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The day had started off bad enough for a Mr. Gavin Reed.

 

For one, he'd spilled his coffee. Granted, he didn't spill it on himself, and not in a place where he had to clean it up, so at least there was that. But he spilled it anyways and now had to resign himself to the station provided stuff that was gritty and coughed out by the dinosaur of a machine.

 

And for two, when he did show up, angry and distinctly caffeine-less, Connor was standing next to his desk. Ramrod stiff and arms clasped behind his back in a military position, wearing some ridiculously blinding white jacket.

 

"Hey, asshole. The fuck do you want?" He grumbles, and Connor turns around to face him. Except, oh, fuck. There was no way that could be Connor, because last time he checked Connor's eyes weren't blue at all and he wasn't capable of a resting bitch face. And he was pretty sure androids couldn't change their height by a good few inches, though honestly, what did he know.

 

"The fuck??"

 

"Ah, Detective Reed!" Some familiar voice calls out behind him, and he almost jumps. Then he turns around and sees....Connor. The real Connor, smiling politely and walking towards him. "I see you've met the next model in my series. This is RK900!"

 

He turns back towards the buffer mimicry of Connor, which tilts its head to regard him, almost curiously. Still a resting bitch face, though. "Okay, and why is your upgrade here?"

 

"He will be joining the precinct. We have many of the same functions and intentions, so he felt this was the best place to put his abilities to use." Connor says, brightly. "I believe Captain Fowler is making arrangements for him now."

 

So now there were two of them. Gavin looked between Connor, and RK900, and back to Connor. At least the new one wasn't as annoyingly optimistic, though the staring did give him creeps. "Alright, whatever. Just fuck off away from my shit."

 

"Well-no, he's actually been waiting to confer with you about the empty desk across from yours. I understand you have no partner, so he was wondering if you would be alright if he claimed this desk?"

 

"If he's wondering all this, why doesn't he just ask me himself?" Gavin snaps, annoyed by all the talking. He just wanted to get to his fucking desk. "Fine, whatever. Just don't get in my way."

 

Finally, Connor moves, looking only a little miffed, and Gavin settle down into his roller chair heavily with a sigh. No sooner had he shuffled himself into a comfortable position at his desk, did he hear someone calling his name in a loud, thunderous voice. Fowler.

 

"REED," And sure enough, the captain was standing at the door to his fish-tank office. "Get in here!"

 

Gavin replies with a "fuck" muttered under his breath, but he gets up and stalks over nonetheless. To his surprise (and unnerving), RK900 follows behind him at a distance.

 

Fowler was sitting at his desk with his reading glasses on, poring over a glass tablet with the CyberLife logo glowing blue on it. Already a bad sign. There are two metal chairs pulled up in front of his desk, also a bad sign.

 

Gavin takes a seat. RK900 takes a seat besides him.

 

Worst sign of all.

 

"Do you know why you're here, Reed?" Fowler says gruffly, startling Gavin.

 

"N-no? Of course not."

 

"Your rates are stagnating-no, falling. What the hell is going on, Reed?" The Captain snarls, and Gavin bites his cheek to keep from retorting. He knew better than to fight back when Fowler was in this mood. "Is it because of Connor? The Revolution?"

 

"No, sir." Okay, a lie. Watching Connor and Hank become some amazing crime-fighting duo pissed him off, and getting decked by Connor in the evidence room irked him even more. Maybe that had affected his rates, he didn't know, but he wasn't about to admit it now. Not entirely. "Well, a little bit."

 

"Then you better get that attitude in check and get your shit together, Reed." Fowler pinched the bridge of his nose and sighs, looking for all the world like a disappointed father. Gavin fights the urge to shrink in his seat. RK900 still hasn't moved. "You're a perfectly good detective with a bit of a shitty temper, and your beliefs are understandable but out of place now. But that's no excuse, understand?"

 

"Yes, sir." He mutters through grit teeth, feeling warmth flush in his cheeks in embarrassment. Fowler sighs again, and picks up the tablet to scroll through it.

 

"You're getting RK900 as your partner."

 

...

 

What?

 

"I beg fucking pardon?

 

"You need to get your shit in order, so the best solution is to partner you with RK900. I trust you to be cooperative with him."

 

No, no no no no. Gavin could put up with many things, but not this, and he opened his mouth to protest.

 

Before he could say anything, though, RK900 intervened, turning to him with a cool gaze. "I understand you are unhappy with this course of events, Detective." He says smoothly, and it's the first time Gavin had ever heard it talk. Its voice is deeper than Connor's, and also more monotone. More grating. "I assure you, I will not intervene in your personal life more than I have to if you do not intervene with mine."

 

"What fuckin' life?" He snaps back before he can rethink.

 

"A legal one." It replies coldly. "That you will have to respect if we are to continue this partnership."

 

"What fuckin' partnership? I haven't agreed to this shit."

 

"You don't have a choice, Reed." Fowler cuts in, looking like he was about to bust a vein over their bickering. "Both of you, out. Don't let me find you two here again."

 

Gavin wanted to argue, he wanted to scream and fight because there was no way in hell he was going to work alongside a stiff asshole like this one within such close proximity. But it was clear Fowler wasn't going to take any more shit today, so instead he took care to slam the door as loudly as he could behind him.

 

Except, that didn't work out either. The damn android stopped the swing easily and closed the door softly, before following him back to his desk. Their desks.

 

Tina was sitting on his desk, tapping away at her phone and waving at him as he approaches. A cup of the station's sludge coffee sits next to her. "Howdy do, Gav?"

 

"Fuck off, Tina."

 

"You first, bitch. Who's the new kid?" RK900 settles at its desk and fixes them with a bored look, which Gavin ignores. Not Tina, though. "Hey, what's up?"

 

"Good morning, Officer Chen." RK900 says, and it was unnerving how it seemed to have gone from 'stone cold bitch' to 'casual politeness' without any gradual change. "I'm fine. I've just been assigned as Gavin's partner."

 

"That right?" She chuckles, and nudges Gavin's hip with a foot. He shoves her knee in retaliation, taking a sip of the bitter liquid. At least it was caffeinated. "He's got a hell of a track record with partners. You've never seen anything like him."

 

"So I've heard. I'm sure I will manage, however." it smiles, genuinely smiles, and Gavin's taken aback at how honest it seems. Not quite like Connor, who tended to smile with all cheek and grin, this was more reserved and almost shy. "Likewise, I doubt he's met anyone like me."

 

"Ooh, tough guy. You got a name yet?" She asks, and Gavin would love nothing more than to distance himself from this conversation. It was hard enough trying to settle in to do anything when he was still reeling from his new situation, it was harder with Tina trying to talk right next to him. Granted, he liked Tina, but she was too optimistic and too quick on the draw. Changing her heart so quickly after the Revolution and chatting up RK900, the new bane of his existence.

RK900 cocks its head, “Why, no. I have been referred to as RK900, up to now.”

 

“How about one, then? You look like...a Nathan.”

 

“Nah. He’s a Pointdexter.” Gavin snorts, scrolling through a case report with only mild interest.

 

RK900’s LED spins for a moment. “According to my sources, Pointdexter is old slang meaning ‘loser’.”

 

“Ex-fucking-actly.”

 

“Ah.” If Gavin didn’t know better, he’d say RK900 looked rather miffed. “Well, perhaps not.”

 

“I got it!” Tina declares suddenly, startling them both. “How about...Nines!”

 

Both RK900 and Gavin share a glance. “Officer Chen, that is a number. Not a name.”

 

“It’s a nickname.We can work with it until you find something you like, if that’s cool with you.” RK900 seems to ponder this for a moment, before nodding.

 

“That..will do just fine. Thank you.”

 

Tina grins. “Hell yeah, dude. We’re buds now. You can hang out with me and Gavin at the cool kid table.”

 

“No, he can fucking not.” Gavin snaps. “I’m this thing’s partner and only that. I’m not gonna buddy-buddy with him.”

 

“Gav, don’t be a bitch. Hey, look, I’ll take a pic of you two. That automatically makes you guys friends.”

 

“I doubt that is how friendship works, Officer.” RK900-Nines-hums. For once, Gavin found he agreed.

 

“Shut up and say cheese.” She holds out her phone, quickly putting a foot on Gavin’s seat when he tries to scoot out of frame. Nines leans in a little bit to look up, curiously, at the camera.

 

“God, fuck you, asshole.” He mutters, both embarrassed and amused at his friend’s behavior.

 

“Love you too, bitch.” She hops off the desk and taps his head with the phone. “Get along, now.”

 

...And for three, the real cherry on the bad-day ice cream was the footprint on the edge of his office chair.

 

Today couldn’t get any worse.

 

two idiots


 

And things did get worse.

 

A month and a half later, Gavin thought that things and life, in general, were the worst they can be.

 

“Your coffee, Detective.”

 

He grits his teeth at the sound of that calm monotone behind him, and ignores the soft tap of the coffee cup against his table as its set down by a perfect hand. “Fuck off.” He grumbles, though he does take a sip from the mug. One cream, two sugars, as he liked it. Not too hot. Perfect.

 

He hated it.

 

“And good morning to you, too.” Replies RK900, sliding into his desk. Despite having moved into it a month prior, it was still devoid of anything indicating life. No decorations, nothing. Even the pens looked blank and standard issue, without brand or markings on them. Gavin wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Nines’s stationary was just blank printer paper.

 

“We have a new case,” The android continues, and Gavin just grunts, taking another sip and pretending to be bored. He hoped it would be a change of pace from what he was usually dealing with. It was mostly Ice users getting hopped up and rowdy, jumping any unfortunate android who happened on their path.

 

(And Gavin still hated androids, don’t get him wrong-but he was getting sick at seeing pictures of gutted and mutilated android turn up in his case folders. It was more than a little disturbing, and he was always silently grateful and a little guilty when RK900 slid them away to manage alone.)

 

“It’s a homicide in a well-known dealer’s den. Marco Walden, 32, walked into the men’s bathroom at 10:58 PM and didn’t walk back out. Single .22 caliber wound in his sternum.” That synopsis makes Gavin perk up a little more. “It was sent to Lieutenant Anderson originally because the android witness had been mistaken for a victim, in a miscommunication.”

 

“So that’s why we weren’t called out last night for it, huh.” Gavin hums. “Alright, let’s go, ya prick. We better scope out the crime scene.”

 

“No need. I already interfaced with Connor, he gave me a detailed recount of the scene and the stray details.” Instantly deflating Gavin, who was already half-out of his seat. “I can send you the notes I have taken to review.”

 

...Did this motherfucker say notes ?

 

“Absolutely not. You might have seen the scene with your weird android-hand-link shit, but I haven’t.”

 

“And you don’t have to.” Gavin could swear he could feel his eye ticcing, the longer RK900 continued. “Much of the most valuable evidence would have been lost by now, due to extensive time. It’d do more to just listen to me and-”

 

“I’m going to that fucking scene.” Gavin all but snarls, and RK900 frowns, a real expression that wasn’t just being dictated, for once, by the light at its temple. “With you or not, I’m going.”

 

RK900 doesn’t try to stop him. Just watches as he finds his keys and his jacket, making his way out. “Be careful, Detective.” It calls after him. “You are walking into a dealer’s den, after all.”

 

Gavin flips him off.

 

--

 

Devil’s Country was a run-of-the-mill, ideal location for the Red Ice, from dealers to junkies to middlemen.

 

He could tell that much as soon as he showed up, based on the general rattiness of the seedy location, crowded between two gloomy buildings and boasted by flickering red neon lights, pumping loud obscene music and overfilled with people in varying states of sobriety, spilling out onto the streets. That, and also the hazy chemical stink of vaporized Ice hung like a fog, making him wrinkle his nose and gag quietly.

 

The yellow-light of the police tape was crowded and constantly being shorted in and out of existence, by the amount of people who phased through it. A few beat cops, all androids, stood around the tape stoically, ignoring the jeers and taunts thrown to their faces. It was almost admirable, if Gavin could care to admire it at the moment. Instead, he shoves through, flashes his badge a bit when the throng became too thick, and gets through the tape.

 

Shit. The metal bastard might’ve been right. He could tell the evidence had been tampered with. There was a few globules of spit and evidence of trampling on the bathroom floor. The white-light outline of the body’s location had been blurred by the presence of a cracked ice pipe, and not to mention the smell...Gavin was only too used to the stench of a freshly smoked crystal by now, and he presses the collar of his shirt up to his nose. In any case, the evidence had clearly been fucked with, and he doubted whether or not he would find anything useful.

 

“...What a fucking waste of time.” He mutters, as he walks around. A few of the evidence markers had been kicked over, and he could barely tell what they were supposed to be marking to begin with. Shit, that Ice smell was really strong-he couldn’t understand how people could bear it, it was god-awful shit-and wasn’t that weird, he frowned. Fresh Red Ice? Tampered evidence in a guarded bathroom?

 

Something prickled at the back of his neck, and he reached slowly for the gun at his waist.

 

His train of thought is cut off at the same time his fingers tightened on the handgrip, as his phone starts buzzing and makes him jump a mile. With a curse, he fumbles for it with his other hand, pulls it out-PLASTIC PRICK #2 IS CALLING, says the screen.

 

Uh, no fucking thanks. There was a time and place for everything, and right now was not the time he wanted to get his mood fucked over even more by some, likely smug asshole.

 

He was too busy seething over the vibrating phone in his hand to react when he sees someone creep up behind him in the mirror, a pipe in hand…

--

Nines frowns as his call is bounced back, rejected without a care and a rather arrogant missed call recording- This is Detective Reed, if this is about work, leave a message, otherwise go away- and feels another slight trickle of patience leave him.

 

Working with the detective was growing more harrowing than he thought.

 

And his...annoyance must have shown on his face, when Connor looks up from his terminal. “Nines,” He calls, all concerned eyes and polite smile. “Is everything alright?”

 

Ideally, yes. Gavin refusing his call was something he had expected, there was even a high percentage for it, and yet it sends a ripple of unease through him, for reasons unexplained. He didn’t care about the detective beyond a professional level, and it was clear the detective held the same indifference towards him, and yet here he was worrying over him anyways.

 

“Connor,” He says, slowly, then decides that maybe it’d be best not to say it out loud. He requests a wire interface, waiting patiently as Connor accepts the line with a flicker of his LED.

 

Connor, he begins. I feel...concerned, for Detective Reed.

 

Why? Connor asks, logically, because very few people ever felt ‘concern’ for a man like Reed. What is the reason?

 

I feel I have let my...anger, towards him, drive me towards some irrational choices. He remembers how he spoke to the Detective, all aloof indifference when he blatantly suggested ‘notes’ over proper evidence records, all for the sake of driving the Detective away. He had hoped for the absence of the man to allow him to better complete work, but instead felt increasing concern, when he looked up and noted that a few of the PC200 and Pm700 models that were assigned to be guarding the scene, were instead at their station. The unease grew when the Detective didn’t answer his call. I let him go to a dangerous location alone on purpose.

 

He is not incapable. Reckless, perhaps, but he is a detective for a reason. Connor hums, projecting the time the Detective had drawn a gun on him in the interrogation chamber. And certainly stubborn, sometimes dangerously so. 

 

Connor, this is not calming me. Nines notes the spike in his stress, nearing panic levels at a steady rate. Who is assigned to be guarding the Devil’s Country crime scene?

 

PM700s Alfred, Benjamin, and PC200 Melissa. Why?

 

Who is currently signed in and present at the department, at the moment?

 

Can’t you check yourself?

 

Connor, please.

 

There was silence for a moment, as Connor checks, and Nines can see the dawning realization as his LED jumps to red for an instant, before Connor says: I’ll organize a squad. We should depart immediately.

 

You do that. I will go to the scene myself now. He reaches into the safe drawer beneath his desk, withdrawing the standard-issue service pistol he’d been given, carefully checking the cartridge with one hand even as the other found his spare magazine.

 

--

 

Gavin wakes up, and the first thing he wonders is, Why the fuck is it so bright?

 

He squints against the white lights above him, wondering if he was dead. That can’t be right, he was too much of an asshole to be going to heaven, unless this was hell and hell was full of eyeball knives made shitty fluorescent lights. Then his vision focuses, and the smell of antiseptic hits him, and he realizes he’s in a hospital. There’s an IV in his arm. Somewhere at the foot of his bed, there’s a bunch of balloons tied. “IT’S A BOY”, one says, except ‘boy’ is crossed out with marker and replaced with bitch. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA” says another.

 

Yep, he was definitely in a hospital.

 

How the fuck did he get from a drug den to a hospital? What the fuck happened.

 

“Detective?”

 

He tries to snap his head over to look, but only manages to loll limply towards the source of the voice. RK900 is sitting there, white jacket shed, staring at him with more emotion than Gavin had ever seen on it. Worry, mostly, and relief. Its little mood-ring light is going crazy.

 

The fuck are you doing here, he wants to ask, but all that comes out is “Hnmghh.” He sounds like a Minecraft villager.

 

“Rest, Detective. You have several broken ribs and a concussion.” RK900 shifts over a little on its chair, maneuvering a little awkwardly around the hospital monitor. “Do you remember what happened?”

 

Gavin swallows-ew, his mouth tastes awful -and shakes his head when he finds his throat too dry to really say anything. His head throbbed like hell, and as awareness slipped into him, he grew more and more aware of the dull ache in his chest, biting at his ribcage with each slight shift in position, make him wince. The sheets were somehow overly scratchy against him.

 

RK900 grimaces. “I’ll page a nurse. You’re in pain-”

 

“Nuh,” Gavin manages, and he coughs slightly. The spasm almost makes him black out, but he grits his teeth and forces himself to still, working his mouth to get used to talking. “N-no, wai’. Wha’ happen?”

 

For once, RK900 looks...ashamed, or at least he thinks the emotion is shame. It doesn’t meet Gavin’s gaze, his LED still acting like a little disco ball from its temple. “I...I apologize, Detective.” It starts, talking slow as if it’s unsure what to say. “I...purposely withheld information from you for the sake of encouraging your absence, and-”

 

“I just came out of a coma, RK900. Layman’s terms for the sick guy, please.” Gavin groans, half-jokingly, but he immediately feels a bite of guilt at how RK900 looks down even more, a grimace passing over its face.

 

“Right, right...I purposely tried to annoy you into going to the crime scene alone.” RK900’s hands spasm once, twice, in its lap, opening and closing as if it’s unsure for what to do with them. “By suggesting ‘notes’ on the evidence, to you, because I knew it would anger you into going by yourself.” Those hands tighten so tightly they tremble. “And because of my carelessness, you were captured by the syndicate. They are all in custody now, but because of me, you were injured.”

 

Gavin watches the way RK900 almost cringes in on himself in shame, face twitching slightly as he looks down at his shoes. In most other cases he’d be angry, but instead, all he feels is...sad.

 

“You must really hate me, huh.” he says quietly.

 

“No! No, well. I don’t know.” RK900 stammers, almost shocked by the admission. “I-I think you’re a good detective, and you provide good insight on cases, and-”

 

“Yeah, but I’m an asshole everywhere else.” He sighs, biting back a wince as his ribs twinge. “Listen, I’m not blaming you. You just wanted to...what’s the word? Make me steam a little bit. Piss myself off with a wasted trip. I would’ve done the same given the opportunity, it’s alright.”

 

“I-”

 

“What you did was a pretty good prank, but it was just the wrong place, wrong time, so fuck you for that.” Gavin shrugs as best he can. “But I’m at fault too. I had to have been one hell-of-a bitch to you to make you pull the joke in the first place.”

 

The LED cycles slowly to yellow, staying there for longer. “You got hurt because of me.”

 

“I got hurt because I was an idiot and didn’t check the stalls before turning my back.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“...Thanks.” A brief awkward pause settles over them. Gavin wasn’t used to being on the receiving end on apologies, it was more him saying sorry for one offense or another. RK900 looked like he wasn’t used to handing them out either, though that could be attributed to the fact that maybe he’d never had to apologize before. “I guess we both got things to learn.”

 

“I believe you should start with your caffeine intake. It’s dangerously affecting your temper.”

 

“Ah, fuck off. If I do that, you have to learn how to decorate. Your desk is boring as hell, dude.”

 

At that, the other android laughs, a genuine one, one that surprises himself almost as much as it surprises Gavin. “Alright, I suppose it’s a deal.” He reaches out with his non-IV arm to shake, and Nines takes it to shake.

 

“By the way...did Tina stop by earlier? Is she the one who did the balloons?”

 

“Yes. She told me to ask you what you think of them?”

 

“Do you have my phone? I need you to take a picture of me with them and tell her how much they suck.”

 

“Your generation is an odd one, Detective.”

 

--

 

Tina’s phone buzzes in her pocket, causing her to look down from her coffee and flip it out, quickly checking her images. Pulling open the new message she just got, she couldn’t help but laugh quietly.

 

Chris, across from her, looks up from his sandwich. “What’s that?”

 

She tilts to phone towards him so he can see the image: Gavin lying in his hospital bed, the balloons in one hand and flipping off the camera with the other, a lazy grin on his face. The cursive-font caption across it reads: ‘Eat ass T’. From the angle, they can see another hand flipping Gavin off, likely from the person taking the picture.

 

Chris whistles. “Guess he’s getting on just fine. D’you think Nines took the picture?”

 

“Who else would it be, asshole? Give me my ten bucks, told you they’d acclimate to each other by now.”

 

“Dammit, Tina.”

 

stupid babes


 

Things start getting better, despite all odds.

 

Working with RK900- Nines -gets easier, somehow, though he’s not sure what’s changed. The hospital incident, sure, led to them being more comfortable with each other (saving someone’s life will do that, Gavin guesses), and the sudden influx of small plants and cacti to make homes on Nines’s desk, but something has also changed in himself. Maybe both of them.

 

Four-and-a-half months pass.

 

It gets easier to talk to each other. Of course, Gavin can’t stop teasing him, and Nines can’t stop jabbing back, but it’s not as anger-driven as before. Gavin still has moments of true dickery, but they’re android unfocused at this point, and Nines has instances where he seems to revert back to cold, inconvenient factory settings, mostly when he’s really angry or really stressed, but they work around it for the most part.

 

(He guesses, if he was more honest with himself and less touchy about his social life, he’d call Nines a ‘friend’.)

 

Whatever the case, things get easier. Rates go up, crimes get solved, and before long they’re rivalling even the Hank-Connor duo in percentages, which Gavin doesn’t mind being smug about once in a while.

 

And he’s happy. For once, he’s not snapping at everything that comes his way and getting called into Fowler’s office every couple weeks. For once, he has something to look forward to that’s not just hanging out with Tina during a lunch break to vent. For fucking once, he thinks he’s actually satisfied.

 

And then one day, he’s not.

 

--

 

He gets off shift at 8:00pm, gets home, cracks open a can of cat food for a very yell-y, very needy Sarge, and promptly flopped down on the couch in a typical state of post-work exhaustion. He’s ready to knock out, enter some fugue state of putting on a TV show in the background while eating some takeout.

 

And then his apartment buzzer crackles to life, jolting him up and startling Sarge out of the kitchen, away from his food. With a muted curse, Gavin stumbles up, slaps the intercom button with a gruff ‘what’.

 

There’s no reply for a moment, and then he hears Nines, voice calm and steady even through the crackly quality of the com. “Gavin, I apologize for visiting you so late, and without warning. May I come up?”

 

It’s the last thing Gavin expected, and he nods dumbly for a moment before realizing that Nines probably can’t see it. “Uh, yeah, sure? Okay.”

 

“Thank you. See you in a bit.”

The line clicks dead, and Gavin stares at the intercom box for a moment as he tries to put together what the fuck was going on. Sarge walks back out from the hall, looking up at Gavin with a questioning meow. Gavin shrugs back.

 

“I don’t know either, buddy.”

 

It doesn’t take long until he hears sharp, uniform footsteps approaching from the hall outside, and he throws the door open before the second knock can even land, making Nines blink in surprise. As close as he’ll ever get to startling the android.

 

Both of them stare at each other for a moment, until Gavin remembers he should probably say something. “Uh.” Perfect.

 

“Good evening, Detective. Sorry again for disturbing you after work hours, but-” He breaks off, awkwardly. Gavin couldn’t remember the last time-or any time, really-he’d ever seen Nines this...uneasy about something.

 

“First of all, don’t call me ‘detective’ while I’m at home, it’s weird.” He says automatically. “Also, is this important? Are you being chased by a crime syndicate? Are you gonna die in ten seconds?” All the questions were meant as half-jokes, but Gavin felt nervous anyways as he asked them, watching Nines’s face for whatever indication he could scrape together. The android was getting better at human expression, but he was still hard to read, though the LED usually gave away a lot.

 

And right now, it was yellow. Which probably meant turbulent or hm fuck I’m confused/worried about something .

 

“If I was fatally injured, no offense, I don’t think you’d be the first person I’d run to. You called my regulator a ‘buzzy boi’ just yesterday.”

 

“Get in here, asscan.”

 

Having Nines in his apartment felt...weird. He wasn’t wearing his CyberLife jacket, but even so looked out of place in comparison to his surroundings, too crisp and cookie-cutter, standing amidst a few discarded beer bottles and empty takeout boxes.

 

Gavin wasn’t exactly opposed to it, though. Nines knew him well enough by now, and he wasn’t trying to impress anyone with his apartment. He sits back down on the couch, carelessly tapping the area next to him. “Well, sit. Talk to me, asshole. What android problem have you brought to the least android person around?”

 

Nines snorts at that, but he settles down anyways, the couch cushions sinking slightly under his weight. Sarge, now curious enough with the newcomer who had taken his usual spot, walks over and sits in front of them, glaring up to meow insistently until Gavin tries to shoo him away.

 

“Come’on, Sarge, not now. You can have the couch later, we have big kid business.”

 

Mrrow. ” Sarge retorts, but he gets up and stalks away anyways, and Gavin suspects he would be waking up tomorrow morning with a face full of cat.

 

Nines fidgets, fingers running through the hem of his shirt. “I...was prepositioned, earlier.”

“You were fuckin’ what ?”

 

“I believe the more conventional term would be, ‘asked on a date’.”

 

“No, I know what ‘preposition’ means, just.” The news shouldn’t be all that surprising to Gavin, after all he knew Nines was built pretty good even by Android standards, so it should make sense that he was attracting others. He just never considered the idea of Nines as...being a romantic partner, before. To anyone. And he felt that he still shouldn’t, and now that they were talking about Nines going on a date he felt like he had opened some taboo door. “Why? By who? Where?”

 

“Because I ‘seem really nice and look good’; by Lera Jacobs, aged 24, night shift police officer; and while I was at the station.”

 

Gavin reeled with the sudden output of information, even though he technically asked for it. Most importantly, however: “Who the fuck is Lera Jacobs.”

 

“She’s a night shift officer. You really don’t pay attention to a lot of people, do you?”

 

“If they don’t have a desk on the first floor they don’t exist.”

 

“Fair enough,” Nines sighs, looking vaguely amused. “Questionable department organization aside, I felt that I could trust you enough with this information.”

 

Oh, that was kinda nice. Gavin didn’t think he’d done anything to really make him trustworthy, but apparently he had. “Oh, okay, cool. Why?”

 

“Because Connor would tease me relentlessly and no one would believe you.”

 

Never mind. “Alright, fuck you too.”

 

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” Nines grins, before his face falls into something serious again. “In all seriousness, I don’t know how to do dates. And Lera is human, and you’re human, and I thought-well, I was just wondering if you could help. I don’t have social protocols or the correct etiquette installed for romantic interaction.”

 

“Jesus fuck, just say you’re a virgin and move on.”

 

“Gavin, you asshole.”

 

“Sorry, continue.”

 

“Anyways, she has offered to take me to a theater production, this weekend. Downtown. And, well. I don’t know anything about what to do.” Nines frowns a little bit, looking up at Gavin for a moment. “How should I act? What do I say? Is just a turtleneck okay for a musical, I don’t really have much else other than work clothes.”

 

God, but he was so lost it was almost adorable, in a way, and Gavin put a hand on his cheek. “Holy shit, my guy.”

 

“Gavin…”

 

“No, I’m not trying to be mean or anything. I just-do you want to go on a date? First of all, do you like Lera?” He holds his breath, almost afraid of what Nines will say.

 

“I...I don’t know. She’s pleasant, and she’s nice to me, and I would like to see the play.” He shakes his head a little bit. “It would be a good first experience, I think, though I don’t know if I want a relationship to advance. I suppose I just don’t know what to expect.”

 

Alright, Gavin could work with this. Maybe. He rubs at the back of his neck in thought. “Well, then be honest. You’re going there to watch actors, not put on an act. If she still likes you afterwards for who you are, then cool, you can go on a second date if you want to. If not, then you guys don’t have to anymore. It’s not rocket science.”

 

Nines blinks, looking to Gavin with a slight squint. “That seems too simple.”

 

“Yeah, well. That’s the best way to go about it. You can act more polite than you usually do, like if you’re around me, but in the end you gotta go forward with who you are. It saves a lot of hassle.” Gavin shrugs. “Sorry for the boring human advice.”

 

“No, that’s...surprisingly insightful of you. Thank you.” He grins, and there’s a different quality to it that Gavin had never really noticed before. Weird.

 

He can think about it later though. “You mentioned clothes, too? What’s wrong with what you have?”

 

Now, Gavin had never wondered if androids could blush, but Nines’s cheeks suddenly turn a little blue, and he looks away. “...Are you going to laugh?”

 

Well, if he had to ask that, probably yes. “No?”

 

“All my clothes are the same.” He admits, and the blush grows deeper as a surprised laugh escapes Gavin. “I thought you said you weren’t gonna laugh!”

 

“I know, I’m sorry, I just-” He breaks off to giggle again, as Nines shoves his shoulder in retribution, nearly knocking him sideways. “You just. You wear the same shit every day, I thought you just did because it looked good or whatever...why don’t you have anything else?”

 

“I don’t go through clothes as quickly as humans, so I felt the need to buy clothes to be more superficial than anything. And CyberLyfe abandoned production of the RK900 model, so they allowed me to take extra changes of clothes.” He picks a little more at the hem. “But now when it comes to an opportunity to...to-”

 

“Dress to impress?”

 

“Yes. I don’t have anything else, and I’m afraid I will appear boring.”

 

Now, Gavin knew he wasn’t a fashionista . He wore the same shit every day, for fuck’s sake, for convenience sake. But he knew enough about getting dressed to know what should look good and what doesn’t. “Okay, well. How fancy is the play you’re going to see?”

 

“She said it was Les Miserables. The evening showing.”

 

“Okay, pretty fancy then. So I guess that’d be...business casual? So what you usually have is pretty good, at the very least you can get a blazer or something.” Gavin ponders, eyeing over Nines the whole time. A muted color, maybe, he was getting rather tired of that bright white jacket that was basically eye burn. Maybe slacks to match? “You can keep your turtleneck, for once it’ll make sense.”

 

“What do you mean, it’ll make sense?”

 

“Who the fuck wears a turtleneck while chasing bad guys?”

 

“You wear a v-neck t-shirt, Gavin.”

 

“Alright, well.”

 

They laugh, and by this time it comes surprisingly naturally to find themselves like this. They’ll banter, they’ll tease, but most of the time, they’ll end up laughing about it together. It’s almost scary how easily they’ve fallen in this pattern, but Gavin thinks that he likes it. He’d rather not lose it.

 

He wonders if Lera would take this away from him, and feels incredibly, irrationally, angry for a moment, which is weird. There’s no reason to get angry, none that Gavin can place, at least, so why this?

 

“Anyways, I have an earlier shift tomorrow, so afterwards...I can, I don’t know, go with you to get actual clothing? I don’t have to go with, but.” He tries his best to shrug noncommittally. “I’m not gonna be offended if you say no, I only wear v-necks to work so I don’t think my opinion is exactly the strongest thing around.”

 

To his surprise, Nines hardly hesitates when he nods. “I would...like that, if it’s alright with you.”

 

He can barely conceal the grin that threatens to bust out his face. “Rad. 6 pm?”

 

“Of course.”

 

--

 

6:20 pm finds them standing outside some outlet store Gavin can’t really pronounce, some foreign language he doesn’t even want to try to decipher.

6:40 pm finds them inside said store, neither of them having tried on any clothes yet, instead trying to laugh as quietly as they can after Nines tries to stack as many hats as he can find on his head and Gavin has put on about five different pairs of sunglasses on his face.

 

“Shit, dammit, we’re gonna get kicked out,” Gavin wheezes, muffling himself with a hand when a rather severe looking employee walks by them with a glare. “We’re here to get you an outfit, asshole.”

 

“You’re the one who started it with the glasses.” Nines chuckles, though he does take off some of the hats. He leaves one, something of black felt with a wide circular brim. “But by all means, if we’re gonna get serious. What do you suggest, Tan France?”

 

“Hey now, you can’t call me that if I can’t do a French tuck.” Gavin snorts. He hadn’t really planned ahead as to how to go about playing personal advisor, and he looks around, eyes lighting on the mannequins in stiff suits and jewel colors. “Let’s start with this, then. What’s your favorite color?”

 

“I don’t have one.” Nines says automatically, before seeming to realize from Gavin’s expression that what he said was probably weird. “I mean-I never thought about it before. Um.”

 

How can you not have a favorite color, was on Gavin’s lips before he figured maybe it was a bad question to ask. He’s here to jive Nines up for a date, not complain about his traits. “Okay, then. Well, first color that comes to mind?”

 

“White.” Oh jeez. Gavin was absolutely not putting Nines in anything white, he was sick of seeing that blankness from the hospital and on Nines’s person, and it must have showed on his face, because Nines starts backtracking again. “That is, er. You see, I have a program in my UI called Zen Garden, and ever since the, uh. There’s an AI handler who lives in the Garden, right, well not right now, because she got mad at Connor and abandoned me, so right now it’s in a state of permanent frost, and-”

 

“Alright, alright, Terminator. That’s fine, that’s fine.” They didn’t have time to unpack all of that. “Do you want to wear white?”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“Then you don’t wear white, it’s not an issue. More colors exist.”

 

In the end, they browse, Nines pointing out articles that intrigue him and Gavin providing commentary. Once or twice, he has to talk Nines down from something particularly outrageous-a sports jacket that’s bright orange, a pair of shoes that are lime green-but otherwise commends him for whatever he finds. In their pile goes: a soft blue linen sports jacket, a pair of maroon slacks with little gold embroidery at the bottom hem, and a purple blazer with floral patterning on the inside, among other things.

 

Nines stands in front of the dressing room mirror, turning nervously in each article of clothing like he’s a little kid getting ready for a first formal event. Gavin sits behind him, still in his many sunglasses, watching patiently and complimenting him when Nines asks ‘How is it?’

 

“Looks fine, Nines. Your plastic ass can rock anything, quit worrying.”

 

“My ‘plastic ass’ is nervous, Gavin.” Nines retorts, though there’s no bite to it as he shucks off the blue jacket and slides it back on the hanger in one motion. “What if it doesn’t match what she wears? Would that be a problem? I-”

 

“Christ, you’re so worked up. Calm down, for a moment, alright?” Gav gets up and walks over to stand next to Nines, reaching for the next article of clothing as he does so. The blazer, an iris-colored thing, is surprisingly soft in his hands, not as shaped as it looked on the mannequin. “Hey, whatever happens, happens, right? You can’t predict everything to go perfectly well. Android or not.”

 

Nines takes a sharp breath. “I...suppose you are right.”

 

“Yeah, for once, right?” Gavin snorts, but helps Nines into the jacket. It fits perfectly, of course it does, all sharp angles and soft curves in just the right places. “Hey, you’ll make it out. Live like a human a little bit, worry about the present. What do you think of this look?”

 

Nines turns in the mirror again, hands thumbing the hem of the jacket and fiddling with the sleeves. “This is...I like this.”

 

“Yeah?” Gavin stands next to him to shove his face into the mirror, so they can both see. “Yeah, that looks bomb as hell. You look good.”

 

“I’ll never understand your slang.” Nines mutters, but he looks pleased all the same, tugging at the collar of the jacket and admiring his reflection. “I think I like this one.”

 

“Great fuckin’ choice.” They stand there a little longer, and with a jolt Gavin wonders if they’ll ever do this again, hang out and do dumb shit and wear irresponsible amounts of accesories until they get yelled at. Would Nines like Lera’s company more than his? Would they never do this again?

 

He pulls a face. He hoped not.

 

He must’ve kept the grimace on a beat too long, because Nines notices with a snort and proceeds to twist his face up as well, puffing out his cheeks and sticking out his tongue. Gavin responds by pulling his mouth wide and scrunching up his nose.

 

And then it devolves into ten minutes of goofing off in front of the mirror, until a sales associate drops by to tell them to go.

 

lasdjfl;ksf

--

 

Saturday. The day of Nines’s date.

 

Nines was...nervous.

 

He smoothes the front of his blazer for the fifteenth time, soothing away the nonexistent wrinkles. He’s waiting outside Lera’s apartment building, a small flower in his hand. A daisy with a little ribbon wrapped around the stem. ‘Good luck’, said the WR600 who had sold it to him with a conspiratorial little wink.

 

Lera steps out, dressed neatly in a soft, blue sundress with little white fish and red anchors on it, curly hair done up in a bun. She smiles when she sees Nines, blushes when she sees the flower.

 

“That for me?” She teases, and Nines flushes as he hands it to her with a nod. “That’s sweet of you, you shouldn’t have.”

 

‘You shouldn’t have’ rarely had literal meaning, so don’t take it literally if she says it. It just means she thinks you’re nice for thinking of her like that. He remembers that Gavin had told him earlier, when the detective had texted him ‘good luck!!!’ an hour ago. He feels relieved-if he hadn’t been told otherwise, he might be panicking right now.

 

There’s an awkward pause, before Nines realizes he should probably say something. “You look, er. You look very nice.”

 

Lera smiles, sweetly. “Thanks, so do you.” The smile was nice, but not extraordinary-Nines found he didn’t feel anything special. “Shall we go?”

 

“Lead the way.”

 

They take a cab that Lera hails, and make small talk on the way. As Nines learns: Lera has a pet parrot named Brody, a twin brother currently in Chicago, and became a cop out of desperation and convenience. She talks more than he, but he doesn’t mind listening. He doesn’t know what to talk about.

 

The musical was fine. He enjoyed it a lot, the drama, the tension, and let himself cry during the saddest moments and stifle laughter during the funny parts. Lera was nothing but kind and pleasant, and he enjoyed her company and commentary during the intermission and when they get ready to leave.

 

Yet, he doesn’t feel anything...particularly intriguing. He appreciates her as a person. He knows her more. And yet, that is all.

 

Even with Gavin, he had a clearer connection to, and they were only friends.

 

At her apartment, she says goodbye, and asks: “Do you want to do this again sometime?”

 

“Only as friends, I’m afraid.” Says Nines, and she shrugs in response and grins ruefully.

 

“That’s fair. I had fun tonight though. Friends?”

 

It goes so much better than Nines could have hoped, and he feels a flood of relief that he wasn’t anticipating. “Of course. See you at work.”

 

“Same here.”

 

He watches her walk into her apartment, wondering the whole time what was missing. What had seemed off. Really, there was no reason not to like her-she was sweet, funny, and polite-but if he had closer connections with friends than he did with her, than that must have been a sign that they were incompatible.

 

Right?

 

Didn’t he want a romantic relationship? Connor had frequently gushed about his own with Markus to Nines, and it seemed nice, but not something that particularly intrigued Nines. All cuddling and sweet nothings and excited declarations when they saw each other, and it was all very adorable but not what Nines wanted.

 

He wanted something affectionate, sure, but not overly so. Humorous. Willingness to help. Blunt honesty, cooperation when needed but isolated identity otherwise. He didn’t doubt Markus and Connor had those in their relationship, but Nines saw how they delivered it, and he wanted it differently.

 

He’s almost home when some small, unregulated piece of processing power comes to the conclusion that he wants something like Gavin, and freezes with a foot in the door.

 

Oh, fuck.

 

On cue, a message appears in his HUD, from one DETECTIVERAT: how was ur date?

 

What should Nines say? What should he do?

 

Be honest.

 

It’s very late, Gavin. You should be in bed.

 

DETECTIVERAT: no fuk u

 

how date

 

Pleasant. I had a nice time.

 

Three dots appear, disappear, reappear again.

 

DETECTIVERAT: yea? that’s good

 

R u gonna date her

 

No, I don’t think I will. We agreed to stay friends.

 

This time, the response comes nearly too fast.

DETECTIVERAT: oh cool

 

I mean not cool if u wanted to date her but

 

cool new frien

 

Nines smiles.

 

friends are good

 

Indeed.

 

Thank you for your advice, by the way, I think I would’ve enjoyed it far less if not for it.

 

plz stop putting periods at the end of ur sentences

 

also yea np np

 

say uh

 

Nvm actually lmao

 

? No, what is it?

 

ahhdlksjflska haha no it’s ridiculus

 

Forget it

 

I assure you, I won’t laugh. I promise.

 

Lkjsdjfaosidjfaoi okokokok

 

If u wanna uh

 

try another date

 

it can be as friends, u kno, all that

 

no pressure

 

but uh yea

 

Id be down

 

Oh, this ridiculous man. Absolutely remarkable how he knew just what Nines was thinking, sometimes, and he couldn’t help but snort, feeling a little self-conscious about standing alone in his home staring at seemingly nothing.

 

ur not replying that means ur laughing

 

Asshole

 

I am not laughing.

 

>:c i dont believe u

 

Shame you don’t.

 

Hypothetical laughter aside, however…

 

He takes a long time to choose his words, finding what would work best, invoke least offense, In the end he wings it, takes a deep breath and watches text appear before his eyes.

 

I wouldn’t mind a date. As friends, as you said, if you’d like. But I’d be open to a date

 

With only brief consideration and no foresight, he adds:

 

It doesn’t have to be as friends.


 

“Hey, Nines? Do you remember the first date we did?”

 

Nines hums as he pours out a cup of coffee in a mug, one cream, two sugars, stirring lightly as he goes to join Gavin on the couch. “The one you asked me on after I went to a musical with Lera? We went mini-golfing and you threw yourself into a pond.”

 

“Hey we don’t talk about that, okay? That’s not official. We agreed on that.” Gavin huffs, as he scoots over to the side to let Nines sit. Sarge meows from Gavin’s lap, disgruntled by the shifting but settles in all the more, tail twitching slightly.

 

“Was it when we went to the park and started playing fetch with other people’s dogs?”

 

“No, that’s the second date.”

 

“It’s the date that came immediately after the mini golf.”

 

“Okay, smartass.” Gavin sighs dramatically. “That time when we went shopping to get you real clothes for a date with Lera. That’s what I was thinking about.”

 

“Does that even count as a date?”

 

“Of course it does? That’s when I figured out I liked you.” He scoffs, cheeks pinked, and Nines feels his regulator run a little warmer in his chest. “We took a picture, remember? I just found it again on my phone, look.”

 

The two of them. Nines in his first, real piece of clothing, hair a mess, and Gavin with his many sunglasses and goofy smile. Making fun of themselves in the mirror. Nines couldn’t help the smile that works its way across his face as he looks.

 

“If you’re judging dates by pictures, what about the one from the hospital?”

 

“No, we took that one to send to Tina. And I was flipping you off.”

 

“Alright, the one before then? When we first met?”

 

“Taken without my consent, and also I hated you back then.”

 

Ridiculous man. “So shopping date it is.” He snorts, and reaches over to pet Sarge, fingers running through dark fur as the cat starts purring like a motor. “It’s been six months since then, you know.”

 

“Has it? Holy shit.” Gavin pats Nines’s hair, ruffling the perfect curls. “Happy half-year, baby. I can still remember the time I wanted to kill you like it was yesterday.”

 

“Yesterday you called me a little shit for replacing your burger with a salad when you weren’t looking.”

 

“That’s because that was a bitch move, asshole.” He butts Nines’s shoulder with his head, and laughs. “One year from hating you on sight to this. Things did get better, huh?”

 

“Things changed.”

 

“Cheers to that babe.”

 

And that’s the picture they make, Nines thinks. From two people sitting on opposite sides of the frame, refusing to look at each other, to this; sitting on a couch with a cat between them, trading snark and smiles like they’d been doing it for years.

 

hhahshfd