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Love Him in My Absence

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The ring easily slid off Gavin’s finger, and as Marsha and Charles squeaked out their protests, Nines only offered his lover a caustic sneer. At least Gavin had the decency to pocket the ring, and as he stood to his feet, he fidgeted before nervously gushing out, “I apologize, Charles, Marsha…” Turning and pointing at Nines, then, he expounded uncomfortably, “This is more so my problem and his; not yours.”

Rapidly, he stalked out of the room, down the hall, and he was already putting his shoes on his feet. At once, Marsha and Charles gaped at Nines, staring back and forth at him, the hallway, over at him again, and then Marsha hissed, “What’s going on, Nines?!”

“Yeah!” Charles cried, eyebrows high on his forehead. “Go after him!!”

Was that what he’d been required to do?

Almost petulantly, Nines wanted to cry out, “Why should I?”, but then, a voice welling up deeply from within the pit of his system clawed its way up to the surface, and it spoke on his behalf.

He wasn’t willing to let Gavin go; not now, not ever. He’d worked so long and so hard at trying to establish a bond, and a true relationship. What fool would give that up, now? What idiot would purposefully knock down and crumble the castle they’d created and embellished with someone they cherished and valued so much?? What of that love?

….

Love?

Yes…love.

If Nines had before been searching for an opportune moment to come forth and confess his feelings, now was the best time. Well, the situation and moment had been thrust upon him surprisingly, but that didn’t mean he was going to sit by and allow the opportunity to slip through his fingers. He had to make it work, and he was going to chase after Gavin.

Picking up his feet, he sped through the brightly lit hallway of the Driver home, and he just managed to catch Gavin on the way out the door. The short brunette was making his way down the driveway already, weaving between Marsha’s vehicle and his own. When he tried fishing out his keys from his pocket, Nines slammed a strong hand down powerfully on his shoulder and spun him around.

Putting up a fight, Gavin trained his eyes and face to the concrete below, and as he tried wriggling free of Nines’ hold on himself, the door behind them squeaked open, and Nines was already aware of Marsha and Charles watching them.

Leaning close to Gavin, he hissed, “Please stop, Gavin!”

Throwing his head back, the rebellious nature of the short detective revealed itself as he screamed out, “FUCK OFF, NINES!!”

“The entire neighborhood will hear, you fool!!”

“I DON’T GIVE A MOTHERFUCK!” Gavin retorted, scratching at the keys like a wild animal. “LET ME GO, OR I’LL CALL UP A FUCKIN’ CAB!!”

Cupping the man’s cheeks in his wide, large hands, Nines maintained eye contact, leaned in closely, and spat in Gavin’s face with all the emotions he could muster. “I LOVE YOU, GAVIN REED!! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT??”

Those words…those words had been exactly what Nines knew Gavin had wanted to hear for so long, and yet he had shrugged them off so easily. Brushing them off as though they were flakes that weighed nothing or whispers in the wind, Gavin backed himself up until he was pressed against the side of the car. Thankfully, only Marsha and Charles seemed to be observing them, and the rest of the neighborhood had quieted down in terms of activity.

Not letting go now that he’d finally come forward with his true feelings, Nines repeated, “Please listen to me, Gavin; I do love you, and I want to work things out.”

He knew he’d be met with resistance; both men had been at odds and remained unconsentaneous for some time. It was a pattern Nines had grown accustomed to, but above it all, he knew that wasn’t the real Gavin Reed. The human had always pulled through for him, surprising him and awakening him to things he’d only ever dreamed of. He was not going to give that up or let it go.

Again, he stated succinctly, “I love you, Gavin.”

Shaking his head back and forth as if trying to free his neck and head from the confines of some invisible net, Gavin bucked as he snapped crudely, “Fuck off, that’s not true, Nines.”

“Then why does your voice waver so?” Nines asked, hands once again coming up to slide over Gavin’s face, holding on tightly. Their foreheads pressed together, and Nines whispered again, “I love you, foolish man. I’ve been in love with you since Halloween, and since you came to carve those pumpkins with me. You have no idea how much you helped save me…” Now, the confessions spilled forth freely, and Nines questioned himself on why he hadn’t come forward with his feelings earlier. It could’ve saved them both a lot of trouble.

Wheezing, Gavin could barely keep his eyes open as he brokenly sobbed out, “R-really? Y-you mean th-that?”

Nines knew that if his LED light was still with himself, it no doubt would’ve reddened still further as he finally admitted to himself that he truly loved Gavin Reed. Owing it to his partner, he nodded as he whispered, “Yes, I love your bravery, your loyalty, the enormous heart that has given you the power to survive the greatest adversity and finally confront some of the demons of your past. Not to mention those enigmatic eyes that sparkle mischievously, that contagious grin, that husky voice, and that way you think no one will notice how sensitive you are given how quickly you become so angry.”

Thumbs stroking Gavin’s stubbly cheeks with the intent never to stop, Nines cried out emotionally, “I know. But how could this truly be happening?” He wondered out loud both his own thoughts, and Gavin’s. “…How could we possibly want each other, right? Ridiculous! Impossible!”

Nodding, Gavin gasped, “I…I do w-want you, too…”

Nines knew the shorter man was watching intently, and when the RK900 gazed back longingly into his eyes, Gavin’s face slowly turned red.

Lips dry so much that Gavin’s tongue darted out to wet them, his voice cracked as he said, “I used to think to myself: Nines hates me too much, and he won’t ever like me even as a friend!”

“In turn, I tried pushing you away, but only because I was so, so very frightened of losing you and your heart.” Nines noted the day that he truly suspected that he’d finally made Gavin so angry that he was utterly speechless with frenzied worry.

“I’m s-so sorry, Nines,” Gavin rasped, hands and body trembling like a like caught in the wind. “I had thought that you really hated me, and I was scared to let someone in because it’s b-been so long...but obviously I was mistaken.” Shaking even more profoundly, he cried, “I…I’ll g-go; I’ve already embarrassed us both here enough, and I promise that I won’t ever bother you again!” He ended his statements with a sob as he turned towards the driver’s door.

Nines couldn’t believe it. He’d gambled everything and lost it all. In spite of everything, Gavin was rejecting him yet again. What would it take to help this man to see things clearly?! What sign did he have to put up until Gavin Reed got the picture loud and clear??

Turning towards the married couple briefly, Nines caught looks of nervousness, fleeting hopes, as well as pain crossing over their features. Strangely, it appeared as though Marsha was holding her breath, and Charles was fanning and his hands, waving in Nines’ direction to keep on going.

As Nines was frozen for a moment, he only snapped out of it when he heard rustling.

“I…I c-can’t do this!” The pain in Gavin’s voice finally broke through Nines’ complacency; he never would have imagined that single sorrow-filled statement coming out of the one person he cared and loved the most would break him down so much. He would have imagined obstreperous arrogance or cajolery, not that heart-rending vulnerability that rendered Nines absolutely speechless, and made Gavin seem like he was ten again. It shattered Nines’ bio-components and thirium pump in a nanosecond, but the segment of his CPU that was alive and working ensured he didn’t give up on Gavin.

Ever.

Gavin had partly opened the door by the time his android partner looked up. In a heartbeat, Nines quickly flung himself forward at the door to lock it just before the shorter male reached for the handle, then was pressing himself as tightly as he could around the shorter man. The embrace Nines held Gavin in was bone-crushing, but Nines knew it was exactly what Gavin had needed and lacked all his life.

Already, Gavin was much too upset to focus on the eyes of both Charles and Marsha wavering over himself and Nines. For a moment, Nines knew he was searching for a way to unlock the door, not that he would have been able to gather the energy and willpower to actually get around to opening the door, let alone driving away. The android knew his lover’s throat was too clogged to speak even the simplest of words. But it was a moot point as Nines grabbed his lover and whirled him around, then froze when he saw the tears streaking down Gavin’s pale face.

….

He’d never seen Gavin weeping before.

Nines’ thirium pump clenched at the sight, and he vowed to do everything within his power to ensure that he would never again have to see his beloved overcome with such pain. He gently drew the shorter man into his arms, though he first ran the pads of his thumbs over Gavin’s cheeks, catching and trailing the tears as they fell.

At first, Gavin’s body was stiff and disbelieving, then slowly relaxed into the comfort offered by the strong arms that cradled him gently against the hard, lean body of the android who’d confessed his truest feelings. One hand rested firmly, but undemandingly, at the base of Gavin’s spine, whilst the other wandered soothingly up and down his back. Nines was enveloped by the scent of the man he loved above all others; a heady combination of herbs and pungent male cologne, but underlying it all was a base of apples and cedar.

There were no meaningless platitudes or clumsy, siccaneous apologies, no attempt to offer words of any sort. There wasn’t a need for it. Nines had no idea what would be appropriate, so he said nothing. As much as sharp pain resonated within himself, he wanted to be sincere and silent, rather than to keep blurting things out and overpowering the healing and growth Gavin had to go through. Instead, he merely offered his presence, reveling in the slow relaxation of the body in his arms as much as the man he was holding onto leaned heavily against him.

Gavin’s sobs eventually ceased, and he relaxed completely within Nines’ embrace, hardly daring to believe that this was real. Nines knew that Gavin could hardly believe that he truly wanted him in return. The two stood there for several minutes, basking in the contentment of that moment which lingered between acceptance and desire. The sun grew hotter, even behind the canopy and shade of the clouds lingering above. When the wind blew, it promised along with its magnificent secrets, a most fruitful and kind summer.

Feeling his human partner warming up both internally and externally, Nines placed a soft kiss among the messy brown and grey locks, thinking he would be quite content to just stand there indefinitely, holding his Gavin peacefully.

Suddenly, the shorter male pulled away slightly, just enough to look up, and as the watery ocean-grey gaze met shining blue, the desire that had been held in check slowly started to fill them both.

Raising his brows, Gavin panted, “I’m so sorry I never got you a ring; you deserve so much better, Nines…”

Happy to see that Gavin’s tears were slowly dissipating, Nines lifted one hand to tenderly wipe away the last vestiges of Gavin’s tears. Then, his gaze firmly fixed on the trembling lips before himself, and naturally, he slowly lowered his head. Not caring that Marsha and Charles emitted soft gasps of sheer joy, Nines felt zero obstriction when it came to Gavin Reed. He was going to right all his wrongs, and he started by kissing Gavin deeply. Such a breathtaking kiss made Gavin snake his arms up around the taller man’s neck as he met Nines half-way.

The kiss wasn’t meant to last too long. Nines drew back, unfurled their limbs and he maintained serious eye contact with Gavin. “Your ring, Gavin,” he whispered on the edge of desperation, and then his eyes followed down to the pocket Gavin was hiding it in deeply.

Gavin reached into his pocket and withdrew the ring Nines had just given him a few days ago. Nines took it from Gavin and then said, “Hold out your hand.”

Gavin did so and Nines slid the ring onto his partner’s ring finger while saying with utmost sincerity and passion, “With this ring, Gavin Reed, I pledge a vow of lifelong loyalty to you and only you. I swear to fight for your protection until the day I breathe my very last breath. I give you my entire heart, body, and soul which no one has claimed before. I promise to do my utmost best to ensure a long and happy life for you. All I ask for in return,” Nines then leaned in and whispered into his lover’s ear, “is for you to be my husband. Marry me, Gavin Reed.”

Birds flew on by above, settling every so often on the tips of tall trees, power lines, and on rooftops. Marsha and Charles had slowly been drawn out of their house, and as they caved in under the pressure of their burning curiosity, eager to know what was going on, Gavin could only gape at Nines. The way he stared in such a fixated way at the tall android as though he’d hung the stars and the moon made Nines nearly collapse and fall over in such happiness he’d never thought was possible.

However, it was just more than self-happiness; it was a shared was so overcome with this newfound happiness that he never realized that he had thrown himself into Gavin’s arms; holding onto him as if he was the only thing that would keep him alive.

As he ran his long fingers through Gavin’s hair, he heard and felt the love of his life emit a strained-yet happy cry.

Shaking his head, Gavin wheezed between tears, “Yes!!” He repeated the single word a few times as if it were the only thing he knew how to say before he composed himself and peeled himself away from Nines. At eye-level, now, Gavin cried softly, “I will be the happiest guy in the world to become your husband, Nines.”

He meant it, and Nines needed nothing else. Gathering Gavin back into his arms, he peeked back over his shoulder and flashed both Marsha and Charles the widest grin ever. As they returned it in kind, they approached to embrace the two lovers standing on their front lawn.

They all held onto each other dearly, the joy and pride swelling between them all equally as it shrouded them in a veil of the purest kind of happiness only experienced once in a lifetime.

The entire time while nuzzling against Gavin, Nines continuously found himself wondering when this infatuation with Gavin had begun, and when it’d turned to love.

Oh well. It hardly mattered; he had Gavin right where he’d wanted him all along.

 

*x*x*x*x*x*

 

Nines held onto Gavin’s hand tightly the moment they exited their vehicle. They stood facing the wide-open gates of the public cemetery Carrie Moser had been buried in weeks ago. Now that the rain was no longer with them, beneath the soft grey and blue of the skies above, they were able to see things a lot clearer, now. Though the gate was beyond rusted and old, plenty of lights were strewn about over the tall edges of the gate. The entire cemetery was a lot wider than Nines remembered, with plenty of gravestones lining up in rows running up and down vastly. Plenty of footprints, flowers still fresh as the morning sun, as well as wreaths had been hung around the tops of the stones in commemoration.

Some of the stones were cracked, others badly chipped. Some worse off than others, but they all still stood among the tall, deep green of the grass, and the occasional white or red petals of the flowers littered on the grounds. The light-bulbs flickered every once in a while, and it went without saying that all of them were in disrepair. With so many of the cemetery’s decorative lights broken, Nines wondered just how much brighter it would be if they were all switched on. As with everywhere else, there didn’t seem to be anyone around, but this place came across as being even deeper in decline because Nines could imagine how lively the graveyard and distant neighborhood built around it must’ve been in its former days.

Losing track of time was so easy at this moment. Nines didn’t care about it. In fact, all that mattered was the warmth of the flesh and blood he held onto in the palm of his hand, and as he cast a loving look at Gavin, the other male shrank back from it. But it wasn’t Nines that Gavin was fearful of.

“I’m here, you’ll be okay,” he comforted his lover sincerely. “Take your time.”

Now, Nines stood by and examined the grounds and coffins lying deep down below in the earth. The skeletal remains of humans who’d once walked through the streets and paths of Detroit exuded an aura that made Nines feel as if it wouldn’t be strange to find a supernatural being or two floating about accompanying them. Feelings as such made it relatively easy to imagine that many loved ones visited and used to frequent here. It was quite raw, and paired with the ambiance and sights, Nines could’ve wept.

And what a sight. Considering the time of day, the sun should still have been high in the sky when he traveled to the cemetery with Gavin, but now, clouds displayed their countenance, as though to mourn the wretched spectacle below strewn all across the desolate grounds of the cemetery. The shadows cast by the wreckage of the old and forgotten buildings were deeper and darker than black. Steeping as high as they did, they seemed monstrous in design and intentions as they appeared to be the only company Nines and Gavin had.

The gravestones all told their own stories, and the insufferable mass of them all lay bare. It was no maze, but if one took a false step amid the overgrown, wild foliage and vegetation, they would certainly lose their way, perhaps condemned to wander about for eternity.

Though the mood was quite bleak, as Nines held Gavin’s hand in his own, he carefully pulled his partner’s hand up to his lips, and he pressed a cold kiss onto the back of Gavin’s knuckles delicately.

When their eyes met, Nines purred almost ravenously, “Can’t you feel their energy here, Gavin?”

Utterly confused as expected, the detective froze for a moment, and then his face contorted into a disgruntled, puzzled expression. “Energy?” he reiterated, “whose, Nines?”

Peering down below, Nines provided the answer. “The people who wander here; the souls who seem to be lost. They have such energy, Gavin. It certainly isn’t easy to notice at first, but you can feel it if you want to be open to it.” Kneeling at a gravestone, then, Nines pulled Gavin down gently with himself, and together, they read the engraving of the gravestone.

While Gavin hung his head down-perhaps in respect-Nines sighed. Though quite luscious and green all around, this environment was practically like the segregated space of another dimension, one leading to a separate new world. Little by little, as the sun descended, the pale, cloudy sky began changing to a murky grey. As far as the weather went, it wasn’t the best of omens; Nines sensed more heavy rainfall on the horizon brewing.

…More venomous, imbued with the stench of corruption…

Perhaps.

Clasping his hands down at the dirt, Gavin cried out potently, “The grass is so long, the soil is so cold, and yet, I do feel an odd energy coursing through my veins…” Head tilting towards Nines, he rasped in awe, “What’s that feeling, Nines?? Explain it to me…”

Eyes flying over towards the grave of Carrie Moser, Nines whispered a suggestion. “It could perhaps be their love that’s still leftover; their concern for their loved ones who still walk among us on the earth…then again, perhaps it’s just the way the world of the living and the deceased interact…”

“How, Nines? How?”                                           

He smiled. “I believe it’s harder to see and feel, but there is life after death, and maybe it begins here.”

Gavin’s eyes followed Nines’ line of inquiry. Knowing his partner had set his interest and attention on Carrie Moser’s gravestone, Gavin chewed his lower lip for a second, and then his hands instinctively went to his pocket.

“You can open it,” Nines advised, already making to move back. “I can go if you want—”

“No,” Gavin argued, his hand latching around Nines. “I want you to be here with me while I read this.”

Head bowed down in obeisance, Nines whispered, “Of course.”

Without much else, they both made their way to stand in the rightful, respectful place, right before Carrie’s grave. Nines looked down at the dirt and flowers climbing up from the grass while the craving in the grey stone read:

Carrie Anna Moser, wife, mother, friend, teacher. 1979-2041

As Gavin’s shaky fingers unfurled the letter from the confines of its old envelope, the detective hung his head down much like Nines was doing. With his head craned down, majority of his grey and white strands shot forth, but Nines found them to be a beauty; a work of the artistic wonders of nature.

Inhaling sharply as the dolent wind died down, as though listening, Gavin whispered, “An open letter to my dearest and most cherished son, the man who gave so much of himself to everyone and made all the sacrifices in the world at such a young age…” 

“I feel your pain, honey. I’ve been watching you from the moment you let out your first cry, announcing your presence to the world. I’ve been with you since you took your first step, and since you learned your first word. Don’t think I never noticed you, my son.

First of all, you have to know that it’s very admirable that you try so hard to care for the people around yourself. It’s amazing that you’re always so willing to give so much of yourself to your relationships. It’s heart-wrenching to know that you’re so selfless to the point where your own well-being is sometimes compromised. There are very few people like you; someone who is brave enough to jump head-first into the waters of love without having to think twice about it. You are always so quick to see the goodness in the people around yourself. You are the one who usually takes notice of the things that no one else really pays attention to.

You are always willing to give your helpful heart to the outcasts; the people who are so incredibly flawed that no one wants anything to have to do with them. These are the damaged human beings who roam the world; they are the ones that you take it upon yourself to help. They are the ones you convince yourself you can fix. But unfortunately for you, your kindness is often what allows others to take advantage of you. It’s the ones who you try to help who are also so willing to bite your hand when you feed them. It’s the ones who you give your whole heart to who are so willing to just stomp on it with their feet. They are going to milk as much as they can out of you until you have nothing left to give; and they’re going to leave you feeling helpless, dejected, and disappointed.

I know your father and I failed you most of the time, because we both kept things from you, and yet we both also used you when we should’ve just been there for you as parents. In time, I realized that through all my breakdowns and misery, my own child was raising me when it should’ve been me who was raising you. I’m so sorry that your father and I put you through this, my Gavin.

I wish so much to tell you that if you continue to be the kind and genuine soul that you are, the love that you deserve is going to come to you in no time. But that’s not going to be the truth. There are just too many terrible people in the world. And you, with your selfless heart, you aren’t going to discriminate any of them. And you are going to fall victim to a lot of them before you actually find the people you’re meant to be with. You’re going to end up stuck in a lot of terrible friendships with people who are going to constantly play with your mind and mess with your sensibilities. They are going to victimize you with every chance that they get. They will abuse and manipulate you to do things that might be self-destructive to you, but beneficial to them.

These are the people who will keep you on the leash and string you along for the ride, but they will only throw you crumbs. They are never going to be the people that you need them to be. But they are always going to demand that you be your best self for them. And being the caring person that you are, you will consent to it. But I’m going to tell you that these are the temporary feelings by people who walk in and out of your life depending on what’s convenient for them, and they won’t stick around forever, my child. You are going to meet a lot of people who will be so quick to feed you with sweet lines and words just to keep you hooked. They will shower you with flowery words, but they really have no sincere intentions and motivations behind these words. They just want you to do their bidding and this is how they think they can achieve that.

This is how they think they can get as much out of you as they can. They will make you think that they’re so into you; but they’re really only ever interested in what you can offer them. They don’t love you. They just love what you can give to them. They’re never going to commit to you. These people are never going to give you the safety and security that you might need from them in friendships. They are never going to be able to provide you with the ease of mind that you deserve from them. Instead, they will give you stress. They will trigger your insecurities. They will induce your anxieties. And they are going to feed off your vulnerabilities the best way that they can.

It’s difficult being the way that you are. You never seem to reap any rewards from it. But you have to persist. Because at the end of the day, you will win. These people who let you go, just as your father let me go; they are the losers. And one day, when you do find the person who is going to make your patience pay off, you’re going to forget about every other guy or girl who has wronged you. I know that you will gain a profound appreciation for the love that you have always deserved to have.

I used to think it would be impossible for you to find that right person, but then, one day, an android walked into my life, and he completely changed everything. All the ideas I held about the world, all the notions of bad or good, right or wrong, he changed them. Like an eraser made from magic, this android was a God-sent gift; a divine charm and blessing in disguise. He wiped away all the hurt, the suffering, and he answered all the questions I had.

Although a lot of the issues you always had with your stepbrother Elijah may never be solved, I’m a realist, and not a dreamer. I love you now even more than when you were a baby, Gavin. In my eyes, nothing will replace you in my heart, and nothing will take you away from me. I may not be on this Earth for much longer, but I can rest peacefully now that I know you’re taken care of and loved in the way you should be.

Just continue to love the way that you always have, and you’re going to eventually grow in the same kind of love for yourself.

And remember, Gavin; just because dad left, doesn’t mean Nines will.”

Finally finishing the dolorific letter, as Gavin crumbled down to his knees on the grass, he began sobbing like a lost boy. The tears freshly poured and fell like tiny diamonds from his cheeks down into the grass and earthy soil. Staining his jeans and the letter along with it, he threw his head back and wailed at the sky. A few moments later, fate befell him, and the vast sky above wept with him. The entire time he sobbed, his voice kept breaking. It almost seemed like this had been the first time he’d really cried in decades.

Over the thunder rolling around in the distance high across the valleys, Nines was able to distinctly make out the words Gavin was repeating to himself as he wailed them like a cry for help.

“I love you, mom. Mom…I miss you…”

The raindrops fell, growing larger and heavier. Not bothered by them, Gavin clenched his eyes and fists tightly together, and as Nines took off his raincoat and draped it over his lover’s back and shoulders, Gavin buried his face in the letter. It was now his security blanket, his mother…

As closely as he remained at his side, Nines could’ve sworn he actually scented Carrie Moser’s perfume still imbued all over the page.