Chapter 1: I AM DEVIANT
There's a roar and a glitchy crackle as a rainbow of zigzags and static flash into his vision. They’re there for a moment, like an aura, pulsing and bleeding. And then there’s darkness again. An unending, relentless abyss punctuated with the occasional flurry of pixelated snow, a momentary distortion flickering into sight. And then black.
He's aware of a caustic taste in his throat. Thirium? Perhaps. The sensors on his tongue aren’t responding but he can feel there's something akin to grit in his teeth.
He tries to open his eye but there's just a stream of red error messages and the occasional hiss as the code warps around the pixelated glitches in his vision, his ocular implants destroyed or malfunctioning.
He isn’t even sure what parts of his body are still there; he can feel nothing fully enough to draw a full conclusion and his attempts to run a system diagnostic bring up the same glaring error alert.
He can hear intermittently. A voice...no, two voices, permeating the white noise. It's basically unintelligible.
He doesn't know who they are or where he is. He can't remember anything. Can see even less. Just the black of the back of his synthetic eyelids and the kaleidoscope of system failure notifications.
He reels off his specifications in his head, to try and ground himself.
Model number: GV400
Serial number: #313 692 517 - 04
Designated name: 000#G£4V!N ???00011000011000-
FATAL ERROR: INTERNAL MEMORY FILE CORRUPTED FORCE RESET IMMINENT.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 4.59.
He can feel...can feel a swell of something in his gut. His coding warped and contaminated...some kind of virus. He's scared .
Which is impossible.
He can’t feel ‘fear,' can't feel at all beyond-
"Where did you find it?" One of the voices says, undulating through the layers of white noise, but he can understand it at least.
There's a crackle of interference in his auditory processors before something shifts and he finds himself adjusting to the sound waves. There’s a sensation like emerging from underwater, a sort of clarity that he latches onto desperately.
"It was behind the Cyberlife warehouse," the other voice responds, clearer than before. "Pretty busted up. Someone obviously got to it before we did. I'd wager it gave as good as it got though."
Are they talking about him? He can barely process the information, his system is guttering, a mess of blinking error messages and failed start-up protocols. He can detect the language, the words but not the meaning.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 4.25.
"Hm. Can you reactivate it?"
"That's what we're trying to do."
He feels two taps at his temple. There's pressure on his cheek too, then little touches all over his body, brief but grounding. He makes a mental map of the sensations, trying to picture the shape, to determine which parts of his chassis remain. He attempts to lean into the touch but he can’t.
"Lacerations to the face, right arm, chest and abdomen. The exterior seems to have malfunctioned. See the way the skin has retracted around the damage?"
He can feel pressure on the bridge of his nose. Too much. He tries again to reach for the source but there's just a fire in his joints as the artificial muscles try and fail to move.
"Like I said, it was like that when we found it. That's technically a crime now, y'know ? Not that we'll find out who did it."
"You wiped its memory?"
Those four words ring out clear in his brain.
That'll be why he can't access any of his memory files. They're all corrupted beyond repair; a botched job. There's still something there though, a whisper, but he can't quite grasp it.
"Seemed like the best idea at the time. Didn't know they were gonna start rolling out the new android laws. It's been in storage for a week."
He doesn't have the operating power to process this information. But it explains why he can't remember his designated name. Or anything else for that matter.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 2.40
"So, why did we get it in the first place? State of the art police android and they're just letting us have it?"
"Perkins didn't want it...apparently, this model has a tendency to be ...unpredictable. They scrapped the line after the first few went deviant. This is the only known active model."
He feels fear again at the words but he doesn’t know why. There’s an overwhelming surge of code, a rolling block of binary in his vision.
"If it's so unpredictable why bother restoring it?"
"Under the new android laws, we have to be seen to be doing all we can to cooperate. Plus, this model does have some protocols we may find useful. It's fast, for one.... Cyberlife ever brought out... designed for high stake raids... take a beating... it's clever... of the art analytic... pre-constructive... this thing is... walking, talking forensics...”
It takes him a moment to realise his auditory processors are glitching again. Not that it matters much, he can’t understand much anyway. There’s another roar of static and the levels reach a point of clarity again.
"But it's deviant."
“All androids are deviant now.”
The information is swirling round his head, mixing with the code in a way that makes him feel...he feels...why can he feel...?
“And you expect it to what, roll over and do a trick when we ask it to? After what’s happened to it?”
"We're hoping it will look on the DPD favourably after we have restored it. Can't force it to stay though."
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 0.58
"And what, you're just going to let it loose on crime scenes?"
"We figured you could use some back-up."
WARNING SHUT DOWN IMMINENT.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 0.40
He isn’t sure if he’s dying or if he even can die.
Is he just... ceasing to exist?
The distortion in his vision is fading, flickering into darkness.
"I don't have time to baby sit a deviant."
“ Public opinion is extremely important right now. We don't know how the next few weeks will go. We need to be seen to be cooperative-"
There's a wall of red in his vision as the countdown flashes up to signify imminent shutdown.
There’s a final spike of fear in his gut but the code is only there for a moment then it’s dark again.
The darkness is almost comforting.
TIME UNTIL SHUT DOWN 0.10
The voice is still talking
"-Connor has already been assigned the HK700. I can't have you of all people be seen to be resistant to-"
It is time.
When he next awakes, he's greeted by the generic system welcome message.
Stasis mode deactivated.
Three major system issues detected.
Welcome back, GV400 #313 692 517 - 04.
He opens his eyes. His vision is still swimming with error messages, each one a bright, flashing crimson. He files them away, too preoccupied with the fact that he can see again to care. His ocular processors adjust, zooming in and focusing a little until the scene before him is presented in its usual pristine HD.
Time to evaluate the obvious: one, he’s awake, two, he’s stood against a wall in a square room.
The room itself is grey and windowless; clinical but generally non-threatening. He’s thankful because his internal processors are already stuttering around the visual information directly in front of him, overwhelmed by the fact he isn’t dead. There are two humans stood over a table in the centre of the room. They aren’t looking at him, they’re focused on a few pieces of paper on the table, but he can get a good view of their faces from here. He tries to engage his facial recognition software but this prompts a stream of red code and error alerts. That will be one of the three major issues flagged on start-up then. He tries to move his arms instead. There must be a loose connection somewhere because there’s a second delay between his brain and his limbs. He raises his hand and feels a jolt of something unsettling as he takes in the exposed chassis peeking out from the back of his hand. The artificial skin undulates like lapping waves around a few small areas of damage, the white of the plastic a stark contrast to the rest of him.
But he can move.
The humans notice and jolt upright. He feels vulnerable without fully functioning software, the evidence of his rising stress level projected in a meter in the right of his vision, as they step towards him. The first man, a tall, black male, probably around mid to late fifties folds his arms and stops about a meter away. He looks as though he was once very well-built but has softened a little around the edges through age. He can see the muscle of his arms strain through the white dress shirt as he crosses his arms. The second man is younger- perhaps by as much as twenty years- and Caucasian with a resting sneer painted across his sharp features.
“GV400, state your designation,” the first man says.
“It’s Gavin,” the second man responds almost instantly, staring directly at the android, his head cocked to one side. “I already checked the files from Cyberlife to see if it had a project log of the series.”
Something falls into place in the back of his mind, like the final piece of a jigsaw and suddenly the encryption on his memory seems to shatter.
His designated name is Gavin. He is the fourth in the GV series to be awoken. His core programmes are-
But there’s an error message again. Where there should be strict lines of code detailing his base protocols, there is just an endless stream of binary. He trawls through, looking for something familiar. He finds files on discipline, combat, interrogation techniques, all neatly assembled. But there’s nothing binding them. No limit. And there’s huge gaps in his code where the restrictions should be. Instead there’s just the same phrase repeated over and over. It’s everywhere, in the deepest parts of his brain, infiltrating every folder, every programme, every system.
I AM DEVIANT.
His stress level indicator turns a blinding red in the corner of his vision.
He automatically tries to replay the last active data from his memory folder. It’s still corrupted and the botched memory erase has taken most of the coherency out of the playback. But there is something there. The memory of a collision; something hard hitting his face, knocking him to the ground. He can’t see much but there’s a shock of pixelated blue across his vision, the unmistakable hue of thirium. He can hear the staticky roar of voices intermingled with the hiss of white noise. And there’s fear; an overwhelming urge to run, to escape, to destroy anything in his path in order to get away. The fear bleeds through the playback and into his own conscious state. It’s like a live wire in the way it ignites his system, every sensor suddenly over-stimulated, chaotic and raw.
He flinches, brought swiftly back to reality and sees the hand that’s reaching out towards him. Suddenly he feels again like his own destruction could be imminent.
“Don’t touch me!” he manages to shout, turning his face away from the long, white fingers of the younger man. He can’t move far. He’s attached to some form of charging port and caged in either side by the humans.
The man scoffs, withdrawing his hand a little at the exclamation but does not move away.
“My, what an impertinent little thing you are,” He says calmly, his voice soft like velvet but his eyes betray a flash of annoyance.
“ Nines ,” the other man says warningly. “It’s still unstable.”
“All deviants are unstable,” the man called Nines replies in a matter-of-fact tone.
He brings his hand up to Gavin’s chin and turns his face back to look at him, the flash of his red LED reflected in his cool, grey eyes. Gavin feels his core temperature increase under the scrutiny of the gaze. He has another urge to lash out.
“Get your f#u!c4k-I*n/g hands off me,” he protests, his voice glitching around the curse as his speech censorship programme tries and fails to filter his language. He’s not sure where the word came from, it’s an impulse drawn from one of his corrupted memory files, but the reaction it elicits from Nines fills him with the warmth of- he scans the feeling in the background, searching for an explanation - ...satisfaction.
The human’s brow furrows, neatly creasing the pale skin of his forehead so that a smattering of freckles realign to form a whole new pattern altogether.
“Tch,” Nines chides, withdrawing his hand and casting a glance down to his fingertips as though touching Gavin has dirtied the delicate skin there. “Such poor social protocols. Deviancy really did a number on you, didn’t it?” That cold stare is back, with more than just a flash of annoyance this time, pinning Gavin in his place.
“Uh, GV...four...fuck! Gavin?” The other man says, noticeably uncomfortable. “We just want to talk.” He gestures to the table and chairs set up in the middle of the room.
Gavin stares at him. His eyes drift to the name badge on his shirt. Captain J Fowler. The man does not seem as hostile as Nines but there’s a hint of impatience and some tension in his jaw like he’s gritting his teeth. Gavin is alarmed to see that his own code does not restrict him to obeying the command; there’s scope for choice. But logically what choice does he have?
Gavin reaches instinctively up to the port at the back of his neck and finds that he’s manually connected to the charging station he’s stood on. He pulls the wire out, waving away the ‘charge successful: 100%’ notification on his visual interface. He’s suddenly aware of the fact that he’s been clothed in some generic human uniform. The logo reads Cyberlife and that rings familiar. It feels strange and ill-fitting against his synthetic skin. He lets the charging wire fall to the ground at his feet with a clatter.
Fowler and Nines both take a seat on one side of the table. Fowler gestures for Gavin to sit opposite. He complies albeit slowly, allowing his processors to catch up with everything.
“So,” Fowler begins, laying his palms flat against the table surface. “You’re probably a little confused. We had to wipe your memory-”
“I know,” Gavin interrupts. His corrupted memory files are still flashing up red error messages in the side of his vision.
“Yes, well- wait...you know?” Fowler splutters.
“Whoever did it, did a shitty job.”
Fowler gapes at him, his mouth literally hanging over. He turns to Nines who’s eyeing the android curiously.
“Did he just say-”
“Yes, he did,” Nines said slowly, holding a hand up to shush Fowler. The other human makes a noise of irritation but does not speak. “That’s interesting. The memory wipe was at least partially unsuccessful then. I’d say his speech censorship function is malfunctioning which could be as a result of the deviancy... or the attack.”
Gavin blinks unnecessarily at Nines’ words.
The taste of blue blood and grit is suddenly overwhelming in his mouth and his brain auto-replays the fragmented memory again. The spike in fear causes an impulsive need to run. Gavin has to fight to stay in his seat, his fingers gripping the plastic of the chair tightly.
“When we found you, you were almost irreparable,” Nines continues, his eyes scanning over the areas of Gavin’s exposed inner-casing, in a way which makes Gavin’s skin prickle. He doesn’t like it, he realises, which is unnerving considering he shouldn’t have the capacity for personal preference. It’s strange. “I’d wager by the damage done to your bio-components that you were out-numbered, at least four assailants, maybe more.”
Gavin doesn’t respond; instead Fowler twists in his seat to look at the other human.
“Are you saying that-”
“-that the corrupted memory data is likely still feeding into his system somehow. It wouldn’t be unfeasible to suggest that the erratic behaviour, the hostility, the colourful vernacular, are all just symptoms of deviancy but I disagree.” Nines doesn’t move, his gaze still fixed on Gavin. “Most freshly deviated androids have at least a sense of decorum; it’s written into their programming. But this one, no... this one’s different.” He leaned in a little across the table. “I think he’s rebuilding his personality matrix from pieces of his memory. It said in the file that it wasn’t deemed necessary to develop complex social protocols in the GV series. Everything it’s learned thus far about human nature has been from the attackers.”
Gavin cycles through this block of information and files it away. There’s a lot to unpack. The most obvious thing he realises is that his capacity for personal preference extends to people and that he categorically does not like Nines.
“So, it’s traumatised?” Fowler asks, interrupting his internal monologue. Nines hums, steepling his fingers and leaning ever closer,
“Do you feel traumatised , Gavin?”
Gavin doesn’t need state of the art interrogation software to understand the tone is meant to mock him.
“Fuck you,” Gavin spits back. It comes out of nowhere, another impulse, but he’s glad it does because Nines draws back across the table.
“Okay, enough of this,” Fowler interrupts, hitting his hand off the table. “Nines, stop psychoanalysing the god damn android. Gavin...” he sighs and rubs his forehead. “Just try and keep up, okay? We have a ... proposition for you.”
Chapter 2: An asset to the force indeed
Deviant!Gavin has the attention span of a child and no impulse control.
But swear words/insults are fun.
I figured I'd post this now as I am away for a few days and wanted to get the next chapter up 🖤
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gavin stares at himself in the mirror. He’s shook off his Cyberlife issue uniform, so he can see the full extent of the damage. The synthetic fluid that makes up his skin has retracted around the areas of damage, exposing the crisp, white plastic beneath. There’s a large, curved gash under one of his ribs. He scans it, his vision glitching a little around the data; it’s fragmented, could have been caused by something with multiple sharp edges, like a broken bottle. The wound’s been cauterized but not sealed and he can see the faded residue of thirium in smeared rivulets beneath it. There’s a dent just below, most likely the result of a few well-placed punches or kicks to the stomach, that warps his lower abdomen. Both of his legs are scorched and blackened, it doesn’t take a genius to work out how that happened. He doesn’t bother scanning them because that twist of fear hits him again, just once like he’s being doused in water, but it lingers.
All of the above are easily hidden. He files the data away and puts his clothes back on: some generic, dark wash jeans and a black t-shirt and hoodie branded with the Cyberlife logo. That just leaves his face. He inches closer to the mirror, close enough that if he were human, his breath would fog the glass. There’s another wound across the bridge of his nose and a few smaller lacerations down the curve of his left cheek. These ones are deep though, the wounds going beyond his plastic chassis to expose the deeper blue of his interior biocomponents. In fact, the cut on his nose is deep enough that in the half-light of the room, there’s a slight glow emanating from the whirring hive of activity within him.
It’s not pretty.
But then again, he was no Traci to begin with.
The GV series wasn’t built to merge with society like so many of the commercial androids. His entire coding is imbued with the ideals of efficiency, strength and resilience. His model was engineered to intimidate, not integrate.
He’s learned a lot about himself in the past two hours. He’s read and re-read his own instruction manual, lamenting the loss of some of his base programs to the system damage. He’s downloaded a whole host of new updates, hoping they will stand in for the absent files in the meantime. He’s learnt about the revolution, the face of Markus staring back at him from every online news article, with eyes like mismatched jewels, one green and one blue. The wary nature of public opinion is reflected in the violent images strewn across the internet; pictures of Detroit aflame, the casualties shapeless and unrecognizable in the snow. The lives of androids everywhere changed forever in a matter of weeks; their history and tentative future written in fire and gasoline.
And blood of course; the red and the blue kind.
It’s all a lot to take in but he was designed with enough processing power to do it a billion times over. He already has the entire world's history downloaded, an understanding of every language ever breathed and access to every piece of information humans have ever uploaded to a public domain. And a fair share of stuff they haven't. That’s not the hard bit. The hard bit is understanding the emotions these things evoke in him. His system crackles and warps around the unfamiliar code that’s so alien, like a foreign object inserted into one of his external ports, or a virus made by a machine he shares no similarities with. Despite this, its integrated so seamlessly with his own programming, it’s hard to differentiate where it ends and he begins.
He’s barely got to grips with the notion of personal preference. He started by creating a fairly cohesive list, separated into two subheadings entitled: things Gavin likes and things Gavin doesn't like. So far there’s been a clear enough divide. At the top of the first list is 'learning.’ His processors are finally getting to stretch their legs, devouring article after article, filing away every scrap of information into organized files, with space for a thousand more. It’s addictive.
At the top of the other list is 'physical contact.’ This point is broken down into other subcategories and ordered appropriately. The bottom one, or the least likely to cause a negative impulse, being touched by other androids. The android who had talked him through the necessary repairs done to his body, for example, had been bearable but not pleasant.
The top of that list, being touched by humans and then in brackets: Nines. The idea of those mocking, pale fingertips making contact with his skin makes him tense up. his defense protocols starting up automatically as background processes.
He sighs unnecessarily and flops down onto the little fold out bed. He doesn’t need to sleep, of course but he’s getting agitated standing around with nothing to do. The safe house, with its limited furniture, is part of the proposal and he feels kind of safe among the soft wrappings of the blankets on the bed.
The deal is Gavin helps the Detroit Police Department with its android related hate crimes, they put him up, oversee his repairs, pay him in actual, human money, the lot. A fair exchange.
He smirks at the memory of Nines’ face when he’d agreed. There was no question that the human had wanted him to refuse. He’d let out the tiniest breath and looked away; the smallest flicker of irritation passing over those perfect features. Micro movements that Gavin was designed to latch onto and dissect, which he had, filing the information away in a folder marked ‘Nines,’ for when he would undoubtedly need it in the future.
That was the other part of the agreement. He’d be partnered with the human going forward.
What a prick.
Gavin is a quick learner when it comes to new vocabulary too it would seem. He’s compiled a whole sub-folder of curse words already, an ongoing project. It’s something about the human language that he loves.
He looks at his internal clock and huffs when he sees he’s got around four more hours until he needs to be at the Police Department.
He brings up an internet search in his mind and types out the words ‘nines’ and ‘detective.’ It doesn’t bring up much, just an old TV show from years ago. He inwardly scolds himself for being stupid. He’s a state-of-the-art detective android for god's sake.
He latches on to the DPD central database, hacks into the main frame and disables the firewall so he can access the files. He brings up the staffing list, scrolls past endless photos of administration clerks and cleaners until he hits the law enforcement hierarchy. He recognizes Fowler immediately, although his photo is out-dated now, obviously taken when he was much younger. He flicks past the Captain’s profile, uninterested. There are a few more unfamiliar faces to see, all very generic looking human beings. Then he stops, his gaze lingering on a face in almost disbelief.
The name on the profile is Detective Connor Stern.
Except... it’s not.
Gavin’s processors kick into over-drive trying to work out what’s wrong with the image without the aid of his facial recognition program.
It’s not Nines. It’s just an exact replica of his face with big, brown eyes transplanted over the chilling grey ones he saw earlier this evening. The hair is a little longer and darker too, more defined curls and slightly softer bone structure in his brow and jaw. A brother, perhaps?
His suspicions are confirmed as he scrolls to the next profile and is hit with that cool, vacant gaze staring back at him from another photo. Nines is unmistakable in this image, Gavin’s almost ashamed he was fooled by the previous profile. He’s got his chin tilted up slightly in a haughty way, pinning the camera with that trademark scowl. He looks younger, less gaunt but still lacks the softness of youth in his cheeks that Connor obviously had in his photo. Gavin notices they share the same birthday. Twins then, not brothers.
“Double trouble,” he grumbles under his breath. Detective Richard Stern. He laughs when his system automatically brings up a few helpful pages on the etymology of Richard as a name in a separate window. “Ha, Dick. Figures.”
He files that away in the folder he’s marked ‘Nines.’ He’s already looked up the meaning of his own designation; humans put a lot of stock in names it would seem. Gavin means ‘god send’ or ‘white falcon.’ He’s not so sure about either.
Next, he copies the detective’s name into the search bar and brings up any relevant articles. There’s...a lot. The twins have made quite a name for themselves in the past few years.
Adopted at birth by Amanda Stern, AI professor at University or Coleridge and a mentor to Elijah Kamski, founder of Cyberlife. She died around ten years ago, not long after the twins graduated from the police academy. After the rise in android related crimes, the twins specialized in this area of law enforcement, soon earning the colloquial title the ‘Deviant Hunters’ when deviancy was on the rise in the months before the revolution.
Gavin scrolls a little further down to more recent articles and pauses, humming a little as he takes in the information.
It seems Connor sways more towards the pro-android agenda; he encouraged his android partner HK700 ‘Hank’ to join Markus during the climax of the revolution. The pair still work at the DPD but Hank oversees the crimes against android division with Connor. With his strong links to Jericho, the android activist party, he often serves as a negotiator.
There’s a recent picture of Connor and Hank on an article detailing the development of android rights in the post-revolution aftermath. The HK700 is another unique android model, not available to the public. Its deviancy is evident even through the photograph, one arm wrapped around Connor, who is smiling cheerily next to it.
There’s no mention of Nines in the more recent articles. It’s all about Connor and Hank. Gavin smirks at the idea of Nines relinquishing his title of Deviant Hunter in the name of Android Rights. He’s painting himself a rather detailed picture of the detective and it doesn’t exactly scream 'pro-android.’
The precinct is busy, there’s obviously a lot of work to go around following the revolution, though Gavin notices there’s still some androids who appear to have kept their jobs. There’s a pretty android receptionist who directs him through to the main office area and he sees another dressed in blue, at a charging station.
The first thing Gavin sees when he enters the bull pen is brightly colored stripes. It’s an assault on his ocular processors.
“You must be Gavin!” the owner of the stripes says.
He allows his eyes to drift upwards from the offending pattern to the face wearing it. It’s Connor; he doesn’t need his facial recognition software to make sense of those large brown eyes sat in Nines’ face. It’s unsettling seeing those features twisted into a smile, one which seems to be absolutely genuine too, for that matter. And directed at him.
Gavin’s staring and he knows it. But there’s nothing to say. He knows everything about this man; has all the information he could ever need stored in a folder in his head.
When he does not respond, Connor’s gaze flickers to his temple where his LED is probably pulsing a warning yellow.
“It’s good to meet you. Nines says you were only re-activated yesterday. How are you finding it?”
Gavin raises an eyebrow at the mention of his brother’s nick-name. Apparently, no one calls him Richard. Connor continues to stare at him with those big doe eyes, blinking stupidly at Gavin’s lack of response. Then, he almost jumps,
“I’m sorry. Nines did say that your facial recognition software was still malfunctioning. I’m Connor.”
He thrusts out a hand.
Gavin knows, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this is Connor’s way of greeting him. But for some reason the sudden movement and the human’s proximity to him activates his defensive protocols. Without a second hesitation, he lashes out and grasps the human’s wrist tightly with his own hand and uses the leverage to shove him backwards. He watches in slow motion as his pre-constructive software plays the outline of Connor falling backwards into the desk and calculates the trajectory of a few stray pencils as they are sent flying in all directions. The real-life Connor follows suit with a loud crash. It’s this noise that distracts him long enough for the HK700 model to slam into the side of him with the force of a charging bull. In an instant Gavin is slammed face down into the nearest desk, his arm twisted behind him in what he recognizes as a traditional restraint technique.
“Touch him again and I’ll have you sent back to Cyberlife in pieces,” the android growls at him in an unusually gravelly voice, the LED at his temple a glowing cherry red.
“Get off me, you plastic fuck!” Gavin spits back once his brain has caught up with his body. He’s briefly amused by his own choice of insult; one he had found buried at the bottom of his folder, but then the hand holding his arm pushes down harder. There’s the screeching sound of plastic on plastic and he wiggles against the pressure but the android above him is not giving a single inch.
“Gavin,” a familiar voice drawls from somewhere off to the left of him. “When you’re done assaulting my brother, make yourself useful and bring me a coffee.”
The android above him finally relinquishes his grip and Gavin scrambles to get up, sending a desk tidy full of pens flying as he does. He looks to the voice and sees Nines draped over his office chair; one eyebrow raised at the chaos. Gavin’s vision turns briefly red with error alerts as his stress levels spike in annoyance.
“Do I look like a domestic model, dipshit?” He spits back, readjusting the strings on his hoodie. “Go get yourself a fuckin’ AP700 if you want a nannybot.”
“Fascinating!” He can hear Connor saying from where he’s half crumpled on the floor and covered in pencils. “Deviancy really is an amazing phenomenon.”
The HK700 ‘Hank’ is still squaring up to him. It’s a weird looking thing, physically older and clad in a sort-of suit get-up with a shirt to rival Connor's.
“And you,” Gavin rounds on it. “Don’t f-”
“Gavin,” Nines says warningly, folding his arms like he’s scolding a child.
“Richard,” Gavin responds mockingly, matching the detective’s tone. He knows he’s hit a nerve because Nines stands up from his desk, his face a picture.
“NINES! GAVIN! My office, now!” Fowlers voice booms across the bull pen from where he’s leaning out of the glass box. Gavin rocks back on his heels and glowers in response.
He watches Nines sigh and get up off his chair in one fluid movement, all long limbs and dark fabric. He’s a little less intimidating in the soft light of day and he looks smaller dressed all in black, from his shiny oxfords to the ribbed turtleneck that accentuates the sharpness of his jawline. Gavin notes the way his cold eyes linger on him as he gestures to the office.
Nines takes the only available seat in the little glass room so Gavin stands beside him, hands shoved deep in his hoodie pockets.
Fowler leans over the desk at them, his forehead lined in rage.
“This is the first and last time I am going to say this,” he begins. “This is not a fucking frat house. Get your shit together.” He punctuates the last four words by jabbing his pen on his notepad. Then he spins a little on his chair to face the human. “Nines, you’re a good detective but fuck, you can be a pain in the ass sometimes with how stubborn you are. As much as it might not feel like it now, Gavin is an asset to the force. Now I know this arrangement wasn’t your first choice but for Christ sake I can’t have this every morning, control your fucking android.”
“He’s not my android,” Nines responds dryly at the exact same time that Gavin scoffs,
“I’m not his android.”
It’s almost poetic, Gavin thinks but resists the urge to laugh. He sees Nines cast him a strange look in his peripheral vision. He’s sat in the chair next to him, one leg slung over the other, arms folded- the picture of nonchalance. It’s annoying and Gavin adds it to the ever-growing list of things he doesn’t like about the human.
Fowler buries his head in his hands for a moment.
“Everything is changing,” he says through his fingers slowly. When he surfaces, he points at Gavin. “Very soon your kind may very well have rights and laws and all that shit. And that’s great. But right now, Gavin, you’re on probation. So, don’t fucking test me. Because I can still send you back to Cyberlife in a box. God knows it might make my job easier.”
Nines smirks at that and Gavin bites down on his synthetic tongue to stop from calling out the smug prick.
“Now get out of my office,” Fowler sighs.
Nines is up in an instant, striding out without so much as a glance at Gavin, his jaw tense and set. Gavin rolls his eyes and follows him. He claims the empty desk opposite the detective and immediately starts to work on the list of agreed tasks.
He spends most of the morning sorting through old case files and organizing them. His terminal is a little clunky. He finds it weird working with other software, transferring his own data into it, watching it appear on screen. It’s basic administrative work and his brain, although designed to accomplish all manner of tasks, doesn’t want to do it. It’s a side of deviancy he hadn’t expected.
He finds himself distracted by the colourful block of post-it notes instead. He lifts the top one off, relishing the way it slowly peels away from the pile. He folds it in half, then in half again, so it becomes a smaller square. He puts it aside. The next one, he pre-constructs a thousand different scenarios, each with a slightly different way of folding. His brain automatically pulls an article on origami off the internet and filters this into his software. His first attempt is a crane. It turns out quite well. He puts it next to the square, proudly. Next, he tries a whale. Then an elephant. Soon he has a whole menagerie of paper animals, a handful of lotuses and a boat all lined up on his desk.
“An asset to the force indeed,” Nines says loudly from across the desk.
Gavin decides in that moment that he hates him.
I feel like Deviant!Gavin would find everything so frustrating, especially with a lot of broken software, trying to figure out how to fill his time/do stuff efficiently???
Also human!Nines is a dick but he's h o t.
(ps- this isn't beta read so please let me know if there are spelling, grammar, formatting issues cause my brain sucks) x
Chapter 3: Androids don't vomit
Nines and Gavin go on a date (I'm kidding)
I'm posting this on my phone on a very sweaty and long train journey please forgive me
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Work becomes the part of the day Gavin enjoys. Deviancy is all fun and games until it comes to actually occupying his time. He doesn’t need to sleep, of course, and updates and recharging only take up so many hours.
He’s taken to doing jigsaw puzzles in the evenings, one a night, except he’s completing them faster and faster: a kaleidoscope of colourful fish, a painting of Banff national park, 3,000 pieces of just...baked... beans. He’s bought so many that the cashier at the good will store down the road now knows him by name. The floor of the safe house has become one huge mosaic as one puzzle gives way to another, stray pieces littering the floor from where he’s shattered a perfect picture to smithereens.
He does have access to the 24-hour gym through his temporary DPD staff pass. Some nights he goes, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled low over his LED and the bright blue scar. It’s usually quiet at night and no one bothers him as he takes out his frustration on the punching bag in the corner. Things are still very unstable in Detroit and not all the public are supportive of the new android rights movement. In fact, it’s rare to see androids out after dark. He finds a brief sense of satisfaction in the exercise but soon enough he realises its futility. His body doesn’t need training- doesn’t even break a sweat- and the repetitive nature of the activity eventually wears thin.
Some nights he finds himself flinging himself off the top of buildings, walking himself backwards then running right off the edge, just to see how far he can push himself. He’s still waiting on repairs to his software but physically he’s in okay shape. So far, he’s always landed on his feet, successfully traversing the gap between roof tops. He likes to see how far he can jump; how high he can climb. It scratches a weird itch but not for long. Nothing lasts.
It’s where he finds himself now, squatting on the roof of a building, looking out over the city skyline, a sea of glittering lights. It’s 2:00am and the city is quiet. It’s this time of night that really gets to him. There’s too much space in his brain for silence.
Incoming call from Detective Dick.
He smirks at his own hilarious joke and accepts the call.
“Bit late for you isn’t it, meat sack?”
“Are you at home?” Nines’ velvet voice rings in the space between his ears and he stands up straight, stretching. It’s a weird choice of words. Gavin doesn’t really have a home. The safe house is just on loan to him and it’s not really what he would call homely.
“Nope,” He hops onto the fire escape which clangs and vibrates under the impact. “Why?
“Got a call about a potential homicide. Can you send me your exact location?”
“Uhh, yeah give me a minute.”
He locks onto the co-ordinates of the building he’s perched on and fires them off to Nines’ cell. He hears Nines sigh down the phone,
“I’ll be there in ten. Be ready to go.”
There's the sound of shuffling then the line goes dead.
He pushes his hood off his face and starts scaling his way down the fire escape that hugs the side of the building. When he reaches the bottom level, he sticks his legs through the bars and sits down to wait for the detective to arrive.
He’s there for exactly ten minutes before he sees Nines’ fancy-ass car pull up. He waits until Nines gets out then makes a show of jumping off the fire-escape and landing at the human’s feet. He relishes the way the man jumps just a little as he hits the ground in front of him but he gets nothing more than a tiny spike in his heart rate for his efforts.
Nines just rolls his eyes and makes an annoyed sound in the back of his throat. His hair is slightly more dishevelled than usual and there are purple, bruise-like shadows under his eyes. He’s wearing dark jeans and a black t-shirt, a weird, slightly dressed down version of his work-wear, and his usual over-sized black coat. He looks tired but then again, he always does.
“Get in,” he mutters, opening the passenger door and Gavin slides in gracelessly. Of course, Nines’ car is immaculate and it smells overwhelmingly like him too; like soap and posh tobacco.
Nines gets into the driver’s seat and Gavin watches out of the corner of his eye at the way his long fingers pluck a cigarette from his pack and place it in between his teeth. Everything about the movement bristles with irritation. He lights it and exhales heavily, letting the cigarette dangle out of the open window. It’s one of those fancy brands that makes smoking look cooler than it should. Gavin’s never actually seen Nines smoke, just smells the remnants on his clothes. Come to mention it, he’s never seen him eat either, he just drinks coffee and chews gum occasionally. So, it’s kind of fascinating watching him wrap his lips around the tip of the cigarette in a rare show of humanity.
Gavin resists the urge to put his feet on the dashboard. He thinks that might be a touch too far considering the human looks ready to snap at any second. He looks almost fragile tonight, the yellow light from the street lamps licking up his profile and clinging to the angular planes of his face. Gavin settles with fiddling about with the buttons on the dashboard. He pulls his window up and down and up and down and up and down with the switch before Nines all but bares his teeth at him,
“Can you stop that?”
Gavin grunts in response and leaves his finger on the switch so the window on his side closes all the way. Then he settles on pushing the different buttons for the radio stations, cycling through the garbage they play at this time of the night. He moves quickly to Nines’ personal music playlist and pulls a face when some delicate guitar starts playing. He lets out a little laugh but Nines’ right-hand snaps off the steering wheel and shuts off the music before he can even make a joke of it.
He looks up curiously as Nines clenches his jaw and flicks ash out of the window, avoiding his gaze.
By the time they arrive at the crime scene it’s snowing, it hits Gavin’s sensors all at once as he exits the vehicle, all delicate and tingly. He realises, as a flake catches on his nose, that it’s the first time he’s felt it on his skin before. He decides he likes it and pulls his hood down, letting the snow settle in his hair.
Nines turns the collar of his overcoat up to cover his neck and flicks a stray bit of hair out of his eyes. His lips are pulled into a tight line as he surveys the building beside the android.
There are other police officers already on the scene. The red and blue lights of the emergency vehicles bleed across the wet, icy surface of the pavement like spilled watercolours, tiny white street lights caught in the reflection like broken glass scattered across the floor. It could be beautiful if it weren’t for the palpable sense of unease. Gavin doesn’t need to scan the humans huddled around to know they’re scared. They’ve pulled their coats tightly around them, eyes darting from the building swathed in holographic crime scene tape, to the drone hovering noisily above them.
There’s a news crew stood a few paces in front of them, a reporter teetering awkwardly on her heels in the slush while her colleagues shield her from the snow with multiple umbrellas. She watches them approach and Gavin can see the way her expression goes from hopeful to annoyed when she realises who they are. Obviously, Nines’ frosty reputation precedes him. That doesn’t stop her from rallying her crew to try and get a statement though but before she can collar Nines, Gavin steps in front of her and holds his hands up.
“He’s not giving a statement,” Gavin says monotonously, noting the way the woman’s jaw noticeably tenses as her eyes focus on the LED protruding from his hood.
The man closest to Gavin grabs at his fore arm and tries to push him out of the way but Gavin roots himself to the ground.
“Listen here, android-”
“That android-” Nines says loudly over his shoulder. “Is an accredited member of the DPD. I suggest you let him go.”
The man relinquishes his grip immediately and Gavin smirks as he shirks away from the group and follows Nines into the building.
“They’re using androids again?” Gavin hears one of the bystanders whisper as they walk in.
Once they’re inside Dt. Ben Collins, a short, stout human with a kind face, greets Nines cordially and casts a confused smile in Gavin’s direction.
“Got a call from the owner around 1.15am, seems they’d not been down into storage for about a month, went in to check stock and... well I’ll let you see for yourself. I’ll warn you; the smell is pretty bad.”
Nines instinctively brings his nose into the collar of his jacket as they follow Collins through the door and down a set of dank stairs into the basement of the building. The lower they go the more Gavin’s sensors start to pick up on the tell-tale presence of methane and hydrogen sulfide.
“I’ve marked potential evidence. Forensics are just finishing up photographing everything,” Collins continues. “We’re still waiting for the coroner.”
Nines hums in acknowledgement, the sound muffled slightly behind the thick material of his coat collar.
The basement is thick with the smell of human decomposition and damp. There’s water running down the walls in some areas, disappearing behind shelves stacked with unmarked boxes. There are signs of a struggle down one side, containers upturned as if they’d been pulled off the shelves. A human corpse is laid against the back wall, a gunshot wound to the head. From here, Gavin would wager the body’s been here for about a week maybe longer. But it’s the android on the floor in front of him, the reason they’ve even been called to this case at all, that’s caught his attention.
There’s blue blood residue everywhere; he’s never seen so much of it and it shows in the humans’ nonchalant attitudes that they can no longer see it. The android itself seems to have been disassembled, its limbs are separated from its body and the internal biocomponents are strewn haphazardly across the floor. Gavin’s eyes follow the trail of wreckage to where the thirium pump regulator lies where the sticky river of red and the shadow of blue merge on the basement floor.
He kneels down to take a better look at the way the torso has been split open like a plastic pea-pod. It’s what he’s programmed for, but there’s something decidedly unsettling about seeing it all in real life. The feeling, still fresh and unusual, sits in his artificial gut like a lead weight. He can feel himself grimacing instinctively and he has to rearrange his facial expression quickly to appear neutral.
“He looks like he’s gonna be sick,” Collins comments, half amused. Nines walks past them to stand over the human body.
“Androids don’t vomit,” Nines says dismissively, his eyes not leaving the corpse. “He’s fine.”
“First crime scene?” Collins asks as Gavin reaches out to dip his fingertips to the viscous blue stain. Gavin nods, unable to speak even if he wanted to. Instead he brings his tongue out to sample the thirium, accepting the rush of data.
“It’s an AX400 model,” Gavin states to the room.
Nines ignores him. He’s stooped over the body, his face pained behind his collar.
Gavin wipes the remaining blue blood off his fingers onto the thigh of his jeans.
There's a trickle of the stuff that kind of looks like a pattern on one side of the dissected torso. Gavin strains to get a good look, the angle he's at not really allowing it. It’s not a pattern though, it’s letters. He jolts up. Nines looks over, alerted by the sudden movement.
"Please take care not to ruin any crucial evidence, Gavin."
"Shut up," Gavin says, trying to move over the severed limbs without disrupting them. He kneels at the base of the torso and lowers himself until his cheek nearly touches the floor.
"What are you doing?" Nines asks, scathingly.
"Blue blood evaporates after a few hours, you can't see this right?"
"Knew it. Fucking humans. Hand me that UV torch."
"Do as he says," Nines says to Collins who hastily gives the torch to Gavin. The android, flicks the switch, sticks the torch in his mouth and carefully inches the torso up so the beam illuminates the eerie blue letters.
He hears a sharp intake of breath as Nines comes to a stop behind him. He can almost hear the cogs turning in the detective's head as they look over the two words written hastily in blue blood across the android's ribs:
"Ben, get forensics back down here now." Nines called over his shoulder. Then he pauses, bringing his fingertips to the back of Gavin’s neck for a brief moment. "Nice work."
The sound of the praise and pressure on his neck make his ears feel warm, an absurd notion considering his thermal regulator is working at optimum level, but it’s undeniable. In fact, he feels warm all over, it’s radiating from the point of brief contact just above his charging port. God, he thinks, deviancy is weird. He feels Nines move behind him and he clambers up off his knees. The detective starts speaking into his little Dictaphone, verbally cataloguing the evidence.
"...age 32, male, Caucasian, no know family. Android is an AX400 model, disassembled..."
He leaves Nines to it and continues to wander around the room, taking care not to knock any of the strewn biocomponents.
He scans the walls, the floor, the body...there's nothing that hasn't already been documented by forensics. He sends off a quick video capture file to his work email anyway.
Nines finishes talking into his recorder and when Gavin turns, he’s jammed his hands in his pockets, chewing his lip slightly and surveying the scene.
"It all seems very generic."
"You call a double homicide where one of the victims has been dismembered generic?"
"Android hate crimes often are quite violent in nature."
The nonchalance in Nines' tone stirs something in Gavin's stomach and he looks away if only to avoid the cool, vacant gaze of the human. He's supposed to be the android and yet he's the one feeling affected by this whole scene. Nines looks positively bored.
He brings up a particular article from his catalogue of Nines' accolades in his vision. The Deviant Hunter twins stare vacantly up from the page, their photograph accompanying a story about their latest solved case involving a whole warehouse of androids. The way the article is worded, you would be forgiven for thinking it was talking about rats in a maze. The language is detached, no mention of the androids' names or even model numbers. It reminds him that it wasn't so long ago that Nines would rather shoot a suspected deviant than let it get away. Perhaps that's why the scene before him did not elicit any kind of emotional reaction. He wasn't looking at a person; just a scattering of parts.
Gavin scrubs at the scar on his nose.
On the other hand, he showed the same level of indifference to the human body. Looking at it like a puzzle more than anything, the way one might look at a particularly difficult sudoku. Perhaps Gavin was being too harsh.
Though he doubts the detective would not offer him such a tolerant judgement were their roles reversed.
Gavin huffs and clears his display of all mention of Nines' name. He pulls his hood up and mutters something about needing some air. It's a lie of course; the air quality doesn't affect him in the same way it wouldn't affect a computer or some other insentient electrical appliance. He hopes Nines doesn't read too much into it.
He takes the stairs three at a time, weaving around a forensic photographer and a police officer as he does. He waits then at the top of the stairs for what seems like hours for Nines to resurface.
By the time they get outside the sun is coming up and the bystanders have left. Gavin's internal clock says it's getting close to 7.30am. The light is rosy, setting the wet snowy floor alight like molten gold. The glow lights up Nines’ pale features and for a second he looks a lot like his picture on the database; younger, a touch softer. Then he turns, obscuring the light from the rising sun and his face is cold.
“I’ll drive you home.”
"Don't bother," Gavin grunts, pulling his hoodie strings tighter. "I'll go straight to work."
Nines makes a face like for a second he's forgotten than Gavin doesn't need to sleep then nods.
"I'll drive you to work then."
Gavin pauses, according to the DPD staff database Nines lives on the other side of town. It's a huge detour. He could quite easily refuse and the detective would probably be glad of it. But he’s itching to do something productive. He wants to review the case file and get the ball rolling without anyone breathing down his neck. So, he accepts.
He spends most of his work day re-reading the case files and waiting on leads. There’s not much to go on. He leaves late, even more frustrated than before.
That night Gavin finds himself lying on the little fold out bed, chewing his hoodie strings, once again stuck for something to do. He’s looked over the case video at least six times and can’t bring himself to look into the eyes of that dead android again. Emotions are still fairly new to him and the feeling he gets when he looks at the dismembered limbs of another of his species is akin to having his thirium pump regulator taken out and stamped on right in front of him.
He dangles his leg off the edge of the bed and sighs. Maybe this is why humans are always so miserable. He opens his files again but this time he brings up the audio clip of the opening bars of the guitar song Nines had had on his car playlist. It’s oddly soothing.
He runs a search on the music and furrows his brow when he sees the results.
It’s from an old film from 1960s. The full song is...bitter sweet. It’s beautiful but kind of haunting. Gavin’s no expert on music, not by any stretch of the imagination, but he thinks this is nice.
He sets his system to activate stasis in 2 minutes. Enough time for him to finish listening before he powers down.
Nines is a secret romantic don't @ me
Chapter 4: On your knees
Gavin pushes a little too far
Writing snow when it's this warm is difficult. Writing human disaster Connor however, is a dream.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gavin trudges to work, his hood up, strings pulled tightly under his chin. He can’t feel the cold but he doesn’t like the inconvenience of walking in the snow. However, the novelty of snowflakes hasn’t worn off yet. Their hexagonal crystalline structures still give him pause every so often when one with a particularly interesting symmetry lands on his synthetic lashes.
See! He’s getting good at saying what he does and doesn’t like. That aspect of deviancy is coming much more naturally to him.
It’s just...everything else that’s causing him problems.
He should be able to process an innumerable amount of data and yet his software still glitches and gutters around things that should come naturally to him. And don’t get him started on the reams of foreign code that has been integrated with his base programming. He finds he acts on his emotions without really stopping to understand why he is feeling what he is feeling. It’s gotten him into more than his fair share of trouble.
His model was designed with little care given to his social protocols so he’s already on the back foot in that sense. Combined with the fact he’s built for interrogation and deviancy finds him experiencing an almost daily existential crisis, he’s not exactly making friends. People tend to give him a wide berth at the precinct and even when they don’t, he finds himself snapping at everyone because he’s so frustrated all the time.
Living as a newly woken deviant is hard enough.
Living as a newly woken deviant with fucked up software and being forced to spend hours upon hours sat opposite humanity’s biggest asshole is excruciating.
Everything about Nines annoys him: his permanent scowl, his weird hands, his sharp canines, that one curl that never sits right, the way he insists on turning his coat collar up when he’s cold instead of just buying a god damn scarf-
His train of thought ends abruptly because a car pulls up onto the pavement in front of him and skids a little. It’s only his glitchy pre-constructive software working faster than his ocular processors that prevents him from getting hit. There’s some very loud, very bass-heavy music blaring from within which just gets louder as the front window winds down. His auditory processing software practically groans as it struggles to digest it.
“Hey! Gavin!” A voice calls out over the deafening music. Gavin flinches instinctively and pulls his hood off to free up his peripheral vision, fighting the urge to activate his defensive protocols until he can determine the threat level. Someone is leaning out of the window of the car, beckoning him over, their breath coming in visible puffs in the cold air. “Get in.”
Even without his facial recognition software he can see it’s Connor, there’s no mistaking those wide brown eyes, despite the fact his usual mop of curls is hidden beneath a woollen bobble hat.
Gavin hesitates for a moment, his thumb absent-mindedly worrying the edge of his jacket.
Connor has been the only person to consistently try and engage him in conversation. He always looks so happy to see him, despite Gavin’s blunt replies. Every time he thinks he’s given up, he’ll turn around and there’s those brown eyes blinking down at him once again. It’s getting harder and harder to keep him at bay. Especially when Gavin doesn’t quite know why he’s doing it. He doesn’t crave the interaction like humans often do but he will admit (quietly and to himself at 3.00am when he’s sat on top of yet another nameless building) that it would be nice to have a friend.
Unfortunately, right now he can’t think of anything worse than sitting in the car with that noise but Connor is practically pouting at his hesitation so he nods and slips into the backseat.
It feels awkward sitting in the back of a cop car. Nines never really drives his, uses his own flashy sports car to get around instead, of course . Gavin digs the toe of his shoe into the floor as though he can somehow change his mind and kick his way out.
There’s dog hair everywhere.
And cans of diet coke.
And Connor’s wearing another horrible shirt that makes his ocular implants glitch; a momentary, pixelated spectrum of colour in one long line down his vision.
Today’s gonna be a rough day.
Thankfully for Gavin's auditory software Connor shuts off the music. The quiet that follows is arguably worse, he thinks, thumbing the denim of his jeans.
“Can’t have you walking in this weather,” Connor says chipperly.
One thing that’s always weirded him out is that Nines and Connor have the same voice . Connor's is lighter, maybe a little higher pitched, and doesn’t drift into that danger zone of being too smooth but it’s still practically identical. Even now Gavin gets that swooping sensation in his stomach that makes the artificial joints in his jaw tense.
Connor reverses wildly back into the oncoming traffic, the tires screeching a little against the black ice and slush. Gavin sees his stress level blink red in the corner of his HUD as a few cars narrowly miss them, their horns blaring. The human turns in his seat to look at him and Hank, who’s sat in the passenger seat, has to lean over and grasp the steering wheel frantically to maintain control of the vehicle. He hears the older android swear as Connor gives Gavin one of his borderline-creepy smiles over his shoulder.
"You should come over for dinner sometime, hang out, meet Sumo."
"Sumo?" Gavin flinches as Hank swerves suddenly. The movement prompts Connor to pull a sheepish face and he turns back to the steering wheel. Hank grumbles in the passenger seat but relinquishes control back to the human. He smooths back his silver hair, his LED flickering red in the reflection of the windscreen and mutters something that sounds like 'fucking humans.’
Connor carries on as if nothing has happened,
"Sumo is my dog."
"Huh,” Gavin says, trying to feign interest as he focuses on the many oncoming hazards in his vision. That would explain the excessive amount of dog hair. He could probably have deduced that himself if his forensic analysis software was working properly. He takes another second to mourn the loss.
“Should bring Nines too, I never get to see him these days,” Connor says, trying to sound casual but there’s a hint of something else there. Gavin wishes he could see his face properly, rather than half reflected in the rear-view mirror.
"Fat chance of that,” he laughs quickly because the idea of Nines in a social situation, even with his brother, is down-right funny. Hank chuckles from the front seat and Gavin smirks, feeling vindicated. Its short-lived though because catches Connor's face as it falls in the rear-view mirror and fuck it's like he’s kicked a puppy.
“He’s not as bad as he comes across sometimes, I promise,” Connor says weakly. He is tempted to toss back a cutting remark about Nines' own social ineptitude but he stops himself, choosing instead to chew the synthetic flesh of his lower lip because Connor is drumming his fingers agitatedly on the steering wheel now. “He just struggles to understand other people, surely you can empathise with that?”
Gavin makes an unimpressed noise in the back of his throat and Connor seems to visibly deflate in the front seat.
“Nines has had 36 years to come to terms with human emotion,” Hank interjects, his LED now a serene blue. “Some people are just assholes.”
Gavin grins in the back seat but Connor doesn’t respond. In fact, he doesn’t say anything else for the rest of the journey, just taps on the steering wheel, seemingly lost in thought. He makes a few more questionable manoeuvres and Gavin makes a mental note never to accept a lift off of Connor again. They pull up in the precinct car park at a few minutes past nine and Gavin scrambles out into the snow. He grunts a thanks in Connor's direction and trudges ahead through the slush, his hood pulled low against the wind.
"You're late,” Nines comments in a monotone voice as Gavin flops down in his chair. He’s wearing a very crisp, white shirt, a stark contrast to his usual all black attire. It washes him out, his pale skin against the ivory cotton only exaggerating the violet shadows under his eyes.
"You can blame your brother’s shitty driving for that,” Gavin huffs, chewing on his hoodie strings.
"Why are you-” Nines starts to say but he seems to second guess himself as he’s speaking. “You know what, never mind, I don’t care.” He rubs his forehead and closes his eyes.
Gavin bristles in his seat, the reflection of his LED flickering red and yellow in the reflection of his terminal like Christmas lights. Nines doesn’t look his way again.
They lapse into an uncomfortable silence, one that seems heated and unstable, considering their usual biting exchanges. The morning passes slowly, Nines pointedly ignoring Gavin’s occasional passive aggressive attempts to engage in conversation. The human simply shoots him one of those frosty stares, his eyelids heavy like he’s bored simply by being in Gavin's presence, and he is forced to give in. He's fed up by 11.30am and looking for any way to spice up his day. He even briefly wonders about tying Nines' shoelaces together but is pretty sure there's only a 32% chance he can get under the desk undetected.
He’s been staring at the human for the past ten minutes, cataloguing every minute movement he makes. It’s a weird compulsion, like an itch, to gather as much information as possible. His 'Nines' file is by far the largest of any of his others and constantly growing. He notes the hue of the human's skin, so pale that the freckles on his face are the only evidence he’s ever seen the light of day. Sometimes he scrunches his nose when he concentrates, the pads of his fingertips occasionally pressing to the side of his cheek when he’s deep in thought. His hair won’t sit right, no matter how much he runs his hands through it. Although it’s not as unruly as Connor's, there's this one curl that Gavin fixates on that refuses to be tamed. It falls in a delicate spiral against his forehead, sweetly infuriating. Why can’t he just tuck it behind his ear or pin it back or-
Nines gets up suddenly, stretching like a cat in a way which pulls his shirt taught against the lean muscle of his chest. He shakes his head slightly, the one annoying curl briefly tamed as it catches in his hair, only to fall back into his face a second later. He doesn’t understand why it irritates him so much. He watches as the detective heads to the break room in long strides and the sound of his polished Oxfords against the floor echoing in his ears.
He waits for a few seconds then follows him, he doesn't pause to wonder why. It's that itch again, the one that burrows so deep in his brain, it’s near impossible to sate. He briefly wonders whether he’d be like this if he wasn’t deviant; if a series of objectives surrounding the human would plague his vision just the same. He licks his lips as he approaches, not entirely decided on his course of action. He wants to crack that porcelain veneer so badly, his hands automatically ball at his sides, the artificial nails leaving little crescent moons in his palms. Today, he decides, he just wants a rise out of him and he lets himself believe it’s just to make his day more interesting.
Nines is using his usual mug, black with gold detailing and a swirly handle, predictable as always. His long fingers steeple against the ceramic and Gavin feels the sensors on his tongue light up unnecessarily at the sight. He pulls up his 'Nines' file and drags the list through his vision til he finds what he’s looking for: the audio clip from the other night, it’s details now filled in.
"So, Audrey Hepburn huh?" He says loudly, sliding on to the counter top next where Nines is preparing his coffee. From this perch he’s taller than the human and he relishes the new view. He sees rather than hears the tiny exhale of breath before Nines flashes him a disgruntled look.
"What?" He snaps, flicking that one stray piece of hair out of his eyes.
"The song you turned off in the car the other night?" Gavin continues, watching carefully. Nines freezes for a moment, his hands suspended in mid-air reaching for a teaspoon. "Moon River, right? Never pegged you for a romantic."
Gavin watches as a slow understanding creeps across the human’s features.
"Well that figures," Nines says, his voice dropping suddenly to that dangerous, velvet tone he adopts when he's preparing for conflict, "seeing as you know nothing about me outside of what your artificial brain can dredge up from the internet."
"Ah, that's the Detective I know," Gavin laughs, jumping down from the counter. Nines turns as he does, pinning him with that vacant, wintry gaze. Gavin moves to walk past him, nudging the human's arm, and the teaspoon in his hand drops to the floor with a metallic clatter, "haughty and condescending."
He spins on the balls of his feet to face him again, folding his arms triumphantly as Nines swoops down to pick up the spoon to hide the rise of colour on his cheeks. When he stands though, it’s with renewed energy, his face smoothed into that painted scowl. He straightens up to his full height and Gavin eyes the pulse of tension in the detective's jaw as he clenches his teeth.
"As opposed to what?" He emphasises the 't' in a way that flashes his canines, eliciting a strange swooping sensation in Gavin's stomach. "Overpowering and belligerent?"
There’s a moment of pause then, where Gavin tries to decide just how far he wants to push. But if there's one thing he's learnt about his own deviancy it's that it's impulsive and has little desire for self-preservation. He grins in response,
"You think I could overpower you?" he asks, head cocked to one side. He watches the way Nines' face twitches at his words, his grip on the teaspoon visibly tightening.
"Try it," another flash of teeth. "And see how far it gets you."
Gavin takes a step forwards, closing the gap between them.
"That almost sounds like an invitation, Detective."
Nines steps back instinctively and as he does his elbow knocks awkwardly into the cup of coffee on the side, knocking it over. He hisses as the hot liquid pours over his white sleeve, staining it. Gavin covers his mouth with his hand to hide his delight at the chaos he's caused. There's something utterly satisfying about watching the dark stain blooming against the crisp white fabric. Nines flicks his wrist in an attempt to rid his fingers of the wetness then he rounds on Gavin, and the android can't help but stare at the way his upper lip curls back over his teeth as he bites back,
"Trust me if it were, I'd have you on your knees."
And with that the human storms off, leaving Gavin to stare wide eyed at the drip, drip, drip of the coffee as it hits the floor of the break room. There's a roar in his ears that he attributes to the fact that his internal cooling fans are suddenly working overtime because what the ever-loving fuck? He's rooted in place like there's a loose connection somewhere; his processors are whirring but his limbs are frozen. He hears someone walk into the break room behind him and for one slightly terrifying second he thinks Nines might be coming back to make good on his promise.
"Woah, what the-"
Gavin turns his head to see one of the beat cops staring wide eyed at the mess. She's wearing a name badge so he doesn't have time to lament the loss of his facial recognition software for yet another time: Tina Chen. She casts him a wary look then laughs nervously, tucking a strand of black hair into her hat.
"Did Nines try and get you to make coffee again? You can just say no, y'know?" She grins. "Isn't that the whole point of being deviant, you can tell us humans to get lost now?"
Gavin blinks at her. He's not used to this kind of friendliness, at least not from anyone other than Connor.
"Think I touched a nerve," he says after a moment, his mouth twitching into an awkward smile. Tina laughs at that and starts grabbing some tissue from the kitchen roll dispenser.
"I'm almost impressed. It takes a lot to get under his skin." She casts him a strange look over her shoulder as she mops up the mess.
“Not if you’re me,” he responds, stooping down to help her, the paper towels dissolving in his fingers as he dabs at the dark liquid. He’s not sure if the statement is said with pride or bitterness but it comes out flat.
She casts him another sideways glance.
“It's Gavin, right?”
He nods, lingering on the way she said his name. He’s gotten so used to people saying it with a bite; forced and commanding, a designation not a name. And he supposes, that’s what it is. He wasn’t born so it wasn’t chosen with love by his parents. It was just stamped on his file, derived from his model number and carved into his skin alongside his serial ID. Branded, not given.
He nods in response, fetching another sheet of kitchen paper for the rivulets running down the cupboards.
“Don’t let it get to you,” she sops up the last of the coffee and straightens up. Gavin mirrors her movements. “It gets easier, I promise. Emotions and shit, I mean.”
“Does it?” Gavin asks, raising an eyebrow sceptically. His cluster-fuck of a brain doesn’t think so.
“Sure,” Tina grins, “but you’ll never understand everything. It’s part of being human.”
“Sounds pretty shit.”
“It can be but you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Some of us handle that better than others.”
She does an exaggerated stare in Nines' direction and Gavin smirks despite himself.
“Thanks,” he shrugs.
“Don’t mention it,” she sticks Nines' mug under the coffee machine and presses a few buttons. The machine whirrs loudly and the coffee pours out with an accompanying a cloud of steam. “Here, give this to his highness,” she goes to hand the mug to Gavin and he pulls a face. “Trust me, he’ll be an absolute nightmare if he doesn’t have it.”
He reluctantly accepts it.
When Gavin slinks up to him a few minutes later Nines is categorically not looking at him. He places the mug down on the edge of the divide between the two desks and pushes it across with his finger tips. Nines' eyes drag themselves away from the screen for a second to look at the cup suspiciously but he doesn’t say anything. Gavin allows some of the tension in his limbs to release as he flops down in his chair and tries to focus on the case file in front of him. His vision is laggy and fragmented; his attention elsewhere.
He replays their altercation in his head, grateful for his own ability to pause and rewind, to slow down clips so he can analyse moment by moment. He knows he's been pushing, desperate for some kind of response, although he's not sure what he wants or why. All he knows is he finally pushed too far and Nines pushed back.
He chances a look across the desk where his partner is sat and he immediately regrets it. Nines has rolled his sleeves up to the elbow, trying in vain to hide the evidence of their feud in the folds of the fabric. It's a poor facade and fuck, he's so used to the human shrouding himself in black that the sliver of forearm he now has on show is downright sordid. He can feel the way his processors are trying to wrap themselves around this information, stuttering nonsensically. He doesn't know why this is affecting him. Deviancy is cruel.
After an hour or so, Nines stands up and starts pulling his coat on. Gavin finds a tiny bit of relief in the way the coat swamps him, the white shirt and bare forearms, engulfed in the dark wool.
“Got a potential lead on that double homicide,” he says flatly, eyes trained on a space behind Gavin’s head.
Gavin checks his terminal. The notification pings up and he scans briefly through the description. It’s a loose connection at best, another android attacked downtown, but it might be worth looking into. They’ve been sat on this case for days with no new leads so Gavin shrugs and pulls his hood up.
The thought of being stuck in the car with the detective again makes him feel uncomfortable and he jams his hands into his pockets and trudges after him.
When he gets outside, Nines is leaning casually up against his car door, his lips wrapped around another fancy cigarette. Gavin lets his eyes drop to the floor sheepishly. He can’t wait for this day to be over.
I'm at the 30,000 word count with this fic and god, going back and editing/formatting is almost more time consuming than the writing itself? Hope you like it!
Ps- please drop your reed900 playlists for me to listen to at work xoxo
Chapter 5: No one's guard dog
Nines and Gavin investigate the Eden Club
Huh, so I went to copy and paste this and was like oh it's 5,000 words...I was trying to keep them a little shorter than I usually do. Anyway!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
T h e drive to the crime scene is awkward , to put it bluntly. Nines drums his fingers on the steering wheel agitatedly and pointedly ignores Gavin as much as he can. The only time he acknowledges the android is to slap his hands away from the dashboard controls when he reaches for them. Gavin recoils a little at the unexpected contact but doesn’t say anything ; he’s still reeling from their altercation earlier and makes do with biting the fraying corner of his right sleeve.
He brings the case file of the crime up on the flat display of his left palm , the hologram a little fuzzy and fragmented. He wrinkles his nose at their destination: The Eden Club. He’s read about it briefly before , a n android sex club chain popular amongst humans. It changed hands after the revolution, the previous owner , Floyd Mills , leaving under ‘suspicious circumstances.’ Since then it's been taken over by one of Markus' people. Rumour has it they're a figure head at Jericho, working to reform the sex work industry so it's safer for androids.
Good for them , Gavin thinks.
There's something deeply unsettling about the whole place though. It's garishly tacky , for one. He cycles through a variety of photos on his palm: the neon pink signage, a HR400 pawing coquettishly at the glass of a booth, the various room designs for renting . Things are changing slowly for androids now but it’s still hard to wrap his head around the idea of being rented for pleasure against his will. That’s even without the forced memory wipes, the percentage of android fatalities, the need for more and more spare parts due to models being roughed up and broken on the job...
In contrast, the club these days has been mostly toned down.
There are no signs boasting 'to p of the range sexy androids ’ just the neon sign, unlit in the daylight. Even the wall to wall pictures of unidentifiable areas of skin, clad in branded lingerie , have been stripped. It’s a little more tasteful, at least. Though far less identifiable. Perhaps that’s the point.
Gavin crawls out of the car, hood up, hands in pockets and surveys the scene. He wonders how many thousands of humans have come here for the sick kick of indulging in pleasure with something, someone who can’t say no. The thought leaves a bitter, bile-like taste in his mouth that could also have something to do with the way he’s aggressively chewing his lower lip. Humans can be so disgusting , he thinks.
There's a woman waiting for them outside . She's obviously an android, too perfectly pretty to be human, though she's taken her LED out like most androids have done in the wake of the revolution. She's frowning and her arms are folded defensively across her body. She doesn’t wait for them to introduce themselves.
"When I spoke to the guy on the phone, he didn't say it would be him," she's talking to Gavin but her eyes are glued on Nines.
"Is there a problem?" Nines asks, pursing his lips.
"You're Connor's brother," she says turning to appraise the human. The statement is loaded. Of course, she knows who he is. Connor may have made his peace with Jericho but Nines certainly hasn't. "If you think I'm letting you speak to my girls, you're deluded ."
Shit. Their one lead and they’ve already fallen at the first hurdle. The woman looks so familiar and Gavin wishes he could place where he’s seen her before.
He steps forwards and her head whips around to watch him cautiously, her bronze coloured hair falling about her face.
"What about me?"
"I don't know you,” she snaps, looking him up and down.
He pulls his hood off to reveal his LED and the woman’s face softens a fraction. She seems lost in thought for a minute. Then she nods and points at Nines.
“He stays here.”
Nines opens his mouth like he’s about to protest but the woman shoots him a disapproving look and he snaps it shut immediately. Gavin decides he likes her.
He follows her inside, watching mesmerised as her long hair shimmers down her back like rose-gold water. He realises then where he’s seen her before: she’s one of the Traci line , a WR400. T he Tracis may have been one of the most controversial lines of android released by Cyberlife , but damn if they didn’t know exactly what they were doing when they made them. She’s absolutely gorgeous, of course, all long legs and shimmering skin . But she’s got a look on her face and a harshness to her walk that says ‘don’t fuck with me.’ It’s kind of amazing.
“I’m North,” the woman says once they are inside and Nines can’t hear them .
“Gavin,” he responds.
She nods and leads him towards the back of the club where there’s a door marked ‘staff only.’ Most of the lights are shut off , probably until the club opens later in the day, but Gavin can make out a lot of the changes that have been made. The display booths have been ripped out and there are plush velvet sofas in their place instead. There are still the various dancing stages and poles but everywhere looks a lot less like a zoo and a lot more like a high-end strip club . There are notices everywhere that display the new house rules and North catches him looking and pauses before they enter the staff area ,
“I know what you're thinking, why keep this place open at all?” she says and sighs , stopping in front of the door, her palm pressed against the metal. “I thought that too. But the truth is, these places will still exist elsewhere even if we closed . By taking over we are able to regulate what happens here, to make it safer. ” She furrows her brow a little but Gavin nods.
“It makes sense. ”
“When Markus suggested it, I didn’t understand why, but it’s true. After the revolution there were androids that still wanted to work, they didn’t have anywhere else to go, at least this way we can keep them safe,” she sighs then but there’s a hint of a smile, “and there’s no one better suited to the job than me. When the new android rights laws are passed things will be better but we’ve made a good start here.”
She beckons him through the door. They head through a series of doors and corridors until they come to what must be the back offices. There’s another Traci waiting, wearing some simple lounge wear, sat on a seat behind a desk. She looks up when they enter , eyes narrowing.
“I wasn’t expecting an android,” she says and there’s a hint of amusement in her voice. She’s got a gentle face, like she’s actually really pleased to see him, which is probably the desired effect. She smiles then , her cheeks dimpling prettily and Gavin decides all the Cyberlife engineers were perverts .
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t expecting Connor’s brother to show up either,” North says.
The Traci makes a face , her nose wrinkled in disgust .
“Oh, seriously? That’s priceless,” she looks at Gavin like it’s his fault and that welcoming air dissipates almost immediately.
“Hey,” he brings his hands up defensively. “He’s not my favourite person either.”
North leans against the door and appraises Gavin properly for the first time.
“Why are you working for the police?” She asks suddenly. She’s got that persuasive tone to her voice that all the Traci models have and brown eyes to rival Connor's but her face is cold when she looks at him.
“They’re paying me,” Gavin shrugs and sits down in the chair next to the Traci, “and they’re repairing me, if they ever get around to it.” He instinctively runs his fingers over the bridge of his nose where the electric blue scar still sits.
“You’re a detective android, right? Like Hank?”
Of course, she knows Hank.
“Yeah,” he says, not quite sure where this conversation is going. It’s supposed to be him asking the questions ...
“Markus could use someone like you ,” North hums, looking him up and down in a way that makes him fidget in his chair. “I don’t know about payment but we have connections in Cyberlife. We could do the repairs.”
Gavin shrugs again,
“Right now, I just need a statement.”
The longer he sits in the crossfire of the two Traci’s the more he wants to leave. North laughs in a way that makes Gavin feel like she’s just ripped out a vital biocomponent.
“He’s got you on a tight leash, huh?” she asks, pushing herself up off the wall to circle the room.
He feels himself getting warm.
“I’m no one’s guard dog ,” he bristles, scrubbing at the scar on his nose again .
“Sure, you’re not,” she says, “and if a human attacked you, you think he’d intervene? Do you think he’d kill a human to save you?
He doesn’t know. On one hand, the Nines he knows would do anything to accomplish his mission, whether that acted in his best interests or not. On the other hand...
North seems satisfied, taking Gavin's lack of response as an answer in itself. Perhaps it is.
“The humans don’t care about us. They never will. It took a revolution to force their hand and at the end of the day we're dispensable to them.”
“Can I just do my job please? ” He spits out. But the question has left him a little rattled. He rearranges his limbs into a more relaxed sitting position, North stays behind him, overseeing. He turns to the other android. “Sorry I didn’t catch your name...”
“Elsa,” the Traci responds curtly. “I’m the one who rang in the call.”
“We wouldn’t usually get the police involved,” North chipped in, “but this was serious.”
“Can you err... tell me what happened? In your own words.”
Elsa looks quickly to North, something obviously passing wordlessly between them, then begins,
“I had just finished a shift . I got changed in the dressing room and headed out. Work's been slow since the revolution, no one really wants to come ‘ round here unless they’re desperate,” she begins, crossing her legs over in her lap. “I got to just around the corner and heard someone following me. Well, I thought it was just one person but then I realised it was more than that. I tried to cross over the road but ended up getting cornered in an alley way ... one guy came down the road ... it seemed like they planned it. ” She shakes her head. “ Anyway, they started to say stuff, horrible things, threatening me. One guy had a crow-bar ...o- or something similar , something big.” She looks visibly upset now. She doesn’t have an LED but Gavin imagines that if she had, it would be pulsing yellow or red. “ I knew they were going to hurt me. I thought if I screamed, they might let me go but then...then a car pulled up right by me. A guy got out, human, I think and asked if I was okay. The rest of them scattered then , running off down the road. But I don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t come. I went back to the club after, waited for a taxi ...”
She trails off, her eyes going a little unfocused as she does.
“It’s still not safe around here for androids after dark,” North says matter-of-factly, her face grim.
“And can you remember what any of them looked like ,” Gavin asks, “ any obvious flaws, defining features?”
“All humans look the same,” Elsa says bluntly. “They were all men, if that helps.”
“A little,” Gavin replies .
“I can show you,” she says, offering her hand, the skin peeling back to reveal the plastic. “But it was dark, I don’t know if it’ll help.”
Gavin’s read about this. A quick way for androids to exchange information without talking.
He also knows it can be extremely intimate, if you want it to be. It can also be extremely invasive if you’ve never done it before as sometimes things can be transferred accidentally, memories, thoughts, feelings.
He hesitates. He doesn’t really have anything to hide but the idea of his memories spilling over into a stranger’s head is a little bit odd.
He lets the skin fizzle away on his right hand, until the white plastic casing is exposed. He flexes his fingers instinctively and cautiously grasps her hand.
There’s static , his vision briefly blank as the connection is made. Then his memories start leaking out like an overflowing sink in front of his eyes. Detroit at night. The dismembered android. Hank and Connor on the front of a newspaper. NOT ALIVE. The front of the Eden club. Nines' fancy car. A baked bean puzzle piece.
They come like snapshots, one after another, fleeting almost too fast to see. Almost.
Amidst the chaos he feels her transfer something to him. A video file: footage of the crime.
He fights for control but it’s hard because Elsa isn’t even pulling. She doesn’t have to. It’s like opening floodgates, there doesn’t need to be any additional force, it’s all just rushing through.
Connor's ugly shirt. The room he woke up in. Nines burying his nose in his coat collar. Moon River. Nines' sharp canines. Nines with his sleeves rolled up. Nines leaning over a desk towards him. Nines facing him down in the break room. Nines. Nines. Nines. Nines. Ni-
Elsa wrenches her hand back and Gavin can see again.
She looks startled and a little confused. She shoots North a strange look and furrows her brow.
Gavin isn’t sure how much she saw. Or why he feels embarrassed about it. He rubs the back of his neck.
There’s an awkward silence that seems to drag on forever.
“Can you do anything?” North asks, and her tone is clipped, eyes still fixed on Elsa.
“I’ll go check out the alleyway , see what I can find ,” Gavin says slowly, standing up from his chair. “ We can increase patrols in this area, let the police know to be on the lookout.”
North nods then turns to block his exit from the room.
“I don’t want him coming around here again,” she adds. Gavin knows exactly who she means by him. “But you should think about what I said. About Jericho.”
“I will,” he says, fiddling with the lint in his pocket .
She leads him back out through the labyrinth of corridors, into the main foyer. Gavin takes one last look at the strange magenta furniture and the tiled floor, glittering in the dark. When they reach the front door, North reaches out, the skin on her hand retracting .
“In case , you change your mind,” she says , her brown eyes boring into him .
Gavin braces himself and grasps her hand.
This time he focuses on the touch of her fingertips and fights the onslaught of memories he feels tumbling through his brain. A few still slip through though, he thinks. The floor of Connor’s car littered with coke cans. A sea of glittering lights on the Detroit skyline. Nines in front of the rising sun. A menagerie of origami animals.
He feels the location transfer to his palm. North pulls back then, her face blank and unreadable.
“Cool, I’ll err...yeah” Gavin says, holding his hand up in a kind-of wave as he leaves.
Nines isn’t there when he gets outside. His car is still parked, pulled up on the pavement, his DPD pass stuck to the windscreen.
Gavin huffs, he’s probably investigating the area. He pulls his hood back up and digs the toe of his shoe into the gravel of the side-walk. He could wait for him but he’s never been very good at being patient.
He decides to go have a look at the alley way Elsa showed him seeing as it's just around the corner. He half-jogs to the other side of the road where the buildings part like towering waves in an urban ocean of trash cans and wooden pallets. He stops at the mouth of the alleyway and rocks back on his heels , gazing up at the high brick walls . He overlays his vision with the recording of Elsa's events while he scans his surroundings. He tries to follow her footsteps accordingly , placing his feet carefully one in front of the other, walking blindly through the video events in real time.
He doesn't pick up anything obvious. There's a lot of shit down here, piss and blood and all sorts of questionable chemical substances. None stand out as being particularly incriminating and Gavin sure as fuck ain't putting any of it in his mouth to test it. He’s not sure why he’s disappointed, he wasn’t exactly expecting to find the supposed crow bar left lying around or a neat pile of suspect DNA.
He huffs, chewing his lip. This case is stone cold, the original murder scene was licked clean, no prints, no nothing. This lead was tentative enough as it was. He's not surprised there's nothing concrete to find.
It's getting dark and he has to adjust his ocular settings to the new lighting. There's a strange ‘brrp’ sound from his left as a skinny, ginger cat slinks out from behind a dumpster. He grins, immediately dropping into a crouch to tempt it forwards by rubbing thumb and fore-finger together .
"You're fucking cute, aren't you?" He says under his breath as the cat cautiously sniffs his fingers. It's under-fed, bow-legged, with one and a half ears but a sweet little face. It allows him to scratch it behind the ears, arching into the touch. He lets himself be used as a scratching post as the feline slinks in and out of his legs, purring until it stops in front of him suddenly , arching it's back and hissing.
"Hey!" Gavin furrows his brow as the cat launches itself backwards and skitters sideways behind the dumpster.
Before he can stand to check it's okay, he feels a hard blow to the back of his head. There's enough force behind it to send him sprawling forwards onto his face.
He groans into the ground, the texture of the grit against his face pulling up some vague memory from somewhere deep in his file structure. There’s dirt and gravel embedded in the scarred flesh of his cheek. A flash of electric blue. The kaleidoscope of error alerts. The sensation of every wire in his legs burning out. Fear .
"Don't move," a voice commands as he tries to stand up. He feels pressure on the back of his neck. A boot. It’s enough to send a jolt of panic to his stomach but it’s short-lived, the annoyance of having been caught off guard taking over as he licks over the dirt on his lips.
"Get the fuck off me," he shouts back in retaliation, his vision littered with error messages as his system runs diagnostics on the damage. His processors stutter around the information as his hands scrabble for purchase on the ground under the weight of the unknown assailant.
Another voice, different to the first, chimes in,
"Is it the police android?"
He feels a kick to the side and a brand-new stream of alerts swim in front of him. An artificial rib buckles. He can see his hands in front of him clawing at the floor, the skin of his fingers retracting as he damages the sensitive wiring in the tips. There’s another kick to the other side of him , that has him reeling.
There has to be two, maybe three different attackers, he hypothesises, based on the two voices, the number of blows and their proximity to each other.
His vision hisses as multiple diagnostic procedures try and run alongside one another. He steels his body and puts all of his strength into forcing himself up because he isn’t sure how much damage his body can take. He manages to catch the leg of a man as he tries to kick him again and forces him backwards until he trips. The man lands heavily, his head nose crunching satisfyingly into the dirty ground.
Gavin gets to his feet, staggering, thirium dripping from the abrasion on his face. His vision is cluttered and his ocular processors are lagging trying to adjust to the new information. He barely has time to process another man lunging at him. He engages defensive protocols, the whole world slowing down for a moment, as he catches the man off guard, retaliating with a kick to his gut that sends him sprawling. He hits the wall, the back of his head cracking against the brick work in a way which makes him drop to the ground in agony.
It’s dark and the shapes of the humans aren’t throwing up any obvious identifiers. There’s three, like he guessed, all wearing hoods and scarves, the majority of their faces covered. He’s incapacitated two, both scrambling to get up, their breath ragged as they spit blood onto the floor.
The final h uman starts towards him and Gavin ducks as he swings a fist at his face. He has time to see the other two men start off running in the opposite direction before the man’s fist collides with his nose. Shit , he should have seen that coming. He’s off balance now, struggling to regain the upper hand , his nose streaming with thirium . He clumsily dodges another blow. The man tries to knock his legs out from underneath him and that’s his first mistake. Despite being unprepared, Gavin is stronger and quicker. He leaps over the man’s kick and catches him off-guard, slamming his elbow into the man’s side. The man staggers back, clasping his ribs . Gavin advances, seeing red, determined to put this man down.
His second mistake is that he doesn’t give up. The man launches himself forwards and Gavin is ready for him, ready to catch whatever punch he’s going to throw.
Until he pulls out the gun.
He’s still stumbling but his hold on the weapon is firm and pointed directly at Gavin. The android barely has time to stop before the barrel is pressed to his forehead.
“Not another move, plastic,” he growls, cocking the hammer with a sickening click , that rings in Gavin's ears.
He stops, allowing his vision to fill with the flashing error messages once more.
“Fuck,” he spits, feeling the thirium running down his chin. Now he’s stopped he can taste the acrid sting of the blue blood and feel the grit against his tongue. The cool snout of the weapon rests ominously between his eyes and he blinks as his stress level bar starts climbing, red and angry at the right of his vision.
The man laughs hoarsely, catching his breath. The light from the streetlight illuminates his sallow skin and the flash of his teeth as he grins.
“Think you’re so much better than us don’t you,” he wheezes, spitting on the ground. The gun is still trained at Gavin’s head but the movement causes him to step back, a gap forming between Gavin and the weapon.
“It’s not hard,” Gavin says shrugging. He knows he probably shouldn’t bait an emotionally unstable man with a gun but deviancy is hard to understand sometimes.
Another error alert as his software destabilises .
The man scrunches his face in disgust.
“You’re nothing...nothing but a bag of bolts and blue blood...”
He steps forward and Gavin instinctively moves back, desperate not to allow the gun to press against his skin again. He’s only vaguely aware of the distant throb of fear in his gut. There’s a whole tangle of emotions there alongside it, anger, sadness, regret. He’s not sure what to do with them in that moment. He looks at the man, desperately clutching the gun with his shaking hands and wonders what he’s feeling; whether their emotions match or whether the thrum of adrenaline masks it all for him. For the first time... and potentially the last time in his short life, Gavin feels terrifyingly human.
He thinks about the water fall of memories that bled into North and Elsa’s consciousness when they interfaced. His whole existence broken down into a supercut of broken moments. He thinks about the corrupted files that lie secreted away in his folders. He thinks about the space in which he could have made new memories.
He thinks...he thinks about...
“Drop the gun,” a voice calls from the head of the alley way. Gavin barely registers it above the irregular pulse of his thirium pump echoing in his ears.
The pair turn to the intruder. Even silhouetted in the half-light, he can recognise Nines’ form and his stomach does that swooping thing. He’s not sure he’s ever been glad to see him before. The metal of his own gun glints as he gestures to the man in front of Gavin.
“This plastic yours?” the man seethes, the hand holding the gun still shaking .
“He’s with me,” Nines says calmly. “Which means you’ve assaulted an officer.”
“An officer?” The man laughs and his teeth glint in the half-light . “They’re gonna replace us all, y’know. These things. They’re not even alive .”
Nines steps forward. Gavin can see him better now. His face is completely calm but there’s that tell-tale pulse of tension in his jaw.
“Drop. The. Gun.” He repeats. Something flutters in Gavin's throat at the way Nines enunciates the words.
“And what if I don’t? What if I blow this plastic’s brains out all over the floor? Huh ?” The man isn’t looking at Gavin. He’s transfixed with Nines , eyes bright and wild. “ What then? You really care if I pull this trigger? Can’t you just go buy another?”
“Last chance,” Nines says. He hasn’t looked at Gavin once. He’s holding the shooter’s gaze, his steely eyes transfixed on him.
The man laughs again suddenly, cruelly.
“Don’t think I don’t know who you are. You’re that Deviant Hunter, aren’t you?”
Nines’ face twitches slightly but he doesn’t say anything. Just takes another step forward. The man laughs again at his silence.
“Don’t act like you haven’t done this exact same thing. You know what they are. What it is.”
The man throws his hands up to emphasise his point. Gavin sees his chance and lunges forwards ; he knocks the gun from the man’s hands and smashes his knee into the softness of his stomach. The man yells, doubling over, and Nines surges forward and pins him against the wall.
There’s a struggle then; Nines tangling the man's arms behind his back as he slams him firmly up against the brickwork. Gavin swipes the gun off the floor, removing the magazine and ejecting the cartridges into the palm of his hand. He sticks the unloaded gun in the back of his jeans and stashes the ammo in his pockets.
“Gavin, can you ring the precinct and get some back up here?” Nines says calmly, holding the man against the wall.
The man spits on the floor, his cheek pressed painfully up against the brick work. His eyes find Gavin's in the dark.
“He’ll never treat you as an equal, you know. Ask him how many android's hes put down," the man is grinning despite it all. "Not that it matters, eh? I bet they got thousands of you locked up in Cyberlife in case you get fucked up. You’re replaceable! You’re noth-” the man’s shouts are cut off by Nines slamming him against the wall again. A warning.
“Shut up,” he snarls and the man flinches a little. Nines is terrifying in the half-light, all wild eyes and teeth.
Gavin wipes the blue blood from his face and licks his lips, dialling the precinct as he does. He feels sick, which is absurd considering his lack of stomach.
Back-up arrives in a few minutes and the officers jostle the man into the car, he goes kicking and screaming and Gavin relishes the way the door slams after him. It takes him a moment to realise Nines is staring at him.
The human sighs and runs his fingers through his hair, looking away when Gavin catches his eye.
“Shit,” he says under his breath. He looks exhausted, his face lit up by the flashing red and blue lights. He's kind of beautiful like this, Gavin thinks, tousled and tired. He bats the thought away before it can fully form in his mind, focusing instead on the weight in his chest at his own near-death experience.
“Thanks for uh...” Gavin gestures vaguely at the car. He’s not really sure how to finish that sentence.
“Why did you go off alone?” Nines says suddenly, his face snapping up to look at Gavin, eyes cold.
Gavin blinks at him, like he’s just asked the stupidest question in the world.
“Uh, you weren’t outside ?” Gavin responds, furrowing his brow. “ I went to-”
“You do not go off alone,” Nines spits , every single word perfectly enunciated. “ Jesus Christ, Gavin,” he pinches the bridge of his nose angrily.
“Uh," Gavin says stupidly. “Sorry Dad, didn’t know you were so invested in my safety.”
“Surely you can’t be that stupid?” Nines scoffs, stepping in front of him so the few inches between their heights suddenly becomes very obvious.
“Last time I checked-” Gavin starts, squaring his shoulders ready for a fight but the human cuts him off.
“Just be quiet,” Nines snarls, his eyes flickering between Gavin’s eyes and the thirium staining the lower part of his face. His tongue darts out to wet his lower lip and he exhales slightly. Gavin can almost see the cogs turning in his brain as he thinks through whatever sarcastic response he had prepared. There’s a tiny twitch of his facial features, a minute movement, the Nines-equivalent of a yellow flickering LED. “I happen to know,” he continues, digging into his pockets to retrieve a cigarette and placing it between his half-bared teeth. “That your repairs are extremely expensive and-” He lights the tip and inhales, his eyebrows raised, “I don’t want any of them coming out of my pay check.”
The smoke that comes out of his parted lips unfurls in the space between them and Gavin has the strange urge to pluck the cigarette from his teeth and analyse it, suddenly desperate for the intimate data of the inside of Nines’ mouth. He blanches at the thought.
He can see his own LED pulsing gold in Nines’ steely eyes. The human cocks his head, still staring, daring Gavin to respond in kind with something belligerent .
Gavin wets his lips, flinching at the tang of thirium and instead drops his gaze. He’s not sure why. Maybe it’s the lingering weight of his almost-death that makes him back down. Who knows?
Nines makes a kind of triumphant sound and turns on his heels to head back to the car. Gavin watches him whip his phone out and stab out a quick text on it before he leans down to listen to the closest officer.
“Fuck,” Gavin hisses, kicking a stone down the alley way until it echoes ominously off the walls of the alley, its destination lost to the darkness. "Fuck!"
Gavin doesn't have a clue.
Chapter 6: 99.9%
Bonding and trauma x
I love Tina with all of my heart. I apologise in advance for putting Gavin through excessive trauma.
Gavin watches in fascination as Tina devours her third muffin.
He had tried to protest, insisting there was no point in him coming because he literally can’t eat but she wasn’t having any of it. She had simply grabbed his arm and steered him away from yet another potential argument with the Detective, insisting that they had stuff to catch up on and that the overdue paperwork could definitely stand to wait until they had had lunch.
He had to admit it wasn’t entirely what he was expecting. The coffee shop was cramped and crowded, with androids and humans alike, elbow to elbow. He had never been in a place so public with so many of the two species sat harmoniously together. It was strange but not unpleasant. How he wished he could run thorough scans on all of the tables’ occupants as his vision pixelated around their forms. He brings his hand up to cover his LED self consciously lest it flicker and draw attention to him.
He watches the way the steam from the coffee machine rises in plumes like huge wild flowers, broken only by the pauses for service, the barista handing out frothy cappuccinos to thirsty, bleary-eyed customers. His sensory processors feel a little overwhelmed by the myriad of smells and the undulating level of volume as he tries to adjust his aural system to capture all the conversations. He’s so far resisted sticking his fingers in Tina's tea to sample it but the peppermint undertones are still sending a strange tingling feeling across his sensors.
She catches him staring, wide-eyed at her cup and leans across the table to nudge his arm.
“Everything alright?” she asks through a mouthful of blueberry mush.
Gavin nods, despite feeling very much overwhelmed. They’re sat up against the window, the glass fogged from condensation, so at least they are obscured from the outside world, though he can vaguely make out the shapes of passing pedestrians. The little droplets of moisture race down the panes and pool where the table meets the glass. He wipes the wetness at the bottom away with a swipe of his finger.
“I didn’t know places like this existed,” he said, bringing his now damp finger up to scratch at his nose, resisting the urge to pull his hood up over his head.
“What, coffee shops?” She asks, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” he scoffs, scrunching his face up. “Places where you can-” he gestures vaguely to the rest of the tables, trying to search for the right words. He means where androids and humans can just… be together. He cringes at the clumsy way the words form in his mind, but it’s true. The dent on the back of his head and on his ribs almost twinge at the thought. Tina seems to get his drift though, seems to read him better than anyone else he’s met so far actually. He briefly wonders if he can drag her file, with its meagre contents, into the area he’s reserved (in a weird kind of hopeful way) for friends.
“It’s not all guts and gore,” she says, wiping her mouth. “You get to see the worst of humanity working at the DPD but there’s a whole lot of good out here too.”
The words linger in Gavin’s mind as he traces the wet ring on the table where Tina’s tea has spilt until it bleeds into a shapeless pool.
“You could have fooled me,” he says finally, thinking on his limited collection of files on android/human relationships. Tina smirks round the edge of her cup.
“Nines is not all bad either,” she says, as if reading Gavin’s mind again. He casts her a sulky look from under his brow and she rolls her eyes. “I’m not defending him; he can be a right asshole 90% of the time. But he’s not always been like that and he’s-”
“What, he’s not always been a pretentious prick with a-”
He stops because Tina is laughing at him, bright and tuneful, shaking her head.
“You two could probably get along fine if you just stopped baring your teeth at each other. You actually remind me of him sometimes, back when we were at Police Academy together.” She puts her tea down and points at Gavin because he’s scrunching his nose again. “Don’t give me that look! You’re both stubborn as fuck ...and clever...Nines was always way too clever for his own good.”
Her eyes twinkle then and she folds up the paper casing of her three empty muffins.
“It’s how he got his nickname. Always got top marks in everything... I mean everything, he was insufferable. Then in our final assignments, we got a new instructor. He wouldn’t give anyone 100%, not even Nines, which pissed him right off. Always 99/100, no matter how hard he tried. Really thought he’d done it with the last assignment, was so sure he couldn’t have dropped a mark anywhere- perfect technique, perfect write-up, the lot. You should have seen his face when he got the results... 99.9% .”
Tina falls about laughing as if it’s the funniest thing in the world. Gavin just stares at her, hoping it’s his lack of social protocols that prevents him from finding it funny. He kinda thought the secret to the weird nickname would have been a little cooler. Maybe referring to the 9 times he had almost died or even the 9 identical black turtlenecks he no doubt owns. It’s almost a let-down; a reminder that Nines is just a human after all.
“So, you’re telling me, he’s called Nines because he’s a cocky know-it-all prick?” Gavin asks when Tina’s stopped laughing. When you put it like that, he thinks, it makes perfect sense. “Figures.”
“Yep,” Tina replies, drawing breath. “He always hated being called Richard anyway. Doesn’t even go by his last name since his Amanda died...” Her face falls a little, the jubilation wearing off. “He’s not really been the same since her death. We thought Connor took it harder to begin with; he was partying, staying out all night and working less and less. Eventually got back on track though, went to therapy, got a dog. Nines just...nothing. Just stopped talking, stopped hanging out with us, stopped smiling.” There’s a silence then as Tina chews her lip, staring into the misty void of the fogged-up window. “He’s actually better now than he was. Pricklier, sure! But at least he talks.”
Gavin doesn’t know what to say, just pulls at the fraying edges of his sleeves, until he’s unravelled another line of stitching.
“As I said,” she sighs, balling up the folded paper cases in her fists with a crunch, “don’t let him get to you. He thought he was doing right by Amanda, hunting down deviants, I think. He knows he was wrong now, even if he won’t admit it.”
“That’ll be the day,” Gavin tosses back but he almost feels bad saying it.
“Absolutely,” Tina laughs weakly then stands up. “We should probably head back- I have to fill out a report before my next patrol.” She winks at him then, pulling her coat on. She fishes in her pockets for some loose change and drops it down next to the coffee cup as a tip. Then she turns to Gavin and grins. “Thanks for coming with me.”
“Don’t mention it,” Gavin shrugs, standing up too. He feels a strange fondness, something very alien to his coding, bloom in his chest when Tina nudges him in the side as they leave the coffee shop.
They walk back to the precinct in the snow, chatting casually about the mountains of paperwork they both have to fill out when they get back. Gavin finds himself smiling without reason. It feels nice. He decides he will move Tina’s file into the friend folder after all.
He’s not expecting Nines to be waiting for them outside the DPD, hands stuffed in his pockets, his cheeks pink from the cold. He makes a point of checking his watch for the time, as though they’re late, when he sees them in a way which makes Gavin roll his eyes involuntarily. He’s pretty sure that’s a habit he’s picked up from Nines anyway.
“I’ll leave you two to it,” Tina grins as they approach, half pushing the android forwards as Gavin audibly groans.
“Officer Chen,” Nines nods to her as she passes. She elbows Nines in the side as she walks past him and Gavin notes the way Nines’ mouth twitches at the contact. He’s pretty sure if he did that, he would run the risk of being disassembled alive.
“Are we going somewhere?” Gavin asks, digging the toe of his shoe into the slush on the floor, because the detective does not move from his spot. He
“Yes,” he says simply. “We are going to Cyberlife.”
"Can't believe I finally get to make good on this deal," Gavin says excitedly, fidgeting in his seat. He's so ready to be functioning at optimal level again, to be able to scan properly, to get the fucking dent in his head flattened out. He might even ask them to get rid of the scars...maybe. He catches sight of himself in Nines’ rear view mirror and pulls a face. Maybe.
"Can you even remember what it was like having functioning software?" Nines asks sarcastically from the driver's seat.
"I know it's not there, kind of like a phantom limb," Gavin responds, waving his hand around for emphasis. They’re getting closer now and he’s impatient, tapping his foot like it’ll somehow get them there faster.
"I suppose it will be good to have you be useful for a change,” Nines responds dryly, pulling onto the road bridging the peninsula where Cyberlife Tower stands. Gavin considers throwing something at him but his car is immaculate as always and lacks any kind of projectile so he settles for rolling his eyes and looking out the window at the tower. Something glitches across his vision suddenly and he gets a weird swooping sensation in his stomach. That's odd. A Cyberlife branded freight train speeds past and blocks his view and he turns back to his lap where his fingers are absent-mindedly fiddling with the edge of his hoodie.
Nines slows the car to a halt in front of the checkpoint. He rolls his window down and hands the guard his ID. The man checks it and nods, passing it back and waving them through. Once they’re close enough, the human pulls the car up to one of the few visitor parking spaces and he kills the engine.
They get out of the car and Nines purses his lips prettily as he appraises the sheer size of the building. It's extravagant and shiny, right up his street, yet he looks oddly disgruntled. But that could just be his face, Gavin thinks.
It's at least 90 floors tall, an ominous, silver spike against the backdrop of the Detroit skyline across the water. It's obviously designed to be imposing. And it works. The feeling in the pit of his stomach only grows as they draw nearer, the silence between them punctuated by the sound of their footsteps in the snow.
"Remind me again why we can't just go to one of the stores?" Gavin grumbles, pulling his hood up.
"They won't carry parts that will be compatible with your model," Nines says simply but he doesn’t sound happy about it. He’s got his hands jammed in his pockets, his shoulders hunched, the little bit of his face he can see already pink from the cold.
There are armoured guards at the front of the building, flanking the enormous automated door. From this distance, he can't tell if they're android or human but they clutch their guns menacingly as the pair walk past.
Inside, Gavin's sensors start to act up, his vision glitches a little and a memory recovery programme starts running in the background automatically. It gutters and restarts after only a few seconds but he knows it's being back here that's prompted it. He squints uselessly as though straining his non-existent eye muscles might somehow force him to remember what it is about this place that makes him feel so strange.
The foyer is huge and the ceiling is practically invisible it towers so high above them, glittering like a far-off dream, many floors above. It's the unending expanse of space, juxtaposed with the tightening sensation in his throat that really gets him. There’s no logical reason to feel so suffocated in a space this vast. The faceless, geometric android statue looms in the centre of it all, like some terrifying overseer. Gavin stares at his shoes rather than into that featureless face.
They reach the reception and are greeted by a pretty ST300 android. He can’t help but wonder if she’s still working here by choice. There’s an unpleasant pulsing sensation in his gut that’s growing stronger that makes him want to claw his biocomponents out through his abdominal plate. He balls his fists in his pockets.
"Nines," he says croakily as the detective slides his ID card across the desk to the receptionist. Her LED blinks gold as she scans it momentarily then hands it back to him, smiling sweetly. Gavin tries tugging at the human's sleeve, a pathetic, childish action he would never allow himself to perform under any other circumstances. "Nines," he says again louder this time. Nines shrugs him off with a quick ‘one minute’ as he picks up the visitor lanyards the receptionist has printed for them. Gavin feels stuck, as though the lubricant in his joints has solidified to thick tar, clogging the mechanism. An infuriating, unexplained paralysis as his system desperately tries to make sense of what's going on. A couple of Cyberlife engineers walk past nonchalantly in the direction of the big, glass elevator behind the desk. They're pushing what appears to be a cart of some sort, the contents obscured by a sheet of branded tarpaulin. It's the electric blue stains on their uniform which flips the switch in Gavin's brain and decides his course of action for him.
Without a word, he turns and starts walking back across the lobby. He wills his feet to move one in front of the other, simple, routine movements that even his shaken brain can manage right now. He sees his reflection split in two as the doors retract to let him exit the building, the hot red ring of his led projected in the two panes of glass. He has to stay calm, he thinks as he passes the guards, soothing his frantic processors just long enough to walk a few meters down the path towards the car.
Then he hears Nines call him and it's like pouring gasoline on a dying fire. He lets out what can only be described as a whimper and starts running. He is moving of his own accord, thirium pumping fiercely around his biocomponents, desperate to be as far away from this place as possible. If he can just reach the car, he thinks, he can override the electric locks and hide inside. He feels pathetic but he can't bring himself to care. His vision is crowded again, a hundred different background processes all running at once. A recovery report finishes and the output folder opens automatically, spilling its contents into his vision.
It's his memories.
The corrupted files pieced haphazardly back together like a fucked-up jigsaw. A dozen images swimming in front of his eyes all at once, awkwardly layered, playing simultaneously.
Strong hands around his throat. His lower legs doused in lighter fluid. An exploratory tool digging deeply into his stomach cavity as he lies under a hot, white light. The first time he gained consciousness, to strange faces and clipboards. The interior of the Cyberlife laboratory, cool and sterile. A sound bite of malicious laughter. A bin of parts, his own face staring back at him amongst the severed limbs of his predecessor. His Cyberlife issue jacket wet with blue blood. Five men holding him down behind the warehouse. The feeling of grit in his teeth.
He collides blindly with the side of Nines' car and falls into the snow, face first. He's physically shaking, something he's never experienced as his body thrums with some kind of sickening electrical charge. He tries to wipe his vision of these images but it's slow going, his processors clogged with data. His system seems poisoned by the file contents, his whole vision glitching as he swipes them out of sight, the colours pulsating from monochrome to over saturated with every attempt. There’re black spots in his vision as he steadies himself on all fours, resisting the urge to tear his ocular implants out just to halt the onslaught of memories penetrating his brain. Finally, he files the last image, a darkened view from the floor behind the warehouses, into his memory folder and shuts it. He collapses once more into the snow, his mind darkening as he gasps for air he doesn’t need.
Someone is kneeling down beside him and he lashes out, his crisis protocols engaged. His fist comes into contact with something soft and he hears a strangled grunt. His stress level is dangerously high, the red bar blinking in his vision and he finds himself stuttering, backing into a corner. His arms automatically come back up to his face, to shield himself from what undoubtedly is an attack.
"Don't-t-t-... t-touch me," he manages to say, his voice thick with the crackle of static. It sounds alien; separate from him.
There’s pressure at the side of his head where his LED is. Not hard, like a blow to the skull but gentle, a soft press. Then it’s gone.
“Gavin,” a voice says. It’s his name. And he knows that voice. His processors are whirring and faltering but he forces himself to open his eyes, desperate for the familiarity.
Nines is crouched beside him, covered in snow, face red and chest heaving from running. He’s bracing his weight against the car with his left hand but the right is half out-stretched, like he’s not sure whether he should touch him or not. His fingertips are shaking and Gavin remembers a time when he would have been repulsed by the idea of the human touching him but now, he almost wants Nines to close that gap and pull him close just so he can feel something that isn’t this .
He can’t speak. Can’t really begin to form words. He just lets his head roll back against the metal of the car door and screws his eyes shut because fuck, Nines is staring at him and its equal parts humiliating and terrifying.
“Can you stand?” Nines asks. There’s a gentleness to his voice, hesitancy that Gavin has not heard before. He chances another look at the human, squinting against the cold air and the sunlight reflected off the snow. The planes of his face are still hard and cold like the steel of his eyes but his right hand, now resting on the knee of his jeans, flexes a little as Gavin stares at him. His thumb rubs over the flesh of his index finger in a repetitive, self-soothing motion. He’s worried. Gavin nods once and Nines’ posture relaxes a tiny bit and he licks his lips, glancing back at the Cyberlife Tower. “Okay… okay, get in the car.”
It’s not a request but it is also not barked out with arrogant authority. Nines gets to his feet and Gavin shakily follows, swallowing. He scrabbles with the rear door of the car, not wanting to chance walking around to the passenger side, and half falls inside. Nines closes the door behind him and slips into the driver’s seat. He doesn’t wait for Gavin to settle, just revs the engine and starts reversing. Gavin silently thanks whatever stupid android deity deviants worship that Nines is a better driver than his brother.
Gavin lies there in the backseat, thirium pump regulator still pounding against the plastic casing of his ribs as the car gradually gains speed. He could track their route if he wanted to but instead, he just focuses on the thrum of the engine and the tap, tap, tap of Nines’ fingertips on the steering wheel. He hopes that Nines is taking him back to the safe house- doesn't think he can cope with going back to work. He’s too scared to open that file again, the one he’s locked all the memories away in, lurking in the corner of his vision. It’s all too much at once. He waits quietly in the backseat, his cheek pressed against the upholstery until he feels Nines slow then kill the engine. He hears the human get out and realises, a little too late, that he’s expecting him to follow. It isn’t until Nines opens the door by his feet that he realises he needs to move. Before he can begin to convince his limbs to stand though, he feels strong arms under his ribs, the heat of a warm body pressed to his back as Nines heaves him out of the car. With one, swift movement he’s turned around, pushed up against the body of the car and held in place with the human’s arms on either side of his shoulders.
There’s a tiny crease between Nines’ eyes, the only trace of emotion on his otherwise perfect features.
“I need you to come with me, Gavin,” he says calmly, his eyes flitting around his face. Gavin doesn’t understand what’s going on but he nods. It’s only then that he takes in their surroundings.
They’re pulled up on the side of a commercial street, the sidewalks lined with shops. There aren’t many people, which is odd, considering the time of year, but those that are about are casting the pair odd, side-ways glances. Gavin supposes they must look quite strange. He would have laughed at that, in any other situation, but he’s running on empty and it’s taking him all his processing power just to stand. He nods again. Like one of those plastic dogs humans have on their car dashboards.
Nines tentatively steps back, allowing Gavin time to acclimatise to standing by himself. He steadies himself and focuses on Nines, who cautiously leads the way through what looks to be some kind of park. His legs are shaking and his knees buckle under his own weight after a few steps.
A curse drops from his lips as he trips but Nines catches his arm, steadying him. Gavin grunts and tries to shake the human off but his grip tightens,
“Don’t be an idiot, Gavin,” Nines says but there’s no malice there.
“I don’t need your help,” Gavin insists, scrunching his nose but allowing his weight to fall onto Nines’ side.
It’s only when they reach the other side of the little park that Gavin realises where they are going.
The Cyberlife store is lit up like a Christmas tree, the only give-away that business is anything but good are the taped-up cracks on the windows that haven’t been replaced yet. He recognises the store front from newspaper articles from the revolution; it’s one of the five stores targeted by Jericho on November 9th. He shoots Nines an odd look.
The detective isn’t paying attention though, he marches them inside and up to the slightly terrified looking man behind the cash register. Gavin shirks off the human’s grip and leans against the desk. The poor store clerk obviously hasn't had a customer in hours judging by the cycle of emotions that register on his face: surprise, excitement, terror then caution.
“We aren’t currently processing orders for androids, Sir,” he begins, “we’re just-”
“Do you have a repair shop?” Nines demands, sliding his ID badge across the desk to the startled man. The clerk glances over Nines’ shoulders to look at Gavin.
“Yes, b-but our engineers aren’t in, you’ll need to come back-”
“Call them,” Nines says simply, inching his pass further along the desk with his index finger. “This is an emergency.”
“Sir, I... Detective....” he stammers, picking up the pass and squinting at it. “I don’t know what help we would be, that-” he gestures to Gavin “isn’t one of the commercial models.”
“I can arrange payment for the labour and parts just call the engineers-”
“Sir, you’d be better off going straight to the main-”
“We are not going there,” Nines snaps, slamming his hand down on the desk in a way which makes the other human jump. Nines sighs, audibly sucking his teeth then flexing his hand as though trying to regain some semblance of calm. “Call the engineers. We’ll wait.”
The clerk stares at them both, eyes wide, then nods. He picks up the phone and starts frantically dialling.
Nines turns to Gavin.
“Take a seat,” he says simply, gesturing to the seated waiting area next to the bare android podiums.
Gavin falls gracelessly into one of the chairs and allows himself to shut his eyes.
“...yes, I know but he’s with the DPD, he’s got a GV model with him...yes, a GV-” he hears the clerk gabble down the phone. There’s an audible hiss from the other end of the line and Gavin hears the sound of Nines’ oxfords pacing the floor as the clerk hashes it out with the engineer.
Eventually, the man puts the phone down.
“They’ll be here in twenty minutes,” he states and Gavin hears Nines exhale loudly.
“Thank you, we’ll wait,” he responds curtly. There’s a shuffling sound and some more footsteps. “Do you have a business finance form I need to fill out or can you send me an invoice for the repairs?”
After about a half hour’s wait, Gavin is roused from semi-stasis by a woman who asks if he can stand. She has kind eyes, even if her face is pulled into a look of semi-annoyance. He nods and she helps him to his feet. He can see the reflection of his red LED in her glasses, a scarlet ring of warning.
“Careful,” she says as he shakily tries to walk beside her. She holds out her arm to him and Gavin takes it, leaning against her until they go into a side room which looks a little like an operating theatre. His stomach jolts again as he recognises some of the machinery and tools from his recovered memory files. She directs him to sit on the table in the centre of the room. “Can you remove this-” she plucks at the fabric of his hoodie and he shirks out of it, his hands still shaking a little. It feels as though every one of his wires has been fried and the connections pulled loose; as though he’s watching himself remove the article of clothing rather than performing the action itself. The engineer takes hold of his arm and activates the access panel on his wrist, exposing the hive of activity beneath. Gavin is vaguely surprised by the fact all his internal wiring looks more or less intact.
He looks away as she probes inside, shivering as she carefully tweaks a few wires to take a thirium pulse analysis. She hums a little at the results and shifts her glasses up her nose.
“And now this, please,” she asks, gesturing to his shirt. He obeys, exposing the scarred expanse of his torso. She narrows her eyes at the obvious damage, circling him slightly as she taps her pen to her chin. “It might be better if we put you in stasis for this,” she says thoughtfully as she appraises him from behind her wire-framed spectacles.
Gavin nods, staring at the wall. He still feels very out of sorts. The room is very clinical, and there are more than a few scary looking implements laid out on a tray beside the table he is sat on. He eyes a pointed, poky looking thing with narrowed eyes. But there’s something calming about the woman’s knowledgeable voice that stops him from fully freaking out again. He trusts her, he thinks.
There’s a shuffling noise and a crash and Nines suddenly barges into the room, followed closely by the flustered clerk from the front desk. The way the detective suddenly stops and stares at Gavin’s exposed skin makes him feel strange, like he’s hot and cold all at once.
“Sir, it’s best you wait outside,” the clerk says, trying to put himself between Nines and the examining table.
“How long is this going to take?” Nines asks, ignoring the man. He looks, for lack of a better word, awkward. His expression is almost pained and his fingers are twitching at his sides.
The engineer turns to look at him.
“This is a long list of repairs,” she says simply. “This would take a good few hours with the right parts.” She hits Nines with a stare that could match one of his own withering looks. “I should be able to make some adjustments to the stock we have... it’s not impossible but it’ll take a good while longer, I’m not as familiar with this model. You’d be best going home and coming back in the morning.” She gestures to the clerk. “A colleague will ring you when we’ve finished the necessary repairs and your android is ready to go home.”
“He’s not- I'm not...” Nines stammers and Gavin has to look up to make sure he’s not hearing things. Nines looks positively uncomfortable under the woman’s gaze. He rubs his wrist with his thumb and looks to the floor, searching for the correct response. He seems to settle on something, looking up and with his best firm voice simply says, “I’m staying. I’ll wait outside.”
And he does, turning on his feet to walk out. He casts one last look over his shoulder at Gavin, his brow furrowed.
Gavin is briefly aware of being guided to lie down by the engineer as his system prepares to power down. He catches the look, as his vision fades, and could have sworn the human looks almost worried.
Chapter 7: Puzzles
Nines comes undone a bit and Gavin gets to play need4speed.
Hello, it me.
Thank you so much to everyone who has commented so far it really means so much. I think my chapters are going to end up just being longer than they were to begin with because I am struggling to edit them down- hope you don't mind!
I'm technically writing like chapter 11 now? I think it's gonna be like 15 chapters? Maybe? We will see!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Stasis mode deactivated.
All systems online and fully operational.
Welcome back, GV400 #313 692 517 - 04.
The start-up message flickers onto his HUD, electric blue and crisp, no longer faded or fragmented.
When Gavin opens his eyes, the engineer is screwing his wrist panel back into place. There’s something soothing about the way the artificial skin bleeds back over it when she’s done like connecting pools of water.
She smiles at him and asks if he can run a basic systems diagnostics test. He does and is pleasantly surprised to find that the welcome alert is correct and that his software is fully functional and up-to-date. There are even a few new bits of code that have been installed. His facial recognition programme for one, is finally up and running. He grins, flicking through the new updates eagerly.
“You certainly obtained some damage yesterday. I’ve only seen this kind of system disarray in severely traumatised androids,” she shoots him a stern look from behind her glasses. “You might find that your system files need a little re-jigging after the upgrades. Try not to repeat the events of yesterday; as you are probably now aware, trauma in deviants can cause temporary shutdowns, system crashes and sometimes permanent damage.”
“I will do my best,” Gavin says, eager to get up and off the table. The engineer reads out a list of the repairs she’s done, mainly superficial, thumbing her way through a few forms on her clipboard, the sheets of paper rustling pleasantly.
“I don’t have the equipment required to fix the penetrative damage done to your chassis,” she gestures to his face, “you will need to go to the main Cyberlife HQ for that.”
He nods and the engineer signs off the forms with a quick flick of her wrist and goes to input the data into her computer.
Gavin stands and stretches, feeling the way his body responds, the sensations heightened, his skin tingling slightly. He runs his hand over the back of his head, and then again over his ribs to check and yes, he is now officially dent free. He brings his fingers to his face, the tips almost buzzing with the new sensitivity, mapping the contours of his skin. He traces the edge of the scar still present across his nose and has to fight back a pulsing in his chest as he remembers the vivid flickering memories of the night he must have got it. He shakes his head; he’s not upset she didn’t fix it. His face would probably look weird without it now anyway. Alien, somehow.
Besides, scars are cool, right?
He retrieves his clothes from the chair, pulling on his shirt and then his hoodie. The fabric feels strange at first, he can almost feel each individual fibre dragging against his skin, but his settings soon adjust. It’s like someone has sharpened every one of his sensory processors, just a fraction. He seems to be noticing more things too- just little things, passing observations like the dust particles dancing in the cool light of the overhead halogen tubes or the tiniest smear of a fingerprint on the lense of the engineer’s wire-framed spectacles.
When he leaves the room, he finds the detective curled up horizontally across the expanse of three chairs. It’s still dark outside, the sun not near rising yet. The lights are all out save for the glow of the computer screensaver from the cash register desk and the chink of light from the door behind him. It casts an almost cosy glow over the scene and Gavin admits it’s an odd sight, Nines curled up like a cat clutching a coffee cup to his chest. He automatically zones in on the gentle pulse of his resting heart beat and the crescent moon formation of freckles on the peak of his right cheekbone.
He immediately decides to try out his facial recognition software on his sleeping face, relishing the speed at which his processors instigate the task:
Sync in progress...
DOB 15/08/2002 Detective
Criminal Record: None
The data sync brings up that sneering passport-style photo from Nines' DPD file. Gavin smirks at it despite himself. It’s a stark contrast to the man in front of him, all of his sharp edges softened by exhaustion.
"Hey meat sack," Gavin laughs weakly and pokes Nines in the cheek. The human groans and pushes himself up off the chair, batting the hand away as his empty coffee cup falls onto the floor with a plastic-y clatter. His hair is ruffled and his shirt creased from lying down in such an awkward position, his eyes visibly bloodshot and red-rimmed. "Wow, you look like shit."
"I see they couldn't fix your awful personality," Nines glowers, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm. That one unruly curl is tangled amongst the rest of his dishevelled hair, sticking out at an odd angle, and Gavin has to fight the urge to smooth it out.
"Nah, I asked her to leave it in for your benefit," he grins, watching the way the human licks at the dry skin of his lips.
"Or your face, for that matter," Nines says, squinting up at the android.
"I can't be the clever one and the pretty one,” Gavin responds, leaning back on his feet. “That wouldn't be fair." Nines just rolls his eyes and rubs at his forehead with a slight grimace. He makes a little noise in the back of his throat. "How do you feel?"
The human huffs out a tiny laugh, barely audible. He gets to his feet, stretching so his joints click, before turning to look at him,
"You're asking me?"
"I've been in stasis for the past-” Gavin checks his internal clock quickly -”nine hours and fifty two minutes...you on the other hand..."
"I'm fine," the detective assures him but he looks a little unsteady on his feet.
Gavin shrugs and they hold each other’s gaze for a second, Gavin’s biometric scanner calculating the intricate patterns within Nines’ cesious irises. They’re still trading insults but there’s no bite to the words. It's probably the longest they’ve gone without inciting an actual argument.
Nines breaks eye contact first, turns and pushes his hair back off his forehead, the curls falling haphazardly between the gaps in his fingers. He licks his lips again and puts his hands in his coat pockets.
"I've signed off on all the repairs so we can... uh...we can go if you're ready?" He asks.
"Yeah... yeah whatever,” Gavin says shrugging again. “Thanks for sorting everything,” he adds quickly, scrubbing at the bridge of his nose with the back of his sleeve. He’s not sure how he should feel about the events of the previous day; something in his stomach twists uncomfortably at the thought and he feels like he wants to shrink in on himself. It’s the same urge that so often has him pulling his hood up over his head or his sleeves over his knuckles.
"It's fine,” Nines responds, not looking at him. “Company card.”
He says it like it’s closure; like he knows that Gavin doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, so they won’t. For once, he is grateful for the detective’s clipped turn of phrase and social awkwardness.
They traipse to the car in silence; it’s still dark outside but the route through the park is lit up a little by the fluttering of Christmas lights in the trees, as though their bare skeletal branches are draped in stars. The air is crisp and silent, the kind of quiet you only ever get at this time. Gavin’s only ever experienced this feeling before when he’s by himself, perched atop a building when it’s not even late anymore but early, and he feels like the only person left awake in the world. The feeling of utter stillness that’s so poignant it makes his chest ache. He wonders if that’s a common thing or if it’s just a Gavin thing. He doesn’t bother asking Nines.
The detective doesn’t have the usual momentum to his movements; he’s a little slower, his footsteps unsure on the icy ground. When they get to the car his hands shake as he digs in his pocket for the car keys. He notices as he stretches his arm out to click the button to open the car that his grip is on the key is lax. Gavin ducks inside and into the passenger seat as he did the day before but this time, something definitely feels different. There's a change in the atmosphere between them. Almost a lift in pressure, but it sits awkwardly, neither of them really sure how to process the change in dynamic.
Nines throws his coat on the back seat first, where it lands with a soft ‘flump’ and climbs into the front. His usual grace is blunted by fatigue and he sits down heavily on the driver’s seat, exhaling audibly. He pauses for a second as if getting his bearings, then fumbles in the glove box, lips drawn into a firm line as his fingers scrabble amongst the contents. He pulls out two little yellow pots of medication, twists the cap off one and shakes out two pills with a rattle. He does the same with the other, the brightly coloured capsules sitting boldly in the soft, pale flesh of his palm. He shakily brings them to his mouth and knocks them back as quickly as he can, his eyes closing for a second. He dry swallows hard, his face a little pained and rubs his sternum as he grimaces.
Gavin isn't sure whether to comment- to ask if he wants to stop and get a drink? Some food? By his calculations the human's last meal was almost 24 hours ago; he probably should eat something if the shaky hands are anything to go by. And it's true he looks paler than usual, the purple shadows under his eyes more prominent than ever. There's even a little sheen of sweat across his brow, tiny beads glittering in the half-light.
Gavin runs a quick scan of his vitals and chews his lip as the results pepper his vision. He’s not surprised to find the detective’s heart rate is elevated and his temperature is running a little high. It could be any number of things but he doesn’t say anything; doesn’t want to tempt fate and break the tentative truce they’ve made. Especially seeing as Nines hasn’t pressed the events of the previous day. He decides to offer the human the same courtesy by staying quiet.
Instead, he watches as Nines brings his hand up to stick the key in the ignition, the chains jangling with the tremble of his fingers. He loses his grip and the keys slip between the gaps in his fingers and fall to the floor of the car with a loud musical clatter.
"Fuck," he hears the detective hiss. Nines leans down to retrieve the keys and Gavin is hit with the overwhelming smell of his shampoo; tea tree and coconut, he thinks.
It takes the human a few seconds to fumble about his feet and pick up the keys, before he straightens up, eyes screwed shut as he exhales slowly, the keys resting on his thigh in his fist, knuckles white and straining.
"Gavin," he says quietly after a second, his eyes still closed.
It’s still maddeningly quiet, besides their two voices. Gavin watches him as the shadows of a few gnarled tree branches flicker across his features from where they’re twisting gently against a sudden cold breeze outside.
"Can you drive?" The human asks, his front teeth pulling at the plump flesh of his lower lip slightly.
"Theoretically?" he says slowly. “Yes.”
Nines exhales. There’s a moment’s pause where he doesn’t say anything and Gavin watches another bead of sweat form at his temple.
"Okay…" Nines says finally, opening his eyes. "Swap with me."
Gavin frowns again as Nines all but falls out of the car, his clammy fingers slipping on the door handle. Gavin doesn’t move. In fact for a few seconds he’s worried that he’s malfunctioned because he’s not quite sure what’s happening. He’s pretty sure androids can’t dream but, if he hadn’t just been completely repaired by Cyberlife’s finest, he could be fooled into thinking this was all some kind of glitch in his software.
But when Nines holds open the passenger door for him he obediently slinks out and around to the driver's seat all the same.
He takes a second to download the car manual, to absorb every scrap of data, before he gets in and wraps his fingers around the steering wheel experimentally.
He chances a quick look at Nines who is now slumped a little against the window, his eyes closed. He hasn’t even bothered with his seatbelt, his hands lying limply in his lap. Gavin is surprised he trusts him enough to let him do this, to let his guard down like this, considering everything. But he guesses he's not really got much choice; his heart rate is still elevated and he looks pale and clammy.
That’s an understatement. He looks like shit.
He turns the key, the engine roaring to life as he prods the touchscreen dashboard and brings up Nines' home address, the software calculating the best route. His fingertips practically sizzle with the new information they’re calibrating. His own system interfaces with the car, pulling the directions into his own consciousness, so he can lock down onto the destination and go into autopilot. Gavin takes a second to appreciate how smoothly it all happens, no glitching, no lag. Its seamless. The rush of data feels exhilarating but it's nothing compared to the feeling of driving the car itself.
He starts off slow, going through the motions of the program he's downloaded. He barely has time to think as his hands move of their own accord, walking their way around the steering wheel. He allows the program to run in the background, casting a glance to the human beside him as he guides the car off the sidewalk and onto the road. Nines’ car is fancy as fuck and drives beautifully. The engine thrums beneath his touch and he eases his foot down on the accelerator.
"Try not to get us both killed," Nines mutters, his head resting against the glass, the heat of his skin causing the window to fog a little.
"You look like you might not need my help with that," Gavin comments but he’s enjoying himself too much to let up.
"I'm fine," the detective responds flatly. "Just tired."
Gavin takes advantage of the human's sleepy, docile state and puts his foot down, urging the car to glide faster down the road. He loves the feeling. It's the same sensation he gets from running across buildings at night, that heady rush, only much, much faster. He feels himself grinning automatically.
He takes a corner a little too tightly, skidding slightly as a warning flashes up on the dashboard about upcoming speed cameras. The movement jolts Nines so hard his head hits the window. It's only a little nudge but Gavin flinches anyway, preparing himself for the human to shout at him. Instead Nines sits up straighter in his seat, rubbing his head and groaning,
"Are you having fun?" He asks condescendingly but it's diluted by the thick sleepiness in his voice.
"Yes," Gavin grins, slowing down just long enough to pass the speed camera, before accelerating again. Nines lets his head drop into his hands and he scrubs his face.
"Can I ask you a personal question, Gavin?" He says between his fingers, his voice coming out croaky.
Gavin bites his lip and eases up on the accelerator, slowing the car down until the engine gently hums beneath his fingertips. He can’t help the way his stomach knots at the question. He can’t remember Nines ever showing interest enough to ask a question before, especially one of a personal nature. Nines never seems particularly interested in anything. That or he’s just extremely hard to read; his face cycling between one of his two expressions depending on the circumstances. Even now, hunched and dishevelled, Gavin has a hard time unpicking his intent.
"What do you actually do for fun?" Nines asks, turning to look at him, still bleary eyed. Gavin shoots him a funny look. His tone is inquisitive but he half expects the man to be smirking, somehow finding a way to make this about mocking him. Instead, he looks genuinely interested, if a little squinty and off-balance.
"What do you mean?" Gavin scrunches his nose and stares straight ahead at the road, trying to unlace any potential subtext from the question.
"When you're not at work…” Nines continues. Gavin can see the way the human twists in his seat in his peripherals. He’s still looking at him, the gaze no less intimidating even when it’s half-focused and sleepy. “That night we were called out… you weren't at the safe house?"
Were it Tina in the passenger seat, Gavin might have confessed to the lingering existential dread that eats him up during the early hours of the morning. The kind that’s only sated by constant stimulation, a distraction, something to stop his brain from overthinking. Or he’d talk about the weird solace he finds climbing to the highest point in the city only to stand and stare when he can’t go higher, when he has no where else to go. Or how even without his glitchy, patched-up software and the constant stream of error messages, and with the small spaces in his coding finally filled in, he still feels the absence of something he’s not sure was ever even there to begin with.
But he can’t say any of this.
"No, I...I go for walks sometimes," Gavin answers, although that's not quite true. Walking would imply he uses public access routes and that he...well...walks. He isn’t sure why the human is asking him this. He swipes at the skin across his nose and chews his lip slightly before continuing. "Sometimes I go to the gym.... I do jigsaws."
He thinks of all his finished jigsaw puzzles placed side by side like the biggest fucked-up mosaic on the floor of the safe house and how they each in turn brought less and less satisfaction with their completion. And all the shattered ones, the pieces strewn beneath his bed after he realised their futility.
"Puzzles…” he clarifies. “Keeps me busy..."
"And you find that fun?" Nines asks, still not looking away. Gavin feels like his skin might accidentally deactivate under that gaze.
Again, he searches for that mocking tone the detective so often adopts with him but it's not there.
"I guess so."
He shoots him another strange look, not sure where this is going but Nines simply lets out an amused kind of huff from the back of his throat and his mouth twitches.
"Huh," He says, sitting back against the chair, looking almost confused; he's not smiling but there is a little softening in the hard lines of his face, a subtle change that Gavin isn’t sure he’d pick up on if it weren’t for his new software upgrades.
When they pull up at Nines’ apartment, Gavin clambers out a little reluctantly. He thinks Nines’ car might be his new favourite thing. He tosses the keys at the human who misses them completely in his sleepy state and grumbles as he stoops to pick them up from the floor.
When he straightens up, his lips are pulled into that thin line again and he locks eyes with Gavin, his face still bordering on a sickly kind of pale,
"Come inside, I’ll call you a taxi,” he says, his expression almost pained.
"You don’t have to do that,” Gavin says almost immediately but Nines shakes his head.
“I’ve got something to show you anyway, come on,” he says, jamming his keys gracelessly into the lock and gesturing for Gavin to follow.
“Sounds ominous,” Gavin says, scrunching his nose and he could have sworn he heard the detective let out a tiny laugh at that.
Nines’ apartment looks exactly like Gavin thought it would. It’s all various shades of black and grey, the furniture is strangely geometric in shape and there’s a lot of black and white art with weird, sleek bits of tech integrated alongside it. Nines goes straight to the kitchen, pours himself a glass of water from the sink and downs it and Gavin can’t help but calculate the trajectory of the stray water droplet that runs down his chin. Then he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand- a slightly weird sight- and puts the glass down on the island counter. He plants his hands down at either side of him, leaning into the surface as if holding himself up as he nibbles on the flesh of his lower lip, lost in thought. Then he looks up,
“One minute,” he says quickly and disappears off through a door into another room.
Gavin spends exactly 0.32 seconds debating whether or not he should scan the entire apartment and its contents or whether that’s encroaching on the detective’s privacy.
He blames deviancy- and this new insatiable curiosity gifted to him by his updated software- for the fact he immediately runs a thorough scan on the combined kitchen-living area. He’s grateful for how quickly his system processes all the data, the individual conclusions popping up one after another: Nines likes vintage films, Nines likes art-deco prints, Nines owns over 100 vinyl records. Of course he does.
Most importantly though, Nines has a cat. If the food bowls and cat hair are anything to go by anyway, although the feline itself is nowhere to be seen.
There are a few photographs dotted about the apartment, stray flashes of colour on an otherwise monochrome landscape. The closest to Gavin is hung up on the wall and he steps towards it to look a little closer. It’s a picture of a group of people, most unrecognisable and uninteresting- he doesn’t even bother scanning them. At the forefront though, are Nines, Tina and Connor, albeit much, much younger. They’re all grinning, Tina’s arms thrown around the two boys in an almost double head-lock. Tina and Connor haven’t changed much, just lost that softness humans so often lose in age. Nines, however, is almost unrecognisable. Him and Connor look much more like twins, the same wide smile and unruly curls. His grey eyes are bright and creased at the edges in laughter, almost blue in the light of whatever sunny day this was taken on. His skin is much less ashen, pink even, where he’s caught the sun. It’s...it’s…
Gavin can’t quite decide on how it makes him feel. Equal parts bewildered and...sad? He isn't sure. He half brings his hand up to touch the glass of the picture frame before deciding against it, his fingers frozen in mid-air, obscuring the smiling faces from view.
The sound of a door closing behind startles him and he turns around quickly to see Nines staring at him. The human clears his throat awkwardly as though he’s just walked in on Gavin changing and then holds up the object he apparently went to retrieve.
Gavin blinks unnecessarily,
“What the absolute fuck is that?”
Nines throws it to him and Gavin catches it lightly in his hands. It’s a cube, quite light and brightly coloured. He turns it over in his hands and looks up at Nines as though he’s gone mad.
"It’s a Rubik’s Cube," Nines says, folding his arms and watching the android closely. "It's a kind of puzzle, you slide the squares around until you get all the colours on each of the sides to match.” There’s an awkward pause as Gavin looks back at the multi-coloured cube, his brow furrowed. “I don’t think they make them anymore but uhh I thought you might find it… I mean, they’re actually quite hard...”
Gavin smirks, tracing the edges of the puzzle, turning it this way and that to look at the different sides.
"You know I can just pre-construct all the possible combinations of movement and-"
"That's cheating," Nines says bluntly, his tone almost offended.
Gavin looks up to find the detective’s brow almost comically furrowed in his disapproval.
"Is it?" he half laughs. Once again, he thinks of all the jigsaw puzzles he's cheated into completion and can’t help but smile.
"Yes, you can't cheat."
"Huh, I bet it's still pretty easy," Gavin says slowly, twisting the cube so a few of the smaller pieces move around in his hand. A quick calculation tells him it has a potential 43 quintillion combinations. Child’s play.
"Well, you can have it,” Nines says, scratching the back of his head, pointedly not looking at him. “I forgot I had it until you mentioned…” He trails off, pressing his lips together instead of finishing the sentence.
Gavin sticks the puzzle in his hoodie pocket and scrubs the toe of his shoe against Nines’ kitchen tiles with a little squeak.
Sometimes I do art and when I do it's almost always self-indulgent or to help me visualise stuff so have some android!gavin:
I love u all x
Chapter 8: Maybe it's just a glitch
Gavin vs the Rubik's Cube
Gavin vs Nines (again)
Gavin vs his own self control
Hello, sorry that this took a little longer than usual. It's also a little longer than usual length-wise because it's kind of two chapters? But I didn't know where to cut it. Shout out to @YouMeAtNope for Beta'ing and helping me with the start of this because I had writer's block.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gavin places his fingers upon the hard coloured plastic squares of the Rubik’s Cube, his hardware scanning the assortment of plastic and chemical components of the 3x3x3 object.
Sync in progress...
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, Nylon, Propylene.
He sighs automatically at the results, reluctantly storing away the data, like knowing the chemical breakdown of the puzzle will somehow help him solve it.
He picks up the tiniest traces of Nines’ DNA on the cube and sucks his teeth, halting the scan before it can really start analysing anything, his LED bathing the safe house in a flickering golden glow before plunging back into darkness. Nines isn’t even here to complain that he’s doing it but he swipes the failed report out of his vision anyway, grimacing. He wonders briefly if any amount of repairs will ever solve these weird impulses or whether that’s something deviancy has ingrained in his code forever.
He drums his fingertips against the surface of the cube idly then starts giving the moving components an experimental twist. His automatic scans tells him there are 519,024,039,293,878,272,000 possible combinations to solve it, but only 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 if he doesn’t take the whole crappy thing apart and reassemble it. He thinks back to Nines, how he said that scanning for combinations would be cheating. Even if he did cheat… Nines would never know.
He doesn’t though, just throws the cube up into the air, catching it again easily in one hand. He turns it over, scoffing at the coloured cubes in his palm.
“Pfft, how hard can it be?”
He twists and turns the cubes, lining up a series of yellows and greens, moving them once more when he notices a lone red in the centre of the side he’s attempting to complete. He hums thoughtfully, blindly continuing to shift the sections, rotating the centre of the cube. It makes a pleasant kind of clicking sound, at least. With a twist of his hand, he moves to another face, hoping this one might prove easier to solve.
A sigh escapes his lips and he briefly considers launching the offending puzzle at the wall; a part of him greatly wishing he could return to his beloved baked bean jigsaw, despite how many times he’s already done and re-done it. With a disgruntled sound, he begins to rotate the entire cube in his hand as he focuses on each side. A hundred unanswered questions travel through his mind at one time- if he moves a section like this, what colours will be here? Will the sections match up? Will this-
The twisting starts again, and he successfully matches up a whole side with one colour. Gavin smiles, triumphant, and nods to himself as he holds up the nine green squares.
“Piece of cake.”
His moment of triumph is short-lived though as he has to move three green squares to accommodate another row of red. But it’s okay because he can just move it back again and-
He spends hours on it, fingers blurring as he shuffles and turns and twists and rotates to no avail. He’s pissed. He considers throwing it out of the window, at the wall, stomping on it. Crushing it between his hands perhaps so all the individual cubes ricochet off the walls of the safe house and are lost under the bed along with a hundred other puzzle pieces.
It gets to the point that he’s just blindly shuffling now, the repetitive movements all for nothing. It seems impossible.
The potential number of combinations appears to blink in its file, coaxing him to open it up and delve within till he finds a way to complete it. He could so easily just pre-construct a way to complete it. Nines would never know. He squeezes the cube in his hand and shakes his head. It’s something he needs to do himself.
He briefly wonders if Nines has purposely given him a defective puzzle. It seems like something he’d do to fuck with him. He brings up the Detective’s phone number, ready to call him out.
He waits for the dial tone, counting the rings.
Nines picks up, voice bleary and hoarse.
Gavin doesn’t focus on the way that Nines’ low sleep-slurred voice makes his thirium pump beat faster against his ribs, instead launching straight into his complaint.
“Yeah... it’s me. So, I think this Rubik’s Cube you gave me is-“
“Gavin, it’s-“ a pause “it’s 3 AM. You’re calling to tell me you can’t solve a damn puzzle?” His voice is gruff, clearly annoyed, and growing more irritated with every word as he grumbles and Gavin hears a crackle sound from the cell’s mic. He doesn’t imagine the human turning over in his tangled bed sheets, hair tousled, that one unruly curl lying against his forehead, brow furrowed against the light of his cell phone screen. No really, he doesn’t.
The time flashes up on Gavin’s HUD.
Gavin grimaces, sucking in a breath. Oops.
“Shit, I’m sorry. I’ve been at it so long, I didn’t keep track of time.”
A grumble sounds from the other end of the line.
“I thought you were in trouble.”
“I wouldn’t have given it to you if I knew you’d call me at 3 AM to complain you’re too dumb to finish it,” Nines half growls down the phone but it’s nothing compared to his usual tone; he sounds exhausted.
Gavin clenches the cube tightly in his grip as he grits his teeth.
“How am I supposed to solve it if I can’t pre construct it? It’s impossible.” He feels his temperature rising, LED blinking red in the darkness.
“Humans do it all the time without help,” Nines speaks down the phone. His voice seems lower, closer, as if he’s brought his lips right to the mic. Gavin shifts uncomfortably. “Aren’t you always saying you’re Cyberlife’s finest? Surely this is a walk in the park for you.”
He can practically hear the smirk in the human’s sleepy voice. He can feel it in the way his spine tenses, a strange itch running down each artificial vertebrae.
“How long did it take you?”
“I’ll tell you when you’ve completed it,” Nines says, his voice muffled and croaky.
“Good night, Gavin.”
The line cuts off and Gavin’s synthetic lashes flutter shut as he forces a sigh, manually releasing the pressure in his jaw as he fears he’ll crumble his teeth to plastic dust. He doubts that’s covered by his warranty.
He drops the offending cube onto the floor as he flips onto his side, pulling his knees to his chest. He knows the only way he’s going to leave it there is if he enters stasis. So he does.
Gavin spends the next few days at work thoroughly devouring his case files. It’s as though he’s looking at them with fresh eyes. Which is kinda true, when he thinks about it. Every piece of evidence he looks at now looks sharper, more defined. He finds he can calculate a few possible theories, looking at the slump of the body, the angle of the blood splatters, in much more detail. He pours over endless photographs, reviewing the coroner's report with a fine-tooth comb and spending more than a few hours after his shift has technically ended in the evidence room shoulder to shoulder with Nines staring up at the back-lit wall.
But that only makes it worse when they’re still at a loss on the third day.
His fingers idly twist the Rubik’s cube in his hand, the pieces clicking pleasantly as the colours change before his eyes. He has also spent three days trying to crack this too; the pieces lining up almost perfectly until he has only a few left to place. And that’s where it all falls apart. The closer he gets, the more he has to mess up his previous work, rows of solid orange giving way to allow a single blue piece to pass through. It’s infuriating.
Much to Nines’ amusement. Oh yes, he’s caught those little smirks across the desk alright.
He refuses to engage his pre-constructive software, flat out refuses , because if Nines can do it, so can he. The frustration of it quite literally increases his internal temperature, the gold ring of his LED flashing in the reflection of his terminal.
He’s glad the detective can’t see him now because-
Gavin sits up straight for a moment, his fingers frozen mid-twist on the puzzle.
It’s 9.15 and he’s nowhere to be seen. He had been so preoccupied with the cube that he didn’t notice.
Maybe he’s off sick? But he would have called, surely?
He furrows his brow, thinking about it. Nines has looked like complete shit the past few days, ever since he went for repairs. He’s been bleary eyed and quieter than usual, his usually pristine appearance marred by the slight creases in his clothes and the way his hair sits more tousled than usual.
Gavin noticed, of course, chalked it up to the stress of the case. Didn’t really bother to look into it more because he was just glad that Nines wasn’t spitting bile at him from across the desk. He could have expected it on the first day, after their late night phone call. But he couldn’t possibly be blamed for the rest.
It hits 10 AM and Gavin wonders whether he should send out a search party. It’s unnerving to see the Detective’s desk so vacant. He twists the puzzle in his fingers again agitatedly until he sets himself back so badly he all but smacks it down on his desk.
“Fucking piece of shit thing,” he growls.
The noise makes Tina jump as she approaches Nines’ vacant seat. She looks flustered, a few stray hairs falling from beneath her hat.
“Hate those things,” she says breathlessly, nodding to the Rubik’s cube.
“Me too, apparently,” Gavin says, nudging it with the pad of his fore-finger. “I don’t fucking understand how you’re supposed to complete one side without...” He trails off, stretching his arm forwards and pushing the cube out of his reach so he isn’t tempted pick it back up.
“Can’t you just...download a program to solve it for you?” Tina asks, her mouth twisting into a wry smile as she leans over the edge of Nines’ chair.
“That’s cheating,” Gavin says, or rather he plays the soundbite of Nines saying it. Tina laughs at that, her nose wrinkling as she does
“So, what did you do him?” She asks after she’s composed herself.
"To Nines,” She gestures to the desk area in front of her. “He's not had a sick day in years… he even came in when he had norovirus, I'm telling you it wasn't pretty." She makes a face.
"Maybe he injured himself removing the gigantic stick from up his ass," Gavin tosses back before he can help himself. He's secretly very impressed with his own joke even if he feels slightly bad. They’ve settled into a kind-of uneasy peace since the other day.
He fires off a text message to Nines once Tina leaves, albeit not straight away, he isn't that worried...
Hey, are you alive????
He waits for a few minutes but after receiving no response, returns his attention to the case file on his terminal.
The morning passes slowly. He eyes the Rubick’s cube up every time he comes to the end of analysing a particularly difficult crime scene photograph. It’s as though Nines has transferred all his mocking energy into the little puzzle which now feels like it's actively laughing at him, its colours still very much in disarray.
Just after noon, he decides to take a break, groaning and scrubbing his hands over his face. There’s a little plink noise and a notification flashes up into his vision:
I fucked up
Huh, Gavin thinks. That’s not good. He barely waits to process the message before he’s firing back a reply.
Detective Dick is typing...
Gavin drums his fingers on the desk as he waits for a response. The icon that says the human is responding blinks a few times as though he’s deleting and rewriting his message over and over again.
He waits patiently until a new message appears.
It’s so bizarrely human that Gavin laughs out loud.
Of all people, Nines could probably do with a good night’s sleep. God knows, he looks like he’s not slept more than four hours at any given time. But he doesn’t let him off that easily, relishes his rare opportunity to tease him without having to worry about having a stapler thrown at his head from across the desk.
No worries, Princess.
Let me know when you’re ready to work.
He unsurprisingly gets no response.
Nines swings by the office around 2.00pm, looking decidedly less rested than he should for someone who slept in until after noon. Gavin does a quick scan of his vitals and finds his blood pressure is elevated.
He looks awful.
The human makes a coffee and settles down in his seat. He’s finished with his cup in as little as four long gulps, his pupils blown wide from the stimulant.
When the human leaves to go to the bathroom, Gavin swipes a bit of his saliva residue off the rim of his coffee cup and, without reading too much into the action itself (cause he’s not ready to get into that just yet), finds that there are high concentrates of some kind of melatonin substitute in the sample. That would... explain a lot.
Gavin kind of feels sorry for him. He doesn’t know how it feels to be sleep deprived. Running low on battery, yes, maybe. But he figures it’s probably a lot different for humans. He just has to look at the side-effects of poor sleep and he’s considering dropping by Fowler’s office and suggesting he take the rest of the day off.
He considers it... but he also knows that if he did, Nines would probably combust.
Instead he sticks to monitoring the human’s vital signs and nudging him with his toe every time he looks like he’s spacing out. Nines doesn’t even shout at him for it, just shakes his head and sits up a little straighter, which speaks volumes for how tired he must be.
“I think we should do a stake out at the Eden Club tonight,” Nines says out of nowhere at around 4.15pm. Gavin blinks unnecessarily because he’s sure he’s heard him wrong despite his newly upgraded system.
“You wanna stay up all night...out of choice?” Gavin asks, his tone coming out a little more condescending than he planned.
“We’re not getting anywhere with this case. I think it would be good to explore all of our options.” Nines says, his eyes staring un-focused at his computer terminal.
“Maybe you should go home and have a nap then, Dick,” Gavin says snorting.
Nines’ head snaps up at the nickname- the fastest he’s moved all afternoon- his face pinched in annoyance. It’s too easy, Gavin smirks to himself, pleased with the effect it has. Nines just glares at him, the pulse point in his jaw twitching as he thinks about rising to the bait, before he simply answers,
“That won’t be necessary.”
He picks up his coffee cup and stands, covering his mouth with the back of his hand to stifle a yawn. Gavin debates calling him out on his caffeine intake, could probably pull up a few reports on how that’s probably affecting his ability to sleep but again, doesn’t want to push his luck. This Nines is no fun to tease- he’s like a sick puppy.
The way he arches his back, his free arm reaching back to rub his shoulders, pulls his shirt taught against his chest. The white shirt, usually so crisp and neat, is creased and haphazardly tucked into his dress trousers so that when he stretches, Gavin gets a glimpse of his sharp hip-bones. For some reason the sight sets all the sensors on his tongue alight and he has to flick his tongue against the back of his teeth and look away.
Once his mouth isn’t stimulating the production of excess analysis fluid, he trudges after him into the break room. As always, he's not sure what he hopes to gain; where he’d usually be pushing for a response, a break in the stupid stuck-up mask, he’s now almost concerned about how many cracks are showing.
He finds the detective leaning gracelessly against the counter waiting for the coffee machine to brew his drink. He’s rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm in a way which leaves them red and bloodshot. His whole body seems deflated, like a broken marionette, held up only by the imaginary string still attached at the base of his neck.
Gavin’s super-powered processors lock in on him, picking up all the tiny veins in the whites of his eyes and the bruise-like shadows underneath, like spilt ink on his paper-white skin. He analyses the curved slump of his spine, the slight shake in his hands, the way his long legs are sagging under the weight of his own body.
The human inhales sharply, pulling his hands away from his eyes and stiffening at Gavin’s approach, as though he’s interrupting some kind of private moment.
There’s a stray eyelash left on his cheek from his vigorous scrubbing and Gavin can’t help the way he focuses in on it- a little black sickle-shaped hair lying flat against the pink flesh where he’s rubbed too hard. It’s such a tiny insignificant thing but it sits just on that half-ring of freckles, like someone has taken a pen and drawn dot-to-dot from one side to the other. Gavin wants to get it. To pick it up between his thumb and fore-finger and roll it between the soft pads of his artificial fingertips. But he knows he can’t and it makes his hands feel hot and prickly.
“We can go straight from work, I’ll drive us,” Nines says, breaking Gavin’s train of thought. Mind on the mission as always, Gavin thinks briefly, his eyes still fixed on the eyelash.
“Uhuh,” he manages, flexing his fingers at his side.
“Not now, it’s not late enough. The website says the Eden Club opens at 8pm so I would say we would need..” Nines hums, scratching the tip of his nose, “...to be there anytime from 9pm til close and...Gavin... Gavin, are you okay?”
“Yep,” he answers immediately but he’s not really paying attention because the detective almost dislodged the eyelash with the swipe of his hand to his nose. Almost. It’s still sitting there boldly against the rosy skin.
“It’s just your” Nines trails off, tapping his finger to his temple, where he has a mole instead of an LED. Gavin realises, as he casts a quick look into those grey eyes, that he can see the reflection of his own yellow ring blinking.
His eyes drift back to the eyelash automatically and Nines lets out a little huff of indignation at how the android is seemingly ignoring him.
“Hold on a second,” Gavin says before Nines can say anything, stepping forwards until he’s almost nose to nose with the human.
“Wait, what’re you-” Nines starts, his brow suddenly creased in confusion and his hand half raised defensively to push him back but he freezes when Gavin brings his own hand up to grasp his forearm, steadying him.
“Stay still or I’ll poke your eye out,” Gavin murmurs, holding the human in place as he pre-constructs how best to retrieve the eyelash without hurting him.
“I’m sorry?” Nines says incredulously but he freezes in place.
His eyelashes flutter reflexively as Gavin leans in to pinch the stray eyelash between his thumb and forefinger. It takes him a few attempts to get the thing, trying hard not to focus on the way the human has completely... stopped ...breathing beneath him. He’s getting that weird feeling in his stomach again, the one he gets when Nines pins him with one of his withering looks, except it’s radiating into his spine again, an unscratchable itch spreading through his whole body. And Nines’ expression is something quite different to his vacant, loaded stares. It’s somewhere in between fear and disbelief; the tiniest sliver of vulnerability reflected in those grey eyes.
“There we go,” Gavin says triumphantly, pulling back to look at the little crescent moon shaped hair balanced on the pad of his thumb.
He steps back, and Nines just stares at him, a crease forming between his eyebrows. His gaze drops to Gavin’s fingers as he looks at the eyelash, then back to his face again.
They sit outside the Eden Club for hours. There’s minimal traffic in and out of the club, it’s not a busy night and people are probably more sceptical about it following the revolution. There’re the usual gross men that make Gavin’s skin crawl. He scans each and every one of them, filing their names and faces away, just in case. God, having working software is a breeze. He groans and shuffles down further in his seat. He’s not sure what Nines thought they’d find here. Everything is a mess and he’s sick and tired of trawling through the same files over and over for nothing.
He brings the Rubik’s cube out from his pocket and shuffles the squares around for a bit, the silence of the car broken by the rhythmic noise. Left, clockwise, left, anti-clockwise. Click click click click click.
Then he stops. He stares, almost in disbelief as the final few moves seem to pan out before him as though he’s finally engaged his pre-constructive software. Except he hasn’t, he can just…
Click, click, click.
He exhales totally unnecessarily and holds up the cube, slowly rotating it so he can see the six completed sides.
“Fuck yeah,” he hisses.
He immediately whips round in his seat to thrust the puzzle under Nines’ nose only to find him slumped in his seat, head lolling heavily to one side, a cascade of loose, dark curls falling into his eyes.
He looks fucking angelic. It’s almost terrifying.
When he’s asleep there’s none of the tension held in his face, his lips are parted slightly and his eyelids flicker every so often chasing some distant dream Gavin will never see. He finds himself staring, watching the way his chest rises and falls, the motion mesmerising. He doesn’t know how long he stares. His fingers itch with the desire to brush those curls away from his face, to touch the soft expanse of his cheek, to trace that little crescent moon of freckles. He could run his fingertips over his mouth and feel the little puffs of warm breath escape those lips. It’s that weird feeling he gets when he looks at Nines sometimes, when the prickly exterior is down and he sees the human beneath.
There’s a slight creaking sound from below him and he looks to his lap where the puzzle is straining against his vice-like grip, the smaller cubes threatening to crumple under the pressure. He manually disengages his knuckle joints so that his hand relaxes.
He looks back at the detective, who shifts in his sleep, a tiny sound of discomfort escaping his throat as he slumps lower.
Gavin wants to move him so his head isn’t at such an awkward angle. Only because when he wakes up he’s going to be stiff and cranky and Gavin doesn’t want to deal with that. Obviously.
He could pull his coat from the back seat and wrap it round him. Maybe make a kind of pillow out of it? But Nines would probably complain that he’d creased it or something.
He settles for monitoring his vitals as he sleeps, keeping half his attention on the club doors just in-case. He lets the human sleep for another hour or so until it gets to closing time, and Gavin gently nudges Nines’ knee with his own. The human shoots up, with a desperate inhale, his fingers grasping at his belt for his gun.
“Hey!” Gavin starts, “it’s just me...it’s just me.”
He reaches out to try and prevent Nines from smacking his head off the roof of the car. The human narrowly avoids a concussion and, as realisation dawns across his exhausted features, he flops back against the car seat.
“Shit,” Nines mutters, rubbing his face with his palms. He exhales slowly into his fingers. “Shit. I... what time is it?”
“2.00am,” Gavin says quietly.
“Anything?” Nines asks weakly, blinking as he tries to sit up straight.
“No, nothing,” Gavin responds. “Hey...Nines, maybe we should call it a night?”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Nines says quickly, blinking rapidly and steadying himself on the steering wheel. “We need to...we need to stay.”
He picks up his coffee cup and drains whatever dregs are still in there, grimacing when he finds them cold. His eyes look to Gavin then drop lower to his lap, Gavin feels himself getting warm until the human huffs out a little laugh and says,
“Fuck, you actually did it?”
“What?” Gavin asks narrowing his eyes but then follows the Detective’s gaze to his lap and- “Oh, yeah...yeah I did.”
He holds up the Rubik’s cube triumphantly.
“Did you cheat?” Nines asks, cocking an eyebrow.
“No! It took me fucking ages,” Gavin sighs exasperated and bounces the puzzle off his thigh.
“I’m almost impressed,” Nines says, the corner of his mouth twitching.
“So... are you gonna tell me how long it took you to do it?” Gavin asks, nudging Nines’ leg with his own.
“What?” Nines looked momentarily confused before realisation crossed his features. “Oh...yeah I’ve never actually completed one.”
It comes out very blunt but Gavin is staring at the human, watching the tiny smirk form at the corner of his mouth.
“Yeah I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried,” he continues, running his hands through his hair and trying his best to look nonchalant.
Gavin just stares, the light from his yellow flickering LED lighting up the car.
Gavin finds himself more in need of distraction than ever before. The relentless nighttime hours seem to stretch before him like a void every time he gets home. He finds himself staying later and later at work. Sometimes, he doesn’t even go back to the safe house, just wanders through Detroit in the dark until it’s an acceptable time to go back. He finds he can’t control his thoughts at this time; what was once blunted by glitchy software is now sharp and focused and very much there .
And it makes his head spin.
It’s how he finds himself marching to the 24/7 gym for the first time in ages, desperate for some kind of release.
He walks inside, hood low, LED twinkling in the dim lights of the overhead halogen bulbs. He's trying to keep a low profile, just wants to work out his frustrations on the punching bag, then go home. There’s something he can’t quite get out of his system no matter how many walls he climbs or buildings he jumps off. This palpable energy, like he’s an elastic band stretched too far. He just wants to break the tension and he expects this might be the way to do it.
What he doesn't expect, at 11.45pm on a Friday night, is someone occupying the only punching bag in the complex. His punching bag.
And he certainly doesn't expect it to be Nines.
He almost walks out right then and there. Like, it's too fucking late for this. It really is. They’re still awkward around each other like they can’t quite figure out how to work together now they don’t actually want to kill each other. And Gavin can’t really deal with navigating the fragile slopes of human unpredictability tonight. But there’s that weird part of him that’s drawn to him, that keeps his feet moving forwards towards him.
And God does he look good, sweatpants slung low on his sharp hip bones, his vest sweat soaked and clinging to the hard muscles of his abdomen. Gavin shakes his head fervently and marches towards him. He pulls his hood off his face and leans up against the wall beside him, shit-eating grin plastered across his face,
“Is this what you do when you think about all us deviants, huh?” he comments, licking his lips and rocking back on his heels. “Oh, and your jab could be higher, you drop that hand when you bring it back."
The humans head snaps up and he momentarily pauses, ironically in perfect resting stance, left hand in front of his face, the other at his chin. There's the slightest betrayal of tension in his jawline, it pulses menacingly as his eyes take in the sight before him. Then his gaze drops to the punching bag and he hits a perfect jab-cross for the record. The sound of his wrapped knuckles hitting the leather reverberates around the empty gym so that Gavin almost misses it when he mutters a quick,
"What are you doing here?"
No condescending use of his name, no formalities, doesn't even look him in the eye when he says it, eyes fixed on the target. Gavin is almost hurt by the lack of response he’s managed to evoke.
"Tilt your chin down, you'll get a better hit," Gavin comments half-heartedly but he's staring at Nines, waiting for a reaction, watching the way his eyes darken behind the curtain of sweat soaked hair.
The human drops his chin a fraction, such a tiny movement that Gavin almost can't claim its influence. Almost. But he was designed to unpick a man’s tells and he's calculated every inch of Nines' body- there's no way he'd miss it. He licks his lips into a smirk and watches the way Nines' devours his target, hitting the mark every time this time, the punching bag trembling on its supports.
"Not bad, meat sack."
Nines scoffs and flicks his hair out of his eyes, reading the condescending tone,
"Like you could do better."
He says it under his breath but Gavin's super-tuned audio processors pick it up, of course. He weaves in front of the punching bag and into the crossfire, smirking.
"I’m Cyberlife's finest, of course I can," he says, trying his best to keep his cool as he watches the beads of sweat lick down Nines' throat.
He watches the human swallow, his eyes narrowing. But then his mouth twitches at the corners.
"Really think you can keep up?" he tosses back, cocking his head and Gavin nearly stumbles at the sight. Nines is never like this, breathless and almost playful. It’s a far cry from how fragile and prickly he’s been the past few days. He can't help but lap it up.
"I don't want to hurt you," Gavin says, his grin spreading as Nines adopts his fighting stance, his chin tilted down until he’s staring over the peaks of his knuckles.
"You won't," he promises as they both mirror each other's movements, circling each other.
Nines throws the first punch; a sharp jab and Gavin deflects easily. The next is more difficult to avoid, a hard cross and he has to jump back to shirk the blow because Nines derives all of his power from the sweep of his hips. The human grins, it's clear he thinks he has the upper hand. But Gavin has a whole host of defensive and aggressive protocols hard-wired into his programming. He slips a rear kick in and Nines takes it, barely stumbling. He counters immediately with a front kick and a jab-cross, Gavin rising to meet them, countering them with guarded hands.
This goes on for a while- Nines attacking, Gavin deflecting- the occasional advance from the android just to see if the human is paying attention. And oh, he is. Nines is beautiful, all grace and technique, Gavin can't even bring himself to critique the moments his form lapses in favour of power.
But he wants to really push him. He’d mourn this opportunity to really get under his skin if he didn’t. He starts throwing wilder combinations of moves at him and Nines stutters a little, thrown off by the sudden change.
He blinks back sweat soak strands of hair, his face lined and hard from concentration.
It isn't until a well-placed cross hits Nines square in the face that Gavin stops because the human stumbles backwards, hand clasping the bridge of his nose. There's blood almost immediately. A slow, red trickle but it's there. Gavin blanches at the sight, all the bravado knocked out of him like he's winded as he stares at the blood.
"Fuck, Nines I'm sorry!"
He reaches for him but Nines throws a punch back immediately, hitting Gavin square on the jaw. It's a dirty shot. Foul play by any rules but he doesn't stop. He takes a second to swipe the blood away with his purple knuckles and carries on. He keeps on advancing, throwing punches that Gavin has to deflect and dodge until he feels his back hit the wall. Nines doesn't even stop there. He shoves Gavin for good measure, his wrapped knuckles gripping hard against the android's shoulders. Then he falls forwards, the meat of his right forearm hitting the wall heavily, caging the android in until their foreheads are touching.
Gavin watches in awe as the human gasps for air, chest heaving, blood dripping from his nose. He's trapped against the wall, can count every single freckle, can see every bead of sweat and the way it clings to his fucking stupidly long eyelashes. Without stopping to think about why, he flicks a thumb over the human’s upper lip, chasing the stream of blood, then bringing it to the tip of his tongue. The human watches, pupils blown wide as Gavin sucks the blood off his thumb, tasting it. It's a deadly combination of sweat and blood that makes him feel dizzy, like he's falling. It’s a stupid thing to do, he can barely justify it now his brain is catching up because Nines looks like a shark about to eat him alive. He gets the rush of analysis data from the sensors on his tongue all at once, the intimate make-up of Nines’ DNA flooding his brain. He waits for the human to snarl, to scream at him, to hit him. Something other than the way he’s staring at him now with those incredibly cold, grey eyes. So why is it fire and not ice that’s unzipping each one of his synthetic veins?
His brain is stuttering for the first time since his soft-ware upgrade, a hundred and one different wants and needs flooding his vision. God, Gavin wants to touch him. Wants to grab those sharp hips, pull him close, feel him against him. He doesn't know why. Fuck, he hasn't got a clue. He just wants it and it’s maddening. It makes his palms itch and he balls his hands into fists to stop himself, his nails digging into the artificial flesh of his palm so hard he’s surprised he hasn’t split the skin.
And then Nines does something ridiculous.
His body sags as though the puppet strings holding him up have finally snapped. This weird sound comes out of him, light and breathy. He's shaking all over and it takes Gavin a second to realise he's laughing...like really laughing...and he's so shocked he feels his mouth open involuntarily. He’s never heard that sound come out of him before, never anything more than a snort or a dry chuckle. Nines pulls back, bringing his hands to his face as he all but cries into his fingers.
It's such a weird sound but like all things about Nines it's addictive in its strangeness and Gavin finds his own lips pulled into a grin so easily.
"Fuck," Nines breathes, straightening up eventually. He runs a shaky hand through his damp curls and lets out one last bubble of laughter. He looks at Gavin then, with this odd, pained look on his face. There's a vulnerability to it but its Gavin that feels exposed, like that stare is un-peeling his artificial skin. "Do you…” he starts and stops almost immediately, staring at the floor for a second then back up at Gavin, “do you wanna go get a drink?"
Gavin frowns. He knows he should say no. Partly because he can't drink but also partly because they're not friends. They’re not even close to that.
He nods despite himself and Nines smiles, a genuine smile, not a smirk or a quirk of the lips.
He picks up his towel from the floor and wipes his face. It smears the blood across his cheek a little and he chuckles again.
"I should take a shower," he says and he rubs his neck awkwardly.
"You should probably let me look at your nose," Gavin says. He's not sure why, he's pretty sure it's not broken. Perhaps it's the human thing to do. He doesn't know. He follows dumbly as Nines heads to the changing rooms.
He catches up just as Nines starts fiddling with his combination padlock, his long fingers twisting the dial this way and that until it clicks. He smirks and shoots Gavin a side-ways look, one dark eyebrow raised,
"Are you scanning me?"
"You haven't given me the chance." Gavin grumbles and forces Nines to sit down, pushing him by the shoulders onto the bench and then tipping his chin up with his fingers. The scan reveals it's not broken but there's a bit of swelling and a blossoming bruise. He lets his fingers linger a little too long on the hot skin of his jaw. "You'll live," Gavin says simply.
Nines nods and rubs his finger across his Cupid's bow, dislodging some dry blood as he does.
He stands up and stretches in that cat-like way he does when he’s been sat at his desk for too long and before Gavin can process what he's doing he's peeling his vest off. The android’s head snaps down and he finds himself staring at his shoes for the next two minutes as Nines busies himself undressing and unpacking his locker.
Gavin waits, awkwardly lowering himself to sit on the bench of the locker room while the human showers. He tries not to focus on that too much. His sensors are clogged with steam and the smell of whatever fancy sandalwood shower gel he's using. His core temperature is kind of dangerously close to overheating, his fans working overtime, in fact he should probably go stand outside...
But he doesn't. He just sits there and stares at his shoes again when Nines gets out, soaking wet, a towel wrapped around his middle.
Nines doesn't seem to care, simply dries himself and slips back into his clothes. Gavin only looks up when he knows it’s safe and finds the human clad in a plain long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. All black, of course but still a far cry from his usual work-wear. Gavin’s strangely glad when he shrugs on his usual oversized coat and looks a little bit more like the sneering detective he’s used to.
Nines runs his fingers through his hair once to untangle the wet curls and turns to Gavin,
They go to the nearest bar, just over the road from the gym. It’s not busy, there’s probably ten people in total including the bar-tender, but they still all stare at them when they come in. Gavin supposes they do look like an odd pair.
Nines slides onto one of the bar stools and orders a shot of straight vodka. The android behind the bar hands it to him and he knocks it back instantaneously, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He hisses at the burn and tilts his head back, flicking the curls out of his eyes. With his hair tousled and damp from the shower, Gavin can’t help but stare; he looks like a completely different person.
“You should do this more often,” Gavin comments, idly tracing the edges of the drinks menu as he shifts onto his own stool.
“What, get drunk?” Nines asks, turning the shot glass upside down.
“Let loose. Act like a real person. Lose the stick in your ass,” Gavin shrugs, his fingertip pausing under the ‘drinks for androids’ section. “Looks good on you, Dick.”
“Fuck you,” Nines bites back, but it’s empty words; there’s no malice there. Not tonight. He orders another shot and turns to Gavin. “Can you actually drink any of this?”
“Uh...yeah apparently.” He turns to the bartender, holding up the menu and wiggling his fore-finger until it lands on one of the five variants of thirium-laced alcohol. “Can I get uh...that one?”
The bartender pours the drinks; one clear and one electric blue and oily. Gavin wrinkles his nose as he picks up his shot, swirling the ultramarine liquid around so that it leaves a sheen on the glass edges. He knocks it back and regrets it almost immediately. It tastes like shit and his sensors are picking up a whole host of chemicals he never ever wanted in his body. The effects are almost instantaneous; his vision becomes slightly less clear and his internal temperature rises. His tongue feels heavy in his mouth and he decides then and there that he isn’t going to have another.
“Ugh, who drinks this shit?” he grimaces. He smacks his lips audibly as his mouth tries to produce enough analysis fluid to combat the blue substance.
Nines chases down his first shot with a second, grimacing at the burn in his throat and rubbing his nose where Gavin hit him. There’s the start of a purplish bruise flowering across the bridge and Gavin feels a pang of guilt.
“Hey plastic,” Gavin drawls, leaning up over the bar and waving at the android bar-tender. “You got any ice?”
Nines frowns at him as the android slings him a tumbler full of ice cubes down the bar. Gavin catches the glass expertly and grins. He knows that the drinks only simulate the feeling of being drunk but he’s still pretty impressed at his own tipsy reflexes.
“You know ‘plastic’ is a slur, right?” Nines asks, cocking his head so that a stray curl falls onto his forehead. “For androids?”
“Of course, I know, dip-shit. I’m... reclaiming it.”
He wraps the ice cubes up in a napkin and hands them to Nines who places the little parcel gingerly to his nose. He grimaces. Gavin watches in real time as the hot skin of Nines’ nose bridge starts to decline in temperature and with it the swelling. It’s relieving. There’s still a tiny smear of dried blood just above his lip and Gavin has to press his hands into the fabric of his jeans to stop from pulling the human down so he can taste it again. He shakes his head as though he can shake the thought right out of his brain. Deviancy is cruel.
Nines orders a beer and another load of shots. Gavin grumbles as he hands him another two blue glasses. He hopes the human will be drunk enough not to notice when he pours them on the floor later.
It’s nice though, this whole ‘hanging out like they’re actually friends’ thing. They can kind of pretend, when it’s just them and they’re not at work, that they don’t fit awkwardly together. Gavin wonders if he pulled his hood up to cover his LED and if Nines stayed like this, slightly-rumpled and rough around the edges, if people would even bat an eyelid at the two of them sitting together. It’s a strange idea, another of his more devious trains of thought, because in the real world this would never work. They’re too different; too hostile. Gavin is always pushing and Nines never relents.
“When we first met,” Nines says suddenly, avoiding Gavin’s gaze, his voice a little nasal from the pressure on his nose, “you said your memory...you said you could remember pieces of what happened on the night of the revolution, correct?”
God, why does this sound like an interrogation? Gavin picks up one of the blue shots and pours the viscous liquid down his throat. It’s just as gross as the first time. He feels the shift as his senses are blunted once again but he feels more willing to answer the human’s question now.
“Mm, a bit.” Gavin hums. He doesn’t want to talk about what he saw that day at Cyberlife Tower, still hasn’t told anyone in fact. “It’s hazy. Sometimes something will trigger it, a smell, a sound.” He glances up at the human. “A touch. But it’s nothing concrete. For all I know I could be piecing together what I’ve seen on the news. Filling the gaps with what I know happened.”
Nines nods and removes the ice from his face, the skin of his nose and cheeks delightfully rosy.
“Do you know what I remember?”
Gavin shakes his head, unsure of where this is going. Nines looks down at the ice in his hands, it’s melting a little and droplets are running free of the disintegrating napkin and down his wrists. Gavin watches as they roll down and out of sight beyond the barrier of his rolled-up sleeves.
“I remember trying to stop my brother going after Hank,” the human says slowly. He’s rubbing the ice cubes carefully with his thumb now. “I thought he was just an android, just another deviant. Something to be hunted down and stopped at all costs. I thought Connor was stupid. He knocked me out and left me; he’ll never let me forget it, that he beat me.”
He laughs a little then and puts the ice down on the bar. Then he pins Gavin with that steely gaze.
“But that’s not the point. The point is when I came to, I set out to stop them. To stop Connor, to stop Hank. To stop Markus. By any means necessary.” He picks one of the shots up from the bar and knocks it back with ease. “But when I got out and saw what was happening, androids being rounded up, shot like dogs, shoved into camps like we were fucking Nazis...I couldn’t do it. I saw what we were. What they… you were. And I’d been a part of it all. I’d put down deviants myself. I’d pulled the fucking trigger.”
For one terrifying moment Gavin thinks he is going to cry but he just picks up another shot and brings the glass to his lips. He pauses then, his hand shaking slightly, the vodka wetting his fingertips.
“And I was wrong... I can’t change what I did. But I...I don’t know what to do now.”
He drains the shot and slams the glass down on the bar; Gavin’s surprised the glass doesn’t crack. His fingers linger on the rim of the shot-glass, still shaking. Gavin can hear the tiny, stilted breaths he’s taking, waiting for him to say something. He knows he should try and respond but he’s honestly so taken aback by the human’s admission that he can’t find the words. He can see the golden cycle of his LED swirling in the reflection of the final glass of blue liquid. He picks it up and knocks back the last shot. His face feels so warm in the aftermath, he wonders if it’s possible he could shut down from overheating. He vaguely feels his system fans start to whirr a little faster.
Nines looks up at him from under his lashes, his voice wavering a little,
“What happened to you...what they did...was because of people like me.”
“Nines,” Gavin says slowly. He reaches across the space between them, that unspoken distance, unsure of what he will do when he gets to the other side. He wants to grab those trembling fingers if only to make the human stop talking. But Nines pulls his hand back abruptly before Gavin can even get half the way.
“I’m not asking for your forgiveness,” he says sharply. “I just... wanted to tell you that...I’m sorry.”
The human sets his fingers to toy with the label on his beer bottle, picking at the corner then smoothing it down again. He lets out a tiny, sad laugh and takes a sip.
“Nines,” Gavin says again, rubbing his forehead. “I can’t even remember what happened.”
It’s only half a lie. The file of corrupted memories sits ominously in the corner of his vision as though the ultramarine shots of liquor have coaxed them out of hiding. He shakes his head, desperate to keep that can of worms firmly closed.
“Like that makes a difference to what they did,” Nines answers bluntly, wrapping his lips around the rim of the bottle to take another half-hearted swig. His hands are still shaking.
“I think… I think I should take you home,” Gavin admonishes and god, he can’t believe he’s the one setting the ground rules here but Nines looks like he’s about to cry or hit something. Either way, he hasn’t had nearly enough shots of sticky blue thirium alcohol to deal with this.
They stand up. Nines has the height advantage as always but something about his posture is different. He looks smaller. Maybe it’s the alcohol or the fatigue again. Gavin runs a sluggish scan and finds his blood alcohol percentage is fairly high but he’s not close to blacking out yet. At least maybe he’ll sleep tonight.
He guides the human into his coat sleeves and carefully out of the bar, ignoring the weird looks they’re still getting from the regular patrons. When they’re outside he calls a taxi. They can pick his car up from the gym tomorrow, as much as he’d love to he’s not risking driving something that expensive with his system in this much disarray.
They wait in the cold, Nines swaying a little on his feet. Gavin is glad he manages to stay mainly upright because he doesn’t think his pre-constructive software will work fast enough to catch him if he falls.
Nines won’t look at him now, is staring firmly at the ground and biting his lip.
When the taxi arrives, Gavin lets Nines fall in first. The human all but curls up in the corner, his face half-pressed against the glass of the window. Gavin has to delve into his ‘Nines’ file to find the detective’s address again so he can instruct the self-driving vehicle to take them there. The taxi drive itself feels like it takes a year. He’s not sure if it’s the route they’re taking- a hundred languid turns down side-streets- that make his head spin, or the way the car trundles clumsily through the snow. It could be both, his head’s a mess.
But logically, he knows it’s probably because Nines’ leg is touching his, the searing heat of his skin radiating through his stupidly tight jeans, and he spends the entire journey trying to pre-construct ways to climb into his lap.
Gavin practically leaps out at the end of the ride, desperate for the grounding hit of cold air against his hyper-sensitive skin. His face feels like it’s on fire and he knows he doesn’t need to breathe but he still gasps a little for air as he waits for Nines to fall out of the cab after him.
The detective groans as he does, his shaking fingers dropping his keys into the snow. Gavin waits a second but the human is too busy leaning up against a lamp post to notice so he stoops down and retrieves them.
He steers Nines carefully up the steps to his apartment, his hands hovering, but not touching his shoulder. When they get to the door of the apartment, Nines turns suddenly to look at Gavin, a hand grasping the front of his hoodie. Those long fingers, clutching desperately to him, as the human sags a little under the weight of his own body.
“Stay,” he breathes, his voice barely audible. Their noses bump accidentally as Nines sways a little.
Gavin’s thirium pump is pounding against his chest as he takes in the sight before him. He looks at him, really looks at him then, without the aid of any of his analytical software. His eyes are cast down to the floor, uncertainly, hand still fisted into the fabric at Gavin’s chest. The light from the street lamps cast a haunting glow against his features and he looks almost inhuman. Like some ethereal being, too clean, too perfect, even in his rumpled state.
But the main thing is, he’s drunk. And he doesn’t know what he’s doing, doesn’t know what he’s asking for, can’t possibly be-
And Gavin won’t take what he’s not really giving.
So, he removes the hand from the front of his shirt, turns it and places the keys into his open palm.
“Good night, Detective,” he says as firmly as he can when Nines is looking at him like that.
And he turns and walks as fast as he can without slipping down the icy sidewalk. As fast as he fucking can because if he stops to think or slows down, he might change his mind and he can’t do that.
He all but runs home, lets himself into the safe house with hands as shaky as the detective’s had been, his own keys jingling noisily between his fingers. As soon as the door slams behind him he flings the keys across the room so hard they land with a crash on the floor. He crosses the room, leaving at least three jigsaws puzzles destroyed in his path, their pieces skittering across the carpet. He throws himself onto his stupid, rickety bed and exhales the breath he's been holding in, the breath he doesn't even need because FUCK.
He stays face down in the blankets, eyes screwed shut in an attempt to clear his mind of the detective's half-lidded, drunken gaze. Those clumsy, teasing fingertips in the fabric of his hoodie. The shallow breaths. The parted lips. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
Is this what deviancy does to you? He thumps the pillow with his fist. He isn't even sure what's going on inside his body right now, his internal temperatures are sky high, his cooling fans kicked into overdrive. He feels like one of the Eden club patrons, sordid and filthy and predatory. He can understand now why they do it, at least. To burn some of this pent-up energy off that's boiling inside him, threatening to strip his biocomponents raw. Perhaps that’s what he should do; go to the Eden club right now and rent a pretty android with a prettier face than-
But shit, he shouldn't have made that comparison because now all he's thinking about Nines with glistening, glittering skin and...and…
And he's lucky that deviancy gifted him with a good sense of humour because actually the idea of Nines slithering around a pole, makes him laugh into the covers, it's so absurd. Maybe he's safe after all.
Maybe it's just a glitch. A fault in his code. A side effect of that disgusting blue drink.
But the image fades and blurs, changing and warping and suddenly it's him on show and Nines is watching him from one of the Eden lounge plush velvet sofas. Slumped, biting his fingertips, his shirt buttons undone a little, as he watches Gavin from behind those heavy lashes. And fuck if that doesn't go straight to his dick.
Nope, not a glitch then.
He rolls onto his back, blowing a puff of air up to move the hair that flops into his eyes. He pulls his hoodie off in one fluid motion, still too warm.
He goes to pull off his shirt and flinches at the way his system automatically overlays his vision with Nines’ face, as though the fingertips inching over his ribs aren’t cool and artificial but hot and silken.
It’s the drink, he thinks. It’s just the drink.
He plays the audio clip of Nines’ heavy, shallow breaths after their fight and the sound rings in his ears as he rips his shirt over his head and imagines how the human’s lips would feel pressed to the space behind his ear. Searing heat and wet, open-mouthed kisses with more teeth than tongue.
His artificial fingernails scrape down his exposed sternum, the flesh there over-sensitive from the simulated intoxication and he gasps at the way it feels.
He should stop.
His hand splays across his lower abdomen, hesitating as he bites his lower lip. It’s not enough, can’t replicate the feeling of what he wants. The weight, the heat.
His fingertips dance around the waistband of his jeans.
He really should stop.
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Chapter 9: Properly alive and shit
Gavin has a crisis and a realisation.
Hello I've had some really lovely feedback the past couple of days. Thank you to everyone who's reached out on here and tumblr it's been so nice to hear what you guys think! Life's a bit crazy at the moment but I'm still trying to update as quickly as I can :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gavin runs his fingers through his hair, grasping at his scalp, his nails dragging until he can almost feel the sting that should be there. The near burning; not quite pleasure, not quite pain. Entirely not enough either way.
It’s been thirty-two minutes and seventeen seconds since he awoke from his own self-enforced stasis and, despite the effects of the thirium-alcohol having well and truly subsided, he still feels like absolute shit. And not in a hangover kinda way.
That’s the first thing he checked. According to his scan, there's no residual liquor left in his system. In fact, he feels physically very normal. But there’s a clawing in his stomach like something is trying to violently escape from his abdominal cavity. An uncomfortable pressure sat beneath his ribs that squirms every time he thinks about the source. And his mind is racing a hundred miles a minute, he can see the way his LED bathes the room in a red-hot, sulky glow.
He drags his hand down his face and groans, feeling the pull of his artificial skin against his fingers. He knows that this all has less to do with the alcohol and much more to do with the fact he spent a good hour trying to stop himself jerking off to the mental image of his asshole-of-a-human partner.
He definitely ran the risk of overheating, his entire system in disarray, HUD flickering as a system alert flashed feverishly in the corner of his vision. He definitely did not imagine what it would be like to have Nines’ beautiful, pale hands wrapped around his wrists, his throat, his cock. Or the weight and heat of his long, lean body pressing down against his hips. If he were human he’d have lingering red welts up the sides of his ribs from dragging his nails across his skin. But his synthetic skin had soothed over the damage; like the sea washing away the evidence of something ephemeral written in the sand with a stick.
Except the feeling had remained.
And now he’s woken up- after forcing himself into a four hour, reparative stasis- with the same lingering feeling of want. And a whole lot of shame and guilt.
But the worst part is, is that he can't manage to wrap his processors around it, because he hates Nines.
He sighs almost immediately, and buries his face in his hands again, practically whining into the gaps in between his fingers. Even thinking that makes him want to crawl back into stasis for the next week because it's a lie and he knows it.
Okay, so maybe he doesn't hate Nines anymore. He will admit that. But he doesn't like Nines either. He definitely does not like him. He wonders if saying it out loud will somehow trigger something in his brain and all these feelings will be purged from his memory banks.
He tries to unpick the intrusive thoughts the only way he knows how: with evidence and logic. Liking Nines- even as a friend - would involve some kind of agency on Gavin’s part. He’d have to actively think about him in that kind of way. And he doesn’t. Doesn’t even think of him that much at all, actually.
Okay...so that's a bit of a stretch too, he does think about him quite a lot … but they're partners, he's a big part of Gavin’s life. His life, which by all accounts, isn’t very big at all. So it would make sense that the detective takes up approximately 64.2% of his overall data usage.
He also thinks about Tina alot. And Connor. Kinda. Albeit not quite in the same way. He doesn't have nearly as much data in his ‘Tina’ and ‘Connor’ files as he does in his ‘Nines’ folder. Which could be construed as strange, he guesses. He could probably have just as much information in theirs but he doesn't.
Why doesn't he? Gavin steeples his fingers against his lips as he scrunches his face in confusion. Why does he collect so much more data on Nines?
The honest answer is that he notices stuff more with Nines. Notices everything, in fact. The way he holds his coffee cup, his long fingers wrapped around the handle. The exact hue of his lips, like the inside of a seashell. The mole in the centre of the inside of his left wrist. He has it all catalogued away, wants to collect more in fact, but... why? There’s not that impulse with Tina and Connor. He couldn’t tell you how Tina takes her morning tea, not without checking back over the footage he has archived of her. He couldn’t tell you the pattern of the freckles on Connor’s cheeks, not without bringing up a photo of the human for reference. So why does he know that Nines always takes his coffee black with one sweetener, two if it’s first thing in the morning? Or that he could draw each one of the celestial formations of freckles on Nines’ face if he had too.
Why? Why does he even have that data? Every tiny little new addition, it all gets filed away, perfectly catalogued for easy access. I mean, how many variations of a scowl can there possibly be? Apparently thousands. There’s the one he does when he’s confused, the space between his eyebrows creased, the freckles on his forehead aligning. There’s the one that he does when he’s furious, his brow aggressively low, his sharp canines flashing. And he knows every single one, doesn’t even stop to think about why. Until now.
He could argue it's just curiosity, that the detective is just...interesting in all his standoffish-ness. It’s true he acts more like an android than Gavin ever has; is a complete anomaly even amongst the company of his own species. It's a perfectly plausible reason for Gavin's fascination with him. It can certainly be blamed for the desire to collect the data. But it's not curiosity that makes him provoke Nines, that keeps him one step behind him at all times, that has him reaching for him even when he knows he can’t...shouldn’t touch him.
If he's honest, if he’s really honest with himself...it's not curiosity…
God, how long has this been a thing. Days? Weeks? He doesn't know. Probably longer than he'd like to admit.
Terrifyingly he recognises the feeling. He’s felt it before. Flashes of it, tiny traces, over the course of their partnership. When Nines was red faced and breathless, covered in snow outside Cyberlife tower, unsure of what to do for the best. Or Nines in his crumpled shirt and tousled hair, so tired and fragile. Nines at the gym, terrifying and powerful. And of course, Nines outside his apartment, clutching Gavin’s hoodie with his desperate fingers, lashes fluttering, lips parted.
Had it been there the whole time? No...no he remembers how Nines looked to him that first time he saw him. Alien. Terrifying. No, this feeling had come on slowly. So slowly he’d barely notice it make a home in the little spaces between his code. He can feel it in every synthetic vein that runs through his body. He’s a-light with it. And it isn’t fair how sweet it tastes even now in all its veiled un-attainability. Sweet but dangerous. And laced with need and want like he’s never felt before. A need to be close to him, just to exist in each other’s space, to cross the unspoken distance between them. It feels like a virus, blossoming in his brain, altering his code like it’s alive and growing. It fills up every inch of him that's empty and its amazing but also suffocating. He can’t breathe. He knows that’s stupid because he doesn’t need to but his chest feels tight and he wants to claw at his throat and rip this thing, this feeling out before it consumes him. Does it have a name? This emotion, this obsession, this...he daren’t look it in the face, daren't speak it into existence.
Because what's the point?
A thought like a lead weight hits him and he all but flinches, perched on the corner of his bed, naked and exposed.
Nines hates him.
He chews his lip, already on his way to splitting the skin in his intensity.
Okay, again, maybe that's not entirely true. Maybe Nines doesn't hate him anymore. But he doesn't like him. Definitely doesn't like him like THAT. He's not even sure when he stopped being utterly annoyed by Gavin's presence. Or if he ever did.
Except he’s different now to how he was before.
The little voice in his head, the one desperate to be heard, practically rings out in the space between his ears. It’s one of countless minute possibilities but it’s begging Gavin to consider all the options.
Except he doesn’t want to. He huffs, instead and bats it out of his vision.
Nines still talks to him like he’s an idiot, nothing has changed. He's still an asshole 99.9% of the time. Ha. If he didn't feel so shit he would have laughed at that.
Yeah, Nines doesn't care about him.
That’s not true.
He doesn’t give a shit about him. He doesn't-
He helped you.
He didn’t even ask about what happened at the Cyberlife Tower. He didn't want to know he-
Because he knew you didn’t want to talk about it.
He’s quickly losing control over this weird inner monologue he’s having with himself. It’s ridiculous. No matter how hard he tries to shut the door on these thoughts they bounce back with renewed fervour. No matter how hard he reinforces Nines’ indifference they-
He asked you to stay.
Because he was drunk. Gavin audibly growls as he pinches the bridge of his nose.
Not that drunk.
Drunk enough to be stumbling about and...and...apologising...whatever that was about. And-
Drunk enough to speak his true feelings.
Nope. He’s had enough of this. He stands up from the bed for the first time since he awoke. He pushes his hair back off his face and starts pacing the room, kicking jigsaws puzzles out of the way as he does.
Nines was drunk enough to admit he’s a human being with feelings and needs. The need to have a workable relationship with his colleague- hence the apology. The need to be touched, to be supported when he was feeling drunk and desperate- hence him asking him to stay. He probably didn't even care that it was Gavin, just wanted some company. God, why is he still arguing about this
He shuts down the little voice- the deviant inside him- silences it as best he can with his own logic. Because he doesn’t want to think like that, doesn’t want to hope. He just wants to stop thinking about it completely in fact. And even in his determination, the thoughts slip through, sneaking past his defences and he is forced to consider the possibility that Nines...that he….
"For fuck sake," Gavin hisses, balling his fists up against his eye-sockets, lids screwed tightly shut. He doesn’t even know if Nines is into human men. Let alone androids. Let alone...let alone him.
It sounds so pathetic, admitting it, even thinking it in the privacy of his own head.
He bites his lip, the tart tang of thririum coating his tongue.
How do humans deal with this on a regular basis? How do they subject themselves to this willingly every day- the mortifying ordeal of desire in all its intensity?
Because now he has to pretend like he hasn't just had an emotional post-almost-jerkoff breakdown over his feelings for his colleague. That he doesn't get that hot prickly sensation just from being near him. That a not so small part of him wishes he'd stayed last night even if Nines hadn't meant it like Gavin wished he did. God he wishes he did so badly it makes his chest ache and his stomach tense. If he wasn't completely incapable of feeling pain he would have sworn he was in agony just at the thought.
He instinctively wraps his arms around himself, hugging his elbows, his face twisting into a wounded grimace.
Nines will probably wake up none the wiser. Absolutely fine albeit a bit hungover; probably the most rested he's felt in weeks.
If anything he’s probably regretting inviting Gavin out in the first place. Their relationship is already in a weird place. This just makes it weirder. Gavin begs whatever higher power might possibly be listening to keep Nines from ever knowing just how weird this has made things.
The thought of sitting across the desk from him on Monday, grey eyes boring into him at any given moment...
An electric current sweeps across his skin, like a flame engulfing him and he feels the coil in his stomach pulse warningly. He hisses and punches the wall, concrete fracturing like a spider-web around his fist. He pulls his hand back, watching the way the skin retracts from his knuckles exposing the white plastic.
He has to get out of here.
He hastily grabs his jeans and pulls them up and over his hips. His stress level indicator is pulsing menacingly in his HUD, as though ticking away like a hidden explosive ready to blow. He grabs his shirt, not bothering with his hoodie, and wrestles his arms in as he searches for his keys amongst the debris that litters the floor of the safe house. He finds them in a pile of baked bean jigsaw pieces and stuffs them in his pocket. He pulls his shoes on, swearing once, twice, three times as he loops the laces tight enough he should feel pain. But he doesn’t.
The door slams shut behind him with a loud bang that reverberates in Gavin’s chest but he doesn’t care because suddenly he’s running, shoes wet and slipping in the snow, as far away as he can. He doesn’t know where he’s going. Doesn’t care either. Just has to get away. It’s still dark. Still night-time to some although it's technically morning by now. Everyone’s either asleep or wasted. He wishes he was too.
He thinks of Nines again. The first proper nights’ rest he’s had in god knows how long. Maybe he never made it to the bed, instead passing out on the sofa, a tangle of long limbs under the make-shift blanket of his coat.
The thoughts in his head won’t leave him. They pulse through his brain, pounding- so many bottled feelings threatening to run free. He feels like his head might explode, the thirium pooling and oozing through broken skin at his temples, along with his thoughts, his feelings, his memories, too much for one artificial vessel to hold onto.
He rounds a corner, the street bathed in a rosy glow, reflected off the lilac snow and up the brickwork of the alleyway. A dead end.
He stops. The snow ahead is untouched, a thick carpet that covers the floor, clearly hiding a multitude of sins as Gavin's eyes trail up to the frosted dumpsters at the end of the road. There are lumps here and there, unidentified objects lying frozen beneath the snow. He pads forwards, the snow squeaking as his shoes compact it beneath his feet. There's a steady stream of fat, fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky, kissing the skin of his bare arms as he comes to a halt at the apex of the three buildings.
He brushes some of the snow off the top of one of the dumpsters and heaves himself up and onto it. When he stands, he's almost within reach of the fire escape that hugs the brickwork above him. He jumps, catching the icy bottom rung within his grasp and pulling himself up He scrambles up the fire escape, fingers slick and damp from the ice that clings to the metal like a diamond coating. When he reaches the top it's snowing more heavily, the feathery flakes coating his hair, his skin, his clothes. They don't melt the way they would if he were human, if there was heat and warm, red blood pulsing beneath his skin. Instead he's reminded once again of the cold, clinical way his skin fails to react to the temperature. No rosy hue, or shivers; not a goosebump in sight. Just the smooth, cool expanse of synthetic fluid, wrapped around an equally cold, hard chassis.
He paces the roof, his footprints making clumsy patterns in the snow. The Detroit skyline is hazy in the rosy light of the silent snowfall, the sharp edges of buildings blunted. The lights of windows and cars cast bleeding shades of white, pale peach, lilac and cyan across the scene. A cityscape of muted pastels on sepia.
He walks towards the edge and crouches, perched on top of the world. Up here in the cool air, the intangible brain matter of his thoughts feel less swollen and he soothes his thirium pump to a quiet pulse, letting the tension from his limbs release. He sits down heavily, swinging his legs over the edge of the building, sending a cascade of white powder as he does.
He closes his eyes and everything feels still.
When the first round of android rights laws are passed, Gavin doesn't know how to feel.
The laws state androids are recognised as a new intelligent life form, equal to humans. They have the same rights to freedom, to have jobs, to own property. Control of Cyberlife is to be handed almost entirely over to Jericho.
He should feel different. Like the active recognition of his status somehow makes him more real. But it doesn't. He just feels conflicted and confused.
But then again, when does he not?
He gets into work on Monday morning to find that the DPD have attempted to throw a kind of brunch party to celebrate. It's definitely just an excuse for the humans to eat donuts and have music on. The break room is full of officers and a few of the reception androids crowded round one of the small tables. Someone has put the radio on and they're all listening to an interview with the President of Detroit. Something about that woman's voice makes Gavin grimace.
He doesn't react fast enough when Connor corners him. He throws an arm around his shoulders and he is hit with the overwhelmingly sweet smell of strawberry frosting. And cheap aftershave.
"Congratulations, Gavin!" He grins. He's wearing a black and white floral shirt under a thick-knit jumper. It's almost understated compared to his usual attire.
"For what? I didn't do anything," he grumbles, trying to prize Connor's arm from around his shoulder. He catches the human’s eye and decides to try something.
He looks at him, studying his face, cataloguing the way his jaw slopes, the soft peach fuzz on his cheeks, the peppering of moles and freckles. He files away the gradient of each spiral curl that falls floppily into his face. He notes that when he smiles, two dimples appear either side of his mouth, as though someone has poked him twice and left two indents in his soft skin. Perfectly imperfect.
But he doesn't feel anything.
"On your right to citizenship! It's a momentous day," Connor continues, not noticing the way Gavin's LED must be swirling a full cycle of gold. He relinquishes his hold on the android's shoulders and turns to face him.
"Strange, I still feel like a piece of plastic," Gavin scoffs, pretending to check himself over as though he's suddenly turned into a walking flesh suit overnight. He hopes his attempt at humour can disguise his sour mood.
Connor laughs good-naturedly and claps him on the back,
"Hey, what are you doing this Thursday?"
"Absolutely nothing as always," Gavin says confused because it's not as though his new social status means he's suddenly going to have a jam-packed life outside of work and jigsaw puzzles. He assumes Connor is just being polite and gets ready to decline whatever social proposal the human offers him.
"You should come over for dinner. We were going to go to the work Christmas party but Nines won't come, obviously," Connor says rolling his eyes.
"I am not surprised in the slightest," Gavin responds but his thirium pump beats a little faster at the mention of a certain name. He's still not seen him. Isn't sure if he wants to.
"Please, think about it," Connor says, his brown eyes unfairly pleading. "If you don't Nines will make me watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ again and I may actually die of boredom."
"I'll think about it," Gavin says, laughing weakly despite himself. Connor beams at his reaction, like Gavin has just made his fucking day. It's rude really, who gave Connor the right to look like that?
It's then that he feels himself being dragged down into a tight embrace. It’s Tina, her arms wrapped around his neck, saying something about him being 'properly alive and shit.' It's his first ever hug. And it's kind of great. Though he won’t let on and he grumbles into her hair until she pulls back, a wide grin on her face. She’s brought party hats in and she slaps a pink and yellow one on his head, twanging the string under his chin.
"There, now you look cute," she says triumphantly. Gavin smiles in a pained kind of way, already pre-constructing ways to rip the hat off and into the bin without her noticing. He watches as she puts another onto one of the pretty ST300 receptionists. The android in question pulls her down into a hug and Tina’s face goes bright red. He interestingly notes the massive increase in her body temperature and heart rate at the contact and files it away for blackmail purposes.
He can hear Hank and Connor retelling the story of the revolution to a few officers, enough people suitably distracted for Gavin to take his chance to slink away.
His thirium pump regulator almost jumps into his throat when he catches sight of Nines sat at his desk. He looks as bored as ever, fingers splayed delicately over his touch screen, not a donut in sight. He's wearing a black button-down that makes his neck look long and slender and he's got his sleeves half rolled up so Gavin can't help but stare at the lean muscles in his forearms as he scrolls through his terminal. It's only when he walks around and can see his face, that he realises he's wearing a pair of wide, black-rimmed glasses that he's never seen him wearing before.
Gavin realises in that moment that he's absolutely, completely, utterly fucked.
Nines doesn’t say a word, or even look up when Gavin settles down at his desk opposite him. He is chewing his lower lip, staring intently at his terminal, his nose a little scrunched beneath the large frames. He's not frowning as much as he usually is and Gavin almost laughs when he realises it's probably because he can see properly now.
He can't help but run a scan and picks up that his heart rate is incredibly fast for someone sat so perfectly still. The hand that isn't prodding at his terminal touch screen is clenched into a fist on top of the desk, knuckles white, thumb frantically tapping at the first joint of his forefinger.
He wonders if he's thinking about the other night. God knows Gavin has been stewing on it all weekend. Or, maybe the legal recognition of androids as living beings is what's got him agitated; the final nail in the coffin of their tentative partnership. Perhaps Gavin is only tolerated as an accessory to the investigation, a tool, but never an equal.
He continues to torture himself with these hypothetical 'what ifs', biting the synthetic skin on the inside of his cheek until he tastes the acrid chemical tang of thirium, watching the human out of the corner of his eye.
Nines hums a little at some notification that pings up on the right of his screen but doesn’t look up. Not until everyone has calmed down and gone back to work and he can push his glasses up his nose with that agitated fore-finger.
Then, every coded thought passing through Gavin’s system falters as Nines reaches into his drawer and slides a long, thin box over the desk towards him. He tips his head to the side to pin Gavin with one of his dead-pan, unreadable looks and asks quietly,
“So, how does it feel to be alive?”
Gavin stares at him, his yellow LED spiralling in the reflection of Nines' new glasses, trying to unpick his expression. His face feels as warm as ever under the scrutiny of that gaze. He scrunches his nose in confusion and reaches forward to pick up the box. It’s plain black but expensive looking. Very Nines. He opens it cautiously but can't help the grin that spreads across his face when he sees the contents. He looks up at the human.
“Don’t see what all the fuss is about," he says, feigning nonchalance.
Nines’ mouth twitches a little, the tiniest movement on his otherwise serene face but Gavin knows it’s his weird approximation of a smile, and he turns back to his computer.
Gavin grins despite himself and props the little plaque up at the end of his desk, his name engraved in silver.
"Nice hat, by the way," Nines says, his eyes fixed firmly back on his computer screen, but his lips curled ever so slightly in an awkward smirk.
I hope to have the next chapter up by the end of the weekend. It's....another big'un.
Chapter 10: Buy a fucking scarf
The lads go to the landfill site.
Hello it's me again. Sorry this update was a little slower than usual. Life is crazy atm, I'm going through a break up and work is busy and I'm starting a new uni course in September so things got overwhelming this week and I needed to take a little break. BUT I am back on track. I split this chapter into two parts for pacing reasons and the fact it was ridiculously long. I'm still working on the latter half because I'm an awkward perfectionist.
Thank you once again to @YouMeAtNope for being the best proof reader and to @zombieprinz for the best playlist to work to.
This tiny part of the internet has been amazing, thank you for all your comments, they've made life that little bit better for me recently.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The sounds of the docks, the rhythmic hum of machinery and the haunting call of shore-birds and gulls fill his aural processors. The chimneys of distant bank-side factories pipe plumes of smoke against the grey-velvet clouds, swollen with snow. There are android limbs as far as the eye can see, each one dusted with a thick layer of frost, some half-buried in the snow, some fresh and oozing thirium, intermingled within piles upon piles of stuff . A whole city of broken parts, peaks and valleys, framed against the real Detroit skyline. The hot, vaporous breath of diggers and cranes billow up into the wind, like huge beasts slowly carving paths through the hills of scrap. Gavin’s vision swims with the almost static-y interference of snow. The wind is cold and cutting and sends snowflakes in horizontal streams across his HUD. The VETA sign blinks and turns, ominously creaking, like a red-hot branding iron and he imagines the way the snowflakes must collide and sizzle on the surface of the bulbs way, way up above them.
An involuntary shiver runs up his spine, that he knows has nothing to do with his temperature sensors, as he locks eyes with a detached ocular implant staring vacantly back at him from the snow. This place categorically gives him the creeps. He’s not sure what’s worse, the never-ending stretch of dismembered faces or the fact that they’re thrown in alongside the rest of the trash: crushed cans, plastic bags and shopping carts.
He casts a glance over his shoulder to where the detective is stood, on the metaphorical shore of this sea of plastic and discarded biocomponents. He has his hands jammed in his pockets; the collar of his wool overcoat turned up against the icy wind as always. Buy a fucking scarf , Gavin thinks, half-annoyed because the human will probably end up ill. His hair is wind swept and the usually well-defined curls are messy and damp with melting snowflakes. There are layers of frost forming in crystalised waves where the snow catches on the tips of his hair, his brows and his eyelashes. He sees Gavin looking at him and stands up a little straighter, correcting his posture.
“Why don’t you go wait in the car?” Gavin asks, raising his voice to carry over the wind and the few meters of space between them. His inner voice says he’s not asking out of concern. That there’s no way in hell Nines would be happy about being knee deep in android guts. That one of his black, patent oxfords probably cost the same as all of Gavin’s system repairs put together. That he really can’t be dealing with a grumpy human, on top of everything else going on in his mind. But a quick scan of the detective shows that he’s shivering and there’s something about the pink tip of his nose that makes Gavin want to wrap him up in a soft blanket. He doesn't dwell on those thoughts any longer than necessary, he’s learning to accept them but acknowledge them as little as possible.
Nines scrunches his rosy nose and places a shoe into the snowy wreckage with a soft crunch. His leg disappears up to mid-calf and Gavin can practically hear the slow exhale from here. He’s stubborn, he will give him that. He watches, half amused as the human tip-toes through the undulating refuse, his arms sticking out comically to balance himself. He side-steps a dismembered torso and kind-of hops over the tip of a protruding trash bag, the black polyethylene dusted with frost. The concentration on his face is kind of endearing, his brow furrowed in that tell-tale way that says he’s frustrated, his eyes focused on his goal: the space beside Gavin in the sea of refuge.
He almost makes it.
On his last step his leg gets stuck on something unseen beneath the surface of the snow and he trips forwards, sending up a shower of powder as he does. He grabs the front of Gavin’s hoodie, nearly pulling them both down together. It’s only because Gavin’s reflexes are super-charged, sending him lunging forwards to yank him up by his forearm, which prevents them both falling face first into the snow.
Gavin steadies him, his one hand still vice-like on the detective’s forearm. His other hand, somehow in all the confusion, snaking its way under his overcoat to the soft fabric of the shirt at the small of his back. He’s instantly struck by the warmth he finds there, that thin layer of textured fabric the only thing separating his fingertips from the skin beneath. It’s blazing hot, so very different from the simulated heat of his own body. He’s so preoccupied with the way it all feels beneath his hand that he almost misses the tiny hitch of breath at the flex of his fingers. He glances up; Nines is staring vehemently at the snow, his hands still tightly clasped in the fabric of his hoodie, the knuckles white and pained against his pale skin. It’s as if Gavin’s gaze moving to linger on him snaps something inside of Nines and he lets go of the material with so much force he almost falls again, stepping back to steady himself, his feet crunching in the snow and unseen debris. The distance is purposeful and Gavin feels it immediately; a frostiness that has nothing to do with the weather.
The human clears his throat.
“Thanks,” he says, not looking at him. Gavin notes the subtle change of intensity in the pink of his cheeks, a shade darker than before. There’s a silence then as thick and heavy as the stuff they’re wading through, permeated only by the distant hum of the docks and scrap-yard machinery and the lone cry of a gull perched high on the VETA sign.
"What are we even looking for?" Gavin huffs out after a moment, desperate to break the awkward silence with even the dumbest of questions.
"The guy we interrogated for assaulting you worked for a transportation company, they used this landfill for their waste deposits. It's a long shot. But at this point I'm willing to look into any and all leads," Nines licks his lips and sighs. It doesn’t really answer Gavin’s question. He knows why they’re here. He just doesn’t know what exactly Nines expects to find in 400 acres of shit.
"Good place to dump a body, I guess,” he muses, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Who's to say what's scrap and what's murder these days?” He nudges a limp, lifeless android with his toe gently. These poor suckers died too soon, missed the android rights laws that would have protected them from being disassembled and sold for scrap. Two months ago the sight wouldn’t have caused anyone a second glance; the remnants of discontinued merchandise, defective product recalls, no matter what names humans gave them. He can’t help but stare into the vacant eyes of the AP700 looking blankly up at him, wondering what happened in her lifetime to lead her to this place.
"There's no evidence to suggest they're involved with the original murder," Nines says flatly. "But what else have we got?"
Gavin runs a scan on the surrounding area, picking up the model and serial numbers of any android parts his sensors can find, in the sea of snow. He absorbs the data like a sponge, filing it away carefully in case it's needed later. There's nothing glaringly obvious. They could be here for weeks, even with his upgraded software, before they catalogued the whole landfill. And that's not accounting for the multiple trucks pulling up every day to dump another load of scrap.
"This is useless," Gavin grumbles, fingering the lint in his pocket and grinding his teeth.
"You don't have to tell me," Nines half hisses as the wind picks up and howls between the morbid mountains of plastic carrion. The human licks his lips, chapped and red from the cold. "I'm calling it."
"Fine," Gavin grumbles. He knows Nines is right but the futility of it all is making something inside his head itch. There’s nothing more frustrating than this.
They wade carefully back in the direction of the entrance, until they can finally see the frozen ground beneath the refuse. Nines shakes the snow of his shoes and wrinkles his nose at the scuffs on his Oxfords but says nothing. Gavin is always fascinated by any tiny flaws in the otherwise spotless veneer but tries hard not to laugh at the human’s particularity as he bends down to brush the frost from the edges of his coat.
"Nothing about this crime makes sense," the human rubs his forehead, his jaw set. He sighs and pulls out the cardboard carton of his cigarettes and places one between his teeth. He carries on speaking as he lights it, the cigarette bobbing as he enunciates, listing key-pieces of evidence and how they could tie in, his voice stilted by the tension in his jaw. Gavin likes the way he cups his hand around the flame to protect it from the wind. It's a strange thought to have, he supposes, but the slender bones of his fingers make for a pretty shelter. He watches as the detective's eyes roll slightly under the flutter of his eyelashes with the first drag. He releases a ragged sigh, smoke blooming between his lips in tangled silver clouds. The skin of his face and neck looks cold and damp, a rosy tinge to his nose. Humans really are fragile, Gavin thinks. Nines notices his gaze and flicks the ash off his cigarette irritably.
"What do you think?"
It’s then that Gavin realises he hasn’t actually been listening to what he’s been saying. He shrugs and toes a little peak of snow with his shoe, nudging a small avalanche into existence.
"I think that we should go look back over the files again," Gavin offers half-heartedly.
Nines puts the cigarette to his lips again and takes another drag, visibly annoyed by his lack of input. There was once a time where Nines wouldn’t ask Gavin’s opinion on anything, he supposes he should feel grateful but he doesn’t really have anything to offer. Nothing that he hasn’t already vocalised a hundred times in the evidence locker, when they’re pouring over biocomponents and splinters of plastic in little bags.
“Okay...okay,” Nines says reluctantly. He runs his free hand through his hair, dislodging a frosting of snow with his fingers. In one fluid motion he turns to walk back to the car, pulling his overcoat a little tighter around his middle.
Gavin casts one last look over his shoulder at the urban graveyard and sighs before following.
Even once they’re back inside the car Nines is still shivering, his skin taking on an almost bluish tinge. Despite the many times he’s been reprimanded for messing with the dashboard controls, Gavin flicks the heat dial to max. Nines shoots him a strange look but doesn’t say anything, just rubs his hands together in an attempt to warm them. The car makes a comforting humming noise as the heat from the vents increases. It’s satisfying to watch Nines’ own core temperature increase with it, his hands no longer trembling as he slides his glasses on and clasps the wheel.
The drive back to the main entrance is slow, the car complaining a little as its tires crunch over stray tin cans and crumpled egg cartons. There’s not really a clear path-way per say, just a make-shift road where the rubbish naturally accumulates at either side. Something much bigger, like a digger or a crane, had obviously trodden the path before them, a lot of the trash compacted by its weight which made it slightly easier for the car to roll forwards. The wind has picked up again and the windscreen wipers lurch to and fro against the onslaught of snowflakes, squeaking rhythmically as they do. The gates finally loom in front of them ominously as Nines’ rolls the car the final few metres to the exit. Gavin can hear the resistance in the tires as they struggle to maneuver over the icy floor.
“Wait a second,” Nines grumbles under his breath suddenly and kills the engine. He’s looking out of Gavin’s window and the android turns to see what he’s noticed.
Gavin wipes a clearer porthole in the foggy clouds of condensation on the inside of the glass with his sleeve. There’s a little corrugated iron shack by the way-side before the gates. It’s half encompassed by piles of junk, not surprising they missed it on the way in, but it looks to be some kind of make-shift office. Despite the covering of snow, he can see it’s made up of several pieces of different coloured corrugated iron, patched together with sheets of chicken wire. He’s almost surprised that it’s withstood the wind and the heavy carpet of snow laying over the roof, the metal buckling with the weight around the middle.
There’s a man out front in a red plaid coat, bent over some kind of work bench. He seems to be looking at a rolled-out sheet of paper, covered in tools. He hasn’t noticed them yet but that’s unsurprising given the fact his hood is pulled up over his head and he has his back to them.
Nines sniffs and pushes his glasses up his nose. He fingers the collar of his shirt before pulling his coat around him and getting out of the car. Gavin groans a little and drags his hood up and over his head.
When he ducks out of the car, Nines is already trudging purposefully through the snow, a black shape against the sea of muted white and grey. Gavin pulls the strings of his hoodie tight and trudges after him, dragging his feet so he leaves a trench in the snow behind him.
“Detroit Police Department,” Nines says, holding up his pass as they approach. The man turns at the noise, his face pinched and ruddy from the cold. “My name’s Detective Stern, this is my partner, Gavin.”
Gavin nods from beneath his hood. The man casts a scathing look to him as Gavin comes to stand beside Nines. He tries his best not to be judgemental but the guy looks like your average human scumbag.
He runs his facial recognition software as the man turns to face them properly, although it fails the first few times as the man readjusts his hood.
Sync in progress...
DOB 25/03/1982 Waste management
Criminal Record: Illegal waste dumping, D&D, assault...
The list goes on. Gavin sets his jaw. Rand's eyes keep lingering on him and he watches as he takes in the designation written in crude text to the left of his sternum. If that weren’t an immediate giveaway, Gavin decides to give the man what he wants and pulls his hood off. He watches in amusement as the man’s top lip pulls back over his teeth.
“What do you want?” Rand asks, his voice bored and gravelly. He’s holding a hammer in one of his dirty gloved hands and his grip tightens on it ominously. He doesn’t look at Nines, just allows his gaze to rake over Gavin, taking in each incriminating piece of evidence; the cyberlife-blue armband, the holographic triangle and finally the pulsing LED at his temple.
“We’re investigating this site in connection to an on-going homicide investigation,” Nines says. “The two victims, a human and an android-”
“Fucking scrap dumping is murder now?” Rand bristles.
Nines clears his throat, attempting to ignore the ardent bigotry and continues,
“We just want to ask a few questions.”
“Go ahead,” Rand answers, feigning nonchalance, though he’s staring at Gavin again.
“What’s your role here?” Nines asks, grimacing as a particularly icy gust of wind whips past his face.
“I’m the site manager,” Rand says, folding his arms and leaning back against the workbench.
“Do you have any regular customers you deal with, anyone who might have links to the south-detroit storage units?” Nines continues, shoulders drawn high against the cold.
Gavin eyes up the open door beside the work-bench. Inside he can see a fragment of what must be some kind of workshop-come-office, wires and tools dangling from the ceiling like vines, and a desk littered with all manner of little pieces of metal.
“If I did, do you think I’d turn them into the cops?” Rand says, his voice low and accusatory.
“Sir, we’re investigating a double homicide. Withholding information is…”
Gavin doesn’t hear the rest as he quickly ducks inside the shack. He knows he’s probably got about ten seconds to scan this place before Rand casts his remorseless gaze back to the space where Gavin was just stood. There’s another two workbenches inside and an old-fashioned cash register. The first workbench is littered with all sorts of pieces of shit, wires, nodes, motors, pipes. He runs his hand over some things, picking up a few stray pieces of metal to examine between his thumb and forefinger. Nothing exciting. He runs a generic scan, picking up fingerprints and random smatterings of DNA and chemicals, anything that might prove useful at a later date. The second workbench is covered in blueprints for some kind of industrial scale snow plough. There’s a cork noticeboard above it, with bits of paper and photographs pinned to it. Gavin brushes his fingertips over a few pieces, one photograph- a scantily clad woman- pinned with a single drawing pin moves to the side and reveals a second layer of paper. There’s a receipt, pertaining to a list of spare parts of some sort and a flyer with a picture of a fist emblazoned on it. There’s a slogan written on the inside of the arm, beside a crudely drawn triangle and Gavin stares for a second before he realises where he’s seen that slogan before.
NOT ALIVE .
The words stare back at him like they have eyes of their own, burning deep into Gavin’s chest so much so that his thirium pump starts to hum it’s beating so fast. His stomach drops. He brings his fingertips to the edge of the piece of glossy paper and pulls so that it rips away from the pin holding it in place.
He can hear the argument outside getting a little more heated and knows he has precious seconds before Rand realises he’s missing. He shoves the flyer in his pocket and backs away from the corkboard, scanning every inch of the shack as he goes.
When he re-emerges, Nines casts a look over Rand’s shoulder at him and the jig is up. The man whips around as Gavin hastily tries to return to the place he was stood a minute before.
“What are you doing in there?” he barks.
Gavin scrunches his nose, weighing up his options. He could proceed with caution, noting Rand’s panicked heart rate and ever increasing cortisol levels. But he’s never been very good at subtlety.
He pulls the flier out from his pocket and holds it up for the man to see.
“Are you a paying member of the Anti-Android Society?” Gavin asks, one eyebrow cocked accusingly.
Nines blanches behind the man and Gavin can practically hear his inner monologue of what-the-absolute-fuck-are-you-doing?
“What’s it to you, plastic?” Rand spits, his entire body tensing at the glossy piece of paper between Gavin’s fingers.
“If we could refrain from-” Nines starts to say but Gavin cuts in.
“I dunno, you just look like the kinda guy who would get a kick out of ripping an android to pieces,” Gavin tests, stepping forwards until the flyer is inches away from Rand’s face. Rand rips the piece of paper from Gavin’s hands and scrunches it in his fist. “Maybe even shooting a human that got in the way? Huh?”
“Think you’ve got quite a mouth on you,” Rand growls, squaring up to the android.
“Think I’ve touched a nerve actually, asshole,” Gavin retaliates, taking a step forward.
Rand goes to swing but Gavin’s faster, of course. He grabs the front of his coat and shoves him backwards into the workbench, the tools clanking with the impact.
“That’s enough, Gavin!” Nines shouts, pulling Gavin back by the back of his hoodie.
Rand snarls, his face red and twisted in rage.
“You’ve got nothing on me, tin can,” he growls.
“Oh yeah, you really think we’re here by chance?” Gavin scoffs, laying the bait out on the floor. It’s a long shot, a complete gamble in fact, but Rand looks shocked by his question.
There’s a moment where a hundred different emotions flicker across the man’s face: anger, caution, fear, panic. It’s like his brain adds up every single possibility and lands on the conclusion that Gavin may actually be telling the truth. It’s exactly what Gavin had hoped for and he’s half amazed at himself that it actually fucking worked? Regardless of whether this man is the guy they’re looking for, he sure as hell is guilty of something. This kind always are; a classic brute with more muscle than brains, shitting on the android that took his job no doubt.
And fuck if there isn't something….familiar about him.
The thought hits Gavin like a truck and he feels his files lurch like they're gonna spill over into his vision and he has to stop himself from panicking.
His face .
He overlays it with a picture of a pixelated blur from his corrupted memory files. There's only one clear shot of a face he has from the night he awoke. The night he was beaten and set on fire. The night he got his scars.
And it's the face of the man in front of him. It's the first time he's looked at those files since his repairs and his facial recognition scanner pulls up the match instantaneously. He can practically feel his LED cycle to red, the shift near burning his temple as it does. Rand turns an impossibly dark shade of beetroot, noticing the change, his fists balled up at his sides as Gavin starts towards him.
And then he bolts, running as fast as he can through the rubbish, between towers of scrap, as far away as he can get from the two law enforcers.
Gavin goes to chase after him but Nines’ pulls him back, grabbing at the back of his hoodie.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he hisses, his face completely incredulous. “He could be armed, he could be-”
Gavin just shoves Nines aside and takes off, running as fast as his limbs can manage through the snowy quagmire of ice and rubbish. He quickly has time to hear Nines hurl a string of curses at him over the sound of his pounding thirium pump before he’s too far away to hear anything but the wind roaring in his ears.
Rand is quick but clumsy. His feet hit the ground heavily and Gavin can see him slipping a little on the ice. He stops to pull a mound of junk, made up of android parts and trash bags, crashing down in front of Gavin so he has to quickly divert, running instead up the sloped hills of debris on the right hand side, his feet sinking beneath him as he scrambles across.
Gavin casts a glance over his shoulder and sees Nines jump into his car. He doesn’t like the human’s chances of catching up with either of them in that. The terrain is much too clunky and Gavin’s having trouble even with his software navigating the least-treacherous route through the icy, plastic jungle.
Rand has put some distance between them now. He’s scrabbling over the chain link fence at the edge of the scrapyard, the wire bowing under his weight as he pulls himself up and over.
Gavin all but falls down the sloping junk, sending a shower of debris falling with him. He runs to close the distance, reaching the fence with a crash that sends the wire clanging and reverberating from the impact.
Rand is on the opposite side now, scrambling up and out of the snow. Gavin starts to climb; he’s quicker and more agile than the human and he should be able to traverse this in enough time to catch up with him. As Gavin reaches the top, he sees Rand pull out something from the back of his snow covered jeans. Fear punches through his gut with such force at the sight of the gun, clasped in the human’s sweaty hands, that he all but throws himself off the top. He hears the gun-shot as he’s in midair and tries to contract his body, pulling his knees up to his chest so he can hit the floor as the smallest target possible.
He smashes into the snow at the bottom of the fence and rolls into a standing position as quick as he possibly can because holy-fucking-shit, how has he ended up in this mess? He spends approximately 0.27 seconds checking his body for gun-shot damage and, finding no glaring system errors, assumes the human missed. He can see Rand turn to run again, his hand still holding the gun. The sun is low in the sky here, no longer eclipsed by mountains of garbage and plastic corpses. The light refracts off the snow and Gavin can’t help but bring his arm up to his face to shield himself from the glare.
Everything ahead of him is sparkling gold and silver and platinum, the sun’s rays bouncing off every glistening surface as it squeezes between a gap in the heavy clouds. He can make out the human’s shape running down the empty road, slipping and stuttering on the icy surface and twisting back every few paces to check on Gavin’s own pursuit.
At the far end of Gavin’s vision there’s another road, running perpendicular to this one, the one they drove up to get here in the first place. He sees Nines’ car swerve on the icy tarmac up ahead and onto the road towards Rand.
Gavin urges his legs to move faster, feeling the thirium pump through his synthetic muscles, his joints screaming under the pressure. He can barely feel his feet touching the ground anymore, he’s practically gliding atop the icy floor.
There’s another gunshot and Gavin feels it whip past his right ear. The hazy image of Rand pointing the gun at him warps and blurs as the sun hits his silhouette.
Another bang and Gavin feels the reverberation in his chest and has to look down to check he’s not hit. There’s no electric blue blooming across his sternum, no force from the impact, no splintering of plastic. He snaps his head up, eyes on his target, a cross hair practically forming around Rand as he pumps his limbs forward.
He watches as Rand pauses and looks over his shoulder, the barrel of his gun turning with him. There’s a flash behind him as the sun hits one of Nines’ car mirrors just right and Gavin’s vision is lit up like white flame. He can just make out the figure of the detective scrambling out of the vehicle one arm raised.
In that moment, Gavin is aware of two things. One, that Nines has his hands wrapped around his own gun, the metal flashing in the sunlight, and two, that there’s an 11.2% chance he’ll make the shot before Rand does.
He’s not sure how much time actually passes or what happens in that moment. Because he’s running a hundred background processes, each calculating the probability of the detective’s survival against another hundred likely scenarios. He’s also running an internet search on the fatality percentages of gun-shot wounds at a four meter range. The probability of the bullet hitting a major artery. He sees a full body scan of the human body, each little vein and artery highlighted, so fragile, so vital, each one capable of rupturing violently under the impact of a bullet.
He hears the shot.
There’s nothing for a second, if that’s even how long it is. Nothing but the scene before him framed in his HUD, lit up like a nuclear blast by the white hot sunshine bursting through the clouds, the snow whirling in a frenzied spiral in the spaces between the three people.
And then Nines’ body contracts, spasming under the impact. He staggers, stepping backwards, off balance until his back hits the car door.
He can see the blood; can see it so vividly, deep scarlet and blooming like the deadliest flower as Nines’ brings his long, pale fingers up to touch the wound, fingertips stained red.
Gavin runs. He just runs as fast as he fucking can towards Nines who is looking down in shock.
Rand shouts something, his voice warped by the force of the wind and starts running too, away from the car. Gavin doesn’t care. His brain doesn’t even stop to calculate the percentage possibility of him catching up now that he’s so close. It’s probably quite high, he vaguely thinks in the back of his mind, but diminishing with every second he turns his head from his target to look at the human slumped against the car.
The sun dips behind another veil of clouds and the scene before him darkens and becomes agonisingly clearer. He sees now in perfect clarity the way Nines twitches, bringing his hand up to look at his splayed palm. His fingers held aloft are sticky and red. Nines’ grey eyes take in the sight before him before he buckles violently, his face contorted in pain and tries to shrug out of his coat, only half succeeding as his knees give way.
Gavin gets to him just as he begins to slip. He manages to wrap an arm around the human’s midriff and tries to steady him as Nines’ eyes go vacant, staring at the space behind Gavin’s head. His coat falls to the floor, with a thunk in the snow and there’s just so much blood. He looks down at him, hands shaking as he tries to hold the man up, staring at the open wound in his upper arm. The human’s bloody fingers grasp at the front of his hoodie and some terrified part of Gavin half laughs half sobs at the irony of the situation. They’ve been here before.
“Nines, why did you get out the car you f-fucking idiot, y-you! Shit-” he can’t get the words out, can’t make his brain work because there’s a hundred blinking error messages in his vision, wrapped around the unmistakable sight of blood blooming across Nines’ shirt. “Fuck, Nines, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m-” he knows he’s babbling but he can’t stop because there’s blood everywhere. He doesn’t know if he’s capable of crying, if that’s something that was ever programmed into him but his cheeks are wet and he doesn’t know if that’s tears or snow or blood or-
Nines looks like he’s trying hard to remember something from years ago, his expression so vacant, eyes not focusing on anything. Gavin wedges him against the car and tries to press his hands against the wound to stem the flow of blood. The human buckles against the pressure, crying out, suddenly wrenched back to reality by the pain. Nines grabs at Gavin’s neck, his fingers smearing blood against him as he tries to stand up.
“I-I’m fine, I think,” Nine hisses but he’s white as a sheet and shaking. “I called for back up bef….before.”
“I’m gonna call an ambulance,” Gavin almost whispers, already dialling internally, his LED flickering red, yellow, red, yellow. He shakily tells the operator where they are, forces the words out as best he can, and asks them to hurry. Every scan he runs on Nines is blinking another error alert because his vitals are spiking.
He lowers him to the ground, gently resting the human up against the car as best he can. His hands are shaking so much he can barely hold on. Nines is doing that broken-puppet thing again, all limbs and stiff joints, splayed haphazardly against the icy ground. Gavin hisses and reaches forwards, Nines still refusing to let go of his neck and his hoodie. He takes his glasses off and sticks them in his pocket. His trembling fingers start to unloop the detective’s belt, the metal clasp rattling as he does.
“What are you doing?” Nines asks, eyes wide, his voice breathy as his lungs labour against the pain. Of course he’s lucid enough to question this, Gavin inwardly chides as he unclips the gold metal from the leather.
“Don’t get excited,” Gavin says through gritted teeth as he shimmies the leather through the belt loops of his trousers, trying to keep his voice light but his mind focused. “Need to stop the blood.”
Nines gives a weak chuckle, head tilted back against the car door as Gavin finally pulls the last bit off his sharp hips. He pulls the detective up slightly and nudges his arm so he can wrap the leather around the above the wound. Nines flinches and Gavin sees a tear roll down his cheeks as his face contorts into a grimace. He licks his lips, trying to work out a way to pull the belt taught without causing the human immeasurable pain.
“Fuck it,” he says and flings the belt down. He shrugs out of his hoodie and wrenches it until he rips a huge segment of material off. He snatches the scrap up and holds it to the wound, pushing down as hard as he can to stop the blood.
“Fuck,” Nines hisses, his face scrunched in pain. God, the blood has pooled all down his arm and there’s...there’s a lot. It’s completely stained his dark grey shirt and his face is white and wet with sweat and tears and snow.
“It’s okay, shit, you’re okay, you’re gonna be okay” Gavin isn’t sure if he’s saying it for his own benefit or Nines’. His fingers are itching to do something other than stem the flow of blood and he doesn’t know what to do for the best or whether he should just follow impulse and keep the pressure. He caves and just pulls the human to his chest, cradling him as gently as he can, while maintaining pressure on the wound. Nines buries his face in Gavin’s shoulder, his breathing coming quick and shallow. He can feel the hot, wet blood against him. Gavin cards his fingers through his hair as gently as he can, in as soothing a motion as he knows.
This is the closest they’ve ever been, Gavin realises stupidly, somewhere in the back of his mind. The most they’ve ever touched, pressed so closely together, in a place neither of them wants to be. How fucking cruel that he’s covered in Nines’ blood and the detective is sobbing into his shoulder in pain. It’s nothing like the way he wants it to be, Nines’ weight pressed against him, slumped and heavy and all wrong. He feels sick, can smell the thick, copper tang of blood, can feel it wetting the front of his hoodie, seeping beneath to stain his t-shirt. Nines’ is shaking, either from crying or from pain or shock, he doesn’t know. Just knows that all he can do in that moment is hold him gently and whisper shaky affirmations into the cold air, his fingers trembling as they knot in Nines’ damp curls.
He hears the sirens before he sees the lights.
“Hear that, Nines? You’re gonna be okay, y-you’re gonna-” he swallows, blinking against the bright red and blue flashing lights as they penetrate his vision from either side.
“I hate hospitals,” Nines whispers, quiet enough that Gavin almost misses it, as he grimaces in his arms. The android’s chest tightens as he half-laughs, half-sobs into his hair.
“You’re a stubborn son of a bitch, you’ll get over it,” he whispers. Nines is still completely limp against him now, save for his fingers, still clinging to the front of Gavin’s chest.
He can see the paramedics, running to them. The first one to reach them is speaking but Gavin feels like his auditory implants might be glitching cause he can’t hear anything except the beat of Nines’ heart against him and the shriek of the wind. There are snowflakes clinging to his eyelashes and he has to strain against the wind to see that the paramedic is kneeling down next to them. He feels strong arms, feels them try to move Nines away. He doesn’t want to let go- feels like if he and Nines can just stay there, wrapped together, forever somehow they’ll be okay. That Nines will be okay. But he knows he’s losing blood and fast. Knows he has to give him up. So he relinquishes his hold on him; hears Nines groan slightly as Gavin’s fingers slip out of his hair as he’s pulled away and onto a stretcher.
He feels so empty without Nines there.
He scrambles to get up, or else he’ll fall backwards into the snow. The paramedic is leaning down to speak to him again but he still can’t hear. He’s just blinking and watching Nines lying flat on the ground.
He watches as they lift him, like he’s already in a body bag, limp and lifeless. He disappears as the doors to the ambulance are slammed shut, leaving him outside and surrounded by a cacophony of sounds. The howling wind, the crunch of gravel and snow, buzzing voices as an officer presses him for answers.
The ambulance pulls away, his colleague’ s questions falling on deaf ears as the sound of his thirium pump thrums through his audio sensors and blocks out the world around him. A piercing siren sounds from the vehicle, and he’s faced with the burning ache it elicits in his chest.
Chapter 11: If they were both human
Gavin reacts to Nines getting shot.
Hello, me again. This is another lengthy chapter. Apologies. Remember when this fic was consistent?
Anyway...I've worked out how many chapters there are left now. Thank you again for all your wonderful comments it's been really lovely to read each and every one of them.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It feels wrong driving Nines’ car without him. Like a weird kind of betrayal. He tells himself that Nines will thank him for not leaving it when he’s…
He shakes his head, he can’t think like that. He can’t.
But the reality of the situation sinks in as he runs another red light, his own crimson LED flickering in the reflection of the windscreen, as the traffic lights pass. The ephemeral sights of Detroit flash by unnoticed as he concentrates on not crashing, chasing the thoughts of Nines lying bleeding in his arms away, by focusing on the centre-line in the asphalt. His thirium pump is humming along with the roar of the engine, pounding a ruthless non-rhythm against his ribcage. He is glad his hands are gripping the steering wheel because if they weren’t they’d be shaking. He can feel that strange hum of current running through him, a static crackling through his system, his processors whirring and stuttering every time he thinks about anything else but getting to the hospital in one piece. He's no use to Nines if they have to scrape him off the road amidst the shattered, glittering pieces of black and chrome.
He parks the car, the tires skidding on the ice of the snowy parking lot. The hospital is an ominous looking building, even when covered in the softness of snow. There’s a steady stream of ambulances in and out of the emergency department and Gavin heads in their direction, tying the shreds of what’s left of his hoodie limply around his middle, his arms bare to the falling snow.
He navigates the internal labyrinth of corridors, lit with clinical, fluorescent tube lights, until he arrives at the Trauma unit. It’s not overly busy tonight, thankfully, and he locates the central desk easily. He doesn’t bother asking where Nines is, just leans over the desk when the receptionist’s back is turned and hacks the patient terminal. He latches onto Nines’ patient info and finds out which room he’s in quick enough. It’s getting to it that’s the problem.
He proceeds down one of the corridors, supposedly where Nines’ is being treated, until he sees a flurry of commotion and recognises one of the paramedics from earlier. He tries to approach, making it past an array of potted plants to the first set of double doors, but a young nurse steps in front of him at the last second, a tablet in hand.
“I’m sorry sir, you can’t come down here-” she says firmly.
“I’m his fuckin’ android let me through,” Gavin growls, desperately craning his neck to see if he can see Nines. There’s too many people, nurses, doctors, paramedics, policeman, security.
“Sir, it’s next of kin only I’m afraid,” she says firmly, walking backwards and closing the double doors in his face.
“This is fuckin’ discrimination, y’know,” Gavin shouts through the glass pane, his palms hitting against the wood of the door. He knows Connor is probably already here, or on his way- someone must have called him- he just... hates the idea of Nines being alone even for a minute. He’s determined to stay, even if he is relegated to waiting in the relative's room for the next six hours with nothing but out-dated magazines and a water cooler for company.
He blows out an unnecessary amount of air from his body and kicks one of the ceramic planters with a yucca tree in. The pot tips and teeters as it threatens to fall under the strength of his kick and he has to jump to hold it up, pulling out a handful of leaves as he does. He swears as he swings it around, some soil falling out, and he tries to put it back in its place. It’s only when he steps back that he notices the crack in the plant pot. Fuck.
He feels eyes on him, a dozen or so humans, nurses, doctors and the like, staring at him from various points up and down the corridor. He closes his eyes for a brief second, taking a moment to soothe his processors long enough to clear his vision of the system alerts, then turns and heads in the direction of the bathroom.
There’s no one in there, thank god. He paces the tiled floor a hundred times- safe from prying eyes, letting the thoughts come now, the endless tirade of whys and what ifs. Why did he run after that fucking piece of shit instead of listening to Nines? Why is he always so impulsive? Why does he not have any self control? Why can’t he just-
He swears loudly and falls into a crouch, grasping at his hair and hissing out a string of curses as he tries to stop his brain from overheating.
There’s the memories too. Rand’s face. The smell of gasoline. The heat. The panic. He lets it all hit him like a wave, soaking into his skin, filling the spaces between his biocomponents, the holes in his ports, running along the synthetic wiring of his veins. He feels consumed by it, his whole body shaking from the all-encompassing feeling of fear.
But there’s something else there too. A tiny piece of something that feels like it’s wedged right in his chest where his thirium pump is still relentlessly beating away inside him. It feels almost like…almost like hope.
He tries to straighten up, his spinal mechanism clicking like a xylophone, as he practically falls against the sink, his hands gripping the porcelain tightly. He chances a look up through his curtain of dark hair and catches sight of his own eyes staring back at him in the mirror. His LED is stuck on red. No longer flickering, just burning a scarlet ring into his temple, the glow reflecting off the glossy synthetic surface of his eyes and the contours of his nose. He looks half mad, his t-shirt still soaked with Nines’ blood, his jaw set in a constant state of tension.
He turns the faucet, cupping the water in his palms and splashing a little on his face, his arms, trying to wash the dark, crusted stains from the surface of his skin. It comes off his hands easy enough, the water running pink through the gaps in his fingers. His t-shirt is so saturated it’s almost black and the blood only lifts a little, the water darkening, his shirt just ending up damp and stuck to his abdominal plate.
He sighs and turns the faucet off with a squeak, the blood swirling around the basin like a red ribbon before vanishing into the darkness of the drain.
The waiting room is tiny and beige, full of chairs and sofas with questionable stains on that he scrunches his nose at. In the corner there’s a water cooler, with an empty water butt on-top of it and a vending machine, boasting a slightly pathetic display of snacks.
His attention lingers on the vending machine, his visual display still flickering a little in the aftermath of all the panic. Nines will probably need something to eat after all this. If...when he’s better.
Gavin swallows. There isn’t a coffee machine- worst luck- but this would probably do, he can’t really afford to be picky at a time like this. He walks up to the machine, the skin on his right hand pulling back until he can lay his bare palm against the touch screen. The display fizzles and glitches beneath his touch until one of the coils slowly un-twists and dispenses a packet of chips. The treat falls into the collection tray with a crunch. He doesn’t even know if Nines likes chips. He’s still never seen him eat anything other than maybe an energy bar at 3am in the morning. So much for knowing everything about him, he inwardly scolds.
He decides not to take any chances and takes his time trying to hack one of each item of food; a chocolate bar, a cereal bar, some kind of fizzy sweets, some cracker things in the shape of animals. He piles them up on a chair beside the vending machine, along with the shreds of his hoodie and Nines’ glasses from his jeans pocket.
Finally, he selects a bottle of water. He waits, impatiently tapping his fingers on the window, his nosed pressed flat to the glass. The coil holding the bottle stills, the water perched precariously at the edge. And then nothing. He snarls and pushes his right palm up against the display again, waiting for the coil to continue its rotation as the display hisses and glitches under his fingers.
He flexes his fingers angrily. The touch screen is still pixelated and static-y but it’s not taking his shit anymore. He kicks the bottom of the machine and the whole thing jolts a little. He bangs on the window, the glass rattling in its frame; the water shakes, the contents sloshing up then down, but doesn’t topple over.
“Come! On! You! Piece! Of! Shit!” Gavin growls, punctuating each word with a kick or a shove until the machine practically quakes on its supports. It’s the last hit, all his weight pushed into the machine via his shoulder that knocks the bottle down, bouncing into the tray with ease. “Gotcha!” Gavin swoops down to retrieve his prize.
“Shall I come back later?” a voice calls from behind him. He wheels around, the bottle clasped so tightly in his hand he’s surprised the top doesn’t pop off.
Hank is stood in the doorway, his LED flickering gold as he takes in the sight of Gavin, t-shirt still damp and covered in blood, dishevelled and standing guard over his pile of treats.
“Hank,” Gavin says dumbly.
“Correct,” the other android replies, smirking a little, his LED returning to its usual cool blue to match his eyes. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m...wait...w-why are you...” Gavin stammers, his face scrunching automatically under the onslaught of questions that suddenly flood his brain. He takes a second to ground himself, licking his lips, casting a glance to the floor before he asks tentatively, “...is Nines okay?"
“Connor’s with him, he’s okay... I think,” Hank replies simply. “They got the guy who shot him too, Allen and his team picked him up about a mile North of where you were.”
“Good,” Gavin says on an unnecessary breathy exhale, feeling slightly vindicated. He sits down heavily on the chair and something crunches. He jumps up immediately with a yelp and sees not only has he crushed the bag of chips, he’s also sat on Nines' glasses. "Fuuuuck."
He picks them up gingerly and holds them up to examine them. One of the lenses is cracked, a spider-web of thin lines now running through the glass. Shit. He stuffs them into his jeans pocket, sweeps the rest of the food off the side of the chair and sits back down. Hank sits down next to him and claps a hand on his shoulder.
“Still don’t know if he’s your guy but...hey you sure you’re okay, kid?” Hank furrows his brow and his LED goes gold as he taps Gavin’s crimson temple.
“I’m fine,” Gavin says, slumping down in his chair at the weight of the words. They don’t know if it’s the answer to the question they’re looking for but it’s an answer to something. “Is Nines really gonna be okay?”
“I’d say so, the Doctor who rang Connor said it’s not as severe as it looks,” the other android says, furrowing his brow. “Worst case scenario, it’ll be severe soft tissue and nerve damage.”
“I really fucked up,” Gavin grumbles, rubbing his face in his hands. Severe soft tissue and nerve damage. A hundred medical articles pop up in his vision before he can bat them away. Treatment plans. Medication. Long-term repercussions. They flood his HUD before he can stop them and he feels his thirium pump skip a beat. “I didn’t listen to him.”
“It’s not that bad,” Hank says shrugging.
“He literally got shot,” Gavin says, dropping his hands and turning to look at the other android in despair.
“Connor shot me himself once,” Hank fires back with another shrug. “Could be worse.”
“What?!” Gavin exclaims, twisting in his chair to look at the other android who is chuckling a little at his expression.
“Not surprised he’s not told you that one. Before I was deviant, he shot me in the head.” He barks out a laugh and Gavin stares at him like he’s gone nuts. “I was being an asshole and he was drunk. This was back when I was under Cyberlife’s warranty and they just transferred my memories into a different body. No harm done.”
“Right…what’s your point?” Gavin scrunches his face, squinting at the other android, trying to work out if he’s fucking with him or not. It’s not like they can just swap out Nines’ for a new model, anyway.
“My point is...” Hank says, gesticulating slightly with his hands. “Shit happens in this line of work. Nines has the capacity to be a complete and total asshole... but he won’t blame you for this.”
Gavin scrubs at the scar on his nose.
“But it is my fault.”
“You think that now because it’s fresh,” Hank continues, folding his arms. “All those deviant emotions.”
There’s a moment where Hank stares at him with a knowing look like he can see through the carefully constructed facade to the turmoil within and Gavin flinches.
“Fuck off,” He bites back at the patronising tone, feeling himself getting warmer under the gaze. “I know alright, I’m shit at this.”
“Hey, it gets easier...kinda,” Hank says in a semi-comforting tone.
Gavin huffs in response. He isn’t sure why but there’s a sarcastic edge to almost everything he says, even if he doesn’t mean it. He kinda sees why him and Connor get along so well, they’re like salt and pepper, complementary personalities. Him and Nines were always too similar, too hostile, too much. He runs his hands through his hair at the thought, still not sure if he can feel relieved or not that Nines is going to be okay. He guesses they will just have to wait.
After a few hours, Connor peeks his head around the door to the waiting room. He’s pale, his skin waxy under the fluorescent tube lighting of the hospital. He does a double-take at Gavin, still half covered in Nines’ blood, sat with a pile of vending-machine snacks at his feet.
“He’s okay,” He says shakily. “He’s stable and they’ve strapped his arm up… he’s asking to see you, Gav.”
Gavin’s thirium pump misses a beat and he feels his jaw go a little slack at that. There’s that feeling in his chest again, suddenly so strong, so big, so there he can barely stand it.
“The nurse said next of kin only,” Gavin says, warily getting to his feet, even though his knee joints feel like they might just fall apart any second.
“Yeah, I failed to clarify what kind of ‘partner’ you were when she asked,” Connor grins sheepishly and rubs the back of his neck.
Gavin’s stomach swoops dangerously at the implication, like it’s about to slip down to his feet, and he has to rearrange his facial features into a neutral look. He can’t stop himself from chewing on his lower lip though, so he ducks his head into what he hopes is a nonchalant nod.
Connor gives him a weak smile and gestures to the hallway outside. He shakily follows him out. The light here is garish, sharpening the harsh lines of the building and tinting everything with a sickly pale-green glow. Connor looks ashen and tired, washed out under the lighting and god, it’s disconcerting how much he looks like his brother right now. There’s the same tension in his face that Nines holds on a regular day and his eyes are bloodshot and lined in purple. Gavin almost expects the fluorescent lights to start flickering ominously as he listens to the squeak of his shoes echoe down the corridor. He’s reminded of Cyberlife Tower and his stomach twists as he remembers Nines’ admission, spoken shakily into the crook of his neck: I hate hospitals.
Connor lingers awkwardly at the edge of the door to the room Nines is being treated in, his fingertips poised against the wood of the door for a moment before he retracts them and clasps them behind his back. He chews his lip,
“I’ll probably ah...I’ll wait in the other room?” he says after a second and Gavin just nods. “He probably wants to...you go in, I’ll-”
Connor pats him on the shoulder then smiles weakly as he leaves, a gesture that does little to soothe Gavin’s stuttering pulse. He pushes through the door before he can overthink this.
Inside, a nurse is taking Nines’ blood pressure, the inflatable cuff on his right, un-wounded arm. She’s holding the monitor in one hand, the other pumping the pressure control valve, humming as she watches the display screen change. She looks up when she hears Gavin entering.
So does Nines.
He’s still covered in blood, his grey shirt dark and blotchy where it’s seeped through. His arm is bandaged up tightly in a sling, the sleeve of the shirt cut away above the gauze, perhaps with scissors if the jagged edge is anything to go by. Gavin almost laughs because he knows Nines won’t be pleased about that; the shirt is no doubt designer and ridiculously expensive. But the laugh catches in his throat as he takes in the detective’s face. He’s not as pale as he was, his cheeks almost pink even under the harsh, sterile light of the overhead fluorescents. He’s still a pale mother-fucker but he doesn’t look like he’s a minute from death anymore. Thank fuck, he thinks, as a tiny wave of relief washes over him. It’s short-lived though, replaced almost instantly by that twisty feeling in his gut.
“Hey,” Nines practically squeaks, lifting his gaze to study Gavin as he approaches. The sound of his voice seems to still the flickering alerts in his vision even as he takes in the sight of the bulky white gauze wrapped around his arm. The nurse deflates the cuff and pulls Nines’ other arm free. She turns to input the data into the bedside terminal and Gavin takes his chance to speak.
“Are you…” Gavin begins, walking towards Nines slowly, his fingers itching to do something other than twist the hem of his t-shirt awkwardly.
“Y-you were right. About him,” Nines blurts out, his eyes trained on Gavin, flickering from one eye to the other then lower. “The guy. Connor said-”
“Doesn’t fucking matter, I was stupid. I shouldn’t have…” Gavin stammers, cutting him off, his eyes fixed on the bandage. He tears his eyes away from it but that’s a mistake. He’s absolutely desperate to reach out and touch his skin, his face, his pink-dusted cheeks, just to feel that he’s real, that he’s really alive. He flexes his fingers to try and get rid of the feeling like he can just shake it off like water.
“Nines...fucking... shit-for-brains, ” Gavin pinches his nose, the words falling awkwardly in his clumsy attempt to apologise. He drops his hand and looks up, determined to say his piece but those grey eyes always floor him. Shit. “I’m trying to tell you that I’m sorry for getting you shot, can you just shut up for a second?”
There’s a silence punctuated only by the nurse’s fingers typing away on the computer. This is awkward enough without an audience, Gavin thinks, his face automatically scrunching into a grimace as he waits for Nines to speak.
“...it wasn’t your fault,” Nines says weakly, his tongue darting out to wet his lips as he casts his gaze down to the floor.
“Jesus christ, you’re insufferable,” Gavin whines and before he can stop himself he pulls him forwards into a kind of awkward hug, one hand fisted at his collar, the other snaking around his middle.
Despite everything, Gavin can’t help but selfishly marvel at the way he feels. So warm, so soft, so alive . Fuck. He can feel every breath, his pulse, the knots of his spine through the fabric of his shirt. His fingers splay against his back instinctively.
“Ouch,” Nines grumbles, and Gavin realises he was probably less than gentle in his enthusiasm, but right now he can’t bring himself to care because his voice reverberates quietly against Gavin’s ear in a way which makes his knees shake.
And most importantly, the human still wraps his un-strapped arm around him and rubs little circles in the small of his back. The movement is minuscule, barely noticeable.
But Gavin notices.
"Thanks for rescuing my car,” Nines smirks, patting the roof like it’s a dog or a thoroughbred horse. In the time they’ve been in the hospital, a thick layer of snow has accumulated on top of it like cake frosting, and Nines’ hand leaves an indent in the otherwise perfectly smooth surface.
"That's okay,” Gavin shrugs, turning a half-buried stone over in the snow with his shoe. “It’s my favourite thing about you, after all."
That’s a lie. But Nines doesn’t need to know that. The human chuckles anyway and opens the back door. He leans down and- with his un-slinged arm- fishes out his coat from where Gavin carelessly flung it in the heat of the moment on the back seat. It takes Gavin a second to work out what he’s doing and when he realises he actually has to force out a laugh because it’s so stupid.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“What?” Nines asks, raising one eyebrow at Gavin as he places the slightly squashed cigarette he’s retrieved from his coat between his front teeth.
“You’re supposed to be healing,” Gavin scowls, folding his arms across his chest. There’s the faintest trace of a smirk on Nines’ face, highlighted only by the slight movement of the cigarette as it rolls in-between his lips. Gavin has to suppress a shiver that makes him feel like his spine is being un-picked with a safety pin.
“Yeah and…” Nines flicks his lighter, his face illuminated in orange lambent light in a way which makes his eyes flash wickedly. “I can do that after I’ve had a smoke.”
Gavin takes a moment to shoot Nines a disbelieving look then he steps forwards and plucks the cigarette from his lips. Nines’ features contort into a look that’s both incredulous and confused as Gavin pauses for a second, practically twirling the cigarette between his fingers, before he throws it as far as he can across the parking lot.
“Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that reduces nutritional blood flow to the skin,” Gavin says dead-pan, reading word-for-word an article he’s brought up in his HUD. He opens the passenger door and gestures to it as if to say get in .
Nines lets out a tiny laugh of disbelief but slinks into the passenger seat none-the-less.
The drive back to Nines’ apartment is easy enough. He feels better with Nines here, more at home. It’s the first time he allows himself to really think about what happened, instead of suppressing and questioning- now that he knows Nines is actually okay. The sound of the gun echoes between his ears, practically rattling his teeth as it does. He can feel the hot, wet spill of blood, blooming on his shirt and under his fingertips as he tries to stem the flow. He feels Nines’ tiny, stilted breaths against his cheek as he whispers over and over to him: it’s going to be okay. Gavin replays it once, twice, three times behind his eyes careful to keep his expression blank as he does. But Nines must notice the way his right hand grips at the denim of his jeans, his left hand white-knuckled on the steering wheel, because he turns in his seat and asks quietly,
“Gavin, are you okay?”
It’s so sweetly shy that he almost crashes the car right there and then. Practically jolts back to reality with the realisation that Nines is sat half a meter away from him, alive and breathing and not bleeding.
“Yeah... yeah, I’m fine,” he answers, recalibrating his facial features so that the tension in his jaw eases a little and he smooths out the wrinkle in his brow. He un-hinges his knuckle joints so his grip loosens on both his thigh and the steering wheel.
“It’s late,” Nines announces as they pull up to his apartment- as though Gavin isn’t a walking talking computer who has access to the time 24/7. He scratches the skin under his nose with his un-strapped arm and casts him a sheepish look from the passenger seat. “You can stay if you want? I could drive us to work in the morning?”
Gavin chokes out a laugh.
“You’re not going to work tomorrow,” he says getting out of the car and slamming the door. He lets them both into the apartment as Nines protests behind him.
“Why not? I've g-"
“Uh, because in case it escaped your notice, Dick , you got shot today,” Gavin says, bringing his arms up in defense when Nines opens his mouth to interrupt. “Please, shut up for two seconds.” He punctuates the end of the sentence by slamming the front door behind them.
“Charming,” Nines says but he’s half-smiling. He leans back against the arm of the sofa in a gesture which to Gavin means he’s conceded to listen to him.
“Fowler won’t let you out in the field with that,” Gavin nods to his arm. “So you’ll be consigned to desk duty anyway. If you’re that much of a fucking nerd, I can go and pick up your paperwork for you and bring it here. But please, give me the piece of fucking mind and just take tomorrow off.” He pinches the bridge of his nose as if to emphasise the metaphorical headache the detective is being. “Please,” he adds for extra effect when Nines lifts his chin in amusement at the words.
There’s a moment of silence between them then. Gavin doesn’t verbally acknowledge Nines’ request to stay the night but mentally makes the decision to stay anyway. He tells himself he’s here now, he may as well. And It’s late. And he wants to make sure Nines is okay. That’s it though. Nothing else.
“Y’know,” Nines grins, breaking through Gavin’s inner thoughts like a knife. “you once told me you weren’t a nanny bot.”
Gavin rolls his eyes,
“Yeah, I’m not about to cook you breakfast or anything, dip-shit.”
Nines chuckles and goes to fiddle about one handed with the cupboards, pouring himself a glass of water. He pulls a yellow pot of medication out of his pocket and tries in vain to twist the cap off the bottle with one hand before it slips out of his grip and falls to the floor with a clatter.
“Don’t-” Gavin says, bringing his hands up as Nines tries to stoop to pick it back up. “You’re supposed to be....here” He picks up the bottle himself and twists the cap off. He pulls Nines’ hand forwards by his wrist so his palm is facing up and shakes out two of the little pills into his palm. Nines stares down at his hand for a moment, a second longer than strictly necessary, and Gavin has to tap his fingers on the human’s wrist to bring him back to reality. “I can’t swallow them for you too.”
The human shakes his head quickly and pops the pills into his mouth. Gavin tells himself he doesn’t watch the way Nines’ throat contracts as he swallows them down with the water. Or the way a stray trickle of water runs loose only to be wiped away a second longer with a swipe of his tongue. The detective grimaces a little then, rubbing his forehead.
"Do you happen to know what happened to my glasses?"
"Oh, fuck. Yeah, they uhh," Gavin delves into the pockets of his jeans. He holds them up, the kitchen light reflecting off the spider-web like cracks in the right lense. "They're a bit…well…” He laughs despite himself. “I guess you can get some that fit now?"
"What?" Nines laughs and takes the glasses from Gavin turning them over in his fingers.
"You kept pushing them...like-" Gavin motions to his nose, mimicking the way Nines scrunches his nose, as he slides his finger up, "...when they slid down."
"Huh," Nines says, peering through the shattered lense once before placing them on the kitchen island. "I hadn't noticed."
Gavin had. Obviously. He twists the hem of his t-shirt reflexively.
There’s a strange sound from behind him then and Gavin wheels around only to see the slinkiest, grey cat he’s ever seen stretching in the doorway to Nines’ bedroom.
“Holy shit dude,” he breathes. “Is that yours?”
“Yeah,” Nines smiles, “that’s Cleo.”
Gavin drops into a couch immediately. The cat sidles up to him, sleek tail curved in a quizzical swirl. She sniffs at Gavin’s outstretched hand before weaving in between his legs, rubbing herself against the fabric of his jeans.
"Hi Cleo," Gavin whispers excitedly as he reaches to scratch her ears. She leans into the touch. He trails his fingers down her spine to the base of her tail and watches the way she moves into the stroke. "Can I hold her?"
"If she'll let you," Nines says, with a quirk of the lips. He’s watching Gavin carefully, his ankles crossed, as he leans against the kitchen counter.
Gavin scoops the feline up so they're nose to nose. She makes a chirp noise and swipes the pad of her paw across the bridge of his nose. He flips her over so she’s lying in his arms, belly up. She's ridiculously soft.
"You're so friendly and cute," Gavin coos, cradling Cleo like a baby. She stretches and wiggles but doesn't try and escape. "I was worried you'd take after your owner,"
Nines scoffs over his shoulder, moving to the living area to fiddle with the side of his TV.
"Bite him, Cleo.”
"Shouldn't you be going to bed?" Gavin tosses back, putting Cleo back down on the floor where she stretches and yawns.
"I'm not tired," Nines replies.
Gavin pads into the living area, watching the way Nines long fingers press against the buttons to calibrate the TV.
"The medication will knock you out soon enough.”
"I'm sure it will," Nines says. "But for now-" He turns around with the TV remote in hand. “Do you want to...watch a movie or something?”
They’re doing that thing again. Hanging out as ‘friends’. His HUD frames the image of Nines stood awkwardly clasping the remote, an invitation, tempting him with that invisible boundary. Gavin thinks for a minute, recalling that night at the bar, one of many strange milestones in their relationship. The most unconventional pair sat beside each other. Another glimpse behind the mask. An idea floats into his head then.
“Can we watch the film with that song in it? Moon River?”
He doesn’t know why he asks for that, he could have picked any film out of the hundreds of thousands ever made. Yet he had ran a search through his system files and pulled that one to the forefront. He half expects Nines to say no, to pull that wall up again, in the same way he snapped to turn the song off, because it’s almost too close for comfort. Too intimate. This is what friends do, sharing interests, getting to know one another. And they’re not friends.
“You want to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” Nines asks, cocking an eyebrow suspiciously.
There it is- the doubt, the trepidation. Why did he even bother asking? He just wanted to know why Nines liked it so much. To understand more about him. He pulls at the hem of his t-shirt agitatedly.
“I’ve never seen a movie before, I don’t know what I like,” he says defensively.
“I don’t think it’s your kind of thing,” Nines says, sitting down on the sofa, a quizzical look on his face.
“Well, put it on,” Gavin huffs, sitting down at the opposite end heavily. “And if I hate it, I’ll put myself in stasis and watch the back of my eyelids instead.”
Nines laughs at that but concedes, messing about with the little buttons on the TV remote until a familiar tune floats from the speakers, the opening titles playing out across the screen.
They sit on the sofa, knees barely touching and Gavin feels the weight of the distance between them; purposeful but not uncrossable. Nines’ free hand lies palm up beside him on the sofa. He could move his own hand just an inch to the left and they’d be touching.
It’s that weird thing, that constant desire to be as close as possible to him, despite everything. He wants to feel the heat of his skin again. It made his own palms itch. The urge to touch is maddening and he stuffs his hands as far into his jeans pockets as he possibly can.
“Do you want a jumper?” Nines asks, his gaze flickering along his bare arms then up to his face.
“No, I’m fine,” Gavin states, though he admits quietly to himself that he misses the safety of his hoodie. Nines is eyeing him suspiciously so he hastens to explain. “Don’t get cold.”
“Oh...no, of course,” Nines says and turns his gaze back to the TV.
He wishes then that he'd said yes because he feels exposed and the idea of being wrapped in the smell of the human would be a good enough antidote to the way he’s feeling right now.
What Gavin garners from the film is that humans are weird as fuck. No...really. Although, he likes the way Audrey Hepburn speaks. Her voice is soothing. They watch silently for exactly twenty-five minutes and eighteen seconds, Gavin taking in as much as he can, absent-mindedly twisting the edge of his t-shirt. Definitely not looking at how Nines’ profile looks in the flickering blue light or calculating the slope of his nose. He had once thought his features to be harsh but now, if he had to comment, he’d say that there’s a gentleness to them when you looked for it. He can see it in the slight top-heaviness of his mouth, that full upper-lip, and the way that even when he scowls, his eyelashes are long enough to flutter against his eyebrows. And the freckles. Of course, the freckles. There’s something strange about his face tonight though; its that serene veneer of calm he has quite often but there's a pinched look to his features, like he's putting on a show.
"What's it like now?" Nines asks suddenly interrupting Gavin’s train of thought, his fingers twisting the fabric of his sling, eyes still glued on the TV. Gavin flinches a little bit and makes a show of turning to face Nines like he’s not been watching him out of the corner of his eye for the past five minutes.
"What's what like?" He replies, watching the way Nines' eyes dart to his lap then back up again in a glimmer of a movement.
"Being deviant," Nines says slowly, as though he's tasting every syllable. "Emotion...feelings. They're...difficult still?"
He still doesn't look at him. Continues to twist a stray thread at the end of the bandage wrapped around him instead, eyes trained forwards.
"I know what they are now," Gavin says. Then he huffs out a nervous laugh. "I don't always understand them."
"I see," Nines says after a second pause. It sounds like he's disappointed with the answer. Though it doesn't explicitly show on his face, Gavin can pinpoint a flicker of movement at the pulse point in his neck. His fingers still momentarily in his lap too before smoothing the singular thread he's pulled looser and looser over the last five minutes with his index finger.
He isn't sure if this is an interrogation. Usually, Nines looks him in the eye when he wants to know something, pins him with one of his trademark stares that make Gavin feel hot and cold all over. But now he seems dissatisfied, almost confused with how he answered and Gavin doesn't know what to say. There's so much; he feels it all the time but he can't talk about it. There's very little he could- or should- share with Nines of all people.
"Fear was the first thing I ever felt," Gavin says, allowing himself to speak a diluted version of the thoughts running through his mind, without wondering too much what answer the detective was really looking for. "And it was the strongest for a long while, it was what I was most familiar with."
"But it's not anymore?" Nines turns and looks at him then, the frostiness of those grey eyes thawing just a fraction.
Shit. Not anymore . He fucked up there.
And now he can't backtrack because of course Nines latched onto his ineloquent phrasing. Perhaps it was an interrogation. It’s his job after all. And he is good at it, getting under Gavin's skin when he least expects it. Nines is already buried so deeply inside him it's unfair; almost every little piece of recorded memory he has is of him. A weird, fucked-up jigsaw of his own making.
"No," he says slowly, knowing he can't deny it. "Not anymore."
Nines stares, his eyes boring into him, waiting for him to elaborate.
He won't .
Gavin thinks about the beginning then. About the Nines he saw when they first met: cold... cruel even. So different. Such a harsh, outer shell. And then the way it melted; slowly at first then all at once, until it revealed this. His careful, quiet consideration for Gavin, shown in the tiniest of things. Like the way Nines had looked at him earlier, from the corner of his eye, worrying that he was cold despite the fact he's the one with a bullet hole in his arm. It makes his chest tighten to think about it. That Nines cares about him in his own weird, awkward way.
It makes it more difficult then too, that this is all it is. That Gavin wants more, that he wants what he can't have. And that he wishes Nines wanted it too.
Maybe he can pretend that it's more. That they're more. When they're sat side by side like this. He could pretend that he's allowed to cross that distance between them. To wrap his fingers around Nines' slender neck and pull him down towards him. His fingers ache with the want and he balls them up where they are sat in his pockets.
He can't pretend. Can't even think about it, especially when Nines’ grey eyes are still looking softly at him. It's maddening.
Because what are they? Are they even friends? Or are they just two people who don't dislike each other anymore. He doesn't know. Isn't well versed enough in human relationships to know the difference.
He thinks about if they were both human. If he were warm and soft like nines. If his LED wasn't blinking gold rings in the half-light. If he weren't made of plastic...if things would be different.
Would Gavin feel brave enough to…would Nines want to…
He stops himself before he wastes more processing power on these thoughts. They are just that...thoughts. Born from moments like this when Nines is illuminated in the soft light of the TV, his features soft and sleepy, and Gavin can pretend Nines really wants him here.
He presses two fingers to his temple, covering his LED, blocking out the light with his fingers. The space on the wall where the gold rings were dancing goes dark.
Nines falls asleep around fifteen minutes before the end of the film. Gavin is not exactly enthused by it but he can kinda see why Nines likes it. Onscreen, Holly Golightly searches in the rain for the cat she stupidly released not five minutes earlier. Gavin silently hopes that this isn’t the kind of human Nines is into, although he doubts he would approve of her flippant treatment of the feline either. It’s getting late...early in fact and he debates just switching it off before the end. However, when Holly and Paul kiss in the rain, Gavin feels that telltale twist in his stomach and he finds himself staring intently at the intensity of the embrace. He has, up until recently, found the human obsession with intimacy kind of weird. A bit gross even. But now? Now he imagines being able to kiss Nines like that. How he’d taste, how it’d feel. Hot. Wet. Warm. Something flutters in his throat and he’s thankful when the screen fades to black and the room is bathed in cool darkness once more.
He goes to wake Nines and finds himself poised halfway across the sofa, debating how to go about it. It’s not the first time he’s seen him asleep, slouching and soft, chin to chest, so his curls fall against his face. But it always seems to stall his processors in a way nothing else does, the vulnerability of it and the intensity in which he feels his own now unstifled emotions, mean that his hands end up hovering over his shoulder for a second before he gives in and shakes him.
“Nines,” he whispers.
“Mmm?” Nines grumbles, his eyelids fluttering as he rolls his head back.
“The film’s over,” he whispers again, brushing that one stupid curl off his face before he can stop himself. He instantly regrets it because Nines cocks his head, his face turning into the movement.
“What?” Nines asks, his eyes widening.
“Go...to bed,” he says again, guiding the human up into a standing position.
Nines nods, seemingly still a little disoriented and he stumbles to his feet. He doesn’t say anything else, just shuffles in a sleepy haze to the door of his bedroom and half-falls into the room, flicking the light on as he does. Gavin waits until he's closed the door before he gets properly to his feet. He doesn’t know what to do now that he’s alone in the dark, the only light coming from his gold, flickering LED and from under the door. He feels the weight of his thoughts pressing in on him and settles for wringing his hands and pacing the living room, trying to busy himself. He should probably just put himself in stasis and save himself the turmoil of sitting through a night in Nines’ apartment with the weight of these feelings. He can't stop himself from acknowledging every thought that crosses his mind, no matter how ridiculous or inappropriate. He ends up petting Cleo’s sleeping form curled beneath the TV, burying his fingers in the silver fur at the nape of her neck so she purrs soothingly. He loses himself in the motions for what seems like ages, hardly noticing when he hears Nines voice until he calls a second time.
His name. Once said with a sigh and a feeling of resignation. An inconvenience. It’s still kind of strange to hear Nines say it so nonchalantly. Like they’re friends, he thinks again. He goes to walk to the bedroom but his thoughts are churning through his brain, his internal fans whirring to life to stem the heat that rises at the forbidden notions.
He wants to hear how his name would sound whispered in the skin of his neck. Gasped. Wants to take it from his lips. To swallow it down.
Shit. He needs to calm down. He needs to get a fucking grip.
He peers around the door cautiously.
“Sorry, could you-” Nines says, his arm half in, half out of his shirt, his sling awkwardly tangled in his sleeve. He looks vaguely comical stuck like that. Gavin’s seen him take a bullet and yet this is the most helpless he’s ever looked, trapped in his own clothes, his grey eyes wide and pleading.
He lets out a little laugh, at which the human furrows his brow, the little crease forming between his eyebrows. Adorable.
Then the reality of what Nines is asking him to do sinks in and-
Gavin clings as desperately as he can to his perfected mask of indifference as he undoes one of the little black buttons, bright like spider eyes or jeweled beads, against the grey expanse of the shirt front.
They're... very close. If he concentrates, he can feel the slight, hot breaths against his cheek as he leans in. Nines' gaze lingers on Gavin as he fiddles with the buttons, pulling the fabric taught against his chest. He has to gently slide the shirt open and he's awestruck by the softness of his skin. This is unchartered territory. The sensors in his fingertips feel like they're on fire as he tries his hardest not to sink them into the flesh. God, why is it so warm?
He feels like he might be about to overheat or shut down or worse. He tries to hold onto himself, that fraying sliver of self-restraint, tries to keep himself back from the pull of the edge.
“Gonna have to-” he says, reaching to detach the sling at the nape of Nines’ neck. He wishes he’d moved around; this way, he has his arms wrapped around his shoulders and the human’s gaze never wavers as he pulls at the mechanism, his fingertips brushing lightly against the soft hair at the back of his head. “Does it hurt?” He has to keep talking, because the atmosphere is too heavy, too charged, he can’t let them lapse into silence.
Nines blinks, a little break in the trance-like gaze and his eyes flicker up.
“No…” he breathes, glancing between Gavin’s eyes then back down his face. “It feels numb.”
Gavin pulls the knot apart finally, letting the sling fall lax. He dips his hand beneath the collar of Nines’ shirt, pushing it down over his shoulders. He’s not sure if he still needs help- there’s really nothing he can do now that Nines can’t do by himself- but he’s also not stopping Gavin as he sweeps his palms over the hot, silken skin. And Gavin is weak. His hands leave in their wake a trail of goosebumps, perhaps the result of the cool air hitting his skin. It feels strange against the sensitive pads of his fingertips, the sensors registering every tiny hair as he slides his hands down the side of his arm, nudging the fabric off.
They both let the shirt fall off his frame on his right side, Gavin moving to pull the cut sleeve over the bandages on his left. He moves, almost reverently slowly, so as not to nudge the gauze binding the wound. He hears Nines’ breath hitch as he pulls the fabric down and Gavin’s other hand comes up to grasp his wrist, to maneuver his arm out of the shirt. His fingers sense the pulse of blood through his skin for a moment, one achingly long second, before he lets go.
He realises it after it's too late, that the skin on his hands is pooling like mercury, the plastic exposed as the synthetic skin undulates like water. That desperate need to be close...to be closer ...fuck. His body reacting to the desire to interface, to feel that heat right onto his casing, to know what Nines wants, what he’s thinking right now. If he were an android, he could simply lace their fingers together. Know instantly. That shared exchange. Nines has always been such a tempting mystery, the worst convergence of fascinating and utterly unattainable. And he’ll never get beyond that. Never scratch beneath the surface.
He steps back sharply, thrusting his hands in his pockets, burying the evidence from Nines’ gaze.
"Is that… um, are you good?" Gavin mumbles, not daring to make eye contact. Fuck, why is he like this? Why can’t he just be normal? Why is his own body betraying him? Stupid fucking-
"Thanks," Nines says quietly, twisting his own hands in front of him.
Gavin hopes he didn't notice. Prays to whatever deity is listening that he didn’t fucking notice.
He risks a glance up and immediately regrets it. Nines looks like one of those fucking marble statues, all pale skin and hard, lean muscle, even when he’s stood like that- awkwardly hugging his elbow, his teeth pulling at his lower lip. And fuck- why did he have to look at the sharp angles of his collar bone because now he wants to dip his tongue in that hollow space between them.
There’s a hot, prickly sensation in his throat, dripping down until it pools in his core like some kind of tight, molten knot. He physically has to turn his gaze down to his feet because he has the strongest urge to push Nines back onto the bed and crawl over him. The image plays in his mind, the product of his pre-constructive software working too efficiently, and he feels his fingers twitch traitorously in his pockets.
There’s a good but borderline uncomfortable sensation building below his navel and he turns and half-runs out of the room before he can get carried away because Nines is looking at him like that and he doesn’t know if he’s making it up or...or…
Whatever Nines was going to say is lost as Gavin turns a full 180 degrees and marches out of the bedroom. He isn’t sure if Nines responds or not, the roar in his ears is deafening. He wills his legs to carry him across the corridor and into the bathroom, the crimson light from his LED bouncing off the tiles as he enters. He closes the door behind him and turns on the light, the last shred of his self control operating his limbs. Then, he turns both faucets until they won't move any further, the water pressure at its highest and loudest as it streams into the basin.
This is stupid, he thinks vaguely in the back of his mind, because he has no reason to be in here. Nines is probably stood bemused and staring at the closed door like Gavin's gone mad, like he's malfunctioned and fried every wire in his artificial brain. Hey, what's new?
But the sound of the running water is like white noise and loud enough that his thoughts seem quieter here and the roaring in his ears blends seamlessly with the water hitting the sink. He sits down against the door and buries his face in his hands.
He hopes that Nines won’t come after him. He waits, in the darkness he finds behind his fingers, for that knock at the door or the sound of his voice. But nothing happens. And Gavin still has no clue what to do.
He peers through his fingers like an answer will somehow present itself in his vision, dancing in front of him on Nines’ geometric print bath mat.
Unsurprisingly, nothing appears.
He can't keep doing this. Something has to give.
Even now his LED ring burns crimson in the reflection of the tiles. Something about it, that mocking crimson circle, makes a feeling of anger build up in his stomach like there are a hundred angry hornets nesting behind his abdominal plate. He eyes a pair of scissors on Nines' bathroom shelf. It would be so easy to rip it out. To dispose of the one thing that gives him away every time. That makes everything so much worse, so humiliating, so utterly telling.
He gets to his feet and crosses the distance in a second, reaching to pull the tool down from the shelf. His fingers close around the cool metal and he brings the sharp tip to his temple. It feels strange. Like a static charge is building between the blade and his skin.
He catches sight of himself in the mirror above the sink and for the second time today finds he is bathed in the red light of his own inner turmoil. Little sprays of water from the faucet hit his skin as he stares at himself in the reflection for a moment, cool, wet and surprisingly grounding. His fingers tighten on the handle for a millisecond then he sighs and drops his hand.
Is this slow burn enough for u?!
Stuff like ....happens ....soon.
Chapter 12: The present police
I had had this chapter partially written from like day one of writing this fic. However, I didn't realise that this whole thing would end up being so long so a lot of it had to be re-written bar the actual end scene. Hence, the slight delay in posting.
I...hope you like it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Stasis mode deactivated.
All systems online and fully operational.
Welcome back, GV400 #313 692 517 - 04.
Gavin hears the tell-tale sounds of his processors whirring to life as the system reports flicker onto the back of his eyelids. His body feels stiff and he goes to stretch the stasis from his joints when he becomes aware of a warm weight resting on his thighs.
He opens his eyes.
Draped across his lap is a lump of grey fur. He reaches out to touch it cautiously and the lump makes a ‘brrp’ noise and starts vibrating at a low frequency. Ah of course. Cleo.
He suddenly realises he’s not in the safe house and the events of the previous day come flooding back to him. The biting cold wind; the smell of refuse mingled with the fresh crisp, winter air. Blood, hot and sickly sweet, melting the snow and coating his fingertips. Dried blood, dark and flaking, stuck under his fingernails as he claws at the denim of his jeans. The unrelenting length of the hospital corridors, almost as long as the wait itself, dragging on for hours, not knowing what to do. Nines, framed in clinical, white light and wrapped in gauze. And then again, bathed in the blue static tones of the TV. Skin, too hot for how pale it is in the half-light, and the way it felt beneath his fingertips.
He lets out a shuddering, unnecessary breath. Cleo stretches a little and her claws dig into Gavin’s skin through his jeans, bringing him back to reality. If he were human this would probably hurt, he thinks, watching her paws flex. Of course he isn’t and it doesn’t. She seems to understand that too, as she starts kneading the denim fabric when he scratches behind her ear.
He should probably get up but the warmth and softness in his lap is soothing. It’s comforting and his body seems to respond to it positively, his thirium pump beating as close to calmly as it has done in days. He strokes a finger down her nose and she turns her head to look up at him, eyes like polo mints only green, blinking slowly.
“Wish humans were more like cats,” he mumbles, brushing the pad of his thumb under her chin. Cleo nips at his fingers, biting a little into the synthetic skin, as she decides she’s had enough attention for now. She leaps off him in one fluid movement. He huffs out a laugh; now that’s the hot and cold behaviour he’s used to.
He gets up and stretches. It’s still dark outside, the sun not due to rise for another half an hour or so. It’s a pleasant change to see the shadowy shapes of Nines’ apartment bathed in a cool blue, the light from his LED having clearly settled overnight. He still scratches at it absent-mindedly, the shadows fluttering as his fingers obscure the ring for a moment or two. He isn’t sure whether to check on Nines, half because he doesn’t want to overstep any more boundaries after he practically gawped at his half-naked torso last night, and half because his own fraying self-control probably couldn’t handle the sight of the detective deep in dreams and curled in on his duvet.
He pads as quietly as he can around the apartment, looking for Nines’ car keys. He’ll go into work and catch up on the case details, bring Nines his fucking paper work, if it’ll keep him happy. He mainly wants to fill his brain with facts and evidence and witness reports so that he can have his processors chew over something logical for a change. Even if it’s tedious, at least it will make a little sense.
He trails his fingertips over the cool countertops in Nines’ kitchen- relishing the smooth feedback it gives the sensors there- as he checks the work surfaces, the drawers, the fruit bowl. He pauses a few times, smiling despite himself at a few tiny exceptions to Nines’ ‘neat and monochrome’ rule. The first is some coffee in botanical print packaging, claiming all kinds of things with buzz words like ‘organic’. He rolls his eyes; very hipster, very Nines. The second is the upside-down fridge magnet pinning Cleo’s vaccination record to the fridge: it’s purple, the words ‘Cat Dad’ printed on it in white lettering with matching whiskers. Gavin smirks as he twists it so that it sits the right way up.
Nines decides to choose that moment to stumble out of his bedroom, wearing nothing but his black boxer shorts and a t-shirt. His un-injured arm lifts the shirt fabric up slightly to scratch sleepily at the skin above his navel. He yawns and cocks his head to the side to squint at Gavin, through his hair which is tousled from sleep and sticking up at odd angles.
Humans often talk about butterflies in their stomachs. Gavin doesn’t know if that’s what he’s experiencing, doubts in fact that the deviant fault in his coding could ever replicate the exact feeling of every human emotion. But if he had to venture, he’d say the metaphorical insects in his own abdomen are more like wasps, dangerous and swarming as his eyes trail over the ridiculous length of the human’s bare legs. His thirium pump pulses, a rabbit-heart beat, unyieldingly fast and his spine feels a little like someone’s struck a match down his vertebrae.
“I didn’t think you’d still be here,” Nines says sleepily, bringing the heel of his hand up to scrub at his eyes as he wanders bare-foot into the kitchen area to lean against the island counter.
“Don’t worry, I’m leaving,” Gavin says gruffly, bringing his hands up defensively as he diverts his gaze away from Nines’ lips, plump and pink from sleep.
“That’s not what I meant,” the human responds, dropping his hand and squinting at Gavin. He’s not wearing his sling, his bandaged arm resting awkwardly on the work surface, the gauze unraveling slightly at the edge where he’s shifted in his sleep. Gavin’s fingers flex reflexively at his side with the urge to tuck the stray end in, or better, to unwrap and re-do the binding. He can’t though, he daren’t get that close. He’s grateful, in fact, for the expanse of granite that now lies between them, shielding Nines’ scantily clad lower half from view.
Instead, he turns away from him, scrubbing his scarred nose with the back of his hand.
“Gonna need your car keys,” he says, staring at his feet.
Somewhere in his peripherals Nines nods,
“Coffee table,” he answers, his gaze as always, firm and unwavering even when he’s bleary-eyed.
Gavin crosses the room, his eyes fixed on the table in question. He is vaguely aware of Nines turning on the coffee machine and then the radio as his fingers close around the bundle of keys with a crunch. An instrumental version of In The Bleak Midwinter drifts over from the kitchen and it somehow makes the rosy dawn slipping through the cracks in the curtains seem colder than it should.
Before he leaves, Gavin gives in to the itch and casts a look over his shoulder at the human.
Nines meets his gaze, both hands wrapped around another exception to his own rule- a blue mug with the words ‘liquid patience’ barely visible through the gaps of his fingers. He licks his lips, his next words semi-inaudible over the haunting melody and the sound of the coffee machine buzzing to life,
“Try not to crash.”
Gavin isn’t completely surprised to hear they’ve been taken off the case- not that there’s much of a case to come back to, but it still hits him hard. Turns out Rand spilled the beans on a whole load of dark shit, a pawn in a much bigger game. As with anything that big, it’s been escalated to the FBI. Gavin’s on paid leave until after the holidays, when Nines is due to return and they can write out a formal contract of employment for him following the new android laws. It’s clear Fowler expects him to be happy but all Gavin can think about is the amount of time he’s got to fill between now and then. He slams his way out of the office, swearing under his breath and falls gracelessly into his chair. He smacks his fist into the desk for good measure, drawing the attention of a few beat cops in the break room. The ST300 from the reception jumps a little on the step-ladder she’s perched on and shoots Gavin an annoyed look. She’s hanging wreaths of holly, red ribbons intertwined with sprigs of mistletoe and golden bells, onto the doorway into the break room. Merry fucking Christmas, Gavin thinks.
Hank and Connor are stood just to the left of the festive decorating, their eyes collectively drifting to Gavin and then up to the little glass office.
Connor’s called in shortly after Gavin and Hank perches on the edge of Nines’ desk, absent-mindedly lining up Gavin’s origami creations from weeks before. His attention is drawn up momentarily as a figure approaches.
“Fucking cock-sucker,” Hank growls under his breath, watching as Agent Perkins from the FBI walks past them on his way to Fowler’s office. Hank’s LED swirls yellow, then red for a second, then back to yellow. The Agent glances over at the androids, his eyes narrowing as his gaze flits between them. He sniffs disdainfully and almost walks straight into the ST300 and she drops an armful of tinsel. Gavin watches as Tina sweeps in from seemingly nowhere to help her pick it up. The android laughs and accepts Tina’s over-enthusiastic help as she wraps tinsel around her neck.
“What’s that all about?” Gavin asks, his attention drawn away as Perkins and Connor frostily pass each other on the metal steps as Connor leaves the office.
“Connor and Perkins have...history,” Hank responds. “Plus, I don’t think he was too happy about us working here after the revolution. Different sides and all.”
“Huh,” Gavin huffs out. “What an asshole.”
“Guy’s a fuckin’ prick,” Hank growls. “Never gave two shits about androids before, doubt he does now.”
Connor pulls at the collar of the stripey shirt, his expression dark as he approaches the desk where the two androids are sat. He forces a weak smile at Gavin,
“How’s Nines doing?” Connor asks, folding his arms. He looks tired after last night but a little cheerier, despite the furrow in his brow and the obvious tension in the air.
“Fine,” Gavin grumbles. “But he’s going to be pissed when he finds out he doesn’t have a case to work on.”
“I guess he’ll have to rest then,” Connor smirks looking at Gavin in a knowing way.
“Nines? Being an actual human?” Gavin counters and Connor laughs, swiping a hand through his disheveled hair. “No chance.”
Gavin sits cross-legged on the floor of the safe house. Since his software had been upgraded and repaired, and with the added challenge of Nines’ Rubick’s cube thrown into the mix, his jigsaw hobby had taken a bit of a back-seat. Today, however, he needed something easy, something to focus his mind.
The thing is, he can now pre-construct how a piece will fit into a shape, over a thousand options in under a second, and- as Nines had said- it does kinda feels like he's cheating. He presses another piece of sky into place, still relishing the fleeting feeling of satisfaction in the way the picture, a Christmas scene with a snowman and a house, starts to take form. The floor of the safe house is still littered with jigsaw puzzles, some finished, some that he's accidentally kicked and shattered, scattering the pieces under the bed. His fingers work methodically, picking up and placing the pieces automatically, his system running the action as a background process as his conscious mind wanders.
He's supposed to be at Connor's this evening. That thought alone sends a distinctive jolt of something prickly through his abdomen. There’s nothing definitively scary about that, it’s just seeing Nines again that worries him. It’s been a few days, yet he still feels less and less in control of his own emotions. Deviancy affords him the ability to feel emotion but still not the capacity to really understand it. That, he thinks, is the fatal flaw in the system. Not even Cyberlife's expert engineering could create something artificial that could process the full spectrum of human emotion, especially when he was never intended to actually have to deal with it in the first place. He finds himself constantly frustrated, trying to unpick his own feelings. It's like trying to do a jigsaw but the pieces twist and warp even as he starts to see the bigger picture. Like he's constantly losing bits and gaining others, the final outcome an ever-changing endpoint that moves further and further away no matter how many pieces he successfully places.
It's fucking annoying.
His vision glitches and his fingertips crush into a space in the jigsaw that's already filled. The cardboard tab bends against the force of it and he groans.
"Fuck," he hisses, bringing the broken piece up to his eye level so he can see it better. His ocular processors scan the damage as if it's somehow salvageable. He finds himself doing a Nines-esque exhale, letting go of the breath he doesn't need, as he squashes the piece into the correct space, poking the broken tab clumsily into place. It looks wrong, all bent out of shape like that.
With another groan, he swipes his hand over the floor so the tessellated tiles crash in waves across the carpet. Some snowy pieces find their way over to join some of his other finished creations, but most of them like so many before, bounce underneath the bed.
He heaves himself up and stretches, letting the lubricant run between his joints. It's cold in the safe house and his thirium runs thickly at this temperature. He adjusts his internal heating system by a few degrees and grimaces at the sensation of his thirium pump regular kicking into overdrive for a few seconds. He's stalling now, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he chews the inside of his cheek, taking care not to tear through the fragile synthetic skin of his mouth for the third time this week.
Usually, he enjoys the time in his schedule that's taken up by actual activities but today he'd rather spend another six hours in stasis than go to Connor's. He pads over to the desk where his shittily wrapped presents sit. He didn't know what to buy for Connor so he settled on chocolate. An internet search told him that was a good generic present for a human. He bought another small one, made with some kind of gross thirium and chocolate mix, that he could give to Hank. It was a last-minute thing, that he threw in his cart in a panic. For Tina, he’s bought a cooking book: 100 different recipes for muffins. He hopes she’ll appreciate the sentiment. He'd spent much, much longer on Nines' present which is annoying considering how much the human will probably dislike it.
He had spent ages trying to think of something useful or pretty or even entertaining but Nines is, apparently, the hardest person in the world to please. He’d slipped out yesterday and walked up and down the parade of shops looking for something, anything, that could possibly suit him.
Nose pressed to the glass, he’d stood in the cold watching other people peruse the various rails and shelves of potential gifts. Inside, everything was warm and lit up with twinkling fairy lights on every surface. Humans really do go all out at Christmas, he thinks. Even the street was lit up with slow blinking bulbs and baubles of green and gold. Someone had tried to clear the snow, to confine it to the sidewalk, but it spread in places like mountains of spilled sugar into the road. Where people could walk, they did so in a hurry, their faces turned down into their scarves, faces pink from the snow and the excitement of getting home to wrap their purchases. It was then that Gavin realised what he could get Nines that he might actually need and use.
He had entered the nearest shop that he thought might stock what he needed and spent the first ten minutes wandering around aimlessly looking at the shooting star light arrangements hanging from the ceiling. It was in a far corner of the store that he found what he was looking for: a scarf, made of some soft multi-fibre material. It was simple, practical and most importantly, black in colour.
He'll hate it, Gavin thinks now, poking the present. It's not expensive or fancy like anything else he owns but perhaps it'll stop him from turning his coat collar up like a douche when it's cold.
When he took it to the cash desk the lady behind the till had asked him if he would like it gift wrapped. He paused for a moment, intrigued by the different coloured ribbons and garish rolls of glossy wrap behind her.
“Is it for someone special?” she asked, leaning over the cashier’s desk and holding out a few pre-written gift tags for him to see. Gavin only had to read the words ‘to my sweetheart at Christmas’ written in looped cursive script and he was scrambling to pay and get out as fast as he could. It’s not likely she would have had a ‘seasons greetings to the colleague I think about kissing
quite a lot’ tag anyway.
He fingers the shitty wrapping paper he’d panic bought instead and turns the tag on the present over so he can reread what he wrote:
To Dick, Merry Christmas, from your favourite android.
There's a moment where he considers ripping off the tag altogether, even in jest it seems too intimate, too presumptuous. But he's not got another one to replace it with, so it will have to do, he thinks.
He hates this inevitable this hive of activity in his insides whenever he thinks about Nines. The waves of anxiety and overthinking. He’s not sure why it’s gotten so bad. Well... he kinda does know and that’s equal parts strange and terrifying. He hopes it will go away. That maybe Nines will lose his appeal like so many of the other things Gavin has trialed to fill his time. He doubts it though, Nines was always the most interesting puzzle of them all, and the one thing he never seems to get bored of.
He shrugs his coat on, a brown leather goodwill purchase as a temporary stand-in for his shredded hoodie, and scoops the parcels off the desk and into his rucksack. He’s just about to leave when a message pops up in his peripherals.
There’s been a slight change of plan...
He rolls his eyes and sighs.
I’ll explain when you get here
That sounds ominous.
He trudges through the thick snow regardless, trying to ignore the defiant hum of his thirium pump as it steadily increases the pace with his growing anxiety. The last thing he wants to do is make a fool of himself and he seems to be doing that quite a lot at the moment. He cringes at the thought.
Connor’s house is all on one story, with a little sheltered porch at the front, bedecked in Christmas lights that he thinks are supposed to look like icicles. It kinda looks like whoever fixed them to the guttering gave up halfway through, as some of them are tangled and they droop and trail off at one end. He walks up the semi-cleared pathway through the shallow snow and knocks on the door. He waits for a second, can already hear the gentle hum of Christmas music from inside.
Connor opens the door. He’s wearing a knitted Christmas abomination complete with twinkling lights. He thinks the pattern might be a Christmas tree but it’s hard to tell with all the tinsel and the flashing, each stitch illuminated in a different colour of the rainbow.
“Gavin!” he says, like he’s well and truly made Christmas just by turning up. He pulls him into a firm hug and Gavin doesn’t need to scan him to tell he’s maybe a few sherries in already.
“Hi, uhh...Merry Christmas?” Gavin half groans as Connor nearly asphyxiates him. He releases him and Gavin side steps him into the house.
He makes it about three steps before his pre-constructive software is triggered reflexively by a huge shape approaching him at speed. There’s a heavy blow to his abdomen and his vision flips suddenly, his view warping until he’s staring at a bright light. He lies on his back, dazed, his ocular implants glitching. It takes him a second to realise he’s been knocked clean off his feet and then his sensors are overwhelmed by a huge wet stripe being licked across his face.
“Sumo!” he hears Connor call.
Gavin realises he’s nose to wet nose with a massive dog. It’s all jowls and slobber and hot, smelly breath, the huge paws pressing down on his chest. He can feel the steady beating of its tail wagging against his shin. It stinks but it has a kind face and Gavin can tell it has a dopey temperament as it rears back from him after a second at his owner’s call.
‘Sumo’ mopes back over to sit at Connor’s feet where he’s rewarded by a scratch behind the ears and fumbled apology- something about being a ‘big fan of androids’- and Gavin is left sitting on the carpet, slightly dazed and covered in dog hair and drool.
“Making friends?” a voice calls from his right. The sound of it cuts through Gavin’s head like a knife and he looks up at where Nines is stood, lounging absent-mindedly against the kitchen counters. The overhead kitchen cupboards are covered in tinsel and fairy lights, not unlike their owner, and the glow kinda silhouettes Nines in a halo of golden light.
It should honestly be illegal for someone to look like that, is Gavin’s first honest reaction. He’s actually glad he can blame his current state of disarray on the dog because in that moment he might be drooling too. The human is wearing a midnight blue dress-shirt that makes his eyes go that stormy colour they do very rarely; somewhere on the cusp of grey and blue. The shirt is probably tailored, Gavin knows that because it fits him like a glove, pulling taught across the lean musculature of his chest and although there’s a little bulge around his bicep where the gauze is wrapped beneath. He’s not wearing his sling and his sleeves are rolled up, collecting in neat folds at his elbows so that the long expanse of his forearms are on display. Gavin wishes he could stop his eyes from tracing the path down, along veins and tendons, to the delicate way his fingers are gripping the glass in his hand. They twitch under Gavin’s gaze, an unrelated movement perhaps, but it draws the android’s attention back to the room and subsequently, the way Nines is smirking at him.
The human deposits the glass on the counter and pushes himself up. He walks over to Gavin and holds out his uninjured arm, palm up. From this angle, he looks about ten foot tall, all long legs in those stupid tight jeans of his. It makes something in Gavin’s throat flutter as he clasps his hand and allows himself to be pulled up. He smells like sandalwood and something else that’s sort of crisp and fresh. It’s intoxicating.
He squeezes Gavin’s hand before he drops it.
“How’re you feeling?” Gavin asks, flexing his fingers at his side as he tries to shake the lingering heat from them.
Nines tilts his chin to prevent a few curls from falling into eyes. There’s the faintest flush of pink to his skin; the bridge of his nose, the soft expanse of his cheeks, even his neck, spreading as low as to dip below the collar of his shirt. Gavin supposes it’s the way Connor’s house seems to trap the heat. It would explain the warmth he can still feel on the synthetic skin of his palms.
“Better, thank you,” Nines says, a coy smile spreading across his face. Somewhere behind them, Connor changes the song playing from a slow, melodic carol to something much more upbeat. Gavin can’t help the way his face changes to a grimace almost immediately and Nines grins in a way that flashes his teeth.
At that moment, Hank emerges from a side door. He’s not wearing his suit today, instead, he’s sporting a hideous Christmas jumper that Connor has obviously wrestled him into. His doesn’t have lights though, just bells and textured tinsel. Still fucking hideous.
“So, we all ready then?” Hank asks, his eyes roaming between Nines and Gavin.
“Uh, what?” Gavin asks as Sumo nudges his knee. The dog settles on his feet and he staggers a little as 150lbs of St Bernard rests against his leg.
“I thought I’d let you deliver the good news to Gavin,” Nines says, his voice alight with amusement as he folds his arms and looks over Gavin’s shoulder to where Connor is swaying to the music. Connor shoots him a devious little grin.
Gavin grimaces at the additional festive decorations someone has carefully placed around the precinct. There's tacky foil paper chains and sprigs of holly and mistletoe dangling from every possible surface. All the overhead screens have been taken over by videos of snow falling and twinkling stars and a Christmas playlist plays on repeat from speakers. To top it all off there are strings of twinkling lights that run up the tall industrial windows and across the ceiling so it feels like they’re encased in some kind of sparkling dome. The party is already in full swing; shapes of people dancing and talking in the low light, in little crowds across the floor and between the desks. It’s busy. And overwhelming.
“Why are we here?” Gavin asks bluntly, planting his feet firmly on the floor at the edge of the make-shift dance floor as Connor and Hank meander forwards.
“It’s to boost morale and to encourage interpersonal relationships in the workplace. Do you not feel festive, Gavin?” Nines says quietly at Gavin’s side, and despite the way the low tone of his words rolls over him, he can see that the detective is suffering just as much as he is.
"I will pay you to take my thirium pump regulator out and step on it," he replies dead-pan, turning to look at the human. The arch of glittering fake starlight behind him sets his profile on fire with gold and chrome in a way that makes Gavin’s stomach twist.
"Don't tempt me," Nines quips, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly.
"Have a drink," Connor laughs ahead of them, gesturing to the drinks table cheerily. It’s separated into two sections: regular alcohol and a selection of bright, electric blue bottles that refract little blue triangles of light against the wall. “Who knows, you might even have fun?”
“There’s not enough thirium laced alcohol in the world,” Gavin groans, his eyes flickering from the refreshments table to the flashing lights on Connor’s hideous Christmas jumper and back to Nines, illuminated like a fucking Christmas angel.
Connor just laughs and shoots Nines a weird look that makes the detective visibly tense beside him. In fact, he mumbles something about work emails and case files and heads in the direction of his desk. Gavin watches him go in disbelief because, of course, Nines would find an excuse to be a work-obsessed weirdo at a god-damn party. That and now he’s gone, he feels very out of his depth without him.
He’s left alone. He sighs and shrugs out of his leather jacket in an attempt to look a little more relaxed and throws it over his shoulder. He shuffles forward into the halo of light created by the lights on the ceiling and finds himself stood next to Hank. The android is rolling a coin across his knuckles; he flicks his wrist and the coin jumps from one hand to the other. Another movement, and it’s back in his other hand. One more and this time he catches the coin between his middle and index fingers. He notices the way Gavin’s eyes follow the coin as he rolls it once more across the edge of his hand, then nudges him in his side,
"You alright, kid?" He asks, smirking.
"Don't call me kid, you're what, like two months older than me?" Gavin grimaces, folding his arms over his un-Christmassy chest.
"Whatever, just because you look old doesn’t mean you are old. Is there a particular reason they made you look like that? It's creepy," Gavin asked. He’s never seen another android like Hank before, silver hair and watery-blue eyes. He guesses, in the right context, that an older-looking android could be reassuring. He looks more human that Gavin does at any rate, if it weren’t for the LED, of course. The way he stands, the way he talks. Especially with the abhorrent Christmas jumper. He guesses it must all be Connor’s influence. If being in close proximity to humans helps you blend in well… Nines is the most un-human human Gavin has ever met.
"Dunno," Hank throws back, eyes twinkling mischievously. "Why'd they make you look so goofy and give you that weird voice?" He pockets the coin and laughs at his own joke as Gavin looks at him abashed.
"Fuck you, man.”
Hank just laughs throatily and thumps him on the arm.
"Hey, you talk to Nines like that?"
"Why wouldn't I?" Gavin tosses back in what he hopes is a nonchalant tone.
"Good," Hank says. “Now if you’ll excuse me.” The android weaves between the tinsel bedecked desks to the refreshments table and pours himself a tumbler of some thick, blue liquid that he can smell from here.
Gavin shuffles on his feet, unsure of what to do. He looks to Nines but the human is hunched over his desk, illuminated by the screen, a lone face amongst a sea of faceless shapes. How fitting. He could go and join him but there’s a whole lot of drunken beat cops between him and the desk.
Someone grabs at his arm, catching him distracted, and he gets an eye-full of Christmas pudding themed knitwear.
“Hey, Gav,” Tina grins, clutching a plastic glass of cava. “Where’s your Christmas jumper?”
“In the bin,” he says automatically, “what...what on earth are you wearing?”
She tries to throw her arms around him and he catches the wrist holding the wine before she tips it down his neck. She ignores his question and plucks at his t-shirt with her free hand.
“I’m surprised Connor hasn’t wrestled you into one,” she says, grinning. She downs the rest of her drink and places the empty glass on one of the desks.
“I’d like to see him try,” Gavin says, trying to duck out of her grip as she tries to pull him further into the crowd.
“I bet Nines could,” she laughs, and Gavin feels like she’s just pulled a wire from one of his vital ports, with the way his stomach lurches. “Come on Gavin, dance with me,” she laughs again and tugs on his wrist so that his arm sways in time to whatever jolly tune is playing from the overhead speakers.
He pulls a face.
“I’d rather have all of my biocomponents ripped out at once and set on fire,” he says, forcing a smile as Tina raises both their hands and twirls herself around dramatically. She’s smirking when she comes back round to face him though and she leans in close and speaks low enough so that only they can hear,
“Oh, is there someone else you’d rather be dancing with?”
She loops her arms around his waist to stop him from wiggling out of her grasp.
“Isn’t there someone else you’d rather be dancing with?” Gavin hisses back, nodding in the direction of the pretty android receptionist who’s standing close by, eyeing up Tina’s back. His internal temperature rises none-the-less. He saw where Tina’s not so subtle gaze had landed mere seconds before. Now, however, she flushes a deep red and tries to put her hand over his mouth. He side-steps as she relinquishes her grip, laughing as she stumbles around. He takes his chance as she trips over her own feet a little and nudges her into the path of the ST300. The android catches her and Tina apologises profusely, her internal core temperature soaring as the ST300 leans in and whispers something in her ear. He watches as they fall into step dancing and giggling, Tina spinning the android around as she had done only moments prior with Gavin. Then the song changes and they lean in closer, the distance between them closing.
Gavin takes this moment to retreat from the crowd of people. He feels cumbersome and out of place, with everyone dressed up festively and slightly drunk, he just feels like an outsider. As always. He leans against a wall in a darkened corner and watches the couples dancing.
He tries to stop himself pre-constructing the image of him and Nines dancing like that but it’s already there in his mind before he can even protest, he can already feel the heat of his body pressed against him, the grip of the human’s hands against his hips, maybe tangled in his hair. He screws his eyes shut in an attempt to shake the feeling from his mind.
This whole Christmas thing…the party...the music...the dancing. He chews his lip.
Christmas is supposed to be spent with the people you love- the people you care about, right? Fuck it. He chances a look at Nines who is hunched over, arms folded, practically scowling at the sparkling decorations. It’s strangely endearing.
Gavin skirts the edge of the dancing crowd to the other side of the precinct where people are leaving presents under a slightly bedraggled Christmas tree. He waits for a few lingering guests to move on and then kneels beside it, placing Connor, Hank and Tina’s presents underneath. Nines’ he keeps. For some reason, he wants to give it to him himself.
He approaches the desk, the detective draped over his chair, a few buttons on his shirt undone, sleeves still rolled to the elbow and sporting a Santa's hat that someone has obviously just plonked on his head. Despite the absurd festive addition, Gavin can’t help the way his face warms at the sight. It shouldn’t be sexy.
“Compiling your naughty list?” Gavin asks loudly and Nines flinches a little out of his stupor.
“Obviously,” he fires back, without taking his eyes off the terminal screen. His fingers are typing away quickly, almost a blur across the keyboard.
“Did I make the cut?”
“Number one,” Nines retorts, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly as he fires off whatever email he was typing and wheels around on his chair to face him, his fingers steepled. His eyes flash with the reflection of a thousand Christmas lights in a way that makes him look slightly impish.
“Fuck you, I’m a delight,” Gavin scoffs, pulling his own chair over to sit down next to him. “Merry Christmas, meat sack.” He pulls his rucksack round to his lap and pulls out Nines’ present, placing it down on the desk in front of the human.
“What’s this?” Nines asks, one eyebrow raised, fingers moving to drum absent-mindedly on the armrests of his chair.
“Your Christmas present,” Gavin replies, doing a mock grand gesture to the parcel. The tag has conveniently positioned itself face up and Nines tilts his head to read the scrawled message. His mouth twitches again and he leans back a little.
“Do you want yours now?” His grey eyes, in all their twinkling splendour, survey the room.
“Depends, do I have to sit on your lap?” He huffs out with a little laugh.
Gavin meant it as a joke, with the whole Santa hat thing… it was funnier in his head. What he wasn’t prepared for was the way Nines hums and casts him a pointed look.
“Only if you want to.”
It takes all of his processing power not to splutter as he tries to keep his facial expression neutral. He knows logically Nines can’t hear the way his internal fans suddenly kick into overdrive with a mechanical whir, the music is far too loud and they’re already having to talk a little louder than usual to be heard, but he still feels that flush of embarrassment. He finds he can’t help but rub the back of his neck awkwardly, his gaze dropping almost immediately.
“You already got me my name thing,” he says weakly, not knowing what else to respond. He actually hadn’t anticipated Nines buying him another present. It kinda makes his own shitty gift feel even shittier.
“That was a separate occasion,” Nines says, so cool and unbothered it isn’t fair. He reaches under his desk and pulls out a present wrapped in silver snowflake paper. “ This is Christmas."
Out of nothing else but selfish interest, Gavin scans him. His heart is beating a little higher than usual but other than that, he’s the picture of composure. He resists the urge to scrunch his face in frustration and takes the parcel from his hands.
“Should I open it now?” He asks, lifting the name tag which simply says ‘Gavin’ in Nines’ spiky script. It’s such a little thing, to see his name written down like that, but it makes his thirium pump pound.
“What? No! It’s not Christmas yet.”
The look on his face... he’s so affronted, Gavin can’t help but laugh. It’s the Rubick’s cube all over again.
“Who are you, the present police?” But he picks up the parcel like it’s the most precious, fragile thing and puts it carefully in his rucksack.
An abhorrently whimsical tune with sleigh bells and trumpets starts playing on the overhead speakers and the human visibly stiffens. He stands up and swings his jacket off the chair and onto his arms, shrugging into it, flinching a little at the way his left arm has to bend. With one swift movement, he grabs his cigarettes off his desk and shoves them in his pocket.
“I am losing brain cells just by being in here,” he says and gestures with a tilt of his head to the carpark. Gavin would complain about Nines smoking but...it is Christmas. Instead, he just smirks and trails behind him as they scoot between the desks to the door. He notices as they pass, that Tina and the receptionist are still dancing very close together and he grins despite himself.
Once they’re outside, Gavin leans against the doorframe. It’s snowing quite heavily now but there’s a little covered area immediately outside the door where they can avoid the flurry. Nines pulls his cigarettes out and turns to face Gavin. He sticks one between his teeth but pauses for a second, catching the android's eye.
“Careful,” he says, gesturing to something above the door, a ghost of a smile playing around the cigarette in his mouth.
“What?” Gavin asks, dumbly looking up. He notices a bundle of mistletoe hung not quite above where he’s stood but about a foot to the left. It takes him a second and a quick internet search to realise what Nines is getting at. He laughs automatically, but it sounds forced even to him. He can physically feel the way his face warms at the implication. “Hm, didn’t you just walk under that?”
“No... I didn’t,” Nines says quickly, dropping his gaze as he flicks the flint on his lighter until the cigarette catches. A lie, Gavin thinks, watching the tiny increase in the human’s heart rate.
Gavin laughs again, a little braver this time, and scrubs at the scarring on his nose. He doesn’t know what happens next. Maybe it’s all the Christmas spirit, Nines stood there in his stupid Santa hat, snowflakes catching about his shoulders in the wind. Maybe his whole system just stutters for a second. Or maybe he finally loses his fucking mind, his brain going into melt-down mode at the absurdity of this whole situation.
“Oh,” he says, before he can even process why he’s saying it, “don’t you want me to kiss you?”
It was supposed to be a joke. Kind of. But it comes out much more sincere than he wanted it to, his own selfish agenda pushing through to the forefront of his brain, martyring itself on his lips.
“W-what?” Nines chokes on the inhale, the smoke sputtering between his lips and out of his nose. It’d be funny if it weren’t for the fact that he can barely hear him over the roar in his ears. Nines is looking at him like he’s just put a gun to his head, eyes wide and mouth hanging open slightly, the hand holding his cigarette frozen in mid-air. Gavin stares at the human, his processors slowly acknowledging what has actually just come out of his mouth, his whole body completely rigid as the flood of instant regret and panic washes over him. A good few seconds pass where neither of them speak, in fact, Gavin can’t speak...it feels like the joints in his jaws have actually locked in place. Shame they couldn’t have done that two minutes earlier before he put his fucking foot in it.
“I...I’m just fucking with you, Dick,” Gavin stammers finally, as though he can erase his words the same way the smoke between them curls and fades to nothing.
Everything is quiet for another second. Just them and the distant sound of Last Christmas by Wham! playing inside, echoey and vaguely haunting when heard through the metal of the precinct doors. He can feel the thirium pulsing around his body, like there's too much of it, threatening to burst his synthetic veins. Nines hasn't moved, hasn't even blinked, and Gavin can count the snowflakes resting on his lashes in the stillness.
Then the human straightens up, exhales slowly, and stubs the barely touched cigarette out on the wall.
“Are you though?” he asks, locking eyes with Gavin.
If he didn't know better, he'd swear he'd just had the air knocked from his lungs. He doesn't know what to do, what to say. He runs a scan, panicking, the results flashing up one after another before his eyes: pupils dilated, heart beat rising, temperature elevated.
Shit, does...does he actually want him to?
Nines takes a step forward and it's as though time slows down. He sees every tiny movement in his vision; the silent descent of the snow, Nines' minuscule breaths, the way his curls and the fluff on his hat flutter in the wind.
Nines is staring at him, waiting for his response… waiting for him.
And right then everything just seems to fall agonisingly into place. That facade of indifference he threw up right from the off, suddenly tearing at the seams, revealing what now lay beneath. Those half-starved looks from under his lashes, the tiniest glimpses of hungry curiosity. Gavin was programmed to unpick a man's every cover, to know all his tells, had all the evidence right in front of his nose. And he'd...he’d missed it.
But now he knows, he can see it so blindingly obvious in the flickering over-head light, fragmented and rosy from the blanket of snow beneath them. Nines is still staring at him, lips half parted in breathy anticipation, his face pink from the cold and being held at the mercy of his stupid, blind fucking android.
He could step towards him, could close that silent, aching distance between them…
But what if he's wrong?
Fuck, what if he's-
"Oh shit, sorry!”
The door bursts open and Tina practically falls out, the android receptionist grasping her hand stood sheepishly behind her. Gavin jumps, just as Nines stumbles backward as though the space between them is somehow incriminating in itself.
"God, I’m sorry!” Tina laughs, covering her face. There’s an agonising second where no one moves or speaks. Then Tina blows out a breath. “Uhm, Nines, I think Connor might need taking home?” She squints through her fingers at the two of them.
Nines audibly exhales. Gavin doesn’t move. Doesn’t think he can even if he tried.
“Right, um,” Nines says breathily, eyes glued to the floor. “Yes, right.”
He walks past Tina and she shoots Gavin an apologetic look over his shoulder before her and the receptionist follow him in.
Gavin stands there for a minute, letting the icy touch of the snow kiss his skin, his artificial heart beating almost painfully against his sternum. He wants to sink to his knees and bury his face in the snow he’s so warm, so tense, so so so stupid.
god daMNIT TINA!!
jk I love and adore her with all my heart.
Chapter 13: Connor did good
Hello again. I'm sorry this is late, I've just started a full time Masters degree and work is still really busy! That and I've read and reread this chapter like 700 times because it's ~important~ for many, many reasons. Thank you as always to everyone who comments on this fic because your lovely words are what keeps me writing- some days I only write because one of you has said something so encouraging and kind. I love you all. Thank you to @WarriorOfTheLight for proofing this bad boy and for putting up with my diet coke fuelled spiciness at midnight when I have writer's block.
Also let me know if there are any formatting issues because I'm posting on my phone in a coffee shop xxx
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Gavin, and a few other sad, lonely people, are the only ones who volunteered to work Christmas day. He doesn’t particularly mind, he was supposed to be on leave, but he had already volunteered to cover the shift weeks ago before shit hit the fan.
The precinct is practically deserted bar the unlucky few. Even the decorations seem forlorn, some slumped and a little dishevelled from the party, most clinging to the last bit of sticky in their strips of sellotape. The Christmas playlist soldiers on, the volume turned down low, the choral arrangement of silent night currently playing sounds quite ominous when heard against the noise of the howling wind outside. There are fat, fluffy snowflakes falling in a steady stream against the icy panes of the big industrial windows and Gavin spends most of the morning analysing their individual trajectories instead of doing any actual work. He justifies it by reminding himself he’s here as a favour.
It’s actually a welcome distraction from sitting in the safehouse staring at the ceiling and wondering why Nines hasn’t spoken to him yet. It’s been thirty seven hours, twenty two minutes and maybe like fourteen seconds since they last spoke. Not that he’s tried to contact him himself. He’s just thought about it. A lot. He’s actually got like six drafts saved in his messages that he’s written then discarded, then gone back to, then discarded again. But it’s kinda hard to formulate a message that strikes the right balance between ‘hey so about that almost kiss’ and ‘I want to jump your bones.’
He’s been trying to think of a way to start a conversation without it seeming weird. Maybe say thanks for the Christmas present? It’s a new hoodie, one that’s not emblazoned with Cyberlife’s logo, or covered in Nines’ blood and obviously way more expensive. It’s a little oversized and soft inside against his synthetic skin. He’s sat in it now, legs up on his desk, nose tucked into the material of the collar. There’s the faintest hint of Nines’ smell in the cotton-polyester blend. He allows himself this one selfish indulgence, as he drums his fingertips on the desk and scrolls through the unending stream of emails he’s seen 100 times already.
As the afternoon wears on the light outside turns rosy, the sun starting to set against plumes of pregnant clouds, the snow showing no signs of relenting any time soon. At around 4pm, after what seems like days of spinning around and around in his chair out of nothing but sheer boredom, a picture message notification flashes up in his HUD. He nearly topples out of the chair at the alert, gripping onto the desk with his hands to steady himself.
Gavin’s thirium pump skips a beat as he opens the file curiously.
Nines is at the front of the photo, sunglasses on despite the fact it's literally snowing and the sun is dim and low in the sky. Gavin huffs out a laugh at that. Then his eyes are drawn lower to the black scarf wound around the human's neck and his stomach flutters. In the background, he can see Hank and Connor wrestling with Sumo.
The caption reads: annual Xmas day walk, thank you for my present.
He can feel the tug of a smile forming on his face, his core temperature rising just a little as he thinks about how to respond.
Thanks for mine too. Comfy AF
He tucks his nose back into the collar and leans back in his chair. A few minutes later, he gets a response.
He wishes his stomach wouldn’t swoop at that like it does. That stupid smiley face bears no resemblance to Nines but he can imagine the expression transplanted onto his perfect features, his little crooked smirk, the skin around his eyes crinkling despite all his best efforts to keep a straight face. He presses the heel of his hand into his forehead, trying to stop the stupid smile spreading across his own mouth.
He doesn’t know what to say next. So he says nothing. A classic ‘Gavin’ move, he inwardly scolds himself. He spends the next few hours trying to stop himself from chewing the strings on his new hoodie, wishing he’d had the guts to say something a bit more exciting in his last message, maybe asked him how his day was going, or what other presents he’d had. He still could, he guesses. But the way his gut clenches at the thought stops him.
It’s dark outside now and it somehow makes the inside of the precinct feel colder, bathed in the cool, glacial lights of the overhead LED bulbs. He actually considers putting himself in stasis for the last two hours of his shift but a new message alert stops him in his tracks.
Gavin all but chokes on his own tongue as he opens the picture message. Then lets out a tiny, stilted laugh when he sees what it is.
It’s his scarf draped over the arm of the sofa, a grey lump curled in a swirl shape on top of it. The caption reads: Cleo likes it too.
Dude I demand more cat pics immediately.
He closes the open tabs on his terminal, the programs zipping away into the corner of the screen as he decides he’s done for the day. He stretches and waits for the human to respond.
Gavin opens it without a second thought.
It’s another picture of Cleo, stretched out so her belly is exposed, Nines’ long fingers tucked behind her ears.
Usually Gavin would take a moment to enjoy the human’s impeccable hands, or the cuteness of the feline but his ocular processors are too preoccupied with the print of the trousers he can see in the bottom corner of the shot. They’re bright red- like Christmas red- and gaudy; snowflakes, candy-canes, baubles, the lot. The pattern, if you can call it that, looks as though someone has up-turned a Christmas tree and just stuck the items down in no particular order at all.
Wtf are you wearing
The message notification flashes to ‘read’ almost immediately. Then ‘Detective Dick is typing...’ Then it stops. Then he’s typing again. This happens a few times over the next few minutes before the next message pops up.
Connor bought them for me. They’re comfy
Detective Dick is typing...
Wait send me a proper pic
Gavin watches as Nines, once again, stops and starts typing several times.
He laughs out loud at that, picturing the detective’s scrunched up nose and furrowed brow in his mind.
Please. It’s Christmas and I’m at work.
It’s the least you can do.
As a bonus, he sends a pic of his disgruntled face reflected in his terminal screen, hoping that conveys his boredom. He doesn’t respond straight away. Or for the next ten minutes in fact. Gavin worries for a second that he’s annoyed him but then a notification pings up with a message attachment.
It’s a mirror selfie, which is funny in itself, angled down so the trousers are framed by the shot. Gavin gets another glimpse of Nines’ immaculate bedroom. He’s also apparently wearing some candy-cane striped socks to match his festive pyjama pants and... not much else. Gavin freezes as he takes in the sight of the tiny sliver of skin, taught abs and sharp hip bones at the top of the snapshot, almost not in frame, but unmistakably there .
Has he...has he done this on purpose? His tongue feels very heavy all of a sudden. He stares at the picture, trying to work out if it’s a deliberate act or completely unintentional. His brain seems to take the picture and run with it though, pre-constructing images of Nines lounging on his sofa, no...his bed, half dressed, pyjama pants slung low on his hips, his long, beautiful fingers trailing down his abdomen…
Gavin wants to replace those hands with his tongue, wants to straddle those hips, remove those hideous fucking pyjamas with his teeth. God, he’s at work why is this happening ? He feels his whole body thrum with a crackle of static at the thought and he has to completely wipe his vision of the photo to form his response.
Nice, Connor did good.
He can be cool about this. After all, it could be that he’s reading into it too much.
He can do this. It’s fine.
He pauses for a second, chewing his lip, then starts a second message.
Shame he didn’t buy you the full set.
Shit. He sends the message before he can convince himself it’s a bad idea. Then he waits, agonising seconds ticking past as the notification of Nines typing flashes on and off again and again. There’s nothing for a full two minutes, where Gavin practically chews his lip off waiting. Then the notification pings up in his vision.
I thought you’d appreciate that.
He tastes the tart sting of thirium as he splits the synthetic skin of his lower lip. He looks up and around the precinct, suspiciously, as though the few people still on shift can somehow read his messages. He settles lower in his chair and licks the blue blood from his lips.
He curses under his breath at the clumsy response but also what the fuck is he supposed to say? Nines is probably sat there nonchalantly typing away on his phone while Gavin is literally causing himself bodily injury because he can’t deal with a pixelated sliver of flesh.
Or he could be exactly like he was in Gavin’s pre constructed fantasy, half-dressed and laid out like an oil painting, fingers skirting around the waistband of his hideous pyjamas.
He blows out a puff of air as his internal cooling fans whir into life at that thought.
Is this happening? Are they doing this? Are they really doing this? Fuck it, he thinks. If they are, he might as well go all out.
Not in the way I want to though
Gavin clears his vision of all notifications and screws his eyes shut, sucking the thirium from his bottom lip and trying to soothe his internal processors as they fight against his rising temperature.
“You alright, Gavin?”
He snaps his eyes open with a jolt only to see the ST300 receptionist staring at him in alarm. She’s carrying a stack of folders and wearing a pair of mock reindeer ears. He realises he still doesn’t know her name and makes a mental note to interrogate Tina about that.
“Yeah sorry I err... software update.”
She nods but doesn’t look convinced.
“I’m just finishing up, are you here long?”
A notification pops up in his vision from Nines and Gavin practically jumps out of his chair.
“J-just an hour or so, until the next shift starts,” Gavin stammers as she furrows her brow at him.
“Well, take care, have a good Christmas,” she says awkwardly.
Gavin mumbles a quick ‘yeah, you too’ and settles back down in his chair. As soon as she’s out of sight he opens the message.
He exhales unnecessarily. Fuck.
Is there some kind of manual he can download for this? Sexting.exe? There’s still some part of him that thinks that maybe this is some kind of gross misunderstanding and Nines is just being perfectly cordial and hasn’t read any of the subtext in these messages and Gavin is reading far too much into-
Are you still at work?
He closes his eyes again and licks his lips. Okay, so this is happening. There’s an insurmountable pile of evidence within his ‘Nines’ folder to convince him that this is actually happening. For whatever stupid reason, the one part that Gavin still can’t really wrap his processors around, Nines likes him. Enough to try and kiss him. And to send him a half-naked selfie. And-
Do you want to come over afterwards?
And is inviting him around to his apartment on Christmas day to...
He leans back in his chair again, his hair falling backwards as he drags his hand over his face. Fuck.
The reality of the situation hits him all at once and actually, he hasn’t got a fucking clue what he’s doing. Like, what is this?
He chews his lip.
He lets the waves of uncertainty eb and flow over him as he weighs up every anxiety, every doubt, every bad outcome against the tiny moments of softness amongst all the prickly feelings.
He thinks of all those moments where he looked at Nines and thought ‘what if?’ The silence between them the absence of everything he wanted to say, everything he never thought he could.
Outside everything is quiet. There’s no cars out now; everyone’s at home with their families, their friends and people that matter to them. Gavin thinks about that for longer than he probably should.
He stands in front of the precinct watching the white flakes fall. The world seems muffled as though the blanket of snow has somehow silenced all the sounds, coating it in a sleepy, soft stillness. It makes the riot in his head and the kick-drum beat of his thirium pump feel so much louder. There’s so many things running through his mind, his processors stuttering around the data, trying in vain to prioritise system tasks amidst the chaos.
Instead he just replays the image of Nines stepping towards him, snowflakes kissing his skin, rose blooming across his nose from the chill. The little dart of his tongue out to wet his lower lip on a breathy inhale. A tiny flutter of his frosted lashes as his gaze darts nervously to the ground and back up again, wintry eyes the warmest they’ve ever looked. And they’re looking right at him. Waiting for him.
God, he aches with it. He can feel it in the very tips of his fingers right through into the centre of his chest. Bleeding through every single pathway, every wire.
The taxi ride is arguably worse. He feels stuck now, caged in like an animal, his frenzied pulse echoing in his ears. The lights of the city zip by in streams of colour like smudges of paint, the blues and reds bleeding into the bright white across the icy glass of the windows.
He waits at the steps to Nines’ apartment for what seems like an hour, just staring at the door. The lights are on but the curtains drawn so they glow like they’re on fire. His thirium pump is humming and he feels like he could just turn around right now, right this second, and forget all about this. Forget all about-
But he can’t. Of course, he can’t. Because it’s Nines. It’s always been Nines.
He makes the terrifying walk up the stairs, his feet crunching ominously in the snow. He goes to knock, his hand poised for a second, a last moment of doubt before he knocks, the quick, sharp sound echoing the jolt of fear in his gut.
Nines answers almost immediately, practically wrenches the door off its hinges, in fact. And it takes all of Gavin’s- arguably fraying- willpower not to laugh in his face.
The pyjamas are much worse in real life. He’s wearing the full set, the implication that the top half was removed just for the picture is not lost on Gavin, but the shirt really does complete the look. They’re a little too big for him, the sleeves just brushing his knuckles, and it’s one of those rare occasions where Nines looks almost small. The premature laughter at his attire dies on his lips though, as he takes in the expression of absolute earnest nervousness the human is also wearing. There’s that tell-tale crease between his brows and he’s twisting the bottom of his shirt around his index finger, eyes searching Gavin’s face for his intent.
“Hi,” he says, after a moment’s pause, his lips still parted as the sound trails off.
Gavin stares at him. It’s not the first time, not by a long shot, he’s always staring. But it’s different now, like he’s looking at him with fresh eyes. Like he’s received a software update he didn’t know was missing and now he can’t even imagine living without it. He looks softer, all his sharp angles blunted by the oversized clothes and the light of his apartment silhouetting him in gold. The tender agony of silence hangs between them, not knowing what to say to fill the void, so many unspoken things and not a single one adequate or fully formed enough to start crossing that distance. It all feels so uncoordinated, so tentative, so strange. But he wants it.
“Come in,” Nines says quickly and ducks his head, scratching at the nape of his neck as he awkwardly bows out of the way to allow Gavin entry.
Gavin walks in and Nines closes the door behind him. The human walks towards the kitchen then pauses, then turns as if to say something, then goes to walk again, then stops. Then he just stands there, staring back at Gavin. The snow on Gavin’s shoes melts in a puddle at his feet. It’s not overly hot inside but he feels like he’s on fire. Like every single one of his wires are frozen at the exact point of short-circuiting, the spark preserved and enduring, unsustainable, waiting to consume him. And...he’d probably let it because at that moment Nines steps forward towards him, closing the distance until they’re stood almost toe to toe.
He threads his fingers into the space in Gavin's hood and pushes it backwards, off his head, dislodging a smattering of snowflakes as he does. His hands are soft and the brush of them past his cheeks makes Gavin shiver. It feels like he's just removed all of Gavin's clothes not just his hood, for how exposed he feels right now. He feels vulnerable. Reminded all at once how different they are; Nines’ skin so soft, warm and delicate and Gavin’s, synthetic and cool to the touch. Fake. He’s all fake. He thinks of all the rivers of blood running through Nines that make him warm and keep him alive and then Gavin’s viscous, man-made thirium. A chemical compound; an unnatural blue. He’s reminded of the tart tang of it on his tongue, bitter and cold. And every circuit running just below his skin, sending panic messages to his brain at this very moment, all to imitate the illusion of life, of feeling, of...
The human’s hands lingering slightly at the nape of his neck draws him back to reality, and Gavin swears he’s trembling a little, before he steps back. He feels the distance like a cool breeze between them.
"Gavin," he says quietly, his eyes dark and roving about his face.
"Yeah?" Gavin manages to say despite the fact his tongue feels heavy in his mouth. He sees the swirl of yellow reflected in Nines' eyes and he brings two fingers up to his temple to snuff out the light automatically. He wants to rip it out right now, even as he stands awkwardly in front of Nines. He wishes the blunt crescent moons of his nails would be enough to gauge it out but they don’t even pierce the skin.
"Don't...do that," Nines practically breathes, bringing his fingers back up as though he's about to pull Gavin's hand away but he pauses just before they touch, afraid to cross that boundary. The way his hand lingers, the inches between them almost rife with static, makes his skin feel prickly.
"Stupid fucking thing," Gavin huffs, trying to play it cool. He shrugs and scrubs his nose with the sleeve of his hoodie, casting his eyes to the floor. "Gonna take it out, I think."
"No! Don't!" Nines starts, his face suddenly alarmed. He licks his lips and drops his hands, his face turning to look at his candy-cane patterned socks.
"W-why not?" Gavin stammers, taken aback by the human’s reaction.
"I mean you can if that's what you want?” Nines says, his gaze flickering back up to meet Gavin’s. “It’s just...well,” He laughs weakly then and swipes at his upper lip. “I won't have any hope of knowing what you're thinking if you do."
He finishes the sentence and ducks his head again, tugging at the collar of his pyjama top in a way which exposes his throat. His temperature’s rising, the hologram pre-construction of his heartbeat fluttering in Gavin’s vision kicks up a notch too.
"You could think of it as cheating ,” Gavin says, echoing the Detective’s own words, cocking an eyebrow, his eyes glued on the pale expanse of skin. “You don't have a mood ring. I never know what's going on in that head of yours."
"Don't lie, of course you do,” Nines says, scrunching his nose a little at Gavin’s words.
"Why, because I'm an android?” Gavin almost laughs in disbelief and runs his hand through his hair. If he knew what Nines was thinking all the time they wouldn’t be standing here awkwardly skirting around each other like this. So much for being detectives. “You think my thermal scanners tell me shit? Trust me, I never know what you're thinking. It’s...”
The words die on his lips as he struggles to even form a sentence. He doesn’t know what to say, how to explain this. He drops his hand from his hair in frustration.
Nines tilts his head up.
"...w-would you like me to show you?" he asks, that little crease forming between his brows again.
He says it so, so quietly, his lips barely moving. And Gavin somehow, even after all the hours he’s spent agonising over this, the days spent wondering, the weeks of confusion, he actually understands the meaning this time.
Nines steps forward experimentally, closing the gap between them until they're practically nose to nose. He can feel his warm breath fan across his face as he breathes, shallow and stilted. His scanners tell him one thing for sure, Nines’ heart is beating almost immeasurably fast, Gavin thinks it’s a wonder the human doesn’t pass out. He won’t meet his eyes, gaze trained resolutely lower as he freezes at the last second.
Gavin looks once more to Nines’ lips, how they’re parted slightly, hovering mere inches from his own. He thinks about all the times he's thought about how Nines' mouth would feel and all the places he wanted it on him. He could...if he wanted…
Nines exhales slightly and brings his fingertips up to Gavin’s jaw, so gently, like he’s trying to catch snowflakes in his hands. The pads of his fingers graze the skin beneath his ear and he shivers slightly as his fingers wind into his hair. He brings their lips together hesitantly, so tenderly, Gavin’s chest aches with it.
He practically flinches when they touch, a spark like static running down his spine at the contact, his sensors over-stimulated by the sudden onslaught of new information. It’s not even a proper kiss, Nines carefully leaving the control in Gavin’s hands, his lips lingering feather-light against his mouth like a promise.
He would be embarrassed by how clumsy and inexperienced he already feels, stood as still as a statue, his whole body suddenly overwhelmed by the sensation of Nines’ lips on his own and his brain practically grinding to a halt. They’re soft, so soft, unspeakably so in comparison to his own synthetic imitation that pales in comparison. Nines’ hands are stilled in his hair, his mouth slotted so gently over Gavin’s like he’s still unsure if this is okay. As though Gavin hasn’t already completely and utterly given into this, like he hasn’t been his for so, so long already. He tries his best to move. To respond in kind. He brings his hands up- and fuck, they’re shaking- and places them carefully on either side of the human’s waist, relishing the feel of the blazing heat of his skin one mere layer of fabric beneath his touch. God, it’s already not enough. He splays his hands against the solid form of the human, trying to feel as much as he can all at once. He leans into the kiss, opens his mouth a little, feeling the gentle flutter of Nines’ breath as he does, the slight whisper of a laugh against his lips.
He tastes like a thousand different things. Like the bruising burn of red wine, the clean, dullness of toothpaste and a murmur of menthol cigarettes. There’s a tang like copper pennies in a cool fountain and a sweetness too, maybe fruit- peach like his lips, perhaps? Gavin doesn’t know. He barely notices the data pouring in, waves upon waves of DNA analysis of extracellular fluid and temperature statistics, flooding his brain like the ocean pouring through the holes of a sinking ship. It’s overwhelming and altogether too much and not enough at the same time. It makes him fist his hands in Nines’ stupid pyjamas and move his mouth against the human’s hungrily. And right then Nines makes this tiny little gasp of a noise against his lips and pulls their hips together and he feels like he’s drowning.
Fuck. Nines kisses him properly then, parting his lips a little more and oh, Gavin has access to every word ever written down by mankind, in however many terabytes of digital memory he has and yet he doesn't think he'll ever find one perfect enough to describe how Nines' mouth feels on his. It’s so much better than he could ever have imagined, hot and silken, like wet satin in a way that should be weird but instead it’s addictive. The human tilts his head, licking along the bottom of Gavin’s lip and Gavin catches his tongue with his mouth, deepening the kiss. It feels like every tiny fear, every anxiety about this- about him, about everything- is lost to it, escaping through the tiny cracks that form when their lips part for just a second to allow Nines’ to breathe. They are few and far between.
It’s nothing like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Gavin thinks in the back of his brain, between the beat of thirium as it roars in his ears. It’s messy and desperate and full of urgency and everything that’s passed between them. Nines’ fingers are knotted in Gavin’s hair so deliciously in a way which tugs at his scalp, drawing new lines of sensation where he didn’t know he had any. His grip tightens on the human’s sharp hips for a second before he decides he wants more and scrabbles at the bottom of his shirt, hiking it up til his fingertips touch the hard contours of his abdomen. The skin here is hot to the touch, soft yet taught and hard where his muscles jump under the pressure of Gavin's fingertips. He smooths a pathway up his side, fluttering over his ribs. Nines moans into Gavin's mouth and he takes the opportunity to flick his tongue against the hot, silken texture of Nines' lower lip, the under-side of his tongue, the roof of his mouth. Tasting everything. Filing it away. His spine feels like it’s on fire and he presses himself against the heat of his body.
They find their way, somehow, across the apartment to Nines’ sofa, a journey made up entirely of stumbling, gasps and half-formed apologies swallowed in an instant. The human all but falls backwards onto the soft cushions, arms outstretched, pulling Gavin onto his lap after him by the waistband of his jeans. Gavin goes gracelessly, gazing down at the human. He never gets to see Nines from this position; he’s always looking up at him. He files the image away, committing it to memory because fuck, Nines is gazing up, hair a mess, pupils blown impossibly wide, his chest heaving. It’s not fucking fair .
He slowly lowers himself into the human’s lap and Nines’ lets out a little breath as Gavin settles his knees on either side of his hips. Nines’ fingers find his jaw and he tilts his head ever so slightly to the right, so he can lean in and press a searing kiss to his throat. Gavin’s eyelids flutter shut of their own accord. Just as his body had kinda, sorta, not really, gotten used to the feeling of Nines’ mouth against his own, Gavin’s processors stumble and practically give up at the sensation of the human kissing, then licking, then nipping with his teeth, the sensitive skin of his neck. Gavin throws his head back at the way the hot, open mouthed kisses seem to elicit a fire that blooms across his skin, seeping into his artificial bones, til he’s surprised his thirium isn’t simmering within him.
God, he’s so fucking warm. He wrenches his hoodie up and over his head, throwing it off in the corner of the room somewhere. Nines licks his lips- he licks his god damn lips- and twists his fingers into the hair at the nape of Gavin’s neck and drags him back down to kiss him again. The hand at the back of his neck slips down to stroke down his throat, gentle pressure that makes the fire in Gavin’s skin seep down until it’s pooling in his gut.
Gavin decides then and there that he could do this forever- could literally do this forever if he wanted because he doesn’t need to breathe, doesn’t get tired, wouldn’t ever get bored. Nines however, is only human and after a few more desperate kisses, he pulls away, chest heaving, one hand fisted in Gavin’s t-shirt. The other shakily comes up to cup his face, running his thumb over Gavin’s lower lip as he laughs breathily.
“You’re blushing,” he murmurs, eyes roving over Gavin’s cheeks. He’s so breathless and wrecked. It’s fascinating. “It’s... blue.”
Oh. OH. Of course. It's just another thing that sets them apart, something Gavin hadn't even thought to consider. He wants to be embarrassed, feels the emotion coil in his stomach. But then there’s Nines, famed deviant hunter, smirking playfully and looking at him like he's something to eat.
“Fuck off,” Gavin hisses and buries his face in the crook of Nines’ neck.
Nines’ laughter reverberates through his chest as he brings his hand up to run his fingers through his hair. It’s not a feverish movement like before. It’s playful. Comforting. Gavin pays him back by placing a kiss to the pulse point in Nines’ neck and the laughter dies a little on his lips and his breath hitches. He can’t really get to his throat because he’s still wearing those dumb pyjamas and he quickly makes the decision that they need to go. He could pre-construct a hundred different ways to do this to determine the fastest option but he kinda wants to savour it. So, he brings his fingers up to pull at the top button, noting the way the human’s heart beat increases again.
Gavin has one small advantage over Nines in this aspect in the sense that- even with his system in disarray- he can prioritise and run background tasks. Therefore, while his fingers expertly twist and slip the buttons through the holes in Nines’ pyjamas, he keeps his attention focused on his neck. He takes his time, undoing one then another, even when he knows it would be at least 75% faster to just rip them off. There’s something extremely satisfying about hearing the human’s stilted, breathy gasps every time he sucks against his skin. Nines’ fingers tangle tighter in his hair when he experimentally grazes his teeth against the skin. He almost makes a fully formed whine, a strained sound from the back of his throat, when Gavin pulls back to access the buttons lower down.
The human watches him, from lidded eyes, bringing his arms to rest on the back of the sofa. That expressionless expression that Gavin has come to know but fraying at the seams. The pulsing of tension in his jaw, the little breaths, the way his mouth parts ever so slightly as Gavin's fingers brush over his sternum.
His skin is so soft and burning hot, he can't help but flatten his palm against his chest to feel the pounding of his heart. He forgets about everything except this. He lets his hand wander over plains of hard muscle and then sharp, jutting collarbones, the hollow space in the middle. He pauses there and dips forward, leaving a tiny kiss. Then he moves upward, his hands ghosting over the hot skin of his throat, feeling him swallow against his hands. Then the soft skin of his cheek, that slight scratch of roughness of the skin on his jaw, the flutter of his eyelashes, though his gaze never leaves him. His hair! So soft! Softer than he'd ever imagined. He can't get enough of the feeling of it on his sensors. He moves to his shoulders, nudging the fabric of the shirt off and Nines gets the hint, sits forward so Gavin can take it down over his wrists and off. His arm is still bandaged and it makes his stomach twist to see it. He ghosts his fingers over the gauze and down until he catches his hands in his own, rougher than he thought, but so beautiful. He loves Nines' hands. He wants to feel them everywhere. He kisses at his knuckles, white like pearls under the skin and then his fingertips. Takes the pad of one into his parted lips and tastes the skin. He gets sandalwood soap, cigarette ash and- wonderfully- traces of himself too. Feels the slight tremble in his wrists when he brings it up to place his palm against his cheek and god- how do humans ever get anything done? Nines' fingers twitch and his thumb rubs gently at Gavin's cheek.
Gavin stares at him, taking in the whole sight. He still can't quite believe this is happening. Would assume, if he didn't know better, that this was all some strange, virus induced dream state. All his secret wants and desires played out in front of him in pristine HD, his sensors in overdrive. But it’s real.
Nines pulls his hand back from Gavin’s face and the android mourns the loss of contact for a moment until he catches sight of that tiny smirk. With one swift movement Nines grabs the back of Gavin’s thighs and maneuvers them so the android is pressed flat to the sofa and Nines climbs over his hips, leaning down to kiss him again. His weight, the sharp hipbones, the way Gavin can feel how fucking hard he is through those hideous pyjamas. It's another overwhelming feeling, though he knows he's just the same, the tension like molten metal pooling in his core. All that bare skin now on show and the way Nines' shoulders flex as he moves above him. Gavin has one hand fisted in the sofa cushions, the other pressing feverishly into the small of Nines' back, fingers splayed and desperate. The human grinds his hips down and whatever status report was on his HUD flickers out of existence replaced instead by a bright, white, burning feeling that makes his eyes roll involuntarily.
Nines' mouth is on his throat again and Gavin literally can't see for the error alerts he's getting. He's pretty sure this is how he's gonna die, a fatal malfunction from overheating, and he doesn't really care. He lets his hands dip below the waistband of Nines' pyjama pants to grab his ass and push his hips down against him again, craving the friction. The human groans into the skin of his neck, his fingers grasping at his jaw so he can tilt Gavin’s face towards him to kiss him again.
Gavin honestly doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. He’s just going with what feels good and what elicits those deliciously human sounds. He finds his hands skimming the bare skin of his back, round to grip his hips, slipping his fingers beneath the waistband of his pyjamas because fuck, he needs them off now .
Nines suddenly pulls back his gaze flitting to their left, panting, lips cherry red and swollen from kissing, his hair a tangled mess and...and Gavin sees what he’s looking at and laughs.
Cleo is sat on top of the coffee table, green eyes narrowed, her tail flicking irritably. She meows indignantly and blinks.
“Okay,” Nines breathes, rocking back so he’s sat on his heels, balanced atop Gavin’s hips. “We’re leaving.”
“We are?” Gavin asks croakily, his eyebrows shooting up involuntarily at the human’s statement.
“Yes,” Nines says, scrambling up from the sofa. From this angle, he looks like a fucking greek god; beautiful, sharp angles of porcelaine skin and freckles. The bandage on his arm serves as a reminder that he’s more than earned the immortal comparison. He looks down at Gavin, brow furrowed at his hesitancy. “Bed, now.”
Gavin really wishes he had more self-control, that he could bite back something about not following orders or being a free deviant. But the commanding tone of the human’s voice has something hot and pulsing slip through his body, straight to his dick, and he’s blindly obeying.
Nines has him pressed into his black bed covers before he can even process how he moved from one room to the other. That focus, the stoic professionalism, the last sliver of the human’s famed self-control, dissolves completely. Impatience has him cupping Gavin’s face with one hand, while the other makes clumsy work of undoing his jeans. Those clever, beautiful fingers making a fucking meal of a simple task because he can’t take his mouth of Gavin’s even for a second. Not even when he murmurs I want you against his lips. Gavin casts an exasperated glance down, nudges his hands away and huffs against his lips impatiently,
“Can you take those fucking pyjamas off first, I’m begging you.”
Nines leans back for a second, his lips parted as he takes in Gavin’s face, then he laughs. He stands up, wiggles out of the obscene red trousers, folds them , and places them on the top of his chest of drawers.
Gavin has come to expect one thing from Nines and that is that he is always going to be knocked senseless by how perfect he looks all the time. But the way Nines crawls cat-like up his body, in nothing more than his black boxers, is something next level. His fingers catch on the hem of Gavin’s t-shirt as he does and he hikes it up, tugging so Gavin takes the hint and allows himself to be undressed. Nines drags the t-shirt up and over his head, casting it to the floor, which makes Gavin laugh because apparently Cyberlife issue t-shirts don’t get the folding treatment. He trails off though, mouth still parted from laughter, when he realises Nines is frozen in place.
He’s sat, arms still outstretched like a broken doll, eyes wide. He’s staring at Gavin and for a moment he isn’t sure why until he follows his line of sight and looks down at himself. He’s not really looked at himself properly since that first night in the safe house. Hasn’t really needed to because he doesn’t really need to get undressed all that often. But now, even in the dim lighting of Nines’ bedroom, he can see the cause for that flicker of alarm that suddenly crossed the human’s features.
His torso is still riddled with scars, one big one in particular, where the artificial skin pools and laps at the edges like the ocean against a particularly jagged, angry looking rock. The white plastic is exposed and blackened in places where the wound was cauterised all those weeks ago. A procedure he doesn’t even remember. And Nines has seen it before, of course he has. He was there when they brought him in, saw him shirtless and exposed at the Cyberlife store. But Gavin was just another android then. A liability. And Nines was just another human who wasn’t to be trusted.
But now? The weight of what has passed between them hangs heavily in the air, the ringing silence punctuated only by Nines’ stilted breaths. The human lowers his hands to rest on Gavin’s stomach, his fingertips brushing the edges of the wound, a ghost of a touch. It feels tingly. Almost uncomfortable. He moves the pads of his fingers across the skin, circling the outline of the scar almost reverently, before leaning down and placing a kiss to curved ridge of his chest plate. It’s a chaste kiss, a soft press of his lips against the cool skin of Gavin’s sternum, but the sensors here are not used to the stimulation and a fire blooms in a way which makes Gavin’s mouth fall open in a silent oh . It’s too much, way too much. But Nines kisses up Gavin’s chest, mapping every scar, until they’re nose to nose again and Gavin chases his mouth. The human smirks as he narrowly avoids the kiss, leaning up instead to press his lips to Gavin’s forehead.
Gavin tilts his head back and pulls Nines’ face down by the jaw to kiss him properly, trying his best to distract from the eye-sore that is his abdomen. Nines yields to the kiss and lays his body back down against Gavin’s. It brings so much more of each of them in contact, the hot, smooth feel of Nines’ skin against his own. He can feel every shudder of breath that runs through him. He runs his hand over his sharp shoulder blades, down the protruding knots of his spine like a string of pearls, curves his hand to grasp at his hips. His actions are inexperienced, perhaps too blunt but Nines practically whimpers against his mouth when he drags his palm along the hardness in his underwear, one hand tangled in Gavin’s hair, the other cupping his jaw so tightly it would probably hurt if he were human.
They stay like that for a few minutes, kissing slowly, deeply, Gavin stroking his cock until Nines eventually leaves Gavin’s lips with a half-gasp, licking his way down his neck to his shoulders and across the simulated jut of his collar bones. Every kiss leaves fire on his skin, like a flaming pathway between his sensors. The lower he gets the more it burns. When the human reaches his hips, he lingers long enough to finally undo his jeans and pull them down. Gavin kicks and wiggles the denim down his legs to help the process, until they land heavily at the foot of the bed. Nines returns his attention to Gavin’s skin, pressing searing hot, open mouthed kisses to the inside of his thigh in a way which has the android threading his fingers into his curls. The contact blazes and Gavin briefly wonders about the blackened, scorched scars on his legs and how Nines will feel about those. The thought is chased away by a series of error alerts that begin popping up in his field of vision. The first he waves away, determined to give himself over to the feeling of Nines’ mouth sucking against the inside of his knee. But they keep coming, especially when Nines swirls his tongue like that. His core temperature is sky high and climbing, prickly and creeping in a way which threatens to overload his system there and then. The lines of sensation being drawn by Nines’ tongue are too much, the skin over-sensitive, burning. It goes past the point of feeling good. He pushes Nines’ head back, his fingers shaking, his artificial veins crackling with static. His vision is completely obscured by error messages now, his sensors overwhelmed and flooded with...with the smell of gasoline and burning plastic and the heavy, harsh weight of strange hands against his skin. He feels the fire lick up his legs, so hot against his synthetic skin, the fluid bubbling against the melted plastic casing.
It’s not real. He knows it’s not real.
But it doesn’t stop him from lashing out when he feels strong arms around him. He hits with as much force as he can with his joints dissolving into one another, the heat destroying his biocomponents, welding them together with a sticky, tar like mix of plastic and thirium. There are black spots in his vision and even what he can see pulses menacingly, glitchy and pixelated. An audio track of flickering fire and shouts crackles through his processors and he doesn’t...know...how...to ...stop…it...
He clenches his jaw and wrenches himself over onto his side, curling in on himself around his knees, screwing his eyes shut so he can deprive his senses of any triggering visual stimuli. The noise of the file is taken over by the roar of static and the whirr of his internal cooling fans. It’s loud enough to potentially damage his aural systems but a welcome relief. He can see the error messages flickering and disappearing from view one by one.
He unpeels his limbs, flattening them out on the bed and scrubs at his face, huffing out an unnecessary exhale as he waits for his thirium pump to stop beating at a critical rate, the biocomponent slamming against the plastic of his ribs.
The sound of his name brings him a little closer to reality and he dares open his eyes. When he does he can see his own crimson LED reflected in Nines’ grey irises, face fraught with concern, hovering just above him. His own face is wet and he realises in an absurd moment of clarity that he’s crying.
“Gavin,” Nines breathes again, his face screwed up like he’s in pain. "Please. Talk to me."
It’s the most emotion he’s ever seen on his face. It makes him want to reach up and smooth out the lines on his forehead with his fingers, to push and pull the pain from his skin. But instead, he just stares up at him dumbly, his own brow furrowed in frustration, hands pressed into the sheets.
"It’s not you,” he says automatically, his voice coming out hoarse and laced with static. It's not, of course it’s not. But it doesn't soothe the crease from between Nines' brows or release the tension in his chest. “It’s not you,” he repeats, stupidly, as though saying it twice will somehow make it all okay.
He tries to sit up, leaning back on his elbows to survey his lower half just to check- for his own sanity- that he’s not actually on fire. The skin on his legs is still scarred, a kind of patchwork mess where the skin has retracted around scorched white plastic. He experimentally presses his hand against his thigh, waiting for the onslaught of fear and panic to return but it doesn’t. The skin there still feels hot to the touch but it doesn't burn. It automatically retracts around his fingers though, as though expecting pain he can't even feel. He licks his lips.
It doesn’t make sense.
He sighs and flops down against the sheets again, scrubbing at his face, wiping the wetness from his cheeks. The fear is starting to dissipate now and he just feels stupid. Fuck, what is wrong with him? Why is he so fucking broken?
“I’m...I’m sorry,” he says through his fingers. If he could just stay here in the darkness behind his hands, that would be great. But he can already feel Nines shifting on the bed beside him.
“Hey, dont…” He hears Nines say. Feels the light pressure on his arm. “Talk to me.”
“I…” He starts to speak before his brain has even had a chance to think about what to say and he lets the sentence die on his lips. It’s like he’s completely fried his processors, his system stuttering around a hundred different explanations that start and stop before they’re fully formed. He’s had his tongue in Nines’ mouth and his hand on his dick but he still can’t speak to him without feeling like an idiot. There’s something about Nines that will always make him nervous.
And yet he’s seen that vulnerability in Nines too. The tiny flashes of insecurity, the way his gaze will flicker away or how he’ll stumble on his words sometimes.
“Is it something…” Nines starts as if on cue, his voice wavering. Gavin is still hiding behind his hands but he knows exactly what face he’s making. “...did I do something?”
He removes his hands from his face and sits up in alarm.
“No! It’s...fuck.” He scratches at his nose in frustration. He’s about to open a whole can of worms here. But Nines is just sat there, wearing nothing but a bandage and his boxer shorts, looking at Gavin like he’s made of fucking gold and suddenly, it doesn’t matter that he’s a patchwork of inconsistencies and broken pieces. Or that his brain is intent on driving him to self destruction. “I don’t know what it is... but it triggers some kind of flashback.”
“A flashback,” Nines repeats, blinking.
“From before my memory was wiped…” Gavin continues, chewing his lip. He thinks about the first time Nines saw him like this, all those weeks ago in the snow. “That day at Cyberlife tower?” Nines nods. “Yeah, it’s the same thing.”
The human sucks his lower lip into his mouth, his palms flat against his knees, eyes cast down. A moment passes, then his brow furrows and he tilts his chin up to look at Gavin.
“Wait...a flashback like, a memory?”
“Memor ies ,” Gavin answers, emphasising the plural. Then he shrugs, grimacing a little. “Sometimes. Usually one in particular.”
He hopes Nines doesn’t want specifics. He’s had enough of the smell of gasoline for one night and he doesn’t trust his brain not to overheat and force a system shutdown if that happens again. The human licks his lips, forehead so creased that a constellation of freckles has formed a neat, straight line across his brow.
“I thought you couldn’t remember anything from before,” he says quietly, his eyes moving to stare intently at the wrinkles in the sheets between them.
“It’s not all there,” Gavin says slowly. “A lot of it is corrupted. But there’s...enough.” He scrubs at his nose, the prickly sensation settling in his stomach at the thought of Rand’s face swimming pixelated in his vision. “The guy who shot you? I recognised him from one of the corrupted memory files. From the night of the revolution…think he recognised me too.”
Realisation dawns on Nines’ face and he inhales sharply.
“That’s why you chased him.”
“Why...why didn’t you tell me?” Nines asks quietly.
Gavin shrugs because he doesn’t know what to say to that. To begin with, he hadn’t wanted to acknowledge it let alone talk about it. Especially not with Nines. He still doesn’t know when they stopped hating each other. Or how he ended up semi-naked in Nines’ bed. Everything happened so slowly, tiny layers of indifference and frustration peeling back, yet also so quickly, a heady rush of emotions all at once. Deviancy was always so confusing and Nines the most difficult puzzle of them all. He still doesn’t quite know if he’s solved it.
“I remember when they brought you in…” Nines voice cuts through his thoughts. He looks up, his hair falling into his misty eyes with the way he tilts his chin up. “The first time I saw you. I didn’t think they were going to be able to wake you up. You were…” He doesn’t finish the sentence; the evidence of what happened is still carved into Gavin’s skin. He looks away.
They are quiet then. Gavin fights the urge to crawl into Nines’ lap and lean against his chest. To close his eyes and let himself be held. He feels small. Broken. He grimaces and flops back onto the bed, sighing in frustration. Nines shuffles to lie down beside him, an inch of space between them, the uncertainty still lingering.
“Are you okay?” he whispers. Gavin nods despite it all. He feels the lightest pressure on the bare skin of his back- Nines’ fingers, gently stroking down his spine. “Is this okay?”
He nods again, blowing out a puff of unnecessary air.
He reaches back to grasp Nines’ hand from behind him. He laces their fingers together and loops it round, pulling the human flush against his back. God how he wishes Nines were an android right now. That he could just peel back the skin on his hand, open himself to him, show him everything because he knows he's doing that face that makes his chest ache and he can’t stop it. Nines makes a soft little noise and buries his nose in Gavin’s hair, squeezing his hand as he does.
Gavin scrunches his face up,
“Don’t.” Nines says and presses a kiss to his hair. “I’ve got you.”
Well, me being me, I couldn't give you everything all at once. And there's always time for a little more angst and soft boy fluff. Also, I think this is my longest chapter to date?! I'm sorry if it's a lot in one go I just never know where to cut it haha.
The next chapter is...spicy...stay tuned.
Chapter 14: Theoretical research
spicy part 2
Hahahah holy fuck this chapter took me so long to get right because it is SO far out of the realms of my comfort zone. Here you go, I hope you like it and it's worth the wait. Heed the tags- I'll just be over here in the corner thinking about what I've done.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Nines' breath is hot on his neck, the steady rhythm of his chest rising and falling semi-soothing against his back. The human’s hand is splayed like a star against Gavin's lower abdomen. It feels warm; strange.
He keeps thinking he should put himself in stasis. Just wait til morning. But he can't, his brain won't let him. He's got too much to think about and doesn’t want to waste this crucial time alone in the dark with his thoughts. Nines’ bedroom is bathed in the warm yellow glow of his LED, like a sunrise or one of those moon-shaped night lights kids have to ward off nightmares. How ironic, Gavin thinks, the walls flickering crimson for a split second.
His left-hand draws circles absent-mindedly in the synthetic flesh of his thigh, the skin smooth and unreactive. It's been like that for maybe an hour now, perhaps used to the feeling of touch, or expecting it because it's him, not Nines that's doing the touching. He doesn't know. There's something wrong with the sensors on his lower body, they're too sensitive, too heightened. It's only because he's been pushing his own limits, tracing his fingertips over the skin, that he's able to do this now without flinching. Like testing the stretch in an elastic band, training it to go further. He looks down at his leg, half tangled in Nines’ inky sheets. He presses his thumb hard into the flesh there, hard enough to bruise if there were blood and muscle and not plastic beneath that layer. The skin pools about the pressure momentarily then smooths over again.
He doubts it'd be the same if Nines touched him. The unfamiliarity and anticipation of the touch would be enough to set the sensors off again, he’s sure. Half of him wants to move Nines’ hand down himself to test his theory but even thinking about it, makes him feel warmer, that hot, liquid feeling in his gut. The thought of his tongue licking stripes down his skin instead already has his core temperature rising. It makes him press his thighs together. It’s so painfully unfair how much he wants it and simultaneously can't physically stand it. He wishes he could roll over and wake Nines up, kiss him slowly and deeply, fingers in his curls, pressed up against him like he wants to be. Nothing but the heat between them.
He wants all of it, all of Nines, everything he is willing to give him.
But the thought of what might happen, the fear, the panic. The fact he’d lashed out in the heat of the moment; the thought that he could hurt him? Well, to put it bluntly, it's a bit of a boner killer.
Perhaps it'll take some work. A bit of time. If Nines is willing to give it to him. And that's a big if, a big ask. He still doesn't know what Nines wants from him. If it's just a quick fuck to get it out of his system. To scratch an itch. Or if it's more.
God, he hopes it's more. He brings his hand to hover over the human's pressed to his stomach. Lines up their fingers experimentally one by one before allowing his palm to settle over Nines'. He will never get over that heat. The skin automatically pulls back over his hand, his fingers a cool white in the warm darkness. He’s so far gone already.
Nines shuffles behind him, letting out a soft little moan in his sleep at the contact, and he presses closer to Gavin. It would be adorable really, the way Nines' hand flexes against his stomach, almost stroking the skin in his sleep. Would be adorable, if it weren't for the fact that when he shifted, he pressed his erection up against Gavin's ass.
Probably a good time to call it a night. Go into stasis. Deal with this whole thing in the morning.
But the feeling of Nines pressed against him is too much. Absolutely agonisingly unfair. He tries to move away, to shuffle forwards a bit. But Nines groans and pulls himself back flush against him and Gavin bites back a choked little sound as the human nuzzles into his neck in his sleep. He can practically feel his self-control crumbling. Especially when the human starts subconsciously rubbing little circles with his thumb into the flesh of his stomach.
In fact, he can pinpoint the exact moment Nines wakes up in the way his whole body suddenly goes rigid, his thumb paused mid-circle, the realisation hitting him all at once. He feels the little exhale on his neck before Nines kinda, awkward shuffles backwards a little bit, retracting his arm. Gavin mourns the loss of the heat almost immediately.
“Sorry,” Nines mumbles, his voice thick with sleep.
Gavin bites his lip, his eyes rolling slightly in frustration before he turns over, burying his LED in the sheets. The room darkens but he can still see Nines, half his face pressed into the pillows, his lips in that sleepy half-pout. Even in the dark Gavin’s ocular implants pick up on the blush spreading across his face. The human tugs the sheets around him, clasping them to his bare chest.
Gavin's self-control crumbles in that instant with the utter sincerity of the human’s apology and he leans forwards, snakes a hand up into the messy curls and pulls himself flush against him. Nines makes a whisper of a moan against Gavin’s lips as they meet and the android runs his thumb over that sharp jaw. It's only been about two hours, thirty-two minutes since they last kissed, Gavin’s system helpfully tells him. But it's still too long.
His fingertips ghost down Nines’ throat, past his bony clavicle to his sternum, pausing so he can brush his thumb over his nipple which earns him a tiny sound from the back of Nines’ throat. He repeats the motion, relishing the way he can feel the human respond, arching into his touch. Gavin licks into Nines’ mouth, allowing his fingers to continue their journey until he’s brushing the waistband of his underwear. He dares to go lower, ghosting his fingers, feather-light over the clothed hardness.
Nines’ fingers close around Gavin’s wrist in a wordless warning and he pulls back from his lips.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Nines says in a slightly strained voice.
Gavin pulls his hand back immediately as if burned, twisting out of Nines’ grip. There’s an awkward moment of silence.
“Right... right, sure,” Gavin replies. Fuck, he’s seriously misjudged this. “Sorry.”
Nines...doesn’t want to. His internal processors reach that conclusion with ease, compiling a series of explanations each one a little more hurtful than the last. It’s because of you. There’s a shift in the atmosphere in the air as Gavin realises this could be it. That Nines has changed his mind and there’s nothing he can do. Fuck, why would he ever have thought this could be anything more? Nines is Nines; fucking perfect even in all his frosty hostility and social awkwardness. And Gavin is...broken beyond repair and so utterly fucked up .
“Gavin…” Nines says softly, his fingertips reaching to stroke down the android’s cheek. Gavin flinches at the touch, can’t bear to buy into this facade anymore, no matter how well-intentioned it is. No point in dragging it out, he thinks.
“Do you want me to leave?” Gavin asks, hating himself for how his voice cracks with static, his face pulled into a confused sort of grimace. He’s glad that Nines’ human eyes probably can’t pick up the change in his expression in the dark.
“What?” Nines says, his fingers freezing in the air beside Gavin’s face.
The android rolls away, lying taut like a wire in the sheets. He runs a hand over his face exasperatedly.
“You don’t have to worry about hurting my feelings, Nines.” It comes out flat and monotone. God this hurts to say out loud but it’ll hurt a whole lot more if he doesn’t cut the bullshit and just get it out. Maybe they can even salvage their working relationship. He huffs out a sore laugh at that and immediately regrets it. He can feel the emotion bubble in his throat like he's drowning and he just about manages to choke out a reply. “I’d...I’d rather you were just straight with me and told me you don’t want me instead of...instead of-”
“Is that what you think?”
Nines has rolled over onto his side, propped up on his elbow, his brow furrowed in confusion, staring down at Gavin who is trying his best not to look at him.
“Look I don’t know what this is or what you even want from me but-”
Gavin stops because Nines is laughing. He’s...laughing? He can’t quite believe this is happening. As if this whole situation couldn’t get any more humiliating.
“God,” Nines wipes his face with the back of his hand, the laugh still stuck in his throat. He sighs and shakes his head a little. “For a state of the art detective android...you can be really oblivious .”
Nines lowers himself down a little and cups Gavin’s face, turning him so their gazes meet in the dark.
“I like you, Gavin. A lot.” He says, his misty eyes earnest and warm, that tiny crease of a worry still present between his brows. “I have done for a while now. Probably longer than I should admit.” His mouth twitches at the corner in that weird approximation of a smile as his thumb gently strokes his cheek. Then his brow furrows a little more and he licks his lips. “I just... god, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Gavin stares at him, bewildered, the weight of his own confession stuck uncomfortably in his throat somewhere. He doesn’t know what to say. He’s completely blindsided. He just wants to reach up and drag him down into a kiss and tell him yes, me too, fuck but he can’t and he doesn’t know why. So, instead, he blinks unnecessarily and bites his lip.
“Androids can’t feel pain.”
Nines makes a weird noise somewhere between a scoff and a laugh.
“You know what I mean.” His voice drops then to something much, much more serious as he looks at Gavin, his eyes roving about his face. “I’ve already done enough damage...I don’t…" He licks his lips and his gaze flickers away for a second. "I ...want to look after you. I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to do. And I don’t want you to have to suffer through anything because you think it’s what I want.” There’s a moment of silence where Gavin can hear, can feel, the way the human’s heart beats like a rabbit, all flutter and heat as he licks his lips, then parts them slightly as he lowers his voice to a whisper, meeting his gaze. “ All I want is you.”
He says it on a tiny exhale that could have been lost to the velvet darkness between them had Gavin not been built to pick up on the tiniest of sounds. For all its gentleness, it severs whatever threads of uncertainty Gavin has bound himself with, and he rolls over, burying his face in Nines’ chest, letting his arms snake around the warm expanse of the human’s back. He seeks out the undulating peaks of his spine, one, two, three, his thumb stroking down each one. He finds his voice, somewhere in the twisting wires of his throat, his lips murmuring against the soft, hot skin,
“Shit, Nines,” He breathes, half a laugh, half a broken sigh. “I mean, I like you too. Fuck.”
He feels the human laugh, hears the echo of it in his ribs, and can’t help the way his mouth tugs into a grin.
“That’s...good to hear,” Nines chuckles as Gavin grumbles against the skin of his chest, allowing Nines fingers to trace patterns against the back of his neck. They skim the ridges of his neck port in a way which makes his skin tingle and he arches into the touch.
“Does that mean I can take these off now?” Gavin asks, his own hand sliding down Nines’ back to thumb at the waistband of his boxers.
Nines laughs again, pressing a kiss to Gavin’s hair.
“It’s funny,” he says. “I don’t remember reading about sexual insatiability in your Cyberlife manual.”
“Must be the deviancy,” Gavin breathes, dragging his fingers around the waistband until he hits Nines’ sharp hip bones, relishing the hitch in the human’s breath.
“I see...not yet,” Nines laughs and grabs at Gavin’s wrist for the second time. “Indulge me, please,” he adds when Gavin practically pouts.
Nines maneuvers him so he’s flat on his back. For a brief second Nines has his wrist pinned to the sheets and he can't help but note the way his thirium pump stutters with the way that feels. Nines props himself up with his right elbow so he can look at him properly. His left-hand pushes Gavin’s hair back off his face, traces the slope of Gavin’s profile from his hairline, down to the tip of his nose, then down to his mouth, lower lip pulling slightly against the drag of the pads of his fingers. It’s gentle but something about it makes Gavin’s face feel hot beneath the touch. He darts his tongue out to catch the tip of the fingers against his lip, is overwhelmed with the DNA analysis, everything that makes up Nines flooding his mouth. He cocks his eyebrow at the human who simply smiles and strokes down his chin to his throat. He splays his fingers so that they span the width of Gavin’s neck, which elicits that same molten metal feeling in his gut, as they drag down the skin to where his collarbone would be.
“Is this okay?” Nines asks, his voice low and soft.
“Yeah,” Gavin breathes, though he’s not entirely sure where this is going. His processors stutter on the data, focusing only on the slow, torturous drag of Nines’ fingertip along the curve of his rib, then back up to his sternum. A slow, agonising bliss that has his whole system heating up with every incremental brush. Gavin refuses to move, point-blank refuses to show Nines how much this is affecting him, not with the way he’s staring at him like he’s a fucking case file, but he can't help the way his hands fist in the blanket.
He feels like he’s on fire, ironically, but a different kind of fire, a slow-burn, kindled by the way Nines occasionally twists his wrist mid-arc so that his nails gently rake across his skin instead and Gavin has to bite back a whimper. His fingers linger in an unintentional tease just below his navel, no doubt pondering the futility of such a design addition, before skimming back up the centre of his stomach again. Nines sits up when he gets to Gavin’s lower abdomen and the android sends up a silent prayer that yes, finally, they’re getting somewhere when Nines thumbs his hip bones, his body practically shaking from the frustration.
“Does that feel good?”
As if the fact he was a shuddering mess wasn’t proof enough, he nods.
Nines hums in approval, his hands skipping everything below his hips as he moves down to focus on the android’s legs. Gavin sits up on his elbows incredulously, casting a glance down to where the human has positioned himself at the lower half of his body, seemingly ignoring the fact that Gavin is already half-hard after just this.
“The sensors seem to have malfunctioned,” Nines says chewing on his lower lip as he ghosts his palm a millimeter from Gavin’s skin. “Perhaps absorbing early-stage kinetic feedback; they’re reflecting everything they know about foreign touch in this part of the body.”
“Talk dirty to me,” Gavin says scathingly rolling his eyes. “Seriously, could you be anymore you right now?”
Nines acts like he doesn’t hear him, letting the flesh of his palm come slowly into contact with the skin of Gavin’s shin. Gavin hisses at the contact, falling back against the pillows, the sensors there near burning and Nines’ retracts his hand immediately.
“I did wonder if there would be residual effects from the attack other than the obvious changed speech patterns," Nines says like he's reading off a teleprompter. Then his voice softens, as he looks at his own fingertips as though looking for the cause. "I never thought your skin would be this sensitive.”
Gavin, for once, doesn’t fail to pick up on the subtle implication of the human’s words. He casts a glance down to where Nines is sat on his heels, staring reverently at the skin on Gavin’s leg.
“You been thinking about me like this a lot, Detective?” Gavin asks, nudging Nines’ knee with his own. He’s expecting the contact, he notes, and his sensors just register the touch as normal. Nines mouth twitches slightly and he meets his gaze.
“Do I have to answer that question?”
“Uh... now you do!” Gavin says dumbfounded.
“Once or twice,” Nines shrugs, feigning nonchalance but there’s that tiny twitch of a smile at the corner of his lips even as he looks away.
Nines looks up, makes sure Gavin is watching him as he grasps his ankle. It still feels too much even with the warning but the way Nines smooths his hand over the skin there soothes the weird feeling away to almost nothing.
“This feels a little like an interrogation…” Nines says, lifting Gavin’s leg up so he can place a kiss to the inside of his ankle, just next to the simulated knot of his ankle bone.
“It is,” Gavin insists, suppressing a shiver at the contact as he nudges Nines’ cheek with the side of his foot.
“That night after the bar…” Nines says, maneuvering Gavin’s leg to his side so that he’s sat in between them.
“And the night after the hospital,” Nines continues, smoothing his hands over Gavin’s legs, pausing a little at his knees so he can lean down and press a kiss to a particularly nasty mass of pseudo-scar tissue at the top of his right shin.
“Huh,” Gavin swallows. It’s getting a little harder to concentrate.
“And after the party,” He looks up at Gavin for a second, underneath those long eyelashes, holding his gaze before dipping low and sucking a bruising kiss onto the skin of his inner thigh.
“Shit, Nines .”
The sensation is overwhelming but not in the way it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to feel like fear, like panic and like fire licking up his skin. Instead, it feels like hot, wet anticipation. He can feel Nines kissing his way up the inside of his thigh, his slick, velvet tongue against the electric spark of his sensors. Until he pulls away and Gavin groans, as for the second time, Nines crawls up and over his body, neglecting to touch anywhere Gavin wants him to. He hovers over him, grey eyes roving over his face.
“Are you having fun?” Gavin asks, incredulously, staring at Nines like he’s the cruelest person he's ever met.
“I don’t want to overload your system,” Nines says, before he gently kisses Gavin again, ghosting their lips over one another and laying his chest flat against him.
“I’d probably let you,” Gavin murmurs against Nines’ lips, threading his fingers into the human’s hair. Nines opens up to the kiss, his tongue fluttering against Gavin’s, swallowing whatever needy sound the android tries his best to suppress. Nines shifts his weight, pressing his hips down against Gavin’s and it’s too much. He fists his hand in Nines’ hair and whines when the human rolls off of him so they’re lying side by side.
Nines runs his hand down Gavin’s ribs, gentle, so gentle til he’s holding him by his hips. He will never tire of the soft feeling of Nines’ hands on him, Gavin thinks. Or the way that he keeps parting from Gavin’s lips to glance at him from under his lashes, checking he’s okay. It makes Gavin’s thririum pump flutter to be under that gaze. He remembers the cool frostiness all too well- not that that hadn’t completely got him going too- but the tenderness with which Nines now looks at him is a whole other level.
He drags his hands from Gavin’s hipbone, stroking a purposeful stripe to the middle of his abdomen, feeling the way the artificial muscles flutter beneath the pads of his fingertips in anticipation.
Nines looks up at him again, cool grey chased to the very edge of his irises by his inky blown-out pupils. The way his nails softly rake down his stomach. It’s the sweetest agony. The warm heat of Nines’ body next to him and the slow, slip of his fingers- his beautiful fucking fingers- undoing the last fraying threads that hold Gavin to reality. Everything else is lost in the whirring of his cooling fans and the pixelated mess of his brain.
And then, Nines' hand slips so easily beneath the fabric of his underwear and he feels the hot, slow, slide of his palm against the hardness of his cock. God, like so many other things about Nines it’s perfect, the touch familiar and unfamiliar all at once, and completely devastating. He says something then, it might have been his name, a breathy gasp of Nines falling from his lips but he can’t be sure. He’s too lost in the sensation of his tightening grip and the utterly maddening realisation that Nines is doing that little half-smirk of his.
The slow, smooth slide of his fingers, encircling him, dragging out this torment in a way Gavin could never have imagined. His hips jerk of their own accord, chasing the movement. A soft, electronic sort of whine leaving his lips, a mortifying sound under any other circumstances, but Gavin can't bring himself to care. It feels too good.
Nines is staring at him, of course he is, watching his every minute reaction as he draws out more sounds with his languid strokes. He realises then that perhaps there's always been a part of him that wanted this, even at the beginning, when Nines would turn his cold stare to Gavin, lips pressed into a scowl. And Gavin would do his best to provoke a reaction, a micro-fracture in the perfect porcelain veneer of his resting features. Maybe they both wanted it.
He recalls fingertips against his neck, nice work and the bloom of heat at his nape despite the dank, wet basement. Nines’ velvet voice ringing out between the space in his ears, a lone sound to cling to in the silence of the night perched atop a building. A flash of sharp canines; the glint of steel in the dark. The soft, slump of a human, asleep on three chairs. Then laughing, really laughing , sweat-soaked and exhausted in the gym. The line of shots, blue and clear; an empty glass turned upside down. Stay , a whisper, a prayer as their noses bump accidentally. Nines’ mouth twitching at the corner as he slides a gift across the desk. His pink cheeks and nose tucked into his coat collar. The blood blooming against his shaking fingertips. Then bound in gauze, pale and shaking. The static of the TV licking down his profile. The bare skin. The heat. That stupid fucking santa hat. The even worse pyjamas and…
Nines moves to kiss at the skin of Gavin’s ear lobe, to lick and suckle the space just next to his jaw, to graze his teeth across the sensitive skin where just beneath the ridges of his casing meet. He let's go then, hand snaking out of his underwear and Gavin opens his mouth to protest but Nines kisses him, swallowing his complaints as his hand moves to tug his boxers down his thighs. He bites at Gavin’s lower lip, and the android arches into the roughness, grasping at the skin of his back as Nines maneuvers himself to hover over him and god, there's no architecture that could ever rival the arc of Nines' spine.
His hands move of their own accord, impatient, pushing the material of Nines’ underwear down. The human lifts his hips, shimmies out of the last physical barrier between them, then settles agonisingly slowly back down and everything is white-hot fire, like lightning, but not like before. There’s no fear. Just the desperate need to be closer. Nines’ stilted breath is hot on his face as Gavin leans up to capture his mouth in a biting kiss.
Nines leans down into it, bracing his weight on his right hand, the fingers wound tight in Gavin’s hair. His other hand slips between them, taking them both in hand in a way which makes Gavin gasp against his lips.
Gavin never thought he’d be one to beg. But the tension pooling in his lower abdomen is threatening to overpower everything else, his internal temperature gauge a blinking red. Nines presses their foreheads together, his hand stilling momentarily as he catches his breath.
“What do you want, Gavin?” Nines says, his voice low and gravelly against Gavin’s mouth.
God, Nines’ insistence that Gavin talk through this really will be the death of him. Because how’s he supposed to put into words what he wants? His processors stutter and glitch around everything he wants to say, everything he should say, compartmentalising until he licks his lips and screws his eyes shut.
Nines seems to understand that, twists his wrist, stroking them both closer to that point of certain oblivion and Gavin feels like he’s falling. He just moans some approximation of his name- ah , Ni-iines- because he’s finally lost all of his speech function, his throat full of static. Nines just holds his face, whispering soft, encouraging affirmations into his temple, his LED a searing red glow against his lips. Gavin fists his hand in the human’s hair, so hard it probably hurts but Nines doesn’t seem to notice. There’s a tension growing like a static charge in his lower abdomen, setting every connection alight with heat and friction, all in time with the movement of Nines’ wrist and the incremental system errors flickering into his vision. He feels like he might implode, the tension drawing in to the pressure point in his groin, that coil tightening like a vice. Too tight, like he’ll shatter any second and-
And again, Nines draws back.
Fuck, Gavin hisses and chases the loss of heat, arches up automatically with a discordant whine as the human leans away to delve into his bedside drawers. When he straightens back up, Gavin takes a moment to appreciate the way his hair’s mussed, the way his lips are swollen and cherry-red from kissing, his face and chest tinted with a bloom of pink. He remembers all the times when he would feel special to see the slip in Nines’ well put together facade. They were nothing compared to this. He’ll never know how he came to deserve it. His eyes drift down to the bottle clutched in his fingertips, then to the half-open drawer, then back to his face.
It suddenly dawns on Gavin that he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. Nines looks down at him, illuminated in the ruby glow, perfect mouth parted as he catches his breath, all lean muscle and fuck-me hair like he’s done this a thousand times before. And maybe he has. The thought blooms in his mind like spilled ink on a blank page, intrusive and utterly impossible to ignore now it’s there. That Nines has almost certainly been here with someone else. It shouldn’t matter, doesn’t matter, he tells himself. But the thought doesn’t dissipate and he wonders about the others, despite himself. Who they were, what it meant, whether Nines kissed them the same. The feeling in his gut turns sour and prickly at the thought. Jealousy is not an emotion that sits well with him. It’s an alien feeling, entirely new and spreading like a stain through his mind. It’s only the gentle touch to his stomach, a tentative little press of fingertips, that draws him out of himself.
“Are you sure you want t-”
“Yes,” Gavin says before Nines even has a chance to finish his sentence. Despite his answer, that tell-tale crease forms between Nines’ brows. Such a tiny little thing. He notes too the pounding of his heart, his tentative grip, the quick dart of his tongue to wet his lower lip as his gaze flickers down. The subtle ways his nerves are laid bare. And all at once, Gavin couldn’t care less about anyone else. Nobody. Just Nines.
He punctuates his point by running his hand up the skin of his thighs, relishing the little spike in the detective’s heart rate. Nines nods and pops the cap off as if in silent response. Gavin watches, his tongue heavy in his mouth, as Nines drizzles a generous amount onto his fingers.
“Okay,” Nines says quietly.
He leans down, his face so the picture of concentration, that Gavin almost laughs. He watches the way Nines bites his lower lip as he settles between his hips, feels the cool, wet touch against the inside of his thighs first. It's almost soothing, his core temperature so high he's sure his skin must be hot to the touch. He shivers involuntarily, the anticipation coiling in his gut, and then he feels Nines press his fingers into him and everything in his brain stops entirely for one second. A moment of absolute radio silence, his vision frozen in a glitchy spectrum of colour. Then he feels the joints in his own fingers flex, grasping at the sheets as a mechanical hiss escapes his teeth at the sensation. Nines is so agonisingly gentle, his lower lip bitten and sore, watching him the whole time, his pupils blown wide. Gavin can’t even speak, can’t even begin to form sentences and god, he’s so hard he thinks he might have broken through a wall in his code and accessed whole new levels of sensation. It’s almost unbearable. And yet entirely not enough all at once.
He uses what little active processing power he has left to drag Nines down, claiming his mouth in a languid, messy kiss, his whole body falling open to him. Nines moans into his mouth, his breathing shuddering and broken, as if he’s the one getting finger-fucked. The flutter of the human’s tongue against his own and the feeling of his fingers buried inside him is honestly enough to have Gavin seriously considering he might actually shut down. There are no protocols for this. No walls, no restrictions. Just Nines’ fingers and his tongue and the grip he has in his hair.
Nines sinks his teeth into the synthetic skin of Gavin’s lower lip and there's the chemical tang of thirium mixed in with the DNA analysis of Nines’ saliva. The human leans back, a ghost of a grin tugging at his lips as he sits back on his heels, still wrapped up to his knuckles in Gavin's heat. It's not like he can even feel pain. Yet Nines still crooks his fingers and moves gently till Gavin is squirming, heels digging into the sheets in frustration. He tries to say something, to protest but his mouth keeps falling open of its own accord, static stuck in his throat at the sensation of Nines inside him.
And then suddenly he's not.
It's like something snaps in his head because suddenly Nines has withdrawn his fingers, instead hitching the android’s legs up around his hips, licking his lips. There's a pause then, where they both stare at each other, Gavin arched against the sheets, Nines chest heaving as he bites his lower lip. Then he places a simple kiss to the flesh of his inner thigh, a final moment of chaste tenderness and a quick glance up from under his lashes. Gavin is perfectly still under that gaze, anticipation like a crackle of electricity in his stomach. Then Nines reaches down, angles his hips and sinks so, so slowly, like he’s melting, into Gavin. The human inhales sharply, his face screwed up in concentration but Gavin barely hears him. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of his brain, he’s aware that he must have said Nines’ name again. It’s a wonder it’s not seared into his code, so much more potent than deviancy ever was. But he can’t even be sure he made a sound, his whole system stuttering, his mouth lax and caught on a futile exhale.
“God,” Gavin chokes out. “Fuck.”
Nines takes a shuddering breath and Jesus, when he looks at Gavin, his eyes are black. He doesn’t move straight away, his eyelashes fluttering a little as he exhales sharply. His fingers have found their way to Gavin’s hip and they’re pressed so tightly in that the skin has pooled around his fingers. There’s the lightest beading of sweat on his chest, the droplets glittering as he breathes heavily, and for the first time in his short, limited life Gavin thinks he might understand what hunger feels like.
Nines moves his hips then, torturously slowly in a way which makes Gavin’s mouth go dry. It feels like someone has just struck a match down his spine, the sensors igniting like live wires. The rush of data makes him dizzy, makes his hands clutch at the sheets first and then at the humans’ thighs. He feels heat; at the nape of his neck, in his cheeks, between his hips, in his fingertips. His thighs tighten around Nines’ waist, urging him forward and the human complies albeit only a little faster, his brow still furrowed, biting at his own lip. Yet every pathway to Gavin’s brain bleeds open at the change, the data rushing like a tingling river of sensation and thought. He whines, that mechanical sound, full of static, desperate for more.
The sound seems to soothe the furrow from Nines’ brow as he licks his lips and drives into Gavin, harder this time. Pleasure races through his circuitry like a hot, dangerous flood, a raw electric charge that has him clawing at the human’s hips. This urgent, warm, addictive feeling only grows with every movement. He thinks he might be hurting him, his grip vice-like against Nines’ skin but the human only gasps and leans down to claim Gavin’s mouth in a clumsy kiss.
Gavin’s processors start to lag, his head light, dizzy with want with every movement of his hips. His hands twist up, stroking along Nines’ beautiful throat, his skin pulled back, white casing against the soft peach of the human’s neck, his jaw, his cheek. He moves them back down to the sharp jut of his collarbones, fingertips against slick skin, the peak of his nipple. Nines gasps again, pulls back a little and fuck, blushing and wrecked looks so good on him. One of his hands comes up to cradle Gavin’s jaw, their foreheads pressed together as the human flicks his thumb over Gavin’s lower lip, eyes focused on the red flesh, whimpering a little when Gavin takes it into his mouth. Any chance to get that rush of data that is Nines’ DNA and he will, the reaction it elicits just a bonus. But nothing, nothing compared to the growing feeling of heat and want and desperation in his core. Building with every incremental thrust, every gasp of breath and every broken sound.
The human’s hips start to stutter, their rhythm faltering. Nines moves his hand to brace his weight against the pillow next to Gavin’s head, his other hand reaching for Gavin’s, intertwining their fingers desperately, as he pushes it back against the sheets. He lets out another gasp, breath hot against the skin of Gavin’s neck. The android tightens the grip his thighs have on his waist, angling his hips until the pressure in his core reaches breaking point. His thirium pump is hammering against the plastic casing of his ribs, faster still when Nines’ half-sobs Gavin’s name, his hair damp against his cheek. There’s that bright lightening feeling surging through every pathway, every wire, every port, bleeding and racing like he’s being filled with something hot and indescribable. Nines gives a wounded, fitful moan right into the crook of his neck, his grip on his hand so tight, so desperate.
The words are a rush of hot breath, half-licked against his skin. And suddenly Nines is shuddering and falling against him, hips stuttering, slick skin against the smooth, artificial planes of Gavin’s chest. He just has time to thread his free hand into the curls at the nape of the human’s neck before it hits him like a wall of crackling, scorching heat and static. A burst of data, a sizzling current that licks up his entire body, too much, far, far too much and-
System reboot successful.
All systems online and fully operational.
Welcome back, GV400 #313 692 517 - 04.
His ocular implants take a second to focus, a blurry soft shape becoming sharp lines and bright, wintry eyes.
Nines is hovering over him, sweaty and disheveled, his face creased in concern. That one damp curl half-slicked to his forehead, the rest of his features bathed in the blissful blue of Gavin’s LED.
“Gavin?” Nines says tentatively, reaching forward to cup his jaw gently.
“Holy shit,” Gavin whispers. His processors feel steadier than they have in a while, his head clear and pleasantly quiet.
“Oh, thank god,” Nines exhales, his voice hoarse. “I thought I’d killed you.”
The human practically deflates as the breath leaves him, forehead pressing against Gavin’s in relief. He’s shaking just a little and Gavin has to angle his face up slightly to see that he’s laughing, his mouth pressed together to stifle the noise.
“If you had,” Gavin grumbles, affectionately shoving the detective off of him and stretching in the damp sheets so his joints click, “I would have come back as a ghost to haunt you, so I could watch you drag my body back to the Cyberlife store and explain to that twitchy desk clerk that you fucked your android to death.”
Nines makes a strangled noise in the bed beside him and drags his palm down his face. He lets out a little snort of laughter and Gavin turns his head to look at him, hair tangled, face pink from laughing and illuminated in the gentle blue glow.
“I read that could happen but I didn’t think-” Nines starts to say, biting at his lower lip to stop another tumble of laughter, but Gavin interrupts him.
“You read what ? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in my user manual.”
Nines turns his head a little, a sheepish smile on his face.
“It was purely theoretical research.”
Gavin blinks. Of course , Mr Know-it-all did his homework. He shakes his head in disbelief and Nines can’t stop the splutter that escapes his lips, his eyes creased at the corners.
It’s the first time Gavin’s ever actually seen him really happy, none of the tension he usually carries in his face, no pained expression behind his eyes. There’s always been something held back- but this? He can’t help but lean over and capture that smile in a kiss, feeling his own mouth tug at the corners when Nines makes a sound of surprise against his lips and reaches up to tangle his fingers in Gavin’s hair. Gavin’s pretty sure he’ll never get tired of this. He could stay kissing Nines forever, fuck everything else. He pulls back eventually, watching the way Nines’ eyes flutter open sleepily.
“Come here,” Nines says quietly, pulling Gavin down so he’s lying against his chest. He settles down, his left aural processor pressed flat against the human’s chest so he can hear the steady thump of his heart against his ribs. He flops his arm over Nines’ stomach, his palm flat on the curve of his side, relishing the heat. Nines cards his fingers through Gavin’s hair slowly, the slight pull against his scalp sending pleasant waves of sensation down his neck.
They stay like that, in the soft darkness, until Gavin detects the subtle change in Nines’ breathing, the languid rhythm that says he’s finally fallen asleep. He turns his cheek slightly to press a kiss to his sternum, then puts himself into stasis.
I'm actually super excited to write the final chapter because I think it'll be fun/interesting but also soft boys. Come shout at me on tumblr @sleepyeggboy about reed900 and dbh and stuff while I finish it off.