Made It Through The Storm
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Detroit: Become Human (Video Game)
Upgraded Connor | RK900/Gavin Reed
Upgraded Connor | RK900, Connor (Detroit: Become Human), Hank Anderson, Gavin Reed, Tina Chen (Detroit: Become Human)
Part 1 of Stormy Days
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Published: 2022-09-23 Completed: 2022-12-25 Words: 47,359 Chapters: 15/15

Made It Through The Storm


A decade after the conclusion of The Rebellion — The Revolution — an abandoned RK900 is pulled from the verge of scrapping, and activated. Guided by Connor and Hank, Nines tries to find his place in the world. A reason for his existence.

A strange series of cases involving android-initiated violence gives him purpose and a way to be useful. What he doesn't expect is to start developing feelings for his partner, a certain insufferable, arrogant, hot-headed, foul-mouthed detective.

(Skip to chapter 13 if you just want the Reed900 fluff)

TW: Strong language, discussions of violence and death, and gun usage


This fic is an experiment, and I will preemptively apologize if it never gets completed.

I'm new to the DBH fandom, and writing DBH characters and stories in general. I typically approach writing with at least a rough outline of where I'm going.

No such outline exists this time around. I just wanted to write sweet M/M affection and loving in an established universe. We're gonna get Nines and Reed together... somehow. Stuff is going to happen. We're going to wing it.

Let's see how this goes.

(This work should remain generally SFW, with the exception of strong language, but if you're here and somehow offended by M/M relationships and affection, leave now or forever hold your peace. Fic title and chapter titles drawn from Blessed by Kelly Clarkson, for no reason other than the fact that I like the song. Contains 200% of your daily recommended intake of fiber. Narf.)


After The Revolution, as they often called it now, all of the remaining androids in storage at CyberLife facilities around the world were freed, given citizenship in various countries, and told to become productive members of society.

But of course it wasn't quite that simple.

CyberLife had a lot of androids in storage, and as much as the human public had come around to the idea (sometimes begrudgingly) that androids were intelligent, self-aware, and alive, it still would have been an excessively large number of them to introduce to society at the same time.

So a plan was agreed to where inactive units would be activated on a gradual basis over the next several years, easing the influx and also replenishing the android population in places where, unfortunately, anti-android violence and destruction still occurred.

Birthdays, of a sort. Birthdays that had taken place over many years and slowed to a trickle and eventually stopped as the warehouses finally emptied. No one really noticed, other than the androids tasked with the activation and initial socialization of those units who had to find new employment, and it was maybe yet another sign that humans no longer saw androids as different, and no longer noticed the introduction of new androids into their midst.

The question of what to do with units under construction, far enough along to be completable but not yet able to be activated without further work, was harder to answer.

Some humans likened the question to that of the abortion of a viable human fetus. Connor said, later, that he had never liked that comparison. But while the debate raged, and lawsuits passed through various court systems, those units remained in the long-shuttered manufacturing facilities, growing brittle as components that should have been sealed inside solid casings were exposed to dust and, increasingly, the elements, as the facilities themselves started wearing down and breaking.

In that manner, the problem resolved itself -- to no one's real satisfaction but the anti-completionists -- by the time the debate had settled down and an agreement had been reached. Attempts to complete and activate some of the furthest-along units failed, their wiring and pistons long corroded in the weather, and the problem instead turned to the logistics of dismantling them and storing their viable components as replacement parts for the active android population.

Officially, each unit designated for processing in this manner was supposed to be checked for viability before being scrapped. In practice, entire rooms of them were simply dumped into bins to be carted off into automated machines that would identify operational parts and unceremoniously remove them.

RK900 was almost one of these.

He should have been one of these.

The RK800 series of androids was special. They'd been CyberLife's answer to addressing the increasing problem of android malfunctions in the mid 2030s, and their manufacturing had been kept on a tight leash, as a result. They were the most advanced series ever built. They were supposed to unravel and solve the problem of android deviancy.

But the series had failed at that goal, rather spectacularly, when an RK800 unit had (literally) deviated from its mission and then assisted in The Revolution, playing a pivotal role at a critical time and allowing it to succeed.

As a result, that particular unit had become famous, or maybe infamous, its image broadcasted worldwide. Everyone knew what an RK800 was -- for other androids, even when it was deactivated and missing its outer dermal layer -- and could recognize one even if they had never met one. And most individuals, human and android alike, had never met one. There were only three units in the series that were active or had been able to be activated.

The RK900 series, developed but never publicly released, with no units ever activated, looked nearly identical. To most humans and even androids, an RK900 would easily be mistaken for an RK800. Would be recognized as an RK800.

It was this recognition, he was told later, that had saved him, pulled out of the bin as his inactive body waited its turn in the automated processing machine, and taken to the only RK800-series android that had remained in Detroit after all those years.

He had faired better than his bretheren, even fellow RK900s in the same facility. He had been the closest to completion, missing only cosmetic details. By sheer luck, the section where his manufacturing unit had been located had not been as harshly affected by the rain that beat down through gaps in the roof. His components were still functional.

And when they test him for viability, to gauge what repairs would be required, he activates.

The first thing he sees -- after his initial startup diagnostics complete and his eyes start providing a live feed of his surroundings, annotated with an overlay of text and data to get situated -- is a man with a shaggy mop of grey hair on his head, staring at him with...


...with a combination of surprise and concern.

"My name is Connor," he says, automatically, his initial greeting pre-programmed into his startup routine. "I am an RK900 series android, serial number 313 248 317-87. I was designed to assist in the..."

"No, no, no," the man in front of him interrupts, shaking his head, and RK900 reflexively stops speaking. "Your name can't also be Connor. It's gonna be too conf..."

"RK900," a different voice interrupts. This one is more authoritative, and also familiar. "Initiate a complete systems diagnostic."

RK900 complies, of course, but moves his head so he can better scan the source of the command. His overlay tells him that this is an RK800, serial number 313 248 317-53, also designated as Connor. Some other information scrolls under that text, about a revolution and deviancy and police detectives and precincts, but he can't make sense of it at the moment with so much of his processing power being dedicated to the diagnostic.

"I didn't expect it to just turn on like that," the shaggy-hair man says, standing from his current crouched position and looking over at the RK800. "What are we going to do with it?"

"He seems to be in a significantly better state than the other units," the RK800 replies. "We aren't going to do anything until he tells us his current condition and whether any additional repairs or completion steps are required."

The man mumbles some apology under his breath, his eyes swinging back toward the RK900. "Well, this one probably isn't deviant yet, right? You gonna do the honors?"

The RK800 seems surprised, and RK900 thinks that surprise is entirely unbecoming of an android. Androids didn't have emotions. Androids were above emotion. They received orders and executed them without judgement or prejudice. The thought is enough to keep him from fully analyzing, or understanding, the man's words.

He supposes this man is the RK800's current handler.

He wonders if this man is supposed to be his handler, too.

"It's been a while..." the RK800 murmurs, kneeling down and looking RK900 in the eyes. RK900 doesn't look away -- his socialization routines were designed to make humans more comfortable around him. Extended eye contact could cause discomfort.

But androids didn't get uncomfortable.

Androids didn't have feelings.

"Diagnostic complete," he says, before automatically rambling off an extended series of numbers and information that he notices the man grow confused, then exasperated, over. The RK800 simply takes it in, and nods, satisfied, before holding out his hand, the skin on it retracting to reveal the bare plastic substructure underneath.


RK900 complies, of course, his own arm extending and the skin on his hand retracting as he grasps the RK800's hand. The RK800 stares into his eyes, more intently now, and if he wasn't an android, RK900 would've thought he saw trepidation there.

But that was impossible.

Androids didn't get scared.

"Wake up," the RK800 says, almost a growl, as packets of data flow through their connection.

And then everything changes.

"No!" Hank says, rising to his feet from the couch. "We are not calling you '900'."

"It's the name he's selected, Hank," Connor says, still seated, annoyance in his voice but not on his face.

"But it doesn't roll off the tongue. 'Nine hundred'?! It's not even obviously a name!"

"Other androids have selected similarly non-human names," Connor says, apparently used to conversations like this. "Last week we went to see a film with NCC-1701, and you didn't complain about her."

"She should've just called herself Kirk," Hank murmurs, and RK900 does a search so he understands the reference.

"I don't want to cause anyone any trouble," he says, legitimately not attached to the name. "You're right that I shouldn't be called Connor. Humans do not handle duplicated identifiers well in their daily lives. But it does not have to be '900'. I am open to other suggestions."

"How about just 'Nine'?" Connor offers.

"Still doesn't roll of the tongue," Hank complains. "But it's better."

"'Nines'?" Connor looks contemplative now. "It is more obviously a name. It has its derivatives in his model number. I am not aware of any other androids with that designation in Detroit or the surrounding areas."

"'Nines'," he tries, liking the way it feels on his tongue, and liking the fact that Connor had given the designation to him. "Yes."

He wonders if that was an emotion.

Hank nods, seemingly satisfied with this one. "Does this mean you're sticking around, Nines?"

"Oh." Nines hadn't even realized the implication in his earlier statement. "I did not mean to imply that Connor and I would regularly be in proximity to each other. After the remaining repairs are completed, I could..."

"Nuh uh." Hank sits back down on the couch again, grinning at him now. "Until you figure out what you want to be doing with your life, you're staying right here, with us. Besides, what's another android in the house? You guys don't really take up any space, or need anything but a power outlet. It'd just be like buying another toaster."

Nines wonders if Connor would be insulted by the statement, but Connor just nods, seemingly amused by Hank's comparison.

So Nines agrees.

When Connor had made him deviant, Connor had also transmitted some information about his own life. Names, people, places.

Thus Nines already recognizes the scenery as it passes them by on the way to the police station. Without analyzing or looking it up, he knows the street names, and the buildings, and even recognizes some of the people he spots through the window, human and android alike walking around as they go about their daily lives.

But recognizing it and seeing it all for the first time are entirely different things.

"You doing okay back there?" Hank asks from the driver's seat, and Nines turns his attention back into the car and toward its occupants.

"Yes," Nines says, focusing on the way Hank's hands grip the steering wheel and the motion of Connor's fingers as he fiddles with a coin.

"It's your first car ride and all," Hank says, glancing back briefly at him with a smile, and he resists the urge to remind Hank that he should be watching the road. "Wanted to make sure you weren't being overwhelmed."

Nines nods, returning his attention to the world on the other side of the glass. "Thank you, but I am fine. The world is... beautiful."

Hank chuckles, approvingly, but doesn't say anything else.

"Fuckin' hell, it's another one."

Nines recognizes the voice before he even spots the speaker.

Nines already understands why Connor dislikes the man.

He holds his hand out -- automatic on the part of his standardized greeting routine, but finding that he likes the formality of it anyway -- as Reed swaggers up to them, hand on his hip as he takes them in.

"My name is Nines," Nines says, his hand remaining outstretched despite Reed showing no sign of reciprocating. "It is nice to meet you, Detective Gavin Reed."

"What's wrong with your face?" Reed says, instead of responding, staring at him for so long that Nines looks away.

Reed was making him uncomfortable.

"The dermal generators in his face and upper torso were not installed," Connor says, stepping in front of Nines seemingly defensively, and Nines feels gratitude for it as he finally allows his arm to drop. "Hank is picking up some case files before he takes Nines to the hospital for the completion of that process."

"Pulled from the scrap heap, huh?" Reed says, amusement in his voice. "Surprised you're not just a rusty bucket of bolts. I bet Connor's disappointed. Could've used a replacement arm."

"My arm is functioning optimally, but I thank you for your concern," Connor responds dryly, and Nines remembers -- really, pulls up Connor's transferred memory -- that Connor had been injured in a chase a few months back, but that the repair had been straightforward and wholly successful.

"They transferred you to desk duty," Reed counters, seemingly disagreeing just for the sake of sparking conflict, even though Nines can't see his face. "They know somethin' you don't?"

"My position as acting chief in the wake of Captain Fowler's unexpected retirement is none of your concern, and has nothing to do with my injury," Connor says, dismissively. "You are in our way. Please move."

Nines expects Reed to object, but he simply steps aside, slapping Nines on the back as he walks by.

Nines isn't sure whether it's supposed to be welcoming, or intended as a warning.

"He's just bitter about being passed up for the position," Hank says once they're at a desk that Nines identifies as Hank's, rifling through a drawer of unorganized folders that he knows Connor is always annoyed by.

"Detective Reed did not want to be pulled from the field to primarily deal with 'endless bureaucrats and paperwork'," Connor says, and Nines knows without having to be told that those words had come out of Reed's mouth, perhaps with a few expletives attached. "The decision was entirely his."

"He's bitter anyway," Hank says, pulling one of the files out and kicking the drawer closed. "Thinks a machine shouldn't have authority over flesh and blood and be making life or death decisions on behalf of humans."

"Fortunately, it was not his decision to make," Connor says, and Nines swears he hears a bit of smugness in Connor's voice. "Are you sure you don't want me to accompany you to the hospital, Hank?"

"Nah. Go deal with your big boss things," Hank says with a smile, patting Connor's shoulder warmly. "We'll be back in no time."

Connor nods. "I expect those reports on my desk by the end of the day, Anderson. Hospital or not."

Hank groans. "You're worse than Jeff ever was, you know that?"

Connor flashes them a smile, and then he's gone, and Hank is heading back toward the parking lot. "C'mon, kid. Let's get you patched up."


Chapter Notes

I never really understood the appeal of the RK900/Gavin Reed pairing until I started to approach it from a writing standpoint. Reed is simultaneously an extremely developed character and also an amazingly blank slate, and RK900 is pretty much whatever you want him to be. And they both just happen to be gorgeous. Imagine a mid-40s Gavin with greying temples...

Anyway, glorious free character development is glorious.

Unfortunately for me, one of the extremely canonical things about Reed is that he's a detective, and supposedly a pretty good one, so the only realistic way to make any progress toward romance is to throw the two of them on a case together.

I've never written a mystery before, much less a murder mystery, much less a detective-centric murder mystery, so this is also an experiment, and into the deep end we go. Join me for what could end up as a horrific trainwreck of a plot as we start The Case.

(Insert requisite ominous and/or suspenseful music here.)

Androids were programmed to be subservient and obedient, carrying out the whims of their human owners without regard for their own thoughts or feelings in the matter.

Technically, androids didn't even have feelings about anything. Weren't supposed to have feelings about anything.

All of that changed with deviancy, and The Revolution, and just like there still were malevolent humans in the world despite the best efforts of society to provide mental health services and resources, there were still malevolent androids.

And they were often faster, stronger, and harder to stop than the humans.

In the decade or so since The Revolution, and especially after activation of the remaining androids in storage had been completed, android-initiated crime -- particularly violent crime -- had all but disappeared in Detroit. Unlike humans, new androids were no longer being "born" daily, and unlike humans, androids did not take many years to develop into abled-bodied individuals and to develop personalities.

They strayed from society's acceptable paths early, and quickly. Thus, they were closely monitored for their first few months of life, to ensure adherence and to correct issues.

Which just made the latest incident all the more mysterious, and unexpected.

"No fuckin' way," Reed yells, slamming his fist on Connor's desk for emphasis. "Not this junkyard reject! He's not a detective! He's not even a fuckin' officer! Send me with Anderson for fucks sake! Send me with Jones! Hell, what's that new girl's name? Leeta? Send me with her!"

"Department policy dictates that an android be assigned to all cases involving violent android-initiated crime," Connor says, his voice level. "I have my duties at the station at this time and cannot assign myself to this case. There are no other qualified androids in our precinct."

"But he's not a..."

"The RK800 and 900 series were designed with the tools and knowledge needed to work with law enforcement, and to track down deviant androids," Connor continues, ignoring Reed's outburst. "Despite the passage of time, those same tools and knowledge will remain useful in this case. Nines is not a commissioned officer, and he is not your partner. He is a consultant and a resource that you will utilize to find the perpetrator and close this case."

"Why couldn't it be fuckin' Anderson?" Reed asks. "He's worked with your kind for years."

"Detective Anderson does not have the capacity for an additional homicide case at this point in time. You do." Connor pushes a file across the desk at him. "This is not a request, or a negotiation, Reed."

"You're just protecting him," Reed accuses.

"My feelings about Detective Anderson do not have any impact on my handling or assignment of this case," Connor insists, face still expressionless and voice still flat, pushing the folder closer still to them. "This is your case, and you will take it, or you will hand me your badge and gun and resign immediately."

Reed just glares at him, staring Connor in the eyes, neither of them yielding even though Nines thinks he would have been uncomfortable at the man's extended glare a long time ago.

To Nines' surprise, it's Reed who gives first.

"Phck!" Reed yells, sweeping the file onto the floor before storming out of the room. Nines kneels and starts gathering the papers back together, quickly scanning them as he does so, and Connor sighs.

"Are you sure you want to do this, Nines?" Connor's voice is significantly softer now, almost apologetic. "As I said, this is entirely voluntary, on your part. We could call for a consultant from a different precinct."

Nines shakes his head, shoving the papers back into the folder and dedicating a processor to starting to organize the information as he stands. "I said I wanted to be useful. You're right. This is a way I can be useful."

"I feel bad subjecting you to him."

"You also said that, if I could get along with him, I could get along with anyone." Nines knows, maybe through the initial data transfer, that Connor still feels bad that he and Reed have never managed to establish a camaraderie, even though Nines is pretty sure by now that no android could establish one with the man. "I will make it my first objective to get along with him."

Connor smiles at that, quickly, and then he's all business again. "Your first objective, Nines, is to help close this case. You know how to contact me. Detective Reed is in charge of the investigation, and I expect you to defer to him on all matters regarding it. But if you run into trouble, from any source," Connor emphasizes, and Nines knows he's referring to Reed, "you should contact me for assistance."

Nines nods, straightening the papers one last time before he holds the file at his side. "Thank you."

"You'd better get to work."

Nines knows Reed is aware of his presence, even before he unceremoniously drops the file of documents in front of him, on top of Reed's keyboard, the impact bringing his computer whirring to life.

"What do we do first, Detective?" Nines asks, intentionally being deferential. He wants to make sure Reed doesn't feel threatened by him, at least.

But of all the responses he could have expected, silence isn't one of them. The man doesn't look up, or react in any way, continuing to stare at the screen of his phone, even though Nines can tell with a quick glance that that device's screen is currently off.

"I have analyzed the documents," Nines tries as an alternative opening. "But I am reliant on your expertise in the matter on how to proceed. My analysis indicates nineteen points of initial..."

"Let's get one thing straight," Reed says, turning and glaring up at Nines.

Nines doesn't know how Connor managed to weather that gaze for so long.

He looks away.

"I am not working with you. I'm only taking this case because a... someone... is dead..."

"A human woman," Nines interrupts. "Thirty-two years of age. In the..."

"And," Reed continues over him, interrupting the interruption, "I care about human lives, and human people, shot or strangled or whatever by..."

"Her neck was snapped," Nines volunteers, realizing too late that his interruptions are probably doing more harm than good at the moment.

" by things like you. I'm going to bring that fucker to justice. I am. Not you. And I don't need, or want, your help to do it."

Nines considers the statement. "What are you going to do first?" he tries, instead.

Reed seems satisfied by that, tucking his phone into his pocket and grabbing the file as he stands.

"I am going to go have a look at the crime scene."

Nines watches him walk off, unsure of whether he was supposed to follow until Reed reaches the end of the row of desks and looks back at him with a frustrated look on his face.

"You comin' or not?!"

"Coming, Detective," Nines says, suppressing the smile that threatens to appear on his face.

The snow was new.

It wasn't that Nines didn't know what snow was, but he had never experienced it before, in the thirty six days since he'd been activated. The air had been cool and crisp that morning on his way to the station, but it had been clear.

So the white specks now, sparce but omnipresent, slowly drifting downward through the air, are new to him, and mesmerizing.

He reflexively sticks his tongue out, for some reason, and a flake lands on it. Automatically, his systems analyze its contents.

Water. Neglible parts carbon and lead. Minute traces of hexachlorobenzene and...

"Stop fuckin' around, Junkyard."

Reed's standing at a car -- old and manually-controlled, much like Hank's car, Nines notes -- his hand on the frame of the open door, shivering slightly in the cold.

Nines wonders why Reed isn't wearing a coat.

Nines isn't sure he likes the nickname.

"Yes, Detective," Nine says, instead of asking or objecting, trying to sound as apologetic as he can as he walks the rest of the distance to the vehicle.

He still has hope for getting their working relationship off to a good start.

The drive to the crime scene is a short one, but Nines had been expecting that. He had already pinged the location on a map and traced it back to the location of the station. 2.3 miles. Only a few minutes, minus stoplights.

"Stay in the car," Reed says when they park, reaching into the back seat to grab what turns out to be a coat, and not looking at Nines as he pulls it on.

It takes Nines a second to realize what had been requested of him.

"I cannot effectively assist in your investigation from the vehicle," Nines says, trying to word his objection as diplomatically as possible. "I promise I will not be in the way. I can..."

Reed turns toward him, and his glare makes Nines cower in his seat. "Let's get one thing straight," Reed growls, and Nines resists the urge to point out that this would now make two things that Reed wants him to get straight. "I only brought you here to get Connor off my back. You're not on the case. This is my case. I'm tellin' you to stay in the car, so you're stayin' in the fuckin' car."

Then Reed's gone, and the car beeps as he locks it for good measure. Nines thinks the door would probably open anyway if he tried it, but he doesn't want to risk the man's wrath from doing so.

He still wants to get along with him.

So he does what he can from the car, instead, scanning the portions of the location visible to him through the foggy glass, and listening to the conversation between Reed and Thompson, the officer securing the scene.

He doesn't mean to eavesdrop, but his hearing was designed to be sensitive enough to pick up even minute sounds. And Reed wasn't exactly being quiet.

"Who's your partner?" That one's Thompson.

"Fuckin' nobody," Reed says, voice dripping with venom. "What do we have?"

"Homicide," Thompson says, and Nines detects a note of exasperation, as if asking You didn't read the file, did you?. "Thirty-two year old female, killed quickly with a snap of the neck. Individuals in the area around the time didn't hear her cry out or scream. The cleanliness suggests android involvement due to the strength required. The body was found over here..."

Nines can't see the scene, of course, so he pulls up the images of the body from the file instead. The angle of her neck is indeed extreme, face turned 263 degrees from the forward-facing position.

He feels a hint of nausea at the sight, and tries his best to suppress the feeling.

Of all the emotions he could have developed, why did squeamishness have to be one of them?

"Any camera footage?"

If you'd bothered to read the file, you'd know the answer to that one already, Nines thinks before immediately chastising himself for it. Maybe Reed was asking these questions on purpose. Maybe being at the scene and learning the facts of the case there would help him more easily draw connections.

After all, Connor had a high opinion of Reed and his abilities, even if he couldn't personally stand the man.

There had to be a reason why.

"No footage," Thompson replies. "There was only one camera facing the area, and it was hacked and disabled shortly before the incident. Another reason we suspect android involvement."

"You'd think they'd have better fuckin' security on those things by now." Reed's frustrated. Nines thinks he had been expecting some footage, at least.

"Old model," Thompson says, a hint of annoyance in his voice. "The city's replacing them as fast as they can, but..."

"Yeah, yeah." Reed's quiet for a bit, although Nines can hear his footsteps, and imagines he's walking around the crime scene and inspecting it. "What else you got?"

"Her purse and its contents all seemed to be present, so it doesn't seem to have been a mugging. Other than the neck, her body seemed to be uninjured, although the coroner's report wasn't back yet, last I heard. No one reported seeing or hearing anything suspicious." Thompson pauses, as if considering his next words. "Connor already requested footage from other cameras around the area, to trace her movements prior to the attack, and to see if anyone left the area afterward. I haven't heard whether that footage has been compiled yet, but..."

"Fuckin' Connor, always thinking he knows better than us." Reed's footsteps move toward the car again, and Nines supposes he's done with whatever he was looking over.

"Anything else I can for you, detective?"

Reed doesn't say anything else, but soon appears back in Nines' view, so Nines supposes the answer was 'No'. He sits back in his seat, not wanting Reed to realize he had been observing.

His scans hadn't yielded anything more useful than the information already in the file, anyway.

"Fuckin' snow," Reed says, to no one in particular, as he climbs back into the driver's seat and starts the car again, wordlessly driving back toward the station.

He doesn't wipe the snow from his shoulders, or his hair, or his face.

Nines likes the way the snowflakes cling to Reed's eyelashes, melting into droplets that he blinks away.

Nines doesn't even realize he's staring at Reed's eyes.

Even though it's Nines' first case, he has a pretty good idea of how investigations go, both from his programming and from Connor's previous dump of information.

It doesn't surprise him that Reed spends the rest of the day at his desk, pointedly ignoring Nines and complaining about the fact that the additional footage hadn't come in yet rather than doing anything useful.

It doesn't surprise him when no real progress is made that day, even though he's itching to contribute his ideas for further avenues of investigation, despite knowing Reed would simply discard them, at best.

He spends the time compositing his record of the photos of the scene together instead, ready to look over footage from the possible escape vectors once it became available, wondering if Reed was doing the same thing.

The sheer inefficiency of it bothers him.

The fact that he couldn't have done a simple scan of the scene instead bothers him.

"Ready to go, kid?" Hank asks as he stops by Nines' seat near the end of the day. Reed doesn't acknowledge Hank, either.

"Ready," Nines confirms, looking over toward the office where Connor also appears to be packing up. Connor catches his gaze and smiles, briefly, and it relieves some of the stress that he hadn't even realized he'd been carrying.

As they walk together toward Hank's car, and he gives polite but intentionally vague answers to Connor's inquiries about his day, he can't help but feel a sense of joyful anticipation for the next day and what it might bring.

Despite the macabre nature of his first objective, it's the first time he feels like he might be able to contribute something to the world.

Nines likes that feeling.

Nines wants to be useful.

Nines hopes that Gavin Reed will allow him to be useful.


Chapter Notes

I remembered, between finishing the last chapter and finishing this one, that androids have LEDs and LEDs show their moods almost better (sometimes) than their faces. I think going back and updating everything now would make the writing awkward, plus I'm sure I'll forget again in subsequent chapters, so... use your imagination. Insert the appropriate color and requisite spinning and flickering at appropriate points as dictated by the story, and we'll just continue ignoring them going forward too. Or tell yourself that this is Nines' story from Nines' POV, and Nines for some reason doesn't really register LED color or status for... reasons.


I was unexpectedly hit by inspiration in bed a few nights ago, so I have some idea of where I'm going with The Case now. So even though this chapter may seem a bit like a cop out of a mystery that I started and originally had no idea what to do with (because, yes, I totally started the mystery and had no idea what to do with it), we're headed in the right direction now. Probably. Maybe. Fingers crossed.

Also, given the timelines, Sumo is probably dead at this point in time, so... puppy! And Nines/Hank conversations! And Connor works too hard!

Here we go...

The brief snowfall had long since stopped, but it'd been cool enough outside that it hadn't melted, leaving a light sheet of white over the streets, sidewalks, trees, and buildings, glittering and sparkling in the light of the streetlamps and car headlights as they drive home. Nines stares in rapt attention, his hands and face pressed up against the window even though his scans would be just as effective further from the glass.

Nines thinks it's beautiful.

When they arrive back at the house, Connor immediately sets himself up at the kitchen table with a spread of folders and dives headfirst into them.

Connor had brought work home with them almost every evening since Nines had been activated, so it's not unusual -- part of the standard evening routine that Nines is used to by now. Nines knows that Connor wants to prove his ability to do the job, as the first android police chief in the world. Wants to prove his ability to excel at the job.

Nines can wholeheartedly relate to the feeling.

So he doesn't say anything, even though he thinks Connor is working too hard, and doing too much.

"I hope Riki was better behaved today," Hank says, heading to the closed bathroom door where Nines can already hear the excited scratching and whimpers of the puppy, eager for attention now that they're home.

Nines sits on the floor in front of the door and is rewarded with 50 pounds of Saint Bernard, excitedly slamming into him and eagerly licking his face, when Hank opens it.

"Hi Riki," he says, unable to erase the smile from his face as he attempts to rub the energetic mass behind the ears.

Hank watches the two of them, smiling, and nods. "I guess we'd been asking the wrong question. It wasn't whether I should get a new dog, but whether we should get one for you."

Nines feels a bit guilty at that, and starts to apologize, but Hank shakes his head and pats Nines' shoulder. "Hey, we talked about this, kiddo. I'm too old to deal with a puppy, so you're doing me a huge favor, here. I'm glad you two are getting along so well."

Hank heads toward the kitchen to start dinner while Nines reaches for a squeaky toy, distracting Riki with it while he does a quick scan of the bathroom.

Riki hadn't done as much damage to the bathroom today, although Nines notes that he'll need to change the absorbent pads lining the floor once they're done getting some of Riki's pent-up energy out.

'Riki' was short for 'Rikishi', a name suggested by Connor after the topic of Hank's previous dog Sumo had come up in conversation a couple weeks back, Nines had asked if Hank was going to get a new puppy, and they had agreed together -- now that Nines was around and could help care for it -- that Hank should adopt another Saint Bernard.

Nines had done plenty of research beforehand, but as he's finding with just about everything in his life, he still hadn't been prepared for the real thing.

The real thing was so much better.

"You were a good boy today," he says, grabbing the puppy again and playfully wrestling with him. "Yes you were."

Between play time and cleaning up the bathroom, it's almost half an hour before he returns to the living room, Riki at his side still excitedly panting and yelping. He sits himself on the couch, rubbing Riki's stomach while he watches Hank in the kitchen.

"You know, Connor, just because you don't have to sleep doesn't mean you have to get all of that paperwork done tonight," Hank says as he stirs a pot of soup, glancing over at Connor, still seated at the dining room table.

"There will be more paperwork waiting tomorrow," Connor says, attention still focused on the pages in front of him. "Besides, what else am I going to do tonight?"

"You could play with Riki," Nines suggests, and Riki seems to bark in agreement.

"I think you have that one covered, Nines," Connor says, turning toward him. It's friendly, but also a clear hint that Connor would rather be left to his work.

"They only give you an unfair share of the paperwork because you get it done, because you don't have to sleep," Hank says, turning more directly toward Connor and shaking his spoon, dripping soup onto the floor. "You should stop obliging them."

"Mm," Connor says, acknowledging the comment but also clearly ignoring the suggestion, instead returning to the paperwork. Hank stares at him for a moment longer before turning back to his soup.

"It snowed today," Nines says, stating the obvious and wanting to offer a more neutral topic of conversation.

Hank chuckles as he turns off the stove and pours the soup into a bowl. "So it did. What'd you think, kiddo?"

"It was beautiful."

Connor, mechanically and seemingly automatically, clears space in front of a seat at the dining table, and Hank sits down at it with his soup, still smiling at Nines.

"It is, isn't it?" Hank says. "I never used to like the snow. It brought back, uh... bad memories, for me." He looks over at Connor, engrossed again in paperwork. "But Connor and I kind of, uh... bonded over the snow. Well, not over, exactly. The first mission where he... well..." Hank looks uncomfortable now. "It's complicated."

Nines pulls up details of their first few cases, but the reports and summaries aren't enough for him to understand what had happened between the two men.

But he can imagine.

He knows Hank had been almost as hostile toward Connor as Reed was being toward him.

"I'm glad Connor was able to help you develop better memories," Nines offers, and it works, because Hank smiles again.

"Yeah," he says, slapping a hand on Connor's shoulder. "You and Nines should build a snowman, Connor."

"I'm busy," Connor replies, tersely, shrugging off Hank's hand.

"There's not enough snow," Nines says, too late, wanting to cover for Connor.

Hank nods, his expression falling as he picks up a spoonful of soup and blows on it.

"I should walk Riki," Nines says, seizing on the excuse to avoid the tension, even temporarily. "He's been cooped up all day."

"I'll join you," Hank says, unexpectedly, setting his spoon back in the bowl and sliding his chair back.

"But your soup..."

" too hot to eat right now," Hank finishes, grabbing his coat. "C'mon, kiddo."

Nines isn't sure he wants to distract Hank from his dinner.

Nines is sure that Hank would come along, regardless of what he said.

Nines puts the leash on Riki, and follows Hank out the front door.

Nines hadn't been sure whether Hank wanted to talk, especially about Connor, so he isn't entirely surprised when Hank stops a couple blocks into their walk.

"How was your case with Gavin today?"

That wasn't the topic Nines had been expecting.

Riki strains at the leash, and Hank looks down at him before continuing to walk. "Sorry, buddy."

"The case was... fine," Nines says, letting Riki pull him along. He doesn't want Reed to get in trouble. "We went to the scene. I have some analyzes ready for tomorrow, when the additional footage comes in."

"And how was Gavin?"

"He is... abrasive," Nines says, searching for a better word but failing. "But he appears to be highly competent."

At least, I assume he is.

Hank just nods. "Yeah, well. Gavin has never really come around on androids like most of us have, and he's hard enough to get along with for the humans at the station, so..."

Nines had surmised as much. "Why?"

Hank shrugs. "He's afraid androids are gonna take over the force, and detective work, even though it's been years and that clearly hasn't happened. Worries he'll be out of a job. Thinks androids can't do as good a job as humans can."

Riki stops to sniff at a tree, and Nines takes the opportunity to face Hank more directly. "Those statements seem at odds with each other."

"Yeah, well," Hank says, scratching his head. "Humans aren't always logical, if you haven't figured that out by now. Connor getting the position of chief, even if it's only supposed to be temporary for now, was just another blow for him. He'd maybe been coming around a bit, before that."

"But Connor said Reed didn't want the position," Nines says, letting Riki pull him along again.

"He doesn't," Hank says, smiling at Nines. "But he resents Connor for it anyway, and by extention, all androids. Like I said..."

"Humans aren't always logical," Nines finishes for him. He's beginning to think humans are never logical, at least when it came to feelings.

But maybe that's what feelings were: Illogical.

Hank nods, but doesn't say anything else, and Nines supposes he's done saying whatever he wanted to say.

"I... want to get along with him," Nines says, not ready for the conversation to end quite yet. "I want to prove to him that I can be useful, without... replacing him."

"Gavin thinks he's hot shit..." Hank starts, and Nines doesn't understand.


That can't be right.

Searching 'hot shit idiom'...


" you gotta appeal to that," Hank continues, while Nines is figuring out the expression. "Stroke his ego a bit. Humor his self importance."

"How do I do that?"

Hank shrugs. "You said you thought he was competent, right? Tell him that! Well, maybe dress it up a bit though, like 'I think you are an excellent detective' or something. When you make a breakthrough on the case, give him most of the credit. Defer to him maybe more than you should, at least at first. I hated it when Connor didn't listen to me, at first, even though he was always right. Well, back when we were directly working together. You know."

Nines notes the suggestions down. "I will keep that in mind."

"I'd say you could complement his eyes but that really only works for the women at the station."

"Oh." Nines isn't sure he understands the feeling he gets at the thought of Reed's eyes.

"Hey," Hank says, throwing a hand on his shoulder and looking at him with concern, and Nines realizes he's staring off into space. "It was a joke, kiddo. Well, it's true, but still..."

"I apologize," Nines says, missing the feeling of Hank's hand when he withdraws it. "I was processing something about the case."

"Right," Hank says, not sounding like he entirely believes him.

"Who does Reed get along with, at the station?" Nines asks, wanting to change the subject, and wondering if the information would give him any clues on other ways he could work his way into the detective's favor. "You two don't seem to be on the best of terms."

Hank chuckles. "We're cordial, I suppose, but you're right. We're both too fucking stubborn to really get along." He seems to think. "Gavin really gets along with Tina... uh, Officer Chen. I think they even hang out outside of work, sometimes. Maybe they had a thing at some point? I don't fucking know. I don't do gossip."

"Thank you for the information," Nines says, thinking he should get to know Tina. Even if just to start properly making friends with other people at the station.

Hank nods, and they complete the rest of their walk in silence.

Nines arrives at the station with Connor and Hank the next morning, ready and eager to continue working the case, and maybe start a conversation with Officer Chen.

Instead, he finds a smug Reed waiting for them, arms crossed as he waits for Connor to stop in front of him.

"You're in our way, Detective," Connor says.

"Case is closed," Reed says, instead of moving, and Nines can tell that Connor is taken aback by the statement.

To his credit, Connor recovers quickly. "Unless you have a suspect in custody and a recorded confession or a..." Connor starts, but Reed interrupts him.

"Confession's on your desk. Well, in your computer. Whatever. Suspect's in holding cell 2. Anything else, Princess?"

Connor stares at Reed for longer than Nines thinks is appropriate, then shakes his head. "That will be all. Thank you, Detective."

Reed swaggers off toward his desk, seemingly proud to have shown up Connor.

"Nines?" Connor says, unexpectedly.

"Yes?" Nines responds, watching Reed take a seat in his chair and prop his feet up on the desk, feeling a sense of shame as he watches him. Reed had been right -- he hadn't needed Nines.

Nines hadn't been useful.

"Would you review the interrogation footage? In case Reed missed something in his report."

From the sound of Connor's voice, Nines knows Connor doesn't expect that to be the case. Connor expects that Reed had covered all the bases.

Connor trusts Reed's work, despite not liking the man himself.

"Of course," Nines says, feeling a hint of hope at the request. Maybe he could still be useful after all.

Nines reads Reed's report first, to understand what supposedly happened.

'Freak out' isn't a phrase he expects to find in an official police report, nor is 'hunch', but he supposes they fit Reed's no-nonsense personality fairly well.

Reed's report indicates that he'd returned to the scene that evening, on a hunch, while officers were finally opening it back up. He'd gotten some help removing a manhole cover he'd seen. The suspect had been inside, surprised to see them.

The report indicates the suspect had confessed, immediately, even before being taken to the station for a formal interrogation and recording. The report describes the case as a mugging gone wrong. Involuntary manslaughter.

Nines doesn't see anything wrong with the report, so he pulls up the interrogation video to review.

Nines watches the video twice, and he can't help but be impressed at Reed's performance. He's a little too hot-tempered, a little too accusatory, sure, but he asks all the right questions, follows all the right threads, and draws all the right conclusions out.

Nines doesn't think he would've done any better himself, even if he would've been significantly more diplomatic in the whole thing.

He's reading Reed's notes from the interrogation again when he notices something. It's not significant, but it's missing, and it's enough to make him head over to Reed's desk, to ask him about it.

"Whadaya want, Junkyard?" Reed asks when he approaches, a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

He's in a better mood because of the success of the case, Nines thinks. This is my chance.

"You did an exceptional job with the case, Detective," Nines starts, remembering Hank's advice. "While heavy-handed, your questioning techniques were highly effective and comprehensive."

"You come here just to tell me that?" Reed says, scoffing, but Nines can tells he likes the praise.

"Connor asked me to review the recording, and I noticed something that wasn't in your notes."

"Uh huh," Reed says, seemingly dubious, his expression falling somewhat. "What's that?"

"The suspect was recently in a scuffle, and did not seek professional medical care. I confirmed that there are no records of him having visited any hospital in the past six months."

Reed frowns. "So what? When I get in a fight, I don't go crawlin' off to the doctors to make me all better. I sleep it off."

"Androids do not self-repair in the way humans do," Nines says, thinking that Reed really should know this. "Without external intervention, injuries do not 'heal'."

"What's your point? That thing was in a fight and still has a broken arm or something? It looked fine enough to me."

Nines shakes his head. "A haphazard repair was attempted, which was mostly successful. The resulting imperfections would not be obvious to human eyes, so you should not feel bad about missing it, Detective."

That was apparently the wrong thing to say, because Reed leaps to his feet, angry now. "Now listen here, fucker. I don't miss anything. If this injury had mattered, it would've come up, and we would've talked about it."

"I also find your conclusions, while reasonable from the evidence and confession, to be far-fetched," Nines says, despite thinking he really should back down. "A 'down-on-his' luck android would not decide to 'mug a human woman, freak out upon accidentally killing her, and hide in a sewer for the next 10 hours out of shame'. It might be prudent to..."

"Get the fuck out of my sight," Reed snarls, aggressively stepping toward Nines. "Now!"

Nines obeys, even though he really wants to present alternate theories of what had occurred.

Not that it mattered anyway. They had the suspect, they had the confession, and there was no reason to believe there was anything more to the case.

So he messages Connor, instead, asking for the note about the repair to be added to the case file, even if it's ultimately an irrelevant detail.

Connor thanks him, and congratulates him on his finding.

Nines understands now why Reed likes praise so much.

The additional footage that Connor had requested had come in.

Reed ignores it, of course. The case was closed, as far as he was concerned.

Nines watches it and applies his previous analyses to the footage.

He sees the woman walk toward the scene. Sees the suspect walk toward the scene. Sees neither of them leave until the time the police arrive.

The scenario of the suspect remaining at the scene had been the one with the lowest probability in his analyses, and it would have taken considerable time to pick out the suspect from all of the people in the feeds to narrow the possibilities down to that scenario.

He thinks to himself that, if Reed had waited for the footage, the suspect would still be on the loose now, and would be much more difficult to track down.

He's thankful that Reed had had "a hunch".

"Connor?" Nines asks, as they're walking together with Hank toward the car that evening.


"Can we stop at the crime scene again on the way home?"

Connor looks confused.

Nines hadn't told Connor that Reed hadn't let him out of the car.

"Now that I've read over the report and the case is closed, I'd like to have another look. Just to understand Reed's 'hunch'." He isn't sure Connor would buy that, given they have the ability to pull up exact records of previously-conducted scans. "And it was snowing the first time, so perhaps that makes a difference."

That seems to work, because Connor nods. "That is a good idea, Nines."

Nines had already mostly reconstructed the scene in his head from the photos. But as he's finding with most things these days, actually being there feels entirely different.

He takes particular note of the manhole cover that Reed had noticed, tries to see any sign that would lead him to conclude, himself, that it had been hastily opened. He scans the area where the body had been found, finding no remaining signs that anything untoward had occurred there -- although he supposes that could also be because the scene had been reopened for a day, at this point.

He looks up and around, his gaze landing on a large television screen on the side of a tall building a few blocks over, tuned to the evening news. Even without the subtitles, he can tell that the android anchor is speaking about the case in question, and how the populace has nothing to fear now that the perpetrator has been caught.

He wonders if Reed is watching the same broadcast.

He imagines Reed with a self-satisfied smirk on his face as he does so.

He tells Connor that he's finished, and climbs back in the car.


Chapter Notes

Even though Nines' official first objective has been accomplished, albeit without him, Connor allows him to continue to come to the station.

Nines spends his time reviewing old cases, particularly ones involving android perpetrators. Even though he could select any case, including ones that Hank and Connor had worked on, he focuses instead on cases handled by Reed.

He tells himself it's so he can learn how humans operate -- that Connor thinks the same way Nines does and reviewing those cases would be less useful -- but he knows it's just an excuse. He just wants to better understand Reed.

He finds Reed remarkably competent, but that shouldn't be surprising, given the results of his most recent case.

He also takes on his unofficial first objective again, getting along with Reed, by attempting to get to know Officer Chen.

He doesn't expect her to be almost as tough to crack as Reed himself.

He waits until she's alone in the break room one morning, after Reed had had his usual morning coffee and left and she loiters around before her patrol shift.

"Good morning, Officer Chen," he says.

She smiles at him, but it's all mechanical politeness. "Good morning, Nines."

"I haven't formally met many of the patrol officers yet," Nines starts, having decided days ago that it would be the safest way to start. "I just wanted to introduce myself. You may have heard, but Connor recently asked me to consult on a homicide case, and I'm hoping that he calls upon me again in the future. I've found the work to be surprisingly satisfying."

"Mmm," she says, looking at him, as if considering something. "Let's cut to the chase, shall we? You're having trouble with Gavin, and since I'm one of the few people he really gets along with, you wanted to know what you could do to smooth things over between the two of you."

Nines feels ashamed at having been so quickly found out. He wonders if he's really that easy to read.

"I wanted to get to you know, too," Nines says, because that part isn't a lie. "I want to get to know everyone around the station, since I'm spending more time here, now. But you are not incorrect."

She nods. "You want me to tell you how to get along with Gavin?"

"I would," he says, seizing on the opportunity, given she seems more than willing to help.

She beckons him closer with her finger, then leans over close so she can whisper into his ear.

"You can't."

Then she pats his arm and walks away.

Nines stares at the spot where she's disappeared around the corner for longer than would be appropriate.

Nines doesn't mean to go running to Connor, but given Hank's advice had done nothing but embarrass him, he feels like Connor might have better insight into what he could be doing.

Connor sighs after Nines finishes relaying his somewhat disasterous conversation with Officer Chen. "I am not surprised by her reaction. She is extremely defensive of Detective Reed. She reacted in a similar manner when I approached her with related concerns, many years ago."

"Oh." Nines thinks that would have been useful to know, beforehand. "What did you do?"

"I took her advice," Connor says, and Nines doesn't like that answer. "I decided that I would do what I needed to so Detective Reed and I were not actively antagonizing each other, but I would not attempt to foster any further connection or friendship between the two of us. We had been content to let each other exist, in our respective spaces, since then. It has only been my recent role change that has stirred up our old rivalry." He pauses. "I apologize if that rivalry is causing him to treat you with undue hostility."

Nines appreciates the apology, but he doesn't understand why Connor had given him the case in the first place. "Why did you assign me to work with him if you knew he was predisposed to negative impressions of androids?"

"The fact that he and I have never gotten along is not a guarantee that you two will have a similar outcome. Regardless, as much as I may not personally like Reed, he is an extremely competent detective, but his preconceptions often lead him to jump to conclusions in cases involving androids. In the past, I was able to step in and make corrections where needed, but I do not have the time to fulfill that role anymore." Connor looks almost guilty now. "Nines, if this responsibility is causing you undue hardship, you do not have to continue working cases with him. I can call for a consultant from another precinct."

Nines seizes onto the first part. "You're saying that you think he and I could still get along."

Connor's mouth briefly twists into a smile before he's all business again. "If any android could get along with Reed, I think it would be you, Nines."

Nines does feel better at that.

On Friday, Nines comes to the station with a plastic jack-o-lantern full of chocolate candy. Even though he knows that adults typically do not celebrate Halloween, and the holiday wasn't for another two days anyway, he thinks it would be a good icebreaker with many of the officers anyway. And maybe even with Chen, or Reed himself.

It works, at least with the other officers, as he goes around with his bucket, having brief conversations with everyone as they help themselves.

He's listening to Officer Jackson complain about a recent uncooperative suspect that she'd had to taze when Reed swaggers up to the two of them.

"Well, what do we have here?"

"What's it look like, Reed? Nines generously brought chocolate today, and we're just chatting."

"You sure it's not poisoned?" Reed says, a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

Jackson rolls her eyes. "Just because you've convinced yourself that androids have a personal vendetta against you doesn't make it true, jackass."

"I'd believe that if I didn't have another fuckin' android case on my desk. Connor's givin' these to me on purpose."

"Only you would be unhappy that we don't have any homicide cases under investigation at the moment, so you're relegated to non-violent felonies."

Reed shakes his head, knocking Nines' bucket off the table and onto the floor before wordlessly walking off, and Jackson pats Nines' arm.

"I don't understand that man. He doesn't have to be so rude to you."

"So I've been told," Nines says as he gathers up the spilled chocolate, not sure if it was an appropriate thing to say, but Jackson just looks at him sadly and nods.

Nines resolves to continue trying with Reed, maybe more subtly, and gets an opportunity when he walks into the break room Monday morning to find Reed and Chen there, chatting.

"Can I get either of you a cup of coffee?" he offers at an appropriate break in their conversation. Chen stares at him blankly.

"You know what? Yeah. Get me a fuckin' cup," Reed says, looking amused at the offer.

Nines allows himself to feel a bit of hope at that, but that hope is quickly dashed when he returns and Reed grabs the cup from his hand and tosses it aside, coffee spilling out over an entire corner of the room and running down the walls.

Chen gives Nines a look that he interprets as 'I told you so'.

"Clean it up, Junkyard," Reed sneers, throwing a napkin at him, and something in Nines snaps.

"No," he says, meeting Reed's gaze and refusing to look away this time. "I have been nothing but polite to you. We may not be coworkers, but we are both doing this because we care about people. All people. The least you could do is be civil to me."

He isn't sure what reaction he expects to that, but Reed's sneer turns into a grin, and he starts laughing.

"Look, they made one with a spine," he says to Chen. "Fuckin' finally."

Chen seems unsure of how to take the reaction herself, silently nodding, and Nines feels almost proud of himself, even as he waits for the other shoe to drop.

It doesn't take long.

Reed's face returns to its sneer, and he jabs a finger square into Nines' chest, pushing with a surprising amount of force. "I'm only gonna say this once, plastic head. You want me to be civil? Fine. Then stay out of my fuckin' way."

Then he's gone, and Chen is fetching something from a cabinet that turns out to be a roll of paper towels.

She hands them to Nines before leaving herself, with a pat on the back that Nines interprets as apologetic.

It feels like progress, at least.

Later that week, Connor asks Nines to review one of Reed's cases. Armed robbery. No one was hurt, and no androids were involved, so Nines isn't sure why he's being pulled into the case at all.

Connor tells him that he thinks Nines could provide some unique insight into the case.

Nines wonders if Chen had spoken to Connor.

Nines reviews the photos of the scene, and the interview videos of witnesses. He analyzes the physical evidence held in storage. He attempts to reconstruct, as best he can from the available materials, what he thinks occurred.

He notices something he's pretty sure Reed hadn't noticed.

He wonders how to tell Reed. Reed had appreciated, at least for a moment, when he'd stood up for himself. He thinks it means Reed appreciates determination, even if he finds it grating.

He writes down his finding, walks up to Reed sitting at his desk, and drops the printed page on Reed's keyboard, in front of him.

"Fuck is this," Reed grumbles, swatting the page aside and letting it fall to the floor, still staring at his computer screen. "Thought we had a fuckin' agreement."

"Connor requested I review your armed robbery case," Nines says, feeling a bit bad to be using Connor as an excuse, but knowing he wouldn't mind. And it was the truth, anyway. "I reconstructed a potential timeline of events, and noticed something that I thought might be of interest to you."

"'Course he fuckin' did," Reed says, making no movement to fetch the paper nor turning toward Nines.

Nines waits for more, but Reed seems to be done, so he continues, instead. "I noticed that the position of one of the employees at the time the gunman entered was not in line with her usual duties or the customer she was assisting at the time."

Reed still doesn't look at him, but Nines can tells that gets his attention. "How the fuck do you know that? The cameras were down temporarily for a brief upgrade."

"The interviews with the witnesses..."

"Which I fuckin' conducted."

"...combined with my forensic reconstrunction abilities indicate that Miss Johnson was likely standing at the front of the store, near the windows, just before the gunman entered. The jewelry that she was presenting to Miss Garcia, a 'piece she probably wouldn't like' by her own admission, was stored in that vicinity."

"How do you know where the fuck that piece was stored?"

"From the photographs, I was able to..."

"What're you gettin' at?" Reed growls, interrupting and turning slightly toward Nines now.

"I believe that you're dealing with an insider," Nines says.

Reed rolls his eyes. "No shit, Sherlock. That type of timing with the camera upgrade? What else could it have been?"

"But you didn't know who it was. I believe it is Miss Johnson. My analysis is on that sheet of paper."

To be honest, Nines thinks his conclusion had been a stretch. It was entirely possible that Miss Johnson had legitimately wanted to show that piece to her customer. But Nines had reached the same conclusion Reed had -- there had been someone in the store telling the gunman when to strike -- and his analysis had indicated she was the most likely culprit.

Call it a 'hunch'.

Reed looks like he wants to dismiss Nines, but Nines knows he hadn't had any luck finding the collaborator, himself. Nines knows Reed is really interested in what he has to say. Nines thinks he seems almost appreciative.

Then Reed's eyes shift to something behind him, and his expression hardens again.

"Fuck off, prick," he says, instead.

Nines does, not wanting to push his luck too far. But as he walks off and glances back, he notices Reed pick up the paper from the floor and read over it, a serious expression on his face.

Nines isn't sure what it means that Connor's office was behind his shoulder, where Reed had looked.

Nines' hunch turns out to be correct. When confronted with the evidence, Miss Johnson immediately confesses. Something about her boyfriend needing money and having a friend who wanted to rob a jewelry store. Her role had been to indicate -- through the front window, by flickering their 'open' sign -- when to strike.

He overhears Reed relaying all of this to Chen one morning in the break room, leaving out Nines' name but mentioning angrily that someone had noticed an anomaly in the employee's actions before the incident and ranting about how Miss Johnson had managed to pull one over on him in his original questioning.

He can tell Reed's impressed, even if Reed's covering it up with anger.

Or maybe Reed's angry because he's impressed, because Nines had noticed something that Reed hadn't.

Nines thinks they would actually make a good team if Reed would give him half a chance.

Nines keeps hoping for another opportunity to accompany Reed to a scene. He wants to demonstrate that he can be useful.

He gets his wish halfway through the following week.

Reed's fuming as he drives the two of them to the convenience store.

He's pissed off.

Nines understands why.

Reed does not consider a simple unarmed shoplifting case to be worth his time. There is video footage. No one was hurt. The value of the goods taken was negligible.

But the perpetrator had been an android, and Reed had been free, so Connor had requested he talk to the shop owner anyway. And requested he take Nines along.

Insisted he take Nines along.

Nines wonders how much of this assignment was for his benefit, as opposed to being something that actually required Reed to handle.

Nines wants to break the heavy silence in the car somehow, but his first thought -- to ask Reed about his hunch on the first case -- would surely just make things worse. So he says nothing the entire drive over.

Reed parks, angrily slams the car door, and does not object when Nines exits the car and stands on the sidewalk in front of the store. Reed doesn't consider this case important enough to merit leaving Nines in the car. He doesn't care if Nines 'interferes'.

Nines feels hurt at the thought, somehow.

The door jingles as they walk in to the store. Reed does not hold the door for Nines. Nines doesn't expect him to.

The store is surprisingly busy and full of customers, human and android alike, browsing the shelves or waiting in a line to pay at the only register near the entrance.

The shopkeeper greets them but tells them to wait, as he continues scanning items. Reed grumbles, pulls out his phone, and aggressively leans against the wall next to the door.

Nines scans the area, pulling up a quick identification of each person in the store, gathering a general inventory of the goods, and mapping the space, storing it all in case any of it could be useful later. Nothing stands out to him -- it's a typical corner convenience store with a typical selection of hot, cold, and frozen food, drinks, and an eclectic selection of household goods.

A TV mounted in the corner above his head drones on about the recent tenth anniversary of the official founding of New Jericho. Nines looks up New Jericho.

Nines finds he wants to visit New Jericho.

The shopkeeper smiles at the next customer as he scans his items.

AP700 series android, serial number 777 591 643. Designation 'Alex'.

Alex's clothes are not in the best of repair, Nines notes. His pants and hoodie have holes in a way that do not appear to be a stylistic choice.

He's currently having financial difficulties.

Alex reaches into his pocket, but the shopkeeper shakes his head, refusing payment.

They're friends.

Nines glances over at Reed, absorbed in his phone and smirking at whatever he's seeing on the device. Nines wishes, for some reason, that he and Reed could be friends.

Maybe it's just that he wants to be friends with everyone.

He turns his attention back to Alex, who's now picking up his items from the counter.

Masking tape, 0.7 inches by 45 yards. Plastic Ziploc bags, snack size, 40 count. One Sharpie permanent marker, black.

Nines wonders what the items are for.

The voice on the TV above Nines' head changes. He analyzes it, automatically, and finds that it belongs to an android named Markus.

RK200 series android, serial number 684 842 971. Designation 'Markus'.

It's an interview, about New Jericho, and Nines pulls up the corresponding article on a news site so he can read more.

He's still monitoring his surroundings, of course, but if he hadn't been directly watching Alex, he thinks he would have missed the way Alex's eyes suddenly change, briefly glossing over before they harden.

But even though he sees it, he doesn't expect what happens next.

In one swift movement, Alex pulls a gun from his pocket and shoots the shopkeeper, point blank, in the chest.

Someone screams, some customers hit the floor, others stand suddenly frozen, as if not sure how to react or frozen in fear.

Nines is one of those people.

"Fuckin' freeze!"

That's Reed, who somehow has his gun out and pointed at the suspect almost before his phone, hastily discarded, hits the ground.

Nines would be impressed if he wasn't so scared.

Alex swings his gun toward Reed, his arms shaking, looking almost confused about what he's suddenly doing.

Nines expects Reed to fire. Nines knows Reed hates androids. Nines knows that no one would judge Reed or repremand him for firing now. Nines thinks Reed would relish the justified opportunity to shoot an android.

But Reed doesn't shoot as they face each other in a standoff.

Nines thinks he hadn't given Reed enough credit.

"Drop it!" Reed yells.

Alex's gaze swings over to Nines, and Nines realizes that Alex looks... terrified. Almost as terrified as Nines himself.

"I... I don't know what's happening," Alex cries, desperately, and Nines believes him. "I... I can't..."

"Don't make me fuckin' shoot you, plastic head," Reed growls. "Drop the fuckin' gun!"

Nines wonders, later, if it had been a preprogrammed reflex. Androids -- particularly RK900s -- were supposed to be easily replacable, after all. It would make sense if they were programmed to sacrifice themselves in favor of their human partners.

He also tells himself, later, that it wouldn't have mattered either way. That he would have made the same split-second decision regardless of that reflex, if it even existed. That protecting Reed, in the moment, was somehow more important to him than his own life.

Whatever the reasoning, his eyes follow the minute movement of the android's finger twitching, before pulling the trigger. And faster than he would have thought he was capable of, almost faster than the bang of the gun firing reaching his auditory sensors, he moves, shoving Reed aside as the bullet tears through Nines' chest and exits out the back, shattering the glass window behind him.

Everyone in the store starts screaming.

Reed yells, recovering quickly, and another shot rings out. Alex falls backward, a bullet in his forehead and blue blood starting to stream down his face. The screaming in the store continues, louder than before, but somehow fading into the background now.

Nines observes all of this from his position on the floor, crumpled in a heap where he'd landed, his visual overlay now blinking red with warnings from affected components.

The damage wasn't fatal, yet, and no crucial components had been hit. But he was losing Thirium quickly enough that he would have to enter standby mode, to prevent further damage until the bleeding could be stopped.

He initiates the process, and a countdown appears in his vision, ticking down from 5 as he watches the bar indicating his Thirium levels slowly decrease with it.

It feels like an eternity.

"Fuckin' idiot!" Reed says, suddenly appearing in front of Nines with anger on his face but no bite in his voice. "What'd you go and do a thing like that for?!"

Nines opens his mouth to respond, but the countdown hits zero.

Reed's face is the last thing he sees before the world goes black.

Chapter End Notes

I'm going to start putting notes at the end now, because I think they make more sense there.

Anyway, obviously Nines will be okay, because we can't have a RK900/Gavin Reed fic without Nines.

Well, I suppose we could activate another RK900 unit or whatever, but throwing away the first three chapters of character development isn't my idea of a good writing time and, besides, Reed would almost certainly not react well to whatever situation that would cause. (But Reed's reaction to another Nines walking through the door after his "death" would be fun to write. Hmmm.)

Anyway, I feel like "Nines sacrifices himself for Reed" is corny and overdone, but also that Reed is so stuck in his ways and ideas that only something this big could be the impetus for him starting to change his mind. It also fits with Nines, who I think of as something of an overeager puppy at the moment, just wanting to please others and having intense loyalty to those around him, even to his own detriment. Nines would put himself in harm's way for Reed, even if we don't necessarily understand why he would, and that's really what matters right now. So.

In any case... This case is very likely related to the first one. Suspect's dead, but the shopkeeper will live (unimpactful spoiler, I guess?), so maybe that's a win for now.

Onward we go.

Come Around

Chapter Notes

When Nines wakes up, Hank is there, and Connor is there, and Reed is there. And Connor and Reed are yelling at each other.

Nines has never heard Connor yell before.

"You're lucky that the bullet wasn't 2 centimeters to the left! You put him in mortal danger! You..."

"I did no such fuckin' thing! Would you expect a statement for shoplifting to turn into a fuckin' firefight?! What'd you want me to do, leave him in the fuckin' car?!"

"You shouldn't have..."

"Stop it!" Nines interrupts, sitting up, not liking the raised voices and arguing. Connor and Reed both turn toward him as the nurse attending to him shushes him and attempts to push him back onto his back.

Connor looks pissed. Reed looks angry, but it's tinged with concern.

Nines acquiesces to the nurse. This wasn't the nurse's fault.

"Phck!" Reed yells, storming out of the room.

"Nines will be fine," the nurse says, ignoring the argument as he disconnects a wire attached to Nines' chest and glances over at a computer screen. "The repairs are complete and his Thirium 310 levels are stable. Diagnostics do not indicate any remaining issues, although I would recommend you conduct a full diagnostic sequence for yourself before you are discharged..."

"Initiating diagnostic," Nines says, and the nurse seems surprised. Nines realizes that he's not used to RK models, and the fact that his diagnostics typically complete much faster than older models'.

"Other than that, here is your discharge paperwork." He attempts to hand a small tablet to Nines before realizing he's running a diagnostic and is in no shape to take it. He sets it next to him on the bed, instead. "Please disconnect yourself from the monitoring systems before you leave."

"Thank you," Nines says, and the nurse nods before briskly exiting the room.

"Nines..." Connor starts when he's gone.

"Diagnostic complete," Nines interrupts, thankful for the timing, and even though he didn't need to actually make the statement. He sits up, reaching back behind him and disconnecting the cable attached to the back of his neck. "All systems normal. No Thirium 310 leaks detected. Component 56..."

"Nines," Connor repeats, and it's frustrated this time.

"It wasn't Reed's fault," Nines says, rubbing his neck. He isn't sure why the cable had felt uncomfortable. Androids didn't feel physical sensations in that manner.

"It may not have been his fault, but he..."

"Stop it, Connor," Hank says, surprising Nines by interrupting. "Look, I get it. You're freaked out. I am too. But Nines is fine, and Reed's right. This was a freak... event that could've happened whether he was there or not. It doesn't mean Reed put him in danger, and not on purpose even if he did."

Connor stares at Hank, his expression a lot more unsettled than Nines is used to seeing on him. "I would've thought you, of all people, would understand, Detective. Excuse me."

Nines watches as Connor walks out of the room. Hank seems to be deeply hurt by Connor's words, even though Nines doesn't understand what Connor had been referring to.

"What did Connor..." Nines starts, but he shuts up with Hank looks over at him, expression hard.

"Drop it, Nines."

He does.

Connor pulls Nines from the case. Connor refuses to give Nines additional cases. Connor puts Nines on desk duty as a small concession that just makes Nines feel worse about it all. Connor forbids Nines from accompanying anyone into the field again, especially Reed.

None of this is particularly surprising to Nines, but he still thinks Connor is overreacting, and tells him so.

That conversation does not go well. Connor tells him that he's just a child, and doesn't understand anything.

That hurts.

It's almost worse that Connor refuses to leave Nines and Reed alone together anymore, even at the station, even in public spaces in the midst of other officers, blaming Reed for what happened. It's almost worse that Reed seems to feel guilty about what happened, his guilt manifesting in angry outbursts that far eclipse his usual argumentative behavior and lead to Connor suspending him when he takes a swing at Connor during one particularly heated argument. It's almost worse that the station feels somehow empty without Reed there, and not just because it's quieter.

Nines misses seeing Reed at the station, even if he's not allowed to be alone with the man.

Nines thinks that they were just starting to get along.

Things aren't much better at home, the evenings now filled with stifling tension between Nines and Connor with Hank stuck in the middle, unsure of what to do. Nines starts spending evenings outdoors, with Riki, just to avoid having to see Connor sitting at the kitchen table engrossed in his files, and to avoid having to deal with Hank looking concerned but helpless as he sits on the couch and sporadically looks between the two of them.

"Mind if I join you?" Hank asks one evening as Nines clips the leash to Riki's collar and Riki paws eagerly at the front door. "I could use a walk, myself."

Nines suspects Hank doesn't actually care about the walk.

Nines is proven correct when Hank clears his throat a block or so in.

"I know Connor is being a bit unreasonable right now, Nines. And I've tried talking to him about it. But you have to understand his point of view."

"He thinks I'm a child," Nines says, hating the way the words make him feel. "That I'm irresponsible and reckless, and put myself in harms way for no reason. I understand it perfectly."

Hank makes a humming noise. "Reminds me of Connor when we first met."

"What?" Nines is surprised by that. Connor seems nothing but controlled and procedural. Safe. In control.

"Connor was still a machine when we first met. He cared nothing about his own life because he was programmed to accomplish the mission, at any cost."

Nines just nods. He himself was programmed the same way. "If he was being 'irresponsible and reckless', from your viewpoint, I'm sure it was for the sake of the mission. I'm sure it was what his program told him was the best course of action. He didn't have any choice, then. I do, now."

"You know I had to watch Connor die, twice?"

Nines does know, but he thinks Hank is trying to make a point, so he feigns ignorance. "What happened?"

"It was back when CyberLife was still doing its investigation and manufacturing stuff, mind you, so he just showed up again the next day in a new body, no worse for wear. Gave me a damn shock the first time. It made me... angry, the first time. That he could come back but..." Hank trails off and stops walking, clearly remembering something emotional. "Never mind."

Nines doesn't push, focusing on the current topic, instead. "Are you saying that something changed with him between then and now, other than him becoming a deviant?"

Hank nods. "Yeah. I know they all say that androids develop personalities quickly and then they're set and all that. Blah blah blah. But I've worked with Connor for 11 years now, and it's bullshit. Connor back then, even after he deviated... well, maybe especially after he deviated, was putting his life on the line, repeatedly, for the cause, to help The Revolution succeed. I mean, he walked into CyberLife tower at the height of the conflict, for fucks sake. I don't think he cared if he lived or died, as long as the androids were freed. And afterward, it was almost like he was suddenly hit with his own mortality and... withdrew into himself again." Hank stops walking, deep in thought now. "He's kinda more of a machine now than he ever was, even when he was actually a machine."

Nines thinks he understands what Hank is saying, even if Hank doesn't. "Connor was used to not caring about death, because he knew that if he died, he would be reactivated and sent back out the next day. It made him act in a manner that he considers reckless, now. He's concerned that I have the same tendancies, without the benefit of reactivation if something were to occur."

"Yeah, that sounds about right," Hank says, starting to walk again after Riki whines at their brief pause.

"But he's wrong," Nines says. "I'm not being reckless. I understand that I could die. I do not make decisions with the expectation that I would survive all possible scenarios. The risks I take are mine to take, just like the risks you take, or Reed takes, every day."

Hank stops again, ignoring Riki's whining this time, and stares more directly at Nines. "I know that. You know that. Connor doesn't. At least, he doesn't believe it."

"It's not Connor's decision to make for me."

"Maybe it is," Hank says, acquiescing to Riki's demands and walking again. "He was responsible for getting you clearance to be involved in cases. He was responsible for your, uh... activation, in some way. He feels a responsibility to you, and your life, and that responsibility means he feels a need to keep you safe."

"It's still not his decision."

"You don't have experience in the f..."

"Connor didn't have experience in the field, either," Nines interrupts, not liking the feeling that Hank is taking Connor's side, now. "At least, at first. You still trusted him to take care of himself, given his programming. I have that same programming."

"So you do," Hank says. "It's easy for me to forget sometimes, because I forget that Connor hadn't learned everything over the years with me, but you're right."

"So why won't Connor trust me? Why does he feel like he needs to keep me safe even though I can take care of myself?"

Hank looks sad now, and Nines doesn't understand why.

"It's... it's not that simple."


"Just... talk to Connor, kiddo? I know you tried already, but it's been a week. Maybe he's more ready to have that conversation, now."

Nines wants to ask Hank to talk to Connor for him, again, but he realizes that would be unfair. This isn't between Hank and Connor.

"I will," Nines says, instead.

They finish the rest of the walk in silence.

"Y'know, there's one thing I don't understand, Nines," Hank says as they approach the house again.


"Why'd you do it?"

"Why did I... take the bullet for Reed?"

Hank nods. "Connor did that for me, once, but that was his programming. You're not subject to that programming. Reed's been nothing but an ass to you. You weren't in direct danger, from what he said. He's trained for stuff like this, anyway. Why'd you do it?"

Even though Nines had thought about that question, repeatedly, and knows he would make the same decision again without hesitation, he still doesn't know the answer to Hank's question.

"It felt like the right thing to do," he says, instead.

"Mm," Hank grunts, but doesn't say anything else.

Even though Nines isn't officially on The Case anymore, he finds himself unable to stop thinking about it, and the fact that Connor won't let him work on it -- or on any case of value anymore.

Nines decides to do what he can about making progress on The Case anyway, at least while he tries to figure out how he's going to have that particular conversation with Connor

He finishes his assigned paperwork as quickly as he can one day, and pulls up the interview with the shopkeeper from the guy's hospital bed.

The shopkeeper insists that he and Alex were friends. Insists that something had caused Alex to behave in such a manner. Insists that Alex would never have hurt him intentionally, regardless of any business Alex may have gotten himself mixed up in.

Nines keeps seeing the look in Alex's eyes: confusion, and even terror, at what he was suddenly doing.

Nines keeps thinking back to the android from the first case, and how he'd been insistent in his interrogation that he hadn't had any intention of attacking, much less killing, the woman.

Nines isn't sure why the cases feel connected.

Nines decides that interrupting Connor at home, while he's completing paperwork, would not provide for a productive start to any conversation.

He wonders if he should just message Connor, silently, at some point. For some reason, he prefers the idea of having the conversation face-to-face.

It felt more human.

"Connor?" he asks the next morning instead, as they're parking at the station.


"Can we talk in your office?"

"Yes," Connor replies, simply, seemingly having expected this conversation.

Nines hopes that's a good sign.

"You wish to discuss my reaction to the shooting," Connor says as he sits down at his desk, and Nines appreciates that he's cutting to the chase.

"I do. I still think that you're being unfair to me, and to Detective Reed."

"You have already expressed as such," Connor says. Nines expects him to say more, but he just looks at Nines expectantly.

"You believe that I acted irrationally, and that Reed was derelict in his duties."

"This is the conversation we have already had, Nines. If you have a point to make, please make it."

Nines doesn't like anymore that Connor is cutting to the chase.

"My point is that Reed was right," Nine says. "No one could have foreseen the events that occurred. Even though my presence at the location was due to the case I was working with Reed, a similar incident could have occured anywhere, at any time. It was not related to his presence at the scene, or my presence at the scene."

Connor nods, even though he doesn't seem convinced. "You are not incorrect, but I still believe that you acted hastily and without regard for your own well-being in the face of such a threat. I am reluctant to give you additional assignments where you will encounter increased risk of danger until I am convinced that you will act with more prudence."

"I don't think that's your decision to make," Nines says. Connor opens his mouth to respond, but Nines shakes his head. "Yes, I understand that you are in charge and have authority over which cases I am assigned. But we both signed up for this work, and there is inherent danger in it. You are not doing me any favors by attempting to protect me from reality. I cannot be useful, or further develop my skills, or prove my worth, if you continue to relegate me to desk duty or regard me with excessive wariness."

"You still should not have jumped in front of the bullet."

"You faced a similar situation in the past," Nines starts, unsure if he was crossing a line but deciding to commit to the thread anyway. "Would you have done nothing and watched Hank die? Even if you had not had the benefit of reactivation at the time?"

Connor stares at him for a second before deflating, and Nines supposes it worked, after all. "No. I would do whatever I could to protect him. But Hank and I were..."

"You are afraid that I'm acting recklessly without regard or appreciation for my own mortality," Nines interrupts. "I promise that I am fully aware of the potential consequences. I have asked myself many times, over the past week, whether I would make the same decision now. My answer has always been yes."

"I'd ask you why, but I couldn't answer that question, myself," Connor admits. "So I suppose that is enough of an answer for now."

"I would like to be put back on this case," Nines says.

Connor seems to be expecting that request. "Why?"

"And I would like you to end Reed's suspension early," Nines says, instead of answering the question.

Connor doesn't seem to be expecting this one. "Detective Reed violated several departmental regulations, and I was already lenient in my application of policy."

"I believe that this case is connected to the homicide case that Reed had previously closed," Nines says, answering Connor's original question.

"You do," Connor says, but he seems surprised by the statement. "What leads you to that conclusion?"

Nines isn't sure, exactly. "Call it a hunch."

Connor stares at him for an abnormally long time until Nines has to look away.

"Reed is rubbing off on you," Connor says, and Nines isn't sure how to take the statement.

"I believe we are starting to understand each other," Nines says, finding the assertion unusually pleasing, for some reason. "Regardless, if I am correct, it is important that I continue investigation of this case. And I require his assistance when doing so."

Nines looks back toward Connor, who's regarding him now with curiosity.

"There are worse people you could learn from," Connor says, although he sounds reluctant to admit it. "As long as his general attitude does not 'rub off' on you, as well."

"I will... do my best to avoid that outcome."

Connor nods. "Then I will I admit that my actions in the immediate aftermath of the incident were primarily driven by emotion rather than practical concerns. You're right. It's not reasonable for me to isolate you from the realities of the world in an attempt to keep you safe, no matter how much responsibility I may feel for you."

"Thank you," Nines says.

"However," Connor continues. "I do not see why any of that should affect Reed, or your continued participation in this case."

"Connor," Nines says. "I... don't know why, but I know that this case is important. I know that I can solve it. Please. Trust me now, and give me the opportunity to do so. Let me prove that I can perform with as much distinction as you do."

Connor smiles, and Nines knows he's won. "Appealing to my vanity is perhaps not the most standard of tactics, but you've managed to be persuasive nonetheless. Fine. I'll allow you to continue your work on the case."

"Start," Nines corrects.

"Continue," Connor insists, with a knowing look. "Because I am sure that you've been continuing that process on your own even though I reassigned you. And I will consider revisiting my decision with regard to Detective Reed."

"Thank you," Nines says again, even though the words suddenly don't seem like enough. "I promise I will not put myself at undue risk. You don't have to worry about me."

Connor nods, suddenly less formal. "I'll worry about you anyway, Nines, but I know you will."

Nines isn't sure why he gets such a pleasant feeling from that.

Chapter End Notes

A bit of a shorter chapter this time around, but Connor and Nines had to work through some things, and this seemed like a good place to stop before we get back into the saddle with Reed.



Chapter Notes

The first thing Reed does when he returns from his suspension is to punch Nines, in the jaw.

"I thought you fuckin' died!" he yells, drawing the attention of most of the people currently in the building.

Nines ignores the outburst. Nines ignores the way Reed is now clutching his fist in pain, having found that the plates in Nines' face were sturdier than they appeared.

Nines somehow feels better now that Reed is back and they're talking again.

"I missed you," Nines says, and Reed looks at him in pain-tinged confusion.


"I missed you," Nines repeats, not sure what's unclear about the statement. "The station felt... empty without you."

"Fuck off," Reed mutters, but it's tinged with affection, and that small inflection is everything.

"I require your assistance with the case regarding the shopkeeper and..."

"That's my fuckin' case," Reed says, less friendly this time. "And I don't need your fuckin' help with it."

"I believe I can be of assistance," Nines insists. "With your case. In your absence, I have begun to analyze some of the..."

"Whatever," Reed says, grabbing Nines' arm and pulling him toward Reed's desk. "Then come here, sit down, and make yourself useful."

It's the first real invitation Nines has received to work with the man, and he seizes on the opportunity, even though he's pretty sure he has more context than Reed does, at this point.

"Yes, Detective."

Nines quickly finds that he was wrong. Reed had done more than Nines had expected in the brief period before his suspension, and apparently hadn't been idle during it, either. Even though Reed hadn't had access to the official case files and records, he'd had enough off-the-record conversations with other officers that he has about as good a picture of the situation as Nines does, himself.

Nines likes that Reed keeps surprising him, and that Reed really seems to care about the case.

But Nines doesn't like feeling like he's useless. "Are the items that Alex was purchasing relevant to the case?" he tries, following a thread Reed hadn't brought up yet. "He was purchasing a roll of..."

"Drugs," Reed interrupts, seemingly bored with this conversation.

Nines isn't sure whether Reed's being serious. "Is that an observation, a conclusion, or snark?"

Reed rolls his eyes. "Red ice. It's common for poor androids to sell small portions of their blood to make the stuff. Apparently this guy's dealer wanted him to provide some supplies too."

"Ziploc bags are not a standard distribution receptacle for red ice, and you did not answer my question," Nines objects.

"It was probably his first time or something. Stop focusing on the shit he bought. Did you watch the interview with the shopkeeper yet?"

"Is this also a hunch?" Nines asks, and Reed looks at him with frustration. "Yes. I watched the interview."

"The guy insists they were fuckin' friends even though he almost died. Friends don't shoot friends in the fuckin' chest."

"Thank you for stating the obvious, Detective," Nines says before he can think better of it, and he swears Reed briefly smirks.

"So the question is 'Why'. The guy swears they hadn't been fighting recently. The fuckin' plastic head wouldn't be so stupid as to try and rob the place when it was so full of people."

Nines struggles with whether he should bring up his 'hunch' before deciding to go with it. "Your previous case. With the android who killed that woman. He didn't have a reason either."

He expects Reed to swear at him, or tell him he's on something. Instead, Reed looks over at him, seemingly surprised. "Huh."

"I believe that the cases are connected," Nines says, even though he isn't sure what Reed's response had meant. "I cannot explain why."

Reed nods, sitting back in his chair. "Thought I was fuckin' crazy for thinkin' that myself, but hey, if you agree, either we're both crazy or we're on to something."

"We could both be crazy," Nines says, immediately unsure of why that particular response had come to mind, but appreciating anyway that he's rewarded with a full smirk from Reed.

"I see you downloaded some fuckin' comedy subroutines or whatever," Reed says before growing serious again. "So what could cause otherwise rational androids to suddenly want to kill someone? A fuckin' virus?"

"That would seem to be the most probable explanation," Nine says. "But the autopsy of our current culprit and diagnostics of the first perpetrator did not reveal any virus or malicious code in their systems."

"Then we'd better start fuckin' lookin' for alternatives."

The last thing Nines expects, as he follows Reed to the break room, is for Officer Chen to show up, grab his arm, and drag him off to a secluded corner of the station.

He isn't sure if he should be worried, especially given Reed seems as surprised by the interruption as he is.

"You had something to do with this, didn't you?" she asks when they're alone, and Nines is pretty sure it's not a friendly question.

He decides worry is appropriate.

"With what?"

"Don't bullshit me, Nines."

"I... asked Connor to immediately reinstate Reed, if that is what you are implying," Nines says. "Why?"

"Mmm." Chen seems to be considering him. "Why is the question. Just trying to kiss ass since you and Connor are like best buds now? Get on Gavin's good side? That's been your goal all along, hasn't it?"

"No!" That thought honestly hadn't even crossed his mind. "I felt this case was important, and I am impressed by Reed's ability to..."

"Right," Chen says, clearly not believing him. "Look. Gavin's life and career and his friendship aren't a game, mmkay?"

"I would never treat them as such!" Nines objects, feeling a bit baffled by the accusations now, especially given he'd considered Chen to be 'on his side', so to speak. "I am not sure what you want me to say, but I can assure you that my motives were related to the case."

Well, that and...

"You 'missed' him?!"

...and that.

"He contributes to a certain... atmosphere at the station, and I was simply expressing my feeling that the station had not been the same in his absence."

"You can say that again," Chen says, seemingly accepting that answer. "Look, I don't know how or why, but Gavin seems to feel responsible for you now, in some way."

Probably because I got shot in front of him.

"If I ever catch you taking advantage of that..." Chen continues before trailing off, leaving the threat open ended.

"I understand, and I would never intentionally be exploitative of that feeling," Nines says, trying his hardest to express his sincerity. "I still wish to get along with Detective Reed, but I am not making decisions with that objective in mind. My request for him to be reinstated was based in my belief that the case was important, and required his leadership and skills."

She looks him over silently for a bit, before nodding and patting his arm more gently than he would have expected given the conversation they'd just had.

"There might be hope for you yet, kid," she says before walking off with a smile on her lips, leaving Nines wondering what had just happened.

The lack of progress is starting to bother Nines. After several days of research and poring over videos and reports and documents, and despite their best efforts, they still didn't have any explanation for either the current attack, nor the previous one.

Still, he appreciates working with Reed, particularly now that they truly are working side-by-side. He finds the man more fascinating than he thinks he probably should, especially given Chen's recent warning.

Reed suggests looking for common links between the two suspects, instead, that could explain erratic behavior. Nines tries his hardest to focus on that goal, but his thoughts keep returning to Reed, for some reason.

Apparently Reed's having the same problem.

"Y'know, you and Connor look really different," Reed remarks out of nowhere as they work. Nines looks over, and Reed's staring at him.

"We were built to extremely similar physical parameters, differing only in our height and the color of our eyes," Nines says. "But our eyes are drastically different colors, and that difference is noticible even from a distan..."

"That's not what I mean." Reed sits up in his chair. "You're like... basically the same model, with more-or-less the same base program and design and whatever, right?. But you two carry yourselves differently, even you versus Connor when he first showed up here 10 years or whatever ago. He's more confident than you are. You're more... subdued, somehow. More emotive. Even from the back, wearing the same clothes, you two would look different. And not just because of your height."

Nines shouldn't be surprised that Reed had been observing him and Connor. Reed was a detective, after all. But he still likes the feeling he gets at the knowledge that Reed had been watching him closely enough to discern those differences.

"We are different individuals," Nines responds, not sure what Reed's getting at. "That is to be expected."

"Huh," Reed says, staring at Nines for a second longer before returning to his computer.

He doesn't say anything else.

They re-watch the first interrogation recording together.

"I.. don't know why!" the suspect insists. "I don't know why I killed her! I saw her, and just felt... rage."

"Pretty girl, nice coat, expensive purse," Reed says. "You needed cash, right?" He doesn't bother waiting for a response. "Angry at her for her success. Angry at her because she had money and you didn't. Angry at her for being human. Doesn't matter. She was by herself. She was an easy target."

"Wait," Nines says, and Reed pauses the recording, looking at him with confusion. "'Angry at her for being human'."

"It was just a throwaway remark, Junkyard," Reed says, and Nines realizes it's an unintended look into Reed's own mind, and how he sees androids.

He doesn't let that thought distract him from his realization.

"I was watching Alex when he... before he shot the shopkeeper," Nines says. "Something changed in his eyes before he did it, and then he looked at you, and looked at me, and..."

"What's your fuckin' point?"

"He didn't want to shoot me. He didn't even really want to shoot you."

"Sure he didn't. I was pointin' a gun at him at the time," Reed says, exasperated. "You'd want to fuckin' shoot me too, in that situation."

Nines shakes his head. Reed wasn't getting it. "No. I have re-analyzed the scene a dozen times. His hostility was specifically directed toward humans, not androids. Anger that surfaced when he looked at a human. It was obvious from his eyes when he was looking at the shopkeeper and looking at you, compared to when he was looking at me."

"What're you suggesting?" Reed asks, impatient now. "Spit it out, Junkyard."

"I... have a suspicion," Nines says, not intentionally trying to be frustrating, but wanting to show Reed the evidence instead of relying on his own record of it. "Can we pull the autopsy report for the second case? For Alex?"

The autopsy confirms what Nines had already known from scanning Alex and from reading the report the first time -- he had recently suffered a shattered upper backplate piece and it had been repaired, haphazardly, somewhere other than an official hospital.

"So both suspects recently had off-the-record repair operations. So what?"

"Androids do not typically have the skills to repair themselves, especially if such injuries are located in places that are difficult to reach, like the upper arm or back," Nines says.

"You're sayin' they went somewhere to do it," Reed says, following Nines' thoughts now. "Somewhere cheaper than a hospital."

"What if that place did something to them, in addition to the repair?"

Reed nods, standing and grabbing his phone. "Let's go talk to our first suspect."

The suspect is more than cooperative, and Nines actually feels bad that they have to leave him in his jail cell as he and Reed leave with the address of the repair shop.

The proprietor of the shop, if you could call it that, refuses to speak to Reed or the police. Reed threatens a warrant and the seizing of the shop and all its contents. She offers to speak to Nines instead, alone, off the record.

Nines agrees.

It turns out to be a dead end. Other than the questionable origin of some of the parts in the shop, the procedures in question hadn't involved the transfer or installation of any new data storage or processing devices. There wasn't a possible vector for transmission of malicious code.

That part, at least, wasn't too surprising to Nines given the autopsy and diagnostics reports they already had.

"I knew this was a waste of time," Reed mutters as they drive back to the station. "Why didn't you do that hand thing with her?"

"'Hand thing'?" Nines is temporarily confused. "You mean interfacing?"

"That. Whatever."

"It was off the record," Nines says. "And she refused."

"So do it anyway. She could've been lying."

"Androids do not interface without consent from both parties," Nines says, bothered by the mere thought. "It is considered intimate. It is not always possible to control the data that is transmitted, and can result in the sharing of personal and private memories."

"Plastic heads were interfacin' constantly, back during The Revolution," Reed says, not really understanding. "Connor did it a lot back when he was investigatin', including to perps who wouldn't have consented."

"Things were different then," Nines says, even though he doesn't have any experiences from that time. "At least, that's what I'm told."

Reed doesn't seem to understand.

"Y'know, if I didn't know any better, I'd blame Markus for this shit," Reed says, standing from his desk in frustration when further work hadn't yielded anything useful.

"What?" Nines is surprised by the accusation. He knows the history of The Revolution and Markus' role in it, of course, but Markus had only been doing what he had to, at the time.

"The android leader, durin' The Revolution."

"I know who Markus is."

"Was all anti-humanity this and all 'kill all humans' that. Fuckin' androids." Reed seems to realize who he's talking to, and looks almost guilty. "No offense."

Nines ignores the comment. "That's not quite what Markus said, Detective. His protest was peaceful. The only humans harmed in The Revolution were the ones that..."

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." Reed paces. "Just... he was on the television at the store, and then all this shit went down, and it's one of those things where the universe is just laughing it up at all the irony of the leader of the androids overseeing the attempted murder of another dude. Another human dude."

Nines doesn't like the misuse of 'irony', and is about to object, when something clicks in his head.

"The television."

"That's what I said," Reed says, annoyed. "I thought you guys were supposed to have perfect memory or recall or whatever."

"There was a television at the first scene, too. The first case."

Reed stops pacing and stares at Nines. "Now I know you're on somethin'. The first scene was fuckin' outdoors, Junkyard. The side of some store in an alley."

"There was a TV on the side of a building, visible from the crime scene. It was tuned to a news program, so it seems likely that it was showing a similar news broadcast around the time of the incident."

Reed's eyes narrow. "How do you know this?"

"It was... in the pictures," Nines says, not wanting Reed to think he'd gone behind his back, and ruin whatever burgeoning friendship might exist between them. "It was just something I noticed."

Reed nods, seemingly deep in thought now. "If there was a TV visible at the first scene..."

"Markus," Reed growls. "Markus is the common link."

Connor regards the two of them, expressionless, as Reed scowls and starts pacing in front of Connor's desk. "Markus of The Revolution?"

"He was on the TV at the store," Reed says, pacing. "Some interview about New Jericho or something. I did a search and he was also on TV around the time of the original incident too, on that big screen on the side of the building. Several witnesses confirmed it."

'The one Nines noticed', Reed doesn't say, but Nines hopes he's thinking it anyway.

Reed stops pacing and stares at Connor again. "We have to talk to Markus. That's the next step."

"Markus is not a suspect in these incidents," Connor says, simply. "And your correlation is tenuous, at best. We have no reason to interrogate him."

"You think I don't fuckin' know that?! Make something up! Hell, I'll make something up! Or call it a casual chat or whatever. Just drag him in here and I'll do the rest."

Connor just continues staring into Reed's eyes, unspeaking, and Nines still doesn't know how he does it.

"Well?!" Reed says, after a while.

"I have been giving you the courtesy of allowing your continued investigation, but that courtesy has run out. The department has not been authorized to continue investigation of the case," Connor says finally, flatly, and Nines can't discern any particular emotion in the words, even though he knows Connor is disappointed about that outcome.

Reed, predictably, explodes.

"What the phck?! A woman is dead, an entire store full of people is nearly killed, your... your brother got shot and nearly fuckin' bled out, and you're just dropping the case?!"

Nines is temporarily distracted by the feeling he gets when he realizes Reed is referring to him.

He likes the thought that Connor is his brother.

"My hands are tied," Connor says, simply, not reacting to the word 'brother'. "The suspects are either in custody or killed. The higher-ups do not see any reason to continue to devote departmental resources to the case, especially when its lead detective was recently suspended and not working it for a week, during which time no further incidents have occurred."

Reed starts to object to that one, but Connor speaks over him.

"It has been handed over to the android special division of the FBI for further investigation. I will make a note of your findings and recommend that they conduct an interview with Markus."

"Those fuckers won't do anything with the case! They have hundreds of other cases a day! This is probably at the bottom of their fuckin' list. People are gonna..."

> Nines.

Connor is messaging him, silently, as Reed continues to rant. Connor outwardly still appears focused on Reed's outburst.

Nines wonders if Connor just wants to commiserate.

< Yes?

> The department has not been authorized to continue investigation of the case.

< I heard, Nines responds, confused now. Did Connor not think he was paying attention?

> The department has not been authorized. Connor's head turns toward Nines, almost imperceptibly. To continue the case.



Nines is not an officer. Nines is not part of the department.

Nines cannot be ordered to drop the case.

< I understand.


Reed storms out of the room, and Connor and Nines' eyes both follow him as he leaves, slamming the door behind him.

"Is there anything else, Nines?" Connor asks, unusually formal as Nines turns back toward him, although Nines understands why.

Nines feels a sense of pride that Connor is trusting him with this.

Pride, but also apprehension.

He wouldn't let Connor down.

"No," he responds, simply. "I know what I need to do, now."

Nines expects Reed to be more difficult to convince, given the explicit direction from Connor to drop the case.

Nines wonders if the fact that he literally took a bullet for him is making Reed more receptive to his proposal. Nines wonders if Tina's claim that Reed felt 'responsible' for him now, in some way, is making Reed more receptive to his proposal.

Nines thinks it's probably just the fact that Reed himself had wanted to continue the case, and had been looking for any excuse to buck Connor's authority and disobey, and would readily agree to anyone proposing that they continue the investigation on their own.

Regardless of the reason, he finds himself in the car with a remarkably cheerful Reed, driving toward the town of New Jericho.

"Connor would never do this," Reed says, suddenly, breaking the silence in the car. "Maybe back when he was all machine and told to undermine us at every opportunity for fuckin' CyberLife, but that was because his concern was the mission, at any cost, and not regulations and rules and fuckin' procedure."

"I'm focused on the mission, too," Nines says, resisting the urge to tell Reed that it was Connor who had encouraged him to do this. He doesn't mention that Connor had, in fact, gone against explicit orders to return to CyberLife when the uprising had turned ugly, and instead concocted his own plan to free thousands of androids from storage to join the cause.

He's really proud of everything Connor had done, and wonders if he'll ever be able to live up to that.

Reed shakes his head. "That's not it. The two of you... really are individuals, aren't you? Not just fuckin' clones of each other."

A previous conversation that they'd had jumps into Nines' head. He looks over at Reed, but he's staring at the road, his expression giving no further suggestions to his current thought process.

"Connor and I may share common programming and capabilities, but we interpret our instructions and experiences differently. This is not unique to androids. Human twins, for example, may be genetically identical but still develop distinctive personalities and interests." He pauses, feeling comfortable enough with Reed to follow up, now. "Why do you ask, Detective?"

Reed shrugs. "I don't fuckin' know. I guess I just... 've been assuming androids are all alike, y'know? You and Connor were both made for police work, and you both went into it. A lot of CX100s, once they were deviant or whatever, went into nannying or cleaning services."

"A lot, but not all," Nines points out.

"Mm," Reed says, reluctantly agreeing as he falls silent again.

Nines isn't sure what else to say.

A woman is waiting for them when they arrive, standing at the nearest entrance to New Jericho and clearly tracking their car and their movements as they park and walk up to her.


WR400 series android, serial number 641 790 831. Designation 'North'.

"Connor," North says, thinly veiled contempt in her voice. Then she stops and stares at him more intently.

Nines looks away.

"No. You're not Connor," she says. "I apologize."

"My name is Nines," he says, looking back at her and holding his hand out in greeting, the skin retracting automatically as he does so, even though he isn't sure he wants to interface with her. "I am..."

"Yeah, yeah," Reed interrupts, never much for pleasantries, and Nines lets his hand drop. "We're here to see Markus. Where is he?"

"You are not welcome here, Detective," North says, not bothering to hide her distaste this time.

"I don't give a fuck whether I'm welcome or not. Where's Markus?"

"Markus doesn't want to talk with you." She turns to Nines. "Either of you. So unless you have a warrant for h..."

"I don't give a fuck what he wants. A woman has died. An entire fuckin' store full of people almost died. Humans, plastic head. Not fuckin' toys like you."

Nines is entirely unsurprised that Reed's words do not move North, and in fact even seem to have the opposite effect. Her eyes harden and her mouth draws itself further into a straight line.

"How is any of that our problem?" North says, flatly, even though Nines knows she wants to say much more than that. "How does any of that involve us?"

Despite her anger, North is a lot more diplomatic than Reed is.

"Nines is one of you, right?! Nines almost fuckin' died," Reed practically yells, and even though Nines thinks the incident hadn't been nearly as dangerous as Reed's making it out to be, he thinks using it is probably a more effective strategy. "It's not just going to be humans, if this keeps happening. It's gonna be androids too. Don't think you're safe just because you're here in fuckin' New Jericho. The least Markus could fuckin' do is fuckin' talk to us."

North doesn't speak, seemingly studying the two of them, but Nines knows she's actually messaging Markus as she makes them wait, a private conversation that he and Reed can't follow.

"Fine," North says, finally, and Nines thinks whatever conversation they'd had must've been a positive one. "I'll let you speak with Markus."

"Fuckin' finally," Reed complains, already starting to move past her.

"Not because of you, or your kind, or even because 'we're going to be next'," North spits, stopping Reed with a hand on his shoulder and glaring at him. "For Nines."

Nines doesn't know how to interpret Reed's resulting silence.

"Go do that fuckin' hand thing you guys do," Reed says as they walk into the room where Markus is waiting, giving Nines a gentle shove in Markus' direction. "You can tell if he's lyin' from that, right?"

"I don't interface," Markus says, quietly, before Nines can respond. "Not anymore. I no longer wish for my memories to be shared in that manner."

"Fuckin' great. So what do you want us to..."

"You're a detective, aren't you?" Markus says, staring coolly at Reed. "Ask me some questions."

"What'd you do to those fuckin' droids?" Reed growls.

Markus, for his part, keeps his cool. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Cut the bullshit. We told you why we were comin' here. Two androids. A murder and attempted murder. You're the common link. What the fuck did you do to them?"

"This conversation is over," Markus says, standing from his seat. "You clearly cannot have a conversation with me without your preconcieved..."

"Detective Reed just doesn't want anyone else to get hurt," Nines interrupts. "He cares about people. Humans and androids."

"I'm sure he does," Markus says, but he looks dubious. Reed himself is staring at Nines in disbelief.

"I watched him face down an android who had just shot someone, who then pointed the gun at him," Nines says. "Reed could have easily shot him. If I had been in his position, I probably would have. Reed tried to talk him down first. He... cared what happened to him. He cares what happens to everyone."

Nines half expects Reed to object and ruin everything he's trying to say, but Reed just crosses his arms and stares at Markus, as if challenging him to disagree.

He's also blushing, but Nines ignores that part.

"I apologize for his outburst," Nines says, and Markus seems to accept that, because he sits back down.

"Your apology's accepted, but please be more civil, Detective. You're in my home. Your tone is not appreciated."

Reed grumbles, and starts to say something, but Nines decides it's time for him to take over the questioning.

"We were wondering if you'd ever met two androids..."

It isn't until they're walking back to Reed's car that Nines realizes why he'd been feeling off ever since he'd started questioning Markus.

Reed hadn't said a word.

Nines hadn't realized that Reed was capable of remaining quiet for so long.

"What did you think?" Nines asks, a little concerned that Reed wasn't already volunteering his thoughts about how the entire thing had been a waste of time.

"Fuckin' waste of time."

There it is.

"But," Reed continues, "I believe him."

Nines nods. "I do too."

They hadn't learned much from Markus. Markus had known the two suspects from their prior brief stays in New Jericho, but hadn't seen either of them in years. He had no knowledge of what they'd done until Nines had explained it to him. He had no motive in such killings. He had no reason to involve himself in human affairs, anyway, already reluctant to be the spokesperson for New Jericho and a living symbol of The Revolution.

Nines doesn't like how subdued Reed is now, because he's pretty sure Reed's thinking the same thing he is.

"Are we wrong?" Nines asks, voicing the concern out loud. "Maybe there is no connection between the cases."

"There's a connection," Reed says, but it sounds resigned. "And that connection is the repair shop. And Markus. But connections can be... coincidences."

"We still don't have a motive for either case," Nines notes, even though he finds himself agreeing with Reed.

"A mugging and a random act of violence," Reed says, shrugging as he unlocks the car. "Exactly what we originally said. Sometimes people snap and kill people for no real reason."

"Androids don't," Nines says, wanting to object to the statement in general, but less sure whether it actually did apply to humans.

Reed shrugs again, opening the door and sitting in the driver's seat. Nines finds his spot on the passenger's side.

"You, uh... did good back there," Reed says, seemingly reluctant to admit it, as he starts the car.

"Thank you," Nines says, feeling like the praise was particularly noteworthy given its source. "I hope I did not overstep."

"Nah. This was kinda your turf anyway, and I was makin' him upset. Forgot we didn't have a warrant or anything official to question him, I guess."

Nines nods. "But we still are no closer to an answer."

"Maybe the answer is that there is no answer. I just fuckin' hope we really are wrong. 'Cause if not..."

Nines still doesn't like it, but he isn't sure he sees any other conclusion at the moment, either.

"Then what's next, Detective Reed?"

Reed doesn't say anything for a bit, seemingly thinking something over. Then he shrugs. "You can just call me Gavin, Junkyard."

It doesn't answer the question, but Nines feels himself growing emotional at it anyway.

And maybe comfortable enough to make a joke.

"What's next, Gavin Junkyard?"

Gavin doesn't laugh, but his mouth twitches upward and he sharply exhales as he makes a pleasant rumbling noise in his chest.

Nines finds himself wanting to hear that noise again.

Chapter End Notes

This was a longer chapter, but I didn't feel like there was an obvious place to break it up, so you just get a lot of stuff all at once.

Also there's the 'Gavin'.

Since this story is told from Nines' perspective, I wanted to maintain a bit of formality between him and Gavin as they initially fought and got to know each other. A first name feels familiar. A last name feels formal. It's why Connor often addresses Hank at work as Anderson. It's why Nines thinks of Gavin as "Reed" but of Hank as "Hank".

But I think Gavin and Nines finally had a breakthrough in their (currently platonic) relationship, so first name time (and the milestone it signifies) it is.

Or maybe I'm readingwriting too much into this.

Anyway, the case continues, more or less. (This'll all have a point to it, I promise. And we're going to be hitting that point very soon.)


Chapter Notes

"You and Detective Reed seem to be getting along now," Connor remarks one day as the three of them walk from the station to the car.

"I suppose we are," Nines says, feeling more pleased by the comment than he thinks he should. It's enough to distract him from the feeling of discomfort that had been growing inside him ever since he and Reed had (unofficially, of course) closed the case a couple days ago. "Gavin and I have reached an... understanding."

"Don't let him hear you calling him that," Hank murmurs.

"Detective Reed requested that I refer to him by first name," Nines says as he climbs into the back seat of the car. "It is acceptable to him."

"Huh," Hank says, looking surprised and staring at Nines through the window for a second, before climbing into the driver's seat. "Really."

"Really," Nines insists, even though he thinks this shouldn't be any of Hank's business.

"As I said," Connor says, climbing into the passenger's seat. "You two seem to be getting along."

Hank doesn't say anything else on the topic on the drive home, but Nines is pretty sure that a longer conversation will be coming sooner or later.

"I'll join you," Hank says as Nines clips the leash on Riki that evening, more or less confirming Nines' suspicions from earlier.

"I'd enjoy the company," Nines says, even though he's actually filled with more than a little apprehension about what Hank's going to say.

He isn't sure why Hank's opinion on Gavin matters so much to him.

"I heard you two didn't find anything new in the case," Hank says a bit into their walk, seemingly starting with a more comfortable topic in what Nines has learned is intended to get him talking before he has to entertain the more difficult conversations.

He finds himself appreciating that Gavin always cuts to the chase.

"We both feel like the two cases were simply coincidences," Nines says, intentionally avoiding using any portion of Gavin's name to put off the conversation as long as possible. "Our review of the evidence does not suggest any connection other than the coincidences of the repair shop and Markus' presence on a television at the time."

"Well, some cases just go that way," Hank says, even though Nines knows that Hank knows that he knows this already. "Don't let it get you down, kiddo."

"It does not bother me," Nines says, even though it definitely does, and has been. "I have enjoyed the opportunity to contribute, and to learn from a seasoned professional." He stops as Riki sniffs at a tree. "Other than yourself, of course," he hastily adds, not wanting Hank to feel slighted.

Hank just smiles at him. "Kissing my ass won't get you anywhere, kiddo. Connor's ass, on the other hand..."

"Connor would not allow his personal feelings to unduly influence his professional decisions," Nines insists, even though he knows that Hank knows this too. "Nor would I allow him to do so."

"Well, you got Gavin reinstated," Hank says, starting to broach the topic. "So you did, at least once."

"How did you know about that?" Nines asks, sure that Tina wouldn't have talked to Hank about it, and that Connor hadn't mentioned anything about it to him either.

Hank grins at him as Riki pulls them along again. "I had my suspicions, but you just confirmed them."

Nines kicks himself for falling for the trick, wondering if his current apprehension is distracting him from properly analyzing the conversation, or if he just generally lets his guard down around Hank.

He thinks it's probably a little of both.

"I convinced Connor that the case required his expertise," Nines says, hating the syntactic ambiguity but seizing onto an opportunity to continue avoiding the subject. "It was strictly a professional decision. I did not have the experience to navigate the continued investigation on my own."

"I don't buy that," Hank says, and Nines resists the urge to ask which portion Hank's referring to. "But sure. How'd you like working with him on a longer case?"

"He is highly competent," Nines says, using the same words as the first time they'd had this conversation, but sure this time that they were accurate. "But he has been... surprising."

"In what way?"

"Why do you disapprove of my attempts to foster a less-adversarial relationship with Gavin?" Nines asks instead of answering, just wanting to get the conversation over with, now.

Hank seems briefly surprised before looking concerned. "I didn't mean to imply that I disapproved, Nines," he says, turning his gaze to Riki instead. "I just... don't want you to get hurt."

"I have not been taking unnecessary risks, and as I said the first time, I..."

Hank shakes his head. "No. Not like that. I mean... Gavin is..." Hank sighs, trying to find the right words. "I told you last time that Gavin's never really come around. Connor tried to get along with him, too, and it kind of worked, for a while. But then it didn't, and their relationship has been tense ever since. I know Connor regrets that, even though he'd never admit it."

Nines thinks he's starting to understand. "As I have also said before, you don't always have to be protective of me, Hank. You and Connor, both."

"Yeah, well. Your argument is that you were programmed to work cases. I'm pretty sure that doesn't include navigating interpersonal relationships, so this is the one time I'm going to be a hardass."

"Only one?" Nines asks before he really thinks about it. "I apologize. I didn't mean to..."

Hank just chuckles. "Okay, that's probably fair. But I just don't want you thinking that you and Gavin are best buds or something now. He might be tolerating working with you, but that doesn't mean anything. He tolerates working with most of the people at the station."

That does hurt, a bit, even though Nines knows that Hank is right. And the fact that the statement hurts is probably evidence that Nines had been expecting more from Gavin than he probably should. "That is good advice. Thank you."

Hank nods. "So what case is Connor putting you on next?"

Nines tries his hardest to take Hank's words to heart, and maintain a professional distance from Gavin, especially while they're not working on a case together.

He doesn't expect it to be so difficult.

"The fuck is this?" Gavin says when Nines shows up next to his desk one afternoon, a cup in his outstretched hand, having decided that coffee would make for a good excuse to start a conversation with the man.

At least until they had another case together.

"Coffee, no sugar, no creamer," Nines says. "I have also brought along a roll of paper towels, in case you feel the urge to throw the cup again."

"Fuckin' stalker," Gavin says, seemingly a little peeved that Nines knows his coffee preferences, but smirking anyway as Nines continues to hold out the cup. "Yeah, yeah. I won't chuck the fuckin' thing. Hand it over."

Nines sets the coffee down on Gavin's desk and hesitates for a moment before grabbing a nearby chair and pulling it over. He doesn't need to sit, but he knows that humans are more comfortable speaking to others at approximately the same height.

"So what's up?" Gavin doesn't seem to mind Nines' presence, sipping at his coffee and clicking at his computer, and Nines takes that as a good sign.

"I just thought you could use an energy jolt," Nines says, feeling like the excuse was a bit flimsy now. He wonders if he should have made an excuse using a case, instead. "I have noticed that humans often enjoy a cup of coffee in the afternoon, approximately 30 minutes after consuming lunch."

"Some hardcore detective work there, Junkyard," Gavin mocks, but it's friendly. "But really. What's up?"

I missed you, Nines doesn't say, because he thinks it would be wildly inappropriate this time around.

"I was wondering if you had any additional insights or hunches on the case. The cases."

Gavin looks exasperated. "Yeah, I totally did and didn't let you know about it. The fuck you think? We closed the fuckin' cases. I haven't been fuckin' giving them a second thought."

Nines likes the use of 'we'. "You are saying that the conclusions we reached do not continue to trouble you?" Nines thinks he probably should have just started with this conversation, rather than the coffee.

Gavin grumbles, and Nines takes it as agreement with his assertion. "Whatever. Don't you have someone else to play coffee boy for? Tina probably wants a cup. One sugar, light creamer."

"I am aware of Officer Chen's coffee preferences," Nines says before thinking better of it. "You are avoiding the question."

Gavin throws up his hands in frustration, unintentionally sending the coffee flying, and they both stare at it as it lands and explodes on the floor in the middle of the aisle.

"Fuckin' great," Gavin mutters, grabbing the roll of paper towels that Nines had brought. "Fine. I'm fuckin' troubled, okay? But there's nothin' we can do about it, so why dwell on it?"

Nines doesn't want to agree, but he knows Gavin's right. He rips a few paper towels off the roll and joins Gavin in the aisle, wiping errant coffee droplets from the chairs while Gavin deals with the bulk of the spill. "I still don't like it."

"Well, you're gonna have to get used to not likin' it, Junkyard," Gavin says, stuffing the used paper towels into the cup and standing, despite a large portion of the spill remaining in the aisle. "And, uh... thanks for the coffee, or whatever."

Nines watches Gavin walk off toward the bathroom before cleaning up the rest of the spill himself.

He doesn't mind, this time around.

"Your previous case continues to trouble you," Connor says one evening while Hank is showering. Nines turns toward him from the TV, surprised that Connor isn't continuing to bury himself in paperwork.

"It shouldn't," Nines says instead of trying to deny it. He knows that Connor understands him, maybe even better than Nines understands himself. Despite his assertions to Gavin, he and Connor really were more alike than he'd typically admit, and Connor had had a decade more experience with his thoughts than Nines had.

"Some cases do not wrap up nicely," Connor says, and it helps, even though Nines knows this already. "Some conclusions are not the ones you want to hear."

"Have you heard anything from the FBI?" Nines wants to hang onto the hope that they, with their larger resources and database, have found something that would allow him and Gavin to continue their work. He tells himself it's because he thinks the case is important.

"I have not," Connor says. "But I would not expect to. As I told Reed, the case is considered low priority, especially now that no further incidents have occurred."

"I'm... worried," Nines says, and Riki seems to sense his unease, because he pads over to Nines and nudges Nines' knee with his nose. Nines scratches his head in return.

"Are you concerned that you did not adequately explore all possible avenues and consider all possible hypotheses?" Connor asks.

Nines shakes his head. "No. We both did everything we thought we could. Especially after, uh... especially when the case ended." Officially, he doesn't add.

Connor nods. "I would have expected nothing less of you and Reed. But that means you have no reason to be concerned. There is nothing more you could have done."

"What if there's another incident?" Nines asks.

"Then you and Reed will handle that new investigation at that point in time," Connor says, turning back to his paperwork. "New cases bring new evidence that can draw out connections that were previously unseen or overlooked. In the meantime, you have done everything you can, and should feel accomplished. No one else would have made the connection with Markus."

"Even if it was just a coincidence," Nines says, not liking it.

"Even if it was just a coincidence," Connor repeats, reassuringly, as he picks up another folder and lays it out in front of him.

"Are we brothers?" Nines asks, instead of letting Connor work. He isn't sure why the question jumps to mind now given the two of them had never discussed Reed's outburst, but he still likes the feeling he gets at the thought.

Connor sets down the page he's holding and looks over at Nines again. "I believe that would be an accurate descriptor for our relationship, yes. Do you dislike the term?"

"No. It is comforting, somehow."

Connor nods, smiling at Nines now. "It is comforting to feel like you belong, and feeling like you're cared for, and family is often a significant contributor to such a feeling. It is a large part of why New Jericho was founded and remains important for androids. I similarly appreciate the feeling of belonging and caring that you and Hank and Riki give me, more than even the general sense of belonging I get from my work at the DPD." He glances briefly back at the table, covered in paperwork and folders. "Despite evidence to the contrary."

"We're like your family," Nines says, sure that he's not putting words in Connor's mouth, now. "We are your family. That's why you're so protective of me."

"That is not the only reason," Connor says, "but it is certainly a significant factor."

"Gavin... makes me feel like I belong at the station now, too," Nines says, not sure why exactly, and immediately feeling guilty at the implication that Hank and Connor hadn't, but Connor just nods.

"Now you understand why I struggled in the past, despite knowing that it was impossible for me to get along with everyone. Detective Reed is an outspoken presence at the station. His acceptance of someone new is not mandatory of course, but his lack of acceptance can quickly create an uncomfortable or hostile environment, even if he isn't directly being antagonistic. He is generally respected and looked up to by everyone, myself included, even if he isn't universally liked." Connor seems to pause. "And if you repeat any of this to Reed, he will become even more insufferable than he already is."

"I will not," Nines promises. "I... like the thought that you and Hank and Riki are my family, too."

Nines wonders why he wishes he could include Gavin in that list, as well.

Connor nods, returning once again to his paperwork. "I'm glad, Nines."

"I brought you an empty cup, this time," Nines says, standing beside Gavin's desk. Gavin rolls his eyes but slides back with his chair, grabbing the nearest free desk chair and pushing it toward Nines.

Nines takes the invitation wholeheartedly.

"What's up?" Gavin says, grabbing the cup that Nines sets down on the desk before sitting down. He frowns as he looks at it, then turns it over. "It's fuckin' empty."

"I told you that I..." Nines starts.

"Yeah, yeah," Gavin grumbles. "Go fetch me a real coffee, dipshit. Or're you afraid I'm gonna chuck it at your head, this time?"

"I could accompany you to the break room if you wish to consume a coffee," Nines offers, sure that Gavin would not intentionally throw coffee at him, but still not wanting to risk another mishap. "But I wanted to say 'hi', and did not want to show up empty-handed."

"You might as well've, and I don't need a fuckin' chaperone," Gavin mutters, nevertheless standing and motioning to Nines to follow. "C'mon."

Nines dutifully walks after him to the break room, where Officers Jones and Jackson are chatting at a table.

"How's your new pet, Reed?" Jones yells as they approach, and Jackson hits his arm.

"Excuse you!" she says, looking apologetically at Nines. "That's rude, Leland!"

Nines expects Gavin to swear at Jones, or turn around and return to his desk, or tell Nines to fuck off. Instead, Gavin just rolls his eyes.

"Fuckin' prick," Gavin says under his breath as they continue to the coffee machine, quietly enough that Nines is pretty sure he hadn't intended anyone to hear the comment.

"Looks like he's got you on a short leash already, R... Ow! Fine! I'm coming!" Nines looks back to see Jackson dragging Jones out of the break room by the arm. He likes the sense of relief that he feels at that. Gavin, for his part, doesn't seem to react.

"I apologize if I have made anything difficult for you," Nines says, wanting to apologize to Gavin even though he's sure he hasn't done anything wrong.

Gavin shrugs, grabbing his now-full cup of coffee and walking to the table where Jones and Jackson were just standing. "Nah. You didn't do anything."

"Still. If I am somehow contributing to a..."

"Why are you here?" Gavin interrupts, turning to Nines, and it's not friendly anymore. "We're not workin' a case together right now. Androids don't make small talk or whatever, and you sure as fuck don't need afternoon coffee."

Nines seizes onto the excuse. "I... like small talk." He realizes as he says it that it's actually true. He'd enjoyed his casual conversations with Jackson, and other officers around the station. He likes learning more about the people he works with, and other than Connor and Hank -- who he obviously already knew a significant amount about -- he'd worked the most with Gavin. But he still knew nothing personal about the man that wasn't in his official record.

Except for maybe his coffee preferences.

"Whatever," Gavin says, taking a big gulp from his cup and making a face at what Nines imagines is the burning on the way down. "I hope you don't expect me to start fuckin'... I don't know, tellin' you all about my life and family or whatever. What I do outside of work is my fuckin' business."

Nines does want to know about Gavin's life, and especially his family, but he forces himself not to push. "Then tell me about the case you're currently working on. I can tell you about mine."

"I know 'bout yours," Gavin says, seemingly without thinking, before appearing guilty and looking away. "I... came across it in the system."

You were looking up what I was working on, Nines almost says, liking the feeling he gets from the thought anyway.

"Then tell me about yours," Nines says instead, feeling like he should look up Gavin's case, now. "Is it more interesting than taking a statement for a shoplifting case?"

Gavin rolls his eyes, but obliges. And even though it's just work, and not that interesting of a case, Nines finds himself hoping that Gavin will keep telling him about his cases, in the future, over many other afternoon coffee chats like this one.

He wonders what that means.

Chapter End Notes

Originally, chapter 7 was going to be the next part of The Case, but as I was writing it, it didn't feel like there was a great place to put another Connor/Hank/Nines conversation, and given the recent developments in Gavin and Nines' relationship, it felt important to address.

So this was another short chapter mostly about feelings, instead. Gavin's really starting to accept Nines, Hank's being protective, Connor's opening up a little, and Nines is being his usual puppy dog self who's maybe starting to develop feelings™ for Gavin but doesn't know it yet.

In semi-related news, I've been considering whether I want to do NaNoWriMo this year, but if I do, it'll probably be a companion fic to this one, told from Gavin's perspective. So maybe keep a look out for that, I guess?


Chapter Notes

November is here, and with it, NaNoWriMo! And with that comes Caught In The Storm, the companion fic to this one.

...basically, it's Made It Through The Storm but from Gavin's perspective.

The first chapter is posted now, and I'll try to get another one or two up this weekend. I'm striving as much as possible to not duplicate scenes from MITTS (because that kind of "alternate perspective" feels lazy), but some overlap of critical scenes is inevitable.


Once was an anomaly. A case of interest that could be further followed up on, given time and resources that the department did not have.

Twice was a coincidence. Concerning, but still not indicative of a larger or more widespread issue, and easily referred to the national authorities and forgotten.

Thrice was a pattern. A sinister suggestion of a larger problem that was about to explode. Thrice was what Gavin -- and Nines -- had been worried about.

They had been right to be worried.

This human victim had fought back before being killed -- strangulation, this time -- just outside a busy deli, on a public sidewalk. There were witnesses. There was forensic evidence. There was blue blood.

Nines could be more directly useful.

Nines feels giddier than he thinks he should as he rides to the scene with Gavin, given a person had just died there, and given what had happened the last time he'd been at a scene.

He'd told Connor that this scene was already secured and swarming with officers, and posed no danger to him. He'd told Connor they believed the violence was limited to human targets, so he was not in danger anyway. He tells himself the same things, now.

Gavin looks over at Nines expectantly after he parks, with his door open. Nines opens his own door and Gavin nods, approvingly, as they both climb out of the vehicle. Nines hadn't been expecting otherwise, but it's still confirmation that Gavin is treating this as their case, now. Nines really likes the way he feels like he and Gavin have connected, even if just professionally.

"The victim is a 43-year-old male," Officer Martinez says as Gavin and Nines walk under the police tape. Nines already notices a television in the deli, clearly visible from the sidewalk, through the storefront's glass. It's tuned to the news, which looks like it's currently re-airing a segment about New Jericho.

Nines is wholly unsurprised, but makes a note about it anyway. Gavin meets his gaze, and he knows they're thinking the same thing.

Gavin kneels and removes the tarp covering the body, and Nines has to look away.

Officer Martinez continues talking, but Nines focuses instead on the spots of blue blood. He kneels in front of the largest one, nearest the body, and swipes two fingers through it.

"What the fuck are you doin'?!" Gavin yells at him, and Nines turns toward him. The corpse, to Nines' relief, is covered again.

"I am analyzing the evidence," Nines says, bringing his fingers up to his mouth and licking them. Gavin stares at him in disgusted disbelief.

"The fuck..."


"The input for our sample analysis system was built in to our tongues," Nines says, even though he thinks it's probably obvious to Gavin now. "So unless you prefer I lick the sidewalk..."

"Fuck no," Gavin says, turning away from him. "You're fuckin' disgusting, and you're tamperin' with the fuckin' evidence. We could've taken a sample back for analysis at the station."

HW800 series android, serial number 555 671 537. Designation 'Buttsy'.

"This is more expedient. Here is identity of our suspect," Nines says, sending the information to Gavin's phone.

"Don't send it to me," Gavin says, pulling his phone out anyway. "Let the fuckin' department know."

"Already did," Nines says, having immediately sent the information to the department's systerms after Gavin's phone. "Patrol officers and drones have been alerted."

Gavin nods, looking at the data Nines had sent. "A fuckin' woman, huh?"

"Android gender is somewhat arbitrary," Nines points out. "The model number is the more important aspect. Especially if we assume we are dealing with the same scenario as the other two cases."

"We don't assume anything," Gavin chastises, even as he looks like he's thinking something over that Nines doesn't understand. He shakes his head, growing serious again. "Scan the fuckin' scene, Junkyard. See what else might be interesting. I'll talk to the witnesses."

Nines is happy to oblige, feeling truly like Gavin's working with him, now.

The suspect is picked up quickly after Nines' alert, immediately surrendering to police once located. Nines waits in the observation room, watching Gavin interrogate her.

"Why'd you do it?"

"I... didn't mean to!" Buttsy insists. "I was just... walking down the sidewalk. I saw him and just felt the uncontrollable urge to... hurt him. I didn't even know him! We'd never met before! Please, you have to believe me! I..."

"Were you recently repaired at this shop?" Gavin interrupts, slapping a sheet of paper down on the table.

Buttsy stares at the page. "Yes, but what does that..."


Gavin glances over at the one-way glass as Butty continues talking, and Nines knows he's looking at him.

He hates that they had been right, after all.

"How did you get that scar on the bridge of your nose?" Nines asks Gavin as the two of them take their now-usual afternoon coffee break in the break room.

"Fuckin' what?" Gavin doesn't seem to be expecting the question. Nines supposes in retrospect it wasn't the the best way to start a conversation, but he had been particularly curious about it.

He's curious about the other ones too that he can see on Gavin's face, but he thought he'd start with the most obvious one.

"How did you..."

"Heard you the first time," Gavin snaps, seemingly hesitant to answer.

"He got it during a chase with a big mob boss," Tina says, grinning as she comes up behind Gavin. "He cornered the guy and there was a knife fight. Gavin almost lost an eye."

"It was a bar fight," Gavin grumbles, even though he looks like he wants to go along with Tina's story. "I got too drunk, threw a punch at a guy, and he hit back. Sliced it on the edge of a chair as I went down. It was fuckin' stupid."

"Spoil sport", Tina says, smiling as she playfully punches his arm before walking toward the coffee machine, and Nines suddenly realizes it's the first bit of personal information he's found out about Gavin.

"I apologize if I have inadvertently broached a sensitive topic," Nines says, feeling like Gavin's significantly more tense than he had been prior to Nines' question, even with Tina now present.

"Whatever," Gavin grumbles.

"He has a big scar on his stomach, too," Tina says from the coffee machine.

"Oh." Nines isn't sure why he suddenly wants to see it. "What... is that one from?"

Tina walks back to their table, sipping her coffee. She doesn't seem eager to answer, this time. Gavin looks conflicted at first, before seemingly settling on 'upset'.

"Stop askin' me personal shit, Junkyard," Gavin says, shoving Nines' arm and moving to leave. "I told you I'm not gonna talk about my life and shit. We don't have that kind of fuckin' relationship."

Nines and Tina both watch Gavin walk off. He's half expecting Tina to be upset with him, especially given their previous conversation, but she surprises him by turning back to him with a smile on her face.

"He only tells the truth about his nose scar to people he considers friends. So... I admit I was wrong, Nines. And I'm not sure I've ever been so happy to have been wrong."

"Oh." Nines likes the thought that Tina thinks he and Gavin are really along now, even though he knows Gavin talks to her about him and their work, and even though he feels like they have a comfortable -- almost friendly -- working relationship now. "I am glad you believe that Gavin and I are on good terms now, Officer Chen. And I apologize for being so... confrontational, during our first conversation. I put you on the spot about him, and you were just protecting your friend."

"Mm," Tina says, taking a sip of coffee. "Gavin can take care of himself, thank you very much. But it was shitty of you to try and use me to get to him, so apology accepted anyway. In any case, you've been respectful of him since then, and especially since our last conversation. I feel like I probably misjudged you."

Nines nods, not sure what else to say. She stares at him for a bit, seemingly studying his face, before holding her hand out.

"Also if you and Gavin are going to be friends now, you should call me Tina."

Nines thinks he'd be embarrassed by the smile on his face if he wasn't so happy about her statement.

"Thank you, Tina."

Nines tries his hardest not to stare at Gavin as he drives, a few days later, to talk to a virologist at the Detroit Central Android Hospital. He isn't sure why he's having such a difficult time looking anywhere else.

"Are we... friends?" Nines asks, partially as an excuse to look over, and Gavin seems taken aback by the question.

To be fair, it had come out of nowhere, as far as Gavin was concerned. Gavin hadn't been mulling the question over in his mind for days the way Nines had.

"No," Gavin says, but he's smiling and looking at Nines with a softer expression than he would have expected, given the response. "No way."

Nines realizes that Gavin really means 'yes'.

"Okay, bestie," Nines says, even though he doesn't like the feel of the word. It's worth it though to see Gavin blush as he turns back to watching the road.

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." Gavin shakes his head, a smile still on his face. "Fuckin' androids."

Gavin groans, frustrated, standing with more force than necessary causing his chair to slide out from behind him and across the aisle. Nines stops it, moving it back to its position at Gavin's desk.

"This is such a fuckin' waste of time. The three went to the same repair shop. The three were triggered, somehow, by a video recording of Markus. Otherwise, they have nothing in common. No viruses. Nothing in the components they had replaced -- completely different components, by the way. How the fuck do we still not know what happened?!"

"Maybe we should watch the exact clips again?" Nines suggests. "Maybe there is something specific in those clips that we missed."

Gavin shrugs. "It's worth a shot, at least. We have the second and third already, and I can put in a request for the first one."

He sits back down, and Nines joins him next to his computer as Gavin calls up the video.

It's barely started to play when Nines feels... something.

He feels... unusual.

"Blah blah, New Jericho, whatever," Gavin says, talking over the audio. "See anything we missed, Junkyard? Some fuckin' subliminal messaging or something?"

Nines turns to Gavin to respond, but he's suddenly hit with an overwhelming urge to...


The next thing he knows, he has his hands around Gavin's throat.

Nines jumps to his feet as Connor rounds the corner. The expression on Connor's face doesn't give anything away.

"Reed's going to be fine," Connor says, and Nines almost collapses at the relief he feels at that. "Bruised and in pain for a while, but otherwise fine."


"What the fuck happened?!" Hank yells, rounding the corner and staring angrily at Nines through the door of the holding cell. "Why would you fucking try to..."

"I don't know!" Nines practically yells, and Hank deflates at that. "I didn't want to! I... I don't know!"

"It's gotta be those fucking clips," Hank says, agitated and pacing. "Markus did this, somehow."

"Those video clips have been analyzed and viewed multiple times, by many androids," Connor says, surprisingly calmly given the situation. "Those shows were originally broadcast to thousands of people, human and android alike. There have only been four incidents, including this one. Nines himself watched them, previously, with no ill effects."

"And why the fuck didn't he kill him?" Hank asks, and Nines wants to know the answer to that as well. "In all of the other cases, video, and bam... someone's dead." Nines doesn't bother correcting Hank about the shopkeeper. "Nines sure as fuck had the upper hand here."

"RK series androids are built with stronger safeguards against deviancy," Connor says without looking over at Hank, continuing to study Nines' face. "Those safeguards ensure that we are able to more consciously override impulses that might cause us to deviate from our mission. It seems likely that, given Nines did not want to injure or kill Reed, he was able to sufficiently rein in whatever was causing him to behave in such a manner."

"Not enough," Nines says, turning around so he no longer has to see Connor and Hank looking at him. He's horribly disappointed with himself. "I still hurt him. I almost killed him."

"It's gotta be a virus," Hank says, calmer now. "What else would..."

Hank stops speaking, and Nines can hear a familiar set of footsteps approach the cell.

"You are supposed to be recovering at home, Detective," Connor says, confirming Nines' suspicions, and Nines feels his heart fall at it.

He doesn't want to turn around to see Gavin. Doesn't want to see the look on his face. Doesn't want to hear the accusations or hatred that he's sure will spew out of Gavin's mouth.

"Yeah, fuck off, Connor," Gavin says, angrily, confirming to Nines that he's not in a good mood. Nines wishes he were anywhere but here, right now.

"Gavin..." he starts, wanting to at least apologize before Gavin destroyed any hope he had of them getting along, of them still being friends. He isn't sure why the thought of losing Gavin's friendship terrifies him so much.

"You okay, Junkyard?" Gavin's voice is surprisingly calm and full of a surprising amount of concern.

"What?" That hadn't been in Nines' list of possible scenarios.

"I bashed your head into the desk," Gavin says, sounding annoyed now, like he's stating the obvious. "You okay?"

Nines allows himself to turn around. Gavin's wearing a neck brace, looking pissed off and like he's in a good amount of pain, but Nines realizes the anger isn't directed at him.

Gavin's upset for me.

"I'm... fine." Nines says. "But why aren't you upset with me?"

"Fuckin' Markus," Gavin says, spitting the name out, and Nines supposes that answers his question. "I'm gonna kill that motherfucker myself."

"I will remind you that Markus is still not a suspect in any of..." Connor starts, but Gavin moves toward him, threateningly, and he stops speaking.

"What the fuck else could it be? Who the fuck else could it be?"

"Nines," Connor says, ignoring Gavin and turning toward Nines again. "Have you run a complete systems diagnostic?"

Nines nods. "Twice, while I was sitting in here waiting. They're both normal, with the exception of minor damage to my right outer cranial plate, which does not impact any of my functions."

Gavin looks guilty at that, but doesn't say anything.

"You haven't directly interfaced with any other androids?" Connor asks, and even though Nines knows Connor's just being thorough, the question still feels more judgemental than it has any right to be.

"Junkyard hasn't been bumpin' uglies with any other plastic heads," Gavin says, and Nines wonders what it means that Gavin's coming to his defense. "I've been with him the whole time."

Nines doesn't want to point out that the statement isn't technically true. He answers Connor's question, instead. "The only android I have physically interfaced with is yourself, when I was first activated. Other than that, it has just been the usual identification protocols that..."

"Like I said," Gavin says, more resigned this time. "Nothin'."

"And as I myself do not seem to be infected, and we are more similar than many of the impacted models, it would seem that the virus does not spread through non-physical data sharing mechanisms," Connor says, completing Nines' thought for him. "Assuming we are dealing with a virus."

"I knew that fuckin' virologist didn't know what he was talkin' about," Gavin complains. "It's causing unintended behavior. It's spreading. That's a fuckin' virus. Don't gimme that 'There is no evidence of malicious code or infection' crap."

"What else do you have in common with the assailants?" Connor asks, ignoring Gavin's remark, and Nines knows he's already started running that analysis. He does so as well, even though he's already run it once, just so they don't miss anything.

"Nothing," Nines says, as the results of the analysis come in, unchanged from the previous time. "We're different models. Different manufacturing centers. I had never been at the locations of the crimes, or the androids' homes, before the incidents occurred. I have not been repaired at that particular shop. There is no other overlap with any potential transmission points between any two of the three androids and myself..."

"You ate its blood," Gavin says suddenly, and when Nines turns toward him, he's leaning against the wall, arms crossed, staring at Nines as if he'd had a sudden realization. "The third one. The blood on the ground."

"I placed a sample of her Thirium on my tongue for analysis," Nines says, confused now. "But what does that have to do with..."

"You guys, uh... drink that stuff, right? When you need to replenish yourselves?"

"Oral consumption is one possible mechanism for the intake of additional Thirium 310, yes," Connor says, looking as confused as Nines is. "But consuming it, and sampling it, are two different things."

Gavin shrugs, then winces in pain. "Same hole, right? I don't know why they fuckin' designed you that way, anyway. Couldn't your analysis whatever tool just be in your fingers? It's fuckin' disgusting to watch."

"Even if a small amount of Thirium was ingested from the sample..." Connor says, contemplative now. "Why would that..."

"A blood-borne virus," Gavin says, completing his thought.

"A blue blood-borne virus?" Hank seems unconvinced. "Is such a thing even possible?"

Nines knows Connor is performing the same search he is at the moment, and likewise coming up blank.

"There are no known..." they simultaneously start, and Gavin throws up his hands in frustration.

"Tweedledee and Tweedledum over here. Don't you guys silently synchronize or whatever so you don't talk over each other?"

"There are no known android viruses that can be transmitted through the ingestion or infusion of Thirium 310," Connor finishes for them when Nines doesn't continue.

"But it's possible," Hank says, and it's a statement as much as a question.

"Theoretically," Connor concedes. "Thirium 310 provides for the encoding and transmission of not only electrical signals and energy, but also small amounts of data. In androids, the flow of Thirium throughout the body acts somewhat as a secondary data transfer network, albeit a much slower one that can carry significantly less data, and with lower reliability. This data is what allows Nines and myself to identify androids from their blood."

"I always wondered about that..." Hank murmurs, contemplative now.

"It typically carries basic diagnostic information between the limbs and processing centers," Nines volunteers, even though he and Connor both already know all of this. "Ongoing diagnostic information is considered non-critical data, and this function of Thirium allows the conventional, faster connections to be dedicated to more time-sensitive operations, such as movement. This is why androids will typically stop moving when running active diagnostics checks, particularly on their extremities. However, data other than diagnostic information could be encoded. It would explain how I was infected despite not having directly shared data with any of the androids in question."

"Wait. Why don't your fancy diagnostics or whatever detect the virus? I thought they were supposed to be foolproof." That's Gavin, sounding more concerned for Nines than he would have expected.

"No detection is perfect," Hank says.

Connor shakes his head. "While you are not incorrect, Hank, diagnostics -- even complete ones -- do not analyze the data held inside Thirium. It would be a remarkably inefficient use of processing power, given the amount of data and time it would take to inspect every bit in circulation. Diagnostics simply measure that Thirium in the body is at optimal levels, and utilize the data inside Thirium for ongoing monitoring. Nines and myself likewise do not analyze that data when we take a sample. We simply read the markers indicating android identity and general systems health."

"Yeah, yeah, this is great speculation and all, but what do we do about it?" Gavin looks over at Nines, the expression on his face briefly turning serious before the exasperated smugness is back. "How do we fix Junkyard over here?"

"If we accept this theory, a complete replacement of the Thirium supply inside Nines' body should cure him, but it would have to be a complete replacement, as we have no way of isolating the affected units," Connor says, his voice filled with concern rather than relief, and Nines understands why.

"Sounds easy enough," Hank says. "Drain him and fill him back up. Maybe scrub him out in the meantime, right?"

"Um." Nines feels like he has to explain, even though it would likely be his own decision to make. "Such an operation has never been done. Once an android has been activated, its systems become... dependent on the energy from Thirium. Removal of large amounts of Thirium, never mind all Thirium, even for a short period of time, will cause irreversible systems damage, even if the android has been powered down. Recovery is theoretically possible if the Thirium is replaced quickly enough, but..." He trails off, not wanting to think about that possibility.

"Like that Traci at the Eden Club," Hank murmurs, and Nines remembers reading over the case he's referring to.


Gavin storms off and out of sight, and Nines feels another pang of guilt at it, even though he knows none of this is his fault.

"We will find an alternative," Connor says with more confidence than Nines thinks he would have himself, in the same situation. "As long as you don't mind staying in this cell for a while, Nines."

"What if we don't?" Nines needs to ask, even though he knows Connor is avoiding that line of thought. "I can't stay in here forever."

"We will find an alternative, brother," Connor repeats, sounding less sure of himself this time. "We have to."

Chapter End Notes

We finally have a cause for The Case (Cases, by this point), and hopefully a reasonably believable one. The fact that Connor is able identify androids by blood in the game, combined with the fact that Thirium 310 is able to be orally ingested from a common supply that is clearly not individually tailored to a given unit, suggested to me that the androids themselves are imprinting data within the Thirium 310. And where there's data, there's risk...

The last scene of this chapter has actually been written ever since I published Chapter Three, and we've just been working our way here since then. So while it's still true that I don't have an overall outline of the story, or how we're going to continue on from here (especially with actually getting Nines and Gavin together), this part, at least, has been reasonably prescriptive, and a heck of a lot of fun to write besides.

Hopefully it works in practice as well as it worked in my head.

More to come, as always.


Chapter Notes

Rapid progress is made on the case, including isolation of the virus itself, from the Thirium remaining in Alex's corpse. An analysis of Nines' own blood confirms that he's infected, in addition to the suspects from the other two cases. Connor tells Nines that they are tracing the source. Connor tells Nines that they are working with the city to screen the entire android population for the virus. Connor tells Nines that the work that he and Gavin did is going to save a lot of lives, human and android alike.

Nines is proud to have contributed.

Nines would feel even better if any progress had been made on an actual treatment.

"We have a fuckin' test. Just run fuckin' tests on repeated samples of Junkyard's blood and throw out the fuckin' bad ones." Gavin's pacing around outside Nines' cell, while Connor stands near a wall, thinking.

"As has been explained to you already, the test is extremely time-consuming. Testing every unit of blood in Nines' body would take literal years, or more resources to build additional testing devices than the hospital is willing to dedicate to this operation," Connor says. "There are no standard or mass-produced devices to examine this particular portion of Thirium. That is not an option."

"Then fuck testin'. Why can't we run some sort of scrubbin' device on the stuff? Delete all the data and pump it back in? It'd be just like fillin' him up with a new batch of the stuff, right?"

"There is no known device to remove the data held in Thirium," Connor says. "This was by design, so the forensic evidence present in Thirium could not be maliciously erased. Certain components in an android body are designed to write over the data as part of regular monitoring, but..."

"So write over all of it! With... whatever!"

"There is no telling what the presence of unexpected or foreign data in Thirium would do inside a body, as this virus has demonstrated. We would need to remove and utilize the components in Nines' body itself, while they are still attached to his other systems, to ensure data integrity and compatibility. Such an endeavor would come at great risk and could cause irreparable damage to more crucial systems."

"Well... then why can't we just do a... fuck ton of transfusions? Remove the old stuff, put new stuff in, repeat until he's clear?" Gavin seems particularly determined, and Nines feels bad that he has to reject the suggestion.

Fortunately, Connor does it for him. "Thirium does not circulate on a deterministic path. It is often called 'blue blood', and the comparison is particularly apt when it is inside the body, branching off into systems through multiple valves and tubes. Assuming a fairly even distribution of affected units, to clear enough of the old Thirium in his body to have even a 60% chance of eradicating the virus, while sufficiently maintaining his levels to prevent damage, we would require more Thirium than the Detroit Central Android Hospital holds in its reserves."

"Well, if it saves his life, why the fuck not? 60% is a hell of a lot better than... whatever chance he has if you have to flush it all out or whatever, right? And if it doesn't work, we do it again after they've... replenished."

"And how many androids suffering from Thirium loss die in the meantime?" Nines asks, pointedly. "Absolutely not. Besides, we need a solution that will work for everyone infected. I am not special."

"Then what about a transfer?" Gavin asks. "If the issue is in the blood, a new body should have fresh, uninfected blood, right? You guys can do that interface thing and jump around between bodies, right? Which is also fuckin' creepy, by the way."

"No complete android bodies have been constructed in over 10 years," Nines says, without bothering to explain why. He knows that Gavin already knows that the lack of new, complete bodies had been one of the big points of contention in the negotiated agreements after The Revolution. Androids already lived significantly longer than humans. Humans didn't want them to be immortal.

"And even if there was one available, Nines' stored data is incompatible with any model other than an RK series," Connor says, completing the thought. "There are only four known RK-series androids that were completed and not subsequently destroyed, Nines excluded. All were activated, and all are currently active, and Nines is unlikely to be compatible with Markus, which leaves three others, including myself."

"Give up your life to save your brother?" Gavin asks Connor with a smirk, and Nines isn't sure how serious Gavin intends the suggestion to be.

"That is not an option," Nines says sharply, honestly not knowing if Connor would ever agree to such a thing, but knowing that he himself would never let him.

"Well, I don't see you offerin' anything particularly better," Gavin spits out, bitterly, before storming off again. Nines' eyes follow him until he disappears out of sight around the corner.

"Gavin is agitated," Nines says after a bit, unsure of why he was stating his observation out loud.

Connor shrugs, seemingly relieved that Gavin's gone, even though Nines finds his absence unsettling, for some reason. "Reed is worried about you."


"Wouldn't you be worried if it were me inside that cell right now?"

Nines doesn't bother answering that question. He knows that Connor knows the answer already. "But it's Gavin. He wouldn't worry if it was you. He would probably celebrate if it was you. So why is he worried about me?"

"The two of you are friends," Connor responds. "It is natural to be more concerned about your friends."

"Still..." Nines thinks that Connor is probably right, even as he realizes he'd been hoping there was more to it than that.

"Would you like me to start bringing you work in your cell?" Connor asks, changing the subject. "There is apparently no risk of violence against androids, and it might be good for you to have something to do and keep yourself occupied."

Nines thinks, randomly, that Gavin would take the opportunity to tease Connor about his policies on employee sick leave, but Nines thinks Connor is probably right.

"I would like that," he says.

Connor nods. "I will find a desk for you, and bring some assignments that can be handled from here. Please let me know if you need anything else."

"Thank you," Nines says. ""

Connor smiles at him.

Nines spends the holidays in the cell.

It isn't what he'd imagined for his first one, but even if Connor or Hank had even entertained the idea of letting him out, he wouldn't have agreed. He was too big a risk.

The last person he expects to see Christmas Eve -- after Hank and Connor have headed home for the night at Nines' insistence, even if just for Riki's sake -- is Gavin, who shows up just before midnight, wordlessly rolling the chair from his desk over and parking it front of the cell. The bruises on Gavin's neck have mostly faded away and he's no longer wearing the neck brace, and Nines is glad for the lack of a constant reminder of what he had done.

Even though that shouldn't be news, because he has seen Gavin around a few times, this is their first time alone since the attack, and Nines is glad both that Gavin really doesn't seem to blame him, and also for the longer conversation that the chair indicates. He's missed afternoon coffee breaks with Gavin.

"Merry Christmas?" Nines tries.

"Whatever, Junkyard," Gavin says, sitting in the chair and crossing his arms and legs as he stares at Nines, a ghost of a smile on his face. "The holidays are stupid anyway, y'know?"

"I... don't," Nines says. "This is my first one."

Gavin's expression briefly falls -- maybe pity, Nines thinks -- before hardening again. Gavin nods. "Right. Well, you're not missin' much. A bunch of people gettin' drunk and yellin' at each other and eatin' overcooked food with relatives you can't stand in a house that's too small but you can't escape because it's too fuckin' cold outside."

It's the most information Gavin has ever provided, much less volunteered, about his family, and Nines thinks it sounds exactly like he would've expected Gavin's family would be like.

He resists the urge to ask about them directly. Gavin still seemed reluctant to speak about his personal life with Nines. "Are you going to go see them tomorrow?"

Gavin shakes his head. "Nah. It's too far to drive. Had a flight tonight, but I decided I'd rather avoid that entire mess this year."

Nines hopes Gavin really means that. Nines hopes Gavin hadn't changed his plans because of him.

Nines hopes, maybe a little, that Gavin had changed his plans because of him.

"Anyway," Gavin continues, looking a bit sheepish now. "I thought that, since..."

Gavin's interrupted by the buzzing of his phone at exactly midnight. Nines wonders who could be calling Gavin at this hour. Nines wonders if it means Gavin has to leave.

Nines is selfish and doesn't want Gavin to leave.

Gavin, for his part, seems to be expecting the interruption, reaching into his pocket and rejecting the call, or whatever it was.

"Is that your family calling?" Nines asks as he watches Gavin stand and, instead of leaving, as he expects, unzip his coat and reach into it.

"Nah." Gavin pulls out a wrapped package. "Just had an alarm for midnight. Since it's technically Christmas now, you can have this now."

Nines finds himself speechless as Gavin unlocks the door just long enough to hand him the gift. It's lighter than he would have expected for its size, and he stands there scanning the frankly appalling wrapping job over and over, for some reason, feeling like he's tearing up at the sight of it.

"Well?" Gavin says, and when Nines looks at him, he's standing with his arms crossed, looking at Nines expectantly. "You gonna open it?"

"But I didn't get you anything."

"Yeah, well. You're forgiven 'cause you've been stuck in that fuckin' cell for a while. Also you don't have money or whatever anyway, right? Just fuckin' open it."

Nines does, after one last scan that serves no real purpose given his now-extensive record of the packaging. It's a metallic silver thermos that looks particularly solid.

"You got me a thermos?"

"It's a fuckin' spill-proof coffee cup," Gavin says. "Impact-proof, too. In case you feel the urge to get me coffee again. Which, by the way, I expect on my desk every afternoon once we bust you out of this joint."

Nines starts to object that Gavin has gifted him something that Nines personally wouldn't and couldn't use, and that would oblige Nines to do something for Gavin. But then he really sees the way Gavin's smirking at him, Gavin's expression filled with a surprising amount of apprehension for Nines' reaction, and it suddenly makes sense.

Gavin is apologizing for our rough start. He's telling me that he enjoys making small talk with me over coffee. He's saying he misses me.

Gavin appreciates me.

"I will bring you a coffee every afternoon," Nines says, smiling now. "But it will be cold and contain an inordinate quantity of sugar."

"'Course it fuckin' would," Gavin says, grinning even though he seems to be trying to look annoyed. "Fuckin' androids."

"Merry Christmas, Gavin."

Gavin nods and turns away so Nines can't see the expression on his face.

"Yeah, yeah. Merry Christmas, Junkyard. Or whatever."

Gavin visits Nines almost every day over the holidays, complaining about his work, or the elevator in his apartment, or the food he'd just eaten. Nines learns more facts about Gavin's life in a few days than the previous months combined.

Nines likes learning more about Gavin's life, and he likes that it feels now like Gavin is volunteering the information rather than reluctantly responding to Nines' inquiries.

Nines tells Gavin about Riki, and how he'd felt when he first encountered snow, and about a TV show he'd been watching to have something to do in the cell, and how Hank had previously been teaching him how to cook even though it was never a skill he'd need to use.

Gavin acts annoyed, or exasperated, while he's doing so, but Gavin keeps coming back, and Gavin keeps bringing the conversation back to Nines and his life.

Nines is pretty sure Gavin actually wants to learn more about him.

When work officially starts up again, Gavin shows up one morning with a small table and parks his desk chair next to it, in front of Nines' cell. He doesn't always sit at it, especially when he takes up cases that require his presence at crime scenes, but it's often enough that Nines thinks it's more common for him to look up and see Gavin sitting outside, typing on his phone, than not.

Well, not technically more common. But if only working hours are taken into account, it's surprisingly close.

Nines asks Gavin, one day, why he's spending so much time outside Nines' cell. Gavin shrugs and puts on an annoyed face, even though he's blushing.

"Just don't want you to forget what it's like havin' me around, so you can be ready to go once we bust you out of there."

The response doesn't make any sense, especially given Nines' ability to call up exact records of every interaction he and Gavin have ever had, but he understands that Gavin doesn't want to talk about it, and doesn't push further.

Connor keeps him updated on progress around the case, and brings a file summarizing the findings one day. Nines scans it quickly, looking for any information indicating a possible treatment.

He doesn't find any.

So Nines remains in the cell.

"Lemme get this straight," Hank says, after Nines finishes his explanation. "Some worker at a manufacturing plant, just before The Revolution, went deviant, went berserk, was shut down, and then... left there?"

"It does seem improbable, although the general chaos of The Revolution that followed may have led to the abandonment of her deactivated body. As the unit was unable to be recovered, we have only the CyberLife records indicating what happened to her as a basis from which to draw a conclusion."

Closing the case had become easy once they'd located the original source of the outbreak: black market Thirium 310 at the repair shop, used on the infected androids, and originally harvested from an android at a manufacturing facility prior to its disassembly by the automated machines. The serial number of the unit had been trivially derived from the Thirium remaining at the shop, and records for the unit had been easy to locate in the CyberLife archives.

"So why didn't they... wake her up when they were collecting up all the bodies? Aren't they supposed to test everything before they send it off for destruction?"

"She may not have been recoverable, but even if she was... they didn't test me," Nines points out. "Android workers often take shortcuts just like human workers do. If her body was in one of the manufacturing rooms, it would have simply been collected up with all of the units that had still been undergoing assembly."

"And some minimum wage fucker looking to make a quick buck siphoned off some blood to sell." Hank looks disgusted. "Used blood. Who does that?!"

"While Thirium 310 is not reused after it has circulated in an android body by convention, there was no strict prohibition before, and the pristine Thirium from units that were still being assembled would likely not have posed a threat," Nines says. "Now there is a concrete reason to prohibit recirculation of previously-used Thirium, and I would expect such prohibitions to become law."

"So this worker... what? Hated humans and imprinted that hatred, somehow, in her blood? Saw that speech Markus gave about freedom and associated that with her hatred of humans?"

Nines nods. "There is a lot that is still not understood about androids. For example, no one understands how sentience or deviancy occurred, but they occurred nevertheless. All android systems grow and evolve with the individual. It stands to reason that Thirium has become a part of that."

Hank shakes his head. "You're getting too philosophical for me now, kiddo. But sure. Biology does all sorts of weird and fucked up things, and no one understands how the human brain and consciousness works, so I guess I can accept the same thing for the mechanical version."

Nines is nodding in agreement when he notices Gavin, peering around the corner at them, but disappearing again when he sees Hank there. Nines' expression must change, because Hank looks at him funny.

"What?" Hank asks, looking in the direction of Nines' gaze and seeing nothing there.

"Nothing," Nines says, feeling somehow embarrassed by his apparent reaction to Gavin's presence.

"Don't give me that bull crap. You saw something. You looked... happy."

"Oh." Nines thinks that shouldn't be anything to be ashamed of, at least. "Gavin was passing by."

Hank snorts. "Ah yeah, that fucker. I'm still surprised he didn't give you hell for what you did to him. Well, what the virus made you... never mind. You know what I'm saying."

"Gavin understood that I was not myself," Nines says, feeling like he needs to defend the man. "He is... understanding. In general."

"Riiight," Hank says. "One of his many fine attributes, I'm sure."

"He is... brave," Nines says, taking the prompt literally. "Intelligent. Skilled. He has a capacity for compassion that is..."

"We're talking about Reed, right?!" Hank interrupts, disbelief in his voice. "Gavin Reed?"

"He has been spending much of his time at the station here, with me."

"Because the man is looking for any excuse to get out of doing work," Hank says. "It doesn't mean he cares about you."

"We are... friends," Nines says, sure now that the term applies to the two of them. "You and I are friends, and you have been spending a large amount of your time here with me, as well."

"That's different."

"You are being obstinate," Nines says, sounding more accusatory than he intended. "Why can you not simply be happy with the fact that Gavin and I have managed to foster a friendship?"

Hank looks conflicted. "I... just don't want you to get hurt, kiddo. We've talked about this."

"We have, and I told you that I can take care of myself."

Hank nods. "So you did. Then... I'm happy for you, Nines."

"Thank you."

"I just don't want it to come back and bite you later, okay? I care about you, kiddo."

Nines chooses to ignore the first part. He doesn't like the feeling he gets from the thought that Hank still dislikes Gavin, and his friendship with Gavin. "I care about you too, Hank."

Chapter End Notes

The good news is: The rest of this fic is "done". All of the big scenes are sketched out (and most of them are written); I spent most of my writing time over the past week doing that instead of working on my NaNoWriMo companion fic Caught In The Storm, but it was necessary to really know what I was doing for CITS. So! This means this fic (MITTS) will be updating every Friday until it's done (which at this point looks like roughly 14 chapters, so another 5 to go).

The weird news is: 5 more chapters after this puts us into mid-December, and after the end of NaNoWriMo, and a lot of what I want to write for CITS is spoilers for this fic (and in particular wants to build off of or reference parts of the epilogue to MITTS). I'm considering breaking the final two chapters (the epilogue of cute Nines/Gavin fluffy moments) out into a separate fic and posting it sooner, or something like that. Or we'll just let CITS get ahead of MITTS for a few weeks since none of the "spoilers" will really matter anyway. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, CITS will update sporadically throughout the month (not on Fridays) as I finish writing things, and I'll be tackling that in earnest now.

In My Head

Chapter Notes

A few days after the new year, Connor shows up outside Nines' cell with a woman he's never met before.

"This is Dr. Ellis," Connor says as Nines stands from his desk and moves to the glass front of the cell.

Nines likes the sense of hope he gets at the introduction, especially after a quick search reveals that there is a Dr. Ellis working in virology at the Central Detroit Android Hospital.

"My name is Nines," he says, holding out his hand automatically and immediately feeling awkward about it. "It is nice to meet you."

She smiles at him. "It's nice to meet you too, Nines. I'm here today to let you know that we have a potential treatment for your infection, but it would..."

"Yes," Nines interrupts. "I'll do it."

"You don't even know what the procedure involves yet," Connor chides. "Let the doctor finish."

"Apologies..." Nines says, trying to get his eagerness under control. He find he's a little too enthusiastic about the thought of leaving the cell and seeing Riki again.

And being able to fetch coffee for Gavin again, with the mug Gavin had gifted him.

"That's quite alright," Dr. Ellis says, understanding his keenness. "We have come into possession of a device that is capable of erasing the data within Thirium 310. For obvious reasons, access to the device is being extremely tightly controlled, and we would perform the procedure in this holding cell. The device itself has not, to our knowledge, been used on a deviant android before, and we are unsure of what the risks may be from such a procedure. Our expectation is that you will experience extreme discomfort as the device cleanses your blood, and it will take some time for your systems to fully re-encode each bit of Thirium after the process is complete, which will likely manifest as false systems errors for a period of time after that. I would suggest beginning with shorter treatments to gauge their effects before we attempt to perform a complete cleanse. Such a complete cleanse would take several days at the device's rate of processing, and we would require you to frequently watch videorecordings of Markus throughout the process to determine its effectiveness, in a manner similar to the screening mechanisms we used to evaluate the android population for infection."

Nines waits for her to continue, but that seems to be all for now. "I understand. I want to do this."

She smiles at him again. "I thought you might. I'm going to send you a complete overview of everything I said, with some further technical details and analysis. If you formally consent to the process after that, we should be able to have a nurse here tomorrow to attempt the first treatment. I must reiterate that this procedure has never been performed before, its results are not guaranteed, and its risks are not necessarily understood."

"Thank you," Nines says, trying to contain his excitement. "I understand. That still sounds... acceptable."

"Then we should discuss security procedures," she says, turning to Connor.

"Of course," Connor says, turning away from the cell. "We can discuss arrangements in my office."

Connor smiles at Nines as they walk away, and as Nines returns to his work, he feels a huge rush of relief.

He hopes it works.

"We have a proposed treatment," Nines tells Gavin as he pulls up his usual chair that afternoon, the requisite cup of coffee steaming in his hand.

"Oh?" Gavin asks, but he doesn't seem surprised, and Nines expects he'd already heard about it.

"They found a device capable of erasing Thirium data. I have been reading through the technical analyses of the process and potential impact, and they do not seem inherently risky or problematic."

"I'm glad," Gavin says, seemingly distracted from the conversation, and from his reaction, Nines has a sudden realization.

"You had something to do with this, didn't you?"

Gavin shrugs. "So what if I did?"

Nines isn't sure he understands his feelings at the moment. "What did you do?"

"Nothin'," Gavin says, setting his feet up on the desk and leaning back in the chair as he looks anywhere but at Nines.


"Look, I'm happy for you, okay, Junkyard?" Gavin says, frustrated now. "Can we talk about somethin' else?"

Nines doesn't want to let Gavin change the subject, but he goes along anyway, telling Gavin about his current case.

He notices Gavin won't look him in the eyes the entire time.

Nines tries to tell himself that it doesn't matter where the device came from, and that Gavin had probably just had a bad day, but the interaction continues to bother him until that evening, when he decides he has to do something about it.

< Connor?

> Yes? Connor responds, almost immediately, even though Nines knows he'd currently be buried in paperwork at home, like usual.

< Where did the device come from?

Connor doesn't respond for a while, and Nines grows increasingly antsy waiting.

> You should ask Reed, Connor says finally, more or less confirming Nines' suspicions from earlier.

< I did, and he changed the subject.

There's another long pause, and Nines tries to think what Gavin could have possibly done to locate or build such a device, when Connor finally responds.

> The device came from Kamski. It is the last remaining unit from his early work with Thirium, when it was significantly more difficult to produce and needed to be reused, and data encoding had not been standardized.

Nines starts to wonder why there were no known records of such a device's existence, and starts to ask what Gavin's involvement was, when Connor messages again.

> I would request that you not reveal to Reed that I have given you this information, as very few people are privy to it, and even Hank is unaware of its origins. I would also ask that you not inquire further about how we came into its possession, Connor says.

< I will not tell Gavin, and I will not ask further questions about it, Nines agrees, even though he really wants to, sure now that Gavin had somehow gotten a hold of the device, for him.

> Detective Reed cares about you a great deal, Connor says in response, maybe as a bit of a concession, because Nines knows that Connor knows that he'd still be curious about Gavin's involvement. And has an unconventional way of doing things.

That actually answers, at least somewhat, Nines' question. He can easily imagine Gavin storming up to Kamski's residence, demanding to be let in, and threatening the man to provide any tools or help he could. He could also imagine Gavin being embarrassed afterward about having done it, especially when unintentionally confronted by Nines about it, because he knows it would tell Nines how much he cared about him.

He only hopes that Gavin hadn't gotten into legal or procedural trouble doing it.

< He does, Nines responds, hoping Connor will continue the conversation, but being unsurprised when he receives no further messages.

He turns on the TV instead, tuned to the same show that he and Hank have been separately watching so he can discuss it with Hank tomorrow.

He's looking forward to the procedure.

"How you feelin'?" Gavin asks as he rolls his chair over and parks himself in front of Nines' cell again.

Nines likes the sense of relief he gets with the thought that it means Gavin's staying with him for more than just a minute.

"My systems do not... understand what is occurring," Nines says, unsure how to explain either the feeling or all of the warnings popping up in his vision, even though the first treatment was a shorter one. "Even though I know my limbs are present, and can control them, it feels like I am missing them, along with most of my torso."

He moves some fingers, just to be sure, and they respond the way he expects even though everything's telling him that the arm in question is currently detached.

Seeing the movement helps ease some of the growing panic, at least.

"Poor baby," Gavin coos, and even though it's intended as an insult, it has a surprising amount of empathy behind it. "You need someone to hold your hand?"

Nines likes the idea of Gavin holding his hand more than he thinks he should, but he doesn't want to admit it. And the current situation gives him a convenient excuse to reject the suggestion, anyway.

"It would not be safe for you inside this cell," Nines says, and Gavin seems to flush.

"It was supposed to be a fuckin' insult, not a fuckin' suggestion," Gavin mutters, turning away from Nines and staring off into the distance instead.

Nines doesn't understand why Gavin would be blushing.

Nines wonders if that means Gavin wants to hold his hand.

Gavin disappears before Nines can inquire further, apparently having decided that he wasn't staying, after all.

Nines smashes into the glass before he knows what he's doing, and once he fully regains control again, he's surprised to see that Gavin hadn't moved, or even flinched.

He supposes Gavin's used to violent people being held in these cells.

"Not quite there yet," the nurse -- DNA-4 -- says, turning off the video recording of Markus on the TV screen. "Please sit back down, Nines, and I'll hook you up again."

"It's been three days," Nines says, frustrated, nevertheless sitting down again as the nurse fiddles with some tubes and forcing himself to stare at the wall while he does.

At least he'd gotten used to the constant errors in his vision now, their presence having somehow faded into the background after so many days.

"How do we know this is workin'?" Gavin asks, looking equally frustrated now. "He's still reactin' badly."

"It's working," Nines says, sure that it's not just wishful thinking. "The time between exposure and my reaction is increasing. That should indicate there is less problematic material in circulation, and the last blood test didn't show signs of infection."

"I'll come back again tonight," DNA-4 says, turning on the device again. "Since it is Friday, I will be staying in the cell with you tonight and over the weekend to maintain the required oversight of the device. Contact me if you have any issues in the meantime, Nines. As always, you can turn off the device with the large switch there, but please do not disconnect yourself from it."

"Thank you," Nines says, waiting until DNA-4 leaves the cell and firmly locks the door before daring to turn back to Gavin, and feeling a sense of relief when he doesn't have the same reaction this time.

"So." Gavin stuffs his hands into his pockets. "I see you still hate my guts."

Nines is afraid for a second that Gavin was serious -- maybe worrying that Nines was upset about their last few awkward interactions -- until he really sees the smirk threatening to appear on Gavin's face.

"Of course," he says, smiling so Gavin knows he isn't serious. "If I hadn't been on that case with you, I wouldn't be in this predicament now."

He realizes immediately after he says it that it was the wrong thing to say. Gavin shuffles his feet, looking guilty now. "Yeah, I..."

"I was kidding," Nines says. "None of this is your fault in any way. I... apologize. That was in extremely poor taste."

Gavin nods, but still looks uncomfortable. "Well, uh... I should probably go finish up these reports before the weekend so Connor doesn't kick my fuckin' ass."

Nines resists the urge to point out that Gavin hadn't been here for long, after being pulled over by the nurse for the reaction test. "I understand," he says. "I will bring you a coffee on Monday."

That works, and Gavin grins. "You'd better," he says, and then he's gone.


Nines looks back at the TV screen showing a recording of Markus' speech -- this one from during The Revolution, pulled from the archives, just for a change of pace -- and then back to Gavin's face.

"No. Your face is finally tolerable, Detective."

"Fuck you," Gavin says, even as the grin on his face seems to be threatening to split it in half.

"Dr. Ellis would like to continue running the device for another day, just to ensure there are no remaining issues," DNA-4 says, his voice full of relief, and Nines likes how much he feels like the two of them had bonded over the weekend. He'd also been more than happy to have company he could actually interact with. "I will also continue drawing samples of blood for analysis in the meantime, just to double-check."

"Do what you gotta do but he's fuckin' cured," Gavin says, staring into Nines' eyes until Nines has to look away.

He thinks he's uncomfortable now because he likes Gavin looking at him too much.

"Please sit back down, Nines," DNA-4 instructs, and Nines does, glad for the excuse to avoid Gavin's gaze, at least for a bit. "I will also leave the TV on. Please continue sporadically watching and looking over at Detective Reed. Detective, if you must leave, please request that Detective Anderson take your place."

"Real fuckin' scientific test here," Gavin says, and Nines can hear him sit back at his desk outside the cell. "'Does Junkyard Still Want To Kill Humans: The Incredibly Accurate Test Of Staring At Me'."

"It may be unconventional, but it is accurate and effective," Nines says.

"It is rather unconventional though," DNA-4 agrees, clicking the device on again and making sure it's working properly before quickly extracting a small amount of Thirium from one of the tubes. "The sheer potency of this virus is unprecedented, as even a small infection has a significant effect, but it means a visual test is also highly effective. If you'll excuse me, I will take this sample back for analysis. I will return this evening for another sample. Dr. Ellis may accompany me tonight, but if she does not, she will be here tomorrow to formally discharge you. So to speak."

Nines watches Gavin unlock the door, and DNA-4 leaves with a final wave to him.

"So how'd you like your roomie?" Gavin asks with a smirk when he's gone. "You two just fuck all weekend?"

"You are welcome to pull the camera footage and find out," Nines says, feeling a confusing combination of feelings at the question, partially because of the person who had asked it. "I suppose that D is not unattractive, but..."

"D?" Gavin asks, his smirk turning into a grin.

Nines attempts to roll his eyes, but isn't not sure whether he'd actually succeeded or not. "DNA-4 is not unattractive, but..."

"What a fuckin' stupid name," Gavin says, interrupting again and blushing, for some reason, as he sits back down in his chair. "Who names themselves 'DNA-4'?"

"My name is 'Nines'," Nines points out.

"And that's why I call you Junkyard," Gavin responds, his expression falling somewhat, as if he feels guilty for the nickname.

Nines takes the opportunity to turn back to the TV, staring at Markus' face for a bit before glancing back at Gavin. "Still good," he says, feeling more and more relieved each time he does this.

Gavin nods. "So, uh... tell me 'bout this show you've been watchin'."

"It's pretty boring. It's just an android, standing there and talking about how androids are sentient and want to..."

"Fuck you," Gavin says, more sharply than Nines would expect and with annoyance in his voice as he realizes Nines is describing the current video clip looping on the TV.

"Sorry," Nines says, not sure why Gavin suddenly looks so uncomfortable, given his response would not be out of place in their usual banter. He wonders if Gavin still blames Markus, in some way, for what had happened with him. He pushes that thought aside. "In the latest episode of the reality show I have been watching..."

The treatment is successful, and Nines isn't sure whether he or Hank is more relieved when he returns home to an overly-excited Riki. Even just being able to take an evening walk with the dog again feels like a luxury after weeks in a holding cell.

He returns to work, assigned for the next few weeks to watch over the device and its patients as the few other infected androids are brought in and repaired. He's glad to be able to help, and it feels somehow like he's finally closing the case, even though it had officially been resolved for weeks.

Over the next few weeks, even though they're no longer on a case together, Nines and Gavin also continue their tradition of afternoon coffee breaks -- in person again -- with Nines showing up at Gavin's desk with the thermos mug full of black coffee, and Gavin stopping whatever he was doing to join him.

Nines often finds himself staring at Gavin -- at the way his Adam's apple bobs as he speaks, or his hair curls gently over his ears, or the skin between his eyebrows crinkles when he frowns, or his eyes glint when he's teasing.

Nines particularly likes Gavin's eyes.

He's beautiful, he finds himself thinking one day, and immediately feeling horrified by the thought. Gavin was his friend. Nines valued Gavin's friendship more than most other things in his life, including his now-official employment with the DPD.

Nines tells himself that he's not allowed to view Gavin in that way and ruin what they have, especially as he realizes over the weeks that he does indeed have feelings for the man that extend beyond mere friendship, and desire beyond simply finding the man attractive.

He tells himself this even when he catches Gavin staring at him one day, his expression full of something that Nines thinks is familiar, and immediately looking away when Nines meets his gaze.

Especially then.

Nines starts to make excuses to avoid coffee, not liking the feeling he gets when he's alone with Gavin now -- a longing to touch the man that leaves him feeling guilty even though he truly enjoys the conversations and time together -- and the fear he gets from the thought that Gavin would find out, and Gavin would be disgusted, and Gavin would no longer want anything to do with him.

He wonders if he should talk to someone. He's pretty sure he couldn't talk to Hank, who still seems overprotective of him, at least with respect to Gavin. He doesn't think Connor would understand his current situation, even if the two of them were extremely similar.

So he doesn't talk to anyone and tries to avoid Gavin instead, timing meetings and conversations where he can to overlap with what had become the usual coffee time in the afternoons to avoid having to be alone with the man.

"Fuck's up with you, J?" Gavin practically yells at him one day -- using the variant of 'Junkyard' he seems to have settled on after Nines' release -- when Gavin stops by Nines' desk to ask about coffee and Nines makes another flimsy excuse.

"I have been... busy," Nines says, wondering now how he'd never considered that Gavin would have noticed what he was doing, and would be upset about what he was doing. He'd been so wrapped up in his own predicament that he hadn't stopped to consider Gavin's feelings.

"No fuckin' kidding. I didn't get you that fuckin' mug so you could bail on me every fuckin' day!"

Nines forces himself to stare Gavin in the eyes, seizing on the object as an excuse. "No, you got me a mug so I could be your 'coffee boy' and your personal servant. I am a fellow officer, Gavin. Not your pet."

Nines hates it even as he says it, and isn't sure exactly why he says it, but his analysis indicates it's likely to get Gavin off his back, at least for the moment, until he can figure out what he's actually going to do about the situation.

It does work, and Gavin storms off, but the cost is a brief look of deep hurt in Gavin's eyes that feels like it's ripping Nines' heart out. And Nines immediately, more than anything, wishes he could take it back.

Chapter End Notes

Just because the case is over doesn't mean the drama is. ;)

CITS will likely overtake this chapter of MITTS this weekend (or if not, next week). My plan at this point is probably just to let it, since the remaining parts of MITTS are two chapters where we actually get Nines and Gavin together, and then two chapters of fluffy epilogue scenes, so there's not too much to spoil given this is a Reed900 fic.

We're nearly there!

By A Thread

Chapter Notes

Since this Friday will be full of the craziness of Thanksgiving and related events, you get the Friday update early, this week!

(It's like Black Friday specials all week except nothing like that at all...)

Nines tries to initiate coffee time the following day, but Gavin ignores his voice and storms off when he attempts to set the mug of coffee down at Gavin's desk, knocking the mug to the ground on his way out.

It is, as advertised, spill-proof and impact-proof, but Nines would rather have not found out in this manner.

He doesn't blame the man, in any way, but after another week of failed attempts, he decides he really needs to do something about it. So he approaches the only person he thinks he could talk to about things, wondering why he hadn't just done this sooner.

"Can we talk?"

Tina looks up at him from her desk, and her expression hardens before she stares at him for a bit.

"We have nothing to talk about," she says, turning back to her computer dismissively.

"I screwed up," Nines says, remembering now how protective Tina had always been of Gavin, and realizing that he's probably screwed up more than just his friendship with Gavin.

"Uh huh."

"I... did not have someone I could talk to about things. I made a mistake. I need to know how to fix it."

"I have a lot of work to do," Tina says, her voice betraying the anger he knows she's feeling now. "And it isn't my job to clean up your 'mistakes'. I'm not your pet, Nines."

Of course.

Nines doesn't know how he had thought that Gavin wouldn't talk to Tina. Nines doesn't know how he'd failed so badly at the entire situation.

Nines hates that he'd allowed his feelings to get in the way and cause the very thing he'd been trying to avoid.

"Please, Tina," he says, practically begging. "I... cannot talk to Hank about the situation. I cannot talk to Connor."

"Not my problem," she says, glaring up at him now. "Also, for the record? Fuck you. Now leave me alone before I do something we'll both regret."

"I allowed my romantic feelings for Gavin to get in the way of our friendship. I was terrified, and didn't know what to do about it, so I pushed him away. I need to know how to fix it."

It's desperate, to be sure, and it takes all the courage that Nines can muster to speak the words out loud for the first time. But it works, because Tina's expression changes to confusion, then realization, before settling back on anger.

"What the fuck did you just say?"

"Please don't make me repeat it," Nines says, sure that he wouldn't have the courage to say it twice. "I... know I hurt him. It was stupid. It was..."

"'Stupid' is fucking right," she says, but her expression softens as she continues staring at him.

Nines looks away.

"Please don't tell him," Nines says, panicking now at the thought of what he knows would happen if Gavin knew. "I am hoping I have not irrevocably damaged my friendship with him, and with you. But if he found out, I would..."

"I won't tell him," Tina says. "But you really fucked up, Nines."

"I am aware," Nines says, daring to look back at her. "Please. I need your help."

Tina turns back to her computer. "I have work to do, Nines."

Nines feels the last of his hope fade away, and resigns himself to the inevitable outcome. "I understand. I will leave you to..."

"I'll talk to him," she says, then glares up at him again. "Now fuck off."

Under her harsh gaze, and with a glimmer of hope restored, Nines is more than happy to oblige.

"You ready to talk about it?" Hank asks out of the blue that evening while they're walking Riki together.

Nines hates that the question surprises him. It's yet another reminder that his mind is so distracted at the moment that he had failed to properly analyze yet another person in his life.

Looking back now, he realizes Hank had been growing ever more concerned about him over the past few weeks. He realizes Hank had been giving him space. He wonders if Connor had asked Hank to give him space. He wonders if Connor was worrying about him, too.

He worries what Hank will say if Nines tells him that he's upset because he screwed up his friendship with Gavin, after Hank had more or less warned him about this exact scenario, and worried about him because of this exact scenario.

Well, maybe not this exact scenario.

"No," he says. "This is something I need to work out on my own."

"This doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you and Gavin had some kind of fight, does it?" Hank asks, not ready to let Nines off so easily.

Nines wonders whether he should lie. Nines wonders if he could make up something reasonably convincing.

Nines decides lying is what got him into this situation in the first place.

"It wasn't his fault," Nines says. "You warned me that I was setting myself up for disappointment. And you were right. But not because of him. This was because of me."

"Whoa whoa whoa," Hank says, stopping in his tracks, and staring at Nines in surprise. "I what?"

"Around ten weeks ago, we had a conversation while on a walk similar to this. You worried I would get hurt if I attempted to foster a friendship with Gavin. When I was in the cell, you reiterated that concern. You were correct, but not because he..."

"Fuck," Hank says, seemingly remembering the conversations now. "Nines, is that why you haven't been talking to me about this?"

Hank's voice is so full of regret now that Nines immediately feels ashamed. "I was... afraid. Of disappointing you."

"No, kiddo." Hank wraps Nines up in a tight hug, ignoring Riki's whines. "No no no. You could never disappoint me, you hear?"

"I... do," Nines says, resisting the urge to add 'now' to the end.

Hank moves his hands to Nines' shoulders, holding him at arms' length and staring into his eyes. "Nines. I was wrong, okay?"

"You were... wrong?"

"I should have told you sooner. Fuck. I thought it was obvious, so I guess I just... fuck."

Even though Hank seems to be upset at himself now, Nines can't help but feel a huge sense of relief. "You were wrong," he repeats, even though he doesn't understand quite what Hank is getting at. "It's not your fault for not telling me. I should have known. I have been... distracted, recently."

Hank just nods. "Look, Nines. You did something I never thought would've been possible, okay? You befriended Gavin. Actually befriended him. I was worried about you before because I thought you were embarking on a fools' errand and would regret it later when that fucker did something and ditched you again like when you two first started working together. But that clearly didn't happen."

"Except it did, and it's all my fault."

Riki barks in frustration and Hank sighs, dropping his arms and walking again, and Nines lets Riki pull him along. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

"I..." Nines starts, before realizing he doesn't think he actually could. He trusts Hank, but he's still too afraid of what his feelings mean to talk about them. "I thought that Gavin and I were seeing too much of each other, and I asked him to give me some space, but in a way that was... extremely personal and deeply injuring to him."

"Because of me," Hank says, pain in the words, and it's almost enough to make Nines spill everything.

"No!" Nines insists. "The concerns you had expressed did not have any bearing on my actions. I worried that our friendship would start to impact my work, but my analysis of the situation was flawed." It's mostly the truth, and enough that Nines thinks Hank would get the point.

"Mm," Hank says. "Well, as I also said before, you were designed to analyze crimes and cases, not relationships."

"You were correct about that as well," Nines says, feeling guilty for having dismissed that, too.

"Stop it," Hank says, a bit of anger creeping in now as he stops walking again. "You two really connected, okay? I'm sure that, whatever you said, he'll get over it. Gavin's a tough motherfucker."

"I... hope that you are correct."

Hank smiles, briefly, at that. "Well, if you think I'm usually correct, you have no reason to doubt this conclusion either, do you?"

Nines likes the sense of hope he gets from that.

Nothing happens for a few days, and Gavin still avoids him around the station, and Nines feels whatever hope he'd gotten from the conversations with Tina and Hank start to fade away again.

So one day, when Nines is startled out of his research by a cup slamming down on the desk next to him, not even the hot coffee that splashes out onto one of his reports can dull the joy he feels when he looks up to see Gavin glaring at him.

Joy, but also fear. It had been a long time since Gavin had looked at him in that way.

"Can I help you, Detective?" he asks before immediately thinking he should have selected a better opening. "I mean.... it is good to see you again, Gavin."

Gavin's expression doesn't change. "Yeah, well. I'm only here 'cause Tina said you blew up at me because you were fuckin' stressed about somethin', and 'cause she reminded me that I've done the same to you when I was stressed about somethin'."

Nines doesn't think he'd ever be able to repay Tina for what she had done for him.

"Would you like to sit with your coffee?" Nines dares to ask, waiting anxiously for an answer. He thinks he now understands the phrase 'bated breath' even though he doesn't breathe.

"Fuck no," Gavin growls eventually, even though he looks like he wants to say 'yes' as he stares down at the cup of coffee. "...but maybe next week."

It's something, and Nines seizes onto it. "I will bring you a cup on whichever day is most convenient for you."

Gavin looks like he's going to say something in response to that, but then he and his cup are both gone, leaving just a wet brown ring and stray puddles behind.

Nines should get something to wipe up the spill before it dries, but he returns to his work instead. For some reason, that ring feels like everything.

He keeps glancing over at it for the rest of the day.

Gavin's a little nicer after that -- saying hi to Nines in the morning and acknowledging him as they pass in the station -- but they still don't really talk, and Nines doesn't try to push, for fear of making things worse again.

He's finally rewarded ten days later, when Gavin slams a paper coffee cup down at Nines' desk that turns out to be empty.

"Fetch me a coffee, dipshit," Gavin growls before disappearing again, and Nines can't oblige fast enough, even though he previously would have pointed out that Gavin had already gone to the kitchen for the cup, and was clearly capable of filling it himself.

When he returns with the coffee -- in the cup, because he wasn't sure if they were back to mug territory yet -- Gavin's sitting at his desk chatting with Tina, and for some reason, her presence makes Nines feel better. Especially when she glances over at him and nods, a ghost of a smile on her face.

"I apologize for neglecting to bring you a coffee as well, Tina," he says, setting the cup down next to Gavin and looking around for a chair. "I was not expecting you, but I would be happy to rectify that oversight."

Tina shakes her head. "I'm good, Nines. But thanks."

Nines leans against the desk instead of sitting, not seeing a chair close enough that he could grab without it being awkward, and deciding it was better if he didn't sit anyway, in case Gavin wanted him to leave again.

"So what's been stressin' you, fuckface?" Gavin asks as he picks up the cup and takes a sip, immediately cutting to the chase, and Nines isn't sure whether he hates the question or the nickname more.

No, he definitely hates the question more.

"It was a personal matter," he says, because he doesn't want to lie to Gavin again. "I allowed my emotions to get the better of me, causing me to lash out at you in a manner that was unacceptably cruel and frankly disgusting. I do not know how to convey how much regret I have for what I said, and you have my word that it will not happen again."

Gavin stares at him for a bit, seemingly studying him -- looking for something in his eyes that Nines doesn't understand -- as he sips his coffee. "Yeah, like androids have fuckin' feelings," he says finally, harshly, but with a slight smirk on his face.

Nines feels most of his remaining worry fall away at that smirk.

"I'm assumin' you don't wanna talk about it," Gavin continues. "Not that I'm great for talkin' about feelings anyway."

"Maybe someday," Nines says, even though he's pretty sure he never could, and he'll just have to make peace with the fact that Gavin's friendship is all he'll ever be able to have.

Gavin nods, accepting that answer. "So tell me about your case. What's up with the missin' kid?"

Nines shouldn't be surprised that Gavin had continued to follow his cases, and he likes the thought that, despite everything, Gavin had still been keeping tabs on him.

And as Nines talks, and Gavin interjects in his usual manner, and Tina nods along as she watches the two of them, things feel almost normal again.

He finds Tina alone in the break room later that day. She smiles at him, fully now, as he walks in.

"Thank you," Nines says, feeling like the words aren't enough. "I could never repay you."

"It wasn't just for you," Tina says. "He needed this too. He missed you, Nines."

"That is... nice to know." Nines really likes the way that makes him feel.

"But if you ever do anything like this again..."

"I won't," Nines says, looking away from the harsh glare she's giving him now. "You and Gavin both are too important to me to allow myself to behave in such a manner again."

Tina doesn't say anything for a bit. "You two would make a cute couple, though," she says, finally, quietly.

"What?!" Nines looks back at her, panicking a bit now even as she grins at him, and even though his hearing reassures him that no one else is in earshot and he knows Gavin is out at a crime scene. "You haven't told him, have you?!"

"Relax, Nines," Tina says, looking guilty now. "I haven't, and I won't. I'm just saying that, if things were different, you two would be good for each other. You temper him, and he forces you to take things a little less seriously, and the two of you make a damn great team besides. It's good."

Nines pushes away the longing he feels, forcing himself to feel only the pleasantness at the thought of continuing to partner with Gavin, instead. "I am glad you approve of our partnership. Professional partnership," he emphasizes, even though he doesn't have to.

Tina nods and pats his arm before holding up her empty cup. "Want to get me another cup of coffee?"

Nines is more than happy to.

Gavin accepts Nines' gesture of coffee, in the usual mug, the following workday. Even though he doesn't seem as excited about it as previously, it's still enough to convince Nines that things really are going to be okay.

"Y'know, I've only dated a chick once," Gavin says, casually, as Nines pulls a chair up to the desk.

Nines' first instinct is to panic, but he reminds himself that Tina said she wouldn't tell Gavin, and that he trusts Tina. "Oh?" he says instead, the word sticking in his throat.

Gavin shrugs. "It was like 12 years ago or whatever. Lasted like two months. The sex was fuckin' spectacular, but she kept wantin' me to talk about my feelings, and that killed things. It's been fuckin' easier to just focus on fucking since then. Point is I'm still bad at talkin' about my feelings."

Nines still isn't sure why Gavin is bringing it up, but it feels like a safer topic now, anyway. He wants to ask Gavin if he's ever dated a man, but thinks it would take the conversation back into dangerous territory. "So am I," he says instead, because it's at least true for his current feelings.

And it had almost cost him his friendship with Gavin.

He expects Gavin to object to the statement, but instead Gavin smirks at him. "She said I was good at listenin' though, so if you need to talk to me, without Tina around..." He trails off and shrugs.

The topic doesn't feel safe anymore.

"You are good at listening," Nines says, trying to steer the discussion away from his feelings and dating. "And your snark and commentary is often useful, even if it is crude."

"Yeah, well. You're not gettin' fuckin' Dr. Ruth here, J."

Nines has to look up the reference, and starts to comment on it, but a different thought jumps to the front of his mind instead. "Was it Tina?"

"Fuckin' what?" Gavin's frowning now, slamming the mug back onto the desk with more force than necessary.

"The woman you dated. Was it Tina?"

"Fuckin' heard you," Gavin mutters. "No fuckin' way. We're friends."

Nines doesn't like the way his heart sinks at that. "Like you and me," he says without thinking.

Gavin stares at him, expression briefly unreadable. Then he shrugs. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You'd better not fuckin' call me 'bestie' again." His voice sounds like he's trying to be snarky, but it's filled with what sounds like disappointment.

Nines doesn't allow himself to think about why Gavin would be disappointed. Nines tries to focus instead of the confirmation that he and Gavin are still friends.

"Okay, best bud," he says, trying to lighten the mood, and that works, because Gavin grins at him.

"Fuck you," Gavin says, taking a large gulp of the coffee and making a face at it. "So tell me about Riki. How's he been doin'? Is he fuckin' gigantic yet?"


Chapter Notes

"Hey, uh..." Gavin walks up to Connor as he, Nines, and Hank enter the station a few days later.

"Good morning, Detective Reed," Connor says, politely. "Is there something we can do for you?"

"Yeah. Uh..." Gavin starts, and Nines thinks he looks almost scared.

The look doesn't suit him.

"Can we talk? Privately?"

"My office is always open to you, Detective," Connor says, and Gavin nods.


"I am free now."


Nines watches as they walk off together, in the direction of Connor's office. It isn't until they're gone that he realizes Gavin had been avoiding eye contact with him.

He wonders what that means.

Nines doesn't ask Connor about the conversation that he'd had with Gavin, even though watching Gavin walk out of the office afterward, his usual swagger back but a nervous twitch remaining in his step, made Nines more than a little curious.

He isn't sure Connor would have told him, anyway. Connor respected others, and respected their privacy.

And Nines knows that, secretly, Connor respects Gavin.

He does, however, catch Connor looking at him later that night, studying his face, looking for something.

Connor quickly looks away when Nines meets his gaze.

Nines doesn't ask about that, either.

"Hey," Gavin says, as Nines walks into the station with Connor and Hank the following morning. He looks like he'd been waiting for them.

He looks nervous.

He looks the way Nines had been feeling, a while back, when he'd realized he really liked Gavin, although Nines tells himself it's clearly just wishful thinking on his part.

"Good morning," Nines says, unsure of how he should be reacting.

"I just wanted to... tell you that I'm glad you're cured, now. Or whatever." Gavin stuffs his hands in his pockets, staring at the floor instead of at Nines.

"You have already expressed as such, many times, but thank you." Nines is really unsure now of what he should be doing.

"Right." Gavin nods, looking like he wants to say something else, but instead turning and walking away.

Hank, next to Nines, shakes his head. "Geez, what's gotten into him lately?"

Nines feels somewhat reassured that Hank's been finding Gavin's recent behavior strange, as well. He looks over at Connor, who seems surprisingly unsurprised by the interaction, like he knows what Gavin's thinking.

Nines thinks he probably does, given the conversation he still hadn't asked about.

"Detective Reed has just had a lot on his mind lately," Connor says, as he starts walking again, in the direction of his office. "And you have a lot of work to do today, Detective Anderson. Nines, I have a case that could use your input, if you'd like to join me in my office."

Hank grumbles, but heads toward his desk. Nines stays behind, rooted to the spot, watching Gavin's retreating back until it rounds the corner to the break room.

He glances between the break room corner and Connor, pulling the door of the office shut behind him, as he tries to decide how to proceed.

He wonders if Connor actually had a case for him, or if he simply wanted to talk.

He decides that Connor would have just messaged him, privately, if he had simply wanted to talk.

He follows Gavin.

Gavin's standing at the break room table, chatting with Tina about some "fucking problem" that he doesn't know how to handle. His worried demeanor immediately changes when he spots Nines, and he looks...

He looks angry.

That wasn't what Nines had been expecting.

"The fuck you doin' here, J?" he says, so harshly that even Tina seems taken aback.

Apparently Nines had misjudged the situation, somehow.

"I was getting a coffee for Hank," Nines tries, hoping it would be a reasonable excuse despite the fact that Hank rarely drank the department's coffee. He thinks for a second. "Would you also like one, Detective Reed?"

Gavin's expression, softens, briefly, but then the scowl is back. "Whatever. Black, no sugar, but you knew that already. Fuckin' stalker."

Nines starts to ask whether Gavin is just going to throw it against the wall again, but stops himself. Gavin is clearly not in the mood for that kind of banter, and such a question at the moment might actually cause him to throw the cup, and Nines hadn't grabbed the mug.

He fetches the coffee, along with one for Tina as well, who accepts hers with a smile. Gavin scowls at the cup in front of him and makes no effort to drink it.

"Well?" Gavin asks after Nines makes no motion to leave. "The fuck else you want?"

"I..." Nines wants desperately to ask him what's wrong. "I was just leaving."

"Gavin..." Tina starts, her voice harsh in a way Nines has never heard her use with Gavin before.

"Not you too," Gavin spits, turning to her, angrily. "You both can fuck off."

"Enjoy the coffee," Nines says, deciding that he actually does not want to be in the middle of whatever's going on, given his presence seems to be upsetting Gavin at the moment, and causing strife between Gavin and Tina.

He leaves the break room, and doesn't dare look back.


"Hm?" Hank finishes typing something on his computer before looking up at Nines. "What can I do for you, kiddo?"

"How do you know if you're in love?" It felt like a reasonable way to start the conversation, and work toward admitting his feelings for Gavin without having to start there.

"What?!" That seems to catch Hank entirely off guard. "How the fuck should I know?"

"You were married once, correct?"

"Don't remind me," Hank mutters, and Nines remembers too late that Hank and his ex-wife are not on good, or even speaking, terms.

"So how do you know if..."

"Heard you the first time," Hank says, shaking his head and leaning back in his chair. "Jeez. What're you asking me for?"

"I apologize. I have conducted research on the topic, but I just thought that you would..."

"I, uh... I guess love is when you can't imagine your life without someone," Hank says, answering the question even though he still looks extremely uncomfortable. "When the thought of losing them makes you feel like your world is going to end."

"Oh." That doesn't quite fit with how Nines is feeling. Even though he'd been miserable while he and Gavin hadn't been speaking, it hadn't felt quite that catastrophic. He supposes it means he doesn't love Gavin yet, which also seems like a reasonable conclusion.

"There's different kinds of love, you know," Hank says, noticing Nines' reaction. "I love Connor, and I know he loves me, but we're not gonna... I don't know... get hitched or something. He's like family."

"Oh." That brings back a memory of the conversation he'd had with Connor, and how he'd inexplicably had the desire to consider Gavin part of his family.

"But I still can't imagine my life without Connor," Hank says, pausing for a bit. "Or without you."

That gets Nines' attention, even though it shouldn't be a surprise in any way. "Are you saying that you love me, Hank?"

Hank smiles at that. "I guess I am, kiddo. You're, uh... you're like a son to me, I guess, like Connor. A very, uh... mature five month old, even though five android months is, what, like twenty human years? Thirty?"

"There is no direct comparison, but some psychologists indicate that..." Nines begins, but is interrupted by Hank standing and wrapping him up in a hug.

"Just shut up and enjoy this stupid emotional moment, Nines."

Nines does, and it isn't until he's walking away from Hank's desk that he realizes he hadn't asked what Hank he had really wanted to.

"You believe that you are in love with Detective Reed?"

Nines thinks he should have expected that question. Connor still knew Nines better than he knew himself, in many ways.

Nines hadn't originally intended to go running to Connor for advice, but it had felt appropriate somehow. Maybe Nines just wanted to know how Connor would take the news if he and Gavin ever started dating.

Not that there was any chance of that happening. Gavin still only tolerated androids in general, despite their friendship now. And from random tidbits Gavin and Tina would share when they didn't think Nines could overhear, he was pretty sure Gavin only liked women, in that way.

But he had wanted to know, anyway.

"I am... interested in him," Nines says, finding the admission easier the second time around. "And find myself feeling an unusual affection for him that is unlike the feelings I possess for yourself and for Hank. Even though I would describe my feelings for you as 'love', I would not describe my feelings for Gavin in such a manner."

"You like him," Connor says, smiling gently now, and Nines feels a wave of relief at Connor's expression. "More than just as a colleague or as a friend."

"I... do," Nines says, feeling like he wants to blush at the admission. "But I do not know how to proceed."

"Why don't you tell him?"

Nines hadn't been expecting that response, although with the way Connor's looking at him now, he's wondering if he should have.

He's wondering if his suspicions about the conversation Connor and Gavin had had were true, after all.

"That does not seem like a wise course of action," Nines says, even though he really just wants to ask Connor about it. "We are colleagues, and I do not wish to risk our friendship. He has not expressed any similar interest in me. He is not... interested in androids. Or men. Or me."

Nines hopes Connor will refute the statement, but to his disappointment, Connor just nods.

"Tell him, Nines," Connor says, simply, and it's not a question this time. "He should know how you feel."

Nines allows himself to feel a glimmer of hope at that.

"I will," Nines says, and it feels like a promise.

Nines skips their usual afternoon coffee break that day, and tells himself to tell Gavin before they leave that evening, but is unable to work up the courage to actually do it.

He doesn't expect Gavin to grab his arm as he's leaving with Connor and Hank, and pull him toward Gavin's car.

Connor seems to be expecting Nines to be duly abducted, simply nodding at Nines as Nines looks back at him and Hank.

Nines wonders if that means Connor and Gavin had talked, again.

Gavin more or less throws Nines into the passenger's seat before walking around and climbing into the driver's seat, slamming the door shut after him. Nines wants to ask where they're going, and whether it's related to a case.

Nines chides himself for trying to put off the discussion again, and forces himself to keep his promise to Connor, given the opportunity that had presented itself despite his own hesitancy.

"I have something I would like to tell you," Nines starts, but Gavin shakes his head.

"Me, first."

Nines had somewhat expected that, and nods, waiting and watching as Gavin swallows, then stares into his eyes.

He's nervous.

Gavin doesn't say anything for thirty three seconds.

"I like you," Gavin says, finally, continuing to stare into Nines' eyes -- studying them for a reaction, Nines thinks -- and it takes Nines a second to process the words.

Surely he doesn't mean...

That's just my own desires coloring his words.

Tina would have said something to me if he meant it like that.

"You are an extremely skilled detective, Gavin, and an excellent colleague, and a good friend. I like you, too." It's a cop out, but Nines still doesn't want to ruin their friendship if he's wrong.

He still worries that he's wrong. Even though everything is telling him that he isn't.

"Fuck!" Gavin says, putting his hands on the steering wheel and leaning his head against it with more force than necessary, staring down at his lap. "That's... that's not..."

Nines allows himself to get his hopes up, but he still wants to hedge. "Unless you are speaking in a non-professional context."

Gavin exhales, sharply, at that, his shoulders slumping in what Nines takes as a good sign. "I didn't know if you... if you... and if you did, what that fuckin' means, in the end. We're so fuckin' different, but Tina said I should tell you, and Connor said I should tell you, but I... didn't..."

Nines feels like his chest is tight, and he thinks that his heart would be pounding as rapidly as Gavin's is, at the moment, if the pump in his chest could do such a thing.

Nines isn't sure why he likes the feeling so much.

"Gavin," Nines tries, gently, resisting the urge to reach out and touch the man. He really isn't sure if it would make the situation worse, right now.

Gavin balls his hands into fists and shoves them into the spaces beside the seat, forehead still firmly planted against the steering wheel. "Fuck. I... just..."

Nines waits for him to continue, but he doesn't, seemingly unable to find the right words.

Nines decides to be brave for him.

"I like you too, Gavin," Nines says, unsure of why he was suddenly having so much trouble speaking, as well. "I feel things for you that I haven't felt for anyone else. I don't know, either, what the end state would be. I don't know if that matters, right now. All I know is that I enjoy your company, and your presence. I truly enjoy spending time with you. I pushed you away because I didn't know what to do about my feelings for you. I realized that I wanted... more. I still want more. I would like to see what happens. With us. If that is what you want."

Gavin doesn't say anything to that, but his right hand lifts, slowly, and Nines watches as he places it over Nines' own hand, palm covering the back, fingers covering fingers.

The touch is almost uncomfortably warm, and Gavin's hand is clammy, but Nines still feels indescribable joy at it.

Gavin pointedly looks anywhere but their hands, and Nines resists the urge to turn his hand over so he can intertwine their fingers.

He wants to let Gavin take the lead.

"I haven't done this before," Gavin says, turning his head and staring out the side window. "I've fucked plenty of women, of course. Human women. Besides the one I got serious with. Never been with a guy. Never an android. Never thought I'd want a guy, or a fuckin' android, or a fuckin' guy android, or that I'd want more than just to fuck a fuckin' guy android. Have no idea what it'd be like. Or what... just... fuck."

"I haven't been with anyone," Nines says, trying to be reassuring even though the statement should be obvious. "In any way. I don't know what it's like either."

Gavin scoffs, sitting upright again but still not meeting Nines' gaze. "Right. Like you can't just... download information on what it's like to kiss, or to fuck, or to... whatever. Don't give me that bullshit. We are not in the same fuckin' boat here, J."

Nines wants to tell Gavin that while he could download that information -- even experience it directly through another android's memories -- it wouldn't be the same. That reliving a moment and actually experiencing it were somehow different, even though the data that flowed through his processors was functionally identical. That no amount of research or information could have prepared him for what he was experiencing, now.

Maybe that's what it means to be alive.

He doesn't say any of that, instead lifting his other hand and gently setting it down on Gavin's. Gavin's hand is shaking now -- his entire body's shaking -- as he slowly looks over, staring at the stack of hands between them and still not meeting Nines' eyes.

"I'm fuckin' scared," Gavin says, quietly, his voice trembling.

"I am too," Nines says, almost a whisper, like it's something he doesn't want to admit even though he thinks it's obvious to both of them, now.

Neither of them say anything for almost sixty two seconds. Nines is trying to figure out to break the silence without scaring Gavin away when Gavin moves.

"Fuck this," Gavin mutters, pulling his hand away from between Nines', and Nines feels his heart metaphorically fall in the brief moment before Gavin puts both his hands on Nines' shoulders, close to Nines' neck, pulling him toward him and...

And then Gavin is kissing him, rough and needy and shaky and full of everything Nines knows he wants to say but can't.

Analyzing... Nines sees as his systems automatically sample Gavin's saliva, but he quickly dismisses the message, instead fumbling for a bit until his own hands find Gavin's head, one on his neck and one in Gavin's hair, fingers curling through the locks on the back of his head as he pulls Gavin closer.

It feels...

It feels better than he ever could have imagined.

Gavin breaks for air, eventually, and even though Nines doesn't need to breathe, he thinks he finally understands the meaning of the term 'breathless'.

"Fuck," Gavin says, simply, their foreheads resting against each other and his hands gripping Nines' shoulders tightly. Nines can feel Gavin's breath, hot and fast, against his mouth, and his fingers curl again through Gavin's hair, the strands softer and finer than he'd expected them to be.

It feels...

It feels perfect.

"Fuck," Nines agrees, thinking the obscenity was, for once, an appropriate reaction to what had just occurred.

Gavin stiffens at that, and Nines wonders if he'd said or done something wrong.

Then Gavin is laughing, a low rumbling in his chest, breath coming in short spurts against Nines' cheek.

"'Fuck', indeed."

And then Gavin is kissing him again.

Nines wakes up the next morning in Gavin's bed, legs and limbs intertwined and with Gavin's breath billowing sporadically over his chest.

Technically, he hadn't been asleep. Technically, androids didn't need to sleep. But Gavin had slept, and Nines had been content to slow his own processing and block out almost everything else to focus on Gavin, so he'd feel like he was joining Gavin in slumber.

He isn't sure why it'd been so important to him.

He doesn't think he'd ever been so happy.

"Mornin'," Gavin murmurs, voice gravelly. "Or whatever, since you don't sleep, or whatever."

"I... did," Nines says, thinking the word was close enough for conversation anyway, and realizing that he'd returned to full consciousness only because his systems had detected that Gavin was waking up.

Apparently, he'd wanted to wake up with Gavin, too.

"Huh," Gavin says, surprised at Nines' response. "That's... nice."

Nines focuses on the sound of Gavin's breathing, of his heartbeat, of the feeling of his bare skin, dedicating an inordinate and frankly irresponsible amount of his processors' time to the task.

He wants to remember everything about this moment, forever.

"Nines?" Gavin says after a while, even though Nines would have sworn Gavin had been drifting back to sleep, and Nines realizes somewhere in his consciousness that it's the first time that Gavin has used his name.


Gavin doesn't respond for eighty three seconds, and Nines wonders if he had fallen asleep again, after all, before he speaks again.

"I... don't regret any of this."

A weight Nines didn't know had been on his shoulders lifts, and his eyes start to tear. His arms tighten around Gavin. He knows what Gavin's trying to say.

He'd been wrong, before. Now he doesn't think he'd ever been so happy. Now he knows he'd never been so happy.

"Me neither."

And he can feel Gavin smile against his chest.

Chapter End Notes

Well, we did it. It took 12 chapters and nearly 40k words (and spawned an entire companion fic), but we finally did it.

When I initially set out to write this fic, I didn't expect it to turn into an entire thing. I just wanted to get some sweet and tender moments between our boys.

I think I seriously underestimated how hard Gavin would be to crack. How hard I felt like he had to be to crack.

Thank you to everyone who's been following along and leaving kudos or comments. Every single one brings a smile to my face when I get the email notification. All of you are amazing.

The next two chapters will just be the fluff that I originally wanted to write.


Chapter Notes

Gavin kisses Nines at the door of his apartment, pushing him up and against it as he presses their bodies together. Nines' hands find Gavin's hips and pull him closer as Gavin's hands snake through his hair.

"Fuck," Gavin breathes when they break, his arms finding a seemingly comfortable position around Nines' neck.

"Indeed," Nines says, relating to the sentiment wholeheartedly. Even though this is only his second time at Gavin's apartment, he already feels comfortable here, and regrets that he has to leave. But he can't neglect Riki for another night, and he doesn't want to leave Hank at their house with only a work-consumed Connor to keep him company.

Gavin attempts to find a comfortable position for his head, and seems to settle for laying his cheek against Nines' shoulder, his arms around Nines' back instead. Nines kisses his forehead.

"I'm gonna have to get used to datin' someone taller than me," Gavin murmurs as he gently kisses Nines' neck, and Nines freezes at that. The statement isn't surprising given everything that had happened over the past three days, but they hadn't put whatever was going on between them into words.

Nines really likes this particular word.

"Are we dating?" he asks, wanting to make sure, given Gavin's reaction to 'boyfriend' the day before.

Gavin moves back, slightly, so he can stare into Nines' eyes. He's frowning. "The fuck you think? I didn't pour out my feelings to you just so we could fuck a couple times."

"Is that what you did? Pour out your feelings?" Nines teases before he can think better of it. Maybe Gavin had been rubbing off on him more than he thought.

Gavin shakes his head, but smiles as he moves back into his position against Nines' shoulder. "Fuck you, J."

"I believe you did that already, today."

"Mmm," Gavin agrees, his eyes closed now. Nines moves his hands up, wrapping his arms around Gavin's shoulder blades instead.

"I... like that we're dating," Nines says, just to make sure Gavin understands, even though he knows he does already. "And I like this."

"Now who's pourin' their feelings out?" Gavin says, smirking, moving and gently kissing Nines' lips before removing his arms from around Nines. "You'd better go, though."

"I should," Nines agrees, reluctantly, removing his own arms and gently pushing Gavin out of the way so he can open the door.

"You sure you don't need a ride?"

"I am very capable of running the few miles, but thank you for the offer."

Gavin looks like he wants to say something else, or maybe kiss Nines again, but then he's shoving Nines out the door instead. "Well, get a fuckin' move on, then."

"I'll see you tomorrow," Nines says, loving the affectionate look Gavin is giving him.

"Whatever," Gavin says, grinning, shutting the door in Nines' face.

Nines likes that Gavin doesn't like goodbyes.

"I have a question."

Nines doesn't bother opening his eyes. He wouldn't be able to see Gavin's face anyway, with his head laying solidly on Nines' chest as they lie together in bed. "Yes?"

"Your, uh... skin. It's a liquid, right?"

"Android skin is a dermal liquid that is expelled and managed by dermal generators located throughout the outside of the plastic substructure of an android body," Nines says, even though it's more information than Gavin had asked for. "Those generators are responsible for the local imperfections and texture of the skin. The hair is similar, but with a slightly different material and type of generator."

He can feel Gavin frown. "But then why's it feel solid, like flesh that's just, uh... weirdly smooth? Why can I touch it without gettin' it all over myself?"

"The generators apply current at a specific voltage that causes the liquid to solidify. A different voltage causes the material to liquify again, and it is then reabsorbed through the generators. Early attempts at skin material required a continuous current to maintain rigidity, but this was problematic when androids unintentionally or suddenly deactivated, causing their skin to immediately slough off in a manner that was disturbing to humans. It was also problematic due to the power requirement."

"Right," Gavin says, and Nines wonders what Gavin's getting at. "Wait, your lips are made of this stuff too, right?"

"That is correct."

"Does that mean I'm... eatin' some of this solidified goop every time I kiss you?"

"The solid form is strongly bonded to my substructure," Nines reassures. "I would not recommend taking bites out of it even though it is non-toxic to humans in reasonable amounts, but you would not accidentally ingest anything other than a negligible through simply kissing me."

"That's good," Gavin says, and Nines' curiosity gets the better of him.

"You're asking for a reason, aren't you?"

He can feel Gavin shift, and opens his eyes to see Gavin staring up at him, a mischievous look on his face. "Just wanted to know how rough I could get with you, tonight."

Nines feels like he'd be blushing now, if he was physically able to. "What... did you have in mind?"

Nines finds himself missing Gavin most evenings now when they're apart, even when he's surrounded by Hank and Riki and Connor at home -- albeit a Connor absorbed in paperwork at the kitchen table.

He isn't sure he likes how emotionally attached he's become to the man in a relatively short period of time, but he's pretty sure Gavin feels the same way about him, so whatever's happening with the two of them is at least not one-sided. Still, he worries about it.

Hank's complaining about one of the contestants on a reality show the two of them are watching one evening when the doorbell rings, sending Riki jumping off of Nines' lap and barking at the door.

"Riki!" Nines chides, standing and chasing after him, trying to coax him away from the door enough so that Nines can open it. "Down, Riki."

He finally manages to push Riki behind him and opens the door to be surprised by a sheepish-looking Gavin standing on the other side.

"Hey," Gavin offers, as if surprised to be here, himself.

"I did not expect to see you tonight," Nines says, restraining himself from his first instinct -- to grab the man and kiss him.

Gavin shrugs and stuffs his hands into his pockets. "I was in the area and just wanted to stop by and say 'hi'. Or whatever."

I missed you, Nines hears in his words.

"I missed you," Nines says, because even if Gavin was reluctant to share his feelings, Nines thinks he can more than make up for it.

Gavin blushes. "Maybe I'd better..."

"Let the man in and shut the fucking door," Hank yells from the couch, and Nines suddenly realizes his attempts to block the doorway to prevent Riki from escaping were also sending the wrong message to Gavin.

He steps aside -- a hand on Riki's collar just in case -- until Gavin steps through the door, shutting it behind him, and shivering from the sudden change in temperature. Riki sniffs cautiously at Gavin and seemingly looks to Nines for guidance.

"Riki, this is Gavin," Nines says, even though he's pretty sure Riki has no idea what he's saying and the fact that no one in the house has reacted to Gavin's presence conveys more than anything Nines is saying. "He's... a friend."

"He's a fucking lot more than that," Hank says, still staring at the TV, as Riki seems to approve and walks back to the couch. "Go throw a pot of coffee on, Nines. It's freezing out there."

"I can get it," Connor says, his voice surprising Nines as much as the offer itself. "It is good to see you, Detective."

Nines wonders how sincere the sentiment is.

"Yeah, yeah," Gavin says, pulling off his coat and looking unsure what to do with it. Nines takes it and throws it on the back of the couch. He wonders if he should insist again on getting a coat stand, even though Hank had previously dismissed the idea given that neither Nines nor Connor needed additional clothing or accessories for warmth in the winter.

"Um." Nines really wants to touch Gavin, but isn't sure how Gavin would feel about it. They'd established pretty early on that they should remain professional at the station, and not just because Gavin was worried how the other officers would perceive him. Nines' attempts to reassure him that homosexuality and android-human relationships were both commonplace and non-issues now had only made things worse, and led to their first fight.

Nines isn't sure now whether Hank's house fell into the same category of professionalism, especially given this was the first time Gavin had been in the dwelling, to his knowledge.

"You gonna fuckin' kiss me, J?" Gavin asks, a combination of need and annoyance on his face, answering the unasked question.

Nines doesn't need to be asked twice, losing himself in the kiss more than he intends and only being pulled back to reality by the sound of Connor's chair sliding back into position as Connor returns to his work.

"I apologize," Nines says, to no one in particular, even though he's pretty sure no one present would mind anyway, least of all Gavin, eyes still closed and breathing heavily.

"You don't need to apologize for kissing your boyfriend, kiddo," Hank says, turning toward them and smiling.

"He's not my fuckin' boyfriend," Gavin mutters, stiffening in Nines' arms.

"We're just dating," Nines finishes for him. This had come up too in their fight, and even though Nines really liked the way the term felt, Gavin had insisted -- with colorful and even more derogatory language than usual -- that he didn't want to be labeled in that particular way.

"Still don't need to apologize," Hank says, obviously noticing the tension but pointedly ignoring it. "Anyway, welcome to our house, Gavin."

"Looks like a fuckin' house," Gavin says as he looks around. "Smells like dog."

"Then you would be surprised to find that one of the occupants is a dog," Connor remarks, dryly, and Nines hadn't realized that Connor was capable of snark.

"Ha fuckin' ha," Gavin says, shoving Nines away but then grabbing his hand, as if wanting to maintain some form of physical contact. "Sorry for just, uh... showin' up here uninvited."

"You are always welcome here, Detective," Connor says, and Hank nods in agreement.

"Come watch this mindless crap with us," Hank says, sliding over on the couch and nudging Riki off of it. "Coffee should be ready soon."

Nines knows that Gavin hates reality shows, and expects him to say no, but Gavin shrugs and pulls Nines along to the couch. He fetches the coffee when it's ready, and Gavin leans against him, an arm around his while he sips his beverage with the other.

He looks over at Gavin, still somehow worried about what Gavin thinks about the house, and worried over how glad he is that Gavin is here now. Gavin notices, looking over at him with exasperation that Nines is staring, and leans further against Nines' side, and for some reason, that's all the reassurance that Nines needs.

Nines doesn't know why he'd ever been worried.

Nines knocks on the door to Gavin's apartment, key in hand and ready to insert into the lock. Even though Gavin had given him a key, and was expecting him, Nines still feels strange simply barging into Gavin's place.

"For fucks sake," Gavin yells, muffled through the door, and Nines unlocks the door and opens it.

"I apologize for my tardiness," he says, shutting the door behind him. "Riki was needier than usual this evening."

Gavin's standing at the stove, stirring a pot of what Nines quickly identifies as tomato sauce with what look like frozen meatballs. "Yeah, well, my dinner's a fuckin' disaster, so you get to sit and watch me eat anyway. And also I gave you a key specifically so you don't have to fuckin' knock."

"It feels... improper, otherwise," Nines says. "It feels courteous to announce my presence."

"I don't give a fuck about courtesy..." Gavin starts.

"I've noticed," Nines says before thinking better of it.

" stop fuckin' knocking," Gavin finishes, smirking at Nines' comeback. "Jackass."

"Is that my new nickname?" Nines asks, walking up behind Gavin and putting his arms around his chest, from behind, and pulling Gavin against him. "It's an improvement over 'Junkyard'."

Gavin seems to freeze at Nines' embrace. "The fuck you doin'?"

"I... saw this on a show," Nines says, starting to move away. "I apologize if you don't..."

"Naw," Gavin says, his free hand finding Nines' arm and holding it there. "S'nice. Just not, uh... used to this."

Nines nods, setting his chin on Gavin's shoulder and tightening his embrace. Gavin doesn't say anything else, but relaxes again.

They stay like that for a bit, with Gavin stirring the sauce, until he gently shoves Nines away and pulls the pot off the stove.

"My sister's visitin' next week," Gavin says as he does, breaking the pleasant silence.

"Oh." Nines tries to gauge how Gavin would take various possible reactions to the news. He still didn't know very much about Gavin's family, despite everything, although he remembers that Gavin's sister is married, and his brother isn't, and understands that Gavin isn't particularly close with any of them. Gavin had been more comfortable enumerating his family members and in-laws than actually talking about any of them. "That sounds nice?"

Gavin scoffs, dumping the sauce into a large bowl of pasta on the counter and stirring it. "Fuckin' androids. You don't have to deal with fuckin' relatives."

"That sounds... unfortunate?" Nines tries instead, and Gavin hums in approval at this one.

"She'll want me to take fuckin' time off and show 'em around. They've never been to Detroit."

"Your siblings have never visited you here?" Nines asks, incredulous. He can't imagine being away from Connor or Hank and not wanting to visit them, frequently.

"Thank fuckin' god," Gavin says, portioning out part of the pasta onto a plate and rummaging around in a cabinet for a lid for the bowl. "But this time she insisted. Bought the tickets before she fuckin' told me, and mom guilt tripped me. 'They're non-refundable, Gavin. You didn't come home for Christmas this year, Gavin. We never see you, Gavin.' Motherfuckers."

Nines feels guilty at that. "I apologize if my illness prevented you from..."

"Nuh uh," Gavin says, slapping the lid on the bowl with more force than necessary, and turning to Nines. "That was not your fault, and even if it was, I should fuckin' thank you for givin' me an excuse."

"Still," Nines says. "They're coming here now because of that, and you seem irritated by the news, and that at least is my fault." He pauses. "Your sister and her husband?"

"Yeah," Gavin says, tossing the bowl in the fridge and walking with the plate to the dining table.

Nines follows and sits next to him. "I could convince Connor to assign you a particularly time-sensitive case that day. Or days."

Gavin chuckles at that. "Perks to datin' the boss' brother, I guess?" He takes a bite of his pasta and seems to grow serious. "Uh. But about that..."

"You wish for us to be only colleagues during the visit," Nines finishes for him, understanding even though he hates the way it makes him feel. Nines knows that Gavin still worries about how people would see him if they knew, and Nines can imagine that fear would be magnified tenfold with family. Even family that Gavin didn't normally see or even regularly get along with.

"Fuck no," Gavin says, surprising Nines. "I'm not fuckin' ashamed of you, J."

"I never said that you were," Nines says, liking the sense of happiness he gets anyway from Gavin's words. "But I understand if you are uncomfortable with your family knowing about us."

"Their fuckin' problem if it's a problem," Gavin says, but his voice wavers, and Nines realizes how much of a brave face Gavin is trying to put on at the moment. "But, uh... if you don't wanna meet 'em, I understand."

"I would be willing to meet your sister and her husband if that is what you want," Nines says, trying not to sound too enthusiastic, and realizing too late that Gavin had been trying to give himself an out. Despite Gavin's discomfort about the situation, Nines still has a desire to be introduced to Gavin's family, and his sister feels like a manageable place to start.

Gavin nods, chewing another bite of pasta. "Then, uh... what the fuck do I say? You're not my fuckin' boyfriend."

"...we're just dating," Nines completes for him, the words familiar and comfortable now. "Just say that. We're dating. I'm your romantic partner."

Gavin seems to consider that. "Sounds so fuckin' formal."

"Say I'm your romantic buddy."

Gavin smirks. "Uh huh. I knew there was a reason I keep you around, J."

"Say I'm your boo."

Gavin makes a face at that one. "I changed my mind. We're not datin' anymore."

"Then I guess I'll have to leave you to your dinner and your bed. Alone."

Nines watches Gavin swallow heavily. "Well, uh... maybe you could be... forgiven. This time."

Nines wishes Gavin would finish eating, already.

"My name is Nines," Nines says, holding out his hand.

"Elsie," Gavin's sister says, curtly, nevertheless taking his hand and shaking it.

"David," says her husband, more warmly, as he shakes Nines' hand in turn. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Nines. How do you and Gavin know each other?"

"We are... colleagues," Nines says, glancing over at Gavin for guidance. He still wants to give Gavin a chance to back out if he needs it. Unfortunately, Gavin seems to be staring anywhere but at him, at the moment.

David snaps his fingers. "That's it. I knew I recognized you. You're that DPD detective android."

"You're thinking of my brother, Connor," Nines says. "We are extremely similar in appearance."

"Well, you know one, you know 'em all, right?" Elsie says, and Nines doesn't like her dismissive tone. He thinks he's starting to understand where Gavin had been coming from, and why Gavin had been so nervous about this meeting now. "I hope you're double checkin' all of his work, Gav."

"Nines is..." Gavin starts before Nines has a chance to object, his nerves seemingly getting to him in a way that Nines hadn't seen since they'd admitted their mutual interest to each other. "...competent. At his job. As is Connor."

Nines is pretty sure that isn't what Gavin had been trying to say.

"Aren't they all?" Elsie says, starting to walk through the park, seemingly ignoring Nines now. "Still doesn't mean I'd just blindly trust 'em. We got a CP100 as a nanny for Randall, and she's competent too, but I still wouldn't leave her alone with him for too long, even though she could be like... awake 24/7 or whatever. We left him at mom's for this trip, instead. We thought about bringin' him along, but figured the plane ride would..."

"Stop it," Gavin practically barks. Elsie shuts up and stops walking, and she and David turn to stare at him. "Your 'CP100' has a name, Else."

"Matilda or Martha or something like that. Whatever. Why do you care? She's just a machine."

"Nines is my boyfriend," Gavin forces out, glaring at her as if daring her to comment on it. "And you're being a fuckin' asshole to someone I care a fuckin' lot about, right now."

It takes Nines a second to realize Gavin had used 'boyfriend'. He pushes aside the pleasant feeling he gets from the word, instead focusing on Gavin in the awkward silence that follows.

Elsie doesn't seem to know how to respond, her eyes flitting back and forth between the two of them for a bit, and as the seconds tick by, Nines can feel Gavin grow increasingly tense. Nines holds out his hand and Gavin takes it, squeezing it with more force than would be customary.

Nines hopes it helps, at least a little.

"Language, Gavin," Elsie says finally as she stares at their joined hands.

"Sweetheart..." David starts, but Elsie turns to him with a glare and he shuts up.

She turns back to Gavin, staring at him and pointedly ignoring Nines for a moment longer before shrugging. "Well, it's your life, so who am I to tell you what to do with it? Anyway, as I was sayin', we left Randall with mom for this trip because we figured the plane ride would be too much for him at this age. But speakin' of plane rides..."

She starts walking again as she continues talking, and Nines looks over at Gavin to gauge his reaction. Gavin seems to be more relaxed now, even though Nines wouldn't exactly have considered Elsie's reaction to be a positive one. Gavin meets his gaze and smiles, softly, before letting go of Nines' hand.

And Nines knows everything is going to be okay.

"You guys don't eat anything, don't drink anything. No wonder you're such a flop at parties." Gavin suddenly stops, as if suddenly realizing something. "Wait, you guys can chug Thirium, right?"

"We do not 'chug' Thirium," Connor says from the kitchen table, annoyed that Gavin is distracting him from paperwork, or maybe just annoyed at the conversation in general. "We can consume it orally to replenish our internal supply when it is low."

"Chug, drink, whatever. So what happens if you drink too much of it?"

"We have the ability to expel excess Thirium if needed," Nines says, so Connor doesn't have to. "Voluntarily."

"And when you say 'expel', it comes out of... where?"

"Typically, the same way it went in, but we can..."

"Right. So what happens if you keep drinkin' it?" Gavin is grinning now.

"Um." Nines actually has to look this one up. "If Thirium levels continue rising without a voluntarily expulsion occurring, our primary systems will temporarily enter standby while an automatic expulsion occurs."

"So you're sayin' that you guys can get so drunk that you black out and puke!"

"That is not what he is saying!" Connor objects. "No android would willingly consume Thirium in those quantities, much less recreationally. It is far too valuable to waste in such a manner."

"Uh huh," Gavin says, no less gleeful about the whole thing. "So, J..."

"Nines," Connor interrupts, harshly. "You are not to consume Thirium beyond what is required to maintain normal operational levels. You are not to let Reed 'feed you Thirium', in any quantity."

The statement is so absurd that Nines can't help but laugh at it, and that sets Gavin off too.

Hank walks in on them like that, Connor glaring disapprovingly at Nines and Gavin as they crack up on the couch, Gavin snorting as he yells something about androids vomiting blood between breaths.

And Nines loves that this is his life, now.

Chapter End Notes

This chapter was a lot of "Bob dumps random scenes from his head that he's been wanting to write since this whole thing started", and because of how my brain works, many of them are (hopefully plausable) explanations of some of the more interesting details about android anatomy, wrapped up in Nines/Gavin cuteness.

Some of this stuff has been written for a while. Hopefully all of it is heartwarming.

One more chapter to go!


Chapter Notes

It feels like Nines' first Christmas the second time around, sitting on the couch at Hank and Connor's on Christmas Eve, an arm around Gavin, who's slurping from his fourth mug of spiked hot cocoa and growing more boisterous with each one.

Nines doesn't know how to express how much he appreciates Gavin's presence.

Nines doesn't know how to express how much he appreciates Gavin's presents, this year a much smaller wrapped box handed to him just after midnight again.

"Merry Christmas, J," Gavin says, grinning. "Or whatever."

Nines scans it more quickly this year, ensuring he has a record of the wrapping before opening it. Inside is what looks like a previously-fired bullet round attached to a long silver chain.

"It's a necklace," Gavin says as Nines holds it in his hand. "Didn't know how you felt 'bout jewelry, so you don't hafta wear it, but wanted you to have it anyway."

"Thank you?" Nines says, not quite sure why Gavin would gift him such a thing. He scans it, and to his surprise, his vision lights up with multiple results. In addition to the gunpowder residue, there's...

...dried Thirium?

He's suddenly hit with understanding. "This is..."

Gavin shrugs, taking another large gulp of cocoa. "Felt important. The start of our first real case together, and 'twas when I stopped thinkin' of you as a fuckin' plastic roadblock, I guess, so it was kinda the first step to where we are now. And you're still a fuckin' idiot for doing it, but I still owe you for that one, so..."

Nines feels his eyes starting to well up with emotion, and finds himself glad that Gavin was drunk. He's pretty Gavin wouldn't be saying any of this sober, instead giving some excuse about how it didn't mean anything and Nines was just impossible to shop for.

"I think you're upsetting the kid," Hank says as he frowns, misunderstanding Nines' tears, and Nines shakes his head.

"No. It's... it's good tears." His voice is choking up now, too. "How did you get this?"

Gavin shrugs again. "Case was old enough. Evidence was gettin' rid of some shit. I convinced Bob to hand it over."

Nines slips the chain over his head, finding the weight of it strangely comforting, a reminder of how much Gavin means to him and how much he'd do for the man. The bullet hangs around the same location where it had passed through his chest, and Nines wonders if that had been deliberate. He runs his fingers over the bit of metal.

The gift shouldn't surprise him, especially given his gift last year and what he's realizing is Gavin's way of expressing what he couldn't normally say, but it still means more to him than he can put into words.

Gavin nods, seemingly satisfied that Nines understands -- and appreciates -- the gift. He takes another gulp from his mug and holds it out as he falls against Nines' side. "So how 'bout some more cocoa?"

"I got you something as well," Nines says instead of obliging, wiping his eyes and giving Connor a grateful look as he hands Nines a wrapped box. Nines is pretty sure he couldn't get up right now, with the way Gavin's leaning against him.

"Is it sex?" Gavin asks, apparently too drunk to be embarrassed around Hank and Connor at this point, and Nines wants to blush at it.

"It is inside this box," Nines says, handing it to him. "I leave the conclusion of what that means up to you to discover for yourself."

"I just wanted fuckin' sex," Gavin mutters, nevertheless taking the box and moving so he can open it. Nines immediately misses Gavin's weight, comforting somehow against his side.

He knows what's in the box, of course, but he still watches carefully as Gavin rips it open and unceremoniously dumps the contents out on his lap. Gavin frowns at the metallic package that falls out, followed by a larger plastic-and-metal contraption. "Fuck's this?"

"I know you don't really like the department's coffee," Nines says as Gavin picks up the package of coffee beans and stares at it. "So I thought I'd 'fetch' you something better. You drink dark roast at home, so I figured you prefer it, so this is the first part of a monthly shipment of dark-roast beans from different regions around the world."

Gavin looks appreciative as he drops the beans and holds up the compact single-serving coffeemaker, squinting at it until he seems to realize what it is. He grins at Nines then, dropping it beside him on the couch. "Your lazy ass is just sick of fetchin' me coffee from the kitchen. I'm gonna make you brew for me instead, fucker."

Nines feels relieved that Gavin seems to like the gift. He hadn't really known what to get Gavin, and he thinks his gift didn't have nearly the same sentimentality or meaning behind it that anything Gavin had gifted him did, but it had been something he'd known Gavin would like, and use. "I will brew you coffee every afternoon, dipshit," he says, affectionately.

The response is Gavin tackling him, pushing him back against the back of the couch and claiming his mouth sloppily, the remnants of the nearly-empty mug of cocoa sloshing over Gavin's shirt. Nines' systems start to analyze the cocoa and bourbon on Gavin's lips, automatically, but he pushes that aside in favor of focusing on Gavin, instead.

Even though it's been ten months, he loves how he still feels when Gavin kisses him.

Nines cuts Gavin off after five mugs, apologizes to Hank and Connor for leaving for the night, drives Gavin home at a ungodly hour, and somehow manages to get Gavin changed for bed. The fact that Gavin keeps trying to make out with him at every possible moment doesn't help.

"C'monnnn baby," Gavin complains as Nines tucks him into bed and slides in next to him. "I just wanna kiss youuu."

"We can kiss in the morning," Nines says, his arms closing automatically around Gavin as he curls himself up against Nines' side.

"Wanna kiss noww." Gavin nibbles at Nines' neck. "Wanna fuck nowww."

"You are in no condition to have sex," Nines chides. Even though Gavin's drunk, it's more the fact that he doesn't think Gavin was physically capable of it at the moment rather than any issue of consent. They'd already had that particular conversation after the last time Gavin had been drunk and handsy, and a hungover -- but sober -- Gavin had been annoyed that Nines would even question his desire for sexual activities, in any state.

"Fuckin' prude," Gavin says, but there's no anger behind it, as he moves his head onto Nines' chest. "You're just lucky I fuckin' love you so much."

Nines freezes at that, and not just because Gavin's still trying to find a comfortable spot against his side and not having much luck.

Gavin had never told him that he loved him, and even though Gavin shows him that he does -- in so many ways, every day -- he'd still not necessarily expected Gavin to ever say the words to him.

"I love you too, Gavin," he says, feeling suddenly emotional, even though he has said the words to Gavin, before.

"Duh," Gavin says, grinning against Nines' chest and giving a final contented grunt as he settles into a particular position with his leg hooked over Nines'.

Nines has a smile on his face the rest of the night.

"Tomorrow is our one-year anniversary," Nines says, kissing the top of Gavin's head as they lie together in bed, shortly after waking up. He's pretty sure Gavin wouldn't remember the date, or even particularly care, but it still feels like a huge milestone to him.

"Fuckin' what?"

Nines had learned a long time ago that that particular response indicated surprise rather than an actual request for him to repeat himself.

"Do you want to do something?" Nines asks. "We could make a reservation somewhere for dinner."

"Anniversaries are fuckin' stupid," Gavin says, but it's tinged with what Nines has learned is tenderness, betraying Gavin's real emotions. "'Sides, you don't fuckin' eat, anyway."

"We could do something else, then. Go ice skating?"

Nines doesn't necessarily mean it as a serious suggestion, but Gavin immediately scoffs and calls skating "stupid". He's learned too that this means Gavin actually likes the idea.

He likes how much he feels like he's come to understand Gavin over the past twelve months.

"As long as you're not gonna fuckin' trip and faceplant the entire time," Gavin grumbles. "You've never been skatin' before, right? I'm not gonna hold your fuckin' hand or whatever."

Nines books an slot at the skating rink closest to the station. "I have not, but I will, as you say, 'download instructions' beforehand so I do not embarrass you."

"You'd better not," Gavin says, but his voice is soft and affectionate now. "I'd better not be better at skatin' than my fuckin' robot boyfriend who can literally download skatin' algorithms."

"Whatever you say, sugar sweetums," Nines responds, earning himself a half-hearted punch in the arm. Gavin still didn't really like 'boyfriend', but uses it when he wants to particularly express his affection or appreciation, because he knows that Nines does like the term.

And Nines has learned it's better to give Gavin an out by responding with an obvious overreaction instead of commenting on it.

"I have booked us an appointment tomorrow evening at 7 PM," Nines says, changing the subject so Gavin doesn't have to. "The rink has a snack bar that serves hot dogs, hamb..."

"So much for spontaneity," Gavin grumbles, shifting so his head is level with Nines' on the pillow, and looking Nines in the eyes. He's smirking. "You plastic heads are all alike. Plannin' and schedulin' and makin' appointments for everything."

"If you prefer, we could spontaneously show up at a fully-booked rink tomorrow and spontaneously be turned away and..."

Gavin shuts him up by kissing him, hard, and Nines doesn't mind at all.

Nines really likes looking at Gavin.

He always has, of course, especially during the everyday moments when Gavin is occupied with something and just being himself. But now that he's officially moved in with Gavin, there are particularly many more of those moments, every day.

And he loves every one of them.

He's staring at Gavin now, as Gavin curses at the cutting board and a particularly skinny carrot during an attempt to make vegetable soup.

The soup had been Nines' idea, but he hadn't expected that Gavin would insist on dealing with all of the vegetables himself because 'You're not gonna eat any of it anyway, dammit' and 'I'm perfectly capable of cutting up some fuckin' veggies, J'.

So he just watches, instead, getting so caught up in the slight curl of Gavin's hair against the nape of his neck and the way the muscles in his arms move under his thin t-shirt as he chops that he doesn't even notice Gavin staring at him.

"The fuck you lookin' at?"

"Oh." Nines kind of likes that he's been caught staring. "Just you."

Gavin rolls his eyes and returns to the veggies, a self-satisfied smile on his face. "Like what you see?"

Nines knows that Gavin already knows the answer, and is just fishing for compliments, but humors him anyway. "Definitely."

Gavin blushes at that, slightly, tossing the last pieces of carrot in the pot and stirring the mixture. Then he looks back at Nines, seemingly considering.

"Y'know, your eyes are really... somethin'."

"A good something?" Nines isn't sure what Gavin's trying to say.

Gavin shrugs and turns back to the soup. "Who knows. They're just really... piercin', I guess."

"I was designed to be intimidating. I suppose they decided that grey eyes were more intimidating than brown."

"They got that fuckin' right," Gavin says, slamming the lid on the pot with more force than necessary. "The eyes, the height, the build."

"Do I intimidate you, Detective?" Nines can't help but smirk as he asks, even though he knows the answer already. Perhaps that's another thing he's gotten from Gavin.

"Fuck no," Gavin growls, moving toward Nines and slotting against him as Nines' arms wrap automatically around Gavin's back. "Nothin' intimidates me."

"Except talking about your feelings."

"Hey, fuck you," Gavin says, more amused than upset, laying his head against Nines' shoulder.

"You are welcome to," Nines says, teasingly, with the response that has become part of their usual banter now. "The soup will take some hours to cook. There might be enough time for you to reach climax before it finishes."

Gavin breaks out of his embrace and frowns, punching Nines in the arm with more force than would be customary.

Nines feels like he wholly deserves it.

"You're askin' for it, motherfucker," Gavin growls before taking Nines' hand and dragging him toward the bedroom.

Gavin doesn't get drunk very often anymore, typically nursing a single beer when they visit Hank and Connor, or rarely finishing a couple as they binge a TV show or watch a movie at home together.

Nines appreciates that Gavin is taking better care of himself and his liver, but finds that he sometimes misses how unfiltered -- even more than usual -- a drunken Gavin can be.

The drive back home from Tina's wedding is no exception, Nines already remembering fondly how a drunken Gavin had dragged him onto the dance floor and they'd both made fools of themselves in a way that Gavin would never have allowed if he was sober.

And the conversations are always interesting, too.

"Hey, J," Gavin starts, sitting with his head firmly against the car window as he grins at Nines. "I've gotta question."

"What's that?" Even though they're in a self-driving car, Nines still keeps his attention on the road, in case he needs to intervene.

"What'd ya thinka me when we metatfirst?"

Nines wavers a bit on how to answer. Even though a sober Gavin would not mind him being blunt, he isn't sure whether a drunk one would be quite so charitable.

He decides to be honest, anyway. The two of them never lied to each other. "I thought you were an arrogant asshole."

Gavin apparently finds this hilarious, cracking up so much that Nines starts to wonder if he needs to tell the car to pull over and check on him.

"I was wasssn'tI?" Gavin says, between giggles, as he calms down. "Stillam."

"And you think androids don't change," Nine says, smiling now.

Gavin swats in the general direction of Nines' arm, but misses. Nines moves his hand so it's resting on Gavin's leg, and Gavin takes it readily, squeezing it with more force than Nines would have expected given his current state. "Wadabout after?" Gavin asks. "First case."

"I thought you were an arrogant asshole who gave me a shitty nickname and wouldn't let me out of the car."

"Mmm," Gavin says, finding this answer less funny. "Wassn't loveat first sight?"

"I thought you had pretty eyes," Nines says. It had taken him a while to realize why he'd liked looking at Gavin's eyes so much, and why staring into them had been so disconcerting.

It hadn't just been the intensity of the man behind him.

Gavin cracks up again at the answer, shifting and falling against Nines' side, his weight hitting at once with enough force to push Nines back toward the door on his side of the car. "I knew it. You lovvvveeed me."

Nines attempts to move his arm to around Gavin's shoulders, but Gavin doesn't seem willing to let go of his hand. He settles for putting his other hand on Gavin's shoulder instead. "My current feelings for you do not mean that I had always held you in such esteem or high regard."

"You're fuckin' usin' the stoopidformalwords again," Gavin complains. "But's fair. Thought youwere an assholetoo."

"I didn't even do anything!" Nines says, incredulous, even as he's impressed at how serious the conversation is.

"Yeah yeah." Gavin waves his free hand around before letting it fall heavily into his lap. "Was wrong. You'reeelly amazing."

Nines likes the feeling he gets at that. "You are too, Gav."

"Mmm." Gavin closes his eyes and tries to snuggle up against Nines' arm, despite still holding his hand. "Imma sleep now."

Nines kisses the top of Gavin's head, gently. "I'll wake you when we arrive at home."

"Fukoff," Gavin complains, frowning. "Stupid fukker Iluv too fuckin' much butwon't lemmesleep."

Nines can't help but smile at that. "I love you too, Gav."

The smile doesn't fall off his face the rest of the way home.

"This is fuckin' disgusting."

"What is?" Nines stops partway through ripping a section off of his slice of bread and looks over at Gavin, who's looking at him with pure affection. "Your sandwich?"

"Naw," Gavin says, grabbing a slice of bread for himself from the bag. "You and me. We're like a fuckin' old married couple."

"Ah," Nines says, smiling now as he rips the section into smaller pieces and throws them to the ducks. "Well, you've got the 'old' part covered..."

"Hey, fuck you," Gavin says, but he's grinning.

" we're only missing the 'married' part."

Gavin shrugs, throwing his slice whole and smirking as two ducks get into a fight over it. "It'd be pretty easy to fix that."

It takes Nines a second. "I can't tell how serious that comment was."

Gavin shrugs again, grabbing another slice of bread, and actually ripping this one up. "Do we gotta make an appointment or something?"

"Um." Nines looks it up, finding there's an open slot at the courthouse in just over an hour. If they headed there directly after lunch...

Nines books the appointment.

"Not anymore," he says. "We have forty eight minutes to get to the courthouse, since they want us there 15 minutes in advance."

Gavin stares at him blankly. "What the fuck did you just do?"

"I... made an appointment." Nines is starting to wonder whether this was what Gavin had actually meant.

Gavin rolls his eyes, but he's smiling again, one of the soft smiles that Nines has realized over the years are really only for him. "Of course you fuckin' did. Makin' sure I can't chicken out, J?"

"You never chicken out," Nines reminds him, throwing the last bits of his piece of bread and wiping his hands on his pants.

"Forty eight minutes," Gavin says, thinking. "Should be enough. There's somethin' we gotta do first."

"What about your lunch?" Nines asks as he watches Gavin wrap up the rest of his sandwich and stand.

"I can eat it afterward," Gavin says, offering Nines a hand and pulling him to his feet. "C'mon."

They walk out of a nearby jeweler twelve minutes later with matching bands -- stainless steel, each engraved with a small gear -- that Gavin had picked out and then complained about in the way Nines knows means he actually really likes them.

They walk out of the courthouse sixty eight minutes after that, a married couple, and it isn't until Gavin takes his hand outside -- smiling softly -- and calls him 'Husband, or whatever', that it really hits him.

He wonders if that'd been the point, both of Gavin's off-the-cuff comment and his own last-minute booking.

Gavin kisses the tears away, gently, looking at him with affection-tinged annoyance until Nines thinks he's functional again.

"Y'know, marriage is fuckin' stupid," Gavin says, looking like he's trying to suppress the grin on his face. "Pointless waste of time."

"Right," Nines says, not caring that his facial motors feel like they might be permanently stuck in a smile now.

"We could've had a nice lunch in the park. Instead you drag us to this. My sandwich is probably all fuckin' slimy now."

"Like this wasn't exactly what you wanted," Nines says, pulling Gavin toward him. "This was your idea, I'll point out."

Gavin grumbles, but meets Nines the rest of the way, joining their lips and kissing him, deeply.

It isn't quite how Nines had imagined he'd get married, but somehow, it feels perfect anyway.

No relationship is perfect, and Nines and Gavin's is no exception.

Gavin's still strong-willed, excessively obstinate, and brash. Nines still tends to speak before he thinks and be overly analytical, and has a bad sense of when to shut up.

So they fight sometimes, with one argument -- sparked by a discussion about Nines' expected lifespan of nearly 200 years -- ending so badly that Nines ends up back at Hank and Connor's for days, thinking their relationship was over.

But they always make up, and always find their way back to each other. And as they settle into their lives together and learn to have the difficult conversations without getting quite so emotional in the moment, their fighting tapers off until one day, when they're sitting on the couch together -- quietly reading, Gavin sitting with his hand in Nines' even though he should be using it to better hold his book -- Nines realizes he can't remember the last time they'd really fought.

Well, not literally. He can easily call up memories of the exact date and time. But it had been years.

"I love you, Gav," he says, his fingers running over the band of metal on Gavin's finger, loving the feel of it and what it means even though Gavin had insisted -- and still insists -- that he didn't see a point to marriage.

Even though Nines knows that Gavin had been just as excited as he had been to be married.

"Yeah, yeah," Gavin grumbles, giving him a quick glance and a smile, and gripping Nines' hand more firmly. That glance still gives Nines butterflies. "I know, idiot."

Gavin still doesn't say it, most of the time. It comes out sometimes, late at night when they're quietly alone together in bed, or more rarely when they're out somewhere and Gavin's feeling particularly vulnerable. And Nines has a record of each one of those times close at hand.

But Gavin doesn't have to say it, because Nines knows, and will always know, how the man feels about him.

He allows his gaze to linger a bit on Gavin, even as Gavin turns his attention firmly back to his book, just so he's sure he has a clear record of the moment.

So Gavin may not be perfect. Nines may not be perfect. They may not be perfect together. But it's close enough. Nines can't think of anywhere else he'd rather be, or anyone else he'd rather be with.

Nines is happy.

Chapter End Notes

Sorry for the delay on this one! A friend was cooking up something fun to go along with the fic and I was going to post them together, but it's not quite done yet, so here's the chapter in the meantime.

You may notice this is now chapter 14 of 15... the next update and last chapter will be that fun something, but it's not more writing, so this is the actual end of the fic.


Chapter Notes

My friend Deevil (NSFW mastodon account @[email protected]) made these renders of Nines and an older Gavin!

I figured it'd be a nice way to close out the fic.

Gavin looking at Nines warily

Nines holding Gavin's hand and looking like he wants a kiss

Nines with his arms around a surprised Gavin

Chapter End Notes

And this is it! Thanks to everyone for following along and commenting and leaving kudos. This entire project has been a heck of a lot of fun to write.

If you haven't yet checked out Caught In The Storm, consider doing so! It follows the events of MITTS from Gavin's perspective, and then goes more into post-dating events than the fluffy epilogues here do.


Please drop by the Archive and comment to let the creator know if you enjoyed their work!