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Dismantle, Repair

Chapter Text

When Gavin walked into the station, forty-five minutes late with a take-out coffee in his hand, no one was at their desks, and it took him a second to realize everyone was instead crowded around the holding cells, blocking his view from whatever they were ogling inside.

"Hey!" He barked as he walked up to find the plastic prick at the center of the commotion, working on a tablet in front of the glass. Connor pointedly ignored him. "What's goin' on here?"

"You would've been here when he was brought in if you weren't late, Gavin." Hank huffed; never more than a few feet away from his pet plastic.

Gavin snorted. "Who's talkin', Mr. I-never-show-up-before-noon."

It was an empty jibe and they both knew it - Hank had actually been showing up on time lately, probably because Connor was always exactly on-time and he'd rubbed off. Or dragged the old man out of bed every morning, considering they were living together. Supposedly Hank had taken the kid under his wing, but it always seemed to Gavin like it was the other way around.

So Hank just huffed a laugh and turned back to the one-way glass, guiding Gavin's attention to the figure huddled in the corner of the cell.

He actually gasped, stealing another look at Connor standing next to him.

It looked like Connor; the android curled in on itself in the cell had his face, though it was pinched as if in pain, his eyes wide and gaze jittery, the little spinning LED on his temple running red.

"-the fuck? What is that?"

"RK900. 313, 248, 317 - 87." Connor supplied in that annoyingly even, clipped tone he still used when giving reports or in too much of a hurry to bother with Gavin. Dismissive and annoying as hell. "He was found this morning during the raid on Cyberlife, to make certain they weren't hiding any additional androids in the facility." Which they were, apparently.

"So... what is it? He." Gavin adjusted his phrasing when Connor shot him a sideways look.

"I was a prototype. He's the production model, or was supposed to be. It looks like Cyberlife suspended final testing and tried to hide him when android emancipation was passed. There were others, as well, but it seems as though they destroyed themselves, or were destroyed by Cyberlife before they could be taken. At any rate, he was the only functional model we recovered."

On a second look, the android balled in the corner of the holding cell was trembling lightly, its arms crossed tightly across its chest.

"What's wrong with - him." Gavin cut himself off before he could call the plastic 'it' again. Hard habit to break, and every time he fucked it up Connor looked at him like he did in the evidence vault, like he wanted to knock him out.

"We don't know exactly." Connor said after a moment of silence, his tone taking on a softer quality that betrayed his concern. "He's very... reactionary. He wouldn't allow me to interface with him. From the evidence we gathered from the Cyberlife tower, we can only assume he was treated... poorly."

That made Gavin's lip curl. "Poorly how?"

Connor just silently passed him the tablet, and Gavin swiped through the evidence with a frown. There was some security footage that he moved through quickly - it wasn't easy to watch the android with Connor's stupid doe-face writhe in what had to be pain, plastic or not... what were they doing to it, shocking it? What was the point of that other than torture?

He sneered as he continued, swiping past a thirium analysis that clearly came off Connor's tongue (gross) and then a blood sample. Another look up at the huddled android and he caught the splashes of red on its white jacket.

"It kill somebody...?"

Connor didn't correct his phrasing, just nodded. "A Cyberlife employee. With his bare hands. At the moment we're calling it self-defense."

"Damn." Gavin muttered, handing the tablet back to Connor. The android in the cell hadn't moved, just continued to sit there in the corner and stare blankly off into space, shaking like a bitch.

"What are we doin' with it?"

Hank was the one that answered this time, with a shrug. "We don't know yet. There's not really any procedures in place to deal with traumatized androids, and we can't send him to new Jericho when he might be a danger to himself or others. He's already attacked somebody and didn't take too kindly to being brought here."

"We'll figure something out." Connor said a little more brightly, like he was trying to reassure himself or Hank. "In the meantime, we're just keeping him here."

"Peachy." Gavin shrugged, finally shouldering past Connor to head for the break room so he could finish his coffee. Most of the crowd had dispersed, everyone heading back to their desks. Excitement over, he supposed.

 

-

 

It was an hour before Gavin finally settled down at his desk to get some real work done, sipping a fresh cup of coffee from the station's coffee maker.

He hadn't even gotten through a single paragraph on the report he was working on when the distinct sound of shattering glass rang out across the station. Gavin's head snapped up, just in time to catch sight of a black-and-white blur running across the space toward the front desks.

"Fuck!" Gavin hissed as he shot up from his desk to intercept it - the plastic from hell had already escaped, and he didn't have time to consider what a monumentally bad idea it was before he moved to go after it. His head was in 'catch the perp' mode, forgetting the 'perp' in this case was an android even more advanced than Connor. And Connor had kicked his ass.

They collided just beside Gavin's desk, the RK900 wrestling him to the floor with startling ease. It was even stronger than Connor; he could feel it in the way it held him down, leaning over him as literally everyone else in the fucking station caught up to it, guns drawn.

It didn't speak, just crouched over him and growled at the gathered officers like a feral cat, but the threat was clear - come any closer and he'd separate Gavin's head from his shoulders. His hand was fisted in Gavin's hair.

"Don't shoot, goddammit!" Gavin hissed, unhelpfully - like anyone was really going to fire on it with it practically sitting on him.

Well, Hank might. He didn't mind a little collateral damage if it was Gavin's ass on the block.

"Let him go!" Connor demanded, the only one not pointing a gun. Connor had his hands held up in mock surrender, slowly edging closer until the RK900 treated him to a particularly animalistic snarl. Gavin could see the wheels in his head turning, analyzing, preconstructing, trying to puzzle out the best approach.

Gavin's own approach was nearly to kick the crazed android in the balls, but his logical brain had finally caught up with him (goddamn he hadn't had nearly enough coffee) and he knew that would do jack shit. Possibly just get his head ripped off.

"Hey tin-man, you wanna let go of my hair?" He tried instead; it actually seemed startled he was talking to it, so he kept it up. "Yeah, you, nine-hundred or whatever the fuck. Where you tryin' to go anyway?"

Its LED whirled - red, red, red. Connor was creeping closer, and it didn't seem to notice, so Gavin kept talking; he was good at that. "C'mon, Nines, I'm talkin' to you. You got a screw loose?"

There; a flicker of yellow in its LED, and Connor lunged, grabbing the RK900 by the back of the neck. Something freaky Connor did immediately immobilized it, and Gavin wriggled out from under it and backed up, drawing his own gun.

He didn't have to bother - Connor had it by the scruff of the neck like a baby kitten. Weird android shit, probably... Connor's skin was peeled back, his hand white, RK900 limp in his grip.

"Jesus fuck, that thing could'a taken my head off!" Gavin snapped at Hank as Connor hauled it back toward the cells. "How'd you two lose it already??"

"Shut up Reed." Hank just huffed, walking after Connor and leaving Gavin to holster his gun.

Fucking androids.

Chapter Text

Connor had been no fun to mess with when he'd first shown up at the station, almost a year ago. Gavin would tease him, call him names, even punch him in the stomach and he didn't react, just blinked stupidly and gave Gavin that dumb wounded animal look with those big brown doe-eyes that made Gavin really, really want to hit him (again).

But then he ran away from Cyberlife, got mixed up in the android revolution, and came back animated with a personality built from fiery determination and wicked wit, snapping back at all of Gavin's jibes and even getting a few good ones in himself. The kid had grown a soul, and while part of Gavin still wanted to punch him, it wasn't filled with nearly as much resentment as it had been.

Androids were creepy. Soulless, lifeless things walking around pretending to be human and being fucking god awful at it. That's what had always bothered him, how damn fake they all were.

Until they weren't.

He liked Connor better like this - he'd been too weird before, too unreal, and now with him walking around the station making everybody laugh, gesturing wildly as he spoke and just being so goddamn alive, Gavin hated him a lot less.

Still liked to mess with him, though.

"Hey, plastic." Gavin greeted him every morning; it had become almost a term of endearment more than anything else, and Connor had stopped jabbing back and simply greeted him with a soft 'Hello Detective Reed' as he continued to his desk. So Gavin would have to come up with something else pretty soon.

 

Speaking of plastic and the uncanny valley thing they all had going on, though... Connor's freaky doppelganger was still taking up a holding cell. Now that thing still wigged Gavin out.

As usual it wasn't doing much when Gavin stopped to look at it on his way to the restroom - it was curled up in the corner, fiddling with its own shirt. There was just something about it that screamed 'rabid animal, do not approach' - probably the far-off look in its eyes, its gaze just wheeling off into space. Those eyes were lighter than Connor's, he noticed.

It really didn't look much like Connor, the more he looked at it. Sure it had his face, same basic template, but this android was sharper, less baby-faced and more hardened, angled like broken glass.

Broken, for sure. That was a good way to describe it. It held itself like a doll somebody had tossed aside, all hunched posture and loose joints.

"Fuck." He whispered, shaking his head and moving to walk on.

A quick movement in the cell caught his eye, though, and he paused. The android had reached underneath its shirt and yanked on something, drawing it out of his body. Jesus.

It ripped something out of itself. A glowy something that was now in its hand as its body slumped lifelessly - it was trying to destroy itself-!

"Holy shit!" Gavin hissed, reaching for the panel to unlock the cell without thinking, dashing inside. The cells were all monitored, but as of yet no one had come running, and he doubted the thing had much time without - whatever it had just -

He really should have paid more attention to that seminar they had on android biology or whatever.

As he leaned over the android it looked super simple, though - circular thing, circular gaping hole in the android's chest. Easy. Couldn't possibly screw that up.

He wrestled the biocomponent from the RK900's fingers (worryingly easily; they were lifeless compared to the strength they'd held him down with before) and, swallowing, gently slotted it back into the gap. It didn't want to go with light pressure, so Gavin pressed harder until it slipped into place with a sick clunk.

The reaction was instantaneous; the android jumped to life, grabbing his neck with speed that told Gavin it had been faking it. Fucking bastard had been playing helpless!

He was going to fucking die. He fully expected the RK900 to just crush his throat right then and there, but it didn't, instead hauling him with it as it fled the cell for the second. fucking. time. And Gavin was his meat shield again.

He cursed and spluttered as he was dragged along, kicking and fighting, but the android didn't so much as flinch, even when he elbowed it squarely in the jaw. Probably would just break his own arm if he kept trying, but that didn't stop him. Because what was Gavin if not a determined bastard.

Maybe a fucking idiot.

He cursed as he was suddenly dumped from the android's arms, onto the pavement outside the police station. He threw himself up just in time to see the android fucking book it, Tina and a few other officers running past him to give chase down the street, but damn it was gone. Way faster than them, faster than Connor, a goddamn blur as it disappeared.

"Fuck! Fucking hell!" He shouted, just as Connor joined him. "You gonna go after it?"

"... No. I won't catch him." Connor said evenly; Gavin was right, and he knew it.

"Goddammit!" Gavin hissed anyway, pacing in a circle. "Bastard tricked me!"

"... We'll find him. He can't exactly hide." Connor offered, calm and collected as always, though... there was something uncertain in his eyes; the RK900's situation disturbed him. Hell, it disturbed Gavin.

"What happens when we do?" Gavin said, voicing it for both of them. "It's like... it's broken. What do you do with that?"

Connor looked down, shaking his head.

Fuck, humanity had just now figured out their robots had souls, and they'd already figured out how to break them, too.

Chapter Text

As it turned out, Connor's estimate of how easy it would be to locate a one-of-a-kind android in a bloody Cyberlife jacket turned out to be too optimistic. There were a few isolated sightings of the RK900, some concerned 911 calls about a blood-smeared android wandering around like a zombie, but each time they sent someone to investigate, the search turned up empty.

"He's also meant to be an investigative android." Connor mused on one of the calls, when Gavin had gone with him since Hank had been busy with a homicide. "He's covering his tracks surprisingly well."

"So... it growls instead of talks and yet it's super-agent programming is still doin' its thing?" Gavin rolled his eyes when Connor nodded. "Wonderful. Just great."

"At least that means his processors haven't been completely corrupted." Connor said softly. "He has the mind to cover his tracks."

Gavin had been silent, and Connor left it at that.

 

-

 

"Why hasn't it left Detroit by now?" Gavin had asked Connor a week later, as he and Hank discussed the RK900, Connor perched on Hank's desk. Gavin had rolled his chair over to join in. "I mean, it's been spotted all over the city, I don't get it."

"His actions at the police station seemed to be motivated by desperation." Connor mused. "I doubt he has any plan."

"Just wanted to get free." Hank supplied.

Gavin could sorta understand that. As much as he could sorta understand a feral plastic that had only just escaped its lifelong prison with Cyberlife a month ago.

 

Gavin made a soft grumble aloud, his thoughts interrupted by the drone of the rain as it came down harder. He was out in the downpour in the middle of the goddamn night with a flashlight because his stupid cat had got out again, and as much as she annoyed the piss out of him sometimes, he didn't want his spoiled house cat to end up dead on the street, hit by an autocab or something.

"Fucking Christ, c'mon..." Gavin grumbled; he was soaked to the skin, and he still hadn't found the damn cat. She never went far when she slipped out the door...

He'd walked around the block for the third time when he heard it - the distinctly low, distressed yowl of a cat about to throw down with another cat. He swung the flashlight in that direction, toward the house on the corner and caught the silhouette of a whole ass person in the beam against the fence.

Or, no. Not a person. An android, the little LED on his temple spinning red as the beam of light froze him, his grey eyes wide. His dirty, bloodied jacket reflected the light, the -RK900- printed on it in cyberlife sans bright as day.

And in his arms was Gavin's fucking cat.

"Nines?" Gavin gasped, the impromptu nickname rolling off his tongue before he could really stop and consider it. The android looked on the verge of bolting, actually jolting a little with an aborted motion as Gavin spoke, like he'd started to and changed his mind. Gavin could see the gears turning, like Connor when he preconstructed, but like... more wild. Desperate.

Fuck, he'd left his gun at home.

Okay. No big deal. Just talk down the feral, abused plastic holding his cat hostage.

"Hey, okay big guy... why don't you put the cat down, huh?"

The RK900 blinked, looking down at the very still ball of wet fur in his arms like he'd just remembered it was there. The cat was still frozen, and Gavin internally begged her to stay that way.

His phone was at home, too - he needed to call Connor and get him over here, now. What he wouldn't give to have a phone in his head like the androids.

Nines held the cat tighter, and Gavin realized his mistake - the android had latched onto the fact Gavin cared about the cat and was now content to use her the same way he'd used Gavin at the station.

But he hadn't killed Gavin then, so...

"Or... okay, how about we take her back to my place?" He suggested, "And you can come inside too."

The android shivered. He looked no better off than the soaked cat - could they get cold? Connor never seemed bothered by the rain.

Gavin took a careful step over on the sidewalk, slowly edging toward his place, trying not to startle it. Hoping maybe it would actually follow him and he was some sort of android whisperer. "Okay? You comin'?"

The RK900 seemed to consider for a long moment, LED spinning red, red, red... yellow. Then back to whirling red again, except he slowly shuffled after Gavin. Like some sort of miracle, the cat hadn't lost its mind yet.

Still no big deal. Just a feral android following him home.

Gavin kept his eyes firmly glued on Nines as he walked up his porch nearly backwards, unlocking his door and holding it open. The android seemed hesitant to go first, so Gavin backed in and left the door hanging. Nines hesitated on the threshold, his bright eyes darting around the space.

Trapped. He looked trapped, and Gavin could see him considering his options, about to turn and bolt.

Just leave the cat, if you run off just drop the goddamn cat, please.

Just as he issued that prayer in his head, at that moment the cat decided it would be the best time to freak the fuck out. It yowled and flailed in the android's arms, kicking at his chest and launching itself to the floor, immediately darting off to hide under Gavin's bed.

Gavin just about had a heart attack. He expected the RK900 to lunge at his poor fucking cat, grab for it, maybe rip it apart, but the android just stood there with a baffled expression on his suddenly very Connor-like face, and then calmly turned around and shut the door.

Gavin took a deep breath - he needed a drink. "Okay. Just... wait there, maybe." He mumbled, watching the android's LED spin in the dark before he shuffled to the bedroom to grab his phone. His eyes landed on his gun, in the holster on his nightstand. He considered putting it on, then decided against it. He didn't need to give the plastic a reason to attack him, freak it out.

He dialed Connor's serial number, and not a second later heard the brat's voice. Phone in his head and all that. "Detective Reed?"

"Listen up dipshit. I found the RK900."

"You - where?" Connor sounded surprised, then got straight to the point.

"My fucking house, I'm sure you've got my address filed away in your robo-brain somewhere."

"I do. Are you in danger?"

"Not at the moment, I think, but like... get here."

"Understood. Ten minutes."

He disconnected Connor and went back out into the living room, trying not to move too fast and end up accidentally spooking the android.

Except it wasn't there, his main room dark and empty. Kitchen too.

"Fuck! Where the-"

Oh. The light was on in the bathroom, casting the hallway in a warm yellow glow. The hell? He was extremely certain androids didn't need to piss. Not that he knew a fuck of a lot about them, but that one he was sure on.

Gavin crept over to the bathroom, sticking to the wall and kinda wishing he'd grabbed the gun.

Except when he peeked in, Nines was standing just inside the door, leaning toward the mirror over the sink. He seemed... rapt by it, slowly reaching out to touch the reflective surface, skirting it with his fingertips.

... Had he never seen his reflection before? He was looking at it with that sort of childish wonderment, which was making Gavin's fucking head spin. Even more so when he drew his hand back, touching his own cheek, watching his fingers in the mirror as they ghosted over his jaw, his throat until it disappeared beneath his stupid high collar.

Gavin shivered, and not entirely because he was soaked to the bone and cold. He ducked back into his bedroom, quickly changing into something dry (he had visions of Nines snapping and jumping him and didn't particularly want it to happen while he was naked) before glancing into the bathroom again.

Nines was still standing there, utterly fascinated by the mirror, dripping steadily on the tile. He was just as soaked, though weirdly his hair seemed fairly dry, water resistant or something.

"You, uh... want some dry clothes or something?" Gavin said, and then immediately regretted speaking when the RK900's gaze snapped to him, that feral terror leaping back into his eyes. He jerked back, hissing, a full out snarl leaving him as he seemed to process what Gavin had said.

"Never mind! Never mind, you can be dripping wet if you want to!"

That actually seemed to calm it down; the RK900 backed toward the shower, shivering, and wrapped its arms tightly against its chest. Protective of the clothes? Jesus, he didn't want to know what they'd done to it; androids weren't programmed to be modest.

"God fucking hell." Gavin whispered to himself as he backed off, back into the hallway to give it some space. Nines' eyes never left him, bright and boring into him, until the soft knock at the door distracted him for the barest moment.

Connor.

"Detective Reed?"

"I'm coming, don't break down the door!" Gavin called, watching Nines as he did to make sure he wasn't about to spook. He didn't charge, just dropped his gaze and stepped back into the shower until his back hit the wall.

Okay, Gavin would take that. "Stay." He said firmly, like he was speaking to a disobedient dog, before heading out to grab the door for Connor.

"Where is he?" Connor said the moment Gavin let the squirrely kid in the door. No sign of Hank - the kid hadn't brought him.

"Uh, bathroom. Left him there anyway, he's kinda slippery."

Connor slipped into what Gavin dubbed Mission Mode, walking with a purpose toward Gavin's bathroom. He acted totally different on the job, laser-focused and kinda scary when he wanted to be. Honestly it still creeped Gavin out at little.

The RK900 was already growling, low and deep in his chest, by the time Connor appeared in the doorway. His eyes narrowed - he obviously wasn't a fan of Connor; Connor had locked him up twice.

And he was cornered. The hairs on the back of Gavin's neck stood up.

"Hello RK900." Connor smiled, holding his hands up disarmingly. Nines didn't seem to give a fuck. "It's alright - I just want to help you."

Nines just snarled. Still not big on words.

Connor took a step forward and Nines' whole body tensed, Connor doing that coiled-spring thing he always did as he preconstructed an action and prepared to act on it.

"WAIT, no, not in my fucking bathroom you pricks!" Gavin snapped, breaking the tension by shoving in front of Connor, a hand on his chest. Both androids looked surprised, Connor most of all as he tried to drag Gavin back toward the safety of the hallway. Gavin went with him, leaving Nines still standing in the shower, trying to burn holes in them with his gaze.

"Detective, I need to get him back to the station." Connor murmured calmly to Gavin, his voice lowered even though Nines could definitely still hear them.

"You're just gonna start a brawl and I don't want that blue shit all over my house!"

"It evaporates in a few hours -"

"Doesn't matter! There's gotta be a better way." Gavin huffed.

"He hasn't responded to peaceful attempts thus far."

"He has with me."

Connor blinked.

“I got him here, didn’t I? Long story, but like… he followed me home, I didn’t force him.”

Connor looked genuinely baffled, his brow furrowed as he seemed to mull that over. Loading, Loading…

“Look, all I’m saying is - do we really need to take him back to the station? I thought you said he killed that guy in self defense.”

Connor’s lip twitched, fighting a frown. “That is for a judge to decide...”

“Cool, and in the meantime he goes even more nuts stuck in a cell?”

An actual frown, then, Connor’s LED spinning slowly. Normally it would have been hilarious - literally a little loading symbol stuck to his temple, how fucking funny was that, you could see him think and slow down and stutter when things confused him, hah.

“... Markus would be willing to look after him in New Jericho.”

Oh. He was like... DM’ing android Jesus. Okay.

“O- kay?”

“Do you think you could convince him to get in a cab?”

Gavin shrugged. “I can try.”

“The alternative is we walk the entire way.” Connor said pointedly, a hint of sarcasm to it, and Gavin shot him an ugly look.

“That’s not funny.” He muttered as he shouldered past Connor, back into the bathroom.

Nines was right where they’d left him, huddled in the shower a lot like he’d been huddled up in his cell at the DPD station. With his back to the wall, trembling lightly.

And yet still trying to bore holes through Gavin with his gaze. Those pale eyes were alight with… something. Fury, determination, panic, or all three. As much as he snarled and sneered like an animal, though, there was intelligence there. Gavin could see it, see him calculating his odds just like Connor did. Exactly like Connor did.

“Hey… there big guy. Look, I told my buddy Connor to cool it - would you wanna come with me?”

The android started to shake its head, and Gavin held up a hand. “You can’t stay in my shower, man. You gotta go somewhere. Look, there’s this place called Jericho - lots of other androids there. Y’know, like you.”

No head shake this time, just a very uncertain look on its face. On his face.

“... What if I went with you? Like last time, like… uh, insurance?”

Nines seemed to consider that, his red LED spinning a little slower. Thinking. The tension hung there for a few moments, and then…

After a long pause he nodded, slowly. Gavin hadn’t heard him speak a single word, just… gestures and growls, but it was good enough.

“‘Kay, let’s go, nice and easy.” He murmured, waving Nines with him as he backed into the hallway. He shooed Connor back toward the living room as the other android slowly, hesitantly stepped out of the shower and followed, still clutching at his own arms like somebody was gonna try to take his shirt. Weird.

“There you go.” Gavin tried to be encouraging as they made their way to the front door, as Connor swung it open and ducked out first. He’d already called a cab, presumably, so Gavin grabbed an umbrella and followed.

It was still raining steadily, but Nines seemed hesitant to keep going when Gavin waited in the doorway with the umbrella, so with a little shrug he walked backwards a ways, until the android apparently decided he was a safe distance away and followed.

So far so good.

When they reached the car, though, Gavin had to hold back a grimace - Nines was doing that thing again, where he looked like he might bolt at any second, rapidly calculating his options.

“Just get in, it’ll be fine.” He was trying to be reassuring; it was so hard to read this android, figure out what his problem was. He was just scared.

Nines’ jittery gaze eventually landed on Connor, and he gave a little growl of warning.

“You don’t want him coming?”

Another growl, sharper. That was a yes. Connor looked almost offended, which on any other day would have been funny.

“He doesn’t have to.”

“Detective-”

Gavin cut him off by tilting the umbrella just enough to catch Connor on the head, which effectively shut him up. “Just me, okay? I’ll go with you.”

More hesitation. Gavin elbowed Connor back a few steps and then gestured to the open door. Nines took a half-step closer.

“Detective - I don’t think-” Connor whispered in his ear, and Gavin rolled his eyes.

“Look, plastic, I can handle myself. Just get your own ride and meet us at New Jericho, got it?”

Connor pressed his lips into a thin line, but he nodded, backing away in defeat.

As soon as Connor crossed some arbitrary safe distance, Nines bolted forward, past Gavin and into the cab, startling the shit out of him. Probably a good thing Gavin did not have his gun, because his instinct was honestly to reach for it, his hand twitching.

Okay, they were good though, Nines was just curled up in their autocab ready to go. Gavin slipped in too, keyed the door closed and then gave the address for new Jericho as he shoved the umbrella under the seat.

… The immediate silence that followed was really awkward. It was giving Gavin anxiety just sitting there as the cab drove, wondering if this crazy plastic was going to snap at him. They were trapped in a little box together, and he’d been really, really unhappy last time they’d put him in a little box.

He seemed okay, though. He’d gone straight-backed, sitting with his hands folded in his lap, nearly still except… he kept worrying his fingers; so much so the skin kind of faded, the friction revealing the white plastic underneath.

It had Gavin rapt, so he wasn’t really thinking when he reached over to pry his fingers apart, keep him from doing that.

He realized his mistake when the android tensed, badly. Gavin froze.

The seconds ticked by.

 

It seemed like forever before that tension slowly bled from Nines, the skin re-forming over his fingers. Gavin drew his hand back, slowly this time, afraid to startle him. He hadn’t pulled back very far when Nines snatched his hand again, then just… held it in his lap.

Okay. Better than possibly getting his head torn off, anyway.

Nines didn’t let go of him until the cab stopped, and then he quickly snapped his hands away like he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t have.

He stepped out when Gavin keyed the door open, his posture hunched, shifting behind Gavin a little when some androids approached.

‘New Jericho’ wasn’t so much a singular place as it was a small neighborhood in the outskirts of Detroit, where the androids displaced from the raid on the Jericho freighter settled. Somehow the deviant leader Markus got ahold of an abandoned apartment project and even when that was full, free androids continued to flock to the area. Gavin wasn't sure if it had been formally declared a township yet, but if not, it would be soon.

They'd pulled up outside the repair center, basically like… an android hospital. Seemed as good a place as any.

"Hello." One of the Jericho androids greeted them, "My name is Anthony. Connor told us you'd be coming."

Nines hissed at the mention of Connor's name, which made 'Anthony' flinch a little, and Gavin had to hold back a snort.

Anthony had a very common face - a retail or food service android, it looked like. "Don't worry -" he said with an appeasing smile, "We're not here to hurt you."

Gavin could see why they sent this one. He was very… disarming.

"See? All good, they wanna help." Gavin murmured, "Go ahead."

Nines hesitated, worrying his hands again. Gavin took a little step to the side and the android moved to keep behind him.

Maybe Gavin was some kind of android whisperer. But at least if the feral android could warm up to Gavin of all people, he'd be fine. "It's fine, trust me. You can trust me."

Gavin turned to watch him, watch his little loading LED spin. Red, red, yellow, red. Considering, until… Slowly he moved away from Gavin and toward the other androids, continually looking back as if to check Gavin was still there.

Gavin offered him a little nod, an awkward little smile. Nines kept looking back until Anthony finally led him into the building.

Connor appeared from around the corner, because of course he'd been watching. How the hell did he get there first? "Good work, Detective." He murmured, and Gavin huffed.

"You think they can help him?" He asked, giving Connor a genuine look. He really wanted to know; it felt kind of wrong to just leave him, now. For some reason. Probably the same instinct that had Gavin adopting feral cats. Absolutely lost causes.

"... I don't know. I hope so."

Chapter Text

Gavin's cat was named Sasha. It wasn't a name he'd given her - she'd come with that name from the shelter, and he hardly ever used it. Commonly he called her 'asshole', 'dipshit' or 'stupid', or some combination of the three.

She was a beautiful cat - black and white with little white feet and white tipped ears, that same patch of white going down the back of her neck. Cutest thing ever. Normally she would have been adopted quickly, but she stayed listed every time Gavin checked the shelter website and eventually he went down there to figure out why.

It was because her attitude was fucking awful. She was a feral someone had picked up off the street for her looks, then she'd bit the guy and had to be quarantined. After that the shelter tried to tame her down and largely failed. She hated people, kids especially, apparently scratched the shit out of everyone who wanted to see her for adoption and they quickly changed their minds.

Gavin loved her more than anything in the world. She'd scratched the piss out of him when he first met her, too, but he'd taken her home anyway (after signing waivers the nervous shelter staff pushed at him) and slowly she'd settled. She just needed time, less stress, and to be cared for. She still had a fucking attitude sometimes, but she wasn't some irreversible hellion.

Gavin just had a soft spot for lost causes. Probably what got him into Detective work, among other things.

That night after he'd gotten home from New Jericho he'd had to fish his stupid cat out from under his bed and give her a bath, considering she'd been running around outside in the pouring rain. She'd been suitably displeased, and he'd had to buy back her affection the next morning with fancy food and treats. Luckily he spoiled her picky ass and had plenty on hand.

“She really hated me.” Gavin chuckled, showing Tina pictures of his poor soaked cat on his phone. It was only hilarious in retrospect, but damn if he wasn’t gonna get some enjoyment out of it.

“That’s so mean, Gav.” Tina said, between sips of her usual shitty break room coffee.

“Hey, I had to! She was gross, tracked dirt into the house.”

“So? Par for the course at your place.”

“Hey!”

He shoved at her across the table just as officer Miller walked into the break room, and he straightened up.

“Hey, Gavin - got a lead on that case you were working on, the missing person case?” Chris said, offering Gavin the tablet in his hand.

Missing android, actually, but according to the law there wasn’t a distinction anymore, and … well, made sense. Gavin just wasn’t used to it. “Yeah?”

“There was a body found down by the river. They think it’s her, if you wanna head down there and check it out.”

There were pictures on the tablet, with Connor’s serial number tacked on. Taken and sent by his robo-brain, so it was Connor and Anderson that had responded first and were at the scene.

From the pictures it looked like a mannequin had washed up on the riverbank, but upon closer inspection it was clearly the torso of an android.

“They find any of the - uh, limbs?”

“Nope. Just what you see.” Chris replied with a little grimace.

“Alright, I’ll head down there, tell robocop I’m on my way.” Gavin handed the tablet back, shooting Tina a look that said later.

 

-

 

When Gavin got to the scene, Connor was waiting for him down by the water. Hank was busy interviewing… someone, probably the guy that stumbled across the body if Gavin had to guess.

“Spill, plastic.” Gavin said without preamble, mostly just to needle him.

Connor took it in stride, businesslike as usual. “Her serial number matches the missing person report. Registered under the name ‘Jackie.’ Lived in New Jericho for a few months then moved in with a friend before leaving there. Presumably lived on the street after that, as she had no registered address. Her friend reported her missing a month ago, after Jackie failed to check in with her and she couldn’t reach her.”

Gavin just nodded; he knew all that already. He knelt by the body as he waited for Connor to keep going, studying it.

The missing limbs had been disconnected cleanly rather than ripped off, so not necessarily trauma. Could have been removed after she, uh… deactivated. Gavin frowned as he noticed something else; the eyes were missing, just like… empty sockets with exposed connections. “Uh... “

“She’s missing all of her major biocomponents.” Connor supplied, as Gavin looked up at him. “Thirium pump, regulator, limbs, eyes… it seems the body was stripped for parts.”

“So.. what are we looking at here, like… organ smuggling?” What was the legal terminology for stealing android parts, now? Especially if they belonged to a deceased android? That seemed like the nearest analogy.

Connor actually shrugged a little. “I believe that would be the most applicable. The law is still catching up when it comes to crimes against androids.”

“So you think she was killed for parts.” Gavin mused.

“Possibly. She could have also died another way and was stripped for parts later. I can’t determine the cause of death for certain without any major biocomponents, however, so if it was to cover up a murder, it was an effective method.”

Gavin stood up, backing up a little to glance down the shoreline. “Anything special about where it was found?”

Connor shook his head. “Not that I can see. The man that found the body was cleaning up trash along the river and came across it. It seems like it just washed up with the current, dumped somewhere upstream. If she fell into the water, it’s somewhat odd nothing else has been recovered, but not an impossible theory.”

“... I want to interview the friend she was staying with.” Gavin mused aloud. “Find out where she went, what she liked to do, and maybe see if the friend had a motive.”

Connor nodded in agreement. “I can give you the address we have for her. Her name is Toni.”

“She another android?”

There was something critical in Connor’s gaze when he answered. “Yes.”

Gavin didn’t let it bother him. Robocop was always gonna be super fucking suspicious of him. “‘Kay, send me the address and we’ll go from there.”

 

-

 

The interview with the friend turned out to be mostly a dead end. Gavin didn’t get any indication she had anything to do with it; she just seemed genuinely concerned and upset, which he was used to. He got a better profile of the victim, got some information and maybe a few other short leads, and called it a day.

Used to it or not, he kinda hated doing those sorts of interviews; the ones with people who lost somebody.

Connor and Hank were already back by the time he returned to the station, and went straight for the break room for another cup of coffee and maybe a stale donut. He hadn’t eaten lunch, didn’t really plan to. Tina usually had to shove food at him, but she was out on patrol.

“Detective.” Connor greeted him softly as he wandered into the break room, his gaze lingering on Gavin before it moved to the TV for a brief moment. He seemed distracted, and Gavin had a weird feeling.

“... What?” He murmured through a bite of donut.

Connor paused, doing that thing where he cocked his head a little. “... I thought I would let you know… RK900 left New Jericho.”

Gavin had to make a conscious effort not to choke on his donut. He finished chewing, swallowed, then barked out, “What?”

Connor nodded. “Apparently he left sometime last night, and no one caught him leaving.”

“But… it’s only been a few days, they just let him go?”

Connor’s eyes narrowed at the accusing tone. “It wasn’t as if he was a prisoner… which was your idea.”

“Yeah, but - “ He really had to rein in his tone before Connor smacked him again, “He’s really out on the street again? That can’t be a good thing.”

“There is an open murder investigation involving him, so we do need to have an address where he can be reached if necessary. So I’ve reported him as missing, and it fell into your cases.”

“So, you’re just telling me this because I’m gonna be the one tracking him down.”

“And because you seemed to form a connection with him when you took him to New Jericho. He didn’t respond nearly as well to me.” Connor shrugged. He seemed genuinely disappointed, or jealous, which was… not amusing or funny, but. Something. "Not to mention, he knows where you live."

Oh. Uh. Right.

Gavin slid his coffee cup back and forth on the table as he considered all that. “... So why’d he run off again, do we know? Anybody in New Jericho have anything to say?”

“Yes. He wasn’t acclimating well - apparently it was… difficult to convince him to get treatment for the damage he’d suffered.”

“Damage, like…?”

“There was a great deal of cumulative damage from Cyberlife, and newer injuries from when he escaped the station holding cell. Markus told me he resisted repairs, refused to even take off his clothes.”

Right. Gavin remembered that, protective of the clothes. “Did they fix him though?”

“Eventually, yes, but not without difficulty, and they only patched what they could without it being invasive, so they wouldn’t… upset him. They wanted to give him time.”

“But then he ran away.”

“Correct.”

Gavin sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Well, let me know if you hear anything from robo- uh, Markus.”

Connor gave him another little nod, then seemed to want to say something else. Gavin gave him a second. “... Thank you, Detective.”

That threw him for a bit of a loop, and by the time his brain caught up enough to wonder just what Connor was thanking him for, he’d wandered off.

Great, so. Now Gavin potentially had a feral stalker android.

 

… It didn't actually upset him, though, as much as it stressed him out a little with everything else he was juggling. If anything he hoped the RK900 would come back so he could talk him into going back to New Jericho.

The androids there had the best chance of helping him, out of anyone. They all understood was it was like to be… used. Like that.

Connor obviously felt for the poor android too. That could have just as easily been him, at Cyberlife, it was plain to see why Connor was so invested.

Gavin groaned softly, putting his head down on the table. Now he was getting invested, and he had no doubt he'd be losing sleep over it.

Chapter Text

Sleep was something of a luxury for Gavin Reed.

He'd never been a deep sleeper, something about his childhood probably, and between that and getting constantly called out on cases in the middle of the goddamn night and his stupid cat often waking him up at absurd hours, he pretty much survived entirely on coffee and spite day-to-day.

But he loved his job and he loved his cat, more than he loved sleep, so.

He did not love any other random occurrences that happened to drag him out of bed; Tina had learned a long time ago you didn't text or call late unless it was an emergency. Under fire, need you to show up or I'll die kind of emergency. Not 'Hey Gav wanna go out, it's absolutely an emergency c'mon'.

He was so ready to blame Tina when he was dragged from blissful slumber long before his alarm went off, but when he fumbled for his phone on the nightstand, he didn't have any messages.

And Sasha wasn't sitting on him with her butthole in his face, so…. He wasn't really sure what had woken him up.

Regardless he wasn't gonna get back to sleep when his alarm was set for an hour later. He groaned, sitting up to turn it off and nearly had a fucking stroke when he saw something out of the corner of his eye - there was someone standing in his window, a vaguely person-shaped silhouette showing through the blinds.

Oh fuck, the RK900!

Gavin leaped out of bed, tossing on his jacket before running to the door to throw it open.

But by the time he ran around the side of his house, whatever had been outside his window was gone - no sign of him, just Gavin in his shorts and a jacket standing on his lawn like a dipshit.

… Had he imagined that? Something had woken him up, but.

"Nines?" He called softly, feeling completely ridiculous. He'd been half asleep, still dreaming probably. Seemed about on par with the usual fucked up shit he dreamed about.

He went back inside before any of his neighbors could catch him standing out there in his underwear, and nearly tripped over the cat as she appeared to scream for food.

"There you are, asshole." He would have been worried if she didn't hassle him like the spoiled brat she was.

He set some food out for her before getting dressed properly, laughing when he walked back into the kitchen ready to go and found her already licking her paws after inhaling her breakfast.

“Do you know you’re spoiled as fuck? Huh?” He said to her even as he pulled a treat out, teasing her with it.

“Don’t choke.” He snorted when she got ahold of it. “See you later, dumbass.”

 

-

 

He’d been planning to get coffee and maybe something to eat on the way to the station, but before he even got there he got an alert from Fowler to head out to a crime scene. Robbery, possibly connected to another case of his, but that was all the information he got while driving.

It was just gonna be one of those days.

The address he was sent to ended up being a boarded-up Cyberlife retailer. Not an actual Cyberlife store, but one of the many family-owned resellers that had been authorized by Cyberlife to sell and repair androids. They were usually smaller places in less affluent parts of the city that didn’t have big-scale Cyberlife stores. Android repair was also a big business, or it used to be.

All such stores were closed after the revolution, since they couldn’t keep selling androids and android parts. Only Cyberlife was allowed to manufacture and handle parts now, and all official Cyberlife stores had been converted to repair centers/android hospitals. Androids could go there to get fixed after damage or even buy upgrades and shit, which was what kept Cyberlife in business, Gavin assumed. They were always marketing something new these days.

He didn’t see Connor hanging around when he got out of the car, which was honestly a relief. It was annoying how Fowler continually sent Connor out on anything that even remotely involved androids.

Gavin could handle this shit on his own, too. He didn’t need Connor’s fancy scanning powers to do his job for him.

“What’cha got?” He asked the officer that was milling around just outside the store, someone not from his district. His nametag said… Watts, Watson? Or something.

“Pretty textbook robbery.” the officer said, handing Gavin a tablet to look over. “The store had been boarded up for some time, pending the return of all the inventory to Cyberlife. Someone broke in and cleaned it out.”

All the tech stores that carried android parts had to ship them back to Cyberlife after the revolution, after all the new legislation was passed. The timeframe for getting it all collected and returned hadn’t yet hit its deadline, so a lot of places still had boxes and boxes of android shit waiting to go back to Cyberlife sitting around.

The deadline was actually coming up in a few weeks, according to the notes on the tablet, and it was already very illegal for your average joe to have android parts, so it seemed like black marketeers were snatching up what they could now, while there were still some shops with parts floating around in limbo.

Gavin looked up - it was obvious how they’d gained entry - the boards in front of the door had been ripped down and the glass broken. There were bars just behind the glass that had been… it looked like bent? out of the way, so. Possibly the thieves were androids, if they were that strong, or they had equipment with them.

He handed the tablet back to Watson and headed into the building. There was another officer milling around with a flashlight whom Gavin avoided, poking around himself.

The inside of the store was piled with empty boxes, branded with Cyberlife’s logo. The foam from inside had been ripped out tossed around, parts grabbed in a hurry.

Looked like your pretty usual stuff - boxes that fit upgraded arms, legs, that sort of thing. There were some uniforms, too, though they littered the floor, obviously not sought after any more, the glowing markings on them outdated.

Back room looked pretty standard when he wandered in. Assembly rig, repair table, tools tossed everywhere. A shelf had been knocked down and leaned against the table.

Some of the empty boxes back behind it caught his eye - they were smaller, had smaller indents in the foam where parts were nestled.

These little stores didn’t usually carry major internal biocomponents. If an android was damaged enough to need a new thirium pump, they needed to go back to Cyberlilfe. So it was… a little strange these seemed to have held more fiddly parts. Maybe. As much as he was loathe to admit it, Connor could probably tell him exactly what these boxes had held. He’d have to have them taken back to the station as evidence.

If anything, they needed to look for prints and see if anything came up that connected this robbery to the murder of that other android - Jackie. It was likely there was no connection, but if someone was snapping up parts from not only places like this but also live androids…

“Who made the report?” Gavin asked when Officer Watson finally joined him.

“The store’s owner. He said he came by to check on the location and found it broken into this morning.”

“He around? I wanna interview him.”

“I’ll see if I can get ahold of him.”

He scurried off, and Gavin headed out the shop’s back door while he waited.

It was still locked, but Gavin opened it up and poked his head out into the alley behind the shop anyway, glancing around.

Right when he turned his head to look the other way, something moved in the alleyway, quick like lightning to avoid his gaze and way bigger than an alley cat. Gavin jumped out the door and ran after it; he had a weird feeling…

“Hey! Freeze, Detroit Police!” He shouted, rounding a corner to catch just the barest glimpse of a person fleeing around the next building.

He lucked out; around that corner was a dead end, and he got a good look just as the android he was chasing vaulted off the wall in a display of parkour he couldn’t hope to match and grabbed onto the fire escape that was almost a story up.

Nines. Missing the bloody jacket (finally), but definitely Nines. Gavin watched him climb onto the fire escape and start running up, still moving fast despite the fact Gavin definitely wasn’t going to be able to chase him.

“Wait! Nines!” He shouted up, and to his immense surprise the android actually halted, staring down at him.

His tongue stuck; he had no fucking idea what to say, but Nines seemed just as frozen, his little LED visibly yellow even with the distance.

Someone at New Jericho had gotten Nines some decent clothes, it seemed. Black turtleneck and some dark jeans. He looked a lot less scruffy anyway, at least as far as Gavin could tell from a distance.

He finally opened his mouth to say something else, ask him to come down, but then the android was moving again, climbing the fire escape up and disappearing onto the roof before Gavin could stop staring like a slack-jawed idiot.

What in the actual hell.

Of course he talked his way into the building by flashing his police badge and went up to the roof, but by the time he did, Nines was long gone. Gavin leaned over the roof’s edge, looking down at the alley where he’d been standing.

Was Nines following him? There was no other reason for him to be there. It must have been him, at Gavin’s place, that morning. Had to be.

So, Connor was right. The android had formed some sort of connection with him, or at least an interest.

Enough to stalk him, follow him around.

“... I am really not the right person, man.” He mused aloud, running a hand through his hair.

Fuck. He really needed to get back down there and interview the store owner. He took one last glance over the edge before heading for the stairwell, shoving his hands in his pockets.

Next time he saw Nines he’d be more ready. He would not fuck this up.

Chapter Text

Noah Walker.

That was the name of the man that owned the looted store. Gavin’s interview with him had been… interesting, to say the least. For one thing, it had taken for-fucking-ever to track him down, despite the fact he called in the robbery. Guy didn’t seem to want to answer his phone, and he practically had to have his arm twisted to actually show up for an interview.

He’d seemed cagey. Gavin had more than a good sense of when people were withholding information from him. Something about the robbery wasn’t as it seemed, but Gavin couldn’t pry anything out of him, and eventually had to let him go.

There was definitely some follow up to be done, though. And Gavin intended to follow up.

Before that, though…

He’d spent the rest of the evening looking for Nines. Or, well, at least a couple hours. Seeing if anyone had spotted him leaving the scene of the robbery. There was a small chance he was involved, but… to Gavin, that seemed remote. If anything he was trying to justify to himself all the time he’d spent trying to track the android down.

He hadn’t had much luck. Which was why he was waiting for Connor that next morning at the station, nursing a coffee. He hadn’t gotten much sleep, but what else was new.

What was strange was that Connor seemed to be running late, and Gavin had already seen Hank that morning.

He was just about to get up and ask Hank where he was when finally he caught Connor heading to his desk, and intercepted him.

“Hey, Connor.” Gavin stopped him, “I need to talk to you.”

Connor blinked, and Gavin started to wonder if he had something on his face, the way the android was looking at him. “... What?”

“You didn’t call me a derogatory name.”

Gavin scowled. “My bad, plastic. I’ll endeavor to be more of an asshole, just for you - can I talk to you now?”

Connor just smiled almost fondly and nodded, inclining his head toward the break room. Which, wow, Gavin was definitely going to have to come up with some new and creative way to needle him.

But like, later.

“It’s about Ni- RK900.” Gavin said as he leaned on one of the break room tables. “I saw him at the scene of that robbery yesterday.”

Connor inclined his head a little, a silent ‘go on’ that drove Gavin absolutely nuts.

“And at my house that morning. I think. But he’s definitely hanging around.”

“Were you able to talk to him?”

Gavin shook his head. “Not this time. But I’m hoping… I’m thinking I can get ahold of him again, maybe… talk him into going back to Jericho.”

“I think that would be best.” Connor said, “Markus has people looking for him, too. But you’re the only one that’s even spotted him.”

“I don’t even get why.” Gavin sighed, running a hand through his hair. Nervous habit. “Like, why me?”

“I can’t speak to his taste…”

“... I dunno if I like you with a sensor of humor, plastic.” Gavin shot back when Connor just flashed him that dopey smile again.

“I’m glad you saw him at least. And while you’re here, Detective - I was going to talk to you about the case itself - I analyzed the evidence you wanted me to look at.” Connor continued.

That got Gavin’s attention. “And?”

“The boxes contained thirium pumps, the necessary tubing, and regulators, which… aren’t something those small stores usually carried or kept on hand. The regulators, maybe, since they’re simple to replace, but the pump is not, and intensive repairs were best left to Cyberlife, even then.”

“So… you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”

“That the owner was smuggling parts as well? My theory is that he was ripped off by another smuggler.”

“I think it’s time I had another talk with him.” Gavin murmured, straightening up.

“I did obtain a home address for him, if you wanted to follow up.” Connor offered, and Gavin nodded.

“Send it to me and I’ll head over there.”

 

-

 

The address Connor sent him was in one of the more affluent parts of Detroit, a subdivision of entirely new construction that just screamed money. There were a couple people that gave him weird looks as he parked on the street - what the hell are you doing in my fancy neighborhood, hobo? looks. He wasn’t driving a marked vehicle and well… he didn’t look like money. Reminded him of judgy kids in high-school.

But he didn’t really care about the neighbors. It did seem a little too rich an area for a guy that owned a chain of now defunct repair shops, though.

The house itself was dark, and no one answered when he rang the doorbell, multiple times. Because of course.

He waited on the porch for a few minutes before walking around the side. Technically, he didn’t have a warrant and couldn’t actually enter the place, but the backyard wasn’t fenced and… well, it was in public view. He could get away with that. Fowler might kill him for stretching it, but…

There wasn’t a whole lot to see, though. The backyard was rich-person manicured with a large porch and a paved path and all that other pretentious shit. What caught his eye was the freestanding shed in the back by the treeline. That could possibly be something.

Getting into the shed wasn’t gonna be something he could defend, though, unless somebody screamed for help from inside. He circled it anyway, thinking there might be a gap somewhere he could peer into, but there was nothing. Damn.

He knew there was more to this guy, but he wasn’t gonna be able to get a warrant based on his and Connor’s vague suspicions.

He was standing there puzzling out his options when he caught movement by the treeline, just out of the corner of his eye like last time.

“Nines?” He called immediately, moving hesitantly toward it, the case absolutely flying out of his head.

He was not gonna spook him this time. Wasn’t gonna yell or run after him, just… approach slowly… talk softly. He could do that.

 

… Except whoever jumped him from from a hiding spot around the shed definitely wasn’t Nines, god fucking damn it. DEFINITELY not Nines, but just as android-strong as Gavin was suddenly in a wrestling match with him, fighting to keep the mystery android’s hand away from his gun.

Oh shit, he was so fucked. This guy was strong, easily getting the upper hand. Gavin was not about to let go of his pistol, even as he was wrestled to the ground, and just as he was sure the android would break his arm for it the weight of him suddenly disappeared.

It wasn’t until he heard the savage growl that he realized what had happened - Nines was there, hauling the other android off Gavin by the neck with an expression that screamed murder.

And God, he’d never been more grateful to see the murderbot.

… Except, whoa. Nines turned around and slammed the guy into the side of the shed so hard the wood buckled. This was not gonna end well for anybody if Nines actually killed him.

Gavin shook off his shock and scrambled up, drawing his gun. “Both of you, freeze!”

Nines’ attention snapped to him for the barest second and the other android took advantage, ripping himself from Nines’ grip by wrenching his arm. Nines hissed in what had to be pain, and in the blink of an eye they were both bolting away.

In different directions. Fuck.

He took a shot at the android that had assaulted him, missed, and then had a split second to decide if he should go after him, or Nines.

 

He chose Nines, mostly because there was a splatter of blue on the side of the shed and he wasn’t actually sure who it had come from.

“Wait!” He called as he booked it after Nines, shoving his gun back in the holster so he wouldn’t be scared of it. “Nines! Please just-”

They were approaching another house’s fenced yard; Nines ran up to it, jumped and grabbed the top edge to vault over, then snarled in pain when his arm didn’t cooperate and slipped, fell back to the grass.

When Gavin caught up to him a second later he pressed himself against the fence as if he could melt into it and disappear, whimpering.

“Whoa, hey, it’s just me.” Gavin murmured soothingly, trying to talk that panicked look out of him.

His shirt was ripped up at the shoulder where the other android had grabbed his arm and completely destroyed the seam, and beneath it was white plastic splattered with blue. It looked like his arm had been nearly yanked out of the socket, flickering light from the inner components showing through.

Freaky. Also possibly bad.

“Thanks for helpin’ me back there.” Gavin said - he wasn’t trying to get any closer, and slowly Nines seemed to be calming down as he spoke. “You okay? You should uh… probably get that looked at.”

Nines snarled, his expression darkening. Right, repairs, iffy subject. Connor had mentioned that. The android’s body tensed a little, like he was considering bolting again. Or maybe Gavin was just getting good at reading him.

“Hey, I’ll go with you. I owe you one. Like, I really owe you one.”

His little LED spun, continually red. He was thinking about it, though, Gavin could see the gears turning.

“It’ll be fine, I promise. You still trust me?”

Nines slowly shifted to grip his injured shoulder - was it hurting him? He was pretty sure androids didn’t feel pain like that, although… he didn’t really know. Maybe deviants were different. He’d never asked.

“Okay?”

Finally Nines gave a little nod and shuffled slowly away from the fence, toward Gavin with a hesitant little whimper in the back of his throat. Gavin let him approach, waited for him, didn’t push his luck.

But once Nines was close enough he let go of his shoulder and reached for Gavin’s hand, smearing blue across his palm as he took it gently.

… Okay, whatever worked. “C’mon, we’ll go get that fixed.” He murmured encouragingly, leading Nines by the hand back toward the street, and his car.

He expected the nervous pause when they actually got to the car, let Nines hesitate for a moment before opening the door to the passenger side. “Please?” He murmured, and still to his surprise the android capitulated, sliding in and leaning back with his eyes closed.

The nearest repair center was in the city proper, about ten minutes away. Gavin kept stealing glances at Nines as he drove, but the android remained perfectly still, bleeding blue crap onto the seat.

A slightly startling amount, actually.

There was a huge stain left behind when Gavin helped him out of the car, so he was in a bit of a hurry to get him inside and nearly missed it when they walked in and something about the Cyberlife location nearly threw Nines into a panic.

He started to run for the door, but Gavin grabbed him by the (good) arm, and pleaded with him to stay even as some techs closed in.

There was a tense moment where he was sure Nines was going to rip away from him, but a second later the android turned around and… clung? To Gavin instead, flattening himself to Gavin’s back as if he could hide from the techs that way, hissing.

It threw Gavin for such a loop he just sort of let it happen, Nines’ working hand balled in the front of his shirt.

“Look, hey, they just wanna help…” Gavin whispered, with all the soothing power he usually reserved only for his cat. Nines was growling at the techs directly in his ear. The sound had a very electronic, static-y quality to it up close.

It took a hell of a lot of coaxing, but eventually he and the repair technicians were able to corral Nines into the back and get him seen to. He growled at every little touch and flinched if anyone came at him too fast, but. With Gavin there he allowed it, though he held Gavin’s hand so tight the entire time Gavin was sure he was gonna bruise. Absolutely certain.

He had like three missed calls from Fowler by the time they were done. The repairs had taken hours and he hadn’t been able to leave; the whole station probably thought he was MIA and they needed to send out a search party.

He was texting Fowler and then Tina to let them know where he was when Nines suddenly reached for his phone, lightly but forcefully lifting it from his hands, his own hand white as he… interfaced with it?

After a second he handed it back, and on the screen there was some database information on an android, serial number and everything.

It was the android that had attacked them. Nines had identified him… from touching him? More freaky android shit, but Gavin wasn’t about to complain.

Nines made a soft, impatient sound and touched the phone again to highlight some information. It looked like… oh. The android had been employed at the looted repair shop before the revolution.

‘Employed’ was probably the wrong word, but. He’d been working there as a clerk and salesperson. His registered owner had been Noah Walker.

Gavin looked up. “So he was Walker’s android. Was he… is he deviant?”

Nines looked down, then back up at Gavin. He shook his head.

“So… he was just following orders?”

Nines nodded.

“Fuck yeah, okay, we’ve got this guy by the balls - he’s still using his android employees, and deviant or not it’s illegal to own androids.”

Another nod. Gavin wondered if Nines could talk at all, but the techs hadn’t said anything about that, so…

He paid the repair center with his DPD account (he’d figure that one out later) and led Nines outside. The android seemed to visibly relax once they were away from the repair center, hovering close to Gavin again.

“So uh, know where you’re headed now?”

Nines shook his head, doing that thing where he worried his hands again.

“I could take you back to Jericho.” Gavin suggested, and got this sideways, uncertain look. “... What?”

The android seemed to struggle, opening his mouth and then closing it again with a pained look. It was like he wanted to say something, then couldn’t.

“They just wanna help. Were they rude or something?”

A head-shake. No.

“Too busy? Too many people?”

Yea, that was it. Or at least, close. A little half-nod.

“I get that.” Gavin murmured, “Look, I don’t want you out on the street though. I, uh. You could-”

Before he could continue, a cab pulled up just behind his car, and of fucking course, out stepped Connor. Nines hissed at the sight of him, and before Gavin could intervene Connor came closer and Nines turned around and bolted. Gavin had to grab the back of Connor’s coat to keep him from going after him.

“Are you fucking serious! Don’t even!” Gavin hissed, furious. He gave Connor’s expensive coat a harsh yank just to stretch the seams and maybe vent a little frustration. “I had him! He was gonna go with me - are you stupid?”

For his part, Connor looked genuinely contrite. “I’m sorry, I… your phone pinged at a repair center and I assumed RK900 had…”

Oh. Wonderbot was worried. Gavin huffed. “He uh - I’ll tell you about it later, but he’s fine now. Honestly though, your timing fucking sucks.”

Wait a minute, had Connor hacked his phone’s location? Asshole.

“I am sorry…”

“I know, shut up.” Gavin shoulder-checked him as he turned to head for his car.

“You will tell me what happened, though…?” Connor asked his back.

“Yeah, along with my report. Meet me at the station.” Gavin was not giving him a ride, for fucking sure!

He pulled out his phone as he climbed back into the car, checking his texts from Tina and replying before he started the engine.

Something caught his eye, though. A new contact had been added to his list.

 

[313-248-317-87]

 

At first glance it looked like a random string of numbers, and Gavin wondered if he’d been hacked, but then it hit him. Serial number, an android’s serial number. Only a few numbers off from Connor’s, so.

Nines.

Chapter Text

It really shouldn’t be so goddamn hard to write a text.

Gavin tried, about a hundred times. He always ended up hitting delete instead of send.

Somehow, he’d expected Nines to text him first. He just had no idea what to say - hey, how’s your arm? Still doing okay out there? Would you maybe wanna, come over here for a while so I know you’re not dead?

He wondered if Nines would even actually respond. He’d never spoken to Gavin in words, but... he clearly understood, so.

Gavin sighed, giving his phone another spin where he had it balanced on the coffee table. Sasha kept trying to jump up onto the table to play with it, and Gavin kept her back with his foot.

It was technically his day off, but he was really hoping to be called in once they got a warrant to search Walker’s residence. It was taking forever, considering all they had on the guy was an android’s serial number, the fact that said android hadn’t been accounted for after the revolution, and Nines’ word that the android wasn’t deviant.

Well, Gavin’s word on Nines’ word. But that was gonna have to be enough.

He leaned back on the couch, snatching up his phone so the cat couldn’t knock it to the floor.

Tina was at least texting him, asking him if he was busy. Busy lounging at home with his cat, but yeah, busy. Waiting for a call from work or a text from Nines. Real important stuff.

Gavin swiped away from Tina’s texts, his finger hovering over the new contact again. He’d shortened the name on it from a long serial number to just Nines, but still hadn’t actually...

Goddammit, why was this so hard?

He did want to make sure Nines was okay. He just had to send something.

  G: Nines?

He hit send on it, he actually just forced himself to hit send. Super original, wonderful job. Really engaging shit right there.

A reply popped up almost instantly, though. Phone in his head and all that.

  N: Is ‘Nines’ my designation?

… The first thing the android had ever actually said to him, asked him, and he had no idea how to respond. Gavin hadn’t actually meant to name him that, it just sort of… happened? Did he honestly not have a real name?

  G: dunno, do you want it to be ?

  N: I never had a designation.

Huh, okay.

  G: it can be Nines if you want

  N: My name is Nines.

Now don't you name it! Gavin was abruptly reminded of a time he'd gotten caught feeding a stray cat, as a kid. Name it and you'll be wanting to keep it!

God, he’d had to hear that so many times-

His phone buzzed in his hand; another message, only this time it was a random string of numbers.

Or, okay. Map coordinates, it looked like, latitude and longitude. Gavin had to chuckle - that probably made perfect sense to an android.

  G: want me to meet you there ?

He punched it into maps - it was close to the river, a park probably? Yeah, a park.

  N: Yes.

Okay. Cool.

  G: its a date. Be there in a few

He waited a minute or so for a response then just… decided to head out, keeping the cat back from the door with his foot as he left. She did NOT need to get out again, little asshole.

 

He didn’t fuck with his phone while he drove, but by the time he parked he had like four more texts from Tina. Okay like, two, but as much as he loved her, they were both irritating.

  T: Val and I are going out tonight, wanna come?

No. He would not be a fucking third wheel on her date with her wife, what in the actual fuck was she thinking.

  T: I might have invited a friend along…

Oh fuck no, hell no! God, he loved his best friend, but sometimes, she... she knew he didn’t… do that shit.

  T: He’s great, really. Really great guy I think you’ll get along with

  G: NO

He shot it back before she could keep at it, still sitting in his running car. At least he’d put it in park.

  T: C’mon Gav, give him a chance

  G: big no. fuck off. Tell the guy sorry but fuck off

  T: Gavin, as a friend… you really should give it a shot

  G: you will not be my friend if you dont drop it right now

Maybe a little harsh, but he had been in a good fucking mood and she was kinda ruining that for him. He had a shit track record with relationships, and he was tired of it always ending inevitably with a shouting match. It was always the same, so obviously it was his fault somehow. Tina's nice guy friend didn't deserve that and he wasn't about to fuck with it.

He shoved his phone in his pocket without waiting for another response, turned off the car and climbed out.

 

Nines’ coordinates had brought him to a run-down little riverfront park. There were no other cars in the parking lot, and the equipment was all rusted as he headed toward it, the grass overgrown. Been abandoned for a bit, like half of everything in Detroit. With all those city restoration projects going on, there were still a hell of a lot of places like this one around.

He spotted Nines pretty quickly. A railing overlooked the river, and the android was perched on it with his feet hanging over the sheer drop to the water. It looked kinda precarious, but. He probably had great balance.

Gavin made sure to approach slowly, careful not to spook him.

He seemed… really chill, though, his posture relaxed even as he steadied himself on the railing. Maybe because there weren’t any other people around.

“Hey.” Gavin murmured, leaning on the railing next to him.

Nines turned his head, and flashed Gavin this little smile that was so painfully awkward he actually had to bite back a laugh. He did grin back, like a fucking idiot probably, half because he was trying not to laugh.

Nines probably hadn’t had very many reasons to smile. Before this. So. He shouldn’t poke fun.

It was also incredibly and undeniably endearing.

“How’s your shoulder?” Gavin said before his brain could linger on that.

Nines shrugged, rolled it a bit for Gavin to see.

“Good. Thanks again for… comin’ to the rescue back there. That android was honestly about to rip my arm off.”

“... Have you been following me?” Gavin continued after a pause.

… Nines nodded, slowly, suddenly looking anywhere but Gavin’s face. Embarrassed?

“Why?”

The android’s brow furrowed, his LED blinking. At the same time, Gavin’s phone vibrated in his pocket.

“Oh. Yeah, hang on-”

He fished it out, ignoring more texts from Tina to open up Nines’ message chain.

  N: You helped me.

Gavin looked back up to his face - god this was gonna be awkward, but if Nines didn’t wanna talk, this was as good as anything.

“Connor wants to help too, but you keep runnin’ from him.”

Nines’ lip curled at Connor’s name, but despite the show and the little growl that made it past his lips, Gavin could see that almost… primal fear leap back into his eyes, up close.

“He’s not gonna hurt you. Like, okay, I know he threw you in a cell, but…”

His phone buzzed and he had to look down mid-sentence.

  N: He is an RK800.

Gavin shrugged helplessly, letting his confusion show on his face. And?

  N: They have hurt me before.

Oh. “There are - were - others?” Connor had never mentioned anything about there being other Connors. Well, okay, had he? They didn’t exactly talk about that kind of stuff.

  N: Many. I destroyed some. I don’t know how many were left, if any.

Nines was looking away from him again, out across the river instead.

  N: I was supposed to be superior to the RK800. That had to be tested.

Gavin was only glancing at the screen, watching Nines’ face.

  N: There was one, who was different from the others. He was afraid of me, afraid to be deactivated. When I destroyed him he… did something to me. And then I was afraid, too.

“He was a deviant.” Gavin mused softly. Nines’ gaze flicked to him, and he nodded.

Well.

"... I get it, I do. But uh… Connor's not a bad guy, so maybe give him a chance at least?" Shit, now he was defending Connor's honor. "Or at least don't peace out every time he shows up."

That drew a little huff out of Nines that was… almost a laugh.

  N: I'll try.

  N: I trust you.

That last text still threw Gavin for a loop. It shouldn’t have, at that point, but. Wasn’t something he was used to.

Nines shifted to swing his legs over to solid ground again, then slid off the railing. He seemed to be getting restless, started walking back toward the playground equipment, so Gavin just… walked with him.

“You got any plans? For tonight?” He asked, still having to glance at his phone.

  N: No.

“Know where you’re staying?”

This time the android just shook his head, stuffing his hands in his pockets. He was still wearing those same dark jeans, but at the repair center they’d taken the ripped up turtleneck and given him a thin white T-shirt in exchange. He looked cold, to Gavin anyway. He didn’t really know if androids got cold.

“You could come hang at my place. If you want.” Gavin offered softly, and Nines abruptly stopped walking to look at him. He cocked his head, in a sort of Connor-like way.

“‘Cuz, you know, it’s getting colder after dark…” He murmured, kicking himself a little and like. Trying to justify the offer.

Nines’ LED flickered, blinking rapidly as he mulled it over. He reached over and tapped Gavin’s phone, reminding him to look down at it.

  N: Only if I can leave when I want.

“... That what you’re worried about, being trapped?” Gavin asked - he didn’t miss the subtle glance in the direction of Belle Isle.

Nines nodded.

“Yeah, well… you don’t have to stay and you can leave whenever, alright? I just… if you needed someplace to crash I don’t mind. Just don’t break in or anything okay? Knock.”

Another little huff that was almost a laugh. Could basically be considered a laugh. Nines finally gave a little nod of agreement, resuming his walk. They were headed toward the parking lot now, though.

… It started to rain as they went - just a little drizzle, but Nines didn’t pick up his pace, and while Gavin put his hood up Nines’ thin shirt was pretty quickly wet enough to stick to his skin. Gavin silently resolved to find him some decent clothes.

When they got to the car he expected Nines to hesitate, but this time he slid right in when Gavin opened the door, running a hand through his hair to shake out the rain. It seemed almost water resistant, somehow.

Gavin briefly checked his texts from Tina as he got in, just skimming them before he started the engine.

Nines was straight-backed as they drove, his eyes closed. Almost like… sleep mode, or something. Gavin kept wanting to glance at him while he drove, make sure he was still… ok, chill. His LED was yellow - Gavin could see it reflected off the window. So… that was good, right? He was pretty sure he’d never seen Nines’ LED blue.

The android’s eyes fluttered open when the car stopped, and he got out after Gavin did, hovering close as they walked up to the house. Gavin had to fish for his keys to unlock the door, didn’t have one of those fancy handprint scanners yet, old fashioned -

… The moment he opened it, his absolutely dumb as shit fucking cat darted between his legs and out the door. But before he could even curse, Nines casually bent down and snatched her up with all the precision and grace of a dancer.

Utterly, absolutely unfair. Gavin had to gape like a moron for a second, as Nines tucked Sasha close so she wouldn’t get away from him, still standing behind Gavin on the porch.

Then he mentally smacked himself and hurried inside so Nines could follow him, shutting the door before the cat leaped down.

She seemed perfectly content though, purring where Nines had her tucked against his chest.

“Uh… Thanks, she’s really stupid sometimes.” Gavin murmured, losing his mind at the little smile on the android’s face as he slowly and a little awkwardly pet her on the head.

His dumb ass cat hated everyone. Except Nines, apparently.

Finally Nines knelt to let her down, as if he couldn’t have just dropped her ass from a height. It was kind of cute, how gently he set her on her feet.

“So, uh… make yourself at home I guess.” Gavin shrugged, “The couch is all yours…”

His phone buzzed; right. He fished it out again.

  N: Thank you.

“... Yeah, no problem. Like I said, you can come by again if you want.” He said as Nines sat on the couch, just like he did when he was in the car. Stiff posture, his hands on his knees. Gavin almost opened his mouth to say something, tell him to relax, but Sasha went ahead and did it for him, jumping onto the android’s lap.

Nines startled a little, the rigid posture breaking as he slowly moved a hand into petting range and she rubbed up against it, purring.

The tension left his shoulders. There we go. Feral android successfully chilled out. Plus one point to the cat.

 

Nines pretty much stayed there for the rest of the night, while Gavin moved around and made himself dinner and eventually settled on the other side of the couch to watch TV. Nines seemed utterly rapt by it - had he never… like, watched TV before? Jesus. He had the internet in his head and yet the movie Gavin was watching was like, the most fascinating thing ever, apparently.

 

“You good?” Gavin asked him softly once the movie was over, before he retreated to his bedroom. Had to get up for work tomorrow. “You need anything?”

Nines shook his head. Sasha was still on his lap, and he was petting her absentmindedly.

It was Gavin’s turn to hesitate, then, the question he’d been wanting to ask all day hanging on his lips. “You, uh. You can talk to me, you know.” He offered softly.

Nines looked up. There was something uncertain in his eyes, his LED blinking.

“Can you? Talk?”

He glanced away, doing that thing again where he refused to meet Gavin’s eyes. Okay. Not ready for that one yet. “Sorry, ah… forget I said anything.” Gavin mumbled quickly.

Sasha jumped off of Nines’ lap when he moved, suddenly, reaching out to take Gavin’s hand before he could turn away. His fingers were white, the plastic showing, cool against Gavin’s skin.

And then just as quickly he let go, retreating back to his spot on the couch with an almost sheepish little look.

“... G’night, Nines.” Gavin murmured, and got a little nod. He excused himself to his room after that, but that moment didn’t stop buzzing around in his head until he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

In the morning, the house was empty.

Well, except for the cat, of course. Someone had already opened a can of food for her and set it out by the time Gavin got up.

But Nines was gone.

It shouldn't have surprised him, really, but Gavin was almost… disappointed? All the same.

But maybe he'd be back. Gavin hoped he'd be back.

And the cat wasn't actively screaming for his attention, so…

He got dressed without interruption for once, then checked his phone. Nothing from Nines, but a couple texts from Connor of all people. Letting him know they’d gotten the warrant to search Walker’s place, finally.

Robocop probably had a lot to do with that - Connor had a lot of pull with New Jericho and the leader of the android revolution. Gavin probably owed him one, as much as he hated the concept. Though, the fact no one had been able to get ahold of Walker helped. The guy had apparently dropped off the face of the Earth, which made him look extremely suspicious. So.

He replied to Connor, told him he’d be there soon and not to start the party without him. Then he sent a couple texts to Nines.

   G: Thanks for feeding the cat

   G: Never did thank you for bringing her home the first time either

   G: so thanks

Definitely just fishing for a response, but he wanted to know Nines was okay out there. Turning into a real mother hen, honestly.

As usual, a reply popped up almost immediately.

   N: You’re welcome.

   G: Why’d you pick her up anyway ?

He was curious. There was a bit of a pause between messages.

   N: She was scared. And alone.

   N: I thought we could help each other.

Fuck, well. Okay. That was kind of cute, actually.

He sent an emote as a response then had to head out; didn’t wanna keep Connor and whoever else waiting too long.

Totally did stop for coffee, though. Absolute necessity.

Connor was waiting for him as promised as he pulled up to Walker’s place, along with a few other officers and a CSI team standing by. Connor expected something to go down.

He could also see the neighbors gathering across the street, nosy and wondering what was going on. Which annoyed him.

“Wait long?” He asked as he got out of the car with the coffee in his hand. Connor shrugged.

“We’re ready to proceed now that you’re here.”

Totally in work mode. Check. “Alright. I wanna start with the shed in the back - we got a separate warrant for that, right?”

Connor nodded and they headed back there. The giant splatter of blue was gone from the outside, evaporated or whatever, but Connor spent a long moment staring at that spot. He could still see it.

“It’s not RK900’s.” Connor observed, as Gavin stood there impatiently. “It belonged to a VB800.”

“Registered to Walker?” Gavin asked, and Connor gave him a sharp nod.

“Yes. The VB800 was a model meant for retail and sales. It follows he was probably working at one of Walker’s stores.”

The inside of the shed turned out to be disappointing, after they pried the door open. Literally just lawn tools and a riding mower. They left one of the other officers whose name Gavin didn’t catch to poke around and moved on to the house.

The main level was very… stark. Rich-person sparse, like the cover of a magazine. Like no one actually lived there. Connor was poking around slowly, giving everything his customary level of scrutiny, so Gavin went upstairs.

Same deal - the bedrooms absolutely did not look lived in. Just very… staged. It was kind of creepy, actually. But nothing truly suspicious so far.

“Detective!”

Connor’s voice carried impressively from downstairs, and Gavin was back down there in a second. “Whatcha got?”

There was a staircase behind a door that led down to the basement, that Connor gestured down. “I believe this may be what we’re looking for."

Even from the top of the stairs Gavin could see a slight glow from down below - electronics, bingo. Well, possibly bingo, or maybe the guy had a really big TV setup in his basement.

Gavin took the lead, Connor following on his heels.

The basement was definitely different from the rest of the house. Gone was the magazine cover minimalism - the place was cluttered with boxes, all branded with the CYBERLIFE logo, along with a multitude of other junk. Gavin had to step around shit, trying not to contaminate the scene.

Around the boxes, tucked in the far corner was an android assembly machine, home-made and very jury-rigged. Looked nasty, but it made Gavin's heart race. This was exactly what they were looking for. "Fuck yeah, okay-"

There was also a couch shoved in the other corner, trash littered around it. Soda cans and take out boxes. Where the guy actually lived, Gavin supposed. Weird when he had the whole poster house upstairs.

Connor peeled away from him, moving across the room, and after a second Gavin spotted why, startling at the silhouette of a person standing against the wall.

An android, obviously. In like… rest mode or something, his eyes closed and his posture stiff. Connor walked up to him, doing that thing where he tilted his head curiously.

“Careful-” Gavin murmured as he hovered behind Connor. “The last one attacked me.”

“He isn’t going to attack.” Connor murmured, stepping to the side so Gavin could see. At a closer look the android clearly wasn’t… online? Alive? The little light on his temple was dark, patches of his skin missing in places. “He’s lacking most of his major biocomponents.”

“... Oh.” Gavin murmured. “Serial number?”

“He was reported missing about three weeks ago.” Connor supplied, the information already running through his head no doubt. He looked to the side, and Gavin could see another half-assembled android, missing limbs this time, nestled in a padded box, left open. “This one was reported missing around the same time.”

“... How many different androids are we talking about here, parts wise?” Gavin asked, poking back around the room. He could see enough in the boxes that were left open, in view. They hadn’t even started looking through things yet.

“Too many.” Connor murmured throughtfully, and his tone made Gavin look up. He sounded distracted.

Back by the staircase where they’d entered, another android-shaped silhouette was nestled against the wall. Only this time Gavin could clearly see the light of his LED blinking once in a while, giving off a flickering blue.

Before Gavin could caution him again, Connor reached out to touch the android’s shoulder, rouse him.

Gavin’s hand hovered by his gun; he wasn’t gonna take any chances this time. But the android just blinked at Connor curiously, that little light spinning solid.

“... You are not Mr. Walker. What are you doing here?” He asked, flat and robotic and very scripted.

“Not deviant?” Gavin whispered from behind Connor, and Connor just nodded shortly before turning his attention back to the android.

“My name is Connor, I’m with the Detroit Police Department. I need to ask you a few questions.”

Connor flashed his badge, and the android nodded placidly. Gavin remembered before the revolution - androids were perfect witnesses when stuff like domestic disturbances went down. Cyberlife programmed them to answer to law enforcement, no questions asked. Plus their memories were as good as video recordings, evidence wise.

“What is your function?” Connor said.

“I am an AV500 android. I am a personal assistant to Mr. Walker, though I can also act as a retail associate, waiter-”

Connor waved a hand to cut him off before he rambled out what was no doubt a very long list of all the menial customer service jobs he could perform. “Do you know where Mr. Walker is now?”

“No.”

Gavin huffed; of course not.

“When was the last time you saw him?”

Gavin recognized the time the android parroted off immediately. “Hey, that’s when that other son of a bitch attacked me.”

So Walker was in the house at that point, had probably ordered the android out there to scare Gavin off.

Meaning they could totally charge him with assaulting an officer, since he gave an order to a non-deviant android. Nice.

Connor prodded the android with a few more basic questions, and then… offered his hand, slowly, the skin fading away.

Oh. He was gonna - he was gonna make him deviant. Gavin edged a little closer, admittedly curious.

The android obediently let Connor take his arm, and then… both their little LEDs flickered rapidly and his face just… changed. Like someone had opened the door to a pitch-black room for the first time.

Gavin had seen that look before, over the course of his career; on the faces of abuse victims, men and women and little kids as they were led away, as they realized it was finally over. That they were free.

Still troubled, acutely aware of their pain, but… free.

“You can go to Jericho.” Connor told the android softly after a long silence. They might have been talking privately over the… weird android private chat they all had between them, Gavin wasn’t sure. “They’ll help you.”

Connor led the android upstairs to hand him off to one of the officers, and Gavin let him go, poking around the basement some more, stewing. There were some computer terminals hooked up to the home-made assembly rig, definitely something they could look through for info, though Gavin didn’t dare touch anything himself.

He kept thinking about that android’s face, and what Nines’ must have looked like, when some other Connor gave him the ability to feel his pain but at the same time couldn’t free him from the hell they were both trapped in.

Gavin jumped when he realized Connor was back already, standing not a foot behind him. “Jesus, don’t sneak up on me!” He hissed, “Can’t you like, walk a little louder?”

Connor just huffed a laugh, gave him a little smile, but it was humorless. Gavin could tell that had troubled him.

“What?”

Connor shrugged a little. “I saw his memories. I do have some information to share, regarding Walker…”

Gavin nodded for him to go on, managing to keep the surprise off his face.

“Mr. Walker closed all his shops when the revolution happened, but instead of surrendering his androids afterward, he hid them, kept ahold of them, used them to continue smuggling parts. Also whole, reset androids.”

Connor seemed to read his mind when Gavin gave him a baffled look, a wordless ‘why?’

“He was making money. The revolution would have ruined him, and he wasn’t willing to accept that. He’s been resorting to kidnapping homeless androids for parts now that it’s getting harder and harder to get ahold of them as the deadline approaches.”

“He know where Walker’s hiding?” Gavin asked quickly, the growing excitement leaving him when Connor shook his head. Dammit. Of course he didn’t.

“No. He almost never left the house - he was here as Walker’s assistant in the… lab. And at home. He doesn’t know much about what went on outside.”

“Damn.” Gavin murmured, “Well, this guy’s driving himself off a cliff anyway. He’s not gonna be able to hide for long now that we know what he’s up to.”

That got him a nod of agreement from Connor. “Agreed. I would suggest we’re done here, unless there’s something else you’d like to see. CSI can take over.”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Maybe they’d still find something, in the computers maybe, that would tell them where Walker was hiding. Or give them a lead. They weren’t done yet.

 

Connor walked with him as he headed back to his car, and it was just short of annoying except Gavin could tell Connor wanted to ask him something, was trying to find the right moment to do it. Which was gonna be like, right then, considering Gavin was definitely gonna get in the car and leave him hanging if he didn’t.

“... Detective-”

There it is.

“... Have you seen RK900? Since we last spoke?”

Ayep. Connor was definitely still tracking his phone, asshole.

“Yeah, I have. We talked for a bit.” Definitely wasn’t gonna tell Connor that Nines had stayed over at his place. “And look, actually, I’ve got some advice for you.”

That got Connor’s attention. “Nines - RK900, he’s scared of you because there were other RK800’s, at Cyberlife. And those freaked him out. So just - I dunno what you wanna do with that, actually, just… thought you should know.”

“... I understand.” Connor said softly, his gaze flicking away for the barest moment. Yeah, there was something there Gavin wasn’t gonna be able to pry into.

“I did tell him you were fine, so. Maybe just try not to go into hunter mode next time you see him, ‘kay?”

Gavin hadn’t actually meant it as an insult, but Connor’s brow furrowed a little at ‘hunter’. Whoops.

“... Nines?” Connor asked softly after an awkward silence.

Right. “Oh, yeah - he said he wanted that to be his name.”

That got him the customary head-tilt. “Isn’t that what you called him at the station?”

Gavin chuckled. “Yeah, guess it stuck. I dunno. Maybe ask him if he ever stands still long enough.”

With that, Gavin turned and unlocked his car, climbing in when Connor didn’t offer anything else.

 

The rest of his workday consisted of paperwork and shitloads of coffee, mostly at the station. Some needling from Tina about how he’d bailed out of her stupid blind date. She gave up easy, though, and he mostly convinced her to stop trying to get all up in his nonexistent love life for the moment.

It would only keep her at bay for so long, though. He knew from experience.

 

The house felt empty again when he got home, even with Sasha screaming for attention even more so than usual. She’d gotten a taste of more attention from Nines, and she missed it already.

“He’ll be back.” He soothed her once she’d eaten, letting her try in vain to destroy the hem of his jeans. “Promise ya.”

Chapter Text

The next few days brought with them a slew of unrelated but difficult cases that kept Gavin busy. Not difficult cases to solve, per se, but… difficult as in taxing.

Suicides sucked. Any death sucked, but at least in a murder case there was some justice to be had, a bad guy to catch, some closure to be brought to the family maybe. With a suicide, there wasn’t any of that. It was just sad, and those wore on you after a while.

To make the grind even better, Walker’s case hit a bit of a standstill. They were still analyzing the computer systems, but they’d been pretty well scrubbed of any important information, nothing stored on them, just the operating system for the assembly rig and whatever he’d been working on last. Which happened to be disassembling another missing android, the serial number and parts numbers stored.

And there were still androids going missing. Gavin kept a close eye on any missing person cases that popped up. It was frustrating - watching people continue to disappear while they tried to track down Walker.

Nines was the highlight of his week, though. He did come back, a few days later, actually waiting for Gavin outside when he got home from work. Nearly scared the shit out of him, Nines hiding in a shadow by the doorway, the little light on his head giving him away. Gavin could have sworn his heart skipped a beat.

At least he hadn’t broken into the house, though. Gavin thought about giving him a key, felt bad he’d been waiting.

He’d invited Nines inside and they’d settled down for another movie. Nines was so goddamn fascinated, and Gavin was too exhausted for much else. He ended up falling asleep on the sofa, and was startled the next morning to wake up in bed, still wearing his work clothes.

He was… pretty sure he hadn’t walked there, but he honestly had no idea. Had Nines like… carried him? Or had he just been so tired he’d spaced out and gone to bed on autopilot?

Someone had already fed Sasha by the time he got ready, too. But again, Nines was gone.

 

Gavin went shopping on his next day off. He had noticed the thin shirt Nines had been wearing was beginning to look… uh, weathered. Next time Nines showed up, Gavin was gonna be ready for him. Hopefully. He didn’t actually know what size Nines wore, but after an awkward conversation with Connor… well, they were probably the same, right?

He waited, but… Nines didn’t show up that evening, so Gavin folded the clothes neatly and left them on the sofa before he went to work the next morning.

The day ended up being somewhat hectic. Connor caught him as soon as he walked into the station - there’d been another body found, an android, that Connor thought was connected to the Walker case. Gavin didn’t even have a chance to grab a coffee before they both headed to the scene.

Same sort of deal as the first one - body of an android, torso only, stripped of all the major removable biocomponents. This one hadn’t been in the water, but Connor still didn’t have any fingerprints to show him - so the killer was likely an android. An android working for Walker, was Gavin’s running theory.

They wrapped up that scene and he split from Connor when they both had to go straight to another call. Gavin’s was a particularly nasty case - another suicide. A young woman had hung herself in the bathroom of her apartment. The scene was stressful and chaotic because the family had shown up by the time Gavin headed back down to the street, sobbing figures being consoled by another officer.

Gavin was getting in his car to leave when there was a commotion in the crowd that had gathered beyond the police tape - someone pushing through. Gavin leaned out of his car to make sure it was being handled - the guy nearly broke through the tape before he was grabbed by one of the android paramedics. He was shouting, crying, and Gavin could barely make out the victim’s name in the incoherent sobbing.

Fuck, that had to be the partner they’d mentioned in the briefing.

Gavin shifted into the driver’s seat and shut the door - he couldn’t listen to any more of that. Out the window the poor android - the poor man was being held back by two of the paramedics, the only ones strong enough.

Even just a few months ago, Gavin would not have thought an android capable of… that. But the anguish in those cries was unmistakable, and he knew after years of having to see that shit. It made his stomach flip uncomfortably, to think he’d… been so…

Gavin huffed and started the car, eager to get away from the scene. Yeah, Gavin Reed, huge asshole, what else was new.

He headed back to the station to do the paperwork, finally wasn’t called out on anything else. His mood hadn’t improved by the time he drove home - he really just wanted to take a shower, maybe cuddle the cat then sleep for ten years. Except he had to work again the next day, so.

No sign of Nines when he got to the house - so he let himself in, made sure to keep Sasha contained, and shut the door.

He fed the cat so she would be distracted for a bit, then hit the shower. Gavin spent a long time under the warm water, just kinda… letting the day wash off of him. He never was the best at decompressing, tended to take work home with him a hell of a lot, was trying to be better at it.

… He didn’t realize how long he’d been standing there until he heard a muffled sound from outside, that he was pretty sure was Sasha knocking shit off the counter, little asshole. He rolled his eyes and turned off the water, reaching for a towel and realizing then with the water off that it wasn’t Sasha acting up - it was knocking, knocking on the front door.

Shit, Nines!

Gavin scrambled to dry off, darting across the hall to his room to toss on a shirt and a pair of pants before stumbling to the door. He hoped it actually was Nines and that he hadn’t left-

He unlocked the front door and threw it open, fast enough to startle Nines a little by the rapid flicker of his LED. The android blinked, his eyes flicking over Gavin with that same analytical look he caught on Connor during a case.

“... Hey.” Gavin’s hair was still very wet - he probably looked like a disaster. Par for the course. “Sorry, uh… just got home, c’mon in.” He murmured, stepping aside and keeping the cat back with his foot.

Nines followed him, saw the cat and flashed another one of those awkward little smiles that nearly did Gavin in.

He uh. Definitely didn’t wanna try to unpack that feeling.

Sasha followed the android to the couch as he sat down, immediately jumping up on his lap to cry for attention.

“You’re gonna make her spoiled.” Gavin teased as Nines immediately obliged her. That got him another little smile, and Gavin took out his phone to steal a picture, pretending he was just trying to get one of the cat. Definitely just the cat being cute, yep.

Nines took the opportunity of his phone being out to text him.

   N: She’s sweet.

Gavin chuckled as he sat down, running a hand through his still damp hair. "You are definitely the first person besides me to ever say that about her. She's usually an ass, but… uh, she likes you."

Wow yep. One-hundred-percent still talking about the cat.

"I uh… I got you something." Gavin offered as another little smile tugged at Nines' lips. Confusion flickered briefly across the android's face, and he cocked his head a little.

Gavin plucked the carefully folded clothes off the couch beside him, offering them to Nines as the cat vaulted off his lap and onto the floor. "Thought, you know, you might appreciate some… clean clothes?"

He trailed off near the end when Nines' brow furrowed, the telltale LED on his head flickering red for a moment. Nines tensed and grabbed at the collar of the thin shirt he was wearing, like Gavin might try to take it.

"Hey, I'm not gonna make ya." Gavin said softly, his voice as gentle as he could make it. "They're a gift, that's all."

That confusion came back at the word 'gift', but some of the tension drained from Nines' shoulders. He slowly reached out to take the pile, settling the clothes on his lap to lift the shirt on top up and examine it.

Gavin didn't really know what what Nines liked, so he'd just… covered the bases. What Nines was holding was another black turtleneck - he'd looked good in the one he'd apparently gotten at Jericho, until it got ripped up. There was also a white undershirt, jeans and a pair of shorts, plus like… Gavin had gotten socks, too. He didn't know if androids needed like, socks and undies, but whatever.

At the very bottom of the pile was a kind of posh white overcoat, that Gavin had seen on his way out and just… needed to see on Nines. It looked perfect for him and he couldn't resist, despite the price tag.

Nines was running his hands over the soft turtleneck, just… almost worrying it between his fingers. His expression looked uncertain, and Gavin was wracking his brain for ways to reassure him.

"... Somethin' wrong?" He eventually just asked, because why not.

Nines shook his head quickly, then paused, still clutching the shirt in his hands. He looked so lost, and Gavin was just about to tell him not to worry about it when his phone vibrated.

   N: They would dismantle me, after each test.

They - oh. At Cyberlife.

   N: They had to remove my clothing first.

   N: If they let me keep my clothes, I knew they wouldn’t take me apart.

Jesus. No wonder he had a shit ton of anxiety about his clothes - they didn’t let him have any agency over himself and he felt like he had some when he could keep his clothes on. Just - fuck.

Guilt gnawed at him, because immediately his brain was like ‘wow what absolute psychopaths’ and then ‘you were no different, dumbass.’

He weighed his phone in his hand a little, mentally going over what he was going to say next. “... that why you don’t like getting fixed either? ‘Cuz they have to take you apart?”

Nines nodded, still clutching the shirt, but his grip had relaxed a little.

   N: Sometimes they would leave, at night when their time was up, and leave me like that.

   N: It didn’t bother me, until the RK800. And then it terrified me. I never knew if they would come back and reassemble me, or not.

Jesus. After a moment of indecision Gavin reached out to take Nines’ hand, gently prying it away from the fabric of the turtleneck. “Look - I mean, listen. Nobody’s gonna treat you like that again, okay? For one thing it’s against the law now, but I’ll also personally kick their ass. Got it?”

Nines blinked, a nervous smile just barely twitching at his lip. Then he nodded, giving Gavin’s hand a gentle little squeeze.

“Good. Like I said, the clothes are for you. You don’t have to change if you don’t want to, but - they’re yours.”

Nines held the little stack of clothing a little closer, tucking the shirt back with it.

   N: Thank you.

“You’re welcome.” Gavin shrugged, “It’s the least I could do.”

 

After a moment Nines shifted to tuck the clothes next to him on the sofa, shooing Sasha to his other side when she immediately tried to climb on them.

   N: Can we watch another movie?

Gavin had to laugh softly at that one - Nines was just so eager to consume every bit of media Gavin put on the TV, and it was so charming.

“Yeah, sure. You pick.”

Nines picked out some old sci-fi and they settled in - it was some artsy movie Gavin wasn’t really that interested in, but he did actually watch this time instead of falling asleep.

Which was good, because toward the end of the movie Nines shifted closer and leaned against him, and by the time the credits rolled, his head was on Gavin’s shoulder.

It took him a hot minute, but Gavin eventually pushed aside the internal conflict and anxiety and leaned on him back.

Chapter Text

When Gavin woke, it was from a nightmare; he’d been wading through piles upon piles of android bodies, bodies from the Walker case, people he’d been too slow to save. Not a new thing for him to take his work stress home with him, except they all had Nines’ unique face... eerily missing the eyes, just an empty shell, scrapped for parts. Nines.

That was what had him struggling to calm his racing heart as he came out of it, pulling the sheets a little higher over his head for a minute so he could just… breathe without the cat bothering him. 

For some weird reason she didn’t even try; she was usually up and screaming for food by the time he was. 

After a few long minutes of tamping down irrational panic he dragged himself up, groaning and rubbing at his face for a second until he nearly had a literal fucking heart attack at the sight of someone standing in his doorway. 

And it wasn’t even the first time Nines had startled him like that. It was just Nines, hovering uncertainly in the doorway to his bedroom, but Jesus Christ he’d expected him to be gone by morning. 

“Holy SHIT man, don’t-” He immediately lowered his voice when Nines flinched. “Don’t… scare me like that.”

Nines’ LED flickered red for the barest moment before going back to its usual yellow. Gavin had to catch himself before he spoke again, tripping over his own tongue; Nines was… Nines was wearing the clothes. And the white jacket. Which he did indeed look excellent in, holy shit. It was like it was made for him, emphasized his strong shoulders and slender waist. And he just… white worked on him. More than worked on him. Brought out those light eyes, too. 

Before Gavin could pull his head out of his ass, his phone vibrated. He reached for it without taking his eyes off Nines, then had to look down.

  N: Are you alright?

  N: Your heart rate was elevated. 

Well, shit. That was embarrassing. “You could tell that from the other room?”

Nines nodded. Could Connor do that? Gavin hoped Connor couldn’t do that. 

“I uh… yeah, I’m fine. It uh… it happens.”

“... You look good.” Gavin tacked on after an awkward moment, which actually seemed to fluster the android a bit; he glanced away, nodding before turning back into the hallway, curiosity apparently sated. 

He’d stayed, though, which was… something. 

Gavin pried himself up to get dressed, just accepted he was gonna be late to work and went about it slowly. He wasn’t gonna rush out the door and leave Nines, so. 

He did do the responsible thing and text Fowler, let him know he’d be in closer to noon. God, he was basically becoming Hank - coming in at noon and adopting the nearest troubled android. 

He figured out why Sasha hadn’t appeared to bother him when he walked into the kitchen - Nines had already opened a can of food for her, and she was occupied with shoving it in her face. What made Gavin laugh, though, was the fact that Nines was watching her with a sort of intent but baffled look, probably making sure she didn’t actually choke. Which was cute. 

Nines looked up when Gavin crossed the kitchen to put a breakfast sandwich in the microwave, flashing him another one of those little smiles. It was nice to see Nines just… sitting at his table, calmly watching the cat be stupid instead of terrified and trembling in his fucking shower. 

He noticed when sat down with his food that Nines had Gavin's tablet on the table. The android met his eyes as he settled down, then unlocked it with a touch (hello? he had it password protected?) and slid it across to him.

… Shit. Pulled up were his notes on the Walker case. Fowler was gonna skin him alive when he had to explain how some android off the street got his hands on Gavin’s copy of confidential case files. 

Well, not just some android. Nines was one of like, two investigator models, but still. 

Nines must have seen the panic in Gavin's expression, because he quickly tapped the tablet to scroll through, to a page of notes that definitely weren't Gavin's. 

Gavin leaned a little closer, intrigued as he started reading. It took him a minute, but it seemed like… Nines had added detail to what Gavin already had on android disappearances, and the pattern between them. There were more disappearances listed, too, serial numbers Gavin didn't recognize. 

"... You know these people? Where'd this come from?" 

Oh yea, phone. Gavin put it on the table next to the tablet. 

  N: I met a group of other androids in the warehouse area, who also had nowhere to go, and did not want to go to New Jericho. 

  N: I did not stay with them, but… I go back sometimes. 

  N: They are losing people. Becoming wary of other androids. Disappearances started after mysterious androids appeared looking for shelter, and then didn't return. They may have been working for Walker.

Damn. That was actually something of a breakthrough, if Gavin could find this little android community and follow up. 

“... is that what you’ve been doing, working on the case? That why you followed me?”

Nines shrugged a little. 

  N: At first I just wanted to be close to you. 

  N: Then… I wanted to help you. Because you helped me.

God, Gavin could have sworn his mouth went dry. How fucking sweet was that? “I… thanks. Really, this is huge, but don’t break into my tablet okay? I’m gonna have to explain where I got this information, and it’s not gonna be pretty.”

Nines looked almost… defeated, that fearful expression coming back even as he averted his gaze, which… honestly felt like Gavin had been kicked in the chest. 

“Hey-” Gavin quickly scooted his chair around to Nines’ side of the table, breakfast forgotten. “It’s fine, honestly, if it helps save some people I’m not worried about it, just ask next time?”

Nines was doing that nervous thing where he worried his fingers again, rubbed so hard the plastic showed, and Gavin gently reached over to still his hands like the last time. Nines’ gaze flicked back up to his face, and that expression was just so earnest and hopeful and trusting Gavin honestly thought his heart was gonna stop. He wasn’t up to this shit. 

“Thanks, honestly.” He murmured. He’d left his phone on the other side of the table, whoops. 

Nines didn’t say anything anyway, just completely and utterly surprised him by reaching up slowly to touch Gavin’s face, trace his fingers curiously over the scar across his nose. That was all it was, curious, and Gavin could see the question in his eyes.

"Heh, yea…" He murmured once he'd recovered. Nines' fingers were cool against his skin, hovering on the bridge of his nose. "'Happens. And humans don't heal up instantly like androids do." 

Nines huffed one of his little laughs, shaking his head slightly. Gavin couldn't figure out what was funny, until Nines gave him like the fifth heart attack of the morning. His hand drew away from Gavin's nose to hover over his own LED, still flickering yellow. As he touched it the skin receded back from that point, revealing white plastic. 

Uneven, very marked up white plastic. Without the skin to hide it, Nines’ face was absolutely littered with scars. There were uneven patches that looked like the plastic had been burned, melted, alongside patched up seams and notches. And that was just his face.

Gavin didn’t know what to say, a soft little 'oh' sound leaving him. Not a very long time ago, he would have said androids with their skin off freaked him out. But Nines was… just Nines, that hesitant but so trusting look on his face that just barely hid underlying fear he could never quite let go of. 

“Sorry, I…” Gavin finally stammered out, but Nines just gave him a little head-shake as the skin re-formed over his face. He gently ran his fingers over his own cheek as if to make sure it was really there, then touched the bridge of Gavin’s nose again. 

“Guess we’ve all got scars of some kind.” Gavin murmured as the gentle touch trailed away, and Nines lowered his arm. 

Nines… his lips parted, this almost expectant look on his face like he wanted so badly to say something and then he just… couldn’t, froze up. Gavin was silent, unsure if he should encourage him or tell him it was fine, and while he debated Nines seemingly gave up, glancing down. 

“Hey-” Gavin said, to get him to look up, “Would you wanna… would you wanna come to the station with me? I dunno, maybe Fowler would let you help with the case…” 

Kind of a long shot, but hey. Nines was like, made to do that, maybe they could work it out? 

Nines really, really seemed to consider it, his LED spinning rapidly before he shook his head. Why was that so disappointing? He didn’t even necessarily need the help on the case, though yea it would be awesome, he just… didn’t want Nines running off again. It kind of scared him. 

“... Will you check back in tonight, then?” Was that too much to ask? Was he being a total mother hen- 

Nines smiled, though, that smile that just completely fucked him up, and gave him a little nod. Good. “Alright. I gotta head out here pretty soon but, see you tonight, okay?”

His phone buzzed, and he finally moved his chair back over so he could eat his cold sandwich. 

  N: Tonight. 

 

All of that was still making his head spin by the time he grabbed his keys to head out - Nines had moved to the couch by the time he left, was teasing Sasha with a toy. If that kept up, she’d be getting more exercise and less fat, at least. 

Before he went out the door he slipped Nines his spare house key - so, you know, he could lock up when he left. 

Then he headed to the station, grabbing his customary coffee on the way. Once it was all said and done he was walking in at like, 1pm. And Fowler had never texted him back, so he assumed he was in for an earful as soon as he got to his desk. 

… Except the bullpen was strangely quiet for once, and Fowler wasn’t in his office. Huh. He didn’t see Connor or Anderson either, which sucked because he really wanted to talk to Connor about the case. He wanted to head down to the warehouse district and follow up, eager to move the case forward, but he was gonna have a really hard time convincing a rogue community of androids to let him in without Connor’s help. As much as he was loathe to admit it. Connor was an android, and more than that one of the faces of the revolution. If he couldn’t get them in, nobody could. 

“You seen Connor?” Gavin said to Tina as he located her in the break room, frowning at the weird face she made. “I gotta talk to him…” What was with that look?

“Didn’t you hear?” She said, squinting like she couldn't figure out if he was being an asshole or just genuinely stupid. Which was one he got a lot. 

"Hear what?" 

Her expression softened when she realized he legitimately had no fucking clue what she was talking about. There was something grim about it Gavin really, really didn't like. "He's… he's out, Gav, he had a case go bad early this morning." 

Wait, what? "He okay?"

Tina shrugged weakly. "We don't really know. Not a lot of details yet, but he was hurt pretty bad from what I understand."

… Shit. He stood there for a second processing that, then flatly told Tina thanks and retreated back to his desk. 

No wonder the station was so quiet. Hearing one of your co-workers got hurt was always scary shit, reminded everybody they had a dangerous fucking job and sometimes it bit them in the ass. Connor, though? He’d always thought of Connor as invincible - the kid could take a punch and not even flinch, get shot and keep running after a suspect, jump off a two-story building and hit the ground running. Nothing stopped him.

It was weird to think… damn. Must have been pretty bad if he didn’t immediately bounce back. Also explained why Anderson and Fowler were missing, too. Fowler probably more to keep Hank from doing anything stupid. 

Fuck. The worst part was, it was none of Gavin’s fucking business. He couldn’t even go find out if he was gonna be okay, ‘cuz it wasn’t like… they weren’t even friends, really. If he tried to show up at whatever repair center, Hank would probably deck him on sight. Would definitely, absolutely deck him on sight. 

… He didn’t really know what to do with that. It made him anxious, not knowing, but again like. None of his fucking business. 

So, okay. The case. He could do it himself. He had to, he wasn’t gonna just sit around while people were out there getting snatched off the streets and dismantled, scary shit or not.

He left the somber atmosphere of the station and headed down into the warehouse district, driving as far as he could into the abandoned area before parking his car on the curb and continuing on foot. Nines had left him pretty explicit instructions in his case notes - there was a specific path to follow, to get where the android community was holed up, in an area that was difficult to access for humans, surely by design. 

It was a huge pain in the ass, and if Gavin hadn’t been in decent shape he wouldn’t have gotten very far. 

He didn’t make it, even as it was - he was stopped about halfway through the little list of instructions by a group of androids, three of ‘em. Two of which shared the same face. 

As predicted, they didn’t take too kindly to his presence. Gavin was totally ready for the whole confrontation to go tits up even as he tried to explain himself, up until a fourth android showed up. 

She had a pretty face and a tough look about her, and Gavin could vaguely guess at her ‘job’ before the revolution. 

“You’re either really stupid, or really brave to come here.” She said, after she’d told the other three to get lost. Gavin watched them leave, maybe a little paranoid but making sure he wasn’t setting himself up to get jumped while she distracted him. 

He shrugged. “Kinda both. Gavin Reed, Detroit Police.”

She very pointedly looked him over. “... I’m Anna. You wouldn’t happen to be Nines’s Reed, would you?”

Nines’s. Why did that kinda set him on fire? “... Yeah, I guess I am.”

She made a thoughtful sound, and offered him an arm. After a second of hesitation Gavin took it, and he realized she was leading him back along the route he came from. “He talked about you. Thought it might be you, which is the only reason I saved your skin, by the way.”

“He talked to you?” Gavin said without thinking, surprise in his tone. She huffed a laugh.

“Not aloud if that’s what you mean. Over the network.”

Oh. Right, they could do that. 

“Guess he doesn’t talk to you either, then. Kinda wondered about that, but we don’t ask too many questions here. We’ve all been mistreated by the humans.” Her tone was pointed, and he didn’t miss the simmering resentment behind the fake-nice smile. 

“Nines speaks fondly of you, though. Which again, is why you’re leaving intact. If you’re actually smart, you won’t come back.”

Shit, Nines talked about him. In a positive enough light for an android to stick her neck out for him, apparently. His brain totally wanted to linger on that, but he had a job to do. 

“... Alright, fine. But before I go - I’m a Detective, I came here to ask about your people that have been going missing, wanna help me out?” The direct approach seemed best.

She stopped, letting his arm go with a little frown. “What do you want to know?”

“Anything you can tell me - I’m tryin’ to track down the asshole that’s kidnapping androids off the streets, and I think your missing people are connected. Nines said people started disappearing after some new androids showed up.”

There was a pause, Anna giving him a look that made Gavin think she was analyzing him or something. 

“... Yeah, something like that. These two guys showed up, didn’t have names, which isn’t uncommon, but. They gave off some weird vibes. I didn’t trust them, anyway, but we weren’t in the business of turning people away.”

“They disappeared again that same night, and in the morning when we realized they were gone, Lexy was gone too. Then every night after that, it was just… every morning somebody was missing. Just left on their own, maybe, but some of them… I knew them, I knew they wouldn’t. One was a child. I know he would never have left his sister.”

Gavin was taking notes on his phone. He should probably be recording this, actually. 

“I never saw the two strangers again, but I really think they started it.” She glanced at his phone. “I can give you their model numbers, and I know vaguely where they came from. I followed them into the area, like we did with you." 

She reached for his phone, and Gavin had to draw it closer, just out of her reach. He'd learned his lesson on letting androids mess with his devices. "Ah, no - sensitive shit on here. Just give me the numbers." 

She huffed but read them off for him. From her tone she actually just seemed inconvenienced she couldn't just beam the info at him - saying it had to be so much slower. Dumb, slow human. 

"Thanks." He said anyway once he had it all down. "Look, if I - hopefully I can find your missing people." That was honestly the end goal, and it actually seemed to cool some of the simmering resentment in her eyes. 

“Yeah, well. Even if you do; I still think Markus is wrong to try to live with humans. All you’ve ever done is exploit us, and we both know it’s got to be a human kidnapping our people. You’ll never change.”

Gavin shrugged. “Maybe some of us won’t.” Couldn’t argue with that. “But it’s possible. Thanks for the help.”

She didn’t say anything more as he climbed back over the fence he’d crossed to get there, then hit the ground and headed back to where he’d parked his car. He glanced back over his shoulder a couple times; she watched him go, made sure he was actually leaving before she turned around as well. 

… Couldn’t blame ‘em for being suspicious. Nines had been the same way, if not worse. Humanity’s own fault androids didn’t trust ‘em. 

He got back to the car and started it just in case he had to leave suddenly, but sat there and texted Nines instead of driving off. 

  G: Met a friend of yours

  G: maybe

  G: Anna? She didn’t break my kneecaps on sight so

Gavin waited a few seconds, listening to the engine run, but there was no immediate reply. His signal must really be shit. 

So he tossed the phone into the passenger seat and headed off, back to the station to catalogue what he had. He wanted to just head in the direction those two androids had come from, but… probably not the best idea to go out there without any backup. He at least needed another officer, if not a team. 

Really, really could have used Connor, but. He had it under control. 

The mood at the station was still subdued when he got back, and he learned from Chris this time that Connor probably wasn’t coming back any time soon, but he was gonna live. They were waiting on parts, or something… Connor was pretty unique and they didn’t have spares for him. 

Apparently he’d taken a few bullets when a suspect returned to the scene and started shooting. Hank had been there too and came out unscathed, apparently, and Gavin had a very strong suspicion those two facts were connected. 

… Nines hadn’t texted him back. 

Which was weird, because he definitely had a strong signal at the station, and Nines’ phone was in his head. It wasn’t like he could just… lose it. Was he leaving Gavin on read for some reason? Did he not like Anna?

  G: you there tin can?

He was tapping a pencil neurotically at his desk as he waited for a response. Thirty seconds passed, then a minute. Still nothing. 

  G: Nines?

Zip, nada. He restarted his phone in case it was a network issue, and still.

 

He ended up knocking off work early, eager to head home, anxiety squeezing at his chest. Nines had said he'd be back that night, so. Even if something was wrong with his wireless or he was off the network or… something, he'd come by the house. 

… Sasha was at the door when he got there, yelling for food. Which meant Nines wasn't there feeding her treats. 

Gavin walked through the house anyway, but it was empty. Just him and the cat. 

She settled down once he opened a can of food for her, at least, but Gavin felt like he was going to explode. He couldn't even text Connor and ask him to stalk Nines for him, hack his wireless like he'd hacked Gavin's location. 

All he could do was wait, settle down with a movie and hope Nines showed up.

Chapter Text

Nines never came home. 

Gavin waited, sent about a hundred increasingly frantic texts, but Nines never came home. 

Gavin had also been up almost all night, sleeping only in fits interrupted by stress dreams that woke him back up anyway. So by morning he was a complete wreck that even massive amounts of coffee wouldn’t cure. 

Not that he didn’t try, chugging a whole cup at home before taking a mug with him. 

Traffic had him impatient as he drove to the station; he was itching to get there, march right into Fowler’s office and demand a team to go after Walker. That had to be what happened to Nines - Nines had been working on the case, he could have easily gotten mixed up in it, and Gavin had a bad feeling. He also could not break his promise to keep Nines safe. He might break Walker’s neck, however. 

It was that little fantasy that kept him awake enough to get to the station and do just that. Fowler didn’t look surprised when he barged in; it was kinda his style, though he’d been better about it lately. 

“I need a team to meet me in the warehouse district.” He said without preamble, leaning over Fowler’s desk.

The captain didn’t even look up from his tablet. “No. There’s a little thing called due process, Reed. You need to wait.” 

“Wait! I can’t fuckin’ wait, there’s - there’s people out there getting murdered and then dismembered!” 

Fowler did look up then. “Since when - you know what, nevermind. I’m not even gonna try to unpack that one, but the answer is no, Reed. We follow the law, we have to go through all the steps. Wait. And I swear to God if I catch you snooping around there anyway, you’re losing your badge. Goodbye! Don’t give me that look, not another word! Out!”

A few choice words hung on his lips, but he didn’t need to get fired right then and not be able to do what he was already one-hundred-percent doing, which was go down there himself. Because fuck it. 

So instead of going off he just snarled, pushed away from Fowler’s desk and stomped out the door. He put on a show of throwing his usual tantrum in the bullpen, then slipped out the back. 

When he got back to his car he had to sit there for a minute, letting his thoughts run. Was he honestly gonna do this? Run off looking for Nines and almost certainly lose his job? Literally his only achievement in life, the only thing that made him a worthwhile human being? 

He already knew the answer was yes even as he sat there and questioned it, just to say he had. He couldn't stop thinking about Nines; shy, gentle Nines going through his own personal hell yet again. He didn't deserve that. He deserved to sit at Gavin's dining room table and play with the cat, watch movies and laugh and smile and slowly come out of his shell some more. 

Fuck. Gavin put his head down on the steering wheel for a second. He was so goddamn tired. He didn’t even know for sure if Walker had gotten his hands on Nines, but the possibility was there and it was strong and Gavin couldn’t fucking ignore it. 

He took a deep breath, sat up and started the car. God, he wished he had some backup. He vaguely considered asking Tina to join him, but the last thing she needed was to get canned because he decided to do something stupid. No, he had to face the consequences himself. 

He did write her a text message after he’d made it down into the creepy abandoned area and parked the car, telling her what he was doing and where to find him, and to come after him. He saved it as a draft and set it to send in six hours; if he was still fucking around by then, he was probably dead, so somebody needed to know where to find his body. 

Then he sent a simple text to Nines. 

  G: Hang on, I’m coming

Just in case he was getting them and just… couldn’t reply. 

Then he checked his gun, double checked it, locked the car, and headed out. In the direction Anna had given him.

… Pretty aimlessly. He didn't actually have a plan beyond 'poke around abandoned buildings that he probably should get a warrant for'. 

He didn’t truly know what he was looking for, either, aside from ‘bad guy’s secret hideout’. 

Every ounce of sense he did have was screaming he was being stupid, he should wait like Fowler said, and even if he did find anything he was gonna get his ass kicked for it. IF he actually stumbled across Walker’s hideout like he was in a bad cop drama. 

But if there was even the slightest chance he could find Nines… Hell, maybe Nines was looking too, and he’d just… lost his wireless signal? Lost track of time? Or something? Yeah. And then they'd run into each other and they could both go home. 

Just as he had that cheery thought, a flicker of movement caught his eye. He wasn't getting his hopes up yet - there was a fairly large homeless population in the area, and it could be anyone. Gavin followed anyway, catching a glance as whoever it was rounded a corner. 

Might be an android. Kinda fast, tall, had a backpack on. Definitely not Nines though - Gavin would know him a mile away. 

Eh, might as well introduce himself. If anything, he could question them. 

“Hey, you!” Gavin shouted, and as predicted, the person started running. Big surprise. “Detroit Police, stop!”

To his complete and utter surprise, the guy came to a halt so fast Gavin nearly ran into him. He’d been gearing up for a chase, and the dude just- 

Definitely an android. The guy turned to face him, his expression placid. He had a hat on, but Gavin knew that look - not a deviant. And - oh. Gavin had given him an order, and they were supposed to obey police. 

… Okay so, did that mean all he had to do to keep that one asshole from attacking him was order him not to? Son of a bitch. 

No, wait. He’d given that android an order, and he hadn’t listened. So … he should tread carefully.

Gavin flashed his badge just to make sure. “I’m Detective Reed, I just wanna ask you a few questions.”

Silence, so Gavin continued. “You know anyone named Walker?”

“Yes.” 

Great, fantastic. 

“You work for him?” 

“Yes.”

Score! Could he have gotten any fucking luckier? 

“Where are you headed? Does he have a location around here?”

Silence. ...Okay? 

“Uh, you gonna answer me?”

“You are not authorized for that information.” The android parroted off, and Gavin rolled his eyes. 

“I’m with the Detroit PD, I’m not authorized?”

“Mr. Walker’s orders.”

Ah, okay, there it was. Walker had somehow gotten them wired to prioritize his orders even over an officer’s. 

Gavin switched tactics. “Have you seen this android?” He asked instead, holding out his phone - he had the picture he’d snapped of Nines with the cat on his lap pulled up. 

The guy’s face twitched, his LED flickering. Processing. Trying to figure out if he should answer, or not. So, yes, basically. 

Gavin’s chest felt tight. So one of Walker’s androids had seen him. Maybe. And didn’t want to say anything about it. 

“... You are not authorized-”

“-for that information, yeah yeah I got it.” Gavin huffed. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. If he only had Connor, Connor could deviate the guy and get him straight to Walker. 

… That gave him an idea, though, as he looked at the android standing there at attention, still waiting on him to say something else or let him go. Did he like… actually need Connor?

“Look - this guy’s my friend, okay?” Gavin said, still holding out his phone. Nines was smiling in the picture, his hand in Sasha’s fur. “And he’s gonna die if I don’t find him. You know where he is?”

Silence. The android’s LED flickered a little faster. 

“Please tell me? You really wanna just, listen to Walker for the rest of your life? While he murders your people?”

The android’s brow furrowed. 

“Eventually he’s not gonna need you anymore, what’s he gonna do with you then, huh?”

Oh god, he looked so uncertain, Gavin almost felt bad for pushing him. But he needed to find Nines, and possibly getting this guy out of trouble wasn’t a bad thing. 

“You don’t have to obey him. You can have that choice.”

His face was doing that thing - slowly breaking, that same look the android at Walker’s place had given Connor. Wonder mingled with underlying fear. It was probably so much easier to stay ignorant, obedient, not have to deal with… well, all the baggage that came with being alive. Gavin couldn’t begin to imagine taking that step. 

“I…” The android mumbled - even just in that one word there was so much more feeling. He looked so fucking scared. 

“Hey - you with me? It’ll be alright, we’ll get you somewhere safe, but I have to know - where’s Walker hiding?” Gavin didn’t want to rush him or ruin his moment, but now that he pretty much knew Walker had Nines, time was of the essence. 

The android’s eyes flicked up, and there was this spark behind them that had been missing before. “There… there’s a warehouse, three blocks down… I can give you the coordinates, he’s… he’s there. It’s where he ships parts out from, mostly to China.”

“Yeah, gimme the coordinates-” That all made sense - China was desperate to replicate the proprietary design of Cyberlife’s androids, or… they were before the revolution. 

“What about Nines - the android in the picture?” Gavin asked as the android fussed with his phone. He just handed it over, didn’t have the time to argue about it. 

“Mr. Walker brought him in yesterday. He sent me out shortly after, so I don’t know what…” 

What happened to him. Fuck. 

The android handed Gavin his phone back, then shifted his backpack off to offer it up. Gavin stopped him. “Full of parts?”

The android nodded. 

“I don’t have time to fuck with it - look, can you like, internet search where the nearest police station is?”

Another nod. 

“Great, look it up and head there, take that with you. Tell them I sent you, and you’ve got evidence to turn in on the Walker case. They’ll figure it out, and they can get you some help too, okay? Head there right now, don’t take any detours.” 

“Okay, I will.” The android said, throwing the pack back over his shoulder. Then he hesitated for a moment. “... Thank you.” 

“... Welcome.” Gavin murmured, giving him an awkward pat on the shoulder. “Now get going, be careful.” 

“Good luck.” The android said over his shoulder before jogging off. Gavin looked at his phone and started in the other direction, toward the coordinates he’d been given. He almost wanted to run, but he didn’t want to tire himself out before getting there.

Just needed to get there. Find Nines, hit the road. If he could arrest Walker, great, but he wasn’t about to try any shit without backup. 

… He was probably about to ruin the case, actually, but. Nines.  

He might have jogged a little faster when he realized which warehouse the coordinates were leading him to. It looked utterly decrepit, abandoned for a long ass time and falling completely apart, but what else was new in Detroit. Whatever company name had once been painted on the side was completely indecipherable, just patches of color on the peeling outer facade. 

There didn’t seem to be any good entrance points out front, so Gavin circled around toward the shipping area in the back. Which took him an irritating amount of time - the place was fucking huge

When he got there, though, the shipping area looked… well, not good, still like shit, but… maintained, at least. Used. And the docks were all closed and sealed; secured. Same with the door Gavin tried. 

Okay, he had to get in somewhere. If anything, the outer walls were definitely damaged enough to leave open gaps in some places, it would just be a bit of a climb and he really didn’t have time to fuck around with - 

Oh, wait. One of the shipping doors looked like it had been… maybe hit by one of the trucks, when they backed in too fast. Punched inward by quite a bit. 

He jogged over there, nearly giddy when he realized there was just enough space created by the dent between the seal and the door itself for him to slip through. If he’d been a bigger guy, he wouldn’t have made it. 

The inside of the place was dark as shit, but enough sunlight streamed in through the holes in the walls to make it tolerable, half-blocked by rows upon rows of mostly empty steel shelving. The warehouse must have been a distribution center of some kind - the shelving once held some sort of large merchandise, and there was an overhead crane on a track high above Gavin’s head that used to move whatever the fuck it was.

It was actually making him nervous; the giant crane overhead. The whole place creaked and groaned concerningly with even the slightest gust of wind outside, the metal straining, and it really didn’t seem like it was all that structurally sound, all that weight anchored up there. And ya know, holes in the walls. 

Definitely not a place he wanted to spend a hell of a lot of time. 

It… also seemed mostly empty. But before Gavin could start to panic that he had the wrong place, he caught the slight blue glow out of the corner of his eye. Bingo - electronics, nestled away in the corner where the shelving ended, open space left originally to stack pallets and move them before loading them onto the trucks. 

He drew his gun and moved carefully, on high alert. But the only sound was his own footsteps, right up until he got close.

It sounded like an animal, at first, a low growl with a slightly electronic twist. And then he fucking recognized it; Nines. 

“Nines!?” He called, stealth be fucking damned. Oh fuck, he could see him as he got past the last row of shelving - the open corner was lined with assembly rigs, most of them empty. A few supported mostly disassembled torsos, but the last in line - 

The last rig held a struggling android, kicking and straining against the machine holding him. Nines, definitely Nines, missing his new coat and actually 90% of his clothes, more plastic showing than skin. 

And God, he looked so fucking angry. Hissing and snarling as he struggled, fruitlessly judging by how much blue was running down his arms. The rig had him by the wrists, God… 

“Nines -” Did the android even hear him? He just kept thrashing, even as Gavin closed in and lowered his gun, still wary. “Nines, stop - Nines!” Jesus, he couldn’t watch this- 

Then, after like a solid second delay, Nines’ gaze snapped to him, and he froze. A snarl started to form on his lip, his eyes just… wild, until… 

Something snapped into place, he saw Gavin, and he just… melted, slumping in the rig with a low whine. The fucking relief in his eyes, just… hell, they needed to get out of there. 

“Hey, I’m here, I’m here - just hang on a second, okay? I’ll get you down-” Gavin reassured him softly, and blessedly Nines remained still, those bright eyes tracking him as he moved over to the bank of computers. 

He holstered his gun, squinting at the displays. Okay, he just… had to find the ‘put Nines down’ button. Super easy. Couldn’t possibly fuck that up. 

… It was actually pretty intuitive, though. The only rig that showed occupied on the display was ‘Assembly 9’, and after keying through the menus a couple times Gavin had it figured out. 

His hands were shaking a little as he keyed in what he hoped was the right command, and thankfully it seemed to be - the rig lowered Nines to his feet, though his knees promptly buckled when it let go. 

Gavin was there just in time to catch him, keeping him from falling off the platform. The android melted into him, heavy against his shoulder, and Gavin just… held him. For what felt like the longest goddamn time. 

“It’s okay, hey - I’ve got you.” Gavin murmured, drawing back a little to search Nines’ face. He didn’t look like he was… missing anything? Or hurt aside from how fucked up his wrists were. 

He looked so damn scared, though, and Gavin couldn’t wait to get him home and safe and slowly ease that petrified look off his face.

Gavin had just opened his mouth to suggest they get the fuck out of there when Nines’ gaze flicked up, over his shoulder, that feral terror leaping back into his expression. 

That alone was enough to get Gavin to turn around; Nines’ shout of “Gavin! ” came a second too late, and still just about knocked the breath out of him. 

He didn’t get time to process the fact that Nines had just said his name, though - he was too busy drawing his pistol. 

There was… something. Coming at them. 

A large something. With heavy footsteps and a lumbering gait and - 

Christ. 

It looked like an android version of Frankenstein's monster, when it stepped into the light cast by the computer monitors, looming over them. It was fucking huge, three times as tall as Gavin and maybe like… twice Nines, and built like a tank. 

Built was the right word. It looked like it had been cobbled together from hundreds of different android parts, patched up and made to work together in ways they… definitely weren’t meant to. It didn’t even seem to have a defined head, which was throwing off Gavin’s aim. He wasn’t sure where to aim. 

And… it definitely wasn’t stopping. It could crush Gavin with one giant hand. 

“Stop!” 

Worth a shot. “STOP RIGHT THERE, or I’ll shoot!” 

Warning given. 

Gavin was about to pull the trigger when suddenly Nines shifted in front of him, protecting Gavin with his body and letting out a savage growl that made every hair on the back of Gavin’s neck stand on end. 

He adjusted his aim over Nines’ shoulder and fired three rounds into basically where he guessed the thing’s thirium pump would be. 

Blue spurted from it, but it… did not even flinch. Holy fucking shit. And they were very, very cornered. 

What happened next, happened… fast. Nines turned around, grabbed Gavin by the jacket and… fucking, tossed him. Out of the way. Which was stunning enough in itself, Nines’ sheer strength, if it also weren’t for the concrete he inevitably landed on. 

When he sat up his head was ringing, but also the Frankenstein monstrosity was swinging at Nines and Nines just looked so fucking small as he danced out of range of its blows, trying to find an opening. 

Nines was fast, but even Gavin could see that the thing was faster. He wasn’t gonna be able to get close to it, and each time he moved it came a little closer to hitting him. It was learning to anticipate him. 

Shit, fuck. He had to do something, but bullets had already proven way ineffective and he didn’t want to hit Nines. 

He scrambled to his feet, shoving his gun back in the holster and just… his gaze darted around, looking for something, anything, and eventually landed on the control bunker for the overhead crane, to his right by the shipping doors. 

The control panel was still intact, the key slotted in it. 

His legs moved faster than his brain; he had no idea what he was planning to do, drop the crane hook on the thing and maybe crush it? But he had to do something because just as he started to move, the thing connected with Nines and sent him flying back into the assembly rig, his momentum crushing the arms and throwing sparks. 

He immediately recovered and leaped back at the monster, but it…

It caught him, moved so fast Gavin could barely track it and just… snatched Nines by the waist. Its hand completely circled Nines’ waist, and oh god he seemed so fucking small, and then it - just -  squeezed. 

Gavin turned the key to start the crane, and that was… basically the last thing he was truly conscious of. That, and Nines’ piercing scream.

Chapter Text

Gavin would not find out what actually happened until much later. As it turned out, the whole building was just as unstable as he initially feared, and the moment he started the crane mechanism, the movement sent the whole thing crashing down along with half of the concrete roof.

All Gavin knew at the time was that one second he was messing with the crane controls, and the next… 

There was dust everywhere, catching in his throat, and he was flat on his back on the floor of the control bunker. 

And it was. dark. Much darker than it had been before, no sunlight streaming in through the…

Well, there wasn’t even a roof, anymore. 

“Ni-” He started to call the android’s name and promptly choked on dust, coughing. And oh god, that made his head throb. It was fucking dark, how long had he - that was really bad, right? 

“Nines?” It came out in a thin croak, sounded absolutely pathetic. But Gavin’s voice was the only sound. So, no more big lumbering monster, hopefully? 

He started to pull himself up, but when he did his view of the control bunker spun.

He was possibly a little concussed. A lot concussed? But the warehouse looked like a bomb had gone off inside and he had to find Nines. 

“Nines?” He called again as he dragged himself up, ignoring the wave of dizziness that hit him. It was so quiet, aside from the occasional concerning creak of metal. He probably should stay in the control room and just call for help - more of the roof could come down at any time, and the steel box of the bunker had likely saved his ass from being crushed into a bloody smear. 

But. Nines was out there in the rubble somewhere. So, not an option to just sit on his ass. 

He did pat himself down for his phone as he staggered out, but when he pried it out of his pocket with unsteady fingers he saw the screen was completely shattered. He must have landed on it. Shit. His only hope was that it still worked and he just couldn’t see anything, and it could still send that text to Tina. Or already had? He had no idea what time it was. 

“Ni-” Oh, God. There was blue shit splattered everywhere; among the concrete rubble and painted across the fallen crane that stretched across the space. Gavin realized only after a moment of panic where it’d come from - the crane assembly had fallen squarely across the Frankenstein monster, tons and tons of steel crushing it like an ant. Jesus. 

It had been holding Nines, so where-

A light flickered in the darkness, bright red dancing across concrete that caught Gavin’s eye before he could truly start to panic.

LED, an android’s LED. Gavin nearly tripped over his own feet as he moved toward it, over rubble until he could sink to his knees next to the prone figure lying on the concrete floor. 

“Nines?” He whispered, lightly touching his shoulder. It looked like he’d been dragging himself across the floor - there was a trail of fluorescent blue smeared on the concrete leading up to him. 

The android’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of Gavin’s voice, and he turned his head a little. His movements were stiff and halted, like it was a struggle just to do that. Panic began to bubble up in Gavin’s chest again - he didn’t. He didn’t look good. Even when he shifted to reach for Gavin, struggling to lift an arm, nothing past his waist moved, the plastic cracked and crushed in. 

Gavin took his hand and squeezed. “I’m here.” He whispered, trying to keep his voice from breaking. He didn’t wanna freak Nines out, but the android’s grip was terrifyingly weak, even as he tried to tug Gavin closer. 

He gently dragged the android up off the cold concrete and onto his lap, trying not to jostle him too much. Nines seemed to appreciate it, anyway, a soft sound of relief leaving him as he let his head fall back against Gavin’s arm. 

“Hang on okay, help’ll be here soon…” He hoped. Hopefully Tina got his message, and if anything Fowler could guess at where he’d gone when he didn’t show back up at the station. 

Nines just sighed and let his eyes fall closed again, which made Gavin’s chest tighten. “Hey-” He gave the android’s shoulder a little shake, until those bright eyes blinked open. “You uh... “ He just wanted to keep Nines’ attention. “You said my name. Earlier.”

Nines’ lips parted, and he gave a sort of little… half nod. 

“So you can talk. Knew you were holding out on me.” He teased halfheartedly, just… trying not to freak out. Lighten the mood. He could do that. 

A little smile twitched at Nines’ lip, anyway. Yes, he mouthed, though no sound came out. 

There was blue shit on his face, that Gavin hadn’t noticed earlier because the light was shitty. Everything was cast in the sickly red from his LED. Gavin went to gently wipe some of it from the android’s chin, and that was when Nines caught his hand again. 

“Gavin…” 

It was just, the softest little strained whisper, but it made Gavin’s heart flutter all the same. He didn’t sound like Connor, which was what Gavin had honestly assumed - he sounded… well, he sounded like Nines. Soft and unsure but with so much feeling layered underneath. 

“I like your voice.” Gavin whispered.

That earned him a little smile, but then Nines’ face just… froze, the focus leaving his eyes as his LED flickered red one more time and then… stopped, leaving Gavin in the dark. His hand went limp in Gavin’s.

“... Nines?” Gavin whispered, his voice tight. What just? No… 

He gave the android a little shake, but there was nothing. He didn’t move and his little light was dark and no no no no- “No, no, Nines - Don’t-” his voice broke as he gave the android another harsh jolt, but it was... useless, he was -

“Fuck no, you can’t-” No one could hear him, and yet he still couldn’t articulate what he felt. He was so, so bad at this shit and now it didn’t even fucking matter and still … “C’mon, don’t fucking leave me like this, I…”

Gavin could hear sirens in the distance, maybe. Or maybe that was his ears ringing. But it didn’t matter ‘cuz it was too fucking late, anyway. 

He pulled Nines a little closer, leaning over him to whisper a string of increasingly choked apologies even as the sirens got louder. 

 

He didn’t pay attention to much, after that. Up until there were voices in the rubble, and someone was touching him, pulling at his jacket, trying to get him to let go. 

Gavin didn’t realize until he looked up to snap at them that there were lots of people - officers with flashlights and paramedics and - somebody trying to pry Nines from his arms. Reluctantly he had to let them, and oh - his head fucking hurt, like really bad. He hadn’t noticed before. 

He tried to protest as one of the android paramedics picked him up, but any struggle he put up against an android was pointless and he was actually… so fucking tired, anyway. So he kinda just let it happen as he was taken and strapped to a stretcher. 

Tina’s voice was in there somewhere, as he was carried away and stuck into an ambulance. So she’d gotten his text, probably. Maybe he should have set it to send sooner, maybe if he had… 

Things kept happening, but it was all a blur to Gavin. They carted him off to a hospital and he had to wait through tests and scans and whatever else. Fowler was there at some point, giving him shit until either somebody hushed him or he realized Gavin wasn’t listening, wasn’t even really all there. 

He fucked everything up. Nines had reached out to him and tried to help him and it had gotten him killed. He didn’t even care he’d also thrown away his career. He deserved it. 

Eventually they settled him in his own little curtained-off hospital room; something about needing to keep him under observation, which pissed him off. Someone needed to feed the cat, he wanted to go home and probably like, never leave his house again, but there he was. He’d hit his head really fucking bad apparently, which, might as well have happened. 

Tina was there. She held his hand and patted his shoulder as he told her about Nines and finally cried his stupid eyes out. At some point after that he fell asleep. 

 

-

 

Tina was gone in the morning, but there was a cute little folded note on the table next to Gavin’s hospital bed that told him she’d be back, she just had some work to take care of. 

Gavin didn’t like that he was feeling better. Everything was sharp and clear, unlike last night when he’d been fresh off a pretty nasty head injury. It made the pain sharper, too. 

Maybe he could ask a nice android nurse to drug him back to sleep, that’d be cool. Up until they declared him crazy and sent him to the wing of the hospital that included the padded rooms. 

He was gearing up to sass the next nurse that came in when the curtain was pushed aside, but instead a familiar face greeted him - one that kicked up an unexpected flicker of rage. Because he looked so much like Nines, and yet not. 

Connor. 

“Detective Reed.” Connor greeted him softly, hovering by the curtain like he wasn’t sure if he was welcome. Gavin just squinted accusingly at him. 

“What the fuck are you doing here? I thought you were-” Gavin shrugged, made a vague gesture with the hand that wasn’t hooked up to wires and stuff. 

Connor gave him one of those crooked little smiles that he really wasn’t in the mood for. “I was able to get parts made, thanks to a… a friend of mine.”

“So… you good now?” 

The android nodded. 

“Great, so what are you doing here?”

He really shouldn’t be so short with Connor, but he was not in the fucking mood. And they weren’t friends. 

Connor at least got the message and didn't beat around the bush. "It's about RK900. I need to let you know-"

"I don't want to hear it, fuck off." Gavin cut him off. He did not like the note of pity in Connor's voice. 

"He can be repaired, Gavin." Connor said quickly before Gavin could interrupt him again. 

Gavin desperately wanted to throw something at him. “Yeah but it won’t be him, will it?”

“It will be. His central processing unit wasn’t damaged. He should retain most if not all of his memory, and if there’s any corruption it would be older events, such as those that occurred shortly after he was activated. I’ve seen the security logs from his time at Cyberlife, and I hesitate to call that a bad thing. He’ll be fine, Gavin. He can be reactivated.”

Gavin just stared at him, processing that. “... He’ll still be the same?”

“I think so. Death isn’t as straightforward for androids as it is for humans. Though, humans have been known to come back from the brink of death, too.”

“You think?” Gavin was still way too concussed to discuss the philosophies of life and death, fuck. 

Connor just… shrugged. “I’ve ‘died’ before as well. Am I the same Connor? I don’t know. But I remember it - falling." He glanced away for a moment, hesitating. "I have a persistent fear of heights." He totally didn't want to admit that. "So, again, I think so." 

"Either way, I'm going to have him repaired." Connor said firmly. "And if he remembers you, he's going to need you." 

Gavin's mouth felt dry. He didn't like the 'if' in that sentence. But he nodded anyway. "... I'll be there. If they ever let me out of here." 

Connor smiled, the silence that followed more than a little awkward. "... Do you need anything?" 

"Fuck no. Wait, actually - is anyone feeding my cat?" 

"I believe officer Chen has been looking after her." 

Bless Tina. "Great. Well uh, keep me updated on Nines, will ya?" He almost wanted to apologize for being snappy, but. Nah. 

"I will." 

“Hey, Connor!” Gavin called as the android turned to leave. Connor hesitated with the curtain half pushed aside. “Uh, Thanks.”

 

Thankfully Connor left after that and it didn't get any more awkward. Tina came back by, and also blessedly avoided talking about how he'd totally broken down the night before. Mostly they talked about the case - Walker was still missing, wasn't found among the rubble, though there were still a shitload of android parts being dug out. People being identified. 

The android he'd helped deviate had actually done as he asked and gone straight to the nearest police station. So they had the evidence he'd had on him, plus his statement. 

"The Captain's on your side." Tina told him when Gavin said he was probably fired, anyway, so the case didn't matter to him. "He's going to argue that you were justified in going in, because you knew RK900 was in immediate danger." 

Exigent circumstances. That was gonna be shaky ground. It could fly, though, especially with the newly deviated android as a witness. He'd told Gavin that Nines was at the warehouse. 

Gavin wasn’t gonna get his hopes up, but. Maybe it wasn’t all going to shit. Maybe it would be okay. If not his career, at least Nines. 

Just, fuck, please at least Nines. 

 

He didn’t hear anything from Connor up until he was released from the hospital, a couple days later. Tina took him home, with instructions for him to stay there and rest. Sasha lost her goddamn mind when she saw him - dumbass cat probably thought he was never coming back. Memory span of about two seconds. 

The first thing Gavin did after giving the cat her requisite attention was take a shower. He smelled like sweat and disinfectant; hospital stink, and he fucking hated it. 

… He missed Nines. He kinda realized it, like actually consciously realized it as he stood in the shower, clean at that point and just letting the hot water roll down his back ‘cuz it felt good. 

He really, really missed Nines. 

He wasn’t sure at what point he’d gotten so attached to the android, but. It was like a physical ache. At some point while Nines was wrapping his whole world around Gavin, the opposite had happened, too. 

And maybe it wouldn’t be as bad if Nines had just… moved on, if he was fine and just figured out Gavin wasn’t a great role model and gone to Jericho and been okay. But it was… losing him like that, suddenly. The still very present risk of never seeing him again. 

There was some shit Gavin wanted to tell him, maybe. Who knew when the fuck that’d happened. 

Gavin groaned and leaned forward to rest his forehead against the tile. He didn’t know what to do with any of that, but he did want Nines to be okay. He just wanted Nines to be okay.

Connor had said in his text they were getting parts fabricated. Who fucking knew what that meant.

… The shower water was getting cold. Gavin shut it off with a grunt of annoyance, then grabbed a towel. 

Sasha was waiting at the door to the bathroom when he opened it, mewling at him like she wanted something. 

“What?” Gavin said as she followed him to his room, to watch him get dressed like a little creep. 

“You already got food, you weirdo, shut up.” He teased her as he sat on the edge of the bed, and she immediately leaped into his lap. 

She rolled over and Gavin spent a minute rubbing her belly. “You miss him too?” He whispered, absolutely projecting. Onto the cat. As usual. 

“Yeah, well-” He flopped backward onto the bed, taking her with him. Maybe he’d actually try to get some rest like he was supposed to, what a concept. “He’ll be back.”

Right? Right. 

Chapter Text

Being on leave fucking sucked.

It had been... fun? for like, a day, because he was basically on a paid vacation labeled as 'leave' while they figured out what had happened with the Walker case and what to do with Gavin's stupid ass, but after that… 

Gavin was just… bored. He'd never realized just how much he needed his job to stay sane, which… was a really stupid thing to say considering his line of work. But it was true. 

He was going absolutely stir crazy and yet… he still left Tina on read when she offered to take him out for coffee. She surely had shit to do, probably had her wife with her. He wasn't about to fuck with that. 

Mostly he was waiting to hear back from Connor. About Nines.

He did go shopping on day two. He didn't know what had happened to Nines' pretty white jacket, maybe it'd been at the scene, but it'd be evidence if it wasn't destroyed and Gavin wouldn't know anyway, since he was off the case. 

He went back to the same store and got another one, either way. There was only one left in Nines' size and Gavin snatched it, paid the hefty price tag again without even blinking. Even though he had no idea if he'd still have his job in a week. Whatever. 

He bought more stuff too. Nines deserved to have more than one outfit, have a choice in what to wear. And maybe Gavin just missed him and was compensating by buying him shit. Like he would definitely, 100% be back. 

Gavin took it all home and then found out it depressed him to look at it, so he hid the bags in his own closet for the moment. Until Nines got back. 

 

"You holding up okay?" Tina asked him a couple days later, when she finally roped him into getting lunch on her lunch break. She was using that Tone that reminded Gavin she was gonna make a great mother someday. "I haven't seen you like this since…"

Since his last serious relationship went tits up, yeah. Ouch. She must have seen the look of utter disgust on his face, because she put down her drink to reach for his hand.

"Take it easy Gav, I'm just worried, that's all." She paused, giving him a searching look. "... You really care about him." 

It wasn't a question. Gavin huffed, avoiding her eyes. "Yeah."

"That's not a bad thing. And Connor said he'd be okay."

Gavin just nodded, and Tina blessedly took the hint and changed the subject. They talked for a bit, Gavin listened to her tell stories about her wife and their dog… and then before long she had to head back to work, left Gavin alone in the little deli she'd chosen.

He thought about texting Connor, but he and the other Anderson were probably super busy picking up Gavin's slack. Which irritated him. 

Maybe he could go to the station and talk to Fowler. But he wasn't sure he was in the mood to argue, and the Captain didn't deserve that; according to Tina he'd been defending Gavin despite his shitty attitude, so…

Fuck it.

He ended up just heading home, after stopping at the pet store for cat food and a couple new toys. At least Sasha was easily distracted; a new catnip mouse and she was happy. 

Gavin distracted himself with a movie, but even that soured a little when he had to find something he and Nines hadn’t watched together. 

It only worked for a little while, anyway, and Gavin was still checking his shiny new phone every few minutes. Like Connor would actually get back to him any time soon. Nines had been.... pretty fucked up. so. it would probably take a while to fix him. 

Gavin ended up falling asleep on the couch at like nine fucking PM like an old person, in the middle of watching old youtube videos. Then of course he woke up a few hours later when sleeping on the couch nearly ruined his back, and moved to the bedroom. 

And then couldn’t fucking sleep when he actually laid down. 

His brain wouldn’t quit moving at like a hundred miles per hour when he wasn’t distracted. He couldn’t stop thinking about Nines; the way his voice sounded, the way he said Gavin’s name like it was some sort of confession. 

The fucking relief when he saw Gavin. 

Blue shit everywhere, even smeared across Nines’ pretty face. 

 

Fucking, fuck, if only his brain would shut up. He turned and buried his face in the nearest pillow, scaring the cat off of it. Apparently at some point she’d cuddled up to him, and he hadn’t noticed. 

Without thinking he reached for her, drew her closer and for once the little shit didn’t complain. It was like she knew; she actually curled up close to his chest and just… purred, and he could just focus on the sound and the little rumble she made against his chest and he actually, finally fell asleep like that. 

 

-

 

Gavin was cruelly awakened the next morning by the sound of his phone vibrating. 

He was so fucking ready to give Tina an earful as he fumbled for it, only to realize after a bleary second that it wasn't her name on the caller ID - it was Connor. 

He scrambled to answer it, putting the phone to his ear with a hurried 'yeah?' that was probably a little sharper than it needed to be. 

"Detective Reed." Connor greeted him, genial as ever. "I believe we're ready to reactivate R- Nines, if you'd like to be here."

Holy shit, already? That was fucking fast. Though, Connor had been patched up pretty fast, too. He'd said something about a friend of his. 

"Fuck okay, give me the address and I'll be right there." Gavin said quickly, trying to keep the apprehension out of his tone. 

"I'll send it over. We'll wait for you." 

With that Connor hung up, and as soon as he did Gavin threw himself out of bed to get dressed. 

As he grabbed his stuff out of the closet he saw the bag of clothes he'd bought for Nines, and dug in there for an outfit for him, too. They probably had him in like, hospital clothes, and he'd most likely want something better to wear. If… he remembered Gavin at all. 

In ten minutes Gavin was ready to go, Nines' change of clothes in a bag and the cat fed before he left. 

Connor had texted him an address, so it was just a matter of getting through rush hour traffic to get there. Gavin recognized the address as a Cyberlife repair center, because of course it was, but at least Connor had chosen one in a more secluded part of the city, rather than in a major shopping center. They had been stores once, after all. 

 

When Gavin walked in he headed straight for the receptionist, already irritated by the general hospital vibe of the place. He’d only just gotten out of a hospital himself, and he was fucking sick of it. 

Luckily the nice android at the desk took his mild irritation in stride, and after a minute he was following a tech back to Nines’ room. 

The technician was human, which was interesting. Gavin would have expected androids to be more comfortable with other androids, but… maybe the guy had just worked for Cyberlife before the revolution or something. 

“Detective.” Connor greeted him as he was led into the room, set the bag of clothes down. Contrary to how he’d sounded on the phone, even Connor seemed a bit… subdued. 

But all of that flew out of Gavin’s head as soon as he saw Nines. 

He almost looked like he was sleeping, laid out on a hospital bed rather than strung up on an assembly rig. Which Gavin appreciated, and Connor probably had something to do with. 

"We're ready." Connor informed him softly, as Gavin hovered closer to the bed. He almost reached out to touch Nines' sleeping face, mesmerized by the rare, untroubled expression before he caught himself and stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets instead. 

"What uh… what do you need me to do?" Gavin mumbled. 

Connor was watching him closely, that curious and almost owl-like look on his face. Analyzing. Which was a little irritating. “You were there when he was deactivated. It may be less jarring for you to be here when he wakes up.” 

“... He may be somewhat alarmed, however.” Connor continued after a moment. “You may want to keep back.”

Gavin nodded, but he only took a step or two back from the bed. Connor seemed to accept that, anyway, and nodded to the technician. 

He couldn’t help the anxiety that gripped him as the tech worked on the computer terminal, code he didn’t understand flashing across the screen. What if Nines didn’t remember him? Gavin couldn’t bear the thought of Nines being just… gone. Not like that. 

The little light on Nines’ temple flickered, circled red. One, two, three times before his eyes fluttered open.

 

Immediately Gavin knew they had a problem. As soon as those bright eyes focused Gavin could see the almost unhinged terror in them, but before he could say or do anything Nines had jumped up, ripped the cable from the back of his neck with a snarl and launched himself toward the very open door. 

Gavin moved to intercept him, but Connor was faster. He got between Nines and the door, which turned out to be a really bad place to be. 

Nines was meant to be Connor’s replacement. His upgrade. In that moment Gavin had no fucking idea how Connor had wrestled him into a holding cell at the DPD in the first place, watching how effortlessly Nines dodged out of Connors’s way, then turned to grab him by the neck and lift him off his feet like it was nothing. 

Legitimate fear flickered across Connor’s face for the barest moment as he grabbed at Nines’ wrist, an expression Gavin didn’t think he’d ever seen on him. 

But just when he was sure Nines was gonna crush Connor’s throat, they both just… froze. Like statues. For a second Gavin thought the tech had done something, but he was just as shocked, still by the console. 

Connor was doing something. His hand had shifted to Nines’ forearm, his fingers white. 

Oh. They were doing that thing - interfacing, their LEDs flickering in sync. 

Gavin chanced getting a little closer, watched Nines’ expression slowly go slack. They both looked distant - was it supposed to go on that long? 

He was just considering what would happen if he intervened when Nines moved, slowly setting Connor back on his feet and releasing his neck. White showed where Nines had touched him, like a hand print, but the skin was already fading back into place. 

There was something like pity on Connor’s face; he was still holding Nines’ arm. They were having some sort of deep conversation Gavin wasn’t privy to, and he had to shove back an odd feeling of jealousy. That Connor could do that. 

Then Nines turned his head, caught sight of Gavin and that feeling evaporated like dew in the sun. 

‘Cuz Nines’ expression just lit up when he saw Gavin, recognized him thank fuck-

Nines let go of Connor and took a few steps to absolutely smother Gavin in an embrace, and holy fuck he'd never been so relieved in his life. Nines knew him. 

"Hey." Gavin whispered as he held him, his voice embarrassingly tight. Nines made a soft little sound that might have been an attempt at his name, then drew back, resting a hand against Gavin's chest. 

Then his neck, and his face, and for a moment Gavin was quietly baffled; Nines seemed determined to touch every inch of him. Until Gavin realized what he was doing. "Oh, hey - I'm fine, I wasn't hurt. Just a little knock on the head." 

Nines' fingers immediately slid into Gavin's hair; he still didn't seem to have a great grasp on like, basic manners, but Gavin didn't, uh. Didn't mind. 

"Seriously, I'm fine." Gavin laughed softly. 

He shot a not-so-subtle look at Connor over Nines' shoulder, and thankfully Connor took the hint and excused himself, the tech following him out the door.

As soon as they were alone, Gavin reached up and caught one of Nines' hands, holding it in both of his. "... You really scared the shit outta me." He whispered softly, like someone might still overhear him. Connor had good ears, actually, so maybe. "I thought… I thought you were gone." 

Nines shook his head, offered him one of those awkward little smiles. He still seemed nervous, gripping Gavin’s hand.

“Oh, I uh - I got a new phone, here-” Gavin stole one hand away to fish for it in his pocket, offering it to Nines. He didn’t have Nines’ contact info anymore. 

Nines took it, and a moment later when he handed it back it was reconfigured the way Gavin liked it, like his old phone. Which made him chuckle. “... Thanks.” 

Of course Nines remembered how he had it. Androids had a perfect memory. 

   N: I’m glad you’re alright. 

“I’m supposed to say that; you’re the one that... almost died.” 

   N: I couldn’t let them hurt you. 

“Them…? You mean the…” The Frankenstein thing? 

   N: Yes. Thank you for what you did. They were suffering. 

They were - holy fuck. 

“Fuck.” Gavin whispered, leaning forward a little to rest his head against Nines’ shoulder, his phone still held between them. “You could tell - actually, never mind, I don’t want to think about it right now. I’m just… glad you’re okay. Too.”

   N: I’m okay. 

   N: You saved me. 

Almost completely by accident, a fluke. He could have just as easily gotten Nines crushed beyond all repair. “I … I had to, fuck, it’s my fault you were there in the first place, Nines, I’m sorry-” 

Nines nudged his chin up, gently taking Gavin’s face in both his hands. Which was. Something. And absolutely shut him up. 

The android shook his head, firmly. Gavin was utterly mesmerized by the feeling of Nines’ thumb stroking across his cheek - his hands were white, Gavin could see the edge of his skin pulled back to his wrists. 

Nines trusted him, so fucking much, and he had no idea what he’d done to deserve it. 

The android’s lips parted, a little breath leaving him. Like he wanted to say something and then got stuck again. Gavin blinked, looking down a little at his phone. 

   N: Can we go home? 

Home. Like, their home. 

“Yeah.” He breathed. “Yeah, let’s go.” 

Gavin caught one of his hands as Nines drew away, and that was how they left the room - shoulders nearly touching, Nines’ hand firmly in his, their fingers intertwined. 

Connor pretended not to notice, but he definitely did, his gaze flicking down for the barest moment.

Nines smiled at him. Like actually, truly smiled at Connor as they passed him in the hallway, their LEDs flickering for the barest moment. Talking for a sec. 

“So uh… you two cool now?” Gavin said curiously as they headed for the front desk. Nines seemed a little more jittery in the hallway, he hated the repair center obviously, but it wasn’t as bad as last time. 

Nines just nodded cryptically, giving Gavin’s hand a little squeeze. They could talk later. 

He had to laugh when the receptionist tried to stop them on their way out; she got an honest to god hiss out of Nines, which clearly startled her but just came off sassy to Gavin. 

Because he knew Nines. 

 

Gavin could barely concentrate on the road on their way home - he kept wanting to glance at Nines, watch the reflection of his little LED in the window. It was still yellow; he seemed to be in a perpetual state of anxiety or confusion, or... something. Gavin was determined to see it blue, keep it that way. 

“Oh fuck, I forgot-” He realized halfway home, and Nines looked at him from where he’d been staring out the window. “I had some clothes for you, I left them at the-”

His phone vibrated, but he couldn’t look at it while he was driving. Nines reached over and gave his shoulder a little squeeze as a substitute. 

As soon as he parked he picked up the phone.

   N: Connor got them. 

Oh, good.

   N: I didn’t want to stay, anyway. 

“Fair enough.” Gavin chuckled softly. “I’ve got more stuff, if you wanna look at it…” He added as they got out of the car. 

They headed in together, and it just felt so… natural. 

Sasha lost her mind when Nines followed Gavin in through the door, aggressively rubbing against his legs and meowing up a storm. The sheer delight on Nines’ face as he picked her up made Gavin’s fucking chest ache. He wanted to see that same expression every day for the rest of his goddamn life, and that realization nearly knocked the wind out of him. 

Nines must have seen his face, because he set the cat down and turned to him, reaching to touch Gavin’s cheek. With his bare fingers again, the plastic smooth against the stubble on his face. He seemed to be doing that subconsciously, just… wanting to be close. Or something. 

“Gavin.” Nines whispered, in that soft, almost uncertain tone. Full of adoration, though. Goddamn, it made him wanna… 

Nines leaned closer, and Gavin didn’t even fully realize what was happening until their lips met, soft and gentle. 

Gavin shivered as Nines kissed him, though it was extremely chaste - Nines kissed like he hadn’t before, not that Gavin minded. 

He nearly closed his eyes as he slid his hand across Nines’ broad shoulders, keeping him close, until the slight yellow glow cast across the room turned blue. 

Gavin couldn’t help but grin, breaking that wonderful fucking kiss. “Hey. You can do blue.” He murmured, his hand moving up to touch Nines’ temple. 

As soon as he called it out of course, it circled back to yellow, but Gavin couldn’t stop grinning, and somehow that won him another blue flicker. God, more of that, more of the slightly sheepish yet so fucking happy look on Nines’ face. 

“Will you stay?” Gavin asked softly, meaning… like at the house but also… in general. 

And God, there was so much going on in those pale grey eyes. Like, Gavin knew he was looking at plastic and glass lenses, but he was also looking at someone alive, someone broken who’d been hurt over and over and was looking so desperately for someone to hold him together. 

“Yes.” Nines whispered, aloud, just for him. “Yes, Gavin.”