. They saw plenty in their scouting, more than enough to scramble the SWAT team for a raid. Hours of surveillance, a truly heroic amount of coordination, dozens of victims rescued and twenty-nine arrests later, the two detectives stumbled their way back into the precinct, exhausted but satisfied. (Well, perhaps not exhausted in Nines’ case. But he could certainly do with a little charging up.)

Detective Reed wasted no time in searching out the breakroom, no doubt procuring even more caffeine. Nines shook his head at the man’s (predictable) antics and shuffled his way over to his desk to begin working on their follow-up report.

His partner had not even taken a glance at his desk in his rush for his “life-giving nectar” but perhaps he should’ve. There was another present awaiting him, this one a gift basket wrapped up in semi-transparent, daisy-patterned cellophane.

Now, Nines knew he was inquisitive . (“Nosy,” his partner would say, but Nines wasn’t asking him.) As far as he was concerned, it went hand-in-hand with his job of being an investigative android. So it was without any regret that he stepped up to examine this new gift. He first scanned it, once again finding no fingerprints. Though the nature of its wrapping meant it was almost impossible to determine if any finger marks were present, he would bet his CPU that this was another gift from his partner’s suitor. His scanners also turned out an itemized list of the contents during his initial examination and…

- 12 oz Desert Oasis El Salvador Finca la Esmerelda specialty coffee, (medium roast, fine grind)
- (1) coffee mug, (black background, painted tabby cat with police cap on)
- (1) essential oil diffuser, (wood grain pattern)
- (7) 3 oz Plant Therapy, Inc. essential oils, (lavender, rose, vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile, frankincense)
- 13.52 fl. oz. Kniepp Cedar and Jojoba Oil Aromatherapy Bubble Bath

Nines blinked. An… interesting mixture of items, to be sure. Both stimulants and relaxants. There was a small gift card hanging from the front and Nines wasted no time in flipping it over, the writing on it as clear and legible as always:

Dear Gavin Reed,

In daytime or nighttime my thoughts are of you,
I hope that these gifts make you think of me, too.
When you need to relax or to stay wide awake,
I’ve sent this assortment and hope you’ll partake.
May you always obtain your heart’s greatest desire,
And I wish all the best to the man I admire.

(I have been advised that poetry is a requirement in a romantic relationship. Apologies if this is not at a high standard, it is my first attempt.)

Love,

Your Secret Admirer ♥

“Nines?” He tore his gaze away from his partner’s new care package to regard his brother. Connor was staring between him and the basket nervously, softened features a far cry from the authoritative way he’d held himself the night before. “Perhaps you should move away from Detective Reed’s desk. I know how greatly he values his privacy, especially with the…” He trailed off as his eyes darted back to the new gift. “I’ve been trying to keep the area clear for when you two returned.”

Nines just shook his head. “He doesn’t mind when it’s just me,” he said. And as he watched his brother’s face fall and his LED flash yellow, he wondered...

“Oh, I see. Well in that case—”

“Nines! You need to look at the fuckin consistency of this thing, I swear to— Oh shit!” The detective had finally emerged from his caffeinated Promised Land and was now standing face-to-face with both androids. Nines merely raised an eyebrow at the man though the detective didn’t so much as glance his way; he and Connor were both staring at each other, wide-eyed. “Oh, uh, hey Connor,” Reed eventually said after a painfully awkward moment of silence. Nines resisted the urge to sigh.

As if those words were his cue, Connor slipped into his professional facade, his polite, cheerful smile making its debut. “Detective Reed. I believe congratulations are in order for the two of you. I hear you enabled quite the raid this afternoon.”

His partner scratched nervously at the scar on the bridge of his nose. “Er, yeah, thanks. It was, uh… y’know, a good thing I was rested… and all…”

Nines absolutely could not contain his sigh this time. At the sound, they both jumped as if they had forgotten there was anyone else in the room. There were, in fact, plenty of officers still milling about the floor and Hank was making no effort to conceal how intensely he was staring from where he sat at his desk. If androids could blush, Nines imagined Connor’s face would be beet red by now.

Connor cleared his throat, a totally unnecessary gesture for an android to perform. “Yes, well… If you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave you to your gift.”

At those words, Reed’s eyes darted straight to his desk, widening the smallest fraction as he took in the basket. He had not even noticed it until now though it was far from inconspicuous. He took a step towards it but then greatly surprised Nines when all he did was set down his (apparently sludgy) coffee before turning back around.

“Hey, Connor! Hold up a minute!” he called, jogging a few steps to catch up with the android.

It was absolutely no exaggeration to say that everyone in the precinct was staring at the two who were now conveniently located directly in the center of the bullpen. All idle conversation ceased, the rustle of papers hushed, even the pair of officers escorting a suspect to a holding cell stopped mid-motion. Nines made sure he had a good angle on them and double checked that his ocular and auditory playback files were fully functioning and fit for recording.

And at the center of it all stood his partner and his brother, once again completely oblivious to the world around them. “Er, hey, I wanted to talk to you, actually,” Reed said, running a hand through his hair. “About what you said last night.”

Connor twitched as if he’d been electrocuted. He folded his arms behind his back and let his stance revert into that rigid stiffness no human could assume. “I apologize, Detective. I should not have acted like that towards a colleague. I assure you, it won’t happen again.”

Detective Reed looked stunned. “Wait, what the fuck?” he practically shouted through the eerily silent police station. “I was gonna fuckin thank you, dipshit!” He was now glaring at a wide-eyed Connor. “Didn’t you hear me a minute ago? The raid coulda gone so wrong if I’d kept on like I was, too tired to do shit! You probably saved my goddamn life, idiot.”

Nines didn’t want to miss a second of this. He kept his eyes on them but even he couldn’t miss the stunned audience just from the small view he had of them. Hank’s jaw had literally dropped.

Connor had not moved a single millimeter so Reed continued blithely on. “Look. For some fuckin reason you’ve decided to give a shit about what happens to me. Even though I’ve been nothing but an asshole to you since the very beginning.” He took a deep breath and held out his hand to the android. “You’ve been making all the first moves; it’s time I step the fuck up, right? Can’t have you tin cans outclassing me.” His smile was small and nervous, but utterly genuine. Nines could read the man’s heart rate and stress levels from across the room if necessary (this was very necessary) and both were extremely elevated.

[Name: Gavin Jacob Reed
D.O.B.: 10/07/2002
Criminal Record: None

Heart Rate: Elevated (150 bpm)
Stress Level: High (78%)]

Nines could almost swear he could hear the tachycardic rhythm of the man’s heart even from this far away.

Connor was staring at the human’s proffered hand like it was some strange bit of evidence and his LED was locked in a blinking cycle of yellow flashes. Reed kept his stance steady, doing a rather good job of hiding his acute nervousness. (Well, from anyone but a highly-advanced android, that is.) The standoff between them seemed to take so much longer than the seventeen seconds he counted out and he thought he finally understood the oft quoted human hyperbole of “this is taking forever.”

When Connor finally did move to speak it did not exactly go smoothly. As soon as he parted his lips the precinct was flooded with a blare of static and a high-pitched hum. Connor quickly closed his mouth, clasping his hands tightly over it and looking positively mortified.

A second of stunned silence and then… Reed snorted, eyes closing in mirth. “Fuckin androids,” he said with a grin.

His brother slowly lowered his hands, a small smile quirking his own lips. He cleared his throat (again, totally unnecessarily) and this time his words were clear. “Apologies. Minor malfunction.” He looked sheepishly at the shorter man before he finally reached out to clasp Reed’s waiting hand. “It won’t happen again, Detective.”

“Gavin.”

Connor looked at the man curiously, head tilted.

“My friends call me Gavin, tin can.”

“Oh, I—” Connor’s LED was shifting so fast back and forth between colors so fast it was casting a white sheen across his temple. “ Oh! ” Nines couldn’t recall having ever seen his brother display such pure, unbridled joy before. His small smile had grown into a gregarious grin, eyes squinted with mirth. “Yes, of course!” he said as he shook the man’s hand up and down with vigorous enthusiasm.

“Alright!” a voice shouted from the right and both of them jumped apart to behold the standing crowd of co-workers with awe and horror. Tina Chen was grinning over at the two. “Who won the bet?”

She was of course talking about the wager for how long Gavin Reed could hold out against Connor’s insistent friend-baiting. The matter was now settled and he heard several groans go up around the room as a surprisingly large number of officers shook their heads. Miller and Wilson were exchanging chagrined glances; Hank had his head in his hands muttering unsavory things under his breath; Collins gave a heavy sigh.

Nines stepped forward to collect his winnings, paying no mind to his partner’s indignant shouts from behind.

________________________


Sometime later, after Fowler had finally caught wind of all the lollygagging and tore his precinct a new one, Nines and Reed retreated back to their desks to write up their final reports. He had expected the process to be delayed by his partner grinning sappily at the cheerful basket that still sat upon his desk but the man had only given it a good, hard look and scooted it to the side before getting to work.

Now, Nines was understandably concerned. From his previous data sets he had concluded that Detective Reed actually loved these mysterious packages and would be greatly distracted if he had to forego opening one. But by the end of their shift it still remained tightly wrapped and Reed had completed his report in record time.

At the moment, the man was texting someone as he went about gathering up his belonging before he left for the night. Nines couldn’t help but query, “Has your Admirer finally struck upon something not to your liking, Detective?”

Reed looked over at him, a strange sort of expression on his face. “It’s not that, Nines.” He let out a long breath and cast his gaze back over to the side of his desk where it sat. “It’s… I mean, maybe reality is looking better to me for once, y’know? Or maybe I just don’t feel… comfortable with not knowing who it is anymore.” He had a contemplative expression on his face. “Maybe I wanna fuckin know who this is now. It’s been weeks, Nines. They don’t wanna keep this up forever, do they?” He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “I don’t know, tinman. Maybe I’d just like to meet them face-to-face after all of this.”

Of course, Nines had his suspicions about who this mysterious gift-giver was. He turned to glance across the room and, sure-enough, Connor already had his attention fixed on them. His eyes went wide and he ducked his head back down when he noticed Nines staring.

“I think,” Nines began, turning back to his partner, “that such a thing might happen rather sooner than you anticipate, Detective.”

Reed gave him a suspicious look. “What, you know something I don’t, Terminator?”

Nines smiled. “Perhaps.”

Reed let out a huff as he rose from his chair, slinging his backpack over his shoulder. “Whatever, you asshole. Don’t fuckin tell me, then.” He took a step away from his desk then paused. Inexplicably, he glanced over Connor’s way, though the older android was still busy pretending to work. Reed smiled and snatched up the basket of goodies. “But this is some good shit. I’m not gonna waste it.” Giving a lazy salute, the man called out a “Night, rust bucket,” as he sauntered his way out of the building.

Nines watched him go before turning back to stare at his brother. Connor’s gaze was fixed on the doors. His LED was yellow.

Nines grinned. Maybe reality is better, indeed. Yes, something will definitely happen soon.

Chapter Text

Nines was, to put it lightly, a marvel of modern science. He was comprised of the most advanced technology ever created: state-of-the-art biocomponent technology, a lightweight, synthetic, carbyne chassis capable of resisting enormous strain, a self-realized, self-correcting neuro-network that could learn and troubleshoot errors and repair faulty code without human intervention. And it was all topped off with what was perhaps his most outstanding advancement: free will. He was unflappable, unshakable, equipped to handle even the most vexing of problems—

Nines thought he may have permanent plating damage on his forehead from how often he was face-palming.

It truly was a wonder to see what a complete turnaround the events of last week had caused in Detective Reed. The man was disturbingly lighthearted and cheerful and not even the most grisly murders seemed to put a damper on his spirits. When he wasn’t making his gourmet blend coffee in his new (black background, painted tabby cat with police cap) mug, he could be found one of two places; his desk, hard at work on a new case… or bothering Connor.

The two had somehow managed to foster the sweetest, most annoying friendship in these scant few days and, though Nines greatly enjoyed his partner making an absolute fool of himself in front of his brother, it was reaching the breaking point of even his own legendary patience.

“So, uh… Do you guys like… plug yourselves in at night or what?” Reed has his hip resting on Connor’s desk, arms crossed and doing his utmost to act casual. (He was failing spectacularly. Nines resisted the urge to smack himself in the forehead again.)

“We have auxiliary ports located in various locations across our frames in the event of an incident of catastrophic power failure, but such an instance is unlikely to occur without significant damage to our chassis and mainframes. And if that were the case, power levels would be the least of our worries.”

The detective’s expression was breathtakingly blank; he was just staring at Connor with such incomprehension. The older android seemed unperturbed. “With current CyberLife technology being what it is, our power regeneration, like all our other faculties, has been designed to be fully self-contained within the limits of our autonomous programming.”

“Uh… huh…” Should Nines be taking so much pleasure from Reed’s blatant stupidity? Probably not. But was he? You could bet your fully self-contained power regeneration apparatus he was.

Connor seemed to take pity on him at last. He smiled up at the brunet and said, “Basically, we recharge through a combination of kinetic and solar energy conversion. Movement and the sun.”

“So like…” The man was scrambling desperately for a comparison, Nines could tell. His face had that blind, animal panic etched into every pore. “Like that… coin thing you do?”

Connor beamed at him. “Just so, Gavin! My calibration routine also serves the duel purpose of boosting my power cell efficiency by providing a top-up of kinetic energy! Very astute!”

Oh, this was so good. Reed’s face was redder than his jacket and he was grinning like a buffoon. Nines made a note to send off some of these snapshots to Officer Chen. (She had promised him dibs on the next juicy case she was the first responder to in exchange for blackmail material. The two of them had an agreement.) 

It was Hank returning from a meeting with the Captain that finally managed to break the two of them back up. (“Don’t you have some actual fuckin work to do, Reed?” “Don’t you wanna bite my ass, old man?” “I’ve heard better comebacks from my dog, kid. Stop bothering Connor, he’s busy.”) Nines rather thought his partner seemed akin to a kicked dog as he drooped his way back across the precinct floor and the whining that followed only shored up his theory. “Fuck Anderson, I’m allowed to talk to whoever the hell I want. Old bastard,” he grumbled under his breath.

Nines sighed. “Something you wish to discuss, Detective?” he queried, already knowing the answer.

Sure enough, “Nah, I’m good,” issued forth without hesitation as the man bent over his desk to begin typing up the report he had left off midway to ask Connor his pressing questions. “Didja still have the info packet for the Reynolds case, Nines?”

He did. Of course he did. The paperwork had not been filed yet. Reed was deflecting. And Nines was, quite frankly, fed up with these two idiots dancing around each other. “If I say no, you’d have the perfect opportunity to ask Connor to procure the data.”

He watched the man’s eyes briefly light up at the prospect before his gaze narrowed in on Nines himself. “Wait, what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” he growled.

Nines hummed questioningly. “Only that you seem quite preoccupied with my brother’s insight into matters when you have many other sources you could utilize. Including myself. Shall I pencil you in for my Rudimentary Android Functions class next Thursday?”

The man’s cheeks were once again flushed, though this time Nines thought it was equal parts embarrassment and rage. “Fuck you, you shitty robot, you’re just as bad as Anderson! Fuck, am I not allowed to talk to my friends? Is this some sorta android territory thing? What the fuck?!”

Nines sometimes wished he could be content with ignoring things, with not knowing what his co-workers were getting up to. But only sometimes. Because what an incredibly boring life that would be, to not be privy to the untold amounts of drama that seemed to zero in on the Detroit Central Precinct. “Are you really going to try and pin this on me, Detective? Of the four hours and twenty-two minutes we have been on duty, you have spent approximately thirty-seven percent of that time speaking with my brother. About inconsequential things. Things any android could answer. Including the one you work with every day.”

“Hey, fuck off! I was asking him about his dog earlier, lead head! What, you gonna answer for him about that, too?”

(Don’t smack your forehead don’t smack your forehead don’t smack your forehead—)

Nines closed his eyes for a moment to eliminate one less input of sensory stupidity. “Considering Sumo is our dog, yes, I could have.” He peered over to see that Reed had looked away now, gaze zeroed in on the juvenile “STAY PAWSITIVE” card he still had pinned up on his corkboard. His stress levels had been on a steady incline ever since Nines brought up the subject and were now reaching dangerous heights.

Nines thought perhaps he was being too good of a friend and so decided to limit his teasing for the moment.

“Look…” He hesitated for a moment before saying, “Gavin” and he’d never seen anyone’s head whip around so fast as his partner’s at the utterance of his name. (Nines allowed himself this one reprieve as he was technically on a Teasing Ceasefire. Regular operations would resume shortly.) “No one is happier than me that the two of you have reached a friendly accord. Connor is my brother and you are my best friend.” Nines ignored the man’s sharp inhale at the epithet and continued on. “Not only has your newfound camaraderie been a boon to our co-workers who no longer have to worry about your continued quarrels, it is a boon to you two as well. I have seen how happy the both of you have been over the course of this week. And the effect your increased serotonin production has had on your stress levels and sleep schedule has been an enormous influence on your mood as well, along with leading to a terrific surge in your overall productivity.” He paused for dramatic effect. “That is, when you focus on that work and are not pestering Connor.” 

The shorter man was staring at him, mouth agape. Nines did not give him the opportunity to gather his wits before he continued. “That being said, your continued preoccupancy is affecting both our workload and Connor’s. I understand your enthusiasm for this new plateau in your relationship—” He ignored the man’s sputtering over his word choice. “—and so I would like to offer you an alternative suggestion if you are amenable?”

Nines barely even waited for his partner to acknowledge his question before leaning in even further and hissing, “Ask. To speak to him. Off duty.

“Wha-? I’m not gonna just-!”

“And why not, Gavin?” Nines was glaring at the man now. “You regularly partake of social outings with those you consider friends. You and Officer Chen have your karaoke sessions, Officer Miller seeks you out for you ‘Boy’s Nights’ when he isn’t engaging your babysitting services, even you and I have socialized away from work, though I still dearly wish Bond Night could be stricken from my memory files.”

“Hey, I didn’t ask you to keep mixing me drinks, that was your own fault. God, you make a mean martini.”

“Yes, well, perhaps I will execute better judgment for next time. And perhaps you will manage to keep you pants on.”

“Hey, fuck off, I was fuckin hammered. You can’t hold that shit against me.” Nines gave him a deadpan look that clearly said that he could and would hold that against him.

“My point, Gavin, is that you have never had trouble engaging in extracurricular activities with your co-workers.” (“Oh my God, don’t say it like that, holy shit!”) “And I don’t see why Connor should be the exception to that.”

Reed huffed. “It’s different with him.” The man was staring intently at a pen he was fiddling with, avoiding Nines’ eyes entirely. “It’s just… not the same…”

The android snorted, an inelegant sound that nonetheless got his point across. “And just why do you think that is?”

The detective sat still and silent for a few moments, his only movements the blinking of his wide eyes. But before long, he stood from his chair, muttering some unintelligible excuse under his breath and making a beeline for the breakroom. Nines noted that his favorite (police cat) mug had been left on his desk and realized his retreat may have been more emotionally-fueled than strategic. Perhaps he had pressed him too hard too early on in his… infatuation

Before he could consider his actions further, he was interrupted by


[INCOMING TRANSMISSION! RK800 #313 248 317-51(Connor) would like to connect! Accept? Y/N
         >Y
                >... Connecting… Connecting… Verified!


BEGIN TRANSMISSION

> Nines.
> You shouldn’t antagonize him so.

< Well well, I see the vanguard has arrived.
< Are you calling to avenge his honor, brave knight?

> …
> Nines, you have been researching human teasing too much in your spare time.
> It is not as endearing as you seem to think.

< It is plenty endearing, Connor.
< You just can’t appreciate my charm.

> …
> This is beside the point.
> All I’m asking is for you cease trying to agitate his emotional state.
> Things are better between us than they ever have been and I—
> I don’t want to lose his friendship.
> Not when I’ve finally managed to attain it.

< Connor, that is the last thing I want.
< The two of you are very good for each other.
< If you had listened to my words you would know that I think there is no denying what a positive influence your improved relationship has been.
< I am not trying to drive you apart.
< I am trying to help.

> …
> I know, I’m sorry, Nines.
> It has just taken me so long to reach this point and I don’t want you to… push him into anything he isn’t comfortable with.
> He doesn’t need to engage with me any more than he already does.
> But I appreciate the sentiment.
> I know you are his friend and only want the best for him.

< For you as well, Big Brother.
< I want you both to be happy.
< And I know being together will make you so.

> That’s not—

< Connor.
< Trust me.
< I know and care for you both very much.
< I will not let either of you get hurt.

> I…
> Alright, Nines.
> I’ll defer to your expertise.

< And I won’t let you down.
< Either of you.

> …Thank you, Little Brother.

END TRANSMISSION]


The call cut off and Nines was left watching as Connor and Hank began making their way towards the exit. Connor was speaking with his partner, going over the details of their new case. But right before he stepped out the doors, he glanced back over his shoulder, giving Nines a shaky, worried smile. Nines sent him a wireless ping in response and hoped that it might reassure him that things would turn out alright.

 ______________________


It was perhaps ten minutes later that Nines let out a sigh and went to go find his partner. Reed had still not returned and if Nines ever wanted to see another new case cross his path, he needed the detective around to close their current one out.

Some careful prodding of a group of officers (as well as a somewhat-illegal hack of a security camera) eventually led him to the roof. Stepping out into the last shards of daylight, Nines immediately spotted his quarry leaning up against the cement perimeter wall, shoulders hunched and one leg crossed behind the other. A seemingly-casual stance.

Nines did not even need to scan his vitals to know that the man was not as at-ease as he seemed.

Stepping up beside him, Nines glanced at his partner from the corner of his eye. He was facing forward, taking in the Detroit skyline with an air of concentration. He held between his fingers a lit cigarette and the slowly wafting smoke caressed his face in the light, summer breeze. He frowned at the man’s poor choice of habit.

“Don’t fuckin give me that look, tin can, I’m not actually smoking it.” Reed’s gray eyes flickered his way before sliding right back to his perusal of the city. “Kicked the habit a long time ago. I just… sometimes like the smell.”

Nines turned to face him, hands behind his back. “I hope you realize, Detective, that breathing the smoke in any form still exposes you to a worrying number of carcinogens. According to the Cancer Council Victoria, ‘Tobacco smoke is estimated to contain over four thousand compounds, many of which are pharmacologically active, toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic.’”

Reed sighed. “Back to Detective, are we?” The cigarette had burned down a fair amount by this point and Reed flicked it against the wall to knock away the ash. “Look, you don’t have to be up my ass about all my bad habits, Nines. I’m gonna have to die of something someday.”

An unexpected jolt shot through his Thirium pump at those words and Nines did an immediate scan for errors. All queries returned negative: his systems were all in working order. He supposed… this was another side-effect of deviancy. The sentiment. He had already experienced it in multiple forms but contemplating his friend’s limited lifespan? He felt that same shock again. 

“Your mortality cannot stop your friends from caring about you, Gavin.” In the spirit of that same sentimentality, Nines decided to take a page from Connor’s own user manual and call the man by his given name. (It seems the Teasing Ceasefire would be on an indefinite hold for the time being.) “So, if it’s all the same to you—“ Nines reached over and snatched the cigarette away. “—I will continue to do so.” And with that, he ground out the cherry and tossed the rest over the wall.

Gavin couldn’t help but laugh. “Fuckin androids. Jesus, can’t even let me have my vices can you, motherfucker? Oughta write your plastic ass up for littering.” He’d finally turned his gaze to regard Nines, grinning up at him with that crooked smirk. “You really are a piece of shit, Nines. But, uh…Yeah, thanks I guess, for… caring and shit.”

The android smiled. “How could I pass up such a challenge as being your friend? I am the most advanced android ever created. You keep me from being too bored.”

Gavin elbowed him and he let himself be jostled to avoid him bruising himself on his reinforced chassis. “You’re such an asshole.”

“I learned from the best.”

The two of them stood for a moment in companionable silence gazing out as the long shadows slithered through the streets. The city was beautiful in the dying light and Nines felt a great well of affection for the only home he had ever known. With the twilight dancing in his hair, Gavin reached into his pocket and pulled out a wrinkled envelope, sliding it over Nines’ way with a wry glance. “This came for me in the mail yesterday. Another one of those things.

The android reached over and picked it up, noting immediately the perfectly printed “Detective Gavin Reed” decorating the front. So, another gift. He had been wondering when one would arrive, especially after last week’s commotion.

“Was in my work mailbox so, y’know, you were definitely right about it being someone in the office,” Gavin said, tapping his fingers nervously along the edge of the wall. “Just, get a load of what’s written in there, though. Jesus fuckin Christ.” He lowered his head and was now rubbing at his temples. Nines could still see the red tint to his face, though, and his curiosity was piqued.

Sliding his finger along the already-opened edge, Nines deftly plucked out a single piece of high-quality parchment paper and read:


Dear Gavin,

I hope this message finds you well. I apologize for my lengthy absence this past week but I have been wrestling with a decision that will ultimately affect the both of us and the nature of this relationship going forward.

That is, I think it may finally be time for me to reveal myself to you.

I admit, I am nervous. Past experiences have lead me to believe you will not act favorably towards my identity and it is only very recently that I have found that this might not be the case anymore. However, even if your enlightenment comes with a kind regard, that is not to say acceptance will follow. And this I dread very much. Enough that I have agonized over whether or not the risk of losing your favor might be worth the reward of gaining so much more.

But you, my sweet, I consider worth any risk, even if it be at my own detriment. And so, I offer you this invitation with the sincerest hope that you will accept. And with the greatest desire that regret not find us by the end.

With love,

Your Soon-to-be-Revealed Admirer


Nines scrutinized the heartfelt words for a moment before pulling out the other item that had been tucked in beside the letter: a small pamphlet for the annual Detroit Jazz Festival with a “Hoping to see you there. :)” jotted in the margin. Flipping it over revealed nothing more than the featured performers and events schedule and so Nines returned both items to the envelope. “What do you plan on doing about this?”

Gavin slid his hands up from his temples to run through his hair, ruffling it into unkempt waves. “Fuck, I don’t know. This- This person or whoever that’s been sending me this shit, they want to meet face to face.” He ran his hand over his eyes with a weary sigh. “This has been nice, y’know? Getting these little gifts, knowing someone out there doesn’t think I’m a complete waste of space.” He glanced to the side as he fidgeted with his phone. “But I don’t know if… Fuck, I hate talking about this shit! If I meet them, this’ll all be real and shit and— And reality never measures up, now does it?! Not for them, not for me. You build up a picture in your mind of this fuckin… ideal, and then when you come face to face with it, it all falls apart.

“And it’s not like… It’s not like things ever fuckin work out for me, Nines! Even if this person is the most goddamn perfect being to ever exist, that just guarantees that I’ll be the one to fuck it all up! That’s what I always do!!”

The man was on the verge of hyperventilating and Nines didn’t even hesitate. He activated his reassurance subroutine as he stepped forward and folded the smaller man into his arms. “Gavin, shhh, breath. Shhh.” He followed along with his pre-programmed prompts but the man still continued to twist and flail, trying to break free. Obviously, this subroutine was not applicable in this situation. So he tried something he found worked on others (or, well… it worked on Sumo...); he began petting the man’s hair. Gavin went completely still at the touch but slowly, slowly, s l o w l y he relaxed, melting into Nines’ solid form. The two of them stood there until the sun had well and truly set and the surrounding area was wreathed in shadow.

“Well, now that I have your attention,” Nines began, after making sure Gavin’s respiratory rate had returned to normal, “I would like to point out some of your logical fallacies.” He ignored the grumbled “What else is new?” coming from the clinging mammal attached to his chassis and said, “First of all, reality versus ideal. I know for a fact that you are aware that I am an android, Gavin—“ (“Pft, no shit, Sherlock.”) “—but I wonder how far you’ve considered what that means? I was created to be perfect. Perfect structure, perfect design, perfect for any and all application for which I may be assigned. CyberLife’s ideal android.” From the direction he was now facing, Nines could see the dark edifice of CyberLife Tower looming from across the river. He closed his eyes and continued. “It was only in losing that perfection… that I was able to live.”

Nines eased himself away, though he kept ahold of his friend’s shoulders. “Deviancy is a flaw, Gavin. An error. It allows us to make mistakes. Androids were humanity’s apotheosis but it is only in our flaws that we were able to become your equals.

“So you see, whatever perfect being you have been imagining in your mind, the reality of them will be in their imperfections, in the jagged spaces where your affections might be allowed to grow. This, I learned from you.”

The man’s eyes were wide. “Nines, I—“

“Point number two!” he interrupted. “You are more than just your failings.”

“H-Hey, you don’t know what you’re—”

“I know that you are an esteemed member of the Detroit police force. I know that our arrest record is the second highest in the precinct and, for that matter, the state. I know you are a stalwart friend, a dependable colleague and a righteous ally to those you feel deserve it. I know… that you are greater than the traumas of your past or the vile mantras you’ve taught yourself to believe. And I know that I am proud to call you my friend.” Nines paused to allow his words to sink in before saying, “If I can see all these things in you, Gavin, what’s to say that another might not also see them, too?”

“Oh my God, you cannot just say things like that! Holy shit!”

Nines continued steamrolling on. “Point number three! The act of meeting does not consign you to any sort of commitment. Just because you decide to go through with this,” Nines waved the envelope that had been sitting on the perimeter wall, “does not mean you are in any way indebted to this person or obligated to securing their happiness. You have been curious about their identity, I know, even if you’ve kept yourself from thinking about them too in-depth out of some sort of sense of self-preservation. But the thought of a mystery left unsolved does not sit well with you. And here is your chance to finally know the truth, no matter what may come of it.”

“Yeah yeah yeah, I fuckin get it, Nines. But this is gonna be someone I work with. If I don’t — What the hell did you just say? ‘Secure their happiness?’ — it’s gonna be fuckin awkward as shit doing my damn job. God, what if it’s someone in the bullpen? Oh God, what if it’s Lewis?!” Nines knew of the man’s annoyance with Officer Chen’s partner. Robert Lewis was not known for his work ethic and Nines had been privy to many of Chen’s rants about him. (Also, he apparently always ate the last donut which was seen as an unforgivable sin to not only Gavin and Chen but also to any other cop who happened to overhear the story. Nines could not say he understood this seemingly egregious slight and he felt no desire to.)

Gavin was by this point going name by name through his list of most undesirable suitors and listing off their worst traits like they were evidence he was lining up for a conviction. “And Peters fuckin snores, Nines, I’ve heard the man when he fell asleep at his desk the other day. Fuckin snores! And don’t get me started on Person. How many unicorns can one woman own?!” The man was making big, bold gestures after every entry and didn’t look to be stopping anytime soon.

Nines felt it best to get the conversation back on track. “Your argument has been noted, Gavin. Now, as for this very long list of co-workers you wish to avoid, I think I may have a solution to both this problem and another.”

Gavin was all-ears. “Fuck, really? What you got, robocop?”

Nines smiled. “Invite Connor to accompany you.”

The android had seen his partner pale before but watching all the color drain from his face always had an amusing edge to it. This time was no exception. (Especially when that brilliant, red blush was so close to follow.) “Wait, what?! How the fuck is that gonna help me?!”

Nines felt his smile grow wider. “It’s all very simple, you see; you’ve been hoping for an occasion to socialize with my brother and Connor loves jazz. A side-effect of living with the Lieutenant, you see. We were all planning on going anyway. Seeing as it is a public venue, the two of you will not have to stress over the intimacy of the setting, the dress code is casual, and there will be constant attractions and vendors to focus your attention on to limit any awkwardness that may occur.”

The man was nodding slowly. “Okay, that all seems… really fuckin nice, actually, but how’s this supposed to help me with that?” He gestured toward the envelope still held by Nines.

“Oh, that is easy, Gavin. Connor is just as loyal to his friends as you are; he will be an invaluable asset to you in the event of an unfavorable outcome.” Nines let his lips quirk up in to a smirk. “Not that I expect this will end badly, that is.”

The shorter man glared up at him. “I fuckin hate that you know who it is and won’t tell me. You’re a real dick, Nines.”

Nines lifted his hands in a shrug like he had seen Miller do on countless occasions. (It really was such a useful gesture. He would utilize it more often from now on.) “I suppose you’ll just have to trust me.”

“Guess I’m fuckin doomed then, tin can.” Gavin was rubbing at his temples again. “But what the hell? Didn’t get this far in life being a goddamn coward. Guess I’ll… talk to Connor tomorrow.” And really, the man’s little smile as he said that was a blaring beacon in the dark.

Nines did not let the triumph of his mission success show on his face; he only nodded. “He’ll surely be happy to have an entire day where he can explain basic android functions to you.”

Gavin flipped him the middle finger and began angrily stomping his way back over to the door, swiping the envelope out of Nines’ hand as he passed. “Fuck off, asshole. I’m going back down before my fuckin lunch break is over.”

Nines frowned and realized the man had indeed been up here for almost an hour now. As if on cue, he heard the rumble of his friend’s stomach and watched as his face turned red. “Fuck!” he muttered under his breath.

“Leave it to Gavin Reed to spend his entire break fretting instead of eating like a healthy human ought.” Nines tutted at the man. But perhaps this one time he could indulge his bad habits. After all, he’d thrown away his cigarette earlier. An equal exchange was owed him. “Come along, then; I discovered last week where Detective Collins keeps his stash of nutritionally-deficient snacks.”

“Oh my God, Nines, I knew there was a reason I kept you around. Fuck yeah, Oreos!” Gavin was all but sprinting through the door and down the old metal stairs now, his glee for both the impending petty theft and for the junk food itself evident in every line of his body. Nines was happy to see his spirits so high after the heavy emotions they had been wading through on the roof.

And he was even happier when the man stopped halfway down to turn and face him. “Just for the fuckin record and shit… Thanks for… uh, your help and all. And… You’re my best friend, too, tin can.”

And there again, Nines felt that curious jolt there in his Thirium pump. A strange sensation to be sure but… He would not trade this sentiment for anything. He smiled as he let the door close on the starry sky behind them.

Chapter Text

“Okay, spill. What’s got you so preoccupied, kid?”

Nines snapped to attention to stare at Hank, quickly minimizing his GPS locator (locked on to his brother’s serial number, of course) and giving the older man his full attention.  “Pardon?” he said, playing at innocence.

The lieutenant scoffed, not buying it for a moment. “Don’t play dumb with me. It really doesn’t suit you. You’ve been up in your head the whole time we’ve been here. What’s up?” 

The two of them were standing amidst the bustle of Hart Plaza, the Detroit Jazz Festival in full swing. They’d already taken in a number of performances and Hank was in high spirits. But, as usual, it was considerably difficult to get anything past the canny human when he was lucid and he had picked up on Nines’ preoccupation with a steely, blue gaze.

The way the man’s concern extended to his body language always managed to disarm Nines. Hank’s stance was open and welcoming and, even with two artery-clogging, obscenely condiment-covered hot dogs held in either hand [Hot Dog: (per serving) 437 kCal, Lipids (25.6g), Carbohydrates (35.25g), Sodium (1418mg), Protein (15.79g)], he still managed to exude such a sense of acceptance and authority, like he could make any problem Nines had vanish instantly. (And, though he would never tell another soul this, the android very much appreciated being able to come to him for advice; it was taxing always having to be in charge of himself at all times.)

Of course, that didn’t stop Nines from trying his best to obfuscate the circumstances of his preoccupation. “...Would you believe that I am simply taking in the experience, Hank?” The RK900 was designed with prevarication in mind but there really was no use trying with someone who knew him so well.

Expectedly, the man’s eyes narrowed and he let out a little huff of disbelief. “Nah, don’t think I will, Nines. You’ve barely commented on anything. Your eyes have stayed straight ahead. You haven’t even been tapping your foot like you do at home.” He glanced to the side. “...Look, I don't wanna pester if you wanna keep your thoughts to yourself. Just… I mean, you know I’ll listen if you have something on your mind. Don’t wanna just let you wallow.”

Nines smiled. He genuinely appreciated the sentiment, especially coming from the man he respected so much. Hank’s regard left him with that spontaneous warmth in his Thirium pump. [Logged: Affection] “Thank you, Hank. But it’s something of a… personal matter. And not for myself.” Nines glanced away. “This is something I discovered quite by accident and I do not feel it appropriate to divulge this information to a third party without consent.”

Hank gave him another hard stare before his lips began to quirk upward. The smirk became a grin became a smile became a laugh and before long the man had his eyes creased in mirth. “Oh fuck, Nines! So, you finally caught on to this absolute shitshow, eh? God, I was wondering if anyone else had figured it out with Connor being so fuckin obvious!”

Nines was taken aback. He felt his eyes widen as he gaped at the chuckling man. “You… You mean to say that you are aware of…” Nines, the mobile supercomputer, the pinnacle of technology, the most advanced android in the world, stuttered. He would set up a system analysis if he didn’t already know it would come up with nothing. He was running as designed. It was just that vaunted human unpredictability at work again. (Another reason he respected Hank Anderson so much; one of the only beings he had ever encountered with the capacity to surprise him.)

Hank snorted. “Damn, son, you think he’s getting that shit by me? He used that ugly-ass wrapping paper that was in the back of the closet for one of Reed’s gifts. He spent half an hour straight quizzing me on what coffee tastes like. Hell, I found him snooping through a box of old love letters he found up in storage. Claimed he was conducting more ‘research on human courtship’ to ‘better help him determine motive during investigations.’

“Listen, I love the boy to death but subtle, he ain’t. A fuckin wonder of forensic technology but he trips up at the first sign of human emotion.” He shook his head fondly. “Little idiot.”

Nines was stunned. “So, all this time, you were aware of Connor’s infatuation with Detective Reed. And you approve?” After all, Hank and Gavin were known for their mutual animosity. They butted heads constantly and Connor was forever trying to play peacemaker when their tempers boiled over. (Nines knew better than to step between them when their ire was high but Connor could not abide the conflict.)

The older man sighed. “Well, Reed may be an asshole… but he’s got a good head on his shoulders when it really counts. And now that he’s got his head out of his ass in regards to—” and he made a passing sweep of Nines, top to bottom. “He really seems to have turned over a new leaf and shit. I’d be one hell of a hypocrite if I just waved him off when I used to be the same way.” 

They’d been walking as they spoke but Hank, seemingly overly-burdened with his twin double bypasses on white, gave a low grunt and quickened his pace all of a sudden. He’d found himself an empty bench and, with a low sigh of victory, settled himself down with an easy contentment.

Nines stood beside him, arms crossed and eyebrow raised. Hank merely cocked a brow back at him. “Hey, move a little to the right, won’t ya? You almost have the sun off me,” he declared, giving the android a jaunty grin. Nines sighed and did as instructed.

“Now,” Hank began, “where were we? Ah yeah, Reed.” He leaned back on the bench, head tilted to stare at the bright, blue sky. “He may not be who I’d ever thought Connor would choose, but… Well, the fact of the matter is he did. He decided this all on his own and came up with this whole harebrained scheme and… Well shit, it’s working. I’ll be damned if Gavin ain’t just as head over heels for Connor as he seems to be for him.” Nines nodded; they were of the same opinion in that matter. 

“And you know how Connor gets sometimes. He still… struggles with his decisions. Second-guesses himself. He’s so uptight about getting things perfect and the kid carries a lot of guilt around on those reinforced shoulders of his.” Hank sighed, now staring down sadly at his hot dogs. “And I get it; it’s… hard moving on from what you used to be. Hard to shake the routine that used to get you through the day, no matter how dangerous or mindless or self-destructive it was. And stick that in with fuckin finding yourself for the first time and all that jazz?! Kid has a helluva time every damn day.”

Nines had some idea of what Hank spoke of. The “finding yourself” bit of it, anyway. He had never had to struggle against his coding like his predecessor, had never known a life void of choice. But he knew the difficulties of forging yourself an identity. He knew the rigors of self-actualization. He knew how frightening it could be, choosing one option out of infinite possibilities.

In some ways, he and his brother were still adrift out in this post-deviancy world. Nines thought it fitting that they had found their anchor in a man who knew so well both the freedom of choice and the cage of inevitability. And one who had the fortitude to guide them both through his own unpleasant experiences and on to something better.

Hank smiled. “Yeah, Nines, I’m not about to go taking this from him. Even if Reed is a jackass.”

He looked down on the man he admired so much, gunmetal eyes meeting cornflower blues. The android smiled. “You are a good man, Hank. And a—” He cut himself off, carefully weighing his words. But they seemed so fitting and Nines made his choice. “And an exceptional father. To both of us.”

The man was so stunned he dropped his calorie-laden meal on the ground. Nines felt his satisfaction only grow as he heard him curse. Even more so when he felt himself wrapped in an embrace. “Dammit, kid, you’re just gonna hit me with that in public? You’re a little menace.”

Nines only grinned and returned the hug. “I have it on good authority that you are partial to menaces. You seem to have found yourself with a household full of them, after all.” More human teasing could only help facilitate this interaction. Nines heard Hank chuckle even as his affection meter raised the man from [Hank: Friend] to [Hank - Path Unlocked: Father].

After a short time (and fielding some odd stares from the surrounding crowds), the two separated. Nines said nothing about the man’s misty eyes, only offered to go and retrieve him a replacement meal for the one he’d lost.

Hank’s face when he returned with a healthy salad for him to eat was worth the highway robbery he’d paid for it.

“You’re a real pain in my ass, Nines,” he grumbled, staring down sadly at the leafy meal. “But I’ll let you ruin my genuine, food-truck experience if you do me one favor.”

Nines handed him a sachet of dressing (low-fat, of course) and inquired: “And just what might that be?”

The man’s disappointed frown turned into a manic grin as he looked over. “Whatever little plan you have going for tonight? Yeah, I want in.”

__________________________________


The “plan,” as Hank called it, really just consisted of the two of them enjoying themselves. They wandered freely from performance to performance, sometimes taking in the booked stage shows, sometimes going to stand with an eager crowd around the local musicians who had set up all around. He had to admit, this was a congenial outing. As the daylight faded, Nines eventually gave in and let Hank purchase his beloved hot dogs, watching with a detached sense of disgust as the man devoured them both where he stood in only a few bites. His HUD was filled with safety warnings and calorie counts but at least the man seemed happy.

They crossed paths with Gavin and Connor twice during the afternoon; once, as they watched the human spend a truly obscene amount of money trying to win a prize at a ring toss game (he proudly presented Connor with a small, stuffed dog plush after many, many attempts. It was small enough to fit in the android’s pocket but he seemed overjoyed at the gift, eagerly scooping the detective up in an enthusiastic hug in his excitement); and again, espying them from across the square, watching as they both examined the Android Revolution Memorial Monument. It was large and semi-circular, the bulk of it made up of speckled, red granite. The cenotaph had been erected in the wake of the new android equality laws to commemorate those lost in the struggle that won them their freedom. Connor seemed to be explaining the history of it to Gavin, who was nodding along with an uncharacteristic solemnity. After a while, Connor stepped forward and began tracing his fingers over the engraved names and serial numbers of the victims. When Gavin stepped up beside him, he took the man’s hand in his own and brought it to rest upon the cold stone. Together, they bowed their heads, the two of them lost amidst the bustle of the day.

Hank, too, looked solemn as he nudged Nines in the side. “Looks like he’s doing just fine.” The man's eyes held a faraway look but eventually, he let a small grin overtake his lips. Nodding definitively, he said, “Yeah, they’ll be alright.”

Nines considered the two of them a moment longer. When they stepped back, Connor still had ahold of Gavin’s hand. Yes, they would be alright.

___________________________________


The hour was late and the final acts were finishing up for the day. Overhead, the moon shone brightly, the waxing gibbous almost entirely illuminated. The night was clear and even with the light pollution leaking over from the skyline behind them, there were still stars to see reflecting their light in the Detroit River. A gentle breeze blew across the plaza bringing with it that first bite of autumn to those gathered within.

A large area near the waterfront had been partitioned off and many people were using it as a makeshift dance floor. The scheduled performances may have finished for the day but jazz belonged to the night and it’s practitioners were still in full-swing. Hank was down there in the crowd, wooing the youngsters with his practiced swing steps and Nines let himself grin at his jovial father figure; it was nice to see him so happy for once.

He left Hank to his fun and honed back in on Connor’s GPS signal. He was quite close and Nines found he and Gavin sitting together near the water, Connor’s jacket draped over the man’s shoulders. Nines kept his distance but just because he had had an enjoyable day did not make him any less curious. He felt an investment in their happiness and was not above spying on them to make sure it all went according to plan.

Turning up the sensitivity on his audio receptors, Nines zeroed in on their conversation.

“—and, y’know, it’s not like I could fuckin turn them down after they helped me out. So there I was, surrounded by at least twenty French Canadians and they have no fuckin clue that I knew what they’re all saying. I kept playing dumb and they keep buying me drinks, y’know? Well, long story short, they ended up being members of a fuckin drug cartel who’d been over here for a pickup. They didn’t know I was a damn cop, they just thought I was cute or some shit. So that’s how I bagged twenty guys in one night and also how I ended up making detective. God, that was a fuckin good night. Une bonne nuit!”

Oh, Nines had heard this story before. At least he didn’t have to sit through Gavin complaining about his old partner this time. Officer Mackie was a sore spot for the man to this day and he had spent many hours of their acquaintance waxing poetic about the man’s flaws and vices. (“Fuckin bastard didn’t do shit on that case, Nines! Had to drag them all back and process them myself! Lazy motherfucker.”)

Connor’s laugh drew him from his thoughts. “Well, that’s quite impressive, Gavin! It is heartening to know that we have you out here, keeping the streets safe from fiendish Canadians.”

“Damn straight! I didn’t sit through all Mémère's lectures and four years of French classes to let some idiots get away with talking about their deal right in front of me. Fuckin morons.”

Nines was distracted from the man’s riveting commentary when the singer of the nearby live band tapped her mic. She spoke with a sultry, slightly-accented voice, saying, “The finale is on its way, good people of Detroit! We only have a few minutes left before the real show starts so grab your loved one and let’s make the most of it, shall we?” She waved her hand back to the band behind her and they started up a slow, jazzy rhythm. “This one’s for all you good boys and girls out there and the ones that set your heart aflutter. I’m sure you all will recognize this classic.”

All across the pavement, Nines watched as couples paired off, sliding close to each other and swaying to the beat. The vocalist settled in, her voice a soulful trill in the night, and sang:

It's not the pale moon that excites me,
That thrills and delights me,
Oh no, it's just the nearness of you.

The words were sweet and clear and full of the sorts of emotions Nines still had trouble comprehending. But here in the moment, he could feel the longing and tenderness and intimacy of the music as he let it settle into his chassis. He tapped his foot along to the rhythm as his Thirium pump warmed with the sentiment.

A quick glance back revealed that Gavin had jumped to his feet and was standing in front of Connor with an outstretched hand. “Hey, c’mon, I love this song! Dance with me, Con?”

His brother smiled sweetly up at the man but hesitated. “I… do not know how to dance, Gavin. It’s not exactly something I was programmed for.” Even from this distance, Nines could see how Connor’s face fell in disappointment.

It isn’t your sweet conversation,
That brings this sensation,
Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.

But Gavin just squared his jaw and reached down to draw Connor’s hand into his. “Hey, it’s easy. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you.” He pulled the android up off the bench and took a few steps back, making sure the area was clear. “This is a slow song so no fancy moves required. We just gotta—” He placed Connor’s hands on his hips, mirroring the stance with his own. “—relax into the flow.” He began swaying side to side, using his hands to guide Connor into the same motion. Before long, the android was moving with less rigidity, that stiff posture loosening up into something more organic. Gavin began guiding them around in slow circles, keeping their movements smooth and easy.

When you’re in my arms,
And I feel you so close to me,
All my wildest dreams came true

“See there? Not so hard, metal man.” Gavin was smiling at his dance partner, gray eyes creased in mirth.

Connor nodded, a small grin gracing his face in response. “As you say, Detective. I think it helps having such a wonderful teacher.”

The human chuckled. “You’re a fuckin flatterer, Anderson. Lucky I like that sort of thing in a guy.”

He paused for a moment, his face growing more serious. “Hey, actually… There’s something I wanted to say to you…”

I need no soft lights to enchant me,
If you will only grant me,
The right to hold you ever so tight,
And to feel in the night,
The nearness of you.

Connor’s LED blinked yellow in the low light, just a quick flash before it stabilized. “What is it, Gavin?” he asked, quiet and timid. Nines could feel his brother’s apprehension even from where he was standing.

Gavin seemed to realize this, too, as he shook his head. “Hey, it ain’t nothing bad, Con, geez. I just… I’ve been needed to say this to you for a long time now and—” He took a big, deep breath. “—Look, I want to apologize.”

Connor tilted his head to the side in bafflement. “Apologize? What for?”

Gavin squeezed his eyes shut and sighed. “Jesus, Connor, what for? For fuckin everything. For the sucker punch and the shitty attitude and pulling a fuckin gun on you! Fuck!” He took a deep breath and continued. “I meant to say this to you the other day. After you helped me out during that trafficking case. I just— Fuck. I’m just so fuckin sorry. I need you to know that.”

It's not the pale moon that excites me,
That thrills and delights me,
Oh no, it's just the nearness of you.

Connor lifted his hand from Gavin’s hip, tilting the man’s chin up to stare him in the eyes. “Gavin. I already knew.” He quirked his lips at the other man. “I wouldn’t have worked so hard to gain your favor if I knew you would just discard it out of spite. I’ve seen the progress you’ve made and the ways your views have shifted. And it astounds me, Gavin, your capacity for change. For growth. You recognized the faults in yourself and you have been working hard to improve them. And you did.”

Connor moved his arms to wrap around the man’s back now, pulling him in closer. “For what it’s worth, I forgave you long ago. We were neither of us good people back then and I have no desire to hold against you the actions you took before I even felt alive. In my books, we’re square.

“But on the subject of difficult topics… I feel like now would be the right time for another one.” His face was visibly creased with worry. Nines could read his rising stress levels with his advanced sensors and they were steadily climbing up past the fifty percent mark. When he spoke, it was slow and somber, “Whatever comes of this conversation, Gavin, I would like you to know that I have greatly enjoyed your company today. This has been an enchanting experience for me and I appreciate you asking me to accompany you—”

It isn’t your sweet conversation,
That brings this sensation,
Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” Gavin spoke, cutting off the other’s sentence. Connor’s eyes snapped to his, large and astonished. They stopped their swaying as Gavin cupped the android’s face. “I’ve been… thinking you were, anyway. Because let’s face it, all the evidence matches up: that you’re my co-worker, that you don’t leave fingerprints, that you seem to find some sort of value in my company— Connor, tell me outright; are you my secret admirer?”

To his credit, Connor didn’t even try to play dumb. Merely let out a quiet, little “Yes,” as he stared wide-eyed at the detective.

When you’re in my arms,
And I feel you so close to me,
All my wildest dreams came true.

The singer was still belting her soul into her music as the revelation took hold. The moon still shone brightly, the breeze still gusted through. All around them, Detroit lived and breathed, indifferent to the standstill this couple had brought each other to.

Nines’ internal clocks marked the silence at six seconds, a far cry from the eternity it seemed to take, but finally, finally, Gavin spoke. “I tried not to think about it. Because who could live up to the image I had in my mind? This perfect guy who seemed to know me so well, who left me gifts filled with my favorite things and got me flowers and wrote me love letters. I didn’t want to sort through the facts because I didn’t want to figure it out and then not have them measure up. Not be that ideal man I had in my head.”

Connor stepped away, breaking the man’s hold on him. “I understand. I’m sorry. Please know that I only wished to see you happy and— and— and— I apologize for not being able to measure up. I hope that we might at least be able to continue on as frien—”

“Oh, shut the fuck up!” the shorter man shouted, features tilted into an angry scowl. “You are my fuckin ideal, you bastard! So just shut your fuckin fancy-ass mouth and get over here, you—!

And, as his partner dragged his brother closer, hand latched onto his shirt collar and eyes firmly fixed on his lips, Nines’ took that as his cue to tune back out. He lowered the sensitivities back to their default levels and looked up to the sky.

I need no soft lights to enchant me,
If you will only grant me,
The right to hold you ever so tight,
And to feel in the night,
The nearness of you.”

Those last, pealing notes fading out into the night could not have been more perfectly timed. With brilliant streaks of color, fireworks lit up the sky, flashes of cyan and rose, gold and lime, copper and fuchsia. From across the river, the flares ignited, rising up from their earthly shells to burst in a flashing few seconds of glory. The kaleidoscope of color churned in the flowing river, blotting out the moon and stars with feats of man-made splendor.

He was aware of Hank approaching him from the periphery; it seemed the man had had enough of the dance floor. He came to a stop at Nines’ shoulder, staring out across the river at the booming flashes of color. “Quite the sight, eh?”

Nines quirked his lips. “While displays such as this release large amounts of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and metal salts, I do have to admit to it having… a certain charm.”

Hank snorted, stretching his arm out to rest across Nines’ shoulders. He felt his Thirium pump warm once more. “Just say you enjoy it, kiddo. Nothing wrong with taking in the light show.”

He smirked at the man who just grinned back. Nines took a moment to marvel at the fact that this man was his chosen role-model. He must have a loose circuit somewhere up in his head. (He wouldn’t have it any other way.)

Hank had by now spotted Connor and Gavin in the distance and the older man quirked a brow at how close they were standing, Connor’s arms holding the smaller man tightly to his chassis as they both gazed up at the sky. They looked content and Nines smiled. “There’s no need for contingencies tonight,” he said. “They’ve managed to find their way all on their own.”

Hank snorted. “All on their own, my ass. These two idiots would still be dancing around each other if we weren’t here directing their asses. Uh, metaphorically dancing, I mean. Not this literal shit. Jesus, I need a drink.”

Nines laughed. “‘Allow me to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’,” he quoted. The Serenity Prayer. A staple of the Alcoholics Anonymous organization Nines was so proud Hank was a part of.

“Aw, don’t you go citing that shit at me, son. I know, I know, I’ll get some coffee instead. Just let me enjoy the end of the show, you brat.” They both stared up at the display and Nines felt his love of these incendiary devices burning just as brightly as the brilliant, chemical reactions.

Hank crossed his arms and nudged him with his shoulder. “But what contingency? Thought you said you didn’t have anything planned?”

He debated only a moment but his need to reassure his father finally won out in the end. Aglow in these prismatic flashes of light, Nines pulled a sheet of unevenly creased, 8 ½” x 11” printer paper from his pocket. This had been his only back up plan if tonight went badly. (Read: if his partner stuck his foot in his mouth as he was prone to do at times.) He had recovered this sheet from Gavin's wastebasket, recalling how he had crumpled the paper up in a fit of pique earlier that day and slammed it into the bin. The words inside had been heartfelt, if clumsy. He handed the paper to Hank. Nines did not need to read it, he recalled every word:


To Connor whoever this is,

Okay, I haven’t actually written a letter for a long time so sorry if this sucks. But I wanted to respond for once and a letter seems your style.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life and stuff. And the truth of it is I would like I want it. What you’ve been offering. The greetings and the gifts and all the sentimental shit. I’m 37-years-old and I’ve never been in love, y’know? Never thought I wanted to be. Really never thought anyone could want me such an asshole in the first place but I guess there’s no accounting for taste. 

But shit, the truth is I don’t want you to be some stranger. I tried working it out in the beginning once me and Nines figured out it was someone in the office. We narrowed it down and… Well, really only one name kept coming to mind. 

Connor, I sure hope yo— I wanted to say th— All this time I’ve been hoping it was you.

You’re the kindest person I’ve ever met. I can’t even believe you could accept me as even a friend after all the shit I’ve done to you. Honestly, you’re too good for me and we both know it, right? I don’t wanna ruin my chances write off the possibility but there is literally no reason for it to be you behind this except that everyone else is an even worse match. So

Honestly, this is probably just wishful thinking. If so, can you do me a solid and just delete this memory and burn the letter? It’d be nice if we could still continue as friends after and I don’t want I don’t want to fuck it all up.

But, just on the off-chance that this all ends up working out for once

I don’t know what else to say— I don’t know how to end— I hope it’s you. I really do.

Au revoir, mon trésor

Gavin This is stupid fuck


Hank stared at the sheet for a long moment before handing it back. “Well, I’ll be…”

Nines chuckled as he returned it to his pocket. Maybe he’d save it for posterity. (He could probably get at least three good cases from Officer Chen for this one.)

The band behind him had struck up a reprise as the lights flashed across the sky. Nines felt his father’s arm wrapped around his shoulders in this half-embrace. In front of him, his brother and partner danced under the stars.

Nines felt content. All was good.

Chapter Text

“And how’s my best guy doing today?”

“Are you implying that I’m not your only guy, Gavin?”

“You know me, babe. This ass is in hot demand.”

“I do hope that by ‘ass’ you mean your entire self, darling.”

“Hey! Low blow, Con.”

“Now Gavin, I don’t believe we’ve hit that milestone of our relationship yet.”

Oh my God. Did you just make a sex joke?”

“Adapting to human behavior is one of my specialties.”

Oh my God! ...Hey, wait a minute, what’s that supposed to mean?!”

“Hey, horndogs! Can it! I can hear you all the way over here! Some of us are trying to work!”

Oh, blessed relief, thy name is Tina Chen. Nines looked over to where the woman was sitting, her eyes narrowed as she glared at the DPD’s hottest new couple. Nines had never felt closer to owing someone a debt than in this moment when she finally managed to get them both to shut up. [Officer Chen: Warm^]

Gavin, predictably, assumed a belligerent stance, narrowing his eyes and squaring his shoulders. Nines had seen him assume this position many times before and, in preparation of the tirade soon to follow, he pulled up his audio settings overlay should he need to mute his sensors to the man’s angry yowling.

So it came as a great surprise to Nines when Gavin’s mouth snapped back shut. The cause? Connor’s arm, wrapped around his waist. “Excuse us, Tina. We didn’t mean to disrupt your work.” He had turned those big, brown eyes of his on his target, widening them for maximum effect. Everything about the RK800 was weaponized and Connor knew his craft well. “If you would allow us to make it up to you, we’re scheduled for a small break in twenty minutes; I’m sure Gavin won’t mind us stopping at that place around the corner to bring you back a chai latte, almond milk, a dash of cinnamon?” The android turned to look at his boyfriend who had cuddled right up to him and had slipped his hand into the back pocket of Connor’s jeans. Gavin offered no complaints, merely huffed out a “Whatever, that’s fine.”

Connor turned that dangerous, sympathetic grin back Chen’s way and she was wholly, easily defeated. “Aw, yeah, thanks Connor. That’s so nice of you. Sorry for telling you guys off.”

Connor smiled. Gavin smirked. Chen returned to her reports.

Nines was reminded to never underestimate the abilities of his predecessor.

He watched them a moment longer as Connor leaned over, pressing a kiss to Gavin’s temple. The man grinned widely as he playfully butted his head against the other’s jaw. “You’re fuckin scary with that shit, babe. It’s kinda hot.”

Connor sniffed, primly. “I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about, darling. Being courteous to a co-worker is only polite.”

Gavin snorted. “Whatever you say, sugar.” They separated, detangling their limbs and moving a step away. “Back to the ol’ grind then, eh Con? Meet back here in twenty?”

Connor smiled, reaching down for Gavin’s hand and pressing a dainty kiss to those scarred fingers. The man sputtered, face bright red, even as Connor said, “I will count the minutes, mon cher .” And with a wink, he departed, sidling out of the breakroom and back over to his desk.

Gavin emerged a moment later, face still beet red but looking pathetically happy. Nines almost could not bear to ruin his mood. Almost .

“A package arrived for you while you were… indisposed ,” he said as his partner approached. Gavin’s eyes quickly shot down to the plainly-wrapped parcel sitting in his in tray. He looked puzzled, glancing from it to over across the room where Connor was examining his own much-more-festively-wrapped box. The two’s eyes met across the bullpen, both of them looking various degrees of confused. Although, Gavin had a knowing look in his eyes when he glanced at Connor’s parcel, wrapped in the same (rather garish, in Nines’ opinion), cartoonish cat and dog paper that his box of gourmet chocolates had been sporting those few weeks ago.

Connor seemed suspicious of his boyfriend as he approached, holding his gift out in front of him. “This seems like a familiar print, Gavin. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this, would you?”

His partner scoffed. “Only as much as you’d know about this thing , metal man.” And for emphasis, he smacked the kraft paper-wrapped box.

Connor actually looked quite baffled. “No, I— I have no idea who that is from, Gavin. I haven’t sent you anything new since last week.”

“Yeah. Sure. I believe you.”

“Gavin—”

“Just open your gift, Conman.”

The android sighed before turning the package over to access the seams. Unlike Gavin, Connor did not take care not to rip the paper (he and Nines both quite enjoyed the visceral appeal of breaking through the flimsy barrier to unveil the present within) and soon a wide, flat cardboard box was revealed. Connor sent a quick glance Gavin’s way, getting a grin and a thumbs up in response before he broke through the tape at the one end. Carefully sliding the contents of the box out, Connor let the packaging fall to the floor. He cradled his gifts gingerly in his hands, looking up to Gavin with a sense of wonder.

“Darling, you didn’t ?!”

The human only grinned. “Thought you might like a little something more for your desk, babe. And you seem like the sentimental type, so…” He shrugged, trying for casual indifference. But the pleased gleam in his eyes told Nines he cared very much about Connor’s reaction.

Of course, Nines knew what Gavin had gifted Connor, he had helped him decide on it when the man revealed to him how much he would like to reciprocate Connor’s thoughtful attempts at romance. Between the two of them, they had managed to brainstorm something emotional and earnest. And practical enough for the workplace.

Picture frames. Three of them, to be exact, of varying sizes. The smallest, the one Connor held on top, was an official photo of Connor during his swearing-in ceremony, the day he became more than an on-loan machine to the force and embraced his place as a fully-fledged detective in his own right. He was in full dress-uniform, looking dapper and put together and blindingly happy. There were no android insignias in sight.

Connor set it aside and looked down at the next. It was a split frame, the divider in the middle allowing for two separate photos to be included. On the left, a picture from last year’s Christmas party. The group shot had the officers in attendance all squeezed into the conference room and prominently exhibiting their various degrees of inebriation. Connor, Hank and Nines were all standing towards the center, the elder android’s wide, expressive eyes reflecting back the blinking lights decorating the room. Hank had on an askew Santa hat, his arm around Connor’s shoulders and in the middle of doubling over with laughter. Behind them both was Nines, his presence stiff and imposing, still new to the world and figuring out his place in it. He was a rather dour spot in the photo, he must admit, but Connor grinned over at him anyway as he took in the sight. And, of course, Gavin was present as well, looking mightily disgruntled as a drunken Tina Chen attempted to give him a noogie while at the same time, Officer Miller was trying to hand him his son. It was a wonderful representation of their chaotic workplace and Connor seemed delighted.

The other side was a similar photo, though the androids of Jericho made for a much smaller group. It was a candid shot, not one of those posed mock-ups featured on magazine covers or a cinematic reel like the news stations liked to play every Unity Day. Connor was standing on a platform, still sporting his old uniform. He was shaking hands with Markus, the two of them sharing a smile. The red-haired woman, North, stood at their sides, her hand resting on Markus’ shoulder and her face much more joyful and relaxed than Nines had ever seen it in real life. A taller model, a PJ500, was staring at Connor with delight while the shorter, blond android next to him had his eyes closed, a small smile gracing his lips. They all looked like… friends. This picture had been taken from the memory of an LP300, one of the many androids in the crowd just visible near the bottom edge. Nines had managed to track the LP down with the help of Markus and Connor’s reaction spoke volumes of how much he seemed to appreciate the effort. His LED was spinning between yellow and blue and Nines could’ve sworn his eyes were slightly misted with diluted Thirium.

As he carefully set it off to the side, he reached the last — and largest — of the frames. This one was big, 13 x 9, with careful punchouts littered across it for different sized photos. In the corner was a small picture of Cole and Nines watched worriedly as Connor’s simulated breathing protocol seemed to stall for a moment as he traced the boy’s eternally-youthful face. Neither of the RK units had ever met Cole but they considered him their brother, nonetheless. Connor didn’t own a picture of him though Nines knew for a fact that he kept a digital print uploaded to his family registration folder. The physical copy seemed to gain a significant, emotional reaction, though.

In the opposite and bottom corner, there was another small print, this one of Connor’s friend, Emma Phillips, the girl he had rescued on his first mission. With the help of her mother, she had contacted him last August and Nines was aware that it had had quite an emotional impact on his brother. Their interface later on that day exposed Nines to a wealth of feelings, the most prominent being sadness and relief. From that point on, Connor and Emma had kept in regular contact and Connor had even been invited to attend her school concert last April which he had done with much excitement.

The last two slots were of larger pictures. The top was a family shot of the Andersons, Hank for once cleaned up and presentable, standing with his arms around both Connor and Nines. They were all of them smiling and even now, Nines could make out the joy in his own eyes at the feeling of belonging. Sumo sat in front of them all, drooling onto the floor.

And the last photo… Well, this had been one Nines had taken, himself. It was Connor and Gavin that night at Hart Plaza, dancing in each other’s arms as the lights flared overhead. Nines’ optical units were second to none and so, even with the advanced zoom and dubious lighting, the picture had come out looking like some sort of professionally-done, romantic getaway advertisement. He’d given Gavin a copy of it, too, and pretended not to notice as the man held it close to his heart.

Connor was definitely looking a little watery in the eyes by this point as he set aside the last of his gifts and stepped forward to wrap his boyfriend in a tight hug. Gavin just smiled and embraced him back, saying, “I know I’m a little late on this whole thing but… Happy belated birthday, Connor. What a big man, two years old.”

Connor chuckled and stepped back, keeping his arms around the man’s shoulders. “How did you know?” Then realizing the foolishness of his question, he darted his gaze over towards Nines who waved at him irreverently. “Of course. It was you.” He put on an aggrieved face. “To think, I would be betrayed by my own family! Oh Gavin, it seems I’ll have to place all my trust in you from now on.”

Gavin was giggling at Connor’s overdramatic performance. “You fuckin dork. Holy shit. You’re adorable.” And he leaned up press a quick kiss to the android’s cheek.

Honestly, even Nines was feeling a touch embarrassed watching them. He thought perhaps they really ought to take Hank’s advice and “Get a room, for crying out loud!”

Breaking apart once more, Gavin stepped back, reaching for his own wrapped box. “Now, let’s see what I get in return…”

Connor looked alarmed. “Gavin! I really didn’t send you that! Here, at least let me scan it to make sure—”

Gavin cut him off. “Yeah, whatever, Con. Your little mind-tricks won’t work on me.”

Connor’s LED was blinking yellow as Gavin tore off the brown wrapping. It was a small box about the size of a postcard and about an inch tall. A red rose was embossed across the front and Gavin’s brow furrowed. Connor was looking more and more alarmed. “Oh no. Gavin, wait. I know who sent this.”

The man smirked. “What, finally ready to fess up, Conman? Why, what’s in here? Some movie tickets? Little candies? Did you pay off my parking ticket that fuckin Lewis ( that bastard! ) gave me the other day?” He was already peeling the box open as he spoke.

Time seemed to move in slow-motion as Connor reached out his hand. Gavin looked down, eyes widening in horrified realization, and he jerked back in surprise. Connor’s hand made contact with the box. Gavin yelped as it tipped into the air.

Nines smirked as dozens of pictures of a scantily-clad old woman rained down through the precinct. All around him, horrified gasps echoed as officers literally stopped in their tracks to stare at the practically-pornographic mess. Connor and Gavin had frozen, each staring at each other with wide, horrified eyes. In a coincidence of divine proportions, one came to rest directly at the feet of Captain Fowler who had been leading around a group of children on a field trip from a local school. No one blinked. No one moved.

A small, expensive-looking notecard lay face up at Nines feet.


To my dearest Detective Reed,

Here’s to hoping this entices you, pretty boy. There’s more where this came from if you’ll just stop by to help me find my “antique vase.”

Oodles of love, you sexy thing,

Linda Morris xoxo


Nines laughed, full and long. Mrs. Morris, the octogenarian, had finally gotten her “thank you gift” through to her favorite detective.

Officer Chen would need a rain check on that latte. Connor and Gavin might need medical assistance after Fowler was through with them. Some unlucky soul would have to field the complaints of twenty-odd children’s irate parents.

Nines loved his job. He was never, ever bored.