Nines had been physically attracted to Detective Reed from the moment he first saw him.
It made sense from an objective standpoint; his face was fairly symmetrical, shoulders broad, and waist narrow. All the typical attributes of a traditionally handsome man, plus elements of Nines’s personal preference that he had yet to configure a pattern from until he recognized them as such. Curly hair. Hooded eyes. A square jaw.
He didn’t tell him this straight away, as it seemed inappropriate to do so whilst introducing himself to the detective as his new partner. He also doubted it would go over well — that is, if the man’s ensuing fit of rage at the perceived injustice of being forced to work with an andriod was anything to go by.
There were a lot of “fuck”s and “no fuckin’ way”s and “stupid plastic mother fucker ”s flying around, each even less coherent than the last. And, to Nines’s increasing amusement, he somehow managed to consistently mispronounce a word with a single syllable. It left his mouth in a hurry, as if he couldn’t manage to get it out fast enough.
It would be in bad taste to allow himself a condescending smirk at the fevered fury the man had worked himself into. He did so anyway. It only served to further incense his partner.
He could only be contained when the booming voice of Captain Fowler rang out from the open door of his office. The man didn’t even bother storming down to reprimand him face to face, didn’t need to say anything other than his name to get his attention. Detective Reed shrank against the desk he’d been pounding on with the expression of a collared dog.
Nines took that as his cue to once again initiate contact, ill advised as it was, and found himself quietly simmering past indifferent levity into irritation once he noticed half the precinct snickering around them.
“As entertaining as that was, I would ask that you refrain from such further disruptions in the future. It would not be conducive to efficient workflow if you were to waste both of our time carrying on rather than staying focused on our caseload,” he said, tightening his grip microscopically on the hand he held behind his back.
The detective sneered, sauntering over and reaching up to tap at Nines’s rapidly spinning LED. From this close, the worst of his scars and moles were visible in vivid detail where they sat peppered across the planes of his olive complexion. If he was trying to be intimidating he was failing, Nines thought, because no one could manage to be very intimidating with a beauty mark cradled over the curve of their lip like that. Not even the rough slide of his brawl-callused fingertips could serve to compensate for it. His hands smelled of nicotine and fresh muffins.
“Get this through your big thick supercomputer of a brain, yeah?” He asked , he said , because snarling was something that animals did, not fully grown adult humans. Or so Nines had thought. “I don’t give two shits what anyone says. I’m not working with a ‘droid.”
He shoved off Nines’s chest harshly, clearly intending to make him lose his balance. Somewhere to his left Lieutenant Anderson gave a low whistle while Officers Chen and Miller tittered over the spectacle.
And Nines liked to think he was calm. Composed. Unflappable, even. But it simply wouldn’t do to show his coworkers that he could be pushed around so easily on his first day. Not when he was so much stronger, faster, better than every single one of them. It was not enough to merely know it for himself. They all needed to know as well.
So Nines made swift strides towards the detective’s retreating back and, before he could sense the android coming, he was flat out on a nearby desk with his arm pinned behind his back.
“What the hell?!” Expectedly, he put up a fair bit of resistance as he went down and thrashed against the smooth glass surface, but also expectedly, he was no match for Nines’s superior power.
The hiss of the android’s words were cold and unnatural in Reed’s ear as no breath followed them out onto his exposed skin. “Detective. I would appreciate it if you did your best not to draw undue negative attention to yourself. You may have gotten away with such behavior in the past with little more than a slap on the wrist, but now that I am working with you it reflects poorly on me as well if my partner is going into a rage in the middle of the precinct. My presence here is controversial enough without your temper tantrums adding fuel to the fire. I will not ask this of you again. Next time, I will show you what it means to disregard orders and step out of line, since your superiors have seemed to fail in doing so.”
Detective Reed huffed underneath him. Squirmed. Anything he could seem to think of that would distract from the uptick in his vitals that Nines could read off of him like a book. The most notable of which being a spike in his heart rate, there and gone, something indiscernible from adrenaline but distinct all the same.
“Don’t just think I’m gonna take this assignment lying down, you glorified toaster oven. No one comes in here and tells me what to do. Certainly not someone made out of fucking scrap metal.” Nines refrained from commenting that he was, in fact, taking it lying down, or at least partially hunched over. Instead he released him when the angered bucking ceased and watched as he rubbed at his slowly bruising wrists with harsh twists. “Just don’t get in my way and we won’t have a problem. Capisce?”
When he asked Connor later, his brother would tell him that they looked like two cats fighting in the back of an alleyway. It didn’t feel much different in the moment when the human bared his teeth and spat whispered curses under his breath on his way back to his own desk.
“I look forward to working with you too, Detective Reed,” he said almost cheerily, raising a victorious brow in a sharp arch over his smooth forehead.
“Oh, and Detective?” The man turned around just enough for him to get caught in the icy glare directed towards him. “You should note that I am built much differently from my predecessor. Should you feel inclined towards physical retaliation, my body offers no give with which to cushion the blow. Simply put, if you attempt to punch me every bone in your hand will shatter upon impact.”
That increase in his heart rate returned, only this time it was clear the source was not adrenaline.
“Detective,” Nines called out to the bullpen, knowing only one of them would respond to the title if it came from him.
“What?” Detective Reed’s lips were already set in an irritated snarl, though for once Nines knew it wasn’t directed at him. He’d been bitching about the heat intermittently throughout their whole shift and it was making him even more unbearable to be around than usual. His coffee was iced today, courtesy of the cafe across the street and Nines’s own pocket book, and he guided the long straw to his mouth without tearing his eyes from his desktop computer.
“For the Robinson case.” Nines set down a thick manila folder on his partner’s desk and forwent sitting at his own to hover over the proceeding file analysis.
It was something of a game to them, trying to figure out the answer to a case before the other could. Well, it had been a game to Reed, back when they’d barely spoken and he’d been constantly trying to one-up the android as if he needed to prove his worth. Now it was much less hostile, though no less competitive, and Fowler only avoided intervening when things got particularly charged because their clearance rate had become the highest in the precinct.
Reed grunted in lieu of a thanks. He pushed back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest, squinting up at Nines but still ignoring the case file he’d placed in front of him. “God, I am so sick of the summer crime spike. Good thing that shit’s almost over with.”
“Indeed,” Nines agreed, leaning against the edge of Reed’s desk in a decidedly Connor-esque mannerism. “Just in time for the holiday crime spike.”
Reed groaned, throwing his head back to bare the flushed skin of his neck that the meager air conditioning in the building was doing little to cool. Nines’s eyes latched onto it like two hungry mosquitoes. “It never fucking ends, does it?”
“Afraid not.” Nines smirked, tapping the unopened folder with the tops of his knuckles. “But that’s where we come in.”
“Yeah, yeah. Serve and fuckin’ protect,” Reed said. His idle fingers finally found the edge of the file, wetting it with condensation and sweat as he picked it up to start rifling through the photos. After a few moments he pulled an especially bloody one out of the bunch and flipped it towards Nines with a crass laugh. “Jesus. Did this lady piss someone off or what?”
“Behave, Detective,” Nines said in an admonishing tone. Reed grumbled but made no further comments, a testament to how civil they’d become in the past eight months.
Now that he thought about it, it had been 34 days since their last disagreement, 66 days since their last argument, and 112 days since their last physical altercation. They had made significant progress from the belligerent fighting of winter and the tense silence of spring, to the point where Nines was actually beginning to genuinely enjoy Detective Reed’s — albeit uncouth — company.
It may have been this line of thinking that prompted his out-of-the-blue question, or perhaps he was just voicing something he’d been wondering about for a good while. Either way, he didn’t have the thought to stop himself before he was asking, “Do you remember what I was like when I first joined the DPD?”
Reed’s reaction was immediate. “You were a fuckin’ pain in the ass is what you were.” He laughed, running a thumb over the bottom lip of his open mouth.
Nines’s eyebrows drew together into an indignant frown. “ I was? Need I remind you of the time you undermined my authority during an interview with a suspect by calling me your, quote, ‘personal talking roomba’?”
Reed chuckled lowly at the memory. “Oh, fuck off, that was funny. And you were no saint either. Need I remind you of the time you spilled coffee all over me on purpose when I refused to do your paperwork?”
“It was your paperwork, you just wanted me to do it because it takes me considerably less time to fill out digital forms in my head,” Nines said, rolling his eyes at the detective’s very selective memory. “You looked very nice in your old academy sweatshirt anyway. Navy blue is a good color for your complexion. You should wear it more often.”
He had. The material was soft and faded and clung tightly to the muscles he hadn’t yet grown into fifteen years ago when the shirt was brand new. It was all he’d had to spare in his gym locker when his t-shirt was covered in cold brew, and Nines still thought about it sometimes when he returned home after a long shift. He wondered what the detective wore in his downtime, if he remained in his dark jeans and v necks at home or if he dressed down further into something more comfortable. Sweatpants, maybe. Pajamas.
“Shut it,” Reed said, thinking his compliment facetious. “Why’re you bringing this up anyway?”
“No reason,” he said, though that excuse wouldn’t fool a normal person, let alone a seasoned detective. Reed’s eyebrows raised and Nines allowed the rigidity to slip from the defensive set of his spine. “I was merely wondering if I’d left an impression on you is all.”
“Oh, you damn well left an impression on me, tin can.” His shoulders shook with amusement. The statement was loaded considering Nines’s recollection of the previous events, though, and the android’s lips curved into a taunting smile as he pressed on.
“Really? Was it a good one?” Nines asked. He stepped forwards, the toe of one of his loafers making contact with Reed’s boot. The detective swallowed. “Now that I know you respect anyone strong enough to oppose you, I thought perhaps you’d actually been quite charmed by my no-nonsense approach to your... trying attitude.”
Reed’s eyes narrowed. That sudden BPM spike, the dilated pupils, the rise of goose flesh — all were becoming increasingly familiar during the crescendoing heat of the summer months. It had begun adding a different sort of tension to their interactions, one that neither had learned to navigate other than to use it as fodder for further bickering.
“Go back to your desk with that twenty questions bullshit. I’ve got a case file to read,” he said finally, spinning away from his partner to return to his computer, but the burn of rosy pink was clear on the tops of his ears from where Nines stood above him. He pushed off of Reed’s desk with a sense of smug satisfaction at having disrupted the man’s churlish facade for even a moment, though he decided to be merciful and abandon the instigation to instead retrieve a refill on his partner’s dangerously low caffeine supply from the break room’s far inferior keurig machine.
“The son did it, you know,” he called back over his shoulder as he made his way across the bullpen.
“Fuck you, I could’ve told you that!”