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Love Him in My Absence

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Love Him in My Absence

 

No matter how many times he’d glanced through the letter currently resting on his lap openly, Gavin Reed knew his brain was unable to fully process its deeper context and message. It wasn’t often that he received letters from his elderly, widowed mother, but whenever he had previously, it often consisted of dull, banal topics regarding the weather, his job, his unkempt, old apartment, the possibility that he should ask Captain Fowler for a raise, the fact that he was underweight, and then she would usually beg for him to come back home and live with her. The topics usually wavered and consisted of these natures, but the letter Gavin currently read over was so much different.

In fact, it was so different, that he suspected he’d imagined and dreamt it up. After taking a trip to the water fountains, then the washrooms where he splashed cold water on his face, made the walk back to his desk, stubbed his toes a few times, and slammed his elbows on the surface of the desk, he determined that this wasn’t a matter of him being asleep or daydreaming. But did he ever wish for it to be a dream…reading the letter once again confirmed his worst nightmares becoming a reality for him, and for once in his entire life, Gavin Reed had no idea what to do even as far as a reaction went.

Peeking down at the contents of the letter, he read it over for the tenth time before he heard someone shuffling around behind himself. Smelling the putrid, powerful stench of tobacco, he rolled his eyes dramatically before swiveling himself around in his spinning chair.

Eyeing Lieutenant Hank Anderson with a dull, vacant expression, he croaked out, “What’re you doin’, Anderson?”

Stroking his beard almost sluggishly, the older male grumbled out, “Was on my way over to ask you for an extra smoke, but I couldn’t help but read that note you got there…”

A minacious glare came out of Gavin, then, but rather than attack Hank and bickering with him like he’d wanted to, he only stilled his trembling hands and sighed sadly. He was truly defeated, this time. He had no stamina and no energy to throw out a biting, acidic remark; he was truly lost, bewildered, and backed into the worst of corners. Not with Hank Anderson, no, but with the true nature of the troubling letter from his mother.

Motioning at it with a sharp nod, Hank muttered, “Can I read it closer?”

Staring a few times between the note and Hank, Gavin eventually relented. “Fuck it,” he mumbled brokenly, tossing the letter over into Hank’s hands, “knock yourself out! Fuck! When you’re done with it, you can also post it on the bulletin boards too in the staff room, I don’t give a shit.” He knew he was being a tad dramatic, but he really was unable to contain the rest of his anger and channel it out in a more ‘positive’ way as opposed to throwing his chair out a window or something.

He only resorted to sitting back and staring awkwardly at the floor while Hank read the note silently, his lips miming the words as his eyes swam over from left to right.

Already, Gavin had practically memorized the letter all on his own. It was going to be something he remembered for life.

‘My son, you are already thirty-eight-years-old, and next October, you will be thirty-nine. You’re still choosing to live the rough-and-tough ‘single life’, and I wouldn’t care a lot had I not stumbled upon your father’s last will and testament.’

Pausing here, Hank grunted out oddly, “Your dad’s dead, Reed?”

Scowling irritably, Gavin spat back, “Yeah, my old man croaked a few months back. Never attended his funeral or whatever because everyone would hear about it, snoop around, and fuck if I need anyone’s pity.”

Scratching his grey hair, Hank stated, “But Reed…that’s your dad…” shaking his head in astonishment, he added, “you owe him something, at least.”

“I owe my dad shit,” Gavin couldn’t help but throw out emotionally, “he divorced my mom when I was barely ten, and then remarried the woman who raised the android-maker genius, Elijah Kamski.”

Yes, the really annoying part was that hardly anyone out there really knew that Gavin’s stepbrother was the infamous Elijah Kamski. Both adult men had lived separate lives in general, perhaps each of them had been ashamed of their parents’ pasts. But now that Hank had heard it, his eyebrows rose up high to his hairline, and he shrugged as he waved a hand before the irritable, moody detective.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Reed,” he advised softly, “but let me finish this before my train of thought escapes me!”

“Whatever, old timer.”

‘Your father loved you all his life. Maybe he didn’t get to tell you enough times, but he wanted to see you happy and loved above all else. His last will and testament states this, as it was his dying wish. Perhaps if you visited him in the hospital, you would’ve had the opportunity to talk to him and reach an understanding.

He has left you this inheritance, Gavin, but it won’t come to you easily; not without his wishes and thoughts being considered and heard out by you. This could be yours, Gavin, and it is the one and only opportunity for you to possess something you always complained was your ‘natural born right’. This is a good chance for you to reconnect with the family legacy, Gavin.

I suppose you’re wondering now what the catch is…well, to be blunt, your father wished to see you married and settled down before the age of forty, and this is a wish that is attached to the inheritance.

In layman’s terms; no wedding? No money.

Last time I heard, you could really use some of that money; we both know they aren’t paying you too well at the DPD.

Lowering the page, Hank let out a dull snort, “She’s kinda right,” pointing at the rest of the note, he hurriedly finished reading it.

‘See to it that these conditions are met if you want to see a single penny, and remember, Gavin; we love you, and your father didn’t mean to hurt you. Everyone has a different path in life, and while your father and I struggled, you should know that we tried our best to make it work out. He found his true happiness elsewhere, however, and I found mine, too.

Now, it’s your turn to find yours.

Your mother.’

Whistling as he turned away from the letter and finally gazed at Gavin, Hank pointed at the note and cried out, “That’s brutal…so your dad left you a pretty good amount of dough, and you’re not allowed to access it unless you get married?!”

Nodding slowly, Gavin pressed out through tightly clenched teeth, “Yeah, that’s the gist of it, so it seems.”

With squinty eyes displaying nothing but raw confusion, Hank handed him back the letter as he inquired, “But Reed, no offense here,” he held up his hands, as if Gavin had him under gunpoint, “but you don’t seem like the marriage type!”

“I’m not,” Gavin admitted, “and besides, I haven’t had a normal relationship with a woman in like…fuck…” he turned beet red, not wanting to admit it, but it came out anyway in a tiny croak, “…in like five years…”

Hank rolled his eyes, “Weren’t you seein’ Tina a while ago?”

Gavin hid his face behind a hand. “No, Anderson,” he pressed out painfully, trying to push out the horrific memory and images from his mind, “I told you; it was just an awkward ‘almost-one-night-stand’.”

Hank grunted, “The fuck is an ‘almost-one-night-stand’?”

Soon, another pair of footsteps approached, and a long hand tapped Hank on the shoulder before a blue LED light practically blinded the two humans. “It means Gavin almost slept with Officer Chen, Hank!” Connor sang out cheerfully, “I remember that night! They were both so drunk after the DPD dinner!”

Gavin waved a hand at them, “Stop gossipin’ like girls and tell me how the fuck I’m supposed to—” he paused, only then taking note of how easily Connor had joined in the conversation. Peeved, he glared at Connor as he hissed out coldly, “Connor, you haven’t been goin’ through my mail again, have you?”

Connor had recently quit working in the homicide unit, and when Hank chose to retire and just do some odd jobs around the DPD, the friendly RK800 chose to rope him into his own personal suggestion of applying to work in the mail room. It worked out for the pair, but not without the cost of the nosy RK800 sometimes rifling through people’s letters.

When Connor looked down and suddenly held a penitent gaze in his large, dark brown eyes, Gavin threw his arms up in the air and rose from his chair. “Fuck it,” he hissed, “I need a cigarette.”

Connor’s jaw fell, “I thought you were going to quit?”

“Nah, I can’t now,” Gavin retorted, hands and fingers fumbling and shaking as he dug deeply within his dark brown sweater and searched for the only source of his relief and comfort. When he found his lighter and cigarettes, he let out a strained sigh of relief. Now, he needed to go somewhere quiet and peaceful so he could gather his thoughts, ruminate on his shitty situation, and try to come up with a solution to all this.

Maybe he could reason with his mother…but too bad his father was six feet under. Son of a bitch. Of course, he wouldn’t ever leave the Earth without taking one last jab at Gavin, and the detective found he had a new reason altogether to despise his father once again.

Shoving his chair out of the way, he zipped himself up and made his way through the bullpen, hoping the late autumn weather wasn’t going to be too cold for a quick smoke break. On the way towards the exits, he nearly ran into Captain Fowler just as the man had been descending from his office steps.

When their eyes met, Captain Fowler threw Gavin a heated glare, and then nodded suspiciously at him, “Where are you off to, Reed?” he interrogated the other man, “your break ended twenty minutes ago!”

Throwing his hands in the air, Gavin grunted uncomfortably, “Jeffrey, can you just give me another break for a bit? I’m going through some tough shit, alright?”

Stepping up closely towards him aggressively, Captain Fowler growled, “You don’t dare tell me what you need and don’t need, you fr—” when he took note of Connor and Hank waving their hands at him and shaking their heads in anger, he froze, and then pointed at them, “the hell are you guys saying?!”

Not in the mood to deal with this any longer, Gavin quickly pushed past Fowler, and he tore towards the exits. His ears caught sounds of Hank, Connor, and Jeffrey Fowler screaming back and forth at one another, but he couldn’t give two shits what they were yammering on and on about.

Right now, he needed air, his cigarettes, and he needed to think.

Soon, the red ‘exit’ sign loomed in the distance, and as Gavin finally reached it, he fished out a fresh cigarette from his package. Holding it firmly between his teeth, he shoved the door open, and he stepped outside in a jiffy.

The cool autumn air greeted him, accompanied by the orange, yellow, and light green hues and colors. The trees were all either yellow or orange in leaf color, and others had fallen in large heaps and piles as the wind picked up the stray leaves and blew them about in a lovely array of dancing patterns and colors swishing about. In the top of some trees, due to the leaves falling, Gavin was able to see crow nests and other bird nests. Their young had long since abandoned the comfort and protection of the nests. Down the streets, a few stores and shops had already given in to the pre-Halloween season. Majority of these stores and shops had decorated their windows and perimeters with Halloween items and décor, and although it was still too early in the month of October, Gavin felt it didn’t seem too ‘off’ for the decorations to be there already.

It was only October 11th, and the detective could hardly believe that just four days ago, he’d turned thirty-eight. Time was slipping. He knew that he wouldn’t have much more of it to go ‘wife-shopping’.

Christ…when had he started thinking about shit like this?!

‘Wife hunting’?? Is that what his life’s work had all boiled down to?! Working his skin off, setting up and establishing a good, strong career for himself, finding his own place in the world, only to struggle with bills, finances, socialization, and now he had to settle down and open up to someone else about his quirks, kooks, and pet peeves?! Was he even ready for all that?!

Marriage was really not his cup of tea!!! Hank had been right!!! Gavin didn’t do a lot of dating in his youth, and he knew why that was so. A few therapists had called it ‘abandonment issues and commitment issues’, and they claimed it stemmed from the fact that his father had divorced his mother when he was so young.

Accurate.

For the most part, Gavin always pushed that sordid detail of his past out of his mind to the point where he’d convinced himself well enough that his dad really hadn’t been a part of the family that much. At one point, he’d stopped writing and emailing his dad, and then began cutting off other communication and connection ties.

No more phone calls, no more visits, he threw out every gift his father sent him in the mail every birthday, Christmas, and New Year. Soon, after almost half a decade of this routine, Felix Reed ceased to exist in Gavin’s mind. It was just himself he had to look out for. He was fine with it, as some people didn’t even have parents, and yet they turned out to be pretty decent people in society.

But he wasn’t sure if he was one of these people…

Realizing his cigarette had been burning away in the crispy air as he leaned against the cold bricks of the DPD building aimlessly, Gavin took a few long puffs from the burning cigarette while his eyes swam around the parking lot.

A wife…a wife…a partner?? He had to find a partner?!

All this was just so new and so random to him. How on Earth was he going to find someone to marry in just one year?!

Racking his brains for a few moments, he’d been so lost in his troubles and inner thoughts, that he’d failed to see a DPD police car pull in the parking lot. It parked quickly between two large, dark vans, and it sat idle for a moment before the engine turned off.

Racking his brains, Gavin went through a series of interesting emotions, each one just as riveting as its predecessor while he could do nothing except feel. He felt anger; he was angry with his father for abandoning him and his mother, and then leaving him with such a crazy, ridiculous notion that all this time he’d been a caring and loving parent who wanted Gavin’s true happiness by forcing him to marry someone. Gavin then felt exhilaration; he was excited he was owed a large sum of money. He found he really needed it in order to take better care of himself, and to try and look into a new apartment for his cats. Just last year, the stray he’d taken in got pregnant with a litter of six kittens, but the landlord had yet to find this out…things wouldn’t be pretty when he did.

Plus, bills kept coming and piling up, and Gavin had a lot of things on his plate he needed to address and take care of…if only he had the money!

Yes, this had all seemed like a gift sent down to him from the heavens above, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect and ideal. But of course, he knew how his father was, and the son of a bitch had to go and add this clause in…perfect.

Resisting the urge to kick at the wall behind himself, Gavin’s face held a pouty, troubled expression as he stared around the parking lot again. What the hell was he to do?! He couldn’t just pass this up!!! He knew his dad had been loaded ever since he married into Kamski’s rich, blue-collar family, and the chances were that the inheritance was a lovely package Gavin wouldn’t be able to accumulate if he lived three lifetimes over.

He needed it.

But what if he didn’t take it??

Thinking about what the possibility of that would entail, Gavin soon grew even more upset, and angrier. Yes, he had the option of saying ‘fuck it all’ and leaving the inheritance behind, but then what would happen to all that money??

Perhaps it would go to Elijah…

NO!!!

Fuck. That. Right. Off.

Shaking his head, Gavin put out his cigarette after he took his last puff, and he crushed it and wedged it beneath the heavy, thick heel of his boot. Every time he ground it harder and harder and deeper and deeper into the thick, dark pavement, Gavin imagined squishing and bashing his father’s face into the ground and dirt in much the same way. After all, the bastard deserved it for leaving his mother and gifting him with the fear that he wouldn’t ever find love and support; people would just leave him just like his dad had left.

Fuck him.

He didn’t need his money.

………

But it was money he was owed…it was his rightful money, and there was no way he was going to sit there and let Kamski have it…

Gavin sighed out to himself sadly, “Guess I better turn on the dating apps again…” snickering softly, he checked his phone for a brief moment, but then heard a car door opening and slamming shut quickly. It caught his attention, and as he glanced up, he saw the tall RK900 android known as ‘Nines’ walking towards the door.

The android wasn’t Gavin’s personal favorite friend, and they weren’t at all chummy. Truth be told, Gavin had a better and closer friendship with Connor than he had with Nines, but he couldn’t say they were mortal enemies, either. They just avoided one another for the most part, and frankly, Gavin didn’t really understand why. It just…it just happened that way, and he didn’t bother questioning it before or changing it around; it just was, so he went along with it until it became carved and ingrained into the quotidian lifestyle at the DPD.

From the time he’d been introduced to Nines, the android had just been…awkward. Gavin despised labeling it that way, but he couldn’t supply another word at all. It was just all so ‘awkward’ when it came to Nines. The sour android hardly spoke to him, but for some reason, he was amicable enough with others. Not particularly close with anyone or any other android, Nines came in to work in silence, and at the end of the day, he would leave in silence as well. He was very good at what he did, and he seemed eager to have anyone else’s back and support people through their duties.

No one could complain about him, and no one really did. Even Gavin put away his childish ‘battle’ with androids, and he soon found he got along mildly well with Connor now that the RK800 was always in the mail room and basement, and Nines was hardly ever immobile to even be spoken to, really. He was always on the move; always on the go.

But was he really as eager to help out as others claimed he was???

Gavin wondered…

Catching him out of his peripheral vision at the last minute before he breezed by, Nines merely nodded in a curt, cold greeting at Gavin, “Detective.”

Dressed head to toe in all black clothes, Nines headed inside the DPD without another word uttered. However, he didn’t need to say or do anything; Gavin was already thinking, and the gears of his brain were working and spinning quite fast.

Technically, according to the last will and testament his father had laid out for him, he had to get married, yes, but there wasn’t any mention of a ‘real, legitimate’ wedding, was there??

Smirking to himself for his cleverness and witticism, he hummed as he leaned against the wall and said to only himself, “It doesn’t have to really be a true wedding, Gavin!! It can be a pretend one!! How will my mom know??”

It was a brilliant plan, and the moment he’d seen Nines walking by, he’d then realized just how wonderful and brilliant it was.

He had his ‘partner’; he had his ‘target’.

Nines owed him a big favor for a very good reason, and he was going to make use of it.

Two years ago, when Gavin saved Nines from a stray bullet during a hostage negotiation situation, the RK900 had promised that he would return the favor one day if Gavin ever needed him to do so. Well, it just so happened that today was the day he needed that favor.

Grinning up at the sky, Gavin headed back inside the DPD with renewed hope and with determined purpose.

Chapter Text

Asking people for things whether he was ‘promised’ or ‘owed’ them or otherwise wasn’t something Gavin was ever fully comfortable with doing. All his life, he’d worked his ass off for things he accumulated in his life, and that felt a lot better than just being owed something or just given something so freely. Real men didn’t get where they were in the world by asking for handouts, begging, pleading, whining, crying, or playing the victim card. Yes, his life had been rather chaotic and shitty. But had he ever used that as a personal trump card into getting a free ticket in life?

No. Not in a thousand years would he. Gavin Reed preferred earning things by the sweat of his brow rather than just making it big in the world by chance or accident. No, he never wanted to be like Elijah. That man had been given everything in life, and it was true that he’d struck a gold mine along the way. But did that mean he could survive and make it in the real world? Gavin supposed not. He’d never really had a conversation with his estranged half-sibling at all beyond ‘hi, so your mom married my dad?’. Still, that wasn’t a crucial requirement in getting to know a person at all, especially someone as mollitious as Elijah Kamski.

He had his status, his wealth, his success, and his comforts, and Gavin was on a whole other wavelength altogether. They never needed to mix, collaborate, cooperate, or even be on civil terms, so they never aimed to. But now, money was on the line, and although Elijah had heaps of it, but he seemed to be the greedy sort of lout that needed more and more, ever addicted to extremities in life. Extreme success, extreme wealth, extreme joy, extreme passion, extreme craziness, extreme lavish gifts fit for a King…fuck him. Fuck that spoiled brat. Gain hated him, and he didn’t give a fuck what happened to Elijah, just as long as he was given what he was damn well owed and promised.

Only, to ask for it seemed like such an arduous task indeed. Knowing Nines like he did, there was a high chance that the android wouldn’t make it easy for him. There would be interrogation; the never-ending need to sort and sift through questions and answers, and it would be a taxing and grueling start. That was of course the start…Nines wouldn’t let it go, perhaps. Not that Gavin could blame him, really, as it wasn’t every damn day that someone approached with the request of having a fake wedding! Yes, he had the right to ask questions, but Nines always asked questions like he did when he was grilling and interrogating a suspect…it wouldn’t do, and Gavin hated being under the spotlight.

But he owed him…Nines owed him this, at least! If it was his given right, he had the privilege of asking!!

Nerves flayed to the raw end, Gavin began sweating profusely as he made his way past desks and isles way beyond the bullpen all the way to the door leading into the ‘Archive Room’. Trying to stop him and catch him before he was lost, Gavin jogged up ahead, and cried out for Nines a few times.

He hadn’t realized how loudly he’d called for the tall android. More of an audience than he required had already been gazing and listening, staring back and forth between Gavin and Nines. The powerful android ceased moving, and he turned around and stared blankly down at Gavin.

Craning his neck, his eyes narrowed a fraction, and he curtly nodded again while greeting Gavin. “Detective Reed, may I be of some assistance?”

Cringing at what he’d heard, Gavin nearly fell into a persistent vegetative state. It was still so damn weird hearing that crap coming from Nines, considering how everyone knew the RK900 was a deviant. Gavin had never before seen an android persisting and insisting upon remaining as cold and detached so that he seemed to be ‘pre-deviant’, but Nines was…well, he was Nines. The DPD oddball, he wasn’t too bad, but perhaps far too neutral, if anything.

Not wanting to stand there and mentally nitpick Nines’ strange idiosyncrasies all day long, Gavin felt the letter in his back pocket. Withdrawing it, he had been about to open it up and just show it to Nines, when the android shifted his weight a little, and he stared intently at the page.

“Is this new evidence, Detective?” came the neutral-sounding question, “well done. I’ll need that for the Myers case.”

Gavin’s jaw dropped, and his lips formed a most confused ‘o’ shape. “Wah?” he barely managed to cough out, the page trembling in his sweaty, clammy hands, “Nines?”

“Good work, Detective,” the passive android pushed out, “I’ll keep in touch with you soon, but I’m afraid I have a few other pieces of evidence I’ll be needing to review for the case.” Not even bothering to hear Gavin out, Nines spun on his heels, and he headed past the door. It closed coldly and loudly behind him, leaving Gavin scratching his head in the wake of it.

“I…”

Someone chuckled in the far distance, and then a deep voice jabbed at him, “Nice job, Gav! He’s said more to you than he ever has in two years!!”

Choosing to ignore Chris Miller’s silly comment, Gavin opened the door, and he made a beeline towards the Archive Room after Nines. Although the android had long legs, Gavin didn’t have to run for long before he caught up with Nines.

The page was fluttering in his hand as he panted lightly, and as he cursed himself for being a smoker for so many years, he managed to tap on Nines’ shoulder for half a second. It was successful enough in catching the android’s attention, and he stood with his hands clasped firmly behind his back.

Resembling a soldier at attention while he puffed out his chest, pushed back his broad shoulders, and stared down at Gavin with an unreadable expression in his blue eyes, his lips barely moved as he softly asked, “Is there something you require, Detective?”

That was when Gavin’s mouth snapped shut, and his brain stopped working.

Having no idea what on earth had happened, Gavin simply resigned to his current fate, which involved being statuesque and frozen as he stared and stared, and then stared some more at Nines.

What the hell was he about to say?? What was he going to do??

With Nines???

Studying Nines carefully, Gavin found he finally had his one and only chance of just taking into perspective who this was.

Nines was at least a whole head taller than he was, for one. He seemed not only ‘stronger’ in terms of his physical build, but in terms of his presence and ‘aura’, he gave off a more aggressively reserved personality type. Perhaps these associations were just vain imaginings for him, but ever since Gavin had reluctantly attended a few therapy sessions, he’d learned more than he should have in terms of human behaviorism, psychology, and relationship ‘management’. From what his therapist had assigned him to read, and from a few brief ‘google’ searches, he concluded that perhaps Nines was more aggressive than he let on, but he chose to hide and conceal it often.

Maybe he had good reasons to.

Everyone knew that the mysterious android could be violent and potent at times when displaying and demonstrating his hunter prowess and unique capabilities when it came to solving crime, tracking down perps, as well as interrogating and booking them. He was relentless, brutal, dogged in his pursuits, and he would only cease and desist when his efforts yielded some fruit.

Yes, Nines wasn’t all that passive after all.

Looking at him now in the clear lights of the hall leading into the Archive Room, Gavin felt his mouth turning even more dry than ever before.

Nines’ cold blue eyes seemed to teeter on the edge of annoyance and impatience, it seemed. Though his eyes didn’t shift as a person’s would, he hardly blinked as he just stared almost directly through the back of Gavin’s head. Those piercing eyes were the least of his concerns, however. His perfectly shaped nose seemed to turn up in revulsion and disgust at Gavin, but then ceased moving, as if sensing Gavin’s alertness to how the levels of tension were increasing. Marginally, Nines’ dark brown eyebrows clenched on his brow, and his blue LED light spun quickly on his right temple for a moment before it resumed its more ‘calm’ and ‘regular’ motions.

“Detective? Are you unwell?”

Snapping out of it, Gavin took a step back from Nines.

No way was this conversation happening; he’d made a big mistake.

Holding up a hand apologetically, Gavin continued backing away steadily, “Sorry, Nines,” he half-chuckled half-laughed out, “I think I forgot something on my desk…I’ll…” nearly tripping over his own feet in the process, he kept on backing away until his shoulders nudged the door. “I’m just…” he ran.

The door swung shut softly, but that was the complete opposite to how madly and wildly Gavin’s heart was racing and throbbing in his chest until he reached his desk.

Plan one was shot to shit!! What was he going to do, now!?!?

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“No, Gavin,” Connor hissed out irritably for the fourth time in the short span of five minutes, “I don’t want to be a part of this… ‘wedding thing’!”

Gavin couldn’t believe that he’d resorted to crying and begging for the RK800 to reconsider. He hadn’t gone into details in regards to his strange experience with Nines; he’d just immediately run into the mail room asking Connor to play pretend to be his ‘partner’ just until his mother verified it and confirmed it so he could gain his lousy inheritance.

“Why don’t you want to help me, Connor?!” Gavin whined like a petulant child while the android sorted through piles and heaps of new letters, magazines, books, and other strange documents at his desk next to Hank.

Rolling his eyes dramatically, Connor snapped, “I just don’t feel comfortable enough with relationships yet, Gavin!”

Frowning, Gavin pointed crudely at him, “But you were messin’ around with an ex-Traci not too long ago, remember?”

Hank snorted acerbically, while Connor seemed flustered. Throwing his hands into the air, the heated and over-emotional android cried out, “I meant that I don’t want to be in a relationship with a human being, Gavin!” he stated rudely while his tone turned serious and his eyes gleamed dangerously at Gavin, “please stop pestering me, now; I have a lot of work to do!!”

Gavin pounded his fist into the desk as he screamed out, “You’d just sell a friend out, then?!” face turning beet red, he added, “you’re a real piece of plastic, ain’t ya, Connor?”

Sensing that the situation was steadily rising out of hand, Hank slowly stood to his feet.

Shaking his head in anger, Connor cried out vehemently, “It’s not that I have some sense of misogamy, Gavin,” he clarified as patiently as he could, “I just don’t feel too pleased with the notion that I have to play house and family for you, while you laugh your way off to the bank after we fool your widowed mother!!”

As he returned back to his work, Hank stepped around the desk, and before Gavin could lash out and attack Connor, he grabbed the shorter male around his shoulders, and he gently guided him out of the mail room. “Step outside my office, Reed,” he lightly joked, and as he steadied Gavin in the hallway, he leaned against him and sighed a small, sad sigh. “Reed,” he began in a stern tone of voice almost like a parent, “you can’t continue harassing Connor about this, and I think you know that.”

Gavin gaped at him blankly for a moment, and then growled out in rage, “He’s such a prick! I need help right now, and he’s just pretending this shit doesn’t affect him at all!”

“That’s because it doesn’t affect him, Gavin,” Hank pressed out, ever luculent and personable, “it’s not really his business, and quite frankly, it ain’t mine either!!”

Shaking out of his ‘aggressive mode’, an almost innocent and childlike expression fell over Gavin’s face as he got up real close in Hank’s face. “Then why do you care?” he asked so softly that it nearly went missed by Hank the first time.

For a moment, the older male was just as frozen as Gavin had been earlier. His eyes seemed to almost gloss over with tears, but he sniffed as he shrugged coldly and stuffed his large hands in his jean pockets deeply. “Well, shit, Reed,” he chuckled, switching back to using Gavin’s last name, “I don’t know! I just…” he looked over at Gavin once, eyebrows rising as he spat out, “…I just don’t want ya feelin’ so bad all the time, plus, you were giving me a damn headache back there.”

Gavin snorted, “Don’t fuckin’ patronize me, Anderson; it won’t work, and I don’t need your pity, so you can shove it right up your—”

“I do apologize for interrupting,” came a deep, rich voice, and Gavin and Hank both knew whom it belonged to immediately. It was Nines.

They both stared over almost far too slowly at Nines, eyeing him carefully, as if seeing him for the first time ever before. Their eyes were wide with fear, but in a jiffy, they broke away from their disturbed facial expressions.

Nines eyed the closed door, and he said, “I need to enter the mail room for a moment.”

Gavin huffed out, “Then do it?”

Glaring at him, Hank merely tugged Gavin out of the way, “Go ahead, Nines.”

“Thanks.”

As the android barely opened the door, a mighty roar came forth at them, followed by a few letters flying out into the hallway violently.

“FOR THE LAST TIME! I DON’T WANT TO MARRY YOU, EVEN IF IT IS FOR PRETENSE, GAV—oh…sorry, Nines…”

Simultaneously, Gavin and Hank both exchanged uncomfortable glances, and then Nines took a few steps back. Awkwardly and stiffly, he turned his neck over to Gavin, and he tilted his head at the shorter male as he ground out, “I…you…” his LED light blinked red and yellow, and as the colors went through the cycle of their patterns, Hank rolled his eyes and tugged on his ponytail.

“Fuck it,” he eventually snapped out, “I’m not going to deal with this right now.” He bent down and picked up the mail Connor had thrown into the hallway, while Nines’ right eye twitched a few times before he was able to compose himself.

Turning to the door, he barely grabbed the handle, when Hank yanked the door shut and cried out, “Not now, Nines; I think Gavin needs to talk to you about something very important.” Closing the door quietly behind himself, he made sure to motion over at Nines with the jerky and twitchy jabs of his head and neck.

Gavin was left all alone with Nines in the hall, afterwards.

When the lights and air vents above hummed, buzzed and sang out, Gavin knew the silence had been too heavy. Shuffling his feet, he couldn’t believe he finally found his voice when he whispered out, “Can we t-talk somewhere else?”

Nines nodded, “Fine.”

That did very little to ease the tension in Gavin’s chest, stomach, shoulders, and neck. Worst of all, he really knew he had no time to put this as gently and break it as painlessly to Nines as he could.

Perhaps the hard way was the best method in this case.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin kicked at the vending machine in the third-floor hallway again when he saw that his can of Coke got stuck. To be fair, Nines had technically warned him that this vending machine wasn’t in working condition…but he didn’t listen; he never did, and listening wasn’t a skill Gavin was well known for.

Grunting when he saw his can wedged in the tiny orifice located at the bottom, he shoved his hands inside the little hole to yank it out, but it was impossible; it was stuck, truly. Not yet wanting to give up on it, he backed away while pointing at the vending machine awkwardly, “This thing’s a piece of shit, isn’t it?”

Behind him, Nines waited, staring at the Coke can. “Detective Reed,” he pushed out in a drone, “I hate to be rude, but if you wanted to just discuss the failure of the vending machine, I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave, as I have to retrieve some of my mail that got lost last week and was mixed with Captain Fowler’s.”

Right.

Gavin knew he didn’t have a lot of time to fuck around, as Nines wasn’t someone who was in favor of fucking around.

Clapping his hands together in a strange attempt at calming himself down, he sighed, “Right, okay, Nines, I’m just gonna come right out and say it bluntly, okay?”

“That’d be wise.”

“Okay…” mentally counting down from ‘three’, Gavin took a sharp breath before wheezing out quickly, “Nines, remember how two years ago I got in the way of a shot aimed at you when we were workin’ that case where that guy took his entire family hostage?”

Not moving for a while, Nines eventually nodded, “Yes…I do…I remember everything, Detective Reed. Why do you inquire?”

Feeling his anger and irritation spiking, Gavin held up an index finger, “I’m gettin’ to that, Nines!” counting once again down from ‘three’, he groaned, “look, I don’t mean to be annoying or anything, but you said that you would help me if I ever needed it!”

Nines sniffed, “I recall that as well.”

More tension and awkwardness seemed to be increasing between them, but since they were already this far with progress, Gavin knew he couldn’t turn back. Pressing forward was his only option.

Closing his eyes, he hurriedly said, “Yeah, and now, I really need your help, Nines, because my mom told me that my dad’s left me a pretty good amount of money for my inheritance, but I can’t touch it unless I get married,” pausing for a short intake of breath, he finished, “so I just need you to pretend to be my partner, because my mom frankly doesn’t care if I am gay or not, haha, but you know, I’m not gay!! I like chicks with big tits, but I’ll be honest, I find some guys sexy! Never fooled around with one; I just find some dudes hot, but I think everyone goes through shit like that as a phase, and whoever says they don’t is a fuckin’ liar, and I think they’re secretly all out gay but they—”

“No, Gavin.”

When Gavin heard his first name coming out of Nines’ mouth, his words died on his tongue. Letting out a choked noise, he couldn’t help but gasp out in awe and shock, “Nines!! You called me by my first name?!” laughing once, he added, “Jesus! That’s a first!!”

Nines didn’t seem to care about that. Repeating his previous statement, he replied again with, “No, Gavin.”

“No?” Gavin finally muttered out, the realization sinking into his brain, “what do you mean ‘no’?” Not in the mood of cryptic messages, he spat, “You’re saying ‘no’ to me when you didn’t hear my whole story!!”

Stepping up to him, Nines loomed tall as he retorted, “I don’t care what your story happens to be, and I’m very sorry to hear about your peculiar situation, but I refuse to help you out in this scenario.”

Now, Gavin was beyond angry. Reaching back into his pocket, he threw his letter up, and he held it before Nines’ eyes. “My dad’s dead, Nines,” he admitted coldly, hardly feeling anything even though he’d vocally stated it, “he’s gone, and he left me with an inheritance, which was the only thing that cold-hearted bastard left behind for me after effectively—”

No.

He couldn’t go there, and he wouldn’t.

Not with Nines, not with anyone.

Biting down hard on his tongue, he felt tears welling up in his eyes from the pain, and it helped him distract himself from the mess he’d nearly created for himself and blindly stumbled into. Pain was now here in his mouth as opposed to in his heart…good…he felt better.

As he stood taking long, measured breaths, Nines tilted his head down at him, a brow quirked.

“I’m sorry to hear about your loss, Reed,” he switched back to using Gavin’s last name, “but I still don’t feel it’s necessary for me to play the role of your partner and trick your mother into handing you over the inheritance.” When he saw how silent Gavin still was, he opened his mouth and stated, “Might I however suggest and encourage you to seek out a lawyer to get a case going for the inheritance? Or, perhaps, would you prefer a psychiatrist to help you along the grieving process?”  

Gavin nearly threw up. He knew that for the most part, a lot of androids had been programmed to help humans in any way possible. But deviant androids typically didn’t talk like this, and he knew that Nines was really going out of his way to be as cold and detached as possible.

Bastard.

Resisting the urge to throw a mega-punch at the android, Gavin snarled, “Don’t fuckin’ be a dick, Nines! I don’t need that kind of help!”

“Then what do you require, Reed?”

Holding out his hands, Gavin slowly pushed out, “I need for you to listen to me, Nines! I know you don’t like me, and I don’t like you either, you know,” he stated factually, noticing how Nines’ lips quirked into a strange expression before his face turned passive once again.

“I’d offer you money, or a cut of the inheritance,” Gavin snorted, taking a step closer to the tall android and shivering, “but I know bribes don’t work on you guys.”

Nines hummed, “Not inaccurate.”

Pressing on, Gavin said, “Look, I just need you to help me out this one time, and I swear, I’ll be in your debt forever.”

Sarcastically, Nines threw out, “Define ‘forever’, Detective Reed.”

This may have been the worst, and craziest thing Gavin was going to do, especially considering just how annoying Nines was being. What made matters worse was that he really seemed to be going out of his way to make this difficult, but Gavin had already anticipated and expected for this to happen. Trying to remain as tough and cold as the machine he’d been appealing to and begging, Gavin stood up as tall as he could. Internally, he was screaming away and cursing at his genetics for rendering him so damn short, and he threw a particularly explicit curse his stepbrother’s way for creating this damn machine and making him so tall.

When he had Nines’ undivided attention, Gavin summoned his courage and guts, and he extended a strong index finger. Jabbing it away at Nines’ sternum, he tapped away, imagining that he was using a knife to sharply pierce and stab through to Nines.

Maybe then the dense moron would grasp the context and situation.

As their eyes met, Gavin nodded and enunciated clearly as he could.

“You. Owe. Me.”

Nines snarled, but remained silent, which Gavin took as a sign to continue, and he did.

“I. Saved. You. Now, I need you to save me,” he finished the rest without resorting to a chopped, robotic way of speaking. When he backed away from Nines, the lights flickered for a moment, and then they buzzed as the hallway fell silent once again.

After an age, Nines seemed to break out of his frozen state, and he asked, “A phony relationship?”

“Yes.”

“For how long?”

“Just until my mom confirms it and I can get my damn inheritance.”

“Why do you need it so badly?”

Not minding the questions being fired away rapidly at him, he replied, “Because I don’t have enough to even get by anymore, Nines, and I need something better to rely on when I want to retire.”

It was quiet again before Nines shifted. “I see,” was his only comment, and after another pregnant pause that hung in the air, he hissed, “you’ll swear to me to come to my assistance shall I need it at any given time, then?”

Gavin nodded, “Yep. I swear.”

Nines grunted deeply, “You swear?”

“You heard me,” came the almost animal-like growl, “I swear.”

…….

A flash of red was the LED light, and a dangerous flash of coldness seeped through Nines’ eyes before he gave only one curt nod, “This ends the moment you receive whatever it is you think you’re due, and then,” Nines practically had to keep himself from bursting out in anger, “…then, I wish for you to leave me alone, are we clear?”

Gavin shrugged, “I’m happy with that arrangement.”

“Fine,” blue eyes met Gavin’s own, “I’ll do it.”

A second later, the vending machine let out a rumble of a noise, and the Coke can crashed down right out of the machine and landed on the floor. The can dented badly, and as the soft drink exploded all over the floor, its sticky liquid spilled forth out of it, leaking everywhere and soaking up the clean floor.

Nines only smirked as he backed off Gavin, head held high as he announced, “It looks like you’ve received your first task, Detective Reed.”

Chapter Text

Bright and early on Friday morning, Gavin walked inside the DPD whistling a random tune he’d heard on the radio on the way to work. A steaming hot, fresh cup of coffee was held in his right hand, and in his left hand, he’d been randomly scrolling through his phone, just clearing out his chat history, looking at the news, weather forecast, and other random things just to kill time. It wasn’t even half past eight, and he prided himself on being super early for once.

But something was off…

Gavin was a rather decent detective, and it hardly took him much of an effort to notice that everything was absolutely dead silent around him. It was as if a spell had been placed in the DPD, and everyone within it had been a victim of this petrifying spell that prevented them from talking or making a sound otherwise. Glancing up from his phone, Gavin was able to confirm that while his colleagues were in today as usual for the work-day, they were all so terribly silent…and they were eyeing him warily, strangely, and some of them even looked to be…worried about him??

He wasn’t sure, as he never had been able to fully read people accurately, but something really was off today.

Stopping in his tracks abruptly, Gavin peeked over his own shoulder. Nope. No one was there.

So it hadn’t been a goofy, pathetic excuse for a ‘Halloween scare’ or prank?

No…his colleagues look sickly, pale, and almost worried as they only stared at him with wide eyes.

Did he have something on his face??? He hoped not, but he knew that before he’d left his apartment that morning, like any other day, he’d showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, combed his hair back, and done everything properly in terms of his health and hygiene…what was it, then??

Puzzled, the bewildered detective turned to stare over at Hank and Connor when they exited the Break Room. Making sure to stop Hank just as he approached his own desk, Gavin pointed over at the entire bullpen, halls, and some of the other offices with people lingering about, their eyes cast over at Gavin eerily. “What’s with them?” he asked in a gentle tone of voice, trying not to grow angry and become vitriolic if he didn’t know the entire story or situation, yet.

Connor and Hank simply gazed over at the frozen and petrified officers, detectives, and other employees, and Connor shrugged. “Don’t know,” he answered Gavin swiftly, “they were like that since we got here.”

Gavin chewed on his lower lip, and then index finger for a moment, “But what’s goin’ on, really?”

“How the fuck do we know, Reed?” Hank snapped grumpily, “I haven’t even had my coffee yet!!”

As Gavin had been caught up in the middle of spitting out a harsh reply back to Hank, Captain Fowler slammed a hand down over Gavin’s shoulder, effectively cutting off any sarcastic, acerbic reply. “Well, well, Reed,” he purred in mock delight, but as everyone in the DPD knew how their police Captain was, they weren’t foolish or dimwitted enough not to know that Captain Fowler wasn’t at all pleased or happy to see Gavin this morning.

Leaning closer into Gavin, his fingers tightened on the detective’s shoulder, squeezing him slowly like an anaconda slowly squeezing its prey to death. Eyes flashing dangerously, Captain Fowler hissed like a serpent, “What say you come down to my office for a little chat, hmm? Could you do that, Reed?” Refusing to let go of Gavin’s shoulder, Captain Fowler already steered the short detective in the direction he wanted him to go in; his office.

Together, their footsteps fell in line, and in unison, they climbed up the steps and Gavin found that Captain Fowler held open the door widely for him.

“Move it,” he ordered when Gavin paused long enough to peer over his shoulder at him, just to check if this was really happening. Glancing back at his team and co-workers, he found that they were already whispering and muttering about them, but he worked hard at trying to drive out the susurrus of their voices, otherwise, he was certain he was going to crumble and fall into abject despair.

The door had already closed, and as Gavin gazed ahead in the small office space, he found that Nines was already seated on the chair to the far-right corner before Captain Fowler’s desk. Turning around once to greet them, the expressionless android shifted his chair even further away from the vacant one Gavin knew he was going to have to occupy soon.

Captain Fowler pushed him towards it, “Park your ass right there, Reed.”

Hating that his superior often resorted to treating him and talking to him as if he were a mere child, Gavin stomped over to his chair, and he sat on the very edge of it while trying to ignore Nines. Apparently, the RK900 seemed to have the same idea, for he didn’t even regard Gavin next to himself once.

It was better, this way.

Plopping down on his own chair, Captain Fowler cracked his knuckles, then his neck, then his toes. Every time he cracked something, Gavin felt sicker and sicker. Captain Fowler seemed to show no signs of slowing down when he cracked his wrists and back, and that was precisely when Gavin decided to interject with a question.

Sitting on the edge of his seat while his hands and fingers tightly latched onto the armrests of the chair, Gavin uncomfortably coughed out, “Sir? Umm, not to be rude or anything, but I don’t want to sit here all morning listening to you cracking away at your body like you’re making popcorn.”

Nines covered his mouth with a hand, and unfortunately, due to how quickly he’d done so, Gavin was unable to see whether or not he’d been smiling, laughing, or downright trying to muffle out something sardonic and harsh.

Captain Fowler threw Gavin a most foul look, “Wise ass,” he muttered, while Nines crossed a long leg over the other and leaned back in his chair, an almost thoughtful expression crossing over his eyes while he stared at nothing and nowhere in particular.

Twiddling him thumbs, Captain Fowler opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. After opening it once again and acting almost like a fish gasping for water when placed forcefully on land, he eventually sighed out brokenly while his eyelids fluttered shut, “Gavin, I’m going to ask you a question, here, but seeing as you’re one of the most fiery men I’ve ever met, I’m going to have to encourage you to remain calm and just try to answer me clearly so we can get to the bottom of this, okay?”

Now, Gavin was beyond suspicious.

Peeking over at Nines, he found that the austere android was already offering him a withering look. Unsure of what to make of it, Gavin turned back to Captain Fowler. “Okay, sir,” he nodded curtly, “I’ll do my best, okay?” He hoped Nines hadn’t ‘tricked’ him by stabbing him in the back and reporting him to Fowler for something as stupid as sexual harassment. He’d never be able to get out of this if that happened to be the case.

Swallowing nervously, Fowler then inhaled sharply and slowly, and finally ground through his teeth, “Have you made it a habit to sleep with your co-workers, Gavin, or am I imagining things?”

…….

The office was so silent that the noises outside were almost as loud as a rock concert.

Nines definitely had something to do with this…right?

Scowling over at the motionless android, Gavin snapped, “I don’t follow, sir.”

Captain Fowler looked to the ceiling for a moment, and then twitched in his seat. After fidgeting for a few painful moments, he spat, “First Tina Chen, and now Nines?” shaking his head in disdain at Gavin, he added, “never took you for a bed hopper, son.”

This time, Gavin was unable to hold back. Knowing that he was now able to draw a line between Captain Fowler’s comment and his previous chat with Nines, he was absolutely certain that the android had said far too much to Captain Fowler.

Resisting the urge to scream from the top of his lungs while chucking sharp objects at Nines, Gavin pressed out through clenched teeth, “Nines, what the hell did you say to him??”

Not even a moment was spared before Captain Fowler chimed in with, “Yes, Nines, do tell your lovely Gavin here what you were so kind to tell me.” Sarcasm dripped and spilled over everywhere and in everything, and Gavin really felt he was going to lose it if Nines decided to drag this out any longer.

Staring intently and seriously at the tall android, Gavin eyed him until he made eye contact, and then he stared down at his hands, almost admiring them pleasantly.

“Don’t worry, Gavin,” his voice shifted to a warmer tone Gavin had never heard him use before, “I know you prefer when things are ‘up front’, so I took the liberty of talking to Captain Fowler like you wanted me to do.”

Not following, Gavin asked, “What’re you ta—” he felt himself shutting the hell up when Nines lowered his leg and kneed Gavin brutally in the shin with his own powerful, sharp kneecap. Wincing in pain, Gavin switched to saying, “Oh shoot! Yeah, haha, I guess I didn’t get the chance to finish my coffee,” staring down at it on the corner of Fowler’s desk, he made a grab for it, using it to warm his shaking, cold hands, “umm, so remind me again, Nines,” he awkwardly fumbled for his words, “h-how did you put it again?”

Quickly answering, Nines eloquently and fluently replied, “I told Captain Fowler that we’re engaged, silly.” Staring back at Gavin, he faked a small, pleasant smile, and perhaps it could’ve done well to fool people who didn’t know him, but Gavin wasn’t a fool; he knew that inside, Nines was burning with rage.

Head and neck spinning back towards Captain Fowler, Gavin offered his superior a small, pained smile.

Evidently, Captain Fowler wasn’t too happy, and he didn’t return the smile at all. Instead, he glared on at Gavin as if the detective had spilled hot coffee all over his papers, and he sat back in his chair as he growled, “Reed, son,” he clenched his fists, rubbing them over the surface of the desk as he continued, “you know it’s not really encouraged to pursue these kind of relationships, here, but the damn android-liberation and rights movement lifted a lot of these barriers and all, but still…” shaking his head wildly back and forth, he held out a hand before Nines, “you said you hated androids, son, and now you’re sleeping with them?!”

Turning pale, Gavin supplied hurriedly, “Err, sir, I don’t mean to say that it’s not umm…well…” twitching and fidgeting nervously, “…I mean to say that I—”

Cutting him off, Fowler held up a hand, “I get it, Reed; the loss of your father wasn’t easy to deal with, for one, and two, you are well within your rights to grieve in whatever way you want, even if it means sleeping around and drinking until you’ve got your head halfway down a toilet bowl.”

“Sleeping around?!” Gavin snorted, “It was just with—”

“Point is, people go through heavy shit and deal with their shit in different ways, Reed, but screwing your co-workers because it helps you get by without your dad around in your life isn’t the solution!!”

Gavin’s index finger flew up like a flag raised in the wind, “Technically, what happened with Tina was long before my dad died, and we didn’t really—” once again, he’d been stopped and prevented from talking by Nines. A sharp, pointy elbow slammed into his rib cage, and Gavin rocked and swayed a little on his chair. “The hell! Stop it!!” he cried at Nines in anger, but the android merely offered him an innocent smile, followed by an auspicious wave.

Reminding himself to keep up with the ridiculous act, Gavin smiled over at Captain Fowler for a moment, just to convince the other man that everything was fine.

Captain Fowler scoffed as he rubbed his chin and nose once, “So what Nines said was true then?”

Reluctantly, Gavin pushed past his aching heart and throbbing head, and he responded, “Yes; we intend to be married, sir.”

It sounded so odd to admit and say that out loud, and Gavin felt nauseated from it. Holding back on bringing up whatever meal he’d had since last night, he clenched his mouth shut, planted his feet firmly on the floor, and didn’t budge in his seat as he forced a smile onto his face. This was still so maddening and sickening.

With a strained sigh that depicted how affronted he was by the random, inconvenient news, Captain Fowler grabbed one of the many white envelopes sitting atop his desk, and he used it to fan himself profusely. The paper swished and crinkled as he moved it back and forth before himself, but he kept his eyes closely trained on Gavin and Nines as the clock hanging on one of the walls in his office ticked loudly.

Just when Gavin thought that he wouldn’t be able to handle the silence any longer, Captain Fowler tossed the little envelope back down onto his desk. “Fuck it,” rubbing his chin roughly, he grunted out, “fuck it, there’s no other way, is there?”

Gavin tried making eye contact with Nines, but the stoic android was already staring ahead at their boss in silence, so Gavin thought it was the right thing to do the same.

After what felt like forever, Captain Fowler loosened his hands, and he rested them at his sides almost limply and oddly. Eyes suddenly tired and mildly pink, he stared at Gavin first while he stated, “Take half a week off for next week, both of you.”

Immediately, Nines sputtered, “Sir?! I d-don’t understand, I’m afraid!”

Pointing crudely at his own lips, Captain Fowler spat out venomously, “I’m speaking English, Nines; it’s not that hard to piece it together.”

“I know,” the android fired back, “but I don’t think we require time off!”

Truthfully, Gavin was happier than a pig rolling in mud and shit upon hearing the news, but when he remembered that his bills wouldn’t stop coming, he felt himself slipping into a panicked zone.

Holding up a hand shyly as though he were a kid in grade school trying to get his teacher’s attention, he whispered, “Umm, sir? Jeffrey?”

Immediately taking note of the levels of inner and outer turmoil upon his face and displayed all over his body language, Captain Fowler rolled his eyes and let out a small puff of air. “Reed, relax,” he urged out, “you’ll still get paid; consider it a paid vacation or leave.”

While Gavin was able to relax for a moment, this recent ‘news’ only seemed to trouble and anger Nines. Scowling with all his might, he ran a hand along the edge of the desk before muttering out, “A paid leave, Captain?” he repeated with a serious glint in his eyes, “that sounds a lot like paid suspension to me.”

Gavin frowned for a moment, whereas Captain Fowler pointed thickly at Nines. “If you’re gonna think like that already, Nines, then perhaps this small break is good for you.”

Lips curled back in anger, Nines spat, “If you say so, sir.”

“I do say so, Nines,” Captain Fowler reminded the irate android while nodding over at Gavin, “take a break, get yourselves together, because frankly, whatever the fuck you two have going on in your personal lives, I don’t give a shit to figure out,” rubbing his forehead, the wrinkles that could be found there seemed so profound and deep, practically marring his skin as he groaned painfully to himself. Rubbing and massaging the wrinkles away for a moment, Captain Fowler continued rubbing his forehead and temples while pressing out, “I appreciate the level of honesty that you two could come forward and talk to me, though,” this statement seemed to invoke a sense of control and calm in Nines, and he visibly relaxed and his vitriolic demeanor seemed to decrease substantially.

“Take half the week off,” Captain Fowler reiterated, “and whenever you two return to work, I’ll be expecting the same level of professionalism—” he paused, throwing a resolute glare in Gavin’s direction when he snorted upon hearing the word ‘professionalism’ spoken, “—from you both; don’t think that just because you two are together, that it will automatically mean you get some kind of lottery ticket and free pass into doing whatever the willy nilly fuck you want, got it?!”

Gavin practically leapt to his feet as he nodded, “Got it, sir!” He couldn’t help it; he wanted out of this office, out of this situation, out of his body and life so he could go live another less insane and less chaotic life.

Nines appeared to be feeling almost the same way, for he rose to his feet as well and straightened his black shirt down by the hem as he grunted out, “Clear enough, Captain.”

Clapping sarcastically, Captain Fowler pressed out, “Great, now please get your sorry asses out of here.”

They didn’t require much else in the way of encouragement; Nines had already fled from the office, leaving the door slowly closing after himself. The moment Gavin approached the door, however, Captain Fowler almost roared out to him, “Reed, one last thing…”

Coming to an abrupt halt, Gavin paused, turned around, and stared expectantly at Captain Fowler. “Sir?”

Pointing at his dark jacket resting on a hook in the wall next to the door, Captain Fowler barked out, “Get me my damn bottle of Advil, son, else I won’t be able to make it through the rest of the day.”

Obediently, Gavin fished out the bottle from Captain Fowler’s coat pocket, but he wasn’t above stealing one of the pills for himself, first.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

It’d taken Gavin almost twenty-five minutes before he was able to find Nines after his departure from Captain Fowler’s office. It was amazing just how quickly the android had chosen to disappear, but Gavin managed to track him down and locate him pacing around inside the men’s washroom on the second floor of the DPD.

It seemed Nines didn’t really care that Gavin had joined him in the small washroom, as he continuously paced about while a serious expression weighed heavily on his face. Gavin observed him in sheer silence for a few minutes, but seeing as he wasn’t at all a patient man, he soon broke down and asked Nines what on Earth was going on.

Of course, Nines didn’t answer him immediately, and that sent Gavin over the edge.

Holding his hands down to his sides in the fear of lashing out at the tall, powerful android, Gavin instead demanded, “So what the flying fuck made you think it was a wise idea telling everyone we work with that we’re ‘engaged’, Nines? Hmm?”

Casting a glare down at the floor so potently that Nines’ eyes seemed to burn holes straight through it, the angry android eventually snapped, “That’s what Ben Collins did when he got engaged to his wife, Detective. What else was I to do?”

“That was a relationship between two humans, for one,” he held up a finger, and then added a second to the first as he counted the points off, “two, Ben is married to a woman and has been known for being a straight guy all his life,” he was stopped when Nines spat at him with a softly pressed out, “As if that matters.”

“It does,” Gavin barked at him, “it matters a great deal, and thirdly, you moron, he—” the door suddenly swung wide open with a loud, echoing creak, and Gavin and Nines fell silent immediately. When they gazed up to see who had interrupted them, they found two other men waltzing into the washroom.

One of these men happened to unfortunately be a tall, muscular, brown eyed, dark-haired man named Mischa Barker. He was a new recruit in the DPD and worked in HR, and standing next to him was another man of almost the same height, only slightly shorter. This man was even worse than Mischa; he was a brunette male at least ten years younger than Gavin, he was far more aggressive, and unlike Mischa, he wasn’t entirely new to working in the DPD. This man was named Gary Foster, and he was slightly somehow related to Captain Allen from the S.W.A.T. force.

A man of privilege, no doubt, no less, Gary walked around with an air of self-imposed superiority unlike anything Gavin had ever seen before. This had been the exact, specific reason why Gavin despised people who never had to lift a finger for anything in their lives; they often expected things to continuously come to them freely just because they were entitled to it and owed it.

Gary glared menacingly at Gavin, while Mischa looked quite uncomfortable and seemed ready to leave. However, Gary insisted on being extra cocky this morning. Sauntering up to Gavin, he snorted derisively and held quite the arrogant, judgmental gleam in his eyes while ‘sizing up’ both Gavin and Nines. Although Gary was a lot shorter in comparison to Nines, the over-confident male still didn’t seem to care much.

Pausing for a moment while he looked at Gavin from head to toe, he snickered cruelly as he grunted deeply, “Never took you for an android fucker, Reed…” light brown eyes glinting dangerously and in a sinister way that warded off any attack Gavin was already planning, Gary quickly chimed in with, “hey, if you two were in the middle of ‘somethin’, don’t let Mischa and I stop you, by the way.”

Gavin was seething and fuming, but Nines already had his response on the tip of his tongue. Almost robotically, he rushed out with, “Mind your own business, Gary; it’s rude to just not only barge in on someone’s conversation, but to also poke fun at a situation you have zero knowledge of,” he then snorted crudely, “well, that’s only a matter of sinking lower.”

“Maaan,” Gary hooted, “you’re pretty loyal to the end, aren’t ya, Nines?” although Mischa was already nudging and tugging at Gary’s shirt to get him heading in the opposite direction, the other man insisted on making an ass of himself as he added, “I guess I’m the same way whenever I’m getting a good piece of ass, I get it!”

The moment that had escaped his mouth, Nines nearly flew forth at him. Luckily, Gavin’s reflexes were rather quick, and he grabbed onto Nines’ arms and held him back before he could advance on Gary. At the same time, Mischa had already tugged Gary backwards, and using his free hand, he hurriedly yanked open the bathroom door, and they were slowly retreating.

“Look, man,” Mischa began softly, “whatever you’re into, it’s fine, but please try to keep your relationship to yourselves; some of us aren’t too comfortable with two guys being together and expressing affection, okay?”

“What the fu—”

It was too late; the bathroom door fully closed, and the other two males were soon long gone. The longer Nines and Gavin stood stewing in silence, the angrier Nines seemed to be getting. Practically wrenching his arm out of Gavin’s grip, he pushed himself as far away from Gavin as possible, while the shorter male gestured at the door in complete shock. “Can you believe those two?” he spat out in disbelief, “bunch of homophobic—”

The abashed Nines interrupted him, “You should leave, Detective Reed.”

That had completely thrown Gavin off, and he blinked a few times in shock at Nines before he was able to find himself and continue. “Huh?!” he spat out inelegantly, “what the heck’s your deal?? I was lookin’ all over for you, and trust me, that was really tough because you were impossible to find!!”

“I know,” came the cold drawl of a reply, “when I don’t wish to be found, I make a good effort not to be found or discovered.”

“No shit,” Gavin snapped back almost childishly, running his hands through his hair and effectively messing it up a lot. Staring at the ceiling, he folded his hands together and clasped them around his neck, only just then noticing how tense his muscles were. Massaging them gently, he asked, “So, where do we go from here?”

Unperturbed, Nines intoned, “We go our separate ways, Detective Reed! I have to attend to my tasks, and I’m sure that prior to this, you had your own life to live, no?”

As he’d been making his way towards the door, Gavin slid his body purposefully before Nines, blocking his way.

Glaring at him for it, Nines hissed, “Get the hell out of my way, Reed.”

Not put off by the minor verbal lashing, Gavin shook his head, “Nines, when you agreed to help me, I think you failed to notice that in order to play this part well, you gotta do some ‘research’ or some shit.”

Immediately picking on how absurd that statement sounded, Nines snorted, “Research? Do enlighten me then, Reed.”

How else was he to put it? He knew next to nothing about Nines, and Nines knew jack squat about him, yet they were supposedly engaged?? This wouldn’t work out…

“Well?” Nines jabbed at him when he’d been silent for long enough, “go on then, Detective Reed,” he purred, “I’m just dying to know what you’ve planned for me.”

Since he’d come along this far, Gavin tossed caution and his notions of being guarded away as he held his head up and said, “Let me come over to your place for a bit, just to see how you live and all that.”

When he saw the reaction coming from Nines, he really, really wished technology was so far advanced that creations such as a time-turner or a time machine were readily available to him. He could really use one right about now.

Chapter Text

“You’re not to touch anything, you’re not to make a mess, you’re not to leave your belongings just hanging off my furniture, and if you do get permission to grab something of mine, make sure it’s cleaned afterwards, and then returned back to its rightful place.”

Nines’ warnings flew over Gavin’s head as he stood gaping in the front hallway leading into Nines’ large bachelor pad. He hadn’t been expecting for it to be as neat and orderly as this, nor had he expected for it to be pretty decently sized in comparison to the dump he lived in. He supposed that Nines just catered to a fancier lifestyle, but did it ever suit and fit him well. Everything within the place seemed to speak to Nines’ personality, and it seemed to all reflect just how he behaved and carried himself at work.

Naturally, the apartment lacked any furniture and appliances in the kitchen, and rather than having much of a kitchen at all, Nines merely used that room for the purposes of storing away large, exotic plants, statues, strange models he’d perhaps created himself of townships, boats, trains, as well as plenty of paintings and drawings up on the walls.

Gesturing at a few of the lego-like models, Gavin pointed out, “These are pretty neat, Nines, did you make them yourself?”

Not even really gazing at them, Nines offered him a half-nod, “Yes, it’s a weird hobby I have, I suppose.”

“Nah, it’s not weird,” Gavin assured him while he moved along to stare at a few white plants in fancy glass pots, “woah, what’re these?”

Nines sardonically spat, “Plants, Detective Reed.”

Grinding his teeth together for a moment in irritation, Gavin quickly calmed himself down before trying it again. “No,” he chuckled mindlessly as he held up one of the plant leaves, “I meant to ask what kinds of plants are these?”

“Hmm,” Nines gently pushed his hand out of the way, a clear reminder that Gavin wasn’t to touch anything. “This is an Arum Lily,” he explained gently, “evergreen in sheltered spots, these plants produce the most elegant swan-like white flowers in spring and summer.”

Gavin frowned as he pointed out the dark windows, “But it’s fall, Nines…”

“I’m aware of the current change in season, Detective Reed,” came the low growl, indicating that Nines’ patience was starting to wear thin, “so what’s your point?”

Already feeling argumentative, Gavin snapped coldly, “You said these guys bloom in the spring and summer,” he reminded the tall android sarcastically, “doesn’t seem like they’re gonna be super productive in this season, huh?”

Nines glared at him for a moment before he replied simply with, “That’s why they’re indoors, Detective; I usually adjust the temperature here to suit their needs.”

Not really desiring to argue on an empty stomach, Gavin rolled his eyes, “Yeah, sure, whatever, Nines.”

It was then silent for a few minutes save for the occasional sound of the spray bottle spraying out water for the plants as Nines moved about taking care of his plants while Gavin studied the rest of the bachelor apartment. He found that nothing else really seemed to be that interesting; Nines had two closets, one by the front door, and one in his bedroom, and he kept plenty of dark colored, expensive clothes and shoes in them. Everything was neat and matched. His drawers and dressers were clear of anything on their surface and dust-free, and nothing seemed out of place.

Nothing personal had been left out in the open, and Gavin felt a little surge of envy seeping its way into his system. He’d always tried being this neat and tidy, but he found he couldn’t keep up with it longer than three days at the most. Everything around him was always in shambles, but he attributed that to his own laziness and the fact that he didn’t care for cleaning as much as he should have.

While he paced around Nines’ bedroom, he called out to the android, “You don’t have any pets?”

Nines stopped spraying his plants for a moment before elucidating to Gavin, “No, I do not.”

“Meh,” Gavin grunted out in a half-assed reply, “pets aren’t for everyone, but I find cats are easier to take care of.”

“You’re a cat person?” Nines inquired, “odd, I thought you’d like dogs, more.”

Stepping out of the almost empty room, Gavin soon made his way back towards the plants in the ‘kitchen’. Standing next to Nines, he sighed, “Nah, I picked up a stray a while ago, and she liked that I would set out food for her,” staring at the plants and the various drops of water decorating their leaves, he continued, “when she felt comfortable enough to trust me, I let her in, but she’s more of an ‘outdoor’ cat, still. Eventually, she wound up pregnant, and she had a pretty huge litter of kittens!!”

Setting the spray bottle down on the table, Nines extended a hand and stroked one of his colorful plant leaves almost thoughtfully. “I see,” he commented softly, “one big family, then?”

Family…the word was so very odd and foreign to Gavin. Realizing then that he hadn’t used the word or heard it spoken in a while, he swallowed back rising bile into his throat. Shrugging nonchalantly, he said, “It’s whatever it is, I guess.” He knew this was a rather sore, rough topic for himself to get into, and as always, he felt that skating around it and sweeping it under the rug was far safer than addressing it.

His therapist would sure be proud.

If Nines had noticed Gavin’s sense of discomfort, he thankfully didn’t point it out or comment on it; he merely put away the spray bottle on a shelf mounted high on one of the walls. As he did this, Gavin’s stomach let out a deep grumble, and Nines glared over at Gavin for it.

Petting his stomach shyly, Gavin chuckled, “Sorry, I know you don’t have food or anything, but you don’t suppose I could order in a pizza with some beer, do ya, Nines?”

Not even hesitating, Nines threw out, “No, Detective Reed.”

Woah. Now this was a first.

Feeling a little disturbed, Gavin cleared his throat, hoping Nines had been kidding at first. “Umm…Nines, do you expect me to starve?” he mildly joked, but Nines didn’t laugh or chuckle at all; he mainly glared heatedly at Gavin.

“It’s not the pizza I have an issue with, Detective Reed,” he responded so softly that Gavin had a hard time hearing him, “I won’t allow you to drink alcohol in my home, if it’s alright with you.”

Snorting, Gavin exclaimed, “Wooow, you’re a bitter prude, aren’t ya, Nines?” waving a hand in the air, he spat, “I don’t drink to the point where I’m shitfaced, you know, so what gives?”

Inching closer to him, Nines took full advantage of his height over Gavin. As he effortlessly towered over the shorter male, his eyes grew dark as he sneered and spoke out, “Leave the alcohol out of it, unless you want to leave, now.”

No, no he didn’t, but not because he enjoyed Nines’ company, not because he enjoyed the conversation, not even because he needed to learn or know more; he needed to take the next step into making this seem ‘legitimate’ enough to his mother. Gavin knew she was going to expect a reply to the letter at some point, and he figured that the sooner he broke the news to her, the better it would be for himself.

Nines stared at him blankly for a moment, “Something’s on your mind,” he pointed out accurately, and it made Gavin’s skin crawl due to how correct he’d been in stating that.

Not bothering to hide it, Gavin nodded, but did he really want to get into every little detail!? No…he wasn’t ready for that, and he wasn’t ready to open up to another person. No way. The last time he’d done so, he’d gotten so badly hurt, that it made his stomach churn even thinking about that experience. While Nines was owed some small fraction of an explanation, Gavin refused to go there. Opening up always came back to bite him in the ass, so why bother?

Instead, he randomly gazed around the bachelor pad, and as he stared about, trying hard not to look like a complete moron, he noticed something he hadn’t exactly picked up on before.

No mirrors.

Immediately vocalizing his thoughts, he grunted, “You have no mirrors, Nines, why?” It wasn’t a lie; not even the bathroom had a mirror, and it was used for storing boxes, other older furniture, as well as extra soil for the plants, Gavin had discovered earlier.

Not a single mirror was in sight.

Coolly, Nines muttered, “I don’t really require one.”

“Bullshit,” Gavin threw back, “Connor uses them all the damn time to get a good look at himself before and during work, and you can’t be any different, Nines.”

…….

Something really was terribly off, but Gavin supposed that maybe he was making a huge deal out of it!! Perhaps Nines was in the middle of redecorating, and he needed to go out and buy mirrors? Maybe he forgot about them?? No, this wasn’t a creature that often forgot anything…

“Nines?”

No expressions were present on the android’s face, and he didn’t seem to be affected in the slightest by the comment Gavin had made in regards to the aberration in his home. After a few stretched out moment in silence, Nines eventually whispered, “You want something else from me?”

Gavin knew how to take the hint. He had to mind his own damn business, so he did.

Holding up both hands, he hurriedly cried, “Yeah, you see, my mom’s not gonna just buy that you and I are gettin’ hitched when we don’t really have proof of it…”

The adroit android nodded, “Then let’s create some of that proof.”

“How?” Gavin’s question seemed to trouble Nines, but the android calmly stared at one of Gavin’s jean pockets in almost half of a non-verbal reply.

After a moment, he stated, “I’m sure you have a phone, right Detective?”

Patting the lump in his jean pocket, Gavin nodded, “I gotcha, you want me to take a pic of us together, right?”

Almost reluctantly, Nines shot out, “There’s no need to speculate; you’re a rather great detective.”

Whether that comment had been sarcastic or not was open for debate. When he had more time, Gavin promised himself he would make a note to come back to it, but for now, all he was concerned about was convincing his mother that his ‘relationship’ with Nines was real. And he knew they would have to really make a good effort; Carrie Reed wasn’t a woman easily fooled and tricked. All her life, she’d been a fighter, and over the years, due to her harsh life experiences, she’d accrued more than mere ‘book smart’ knowledge.

The sixty-two-year-old woman had gotten pregnant with Gavin at the age of twenty-three. When she turned twenty-four, she’d had to handle raising Gavin while also supporting her husband at the time, Felix Reed.

In comparison to his father, Gavin really admired and respected his mother. Carrie Moser had obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology before she’d turned twenty, due to skipping ahead a few times in high school and taking her entrance exams for University early. She was something of a genius among the rest of her class, and she’d accrued and accumulated at least five grand in student scholarships when she applied for University. She had the option of attending four different Universities that wanted someone of her intellectual caliber so badly, and in the end, after having a difficult time selecting a University, Carrie settled on attending Columbia University in New York.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, during the summer leading up to the first year of her master’s program, Carrie worked a part-time summer job planting trees and attending to the gardens around the University. As she’d been working, she noticed a rather eccentric twenty-seven-year-old college dropout working as a handyman around the yards as well. In less than a few weeks, after shy glances, furtive looks, and a few frivolous gestures, Felix Reed introduced himself to Carrie Moser, and the pair hit it off.

At the time, twenty-one-year-old Carrie wasn’t as experienced with boys and relationships. After a few months of dating, the nature of her relationship with Felix shifted and buckled down under familial pressure, namely coming from Carrie’s father. Unable to abide by the notion of his smart little daughter dating a college dropout, Carrie’s father forbade her to see Felix. Due to being supported by her father throughout her education years, Carrie sadly obeyed.

Cutting Felix out of her life hadn’t been easy. The love-stricken youth called her relentlessly, followed her to her classes, and sometimes would send her gifts in the mail or leave them on her front doorstep.

One winter morning before Carrie’s exams, her parents had been thinking of suing Felix for hounding and harassing their daughter, when Carrie discovered she had a terrible flu. This flu lasted for weeks, and didn’t seem to leave even after two months…

After a trip to the hospital and a few ultrasounds, the nurses determined that Carrie was already three months pregnant. Needless to say, her parents were devastated, and after swallowing his pride, Carrie’s father asked her if she wanted to really be with Felix. She’d answered ‘yes’, and that was it.

The next time Felix saw Carrie, her father warned him that if he didn’t marry his daughter, take care of her and their baby, he would personally kick Felix’s ass all over America. That hadn’t been the best way to break it to a future parent that he was going to be a dad, but it’d happened.

A wedding had been already planned, but until Carrie started really showing signs of her pregnancy, she attended classes in person, and then when she hit more than five months of pregnancy, she had to switch to online courses and programs. The young woman had been fearless and strong enough to brave it all through, and that very summer after her final exams, she got married to Felix Reed.

Gavin was born in the autumn right after, exactly on October 7th,.

Life hadn’t been too bad for the Reeds at first. It seemed that Carrie’s success had been an influential aspect on Felix’s mind and life, and he went back to school not long after Gavin was born. But when Felix had returned to his education habits, Carrie had to look after Gavin. The previous ambitions she’d set out for herself had been put on hold, and she became a full-time mom. Still, she didn’t mind it, and she even pitched in and supported Felix financially while he worked towards his degree in law.

After successfully completing and passing his BAR exam, Felix Reed became an official corporate lawyer. It was after that point that Carrie and Felix truly grew apart, and much of life from then on was a blur to Gavin.

An intentionally created blur, no less, but a blur he didn’t care to remember and see beyond. The most of it revolved around his father signing up a contract with some researchers and scientists who wanted to set up a company around conducting research into the possibility of creating and developing new and highly intelligent AI, and then one thing led to another, and his father was rarely home. He sent tons of money and toys for Gavin, but how was that a good substitute for being a father?? Gavin needed his father back then during those crucial years; not toys and games.

But where was his father?

He couldn’t remember well enough, but he knew that his mother and father constantly argued whenever they saw each other, and his mother began looking older faster, while his father seemed to be at the height of his career. It wasn’t long after that he came forward and admitted to Gavin’s mother that he’d been having an affair with one of his clients, a woman by the name of Ella Kamski.

That was the very day Gavin’s heart broke, and his mother’s world had been torn apart.

Felix Reed was having an affair, and he was going to leave Carrie for Ella and the future they’d already planned together.

He didn’t want to remember anything else; he didn’t want the pain associated with the memories. To remember was to hurt, and he was beyond hurting. What good would hurting do him?? It would only slow him down, make him fail in his plans, and he wouldn’t be able to take the money his father owed him, everything else considered.

Gavin found himself toying with his phone in an attempt at breaking out of the awkward, strange silence that had permeated in the air around himself and Nines. Staring incessantly at him, Nines eventually turned his eyes down to the phone Gavin held.

Gavin held it up once, flashing it in the air before the android’s eyes as he asked, “So, where do you wanna do this?”

Nines gazed around his ‘living room’, if it could be called that, and motioning over at a black, glass coffee table sitting before a loveseat, he suggested, “Here is fine.”

“Sweet,” Gavin immediately sat down, but he carelessly assumed he was at his own place, and he spread his legs obscenely widely as he made himself comfortable enough. Eyeing him warily, Nines cleared his throat, and when Gavin saw him purposefully avoiding staring at how he’d been seated, he collected himself and made room for him on the other seat.

Scooting to the side awkwardly, he pressed out, “Sorry…”

Nines didn’t comment on it. Instead, he sat down next to Gavin, and as the other male held up the phone before their faces for the selfie, Nines frowned.

Once Gavin loaded up the camera app, he saw how badly Nines was scowling, and he set his phone down. “Nines,” he coughed, “not to be weird, but people don’t really take angry selfies…it’s not common, you know?”

Sighing warily, Nines commented, “And since when do ‘couples’ take photos of a casual nature?”

Gavin stared at him blankly, and it seemed to annoy Nines to no end. Tapping his fingers on the armrest of his side of the loveseat, he elucidated sternly, “I don’t think your mother would really believe that after thirty-eight years of not having a partner, you’d select a male, for one, an android, I might add, and also,” his yellow LED seemed to speak out for him more than his knotted eyebrows did sternly, “I don’t think she would buy into all this given the fact that her first source of proof is us sitting together as if we are mere chums.”

Feeling slightly sick, Gavin retorted, “You’re weird, Nines,” keeping his distance from the android while eyeing him with caution, he added, “if you’re sayin’ we have to start makin’ out for the sake of one fuckin’ picture, then you’re out of your fuckin’ mind!!”

The words had also affected Nines, it seemed, only he was better at shrugging them off and not reacting so emotionally compared to Gavin. An insolent look was upon his face as he sighed out, “That’s not really what I meant, Reed,” the irritated android pushed on, “I just mean that there has to be a level of intimacy here to make it believable.”

Torn between spitting out that Nines merely wanted to kiss him as a joke and just going along with it to get it done, Gavin felt his brain quickly conjuring up another solution in no time. He’d taken photos with sports members and other buddies that were pretty ‘close’ in terms of the guys all hugging each other or having their arms around each other’s shoulders!! There was no harm in replicating that!!

Hurriedly getting into position for it, Gavin yanked Nines’ arm around his neck and shoulder, but before he could loop it there, Nines asked, “What’re you doing?”

Gavin didn’t like being put on the spot, but he supposed he should’ve explained this a bit earlier. Still, as he adjusted himself to sit closer to Nines, he explained in annoyance, “Look, I had a good number of friends in college and in the police academy, and we always took pics like this; it’s nothing to get your panties in a twist over.”

He struggled exponentially with getting Nines’ long arm to hang over his shoulder. In their reflections glaring back at them in the camera’s photo preview, Gavin felt that nothing they did seemed… ‘natural’. Nines’ arm hung sluggishly off Gavin’s neck, while the short detective blushed deep red. Once or twice when Gavin tried adjusting the long limb and shifting it, it appeared that Nines was choking him instead of being close and intimate…

It wasn’t working, and Gavin soon gave it up.

“Fuck it,” he grunted, shoving the android’s arm off himself, “I think we should just—” he froze when Nines leaned into him so abruptly. Swallowing down his comment, Gavin was eye-to-eye with Nines, and he whimpered out, “Nines?? Why’re you s-so close to me?”

Instead of answering straight way, Nines grabbed the hand wielding Gavin’s phone. Whispering to the confused male, he suggested, “Just smile a little, and relax your body posture; you’re too rigid.”

Well, that went without saying when Nine was so darn close! How could he be anything except for rigid?!

“Nines, I think this is really—” a hand strongly pushed his head to the side, and then Nines closed the gap between them even more. Gavin knew he was sweating and his heart was racing, but he heard Nines encouraging him to smile, and so he forced one of the most awkward, half-assed smiles onto his face.

Holding up the phone, Nines angled the shot perfectly, and as he lay a free hand on Gavin’s lap, he pressed his lips directly over Gavin’s right cheek. The moment his cold lips made contact with Gavin’s skin, the detective let out a disgruntled noise, but kept his smile plastered onto his face. He only prayed Nines would hurry.

The camera light flashed for a moment, and in less than a second, this moment had been forever captured and immortalized in time. It was on a record, now, and it wouldn’t ever go away.

As soon as he confirmed for himself that the picture had been taken, he broke away from Nines almost violently.  

“Should we do another?” Nines asked, and when Gavin threw him a heated, dirty glare, he clarified, “to see which one is the best.”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin then shrugged, “Fine, but no more kissing!”

They were both stuck for a moment on what pose to pull next, but Gavin had an idea. Quickly grabbing onto Nines’ shapely chin in a strong hand, he pretended to be stroking or caressing Nines, and he smiled as he growled, “Ready?”

Barely nodding, Nines turned his head as far away from Gavin as he could. This bothered and angered Gavin, as it was quite a difficult feat managing to hold the phone, angle the shot properly so they could both fall into the frame and view, and he had a tough time smiling throughout it all.

Practically yanking Nines’ head back, he eventually snapped impatiently, “Turn in the other way, dipshit, stop looking over there!”

Nines then proved that he was an inveterate struggler, and it took Gavin nearly another minute before the android finally turned and allowed him to hold onto his chin while they both smiled.

The second photo had been taken, and Gavin was more than happy to move away from Nines. Wiping his hands on his jeans, he stared down at the photos, comparing them both together for a while. He soon found that there was another dilemma; they were both pretty passable, and he had no idea which of the two to send to his mother.

But did he want Nines’ opinion?

Not really.

Saving them into his pictures folder in his phone, he then quickly composed a text message to his mother while Nines awkwardly stared at a wall.

As Gavin’s fingers flew and danced along the screen, he found the words came to him so naturally.

I got your letter, and I gotta tell you that I’m already seein’ someone. In fact, the person I’m seein’ proposed to me a while ago, and I said yes to him.

You heard! I’m marrying a guy, but I don’t think you’d care. You never gave a shit anyway, but I just wanted to send off these two pics with him.

Here you go.

He’d then attached the two photos into the text document, and he sent it off without another word or thought. It was good enough; it was real. That’s what counted, and he knew his mother would hound him for it later and demand to know all sorts of things, but they could cross that bridge when it came to it another day. For now, he needed food.

Stomach grumbling demandingly, Gavin yawned, stretched, and then moved to the edge of his seat to stand. “Well,” he drawled out tiredly, “I’m gonna get outta here, Nines, but since we’ve got some time off, and since my mom will more than likely want to talk to you, can I have your number or something to let you know about that shit beforehand so we have enough time to prepare?”

Now, this was a simple request, at least to Gavin. However, Nines looked deeply troubled and shaken, unable to move or say anything for some time. This was wrong, and Gavin immediately took it personally.

Staring blankly at Nines, he asked, “Did I say something weird?”

Suddenly, Nines snapped out of his reverie, and only scowled at Gavin. “Why do you require my number?” came his odd question, and Gavin yanked on the ends of a few bits of hair on his skull.

Praying he had the ability not to lose it, he pressed out, “Nines, I explained it for you just a second ago, and I know you heard me!”

As Nines opened his mouth to argue back, Gavin blurted, “And don’t bother tellin’ me you don’t have a phone; I’ve seen you use it before at work.” Standing back once he’d announced this, he crossed his arms over his chest, and he seemed ever so proud of himself as he smirked confidently down at Nines.

Realizing he was somehow ‘stuck’, Nines sat back in the seat he was currently occupying, and as he reached back into his black dress pants pockets, he produced and withdrew from them a thin iPhone. Not even staring at Gavin, he hurriedly blurted out, “My number’s on the top here,” tossing the phone at Gavin, he finished in an acidic tone, “don’t bother me at all hours of the day; this is for emergencies only, do you understand me, Reed?”

Gavin began adding the number onto his phone, “Uh huh, heard ya loud and clear, Nines,” checking it over once quickly when he was done, he threw it back at Nines, and the android caught it perfectly.

Smugly, Gavin turned on his heels, waving his phone in the air as if it were his hand. This method of substitution suited him well, however, and he called out, “See ya, Nines.”

He hadn’t even bothered to care enough to close the door behind himself upon exiting the android’s apartment.

Chapter Text

Some wishes in life were great when they came true.

Wishing for a brand-new Xbox or PS4 for Christmas or on one’s birthday and actually receiving it? That was a wonderful wish come true.

Wishing that your boss would give you a raise or a promotion? Also an equally wonderful wish if it ever came true.

Wishing that someone you deeply desire and want to get close to romantically and finally having that person come forward and admit holding mutual feelings for you? A beautiful, perfect wish come true!!

But wishing that he could have time off work and just laze about the house while doing nothing had been a destructive wish that had backfired not even halfway into the next morning for Gavin Reed.

Saturdays usually were days Gavin slept in, but on this particularly dull, specifically gloomy Saturday morning, the kittens absolutely refused to allow him this luxury he felt he deserved after all the crap he’d been through. At first morning light, the cool autumn air woke him as it breezed into the apartment due to Gavin often and habitually leaving the windows open for the mother cat to come in and out as she pleased. Now that her kittens were already a few weeks old, she didn’t need to watch them constantly, and she’d trusted Gavin enough to leave them in his care while she went out to hunt.

Only, Gavin despised ‘kitten sitting’. The tiny, orange tabby kittens were nothing short of loud, their exuberant mewls and cries already ringing melodiously in Gavin’s ears. Turning on the radio helped, and as he got up and went about his morning routine when forcing himself to sleep in wasn’t an option, he soon found that time moved way too slowly.

His coffee had been prepared already, there was nothing interesting on the news or on the TV, the kittens were busy playing with each other and wanted nothing to do with him, and he was far too lazy to clean. Well, his apartment needed some cleaning, but Gavin supposed doing the laundry was more important. After all, he needed his clothes for work.

Taking a quick trip down the street to the laundromat, he waited there with his second cup of coffee until his clothes were washed and dried. By the time he reached his apartment again, it wasn’t even ten in the morning.

Why was time always going by so slowly for him when he didn’t want it to?! Had he really been that busy at work not to notice the time behaving so erratically?!

Gavin was beyond bored, now. He really had nothing to do, so he sat back down in the kitchen while playing some random online games with his phone.

Time well spent.

However, it didn’t do much for him aside from draining his phone’s battery faster, pissing him off with how many rounds he’d lost in Candy Crush, and just making the kittens go nuts when their large, pointy ears took in the sounds emanating from the phone and the game.

Pointless.

“Why the fuck do teens play these games?!” Gavin asked himself, closing the app angrily, and then scrolling through his list of contacts. Not wanting to admit it to anyone else outside of his apartment, but that list had grown considerably shorter and shorter as the years passed. He’d originally kept a few exes on his phone just for the sake of being friends with them later and chatting them up, but as the old saying went: being friends with an ex was like asking your kidnapper or abductor to keep in touch with you once they let you go.

But he was so damn bored that he was seriously about to lose his mind!!

Scrolling through his call log, he found that he couldn’t recognize any of the numbers that had either called him or he’d called recently, aside from pizzerias and other fast-food joints.

But there had to be someone to talk to!!

Thinking quickly, Gavin remembered his last ex from almost seven years ago. Her name was Felicity Hardy, and last time he’d checked, she’d gotten married and had given birth to two sons…shit…that wouldn’t do at all.

Knowing his other exes had all blocked him, Gavin’s eyes landed on one last contact at the bottom of his tiny ‘list’.

He’d named this person ‘Fuck Stick Plastic Prick’, and as he read the name out loud, he had to pause and have a good laugh when it came to his sense of humor and knack for rhyme. ‘Fuck Stick Plastic Prick’ was of course Nines, but he’d been warned not to pester his work partner last night…

Emergencies only!

“Emergency?” Gavin yawned out, “I’d say this is a fuckin’ emergency; I’m so bored that I’m about to set the world on fire!” That wasn’t anything exaggerated, at least for himself, anyway. Boredom was horrifying, and he really was running out of options. Not wanting to sit and drink his ass off this early in the day, he scrolled through his phone again until something in his mind took him back to Nines’ number.

Normally, whenever he’d been bored before, the slightly younger Gavin Reed would text, call, and just pester his friends or exes. It wasn’t the best form of pastime, granted, but it was the most entertaining and interesting, to say the least. Gavin enjoyed observing the different reactions people would give him when he called or texted out of the blue after not having said anything for years or months on end.

Usually, his exes would cut the call abruptly, and others who were more embittered would yell and rage at him, only to then cut the call off afterwards. Well, it wasn’t entirely bad! They got a chance to let off some steam, vent, get over their anger, and he was…well, he was amused and entertained! Not a bad exchange.

But he didn’t really want to talk to Nines and hear his voice right now, not that there was anything wrong or off-putting about his voice, really. On the contrary, it was rather pleasant to listen to, which Gavin found rather odd. When he’d first met Nines, prior to hearing him speak, since he kind of resembled Connor, there was a natural inclination to assume that he even sounded like him. However, when Nines uttered his first phrase to Gavin, which at the time had been: “Please don’t bother trying to pour salt down the back of my uniform collar; it’s impossible to get a rise out of me that way, and frankly, you’d be wasting your time,” Gavin had celebrated the fact that Nines sounded nothing like Connor. The RK800’s voice had always sounded quite nasally, at least to Gavin’s ears, and it was rather whiny and a tad annoying. But Nines’ voice was quite lower and deeper. It sounded far more mature, experienced, he spoke with command, confidence, urgency, and he knew how to change his tone, pitch, and color on and off whenever it suited the needs of the particular, specific conversation he was having. He had a solidly good grasp on how to not only present himself, but his voice was just…Gavin had no idea how to place it specifically, but he sat back and thought about it, his hand flying up to his right cheek.

…….

Nines had kissed him there last night…

Sitting up quickly, Gavin rubbed his cheek a little roughly. Granted, the kiss had been forced and barely much of a peck, but it was still so weird…Nines’ lips were kind of cold from what he recalled, and it didn’t feel like anything anyway. Whenever a woman had kissed him there on his cheeks before, he knew he could rely on expecting human warmth radiating from their lips onto his skin and cheeks, but Nines’ brief kiss had been so odd, so foreign and alien, that he wondered if that had been the first time ever the android had to kiss someone…

Putting that thought away when he looked back down at the RK900’s number in his contact list, Gavin decided to distract himself by actually texting Nines.

Why not? It could be fun!

Kicking his feet up on his kitchen table, he rested his bare feet above a few old newspapers he’d poorly substituted as a kitchen table cover. Majority of the papers were covered in coffee mug stains and circled outlines, ashes from his cigarettes, muddy kitten paw prints, and crumbs and bits of old food. Making himself as comfortable as he could, the proud detective relied on a hubristic belief in his own self-confidence and pushed past the barriers he’d normally withheld when it came to texting his work partners without a good cause.

He was going to go through with this, and luckily, the fact that he was behind a phone screen helped significantly. Fingers flew rapidly as he composed his initial message.

Gavin Reed, 10:02 a.m.

sup Nines?

Hitting ‘send’, Gavin sat back and stared around his messy kitchen.

Now what?? He highly doubted Nines was going to be a fast texter, so what was he supposed to do while he waited for the android to get back to him??

When Gavin moved his heels, something definitely crunched and broke apart beneath his weight. Staring down at it when he got his feet out of the way, he nearly puked when he saw that it’d been partly soggy cat food biscuit that was in the process of drying as it lay there in the sun beneath his feet upon the table.

“Nasty,” he grumbled to himself, lowering his feet as he emitted a strained sigh. Now, he really felt disgusting, but he knew that according to his ‘regular routine’, by this point in time, not only should he have been at work, but he should’ve showered and been super clean!

A shower was a pretty good idea rather than sitting in cat food and ash, he supposed. Standing up from the table and chair, he held his phone in his right hand as he began making his way through the apartment. Gavin had barely approached his linen closet to snatch out a fresh towel, when his phone buzzed loudly.

Incoming text message!!!

All too eagerly, Gavin glanced down at his phone, barely wedging the linen closet door open along the way. He frowned when he read the words on the screen, but oddly, he’d expected a response like the one he’d been bestowed with, so why was he somewhat disappointed??

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:08 a.m.

I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t use this method of communication for any random purpose, Detective Reed?

Well, technically, they had, but Gavin wasn’t really a man of his word…not when he didn’t want to be, anyway. Leaning against the closet door, he texted back:

Gavin Reed, 10:09 a.m.

yeah but im kinda bored, Nines…soooo whatcha doin?

Wondering why he’d freely spilled the truth out, Gavin scratched his chin for a moment until the reply came back to him two minutes later.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:11 a.m.

I’m doing what we normally should be doing at this hour on a regular Saturday; I’m working, unlike yourself, I imagine.

Sputtering at his screen, Gavin cried out to himself, “Holy shit! I think he just called me lazy!!”

One of the orange kittens ran past him, but it slid carelessly down to the floor, still unable to properly walk. This kitten was something of the ‘runt of the litter’, and it was smaller, thinner, and a little sicklier than its siblings. Gavin eyed it for a moment, and the second he did, the kitten’s eyes met his, and it opened its mouth and mewled at him.

Waving his phone at the kitten, Gavin randomly announced, “Can you believe it?! I was called ‘lazy’ by Nines!! What a prick!!”

The kitten didn’t care, of course, and once it got back on its paws, it darted forward into the kitchen somewhere.

“Figured you wouldn’t care,” Gavin spat after it, already composing his next message to Nines. He didn’t know why, but he felt slightly offended that Nines had implied he was lazy. How was he lazy!? He got to work every day on time, he hardly took smoke breaks as often as he used to, and he really worked hard!!

He wasn’t lazy!

Gavin Reed, 10:14 a.m.

cant believe u called me lazy…ur a dick, Nines.

Standing back once he’d sent the message off, Gavin felt itchy all over, suddenly. Perhaps it really was time to get into the shower and stop wasting his time standing about like a twerp. Strangely, he found that texting Nines somehow made the time fly by a little.

As he got his towel, fresh change of clothes, as well as turned on the shower water, the next text sluggishly came in.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:20 a.m.

I doubt it’s far from reality. Now please leave me alone, Detective Reed; I have a lot of work to do.

What work?!? Typically, there wasn’t too much to do on a Saturday, unless your name was Nines, for sure. Gavin was intrigued, but his shower was way more important. Leaving his phone on the bathroom vanity countertop, he undressed and got into the standing shower without thinking of much else.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

As soon as he’d dried himself off, Gavin fired away another text.

Gavin Reed, 10:58 a.m.

sup man?

This time, Nines had been rather quick to text him back.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:59 a.m.

And here I thought you’d finally found something to occupy your mind with. Shame I was wrong.

Gavin Reed, 10:59 a.m.

ur kinda funny on text

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:01 a.m.

How so?

Gavin Reed, 11:02 a.m.

dont know…u just seem bitchy.

Stepping back from his phone for a moment, Gavin had to wonder why he found this amusing. This was still Nines he’d been texting and talking to, and at work, he could hardly stand the android for long without having to leave the room he’d always entered. What difference did texting him make??

Gavin sighed weakly and muttered to himself, “I think it’s time for another coffee…” as he got to work on heading inside the messy heap that was his kitchen, he shoved aside the mountain of dishes and utensils hanging out in the sink, on the counter, and eventually found his coffee machine.

Success!

Once he’d changed the filter and poured into it some water to get it going, he stood back and stared out the kitchen window. The glass was filthy, but he was still able to catch a decent enough view of the outside world.

Nothing special was going on today; the light sounds of the quotidian traffic flew into his apartment, while some crows cawed in the distance back and forth to one another. The wind blew lightly, making him shiver as his hair was still partly wet. While the coffee slowly filled his grey mug, Gavin looked around outside some more, surveying the parking lot of his apartment complex.

It wasn’t long before he saw that two large, colorful roller pigeons were perched on a fence barring the parking lot from the rest of the world, and as Gavin studied them in amusement, they leapt on top of each other and were clearly engaged in a mating display.

For some reason, he found himself reaching for his phone again.

Gavin Reed, 11:10 a.m.

Just saw 2 pigeons mating…

It was the most random thing he’d ever told someone before, and for a while, he wondered what had possessed him to even send it to begin with. Still, it was too late for regrets.

Grabbing his coffee mug once the dark beverage had been prepared and poured almost to the rim, he made himself comfortable on a chair at the table, and as soon as he’d seated himself, Nines’ text had been delivered right on time.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:13 a.m.

Charming news, Detective Reed. What do you want me to do about it?

Gavin actually threw his head back and emitted a laugh. He had no idea how to even answer that question, because usually, whenever he’d stated random things like this before to other people, they hadn’t ever reacted like Nines had. Normally, they wouldn’t even give him the time of day, as ignoring him seemed to be the better option than to engage in his silliness.

What a breath of fresh air.

Gavin Reed, 11:15 a.m.

dont do anything. was just some random shit.

He found himself waiting for a reply more than he should’ve been, and it shocked him.

Why was he waiting for Nines to say something?? Was he that bored?

Maybe he was, but was that such a bad thing?

No. Nines was actually fun to talk to, and Gavin wanted to see what else he could do to pester the stoic android, even if it entailed being ignored or receiving short, clipped responses. Nines wasn’t a man of many words, so it seemed, but Gavin was up for the challenge of fishing out whatever replies and responses he could out of the reserved android.

Nines didn’t disappoint, either. Nearly a minute and a half later, he’d sent out:

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:17 a.m.

Well then, if you don’t have any other news of animals and beasts fornicating around your residence, Detective, I’m going to bid you a good rest of the day.

Do try and be productive, for once.

Before Gavin could stop himself, he’d already mindlessly blurted out, “Damn Nines, you’re perfect sometimes!!” Now, he was itching to keep this charade going for as long as he could.

Unfortunately, as soon as he’d sipped his coffee halfway, and just as he’d been in the middle of composing his next reply to Nines, his phone alerted him to the fact that he had an incoming call.

Gavin’s blood ran cold all throughout his body once his eyes caught who it was that was calling him.

It wasn’t Nines, it wasn’t any of his exes, and it certainly wasn’t even Captain Fowler.

It was his mother; it was Carrie Moser.

Chapter Text

He had to take this call. Any call from his mother had always been important, and there was no way to ignore her now, especially where his money and inheritance was concerned, no doubt. Still, that didn’t make it any easier, and Gavin’s body already began taking a huge toll in terms of stress weighing down on him.

Suddenly feeling super cold, there was an odd sense of feeling heady, for an odd reason Gavin couldn’t speculate on. He knew he felt weak, sick, and terrified beyond imagination, and it wasn’t a feeling he often felt. Normally, he would feel the sense of adrenaline rushing and coursing through his system when he was out on a case, trying to interrogate someone, or was receiving high praise from Fowler. But this wasn’t a positive sensation, and it made him feel incredibly dizzy.

Grateful that he’d been smart enough to at least be seated for this, he allowed the phone to ring one last time before he swiped on ‘answer call’. The green light flashed over his screen, indicating that he was now connected to his mother.

All he could hear as he held his phone up to his ear was his own throbbing, beating heart, and it matched a loud, strong drum echoing and booming in a vacant land.

……..

Shaking, he finally managed to greet his mother. “H-hello?”

She paused for a moment, and then Gavin heard her sharply inhaling. This was already a bad sign.

“Good morning, Gavin.”

Yes, it was terrible; she was rather calm, but unlike how it was when others were calm in his presence, Gavin knew his mother operated quite differently. ‘Calm’ in her books always meant that she was on the verge of erupting like a deadly volcano. Her anger was probably just boiling and bubbling beneath the surface, but he thanked himself for having a physical distance at least.

Shying away from her ragged breaths, he asked, “H-how are y-you?”

Wishing he could stop stammering and stuttering like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar, Gavin reminded himself that he hadn’t done anything wrong; it was just nerves due to not having spoken to his mother on voice in almost a year…shit…that actually was rather wrong!!

Thinking she’d been angry with him because of that, he hurriedly apologized, “Sorry I didn’t c-call you in a while! Been busy with work and shit, but I hope you’re okay, mom!”

…….

More silence was his response at first, and Gavin thought the call had been cut off, initially. Only when his mother resumed breathing harshly did he realize she was still on the other end of the line.

Eyes shifting from side to side suspiciously, he croaked, “Mom?”

Finally, she grumbled in a rather deep voice, “How stupid do you think I really am, Gavin?”

……..

Gavin winced, “Mom? Have you been smoking again? You know, the doctor said you shouldn’t be havin’ smokes at your age!”

“Screw off, I only had two since I woke up,” she snarled at him, and then coughed lightly, making Gavin cringe even more so as he stood up in a nervous tick.

What was she upset about?! He truthfully had no idea, so he put up with it and gathered his guts as he answered her with, “Mom, what’s going on?”

The wind blew rather harshly immediately, almost as if nature itself had been scolding him for doing something he seriously had no idea he’d done or been doing all this time. Hating the mysterious and enigmatic senses swooping all around him, Gavin shifted nervously, fidgeting about in his kitchen as he kicked aside newspapers and frightened a few of his kittens who’d been trying to eat their meals close by.

After coughing again, Gavin’s mother muttered, “Those photos you sent me, Gavin, I’m letting you know right now that they were complete bullshit.”

Falling into such a frozen, dead silence right away, Gavin forgot to breathe as his eyes widened and he stared down at the floor in fear. Chin and jaw quivering, he whispered brokenly, “Wh-what’re you talkin’ about?!”

“Your photos with your so-called fiancé,” she jabbed at him, “what the hell were they?!”

His anger got the better of him, and before his mother could say anything, Gavin had already leapt to his own conclusions. “Never took you for a homophobe, mom,” he chuckled cruelly, not at all amused by what he thought and suspected she’d been latching onto. “Isn’t your own sister-my aunt-married to a woman?” he reminded her as he played with the handle of his coffee mug, “what difference does it make if I’m seein’ a guy?!”

“Gavin!” she shrieked, getting his attention while all the hairs on his body slowly began rising on end, “I don’t give a rat’s ass who you’re sleeping with, and you know it!”

Bouncing onto his next thought, he spat, “Is it because he’s an android?”

Sighing, she growled, “Oh shut up! Even saying that-given the new laws-could be a criminal offense, and I’m not like that!”

Now, Gavin’s patience had been tested. Already on the edge, he yanked his coffee mug close to his chest, his free hand wrapping around it while he imagined choking the life out of someone he hated. Possibly a bully from his childhood; anyone would do if it meant he could calm the fuck down.

Irritably, he snarled, “Then what the hell kind of a point are you drivin’ at, mom?”

Pausing, she ate up the heavy silence before she eventually asked, “Have you been attending your counselling sessions lately?”

Gavin snorted, “Wandering off topic? Nice one!” clapping sarcastically by slamming his hand down over the coffee mug a few times, he added, “seriously, they should crown you as ‘Queen of Detraction’, mom.”

“Enough of the sarcasm, Gavin,” she yelled out at him, and he merely kicked at one of the kitchen cupboards until it hurt his toes and feet. He knew he was acting childishly and so impulsively, but he really didn’t have time for her to be playing this mysterious game. He was already on edge, and she had quite the knack for bringing him down and insulting him, whether she meant to or not.

With a huff, Gavin’s mother elucidated, “Look, Gavin, you’re a grown adult, and I’m not in charge of your business. I wasn’t trying to be, either,” she assured him calmly, “as far as I’m concerned, you’re the one paying for your own therapy, and it’s up to you to go and embrace the therapy or not; I don’t really care. I’m only calling to tell you that I don’t buy for one second into this idea that you’re with this man…err, android!!”

Not bothering to even curb his lewdness, Gavin announced, “Well, I just got done sucking his dick not that long ago before you called, so I think you’re shit outta luck here, mom,” pausing for a moment, he hurriedly added in, “sorry to burst your bubble, by the way.” While this comment had been something majority of children wouldn’t ever discuss with a parent so brazenly and so openly, Gavin’s upbringing had been entirely different. All his life, he’d had more of a ‘friend’ than a mother. Carrie Moser had been strict with him for the most part, yes, but very quickly, due to her sense of trying to control Gavin and ensure he didn’t turn out to be a dropout like his father, she’d insisted upon knowing practically everything in his life.

As such, Gavin soon grew accustomed to telling her everything to the point where privacy and shame were nonexistent topics in the household. None of it mattered and changed, not even when Gavin hit puberty, and not even when his mother started dating again. They shared a lot with each other, and even conversations surrounding sex, sexual preferences, experimentation, drug use, and other strange things didn’t seem to be out of the norm for them.

His therapist had once inquired about how Gavin’s mother had raised him, and when the irate male asked him why he wanted to know, his therapist eluded to the fact that Gavin’s current sea of problems perhaps stemmed from his upbringing.

Needless to say, Gavin ceased attending therapy sessions from that point on. He refused to believe that there was inherently something wrong with himself or his mother. She’d done well for a single parent struggling to complete her PhD, as well as trying to raise him and find him a suitable stepfather figure. How could some random, jackass of a stranger judge them?? They had no fucking place to do so, and anyone who wanted to was welcome to kiss his ass as far as he cared.

There was nothing wrong with him or his mother!

As normally expected, Gavin’s mother didn’t even react upon hearing her son’s crude statement. Resuming the conversation as if they’d been discussing the economy or politics, she coolly said, “Great, now that you have some time, I need you to understand that I’m not as stupid as you’d like me to be in this case, Gavin.” When he was silent enough while stewing in his own internal rage, she continued.

“First of all, that photo wasn’t even taken in your apartment; the walls are completely barren, the colors are different, and that sofa isn’t even anything you own.”

Shrugging even though she couldn’t see him doing it, Gavin spat, “I moved in with him, so fuckin’ what?”

“Really?” she snorted acerbically, “then how come I’ve not even seen a single portrait of you two hanging on the walls? Hmm?” hurriedly continuing with her barrage of questions, she snapped, “why did that photo seem so forced?? I’m no fool, Gavin,” she reminded him for the third time already, “I know what’s fake and what isn’t, and those pictures you sent me are as fake as your aunt’s breast implants!!”

When she was done with her rant, Gavin grabbed his coffee mug and chugged down the rest of its contents. Wiping his lips nervously with a trembling hand, he growled menacingly at her, “You done, now?!”

Clicking her tongue against her teeth, she chuckled, “You’re a real piece of work, Gavin. You take on after your father more and more each day, you know…” sighing softly, she blurted out, “…he too was very good at trying to convince and persuade others, but I see past you just as I saw past his bullshit all those years ago when he blatantly lied to my fucking face.”

Gavin couldn’t take it anymore. He exploded upon hearing that he’d been compared to his late father. Slamming his coffee mug down onto the kitchen floor in a fit of rage, he didn’t care that it burst into a hundred shattered pieces. The bits slid and bounced off everywhere in sporadic directions, but thankfully, all the small kittens in the kitchen had already run away from the threat of harm.

As steam rose out of Gavin’s ears and from the top of his head, he heard his mother warningly press out, “Don’t you get mad; don’t you make angry faces! I’ve told you that people and grown adults don’t get mad like this, and I know for a fact you’re not going to therapy if this is how you’re behaving.”

“The fuck do you want from me, huh?!” Gavin screamed out at her from the top of his lungs, not even giving a shit who heard him, “what more can I do?!”

Gruffly grunting, she stated, “Well, let me meet him, then! Since he’s so charming and you’re so damn enamored with him, introduce us!”

Gavin’s heart right then and there skipped a few beats. “What?” he croaked out painfully, pushing past his anxiety as he carefully stepped around the trash heap and broken coffee mug on the floor, “you want to meet him?!”

“Yes, Gavin,” his mother ground out, on the edge of annoyance and impatience, “I’m swinging by in two days, because I should have time off perhaps on Monday.”

Two days…

Two fucking days…

Stuttering, Gavin chewed out, “That’s…th-that’s on such short notice, though…”

His mother laughed a dry laugh, “So what? You’re the one claiming you’re living with your partner,” the reminder came out in a sarcastic jab, “it shouldn’t be that difficult for you, then…” pausing, she coldly bit out, “…or do you think you’re high and mighty and above inviting your own mother into your house? Hmm?”

Gavin rubbed his forehead and temples firmly, wishing he could erase and rub himself away and out of existence. “I need to go, mom; this chat is giving me a damn headache.”

“Likewise,” she affirmed, “see you in two days, then.”

The call ended right then and there, and Gavin stood awkwardly listening to white noise and static. His heart pounding in his chest soon overpowered that noise, and Gavin set his phone down for a moment.

“Two fucking days,” he reiterated, “what the hell am I going to do in two days?!?” The longer he thought about it, the more he panicked. He had no clue where to start. His mother had told him she didn’t buy into the fact that he was cohabiting with Nines, it seemed, and his main goal now was to convince and persuade the histrionic woman that he was in a committed relationship, and he was engaged

But how could he do that?! Last time he checked, he was nothing but a feckless momma’s boy!! He couldn’t ask Nines to move in with him!!

Suddenly, at the very thought and notion of having someone else move in with him, Gavin felt sick to his stomach. He seriously became nauseated, and he doubled over the kitchen sink dry heaving for a full minute. He was going to throw up for sure if he thought about changing his lifestyle this much. Change sucked; change was a bitch! It was so unpredictable, just like people, just like his exes, and just like his father…

No!!! He didn’t want change!!

Unable to stomach it, he slammed a hand over his mouth as his back and neck were dripping with sweat. Trembling and shaking violently, he swallowed down his own saliva and stomach acid while it crept up in his throat.

He didn’t want change; he wasn’t going to ever let anyone in, and he never really had. Even in the past, whenever he’d dated, he’d made sure not to ever invite his girlfriends back to his place. If they ever needed to be intimate, they always either went to hotels, or back to their places, but Gavin never allowed his previous girlfriends to get too close…on second thought, maybe that’s why none of his relationships had ever worked out…

Fuck if he cared, though; he had a bigger concern now, and he was nearly having a full-blown panic attack because of it. What was he supposed to do?!

Wheezing out desperately while his kittens kept an eye on him silently, Gavin reached for his phone lying a few feet away on the counter.

His safety net…his help…

Nines…

Pressing ‘call’ once the android’s number was highlighted, he hurriedly called up the android, wiping away sweat from his forehead and nose as he paced nervously and fidgeted about. He knew he was a complete nervous wreck, but he couldn’t help it. While the phone rang on and on a few times, he quickly turned on the kitchen sink tap, and he splashed some cold water over his face. It helped him calm down…but barely. He still needed to figure out at least some form of a plan!

One the second last ring, Nines finally answered. “Reed, I thought I said that unless it’s an emergency, you’re not to ca—”

Interrupting angrily, Gavin roared, “THIS IS A FUCKIN’ EMERGENCY, NINES! MY MOM JUST CALLED SAYIN’ THAT THE PICS WE TOOK ARE COMPLETE BULLSHIT, AND SHE REQUIRES REAL PROOF THAT WE’RE A COUPLE!!” pausing to get some air in his lungs, he lowered the volume of his voice as he finished, “I need your help!! She’s droppin’ by in like, two days, man! What the fuck do we do about this shit?!”

Ever the calm and collected one, Nines instructed, “Breathe, relax, breathe in and out, first.”

“But I—”

“Just do it and stop arguing with me, Gavin!”

“Okay!” he inhaled, exhaled deeply, and then inhaled, held his breath for a moment, and exhaled extremely slowly as he forced himself to remain calm.

While he did this, Nines encouraged him softly. “Yes, good,” he ushered gently, “keep doing that for a moment while I think.”

Breathing in and out until he’d calmed down significantly, Gavin walked up towards his kitchen window to close it, and just in the nick of time, the mother tabby cat leapt inside the apartment with a loud hiss.

“S-sorry, girl,” Gavin backed off and let her rush to her kittens, and then he slammed the window shut. Resuming his small breathing exercises, he realized Nines had been quiet for longer than he liked. It didn’t do well for his nerves, and choked out painfully, “Houston, I don’t mean to push, but we still have a fuckin’ problem!!”

Nines spat out, “You should come over with any items or furniture you have, then. If she wants to see us cohabiting together, then let’s do it, Reed.”

Gavin froze. What the hell kind of a suggestion was that?! Was Nines really inviting him over?!

Unable to believe it, he cried out warily, “Nines, I’m serious!”

“So am I!” came the loud-yet calm-reply, “I see no other way around it, Reed!”

“Bring my stuff with me?!”

“Yes,” Nines repeated, “there’s space in my apartment, as you saw.”

Turning around to peek inside his living room, Gavin noticed one of the kittens clawing at the sofa seats, and another had already vomited all over the armrest, while a third had urinated all over the floor right before the sofa.

No fucking way was he going to take his trash-infested and piss-stained sofas and chairs over into Nines’ clean and fancy, modern-looking apartment. The levels of mortification that came associated with that idea was alone enough to send him into another panic attack, so he abandoned the thought quickly.

Holding tightly to the phone, he stammered softly, “Umm, Nines? I…is it okay if I just…you know…leave my furniture behind for now?” It sounded so odd and stupid, and he was sure that Nines was going to react in an odd way, but he really didn’t want to embarrass himself more than he already was.

Not hanging on to the silence that had already been birthed out of that reply, Nines cleared his throat as he said, “If you’re worried that you can’t move your furniture here alone, I can help or call up a moving company.”

Damn this practical thing!!! This wasn’t a logical, practical nature that had a logical solution!!! This was emotional and raw!! Didn’t Nines get that?!

He didn’t want to ask, so he didn’t. Asking would mean learning more about Nines, and simultaneously leaving the door open for Nines to learn about him. He didn’t need that, EVER.

Swallowing his pride and anger as much as he could, Gavin addressed Nines’ previous question irritably. “I don’t need help moving my shit, Nines,” he growled, “I just want new stuff, and it may help my m-mom feel like we got them together or whatever the hell other couples do when they move in t-together!!” God, this was so hard to spit out, and he couldn’t believe he’d lived through it. But sure enough, he was still standing once the words escaped his mouth and lips.

Nines was silent for a moment, but he soon picked himself back up as he suggested, “I think we need to go shopping, then, Detective Reed.”

Nodding, Gavin softly and almost innocently croaked out, “B-but I don’t have a lot of money with me, so we can’t do anything fancy, okay?”

“Okay, Reed.”

“Okay.”

……..

“Please keep breathing and try to calm down,” Nines continuously urged, “do you want me to come pick you up?”

Gavin shook his head wildly, “N-no! Just…stay there, Nines,” he made sure to calm back down, not wanting Nines to pick up on the hint that this was a sore, sensitive topic for him.

“Stay there, and I’ll come to you.”

“Okay, Reed.”

“Okay.”

The keys were already in his hand, and his wallet had thankfully still been where he left it in his brown leather jacket. As Gavin peeked inside it, however, he saw only a few bills, and only one credit card.

He could only hope and pray it would be enough.

Chapter Text

Gavin reached Nines’ apartment in no time. According to his phone, it was almost half-past noon when they decided to head to Costco, just to take a look at some household items and appliances to begin the ‘moving’ process. Thankfully, the plaza and shopping malls around them held a Target, a Walmart, as well as a furniture store called 5th Avenue Furniture. Gavin had never been inside it before, so he pointed at it the moment he parked the car in the spacious parking lot.

“There,” he suggested, “let’s start here, okay?”

“Sure,” Nines softly replied, sitting calmly and stiffly in the passenger seat, “you lead the way, Detective.”

Nines had been nothing short of calm and tranquil from the moment they entered the car, all the way up until they headed inside the store. A few salesclerks and customer service representative androids and humans rushed to greet them immediately, asking them if they needed help, while also announcing that the store was hosting a large sale where majority of the items on display were more than 65% off due to an autumn blowout sale.

It suited Gavin just fine either way.

The afternoon started off nicely, but soon spiraled into quite the cataclysmic failure. Nines was far too detached for Gavin’s tastes. Initially, the nervous male hadn’t paid any attention to it, but he saw the first sign of it when he stopped before a medium sized dresser that was black, and he asked Nines if it looked decent enough.

The fecund android merely grunted, “It’s up to you, Detective Reed.”

Gavin soon selected the second dresser they stumbled upon, which was an antique looking black dresser with only four drawers. It measured 34 inches in width, the depth was 21 inches, and the height was a mere 27 and a half inches.

Thankfully, due to the urgency of the sale, Gavin was told that the movers would pack and load the dresser up into his vehicle upon receiving his payment for the item. While things moved along well enough there, Gavin sensed something terribly off about Nines, and it became more apparent and evident as they continued shopping.

Selecting a bed came easily, strangely enough. Gavin picked a mahogany colored Hemnes bed, the size a twin. He only planned on using it once or twice, maybe, but he still required one, seeing as Nines didn’t have a damn bed.

They didn’t need a sofa or chairs, thankfully, but to make it all believable, they decided to buy a lot of discounted Halloween decorations. It mostly all consisted of Gavin selecting a tablecloth made out of the design and pattern of tiny vampire bats flying in front of a full moon, a skull-shaped piggy bank, a gargoyle globe with glitter raining down on it when shaken, a small chandelier that was vintage and gothic in design, as well as a painting of a jack o’lantern grinning evilly in the dark.

Once he brought his items over to a cashier’s till, he saw Nines looming behind him, folding his arms behind his back and appearing so rigid and annoyed. Gavin initially suspected it’d been because he was moving in, but he didn’t care to inquire. Nines had agreed to this, and this was part of what he owed him as far as the deal went! It was far too late to back out of it, now!

As soon as they left the furniture store and loaded up Gavin’s car with the items, Gavin stood back as he stared at everything they had so far.

Something was missing…

Suddenly, like a bright light turning on in the darkest of nights, Gavin’s eyes shined incandescently. He was thrilled he remembered what else they needed, and rounding on Nines while the android made sure to tuck away the Halloween decorations neatly in the trunk of the car, Gavin asked him, “You have a functioning bathroom, right?”

Nines closed the trunk and sighed, “Last time I checked, yes.”

“Like, the shower has running water and everything?”

Nines’ eyes twitched for a moment, but he still managed another ‘Yes’.

In spite of finding the dour android’s responses clipped and a tad gruesome to listen to, Gavin pressed on. Eyeing a Bed, Bath and Beyond store right next to the Walmart, he steered himself in the exact direction. “I’ll need some stuff for the bathroom and shower,” he announced dully, and Nines automatically started following him, though he made no real attempt at keeping up.

As soon as they made their way past the automatic sliding doors, Gavin got lost in looking for new curtains in the bedroom since he recalled Nines didn’t have any.

“Hey, what color should I get, Nines?” he asked when he couldn’t decide between light purple and grey, “you know? You should tell me since it’s your apartment…”

Nines turned his nose away from the purple, and over to the grey, “That one.”

“Coolio,” Gavin shoved the package of the curtains into his cart, and he wheeled it off without another word. Surprisingly, he found that Nines allowed him to get a small mirror specifically for the bathroom, but when Gavin asked if he could hang it on the wall above the sink, that was when Nines started arguing and putting up a fuss for the first time that late afternoon.

While they tried keeping their conversation only between themselves, Gavin hissed, “What the hell’s wrong with you? Who the hell just buys a mirror and only brings it out to use it instead of just leaving it hanging on the wall always?!”

Trying to leave the isle containing the various styles of mirrors, Nines uncomfortably hissed back, “Take or leave it, Reed, that’s my final damn offer.”

Jokingly, Gavin leaned against the cart as he pointed at Nines, “The hell are you? Some kind of vampire?”

Peering at him without an air of amusement in his eyes, Nines retorted, “You’re being childish, now.”

“Well, why the fuck do you not like mirrors, then?” came Gavin’s next question, “mirrors aren’t bad things!”

Nodding at his pockets containing his cigarettes, Nines spat, “Cigarettes are bad things, yet you insist on keeping and smoking them, Detective. So what’s the correlation there?”

“I took up smoking for my own health, Nines,” Gavin snorted, “stop wandering off topic!”

Moving away from him, Nines approached the end of the isle, and on a shelf hanging on the other side, he pulled out a few soap dispensers and soap holders. “I think you also could use one of these, Detective,” he suggested calmly, “pick one out; you’re wasting my time.”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin let go of the mirror issue for the time being, and he instead joined Nines at the edge of the isle. Searching through the soap holders, he picked a plastic one with a silver pump. It wasn’t too fancy, and as he checked the price tag beneath it, he found it agreeable with his expenses in the past.

As he tossed it into the cart, he turned to the right, and he saw an entire isle stocked to the top with Halloween candy. Stomach grumbling, he headed towards it.

“Detective Reed!” Nines cried out after him, “get back here!”

“I want to check these out, Nines, just wait there a bit!!”

Ignoring Nines’ harsh growls and whispers, Gavin looked around the various assortment of candies, and he quickly saw a creepy werewolf mask a child must’ve picked up and then discarded in the candy section by mistake. A silly idea soon overcame him, and he held onto the mask and placed it over his own face in a hurry. Making sure it sat nicely and evenly, he crept back towards Nines. Thankfully, the android had his back turned, and he had no idea Gavin was slowly creeping up on him…good!

When he was barely an inch away from Nines, Gavin held out his hands, and he jumped right in front of the android with a loud, “GRRRRAAAA!!!!”

Nines didn’t even flinch. He simply stared blankly at Gavin’s werewolf mask, and after a moment, he reached up and tore out some bits of brown fur that had been glued and matted onto the top of the wolf skull.

“Stop!” Gavin cried out, backing away as he held up his hands, “you’re going to fuckin’ rip it apart!”

“Take that off,” Nines snapped, “and stop being a child.”

Already pissed off that his joke had fallen on someone incapable of understanding and appreciating jokes and a good sense of humor, Gavin tore off the werewolf mask aggressively, and he chucked it onto the shelf closest to himself. “You suck, Nines,” he growled, and as defiance and rebellion overpowered him, he chose to really make Nines feel like shit. “What’s with your suit?” he asked while throwing an execrable glare at Nines.

Unmoved by it, Nines barely gestured at his black three-piece suit, “It’s just how I dress, Detective Reed, why’s it an issue, now?”

“You always dress like that, even at work during casual dress-down days!!” Gavin pushed out irritably, “it’s stupid!”

Choosing not to comment, Nines merely turned the cart around, and he approached an isle with a large sign mounted above from the ceilings that read out Bedding and Sheets.

Gavin knew what he had to do, and as he shoved Nines out of the way, he already got to work selecting fresh, clean sheets. Opting for ones without designs, he simply picked grey and white striped ones, matching the curtains in some way. Then, he grabbed two large pillows, and he’d been caught up reading whether they had feathers in them or not when he sensed he was being watched.

Craning his neck around, he saw Nines leaning against the cart, and he was eyeing him rather bizarrely. It wasn’t a look Gavin could easily decipher, so to try and throw Nines off his case, he held up the pillow bundle he’d been trying to decide upon purchasing. “Do you think there’s feathers in here?” he asked as he waved it before Nines’ face, “it’s pretty damn expensive, so it must be worth every dime, huh?”

After giving the shorter male a fleeting look, Nines eyed the pillows, and he sighed, “Do you want me to buy them for you?”

Lowering the items in his hands, Gavin growled out while on the verge of exploding, “Do you want me to punch you right in the face, Nines?” When he caught the dry look of annoyance seeping out of the darkly clad android, he added, “I can afford these myself! I don’t need you to look after me, you know.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Nines hissed at him when he threw the pillows into the cart.

Pausing, Gavin gaped at him for a moment, “Say what?”

Expression wavering on the brink of anger, Nines collected himself as he muttered, “You don’t even have a clue what you’re doing, do you?”

Gavin scratched his nose for a quick moment while pushing the cart into Nines’ hips, “Stop bein’ such a weirdo, Nines,” he warned impatiently, “you’re already gettin’ on my nerves a lot lately, and I swear, I don’t need this shit right now.” With a huff, he rearranged the items in the cart, and then turned to pick out clean towels.

Nines didn’t show signs of wanting to stop anytime soon, however. “Do you have even the slightest and vaguest notion of what it means to be married, Detective Reed?”

Lifting up a white towel and a cream colored one, Gavin answered, “Yeah, it basically means: ‘I’m the kind of man crawls into his own grave in search of hope’! That’s what it means when you seek marriage!!”

“Would you like to try that again?” Nines spoke behind him, sounding so far away, suddenly.

Gavin rolled his eyes, “This is Bed, Bath and Beyond fuckin’ stupid,” he paused, snorting at his own pathetic joke.

Nines pushed aside the cart, moving it to rest close to the right side of the aisle while he took measured and determined steps towards Gavin. While the pop music blasted above them on the PA system, Gavin was far too busied with picking out another towel, and Nines’ footsteps were far too quiet. He hadn’t noticed Nines slowly pressing himself up against him. Only when Nines leaned over and touched the back of Gavin’s neck did the shorter male drop the towels he’d been holding and spin around like a wild tornado.

“Nines!” he choked out in shock, “what the fuck—” he was unable to finish his sentence. Nines was so close to him, and he was getting closer. Gavin could practically count each freckle he had softly kissing along his cheeks and cheekbones, and as he stared intently at the android, Nines reached out with both his hands, and he placed them on either side of Gavin’s body. Resting them on the shelves behind Gavin, he leaned further into the shorter man and stared at him deeply and intently.

“This is what I’m referring to, Gavin,” he calmly stated as he still advanced and closed the gap between their bodies. “This is what I mean, and I don’t think you’ve considered the fact that this situation you’ve dragged me into is a lot more serious than you think.” Hands moving away from the shelf, Nines’ right hand rested on Gavin’s left hip, and he gingerly gripped the detective’s bone there, startling Gavin in the process.

Eyes blown wide, his face was almost a complete caricature of fear. Softly, he mumbled out incoherently, “Nines, what the fuck…th-this isn’t right…get your hands off me!”

A warm chuckle hit his ears, and Nines leaned further and further into him. “Notions of right and wrong don’t really exist, here, Detective Reed,” he practically purred, “you should’ve thought of this before…” As his eyes searched through Gavin’s, his right hand wandered sensually down Gavin’s hip and rested above his thigh. “What would you do if we really were married, Detective Reed? Hmm?” fingers latching onto Gavin’s muscles, Nines gave him a firm squeeze, “don’t husbands and wives have needs that should be met? Hmm?”

Gavin wheezed out in shock when Nines’ left hand swam over his stomach, but didn’t venture down any lower than his navel. “Nines,” he begged desperately, “let me go…”

But there wasn’t any room or anywhere for him to go; there was just his body, and Nines’. The tall android hardly gave him even an inch, but Gavin was worried about women or children stumbling upon them this closely together in the aisle.

Turning gaunt, he pleaded, “Nines! What if someone comes by?!”

Nines didn’t answer that. Instead, his hands gently massaged and touched Gavin’s chest, the left one wandering higher and higher, while the right one moved to grip Gavin’s left hip, now. Practically an inch apart, now, Nines craned his neck down, and his face was mere inches away from Gavin’s throat. Eyeing it rather tastefully, Nines spoke out softly, “If we were married, Reed, you would need to understand that moments like this should exist between us.”

Squirming, now, Gavin recoiled in disgust when he felt Nines’ breath on his neck. “Don’t!” he tried shoving the strong android away, but it was of no use; Nines was like a god damn wall or a pillar, and he wasn’t going anywhere unless he himself chose to go somewhere else.

While Gavin pushed and pushed at him, Nines let his lips barely ghost along the white column of Gavin’s neck. Lips hovering half an inch in the air, he smirked when he saw Gavin’s skin turning beet red. “Is this affecting you, Reed?” he cooed, “I’m charmed.”

Above, the music was coming to an end, and Gavin was certain that too much time had elapsed since they were stuck in this position. He could’ve even sworn he heard a child giggling enthusiastically somewhere nearby…

“Gavin…”

Pupils dilating in response to the shudders and shivers his body was wracked with upon hearing how Nines had whispered his name so delicately right into his ear, Gavin snapped. With all his might, he shoved Nines as hard as he could in the chest, thankful he’d recovered from whatever the fuck Nines had done to him. Regaining control over his own limbs, Gavin then grabbed at Nines’ suit collar, and he shoved him once again as hard and as roughly as he could into the shopping cart.

Holding up his hands, Nines shrugged while chuckling coldly, “As I thought; you failed, Detective Reed.”

“Fuck off, Nines!” he screamed, pointing crudely at him, “if you ever even think about doing that again, I’ll—”

“You’ll what, Reed?” Nines sneered at him, straightening his outfit back in order and pushing his ruffled hair back into place, “what do you suppose I’m going through, then?”

Finger shaking, Gavin continued to point it at Nines, as if he were holding a gun, “If you think this is any easier on me, then you’re a fuckin’ moron!”

“Sure, think that way if you want,” Nines uttered coolly, “it makes no difference and doesn’t even come close to the fact that you’ve already badly messed up my life, my routine, my schedule, and you expect me to just sit here and be at your side until ‘Mother Dearest’ deems it okay for you to collect what you’re owed, right?” Scoffing, then, Nines turned his nose up in disgust, and Gavin moved back as he tried ignoring and putting it all off.

Searching for anything to distract himself, he grabbed one of the few zombie dolls on display, a yellow, orange, red, and brown colored wreath decorated and made up of artificial leaves, and he tossed them into the cart. “We need more things for the apartment,” he announced more so to himself than to Nines, but the vitriolic android wasn’t going to have it.

Reaching down into the cart, he grabbed the zombie doll and the wreath, and he chucked them at Gavin’s feet. “We don’t need this crap, Gavin!” he resisted the urge to scream as hard as he could while they were still indoors, “we need to get ourselves together and think about what the hell we’re getting into, before it’s too god damn late!!”

Shaking his head wildly, Gavin tugged at a few hair strands as he ground out, “I don’t h-have time for th-that, Nines! Why don’t you get it?!”

Standing back, Nines finally seemed to break out of his angry state, and he simply snorted gently while shaking his head at Gavin a few times. “You’re hopeless, Gavin,” was all he said before grabbing the cart and wheeling it down the aisle, his LED light blinking yellow the entire time.

When he was alone, Gavin crumbled down on his heels, and he hugged himself and rocked on the back of his legs a few times. Inside, he was a complete mess of emotions and feelings, and he had no idea what to do with them. Most of what Nines had said was…

“Mister, you okay?”

Glancing up in a jiffy, he leapt back a little in fear when he saw two girls and one boy a few feet away from him. One of the girls was wearing a yellow dress, sneakers, and had her blonde hair done up in lovely, long pigtails. Her small green eyes were round with fear, and as her siblings looked on at Gavin, the adult male finally saw the mother of the children turning her cart down the aisle.

“Rosalee!” she shrieked sternly, “what have I said about talking to strangers?!”

As she ran to her mother’s side, Gavin got up to his feet, and with his head bowed apologetically at the woman, he tore down the aisle, nearly tripping clumsily over his own feet a few times in the process.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin hated that anytime he’d tried calling Hank Anderson, Connor would usually be the one to answer the damn phone. Not that it really was his fault per se; the mail room of the DPD was shared between the two of them, and more often than not, Connor was far quicker to answer the phone.

As such, the egregious experience Gavin had been faced with in regards to Nines was something he felt he had to discuss with Hank, and he had no idea why. It was just a burning need to talk; to be heard, to be listened to…

Answering the phone in a less than chuffed manner, Connor dully spoke out, “Detroit Police Department Mail Room, Connor speaking!”

“Connor, I need to talk to Hank,” Gavin didn’t even hesitate to blurt out, drawing up his knees into his chest while he sat on top of the closed toilet bowl lid, currently locked away tightly in a stall of the men’s washroom in the store. Nines was supposedly paying for their items, Gavin had offered him a half-assed excuse of needing to take a piss before they headed back to Nines’ apartment, and thus, that’s how he’d locked himself in a stall and held onto the hopes that Hank was working this Saturday afternoon so they could chat.

With a small groan emitted, Connor explained, “Hank’s not in today, Gavin; it’s his day off.”

Fuck!!

Willing himself not to panic, he asked, “Can I have his phone number, please?!” ignoring how desperate he sounded, he supplied, “this is a serious issue, Connor, and I want to talk to Hank!”

“Err, okay,” the RK800 quizzically hissed, “do you have a pen or something?”

“Wait,” Gavin grunted, and as he put Connor on speaker, he opened another app on his phone called ‘Sticky Notes’, and he then turned his attention back to Connor. “Okay, I’m ready.”

Once Connor coughed up the number for him, Gavin didn’t even offer him so much as a ‘goodbye’. He’d already disconnected, and he was now dialing Hank hurriedly.

“Pick up, pick up, pick up, Hank!!” he chanted over and over as if it were a canorous prayer, his own voice growing steadily louder.

Finally, Hank picked up, and the moment he had, Gavin heard deep, loud barking coming from the other end of the line.

“Sumo! Knock it off!” Hank screamed, and then he shifted and spoke out, “Hello?”

Almost crying out in relief, Gavin gasped out, “Hank! Oh thank God! H-how’ve you been?” Priding himself on the fact that he hadn’t forgotten his manners, he heard Hank choking on a gasp of his own for a moment.

When he’d cleared his throat and calmed down his coughing, he croaked painfully, “Reed?! How the hell did you get my number?!”

“Connor gave it to me,” Gavin answered quickly, “Hank, I don’t have a lot of time, but I need to talk to you about something that’s been buggin’ me ever since I decided to marry Nines!”

It was quiet for a moment, and then Hank inquired, “Wait, where the heck are you? I hear weird music!”

Slapping a hand down on his thigh, Gavin hissed, “Never mind the music, Hank!” calming himself down once again, he hurriedly pressed on, “d-do you know whether Nines has ever…umm…” this was absolutely terrible already. What did he even want to ask?! Was it even his God-given right to ask whether or not Nines had been…sexually active?! Did it matter?!

Thinking on it for a moment, Gavin decided that yes, yes it mattered a great deal. Maybe Nines was using him for…no…no! He couldn’t think about that, for if he did, he was certain he was going to vomit all over his knees, and Hank Anderson would have to hear it all.

Knowing that Hank was at least still listening, Gavin changed the subject swiftly. Picking at a loose thread in his jeans, he asked, “Do you think Nines takes this wedding thing seriously, Hank?”

Pausing for a moment, Hank eventually sighed, “I’m sure he does to an extent, Reed, otherwise it wouldn’t be believable for your mom, would it?”

That…that wasn’t what he meant.

Thinking about how to really ask what he wanted to ask specifically, he curtailed himself of asking about the explicit things. Opting for a brief, quick explanation of what had happened, he mumbled out, “You see, today, I was shopping with Nines, and he kinda caught me off guard because he said that if we were…married,” he nearly choked on the word, “…we would have to…I mean, like, he said that he has needs, right? And so I…FUCK! THIS IS SO FUCKING WEIRD!!” Punching at the wall ahead of himself, Gavin roared a few times until he heard Hank crying out his name numerous times.

“Gavin! Gavin! GAVIN!!!!”

Only stopping when Hank yelled his name so loudly that Sumo howled in the background, Gavin sniffled, wiped his nose with the back of a hand, and then whispered, “Sorry, I’m just…I’m so fucked up, man!”

What had he gotten himself into?!

For what?! Was the money really worth it?!

As he sat there panting and sniffling, clearly on the verge of a breakdown, Hank calmly spoke out to him.

“Gavin, please try to calm down and listen to me,” he suggested while effectively silencing Sumo, “I need you to listen, okay?”

“O-okay,” Gavin promised him swiftly, “I’m listening.”

“Listen with your heart and brain,” Hank added, “I need you to do that for me, Gavin.”

“I am…I am…” closing his eyes, he rocked back and forth on his ass, and he waited for Hank to take in a deep breath, clearly indicating that he was going to present him with some sort of a long speech, possibly.

He hadn’t been wrong to assume that.

“Gavin, if you’re wanting to know whether or not Nines has sexual interests, I can assure you, he does, but I don’t think he’s really dated anyone or explored that option, if you know what I mean,” Hank elucidated patiently.

Slightly sitting up, Gavin asked, “What do you mean?”

……..

“Well,” Hank sighed softly, “I saw him trying to pursue this android girl last year right after New Year’s, I think, but he gave up when she told him she had a boyfriend or something.” Shifting, Hank must’ve sat down somewhere, for it got quiet in the background before he continued. “Nines works his ass off as you can see, and I don’t think he has a lot of time to date…in fact,” he chortled mildly, “I’d say if he got a date, it’d be a damn miracle, because that boy is socially awkward as all hell!”

This still hadn’t done anything to diminish his sense of overwhelming grief. Not wanting to appear ungrateful, however, Gavin instead asked, “Well, that’s all fine, Hank, but do you th-think he wanted to hurt me by saying the shit I told you he said to me?”

Very slowly and carefully, Hank answered, “Not. At. All, Gavin. Hear me out,” he repeated, “no way would Nines ever do that.”

Wincing, Gavin mildly argued, “But you’re biased, Hank! He said he has needs, and he was up in my face and I just don’t feel right about this! What if he tries to take advantage of me or something?!” He was very well aware that this could potentially all sound so crazy to Hank’s ears, but it seemed that the older man reserved his judgement.

Only chuckling softly, Hank supplied, “Knowing Nines like I do, I think he meant that shit so you could think about this more seriously, Gavin.”

“I am!” Gavin ground out childishly.

“To play the role here, you have to be the role.”

“I know that,” the heated detective hissed, “but what I’m getting at, Hank, errr, I mean, what I want to know, rather is that—”

Clearing his throat, Hank immediately was able to command Gavin’s attention. It was absolutely silent on both ends of the line, and only then did Gavin realize just how wise, sagacious, knowledgeable, and respectful Hank was.

This was a man he needed to truly look up to and respect.

“Listen, Gavin,” Hank sternly spoke out, but he didn’t appear to be angry or even remotely upset with Gavin, “Nines is a good, honorable man, and that’s all you need to know.”

Allowing the words to seep into his brain and sink in deeply, Gavin felt they resonated within himself as he took in a measured, deep breath. “He said this has to be real, and for it to be real, I have to act like a partner and meet his needs.” Almost vomiting upon saying that word again out loud, Gavin thought back to the way Nines had urgently hissed it in his ear, and he trembled in fear and trepidation.

“He has a point, Gavin,” Hank affirmed, “but I swear to you, Nines won’t hurt you, and the chances are that he didn’t mean it in the way you’re likely thinking. In fact,” he sternly pointed out more, “I think he is the type to really sacrifice himself and his own happiness if it will help someone else, and god damn it, I admire him, Gavin, I really do…”

While Gavin didn’t see how that was possible, there was just no way he was going to be disrespectful enough to disagree with Hank. No, not when he himself was growing to admire and look up to Hank. This man was suddenly so patient and understanding, and his levels of shared empathy had taken Gavin by complete surprise.

Hank was a real man; Hank was the father Felix Reed should’ve been.

No…Hank was the father Gavin needed the most, especially right now.

Chapter Text

Gavin found that Nines had waited for him in the parking lot after he finished his conversation with Hank. Leaving the washroom and the store feeling a lot better than he had in the last few hours, he sat down inside the car first, unlocking the door and plopping onto the driver’s seat as he started up the engine. Nines followed him, quickly placing the rest of their items inside the car. Next, Nines and Gavin drove back to the apartment complex Nines lived in, and they spent the rest of the evening and night unpacking things and ‘redecorating’ Nines’ apartment to fit Gavin’s new purchased belongings.

It’d been a tedious task, but luckily, Nines being an android hardly made much of a fuss. He never ran out of energy or stamina, and while Gavin took a mini break and went to get some fast food, Nines not only put his bed together, but also found a place for it, as well as the dresser. The adjustments proved to be both efficacious and manageable, and by the time Gavin strolled back inside before 11 p.m., he found that Nines was busy with wiping down the table his plants had once rested on in the kitchen.

“What the—” Gavin gasped when he saw that the plants had been moved to line up the windowsills instead, leaving the dark oak table clear.

“Nines?”

“Reed?” Nines poked back at him verbally, throwing away dirtied tissues as he reached inside their bag of purchased items, and he yanked out the vampire bat covered tablecloth. Draping it nicely and evenly over the table, he then placed the gargoyle globe in the center of the table, followed by the saltshaker, pepper shaker, napkin holder, an ashtray he’d obtained for Gavin’s smoking habits, as well as a tiny vase.

Scratching his head in puzzlement as he watched Nines organizing the rest of the kitchen, Gavin then peered into the bag, and he saw the zombie doll and the autumn-themed wreath.

“Wait a minute!” yanking them both out of the bag, he held them up and exclaimed, “you threw these out of the cart!”

Looking much like he’d rather be any place else and not having this conversation currently, Nines replied dully, “I picked them back up afterwards and bought them. What of it?”

Shrugging, Gavin held onto the items, and he said softly, “Nothing…just…just keep a record of the stuff you bought, and when this is all over, just let me know how much money you spent on me so I can pay you back.”

Skirting around the subject, Nines grunted out, “Did you bring your toothbrush and toothpaste with yourself?”

Pausing for a moment due to how random it was, Gavin then responded, “No…why?”

Crumpling up an empty bag in his large hands, Nines smoothly elucidated, “Then it’ll be difficult for you to sleep tonight, I suppose.”

All the blood and color drained out of Gavin’s face at once. Deep down, upon remembering Hank’s words, he suspected that Nines was trying to help him out a little, possibly by making him feel super welcome, but he wasn’t going to sleep here. No way; not now, not ever.

Trying to find the politest way to let the android know this, Gavin chewed on his lower lip to the point where the more he worried, the harder he was biting and chewing.

“Reed?”

“Hmm?”

Nines nodded at him, eyes flickering over to his lips briefly, “Your lip is bleeding.”

Running his tongue along the lower lip, he found that Nines was right; he tasted metallic and coppery blood, and feeling repulsed by the substance’s distinct taste, he dashed towards the table for a napkin. But Nines was faster, and at the same time that Gavin tried pulling a white tissue out of the holder, Nines reached for one as well. As a result, their hands made contact, and both men stared at each other for a split second before they immediately leapt back.

In unison, they cried out, “I’m sorry!!”

Upon realizing they’d both apologized to each other at exactly the same time, Gavin blushed, while Nines’ LED light flashed yellow. Nines winced, and Gavin cringed, holding a hand up to shield his bleeding lip. As they stood there awkwardly, Gavin eventually hissed, “Nines? May I have a god damn tissue, now?”

Snapping out of his vegetative state, Nines yanked one out of the small pile in the holder, and he held it out to Gavin. “Here,” he gently moved his fingers out of the way when Gavin directly made a grab for the tissue, and the moment the detective had a grip on it, Nines retreated his arm.

Dabbing the tissue softly over his lip, Gavin sighed as he ruffled his hair, “I’m gonna get going, if it’s okay with you, Nines.” This had already been far too much and far too awkward for his tastes, and naturally, he always found fleeing the scene was easier than deciphering why he was uncomfortable, and what the root cause for it was.

As he’d turned on his heels, Nines cried out at his back, “You’re going back to your own place?”

Understanding how it all sounded, Gavin stopped walking, and as he watched Nines over his shoulder, he gave one curt nod as he replied, “Just for tonight, I guess…gotta sleep in my own place one last time before my mom shows up on Monday, right?”

This time, Nines didn’t say anything, but Gavin found it was much better that way.

He didn’t want to say anything to Nines for that matter, either, for what could he say, really?

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin didn’t sleep well at all Saturday night. How could anyone expect him to, really? He’d come home to an apartment full of cat piss and shit, for one, and it’d taken him until late in the morning to clean most of it. Airing out the apartment didn’t help get rid of the potent stench of cat urine, he found. Good luck getting a date. As of the following day, he knew he had to get into the habit of living with someone else, as well as spending majority of his waking hours around them in order to make the chicanery as believable as possible to make it all work.

Obtaining and holding onto this knowledge enabled the craven detective to feel even more frightened, mortified, and absolutely ‘stuck’ in his current situation. He knew that this wasn’t easy for Nines, either, but he felt that the majority of the ‘sacrifices’ had to come from himself, so it seemed.

“Isn’t it funny?” he blurted out loud to his kittens Sunday morning while he sipped his warm coffee, “I thought this was gonna be my ‘easy way’ out, and yet it’s causing me the most pain and difficulty…”

The chances…perhaps Nines was right; perhaps he had no clue what he was walking into, but he knew that it was way too late to turn back on this now. It wouldn’t be fair to Nines, it wouldn’t be fair to the sacrifices he’d made, and it wouldn’t be fair to Gavin, himself. Nothing in life came easy, and plenty of people took things in this world for granted as it was. He didn’t want to start including himself in that list, and if he had to brave it through for a few more weeks or a month, at the most, so be it.

He could reap the rewards later, and he would.

Convincing himself of that rather easily, Gavin pushed down his worries as he set to work on finally getting around to doing his laundry. Ever so grateful for the week off, Gavin found that he had a large amount of laundry to actually do. As he thanked Jeffrey Fowler for the time off at least thirty times while in the laundry room of his apartment complex, he eventually got around to drying and folding the clothes around 11 a.m.

Well, that was only one pile, anyway…he still had another two to go, and he suspected it would take another two hours, at the very least.

Entertaining himself by going on his phone to play games as the machines washed his third pile, his phone suddenly alerted him to an incoming text message right around noon that very same day.

Sighing when he looked down at it, he tapped it open and read through it lazily while his clothes spun around in the washer and dryer.

Fuck Stuck Plastic Prick, 12:13 p.m.

You should bring some clothes with you, because I don’t think my size would fit yours, frankly, and besides, what’s the point of you getting your own dresser if you were sharing my clothes?

Only Nines could make something as trivial as wearing clothes seem so complicated.

Gavin Reed, 12:16 p.m.

im doin it, dont worry, clothes r bein washed as we text.

Stretching his arms and legs for the first time in two hours, he stood up and did some light exercises while waiting on his clothes. His back and neck were so sore; a clear testament to how badly he’d slept last night.

His phone buzzed again. Nines sure was relentless.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 12:21 p.m.

Great. Don’t forget any other personal items and toiletries or personal hygiene; I have no use for them, so I don’t have any in my apartment.

Chuckling, Gavin said out loud to himself, “I’ll be sure to bring along my purple dildo and cucumber-scented facial mask, Nines, thanks.”

However, he politely texted:

Gavin Reed, 12:23 p.m.

k, thnx mom

Not even thirty seconds went by before Nines sent:

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 12:23 p.m.

I’m not your mother.

That was when Gavin pocketed his phone and chose to take out his clothes from the dryer a little earlier. He didn’t do this because he was bored and wanted to complete his chores, however; he did this because he had to go shopping for food as soon as possible, as well as look around for a small, mini fridge he could store somewhere in Nines’ apartment.

Unlike some people, Gavin Reed sure had a healthy appetite, and he was going to embrace that when he lived with Nines.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Finding the fridge wasn’t as difficult as Gavin thought it would be. Apparently, today was his lucky day, as he’d also found a small fridge and freezer pair attached together on sale. It came as a ‘bundle’ of sorts, and thankfully, it wasn’t much bigger than a medium sized safe. Gavin was able to carry it perfectly without help, and he loaded it in the back of his car around 2 p.m. that afternoon.

Next came the bags of his clothes, and when Gavin grabbed the very last one containing his jeans and bottoms, something stuck out to him on top of the pile. Something white flashed, and as he stared down at it, he saw that it was in many pieces?

What the hell??

Opening the bag further, he reached for his jeans, and as he did, tufts of white blew about in his face when the wind picked up outside. Something blew up into his face, but before the wind could take it away, Gavin snatched it in the palm of his hand. As soon as the wind stopped blowing, he stared down at the object, and to his amazement and awe, he found that it was the same tissue with his own now light brown, dried up blood on it.

Evidently, it’d remained in his pocket since he left Nines’ apartment complex, and since he’d buried it deeply within his pocket, he’d forgotten that he’d tossed it into the washing machine just like that.

“You survived most of that?” he asked the tissue, and even though it obviously couldn’t talk, Gavin found he was even more amazed that it was practically still in one piece. Clutching it in his hand, he stared at it for a long time until he felt slightly chilly.

As the wind howled around in the parking lot, it trailed down more leaves from the tall trees above. The dried-up leaves clattered and made plenty of scraping noises as they glided over and across the roads and pavement. Eerily, to Gavin, it all sounded like nails on a chalkboard…

But what was he doing just standing there like a fool in his parking lot in the middle of the afternoon holding a bloodied tissue he could’ve sworn he got rid of last night??

Nothing made sense…none of this was logical, and it was really starting to get on his nerves. Gavin Reed really despised mystery, change, and emotionally charged things, and he had his fill of it to last him the entire year.

Opening his hand abruptly, he let the tissue go, and hopefully, along with it would leave the memory of Nines’ cold blue eyes burning into his, and the feeling of his firm body pressed against Gavin’s own as his hands wandered along his chest and abdomen...

Realizing that it was going to take a lot more than merely watching the crumpled-up tissue floating away carelessly in the wind, Gavin knew it was time to rely on and appeal to a different source; a stronger source he’d often relied on many times in his past.

It was time to go out and buy some drinks to stock the fridge with.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Nines yanked open his apartment door to find a soaked Gavin Reed sniffling while he cradled a box containing his fridge and freezer, clothes bags resting on his arms, shoulders, hanging from around his neck, as well as another box containing his toiletries and hygiene products on the floor by his feet. It’d started raining heavily for many hours around 2:30 p.m., and Gavin was beyond drenched while he stood there like a wet cat sniffling. The tip of his nose was pink from the cold, and a few drops of rainwater dripped off his chin and clothes.

Lips curling back, Nines roared, “You are four hours late!”

Gavin could only sigh dejectedly, “I know.”

Nines stared at his belongings, and as he grabbed the box of personal hygiene products and toiletries, he tugged and yanked it to his chest as he backed down the hall and provided Gavin enough room to step inside, also.

“Where were you?!” the irate android almost shrieked, “you said you’d arrive before three!”

“I had to go shopping!!” Gavin cried out, slightly lowering his bags as he struggled against wanting to boot them across the hallway.

The door slammed shut behind him as he threw a few of his items down once he’d kicked off his shoes, and he felt a bit lighter, at least, but definitely not warmer or drier, sadly.

Nines paused and gaped at him, “Shopping?!” he repeated petulantly, “you went shopping while I was stuck in here and couldn’t go out?!”

“Nines, relax! It’s nothing, and you’re making a huge deal out of it!”

Waving a hand around the open concept living room that was brightly lit, Nines screamed explosively, “I had nothing to do and nowhere to go because I didn’t want you to be here and stumble upon a locked door, and I couldn’t even watch the stupid football match that was supposedly going on today because it’s been raining all over Michigan for fuck’s sake!”

“Calm down, Nines!!” Gavin urged, finally setting down his boxed fridge and mini freezer, sliding it across the floor until it reached the kitchen entryway. Strangely, Gavin had worked with Nines for two whole years, and never before had he seen him this upset. Frankly, it was odd, new, and refreshing. Perhaps it meant that the RK900 could feel some things after all.

Nines looked down at the box, and as soon as he read the label printed on it, he huffed, “Wise of you to get that, Reed.” Eyeing the rest of Gavin’s items, his eyes finally captured the sight of the brown LCBO paper bag tucked under a hand, and he recoiled while shaking his head madly. “No, Reed, you’re not going to be drinking in here, and that’s final.”

“Ah! Come on, Nines!” Gavin griped, “it’s just for one night!!”

A light brown eyebrow quirked up, “One night?”

“Yeah!” Gavin commented, “think of it as us celebrating our last time ‘single’ or something, haha, it’ll be fun!”

As he got to work unpacking the mini freezer and fridge, Nines placed a hand on his right hip, and with the other, he pushed back his loose, stray bang out of his eyes. “Reed, what on Earth can I do to celebrate with you?”

Gavin snorted while setting up the freezer and fridge in a corner next to the cupboards, “You can keep me company, for one, and two, I was thinkin’ we could play a little drinking game!”

Nines sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose, “I can’t eat or drink, and you know that.”

Coolly shrugging, Gavin replied, “Who said you had to drink?”

“But you—”

Setting out a few glasses he’d packed along with himself, Gavin placed them carefully on the clean and wiped down countertops while grinning. “You can pretend, Nines,” he pushed a glass over towards the moody android gently so it wouldn’t break, “I’ll drink, and you can ‘mime’ it, okay?”

Rolling his blue eyes, Nines finally asked, “What’s the game, then?”

Smirking playfully at him, then, Gavin set inside his freezer a few beer bottles, and once they were all packed in nicely, and once the appliance had been plugged into an electric outlet, Gavin wiped his hands on his jeans and stood facing Nines.

“Ever got around to playing ‘Never Have I Ever’?”

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

It was a little past 7 p.m. when Gavin and Nines changed from their previous clothes into something a little more comfortable. Nines wore black slacks that still were ironed too well and too properly for Gavin’s tastes, as well as a white dress shirt that only had one button undone at the very top near the neckline. Nines had rolled his sleeves up, thankfully, but he still seemed far too overdressed.

Gavin simply chose to wear grey shorts and a white t-shirt, already making himself slightly more ‘at home’ after ordering a small pizza for himself while having his first can of beer. But the beer wasn’t what he wanted to drink for the game. Instead, after he’d cleaned up after himself, he brought out of his freezer a series of cold, potent alcoholic beverages.

Stacking them up on the coffee table, Gavin showed off his Sunset Rum, Devil Springs Vodka, and Bacardi bottles before Nines openly. The android merely shook his head in disapproval, but otherwise remained silent until Gavin sat down on the floor and rubbed his hands together.

“Gonna need my phone for this, so hang tight, Nines…” while he fumbled for his phone, he felt just how rough and hard the floor was beneath his sore ass and legs, and he grunted in displeasure while trying to adjust and shift himself into a better position. Gavin soon discovered that there didn’t seem to be one, apparently.

When he’d squirmed about for far too long, Nines hissed thinly, “What’s the matter?”

“Dude,” Gavin pointed beneath himself, “get a carpet or something; my body hurts!”

“In case you failed to see, I happen to own a sofa.”

Gavin paused as he loaded up the questions he needed for the game, and then spat, “So?”

“So sit on it, then,” Nines huffed, “I hear that’s what they invented sofas for to begin with.”

Ignoring the blatant sarcasm, Gavin slid over the same empty glass he’d given Nines earlier. “Take this, and pretend there’s some whiskey in here, okay?”

Not wanting to argue, Nines replied shortly, “Okay, Reed.”

“Sweet,” Gavin scrolled through his phone, and when the questions came up, he explained quickly, “okay, so basically, how this works is we each take turns reading these ‘Never Have I Ever’ statements on my phone, and according to the statement, if at some point in our lives we’ve done the action that the questions and statements in particular are about, then we gotta drink, and if you haven’t done what the statement is saying, then you don’t drink.”

Nines nodded, “Fair enough, Reed.”

Gavin grinned, “Can I start?”

“Thrill me,” Nines coldly hissed at him, and that was encouragement enough.

Giggling evilly, now, Gavin read out a random question his eyes landed on. “Never have I ever sent someone a dick pic.”

Right away, Gavin stared up at Nines, and the android frowned, not even reaching for his empty glass. Gavin sighed softly and tipped back his first shot. The burning sensation of strong booze hit his mouth and throat in the right way, and he truly realized just how much he’d missed drinking.

Nines however was slightly miffed, and he asked, “You sent a photo like that to someone?”

Not appreciating that he was being judged, Gavin shrugged, “I think all guys do it when they’re in relationships at some point.”

No comment came out of Nines, and Gavin pushed his phone over into the android’s hands. “Here, you read one.”

Nines went through the list, and after a few seconds, he glared at Gavin. “These are all dirty!”

“So?!”

“I’m not reading them!”

“You’re such a bitter virgin,” Gavin heatedly grunted, “here, give me the phone back if you’re gonna be such a little chickenshit, then.”

“Gladly,” Nines retorted, eager enough to toss Gavin’s phone back at him.

Once Gavin caught the device, he refreshed the page and brought up new questions. Muttering to himself, he irritably announced, “Since you saw these ones, I’m gonna get a new batch to take you by surprise.”

Nines once again remained silent, and Gavin took that as a ‘green light’ to move on as he refreshed and reloaded the website housing the statements. Yearning for more alcohol already, he silently made a bet with himself that he wouldn’t be piss-drunk before midnight, but he had to wait it out…some of these questions were truly terrifying, to say the least.

Selecting a passable one eventually, he read out, “Never have I ever taken a sexy selfie.”

Nines quickly intervened, “We took a selfie together.”

“It wasn’t a sexy one though, was it?”

Pausing momentarily while he thought it over, Nines slowly grabbed the glass and pretended to drink. “I’m going to just count it anyway,” he dully explained, and Gavin shrugged as he too took a swig, but for a completely different reason.

Shaking his head as the heady sense of alcohol slammed into him, he continued with the game.

“Never have I ever flashed someone.”

The results were again easily predictable; Gavin drank, and Nines didn’t.

“Never have I ever sexted.”

Again, Gavin had his drink, and Nines sat back staring emptily at the table.

“Shit, Nines,” Gavin laughed, “gotta keep up somehow!”

All he received was a vicious glare, and he quickly moved on to the next question.

“Never have I ever watched porn!”

……

This time, Nines reached for the glass, first, and Gavin screamed out in shock, “I knew it! Hahaha! You perv!!”

Nines pointed out, “You’re also pouring yourself a cup of Bacardi, though…”

“So?” Gavin nearly spilled the drink, and he cursed himself for feeling tipsy already, “everyone watches porn, but since when have you??”

LED light red with embarrassment, possibly, Nines sighed gently, “Well, it was more or less an accident on my end.”

“More or less,” Gavin chuckled, “go on, explain it for me, then.”

Nines held his glass over his lap as he stared down into it, as if searching for his answer there. Gavin allowed him to take his time, however, and when the pensive RK900 was ready, he spoke. “Well,” he began gently and lowly, “it was when I was trying to identify an unknown John Doe a few months ago before the Myers case, and Officer Miller told me that he personally suspected the guy I was looking for was someone named ‘Peter Norwood.’”

Gavin nodded, listening intently even though his eyes burned, his throat was parched, and his ears were somehow buzzing. He wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.

Almost shyly, Nines continued, “I accidentally searched up a man named Peter North, however, because Connor distracted me that day, and needless to say, I found out that Peter North is a bisexual Canadian porn star.”

When he was finished, he set his glass back on the table, struggling to look at anything else other than Gavin. Fighting hard to make eye contact, however, Gavin snickered, “You saw a clip of him fuckin’ someone, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Nines answered truthfully, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore though, if it’s okay with you, Reed.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gavin slurred, already under the influence while he poured himself more whiskey, “whatever you want, Nines!!” Although his overtly curious nature tugged at him to ask more about Nines’ experience, he still felt a tad weird asking about such private things.

It was better to move on to another question.

Squinting at the screen, now, Gavin grumbled messily, “Never have I ever used Tinder to meet a date.”

Huffing angrily while he rolled his eyes way up towards the ceiling, Nines snapped, “Is there a real point to this, Reed?”

Gavin nodded slowly, “Umm yeah…we get to learn something about each other…come on, Nines! Don’t be a prude!”

“Stop calling me that!!” the vitriolic android barked at him, “I just don’t want you to drag this on and drink yourself to death!”

Waving his concerns off with an auspicious hand motion, Gavin purred ravenously, “Niiiines, chiiill! I’m not gonna drink so much that I’ll end up redecorating your walls with my barf!” Gavin then tipped his head back and flashed Nines a thumbs up. In no time at all, he was reading the next statement.

“Never have I ever peeked at someone else while they were changing!”

Again, he was a solo drinker, and Nines threw him dirty glares.

“Just how many of these crimes have you committed?” he asked when Gavin looked for the next statement.

Shrugging, Gavin whispered, “Who cares?”

…..

Another red colored LED light answered everything, but Gavin was already a bit too drunk to care. He found that as time went by, he was getting more and more inebriated, and Nines was getting angrier and angrier. They’d run out of ‘innocent’ questions, and soon, the only ones left were pretty ‘R’ rated, so Gavin again hit ‘refresh’ for more questions.

Gently tapping his index finger on the table, Nines muttered, “It’s getting late, Reed…I think we should stop.”

“Juuuust one m-mooore,” Gavin crowed out as he laughed through tears, “s’funny, Nines!”

“I assure you, watching you become more and more intoxicated is the polar opposite of funny, Reed,” Nines asserted, “in fact, it’s the very antithesis of the definition of the term!”

Clumsily, Gavin nearly smashed his Bacardi battle open against the glass table. Placing an index finger over his lips, he whistled out, “Shh, a feeeew more, Nines!”

“You—”

Wagging his fingers in the air, Gavin sang, “Neeever have I evaaaaarr m-m-made out wiiiiith s-s-someone of th-the same gen-n-nder!!”

“Reed! Stop it!” Nines warned, but Gavin shook his head.

“Weeeelll, shiiit,” blowing a raspberry with his tongue and mouth, he added, “guesssss that’sssss one I c-c-caaaan’t driiiink toooo, maaaann!!”

“Good!” Nines cried out in anger, making a reach for the bottles, “let’s go to bed, now!”

Tilting his head back, Gavin belted out loudly for the world to hear, “Ooooone moreeee baaabbyyy!!”

This time, Nines got to his feet abruptly, and he gathered the bottles to his chest. Using his free hand to try and yank Gavin up as well, he failed when Gavin crashed down onto his back while still holding on to his phone tightly.

“Reed! Get up!!”

“Neeeeeveeer haaave I evaaaarrrr h-haaad a c-c-crush on aaaa co-worker!!!!”

Gasping in fake pleasure, Nines stomped a foot down as he cried in glee, “Well, look at that, Reed! There’s another one you can’t drink to, so let me just—”

Rearing up too suddenly, Gavin grabbed the bottom of the Sunset Rum, and he popped the cap open. Before Nines could stop him, Gavin moved back along the shiny, grey floorboards as he giggled almost childishly. Tossing a small wink at Nines, he stated, “I haaaave toooo drrrriiink, Niiines!!! Beeecause I h-have a c-c-crush on a co-w-w-worker riiight nowww…”

Wincing, Nines said, “I’m sure Officer Chen would appreciate hearing that in person, so just give me the bottle, Gavin, and we’ll—”

Gasping painfully, a saddened expression befell Gavin as he desperately cried back, “Noooo, not Tiiinaaa, youuuu stoooopiiiiid pieeecee of craaaap…” gripping Nines’ pant legs, he coughed out in one go, “I haaaaveee aaaaa crruusssh on y-y-yooouuu!!”

Nines couldn’t believe he almost dropped all the bottles he’d been cradling.

Chapter Text

Gavin Reed was on the brink of passing out right then and there on his living room floor, and Nines had no idea what to do. Not because the human male was highly intoxicated, but because of what he’d just confessed to.

Gavin Reed had feelings for him?!

For once in his creation, Nines truly doubted himself, wondering if he’d even heard the man clearly in his inebriated state, or if he himself had somehow been wrong, and Gavin was referring to someone else they worked with?

…….

But he had stated that he had feelings for Nines specifically…for him and him alone…

Oh, who was he kidding?? Gavin Reed didn’t have feelings for him and never, ever would in a hundred thousand years!! Nines knew better than this, and he’d known for a while that when humans went above a certain level of intoxication, nothing they said or did made any sense. Loose lipped as they may have been, no words uttered could’ve been taken that seriously, as it wasn’t at all near the truth of what reality depicted and painted when they were sober. There was a clear distinction between drunken rambling and coherent, articulate dialogue and conversation, and Nines was aware of the differences.

As odd and erratic as the behavior Gavin had displayed was, Nines wasn’t callously idiotic and foolish enough to buy into it all seriously. Gavin had no control over what he said in this state, of course, and he likely wouldn’t even remember it come dawn. It was a lot wiser for him to forget what had been said and abandon it entirely, so it seemed.

Staring down at the passed-out Gavin Reed while he collected his thoughts, Nines decided to help move the detective into a more comfortable resting position. Picking him up without much of a fuss, he gently laid him out on the sofa, and Gavin naturally sprawled himself over it with a sloppy, lopsided grin plastered over his face.

Nines wondered if he was still cognizant, so he waved a hand before Gavin’s face, testing to see whether he would gain some kind of a reaction.

After a moment, Gavin mumbled incoherently, “Mmmffuuuck off, maaa.”

There was then a retort perched on the tip of Nines’ tongue, but his mind was pulled in too many different directions at once. The longer he studied the sleepy Gavin, the faster he found himself unable to control his own reactions upon seeing such a sight…he truly couldn’t help it; he was mesmerized by just what kind of a fascinating specimen Gavin Reed happened to truly be.

Never before had Nines taken time to actually observe Gavin this much, but all things considered, now, the situation he’d been trapped in revolving around spending long hours with detective Reed when the exigencies of the man’s socio-economic status and future livelihood demanded it seemed to be too difficult to avoid.

They were in this together, somehow, and this thought terrified Nines beyond belief.

With a displeased sigh, Nines gathered that it wasn’t as easy to regard Gavin as he once had. No, he couldn’t say the human male was insipid. His psychosis was no longer dull and pedestrian as Nines originally gathered. Upon meeting the man for the first time ever two years ago, Nines initially concluded that Gavin Reed was a lump of clay that not even the most talented sculptor could fashion into art. The way he carried himself and presented himself had always been so shabby, messy, erratic, sporadic, aggressive, belligerent, and banal at times. It couldn’t be helped that despite all of Captain Fowler’s nurturing and instructing, the rebellious, spunky detective was doomed to consistently wallow in the depths of mediocrity.

…Or so Nines once thought. It appeared however that humans were constantly surprising him with their levels of unpredictability, but while he feared Gavin’s random outbursts and strange behavioral patterns, he still found it all refreshing.

Nines gave a slanted smile as he looked upon Gavin fast asleep. Here was an odd, enigmatic man sleeping away in his living room. The drunken detective’s body was glistening with perspiration, and he tossed and turned marginally in his sleep so he was lying on his side as opposed to his back. As he moved, his dark brown hair became matted and pressed down onto his forehead messily, but Nines found it made Gavin appear somewhat younger. Now, he wasn’t frowning, and the corners of his eyes weren’t marred with wrinkles and creases as often could be found given the aggressive ‘mask’ Gavin wore during work hours.

No, now, Gavin seemed… ‘freer’…

He was, Nines noted dispassionately, a rather attractive man; dark, straight lengths of hair fleeting over an angelic face. However, the man had shrunken into his sofa, trying to make himself as small as possible while he dreamt who knew what behind those closed eyelids. His eyelashes fluttered as he entered deep REM sleep, Nines supposed, and as he knelt down by Gavin’s side, he whispered gently, “I do wonder what you dream about, Gavin.”

It wasn’t something he’d even uttered lightly; he really wondered just what could be at the very center of Gavin’s dreams, visiting him every night as he slept soundly.

As Nines watched Gavin, the male blurted out something randomly, and then smiled a lopsided smile as he wiggled against the seats of the sofa.

Nines’ eyebrows shot up, but he remained silent while Gavin stirred once again and then hiccupped softly. An immediate sense of concern flooded Nines’ mind.

Was Gavin comfortable in such a state? Did he prefer sleeping on a bed??

Not wanting to move the man to wake him, Nines barely tapped him on his shoulder, only to have Gavin emit a low growl as he turned his back to the android and faced in the opposite direction.

Seeing this dynamic shift, Nines would’ve assumed that it was a gesture of deference, but the other man’s chin was tilted in an unmistakably defiant angle. As such, Nines felt something stirring deeply within himself, some primal corner of his nature. The android bared his teeth at Gavin’s turned back. He wanted to punish this insolent man for his disrespect when he’d been so concerned about his state of well-being!

However, before Nines could rudely shake Gavin out of his drunken stupor, the shorter male reached up with his arms and stretched. As he did, however, his natural body odors flew up into the air before Nines. Like a bloodhound, the android took a deep whiff, and his entire system was now far more alert than ever before. Scent wasn’t always easy for an android to discern in the first place, but for some reason, Gavin’s scent imprinted rather quickly on Nines.

And what a unique scent it was…it seemed almost floral, and it reminded Nines of the plants he housed and nurtured. His senses worked on overdrive as he took it all in, resisting the urge to practically bend over and bury the tip of his nose in Gavin’s hair.

To do that to the pliant detective while he slept would result in an unavoidable altercation, no doubt, and it was morally and ethically wrong to do that. Nines wouldn’t even bring himself to fathom doing such a horrible deed, so he backed off and moved as far away from the sofa as possible.

It was so rare that anything in his day-to-day life stirred up such extreme emotions. Nines held onto the feeling, trying to analyze where it had come from, and what it was about this strange new side to Gavin Reed that had caused it. While he’d been pondering it, Gavin’s face suddenly changed, clenching in an expression of pain. It was a worrying sight, and given how abrupt it was, Nines felt flustered. Scanning the sleeping human, he figured it had to be a nasty bodily reaction from all the alcohol, no doubt.

It was even getting worse for Gavin. Although he managed to smooth out his clenched and pained facial expression almost immediately, Nines had seen it, and his growing sense of concern wasn’t going away that easily. Notions of suffering made even the android’s usually blank face stunningly pained; empathy was as real to him as a Renaissance painting, a warm summer breeze, or an orchestra playing sweet, godly music for the world to hear.

What was he feeling??

Staring down at Gavin, he saw how full his lips looked even in the midst of a pained grimace! Nines began to wonder just how much bluer those eyes would look if they were glazed with tears? What about when Gavin smiled broadly in the throes of passion and utmost tranquility?? What did that feel like?

Realizing suddenly just how envious of humans he was, Nines nearly broke down. He’d always withheld a meticulous persona, completely incapable of feeling vindicated or offended. Nothing people said before ever got to him, as he’d prided himself on remaining as cold and detached while he watched how humans behaved. Yes, they’d always fascinated him to some degree, but he knew now that never before had he been so entranced by one human.

His control would have to be rectified in the future, he noted.

For now, he resumed watching Gavin, his eyes and head moving and tilting in time with the motions Gavin’s body made as he tossed and turned around and around.

Muttering to himself gently, Nines hissed, “What am I really doing??”

Though he forlornly thought of the sacrifice he’d been making, the estranged android felt he didn’t know nearly enough about Gavin to answer his own question. After all, how could he? The pieces of the odd puzzle he had currently available couldn’t fit together to form the entire picture, and Connor had warned him against leaping to conclusions when it came to humans and their unpredictable natures.

Yes, the RK800 had been correct, sadly. It was inconceivable that merely from second and third hand encounters he had all the tools and techniques to know every little detail when it came to Gavin Reed. Nines yearned and longed to know more, but he would be damned if he dared to ask. As it so happened, he was confrontational enough as it was, and he knew he didn’t exactly come off as the world’s most approachable creature, but he was trying to make a change for himself, at least. It was all the effort he could put in for himself to get through, and for…

For Gavin?? Was he doing this for Gavin, as well??

No…no he wasn’t. After all, how could he?

To the rude, brazen detective currently snoozing away on his sofa, this was all about money, and Nines was only in on this because he hated being indebted to someone.

That’s what this was all about.

Mildly content with this, he knew that tonight would pass like any other as long as he kept himself in check, and they could go on just ignoring the elephant in the room until things could return back to normal.

Well, that’s what Nines really wanted, but he knew that would never happen…

Did he want it to happen? Did Gavin want for it to happen?

Uncomfortable by all these questions flooding into his mind, Nines chose instead to switch to didactic methods and measures that would hopefully set out to not only protect himself from Gavin’s ulterior motives, but also shield himself from getting too close and too deep into this.

Once he was pulled in beyond the point of no return, he feared he wouldn’t be able to get himself out of it. Not until it was too late, anyway, and that’s what the fearless RK900 genuinely feared.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

You’re just too good to be true,

I can’t take my eyes off of you,

You’d be like heaven to touch,

I wanna hold you so much…

At long last love has arrived,

and I thank God I’m alive…

Gavin felt his head pounding like a damn hammer drilling and slamming into concrete, and his stomach tossed and churned like a violent, uncontrollable tidal wave during a dark stormy night. He felt like utter shit, to say the least, and what pissed him off was that he was sure he was hearing things, too…it sounded like music, perhaps?

It wasn’t a song he recognized in particular, but even though it was so soft and serene as it played in the background, to his sensitive ears, it sounded like a damn rock concert, and he felt like he was right beside every HD speaker in the world.

Everything ached…

Sitting up with a groan, Gavin felt his stomach heaving mightily.

He was going to be sick.

Slapping a hand over his mouth and breathing in and out through his nose while his nostrils flared crazily, he let out muffled cries as he closed his eyes and tilted his head back, trying to ignore the fact that his head literally was about to explode, and a shit ton of alcohol and stomach acid were climbing up from his stomach all the way towards his esophagus…

Mumbling through the small spaces between his fingers, he groaned, “Niiiines, dooo youuu have a-aaa buuuucket?? Gonnnaaaa beeee siick!”

Soft footsteps pattered their way towards him, and when Gavin barely summoned up enough strength to open his eyes a little, he saw the tall, lean android approaching from the side. He’d been in the ‘kitchen’, it seemed, and he scowled down at Gavin while shaking his head in clear disdain.

“If you vomit all over my floor or the sofa, Reed, I swear, I’ll make you clean it all up with your own fingers and no gloves will be allowed or given to you.”

The threat bounced and rolled off Gavin’s shoulders as he hugged himself and fought against shivering. To shake and let the tremors go through himself would only make it so that his brain knocked against his skull and rolled around in his cranium, and he couldn’t take all that pain. Cradling his head, he tried drowning out every possible noise, even if that meant shutting off the noises in his head.

Everything was so loud and echoed terribly!

Nines eyed him with nothing but caution, “How’s that migraine?”

Gavin only flipped him off as a result, and Nines chuckled.

“Charming,” he purred out while rounding on Gavin as a look of sheer delight crossed his features, “luckily for you, I have Ibuprofen, but I don’t have a bucket…”

Gavin got up immediately when he felt his stomach rising up and down as if it were bouncing on a trampoline built inside his body. “Mmm gonna throw up!!” With that warning uttered, he turned and ran towards the kitchen so he could vomit into the sink, hopefully, but Nines grabbed him by the back of the shirt quickly.

Hurriedly dragging Gavin towards the bathroom, in no time at all, he turned on the lights and pushed Gavin inside first. To the intoxicated detective’s amusement and awe, all the soil, gardening materials, boxes, and wood had been completely removed from the bathroom, and it actually looked like a genuine bathroom…except for the fact that there was still no mirror present.

Throwing open the toilet bowl lid, Nines made sure Gavin didn’t bash his forehead and skull against the actual bowl, and he steadied the adult male as he shoved his own face directly into the center of the toilet and threw up violently.

It sounded horrifying, it looked terrifying, and it smelled absolutely unearthly.

And yet, Nines didn’t want to go.

Gavin took a small break, raising his head and wiping his lips with a trembling hand. While he gulped in mouthfuls of fresh air, he glared over to the side at Nines, and as if seeing him for the first time ever, he snarled, “Th-the fuck are y-you doing in here?!”

Nines rolled his blue eyes, “I can’t exactly leave you in this state, Detective Reed, what if you hurt yourself somehow?”

“I can take c-care of myse—oh god…” once again, his eyes widened, his shoulders shook terribly, and he vomited again for almost half a minute.

Leaning back, Nines sat with his back and shoulders against the vanity, and he sighed, “Let it all out, Detective; I’m fine with being here all night if that’s what it’ll take.”

Halfway through vomiting, Gavin roared, “L-like fuuuck I’m g-gonna be s-s-stuck in heeere with you all niiiight!!” Again, he took to puking for a while, and Nines merely waved him off.

“We’ll talk when you’re sober, Detective,” he stated logically, “I doubt you can even hardly remember much of anything that happened barely an hour ago.”

For some reason, Gavin took this statement rather offensively. Sitting up on his knees, he grabbed a clean wad of toilet paper, and he wiped his mouth and tongue with it before clearing his throat and glaring at Nines. A thin sheen of sweat covered practically all over his face and neck, but he held a most defiant, rebellious look on his face that made Nines nearly double over in shock.

“What’s with that look, Reed?” Nines growled angrily, already on edge so easily and quickly, much to his own dismay.

Gavin snarled back, “Th-the hell does that mean?”

“What does what mean?”

Not giving up, the irate human snapped, “What you j-just said!”

Pausing, Nines finally let it sink in. “Oh,” his LED light stopped flashing yellow, “well, for starters, do you remember saying this?” clearing his throat, his LED light flashed blue once, and then, perfectly imitating Gavin’s voice 100%, he repeated: “Niiiines, chiiill! I’m not gonna drink so much that I’ll end up redecorating your walls with my barf!”

Rubbing his left temple with his left hand, Gavin cringed as he wheezed in a raw voice, “Fuuuck, Nines, don’t be doin’ that shit when I’m piss drunk! It’s fucked up!”

“Well,” Nines clicked out, “that’s what you said about an hour ago, need I remind you.”

Groaning, Gavin whispered, “I wonder wh-what else I said…”

Cruelly, Nines taunted him, “Oh, nothing much; you just also admitted to me that you once ran through your old police academy buck naked while singing a Spice Girls song.”

Looking even more sickly than ever, Gavin whimpered, “P-please t-t-tell me that shit isn’t t-true…th-that didn’t happen!!!”

An impish look was what met his eyes, “You’re right; it was a Lady Gaga song, come to think of it.”

“Stop, dude!”

Nines smirked, “I was kidding, Reed.”

“Oh, you’re such a biiii---blaaarrgh!!” he couldn’t even complete his sentence when the urge and need to puke took over once again.

“Point made, Reed,” the detached android spat as he got up and flushed the toilet. Turning away from the sick swirling around in the bowl and heading down the drain, he pointed at Gavin sharply as he asked, “are you done, or is there room for more?”

The exhausted man barely managed to shrug, “I think I’m d-done.”

“Good.” Nines’ next task was to make sure Gavin somehow got into the shower without drowning himself, but he didn’t actually want to be there while Gavin actually showered.

How could he put this without seeming…bizarre?

As if reading his mind and thoughts, Gavin held out a hand, “Help me off the floor.”

Nines did so, and as he pulled up the wary detective, he turned his head to the side in revulsion when Gavin coughed in his face. “Detective!” Nines cried in anger, “would you mind keeping your vomit-scented breath to yourself, for now and all times?!”

“Sorry, Nines.”

Turning his nose up at Gavin, Nines icily hissed, “Yes, I can see how ‘sorry’ you are about it indeed, Detective.” Hoisting him up, he allowed him to lean on the glass shower doors, and momentarily backing off him, he moved back inside his own bedroom where he remembered Gavin had stored a gym bag full of his own fresh clothes.

Not even bothering to ask Gavin what he wanted to wear, he pulled out a pair of grey pajama bottoms and a thin white sweater. It would do, and if Gavin wanted to put up a fuss, then he was more than welcome to dress himself afterwards.

Once he returned to the bathroom, Gavin was already prying the sliding doors open, but he nearly lost his balance and tumbled in dangerously. Nines’ fast reflexes however managed to save him, and he threw Gavin’s clothes onto the countertop of the vanity while gently tugging on Gavin’s shirt.

Ignoring the saliva and vomit stains already on it, Nines managed to roll it halfway up his chest, when Gavin snapped out of his alcohol-induced state of ‘high’.

Slapping Nines’ hands roughly, he roared, “What the hell?!?”

“Shut up!” Nines barked, “do you have any idea what time it is?!”

Pushing his shirt back down almost desperately, Gavin looked Nines up and down in fear. “Yeah!” he answered, “time for me to get molested, apparently!!”

“Oh, shut up, Reed,” Nines growled dangerously, “I don’t want you stinking up the place with your puke! So just have a shower, and then get to sleep!”

Nodding, Gavin quickly said, “Okay, but can you like, leave?”

Biting his lower lip in irritation, Nines retorted, “Yeah, I’m going to like, leave now.”

“Appreciate it, dickwad!” Gavin elbowed him in the chest roughly, but as Nines backed away and held onto the side of the door, another thought struck into his mind and worried him sick.

Gavin was still rather weak. What if something horrible happened to him while he was alone in the bathroom?

Almost slapping himself across the face when he realized how fragile and annoying humans were at times, Nines moved out of the bathroom, but he stuck his head inside and forced himself to stare down at the floor when he noticed Gavin pulling up his own shirt to disrobe. “Reed,” he grumbled, “I’m going to be waiting on the other side of the door, and I won’t close it all the way.” When he saw the angry look in Gavin’s eyes, he supplied, “I’m not spying or peeking in on you; I just don’t want you to drown.”

Turning back around, Gavin was convinced rather quickly, and he pressed out, “Okay, weirdo.”

“Great,” backing away completely, Nines tucked his head out of the bathroom, and not even a few minutes later, the water was already running, and Gavin had slid the shower doors shut. Nines waited awkwardly for a moment, but then he heard Gavin sighing, coughing, and then sighing again.

“What’s going on, Reed?” Nines worriedly inquired, eyeing steam rising up from under the doorway.

After a few seconds, Gavin replied, “Nothin’, just talk to me if you can, even though this is weird.”

Initially wanting to mock Gavin for stating this, Nines suddenly found he genuinely had some questions for the snarky detective after all.

Pressing himself against the door, he spoke softly, “What does your mother do for a living?”

Gavin hummed, “She’s a university professor.”

This shocked and stunned Nines. Truthfully, he had underestimated Gavin’s lineage quite badly, though he didn’t want to admit to the man that he’d originally surmised that his entire family consisted of college dropouts and punks.

Nodding in bewilderment, he then asked, “What does she teach?”

“Science and biology,” Gavin swiftly and cleanly replied back, “she got her PhD in it a while ago.”

Intrigued further, Nines pushed on, “Which University?”

“Fordham University,” Gavin responded, clearly not minding the slew of questions as he expounded on that subject deeper, “she manages the Graduate of Science department in Biological Sciences.”

Completely taken aback by all the new information, Nines could only utter, “I see…that’s…that’s very interesting, Reed. I’m sure you’re proud of her.”

For the longest time, Nines supposed he’d somehow gone and offended Gavin. The entire bathroom was horrendously and fiercely silent, but Nines knew Gavin hadn’t fainted or hurt himself; he still sensed and was able to receive human motion alerts in his system.

However, he also read clearly that Gavin’s heart rate had accelerated exponentially, and he was highly stressed out.

All that had catered to Nines not feeling shocked or surprised when Gavin changed the topic drastically.

“Hey, Nines?”

“Hmm?”

“I heard music before…right as I was waking up…was that you?”

…….

“No, Detective Reed,” Nines looked down at his hands, and they were shaking slightly. He clenched them tightly into two fists, and he got a hold of himself as best as he could while he leaned his back straight up against the door.

Standing as tall as he could, he glared into the dark hallway before solidifying his final response.

“You must’ve imagined it, Detective.”

Chapter Text

Nines waltzed into the bedroom with a bottle of cold water he purchased from the vending machines down the hall, and as he held it before Gavin, he also held up in his opposite hand an Ibuprofen.

“For the migraine,” he announced when Gavin stared at it for far too long.

Nodding strangely, Gavin grabbed the pill and downed it in one go with a large gulp of water. Flashing Nines a thumbs-up when he was halfway through the bottle and satiated as far as his thirst went, he muttered a simple, “Thanks.”

The debonair android merely grunted, and as he walked past the bed, he turned to the left and opened his bedroom closet doors. As Gavin watched in awe, Nines pulled out a large, rectangular container-like object. It looked like some kind of a chamber of sorts, and it was transparent save for some tiny wires and tubes at the very bottom. Those wires were eerie looking and attached to a tiny terminal on the side of the ‘box’ that emitted a small green light the moment Nines touched it.

Blinking rapidly a few times, Gavin eventually cried out, “This is way too sci-fi for my ass right now.”

“It’s mine,” Nines responded randomly as he moved the object along the floors as quickly as possible, almost shifting around on purpose so that Gavin couldn’t see him properly do whatever it was he was doing.

Gavin gaped at him before picking his jaw up and asking, “So…what’s that, Nines?”

Sliding a tiny door Gavin hadn’t been able to see before there on the object open, Nines sighed, “It’s how I charge myself every night, Detective.”

“I don’t see other androids doing that,” Gavin retorted, but when Nines clearly pointed out the CyberLife logo etched onto the glass, the detective waved at him dismissively.

Tilting his head at him, then, Nines elucidated, “You’ve surely seen ‘android charging terminals’ around the city before, have you not?”

Gavin grunted in a reply instead of talking properly.

Ignoring the rudeness, Nines gestured to the object, “Well, there’s your answer, except mine is specifically designed for only my model, as I am a unique prototype.”

Approaching the object, Gavin asked, “So if for example Connor went into this thing, would he fry up?” he couldn’t help but laugh as he clearly imagined that happening to Connor, but he was sure to wipe off his sadistic smirk when he saw the tiny scowl Nines throwing his way.

“Not really, Detective,” came the short, curt response, “but it isn’t good for his system either way.”

“So, this baby can charge other objects, too?”

Never having been faced with such an odd question before, Nines wavered before he came up with an answer he truly had to guess. “I…I estimate that it could be possible, yes,” eyes flickering up into Gavin’s, he then took his turn to ask a question, “why do you inquire?”

Shrugging nonchalantly, Gavin stated, “Oh, no reason, was just curious if it would be able to rev up my dildo collection every once in a while.”

………

The look Nines gave him then was one that coexisted between a blend of pain, disgust, shock, and absolute horror.

Gavin’s lopsided grin immediately died down. “I was kidding, I swear,” he covered for himself while Nines slowly got moving again. While the android’s fingers slipped a few times off the sides of the charger, Gavin coughed out, “I legit don’t own dildos, I promise.”

“Right,” Nines coughed violently, and seeing as androids didn’t need to do that, it was nothing but a forced, noncommittal gesture. “I’m going to go, now, but if you need anything, you can ask me.”

Feeling mortified, Gavin noticed how Nines purposefully wasn’t making any eye contact with him while taking his charger out of the bedroom. “Err, good night?” Gavin awkwardly sang out at his turned back, “I mean…night, dude?”

Pausing once he was further down the hall, Gavin was able to see Nines’ shadow cast on the white, blank walls before he ground out painfully, “Good night, Detective Reed.”

Not even bothering to ask if he could close the bedroom door, Gavin did so anyway, and when the door gave out a soft ‘click’, he nearly punched himself in the face. Why did everything have to be so awkward around Nines, anyway?! Gavin found he couldn’t relate to Nines at all! He couldn’t joke with the serious android like he did with his friends, and that sucked!! He missed being able to throw out a nasty, ‘R’ rated joke every once in a while, and garnering a good, hearty laugh with his buddies. He missed being able to drink and stay out late at nights laughing it up all around town while trying to flirt with and pick up all sorts of women. He missed not having to over-explain himself or his actions, as people around him just had a natural affinity to understand him, and since they were of like minds, they just ‘got it’!

But how could he do any of these things and truly enjoy them when he was around Nines?!

They hardly shared anything in common!!!

Assessing it all finally now that he was sober, Gavin leaned back on his new, clean Hemnes bed and stared up at the bright ceiling for a while.

“Shit,” he eventually muttered to himself as he stroked his chin, “just what in the hell do I have in common with Nines, anyway?!” Even for the purposes of pretense, he was genuinely curious, and he already began making comparisons.

Nines was fashionable, often looking quite dapper in his dark, silk suits and meticulous clothes, while Gavin usually donned jeans and a t-shirt on warmer days, and on colder days, jeans and a sweater that sometimes was only washed twice a week at best. Nines wasn’t much of a hoarder, and yet he was. Nines never had trash heaps and dirty clothes all over his living room, and Gavin had his own personal brand of obstacle courses to go through on a regular basis in his apartment. Nines was quiet, reserved, and often watched what he said, and Gavin had no social filter, and loose lips. While Nines had an odd sense of humor, it was a vastly dry one, and differed greatly in comparison to Gavin’s. To understand most of Nines’ jokes, Gavin sometimes had to think deeply, and when it came to comedy, he wasn’t a fan of thinking about it all as if he were out on solving a case. Gavin was loutish, crass, rude, tardy, and had a general fixation on keeping up with a dilatory attitude, and Nines was outstanding in his work, decorous around just about anyone who crossed his path.

What. The. Hell. Did. They. Have. In. Common?!?!?

Suddenly, the lights above were too bright, and his lungs ached and burned with a familiar need…only one thing would solve this conundrum and hopefully soothe his nerves before he could fall into a somewhat ‘peaceful’ sleep.

Inching across the bed, Gavin leaned down and yanked his gym bag up on the side of the bed, and as he dug out a cigarette from his freshly purchased pack, he then dragged out his lighter. “Ahh, hello baby,” he purred at his red colored lighter with a topless blonde woman decorating the length, “finally, we’re alone at last…”

He’d barely flicked the lighter on, when on the other side of the wall, Nines’ voice came booming at his ears.

“You can’t smoke in here, Reed.”

Gavin lost it right then and there.

Throwing his lighter and cigarette down to the floor in a tiny burst of rage, he screamed, “SCREW YOU, NINES!!”

……

Silence came from the other side of the wall, but just when Gavin tried lying back down, Nines called out to him again.

“Feel better, now?”

Truthfully, he really did, but he would never admit that to Nines; not in a thousand years.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Sleeping in an unfamiliar place naturally woke Gavin up way earlier than he would’ve liked, and Gavin was quite the grumpy son of a bitch when he hadn’t received a full, proper night’s rest. Then again, so were other people, of course, but Gavin really, really took it to an extreme.

Not even bothering to shave first and foremost, a highly irritable and short-tempered Gavin Reed untangled himself from the sweaty mass of sheets, and he stormed over into the living room. Surprisingly, Nines was still in his charger chamber…

Finding the android sitting on a tiny plastic stool within the charging chamber, Gavin froze as he stared Nines up and down slowly. Was he in stasis?! Gavin didn’t have the faintest clue, because Nines’ eyelids were tightly shut, and his LED light was off.

Nines didn’t even stir as Gavin approached, but the detective noticed that as he grew closer, he saw that the transparent door to the charging chamber had been left wide open. Perhaps for the purpose of making it easier to get out if Nines was needed, Gavin supposed. But this was still so weird!!! How did Nines even rest in this damn thing?!

Steadily approaching, as Gavin decreased the gap between his own body and Nines’ within the chamber, he found that the android’s long, slim left leg had been draped over the right, which was slightly stretched out. Nines was swaying and leaning more so to the left, and even his left arm hung loosely and limply down by his side. It was so bizarre and eerie, but Gavin was drawn to it, somehow. Approaching more and more, he wondered if Nines was ‘awake’ in some way…

Wanting to test it, the curious man stretched out a hand while still making the last few steps. Now, he was barely an inch away from Nines; an inch away from touching the back of his right hand, which was lying draped across his lap.

Fingers trembling and hovering in the air, Gavin swallowed down his anxiety abruptly. There was a green light still pulsating beneath Nines, and it seemed to be coming from the bottom of the charging chamber. What did that mean?!

Caught up in his curiosity, Gavin took one final step towards Nines. His hand was trembling like a naked, thin branch caught up in the violent blows of the wind, much like how it was right now outside.

He’d almost touched Nines, now…closer, closer, closer…

Staring intently at the RK900’s closed eyelids, Gavin nearly made a grab for his right hand, just to see if he was really not going to get up, yet.

……

And he’d missed the exact moment when the green light ceased pulsating, and Nines’ fingers moved ever so slightly. Rearing up almost violently, Nines’ right hand latched onto Gavin’s just a second before Gavin could even make physical contact with the android. As a result from the shocking, jarring motion, Gavin let out a loud yelp and backed off after jumping into the air a few inches.

“THE FUCK!?!”

Nines merely smiled at him, righting his body posture up straightly as he lowered his left leg down to the floor to join the right. “Good morning, Detective,” he hummed on a wonderfully deep note, then stared out the clear glass barriers of his charging chamber, “I hope you slept well?”

Gavin recoiled as the RK900 stretched up and gave him an odd grin while reaching out of the charging chamber. When Nines took notice of how strangely Gavin was eyeing him, he froze, frowned deeply in thought, and asked, “Something wrong?”

The detective immediately backed away, “Nah, not first thing in the morning, jackass,” his body trembled, reminding him that mornings were now always colder than they had been in the summer months. “I need a fuckin’ shave and a shower before I deal with your weird shit today.”

Nines merely brushed his white dress shirt off coolly, “Good luck doing that without a mirror,” he chuckled at Gavin, and the detective growled under his breath.

“It’s not that hard, genius,” he spat venomously, “it’s not like I’m training for the U.S. Navy SEALs!!”

Nines looked down at his feet, “If you say so, Detective, but I’m here should you require any assistance.”

Gavin decided that wasn’t going to be an option, and his body had already entered the bathroom before his mind even registered where he was. It seemed he was really intent and eager to get away from Nines after the oddities of the morning he’d seen the android displaying.

Why was Nines so freaking weird?! Couldn’t he have picked someone else to play his fiancé?!

“Too bad all my exes hate me,” Gavin sighed to himself, hurrying to adjust the water of the shower. In no time at all, he’d cleaned himself for the second time in less than eight hours, but it was more so to refresh himself and look a tad prim and proper than anything else. Feeling calmer once he stepped out, he stood awkwardly before the vanity and sink, staring at the white wall that held no god damn mirror at all on it.

Stupid Nines.

“Whatever,” Gavin hissed to himself, “I can manage this; I’ve shaved many times before in my life!!”

For some reason, he found that all thoughts of Nines were suddenly so annoying to him. As he held tightly onto his razor and turned on the water to fill up the sink slightly, he growled and muttered a few expletives under his breath, aiming majority of them towards Nines. As he went along waiting while the steam of the water rose and grew thick, he wet his face, and began lathering and soaping up his face all over.

When it felt ‘good’ and ‘ready’ enough, Gavin began shaving away as gently as he could. After a few of the blind motions, he suddenly smelled the familiar, potent smell of coffee wafting into the bathroom from behind himself…

He missed coffee…

And right then as he’d been distracted for the moment, Gavin nicked himself pretty badly along the chin. Throwing his head back and screaming in both pain and anger while a few drops of blood pattered into the water within the sink, it wasn’t long at all before the bathroom door opened with a small ‘creak’.

Nines stared ahead at him from the doorway, “You rang?”

Cradling his chin while the stinging sensation from the soap really burned and singed deeply, Gavin hissed, “PISS OFF!!!”

As if that would do anything to ward off the inquisitive RK900. Nines followed him in the bathroom, standing behind him as he got out from the vanity cupboard a professional, expensive shaving kit. Eyeing it nervously, Gavin waited while Nines set up.

“I step away for hardly a few minutes to get you some coffee, and already you’ve hurt yourself?” Nines tsked, “well done, Detective.”

“You stupid freak!” Gavin snapped while pointing to his cut chin, “this shit is why you get a fuckin’ mirror!!”

Ignoring him for a moment, Nines was simply beside himself with zeal and grace as he inched himself right before Gavin and grabbed his face with a strong hand. Only putting up a small fuss, Gavin eventually calmed down and relaxed himself when Nines eyed him seriously, and he held up the black Remington electric razor. It was already on, and as he gently touched it to Gavin’s upper right cheek, he turned his gaze away from Gavin’s eyes.

Simply being reduced to standing there, Gavin looked at the ceiling while Nines gracefully and gently shaved his entire right cheek in barely a few minutes. He did a rather good job, cleaning off the razor with a clean cloth before going over the last bits of stubble one last time.

“This isn’t so bad, is it, Detective?” he asked Gavin as he began lathering the left side of his face. Gavin said nothing as Nines’ free hand rubbed the soap up and down and all over his face. The RK900’s hand moved forward, and it traced a few shapes onto his soapy face while Nines emitted a gentle purr.

“Stop it!” Gavin slapped Nines’ hands away and reapplied soap where the android had playfully smeared it awkwardly. After a few more attempts-each of them a failure due to Nines pushing and shrugging the annoyed detective’s hands down, Gavin gave up. He allowed Nines to turn him around completely, shaving away calmly while a tiny smile formed in the corners of his lips.

Gavin scowled at him for it. “Glad you can do this without the use of a mirror, but do I have to drag you in here each and every time I need to shave?!” He wasn’t a god damn baby! He didn’t need help all the time!!!

As he scraped away at his stubble so tenderly, the RK900 stepped around and stared at his own hands while they guided the razor about his skin. Every time Nines made the electric razor skate along Gavin’s face, the other man felt the steady hum and vibrations rivet him in place even more. With his feet firmly planted on the cold white tiles, he raised a brow at the RK900 and leaned forward curiously. Evidently, he shouldn’t have done that, for Nines abruptly pushed him back in his original spot by placing a hand right over Gavin’s now smooth left-cheek.

As Nines guided the razor over the rest of the areas he’d missed, he threw Gavin a fleeting glance. Gruffly, he commented, “There is a solution to this torment after all, Detective Reed…” stopping the razor in time before it hit the wounded area around Gavin’s chin, Nines listened to the shorter male sigh while he set down the electric razor for a moment as soon as he’d turned it off.

Once Nines turned on the warm water, Gavin snorted, “Oh yeah? And what’s your solution then, smartass?”

Making sure to clean out whatever gunk and soap was on the razor blades, Nines took his time before a light growl sounded out of him, first. “Perhaps you should grow a beard, Detective,” he suggested as he dried off the razor and wiped it the rest of it down.

When he motioned for Gavin to wash his face, the shorter male rebelliously shook his head.

“No way am I gonna grow facial pubes, Nines,” he argued, “you can consider it a cold day in hell before I fuckin’ do that.”

Shrugging quickly, Nines said, “Noted, Detective, but don’t you want to talk about what happened a few days ago when we were out shopping?”

Of all times to bring that up, really.

Bending over the sink, Gavin hurried splashed warm water over his face, washing it carefully around the cut area near his chin. It stung, still, but he wasn’t going to be a child about it. Once he got done washing his face, he pet it dry with a small facial cloth Nines provided for him.

Rubbing the cloth over his face carefully, Gavin sighed out, “I feel great…”

“You’re disassociating,” Nines pointed out, “I’m still curious to know how it is that nothing that occurred the other day affected you.”

And right then, Gavin knew there was only one way he was going to be able to get rid of the curious android. He wasn’t going to simply stand there and talk about his feelings with Nines, or anyone else, for that matter. Nines wasn’t his damn therapist; he didn’t even have one anymore, technically speaking!!

Turning away from Nines’ penetrating, curious eyes, Gavin whistled as he rubbed cream over his face from his gym bag, and then looked around the bathroom. After a minute, while still staring down at the floor, he asked, “Do you have a band aid or something?”

Nines wasn’t stupid; he knew that this meant the topic was already closed and off limits for discussion. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder why. Though he wasn’t interested in pushing Gavin and having the man lash out at him loudly or perhaps, violently, he merely nodded as he bent down and opened up the vanity cupboards.

Handing the band aid package over to Gavin, he hissed out softly, “Here; the previous tenant seems to have left these behind.”

Taking them gladly, Gavin then pushed, “Where’s my coffee?”

With the nod of a head out the door, Nines replied, “In the kitchen.”

“Sweet.”

As Gavin walked away carelessly whistling a random tune, Nines caught himself staring at the blank space in the wall above the bathroom sink. Something suddenly stung deeply within himself and more specifically, in his mind.

Backing out of the bathroom quickly, he turned off the lights almost viciously, which was a contrast to how softly he made sure the door clicked shut.

Chapter Text

“Gavin, your phone’s ringing.”

“Mhmm.”

“…Aren’t you going to answer it?”

“Nuh uh.”

“…Why not?”

“I dunno.”

“Just answer it.”

“Nuh uh.”

Nines nearly lost every bit of self-control. Things weren’t copacetic anymore, not when Gavin was blatantly making a good effort at willingly ignoring him.

Slamming a hand down on the kitchen counter while Gavin toyed with his cigarette package, Nines got the shorter man’s attention for a split second before Gavin looked back down at his cigarette pack.

“I’ll chuck that out the damn window,” Nines warned in a low growl.

The grown man’s refusal to even acknowledge the fact that it could’ve been his own mother ringing his phone off the hook was purely contumacious. Nines wasn’t going to put up with it, and he didn’t.

As Gavin’s phone rang again, the android was beside himself with raw fury.

“Pick. It. Up.”

Gavin shook his head, eyes cast upon the lovely sight of the cerulean sky outside.

The phone buzzed even louder, as if throwing its own temper tantrum due to not being answered.

“Gavin,” Nines hissed, “answer it, or I will.”

That had been what finally broke Gavin out of his odd daydreaming, and he tossed a putrid glare at Nines.

“It could be your mother…”

A meek voice came out of Gavin’s throat, “It is her…”

His clear refusal to answer the call was jarring and moving, and it spoke volumes about Gavin’s true intentions. Ipso facto, Nines concluded he was hiding from his own mother, and even going so far as to delay and postpone the meeting.

“Gavin, I know you’re frightened and nervous,” the android calmly interpolated, “I can understand how you feel—”

Eyebrows knotting together firmly on his brow, Gavin’s forehead wrinkles creased and deepened resolutely. They gave away his true inner turmoil and emotions in no time, even though he was actively trying to hold it all back from Nines. His internal struggling never ceased to amaze Nines, and the pensive android began to wonder just how far Gavin was willing to push himself and to what levels of extremities he was willing to go through and endure just to be able to keep up barricade he’d created between himself and others.

Forever, probably…or so it seemed anyway. But they both knew they didn’t have the luxury of ‘forever’ on their hands. Forever perhaps didn’t exist…

Appearing to be visibly on edge, Nines gasped out, “Gavin?”

Upon hearing his first name spoken out in that way, Gavin broke away from his petrified state. Emitting a half-growl, half-cry, he wheezed testily, “Stop freakin’ referring to me as ‘Gavin’!”

A distraught look was instantly on Nines’ face, then. “But that’s your given name, is it not?”

As a few birds and crows cawed and chirped back and forth to each other harmoniously, Gavin seemed to be completely overtaken with toxic anger. It swooped out of him in the masses, and he suddenly bellowed out, “God damn it! Just call me ‘Reed’ or ‘Detective’!! You always did it before, so why change it up now?!”

Why indeed?

Even Nines himself had to stop and think about it for a moment. Just when exactly had he given himself the authority and permission to make the transition from ‘Detective Reed’ to ‘Gavin’?’

Clearly, Gavin hadn’t been patient enough to await his response. Right away, he cried out pointedly, “You think that just because I’ve moved in, played a stupid drinking game with you, and just because we’re supposedly ‘partners’ it means that things have somehow changed? Hmm?” Taking a moment to chuckle his amusement out mockingly, he then added with a cruel sneer, “Just how dumb are you, really?”

“I won’t be insulted in my own home by my guest,” Nines quickly expounded, “you can’t just disrespect me the same way you’re currently disrespecting your own mother, Reed.” Making sure to profoundly enunciate and emphasize the man’s last name, he gestured towards the phone just in time for it to start ringing again.

Clawing at his hair in a fit of stress, Gavin snapped, “You don’t even know how my mom is, so don’t open your mouth and comment about shit you have zero info on!!”

Eyes bouncing back and forth a few times from Gavin to his phone, the observant android whispered, “Then let me in, Reed; give me a chance to learn something here…”

Peering up at him slowly, Gavin hissed, “I’ll give you—”

The phone buzzed louder, suddenly, and Gavin found he could no longer tolerate it. Snatching it up into his right hand, he swiped across the screen to his right in order to finally answer the demanding call.

“Yeah?!” he roared loudly and paced away from the kitchen.

Nines actually found himself not listening in on the conversation, even though he knew he very well could have done it should he desire to. But he didn’t…he found he genuinely held no desire whatsoever to peer into Gavin’s personal life.

Near the living room, Gavin was rambling and talking a mile a minute, something he often couldn’t avoid when his mother spoke with him on calls as urgent as this. Now, she was demanding rather aggressively on obtaining his ‘lover’s’ living residence address.

Not even bothering to so much as even toss a glance in Nines’ direction, Gavin regurgitated the address to her in a clipped tone. A second later, she’d stated that she was on the way, and he hung up all too eagerly. He didn’t need or want to hear more.

Once he’d pocketed his phone neatly away, he felt incredibly safer…until he remembered that Nines was still lurking somewhere nearby.

As if somehow possessing the capability to read Gavin’s mind, Nines uttered flatly, “Rest assured, Detective Reed, I’ll remove myself from your way until your mother arrives.”

Pushing his way silently past Gavin, then, he hadn’t noticed the genuine look of relief flooding over Gavin’s previously torment-stricken eyes.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

The front door of the apartment had received two bold knocks that sent both Gavin and Nines skittering about in a flash. The door leading to Nines’ bedroom flung open and Nines was immediately on his feet, all rational thought flying away as he quickly marched through the living room, standing right in front of the door receiving the knocking as he braced himself. Gavin soon ran out next to him, and as both men were dressed in their ‘best’ outfits, they accidentally slammed into each other in a mutually competitive race to see who would get to the door first.

“I got it!!” Gavin cried out right as his body collided with Nines’. When they bumped into each other roughly, they both took a few glances at each other, no doubt assessing their style and manner of dress.

And were they ever dressed differently, and painfully so.

Gavin blushed deep pink as he pushed some of his hair back. Purposefully, he’d left some bangs and sides of his hair slightly messy to sloppily hang and drape down over his forehead. Wearing a grey Labatt Blue t-shirt that was in dire need of an ironing, the shirt looked a few sizes too big, and it hung down awkwardly over Gavin’s partly torn dark blue jeans.

As Nines stared in astonishment at his disheveled appearance, Gavin gaped in awe and mild fear at the way Nines was dressed as well. It seemed to bother the shorter male, and he flicked a finger at the black, old fashioned Poet shirt Nines was donning. It opened down and hung outwards awkwardly in the front, revealing a large portion of his creamy white chest while tight, plastic black pants tugged at his long, slim legs. The more Gavin gaped at it, the more bizarre he found it was. It just didn’t fit…

Nines paused as he noticed Gavin openly gaping at him. “What?”

Gavin slowly blinked, “The hell are you wearin,’ Nines?!”

“Clothes, Detective,” the sarcasm practically oozed and dripped off every consonant, vowel, and syllable Nines spoke out.

Gavin growled as another loud knock landed on the other side of the front door. “Whatever!” he whispered heatedly, “ready?!”

Nines only gave him a curt nod, “Ready, Detective.”

Gavin was the one who opened the door, and as he did so quite sluggishly as though he was moving underwater, the lights outside poured in liberally as they waved around Carrie Reed.

The elderly woman’s slender figure stood out in the sudden onslaught of bright lights, and Nines stood back to study her for the first time ever. Already, he caught himself drawing comparisons between Gavin and his mother.

Carrie Reed had platinum blonde hair that had been stylishly cut and fashioned into a bouncy bob cut with bits of short layers running along the temples and sides. She wore pearly looped earrings that hung down to her pronounced jawbone. Her natural hair color was a shade lighter than Gavin’s, Nines discovered as he naturally scanned and analyzed her DNA and hair pigmentation. Her eye color was a greyer shade of blue than Gavin’s, however. She possessed a short skeletal frame and build, just coming up an inch and a half shorter than her own son in height.

On her person, she wore a red raincoat, black wellington boots, blue skinny jeans with the leggings tucked into the boots, and at her side hung a black leather purse. Over her right shoulder rested the strap of a black school bag, and it was rather bulky as it hung down strangely. Something definitely was inside it, and Nines was staring intently at it until Carrie frowned at him, and then at Gavin.

“Well?” she croaked, her voice gravelly and her breath reeking of tobacco, “aren’t you going to invite me in?”

Gavin broke out of his silence, and he waved her in as he offered her one of the most bizarre side hugs Nines had ever seen humans give each other. “Yeah, yeah,” he said tersely, “hey mom.”

Hey mom? That was how they greeted each other?

Nines was dumbfounded, but he hung back and merely observed, trying to play the role of a respectful lover as Carrie dragged herself inside. She didn’t appear to have a lot of things with her, but it didn’t matter much to Nines; he still had oodles of room in his apartment, anyway.

Stopping right before Nines while Gavin helped ease her raincoat off, Carrie’s eyes wrinkled even more so in the corners, her light-colored skin creasing practically while she threw Nines as rather blank look. However, that look didn’t remain blank for look. Soon, it was replaced with doubt, and Carrie’s overall body posture seemed to indicate an increase in incredulity as she studied Nines.

After a moment, she huffed inelegantly, “So…you’re Gavin’s boyfriend, huh?”

Slamming the closet doors, Gavin’s shoulders clenched tightly as he spat out, “Fiancé, mom; he’s my fiancé.” 

Pursing her lips tightly together, the thin seam of them seemed to stretch out over her bony and near-skeletal face. “Uh huh,” Carrie grumbled, slowly leaning closer towards Nines. “My God,” she whispered, “he really is an android, isn’t he, Gavin?”

Immediately, Nines felt offended. He knew he shouldn’t have felt that way, but he couldn’t prevent it. Gavin’s mother was speaking about him as if he wasn’t even in the room, and he felt completely objectified by it.

Trying to make a good impression, however, Nines held out his hand for her to take. “I’m Nines,” he introduced himself with the politest smile he could muster. “I’m very happy to finally get to meet you,” finishing it off with another warm smile as Gavin turned around with his hands on his hips, Nines made sure to also smile at the short detective as a means of trying to show Gavin’s mother that he was a good, attentive partner.

Sadly, Gavin’s mother didn’t seem to want to pay enough attention. Turning towards Gavin, she yanked on his shirt as she studied it and scoffed. “Is that thing even washed?” she asked in a seriously condescending tone, judgements already made about Gavin and Nines, apparently.

Gavin’s jaw fell open widely as he snorted and nodded over at Nines, “Mom,” he coughed when he noticed Nines still holding out his hand, “Nines was trying to shake your hand and say hi…”

She waved him off, “Oh be quiet,” she grumbled, “I already met your android man.”

“He doesn’t even know your na—”

Swiveling around barely enough to face Nines, the blonde woman irritably declared, “Dr. Carrie Moser, Mr. Android.” Bowing her head at him, a small sarcastic sneer was upon her face as she directed it at Nines’ hand.

This woman was a piece of work, Nines decided. Lowering his hand back down when he knew she wasn’t to take it, he merely nodded as he corrected her gently, “I’m Nines.”

“That’s nice, dear,” she gushed half-heartedly while kicking off her boots, and then rolling up her white blouse sleeves as she yanked her purse and school bag out of Gavin’s hands when he held them up for her to take.

“I’ll need a glass of water, Gavin,” she pushed out almost in a bossy manner, and when she brushed past Nines, he saw a long tattoo running from her wrist all the way up on her left forearm. It was the design of a river flowing, and one large, fat trout had leapt up from the surface of the waves into the air.

He’d wanted to comment out loud that he liked her tattoo, but that would be a lie. He hated the tattoo, and it was one of the strangest designs he’d ever seen. Instead, Nines followed Gavin, who was following his mother into the living room, and she practically threw her school bag and purse onto the black coffee table while stretching out.

Emitting a tiny groan, she stretched out her arms above her head, and when she looked up at Gavin, she scowled in disappointment. “Gavin, didn’t you hear me?” she snapped, and he barely was able to blink before she spat, “water!”

“Okay.” Obediently, the shorter male walked into the hallway, and he waved at Nines as he called out, “I’m gonna get one from the vending machine, be right back.”

Carrie squinted at his retreating back, “The vending machine?!”

When the front door of the apartment opened and closed swiftly, Carrie sighed out, “To hell with you, Gavin.”

To say that he was reeling over in shock would’ve been the understatement of the century. Nines was left feeling more than shock; he was completely baffled and overwhelmed by how Carrie Moser had spoken to her own son. He knew that humans were odd, eccentric creatures for sure, however, he assumed that they knew how to conduct and compose themselves and would be cagey when it came to matters revolving around personal information and privacy. More importantly, Nines was meeting Carrie for the first time. He knew that, and she knew that, as well! Why was she behaving so brashly?!

Trying to observe her, he watched as she invited herself to sit down on his clean white loveseat. Adjusting her silver watch on her left wrist, she hissed as she squinted, tried to read out the time, and then shook her head. “Isn’t this lovely?” she spoke out more to herself than to him, “you complete a damn PhD dissertation, are granted tenure, pay back all your damn student tuition loans after busting your ass off for decades, and finally, on the night of presenting and orally defending the thesis you slaved half your life and brain’s energy away on, they award you with this stupid piece of junk that you can barely even see and read because by the time they give it to you, you’re too freakin’ old to have your eyes working!!!”

As she huffed and growled like some feral jungle cat, she shifted, and held up her nose in an odd manner of hubristic pride that no doubt was no match for the size of her ego. This was a rather brazen woman, and Nines could somewhat see where Gavin got at least some of his borderline narcissistic, bullying qualities from.

Still wanting to remain polite, he sat down on a small black chair he’d pulled from the kitchen that was normally reserved for a few tiny spider plants to rest on, as well as some cacti. Happily, he joined Carrie in the living room, plopping the chair down to the left armrest of the loveseat. As soon as he sat down, she glanced up at him, and as she sneered, she reached into her school bag and yanked out from the front zipper what appeared to be an eyeglasses case.

When she opened it, Nines confirmed that she definitely required the use of the glasses, and when she slid them up on her nose bridge, their thin, black rims and handles shined at him in the light the sun provided as the effulgent rays poured their liberal effusions into the apartment. When Carrie put the glasses on, Nines’ slightly defensive feelings softened, and he smiled a genuine smile at her.

He thought she appeared charming, and lovely in the glasses!

“I like your glasses, Dr. Moser,” he addressed her by her full title, and as he’d done so, she sniffed once, and then bent down towards her bag once again. Thinking that she was still listening, Nines went out to say, “Gavin’s told me a lot about your work at the University of—” he was rudely interrupted by a loud ‘click’, followed by Carrie coughing as she inhaled her freshly lit cigarette.

Oh dear…

Sighing, Nines gently stated, “I’m afraid you can’t smoke in here, Dr. Moser.”

“Says who?” she rebuked rather loudly, causing Nines to freeze for a moment.

Almost meekly, he answered, “The building owners, Dr.”

She smirked, though it wasn’t in amusement at all, “That a fact?”

…….

“Yes?”

She rolled her grey eyes as she sighed out, “Fine as wine, then!!” Then, to Nines’ complete horror, she literally put her cigarette right out on the edge of his coffee table.

Leaping forward abruptly, he cried out in protest, “Dr. Moser!!”

She kicked a leg at the table, “Relax kid,” she pounded on it then with a fist, knuckles rocking and rapping loudly, “these things have been made to last for centuries.”

Where was he to even begin with this woman?! Her entrance had been nothing short of rude, abrasive, callous, belligerent, and her behavior was consistently getting worse!! Nines had no clue what to say, and thankfully, Carrie seemed to want to talk more, now.

Holding her cigarette in her lap, she shook her head at him, her face scrunched up as her pale, white eyebrows rested on her brow ridge in a thin line. “So, how exactly did you meet my son?”

Having already prepared for this, Nines held his head high as he responded truthfully, “We work together.”

“No,” she snapped coldly, “I didn’t ask what you guys do together; I asked how you met my son.”

As he looked directly into her piercing blue-grey eyes, Nines knew just what kind of a difficult obstacle he had to pass through, now. Carrie Moser wasn’t a woman easily fooled, and he had his work cut out for him indeed.

Thankfully, the door opened swiftly once again, and for once, Nines felt saved.

Perhaps it was better to let Gavin deal with his mother after all.

Chapter Text

Gavin stood by awkwardly, shifting his weight from foot to foot, then began shaking the water bottle a few times in his hands. Apparently, his mother grew weary of it quickly, and she snapped her fingers at Gavin as her earrings dangled and made the lights reflecting off them bounce off practically every corner of the living room.

“Gavin!” she ground out heatedly, “are you planning of giving that to me to drink anytime soon?!”

Grinding his teeth together, Gavin was growing visibly annoyed, but he walked over towards Carrie and still handed her the water.

Not even bothering with a ‘thank you’, she took off the cap and stared at it for a moment before leaning forward and sniffing it curiously.

Nines closed his eyes to keep himself from exploding out in rage, and Gavin sat down beside his mother as he elbowed her gently. “Mom!” he hissed, “it’s just water! Holy shit!”

“Just water, Gavin?” she snorted a disgusting sound as she tilted her head back a little, “I’ve told you to always check your food and water before accepting it from others, haven’t I?”

He threw her a doubtful look as he supplied, “But I got that from the vending machine…”

“Stupid child,” she muttered, finally taking a deep swig of the beverage. Her Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as she drank slowly, and as she did, Nines and Gavin exchanged a brief moment of awkward glances.

Holding the bottle tightly in her veiny, bony hands, Carrie looked up at the ceiling, examining it for a moment before she looked at the walls. Scouring over every inch of them with her beady eyes, it seemed she was assessing, analyzing, deciding, and thinking about something…whatever it was, Gavin knew it would only be a matter of seconds before she blurted out how she truly felt.

Licking her lips, she smacked them together, then, and cried out, “So this is where you took those ridiculous selfies together, hmm?”

Blushing deeply while Nines’ LED light flashed yellow perhaps for the fifteenth time so far that day, Gavin pressed a hand against his mouth as he mumbled in embarrassment, “Those pics were fine, mom! Don’t be so god damn annoying!”

Clearing his throat, Nines was trying to remind Gavin to stay on Carrie’s ‘good side’-if she had one, but the annoyed detective wasn’t paying him any mind as he pressed and pushed on with his mother.

“What was wrong with them?” he asked the same question Nines truly held in his mind but had been unable to voice aloud due to the fact that he felt he still had no business in this matter anyway.

Still, he was interminably grateful that Gavin had spoken up, at least.

Holding out a hand as she played with the water bottle, Carrie huffed impatiently, “They were forced, don’t you think?”

This woman…this woman was far too wise, far too observant.

Damn her.

Face beet red again, Gavin quickly interpolated with, “Well, umm, I guess maybe a bit but that’s because Nines and I don’t like being put on the spot!” When it was silent for too long, he added, “Like, what are we? Circus performers or something?!”

“No,” Carrie mildly agreed, keeping her eyes only on her son as she spoke, “but you were quite hands-on with your previous girlfriends before, Gavin.”

“Oh my God…” Gavin facepalmed, then, and Nines tried to take over. He only did it because he assumed that if he was in such a position instead of Gavin, he would want for someone else to help out here and take the pressure off from being in the spotlight.

Clearing his throat again, he smiled gently at Carrie, “I insisted on the photos being that taken way, Dr. Moser,” he began to explain, but Gavin slapped a hand over his thighs.

Shaking his head, he interrupted acerbically with, “Call her ‘Carrie’; she doesn’t even ask me to call her ‘Professor’ or whatever.”

Shoving him gently, Carrie seethed peckishily, “Oh pull yourself together, Gavin! Just because you refuse to give respect, doesn’t mean that you need to stop your ‘Nines’ here from respecting me!!” Her cheeks puffed out a little, but as soon as she’d calmed herself back down, she grabbed her cigarette and then tucked it into one of her jean pockets.

As Gavin rolled his eyes at that, Carrie once again turned to Nines and commented brashly, “You may think that I’m some kind of ‘modest’ and old fashioned woman, but I assure you,” a strange look crossed her eyes, and they glinted as she said, “I’m as open minded as I can be, and even if my son’s a little queer, that doesn’t mean I won’t love and accept him any less.”

Nines wanted to comment about how referring to one’s own spawn as ‘little queer’ wouldn’t exactly lend a helping hand to paving the way for complete acceptance, but he saw something of a warning flash in the center of Carrie’s eyes. He knew better than to trifle in this matter that clearly wasn’t his…fake fiancé or not.

She sat back, clearly amused when Nines remained silent. “I think I kind of like this one, Gavin,” she snickered shortly, “he’s not as jealous as Marsha was.”

“Mom?” Gavin’s small voice sounded, “can we please not discuss my past right now?”

Holding up her hands, Carrie sarcastically droned, “Pardon me, then, but I figured since I’m welcoming another son into the family, it would be natural to want to go over these things!”

Nines hoped that somehow meant and implied that Carrie Moser was buying into the plan. Perhaps it would become easier to tolerate her rudeness, then…at least, he found himself hoping so. How else was he not to go insane, after all?

Gavin seemed to also be hanging onto that hope, and he spat, “Err, yeah! I mean, Nines is kind of private, that’s all! He’s really nice, and we’re pretty…close?” He himself even had to wince upon saying that, but he recovered from it swiftly before his mother turned to study him with cold eyes.

“Nice indeed,” she assessed, turning back to Nines as she grunted, “so, you didn’t answer my question!” Repeating it louder, she asked, “How did you meet my son?”

Gavin took it upon himself to answer, “At work, duh!”

“He already said the same thing,” Carrie pointed out factually, “but I’m curious as to how you two got together…” Sitting and inching herself closer to Gavin, she gripped him tightly towards herself, snickering as she looked at Nines and commented, “You see, maybe I’m a cynic, but I know my son better than anyone else out there…” Her eyes narrowed as she said, “You two are terribly incompatible and mismatched, and I want to know what exactly it was that brought you two together, and what is driving you two forward.”

…..

As a pregnant pause hung in the air like some foul stench, Carrie chuckled while petting Gavin soothingly, “No rush, of course, but call it my need-to-know; a mother’s genuine curiosity as far as her child’s wellbeing is concerned, of course.”

Finally, Nines broke out into a smile, “Of course,” he repeated gently.

While Gavin nervously fidgeted about, seemingly trying to get Nines’ attention for some reason, the android didn’t regard him. Not because he was trying to be rude, not because he was seeking some ill-mannered medium of revenge for being backed into a corner, and certainly not because of their previous instances of animosity.

No, Nines actually knew how to predict and read through Carrie Moser, now.

Altogether, she wasn’t a very complex woman. She wanted to be, and she thought of herself as such, no doubt. Perhaps she warded off a lot of people by carrying herself around in the way Nines had seen her do so in the short amount of time they’d spent together, but he had a sneaking suspicion that this woman had paraded around half her entire life this way, possibly because when she behaved in this way, it gave her what she was looking for. People would no doubt fear her and be intimidated by her, but Nines wasn’t. She was intelligent and highly skilled, and he could’ve sworn that she’d perhaps done her research into criminology and psychological profiling, at the very least. She knew how to play her cards and pick her words, and that was exactly what she was doing at this very moment; she was playing a word game.

But he knew the rules of this game very well.

What he had to do was go ‘beyond’ the words, beyond the true definitions and meanings in order to pick and pry apart the very roots of what she was looking for. Yes, she had asked about how they met, but what she really was trying to figure out was when they met as a couple; when they’d decided to be together.

He knew what his answer would be.

Gavin wasn’t at ease while he rocked a few times next to his mother, and he was trying to make eye contact with Nines many times, whether his mother noticed or not. As subtle as he was attempting to be, Nines was at least ten steps ahead in solving their predicament.

Nines looked beyond that obviously panicked display, and with utmost confidence, he spoke to Carrie Moser. “You see, Dr. Moser,” he began as well-mannered as he could, “Gavin and I met two years ago when we were both surprisingly dragged into a hostage negotiation situation at the very last minute…” as he laid it all out, he focused entirely on not remembering the vivid, specific details. To remember was to be inflicted with pain, and he wanted to avoid that.

He couldn’t tolerate that…he wouldn’t.

Still keeping his calm demeanor, he went on to say, “It was a rather difficult situation involving an alcoholic parent who simply refused to listen to the voice of reason. Children were involved in this matter, and only Gavin and I seemed to be able to get through to the father.”

Carrie was listening intently with her whole body; not just her ears. She practically ate up every word Nines had to offer her, never once even blinking as her eyes widened and her pupils dilated. Even the hairs on her arms rose a little, as did the ones on the back of her neck.

Staring directly into her eyes, Nines smiled a sad smile. “We spent nearly three hours trying to calm this homicidal man down, but he was a rare monster; the kind that refused to be stopped,” blinking away the man’s face as it appeared unceremoniously to him then, Nines spoke out in mild discomfort, “there wasn’t much time left, and we were running out of methods. In the end, he held onto two twin girls, pulled them both up to the window, and demanded that we give him a car, otherwise, he would end their lives.”

Carrie held a hand up to her mouth as she seemed overtaken by emotions, but she still listened intently as Gavin swallowed nervously and began trembling. He was in as much pain as Nines was, no doubt remembering the incident like it just happened only yesterday.

“I couldn’t just let him go,” Nines explained, “for I knew that the moment that car arrived and drove them off, he would end up taking the lives of those little girls!” Now, it was becoming somewhat unbearable to go through it all, and Nines felt himself on the edge of breaking apart.

So it appeared that he wasn’t as unbreakable as he originally thought he was…no, how could he be when it came to this specific memory?! The memory itself was enough to send Carrie almost into tears, but she braved it through as she leaned closer and closer to the armrest, almost pressing herself right into it as she hooked and latched onto his words.

Staring down at his lap, finally, Nines coughed out painfully, “Well, needless to say, I invited the father outside with the promise that his car would be ready, but under the condition that he released the twin girls…” horrific images flashed in his mind, and he rapidly pushed them away when he remembered seeing blood smeared all over the walls and windows…

Forcing himself to finish it, he hissed through clenched teeth that dared to chatter, “Of course, in no time at all, he caught onto my trickery, and he turned the gun on…me…”

Repress, repress, make it go away, make it all go away…

Refusing to break down and shake in front of her, he continued smiling. “Well, your son got in the way of the bullet that had been meant for me that day, and it was then that I saw how brave Gavin was, and my mind was made up right then and there.” When he concluded his retelling of the events, he looked back up at Carrie, and then over at Gavin.

While both mother and son were completely taken emotionally by the story, that somehow didn’t seem to stop Carrie from glaring at Nines’ shirt. As she did this, Nines felt a little odd given his state of dress, but he didn’t comment on it. Instead, he smiled again at her and merely supplied proudly, “Your son is a good man, and I am quite happy to have him in my life.”

He hoped all this would suffice…oh, how he hoped as he sat on the edge of his seat, figuratively and literally.

Wiping her clammy hands on her jeans, Carrie didn’t move for a while, and Nines wondered if she was unwell. Only when he saw her nostrils flaring did he conclude that yes, she was breathing, and she was livid…

Livid?! Enraged?! Why?!

Turning her head around to scowl at Gavin, she hissed, “Of course you would do such an insane thing and risk your life!!”

Nines felt both relieved and enraged one he heard her vehement proclamation. On one hand, he felt that it was definitely good that Carrie was reacting in such a heated manner. It meant that she was indeed concerned for her son’s sake, but at the same time, wasn’t a parent supposed to be proud, exultant, and highly elated knowing that their child was something of a hero worthy of utmost praise and value?? Again, humans had amazed him, and he could only gape as Carrie continued to harass Gavin.

Even Gavin seemed weary of his mother’s execrable outburst, but he held himself together well as she ranted on.

“And what if you got yourself killed? Hmm??” she sneered menacingly, “what then, Gavin?!”

“For fuck’s sake,” Gavin groused at the peak of his annoyance, “I had a bulletproof vest on, mom! Jesus!”

“It doesn’t matter; you still risked your own life to save a machine?!”

That seemed to be Gavin’s breaking point. Nines literally saw the human male biting his tongue as he scanned him quickly. Yes, the long, wet body part had been wedged painfully and tightly between Gavin’s upper and lower rows of teeth, and his entire body went rigid as he focused on Carrie.

Again, Nines felt as if he didn’t matter; as if he wasn’t even in the room there with them.

“To think that you would be so screwed up in the head, Gavin, that you would betray everything you supposedly hated and for what?!” she shrieked at him pathetically, “for what?! Hmm? Isn’t this hypocritical, even for you?”

Backing away from her a little when she stretched out her neck and took a rather aggressive stance, Gavin hissed, “What’re you talkin’ about?”

Waving at Nines while still glaring at her own son, Carrie spat, “He is an android! He is the very thing that god damn woman’s rotten son created, and yet here you are running around saving them?!?” Laughing a pained, dry laugh, she took off her glasses, blinked a few times, and peered at Gavin as though she was just seeing him for the first time in her entire life. “You traitor…” she shook her head at him, “…you’re a god damn unbelievable traitor to choose something that whore of a woman’s bastard child created!!”

Gasping as he held a hand to his chest, Gavin wheezed, “No I’m not!! I’m not!!”

That was it. Nines knew that he had to intervene, now. He knew that Carrie was more than likely going to start yelling and screaming at him for it, and Gavin would likely throw a fit, himself, but he refused to just sit there like a useless dummy when Gavin’s mother was berating him, belittling him, degrading him, and verbally abusing him.

No. This wouldn’t continue.

Standing up quicker than he thought he would’ve, Nines held out a hand towards Gavin. “I think Gavin needs some air, Dr. Moser,” he suggested more like a declaration, and she wisely and sharply caught onto that.

“You can’t just decide what my son needs or doesn’t need!” she chuckled sarcastically, her eyes sweeping up along Nines’ form, “you two aren’t married…yet.”

Ignoring the way her eyes glinted dangerously, Nines still kept a hand out before Gavin, silently beckoning him. “I think we should let Gavin decide for himself, don’t you agree?”

While Nines and Carrie silently stared on at Gavin, the detective knew who was deliberately trying to pressure him, and who wasn’t. This wasn’t even a matter of strictly obeying just because he was biologically tied to someone; he’d already made his mind up.

Rising to his feet, he stood around the coffee table, and he joined Nines at his side. As he stood next to the android, Carrie Moser merely laughed as she tilted her head back, crossed one leg over the other, and folded her arms over her chest. “So you two are just going to what? Leave me here?” she tsked, “what lovely hosts.”

Gavin clearly still wanted to remain on the side of ‘hospitable’ and ‘kind’. While he wasn’t overly happy and joyous, he wasn’t channeling all his rage and anger towards his mother, either. He simply stared down at her coldly and neutrally as he responded, “It’s better if we go out; we need food for tonight, anyway.”

Clasping her hands together, Carrie nodded as her jaw dropped, “Oooh yes!” she exclaimed in awe, “I forgot that money’s tough to come by, these days, and perhaps shacking up with a creature that doesn’t need to eat and drink is less of a financial burden, isn’t it Gavin?” She was smirking and grinning like the Devil, and Gavin couldn’t put up with it any longer.

Backing away, he threw out softly, “We’ll be back soon, but if you want to take a walk, yourself, maybe you should—”

“Relax,” Carrie retorted, digging into her school bag as she pulled out a silver Macintosh laptop, “I have to work as I’m here, and that’s why I can’t stay more than a day at the most.” Setting up her laptop on the coffee table, she then waved her hands at them as she grunted, “Shoo shoo, then!”

“Glad to,” Gavin spat, and in an instant, he’d turned around and marched off into the hallway so he could put on his shoes.

While he hurriedly put them on, Nines craned his head down, and he tried coming up with something that was still on the edge of decent to Carrie. But he struggled with it; this woman wasn’t a pleasant individual to be around and entertain, and once he’d made up his mind about someone, he found it quite the challenge to change his opinions and views.

Carrie Moser for now was set in an irreversible path…a path she’d no doubt carved, chiseled, and paved for herself.

Still, Nines wished she had some redeeming qualities, but he decided to visit that topic another time, another day.

All he could do was bow his head in obeisance as he followed Gavin out the door.

However, before he could try to leave, he heard Carrie call out to him to get him to stop.

“Oh Nines?” she almost sang in a childish way, and he really had to force himself to stop and look at her.

When their eyes met, a sadistic smile grew upon her face, and she suddenly seemed so lively and a bit younger.

Never ceasing to smile, she heartily laughed out, “Do you happen to know the Wi-Fi password by any chance?”

Chapter Text

Gavin was simply relieved to finally be out of the apartment and away from his mother’s scorn and garrulous talk. Her foolish words still haunted him, but he was considerably more relaxed once he was physically out of the apartment, so Nines took notice of. Gavin was practically bolting down the steps to the parking lot of the fancy apartment complex, descending two steps at a time. Upon being outside, he inhaled many breaths of fresh air while the wind whistled past his ears.

Nines stood by and simply observed him, swallowing down his harsh words and contempt for Carrie Moser that had steadily built up since he’d met her.

Not wanting to be watched all day long, Gavin propped his messy bangs back as he asked, “What should we do now?” He knew that while he was a grown man capable of being in charge of handling his own affairs and making his own well-informed decisions, he’d still asked Nines, and it was far too late to retract that statement now that it’d wavered freely in the air between them.

Somewhat despondent, Nines swiftly replied, “Lunch, Detective?”

Right.

Nodding, Gavin didn’t wish to cease showing Nines deference. “I guess,” he sighed softly, shifting his feet about awkwardly. The detective was aware of the android’s calm, blue eyes dancing in the low afternoon light, but it didn’t aid in Gavin’s tongue loosening anytime soon. He breathed with mild caution in the back of his throat, “Is there some place within walking distance?” When Nines clearly threw him a look that seemed to warrant another explanation, Gavin relented, “I swear, I’m just not in the mood to drive right now.”

A massive, burning hand caught him by the elbow, gentle and guiding. “I understand, Detective,” Nines stated calmly as he held a penitent gaze in his eyes, “I know a rather good place just a block away, but it’s a Cantonese take-out shop.”

There was no requirement for the place they obtained their food from to be ornate and superb. As long as they got something, it was good enough for Gavin, especially considering how the shorter man had lived majority of his young adult life eating and consuming more carbs than he should have.

“That’s fine,” Gavin was quick to dart out as he stifled the instinct to jump or pull away when he felt how strong Nines’ hand was on his shoulder. While he allowed Nines to guide him away from the parking lot, he added as he blinked quickly, averting his eyes, “Even if it was a European circus serving popcorn on elephant asses, I’d go for it any damn day.”

Upon hearing the acrid statement, Nines chose to ignore the feisty comment as he led the way onward. Gavin didn’t say much else as he played with his dark wallet. For nearly a full minute, they walked side by side in silence, enjoying the crispy weather when Gavin suddenly frowned deeply.

Falling back a little, he hissed thinly, “Oh, good job back there blurting out all that unnecessary bullshit to my mom.” Giving the tall android a thumbs-up that was purely sarcastic, he finished bitingly, “Way to go, Nines.”

Nines wasn’t entirely as fluent in the language of sarcasm as Gavin happened to be, but he still knew when the petulant man was dishing out his fair share of it. After all, Nines had had already two years of observing how Gavin behaved almost six days a week for eight hours per day. He was rather accustomed to all the behavior patterns by now.

“I don’t appreciate the condescending jab at my expense, Reed,” Nines snarled as he walked slowly, hoping that the words would seep into Gavin’s head for once.

As their shoes crunched down on brown and orange dried-up leaves that had long since fallen and withered away, the clouds above were gently blown back and forth in the vast, cerulean sky. A few times, the sun was covered, only to reemerge when the wind blew once again.

Gavin snorted, “Well, I didn’t appreciate you tellin’ her all that anyway, you know!!”

Still advancing slowly, Nines retorted, “Well, then for the next time, Reed, why don’t you be faster to provide a more sagacious response, then?”

“Oh, I will!” Gavin roared practically, and as he purposefully slammed his shoulder into Nines’ in an attempt at stopping the android’s words from stinging, he also added, “not like there will be a next time, anyway!!”

Nines hoped not as well.

Trying to knock into Nines again, Gavin slammed his other shoulder back into the android’s powerful sternum, but it was a foolish attempt. Nines had already resumed his rapid walking pace, his wide gait troublesome for Gavin to keep up with for long. Though he tried as he broke out into a tiny jog, Gavin found himself falling behind rather quickly.

Damn Nines and his long, long legs!!!

With a sigh and a strong burst of speed put forth, he pushed off both feet and just barely managed to tap on Nines’ broad back when he was close enough. It caught the stern android’s attention, and as he stopped moving, he turned to offer Gavin a most annoyed scowl. Gavin flinched before he gathered his guts and nerves.

Oh, how he’d wanted to say just exactly what was currently spinning around in his mind like a tornado to Nines right then and there, but his barriers and defense mechanisms abruptly prevented it from happening.

Switching gears, he glared down at the black Poet shirt instead, and hissed sharply, “Why’re you wearin’ that thing again?!”

Shrugging his hand off his shoulder once he’d taken in the crude words, Nines grunted dully, “I don’t have to answer to you, Reed.” As he resumed walking, he came upon a crosswalk and paused, waiting for the damn ‘walk’ symbol and signals to flash. It seemed to take forever as the traffic drove on by, the loud sounds of tires and engines drowning out his thoughts.

While Gavin stood a few inches away, he nodded over at a few cars and cyclists, “Nines, people are starin’ at you…”

“Well spotted, Reed,” Nines’ lips and mouth hardly moved as he bit out, “I don’t care, though.”

Stepping away from him gradually so there was enough room between their bodies, Gavin blushed, “Well, I do!! I’m gonna be seen with you, and people are gonna think that I’m hanging out with a damn weirdo!”

“Then you’re more than welcome to act as if I don’t exist, Reed,” came Nines’ stern suggestion, and a second later, the ‘walk’ symbol appeared beneath the traffic lights.

Surreptitiously fidgeting with his clothing, Gavin strode over along as well, though he still kept his distance from Nines as if the android had some sort of strange, highly contagious disease. Well, if Gavin wanted to think of him in such a lowly manner, he was more than welcome to it, Nines supposed.

Even though he was very well aware of the curious and judgmental glares he was receiving, Nines walked on straight ahead with his head held high. After all, he wasn’t some depraved lunatic running around the streets of Detroit! He was just choosing to dress in an entirely new style, and if people wished to gape openly at him for it, so be it.

His audio receptors caught the sounds of Gavin’s footsteps reluctantly following him all the way up until Nines stood and gestured to his left to point at a partly open door. Gavin then completely stopped as well.

Swallowing anxiously while he hoped no one was really watching them, Gavin gazed at the establishment they were stopped in front of. It was a shop that rested and stood between a pawn shop and an old pet store. Nodding at the sign above notifying the public that the store was indeed open, Gavin muttered resentfully, “This is it, huh?”

Nines only sneered, “You can wait out here if you’re still embarrassed to be seen around me.” Not wanting to admit it, but the fact that he’d vocalized what he was certain Gavin was going to be doing seemed to sting within himself even more. How decadent!

Rolling his eyes as means of a nonverbal response, Gavin snapped moodily as he opened the door, “You won’t know what to order, so I’m coming with you.”

“Fine.”

As they both walked inside, they both found the place to be completely empty, thankfully. Asian letters, drawings, art, and décor had been placed all around the shop, and gentle Asian music played on the radio. Steam and sweet-smelling odors flocked around Gavin and Nines, and as the short detective’s mouth watered in need, he stood himself before the front counter. There wasn’t a single soul in sight, but that didn’t deter Gavin. Peeking down, he saw a tiny, golden bell resting between two golden fire-breathing dragons, and he tapped the bell gingerly with his middle finger once.

One meek chime rang out, but it apparently wasn’t nearly enough to garner attention.

Damn.

Tapping the bell one more time, Gavin cleared his throat, hoping someone would show up, now.

Nines sighed, “Why don’t you call for someone, Reed?”

Resisting the urge to shove Nines away, Gavin stammered out weakly, “H-hello?!”

Nines glared at the back of Gavin’s head. If looks could kill.

“Hello?” Gavin called out one final time while also praying this would be the last of it. Very soon, he gave up as he shrugged, “Guess there’s no one home, come on.”

Before he could turn away completely, Nines’ arm shot out suddenly, and he slammed the palm of his right hand directly down over the bell. A most loud, abrasive chime echoed and sounded then, and Gavin felt his cheeks and neck beginning to heat up.

“That wasn’t necessary, you total dork!” he reproached, though the intractable android at his side didn’t seem to pay his insult any mind.

Ignoring him, Nines again reached for the small bell. “Someone’s got to muster up the courage, Detective,” came the sibilant jab at his shyness.

This time, he shoved Nines as hard as he could while hissing dangerously, “Don’t do that again!”

“Ahh!! Hello there, gentlemen!!” A soft-but excited voice rang out to them so suddenly that Gavin leapt back. Nines however remained calm, so much that Gavin eyed the languid, tall android with a hint of envy and resentment in his eyes burning fiercely.

As Gavin broke away from Nines, the stoic android accepted the move with equanimity. Both Gavin and Nines were staring on as they saw an Asian man of perhaps Japanese ethnicity standing on the other side of the counter. He wasn’t any taller than Gavin, but he seemed to be far more amicable than the moody, sour detective. He had a white hairnet on, a yellow and orange stained apron over his torso, as well as clean white gloves on his hands. He had a black, short goatee, and dark brown eyes that were rather gentle and welcoming.

Realizing he’d been standing there doing nothing but gaping and gawking oddly, Gavin’s thoughts ran messily as his breaths came out undulating, slightly. Trying to coax some kind of a different and far less mortifying reaction out of himself in the hopes that he would snap out of his ogling, Gavin rubbed and wiped his hands over his jeans as he awkwardly said, “Umm, yeah, do y-you happen to have a s-special deal of the day or anything?” He knew this sounded rather thrifty and cheap, but he wasn’t exactly wallowing in money and luxurious riches for that matter, either.

The short Asian man nodded, and then smiled, revealing a mouth full of braces strewn over pearly white teeth. “Today is only Chicken Chow Mein!!” he guffawed in zeal, and Gavin and Nines merely stared at each other blankly.

Blinking once, Gavin stated, “I’ll go with that…please…”

The Oriental man got to work immediately, rushing to the back of the kitchen behind the counter to begin cooking. In an instant, however, he was abruptly stopped. A tiny, pale hand shot out, and like a deadly viper, one of its bony fingers pinched the chef’s right ear until it turned pink.

“Ayi yi yi yi!!! Grandma!!” squealing, he whined out his protests like a scorned child, and he was dragged back out towards the counter.

At his side was an elderly Asian woman with long grey and black hair tied back in a tight bun. Bits of her hair fell out in some small tendrils when she bowed her head at Nines and Gavin in obeisance. As she held onto the younger man, he resisted her and struggled a few more times, but ceased struggling when she threw him a serious glare.

“Oh, I apologize!” he quickly spoke out to Gavin and Nines, “I forgot to ask how many people I’ll be cooking for!!” Hoping this was good enough, he winced as he stared at the woman currently holding onto his ear in a death-like grip.

Uncomfortably, Gavin replied, “Err, two…”

As soon as this response had been delivered, the older woman yanked on the young man’s ear one last before she reluctantly let him go. While lowering her voice conspiratorially, she hissed out a stream of sibilant terse words in Japanese, Gavin supposed. Aiming them all at the young chef, she shook her head dismissively at him as he raced back into the kitchen. At once, as the door swung widely open, both Gavin and Nines saw the image of a young Asian girl smiling at them. She was wearing a pink, fuzzy sweater, and her clean, shiny black hair had been braided in one long braid. Giggling in excitement, she tore away from the doorway, but before she disappeared completely, Gavin and Nines caught the unmistakable round LED light spinning brightly blue on her right temple.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“Do you suppose your mother is suffering right now in pure boredom?” Nines asked while Gavin played with a small potted plant near one of the store windows. The dour detective was currently seated on a red stool as he stared on dully ahead, hardly having heard Nines until the annoyed android repeated his concern importunately.

Gavin only shrugged, but he should have known it wouldn’t assuage the android’s curiosity in the slightest.

“You should answer,” Nines chided him, “she’s your mother; not some stranger we picked up off the street.”

This wasn’t a matter he felt he could expiate for in regard to his apparent offense...not so easily, it seemed. Letting the plant’s leaves go, Gavin sighed out at the clean windows, “Knowing my mom, she likely is working on her next book for the University.”

Nines raked his eyes heavenward, “Publish or perish, yes,” he nodded as he understood, “is she currently on sabbatical?”

“Kinda,” came the coaxed reply out of Gavin in a gentle way, but it was so the chef or anyone else wouldn’t hear their conversation. “She teaches part-time, but she usually does more research,” he admitted openly as Nines listened intently and quite carefully.

Assuming that the not-so-maternal Dr. Moser was somehow ‘entertaining’ herself this way, Nines awaited the food as steam rose steadily out of the kitchen in tiny waves and clouds.

“Smells good,” Gavin commented as he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

Nines turned to watch as the expert chef pan-fried the chow mein noodles by tossing and turning them about in the dark pan while he added and mixed in some soy sauce. Then, he topped many tender slices of chicken breast over it, followed by fresh, crisp vegetables. It all sizzled and steamed nicely while he worked and slightly swayed his hips, clearly enjoying himself tremendously.

The observant android knew they’d been waiting almost half an hour so far. The chef appeared to nearly be done, and the elderly woman he’d referred to as ‘grandma’ kept smiling politely the entire time. The android child was nowhere in sight, however, and Gavin was truly curious about her.

As he scented pure sesame oil about wafting in the stuffy air, Gavin tried acting casual as he leaned next to Nines and whispered, “Do you think that girl’s his daughter, by the way?”

Knowing he was obviously referring to the chef, Nines softly supplied, “Your guess is as good as mine, Reed.”

“Hmm,” Gavin only hummed in the way of contributing to the conversation, and he stopped thinking about it when the chef shut off the stove and poured in the remaining tablespoon of salt into the skillet of food.

Fingers and hands wiggling as if he was performing a magic trick, he added and decorated the two cartons holding the noodles now with a lovely mixture of celery, carrots, bean sprouts, chopped slices of onions, shredded green onions, and gave the food one last stir and shake before he added the steaming chicken into the cartons last on top of the noodles.

Nines made his way towards the counter just as the chef reappeared from the kitchen, and this time, the child android’s curious dark eyes could be seen as she beamed at Nines from behind ‘grandma’.

Placing the food cartons into two separate white plastic bags neatly, the chef headed to a small fridge in the left-hand corner away from the counter, and as he opened it, he asked loudly, “What drink you want, guys?”

They had a choice, it seemed, as part of the daily special.

Gavin shrugged indecisively as he scratched the back of his head. Finally, he coughed out uncomfortably, “Water, I guess.”

Two bottles of cold water were then slid up over the top of the counter beside the bags of food.

“Thank you,” Nines gratefully spoke, “I’m sure it’ll be delectable.” It was an odd statement to make considering how he wouldn’t be able to eat it himself, but the chef didn’t seem to pick up on that inconsistency.

As though Nines’ polite statement hardly mattered at all, the chef held out his hand expectantly as he grunted, “You pay money, now?”

A brutally harsh slap was instantly delivered across the back of the chef’s skull, then.

“Yaaaaaaaiiiieeeee!!” he screamed painfully while flinching and taking cover, “grandmaaaa!!”

Snarky Asian words flew out of her mouth by way of stern warnings for a full minute before she turned and smiled at both Nines and Gavin, appearing to be such a sweet old lady, suddenly.

With a small blush in his cheeks, the chef apologized, “Sorry sirs,” he cleared his throat while the android girl skipped away into the back. Bashfully, he asked, “How would you like to pay?”

Gently opening his wallet, Gavin fished out two twenties and pushed them into Nines’ hand, clearly communicating that he didn’t want deal with this any longer.

All too eagerly, Nines paid for the meal up front with the cash, and he bowed his head respectfully at both shop owners.

“Good day,” he said briskly to them gently, and just as Gavin had been about to head back out into the street, the Asian chef abruptly coughed out, trying to get their attention at the very last minute.

It worked.

A light brown eyebrow quirked up as Nines hummed deeply, “Yes?”

Clearly having been forced into doing this, the chef’s face held all the discomfort on Earth as he grinned painfully. It was only a pantomime of mere happiness, however.

“Fortune cookie?” holding up the three wrapped cookies in his hands, he added, “one for you, too!!”

Nines found he couldn’t refuse.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

To say that dinner had been ‘awkward’ was the understatement of the century, truly.

Carrie complained that the tablecloth of the tiny vampire bats flying about was nothing but childish and silly, so she opted instead for eating her meal at the coffee table. It seemed to suit Gavin just fine, and the thirty-eight-year-old ate his own meal at the kitchen table-as far away from his mother as possible.

Not entirely comfortable with leaving the woman alone, Nines sat on the same chair resting next to the sofa and tried initiating a conversation with Carrie. Of course, it was damn near impossible to do that when Carrie watched videos on her laptop and read through articles instead of even regarding Nines.

Pulling teeth would be easier, it seemed.

The android still displayed how patient he could be throughout such a hardship, and he only spoke when Carrie’s last video ended.

Smiling widely at her, he inquired gently, “Is the food any good?”

“Very nice,” was the eventual verdict as the older woman pushed her noodles around with a plastic fork.

Still wanting to engage her further to be a good host, Nines asked, “It’s to your liking? That’s good to hear—”

Cutting him off quickly, Carrie hissed, “I’m not convinced just by one visit, you know.”

It was time to cut the bullshit, it seemed.

“What’ll it take for you to approve, Dr.?” He knew Gavin was listening in quite intently despite being in the other room. It didn’t matter; he spoke loudly and clearly enough so Gavin could hear everything.

Carried chuckled in amusement, “A very forward and upfront person, huh?” continuously snickering in a most sinister way while the corners of her eyes wrinkled, she concluded, “that’s rather refreshing of you, Nines.”

Not caring to hear more of her nasty, pointed comments, Nines hissed, “I want to live with Gavin and make him happy each day.”

“Not good enough, Nines,” Carrie’s barbed retort slammed into the air, and as Gavin stood and gazed at them from the space between the living room and the kitchen, Carrie stared at her fork while winding some more thick noodles onto the prongs. Holding it up before her own eyes, she smiled a rather demented version of a smile as she said, “I’ll return in the spring, because I’m actually seriously willing to give you a chance.”

Practically climbing wildly over his own feet, Gavin stumbled up to his own mother as he cried out vehemently, “Spring?! Why so long?!”

Sensing that the detective was timorous enough as it was, Nines only hoped with all his might that Carrie would be a bit merciful in granting him a wise response to his question that would set things on a clearer path…if there was one.

However, Carrie’s imperious manner had already done well to intimidate her son, and it seemed she was dead set on continuously vilifying Gavin to her heart’s content.

Motioning at him while eyeing Nines rather sternly as if he were her bratty son instead, she spat, “I believe time here will only determine if this is all a crock of shit you two are trying to feed me, or if it’s something genuine.”

A rather wistful smile was upon Nines’ face, then, “I understand, Dr. Moser.”

“I think this is garbage!!” Gavin profusely screamed as he bunched up his fists tightly. “This is—”

“This is me giving you a chance,” Carrie interjected quickly and harshly, and it did well to silence her vitriolic son immediately as his mouth snapped shut and pressed into a thin line.

Once it remained silent, Carrie waved at Nines, “Look, I don’t know why, but something’s very fishy here, and I’m not going to allow Gavin to sign off the papers, meet with his dad’s attorney, and just hand over everything that easily.” Crossing her legs, she whispered, “No, I’m sorry, but I’ll return in the spring as I said before, and I’m done discussing and bargaining with you on this subject, Gavin.”

The argument was finished even before it started, and while Gavin could only stand back and fume in silence as he boiled beet red in the face and neck, Carrie grabbed her small fortune cookie. Cracking and breaking it in amusement, she cried out in zeal as her eyes went wide.

“Let’s see your fortune, then!!” waving her paper around in the air once the two halves of her cookie had fallen apart, she read out to them, “mine says: ‘Love and live each day anew, appreciate the youthfulness in the soul, as sometimes your path relies on the bridges of smiles others create for you!”

Turning to Gavin, then, she leaned to the side, staring past him into the kitchen. “Well, Gavin?!” she snorted, “what does your fortune cookie tell you?”

This time, it wasn’t just Gavin who was raging internally; Nines was on the brink of exploding as well, but he had to contain and conceal it as best as he could when Carrie sighed and blinked at him in faux innocence.

Grinning, she sighed, “I do wonder what an android could possibly want for good fortune…” eyes glinting with malice, she spat, “oh, do tell, Nines…”

Chapter Text

Both Carrie Moser and Gavin had left Nines’ apartment that same night after supper. Carrie stated she had to gather more things for her research and prepare for her lectures, and Gavin-while on the edge of rage-merely told Nines that he had to go back to living as he normally did, and he had to take care of his cats.

Of course, the pensive android didn’t stop Gavin from doing whatever he pleased. He wasn’t one to force anyone into anything, but he held a lot of questions for Gavin now that he’d met Carrie Moser. The woman was truly an enigmatic beast of a creation, and while Nines abhorred the idea of wanting to get to know more about her, he found it was a topic that was rather difficult to avoid. If he wanted to help Gavin, he found he had to know about Carrie Moser quite well.

Unfortunately, Gavin wasn’t in a ‘talking mood’.

When he’d bolted from Nines’ apartment that night, the android had foolishly thought that like many times in the past when he’d been upset, Gavin Reed would supposedly go off somewhere in the comforts of his own security and privacy, wait it all out, stew a bit, and then return when he was in ‘better spirits’.

Of course, he’d been wrong for the first time in a while.

Unpredictable as ever, Gavin didn’t ‘come back’ to him. He’d left a lot of his personal stuff in Nines’ apartment, and he didn’t seem to care enough or show enough concern to even ask for them back. It surprised and stymied Nines for a while, and when they were to return back to work, Nines figured he would approach the angry detective and inquire about his personal items.

It was absolutely horrendous.

Yes, Nines had respected Gavin enough to give him his own personal time and space, but again, human unpredictability had weighed in greater than Nines’ unique strengths and state of the art powers in this case. Nothing he said or did was effective and ‘decent’, it seemed.

When he’d approached Gavin’s desk on Wednesday, Gavin immediately began ‘working’. Answering phone calls, booking meetings, checking his files and documents, the detective suddenly had no time at all to even wave at him.

Well, work came first, and Nines respected that enough, so he vowed to try the following day…only that hadn’t worked, either.

Gavin was still ‘busy’, it seemed, but he was also growing a tad more aggressive each day that Nines tried isolating him to talk and just check up on him. At first, Gavin merely avoided him or would clearly head in the opposite direction if he saw Nines approaching. But after another day of this pattern of behavior not yielding the results he’d wanted, Gavin took to really being rude and distasteful towards Nines.

After Friday, Nines ruefully decided to back off a little, but he chose instead to reach out to Gavin through text. Perhaps that would aid in coaxing some response out of the moody, grumpy detective, Nines hoped.

On Saturday afternoon, Nines merely composed a simple greeting consisting of:

RK900, 1:19 p.m.

Good afternoon, Reed. How are you?

Of course, there’d been crickets on the other end, and after five hours of waiting around for a reply, Nines decided to try again.

RK900, 6:22 p.m.

I don’t mean to pester you, Reed, but I’m a bit worried because you haven’t said a word to me all week, and a lot of your personal items are still taking up space in my home. Would you like to come by and retrieve them? Please do let me know, but there’s no rush, and I won’t be throwing them out at all. I’ll keep them all here for you until you choose to drop in at your own time and leisure.

Take care.

Thinking that this sincere, polite message would definitely warrant some kind of a reply, Nines actually found himself sitting down on a chair while staring at his phone. Whenever it would try to go to sleep to conserve energy, he would tap it and make sure it remained brightly lit.

Gavin would text any minute, now.

…..

But he didn’t.

Checking the time, Nines supposed that Gavin could’ve been eating, so he gave the man another hour before he tried another text.

RK900, 7:31 p.m.

Are any of my messages being sent? Please do let me know.

Hoping he wasn’t being bothersome, Nines checked his phone constantly, but it seemed like this message was also being ignored…until his phone alerted him to an incoming new text, and Nines sat up straightly as he glued his eyes fixedly onto the screen.

He found however that what was there wasn’t exactly what he’d been dying to read after many hours of waiting nervously in silence while also trying to be respectful.

Detective Reed, 7:34 p.m.

stop fuckin textin me.

Well…that wasn’t lovely to read, and it set Nines off already in a foul mood.

Texting back quickly with a glare in his eyes and a red LED light, he mentally went over his previous text messages, and he couldn’t see how any of them were bad, rude, disrespectful, or even annoying. He was just concerned and wanted to help!!!

Making sure his next response indicated and reflected that, he went over the message twice before hitting ‘send’.

RK900, 7:39 p.m.

I hope I’m not being rude, Detective, but I just want to know of your plans as far as your belongings are concerned, because a week has gone by and you haven’t communicated with me what you wish to do with them.

Just let me know and I’ll stop bothering you.

That was it!! Maybe it would all be clear, now.

…..

Except, it wasn’t, and Gavin’s next text showed that as majority of the spelling errors and caps lock words seemed to indicate a lot of heated and angry emotions had been poured forth into composing the message rather than calm, rational thought.

Detective Reed, 7:41 p.m.

get lost alrdy u peece of plastic shit,i dont want tooo talk, so gett tht thru ur thicc brain!

With a sigh, Nines texted back hurriedly.

RK900, 7:42 p.m.

So you’d prefer it if I threw out your items, then?

He knew he had no right to do that, and threatening Gavin was just plain wrong, but he couldn’t help but feel his own personal feelings and emotions already stirring and becoming involved in this when nothing seemed to want to sink into Gavin’s thick head.

Continuing when there hadn’t been another response, Nines ranted on, completely lost to his rising and increasing anger and contempt.

RK900, 7:46 p.m.

I don’t want to threaten you, but try putting yourself in my shoes for once! Upon such short notice, I agreed to ‘marry you’, and I let you rearrange practically everything in my house to better suit your needs and purposes. I allowed your mother to arrive on such short notice as well, and she was nothing but rude, short-tempered, childish, and selfish, yet I put up with it, Reed! I don’t have an issue with any of that, as I somehow already knew and accepted that it would come along with the ‘task’ set upon me, but what I really don’t wish to accept is how rude and cold you’re being when I’m still trying to make things as painless for the both of us as possible. Either way, whatever you decide to do, I’d like to know about it. I still want to help you in any way I can, but I’m not a mind reader. You have to talk to me and tell me what you want me to do, otherwise, I’m at a loss for words.

Just talk to me, Reed. Tell me what’s on your mind, and I will try to accommodate it and help you.

While that was slightly on the edge of ‘begging’, it had been composed and sent directly from the ‘heart’. In the past, Nines had always thought that ‘speaking from the heart’ was a silly, archaic terminology that had to be entirely and completely removed from the list of English words and phrases to use, but when he was placed in such a tight corner such as this, he felt it was appropriate to say that and appeal to Gavin’s ‘good nature’. He hoped the man would finally understand him now and see ‘eye-to-eye’. Gavin definitely would if it was all kept ‘real’ and genuine, and Nines considered himself as ‘real’ and as ‘genuine’ as the definition of the terms could be.

He held a lot of high hopes for a good response and a positive turnabout now, and as he sat back smiling and eagerly waiting to move on to the next productive steps with Gavin, he took a moment to congratulate himself on finally empathizing like a master when it came to handling a human being. He’d seen Connor doing that a lot before, and for the first year of his time spent at the DPD, Nines didn’t entirely understand what it meant to show empathy and compassion. As he slipped further and further into deviancy and as his software instability increased exponentially as time went on, he could finally grasp at least a little of what Connor had described and boasted about experiencing to him many times.

Now, he was finally ‘one’ with people; ‘one’ with his emotions.

The phone buzzed, then; Gavin was still responding!!

Gazing down at the words, as he read through each of them, Nines’ smile crashed and burned.

Detective Reed, 7:58 p.m.

holy shit, if ur dun with ur stupid rant, how about i tell you wat i really want! wat i want first of all is to clear out the smel of cat barf and piss becuz i spent like 3 hours cleanin it out now that my cats r usd 2 peeing everywher an i hav 2 clean it always when i get home thanks to forgetting it al becuz of u!

Apparently, the detective really was livid, for he quickly sent another broken, chopped text, and they kept on coming one right after another, each of them stabbing Nines in the thirium pump more and more, deeper and deeper.

Detective Reed, 8:00 p.m.

afer tht, i want fr u too get fuked in the worst of wayd, and i want to shove my foot in ur ass until u can tast my laces!

Detective Reed, 8:01 p.m.

srsly i hate u, Nines! fuck u! fuck u!!!

And to top it all off in a classy, elegant way, Gavin sent a middle finger emoji.

Something in Nines snapped as he read over the last two text messages. He had no idea what he was feeling, and he certainly had no idea what he was even doing. All he knew was that he was faced with a sudden potent wave of anger and vitriol unlike any he’d ever experienced, and he needed to lash out to make his own rage as miniscule as possible.

Holding his phone strongly in both hands, he growled deeply, “So that’s your answer, then?! That’s how you feel about it?”

Rage overpowered him, and only one objective remained before his burning eyes.

Humiliate Gavin Reed; make him feel just as small and just as embarrassed.

He’d typed the next words without even thinking about it, and that had taken on an entirely new, darker aura around the conversation.

RK900, 8:05 p.m.

Fuck me? Very well, Reed. Are you offering?

There was a long pause before Gavin-thinking that Nines was bluffing-replied aggressively.

Detective Reed, 8:12 p.m.

bullshit, Nines, ur a pussy chickenshit. U wouldnt do that shit.

As his eyebrows rose, Nines was already working on the next response.

RK900, 8:13 p.m.

I’m dead serious, Reed. Set a time and place aside, and I’ll show you just what I can do to you.

On one hand, Nines meant this as a double-entendre for a threat of violence, perhaps, but Gavin didn’t seem to be reading it that way at all.

Detective Reed, 8:15 p.m.

u fuckin sicko, if u even touch me, ill report u to fowler.

RK900, 8:16 p.m.

Why so hasty to decline? Are you scared you actually might enjoy it?

Detective Reed, 8:18 p.m.

r u srs, Nines?>!?

He grinned dangerously as he nodded, even though Gavin couldn’t see it.

RK900, 8:20 p.m.

I said I’m damn serious, Reed. You know my address, and there’s a bed here. Your call.

Detective Reed, 8:22 p.m.

Nah, ur lying.

RK900, 8:22 p.m.

I assure you, I’m not. I can even show you how much this is affecting me by sending you a photo if you want…

Detective Reed, 8:23 p.m.

U god damn pervert…

That was the exact moment when Nines had to snap himself awake and turn away from his phone.

What the fuck was he doing?! What the fuck was he saying to Gavin?!

Reading through the conversation history, Nines was mortified to see that the amatory direction the chat had gone in was mostly his own doing and his own responsibility!! Gavin was just venting and ranting, and Nines had allowed him to goad him into a stupid childish word squabble of who was the bigger man, and who could dish out the harsher threats?!? Why had he done this?! How could he sit there and claim to be above humans and far more superior to them when he was just as lowly and just as bad?!

Beyond all this, he had made Gavin feel uncomfortable, and he was more than positive the petrified man was going to report this to Captain Fowler. Yes, he had every right to do so, because Nines knew and accepted that he had behaved erratically and had gone far out of line and far out of order. He never should have spoken this way to Gavin, much else, anyone he worked with!! The lines of ‘professionalism’ had now been terribly blurred, crossed, and completely annihilated, and it was all his own doing! How was he to even look at Gavin in the eyes, now?! It would be impossible!!!

Still, the selfish and more ‘machine’ side of Nines hoped and prayed that Gavin would be too scared to report anything to Captain Fowler, but the threat was there even in the conversation.

Not wanting to look at it anymore, Nines navigated to the top right-hand corner of the screen, and he selected ‘delete chat history’. Tapping it once resolutely like a judge pounding the gavel down, he’d made his choice; the conversation had to go.

And it was gone in a few seconds, and Nines turned off his phone. He would deal with whatever Gavin had in store for him come Monday, he supposed.

It was strange, though.

While the conversation had been completely erased from his phone, it stood out in his mind as clear as day.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin wasn’t at all surprised when he discovered that Nines had blocked his number. The detective learned of it when the following Monday at work during his break, he tried randomly calling Nines. He’d only done so when he noticed that Nines was purposefully avoiding him this time, and he’d made his mind to pick his belongings up from Nines’ apartment. As a few of his rings went through, after the fourth one, he heard an automated voice telling him that the person he’d been trying to reach wasn’t taking any calls at the moment.

It was a clear message, and due to the absurd conversation they’d had on Saturday, Gavin found he was more relieved than upset. This wasn’t an ex who’d blocked him on their phone, social media accounts, and lives. This was Nines, and he realized Nines had never conceded anything he chose to do at any point, despite Gavin’s own stern stipulations. Perhaps to Nines, they weren’t stipulations, but more like complaints and demands, but to Gavin, they were crucial and requirements.

Still, he didn’t exactly feel thrilled and want to get up and dance on his desk knowing he was blocked. Nines still had a lot of his personal stuff, and he wanted them back! Now that his apartment was clean and free of cat vomit and piss, he had room for his new belongings…kind of. Gavin at least desired to decorate his apartment for Halloween, which was literally half a week away, now. The day fell on a Sunday specifically, which would mean Gavin could be home for the occasion, but the unfortunate part was that it was somewhat difficult to enjoy Halloween in an apartment.

Gavin actually enjoyed handing out candy to children, for they often would come up with cool costume ideas every year as a mark of their creativity and bright, young imaginative minds. He only wanted to take a part in that creativity, but he couldn’t exactly see children running up and down stairwells or taking elevators throughout apartment complexes knocking on doors of every floor to ask for candy…this certainly sucked. Still, that didn’t mean celebrating Halloween was entirely out of the question, and he’d managed to celebrate it in his own special way…

Well, that usually involved being with someone else, at the very least.

All the other years during the holiday, he’d been with girlfriends or relatives. That made it all fun and so much better than being alone in his apartment like some crud just sitting on his couch and watching horror flicks until some unholy hour in the morning the next day.

…Sometimes alcohol had been involved as well if he was alone, and that was specifically the reason why Gavin preferred spending these moments around someone else who could distract him from relying on such means.

But who did he have, now?!

His mother was gone, he had no girlfriends, his cousins and relatives lived in different states, and he was pretty sure Tina didn’t want to really talk to him after their drunken encounter…but perhaps he could try Connor and Hank??

Sure, why not??

Setting aside time during his break, he made sure to breeze past Fowler’s office in a way he wouldn’t be noticed, and he took the trip down to the mail room with his heart weighing slightly less heavier in the hopes that perhaps either of the two of them would be available for a bit.

When he reached the inside of the mail room, Connor was busied with stamping a lot of letters and shredding the ones they no longer needed. He seemed busy, which usually meant ‘stay away until I’m done’, but Gavin wasn’t one for subtlety in matters such as this. Shunting up towards Connor as the RK800 steadfastly worked on, Gavin put on his best smile, and he leaned against the top edge of the desk.

When Connor failed to even look up to acknowledge him, Gavin cleared his throat. “Umm,” losing points already for ‘tact’, he hurriedly pushed out, “what’cha doin’ on Halloween, Connor?”

He heard a small snort coming from Hank, but he chose to ignore it for now.

Connor’s eyes barely flickered up to meet his before he grunted irritably, “Nothing that would interest you, I’m sure.”

“Try me.”

With a sigh, Connor glared up at him so intently, that Gavin visibly shrank from being placed under the android’s scrutinizing gaze. “I’m going out on a date, Gavin,” Connor answered, and as he did, Gavin felt his heart sinking gradually.

“Oh,” came his dull response, “that’s great, man…who’s the lucky—”

“None of your business,” Connor sang out, and then he buried his head and nose once again in his growing mountain of work.

So much for that, Gavin thought.

Turning his attention unto Hank, now, Gavin forced a smile onto his face. “What about you, Hank?” Truth be told, he didn’t exactly want to spend Halloween with someone considerably older due to their generation gap and lack of things in common, but he was running out of options quicker than he imagined. Suddenly, everyone appeared to already have ‘plans’…

Wiping his lips with the back of a hand, Hank barked out gruffly, “I’m actually planning on spending the night in with Sumo, Reed,” smiling gently, he continued, “I bought a pretty big bag of candy, and I want to see who comes trick-or-treating on my doorstep.”

Eyes lighting up at the prospect, Gavin cried, “Oh, great! Care for some company?”

At this precise moment, he saw Hank wincing before he uncomfortably replied, “Err, sorry, Reed, I’d just prefer bein’ on my own for a bit if it’s okay…” Waving a hand, he swiftly said, “Nothing personal, though, okay? I just…I dunno, I sometimes am reminded of Cole around this time of year and around Christmas, so it’s better if I’m alone, if you know what I mean.”

Well, he didn’t, but at the same time, he did. Not a parent himself, Gavin felt a bit strange when he relayed Hank’s statements, and he just couldn’t piece together why Hank would want to be alone if he was plagued with such dark, sad thoughts. At the same time, however, he held enough respect for the older man to understand that everyone grieved in a different way, and for some, the grieving process was lifelong, so it seemed. Who was he to really get in the way of that and step out of bounds to make Hank suffer or feel uncomfortable?

Tossing the other man a curt nod, he tried not voicing aloud his displeasure as he stated, “Cool, fair enough, Hank, just was wonderin’, I suppose.”

As he backed away while scratching the back of his head and then his deep scar running up his nose awkwardly, Gavin knew that Hank sensed his discomfort as he leaned across the table. Staring intently at Gavin, he sighed, “You’re lonely, I get it.”

Immediately getting defensive, Gavin snorted in disgust, “You don’t know shit, Anderson.”

Not wanting to engage in a heated cavil, Hank shrugged, while Connor looked up again, LED light yellow.

“Even I can see that you’re uptight, Gavin,” he butted in as he leaned his head on a propped-up hand casually, “your body posture says a lot.”

Noticing how badly his neck ached due to being tense and rigid with fury he’d been trying to bottle up inside himself, Gavin finally moved back as he inched towards the door. Waving a hand dismissively at Connor as if his words didn’t mean anything, he spat out heatedly, “Well, you’re wrong, asshole! I’m cool with doin’ my own thing, so why don’t you go fu—”

“Nines is lonely too, Reed,” Hank announced randomly, and it was such an odd statement that it made Gavin freeze up as he held onto the door handle.

An eyebrow quirking up, he grunted out, “What’s that, Anderson?”

Staring at him blankly, it seemed that Hank really was taking into consideration not to display any facial expressions, no doubt a chiefly wise psychological tactic meant for the purposes of keeping things calm so that Gavin didn’t think he was being judged. It worked, and the detective immediately felt significantly calmer. Now, he would allow Hank to speak freely, and the older male took advantage of that opportunity.

“Look, Reed,” he began in a tone that suited a father talking to his son, “while I think you’re doin’ well gettin’ used to accepting androids into society lately and not really bullyin’ people we work with anymore like you used to, I still think you’re awfully pigheaded when it comes to Nines.”

That hadn’t been something he’d wanted to hear, and immediately, he rebuked, “The hell does that shit mean, Hank? I treat Nines the same way I treat Connor.”

Rolling his dark brown eyes, Connor hissed, “Uhh…no, you really don’t.”

“I do too!”

Shaking his head, Hank grumbled, “No, Reed, you really don’t, and there’s no sense arguing it when it’s a pretty well-known thing around here.”

Realizing there was no way he could be the victor in this skirmish, Gavin kicked lightly at the door. He really couldn’t say anything aside for, “I don’t want to hang out with Nines for Halloween…or ever!!”

“And why not?” came Hank’s next logical question.

……

There wasn’t a way he could really broach the subject of the weirdness involving Nines on Saturday, really. It was awkward, gross, perverted, sick, and he didn’t want to be seen as a victim who was being sexually harassed by a god damn machine, of all things. That would make him ‘pussy of the month’ in his workplace, and he didn’t need that headache among all other ones he currently had.

Turning his nose up in the air, he just hissed, “He’s a loser, that’s why.”

Hank laughed a dry laugh, “Really, Reed?”

“He dresses funny!” Gavin snapped, which hadn’t been entirely a lie.

“Reed,” Hank growled, and it was no doubt a warning meant to hush Gavin up. It did that well, and Gavin’s mouth closed as he fiddled with the door handle for a while, simply staring at it while his cheeks, ears, and neck heated up.

Only Hank Anderson could scold him enough and render him feeling like a five-year-old.

“Instead of judging Nines, why don’t you try talking to him and befriending him?” Hank’s suggestion bounced off his shoulders and then seemed to slap Gavin across the face roughly.

Glancing up, Gavin’s eyes narrowed. “Look, just because he’s my fake ‘partner’, doesn’t mean I have to see him more, right?”

There was a heavy silence that followed, and it seemed to cut deeply into Gavin’s nerves. “RIGHT?!” he nearly screamed explosively, but all Hank and Connor did was stare down at their work as they both simultaneously shrugged.

Scoffing, Gavin snapped, “Some help you two are.” After all, hadn’t Hank supposedly claimed that Nines was an ‘honorable’, ‘good guy’? How could that be the truth after the twisted, perverse way he’d spoken to him on Saturday?!

Refusing to believe it, Gavin threw his hands up into the air as he stepped out of the mail room.

The door slammed shut loudly, practically shaking the foundations as he stormed away feeling angrier and lonelier than ever.

Chapter Text

“Reed, get in here!”

Gavin peered into Captain Fowler’s office meekly, his face hovering in the open doorway while his grouchy superior leaned against a filing cabinet behind his desk with a white file folder in his hands. He was wearing his reading glasses, and they slid down to the tip of his nose as he didn’t even so much as stare at Gavin.

Feeling odd that his boss somehow sensed he’d been lurking about the outside of his office, Gavin cleared his throat as he walked in like a snail on crutches. “Sir?”

“Hmm?” Fowler grunted, still reading the file he was currently holding onto.

“How did you know I was—”

“Reed,” came the low growl, and Captain Fowler finally closed the file folder and shoved it inside one of the top drawers of the cabinet. “I simply got tired of you dancing around my office, son,” he pointed out as he took his reading glasses off and folded them neatly in the left pocket of his dress shirt, “what do you want?”

Well, that was rather neat and to the point, Gavin supposed. Hanging his head down, he asked, “You got anything new for me?”

Understanding where the conversation was going, Fowler nodded as he stroked his chin. “Senior citizen called in last week again because his angsty teenage granddaughter ran off with her boyfriend again.”

Gavin rolled his eyes, “Sooo why doesn’t he call up a damn family counselling service?”

“Don’t give me mouth, Reed,” Fowler growled in a low warning as he lowered his hand away from his chin and placed both his hands on his strong hips, now. “Franklin’s just worried because he woke up to his safe busted wide open, and he had over two grand in the damn thing and now it’s all gone.”

Whistling as his eyebrows rose up to his hairline, Gavin understood, now. “Fair enough, Cap,” he pushed out as he then inquired, “you want me to go get Chris, now?”

Sarcastically, Fowler jutted out his chin as he snapped, “Yeah, Reed, now would be a good fuckin’ time to get Chris.”

“Okay, okay, Jesus!” Moving back quickly, he nearly tripped over the legs of a chair resting against a wall as he poked his head out and stared at Chris. When their eyes met, the other officer gave him an understanding nod.

“Reed,” Fowler grunted, “I want Nines to come along with you two.”

All the blood then ran cold as it turned into ice within Gavin’s body. Turning his neck around so swiftly that it let out an audible ‘crack’, Gavin gasped out, “What?!”

Wincing, Fowler replied, “You best take up some yoga classes, son; you’re not getting any younger, and that noise sounded terrible!!” Ignoring how Gavin threw him a look of sheer contempt, he continued, “That’s why I take some time to attend to my knuckles, back, neck, and—”

“Nines isn’t coming with us, Cap,” Gavin stated dictatorially, as if he was the one in charge.

Fowler didn’t appreciate that at all, and he frowned a deep frown as he snarled, “Yes he is, Reed.”

“No, he’s not!”

“Don’t you argue with me, Reed,” his superior hissed at him acerbically, “shouldn’t you be happy with this?!”

Confused for a moment, Gavin threw out, “What’re you talkin’ about?”

Waving a hand at the ceiling, Fowler snapped, “Gavin, whatever the hell you’re puttin’ in your coffee, you ought to—”

“Why would I be happy with Nines tagging along?!” Gavin screamed, not wanting to venture off topic for long, and he hated that Fowler seemed to be insisting upon it a lot today.

Rolling his eyes impatiently, Fowler huffed, “Reed, isn’t he your fiancé?”

Oh…it all slammed back into his head, right then. Yes, Nines was his ‘fiancé’, and normally, a lot of people desired to be close to their fiancé. He shouldn’t have been the only exception to the rule, and Captain Fowler seemed already highly suspicious.

Tapping a finger on his chin in deep thought as a serious expression overcame his face, Captain Fowler stated, “You’re not having domestic issues, are you, Reed?”

Oh for fuck’s sake. So that’s the direction Fowler’s brain and thoughts had wandered off in? Fantastic.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Gavin snapped, “You’re ridiculous, Jeffrey.”

It didn’t matter that he’d used the other man’s first name; Fowler still pushed on. Sitting on the edge of his desk, he nodded at Gavin seriously, “Son, I’ve been married for nearly three whole decades,” he advised, “I won’t claim that marriage is an easy, joyous picnic! You gotta struggle and work hard every day!”

In an orotund voice, Gavin said, “That’s great, Cap, but if you don’t mind,” gesturing out into the bullpen, he finished, “gonna get goin’, now!!”

Fowler’s bombastic voice followed him as he descended the steps. “You’ll learn that every couple has their own methods of solving problems, Gavin,” he stated as he walked the same path Gavin had, clearly trying to follow him as the short detective disappeared. “Maybe you’ll learn to like Nines and appreciate everything he does for you!”

Not wanting to hear it anymore, Gavin cried out, “We’ll be back within an hour or two, Fowler!!”

An odd game of ‘ignoring’ seemed to carry out between Captain Fowler and Gavin Reed, then. As Gavin approached the area Chris was working in, Fowler stood tall and proud as he bellowed out, “Talking is a good way to learn a lot, Reed!!” Holding out his hands, he added, “You can always come to me for anything, son!! Remember; I have years of experience!!”

With the wave of a hand as his back was facing his superior, Gavin sighed and then nodded over at Chris. “Let’s go.”

“I mean, why not give it a try for the sake of this union?” Fowler continued his rant, shoving his hands deeply in his pockets and staring all around the bullpen in a fatuous way. “I know I like him!!”

Knowing he’d still been talking Nines up, Gavin only rolled his eyes and headed towards the DPD cars with Chris Miller at his heels, closely following with a little smirk painted over his face.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

The mood grew rather noisome as Gavin and Officer Chris Miller drove onward to check up on Franklin O’Sullivan, an elderly citizen of Detroit who’d reported numerous cases of having disputes and altercations with his granddaughter Mercedes. This had been the fourth case in the last two months, and needless to say, Gavin had grown weary of this. Evidently, Chris Miller had as well, but he still sat beside Gavin and stared at his phone while offering Gavin a small, toothy grin every so often.

Gavin soon grew weary of that, too.

Staring over at Chris, he barked, “What?”

The officer merely smiled and shook his head, “We’re gonna get our asses in hot water with Fowler.”

“So?”

“So…” Chris jerked his head at the window, “…I think it’s a little silly that my skin’s on the line because you chose to not let Nines tag along.”

Gavin threw the other man a rather quizzical look, “Since when do you care, man?”

Eyelashes fluttering sarcastically, Chris replied, “Since I noticed you and Nines got some trouble after the honeymoon period!!”

“Shut up, Chris,” Gavin hissed as he saw the sign bearing the street name ‘Dover Drive’. They turned right, and relying on pure rote memory due to having been here so many times, without much of a hassle, he located house number 76 in a jiffy.

As they parked on the right side of the street and got out of the vehicle, Franklin could be seen raking the leaves in the front yard of his property. He’d already bundled the crunchy, dried-up leaves into one large pile, and the child within Gavin wanted to go off running and leaping straight into it…

Shrugging that off, he nodded as he gave a small auspicious wave at Franklin. “Hey Franklin!”

“Hey Mr. O’Sullivan,” Chris followed in his lead as he too greeted the elderly man.

Wearing a small, blue tuque on his head, Franklin shifted his round, stout self over to lean on the top of his rake as he grunted at them both. “Afternoon, detectives.”

The yard looked a lot better and cleaner than in the summer, which meant that Franklin possibly had worked on it a lot more than he had rested inside the house. Gavin sometimes worried about the man approaching his seventies, but he kept his personal comments and worries to himself as he surveyed the property and noticed a few lights were on inside the main floor of the house.

“Mind if we chat inside, Franklin?”

Extending a hand away from his red and green plaid jacket, the chubby man answered, “By all means, you guys know the way.”

In no time at all, both Gavin and Chris found themselves standing near the end of the hallway. Franklin’s home was clean, tidy, quiet, and rather cold, but Gavin didn’t say a lot about it. Franklin lived in a pretty decent and well-to-do neighborhood, and his home reflected the fruits of his labor as a retired judge. The expensive home shined brightly when the sun hit it the right way, and all the furniture, decorations, as well as internal designs made Gavin rigid with envy as he thought about the tiny hovel he called ‘home’.

Putting way his rake and gardening equipment in the garage, Franklin wiped his hands over his grey sweatpants, and he turned and gently pulled the tuque off his head. He revealed silvery wisps of hair that were rather thin and wiry, and he hung his hat on a hook rack near the garage door.

Pulling down on his plaid jacket, he murmured, “I suppose you’ll want to take a look at the safe.”

“Err, sure,” Chris replied, “we can go from there.”

“Good.”

As Franklin led the way down the hall, Chris asked him a series of usual questions when it came to missing items and suspected robbery. Gavin listened…at first. Very soon however, his mind wandered to the current problem he was facing:

He had no one to spend Halloween with.

This bothered him, as he was well aware that Chris had toddlers and a wife to go home to and spend time with for sure on that occasion. These thoughts soon made the fractious detective begin stewing, and it got worse as he began experiencing some kind of otherworldly sensation. His mind remained on thoughts of his annoying predicament, while his ears, eyes, body, and even skin registered the feelings of walking down into Franklin’s cellar while Chris and the elderly ex-judge spoke on. He was aware of how much colder and staler the air was down there, and he saw shadows and the sight of the safe that had been broken in, the contents gone and everything else amiss.

But he still couldn’t get his mind off his problems.

For one, why had Nines blocked him!?!? It was such a stupid, childish thing to do, really!! He hadn’t even really done anything to warrant being blocked!!! If anything, he should’ve been the one blocking Nines, yet he hadn’t! He was way more mature!!! Nines had acted completely out of line, and he’d been gross and perverted, so what the hell!!!

“She’s being influenced by her older boyfriend, I can tell!”

He heard Franklin’s voice speak out from somewhere, but his thoughts were murky and muddied with everything being centered around Nines.

And why was he even thinking about the pervy, saucy android, even?!?! Why wouldn’t his importunate, incessant thoughts leave him alone for once!!!

…….

It was so silent, suddenly…

Gazing up at Chris and Franklin, Gavin was met with two sets of angry eyes.

What…

“Reed!” Chris snapped, shaking him by the shoulders a little, “the hell’s gotten into you?!”

Clearing his throat as he tried making up for his minor bumble, he hoped that it would be enough to obnubilate himself and make up for his ineptitude…not that he considered himself inept, really.

“Haven’t you heard a word Franklin’s been saying?” Chris asked, eyes wide with a frenzied look, and Gavin knew he was slipping.

Shaking himself, he just whispered out, “Sorry, it’s kinda cold in here.”

That excuse seemed to somewhat buy some time, as Franklin nodded, “Yeah, sorry, I have to keep it cooler here because I store a lot of meat down here in my freezers, detective.”

With an eyeroll, Chris said, “Alright, let’s just get back on topic, then.”

Trying to leap into the conversation so it seemed like he really was participating and ‘alert’, Gavin asked, “So w-when was the last time you saw your granddaughter?”

Looking at the dark ceiling, Franklin replied, “Oh, it was sometime after dinner, because it took me nearly an age to get her down. She was texting her boyfriend for nearly an hour, and we had an argument prior to that about her recent credit card bill…”

Again, Gavin tried staying as focused as he could, but it just didn’t work, and it didn’t last long. His focus soon slipped and gave way into the recesses of his mind, and his repressed thoughts soon came burgeoning forth like a stallion out of wild flames in the night.

He didn’t really want to go home alone to an empty apartment!! Well, it technically wasn’t that empty, as he had the cats, good Wi-Fi, good cable, loud neighbors…okay…so he was lonely, and it was all empty inside his apartment, and inside himself…

Fuck.

Stooping lower into his own self-subsisting misery, Gavin felt his mood turning to shit, and a sour look was upon his face. Damn Nines. This was all his fucking fault!! Now, Gavin almost wanted to be petty and vindictive enough to report him to Fowler, at least.

But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense if he did…technically speaking, they were ‘together’ in the eyes of everyone they worked with. That was the first fallacy that went against his ‘plan’. The second was that Nines hadn’t done anything to him during work hours that could help Gavin build a strong case against him. He would be laughed right out of Fowler’s office if he even dared open his mouth about any of it, and anyone else would no doubt tell him to seek a marriage counsellor if he had issues with his fiancé.

Shit. What the fuck had he gotten himself into?!

As he stood there glaring a hole into the wall behind Franklin’s head, he was yet again shaken out of his reverie by Chris.

“Gavin…”

Christ. He really was going to be in trouble, soon.

Turning gaunt, he asked Franklin, “Umm, yeah, I uh…do you think that your granddaughter’s boyfriend may have something to do with this?”

……

Clearly, that was the wrong thing to say.

Both Chris and Franklin seemed weary of his fatuous comments, and his colleague grabbed him by both shoulders as he guided him back up the steps to the main level of the house. “Alright, Gavin,” Chris sighed, “I think you’re better off back in the car.”

As he reached the front door of the house, he gently pushed Gavin out as he whispered, “Wait for me; I’ll wrap this up as quickly as I can, okay?” Finishing it all off with a surreptitious wink thrown in the detective’s way, he then slammed the door on Gavin’s bewildered face.

The confused detective was left feeling even angrier and more upset, but he still sat down patiently inside the vehicle. True to his promise and words, Chris soon emerged from the house not even twenty-five minutes after.

“Back to the DPD?” he asked softly, and Gavin merely nodded slowly.

It went without saying that that’s where they had to go, of course, but Gavin sensed that Chris only asked that to avoid further conversations with him.

Gavin hadn’t been wrong.

The drive back to the DPD had been made in sheer silence, with every nerve in Gavin’s body on fire as a nasty, sickly, gut-wrenching sensation twisted and turned in his stomach the entire time. He recognized it as fury.

Odd, it’d been so long since he felt that.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

In the past, his mother had often told him that he needed to grow a pair of nuts, man up, and just ask for something if he really wanted it. Along the way, plenty of school friends had further backed this up, though the manner in which they’d communicated to Gavin about his state of ‘cowardice’ seemed to lack propriety unlike how his mother often phrased things.

He’d been called a ‘pussy’, a ‘little bitch’, and a ‘momma’s boy’ plenty of times that it eventually backfired. Instead of helping him turn into a more courageous, outspoken man, Gavin crashed and sank into an aggressive shell of what a man of his age and intellectual caliber should’ve been displaying in the ways of social etiquette and behavior. He was far too aggressive, and he often mixed aggression with bullying and harassing people, it seemed. It wasn’t his fault, however. No one had really been around to show him how to be assertive without being overly aggressive and callous, and the two terms and meanings were now synonymous to Gavin Reed. He mimicked what he’d seen and learned on television and through the internet culture, of course, and that had only contributed to the steady and gradual decline in his friendships, healthy relationships, and people he kept close and dear in his life.

As a result, he knew he was the source of his problems and misery, and all because he couldn’t be fucked to sit in a room and talk about his problems with some therapist like a sissy girl…classic. Why be a victim?! He wasn’t a god damn victim, and he didn’t need anyone’s help or pity!! He needed to learn the hard way, yes! He perhaps needed to suffer and ache all alone inside without anyone knowing it, and while that was terribly painful and unhealthy for his overall state of psychosis, he supposed that in the end, he would probably turn out to be a stronger, better version of himself.

Through hardships, real men were born; great men were molded.

He was not a god damn victim!!

As he kept reminding himself of this fact when he returned to work the next day, Gavin kept to himself, and as a result, he hardly saw much of anyone, really. Perhaps it was better off this way, but he had no idea that he was giving off some kind of dark aura that warded a greater majority of his co-workers off before they could even approach him. As such, the esteemed team of detectives, officers, and lieutenants seemed to be able to sense and spot an angry Gavin Reed a mile away, and they avoided him like the damn plague.

The ticking time-bomb of a man didn’t seem to care, however, and he got lost and drowned in his mountains and piles of work.

Days flew by quickly, and very soon, Friday was upon them. The Friday leading up to the Sunday of October 31st, of course.

Great.

Reminded further of his failures, Gavin sat at his desk and wondered just how to swallow his pride and try to at least maybe approach Nines and ask him for his stuff back.

Yes…he had no choice, he supposed, that was, unless Nines had already thrown his stuff out like he’d threatened a while ago. Sadistic machine!! Gavin wouldn’t be surprised if he had indeed done that, but he hoped not, anyway. It was all Nines had for barter, he supposed.

Trying not to mutter to himself while he thought of how to even try speaking to Nines, Gavin didn’t see Captain Fowler sauntering up to him and grabbing a nearby vacant chair.

Plopping himself down onto it, the police Captain offered Gavin an exuberant grin as he cleared his throat to begin his ‘speech’.

Before he could say a word, however, Gavin-who was still staring on at the center of his desk emptily-softly groaned out, “I know; I fucked up.”

A telephone rang somewhere in the distance while Fowler paused, and then sighed as he clasped his hands together neatly in his lap. “You don’t even know what I’m gonna say, Reed,” he stated intelligently, though Gavin didn’t seem to be in the mood to care.

“Well sir,” he bemoaned, “not to be an asshole or anything, but you normally only come around if something’s really wrong.”

Fowler only eyed his temporary companion with resignation. “Touché, Reed,” he huffed as he drew up his left leg and curled it against his chest while looping and wrapping both arms around the kneecap, fingers folded and intertwined as he stretched. Repeating the same motion with his right leg, he set both feet down after stretching.

With a sigh, Gavin asked, “Look, I know I wasn’t all up on my game with O’Sullivan, but I promise that—”

Holding up a hand to silence him, Fowler whispered, “Gavin, relax; Chris told me that you did your best the other day, and it’s fine. Your stellar skills and attributes have always been noticeable, and I’m not here to comment on your performance.”

Under Fowler’s gentle tutelage and insistence, Gavin relaxed considerably. “Then what’s going on, Cap?”

Smiling softly, Captain Fowler replied, “Now, don’t get angry, Reed, but Connor and Hank approached me just this morning, and they told me that they’re a bit concerned because you seemed to be begging for them to hang out with you.”

How prolific. Truly, the fecund individuals Gavin was now more than angry with needed a good talking to.

Trying to remain calm, Gavin spoke out, “Look, I’m sure that those stalwart bastards—”

“Reed,” Fowler warned, but it didn’t matter.

“—think they’re doing me justice by interferin’ in my personal shit, but it wasn’t even a legit conversation, Cap! It was just an off-the-cuff thing!”

“They were worried about you, Reed!”

“How industrious!” Gavin yelled, but when he saw a few other officers milling about the bullpen and halls, he lowered his voice considerably. “I don’t need anyone’s help, Jeffrey!!” While Gavin assured his superior of this steadfastly, he found he was willing to entertain the possibility that perhaps he truly needed help and company after all…

Fowler must have seen something in his eyes, because he gave him a hard, assessing look and asked, “How are you feeling, really?”

“Don’t worry about it,” the hard-pressed detective said pragmatically.

“Reed, I think that’s a lie,” Fowler hissed irritably, “and I resent that just as much as I resent being slapped in the mouth!!”

Not wanting to give himself away, Gavin tried laughing despite his evaporating anger as it molded into feelings of pain and misery. It was all he could do while Fowler studied him seriously.

“I can smell how lonely and frustrated you must be, Gavin,” he stated softly as he used the other man’s first name as a means of identifying and empathizing with him more.

“You don’t know anything, Jeffrey…”

Shaking his head, the bulky man retorted, “Trust me, Gavin, I can smell it like a fart in an elevator.”

“I said I’m fine,” Gavin mustered a fake smile, trying to back up this putrid lie as best as he could.

Fowler’s expression indicated that he expected honesty from him, and Gavin truthfully didn’t think he would be able to last much longer under the scrutinizing gaze of his boss. Shrugging, he made up his story, “I have good days and bad days…just about what you’d expect from someone who’s been through some weird shit, Jeffrey. I think it’s more than time to get on with my life.” Tapping a finger on some paperwork on his desk, he added, “And in addendum, it’s time to get on with my work!!”

While he stared emptily at his papers, not really in the mood to work, Fowler grunted, “Amazing, Reed…” When Gavin’s eyes met his, he continued, “Unless you’re in one heck of a shitty relationship-which you can’t be, considering how I’ve known Nines to be nothing but a great, outstanding individual-then this shit is just odd as hell, Gavin.” As Gavin granted him enough silence so he could press on, he did. “Son, most people spend time with their loved ones when they’re feeling this way! It’s okay to go through shit like this, you know,” he stated openly as he folded his arms across his broad chest. “No one’s sayin’ you can’t feel this way, Reed, but I have to tell you that I’m frankly stunned to see that instead of turning to your fiancé, you’re choosing to sit here and stew in your own anger.”

Gavin honestly had no words. He didn’t trust his mouth, so he didn’t open it. He only resorted to remaining still while he distracted himself from the messed-up things Fowler was saying.

“I know you want to be alone, now,” the diminutive, weak statement was breathed out of Fowler’s lungs as the other man pushed his chair back by planting both legs firmly onto the floor and moving his hips back.

The admonishing look Fowler tossed him made Gavin feel like he was twelve, but he didn’t say anything. Biting his tongue while he watched the other man grip the edge of the chair and slightly yank it back against his chest, he felt nervous and fearful, suddenly, and those feelings always made Gavin furious.

How weak was he, really!?!?

“Talk to your fiancé, Reed,” Fowler encouraged gently with a small smile dancing along his eyes and face, “plan something exciting to do with him for Halloween night.”

He couldn’t envision ever being that close to Nines, but rather than disparage his supposed ‘beloved’ in front of Captain Fowler and run the risk of this all blowing up, Gavin’s face twisted into a frown.

Fear, exultation and longing all roiling inside him, Gavin was wracked with tremendous pain that only served to devastate him as he merely sat and felt that he hadn’t blinked in an age. His eyeballs were going dry, and as they stung horribly, he heard Captain Fowler moving back as he shifted away from him, then.

“Enjoy your weekend, Gavin,” he stated warmly and kindly, “and remember, I’m only a phone call away, son…” Before he turned around and walked off completely, though, he snapped a few fingers and whirled back around. “Oh! Reed!” he let out a small laugh as he slapped himself lightly in the forehead, “my old ass nearly forgot to ask you!”

Staring at him in shock, Gavin managed weakly, “Sir?”

A genuine look of curiosity flooded over Fowler’s features as he gently inquired, “When do you suppose the wedding will be??” He hadn’t caught the look of utter horror and contempt that overcame Gavin’s face. Too busy with staring across the bullpen, Fowler sighed, “It’s been so long since I attended a wedding!! I am invited, right Gavin?”

Gavin truly was stumped; he had no words.

Chapter Text

No photo description available.

 

And so, here Gavin found himself sat in the kitchen of his dingy, dark apartment Saturday night as he stared at his phone until his eyes singed and burned.

Disappointed not to be given more hope, he knew that it would be better not to have any expectations. It would lessen the devastation when the time came to accept the inevitable, but some small part of himself refused to give up the dream. Maybe it hadn’t been long enough for him to let go without a fight. Or maybe he was just grasping at straws.

Finally admitting it out loud to himself, he sighed out, “I have to text Nines.” While he knew for certain his calls were blocked, he didn’t think his texts were. None of them bounced back when he’d sent a few during the week, but he still was certain Nines was merely avoiding him out of a fear that Gavin would’ve reported his unbecoming bawdy conduct to Captain Fowler.

Some excuse to avoid someone.

Amused by the ploy only marginally, Gavin felt inordinately irritated as the night went on. Why wasn’t Nines asking him if he wanted his stuff back?!?! Wasn’t it enough that he’d avoided him during work, but now outside of work, too!? Nines knew he had nothing going on, and with tomorrow being Halloween, Gavin felt that the levels of his boredom would never cease.

Fuck it. It was time to step outside of his comfort zones. He was done with sitting and waiting while he reflected ruefully and occasionally contemplated murder…kinda. It was just better to come right out with what he wanted! After all, that’s what real men would do, anyway; just take whatever they wanted and needed!!

Sliding his phone into his nimble hands, he immediately set to work on locating Nines’ stupid contact name, and he got ready to fire off a text that had continued from the previous conversation thread…a conversation thread he realized he hadn’t deleted because he’d originally been a vindictive jackass meaning to keep them and show them to Fowler.

Oh well.

‘You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,’ the stupid saying went.

Snorting at his thoughts, he ignored the fact that he was sitting staring morosely into the screen of the phone as it nearly went to sleep.

No!! He had to get out his message; he had to be heard!

Fighting the desolation that threatened to stir within himself, Gavin tried keeping things simple and sweet, and he did.

Staring down at the message pieced together, he nodded in confirmation as he accepted that he thought it would suffice.

Gavin Reed, 10:28 p.m.

youve been avoviding me, Nines, and i know u blocked me, but i need u 2 hear me out then i will leave u alone. k?

Cursing himself for sending it with spelling errors, he bit and chewed on the insides of his mouth, lower lip, and then his fingernails as he stared. Time was ticking, and nearly half an hour went by with no response.

Shit!!

On the edge of desperation, Gavin texted random things, and soon, a series of them came flying out of him as he lost himself to the litany of concern and growing fears that he was going to always be this miserable and alone. His emotions guided him and goaded him into losing all semblances of control as he texted wildly like a mad man.

Gavin Reed, 10:57 p.m.

Nines, pls dont ignore me

Gavin Reed, 10:58 p.m.

i know u get these. answer me!

Gavin Reed, 11:01 p.m.

Hello?

Gavin Reed, 11:03 p.m.

Nines

Gavin Reed, 11:05 p.m.

bitch! Ur a bitch!!

Gavin Reed, 11:06 p.m.

way 2 b a plastic btich

Slamming his hands down on his table, he wished and wished for any type of a response as his mind registered the sounds of his appliances in the kitchen whirring and operating, while the steady sounds of night life egged him on into a deeper seat of anger. His cat mewled somewhere in the dark, and a few of her kittens purred.

“Nines!!”

Running out of time and options, Gavin wheezed, “Just say something, please? I c-can’t be a-alone right now…I can’t…” Resisting the urge to sob, he held his face in his hands and stared down at his lap like a scolded child put in a time out corner.

He felt so small and so lost…

“Nines…”

As if on cue, his phone suddenly vibrated, and Gavin snatched it like a bear swiping at a fish that leapt out of the waters upstream. Holding it tightly, he practically made his face kiss the cold screen as he read the words Nines had sent.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:24 p.m.

If you want my help in any matter, Reed, I wouldn’t encourage for you to keep swearing at me.

Vastly relieved there was a reply-as acerbic as it was, his heart could be felt bouncing in jubilation that Nines was at least talking to him again. Wanting to hold onto the conversation before Nines got wrapped up doing something else, Gavin rushed out his reply in a jiffy. Of course, sweaty fingers didn’t help make his text easy to decipher, but it would have to do for now.

Gavin Reed, 11:27 p.m.

k im sorry , firt and forms t Nines. i ws nt the nicest gu  y arudn btu i need 2 atalk.

Almost instantly, Nines replied simply with a solid ‘no’.

Gavin Reed, 11:29 p.m.

y!?!?!?

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:30 p.m.

Because that’s my wish, Reed. Far too much has been said and done already between us that what wasn’t initially agreed upon, and considering our last conversation, I’m sure you’ve done the right thing and reported my impropriety to Captain Fowler.

Shaking his head, it was Gavin’s turn to text out a strong NO.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:32 p.m.

Why not?

Gavin Reed, 11:33 p.m.

cuz i didn t wanna

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:35 p.m.

It would’ve been the right thing to do, Reed.

Gavin Reed, 11:36 p.m.

Lleave that shit aside fr a momtn, Nines,,, .. I still have my shit inn ur place.

It’d taken a little while before Nines sent:

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:41 p.m.

Fine. Since it’s a burden for us both, I can mail your items to you, Reed. It’ll save you from having to live through the horrors accustomed with seeing me and being in my presence.

What exactly he’d expected in the way of reticence or shyness after not having spoken to Nines in a week, Gavin wasn’t sure, but android’s sauciness and boldness delighted him. Nines didn’t seem to want to back down at all, and his fractious attitude seemed to carry over to Gavin and fed his courage slowly.

Gavin Reed, 11:44 p.m.

ill get mey stuff soon, bt waswonderin if u wanted to hang out for Halloween tmrrw/?

Even though his entire body was both on fire and frozen stiff, he was happy he’d sent it out. Courage was rewarding, in some ways.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:46 p.m.

Why on Earth would you want to spend time with me?

Gavin Reed, 11:47 p.m.

cuz im as lonely as u

Almost as though he’d been purposefully trying to push and keep Gavin away, Nines deferred to the use of scare tactics.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:48 p.m.

Aren’t you scared?

Gavin Reed, 11:49 p.m.

of?

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:49 p.m.

I could molest you.

Gavin found himself laughing at this as though Nines had told him the funniest joke on the planet. It wasn’t a fake laugh, however; it was a genuine, face scrunched up, eyes wrinkled in bliss, lungs burning, stomach and ribs aching sort of laugh given the android’s odd choice in words. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes, and when he was ready, he wiped them as he texted through blurry eyes.

Gavin Reed, 11:51 p.m.

dont b slly, Nines. u wounldt hurt me.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:51 p.m.

Well, you treated me as a common criminal, so how am I to think otherwise?

Not giving up, Gavin stayed on target as he hurriedly texted:

Gavin Reed, 11:52 p.m.

spend Halloween with me. we can acarve pumpkings , watch movies, whatever u want. just chill wit me fr a bit.

Almost picturing the android gazing at him across the table with his expression inscrutable, Gavin read the next message he’d been sent with Nines’ rich, deep voice echoing in his skull.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:54 p.m.

So this is what the French mean by ‘Le petite morte’: The little death.

Thanks for that, Reed.

At this point, he was unable to help it.

Gavin Reed, 11:55 p.m.

Unblock me so i can call

Surprisingly, Nines did just that, and he said so as he told Gavin to call if he wanted.

Without even hesitating, Gavin rang him up, and the android picked up in the middle of the second ring.

Grinning, Gavin sat up in his chair, “So, wanna smash pumpkins with me, Nines?” He knew he sounded like an odd sycophant fan or follower of some idol, but he couldn’t have helped it if he tried; it wasn’t a thing to be changed, after all.

Humming at first, Nines eventually hissed, “All Hallow’s Eve spent with you, Reed? Sounds charming.”

“Hey! We both live in apartments!”

“And your point?” Nines growled deeply, though he didn’t sound too annoyed.

Smirking with confidence, Gavin felt one of the kittens gently pawing at his legs. Peering down, he picked up the runt of the litter, holding him down into his lap as he stroked his head gently and tenderly. “My point is that we won’t be bothered by the doorbell ringing every ten or so minutes because of kids beggin’ for candy, Nines!!” Like a child, he cried out jovially, “That means more for us!!! Err, me!!”

A huff came out of the android, and Gavin found it wasn’t altogether unpleasant to listen to. In fact, Nines’ deep voice sent a dull thrill and a hum of a vibration from his ear all the way down to his toes, rattling his rib cage nicely.

“Very well, Reed,” he conceded, “don’t arrive prior to six, as I’ll be out running a few errands.”

Clicking his tongue against his teeth while he felt the kitten almost asleep in his lap, Gavin sighed out in satisfaction, “Trust me Nines, you’ll thank me for this!”

“Gloating is unseemly,” Nines stated plainly, causing Gavin to grin like a fool.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Six p.m. on Sunday sure took its time, but it finally arrived, thanks to Gavin’s great sense of patience displayed. He found time actually went by decently enough when he did his weekly laundry, and then went off shopping for food, as well as the pumpkins. He purchased two, but Nines’ was a little smaller than his own, just in case the insouciant android grew bored of carving his pumpkin faster than anticipated.

Placing them in the back of his car, Gavin found he was already parked in Nines’ apartment complex parking lot at almost ten to six. Not wanting to be too early, he had a smoke for those remaining ten minutes before it was time to go.

Knocking gently on Nines’ apartment door, it didn’t take too long before Gavin heard it unlocking. Once it swung open, he was faced with Nines, who looked as impeccable as ever. Dressed in a grey dress shirt and matching grey dress pants, he waved Gavin in.

“On time, Reed,” he commented as he looked down at the pumpkins, “and with friends, I see.”

Providing an insouciant shrug, Gavin said without preamble, “I figured you maybe wanted to carve your own pumpkin.”

“How thoughtful,” came the not-so-sarcastic purr, and Nines peeked over his shoulder at the kitchen table. To his amusement, Gavin found that red, purple, deep blue, and black candles had been lit in tiny rows upon it, and on the left side of the row of candles was the little plushie zombie he’d found in Bed, Bath and Beyond. On the right side rested the wreath. It was propped between the wall and the table, however, but it looked nice. Nines had even gone out of his way to decorate his apartment for Halloween, and he’d done so using the skull-shaped piggybank and gargoyle globe with glitter Gavin had purchased a while ago when they went shopping. The piggybank and gargoyle sat on a table near the end of the front hall. The small chandelier that was vintage and gothic in design hung in the living room now, and the creepy painting of the jack-o’lantern grinning evilly in the dark hang been hung up behind the loveseat on the wall.

Nines had cleared the rest of the table for the carving in less than a few seconds, and Gavin placed the pumpkins right on top of the table gently. He couldn’t stop staring at the decorations and candles, and he snickered, “Where’d you get those?”

“The same places we visited two weeks ago,” came the honest reply instantly, and it caused Gavin’s face to heat up.

“Right…” Not wanting to dwell on that for long, Gavin asked, “You know how to carve a pumpkin?”

With a fastidious wave, Nines pulled out a chair for Gavin. “I know the logistics behind it, Reed,” he replied smugly before his eyes turned somber, “but I haven’t put it to practice, I’m afraid.”

Snickering, Gavin joked, “Well, that’s what I’m here for, I guess.” Taking a seat before the candles, then, he watched as Nines headed into the kitchen and brought out two large knives.

Passing one to Gavin, Nines smirked as he said, “Oh yes, Reed, I’ve been reserving this special moment all my life for you to assist me with pumpkin carving.”

“We all have a purpose in life,” Gavin continued on the humorous note while Nines stood next to him and watched in amusement as Gavin then pulled out three large newspapers from a white plastic bag he’d brought along as well. Laying the newspapers out on the table once he’d gently pushed the vampire bat tablecloth aside so it wouldn’t get messy, he steadied his pumpkin in his left hand as he held onto the knife.

Smiling at Nines, he explained, “We have to first use the serrated knife to cut off the crown of our pumpkins.” As he explained this, he cut around the circumference of the top of the pumpkin.

Although Nines already knew this was involved in the carving process, he found he couldn’t stop Gavin from talking him through it. He actually didn’t mind listening to Gavin speak…

Following in Gavin’s lead Nines got to work. Soon, both Nines and Gavin took the tops of their pumpkins off, and they set them to the side of the table. Still remaining on his feet, Nines inquired, “Next steps, Reed?”

Chuckling playfully, Gavin barked out, “Using a large serving spoon, we gotta scoop out the seeds of these babies!”

“And thus, I make a second trip to the kitchen,” Nines thought aloud wryly, doing just that. In a few quick seconds, he handed Gavin his spoon, and Gavin grinned at him for it.

Rolling his eyes, Nines lightly hissed, “Don’t look so smug.”

“You’re just upset because you have to keep on walking back and forth!!”

“That, I am.”

With a tiny shrug, Gavin had already started scooping the flesh and seeds out, and he yanked them up in fistfuls. “Well, then next time, sit down immediately,” he joked mildly, “everyone knows that whoever remains standing is the ‘assistant’ or ‘volunteer’.”

While scooping as well deeply within the pumpkin after he’d rolled up both sleeves to his elbows, Nines gently asked, “Did you carve a lot of pumpkins when you were younger?”

And to think that the evening had started off so pleasantly. Leave it to Nines to unknowingly poke about and try to pry in the past; a part of himself that Gavin very much wanted to seal off in the land of ‘Forget It’.

Responding slightly aggressively, he jerked his neck towards his pumpkin, “Meh, it doesn’t matter, so just do your work.”

Quirking up a brow, Nines stated openly, “If only you were this focused during actual work.”

Not really centering his thoughts on the minor jab at his work ethics and skills, Gavin found himself lost in his thoughts as he remembered one of his more ‘happier’ Halloweens. It was a day his dad was actually home, shockingly, and he’d been the one who’d helped Gavin carve his first pumpkin…

“Reed?”

“Hmm?”

Shaken out of his memories, he turned to the side and saw that Nines had stacked and mounted all the seeds in one large pile. Gooey hands wavering in the air, the android held a confused expression on his face as he asked, “Are you okay?”

Shrugging him off, Gavin switched gears right away expertly. “Got a marker?”

“Uhh,” Nines peered over at the coffee table awkwardly, and then held up his hands, “would you do the honors?”

Huffing in slight annoyance, Gavin pushed aside his laziness as he snatched the dark permanent marker off the tray in the living room resting flatly on the coffee table. Popping the cap open, he walked back into the kitchen, flashing it before Nines’ eyes.

“Nice,” Nines commented, “now we draw?”

“Now we draw,” Gavin repeated, and to be fair, he decided to target Nines’ pumpkin first. “What pattern are you thinking of?”

Thinking quickly, Nines answered, “Just a grin, Reed; simple and sweet.”

“Fair enough.” Hands moving quickly, he drew a simple outline of a face on the pumpkin, and then did the same for his own, except his pumpkin had eyebrows, looked ‘eviler’, and seemed more rushed. Using the small serrated knife, he cut out the eyes, nose and mouth on both pumpkins, and tossed the meaty bits aside.

Watching him the entire time, Nines eventually smiled once both pumpkins were done. “I like them.”

“Yep,” Gavin answered shortly, and he made sure to chip off one of the teeth on his pumpkin, trying to add some style here and there, while he made Nines’ pumpkin’s teeth a little sharper.

Nodding over at the candles, he then asked, “Got a tea light candle by any chance?”

Staring oddly towards the bathroom, Nines coughed, “In there.”

Freezing for a moment, Gavin lifted a brow as he snickered, “That’s…that’s kinda weird, Nines…” Why was the dour android so addicted to keeping candles around, lately?!

“Instead of mocking, get walking,” Nines stepped back as he went to wash his hands in the kitchen, disappearing in the tiny plant garden he’d stored away in his kitchen.

“Okay, weirdo,” Gavin muttered to himself, retrieving the candles and then making his way back towards both pumpkins.

Popping two tea lights inside the pumpkins, he lit them first and replaced the crowns on top. Standing back to admire their work, he flashed a thumbs-up at Nines. “Lookin’ good,” he approved with a few jerky head nods, “where do you wanna place them?”

A wide smile was on Nines’ face, and he grabbed his pumpkin tightly. “Outside on the front steps of the apartment,” he suggested eagerly, “we can showcase them there for a bit, and before it gets really late, we can store them in the front lobby.”

“Yeah!” Gavin bounced up, holding his pumpkin to his chest as well, “I like the sound of that, Nines!!”

“Something told me you would, Detective.”

The smile was unmistakable in Nines’ voice this time.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Nines’ idea had been brilliant, and Gavin really found he enjoyed looking at not only their new Jack-o’-lanterns sitting outside on the middle steps near the railings, but he also enjoyed looking over at least another fifteen or so Jack-o’-lanterns as well.

“This seems to be an idea everyone living here has,” he pointed out facetiously, and Nines stared down at the other Jack-o’-lanterns for a moment.

“It appears so,” sitting himself down next to Gavin in the center of the steps, both men looked up into the dark streets and skies above while hordes of children dressed fully in costumes walked by. Their chipper laughter filled the cold air, and as they danced and skipped along with their parents following closely behind them, a tiny breeze came by. It moved the candles in the pumpkins a little, and the shadows reflected ominously. Still glowing strongly, however, the Jack-o’-lanterns could’ve been seen from a tiny distance as they lit up the dark night more than the streetlights.

Nudging Nines gently with his elbow, Gavin chuckled, “How many Ant Mans, Tony Starks, Batmans, and Spidermans do you think we’ll get tonight?”

Catching on, Nines grinned as he stared straight at the children moving by. “Probably not nearly half as many as Wonder Woman, Black Cat, Harley Quinn, and perhaps the occasional mermaid and princess…”

Laughing heartily, Gavin snorted, “You’re ridiculous, Nines!”

“And you’re insufferable, Reed,” the android joked back, still gazing at the costumes on full display in the wide streets.

When the line of children thinned down a little, Gavin repressed a shiver as the wind blew through his hair. He hadn’t realized just how cold it’d gotten to be in such a short amount of time, but he remembered that November was literally a day away…

Realizing that an odd silence had crept up on them, Gavin looked towards the ghostly figures made out of sheets, the occasional Devil, Witch, or Goblin posted in the ground, in a tree, and the odd few skeletons hanging down limply and spookily from tree branches. He felt it was appropriate to say it now, so he huffed out gently, “Happy Halloween, Nines.”

Immediately turning on him, Nines hissed icily, “Why didn’t you report me to Captain Fowler, Reed?”

“Wha? Oh…” blushing, he scratched he back of his neck as he supplied randomly, “because it’d be weird?”

Shaking his head, Nines spat, “Weird in comparison to what I said?”

Gavin rolled his eyes, “Sure…”

“Why?”

“Because we’re supposedly ‘together’, Nines…I mean…” flinching, he concluded, “I guess that’s how some couples talk to each other? Shit, I don’t know!!”

Pausing for a moment to stare at the new horde of children and their parents running around from brightly lit house to brightly lit house, knocking on doors and ringing the doorbells as their tiny voices cried out in perfect unison: ‘Trick or treat!’, Nines mumbled, “You’re a fool, Reed; I’d have reported my own conduct if I were in your shoes.”

“Well then thank God you’re not,” Gavin snickered mildly, and then he stared down momentarily at Nines’ feet. A twisted frown formed on his face as he said, “Oh, speaking of ‘shoes’, I think we seriously need to get you a need wardrobe, Nines.”

Grunting at him, Nines inquired, “What’s wrong with the one I have?”

“Dude,” Gavin laughed, “you wear clothing from almost five-hundred years ago; plenty wrong with that.”

The next logical question slammed into his ears, “Why do you care, Reed?”

……

Why did he??

Truthfully, Gavin was stumped. It hadn’t really mattered a whole lot to him how Nines had dressed and looked before. When he’d first seen the RK900 dressed fresh out of his CyberLife storage container, he thought nothing of it. Only when Nines had been dubbed ‘Nines’, and only after at least four months of him parading around in the same stupid outfit did Gavin feel the first stirs of annoyance and irritation coiling within himself. Thankfully, Connor had taken it upon himself to try and teach Nines how to dress differently, but the newly deviant Nines at the time unfortunately rooted his personal choice and tastes into older styles of fashion. Beyond that point, no one had really bothered him for his clothing of choice, as he wasn’t seen around the DPD often due to how busy things had gotten, and due to how amazing his skills were.

Well, it was annoying Gavin again, now, and he struggled as he tried not to gape at Nines’ manner of dress. He only concluded to himself that yes, it all had to go, and the sooner, the better.

Unable to offer much of a logical answer, Gavin only shrugged again and rubbed his hands together in a feeble attempt to create some friction and heat.

Eyeing his actions, Nines roughly suggested, “We should head inside; grab your pumpkin.”

Slowly inching towards the one that was his among the mass stacked on the steps, Gavin exclaimed, “Seriously, we should just go shopping some time after work or somethin’. Now that October’s through, a lot of stores will have major sales and shit; we can get a good deal and discount.”

Still not entirely convinced, Nines stood as he waited for Gavin to grab his own pumpkin, and then he made a grab for his own. Glaring at Gavin warily, he inquired, “Why do you care, Reed? You didn’t answer me the first time.”

Again, Gavin was baffled, and as he stared on in bewilderment, he only said the very thing that was a mixture of an insult, a joke, but also a comment in the way of keeping his own thoughts and feelings hidden well away…at least for the time being, until he figured out a way to squash them all and cast them on an island so far away that they wouldn’t trouble him any longer.

With a confident grin, he jabbed, “Well, if you wanna be seen in public with me again-or any human being for that matter, Nines, you should consider dressin’ like us.”

“Cheeky, Reed,” Nines commented, holding open the door for Gavin with one hand as the shorter male headed inside, his candle glowing luminously from within the Jack-o’-lantern. It trailed the orange, yellow light quite nicely, and Nines’ eyes followed it for a moment before they began heading up the stairwell towards Nines’ apartment room.

Tossing him a tiny wink, Gavin announced, “Come on! Startin’ this week, I’ll be your little helper, and I promise we’ll get you something cooler to wear, Nines. How’s that sound?”

“You’re not really going to leave me with much of a choice, Reed,” Nines drawled, “so let’s just say I agree and have a darn good night, shall we?”

“Couldn’t agree more, Nines,” Gavin chuckled as he grinned a toothy, wide grin, “I’m glad you like my ideas.”

Only a sarcastic eye roll came out of the tall android. “Of course, Reed,” he sighed wearily, “I wouldn’t dream of ever being so selfish as to suggest doing the things I want when it comes to my own personal life.”

All Gavin could do was laugh a tiny bark of a laugh. “Happy Halloween, Nines.”

“Happy Halloween to you too, Reed.”

Chapter Text

Gavin couldn’t wait for work to end. Today was Tuesday, November 2nd, and he was already as ecstatic as a young child waiting for the pizza delivery man to show up, or waiting eagerly for a toy he’d wanted all month long. And on par with that analogy, Gavin felt that time moved by way too slowly.

During the workday, he’d received a notification on his phone due to being subscribed to and on the mailing list of various clothing stores for men. As he’d estimated, plenty of last-minute sales were occurring this week, but the deadline for majority of them was Friday. Already with his plans bubbling inside his head, he waited until Nines had returned from training a few new recruit officers to target shoot and practice with firearms. Once he’d exited from the shooting range and made his way back across the street towards the DPD, Gavin almost surprised him by leaping out at him from around the corner near the entrance of the main building.

Recovering quickly from his initial state of shock, Nines frowned. “Yes, Reed?”

“Shopping, Nines,” Gavin announced randomly, “I’ve got coupons and discounts, and that’s all you need to know.”

As the doors opened and closed a few times while the rest of their co-workers and colleagues went home for the evening, Nines nodded at them, bid them a good night, and then stared at Gavin until the shorter male felt a tad uncomfortable.

“What?”

“I don’t want to go shopping for clothes, Reed,” Nines stated thinly, backing away from Gavin when the detective advanced.

Not giving up, Gavin sighed, “Well, just accompany me for a bit, then, because I need winter stuff.”

Only mildly convinced, Nines remained stiff, assessing Gavin with cold blue eyes as he finally asked, “Just for you?”

“Yep,” Gavin lied through his teeth with a smile, “just give me your opinion on some winter clothes, and we’ll be done in an hour at the most.”

Closing his eyes in irritation, Nines uttered painfully while his LED light blinked yellow a few times rapidly, “Fine, but you can drive.”

“I was gonna fight ya for the right to do so anyway, Nines,” Gavin snorted, and they were off without much else said.

They checked out the malls nearby, but then when they saw nothing interesting or appealing, Gavin finally drove them to a small clothing outlet mainly for Goth and Punk styled clothing. It’d started raining when they parked in the small parking lot, and the rain was almost at freezing points due to how cold the weather had gotten. As was expected for the erratic and rapidly changing autumn season slowly giving way to winter.

Upon seeing the display of the ripped, torn, tattered, dark clothing with studs, needles, pins, and other odd embellishments through the clean store windows, Nines glared as he refused to take another step despite the ice-cold rain pelting down almost too strongly and loudly.

Holding open the door for him, Gavin paused when he saw the reluctance evident in Nines’ eyes and in his body posture. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not going in there,” Nines hissed, “it’s tasteless.”

“It’s for me, remember?” Gavin chuckled as he danced in the doorway of the shop, “Come onnnn, Niiiiineeessss.”

“No.”

A cold breeze blew by, and this time, Gavin began dancing to keep warm as rainwater blew in his face. Feeling his blood freezing slowly in his veins, he pouted as he cried out, “Dude, I’m seriously freezin’ my ass off. Please let’s just get inside.”

Staring at the aberrant clothes, Nines lifted his head plaintively. “That’s precisely my point, Reed,” nodding at the thin fabric displayed, he explained, “that’s thin enough to hang over a window; not on a human being’s body.”

Staring at the clothes, Gavin shrugged, “But I like them, and besides,” he pointed out gently, “there’s different varieties of shit in here. Let’s check it out!”

“You can go ahead,” Nines griped, “I’m not going to follow you this time.”

Whining like a petulant, bratty child, Gavin threw his head back and let out an elongated groan.

Wincing, Nines hissed, “Don’t make that nauseating sound ever again, Reed, and you can—”

“S’cuse me,” they’d been interrupted when two large, heavyset men with long hair and beards exited the store by Gavin. Their bodies were so round and large, that the detective had to leap back to make way for them. They wore thick leather jackets and heavy, thick boots. Mounting their shiny Harley Davidson motorcycles, they drove off in loud bursts of smoke and gasoline rising into the air in tufts of smoke.

Once they were gone, Nines glared at Gavin. “See?!” he cried out vehemently, “I can tell from the clientele in this store just what kinds of fashion caters to what types of people!!”

Gavin didn’t dignify the snide remark with a response. He only knew that his clothes were steadily becoming drenched, and he couldn’t have that. Instead, he headed inside the store as he snorted over his shoulder, “Whatever, dude, but I’m freezing my ass off, so if you wanna keep arguin’, then you’re gonna have to do it inside here, Nines.”

Muttering under his breath, Nines stewed, but otherwise remained non-argumentative as he allowed Gavin to walk around the store. Following Gavin inside, Nines began eyeing plenty of signs and stickers letting customers know that a lot of clothes were 50% off regular price before the new season’s brands flocked in.

The store’s walls were painted deep blue, and a lot of the models and mannequins were dressed already in winter wear. At least six dressing rooms lined up along the back in a horizontal row, and shelves containing scarves, gloves, boots, sunglasses, and other accessories sat near the fitting rooms.

Gavin wandered about, already peeking at a pair of casual straight leg pants, the two colors he’d been currently having difficult picking between being black and grey.

Holding them out before Nines, he stated, “They look warm!”

“Hmm,” Nines hummed, “passable, I’d say.”

“What color should I get?”

“Make up your own mind, Detective,” Nines snapped irritably, “I want to get out of here quickly, so just grab whatever’s thicker than only one finger!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gavin sighed, but then stared up at a tall mannequin on top of a circular stand. Next to the stand was a round table stacked with the clothes the mannequin had been wearing, and Gavin suddenly imagined Nines wearing the exact clothes. It would look damn good on him too, the detective figured. Since the mannequin had long legs and a masculine-in shape figure almost like Nines’, Gavin thought it would be a perfect fit.

But how to get Nines to even wear it?! There was no way the android would ever do that, especially considering how the pants were directly labeled: PUNK Fashion Men’s Trousers Pants Removable Stage Gothic Pencil Cotton Pants.

Yep…that was going to be a tough one.

Pretending to be interested in a pair of black Drawstring waist pants, Gavin picked them up, casually holding them down over his lower torso while humming. Actually…these weren’t that bad…

“Got what you came for then, Reed?” Nines drawled on, standing eerily close to the mannequin while Gavin nodded.

Glancing up with a small smile, he answered coyly, “Yeah, I mean, I may get one or two more things, but I was wonderin’ something, Nines…”

Catching on relatively quickly, Nines hissed, “Whatever the hell it is, I’m not interested.”

Skipping past doing this the ‘easy’ way now that his cover had been unceremoniously blown, Gavin grabbed one of the pants up right away. “Come on, Nines,” he laughed, “I’m seriously just curious.”

Fighting, Nines hissed cruelly, “Go away, Reed, and put that silly thing down.”

“Pleeeeeaaaseee? Just try one?”

“Never!!”

“It’ll look so good on you, Nines, I swear!!!”

A delicate eyebrow rose up gracefully. “Oh really, Reed?” Nines cooed in mild amusement, “then who was it-as I recall-who uttered these words?” Tilting his head, he opened his mouth and said, “Just give me your opinion on some winter clothes, and we’ll be done in an hour at the most.” Clearing his throat softly and unnoticeably, he imitated Gavin word-for-word, an impeccable mockery and with 100% accuracy.

Waving a finger in his face defensively, a wide-eyed Gavin hissed, “I told you to stop doin’ that, Nines! It’s freaky as fuck hearin’ my voice comin’ out of your damn mouth!!” Tapping a hand on his leg, he encouraged gently, “Now come on and just try this on, because I think you’ll rock this look.”

Although he’d tried to tell Gavin that he didn’t care for his opinions, once he’d heard them voiced aloud, Nines ceased putting up a fight. He’d actually never really been on the receiving end of such comments from many people, especially Gavin Reed. The words pulled him in, sweetly seducing his curiosity. Would they really look that good??

Reaching out to touch the pants, Nines thought they really looked odd. They weren’t as thin as he initially suspected, which surprised him, but he was a tad put off by the silver studs, belt buckles running down towards the calves, wrapped around parts and portions of the leggings, the rips and tears running along the legs, as well as the silver holes in the belt straps and strap that held and kept the diagonally angled curtain like skirt hanging off to the side up.

Why did humans wear such bizarre things?!

Still not desiring to put it on, he sneered at Gavin as he spat, “You wear it.”

“Nooo, Nines,” Gavin chortled as he waved the pants towards the fitting rooms, “they wouldn’t fit me, and they’re designed for people who have legs that go on for miles.”

“You—”

Pushing him gently towards the fitting rooms, Gavin assured him softly in a faint whisper, “I’ll also be tryin’ on the shit I picked up, so you’re not alone, okay?” Motioning over at one of the young men operating the store, he held up two fingers, indicating they needed two separate rooms. The pimply-faced youth nodded, walking over so slowly as he unlocked two fitting room doors and stepped away so Gavin and Nines could head inside.

Hanging onto the doorway of one of the open doors, Nines looked at Gavin in mild panic. “This isn’t a good idea, Reed,” he stated his opinion while Gavin picked up a discarded multi-zip pockets zip up Cargo light brown jacket and decided he wanted to try them on.

Staring down at his pants, Nines almost whined, “Just this one?”

Blinking once, Gavin said, “I promise; just that one.”

…..

“Fine, Reed.”

As the door to Nines’ fitting room slammed and locked hurriedly, Gavin heard the android moving and shifting about. Good. That meant he was going to try the pants on, and Gavin soon got into the changing room next to Nines’. In no time at all, he’d tried the multi-zip up cargo jacket, the black Drawstring waist pants, as well as the grey casual straight leg pants.

They all fit, and Gavin liked them as he saw his own reflection in the mirror hoisted on the wall within the changing room displaying each style. Once he redressed in his regular clothes, he checked the prices of the clothing he wanted to purchase, and he nearly fainted.

They were pricey.

His wallet was going to have a hole in it soon, and he had to wonder for a moment why he was spending money he didn’t have on such things in the first place. Wasn’t the whole point of this to try and get some damn money from his deceased dad so he could later spend all that money on crap like this?!

He had it all backwards, it seemed.

Tapping the connecting wall next to Nines’ stall, he cried out, “Nines? You done?”

After a brief pause, a door opened and closed, and Nines answered, “Reed, come out here for a moment.”

“O-okay,” unlocking the door, he hadn’t even taken two steps out into the hall containing the fitting rooms when he saw Nines standing before a large mirror.

Wow...Gavin had been right; Nines looked absolutely amazing dressed in the punk getup.

As the android stared at himself in silence for a while, Gavin slowly circled him. He was wearing a dark undershirt overtop of the pants, which seemed a tad off together with the bottoms, but his lower torso was amazing to look at.

Whistling, Gavin affirmed, “You look better in that than the mannequin did, Nines.”

“I doubt that, Reed,” Nines groused as he eyed himself wearily. “I don’t know about this one…”

“I like it,” Gavin interjected with his own personal opinion, “it sits nicely on you, and damn,” he laughed as he pointed at how wonderfully long and thin Nines’ legs showed off in the pants, “way to make me feel extra short.”

Nines didn’t comment, and as he stared and stared at himself in the mirror, Gavin sighed. “If you want, we can look for something else, maybe a different color, or—”

“I prefer black, Reed,” Nines interrupted, and with a small smile and a blue LED light, he purred, “I have to admit, this is really growing on me…I like it…” He hadn’t been faking it for the sake of being polite; Nines turned around and stared at the pants from every angle, laughed, and then repeated with vigor, “I really like them, Reed! It’s new, it’s unique, and it may not be ‘me’, but I want to try something new.”

Gavin couldn’t stop the smile that had grown on his face, and it grew wider and wider as Nines walked and paced around the mirror a few times. The way the little buckles and straps shifted and made light noises as he walked only added a nicer effect to how he looked. These pants seemed to be made for Nines, and Gavin felt a little envious as he stared at the android. Gone was the sour, bland look that Nines often wore. Gone was the execrable snort and jeer, all replaced by genuine looks of zeal and rapture.

“Alright, stop showin’ off,” he mildly joked as he held open Nines’ door, “wanna get ‘em?”

Nines didn’t even hesitate, “You can count on that, Reed, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to take another look around this place; it’s not nearly as bad as I originally thought.”

Gavin was all smiles as he waited for Nines to take off the pants, and the excited android soon did as he stepped out and insisted upon carrying the clothing with himself. Gavin didn’t mind, and as the pair separated to have another look around the store, Gavin discovered that Nines had really been superbly excited about his new choice in clothing style…perhaps too much, actually.

Being excited about something new wasn’t of course a bad thing in and of itself, but it seemed that Nines had already taken it to an extreme of sorts. In less than ten minutes after they’d dispersed around the store, Nines decided he was going to be buying a pair of anything remotely gothic and punkish in terms of shirts and pants. He settled for Black Swamp trousers featuring distress and erratic patterned paint details, zips, and patches running down the legs. After that, he picked up a single men’s fitted black shirt in poplin with chrome snap fasteners. Large cuff details, poplin epaulettes and two front pockets were what Gavin saw on the shirt, but that didn’t seem to be enough for Nines.

Eventually, he also grabbed a coat, and it sat well down to the middle of his thighs as he tried it on. The breathtaking Vincent Coat seemed to be inspired by classic military styles with large epaulets and double-breasted button detailing all over it. It looked elegant on Nines, and Gavin wondered how Nines was simultaneously pulling off both a Victorian gothic look, as well as a modern day cyber punk look.

Nines soon shifted through some boots, but he couldn’t settle on ones he liked. Almost like a child about to have some kind of an emotional fit, he whispered heatedly to Gavin, “Is that all the boots they have here?”

Snickering shrewdly as envy grew within himself, Gavin snidely answered, “You can order some shit you like online, you know.”

Nodding while his eyes were still going through the array of boots, Nines agreed, “You’re right. Are we leaving, now?”

Looking at the darkening skies outside, Gavin spat, “Umm, yeah, the store closes around eight, and it’s already half-past seven.”

“Fair enough,” Nines grabbed the rest of their items, and led the way towards the cashiers.

Gavin watched as Nines placed the clothes up onto the counter, and as he did, the shorter male snorted, “I hope I won’t have a stroke from the terrifying bill we’re about to receive.”

Nines didn’t say anything as the cashier scanned the items and placed them all into bags. Once he was done with that, while he played with his eyebrow ring, he announced, “Your total today is $483.79 plus tax.”

Gavin grew pale, and he was already thinking about throwing half the items away. Meekly, he offered, “Umm, I have coupons…” After he showed them to the cashier, the man changed the receipt abruptly.

Coughing, he corrected himself, “Sorry, so it comes to like, $402.88 plus tax.”

That wasn’t exactly a better deal…

Frowning, Gavin softly asked, “Umm, may I know why it’s so expensive?”

With a lazy look in his eyes, the young cashier explained, “The punk designer clothes are from the UK, sir, so a lot of the prices are just to cover shipping and handling.”

Right…

Cursing Nines straight to hell for choosing now of all times to explore and play around with his sense of style and fashion, Gavin looked a little crestfallen as he reached into his wallet for his credit card. “I’ll pay,” he obviously didn’t need to say, but he did.

However, as he’d been about to draw out his card, he felt a hand on his own, and he glanced up in shock. “Nines?”

A warm, friendly smile met his concerned eyes. “I’ll take care of that for today, Reed,” Nines offered, LED light flashing yellow as he turned to the cashier. “Can I pay electronically?”

The young man snapped up to attention, “Oh yeah!” Pushing the hand-pad, digital machine up to Nines, he announced, “We take android payments too, sir.”

“Nines, wait—”

Gavin had been stopped when Nines threw him a warm smile. All thoughts and words died down, and Gavin was reduced to a pile of stuttering and gaping silence. He didn’t want to allow Nines to do this, but the incessant, importunate android insisted upon it and wouldn’t have it any other way, it seemed.

Once he’d connected to the tiny machine, Nines spoke softly to Gavin, “Some gifts should just be accepted with gratitude openly, Reed.”

Shaking his head, Gavin mumbled as the cashier put their clothes away in a large paper carrier bag, “I could’ve handled it myself.”

“Nonsense,” Nines purred out, “look, if you want, you can treat me to something next time, yeah?”

Well…to be fair, Gavin needed the clothes badly, and he wasn’t exactly swimming in riches, he reminded himself. Yes. So why not? To hell with it!! If Nines was offering, he’d take whatever he could give!!

He somehow felt better already when they left the shop that evening.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Nines didn’t wear his new outfits to work, wisely so. Not that androids couldn’t technically wear new clothing if they wanted to, but the more ‘creative wear’ had been meant for Fridays, only. It made sense given the line of work they did, but Gavin had never known Nines to not dress professionally. He always abided by a dress code of sorts, and he didn’t seem to want to even break that on Fridays. No, it seemed that the DPD wasn’t ready to see ‘punk Nines’, and the android didn’t even share with Connor and Hank that he’d recently purchased new clothes.

Oh well. It was something rather private, Gavin supposed, and while he didn’t spend a lot of time around Nines in the following week due to being busy, he often found himself wondering whether Nines ever wore the new outfits or not.

The next week seemed to first come in at a snail’s pace, but then picked up. Gavin-like everyone else in the DPD-had become overwhelmed with cases and reports, and the only time he actually sat down and noticed what day it was happened to be on Thursday, November 10th. Time was flying, which sucked, but the good news was that it still hadn’t snowed…yet. Gavin had seen a few moments of flurries and light freezing rain which had thankfully melted by later afternoon, but beyond that, he couldn’t exactly complain when they were blessed with good weather still.

His ‘relationship’ with Nines however…well, Gavin felt that at best, it was civil, but not too much closer since their shopping trip. Nines didn’t invite him over, and Gavin didn’t want to hang out with the tall, estranged android. They slept in their own separate apartments, and it remained that way right until the beginning of the second week of November.

On Monday, November 14th, as everyone had been going through the quotidian, rudimentary duties in the DPD, that was when Detroit City had been gifted with the first heavy snowfall. The heaps of the cold, white stuff kissed the entire streets and land majestically, as if making up for a decent and passive autumn and early November month. Thankfully, there wasn’t much of a strong wind, and the snow just fell from the grey clouds above almost peacefully. Still, everyone worked quietly, steadfastly trying to submit their statistical reports required before the month was through, or wrapping up other cases and leads they may have had.

Although Gavin Reed was no exception to that, the detective couldn’t help but slip into a tiny form of sullen thoughts and feelings as he grew weary of the perpetual tasks one Thursday afternoon. The brusque and impatient detective muttered random and odd nonsense under his breath as he took a break from his work…a much-needed break.

He realized just how badly he was starting to overwork himself, but it couldn’t really be helped; crime always boomed in North America in the winter months, and it sky-rocketed during Christmas. This consistent pattern sometimes made Gavin hate Christmas, but rather than dwelling upon that for now, he cast his pessimistic thoughts aside and did what he assumed at least ten other people were doing right now: checking their social media accounts.

As long as he wasn’t caught, he supposed he could get away with it, anyway, so he launched up his Instagram immediately.

“Why do I even have this thing again?” he asked himself glumly with an edge of bite lingering on the last word as he sifted through all of maybe seven photos he’d taken…over the course of five years.

No wonder he had no followers…

Closing the app angrily, Gavin resorted to checking his Facebook, next. To his surprise, he found that he had a friend request, and a new message awaiting him…as well as at least sixty notifications?!?! WHAT THE FUCK!?!?

Tapping his finger on the notifications to highlight them and see what they were about, he saw that they all fell under two consistent things: People liking a photo he was tagged in, and people commenting on a photo he was tagged in…

Immediately, Gavin’s interest fired up, and he was off to see what this damn photo was. He had to know.

His phone lagged for a moment, and it seemed as though all odds were against him for some bizarre reason, now. Feeling his anger and irritation increasing by the second, Gavin refreshed the page, chewing and biting on his lower lip as he waited…

The photo was loading…loading…

And suddenly, it was there before his eyes.

Gavin knew these photos…he could recognize them anywhere…there were two of them, of course, and he’d been responsible for taking them…

It was the two selfies he’d taken with Nines sitting there openly for people on Facebook to see. But how had they gotten there?!?! Last time Gavin checked, Nines didn’t exactly have a Facebook account, and he himself hadn’t been drunk off his ass enough to upload these!!! He would never!!!

But sure as day, he was tagged in the photo, and he let his fingers hover around the tag.

Wait…

Tagged by Carrie Moser…

FUCK!

“You bitch…you god damn bitch,” Gavin wheezed out like a man on the brink of having a heart attack, and as he looked at the sixty comments just lined down beneath the photo, he recognized majority of these people as his mother’s friends, distant relatives, some of her co-workers and other professors in the University, as well as other friends of Gavin’s…as such, anyone who was friends with both Carrie and Gavin would be able to see and access these photos.

She’d done this on purpose, and there was no denying it. Gavin knew his mother’s games relatively well by now, and she’d had her own Facebook account for almost an entire decade and a half now to understand how the basics of Facebook worked. This wasn’t a fucking accident by any stretch of the imagination; she’d done this with the full intent that the onerous aftermath would be so explosive.

And explosive, it was.

She’d tagged the photos as: My son and his fiancé! Wish them well, I’m so very thrilled and proud of them both! Love you, Gavin!!

Of course, a lot of people fell into the trap of social niceties and politeness, wishing him well, asking when the wedding would occur, telling him he looked lovely, his fiancé was handsome, that they made a wonderful pair, and that they deserved all the best in the foreseeable future.

All the happiness…well, he wasn’t happy at all!!!

Staring up at the little red colored notification in his private inbox, he hurriedly tapped it to open it, thinking it was perhaps another petty thing his mother had pieced together. Oh, how she opted for being quite the byronic character at times…

He rasped as his eyes told him what his mind had difficulty accepting for the longest time. It hadn’t been Carrie Moser who’d messaged him.

Right there sitting in Gavin’s inbox was a message request from Marsha Field, one of his many ex-girlfriends from high school.

Had she also sent the friend request?

Checking it swiftly, Gavin confirmed that yes, she had, and he knew right then and there what kind of hot water he was in.

Seething, he spat at the screen, “Thanks, mom. Just what I fuckin’ needed.”


 

The pants Nines tried on in the store. It's a legit design I based his clothes off of!!! The pants look cool. 

Image may contain: people standing and shoes

Chapter Text

Marsha Field was fucking crazy. Well, technically, Gavin considered that majority of his exes were, but Marsha seriously took the fucking cake. For one, he’d dated her barely all of two months, and she was the only girlfriend he’d never been intimate with. As if that mattered at all, however.

Marsha had come off as a very intellectual, cool girl back when Gavin first saw her in his grade eleven class. Long blonde hair with gentle, round brown eyes, she looked like a doll with all her petite, dainty features. She was late registering into his high school, but she fit right in with a large group of girls in no time at all. Both studious and absolutely sexy, Marsha soon got involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities as well as school-related ones. Head of the girls’ varsity volleyball team, top singer in the school choir, and top cheerleader of the month, everyone soon loved Marsha. Guys drooled over her wherever she went, girls envied her and tried to be like her, and she was quite popular in no time and without much of an effort.

Naturally, Gavin-at his young age back then as a teenager-was awestruck. His budding sexuality paired with curiosity evoked him to slowly approach Marsha on the basis of just being a friend. However, the bright young girl soon was rather forthcoming for her age, and she was the first to confess that she had strong feelings for Gavin.

They made quite the couple back then, and for the first few weeks, Gavin thought he seriously was going to end up remaining high school sweethearts with Marsha and possibly marrying her in the near future.

But of course, youthful innocence and Gavin’s natural propensity for compartmentalizing people had been what backfired, but it hadn’t been what eventually helped him realize that there was something ‘off’ about Marsha. As young as he was, he wasn’t stupid, and he could tell that all wasn’t right when he asked her one day if he could go over to a friend’s to just hang out and play video games. Well, that friend happened to be a girl, of course, and Marsha freaked out all of a sudden. In less than a second, the image of the sweet, wonderful, sexy girl he’d been dating came to a halt, and in its place was a raging, seething, vitriolic young woman already accusing Gavin of cheating on her with this friend.

The video game plans were cancelled, and Gavin held her to his chest all evening trying to calm her down. Marsha had sobbed out to him and promised that she wouldn’t repeat that ever again, and such an incident never would occur. Foolishly, Gavin believed her, wanting to give their love another shot and genuinely wanting to make it work out. He knew that all couples fought and had their personal struggles, of course, as he’d seen plenty of it coming from his parents before his father left. Vowing to be more patient with Marsha, he stopped hanging out with his friends altogether.

Well, that wasn’t nearly enough for Marsha. When Gavin gave her an inch, she wanted to take the extra damn mile. Soon, another side to Marsha revealed itself. She became greedy, controlling, and she invaded almost all areas of Gavin’s life.

Trying to mold and shape him to the perfect visage of the perfect, most ideal man for herself, she often berated him that his grades were too low, that he didn’t study hard enough, and if he ever was going to introduce himself to her father, he had to pick up the slack. Her verbal tirade was never-ending, it seemed, and very soon, Gavin grew weary of it. It didn’t matter how beautiful her body was, and it didn’t matter how much he wanted to sleep with her. No amount of verbal abuse and degradation was worth putting up with for anyone.

He’d broken things off with her over the phone, mainly due to worrying that she was going to scream and cry at him all day long, but that still came to haunt Gavin.

Marsha had reacted, alright. Threatening suicide and the like, she sent him at least a hundred texts the very same day he cut her out of his life, and from that day on, she sent at least a hundred every day.

The torment and torture didn’t end there, however. Although he’d blocked her number, Marsha wasn’t going to allow that to stop her, it seemed.

Since she’d already been to Gavin’s house numerous times, and since Gavin’s mother actually liked her, she allowed Marsha to come by the house. Gavin relayed to his mother that Marsha had threatened to harm and kill herself, but of course, adults hardly believed kids. His mother-due to being so busy at the time as she worked on publishing her second thesis dissertation-waved him off and told him to be a man and deal with his own problems.

So he did.

The next time Marsha saw him, Gavin knew she was in a sense ‘stalking’ him. They never had classes together during the second semester of school, thankfully, and that was quite the relief to Gavin. Too bad it was short-lived, however…

Very soon, Marsha took it upon herself to switch into all of Gavin’s classes. She’d spent majority of the classes trying to get Gavin’s attention, throwing licentious looks his way, and just being a complete obnoxious nuisance. She was a thorn in his side, and Gavin really started hating her.

One day after class, when he saw her standing near his locker, he shouted at her in front of everyone for her to leave him alone and to stop stalking him. Sending her into a rage at once, Gavin had ‘outed’ her, and a lot of his friends backed him up as they encouraged him to do whatever he could to get away from her. They didn’t need to even encourage him; it was as natural as breathing to be free of Marsha Field.

That had been the most terrifying experience of Gavin’s life, and from that experience, he’d learned a lot, and thankfully, no other woman he dated had been nearly as messed up in the head as Marsha. Having accrued more experience afterwards, things had been fine for a long, long time…until recently, anyway.

What did Marsha want, now?!

As his mind span and swam over the possibilities, Gavin felt sick and queasy just thinking about it. Thinking and obsessing wouldn’t get him anywhere, however; reading her message would. Reading the damn thing would expel all sources of doubt, all confusion, muck, as well as imaginative thoughts he could conjure up for himself.

Bracing himself, Gavin opened the message, and he yanked his phone so closely to his face, that his nose practically kissed the cold screen as a result. He read over her initial greeting a few times until her words really sank into his head.

Marsha Driver: Gavin!!! Hey!!! Do you remember me??? It’s been so long!!!

Did he—did he remember?!?! Of course he did!!!!

…..

But why was her last name different, and why did she look different?!

Deciding to take a little trip to her profile page, Gavin saw it load up quickly. Her cover photo was of herself, a man, as well as a young boy aged no more than three or four years old at the most. As he squinted seriously at the photo, Gavin concluded that yes, this was indeed Marsha Field, and she was married. He didn’t need to stare for long at the glowing wedding band on her finger as she cradled the boy to her chest and had her arms around him in the shot; simply staring down and seeing it written blatantly on her profile.

There, her little biography of sorts sat open for all to see.

Marsha Driver
From: Loomis, California
Joined on: December 2012
Went to College of Nursing - Wayne State University
Married to Charles Driver

So there it was, then. A married woman was messaging him. No! A married ex-girlfriend was messaging him!!! Not that that was a crime in and of itself, really, but Gavin somehow suspected that there was more to this than met the eye.

With his ‘detective cap’ on, he searched through a few of her photos, and he noticed that she’d not only grown her hair out longer to the point that it practically touched her ass, but she’d dyed it raven black, as well. In high school, Marsha Field had soft, blonde hair that Gavin often enjoyed looking at and running his fingers through. But now? It was a raven’s nest, swooping down to the floor in a few shots, practically.

Charles Driver’s profile was searched next, but it held significantly less photos than Marsha’s did. Charles was a middle-aged man with pure blonde hair, and it was clean-cut in comparison to his wife’s broom of wild hair. Their son was apparently named Nathan, and he had his father’s blonde hair, and his mother’s deep brown eyes.

As Gavin looked back through all of Marsha’s photos, he whispered to himself, “Can’t ever get rid of crazy, can ya?”

Deleting Marsha’s friend request, he’d been on the verge of blocking her, too, when something occurred to him. Slamming into him like a train, the thought screamed out at him like a damn siren, and he couldn’t ignore it.

His mother really had liked Marsha a lot back then, and since his own mother had tagged the photo and Marsha had commented on it, Gavin knew that Marsha and his mother were Facebook friends.

Quickly confirming it when he revisited Marsha’s profile, he saw that yes, their friend in mutual was in fact Carrie Moser.

This was a problem, as well as a God-sent gift. Gavin knew that if he blocked Marsha, there was a chance she would run off and prattle to his mother. After all, the two were as thick as thieves, and he wouldn’t put it past his own mother to even rope Marsha along into such a weird scheme. They both had nothing better to do, after all.

On the other hand, he could use this to his advantage and show off the fact that he was in a relationship, thus making it all more authentic, and thus increasing the chances that his mother would relent and believe the chicanery.

He knew what to do.

Messaging his ex-girlfriend leisurely, he wrote out just a basic: hey, ya, I remember u, Marsha. How’s it going?

As Gavin made for a quick washroom break and then grabbed some coffee on the way back to his desk, Marsha had read the message, and replied back.

It’s going well, Gavin!! I can’t believe you’re engaged, though!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

If he could only tell her just how much his eyes hurt from looking at the capitalized letters and all the exclamation marks…

Sitting back down at his desk, he wrote to her: well ur married, so congrats 2 u 2.

Now, the conversation picked up speed.

Marsha Driver: Been married for almost six years!!

Gavin Reed: Nice. Saw u hve a son. how old is he?

Marsha Driver: He’ll be five in the summer!

Gavin Reed: cool.

Marsha Driver: Enough about meeee though!!! Tell me about your future hubbyyyy!!!!

It was at this point in the conversation that Gavin truly couldn’t help but be majorly annoyed and suspicious. Marsha was asking a lot for being someone he hadn’t spoken to or seen since high school.

As if she could sense his apprehension over the internet, she hurriedly added on to the conversation with: Hey, I understand if this is all so soooo sudden, but I wanted to say that I’m really happy for you, Gavin. You look genuinely happy with your fiancé, and that makes me happy in turn!!

“Sure it does,” he responded to her out loud in a faint whisper, but then texted: thnx, ur nice.

Cringing at his bland, almost childish reply, he sat awkwardly for a moment. There was now a lull in the conversation, it seemed. Maybe she’d run out of things to say, and Gavin was grateful for that, if it indeed happened to be the case. Perhaps he’d jumped to conclusions far too quickly, and perhaps she was just curious as opposed to wanting to dig in deeper.

Shrugging it all off, he’d barely placed his phone back in his jean pocket when it vibrated.

Shit.

Making sure Fowler wasn’t anywhere nearby, Gavin kept his head and neck craned down as he continued reading what Marsha was sending…there was a litany of shit, it seemed.

Marsha Driver: Let’s meet up some time, Gavin!!! I know that sounds weird, but I would like to meet your fiancé, and I’m sure you want to meet my husband!!!

He really didn’t, and he was already thinking of declining her offer when she kept on sending bullshit nonstop.

Marsha Driver: We can go to a new restaurant that just opened up a few months ago near my house right in the heart of Detroit if you want! Charles and I usually go a lot on Fridays because they have excellent ribs and steaks!!! You’ll loooooooove it!!!!

This time, he couldn’t hold back on his reply.

No thanks, Marsha.

Marsha Driver: Plllllleeeeeeeeaaasseeee Gavin??? It’ll be fun!! I sweaaarrr!!! I have already planned some cool activities for us, and it’ll be our treat!

He frowned as he sent: Your treat?

Marsha Driver: Yeah! Totally!! Charles and I will pay! Your job and your fiancé’s job is to have fun!!

Well, he was convinced. Wherever and whenever free food was offered on the table, Gavin Reed was sure to follow, and he found he couldn’t argue with this right now.

Still a tad suspicious, he replied cautiously: Ok, ill ask Nines then. is this gonan be this Fri?

Marsha Driver: Nines?? Is that his name? Oh my goodness!!! Of course it’s his name!!!!! I forgot he is an android!!!!! LOOOOOOOOOL!

Slapping himself for making that slip, Gavin clenched and ground his teeth together as he struggled with what to say. Eventually, he settled angrily for: haha yah…hs an android…so is it this Friday??

Praying that Marsha would just end his suffering and misery by responding in kind, he sat back and propped his feet up on his desk; classic Reed comfort position achieved effortlessly.

Marsha Driver: Totally!! I hope it’s not short notice!!!

Gavin Reed: well its just a day away, so meh.

Marsha Driver: Awesomeeee!!! Charles will be delighted to knowww!! I’ll message you soon to double check if you’re good to go!!! Looking forward to it, Gavin!!!

He wasn’t.

Gavin Reed: k…ttyl

Marsha Driver: Byyyyyyyeeeeee!

Setting his phone down, Gavin sighed painfully to himself, “Shoot me now…”

A deep voice suddenly rasped behind him, “I’ll follow in line with that, Reed.”

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Of course it had to be Nines who’d stood behind him and read his entire conversation history.

Nearly yanking all his hairs right out of his scalp from the roots in sheer frustration, Gavin practically spun off his chair as he glared up at Nines. Suddenly feeling rather mawkish from being caught, he coughed out, “Nines?? You read a-all that?”

A sneer was his reply from the darkly clad android looming and towering over him. “Unfortunately,” Nines hissed thinly, “I’m all caught up, I’m pleased to report, and considering your clipped replies to this woman, I don’t think I’ll be able to understand why she reached out to you, Reed…” Staring intently at the phone, Nines continued, “…You deleted her friend request, which would entail that you don’t want to have anything to do with this woman.”

Barely managing a nod, Gavin felt his mouth drying up as Nines pressed on.

“Given that, why did you agree to meeting with she and her husband, then?”

Pinned on the spot, Gavin decided to come clean. After all, it was usually easier that way.

“She was someone I dated very briefly in high school,” he answered as he explained fully, “it didn’t end well, of course, and she was freakin’ nuts for a long time, but she seems fine now.”

Keeping on with the interrogation, Nines inquired, “How did she find you?”

“My mom’s Facebook photo,” Gavin began, turning beet red in the face as he remembered it all instantly, “she uh…she tagged me in the photos we took together.”

Almost explosively, Nines roared, “You mean she uploaded those on Facebook?!”

“Yeah…” he couldn’t believe the meek voice belonged to himself.

Reeling, Nines’ LED light flashed red as he muttered to himself, “I’ve come across some odd people, Reed, but I think your mother is by far the most mysterious and bizarre.” Shaking his head, he continued, “Uploading a photo like this, for which purpose from this day onward until the end of time I still cannot and will not be able to fathom!!”

Holding his hands out, Gavin nodded, “Look, I know it’s a shitty thing, but now that Marsha’s involved in this, I don’t think I can really talk my way out.”

Glaring, Nines spat, “Oh yes you can, Reed!” Reaching for the phone, he coldly instructed, “Block her, delete her, and move on with your life; you’re making this a bigger issue than it needs to be.”

“No!” Gavin cried angrily, swiping his phone clean out of Nines’ hands. As a result of the wild display of animosity, a lot of people were staring…

Unable to take this, Gavin grabbed a vacant seat and ordered Nines to sit on it. Refusing to, the tall android backed away, but then stopped when Gavin growled, “I won’t talk to you unless you sit the hell down, Nines.”

This did well in eliciting more sputtered cursing, but Nines finally sat still as he folded his arms over his chest and hissed, “Explain yourself.”

Calmly, Gavin held his hands together clasped tightly and firmly. Perhaps it was a means of getting and remaining calm…

“Look, Nines,” he began as gently as he could, aware that eyes were still on them, which was why he tried to hurry. “I would love more than anything else in this damn world to block Marsha forever, but I can’t because she’s literally my mom’s best friend.”

A knowing look was instantly in Nines’ eyes. With a strained sigh, he slowly stood up as he grunted, “Coffin’s sealed; we have to go to this stupid dinner thing, huh?”

“You’d be right…sadly.”

Remembering what Carrie had said about the authenticity of their ‘relationship’, Nines was immediately torn between helping Gavin, and abandoning him. His ‘helpful’ nature conflicted and battled with his ‘selfish’ one, but very soon, as he stared intently at Gavin, he found the helpful side of himself won over.

Damn.

Bending down quickly, Nines whispered scathingly, “Did I ever tell you that I don’t really like your mother, Reed?”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin rasped in pure exasperation, “You’re lucky you’re not related to her.”

“I think I’d rather be shot, to be honest with you, Reed.”

For once, he genuinely found himself agreeing with the RK900.

“Likewise, man, likewise.”

Chapter Text

Friday evening had Gavin back in Nines’ apartment. Due to how cold the weather had gotten, Gavin was already wearing the thick multi-zip up cargo jacket over a black, long-sleeve shirt. He wore dark grey jeans beneath all that, and as he stood waiting outside Nines’ partly closed bedroom door, he wondered what the android would wear to the dinner outing.

Luckily, Nines wasn’t burdened by the cold, and Gavin assumed he would be wearing the items he’d purchased, no doubt.

Of course, his detective powers for once had failed him; he was wrong!!

As soon as Nines stepped out into the hall, Gavin found him to be wearing a black suit and a red tie. Oh, this wouldn’t do. Apparently, Nines was still too shy to dress in his new getup, and it seemed to annoy Gavin for reasons unknown.

Eyeing his distaste, Nines croaked, “What’s wrong? No good?”

“Dude,” Gavin coughed, “you spent over three-hundred god damn American dollars on yourself, and you’re gonna wear that shit, still???” Disapproval evident and impossible to hide, Gavin shook his head as he tried gazing past Nines’ broad, wide shoulders and into his bedroom.

Eyes shifting in mild discomfort, Nines weakly supplied, “I was trying to make a good impression, Reed, why are you berating me for it?”

Ignoring his question, Gavin nodded over inside his room, “Move aside for a moment so I can check what you have.”

Again, Nines seemed nervous, and as his LED light reflected that by switching from blue to yellow, he wheezed, “Why?”

“Because,” Gavin hissed, “I know you bought more shit since we went shopping last time.”

Thrown off by this assertion, Nines aggressively growled out, “You couldn’t possibly know that, Reed, unless you—hey!!”

Using the minor distraction to his advantage, Gavin pushed past Nines swiftly and entered his room. Turning left closer to the wall, he slid open Nines’ closet doors and saw just how many new things he’d purchased. Apparently, the RK900 had been quite the busy little bee…

A long, dark Minos Men’s Highwayman Coat with an over-sized hood and face-covering collar when zipped up stood facing Gavin first and foremost. The trench coat had two pockets with flaps. The front and back of it also had splits for maximum movement and comfort. In general, the trench coat appeared to be made from warm coating fabric, making it practical as well as fashionable.

Peeking down, Gavin then saw dark, large size motorcycle boots made out of genuine leather. A few other belts, buckles, and chains hung around it as well, and Gavin had to step back and laugh.

Mortified completely, Nines attempted to close the door and push him out of the way. “I think you’ve seen enough, Reed!” he barked out his discomfort, but before he could entirely close the doors, Gavin wedged a hand quickly inside closet. It worked, and Nines stopped trying to close the doors while throwing Gavin an unimpressed glare.

“What?” Gavin tossed out, “I like what you got!!”

“I can’t wear any of this!” Nines argued, but Gavin reached inside his closet and yanked out the Black Swamp trousers with the torn, distressful, and erratic patterned paint designs and patches running down the legs of the pants. “Don’t be silly, Nines,” he chided mildly while he grabbed the trench coat as well, “this is fine!! I think Marsha will be weirded out to see ya all punked out for sure, but I think that’ll be worth it even more!!!”

“How kind of you to use me as fodder for shocking and terrifying your ex-girlfriend, Reed,” Nines bowed sardonically, “that sure makes me feel wonderful.”

Ignoring him, Gavin sang out, “For your top, I think we can go with this devil fashion black shirt!” Toying and plucking the various buckle belts and rivets accents on the bodice, Gavin eyed the slim fit shirt with mild greed reflecting brightly in his eyes.

Almost pouting, Nines seemed to fidget nervously as he belted out, “This is insane, Reed, and need I remind you, very last-minute for my tastes!!”

As he snatched the clothes out of Gavin’s hands and set them onto the bed, the short detective shoved his hands in his pockets, turned his nose up in disgust at the current clothes Nines was wearing, and he laughed.

Nines didn’t appreciate it, and he tossed Gavin a heated scowl that depicted how displeased he was with this situation. “Reed,” came the low, deep growl, “it’s not really funny!”

“Sure it is!” Gavin quipped, “to see the big and mighty Nines frightened of some gothic clothes?! Duuude, that’s comedy material!!” Backing these up with boisterous rounds of chuckling, he nearly doubled down in laughter as his voice hit all four walls of the bedroom.

As he wiped his tears away from the corners of his eyes, Nines huffed at him as he hissed, “I was trying to make a good first impression, Reed, and considering how this is at best—”

Holding up both hands as if he was under gunpoint, Gavin snapped up as he cried out, “How did ya put it??” Now, it was his turn to mimic the android, and he put on his best ‘Nines’ voice as he grumbled out of his chest, “Petty internet drama? Is that how you said it?”

“Stop that,” Nines growled back, “I thought most people-when they are meeting their partner’s friends and exes for the first time ever-would dress their best for the occasion!”

Sitting down on the edge of the bed next to the clothes, Gavin muttered, “Nah, I think you should just be yourself, Nines; you picked these clothes out yourself for a reason, and I think you should just embrace that.” To help out with the process, he scooted closer to the closet and yanked out the motorcycle boots. Plopping them before the bed, he watched as Nines seemed hesitant for a moment, eyes flittering back and forth between the bed and the floor.

“Reed…”

“You don’t have to worry about the cold,” Gavin pointed out, “just wear whatever you want, and don’t worry about what Marsha may think.” His mind supplied, ‘I’ll handle her’, but he didn’t dare say that out loud while he threw Nines a wide smile.

After grumbling for another moment, Nines caved in.

The moody android knew what to do, and he got to work on shrugging out of his suit and pants…right in front of Gavin…

Leaping up to his feet as if he’d been electrocuted, Gavin tore across the room towards the door, and making sure his back faced Nines, he chirped out, “I’ll wait outside, but I’m sure it’ll be a good night, Nines.”

Before the android could say anything, the door clicked shut softly.

Gavin was left standing awkwardly in the hall, running a hand through his perfectly combed-back hair as he wondered why Nines hadn’t at least warned him that he wanted to disrobe right away first. If he stayed there in the room another minute, he’d—

“I’m ready, Detective.”

The door squeaked open, and Gavin sighed out, “That was fast…”

Almost mawkishly, Nines admitted, “I’m quick to do things if I’m interested and passionately motivated…”

“I’ve noticed,” Gavin chuckled, admiring how perfectly the boots looked peeking out from beneath the long trench coat, and how tall Nines’ figure was. These clothes really suited him to no end, and as the hood of the trench coat had been pulled back to reveal his face, Gavin stared at Nines’ hair for a while. He found himself ogling it for some time, and he knew it was because something wasn’t exactly sitting right.

Picking up on it, Nines frowned, “What’s the matter?”

Waving a dismissive hand as if he were waving a fly out of his face, Gavin replied, “Nothing, we have to get going, soon.”

Drawing up the hood of the trench coat, Nines nodded and stepped around Gavin towards the front door of the apartment.

Yet again, Gavin had to wonder why Nines did that; he wasn’t affected by the cold like humans were. In fact, to the detective’s mind and opinion, Nines looked better without the hood.

He gently pulled it down once they got in his car and drove off towards the address of the restaurant.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“Ribfest?” Nines snorted as he gazed out the window at the restaurant as they sat in the parked car, “this place is called ‘Ribfest’?”

Gavin snickered, “Seems appropriate and to the point, right?”

“I’ll say.”

As the snow stopped falling-thankfully, giving a much clearer view of outside, Gavin saw the pickup truck Marsha described she’d be arriving in. It was parked right next to Gavin’s car, and as Gavin waited while blowing over his clenched fists to warm them up in the old-fashioned ‘caveman’ way, Nines stared out the window at the pickup truck.

LED light yellow, he hissed, “Why’re we doing this again?”

The apprehension the android felt wasn’t only exclusively experienced by himself alone; Gavin too was feeling frightened and nervous as he saw and heard the man driving the truck turn off the engine.

Why were they here?? It was a rather simple-yet complicated answer.

As the cold night air sat around the car and the peace and silence of the darkness all around settled and engulfed them, Gavin felt his nostrils and mouth burning as they turned dry. This was…this was an important thing even he himself hadn’t considered regaling out loud to Nines, but he knew that this was all a part of how to make the image they’d painted of themselves as a couple all the more valid and believable.

Real couples did things together; they traveled together, shopped together, hung out with other married couples together, and they shared experiences together intimately and closely. This was what it was all about. So far, they’d shopped together a few times, and Gavin even felt mildly responsible for influencing Nines in some way to change his style of dress. Only intimate friends and couples seemed to be able to wield that power and influence over each other. Only couples cohabiting and relating intensely to each other were capable of chiseling away and ‘refining’ their significant other into minor versions better suiting themselves, but did that mean they were truly a couple???

No.

In order to bring that to life, Gavin realized that they had to step outside their personal mind frames and actually show something in terms of the relationship. What good were thoughts, ideas, practices, values, and plots if they weren’t validated and confirmed by others? That’s how the world worked, of course, as no person lived on their own private island. This was an open world, and an open society, and people relied on their experiences, their stories, their witness accounts, and their reports and feedback in order to perpetuate those said experiences throughout time. That was how history had been made, of course; observed, written and reported down, reported on and regaled, and thus making it all substantial and valid.

In a nutshell, they had to show off, and as much as Gavin and Nines hated that equally, there was no way to avoid this matter.

He settled for merely supplying, “Look, Nines, Marsha’s literally my mom’s ‘spy’, I bet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she was roped into this by my mom as a stupid ‘test’ of sorts to see if we’re really together and can survive through all obstacles and bullshit alike.” His breath fogged up the windows and windshield considerably, but he didn’t care as he stared straight ahead of himself at the darkness all around.

Next to him, Nines commented harshly, “This isn’t at all what entails fulfilling a promise, Reed.”

“I know, I know, I know, and I know,” Gavin whispered repeatedly as he closed his eyes and felt a tiny headache already blooming in the back of his head. God help him get through this. “I promise that once this is all over, Nines, then all debts will be paid in full.” He wasn’t sure how else to explain it without making it sound so business-like. It was good enough for now, he supposed, especially considering who he was talking to.

Eyeing him wearily, Nines murmured, “I said I’d help, didn’t I?” Not even waiting for Gavin to provide an answer for the rhetorical question, he added, “I’ll do it to the end, besides which, I’m quite sure that if you yourself even deigned to help me, it would be in the form of being tainted like you are.”

Gavin could only hiss like he’d been burned, and he growled, “Wanna tone it down a bit, Nines? Sheesh!! Felt that one in the cold sizzling right through!!”

Before Nines could respond, Gavin continued on his tirade. Now, having found a convenient target for all of his frustrations, he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Unlocking the car doors abruptly and loudly, he played with the handle of the inside of the door as he muttered incoherently, “Get your smile on, Nines, and try to behave, at least a little.”

If at all possible, his mind supplied, but he never voiced this aloud.

Stepping out of the car, Gavin was immediately assaulted by a brutally arctic cold wind slapping him in the face. Cheeks frozen for a moment, he barely was able to lift a hand up and touch his own skin when he heard loud feminine squeals of pure zeal and excitement ringing and cutting through the air.

The passenger door of the pickup truck burst open, and high heeled winter boots crunched their way on the snow. Hands stretched out while a white scarf wrapped around her neck and a small wool hat rested upon her skull, Marsha dove for Gavin. Wrapping him ever so tightly in her arms, she tugged him to her chest as she screamed out, “GAAAAAAAAAAAVIIIIN!!! Oh my goooooooood!!! It’s been sooooooo long!!!”

Trying to squirm away, Gavin felt her arms go tighter around himself. Wisely, he felt that running away wasn’t a wise move; she only yanked him closer in her own embrace. Relenting, he pet her on the back a few times awkwardly, while her husband exited from the truck next and smirked.

Waving at him, he grunted, “Reed, right?”

Waving back, Gavin responded, “Err, yeah, Gavin Reed.”

“Nice to meet you,” came the nice, socially polite comment, “my wife’s told me a lot of good things about you.”

Had she? That was a first.

Once Marsha decided she’d had her complete fill of smooshing Gavin, she let him go, and she then squinted over at Nines. However obliquely her next set of actions were as he moved around towards where the android was standing, she immediately began ‘sizing him up’ as she stared at him from head to toe, and then from his very toes to his face again.

As she gazed intently and openly at Nines, gawking at him more as time went on, Charles brushed some hairs off his black coat and jeans as he awkwardly cleared his throat.

“So this is your…partner, Reed?” It had been spoken in such an odd, abstract way, but Gavin could only nod robotically more so due to the cold.

“Sh-should we head inside?” Gavin asked, bypassing more awkward gaping and staring as he nodded over to the luminous glow emanating from the restaurant. It was growing colder faster and faster, and truth be told, he was so hungry above all else…

Snapping to attention, Marsha stood back, looped her arm with her husband’s, and she let out a tiny giggle. “Yeah! Let’s go!!” Already skipping towards the restaurant, she paused midway, turned, and glared over at Nines.

Only, Gavin hadn’t caught it due to turning off his phone so they wouldn’t be disturbed, but Nines surely did, and he glared right back at Marsha until they reached the front of the restaurant.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“It feels sooooo good to be indoors, right sweetie?!” Marsha certainly was the Queen of making the dumbest comments of the century, and things seemed to be getting more annoying for both Nines and Gavin as they allowed the human couple to lead them inside the restaurant.

Thankfully, Marsha and Charles had already reserved a booth for four people, and the waitress led them towards it cheerfully. The entire place had been decorated to the nines for Christmas already, and it made Gavin’s stomach churn uncomfortably. For one, a lot of the servers and waitresses already were wearing red, green, black, and white uniform colors. On their heads, majority of them had either elf hats, or reindeer antlers with bells attached that jingle-jangled loudly whenever they walked about. Classic Christmas music blasted on the speakers, and a lot of tinsel, holly, ivy, mistletoe, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, stockings, gifts, as well as Santa models could be found every other corner of the restaurant.

Their booth was a fuzzy, red seated circular one, and it was as close to the bar and grill as possible. A fresh scent of the meat cooking and steaming hit Gavin’s nostrils, and he had to work hard on repressing the sounds of his growling, demanding stomach.

Once they sat down at their clean booth, the waitress handed them all their menus, and she had already set out glasses of crystal-clear water. Once she saw Nines, however, she did a doubletake when it came to his LED light, winced, and then took away his glass.

“I’ll let you folks just look through our menu, now,” she announced while she avoided all eye-contact with the punk, gothic Nines, as though he made her quite uncomfortable. She left as soon as Charles gave her an auspicious wink, and as he settled next to his wife, she shrugged out of her long, white winter coat and draped and folded it neatly next to herself. Placing her black purse on top of it as well, now that she was embroidered in better light, she seemed to be at the height of her happiness next to her handsome husband.

Gavin was able to see that Marsha hadn’t really ‘aged’ in any downhill manner. Her skin remained soft, absent of wrinkles, stress-free, and it held some sort of an odd glow around and within it. She barely looked a day over thirty-two at the most, and Gavin had a difficult time believing she actually had a son as well.

Her hair was still as long as he’d seen in the photos on her Facebook profile, of course, but she obviously had cut it a little, so it rested just in the middle of her waist. Still slender and rather athletic, Marsha looked fit and healthy in her red miniskirt, thigh-high black winter boots, and black long sleeve shirt that had been freshly washed and ironed. She wore a thin layer of eyeliner above on her top eyelid, and her perfume was rather…potent. Gavin hated it whenever a woman doused herself in perfume, and he was already feeling his nose burning up and reacting quite badly to her scent.

Charles on the other hand smelled clean and fresh as well as looked the part, but he somehow seemed more subtle and a lot calmer than his wife. His soft olive colored eyes and blonde hair reflected nicely in the lights of the diner, and as he removed his winter jacket, he was simply dressed in a blue dress shirt and a dark blue tie. The cuffs had been rolled back a little, however, and as he pulled his arms up to rest on the surface of the table, Marsha peeked down at his cufflinks and let out a tiny hiss.

Reaching for his wrists, she gently straightened them out as she sibilantly spat, “Sweetie, your shirt…”

Charles immediately acquiesced and allowed her to fix them up for him as he chuckled.  

Gavin rolled his eyes. Nothing had changed in terms of Marsha insisting on controlling others; especially the men in her life.

Poor Charles.

Straightening himself up, the man who looked suddenly a bit too old for his wife stared at Nines, and then at Gavin, and then back over at Nines. Lowering his head as a rosy glow broke out in his face, he mumbled unenthusiastically, “I like your husband’s—err, I mean, fiancé’s clothes, Mr. Reed.”

Gavin let out a loud snort, catching the attention of the diners located a few booths over. Nines stomped on his foot roughly, the heel of the boot grinding down strongly over Gavin’s toes. The pained detective merely bit the insides of his cheeks, however, and he withdrew his foot from beneath Nines’ powerful boot.

“Err, thanks, Charles,” he grunted, “and you can just call me ‘Gavin’, by the way.”

Nodding, Charles looked back down at his menu, and then kept out of the conversation. Above, the music switched to Frosty the Snowman, causing a few children near the Christmas tree to sing along as they gushed in sheer joy. Their irate parents dined and tried quieting them down to no avail.

While Charles’ eyes roamed over the length of his menu, Marsha sat with both her hands propped against both cheeks. Her face was right before Nines’ as she leaned into the table of the booth as much as she could, her white scarf trailing down over the edge while she struggled to get a deeper look at the android sitting next to her ex-boyfriend. As her thin eyebrows rose steadily while Nines scowled at her with all his might, Gavin fidgeted and sputtered out, “Err, s-so, Marsha…h-how’s your son?”

“Hmm?” Waking up from her dreamland slowly, she giggled as she finally caught on, “Oh! Nathan’s doing well!! He’s at a babysitter’s house, of course!!!”

“Umm, all night?” Gavin asked quickly, hoping to fill into the awkwardness before Marsha could somehow piss Nines off by staring at him as though he were some circus freak on full display.

Waving a hand at him in a dainty sort of way, Marsha exclaimed, “Of course!!! We need our time together sometimes, Charles and I!!”

Yeah, he got that.

Staring over at his menu, he pretended to take up interest in it, even though he’d already settled for roasted ham with a side dish of mashed potatoes and corn.

Good enough.

While Nines gazed off to the side almost shyly, Marsha decided to suddenly act as though she were a long-lost sycophant fan of his or an admirer. Tapping a clean, white-manicured fingernail in the center of the wooden table, she asked, “So how long have you two been together?”

Nines stared at Gavin, wondering if he would answer, but before the detective could do so, Marsha quickly intervened with, “It’s ‘Nines’, right?”

LED light switching to yellow, Nines softly responded, “Yes, I’m Nines.”

Chuckling, Marsha again asked, “So how long have you two been an item?!?!?” Fluttering her eyelashes at them, she added, “I must say, you guys actually look even cuter together in person!!”

How long were they together?

Gavin shrugged, “Err, not that long, I mean…like what…almost a year, Nines?”

Lips barely moving, Nines hissed, “Seems about right.”

“Well, I just think you two are amazing!!” Marsha sang, and her husband set down his menu as he gathered her own in his hands, next.

Smiling politely at Nines and Gavin, he inquired carefully, “So, Nines, are you also working for the DPD?”

Glaring at Gavin for a moment, Nines seemed to be non-verbally asking just how much Charles and Marsha knew about him, and Gavin looked away as he flushed pink. Nines seemed to be expecting an answer, however, but Marsha-ever the chatterbox-seemed to keep on going down the path she’d carved out for herself. Really, it was a train that couldn’t ever be stopped, and to want to stop it was only a futile desire.

It was better to let the questions come.

One by one, they poured out of her, and she waved her hands ecstatically about, her wide, round eyes and long eyelashes the only things that Nines could see as she drew herself closer and closer to him.

“Have you two moved in together, yet?! I bet you have! I bet you have a lovely place!!!”

“What about kids? Are you guys thinking of kids in the future?”

Not even taking a breath, she rambled on, “Ooooh!!! And Nines is an androiiiid!!! That must be new and exciting, huh Gavin?”

Needing a break from this madness, Gavin stared up at one of the many elf hats that jingled by, and he raised a hand as he tried getting a waiter’s attention. He didn’t have to try too hard; the young man pranced over towards their booth, and he smirked at Gavin as if he already knew what was going on.

“Sir,” he addressed calmly and formally, bending over halfway as Gavin held up his menu and Nines’.

Holding out the menus, Gavin simply said, “I’ll take the roasted ham and side dish of mashed potatoes and corn, please…” pausing, he quickly added, “…with lots of butter, please.”

“Certainly, sir,” turning to the others, he then asked, “are we all ready to order, then?”

With a brief second’s peek at Nines, Marsha held a hand up to her mouth as she giggled, “Teehee!! Well, all except for Nines, since he’s an android!!!”

Her husband chuckled as well, gently holding her to his side as he coughed up a laugh at the waiter. “We’re ready to order, sir.”

Oh, how Gavin want to wipe that stupid shit-eating smirk off both Marsha’s face, and Charles’. But all he could do was sit and watch as the waiter took down their orders, and then marched away with the bells attached to his hat making musical noises harmoniously.

The air was suddenly so stuffy here, but he felt that mostly because they’d reached a sort of age-old-familiar ‘social awkwardness’ that Gavin always faced whenever he’d been forced out to socialize with strangers. He’d always had good intentions, of course, but once the social niceness and politeness had waned off and he found that there was nothing left to talk about, that was when the embarrassing feeling of being ‘stuck’ weighed and slammed into his head.

He was now stuck.

Marsha’s intractable behavior earlier hadn’t exactly helped, either, but it seemed to not matter to the woman at all. She sipped her water, her pink lip gloss staining the cold side of the cup she was drinking from. The moment her husband looked down to check his phone resting on his lap, no doubt, she tossed a flirtatious wink surreptitiously at Gavin.

That was it; he needed a drink.

At least the bar was close, anyway.

Standing up immediately, he took off his jacket, and as he folded it neatly on his seat, Nines asked gently, “Where’re you off to, Ree-err, I mean, Gavin?”

Thankfully, no one caught that, as just in the nick of time, an infant had decided to kick up a fuss and wail out a piercing cry that rang about nastily in the restaurant.

Flinching as he heard the near deafening cries, Gavin coughed out carefully, “Err, I’m getting a drink?” Motioning over at the bar, he then said, “I think you have to order on your own, apparently.”

Without invitation, in a jiffy, Marsha leapt to her feet. Taking it upon herself, she volunteered, “I’ll come with you!!”

Her husband Charles nodded, “Get me the usual, honey.”

“Okay sweets,” she threw back merrily at him, and in an instant, before Gavin could even blink, she looped her arm around his, much in the similar fashion as she had with her husband upon entering the restaurant. Gavin was led away from the booth in a hurry, and the colors, lights, sights, and sounds all swirled messily around him as Marsha’s potent perfume slammed into his burning nostrils.

Blinking back tears as he fought to breathe through his mouth only, Gavin kept his eyes on the back of Marsha’s black hair as she tugged him and led him up to the lavender colored bar counter. Gavin’s knees knocked into the damn thing, and he hissed as he leaned against a black, shiny stool. With all the confidence in the world as if she was the sexiest thing alive, Marsha pushed aside a few propped-up menus and signs, and she winked at the first bartender who approached.

“Evenin’ ma’am,” he purred delightfully at her, and she smiled back widely.

“Heya, can I get one Cabernet Sauvignon, one Chardonnay, aaaand…” pausing, she smirked at Gavin, indicating that he had to tell her what he wanted.

Not caring for the classier things, Gavin merely grunted out at the bartender, “I’ll have one Corona, please.”

Nodding his head, the bartender turned on his heels, and he got to work. As he yanked out the three glasses and got out the alcohol from coolers and buckets, Marsha turned and leaned with her elbows on the counter. Stretching her long, thin legs out before herself, she seemed to be puffing out her more than endowed chest, as if purposefully showing off to Gavin what kind of ‘assets’ she had.

Ignoring it, Gavin focused on the music, as well as the ability not to burst out sneezing all over the damn place. He was starting to feel a throbbing headache.

As he zoned out, Gavin felt his headache growing worse, and he blinked hard, as if he could somehow dispel it. No, banishing a headache wasn’t that simple, and he was a fool to try. Still, he kept blinking, shivering mildly as he felt his nose really flaring up.

Why was it burning?!?!

A gentle hand resting down on his shoulder suddenly gave him a thought as to why his nose burned so badly.

Turning his head around to his right, he saw Marsha throwing him a playful-yet impishly dark look. He didn’t like it and appreciate it at all, but he was frozen in place; she was advancing, and she was doing so relatively quickly.

Lips pausing next to his ear, if someone happened to be walking by and they didn’t know them, it would be fair to assume they were engaged in a rather close, intimate conversation…

Marsha’s purred words eased their way into his ears so dangerously, the tremors racking him and antagonizing him beyond what words could say.

With a mild glance thrown in the direction their booth was located, Marsha chuckled softly, “So, this is what you wanted all along, huh Gavin?”

Chapter Text

Me posting pure smut on Wattpad and Tumblr and then running away.

 

 

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, walking, shoes, beard and outdoor

 

*Hours later* Thinking I got away with it, only to have my profile shut down and a warning email sent to me.

 

Image may contain: 2 people, text

Chapter Text

He knew she’d been referring to Nines, though what of Nines, Gavin had no idea. He wasn’t in the mood for guessing games either, and he always thought that as rudely as it could be taken, it was far better to just ask things and get right down to the point instead of skirting around the subject at hand just to be nice.

Curbing all his airs and graces for the moment, he frowned a deep frown as he asked, “What do you mean?”

With a tiny eye roll indicative of her impatience bubbling beneath the well-tamed surface, she hissed out vindictively, “Your partner, Gavin! What’s with his style of dress?”

Oh…so she was indeed shocked? Good.

Feeling his lips twitching in sheer success, Gavin tried playing it cold as ice while shrugging nonchalantly, “I dunno, he likes it.”

A thin eyebrow rose on her forehead, “He likes it?!”

“Mhm.”

Puffing out her cheeks for a moment, Marsha exhaled a deep, long breath that made parts of her hair that hung down over her cheeks blow and move back. “Soooo, let me get this straight,” she began as she looked genuinely annoyed and pained, “your partner’s perfectly fine with dressing up like a Tim Burton character as he parades around Detroit with you like that?”

Snorting crudely, Gavin snapped, “He’s not a Tim Burton character, Marsha.”

“He looks like Edward Scissorhands!” she almost shrieked flippantly, causing another female bartender to glance up from restocking the shelves and racks.

Feeling himself blushing, Gavin tried escaping from his horrific embarrassment by resorting to joking. It was always a means to detract from his discomfort and social awkwardness, and it’d always yielded good results. Plus, it didn’t hurt that people liked jokes.

Sniffing once because of the damn perfume still wafting about in the air and then rubbing his nose quickly, Gavin grinned, “Oh, Edward Scissorhands? So you mean my partner’s as sexy as Johnny Depp then, right Marsha? Is that literally what you’re saying?”

“Oh, knock it off, Gavin,” she snapped irritably, “that’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

Shrugging, Gavin retorted, “Style is something personal, but I guess you never understood that, Marsha.” Again, he felt age-old residual feelings of control, manipulation, gaslighting, and the over-arching need for her to change any man she was ever with; constantly bending and molding them until they were the apotheosis of the ‘perfect guy’.

But who was to tell Marsha Field that ‘perfection’ never existed!? If she ever was informed of that, well, it would be the end of days as humanity knew it, for sure. Better to not touch that shit with a fifty-foot pole.

Still mildly chuffed about his last comment, Marsha stared angrily at Gavin from head to toe before a standoffish sneer was instantly upon her face. It made her suddenly look terrifying. “Well, you don’t exactly have a good sense of fashion and style either, Gavin…” eyes rolling up to the ceiling, she pushed a stray hair strand out of her face as she concluded, “…seriously, some of the crap you’ve been wearing and calling ‘clothes’ all these years is just…” her face scrunched up, then, “…eewww…”

But how had she…how could she possibly know about all this?!? Gavin felt the hairs on his body rising, his heart racing, and he started sweating profusely. There had to be some way she’d obtained all this information!! Who was involved?! Who had she been talking to?! Perhaps his mother?!

…..

No…it was much simpler than that, and there wasn’t a sinister, decadent reason for all this madness. It was just a simple matter of Occam’s razor: the simplest reason or answer was most likely the correct one. Yes, the ‘razor’ here needed to be used for the purposes of effectively shaving away all the unnecessary assumptions when distinguishing between all the damn theories floating around in his head space.

Marsha had gone page creeping. It literally was that simple.

Not entirely too comfortable with the notion that she’d been cyber-stalking him, Gavin stared randomly at a spot behind one of the serving bartenders as he mumbled distastefully, “Glad to see you’ve picked up all your old habits, Marsha.”

Scoffing disdainfully, her face turned rather unpleasant as she muttered perhaps more so to herself, “Please, punks are cool and good if you’re going through your moody teenage years.”

“I’d say it’s more of a goth look,” Gavin corrected with a snicker thrown her way, “I mean, technically, anyway.”

Marsha only threw him a cold glare that could freeze water right on the spot, and Gavin had to look away immediately. She still held a lot of sway as far as the ‘fear department’ was concerned, so it seemed. If Gavin didn’t know any better, he would’ve assumed she was absolutely jealous. Setting it all aside for now, however, he tried to ignore what he thought were obvious signs of a jealous woman radiating contempt and mild hatred, especially reserved for Nines.

Remaining silent until their drinks were ready, Gavin carried his own, but also offered to carry Marsha’s.

She didn’t need his help, apparently.

Turning her nose up snobbishly at him, she yanked her wine and her husband’s closely against her chest and offered Gavin a tiny sneer. “Flattery will get you nowhere, Gavin,” she snapped with pure venom teetering on the edge of her voice as she swept by the shorter male.

Following her seemed like the best thing to do for now, and Gavin did so quietly until they reached their booth. To the reserved and silent detective’s sheer surprise, there sat appetizers consisting of two soup bowls and a few tiny avocado sandwiches. It seemed as if the food had just arrived and already been set out so nicely over the surface of the table like a kind invitation of sorts.

Eyeing the steaming buns and toast to go along with the soup, and the tiny dish holding a small salad, Gavin supposed Charles had ordered them. He figured out quickly however that his assumptions had been incorrect. Very, very incorrect.

Slightly puzzled as she slid her husband’s wine bottle and glass over to him, Marsha exclaimed, “This was nice of you to do, sweets!”

Charles eyed her in utter confusion. “Don’t look at me,” he began, “I didn’t order these.”

She sniped abruptly, “Okay, so the waiter or waitresses did, then.”

Almost fearfully, her husband looked at Nines. As if weary of the kind of reaction he would soon garner from his wife, Charles shrank down considerably in his seat almost like a scorned child.

Regarding him in ever the disparaging manner, Marsha sighed, “Thank you, Nines.”

The darkly clad android only nodded, “No thanking is necessary.”

Sitting herself back down next to her husband, Marsha began drowning her listeners in garrulous conversation that would have driven anyone else beyond insane. Gavin was left feeling superfluous; being on the receiving end of such private information being so easily blurted out made him truly think he was just an accessory in this little gathering. Thankfully, however, he wasn’t the only ‘third wheel’ while he sat next to a rather stiff, despondent Nines.

Marsha was currently blabbing and yapping away about her education, her work experience as a registered nurse, and all the ‘horror stories’ she’d heard of and personally experienced on the job. Her conduct in comparison to her much quieter husband’s demeanor definitely catered to her appearing far too supercilious for her own good. The haughty woman just kept talking, and talking, and talking, and talking…

Right when Gavin was beginning to wonder if it would ever stop, two waitresses suddenly appeared practically out of nowhere. Carrying along the meals they’d ordered with themselves, Gavin saw that Marsha had ordered for a roasted duck breast glazed in honey and garlic with rosemary and thyme. Charles proved to be quite the carnivore; while his wife ordered a side dish of mixed greens with vinaigrette dressing, Charles scarfed down plenty of ribs. His barbecue chicken ribs and steak slowly began disappearing, and the bones piled up on the side of his plate gradually. In no time at all, the teriyaki sirloin was completely gone. A few times as he licked the bones clean of their sauce and remaining meaty particles, Marsha rolled her eyes and hissed sardonically to him, “Are you a dog?? Why’re you licking your food and plate like that?! Disgusting!!!”

Normally, Gavin wouldn’t have ever put up with this from anyone, girlfriend or otherwise. He had simply no idea how on Earth Charles put up with this shit, but the other man did. Smiling, he apologized, wiped his lips clean with his napkin, took a swig from his drink, and kept on eating. Once in a while, he would stare over at his wife, blush, and then push over some sauce or bits of his own meal for her to eat and sample.

Perhaps he really was in love with her, after all…still, love was always blind, Gavin supposed, and he felt a bit annoyed with watching how Marsha and Charles interacted and how they talked to one another. They often spoke in hushed tones when they weren’t interested in chatting with Gavin and Nines, and they otherwise remained physically close and pleased to be around each other.

…...

And what was going on with himself and Nines???

Staring over towards his right, he caught a glimpse of Nines just sitting there staring around ever so awkwardly. It pained Gavin to see the tall, darkly clad android companion of his just aimlessly gaping about like it was nothing. Nines wasn’t this socially awkward at work!! So why was he, now?! There wasn’t too much of a difference between a restaurant and work!! A building was a building, people were people, and the only thing that differed here was the time, the setting, and the occasion!! Why was Nines holding back?!

Something angry had welled out of himself, but he forced it back as he glared at his ‘partner’ staring off to the side at a few children who were currently being entertained by a staff member of the restaurant dressed up as Santa Claus, while a few of the other waitresses and waiters were playing the role of the elves. They gathered around the Christmas tree near a large gas fireplace as they sat on the Santa’s lap while their parents took photos.

Nines seemed to be studying them with an odd sense of curiosity in his eyes beaming forth, but it was getting a bit annoying for Gavin’s standards. This wasn’t his first winter experience, ever, and Gavin had no idea why he was suddenly so fascinated by some children sitting before some cheekily-made-up, cheesy Christmas boxes and gifts next to an incandescent tree that was far too fake for its own good, all topped off with a Santa Claus who was most definitely a guy no older than twenty-four at the most wearing a stupid phony beard!!

…..

Perhaps he was far too much of a curmudgeon these days…

Trying to catch Nines’ attention, Gavin cleared his throat to speak, but unfortunately, Marsha beat him to it.

Leaning over the table a little, she asked softly, “So, when do you think you and Nines will have your wonderful wedding, Gavin?”

He froze. Yet again, someone had asked this question, and with the last person being Captain Fowler, Gavin knew he couldn’t answer Marsha in the same way he had his own boss. He often spoke to Fowler in blunt ways that others would no doubt label as beyond execrable, but with Marsha, and especially considering how her husband was by no means a ‘small man’, Gavin had to be more recreant in his approach.

Only offering her a lopsided grin, he stated casually, “We’re still workin’ on that, Marsha.”

Giggling a little, Gavin could already tell that the alcohol had made her ‘tipsy’. Fluttering her eyelashes at him, she inquired softly, “Yeeeah, but like, are you guys thinking of a summer wedding? Spring?”

As she held out her hands expectantly, Gavin reached beneath the table and gently poked Nines in the side of the leg, desperate to get his attention; any kind of attention!!! He wasn’t as socially suave whenever he was on the spot, and he wished Nines would say something!!

Unfortunately, no amount of poking would do, apparently. Rather than even trying to see what the issue was and why he was being poked and prodded at, Nines edged himself towards the opposite side of his chair, as if trying to escape from Gavin. The other male scowled daggers at Nines for it. He knew the android likely didn’t mean anything by it, but something like anger lashed through the pit of his stomach at the thought of being abandoned to ‘fend off’ Marsha’s barrage of questions.

Unrelenting, she sighed out, “Guess it may be a summer wedding! It’s what my sweets and I had…” Resting her head on her husband’s shoulder, she batted her eyelashes coyly at him, and it made him nuzzle and stroke her cheeks with a few of his fingers so compassionately.

“Mhm,” Charles murmured, “summer weddings are the best, Gavin! We highly recommend them.”

Still trying to poke Nines without obviously displaying it, Gavin smiled a pained grimace as he grunted, “Oh yeah? Well, you never know, haha,” jabbing roughly at Nines’ hip, he finished, “we may do that, I guess, but I’d need to discuss it with Nines.” Placing heavy emphasis on the words he wanted to seriously resonate within the damn android who wanted to play oblivious next to him, Gavin turned and tried to grab at Nines as roughly as he could.

Meanwhile, as Gavin struggled, Charles and Marsha drank more of their alcoholic beverages. Rosy cheeks seemed to be common among the couple, and Charles unbuttoned the top button of his dress shirt. Leaning back a little, he nodded at Gavin as he asked, “So, Reed, what’s your father’s opinion on Nines? Does he approve?”

Immediately, both Gavin and Nines turned and slowly stared over directly at Charles. It appeared as if the entire restaurant had grown quiet, but in actually, that wasn’t really the case. It only felt that way for Gavin and Nines only due to the sad news and the heavy sense of trouble and turmoil burdening them both.

Hanging his head low, Gavin could only stare into the center of the table in sheer silence.

Marsha played with one of her earrings, and as Charles looked around the table awkwardly, he whispered out, “Did I say something wrong?”

Answering on Gavin’s behalf, Marsha chided her husband softly, “Gavin’s father died, love.”

…..

“…Oh,” Charles coughed, immediately flushing deeply and looking rather penitent. Bowing his head down, he added quickly, “My deepest condolences, Gavin.”

He didn’t need anyone’s pity. Fuck pity. But he couldn’t exactly say that.

Blinking back his anger that was steadily rising and bubbling to the surface, Gavin expurgated his feelings of irritation and the need to lash out as quickly as he could. Instead of channeling it at Charles or Marsha, however, he instead began clawing at Nines beneath the table.

All while still holding a somewhat respectful smile upon his face, Gavin practically dug his fingernails right through Nines’ pants as hard as he could. “Oh, it’s okay,” he said to Charles politely, “I’m over it, so it’s fine.”

Nodding, Charles turned to his wife, and he whispered at her, “Why didn’t you tell me this before? Now I look like a jackass!”

Hissing back, Marsha retorted, “I didn’t know until recently, myself!!”

While the couple bickered, the noises in the restaurant seemed to pick up again. The vicinal booths and tables close to theirs seemed to radiate positive, cheerful energy. But Gavin didn’t have time for that jovial merry-making nonsense. As he tried calming himself down in the best way possible, he tore away at Nines’ legs and clothes, not necessarily consciously trying to inflict harm or make the android suffer, but he was trying to distract himself, badly.

Wincing, Nines edged away a bit, but he had no room to go anywhere else. Not wanting to fall off his chair, he sat as stiffly as he could while Gavin ran his hands up and down the length of his left thigh in agitated patterns and motions.

Eyes shifting as she held her glass of wine to herself, Marsha snapped at her husband, “What?! It’s not like I live on Facebook!! How was I supposed to know way ahead of time?!”

As Gavin’s shoulders tightened, his movements became more and more erratic, and far more aggressive. He heard Charles quickly whispering back, “I doubt Gavin’s mother would post that crap on Facebook anyway…”

Now, Gavin was resorting to pounding on Nines’ thigh, and he was only doing so because his own heart was racing and pounding like the biggest hammer on Earth fit for a giant’s insatiable destruction. Inside, he was destroying himself, and this was the last thing he could do to cope…to help himself…to get a hold of himself. Breathing in and out deeply, he felt his rib cage even aching, now, but he was still smiling ahead at Marsha and Charles, at least.

He had to keep the charade going…he had to…

Suddenly, when Gavin tried bashing one more time at Nines’ leg, the android swiftly turned in his seat. Now, his body wasn’t guarded by his sides facing Gavin anymore. Gavin’s fist didn’t stop, however. He’d been aiming of course for Nines’ leg like before, but now that Nines was more ‘open’ to him, Gavin’s fist flew down between Nines’ legs rather than at the actual leg itself. Anticipating what was going to happen before it could, Nines reached down beneath the table, and in one deft motion, his hand slammed down over Gavin’s clenched fist. Swiftly unfurling Gavin’s dangerous fist, Nines opened his hand, and he held it there for a moment.

Only, Gavin didn’t want to stop. On the brink of explosion that was unsurpassed, Gavin couldn’t contain himself. Bursting down on Nines’ hold over himself, he pressed down with his hand, and at the exact same time, Nines shifted forward. It was a terrible case of both of them being lost in regards to the heat of the moment, with their conflicting agendas battling. Nines wanted to keep Gavin calm as much as possible, and Gavin wanted to resort to his old habits of lashing out and sometimes doing worse whenever he was faced with anger he couldn’t control.

As a result of neither of them being able to predict what was going to happen before it took off and had a life of its own, Gavin pressed down further, and Nines lost his grip on the detective’s strong hand. Immediately, Gavin’s hand landed right between Nines’ legs. He definitely shouldn’t have done that; he definitely felt something there that…

No!! No!! No!!! This was horrible!!!

Immediately taking his hand as far away from between Nines’ legs as he could, Gavin yelped in surprise, and since he’d snatched his hand so abruptly, it slammed on the underside of the table. Dishes and glasses rattled, but thankfully, nothing broke or fell down to the floor.

Nines’ eyes went wider than tiny plates, but he didn’t seem to know what to say.

What could he say, really?? What could Gavin himself, say?? Accidentally, he’d touched another man’s genitals!!! Yes, it had been an accident, of course, but he still felt so—

“Gavin?”

Glancing up naturally when he heard his name called forth from Marsha’s lips, he saw a small, fleeting look of concern flooding her round, brown eyes. She asked whether he was alright or not, and he reacted by reaching up with a hand to wave auspiciously at her.

…..

This was the same hand he’d touched Nines with!!!

Embarrassed once again beyond belief, Gavin could’ve sworn he felt his entire right hand burning and literally on fire. He had to take care of this!!!

Reaching for his cold alcohol, he nodded curtly at Marsha as he wrapped his hand around the width of the glass. “I’m okay…” immediately, he certainly felt more relaxed, and his hand definitely was cooling off as he pressed his skin against the ice-cold glass.

Perfect. This was much better.

Avoiding all eye contact with Nines, Gavin tried changing the topic regarding his father’s passing. He found that it wasn’t all too difficult to do when Marsha was already talkative enough. The woman and her husband seemed to want to get back to drinking, perhaps as a means of escaping the rather strange turn the conversation had taken. This was all just fine by Gavin, of course. The less emotional, sappy shit he had to hear and deal with, the better.

As time went on, and as they ordered their desserts, plus new rounds of alcohol, Gavin noticed that Marsha and Charles really began to open up.

‘Loose lips sink ships’, he’d heard his mother once say, and it seemed like they were nearly at a drowning point as far as the ship sinking was concerned.

Marsha talked about a lot of odd things, starting from her son’s odd behavior, right up to the most embarrassing moments of her life to date. Charles followed in line next, sharing his experiences, while Gavin and Nines sat back and just listened. It was expected for both Marsha and Charles to now be loquacious given how the alcohol soothed their nerves and opened them up to the experience, and Gavin soon found that he wasn’t the exception to that, either.

He soon drank more and more, however, and it wasn’t long before he felt his mind and body gradually slipping under the sweet seductive powers that alcohol promised. He too started talking a lot more than he would have in normal circumstances, but how could he help it?? It was just a natural reaction to being out and open with people who were pretty good company!! Almost anyone would’ve done the same thing and reacted the same way if they spent more and more time in someone else’s presence.

Soon, Gavin was a garbling mess as his hair fell into his eyes. Marsha’s did as well, and she brushed the long strands back as she giggled and flicked the tip of her husband’s nose in a playful move.

Winking at her, Charles then asked gruffly, “So babe, how does it feel hanging out with your ex after years of zero contact?” Since he’d asked it in a polite way even though he was beyond tipsy, Gavin wasn’t offended at all. Since he was Marsha’s husband, Gavin supposed he had some kind of a right to inquire about the previous relationship that went on between his wife and her ex.

Sweetly grinning at her husband, Marsha cooed, “Well, it’s not toooooo bad!! I mean, I wasn’t expecting him to suddenly be interested in guys, but hey!!!” Giggling even more and louder, she added, “They kinda look good together though, don’t they, sweets?”

Nodding as he stared at Nines first, and then at Gavin, Charles agreed, “I think they do!”

While they ate through some apple pie, slices of still frozen cake, and downed it all with more alcoholic beverages, Gavin found he genuinely was having the time of his life. He hadn’t recalled laughing as much in a long, long time, and he was truly grateful to Marsha and Charles for it.

Unfortunately, Nines didn’t seem to be engaged in the conversations as much, nor could he eat, but he still smiled and answered questions if he was spoken to.

As the night wore on, and as the restaurant slowly started becoming empty, Gavin felt more at ease. He even forgot about lowering his voice as he laughed and regaled silly stories of his own youth to Marsha and Charles, he pigged out more, and best of all; he forgot about his odd accident involving Nines.

Yes, he was having a great time.

Charles decided to pay for their meal when no more than ten customers had remained in the restaurant. As he beckoned the waiter over to hand them their bill, Gavin checked his phone for the time.

His fingers slipped messily due to his mild levels of intoxication, and Nines whispered in his ear, “It’s nearly ten, Detective.”

“Shit…really?”

“Yes.”

It certainly didn’t appear that way!!! Gazing outside, Gavin thought it was at least a little past midnight, but he remembered that due to the autumn months and nearing winter, days were shorter, which meant that of course, it would become darker faster.

Pocketing his phone while Charles paid for their meal, Gavin slowly started to think of a way to excuse himself. This was always an awkward thing to do whenever he went out, and he supposed it was probably a strong reason for why he never got out much to begin with. He just didn’t like being put on the spot in order to have to play nice and keep up a stupid social façade of the good friend who just yearned and craved to be alone, but didn’t want to mention it so as to not hurt his friends’ feelings…

Fuck being stuck in such a situation!!!

Coughing gently enough to get Marsha and Charles’ attention, he smiled as he bowed his head a little and announced, “W-well, I think we should head home. I’m drunk, and Nines is gonna drive, but thank you guys so much for this.”

Following in his lead, Nines added, “Yes, it was a real treat, and I enjoyed meeting you both.”

Clicking her tongue against her teeth as she tsked a few times, Marsha wagged her index finger at Gavin and Nines while giggling and shaking her head playfully. “Nu-uh-uh, you two,” she chided them mildly as she grinned a wide grin that made her look slightly crazy, “you can’t leave us juuust yet!!”

“That’s right!” Charles agreed, though he helped his wife put her coat on while Nines and Gavin stared on quizzically.

Having had enough of the games, Gavin growled lightly, “What do you mean?? I thought it was just dinner, and activities…oh…”

“Teeehee!!!” Marsha squealed as she put on her scarf and bundled her long hair up beneath her hat, “you almost forgot, Gavin!!!” Singing out off-tune to herself, she sighed out happily, “We’re going back to our place for more drinks, so make sure your whistles are wet!!”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin hissed, “My lips are actually kinda dry because of the weather, and I think I drank already too much, Marsha.”

Gasping, Charles disagreed, “Nah, you can’t say that, Gavin!!! Killjoy!”

“I’m not a killjoy, I just—”

Tapping his chin playfully with two fingers, Marsha leaned into him and winked as she giggled out slowly, “You won’t n-need to worry about dry lips for long, Gaaaviiin!!”

Turning pale, Gavin swallowed nervously, and as he stood taller on his feet, he nearly knocked back clumsily into Nines. Ignoring the massively well-built-yet lean-android behind himself, Gavin felt he had another urgent, pressing matter to attend to.

Staring quite pleadingly into Marsha’s eyes, he asked her in an almost boyish and innocent tone, “What d-do you mean?”

Waving at her husband as he led the way and held open the restaurant doors, Marsha purred out as her slightly smudged and smeared mascara and eye-shadowed eyes blinked rapidly at Gavin.

“We’re going to do the chapstick challenge, Gavin.”