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It’s The Season of Knowing We Are Not Alone

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Moving quietly, taking advantage of his brother’s distraction, Nines crept up behind Connor. Whatever he planned to do next disappeared from his mind when he got a look at the screen. “What are you doing?” Nines asked, keeping his voice down so as not to attract the attention of his coworkers.

Whirling around, Connor briefly looked startled before schooling his expression back into something more neutral. “Last Christmas was… strained. This year I hope to take full advantage of the season with Hank. To that end, I composed an itinerary of events and activities to cover during this month.” He pursed his lips, looking disapproving. “I suppose if you want a copy for Gavin and yourself, that can be arranged.”

Used to his brother’s attitude towards Gavin, knowing his boyfriend felt the same way towards Connor, Nines rolled his eyes. “Gavin isn’t the type for those kinds of things.”

“As far as you know.” Connor pointed out. When this earned a quizzical raised eyebrow from Nines, he continued. “You started dating in March, yes? I can’t imagine you’ve talked much about the holidays before.”

...Damn it. Reluctantly, Nines realized his brother was right. “Point.” He said with a nod. “In any case, I think I’ll follow his lead.”

“Suit yourself.” With a shrug, Connor turned back to his list.

Shaking his head, Nines moved through the precinct to the break room. When his and Gavin’s relationship came to light, so did Hank and Connor’s. To that end, they were reassigned to new work partnerships. Hank became Nines’ partner, and Gavin with Connor. For all their mutual dislike of one another, Gavin and Connor seemed to work effectively together.

Entering the room, he felt his mood lift when he spotted Gavin standing at a table with Tina. Nines moved towards them, stepping into Gavin’s space. He clicked his tongue disapprovingly and took away the cup of coffee his boyfriend was holding. “Haven’t you already had two cups today?”

Tina snorted, and then frowned when her work phone went off. She glanced down at it and let out an aggrieved sigh. “As much as I love watching you two bicker, I have to get to this. Remember, don’t damage him, you couldn’t afford the repairs.” Tina teased, referencing an old joke between them, before she left.

Gavin made grabbing motions towards the coffee. “C’mon, it’s fine. Besides, I’ll probably have to stay late tonight working on stupid paperwork shit. I need it.”

Appearing to think this over, Nines shrugged. “I suppose you have a point,” he said with exaggerated agreement. “I’ll allow it.” The cup was passed back. Gavin let out an amused huff as he took a long drink from it.

“So what were you and Connor talking about?” Gavin drummed his fingers on the table, feigning casualness. There was a thread of unease underneath in his voice, and that caught Nines attention.

“It was nothing, really.” Nines frowned. “Why, did something happen between you two?”

“Naw, nothing besides the usual.” Gavin waved it off with a shrug. “Though I guess there was a little bit more talk than normal about how you deserve better than me and how our relationship is doomed.” He noticed Nines’ expression darkening. “In his defense, we were on our break when Connor said all this.”

“Still.” Letting out a short frustrated breath through his nose, Nines glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll have a talk with him. He shouldn’t be putting that on you.”

“Don’t.” The words were blurted out, surprising them both. Clearing his throat, Gavin shrugged again. “It’s fine, I can take it. I don’t want you guys fighting because of me. He’s just looking out for you, right?”

“Hm…” He still didn’t like it, but Nines found himself reluctant to go against his boyfriend’s wishes. “I’ll leave it, for now.” His reply caused Gavin to visibly relax, only to tense up again at Nines’ next words. “We were talking about how Connor was making holiday plans for himself and Hank.”

“Oh. Huh. Yeah, that makes sense. You spent Thanksgiving with them, right? I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those plans included you.” Gavin didn’t quite meet Nines’ eyes. Which was unusual.

“Maybe. Was there anything you wanted to do?” Nines prompted. “Together, I mean.”

“Not really.” Gavin made an uncomfortable face. “I’m not much of a holiday guy.” Something occurred to him, and he hit his forehead with a groan. “But it’s your first Christmas since you were activated. Shit. I’m an asshole. Do you want to do anything?”

Touched, as always, by Gavin’s consideration for him, Nines smiled warmly. “How about we take things as they come? Besides, whatever it entails, spending time with you is the most important thing to me.”

“Fucking sap,” Gavin muttered, as he took another sip of coffee. He tried, unsuccessfully, to his hide his blush with the cheap cardboard cup that he held.

Unable to do much else, as they were at work, Nines reached forward and squeezed Gavin’s free hand. Gavin looked away, smile tugging at his lips, as he squeezed back.

 

Chapter Text

Persistent chirping, sounding almost like his alarm, woke Nines from stasis. His cat, Orange, was sitting on his chest, staring down at him. Smiling, he reached up to pet her, feeling it as she began to purr and rub against his hand. Out of the corner of his eye, Nines checked the time and saw that it was about an hour before his alarm was set to go off.

He stayed there, cuddling with his cat, for about fifteen minutes. Then, reluctantly, Nines got up and went through his morning routine. As he moved towards the front door, he glanced around the apartment. The space was fairly sparse, with the only personality being the cat toys scattered around.

In truth, Nines spent most of his time either at Gavin’s apartment, or with Hank and Connor. The only reason why he even had his own apartment was that Connor insisted on it, saying it was important for Nines’ independence. The irony of Connor saying so, while he had lived with Hank since the revolution, didn’t escape Nines’ notice.

Still, peaceful mornings such as the current one were quite nice.

***

Nines arrived at the DPD before the night shift workers had even left. The person at reception - a cyborg named Kit - was standing on a ladder, putting up tinsel. Stepping up beside them, Nines handed them the next piece.

“Thanks!” They said cheerfully, taping it down, before scooting down to the ground. Standing back, Kit took in their work, hands on their hips. “I think that’s good, gold is a nice, safe colour. Non-denominational, you know?”

“I agree. It’s warm, and I like how it catches the light.” Nines nodded slowly.

“Oh, thanks!” Kit flashed a pleased grin. “...Do you wanna help me put more up around the rest of the precinct?” When Nines gave his assent, their grin widened. “Awesome, thank you!”

An hour quickly passed, with Kit keeping up a steady, unselfconscious stream of chatter. Nines learned that they wore a pronoun button for the first six months after starting at the DPD, that their girlfriend had broken up with them in February, and how Kit felt kinda bad for taking both cats with them, “But they were mine first, you know?” Kit said, frowning in concentration as they stuck a paper poinsettia to the wall.

“...I suppose that makes sense.” Nines said, having no personal experience in that department. Familiar voices caught his attention, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Tina and Gavin enter the bullpen together. It seemed as though the night shift had left, and day shift had begun to trickle in.

“Okay, I should probably let you go.” Kit hopped off the ladder and brushed imaginary dust from their pants. “Thanks again for helping out. It went way faster, having someone else to help.”

“It was my pleasure.” Nines found himself meaning it. While he had previously only seen Kit in passing, he admired their forthrightness. “We should get coffee sometime.” He paused. “That isn’t a proposition, I have a boyfriend. But I could always use more friends.”

“I’d like that.” Kit smiled shyly, before picking up their box of supplies. “See you around?” Nines nodded, and with an awkward one handed wave, Kit went back to the front.

Nines moved over to his friends, just in time to hear Tina let out a loud snort. “And I’m telling you, a grown man buying himself an advent calendar is just sad. You know you can buy yourself chocolate any time you want, right?”

“It’s nice!” Gavin replied, crossing his arms defensively. “It’s a good way to keep track of the days too, you always know what day it is.”

“We can't keep advent calendars in the house, because of my partner.” Chris broke into the conversation, having been standing nearby. Both Tina and Gavin turned towards him, confused. “Ze just eats all the chocolate at once.”

There was a pause, and then both friends started laughing. “What the fuck, I’ve never heard of someone doing that. That's just wrong. At least I’m not that bad?” Gavin said, grinning and shaking his head in disbelief.

“That’s… a lot of chocolate to have at once.” Nines found himself reluctantly impressed.

“Oh, ze always regrets it. But that doesn’t stop hir.” Chris let out an amused huff as he took a sip of coffee. “But yeah, I learned my lesson after the first two times. Ze insists ze’ll control hirself once we have kids, but I guess we’ll see. I do miss getting the Lindt ones…”

“Your sacrifice is appreciated.” Nines tried for solemnity but found his lips curling up into a smile despite himself. Chris grinned and raised his coffee in acceptance of the compliment.

“No offense to hir, because I’ve met hir and ze is lovely, but… wow. That sure is something. Kids manage to control themselves. Saying at least you don’t do that is holding yourself to a pretty low standard.” Tina teased, poking Gavin in the side.

The two friends continued bickering amiably. Shaking his head, Chris moved off, and Nines found himself listening to them with an absent smile on his lips.

 

Chapter Text

Gavin’s apartment didn’t look much different, unchanged by the season. The only immediately noticeable change were the strings of white fairy lights set up along the windows. 

It was one of those evenings where Nines went home quickly to feed Orange, before heading over to Gavin’s place to spend the night. Gavin had just finished cleaning up after dinner, and they were relaxing together with Gavin’s cats on the couch. 

Patches, a calico, was curled up around Gavin’s shoulders. His purrs were loud and rumbly. In contrast, Inky (slight with black fur and jade green eyes) sat in Nines’ lap. Every now and then she’d stretch and make a contented ‘mrrr’ sound before snuggling back in. 

Gavin was on his phone, absentmindedly scratching Patches’ head, while Nines browsed the web through his internal interface. Tiring of the article he was reading, Nines closed his browser window and looked around the room. Something caught his eye. 

By the television was something different. There was a stack of battered loing DVD cases. From reading the titles, Nines realized they were all Christmas movies; Christmas Vacation, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Santa Clause...

He must have made a small surprised sound, catching Gavin’s attention. Following Nines’ gaze, Gavin saw what he was looking at. “Oh, uh.” Clearing his throat. “I got those out the other day.”

Choosing his words carefully, Nines took a moment to consider how to ask his question. “That seems oddly festive of you.”

“Well, I mean…” Running a hand through his hair, Gavin sighed. Keeping his eyes trained in the ceiling, he continued speaking. “It’s like, a tradition, I guess? Gets you in the mood for the season. Even though I’ve seen them a million times.” A shrug. “Used to sometimes watch them with my mom, but… usually just by myself.”

During their time together, Gavin never mentioned his family. Sensing it was a sensitive subject, Nines had never pressed him on the matter. For Gavin to reference something now, sent Nines into a quiet panic for how to encourage him to keep talking without being overbearing. Finally, he came up with, “which one’s your favourite?”

“I mean, I like all of them. I didn’t keep the ones I didn’t like. But…” Gavin cleared his throat. “The Muppets Christmas Carol is probably top of the list. Muppets, Dickens, what more could you want?” There was a bitter twist to his mouth as he smiled. “That’s one movie that I somehow always ended up watching when no one else was around.”

Briefly, Nines was overwhelmed with emotions. Gratitude, that Gavin was sharing parts of himself. Sadness, over that past loneliness. Affection and pride for how Gavin had become, and was becoming. Rather than voice any of this, Nines replied, “I’ve never seen it.”

Seeing the obvious ploy for what it was, Gavin shot Nines a sardonic look. “No, really.” He deadpanned. A pause. “Actually yeah, I’ve shown you the other Muppet movies but I keep this one separate with the rest of the Christmas movies, so… I mean, I won’t say no to re-watching it. You put it on though, I don’t want to disturb Patches.”

“I’m okay with this.” Gently lifting Inky, Nines set her down on the couch cushion before moving over to the tv. After a moment, it was set up and he moved back to his seat. Putting the cat back in his lap, Nines inched slightly closer to Gavin, so their shoulders were touching. He glanced over to make sure Gavin was doing okay. 

In the dim light, with the tv being the main source of it, it was hard to make out Gavin’s expression. Something of Nines’ question came through though, and Gavin smiled. He gently bumped against Nines’ shoulders. “Now, you’re not allowed to compare this to the original story, alright? And actually, they use a lot of verse from the story itself…”

Closing out the window that had automatically popped up with information about the movie, Nines settled back and let himself enjoy the moment and the company. 

 

Chapter Text

It happened slowly, so much that it took people several days to notice what was happening. Only one or two appeared at once, until they were great in numbers. Someone was making paper Christmas trees, and leaving them on people’s desks. They resembled the paper snowflakes that some made, when the paper was folded and cut into intricate patterns.

When Gavin got his, he let out an impressed whistle as he held it up to the light and took it in. “Shit. This is a million times better than anything I could come up with.”

“Is that an exact number?” Connor asked dryly from the desk across the way.

In reply, Gavin flipped him off.

“I just want to know who’s doing it.” Tina complained, standing nearby. “So they can teach me their secrets.” No one would admit to creating the trees, and the only fingerprints on them were from their recipients.

Nines, who was silently and intently staring at one, trying to figure out how it was created, agreed. They were incredibly impressive.

“Still,” Tina continued. “It’s a bit presumptuous. And kinda weird. Leaving Christmas trees everywhere, I mean. Why not snowflakes instead? I've never seen these before. Also, what if that person doesn’t celebrate Christmas?”

“What? They’re trees. They’re not religious.” Gavin argued.

For a long moment, Tina stared at him in disbelief. “Gavin. They’re literally named Christ Mass trees. Trees to celebrate the mass for Christ, or however the word works. Of course they’re religious, you numbnuts.”

“Don’t call me numbnuts, what are you, five?” Gavin shook his head. “Anyway, okay yeah, angels and star tree-toppers are pretty…” Vague hand waving. “Bible story junk. But people who put other goofy shit on their trees - its in celebration of the season, totally not religious.”

“Pffft, whatever, white boy.” Tina rolled her eyes.

“Did I do it right?” Nines asked, holding up a tree that he had been intently making. Despite being made from lined paper, it was strikingly beautiful. The folds and patterns had a crispness to them that humans couldn’t achieve.

For a moment, there was a stunned silence. “Whelp.” Tina finally said. “Minus 10 points to humanity. Get wrecked, us.”

“How the fuck did you do that?” Gavin demanded, storming over to Nines’ desk. He grabbed a chair from nearby and leaned forward intently as Nines began walking through the steps he took to make his paper creation.

“...We’re supposed to be working right now. Not doing craft projects.” Connor complained.

Hank, who had been observing the whole scene from the outside, snorted. “It’s a slow day. Let the kids have their fun. C’mon, I’m taking a coffee break. Keep an old man company.” He grabbed his coat and left. Connor jumped up, and eagerly followed after him. 

 

Chapter Text

Nines had a spare moment, and as he so often did when at loose ends, he wandered over to Gavin’s desk. He made no attempt to mask his footsteps, and could see that Gavin heard him coming. The tell was the fact that Gavin tried frantically to click away from the window he was looking at on his work terminal. However, he only succeeded in refreshing the page several times.  

Smirking, ready to tease him about his choice of website, the words died on Nines’ lips when he saw what site it was. The page was a local charity, dedicated to helping those in need. It listed commonly required items for their food bank, and also included personal wish lists from children for toys. 

“Doesn’t… the DPD do a food and toy drive?” Nines asked, still puzzled as to why Gavin was looking up that information. He remembered hearing Hank and Connor talk about it, with Hank admitting to be unable to deal with going into the toy aisle, and that he donated formula and baby food instead. 

“Uh, yeah…” Gavin seemed sheepish, and cleared his throat. “Actually I chair it. Chris helps too. Needs don’t change much, year to year, but it’s always good to brush up on things. And this year, there’s a section for helping displaced androids.” He shrugged, lifting one shoulder and letting it drop. “So. We’ll be asking those kinds of things too, in the email we’ll be sending out..”

Dwelling on who exactly was part of the social committee didn’t often cross Nines’ mind. There were other things that often distracted him from the DPD’s charitable efforts. He had no idea Gavin was involved with it. 

“That’s… really good of you.” Nines’ voice was warm as he rested a hand on Gavin’s shoulder “I’ll have to get something to bring in.” It was a reminder that his boyfriend’s attitudes towards androids had changed drastically since the revolution. And that Nines still had much to learn about him. 

A faint flush spread on Gavin’s face in response to the compliment, and he shot Nines a small, shy smile. “Everything helps. Anyway. What are you up to?”

“Oh.” Nines blinked. “Nothing, actually. That’s why I came over.”

“Well, while you’re here…” Navigating to a different screen, Gavin pulled up a word document. “Here’s the android related stuff that the website asked for. Is there anything you think they forgot?”

Leaning over Gavin’s shoulder to lo at the screen, Nines scanned over the list. It mainly asked for thirium and common components between different models. Jericho had taken over the Cyberlife tower and the company’s manufacturing plants, meaning repairs were free, but supply struggled to meet the demand. “No, that looks good. I’m not sure if there’s anything else.”

“Okay, thanks. Shoot me an email if you remember something?” Gavin asked. 

“I will. Oh, that reminds me. Connor specifically requested I give him and Hank some privacy tonight. Do you have any plans?” Nines knew the couple was planning a nice night out, followed by the usual conclusion to such a night. 

“Naw, I was just going to relax, maybe replay more Souls. You know you’re welcome any time, right? If I’m not home, I’m with Tina, and I think she likes you more than she likes me.” Gavin’s voice indicated he was mostly joking about the last statement. 

Letting out a huff of amusement, Nines straightened up and gently swatted Gavin’s shoulder. “You’re still her favourite and you know it. And you never know, I like to check first.” He gave an awkward shrug. 

“Inky definitely misses you when you’re not there.” Gavin rolled his eyes. “You should see the look she gives me when I come home without you, I feel like a monster and it’s not even anything I did.”

“And we can’t have Inky be disappointed.” Nines quipped. “I just need to feed Orange, and then I’ll be over around the usual time?” The fact that they had a routine of sorts, warmed him. It was nice to have one. 

“Sure, sounds good.” Judging by Gavin’s smile, he felt the same way. 

Chapter Text

Winter had truly arrived as Detroit got its first major snow of the year. It had started snowing the previous afternoon and continued all through the night into the morning. Forecasters figured they got about a meter of snow, with more on the way. Schools called for a snow day, but for most, life continued on as usual, albeit with minor impediments. 

“Stupid fucking weather,” Gavin bitched, as he dusted snow off from his hat and unwound the scarf from around his neck. “Remind me why I haven’t retired to Florida yet?”

“Because Florida is America’s armpit? Also, you might be as grumpy as one, but you’re not an old man yet.” Tina replied, leaning against the wall and watching Gavin’s actions with mild amusement. “Just be glad we’re not further north.”

“I refuse to be glad about anything related to this bullshit.” Stomping his boots to clear them of snow and slush, he moved further into the station. “At least I don’t have to shovel anymore. God, that was always the worst.”

“Fucking Amen.” Hank called out from his desk. “Driving here this morning was a nightmare.”

Connor, who was leaning against said desk, raised an eyebrow. “I was the one who shoveled last night and this morning. Also, if you put a weather shield on your windshield, clearing off the car would’ve been much easier.”

“Eh, that’s cheating.” Hank said dismissively, grinning when it made Connor look disbelievingly at him. 

Moving to his own desk and beginning to put his stuff away, Gavin let out a slow whistle. “Getting Connor to shovel for you, old man? That’s a pretty sweet setup.” Shaking her head, Tina silently left for the break-room. 

Immediately, Connor bristled defensively. “There’s no reason for Hank to strain his back when the snow is so heavy. I do it willingly for him, because it’s common courtesy, something you know nothing about.”

“Woah,” Gavin held up his hands, placatingly. “Someone’s sensitive, geez. I grew up shoveling for neighbours, alright? If you didn’t do it for him, someone else in the neighborhood probably would’ve. That’s courtesy.

As Connor opened his mouth to argue further, Hank cut him off by heavily putting a hand on his shoulder. “Yeah Con; way to put some ten year old out of a job,” he teased. “Anyway, I need to put my lunch away. Keep me company?” Shooting his partner a look that read how Connor saw through Hank’s ploy, he nonetheless followed him to the break-room. 

On the way, they passed Nines, who was carrying a mug of coffee. He nodded at them, before approaching Gavin’s desk and setting it down. “Good morning. Any issues getting in this morning?”

“Thanks.” Picking up the coffee, Gavin to a sip before continuing to speak. “And naw, it was fine. Hey, so, I wanted you opinion on this case…” He turned to his computer and logged into his work terminal. Moving closer than strictly necessary, Nines began reading over his shoulder.

 

Chapter Text

The annual DPD Holiday party fell on a thursday, and was being held in a ballroom at the Foundation hotel. Nines spent a week stressing out over what to wear, before settling on a silk dark blue shirt with black dress pants. He even kept Orange away from the pants, since he knew from past experiences that cat hair was basically magnetically attracted to black clothing.

As was planned, he met up with Gavin and Tina at Gavin’s apartment. Tina answered the door, already dressed; her hair was up in a fancy bun with a silver clip at the back, and her makeup had more effort put in than usual. She wore a blue dress, which left one shoulder bare. There was a silver stripe going from her left side up to the one shoulder that was covered. The skirt was asymmetrical, falling into short layers in the front and longer ones in the back. She had silver drop earrings on, and a chunky silver bangle. Her heels matches her jewelry, as did the clutch on the couch held a credit card and her phone.

“Well shit, this is embarrassing, one of us is going to have to change.” Tina deadpanned, referencing the fact that both her and Nines were wearing blue. However, his shirt was more towards navy, while hers was a basic blue.

“And deprive our coworkers the entertainment of trying to decide who wore it better? That would be unconscionable. You look lovely, by the way.” Nines smiled at her as he stepped into the apartment.

“Thanks, you too. Not many men can pull of silk.” Her heels clicked against the entryway linoleum as she walked towards the kitchen. “C’mon Gavin,” Tina called. “I know it doesn’t take that long to do your hair.”

“Ugh, shut up.” Gavin griped as he emerged from his bedroom, doing up the cuffs of his burgundy dress shirt. “Shaving is such a pain in the ass.” When his eyes landed on Nines, his eyebrows shot up. “Wow. You look… really good.”

“I’ll take the surprise as a compliment.” Nines dryly replied, approaching and doing up the other cuff’s button for him. “I like this colour on you, though I do miss the stubble.” He brushed his thumb against Gavin’s jawline, marveling at the unfamiliar smoothness.

“Thanks.” Gavin flashed a quick, pleased smile, before turning to look towards Tina. “See, told you that I didn’t have to shave.”

“Excuse me for trying to get you to clean up for once.” She rolled her eyes, completely unconvinced. “Also Nines is horribly biased, while I am of sound mind and body.” Picking up her clutch, Tina checked her phone. “Okay, cab should be here any minute. God, walking in these shoes is going to suck.” There was still some snow on the ground, along with winter temperatures.

“Luckily it’ll be a short walk.” Nines pointed out, grabbing Tina’s coat from the rack and helping her into it. As she shrugged it on, he grabbed Gavin’s and offered it to him. Once Gavin had his coat on, Nines leaned in for a quick kiss. “Hello, by the way.”

“Hi.” Gavin replied, looking up at him with a goofy smile.

Tina’s phone pinged. “And saved by the cab. Come on boys, let’s do this thing.” She opened the apartment door, and they all filed out.

***

When they got to the hotel lobby, Nines checked his messages. He was hoping to meet up with Kit, and though everyone knew each other from work, introduce them to Tina and Gavin. The two of them had taken a coffee break together a day after their first conversation, and had been texting each other since.

The last message from Kit was a cute cat gif from the previous night. Nines sent a text asking if Kit had arrived yet, and was surprised when the reply was an incoming call. “Hello?” He answered it, confused.

“Hi…” Kit’s voice was slightly muffled. “I, uh, might be freaking out in the coat room a bit? But it’s fine. I’m fine. Just… yeah. We can meet up later.”

Gavin was looking curiously over at Nines, who held up a finger in a ‘one second’ gesture. “I’ll be right there.” Over Kit’s protests, he ended the call before turning to Tina and Gavin. “That friend I told you about, I need to go help them. You should go ahead.”

“What? Is everything okay?” Tina asked, as they moved across the lobby. A sign was set up, directing people to which rooms the party was being hosted it.

“I’m not sure.” Nines frowned, uneasy and concerned. “I’m still getting to know them. I’m not sure if having both of you with me would be overwhelming.” They reached an entryway, which contained the coatroom that Kit had spoken of. “I’ll come find you when everything’s settled?”

“Naw, we’ll hang around.” Gavin spoke up. “Obviously we’ll give them space, but… Yeah.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in a minute.” Nines smiled gratefully at him before heading over to the coatroom. “Hi, I think my friend is in there?” He said to the young woman who was working there. “I’d like to talk to them.” His voice was kept even, and he tried to exude an aura of trustworthiness.

“Sure, yeah,” The woman replied, going over to the door and stepping back as she opened it. “I hope everything’s alright, let me know if I need to call for anyone?”

“Thank you.” With a nod, Nines headed past her. He moved through the coat racks, looking for Kit. There was something red that caught his eye, along with movement, as Kit emerged from the corner.

“Hey…” They said slowly, looking embarrassed. “You didn’t need to come over.” Nervously, they tugged at the hem of the skirt. Kit was wearing a shoulder-less red sweater dress and purple doc martens, without any makeup or jewelry besides plain studs in their ears. There was a battered leather side bag slung over one of their shoulders.

“I wanted to.” Nines replied gently. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s stupid.” Kit said dismissively. When Nines gave them a stern look, they deflated, their shoulders slumping. “It’s just… I didn’t have a shirt and pants that I felt good in. So I went with this dress. But, like… I’m worried it’ll make people forget? I heard the girl out front use ‘she’ for me when talking to a coworker.” Kit grimaced.

“...I’m sorry. That must be difficult.” Nines spoke slowly as he tried to figure out what the right thing to say would be. “I know it’s hard when strangers don’t see you properly, but hopefully when you’re among coworkers, it’ll be better. If you want, I can stay nearby, and correct people.”

“Yeah, it’s tough…” Kit sighed. “But you don’t have to do that, I know you’re here with your boyfriend. You should go have fun with him, don’t worry about me.”

“Too late.” When Kit looked confused, Nines clarified. “I’m already worried about you. We can stay here, if you need to. Or if you want, I can call a cab and you can head home.” They made a scrunched up face, clearly unhappy with those options, which caused Nines to smile. “You could also join us. Tina and Gavin can be a bit rough around the edges, but they’re good people.”

Reluctantly, Kit nodded, letting out a long breath. “Sure. Let’s go with that. Probably the mature, healthy thing to do.”

“Any of those options are valid.” Nines gently told them. “But I’m glad you picked that one.” Together, they left the coatroom, with Kit giving a sheepish wave to the employee, who smiled at them. Tina and Gavin were waiting in the same place, so Nines headed towards them with Kit following after.

Tina was the first to speak, smiling warmly. “Hey, Kit, right? Nines told us about you. Good things, don’t worry. Nice boots, they look comfortable.”

“Um, thanks.” Kit’s answering smile was shy and uncertain. “Yeah, it took a bit to break them in but now they’re good. Sorry about holding you up, with…” They waved their hand in a vague hand gesture. “My stuff.”

“No worries. Do you want to talk about it?” Tina asked gently. “I can ask that guy,” Using her hand to indicate Gavin, “to go away, if that’ll make you feel more comfortable.”

“No, no.” Kit seemed flustered. “It’s just…” They glanced to the side. “Gender bullshit. People see someone in a dress, and they make assumptions.” A shrug and a sigh. “Can’t exactly wear a pronoun pin with formal wear.”

“In Star Trek,” Gavin spoke up. “They had male red-shirts in the background wear the Starfleet uniform with the skirt. It sucks that we’re not there yet, in real life.”

That seemed to cheer up Kit, who let out a surprised laugh. “Yeah, exactly.”

“God, you nerd.” Tina elbowed Gavin, before focusing on Kit again. “I hope I’m remembering right, but you use they/their, right?” Kit nodded. “Okay, cool. Well,” Holding up her fists and moving them slightly. “If anyone gives you trouble, let us know, and we’ll set them straight.”

“I believe what Tina means,” Nines added. “Is that we’ve got your back.” Gavin nodded in agreement.

Surprised, Kit blinked several times. “Wow. Thank you. That really means a lot.” They cleared their throat. “Uh, anyway. We should probably head in now

***

The evening moved more smoothly after that. There was an open bar, with Gavin and Nines fetching the first round for the group. Then Nines gently prodded Kit into talking about their cats, which lead to Gavin showing off photos of his own cats. The alcohol helped loosen things up, and soon Tina and Kit were chattering away about the newest sci-fi film series. At one point, Nines left to say hi to Hank and Connor, before rejoining the group.

After an hour or so, everyone moved into the hall proper, where dinner was served along with a few speeches signalling out people for praise. The food was fairly typical fare, steak or chicken, but dessert was mousse served in tiny cups made of chocolate. Tina tried to steal Gavin’s, and just succeeded in snapping off the cup’s handle. Once the dishes were cleared away, the dancing began.

Nines and Kit hung back while Gavin and Tina moved onto the dance floor to jam out to the music. When one particular hit song came on, Tina dragged Kit over to join, letting them retreat back to the table once the song was over.

“I’m going to head out,” Kit had to raise their voice to be heard over the music, grabbing their bag from off the back of the chair. “But thanks again for earlier. And say thanks to your friends too, they’re really cool.”

“Any time.” Nines replied warmly. “Text me when you get home so I know you got in safely?” Kit agreed, and left with a wave.

Just as they were gone, the song switched to something slow and romantic. Tina came back to the table, loing around. “Oh, Kit left? Too bad. We’ll have to hang out again sometime. Anyway, go get your boy. I’m going to rest my feet.” She dropped into the chair and made shooing motions at Nines.

With a fond smile, Nines approached Gavin. “May I have this dance?” He asked, holding out his hand.

“I’d definitely rather you than Tina.” Gavin joked as they joined hands. Moving in closer, he leaned against Nines. They swayed to the music, not speaking until the song came to a close. Then Gavin to a step back. “Let me know when you’re ready to go home?” Previously Nines decided that he was going to stay over at Gavin’s after the party.

“I will. Have fun with Tina.” Nines brushed a kiss over Gavin’s cheek before leaving. As he passed Tina, she offered her hand for a high five. He accepted it, making her laugh. Then Nines sat back down and watched as two of his favourite people enjoyed themselves. 

Chapter Text

Work resumed as usual the next day, with morning coming bright and early. As Nines returned with Hank from a crime scene, he noticed Gavin was wearing wireless earbuds as he filled out paperwork. A scan of his computer showed that Gavin was listening to a holiday playlist, which from the look of the track info, he had compiled himself.

With a mischievous smile, Nines cut the bluetooth connection to the earbuds, so that the music started pouring out from the computer speakers. The song was a particularly popular pop song from yesteryear, featuring sleigh bells and belted vocals. Scrambling, Gavin quickly hit pause, but it was too late.

“Is that Mariah Carey?” Tina asked disbelievingly. “Oh my god, that song is so old, I can’t believe you still listen to it.”

“Shut up, it’s a classic.” Gavin shot back defensively.

“Kids these days,” Hank said as he ambled over. “You call that music? This is the real thing.” He pulled out his phone and started blasting a Knights of the Black Death song. Somehow, Hank managed to bob his head in time to the wailing guitars and the vocalist growling out the lyrics. 

Rolling his eyes, Connor hit pause, cutting off the song. “I know for a fact that when it comes to holiday music, you prefer Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas album. Or at least I should hope so, considering how much you’ve been playing it lately.”

Embarrassed, Hank started sputtering excuses and denial, trailing off when Gavin interjected. “Oh, nice. Her version of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is my favourite, actually.”

Instantly, Hank perked up. “Oh yeah, that’s a good one. You haven’t heard it until you’ve listened to it on vinyl. You should come over sometime, since I know that album is hard to find.” Turning to glare at his partner, Connor seemed to silently communicate that he hated that idea. The message got through, with Hank dismissing it.

Gavin seemed taken aback, but nodded. “Uh, sure, yeah. That’d be cool.”

Moving in beside him, Tina started flicking through the playlist. “What else do you have on here? Is that a show tune? Dude, you have the weirdest taste in music.” She cackled as Gavin gently pushed her away from his desk.

“Ugh, shut up. Honestly I’m just glad that it wasn’t playing the Veggie Tales song I have in there.” As soon as the words left his mouth, Gavin seemed like he immediately regretted them.

“What.” Tina said flatly as she began to grin widely. “You listen to Veggie Tales music? That’s the best thing I’ve heard in ages. I didn’t peg you for a church boy.”

“You know I’m not. But Silly Songs with Larry had some jams, okay?” Totally not pouting, Gavin crossed his arms, indignant expression on his face. “Also most people don’t even know what Veggie Tales is, so the fact that you do…”

“It’s because I followed a meme twitter account for it when I was a teenager. Anyway, that was me in high school. The fact that you still do? It’s golden, you’re such an old man.” Teasingly, Tina reached out and poked at Gavin’s cheeks as he batted away her hand irritably.

“Hey! Being old has nothing to do with music taste.” Hank sputtered. Out of his eye, he saw Connor open up his mouth to dispute it, and he turned, using a finger to gesture at him. “Nope, don’t you say anything either. I don’t need you listing my most played songs or anything.”

Relenting, Connor stayed silent but emphatically rolled his eyes. Hanging back, Nines just smiled to himself, pleased with the chaos he had wrought.

Chapter Text

It had been a long day for all involved, featuring grim cases and bitterly cold weather. Both Nines and Connor put their foot down with their respective romantic partners and insisted they go home once seven pm rolled around. Not trusting his boyfriend to take care of himself, Nines followed Gavin to his apartment and ordered takeout for him, keeping him company while he ate it.

Now they were relaxing on the couch while a calming music mix streamed from the television. The screen showed a looping gif of someone walking at night, and most of the light in the apartment was coming from outside. Both guys were laying down, with Gavin tucked into Nines’ side. There was a blanket pulled over him, and one cat was curled up on Gavin’s legs and the other was at his feet.

The apartment’s heat was turned up to combat the weather outside, but even still, Nines bumped up his temperature by a few degrees so he could provide some ambient warmth. “Mmm…” Half asleep, Gavin nuzzled Nines’ shoulder. “You’re warm… Best space heater…” The words trailed off into a snore.

Asleep, Gavn’s features smoothed over into something peaceful. Nines found himself lulled by the sound of his partner’s breathing. He didn’t even mind that Gavin had begun to drool on him. The reasonable part of Nines’ mind knew that he should wake Gavin up so they could get ready for bed. But he found himself reluctant to disturb the peace, and decided to wait a moment longer.

Chapter Text

“Remind me why we’re here again?” Nines glanced around the second-hand store, impressed by the rows of used clothing stretching out to the back out of the building.

“Because you never know what kind of shit you’ll find at places like this,” Gavin replied, grabbing a basket from a stack near the door. “C’mon, I wanna check out the books first.” He made a beeline for the sci-fi and fantasy section, while Nines scanned titles on the general literature shelves, searching for anything that was on his To Read list.

Once the books were picked over, they moved onto the household decorations section. “See, this is what I’m talking about.” Grinning, Gavin gestured towards a troupe of clown statues, clustered together conspiratorially. “There are always clowns.”

Nines stared at them with a distant horror. He didn’t have a phobia of them, but even he found them unsettling. Especially in such a number…

“And these! They’re so creepy. My grandma used to collect them, she found them cute for some reason.” Rolling his eyes, Gavin sneered at statues of little girls and boys with trite sentiments carved into a sign at the base of the figures.

“Those… are something, alright.” The whole store reminded Nines that humans had a baffling proclivity for collecting random things, especially tacky objects.

They continued through the decorations section, with Gavin gleefully exclaiming over dolphin themed souvenirs and ceramic fish. Each thing he took a photo of, planning to post it later to an online album he kept of such items.

The word ‘dog’ caught Nines’ eyes, and he found himself picking up the object. It was a plaque made of wood with an image printed onto it. Featuring a character from a popular old comic franchise, it showed him hugging his dog. Underneath were words that claimed “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.” For some reason, Nines found himself thinking of Connor, and how his brother would appreciate it.

“I think I’m going to buy this,” Nines decided, moving over to show it to Gavin. His boyfriend was examining the motel-esque art pieces which were for sale. “I already know what my main gift for Connor will be, but…”

“Cool. Yeah, he’ll like that.” Gavin agreed. “That’s a great find, very vintage. Oh man, no way.” He moved back to the section and carefully lifted up the item. A slab of fake wood, there was a plastic bass attached to the front, with a button underneath. When the button was pressed, the fish started flapping its front and tail as music played. The mouth even opened and closed, ostensibly as the fish sang the song. “I can’t believe they have one of these, these were super popular when I was a kid.” Grinning, Gavin shook his head in disbelief.

“I… have no words.” Nines replied, his voice faint. Until that very moment, he had no idea such a strange thing even existed. The fact that it was still in working order was impressive, as his interface informed him the item was manufactured in 2001, making it one year older than Gavin.

“I’m getting this for Hank.” Gavin sounded deeply satisfied with this decision. “He’ll definitely appreciate this.” Seeing the judgemental lo that Nines was giving him, he tucked the fish under his arm and flapped his one hand dismissively. “Oh, I’m going to get him an expensive bottle of whisky, but also, this.”

Humans were indeed strange, and there was much to be learned about them, Nines thought to himself, as he followed Gavin to the glassware shelves.

Chapter Text

[new text from: the coolest person u kno (Kit)]

Hey! I’m going gift shopping today and could use some company. Mall runs are always more fun with friends! Let me know. :)

Nines considered the text and slowly nodded to himself. He had the day off, and had no other plans. For a moment, he hesitated, and then quickly sent a text to Gavin, inviting him along. The response was immediate;

lol no. the mall sucks this time of yr 

It was true there had been a noted increase in shoppers since November… But it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

***

As was planned, Nines met Kit outside Santa’s Village; the station set up for children to get their photo taken with the generous geriatric. Kit was there already, browsing something on their phone. When Nines stopped in front of them, Kit looked up and smiled, pocketing their phone. “Hey!”

“Hello.” Nines gave a nod. “What are you looking for today?” He liked to have an idea of what stores they were visiting. Navigation, however, would be no issue, as his interface had automatically downloaded a map of the mall. 

Dropping their head back, Kit let out a beleaguered groan. “Ugh, something for Pops. He’s one of those people who just buys himself shit he wants, and that can be literally whatever he’s into that particular week. Dad is way easier to shop for; nice bourbon and a good book. Usually, it’s a book I’ve discovered this year, and he hopefully hasn’t read yet. But yeah, no idea what to get Pops. I figured we could just wander around. Do you need anything?”

“I’m planning to make most of my gifts this year… Knitting doesn’t take me very long.” Nines said dryly, as the two of them started navigating through the crowd. “Present buying is still… difficult for me. It requires history and an intimate knowledge of the giftee…” He trailed off and shrugged. “Meanwhile, everyone could always use more outerwear.”

“Huh, I never thought of that before, but you’re right.” Momentarily, Kit got distracted and grinned at a pair of toddlers, dressed in matching outfits made of a deep red velvet. “Anyway, yeah, I’m actually really bad at getting people gifts. Like, what if you get them something they already have? Or some useless shit they hate?” Their expression dimmed. “My shopping list is… much shorter this year. Family only, basically.”

“Why is that?” Nines asked, figuring if they brought it up, it was okay to press the subject.

“Oh, uh, so I didn’t have much friends to start with? And then Emma - my ex - took someone with her who was really important to me. I didn’t think that I was going to lose that friend. And of course I don’t have to shop for her family any more… But! Luckily,” They smiled self deprecatingly, “When it comes to my family, I’ve got lots of aunts and uncles and cousins who love me. Or tolerate me, at least. So,” Kit shrugged. “You know. That’s something.”

“I’m sorry about your friend.” Nines offered, not sure how else to respond. His own friend circle was small; Gavin and Tina, basically. If he and Gavin ever broke up, would Tina still want to be his friend? It was a troubling thought. 

Noticing Nines’ unease, Kit looked dismayed. “Shit, sorry, don’t mind me. It’s fine. I’m fine. Shit happens. People come and go; if you’re lucky, the good ones will stay.” They shrugged. “At least I’ve got a good family. Family is usually pretty reliable, if you’ve got a decent one.”

“...That is true.” At least he knew that Hank and Connor would still be in his life, regardless. 

Silence fell between the two of them, until Kit sniffed the air and perked up. “Oh man, that’s the stuff; mall popcorn is the best. I’m definitely going to have to get some… Can androids smell? I know you can’t eat. Wait, is that racist to ask?”

“I don’t mind you asking, and…” Nines breathed in, taking an air sample. Immediately he was bombarded by information about the nearby stores. “I can tell when there are scents, and where they come from, but it doesn’t mean anything to me. Stimuli without context is meaningless.”

“Huh. Well, take it from me, this stuff smells awesome.” Luckily there were only two people in line, including the customer currently being served. After popcorn was bought, Kit looked around. “Okay. Should probably actually buy gifts and stuff.” Their eyes landed on a storefront. “Oh, hey, I’ve never actually gone in there. Maybe they’ll have some weird old shit that Pops will like.” They were referring to a vintage store that had slightly unnerving dolls in the window display. 

Amused, Nines followed after them. The store was small and felt cramped, with items on nearly every surface. Kit disappeared from sight, and then reappeared, holding a box of decorative souvenir spoons. “I’m so getting these for my Aunt G. I once spent like an hour trying to describe these to her.” They checked the hand-written price tag, and then winced. “Shit, never mind. One sec.” Replacing the item where they had found it, Kit headed out of the store. “Well, at least now I’ve been inside there. That place has been there since I was a kid, I have no idea how it’s still open.”

Next door was a new age store, selling crystals and fairy statues and novelty glasses for wine moms. For a moment, Kit grimaced, and then steeled themself. “Used to know someone who worked here,” They explained to Nines. “But… I still like the stuff they sell.” Looking determined, Kit went into the store. 

Nines trailed in after and took in the different sections of the store, trying to reconcile the gemstones and crystals with the decorative swords. He wasn’t sure how they were related, except that both would each appeal to a certain type of person. A cluster of colour caught his eye, and he moved over to the display that Kit was scanning over. 

It was vintage style toys, made out of tin and brightly painted. The box art of each even looked like something you’d see on the shelf, eighty years ago. Beaming, Kit picked up a red rocket, turning it over in their hands. “Pops will love this. Pretty sure there used to be one of these in the family.” Putting back the display toy and grabbing a boxed one, they moved over to a carousel of crystal jewelry. Kit picked out a bracelet made with a rainbow of stones. “This too. That’s a good start.”

Nines trailed after them as they paid for the items. He puzzled over how such random things could hold significance, based off personal history. 

There were a few more stores that Kit poked into, but didn’t have any further success with. Being at the mall was almost overwhelming for Nines; there were so many people, and each store was playing their own music. Still, there was a certain warmth brought to the experience by the decorations in the storefronts and around the mall. 

Eventually, Kit decide they were done shopping for now and required caffeine. They ordered something for themself as Nines waited for a table. Luckily, one opened up just as Kit got their order, and both were able to sit down. 

Looking thoughtful, Kit dipped the teabag in and out of their drink. “You know… Gavin’s really changed since meeting you. Before, he wasn’t very nice.” They grimaced. When Nines shot them an alarmed look, Kit backtracked. “I mean, he never gave me shit, personally. Though he’d stare at my arm,” They said, referring to their prosthetic robot arm, which was a stark white plastic. “Otherwise he’d kinda just treat me like I was a potted plant. Invisible. But now he seems to be making more of an effort to get to know people at the station.”

Frowning, Nines drummed his fingers on the table. “I don’t think it was entirely me. When we first started dating, and I expressed concern whether he was really okay with having an android as a boyfriend. He told me he started doubting himself during the revolution, with Markus’ speech and the recall camps.” 

“God, yeah, the camps were so fucked up. I still can’t believe Cyberlife went that far.” Kit grimaced. “Was Jericho able to restart any of the androids that were deactivated?”

“Some. But most were lost.” Nines hadn’t been involved in the effort, though he remembered Connor talking about helping the traumatized androids re-enter society. 

A solemn silence fell. It ended when Kit let out a long breath. “I know things still aren’t great, I mean I don’t like, know the details of the cases you guys work but I watch the news sometimes… But I’m glad that things are getting better.”

“Me too.” Nines agreed, grateful to be deviant, and to be able to have his own life. 

There was another pause, until, “Hey,” Kit said softly, smiling. “Thanks for coming along and keeping me company today. I really appreciate it.”  

“And thank you for inviting me,” Nines replied, just as warmly. “It was an interesting experience.” Something occurred to him, that he could probably count Kit among his friends. It was nice to have the list grow, and for it to include someone outside of his family or relationship. Another reason to be thankful for deviancy. 

Chapter Text

Nines was back at Gavin’s apartment, for another quiet evening. They were watching The Santa Clause. Every time a joke in the movie made Gavin laugh, Nines found himself smiling. There was something so endearing about how comfortable and relaxed Gavin was, leaning back into Nines’ arms.

When the credits began to roll, Gavin craned his head to look over at Nines. “So, what did you think?”

“The main actor was… a bit much at times.” Nines had googled the man and found the results distasteful. “He is charismatic, though, and his son is very sweet. Whoever designed the North Pole did a wonderful job, I loved all the scenes there. Also Neal and his ugly sweaters reminds me of Hank.”

Letting out a snort of laughter, Gavin resettled. “Yeah, I can see that.”

A question resurfaced in his mind and it seemed like an appropriate moment to ask, “Why don’t you decorate your apartment for Christmas?” Nines was puzzled. It was obvious how much Gavin loved the seasonal movies, and contributed to the giving part of it. For all he proclaimed to be not a festive person, his actions contradicted his words.

When Gavin shrugged, Nines could feel the shifting of his shoulders. “It’s not like I used to spend much time here, before we started hanging out. Usually I’d go to Tina’s, or we’d go out somewhere. But now I’ve got you, and Tina’s with Claire,” that being Tina’s girlfriend. “Didn’t seem worth the hassle.” There was a thread of wistfulness to his voice.

Pressing a kiss to Gavin’s head, Nines began to plan.

***

Tina agreed to take Gavin out and distract him, while Nines went to work. He enlisted Kit’s help; the two of them went to a home stuff superstore, with Nines relying on Kit’s expertise on what was truly necessary. It took several trips to move their purchases from the cab to Gavin’s apartment. Then it was a matter of setting everything up.

Among their purchases was a fake Christmas tree, lights included; boxes of sparkly gold and red ornaments; a star made of woven rainbow metal for a tree-topper; and several small golden bells. “Remind me what the bells are for, again?” Nines asked, as he got the tree out of its box and began setting it up.

It took Kit a moment to reply, since they were distracted by fussing over Patches, and trying to coax Inky out from where she was hiding under the coffee table. “Oh,” They looked over their shoulder, cuddling Patches as the cat purred. “You put them along the lower boughs of the tree. That way you know whenever a pet is creeping around there.”

“Clever.” Taking such precautions hadn’t even occurred to Nines. He noticed with mild alarm that Patches seemed to be giving the tree an evaluating look, though the cat just lay down on the couch when Kit set him down.

On their phone, Kit pulled up a playlist of seasonal music, and it played as they helped Nines unbox the ornaments and hang them on the tree. When the boxes were empty, both stood back to admire their work. “Not bad,” Kit decided. “Oh, wait.” They plugged in the tree and hit the button to turn the lights on. “There we go.” It was amazing how something so simple could make such a difference to how the apartment felt. The lights from the tree were warm, and threw flecks of reflections across the carpet as they shone on the ornaments.

Next was stringing plastic beaded silver and gold garlands, since tinsel was bad for pets. They wove them around lights and draped them across shelves and on the walls. Then Kit insisted on placing the cookie jars they bought (one in the shape of a stylized, gnomish looking Santa, and one of a penguin wearing a winter hat), on the coffee table and on the kitchen’s island. They even bought mass produced chocolate chip cookies to put inside of the jars.

A wreath of bells was hung in the entranceway, visible when you stepped into the apartment. There were stocking hooks put on a shelf, with a different stocking hung from each. The final touch was big, silvery white candles placed around on surfaces at random. Kit insisted they added ambience, though cautioned against actually lighting them.

“Okay, I think that’s everything?” Kit asked, as they pawed through the empty bags, looking for anything they missed.

“Thank you for helping me.” Nines said, as he began picking up the detritus of their decorating spree. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.” The results from simply googling ‘Christmas decorations’ had been frustratingly unspecific.

“Oh, pfft, you’d’ve managed.” Flustered by the compliment, Kit flapped one of their hands several times, dismissively. “Besides, it was fun! Spending money that isn’t mine. And I got to creep on a coworker’s apartment, and meet his cats. What more could you ask for?”

“Indeed.” Nines had to smile. “Let me call you a cab home?” He had just gotten a text from Tina, complaining she was getting tired. “I think Gavin will be home soon.”

“Sure,” Kit agreed easily, using their phone to take one last picture of Patches. “Let me know what Gavin thinks of all this? Just a general reaction, you don’t need to take pictures or anything. That would be weird.”

“I can do that. Telling you how he reacts, I mean. Taking pictures would be weird.” Arranging the cab, Nines got a notification one would be on the way soon. By the time him and Kit had finished putting away the bags and boxes, the cab had shown up. Nines walked Kit downstairs, and was surprised when they gave him a quick hug before ducking into the car. Smiling, Nines waved as the vehicle pulled away.

***

He was sitting on the couch, cuddling Inky, when Nines could hear voices approaching. “--Telling you Tina, just because it says gingerbread flavour doesn’t mean that there’s actually--” The door opened and Gavin’s voice trailed off. “Uh, what?”

Standing, holding the cat to him, Nines moved so he could see Gavin’s expression. His boyfriend seemed confused, mostly, looking around the apartment and taking in the changes. “...Tina, did we come to the wrong place?”

“Yes Gavin, we moved your cats and crappy furniture into a different apartment just to fuck with you. Congratulations for seeing through our scheme.” Tina deadpanned, pushing him the rest of the way in. “Aaand that’s my obligation for today done. I’m gonna go home to my girl, you two have fun.” She winked and then left.

The stunned silence was starting to concern Nines. “...Do… you like it?” He cautiously ventured. “Or is it too much. I’m sorry if it was presumptuous of me…”

“What?” That seemed to snap Gavin out of his shock. “No, you… This is great, I can’t believe…” He looked around again. “Did you do this all by yourself?” Gavin wandered over to the tree and started looking at the ornaments.

Still holding Inky, Nines trailed after him. “No, Kit helped with picking things out, and getting everything set up. They were a big help.” He used his interface to send a text; Gavin likes it. I think. He seems surprised, mostly.

Gavin moved over to the cookie jar on the coffee table, and removed the lid. He let out a surprised laugh when he saw there were cookies in it. Finally, a smile slowly spread across Gavin’s face, and he looked up at Nines. “This is incredible. Thank you so much.”

So of course Nines had to set Inky down and sweep his boyfriend into a kiss. “I’m glad you like it.” He murmured against Gavin’s lips, before kissing him again.

***

Later, they were cuddling on the couch once more. Gavin was replaying one of his favourite games, while Nines knitted, working away on gifts for people. Everything was peaceful, and lovely, and then there was the sound of bells. Pausing the game, Gavin frowned. “...What is that?”

“I believe,” Nines replied, not stopping in his knitting. “That means the cats are around the tree. And since I can’t move with you leaning against me, it’s your responsibility to make them leave it alone.”

“Ughhhhhhh.” Gavin let out a loud aggrieved noise, though he was smiling as he stood and shooed away the cats. Reaching out, Gavin spun one of the ornaments, watching light play across its surface, taking a moment to take it in, before returning to the couch. “...Thanks again, for the decorations.” He said softly, getting comfortable again.

“You’re very welcome.” Feeling the glow of a job well done, Nines kissed Gavin again, and then they both went back to what they were doing before.

Chapter Text

It was one of the rare evenings that Gavin felt like going out after work. Though Nines was planning to go back to his own apartment once they were finished, to work on Gavin’s present, he accompanied Gavin out of vague curiosity. Kit’s words, about errands being better when they were done with friends, rang in his mind. 

They were going to the local FloorMart, purely for candy. When Gavin had said so, Nines gave him an incredibly judgemental look. “What?” Gavin squawked indignantly. “It isn’t just for me. ...I’m going to leave some shit in the breakroom too. Where I’m sure it’ll get devoured by the locusts we work with. Also, fancy chocolates are a good gift if you have no idea what else to give someone.”

“...I suppose that’s acceptable.” Nines decided magnanimously. In response, Gavin rolled his eyes, though there was a faintly amused smile on his face. 

Once they finally found a parking spot and made it into the store, Gavin grabbed a hand basket. Seeing a setup for a local charity asking for money, he scowled. Confused, Nines raised his eyebrow in a silent question. With a sigh, Gavin elaborated; “That organization is incredibly sketchy. They’re anti-LGBT and super sexist. But for some reason, they’re everywhere this time of year.”

“I see.” Nines knew the teenager working the station probably had nothing to do with how that money was spent, but that was still troublesome. He trailed after Gavin as they moved into the seasonal candy section. 

His attention was immediately grabbed by the fact that there was an entire wall of different candy cane flavours. The classic peppermint, spearmint, cherry, blue raspberry, bubblegum, butterscotch, oranges and cream, cookies and cream… Awed by their number, Nines stood in front of the display, taking it all in. 

After a moment, Gavin noticed that Nines had stopped following him. He doubled back, and let out a snort when he saw Nines’ enraptured expression. “Fucking weird ass androids. Yes, America is the land of a thousand flavours, even for fuckin’ candy canes.”

“I can’t try any of them,” Nines said glumly, shoulders slumping. Not for the first time, he regretted the inability of androids to eat or drink. Something occurred to him and he perked up. “Do you think you could—”

“Nope.” Before Nines even finished that thought, Gavin cut him off. “C’mon, let’s go look for shit I’m actually going to buy.” He grabbed Nines’ arm and tried to tug his boyfriend away. Unfortunately, Gavin had forgotten that Nines was built like a tank, and so he didn’t budge in the slightest. 

“You didn’t even know what I was going to ask!” Nines protested. An oddly coloured package caught his eyes. “Coffee flavoured?” The discovery delighted him. Taking it off the shelf, Nines turned it over in his hands, trying to imagine what it would taste like. 

“God damnit.” With an exasperated sigh, Gavin held out the basket. “Fine, but we’re just getting that one. Because the rest are probably just as fucking disgusting and also candy canes are for children.”

A pleasant thrill of accomplishment running through him, Nines grinned as he deposited the candy into the basket. “Thank you.” His voice was slightly smug, but he was being genuine. “I look forward to hearing what you think of them.”

Muttering to himself, and shaking his head over how weird deviants were, Gavin once again left to go into the chocolate section. This time, Nines trailed after him. 

 

(For the record, Gavin deemed the coffee flavoured candy canes to indeed be “fucking disgusting.” Tina insisted they weren’t that bad, while Hank began chugging real coffee to get the taste out of his mouth. Kit happily claimed the rest of the package for themself, chomping away on the candy.)

Chapter Text

As soon as Tina got the DPD that morning, she made a beeline for Gavin, who was sitting at his desk. “Holy shit, Gav, look what I found when I was cleaning last night!” She shoved something at him and then stood back, grinning. 

He took a close look at it. As soon as he realized what he was looking at, Gavin gave a surprised laugh. “I can’t believe you still have this! I’m pretty sure Patches destroyed my copy, that bastard.”

“What is it?” Nines asked, having been keeping an ear on the conversation. In reply, Gavin handed the thing to him. It was a photo, the kind that you would get taken a studio, usually inside of a store. Against a navy backdrop, Gavin sat on a stool, holding a scrawny adolescent cat, who Nines assumed was Inky. Tina stood behind him, with a fluffy white cat in her arms. Both humans were wearing eye-searingly coloured Christmas sweaters. The date on the photo showed it was taken ten years ago. Despite staring at it for several minutes, Nines found himself utterly baffled. “What.” He finally said. 

Both Tina and Gavin laughed. “We took it together when we were in the academy, god, second year I think?” Tina explained, looking to Gavin for confirmation, who nodded. “We almost got Christmas cards made of them, but then we realized people would probably think we were dating.” She rolled her eyes. “Or at least, more than they already did, at the time.”

An unfamiliar feeling was slowly unfurling in the pit of Nines’ stomach. With an unpleasant jolt, he realized he was jealous. Of course Tina and Gavin weren’t dating. But they were close, had a history together, and Nines found himself envious of that. He had yet to from that kind of relationship, having only been activated so recently. 

While Nines spaced out, Gavin took the photo back. “Can you make me a copy?” He asked Tina, grinning. “It’s a good photo of us. And I don’t have many pictures of Lily anymore,” Referring to the white cat that Tina had in the photo. “Not after my old laptop died.”

“Sure, no problem.” Tina agreed easily as Gavin passed it to her. “Also I think Nines is having a moment, you might want to snap him out of it.” Amused, she walked off, humming a song to herself. 

Until Tina had pointed it out, Gavin hadn’t noticed, having been distracted by the photo. “Hey, Nines,” He stood and out a hand on his boyfriend’s shoulder. “Everything okay?” Gavin spoke with a mixture of wariness and concern. 

“What?” Being spoken to directly brought Nines out of his reverie. “It’s fine. I’m fine.” Gavin gave him a stern look, one that said to try again because that explanation wasn’t enough. “Really, it’s nothing. I’m glad you have a friend like Tina. Hopefully I’ll have something like that someday.”

Expression softening, Gavin retracted his hand. “Yeah, Tina’s pretty great, when she’s not being a pain in the ass.” He chuckled, then something occurred to him. “...We should grab my cats and take a photo like that, you and me, I mean. Do you own an ugly Christmas sweater?” Scrutinizing Nines’ chest. “I think anything I own would be too short on you.”

“If only there was a place where one could be acquired through the exchange of something, perhaps a thing with monetary value.” Nines deadpanned, though the corner of his mouth ticked up into a smile. 

“Alright, smart ass.” Letting out a huff of fond exasperation, Gavin shook his head. “Get yourself one, and then we can hopefully find a photo studio somewhere. Inky probably won’t mind but Patches will probably kick up a fuss… Makes me miss Lily, she was a bit of a priss but she wasn’t a hellion like Patches is.”

“What happened to her?” Nines asked, curious. The idea that Gavin had other pets before him, wasn’t a thought that had occurred until he was presented with proof of it. 

“Oh, old age.” Gavin replied easily, shrugging with one shoulder as he sat back down. “I got her the year before that photo was taken, and she was already eight then. She made it to fifteen, which isn’t bad. I got Patches when she passed.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet her.” Nines offered tentatively, unsure of how else to respond. Gavin didn’t seem particularly distraught with sharing the information, but then again, he had admitted to missing her…

“Ah, thanks. She probably would’ve liked you. Her and Inky were close, always slept curled up together. It was cute…” Gavin trailed off, smiling absently, before catching himself. “Anyway. Lily had a good life, as far as I know. At the time, losing her was hard. But you kinda just… get over it? Move on with your life while keeping their memory. Or something.” Embarrassed, he cleared his throat, double checking that Connor wasn’t at his desk and hadn’t overheard any of that. Luckily, Connor was not. 

“Well I’m glad she had you and Inky.” Nines replied, smiling down at the remarkable man who happened to be his boyfriend. “I’ll find a sweater, and a photo studio.”

“Sure, I can’t wait.” Gavin agreed, then turned back to his work terminal. “Okay, I should probably get back to this, talk more later?” 

“Yes, I will keep you updated.” Unbothered by the dismissal, Nines headed back to his own desk, already searching for both. 

Chapter Text

For the second time, Kit was over at Gavin’s apartment. They had been invited, along with Tina, to hang out. At first, things had been slightly awkward, with Kit being shy and reserved, but eventually they felt comfortable enough to talk and joke around. First the group played some video games, before switching to card games. 

As good at the games were, after a few rounds, it got tiring. So Gavin put a movie on the tv (Elf), with the volume turned down low, so it was possible to still have a conversation. 

“Wait, so,” Kit began, staring at the calico in Nines’ lap. “You named your cat after a video game?” They were sitting on a padded foot-rest that had been dragged in for an extra seat. 

“Holy shit, you’re making me feel old.” Gavin replied with a groan. He was on the couch with Nines and the cats. “The name is from a video game. The Dark Souls series, and the character Patches who shows up in them. You can’t tell me that you’ve never heard of Dark Souls, the first one at least. It’s a classic! It was rereleased in 2018!”

Thinking, Kit screwed up their face. “Uhhhh… Oh! Actually I think I used to watch Dad play that game when I was a young’un. Sometimes Pops would try, but he was useless at it, and always swore, which made Dad tease him.” They smiled fondly. “But I never got into them myself, way too hard for me.”

“That’s fair,” Tina agreed, leaning over from the armchair she was on, to scratch Patches on the head. “I managed to play Bloodborne, which was like a spin-off title. They encouraged you to play on the offensive, which is the only way I can play. Defence is for suckers.”

“God, Ti, remember when Nines got playing it? Pulling off those frame perfect parries…” Gavin trailed off, a dreamy look on his face. 

Tina snorted. “Don’t get a boner in front of company, that’s rude. Anyway…” Something on the tv caught her attention. Briefly everyone fell quiet as they watched the main character and his designated heterosexual love interest sing together. “It’s always weird to see her blonde, I’m used to her signature look.” Tina commented, once the song broke off. 

“Yeah, I used to want to look like her when I was younger, but having bangs in my face always bugged me.” Kit let out a small huff of laughter, amused by their past self. “Also I’ve never really liked this movie, I prefer him in Stranger than Fiction, but I always end up watching Elf around this time of year.”

“Right? It’s actually kind of creepy,” Tina stood briefly to scoop Inky up, before sitting back down. Inky gave her a reproachful look before settling down. “Like, the way it’s always on tv or someone ends up putting it on. There’s no escape… No escape from the elves…”

Everyone laughed, with Kit in particular finding that funny. “Still,” Kit continued. “It is nice, watching seasonal movies. You don’t really do that for any other holiday, except for horror movies around Halloween, I guess.” Leaning over, they picked up a piece of chocolate covered toffee from the tin that was on the coffee table. “Though Christmas cookies — those are the best. Deliciousness that you only get once a year.”

“I wouldn’t really know,” Tina replied. “...Gav, grab one of the penny ones for me?” Silently, he passed her a piece of toffee shaped like a coin. “Thanks. Anyway, he doesn’t bake,” Guesturing to Gavin. “And neither does my family. But oh man, the food we make is the best. My grandma’s dumplings are amazing.”

“I can attest to that.” Gavin agreed. “Since Ti always steals leftovers for me.”

Tina snorted as she unwrapped the candy and popped it in her mouth. “I’m pretty sure grandma is starting to think you’re pathetic and makes extra out of pity. Pity dumplings.”

“Eh, I’ll take it.” Gavin shrugged with a self deprecating grin, making everyone else laugh. “While it’s super annoying in malls, and when they run out of good songs and start playing that fucking shoes song; Christmas music is pretty great. You’ve got the classics, and then it’s always fun to see what crazy shit bands come up with.”

Expectantly, attention shifted to Nines, who blinked. “...This time of year reminds me of the revolution, and how much I enjoy being recognized as a living being.” There was an awkward pause, with no one being sure how to respond to that. 

“...Valid.” Kit finally said. 

***

As it got late, Tina decided she wanted to sleep in her own bed, and offered Kit a drive home, which they accepted. Again Kit hugged Nines, and gave Gavin a shy smile and thanked him for inviting them over. “Anytime.” Gavin replied with a shrug, putting his hands in the pockets of his sweatpants. 

Once the two were gone, Gavin started tidying up the detritus that had gathered over the visit. Nines helped him, trailing after into the kitchen. They worked together in companionable silence. When they headed back to the couch, Nines spoke up. “Actually. What I said earlier aside — I like decorations. How much the lights change how the living room feels.”

“Wow, you were thinking about that the entire time?” For some reason, that seemed to amuse Gavin, before he smiled softly. “But yeah, that’s a good one too. Keeping the cats away from the tree is a pain, but… I’m glad to have decorations this year. Thanks again, for than.”

“You’re welcome.” Nines replied peaceably, as they sat down and cuddled up together.

Chapter Text

“Excuse me?”

Kit looked up from their work terminal to see a courier standing there, a package under her arm. Smiling sheepishly, Kit stood and walked closer to the counter. “Oh! Hi! Sorry, I was doing a thing. Can I sign for that, or do I need to find the recipient?”

“Yeah, no, it’s…” She double checked the package, reading it's label. “For a Gavin Reed? He’s going to have to sign for it.”

“Okay, I’ll see if he’s in.” Using their interface, Kit texted Nines, as they headed further into the station. Hey! Is Gavin in the bullpen? When Nines confirmed both him and Gavin were in, Kit continued making their way to Gavin’s desk. Once there, Kit cleared their throat to get his attention. “Hey! There’s a package for you at the front. You have to come and sign for it.”

It took Gavin a moment to readjust, as he’d been poring over a document. “Uh, sure.” He got up and followed Kit back to reception. After introducing himself and flashing a piece of ID, Gavin accepted the box. He took a glance at the label and grimaced, but still, he was polite to the courier before she left.

“What is it?” Kit asked, peering curiously at the object in Gavin’s hands. “It was sent with same day shipping, which costs a lot.” Nines, who was also wondering what was going on, came into the front and quietly lurked behind Gavin. 

With a short sigh through his nose, Gavin tore off the brown paper that covered the package. Underneath was a tin, the kind that cookies and other treats came in. There was no card or note. Taking off the piece of tape keeping it shut, Gavin removed the lid and tilted it towards Kit in an offering. “Want anything?” There was an assortment of bars and cookies, clearly homemade.

“Oh! Sure! Oooh are those Nanaimo bars?” Picking one out, Kit took a bite out of it. Then they paused, chewed and swallowed. “Wait, you do know the sender and I’m not about to be poisoned, right?

“Yeah, I know who sent it, it’s fine.” Gavin reassured them. “Also, don't worry; If it had been poisoned, or gone off, or anything, I'm sure Nines would be freaking out.” Nines nodded in silent agreement. 

“Cool. Thanks.” Kit flashed a smile before going back around the counter and returning to their terminal. 

Gavin closed the tin and headed back into the bullpen, Nines trailing after him. Just inside, they encountered Tina, who glanced at what Gavin was holding and let out a groan. “She did it again, didn’t she?” Tina asked, shaking her head. 

“Yep,” Gavin replied, popping the p. Taking off the lid again, “Want anything?” Tina peered at the contents, before choosing a cream cheese brownie. She thanked Gavin through a mouth full of chocolate and continued on her way. 

As Gavin entered the bullpen proper, someone let out an obnoxious whistle. “Hey Reed, brought enough for the class?” they called teasingly, causing a ripple of laughter. 

“Fuck off, vultures,” Gavin shot back, clutching the tin to him protectively. “This is mine.” Despite his words, when he got back to his desk, he opened the bottom drawer and dropped the tin in, before locking it. 

For a moment, Nines hovered, then realizing it wasn’t the place or the moment to press Gavin, returned to his own work. Still, he made a mental note to ask later about the mysterious baked goods and whoever sent them. 

***

That evening, Nines followed Gavin out to his car. Once they were inside the parking structure, Nines asked the question that had been bothering him all day. “Who sent those?” He gestured to the tin underneath Gavin’s arm. 

First he glanced around to make sure they were alone, then Gavin let out a short sigh through his nose. “It’s from my mom, she’s been doing this the last few years. Sending stuff made from recipes she’s got out of cookbooks or from friends.” Seeing the intent look Nines was giving him, he grimaced. “Look, my mom and I… We’re just different people, okay?”

Gavin took a step towards his car, and then offered the tin to Nines. “Give this to Hank? He’ll probably appreciate it more than me. I don’t really want them.” Which was also Gavin’s roundabout way of asking to be by himself for the evening. 

“Okay.” Nines agreed. He stepped closer and gently kissed Gavin, before retreating. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Managing a weak smile, Gavin nodded. “Yeah. See you.” He got into his car and started it, while Nines wandered back out of the parking structure, mulling things over. 

Chapter Text

Near the end of the day, Gavin heard someone ostentatiously clearing their throat near his desk. He looked up to see Hank standing there, with Connor lurking a step behind him. “...Hi?” Gavin asked cautiously, mind racing as he tried to figure out what was going on. 

“Do you have any plans tonight?” Hank replied, loose-limbed and relaxed, his hands in the pocket of his jeans. In contrast, Connor appeared to be trying to glare a hole into his boyfriend’s head. Which begged the question of whether Hank was aware of the death glare he was receiving.  Apparently he did; Hank noticed Gavin glancing uncertainly between the two, and the corner of Hank’s mouth ticked up into a smile. 

After all this occurred, Gavin was still thoroughly confused. “Not really, why?”

“Connor and I,” Hank replied easily, “are heading to some of the ritzier neighbourhoods tonight to check out their light displays. I thought you and Nines might want to come along.”

Gavin hesitated. On one hand, he spent enough time putting up with Connor at work. On the other hand, if it was for Nines’ sake… “Sure.” Gavin decided with a shrug. “I’ll need to head home and eat first. Feed the cats.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Nines is coming back to mine with us, but we’ll pick you up at seven thirty. Does that work?” Hank waited for Gavin to give a nod of confirmation. “Okay. See you then.” Turning, he headed back to his desk. Connor shot Gavin one last warning look before following. 

“...What did I just agree to.” Gavin wondered aloud, exasperated. The things he did for the sake of his relationship…

***

At seven thirty exactly, Gavin’s phone buzzed with a text from Nines; We’re outside. Don’t forget a hat. With a roll of his eyes, Gavin grabbed a toque and headed out. “Hey,” He said in greeting to all as he let himself into the backseat of Hank’s car. “Fancy seeing you again,” Gavin grinned at Nines, who closed the space between them to briefly kiss him. 

“Thanks for doing this.” Nines spoke in an undertone, though both knew that Connor would overhear anyway. 

“Eh, should be fun. Never really done this before.” Gavin admitted, reaching out for Nines’ hand and holding it. “So, Hank, where are we headed?”

“No idea, actually. Connor was the one to look it up,” Hank admitted, as the car pulled away from the apartment entrance. “Apparently there’s even a website for this kind of thing.” They came to a red light, which gave Hank the chance to reach for the car’s audio centre and fiddle with it. As it flicked on, Ella Fitzgerald started playing from the speakers. To allow for conversation, Hank adjusted the volume so it was audible but not overbearing. 

Connor hadn’t spoken since Gavin got into the car. A silent conversation occurred between Hank and Connor, with Connor saying that he shouldn’t have to make nice with Gavin outside of work, and Hank reminding him that he should do just that for the sake of Nines. In the backseat, Nines slightly tightened his grip on Gavin’s hands, picking up on the tension. Gavin tried to reassure him, gently squeezing back. 

The car started moving forward again; Connor gave in, his shoulder’s relaxing as he dropped his rigid posture. “The nearest display is a few blocks away.” He finally said, and then rattled off the street address. 

“Got it.” In an absentminded gesture, Hank drummed his thumbs against the steering wheel. “So, Gavin. I heard Nines and a friend decorated your apartment for you? How are your cats with the tree?”

Always willing to talk about his fur children, Gavin grinned. “Inky’s older so she doesn’t give a fuck about much. Patches, on the other hand… He likes to lurk at the base, it’s kind of unnerving. Especially when you just see his eyes reflecting when everything else is dark. Also I keep finding ornaments that have been knocked off, so he’s clearly climbing it. I just haven’t caught him doing it yet. What about Sumo?”

Amused by the antics, Hank chuckled. “Naw, Sumo’s a good boy; He couldn’t care less about the tree. Only lost one ornament to him when he was younger, and to be fair, it was actually a dog toy.” Here, he faltered slightly. “Ended up in the ornaments somehow. Anyway.” On the gearshift, Hank’s grip tightened. 

There was concern on Connor’s face as he placed his hand on top of Hank’s. A glance passed between them, resulting in Hank letting out a sigh and a rueful smile. 

“Do you have anything planned for Christmas Eve, Gavin?” In a clear change of subject, Connor turned in his seat slightly to look into the backseat. He managed an even tone of voice, his usual distaste absent for once. 

Despite being entirely innocuous, the question made Gavin’s shoulders tense up. He cleared his throat before answering. “Just the usual. Me, the cats, Christmas movies, and too much chocolate. Why?”

“You should come over to Hank’s then. What’s the saying? The more the merrier?” Connor aimed for levity and got most of the way there. 

Refusal was Gavin’s automatic, knee jerk reaction. The idea of dealing with Connor for an entire evening held zero appeal. But then he saw the hopeful look that Nines was giving him. “...Sure. Why not.” Nines mouthed ‘thank you’.

“I won’t be making a full dinner, because there’s no point. But I’ll do up a turkey breast, some stuffing and mashed potatoes. It’s been… a while… since I’ve done all that. I usually just order Chinese. But…” Hank trailed off, looking for a diplomatic way to say Connor was coercing him into a more traditional celebration.

Once more they were treading on thin ice, and Gavin jumped at moving things along. “Cool. I haven’t had that in ages. Do you want me to bring anything?”

“We’ll be doing gifts, though something tells me that you and Nines have planned for that already.” Clearly grateful for the save, Hank shot him a smile. “Other than that, not really. I wouldn’t say no to an apple pie but it doesn’t have to be homemade.”

“Got it.” To make a reminder for himself, Gavin pulled out his phone and made a note. “Presents and pie. I can manage that.”

“Take a left here, and we’re at the first house.” Connor spoke up. With a nod, Hank drove around the corner and slowed down. Everyone fell silent as they took in the house, whose roof was entirely covered in white lights. 

Finally, Gavin spoke. “Jesus. That’s some Griswold shit right there. What do you think their electricity bill is like?”

“I was just about to say. Wonder if they blew a breaker for the neighbourhood when they turned on the lights for the first time.” Hank agreed, and the two humans exchanged grins. Meanwhile, the androids were thoroughly baffled, and scanned their databases for context. 

“Oh, Nines, we haven’t got to Christmas Vacation yet, right?” Gavin realized, catching onto the confusion. “We’ll definitely have to fix that.”

“If you don’t by Christmas Eve, we can watch it then. It’s a classic.” Hank agreed. “Okay, where to next?” In response, Connor announced the next address, and the car moved on. 

Chapter Text

“Remind me why we’re doing this again?” Gavin asked, pulling on a hat, scarf, and gloves. He sat down and took off his boots, grabbed the skates and began putting them on. 

“Because it’s a nice seasonal activity to do, and you’re a dedicated boyfriend who’s trying to make my first Christmas season a memorable one.” Nines quickly put on his own skates, and then moved over to Gavin. “Here, let me.” It was easier for him to tighten the laces on Gavin’s skates. 

Gavin grimaced. “Don’t tell anyone else, it’ll ruin my reputation. ...Thanks, though, for doing the laces. It’s been forever since I gone skating… You’re not allowed to laugh at me.” Walking with skates on was awkward, but Gavin began to clumsily make his way out of the changing room. 

“I won’t. But I can’t make any promises when it comes to Tina and the others.” Nines followed after him, moving without any difficulty. 

Outside, the air was crisp but not too cold. The skating rink was in the middle of the downtown area, surrounded by lights and decorations on the lampposts. It was getting to be late on a weeknight, so it wasn’t very busy. Kit, Tina, and her girlfriend Claire (a ST200 model with short dark brown hair and hazel eyes) were waiting for the guys. 

“Took you long enough!” Tina said to Gavin, before turning to Claire. “C’mon.” She took her girlfriend’s hand and they both stepped onto the rink. It took Tina a few steps to find her stride, but soon her and Claire were gliding elegantly around the ice. 

“...Wow.” Kit said, watching the couple. “I’m definitely not going to be that good.”

“You can’t be any worse than Gavin will be,” Nines assured them, looking at his boyfriend with a teasing glint in his eye. In response, Gavin gave him the middle finger, and then wobbled onto the ice. He shuffled a few steps before trying to push forward. One of his skates got caught in the ice, and he pitched forward.

With speed that was only slightly more than human, Nines darted to Gavin’s side and caught him. “Here,” The two of them held hands as Nines started skating slowly backwards, pulling Gavin along with him. Despite the sedate pace, Gavin still nearly overbalanced a few times, but soon he relaxed and let Nines lead him. 

After a few laps around the rink, Gavin waved Nines off, letting go of his hand. “Okay, I need a break.” Shuffling again, he got off the rink and headed into the changing room. 

At a loss for how to occupy himself, Nines looked around and spotted Kit, who was skating around slowly, taking in the atmosphere. As Nines approached them, they focused on him, smiling and giving a little wave. “Hey. You know, I kind of feel like a third wheel. You and Gavin were being cute, and Tina and her girlfriend are ridiculously pretty together.”

“I’m sorry,” Nines immediately apologized, feeling guilty. It hadn’t even occurred to him that going on an outing, alone in a group made of couples, might be isolating. 

“Calm down, it’s fine, really.” Kit reassured him, letting out a breath and watching it curl through the air. “Claire seems nice, in the five minutes I spent talking to her and Tina. And I appreciate being invited along.” They shrugged. “Honestly this month has been hard, but… Getting out and being with people helps.”

Unsure how to reply, Nines was silent, still feeling bad.

Shaking their head, Kit changed the subject. “Anyway. Remind me to show you some pictures when we get off the ice — one of the cats fell asleep on Ulsseys, Dad’s old basset hound. It’s super cute. I think my dads missed the cats, though they’d deny it. Usagi especially adores Pops, and I always catch him fussing over her…” Kit kept talking, telling Nines about their family, until he was relaxed and nodding along with a smile. 

Someone calling Nines’ names caught both of their attention. Gavin was standing at the entrance of the rink, holding something in his hands. Next he called for Tina. The group converged to meet him. In one hand, he held a cardboard tray with steaming hot drinks. The other had a brown paper bag with grease leaking through. “I brought refreshments. C’mon.” Gavin moved to nearby picnic benches, with the group following after him and sitting down. 

“Oh my god, those both smell amazing.” Tina made grabby hands, accepting a drink and breathing in it’s scent. “Candy cane hot chocolate is the best.” She opened the tab on the lid, taking a sip. As she did, Gavin opened the bag and offered it to her. Tina grabbed what was inside, which turned out to be cinnamon sugar donuts. “They’re still warm.” She seemed impressed before taking a big bite of it. 

With a quiet thanks, Kit took a drink and donut. There was a brief silence as the humans munched on their snack. After a moment, Tina asked, “Where did you get these from?”, with a mouth full of donut. 

“Jesus, don’t talk with your mouth full. That’s gross, you’re gross.” Gavin chided her. She swallowed the food and then stuck out her tongue at him. “Real mature.” He rolled his eyes. “Anyway, there’s a booth nearby selling them. Collecting money for charity, apparently. Nines, you should check them out and make sure they’re legit.” Nines nodded; he could do that. 

“Oh, here, you have a little…” Leaning over, Claire used her thumb to brush away some sugar from the corner of Tina’s lips. “There you go!” She kissed her girlfriend, before using a napkin to wipe off her hand.

“Thanks babe.” Tina gave her a besotted smile, with Claire beaming back. Leaning in, Tina said something softly that made Claire giggle.

Leaving the couple of their moment, Kit pulled out their phone and unlocked it. “So here’s the pictures I was telling you about… That’s my dad’s dog,” They explained to Gavin, who was leaning over to also see the photos. “The cats knew him when they were kittens, but we were still a bit worried they wouldn’t remember him when I moved back in. Thankfully, they seem to get along just fine.”

“That’s cool.” Gavin replied. “Did you grow up with dogs? I always wanted pets… I’ve never had a dog, only cats.”

“Yep!” Kit locked their phone and put it back in their pocket. “I was kinda spoiled, I had fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, lizards… Not all at once!” They hastily corrected themself, when Nines looked alarmed. “Lizards were the worst, they eat crickets, which would sometimes escape and drive everyone crazy with their chirping.” Kit shuddered. “But yeah, we’ve always had cats and dogs. When did you get cats?”

“Oh, uh, well my first cat was actually Inky. I got her just after starting at the police academy. It was my first apartment without roommates and I needed the company.” Gavin looked off into the distance, smiling. “She was the cutest kitten… Then I got Lily a year later, who was already middle aged. She’s since passed. And then I got Patches, that asshole.”

“Patches is the best.” Kit insisted fervently. “I didn’t know Inky was that old, neat! Hopefully one day she’ll stop being afraid of me.” They let out a self deprecating chuckle. 

“Nines is the only person she’s taken to, like, immediately.” Gavin shook his head slowly. “I have no idea how he won her over. Catnip, probably.”

“I will never reveal my secret.” Nines deadpanned, smiling slightly. Noticing Kit watching him curiously, he winked, making them laugh. “Are you done your Christmas shopping?” Nines asked Kit, thinking of the other day. 

“Oh, yeah. Actually I went back to that store with Pops and he paid for the spoons, so we’re giving them to Aunt G! I can’t wait.” Kit grinned before taking another bite of their donut. After chewing and swallowing, they continued, “It feels good to have that taken care of. One less thing to worry about, you know?”

“Man, you guys are crazy.” Breaking into the conversation, Tina leaned forward. “I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about any of that.”

Claire gasped, eyes wide. “Does that mean you’re not getting me a gift?” She asked, pouting. As Tina jolted, slowly beginning to panic, Claire’s expression melted into something mischievous. “Just kidding. We talked about that before, remember? As long as I get to see you sometime on Christmas Eve, it’s fine.”

“Geez. Way to give me a heart attack.” Tina shook her head, but didn’t seem too bothered as she accepted an apology kiss on the cheek. 

Nines saw that Kit was watching the ladies, looking wistful. He nudged them and offered a sympathetic smile. Kit gave a one shoulder shrug but smiled back. “Oh! Look,” They said, holding out a hand. “It’s beginning to snow.”

Silence fell as the group watched the snow flurries slowly drift through the air. Gavin leaned against Nines, as Nines put his arm over his boyfriend’s shoulder. It was a beautiful evening, Nines decided. 

Chapter Text

While Gavin made himself dinner, Nines wandered through the apartment. Beside the tv was a bookshelf, containing a mix of games, movies, and books. Two objects slightly blocked the glow of the lights which were laid across the shelf. Curious, Nines moved closer to look at them. 

They were matching stocking hooks, both shaped like Christmas trees. One was all white, while the other was green with white trimming each level of boughs. They were decorated with tiny bulbs of colour with a golden star at the top of the tree. 

From the hooks hung two stockings. The one on the left was all black with white paw prints on it. The right one was the reverse, mostly white with black prints. There were splashes of orange and grey decorating it, giving it a calico look. Nines peeked inside one and found it full of cat treats and toys. 

A soft, warm feeling washed over him, a mix of amusement and affection. “Do you have stockings for your cats?” Nines called, already knowing what the answer would be. 

“Yes, because they are my children. Shut up.” Gavin replied, entering the living room holding a plate of food and a bottle of beer. “I just remembered those the other day, I forgot I had them until I was telling Kit about the cats.” Making his way to the couch, Gavin stepped around Patches, who was trailing after him, meowing piteously for food. “Shut up Patch, I already fed you.”

Smiling, Nines joined Gavin on the couch, turning on the tv for him and pulling up a streaming app. “I suppose it makes sense for you to have stockings for Inky and Patches, because I know you spoil them. But why don’t you have one for yourself?”

Gavin snorted. “Why would I? That’s stupid. Theirs at least hold the shit I’m going to give them at Christmas. Meanwhile, I can buy myself whatever, whenever I want.” As he shoveled food into his mouth, he shrugged and swallowed. “No point.”

Something about that answer didn’t sit right for Nines. He frowned, feeling that familiar pang from whenever it seemed Gavin was missing out on something joyful about the season. Still… “That makes sense, I suppose.” 

By the couch was a tote belonging to Nines, full of yarn, and half finished projects. Nines fished out the scarf he was working on for Hank. “What do you want to watch?” When Gavin named an old comedy series, Nines selected it on the app. A companionable silence fell as Gavin continued to eat, and Nines began to knit. 

Chapter Text

As Gavin opened the door and stepped into his apartment, his foot collided with an object and sent it spinning off into the darkness. “What the fuck.” He hit the light switch and went after it. Nines was just behind him, and closed the door. 

“PATCHES.” Gavin yelled, standing in the middle of the living room. There were ornaments - the glittery gold and red baubles - scattered all over the floor. Luckily, they were plastic, so none were broken. Save for the one Gavin accidentally kicked, which had a small dent in it. 

Inky, who was sleeping on the couch, opened one eye at the noise. With a flick of an ear, she went back to sleep. From the bedroom, came an inquisitive “mrrr?” as Patches strolled out and came up to Gavin, sitting down in front of him and meowing. 

“No! Don’t you be cute, I’m mad at you.” Gavin insisted, glaring down the cat, who continued to be cute nonetheless. 

“Gavin,” Nines came up and out a hand on his shoulder. “Yelling at him won’t do any good. Why don’t you get started on your dinner? I’ll clean this up.” With one last dirty look at Patches, Gavin slunk into the kitchen; under his breath, he muttered a litany of curses. 

With his owner out of view, Patches crouched and wiggled his butt in the air. He pounced on the dented ornament, and with a solid bat of his paw, sent it skidding off again. 

“You know,” Nines began conversationally, sticking out his foot to stop the object’s momentum. “You’re really not helping your case. Of course, we don’t know for sure that it isn’t your older sister…” He shot Inky a suspicious look as he began to pick up at the scattered ornaments and rehanging them on the tree. 

Once he was done, Nines headed towards the kitchen. “Have you ever considered getting a camera for your apartment? That way we’d know for sure who’s attacking the tree.” He leaned against the breakfast bar, his eyes following Gavin’s movements. 

“Tina’s mentioned it, yeah, she wants to know what the cats get up to when I’m not here. I’m pretty sure they just sleep.” Gavin rolled his eyes. “I don’t trust the security on those things though. They’ve come a long way, sure, but anyone determined enough could probably break into it. Then they’d be able to see everything. Creepy.” He shuddered. 

“I suppose that’s fair.” From there, their conversation moved to comparing the cases they were currently working on. It carried them through Gavin eating dinner and cleaning up his dishes. Somehow, without either of them noticing it, the dented ornament got knocked down and Patches was playing with it again. 

“In the market for cat skin gloves?” Gavin muttered darkly, as he picked up Patches and moved the cat away from his new toy. “Because I’m starting to consider it.”

“You don’t mean that.” With a tsk, Nines bent down and picked up the ball. “It might be a loss at this point. Maybe if he plays with this, he won’t touch the other ones?”

“We can hope, I guess…” With a sigh, Gavin put Patches down and watched him as he went to sit in front of Nines. “Though I also don’t think he’s smart enough to actually tell if apart from all the other identical looking ornaments. Ugh, whatever, I’m over it. No offence to you though, I still appreciate you buying them for me.” He dropped onto the couch and grabbed a game controller. 

Gently placing the orb on the floor, Nines watched as Patches immediately began playing with it again. “I was looking at Hank’s tree the other evening,” He began conversationally. “And the ornaments he has on them. It’s quite the interesting collection; Captain Kirk in his captain’s chair is right next to a flying Superman.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.” Gavin gave an amused snort. “Those things are old, just like him. Though, which Kirk? TOS or AOS?”

It took Nines a moment to look up the terms; The Original Series (the tv show from the 1960s) or Alternate Original Series (the movie franchise from the late 2000s). “The Original Series. Apparently both belonged to his dad. And…” He hesitated, and then remembering that Gavin had known Hank longer than him, continued. “Apparently some ornaments stayed in storage. Things his son had made, or ones they bought for him.”

“...Yeah, I can see how that’d be rough.” Gavin grimaced in sympathy. “I bet Connor is probably going to start some tradition where him and Hank give each other ornaments. Seems like something he’d do.” He shook his head. “Anyway, is this your long winded way of saying my tree sucks? You’re the one of bought the decorations.”

Caught by surprise, Nines blinked. “Not at all. Just making conversation.” A shrug. “They follow two different design philosophy, and both have their place.” 

“Okay then.” With an amused smile tugging at the corner of his lips, Gavin turned back to the tv. After a pause, he carefully said, “There were a few ornaments on my mom’s tree that I really loved. But. I couldn’t exactly get any of them when she—when I moved out.” Gavin cleared his throat and gave a shrug, feigning casualness. “So. Store bought it is.”

Turning to face the tree, Nines hid his disapproving frown. There was more to the story, clearly, but he regretted bringing up something that seemed to be painful for Gavin. “Well,” Making himself smile and keeping his voice light, Nines joined his boyfriend on the couch. “Like I said, store bought isn’t necessarily bad. Patches seem to like them, for one thing.”

Both watched as Patches slid across the floor, and thudded into the wall. He sat up, shook himself off, and jumped on the ornament again.

“What a fucking weirdo.” Affection was clear in Gavin’s voice, and his smile. “Yeah, they’re not bad. And they’re from you, so. You know. That’s something.” He shrugged, trying to downplay any display of emotion. 

In lieu of a reply, Nines leaned over and kissed him. On screen, Gavin’s character fell off a cliff. Gavin didn’t seem to mind, too busy returning the kiss.

Chapter Text

“Remind me what we’re doing here again?” Kit asked, taking off their outerwear and taking in the crowds at the mall. “Woah, it’s way busier than last time we were here.” The line to see Santa was long and winding, despite it being only eleven AM.

“Because I’ve realized that Christmas tree decorations require a more personal touch. When they’re in someone’s home, anyway. Because otherwise they look like something at a business or a store.” Nines explained. When Kit still looked confused, he clarified. “I want to find an ornament for Gavin. Something that suits him.”

“Oh! Okay! That should be easy enough.” Kit wandered over to the mall directory and began looking it over as Nines lurked a step behind them. “So FloorMart sells ornaments, of course. And the big bookstore. Also there’s two separate card stores that’ll have them too.” They made a considering noise, thinking it over. “Let’s start with the fancy card store first; if I remember correctly, they have nice stuff.”

“I did look online, at the bookstore’s site.” Nines said, as the two of them began making their way to the wing of the mall where the store was located. “I didn’t see anything that seemed…” He trailed off and shrugged. “Nothing reminded me of Gavin.”

Kit giggled. “Last Christmas, we bought an avocado ornament for Uncle S from there. Because he loves avocado toast. God, it was the ugliest thing; huge, made of glass, covered in glitter… The flesh of the avocado was pink, for some reason? And the seed was gold. He was a good sport about it though; just examined it and deemed it ‘fascinating’. Which is high praise, coming from him. Did you have an idea of what you want for Gavin?”

“No…” Nines admitted. “But I think I’ll know it when I see it.”

***

The stores themselves were quiet, with most having recently opened their shutters. Kit got distracted by a display of wooden music boxes, so Nines moved to the ornament section by himself. As far as he could tell, the current style in favour was similar to what Kit had described earlier; ordinary objects, mostly food, made of glass and covered in glitter. Reaching out, Nines tapped his finger against a taco, listening to the noise that rang out.

Why anyone would want a taco ornament was beyond him. Humans were strange, he thought, not for the first or last time.

He carefully looked over what was for sale, dismissing anything that seemed too childish or that would be out of character. Tina might appreciate a llama-corn, but Gavin definitely wouldn’t. Then, just as Nines was thinking they were going to have to go to another store, he saw it. Smiling, he picked up the object. “I found it.” Nines announced as he went over and showed it to Kit.

“Uh, okay?” They didn’t understand, until Nines explained why it was perfect for Gavin. Then Kit smiled. “By Jove, I think he’s got it!” They attempted a British accent, and then grimaced. “Never let me do that again, I don’t know why I thought I could pull that off. But good job!”

“Thank you.” With a gracious nod, Nines accepted the compliment, before he went over to the checkout to buy the ornament.

***

With the primary task accomplished, the two slowly wandered through the mall. “Oh, look!” Kit pointed. “They have a gift wrapping station. You should do that for the ornament.” Nines gave them a dubious look. “Yeah, it’s small, but believe me. Wrapping sucks. And they usually only charge a couple bucks, and most of it goes to charity.”

“...Well, if it’s for charity…” Nines nodded. “It won’t match the other gift I have for him, but that’s okay.” 

The two friends approached the station. For the employees working there, the uniform consisted of  wearing red aprons and Santa hats. One of the workers, a lovely woman with red hair, green eyes, and a scatter of freckles, wasn’t currently occupied. She grinned at both Kit and Nines. “Hi!”

“Hello.” Pulling out the box from the plastic store bag, Nines held it out. “I’d like to get this wrapped, please.”

“Sure! We ask for a donation of at least five dollars per gift. Is that okay with you?” The woman asked. When Nines nodded, she accepted the box. “Okay, perfect!” Her gaze moved from Nines to Kit, and her smile softened.

Flustered by the attention, Kit nervously linked their fingers together, fidgeting. Nearby, an exasperated mom dragged a wailing child away from a kiosk selling personalized ornaments. All three turned to watch the commotion. “Heh. Tis the season to be merry, huh?” Kit joked.

“You know, that’s my name, actually!” The woman said. “Mary.” She leaned forward slightly, angling her body towards Kit. “What’s yours?”

“Oh, uh, Kit.” They replied haltingly, beginning to blush. Pretty girls made them nervous.

“That is a great name! I love it.” Mary looked around. Nearby, there was a container holding mini candy canes, usually used to add a final decoration to a wrapped gift. She picked one up and offered it to Kit. “Here, have one. On the house.” In a blink and you’ll miss it movement, Mary winked.

“Thank you?” Kit squeaked, accepting the candy. They shot Nines a look, silently communicating that they had no idea how else to respond.

Smiling slyly, Nines spoke up. “Kit here is a great friend; They helped me pick out that gift. It’s for my boyfriend, it’s our first Christmas together.” He explained, subtly emphasizing the words ‘friend’ and ‘boyfriend.’  

“Aw, cute! Congratulations.” Mary looked past the two friends, noticing a line had begun to form. “Okay,” Her voice shifted slightly, seeming more professional than flirty. “So it’s early still, which means it should take us fifteen minutes, max, to wrap your gift. Does that work for you?”

“Yes, that’s fine. We’ll see you then.” Nines nodded and began to move away, Kit trailing after him. Once the two were a safe distance away, he smiled at Kit. “She seemed nice.”

“Oh my god, shut up.” Still blushing, Kit started unwrapping the candy cane. “She was just being friendly, it’s part of her job. Plus I don’t want to be that creepy person who hits on someone who’s working.” They shoved the tip of the candy cane into their mouth. 

“Hmm… If you say so.” Nines said slowly. When a flustered Kit batted at his arm, he grinned to himself.

 

(When they went back to pick up the wrapped gift, Mary winked again as she slid over a piece of paper with her phone number, offering it to Kit. With what they would later describe as ‘gay nervous sweating’, Kit accepted the offering, in a way that was slightly awkward, but mostly charming.)

Chapter Text

While Gavin was digging through his closet, Nines lay on the bed, with Inky asleep and purring on his chest. Staring up at the ceiling, Nines smiled to himself as he listened to Gavin mutter away under his breath. Suddenly, the rustling noises stopped. 

“Fuck!” Gavin’s exclamation was loud enough to jolt Inky awake, who gave her owner a reproachful look. “You have got to be kidding me!”

Making sure not to disturb the cat, carefully shifting her to his lap, Nines sat up. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, no, I…” Gavin let out a blustery breath, scratching at his head, making his hair fluff up. “I just realized that I don’t have a present for Claire.” Most of his gifts were wrapped, with the ones for Nines carefully shoved the furthest back. He had been taking inventory, making sure everything was ready to be gifted. 

Nines tilted his head inquisitively, making a confused expression. “Do you need one for her? I don’t. And when are you even going to see her?”

“I know! Which is fine for you. But…” Trailing off, Gavin shrugged. “I know you and Tina are exchanging gifts, so Claire probably has something for me… Plus, you know.” Suddenly he found staring into his closet to be terribly interesting. “She’s really important to Tina. They’ve been together since before the revolution. The way Ti acts around her… I’ve never seen her so happy.”

“It’s December twenty second,” Nines had to point out. “I’m fairly sure this qualifies as the dreaded last minute gift rush.”

“Fuck off, since when are you suddenly an expert?” With a roll of his eyes, Gavin stood and brushed some cat hair off his jeans. “I’m going to the mall, hopefully I can find something decent. I refuse to just get her money or a gift certificate. You can stay here, if you want.”

“While it will be a grave crime to disturb Inky…” Nines picked her up again and set her beside him on the bed. Finally having had enough, Inky gave him a dirty look before stalking into the living room. “I would be remiss if I didn’t accompany you.” He frowned after the cat, troubled by how she seemed upset with him. 

“You’re such a dork. She’s a cat, she’ll forgive you.” Despite his words, Gavin seemed amused. He moved over to his dresser and picked up his wallet and phone. “Okay. When this totally sucks, I’m going to remind you that you came along willingly.”

***

The first hurdle was finding a spot to park the car. Most were already full, except for the second lot they checked, and even then, only the very back had a few empty spots. Gavin complained about it all the way to the department store, which was necessary to cut through to get to the rest of the mall. Before they stepped out, Gavin hesitated. “Actually, we should look here for something.”

He turned and moved back into the store. “What would Claire like? I know she doesn’t need any kitchen stuff, because Tina’s got all that… and I can’t get her food… and she doesn’t play games…” Gavin looked over to Nines. “Any ideas?”

After thinking it over for a moment, Nines shook his head. “I’m not sure. I don’t know her very well, besides knowing she’s lovely and endlessly cheerful.”

“Ugh. Maybe we should go to the bookstore? She teaches English, right, at that high school? Probably means she likes to read… But I don’t know what kind of books Claire likes…” As they moved through the store, dodging around other shoppers, Gavin scanned everything around them. 

“Why don’t you text Tina and ask her for an idea?” Nines suggested, surprised that Gavin hadn’t done that already. 

“Naw, that’s cheating.” Gavin said dismissively. When his reply was met with silence, he turned to see Nines giving him a deadpan look. “What?” Gavin snapped, on the defence. 

“You’re so stubborn sometimes.” In mock disappointment, Nines slowly shook his head. He grinned as that made Gavin try to elbow him, something his boyfriend immediately regretted. 

“Fucking androids.” Gavin muttered under his breath, rubbing his sore elbow, as Nines continued grinning benevolently at him. 

***

Eventually, Gavin gave up on the department store. He rejected the card stores and toy stores, along with the bookstore. They ended up wandering around, when Gavin suddenly came to a stop in front of a store which had a display of mannequins wearing fancy dresses. “I wonder…” He said, mostly to himself, going into the store while Nines followed after him. 

Immediately, a smiling worker approached them. “Hi! Can I help you with anything?”

“No, we’re just browsing. Thanks though.” Gavin flashed her a distracted smile as he moved further into the store. He seemed to be looking for something, and zeroed in on a rack of silk dress shawls. “What about this?” Gavin asked Nines. “It’s nice, but not too expensive. And it’s one size fit all. Plus it’s the season for getting all dressed up.”

Impressed, Nines nodded. “I think this will work perfectly. Good thinking. What colour were you thinking of getting?”

After paging through the options, Gavin selected a black one. “Black goes with everything.” He explained, as he moved over to the counter to pay for it. But Gavin still got a gift receipt, just in case. 

***

“I’m going to get some bubble tea, c’mon.” Gavin said, as he headed towards the escalator down to the first floor. Nines followed after him, moving quickly so as not to be separated by the crowd. Their path took them by the wrapping station. Mary was busy with a gift, but she glanced up, smiled, and waved. 

“Got something to tell me?” Gavin asked with a neutral tone, raising his eyebrows. “I’ve never been cheated on with an elf before.” Though Nines was fairly sure from his tone that Gavin was joking, he still glanced over; the teasing half-smile on Gavin’s face confirmed it. 

“I would never. She knows I have a boyfriend. One whom I’m very happy with.” To emphasize his point, Nines linked his hand with Gavin’s and gently squeezed. “Besides, she was more interested in Kit, who had no idea how to handle that information.” He briefly summarized their interaction with the woman, ending with Mary giving Kit her number. “Apparently, they texted her and have been chatting.”

“...Huh. Good for Kit.” Gavin squeezed Nines’ hand back. “Now. Bubble tea.”

Chapter Text

For once, there was a lull at work. It was quiet enough that Kit, Nines, Tina, and Gavin, were all able to take a coffee break together. The group went to Sunbeans, the cafe across the street from the DPD. Everyone ordered a seasonal drink, involving white chocolate, (Tina, a peppermint mocha; Gavin, a cinnamon mocha; Kit, a simple hot chocolate), except for Nines, who saved the table for the group. 

“Everyone’s been super busy, because December, with work and kids, so we haven’t seen everyone since Thanksgiving. That’s a long time, for us.” Kit was saying, as everyone sat down. “Aunt N and Uncle S are hosting this year; between their triplets, and my aunt-aunt-and-uncle’s toddler, it’ll be loud. But that’s part of the fun. It’s cool to be around little kids at Christmas, makes me miss being young.”

“Ah yes, because you’re so ancient.” Nines teased, nodding solemnly. In reply, Kit stuck their tongue out at him. 

“Ugh, my generation of cousins are all grown.” Tina complained. “They’re starting to have kids, and everyone’s asking me when I’m gonna start popping them out. I used to just say I hadn’t met the right woman yet; now I’ve got Claire, but…” She trailed off and sighed. “I love her and I wouldn’t change her for anything. But it sucks we can’t have kids together.”

“Oh, shit, I never thought of that.” Kit frowned sympathetically. “That’s rough, I’m sorry.”

“Thanks.” Tina replied with a nod. “It’s just one of those things, y’know? But so when does your family all get together?”

“Christmas Eve is just me and my dads,” Kit ticked off the days on their fingers. “And Christmas Day is everyone, with people taking turns hosting year by year. Unfortunately both my grandmothers live out of state, so we can’t visit them. They used to come up, but now that they’re older, we just video call. I don’t envy the others, who have to flip between visiting other relatives on Christmas Eve.”

“Otherwise…” They shrugged. “I don’t know. On Christmas Eve, we cook from-frozen hors d'oeuvre and other snacky stuff, eat Christmas cookies and watch Christmas movies. Pops and Dad both get a little tipsy on their drink of choice, and they’re all disgustingly happy with each other.” Kit rolled their eyes. “We do brunch and gifts on Christmas morning, then spend the afternoon and evening with the rest of the family. Turkey, stuffing, et cetera.”

“That… is incredibly wholesome.” Tina raised her eyebrows. “Very traditional.”

For some reason, that amused Kit. “I mean, it’s a family of choice. No one’s actually related, they just served together and got close that way. But… it’s really great. Plus it’s the only family I’ve ever known.” They shrugged. “Does your family celebrate Christmas?” Kit asked Tina. 

“Oh, I didn’t know that. About your family. That’s so cool.” Tina smiled approvingly, before making a thinking face. “And kind of? We’re not Christian, so we don’t do the religious part of it. No Christmas tree or gifts, but still some decorations. Mostly it’s just an excuse for the family to get together on Christmas Eve and make a shitton of food. Roast duck, barbecue pork, dumplings…” She trailed off, with a dreamy look on her face. 

During the entire conversation, Gavin was conspicuously quiet, nursing his drink without saying anything. Nines gave him a concerned look, resting his hand on top of Gavin’s. Looking over, Gavin smiled weakly. 

Snapping out of her daze, Tina turned to Gavin and elbowed him gently. “We still on for the usual on Christmas Day?” When he nodded, she explained to Kit, “I bring over leftovers, and we do gifts. Nothing fancy, but it’s a nice break, after all that family chaos. Will you be there this year, Nines?”

With a jolt, Nines realized they hadn’t discussed it. “I don’t want to crash your party…” He started. “But I would like that.”

Ever so slightly, Gavin relaxed. He smiled at Nines. “Of course you’re welcome. Dork. Though you better have something for Inky, or else you’ll break her heart.”

“Oh, of course. I would never neglect my favourite daughter.” Nines promised, making Tina and Kit burst into giggles.

Chapter Text

Once work was finished for the day, Gavin first went back to his apartment. He had to shower, get changed, dig out the relevant gifts, and feed the cats. Then he realized he’d completely forgotten Hank’s address. Luckily, a quick text exchange with Nines solved that problem. “Wish me luck, hopefully Connor doesn’t spear me with the serving fork,” Gavin said to the cats as he got his boots on. 

It was almost offensive, how little the cats reacted to such a scenario. From the couch, Inky yawned, and Patches leisurely stretched before curling back up. As Gavin headed down to his car, he grumbled under his breath about fickle cats, and how they’d probably prefer if Nines was their owner anyway. 

***

At Hank’s door, Gavin rang the doorbell and grinned to himself as he heard deep ‘borf’s from inside the house. Right, Hank had a dog, though he couldn’t remember what breed. 

After a moment, Nines answered the door. He was wearing a black sweatshirt with an image that looked like it was on a knit sweater; the picture itself was a cat meme that Nines was particularly fond of. “Nice sweater,” Gavin quipped, as he stepped into the house. Stretching up, Gavin quickly kissed Nines. 

Nines went to kiss him further, but a dog suddenly shoved himself between them. “Sumo wants to greet you too, apparently.” Nines noted blandly, with a sardonic smile. 

Without saying anything, Gavin handed him the pie and the gifts he was holding, to free up his arms. Helpless not to, Gavin then dropped to his knees and started fussing over Sumo. “Who’s a good boy?” He asked, ruffling the dog’s ears and the ruff of his neck. From the happy panting and wagging tail, it seemed that Sumo knew that he was a good boy. 

“I see how it is. I’ve been usurped in your affections by a dog.” Nines shook his head in mock disappointment. “At least take off your outerwear.”

“...Whoops.” Gavin stood and shrugged out of his jacket and boots. While he was doing so, Sumo leaned heavily against his legs and looked up, plaintively begging for more attention. Unable to resist, Gavin gave him some head pats. 

“Would you like anything to drink?” Nines asked, as he pointedly used a hand to steer Gavin towards the living room. Sumo followed after them. The TV was set to the festive fireplace channel, displaying the image of a fire while Christmas carols played. “There’s wine, beer, whisky…”

“Sure, I’ll have a beer, thanks. Man, the house smells good.” Gavin had to admit he was looking forward to dinner. “Should I…?” He trailed off, not sure if he was supposed to lend a hand with anything. 

“Just sit back and relax. Connor kicked me out of the kitchen so he could be the one helping Hank with dinner. Now that you’re here, I finally have something to do.” With a wink, Nines headed to the kitchen. Hank and Nines has left work early, so Hank could get the turkey breast in the oven. For the rest of the day, Connor had been visibly impatient to finish up and get home. 

Faintly amused, Gavin sat down on the couch. He let out an “Oof” when Sumo immediately clambered into his lap. “Guess this is where I live now.” The room, Gavin was surprised to realize, wasn’t as decorated as he was expecting. 

Outside, the eaves of the house were lined with eco-friendly lights, and there was a wreath on the front door. Inside, there was just a decorated Christmas tree, and stockings on a shelf. Squinting at them, Gavin let out a huff of laughter when he realized they read Connor, Hank, Sumo, and Nines. “I see there’s a stocking for you.” He said, as Nines came back into the room, with a drink. 

“Yes, that was Connor’s idea.” There was a fond exasperation in Nines’ voice. “I must admit, I’m curious to see what will be in mine. Sumo, move.” His stern tone got through to the dog, who cast him a mournful look before sliding onto the floor. Nines took the spot beside Gavin, crowding up into his boyfriend’s personal space. Silently, he handed over the beer. 

“Thanks,” Gavin said as he took a sip from it. “So, how’s it going?” Which was a silly question to ask, since they had last seen each other at work, an hour or so earlier.

“It is going fine.” Nines seemed amused by the question. “The food should be done soon, and I’m sure Hank will send you home with leftovers.”

As if summoned by his name, Hank stepped out of the kitchen, wiping his hands with a tea towel. “Hey Gavin. How was the drive over?”

“Fine.” He gave a small shrug. “Though I heard it’s supposed to start snowing at some point and continue all night. Hopefully there won’t be too much piled up when I head out.”

Hank made a face. “Fucking great, means the plows will be going around all night. Sumo hates those things, for some reason…” He chuckled to himself. “And we’ve officially become boring people who talk about the weather. Anyway. Feel free to change the channel, Connor put that on for ambiance.” With a nod, he headed back into the kitchen. 

Almost like he’d been waiting for permission, Nines’ LED flickered yellow as he switched channels. It landed on a movie (Elf, of all things). He grimaced and changed it, channel surfing until the TV displayed a stop motion movie with a skeleton singing. Gavin made a small noise; Nines looked over questioningly. 

“I used to be obsessed with this movie when I was younger.” Gavin admitted. “My copy got lost in a move, I haven’t seen it in years.”

Smiling, Nines let the movie continue to play. 

***

Twenty or so minutes later, Hank called them into the kitchen. There were four places at the table, but only two had a plate and cutlery. However, each spot did have a Christmas cracker (a small tube of festive looking cardboard, with small trinkets inside) on it. “Damn, this looks amazing.” Gavin commented as he took a seat. “Thanks again, for inviting me.”

“Sure, no problem.” Hank agreed easily, though Connor had been the one to extend the invitation. He started taking pieces of turkey, and Gavin began to fill his plate with other dishes. There was a brief silence as the humans began to eat. 

“When are you supposed to open these?” Nines asked Connor, holding up his Christmas cracker. Holding it to his ear, he shook it gently, listening as something rustled inside. He had searched the web for information on them, of course, but the contents varied by the brand who made the crackers. 

“The general consensus is to do so before the start of the meal,” Connor noted, faintly reproachful. “But some do it after the main course and before dessert.”

“No point in letting the food get cold,” Hank pointed out. “But if you guys are bored, you can open yours now.”

“I think we’ll manage to restrain ourselves for now.” Nines dryly replied. “How’s the food?” He asked Gavin, just as he took a big bite out of a dinner roll. 

It took a moment for Gavin to chew, swallow, and speak. “Good. Also I’ve only see those in Doctor Who,” he said, referring to the Christmas crackers. “I didn’t even know they sold them here.”

“Yeah, we had to go to a few different stores to find them.” Hank looked sideways at Connor, smiling. “Someone thought it would be a nice tradition to start this year.”

“It will be.” Connor replied. “Also don’t feed Sumo from the table.” 

Caught in the act, Hank sheepishly put the offending piece of turkey back on his plate. “Sorry boy, you’ll get some later.” He stage-whispered to Sumo, who tilted his head inquisitively. 

In short time, both Gavin and Hank had cleared this plates, and everyone opened their Christmas crackers. First, they grasped the banger (a slip of joined cardboard with chemicals in the center) and pulled it apart, causing the aforementioned noise. Inside was a crown made of flimsy tissue paper, with each person getting a different colour. Also included as a slip of paper with a joke on it, and a small plastic toy. 

“What do you call a lazy baby kangaroo?” Nines asked Gavin, reading off the slip of paper he got. On his head was perched a green crown, and his prize (a small maze made of plastic) was on the table. 

“I don’t know, what?” Gavin asked, self consciously adjusting his red crown. He had seemed his own joke “too terrible to tell”, and got a yo-yo. 

“A pouch potato.” After telling the punchline, Nines paused, frowning, before brightening up. “Ah, a play on the saying ‘couch potato’, with ‘pouch’ substituted in because baby kangaroos live in their mother’s pouch. I see.”

“Yep, you sure cracked that one.” Gavin’s mouth twitched into a smile, amused by his boyfriend. 

Meanwhile, Hank was setting up his prize (a small set of bowling pins and a ball), attempting to flick the ball into the pins. Connor looked like he wanted to interfere, having calculated the position and force required to achieve a strike. After a few minutes of trying and failing, Hank noticed Connor’s intent gaze. “Wanna give it a shot?” He asked. Connor nearly knocked over the table in his rush to do. 

***

The table was cleared, with Hank announcing he needed time to digest dinner before having dessert. Everyone moved to the living room; Nines and Gavin sat on the couch, while Hank sat in the easy chair with Connor perched in his lap. Just as everyone had gotten settled, Connor got up. “We should do presents.” He moved towards the tree, which had gifts underneath it. Finding which present was for which person, Connor passed them out. 

Hank got Gavin an amigurumi cactus, in a small terracotta pot. For some reason, it made Gavin laugh. Apparently it was an old joke between the two of them. Connor, on the other hand, got Gavin a $20 gift certificate for online shopping. Gavin thanked him politely, with Connor replying stiffly that he was welcome. 

For Hank, Gavin gave him the singing fish and some whisky. Hank was delighted by both, though Sumo appeared spooked by the fish. When Connor opened the gift from Gavin, he raised his eyebrows in surprise, upon realizing it was a poetry collection by an anonymous android.

“Hopefully it’s good,” Gavin gave an awkward shrug. “Poetry can be hit and miss but this one had a lot of buzz around it.” He didn’t voice his worry that Connor would simply recycle the book out of spite. 

“We will see.” Connor replied neutrally, setting the book aside. Nines gave him a warning look, which he pointedly ignored. 

There were still gifts under the tree, but those were being saved to open up the next day. With the exchange done, Hank started reminiscing about weird gifts he’d gotten as a child. “One year, it was this toy that looked like a cross between one of those dunking birds and a bowling pin. Except with a spout. I can’t remember what it did.”

Fascinated, Gavin tried to think about what such a thing would look like. “I… what? I’ve never heard of anything like that.” 

“Right?” Hank chuckled. “And I was at the age where I was starting to outgrow stuff like that anyway. What about you?”

There was a brief awkward silence before Gavin cleared his throat. “Naw, my mom was real utilitarian. I just got clothes for Christmas.” He shrugged. “Saved me from having to ask for money to buy them myself, so…”

A guilty look crossed Hank’s face; he hadn’t realized it was a sore subject. Changing the topic of conversation, he clapped his hands together. “So, dessert?”

***

After dessert, the casual conversation carried on. At a lull, Gavin spoke up. “Hey Connor, can I talk to you for a sec?”

Connor gave him a suspicious look but nodded. “We can take Sumo out back,” He decided, standing up. At the sound of his name, Sumo perked up and stood, shaking himself off. The dog followed Connor over to the back door. Meanwhile, Gavin quickly got on his outerwear before joining them outside. 

“So.” Connor said pointedly, raising an eyebrow. “What was it you wanted to talk about?”

Unable to meet his gaze, Gavin stared out into the backyard. He grimaced. “I realized… I never apologized to you. For how I acted when you and Hank were working the deviant case for the revolution.” Remembering the beating Connor gave him in the evidence room, he rubbed his ribs, thinking about how they’d been bruised for weeks after. 

“I…” Gavin continued, letting out a breath, watching it drift through the air. “I don’t have a good reason for why I was such an asshole. Not one that matters, anyway. It was just a bunch of bullshit that had piled up. And, look. Nines is important to both of us, right? We should try to get along, for his sake. We manage it while working, so might as well keep that up outside work, yeah?”

Expression unreadable, Connor stared back at him without saying anything. After a moment, he slowly nodded. “Thank you for the apology.” He said stiffly. “I suppose we can try that. Though.” His eyes hardened. “I still think Nines could do better than you.”

Gavin rolled his eyes. “You and me both,” he replied slightly, causing Connor to blink in surprise. “Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. We can head back in now.”

Connor called for Sumo, and the three of them went back inside of the house. 

As Gavin went back to the entryway to put his coat and boots away, Nines followed after him. “So. What was that about?” Nines asked Gavin, helping when his boyfriend’s arms briefly got caught in his coat. 

“Nothing,” Gavin tried, dismissively. When Nines gave him a stern look, he sighed. “Just extended the olive branch to Connor.” Gavin shrugged. “He accepted, but he’s not happy about it.”

“That… really means a lot to me.” Nines admitted, stepping closer to Gavin, who smiled up at him. 

“I know. It was overdue, but… Yeah.” Gavin kissed him. “Besides, it’s supposed to be the season of goodwill between men, but that can mean androids too.” He joked. Rolling his eyes with a fond smile, Nines gently urged him back into the living room. 

***

The evening carried on, until Gavin looked out a window and realized it was snowing. “Okay, I better start heading out. Thanks, for…” He waved his hand vaguely as he started gathering up Hank’s gift and the leftovers that had been packed up for him. 

“Sure.” Hank replied. “We should do this again next year.” He glanced at Connor, excepting an objection or resistance. Instead however, Connor slowly nodded in agreement. 

“Uh, sure.” Gavin seemed surprised but flashed a quick smile. He moved towards the entrance of the house, with Nines trailing after him. There was a brief moment of awkward hesitation, as Nines wasn’t sure if Gavin wanted him to come back to his apartment. 

Apparently already having thought about this, Gavin didn't issue the invitation and simply kissed him again. “See you tomorrow?” He asked. “You can come over any time. Tina usually gets in around one.”

“Okay.” Nines agreed, relaxing. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” Gavin echoed back with a smile, before heading out. 

Chapter Text

On Christmas morning, Gavin was woken up by plaintive meows from both his cats. From their whining, they were saying they had never been fed, never been loved. With a groan, Gavin glanced at the clock on his bedside table. It was a little past 6 am. He closed his eyes briefly, but reluctantly hauled himself out of bed. 

Still in a sleep induced daze, Gavin mechanically moved through feeding the cats. Once that was done, he face-planted back onto his bed. He burrowed under the covers and fell back asleep. 

The second time, Gavin was yanked into the land of the waking by his phone ringing. “What?” He asked, answering it with a yawn. Squinting at the clock again, Gavin read that it was around 11 am. 

“Good morning and a merry Christmas to you too.” Nines sounded more amused than offended. “I was checking whether you were awake, I was thinking of heading over soon.”

“Ughhhh. Yeah. I’m gonna get up now.” Greatly reluctant, Gavin pulled himself out of bed. “Merry Christmas, by the way. So I’ll see you soon?”

“Yes. I’ll see you then.” Nines hung up. 

After dropping his phone onto the bed, Gavin stumbled into the bathroom to do his morning routine. He grabbed his phone again and went to head to the kitchen. Doubling back, Gavin grabbed the bags containing the stocking stuffers for his cats. He filled the stockings, and wandered over to the apartment’s windows. Outside, the world was still and blanketed in fluffy white snow. It was pretty, especially since he didn’t have to go out in it. Gavin then went into the kitchen and stood blankly in front of the fridge as he tried to figure out what he wanted to eat. 

In the end, he settled on waffles. He was just turning the first one when there was a knock at the door. From checking the peephole, Gavin saw that it was Nines, and opened the door for him. 

“Good morning,” His arms were full of gifts but Nines still leaned forward and kissed Gavin. 

“Morning,” Gavin mumbled back, once they drew apart. “Oh, shit, my waffles.” He hurried back into the kitchen. The waffle was removed from the maker, covered in tin foil, and more batter was poured into the maker. As Gavin did this, he could hear Nines rustling around in the living room, presumably setting the gifts underneath the tree. 

Upon remembering that coffee was a thing, Gavin set the kettle to boil. The timing worked out; just as he finished up making a coffee, the second waffle was done. Setting everything up on the kitchen’s bar, Gavin started eating. 

With Inky settled happily in his arms, Nines took the seat across from Gavin. “What did you do after getting home from Hank’s?” Nines asked, scratching Inky’s head and listening to her purr. 

“Not much,” Gavin shrugged. “Played some games and then went to bed. How’d the rest of the night go?”

Nines grimaced. “Hank and Connor had a fight,” He admitted, which made Gavin raise his eyebrows in surprise. “Apparently the old animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas was Coles’ favourite. Connor put it on without realizing it. Seeing something that reminded him of his son was… painful for Hank. He left the room, Connor followed after, words were exchanged.” Nines sighed. “In the middle of the night, I heard them talking again. Things were resolved by the morning, but…” He shrugged. “Part of the reason why I came over so early was to give them some time alone.”

As Nines recounted this, Gavin nodded along. “Yeah, that’s the problem with this time of year. Everyone yells at you about family and togetherness, without realizing that shit is a sore subject for some people.” Moping up syrup with a piece of waffle, Gavin shook his head before popping the food into his mouth. 

A contemplative silence fell. “Anyway,” Changing the subject, Gavin asked, “did we get much snow?”

“Yes, a surprising amount. The plows are still out, they haven’t been able to keep up with the snowfall. The taxi showing up, and then getting me here, took much longer than usual.” Nines frowned. “Hopefully Tina doesn’t have any issue getting here.”

“Eh, her parents live about as far away as Hank’s house.” Unconcerned, Gavin shrugged. He finished up his food and then put everything away. “Okay, want to help me give the cats their stockings?” Nines couldn’t agree fast enough. 

***

Around a quarter past one in the afternoon, Tina barged into Gavin’s apartment. “I live, bitches.” She announced, dropping stuff onto the couch before taking off her coat and boots. 

“Hello Tina, how was your family get-together?” Nines asked, as he grabbed the food and went to the kitchen to put it away in the fridge. 

In reply, Tina groaned, and then caught herself. “Okay, my grandma and a few of the aunties are alright. But geez. If I took a drink every time they asked me when I was going to finally settle down…” She shook her head. “Thank god I spent the first half of the day with Claire. Helped keep me sane for the rest of it.”

“This is me playing the world’s saddest song on the world’s tiniest violin.” Gavin deadpanned. 

“Careful, keep that up and I’m taking my leftovers and going home.” Tina paused. “Or I would if the roads weren’t so awful. Took me fucking forever to get here.”

“Guess we’re stuck with you then.” Gavin sidled over to her and gave her a one-armed hug. “You can have some of the leftovers I brought back from Hank’s house,” he offered. 

She hugged him back, grinning. “Oooh white people food! Sweet, it’s a trade then.”

***

Lunch was eaten, and cleared away, and then the three of them moved into the living room. Just as Gavin sat down, his phone rang. The caller ID made him grimace, but he still stood, said “I gotta take this,” and moved into his bedroom. 

Nines tilted his head, surreptitiously trying to listen in. A kick at his ankle jolted him out of it. Tina gave him a stern look. “Butt out, some things are private.” She warned him. “If Gavin wants to talk about it, he’ll tell you later.” Reluctantly, Nines realized she was right. Between the two of them, a comfortable silence fell as Tina put on a Christmas movie. 

A short time later, Gavin reappeared. He sat down without saying anything about what the phone call was about. Glancing at the screen made him laugh. “You’re watching this? Seriously?”

“Shut up, it’s a classic.” Tina shot back. She paused, then, “so are we breaking out the alcohol yet or…?”

With a smile, shaking his head, Gavin went to fetch some drinks. 

***

Once the humans had gotten pleasantly tipsy, gifts were exchanged. Tina got Nines a selection of soft skeins of wool, and a collectible copy of a video game for Gavin. Nines presented her with mittens, while Gavin gave her a battered DVD box set of The L Word. Tina laughed at the last gift. “I’m so making you watch this with me,” she warned Gavin. 

“I’ll just find a drinking game for it,” He replied with a shrug. “Or we can make one.”

“I’m okay with this.” Tina announced happily. 

When the leftovers were finished, Gavin cooked some finger foods from frozen. He also dug out seasonal chocolate he hadn’t finished yet. They continued eating and drinking, watching TV Christmas specials. Both Gavin and Tina changed back into pajamas at one point. Eventually, it started getting late.

Tina yawned widely. “Okay, I’m tired and don’t want to move. I’m just gonna sleep here. Go get me some blankets?” Gavin rolled his eyes as he went and grabbed some, along with extra pillows. He dropped all of them on her head, causing Tina to let out an indignant squawk. “Rude,” she accused him, laughing. 

Unrepentant, Gavin grinned at her. “Need anything else?” He asked as he turned off the TV and the Christmas tree. 

“Naw, I’m good.” In short order, Tina made herself a nest of pillows and blankets. “Just remember the sound carries. If you guys are gonna get frisky, keep it down.”

“You’re so fucking weird.” Gavin shook his head as he quickly tided up the worst of the mess that they had made. Once that was accomplished, he grabbed two packages from underneath the Christmas tree. With a gesture of his head, Gavin indicated that Nines should follow him to the bedroom. 

When Nines came in with his gifts, Gavin was just finishing up in the bathroom. He sat down on the bed to wait. Gavin reentered the room, and double checked that the bedroom door was shut.

“So, so you wanna go first?” Gavin asked, as he joined Nines on the bed. 

“Okay. I got you two gifts; one small, one big.” Nines said, passing over the first gift, which was a small package; the one which he got wrapped at the mall. 

First Gavin took off the now and ribbons, before tearing off the wrapping paper. Underneath was a plain white box. He raised his eyebrow as he opened it, and started to smile when he took out the ornament. It was a large, glittery white mug with the words ‘damn fine coffee’ in blue cursive on the side. 

“I’m taking this as you endorsing my caffeine habits,” Gavin told Nines, smiling as he turned it over in his hands. “It’s great, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Nines got up to grab the room’s garbage can and move it closer to the bed. “Next one.” He passed over the larger present, which was noticeably weighty. 

It was wrapped more plainly, with just wrapping paper. Gavin tore it off, and his eyes went wide. Inside was a homemade afghan blanket, made from super soft wool. “Holy shit.” He held up the blanket, taking in the designs on it. “Nines, this is amazing. When the hell did you have time to make it?”

Smiling, Nines shrugged. “When I was over at Hank’s, or when I was at my apartment. Do you like it?”

“I love it.” Leaning over, Gavin kissed him. “Thank you.” He immediately draped the blanket over his back like a cape. “My turn.” From his bedside drawer, Gavin got out a tiny box which he passed to Nines. 

His eyebrows raised at how small the box was; Nines unwrapped it. The box held a plain dull gold key. Not understanding, he looked up at Gavin. 

“That’s a key to my apartment,” Gavin explained. “More than that though…” He took a deep breath. “It’s… I just wanted you to have a reminder that you’re always welcome here. And how thankful I am for you, and how you’ve helped me become a better person.”

Expression unreadable, Nines stayed silent. Starting to panic, Gavin spoke quickly. “But, I mean, if that’s not good enough, I do have an expensive turtleneck that I got for you—” he was cut off when Nines carefully set the key aside and kissed Gavin. 

“Thank you,” Nines replied, voice thick with emotion. “It’s the best gift I’ve gotten. I don’t need anything else. Thank you for supporting me as I grow into the person I want to be.” Before Gavin could reply, Nines kissed him deeply. 

A few minutes later, Gavin reluctantly withdrew to catch his breath. “Okay. We’re not gonna fuck with Tina is on the couch, no matter how tempted I am. Also does this mean I can return the shirt I got you?”

“I don’t care.” Nines shrugged. “This is enough for me.”

“Oh my god. You dork. I was just joking.” Gavin rolled his eyes. “You’re still getting it. I spent way too much on it to not give it to you.”

Chapter Text

They were lying together in Gavin’s bed, under the blankets. Against his chest, Nines felt Gavin stir. 

Neck craned to look over his shoulder at the clock, Gavin quietly went “huh” before turning back to Nines. “It’s officially the day after Christmas. How was your first Christmas?” Gavin asked. 

It was true; the time was just past midnight. “It was wonderful,” Nines replied, briefly squeezing Gavin in a hug. A content silence fell, and though Nines was loathe to break it, he had to try. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to… But who called, earlier?”

Only noticeable because of their proximity, Gavin stiffened and then sighed. “It was my mom…” He admitted. “I should… probably tell you what that’s about, huh? Its… kind of a long story. And not a very happy one.”

“I would like to know. But I can wait until you’re ready, if or when that time comes.” Nines assured him. 

“No… I…” Gavin sighed again. “So. Going way back, here — my mom got pregnant with me when she was pretty young, only eighteen. Her and my dad were coworkers at a grocery store, and were just fucking around. They were never officially together. When I was still a baby, he killed himself. His family blamed my mom, and didn’t want anything to do with either of us.

“My mom had already moved out of her parents’ house; they weren’t close and weren’t inclined to stick their necks out for her. So she was on her own. I don’t even know why she bothered to have me, actually. She worked, a lot, and when she wasn’t working, she went off to do her own thing. I spent a lot of time growing up with other people looking after me.

“When I turned twelve, she got even more hands-off. Left money for transit passes, groceries and lunches, change for the apartment laundry machines. A friend of mine, his mom took pity on me and showed me how to grocery shop, meal plan, cut coupons, that kind of thing.

“As for Christmas… A lot of the time I’d wake up, and find out she’d already decorated the apartment and set up the Christmas tree. The first Christmas I remember, I asked Santa for… god, some stupid toy. All I got were clothes. The first year they were wrapped, but never after that.  Which, I mean, I did need them, it was just… disappointing. So, yeah, I was that kid who’d get into fights on the playground and sent to the principal’s office for telling other kids that Santa wasn’t real.

“When I turned sixteen, she told me that she expected me to get a job, and that I had to find my own apartment because she was cutting me off and kicking me out when I turned seventeen. So. At least she gave me a heads up. I managed to get a job at a fast food place, and found a shithole I could afford with four other roommates. 

“Eventually, I decided I didn’t want to get stuck with how things were. So I enrolled in the police academy, met Tina, and… Yeah. A few years ago, my mom had a heart attack. I only found out because the hospital tracked me down. I didn’t go to see her. Once she got out… I don’t know how she managed to find my phone number or where I work, but… She started trying to reach out and make amends.

“I…” Gavin closed his eyes and sighed. He looked tired. “I know the right thing to do would be to meet up with her. Let her be my mom, and act like her son. But she’s a stranger to me, and I have my own life now. I don’t want anything to do with her. Does that make me a bad person?” Plaintively, Gavin met Nines’ gaze. 

Movements slow, so as not to startle, Nines reached out and smoothed a hand over Gavin’s head, gently pressing a kiss to his forehead. “Thank you for telling me. I think you’re strong, and the fact that you found your own way is admirable. Though you shouldn’t have had to do that. Even though she supported you financially, she wasn’t there for you emotionally. As for how things are now… The ‘right thing’ to do, would be whatever you decide.”

Blinking back tears, Gavin let his head rest against Nines’ chest. “Thanks for listening. Hope I wasn’t a downer or ruined your Christmas or anything.”

“Hush. You helped make my Christmas what it was, and it was amazing. The fact that you told me… That means a lot to me.” Nines held Gavin close, soothing him until he fell asleep. 

Chapter Text

The day after Christmas was a quiet one. Gavin made bacon and eggs for breakfast, and then Tina ordered takeout for lunch. Once the second meal was done, Tina stood and stretched. 

“Alright nerds, I’m heading out. Going to spend some quality time with Claire before we’re back to work tomorrow.” She grimaced and then brightened up. “Actually, that reminds me…” Tina moved over to the tree and withdrew the last two presents there. “These are for you guys, from Claire.”

“Shit, one sec.” Gavin disappeared into his room, and then reappeared holding a gift. “And this is for Claire.” Him and Tina swapped what they were each holding. 

“Cool.” Tina flashed a brief smile, clearly pleased that Gavin had gotten something for her girlfriend. “Okay, hopefully the roads are finally cleared.” She gave a hug first to Gavin, and then Nines, before leaving the apartment. 

The door had barely closed behind her when Gavin opened the gift from Claire. He let out an impressed whistle when he saw that she had gotten him leather gloves, that were clearly expensive. “What did she get you?” Gavin asked Nines. 

Claire’s present to Nines was strangely heavy. Carefully removing the wrapping paper, Nines raised his eyebrows in surprise when he saw it was a hardcover book. A quick internet search told him it was a sapphic retelling of an old folk tale. The inscription inside read ‘I hope you love this book as much as I do! XO, Claire’. He smiled and set it with the wool that Tina had given him. 

“What would you like to do now?” Nines asked, once the wrapping paper was tided up. It suddenly felt like the apartment had gotten a lot quiet. 

After thinking for a moment, Gavin shrugged. “Video games?” Nines nodded his agreement, and they settled on the couch. 

***

Once it got to be evening, Nines headed back to his own apartment. Orange was clearly happy to see him, making Nines feel a pang of guilt. He made a mental note to spend more time at home. 

As he wandered around the apartment, putting the gifts he’d received away, there was a warm feeling in his stomach. It felt like these objects were tangible representations of the fact that Nines had found people who cared about him. 

***

When he got into work the next day, Kit beamed from their spot behind the desk. Exiting it, they ran up to Nines and hugged him. “I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve seen you! How was your Christmas?” They asked. 

Nines hugged them back, smiling fondly. “It was lovely. How was yours?”

The hug ended, and Kit drew back. “Good! Dad and Uncle S only got into one argument and that was over who should carve the turkey.” They rolled their eyes in fond exasperation. “Uncle S won, because he was one of the hosts.”

“Sounds like yours was more exciting than mine.” He looked up and saw Gavin was already in. “I should go, but I want to hear more about this later.”

Unbothered, Kit nodded. “That’s fair! See you.” They went back to their post as Nines moved further into the station. 

Just as he got into the bullpen, Gavin disappeared into the coffee room. When Nines got there, it was in the middle of a conversation between Gavin and Hank. “—hasn’t put it down since yesterday,” Hank was saying. 

“What are we talking about?” Nines asked. 

Hank nodded, indicating at Connor. He was sitting on the break-room couch, intently reading the book of poetry that Gavin had given to him. “He’s been glued to it,” Hank explained to Nines. “It’s an improvement over what he usually reads for his book clubs.” He rolled his eyes, though he sounded faintly amused. 

Clearly pleased, Gavin smiled to himself. “Right, well, some of us has paperwork to catch up on,” He joked, raising his mug of coffee. “See you around.” Gavin left the break-room, with Nines following after him. 

When they got to Gavin’s desk, Gavin turned to Nines and raised an eyebrow. It was a silent question, asking why Nines hadn’t stayed with Hank. “I was wondering…” Nines began. “What made you choose that gift for Connor.”

Gavin shrugged. “I figured an android who had been on the front lines of the revolution would be interested in the culture that grew from it. ...Also, I’ve seen him getting misty-eyed over typewriter poetry on Pinterest when we’re on break.”

“I see.” Nines found himself impressed by the thought Gavin had put into the gift, as well as his observation skills. “You continue to amaze me.” He reached out and gave Gavin’s hand a quick squeeze before letting it go. 

“Thanks.” Seemingly faintly embarrassed by the compliment, Gavin took a seat at his desk. “Work is probably going to be a cluster fuck, since we’ve been off. But want to meet up for dinner?”

“That sounds good.” With a nod of agreement, Nines went to his own desk and booted up his work terminal. 

Chapter Text

Work had been busy that day, and Nines had only seen Gavin in passing and through text; the last one exchanged was Nines reminding Gavin to order some takeout for dinner, since Gavin was stuck at his desk with paperwork.

When it was near seven o’clock, Hank stood and stretched. “Okay, nope, I’m done.” He dusted off his pants and left the crime scene, heading towards his car. Before Hank got there, he paused and glanced back at Nines. “Do you need a ride back to the DPD?”

Nine thought it over. There was a part of him that wanted to stay, and continue working. But nothing was time dependent, and he could get back to it tomorrow. “Sure. Thank you.” He followed after Hank and got into the passenger seat of the car.

***

They reached the DPD, and Nines was surprised to see both Connor and Gavin waiting outside. Connor was staring off into the distance in a way that suggested he was using his interface to look something up. Gavin, leaning against the wall, stared down at his phone, playing a game of some sort. Both looked up when Hank and Nines drew near.

“How did you know we were coming?” Nines asked, once he was within earshot of Gavin.

“Hank texted Connor, told us you were on your way.” Gavin explained. He took a few steps, meeting Nines half-way and kissed him. “Thanks for earlier, I would’ve forgotten to eat otherwise.” Gavin admitted, slightly sheepish.

“Yes, whatever would you do without me.” Nines teased. “Do you want to head back to your apartment? I think I might go home and keep Orange some company.”

Gavin hesitated, and then replied. “Do you have to get home right away? I was thinking of hanging back here for a bit, and taking a walk. Some company would be nice.” He looked briefly at Nines before looking away, trying to act nonchalant, like it didn’t matter to him what Nines’ answer was.

Charmed by the act, Nines smiled. “No, I can take some time.”

***

After they bade goodnight to Hank and Connor, Gavin and Nines headed towards the city center. Shop windows glowed with fairy lights, displaying their wares. Many were still Christmas themed, though some had switched to New Years decorations. The streetlamps still had their tinsel decorations in seasonal shapes.

Gavin was uncharacteristically silent, as he held Nines' hand and they walked along. When Nines gave him a concerned glance, Gavin smiled slightly. “I was just thinking… Soon all the decorations will be taken down.” His tone was slightly wistful. “Everything will go back to normal.”

“I suppose so. There certainly is a different… feeling to this time of year.” Nines agreed, thinking back to the hustle and bustle of the crowds at the mall, and the cheerful anticipation people spoke of when they described their holiday plans. “It’s a shame that people are most inclined towards charity this time of year. I’m sure their contributions help, but… That help is needed all year long.”

With a grimace, Gavin nodded. “Yeah. We’ve thought about organizing a monthly food drive, but… People might get sick of contributing. Easier to do short charity drives in bursts across the year.”

A few minutes later, they arrived at the skating rink which they had visited earlier in the month. Gavin smiled faintly as he watched a dad teach their tiny child how to skate. His glace flickered over towards Nines, and a tension came to his shoulders.

Just as Nines was about to ask what was wrong, unease in the pit of his stomach, Gavin spoke up. “So… Another part of the reason why I was such an asshole when we met last year… was that the time after the holidays is really hard.” He shrugged stiffly, looking away. “I mean, Christmas carries its own shit, but… At least it’s distracting. The winter months afterwards though… It’s probably not seasonal affective disorder but… Something similar, anyway.”

Nines thought back to the past year, how Gavin fell into dark moods and sometimes called in sick when there had been no sign of illness the day before. And the prescriptions he took after having breakfast each morning. “...I see.”

“I just…” Gavin sighed, using his free hand to scratch at the side of his head. “I’ll try to behave around your birthday, obviously, but… Just be patient with me, okay?”

“Gavin.” Nines squeezed his hand, causing his boyfriend to glance over. “Thank you for telling me.” He smiled softly, reassuringly. “I might need some time to learn how to help you when you need it, but… I want to. I want to be there for you.”

In an effort to hide his expression, Gavin ducked his head. But there was a soft smile on his face and the hint of a flush, clearly pleased with Nines’ response. “And thank you. That.. really means a lot.” 

“Of course.” Nines looked back at the skating rink, and the decorations around it. They were nice, he reflected, but they were only temporary. Gavin’s smile, on the other hand, would appear all year long.

Chapter Text

“--as a means of expression, which is impossible for humans, because of the breadth of knowledge available to androids.”

Nines was walking from the holding cells when he heard the sound of his brother’s voice, arguing something passionately in the coffee room. Curious, Nines wandered over and stayed in the doorway, not wanting to be a disruption.

Connor and Gavin were standing at a table; on the table’s surface was the collection of poetry which Gavin had gifted to Connor. It looked well-loved, with multiple post-it notes sticking out of it.

“Yeah, but humans were the ones who invented language. It’s the difference between someone who has English as their first language, and someone that speaks English as their second or third language.” Gavin was leaning forward, resting his weight on one elbow, and using his other hand to gesture wildly. “You have a different relation to words and how you use them. Or, shit, no never-mind -- because the key factor is a deep understanding and an instinctual use, which is possible for ESL people. But you have to get to that level.”

His argument didn’t seem to sway Connor, who raised a doubtful eyebrow.

“Hold on…” Gaivn took out his phone and opened an app, scrolled, and opened something else. After clearing his throat, he started to speak. “I always think of you in colours, the smell of coffee as you so proudly make it for me, the perfect sunlight spilling in through the window. I miss you even when you are beside me. I dream of your body even when you are sleeping in my arms.” Already knowing the last two lines, Gavin looked up, saw Nines, and smiled brilliantly. “The words I love you could never be enough. I suppose we’ll have to invent new ones.”

There was a pause. Connor glanced between the two and then slowly nodded. “That was… fairly decent.” He begrudgingly said. “I suppose there can be a universality to certain experiences and emotions.”

As if coming out of a daze, Gavin blinked and refocused on Connor. “Right. Well. Glad that’s settled.” He appeared to be fascinated by his phone, sheepish as always when caught in a moment of deep emotion.

A text appeared on Gavin’s phone, from Nines, who was walking away, going back to his desk;

And the coolness of your smile is

stirringofbirds between my arms;but

i should rather than anything

have(almost when hugeness will shut

quietly)almost,

                  your kiss

First, Gavin took a screenshot of the text for prosperity's sake. And then he got stumped on what a suitable reply would be. In the end, he settled for sending two heart emojis. Sometimes pictures could speak more than words. Apparently Nines felt the same way, as he responded in kind.

Chapter Text

Another day, another time that things lined up so everyone could take a coffee break together; everyone being Kit, Tina, Gavin, and Nines. Tina and Kit were splitting a muffin, while Gavin was having his second coffee for the day. Nines was just happy to be there.

“Ugh, I can’t believe the year is almost over.” Tina groaned. “Where has time gone? I swear this shit happens faster when you start to get old.”

“Actually, that’s because of relative experiences. Children has experienced less, so events take on greater meaning for them. Adults have a routine, and have experienced more. Days and weeks take on greater significance for children, while adults edit out familiar events from their memory.” Nines explained, having looked up the phenomenon the last time he heard Gavin complaining along those lines.

Both Tina and Kit paused, staring quizzically at Nines. Since Gavin had heard it before, he was unmoved and continued drinking his coffee.

“...Fucking weird.” Tina finally said. “Anyway. That means it’s now the time of year where everyone comes up with New Years resolutions.” She rolled her eyes. “As if entering a new year even means anything, or that anyone actually follows through on them.”

Kit shrugged. “I dunno, I kinda like them. I do agree that people need to stick with them more, but… People always say, oh, I’ll do it tomorrow. New Years gives them a chance for tomorrow to be an actual thing. Does that make any sense?” They ran a hand through their hair self consciously.

“It does.” Nines smiled at them. “Though this is my first time experiencing a year’s end… I believe it is a good opportunity to look back on past experiences and reflect on them. There’s so little time for self-reflection because people are usually otherwise preoccupied.”

The conversation moved along, with Gavin joining in once the topic changed to which movies had come out in that year.

***

Kit left first, the most punctual one. Tina reluctantly followed soon after. Gavin lingered, not wanting to go back to the paperwork waiting for him, and Nines stayed to keep him company. A few minutes after Tina left, Gavin cleared his throat and spoke up. “This year has been crazy, but… You were the best part of it for me.”

Pleased by the compliment, Nines smiled warmly and reached for Gavin’s hand, which was resting on the table, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “My favourite part of becoming deviant has been having new experiences, and forming connections with other people. You feature prominently in both of those things.”

That made Gavin break into a big, goofy smile. It disappeared when his work phone vibrated. He glanced down at the screen and then groaned. “Connor’s reminding me that there’s time sensitive shit that I have to get done.” After finishing his coffee and giving Nines a quick kiss, Gavin headed out.

Being the only one at the table made Nines feel self conscious. He tided everything up, and then went back to the DPD. He had his own work to do.

Chapter Text

Chris and his partner Adrian were throwing a New Years party, and invited everyone who wasn’t working from the DPD. 

As soon as Gavin and Nines arrived, Tina (who was on the other side of the room) yelled to get their attention, even louder than was required to be heard over the music. Her cheeks were flushed, a sure sign that she was tipsy already. Claire was at her side, cheerful and sober as androids always were.

The TV was playing the New Years Eve show in Times Square, as was tradition. It was muted though, in deference to the music that was playing from the sound system. There was a decent crowd, talking and laughing. It took a few minutes to reach the other side of the room, especially as Nine felt the need to exchange polite greetings with each coworker that they passed.

“Heyyyy, it's the boys!” Tina said, a touch too loudly. She gave a very enthusiastic hug, first to Nines, and then to Gavin. “It’s so good to see you!”

“Tina, we saw you like two hours ago at work.” Well used to his best friend being in this kind of state, Gavin shook his head with a smile, and then nodded to her girlfriend. “Hi Claire, I like your dress.” 

It was short and silvery, in contrast to Tina’s gold dress, and Claire was wearing the shawl that Gavin had given her for Christmas. “Thanks!” Claire accepted the compliment with a nod, smilingly brightly. “You both look very handsome.”

“That we do.” Nines agreed, comfortably putting an arm around Gavin. In response, Gavin leaned against him ever so slightly, as his way of returning the gesture. “Have you seen Kit? They said that they were here.” Nines asked, as he craned his neck, scanning through the crowd. Both Tina and Claire shook their heads no.

As if summoned, Kit exited the kitchen with a plate full of appetizers. They were accompanied by Mary, who had a plate of her own. Upon seeing their friends, Kit made their way over, with their guest trailing after them. “Hey guys!” There were polite introductions, including Kit introducing Mary, and noting that she was their date.

“Can I get you a drink?” Mary asked Kit, reaching out to tuck a strand of hair behind their ear.

Kit flushed but smiled shyly. “Oh, sure, thank you. Maybe something sweet and alcoholic?” Mary nodded, handed off her plate for Kit to hold, and left, with Claire accompanying her on the premise of getting drinks for the guys. 

Nines waited until they were out of earshot before turning to Kit and raising an eyebrow. “You didn’t mention that you had a date tonight.”

Kit sputtered, starting and stopping various excuses. Finally, they took a breath and got a full sentence out. “I didn’t want to jinx it! It’s our second date, I wasn’t sure if it was too much, but… It seems to be going okay so far…”

“I’m so happy for you!” Tina gushed, throwing her arms around Kit and giving them a hug. “You deserve to be happy! I hope you have a wonderful evening with her.” She gave them a squeeze before releasing them.

“Uh, thanks!” Kit put both plates down to self-consciously adjust the shirt that they were wearing. They had previously seen Tina slightly inebriated at the Company Christmas party, but tonight she was farther gone. Nines smiled at them sympathetically, knowing that drunk Tina took some getting used to.

Claire and Mary returned with drinks, which were accepted with thanks. Conversation among the group was awkward at first, especially with Tina jumping in at random points. But Claire was patient about coaxing Kit to tell how they met Mary, and then asking Mary to tell the group more about herself.

It was getting towards midnight when Claire looked around the circle. “New Years resolutions?” She asked. “I’m going to experiment more with clothes and figure out what my style is.”

“I’ll definitely help you try things on.” It took Tina several tries to wink, and then a prompt from Claire to remind her what they had been talking about. “I will switch from coffee to tea. That’s supposed to be better for you, right?”

“I’ll spend less time on my phone, and more time with my family.” Kit decided.

“I’m going to exercise more.” Mary announced.

“I’ll start actually reading books on my to-read list.” Nines settled on after thinking for a moment.

“I will look for a therapist.” Gavin admitted, slightly self conscious.

“Good job, everyone.” Tina started tearing up. “You’re all wonderful. I’m so happy to be here with all of you. I love my girlfriend and my Gavin.” She gave Claire a kiss on the cheek, and then one to Gavin. “Gav, I’m so proud of you.”

“Love you too Ti.” Gavin gave her a hug, and then patiently endured Tina scrubbing off the lipstick print that she had left on his cheek.

Chris and Adrian moved through the room, making sure everyone had a glass in their hand, and that those who were drinking had a glass of champagne. The countdown started, everyone chanting the numbers. When it finished, couples exchanged kisses and everyone cheered, toasting with their glasses.

Nines stayed close to Gavin after their kiss, leaning down to speak to him alone. “I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.”

“Me too, because I’ll get to spend it with you.” Gavin replied, pulling him in for another kiss.