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Cohesive Force

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With his eyes closed and his ears just below the surface of the warm water, the world feels far away. There’s nothing but darkness and muffled white noise.

Like this, Elijah is able to quiet his overactive mind. He can go blank and just be still until he’s ready to be a part of the world again. It’s late and he should be asleep by now, but he has instead been floating in the center of his pool for an amount of time he estimates to be nearly an hour.

Through the sound dampening of the water, Elijah hears faint movement, and knows that someone is nearby. His best guess is Chloe, most likely sitting on the edge of the pool just to dip her legs in. Ivy is wound too tight for getting into the pool, and Karoline isn’t home.

Karoline is busy conducting a drug raid entirely too last-minute with a pathetic amount of backup. Why they couldn’t have just waited until the full SWAT team was-

Elijah takes a deep breath, his entire upper body shifting in the water as he inhales.

He counts to five, holds the breath to a count of three, and releases to another count of five. By the time he has done the exercise twice, his mind is blank again. He feels weightless, resting on the water, like he is more than his body.

More time passes with only the occasional ripple from Chloe’s feet moving through the water, until the movement picks up abruptly, signalling that she’s climbing out.

“Elijah.”

His name sounds like it’s traveling to him from the other side of a glass windowpane.

Opening his eyes, he sees both Chloe and Ivy at the side of the pool, Ivy in one of the suits she favours and Chloe with her bare legs under the skirt of her dress still dripping onto the tiles beneath her feet.

From the tone, he knows that it was Ivy who spoke. Her jaw is clenched. Something has gone wrong.

Elijah rolls in the water and swims to the edge of the pool, quickly pulling himself up. He gathers his wet hair and ties it back while the girls share a look, deciding which of them is going to deliver the news.

“Karoline is fine,” Chloe starts.

But Gavin isn’t goes unspoken.

Well. Elijah supposes that’s what they get for taking as long as they did to reconnect. Two and a half months and their time is already cut short. Elijah has had a fair bit of luck in his life, and he supposes it was bound to turn on him, eventually.

He closes his eyes and considers getting right back into the pool. His house is well-heated, but the droplets of water rolling down his arms already feel cold, leaving goosebumps in their wake as they travel across his skin and cause him to shiver.

Chloe’s hand circles around his elbow. “Gavin is in the hospital,” she says, the sound of her voice closer to him now.

In the hospital. Hospital, not a morgue.

“Karoline is with him. We can join her, if you’d like.”

Elijah opens his eyes again. “Tell me what happened.”

Ivy is the one who answers. “Explosives. The building collapsed with half of them still inside. Karoline and Tina were helping some android victims outside when it happened and Karoline isn’t hurt.”

A CyberLife warehouse, blown apart with his brother inside. It could even be a warehouse that Elijah himself purchased or commissioned, years and years ago, before it got taken over and turned into a Red Ice factory. His former property and his breakthrough invention, used to infect the city of Detroit and attract the DPD into danger.

“What are his chances?” he asks.

“Karoline says his leg looked unfixable, but beyond that, she doesn’t know. I need to see him,” Ivy says.

Elijah nods. “Let’s go, then.”

He walks away from them to get a towel and dry off, collecting his thoughts as he does. There’s no point in agonising about it when they know so little, so for now, they’ll get themselves to the hospital, and then they’ll get a nurse to explain. Ivy will get into Gavin’s room to assess for herself, and she’ll be able to determine how things will play out.

Elijah chooses something comfortable to wear, something that won’t agitate him during the upcoming hours he’s likely to spend already agitated enough as it is. While he typically likes a certain type of outfit for being out in public, he knows he’ll be more at ease in a cotton shirt with a low neck and an overlarge sweater. The kinds of things he wore when he was in his late teens and early twenties, when he didn’t care what people thought when they looked at him.

Chloe and Ivy are waiting for him at the garage. Ivy gets into the driver’s seat, and Chloe gives him a pointed look as she gets into the back, needing no words to command him to join her. Once they’re both situated, she grabs his hand and holds it between both of her own.

With the house being so far from the center of Detroit, it takes an excruciating amount of time to reach the hospital, and then it takes even more time to be directed to the right floor, and then the right wing. Elijah feels high-strung the entire way.

“Mr. Reed is currently in surgery,” the resident at the front desk tells them. “I’m sorry, but you’ll need to wait for more information.”

Ivy’s lips become as tight and thin as they can possibly get as they’re directed to the waiting room. Elijah knows she must be irritated at her inability to help, at this stage.

They find Karoline and Tina seated in the corner of the small waiting room.

Both of them are still in their uniforms and the dark blue is dusted with brown and grey from the destroyed building. Tina is also slick with sweat and her hair has partially pulled out of her bun, a few strands falling down around her face. She’s leaning forward with her elbows balanced on her knees and Karoline has an arm across her back, hand curled protectively around her opposite shoulder.

Karoline looks up at them with an aching expression as they walk in, her LED a solid, bright yellow. She rarely goes into yellow.

Elijah sits on her other side, Chloe and Ivy taking seats around them. He doesn’t know what to say, so naturally, the wrong thing is what comes out.

“How could this have happened? Is the SWAT team good for nothing?”

Karoline’s LED blinks. “They’re SWAT, not the EDU.”

“Why didn’t the EDU get called out in the middle of the night, then?”

Tina exhales a tired breath and pinches the bridge of her nose between her forefinger and thumb.

“We didn’t know,” she says. “How could we have known? Who the fuck rigs their own operation like that? Fucker wrecked everything just to get the upper hand.”

“I met him,” Karoline says. Her eyes are trained down at the ground, and it takes her a second to look back up with a tiny jolt, like she only just realised she spoke. “Cooper. At the café.”

Elijah furrows his brow. After she and Gavin had stepped out during Alex and Maya’s show, Karoline had casually claimed that something came up at work but it didn’t require their immediate attention, and that it could wait until they went into the station in the morning. This is the first Elijah is hearing about this ‘Cooper’.

“Who?” he asks, trying to keep his voice even despite his eagerness to know about the person who took over CyberLife’s warehouse and blew it up while Gavin and Karoline were on the premises.

Karoline's LED flashes again before she answers. It hasn’t been so active since the early days of her deviancy.

“He was involved with Gavin. This was personal.”

Anxiety spikes in the pit of Elijah’s stomach, heavy and uncomfortable. “Was he caught?”

“No,” Karoline says.

Then they aren’t out of the woods, yet, even if Gavin makes it out of surgery without complications. Some dangerous asshole is still out there after doing what he did, and if he’s resourceful enough to blow up a warehouse, he is likely far from finished with Gavin.

This is why Elijah has kept to himself for so many years. There are always people ready to make a mess of things, people with malicious intent. It’s easier to be detached, to be untouchable. During the years he spent in his remote home with his three android companions, he could not be impacted by the larger world. He could not be slighted, and he could not find himself in a position to experience grief over something lost. It was safe. He had no one to lose while the four of them lived their separate life on the edge of Lake St. Clair.

That changed when Gavin unexpectedly showed up to his house one October day, seeking answers about Elijah’s creations. Elijah had imagined countless reconciliation scenarios between the two of them, and not once had he considered Gavin might come knocking in an effort to solve the deviancy ‘threat’. There are limits to even his own mind, it seems.

It may not have been the reunion Elijah anticipated, but it still led him to this moment, sitting in a sterile plastic chair in a room bleached and humming with florescent light, waiting for someone to tell him whether or not his brother will make it through to morning.

He supposes it could be worse. Gut wounds, internal bleeding, failing organs. Perhaps he’s only being dramatic.

Elijah shuts his eyes. He doesn’t understand why the waiting room needs to be so brightly lit. It’s the waiting room, not the damn operating room.

“I need caffeine,” Tina mutters.

“Coffee from downstairs?” Karoline asks.

“Ugh.”

“There’s also a convenience store a six-minute walk from here.”

“Burnt coffee it is. Don’t want to go far, in case…”

The sound of squeaking chairs and chafing riot gear signals that they’re moving, and then there’s the heavy footfalls of their boots on the linoleum flooring. The two of them walk away and Elijah doesn’t open his eyes to see them go.

Chloe shifts closer to him on his other side and lays a hand on the base of his neck, her warm fingers brushing along the curve of it. Slowly, she slides her palm down between his shoulder blades and then starts tracing little nonsense shapes into the fabric of his sweater, none the same as the previous ones, calming but not monotonous. Elijah finds himself breathing in and out to the movement of her fingers. In when she draws a line, out when she draws a curve.

It isn't long before Karoline and Tina return, bringing the scent of coffee with them, and their seats are reclaimed.

None of them speak. Elijah tunes out everything save for the feeling of Chloe’s hand on his back, grounding him and keeping him steady.

It feels like they’ve been sitting in the waiting room for hours by the time someone approaches them, but Elijah doubts the reality matches up with his perception. He opens his eyes and sits up straighter as the footsteps stop in front of them. Chloe’s hand drops to the small of his back.

“You’re Mr. Reed’s family?” the nurse asks.

“Yeah,” Tina says.

The nurse glances around at the group of them, and Elijah sees the exact moment when he realises just who is sitting in front of him. Elijah Kamski and three androids sharing Chloe’s face. They aren’t exactly subtle.

To his credit, the nurse only takes a few seconds to set his surprise aside.

“The surgery was very successful,” he says. “We preserved what we could of Mr. Reed’s thigh and he’s taking well to the procedure. His vitals remain strong.”

As the nurse finishes, Elijah lets out a stuttered breath, his entire body feeling like it’s thrumming with anxious energy. This is good news, and yet he still feels overwhelmed and unsteady, like pieces of him are disconnecting and falling apart.

Chloe’s hand comes back up to his neck, her thumb pushing down in the junction that meets his shoulder and massaging into the muscle.

“You can visit with him now,” the nurses says. “He’s unlikely to wake up for some time yet, but you can sit with him. Two at a time, for now, until he’s more settled.”

Instantly, Elijah stands, the weight of Chloe’s hand gone from his back. On Karoline’s other side, both Tina and Ivy stand up as well.

The nurse’s lips part slightly, looking between the three of them hesitantly.

“Ivy needs to examine him,” Elijah tells Tina.

“Um…” the nurse starts.

Tina turns her entire body towards Elijah, eyes sharp and jaw clenched. “Great. She and I will head in, then.”

Warm fingers circle around Elijah’s wrist, but he barely feels them, can’t find comfort in them. “Excuse me?” he says.

“Two at a time, Kamski,” Tina says. “So you’ll need to wait a little bit longer.”

He understands her meaning perfectly, but he still doesn’t understand. The two of them have interacted plenty in the time since the revolution, between how close she and Gavin already were and how close she and Karoline have become. Elijah likes Tina, finds her to be interesting, funny, and direct. They have gotten along ever since the night they met, since she agreed to spill the beans on what Gavin had been up to in the years he and Elijah spent estranged. Not once has she faced him with animosity.

“I’m his brother,” Elijah says lowly.

“Yeah. For a couple months,” Tina says.

Her hands clench into fists, making it look like she wants to throw a punch. Instead, she begins to turn away from him, dismissing him in favour of gesturing for the nurse to lead the way.

Elijah does not like being dismissed.

“Detective Chen-”

She looks over her shoulder at him with a snarl. “You waited fifteen fucking years to be his family. You can wait a bit longer, can’t you?”

With that, she walks across the room to the hallway, waiting for the nurse to catch up. Ivy hesitates, but Elijah waves her off, shocked to find his own hand trembling when he does so. Ivy frowns at him, but then she turns to go.

Elijah watches the three of them leave, the nurse nervously scratching the back of his head as he takes Tina and Ivy out of view. A coldness has spread inside of Elijah, something hard and dead that makes him feel numb.

“Elijah,” Chloe says softly, her hand finding his wrist again to pull him back down into his chair.

He lets her maneuver him, lets her pull him against her side. She presses a kiss to his temple, but it hardly registers. Everything feels muted, far away.

“She didn’t mean it,” Karoline mumbles. “She’s just upset. Scared.”

The words do little to ease the chill in his bones. Whether Tina meant it or not, she’s right. Elijah has been in Gavin’s life for less time than she has, when you get down to the years that actually matter. Even when he and Gavin lived together, they hadn’t been close.

And that had been Elijah’s fault. He’d been a student, had been a budding CEO. He’d had his projects, his future already in the making, and he hadn’t been able to connect with Gavin. Hadn’t known him well enough to know how to do it. If he’d taken the time to figure out what kind of person Gavin was, maybe he would have been able to realise that Gavin wasn’t like most of the people Elijah has known in life. Gavin would have accepted Elijah the way he was, would have been happy to be a couple of teenage siblings, just… being.

He’d gotten it all wrong, and wasted fifteen years, like Tina said. For several of those fifteen years, Tina had been the one at Gavin’s side. His best friend, his family. While Elijah was hidden away in his distant home, drawn into himself.

“It’s fine,” Elijah says. His voice sounds flatter than he intended. A lot of things don’t happen the way he intends.

“I’ll talk to her, later,” Karoline says.

“Don’t bother.”

“Elijah,” Karoline says shortly, exasperated.

“It’s fine,” Elijah repeats. “It’s not like she’s wrong.”

Neither Karoline nor Chloe has anything to say to that. Of course they don’t, Elijah thinks to himself bitterly, they know the truth the same as he does.

Silence reigns once again. Elijah flits back and forth between feeling empty and feeling too much. That’s how it has always been with him. He doesn’t feel enough when he’s supposed to, and he feels too much when it’s inconvenient, and sometimes he can’t make up his own damn mind, and he gets overwhelmed, and he needs to breathe-

“I’m going to the washroom,” Elijah announces, standing up abruptly and dislodging himself from Chloe once again.

“Wait, Elijah,” Chloe says.

He turns to look at the two of them. Both their LEDs are yellow, unmoving. “It’s fine,” he says yet again. “I’ll only be a moment.”

He goes before either of them can stop him, looking for the signs on the hallway walls for the directions to the bathrooms. He passes by people in scrubs and the occasional lab coat, and sometimes they look at him, giving him a glance as if to ask should you be here? Do you have any right to be here, Elijah? You were never there for him before, were you, Elijah?

The bathrooms are blissfully empty when he pushes into the closest one and steps up to the sink.

The face looking back at him in the mirror is pallid. Pale everywhere except for the tired darkness under his unemotional eyes. His hair isn’t as neat as he usually likes it when he’s being seen by anyone other than the trio, still damp and a little tangled from how quickly he tied it back.

Elijah looks at the spot where an LED would be if he were an android, wondering what colour it would show. Maybe it would be all the way red. Maybe he would be able to keep it cool blue, upholding the façade that feels more natural than his real self.

These last couple of months, he has been playing a game, playing at being the kind of person who can have a family outside of androids he programmed to put up with his unsettling personality, unpredictable mood swings, and incapability to just say or do the right thing.

Taking in a shuddered breath, Elijah grasps the edge of the sink and leans over it, forcing his gaze away from his reflection.

Part of him wants to go home. Wants to turn his back and retreat. Because that’s who he really is and he knows it, and Tina knows it.

It wouldn’t be fair to the girls, though. They have grown so fond of Gavin, so genuinely accepting of him into their lives. He can’t ask them to leave just because he’s a coward. He needs to pull himself together long enough that they can all see him.

Lifting his face to the mirror again, Elijah watches himself pull the elastic out of his hair and let it loose over his shoulders. He carefully threads his fingers through the knots that have formed, setting it as straight as he can manage before tying it back up.

His keeps his face calm as he pulls on the lapels of his sweater. There’s little he can do about his casual clothing but keep them as unwrinkled as possible. He still looks too much like the twenty-year-old of his past, but it’s too late to do much else.

For a few minutes, he just stands there and looks at himself, pursing his lips and adopting the kind of expression he would take at business gatherings, parties, and charity events. Unaffected, self-interested. That’s who Elijah Kamski is.

The door opens and Elijah turns to see Chloe stepping inside. She takes one look at him and her face falls. “Don’t do this, Elijah,” she says.

“Don’t do what?”

She strides up to him, the door slowly swinging shut behind her. Raising her hands, she grasps onto his cheeks, thumbs brushing over his cheekbones. “Do not shut yourself away,” she says, a rare fire in her voice. “That’s not how this is going to work.”

Elijah resists the urge to do something as childish as roll his eyes. “You think you know how this is going to work, do you?”

One of her hands goes down to his chin, holding it firmly in her palm. “I do. You’re going to get through this. Gavin, Tina, and you. Are you listening to me, Elijah? The three of you are going to sort this out, and then you’re going to continue fostering your relationships. This is not the end of that.”

Her tone brokers no argument, and Elijah just gazes down at her, absorbing her conviction and defiance. He recalls his earlier thought about her and her sisters, ashamed of himself for even suggesting that their patience and love is anything other than their sentient individuality, something they developed on their own instead of through his programming. He’s fortunate that they share it with him. If any of them had chosen to leave and live their own lives, even before the revolution, he couldn’t have stopped them. Chloe gives this willingly, and he knows that.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

Her expression softens and she drops her hands down onto his shoulders. “Things are difficult right now, but they’re already looking up. As the nurse said, Gavin is doing well.”

Elijah nods once. “I know. It’s just… a lot.”

“Yes, it is,” Chloe says. “But not too much. If it feels like too much, talk to us.”

“Okay.”

Her LED spins. “Let’s go see your brother,” she says.

“Ivy and Tina are done?”

She moves to his side, taking his arm and leading him back out of the bathroom. “They are. He hasn’t woken, yet.”

Instead of going to the waiting room, she takes him straight to Gavin’s room. They don’t run into Ivy and Tina on the way, which Elijah figures is just as likely to be intentional as it is to be a coincidence. Chloe lets them into the room.

Gavin is peacefully asleep in his hospital bed, his chest rising and falling steadily. He looks more pale than usual and his hair is a wild, greasy, mess, but he doesn’t look so bad, considering what he survived, recently. The bedcovers have been folded back and his gown bunched up on one side so that nothing is on top of his bandaged left thigh.

Chloe gently pushes Elijah into one of the chairs, then she brings another one in beside him so they can sit together.

Tentatively, Elijah reaches out a hand and curls it around Gavin’s forearm.

The corners of his eyes grow wet. He swallows thickly, bowing his head so he doesn’t have to look at anything but the white cotton sheets.

“I could have lost him,” he whispers.

Chloe replaces her hand on his back, leaving it still and flat against him.

Elijah doesn’t remember the last time he felt this raw, this broken open. A decade ago, perhaps, when he stepped out of CyberLife Tower for the last time. That, too, might have been the last time he felt tears rolling down his cheeks.

He closes his eyes and leans further forward, dipping down until his forehead meets Gavin’s arm, and he cries for the first time in years.


At eight, Karoline and Tina leave for the station, needing to make reports and sort out the next stages of the case. Elijah and Tina have mostly managed to avoid being in the same place at the same time, whether it’s Gavin’s room or the waiting room, and it’s a relief when Elijah no longer needs to give her a wide berth, no matter how selfish he knows he’s being.

Other people have been in around them, coming and going, and every so often one will notice Elijah in a way he wishes they wouldn’t. The rest overlook him, not expecting Former CyberLife CEO and Man of the Century Elijah Kamski to be so much less put together than he was when he was still doing interviews and public appearances.

He and Ivy go back into Gavin’s room together. Since his first visit - since the flood of tears down his face - Elijah has been a little more settled, a bit more in the present instead of caught up in the dark thoughts swirling around his head.

Taking his usual seat, Elijah rests his hand over Gavin’s wrist, light and gentle.

He stays like that until he feels movement, the slight twitch of muscle under his fingers.

“Ivy,” Elijah says in a rush as he looks up at Gavin’s face, watching with bated breath for him to open his eyes.

Ivy mirrors him on the other side of the bed, her own hand on Gavin’s bicep.

It takes another few minutes, during which Gavin’s breathing slowly speeds up and his head lolls to the side, causing his eyebrows to furrow. Then, he finally breaks through into wakefulness and his eyelids flutter open.

“Hey, Gav,” Elijah says.

“Eli?”

Gavin winces at the sound of his own raspy voice. Ivy is quick to hold out a cup of water and help him with the straw, letting him drink.

When he’s done, Ivy sets the cup back on the nightstand.

“Thanks,” Gavin says, sounding only marginally better.

Ivy fixes a strand of his bangs. “You’re welcome. How are you feeling?”

Gavin sighs, his eyes shutting again. “Like shit.”

Ivy glances across the bed at Elijah, exchanging a brief look with him. They both stay silent, giving Gavin a chance to properly wake up.

Everything comes back to him very suddenly. “Oh fuck,” Gavin says, eyes flying open. The machine next to his bed registers a spike in his heart rate. “Fuck, fuck, shit.”

He pushes himself up on an elbow, shaking from the strain, and looks down at his one remaining leg. All the colour drains out of his face.

“Gavin,” Ivy says in a steady voice as she leans in to block the sight of his missing leg and get his eyes on her instead. “I need you to focus on breathing. Can you do that?”

“Can I-?” Gavin mutters. “My fucking leg-”

Elijah is at a loss for what to do or how to help. Feeling useless and out of place, he sits back in his chair and lets Ivy handle it, hoping she will be able to calm Gavin down enough for them to talk properly.

Ivy’s direction only works for a couple moments before Gavin gasps in a stuttered breath and his hand flies up to his chest, fingers clutching at his hospital gown over his sternum. Elijah thinks he’s having a panic attack, recognises the frantic look in his eye and the difficulty breathing, but when he speaks, he says something Elijah couldn’t have anticipated at all.

“Where’s Victor?” Gavin wheezes through a laboured breath.

“At the police station,” Ivy answers.

“What does- what does that mean?”

Elijah would like to know the answer to that question as well.

The corners of Ivy’s lips curl downwards, forming an unhappy frown. “CyberLife had no body on standby for him to upload into,” she says. “Unit 88 was taken into the station, but we’ll have him released to CyberLife and we’ll see what needs to be done.”

Gavin’s eyes squeeze shut and he doesn’t reply. Gently, Ivy takes his wrist away from his heaving chest and lays it back down next to him.

“Remember to breathe, Gavin,” she says.

The laugh Gavin gives in response is a horrible, ragged sound that sends a shiver down Elijah’s spine.

The door to the room opens and a nurse hurries in, eyes roving between the beeping of the heart monitor and Gavin’s hysterical state. “Step aside, please,” she says to Ivy as she closes in.

“No,” Ivy snaps. “I need to-”

“Ma’am,” the nurse interrupts. “What you need to do is step aside.”

If Ivy could go red with anger, Elijah knows she would. He stands up and circles around the end of the bed to hook his arm around her and pull her away before she starts a fight. As they head through the door to the hallway, he looks over his shoulder, watching Gavin cover his face with a shaking hand as the nurse lifts his IV.

Knowing Ivy will have something to say, Elijah pulls the door shut after them, blocking them from being overheard.

‘Ma’am’,” Ivy mimics in an unflattering tone. “They’re just going to sedate him and then he’ll still be upset when he wakes up again.”

“The rest will do him some good. It might calm him,” Elijah says.

He isn’t used to seeing panic like that from the outside, especially from Gavin, whom he has never seen act this way. In the past, Gavin getting emotional around Elijah meant anger. Nothing like this.

Ivy grips his arm with tense, clawed fingers, but doesn’t push him away, so he holds her against him while she comes down from her ire.

When he thinks it’s safe to do so, he asks, “What is all this about Victor?”

“Pump regulator removed,” Ivy says simply, still agitated. “Nowhere for him to go upon deactivation, like he would have before.”

That’s something Elijah can work with. CyberLife isn’t likely to have replacement pumps for RK900s, but if Elijah can pull apart the old one, he can fix it and restore as much data from it as possible. He’s done it before. It isn’t the ideal situation, but he can accomplish a lot even when he has very little to work with.

“Okay,” he says. “What happened to the regulator?”

“It’s with him at the DPD.”

“I need to see it.”

Ivy takes a deep breath, her eyes going unfocused on the wall next to them. After a few seconds, she says, “Chloe’s on it.”

“Good. What are your stress levels?”

“They’re fine.”

“Ivy.”

“You never tell it to me straight when you’re stressed,” she bites out at him, but then answers, “64%.”

She isn’t wrong, but that’s why he knows to ask for specifics. They both have a tendency to act more relaxed than they are. Elijah cups the back of her head and brings it down onto his shoulder, holding her tighter. Together, they stand in the hallway outside of Gavin’s room, just taking the time to breathe.

The nurse exits the room and walks off without speaking to them. Elijah has no doubt that Gavin is asleep again.

“Do you want to go back inside?” Elijah asks.

Ivy nods.

Elijah slowly pulls away from her and guides her back into the room. As expected, Gavin is relaxed once again, looking like he never woke up in the first place. Elijah could almost fool himself into thinking it was all a waking nightmare his mind cooked up to torment him, but Gavin’s pain had been too real, too heartbreakingly genuine.

They sit on the same side of Gavin’s bed this time and fold their hands together on the armrests of the chairs. Ivy has never been one to seek much in the way of physical comfort, but she leans over to lay her head back down on Elijah’s shoulder as they wait and watch over Gavin. It may have only been two and a half months, but it has been long enough for Gavin to become important to all of them.

“You’ll help him heal and I’ll make him a leg,” Elijah murmurs. “We’ll take care of him together.”

When Ivy responds, she sounds determined. “Yes,” she says. “We will.”


The next time Gavin wakes up, Elijah lets Ivy handle it alone, for both practical and selfish reasons. Gavin will be able to focus on her better, and Elijah won’t have to see his brother so wrecked, so unlike his usual self. He’s sure that Gavin would rather not have an audience, anyway.

He stays in the waiting room with Chloe, who not only brought him Victor’s pump regulator, but a tablet for him to work on. He switches between drafting designs for a prosthesis and making notes on what he’ll need to do to repair the biocomponent damage once he’s at home in his lab.

As he works, he tries not to think about Gavin struggling for breath and scrabbling at the center of his chest where the regulator would be if he were an android.

Chloe gently brushes her fingertips along Elijah’s upper back before standing up. “I’m going to go see him,” she says. “Ivy has given the go ahead.”

“Alright,” Elijah says, nodding.

She goes and Elijah keeps working.

The damage to Victor’s regulator is significant. The outside is warped and the inside blackened in places, the entire thing looking like something Elijah would normally toss without a thought, not even bothering to salvage. But whatever bits of information are left inside of it – however little that is – are pieces of Victor that Elijah will work to retrieve, if not for Victor, then for Gavin.

They’re lucky it wasn’t the processor instead. If it had been the processor that became so damaged, Elijah isn’t sure even he could bring Victor back the way he was before.

When Chloe and Ivy return, Elijah almost wishes they hadn’t. It means it’s his turn.

Ivy holds her hand out for Victor’s biocomponent. Elijah has no choice but to relinquish it, losing his excuse to keep working.

“Go on,” Chloe tells him and then leans in to press a kiss to his cheek.

They let him keep the tablet and Elijah clutches it to his chest as he leaves the waiting room and returns to his brother.

Gavin is sitting up in his bed, eyes downcast at his leg. Elijah carefully lowers himself into the chair next to him, almost afraid that he’s going to startle Gavin somehow.

“Hey,” Gavin says.

“Hey.”

After their rocky start at trying to be family, they’ve done a good job of keeping things relaxed. They don’t talk about the days when they were teenagers, they don’t talk about their parents, they don’t even talk about CyberLife, much, beyond the necessary. It left them little to talk about at all, initially, but they’d managed.

Elijah doesn’t feel like it’s managed anymore. He feels like he’s in dangerous waters and doesn't know what to say.

“This is fun,” Gavin deadpans after the silence stretches on too long.

“I can’t say I quite know how to proceed,” Elijah says, then inwardly winces at his own formality.

Gavin huffs a harsh breath. “You and me both.” He blinks so slowly that Elijah thinks he’s completely closing his eyes at first, sluggish like he barely has the energy to keep them open.

“I’m… glad you’re okay.”

That makes Gavin finally look up. The bags under his eyes are more pronounced than usual, made worse by hospital lighting and drug-induced sleep that can’t quite match up with just falling asleep naturally.

“If you can call this ‘okay’, sure,” Gavin says.

Elijah isn’t sure how to respond. He doesn’t know what Gavin needs from him, and even if he did, he doesn’t know if it’s something he could provide. He’s extremely proficient in certain areas, and, he hates to admit, completely useless in many others.

“You will be okay, then,” Elijah tries.

“Yeah, as okay as Victor is.”

The despair in his voice is thick and it strikes Elijah like a heavy weight to his chest, threatening to squeeze the air out of his lungs. He can read into the sentiment behind those words because he has felt that sentiment himself.

“Gavin,” he starts before he even knows how he’s going to continue. “You are both going to be okay. I’m working on it. I’m going to do everything I can.”

Gavin’s eyes fall to the tablet in Elijah’s hands. “Is there even anything to do?” he asks.

“Of course there is. I got Maya back, didn’t I?”

This only makes Gavin grimace. “Maya lost the first few months of her life.”

Considering what model line Maya came from, Elijah isn’t sure losing the memory of her first few months is a significant hardship, but he understands what Gavin is getting at, and he knows that a few months for Victor would be most of his existence. Long enough that it would be like starting over from scratch.

“It’s different when it’s the processor,” he says.

Gavin leans back into his pillows with a sigh. His body is still stiff, but his expression is starting to soften, so Elijah thinks he’s getting through, in some small way.

“I don’t know,” Gavin mumbles. “I just… fuck, don’t give me hope if there’s a big enough chance it isn’t going to work, okay?”

Elijah nods his agreement. “I won’t.”

Victor might still be up in the air for now, but nothing will stop Elijah from creating a new leg for Gavin that will allow him to get back to his life as soon as possible. With existing designs to work from, it shouldn’t take him long to put together something good.

“I’ve also started drafting a prosthesis for you,” Elijah says, tapping a finger against the back of his tablet. “It will give you the same range of-”

“What?” Gavin asks.

The frown on his face isn’t the reaction Elijah expected. “A leg,” he clarifies, though he doesn’t see why he should need to.

“Like an android leg.”

“Aesthetically, yes. Functionally, no,” Elijah says. “Obviously the connection to your residual limb would be different from an android limb being connected to a chassis, and your control of it would be manual instead of run by a processor, unless you’re interested in implants, which-”

“Stop,” Gavin says, his voice strained like his throat has tightened. His fingers have become clenched in the blanket on his lap.

Elijah realises he has made a misstep somewhere. “Okay,” he says carefully, hoping Gavin will elaborate.

Gavin doesn’t. His discomfort is obvious, now that Elijah knows to look for it, but the cause remains a mystery to him. Obviously, the whole situation has been difficult, but he thought this would help Gavin feel better, maybe even optimistic.

“I just-” Elijah says.

“You don’t just anything, Elijah,” Gavin cuts him off. “You always have a plan, don’t you? Always have a solution. You think you can just fix me, is that it? Slap on an android leg like I’m a broken machine and I’ll be good as new?”

Elijah tenses at the accusation. “No, it’s not like that.”

“No? I’m not your new pet project, then?”

“Gavin-”

“Why are you even here?” Gavin growls, his grip on the blanket becoming so tight that his knuckles lose colour.

He hasn’t looked or sounded so angry since they first started talking to each other again. An uncomfortable mix of frustration and anxiety coils in Elijah’s stomach, making him want to try explaining better, making him want to just leave and not bother.

He doesn’t manage the first option and holds himself off from the second. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Gavin grits his teeth and turns his head to look at the opposite wall, giving him no further answer. A clear dismissal.

And maybe Elijah deserves that. He wasn’t here for fifteen years; he didn’t make an effort for fifteen years and he hasn’t exactly proven himself willing to stick it out for the hard stuff. He almost didn’t. If not for Chloe, he might have walked right out of the hospital and left his relationship with Gavin in his wake.

The urge strikes him again and he sees little point in fighting it. Gavin doesn’t want him to stick around, anyway. This time, Elijah follows through. He stands up, crosses the room, and grabs onto the doorknob.

But something still stops him. He doesn’t leave. Doesn’t want to.

If Chloe were here, she would know what to do or say, but she isn’t here and Elijah is on his own. Life is so much easier when there aren’t personal stakes, or when he’s talking to someone whose opinion means nothing to him. It’s easier when he has a topic he can prepare for, when he has a mask to wear. It’s easier when he isn’t him, when he’s being someone else.

Sometimes it feels like there is no real him, only a persona for each purpose that is required of him. A different version of Elijah Kamski could walk away from his brother and not feel bad about it, but he doesn’t want to be that person, he doesn’t want to mess up like he has in the past.

This is supposed to be real, and good, and Chloe seems to think he’s capable of it despite all evidence pointing towards the contrary.

Taking a deep breath, Elijah lets go of the doorknob and turns around. Gavin is already facing forward, watching him with furrowed brows.

“I’m here for you,” Elijah says, voice so light it’s almost a whisper. Suddenly, he feels like he could start to cry again, and he hates that his emotional reactions are never right, never timely. He fights through it to say the words louder. “I’m here for you, Gavin, because you’re my brother. Everything else is just… ancillary. Please understand me.”

Gavin’s eyes flit away from him. He crosses his arms, saying nothing.

“This isn’t my area of expertise,” Elijah admits. “But I want to be here.”

“Well, maybe I don’t want you to be.”

The words sting, but Elijah stays rooted on the spot, one hand clenched around his tablet and the other resting at his side. He doesn’t reach for the doorknob again.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he says. Not this time, Chloe helped him understand that. “We’re going to-”

We aren’t doing anything!” Gavin yells, shocking Elijah into silence. “I’m the one with a missing leg! I’m the one with a dead partner! To you, it’s just a bunch of machinery you can manipulate back together however you want and then everything will be good again!”

Elijah flinches, emotions a maelstrom inside of him and forcing him to take a moment to right himself. He can’t let himself shut down.

He walks back over to the bed. He places his tablet down on the nightstand and then sits on the edge of the mattress, his hip nearly touching Gavin’s thigh.

“You’re right,” he says.

Gavin stares at him, expression too blank for Elijah to parse.

“I can’t even begin to understand what you’re going through,” Elijah continues. “And you’re right that I’ve latched on to something technical. But Gavin, I’m not trying to fix you, not trying to… manipulate anything.”

All Gavin does is look away from him again, but Elijah doesn’t let it cause him to rethink what he’s about to say. He isn’t sure Gavin will understand if he doesn’t just say what he means for once. If he doesn’t let himself be vulnerable and say what Gavin needs to hear.

“Gavin, I want to do this for you because… I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know, okay? There’s nothing else I can do. All of this…” he says, gesturing at Gavin’s leg and then around the hospital room at large, “this is something I don’t know how to do. All I can do is make sure you have what you need to get back your life.”

After some deliberation, Gavin uncrosses his arms, dropping his hands onto the blanket and rubbing it between his thumb and forefinger, fiddling with it.

“I didn’t ask for your fucking help,” he says.

Most of the fire has drained out of his voice, despite the harsh words, and Elijah takes it as a victory. He still isn’t looking at Elijah, but it’s easier this way. It’s easier to speak genuinely when he doesn’t feel watched, inspected.

“Well, I’m going to do it either way. You can take it or leave it.”

Gavin rolls his eyes. “You’re a prick.”

“Yes, I think that’s something we have in common.”

“Shut the fuck up, Elijah.”

Elijah does so. They sit together in silence, Elijah with his hands folded together on his lap and Gavin still avoiding his eye. Elijah doesn’t leave and Gavin doesn’t tell him to, they just stay the way they are, both of them lost in their own thoughts.

When Gavin speaks again, he surprises Elijah.

“You’re hard to read, you know?”

Elijah does. “It’s intentional.”

“I… get that. I do. You just seem like you don’t give a shit about anything, like nothing ever gets to you. Like everything is beneath you and nothing can shake you.”

That’s how he had to be, when he was still a CEO. He’s trying not to be that person anymore, at least not with Gavin, but it isn’t so easy to lay a decade-old aspect of himself to rest.

“Believe me, I’m not as unflappable as I act,” he says. He lets out a long breath. “I care more than I know how to say.”

Gavin locks eyes with him and Elijah has to fight himself to not shy away from the contact. For yet another too-quiet minute, they just look at each other, Gavin’s expression betraying none of his thoughts. Elijah feels like he's on trial, and Gavin is his judge, jury, and executioner.

Finally, Gavin says, “I’m not getting a fucking implant.”

Elijah quirks an eyebrow. “That’s fair. Some consider them too invasive.”

“Yeah. So nothing like that, but… something normal. Might be okay.”

“Just enough that you won’t notice the difference from your old one,” Elijah says, starting to feel bolstered. “I just want to make this life transition smoother for you. There’s no reason why this should stop you.”

Gavin closes his eyes again and Elijah watches the bob of his adam’s apple as he swallows. He fears that he said something wrong again, but instead of lashing out, Gavin’s voice becomes soft.

“Could it really… be the same?”

It occurs to Elijah that until now, Gavin might have assumed he wouldn’t be able to keep his job at the DPD because of this. He might have assumed that this would upend everything. It hasn’t even been a full day since his surgery and he’s still healing; the topic of how this will affect his future must not have come up, yet.

“Gavin,” Elijah says firmly, making Gavin reflexively open his eyes. “I’m going to make it so you never wish you had your old leg back.”

Gavin’s eyes widen, stunned, as if he somehow expected Elijah to do anything less. In a different situation, Elijah might have had the presence of mind to be offended.

“Trust me, okay?” he says. “Ivy and I are going to do everything in our power to work this out.”

Still shocked, all Gavin does is give a small nod.

Elijah nods back and then finally lets himself avert his eyes, looking down at his hands. He doesn’t know how to move on now that they’ve laid so much on the table, doesn’t know how to shift back to something casual and comfortable.

Gavin’s arm crosses his line of sight, reaching for the nightstand. He picks up Elijah’s tablet and brings it over onto his lap.

“Got any games on this? I’m fucking bored,” Gavin says.

“It’s for work.”

“Is that a ‘no’?”

“It’s a ‘no’.”

“What is even the point of it, then?” Gavin scoffs, handing the tablet over.

Elijah takes it back into his hands, a small smile growing on his face. “Do you want to see what I’ve drafted so far?”

Gavin considers for a second, eyes on the tablet. “Yeah, okay.”

As Elijah swipes the screen to wake the device up, Gavin places his hands down on the mattress and shuffles himself to the opposite edge, opening up some space. Turning around, Elijah sits beside him, the two of them pressed close together.

He opens the plan he has started, which resembles an android’s leg except for the top where it will connect to Gavin’s residual limb. He drags over a smaller screen of notes he’s making for the features and how Gavin will be able to control them.

“Jesus,” Gavin says. “How long did this take you?”

“Chloe brought me the tablet just a couple of hours ago. I… needed the distraction.”

Gavin makes a quiet noise of acknowledgement and leans in closer, resting against Elijah’s shoulder.

For the next little while, Elijah outlines all his ideas for the prosthesis, and the more Gavin sees of how functional it will be and how much control he will have, the more relaxed he becomes. Elijah knows Gavin still has a journey of healing ahead of him, both physically and mentally, but he’s happy to relieve his brother of this one stress. He’s happy to give him something to make the future significantly less bleak.


By the late afternoon, Elijah has an airtight plan for repairing Victor’s thirium pump regulator with minimum side effects, favouring data retention over functionality where he can, already knowing he’ll still need to build a new one, regardless. Chloe and Ivy replace him in Gavin’s room, and he heads through the hospital hallways with his tablet in one hand and the regulator in the other.

On the way, he runs into Tina and Karoline, off from their shift at the precinct. He happily notes that Karoline’s LED is finally back to blue before he and Tina lock eyes for the first time since the standoff.

“Hey, Elijah, about before-” Tina starts.

Elijah doesn’t want to revisit their disagreement. He’s feeling good about where he and Gavin left off and wants to maintain something amicable for as long as he can, so he cuts her off. “I’m going to work on Victor’s regulator for a few hours,” he says.

“Uh, okay.”

She scratches the side of her neck, looking just as awkward as Elijah feels. Karoline’s eyes are bouncing between the two of them, watching expectantly.

“Look after him for me,” Elijah says. “You’ve… done a very good job of it, so far. Thank you.”

Tina’s lips part slightly, almost like her jaw is in danger of dropping, and then she gives him a jerky nod. “Yeah, ’course,” she says. “I’m glad you could be here. You mean a lot to him.”

They both do, Elijah understands. Their roles in Gavin’s life don’t have to conflict.

“I’ll see you later,” he says.

“Unless Ivy makes me go home to sleep.”

Elijah grins. “It’s likely. We’ll make it work, one of us can always be here.”

Tina nods again. “Yeah. Anyway… good luck with the repairs. Victor is important to Gavin, too.”

The image of Gavin’s fingers curling against the base of his sternum flashes in Elijah’s mind again. He has certainly noticed that there’s more there than he previously thought.

“I know. I’ll take care of it.”

With that, they go their separate ways. Elijah catches sight of Karoline taking Tina’s hand in her own before they pass by each other.

Tina is as much a new part of the family as Gavin is. The two of them came as a packaged deal, and Elijah is only now realising it’s something he should be grateful for. He’ll make a better effort with both of them.

Back straightening as he walks, Elijah makes it to the elevator and presses the button for the ground floor, not as a retreat, but as forward motion.