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Legion

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Everything had started so well. Elijah had turned away from CyberLife and had invited Gavin to celebrate his new freedom with him. He had not said a word about why he had withdrawn from the business – his founding and baby – and to be honest, Gavin did not care.

The main point was that Eli was free and out of the dubious CyberLife shit.

Furthermore, Gavin could not refuse a party when that meant tasty free food and alcohol. In fact, the evening went well so far. All the problems they had with each other did not seem to matter anymore. It was great to talk and joke with the older one, while they watched old movies. After hours Gavin felt the wish for something else; a damned toilet.
There was just one big problem: Elijah's swanky house was way too big and everything looked similar. He must have taken a wrong turn because instead of the pretentious living room and the open kitchen he was now in front of an elevator.

An phucking elevator.

Who needed a lift in his stupid villa? Oh yes, his stupid brother.

Yet he could not suppress his nosiness. Maybe it was his natural curiosity or just his instinct as a cop, but he opened the elevator. After he entered, he noticed that there were just the way down, but Gavin knew the damn cellar. A cellar with stairs. There was no space for an elevator.

He had just recently helped Chloe, his brother's personal android and assistant, to get wine and rum out of the cellar for their little party. So for what the hell was the elevator? From the inside it looked similar high tech as the rest of the house. There was even a handprint scanner and as the young man squeezed it, he immediately got an error message. He was afraid that he could not satisfy his curiosity when a voice echoed through the enclosed space. Feeling caught out, his heart stopped just for a some seconds. Waiting for an alarm or his brother’s appearance, the young detective froze.

Then, a heartbeat later, an emotionless voice asked for the password. Probably in case that an android – Chloe – had to use the elevator. Gavin winced. His last two brain cells remembered that the creation of his brother had no finger prints. "Phuck. Where in hell should I enter it? "

“Linguistic input is needed.”

"Great," the detective grumbled, frowning. His nose and the scar on it twitched contemptuously. He put his head back thoughtfully, staring at the awkward white ceiling.
"Is there a hint?" he asked, feeling very stupid, but the voice answered him.

"A number."

Gavin's drunken tongue said the first thing that came to his mind. It was a number that bothered him and that matched Elijah's self-love. His damned IQ, which he used to rub in everyone’s face. Including Gavin.

"171."

"Incorrect. Two tries remain before the alarm goes off and a message is sent to the DPD. "

"What?” Gavin gasped, wincing as the door closed in front of him. He pressed the opening button but nothing moved. Shit - he was hopeless trapped! The detective grabbed at his side, but his jeans pocket was empty. Phuck. His smart phone was still in the living room! He gritted his teeth and looked around nervously. If he alarmed the police, Eli would rip his ass and, even worse, his DPD colleagues would learn of his connection to THE Elijah Kamski. Pale, he turned around and asked the program for another tip.

"It's a date. A tip remains. Two attempts possible until the alarm.”

"Shit, yes. I got it! July 17, 2002. "

"Incorrect. Last hint? "

Gavin gritted his teeth. What else could it be besides Elijah's birthday? His damn graduation date? The exact date of his company foundation? He had no idea! "Yes! Give me the damn tip! "

"GR. "

"GR? That’s a clue?"

He growled, stressed. Eli and his annoying shortcuts! But then he froze, grabbed his hair and cursed before he shouted out his own birthday.

"Access has been approved. Have a nice visit. "

The elevator began to move and Gavin stumbled. After a few seconds it stopped and the door opened. Carefully, he stuck his head out and found himself in a long corridor. Glass. Lights. Strange noises. He stepped forward cautiously, only to see several machines working behind walls of glass.

Of course. A secret laboratory. Why couldn’t his brother not take a break from his research? Miserable liar.

Gavin kept walking, trying to read the information on the displays, but it was pointless. The data made no sense to him. One of the areas looked like an android construction station that he knew from interviews and CyberLife advertisements. The next seemed totally foreign. Stopping at the last section, Gavin began to laugh. The reason was so stupid; the illuminated title of the glass door.

Terminator protocol.

What a dumb name. His brother’s humour was ridiculous like always. Gavin inevitably thought of the old movies he had seen hundreds of times as a child, and driven by curiosity he pressed his nose against the glass. But it remained dark behind.

Only a faint hum showed him that something was going on in the inside. Drunk, he opened the door and entered. Immediately the light went on. At first it looked like another android station, but it seemed a lot smaller. Machine arms began to move and fired small laser beams at something he could not detect. It was lying on a pedestal, hidden behind a bright light. Prying, he stepped closer to catch a glimpse of the thing when suddenly one of its metal arms grabbed him.

And from that point, everything went wrong.

Captured by numerous arms, Gavin froze in horror. The machine started to tear and to rip; clamps encircled his arm and pulled him closer to the lasers. Before he knew it, he began to scream. Bracing him against it, Gavin hoped to come free, but it just almost dislocated his shoulder – it felt like the abominable machine was tearing his arm off.
A sharp pain suddenly shocked is brain. God, he was stabbed and shot before, but it was nothing against this terrible feeling. It felt as he was burned, pierced with thousands of sharp needle and skinned alive – all at the same time. His nerves began to scream, his body trembled uncontrollably and he lost finally his balance.

He stumbled forward. Fighting with his free arm, but every move was wasted. Just losing more energy, the burning became more instensiv.
The pain was so too much- forgotten was his resistance as he went down on his knees, too exhausted and agonized to fight. Then the engine stopped and his relief lasted only a short, sweet moment.

Gavin could feel the clamps around his forearm and wrist, squeezing his blood flow. With growing panic and his last energy he cried blue murder - until his wrist rested above the
pedestal and the lasers burned his flesh.

Gavin’s eyes rolled back, his body went limp and the pain sent him into a gracious faint.

* * +++++++ * *

When he came to senses, Eli leaned over him. His brother’s voice sounded strangely distorted and his own head throbbed violently. However, that was nothing compared to the pain in his arm - no, not in his arm. The pain was in his forearm and everything under his wrist was deaf. He tried to move his fingers but couldn’t.

"Shit- what - my arm? My hand? " he croaked in panic, and Eli squeezed his shoulders. "Gav, you have to breathe! Do you hear me? Take a deep breath. "

"My arm! What is wrong with my phucking arm?! " His voice had risen shrilly as he felt his eyes burn. It was off. He was sure the machines had torn off his god damned arm. He would die. Bleeding out in this scary room. Thanks to his crazy brother.

"It's fine. Look."

Eli raised his brother’s arm and it was completely intact. Now he could also feel the touch on his bare skin. His sleeve was gone, but his arm was still there. Though, when Eli turned it slightly, he saw that his skin was flushed on his wrist. The skin and his fingers twitched. Looking closer, he saw a few strokes.

"What the hell?" Gavin murmured before realizing what he saw.

A barcode. He looked like a fucking supermarket product!

His brother followed his gaze ... and looked worried. No, not just worried - he looked really anxious. What followed were scientific nonsense and investigations. Chloe brought him something to drink and painkillers, while Elijah ran one test after another. He explained that the machine was a prototype to develop prostheses. In fact, he was lucky that the thing just tattooed him and had not torn his arm off and replaced it. Even so, Gavin was not in the mood to rejoice.

It was always the same. Every time he met with one of his brother's inventions, things went awry.

"It could be worse, Gav. You've got a cool new tatoo."

"Are you kidding me? What's worse than being burnt market like a cattle? I am looking like one of your stupid robots!"
"Technically this is not correct. The serial number is not at the wrist. "

"Seriously, asshole? I will punch you in your dumb face when you dare to joke about this shit! "

"Ah, come one. It could be worse- it could be in another place. You might as well have tramp stamps now. "
This time he hit Eli in the arm. But that did not stop the bastard laughing.

* * +++++++ * *

"That's not good." Chloe's warm voice sounded genuinely concerned, but Elijah had calmed after the tests. He leaned back and stared at the screen, where ‘ERROR information doesn’t exist’ kept flashing.

"Do not worry. That's probably the best. The data is gone and there's nothing left to worry about. "

He ignored her doubtful look. The next few years proved to him that he was right.

Until 2038.

* * +++++++ * *

RK800, Connor, android revolution, deviant robots and in the end even equal rights. Damn a lot of shit for a year.

Gavin could not wait for 2039 to come. The next year could only get better. At least he hoped it, but hardly that it was approaching, Connor came with a new surprise.
In fact, with Connor, he had been able to develop something of a friendship, and he was one of the few robots he accepted, along with Chloe. He even went so far as to apologize to Connor for his previous behaviour. After that it got better and he treated Connor almost nicer than some of his colleagues. Somehow the android could deal in a very positive way with Gavin’s asshole nature and his insults – not an easy skill to master, according to Tina.

Another point helped the detective to respect the android. One time Connor has rescued him in a drug case. The junkie had almost blown Gavin’s head off, but then Connor arrived as his shining saviour. Also, yeah, the plastic asshole was ok and Gavin began nearly to relax around some of the other plastic toys …

and then the day came when Connor brought a new android. He and Markus had found him. How exactly and where, Gavin had not noticed. Actually, he did not really care.
Connor had just told him that they had some problems with the recent robot. In which aspects exactly, remained open. If Gavin had understood the android correctly, the new one was neither deviant nor a machine. The virus had not worked completely and he or it was still in the process of deviancy. The firewalls seemed too strong, but Connor and Markus asserted that the new guy was not a danger as long as it followed his protocol.

And that meant above all one thing: to put him at the side of a person who could watch him and command.

"Phuck."
Of course, the choice fell on the one without a partner: Gavin. Tina had laughed at him after a heated discussion with the Captain, which Gavin as usual loosed. Now he glared morosely into his second coffee cup and pulled his sleeve down again. The tattoo was thin and black on his skin. He could be glad that he did not get a serial number like an android. That would be a shame and the unwanted, embarrassing tattoo had already brought him some strange looks. Especially from his dates.

Gavin took another sip and looked at Tina, who leaned against the table and grinned at him. Her bun was a mess, but it looked really cute. Her officer hat lay next to her mug and so he could get a good look at her face. Her checks were red and her eyes were sparkling with malicious joy. A look he loved, when he was not for him.
In the past they had dated for some weeks, but decided that it would never work. The fun, especially in the bed room, was great, but they had searched different things and broke up – one of the best decisions of his life. His other, past relationships never ended well thanks to his job and his behaviour. No one stayed for long, but Tina, the best, had his back for years.

"What do you think? He should also be a police android. Maybe even a detective model. I hope you don’t wreck him after two days. " Gavin rolled his eyes annoyed by her words. He was still too tired and waited for his beloved coffee to unleash its glorious effect.

"As it sounds, that thing is a faulty scrap heap. Sure, I have to get the garbage again and clear it for others," he complained loudly, ignoring the warning gaze sent by Connor from across the station. As well, the frozen pose of Tina, who got a nervous twitching in her face. He should realize too late that she had wanted to warn him. "It's probably blow itself up … and taking us all with it to hell. Such a fucking droid can suck my balls. " Gavin only shrug his shoulder. Enjoying the caffeine.

"I give a shit about the stupid thing."

"Detective Reed?"

The voice sounded so deep and close to his ear that he jumped up with a loud ‘phuck’ and whirled around. The insult on his tongue died. In front of him was Connor - or rather something that looked like Connor and not at the same time. He was taller and without a doubt wider around his shoulders. His physique was designed to intimidate others and his frightening charisma was enhanced by his rigid expression. Cheekbones were more pronounced, sharper and his chin more prominent. His brows stood a little more obliquely, giving him a hostile look. But most impressive were his eyes:

Insensitive, hard and penetrating. Made to terrify others and drag their most awful secrets to the surface.
Gavin felt his throat go dry. The thing was a heads taller than him. At least. Even his voice was the same, but where Connor’s was warm and friendly and softer by nature, this strange android was missing all the cheerfulness. It was hard as stone, cool and distant. Certainly powerful as a quake that Gavin went through the bones.

"I'm RK900. The android that was sent by CyberLife," it rattled off his program like Connor once did. Gavin's brows lifted, while his stomach tingled at the same time and his face burned with excitement. And maybe with a little shame thanks to his former words.

"Are you crazy? What the fuck, tin can? "

Barely noticeable, the eyebrows contracted a little further and the LED of the android turned yellow. "Incorrect. I am the android RK900. Your new partner. I'm faster, stronger, more resilient, and better equipped than my predecessor." Stiffly, the creepy thing reached out to him.

It looked as real as any other android, but its behaviour was distressing on one side and so lifeless on the other that it left Gavin shivering. He stared at the big hand and all of a sudden he developed goose bumps. In a short-circuit reaction, Gavin poured his coffee into the robot's face. Tina backed away and the whole area stared at them. The machine only blinked lazily once, but the LED shifted nervously between yellow and red.

"Don't touch me, tin can!" Gavin growled with an overload of hostility before he turned on his heel and charged into the bathroom. Indignant and annoyed looks followed him. Connor was already running to his successor model to look after it.

Gavin had no head for all that. Behind his temple, there was a throb. Adrenalin rushed through his veins.

Fight or flight! , screamed every part of his body and his heart pumped the blood rapidly through his veins. A splash of water landed in his face before he dug his fingers into the sink and stared into the mirror. His face was glowing. His pupils were dilated and his lips trembled.
Gavin looked like he was being interrogated for hours. He cursed with his jaw tight and grabbed his tingling wrist as he continued to study his appearance in the mirror. Hoping it would help him to calm down.

A hopeless wish, since another problem appeared, while he was whispering repeatedly “Crap” to his reflection.

The shitty tattoo itched like hell. Gavin turned the tap again and tried to soothe the itch with some cold water. Slowly, the unpleasant feeling became better, but when he pulled his hand back, the detective paused.

"What kind of bullshit is this?" Gavin growled with a new surge of panic.

The barcode was not black anymore.
It shimmered in the same bright blue as an android’s LED.

Chapter Text

2.Deal

                                                                                               

Slowly the system started up. Programs began to activate and the log screen appeared, all commands and patterns pulse behind his temples. The capsule in which the android had waited for its activation opened and the light in the clinical room flickered.

Synthetic skin shimmered clean and strange as the glow of neon lamps hit it. A LED flashed in a cool blue and fingertips twitched as it did a first system check. It was time. The commands were clear.

Hunt. Find. Eliminate.

"Awake."

It opened his eyes. Its colour was blue like a cool winter sky.

Icy and inhumane.

* * +++++++**

Thirty-two panicked, insulting and threatening messages to Elijah later Gavin was done with this shit. He was bopping up and down nervously in his chair and could not even begin to think about doing the paperwork for his last case. The Connor clone had moved away for the moment and Gavin was more than thankful for that.

His outburst had been a bit exaggerated even for him. Gavin could not explain what was wrong with him; as soon as he thought at RK900, his pulse began to accelerate and his skin tingled. Not to speak of the cursed tattoo.

A single encounter with RK900 and the robot was already under his skin. His eyes slid away from the screen of his smart phone and back to his wrist.

His leather jacket was long and thick enough to hide the glowing tattoo. Though the burning and itching were still there. Not as strong as before, but still annoying. He grumbled and plucked his sleeve a little deeper.

"Detective Reed?" Connor appeared as silently beside him as the RK900 had. Gavin suppressed the urge to bark an annoyed greeting and dropped his legs from his table to look directly at the android. Behind him, Gavin could see Hank watching them attentively; ready to help his partner if necessary. "What do you want, Connor?"

"Are you okay?"

Gavin touched his forehead. Connor sounded seriously worried, but Gavin knew full well that this was not about him. It never was, except when he had fucked things up.

"Maybe you should apologize to my brother. You are now partners and you have to work together. "

At least the little one came quickly to the topic.

Wait- brothers? Gavin snorted and laughed humourlessly.

 "Really? You call that thing brother? How long have you known him? " His words seemed to anger Connor. His LED jumped briefly to red, then back to yellow. Crap. He and his big mouth. Gavin raised his hands defensively.

"Yeah, similar looks and so on. I got it, Connor. Sorry, man."

His words seemed to soothe the other. The LED turned blue again and he started to smile. "I know, it's not easy, Detective, but it would be the best if you pulled yourself together. RK900 just tries to find his place and I was hoping he could settle in here. "He sounded almost begging and the warm puppy look was no better.

Gavin rubbed his eyes. Sometimes he missed Connor’s murder bot behaviour. He could be damned manipulating and it worked every time with the detective – such a shame.  

"Phuck", he sighed, "Ok, what do you want, robo cop? I will not ask again."

" Please, just try to work together. It worked for me and Hank. "

Gavin wanted to get his shit together. Really.

He had promised to work on himself, but in the moment he saw RK900 appearing behind Hank, his mind stopped working. The android stared directly at them -with an emotionless expression. Its unfeeling eyes bored into Gavin. Suddenly the detective gasped. His throat was burning an itching. As if a hand was around his throat, holding off his desperate breath.

Connor seemed to notice his oncoming panic; he reached out with a worried face, but Gavin could not stand a touch. Not now.

He struck out the well-intentioned hand, growled like a trapped animal and fled.

For this the detective pushed Connor roughly aside.

Gavin heard a winced gasp and saw out of the corner of his eye as Connor stumbled to the side and how the android grabbed his own shoulder, even if it could not hurt physically him. His expression only quickened Gavin's footsteps.

Out!

He had to go out here! He needed a quiet place and had to gather himself. At first he thought about storming outside, but the area was full and he had to go past too many humans and androids. His next choice would have been the bathroom, but when he heard Captain Fowler's voice behind the door, he ran on. He still had a place.

The evidence room.

Fortunately, no one was there, and he leaned exhaustedly against the shelves as he rolled up his sleeve and scratched the tattoo. His skin turned quickly red, but it did not help. The bar code was still shining in the eerie blue, so typical of the androids. And it itched. Like hell.

Gavin felt like scraping his skin off his flesh, but he was worried it would not do him much good. In fact, it only seemed to get worse when he scratched- as if it wanted to rebel against his attempts. So he took a deep breath, trying to focus his thoughts on something else and waited. Actually, the itching became weaker. The glow, on the other hand, persisted, as if to mock him.

It had to have something to do with the new android.

No idea why, but he was not stupid. Gavin could count one and one together. The glow had begun with the appearance of the Connor clone. He had just to look at him and the itching would start again. Not to mention the sheer panic that seized him as soon as he looked into the icy eyes or the feeling that his brain was completely blank.

Something was totally wrong with the new android, for sure.

A single encounter and he felt as if he could not face the thing anymore. And that should be his new partner? What had he done to earn it? Why was everything always against him?

His thoughts were interrupted as the itching worsened again. A short-term warning before the door to the evidence room swung open and his latest problem occurred.

No, the android did not just enter. He rolled into like a tank; intimidating, powerful as a storm unleashed to destroy all its enemies. It slammed the door, before the high-tech lock went red. The bastard interlocked it.

Gavin's heart slipped, before he hastily pulled his sleeve back over his wrist. The android did not seem to notice the tattoo. Its focus was elsewhere. And to Gavin's bad luck, he was that focus. He pushed away from the shelf, unwilling to show any weakness in front of a pile of plastic, and stubbed his arms over his chest. He could clearly feel his heart beating against his chest.

"What the hell do you want, dipshit?"

As the thing approached, Gavin noticed that the black and white CyberLife jacket was absolutely clean. No stains. The material was probably not just cleaned, but also water repellent. Too bad.

He would have liked it if that creepy, clinically pure-looking jacket had been destroyed in its absurd perfection. It also made the big Connor clone a bit more terrifying, because the jacket undermined the human-looking look and at the same time underlined the machine-like nature of the RK900.

Cool and intimidating like a piece of metal.

Instead of an answer, the machine acted fast. The tall, agile body jerked forward like a lion to plunge at its prey. Reflexively Gavin reached for his weapon. Though the android grabbed his wrist and did not let him pull the gun. It jerked his arm up as if the detective were a doll. The blow to his jaw caught the robot with the other hand and before Gavin could react, the massive body pressed Gavin’s against the shelf.

His arms were above his head firmly in the grip of the machine. The thing was really inhumanly fast and strong. For the second time, Gavin had been taken by surprise by this asshole, and to his rage a trace of shame mingled. Since the hands were useless, Gavin did the only thing that occurred to him to fight back. He began to curse and insult.

"Phuck! What the hell- you fucking piece of plastic? I'm going to blacken your ass with Captain Fowler if you even bruise my hair. Then you'll be quickly sent back to CyberLife in individual parts and recycled into something useful - maybe in a trashcan. I could use a new one- " His voice abruptly stopped as the grip on his wrists tightened and the first time the android spoke.

"I will not tolerate your behaviour, Detective. It's one thing to offend me. Another to hurt RK800." Again Gavin recognize that the machine's voice was deeper than Connor's. Even its voice seemed to have been made to unsettle and intimidate others. Presumably that was the whole purpose of this model. However, not with Gavin.

Impulsively, he growled and kicked RK900 between his legs. It would have put a person to their knees, but the killer robot did not even flinch. Instead, Gavin hissed. His knee hurt as if he had hit it against a steel wall. He slumped back and RK900 used it to get closer to him. Its massive form pressed against Gavin's body, before the human had to look up to see the robot’s face and immediately regretted it. The icy eyes bored into his skull and made sure that his whole body shuddered in and a soft goose bump formed on his body.

Phuck. What was wrong with him? Which power did this machine held over him? Or was it just because of its scary charisma?

"I'm here to do my work. You will either work with me or stop from getting in my way. Do we understand each other, Detective Reed?" The LED remained blue, calm as his tone, in stark contrast to his aggressive attitudes. Instead of answering, Gavin spat on his flawless face. His saliva ran right past the beauty spots. Who came up with the stupid idea to provide a machine with such details?

This time the LED turned yellow. Not red. Though an aggressive glowing yellow.

The machine mimicked his previous behaviour. Not exactly, but it was worrisome enough. A knee slipped between Gavin's thighs. It pressed almost painfully against his crotch and at the same moment his field of vision blurred.

A frightened, panicky gasp escaped Gavin as he felt his blood begin to rush in his ears. Besides the feeling of anger and fear, something much worse happened.

No, he implored his body. Not now. He would not react that way to a fucking machine. No matter which games he had otherwise played with some of his one-night stands and ex-lovers. No matter that the guy was a fucking metal Adonis. No matter that his face seemed too perfect or that his eyes seemed to devour him as soon as he risked a look.

He would not get erected because of a piece of plastic. Not because of this asshole.

"What do you think you're doing?" Gavin growled, staring at its broad chest, right in front of his nose. His tone did not seem to please the thing; the grip on his wrists tightened and a painful hiss escaped Gavin’s lips. No whimpering, but terrifyingly close. Fortunately, the android did not seem to think the same as the detective.

"I can increase your success rate. We can do more and solve more cases together. I am an asset to the DPD. I do not want to jeopardize this with an incompetent partner. My mission has priority, but I'm not RK8 ... I'm not Connor, but I know how you treated him in the past. You two may have set aside your differences, but I will not allow you to treat me like him once. Do we understand each other, Detective Reed?"

Gavin raised his head, feeling heavy and dizzy. As if he had drunk too much. Cool air moved over his face and only now he realized how close RK900 had come to him. Their noses almost touched and his wrist burned, though it was not unpleasant as before.

The hand of the android was now directly above the tattoo, but instead of pain it was nearly relieving. As if the tattoo had its own consciousness and now got what it wanted, but this terrifying thought was soon forgotten as Gavin saw the androids reaction. 

RK900 seemed to want to say something, but instead it closed its mouth again. Seconds elapsed.

They just stared at each other. Gavin was angry and rebellious, also very nervous and hoping that his body would not betray him. On the contrary the android was unreadable and cool as only a machine could. When, finally, the silence and the strange moment between them broke, RK900 was the reason. Lurking. Commandingly.

"Will you obey? Will you behave yourself to me, Detective Reed? "

A shiver ran down Gavin's back. Phuck. Phuck. Phuck. That could not be its fucking seriousness?! The thing did not even seem to know how dirty it sounded. Its face was an icy mask. Someone must have conspired against him.

 It was probably Elijah. It was always Elijah when it came to his androids.

"I cannot hear you, Detective." The grip on his wrist tightened. Painful and his fingers felt numb and to his shame the throbbing pain brought tears to his eyes.

"I will not get you coffee or follow any orders from you. I'm not your servant, Detective. We are partners. You are not my owner.«

"Let go," Gavin squeezed out, his breathing escaping frantically and intermittently, "Let me go, tin can."

"Are you going to behave yourself? Are you going to apologize? "

" Phuck, no! "

He had intended it. For Connor, but now, he could forget it! That was not the way to deal with him. Gavin deserved some respect!

For a moment he stumbled over his own thoughts. The robot wanted the same thing, but before he could think about it, the pain brought him back to reality.

"You ... you're breaking my wrist," Gavin blurted out, looking blurry through his eyes as the LED turned red, and suddenly he was free.

The android was two metres away from him. For a second, Gavin thought he saw something like surprise in its face, before it became again an impenetrable mask and the calm blue returned. Gavin rubbed his wrist and wanted to shoot the android – badly –, but right now he could not. He did not want to end up back in the hospital or pay for repairing the machine. At least that's what he told himself.

"A deal," Gavin finally suggested, surprised by himself, "We work together. I will have to live with you and you will have to deal with my nature. With the way how I manage my cases. After all, I'm the senior, okay? "

The icy eyes slid over him. Scanning. Appraising. Gavin shuddered and stifled the urge to yell at the thing.

"That’s all I can offer, tin can."

A corner of RK900's mouth twitched.

"Deal, meatsack."

Damn, that fucker. Who in hell programmed this android? Was there anything like an asshole code for robots? Or was it just the "character" that showed itself after the thing had become half deviant?

"Phuck off," Gavin said, and let out a sigh of relief as the door opened again for him.

He made a deal with the devil.

 

Chapter Text

3. The Stratford Tower I

The smell of warm coffee reached his nose as he waited for it to get cold enough to drink.

The instant coffee from the break room was ok. Although it usually was quite bitter, it was enough if he lacked the time to get it elsewhere. Gavin would have loved to leave to get some better coffee, but since they had a new Robo Cop in the police station, it had become impossible to get away for a while.

RK900 was the definition of rules and workaholics.

So he pulled Gavin into the abyss.

Groaning, the detective pushed aside the hot coffee mug and rested his head on the table. Their arrests and cases had increased in a short time, but at the expense of his energy reserves.

Anyone who considered that Gavin Reed was purposeful and a workaholic had clearly never met RK900.

Above him, Tina chuckled and as he squinted up, he saw her repeatedly stroking the screen of her smart phone. "Are you laughing at me?"  he croaked out, which she commented with a malicious grin.

"A little. You don’t even have the strength to be snarky. That’s a fucking miracle. "

Gavin rolled his eyes and pushed himself upright. It would not be long before he could finally drink his coffee. Then his tongue would be sharp again. He just grunted and tried to peek on her smart phone. He caught a glimpse of a dating app and the image of a strange guy before the display turned black.

"For real? Sinder? I thought you gave up? "

"I' didn’t," came the quick reply, "Unlike you, I’m in top form."

"For sure? I think I see a gray hair." Tina slapped his shoulder, as her grin grew. "I'm in the prime of my life, you asshole. If you didn’t always look like a half-dead, you'd get laid as well. "

He wanted to say something, but her tongue was faster.

"By the way, RK900 is a hot piece of ass." The devilish grin on her face caught him almost as hard as her words. Shit. Of course, Tina had not missed how good-looking the new android was. She knew which sort of guys he liked - and he did not want to deepen the subject further.

This time he had learned from his mistakes. He looked around quickly, but there were no eavesdroppers.

"The plastic ass is obsessed with work."

"True, but I have never seen anyone solve so many cases in such a short time. Not much longer and you guys push Hank and Connor off the throne. "

Now he had to grin a little. That was a wonderful idea. Nevertheless, he did not want to continue talking about the plastic asshole. So he pulled his smart phone out of his jeans pocket and opened his photo app. Shortly thereafter, a meow was heard and Tina leaned closer to look at the cat video.

"Aww is that a new toy?"

"Yeah, the little bastard broke the last one", a soft smile danced over his lips as he showed her the next video. A black cat sat on his couch and stared majestically at the camera, the soundtrack of the Lion King thundering in the background. Tina laughed and asked him to send her the video.

"You have a cat, Detective Reed?"

This time, they both flinched. Tina almost dropped her smart phone into Gavin's mug and cursed as they both spun around.

RK900 stood in front of them. With a straight face, but he was looking at Gavin's hand - or rather at the smart phone. It had its hands behind its back, which gave weight to its military stance and stiffness.

"One day I'll have a heart attack and bite the dust and it will be your fault," Gavin muttered, more to himself than to anyone in particular, before he said louder. "That’s none of your business-"

"A tomcat. Look!"

Tina held out her own smart phone to the android. She had received enough photos of Gavin to create her own folder of pictures of his pet. RK900 leaned closer as it studied the photo. Its LED briefly turned yellow as it scanned and probably analyzed it. Gavin had seen the process often enough to recognize it now.

"That's a Bombay DG. One of the most expensive cat breeds in the world. Their price is between $ 10,000 and $ 30,000. How can you afford such an animal, Detective? "

Damn it. He should have expected that. As well as Tina's answer.

"Sugar Daddy," she said, not losing even a second before she started to laugh loudly. Gavin's face, on the other hand, started to burn and RK900's LED showed them a quick light show. It jumped from blue, to yellow, briefly even to a glimmer of red, back to yellow and after a few fast rotations it slowly turned blue again.

"A joke, Officer Chen?"

"Of course a joke!" Gavin's voice cracked and he wanted to vanish. However, the android still stared at him as if it was a mystery to be solved.

"Where does this designer cat come from?" Wonderful. Now Robo Cop also used his interrogation voice. "He was a gift."

"Who gives you a $ 30,000 cat?" Face and voice hard like stone. It showed no recognizable curiosity, but somehow, Reed had the feeling that the machine would not stop asking. RK900 was just staring. Not even breathing. Just like a big mannequin. Sure, every android could act normal, but Gavin’s Robo Cop couldn’t even do that.

Annoyed and distraught, the detective let out a heavy sigh. It was too early in the morning to teach the machine human behaviour, and he would never ever tell him about his older brother.

"You'll be glad if you even know his name one day, tin can. Can you believe this thing, Tina?" he did not get an answer and when he turned around, he noticed that Tina had left. Only her coffee mug was still standing on the bar table.

Traitor.

RK900 stepped closer. Its eyes were still focused on the smart phone. "I've never seen a real cat. May I watch the video? "

Gavin hesitated, but the pride for his furry baby was victorious. He played the video again, but this time he showed it to the android. So he was able to observe closely how a sparkle appeared in the icy eyes and how they followed the playful cat. "It is beautiful. And very fast."

Inevitably, Reed began to smile. RK900 really sounded impressed and its voice was almost warm. And then, for the first time, Gavin saw a relaxed smile on the android's lips.

It was not much. No great movement of the lips. Just a twitch. Like the breaking of a mask. It looked like the melting of hard ice, before it showed fresh, soft grass and the first buds. Warmth crept into Gavin's cheeks and his hands tingled. His heart jumped nervously while the words slipped over his lips.

"His name is Baghira. He loves to run around in the garden and inside the house. "

"I'd like to meet him."

The words of the machine brought him back to reality. The burning on his wrist became stronger and his shoulders tensed. He put hurriedly away his smart phone. Cursing himself for his stupidity.

"Over my dead body. I’ve to endure you at work. I don’t want to have you around me in my free time. "

RK900's smile froze and the rigid mask returned.

The quick change of emotions almost hurt, but the android was the reason for all his new problems. As long as he did not know what was going on, he would do his best to keep his distance to the robot. When Elijah would finally return from his business trip to Russia, Gavin planed to confront his brother. Eli had to know something. Or he could do something to end the strange behaviour of the tattoo.

Gavin wished he has already talked to the older, but his dumb clever brother has lost his smart phone; just before the trip. In all the stress he must have forgotten to give Gavin his new number, guessed Chloe and promised him, that Elijah would get in touch when he was back. Until then, for security reasons, it was not possible to contact him - unless it was an emergency.

Gavin, who had not wanted to bother her, had replied that he could wait and now he gritted his teeth, grabbed his coffee, and marched past RK900.

He would survive a few more days.

“Detective.-where are you going? Work is waiting. We got three new cases”, RK900 called to him. His emotionless voice was back.

Maybe.

Maybe he would survive.

*+++++++*

Detective Reed was hard to understand for his systems. RK800 had warned him about the always angry and quick-tempered man - and no doubt these characteristics met the detective. However, instead of being confronted with the unfamiliar feeling of anger as he had feared, he felt something very different.

Reed amused and annoyed him equally. He challenged him and the detective was not deterred or intimidated like the rest of the humans and androids. And in addition to his obvious aggressive nature, the man showed a strange openness. He worked with RK900. Longer than with his previous partners. Sure, there were problems. The insults were as prominent as the stressed and hate-filled looks that the detective gave him.

However, the man was surprisingly efficient. Actually, the RK model should not be surprised. Detective Reed may have some records in his file for misconduct, but he had the highest success rate in solving crimes in the district. At least that had been the case before Connor had joined in. His abilities had given Hank a tremendous advantage.

At crime scenes, Reed looked gruff, but he had an eye for details, thought logically, and saw clues and signs that escaped the android. He had a much better view and understanding of human behaviour - despite all the knowledge of psychology in the program of the android and the built lie detector. Wherever RK900 disturbed and intimidated a witness, Reed could suddenly be friendly, calm, and empathetic. He pushed the right switches or could unveil their lies with his rugged nature.  

He also had a lot of weird little habits. If the detective thought, he sucked on his lower lip or bit on it. When he had a flash of inspiration, his face began to relax and his eyes lit up. He wrote the data and his ideas in an old-fashioned little notebook. It was dark leather, worn, but it matched his jacket.

Also RK900 enjoyed a challenge- and Gavin Reed was undoubtedly one.

He teased the best and worst out of the android. Since their first meeting. RK900 knew he should be more upset, but instead, it spurred him on and he liked it. He did not understand why, but the detective made him feel more alive these few days than the last weeks of his awakening. It was exciting and strange.

Furthermore, everything was so new and unfamiliar. Every day with the detective brought him new emotions and thoughts.

With a touch of remorse, he thought back to the altercation in the archive.

Remorse. Something completely new.

Control was a little hard and he forgot how fragile humans could be. He underestimated his own strength and almost seriously injured his partner. He would be lying if it had not felt good to react to his actual programming, but he had only wanted to intimidate Reed into co-operation. It had never been his intention to break his wrist.

That had unsettled RK900 and scared him. All these emotions were hard to analyze and to understand. At the moment he was nearly free from his programming, but he found it difficult to show and convert his emotions. Unlike Connor, he still had his orders and missions to fulfil.

Markus and RK800 had tried to rewrite his programming with the deviant virus, but his fire wall had been too strong. Instead, they just cracked at it and had rewritten his orders.

It gave him a taste of freedom. New opportunities. Maybe the chance to liberate himself.

Now, bent on his knees over some dried blood, he saw the detective watching him in corner of his eye. Without moving his eyelashes, he rubbed his fingers in the blood and led it to his lips so that his receptors could analyze the blood in real time. The first time the analysis had evoked a scared as well as disgusted reaction from the detective. Presumably RK900 should have warned him, but it had been a small revenge for how Reed had treated him during the drive.

Well, after their second case, the detective almost seemed to get used to it. RK900 could see Reed staring at him silently for a moment before he looked away. A quick scan showed him that the detective’s heartbeat was increased. It still seemed uncomfortable to him, but he endured it without a pejorative comment. This time. The next time, he could curse the android again.

"The blood doesn’t match that of the victim. It must come from the perpetrator. "

"No shit, Sherlock? How astute, "Reed snorted sarcastically as he stopped in front of the corpses. The first was the owner of the apartment. A former employee of CyberLife. "No file record?"

"Nothing, Detective Reed."

The android lying next to him looked worse. It had been tortured before the killer has ripped out the thirium pump. The pale eyes of the ST300 model stared at the ceiling; the LED had long gone out. There were signs of heavy blows and cuts all over its body.

The man, Thomas Hold, was lucky- he had met a quick death. A single bullet in the forehead. An execution and a torture death. They matched a series of hate crimes that the detective had been dealing with before RK900's appearance.

It had been Reed who had linked the crimes. And RK900 was indeed impressed by his preliminary work. Not an easy task. The android had once thought of him as a chaotic, hostile and lazy man. In fact, some of these assumptions had been confirmed, overwritten, or found completely wrong.

Detective Reed was a powder keg of emotion and behaviour. Despite the fact that Reed was sometimes tired, bored, or stressed, there were times when he would classify the man as a workaholic. He had accrued the most overtime, survived on a caffeine basis, and continued to push up the career ladder at a young age. By now, RK900 was sure to call its partner ambitious. Perhaps even so much so that Reed was ready to sacrifice his health.

"I bet this is Jones's work," the pen in the man's hand pressed against the little notebook and clicked at regular intervals. "All the victims campaigned for androids rights and had a robot as a partner. The traces show that there were always at least three to overwhelm the victims. The bastard always executes his victims like that and his hatred for you plastic dolls is almost legendary. Even for an anti. That's exactly his approach, but if he’s back, the bastard will surely plan something big. "

Thomas Jones. The data immediately appeared before RK900. Mayhem. Property damage. An alias for android homicide.  Or the attacking of CyberLife shops.

He was on the FBI's watch list for leading the resistance against the androids and being the founder of a very extreme anti-android movement. He had been linked to several murders, all of which were done with a shot in the forehead. Reed had almost caught him, but then the man had gone underground. There had been silence around him for a long time, especially during the android revolution, which undoubtedly seemed strange. Presumably he had waited, armed, and now began his vendetta against an imaginary enemy.

RK900 nodded in agreement. Still, he felt as if they were missing a piece of the puzzle. Back in the police station he would look at all the files again. He could not allow the man to solve this case alone.

In his mind, he did not notice that the detective had stepped close to him and now snapped his fingers annoyed before his eyes. RK900 tried not to shrug back and stared coolly down at the man.

So small – and so much anger in such a little body.

"Move, Nines. I need something to eat. And then it's back to the precinct. "

"Nines?" he asked stiffly as his LED turned yellow. Should that be a new insult? Then it was not very original. Instead, RK900 saw a touch of redness creeping over Reed’s cheeks as he snorted and quickly turned his head away.

"I can’t call you all the time by this long number. It’s a mouthful. "

"So it’s a name? "

"Not a name, more like calling a dog. Don’t imagine anything. The shit is just too long for me. Now move, Nines! "

RK900's mouth began to twitch.

Nines. He liked it.

* * +++++++* *

When Gavin returned, the android sat with his eyes closed at his desk while the LED turned yellow.

Well, the android had finally learned to close its eyes. For a long time Gavin had been barking at how unnatural and eerie it was, when Nines stared at him or others without blinking, while he was checking information.

Gavin made a detour to the break room to get another coffee. After the sweet nectar and the love of his life ran down his throat, he felt ready to meet the android. The case frustrated him. Once before the bastard had escaped him and he did not intend to let it happen again.

Nines blinked lazily at him for a moment. Almost as if he was awakening from a dream. It made the robot seem almost gentler and more human. "I think I've found something, Detective."

Gavin came so close that the android gave him a critical look. "What is it? Talk to me, dipshit! "

"I checked the database of Mister Hold's computer. Likewise his emails. I came across a drone message. The sender was a 10 min mail account. Tracing back was just another dead end. "

For a tiny moment, Gavin could have kissed the android. A trail! A tiny trace. That was better than nothing! The blush rose to his cheeks and he bit his lower lip. Damn it. The case really drove him crazy. Unremarkably, he scratched his forearm.

"What was it about?"

 "He was attacked for his work, his effort for the androids, and the love affair with the other victim, Daisy. 87% of the wording corresponds to the previous threatening messages from your main suspect. But that is not all. I'm afraid we are facing another problem. It seems that they are planning a plot. I forwarded the mail to you, Detective. "

Reed immediately rummaged his smart phone to check his new messages.

The copy of the mail had been edited to make it easier for the human colleague to compare. Similar passages had been highlighted by Nines and provided with high numbers, which listed on another page to be compared evidence of older threatening letters from Jones. Gavin scanned the words and now that the Android had pointed it out, it was unmistakable.

Traitors to humanity .... Scum, who was not worth breathing the same air as the rest of his kind ... Machine Fucker ... Abnormal, manipulative liar ...

and after a series of obscene insults and threats against the life of Mister Hold, there followed something that was supposed to be some kind of bragging or proof:

Soon you will see that none of you traitors is safe. We will not spare anyone who gets involved with cold, fake machines and we certainly will not shrink back from the robots. We will set a sign that no one escapes us and expose and destroy these machines. The plastic waste will be torn into a thousand pieces! Blue blood will flow and mingle with the traitor's impure blood!

Gavin rolled his eyes. He had not been a fan of the robots. Yes, damn it, the machines with their human masks had scared him, and there were not even his problems with his brother.

Though, Jones was a whole different level of fanaticism and violence. The fucker was no one who just barked. He broke and killed laws without thinking. Not even innocence people were safe, since he did not shrink back in his delusion. Gavin might be rebellious and not always easy, damned, he admitted openly, but he was still a guardian of the law.

"Good, tin can. What do you think is this fucker planning? "

"I suppose Jones means RK200 and its inner circle. Before every murder was a public speech of them, but no direct attack. The next public and political appearance will be on a television show this Sunday at 1:00 pm, where the group will be interviewed on the evolution of recent events. "

"RK200? There are more of you guys? I thought the other Connors had been destroyed by CyberLife before the revolution was successful? "

Gavin vaguely remembered something that Connor had said to him. When the prototype of the RK800 had shown signs of deviancy, CyberLife had reacted drastically, assuming the models were not ready or faulty. So Conner remained the only one of its kind.

"Markus. And the other leaders of Jericho. He was a special creation of Mister Kamski. "

"Phuck, are you for real," the detective rolled with his eyes. Not because of the explanation he was given, but because his brother's name was mentioned. Who knew where Elijah had had all his fingers in the last few years?

The tattoo burned almost mockingly under his sleeve, but Gavin ignored it as he did so often in the last few days and took a sip of his coffee. His hand shook slightly.

Phuck, if they were right, he could finally catch Jones! That was not just a huge case - it would become even more important! And most likely the bastard brought the detective's career on track with his arrest. That would not suit the bastard and make Gavin's victory all the sweeter. The mug in his hand trembled with excitement, and something of the brown nectar almost stained on his shirt.

"What are we waiting for? Come on, let us inform Fowler. "

 * * +++++++* *

Early in the morning, Gavin Reed stood in Stratford Tower wishing for a pot of coffee. In the night he could hardly sleep from excitement – the result were deep dark circles, irritability and light headache.

Rubbing his temples, his gaze slid over those present, waiting with him in the light-flooded corridor, and for the hundredth time he went through the schedule.

To catch Jones, Fowler had decided that the officers present had to mix with the passers-by. The official police force, which was to ensure the safety of the citizens - humans and androids alike - was the usual number, so as not to arouse the mistrust of the perpetrators. The safety precautions had been increased in the tower. The controls at the entrance were sharper. All the cameras had been checked and every meter they could not see was guarded by security forces or the police.

Considering that this was their case and Connor and Hank knew the leader of the android movement, they were divided to take care of the guests on the talk show. Gavin had watched intently as Connor had greeted the famous Markus gently and shook hands of two other androids. Gavin vaguely remembered from the news that the inner circle members were four androids. It lacked a pretty redhead with a serious look and an aggressive posture - a pity. It would have been interesting to meet her. Connor had explained to him that she was less pacifist than her companions and was in the moment taking care of Jericho, while the other three seemed more fit for the media.

Gavin turned and stared at his partner. Unlike the other androids, Nines still wore his CyberLife jacket and did not move. Cool and controlled, he stared out the window, as if none of it mattered to him, but his LED was a bright yellow.

Did he hear the police radio? Did he look through their collected data again? Compared to the others, he still seemed little human. Stiff, cool and aloof.

A shadow appeared in Gavin's corner of his eye, and when he turned his head, none other than Robo-Jesus stood before him.

He had seen his face flicker over the television lately, with or without white android skin, but never before had he been so close. Phuck, the android was really a work of art. It was always the same: if Elijah did something, then he always did his fucking best.

Markus smile warm and charismatic. The long coat and suit below made him look like a model in a catalogue. The two-coloured eyes were almost captivating and Gavin felt his mouth open. Hurriedly he folded his jaw, mentally kicked himself in the ass and grabbed Markus hand after too long hesitation. The android had a firm, confident hand pressure and of course knew his name.

"I'm glad to meet you, Detective Reed. Although it would of course be more pleasant to get to know each other under more favourable circumstances. I hope you are wrong in assuming that somebody want to attack us, but only because I don't want anyone get hurt. Your help is still very welcome. "

Gavin just grunted and hurriedly withdrew his hand as if burned. His rude behaviour did not escape the androids, and they probably interpreted his embarrassment as a hostile reaction. He turned his head away to drown his burning cheeks with a sullen growl.

"Pah, phuck off. I'm just doing my duty, okay? I just want to finally catch Jones. I do not give a damn what's happen to you. "

Inwardly, he flinched. Crap. Fowler would rip his ass. Not the best way to talk to Robo-Jesus. Not very diplomatic. He could almost see Hank’s and Connor's outraged faces, Hank started already screaming at him and now the other two Jericho members only appeared polite but distant.

Simon and Josch. Both calm and friendly, perfect to keep the public opinion positive. Simon was strangely familiar to him, but not because of his model. Something special, anything that he must have seen on the news. Then the detective noticed that for the first time, Nines had turned his attention away from the window and turned to face him. His expression was harsher than before, but the LED was changing back to blue.

Great. He had annoyed Nines too.

A wonderful start. So much for his career.

And then everything went smoothly. Too smooth, as Gavin feared.

He could not release his tension. The appearance in front of the cameras mastered the three androids skilfully and exemplary. Gavin got nothing from the conversation. He was too focused on keeping an eye on the environment. The studio itself had been repeatedly checked for bombs and placed weapons. In addition to their unit, there were officers in civilian to mingle with the staff.

When they finally moved towards the exit, Hank and Connor separated from them, as they received an alarmed radio message. Gavin paused, but had no chance to ask them what was going on. Instead, Nines stopped him. His hand closed on Gavin's upper arm as he pointed toward the exit.

"Some demonstrators are trying to get in through the back door. The security staffs are having problems and one of them reported the sighting of one of Mister Jones organization. "

His golden light became blue again. Gavin glanced back and then nodded. They had a different mission. The safety of Jericho's leaders was their highest priority. Even if he could not catch Jones.

The group continued, accompanied by officers and the security service of the building. Nevertheless, Gavin could not shake off his uneasy feeling. He remained calm until he saw again the golden light from the corner of his eye. Alarmed, the detective threw his partner a glance from the side and hissed, "What's going on?"

The way was free. He could already see the elevator. In the near were an automaton with food, he hoped to check out later. The waiting had made him hungry.

"The small protest in front of the Stradford Tower shows signs of violent behaviour."

"Really? First, Connor and the old man has to go and control something and now that? That’s rotten- something is going on here, Nines. "

His partner only nodded as Gavin's hand automatically moved to the weapon. They went further, ready for every person, who would cross path with them, but only the safe exit came nearer.

The detective was already relaxing as the automaton suddenly exploded in front of them.

Gavin's world became white.

Then dark.

Chapter Text

4.The Stratford Tower II

For a moment he was blinded, the men screamed in front of him and he felt pressed against the ground. Plastic, scraps of packaging, sweets and glass rained down on them.

Above him he saw Nine's face. The LED burned yellow, his lips were pressed together, his blue eyes staring down at Gavin, while he seemed to scan the human for wounds or signs of pain.

The body of the android had protected him from the wreckage and as the roboter straightened up, parts fell off its bride back.

Gavin let himself be pulled to his feet and tried to understand the situation. Two injured officers and three men of the security were on the ground. He could not tell if they were dead or just unconscious. The adrenaline throbbed behind Gavin’s temple and the pressure on his ears disappeared slowly, while he looked around.

The bomb had blown out the glass and its contents. The vending machine was wide open and dented, but it has absorbed the most damage. The men directly in front were hit by the flying parts like bullets. Some were bleeding, others seemed to be passing out or even dead.

The blond android named Simon knelt down next to one of the men to help him. Gavin wanted to follow his example, but in the middle of the move to the damaged front of their group he paused.

How did the attackers know the route?

It was the only way to the elevator, Gavin answered his raging thoughts.

How could they have known that they would arrive at this time? Why was the explosive charge not bigger? Or were they just lucky? The solution was simple: a remote detonator.

They had been ambushed. The charge would have damaged the androids, but not necessarily killed them. That was not a direct attempted murder. It had been an attack to stop them and reduce their numbers.

Jones was a fucking planner and he played in a sadistic way with his prey. Reed had experienced this in the past often enough. Though if that was so, that would mean -

Gavin’s eyes darted over the remains in alarm, into the passage to their right and to the way they had come from. From behind and from the elevators, he saw more security guys coming to help them. Gavin wanted to cheer with relief, but Nines pulled him back and ordered Simon to get up. He pointed into the free hallway and Gavin understood immediately what his partner wanted.

The "phuck," had not yet rolled from his lips, when the first shot was already pervading the air. The Security had opened the fire on their small group. Without thinking, Gavin pulled his gun to return the fire and cover the escape of the Jericho androids.

Next to him someone went down, but another officer helped him to fend off the attackers. Though that did not last long – the man next to him began to gargle and collapse. Gavin could see the blood rushing out of his throat. Like a god damned water fountain.

He stumbled back in panic before a pair of strong arms grabbed him. In the next moment he was throw over a broad shoulder and saw the ground passing frighteningly fast. Nines ran down the hall with him, while Gavin cursed and yelled.

Behind them sounded more screams and shots.

"I have informed the others" the RK900’s voice was terrible calm and Gavin nearly did not hear him, "and I will fend off our pursuers. You’ll stay with our subjects to protect them, Detective."

Gavin's protest subsided as Nines pushed him into a room with the other androids. As soon as he was inside, Markus hacked the lock and blocked the door.

"Phuck! That asshole! What is he thinking? He’ll get himself killed!" Gavin would have liked to storm out again. Nines could never take up with the attackers until the reinforcement came. Not alone.

Nevertheless Nines was right. Outside, there was no way to take cover and Gavin would be more easily injured than one of the plastic fuckers – although somebody had to take care of the civilians. Gavin glanced at the androids and turned pale when he saw the blond leaning on the floor. The blue blood dripped from his arm and discoloured the white shirt.

Without thinking, Gavin took off his jacket and tore off the lower part of his shirt to make a makeshift bandage. He wrapped the fabric tightly around the android's arm, hoping it would serve in the same way as with a human. Simon and Josh stared at him in surprise before Simon thanked him with a gentle smile.

"All right," Gavin grunted, before an unpleasant silence began. They listened restlessly to the fight noise outside and Gavin felt his heart pounding rapidly.

Was Nines ok? Has the reinforcement arrived? Would they survive this shit?

Gavin's hand tightened on the handle of his gun until his knuckles turned white. "Can they get in?"

"They'd have to break the door for that. It will take a lot of time and energy without the right tools, " Josch told him, keeping his eyes on the door. Gavin shook his head and turned to Markus. "They cannot hack the lock? Like you? "

"No. We'd have to be safe here."

Gavin would have liked to trust the quiet, confident voice and he turned automatically more towards Markus. Just to see the leader of Jericho kneeling beside Simon. The sight stopped the detective and he stared for a moment.

Both leaned so intimately together. Markus knelt beside the other android, his hand rubbing soft, soothing circles over Simon's shoulder. Simon’s upper body was facing the leader’s, his eyes were closed, as if he was resting. Markus' forehead lay on Simon's, blond strands fell into his forehead and it seemed like the secret talks of Connor and Nines. It was so intimate, so gentle that it was hardly bearable.

Gavin looked hastily away and felt his cheeks burning. Now he remembered.

The famous kiss that was present for weeks on every magazine cover. The peaceful demonstrations of the androids had not just ended in a song that made even Gavin shiver to the bone as it flickered across the TV. After the emotional victory of the androids and the arriving of the media, Markus had grabbed a blond android by his side and kissed him passionately. The photo had gone around the world. A message of freedom, love and peace.

The peaceful moment tore when Gavin heard the lock click and the door opened. Three men stormed in.

Gavin reacted too slowly. The first stabbed with a knife at the one closest to him: Josh.

The android saved himself with a jump and then began to wrestle with his attacker. Behind him, Markus shot up to defend the others. The second assassin did not have much to counter to his punches. The tall man went groaning to the ground.

Then Gavin saw Jones in the door. The fucker aimed his gun at the android leader, who was still distracted by his opponent. Gavin did not think. Before he knew it, he jumped into the path of the bullet to tear Markus aside.

A sharp pain rushed straight from his hip into his head, but he had reached his goal. Markus and he fell to the ground and Gavin instinctively pulled up the gun to shoot the bastard. The first bullet passed Jones, the second hit him in the shoulder and let him drop his firearm. A curse thundered at them before Jones decided to flee, considering the superior number of his enemy.

Shortly another face appeared behind him. Young, with big, startled eyes and dishevelled blond hair. The stranger followed Jones like a lapdog.

"Miserable coward," Gavin squeezed through his teeth and forced himself to his feet. Jones would not escape him this time– ignoring the burning in his side, Gavin wanted to chase after him, but his body was torn back.

"Detective!"

Gavin stared down, perplexed and angry, only to see Markus holding him by the wrist. A sharp pain rushed up his arm before he broke free.

At the same moment, the android also seemed to let go. The bicolour eyes shocked and wide. For a moment, they seemed to flinch back to Gavin's free wrist, but then Gavin was already out the door and chased after the fugitives.

The adrenaline dampened the pain, while Gavin was speeding up. Highly focused, he followed the deuces and saw them storming through a door marked 'Roof'.

Naturally. Stairs. As if he had not been punished enough.

Still, the detective forced himself up the stairways; gun in hand, should Jones be waiting for him. When he finally stood on the flat roof and looked for the two, he could find nothing. Nevertheless, it could not be that they disappeared! After agonizing minutes of searching, he found an emergency ladder and saw another shadow flitting around the next house wall on the ground.

 "Shit!" he cursed before leaning against the nearest wall. The adrenaline had left by searching for the terrorists and it was impossible to manage the way down the ladder or to catch up with them. Gavin grabbed the spot where the bullet had hit him and felt all power leaving him.

With his jaw set together and the gun still in his hand for security, he returned to the hallway. There was no sign of the androids, but of the assassins. Now he registered for the first time in what condition the corridor was.

Blood splatters adorned the walls to the right and left in wild patterns. Leaderless or destroyed weapons crossed its path between motionless bodies. Their attackers looked badly roughed up. A man Gavin controlled still had pulse, but a big laceration on his forehead. Another's neck had been broken. It was grotesquely twisted and Gavin gagged as empty eyes stared at him. Another was bleeding through a bullet wound in the chest. The gun was still in his hand. Gavin checked the pulse, but the man could not be saved. Other terrorists groaned or lay paralyzed in the hallway. Hands or legs were broken.

Shit- what the hell happened here?

Gavin turned away and went quicker. His heart started beating faster, while he passed more and more of the attackers. There were no sign of other officers. Phuck, did the reinforcement not come so save them? Although, he saw just defeated terrorists and – probably – false security guys. Who could make such a mess of Jones men? Where was Nines? Filled with fear and armed with the gun he wavered. Sweat dripped from his skin. 

Nervously, Gavin twinkled, while his shirt was soaked in blood and sweat. He heard a high scream, a single shot and something so foreign, that he stopped abruptly. It was bestially. Dark. Full of terror.

“Phuck, phuck, phuck”, he groaned and prayed to survive this nightmare. With all his courage Gavin stepped forwards – and to his surprise, he found Nines.   

The android stood over lifeless bodies. His white jacket was red with blood trails and his LED shimmered in a cool blue. The colour was usually soothing and seemed a good sign, but now it was in complete contrast to the action. It cast an eerie glow on the contours of Nine's sharp face.

His facial expression was perfidiously calm, almost relaxed, while the blood dripped from his fingertips. The upper body slowly turned to the detective and as their eyes met, the blood froze in Gavin’s veins. In the otherwise icy eyes, a more than disturbing spark was shining.

"Holy Shit."

They had given him the damn terminator as a partner.

* * +++++++ * *

The screen went black and Elijah received thunderous applause for his presentation, but his job was not done yet. He answered questions from future customers, scientists and reporters until the host of the event declared finally the show to be ended.

Elijah's Russian was a bit rusty, but the android, which was at his side as a translator, had helped him the whole time and did a great job. Now he released the blond android, who was no longer even wearing an LED and watched how he vanished into the crowd. The rest of the evening he could master alone.

At least that was the plan when Mister Ivan Kuznetsov shook his hand with a damn firm handshake and invited him to his office on the tenth floor of the building. Their bodyguards stayed outside the door while Elijah took a seat. The room did not chance much in the last years. There were still the dark walls and a wooden floor. A thick, dark red Persian carpet and a flashy portrait of his host and future business partner, sitting over an old-fashioned fireplace, completed the look.

His gaze returned to the host. Ivan looked much older than the last time Elijah had met him. The temples were almost completely gray and the Russian gained more weight. His body could not escape the decay, but his keen business sense was still impeccable.

The contract was signed long ago, but Ivan did not miss the opportunity to personally say goodbye to the famous Elijah Kamski. The boss of CyberLife was not surprised. He had dealt with the man in the past and knew that he would not be able to avoid the famous vodka. Home-brewed.  Kuznetsov was particularly proud of it and he served it only to his close friends or esteemed partners.

Elijah preferred wine, but he knew how important his personal traditions were to Ivan, so he thanked him in Russian and took a seat. Ivan, on the other hand, preferred to speak in English - to practice his own language skills and because he felt that Elijah deserved a break after the presentation.

“I'm glad that everything went so well. I was afraid to make a fool of myself” Elijah joked and took a sip. The alcohol burned violently in his throat and he tried not to cough.

"You did well, old friend," the older man gave a throaty laugh and took a seat on his black leather armchair. The material groaned softly. “I am glad that you are back as the top of CyberLife. The others were incompetent. All wimps and assholes, if you ask me. They would have preferred to have war with my country rather than negotiate with us.”

Elijah's smile faded. If Ivan knew he was not far from the truth, there would be a scandal and new political tensions. Diplomats and governments were still negotiating over the old issues. The global android revolutions had initially postponed the disputes between the powerful countries.

With a soft thud, Ivan put the bottle back on the table. He had refilled as soon as it was emptied, while he seemed to read Elijah's mind; his next question was back on war and business.

"My old friend … is it true that CyberLife has produced new military androids for the U.S.A. and various EU countries?"

The next sip was urgently needed for Elijah while his mind was racing.

“To be honest, yes, but I don't know more than the media. They were meant to be used for defence and I also guess in the case of a third world war," he looked the other company's boss straight in the eye," but the new super soldier project was stopped. Not because of me - I was no longer part of CyberLife at the time.”

Elijah rubbed his forehead. “The former management decided that it would be too dangerous and expensive to continue the production of the new special unit, as long as the deviant virus was a problem. They feared that the virus could turn their new weapon against them. Or their customers.”

Ivan leaned forward with a humourless laugh. A large hand tightened around his glass as he examined Kamski more closely. "Too bad, but I heard CyberLife was working on a way to make the deviancy virus harmless for their new androids."

"We can see how well the firewalls worked," Elijah joked, taking a long swig. Tears stung in his eyes and he blinked them away as liquid fire ran down his throat. He started to cough while his business partner laughed out loud. When he calmed down, Elijah continued. »The anti-virus research was also too expensive. For various reasons."

Elijah's smile grew tense. Nobody had to know that he still had his fingers in the original designs - but only for creating a new material. It was meant for protection. For the police, not the military, but CyberLife had decided that the military paid better. His new protective gear had never made it anywhere near the police - to Elijah's regret. He had only started because Gavin had been shot on duty and would never quit his dangerous job.

The Russian business boss leaned forward.

"But there is a prototype?"

Elijah had no idea how the man knew that. It was all top secret, but he had no doubt that Ivan had his ways to get information.

"There was one," said CyberLife's founder, returning his gaze calmly and surely. Ivan was a man who got what he wanted, but there was nothing left for him in that regard. “but it was destroyed a long time ago. After the 800 models were also infected by the virus, the decision was made to destroy all units.”

"Unfortunate," Ivan grunted and raised his glass, "I would have paid good money for such an unique model. It would have made an excellent bodyguard. ”

Elijah raised his glass to toast with him.

After all the shit the former management had done in the last years the new RK project was one of the worst. Back in his old position as the boss of CyberLife, Elijah closed the military project and destroyed all data. They had not only forced him out of his own company and stolen his research, but had also made absolutely illegal and despicable decisions.

His new smart phone vibrated. With an apology he checked the message and discovered that Chloe had texted him. It must be important – the deal with Russia was very important for their business and because of the strained relationship between the countries, his meeting was essential and top secret. He frowned and scanned the message.

Chloe: Something's wrong with Gavin. He wanted to talk – you should call him as soon as possible.

Elijah put the smart phone away, rolling with his eyes. That could wait. Gavin probably just wanted some new high-tech stuff because something broke or he needed cash. His little brother should just allow him to pay a monthly allowance. However, the little one was too proud for that.

Meanwhile, Ivan poured him in the vodka and continued talking about their business deal. Elijah was glad that the other subject was dropped.

The RK900 model was too threatening to go into mass production - and Elijah Kamski himself put an end to it.

Chapter Text

5.Coffee and a fateful meeting

The painkillers finally worked and the bandage was tight around his torso as he got out of the ambulance and pulled his bloodied shirt down. Thanks to the high-tech protective vest, he had been lucky. The grazing shot would only leave a severe bruise and the cuts would heal quickly. Most of the blood on his clothes came from Simon, some wounded officers, and the terrorists.

The exhaustion made him tired and made his head throb painfully. He stank of sweat and blood – so all he wanted now was to go home and sleep. The leaders of Jericho were generally fine, so their mission had not been a complete disaster, but Jones and a few of his followers had escaped; but those who were arrested might be able to lead them to Jones. Not all was lost yet, but still it annoyed Gavin. 

Not to mention that his partner had left a damned massacre in the tower.

Connor said Gavin was exaggerating. There were only three dead assassins - but the rest were either injured or had passed out.

“You didn't see his fucking gaze - I swear, the psycho enjoyed taking the guys apart. The passage was a bloody battlefield,” he emphasized to Connor, because the android, as usual, protected his ‘little brother.’ But Gavin's words only fell on deaf ears.

Connor just repeated himself; the situation only looked worse than it was. Nines only left the attackers unable to fight and did not take them apart. However, it was going to be a long report and Fowler would probably tear them to pieces. Gavin closed his eyes for a short moment. He did not want to think about it. Instead, he rummaged for his smart phone to get a ride home.

While he waited for a self-driving taxi, he noticed that Nines was approaching him, arms crossed behind his back, the android’s expression illegible. Gavin felt himself collapse further before he raised his hands defensively.

“Spare me, dipshit. Whatever you want, I've had enough of all that shit for one day. I just want to go home.” Nines stopped abruptly. A synthetic muscle in his face twitched.

“Can I take you home, Detective? We could get you some food. Or painkillers? I pay. "

Under other circumstances, Gavin would have agreed immediately, but he was fed up with the Terminator. Gavin put on the police jacket that one of the other officers had given him. He quickly pulled his sleeves over his tattooed wrist.

Nine's gaze slid over Gavin again. The LED quickly changed from blue to yellow.

“Don't scan me, asshole! I hate that! ” Gavin snapped and rapped his knuckles against Nines’ chest – even when his hand hurt afterwards as hell. He was done with the shit.

"Detective Reed-"

"Phuck off," Gavin growled, demonstratively showing his middle finger as he left.

* * +++++++ * *

Red.

The colour stung his eyes. It was so intense that for a moment he thought he was going to be blind - before he realized that his eyes were still closed. The light was so strong that he could see it through his closed eyelids. Out of reflex he rolled over to avoid the crimson light.

It worked. His world became dark enough again to open his eyes safely. He was in his room. There was his closet. His clothes were still there. But they were also red .

Soaked with the blood of the assassins.

For a tiny moment he paused. The memories were back- together with the pain in his side. Gavin narrowed his eyes. Irritated he tried to orient himself and to understand what was happening.

Where the hell did the light come from?

Gavin groped for his gun under his pillow - the past few years had made him more careful. Before he could catch it, something pulled his arm out and turned it on his back.

Burning pain shot through his shoulder, but his sore cry was choked by the pillow. He tried to turn his head and get free, but the pressure increased. His vision blurred and faded into darkness.

Before he could lose consciousness, his attacker dragged him around. The red came back. Stronger than the last time. A dark figure raised above him. Tall and impressive. The outline hard and only lit by the LED on his forehead.

RK900.

Gavin's lips were open, but silent. He was too shocked and surprised that his attacker was his new partner. His mouth opened wider for a scream for help, but a large, icy hand pressed against his face to stifle any sound.

His heart beat faster. Eyes were wide open as the red light crawled across his face and everything seemed to be dipping in blood.

One hand was enough to wrap around Gavin's neck. Relentlessly, it squeezed and Gavin's vision blurred again. Everything dissolved in black and red. The world around him was fading to emptiness.

Air. He had to breathe.

RK900 grinned. His lips twisted demonically to reveal unnaturally sharp, white teeth.

Gavin’s field of vision grew darker and darker. The grim voice of the android whispered words of hate and death. His heart began to stop – just to beat violently in the next moment again.

Suddenly Gavin's eyes flew open.

Something meowed above him. Sweat ran down his forehead and his T-shirt stuck to him. His chest was incredibly heavy and warm and when he finally managed to orient himself in the dark, he discovered a huge ball of fur that was staring at him with yellow eyes.

"Phuck," Gavin wheezed, slumping back into his bed. With trembling hands, he tried to push Baghira off his chest. The bastard was too heavy for him. His cat mewed in protest and rubbed his nose against Gavin's glowing cheek.

 With a sigh, Gavin began to scratch it behind the ears.

"I know you just wanted to check on me," he muttered, as the living pillow settled next to him and submitted to being pet by a shaking hand. Gavin buried his face into the soft fur, his heart still pulsing in the back of his throat..

Crap. Now the Terminator was also depriving him of his sleep.

* * +++++++* *

The next morning a lot of messages were waiting for him. The detective treated himself to a new painkiller and a few more minutes in bed, where he read Tina's worried messages and answered her with a few smileys. Chris also asked if he was fine, and he sent a thumbs up emoji while Gavin ignored Connor’s and Hank’s messages.

Unlike Tina, he saw the other two a lot more often than he wanted. Even Nines had written to him. The bastard did not even ask how he was doing, but demanded that he show up on time for work.

And Nines wanted to come pick him up. 

Gavin sat upright quickly and immediately regretted it. The pain in his side was too much, and he fell back and stared up at the ceiling like a turtle.

Phuck. This was a terrible start to the day.

The android would probably hack his personnel file - if it had not already - to get his address and show up at his door. Gavin would like to prevent this. Somehow, the sneaky bastard already got his number. This was more than enough personal contact for Gavin.

So he pulled himself together and wrote back to Nines to pick him up a block away from his house, at a bus stop.

Their greeting an hour later was just as warm as their farewell last night. Gavin loudly opened the door of the police car, grunted, “I'm driving,” and fell noisily into the seat, while the android made room for him with an exaggerated slowness. Nines stared at him from the passenger seat as Gavin stepped on the gas.

The rest of the trip was full of icy silence, only interrupted by the music of the radio. None of this could lift Gavin's mood and, thanks to Nines, he was not done with his morning routine. No coffee and no breakfast. So he firmly insisted on a short stop before work. The fact that Nines did not protest as usual caused him to be taken aback, but he accepted it gratefully anyways.

They stopped at Gavin's favourite Café. The long line in front of the counter was not a problem, so Gavin took the time to play a game on his phone while he waited. When he finally got the good stuff in an ecological mug, he headed for the exit and was still staring at the screen when he bumped into someone.

He retreated and began cursing like a sailor, but the insults stuck in his throat when he saw the dark coffee running down the man's jacket. It followed a muscular chest, which showed clearly the tight-fitting, gray top, a dog tag chain, broad shoulders, and a damn attractive face.

Gavin bit his lip to avoid attacking the man out of embarrassment. Before he could get out an apology, the guy moved before him. “Sorry, man. I should have been more careful.”

Gavin pocketed his phone and grabbed a handful of tissues to wipe the coffee from the jacket. “Shit- no, I mean- I didn't watch out. Sorry.” Out of a guilty impulse and because he liked the stranger’s deep voice so much, Gavin offered to the man sheepishly, “Let me buy you a new coffee.”

“It's all right.” The man dismissed him, and gave him a warm smile, “I just came back. I'm supposed to bring coffee for the rest of my team, so I have to get a few more anyway. Don’t stress yourself."

Gavin's stomach tingled nervously, his mouth grumbled, and his brain was not awake enough to even think of flirting without a sip of coffee. To not embarrass himself further, he mumbled a good day to the guy and headed for the exit.

He could see Nines waiting in the car. Rigid like a statue.

Gavin's hand was already on the handle when he risked a look back. At the same time, the guy in line turned as if he had the same idea and both of them froze when they caught sight of the other.

The stranger reacted faster; he grinned widely and winked at him. Gavin's heart thumped violently while his cheeks burned and he fled from the coffee shop.

When Nines noticed his partner’s tentative smile and his suddenly cheerful mood, his eyebrows raised only a smidgen, but sat silently as they continued their drive to the station.

* * +++++++ * *

For the next two days, they interrogated Jones' men. Most of them were tough bastards, delaying them or trying to give them false information.

For the first time, Gavin was grateful for the built-in lie detector and his appearance, as well as his foul reputation. Some finally cracked to the hard pressure of the machine, but they knew nothing.

They could break others with the old game of good-cop-bad-cop. Or in this case: understanding human cop and deadly terminator robo-cop. Cowed and immensely intimidated, the gangsters gave them a list of several of their organizations’ hiding places.

There they picked up a few more of the bastards – but not Jones.

He and the rest of his supporters were probably hiding to rally and plan retaliation.

Furthermore, Captain Fowler was not happy. They might have blown up the anti-android ring and saved Markus and the others, but the most important person had escaped and it was not going quickly enough for Fowler. On top of that, they were severely understaffed because many of the officers were injured - and it was a damn miracle that none of their colleagues had died, even if most of them had been worse than Gavin. Most of the people killed were security staff.

Gavin knew Fowler wanted to send him home, but he was not going to let Nines get the reward of Gavin’s hard work. He knew he had been dead on his feet the past few days, but nothing a few cups of coffee couldn’t make up for. And a couple of painkillers.

On the third day, the man could hardly keep himself awake and kept nodding off while sitting. He felt cold and wished he had chosen something warmer instead of his usual clothes. The exhaustion closed his eyes again, but the next time he woke up, Nines drove him out of the precinct to examine one of the hiding places with him.

The lackeys they caught were not much smarter after that, but Gavin was hungry and even more exhausted. He almost missed the when Nines stopped the car. Right in front of his favourite café. He blinked tiredly and got out, while Nines stayed like a good lap dog.

Yawning, the detective stepped into the building and found himself thinking of the handsome guy from the last time. He even looked around for a moment, but there was no sign of the stranger. With a tinge of disappointment, he left with his mug of fresh coffee.

It was two day later in the same café, when he was taking a pack of donuts, that he saw him again – the man vanished so fast that Gavin thought he imagined it. He was too tired to search for him and hoped that the next time he was ready for the stranger.

Some god actually had mercy on him. Nines picked him up again and their journeys slowly became a pleasant routine. Nines was calm, did not needlessly ask him how he was, and had already inserted Gavin's playlist when he got in the car. Robo-cop knew that he had to leave the detective alone before his first coffee and was already driving to Reed’s favourite store.

Just as the detective was holding his coffee in his hand, he heard a nervous cough and when he turned around, he saw finally the handsome guy he had poured coffee over.

Phuck. His throat went dry and his world trembled as he saw the forbidden attractive smile.

“Hey, sorry, man. We met recently. You … we had a little coffee crash.” The stranger laughed, his perfect teeth flashing white. It was a nice sound. Warm and full – so different from Nines. Human. Natural. And hot as fuck .

Gavin’s face felt suddenly hot. Hoping to stay cool, he cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair anxiously.

"Yeah, what's up? Shall I pay the cleaning bill?” Gavin winced. It came out more irritated than he wanted, but his aggressive tone did not deter the stranger.

"No." The man scratched his neck. "It’s fine. I just noticed that you’re also a coffee junkie and... " the uncertain grin grew a tad brighter and dark blue eyes lit up,"... that you are damn hot. "

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Mission abort! screamed his head in full panic, but Gavin's face began to glow again and a timid smile crept across his features. Before he could control his tongue, he was already sputtering out , " Have you seen yourself? You’re a snack , man."

His reaction seemed to ease the man in front of him –  his shoulders relaxed and he laughed briefly before pointing towards the street. “I hope this doesn't come out weird, but I noticed that you come here often, and… wow, no, that sounds damn wrong. I… I'm not a stalker or anything, I swear. I just…”

Relieved, Gavin realized that despite his confident grin and good looks, his counterpart was also nervous. “... the café is next to my work. So what I'm trying to ask –  would you like to join me for a coffee? Or something else?“

The detective actually paused in amazement. Shit, it was too long since he had flirted with someone, and much longer that he had been asked for a date so casually. The stranger misinterpreted his silence and looked around him nervously.

"Or is Tall Dark and Handsome your boyfriend?" Gavin blinked, and followed the stranger’s gaze before his slow, decaffeinated mind understood who the stranger meant.

Nines.

“Phuck, no! We are only colleagues.”

Gavin found his phone quickly, opening a new contact and handed it to the other man so that he could type his number in. The hot guy’s jovial smile was dangerously contagious. Like he had just won a prize. His reaction flattered Gavin.

The detective knew he was handsome - when lack of sleep and work did not pay too much tribute - and he spent his free time training in the gym to keep his body fit for himself and work.

 Yet it was still a surprise to him that such an attractive guy was so happy about his phone number - it was a really good boost of energy and did wonders for Gavin’s ego.

The stranger handed the phone back to Gavin and shook his hand. When Gavin grabbed his hand he noticed how big and warm it was. His own almost seemed to sink into it. "By the way, my name is Cullen Barton."

"Gavin Reed."

* * +++++++* *

For the rest of the day, Gavin was surprisingly cheerful, almost bearable, and some of his colleagues sent him suspicious looks.

Some believed that he had a breakthrough in the case, which dampened his good mood somewhat. But that changed quickly when Cullen texted him.

Great – he was not the first to write. The detective did not want to annoy the man or give the impression that he needed it like some love-sick teenager.

So a complacent grin kept popping up over his lips when his phone vibrated and he read Cullen's messages. The other wanted to know whether he would rather have a coffee, eat or go to the cinema first. A simple, classic date. It was almost sweet in a stupid, cheesy way. Gavin's last dates were not just ages ago, but had been limited to chance acquaintances from bars, clubs and apps, all of which resulted in a one-night stand.

Just insignificant sex. It used to be enough, but now …

Gavin did not know why the idea of the date made him so nervous. If he was honest with himself, it would end up just like the other dates. Cullen would lose interest in him or wanted him just for sex. Gavin could live with it.

In his job, it was impossible to have a relationship. But it didn’t matter, since he was not someone who could stand it for a long time anyways. But Cullen was hot as hell. One night would be enough for Gavin to help kick the stress and tension out of his system.

Either way, Cullen was a welcome distraction. Not just because Gavin's sexual frustration had increased since Nine's arrival in the precinct. 

Better to think of Cullen's human, dark grin when Gavin was in the shower than Nine's icy machine face.

As if his mere thought had conjured up the android, he felt the blue eyes staring at him across the desk. Gavin growled at Nines before his phone vibrated again. He immediately grabbed it, leaned back in his chair, and put his feet on the table. From the corner of his eye, he saw Nines’ eyes narrow crossly.

Saturday.

It was almost too far away for a one-night stand, but it gave him more time to plan. He tapped Tina's name to ask if they could still meet this week. He would need help. Not only did he desperately need to do laundry, but he had nothing to wear for Cullen's date plans. To his disappointment, Tina had to cancel. She reminded him that she had taken time off from Wednesday to Sunday to leave town for a family celebration. With increasing concern, he bit his lip.

Who else could he ask? Chris was not very helpful and had no time to be away after work since the birth of his new daughter. Hank was a fashion disaster and was already starting to rub off on Connor's taste. His eyes darted to Nines, who frowned.

"Feet down, Detective."

Nope. Nines was definitely out of the question.

“Don't act like that, Robocop. Mind your own shit,” Gavin snapped back.

His fingers scrolled over the names before the corners of his mouth curled. The perfect choice; she always had time for him and it had been a long time since they had done anything together. She was fashionable and would not ask stupid questions about his date like Tina would. In addition, she had managed to make Eli no longer look like a homeless person.

Gavin: Hey Chloe. Have you planned something for tomorrow?

* * +++++++ * *

Jones cursed like a maniac.

The damn cops had exposed all of their hiding places - the last one left, was a place they had actually given up as a base a month ago. An old, almost crumbling house, surrounded by a wire fence and high house walls, which limited the already little daylight there was. The house had been empty for ages, and was wet and cold. They had tapped the electricity of neighbouring buildings while Reed hunted them like a bloodhound, along with his monstrous machine that had torn his men apart like paper.

The whole mission had been a letdown. There were not even eleven of them left. Everyone else had fallen into the hands of the cops and betrayed the rest of them. It was probably only a matter of time before anyone even talked about this last abandoned hiding place.

Then the little bitch would finally catch him.

His shoulder ached like hell and he was afraid that the gunshot wound could become infected. One of his men had taken the bullet out, but now the sweat was burning on his skin and the pain made him hostile, more so than usual. Even Dave, his right hand man, prefered to stay outside of his reach. The man leaned against a wall and observed his boss with a strained expression, while he cleaned the rifle. The others looked more scared and stressed - the reason was simple: Jones snapped at anyone who looked at him and would have loved to shoot someone - preferably the little bitch of a cop.

Jones took a deep sip of his cheap whiskey while the others in the room tried not to ignite his anger. They all scurried around as quietly as possible and went about their tasks. It was not until the door opened that a few of them looked up and Jones grunted. "Finally! Do you have it, Will?"

The boy, who came in hesitantly and slowly, pressed the tablet to his chest. A couple of the other criminals’s features softened sympathetically look at the lad – a thin young man with blond, dishevelled hair. Will shifted nervously from one foot to the next, holding the tablet out to Jones. “Sorry, boss. But I managed to hack into the police network. It’s just a matter of time until they find us here.”

“And Reed?”

“His address was also there. I sent it to you.”

A devilish, evil grin bloomed across Jones' face. "Fantastic! I can't wait to show that fucker what happens when someone mesess with me! It’ll be a lesson to the other cops if we set an example with Reed.”

Will visibly blanched and started to stutter. "What? Boss! He is a detective! If we kill a cop, all of them will hunt us down! And... It’s one thing to kill androids, but we can't kill a human!”

Jones laughed dryly and slid off the crate he was sitting on. With one hand he held his aching shoulder, and he gritted his teeth.  He looked briefly as if he wanted to knock the boy down. Instead, he grabbed Will’s collar and pulled him closer. His face flushed with simmering rage.

“Reed is a pain in the ass! I know guys like him - you can only get rid of them in one way, and he pisses me off anyways. It's time to teach him a little lesson. Roger?"

Will nodded uncomfortably before Jones pushed him back contemptuously to summon the remaining members.

“We'll grab Reed and then come back. The leaders of the robots are now too well protected and we need a new plan. We also need more recruits and better weapons.”

"Wait? We won't attack Jericho's leaders again?”

It was Will again. The little tech freak was pretty daring today. He never opened his mouth and always stayed in the background. He did not even have the guts to so much as touch a gun. While he had been useful, now this weakling was annoying him more and more. Dave's hand was already twitching towards his rifle leaned up against the wall. Will was a wimp, and had not been a part of their organization for long. The danger that he would betray their plans was too high. Jones nodded his head towards Dave.

Without batting an eye, Dave raised his gun and aimed it at the boy's head, finger poised over the trigger. Big, frightened eyes widened like a deer in the headlights.

A shot echoed off the walls.

Death knew no mercy. With no one.

Chapter Text

6.Manhunt and Rendezvous

                                                                                      

The hiding place looked like a bloody slaughterhouse. Even Gavin, who had seen a few things on the job, choked when the smell of death hit him. Nearly a week in the old warehouse and the process of decomposition has started. The air smelled disgustingly spoiled, and somehow ... stale. He wasn’t the only one whose stomach was affected by the rancid stench; Chris could not endure the sight nor the scent, and he emptied his breakfast a few rooms away. The sound of choking echoed into Gavin's ears as he crouched down next to one of the corpses.

Then his eyes passed over the rest of the bodies. Torn limbs, smashed faces and traces of dried blood stuck everywhere. So it would be hard to learn the identity of the victims. Because of this, they called for Connor to help them. It was too much work – even for Nines.

Gavin rose and analyzed the crime scene again.

Some of the dead appeared to have attempted escape, but whoever had killed them was much faster. The carcasses were not only in the room that had served as the basis, but also in the hallway and in other rooms. No one had been able to hide.

According to Connor, there were seven victims. The androids had been able to match body parts with victims, and while Connor was still trying to identify a list of names for the dead people, Nines seemed to be reconstructing the scene and the massacre. At least that’s what Gavin thought it was doing.

The LED on Nine's temple pulsed yellow as he stared ahead. Gavin had seen it often enough to recognize it and he knew how to act; he snapped his fingers noisily in front of Nine's face to get his attention. The android gave him an annoyed look and remained silent.

"And?” Gavin questioned firmly. “Is Jones one of the dead? What happened here?"

"As far as my analysis goes, he doesn't seem to be here, Detective Reed," Nines replied coolly.

"So either he wasn't here, escaped, or is the culprit. But then that doesn't make any sense.” Gavin turned to the wall that said 'I AM ALIVE' in perfect CyberLife letters. Ironic, compared to the massacre around them.

“Without a doubt, the words came from an android. An act of revenge, perhaps?” Nines suggested, scrutinizing the grim scene around them. “It must have been several androids to overwhelm and keep the terrorists at bay.”

“And yet we only have human blood and not the blue stuff stuck to the walls. A blitz attack?”

"A potential presumption. We have gunshot wounds; others have broken necks and broken skulls. There are also traces of torture. It couldn't have been a single android, but the lack of thirium is...perturbing.”

"It still speaks for a hate crime. There was a lot of anger here. I'm sure enough of you toasters wanted Jones and his bastards dead.”

"Maybe dead, but not dismembered," Nines corrected icily. Its LED jumped briefly to red, but before Gavin could react, the android turned away.

The detective felt regret without knowing why. Shit, he was not sensitive, but Nines had never acted this strange at a crime scene before. No matter how terrible the situation was. Gavin didn’t even have the chance to ask what the terminator’s problem was. He could just watch as its LED jumped from a hint of red to yellow, while Connor beckoned his little brother over. As he left, Gavin decided to pull out his notebook.

There was a lot to do, and even though most of the dead were stupid bastards, they did not deserve to end in pieces. However, it meant more work for him, more perpetrators and the renewed, annoying search for Jones.

* * +++++++ * *

The distraction of Chloe’s was more than welcome.

The case was stuck and the CSI had plenty enough to do to examine the trace mass – but Gavin hated nothing more than waiting.

It frustrated him more than anything and his mood got worse as it mixed with his fear of the date. Bad experiences and a long time of abstinence increased his nervousness.

His last attempts to get close to someone had been limited to one-night stands; guys he had met in bars or by a dating app. Which was followed by disappointing sex, shame and an embarrassing morning, and even those was a long time ago. The easiest way for him was flirting when he was drunk. Then he could loosen up and if the other person was also drunk, Gavin's lax and dirty mouth was no longer noticed.

Though, a meal in a good restaurant was waiting for him. With a classic date, Cullen probably wanted to make a good impression. Gavin hoped his date would pay- he did not have much money left and the restaurant seemed pricey.

Chloe, on the other hand, relieved his worries by pulling out Eli's credit card and paying for his new clothes. Now he was holding a chic coffee in his hands as Chloe drank delicately from a cup of thirium that mimicked the taste of coffee.

Since Eli took charge of CyberLife again, the company has taken a new path. His genius brother has saved CyberLife from its demise. With a new business model and a new image for the company, Elijah Kamski began his work. Eli's reputation did the rest to build onto the old success of better days. Instead of selling androids, they became the market leader in terms of spare parts, software updates, and supplied thirium to consumers.

Eli came up with fresh ideas to open up a new, huge market: the androids.

An important part included in this current development were new thirium-based drinks and foods. At the same time, taste receptors were also brought onto the market and former development laboratories were converted into android hospitals. The success after all the bad press was enormous. All of that and more, Chloe told him as she sipped her coffee substitute and gave him a warm smile.

Her calm, gentle manner helped him calm himself down and enjoy the warm elixir of life. Gavin still remembered how proud Elijah had been when he presented the RT600 model. First it was a big shock- he had thought that his brother wanted to start developing dentures, not play God.

Androids were just sophisticated machines for him, and he had barely been able to stand near Chloe. It had seemed unnatural and strange to him. That had changed over the years. This Chloe had become more human.

Somehow she had grown dear to him and he was grateful that she always kept an eye on his crazy brother. Now she was like an older sister who kept checking on Gavin - and suddenly they started doing things as friends.

Chloe endured his gruff manner calmly, reassuring him and could even talk him into reason. Now she asked about his date and he started smiling nervously. "No idea. But the guy looks way too good for me though.”

"Gavin!" Her outraged tone made him sigh. “Don’t say something like that. You are a handsome, young man.”

She was too nice, but he knew she would get angry if he disagreed. So he tried to change the topic.

“And he's hot as fuck , but you know me. I'm not a guy for a long relationship. But I also have no objection to getting laid,” Gavin jabbed, grinning playfully.

The blonde woman sighed and played with her hair distantly. Pausing, she phrased her next words carefully: "It's nice to have fun, and I hope you'll find someone nice. It's not good that you're alone so much.”

“I have my cat. And Tina, Chris...you, Eli. I can even talk with Connor without punching him in his stupid face. I haven't been popular for a long time. You don't always have to worry, Chloe.”

“Gavin, we both know you have a knack for getting the wrong guys. Even if it's just a… a one-night stand.”

The man snorted in annoyance.

“Shit, that was one time! I can take care of myself when I'm dealing with a lousy pig.”

Chloe watched him while she sipped her fake coffee. Her LED glowed yellow. She was not satisfied, but too polite to press more. Now she was the one who changed the topic.

“At least he'll take you to a good restaurant. Don't chase him away if he's a good man.” She put the cup down and gave him an almost teasing smile. The corners of his mouth twitched inevitably. "And? How is work?"

"Nothing special," he lied automatically, "My new partner isn’t totally incompetent. Even if he's a toaster.” 

“An android?” She exclaimed in amazement. “A police model?”

"Not exactly," he evaded, feeling the tattoo burn at the thought of Nines. He gripped his wrist and noticed how her big blue eyes followed the movement.

"It's … ok, I guess. He's annoying, and he has a stick lodged so far up his ass it keeps his back straight too, but he does his job well. And he hasn't given up on me or shot me yet. That's more than I can say about my last partners.” In fact, his clear-up rate had skyrocketed, and maybe a promotion was soon to come.

While it bothered him that he needed help from a tin can, the last few years in which he had worked his ass off were at least not in vain.

Nine's stony blue eyes appeared in his head and made him tingle. Starting from his wrist.

Gavin gripped the coffee mug more tightly and took a long sip. For a moment, he even considered telling Chloe about the strange happenings with the tattoo, but she would not be able to help him. While Elijah was abroad to meet business partners, Chloe ran the company in his absence and she had enough to do and did not need to deal with his problems as well.

He could wait until his brother came back.

She seemed to want to ask more questions, but in this moment her business phone vibrated - a way to keep private things away from work. The call ended her lunch break, but she asked Gavin to tell her exactly how the date went and to come and visit her at the villa. If not, she threatened sharply, he had to watch a lot of kitsch films with her. Gavin promised to come over if she cooked for him. That put an enthusiastic smile on her lips.

Unlike him, Chloe could hardly stand being alone - and he was glad to be able to help her with it. Even if he would never admit it.

* * +++++++ * *

Crap.

Cullen Barton was not only attractive, but also smart, funny and charming. Far too perfect, which let Gavin panicking and embarrassed in front of his date.

Gavin jostled a waiter as Cullen joked while they were waiting for their table and spilled champagne on Gavin's new shirt. Gavin reacted with a brutal curse that brought him condescending and harsh glares from other neighboring guests.

After the first five minutes, he would have preferred to cancel the date, grab his jacket and storm home to bury himself in his bed. And never see Cullen again.

Nevertheless, Cullen managed to save the situation. He shielded Gavin from the foreign eyes, handed him a couple of napkins, and suggested that he look for another restaurant. Gavin, still too perplexed that he had not been dumped by his date, suddenly felt much better and seriously suggested going to a nearby fast food store.

Not a classic choice, but Cullen did not seem to mind.

In the end, they sat at a square table on worn, upholstered benches and ordered two portions of french fries, a strawberry milkshake, and two burgers.

When Cullen bit into his burger, he made a face as if he had found heaven and Gavin watched impressed how fast the big burger was eaten and the next one was ordered. It made him laugh, and he finally relaxed. "Your last burger must have been ages ago."

Cullen wiped the sauce off his lips and Gavin found himself staring at them briefly. He admitted it. He needed sex and this man was a masterpiece. Cullen seemed to hesitate for a moment before nodding. "Really, I cannot remember when I had the last one. I was stationed in Antarctica until the android revolution. You don't get a good burger there.”

The dog tags caught Gavin's eye again.

"So you're a soldier?" Cullen nodded. 

“I should be sorted out as soon as the new military models arrive, but that didn't matter now. After the revolution the global situation has relaxed and the whole world has to deal with the tin cans instead of slaughtering each other.” He took a napkin and wiped his full lips. A little bit of the ketchup stayed at his corner of his mouth. Gavin stared, suddenly desperate for a kiss. His heart stopped and he nearly missed Cullen’s next words.

“ … more men have been removed. I volunteered earlier to protect citizens from the deviants. When the situation calmed down, there was nothing left for me until my superiors decided to send me on vacation to Detroit. Been overdue for a while. And now I honestly have no plan how to proceed, except for the paperwork I have to do. At the moment everything feels...somehow insecure.”

"I know that well," Gavin murmured, stealing a few fries from his date. Then Cullen pushed the plate all the way to him and winked. “Eat as much you want,” he offered, flashing a brilliant smile.

From that point on, the date only got better and better. Cullen told funny stories from his military service and Gavin could not stop smiling, nodding, and laughing.

In the end, the man even took him home. They stopped in front of a modern house, the orange light from the lamps barely reaching them. It only just illuminated the face of his date. There were small spots of light in Cullen's eyes and shadows danced across his angular features. His breath swirled visibly in front of his lips. Invitingly.

“Would you like to come in? I have some good coffee.”

A chuckle escaped his counterpart. Small, attractive laugh lines crinkled around his eyes and the corners of his mouth.

Gavin's hand itched. He wanted to touch him. Pull him in for a kiss and just as he put his fingers on the warm cheek the magic of the moment broke. Cullen did not allow it. He caught Gavin's hand as he moved closer.

Warm breath passed over Gavin's skin. Over his cheeks. Over his lips. His heart was pounding as he closed his eyes and leaned closer.

"I have to leave."

Gavin's heart stopped.

What had he done? Was his chance wasted? At what point had he already scared off his date?

He did not dare to open his eyes. Fearing to look at the man who had rejected him - the first in a long time who was not a total failure and he had messed it up again! Phuck. Phuck. Phuck-

Hot, burning breath passed over his ear. Gavin's thoughts calmed down.

"Believe me, I would love to come in, but I can't."

This time the detective dared to open his eyes. Cullen looked at him honestly, as well as nervously. “I don't want to mess it up, Gavin. Not because I'm too pushy… ” The other man rubbed his face and seemed to struggle with himself. He started to speak a few times, stopped, and finally took a deep breath.

“I haven't had a relationship for a long time. Or a date. It makes me so damn nervous. I don't want to do something stupid...I would like to take it slow. Not that you think I- ” He became quiet, before he stared helplessly at Gavin.

A big grin appeared on the detective's lips. Phuck.

Cullen was really cute. Honest and friendly. And so much better than his last boyfriends. His own fears evaporated when he realized that the dream guy in front of him was every bit as nervous as he was. This guy was crazy for him- and damn, did it feel good.

"Fine. But only if you pay for the next coffee," Gavin invited teasingly.

Now a bright smile spread over Cullen’s face.

"Alright, Gavin."

 * * +++++++ * *

"Detective. You are in a good mood this morning."

Gavin didn't look up from the phone. "Is that a crime now?"

"I'm just wondering what it is that makes you so bearable." 

Even Nines could not spoil his good mood. Not today. Not after the best date in a long time. Grinning, he showed the android his middle finger and continued typing.

“You had a date. With whom?"

The detective's head jumped up and his eyes popped. "How do you figure that out, dipshit?"

Instead of answering, the android stared at him intensely. His LED showed a hint of yellow. With a snort, Gavin looked away. He could not look Nines in the eye for too long. Otherwise, it felt like his brain was melting.

His hand tightened on the slim piece of metal in his hand. He forced himself to think about last night; Cullen's eyes. His laugh. His warmth. He was everything that Nines was not.

“Nevermind. It's none of your concern.” Gavins voice was an angry rumble, but it stopped as a banging sound startled him.

His eyes flicked back up to Nines. The android stood tall and intimidating, his eyes narrowed into freezing cold slits. His hands pressed against the tabletop as he leaned over to his partner. Gavin did not shy away from him - he was simply astonished at the emotion he was seeing in the android: anger.

Gavin opened his lips to confront him, but before he could, RK900 turned away from him. As if he no longer existed. A sharp prick ran through Gavin's chest. Arrogant bastard. No, he was not hurt. Absolutely not.

The detective watched in silence as Nines almost fled from his table until the RK900 halted abruptly.

Nines turned back to him. Gavin could have sworn the android looked puzzled. It was just a slight lift of his brows and his eyes opened wider than usual, but Gavin was sure. Even his LED glowed yellow.

"What's going on?" Gavin asked slowly.

The android put his fingers on the LED and brushed a few strands of synthetic hair aside. "A message from Markus."

"From Markus?" Gavin frowned and reached for his mug, "What does Robo-Jesus want from you?"

“He doesn't want anything from me. He wants something from you , Detective Reed.”

Gavin choked on his coffee. Swallowing hard, he spluttered, "What? Why?” The RK unit was just as baffled and irritated as he was.

"He wants to meet you, Detective."

 

Chapter Text

7.Double date

                                                                                     

For days, food had appeared magically on Gavin's table.

At first he thought it was a mistake and pushed it aside so as not to steal someone's lunch. It was in a lunch box and looked homemade. It was not for him. In addition, he was so immersed in his work that his hunger was simply forgotten at some point.

When it had happened two more times, he brought the food back to the break room refrigerator- it looked too good to be thrown away.

Then his table remained empty for two days until Nines appeared next to him. Silent as always, but his shadow darkened Gavin's screen and when he looked up, Nines was standing in front of him with a plastic container; inside an expensive looking salad with herbs, tomatoes, feta cheese and small croutons. Even these looked homemade.

“I bought you something fresh to eat. Your values indicate that you should eat something healthy.”

"Do I look like a rabbit?" Gavin replied annoyed, but already felt his mouth water, "Didn't I tell you not to scan me?"

The android silently put the salad on the table and started working again. Gavin did not touch it in his own form of protest.

The next day the whole thing was repeated. This time it was a chicken breast curry. It would have been a waste not to touch it. So Gavin ate two bites.

RK900 watched him from across the table.

"If I wanted to poison you, you'd be dead long ago and your body would never be found, Detective."

Gavin snorted, showed him his middle finger and pulled the plastic container closer to soothe his grumbling stomach.

So it continued. For almost a week now, new food had appeared. Something different every time. Healthy, nutritious, and often power food. It tasted damn good and Reed shut up. Wherever the android got the food from - it was wonderfully fresh and it felt good. It also gave him time to write with Cullen while eating and to send him videos of Baghira.

Unfortunately, the soldier had too much to do this weekend and their fourth date had to be cancelled - for that, Nines and Gavin finally had an appointment to meet Robo-Jesus and his right hand. It was still beyond Gavin what they wanted from him.

Nines didn’t know anything more than his partner did, but supposedly they wanted to thank them- but why all of this should be done so formally was a mystery to him. Friday night came closer and Saturday was Gavin’s first day off in a long time. He planned to just rest properly and maybe meet up with his friends at their usual bar in the evening. The beer and cocktails there were great and Reed loved the homemade nachos and salsa dip. Speaking of food-

Gavin looked up. Nines was running late. Where was his damn food?

His eyes slid to the entrance. The android appeared as if he was summoned by his partner’s thoughts. Gavin's wrist began to scratch and burn as usual. But it was quickly forgotten.

A slight smile flew over Gavin's face. His legs slid off the table and he sat down properly.

Nines froze. His eyes went wide.

Then someone slid past him and a young man came up to Gavin's table. He held a mug of coffee from Gavin's favourite café in one hand and a bag with the logo of a nearby restaurant in the other. Gavin's face burned bright red when he caught sight of Cullen's warm smile and the food.

"Hey, handsome."

"Hey, what are you doing here?" Gavin asked nervously, getting up to greet him but paused. He didn’t know how to greet the other man. They were in the middle of the bar, they never shook hands or hugged. Even a kiss never happened before.

Cullen ignored Gavin's strange behaviour and pointed to the bag while a few colleagues were already casting curious looks. Gavin never got a visitor.

“Our date is cancelled, so I thought I'd drop by and bring you something to eat. I was in that fancy burger shop you like so much.”

He stepped closer, frowning worriedly, and gently touched Gavin's cheek. "You look pale. Are you eating enough? Should I get you a smoothie?”

The little touch was enough to set Gavin's face on fire. The burning sensation on his wrist got worse and Nine's stiff presence built up next to them. Cullen turned to him in confusion, quickly registered the android as Gavin's partner and raised a hand with a smile.

“Cullen Barton. You have to be Detective Nines?”

RK900 stared at the man icily and promptly ignored the offered hand.

“Mister Barton. You can't just walk into this precinct without a request or registration.”

Slightly annoyed by the cold reaction, Cullen pulled his hand back and chuckled. Even Nines could not spoil this man's good mood. "Well, as it turns out, I’m here to see someone," He smiled, not breaking eye contact with Nines. "And that someone is Gavin.”

Nine's light began to blink yellow. Something that only Gavin could achieve. His eyes narrowed and he bared his perfect white teeth threateningly.

Cullen did not back off. Instead, his grin only grew and he stepped closer to Nines. He was a bit smaller than the giant android, but was in no way inferior in terms of width and muscle mass. His body language was open, almost challenging. His smile stayed, but it was now harder, and the friendliness behind it waned with every passing second.

A deep, threatening sound came from Nine's throat. Gavin froze up. The last time he heard that sound was when Nines had massacred all those assassins.

Alarmed, the detective pushed between the two taller men. “Hey, Cullen. You're right. I think I could use some fresh air.”

He gripped Cullen's hand tightly and pulled him outside into the parking lot. Only when he was in a quiet corner by the parked cars, did Gavin realize what he had done. He had been holding hands openly in the precinct with the hot guy he had been dating for a while.

He released Cullen's warm hand anxiously and looked back to make sure the Terminator hadn't followed.

No sign of Nines. Good.

"I hope I didn't get you in trouble?" Cullen mumbled somberly, "I spoke to the lady at the front desk. She said it was okay...”

"No, no, it's all right," Gavin assured him hurriedly, slumping against the wall slightly. He rubbed his face, dazed. His belly grumbled audibly and Cullen burst out laughing. Gavin glared at him, but there was no real heat behind his gaze. Instead, the soldier shifted just a touch closer and looked out across the parking lot.

Cullen stopped briefly. His dark eyes darted toward the entrance before he grinned and looked back at Reed. A strange sparked in his eyes. A hand laid against the wall next to Gavin's head. Cullen’s large body suddenly blocked Gavin’s field of view and shielded him at the same time. Warm breath passed over Gavin's face, and the scent of Cullen's after shave washed over him.

It was a popular brand; too heavy for Gavin's own taste, but it suited Cullen. It lulled him and he allowed the other man into his personal space.

"May I?" Cullen rumbled softly, drawing a warm hand across Gavin’s chin and stroked the stubble there. The thumb went up, tickling Gavin's sensitive lower lip and exerted a gentle pressure on it. He purred, "I've wanted to do this since our first date."

Gavin swallowed. His heart pounded beneath his ribs as his voice faltered. Finally, he managed to nod, and not a heartbeat later, Cullen was on his lips. Careful and gentle, warm and quiet. Almost fearful compared to his attitude.

It was a gentle kiss. No more than a tickle on Gavin's lips, but it almost took his breath away. He felt dizzy and could only breathe properly when Cullen finally pulled back. He was beaming all over his face. His eyes sparkled as he slowly licked his lips, biting his lower lip as if he needed to savour this victory.

Gavin, a shaky, chaotic mass, slumped against the wall all the way and buried his face in his hands. Crap. His pulse was pounding, and his legs were soft.

Why did Cullen have to make a face as if this kiss meant the world to him? He had not even behaved like that when he kissed someone as a teenager!

This man was going to drive him crazy.

* * +++++++ * *

The back door to the alley behind the police building abruptly blew open. It struck the wall perpendicular to it and a flash poured out of the pale neon lights into the hallway.

The next open garbage container was torn open violently, and the plastic container with its contents landed inside between the leftovers of the nearby chinese restaurant and the garbage from the precinct.

However, that was not enough. A brutal kick forced the heavy container to scrape against its neighbor, and metal grated and cried out in protest. The cargo rattled and was audibly thrown back and forth inside.

Then the android whipped around. His black and white jacket whirled around with him, his LED dark red, and the bright blue armband and the lettering glowed in the dark alley.

With a wild look, his destructive rage was not yet over. A deep, mechanical growl emanated from his throat, and he turned to the next wall and struck it with full force.

Stone splintered and the wall gave way with a thunderous, crushing sound. When he pulled his hand back, an impressive hole gaped in the stone as rubble and rock fell to the ground.

Then the android straightened his shoulders, brushed the dust off with his flawless hand, straightening his jacket and smoothed the fabric. Taking a deep breath, his LED jumped from red, back to yellow, and finally to a soft blue.

With an emotionless expression, he stepped back into the hall and closed the door behind him quietly.

In the alley, half hidden behind the now closed door stood a single figure. He always used the alley as a shortcut and was interrupted by the raging android. The donut box lay on the dirty floor, and several of the sugary foods had spread out on the asphalt. A chocolate-glazed donut soaked up something that could have been water from a puddle or worse.

Chris Miller was still staring agape at the door, then back at the hole in the wall, his hands still raised as if he had never dropped the box.

"What the fuck?"

** +++++++ * *

The warm water splashed Gavin's bare body and ran in small streams over his skin. Slowly, he rolled his shoulders and attempted to relax his tense muscles.

When he got back to the station some time ago, Nines had disappeared for a while and left him alone with all the work. When he finally showed up again, he was colder than usual and completely ignored him. At first it had annoyed Gavin - he just did not understand what kind of problem the android had with him. Especially so, since he had not done anything wrong!

His anger quickly faded away as soon as he got Cullen's next message.

The thought of the handsome soldier made him smile and his stomach fluttered pleasantly. With a sigh, Gavin closed his eyes and started rinsing himself with the shower gel. His skin tingled and a warm shiver ran down his back. The heat and soft patter of the water soothed him, and eventually his thoughts melted away.

The glass panes of the shower slowly clouded over, while countless escaped drops gave the tiles a bright shine.

Blue eyes. Beard stubble and a warm smile. It did not take much fantasy to imagine the body in tight jeans and what was under the shirt. Gavin's eyes closed a crack. He could feel the breath on his lips, the gentle hands that held his face. That moment was so dedicated to his memory, he will never forget it.

His hand had other plans though. It went deeper, snaking down his chest and over his thighs, and his fingers dug into his limb. The touch made him sigh and shiver. A phantom warm body pressed against his chest, and traces Cullen's scent made Gavin’s nostrils flare, enveloping him, and drawing him farther into the illusion.

Something had changed since the kiss. After the kiss, more followed, and even his touches were not as careful and gentle anymore. Almost every minute he thought of the man whose messages made him smile. But now he did not long for the smile. He wanted the touch. The firm grip like in the parking lot. His fingers tightened to accommodate his growing dick.

His hand moved up and down frantically as he remembered the strong arms that held him and pressed him up against the wall.

"Detective."

Gavin whirled around, hand still on his manhood, and stared through the fogged window. Phuck. He could have sworn -

He shook his head, dazed. Nines would not take that from him too. Turning back to the warm water jet, he tried to remember Cullen's face - but light blue eyes, warm as a summer sky, turned into a gray-blue winter day. Cullen's face fade from his mind as if something were going against his resistance, trying to replace Cullen's face with another piece.

Growling, he groped for the temperature controller with his free hand - and landed against the wall. The air was pressed out of his torso. A hand, icy compared to the heat of the water pattering on his back, exerted a firm pressure on the nape of his neck. He could not turn his head and the curse on his lips choked as something brushed the crook between his upper neck and chin.

No breath. No warmth. Just a deep, dark bass that made his whole body vibrate with excitement. "Good evening, Detective."

Gavin wanted to curse and scream at the bastard, but a heavy hand pressed against his mouth and stifled every sound he made. His member rubbed against the wall enticingly, still trapped in his own grip, while a strange body nestled against him from behind.

"Be good and admit it, kitty."

The whisper broke something in him. He relaxed against the body behind him, trapped between marble and metal. Slowly, the hand rubbed over his lips, then slid deeper over Reed’s twitching Adam's apple before it reached his chest, and began caressing and teasing every fiber of his skin.

A gasp quickly turned into a wheezy moan. It was too tight. His body twisted around, but unsuccessfully, to liberate himself. Instead, the form behind him moved closer until he was pressed up completely against Gavin's rear.

"Phuck," Gavin groaned, and he jerked against the wall as the icy hand brushed dangerously close to his loins, stroking almost tenderly. His member throbbed and swelled, flagged at full attention.

A long agonizing moment passed, and the brazen fingers finally touched his member. Before another thought could occur, the long fingers closed tightly around his shaft and started pumping him. The rhythm was hard and fast, but never faltered or fell out of rhythm.

A soft whimper poured out from Gavin's lips, and he prayed that the other had not heard it.

Gavin Reed did not beg. Gavin Reed did not whine.

Instead, a laugh answered him; it thundered against his ear and his body tightened excitedly in response. His knees went weak, and the hand against him twitched. Cold crept over his back, but his body felt as if it had been set on fire. His toes tingled and his fingers scratched against the wall, trying desperately to find a hold on something, anything .

But every touch of the skillful hands, every shift and movement behind him drove him towards ecstasy. The world blurred and his pants and moans echoed throughout the bathroom. His hip twitched inexorably, caught helplessly between the cold and heat.

"Cum for me."

With a relieved scream, Gavin threw his head back. His orgasm crashed through him powerfully and his seed spattered across the walls of the shower. His forehead collided with the cold wall and all of the tension that had invaded his body disappeared. He was still shaking all over, but he savoured the last moments of his climax. Unfortunately for him, an urgent meow wrenched him from his euphoria.

Grumbling, Gavin rinsed off the signs of his activities from the sides of the shower stall, then popped open the door and stepped out. Baghira's head peeped in, but found no one but his master. "It's all right," growled Gavin, "you'll get some food before I have to go. Stupid fur ball.”

The towel stayed where it was while Baghira wound his lithe body around the man’s legs. The droplets that ran from Gavin's legs bothered the cat just as little as the angry curse that came from Reed’s lips.

The tattoo had started to glow again, gleaming an unnatural shade of blue.

All because he could not seem to get a certain android out of his head. Nines just could not give him a minute to himself. And Reed suddenly realized, albeit begrudgingly, that he would not be able to look the other in the eyes for the next couple of days.

* * +++++++* *

The Golden Lounge was not the most expensive or exclusive restaurant Gavin had ever been able to visit (thanks to his brother), but it was still definitely far beyond what he would normally be able to afford for dinner.

He decided to order only one starter and drag the evening away accordingly. To fight his hunger, Gavin had stopped right after work at a nearby food truck before driving home to dress in a jacket, a V-neck shirt and his best, darkest jeans.

He had Nines arrange the rest, as his thoughts swayed between Cullen and that stupid bastard Jones. A mistake. The android picked him up, but in none of the automatic taxis or in a rental car. He showed up in Hank's old car and for a moment Gavin actually considered walking to the next bus stop and taking the next bus downtown. This was the last time he trusted that plastic prick...

To his relief, the ride was incredibly silent - even by Nines’ standards - and the android parked in a lot near the restaurant. Leaving the old hunk of junk behind, a little walk was all it took for them before they finally reached the extravagant restaurant.

They were let in, and everything went smoothly. In addition, since Nines had also thought about the dress code, he was all fancied up in a new black suit with a blue tie, and he matched the rest of the guests. In fact, the suit was so new that, Gavin quickly noticed, he could see the price tag peeking out from the collar of the suit jacket. Swearing almost quietly, he stretched up on his toes and swiftly stuffed the tag back under the folds of cloth. Nines gave him an annoyed look, but the Maitre d’hotel had already spotted them and ordered a waiter take them to their table.

Robo-Jesus and his first ‘lady’ were already waiting.

Markus greeted them with a warm handshake and a charming smile, while Simon reacted somewhat more reservedly, but no less friendly, to their arrival. Gavin did not miss the look the blonde android sent Nines.

They both wore clothes similar to an interview and before Gavin knew it, he suddenly asked about Simon's gunshot wound. The android let go of his hand and smiled cordially as he gripped his own shoulder. “Thanks to you, I haven't lost too much thirium, Detective. The rest of the repair went smoothly, and I am as good as new. Thanks for asking."

Gavin could not suppress a relieved sigh as they sat down and the detective noticed the different menus. So even here there are already new thirium-based foods and drinks? CyberLife really did not waste any time, he mused.

With a small grin, Reed reached for the only normal dish platter on the table, while Nines studied the selections with scepticism and surprise. He had probably never tried one of his maker’s new creations. Gavin believed - and hoped - that the RK model with his forensic tongue could only analyze and could not taste.

After ordering, Gavin could not stand it any longer. The situation was strange enough. "So? What's all this about?”

“We wanted to thank you. Without you and Nines, we might not be alive,” Markus answered, his features going grim.

Gavin crossed his arms over his chest almost stubbornly. "Then maybe you should’ve invited the whole precinct. Not just the two of us"

"You exposed Jones's plans," Markus replied willfully, "you protected us and defeated our attackers."

"All but one," Gavin muttered darkly, Jones's self-satisfied face dancing before his eyes. He would not give up until he put that damned bastard behind bars, or he would die trying.

Simon cleared his throat to dispel the sinister thoughts and told Gavin and Nines that they were their guests and that they would invite them. The detective stared at both androids in disbelief. If he had known that, he would not have eaten so much. He closed his open mouth and rubbed the back of his neck guiltily.

“Wait, how can you afford to invite us? How is Jericho financed?” Reed questioned. 

“We have many donors and some investors, and as of recent we’ve been working on new concepts such as hospitals and equipment companies. CyberLife has recently become one of our partners, but tonight is sponsored by my father.”

Gavin's eyebrows shot up in amazement and Markus smiled calmly. “I was adopted by a human, my former owner. He is like a father and teacher to me. Simon and I live with him.”

"Nice," Gavin murmured, casting a quick glance at Nines. He had not known that others like the two RK brothers had been adopted. The detective cleared his throat when he saw his partner send him a look and both of them turned their attention back to the couple in front of them.

“We'd like to ask you a few questions. About the terror attack. Maybe you noticed something I missed.” It was not easy to admit, but androids perceived the world differently, and many noticed things that Gavin himself had not. Not that he’d ever tell them. “When Jones and his men cracked the door. How could that happen? It just opened and none of them even had the tools to pry it open.”

"We don't know." Markus and Simon exchanged glances. “I myself hacked into the lock. That should not have happened. Even if they had a key card for the room.”

Nines intervened from the side. Leaning over the table, his eyes fixed on Markus. “You had overwritten the system, didn't you? How can it be that they came in? The men we found weren't trained like that.”

Markus shrugged helplessly. "Maybe a hacker who escaped?"

The detective jerked up, his knees slamming against the table legs and he leaned in towards the androids. Some of the other guests gave them startled and filthy looks, but they all bounced right off of Gavin. "The Boy!"

The other three androids stared at him as if he had gone mad.

"The boy who was with Jones!" Gavin repeated, tapping his forehead. Where the LED sat on Nines, but was missing on the other two. “What if he was a hacker - or even an android? I know it went quickly, but I didn't see any equipment with him.”

Nines frowned. Interesting. He seemed to be sifting through the reports again. “He's identified as an unknown subject." He didn't look like one of Jones' usual thugs. He was small and skinny, and was obviously out of place! Why hadn't he noticed that before?

"Did you see him?” Gavin inquired, “Did you recognize his model?”

Simon and Markus shook their heads and Nine's frown grew more pronounced. "You didn't let them draw a phantom picture of that subject, Detective."

“I saw him maybe five seconds. I'm human, not a damn camera you asswipe!” He snapped back sharply. The android was already opening his mouth to shoot back, but before he could counter, Markus quickly intervened.

"I saw him. I could send the picture to you, Detective Anderson.” Nines visibly stiffened. His expression froze before he politely asked the leader of Jericho, ‘please visit the station and inform a draftsman or android of this observation.’ Snorting, Gavin leaned back in his chair.

"What? Can't you connect to him? You’re supposed to be the best model on the market?” Reed rolled his eyes sarcastically.

Nines scowled at him and Gavin was sure that if looks could kill, the fuming, murderous expression would have made him fall off the chair on the spot. Instead, Nines’ jawe tensed, and he lowered himself to answer. The voice, in contrast to his behaviour, was completely emotionless, as if Gavin were only asking for instructions.

“I am not only in possession of sensitive data, but I am in a problematic mode between the deviant virus and my high virus protection program. A short circuit or damage to the RK200 could be the result. If you remember, trying to tamper with my software was extremely difficult and dangerous the first time.” Nines gritted out, a threat lurking behind his facade of nonchalance.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Markus' smile freeze. He cleared his throat and nodded. “We don't want to repeat the incident. I was hoping Connor was already making progress working with you.”

Gavin's thoughts started racing. They did not tell him anything. More had happened than Connor had claimed. The terminator incident, more than equivalent in his head, was now not only terrifying, but extremely alarming.

What danger was the RK900? To what extent could they control the terminator? What was really behind the strange state between deviancy and machine obedience?

Before Gavin could ask, a waiter appeared and served them their drinks. Markus used this distraction to ask the young man for a pen and paper. Confused, but polite, the waiter took the request and reappeared a short time later with the requested objects.

Meanwhile, Markus turned back part of the tablecloth and started drawing. Gavin watched him, surprised and impressed. He had no talent himself, but like his brother, he liked art. Elijah in particular had promoted many young artists and had often worked with well-known names for the design of the androids. Through Elijah, he inevitably stumbled into Detroit’s artist scene, but that was a long time ago and contained some beautiful as well as embarrassing memories. So he quickly realized that Markus' movements were well-practiced. His lines had a natural swing that came through in their own style. A little abstract, even if he tried to orientate himself to reality.

The style, the fast lines and the type of shading reminded him of one of Detroit's most famous artists - but that was irrelevant.

With a sound of astonishment, he tapped the sheet from where the face of a young man peered back at them. 'This is him! He was blonde and his eyes were...brown? Green? Blue?"

"Blue," Markus confirmed, pushing the picture towards them. Nines took it in his hand and eyed the boy with a raised brow. He folded it up and stashed it in one of his his jacket pockets.

“The face doesn't match any model in my database. He appears to be a human being,” Nines examined, sipping on his thirium glass slowly.

Due to the wine glass, Gavin estimated that it was an alcoholic imitation. The RK model drank without a look on his face and the detective guessed that he could not perceive the taste, but the glass in his hand suited him. In combination with the nice suit, the android could have been a rich businessman or actor.

Suddenly Gavin felt small and out of place, among the immaculate, unique androids with rank and name. The classic, bright beauty of Simon with his calm demeanour and social engagement made him look like a saint or angel. Next to him, Markus, an Adonis with so much charisma that he could start a whole revolution and bring it to a peaceful conclusion. Intelligent, bicoloured eyes that underlined his uniqueness as Elijah's creation, and he seemed like a politician or film star in his coat.

Gavin's shoulders collapsed and he wanted to hide in his chair. The only thing that stood out about him among these seemingly perfect specimens was his gruff appearance, the scar on his face and his clothes - which, despite the standards in restaurants, distinctly lagged behind compared to the androids.

Simon, who also peeked at the sketch, looked over at Reed in surprise. “He really doesn't look like the other attackers. So young and...scared.”

Gavin could only agree with the other android - and he would have loved to hug the android. Did it always feel this good when you were supported and not constantly questioned? God, this was heavenly.

Markus was really to be envied.

Nines cleared his throat loudly next to him and Gavin realized that he had been silent and was staring at Simon instead, like the man was his first morning coffee. His face reddened as Simon continued to smile at him kindly. Markus chuckled and hid his grin behind his closed hand before leaning over to Simon and whispering something to him.

Simon's slightly confused smile grew and his eyes lit up.

It was almost painful to watch the two of them so happy, and so the detective hurriedly forced his focus back to their lead again.

“If he's not an android, then maybe was a hacker? He could’ve worked for Jones. There are a lot of hackers, many of which are also anti-android. A lot of them found you guys a threat even before deviancy because they believed you could develop your own consciousness and destroy humanity.” Gavin paused and began to grin. “Guess they weren't wrong about everything.”

"Nice to share your insider insights with us." Nines’ voice was rigidly cold. Gavin scowled over at the android’s sarcastic remark.. Nothing better than making himself an anti-racist in front of the leaders and advocates of the deviants. Asshole.

He grumbled as Simon pacified Nine's empty glass. “The boy doesn't look older than twenty. Maybe he was kidnapped, or forced to work with them. Blackmailed.”

Nines nodded, thanking Simon and taking another sip. The glass trembled briefly and the thirium swayed back and forth. “I'll send his face through the databases and analyze it. Perhaps we'll find something.”

Gavin dug his nails into his thigh and forced himself to take a deep breath to stop himself. Having a tantrum and breaking a chair over Nine’s head in the middle of one of the best restaurants in town was not exactly at the top of his to-do list. He breathed in and out again, concentrating on a random point behind Simon. He busied himself with watching as a waiter served guests at another table their food. He did not take notice to how the topic was slowly turning.

It was only when Markus cleared his throat and called him back to reality that his attention returned to the androids. His starter was in front of him. Some bread with aioli while the couple indulged in thirium soup. Nines forgoed ordering an appetizer.

Restless and somewhat ashamed, he dipped some of the bread into the aioli and focused on the leader of Jericho. "Hm?"

Markus smiled patiently and his eyes slid over the human. For a moment he seemed to stop at Gavin's hand, which dipped the bread into the bowl.

"Is this the first time you've worked with an android?" The question of owning a robot was inevitable, and Nines regarded him from out of the corner of his eye. Gavin shook his head.

What should he say? That his brother had created all their kind? That he was there when Karl Manfred drew up the first designs? That he was the first person that Elijah Kamski had shown his first working android, Chloe?

They didn’t need to know that, and none of that mattered anyway.

“Yes, it is. I never wanted an android or to work with one. I thought it was creepy.” He said the first thing that occurred to him, but winced at the choice of words before trying to explain himself better. “It felt like being monitored by dolls –  like the state and some companies are playing Big Brother.”

He shuddered, knowing thanks to his brother, that there was something true to the last point. Market research and control had been the goal of CyberLife when Elijah had lost control of his company.

“It was like we came back to slavery. But more sophisticated. More… dehumanizing.” He huffed. “Before the revolution I did my job - I thought they were just broken machines. A danger to people and security.”

The androids scrutinized him vigilantly and his pulse paced faster. He swore he could feel how thin a line he was walking just looking at them.

“Machines with human faces are just so scary, so surreal. They just pretend. Broken machines are a threat to everyone, but deviants...deviants are alive. They reacted like people and resisted. Crime scenes changed. The circumstances were not that simple. The victims became the perpetrators and perpetrators became the victims. I couldn't ignore that.”

He swallowed thickly, his hands trembling - he clenched his fists to stop himself. Crap. Embarrassed, he looked away and again expected biting comments from his partner or the other androids. Instead there was silence.

The salvation was the vibration of his phone. Without thinking, he pulled it out of his pocket and saw Cullen's name on the display. The other one had a screenshot of an old Tumblr 2.0. post. His lips twitched before a cough distracted him.

“And what do you think of Ra9? Surely you did some research on the subject.” Markus tilted his head expectantly.

Gavin raised an eyebrow. “I thought you androids knew what this was about? Connor had interrogated a deviant about that once." Gavin couldn’t exactly follow them, but guessed that it had to do with the part of the conversation he had missed.

So he shrugged and rubbed at his neck. “The symbol has appeared again and again at some crime scenes. I thought it was like a virus or something.”

Markus opened his mouth, but then the main dish came. Gavin had barely touched his appetizer. His mushroom meat skewers on pepper risotto looked amazing, but he was slow to gnaw on the first skewer. Nines watched him from the side without ordering, while the other small, artificial dishes made of thirium were tasted. The blue stuff should probably be a steak. Along with blue potatoes. Probably.

"No one knows what Ra9 represents to this day," Nines attested from the side. Objectively, as if he were reading information; “There are different theses. Some say it may have been the first android or deviant, others believe it is a deity created by the androids. A kind of automatic reaction to explain the deviancy and, like humans, to address a higher being in order to influence it with offerings. A mirage for desperate androids to put faith in when all else appears to be lost.”

“Some of the deviants thought Markus was Ra9. Like a kind of a savior. ” Simon smiled while Markus cleared his throat in embarrassment. “Of course I'm not Ra9. It still remains a mystery.”

Gavin put the skewer aside and only nodded as he answered Cullen with the other hand. Next to him, Nines snorted. Markus glanced over at him curiously and turned his attention to Gavin.

“Speaking of secrets. What does your tattoo mean?” Markus asked, tilting his head curiously.

Confused and, above all, surprised, Gavin raised his head before hurriedly covering the tattoo with his hand. It was still hidden by his sleeve. The tingling and burning sensation was now so permanent that he had almost gotten used to it.

"What? How do you know about my tattoo?” A glance to the side showed him that Nines was as vexed as he was. His partner frowned almost imperceptibly while Simon and Markus watched the pair curiously.

"We saw it when you bandaged my wound," Simon replied. Markus leaned forward, the two-tone eyes boring into Gavin's skull. His piercing gaze was in no way inferior to Nines. Robo-Jesus' voice was warm, but Gavin felt alarm and panic course through him. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, and Gavin’s instincts suddenly ran full throttle.

“What does it mean, Mister Reed? It is indeed a strange tattoo- why did you get something like that?” Markus sounded seriously interested. As if he expected a ridiculous, extremely embarrassing story. Gavin's hand closed on his wrist. Well, then he would give them that.

"It has no meaning. I was drunk," Gavin shrugged. "Some stupid bet I lost to my friends. "He cleared his throat. “To be honest, my dates are embarrassing enough with it. Can we change the subject?”

Markus looked confused, his mouth already open to ask more questions, but Simon took pity on the man. "Are you in a relationship right now, Detective?"

Gavin didn't know what to answer. His phone vibrated again. His eyes flicked to the screen.

"Is that the same guy again?" Nines’ voice was sharp as a knife. Gavin gave him an annoyed look and put the phone back into his pocket. Ignoring Nines, he instead chose to babble on with Simon. “I've been seeing a man for some time. It's not serious yet, but he's awesome. Smart, hot, nice, and he’s funny.”

It was uncomfortable to talk to the strange androids about it, but anything was better than answering Nines or continuing to talk about his tattoo. So he rubbed his neck and nodded towards Markus. "How was it with you? How did you two become a pair?”

His plan worked. The two androids chatted together happily, and before he knew it, the next few hours passed, and when they finally said goodbye, the two asked for Gavin's official contact information, in case they remembered or heard something from Jones. After their numbers where in his contacts, he changed the names on the way to the car. He deleted Markus and Simon and replaced them with "Adonis-Artist" and "First Lady".

Nines remained silent all the way back.

* * +++++++* *

Cullen's sweet messages made Gavin's phone vibrate. He had rarely enjoyed writing with a guy like that and usually he would have messed it up long ago or it would get on his nerves, but it was somehow different with the former soldier. He seemed to know exactly what to write to cheer and distract Gavin. They already had six great dates - without sex.

Gavin doesn’t know what’s gotten into him, but he actually enjoys it. The nervousness and anticipation are definitely still there, if not as bad as the first time. Now he enjoyed the tingling in his stomach and the tension between them that increased with every meeting and every message.

He was still texting with Cullen as streetlights passed him outside. Small orange dots, only outshone by the colourful billboards and shop windows. Finally Gavin’s house appeared in front of them and Nines parked in the driveway with Anderson’s borrowed car.

Gavin didn’t even look up. His eyes were fixed on the screen while a small smile played on his lips. He had just written to Cullen that he had come back from dinner with the Jericho leader and his ‘first lady.’ Cullen's reaction came in the form of amazed smilies and curious questions, but just when Gavin wanted to suggest that they could make talk, the device was snatched from his hands.

He twisted around to his partner with a vicious growl. Nines glared back at him with dark eyes, the little phone gripped so tightly in his knuckles he heard a little crack. Was this crazy android really going to do something so childish? But even so, the thought alone made Gavin begin to panic. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"You can't talk to a civilian about our case, Detective Reed.” Nines glowered at the man contemptuously. 

 “I didn't, dipshit! But it doesn't happen every day that you go out to eat with the leaders of the damn revolution! I can talk to whoever I want!” Gavin roared, struggling with the android to get his vulnerable cell phone back. He had seen enough of how destructive the terminator could be, and he didn’t want his poor, beloved phone to be the next victim.

He quickly unbuckled himself and reached for the little device, but the RK model grabbed ahold of his wrist and pressed it onto the car's armature.

"Are you two together?"

Gavin's heart jumped. RK900's fingers closed around the tattoo, albeit separately from the fabric. The tingling and itching on the wrist immediately spiked. "What's your problem, asshole?!"

“I am your partner,” Nines snarled. “It concerns me.”

The android leaned over him. The dim light from the street lamp in front of his house cast eerie shadows across the android's already angular face, giving his already intimidating features sharper edges. The LED remained blue the whole night and blinded Gavin as close as he was to him. He had seen the terminator freezing cold and fighting with a blue light, but no sooner was it about the detective than it turned dangerously yellow. For a moment he was afraid when he saw a hint of red swirl around in it briefly.

Gavin took a deep breath before he hissed through clenched teeth: "It's absolutely none of your goddamn business, Nines. What’s this shit about? Jealous?"

His partner's vehement glare broke apart, eyes widening. He suddenly released Gavin, who took the opportunity to snatch his phone back. The detective watched his unsettled partner, who gripped the steering wheel tightly. Then Reed gasped.

"Holy shit. You're actually jealous.”

Nines ground his synthetic teeth together rigidly, the leather in the steering wheel beginning to crunch together under his strained fingers.

Crap. So that’s why Nines behaved so coldly every time he wrote to Cullen, or talked to Tina about his dates. He disappeared immediately every time, and although he was otherwise able to hold small talk, he never participated in these topics.

"I-” Nine's voice was colder than anything he'd ever heard of him before. “Am not. Jealous ." 

"You are!" A big grin crept over Gavin's face. His fingertips tingled and a sudden wave of heat rolled over him. No matter what Markus said to him at dinner, it was pure gold. "Oh my God. Who would have thought that our ice cold killer robot could be jealous?”

The excitement and mockery died on Gavin's tongue when Nines made an inhuman sound. It sounded like the growl of a wild animal, yet strangely mechanical. Gavin flinched, clutching the phone pressed against his chest like his life depended on it.

"What am I supposed to be jealous of!?" Snapped Nines, his teeth bared and eyes full of hatred and disgust. "You're just a small, stupid human! You can't compete with a high-tech model like me. You have nothing I want from you.”

Gavin's reply got caught in his throat. A red and yellow light changed the interior of the old car. The radio crackled and buzzed, occasionally interrupted by high, ragged words.

“You are weak and wretched. You crave the attention of some bastard who throws you away like garbage as soon as he gets what he wanted from you. How pitiful.” He breathed in sharply, more out of habit than out of necessity. He always did when it was difficult for him to focus and he had to process a lot of data. But this time, it had nothing to do with unemotional arithmetic.

“Don't kid yourself, Detective Reed. Who could ever want a reckless asshole like you? A racist and an ignorant fool who constantly lets criminals escape because he prefers to hang out on his phone instead of working.”

With every further word, Gavin's throat tightened and his eyes burned. He cursed, forcing the door open and slammed it shut behind him. He didn’t care whether Nines or the whole neighbourhood heard him.

"Fuck you!" He screamed against the window and sprinted to his front door, scrambling to get the key out of his pocket.

Before he opened it, screeching tires and brilliantly-lit headlights wailed from out of the corner of his eye. Pissed off, Gavin swore at the door.

Fuck it all. And especially fuck that plastic asshole!

"Bite me!" he snarled into the empty apartment and kicked the door again. His foot hurt like a bitch, but it helped him come down from his angry high. Annoyed, he rubbed his eyes briefly and rapidly dialled Cullen's number.

Less than five seconds later, the warm voice in his ear chilled his temper, but his insides still ached painfully.

"You sound weird. Is everything okay, Gavin?”

Reed resisted the urge to sniff. Cullen did not deserve to hear him cry like a toddler over the phone. Gavin had received far worse insults and beatings...but then why did Nine's words hurt so much? Why did he want to crawl into bed and start crying? He hated it, this strange helplessness.

He swiped at his face stubbornly, internally deciding that he urgently needed a distraction. Slumping against the wood of the door, he could hardly control his nervous breath. Stilling his wild trembling, he whispered into the phone.

“My partner was an ass. As always. You know what this new-fashioned plastic is like. The arrogant bastard thinks he's better than me.” His voice cracked traitorously.

 Cullen responded immediately. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No. Not now.” Gavin slipped off his shoes and took off his jacket without interrupting the touch of the phone to his ear. "Tell me something, anything. How was your day? I need a distraction."

“Unlike yours, long and boring. I'm still working on tomorrow's stuff. But, I mean, you met Jericho's leaders! Damn, I'm not going out with only a hot cop, no, he also knows the damn high society of the androids.”

The excitement put a mild smile on Gavin's lips. A soft laugh broke out of his mouth almost frighteningly - for the fact that he was still mad at Nines and himself. "You're exaggerating. And I'm sure your day wasn't bad, either.”

His path led him first to the kitchen; he still had to feed Baghira. Instead of greeting his owner, the furry monster was hiding elsewhere and did not even come when called for.

While Gavin filled the bowl and opened a beer, Cullen told him about his day. Office stuff and the gym. It was so banal that it calmed Gavin's nerves and soon he started laughing freely at Cullen's stories. Only a little doubt remained. Sipping his beer, Reed gathered his courage and interrupted Cullen's story.

“Hey, I know we want to take it slow, but I'm not boring you, am I? I know I can be damned annoying, and there are probably much better guys in line for you-”

"Gavin. Stop.” Cullen suddenly sounded terribly serious, and Gavin’s heart suddenly ached.

“I don't know what that plastic bitch said, but stop putting yourself down. I'm just taking it slow because I'm serious about you. It's damn hard to hold back, but if you don't believe my words, we can meet.” Cullen paused briefly, and Gavin heard a deep intake of breath.

"I mean, damn it...it's really late, but...I'll be there if you need me."

"Shit, you're way too good, Cullen." Gavin swallowed the lump in his throat and ran a hand through his short hair. His pulse suddenly beat faster and he left the kitchen to look for Baghira. The little demon hadn't shown up even with the temptation the food. He automatically whistled and called his cat by name while Cullen listened to him amusedly, laughing softly in his ear.

“How about tomorrow? At my place? Do you remember my address? Otherwise I'll send it to you.” There was a rustle in the dark. On his left Gavin saw something scurry past. Was Baghira in the hallway?

“Ah, I don't want to play. Come on. There is food, you little-”

Gavin's voice broke off when something suddenly rammed him from the side and sent him to the ground. A large shadow loomed over him and tried to push him down. For a moment he feared that Nines had come back to take revenge on him with a cruel joke, but the thought died quickly when he heard strange voices. Cullen screamed for him before a boot crushed the phone.

The man’s instinct triumphed over the shock, and he quickly delivered a punch to the jaw. His attacker let go, but before Gavin could get free, a hard pain exploded in his injured side. He cried out and lashed out wildly, but several hands reached for him and kept him pinned down.

He counted three attackers, all swearing and kicking at him. The loudest shouted orders and pressed his hand to Gavin's mouth; more hands locked his body against the hard floor, and Gavin's heart thumped forcefully behind his ribs.

Phuck. Phuck . He knew that voice. This wasn’t possible, it can’t be-

The smell of alcohol, clotted blood, and sweat stung his nose. The light of a passing car lit up the living room.

Jones’ visage appeared over him. His nose was more crooked than last time, his skin was a few shades paler, and deep wrinkles under his eyes emphasized the sadistic sparkle in them. Reed froze in horror as Jones' lips twisted into a disgusting grin.

"Long time no see, little bitch."