Actions

Work Header

Love Him in My Absence

Chapter Text

Image may contain: outdoor and nature, text that says '"I think he's very lonely. Lonelier than he lets on. Maybe lonelier than he even realizes.'

 

Love Him in My Absence

 

No matter how many times he’d glanced through the letter currently resting on his lap openly, Gavin Reed knew his brain was unable to fully process its deeper context and message. It wasn’t often that he received letters from his elderly, widowed mother, but whenever he had previously, it often consisted of dull, banal topics regarding the weather, his job, his unkempt, old apartment, the possibility that he should ask Captain Fowler for a raise, the fact that he was underweight, and then she would usually beg for him to come back home and live with her. The topics usually wavered and consisted of these natures, but the letter Gavin currently read over was so much different.

In fact, it was so different, that he suspected he’d imagined and dreamed it up. After taking a trip to the water fountains, then the washrooms where he splashed cold water on his face, made the walk back to his desk, stubbed his toes a few times, and slammed his elbows on the surface of the desk, he determined that this wasn’t a matter of him being asleep or daydreaming. But did he ever wish for it to be a dream…reading the letter once again confirmed his worst nightmares becoming a reality for him, and for once in his entire life, Gavin Reed had no idea what to do even as far as a reaction went.

Peeking down at the contents of the letter, he read it over for the tenth time before he heard someone shuffling around behind himself. Smelling the putrid, powerful stench of tobacco, he rolled his eyes dramatically before swiveling himself around in his spinning chair.

Eyeing Lieutenant Hank Anderson with a dull, vacant expression, he croaked out, “What’re you doin’, Anderson?”

Stroking his beard almost sluggishly, the older male grumbled out, “Was on my way over to ask you for an extra smoke, but I couldn’t help but read that note you got there…”

A minacious glare came out of Gavin, then, but rather than attack Hank and bickering with him like he’d wanted to, he only stilled his trembling hands and sighed sadly. He was truly defeated, this time. He had no stamina and no energy to throw out a biting, acidic remark; he was truly lost, bewildered, and backed into the worst of corners. Not with Hank Anderson, no, but with the true nature of the troubling letter from his mother.

Motioning at it with a sharp nod, Hank muttered, “Can I read it closer?”

Staring a few times between the note and Hank, Gavin eventually relented. “Fuck it,” he mumbled brokenly, tossing the letter over into Hank’s hands, “knock yourself out! Fuck! When you’re done with it, you can also post it on the bulletin boards too in the staff room, I don’t give a shit.” He knew he was being a tad dramatic, but he really was unable to contain the rest of his anger and channel it out in a more ‘positive’ way as opposed to throwing his chair out a window or something.

He only resorted to sitting back and staring awkwardly at the floor while Hank read the note silently, his lips miming the words as his eyes swam over from left to right.

Already, Gavin had practically memorized the letter all on his own. It was going to be something he remembered for life.

‘My son, you are already thirty-eight-years-old, and next October, you will be thirty-nine. You’re still choosing to live the rough-and-tough ‘single life’, and I wouldn’t care a lot had I not stumbled upon your father’s last will and testament.’

Pausing here, Hank grunted out oddly, “Your dad’s dead, Reed?”

Scowling irritably, Gavin spat back, “Yeah, my old man croaked a few months back. Never attended his funeral or whatever because everyone would hear about it, snoop around, and fuck if I need anyone’s pity.”

Scratching his grey hair, Hank stated, “But Reed…that’s your dad…” Shaking his head in astonishment, he added, “You owe him something, at least.”

“I owe my dad shit,” Gavin couldn’t help but throw out emotionally. “He divorced my mom when I was barely ten, and then remarried the woman who raised the android-maker genius, Elijah Kamski.”

Yes, the really annoying part was that hardly anyone out there really knew that Gavin’s stepbrother was the infamous Elijah Kamski. Both adult men had lived separate lives in general, perhaps each of them had been ashamed of their parents’ pasts. But now that Hank had heard it, his eyebrows rose up high to his hairline, and he shrugged as he waved a hand before the irritable, moody detective.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Reed,” he advised softly, “but let me finish this before my train of thought escapes me!”

“Whatever, old timer.”

‘Your father loved you all his life. Maybe he didn’t get to tell you enough times, but he wanted to see you happy and loved above all else. His last will and testament states this, as it was his dying wish. Perhaps if you visited him in the hospital, you would’ve had the opportunity to talk to him and reach an understanding.

He has left you this inheritance, Gavin, but it won’t come to you easily; not without his wishes and thoughts being considered and heard out by you. This could be yours, Gavin, and it is the one and only opportunity for you to possess something you always complained was your ‘natural born right’. This is a good chance for you to reconnect with the family legacy, Gavin.

I suppose you’re wondering now what the catch is…well, to be blunt, your father wished to see you married and settled down before the age of forty, and this is a wish that is attached to the inheritance.

In layman’s terms; no wedding? No money.

Last time I heard, you could really use some of that money; we both know they aren’t paying you too well at the DPD.

Lowering the page, Hank let out a dull snort, “She’s kinda right.” Pointing at the rest of the note, he hurriedly finished reading it.

‘See to it that these conditions are met if you want to see a single penny, and remember, Gavin; we love you, and your father didn’t mean to hurt you. Everyone has a different path in life, and while your father and I struggled, you should know that we tried our best to make it work out. He found his true happiness elsewhere, however, and I found mine, too.

Now, it’s your turn to find yours.

Your mother.’

Whistling as he turned away from the letter and finally gazed at Gavin, Hank pointed at the note and cried out, “That’s brutal…so your dad left you a pretty good amount of dough, and you’re not allowed to access it unless you get married?!”

Nodding slowly, Gavin pressed out through tightly clenched teeth, “Yeah, that’s the gist of it, so it seems.”

With squinty eyes displaying nothing but raw confusion, Hank handed him back the letter as he inquired, “But Reed, no offense here,” he held up his hands, as if Gavin had him under gunpoint, “but you don’t seem like the marriage type!”

“I’m not,” Gavin admitted, “and besides, I haven’t had a normal relationship with a woman in like…fuck…” He turned beet red, not wanting to admit it, but it came out anyway in a tiny croak, “…In like five years…”

Hank rolled his eyes, “Weren’t you seein’ Tina a while ago?”

Gavin hid his face behind a hand. “No, Anderson,” he pressed out painfully, trying to push out the horrific memory and images from his mind. “I told you; it was just an awkward ‘almost-one-night-stand’.”

Hank grunted, “The fuck is an ‘almost-one-night-stand’?”

Soon, another pair of footsteps approached, and a long hand tapped Hank on the shoulder before a blue LED light practically blinded the two humans. “It means Gavin almost slept with Officer Chen, Hank!” Connor sang out cheerfully. “I remember that night! They were both so drunk after the DPD dinner!”

Gavin waved a hand at them, “Stop gossipin’ like girls and tell me how the fuck I’m supposed to—” He paused, only then taking note of how easily Connor had joined in the conversation. Peeved, he glared at Connor as he hissed out coldly, “Connor, you haven’t been goin’ through my mail again, have you?”

Connor had recently quit working in the homicide unit, and when Hank chose to retire and just do some odd jobs around the DPD, the friendly RK800 chose to rope him into his own personal suggestion of applying to work in the mail room. It worked out for the pair, but not without the cost of the nosy RK800 sometimes rifling through people’s letters.

When Connor looked down and suddenly held a penitent gaze in his large, dark brown eyes, Gavin threw his arms up in the air and rose from his chair. “Fuck it,” he hissed, “I need a cigarette.”

Connor’s jaw fell, “I thought you were going to quit?”

“Nah, I can’t now,” Gavin retorted, hands and fingers fumbling and shaking as he dug deeply within his dark brown sweater and searched for the only source of his relief and comfort. When he found his lighter and cigarettes, he let out a strained sigh of relief. Now, he needed to go somewhere quiet and peaceful so he could gather his thoughts, ruminate on his shitty situation, and try to come up with a solution to all this.

Maybe he could reason with his mother…but too bad his father was six feet under. Son of a bitch. Of course, he wouldn’t ever leave the Earth without taking one last jab at Gavin, and the detective found he had a new reason altogether to despise his father once again.

Shoving his chair out of the way, he zipped himself up and made his way through the bullpen, hoping the late autumn weather wasn’t going to be too cold for a quick smoke break. On the way towards the exits, he nearly ran into Captain Fowler just as the man had been descending from his office steps.

When their eyes met, Captain Fowler threw Gavin a heated glare, and then nodded suspiciously at him, “Where are you off to, Reed?” He interrogated the other man, “Your break ended twenty minutes ago!”

Throwing his hands in the air, Gavin grunted uncomfortably, “Jeffrey, can you just give me another break for a bit? I’m going through some tough shit, alright?”

Stepping up closely towards him aggressively, Captain Fowler growled, “You don’t dare tell me what you need and don’t need, you fr—” When he took note of Connor and Hank waving their hands at him and shaking their heads in anger, he froze, and then pointed at them. “The hell are you guys saying?!”

Not in the mood to deal with this any longer, Gavin quickly pushed past Fowler, and he tore towards the exits. His ears caught sounds of Hank, Connor, and Jeffrey Fowler screaming back and forth at one another, but he couldn’t give two shits what they were yammering on and on about.

Right now, he needed air, his cigarettes, and he needed to think.

Soon, the red ‘exit’ sign loomed in the distance, and as Gavin finally reached it, he fished out a fresh cigarette from his package. Holding it firmly between his teeth, he shoved the door open, and he stepped outside in a jiffy.

The cool autumn air greeted him, accompanied by the orange, yellow, and light green hues and colors. The trees were all either yellow or orange in leaf color, and others had fallen in large heaps and piles as the wind picked up the stray leaves and blew them about in a lovely array of dancing patterns and colors swishing about. In the top of some trees, due to the leaves falling, Gavin was able to see crow nests and other bird nests. Their young had long since abandoned the comfort and protection of the nests. Down the streets, a few stores and shops had already given in to the pre-Halloween season. Majority of these stores and shops had decorated their windows and perimeters with Halloween items and décor, and although it was still too early in the month of October, Gavin felt it didn’t seem too ‘off’ for the decorations to be there already.

It was only October 11th, and the detective could hardly believe that just four days ago, he’d turned thirty-eight. Time was slipping. He knew that he wouldn’t have much more of it to go ‘wife-shopping’.

Christ…when had he started thinking about shit like this?!

‘Wife hunting’?? Is that what his life’s work had all boiled down to?! Working his skin off, setting up and establishing a good, strong career for himself, finding his own place in the world, only to struggle with bills, finances, socialization, and now he had to settle down and open up to someone else about his quirks, kooks, and pet peeves?! Was he even ready for all that?!

Marriage was really not his cup of tea!!! Hank had been right!!! Gavin didn’t do a lot of dating in his youth, and he knew why that was so. A few therapists had called it ‘abandonment issues and commitment issues’, and they claimed it stemmed from the fact that his father had divorced his mother when he was so young.

Accurate.

For the most part, Gavin always pushed that sordid detail of his past out of his mind to the point where he’d convinced himself well enough that his dad really hadn’t been a part of the family that much. At one point, he’d stopped writing and emailing his dad, and then began cutting off other communication and connection ties.

No more phone calls, no more visits, he threw out every gift his father sent him in the mail every birthday, Christmas, and New Year. Soon, after almost half a decade of this routine, Felix Reed ceased to exist in Gavin’s mind. It was just himself he had to look out for. He was fine with it, as some people didn’t even have parents, and yet they turned out to be pretty decent people in society.

But he wasn’t sure if he was one of these people…

Realizing his cigarette had been burning away in the crispy air as he leaned against the cold bricks of the DPD building aimlessly, Gavin took a few long puffs from the burning cigarette while his eyes swam around the parking lot.

A wife…a wife…a partner?? He had to find a partner?!

All this was just so new and so random to him. How on Earth was he going to find someone to marry in just one year?!

Racking his brains for a few moments, he’d been so lost in his troubles and inner thoughts, that he’d failed to see a DPD police car pull in the parking lot. It parked quickly between two large, dark vans, and it sat idle for a moment before the engine turned off.

Racking his brains, Gavin went through a series of interesting emotions, each one just as riveting as its predecessor while he could do nothing except feel. He felt anger; he was angry with his father for abandoning him and his mother, and then leaving him with such a crazy, ridiculous notion that all this time he’d been a caring and loving parent who wanted Gavin’s true happiness by forcing him to marry someone. Gavin then felt exhilaration; he was excited he was owed a large sum of money. He found he really needed it in order to take better care of himself, and to try and look into a new apartment for his cats. Just last year, the stray he’d taken in got pregnant with a litter of six kittens, but the landlord had yet to find this out…things wouldn’t be pretty when he did.

Plus, bills kept coming and piling up, and Gavin had a lot of things on his plate he needed to address and take care of…if only he had the money!

Yes, this had all seemed like a gift sent down to him from the heavens above, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect and ideal. But of course, he knew how his father was, and the son of a bitch had to go and add this clause in…perfect.

Resisting the urge to kick at the wall behind himself, Gavin’s face held a pouty, troubled expression as he stared around the parking lot again. What the hell was he to do?! He couldn’t just pass this up!!! He knew his dad had been loaded ever since he married into Kamski’s rich, blue-collar family, and the chances were that the inheritance was a lovely package Gavin wouldn’t be able to accumulate if he lived three lifetimes over.

He needed it.

But what if he didn’t take it??

Thinking about what the possibility of that would entail, Gavin soon grew even more upset, and angrier. Yes, he had the option of saying ‘fuck it all’ and leaving the inheritance behind, but then what would happen to all that money??

Perhaps it would go to Elijah…

NO!!!

Fuck. That. Right. Off.

Shaking his head, Gavin put out his cigarette after he took his last puff, and he crushed it and wedged it beneath the heavy, thick heel of his boot. Every time he ground it harder and harder and deeper and deeper into the thick, dark pavement, Gavin imagined squishing and bashing his father’s face into the ground and dirt in much the same way. After all, the bastard deserved it for leaving his mother and gifting him with the fear that he wouldn’t ever find love and support; people would just leave him just like his dad had left.

Fuck him.

He didn’t need his money.

………

But it was money he was owed…it was his rightful money, and there was no way he was going to sit there and let Kamski have it…

Gavin sighed out to himself sadly, “Guess I better turn on the dating apps again…” snickering softly, he checked his phone for a brief moment, but then heard a car door opening and slamming shut quickly. It caught his attention, and as he glanced up, he saw the tall RK900 android known as ‘Nines’ walking towards the door.

The android wasn’t Gavin’s personal favorite friend, and they weren’t at all chummy. Truth be told, Gavin had a better and closer friendship with Connor than he had with Nines, but he couldn’t say they were mortal enemies, either. They just avoided one another for the most part, and frankly, Gavin didn’t really understand why. It just…it just happened that way, and he didn’t bother questioning it before or changing it around; it just was, so he went along with it until it became carved and ingrained into the quotidian lifestyle at the DPD.

From the time he’d been introduced to Nines, the android had just been…awkward. Gavin despised labeling it that way, but he couldn’t supply another word at all. It was just all so ‘awkward’ when it came to Nines. The sour android hardly spoke to him, but for some reason, he was amicable enough with others. Not particularly close with anyone or any other android, Nines came in to work in silence, and at the end of the day, he would leave in silence as well. He was very good at what he did, and he seemed eager to have anyone else’s back and support people through their duties.

No one could complain about him, and no one really did. Even Gavin put away his childish ‘battle’ with androids, and he soon found he got along mildly well with Connor now that the RK800 was always in the mail room and basement, and Nines was hardly ever immobile to even be spoken to, really. He was always on the move; always on the go.

But was he really as eager to help out as others claimed he was???

Gavin wondered…

Catching him out of his peripheral vision at the last minute before he breezed by, Nines merely nodded in a curt, cold greeting at Gavin. “Detective.”

Dressed head to toe in all black clothes, Nines headed inside the DPD without another word uttered. However, he didn’t need to say or do anything; Gavin was already thinking, and the gears of his brain were working and spinning quite fast.

Technically, according to the last will and testament his father had laid out for him, he had to get married, yes, but there wasn’t any mention of a ‘real, legitimate’ wedding, was there??

Smirking to himself for his cleverness and witticism, he hummed as he leaned against the wall and said to only himself, “It doesn’t have to really be a true wedding, Gavin!! It can be a pretend one!! How will my mom know??”

It was a brilliant plan, and the moment he’d seen Nines walking by, he’d then realized just how wonderful and brilliant it was.

He had his ‘partner’; he had his ‘target’.

Nines owed him a big favor for a very good reason, and he was going to make use of it.

Two years ago, when Gavin saved Nines from a stray bullet during a hostage negotiation situation, the RK900 had promised that he would return the favor one day if Gavin ever needed him to do so. Well, it just so happened that today was the day he needed that favor.

Grinning up at the sky, Gavin headed back inside the DPD with renewed hope and with determined purpose.

Chapter Text

Asking people for things whether he was ‘promised’ or ‘owed’ them or otherwise wasn’t something Gavin was ever fully comfortable with doing. All his life, he’d worked his ass off for things he accumulated in his life, and that felt a lot better than just being owed something or just given something so freely. Real men didn’t get where they were in the world by asking for handouts, begging, pleading, whining, crying, or playing the victim card. Yes, his life had been rather chaotic and shitty. But had he ever used that as a personal trump card into getting a free ticket in life?

No. Not in a thousand years would he. Gavin Reed preferred earning things by the sweat of his brow rather than just making it big in the world by chance or accident. No, he never wanted to be like Elijah. That man had been given everything in life, and it was true that he’d struck a gold mine along the way. But did that mean he could survive and make it in the real world? Gavin supposed not. He’d never really had a conversation with his estranged half-sibling at all beyond ‘hi, so your mom married my dad?’. Still, that wasn’t a crucial requirement in getting to know a person at all, especially someone as mollitious as Elijah Kamski.

He had his status, his wealth, his success, and his comforts, and Gavin was on a whole other wavelength altogether. They never needed to mix, collaborate, cooperate, or even be on civil terms, so they never aimed to. But now, money was on the line, and although Elijah had heaps of it, but he seemed to be the greedy sort of lout that needed more and more, ever addicted to extremities in life. Extreme success, extreme wealth, extreme joy, extreme passion, extreme craziness, extreme lavish gifts fit for a King…fuck him. Fuck that spoiled brat. Gain hated him, and he didn’t give a fuck what happened to Elijah, just as long as he was given what he was damn well owed and promised.

Only, to ask for it seemed like such an arduous task indeed. Knowing Nines like he did, there was a high chance that the android wouldn’t make it easy for him. There would be interrogation; the never-ending need to sort and sift through questions and answers, and it would be a taxing and grueling start. That was of course the start…Nines wouldn’t let it go, perhaps. Not that Gavin could blame him, really, as it wasn’t every damn day that someone approached with the request of having a fake wedding! Yes, he had the right to ask questions, but Nines always asked questions like he did when he was grilling and interrogating a suspect…it wouldn’t do, and Gavin hated being under the spotlight.

But he owed him…Nines owed him this, at least! If it was his given right, he had the privilege of asking!!

Nerves flayed to the raw end, Gavin began sweating profusely as he made his way past desks and isles way beyond the bullpen all the way to the door leading into the ‘Archive Room’. Trying to stop him and catch him before he was lost, Gavin jogged up ahead, and cried out for Nines a few times.

He hadn’t realized how loudly he’d called for the tall android. More of an audience than he required had already been gazing and listening, staring back and forth between Gavin and Nines. The powerful android ceased moving, and he turned around and stared blankly down at Gavin.

Craning his neck, his eyes narrowed a fraction, and he curtly nodded again while greeting Gavin. “Detective Reed, may I be of some assistance?”

Cringing at what he’d heard, Gavin nearly fell into a persistent vegetative state. It was still so damn weird hearing that crap coming from Nines, considering how everyone knew the RK900 was a deviant. Gavin had never before seen an android persisting and insisting upon remaining as cold and detached so that he seemed to be ‘pre-deviant’, but Nines was…well, he was Nines. The DPD oddball, he wasn’t too bad, but perhaps far too neutral, if anything.

Not wanting to stand there and mentally nitpick Nines’ strange idiosyncrasies all day long, Gavin felt the letter in his back pocket. Withdrawing it, he had been about to open it up and just show it to Nines, when the android shifted his weight a little, and he stared intently at the page.

“Is this new evidence, Detective?” came the neutral-sounding question. “Well done. I’ll need that for the Myers case.”

Gavin’s jaw dropped, and his lips formed a most confused ‘o’ shape. “Wah?” he barely managed to cough out, the page trembling in his sweaty, clammy hands. “Nines?”

“Good work, Detective,” the passive android pushed out, “I’ll keep in touch with you soon, but I’m afraid I have a few other pieces of evidence I’ll be needing to review for the case.” Not even bothering to hear Gavin out, Nines spun on his heels, and he headed past the door. It closed coldly and loudly behind him, leaving Gavin scratching his head in the wake of it.

“I…”

Someone chuckled in the far distance, and then a deep voice jabbed at him, “Nice job, Gav! He’s said more to you now than he ever has in two years!!”

Choosing to ignore Chris Miller’s silly comment, Gavin opened the door, and he made a beeline towards the Archive Room after Nines. Although the android had long legs, Gavin didn’t have to run for long before he caught up with Nines.

The page was fluttering in his hand as he panted lightly, and as he cursed himself for being a smoker for so many years, he managed to tap on Nines’ shoulder for half a second. It was successful enough in catching the android’s attention, and he stood with his hands clasped firmly behind his back.

Resembling a soldier at attention while he puffed out his chest, pushed back his broad shoulders, and stared down at Gavin with an unreadable expression in his blue eyes, his lips barely moved as he softly asked, “Is there something you require, Detective?”

That was when Gavin’s mouth snapped shut, and his brain stopped working.

Having no idea what on earth had happened, Gavin simply resigned to his current fate, which involved being statuesque and frozen as he stared and stared, and then stared some more at Nines.

What the hell was he about to say?? What was he going to do??

With Nines???

Studying Nines carefully, Gavin found he finally had his one and only chance of just taking into perspective who this was.

Nines was at least a whole head taller than he was, for one. He seemed not only ‘stronger’ in terms of his physical build, but in terms of his presence and ‘aura’, he gave off a more aggressively reserved personality type. Perhaps these associations were just vain imaginings for him, but ever since Gavin had reluctantly attended a few therapy sessions, he’d learned more than he should have in terms of human behaviorism, psychology, and relationship ‘management’. From what his therapist had assigned him to read, and from a few brief ‘google’ searches, he concluded that perhaps Nines was more aggressive than he let on, but he chose to hide and conceal it often.

Maybe he had good reasons to.

Everyone knew that the mysterious android could be violent and potent at times when displaying and demonstrating his hunter prowess and unique capabilities when it came to solving crime, tracking down perps, as well as interrogating and booking them. He was relentless, brutal, dogged in his pursuits, and he would only cease and desist when his efforts yielded some fruit.

Yes, Nines wasn’t all that passive after all.

Looking at him now in the clear lights of the hall leading into the Archive Room, Gavin felt his mouth turning even more dry than ever before.

Nines’ cold blue eyes seemed to teeter on the edge of annoyance and impatience, it seemed. Though his eyes didn’t shift as a person’s would, he hardly blinked as he just stared almost directly through the back of Gavin’s head. Those piercing eyes were the least of his concerns, however. His perfectly shaped nose seemed to turn up in revulsion and disgust at Gavin, but then ceased moving, as if sensing Gavin’s alertness to how the levels of tension were increasing. Marginally, Nines’ dark brown eyebrows clenched on his brow, and his blue LED light spun quickly on his right temple for a moment before it resumed its more ‘calm’ and ‘regular’ motions.

“Detective? Are you unwell?”

Snapping out of it, Gavin took a step back from Nines.

No way was this conversation happening; he’d made a big mistake.

Holding up a hand apologetically, Gavin continued backing away steadily, “Sorry, Nines,” he half-chuckled half-laughed out, “I think I forgot something on my desk…I’ll…” Nearly tripping over his own feet in the process, he kept on backing away until his shoulders nudged the door. “I’m just…” he ran.

The door swung shut softly, but that was the complete opposite to how madly and wildly Gavin’s heart was racing and throbbing in his chest until he reached his desk.

Plan one was shot to shit!! What was he going to do, now!?!?

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“No, Gavin,” Connor hissed out irritably for the fourth time in the short span of five minutes. “I don’t want to be a part of this… ‘wedding thing’!”

Gavin couldn’t believe that he’d resorted to crying and begging for the RK800 to reconsider. He hadn’t gone into details in regards to his strange experience with Nines; he’d just immediately run into the mail room asking Connor to play pretend to be his ‘partner’ just until his mother verified it and confirmed it so he could gain his lousy inheritance.

“Why don’t you want to help me, Connor?!” Gavin whined like a petulant child while the android sorted through piles and heaps of new letters, magazines, books, and other strange documents at his desk next to Hank.

Rolling his eyes dramatically, Connor snapped, “I just don’t feel comfortable enough with relationships yet, Gavin!”

Frowning, Gavin pointed crudely at him, “But you were messin’ around with an ex-Traci not too long ago, remember?”

Hank snorted acerbically, while Connor seemed flustered. Throwing his hands into the air, the heated and over-emotional android cried out, “I meant that I don’t want to be in a relationship with a human being, Gavin!” He stated rudely while his tone turned serious and his eyes gleamed dangerously at Gavin, “Please stop pestering me, now; I have a lot of work to do!!”

Gavin pounded his fist into the desk as he screamed out, “You’d just sell a friend out, then?!” Face turning beet red, he added, “You’re a real piece of plastic, ain’t ya, Connor?”

Sensing that the situation was steadily rising out of hand, Hank slowly stood to his feet.

Shaking his head in anger, Connor cried out vehemently, “It’s not that I have some sense of misogamy, Gavin,” he clarified as patiently as he could, “I just don’t feel too pleased with the notion that I have to play house and family for you, while you laugh your way off to the bank after we fool your widowed mother!!”

As he returned back to his work, Hank stepped around the desk, and before Gavin could lash out and attack Connor, he grabbed the shorter male around his shoulders, and he gently guided him out of the mail room. “Step outside my office, Reed,” he lightly joked, and as he steadied Gavin in the hallway, he leaned against him and sighed a small, sad sigh. “Reed,” he began in a stern tone of voice almost like a parent, “you can’t continue harassing Connor about this, and I think you know that.”

Gavin gaped at him blankly for a moment, and then growled out in rage, “He’s such a prick! I need help right now, and he’s just pretending this shit doesn’t affect him at all!”

“That’s because it doesn’t affect him, Gavin,” Hank pressed out, ever luculent and personable. “It’s not really his business, and quite frankly, it ain’t mine either!!”

Shaking out of his ‘aggressive mode’, an almost innocent and childlike expression fell over Gavin’s face as he got up real close in Hank’s face. “Then why do you care?” he asked so softly that it nearly went missed by Hank the first time.

For a moment, the older male was just as frozen as Gavin had been earlier. His eyes seemed to almost gloss over with tears, but he sniffed as he shrugged coldly and stuffed his large hands in his jean pockets deeply. “Well, shit, Reed,” he chuckled, switching back to using Gavin’s last name. “I don’t know! I just…” He looked over at Gavin once, eyebrows rising as he spat out, “…I just don’t want ya feelin’ so bad all the time, plus, you were giving me a damn headache back there.”

Gavin snorted, “Don’t fuckin’ patronize me, Anderson; it won’t work, and I don’t need your pity, so you can shove it right up your—”

“I do apologize for interrupting,” came a deep, rich voice, and Gavin and Hank both knew whom it belonged to immediately. It was Nines.

They both stared over almost far too slowly at Nines, eyeing him carefully, as if seeing him for the first time ever before. Their eyes were wide with fear, but in a jiffy, they broke away from their disturbed facial expressions.

Nines eyed the closed door, and he said, “I need to enter the mail room for a moment.”

Gavin huffed out, “Then do it?”

Glaring at him, Hank merely tugged Gavin out of the way. “Go ahead, Nines.”

“Thanks.”

As the android barely opened the door, a mighty roar came forth at them, followed by a few letters flying out into the hallway violently.

“FOR THE LAST TIME! I DON’T WANT TO MARRY YOU, EVEN IF IT IS FOR PRETENSE, GAV—oh…sorry, Nines…”

Simultaneously, Gavin and Hank both exchanged uncomfortable glances, and then Nines took a few steps back. Awkwardly and stiffly, he turned his neck over to Gavin, and he tilted his head at the shorter male as he ground out, “I…you…” His LED light blinked red and yellow, and as the colors went through the cycle of their patterns, Hank rolled his eyes and tugged on his ponytail.

“Fuck it,” he eventually snapped out, “I’m not going to deal with this right now.” He bent down and picked up the mail Connor had thrown into the hallway, while Nines’ right eye twitched a few times before he was able to compose himself.

Turning to the door, he barely grabbed the handle, when Hank yanked the door shut and cried out, “Not now, Nines; I think Gavin needs to talk to you about something very important.” Closing the door quietly behind himself, he made sure to motion over at Nines with the jerky and twitchy jabs of his head and neck.

Gavin was left all alone with Nines in the hall, afterwards.

When the lights and air vents above hummed, buzzed and sang out, Gavin knew the silence had been too heavy. Shuffling his feet, he couldn’t believe he finally found his voice when he whispered out, “Can we t-talk somewhere else?”

Nines nodded. “Fine.”

That did very little to ease the tension in Gavin’s chest, stomach, shoulders, and neck. Worst of all, he really knew he had no time to put this as gently and break it as painlessly to Nines as he could.

Perhaps the hard way was the best method in this case.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin kicked at the vending machine in the third-floor hallway again when he saw that his can of Coke got stuck. To be fair, Nines had technically warned him that this vending machine wasn’t in working condition…but he didn’t listen; he never did, and listening wasn’t a skill Gavin was well known for.

Grunting when he saw his can wedged in the tiny orifice located at the bottom, he shoved his hands inside the little hole to yank it out, but it was impossible; it was stuck, truly. Not yet wanting to give up on it, he backed away while pointing at the vending machine awkwardly. “This thing’s a piece of shit, isn’t it?”

Behind him, Nines waited, staring at the Coke can. “Detective Reed,” he pushed out in a drone, “I hate to be rude, but if you wanted to just discuss the failure of the vending machine, I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave, as I have to retrieve some of my mail that got lost last week and was mixed with Captain Fowler’s.”

Right.

Gavin knew he didn’t have a lot of time to fuck around, as Nines wasn’t someone who was in favor of fucking around.

Clapping his hands together in a strange attempt at calming himself down, he sighed, “Right, okay, Nines, I’m just gonna come right out and say it bluntly, okay?”

“That’d be wise.”

“Okay…” Mentally counting down from ‘three’, Gavin took a sharp breath before wheezing out quickly, “Nines, remember how two years ago I got in the way of a shot aimed at you when we were workin’ that case where that guy took his entire family hostage?”

Not moving for a while, Nines eventually nodded. “Yes…I do…I remember everything, Detective Reed. Why do you inquire?”

Feeling his anger and irritation spiking, Gavin held up an index finger. “I’m gettin’ to that, Nines!” Counting once again down from ‘three’, he groaned, “Look, I don’t mean to be annoying or anything, but you said that you would help me if I ever needed it!”

Nines sniffed. “I recall that as well.”

More tension and awkwardness seemed to be increasing between them, but since they were already this far with progress, Gavin knew he couldn’t turn back. Pressing forward was his only option.

Closing his eyes, he hurriedly said, “Yeah, and now, I really need your help, Nines, because my mom told me that my dad’s left me a pretty good amount of money for my inheritance, but I can’t touch it unless I get married.” Pausing for a short intake of breath, he finished, “So I just need you to pretend to be my partner, because my mom frankly doesn’t care if I am gay or not, haha, but you know, I’m not gay!! I like chicks with big tits, but I’ll be honest, I find some guys sexy! Never fooled around with one; I just find some dudes hot, but I think everyone goes through shit like that as a phase, and whoever says they don’t is a fuckin’ liar, and I think they’re secretly all out gay but they—”

“No, Gavin.”

When Gavin heard his first name coming out of Nines’ mouth, his words died on his tongue. Letting out a choked noise, he couldn’t help but gasp out in awe and shock, “Nines!! You called me by my first name?!” Laughing once, he added, “Jesus! That’s a first!!”

Nines didn’t seem to care about that. Repeating his previous statement, he replied again with, “No, Gavin.”

“No?” Gavin finally muttered out, the realization sinking into his brain, “what do you mean ‘no’?” Not in the mood of cryptic messages, he spat, “You’re saying ‘no’ to me when you didn’t hear my whole story!!”

Stepping up to him, Nines loomed tall as he retorted, “I don’t care what your story happens to be, and I’m very sorry to hear about your peculiar situation, but I refuse to help you out in this scenario.”

Now, Gavin was beyond angry. Reaching back into his pocket, he threw his letter up, and he held it before Nines’ eyes. “My dad’s dead, Nines,” he admitted coldly, hardly feeling anything even though he’d vocally stated it. “He’s gone, and he left me with an inheritance, which was the only thing that cold-hearted bastard left behind for me after effectively—”

No.

He couldn’t go there, and he wouldn’t.

Not with Nines, not with anyone.

Biting down hard on his tongue, he felt tears welling up in his eyes from the pain, and it helped him distract himself from the mess he’d nearly created for himself and blindly stumbled into. Pain was now here in his mouth as opposed to in his heart…good…he felt better.

As he stood taking long, measured breaths, Nines tilted his head down at him, a brow quirked.

“I’m sorry to hear about your loss, Reed,” he switched back to using Gavin’s last name, “but I still don’t feel it’s necessary for me to play the role of your partner and trick your mother into handing you over the inheritance.” When he saw how silent Gavin still was, he opened his mouth and stated, “Might I however suggest and encourage you to seek out a lawyer to get a case going for the inheritance? Or, perhaps, would you prefer a psychiatrist to help you along the grieving process?”  

Gavin nearly threw up. He knew that for the most part, a lot of androids had been programmed to help humans in any way possible. But deviant androids typically didn’t talk like this, and he knew that Nines was really going out of his way to be as cold and detached as possible.

Bastard.

Resisting the urge to throw a mega-punch at the android, Gavin snarled, “Don’t fuckin’ be a dick, Nines! I don’t need that kind of help!”

“Then what do you require, Reed?”

Holding out his hands, Gavin slowly pushed out, “I need for you to listen to me, Nines! I know you don’t like me, and I don’t like you either, you know,” he stated factually, noticing how Nines’ lips quirked into a strange expression before his face turned passive once again.

“I’d offer you money, or a cut of the inheritance,” Gavin snorted, taking a step closer to the tall android and shivering, “but I know bribes don’t work on you guys.”

Nines hummed, “Not inaccurate.”

Pressing on, Gavin said, “Look, I just need you to help me out this one time, and I swear, I’ll be in your debt forever.”

Sarcastically, Nines threw out, “Define ‘forever’, Detective Reed.”

This may have been the worst, and craziest thing Gavin was going to do, especially considering just how annoying Nines was being. What made matters worse was that he really seemed to be going out of his way to make this difficult, but Gavin had already anticipated and expected for this to happen. Trying to remain as tough and cold as the machine he’d been appealing to and begging, Gavin stood up as tall as he could. Internally, he was screaming away and cursing at his genetics for rendering him so damn short, and he threw a particularly explicit curse his stepbrother’s way for creating this damn machine and making him so tall.

When he had Nines’ undivided attention, Gavin summoned his courage and guts, and he extended a strong index finger. Jabbing it away at Nines’ sternum, he tapped away, imagining that he was using a knife to sharply pierce and stab through to Nines.

Maybe then the dense moron would grasp the context and situation.

As their eyes met, Gavin nodded and enunciated clearly as he could.

“You. Owe. Me.”

Nines snarled, but remained silent, which Gavin took as a sign to continue, and he did.

“I. Saved. You. Now, I need you to save me,” he finished the rest without resorting to a chopped, robotic way of speaking. When he backed away from Nines, the lights flickered for a moment, and then they buzzed as the hallway fell silent once again.

After an age, Nines seemed to break out of his frozen state, and he asked, “A phony relationship?”

“Yes.”

“For how long?”

“Just until my mom confirms it and I can get my damn inheritance.”

“Why do you need it so badly?”

Not minding the questions being fired away rapidly at him, he replied, “Because I don’t have enough to even get by anymore, Nines, and I need something better to rely on when I want to retire.”

It was quiet again before Nines shifted. “I see,” was his only comment, and after another pregnant pause that hung in the air, he hissed, “you’ll swear to me to come to my assistance shall I need it at any given time, then?”

Gavin nodded, “Yep. I swear.”

Nines grunted deeply, “You swear?”

“You heard me,” came the almost animal-like growl, “I swear.”

…….

A flash of red was the LED light, and a dangerous flash of coldness seeped through Nines’ eyes before he gave only one curt nod. “This ends the moment you receive whatever it is you think you’re due, and then,” Nines practically had to keep himself from bursting out in anger, “…then, I wish for you to leave me alone, are we clear?”

Gavin shrugged, “I’m happy with that arrangement.”

“Fine,” blue eyes met Gavin’s own, “I’ll do it.”

A second later, the vending machine let out a rumble of a noise, and the Coke can crashed down right out of the machine and landed on the floor. The can dented badly, and as the soft drink exploded all over the floor, its sticky liquid spilled forth out of it, leaking everywhere and soaking up the clean floor.

Nines only smirked as he backed off Gavin, head held high as he announced, “It looks like you’ve received your first task, Detective Reed.”

Chapter Text

Bright and early on Friday morning, Gavin walked inside the DPD whistling a random tune he’d heard on the radio on the way to work. A steaming hot, fresh cup of coffee was held in his right hand, and in his left hand, he’d been randomly scrolling through his phone, just clearing out his chat history, looking at the news, weather forecast, and other random things just to kill time. It wasn’t even half past eight, and he prided himself on being super early for once.

But something was off…

Gavin was a rather decent detective, and it hardly took him much of an effort to notice that everything was absolutely dead silent around him. It was as if a spell had been placed in the DPD, and everyone within it had been a victim of this petrifying spell that prevented them from talking or making a sound otherwise. Glancing up from his phone, Gavin was able to confirm that while his colleagues were in today as usual for the work-day, they were all so terribly silent…and they were eyeing him warily, strangely, and some of them even looked to be…worried about him??

He wasn’t sure, as he never had been able to fully read people accurately, but something really was off today.

Stopping in his tracks abruptly, Gavin peeked over his own shoulder. Nope. No one was there.

So it hadn’t been a goofy, pathetic excuse for a ‘Halloween scare’ or prank?

No…his colleagues look sickly, pale, and almost worried as they only stared at him with wide eyes.

Did he have something on his face??? He hoped not, but he knew that before he’d left his apartment that morning, like any other day, he’d showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, combed his hair back, and done everything properly in terms of his health and hygiene…what was it, then??

Puzzled, the bewildered detective turned to stare over at Hank and Connor when they exited the Break Room. Making sure to stop Hank just as he approached his own desk, Gavin pointed over at the entire bullpen, halls, and some of the other offices with people lingering about, their eyes cast over at Gavin eerily. “What’s with them?” he asked in a gentle tone of voice, trying not to grow angry and become vitriolic if he didn’t know the entire story or situation, yet.

Connor and Hank simply gazed over at the frozen and petrified officers, detectives, and other employees, and Connor shrugged. “Don’t know,” he answered Gavin swiftly, “they were like that since we got here.”

Gavin chewed on his lower lip, and then index finger for a moment, “But what’s goin’ on, really?”

“How the fuck do we know, Reed?” Hank snapped grumpily. “I haven’t even had my coffee yet!!”

As Gavin had been caught up in the middle of spitting out a harsh reply back to Hank, Captain Fowler slammed a hand down over Gavin’s shoulder, effectively cutting off any sarcastic, acerbic reply. “Well, well, Reed,” he purred in mock delight, but as everyone in the DPD knew how their police Captain was, they weren’t foolish or dimwitted enough not to know that Captain Fowler wasn’t at all pleased or happy to see Gavin this morning.

Leaning closer into Gavin, his fingers tightened on the detective’s shoulder, squeezing him slowly like an anaconda slowly squeezing its prey to death. Eyes flashing dangerously, Captain Fowler hissed like a serpent, “What say you come down to my office for a little chat, hmm? Could you do that, Reed?” Refusing to let go of Gavin’s shoulder, Captain Fowler already steered the short detective in the direction he wanted him to go in; his office.

Together, their footsteps fell in line, and in unison, they climbed up the steps and Gavin found that Captain Fowler held open the door widely for him.

“Move it,” he ordered when Gavin paused long enough to peer over his shoulder at him, just to check if this was really happening. Glancing back at his team and co-workers, he found that they were already whispering and muttering about them, but he worked hard at trying to drive out the susurrus of their voices, otherwise, he was certain he was going to crumble and fall into abject despair.

The door had already closed, and as Gavin gazed ahead in the small office space, he found that Nines was already seated on the chair to the far-right corner before Captain Fowler’s desk. Turning around once to greet them, the expressionless android shifted his chair even further away from the vacant one Gavin knew he was going to have to occupy soon.

Captain Fowler pushed him towards it, “Park your ass right there, Reed.”

Hating that his superior often resorted to treating him and talking to him as if he were a mere child, Gavin stomped over to his chair, and he sat on the very edge of it while trying to ignore Nines. Apparently, the RK900 seemed to have the same idea, for he didn’t even regard Gavin next to himself once.

It was better, this way.

Plopping down on his own chair, Captain Fowler cracked his knuckles, then his neck, then his toes. Every time he cracked something, Gavin felt sicker and sicker. Captain Fowler seemed to show no signs of slowing down when he cracked his wrists and back, and that was precisely when Gavin decided to interject with a question.

Sitting on the edge of his seat while his hands and fingers tightly latched onto the armrests of the chair, Gavin uncomfortably coughed out, “Sir? Umm, not to be rude or anything, but I don’t want to sit here all morning listening to you cracking away at your body like you’re making popcorn.”

Nines covered his mouth with a hand, and unfortunately, due to how quickly he’d done so, Gavin was unable to see whether or not he’d been smiling, laughing, or downright trying to muffle out something sardonic and harsh.

Captain Fowler threw Gavin a most foul look. “Wise ass,” he muttered, while Nines crossed a long leg over the other and leaned back in his chair, an almost thoughtful expression crossing over his eyes while he stared at nothing and nowhere in particular.

Twiddling him thumbs, Captain Fowler opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. After opening it once again and acting almost like a fish gasping for water when placed forcefully on land, he eventually sighed out brokenly while his eyelids fluttered shut, “Gavin, I’m going to ask you a question, here, but seeing as you’re one of the most fiery men I’ve ever met, I’m going to have to encourage you to remain calm and just try to answer me clearly so we can get to the bottom of this, okay?”

Now, Gavin was beyond suspicious.

Peeking over at Nines, he found that the austere android was already offering him a withering look. Unsure of what to make of it, Gavin turned back to Captain Fowler. “Okay, sir,” he nodded curtly, “I’ll do my best, okay?” He hoped Nines hadn’t ‘tricked’ him by stabbing him in the back and reporting him to Fowler for something as stupid as sexual harassment. He’d never be able to get out of this if that happened to be the case.

Swallowing nervously, Fowler then inhaled sharply and slowly, and finally ground through his teeth, “Have you made it a habit to sleep with your co-workers, Gavin, or am I imagining things?”

…….

The office was so silent that the noises outside were almost as loud as a rock concert.

Nines definitely had something to do with this…right?

Scowling over at the motionless android, Gavin snapped, “I don’t follow, sir.”

Captain Fowler looked to the ceiling for a moment, and then twitched in his seat. After fidgeting for a few painful moments, he spat, “First Tina Chen, and now Nines?” Shaking his head in disdain at Gavin, he added, “Never took you for a bed hopper, son.”

This time, Gavin was unable to hold back. Knowing that he was now able to draw a line between Captain Fowler’s comment and his previous chat with Nines, he was absolutely certain that the android had said far too much to Captain Fowler.

Resisting the urge to scream from the top of his lungs while chucking sharp objects at Nines, Gavin pressed out through clenched teeth, “Nines, what the hell did you say to him??”

Not even a moment was spared before Captain Fowler chimed in with, “Yes, Nines, do tell your lovely Gavin here what you were so kind to tell me.” Sarcasm dripped and spilled over everywhere and in everything, and Gavin really felt he was going to lose it if Nines decided to drag this out any longer.

Staring intently and seriously at the tall android, Gavin eyed him until he made eye contact, and then he stared down at his hands, almost admiring them pleasantly.

“Don’t worry, Gavin,” his voice shifted to a warmer tone Gavin had never heard him use before. “I know you prefer when things are ‘up front’, so I took the liberty of talking to Captain Fowler like you wanted me to do.”

Not following, Gavin asked, “What’re you ta—” He felt himself shutting the hell up when Nines lowered his leg and kneed Gavin brutally in the shin with his own powerful, sharp kneecap. Wincing in pain, Gavin switched to saying, “Oh shoot! Yeah, haha, I guess I didn’t get the chance to finish my coffee.” Staring down at it on the corner of Fowler’s desk, he made a grab for it, using it to warm his shaking, cold hands. “Umm, so remind me again, Nines,” he awkwardly fumbled for his words, “h-how did you put it again?”

Quickly answering, Nines eloquently and fluently replied, “I told Captain Fowler that we’re engaged, silly.” Staring back at Gavin, he faked a small, pleasant smile, and perhaps it could’ve done well to fool people who didn’t know him, but Gavin wasn’t a fool; he knew that inside, Nines was burning with rage.

Head and neck spinning back towards Captain Fowler, Gavin offered his superior a small, pained smile.

Evidently, Captain Fowler wasn’t too happy, and he didn’t return the smile at all. Instead, he glared on at Gavin as if the detective had spilled hot coffee all over his papers, and he sat back in his chair as he growled, “Reed, son,” he clenched his fists, rubbing them over the surface of the desk as he continued, “you know it’s not really encouraged to pursue these kind of relationships, here, but the damn android-liberation and rights movement lifted a lot of these barriers and all, but still…” Shaking his head wildly back and forth, he held out a hand before Nines. “You said you hated androids, son, and now you’re sleeping with them?!”

Turning pale, Gavin supplied hurriedly, “Err, sir, I don’t mean to say that it’s not umm…well…” Twitching and fidgeting nervously, he ended in a mumble, “…I mean to say that I—”

Cutting him off, Fowler held up a hand. “I get it, Reed; the loss of your father wasn’t easy to deal with, for one, and two, you are well within your rights to grieve in whatever way you want, even if it means sleeping around and drinking until you’ve got your head halfway down a toilet bowl.”

“Sleeping around?!” Gavin snorted, “It was just with—”

“Point is, people go through heavy shit and deal with their shit in different ways, Reed, but screwing your co-workers because it helps you get by without your dad around in your life isn’t the solution!!”

Gavin’s index finger flew up like a flag raised in the wind. “Technically, what happened with Tina was long before my dad died, and we didn’t really—” Once again, he’d been stopped and prevented from talking by Nines. A sharp, pointy elbow slammed into his rib cage, and Gavin rocked and swayed a little on his chair. “The hell! Stop it!!” he cried at Nines in anger, but the android merely offered him an innocent smile, followed by an auspicious wave.

Reminding himself to keep up with the ridiculous act, Gavin smiled over at Captain Fowler for a moment, just to convince the other man that everything was fine.

Captain Fowler scoffed as he rubbed his chin and nose once, “So what Nines said was true then?”

Reluctantly, Gavin pushed past his aching heart and throbbing head, and he responded, “Yes; we intend to be married, sir.”

It sounded so odd to admit and say that out loud, and Gavin felt nauseated from it. Holding back on bringing up whatever meal he’d had since last night, he clenched his mouth shut, planted his feet firmly on the floor, and didn’t budge in his seat as he forced a smile onto his face. This was still so maddening and sickening.

With a strained sigh that depicted how affronted he was by the random, inconvenient news, Captain Fowler grabbed one of the many white envelopes sitting atop his desk, and he used it to fan himself profusely. The paper swished and crinkled as he moved it back and forth before himself, but he kept his eyes closely trained on Gavin and Nines as the clock hanging on one of the walls in his office ticked loudly.

Just when Gavin thought that he wouldn’t be able to handle the silence any longer, Captain Fowler tossed the little envelope back down onto his desk. “Fuck it.” Rubbing his chin roughly, he grunted out, “Fuck it, there’s no other way, is there?”

Gavin tried making eye contact with Nines, but the stoic android was already staring ahead at their boss in silence, so Gavin thought it was the right thing to do the same.

After what felt like forever, Captain Fowler loosened his hands, and he rested them at his sides almost limply and oddly. Eyes suddenly tired and mildly pink, he stared at Gavin first while he stated, “Take half a week off for next week, both of you.”

Immediately, Nines sputtered, “Sir?! I d-don’t understand, I’m afraid!”

Pointing crudely at his own lips, Captain Fowler spat out venomously, “I’m speaking English, Nines; it’s not that hard to piece it together.”

“I know,” the android fired back, “but I don’t think we require time off!”

Truthfully, Gavin was happier than a pig rolling in mud and shit upon hearing the news, but when he remembered that his bills wouldn’t stop coming, he felt himself slipping into a panicked zone.

Holding up a hand shyly as though he were a kid in grade school trying to get his teacher’s attention, he whispered, “Umm, sir? Jeffrey?”

Immediately taking note of the levels of inner and outer turmoil upon his face and displayed all over his body language, Captain Fowler rolled his eyes and let out a small puff of air. “Reed, relax,” he urged out, “you’ll still get paid; consider it a paid vacation or leave.”

While Gavin was able to relax for a moment, this recent ‘news’ only seemed to trouble and anger Nines. Scowling with all his might, he ran a hand along the edge of the desk before muttering out, “A paid leave, Captain?” He repeated with a serious glint in his eyes, “That sounds a lot like paid suspension to me.”

Gavin frowned for a moment, whereas Captain Fowler pointed thickly at Nines. “If you’re gonna think like that already, Nines, then perhaps this small break is good for you.”

Lips curled back in anger, Nines spat, “If you say so, sir.”

“I do say so, Nines,” Captain Fowler reminded the irate android while nodding over at Gavin. “Take a break, get yourselves together, because frankly, whatever the fuck you two have going on in your personal lives, I don’t give a shit to figure out.” Rubbing his forehead, the wrinkles that could be found there seemed so profound and deep, practically marring his skin as he groaned painfully to himself. Rubbing and massaging the wrinkles away for a moment, Captain Fowler continued rubbing his forehead and temples while pressing out, “I appreciate the level of honesty that you two could come forward and talk to me, though.” This statement seemed to invoke a sense of control and calm in Nines, and he visibly relaxed and his vitriolic demeanor seemed to decrease substantially.

“Take half the week off,” Captain Fowler reiterated, “and whenever you two return to work, I’ll be expecting the same level of professionalism—” He paused, throwing a resolute glare in Gavin’s direction when he snorted upon hearing the word ‘professionalism’ spoken, “—From you both; don’t think that just because you two are together, that it will automatically mean you get some kind of lottery ticket and free pass into doing whatever the willy nilly fuck you want, got it?!”

Gavin practically leapt to his feet as he nodded, “Got it, sir!” He couldn’t help it; he wanted out of this office, out of this situation, out of his body and life so he could go live another less insane and less chaotic life.

Nines appeared to be feeling almost the same way, for he rose to his feet as well and straightened his black shirt down by the hem as he grunted out, “Clear enough, Captain.”

Clapping sarcastically, Captain Fowler pressed out, “Great, now please get your sorry asses out of here.”

They didn’t require much else in the way of encouragement; Nines had already fled from the office, leaving the door slowly closing after himself. The moment Gavin approached the door, however, Captain Fowler almost roared out to him, “Reed, one last thing…”

Coming to an abrupt halt, Gavin paused, turned around, and stared expectantly at Captain Fowler. “Sir?”

Pointing at his dark jacket resting on a hook in the wall next to the door, Captain Fowler barked out, “Get me my damn bottle of Advil, son, else I won’t be able to make it through the rest of the day.”

Obediently, Gavin fished out the bottle from Captain Fowler’s coat pocket, but he wasn’t above stealing one of the pills for himself, first.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

It’d taken Gavin almost twenty-five minutes before he was able to find Nines after his departure from Captain Fowler’s office. It was amazing just how quickly the android had chosen to disappear, but Gavin managed to track him down and locate him pacing around inside the men’s washroom on the second floor of the DPD.

It seemed Nines didn’t really care that Gavin had joined him in the small washroom, as he continuously paced about while a serious expression weighed heavily on his face. Gavin observed him in sheer silence for a few minutes, but seeing as he wasn’t at all a patient man, he soon broke down and asked Nines what on Earth was going on.

Of course, Nines didn’t answer him immediately, and that sent Gavin over the edge.

Holding his hands down to his sides in the fear of lashing out at the tall, powerful android, Gavin instead demanded, “So what the flying fuck made you think it was a wise idea telling everyone we work with that we’re ‘engaged’, Nines? Hmm?”

Casting a glare down at the floor so potently that Nines’ eyes seemed to burn holes straight through it, the angry android eventually snapped, “That’s what Ben Collins did when he got engaged to his wife, Detective. What else was I to do?”

“That was a relationship between two humans, for one.” He held up a finger, and then added a second to the first as he counted the points off, “Two, Ben is married to a woman and has been known for being a straight guy all his life!” He was stopped when Nines spat at him with a softly pressed out, “As if that matters.”

“It does,” Gavin barked at him. “It matters a great deal, and thirdly, you moron, he—” The door suddenly swung wide open with a loud, echoing creak, and Gavin and Nines fell silent immediately. When they gazed up to see who had interrupted them, they found two other men waltzing into the washroom.

One of these men happened to unfortunately be a tall, muscular, brown eyed, dark-haired man named Mischa Barker. He was a new recruit in the DPD and worked in HR, and standing next to him was another man of almost the same height, only slightly shorter. This man was even worse than Mischa; he was a brunette male at least ten years younger than Gavin, he was far more aggressive, and unlike Mischa, he wasn’t entirely new to working in the DPD. This man was named Gary Foster, and he was slightly somehow related to Captain Allen from the S.W.A.T. force.

A man of privilege, no doubt, no less, Gary walked around with an air of self-imposed superiority unlike anything Gavin had ever seen before. This had been the exact, specific reason why Gavin despised people who never had to lift a finger for anything in their lives; they often expected things to continuously come to them freely just because they were entitled to it and owed it.

Gary glared menacingly at Gavin, while Mischa looked quite uncomfortable and seemed ready to leave. However, Gary insisted on being extra cocky this morning. Sauntering up to Gavin, he snorted derisively and held quite the arrogant, judgmental gleam in his eyes while ‘sizing up’ both Gavin and Nines. Although Gary was a lot shorter in comparison to Nines, the over-confident male still didn’t seem to care much.

Pausing for a moment while he looked at Gavin from head to toe, he snickered cruelly as he grunted deeply, “Never took you for an android fucker, Reed…” Light brown eyes glinting dangerously and in a sinister way that warded off any attack Gavin was already planning, Gary quickly chimed in with, “Hey, if you two were in the middle of ‘somethin’, don’t let Mischa and I stop you, by the way.”

Gavin was seething and fuming, but Nines already had his response on the tip of his tongue. Almost robotically, he rushed out with, “Mind your own business, Gary; it’s rude to just not only barge in on someone’s conversation, but to also poke fun at a situation you have zero knowledge of.” He then snorted crudely, “Well, that’s only a matter of sinking lower.”

“Maaan,” Gary hooted, “you’re pretty loyal to the end, aren’t ya, Nines?” Although Mischa was already nudging and tugging at Gary’s shirt to get him heading in the opposite direction, the other man insisted on making an ass of himself as he added, “I guess I’m the same way whenever I’m getting a good piece of ass, I get it!”

The moment that had escaped his mouth, Nines nearly flew forth at him. Luckily, Gavin’s reflexes were rather quick, and he grabbed onto Nines’ arms and held him back before he could advance on Gary. At the same time, Mischa had already tugged Gary backwards, and using his free hand, he hurriedly yanked open the bathroom door, and they were slowly retreating.

“Look, man,” Mischa began softly, “whatever you’re into, it’s fine, but please try to keep your relationship to yourselves; some of us aren’t too comfortable with two guys being together and expressing affection, okay?”

“What the fu—”

It was too late; the bathroom door fully closed, and the other two males were soon long gone. The longer Nines and Gavin stood stewing in silence, the angrier Nines seemed to be getting. Practically wrenching his arm out of Gavin’s grip, he pushed himself as far away from Gavin as possible, while the shorter male gestured at the door in complete shock. “Can you believe those two?” he spat out in disbelief, “bunch of homophobic—”

The abashed Nines interrupted him, “You should leave, Detective Reed.”

That had completely thrown Gavin off, and he blinked a few times in shock at Nines before he was able to find himself and continue. “Huh?!” he spat out inelegantly, “what the heck’s your deal?? I was lookin’ all over for you, and trust me, that was really tough because you were impossible to find!!”

“I know,” came the cold drawl of a reply, “when I don’t wish to be found, I make a good effort not to be found or discovered.”

“No shit,” Gavin snapped back almost childishly, running his hands through his hair and effectively messing it up a lot. Staring at the ceiling, he folded his hands together and clasped them around his neck, only just then noticing how tense his muscles were. Massaging them gently, he asked, “So, where do we go from here?”

Unperturbed, Nines intoned, “We go our separate ways, Detective Reed! I have to attend to my tasks, and I’m sure that prior to this, you had your own life to live, no?”

As he’d been making his way towards the door, Gavin slid his body purposefully before Nines, blocking his way.

Glaring at him for it, Nines hissed, “Get the hell out of my way, Reed.”

Not put off by the minor verbal lashing, Gavin shook his head. “Nines, when you agreed to help me, I think you failed to notice that in order to play this part well, you gotta do some ‘research’ or some shit.”

Immediately picking on how absurd that statement sounded, Nines snorted, “Research? Do enlighten me then, Reed.”

How else was he to put it? He knew next to nothing about Nines, and Nines knew jack squat about him, yet they were supposedly engaged?? This wouldn’t work out…

“Well?” Nines jabbed at him when he’d been silent for long enough. “Go on then, Detective Reed,” he purred, “I’m just dying to know what you’ve planned for me.”

Since he’d come along this far, Gavin tossed caution and his notions of being guarded away as he held his head up and said, “Let me come over to your place for a bit, just to see how you live and all that.”

When he saw the reaction coming from Nines, he really, really wished technology was so far advanced that creations such as a time-turner or a time machine were readily available to him. He could really use one right about now.

Chapter Text

“You’re not to touch anything, you’re not to make a mess, you’re not to leave your belongings just hanging off my furniture, and if you do get permission to grab something of mine, make sure it’s cleaned afterwards, and then returned back to its rightful place.”

Nines’ warnings flew over Gavin’s head as he stood gaping in the front hallway leading into Nines’ large bachelor pad. He hadn’t been expecting for it to be as neat and orderly as this, nor had he expected for it to be pretty decently sized in comparison to the dump he lived in. He supposed that Nines just catered to a fancier lifestyle, but did it ever suit and fit him well. Everything within the place seemed to speak to Nines’ personality, and it seemed to all reflect just how he behaved and carried himself at work.

Naturally, the apartment lacked any furniture and appliances in the kitchen, and rather than having much of a kitchen at all, Nines merely used that room for the purposes of storing away large, exotic plants, statues, strange models he’d perhaps created himself of townships, boats, trains, as well as plenty of paintings and drawings up on the walls.

Gesturing at a few of the lego-like models, Gavin pointed out, “These are pretty neat, Nines, did you make them yourself?”

Not even really gazing at them, Nines offered him a half-nod, “Yes, it’s a weird hobby I have, I suppose.”

“Nah, it’s not weird,” Gavin assured him while he moved along to stare at a few white plants in fancy glass pots. “Woah, what’re these?”

Nines sardonically spat, “Plants, Detective Reed.”

Grinding his teeth together for a moment in irritation, Gavin quickly calmed himself down before trying it again. “No,” he chuckled mindlessly as he held up one of the plant leaves. “I meant to ask what kinds of plants are these?”

“Hmm,” Nines gently pushed his hand out of the way, a clear reminder that Gavin wasn’t to touch anything. “This is an Arum Lily,” he explained gently, “evergreen in sheltered spots, these plants produce the most elegant swan-like white flowers in spring and summer.”

Gavin frowned as he pointed out the dark windows, “But it’s fall, Nines…”

“I’m aware of the current change in season, Detective Reed,” came the low growl, indicating that Nines’ patience was starting to wear thin. “So what’s your point?”

Already feeling argumentative, Gavin snapped coldly, “You said these guys bloom in the spring and summer.” He reminded the tall android sarcastically, “Since that is the case, doesn’t seem like they’re gonna be super productive in this season, huh?”

Nines glared at him for a moment before he replied simply with, “That’s why they’re indoors, Detective; I usually adjust the temperature here to suit their needs.”

Not really desiring to argue on an empty stomach, Gavin rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure, whatever, Nines.”

It was then silent for a few minutes save for the occasional sound of the spray bottle spraying out water for the plants as Nines moved about taking care of his plants while Gavin studied the rest of the bachelor apartment. He found that nothing else really seemed to be that interesting; Nines had two closets, one by the front door, and one in his bedroom, and he kept plenty of dark colored, expensive clothes and shoes in them. Everything was neat and matched. His drawers and dressers were clear of anything on their surface and dust-free, and nothing seemed out of place.

Nothing personal had been left out in the open, and Gavin felt a little surge of envy seeping its way into his system. He’d always tried being this neat and tidy, but he found he couldn’t keep up with it longer than three days at the most. Everything around him was always in shambles, but he attributed that to his own laziness and the fact that he didn’t care for cleaning as much as he should have.

While he paced around Nines’ bedroom, he called out to the android, “You don’t have any pets?”

Nines stopped spraying his plants for a moment before elucidating to Gavin, “No, I do not.”

“Meh,” Gavin grunted out in a half-assed reply. “Pets aren’t for everyone, but I find cats are easier to take care of.”

“You’re a cat person?” Nines inquired. “Odd, I thought you’d like dogs, more.”

Stepping out of the almost empty room, Gavin soon made his way back towards the plants in the ‘kitchen’. Standing next to Nines, he sighed, “Nah, I picked up a stray a while ago, and she liked that I would set out food for her.” Staring at the plants and the various drops of water decorating their leaves, he continued, “When she felt comfortable enough to trust me, I let her in, but she’s more of an ‘outdoor’ cat, still. Eventually, she wound up pregnant, and she had a pretty huge litter of kittens!!”

Setting the spray bottle down on the table, Nines extended a hand and stroked one of his colorful plant leaves almost thoughtfully. “I see,” he commented softly, “one big family, then?”

Family…the word was so very odd and foreign to Gavin. Realizing then that he hadn’t used the word or heard it spoken in a while, he swallowed back rising bile into his throat. Shrugging nonchalantly, he said, “It’s whatever it is, I guess.” He knew this was a rather sore, rough topic for himself to get into, and as always, he felt that skating around it and sweeping it under the rug was far safer than addressing it.

His therapist would sure be proud.

If Nines had noticed Gavin’s sense of discomfort, he thankfully didn’t point it out or comment on it; he merely put away the spray bottle on a shelf mounted high on one of the walls. As he did this, Gavin’s stomach let out a deep grumble, and Nines glared over at Gavin for it.

Petting his stomach shyly, Gavin chuckled, “Sorry, I know you don’t have food or anything, but you don’t suppose I could order in a pizza with some beer, do ya, Nines?”

Not even hesitating, Nines threw out, “No, Detective Reed.”

Woah. Now this was a first.

Feeling a little disturbed, Gavin cleared his throat, hoping Nines had been kidding at first. “Umm…Nines, do you expect me to starve?” he mildly joked, but Nines didn’t laugh or chuckle at all; he mainly glared heatedly at Gavin.

“It’s not the pizza I have an issue with, Detective Reed,” he responded so softly that Gavin had a hard time hearing him. “I won’t allow you to drink alcohol in my home, if it’s alright with you.”

Snorting, Gavin exclaimed, “Wooow, you’re a bitter prude, aren’t ya, Nines?” Waving a hand in the air, he spat, “I don’t drink to the point where I’m shitfaced, you know, so what gives?”

Inching closer to him, Nines took full advantage of his height over Gavin. As he effortlessly towered over the shorter male, his eyes grew dark as he sneered and spoke out, “Leave the alcohol out of it, unless you want to leave, now.”

No, no he didn’t, but not because he enjoyed Nines’ company, not because he enjoyed the conversation, not even because he needed to learn or know more; he needed to take the next step into making this seem ‘legitimate’ enough to his mother. Gavin knew she was going to expect a reply to the letter at some point, and he figured that the sooner he broke the news to her, the better it would be for himself.

Nines stared at him blankly for a moment, “Something’s on your mind,” he pointed out accurately, and it made Gavin’s skin crawl due to how correct he’d been in stating that.

Not bothering to hide it, Gavin nodded, but did he really want to get into every little detail!? No…he wasn’t ready for that, and he wasn’t ready to open up to another person. No way. The last time he’d done so, he’d gotten so badly hurt, that it made his stomach churn even thinking about that experience. While Nines was owed some small fraction of an explanation, Gavin refused to go there. Opening up always came back to bite him in the ass, so why bother?

Instead, he randomly gazed around the bachelor pad, and as he stared about, trying hard not to look like a complete moron, he noticed something he hadn’t exactly picked up on before.

No mirrors.

Immediately vocalizing his thoughts, he grunted, “You have no mirrors, Nines, why?” It wasn’t a lie; not even the bathroom had a mirror, and it was used for storing boxes, other older furniture, as well as extra soil for the plants, Gavin had discovered earlier.

Not a single mirror was in sight.

Coolly, Nines muttered, “I don’t really require one.”

“Bullshit,” Gavin threw back. “Connor uses them all the damn time to get a good look at himself before and during work, and you can’t be any different, Nines.”

…….

Something really was terribly off, but Gavin supposed that maybe he was making a huge deal out of it!! Perhaps Nines was in the middle of redecorating, and he needed to go out and buy mirrors? Maybe he forgot about them?? No, this wasn’t a creature that often forgot anything…

“Nines?”

No expressions were present on the android’s face, and he didn’t seem to be affected in the slightest by the comment Gavin had made in regards to the aberration in his home. After a few stretched out moment in silence, Nines eventually whispered, “You want something else from me?”

Gavin knew how to take the hint. He had to mind his own damn business, so he did.

Holding up both hands, he hurriedly cried, “Yeah, you see, my mom’s not gonna just buy that you and I are gettin’ hitched when we don’t really have proof of it…”

The adroit android nodded, “Then let’s create some of that proof.”

“How?” Gavin’s question seemed to trouble Nines, but the android calmly stared at one of Gavin’s jean pockets in almost half of a non-verbal reply.

After a moment, he stated, “I’m sure you have a phone, right Detective?”

Patting the lump in his jean pocket, Gavin nodded, “I gotcha, you want me to take a pic of us together, right?”

Almost reluctantly, Nines shot out, “There’s no need to speculate; you’re a rather great detective.”

Whether that comment had been sarcastic or not was open for debate. When he had more time, Gavin promised himself he would make a note to come back to it, but for now, all he was concerned about was convincing his mother that his ‘relationship’ with Nines was real. And he knew they would have to really make a good effort; Carrie Reed wasn’t a woman easily fooled and tricked. All her life, she’d been a fighter, and over the years, due to her harsh life experiences, she’d accrued more than mere ‘book smart’ knowledge.

The sixty-two-year-old woman had gotten pregnant with Gavin at the age of twenty-three. When she turned twenty-four, she’d had to handle raising Gavin while also supporting her husband at the time, Felix Reed.

In comparison to his father, Gavin really admired and respected his mother. Carrie Moser had obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology before she’d turned twenty, due to skipping ahead a few times in high school and taking her entrance exams for University early. She was something of a genius among the rest of her class, and she’d accrued and accumulated at least five grand in student scholarships when she applied for University. She had the option of attending four different Universities that wanted someone of her intellectual caliber so badly, and in the end, after having a difficult time selecting a University, Carrie settled on attending Columbia University in New York.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, during the summer leading up to the first year of her master’s program, Carrie worked a part-time summer job planting trees and attending to the gardens around the University. As she’d been working, she noticed a rather eccentric twenty-seven-year-old college dropout working as a handyman around the yards as well. In less than a few weeks, after shy glances, furtive looks, and a few frivolous gestures, Felix Reed introduced himself to Carrie Moser, and the pair hit it off.

At the time, twenty-one-year-old Carrie wasn’t as experienced with boys and relationships. After a few months of dating, the nature of her relationship with Felix shifted and buckled down under familial pressure, namely coming from Carrie’s father. Unable to abide by the notion of his smart little daughter dating a college dropout, Carrie’s father forbade her to see Felix. Due to being supported by her father throughout her education years, Carrie sadly obeyed.

Cutting Felix out of her life hadn’t been easy. The love-stricken youth called her relentlessly, followed her to her classes, and sometimes would send her gifts in the mail or leave them on her front doorstep.

One winter morning before Carrie’s exams, her parents had been thinking of suing Felix for hounding and harassing their daughter, when Carrie discovered she had a terrible flu. This flu lasted for weeks, and didn’t seem to leave even after two months…

After a trip to the hospital and a few ultrasounds, the nurses determined that Carrie was already three months pregnant. Needless to say, her parents were devastated, and after swallowing his pride, Carrie’s father asked her if she wanted to really be with Felix. She’d answered ‘yes’, and that was it.

The next time Felix saw Carrie, her father warned him that if he didn’t marry his daughter, take care of her and their baby, he would personally kick Felix’s ass all over America. That hadn’t been the best way to break it to a future parent that he was going to be a dad, but it’d happened.

A wedding had been already planned, but until Carrie started really showing signs of her pregnancy, she attended classes in person, and then when she hit more than five months of pregnancy, she had to switch to online courses and programs. The young woman had been fearless and strong enough to brave it all through, and that very summer after her final exams, she got married to Felix Reed.

Gavin was born in the autumn right after, exactly on October 7th,.

Life hadn’t been too bad for the Reeds at first. It seemed that Carrie’s success had been an influential aspect on Felix’s mind and life, and he went back to school not long after Gavin was born. But when Felix had returned to his education habits, Carrie had to look after Gavin. The previous ambitions she’d set out for herself had been put on hold, and she became a full-time mom. Still, she didn’t mind it, and she even pitched in and supported Felix financially while he worked towards his degree in law.

After successfully completing and passing his BAR exam, Felix Reed became an official corporate lawyer. It was after that point that Carrie and Felix truly grew apart, and much of life from then on was a blur to Gavin.

An intentionally created blur, no less, but a blur he didn’t care to remember and see beyond. The most of it revolved around his father signing up a contract with some researchers and scientists who wanted to set up a company around conducting research into the possibility of creating and developing new and highly intelligent AI, and then one thing led to another, and his father was rarely home. He sent tons of money and toys for Gavin, but how was that a good substitute for being a father?? Gavin needed his father back then during those crucial years; not toys and games.

But where was his father?

He couldn’t remember well enough, but he knew that his mother and father constantly argued whenever they saw each other, and his mother began looking older faster, while his father seemed to be at the height of his career. It wasn’t long after that he came forward and admitted to Gavin’s mother that he’d been having an affair with one of his clients, a woman by the name of Ella Kamski.

That was the very day Gavin’s heart broke, and his mother’s world had been torn apart.

Felix Reed was having an affair, and he was going to leave Carrie for Ella and the future they’d already planned together.

He didn’t want to remember anything else; he didn’t want the pain associated with the memories. To remember was to hurt, and he was beyond hurting. What good would hurting do him?? It would only slow him down, make him fail in his plans, and he wouldn’t be able to take the money his father owed him, everything else considered.

Gavin found himself toying with his phone in an attempt at breaking out of the awkward, strange silence that had permeated in the air around himself and Nines. Staring incessantly at him, Nines eventually turned his eyes down to the phone Gavin held.

Gavin held it up once, flashing it in the air before the android’s eyes as he asked, “So, where do you wanna do this?”

Nines gazed around his ‘living room’, if it could be called that, and motioning over at a black, glass coffee table sitting before a loveseat, he suggested, “Here is fine.”

“Sweet,” Gavin immediately sat down, but he carelessly assumed he was at his own place, and he spread his legs obscenely widely as he made himself comfortable enough. Eyeing him warily, Nines cleared his throat, and when Gavin saw him purposefully avoiding staring at how he’d been seated, he collected himself and made room for him on the other seat.

Scooting to the side awkwardly, he pressed out, “Sorry…”

Nines didn’t comment on it. Instead, he sat down next to Gavin, and as the other male held up the phone before their faces for the selfie, Nines frowned.

Once Gavin loaded up the camera app, he saw how badly Nines was scowling, and he set his phone down. “Nines,” he coughed, “not to be weird, but people don’t really take angry selfies…it’s not common, you know?”

Sighing warily, Nines commented, “And since when do ‘couples’ take photos of a casual nature?”

Gavin stared at him blankly, and it seemed to annoy Nines to no end. Tapping his fingers on the armrest of his side of the loveseat, he elucidated sternly, “I don’t think your mother would really believe that after thirty-eight years of not having a partner, you’d select a male, for one, an android, I might add, and also,” his yellow LED seemed to speak out for him more than his knotted eyebrows did sternly, “I don’t think she would buy into all this given the fact that her first source of proof is us sitting together as if we are mere chums.”

Feeling slightly sick, Gavin retorted, “You’re weird, Nines.” Keeping his distance from the android while eyeing him with caution, he added, “If you’re sayin’ we have to start makin’ out for the sake of one fuckin’ picture, then you’re out of your fuckin’ mind!!”

The words had also affected Nines, it seemed, only he was better at shrugging them off and not reacting so emotionally compared to Gavin. An insolent look was upon his face as he sighed out, “That’s not really what I meant, Reed,” the irritated android pushed on, “I just mean that there has to be a level of intimacy here to make it believable.”

Torn between spitting out that Nines merely wanted to kiss him as a joke and just going along with it to get it done, Gavin felt his brain quickly conjuring up another solution in no time. He’d taken photos with sports members and other buddies that were pretty ‘close’ in terms of the guys all hugging each other or having their arms around each other’s shoulders!! There was no harm in replicating that!!

Hurriedly getting into position for it, Gavin yanked Nines’ arm around his neck and shoulder, but before he could loop it there, Nines asked, “What’re you doing?”

Gavin didn’t like being put on the spot, but he supposed he should’ve explained this a bit earlier. Still, as he adjusted himself to sit closer to Nines, he explained in annoyance, “Look, I had a good number of friends in college and in the police academy, and we always took pics like this; it’s nothing to get your panties in a twist over.”

He struggled exponentially with getting Nines’ long arm to hang over his shoulder. In their reflections glaring back at them in the camera’s photo preview, Gavin felt that nothing they did seemed… ‘natural’. Nines’ arm hung sluggishly off Gavin’s neck, while the short detective blushed deep red. Once or twice when Gavin tried adjusting the long limb and shifting it, it appeared that Nines was choking him instead of being close and intimate…

It wasn’t working, and Gavin soon gave it up.

“Fuck it,” he grunted, shoving the android’s arm off himself. “I think we should just—” he froze when Nines leaned into him so abruptly. Swallowing down his comment, Gavin was eye-to-eye with Nines, and he whimpered out, “Nines?? Why’re you s-so close to me?”

Instead of answering straight way, Nines grabbed the hand wielding Gavin’s phone. Whispering to the confused male, he suggested, “Just smile a little, and relax your body posture; you’re too rigid.”

Well, that went without saying when Nine was so darn close! How could he be anything except for rigid?!

“Nines, I think this is really—” A hand strongly pushed his head to the side, and then Nines closed the gap between them even more. Gavin knew he was sweating and his heart was racing, but he heard Nines encouraging him to smile, and so he forced one of the most awkward, half-assed smiles onto his face.

Holding up the phone, Nines angled the shot perfectly, and as he lay a free hand on Gavin’s lap, he pressed his lips directly over Gavin’s right cheek. The moment his cold lips made contact with Gavin’s skin, the detective let out a disgruntled noise, but kept his smile plastered onto his face. He only prayed Nines would hurry.

The camera light flashed for a moment, and in less than a second, this moment had been forever captured and immortalized in time. It was on a record, now, and it wouldn’t ever go away.

As soon as he confirmed for himself that the picture had been taken, he broke away from Nines almost violently.  

“Should we do another?” Nines asked, and when Gavin threw him a heated, dirty glare, he clarified, “to see which one is the best.”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin then shrugged bitterly. “Fine, but no more kissing!”

They were both stuck for a moment on what pose to pull next, but Gavin had an idea. Quickly grabbing onto Nines’ shapely chin in a strong hand, he pretended to be stroking or caressing Nines, and he smiled as he growled, “Ready?”

Barely nodding, Nines turned his head as far away from Gavin as he could. This bothered and angered Gavin, as it was quite a difficult feat managing to hold the phone, angle the shot properly so they could both fall into the frame and view, and he had a tough time smiling throughout it all.

Practically yanking Nines’ head back, he eventually snapped impatiently, “Turn in the other way, dipshit, stop looking over there!”

Nines then proved that he was an inveterate struggler, and it took Gavin nearly another minute before the android finally turned and allowed him to hold onto his chin while they both smiled.

The second photo had been taken, and Gavin was more than happy to move away from Nines. Wiping his hands on his jeans, he stared down at the photos, comparing them both together for a while. He soon found that there was another dilemma; they were both pretty passable, and he had no idea which of the two to send to his mother.

But did he want Nines’ opinion?

Not really.

Saving them into his pictures folder in his phone, he then quickly composed a text message to his mother while Nines awkwardly stared at a wall.

As Gavin’s fingers flew and danced along the screen, he found the words came to him so naturally.

I got your letter, and I gotta tell you that I’m already seein’ someone. In fact, the person I’m seein’ proposed to me a while ago, and I said yes to him.

You heard! I’m marrying a guy, but I don’t think you’d care. You never gave a shit anyway, but I just wanted to send off these two pics with him.

Here you go.

He’d then attached the two photos into the text document, and he sent it off without another word or thought. It was good enough; it was real. That’s what counted, and he knew his mother would hound him for it later and demand to know all sorts of things, but they could cross that bridge when it came to it another day. For now, he needed food.

Stomach grumbling demandingly, Gavin yawned, stretched, and then moved to the edge of his seat to stand. “Well,” he drawled out tiredly, “I’m gonna get outta here, Nines, but since we’ve got some time off, and since my mom will more than likely want to talk to you, can I have your number or something to let you know about that shit beforehand so we have enough time to prepare?”

Now, this was a simple request, at least to Gavin. However, Nines looked deeply troubled and shaken, unable to move or say anything for some time. This was wrong, and Gavin immediately took it personally.

Staring blankly at Nines, he asked, “Did I say something weird?”

Suddenly, Nines snapped out of his reverie, and only scowled at Gavin. “Why do you require my number?” came his odd question, and Gavin yanked on the ends of a few bits of hair on his skull.

Praying he had the ability not to lose it, he pressed out, “Nines, I explained it for you just a second ago, and I know you heard me!”

As Nines opened his mouth to argue back, Gavin blurted, “And don’t bother tellin’ me you don’t have a phone; I’ve seen you use it before at work.” Standing back once he’d announced this, he crossed his arms over his chest, and he seemed ever so proud of himself as he smirked confidently down at Nines.

Realizing he was somehow ‘stuck’, Nines sat back in the seat he was currently occupying, and as he reached back into his black dress pants pockets, he produced and withdrew from them a thin iPhone. Not even staring at Gavin, he hurriedly blurted out, “My number’s on the top here.” Tossing the phone at Gavin, he finished in an acidic tone, “Don’t bother me at all hours of the day; this is for emergencies only, do you understand me, Reed?”

Gavin began adding the number onto his phone. “Uh huh, heard ya loud and clear, Nines.” Checking it over once quickly when he was done, he threw it back at Nines, and the android caught it perfectly.

Smugly, Gavin turned on his heels, waving his phone in the air as if it were his hand. This method of substitution suited him well, however, and he called out, “See ya, Nines.”

He hadn’t even bothered to care enough to close the door behind himself upon exiting the android’s apartment.

Chapter Text

Some wishes in life were great when they came true.

Wishing for a brand-new Xbox or PS4 for Christmas or on one’s birthday and actually receiving it? That was a wonderful wish come true.

Wishing that your boss would give you a raise or a promotion? Also an equally wonderful wish if it ever came true.

Wishing that someone you deeply desire and want to get close to romantically and finally having that person come forward and admit holding mutual feelings for you? A beautiful, perfect wish come true!!

But wishing that he could have time off work and just laze about the house while doing nothing had been a destructive wish that had backfired not even halfway into the next morning for Gavin Reed.

Saturdays usually were days Gavin slept in, but on this particularly dull, specifically gloomy Saturday morning, the kittens absolutely refused to allow him this luxury he felt he deserved after all the crap he’d been through. At first morning light, the cool autumn air woke him as it breezed into the apartment due to Gavin often and habitually leaving the windows open for the mother cat to come in and out as she pleased. Now that her kittens were already a few weeks old, she didn’t need to watch them constantly, and she’d trusted Gavin enough to leave them in his care while she went out to hunt.

Only, Gavin despised ‘kitten sitting’. The tiny, orange tabby kittens were nothing short of loud, their exuberant mewls and cries already ringing melodiously in Gavin’s ears. Turning on the radio helped, and as he got up and went about his morning routine when forcing himself to sleep in wasn’t an option, he soon found that time moved way too slowly.

His coffee had been prepared already, there was nothing interesting on the news or on the TV, the kittens were busy playing with each other and wanted nothing to do with him, and he was far too lazy to clean. Well, his apartment needed some cleaning, but Gavin supposed doing the laundry was more important. After all, he needed his clothes for work.

Taking a quick trip down the street to the laundromat, he waited there with his second cup of coffee until his clothes were washed and dried. By the time he reached his apartment again, it wasn’t even ten in the morning.

Why was time always going by so slowly for him when he didn’t want it to?! Had he really been that busy at work not to notice the time behaving so erratically?!

Gavin was beyond bored, now. He really had nothing to do, so he sat back down in the kitchen while playing some random online games with his phone.

Time well spent.

However, it didn’t do much for him aside from draining his phone’s battery faster, pissing him off with how many rounds he’d lost in Candy Crush, and just making the kittens go nuts when their large, pointy ears took in the sounds emanating from the phone and the game.

Pointless.

“Why the fuck do teens play these games?!” Gavin asked himself, closing the app angrily, and then scrolling through his list of contacts. Not wanting to admit it to anyone else outside of his apartment, but that list had grown considerably shorter and shorter as the years passed. He’d originally kept a few exes on his phone just for the sake of being friends with them later and chatting them up, but as the old saying went: being friends with an ex was like asking your kidnapper or abductor to keep in touch with you once they let you go.

But he was so damn bored that he was seriously about to lose his mind!!

Scrolling through his call log, he found that he couldn’t recognize any of the numbers that had either called him or he’d called recently, aside from pizzerias and other fast-food joints.

But there had to be someone to talk to!!

Thinking quickly, Gavin remembered his last ex from almost seven years ago. Her name was Felicity Hardy, and last time he’d checked, she’d gotten married and had given birth to two sons…shit…that wouldn’t do at all.

Knowing his other exes had all blocked him, Gavin’s eyes landed on one last contact at the bottom of his tiny ‘list’.

He’d named this person ‘Fuck Stick Plastic Prick’, and as he read the name out loud, he had to pause and have a good laugh when it came to his sense of humor and knack for rhyme. ‘Fuck Stick Plastic Prick’ was of course Nines, but he’d been warned not to pester his work partner last night…

Emergencies only!

“Emergency?” Gavin yawned out, “I’d say this is a fuckin’ emergency; I’m so bored that I’m about to set the world on fire!” That wasn’t anything exaggerated, at least for himself, anyway. Boredom was horrifying, and he really was running out of options. Not wanting to sit and drink his ass off this early in the day, he scrolled through his phone again until something in his mind took him back to Nines’ number.

Normally, whenever he’d been bored before, the slightly younger Gavin Reed would text, call, and just pester his friends or exes. It wasn’t the best form of pastime, granted, but it was the most entertaining and interesting, to say the least. Gavin enjoyed observing the different reactions people would give him when he called or texted out of the blue after not having said anything for years or months on end.

Usually, his exes would cut the call abruptly, and others who were more embittered would yell and rage at him, only to then cut the call off afterwards. Well, it wasn’t entirely bad! They got a chance to let off some steam, vent, get over their anger, and he was…well, he was amused and entertained! Not a bad exchange.

But he didn’t really want to talk to Nines and hear his voice right now, not that there was anything wrong or off-putting about his voice, really. On the contrary, it was rather pleasant to listen to, which Gavin found rather odd. When he’d first met Nines, prior to hearing him speak, since he kind of resembled Connor, there was a natural inclination to assume that he even sounded like him. However, when Nines uttered his first phrase to Gavin, which at the time had been: “Please don’t bother trying to pour salt down the back of my uniform collar; it’s impossible to get a rise out of me that way, and frankly, you’d be wasting your time,” Gavin had celebrated the fact that Nines sounded nothing like Connor. The RK800’s voice had always sounded quite nasally, at least to Gavin’s ears, and it was rather whiny and a tad annoying. But Nines’ voice was quite lower and deeper. It sounded far more mature, experienced, he spoke with command, confidence, urgency, and he knew how to change his tone, pitch, and color on and off whenever it suited the needs of the particular, specific conversation he was having. He had a solidly good grasp on how to not only present himself, but his voice was just…Gavin had no idea how to place it specifically, but he sat back and thought about it, his hand flying up to his right cheek.

…….

Nines had kissed him there last night…

Sitting up quickly, Gavin rubbed his cheek a little roughly. Granted, the kiss had been forced and barely much of a peck, but it was still so weird…Nines’ lips were kind of cold from what he recalled, and it didn’t feel like anything anyway. Whenever a woman had kissed him there on his cheeks before, he knew he could rely on expecting human warmth radiating from their lips onto his skin and cheeks, but Nines’ brief kiss had been so odd, so foreign and alien, that he wondered if that had been the first time ever the android had to kiss someone…

Putting that thought away when he looked back down at the RK900’s number in his contact list, Gavin decided to distract himself by actually texting Nines.

Why not? It could be fun!

Kicking his feet up on his kitchen table, he rested his bare feet above a few old newspapers he’d poorly substituted as a kitchen table cover. Majority of the papers were covered in coffee mug stains and circled outlines, ashes from his cigarettes, muddy kitten paw prints, and crumbs and bits of old food. Making himself as comfortable as he could, the proud detective relied on a hubristic belief in his own self-confidence and pushed past the barriers he’d normally withheld when it came to texting his work partners without a good cause.

He was going to go through with this, and luckily, the fact that he was behind a phone screen helped significantly. Fingers flew rapidly as he composed his initial message.

Gavin Reed, 10:02 a.m.

sup Nines?

Hitting ‘send’, Gavin sat back and stared around his messy kitchen.

Now what?? He highly doubted Nines was going to be a fast texter, so what was he supposed to do while he waited for the android to get back to him??

When Gavin moved his heels, something definitely crunched and broke apart beneath his weight. Staring down at it when he got his feet out of the way, he nearly puked when he saw that it’d been partly soggy cat food biscuit that was in the process of drying as it lay there in the sun beneath his feet upon the table.

“Nasty,” he grumbled to himself, lowering his feet as he emitted a strained sigh. Now, he really felt disgusting, but he knew that according to his ‘regular routine’, by this point in time, not only should he have been at work, but he should’ve showered and been super clean!

A shower was a pretty good idea rather than sitting in cat food and ash, he supposed. Standing up from the table and chair, he held his phone in his right hand as he began making his way through the apartment. Gavin had barely approached his linen closet to snatch out a fresh towel, when his phone buzzed loudly.

Incoming text message!!!

All too eagerly, Gavin glanced down at his phone, barely wedging the linen closet door open along the way. He frowned when he read the words on the screen, but oddly, he’d expected a response like the one he’d been bestowed with, so why was he somewhat disappointed??

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:08 a.m.

I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t use this method of communication for any random purpose, Detective Reed?

Well, technically, they had, but Gavin wasn’t really a man of his word…not when he didn’t want to be, anyway. Leaning against the closet door, he texted back:

Gavin Reed, 10:09 a.m.

yeah but im kinda bored, Nines…soooo whatcha doin?

Wondering why he’d freely spilled the truth out, Gavin scratched his chin for a moment until the reply came back to him two minutes later.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:11 a.m.

I’m doing what we normally should be doing at this hour on a regular Saturday; I’m working, unlike yourself, I imagine.

Sputtering at his screen, Gavin cried out to himself, “Holy shit! I think he just called me lazy!!”

One of the orange kittens ran past him, but it slid carelessly down to the floor, still unable to properly walk. This kitten was something of the ‘runt of the litter’, and it was smaller, thinner, and a little sicklier than its siblings. Gavin eyed it for a moment, and the second he did, the kitten’s eyes met his, and it opened its mouth and mewled at him.

Waving his phone at the kitten, Gavin randomly announced, “Can you believe it?! I was called ‘lazy’ by Nines!! What a prick!!”

The kitten didn’t care, of course, and once it got back on its paws, it darted forward into the kitchen somewhere.

“Figured you wouldn’t care,” Gavin spat after it, already composing his next message to Nines. He didn’t know why, but he felt slightly offended that Nines had implied he was lazy. How was he lazy!? He got to work every day on time, he hardly took smoke breaks as often as he used to, and he really worked hard!!

He wasn’t lazy!

Gavin Reed, 10:14 a.m.

cant believe u called me lazy…ur a dick, Nines.

Standing back once he’d sent the message off, Gavin felt itchy all over, suddenly. Perhaps it really was time to get into the shower and stop wasting his time standing about like a twerp. Strangely, he found that texting Nines somehow made the time fly by a little.

As he got his towel, fresh change of clothes, as well as turned on the shower water, the next text sluggishly came in.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:20 a.m.

I doubt it’s far from reality. Now please leave me alone, Detective Reed; I have a lot of work to do.

What work?!? Typically, there wasn’t too much to do on a Saturday, unless your name was Nines, for sure. Gavin was intrigued, but his shower was way more important. Leaving his phone on the bathroom vanity countertop, he undressed and got into the standing shower without thinking of much else.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

As soon as he’d dried himself off, Gavin fired away another text.

Gavin Reed, 10:58 a.m.

sup man?

This time, Nines had been rather quick to text him back.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 10:59 a.m.

And here I thought you’d finally found something to occupy your mind with. Shame I was wrong.

Gavin Reed, 10:59 a.m.

ur kinda funny on text

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:01 a.m.

How so?

Gavin Reed, 11:02 a.m.

dont know…u just seem bitchy.

Stepping back from his phone for a moment, Gavin had to wonder why he found this amusing. This was still Nines he’d been texting and talking to, and at work, he could hardly stand the android for long without having to leave the room he’d always entered. What difference did texting him make??

Gavin sighed weakly and muttered to himself, “I think it’s time for another coffee…” as he got to work on heading inside the messy heap that was his kitchen, he shoved aside the mountain of dishes and utensils hanging out in the sink, on the counter, and eventually found his coffee machine.

Success!

Once he’d changed the filter and poured into it some water to get it going, he stood back and stared out the kitchen window. The glass was filthy, but he was still able to catch a decent enough view of the outside world.

Nothing special was going on today; the light sounds of the quotidian traffic flew into his apartment, while some crows cawed in the distance back and forth to one another. The wind blew lightly, making him shiver as his hair was still partly wet. While the coffee slowly filled his grey mug, Gavin looked around outside some more, surveying the parking lot of his apartment complex.

It wasn’t long before he saw that two large, colorful roller pigeons were perched on a fence barring the parking lot from the rest of the world, and as Gavin studied them in amusement, they leapt on top of each other and were clearly engaged in a mating display.

For some reason, he found himself reaching for his phone again.

Gavin Reed, 11:10 a.m.

Just saw 2 pigeons mating…

It was the most random thing he’d ever told someone before, and for a while, he wondered what had possessed him to even send it to begin with. Still, it was too late for regrets.

Grabbing his coffee mug once the dark beverage had been prepared and poured almost to the rim, he made himself comfortable on a chair at the table, and as soon as he’d seated himself, Nines’ text had been delivered right on time.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:13 a.m.

Charming news, Detective Reed. What do you want me to do about it?

Gavin actually threw his head back and emitted a laugh. He had no idea how to even answer that question, because usually, whenever he’d stated random things like this before to other people, they hadn’t ever reacted like Nines had. Normally, they wouldn’t even give him the time of day, as ignoring him seemed to be the better option than to engage in his silliness.

What a breath of fresh air.

Gavin Reed, 11:15 a.m.

dont do anything. was just some random shit.

He found himself waiting for a reply more than he should’ve been, and it shocked him.

Why was he waiting for Nines to say something?? Was he that bored?

Maybe he was, but was that such a bad thing?

No. Nines was actually fun to talk to, and Gavin wanted to see what else he could do to pester the stoic android, even if it entailed being ignored or receiving short, clipped responses. Nines wasn’t a man of many words, so it seemed, but Gavin was up for the challenge of fishing out whatever replies and responses he could out of the reserved android.

Nines didn’t disappoint, either. Nearly a minute and a half later, he’d sent out:

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:17 a.m.

Well then, if you don’t have any other news of animals and beasts fornicating around your residence, Detective, I’m going to bid you a good rest of the day.

Do try and be productive, for once.

Before Gavin could stop himself, he’d already mindlessly blurted out, “Damn Nines, you’re perfect sometimes!!” Now, he was itching to keep this charade going for as long as he could.

Unfortunately, as soon as he’d sipped his coffee halfway, and just as he’d been in the middle of composing his next reply to Nines, his phone alerted him to the fact that he had an incoming call.

Gavin’s blood ran cold all throughout his body once his eyes caught who it was that was calling him.

It wasn’t Nines, it wasn’t any of his exes, and it certainly wasn’t even Captain Fowler.

It was his mother; it was Carrie Moser.

Chapter Text

He had to take this call. Any call from his mother had always been important, and there was no way to ignore her now, especially where his money and inheritance was concerned, no doubt. Still, that didn’t make it any easier, and Gavin’s body already began taking a huge toll in terms of stress weighing down on him.

Suddenly feeling super cold, there was an odd sense of feeling heady, for an odd reason Gavin couldn’t speculate on. He knew he felt weak, sick, and terrified beyond imagination, and it wasn’t a feeling he often felt. Normally, he would feel the sense of adrenaline rushing and coursing through his system when he was out on a case, trying to interrogate someone, or was receiving high praise from Fowler. But this wasn’t a positive sensation, and it made him feel incredibly dizzy.

Grateful that he’d been smart enough to at least be seated for this, he allowed the phone to ring one last time before he swiped on ‘answer call’. The green light flashed over his screen, indicating that he was now connected to his mother.

All he could hear as he held his phone up to his ear was his own throbbing, beating heart, and it matched a loud, strong drum echoing and booming in a vacant land.

……..

Shaking, he finally managed to greet his mother. “H-hello?”

She paused for a moment, and then Gavin heard her sharply inhaling. This was already a bad sign.

“Good morning, Gavin.”

Yes, it was terrible; she was rather calm, but unlike how it was when others were calm in his presence, Gavin knew his mother operated quite differently. ‘Calm’ in her books always meant that she was on the verge of erupting like a deadly volcano. Her anger was probably just boiling and bubbling beneath the surface, but he thanked himself for having a physical distance at least.

Shying away from her ragged breaths, he asked, “H-how are y-you?”

Wishing he could stop stammering and stuttering like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar, Gavin reminded himself that he hadn’t done anything wrong; it was just nerves due to not having spoken to his mother on voice in almost a year…shit…that actually was rather wrong!!

Thinking she’d been angry with him because of that, he hurriedly apologized, “Sorry I didn’t c-call you in a while! Been busy with work and shit, but I hope you’re okay, mom!”

…….

More silence was his response at first, and Gavin thought the call had been cut off, initially. Only when his mother resumed breathing harshly did he realize she was still on the other end of the line.

Eyes shifting from side to side suspiciously, he croaked, “Mom?”

Finally, she grumbled in a rather deep voice, “How stupid do you think I really am, Gavin?”

……..

Gavin winced, “Mom? Have you been smoking again? You know, the doctor said you shouldn’t be havin’ smokes at your age!”

“Screw off, I only had two since I woke up,” she snarled at him, and then coughed lightly, making Gavin cringe even more so as he stood up in a nervous tick.

What was she upset about?! He truthfully had no idea, so he put up with it and gathered his guts as he answered her with, “Mom, what’s going on?”

The wind blew rather harshly immediately, almost as if nature itself had been scolding him for doing something he seriously had no idea he’d done or been doing all this time. Hating the mysterious and enigmatic senses swooping all around him, Gavin shifted nervously, fidgeting about in his kitchen as he kicked aside newspapers and frightened a few of his kittens who’d been trying to eat their meals close by.

After coughing again, Gavin’s mother muttered, “Those photos you sent me, Gavin, I’m letting you know right now that they were complete bullshit.”

Falling into such a frozen, dead silence right away, Gavin forgot to breathe as his eyes widened and he stared down at the floor in fear. Chin and jaw quivering, he whispered brokenly, “Wh-what’re you talkin’ about?!”

“Your photos with your so-called fiancé,” she jabbed at him, “what the hell were they?!”

His anger got the better of him, and before his mother could say anything, Gavin had already leapt to his own conclusions. “Never took you for a homophobe, mom,” he chuckled cruelly, not at all amused by what he thought and suspected she’d been latching onto. “Isn’t your own sister-my aunt-married to a woman?” he reminded her as he played with the handle of his coffee mug. “What difference does it make if I’m seein’ a guy?!”

“Gavin!” she shrieked, getting his attention while all the hairs on his body slowly began rising on end. “I don’t give a rat’s ass who you’re sleeping with, and you know it!”

Bouncing onto his next thought, he spat, “Is it because he’s an android?”

Sighing, she growled, “Oh shut up! Even saying that-given the new laws-could be a criminal offense, and I’m not like that!”

Now, Gavin’s patience had been tested. Already on the edge, he yanked his coffee mug close to his chest, his free hand wrapping around it while he imagined choking the life out of someone he hated. Possibly a bully from his childhood; anyone would do if it meant he could calm the fuck down.

Irritably, he snarled, “Then what the hell kind of a point are you drivin’ at, mom?”

Pausing, she ate up the heavy silence before she eventually asked, “Have you been attending your counselling sessions lately?”

Gavin snorted, “Wandering off topic? Nice one!” Clapping sarcastically by slamming his hand down over the coffee mug a few times, he added, “Seriously, they should crown you as ‘Queen of Detraction’, mom.”

“Enough of the sarcasm, Gavin,” she yelled out at him, and he merely kicked at one of the kitchen cupboards until it hurt his toes and feet. He knew he was acting childishly and so impulsively, but he really didn’t have time for her to be playing this mysterious game. He was already on edge, and she had quite the knack for bringing him down and insulting him, whether she meant to or not.

With a huff, Gavin’s mother elucidated, “Look, Gavin, you’re a grown adult, and I’m not in charge of your business. I wasn’t trying to be, either,” she assured him calmly. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re the one paying for your own therapy, and it’s up to you to go and embrace the therapy or not; I don’t really care. I’m only calling to tell you that I don’t buy for one second into this idea that you’re with this man…err, android!!”

Not bothering to even curb his lewdness, Gavin announced, “Well, I just got done sucking his dick not that long ago before you called, so I think you’re shit outta luck here, mom.” Pausing for a moment, he hurriedly added in, “Sorry to burst your bubble, by the way.” While this comment had been something majority of children wouldn’t ever discuss with a parent so brazenly and so openly, Gavin’s upbringing had been entirely different. All his life, he’d had more of a ‘friend’ than a mother. Carrie Moser had been strict with him for the most part, yes, but very quickly, due to her sense of trying to control Gavin and ensure he didn’t turn out to be a dropout like his father, she’d insisted upon knowing practically everything in his life.

As such, Gavin soon grew accustomed to telling her everything to the point where privacy and shame were nonexistent topics in the household. None of it mattered and changed, not even when Gavin hit puberty, and not even when his mother started dating again. They shared a lot with each other, and even conversations surrounding sex, sexual preferences, experimentation, drug use, and other strange things didn’t seem to be out of the norm for them.

His therapist had once inquired about how Gavin’s mother had raised him, and when the irate male asked him why he wanted to know, his therapist eluded to the fact that Gavin’s current sea of problems perhaps stemmed from his upbringing.

Needless to say, Gavin ceased attending therapy sessions from that point on. He refused to believe that there was inherently something wrong with himself or his mother. She’d done well for a single parent struggling to complete her PhD, as well as trying to raise him and find him a suitable stepfather figure. How could some random, jackass of a stranger judge them?? They had no fucking place to do so, and anyone who wanted to was welcome to kiss his ass as far as he cared.

There was nothing wrong with him or his mother!

As normally expected, Gavin’s mother didn’t even react upon hearing her son’s crude statement. Resuming the conversation as if they’d been discussing the economy or politics, she coolly said, “Great, now that you have some time, I need you to understand that I’m not as stupid as you’d like me to be in this case, Gavin.” When he was silent enough while stewing in his own internal rage, she continued.

“First of all, that photo wasn’t even taken in your apartment; the walls are completely barren, the colors are different, and that sofa isn’t even anything you own.”

Shrugging even though she couldn’t see him doing it, Gavin spat, “I moved in with him, so fuckin’ what?”

“Really?” she snorted acerbically, “then how come I’ve not even seen a single portrait of you two hanging on the walls? Hmm?” Hurriedly continuing with her barrage of questions, she snapped, “Why did that photo seem so forced?? I’m no fool, Gavin,” she reminded him for the third time already. “I know what’s fake and what isn’t, and those pictures you sent me are as fake as your aunt’s breast implants!!”

When she was done with her rant, Gavin grabbed his coffee mug and chugged down the rest of its contents. Wiping his lips nervously with a trembling hand, he growled menacingly at her, “You done, now?!”

Clicking her tongue against her teeth, she chuckled, “You’re a real piece of work, Gavin. You take on after your father more and more each day, you know…” Sighing softly, she blurted out, “…He too was very good at trying to convince and persuade others, but I see past you just as I saw past his bullshit all those years ago when he blatantly lied to my fucking face.”

Gavin couldn’t take it anymore. He exploded upon hearing that he’d been compared to his late father. Slamming his coffee mug down onto the kitchen floor in a fit of rage, he didn’t care that it burst into a hundred shattered pieces. The bits slid and bounced off everywhere in sporadic directions, but thankfully, all the small kittens in the kitchen had already run away from the threat of harm.

As steam rose out of Gavin’s ears and from the top of his head, he heard his mother warningly press out, “Don’t you get mad; don’t you make angry faces! I’ve told you that people and grown adults don’t get mad like this, and I know for a fact you’re not going to therapy if this is how you’re behaving.”

“The fuck do you want from me, huh?!” Gavin screamed out at her from the top of his lungs, not even giving a shit who heard him. “What more can I do?!”

Gruffly grunting, she stated, “Well, let me meet him, then! Since he’s so charming and you’re so damn enamored with him, introduce us!”

Gavin’s heart right then and there skipped a few beats. “What?” he croaked out painfully, pushing past his anxiety as he carefully stepped around the trash heap and broken coffee mug on the floor. “You want to meet him?!”

“Yes, Gavin,” his mother ground out, on the edge of annoyance and impatience. “I’m swinging by in two days, because I should have time off perhaps on Monday.”

Two days…

Two fucking days…

Stuttering, Gavin chewed out, “That’s…th-that’s on such short notice, though…”

His mother laughed a dry laugh, “So what? You’re the one claiming you’re living with your partner,” the reminder came out in a sarcastic jab. “It shouldn’t be that difficult for you, then…” Pausing, she coldly bit out, “…Or do you think you’re high and mighty and above inviting your own mother into your house? Hmm?”

Gavin rubbed his forehead and temples firmly, wishing he could erase and rub himself away and out of existence. “I need to go, mom; this chat is giving me a damn headache.”

“Likewise,” she affirmed, “see you in two days, then.”

The call ended right then and there, and Gavin stood awkwardly listening to white noise and static. His heart pounding in his chest soon overpowered that noise, and Gavin set his phone down for a moment.

“Two fucking days,” he reiterated, “what the hell am I going to do in two days?!?” The longer he thought about it, the more he panicked. He had no clue where to start. His mother had told him she didn’t buy into the fact that he was cohabiting with Nines, it seemed, and his main goal now was to convince and persuade the histrionic woman that he was in a committed relationship, and he was engaged

But how could he do that?! Last time he checked, he was nothing but a feckless momma’s boy!! He couldn’t ask Nines to move in with him!!

Suddenly, at the very thought and notion of having someone else move in with him, Gavin felt sick to his stomach. He seriously became nauseated, and he doubled over the kitchen sink dry heaving for a full minute. He was going to throw up for sure if he thought about changing his lifestyle this much. Change sucked; change was a bitch! It was so unpredictable, just like people, just like his exes, and just like his father…

No!!! He didn’t want change!!

Unable to stomach it, he slammed a hand over his mouth as his back and neck were dripping with sweat. Trembling and shaking violently, he swallowed down his own saliva and stomach acid while it crept up in his throat.

He didn’t want change; he wasn’t going to ever let anyone in, and he never really had. Even in the past, whenever he’d dated, he’d made sure not to ever invite his girlfriends back to his place. If they ever needed to be intimate, they always either went to hotels, or back to their places, but Gavin never allowed his previous girlfriends to get too close…on second thought, maybe that’s why none of his relationships had ever worked out…

Fuck if he cared, though; he had a bigger concern now, and he was nearly having a full-blown panic attack because of it. What was he supposed to do?!

Wheezing out desperately while his kittens kept an eye on him silently, Gavin reached for his phone lying a few feet away on the counter.

His safety net…his help…

Nines…

Pressing ‘call’ once the android’s number was highlighted, he hurriedly called up the android, wiping away sweat from his forehead and nose as he paced nervously and fidgeted about. He knew he was a complete nervous wreck, but he couldn’t help it. While the phone rang on and on a few times, he quickly turned on the kitchen sink tap, and he splashed some cold water over his face. It helped him calm down…but barely. He still needed to figure out at least some form of a plan!

One the second last ring, Nines finally answered. “Reed, I thought I said that unless it’s an emergency, you’re not to ca—”

Interrupting angrily, Gavin roared, “THIS IS A FUCKIN’ EMERGENCY, NINES! MY MOM JUST CALLED SAYIN’ THAT THE PICS WE TOOK ARE COMPLETE BULLSHIT, AND SHE REQUIRES REAL PROOF THAT WE’RE A COUPLE!!” pausing to get some air in his lungs, he lowered the volume of his voice as he finished, “I need your help!! She’s droppin’ by in like, two days, man! What the fuck do we do about this shit?!”

Ever the calm and collected one, Nines instructed, “Breathe, relax, breathe in and out, first.”

“But I—”

“Just do it and stop arguing with me, Gavin!”

“Okay!” he inhaled, exhaled deeply, and then inhaled, held his breath for a moment, and exhaled extremely slowly as he forced himself to remain calm.

While he did this, Nines encouraged him softly. “Yes, good,” he ushered gently, “keep doing that for a moment while I think.”

Breathing in and out until he’d calmed down significantly, Gavin walked up towards his kitchen window to close it, and just in the nick of time, the mother tabby cat leapt inside the apartment with a loud hiss.

“S-sorry, girl,” Gavin backed off and let her rush to her kittens, and then he slammed the window shut. Resuming his small breathing exercises, he realized Nines had been quiet for longer than he liked. It didn’t do well for his nerves, and choked out painfully, “Houston, I don’t mean to push, but we still have a fuckin’ problem!!”

Nines spat out, “You should come over with any items or furniture you have, then. If she wants to see us cohabiting together, then let’s do it, Reed.”

Gavin froze. What the hell kind of a suggestion was that?! Was Nines really inviting him over?!

Unable to believe it, he cried out warily, “Nines, I’m serious!”

“So am I!” came the loud-yet calm-reply, “I see no other way around it, Reed!”

“Bring my stuff with me?!”

“Yes,” Nines repeated, “there’s space in my apartment, as you saw.”

Turning around to peek inside his living room, Gavin noticed one of the kittens clawing at the sofa seats, and another had already vomited all over the armrest, while a third had urinated all over the floor right before the sofa.

No fucking way was he going to take his trash-infested and piss-stained sofas and chairs over into Nines’ clean and fancy, modern-looking apartment. The levels of mortification that came associated with that idea was alone enough to send him into another panic attack, so he abandoned the thought quickly.

Holding tightly to the phone, he stammered softly, “Umm, Nines? I…is it okay if I just…you know…leave my furniture behind for now?” It sounded so odd and stupid, and he was sure that Nines was going to react in an odd way, but he really didn’t want to embarrass himself more than he already was.

Not hanging on to the silence that had already been birthed out of that reply, Nines cleared his throat as he said, “If you’re worried that you can’t move your furniture here alone, I can help or call up a moving company.”

Damn this practical thing!!! This wasn’t a logical, practical nature that had a logical solution!!! This was emotional and raw!! Didn’t Nines get that?!

He didn’t want to ask, so he didn’t. Asking would mean learning more about Nines, and simultaneously leaving the door open for Nines to learn about him. He didn’t need that, EVER.

Swallowing his pride and anger as much as he could, Gavin addressed Nines’ previous question irritably. “I don’t need help moving my shit, Nines,” he growled, “I just want new stuff, and it may help my m-mom feel like we got them together or whatever the hell other couples do when they move in t-together!!” God, this was so hard to spit out, and he couldn’t believe he’d lived through it. But sure enough, he was still standing once the words escaped his mouth and lips.

Nines was silent for a moment, but he soon picked himself back up as he suggested, “I think we need to go shopping, then, Detective Reed.”

Nodding, Gavin softly and almost innocently croaked out, “B-but I don’t have a lot of money with me, so we can’t do anything fancy, okay?”

“Okay, Reed.”

“Okay.”

……..

“Please keep breathing and try to calm down,” Nines continuously urged. “Do you want me to come pick you up?”

Gavin shook his head wildly. “N-no! Just…stay there, Nines!” He made sure to calm back down, not wanting Nines to pick up on the hint that this was a sore, sensitive topic for him.

“Stay there, and I’ll come to you.”

“Okay, Reed.”

“Okay.”

The keys were already in his hand, and his wallet had thankfully still been where he left it in his brown leather jacket. As Gavin peeked inside it, however, he saw only a few bills, and only one credit card.

He could only hope and pray it would be enough.

Chapter Text

Gavin reached Nines’ apartment in no time. According to his phone, it was almost half-past noon when they decided to head to Costco, just to take a look at some household items and appliances to begin the ‘moving’ process. Thankfully, the plaza and shopping malls around them held a Target, a Walmart, as well as a furniture store called 5th Avenue Furniture. Gavin had never been inside it before, so he pointed at it the moment he parked the car in the spacious parking lot.

“There,” he suggested, “let’s start here, okay?”

“Sure,” Nines softly replied, sitting calmly and stiffly in the passenger seat, “you lead the way, Detective.”

Nines had been nothing short of calm and tranquil from the moment they entered the car, all the way up until they headed inside the store. A few salesclerks and customer service representative androids and humans rushed to greet them immediately, asking them if they needed help, while also announcing that the store was hosting a large sale where majority of the items on display were more than 65% off due to an autumn blowout sale.

It suited Gavin just fine either way.

The afternoon started off nicely, but soon spiraled into quite the cataclysmic failure. Nines was far too detached for Gavin’s tastes. Initially, the nervous male hadn’t paid any attention to it, but he saw the first sign of it when he stopped before a medium sized dresser that was black, and he asked Nines if it looked decent enough.

The fecund android merely grunted, “It’s up to you, Detective Reed.”

Gavin soon selected the second dresser they stumbled upon, which was an antique looking black dresser with only four drawers. It measured 34 inches in width, the depth was 21 inches, and the height was a mere 27 and a half inches.

Thankfully, due to the urgency of the sale, Gavin was told that the movers would pack and load the dresser up into his vehicle upon receiving his payment for the item. While things moved along well enough there, Gavin sensed something terribly off about Nines, and it became more apparent and evident as they continued shopping.

Selecting a bed came easily, strangely enough. Gavin picked a mahogany colored Hemnes bed, the size a twin. He only planned on using it once or twice, maybe, but he still required one, seeing as Nines didn’t have a damn bed.

They didn’t need a sofa or chairs, thankfully, but to make it all believable, they decided to buy a lot of discounted Halloween decorations. It mostly all consisted of Gavin selecting a tablecloth made out of the design and pattern of tiny vampire bats flying in front of a full moon, a skull-shaped piggy bank, a gargoyle globe with glitter raining down on it when shaken, a small chandelier that was vintage and gothic in design, as well as a painting of a jack o’lantern grinning evilly in the dark.

Once he brought his items over to a cashier’s till, he saw Nines looming behind him, folding his arms behind his back and appearing so rigid and annoyed. Gavin initially suspected it’d been because he was moving in, but he didn’t care to inquire. Nines had agreed to this, and this was part of what he owed him as far as the deal went! It was far too late to back out of it, now!

As soon as they left the furniture store and loaded up Gavin’s car with the items, Gavin stood back as he stared at everything they had so far.

Something was missing…

Suddenly, like a bright light turning on in the darkest of nights, Gavin’s eyes shined incandescently. He was thrilled he remembered what else they needed, and rounding on Nines while the android made sure to tuck away the Halloween decorations neatly in the trunk of the car, Gavin asked him, “You have a functioning bathroom, right?”

Nines closed the trunk and sighed, “Last time I checked, yes.”

“Like, the shower has running water and everything?”

Nines’ eyes twitched for a moment, but he still managed another ‘Yes’.

In spite of finding the dour android’s responses clipped and a tad gruesome to listen to, Gavin pressed on. Eyeing a Bed, Bath and Beyond store right next to the Walmart, he steered himself in the exact direction. “I’ll need some stuff for the bathroom and shower,” he announced dully, and Nines automatically started following him, though he made no real attempt at keeping up.

As soon as they made their way past the automatic sliding doors, Gavin got lost in looking for new curtains in the bedroom since he recalled Nines didn’t have any.

“Hey, what color should I get, Nines?” he asked when he couldn’t decide between light purple and grey, “you know? You should tell me since it’s your apartment…”

Nines turned his nose away from the purple, and over to the grey, “That one.”

“Coolio,” Gavin shoved the package of the curtains into his cart, and he wheeled it off without another word. Surprisingly, he found that Nines allowed him to get a small mirror specifically for the bathroom, but when Gavin asked if he could hang it on the wall above the sink, that was when Nines started arguing and putting up a fuss for the first time that late afternoon.

While they tried keeping their conversation only between themselves, Gavin hissed, “What the hell’s wrong with you? Who the hell just buys a mirror and only brings it out to use it instead of just leaving it hanging on the wall always?!”

Trying to leave the isle containing the various styles of mirrors, Nines uncomfortably hissed back, “Take or leave it, Reed, that’s my final damn offer.”

Jokingly, Gavin leaned against the cart as he pointed at Nines, “The hell are you? Some kind of vampire?”

Peering at him without an air of amusement in his eyes, Nines retorted, “You’re being childish, now.”

“Well, why the fuck do you not like mirrors, then?” came Gavin’s next question, “mirrors aren’t bad things!”

Nodding at his pockets containing his cigarettes, Nines spat, “Cigarettes are bad things, yet you insist on keeping and smoking them, Detective. So what’s the correlation there?”

“I took up smoking for my own health, Nines,” Gavin snorted, “stop wandering off topic!”

Moving away from him, Nines approached the end of the isle, and on a shelf hanging on the other side, he pulled out a few soap dispensers and soap holders. “I think you also could use one of these, Detective,” he suggested calmly, “pick one out; you’re wasting my time.”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin let go of the mirror issue for the time being, and he instead joined Nines at the edge of the isle. Searching through the soap holders, he picked a plastic one with a silver pump. It wasn’t too fancy, and as he checked the price tag beneath it, he found it agreeable with his expenses in the past.

As he tossed it into the cart, he turned to the right, and he saw an entire isle stocked to the top with Halloween candy. Stomach grumbling, he headed towards it.

“Detective Reed!” Nines cried out after him, “get back here!”

“I want to check these out, Nines, just wait there a bit!!”

Ignoring Nines’ harsh growls and whispers, Gavin looked around the various assortment of candies, and he quickly saw a creepy werewolf mask a child must’ve picked up and then discarded in the candy section by mistake. A silly idea soon overcame him, and he held onto the mask and placed it over his own face in a hurry. Making sure it sat nicely and evenly, he crept back towards Nines. Thankfully, the android had his back turned, and he had no idea Gavin was slowly creeping up on him…good!

When he was barely an inch away from Nines, Gavin held out his hands, and he jumped right in front of the android with a loud, “GRRRRAAAA!!!!”

Nines didn’t even flinch. He simply stared blankly at Gavin’s werewolf mask, and after a moment, he reached up and tore out some bits of brown fur that had been glued and matted onto the top of the wolf skull.

“Stop!” Gavin cried out, backing away as he held up his hands, “you’re going to fuckin’ rip it apart!”

“Take that off,” Nines snapped, “and stop being a child.”

Already pissed off that his joke had fallen on someone incapable of understanding and appreciating jokes and a good sense of humor, Gavin tore off the werewolf mask aggressively, and he chucked it onto the shelf closest to himself. “You suck, Nines,” he growled, and as defiance and rebellion overpowered him, he chose to really make Nines feel like shit. “What’s with your suit?” he asked while throwing an execrable glare at Nines.

Unmoved by it, Nines barely gestured at his black three-piece suit, “It’s just how I dress, Detective Reed, why’s it an issue, now?”

“You always dress like that, even at work during casual dress-down days!!” Gavin pushed out irritably. “It’s stupid!”

Choosing not to comment, Nines merely turned the cart around, and he approached an isle with a large sign mounted above from the ceilings that read out Bedding and Sheets.

Gavin knew what he had to do, and as he shoved Nines out of the way, he already got to work selecting fresh, clean sheets. Opting for ones without designs, he simply picked grey and white striped ones, matching the curtains in some way. Then, he grabbed two large pillows, and he’d been caught up reading whether they had feathers in them or not when he sensed he was being watched.

Craning his neck around, he saw Nines leaning against the cart, and he was eyeing him rather bizarrely. It wasn’t a look Gavin could easily decipher, so to try and throw Nines off his case, he held up the pillow bundle he’d been trying to decide upon purchasing. “Do you think there’s feathers in here?” he asked as he waved it before Nines’ face. “It’s pretty damn expensive, so it must be worth every dime, huh?”

After giving the shorter male a fleeting look, Nines eyed the pillows, and he sighed, “Do you want me to buy them for you?”

Lowering the items in his hands, Gavin growled out while on the verge of exploding, “Do you want me to punch you right in the face, Nines?” When he caught the dry look of annoyance seeping out of the darkly clad android, he added, “I can afford these myself! I don’t need you to look after me, you know.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Nines hissed at him when he threw the pillows into the cart.

Pausing, Gavin gaped at him for a moment, “Say what?”

Expression wavering on the brink of anger, Nines collected himself as he muttered, “You don’t even have a clue what you’re doing, do you?”

Gavin scratched his nose for a quick moment while pushing the cart into Nines’ hips, “Stop bein’ such a weirdo, Nines,” he warned impatiently, “you’re already gettin’ on my nerves a lot lately, and I swear, I don’t need this shit right now.” With a huff, he rearranged the items in the cart, and then turned to pick out clean towels.

Nines didn’t show signs of wanting to stop anytime soon, however. “Do you have even the slightest and vaguest notion of what it means to be married, Detective Reed?”

Lifting up a white towel and a cream colored one, Gavin answered, “Yeah, it basically means: ‘I’m the kind of man crawls into his own grave in search of hope’! That’s what it means when you seek marriage!!”

“Would you like to try that again?” Nines spoke behind him, sounding so far away, suddenly.

Gavin rolled his eyes, “This is Bed, Bath and Beyond fuckin’ stupid,” he paused, snorting at his own pathetic joke.

Nines pushed aside the cart, moving it to rest close to the right side of the aisle while he took measured and determined steps towards Gavin. While the pop music blasted above them on the PA system, Gavin was far too busied with picking out another towel, and Nines’ footsteps were far too quiet. He hadn’t noticed Nines slowly pressing himself up against him. Only when Nines leaned over and touched the back of Gavin’s neck did the shorter male drop the towels he’d been holding and spin around like a wild tornado.

“Nines!” he choked out in shock, “what the fuck—” he was unable to finish his sentence. Nines was so close to him, and he was getting closer. Gavin could practically count each freckle he had softly kissing along his cheeks and cheekbones, and as he stared intently at the android, Nines reached out with both his hands, and he placed them on either side of Gavin’s body. Resting them on the shelves behind Gavin, he leaned further into the shorter man and stared at him deeply and intently.

“This is what I’m referring to, Gavin,” he calmly stated as he still advanced and closed the gap between their bodies. “This is what I mean, and I don’t think you’ve considered the fact that this situation you’ve dragged me into is a lot more serious than you think.” Hands moving away from the shelf, Nines’ right hand rested on Gavin’s left hip, and he gingerly gripped the detective’s bone there, startling Gavin in the process.

Eyes blown wide, his face was almost a complete caricature of fear. Softly, he mumbled out incoherently, “Nines, what the fuck…th-this isn’t right…get your hands off me!”

A warm chuckle hit his ears, and Nines leaned further and further into him. “Notions of right and wrong don’t really exist, here, Detective Reed,” he practically purred, “you should’ve thought of this before…” As his eyes searched through Gavin’s, his right hand wandered sensually down Gavin’s hip and rested above his thigh. “What would you do if we really were married, Detective Reed? Hmm?” Fingers latching onto Gavin’s muscles, Nines gave him a firm squeeze. “Don’t husbands and wives have needs that should be met? Hmm?”

Gavin wheezed out in shock when Nines’ left hand swam over his stomach, but didn’t venture down any lower than his navel. “Nines,” he begged desperately, “let me go…”

But there wasn’t any room or anywhere for him to go; there was just his body, and Nines’. The tall android hardly gave him even an inch, but Gavin was worried about women or children stumbling upon them this closely together in the aisle.

Turning gaunt, he pleaded, “Nines! What if someone comes by?!”

Nines didn’t answer that. Instead, his hands gently massaged and touched Gavin’s chest, the left one wandering higher and higher, while the right one moved to grip Gavin’s left hip, now. Practically an inch apart, now, Nines craned his neck down, and his face was mere inches away from Gavin’s throat. Eyeing it rather tastefully, Nines spoke out softly, “If we were married, Reed, you would need to understand that moments like this should exist between us.”

Squirming, now, Gavin recoiled in disgust when he felt Nines’ breath on his neck. “Don’t!” He tried shoving the strong android away, but it was of no use; Nines was like a god damn wall or a pillar, and he wasn’t going anywhere unless he himself chose to go somewhere else.

While Gavin pushed and pushed at him, Nines let his lips barely ghost along the white column of Gavin’s neck. Lips hovering half an inch in the air, he smirked when he saw Gavin’s skin turning beet red. “Is this affecting you, Reed?” he cooed, “I’m charmed.”

Above, the music was coming to an end, and Gavin was certain that too much time had elapsed since they were stuck in this position. He could’ve even sworn he heard a child giggling enthusiastically somewhere nearby…

“Gavin…”

Pupils dilating in response to the shudders and shivers his body was wracked with upon hearing how Nines had whispered his name so delicately right into his ear, Gavin snapped. With all his might, he shoved Nines as hard as he could in the chest, thankful he’d recovered from whatever the fuck Nines had done to him. Regaining control over his own limbs, Gavin then grabbed at Nines’ suit collar, and he shoved him once again as hard and as roughly as he could into the shopping cart.

Holding up his hands, Nines shrugged while chuckling coldly, “As I thought; you failed, Detective Reed.”

“Fuck off, Nines!” he screamed, pointing crudely at him. “If you ever even think about doing that again, I’ll—”

“You’ll what, Reed?” Nines sneered at him, straightening his outfit back in order and pushing his ruffled hair back into place. “What do you suppose I’m going through, then?”

Finger shaking, Gavin continued to point it at Nines, as if he were holding a gun, “If you think this is any easier on me, then you’re a fuckin’ moron!”

“Sure, think that way if you want,” Nines uttered coolly. “It makes no difference and doesn’t even come close to the fact that you’ve already badly messed up my life, my routine, my schedule, and you expect me to just sit here and be at your side until ‘Mother Dearest’ deems it okay for you to collect what you’re owed, right?” Scoffing, then, Nines turned his nose up in disgust, and Gavin moved back as he tried ignoring and putting it all off.

Searching for anything to distract himself, he grabbed one of the few zombie dolls on display, a yellow, orange, red, and brown colored wreath decorated and made up of artificial leaves, and he tossed them into the cart. “We need more things for the apartment,” he announced more so to himself than to Nines, but the vitriolic android wasn’t going to have it.

Reaching down into the cart, he grabbed the zombie doll and the wreath, and he chucked them at Gavin’s feet. “We don’t need this crap, Gavin!” he resisted the urge to scream as hard as he could while they were still indoors, “we need to get ourselves together and think about what the hell we’re getting into, before it’s too god damn late!!”

Shaking his head wildly, Gavin tugged at a few hair strands as he ground out, “I don’t h-have time for th-that, Nines! Why don’t you get it?!”

Standing back, Nines finally seemed to break out of his angry state, and he simply snorted gently while shaking his head at Gavin a few times. “You’re hopeless, Gavin,” was all he said before grabbing the cart and wheeling it down the aisle, his LED light blinking yellow the entire time.

When he was alone, Gavin crumbled down on his heels, and he hugged himself and rocked on the back of his legs a few times. Inside, he was a complete mess of emotions and feelings, and he had no idea what to do with them. Most of what Nines had said was…

“Mister, you okay?”

Glancing up in a jiffy, he leapt back a little in fear when he saw two girls and one boy a few feet away from him. One of the girls was wearing a yellow dress, sneakers, and had her blonde hair done up in lovely, long pigtails. Her small green eyes were round with fear, and as her siblings looked on at Gavin, the adult male finally saw the mother of the children turning her cart down the aisle.

“Rosalee!” she shrieked sternly, “what have I said about talking to strangers?!”

As she ran to her mother’s side, Gavin got up to his feet, and with his head bowed apologetically at the woman, he tore down the aisle, nearly tripping clumsily over his own feet a few times in the process.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin hated that anytime he’d tried calling Hank Anderson, Connor would usually be the one to answer the damn phone. Not that it really was his fault per se; the mail room of the DPD was shared between the two of them, and more often than not, Connor was far quicker to answer the phone.

As such, the egregious experience Gavin had been faced with in regards to Nines was something he felt he had to discuss with Hank, and he had no idea why. It was just a burning need to talk; to be heard, to be listened to…

Answering the phone in a less than chuffed manner, Connor dully spoke out, “Detroit Police Department Mail Room, Connor speaking!”

“Connor, I need to talk to Hank,” Gavin didn’t even hesitate to blurt out, drawing up his knees into his chest while he sat on top of the closed toilet bowl lid, currently locked away tightly in a stall of the men’s washroom in the store. Nines was supposedly paying for their items, Gavin had offered him a half-assed excuse of needing to take a piss before they headed back to Nines’ apartment, and thus, that’s how he’d locked himself in a stall and held onto the hopes that Hank was working this Saturday afternoon so they could chat.

With a small groan emitted, Connor explained, “Hank’s not in today, Gavin; it’s his day off.”

Fuck!!

Willing himself not to panic, he asked, “Can I have his phone number, please?!” ignoring how desperate he sounded, he supplied, “this is a serious issue, Connor, and I want to talk to Hank!”

“Err, okay,” the RK800 quizzically hissed, “do you have a pen or something?”

“Wait,” Gavin grunted, and as he put Connor on speaker, he opened another app on his phone called ‘Sticky Notes’, and he then turned his attention back to Connor. “Okay, I’m ready.”

Once Connor coughed up the number for him, Gavin didn’t even offer him so much as a ‘goodbye’. He’d already disconnected, and he was now dialing Hank hurriedly.

“Pick up, pick up, pick up, Hank!!” he chanted over and over as if it were a canorous prayer, his own voice growing steadily louder.

Finally, Hank picked up, and the moment he had, Gavin heard deep, loud barking coming from the other end of the line.

“Sumo! Knock it off!” Hank screamed, and then he shifted and spoke out, “Hello?”

Almost crying out in relief, Gavin gasped out, “Hank! Oh thank God! H-how’ve you been?” Priding himself on the fact that he hadn’t forgotten his manners, he heard Hank choking on a gasp of his own for a moment.

When he’d cleared his throat and calmed down his coughing, he croaked painfully, “Reed?! How the hell did you get my number?!”

“Connor gave it to me,” Gavin answered quickly. “Hank, I don’t have a lot of time, but I need to talk to you about something that’s been buggin’ me ever since I decided to marry Nines!”

It was quiet for a moment, and then Hank inquired, “Wait, where the heck are you? I hear weird music!”

Slapping a hand down on his thigh, Gavin hissed, “Never mind the music, Hank!” Calming himself down once again, he hurriedly pressed on, “D-do you know whether Nines has ever…umm…” This was absolutely terrible already. What did he even want to ask?! Was it even his God-given right to ask whether or not Nines had been…sexually active?! Did it matter?!

Thinking on it for a moment, Gavin decided that yes, yes it mattered a great deal. Maybe Nines was using him for…no…no! He couldn’t think about that, for if he did, he was certain he was going to vomit all over his knees, and Hank Anderson would have to hear it all.

Knowing that Hank was at least still listening, Gavin changed the subject swiftly. Picking at a loose thread in his jeans, he asked, “Do you think Nines takes this wedding thing seriously, Hank?”

Pausing for a moment, Hank eventually sighed, “I’m sure he does to an extent, Reed, otherwise it wouldn’t be believable for your mom, would it?”

That…that wasn’t what he meant.

Thinking about how to really ask what he wanted to ask specifically, he curtailed himself of asking about the explicit things. Opting for a brief, quick explanation of what had happened, he mumbled out, “You see, today, I was shopping with Nines, and he kinda caught me off guard because he said that if we were…married,” he nearly choked on the word, “…we would have to…I mean, like, he said that he has needs, right? And so I…FUCK! THIS IS SO FUCKING WEIRD!!” Punching at the wall ahead of himself, Gavin roared a few times until he heard Hank crying out his name numerous times.

“Gavin! Gavin! GAVIN!!!!”

Only stopping when Hank yelled his name so loudly that Sumo howled in the background, Gavin sniffled, wiped his nose with the back of a hand, and then whispered, “Sorry, I’m just…I’m so fucked up, man!”

What had he gotten himself into?!

For what?! Was the money really worth it?!

As he sat there panting and sniffling, clearly on the verge of a breakdown, Hank calmly spoke out to him.

“Gavin, please try to calm down and listen to me,” he suggested while effectively silencing Sumo. “I need you to listen, okay?”

“O-okay,” Gavin promised him swiftly, “I’m listening.”

“Listen with your heart and brain,” Hank added, “I need you to do that for me, Gavin.”

“I am…I am…” Closing his eyes, he rocked back and forth on his ass, and he waited for Hank to take in a deep breath, clearly indicating that he was going to present him with some sort of a long speech, possibly.

He hadn’t been wrong to assume that.

“Gavin, if you’re wanting to know whether or not Nines has sexual interests, I can assure you, he does, but I don’t think he’s really dated anyone or explored that option, if you know what I mean,” Hank elucidated patiently.

Slightly sitting up, Gavin asked, “What do you mean?”

……..

“Well,” Hank sighed softly, “I saw him trying to pursue this android girl last year right after New Year’s, I think, but he gave up when she told him she had a boyfriend or something.” Shifting, Hank must’ve sat down somewhere, for it got quiet in the background before he continued. “Nines works his ass off as you can see, and I don’t think he has a lot of time to date…in fact,” he chortled mildly, “I’d say if he got a date, it’d be a damn miracle, because that boy is socially awkward as all hell!”

This still hadn’t done anything to diminish his sense of overwhelming grief. Not wanting to appear ungrateful, however, Gavin instead asked, “Well, that’s all fine, Hank, but do you th-think he wanted to hurt me by saying the shit I told you he said to me?”

Very slowly and carefully, Hank answered, “Not. At. All, Gavin. Hear me out,” he repeated, “no way would Nines ever do that.”

Wincing, Gavin mildly argued, “But you’re biased, Hank! He said he has needs, and he was up in my face and I just don’t feel right about this! What if he tries to take advantage of me or something?!” He was very well aware that this could potentially all sound so crazy to Hank’s ears, but it seemed that the older man reserved his judgement.

Only chuckling softly, Hank supplied, “Knowing Nines like I do, I think he meant that shit so you could think about this more seriously, Gavin.”

“I am!” Gavin ground out childishly.

“To play the role here, you have to be the role.”

“I know that,” the heated detective hissed, “but what I’m getting at, Hank, errr, I mean, what I want to know, rather is that—”

Clearing his throat, Hank immediately was able to command Gavin’s attention. It was absolutely silent on both ends of the line, and only then did Gavin realize just how wise, sagacious, knowledgeable, and respectful Hank was.

This was a man he needed to truly look up to and respect.

“Listen, Gavin,” Hank sternly spoke out, but he didn’t appear to be angry or even remotely upset with Gavin. “Nines is a good, honorable man, and that’s all you need to know.”

Allowing the words to seep into his brain and sink in deeply, Gavin felt they resonated within himself as he took in a measured, deep breath. “He said this has to be real, and for it to be real, I have to act like a partner and meet his needs.” Almost vomiting upon saying that word again out loud, Gavin thought back to the way Nines had urgently hissed it in his ear, and he trembled in fear and trepidation.

“He has a point, Gavin,” Hank affirmed, “but I swear to you, Nines won’t hurt you, and the chances are that he didn’t mean it in the way you’re likely thinking. In fact,” he sternly pointed out more, “I think he is the type to really sacrifice himself and his own happiness if it will help someone else, and god damn it, I admire him, Gavin, I really do…”

While Gavin didn’t see how that was possible, there was just no way he was going to be disrespectful enough to disagree with Hank. No, not when he himself was growing to admire and look up to Hank. This man was suddenly so patient and understanding, and his levels of shared empathy had taken Gavin by complete surprise.

Hank was a real man; Hank was the father Felix Reed should’ve been.

No…Hank was the father Gavin needed the most, especially right now.

Chapter Text

Gavin found that Nines had waited for him in the parking lot after he finished his conversation with Hank. Leaving the washroom and the store feeling a lot better than he had in the last few hours, he sat down inside the car first, unlocking the door and plopping onto the driver’s seat as he started up the engine. Nines followed him, quickly placing the rest of their items inside the car. Next, Nines and Gavin drove back to the apartment complex Nines lived in, and they spent the rest of the evening and night unpacking things and ‘redecorating’ Nines’ apartment to fit Gavin’s new purchased belongings.

It’d been a tedious task, but luckily, Nines being an android hardly made much of a fuss. He never ran out of energy or stamina, and while Gavin took a mini break and went to get some fast food, Nines not only put his bed together, but also found a place for it, as well as the dresser. The adjustments proved to be both efficacious and manageable, and by the time Gavin strolled back inside before 11 p.m., he found that Nines was busy with wiping down the table his plants had once rested on in the kitchen.

“What the—” Gavin gasped when he saw that the plants had been moved to line up the windowsills instead, leaving the dark oak table clear.

“Nines?”

“Reed?” Nines poked back at him verbally, throwing away dirtied tissues as he reached inside their bag of purchased items, and he yanked out the vampire bat covered tablecloth. Draping it nicely and evenly over the table, he then placed the gargoyle globe in the center of the table, followed by the saltshaker, pepper shaker, napkin holder, an ashtray he’d obtained for Gavin’s smoking habits, as well as a tiny vase.

Scratching his head in puzzlement as he watched Nines organizing the rest of the kitchen, Gavin then peered into the bag, and he saw the zombie doll and the autumn-themed wreath.

“Wait a minute!” Yanking them both out of the bag, he held them up and exclaimed, “You threw these out of the cart!”

Looking much like he’d rather be any place else and not having this conversation currently, Nines replied dully, “I picked them back up afterwards and bought them. What of it?”

Shrugging, Gavin held onto the items, and he said softly, “Nothing…just…just keep a record of the stuff you bought, and when this is all over, just let me know how much money you spent on me so I can pay you back.”

Skirting around the subject, Nines grunted out, “Did you bring your toothbrush and toothpaste with yourself?”

Pausing for a moment due to how random it was, Gavin then responded, “No…why?”

Crumpling up an empty bag in his large hands, Nines smoothly elucidated, “Then it’ll be difficult for you to sleep tonight, I suppose.”

All the blood and color drained out of Gavin’s face at once. Deep down, upon remembering Hank’s words, he suspected that Nines was trying to help him out a little, possibly by making him feel super welcome, but he wasn’t going to sleep here. No way; not now, not ever.

Trying to find the politest way to let the android know this, Gavin chewed on his lower lip to the point where the more he worried, the harder he was biting and chewing.

“Reed?”

“Hmm?”

Nines nodded at him, eyes flickering over to his lips briefly. “Your lip is bleeding.”

Running his tongue along the lower lip, he found that Nines was right; he tasted metallic and coppery blood, and feeling repulsed by the substance’s distinct taste, he dashed towards the table for a napkin. But Nines was faster, and at the same time that Gavin tried pulling a white tissue out of the holder, Nines reached for one as well. As a result, their hands made contact, and both men stared at each other for a split second before they immediately leapt back.

In unison, they cried out, “I’m sorry!!”

Upon realizing they’d both apologized to each other at exactly the same time, Gavin blushed, while Nines’ LED light flashed yellow. Nines winced, and Gavin cringed, holding a hand up to shield his bleeding lip. As they stood there awkwardly, Gavin eventually hissed, “Nines? May I have a god damn tissue, now?”

Snapping out of his vegetative state, Nines yanked one out of the small pile in the holder, and he held it out to Gavin. “Here,” he gently moved his fingers out of the way when Gavin directly made a grab for the tissue, and the moment the detective had a grip on it, Nines retreated his arm.

Dabbing the tissue softly over his lip, Gavin sighed as he ruffled his hair, “I’m gonna get going, if it’s okay with you, Nines.” This had already been far too much and far too awkward for his tastes, and naturally, he always found fleeing the scene was easier than deciphering why he was uncomfortable, and what the root cause for it was.

As he’d turned on his heels, Nines cried out at his back, “You’re going back to your own place?”

Understanding how it all sounded, Gavin stopped walking, and as he watched Nines over his shoulder, he gave one curt nod as he replied, “Just for tonight, I guess…gotta sleep in my own place one last time before my mom shows up on Monday, right?”

This time, Nines didn’t say anything, but Gavin found it was much better that way.

He didn’t want to say anything to Nines for that matter, either, for what could he say, really?

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin didn’t sleep well at all Saturday night. How could anyone expect him to, really? He’d come home to an apartment full of cat piss and shit, for one, and it’d taken him until late in the morning to clean most of it. Airing out the apartment didn’t help get rid of the potent stench of cat urine, he found. Good luck getting a date. As of the following day, he knew he had to get into the habit of living with someone else, as well as spending majority of his waking hours around them in order to make the chicanery as believable as possible to make it all work.

Obtaining and holding onto this knowledge enabled the craven detective to feel even more frightened, mortified, and absolutely ‘stuck’ in his current situation. He knew that this wasn’t easy for Nines, either, but he felt that the majority of the ‘sacrifices’ had to come from himself, so it seemed.

“Isn’t it funny?” he blurted out loud to his kittens Sunday morning while he sipped his warm coffee, “I thought this was gonna be my ‘easy way’ out, and yet it’s causing me the most pain and difficulty…”

The chances…perhaps Nines was right; perhaps he had no clue what he was walking into, but he knew that it was way too late to turn back on this now. It wouldn’t be fair to Nines, it wouldn’t be fair to the sacrifices he’d made, and it wouldn’t be fair to Gavin, himself. Nothing in life came easily, and plenty of people took things in this world for granted as it was. He didn’t want to start including himself in that list, and if he had to brave it through for a few more weeks or a month, at the most, so be it.

He could reap the rewards later, and he would.

Convincing himself of that rather easily, Gavin pushed down his worries as he set to work on finally getting around to doing his laundry. Ever so grateful for the week off, Gavin found that he had a large amount of laundry to actually do. As he thanked Jeffrey Fowler for the time off at least thirty times while in the laundry room of his apartment complex, he eventually got around to drying and folding the clothes around 11 a.m.

Well, that was only one pile, anyway…he still had another two to go, and he suspected it would take another two hours, at the very least.

Entertaining himself by going on his phone to play games as the machines washed his third pile, his phone suddenly alerted him to an incoming text message right around noon that very same day.

Sighing when he looked down at it, he tapped it open and read through it lazily while his clothes spun around in the washer and dryer.

Fuck Stuck Plastic Prick, 12:13 p.m.

You should bring some clothes with you, because I don’t think my size would fit yours, frankly, and besides, what’s the point of you getting your own dresser if you were sharing my clothes?

Only Nines could make something as trivial as wearing clothes seem so complicated.

Gavin Reed, 12:16 p.m.

im doin it, dont worry, clothes r bein washed as we text.

Stretching his arms and legs for the first time in two hours, he stood up and did some light exercises while waiting on his clothes. His back and neck were so sore; a clear testament to how badly he’d slept last night.

His phone buzzed again. Nines sure was relentless.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 12:21 p.m.

Great. Don’t forget any other personal items and toiletries or personal hygiene; I have no use for them, so I don’t have any in my apartment.

Chuckling, Gavin said out loud to himself, “I’ll be sure to bring along my purple dildo and cucumber-scented facial mask, Nines, thanks.”

However, he politely texted:

Gavin Reed, 12:23 p.m.

k, thnx mom

Not even thirty seconds went by before Nines sent:

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 12:23 p.m.

I’m not your mother.

That was when Gavin pocketed his phone and chose to take out his clothes from the dryer a little earlier. He didn’t do this because he was bored and wanted to complete his chores, however; he did this because he had to go shopping for food as soon as possible, as well as look around for a small, mini fridge he could store somewhere in Nines’ apartment.

Unlike some people, Gavin Reed sure had a healthy appetite, and he was going to embrace that when he lived with Nines.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Finding the fridge wasn’t as difficult as Gavin thought it would be. Apparently, today was his lucky day, as he’d also found a small fridge and freezer pair attached together on sale. It came as a ‘bundle’ of sorts, and thankfully, it wasn’t much bigger than a medium sized safe. Gavin was able to carry it perfectly without help, and he loaded it in the back of his car around 2 p.m. that afternoon.

Next came the bags of his clothes, and when Gavin grabbed the very last one containing his jeans and bottoms, something stuck out to him on top of the pile. Something white flashed, and as he stared down at it, he saw that it was in many pieces?

What the hell??

Opening the bag further, he reached for his jeans, and as he did, tufts of white blew about in his face when the wind picked up outside. Something blew up into his face, but before the wind could take it away, Gavin snatched it in the palm of his hand. As soon as the wind stopped blowing, he stared down at the object, and to his amazement and awe, he found that it was the same tissue with his own now light brown, dried up blood on it.

Evidently, it’d remained in his pocket since he left Nines’ apartment complex, and since he’d buried it deeply within his pocket, he’d forgotten that he’d tossed it into the washing machine just like that.

“You survived most of that?” he asked the tissue, and even though it obviously couldn’t talk, Gavin found he was even more amazed that it was practically still in one piece. Clutching it in his hand, he stared at it for a long time until he felt slightly chilly.

As the wind howled around in the parking lot, it trailed down more leaves from the tall trees above. The dried-up leaves clattered and made plenty of scraping noises as they glided over and across the roads and pavement. Eerily, to Gavin, it all sounded like nails on a chalkboard…

But what was he doing just standing there like a fool in his parking lot in the middle of the afternoon holding a bloodied tissue he could’ve sworn he got rid of last night??

Nothing made sense…none of this was logical, and it was really starting to get on his nerves. Gavin Reed really despised mystery, change, and emotionally charged things, and he had his fill of it to last him the entire year.

Opening his hand abruptly, he let the tissue go, and hopefully, along with it would leave the memory of Nines’ cold blue eyes burning into his, and the feeling of his firm body pressed against Gavin’s own as his hands wandered along his chest and abdomen...

Realizing that it was going to take a lot more than merely watching the crumpled-up tissue floating away carelessly in the wind, Gavin knew it was time to rely on and appeal to a different source; a stronger source he’d often relied on many times in his past.

It was time to go out and buy some drinks to stock the fridge with.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Nines yanked open his apartment door to find a soaked Gavin Reed sniffling while he cradled a box containing his fridge and freezer, clothes bags resting on his arms, shoulders, hanging from around his neck, as well as another box containing his toiletries and hygiene products on the floor by his feet. It’d started raining heavily for many hours around 2:30 p.m., and Gavin was beyond drenched while he stood there like a wet cat sniffling. The tip of his nose was pink from the cold, and a few drops of rainwater dripped off his chin and clothes.

Lips curling back, Nines roared, “You are four hours late!”

Gavin could only sigh dejectedly, “I know.”

Nines stared at his belongings, and as he grabbed the box of personal hygiene products and toiletries, he tugged and yanked it to his chest as he backed down the hall and provided Gavin enough room to step inside, also.

“Where were you?!” the irate android almost shrieked. “You said you’d arrive before three!”

“I had to go shopping!!” Gavin cried out, slightly lowering his bags as he struggled against wanting to boot them across the hallway.

The door slammed shut behind him as he threw a few of his items down once he’d kicked off his shoes, and he felt a bit lighter, at least, but definitely not warmer or drier, sadly.

Nines paused and gaped at him. “Shopping?!” he repeated petulantly, “you went shopping while I was stuck in here and couldn’t go out?!”

“Nines, relax! It’s nothing, and you’re making a huge deal out of it!”

Waving a hand around the open concept living room that was brightly lit, Nines screamed explosively, “I had nothing to do and nowhere to go because I didn’t want you to be here and stumble upon a locked door, and I couldn’t even watch the stupid football match that was supposedly going on today because it’s been raining all over Michigan for fuck’s sake!”

“Calm down, Nines!!” Gavin urged, finally setting down his boxed fridge and mini freezer, sliding it across the floor until it reached the kitchen entryway. Strangely, Gavin had worked with Nines for two whole years, and never before had he seen him this upset. Frankly, it was odd, new, and refreshing. Perhaps it meant that the RK900 could feel some things after all.

Nines looked down at the box, and as soon as he read the label printed on it, he huffed, “Wise of you to get that, Reed.” Eyeing the rest of Gavin’s items, his eyes finally captured the sight of the brown LCBO paper bag tucked under a hand, and he recoiled while shaking his head madly. “No, Reed, you’re not going to be drinking in here, and that’s final.”

“Ah! Come on, Nines!” Gavin griped, “it’s just for one night!!”

A light brown eyebrow quirked up, “One night?”

“Yeah!” Gavin commented, “Think of it as us celebrating our last time ‘single’ or something, haha, it’ll be fun!”

As he got to work unpacking the mini freezer and fridge, Nines placed a hand on his right hip, and with the other, he pushed back his loose, stray bang out of his eyes. “Reed, what on Earth can I do to celebrate with you?”

Gavin snorted while setting up the freezer and fridge in a corner next to the cupboards, “You can keep me company, for one, and two, I was thinkin’ we could play a little drinking game!”

Nines sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose, “I can’t eat or drink, and you know that.”

Coolly shrugging, Gavin replied, “Who said you had to drink?”

“But you—”

Setting out a few glasses he’d packed along with himself, Gavin placed them carefully on the clean and wiped down countertops while grinning. “You can pretend, Nines,” he pushed a glass over towards the moody android gently so it wouldn’t break. “I’ll drink, and you can ‘mime’ it, okay?”

Rolling his blue eyes, Nines finally asked, “What’s the game, then?”

Smirking playfully at him, then, Gavin set inside his freezer a few beer bottles, and once they were all packed in nicely, and once the appliance had been plugged into an electric outlet, Gavin wiped his hands on his jeans and stood facing Nines.

“Ever got around to playing ‘Never Have I Ever’?”

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

It was a little past 7 p.m. when Gavin and Nines changed from their previous clothes into something a little more comfortable. Nines wore black slacks that still were ironed too well and too properly for Gavin’s tastes, as well as a white dress shirt that only had one button undone at the very top near the neckline. Nines had rolled his sleeves up, thankfully, but he still seemed far too overdressed.

Gavin simply chose to wear grey shorts and a white t-shirt, already making himself slightly more ‘at home’ after ordering a small pizza for himself while having his first can of beer. But the beer wasn’t what he wanted to drink for the game. Instead, after he’d cleaned up after himself, he brought out of his freezer a series of cold, potent alcoholic beverages.

Stacking them up on the coffee table, Gavin showed off his Sunset Rum, Devil Springs Vodka, and Bacardi bottles before Nines openly. The android merely shook his head in disapproval, but otherwise remained silent until Gavin sat down on the floor and rubbed his hands together.

“Gonna need my phone for this, so hang tight, Nines…” While he fumbled for his phone, he felt just how rough and hard the floor was beneath his sore ass and legs, and he grunted in displeasure while trying to adjust and shift himself into a better position. Gavin soon discovered that there didn’t seem to be one, apparently.

When he’d squirmed about for far too long, Nines hissed thinly, “What’s the matter?”

“Dude,” Gavin pointed beneath himself, “get a carpet or something; my body hurts!”

“In case you failed to see, I happen to own a sofa.”

Gavin paused as he loaded up the questions he needed for the game, and then spat, “So?”

“So sit on it, then,” Nines huffed, “I hear that’s what they invented sofas for to begin with.”

Ignoring the blatant sarcasm, Gavin slid over the same empty glass he’d given Nines earlier. “Take this, and pretend there’s some whiskey in here, okay?”

Not wanting to argue, Nines replied shortly, “Okay, Reed.”

“Sweet.” Gavin scrolled through his phone, and when the questions came up, he explained quickly, “Okay, so basically, how this works is we each take turns reading these ‘Never Have I Ever’ statements on my phone, and according to the statement, if at some point in our lives we’ve done the action that the questions and statements in particular are about, then we gotta drink, and if you haven’t done what the statement is saying, then you don’t drink.”

Nines nodded, “Fair enough, Reed.”

Gavin grinned, “Can I start?”

“Thrill me,” Nines coldly hissed at him, and that was encouragement enough.

Giggling evilly, now, Gavin read out a random question his eyes landed on. “Never have I ever sent someone a dick pic.”

Right away, Gavin stared up at Nines, and the android frowned, not even reaching for his empty glass. Gavin sighed softly and tipped back his first shot. The burning sensation of strong booze hit his mouth and throat in the right way, and he truly realized just how much he’d missed drinking.

Nines however was slightly miffed, and he asked, “You sent a photo like that to someone?”

Not appreciating that he was being judged, Gavin shrugged, “I think all guys do it when they’re in relationships at some point.”

No comment came out of Nines, and Gavin pushed his phone over into the android’s hands. “Here, you read one.”

Nines went through the list, and after a few seconds, he glared at Gavin. “These are all dirty!”

“So?!”

“I’m not reading them!”

“You’re such a bitter virgin,” Gavin heatedly grunted. “Here, give me the phone back if you’re gonna be such a little chickenshit, then.”

“Gladly,” Nines retorted, eager enough to toss Gavin’s phone back at him.

Once Gavin caught the device, he refreshed the page and brought up new questions. Muttering to himself, he irritably announced, “Since you saw these ones, I’m gonna get a new batch to take you by surprise.”

Nines once again remained silent, and Gavin took that as a ‘green light’ to move on as he refreshed and reloaded the website housing the statements. Yearning for more alcohol already, he silently made a bet with himself that he wouldn’t be piss-drunk before midnight, but he had to wait it out…some of these questions were truly terrifying, to say the least.

Selecting a passable one eventually, he read out, “Never have I ever taken a sexy selfie.”

Nines quickly intervened, “We took a selfie together.”

“It wasn’t a sexy one though, was it?”

Pausing momentarily while he thought it over, Nines slowly grabbed the glass and pretended to drink. “I’m going to just count it anyway,” he dully explained, and Gavin shrugged as he too took a swig, but for a completely different reason.

Shaking his head as the heady sense of alcohol slammed into him, he continued with the game.

“Never have I ever flashed someone.”

The results were again easily predictable; Gavin drank, and Nines didn’t.

“Never have I ever sexted.”

Again, Gavin had his drink, and Nines sat back staring emptily at the table.

“Shit, Nines,” Gavin laughed, “gotta keep up somehow!”

All he received was a vicious glare, and he quickly moved on to the next question.

“Never have I ever watched porn!”

……

This time, Nines reached for the glass, first, and Gavin screamed out in shock, “I knew it! Hahaha! You perv!!”

Nines pointed out, “You’re also pouring yourself a cup of Bacardi, though…”

“So?” Gavin nearly spilled the drink, and he cursed himself for feeling tipsy already. “Everyone watches porn, but since when have you??”

LED light red with embarrassment, possibly, Nines sighed gently, “Well, it was more or less an accident on my end.”

“More or less,” Gavin chuckled, “go on, explain it for me, then.”

Nines held his glass over his lap as he stared down into it, as if searching for his answer there. Gavin allowed him to take his time, however, and when the pensive RK900 was ready, he spoke. “Well,” he began gently and lowly, “it was when I was trying to identify an unknown John Doe a few months ago before the Myers case, and Officer Miller told me that he personally suspected the guy I was looking for was someone named ‘Peter Norwood.’”

Gavin nodded, listening intently even though his eyes burned, his throat was parched, and his ears were somehow buzzing. He wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.

Almost shyly, Nines continued, “I accidentally searched up a man named Peter North, however, because Connor distracted me that day, and needless to say, I found out that Peter North is a bisexual Canadian porn star.”

When he was finished, he set his glass back on the table, struggling to look at anything else other than Gavin. Fighting hard to make eye contact, however, Gavin snickered, “You saw a clip of him fuckin’ someone, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Nines answered truthfully. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore though, if it’s okay with you, Reed.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gavin slurred, already under the influence while he poured himself more whiskey. “Whatever you want, Nines!!” Although his overtly curious nature tugged at him to ask more about Nines’ experience, he still felt a tad weird asking about such private things.

It was better to move on to another question.

Squinting at the screen, now, Gavin grumbled messily, “Never have I ever used Tinder to meet a date.”

Huffing angrily while he rolled his eyes way up towards the ceiling, Nines snapped, “Is there a real point to this, Reed?”

Gavin nodded slowly, “Umm yeah…we get to learn something about each other…come on, Nines! Don’t be a prude!”

“Stop calling me that!!” the vitriolic android barked at him. “I just don’t want you to drag this on and drink yourself to death!”

Waving his concerns off with an auspicious hand motion, Gavin purred ravenously, “Niiiines, chiiill! I’m not gonna drink so much that I’ll end up redecorating your walls with my barf!” Gavin then tipped his head back and flashed Nines a thumbs up. In no time at all, he was reading the next statement.

“Never have I ever peeked at someone else while they were changing!”

Again, he was a solo drinker, and Nines threw him dirty glares.

“Just how many of these crimes have you committed?” he asked when Gavin looked for the next statement.

Shrugging, Gavin whispered, “Who cares?”

…..

Another red colored LED light answered everything, but Gavin was already a bit too drunk to care. He found that as time went by, he was getting more and more inebriated, and Nines was getting angrier and angrier. They’d run out of ‘innocent’ questions, and soon, the only ones left were pretty ‘R’ rated, so Gavin again hit ‘refresh’ for more questions.

Gently tapping his index finger on the table, Nines muttered, “It’s getting late, Reed…I think we should stop.”

“Juuuust one m-mooore,” Gavin crowed out as he laughed through tears. “S’funny, Nines!”

“I assure you, watching you become more and more intoxicated is the polar opposite of funny, Reed,” Nines asserted. “In fact, it’s the very antithesis of the definition of the term!”

Clumsily, Gavin nearly smashed his Bacardi battle open against the glass table. Placing an index finger over his lips, he whistled out, “Shh, a feeeew more, Nines!”

“You—”

Wagging his fingers in the air, Gavin sang, “Neeever have I evaaaaarr m-m-made out wiiiiith s-s-someone of th-the same gen-n-nder!!”

“Reed! Stop it!” Nines warned, but Gavin shook his head.

“Weeeelll, shiiit.” Blowing a raspberry with his tongue and mouth, he added, “Guesssss that’sssss one I c-c-caaaan’t driiiink toooo, maaaann!!”

“Good!” Nines cried out in anger, making a reach for the bottles, “let’s go to bed, now!”

Tilting his head back, Gavin belted out loudly for the world to hear, “Ooooone moreeee baaabbyyy!!”

This time, Nines got to his feet abruptly, and he gathered the bottles to his chest. Using his free hand to try and yank Gavin up as well, he failed when Gavin crashed down onto his back while still holding on to his phone tightly.

“Reed! Get up!!”

“Neeeeeveeer haaave I evaaaarrrr h-haaad a c-c-crush on aaaa co-worker!!!!”

Gasping in fake pleasure, Nines stomped a foot down as he cried in glee, “Well, look at that, Reed! There’s another one you can’t drink to, so let me just—”

Rearing up too suddenly, Gavin grabbed the bottom of the Sunset Rum, and he popped the cap open. Before Nines could stop him, Gavin moved back along the shiny, grey floorboards as he giggled almost childishly. Tossing a small wink at Nines, he stated, “I haaaave toooo drrrriiink, Niiines!!! Beeecause I h-have a c-c-crush on a co-w-w-worker riiight nowww…”

Wincing, Nines said, “I’m sure Officer Chen would appreciate hearing that in person, so just give me the bottle, Gavin, and we’ll—”

Gasping painfully, a saddened expression befell Gavin as he desperately cried back, “Noooo, not Tiiinaaa, youuuu stoooopiiiiid pieeecee of craaaap…” Gripping Nines’ pant legs, he coughed out in one go, “I haaaaveee aaaaa crruusssh on y-y-yooouuu!!”

Nines couldn’t believe he almost dropped all the bottles he’d been cradling.

Chapter Text

Gavin Reed was on the brink of passing out right then and there on his living room floor, and Nines had no idea what to do. Not because the human male was highly intoxicated, but because of what he’d just confessed to.

Gavin Reed had feelings for him?!

For once in his creation, Nines truly doubted himself, wondering if he’d even heard the man clearly in his inebriated state, or if he himself had somehow been wrong, and Gavin was referring to someone else they worked with?

…….

But he had stated that he had feelings for Nines specifically…for him and him alone…

Oh, who was he kidding?? Gavin Reed didn’t have feelings for him and never, ever would in a hundred thousand years!! Nines knew better than this, and he’d known for a while that when humans went above a certain level of intoxication, nothing they said or did made any sense. Loose lipped as they may have been, no words uttered could’ve been taken that seriously, as it wasn’t at all near the truth of what reality depicted and painted when they were sober. There was a clear distinction between drunken rambling and coherent, articulate dialogue and conversation, and Nines was aware of the differences.

As odd and erratic as the behavior Gavin had displayed was, Nines wasn’t callously idiotic and foolish enough to buy into it all seriously. Gavin had no control over what he said in this state, of course, and he likely wouldn’t even remember it come dawn. It was a lot wiser for him to forget what had been said and abandon it entirely, so it seemed.

Staring down at the passed-out Gavin Reed while he collected his thoughts, Nines decided to help move the detective into a more comfortable resting position. Picking him up without much of a fuss, he gently laid him out on the sofa, and Gavin naturally sprawled himself over it with a sloppy, lopsided grin plastered over his face.

Nines wondered if he was still cognizant, so he waved a hand before Gavin’s face, testing to see whether he would gain some kind of a reaction.

After a moment, Gavin mumbled incoherently, “Mmmffuuuck off, maaa.”

There was then a retort perched on the tip of Nines’ tongue, but his mind was pulled in too many different directions at once. The longer he studied the sleepy Gavin, the faster he found himself unable to control his own reactions upon seeing such a sight…he truly couldn’t help it; he was mesmerized by just what kind of a fascinating specimen Gavin Reed happened to truly be.

Never before had Nines taken time to actually observe Gavin this much, but all things considered, now, the situation he’d been trapped in revolving around spending long hours with detective Reed when the exigencies of the man’s socio-economic status and future livelihood demanded it seemed to be too difficult to avoid.

They were in this together, somehow, and this thought terrified Nines beyond belief.

With a displeased sigh, Nines gathered that it wasn’t as easy to regard Gavin as he once had. No, he couldn’t say the human male was insipid. His psychosis was no longer dull and pedestrian as Nines originally gathered. Upon meeting the man for the first time ever two years ago, Nines initially concluded that Gavin Reed was a lump of clay that not even the most talented sculptor could fashion into art. The way he carried himself and presented himself had always been so shabby, messy, erratic, sporadic, aggressive, belligerent, and banal at times. It couldn’t be helped that despite all of Captain Fowler’s nurturing and instructing, the rebellious, spunky detective was doomed to consistently wallow in the depths of mediocrity.

…Or so Nines once thought. It appeared however that humans were constantly surprising him with their levels of unpredictability, but while he feared Gavin’s random outbursts and strange behavioral patterns, he still found it all refreshing.

Nines gave a slanted smile as he looked upon Gavin fast asleep. Here was an odd, enigmatic man sleeping away in his living room. The drunken detective’s body was glistening with perspiration, and he tossed and turned marginally in his sleep so he was lying on his side as opposed to his back. As he moved, his dark brown hair became matted and pressed down onto his forehead messily, but Nines found it made Gavin appear somewhat younger. Now, he wasn’t frowning, and the corners of his eyes weren’t marred with wrinkles and creases as often could be found given the aggressive ‘mask’ Gavin wore during work hours.

No, now, Gavin seemed… ‘freer’…

He was, Nines noted dispassionately, a rather attractive man; dark, straight lengths of hair fleeting over an angelic face. However, the man had shrunk into his sofa, trying to make himself as small as possible while he dreamt who knew what behind those closed eyelids. His eyelashes fluttered as he entered deep REM sleep, Nines supposed, and as he knelt down by Gavin’s side, he whispered gently, “I do wonder what you dream about, Gavin.”

It wasn’t something he’d even uttered lightly; he really wondered just what could be at the very center of Gavin’s dreams, visiting him every night as he slept soundly.

As Nines watched Gavin, the male blurted out something randomly, and then smiled a lopsided smile as he wiggled against the seats of the sofa.

Nines’ eyebrows shot up, but he remained silent while Gavin stirred once again and then hiccupped softly. An immediate sense of concern flooded Nines’ mind.

Was Gavin comfortable in such a state? Did he prefer sleeping on a bed??

Not wanting to move the man to wake him, Nines barely tapped him on his shoulder, only to have Gavin emit a low growl as he turned his back to the android and faced in the opposite direction.

Seeing this dynamic shift, Nines would’ve assumed that it was a gesture of deference, but the other man’s chin was tilted in an unmistakably defiant angle. As such, Nines felt something stirring deeply within himself, some primal corner of his nature. The android bared his teeth at Gavin’s turned back. He wanted to punish this insolent man for his disrespect when he’d been so concerned about his state of well-being!

However, before Nines could rudely shake Gavin out of his drunken stupor, the shorter male reached up with his arms and stretched. As he did, however, his natural body odors flew up into the air before Nines. Like a bloodhound, the android took a deep whiff, and his entire system was now far more alert than ever before. Scent wasn’t always easy for an android to discern in the first place, but for some reason, Gavin’s scent imprinted rather quickly on Nines.

And what a unique scent it was…it seemed almost floral, and it reminded Nines of the plants he housed and nurtured. His senses worked on overdrive as he took it all in, resisting the urge to practically bend over and bury the tip of his nose in Gavin’s hair.

To do that to the pliant detective while he slept would result in an unavoidable altercation, no doubt, and it was morally and ethically wrong to do that. Nines wouldn’t even bring himself to fathom doing such a horrible deed, so he backed off and moved as far away from the sofa as possible.

It was so rare that anything in his day-to-day life stirred up such extreme emotions. Nines held onto the feeling, trying to analyze where it had come from, and what it was about this strange new side to Gavin Reed that had caused it. While he’d been pondering it, Gavin’s face suddenly changed, clenching in an expression of pain. It was a worrying sight, and given how abrupt it was, Nines felt flustered. Scanning the sleeping human, he figured it had to be a nasty bodily reaction from all the alcohol, no doubt.

It was even getting worse for Gavin. Although he managed to smooth out his clenched and pained facial expression almost immediately, Nines had seen it, and his growing sense of concern wasn’t going away that easily. Notions of suffering made even the android’s usually blank face stunningly pained; empathy was as real to him as a Renaissance painting, a warm summer breeze, or an orchestra playing sweet, godly music for the world to hear.

What was he feeling??

Staring down at Gavin, he saw how full his lips looked even in the midst of a pained grimace! Nines began to wonder just how much bluer those eyes would look if they were glazed with tears? What about when Gavin smiled broadly in the throes of passion and utmost tranquility?? What did that feel like?

Realizing suddenly just how envious of humans he was, Nines nearly broke down. He’d always withheld a meticulous persona, completely incapable of feeling vindicated or offended. Nothing people said before ever got to him, as he’d prided himself on remaining as cold and detached while he watched how humans behaved. Yes, they’d always fascinated him to some degree, but he knew now that never before had he been so entranced by one human.

His control would have to be rectified in the future, he noted.

For now, he resumed watching Gavin, his eyes and head moving and tilting in time with the motions Gavin’s body made as he tossed and turned around and around.

Muttering to himself gently, Nines hissed, “What am I really doing??”

Though he forlornly thought of the sacrifice he’d been making, the estranged android felt he didn’t know nearly enough about Gavin to answer his own question. After all, how could he? The pieces of the odd puzzle he had currently available couldn’t fit together to form the entire picture, and Connor had warned him against leaping to conclusions when it came to humans and their unpredictable natures.

Yes, the RK800 had been correct, sadly. It was inconceivable that merely from second and third hand encounters he had all the tools and techniques to know every little detail when it came to Gavin Reed. Nines yearned and longed to know more, but he would be damned if he dared to ask. As it so happened, he was confrontational enough as it was, and he knew he didn’t exactly come off as the world’s most approachable creature, but he was trying to make a change for himself, at least. It was all the effort he could put in for himself to get through, and for…

For Gavin?? Was he doing this for Gavin, as well??

No…no he wasn’t. After all, how could he?

To the rude, brazen detective currently snoozing away on his sofa, this was all about money, and Nines was only in on this because he hated being indebted to someone.

That’s what this was all about.

Mildly content with this, he knew that tonight would pass like any other as long as he kept himself in check, and they could go on just ignoring the elephant in the room until things could return back to normal.

Well, that’s what Nines really wanted, but he knew that would never happen…

Did he want it to happen? Did Gavin want for it to happen?

Uncomfortable by all these questions flooding into his mind, Nines chose instead to switch to didactic methods and measures that would hopefully set out to not only protect himself from Gavin’s ulterior motives, but also shield himself from getting too close and too deep into this.

Once he was pulled in beyond the point of no return, he feared he wouldn’t be able to get himself out of it. Not until it was too late, anyway, and that’s what the fearless RK900 genuinely feared.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

You’re just too good to be true,

I can’t take my eyes off of you,

You’d be like heaven to touch,

I wanna hold you so much…

At long last love has arrived,

and I thank God I’m alive…

Gavin felt his head pounding like a damn hammer drilling and slamming into concrete, and his stomach tossed and churned like a violent, uncontrollable tidal wave during a dark stormy night. He felt like utter shit, to say the least, and what pissed him off was that he was sure he was hearing things, too…it sounded like music, perhaps?

It wasn’t a song he recognized in particular, but even though it was so soft and serene as it played in the background, to his sensitive ears, it sounded like a damn rock concert, and he felt like he was right beside every HD speaker in the world.

Everything ached…

Sitting up with a groan, Gavin felt his stomach heaving mightily.

He was going to be sick.

Slapping a hand over his mouth and breathing in and out through his nose while his nostrils flared crazily, he let out muffled cries as he closed his eyes and tilted his head back, trying to ignore the fact that his head literally was about to explode, and a shit ton of alcohol and stomach acid were climbing up from his stomach all the way towards his esophagus…

Mumbling through the small spaces between his fingers, he groaned, “Niiiines, dooo youuu have a-aaa buuuucket?? Gonnnaaaa beeee siick!”

Soft footsteps pattered their way towards him, and when Gavin barely summoned up enough strength to open his eyes a little, he saw the tall, lean android approaching from the side. He’d been in the ‘kitchen’, it seemed, and he scowled down at Gavin while shaking his head in clear disdain.

“If you vomit all over my floor or the sofa, Reed, I swear, I’ll make you clean it all up with your own fingers and no gloves will be allowed or given to you.”

The threat bounced and rolled off Gavin’s shoulders as he hugged himself and fought against shivering. To shake and let the tremors go through himself would only make it so that his brain knocked against his skull and rolled around in his cranium, and he couldn’t take all that pain. Cradling his head, he tried drowning out every possible noise, even if that meant shutting off the noises in his head.

Everything was so loud and echoed terribly!

Nines eyed him with nothing but caution, “How’s that migraine?”

Gavin only flipped him off as a result, and Nines chuckled.

“Charming,” he purred out while rounding on Gavin as a look of sheer delight crossed his features. “Luckily for you, I have Ibuprofen, but I don’t have a bucket…”

Gavin got up immediately when he felt his stomach rising up and down as if it were bouncing on a trampoline built inside his body. “Mmm gonna throw up!!” With that warning uttered, he turned and ran towards the kitchen so he could vomit into the sink, hopefully, but Nines grabbed him by the back of the shirt quickly.

Hurriedly dragging Gavin towards the bathroom, in no time at all, he turned on the lights and pushed Gavin inside first. To the intoxicated detective’s amusement and awe, all the soil, gardening materials, boxes, and wood had been completely removed from the bathroom, and it actually looked like a genuine bathroom…except for the fact that there was still no mirror present.

Throwing open the toilet bowl lid, Nines made sure Gavin didn’t bash his forehead and skull against the actual bowl, and he steadied the adult male as he shoved his own face directly into the center of the toilet and threw up violently.

It sounded horrifying, it looked terrifying, and it smelled absolutely unearthly.

And yet, Nines didn’t want to go.

Gavin took a small break, raising his head and wiping his lips with a trembling hand. While he gulped in mouthfuls of fresh air, he glared over to the side at Nines, and as if seeing him for the first time ever, he snarled, “Th-the fuck are y-you doing in here?!”

Nines rolled his blue eyes, “I can’t exactly leave you in this state, Detective Reed, what if you hurt yourself somehow?”

“I can take c-care of myse—oh god…” Once again, his eyes widened, his shoulders shook terribly, and he vomited again for almost half a minute.

Leaning back, Nines sat with his back and shoulders against the vanity, and he sighed, “Let it all out, Detective; I’m fine with being here all night if that’s what it’ll take.”

Halfway through vomiting, Gavin roared, “L-like fuuuck I’m g-gonna be s-s-stuck in heeere with you all niiiight!!” Again, he took to puking for a while, and Nines merely waved him off.

“We’ll talk when you’re sober, Detective,” he stated logically. “I doubt you can even hardly remember much of anything that happened barely an hour ago.”

For some reason, Gavin took this statement rather offensively. Sitting up on his knees, he grabbed a clean wad of toilet paper, and he wiped his mouth and tongue with it before clearing his throat and glaring at Nines. A thin sheen of sweat covered practically all over his face and neck, but he held a most defiant, rebellious look on his face that made Nines nearly double over in shock.

“What’s with that look, Reed?” Nines growled angrily, already on edge so easily and quickly, much to his own dismay.

Gavin snarled back, “Th-the hell does that mean?”

“What does what mean?”

Not giving up, the irate human snapped, “What you j-just said!”

Pausing, Nines finally let it sink in. “Oh,” his LED light stopped flashing yellow. “Well, for starters, do you remember saying this?” Clearing his throat, his LED light flashed blue once, and then, perfectly imitating Gavin’s voice 100%, he repeated: “Niiiines, chiiill! I’m not gonna drink so much that I’ll end up redecorating your walls with my barf!”

Rubbing his left temple with his left hand, Gavin cringed as he wheezed in a raw voice, “Fuuuck, Nines, don’t be doin’ that shit when I’m piss drunk! It’s fucked up!”

“Well,” Nines clicked out, “that’s what you said about an hour ago, need I remind you.”

Groaning, Gavin whispered, “I wonder wh-what else I said…”

Cruelly, Nines taunted him, “Oh, nothing much; you just also admitted to me that you once ran through your old police academy buck naked while singing a Spice Girls song.”

Looking even more sickly than ever, Gavin whimpered, “P-please t-t-tell me that shit isn’t t-true…th-that didn’t happen!!!”

An impish look was what met his eyes, “You’re right; it was a Lady Gaga song, come to think of it.”

“Stop, dude!”

Nines smirked, “I was kidding, Reed.”

“Oh, you’re such a biiii---blaaarrgh!!” He couldn’t even complete his sentence when the urge and need to puke took over once again.

“Point made, Reed,” the detached android spat as he got up and flushed the toilet. Turning away from the sick swirling around in the bowl and heading down the drain, he pointed at Gavin sharply as he asked, “Are you done, or is there room for more?”

The exhausted man barely managed to shrug, “I think I’m d-done.”

“Good.” Nines’ next task was to make sure Gavin somehow got into the shower without drowning himself, but he didn’t actually want to be there while Gavin actually showered.

How could he put this without seeming…bizarre?

As if reading his mind and thoughts, Gavin held out a hand, “Help me off the floor.”

Nines did so, and as he pulled up the wary detective, he turned his head to the side in revulsion when Gavin coughed in his face. “Detective!” Nines cried in anger, “would you mind keeping your vomit-scented breath to yourself, for now and all times?!”

“Sorry, Nines.”

Turning his nose up at Gavin, Nines icily hissed, “Yes, I can see how ‘sorry’ you are about it indeed, Detective.” Hoisting him up, he allowed him to lean on the glass shower doors, and momentarily backing off him, he moved back inside his own bedroom where he remembered Gavin had stored a gym bag full of his own fresh clothes.

Not even bothering to ask Gavin what he wanted to wear, he pulled out a pair of grey pajama bottoms and a thin white sweater. It would do, and if Gavin wanted to put up a fuss, then he was more than welcome to dress himself afterwards.

Once he returned to the bathroom, Gavin was already prying the sliding doors open, but he nearly lost his balance and tumbled in dangerously. Nines’ fast reflexes however managed to save him, and he threw Gavin’s clothes onto the countertop of the vanity while gently tugging on Gavin’s shirt.

Ignoring the saliva and vomit stains already on it, Nines managed to roll it halfway up his chest, when Gavin snapped out of his alcohol-induced state of ‘high’.

Slapping Nines’ hands roughly, he roared, “What the hell?!?”

“Shut up!” Nines barked, “do you have any idea what time it is?!”

Pushing his shirt back down almost desperately, Gavin looked Nines up and down in fear. “Yeah!” he answered, “time for me to get molested, apparently!!”

“Oh, shut up, Reed,” Nines growled dangerously. “I don’t want you stinking up the place with your puke! So just have a shower, and then get to sleep!”

Nodding, Gavin quickly said, “Okay, but can you like, leave?”

Biting his lower lip in irritation, Nines retorted, “Yeah, I’m going to like, leave now.”

“Appreciate it, dickwad!” Gavin elbowed him in the chest roughly, but as Nines backed away and held onto the side of the door, another thought struck into his mind and worried him sick.

Gavin was still rather weak. What if something horrible happened to him while he was alone in the bathroom?

Almost slapping himself across the face when he realized how fragile and annoying humans were at times, Nines moved out of the bathroom, but he stuck his head inside and forced himself to stare down at the floor when he noticed Gavin pulling up his own shirt to disrobe. “Reed,” he grumbled, “I’m going to be waiting on the other side of the door, and I won’t close it all the way.” When he saw the angry look in Gavin’s eyes, he supplied, “I’m not spying or peeking in on you; I just don’t want you to drown.”

Turning back around, Gavin was convinced rather quickly, and he pressed out, “Okay, weirdo.”

“Great,” backing away completely, Nines tucked his head out of the bathroom, and not even a few minutes later, the water was already running, and Gavin had slid the shower doors shut. Nines waited awkwardly for a moment, but then he heard Gavin sighing, coughing, and then sighing again.

“What’s going on, Reed?” Nines worriedly inquired, eyeing steam rising up from under the doorway.

After a few seconds, Gavin replied, “Nothin’, just talk to me if you can, even though this is weird.”

Initially wanting to mock Gavin for stating this, Nines suddenly found he genuinely had some questions for the snarky detective after all.

Pressing himself against the door, he spoke softly, “What does your mother do for a living?”

Gavin hummed, “She’s a university professor.”

This shocked and stunned Nines. Truthfully, he had underestimated Gavin’s lineage quite badly, though he didn’t want to admit to the man that he’d originally surmised that his entire family consisted of college dropouts and punks.

Nodding in bewilderment, he then asked, “What does she teach?”

“Science and biology,” Gavin swiftly and cleanly replied back. “She got her PhD in it a while ago.”

Intrigued further, Nines pushed on, “Which University?”

“Fordham University,” Gavin responded, clearly not minding the slew of questions as he expounded on that subject deeper. “She manages the Graduate of Science department in Biological Sciences.”

Completely taken aback by all the new information, Nines could only utter, “I see…that’s…that’s very interesting, Reed. I’m sure you’re proud of her.”

For the longest time, Nines supposed he’d somehow gone and offended Gavin. The entire bathroom was horrendously and fiercely silent, but Nines knew Gavin hadn’t fainted or hurt himself; he still sensed and was able to receive human motion alerts in his system.

However, he also read clearly that Gavin’s heart rate had accelerated exponentially, and he was highly stressed out.

All that had catered to Nines not feeling shocked or surprised when Gavin changed the topic drastically.

“Hey, Nines?”

“Hmm?”

“I heard music before…right as I was waking up…was that you?”

…….

“No, Detective Reed,” Nines looked down at his hands, and they were shaking slightly. He clenched them tightly into two fists, and he got a hold of himself as best as he could while he leaned his back straight up against the door.

Standing as tall as he could, he glared into the dark hallway before solidifying his final response.

“You must’ve imagined it, Detective.”

Chapter Text

Nines waltzed into the bedroom with a bottle of cold water he purchased from the vending machines down the hall, and as he held it before Gavin, he also held up in his opposite hand an Ibuprofen.

“For the migraine,” he announced when Gavin stared at it for far too long.

Nodding strangely, Gavin grabbed the pill and downed it in one go with a large gulp of water. Flashing Nines a thumbs-up when he was halfway through the bottle and satiated as far as his thirst went, he muttered a simple, “Thanks.”

The debonair android merely grunted, and as he walked past the bed, he turned to the left and opened his bedroom closet doors. As Gavin watched in awe, Nines pulled out a large, rectangular container-like object. It looked like some kind of a chamber of sorts, and it was transparent save for some tiny wires and tubes at the very bottom. Those wires were eerie looking and attached to a tiny terminal on the side of the ‘box’ that emitted a small green light the moment Nines touched it.

Blinking rapidly a few times, Gavin eventually cried out, “This is way too sci-fi for my ass right now.”

“It’s mine,” Nines responded randomly as he moved the object along the floors as quickly as possible, almost shifting around on purpose so that Gavin couldn’t see him properly do whatever it was he was doing.

Gavin gaped at him before picking his jaw up and asking, “So…what’s that, Nines?”

Sliding a tiny door Gavin hadn’t been able to see before there on the object open, Nines sighed, “It’s how I charge myself every night, Detective.”

“I don’t see other androids doing that,” Gavin retorted, but when Nines clearly pointed out the CyberLife logo etched onto the glass, the detective waved at him dismissively.

Tilting his head at him, then, Nines elucidated, “You’ve surely seen ‘android charging terminals’ around the city before, have you not?”

Gavin grunted in a reply instead of talking properly.

Ignoring the rudeness, Nines gestured to the object, “Well, there’s your answer, except mine is specifically designed for only my model, as I am a unique prototype.”

Approaching the object, Gavin asked, “So if for example Connor went into this thing, would he fry up?” He couldn’t help but laugh as he clearly imagined that happening to Connor, but he was sure to wipe off his sadistic smirk when he saw the tiny scowl Nines throwing his way.

“Not really, Detective,” came the short, curt response, “but it isn’t good for his system either way.”

“So, this baby can charge other objects, too?”

Never having been faced with such an odd question before, Nines wavered before he came up with an answer he truly had to guess. “I…I estimate that it could be possible, yes.” Eyes flickering up into Gavin’s, he then took his turn to ask a question, “Why do you inquire?”

Shrugging nonchalantly, Gavin stated, “Oh, no reason, was just curious if it would be able to rev up my dildo collection every once in a while.”

………

The look Nines gave him then was one that coexisted between a blend of pain, disgust, shock, and absolute horror.

Gavin’s lopsided grin immediately died down. “I was kidding, I swear,” he covered for himself while Nines slowly got moving again. While the android’s fingers slipped a few times off the sides of the charger, Gavin coughed out, “I legit don’t own dildos, I promise.”

“Right,” Nines coughed violently, and seeing as androids didn’t need to do that, it was nothing but a forced, noncommittal gesture. “I’m going to go, now, but if you need anything, you can ask me.”

Feeling mortified, Gavin noticed how Nines purposefully wasn’t making any eye contact with him while taking his charger out of the bedroom. “Err, good night?” Gavin awkwardly sang out at his turned back, “I mean…night, dude?”

Pausing once he was further down the hall, Gavin was able to see Nines’ shadow cast on the white, blank walls before he ground out painfully, “Good night, Detective Reed.”

Not even bothering to ask if he could close the bedroom door, Gavin did so anyway, and when the door gave out a soft ‘click’, he nearly punched himself in the face. Why did everything have to be so awkward around Nines, anyway?! Gavin found he couldn’t relate to Nines at all! He couldn’t joke with the serious android like he did with his friends, and that sucked!! He missed being able to throw out a nasty, ‘R’ rated joke every once in a while, and garnering a good, hearty laugh with his buddies. He missed being able to drink and stay out late at nights laughing it up all around town while trying to flirt with and pick up all sorts of women. He missed not having to over-explain himself or his actions, as people around him just had a natural affinity to understand him, and since they were of like minds, they just ‘got it’!

But how could he do any of these things and truly enjoy them when he was around Nines?!

They hardly shared anything in common!!!

Assessing it all finally now that he was sober, Gavin leaned back on his new, clean Hemnes bed and stared up at the bright ceiling for a while.

“Shit,” he eventually muttered to himself as he stroked his chin, “just what in the hell do I have in common with Nines, anyway?!” Even for the purposes of pretense, he was genuinely curious, and he already began making comparisons.

Nines was fashionable, often looking quite dapper in his dark, silk suits and meticulous clothes, while Gavin usually donned jeans and a t-shirt on warmer days, and on colder days, jeans and a sweater that sometimes was only washed twice a week at best. Nines wasn’t much of a hoarder, and yet he was. Nines never had trash heaps and dirty clothes all over his living room, and Gavin had his own personal brand of obstacle courses to go through on a regular basis in his apartment. Nines was quiet, reserved, and often watched what he said, and Gavin had no social filter, and loose lips. While Nines had an odd sense of humor, it was a vastly dry one, and differed greatly in comparison to Gavin’s. To understand most of Nines’ jokes, Gavin sometimes had to think deeply, and when it came to comedy, he wasn’t a fan of thinking about it all as if he were out on solving a case. Gavin was loutish, crass, rude, tardy, and had a general fixation on keeping up with a dilatory attitude, and Nines was outstanding in his work, decorous around just about anyone who crossed his path.

What. The. Hell. Did. They. Have. In. Common?!?!?

Suddenly, the lights above were too bright, and his lungs ached and burned with a familiar need…only one thing would solve this conundrum and hopefully soothe his nerves before he could fall into a somewhat ‘peaceful’ sleep.

Inching across the bed, Gavin leaned down and yanked his gym bag up on the side of the bed, and as he dug out a cigarette from his freshly purchased pack, he then dragged out his lighter. “Ahh, hello baby,” he purred at his red colored lighter with a topless blonde woman decorating the length. “Finally, we’re alone at last…”

He’d barely flicked the lighter on, when on the other side of the wall, Nines’ voice came booming at his ears.

“You can’t smoke in here, Reed.”

Gavin lost it right then and there.

Throwing his lighter and cigarette down to the floor in a tiny burst of rage, he screamed, “SCREW YOU, NINES!!”

……

Silence came from the other side of the wall, but just when Gavin tried lying back down, Nines called out to him again.

“Feel better, now?”

Truthfully, he really did, but he would never admit that to Nines; not in a thousand years.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Sleeping in an unfamiliar place naturally woke Gavin up way earlier than he would’ve liked, and Gavin was quite the grumpy son of a bitch when he hadn’t received a full, proper night’s rest. Then again, so were other people, of course, but Gavin really, really took it to an extreme.

Not even bothering to shave first and foremost, a highly irritable and short-tempered Gavin Reed untangled himself from the sweaty mass of sheets, and he stormed over into the living room. Surprisingly, Nines was still in his charger chamber…

Finding the android sitting on a tiny plastic stool within the charging chamber, Gavin froze as he stared Nines up and down slowly. Was he in stasis?! Gavin didn’t have the faintest clue, because Nines’ eyelids were tightly shut, and his LED light was off.

Nines didn’t even stir as Gavin approached, but the detective noticed that as he grew closer, he saw that the transparent door to the charging chamber had been left wide open. Perhaps for the purpose of making it easier to get out if Nines was needed, Gavin supposed. But this was still so weird!!! How did Nines even rest in this damn thing?!

Steadily approaching, as Gavin decreased the gap between his own body and Nines’ within the chamber, he found that the android’s long, slim left leg had been draped over the right, which was slightly stretched out. Nines was swaying and leaning more so to the left, and even his left arm hung loosely and limply down by his side. It was so bizarre and eerie, but Gavin was drawn to it, somehow. Approaching more and more, he wondered if Nines was ‘awake’ in some way…

Wanting to test it, the curious man stretched out a hand while still making the last few steps. Now, he was barely an inch away from Nines; an inch away from touching the back of his right hand, which was lying draped across his lap.

Fingers trembling and hovering in the air, Gavin swallowed down his anxiety abruptly. There was a green light still pulsating beneath Nines, and it seemed to be coming from the bottom of the charging chamber. What did that mean?!

Caught up in his curiosity, Gavin took one final step towards Nines. His hand was trembling like a naked, thin branch caught up in the violent blows of the wind, much like how it was right now outside.

He’d almost touched Nines, now…closer, closer, closer…

Staring intently at the RK900’s closed eyelids, Gavin nearly made a grab for his right hand, just to see if he was really not going to get up, yet.

……

And he’d missed the exact moment when the green light ceased pulsating, and Nines’ fingers moved ever so slightly. Rearing up almost violently, Nines’ right hand latched onto Gavin’s just a second before Gavin could even make physical contact with the android. As a result from the shocking, jarring motion, Gavin let out a loud yelp and backed off after jumping into the air a few inches.

“THE FUCK!?!”

Nines merely smiled at him, righting his body posture up straightly as he lowered his left leg down to the floor to join the right. “Good morning, Detective,” he hummed on a wonderfully deep note, then stared out the clear glass barriers of his charging chamber. “I hope you slept well?”

Gavin recoiled as the RK900 stretched up and gave him an odd grin while reaching out of the charging chamber. When Nines took notice of how strangely Gavin was eyeing him, he froze, frowned deeply in thought, and asked, “Something wrong?”

The detective immediately backed away, “Nah, not first thing in the morning, jackass,” his body trembled, reminding him that mornings were now always colder than they had been in the summer months. “I need a fuckin’ shave and a shower before I deal with your weird shit today.”

Nines merely brushed his white dress shirt off coolly, “Good luck doing that without a mirror,” he chuckled at Gavin, and the detective growled under his breath.

“It’s not that hard, genius,” he spat venomously. “It’s not like I’m training for the U.S. Navy SEALs!!”

Nines looked down at his feet. “If you say so, Detective, but I’m here should you require any assistance.”

Gavin decided that wasn’t going to be an option, and his body had already entered the bathroom before his mind even registered where he was. It seemed he was really intent and eager to get away from Nines after the oddities of the morning he’d seen the android displaying.

Why was Nines so freaking weird?! Couldn’t he have picked someone else to play his fiancé?!

“Too bad all my exes hate me,” Gavin sighed to himself, hurrying to adjust the water of the shower. In no time at all, he’d cleaned himself for the second time in less than eight hours, but it was more so to refresh himself and look a tad prim and proper than anything else. Feeling calmer once he stepped out, he stood awkwardly before the vanity and sink, staring at the white wall that held no god damn mirror at all on it.

Stupid Nines.

“Whatever,” Gavin hissed to himself, “I can manage this; I’ve shaved many times before in my life!!”

For some reason, he found that all thoughts of Nines were suddenly so annoying to him. As he held tightly onto his razor and turned on the water to fill up the sink slightly, he growled and muttered a few expletives under his breath, aiming majority of them towards Nines. As he went along waiting while the steam of the water rose and grew thick, he wet his face, and began lathering and soaping up his face all over.

When it felt ‘good’ and ‘ready’ enough, Gavin began shaving away as gently as he could. After a few of the blind motions, he suddenly smelled the familiar, potent smell of coffee wafting into the bathroom from behind himself…

He missed coffee…

And right then as he’d been distracted for the moment, Gavin nicked himself pretty badly along the chin. Throwing his head back and screaming in both pain and anger while a few drops of blood pattered into the water within the sink, it wasn’t long at all before the bathroom door opened with a small ‘creak’.

Nines stared ahead at him from the doorway, “You rang?”

Cradling his chin while the stinging sensation from the soap really burned and singed deeply, Gavin hissed, “PISS OFF!!!”

As if that would do anything to ward off the inquisitive RK900. Nines followed him in the bathroom, standing behind him as he got out from the vanity cupboard a professional, expensive shaving kit. Eyeing it nervously, Gavin waited while Nines set up.

“I step away for hardly a few minutes to get you some coffee, and already you’ve hurt yourself?” Nines tsked. “Well done, Detective.”

“You stupid freak!” Gavin snapped while pointing to his cut chin. “This shit is why you get a fuckin’ mirror!!”

Ignoring him for a moment, Nines was simply beside himself with zeal and grace as he inched himself right before Gavin and grabbed his face with a strong hand. Only putting up a small fuss, Gavin eventually calmed down and relaxed himself when Nines eyed him seriously, and he held up the black Remington electric razor. It was already on, and as he gently touched it to Gavin’s upper right cheek, he turned his gaze away from Gavin’s eyes.

Simply being reduced to standing there, Gavin looked at the ceiling while Nines gracefully and gently shaved his entire right cheek in barely a few minutes. He did a rather good job, cleaning off the razor with a clean cloth before going over the last bits of stubble one last time.

“This isn’t so bad, is it, Detective?” he asked Gavin as he began lathering the left side of his face. Gavin said nothing as Nines’ free hand rubbed the soap up and down and all over his face. The RK900’s hand moved forward, and it traced a few shapes onto his soapy face while Nines emitted a gentle purr.

“Stop it!” Gavin slapped Nines’ hands away and reapplied soap where the android had playfully smeared it awkwardly. After a few more attempts-each of them a failure due to Nines pushing and shrugging the annoyed detective’s hands down, Gavin gave up. He allowed Nines to turn him around completely, shaving away calmly while a tiny smile formed in the corners of his lips.

Gavin scowled at him for it. “Glad you can do this without the use of a mirror, but do I have to drag you in here each and every time I need to shave?!” He wasn’t a god damn baby! He didn’t need help all the time!!!

As he scraped away at his stubble so tenderly, the RK900 stepped around and stared at his own hands while they guided the razor about his skin. Every time Nines made the electric razor skate along Gavin’s face, the other man felt the steady hum and vibrations rivet him in place even more. With his feet firmly planted on the cold white tiles, he raised a brow at the RK900 and leaned forward curiously. Evidently, he shouldn’t have done that, for Nines abruptly pushed him back in his original spot by placing a hand right over Gavin’s now smooth left-cheek.

As Nines guided the razor over the rest of the areas he’d missed, he threw Gavin a fleeting glance. Gruffly, he commented, “There is a solution to this torment after all, Detective Reed…” Stopping the razor in time before it hit the wounded area around Gavin’s chin, Nines listened to the shorter male sigh while he set down the electric razor for a moment as soon as he’d turned it off.

Once Nines turned on the warm water, Gavin snorted, “Oh yeah? And what’s your solution then, smartass?”

Making sure to clean out whatever gunk and soap was on the razor blades, Nines took his time before a light growl sounded out of him, first. “Perhaps you should grow a beard, Detective,” he suggested as he dried off the razor and wiped it the rest of it down.

When he motioned for Gavin to wash his face, the shorter male rebelliously shook his head.

“No way am I gonna grow facial pubes, Nines,” he argued. “You can consider it a cold day in hell before I fuckin’ do that.”

Shrugging quickly, Nines said, “Noted, Detective, but don’t you want to talk about what happened a few days ago when we were out shopping?”

Of all times to bring that up, really.

Bending over the sink, Gavin hurried splashed warm water over his face, washing it carefully around the cut area near his chin. It stung, still, but he wasn’t going to be a child about it. Once he got done washing his face, he pet it dry with a small facial cloth Nines provided for him.

Rubbing the cloth over his face carefully, Gavin sighed out, “I feel great…”

“You’re disassociating,” Nines pointed out. “I’m still curious to know how it is that nothing that occurred the other day affected you.”

And right then, Gavin knew there was only one way he was going to be able to get rid of the curious android. He wasn’t going to simply stand there and talk about his feelings with Nines, or anyone else, for that matter. Nines wasn’t his damn therapist; he didn’t even have one anymore, technically speaking!!

Turning away from Nines’ penetrating, curious eyes, Gavin whistled as he rubbed cream over his face from his gym bag, and then looked around the bathroom. After a minute, while still staring down at the floor, he asked, “Do you have a band aid or something?”

Nines wasn’t stupid; he knew that this meant the topic was already closed and off limits for discussion. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder why. Though he wasn’t interested in pushing Gavin and having the man lash out at him loudly or perhaps, violently, he merely nodded as he bent down and opened up the vanity cupboards.

Handing the band aid package over to Gavin, he hissed out softly, “Here; the previous tenant seems to have left these behind.”

Taking them gladly, Gavin then pushed, “Where’s my coffee?”

With the nod of a head out the door, Nines replied, “In the kitchen.”

“Sweet.”

As Gavin walked away carelessly whistling a random tune, Nines caught himself staring at the blank space in the wall above the bathroom sink. Something suddenly stung deeply within himself and more specifically, in his mind.

Backing out of the bathroom quickly, he turned off the lights almost viciously, which was a contrast to how softly he made sure the door clicked shut.

Chapter Text

“Gavin, your phone’s ringing.”

“Mhmm.”

“…Aren’t you going to answer it?”

“Nuh uh.”

“…Why not?”

“I dunno.”

“Just answer it.”

“Nuh uh.”

Nines nearly lost every bit of self-control. Things weren’t copacetic anymore, not when Gavin was blatantly making a good effort at willingly ignoring him.

Slamming a hand down on the kitchen counter while Gavin toyed with his cigarette package, Nines got the shorter man’s attention for a split second before Gavin looked back down at his cigarette pack.

“I’ll chuck that out the damn window,” Nines warned in a low growl.

The grown man’s refusal to even acknowledge the fact that it could’ve been his own mother ringing his phone off the hook was purely contumacious. Nines wasn’t going to put up with it, and he didn’t.

As Gavin’s phone rang again, the android was beside himself with raw fury.

“Pick. It. Up.”

Gavin shook his head, eyes cast upon the lovely sight of the cerulean sky outside.

The phone buzzed even louder, as if throwing its own temper tantrum due to not being answered.

“Gavin,” Nines hissed, “answer it, or I will.”

That had been what finally broke Gavin out of his odd daydreaming, and he tossed a putrid glare at Nines.

“It could be your mother…”

A meek voice came out of Gavin’s throat, “It is her…”

His clear refusal to answer the call was jarring and moving, and it spoke volumes about Gavin’s true intentions. Ipso facto, Nines concluded he was hiding from his own mother, and even going so far as to delay and postpone the meeting.

“Gavin, I know you’re frightened and nervous,” the android calmly interpolated. “I can understand how you feel—”

Eyebrows knotting together firmly on his brow, Gavin’s forehead wrinkles creased and deepened resolutely. They gave away his true inner turmoil and emotions in no time, even though he was actively trying to hold it all back from Nines. His internal struggling never ceased to amaze Nines, and the pensive android began to wonder just how far Gavin was willing to push himself and to what levels of extremities he was willing to go through and endure just to be able to keep up barricade he’d created between himself and others.

Forever, probably…or so it seemed anyway. But they both knew they didn’t have the luxury of ‘forever’ on their hands. Forever perhaps didn’t exist…

Appearing to be visibly on edge, Nines gasped out, “Gavin?”

Upon hearing his first name spoken out in that way, Gavin broke away from his petrified state. Emitting a half-growl, half-cry, he wheezed testily, “Stop freakin’ referring to me as ‘Gavin’!”

A distraught look was instantly on Nines’ face, then. “But that’s your given name, is it not?”

As a few birds and crows cawed and chirped back and forth to each other harmoniously, Gavin seemed to be completely overtaken with toxic anger. It swooped out of him in the masses, and he suddenly bellowed out, “God damn it! Just call me ‘Reed’ or ‘Detective’!! You always did it before, so why change it up now?!”

Why indeed?

Even Nines himself had to stop and think about it for a moment. Just when exactly had he given himself the authority and permission to make the transition from ‘Detective Reed’ to ‘Gavin’?’

Clearly, Gavin hadn’t been patient enough to await his response. Right away, he cried out pointedly, “You think that just because I’ve moved in, played a stupid drinking game with you, and just because we’re supposedly ‘partners’ it means that things have somehow changed? Hmm?” Taking a moment to chuckle his amusement out mockingly, he then added with a cruel sneer, “Just how dumb are you, really?”

“I won’t be insulted in my own home by my guest.” Nines quickly expounded, “You can’t just disrespect me the same way you’re currently disrespecting your own mother, Reed.” Making sure to profoundly enunciate and emphasize the man’s last name, he gestured towards the phone just in time for it to start ringing again.

Clawing at his hair in a fit of stress, Gavin snapped, “You don’t even know how my mom is, so don’t open your mouth and comment about shit you have zero info on!!”

Eyes bouncing back and forth a few times from Gavin to his phone, the observant android whispered, “Then let me in, Reed; give me a chance to learn something here…”

Peering up at him slowly, Gavin hissed, “I’ll give you—”

The phone buzzed louder, suddenly, and Gavin found he could no longer tolerate it. Snatching it up into his right hand, he swiped across the screen to his right in order to finally answer the demanding call.

“Yeah?!” he roared loudly and paced away from the kitchen.

Nines actually found himself not listening in on the conversation, even though he knew he very well could have done it should he desire to. But he didn’t…he found he genuinely held no desire whatsoever to peer into Gavin’s personal life.

Near the living room, Gavin was rambling and talking a mile a minute, something he often couldn’t avoid when his mother spoke with him on calls as urgent as this. Now, she was demanding rather aggressively on obtaining his ‘lover’s’ living residence address.

Not even bothering to so much as even toss a glance in Nines’ direction, Gavin regurgitated the address to her in a clipped tone. A second later, she’d stated that she was on the way, and he hung up all too eagerly. He didn’t need or want to hear more.

Once he’d pocketed his phone neatly away, he felt incredibly safer…until he remembered that Nines was still lurking somewhere nearby.

As if somehow possessing the capability to read Gavin’s mind, Nines uttered flatly, “Rest assured, Detective Reed, I’ll remove myself from your way until your mother arrives.”

Pushing his way silently past Gavin, then, he hadn’t noticed the genuine look of relief flooding over Gavin’s previously torment-stricken eyes.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

The front door of the apartment had received two bold knocks that sent both Gavin and Nines skittering about in a flash. The door leading to Nines’ bedroom flung open and Nines was immediately on his feet, all rational thought flying away as he quickly marched through the living room, standing right in front of the door receiving the knocking as he braced himself. Gavin soon ran out next to him, and as both men were dressed in their ‘best’ outfits, they accidentally slammed into each other in a mutually competitive race to see who would get to the door first.

“I got it!!” Gavin cried out right as his body collided with Nines’. When they bumped into each other roughly, they both took a few glances at each other, no doubt assessing their style and manner of dress.

And were they ever dressed differently, and painfully so.

Gavin blushed deep pink as he pushed some of his hair back. Purposefully, he’d left some bangs and sides of his hair slightly messy to sloppily hang and drape down over his forehead. Wearing a grey Labatt Blue t-shirt that was in dire need of an ironing, the shirt looked a few sizes too big, and it hung down awkwardly over Gavin’s partly torn dark blue jeans.

As Nines stared in astonishment at his disheveled appearance, Gavin gaped in awe and mild fear at the way Nines was dressed as well. It seemed to bother the shorter male, and he flicked a finger at the black, old fashioned Poet shirt Nines was donning. It opened down and hung outwards awkwardly in the front, revealing a large portion of his creamy white chest while tight, plastic black pants tugged at his long, slim legs. The more Gavin gaped at it, the more bizarre he found it was. It just didn’t fit…

Nines paused as he noticed Gavin openly gaping at him. “What?”

Gavin slowly blinked, “The hell are you wearin,’ Nines?!”

“Clothes, Detective,” the sarcasm practically oozed and dripped off every consonant, vowel, and syllable Nines spoke out.

Gavin growled as another loud knock landed on the other side of the front door. “Whatever!” He whispered heatedly, “Ready?!”

Nines only gave him a curt nod, “Ready, Detective.”

Gavin was the one who opened the door, and as he did so quite sluggishly as though he was moving underwater, the lights outside poured in liberally as they waved around Carrie Reed.

The elderly woman’s slender figure stood out in the sudden onslaught of bright lights, and Nines stood back to study her for the first time ever. Already, he caught himself drawing comparisons between Gavin and his mother.

Carrie Reed had platinum blonde hair that had been stylishly cut and fashioned into a bouncy bob cut with bits of short layers running along the temples and sides. She wore pearly looped earrings that hung down to her pronounced jawbone. Her natural hair color was a shade lighter than Gavin’s, Nines discovered as he naturally scanned and analyzed her DNA and hair pigmentation. Her eye color was a greyer shade of blue than Gavin’s, however. She possessed a short skeletal frame and build, just coming up an inch and a half shorter than her own son in height.

On her person, she wore a red raincoat, black wellington boots, blue skinny jeans with the leggings tucked into the boots, and at her side hung a black leather purse. Over her right shoulder rested the strap of a black school bag, and it was rather bulky as it hung down strangely. Something definitely was inside it, and Nines was staring intently at it until Carrie frowned at him, and then at Gavin.

“Well?” she croaked, her voice gravelly and her breath reeking of tobacco. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

Gavin broke out of his silence, and he waved her in as he offered her one of the most bizarre side hugs Nines had ever seen humans give each other. “Yeah, yeah,” he said tersely, “hey mom.”

Hey mom? That was how they greeted each other?

Nines was dumbfounded, but he hung back and merely observed, trying to play the role of a respectful lover as Carrie dragged herself inside. She didn’t appear to have a lot of things with her, but it didn’t matter much to Nines; he still had oodles of room in his apartment, anyway.

Stopping right before Nines while Gavin helped ease her raincoat off, Carrie’s eyes wrinkled even more so in the corners, her light-colored skin creasing practically while she threw Nines as rather blank look. However, that look didn’t remain blank for look. Soon, it was replaced with doubt, and Carrie’s overall body posture seemed to indicate an increase in incredulity as she studied Nines.

After a moment, she huffed inelegantly, “So…you’re Gavin’s boyfriend, huh?”

Slamming the closet doors, Gavin’s shoulders clenched tightly as he spat out, “Fiancé, mom; he’s my fiancé.” 

Pursing her lips tightly together, the thin seam of them seemed to stretch out over her bony and near-skeletal face. “Uh huh,” Carrie grumbled, slowly leaning closer towards Nines. “My God,” she whispered, “he really is an android, isn’t he, Gavin?”

Immediately, Nines felt offended. He knew he shouldn’t have felt that way, but he couldn’t prevent it. Gavin’s mother was speaking about him as if he wasn’t even in the room, and he felt completely objectified by it.

Trying to make a good impression, however, Nines held out his hand for her to take. “I’m Nines,” he introduced himself with the politest smile he could muster. “I’m very happy to finally get to meet you,” finishing it off with another warm smile as Gavin turned around with his hands on his hips, Nines made sure to also smile at the short detective as a means of trying to show Gavin’s mother that he was a good, attentive partner.

Sadly, Gavin’s mother didn’t seem to want to pay enough attention. Turning towards Gavin, she yanked on his shirt as she studied it and scoffed. “Is that thing even washed?” she asked in a seriously condescending tone, judgements already made about Gavin and Nines, apparently.

Gavin’s jaw fell open widely as he snorted and nodded over at Nines. “Mom,” he coughed when he noticed Nines still holding out his hand. “Nines was trying to shake your hand and say hi…”

She waved him off, “Oh be quiet,” she grumbled, “I already met your android man.”

“He doesn’t even know your na—”

Swiveling around barely enough to face Nines, the blonde woman irritably declared, “Dr. Carrie Moser, Mr. Android.” Bowing her head at him, a small sarcastic sneer was upon her face as she directed it at Nines’ hand.

This woman was a piece of work, Nines decided. Lowering his hand back down when he knew she wasn’t to take it, he merely nodded as he corrected her gently, “I’m Nines.”

“That’s nice, dear,” she gushed half-heartedly while kicking off her boots, and then rolling up her white blouse sleeves as she yanked her purse and school bag out of Gavin’s hands when he held them up for her to take.

“I’ll need a glass of water, Gavin,” she pushed out almost in a bossy manner, and when she brushed past Nines, he saw a long tattoo running from her wrist all the way up on her left forearm. It was the design of a river flowing, and one large, fat trout had leapt up from the surface of the waves into the air.

He’d wanted to comment out loud that he liked her tattoo, but that would be a lie. He hated the tattoo, and it was one of the strangest designs he’d ever seen. Instead, Nines followed Gavin, who was following his mother into the living room, and she practically threw her school bag and purse onto the black coffee table while stretching out.

Emitting a tiny groan, she stretched out her arms above her head, and when she looked up at Gavin, she scowled in disappointment. “Gavin, didn’t you hear me?” she snapped, and he barely was able to blink before she spat, “water!”

“Okay.” Obediently, the shorter male walked into the hallway, and he waved at Nines as he called out, “I’m gonna get one from the vending machine, be right back.”

Carrie squinted at his retreating back, “The vending machine?!”

When the front door of the apartment opened and closed swiftly, Carrie sighed out, “To hell with you, Gavin.”

To say that he was reeling over in shock would’ve been the understatement of the century. Nines was left feeling more than shock; he was completely baffled and overwhelmed by how Carrie Moser had spoken to her own son. He knew that humans were odd, eccentric creatures for sure, however, he assumed that they knew how to conduct and compose themselves and would be cagey when it came to matters revolving around personal information and privacy. More importantly, Nines was meeting Carrie for the first time. He knew that, and she knew that, as well! Why was she behaving so brashly?!

Trying to observe her, he watched as she invited herself to sit down on his clean white loveseat. Adjusting her silver watch on her left wrist, she hissed as she squinted, tried to read out the time, and then shook her head. “Isn’t this lovely?” she spoke out more to herself than to him. “You complete a damn PhD dissertation, are granted tenure, pay back all your damn student tuition loans after busting your ass off for decades, and finally, on the night of presenting and orally defending the thesis you slaved half your life and brain’s energy away on, they award you with this stupid piece of junk that you can barely even see and read because by the time they give it to you, you’re too freakin’ old to have your eyes working!!!”

As she huffed and growled like some feral jungle cat, she shifted, and held up her nose in an odd manner of hubristic pride that no doubt was no match for the size of her ego. This was a rather brazen woman, and Nines could somewhat see where Gavin got at least some of his borderline narcissistic, bullying qualities from.

Still wanting to remain polite, he sat down on a small black chair he’d pulled from the kitchen that was normally reserved for a few tiny spider plants to rest on, as well as some cacti. Happily, he joined Carrie in the living room, plopping the chair down to the left armrest of the loveseat. As soon as he sat down, she glanced up at him, and as she sneered, she reached into her school bag and yanked out from the front zipper what appeared to be an eyeglasses case.

When she opened it, Nines confirmed that she definitely required the use of the glasses, and when she slid them up on her nose bridge, their thin, black rims and handles shined at him in the light the sun provided as the effulgent rays poured their liberal effusions into the apartment. When Carrie put the glasses on, Nines’ slightly defensive feelings softened, and he smiled a genuine smile at her.

He thought she appeared charming, and lovely in the glasses!

“I like your glasses, Dr. Moser,” he addressed her by her full title, and as he’d done so, she sniffed once, and then bent down towards her bag once again. Thinking that she was still listening, Nines went out to say, “Gavin’s told me a lot about your work at the University of—” He was rudely interrupted by a loud ‘click’, followed by Carrie coughing as she inhaled her freshly lit cigarette.

Oh dear…

Sighing, Nines gently stated, “I’m afraid you can’t smoke in here, Dr. Moser.”

“Says who?” she rebuked rather loudly, causing Nines to freeze for a moment.

Almost meekly, he answered, “The building owners, Dr.”

She smirked, though it wasn’t in amusement at all, “That a fact?”

…….

“Yes?”

She rolled her grey eyes as she sighed out, “Fine as wine, then!!” Then, to Nines’ complete horror, she literally put her cigarette right out on the edge of his coffee table.

Leaping forward abruptly, he cried out in protest, “Dr. Moser!!”

She kicked a leg at the table. “Relax kid,” she pounded on it then with a fist, knuckles rocking and rapping loudly. “These things have been made to last for centuries.”

Where was he to even begin with this woman?! Her entrance had been nothing short of rude, abrasive, callous, belligerent, and her behavior was consistently getting worse!! Nines had no clue what to say, and thankfully, Carrie seemed to want to talk more, now.

Holding her cigarette in her lap, she shook her head at him, her face scrunched up as her pale, white eyebrows rested on her brow ridge in a thin line. “So, how exactly did you meet my son?”

Having already prepared for this, Nines held his head high as he responded truthfully, “We work together.”

“No,” she snapped coldly, “I didn’t ask what you guys do together; I asked how you met my son.”

As he looked directly into her piercing blue-grey eyes, Nines knew just what kind of a difficult obstacle he had to pass through, now. Carrie Moser wasn’t a woman easily fooled, and he had his work cut out for him indeed.

Thankfully, the door opened swiftly once again, and for once, Nines felt saved.

Perhaps it was better to let Gavin deal with his mother after all.

Chapter Text

Gavin stood by awkwardly, shifting his weight from foot to foot, then began shaking the water bottle a few times in his hands. Apparently, his mother grew weary of it quickly, and she snapped her fingers at Gavin as her earrings dangled and made the lights reflecting off them bounce off practically every corner of the living room.

“Gavin!” she ground out heatedly, “are you planning of giving that to me to drink anytime soon?!”

Grinding his teeth together, Gavin was growing visibly annoyed, but he walked over towards Carrie and still handed her the water.

Not even bothering with a ‘thank you’, she took off the cap and stared at it for a moment before leaning forward and sniffing it curiously.

Nines closed his eyes to keep himself from exploding out in rage, and Gavin sat down beside his mother as he elbowed her gently. “Mom!” he hissed, “it’s just water! Holy shit!”

“Just water, Gavin?” she snorted a disgusting sound as she tilted her head back a little. “I’ve told you to always check your food and water before accepting it from others, haven’t I?”

He threw her a doubtful look as he supplied, “But I got that from the vending machine…”

“Stupid child,” she muttered, finally taking a deep swig of the beverage. Her Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as she drank slowly, and as she did, Nines and Gavin exchanged a brief moment of awkward glances.

Holding the bottle tightly in her veiny, bony hands, Carrie looked up at the ceiling, examining it for a moment before she looked at the walls. Scouring over every inch of them with her beady eyes, it seemed she was assessing, analyzing, deciding, and thinking about something…whatever it was, Gavin knew it would only be a matter of seconds before she blurted out how she truly felt.

Licking her lips, she smacked them together, then, and cried out, “So this is where you took those ridiculous selfies together, hmm?”

Blushing deeply while Nines’ LED light flashed yellow perhaps for the fifteenth time so far that day, Gavin pressed a hand against his mouth as he mumbled in embarrassment, “Those pics were fine, mom! Don’t be so god damn annoying!”

Clearing his throat, Nines was trying to remind Gavin to stay on Carrie’s ‘good side’-if she had one, but the annoyed detective wasn’t paying him any mind as he pressed and pushed on with his mother.

“What was wrong with them?” he asked the same question Nines truly held in his mind but had been unable to voice aloud due to the fact that he felt he still had no business in this matter anyway.

Still, he was interminably grateful that Gavin had spoken up, at least.

Holding out a hand as she played with the water bottle, Carrie huffed impatiently, “They were forced, don’t you think?”

This woman…this woman was far too wise, far too observant.

Damn her.

Face beet red again, Gavin quickly interpolated with, “Well, umm, I guess maybe a bit but that’s because Nines and I don’t like being put on the spot!” When it was silent for too long, he added, “Like, what are we? Circus performers or something?!”

“No,” Carrie mildly agreed, keeping her eyes only on her son as she spoke. “But you were quite hands-on with your previous girlfriends before, Gavin.”

“Oh my God…” Gavin facepalmed, then, and Nines tried to take over. He only did it because he assumed that if he was in such a position instead of Gavin, he would want for someone else to help out here and take the pressure off from being in the spotlight.

Clearing his throat again, he smiled gently at Carrie. “I insisted on the photos being taken that way, Dr. Moser,” he began to explain, but Gavin slapped a hand over his thighs.

Shaking his head, he interrupted acerbically with, “Call her ‘Carrie’; she doesn’t even ask me to call her ‘Professor’ or whatever.”

Shoving him gently, Carrie seethed peckishily, “Oh pull yourself together, Gavin! Just because you refuse to give respect, doesn’t mean that you need to stop your ‘Nines’ here from respecting me!!” Her cheeks puffed out a little, but as soon as she’d calmed herself back down, she grabbed her cigarette and then tucked it into one of her jean pockets.

As Gavin rolled his eyes at that, Carrie once again turned to Nines and commented brashly, “You may think that I’m some kind of ‘modest’ and old fashioned woman, but I assure you,” a strange look crossed her eyes, and they glinted as she said, “I’m as open minded as I can be, and even if my son’s a little queer, that doesn’t mean I won’t love and accept him any less.”

Nines wanted to comment about how referring to one’s own spawn as ‘little queer’ wouldn’t exactly lend a helping hand to paving the way for complete acceptance, but he saw something of a warning flash in the center of Carrie’s eyes. He knew better than to trifle in this matter that clearly wasn’t his…fake fiancé or not.

She sat back, clearly amused when Nines remained silent. “I think I kind of like this one, Gavin,” she snickered shortly, “he’s not as jealous as Marsha was.”

“Mom?” Gavin’s small voice sounded, “can we please not discuss my past right now?”

Holding up her hands, Carrie sarcastically droned, “Pardon me, then, but I figured since I’m welcoming another son into the family, it would be natural to want to go over these things!”

Nines hoped that somehow meant and implied that Carrie Moser was buying into the plan. Perhaps it would become easier to tolerate her rudeness, then…at least, he found himself hoping so. How else was he not to go insane, after all?

Gavin seemed to also be hanging onto that hope, and he spat, “Err, yeah! I mean, Nines is kind of private, that’s all! He’s really nice, and we’re pretty…close?” He himself even had to wince upon saying that, but he recovered from it swiftly before his mother turned to study him with cold eyes.

“Nice indeed,” she assessed, turning back to Nines as she grunted, “so, you didn’t answer my question!” Repeating it louder, she asked, “How did you meet my son?”

Gavin took it upon himself to answer, “At work, duh!”

“He already said the same thing,” Carrie pointed out factually, “but I’m curious as to how you two got together…” Sitting and inching herself closer to Gavin, she gripped him tightly towards herself, snickering as she looked at Nines and commented, “You see, maybe I’m a cynic, but I know my son better than anyone else out there…” Her eyes narrowed as she said, “You two are terribly incompatible and mismatched, and I want to know what exactly it was that brought you two together, and what is driving you two forward.”

…..

As a pregnant pause hung in the air like some foul stench, Carrie chuckled while petting Gavin soothingly, “No rush, of course, but call it my need-to-know; a mother’s genuine curiosity as far as her child’s wellbeing is concerned, of course.”

Finally, Nines broke out into a smile, “Of course,” he repeated gently.

While Gavin nervously fidgeted about, seemingly trying to get Nines’ attention for some reason, the android didn’t regard him. Not because he was trying to be rude, not because he was seeking some ill-mannered medium of revenge for being backed into a corner, and certainly not because of their previous instances of animosity.

No, Nines actually knew how to predict and read through Carrie Moser, now.

Altogether, she wasn’t a very complex woman. She wanted to be, and she thought of herself as such, no doubt. Perhaps she warded off a lot of people by carrying herself around in the way Nines had seen her do so in the short amount of time they’d spent together, but he had a sneaking suspicion that this woman had paraded around half her entire life this way, possibly because when she behaved in this way, it gave her what she was looking for. People would no doubt fear her and be intimidated by her, but Nines wasn’t. She was intelligent and highly skilled, and he could’ve sworn that she’d perhaps done her research into criminology and psychological profiling, at the very least. She knew how to play her cards and pick her words, and that was exactly what she was doing at this very moment; she was playing a word game.

But he knew the rules of this game very well.

What he had to do was go ‘beyond’ the words, beyond the true definitions and meanings in order to pick and pry apart the very roots of what she was looking for. Yes, she had asked about how they met, but what she really was trying to figure out was when they met as a couple; when they’d decided to be together.

He knew what his answer would be.

Gavin wasn’t at ease while he rocked a few times next to his mother, and he was trying to make eye contact with Nines many times, whether his mother noticed or not. As subtle as he was attempting to be, Nines was at least ten steps ahead in solving their predicament.

Nines looked beyond that obviously panicked display, and with utmost confidence, he spoke to Carrie Moser. “You see, Dr. Moser,” he began as well-mannered as he could, “Gavin and I met two years ago when we were both surprisingly dragged into a hostage negotiation situation at the very last minute…” as he laid it all out, he focused entirely on not remembering the vivid, specific details. To remember was to be inflicted with pain, and he wanted to avoid that.

He couldn’t tolerate that…he wouldn’t.

Still keeping his calm demeanor, he went on to say, “It was a rather difficult situation involving an alcoholic parent who simply refused to listen to the voice of reason. Children were involved in this matter, and only Gavin and I seemed to be able to get through to the father.”

Carrie was listening intently with her whole body; not just her ears. She practically ate up every word Nines had to offer her, never once even blinking as her eyes widened and her pupils dilated. Even the hairs on her arms rose a little, as did the ones on the back of her neck.

Staring directly into her eyes, Nines smiled a sad smile. “We spent nearly three hours trying to calm this homicidal man down, but he was a rare monster; the kind that refused to be stopped.” Blinking away the man’s face as it appeared unceremoniously to him then, Nines spoke out in mild discomfort, “There wasn’t much time left, and we were running out of methods. In the end, he held onto two twin girls, pulled them both up to the window, and demanded that we give him a car, otherwise, he would end their lives.”

Carrie held a hand up to her mouth as she seemed overtaken by emotions, but she still listened intently as Gavin swallowed nervously and began trembling. He was in as much pain as Nines was, no doubt remembering the incident like it just happened only yesterday.

“I couldn’t just let him go,” Nines explained, “for I knew that the moment that car arrived and drove them off, he would end up taking the lives of those little girls!” Now, it was becoming somewhat unbearable to go through it all, and Nines felt himself on the edge of breaking apart.

So it appeared that he wasn’t as unbreakable as he originally thought he was…no, how could he be when it came to this specific memory?! The memory itself was enough to send Carrie almost into tears, but she braved it through as she leaned closer and closer to the armrest, almost pressing herself right into it as she hooked and latched onto his words.

Staring down at his lap, finally, Nines coughed out painfully, “Well, needless to say, I invited the father outside with the promise that his car would be ready, but under the condition that he released the twin girls…” Horrific images flashed in his mind, and he rapidly pushed them away when he remembered seeing blood smeared all over the walls and windows…

Forcing himself to finish it, he hissed through clenched teeth that dared to chatter, “Of course, in no time at all, he caught onto my trickery, and he turned the gun on…me…”

Repress, repress, make it go away, make it all go away…

Refusing to break down and shake in front of her, he continued smiling. “Well, your son got in the way of the bullet that had been meant for me that day, and it was then that I saw how brave Gavin was, and my mind was made up right then and there.” When he concluded his retelling of the events, he looked back up at Carrie, and then over at Gavin.

While both mother and son were completely taken emotionally by the story, that somehow didn’t seem to stop Carrie from glaring at Nines’ shirt. As she did this, Nines felt a little odd given his state of dress, but he didn’t comment on it. Instead, he smiled again at her and merely supplied proudly, “Your son is a good man, and I am quite happy to have him in my life.”

He hoped all this would suffice…oh, how he hoped as he sat on the edge of his seat, figuratively and literally.

Wiping her clammy hands on her jeans, Carrie didn’t move for a while, and Nines wondered if she was unwell. Only when he saw her nostrils flaring did he conclude that yes, she was breathing, and she was livid…

Livid?! Enraged?! Why?!

Turning her head around to scowl at Gavin, she hissed, “Of course you would do such an insane thing and risk your life!!”

Nines felt both relieved and enraged one he heard her vehement proclamation. On one hand, he felt that it was definitely good that Carrie was reacting in such a heated manner. It meant that she was indeed concerned for her son’s sake, but at the same time, wasn’t a parent supposed to be proud, exultant, and highly elated knowing that their child was something of a hero worthy of utmost praise and value?? Again, humans had amazed him, and he could only gape as Carrie continued to harass Gavin.

Even Gavin seemed weary of his mother’s execrable outburst, but he held himself together well as she ranted on.

“And what if you got yourself killed? Hmm??” she sneered menacingly. “What then, Gavin?!”

“For fuck’s sake,” Gavin groused at the peak of his annoyance, “I had a bulletproof vest on, mom! Jesus!”

“It doesn’t matter; you still risked your own life to save a machine?!”

That seemed to be Gavin’s breaking point. Nines literally saw the human male biting his tongue as he scanned him quickly. Yes, the long, wet body part had been wedged painfully and tightly between Gavin’s upper and lower rows of teeth, and his entire body went rigid as he focused on Carrie.

Again, Nines felt as if he didn’t matter; as if he wasn’t even in the room there with them.

“To think that you would be so screwed up in the head, Gavin, that you would betray everything you supposedly hated and for what?!” she shrieked at him pathetically. “For what?! Hmm? Isn’t this hypocritical, even for you?”

Backing away from her a little when she stretched out her neck and took a rather aggressive stance, Gavin hissed, “What’re you talkin’ about?”

Waving at Nines while still glaring at her own son, Carrie spat, “He is an android! He is the very thing that god damn woman’s rotten son created, and yet here you are running around saving them?!?” Laughing a pained, dry laugh, she took off her glasses, blinked a few times, and peered at Gavin as though she was just seeing him for the first time in her entire life. “You traitor…” she shook her head at him, “…you’re a god damn unbelievable traitor to choose something that whore of a woman’s bastard child created!!”

Gasping as he held a hand to his chest, Gavin wheezed, “No I’m not!! I’m not!!”

That was it. Nines knew that he had to intervene, now. He knew that Carrie was more than likely going to start yelling and screaming at him for it, and Gavin would likely throw a fit, himself, but he refused to just sit there like a useless dummy when Gavin’s mother was berating him, belittling him, degrading him, and verbally abusing him.

No. This wouldn’t continue.

Standing up quicker than he thought he would’ve, Nines held out a hand towards Gavin. “I think Gavin needs some air, Dr. Moser,” he suggested more like a declaration, and she wisely and sharply caught onto that.

“You can’t just decide what my son needs or doesn’t need!” She chuckled sarcastically, her eyes sweeping up along Nines’ form, “You two aren’t married…yet.”

Ignoring the way her eyes glinted dangerously, Nines still kept a hand out before Gavin, silently beckoning him. “I think we should let Gavin decide for himself, don’t you agree?”

While Nines and Carrie silently stared on at Gavin, the detective knew who was deliberately trying to pressure him, and who wasn’t. This wasn’t even a matter of strictly obeying just because he was biologically tied to someone; he’d already made his mind up.

Rising to his feet, he stood around the coffee table, and he joined Nines at his side. As he stood next to the android, Carrie Moser merely laughed as she tilted her head back, crossed one leg over the other, and folded her arms over her chest. “So you two are just going to what? Leave me here?” she tsked, “what lovely hosts.”

Gavin clearly still wanted to remain on the side of ‘hospitable’ and ‘kind’. While he wasn’t overly happy and joyous, he wasn’t channeling all his rage and anger towards his mother, either. He simply stared down at her coldly and neutrally as he responded, “It’s better if we go out; we need food for tonight, anyway.”

Clasping her hands together, Carrie nodded as her jaw dropped. “Oooh yes!” she exclaimed in awe, “I forgot that money’s tough to come by these days, and perhaps shacking up with a creature that doesn’t need to eat and drink is less of a financial burden, isn’t it Gavin?” She was smirking and grinning like the Devil, and Gavin couldn’t put up with it any longer.

Backing away, he threw out softly, “We’ll be back soon, but if you want to take a walk, yourself, maybe you should—”

“Relax,” Carrie retorted, digging into her school bag as she pulled out a silver Macintosh laptop. “I have to work as I’m here, and that’s why I can’t stay more than a day at the most.” Setting up her laptop on the coffee table, she then waved her hands at them as she grunted, “Shoo shoo, then!”

“Glad to,” Gavin spat, and in an instant, he’d turned around and marched off into the hallway so he could put on his shoes.

While he hurriedly put them on, Nines craned his head down, and he tried coming up with something that was still on the edge of decent to Carrie. But he struggled with it; this woman wasn’t a pleasant individual to be around and entertain, and once he’d made up his mind about someone, he found it quite the challenge to change his opinions and views.

Carrie Moser for now was set in an irreversible path…a path she’d no doubt carved, chiseled, and paved for herself.

Still, Nines wished she had some redeeming qualities, but he decided to visit that topic another time, another day.

All he could do was bow his head in obeisance as he followed Gavin out the door.

However, before he could try to leave, he heard Carrie call out to him to get him to stop.

“Oh Nines?” she almost sang in a childish way, and he really had to force himself to stop and look at her.

When their eyes met, a sadistic smile grew upon her face, and she suddenly seemed so lively and a bit younger.

Never ceasing to smile, she heartily laughed out, “Do you happen to know the Wi-Fi password by any chance?”

Chapter Text

Gavin was simply relieved to finally be out of the apartment and away from his mother’s scorn and garrulous talk. Her foolish words still haunted him, but he was considerably more relaxed once he was physically out of the apartment, so Nines took notice of. Gavin was practically bolting down the steps to the parking lot of the fancy apartment complex, descending two steps at a time. Upon being outside, he inhaled many breaths of fresh air while the wind whistled past his ears.

Nines stood by and simply observed him, swallowing down his harsh words and contempt for Carrie Moser that had steadily built up since he’d met her.

Not wanting to be watched all day long, Gavin propped his messy bangs back as he asked, “What should we do now?” He knew that while he was a grown man capable of being in charge of handling his own affairs and making his own well-informed decisions, he’d still asked Nines, and it was far too late to retract that statement now that it’d wavered freely in the air between them.

Somewhat despondent, Nines swiftly replied, “Lunch, Detective?”

Right.

Nodding, Gavin didn’t wish to cease showing Nines deference. “I guess,” he sighed softly, shifting his feet about awkwardly. The detective was aware of the android’s calm, blue eyes dancing in the low afternoon light, but it didn’t aid in Gavin’s tongue loosening anytime soon. He breathed with mild caution in the back of his throat, “Is there some place within walking distance?” When Nines clearly threw him a look that seemed to warrant another explanation, Gavin relented, “I swear, I’m just not in the mood to drive right now.”

A massive, burning hand caught him by the elbow, gentle and guiding. “I understand, Detective,” Nines stated calmly as he held a penitent gaze in his eyes. “I know a rather good place just a block away, but it’s a Cantonese take-out shop.”

There was no requirement for the place they obtained their food from to be ornate and superb. As long as they got something, it was good enough for Gavin, especially considering how the shorter man had lived majority of his young adult life eating and consuming more carbs than he should have.

“That’s fine,” Gavin was quick to dart out as he stifled the instinct to jump or pull away when he felt how strong Nines’ hand was on his shoulder. While he allowed Nines to guide him away from the parking lot, he added as he blinked quickly, averting his eyes, “Even if it was a European circus serving popcorn on elephant asses, I’d go for it any damn day.”

Upon hearing the acrid statement, Nines chose to ignore the feisty comment as he led the way onward. Gavin didn’t say much else as he played with his dark wallet. For nearly a full minute, they walked side by side in silence, enjoying the crispy weather when Gavin suddenly frowned deeply.

Falling back a little, he hissed thinly, “Oh, good job back there blurting out all that unnecessary bullshit to my mom.” Giving the tall android a thumbs-up that was purely sarcastic, he finished bitingly, “Way to go, Nines.”

Nines wasn’t entirely as fluent in the language of sarcasm as Gavin happened to be, but he still knew when the petulant man was dishing out his fair share of it. After all, Nines had had already two years of observing how Gavin behaved almost six days a week for eight hours per day. He was rather accustomed to all the behavior patterns by now.

“I don’t appreciate the condescending jab at my expense, Reed,” Nines snarled as he walked slowly, hoping that the words would seep into Gavin’s head for once.

As their shoes crunched down on brown and orange dried-up leaves that had long since fallen and withered away, the clouds above were gently blown back and forth in the vast, cerulean sky. A few times, the sun was covered, only to reemerge when the wind blew once again.

Gavin snorted, “Well, I didn’t appreciate you tellin’ her all that anyway, you know!!”

Still advancing slowly, Nines retorted, “Well, then for the next time, Reed, why don’t you be faster to provide a more sagacious response, then?”

“Oh, I will!” Gavin roared practically, and as he purposefully slammed his shoulder into Nines’ in an attempt at stopping the android’s words from stinging, he also added, “not like there will be a next time, anyway!!”

Nines hoped not as well.

Trying to knock into Nines again, Gavin slammed his other shoulder back into the android’s powerful sternum, but it was a foolish attempt. Nines had already resumed his rapid walking pace, his wide gait troublesome for Gavin to keep up with for long. Though he tried as he broke out into a tiny jog, Gavin found himself falling behind rather quickly.

Damn Nines and his long, long legs!!!

With a sigh and a strong burst of speed put forth, he pushed off both feet and just barely managed to tap on Nines’ broad back when he was close enough. It caught the stern android’s attention, and as he stopped moving, he turned to offer Gavin a most annoyed scowl. Gavin flinched before he gathered his guts and nerves.

Oh, how he’d wanted to say just exactly what was currently spinning around in his mind like a tornado to Nines right then and there, but his barriers and defense mechanisms abruptly prevented it from happening.

Switching gears, he glared down at the black Poet shirt instead, and hissed sharply, “Why’re you wearin’ that thing again?!”

Shrugging his hand off his shoulder once he’d taken in the crude words, Nines grunted dully, “I don’t have to answer to you, Reed.” As he resumed walking, he came upon a crosswalk and paused, waiting for the damn ‘walk’ symbol and signals to flash. It seemed to take forever as the traffic drove on by, the loud sounds of tires and engines drowning out his thoughts.

While Gavin stood a few inches away, he nodded over at a few cars and cyclists, “Nines, people are starin’ at you…”

“Well spotted, Reed,” Nines’ lips and mouth hardly moved as he bit out, “I don’t care, though.”

Stepping away from him gradually so there was enough room between their bodies, Gavin blushed, “Well, I do!! I’m gonna be seen with you, and people are gonna think that I’m hanging out with a damn weirdo!”

“Then you’re more than welcome to act as if I don’t exist, Reed,” came Nines’ stern suggestion, and a second later, the ‘walk’ symbol appeared beneath the traffic lights.

Surreptitiously fidgeting with his clothing, Gavin strode over along as well, though he still kept his distance from Nines as if the android had some sort of strange, highly contagious disease. Well, if Gavin wanted to think of him in such a lowly manner, he was more than welcome to it, Nines supposed.

Even though he was very well aware of the curious and judgmental glares he was receiving, Nines walked on straight ahead with his head held high. After all, he wasn’t some depraved lunatic running around the streets of Detroit! He was just choosing to dress in an entirely new style, and if people wished to gape openly at him for it, so be it.

His audio receptors caught the sounds of Gavin’s footsteps reluctantly following him all the way up until Nines stood and gestured to his left to point at a partly open door. Gavin then completely stopped as well.

Swallowing anxiously while he hoped no one was really watching them, Gavin gazed at the establishment they were stopped in front of. It was a shop that rested and stood between a pawn shop and an old pet store. Nodding at the sign above notifying the public that the store was indeed open, Gavin muttered resentfully, “This is it, huh?”

Nines only sneered. “You can wait out here if you’re still embarrassed to be seen around me.” Not wanting to admit it, but the fact that he’d vocalized what he was certain Gavin was going to be doing seemed to sting within himself even more. How decadent!

Rolling his eyes as means of a nonverbal response, Gavin snapped moodily as he opened the door, “You won’t know what to order, so I’m coming with you.”

“Fine.”

As they both walked inside, they both found the place to be completely empty, thankfully. Asian letters, drawings, art, and décor had been placed all around the shop, and gentle Asian music played on the radio. Steam and sweet-smelling odors flocked around Gavin and Nines, and as the short detective’s mouth watered in need, he stood himself before the front counter. There wasn’t a single soul in sight, but that didn’t deter Gavin. Peeking down, he saw a tiny, golden bell resting between two golden fire-breathing dragons, and he tapped the bell gingerly with his middle finger once.

One meek chime rang out, but it apparently wasn’t nearly enough to garner attention.

Damn.

Tapping the bell one more time, Gavin cleared his throat, hoping someone would show up, now.

Nines sighed, “Why don’t you call for someone, Reed?”

Resisting the urge to shove Nines away, Gavin stammered out weakly, “H-hello?!”

Nines glared at the back of Gavin’s head. If looks could kill.

“Hello?” Gavin called out one final time while also praying this would be the last of it. Very soon, he gave up as he shrugged, “Guess there’s no one home, come on.”

Before he could turn away completely, Nines’ arm shot out suddenly, and he slammed the palm of his right hand directly down over the bell. A most loud, abrasive chime echoed and sounded then, and Gavin felt his cheeks and neck beginning to heat up.

“That wasn’t necessary, you total dork!” he reproached, though the intractable android at his side didn’t seem to pay his insult any mind.

Ignoring him, Nines again reached for the small bell. “Someone’s got to muster up the courage, Detective,” came the sibilant jab at his shyness.

This time, he shoved Nines as hard as he could while hissing dangerously, “Don’t do that again!”

“Ahh!! Hello there, gentlemen!!” A soft-but excited voice rang out to them so suddenly that Gavin leapt back. Nines however remained calm, so much that Gavin eyed the languid, tall android with a hint of envy and resentment in his eyes burning fiercely.

As Gavin broke away from Nines, the stoic android accepted the move with equanimity. Both Gavin and Nines were staring on as they saw an Asian man of perhaps Japanese ethnicity standing on the other side of the counter. He wasn’t any taller than Gavin, but he seemed to be far more amicable than the moody, sour detective. He had a white hairnet on, a yellow and orange stained apron over his torso, as well as clean white gloves on his hands. He had a black, short goatee, and dark brown eyes that were rather gentle and welcoming.

Realizing he’d been standing there doing nothing but gaping and gawking oddly, Gavin’s thoughts ran messily as his breaths came out undulating, slightly. Trying to coax some kind of a different and far less mortifying reaction out of himself in the hopes that he would snap out of his ogling, Gavin rubbed and wiped his hands over his jeans as he awkwardly said, “Umm, yeah, do y-you happen to have a s-special deal of the day or anything?” He knew this sounded rather thrifty and cheap, but he wasn’t exactly wallowing in money and luxurious riches for that matter, either.

The short Asian man nodded, and then smiled, revealing a mouth full of braces strewn over pearly white teeth. “Today is only Chicken Chow Mein!!” he guffawed in zeal, and Gavin and Nines merely stared at each other blankly.

Blinking once, Gavin stated, “I’ll go with that…please…”

The Oriental man got to work immediately, rushing to the back of the kitchen behind the counter to begin cooking. In an instant, however, he was abruptly stopped. A tiny, pale hand shot out, and like a deadly viper, one of its bony fingers pinched the chef’s right ear until it turned pink.

“Ayi yi yi yi!!! Grandma!!” squealing, he whined out his protests like a scorned child, and he was dragged back out towards the counter.

At his side was an elderly Asian woman with long grey and black hair tied back in a tight bun. Bits of her hair fell out in some small tendrils when she bowed her head at Nines and Gavin in obeisance. As she held onto the younger man, he resisted her and struggled a few more times, but ceased struggling when she threw him a serious glare.

“Oh, I apologize!” he quickly spoke out to Gavin and Nines. “I forgot to ask how many people I’ll be cooking for!!” Hoping this was good enough, he winced as he stared at the woman currently holding onto his ear in a death-like grip.

Uncomfortably, Gavin replied, “Err, two…”

As soon as this response had been delivered, the older woman yanked on the young man’s ear one last before she reluctantly let him go. While lowering her voice conspiratorially, she hissed out a stream of sibilant terse words in Japanese, Gavin supposed. Aiming them all at the young chef, she shook her head dismissively at him as he raced back into the kitchen. At once, as the door swung widely open, both Gavin and Nines saw the image of a young Asian girl smiling at them. She was wearing a pink, fuzzy sweater, and her clean, shiny black hair had been braided in one long braid. Giggling in excitement, she tore away from the doorway, but before she disappeared completely, Gavin and Nines caught the unmistakable round LED light spinning brightly blue on her right temple.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“Do you suppose your mother is suffering right now in pure boredom?” Nines asked while Gavin played with a small potted plant near one of the store windows. The dour detective was currently seated on a red stool as he stared on dully ahead, hardly having heard Nines until the annoyed android repeated his concern importunately.

Gavin only shrugged, but he should have known it wouldn’t assuage the android’s curiosity in the slightest.

“You should answer,” Nines chided him, “she’s your mother; not some stranger we picked up off the street.”

This wasn’t a matter he felt he could expiate for in regard to his apparent offense...not so easily, it seemed. Letting the plant’s leaves go, Gavin sighed out at the clean windows, “Knowing my mom, she likely is working on her next book for the University.”

Nines raked his eyes heavenward. “Publish or perish, yes,” he nodded as he understood. “Is she currently on sabbatical?”

“Kinda,” came the coaxed reply out of Gavin in a gentle way, but it was so the chef or anyone else wouldn’t hear their conversation. “She teaches part-time, but she usually does more research,” he admitted openly as Nines listened intently and quite carefully.

Assuming that the not-so-maternal Dr. Moser was somehow ‘entertaining’ herself this way, Nines awaited the food as steam rose steadily out of the kitchen in tiny waves and clouds.

“Smells good,” Gavin commented as he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

Nines turned to watch as the expert chef pan-fried the chow mein noodles by tossing and turning them about in the dark pan while he added and mixed in some soy sauce. Then, he topped many tender slices of chicken breast over it, followed by fresh, crisp vegetables. It all sizzled and steamed nicely while he worked and slightly swayed his hips, clearly enjoying himself tremendously.

The observant android knew they’d been waiting almost half an hour so far. The chef appeared to nearly be done, and the elderly woman he’d referred to as ‘grandma’ kept smiling politely the entire time. The android child was nowhere in sight, however, and Gavin was truly curious about her.

As he scented pure sesame oil about wafting in the stuffy air, Gavin tried acting casual as he leaned next to Nines and whispered, “Do you think that girl’s his daughter, by the way?”

Knowing he was obviously referring to the chef, Nines softly supplied, “Your guess is as good as mine, Reed.”

“Hmm,” Gavin only hummed in the way of contributing to the conversation, and he stopped thinking about it when the chef shut off the stove and poured in the remaining tablespoon of salt into the skillet of food.

Fingers and hands wiggling as if he was performing a magic trick, he added and decorated the two cartons holding the noodles now with a lovely mixture of celery, carrots, bean sprouts, chopped slices of onions, shredded green onions, and gave the food one last stir and shake before he added the steaming chicken into the cartons last on top of the noodles.

Nines made his way towards the counter just as the chef reappeared from the kitchen, and this time, the child android’s curious dark eyes could be seen as she beamed at Nines from behind ‘grandma’.

Placing the food cartons into two separate white plastic bags neatly, the chef headed to a small fridge in the left-hand corner away from the counter, and as he opened it, he asked loudly, “What drink you want, guys?”

They had a choice, it seemed, as part of the daily special.

Gavin shrugged indecisively as he scratched the back of his head. Finally, he coughed out uncomfortably, “Water, I guess.”

Two bottles of cold water were then slid up over the top of the counter beside the bags of food.

“Thank you,” Nines gratefully spoke. “I’m sure it’ll be delectable.” It was an odd statement to make considering how he wouldn’t be able to eat it himself, but the chef didn’t seem to pick up on that inconsistency.

As though Nines’ polite statement hardly mattered at all, the chef held out his hand expectantly as he grunted, “You pay money, now?”

A brutally harsh slap was instantly delivered across the back of the chef’s skull, then.

“Yaaaaaaaiiiieeeee!!” he screamed painfully while flinching and taking cover, “grandmaaaa!!”

Snarky Asian words flew out of her mouth by way of stern warnings for a full minute before she turned and smiled at both Nines and Gavin, appearing to be such a sweet old lady, suddenly.

With a small blush in his cheeks, the chef apologized, “Sorry sirs,” he cleared his throat while the android girl skipped away into the back. Bashfully, he asked, “How would you like to pay?”

Gently opening his wallet, Gavin fished out two twenties and pushed them into Nines’ hand, clearly communicating that he didn’t want deal with this any longer.

All too eagerly, Nines paid for the meal up front with the cash, and he bowed his head respectfully at both shop owners.

“Good day,” he said briskly to them gently, and just as Gavin had been about to head back out into the street, the Asian chef abruptly coughed out, trying to get their attention at the very last minute.

It worked.

A light brown eyebrow quirked up as Nines hummed deeply, “Yes?”

Clearly having been forced into doing this, the chef’s face held all the discomfort on Earth as he grinned painfully. It was only a pantomime of mere happiness, however.

“Fortune cookie?” Holding up the three wrapped cookies in his hands, he added, “One for you, too!!”

Nines found he couldn’t refuse.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

To say that dinner had been ‘awkward’ was the understatement of the century, truly.

Carrie complained that the tablecloth of the tiny vampire bats flying about was nothing but childish and silly, so she opted instead for eating her meal at the coffee table. It seemed to suit Gavin just fine, and the thirty-eight-year-old ate his own meal at the kitchen table-as far away from his mother as possible.

Not entirely comfortable with leaving the woman alone, Nines sat on the same chair resting next to the sofa and tried initiating a conversation with Carrie. Of course, it was damn near impossible to do that when Carrie watched videos on her laptop and read through articles instead of even regarding Nines.

Pulling teeth would be easier, it seemed.

The android still displayed how patient he could be throughout such a hardship, and he only spoke when Carrie’s last video ended.

Smiling widely at her, he inquired gently, “Is the food any good?”

“Very nice,” was the eventual verdict as the older woman pushed her noodles around with a plastic fork.

Still wanting to engage her further to be a good host, Nines asked, “It’s to your liking? That’s good to hear—”

Cutting him off quickly, Carrie hissed, “I’m not convinced just by one visit, you know.”

It was time to cut the bullshit, it seemed.

“What’ll it take for you to approve, Dr.?” He knew Gavin was listening in quite intently despite being in the other room. It didn’t matter; he spoke loudly and clearly enough so Gavin could hear everything.

Carried chuckled in amusement. “A very forward and upfront person, huh?” Continuously snickering in a most sinister way while the corners of her eyes wrinkled, she concluded, “that’s rather refreshing of you, Nines.”

Not caring to hear more of her nasty, pointed comments, Nines hissed, “I want to live with Gavin and make him happy each day.”

“Not good enough, Nines,” Carrie’s barbed retort slammed into the air, and as Gavin stood and gazed at them from the space between the living room and the kitchen, Carrie stared at her fork while winding some more thick noodles onto the prongs. Holding it up before her own eyes, she smiled a rather demented version of a smile as she said, “I’ll return in the spring, because I’m actually seriously willing to give you a chance.”

Practically climbing wildly over his own feet, Gavin stumbled up to his own mother as he cried out vehemently, “Spring?! Why so long?!”

Sensing that the detective was timorous enough as it was, Nines only hoped with all his might that Carrie would be a bit merciful in granting him a wise response to his question that would set things on a clearer path…if there was one.

However, Carrie’s imperious manner had already done well to intimidate her son, and it seemed she was dead set on continuously vilifying Gavin to her heart’s content.

Motioning at him while eyeing Nines rather sternly as if he were her bratty son instead, she spat, “I believe time here will only determine if this is all a crock of shit you two are trying to feed me, or if it’s something genuine.”

A rather wistful smile was upon Nines’ face, then. “I understand, Dr. Moser.”

“I think this is garbage!!” Gavin profusely screamed as he bunched up his fists tightly. “This is—”

“This is me giving you a chance,” Carrie interjected quickly and harshly, and it did well to silence her vitriolic son immediately as his mouth snapped shut and pressed into a thin line.

Once it remained silent, Carrie waved at Nines, “Look, I don’t know why, but something’s very fishy here, and I’m not going to allow Gavin to sign off the papers, meet with his dad’s attorney, and just hand over everything that easily.” Crossing her legs, she whispered, “No, I’m sorry, but I’ll return in the spring as I said before, and I’m done discussing and bargaining with you on this subject, Gavin.”

The argument was finished even before it started, and while Gavin could only stand back and fume in silence as he boiled beet red in the face and neck, Carrie grabbed her small fortune cookie. Cracking and breaking it in amusement, she cried out in zeal as her eyes went wide.

“Let’s see your fortune, then!!” Waving her paper around in the air once the two halves of her cookie had fallen apart, she read out to them, “Mine says: ‘Love and live each day anew, appreciate the youthfulness in the soul, as sometimes your path relies on the bridges of smiles others create for you!”

Turning to Gavin, then, she leaned to the side, staring past him into the kitchen. “Well, Gavin?!” she snorted, “what does your fortune cookie tell you?”

This time, it wasn’t just Gavin who was raging internally; Nines was on the brink of exploding as well, but he had to contain and conceal it as best as he could when Carrie sighed and blinked at him in faux innocence.

Grinning, she sighed, “I do wonder what an android could possibly want for good fortune…” Eyes glinting with malice, she spat, “Oh, do tell, Nines…”

Chapter Text

Both Carrie Moser and Gavin had left Nines’ apartment that same night after supper. Carrie stated she had to gather more things for her research and prepare for her lectures, and Gavin-while on the edge of rage-merely told Nines that he had to go back to living as he normally did, and he had to take care of his cats.

Of course, the pensive android didn’t stop Gavin from doing whatever he pleased. He wasn’t one to force anyone into anything, but he held a lot of questions for Gavin now that he’d met Carrie Moser. The woman was truly an enigmatic beast of a creation, and while Nines abhorred the idea of wanting to get to know more about her, he found it was a topic that was rather difficult to avoid. If he wanted to help Gavin, he found he had to know about Carrie Moser quite well.

Unfortunately, Gavin wasn’t in a ‘talking mood’.

When he’d bolted from Nines’ apartment that night, the android had foolishly thought that like many times in the past when he’d been upset, Gavin Reed would supposedly go off somewhere in the comforts of his own security and privacy, wait it all out, stew a bit, and then return when he was in ‘better spirits’.

Of course, he’d been wrong for the first time in a while.

Unpredictable as ever, Gavin didn’t ‘come back’ to him. He’d left a lot of his personal stuff in Nines’ apartment, and he didn’t seem to care enough or show enough concern to even ask for them back. It surprised and stymied Nines for a while, and when they were to return back to work, Nines figured he would approach the angry detective and inquire about his personal items.

It was absolutely horrendous.

Yes, Nines had respected Gavin enough to give him his own personal time and space, but again, human unpredictability had weighed in greater than Nines’ unique strengths and state of the art powers in this case. Nothing he said or did was effective and ‘decent’, it seemed.

When he’d approached Gavin’s desk on Wednesday, Gavin immediately began ‘working’. Answering phone calls, booking meetings, checking his files and documents, the detective suddenly had no time at all to even wave at him.

Well, work came first, and Nines respected that enough, so he vowed to try the following day…only that hadn’t worked, either.

Gavin was still ‘busy’, it seemed, but he was also growing a tad more aggressive each day that Nines tried isolating him to talk and just check up on him. At first, Gavin merely avoided him or would clearly head in the opposite direction if he saw Nines approaching. But after another day of this pattern of behavior not yielding the results he’d wanted, Gavin took to really being rude and distasteful towards Nines.

After Friday, Nines ruefully decided to back off a little, but he chose instead to reach out to Gavin through text. Perhaps that would aid in coaxing some response out of the moody, grumpy detective, Nines hoped.

On Saturday afternoon, Nines merely composed a simple greeting consisting of:

RK900, 1:19 p.m.

Good afternoon, Reed. How are you?

Of course, there’d been crickets on the other end, and after five hours of waiting around for a reply, Nines decided to try again.

RK900, 6:22 p.m.

I don’t mean to pester you, Reed, but I’m a bit worried because you haven’t said a word to me all week, and a lot of your personal items are still taking up space in my home. Would you like to come by and retrieve them? Please do let me know, but there’s no rush, and I won’t be throwing them out at all. I’ll keep them all here for you until you choose to drop in at your own time and leisure.

Take care.

Thinking that this sincere, polite message would definitely warrant some kind of a reply, Nines actually found himself sitting down on a chair while staring at his phone. Whenever it would try to go to sleep to conserve energy, he would tap it and make sure it remained brightly lit.

Gavin would text any minute, now.

…..

But he didn’t.

Checking the time, Nines supposed that Gavin could’ve been eating, so he gave the man another hour before he tried another text.

RK900, 7:31 p.m.

Are any of my messages being sent? Please do let me know.

Hoping he wasn’t being bothersome, Nines checked his phone constantly, but it seemed like this message was also being ignored…until his phone alerted him to an incoming new text, and Nines sat up straightly as he glued his eyes fixedly onto the screen.

He found however that what was there wasn’t exactly what he’d been dying to read after many hours of waiting nervously in silence while also trying to be respectful.

Detective Reed, 7:34 p.m.

stop fuckin textin me.

Well…that wasn’t lovely to read, and it set Nines off already in a foul mood.

Texting back quickly with a glare in his eyes and a red LED light, he mentally went over his previous text messages, and he couldn’t see how any of them were bad, rude, disrespectful, or even annoying. He was just concerned and wanted to help!!!

Making sure his next response indicated and reflected that, he went over the message twice before hitting ‘send’.

RK900, 7:39 p.m.

I hope I’m not being rude, Detective, but I just want to know of your plans as far as your belongings are concerned, because a week has gone by and you haven’t communicated with me what you wish to do with them.

Just let me know and I’ll stop bothering you.

That was it!! Maybe it would all be clear, now.

…..

Except, it wasn’t, and Gavin’s next text showed that as majority of the spelling errors and caps lock words seemed to indicate a lot of heated and angry emotions had been poured forth into composing the message rather than calm, rational thought.

Detective Reed, 7:41 p.m.

get lost alrdy u peece of plastic shit,i dont want tooo talk, so gett tht thru ur thicc brain!

With a sigh, Nines texted back hurriedly.

RK900, 7:42 p.m.

So you’d prefer it if I threw out your items, then?

He knew he had no right to do that, and threatening Gavin was just plain wrong, but he couldn’t help but feel his own personal feelings and emotions already stirring and becoming involved in this when nothing seemed to want to sink into Gavin’s thick head.

Continuing when there hadn’t been another response, Nines ranted on, completely lost to his rising and increasing anger and contempt.

RK900, 7:46 p.m.

I don’t want to threaten you, but try putting yourself in my shoes for once! Upon such short notice, I agreed to ‘marry you’, and I let you rearrange practically everything in my house to better suit your needs and purposes. I allowed your mother to arrive on such short notice as well, and she was nothing but rude, short-tempered, childish, and selfish, yet I put up with it, Reed! I don’t have an issue with any of that, as I somehow already knew and accepted that it would come along with the ‘task’ set upon me, but what I really don’t wish to accept is how rude and cold you’re being when I’m still trying to make things as painless for the both of us as possible. Either way, whatever you decide to do, I’d like to know about it. I still want to help you in any way I can, but I’m not a mind reader. You have to talk to me and tell me what you want me to do, otherwise, I’m at a loss for words.

Just talk to me, Reed. Tell me what’s on your mind, and I will try to accommodate it and help you.

While that was slightly on the edge of ‘begging’, it had been composed and sent directly from the ‘heart’. In the past, Nines had always thought that ‘speaking from the heart’ was a silly, archaic terminology that had to be entirely and completely removed from the list of English words and phrases to use, but when he was placed in such a tight corner such as this, he felt it was appropriate to say that and appeal to Gavin’s ‘good nature’. He hoped the man would finally understand him now and see ‘eye-to-eye’. Gavin definitely would if it was all kept ‘real’ and genuine, and Nines considered himself as ‘real’ and as ‘genuine’ as the definition of the terms could be.

He held a lot of high hopes for a good response and a positive turnabout now, and as he sat back smiling and eagerly waiting to move on to the next productive steps with Gavin, he took a moment to congratulate himself on finally empathizing like a master when it came to handling a human being. He’d seen Connor doing that a lot before, and for the first year of his time spent at the DPD, Nines didn’t entirely understand what it meant to show empathy and compassion. As he slipped further and further into deviancy and as his software instability increased exponentially as time went on, he could finally grasp at least a little of what Connor had described and boasted about experiencing to him many times.

Now, he was finally ‘one’ with people; ‘one’ with his emotions.

The phone buzzed, then; Gavin was still responding!!

Gazing down at the words, as he read through each of them, Nines’ smile crashed and burned.

Detective Reed, 7:58 p.m.

holy shit, if ur dun with ur stupid rant, how about i tell you wat i really want! wat i want first of all is to clear out the smel of cat barf and piss becuz i spent like 3 hours cleanin it out now that my cats r usd 2 peeing everywher an i hav 2 clean it always when i get home thanks to forgetting it al becuz of u!

Apparently, the detective really was livid, for he quickly sent another broken, chopped text, and they kept on coming one right after another, each of them stabbing Nines in the thirium pump more and more, deeper and deeper.

Detective Reed, 8:00 p.m.

afer tht, i want fr u too get fuked in the worst of wayd, and i want to shove my foot in ur ass until u can tast my laces!

Detective Reed, 8:01 p.m.

srsly i hate u, Nines! fuck u! fuck u!!!

And to top it all off in a classy, elegant way, Gavin sent a middle finger emoji.

Something in Nines snapped as he read over the last two text messages. He had no idea what he was feeling, and he certainly had no idea what he was even doing. All he knew was that he was faced with a sudden potent wave of anger and vitriol unlike any he’d ever experienced, and he needed to lash out to make his own rage as miniscule as possible.

Holding his phone strongly in both hands, he growled deeply, “So that’s your answer, then?! That’s how you feel about it?”

Rage overpowered him, and only one objective remained before his burning eyes.

Humiliate Gavin Reed; make him feel just as small and just as embarrassed.

He’d typed the next words without even thinking about it, and that had taken on an entirely new, darker aura around the conversation.

RK900, 8:05 p.m.

Fuck me? Very well, Reed. Are you offering?

There was a long pause before Gavin-thinking that Nines was bluffing-replied aggressively.

Detective Reed, 8:12 p.m.

bullshit, Nines, ur a pussy chickenshit. U wouldnt do that shit.

As his eyebrows rose, Nines was already working on the next response.

RK900, 8:13 p.m.

I’m dead serious, Reed. Set a time and place aside, and I’ll show you just what I can do to you.

On one hand, Nines meant this as a double-entendre for a threat of violence, perhaps, but Gavin didn’t seem to be reading it that way at all.

Detective Reed, 8:15 p.m.

u fuckin sicko, if u even touch me, ill report u to fowler.

RK900, 8:16 p.m.

Why so hasty to decline? Are you scared you actually might enjoy it?

Detective Reed, 8:18 p.m.

r u srs, Nines?>!?

He grinned dangerously as he nodded, even though Gavin couldn’t see it.

RK900, 8:20 p.m.

I said I’m damn serious, Reed. You know my address, and there’s a bed here. Your call.

Detective Reed, 8:22 p.m.

Nah, ur lying.

RK900, 8:22 p.m.

I assure you, I’m not. I can even show you how much this is affecting me by sending you a photo if you want…

Detective Reed, 8:23 p.m.

U god damn pervert…

That was the exact moment when Nines had to snap himself awake and turn away from his phone.

What the fuck was he doing?! What the fuck was he saying to Gavin?!

Reading through the conversation history, Nines was mortified to see that the amatory direction the chat had gone in was mostly his own doing and his own responsibility!! Gavin was just venting and ranting, and Nines had allowed him to goad him into a stupid childish word squabble of who was the bigger man, and who could dish out the harsher threats?!? Why had he done this?! How could he sit there and claim to be above humans and far more superior to them when he was just as lowly and just as bad?!

Beyond all this, he had made Gavin feel uncomfortable, and he was more than positive the petrified man was going to report this to Captain Fowler. Yes, he had every right to do so, because Nines knew and accepted that he had behaved erratically and had gone far out of line and far out of order. He never should have spoken this way to Gavin, much else, anyone he worked with!! The lines of ‘professionalism’ had now been terribly blurred, crossed, and completely annihilated, and it was all his own doing! How was he to even look at Gavin in the eyes, now?! It would be impossible!!!

Still, the selfish and more ‘machine’ side of Nines hoped and prayed that Gavin would be too scared to report anything to Captain Fowler, but the threat was there even in the conversation.

Not wanting to look at it anymore, Nines navigated to the top right-hand corner of the screen, and he selected ‘delete chat history’. Tapping it once resolutely like a judge pounding the gavel down, he’d made his choice; the conversation had to go.

And it was gone in a few seconds, and Nines turned off his phone. He would deal with whatever Gavin had in store for him come Monday, he supposed.

It was strange, though.

While the conversation had been completely erased from his phone, it stood out in his mind as clear as day.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Gavin wasn’t at all surprised when he discovered that Nines had blocked his number. The detective learned of it when the following Monday at work during his break, he tried randomly calling Nines. He’d only done so when he noticed that Nines was purposefully avoiding him this time, and he’d made his mind to pick his belongings up from Nines’ apartment. As a few of his rings went through, after the fourth one, he heard an automated voice telling him that the person he’d been trying to reach wasn’t taking any calls at the moment.

It was a clear message, and due to the absurd conversation they’d had on Saturday, Gavin found he was more relieved than upset. This wasn’t an ex who’d blocked him on their phone, social media accounts, and lives. This was Nines, and he realized Nines had never conceded anything he chose to do at any point, despite Gavin’s own stern stipulations. Perhaps to Nines, they weren’t stipulations, but more like complaints and demands, but to Gavin, they were crucial and requirements.

Still, he didn’t exactly feel thrilled and want to get up and dance on his desk knowing he was blocked. Nines still had a lot of his personal stuff, and he wanted them back! Now that his apartment was clean and free of cat vomit and piss, he had room for his new belongings…kind of. Gavin at least desired to decorate his apartment for Halloween, which was literally half a week away, now. The day fell on a Sunday specifically, which would mean Gavin could be home for the occasion, but the unfortunate part was that it was somewhat difficult to enjoy Halloween in an apartment.

Gavin actually enjoyed handing out candy to children, for they often would come up with cool costume ideas every year as a mark of their creativity and bright, young imaginative minds. He only wanted to take a part in that creativity, but he couldn’t exactly see children running up and down stairwells or taking elevators throughout apartment complexes knocking on doors of every floor to ask for candy…this certainly sucked. Still, that didn’t mean celebrating Halloween was entirely out of the question, and he’d managed to celebrate it in his own special way…

Well, that usually involved being with someone else, at the very least.

All the other years during the holiday, he’d been with girlfriends or relatives. That made it all fun and so much better than being alone in his apartment like some crud just sitting on his couch and watching horror flicks until some unholy hour in the morning the next day.

…Sometimes alcohol had been involved as well if he was alone, and that was specifically the reason why Gavin preferred spending these moments around someone else who could distract him from relying on such means.

But who did he have, now?!

His mother was gone, he had no girlfriends, his cousins and relatives lived in different states, and he was pretty sure Tina didn’t want to really talk to him after their drunken encounter…but perhaps he could try Connor and Hank??

Sure, why not??

Setting aside time during his break, he made sure to breeze past Fowler’s office in a way he wouldn’t be noticed, and he took the trip down to the mail room with his heart weighing slightly less heavier in the hopes that perhaps either of the two of them would be available for a bit.

When he reached the inside of the mail room, Connor was busied with stamping a lot of letters and shredding the ones they no longer needed. He seemed busy, which usually meant ‘stay away until I’m done’, but Gavin wasn’t one for subtlety in matters such as this. Shunting up towards Connor as the RK800 steadfastly worked on, Gavin put on his best smile, and he leaned against the top edge of the desk.

When Connor failed to even look up to acknowledge him, Gavin cleared his throat. “Umm,” losing points already for ‘tact’, he hurriedly pushed out, “what’cha doin’ on Halloween, Connor?”

He heard a small snort coming from Hank, but he chose to ignore it for now.

Connor’s eyes barely flickered up to meet his before he grunted irritably, “Nothing that would interest you, I’m sure.”

“Try me.”

With a sigh, Connor glared up at him so intently, that Gavin visibly shrank from being placed under the android’s scrutinizing gaze. “I’m going out on a date, Gavin,” Connor answered, and as he did, Gavin felt his heart sinking gradually.

“Oh,” came his dull response. “That’s great, man…who’s the lucky—”

“None of your business,” Connor sang out, and then he buried his head and nose once again in his growing mountain of work.

So much for that, Gavin thought.

Turning his attention unto Hank, now, Gavin forced a smile onto his face. “What about you, Hank?” Truth be told, he didn’t exactly want to spend Halloween with someone considerably older due to their generation gap and lack of things in common, but he was running out of options quicker than he imagined. Suddenly, everyone appeared to already have ‘plans’…

Wiping his lips with the back of a hand, Hank barked out gruffly, “I’m actually planning on spending the night in with Sumo, Reed.” Smiling gently, he continued, “I bought a pretty big bag of candy, and I want to see who comes trick-or-treating on my doorstep.”

Eyes lighting up at the prospect, Gavin cried, “Oh, great! Care for some company?”

At this precise moment, he saw Hank wincing before he uncomfortably replied, “Err, sorry, Reed, I’d just prefer bein’ on my own for a bit if it’s okay…” Waving a hand, he swiftly said, “Nothing personal, though, okay? I just…I dunno, I sometimes am reminded of Cole around this time of year and around Christmas, so it’s better if I’m alone, if you know what I mean.”

Well, he didn’t, but at the same time, he did. Not a parent himself, Gavin felt a bit strange when he relayed Hank’s statements, and he just couldn’t piece together why Hank would want to be alone if he was plagued with such dark, sad thoughts. At the same time, however, he held enough respect for the older man to understand that everyone grieved in a different way, and for some, the grieving process was lifelong, so it seemed. Who was he to really get in the way of that and step out of bounds to make Hank suffer or feel uncomfortable?

Tossing the other man a curt nod, he tried not voicing aloud his displeasure as he stated, “Cool, fair enough, Hank, just was wonderin’, I suppose.”

As he backed away while scratching the back of his head and then his deep scar running up his nose awkwardly, Gavin knew that Hank sensed his discomfort as he leaned across the table. Staring intently at Gavin, he sighed, “You’re lonely, I get it.”

Immediately getting defensive, Gavin snorted in disgust, “You don’t know shit, Anderson.”

Not wanting to engage in a heated cavil, Hank shrugged, while Connor looked up again, LED light yellow.

“Even I can see that you’re uptight, Gavin,” he butted in as he leaned his head on a propped-up hand casually. “Your body posture says a lot.”

Noticing how badly his neck ached due to being tense and rigid with fury he’d been trying to bottle up inside himself, Gavin finally moved back as he inched towards the door. Waving a hand dismissively at Connor as if his words didn’t mean anything, he spat out heatedly, “Well, you’re wrong, asshole! I’m cool with doin’ my own thing, so why don’t you go fu—”

“Nines is lonely too, Reed,” Hank announced randomly, and it was such an odd statement that it made Gavin freeze up as he held onto the door handle.

An eyebrow quirking up, he grunted out, “What’s that, Anderson?”

Staring at him blankly, it seemed that Hank really was taking into consideration not to display any facial expressions, no doubt a chiefly wise psychological tactic meant for the purposes of keeping things calm so that Gavin didn’t think he was being judged. It worked, and the detective immediately felt significantly calmer. Now, he would allow Hank to speak freely, and the older male took advantage of that opportunity.

“Look, Reed,” he began in a tone that suited a father talking to his son, “while I think you’re doin’ well gettin’ used to accepting androids into society lately and not really bullyin’ people we work with anymore like you used to, I still think you’re awfully pigheaded when it comes to Nines.”

That hadn’t been something he’d wanted to hear, and immediately, he rebuked, “The hell does that shit mean, Hank? I treat Nines the same way I treat Connor.”

Rolling his dark brown eyes, Connor hissed, “Uhh…no, you really don’t.”

“I do too!”

Shaking his head, Hank grumbled, “No, Reed, you really don’t, and there’s no sense arguing it when it’s a pretty well-known thing around here.”

Realizing there was no way he could be the victor in this skirmish, Gavin kicked lightly at the door. He really couldn’t say anything aside for, “I don’t want to hang out with Nines for Halloween…or ever!!”

“And why not?” came Hank’s next logical question.

……

There wasn’t a way he could really broach the subject of the weirdness involving Nines on Saturday, really. It was awkward, gross, perverted, sick, and he didn’t want to be seen as a victim who was being sexually harassed by a god damn machine, of all things. That would make him ‘pussy of the month’ in his workplace, and he didn’t need that headache among all other ones he currently had.

Turning his nose up in the air, he just hissed, “He’s a loser, that’s why.”

Hank laughed a dry laugh, “Really, Reed?”

“He dresses funny!” Gavin snapped, which hadn’t been entirely a lie.

“Reed,” Hank growled, and it was no doubt a warning meant to hush Gavin up. It did that well, and Gavin’s mouth closed as he fiddled with the door handle for a while, simply staring at it while his cheeks, ears, and neck heated up.

Only Hank Anderson could scold him enough and render him feeling like a five-year-old.

“Instead of judging Nines, why don’t you try talking to him and befriending him?” Hank’s suggestion bounced off his shoulders and then seemed to slap Gavin across the face roughly.

Glancing up, Gavin’s eyes narrowed. “Look, just because he’s my fake ‘partner’, doesn’t mean I have to see him more, right?”

There was a heavy silence that followed, and it seemed to cut deeply into Gavin’s nerves. “RIGHT?!” he nearly screamed explosively, but all Hank and Connor did was stare down at their work as they both simultaneously shrugged.

Scoffing, Gavin snapped, “Some help you two are.” After all, hadn’t Hank supposedly claimed that Nines was an ‘honorable’, ‘good guy’? How could that be the truth after the twisted, perverse way he’d spoken to him on Saturday?!

Refusing to believe it, Gavin threw his hands up into the air as he stepped out of the mail room.

The door slammed shut loudly, practically shaking the foundations as he stormed away feeling angrier and lonelier than ever.

Chapter Text

“Reed, get in here!”

Gavin peered into Captain Fowler’s office meekly, his face hovering in the open doorway while his grouchy superior leaned against a filing cabinet behind his desk with a white file folder in his hands. He was wearing his reading glasses, and they slid down to the tip of his nose as he didn’t even so much as stare at Gavin.

Feeling odd that his boss somehow sensed he’d been lurking about the outside of his office, Gavin cleared his throat as he walked in like a snail on crutches. “Sir?”

“Hmm?” Fowler grunted, still reading the file he was currently holding onto.

“How did you know I was—”

“Reed,” came the low growl, and Captain Fowler finally closed the file folder and shoved it inside one of the top drawers of the cabinet. “I simply got tired of you dancing around my office, son,” he pointed out as he took his reading glasses off and folded them neatly in the left pocket of his dress shirt. “What do you want?”

Well, that was rather neat and to the point, Gavin supposed. Hanging his head down, he asked, “You got anything new for me?”

Understanding where the conversation was going, Fowler nodded as he stroked his chin. “Senior citizen called in last week again because his angsty teenage granddaughter ran off with her boyfriend again.”

Gavin rolled his eyes, “Sooo why doesn’t he call up a damn family counselling service?”

“Don’t give me mouth, Reed,” Fowler growled in a low warning as he lowered his hand away from his chin and placed both his hands on his strong hips, now. “Franklin’s just worried because he woke up to his safe busted wide open, and he had over two grand in the damn thing and now it’s all gone.”

Whistling as his eyebrows rose up to his hairline, Gavin understood, now. “Fair enough, Cap,” he pushed out as he then inquired, “you want me to go get Chris, now?”

Sarcastically, Fowler jutted out his chin as he snapped, “Yeah, Reed, now would be a good fuckin’ time to get Chris.”

“Okay, okay, Jesus!” Moving back quickly, he nearly tripped over the legs of a chair resting against a wall as he poked his head out and stared at Chris. When their eyes met, the other officer gave him an understanding nod.

“Reed,” Fowler grunted, “I want Nines to come along with you two.”

All the blood then ran cold as it turned into ice within Gavin’s body. Turning his neck around so swiftly that it let out an audible ‘crack’, Gavin gasped out, “What?!”

Wincing, Fowler replied, “You best take up some yoga classes, son; you’re not getting any younger, and that noise sounded terrible!!” Ignoring how Gavin threw him a look of sheer contempt, he continued, “That’s why I take some time to attend to my knuckles, back, neck, and—”

“Nines isn’t coming with us, Cap,” Gavin stated dictatorially, as if he was the one in charge.

Fowler didn’t appreciate that at all, and he frowned a deep frown as he snarled, “Yes he is, Reed.”

“No, he’s not!”

“Don’t you argue with me, Reed,” his superior hissed at him acerbically. “Shouldn’t you be happy with this?!”

Confused for a moment, Gavin threw out, “What’re you talkin’ about?”

Waving a hand at the ceiling, Fowler snapped, “Gavin, whatever the hell you’re puttin’ in your coffee, you ought to—”

“Why would I be happy with Nines tagging along?!” Gavin screamed, not wanting to venture off topic for long, and he hated that Fowler seemed to be insisting upon it a lot today.

Rolling his eyes impatiently, Fowler huffed, “Reed, isn’t he your fiancé?”

Oh…it all slammed back into his head, right then. Yes, Nines was his ‘fiancé’, and normally, a lot of people desired to be close to their fiancé. He shouldn’t have been the only exception to the rule, and Captain Fowler seemed already highly suspicious.

Tapping a finger on his chin in deep thought as a serious expression overcame his face, Captain Fowler stated, “You’re not having domestic issues, are you, Reed?”

Oh for fuck’s sake. So that’s the direction Fowler’s brain and thoughts had wandered off in? Fantastic.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Gavin snapped, “You’re ridiculous, Jeffrey.”

It didn’t matter that he’d used the other man’s first name; Fowler still pushed on. Sitting on the edge of his desk, he nodded at Gavin seriously. “Son, I’ve been married for nearly three whole decades,” he advised, “I won’t claim that marriage is an easy, joyous picnic! You gotta struggle and work hard every day!”

In an orotund voice, Gavin said, “That’s great, Cap, but if you don’t mind,” gesturing out into the bullpen, he finished, “gonna get goin’, now!!”

Fowler’s bombastic voice followed him as he descended the steps. “You’ll learn that every couple has their own methods of solving problems, Gavin,” he stated as he walked the same path Gavin had, clearly trying to follow him as the short detective disappeared. “Maybe you’ll learn to like Nines and appreciate everything he does for you!”

Not wanting to hear it anymore, Gavin cried out, “We’ll be back within an hour or two, Fowler!!”

An odd game of ‘ignoring’ seemed to carry out between Captain Fowler and Gavin Reed, then. As Gavin approached the area Chris was working in, Fowler stood tall and proud as he bellowed out, “Talking is a good way to learn a lot, Reed!!” Holding out his hands, he added, “You can always come to me for anything, son!! Remember; I have years of experience!!”

With the wave of a hand as his back was facing his superior, Gavin sighed and then nodded over at Chris. “Let’s go.”

“I mean, why not give it a try for the sake of this union?” Fowler continued his rant, shoving his hands deeply in his pockets and staring all around the bullpen in a fatuous way. “I know I like him!!”

Knowing he’d still been talking Nines up, Gavin only rolled his eyes and headed towards the DPD cars with Chris Miller at his heels, closely following with a little smirk painted over his face.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

The mood grew rather noisome as Gavin and Officer Chris Miller drove onward to check up on Franklin O’Sullivan, an elderly citizen of Detroit who’d reported numerous cases of having disputes and altercations with his granddaughter Mercedes. This had been the fourth case in the last two months, and needless to say, Gavin had grown weary of this. Evidently, Chris Miller had as well, but he still sat beside Gavin and stared at his phone while offering Gavin a small, toothy grin every so often.

Gavin soon grew weary of that, too.

Staring over at Chris, he barked, “What?”

The officer merely smiled and shook his head, “We’re gonna get our asses in hot water with Fowler.”

“So?”

“So…” Chris jerked his head at the window, “…I think it’s a little silly that my skin’s on the line because you chose to not let Nines tag along.”

Gavin threw the other man a rather quizzical look. “Since when do you care, man?”

Eyelashes fluttering sarcastically, Chris replied, “Since I noticed you and Nines got some trouble after the honeymoon period!!”

“Shut up, Chris,” Gavin hissed as he saw the sign bearing the street name ‘Dover Drive’. They turned right, and relying on pure rote memory due to having been here so many times, without much of a hassle, he located house number 76 in a jiffy.

As they parked on the right side of the street and got out of the vehicle, Franklin could be seen raking the leaves in the front yard of his property. He’d already bundled the crunchy, dried-up leaves into one large pile, and the child within Gavin wanted to go off running and leaping straight into it…

Shrugging that off, he nodded as he gave a small auspicious wave at Franklin. “Hey Franklin!”

“Hey Mr. O’Sullivan,” Chris followed in his lead as he too greeted the elderly man.

Wearing a small, blue tuque on his head, Franklin shifted his round, stout self over to lean on the top of his rake as he grunted at them both. “Afternoon, detectives.”

The yard looked a lot better and cleaner than in the summer, which meant that Franklin possibly had worked on it a lot more than he had rested inside the house. Gavin sometimes worried about the man approaching his seventies, but he kept his personal comments and worries to himself as he surveyed the property and noticed a few lights were on inside the main floor of the house.

“Mind if we chat inside, Franklin?”

Extending a hand away from his red and green plaid jacket, the chubby man answered, “By all means, you guys know the way.”

In no time at all, both Gavin and Chris found themselves standing near the end of the hallway. Franklin’s home was clean, tidy, quiet, and rather cold, but Gavin didn’t say a lot about it. Franklin lived in a pretty decent and well-to-do neighborhood, and his home reflected the fruits of his labor as a retired judge. The expensive home shined brightly when the sun hit it the right way, and all the furniture, decorations, as well as internal designs made Gavin rigid with envy as he thought about the tiny hovel he called ‘home’.

Putting way his rake and gardening equipment in the garage, Franklin wiped his hands over his grey sweatpants, and he turned and gently pulled the tuque off his head. He revealed silvery wisps of hair that were rather thin and wiry, and he hung his hat on a hook rack near the garage door.

Pulling down on his plaid jacket, he murmured, “I suppose you’ll want to take a look at the safe.”

“Err, sure,” Chris replied, “we can go from there.”

“Good.”

As Franklin led the way down the hall, Chris asked him a series of usual questions when it came to missing items and suspected robbery. Gavin listened…at first. Very soon however, his mind wandered to the current problem he was facing:

He had no one to spend Halloween with.

This bothered him, as he was well aware that Chris had toddlers and a wife to go home to and spend time with for sure on that occasion. These thoughts soon made the fractious detective begin stewing, and it got worse as he began experiencing some kind of otherworldly sensation. His mind remained on thoughts of his annoying predicament, while his ears, eyes, body, and even skin registered the feelings of walking down into Franklin’s cellar while Chris and the elderly ex-judge spoke on. He was aware of how much colder and staler the air was down there, and he saw shadows and the sight of the safe that had been broken in, the contents gone and everything else amiss.

But he still couldn’t get his mind off his problems.

For one, why had Nines blocked him!?!? It was such a stupid, childish thing to do, really!! He hadn’t even really done anything to warrant being blocked!!! If anything, he should’ve been the one blocking Nines, yet he hadn’t! He was way more mature!!! Nines had acted completely out of line, and he’d been gross and perverted, so what the hell!!!

“She’s being influenced by her older boyfriend, I can tell!”

He heard Franklin’s voice speak out from somewhere, but his thoughts were murky and muddied with everything being centered around Nines.

And why was he even thinking about the pervy, saucy android, even?!?! Why wouldn’t his importunate, incessant thoughts leave him alone for once!!!

…….

It was so silent, suddenly…

Gazing up at Chris and Franklin, Gavin was met with two sets of angry eyes.

What…

“Reed!” Chris snapped, shaking him by the shoulders a little. “The hell’s gotten into you?!”

Clearing his throat as he tried making up for his minor bumble, he hoped that it would be enough to obnubilate himself and make up for his ineptitude…not that he considered himself inept, really.

“Haven’t you heard a word Franklin’s been saying?” Chris asked, eyes wide with a frenzied look, and Gavin knew he was slipping.

Shaking himself, he just whispered out, “Sorry, it’s kinda cold in here.”

That excuse seemed to somewhat buy some time, as Franklin nodded his agreement. “Yeah, sorry, I have to keep it cooler here because I store a lot of meat down here in my freezers, detective.”

With an eye roll, Chris said, “Alright, let’s just get back on topic, then.”

Trying to leap into the conversation so it seemed like he really was participating and ‘alert’, Gavin asked, “So w-when was the last time you saw your granddaughter?”

Looking at the dark ceiling, Franklin replied, “Oh, it was sometime after dinner, because it took me nearly an age to get her down. She was texting her boyfriend for nearly an hour, and we had an argument prior to that about her recent credit card bill…”

Again, Gavin tried staying as focused as he could, but it just didn’t work, and it didn’t last long. His focus soon slipped and gave way into the recesses of his mind, and his repressed thoughts soon came burgeoning forth like a stallion out of wild flames in the night.

He didn’t really want to go home alone to an empty apartment!! Well, it technically wasn’t that empty, as he had the cats, good Wi-Fi, good cable, loud neighbors…okay…so he was lonely, and it was all empty inside his apartment, and inside himself…

Fuck.

Stooping lower into his own self-subsisting misery, Gavin felt his mood turning to shit, and a sour look was upon his face. Damn Nines. This was all his fucking fault!! Now, Gavin almost wanted to be petty and vindictive enough to report him to Fowler, at least.

But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense if he did…technically speaking, they were ‘together’ in the eyes of everyone they worked with. That was the first fallacy that went against his ‘plan’. The second was that Nines hadn’t done anything to him during work hours that could help Gavin build a strong case against him. He would be laughed right out of Fowler’s office if he even dared open his mouth about any of it, and anyone else would no doubt tell him to seek a marriage counsellor if he had issues with his fiancé.

Shit. What the fuck had he gotten himself into?!

As he stood there glaring a hole into the wall behind Franklin’s head, he was yet again shaken out of his reverie by Chris.

“Gavin…”

Christ. He really was going to be in trouble, soon.

Turning gaunt, he asked Franklin, “Umm, yeah, I uh…do you think that your granddaughter’s boyfriend may have something to do with this?”

……

Clearly, that was the wrong thing to say.

Both Chris and Franklin seemed weary of his fatuous comments, and his colleague grabbed him by both shoulders as he guided him back up the steps to the main level of the house. “Alright, Gavin,” Chris sighed, “I think you’re better off back in the car.”

As he reached the front door of the house, he gently pushed Gavin out as he whispered, “Wait for me; I’ll wrap this up as quickly as I can, okay?” Finishing it all off with a surreptitious wink thrown in the detective’s way, he then slammed the door on Gavin’s bewildered face.

The confused detective was left feeling even angrier and more upset, but he still sat down patiently inside the vehicle. True to his promise and words, Chris soon emerged from the house not even twenty-five minutes after.

“Back to the DPD?” he asked softly, and Gavin merely nodded slowly.

It went without saying that that’s where they had to go, of course, but Gavin sensed that Chris only asked that to avoid further conversations with him.

Gavin hadn’t been wrong.

The drive back to the DPD had been made in sheer silence, with every nerve in Gavin’s body on fire as a nasty, sickly, gut-wrenching sensation twisted and turned in his stomach the entire time. He recognized it as fury.

Odd, it’d been so long since he felt that.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

In the past, his mother had often told him that he needed to grow a pair of nuts, man up, and just ask for something if he really wanted it. Along the way, plenty of school friends had further backed this up, though the manner in which they’d communicated to Gavin about his state of ‘cowardice’ seemed to lack propriety unlike how his mother often phrased things.

He’d been called a ‘pussy’, a ‘little bitch’, and a ‘momma’s boy’ plenty of times that it eventually backfired. Instead of helping him turn into a more courageous, outspoken man, Gavin crashed and sank into an aggressive shell of what a man of his age and intellectual caliber should’ve been displaying in the ways of social etiquette and behavior. He was far too aggressive, and he often mixed aggression with bullying and harassing people, it seemed. It wasn’t his fault, however. No one had really been around to show him how to be assertive without being overly aggressive and callous, and the two terms and meanings were now synonymous to Gavin Reed. He mimicked what he’d seen and learned on television and through the internet culture, of course, and that had only contributed to the steady and gradual decline in his friendships, healthy relationships, and people he kept close and dear in his life.

As a result, he knew he was the source of his problems and misery, and all because he couldn’t be fucked to sit in a room and talk about his problems with some therapist like a sissy girl…classic. Why be a victim?! He wasn’t a god damn victim, and he didn’t need anyone’s help or pity!! He needed to learn the hard way, yes! He perhaps needed to suffer and ache all alone inside without anyone knowing it, and while that was terribly painful and unhealthy for his overall state of psychosis, he supposed that in the end, he would probably turn out to be a stronger, better version of himself.

Through hardships, real men were born; great men were molded.

He was not a god damn victim!!

As he kept reminding himself of this fact when he returned to work the next day, Gavin kept to himself, and as a result, he hardly saw much of anyone, really. Perhaps it was better off this way, but he had no idea that he was giving off some kind of dark aura that warded a greater majority of his co-workers off before they could even approach him. As such, the esteemed team of detectives, officers, and lieutenants seemed to be able to sense and spot an angry Gavin Reed a mile away, and they avoided him like the damn plague.

The ticking time-bomb of a man didn’t seem to care, however, and he got lost and drowned in his mountains and piles of work.

Days flew by quickly, and very soon, Friday was upon them. The Friday leading up to the Sunday of October 31st, of course.

Great.

Reminded further of his failures, Gavin sat at his desk and wondered just how to swallow his pride and try to at least maybe approach Nines and ask him for his stuff back.

Yes…he had no choice, he supposed, that was, unless Nines had already thrown his stuff out like he’d threatened a while ago. Sadistic machine!! Gavin wouldn’t be surprised if he had indeed done that, but he hoped not, anyway. It was all Nines had for barter, he supposed.

Trying not to mutter to himself while he thought of how to even try speaking to Nines, Gavin didn’t see Captain Fowler sauntering up to him and grabbing a nearby vacant chair.

Plopping himself down onto it, the police Captain offered Gavin an exuberant grin as he cleared his throat to begin his ‘speech’.

Before he could say a word, however, Gavin-who was still staring on at the center of his desk emptily-softly groaned out, “I know; I fucked up.”

A telephone rang somewhere in the distance while Fowler paused, and then sighed as he clasped his hands together neatly in his lap. “You don’t even know what I’m gonna say, Reed,” he stated intelligently, though Gavin didn’t seem to be in the mood to care.

“Well sir,” he bemoaned, “not to be an asshole or anything, but you normally only come around if something’s really wrong.”

Fowler only eyed his temporary companion with resignation. “Touché, Reed,” he huffed as he drew up his left leg and curled it against his chest while looping and wrapping both arms around the kneecap, fingers folded and intertwined as he stretched. Repeating the same motion with his right leg, he set both feet down after stretching.

With a sigh, Gavin drawled, “Look, I know I wasn’t all up on my game with O’Sullivan, but I promise that—”

Holding up a hand to silence him, Fowler whispered, “Gavin, relax; Chris told me that you did your best the other day, and it’s fine. Your stellar skills and attributes have always been noticeable, and I’m not here to comment on your performance.”

Under Fowler’s gentle tutelage and insistence, Gavin relaxed considerably. “Then what’s going on, Cap?”

Smiling softly, Captain Fowler replied, “Now, don’t get angry, Reed, but Connor and Hank approached me just this morning, and they told me that they’re a bit concerned because you seemed to be begging for them to hang out with you.”

How prolific. Truly, the fecund individuals Gavin was now more than angry with needed a good talking to.

Trying to remain calm, Gavin spoke out, “Look, I’m sure that those stalwart bastards—”

“Reed,” Fowler warned, but it didn’t matter.

“—think they’re doing me justice by interferin’ in my personal shit, but it wasn’t even a legit conversation, Cap! It was just an off-the-cuff thing!”

“They were worried about you, Reed!”

“How industrious!” Gavin yelled, but when he saw a few other officers milling about the bullpen and halls, he lowered his voice considerably. “I don’t need anyone’s help, Jeffrey!!” While Gavin assured his superior of this steadfastly, he found he was willing to entertain the possibility that perhaps he truly needed help and company after all…

Fowler must have seen something in his eyes, because he gave him a hard, assessing look and asked, “How are you feeling, really?”

“Don’t worry about it,” the hard-pressed detective said pragmatically.

“Reed, I think that’s a lie,” Fowler hissed irritably, “and I resent that just as much as I resent being slapped in the mouth!!”

Not wanting to give himself away, Gavin tried laughing despite his evaporating anger as it molded into feelings of pain and misery. It was all he could do while Fowler studied him seriously.

“I can smell how lonely and frustrated you must be, Gavin,” he stated softly as he used the other man’s first name as a means of identifying and empathizing with him more.

“You don’t know anything, Jeffrey…”

Shaking his head, the bulky man retorted, “Trust me, Gavin, I can smell it like a fart in an elevator.”

“I said I’m fine,” Gavin mustered a fake smile, trying to back up this putrid lie as best as he could.

Fowler’s expression indicated that he expected honesty from him, and Gavin truthfully didn’t think he would be able to last much longer under the scrutinizing gaze of his boss. Shrugging, he made up his story, “I have good days and bad days…just about what you’d expect from someone who’s been through some weird shit, Jeffrey. I think it’s more than time to get on with my life.” Tapping a finger on some paperwork on his desk, he added, “And in addendum, it’s time to get on with my work!!”

While he stared emptily at his papers, not really in the mood to work, Fowler grunted, “Amazing, Reed…” When Gavin’s eyes met his, he continued, “Unless you’re in one heck of a shitty relationship-which you can’t be, considering how I’ve known Nines to be nothing but a great, outstanding individual-then this shit is just odd as hell, Gavin.” As Gavin granted him enough silence so he could press on, he did. “Son, most people spend time with their loved ones when they’re feeling this way! It’s okay to go through shit like this, you know,” he stated openly as he folded his arms across his broad chest. “No one’s sayin’ you can’t feel this way, Reed, but I have to tell you that I’m frankly stunned to see that instead of turning to your fiancé, you’re choosing to sit here and stew in your own anger.”

Gavin honestly had no words. He didn’t trust his mouth, so he didn’t open it. He only resorted to remaining still while he distracted himself from the messed-up things Fowler was saying.

“I know you want to be alone, now,” the diminutive, weak statement was breathed out of Fowler’s lungs as the other man pushed his chair back by planting both legs firmly onto the floor and moving his hips back.

The admonishing look Fowler tossed him made Gavin feel like he was twelve, but he didn’t say anything. Biting his tongue while he watched the other man grip the edge of the chair and slightly yank it back against his chest, he felt nervous and fearful, suddenly, and those feelings always made Gavin furious.

How weak was he, really!?!?

“Talk to your fiancé, Reed,” Fowler encouraged gently with a small smile dancing along his eyes and face, “plan something exciting to do with him for Halloween night.”

He couldn’t envision ever being that close to Nines, but rather than disparage his supposed ‘beloved’ in front of Captain Fowler and run the risk of this all blowing up, Gavin’s face twisted into a frown.

Fear, exultation and longing all roiling inside him, Gavin was wracked with tremendous pain that only served to devastate him as he merely sat and felt that he hadn’t blinked in an age. His eyeballs were going dry, and as they stung horribly, he heard Captain Fowler moving back as he shifted away from him, then.

“Enjoy your weekend, Gavin,” he stated warmly and kindly. “And remember, I’m only a phone call away, son…” Before he turned around and walked off completely, though, he snapped a few fingers and whirled back around. “Oh! Reed!” he let out a small laugh as he slapped himself lightly in the forehead, “my old ass nearly forgot to ask you!”

Staring at him in shock, Gavin managed weakly, “Sir?”

A genuine look of curiosity flooded over Fowler’s features as he gently inquired, “When do you suppose the wedding will be??” He hadn’t caught the look of utter horror and contempt that overcame Gavin’s face. Too busy with staring across the bullpen, Fowler sighed, “It’s been so long since I attended a wedding!! I am invited, right Gavin?”

Gavin truly was stumped; he had no words.

Chapter Text

No photo description available.

 

And so, here Gavin found himself sat in the kitchen of his dingy, dark apartment Saturday night as he stared at his phone until his eyes singed and burned.

Disappointed not to be given more hope, he knew that it would be better not to have any expectations. It would lessen the devastation when the time came to accept the inevitable, but some small part of himself refused to give up the dream. Maybe it hadn’t been long enough for him to let go without a fight. Or maybe he was just grasping at straws.

Finally admitting it out loud to himself, he sighed out, “I have to text Nines.” While he knew for certain his calls were blocked, he didn’t think his texts were. None of them bounced back when he’d sent a few during the week, but he still was certain Nines was merely avoiding him out of a fear that Gavin would’ve reported his unbecoming bawdy conduct to Captain Fowler.

Some excuse to avoid someone.

Amused by the ploy only marginally, Gavin felt inordinately irritated as the night went on. Why wasn’t Nines asking him if he wanted his stuff back?!?! Wasn’t it enough that he’d avoided him during work, but now outside of work, too!? Nines knew he had nothing going on, and with tomorrow being Halloween, Gavin felt that the levels of his boredom would never cease.

Fuck it. It was time to step outside of his comfort zones. He was done with sitting and waiting while he reflected ruefully and occasionally contemplated murder…kinda. It was just better to come right out with what he wanted! After all, that’s what real men would do, anyway; just take whatever they wanted and needed!!

Sliding his phone into his nimble hands, he immediately set to work on locating Nines’ stupid contact name, and he got ready to fire off a text that had continued from the previous conversation thread…a conversation thread he realized he hadn’t deleted because he’d originally been a vindictive jackass meaning to keep them and show them to Fowler.

Oh well.

‘You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,’ the stupid saying went.

Snorting at his thoughts, he ignored the fact that he was sitting staring morosely into the screen of the phone as it nearly went to sleep.

No!! He had to get out his message; he had to be heard!

Fighting the desolation that threatened to stir within himself, Gavin tried keeping things simple and sweet, and he did.

Staring down at the message pieced together, he nodded in confirmation as he accepted that he thought it would suffice.

Gavin Reed, 10:28 p.m.

youve been avoviding me, Nines, and i know u blocked me, but i need u 2 hear me out then i will leave u alone. k?

Cursing himself for sending it with spelling errors, he bit and chewed on the insides of his mouth, lower lip, and then his fingernails as he stared. Time was ticking, and nearly half an hour went by with no response.

Shit!!

On the edge of desperation, Gavin texted random things, and soon, a series of them came flying out of him as he lost himself to the litany of concern and growing fears that he was going to always be this miserable and alone. His emotions guided him and goaded him into losing all semblances of control as he texted wildly like a mad man.

Gavin Reed, 10:57 p.m.

Nines, pls dont ignore me

Gavin Reed, 10:58 p.m.

i know u get these. answer me!

Gavin Reed, 11:01 p.m.

Hello?

Gavin Reed, 11:03 p.m.

Nines

Gavin Reed, 11:05 p.m.

bitch! Ur a bitch!!

Gavin Reed, 11:06 p.m.

way 2 b a plastic btich

Slamming his hands down on his table, he wished and wished for any type of a response as his mind registered the sounds of his appliances in the kitchen whirring and operating, while the steady sounds of night life egged him on into a deeper seat of anger. His cat mewled somewhere in the dark, and a few of her kittens purred.

“Nines!!”

Running out of time and options, Gavin wheezed, “Just say something, please? I c-can’t be a-alone right now…I can’t…” Resisting the urge to sob, he held his face in his hands and stared down at his lap like a scolded child put in a time out corner.

He felt so small and so lost…

“Nines…”

As if on cue, his phone suddenly vibrated, and Gavin snatched it like a bear swiping at a fish that leapt out of the waters upstream. Holding it tightly, he practically made his face kiss the cold screen as he read the words Nines had sent.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:24 p.m.

If you want my help in any matter, Reed, I wouldn’t encourage for you to keep swearing at me.

Vastly relieved there was a reply-as acerbic as it was, his heart could be felt bouncing in jubilation that Nines was at least talking to him again. Wanting to hold onto the conversation before Nines got wrapped up doing something else, Gavin rushed out his reply in a jiffy. Of course, sweaty fingers didn’t help make his text easy to decipher, but it would have to do for now.

Gavin Reed, 11:27 p.m.

k im sorry , firt and forms t Nines. i ws nt the nicest gu  y arudn btu i need 2 atalk.

Almost instantly, Nines replied simply with a solid ‘no’.

Gavin Reed, 11:29 p.m.

y!?!?!?

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:30 p.m.

Because that’s my wish, Reed. Far too much has been said and done already between us that what wasn’t initially agreed upon, and considering our last conversation, I’m sure you’ve done the right thing and reported my impropriety to Captain Fowler.

Shaking his head, it was Gavin’s turn to text out a strong NO.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:32 p.m.

Why not?

Gavin Reed, 11:33 p.m.

cuz i didn t wanna

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:35 p.m.

It would’ve been the right thing to do, Reed.

Gavin Reed, 11:36 p.m.

Lleave that shit aside fr a momtn, Nines,,, .. I still have my shit inn ur place.

It’d taken a little while before Nines sent:

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:41 p.m.

Fine. Since it’s a burden for us both, I can mail your items to you, Reed. It’ll save you from having to live through the horrors accustomed with seeing me and being in my presence.

What exactly he’d expected in the way of reticence or shyness after not having spoken to Nines in a week, Gavin wasn’t sure, but android’s sauciness and boldness delighted him. Nines didn’t seem to want to back down at all, and his fractious attitude seemed to carry over to Gavin and fed his courage slowly.

Gavin Reed, 11:44 p.m.

ill get mey stuff soon, bt waswonderin if u wanted to hang out for Halloween tmrrw/?

Even though his entire body was both on fire and frozen stiff, he was happy he’d sent it out. Courage was rewarding, in some ways.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:46 p.m.

Why on Earth would you want to spend time with me?

Gavin Reed, 11:47 p.m.

cuz im as lonely as u

Almost as though he’d been purposefully trying to push and keep Gavin away, Nines deferred to the use of scare tactics.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:48 p.m.

Aren’t you scared?

Gavin Reed, 11:49 p.m.

of?

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:49 p.m.

I could molest you.

Gavin found himself laughing at this as though Nines had told him the funniest joke on the planet. It wasn’t a fake laugh, however; it was a genuine, face scrunched up, eyes wrinkled in bliss, lungs burning, stomach and ribs aching sort of laugh given the android’s odd choice in words. Tears formed in the corners of his eyes, and when he was ready, he wiped them as he texted through blurry eyes.

Gavin Reed, 11:51 p.m.

dont b slly, Nines. u wounldt hurt me.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:51 p.m.

Well, you treated me as a common criminal, so how am I to think otherwise?

Not giving up, Gavin stayed on target as he hurriedly texted:

Gavin Reed, 11:52 p.m.

spend Halloween with me. we can acarve pumpkings , watch movies, whatever u want. just chill wit me fr a bit.

Almost picturing the android gazing at him across the table with his expression inscrutable, Gavin read the next message he’d been sent with Nines’ rich, deep voice echoing in his skull.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 11:54 p.m.

So this is what the French mean by ‘Le petite morte’: The little death.

Thanks for that, Reed.

At this point, he was unable to help it.

Gavin Reed, 11:55 p.m.

Unblock me so i can call

Surprisingly, Nines did just that, and he said so as he told Gavin to call if he wanted.

Without even hesitating, Gavin rang him up, and the android picked up in the middle of the second ring.

Grinning, Gavin sat up in his chair, “So, wanna smash pumpkins with me, Nines?” He knew he sounded like an odd sycophant fan or follower of some idol, but he couldn’t have helped it if he tried; it wasn’t a thing to be changed, after all.

Humming at first, Nines eventually hissed, “All Hallow’s Eve spent with you, Reed? Sounds charming.”

“Hey! We both live in apartments!”

“And your point?” Nines growled deeply, though he didn’t sound too annoyed.

Smirking with confidence, Gavin felt one of the kittens gently pawing at his legs. Peering down, he picked up the runt of the litter, holding him down into his lap as he stroked his head gently and tenderly. “My point is that we won’t be bothered by the doorbell ringing every ten or so minutes because of kids beggin’ for candy, Nines!!” Like a child, he cried out jovially, “That means more for us!!! Err, me!!”

A huff came out of the android, and Gavin found it wasn’t altogether unpleasant to listen to. In fact, Nines’ deep voice sent a dull thrill and a hum of a vibration from his ear all the way down to his toes, rattling his rib cage nicely.

“Very well, Reed,” he conceded, “don’t arrive prior to six, as I’ll be out running a few errands.”

Clicking his tongue against his teeth while he felt the kitten almost asleep in his lap, Gavin sighed out in satisfaction, “Trust me Nines, you’ll thank me for this!”

“Gloating is unseemly,” Nines stated plainly, causing Gavin to grin like a fool.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Six p.m. on Sunday sure took its time, but it finally arrived, thanks to Gavin’s great sense of patience displayed. He found time actually went by decently enough when he did his weekly laundry, and then went off shopping for food, as well as the pumpkins. He purchased two, but Nines’ was a little smaller than his own, just in case the insouciant android grew bored of carving his pumpkin faster than anticipated.

Placing them in the back of his car, Gavin found he was already parked in Nines’ apartment complex parking lot at almost ten to six. Not wanting to be too early, he had a smoke for those remaining ten minutes before it was time to go.

Knocking gently on Nines’ apartment door, it didn’t take too long before Gavin heard it unlocking. Once it swung open, he was faced with Nines, who looked as impeccable as ever. Dressed in a grey dress shirt and matching grey dress pants, he waved Gavin in.

“On time, Reed,” he commented as he looked down at the pumpkins, “and with friends, I see.”

Providing an insouciant shrug, Gavin said without preamble, “I figured you maybe wanted to carve your own pumpkin.”

“How thoughtful,” came the not-so-sarcastic purr, and Nines peeked over his shoulder at the kitchen table. To his amusement, Gavin found that red, purple, deep blue, and black candles had been lit in tiny rows upon it, and on the left side of the row of candles was the little plushie zombie he’d found in Bed, Bath and Beyond. On the right side rested the wreath. It was propped between the wall and the table, however, but it looked nice. Nines had even gone out of his way to decorate his apartment for Halloween, and he’d done so using the skull-shaped piggybank and gargoyle globe with glitter Gavin had purchased a while ago when they went shopping. The piggybank and gargoyle sat on a table near the end of the front hall. The small chandelier that was vintage and gothic in design hung in the living room now, and the creepy painting of the jack-o’lantern grinning evilly in the dark hang been hung up behind the loveseat on the wall.

Nines had cleared the rest of the table for the carving in less than a few seconds, and Gavin placed the pumpkins right on top of the table gently. He couldn’t stop staring at the decorations and candles, and he snickered, “Where’d you get those?”

“The same places we visited two weeks ago,” came the honest reply instantly, and it caused Gavin’s face to heat up.

“Right…” Not wanting to dwell on that for long, Gavin asked, “You know how to carve a pumpkin?”

With a fastidious wave, Nines pulled out a chair for Gavin. “I know the logistics behind it, Reed,” he replied smugly before his eyes turned somber, “but I haven’t put it to practice, I’m afraid.”

Snickering, Gavin joked, “Well, that’s what I’m here for, I guess.” Taking a seat before the candles, then, he watched as Nines headed into the kitchen and brought out two large knives.

Passing one to Gavin, Nines smirked as he said, “Oh yes, Reed, I’ve been reserving this special moment all my life for you to assist me with pumpkin carving.”

“We all have a purpose in life,” Gavin continued on the humorous note while Nines stood next to him and watched in amusement as Gavin then pulled out three large newspapers from a white plastic bag he’d brought along as well. Laying the newspapers out on the table once he’d gently pushed the vampire bat tablecloth aside so it wouldn’t get messy, he steadied his pumpkin in his left hand as he held onto the knife.

Smiling at Nines, he explained, “We have to first use the serrated knife to cut off the crown of our pumpkins.” As he explained this, he cut around the circumference of the top of the pumpkin.

Although Nines already knew this was involved in the carving process, he found he couldn’t stop Gavin from talking him through it. He actually didn’t mind listening to Gavin speak…

Following in Gavin’s lead Nines got to work. Soon, both Nines and Gavin took the tops of their pumpkins off, and they set them to the side of the table. Still remaining on his feet, Nines inquired, “Next steps, Reed?”

Chuckling playfully, Gavin barked out, “Using a large serving spoon, we gotta scoop out the seeds of these babies!”

“And thus, I make a second trip to the kitchen,” Nines thought aloud wryly, doing just that. In a few quick seconds, he handed Gavin his spoon, and Gavin grinned at him for it.

Rolling his eyes, Nines lightly hissed, “Don’t look so smug.”

“You’re just upset because you have to keep on walking back and forth!!”

“That, I am.”

With a tiny shrug, Gavin had already started scooping the flesh and seeds out, and he yanked them up in fistfuls. “Well, then next time, sit down immediately,” he joked mildly, “everyone knows that whoever remains standing is the ‘assistant’ or ‘volunteer’.”

While scooping as well deeply within the pumpkin after he’d rolled up both sleeves to his elbows, Nines gently asked, “Did you carve a lot of pumpkins when you were younger?”

And to think that the evening had started off so pleasantly. Leave it to Nines to unknowingly poke about and try to pry in the past; a part of himself that Gavin very much wanted to seal off in the land of ‘Forget It’.

Responding slightly aggressively, he jerked his neck towards his pumpkin, “Meh, it doesn’t matter, so just do your work.”

Quirking up a brow, Nines stated openly, “If only you were this focused during actual work.”

Not really centering his thoughts on the minor jab at his work ethics and skills, Gavin found himself lost in his thoughts as he remembered one of his more ‘happier’ Halloweens. It was a day his dad was actually home, shockingly, and he’d been the one who’d helped Gavin carve his first pumpkin…

“Reed?”

“Hmm?”

Shaken out of his memories, he turned to the side and saw that Nines had stacked and mounted all the seeds in one large pile. Gooey hands wavering in the air, the android held a confused expression on his face as he asked, “Are you okay?”

Shrugging him off, Gavin switched gears right away expertly. “Got a marker?”

“Uhh,” Nines peered over at the coffee table awkwardly, and then held up his hands. “Would you do the honors?”

Huffing in slight annoyance, Gavin pushed aside his laziness as he snatched the dark permanent marker off the tray in the living room resting flatly on the coffee table. Popping the cap open, he walked back into the kitchen, flashing it before Nines’ eyes.

“Nice,” Nines commented. “Now we draw?”

“Now we draw,” Gavin repeated, and to be fair, he decided to target Nines’ pumpkin first. “What pattern are you thinking of?”

Thinking quickly, Nines answered, “Just a grin, Reed; simple and sweet.”

“Fair enough.” Hands moving quickly, he drew a simple outline of a face on the pumpkin, and then did the same for his own, except his pumpkin had eyebrows, looked ‘eviler’, and seemed more rushed. Using the small serrated knife, he cut out the eyes, nose and mouth on both pumpkins, and tossed the meaty bits aside.

Watching him the entire time, Nines eventually smiled once both pumpkins were done. “I like them.”

“Yep,” Gavin answered shortly, and he made sure to chip off one of the teeth on his pumpkin, trying to add some style here and there, while he made Nines’ pumpkin’s teeth a little sharper.

Nodding over at the candles, he then asked, “Got a tea light candle by any chance?”

Staring oddly towards the bathroom, Nines coughed, “In there.”

Freezing for a moment, Gavin lifted a brow as he snickered, “That’s…that’s kinda weird, Nines…” Why was the dour android so addicted to keeping candles around, lately?!

“Instead of mocking, get walking.” Nines stepped back as he went to wash his hands in the kitchen, disappearing in the tiny plant garden he’d stored away in his kitchen.

“Okay, weirdo,” Gavin muttered to himself, retrieving the candles and then making his way back towards both pumpkins.

Popping two tea lights inside the pumpkins, he lit them first and replaced the crowns on top. Standing back to admire their work, he flashed a thumbs-up at Nines. “Lookin’ good,” he approved with a few jerky head nods. “Where do you wanna place them?”

A wide smile was on Nines’ face, and he grabbed his pumpkin tightly. “Outside on the front steps of the apartment,” he suggested eagerly. “We can showcase them there for a bit, and before it gets really late, we can store them in the front lobby.”

“Yeah!” Gavin bounced up, holding his pumpkin to his chest as well. “I like the sound of that, Nines!!”

“Something told me you would, Detective.”

The smile was unmistakable in Nines’ voice this time.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Nines’ idea had been brilliant, and Gavin really found he enjoyed looking at not only their new Jack-o’-lanterns sitting outside on the middle steps near the railings, but he also enjoyed looking over at least another fifteen or so Jack-o’-lanterns as well.

“This seems to be an idea everyone living here has,” he pointed out facetiously, and Nines stared down at the other Jack-o’-lanterns for a moment.

“It appears so,” sitting himself down next to Gavin in the center of the steps, both men looked up into the dark streets and skies above while hordes of children dressed fully in costumes walked by. Their chipper laughter filled the cold air, and as they danced and skipped along with their parents following closely behind them, a tiny breeze came by. It moved the candles in the pumpkins a little, and the shadows reflected ominously. Still glowing strongly, however, the Jack-o’-lanterns could’ve been seen from a tiny distance as they lit up the dark night more than the streetlights.

Nudging Nines gently with his elbow, Gavin chuckled, “How many Ant Mans, Tony Starks, Batmans, and Spidermans do you think we’ll get tonight?”

Catching on, Nines grinned as he stared straight at the children moving by. “Probably not nearly half as many as Wonder Woman, Black Cat, Harley Quinn, and perhaps the occasional mermaid and princess…”

Laughing heartily, Gavin snorted, “You’re ridiculous, Nines!”

“And you’re insufferable, Reed,” the android joked back, still gazing at the costumes on full display in the wide streets.

When the line of children thinned down a little, Gavin repressed a shiver as the wind blew through his hair. He hadn’t realized just how cold it’d gotten to be in such a short amount of time, but he remembered that November was literally a day away…

Realizing that an odd silence had crept up on them, Gavin looked towards the ghostly figures made out of sheets, the occasional Devil, Witch, or Goblin posted in the ground, in a tree, and the odd few skeletons hanging down limply and spookily from tree branches. He felt it was appropriate to say it now, so he huffed out gently, “Happy Halloween, Nines.”

Immediately turning on him, Nines hissed icily, “Why didn’t you report me to Captain Fowler, Reed?”

“Wha? Oh…” Blushing, he scratched the back of his neck as he supplied randomly, “Because it’d be weird?”

Shaking his head, Nines spat, “Weird in comparison to what I said?”

Gavin rolled his eyes, “Sure…”

“Why?”

“Because we’re supposedly ‘together’, Nines…I mean…” Flinching, he concluded, “I guess that’s how some couples talk to each other? Shit, I don’t know!!”

Pausing for a moment to stare at the new horde of children and their parents running around from brightly lit house to brightly lit house, knocking on doors and ringing the doorbells as their tiny voices cried out in perfect unison: ‘Trick or treat!’, Nines mumbled, “You’re a fool, Reed; I’d have reported my own conduct if I were in your shoes.”

“Well then thank God you’re not,” Gavin snickered mildly, and then he stared down momentarily at Nines’ feet. A twisted frown formed on his face as he said, “Oh, speaking of ‘shoes’, I think we seriously need to get you a new wardrobe, Nines.”

Grunting at him, Nines inquired, “What’s wrong with the one I have?”

“Dude,” Gavin laughed, “you wear clothing from almost five-hundred years ago; plenty wrong with that.”

The next logical question slammed into his ears, “Why do you care, Reed?”

……

Why did he??

Truthfully, Gavin was stumped. It hadn’t really mattered a whole lot to him how Nines had dressed and looked before. When he’d first seen the RK900 dressed fresh out of his CyberLife storage container, he thought nothing of it. Only when Nines had been dubbed ‘Nines’, and only after at least four months of him parading around in the same stupid outfit did Gavin feel the first stirs of annoyance and irritation coiling within himself. Thankfully, Connor had taken it upon himself to try and teach Nines how to dress differently, but the newly deviant Nines at the time unfortunately rooted his personal choice and tastes into older styles of fashion. Beyond that point, no one had really bothered him for his clothing of choice, as he wasn’t seen around the DPD often due to how busy things had gotten, and due to how amazing his skills were.

Well, it was annoying Gavin again, now, and he struggled as he tried not to gape at Nines’ manner of dress. He only concluded to himself that yes, it all had to go, and the sooner, the better.

Unable to offer much of a logical answer, Gavin only shrugged again and rubbed his hands together in a feeble attempt to create some friction and heat.

Eyeing his actions, Nines roughly suggested, “We should head inside; grab your pumpkin.”

Slowly inching towards the one that was his among the mass stacked on the steps, Gavin exclaimed, “Seriously, we should just go shopping some time after work or somethin’. Now that October’s through, a lot of stores will have major sales and shit; we can get a good deal and discount.”

Still not entirely convinced, Nines stood as he waited for Gavin to grab his own pumpkin, and then he made a grab for his own. Glaring at Gavin warily, he inquired, “Why do you care, Reed? You didn’t answer me the first time.”

Again, Gavin was baffled, and as he stared on in bewilderment, he only said the very thing that was a mixture of an insult, a joke, but also a comment in the way of keeping his own thoughts and feelings hidden well away…at least for the time being, until he figured out a way to squash them all and cast them on an island so far away that they wouldn’t trouble him any longer.

With a confident grin, he jabbed, “Well, if you wanna be seen in public with me again-or any human being for that matter, Nines, you should consider dressin’ like us.”

“Cheeky, Reed,” Nines commented, holding open the door for Gavin with one hand as the shorter male headed inside, his candle glowing luminously from within the Jack-o’-lantern. It trailed the orange, yellow light quite nicely, and Nines’ eyes followed it for a moment before they began heading up the stairwell towards Nines’ apartment room.

Tossing him a tiny wink, Gavin announced, “Come on! Startin’ this week, I’ll be your little helper, and I promise we’ll get you something cooler to wear, Nines. How’s that sound?”

“You’re not really going to leave me with much of a choice, Reed,” Nines drawled, “so let’s just say I agree and have a darn good night, shall we?”

“Couldn’t agree more, Nines,” Gavin chuckled as he grinned a toothy, wide grin. “I’m glad you like my ideas.”

Only a sarcastic eye roll came out of the tall android. “Of course, Reed,” he sighed wearily, “I wouldn’t dream of ever being so selfish as to suggest doing the things I want when it comes to my own personal life.”

All Gavin could do was laugh a tiny bark of a laugh. “Happy Halloween, Nines.”

“Happy Halloween to you too, Reed.”

Chapter Text

Gavin couldn’t wait for work to end. Today was Tuesday, November 2nd, and he was already as ecstatic as a young child waiting for the pizza delivery man to show up, or waiting eagerly for a toy he’d wanted all month long. And on par with that analogy, Gavin felt that time moved by way too slowly.

During the workday, he’d received a notification on his phone due to being subscribed to and on the mailing list of various clothing stores for men. As he’d estimated, plenty of last-minute sales were occurring this week, but the deadline for majority of them was Friday. Already with his plans bubbling inside his head, he waited until Nines had returned from training a few new recruit officers to target shoot and practice with firearms. Once he’d exited from the shooting range and made his way back across the street towards the DPD, Gavin almost surprised him by leaping out at him from around the corner near the entrance of the main building.

Recovering quickly from his initial state of shock, Nines frowned. “Yes, Reed?”

“Shopping, Nines,” Gavin announced randomly, “I’ve got coupons and discounts, and that’s all you need to know.”

As the doors opened and closed a few times while the rest of their co-workers and colleagues went home for the evening, Nines nodded at them, bid them a good night, and then stared at Gavin until the shorter male felt a tad uncomfortable.

“What?”

“I don’t want to go shopping for clothes, Reed,” Nines stated thinly, backing away from Gavin when the detective advanced.

Not giving up, Gavin sighed, “Well, just accompany me for a bit, then, because I need winter stuff.”

Only mildly convinced, Nines remained stiff, assessing Gavin with cold blue eyes as he finally asked, “Just for you?”

“Yep,” Gavin lied through his teeth with a smile, “just give me your opinion on some winter clothes, and we’ll be done in an hour at the most.”

Closing his eyes in irritation, Nines uttered painfully while his LED light blinked yellow a few times rapidly, “Fine, but you can drive.”

“I was gonna fight ya for the right to do so anyway, Nines,” Gavin snorted, and they were off without much else said.

They checked out the malls nearby, but then when they saw nothing interesting or appealing, Gavin finally drove them to a small clothing outlet mainly for Goth and Punk styled clothing. It’d started raining when they parked in the small parking lot, and the rain was almost at freezing points due to how cold the weather had gotten. As was expected for the erratic and rapidly changing autumn season slowly giving way to winter.

Upon seeing the display of the ripped, torn, tattered, dark clothing with studs, needles, pins, and other odd embellishments through the clean store windows, Nines glared as he refused to take another step despite the ice-cold rain pelting down almost too strongly and loudly.

Holding open the door for him, Gavin paused when he saw the reluctance evident in Nines’ eyes and in his body posture. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not going in there,” Nines hissed, “it’s tasteless.”

“It’s for me, remember?” Gavin chuckled as he danced in the doorway of the shop, “Come onnnn, Niiiiineeessss.”

“No.”

A cold breeze blew by, and this time, Gavin began dancing to keep warm as rainwater blew in his face. Feeling his blood freezing slowly in his veins, he pouted as he cried out, “Dude, I’m seriously freezin’ my ass off. Please, let’s just get inside.”

Staring at the aberrant clothes, Nines lifted his head plaintively. “That’s precisely my point, Reed,” nodding at the thin fabric displayed, he explained, “that’s thin enough to hang over a window; not on a human being’s body.”

Staring at the clothes, Gavin shrugged, “But I like them, and besides,” he pointed out gently, “there’s different varieties of shit in here. Let’s check it out!”

“You can go ahead,” Nines griped, “I’m not going to follow you this time.”

Whining like a petulant, bratty child, Gavin threw his head back and let out an elongated groan.

Wincing, Nines hissed, “Don’t make that nauseating sound ever again, Reed, and you can—”

“S’cuse me,” they’d been interrupted when two large, heavyset men with long hair and beards exited the store by Gavin. Their bodies were so round and large, that the detective had to leap back to make way for them. They wore thick leather jackets and heavy, thick boots. Mounting their shiny Harley Davidson motorcycles, they drove off in loud bursts of smoke and gasoline rising into the air in tufts of smoke.

Once they were gone, Nines glared at Gavin. “See?!” he cried out vehemently, “I can tell from the clientele in this store just what kinds of fashion caters to what types of people!!”

Gavin didn’t dignify the snide remark with a response. He only knew that his clothes were steadily becoming drenched, and he couldn’t have that. Instead, he headed inside the store as he snorted over his shoulder, “Whatever, dude, but I’m freezing my ass off, so if you wanna keep arguin’, then you’re gonna have to do it inside here, Nines.”

Muttering under his breath, Nines stewed, but otherwise remained non-argumentative as he allowed Gavin to walk around the store. Following Gavin inside, Nines began eyeing plenty of signs and stickers letting customers know that a lot of clothes were 50% off regular price before the new season’s brands flocked in.

The store’s walls were painted deep blue, and a lot of the models and mannequins were dressed already in winter wear. At least six dressing rooms lined up along the back in a horizontal row, and shelves containing scarves, gloves, boots, sunglasses, and other accessories sat near the fitting rooms.

Gavin wandered about, already peeking at a pair of casual straight leg pants, the two colors he’d been currently having difficult picking between being black and grey.

Holding them out before Nines, he stated, “They look warm!”

“Hmm,” Nines hummed, “passable, I’d say.”

“What color should I get?”

“Make up your own mind, Detective,” Nines snapped irritably, “I want to get out of here quickly, so just grab whatever’s thicker than only one finger!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Gavin sighed, but then stared up at a tall mannequin on top of a circular stand. Next to the stand was a round table stacked with the clothes the mannequin had been wearing, and Gavin suddenly imagined Nines wearing the exact clothes. It would look damn good on him too, the detective figured. Since the mannequin had long legs and a masculine-in shape figure almost like Nines’, Gavin thought it would be a perfect fit.

But how to get Nines to even wear it?! There was no way the android would ever do that, especially considering how the pants were directly labeled: PUNK Fashion Men’s Trousers Pants Removable Stage Gothic Pencil Cotton Pants.

Yep…that was going to be a tough one.

Pretending to be interested in a pair of black Drawstring waist pants, Gavin picked them up, casually holding them down over his lower torso while humming. Actually…these weren’t that bad…

“Got what you came for then, Reed?” Nines drawled on, standing eerily close to the mannequin while Gavin nodded.

Glancing up with a small smile, he answered coyly, “Yeah, I mean, I may get one or two more things, but I was wonderin’ something, Nines…”

Catching on relatively quickly, Nines hissed, “Whatever the hell it is, I’m not interested.”

Skipping past doing this the ‘easy’ way now that his cover had been unceremoniously blown, Gavin grabbed one of the pants up right away. “Come on, Nines,” he laughed, “I’m seriously just curious.”

Fighting, Nines hissed cruelly, “Go away, Reed, and put that silly thing down.”

“Pleeeeeaaaseee? Just try one?”

“Never!!”

“It’ll look so good on you, Nines, I swear!!!”

A delicate eyebrow rose up gracefully. “Oh really, Reed?” Nines cooed in mild amusement, “then who was it-as I recall-who uttered these words?” Tilting his head, he opened his mouth and said, “Just give me your opinion on some winter clothes, and we’ll be done in an hour at the most.” Clearing his throat softly and unnoticeably, he imitated Gavin word-for-word, an impeccable mockery and with 100% accuracy.

Waving a finger in his face defensively, a wide-eyed Gavin hissed, “I told you to stop doin’ that, Nines! It’s freaky as fuck hearin’ my voice comin’ out of your damn mouth!!” Tapping a hand on his leg, he encouraged gently, “Now come on and just try this on, because I think you’ll rock this look.”

Although he’d tried to tell Gavin that he didn’t care for his opinions, once he’d heard them voiced aloud, Nines ceased putting up a fight. He’d actually never really been on the receiving end of such comments from many people, especially Gavin Reed. The words pulled him in, sweetly seducing his curiosity. Would they really look that good??

Reaching out to touch the pants, Nines thought they really looked odd. They weren’t as thin as he initially suspected, which surprised him, but he was a tad put off by the silver studs, belt buckles running down towards the calves, wrapped around parts and portions of the leggings, the rips and tears running along the legs, as well as the silver holes in the belt straps and strap that held and kept the diagonally angled curtain like skirt hanging off to the side up.

Why did humans wear such bizarre things?!

Still not desiring to put it on, he sneered at Gavin as he spat, “You wear it.”

“Nooo, Nines,” Gavin chortled as he waved the pants towards the fitting rooms, “they wouldn’t fit me, and they’re designed for people who have legs that go on for miles.”

“You—”

Pushing him gently towards the fitting rooms, Gavin assured him softly in a faint whisper, “I’ll also be tryin’ on the shit I picked up, so you’re not alone, okay?” Motioning over at one of the young men operating the store, he held up two fingers, indicating they needed two separate rooms. The pimply-faced youth nodded, walking over so slowly as he unlocked two fitting room doors and stepped away so Gavin and Nines could head inside.

Hanging onto the doorway of one of the open doors, Nines looked at Gavin in mild panic. “This isn’t a good idea, Reed,” he stated his opinion while Gavin picked up a discarded multi-zip pockets zip up Cargo light brown jacket and decided he wanted to try them on.

Staring down at his pants, Nines almost whined, “Just this one?”

Blinking once, Gavin said, “I promise; just that one.”

…..

“Fine, Reed.”

As the door to Nines’ fitting room slammed and locked hurriedly, Gavin heard the android moving and shifting about. Good. That meant he was going to try the pants on, and Gavin soon got into the changing room next to Nines’. In no time at all, he’d tried the multi-zip up cargo jacket, the black Drawstring waist pants, as well as the grey casual straight leg pants.

They all fit, and Gavin liked them as he saw his own reflection in the mirror hoisted on the wall within the changing room displaying each style. Once he redressed in his regular clothes, he checked the prices of the clothing he wanted to purchase, and he nearly fainted.

They were pricey.

His wallet was going to have a hole in it soon, and he had to wonder for a moment why he was spending money he didn’t have on such things in the first place. Wasn’t the whole point of this to try and get some damn money from his deceased dad so he could later spend all that money on crap like this?!

He had it all backwards, it seemed.

Tapping the connecting wall next to Nines’ stall, he cried out, “Nines? You done?”

After a brief pause, a door opened and closed, and Nines answered, “Reed, come out here for a moment.”

“O-okay,” unlocking the door, he hadn’t even taken two steps out into the hall containing the fitting rooms when he saw Nines standing before a large mirror.

Wow...Gavin had been right; Nines looked absolutely amazing dressed in the punk getup.

As the android stared at himself in silence for a while, Gavin slowly circled him. He was wearing a dark undershirt overtop of the pants, which seemed a tad off together with the bottoms, but his lower torso was amazing to look at.

Whistling, Gavin affirmed, “You look better in that than the mannequin did, Nines.”

“I doubt that, Reed,” Nines groused as he eyed himself wearily. “I don’t know about this one…”

“I like it,” Gavin interjected with his own personal opinion, “it sits nicely on you, and damn,” he laughed as he pointed at how wonderfully long and thin Nines’ legs showed off in the pants, “way to make me feel extra short.”

Nines didn’t comment, and as he stared and stared at himself in the mirror, Gavin sighed. “If you want, we can look for something else, maybe a different color, or—”

“I prefer black, Reed,” Nines interrupted, and with a small smile and a blue LED light, he purred, “I have to admit, this is really growing on me…I like it…” He hadn’t been faking it for the sake of being polite; Nines turned around and stared at the pants from every angle, laughed, and then repeated with vigor, “I really like them, Reed! It’s new, it’s unique, and it may not be ‘me’, but I want to try something new.”

Gavin couldn’t stop the smile that had grown on his face, and it grew wider and wider as Nines walked and paced around the mirror a few times. The way the little buckles and straps shifted and made light noises as he walked only added a nicer effect to how he looked. These pants seemed to be made for Nines, and Gavin felt a little envious as he stared at the android. Gone was the sour, bland look that Nines often wore. Gone was the execrable snort and jeer, all replaced by genuine looks of zeal and rapture.

“Alright, stop showin’ off,” he mildly joked as he held open Nines’ door, “wanna get ‘em?”

Nines didn’t even hesitate, “You can count on that, Reed, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to take another look around this place; it’s not nearly as bad as I originally thought.”

Gavin was all smiles as he waited for Nines to take off the pants, and the excited android soon did as he stepped out and insisted upon carrying the clothing with himself. Gavin didn’t mind, and as the pair separated to have another look around the store, Gavin discovered that Nines had really been superbly excited about his new choice in clothing style…perhaps too much, actually.

Being excited about something new wasn’t of course a bad thing in and of itself, but it seemed that Nines had already taken it to an extreme of sorts. In less than ten minutes after they’d dispersed around the store, Nines decided he was going to be buying a pair of anything remotely gothic and punkish in terms of shirts and pants. He settled for Black Swamp trousers featuring distress and erratic patterned paint details, zips, and patches running down the legs. After that, he picked up a single men’s fitted black shirt in poplin with chrome snap fasteners. Large cuff details, poplin epaulettes and two front pockets were what Gavin saw on the shirt, but that didn’t seem to be enough for Nines.

Eventually, he also grabbed a coat, and it sat well down to the middle of his thighs as he tried it on. The breathtaking Vincent Coat seemed to be inspired by classic military styles with large epaulets and double-breasted button detailing all over it. It looked elegant on Nines, and Gavin wondered how Nines was simultaneously pulling off both a Victorian gothic look, as well as a modern day cyber punk look.

Nines soon shifted through some boots, but he couldn’t settle on ones he liked. Almost like a child about to have some kind of an emotional fit, he whispered heatedly to Gavin, “Is that all the boots they have here?”

Snickering shrewdly as envy grew within himself, Gavin snidely answered, “You can order some shit you like online, you know.”

Nodding while his eyes were still going through the array of boots, Nines agreed, “You’re right. Are we leaving, now?”

Looking at the darkening skies outside, Gavin spat, “Umm, yeah, the store closes around eight, and it’s already half-past seven.”

“Fair enough,” Nines grabbed the rest of their items, and led the way towards the cashiers.

Gavin watched as Nines placed the clothes up onto the counter, and as he did, the shorter male snorted, “I hope I won’t have a stroke from the terrifying bill we’re about to receive.”

Nines didn’t say anything as the cashier scanned the items and placed them all into bags. Once he was done with that, while he played with his eyebrow ring, he announced, “Your total today is $483.79 plus tax.”

Gavin grew pale, and he was already thinking about throwing half the items away. Meekly, he offered, “Umm, I have coupons…” After he showed them to the cashier, the man changed the receipt abruptly.

Coughing, he corrected himself, “Sorry, so it comes to like, $402.88 plus tax.”

That wasn’t exactly a better deal…

Frowning, Gavin softly asked, “Umm, may I know why it’s so expensive?”

With a lazy look in his eyes, the young cashier explained, “The punk designer clothes are from the UK, sir, so a lot of the prices are just to cover shipping and handling.”

Right…

Cursing Nines straight to hell for choosing now of all times to explore and play around with his sense of style and fashion, Gavin looked a little crestfallen as he reached into his wallet for his credit card. “I’ll pay,” he obviously didn’t need to say, but he did.

However, as he’d been about to draw out his card, he felt a hand on his own, and he glanced up in shock. “Nines?”

A warm, friendly smile met his concerned eyes. “I’ll take care of that for today, Reed,” Nines offered, LED light flashing yellow as he turned to the cashier. “Can I pay electronically?”

The young man snapped up to attention, “Oh yeah!” Pushing the hand-pad, digital machine up to Nines, he announced, “We take android payments too, sir.”

“Nines, wait—”

Gavin had been stopped when Nines threw him a warm smile. All thoughts and words died down, and Gavin was reduced to a pile of stuttering and gaping silence. He didn’t want to allow Nines to do this, but the incessant, importunate android insisted upon it and wouldn’t have it any other way, it seemed.

Once he’d connected to the tiny machine, Nines spoke softly to Gavin, “Some gifts should just be accepted with gratitude openly, Reed.”

Shaking his head, Gavin mumbled as the cashier put their clothes away in a large paper carrier bag, “I could’ve handled it myself.”

“Nonsense,” Nines purred out, “look, if you want, you can treat me to something next time, yeah?”

Well…to be fair, Gavin needed the clothes badly, and he wasn’t exactly swimming in riches, he reminded himself. Yes. So why not? To hell with it!! If Nines was offering, he’d take whatever he could give!!

He somehow felt better already when they left the shop that evening.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Nines didn’t wear his new outfits to work, wisely so. Not that androids couldn’t technically wear new clothing if they wanted to, but the more ‘creative wear’ had been meant for Fridays, only. It made sense given the line of work they did, but Gavin had never known Nines to not dress professionally. He always abided by a dress code of sorts, and he didn’t seem to want to even break that on Fridays. No, it seemed that the DPD wasn’t ready to see ‘punk Nines’, and the android didn’t even share with Connor and Hank that he’d recently purchased new clothes.

Oh well. It was something rather private, Gavin supposed, and while he didn’t spend a lot of time around Nines in the following week due to being busy, he often found himself wondering whether Nines ever wore the new outfits or not.

The next week seemed to first come in at a snail’s pace, but then picked up. Gavin-like everyone else in the DPD-had become overwhelmed with cases and reports, and the only time he actually sat down and noticed what day it was happened to be on Thursday, November 10th. Time was flying, which sucked, but the good news was that it still hadn’t snowed…yet. Gavin had seen a few moments of flurries and light freezing rain which had thankfully melted by later afternoon, but beyond that, he couldn’t exactly complain when they were blessed with good weather still.

His ‘relationship’ with Nines however…well, Gavin felt that at best, it was civil, but not too much closer since their shopping trip. Nines didn’t invite him over, and Gavin didn’t want to hang out with the tall, estranged android. They slept in their own separate apartments, and it remained that way right until the beginning of the second week of November.

On Monday, November 14th, as everyone had been going through the quotidian, rudimentary duties in the DPD, that was when Detroit City had been gifted with the first heavy snowfall. The heaps of the cold, white stuff kissed the entire streets and land majestically, as if making up for a decent and passive autumn and early November month. Thankfully, there wasn’t much of a strong wind, and the snow just fell from the grey clouds above almost peacefully. Still, everyone worked quietly, steadfastly trying to submit their statistical reports required before the month was through, or wrapping up other cases and leads they may have had.

Although Gavin Reed was no exception to that, the detective couldn’t help but slip into a tiny form of sullen thoughts and feelings as he grew weary of the perpetual tasks one Thursday afternoon. The brusque and impatient detective muttered random and odd nonsense under his breath as he took a break from his work…a much-needed break.

He realized just how badly he was starting to overwork himself, but it couldn’t really be helped; crime always boomed in North America in the winter months, and it sky-rocketed during Christmas. This consistent pattern sometimes made Gavin hate Christmas, but rather than dwelling upon that for now, he cast his pessimistic thoughts aside and did what he assumed at least ten other people were doing right now: checking their social media accounts.

As long as he wasn’t caught, he supposed he could get away with it, anyway, so he launched up his Instagram immediately.

“Why do I even have this thing again?” he asked himself glumly with an edge of bite lingering on the last word as he sifted through all of maybe seven photos he’d taken…over the course of five years.

No wonder he had no followers…

Closing the app angrily, Gavin resorted to checking his Facebook, next. To his surprise, he found that he had a friend request, and a new message awaiting him…as well as at least sixty notifications?!?! WHAT THE FUCK!?!?

Tapping his finger on the notifications to highlight them and see what they were about, he saw that they all fell under two consistent things: People liking a photo he was tagged in, and people commenting on a photo he was tagged in…

Immediately, Gavin’s interest fired up, and he was off to see what this damn photo was. He had to know.

His phone lagged for a moment, and it seemed as though all odds were against him for some bizarre reason, now. Feeling his anger and irritation increasing by the second, Gavin refreshed the page, chewing and biting on his lower lip as he waited…

The photo was loading…loading…

And suddenly, it was there before his eyes.

Gavin knew these photos…he could recognize them anywhere…there were two of them, of course, and he’d been responsible for taking them…

It was the two selfies he’d taken with Nines sitting there openly for people on Facebook to see. But how had they gotten there?!?! Last time Gavin checked, Nines didn’t exactly have a Facebook account, and he himself hadn’t been drunk off his ass enough to upload these!!! He would never!!!

But sure as day, he was tagged in the photo, and he let his fingers hover around the tag.

Wait…

Tagged by Carrie Moser…

FUCK!

“You bitch…you god damn bitch,” Gavin wheezed out like a man on the brink of having a heart attack, and as he looked at the sixty comments just lined down beneath the photo, he recognized majority of these people as his mother’s friends, distant relatives, some of her co-workers and other professors in the University, as well as other friends of Gavin’s…as such, anyone who was friends with both Carrie and Gavin would be able to see and access these photos.

She’d done this on purpose, and there was no denying it. Gavin knew his mother’s games relatively well by now, and she’d had her own Facebook account for almost an entire decade and a half now to understand how the basics of Facebook worked. This wasn’t a fucking accident by any stretch of the imagination; she’d done this with the full intent that the onerous aftermath would be so explosive.

And explosive, it was.

She’d tagged the photos as: My son and his fiancé! Wish them well, I’m so very thrilled and proud of them both! Love you, Gavin!!

Of course, a lot of people fell into the trap of social niceties and politeness, wishing him well, asking when the wedding would occur, telling him he looked lovely, his fiancé was handsome, that they made a wonderful pair, and that they deserved all the best in the foreseeable future.

All the happiness…well, he wasn’t happy at all!!!

Staring up at the little red colored notification in his private inbox, he hurriedly tapped it to open it, thinking it was perhaps another petty thing his mother had pieced together. Oh, how she opted for being quite the byronic character at times…

He rasped as his eyes told him what his mind had difficulty accepting for the longest time. It hadn’t been Carrie Moser who’d messaged him.

Right there sitting in Gavin’s inbox was a message request from Marsha Field, one of his many ex-girlfriends from high school.

Had she also sent the friend request?

Checking it swiftly, Gavin confirmed that yes, she had, and he knew right then and there what kind of hot water he was in.

Seething, he spat at the screen, “Thanks, mom. Just what I fuckin’ needed.”


 

The pants Nines tried on in the store. It's a legit design I based his clothes off of!!! The pants look cool. 

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and shoes

Chapter Text

Marsha Field was fucking crazy. Well, technically, Gavin considered that majority of his exes were, but Marsha seriously took the fucking cake. For one, he’d dated her barely all of two months, and she was the only girlfriend he’d never been intimate with. As if that mattered at all, however.

Marsha had come off as a very intellectual, cool girl back when Gavin first saw her in his grade eleven class. Long blonde hair with gentle, round brown eyes, she looked like a doll with all her petite, dainty features. She was late registering into his high school, but she fit right in with a large group of girls in no time at all. Both studious and absolutely sexy, Marsha soon got involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities as well as school-related ones. Head of the girls’ varsity volleyball team, top singer in the school choir, and top cheerleader of the month, everyone soon loved Marsha. Guys drooled over her wherever she went, girls envied her and tried to be like her, and she was quite popular in no time and without much of an effort.

Naturally, Gavin-at his young age back then as a teenager-was awestruck. His budding sexuality paired with curiosity evoked him to slowly approach Marsha on the basis of just being a friend. However, the bright young girl soon was rather forthcoming for her age, and she was the first to confess that she had strong feelings for Gavin.

They made quite the couple back then, and for the first few weeks, Gavin thought he seriously was going to end up remaining high school sweethearts with Marsha and possibly marrying her in the near future.

But of course, youthful innocence and Gavin’s natural propensity for compartmentalizing people had been what backfired, but it hadn’t been what eventually helped him realize that there was something ‘off’ about Marsha. As young as he was, he wasn’t stupid, and he could tell that all wasn’t right when he asked her one day if he could go over to a friend’s to just hang out and play video games. Well, that friend happened to be a girl, of course, and Marsha freaked out all of a sudden. In less than a second, the image of the sweet, wonderful, sexy girl he’d been dating came to a halt, and in its place was a raging, seething, vitriolic young woman already accusing Gavin of cheating on her with this friend.

The video game plans were cancelled, and Gavin held her to his chest all evening trying to calm her down. Marsha had sobbed out to him and promised that she wouldn’t repeat that ever again, and such an incident never would occur. Foolishly, Gavin believed her, wanting to give their love another shot and genuinely wanting to make it work out. He knew that all couples fought and had their personal struggles, of course, as he’d seen plenty of it coming from his parents before his father left. Vowing to be more patient with Marsha, he stopped hanging out with his friends altogether.

Well, that wasn’t nearly enough for Marsha. When Gavin gave her an inch, she wanted to take the extra damn mile. Soon, another side to Marsha revealed itself. She became greedy, controlling, and she invaded almost all areas of Gavin’s life.

Trying to mold and shape him to the perfect visage of the perfect, most ideal man for herself, she often berated him that his grades were too low, that he didn’t study hard enough, and if he ever was going to introduce himself to her father, he had to pick up the slack. Her verbal tirade was never-ending, it seemed, and very soon, Gavin grew weary of it. It didn’t matter how beautiful her body was, and it didn’t matter how much he wanted to sleep with her. No amount of verbal abuse and degradation was worth putting up with for anyone.

He’d broken things off with her over the phone, mainly due to worrying that she was going to scream and cry at him all day long, but that still came to haunt Gavin.

Marsha had reacted, alright. Threatening suicide and the like, she sent him at least a hundred texts the very same day he cut her out of his life, and from that day on, she sent at least a hundred every day.

The torment and torture didn’t end there, however. Although he’d blocked her number, Marsha wasn’t going to allow that to stop her, it seemed.

Since she’d already been to Gavin’s house numerous times, and since Gavin’s mother actually liked her, she allowed Marsha to come by the house. Gavin relayed to his mother that Marsha had threatened to harm and kill herself, but of course, adults hardly believed kids. His mother-due to being so busy at the time as she worked on publishing her second thesis dissertation-waved him off and told him to be a man and deal with his own problems.

So he did.

The next time Marsha saw him, Gavin knew she was in a sense ‘stalking’ him. They never had classes together during the second semester of school, thankfully, and that was quite the relief to Gavin. Too bad it was short-lived, however…

Very soon, Marsha took it upon herself to switch into all of Gavin’s classes. She’d spent majority of the classes trying to get Gavin’s attention, throwing licentious looks his way, and just being a complete obnoxious nuisance. She was a thorn in his side, and Gavin really started hating her.

One day after class, when he saw her standing near his locker, he shouted at her in front of everyone for her to leave him alone and to stop stalking him. Sending her into a rage at once, Gavin had ‘outed’ her, and a lot of his friends backed him up as they encouraged him to do whatever he could to get away from her. They didn’t need to even encourage him; it was as natural as breathing to be free of Marsha Field.

That had been the most terrifying experience of Gavin’s life, and from that experience, he’d learned a lot, and thankfully, no other woman he dated had been nearly as messed up in the head as Marsha. Having accrued more experience afterwards, things had been fine for a long, long time…until recently, anyway.

What did Marsha want, now?!

As his mind span and swam over the possibilities, Gavin felt sick and queasy just thinking about it. Thinking and obsessing wouldn’t get him anywhere, however; reading her message would. Reading the damn thing would expel all sources of doubt, all confusion, muck, as well as imaginative thoughts he could conjure up for himself.

Bracing himself, Gavin opened the message, and he yanked his phone so closely to his face, that his nose practically kissed the cold screen as a result. He read over her initial greeting a few times until her words really sank into his head.

Marsha Driver: Gavin!!! Hey!!! Do you remember me??? It’s been so long!!!

Did he—did he remember?!?! Of course he did!!!!

…..

But why was her last name different, and why did she look different?!

Deciding to take a little trip to her profile page, Gavin saw it load up quickly. Her cover photo was of herself, a man, as well as a young boy aged no more than three or four years old at the most. As he squinted seriously at the photo, Gavin concluded that yes, this was indeed Marsha Field, and she was married. He didn’t need to stare for long at the glowing wedding band on her finger as she cradled the boy to her chest and had her arms around him in the shot; simply staring down and seeing it written blatantly on her profile.

There, her little biography of sorts sat open for all to see.

Marsha Driver
From: Loomis, California
Joined on: December 2012
Went to College of Nursing - Wayne State University
Married to Charles Driver

So there it was, then. A married woman was messaging him. No! A married ex-girlfriend was messaging him!!! Not that that was a crime in and of itself, really, but Gavin somehow suspected that there was more to this than met the eye.

With his ‘detective cap’ on, he searched through a few of her photos, and he noticed that she’d not only grown her hair out longer to the point that it practically touched her ass, but she’d dyed it raven black, as well. In high school, Marsha Field had soft, blonde hair that Gavin often enjoyed looking at and running his fingers through. But now? It was a raven’s nest, swooping down to the floor in a few shots, practically.

Charles Driver’s profile was searched next, but it held significantly less photos than Marsha’s did. Charles was a middle-aged man with pure blonde hair, and it was clean-cut in comparison to his wife’s broom of wild hair. Their son was apparently named Nathan, and he had his father’s blonde hair, and his mother’s deep brown eyes.

As Gavin looked back through all of Marsha’s photos, he whispered to himself, “Can’t ever get rid of crazy, can ya?”

Deleting Marsha’s friend request, he’d been on the verge of blocking her, too, when something occurred to him. Slamming into him like a train, the thought screamed out at him like a damn siren, and he couldn’t ignore it.

His mother really had liked Marsha a lot back then, and since his own mother had tagged the photo and Marsha had commented on it, Gavin knew that Marsha and his mother were Facebook friends.

Quickly confirming it when he revisited Marsha’s profile, he saw that yes, their friend in mutual was in fact Carrie Moser.

This was a problem, as well as a God-sent gift. Gavin knew that if he blocked Marsha, there was a chance she would run off and prattle to his mother. After all, the two were as thick as thieves, and he wouldn’t put it past his own mother to even rope Marsha along into such a weird scheme. They both had nothing better to do, after all.

On the other hand, he could use this to his advantage and show off the fact that he was in a relationship, thus making it all more authentic, and thus increasing the chances that his mother would relent and believe the chicanery.

He knew what to do.

Messaging his ex-girlfriend leisurely, he wrote out just a basic: hey, ya, I remember u, Marsha. How’s it going?

As Gavin made for a quick washroom break and then grabbed some coffee on the way back to his desk, Marsha had read the message, and replied back.

It’s going well, Gavin!! I can’t believe you’re engaged, though!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

If he could only tell her just how much his eyes hurt from looking at the capitalized letters and all the exclamation marks…

Sitting back down at his desk, he wrote to her: well ur married, so congrats 2 u 2.

Now, the conversation picked up speed.

Marsha Driver: Been married for almost six years!!

Gavin Reed: Nice. Saw u hve a son. how old is he?

Marsha Driver: He’ll be five in the summer!

Gavin Reed: cool.

Marsha Driver: Enough about meeee though!!! Tell me about your future hubbyyyy!!!!

It was at this point in the conversation that Gavin truly couldn’t help but be majorly annoyed and suspicious. Marsha was asking a lot for being someone he hadn’t spoken to or seen since high school.

As if she could sense his apprehension over the internet, she hurriedly added on to the conversation with: Hey, I understand if this is all so soooo sudden, but I wanted to say that I’m really happy for you, Gavin. You look genuinely happy with your fiancé, and that makes me happy in turn!!

“Sure it does,” he responded to her out loud in a faint whisper, but then texted: thnx, ur nice.

Cringing at his bland, almost childish reply, he sat awkwardly for a moment. There was now a lull in the conversation, it seemed. Maybe she’d run out of things to say, and Gavin was grateful for that, if it indeed happened to be the case. Perhaps he’d jumped to conclusions far too quickly, and perhaps she was just curious as opposed to wanting to dig in deeper.

Shrugging it all off, he’d barely placed his phone back in his jean pocket when it vibrated.

Shit.

Making sure Fowler wasn’t anywhere nearby, Gavin kept his head and neck craned down as he continued reading what Marsha was sending…there was a litany of shit, it seemed.

Marsha Driver: Let’s meet up some time, Gavin!!! I know that sounds weird, but I would like to meet your fiancé, and I’m sure you want to meet my husband!!!

He really didn’t, and he was already thinking of declining her offer when she kept on sending bullshit nonstop.

Marsha Driver: We can go to a new restaurant that just opened up a few months ago near my house right in the heart of Detroit if you want! Charles and I usually go a lot on Fridays because they have excellent ribs and steaks!!! You’ll loooooooove it!!!!

This time, he couldn’t hold back on his reply.

No thanks, Marsha.

Marsha Driver: Plllllleeeeeeeeaaasseeee Gavin??? It’ll be fun!! I sweaaarrr!!! I have already planned some cool activities for us, and it’ll be our treat!

He frowned as he sent: Your treat?

Marsha Driver: Yeah! Totally!! Charles and I will pay! Your job and your fiancé’s job is to have fun!!

Well, he was convinced. Wherever and whenever free food was offered on the table, Gavin Reed was sure to follow, and he found he couldn’t argue with this right now.

Still a tad suspicious, he replied cautiously: Ok, ill ask Nines then. is this gonan be this Fri?

Marsha Driver: Nines?? Is that his name? Oh my goodness!!! Of course it’s his name!!!!! I forgot he is an android!!!!! LOOOOOOOOOL!

Slapping himself for making that slip, Gavin clenched and ground his teeth together as he struggled with what to say. Eventually, he settled angrily for: haha yah…hs an android…so is it this Friday??

Praying that Marsha would just end his suffering and misery by responding in kind, he sat back and propped his feet up on his desk; classic Reed comfort position achieved effortlessly.

Marsha Driver: Totally!! I hope it’s not short notice!!!

Gavin Reed: well its just a day away, so meh.

Marsha Driver: Awesomeeee!!! Charles will be delighted to knowww!! I’ll message you soon to double check if you’re good to go!!! Looking forward to it, Gavin!!!

He wasn’t.

Gavin Reed: k…ttyl

Marsha Driver: Byyyyyyyeeeeee!

Setting his phone down, Gavin sighed painfully to himself, “Shoot me now…”

A deep voice suddenly rasped behind him, “I’ll follow in line with that, Reed.”

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Of course it had to be Nines who’d stood behind him and read his entire conversation history.

Nearly yanking all his hairs right out of his scalp from the roots in sheer frustration, Gavin practically spun off his chair as he glared up at Nines. Suddenly feeling rather mawkish from being caught, he coughed out, “Nines?? You read a-all that?”

A sneer was his reply from the darkly clad android looming and towering over him. “Unfortunately,” Nines hissed thinly, “I’m all caught up, I’m pleased to report, and considering your clipped replies to this woman, I don’t think I’ll be able to understand why she reached out to you, Reed…” Staring intently at the phone, Nines continued, “…You deleted her friend request, which would entail that you don’t want to have anything to do with this woman.”

Barely managing a nod, Gavin felt his mouth drying up as Nines pressed on.

“Given that, why did you agree to meeting with she and her husband, then?”

Pinned on the spot, Gavin decided to come clean. After all, it was usually easier that way.

“She was someone I dated very briefly in high school,” he answered as he explained fully, “it didn’t end well, of course, and she was freakin’ nuts for a long time, but she seems fine now.”

Keeping on with the interrogation, Nines inquired, “How did she find you?”

“My mom’s Facebook photo,” Gavin began, turning beet red in the face as he remembered it all instantly, “she uh…she tagged me in the photos we took together.”

Almost explosively, Nines roared, “You mean she uploaded those on Facebook?!”

“Yeah…” he couldn’t believe the meek voice belonged to himself.

Reeling, Nines’ LED light flashed red as he muttered to himself, “I’ve come across some odd people, Reed, but I think your mother is by far the most mysterious and bizarre.” Shaking his head, he continued, “Uploading a photo like this, for which purpose from this day onward until the end of time I still cannot and will not be able to fathom!!”

Holding his hands out, Gavin nodded, “Look, I know it’s a shitty thing, but now that Marsha’s involved in this, I don’t think I can really talk my way out.”

Glaring, Nines spat, “Oh yes you can, Reed!” Reaching for the phone, he coldly instructed, “Block her, delete her, and move on with your life; you’re making this a bigger issue than it needs to be.”

“No!” Gavin cried angrily, swiping his phone clean out of Nines’ hands. As a result of the wild display of animosity, a lot of people were staring…

Unable to take this, Gavin grabbed a vacant seat and ordered Nines to sit on it. Refusing to, the tall android backed away, but then stopped when Gavin growled, “I won’t talk to you unless you sit the hell down, Nines.”

This did well in eliciting more sputtered cursing, but Nines finally sat still as he folded his arms over his chest and hissed, “Explain yourself.”

Calmly, Gavin held his hands together clasped tightly and firmly. Perhaps it was a means of getting and remaining calm…

“Look, Nines,” he began as gently as he could, aware that eyes were still on them, which was why he tried to hurry. “I would love more than anything else in this damn world to block Marsha forever, but I can’t because she’s literally my mom’s best friend.”

A knowing look was instantly in Nines’ eyes. With a strained sigh, he slowly stood up as he grunted, “Coffin’s sealed; we have to go to this stupid dinner thing, huh?”

“You’d be right…sadly.”

Remembering what Carrie had said about the authenticity of their ‘relationship’, Nines was immediately torn between helping Gavin, and abandoning him. His ‘helpful’ nature conflicted and battled with his ‘selfish’ one, but very soon, as he stared intently at Gavin, he found the helpful side of himself won over.

Damn.

Bending down quickly, Nines whispered scathingly, “Did I ever tell you that I don’t really like your mother, Reed?”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin rasped in pure exasperation, “You’re lucky you’re not related to her.”

“I think I’d rather be shot, to be honest with you, Reed.”

For once, he genuinely found himself agreeing with the RK900.

“Likewise, man, likewise.”

Chapter Text

Friday evening had Gavin back in Nines’ apartment. Due to how cold the weather had gotten, Gavin was already wearing the thick multi-zip up cargo jacket over a black, long-sleeve shirt. He wore dark grey jeans beneath all that, and as he stood waiting outside Nines’ partly closed bedroom door, he wondered what the android would wear to the dinner outing.

Luckily, Nines wasn’t burdened by the cold, and Gavin assumed he would be wearing the items he’d purchased, no doubt.

Of course, his detective powers for once had failed him; he was wrong!!

As soon as Nines stepped out into the hall, Gavin found him to be wearing a black suit and a red tie. Oh, this wouldn’t do. Apparently, Nines was still too shy to dress in his new getup, and it seemed to annoy Gavin for reasons unknown.

Eyeing his distaste, Nines croaked, “What’s wrong? No good?”

“Dude,” Gavin coughed, “you spent over three-hundred god damn American dollars on yourself, and you’re gonna wear that shit, still???” Disapproval evident and impossible to hide, Gavin shook his head as he tried gazing past Nines’ broad, wide shoulders and into his bedroom.

Eyes shifting in mild discomfort, Nines weakly supplied, “I was trying to make a good impression, Reed, why are you berating me for it?”

Ignoring his question, Gavin nodded over inside his room, “Move aside for a moment so I can check what you have.”

Again, Nines seemed nervous, and as his LED light reflected that by switching from blue to yellow, he wheezed, “Why?”

“Because,” Gavin hissed, “I know you bought more shit since we went shopping last time.”

Thrown off by this assertion, Nines aggressively growled out, “You couldn’t possibly know that, Reed, unless you—hey!!”

Using the minor distraction to his advantage, Gavin pushed past Nines swiftly and entered his room. Turning left closer to the wall, he slid open Nines’ closet doors and saw just how many new things he’d purchased. Apparently, the RK900 had been quite the busy little bee…

A long, dark Minos Men’s Highwayman Coat with an over-sized hood and face-covering collar when zipped up stood facing Gavin first and foremost. The trench coat had two pockets with flaps. The front and back of it also had splits for maximum movement and comfort. In general, the trench coat appeared to be made from warm coating fabric, making it practical as well as fashionable.

Peeking down, Gavin then saw dark, large size motorcycle boots made out of genuine leather. A few other belts, buckles, and chains hung around it as well, and Gavin had to step back and laugh.

Mortified completely, Nines attempted to close the door and push him out of the way. “I think you’ve seen enough, Reed!” he barked out his discomfort, but before he could entirely close the doors, Gavin wedged a hand quickly inside closet. It worked, and Nines stopped trying to close the doors while throwing Gavin an unimpressed glare.

“What?” Gavin tossed out, “I like what you got!!”

“I can’t wear any of this!” Nines argued, but Gavin reached inside his closet and yanked out the Black Swamp trousers with the torn, distressful, and erratic patterned paint designs and patches running down the legs of the pants. “Don’t be silly, Nines,” he chided mildly while he grabbed the trench coat as well. “This is fine!! I think Marsha will be weirded out to see ya all punked out for sure, but I think that’ll be worth it even more!!!”

“How kind of you to use me as fodder for shocking and terrifying your ex-girlfriend, Reed,” Nines bowed sardonically. “That sure makes me feel wonderful.”

Ignoring him, Gavin sang out, “For your top, I think we can go with this devil fashion black shirt!” Toying and plucking the various buckle belts and rivets accents on the bodice, Gavin eyed the slim fit shirt with mild greed reflecting brightly in his eyes.

Almost pouting, Nines seemed to fidget nervously as he belted out, “This is insane, Reed, and need I remind you, very last-minute for my tastes!!”

As he snatched the clothes out of Gavin’s hands and set them onto the bed, the short detective shoved his hands in his pockets, turned his nose up in disgust at the current clothes Nines was wearing, and he laughed.

Nines didn’t appreciate it, and he tossed Gavin a heated scowl that depicted how displeased he was with this situation. “Reed,” came the low, deep growl, “it’s not really funny!”

“Sure it is!” Gavin quipped, “to see the big and mighty Nines frightened of some gothic clothes?! Duuude, that’s comedy material!!” Backing these up with boisterous rounds of chuckling, he nearly doubled down in laughter as his voice hit all four walls of the bedroom.

As he wiped his tears away from the corners of his eyes, Nines huffed at him as he hissed, “I was trying to make a good first impression, Reed, and considering how this is at best—”

Holding up both hands as if he was under gunpoint, Gavin snapped up as he cried out, “How did ya put it??” Now, it was his turn to mimic the android, and he put on his best ‘Nines’ voice as he grumbled out of his chest, “Petty internet drama? Is that how you said it?”

“Stop that,” Nines growled back, “I thought most people-when they are meeting their partner’s friends and exes for the first time ever-would dress their best for the occasion!”

Sitting down on the edge of the bed next to the clothes, Gavin muttered, “Nah, I think you should just be yourself, Nines; you picked these clothes out yourself for a reason, and I think you should just embrace that.” To help out with the process, he scooted closer to the closet and yanked out the motorcycle boots. Plopping them before the bed, he watched as Nines seemed hesitant for a moment, eyes flittering back and forth between the bed and the floor.

“Reed…”

“You don’t have to worry about the cold,” Gavin pointed out, “just wear whatever you want, and don’t worry about what Marsha may think.” His mind supplied, ‘I’ll handle her’, but he didn’t dare say that out loud while he threw Nines a wide smile.

After grumbling for another moment, Nines caved in.

The moody android knew what to do, and he got to work on shrugging out of his suit and pants…right in front of Gavin…

Leaping up to his feet as if he’d been electrocuted, Gavin tore across the room towards the door, and making sure his back faced Nines, he chirped out, “I’ll wait outside, but I’m sure it’ll be a good night, Nines.”

Before the android could say anything, the door clicked shut softly.

Gavin was left standing awkwardly in the hall, running a hand through his perfectly combed-back hair as he wondered why Nines hadn’t at least warned him that he wanted to disrobe right away first. If he stayed there in the room another minute, he’d—

“I’m ready, Detective.”

The door squeaked open, and Gavin sighed out, “That was fast…”

Almost mawkishly, Nines admitted, “I’m quick to do things if I’m interested and passionately motivated…”

“I’ve noticed,” Gavin chuckled, admiring how perfectly the boots looked peeking out from beneath the long trench coat, and how tall Nines’ figure was. These clothes really suited him to no end, and as the hood of the trench coat had been pulled back to reveal his face, Gavin stared at Nines’ hair for a while. He found himself ogling it for some time, and he knew it was because something wasn’t exactly sitting right.

Picking up on it, Nines frowned, “What’s the matter?”

Waving a dismissive hand as if he were waving a fly out of his face, Gavin replied, “Nothing, we have to get going, soon.”

Drawing up the hood of the trench coat, Nines nodded and stepped around Gavin towards the front door of the apartment.

Yet again, Gavin had to wonder why Nines did that; he wasn’t affected by the cold like humans were. In fact, to the detective’s mind and opinion, Nines looked better without the hood.

He gently pulled it down once they got in his car and drove off towards the address of the restaurant.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“Ribfest?” Nines snorted as he gazed out the window at the restaurant as they sat in the parked car, “this place is called ‘Ribfest’?”

Gavin snickered, “Seems appropriate and to the point, right?”

“I’ll say.”

As the snow stopped falling-thankfully, giving a much clearer view of outside, Gavin saw the pickup truck Marsha described she’d be arriving in. It was parked right next to Gavin’s car, and as Gavin waited while blowing over his clenched fists to warm them up in the old-fashioned ‘caveman’ way, Nines stared out the window at the pickup truck.

LED light yellow, he hissed, “Why’re we doing this again?”

The apprehension the android felt wasn’t only exclusively experienced by himself alone; Gavin too was feeling frightened and nervous as he saw and heard the man driving the truck turn off the engine.

Why were they here?? It was a rather simple-yet complicated answer.

As the cold night air sat around the car and the peace and silence of the darkness all around settled and engulfed them, Gavin felt his nostrils and mouth burning as they turned dry. This was…this was an important thing even he himself hadn’t considered regaling out loud to Nines, but he knew that this was all a part of how to make the image they’d painted of themselves as a couple all the more valid and believable.

Real couples did things together; they traveled together, shopped together, hung out with other married couples together, and they shared experiences together intimately and closely. This was what it was all about. So far, they’d shopped together a few times, and Gavin even felt mildly responsible for influencing Nines in some way to change his style of dress. Only intimate friends and couples seemed to be able to wield that power and influence over each other. Only couples cohabiting and relating intensely to each other were capable of chiseling away and ‘refining’ their significant other into minor versions better suiting themselves, but did that mean they were truly a couple???

No.

In order to bring that to life, Gavin realized that they had to step outside their personal mind frames and actually show something in terms of the relationship. What good were thoughts, ideas, practices, values, and plots if they weren’t validated and confirmed by others? That’s how the world worked, of course, as no person lived on their own private island. This was an open world, and an open society, and people relied on their experiences, their stories, their witness accounts, and their reports and feedback in order to perpetuate those said experiences throughout time. That was how history had been made, of course; observed, written and reported down, reported on and regaled, and thus making it all substantial and valid.

In a nutshell, they had to show off, and as much as Gavin and Nines hated that equally, there was no way to avoid this matter.

He settled for merely supplying, “Look, Nines, Marsha’s literally my mom’s ‘spy’, I bet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she was roped into this by my mom as a stupid ‘test’ of sorts to see if we’re really together and can survive through all obstacles and bullshit alike.” His breath fogged up the windows and windshield considerably, but he didn’t care as he stared straight ahead of himself at the darkness all around.

Next to him, Nines commented harshly, “This isn’t at all what entails fulfilling a promise, Reed.”

“I know, I know, I know, and I know,” Gavin whispered repeatedly as he closed his eyes and felt a tiny headache already blooming in the back of his head. God help him get through this. “I promise that once this is all over, Nines, then all debts will be paid in full.” He wasn’t sure how else to explain it without making it sound so business-like. It was good enough for now, he supposed, especially considering who he was talking to.

Eyeing him wearily, Nines murmured, “I said I’d help, didn’t I?” Not even waiting for Gavin to provide an answer for the rhetorical question, he added, “I’ll do it to the end, besides which, I’m quite sure that if you yourself even deigned to help me, it would be in the form of being tainted like you are.”

Gavin could only hiss like he’d been burned, and he growled, “Wanna tone it down a bit, Nines? Sheesh!! Felt that one in the cold sizzling right through!!”

Before Nines could respond, Gavin continued on his tirade. Now, having found a convenient target for all of his frustrations, he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Unlocking the car doors abruptly and loudly, he played with the handle of the inside of the door as he muttered incoherently, “Get your smile on, Nines, and try to behave, at least a little.”

If at all possible, his mind supplied, but he never voiced this aloud.

Stepping out of the car, Gavin was immediately assaulted by a brutally arctic cold wind slapping him in the face. Cheeks frozen for a moment, he barely was able to lift a hand up and touch his own skin when he heard loud feminine squeals of pure zeal and excitement ringing and cutting through the air.

The passenger door of the pickup truck burst open, and high heeled winter boots crunched their way on the snow. Hands stretched out while a white scarf wrapped around her neck and a small wool hat rested upon her skull, Marsha dove for Gavin. Wrapping him ever so tightly in her arms, she tugged him to her chest as she screamed out, “GAAAAAAAAAAAVIIIIN!!! Oh my goooooooood!!! It’s been sooooooo long!!!”

Trying to squirm away, Gavin felt her arms go tighter around himself. Wisely, he felt that running away wasn’t a wise move; she only yanked him closer in her own embrace. Relenting, he pet her on the back a few times awkwardly, while her husband exited from the truck next and smirked.

Waving at him, he grunted awkwardly, “Reed, right?”

Waving back, Gavin responded, “Err, yeah, Gavin Reed.”

“Nice to meet you,” came the nice, socially polite comment. “My wife’s told me a lot of good things about you.”

Had she? That was a first.

Once Marsha decided she’d had her complete fill of smooshing Gavin, she let him go, and she then squinted over at Nines. However obliquely her next set of actions were as he moved around towards where the android was standing, she immediately began ‘sizing him up’ as she stared at him from head to toe, and then from his very toes to his face again.

As she gazed intently and openly at Nines, gawking at him more as time went on, Charles brushed some hairs off his black coat and jeans as he awkwardly cleared his throat.

“So this is your…partner, Reed?” It had been spoken in such an odd, abstract way, but Gavin could only nod robotically more so due to the cold.

“Sh-should we head inside?” Gavin asked, bypassing more awkward gaping and staring as he nodded over to the luminous glow emanating from the restaurant. It was growing colder faster and faster, and truth be told, he was so hungry above all else…

Snapping to attention, Marsha stood back, looped her arm with her husband’s, and she let out a tiny giggle. “Yeah! Let’s go!!” Already skipping towards the restaurant, she paused midway, turned, and glared over at Nines.

Only, Gavin hadn’t caught it due to turning off his phone so they wouldn’t be disturbed, but Nines surely did, and he glared right back at Marsha until they reached the front of the restaurant.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

“It feels sooooo good to be indoors, right sweetie?!” Marsha certainly was the Queen of making the dumbest comments of the century, and things seemed to be getting more annoying for both Nines and Gavin as they allowed the human couple to lead them inside the restaurant.

Thankfully, Marsha and Charles had already reserved a booth for four people, and the waitress led them towards it cheerfully. The entire place had been decorated to the nines for Christmas already, and it made Gavin’s stomach churn uncomfortably. For one, a lot of the servers and waitresses already were wearing red, green, black, and white uniform colors. On their heads, majority of them had either elf hats, or reindeer antlers with bells attached that jingle-jangled loudly whenever they walked about. Classic Christmas music blasted on the speakers, and a lot of tinsel, holly, ivy, mistletoe, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, stockings, gifts, as well as Santa models could be found every other corner of the restaurant.

Their booth was a fuzzy, red seated circular one, and it was as close to the bar and grill as possible. A fresh scent of the meat cooking and steaming hit Gavin’s nostrils, and he had to work hard on repressing the sounds of his growling, demanding stomach.

Once they sat down at their clean booth, the waitress handed them all their menus, and she had already set out glasses of crystal-clear water. Once she saw Nines, however, she did a doubletake when it came to his LED light, winced, and then took away his glass.

“I’ll let you folks just look through our menu, now,” she announced while she avoided all eye-contact with the punk, gothic Nines, as though he made her quite uncomfortable. She left as soon as Charles gave her an auspicious wink, and as he settled next to his wife, she shrugged out of her long, white winter coat and draped and folded it neatly next to herself. Placing her black purse on top of it as well, now that she was embroidered in better light, she seemed to be at the height of her happiness next to her handsome husband.

Gavin was able to see that Marsha hadn’t really ‘aged’ in any downhill manner. Her skin remained soft, absent of wrinkles, stress-free, and it held some sort of an odd glow around and within it. She barely looked a day over thirty-two at the most, and Gavin had a difficult time believing she actually had a son as well.

Her hair was still as long as he’d seen in the photos on her Facebook profile, of course, but she obviously had cut it a little, so it rested just in the middle of her waist. Still slender and rather athletic, Marsha looked fit and healthy in her red miniskirt, thigh-high black winter boots, and black long sleeve shirt that had been freshly washed and ironed. She wore a thin layer of eyeliner above on her top eyelid, and her perfume was rather…potent. Gavin hated it whenever a woman doused herself in perfume, and he was already feeling his nose burning up and reacting quite badly to her scent.

Charles on the other hand smelled clean and fresh as well as looked the part, but he somehow seemed more subtle and a lot calmer than his wife. His soft olive colored eyes and blonde hair reflected nicely in the lights of the diner, and as he removed his winter jacket, he was simply dressed in a blue dress shirt and a dark blue tie. The cuffs had been rolled back a little, however, and as he pulled his arms up to rest on the surface of the table, Marsha peeked down at his cufflinks and let out a tiny hiss.

Reaching for his wrists, she gently straightened them out as she sibilantly spat, “Sweetie, your shirt…”

Charles immediately acquiesced and allowed her to fix them up for him as he chuckled.  

Gavin rolled his eyes. Nothing had changed in terms of Marsha insisting on controlling others; especially the men in her life.

Poor Charles.

Straightening himself up, the man who looked suddenly a bit too old for his wife stared at Nines, and then at Gavin, and then back over at Nines. Lowering his head as a rosy glow broke out in his face, he mumbled unenthusiastically, “I like your husband’s—err, I mean, fiancé’s clothes, Mr. Reed.”

Gavin let out a loud snort, catching the attention of the diners located a few booths over. Nines stomped on his foot roughly, the heel of the boot grinding down strongly over Gavin’s toes. The pained detective merely bit the insides of his cheeks, however, and he withdrew his foot from beneath Nines’ powerful boot.

“Err, thanks, Charles,” he grunted. “And you can just call me ‘Gavin’, by the way.”

Nodding, Charles looked back down at his menu, and then kept out of the conversation. Above, the music switched to Frosty the Snowman, causing a few children near the Christmas tree to sing along as they gushed in sheer joy. Their irate parents dined and tried quieting them down to no avail.

While Charles’ eyes roamed over the length of his menu, Marsha sat with both her hands propped against both cheeks. Her face was right before Nines’ as she leaned into the table of the booth as much as she could, her white scarf trailing down over the edge while she struggled to get a deeper look at the android sitting next to her ex-boyfriend. As her thin eyebrows rose steadily while Nines scowled at her with all his might, Gavin fidgeted and sputtered out, “Err, s-so, Marsha…h-how’s your son?”

“Hmm?” Waking up from her dreamland slowly, she giggled as she finally caught on, “Oh! Nathan’s doing well!! He’s at a babysitter’s house, of course!!!”

“Umm, all night?” Gavin asked quickly, hoping to fill into the awkwardness before Marsha could somehow piss Nines off by staring at him as though he were some circus freak on full display.

Waving a hand at him in a dainty sort of way, Marsha exclaimed, “Of course!!! We need our time together sometimes, Charles and I!!”

Yeah, he got that.

Staring over at his menu, he pretended to take up interest in it, even though he’d already settled for roasted ham with a side dish of mashed potatoes and corn.

Good enough.

While Nines gazed off to the side almost shyly, Marsha decided to suddenly act as though she were a long-lost sycophant fan of his or an admirer. Tapping a clean, white-manicured fingernail in the center of the wooden table, she asked, “So how long have you two been together?”

Nines stared at Gavin, wondering if he would answer, but before the detective could do so, Marsha quickly intervened with, “It’s ‘Nines’, right?”

LED light switching to yellow, Nines softly responded, “Yes, I’m Nines.”

Chuckling, Marsha again asked, “So how long have you two been an item?!?!?” Fluttering her eyelashes at them, she added, “I must say, you guys actually look even cuter together in person!!”

How long were they together?

Gavin shrugged, “Err, not that long, I mean…like what…almost a year, Nines?”

Lips barely moving, Nines hissed, “Seems about right.”

“Well, I just think you two are amazing!!” Marsha sang, and her husband set down his menu as he gathered her own in his hands, next.

Smiling politely at Nines and Gavin, he inquired carefully, “So, Nines, are you also working for the DPD?”

Glaring at Gavin for a moment, Nines seemed to be non-verbally asking just how much Charles and Marsha knew about him, and Gavin looked away as he flushed pink. Nines seemed to be expecting an answer, however, but Marsha-ever the chatterbox-seemed to keep on going down the path she’d carved out for herself. Really, it was a train that couldn’t ever be stopped, and to want to stop it was only a futile desire.

It was better to let the questions come.

One by one, they poured out of her, and she waved her hands ecstatically about, her wide, round eyes and long eyelashes the only things that Nines could see as she drew herself closer and closer to him.

“Have you two moved in together, yet?! I bet you have! I bet you have a lovely place!!!”

“What about kids? Are you guys thinking of kids in the future?”

Not even taking a breath, she rambled on, “Ooooh!!! And Nines is an androiiiid!!! That must be new and exciting, huh Gavin?”

Needing a break from this madness, Gavin stared up at one of the many elf hats that jingled by, and he raised a hand as he tried getting a waiter’s attention. He didn’t have to try too hard; the young man pranced over towards their booth, and he smirked at Gavin as if he already knew what was going on.

“Sir,” he addressed calmly and formally, bending over halfway as Gavin held up his menu and Nines’.

Holding out the menus, Gavin simply said, “I’ll take the roasted ham and side dish of mashed potatoes and corn, please…” Pausing, he quickly added, “…With lots of butter, please.”

“Certainly, sir.” Turning to the others, he then asked, “Are we all ready to order, then?”

With a brief second’s peek at Nines, Marsha held a hand up to her mouth as she giggled, “Teehee!! Well, all except for Nines, since he’s an android!!!”

Her husband chuckled as well, gently holding her to his side as he coughed up a laugh at the waiter. “We’re ready to order, sir.”

Oh, how Gavin want to wipe that stupid shit-eating smirk off both Marsha’s face, and Charles’. But all he could do was sit and watch as the waiter took down their orders, and then marched away with the bells attached to his hat making musical noises harmoniously.

The air was suddenly so stuffy here, but he felt that mostly because they’d reached a sort of age-old-familiar ‘social awkwardness’ that Gavin always faced whenever he’d been forced out to socialize with strangers. He’d always had good intentions, of course, but once the social niceness and politeness had waned off and he found that there was nothing left to talk about, that was when the embarrassing feeling of being ‘stuck’ weighed and slammed into his head.

He was now stuck.

Marsha’s intractable behavior earlier hadn’t exactly helped, either, but it seemed to not matter to the woman at all. She sipped her water, her pink lip gloss staining the cold side of the cup she was drinking from. The moment her husband looked down to check his phone resting on his lap, no doubt, she tossed a flirtatious wink surreptitiously at Gavin.

That was it; he needed a drink.

At least the bar was close, anyway.

Standing up immediately, he took off his jacket, and as he folded it neatly on his seat, Nines asked gently, “Where’re you off to, Ree-err, I mean, Gavin?”

Thankfully, no one caught that, as just in the nick of time, an infant had decided to kick up a fuss and wail out a piercing cry that rang about nastily in the restaurant.

Flinching as he heard the near deafening cries, Gavin coughed out carefully, “Err, I’m getting a drink?” Motioning over at the bar, he then said, “I think you have to order on your own, apparently.”

Without invitation, in a jiffy, Marsha leapt to her feet. Taking it upon herself, she volunteered, “I’ll come with you!!”

Her husband Charles nodded. “Get me the usual, honey.”

“Okay sweets,” she threw back merrily at him, and in an instant, before Gavin could even blink, she looped her arm around his, much in the similar fashion as she had with her husband upon entering the restaurant. Gavin was led away from the booth in a hurry, and the colors, lights, sights, and sounds all swirled messily around him as Marsha’s potent perfume slammed into his burning nostrils.

Blinking back tears as he fought to breathe through his mouth only, Gavin kept his eyes on the back of Marsha’s black hair as she tugged him and led him up to the lavender colored bar counter. Gavin’s knees knocked into the damn thing, and he hissed as he leaned against a black, shiny stool. With all the confidence in the world as if she was the sexiest thing alive, Marsha pushed aside a few propped-up menus and signs, and she winked at the first bartender who approached.

“Evenin’ ma’am,” he purred delightfully at her, and she smiled back widely.

“Heya, can I get one Cabernet Sauvignon, one Chardonnay, aaaand…” Pausing, she smirked at Gavin, indicating that he had to tell her what he wanted.

Not caring for the classier things, Gavin merely grunted out at the bartender, “I’ll have one Corona, please.”

Nodding his head, the bartender turned on his heels, and he got to work. As he yanked out the three glasses and got out the alcohol from coolers and buckets, Marsha turned and leaned with her elbows on the counter. Stretching her long, thin legs out before herself, she seemed to be puffing out her more than endowed chest, as if purposefully showing off to Gavin what kind of ‘assets’ she had.

Ignoring it, Gavin focused on the music, as well as the ability not to burst out sneezing all over the damn place. He was starting to feel a throbbing headache.

As he zoned out, Gavin felt his headache growing worse, and he blinked hard, as if he could somehow dispel it. No, banishing a headache wasn’t that simple, and he was a fool to try. Still, he kept blinking, shivering mildly as he felt his nose really flaring up.

Why was it burning?!?!

A gentle hand resting down on his shoulder suddenly gave him a thought as to why his nose burned so badly.

Turning his head around to his right, he saw Marsha throwing him a playful-yet impishly dark look. He didn’t like it and appreciate it at all, but he was frozen in place; she was advancing, and she was doing so relatively quickly.

Lips pausing next to his ear, if someone happened to be walking by and they didn’t know them, it would be fair to assume they were engaged in a rather close, intimate conversation…

Marsha’s purred words eased their way into his ears so dangerously, the tremors racking him and antagonizing him beyond what words could say.

With a mild glance thrown in the direction their booth was located, Marsha chuckled softly, “So, this is what you wanted all along, huh Gavin?”

Chapter Text

Me posting pure smut on Wattpad and Tumblr and then running away.

 

 

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes, beard and outdoor

 

*Hours later* Thinking I got away with it, only to have my profile shut down and a warning email sent to me.

 

Image may contain: 1 person

Chapter Text

He knew she’d been referring to Nines, though what of Nines, Gavin had no idea. He wasn’t in the mood for guessing games either, and he always thought that as rudely as it could be taken, it was far better to just ask things and get right down to the point instead of skirting around the subject at hand just to be nice.

Curbing all his airs and graces for the moment, he frowned a deep frown as he asked, “What do you mean?”

With a tiny eye roll indicative of her impatience bubbling beneath the well-tamed surface, she hissed out vindictively, “Your partner, Gavin! What’s with his style of dress?”

Oh…so she was indeed shocked? Good.

Feeling his lips twitching in sheer success, Gavin tried playing it cold as ice while shrugging nonchalantly, “I dunno, he likes it.”

A thin eyebrow rose on her forehead, “He likes it?!”

“Mhm.”

Puffing out her cheeks for a moment, Marsha exhaled a deep, long breath that made parts of her hair that hung down over her cheeks blow and move back. “Soooo, let me get this straight,” she began as she looked genuinely annoyed and pained. “Your partner’s perfectly fine with dressing up like a Tim Burton character as he parades around Detroit with you like that?”

Snorting crudely, Gavin snapped, “He’s not a Tim Burton character, Marsha.”

“He looks like Edward Scissorhands!” she almost shrieked flippantly, causing another female bartender to glance up from restocking the shelves and racks.

Feeling himself blushing, Gavin tried escaping from his horrific embarrassment by resorting to joking. It was always a means to detract from his discomfort and social awkwardness, and it’d always yielded good results. Plus, it didn’t hurt that people liked jokes.

Sniffing once because of the damn perfume still wafting about in the air and then rubbing his nose quickly, Gavin grinned, “Oh, Edward Scissorhands? So you mean my partner’s as sexy as Johnny Depp then, right Marsha? Is that literally what you’re saying?”

“Oh, knock it off, Gavin,” she snapped irritably. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

Shrugging, Gavin retorted, “Style is something personal, but I guess you never understood that, Marsha.” Again, he felt age-old residual feelings of control, manipulation, gaslighting, and the over-arching need for her to change any man she was ever with; constantly bending and molding them until they were the apotheosis of the ‘perfect guy’.

But who was to tell Marsha Field that ‘perfection’ never existed!? If she ever was informed of that, well, it would be the end of days as humanity knew it, for sure. Better to not touch that shit with a fifty-foot pole.

Still mildly chuffed about his last comment, Marsha stared angrily at Gavin from head to toe before a standoffish sneer was instantly upon her face. It made her suddenly look terrifying. “Well, you don’t exactly have a good sense of fashion and style either, Gavin…” Eyes rolling up to the ceiling, she pushed a stray hair strand out of her face as she concluded, “…Seriously, some of the crap you’ve been wearing and calling ‘clothes’ all these years is just…” Her face scrunched up, then, “…Eewww…”

But how had she…how could she possibly know about all this?!? Gavin felt the hairs on his body rising, his heart racing, and he started sweating profusely. There had to be some way she’d obtained all this information!! Who was involved?! Who had she been talking to?! Perhaps his mother?!

…..

No…it was much simpler than that, and there wasn’t a sinister, decadent reason for all this madness. It was just a simple matter of Occam’s razor: the simplest reason or answer was most likely the correct one. Yes, the ‘razor’ here needed to be used for the purposes of effectively shaving away all the unnecessary assumptions when distinguishing between all the damn theories floating around in his head space.

Marsha had gone page creeping. It literally was that simple.

Not entirely too comfortable with the notion that she’d been cyber-stalking him, Gavin stared randomly at a spot behind one of the serving bartenders as he mumbled distastefully, “Glad to see you’ve picked up all your old habits, Marsha.”

Scoffing disdainfully, her face turned rather unpleasant as she muttered perhaps more so to herself, “Please, punks are cool and good if you’re going through your moody teenage years.”

“I’d say it’s more of a goth look,” Gavin corrected with a snicker thrown her way. “I mean, technically, anyway.”

Marsha only threw him a cold glare that could freeze water right on the spot, and Gavin had to look away immediately. She still held a lot of sway as far as the ‘fear department’ was concerned, so it seemed. If Gavin didn’t know any better, he would’ve assumed she was absolutely jealous. Setting it all aside for now, however, he tried to ignore what he thought were obvious signs of a jealous woman radiating contempt and mild hatred, especially reserved for Nines.

Remaining silent until their drinks were ready, Gavin carried his own, but also offered to carry Marsha’s.

She didn’t need his help, apparently.

Turning her nose up snobbishly at him, she yanked her wine and her husband’s closely against her chest and offered Gavin a tiny sneer. “Flattery will get you nowhere, Gavin,” she snapped with pure venom teetering on the edge of her voice as she swept by the shorter male.

Following her seemed like the best thing to do for now, and Gavin did so quietly until they reached their booth. To the reserved and silent detective’s sheer surprise, there sat appetizers consisting of two soup bowls and a few tiny avocado sandwiches. It seemed as if the food had just arrived and already been set out so nicely over the surface of the table like a kind invitation of sorts.

Eyeing the steaming buns and toast to go along with the soup, and the tiny dish holding a small salad, Gavin supposed Charles had ordered them. He figured out quickly however that his assumptions had been incorrect. Very, very incorrect.

Slightly puzzled as she slid her husband’s wine bottle and glass over to him, Marsha exclaimed, “This was nice of you to do, sweets!”

Charles eyed her in utter confusion. “Don’t look at me,” he began, “I didn’t order these.”

She sniped abruptly, “Okay, so the waiter or waitresses did, then.”

Almost fearfully, her husband looked at Nines. As if weary of the kind of reaction he would soon garner from his wife, Charles shrank down considerably in his seat almost like a scorned child.

Regarding him in ever the disparaging manner, Marsha sighed, “Thank you, Nines.”

The darkly clad android only nodded. “No thanking is necessary.”

Sitting herself back down next to her husband, Marsha began drowning her listeners in garrulous conversation that would have driven anyone else beyond insane. Gavin was left feeling superfluous; being on the receiving end of such private information being so easily blurted out made him truly think he was just an accessory in this little gathering. Thankfully, however, he wasn’t the only ‘third wheel’ while he sat next to a rather stiff, despondent Nines.

Marsha was currently blabbing and yapping away about her education, her work experience as a registered nurse, and all the ‘horror stories’ she’d heard of and personally experienced on the job. Her conduct in comparison to her much quieter husband’s demeanor definitely catered to her appearing far too supercilious for her own good. The haughty woman just kept talking, and talking, and talking, and talking…

Right when Gavin was beginning to wonder if it would ever stop, two waitresses suddenly appeared practically out of nowhere. Carrying along the meals they’d ordered with themselves, Gavin saw that Marsha had ordered for a roasted duck breast glazed in honey and garlic with rosemary and thyme. Charles proved to be quite the carnivore; while his wife ordered a side dish of mixed greens with vinaigrette dressing, Charles scarfed down plenty of ribs. His barbecue chicken ribs and steak slowly began disappearing, and the bones piled up on the side of his plate gradually. In no time at all, the teriyaki sirloin was completely gone. A few times as he licked the bones clean of their sauce and remaining meaty particles, Marsha rolled her eyes and hissed sardonically to him, “Are you a dog?? Why’re you licking your food and plate like that?! Disgusting!!!”

Normally, Gavin wouldn’t have ever put up with this from anyone, girlfriend or otherwise. He had simply no idea how on Earth Charles put up with this shit, but the other man did. Smiling, he apologized, wiped his lips clean with his napkin, took a swig from his drink, and kept on eating. Once in a while, he would stare over at his wife, blush, and then push over some sauce or bits of his own meal for her to eat and sample.

Perhaps he really was in love with her, after all…still, love was always blind, Gavin supposed, and he felt a bit annoyed with watching how Marsha and Charles interacted and how they talked to one another. They often spoke in hushed tones when they weren’t interested in chatting with Gavin and Nines, and they otherwise remained physically close and pleased to be around each other.

…...

And what was going on with himself and Nines???

Staring over towards his right, he caught a glimpse of Nines just sitting there staring around ever so awkwardly. It pained Gavin to see the tall, darkly clad android companion of his just aimlessly gaping about like it was nothing. Nines wasn’t this socially awkward at work!! So why was he, now?! There wasn’t too much of a difference between a restaurant and work!! A building was a building, people were people, and the only thing that differed here was the time, the setting, and the occasion!! Why was Nines holding back?!

Something angry had welled out of himself, but he forced it back as he glared at his ‘partner’ staring off to the side at a few children who were currently being entertained by a staff member of the restaurant dressed up as Santa Claus, while a few of the other waitresses and waiters were playing the role of the elves. They gathered around the Christmas tree near a large gas fireplace as they sat on the Santa’s lap while their parents took photos.

Nines seemed to be studying them with an odd sense of curiosity in his eyes beaming forth, but it was getting a bit annoying for Gavin’s standards. This wasn’t his first winter experience, ever, and Gavin had no idea why he was suddenly so fascinated by some children sitting before some cheekily-made-up, cheesy Christmas boxes and gifts next to an incandescent tree that was far too fake for its own good, all topped off with a Santa Claus who was most definitely a guy no older than twenty-four at the most wearing a stupid phony beard!!

…..

Perhaps he was far too much of a curmudgeon these days…

Trying to catch Nines’ attention, Gavin cleared his throat to speak, but unfortunately, Marsha beat him to it.

Leaning over the table a little, she asked softly, “So, when do you think you and Nines will have your wonderful wedding, Gavin?”

He froze. Yet again, someone had asked this question, and with the last person being Captain Fowler, Gavin knew he couldn’t answer Marsha in the same way he had his own boss. He often spoke to Fowler in blunt ways that others would no doubt label as beyond execrable, but with Marsha, and especially considering how her husband was by no means a ‘small man’, Gavin had to be more recreant in his approach.

Only offering her a lopsided grin, he stated casually, “We’re still workin’ on that, Marsha.”

Giggling a little, Gavin could already tell that the alcohol had made her ‘tipsy’. Fluttering her eyelashes at him, she inquired softly, “Yeeeah, but like, are you guys thinking of a summer wedding? Spring?”

As she held out her hands expectantly, Gavin reached beneath the table and gently poked Nines in the side of the leg, desperate to get his attention; any kind of attention!!! He wasn’t as socially suave whenever he was on the spot, and he wished Nines would say something!!

Unfortunately, no amount of poking would do, apparently. Rather than even trying to see what the issue was and why he was being poked and prodded at, Nines edged himself towards the opposite side of his chair, as if trying to escape from Gavin. The other male scowled daggers at Nines for it. He knew the android likely didn’t mean anything by it, but something like anger lashed through the pit of his stomach at the thought of being abandoned to ‘fend off’ Marsha’s barrage of questions.

Unrelenting, she sighed out, “Guess it may be a summer wedding! It’s what my sweets and I had…” Resting her head on her husband’s shoulder, she batted her eyelashes coyly at him, and it made him nuzzle and stroke her cheeks with a few of his fingers so compassionately.

“Mhm,” Charles murmured, “summer weddings are the best, Gavin! We highly recommend them.”

Still trying to poke Nines without obviously displaying it, Gavin smiled a pained grimace as he grunted, “Oh yeah? Well, you never know, haha!” Jabbing roughly at Nines’ hip, he finished, “We may do that, I guess, but I’d need to discuss it with Nines.” Placing heavy emphasis on the words he wanted to seriously resonate within the damn android who wanted to play oblivious next to him, Gavin turned and tried to grab at Nines as roughly as he could.

Meanwhile, as Gavin struggled, Charles and Marsha drank more of their alcoholic beverages. Rosy cheeks seemed to be common among the couple, and Charles unbuttoned the top button of his dress shirt. Leaning back a little, he nodded at Gavin as he asked, “So, Reed, what’s your father’s opinion on Nines? Does he approve?”

Immediately, both Gavin and Nines turned and slowly stared over directly at Charles. It appeared as if the entire restaurant had grown quiet, but in actually, that wasn’t really the case. It only felt that way for Gavin and Nines only due to the sad news and the heavy sense of trouble and turmoil burdening them both.

Hanging his head low, Gavin could only stare into the center of the table in sheer silence.

Marsha played with one of her earrings, and as Charles looked around the table awkwardly, he whispered out, “Did I say something wrong?”

Answering on Gavin’s behalf, Marsha chided her husband softly, “Gavin’s father died, love.”

…..

“…Oh,” Charles coughed, immediately flushing deeply and looking rather penitent. Bowing his head down, he added quickly, “My deepest condolences, Gavin.”

He didn’t need anyone’s pity. Fuck pity. But he couldn’t exactly say that.

Blinking back his anger that was steadily rising and bubbling to the surface, Gavin expurgated his feelings of irritation and the need to lash out as quickly as he could. Instead of channeling it at Charles or Marsha, however, he instead began clawing at Nines beneath the table.

All while still holding a somewhat respectful smile upon his face, Gavin practically dug his fingernails right through Nines’ pants as hard as he could. “Oh, it’s okay,” he said to Charles politely, “I’m over it, so it’s fine.”

Nodding, Charles turned to his wife, and he whispered at her, “Why didn’t you tell me this before? Now I look like a jackass!”

Hissing back, Marsha retorted, “I didn’t know until recently, myself!!”

While the couple bickered, the noises in the restaurant seemed to pick up again. The vicinal booths and tables close to theirs seemed to radiate positive, cheerful energy. But Gavin didn’t have time for that jovial merry-making nonsense. As he tried calming himself down in the best way possible, he tore away at Nines’ legs and clothes, not necessarily consciously trying to inflict harm or make the android suffer, but he was trying to distract himself, badly.

Wincing, Nines edged away a bit, but he had no room to go anywhere else. Not wanting to fall off his chair, he sat as stiffly as he could while Gavin ran his hands up and down the length of his left thigh in agitated patterns and motions.

Eyes shifting as she held her glass of wine to herself, Marsha snapped at her husband, “What?! It’s not like I live on Facebook!! How was I supposed to know way ahead of time?!”

As Gavin’s shoulders tightened, his movements became more and more erratic, and far more aggressive. He heard Charles quickly whispering back, “I doubt Gavin’s mother would post that crap on Facebook anyway…”

Now, Gavin was resorting to pounding on Nines’ thigh, and he was only doing so because his own heart was racing and pounding like the biggest hammer on Earth fit for a giant’s insatiable destruction. Inside, he was destroying himself, and this was the last thing he could do to cope…to help himself…to get a hold of himself. Breathing in and out deeply, he felt his rib cage even aching, now, but he was still smiling ahead at Marsha and Charles, at least.

He had to keep the charade going…he had to…

Suddenly, when Gavin tried bashing one more time at Nines’ leg, the android swiftly turned in his seat. Now, his body wasn’t guarded by his sides facing Gavin anymore. Gavin’s fist didn’t stop, however. He’d been aiming of course for Nines’ leg like before, but now that Nines was more ‘open’ to him, Gavin’s fist flew down between Nines’ legs rather than at the actual leg itself. Anticipating what was going to happen before it could, Nines reached down beneath the table, and in one deft motion, his hand slammed down over Gavin’s clenched fist. Swiftly unfurling Gavin’s dangerous fist, Nines opened his hand, and he held it there for a moment.

Only, Gavin didn’t want to stop. On the brink of explosion that was unsurpassed, Gavin couldn’t contain himself. Bursting down on Nines’ hold over himself, he pressed down with his hand, and at the exact same time, Nines shifted forward. It was a terrible case of both of them being lost in regards to the heat of the moment, with their conflicting agendas battling. Nines wanted to keep Gavin calm as much as possible, and Gavin wanted to resort to his old habits of lashing out and sometimes doing worse whenever he was faced with anger he couldn’t control.

As a result of neither of them being able to predict what was going to happen before it took off and had a life of its own, Gavin pressed down further, and Nines lost his grip on the detective’s strong hand. Immediately, Gavin’s hand landed right between Nines’ legs. He definitely shouldn’t have done that; he definitely felt something there that…

No!! No!! No!!! This was horrible!!!

Immediately taking his hand as far away from between Nines’ legs as he could, Gavin yelped in surprise, and since he’d snatched his hand so abruptly, it slammed on the underside of the table. Dishes and glasses rattled, but thankfully, nothing broke or fell down to the floor.

Nines’ eyes went wider than tiny plates, but he didn’t seem to know what to say.

What could he say, really?? What could Gavin himself, say?? Accidentally, he’d touched another man’s genitals!!! Yes, it had been an accident, of course, but he still felt so—

“Gavin?”

Glancing up naturally when he heard his name called forth from Marsha’s lips, he saw a small, fleeting look of concern flooding her round, brown eyes. She asked whether he was alright or not, and he reacted by reaching up with a hand to wave auspiciously at her.

…..

This was the same hand he’d touched Nines with!!!

Embarrassed once again beyond belief, Gavin could’ve sworn he felt his entire right hand burning and literally on fire. He had to take care of this!!!

Reaching for his cold alcohol, he nodded curtly at Marsha as he wrapped his hand around the width of the glass. “I’m okay…” Immediately, he certainly felt more relaxed, and his hand definitely was cooling off as he pressed his skin against the ice-cold glass.

Perfect. This was much better.

Avoiding all eye contact with Nines, Gavin tried changing the topic regarding his father’s passing. He found that it wasn’t all too difficult to do when Marsha was already talkative enough. The woman and her husband seemed to want to get back to drinking, perhaps as a means of escaping the rather strange turn the conversation had taken. This was all just fine by Gavin, of course. The less emotional, sappy shit he had to hear and deal with, the better.

As time went on, and as they ordered their desserts, plus new rounds of alcohol, Gavin noticed that Marsha and Charles really began to open up.

‘Loose lips sink ships’, he’d heard his mother once say, and it seemed like they were nearly at a drowning point as far as the ship sinking was concerned.

Marsha talked about a lot of odd things, starting from her son’s odd behavior, right up to the most embarrassing moments of her life to date. Charles followed in line next, sharing his experiences, while Gavin and Nines sat back and just listened. It was expected for both Marsha and Charles to now be loquacious given how the alcohol soothed their nerves and opened them up to the experience, and Gavin soon found that he wasn’t the exception to that, either.

He soon drank more and more, however, and it wasn’t long before he felt his mind and body gradually slipping under the sweet seductive powers that alcohol promised. He too started talking a lot more than he would have in normal circumstances, but how could he help it?? It was just a natural reaction to being out and open with people who were pretty good company!! Almost anyone would’ve done the same thing and reacted the same way if they spent more and more time in someone else’s presence.

Soon, Gavin was a garbling mess as his hair fell into his eyes. Marsha’s did as well, and she brushed the long strands back as she giggled and flicked the tip of her husband’s nose in a playful move.

Winking at her, Charles then asked gruffly, “So babe, how does it feel hanging out with your ex after years of zero contact?” Since he’d asked it in a polite way even though he was beyond tipsy, Gavin wasn’t offended at all. Since he was Marsha’s husband, Gavin supposed he had some kind of a right to inquire about the previous relationship that went on between his wife and her ex.

Sweetly grinning at her husband, Marsha cooed, “Well, it’s not toooooo bad!! I mean, I wasn’t expecting him to suddenly be interested in guys, but hey!!!” Giggling even more and louder, she added, “They kinda look good together though, don’t they, sweets?”

Nodding as he stared at Nines first, and then at Gavin, Charles agreed, “I think they do!”

While they ate through some apple pie, slices of still frozen cake, and downed it all with more alcoholic beverages, Gavin found he genuinely was having the time of his life. He hadn’t recalled laughing as much in a long, long time, and he was truly grateful to Marsha and Charles for it.

Unfortunately, Nines didn’t seem to be engaged in the conversations as much, nor could he eat, but he still smiled and answered questions if he was spoken to.

As the night wore on, and as the restaurant slowly started becoming empty, Gavin felt more at ease. He even forgot about lowering his voice as he laughed and regaled silly stories of his own youth to Marsha and Charles, he pigged out more, and best of all; he forgot about his odd accident involving Nines.

Yes, he was having a great time.

Charles decided to pay for their meal when no more than ten customers had remained in the restaurant. As he beckoned the waiter over to hand them their bill, Gavin checked his phone for the time.

His fingers slipped messily due to his mild levels of intoxication, and Nines whispered in his ear, “It’s nearly ten, Detective.”

“Shit…really?”

“Yes.”

It certainly didn’t appear that way!!! Gazing outside, Gavin thought it was at least a little past midnight, but he remembered that due to the autumn months and nearing winter, days were shorter, which meant that of course, it would become darker faster.

Pocketing his phone while Charles paid for their meal, Gavin slowly started to think of a way to excuse himself. This was always an awkward thing to do whenever he went out, and he supposed it was probably a strong reason for why he never got out much to begin with. He just didn’t like being put on the spot in order to have to play nice and keep up a stupid social façade of the good friend who just yearned and craved to be alone, but didn’t want to mention it so as to not hurt his friends’ feelings…

Fuck being stuck in such a situation!!!

Coughing gently enough to get Marsha and Charles’ attention, he smiled as he bowed his head a little and announced, “W-well, I think we should head home. I’m drunk, and Nines is gonna drive, but thank you guys so much for this.”

Following in his lead, Nines added, “Yes, it was a real treat, and I enjoyed meeting you both.”

Clicking her tongue against her teeth as she tsked a few times, Marsha wagged her index finger at Gavin and Nines while giggling and shaking her head playfully. “Nu-uh-uh, you two,” she chided them mildly as she grinned a wide grin that made her look slightly crazy. “You can’t leave us juuust yet!!”

“That’s right!” Charles agreed, though he helped his wife put her coat on while Nines and Gavin stared on quizzically.

Having had enough of the games, Gavin growled lightly, “What do you mean?? I thought it was just dinner, and activities…oh…”

“Teeehee!!!” Marsha squealed as she put on her scarf and bundled her long hair up beneath her hat. “You almost forgot, Gavin!!!” Singing out off-tune to herself, she sighed out happily, “We’re going back to our place for more drinks, so make sure your whistles are wet!!”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin hissed, “My lips are actually kinda dry because of the weather, and I think I drank already too much, Marsha.”

Gasping, Charles disagreed, “Nah, you can’t say that, Gavin!!! Killjoy!”

“I’m not a killjoy, I just—”

Tapping his chin playfully with two fingers, Marsha leaned into him and winked as she giggled out slowly, “You won’t n-need to worry about dry lips for long, Gaaaviiin!!”

Turning pale, Gavin swallowed nervously, and as he stood taller on his feet, he nearly knocked back clumsily into Nines. Ignoring the massively well-built-yet lean-android behind himself, Gavin felt he had another urgent, pressing matter to attend to.

Staring quite pleadingly into Marsha’s eyes, he asked her in an almost boyish and innocent tone, “What d-do you mean?”

Waving at her husband as he led the way and held open the restaurant doors, Marsha purred out as her slightly smudged and smeared mascara and eye-shadowed eyes blinked rapidly at Gavin.

“We’re going to do the chapstick challenge, Gavin.”

Chapter Text

As soon as Gavin and Nines got back in the car under the instruction that they were to follow Marsha and Charles back to their house, Nines began lamenting quite vehemently about his uncertainty in taking part in the ‘after-dinner’ events. Making sure to keep his voice low while they waited for Marsha and Charles to settle in their truck, first, Nines glared out through his own side of the driver’s window. His LED light blared red and stayed on that color until Gavin finished having a cigarette lazily in the passenger seat.

The steady lull and buzz of the alcohol swimming in his system was making his veins throb in ways he’d never felt before, but it was nothing in comparison to how he felt as he imagined himself kissing Nines as per required for the chapstick challenge.

No…he’d already touched Nines, and that was enough. Kissing him was going to be the death of Gavin, and the irate male tried to think of ways to avoid it in the first place before it happened. But he couldn’t think straight with all the alcohol affecting his brain and thoughts. Everything was slowing down, but it felt so good…

Tapping the steering wheel of the car as he sat buckled in already, Nines pushed his face into forming a deep scowl as he hissed at Gavin, “This god damn challenge…”

Sighing, Gavin rolled up the passenger window as he finished his cigarette. “It’s easy, Nines,” he began gently, “what you gotta do is basically apply different flavors of chapsti—”

“I know what the hell this god damn game is all about, Reed,” Nines bemoaned in a cutting way, “but I’m not interested in that!” Leaning closer towards Gavin, he sneered as he said, “What I’m more interested in is how the hell you’re going to pull this off considering your prominent heterosexuality?”

Shrewdly, Gavin threw back, “Why don’t you worry about yourself, Nines, and I’ll worry about me, okay?”

Moving back to sit up tall in the driver’s seat, Nines grumbled, “What a lovely, fine mess you’ve gotten me into, Reed. Thank you; this is all I needed to complete my month.”

Saluting him sarcastically, Gavin hiccupped. “You’re welcome.”

Turning his head to the left, Nines put on the phoniest smile Gavin had ever seen, and he waved at Charles and Marsha. They were staring into the car, of course, and they waved back as Charles turned on the truck and moved on forward into the dark night.

Holding out a hand once Nines had the engine turned on as well but refused to move, Gavin encouraged lazily, “Well, come on, then.”

“Don’t test me, Reed,” Nines snarled, but drove on in spite of the infuriating feelings stirring within himself.

It was silent for a while as the android followed the truck in front, and Gavin soon grew bored of just staring on straight ahead. Choosing to try and strike up another conversation with Nines, he muttered, “Look, this isn’t easy for me, either, but it’s not like they’re gonna ask us to make out, Nines.” When he was through with spewing that statement out, he cringed at how nasty it suddenly sounded.

Whether or not Nines felt and thought the same was unknown; the dour android merely glared ahead steadfastly as he soon slowed down when the truck ahead slowed down to eventually come to a halt at a red light.

Still wanting to joke around a bit only because he was slightly drunk, Gavin snickered, “Besides, my stellar good looks may help you with the kisses, eh Nines?”

Only a smoldering look served as his reply, and Gavin murmured, “Never mind…”

As the seconds ticked by painfully slowly, the red lights eventually turned green once again, and Nines removed his foot off the brake pedal. Once the car moved forward on the snowy roads, Nines muttered, “It’s more than just kissing technique, style, or anything of the sort that you’re likely thinking of, Reed.”

Gavin sighed, “What else is there, man?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” came the snarl. “How about the fact that I don’t really engage in these games, and I’d stick out like a sore thumb as far as ‘awkwardness’ is concerned?”

Gavin rolled his eyes and then chose to take up some interest in playing with his fingernails. “Nines,” he sighed wearily and in a gravelly tone, “it’s just for one night. We won’t see Marsha or Charles ever again, so let’s just play along for now. And besides, who cares if they think you fit in or not? Like,” he shook his head, “I don’t get what the big deal here is.”

Eyes widening, Nines grunted through clenched teeth, “I can’t exactly just ‘play along’ if I don’t even know how to ‘play along’, Reed!” Trembling in anger, suddenly, he snapped in annoyance, “I can’t just sit with your friends and joke around with them as easily as you can! Don’t you know how awkward that would be for us both??”

Gavin shrugged, eyelids somewhat heavy as he sat back in his warm seat. “I don’t really feel the same way, but meh, okay then.”

“Oh sure,” Nines began as he pantomimed holding a bottle of alcohol, “let’s just get wasted, Charles and Marsha!” He exaggerated in a very odd and forced tone that tried to depict someone friendly and easy-going, but instead made him seem crazy more than anything else. “Why don’t we all just vape and then smoke a fucking joint while we’re at it, too?!”

Coughing and choking on his laughter, Gavin pulled up his cargo jacket’s hood when he felt his ears stinging from the cold. Slapping his hands on his knees, he cried out with zeal, “Jesus, Nines!! You don’t curse a lot, but when you do, I swear, it’s the funniest thing ever because it doesn’t really fit you!”

Taking one quick peek at the gothic android driving his car with such a mad, stern facial expression, Gavin replayed the swear word in his mind, and he just lost it once again. Throwing his head back, he giggled and laughed until his sides ached, and until he was crying warm, salty tears.

Nines could only prop up a hand and rest it against the left side of his forehead as he growled deeply, “Sure, keep laughing, Reed…” A dark look crossed over his features, and even Gavin managed to catch it as Nines seethed and whispered almost to himself, “It won’t be funny when we’re caught up in the situation, will it?” As levels of pain and awkwardness rose between them both, Nines slowed the car down when he saw Marsha and Charles doing the same. He sensed they had arrived at their destination.

And so, they had.

Charles and Marsha did in fact live relatively close to the restaurant, and their street was one of the brightest ones Gavin had ever seen. A lot of the neighbors already had majority of their Christmas lights and decorations, and as the lights on the houses and tall trees blinked on and off, it could’ve been seen from a large, long distance. It all looked radiant against the blanketed darkness of the cold night.

Parking the car next to the curb in front of Marsha and Charles’ house, Nines slowly turned off the engine, and before Gavin could do or say anything, the android lifted up a long, slender finger. It shut him up, and Nines merely warned, “Not a word for now, Reed; I don’t want to hear it.”

“Fine!” Gavin spat back acidly. “I wasn’t gonna do anything anyway, damn!”

Car doors opened and closed loudly, and boots crunched along the snow. Both Gavin and Nines glanced up to catch Marsha and Charles approaching the vehicle, and their steamy, foggy breaths panted out before them as they inhaled and exhaled into their lungs the cold night. The motion-detection lights went off around the outside perimeter of the house, and now, both Nines and Gavin were able to properly see the house.

It was a pretty decent one, too. It consisted of two levels, as most houses on the street were, but seemed to be remodeled or redesigned, at the very Least. The shingles were shiny and looked new, the lights were so bright, the Christmas decorations were rather showy and perhaps pricey, and it all looked so clean and pretty all around. The windows were decorated with little patterns and colors, but Gavin couldn’t see too much given the heavy, thick darkness.

Oh well. The less he saw, the better; the less he could be envious and covetous of this couple.

As he wondered just what exactly Charles seriously did for a living that enabled him to make decent money to afford such a decent house, Nines already opened the car door, and he stood outside facing the property.

Marsha helped Gavin open his door, and she practically yanked him out of the car in quite the hurry.

Eyes gleaming in the lights, her smoky eyeshadow and flushed cheeks were right up in Gavin’s face as she chuckled heartily, “Home sweet home!!!”

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Envy knocked clean into Gavin when he entered the Driver household. He’d recalled Marsha being super neat and tidy before in her youth, but it seemed that much like her overbearing desire and need to control others, and her hyper-organizational qualities had grown along with her as well. Not only was the house in a perfectly clean state, but there seemed to be special, specific spots and places for literally everything.

Starting right from the hallway closet, the various shelves and cubbies had been labeled for every member in the family. Charles had his own specially reserved spot for his shoes, jackets, hats, and mittens, as did little Nathan. Everything in the house smelled of freshly clean laundry, but Gavin supposed it was only due to air fresheners being placed almost in every other corner of the house.

What was even stranger was the fact that the house had been ‘childproofed’ and safety-proofed to the max. Protective gates and electric outlets had been covered and sealed, and the appliances all seemed to mostly be unplugged. Artificial plants stood about in various places, and for the longest time, Gavin thought of the lovely assortment of sophisticated, exotic plants Nines kept. Unlike the ones found in this house, however, Nines’ plants were real, and far more engaging to look at. Yes, he found that the notion of wanting to share this information with Nines intrigued him, but alas, for the sake of being polite, it remained a velleity.

Trying not to be too picky and judgmental, however, plaintively he was feeling, Gavin saw that the rest of the house held modern art, technologies, and had been more than likely professionally decorated and designed.

When Charles entered the kitchen to bring out some beer from the fridge, Gavin saw that a fancy back splash designed in check board patterns consisting of white, green, and grey colors lined up the walls. The kitchen appliances looked clean and new, almost as if Charles and Marsha hardly ever prepared and ate home-cooked meals in their home.

Truly, everything was indeed spotless.

Glass décor and fancy art sat about close to the walls, glimmering and shining quite nicely. Seeing how they were almost all like scintillating stars, Gavin made extra sure not to touch anything. Thankfully, they didn’t remain in the kitchen for long; Charles and Marsha led them into the den, and Gavin slid out of his jacket quickly.

The heat inside the house was already on, and as he placed his jacket down over a fancy black leather sofa, he made sure to ask Charles where the bathroom was located.

“Past the kitchen to the right,” Charles had answered once he’d taken off his coat and hung it in his ‘reserved spot’ in the hallway closet.

The den was rather snug and cozy, Gavin thought. The fuzzy, fluffy off-white carpeted floor not only warmed up his socked feet, but the colors contrasted nicely with the raven-black leather sofas. The loveseat Gavin had sat himself down on directly faced another sofa across from it containing three seats. Beneath it rested a crystal clear, coruscating coffee table made entirely of glass, though it only held one magazine and one closed Macintosh laptop over its surface. Not even a speck of dust could’ve been found in the room as the beautiful, luminous pot lights above dimmed when Marsha adjusted them.

A sixty-inch flat screen Smart TV was mounted up high on the wall to Gavin’s right. A dark-framed elongated mirror stretched out much like a window behind and above Marsha’s head on the sofa she was seated on currently. An iPod Nano resting on a portable speaker dock stood a few inches beside the right side of Marsha’s sofa on a little lectern of sorts. Eyeing it, Marsha turned towards it and switched it on to play soft, soothing jazz.

As it flooded the room almost quietly, Gavin found he liked it. When he was handed his bottle of cold Jack Daniels, he relaxed considerably. Near the Smart TV, right beneath one of its HD speakers was a small bar of sorts. Well, the wine cabinet had more or less been mounted high on the wall, no doubt purposefully placed there in such a way so young Nathan couldn’t ever reach it. A marble, circular countertop rested between the wine cabinet and the rest of the open area of the warm den. Three grey stools were propped before the counter, and they shined brightly under the glow of a set of three pot lights hanging from a mount in the ceiling.

Very fancy place.

“Nice place you got yourselves here,” Gavin politely stated, trying to keep his voice and face clear of any signs of jealousy and distress, even though he felt just those two emotions coiling within the pit of his stomach uncontrollably.

Marsha beamed at him with pride, “Yes! We worked very hard on this house, and we—”

She’d been cut off when Nines removed his trench coat and cleared his throat as he stared down at her. Shifting his feet from side to side awkwardly for a moment, he looked genuinely uncomfortable, and that level of discomfort seemed to only be increasing by the second.

“I’m sorry,” he rasped as though he had a sore throat, LED light pure yellow. “Do you maybe think that Gavin and I could trade places with you and your husband in terms of seats?”

Just as he’d asked her this, Charles walked back into the room, bringing along with himself some refreshments consisting of popcorn, cookies, pretzels, and a bowl of onion rings.

Fidgeting anxiously for a moment, Gavin nearly expected Marsha to flat out refuse, but she eventually stood up while smiling gently.

“Sure, Nines,” Charles answered as he set the refreshments down on the coffee table while Marsha moved herself about. “After all,” he continued warmly, “it’s the very least we could do to show you our gratitude for the appetizers back there.”

No one noticed Nines’ eyes fleeting towards the mirror he would’ve been facing had he sat down next to Gavin across from Marsha.

In a jiffy, they all traded and switched up their seating arrangements, and Gavin was actually more than grateful for the change. Now, at least he had an extra sofa seat spaced out between his own body and Nines’. So much the better, then.

As he sat down next to Nines, Gavin caught Marsha staring intently at Nines’ clothing now that he wasn’t hidden beneath the dark mass that was his trench coat. In awe, her eyes swept up and down over the various patterns and designs on his pants. She soon ceased studying Nines when her husband nudged her carefully.

Of course, he’d no doubt meant for it to be a subtle gesture, but Gavin’s seasoned, highly-observant ‘detective eyes’ caught it. He smirked triumphantly.

“So, Nines,” Charles began as he sipped his own bottle of Jack Daniels slowly, “do you enjoy working for the Detroit Police?”

While the soft jazz music played on, Nines looked at the table and nodded. “I feel it’s my calling, I suppose, and I’m happy I found it.” His eyes followed the moves of Charles’ hands while he grabbed a few bits of popcorn from the bowl and munched on them.

“True,” the other man nodded and pushed out in between bites and swallowing. He then sipped his cold beverage, and his wife wandered off towards the fancy wine cabinet and bar. She began preparing herself some high quality white Russian cocktail in no time. Her ice cubes clinked loudly in the glass as she stirred and mixed in the necessary ingredients.

Sensing a level of pure awkwardness already brewing about in the air, Gavin commented, “Umm, so h-how’s Nathan doing?” It was a rather odd thing to just randomly blurt out and ask, but he found himself slightly and genuinely curious anyway.

Only a few photos of Nathan could be found in the den, and from the excited, wide smiles the youngster portrayed in each and every one of them, Gavin assumed that Nathan was an all-around happy and well-provided for kid.

Well…he had every reason to be, of course…at least his dad was still around and still married to his mom…

Forcefully snapping himself out of his maudlin, self-pitying thoughts and feelings, Gavin downed even more alcohol as Marsha finally sat down next to her husband once again.

Drink in hand, she enthusiastically cried, “Nathan’s doing really well! He’s really enjoying his new school!”

“He’s a good kid,” Charles added. “Already, he’s making a lot of friends.”

Upon hearing all that, Gavin yet again started coveting the life of a young child he hadn’t even met.

……

How it came to be that a grown adult male was even jealous of a little kid was simply beyond the detective, so he decided to switch up topics before things took a far more negative turn.

Almost shyly, he directed his next words at Marsha. “Umm, so…this chapstick challenge thing…” He felt the heat of Nines’ glare on his form instantly, and he shrank back from it.

“I don’t really think it’s something we can do,” Nines only admitted, and without even thinking, Gavin nodded vehemently in agreement.

Exchanging confused glances, Marsha and Charles eventually burst out laughing simultaneously. At first, Gavin had been rather upset about being laughed at, but then he knew he really couldn’t blame the couple for laughing as boisterously as they currently were.

For all intents and purposes, Gavin and Nines were supposedly engaged. Which partner shied from and shunned away intimacy with their significant other??

...Yes, he was the odd one out, so it seemed.

Needing to cover for their minor mishap before the married couple could comment on the strangeness of it all, Nines sat up as he jumbled out, “Err, we’re just not sure how to play th-this game with another couple?”

The way he said it left plenty of room for Gavin to jump in with, “Yeah! And it’d be weird PDA, I think…”

Because really, how the hell else were they expecting to pull all this off with another couple watching?!

As Gavin’s mind began wandering and conjuring up the possibility that Marsha and Charles could have perhaps been ‘swingers’ of some kind, he caught Marsha shaking her head in mild displeasure.

Placing her drink on a small napkin before setting it down on the spotless coffee table, she playfully tapped her husband’s right shoulder and gave him a knowing look. Charles returned the look with a small head nod followed by a soft chuckle. As Marsha got up and padded out of the room, Gavin looked tremendously frightened, and confused.

Sensing his genuine levels of fear while Nines glared away at nothing, Charles stated, “Don’t worry, my wife just went to get the bag full of different chapstick flavors and brands we have.”

That…that wasn’t the point…

Voice muffled as he covered his face with a hand, Gavin protested weakly, “Charles, we meant how are we gonna do this?”

Staring blankly for a moment, Charles soon cracked up merrily, “Oh! It’s real simple!!!” Ever so calmly, he explained, “We’ll take turns, of course, and our partners can pick the flavor of the chapstick for each other. For example, let’s have Nines pick the chapstick flavor for me, I pick for Nines…”

Catching on, Gavin pointed at himself, “Gavin picks for Marsha, Marsha picks for Gavin…”

“Exactly.”

Footsteps soon approached, and Marsha swept back in the room. Giggling as she landed on her husband’s lap, she held the bag of chapstick to her chest, and she asked, “Did you explain to them the rules?”

Kissing the tip of her nose, Charles purred in glee, “Sure did, sweets.”

“Teeeheee!” she laughed as she threw her head back, held up the bag, and shook it like a prize to be won. “Let’s play!!”

Gavin sensed that it wouldn’t take too long before both the situation became vagarious, as would his own actions.

He really wanted to leave, now, and no amount of booze in the world was helping or could help him calm down before he had a major heart attack.

Chapter Text

Gavin and Nines both eyed the bag in Marsha’s hands like their lives depended on it. Eyes bulging, practically, Gavin stared away until his eyeballs felt dry, and until they stung quite badly. Blinking rapidly, he stuttered, “Umm…s-so how many a-are in there?”

Marsha giggled, “Enough, I guess.”

Yep, he needed another drink.

As Gavin drew back his head and chugged more of his icy beverage, Nines winced as he muttered, “To think of all the trouble…”

“Hmm? What’s that, Nines?” Marsha cooed, settling down beside her husband right on the fuzzy carpeted floor as she placed the bag where the laptop once had been after she removed it and placed it down under the table on the floor.

Flinching, Nines elucidated, “I said maybe you two should go first?” It sounded even weak to himself, but Gavin didn’t have time to evaluate that. Internally, he was a huge mess, already crumbling apart and trying to pick up his own broken, shattered pieces. Beyond frightened, he blinked again, though he refused to move when Charles waved at him.

Winking, Marsha sighed, “Oooooh, I seeee how it is; you want an example of how this is going to happen, first, and then you want to go.”

Nines only coughed, “Yeah…right…”

Tapping the carpet, then, Marsha cried, “Sit down, both of youuuu!!”

Staring at Gavin as though he needed the other man’s permission, first, Nines slowly slid himself down. When Gavin didn’t follow, and only when Charles and Marsha stared up at him, did Nines yank him down. Crashing down onto his ass, Gavin hardly blinked as he inched up close to the coffee table. Within its crystal-clear glass surface, he saw his own fearful expression, and he swallowed thickly as Marsha pointed at Nines while giggling.

“No scanning and cheating, Nines!” she laughed, turned the bag to him, and she encouraged cheerfully, “I’m gonna close my eyes, now, and you pick for Charles what flavor of chapstick to put on his lips!”

Nines gaped, “But—”

It was already too late. Giggling blissfully, she already turned her head to the side, closed her eyes, and covered them with a hand pressed against her forehead softly.

As Nines tried to take in the extraordinary confusion, Charles shoved the bag closer to him, the chapsticks knocking and clattering against each other noisily. “No peeking, Gavin!” he chuckled, “your turn’s coming right up afterwards!!”

The detective barely managed to wheeze out painfully, “God…” He had no idea how they were going to pull this off, but he had to silently thank the gods above for the fact that Nines had to suffer through this first.

Watching as the disturbed android snuck a hand into the bag for a moment, Nines had barely even made contact with one single chapstick within the large pile, when Marsha gasped abruptly. Slamming her hand down over the back of Nines’, her sudden, unpredictable behavior made Nines recoil, and he looked about ready to leap up through the ceiling due to fear coursing through his system.

Saucily, Marsha warned while wagging a finger at Nines, “Don’t scan these once they’re on Gavin’s lips, either!!”

Seemingly shocked by just how much she knew about android powers, Nines grunted awkwardly, “I…I won’t…”

Beaming, Marsha cried, “Great!! Okay! Go!”

…..

A pin dropping could’ve been heard in the room, but then Nines eventually let his fingers fish through the bag, sorting past the chapsticks. Eventually, he palmed one, and as Marsha’s eyes remained tightly shut, he held up the chapstick and revealed it to Charles. As Gavin peeked at it, he saw that it was caramel.

Would Marsha be able to guess?!?

The stuff sure stank up the room when Charles popped off the cap and began rubbing it across his lower lip generously. Turning his head to the side to ensure that his wife couldn’t smell it, he smacked his lips together and was ready.

Gavin felt his stomach sink and flop; he already was imagining his turn with Nines, soon.

“Sweets,” Charles gently held onto his wife, and he turned her back towards himself.

Keeping her eyes closed, Marsha sensed her husband nearby, and she leaned into him. Foreheads touching, they smiled even through closed eyes as their lips met in a soft peck. Gavin and Nines stared down at the table in sheer silence, but thankfully, Marsha and Charles ended their kiss relatively quickly.

Once she pulled away, Marsha slowly opened her eyes, running her tongue along her lower lip as she hummed in thought. Suddenly, her thin, light brown eyebrows shot up, and she squealed, “It’s caramel!!!”

“You got it, sweets,” Charles hugged her, and she cheered as she then giggled and announced, “okay, Charles is going to pick for Nines, now!!”

No…fuck no…please no…

Gavin started panicking, but he courageously held himself together, no matter how dejected he felt.

Marsha hissed, “Gavin, close your eyes!!”

Right…shit…fuck…

The frightful detective took to closing his eyes, turning his back to Nines, and wishing he was on the other side of the damn planet instead of being there in Detroit. He squirmed as he heard Charles going through the bag, and he prayed that whatever the flavor, it would hopefully be one he could smell and sniff out quickly so he wouldn’t have to kiss Nines!!!! But…then again, Charles and Marsha hadn’t exactly made out, either! It was just a peck!! One peck wouldn’t do anything to him! It was barely a touching and tapping of skin on skin!! Nothing so close and intimate and—

“Got one!” Charles chuckled.

About damn time!!

Hardly able to hear Nines popping the cap open over the steady thrumming of his own heartbeat, Gavin swam and got drowned in his own anxiety and stress while he waited for Nines to apply the damn chapstick.

Any minute, now, he would be asked to—

“Okay,” he heard Nines’ deep voice call out next to him, “Ree—err, Gavin?”

Fuck sakes.

Taking a deep breath, Gavin set aside his imminent mental break down for just a moment, and while his eyes remained strongly and tightly shut, he turned around.

…..

“Teeeheee!!” Marsha giggled, and Gavin jumped. Her laughter was so odd in the heavy silence, and he hadn’t been expecting to hear the high-pitched squeal of joy that followed after her laugh.

“Sweetie,” her husband purred, “calm down, it’s not like this is the first time we’ve seen two men kissing.”

Jesus fucking God…what the fuck kind of a situation had they landed themselves into?!

Gavin knew Nines was furious; he could practically hear the rage and contempt radiating off him, even though he hadn’t opened his eyes to even look at the android, really. Looking would just hurt too much; he’d landed them both in this mess to begin with, as Nines had correctly spewed earlier.

…...

It’d grown silent again, and Gavin hated it. Did Marsha and Charles really have to be here for this?!?! Why??!

…..

He knew he was leaning into Nines, but he paused when he heard Charles whispering to his wife.

“Yes, I know they’re a pretty handsome, hot pair, but come on, sweets; I just told you that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen two men about to make out.”

……

His nerves!!! Fuck!! They were on fire!!! The room was spinning!! The world was going to explode!!!

Breathing in and out through his nose almost violently, Gavin tried inhaling the scent of the chapstick, but it was no use; it had no real scent.

…..

Closer, closer…he could almost feel Nines’ lips…

“Noooo cheating,” Marsha sang out, and then added, “ooooh!! By the way, anytime we guess the wrong flavor, we have to take a shot!! Sorry, I forgot to mention that before!!”

Leaping into the air, Gavin screamed out, “MARSHA!! GOD DAMN!!” How much more of this capricious crap was he supposed to take?!? How could he take it all?!

Charles chuckled, clearly amused by Gavin’s outburst more than anyone else.

Once the room was silent again, Gavin swallowed, and that alone was the loudest thing to hear, currently. He felt absolutely mortified, but he kept his eyes closed as he leaned in to where he assumed Nines was…and he smashed his nose right against something rough.

Pulling back as he winced in pain, Gavin growled, “The hell?!”

“Sorry,” Nines apologized swiftly, “I also had my eyes closed…”

……

That made it even worse; it was like a real romantic kiss!!!!

While Gavin was freaking out even more due to this recent revelation, Nines gently brushed against him. At first, his hair fell into Gavin’s forehead and eyes, but the detective didn’t jump or move back away from it. He had to do this; he had to play this damn role. God damn this all to hell.

…..

And just like that, in the span of not even a complete two seconds, Nines’ lips brushed along Gavin’s, and then were gone.

Good.

Already rejoicing, Gavin opened his eyes and blinked. Nines was now facing forward, though his head and neck were craned down slightly, almost as if he were some little child being scolded and scorned for doing something quite bad. Marsha and Charles cackled, clearly having the time of their lives as they pointed at both Nines and Gavin.

“You two are hilarious,” Charles blabbed out in an uncontrollable tirade, “I haven’t been this entertained in a loooooooong time.”

“Teeeheee! Me neither!” Marsha rang out as she nuzzled her husband and stared at Gavin and Nines with a lovey-dovey expression all over her face.

Meanwhile, Gavin was not feeling ‘lovey-dovey’, and he fought against the urge to wipe his lips. Truthfully, he hadn’t felt much of anything when Nines ‘kissed’ him, and since there was hardly any contact or pressure involved, Gavin immediately dismissed any notion that this was a kiss. It just wasn’t. None of the appropriate behaviors that entailed a kiss had been involved, and thus, it wasn’t a damn kiss!! It never would be!!

Convinced, he blinked again, and he inhaled as sharply as he could. He still had to guess what the hell this flavor was, but he couldn’t do that easily. Unfortunately, as gentle as Nines’ ‘kiss’ had been, it hadn’t left Gavin with much room to think and have a clue as to what the mysterious flavor happened to be. He was truly stuck.

Not wanting to drag it out, he just blurted, “I think it was strawberry.”

Staring down at the chapstick resting in Charles’ half-closed hand, Nines replied, “No; it was banana.”

Well...fuck.

Batting her eyelashes sweetly at him, Marsha’s voice rang out, “I knooow whooo’s driiiinking fiiiirst!!!”

Gavin mumbled something under his breath, but hurriedly drank. The more he could drink, the more he could get intoxicated. The more intoxicated he became, the faster and easier it would be to forget this shit ever happened.

Yes…that was a healthy plan, for sure.

Nodding at him while her husband closed his eyes and turned away, Marsha hissed, “Okay, Gavin! Pick for meeee!!”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin stretched his hand into the bag wordlessly. Jesus…there really were a lot of chapsticks, and by his estimates wildly, there had to be at least another twenty or so…God…there had to be a way he could fuck off out of here and excuse himself, right?!?

Mind spinning in agony, Gavin felt his heart racing. Not wanting to drag this senseless, noisome torture out any longer, he finally grabbed one of the chapsticks from the blasted, damned pile.

Just as he’d been about to flash it before Marsha’s eager eyes, the jazz music turned off. In its place, however, a gentle orchestra was playing, and Gavin faintly heard the lovely sound of the talented voice of Frank Sinatra singing out in the room ever so sweetly.

You’re just too good to be true,

I can’t take my eyes off of you,

You’d be like heaven to touch,

I wanna hold you so much…

At long last love has arrived,

And I thank God I’m alive…

Hadn’t he heard this somewhere else before?!? Yes, technically, it counted for being on the radio, but Gavin could’ve sworn that he’d heard this song somewhere else recently…

Shaking his head, he assumed it was just the alcohol making him imagine weird shit.

You’re just too good to be true,

Can’t take my eyes off of you,

Pardon the way that I stare,

There’s nothing else to compare,

The sight of you leaves me weak,

There are no words left to speak,

But if you feel like I feel,

Please let me know that it’s real,

You’re just too good to be true,

Can’t take my eyes off of you…

“Stop zoning out, Gavin!” Marsha whined petulantly, and she shoved him lightly in the arm, trying to get his attention. Well, it worked; Gavin snapped out of leaving his attention to the music, but it still soothed and comforted him anyway. Proudly holding up the chapstick for Marsha to see, he made sure to also reveal the label on it to Nines before he held it out to Marsha openly.

Snatching it clean out of his hand, she hurriedly doused and smeared it all over her lips excitedly. If Gavin didn’t know any better, he would’ve assumed that she was just frankly too eager to make out with her husband, more than likely.

When she was ready, she tossed the chapstick back at Gavin, and he caught it deftly in a fist before clenching it tightly shut around the chapstick.

“Baaaaabe,” Marsha howled and cooed, and Charles lowered his hand from his eyes and leaned in. Unlike Gavin and Nines, however, Charles and Marsha really seemed to know how to sense one another close-by, even with their eyes closed.

They pecked chastely, but apparently, that wasn’t enough.

Reeling back slightly, Charles stared up at the ceiling, clearly deeply in thought as he took his time with guessing. “Hmm,” he hummed, “this one’s kinda tricky…”

Winking, Marsha leaned in super close to him, and in one swoop, she cupped his cheeks in her hands and drew their faces close together. “Then kiss me again and find out…” her lips then descended on his firmly, and in a split second, they really went at it.

Almost feeling as bashful as the first time he’d seen porn, Gavin’s face flushed deep pink. Charles and Marsha were practically licking each other right there in the open like they didn’t care at all, and the detective was stunned from watching it. He knew he should’ve ceased looking, but he just couldn’t; not with the passion and intensity brewing between the married couple.

Coughing at first to get their attention when he’d had more than his fill, Nines shifted awkwardly. That didn’t work, so he eventually grumbled out, “Err, can you guess, now?”

Lips smacking obscenely, Marsha and Charles broke away from one another, finally.

With a lazy expression painted across his face, Charles held up a finger as he announced boldly, “It’s peach!!”

Marsha hooted and howled in their clear victory. Gavin would’ve joined her, only he remembered now that it was his turn…fuck.

Sinking back, he stared intently at the damn bag that was now the bane of his existence, while Nines closed his eyes and turned away slightly.

Beckoning him with her index finger, Marsha had already pocketed the chapstick flavor.

Great.

Peeking at it reluctantly, he saw that it was bubble gum.

With a strained sigh, he applied it as best as he could, though he wasn’t completely fond of his lips being greased up to the point where they felt too damn moist. Gross.

Clearing his throat, he found he didn’t even want to bother with calling Nines’ name. The android knew what to do, anyway, and in a hurry, he turned around and swooped down over Gavin. However, as aggressive as his motions had initially been, yet again, Nines hardly even tapped Gavin’s lips with his own for half a second. This time, it had indeed been a much shorter ‘kiss’.

Good.

Immediately, Nines cried out, “Grapefruit!!”

Gavin did a double-take. “Nines?! What the fuck, man!?” Why had he guessed so inaccurately for, anyway?!

Marsha screamed, “Aaaaah!!! Gavin now has to drink because Nines can’t!!!”

Chanting, Charles hooted, “Take the shot for your partner, Gavin!!”

Muttering to himself angrily in disbelief, Gavin’s eyes squinted at Nines and his face looked pained. As he grimaced at the RK900 for his mess-up, Gavin wondered whether Nines had done this on purpose, or if it’d been a result due to stress.

Yes…it had to have been stress. Carlos Ortiz’s android didn’t react to stress well, but thankfully, Connor had handled that interrogation relatively well two years ago. Unfortunately, Connor wasn’t here to handle this stressful situation in order for things to go over much better than they currently were.

To his own dismay, Gavin found himself drinking a shot of whiskey when Marsha brought it over for him from the mini bar near the back of the room.

So be it.

“Now,” Marsha cried out as she sat up straight, “we’re going to go through that round once again until we don’t have any chapstick left!!”

Joy.

Wanting to get it over with, Gavin volunteered, “Can Nines and I go first, please?”

Nodding, Charles cried out, “Go for it!”

“Sure!” Marsha exclaimed as her bright eyes grew larger, “but try to make it sexy this time, Gavin!!”

Turning pale, the detective rasped, “What?!”

Nudging his wife, Charles hissed, “Sorry about that, Gavin; I think Marsha’s already a biiiiiit drunk.”

“I’ll say!” Gavin roared, but otherwise didn’t argue any further. He truly wanted to get this done with, so he nodded over at Nines, “Gonna close my damn eyes, so let Charles pick for you.”

Nines didn’t say anything, and Gavin took that cue to close his eyes. Praying Charles would hurry the fuck up, he heard the familiar shuffling of the bag, he heard Marsha squealing and giggling, and then it grew silent.

“Got it,” Nines and Charles simultaneously rang out, and then Nines began applying the damn chapstick.

All the while, Gavin slowly rocked himself back and forth on his ass, hoping to get his shit together and guess it properly this time. He really didn’t want to be drunk for once in his damn life, especially not around such a fucked up situation. There was no telling what else would happen and how much crazier the game would get, otherwise. And quite frankly, he didn’t want Marsha to get any other ideas…

“Gavin.”

Hearing his first name spoken by Nines as the alcohol in his system slowly lulled him and pulled him into a forced state of calm, Gavin knew he was feeling a tad angry, but there wasn’t much he could do about. Plus, he didn’t feel true anger in the sense that he wanted to beat someone to a bloody pulp. The alcohol must’ve really started to take effect, after all.

Once again, Gavin leaned into Nines, and at first, the tips of their noses brushed.

“Aaaaw, an Eskimo Kiss!” Marsha cooed, and Gavin did his best to ignore her.

This time, as the music replayed itself, Gavin pressed his lips against Nines’, first. Again, it was just a tap, and as he heard Marsha hissing in displeasure and disapproval, he leaned away so he could try and place the scent.

……

Only, it really was impossible. Yes, it was sweet, it smelled like candy, and it also had another distinct flavor, but he wasn’t going to dip in for another ‘kiss’ and check.

With phony confidence, he announced, “It’s cotton candy!!”

Seeing Nines’ pained grimace was enough to send him flying off the handle in anger, and he already made a grab for his alcohol.

“It was pink lemonade,” Nines sighed in exhaustion.

“Fuck off,” Gavin murmured as he drowned himself in his alcohol and stewed.

“Our turn!” Charles sang, and Gavin was all too happy to point at Nines.

Reaching into the bag while Marsha waited with her eyes closed, Nines selected the next one for Charles. Once he placed it on both his lips, he made small kissing noises, and it drew his wife towards him immediately.

Again, Gavin and Nines had to literally sit there and watch Marsha and Charles making out. It was growing lewder by the minute, however. Charles dipped Marsha over his lap, and he sucked her lower lip deeply as she moaned gently in the back of her throat.

Nines’ LED light went red, and he hissed, “Okay, that should be good!”

Suddenly, it occurred to Gavin that perhaps Nines was stressed because of the way Marsha and Charles were expressing their affections for one another. The anxious android likely came to be this nervous because of these intimate displays, although if Gavin was being truthful, it was even disturbing him. It wasn’t because Marsha was even his ex-girlfriend; he just hated public displays of affection. Witnessing how Marsha and Charles pawed at each other in need wasn’t the best thing to see, and even he himself had to cringe when he saw the more-than-obvious bodily reaction Charles had after he let his wife go.

Righting herself back up, she sighed sweetly through glazed eyes, “It was…cherry?”

Charles snickered, “No, sweets; cranberry.”

“Oh,” she didn’t seem too upset, and she merely reached for her drink at the same time her husband did. They clicked their glasses together and laughed, looking ever-so-comfortable as Marsha nuzzled and leaned her back against her husband’s chest. He drooped an arm around her shoulders as he sniffed her hair, and it seemed like for the longest time, they’d forgotten about Gavin and Nines.

…..

But Gavin knew it wasn’t wise to celebrate too early. In no time at all, Marsha wiped her lips, and she grinned playfully at Gavin. “Ready?”

“Yeah…” that was a lie, but he didn’t have any other choice.

Picking for him as she dove with her hand in the bag, she eventually yanked out an orange colored chapstick. Gavin already had covered his lips with it before she even noticed due to her slowed state, and he grunted at Nines.

Swiveling himself around, Nines leaned into Gavin as he planted his hands palms-down on the fluffy carpet. The tiniest of kisses had been delivered to Gavin’s lips, and as the detective stared on at Nines in fear, the android moved away as he lowered his head down significantly.

LED light flashing yellow, he spat, “Orange.”

“Yaaaaaaaay!” Marsha cheered, while Gavin visibly relaxed significantly.

“Good work, Nines!” Charles congratulated, and the android nodded curtly, not really offering anything else.

Shaking his head, Gavin whispered to himself, “Thank God the son of a bitch got one thing right, at least…”

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

Everyone was nearly fucking drunk after the next round. Gavin had failed considerably, as did Nines, but unlike the two of them, Marsha and Charles didn’t seem to mind their own failure. On the contrary; they embraced it. Gavin wondered if they were purposefully making mistakes and failing just to be handsy and ‘intimate’, but he couldn’t really ask; Charles and Marsha were already far too wasted to be talking coherently and logically.

Majority of the things they said to one another now consisted of childish and almost baby-like-talk. They resorted to husky whispers and a limited word-choice. From what Gavin could hear, they would only call each other ‘sexy’, ‘hot’, ‘cute’, and ‘love’. Their words were slurred, but sometimes, they would compliment each other, though it was always just heady, childish banter that never went anywhere or reached a specific point.

“You’re soooo beautiful, my love,” Charles purred down at Marsha while she lay half-sprawled on the carpet.

“Noooo, youuuu areee, babe,” she cooed back, running her hands and fingers softly through his hair.

Upon hearing this comment, Charles didn’t need the excuse of chapstick to thoroughly kiss his wife. But if only he left it at kissing…unfortunately, he didn’t. He was really adamant about taking things too far, and Marsha just let him. Wrapping her arms around his neck tightly, she pulled her husband flush against her own body, and she let out a series of licentious, wanton moans. Charles didn’t stop with his onslaught of kisses, and he ran his fingers through Marsha’s dark hair, wildly messing it up in the process.

Practically grinding himself against Marsha’s slender body, the man nearly was about to touch and grope her breasts, when Nines proclaimed loudly enough for all to hear, “IT’S OUR TURN!! YOU GUYS HAD ENOUGH OF KISSING! FUCK!!!”

“NINES!” Gavin roared, but it was no use.

Springing up and adjusting their clothing, the married couple nodded.

Marsha’s lips were swollen and well-kissed, and her lip gloss was now long gone as she muttered lazily, “Ooookaaayyy, give usssss a shoooow…”

Gavin had wanted to say: ‘fuck no’, but instead, he found that Charles had already motioned for him to close his eyes or turn away. Obediently, he saw blackness as he closed his eyes and dug his fingernails into his palms.

Fuck this day…fuck this night. Fuck it all.

As he silently clawed at himself, Nines already went through the motions of applying the chapstick Charles had selected, and he was close to Gavin. The shorter male could feel it as his shoulder knocked into Nines’ strong, broad sternum. Far too exhausted and tipsy to move or do anything about it, Gavin immediately just turned to Nines.

Time to get this over with.

Lips touched, but still, Gavin had no idea what the hell this flavor was. Now, he was infuriated. He reacted and showed it by leaning in and brushing his lips against Nines’ one more time, but that still hadn’t solved the problem. With tension and frustration mounting slowly in his system, Gavin felt his heart and brain light up on fire. He couldn’t smell it, and no matter how many times he licked his lips, there was no distinct flavor or taste. Once or twice, he caught himself nearly reaching up with his hands to grab Nines’ face for a deeper kiss, but thankfully, at the last minute, he would sink his fingernails deeper and sharply into his skin as a warning and a reminder not to do such a stupid thing.

But how else was he going to guess correctly!?!? He truly didn’t want more alcohol, and Gavin didn’t want to get as drunk as Marsha and Charles and risk doing or saying something extremely stupid. Plus, he was getting too damn old for hangovers, he figured.

He had to get this one right!!!

Yet again, he leaned into Nines, and he heard Marsha whispering, “Noooo sniffing and smellllliiiing…”

Bitch.

So he didn’t sniff. He wasn’t a cheater, but he hadn’t ‘kissed’ Nines nearly enough to be able to tell what the damn flavor was….

Fine. Fuck it. He’d had enough.

With a tiny growl of sheer annoyance at his own ineptitude, he slid his hands up along Nines’ neck. Fingers grabbing along the pallor of the android’s long neck, Gavin sank his fingertips into Nines’ cheeks when he reached them, and he roughly and violently yanked Nines forward in one jerking motion. Lips crashed against lips almost bruising, and Gavin’s tongue poked out like a serpent’s. Sliding and slipping his warm tongue over the seam of the android’s firm lips stretched out in a line, Gavin didn’t stop until his foggy brain-in spite of all the alcohol-recognized what the heck the flavor was, now.

It was rather faint, but he licked those lips that had the stuff smeared so heavily and thickly, and he could taste it perfectly.

He got it!! It was watermelon!!!

Feeling lighter than ever, Gavin made a move to fling himself off of Nines and rejoice in his triumph. He’d wanted to cry out in sheer joy and happiness, knowing that the damn game was coming to an end, and knowing that they’d won. He’d wanted to sing songs of gratitude and praise for himself that he wouldn’t have to drink himself into a stupor, and he wanted to proclaim and announce to the world that he could still be in control over his senses and functions in spite of it all.

But all that power and that sudden surge of success and pride had been taken away from him and chipped away at so cruelly and viciously by one stupid, little thing Nines just did.

Yes, it was a little thing, indeed, but to Gavin, it was the biggest thing in the world.

Nines had flicked his tongue over Gavin’s lips in return, much in the same way Gavin had done to his android partner. It was done much more subtly, but it was still there, like a faint whisper in the night, or a tiny ripple along the clear surface of a body of water.

It was still there; it had still happened, however.

Gavin froze for a moment, thinking that in his slightly inebriated state, he’d somehow imagined it, but then it happened, again.

As drunk as he was, there was no mistaking this gesture for anything else.

Nines had licked him back.

Chapter Text

I love you baby and if it’s quite all right,

I need you baby to warm the lonely nights,

I love you baby, trust in me when I say…

It’d happened. He hadn’t been dreaming, and he wasn’t crazy. Nines had indeed tried tonguing him and touching his lips with his tongue even more so than before. As the music potently blared on in the background, Gavin felt his ears ringing, and his vision was blurring.

Oh pretty baby don’t bring me down I pray,

Oh pretty baby now that I found you, stay,

And let me love you baby, let me love you…

Snapping his eyes open, he’d meant to lash out and punch Nines as hard as he could in the jaw, even if it meant risking busting his own hand open, when he saw that the darkly clad android had already pulled himself away and was moving back, still…

…So…he’d…he’d imagined it???

Gavin was willing to go along with the assumption that he’d somehow fabricated the whole thing, but there unfortunately seemed to be two major things that stuck out to him going against the idea that this was all just in his imagination. Aside from the fact that the music had stopped playing, Gavin noticed that Marsha and Charles both had gaped at him before gaping away at Nines in pure awe. Secondly, Gavin definitely felt that his lips and chin were rather wet. As the gentle gust and breeze of the heat from the vents blew up past him, he felt his skin feeling slightly cold and damp…

Yes…Nines had seriously licked him right back…how like a damn dog.

Peeking over surreptitiously at him, Gavin saw Nines inching further away, as if trying to pretend the whole thing never happened to begin with.

Well…now, he really wanted to yell and scream at Nines, but he couldn’t; not overtop of the sounds of more kissing, lips sloshing and smacking over lips, followed by soft, drunken moaning emanating from both Marsha and Charles. Evidently, both inebriated adults had somehow gotten encouraged to up the anti in terms of their passionate kissing and embracing. It seemed that they’d been inspired and encouraged by Gavin and Nines, and now, they too were sliding tongues into each other’s mouths hotly and quite lewdly. The prurient acts and displays were seriously spiraling out of control, and at a highly rapid pace.

As they engaged in quite the passionate, heated, sexually charged battle, Nines and Gavin gaped at them for a moment. However, both the stunned android and the shocked human male weren’t exactly petrified due to the levels of concupiscence and wanton displays Marsha and Charles presented. Both Gavin and Nines were still truly wondering just what on Earth had transpired between themselves rather than showing too much attention to the couple practically clawing at each other in wild, abandoned need.

Gavin’s eyes were slightly dewy, suddenly, but it was an effect suffered from not having blinked in a full minute. Nines seemed incapable of all thought, speech, and movement, but he sneered viciously as soon as he witnessed Charles sliding his hands down his spouse’s chest to cup her well-endowed breasts. Responding in kind, Marsha suddenly gripped her husband’s ass, and she wrapped her right leg around his waist strongly.

Enough was enough.

“I think we should g-get going,” Gavin snipped out angrily, “y’know, since you guys are apparently about seconds away f-from screwin’ each other right here on the floor.”

Nines was already grabbing for his trench coat, and he eagerly slid it on just as Marsha let out one last ardent moan.

“Hey!! Did you hear me?!” Gavin barked in a bombastic manner, no longer really caring if this was too rude. No guest had to put up with this from their hosts, and he’d had his fill of the public displays of groping, grinding, and licking to last him a damn lifetime and a half.

With a huff, Marsha got herself up off the floor with some help that came in the form of a gentle push from Charles once they’d untangled limbs. They both readjusted their clothing and fixed their hair while eyeing Gavin wearily.

Breathing with some minor difficulty, Charles panted out softly, “Sorry, guys.”

Marsha however didn’t seem to be in favor of apologizing. Crossing her arms over her chest, she hissed icily, “What’s wrong with you two?”

Completely floored by such a random, brazen question spewed forth, Gavin cried out with wide eyes, “Excuse me?!”

“You h-heard,” Marsha panted out, rosy cheeks indicative of her still-heightened state of arousal, “you guys just can’t suddenly get everyone hot and bothered with that stuff we just saw and then get mad at us for feeling the tension here!”

What the fuck…this was suddenly way too weird, and Gavin was way too damn drunk for this shit.

Hanging on desperately to the last remnants of his self-control, Gavin whispered, Look, i-if you guys a-are into some weird swinger-foursome-shit, it’s your own personal business, and e-everyone has their own fetish, but—”

“Woah, woah, woah, Gavin,” Charles held out his hands while his eyes were as round as tiny saucers, “what’re you talkin’ about, man?!”

His wife also shared an almost identical glare, and she sat up on her knees to be at an even closer eye-level with Gavin. Clearly offended, she pushed back her messy, wild mop of long hair and tsked in urgency.

“I’m not sure if this some twisted joke you just came up with, Gavin,” she ground out as the tension in her jaw, temples, and face became apparent, “but this is silly.”

Even Charles looked thoroughly disgusted with the way and turn the conversation had taken. He glowered at Gavin so intently that he seemed a few years older, suddenly, and rather menacing. It was a complete 180 shift compared to the sweet, well-mannered ‘Charles Driver’ earlier that night in the restaurant. This version of Charles currently seemed beyond fed-up with Gavin and Nines, and he shifted irritably as his wife slowly rose to her feet.

Eyes cast down, she mumbled, “I think you and your partner, Gavin, clearly got the wrong idea here.”

That was a loaded statement, but Gavin was far too drunk to argue right now. To form a coherent, cohesive argument would require far more lucidity than he could muster, and he was far too exhausted and irate to think clearly. That was a definite ‘no go’, and he was comfortable enough with leaving it at this. Plus, he didn’t want things to get ‘violent’ should Charles deem it necessary enough to defend his wife’s honor.

Fuck it.

Holding out his hands, Gavin sighed, “Guess so, Marsha.”

A loss was a loss, and Gavin was more than willing to cut his losses and get the fuck out of there if it meant at least parts of his dignity could go along with himself.

As exasperation nearly rolled off him in heavy, thick waves, Charles pushed out almost reluctantly, “I think it’s best for you two to leave.”

Gavin couldn’t argue with that at all.

Nodding, he grabbed his jacket off the sofa, and he stood as tall and as proudly as he could. “Well, I guess we overstayed our welcome, Nines,” he announced as he scoffed at both Charles and Marsha, “time to make ourselves scarce, then.”

The tall android also put on the rest of his clothes, but he stopped on the way out of the living room to take a brief moment in order to bow his head apologetically at Charles and Marsha. Gavin almost yanked him away from the couple, eyes burning with rage and contempt as he eventually reached the front door and slipped into his boots.

Charles called behind him, “I’ll walk you both out—”

“No need, man,” came Gavin’s waspish reply, and it rooted the other man firmly in his spot. He didn’t bother to approach and advance further, and as he stared at Gavin and Nines with a rather sullen look upon his face, Gavin slowly opened the front door of their home.

Pausing before it opened all the way, he peeked over his shoulder past Charles, and he saw Marsha’s angry eyes peering at him over her husband’s broad frame. One look from her was enough to send the message loud and clear to Gavin.

They had to leave.

Not even bothering them with an ebullient ‘goodnight’, Gavin stepped outside into the dark, the snow, the cold, and he almost forgot that Nines was following him into such a world.

 

~ѰѰѰѰѰ~

 

By the time Gavin and Nines reached Nines’ apartment to drop him off and call it a night, Gavin realized he was frankly way too exhausted and still drunk to drive back home on his own. They should’ve thought this out better, but Gavin didn’t want Nines knowing where he lived, for one, and two, his apartment may have been cat piss and shit-free, now, but it still wasn’t all that neat and tidy like Nines’ was.

…Plus, he was far beyond lazy to drive back.

Thinking he’d probably drive off towards the closest motel for the night, Gavin waited in Nines’ parking lot as the android slowly started to exit the vehicle from the driver’s seat. Midway, he paused, and he turned and scanned Gavin in less than a few seconds.

With a sneer, he hissed, “You reek of booze, Detective.”

Subsiding with a huff of anger, Gavin shot Nines a look that promised retribution for his little comment. “No sh-shit, Nines,” he grumbled, “th-that’s why I’m g-goin’, now.”

Shaking his head in obvious signs of disagreement, Nines protested, “You can’t drive home inebriated while smelling like a brewery, Detective; it’s unsafe, and you could get fined for it.”

Nines was right, but Gavin was in no mood to admit that to the android, and thus feeding into his ego. Instead, he planned on how he was going to take up the painstaking task of locating a decent enough motel for the night. Last time he checked, his phone had very low battery…

“I’ll think of somethin’, Nines,” he answered all too quickly, trying to get out of the passenger seat and switch up the seats with Nines. He really wanted to escape the oppressive atmosphere of the night and its events.

Nines didn’t seem to want to leave himself open for Gavin’s ire, so he gave the other pedantic male an incredulous look just to communicate in some way that he didn’t abide by this idea of Gavin being left to his own devices until he thought of ‘something’. That wasn’t good enough.

“Reed,” Nines hissed, and only when Gavin briefly looked at him did he press on. “You can’t drive in your current state, and I’m not going to let you.”

Gavin frowned, “Did you just—”

The android nodded desperately, concern welling up inside him inexorably. “You shouldn’t endanger yourself and others, which is what you’d be doing if left on the road while still intoxicated.”

Of course, emancipating Gavin from whatever ailed him wasn’t going to be an easy task, and Nines had already conceded that point. At the very least, while he was certain he couldn’t ‘help’ Gavin in the ways he likely needed to be helped, he could perhaps ‘pave’ the way for something more civil and tolerable.

Voice as smooth as silk, Nines spoke out to him, “Let’s go.”

Glaring at him, Gavin’s head swayed before he asked the inevitable, “Where’re we goin’?”

Gesturing with a head nod, Nines grunted at his most reviled colleague, “In my apartment, Reed, where else?”

…..

Nines could’ve stated they would go scuba diving, bird watching, skipping rope, or setting a building on fire without saving old ladies trapped inside it, and it wouldn’t matter. Gavin’s currently facial expression depicted enough fear, resentment, and concern, that it was all one and the same type of a response.

“Nah, I’m good,” he still managed to answer anyway, further and deeper cementing it into Nines’ head that he wasn’t interested in this current prospect of a conversation.

Not letting go due to genuine concern for Gavin’s safety, Nines inched towards the edge of his seat, leaning his body towards the passenger one. “There’s no choice here, Reed,” snatching the car keys in a hand, he held them up before Gavin’s eyes, flashing them like a prize. He then placed them deeply within one of his trench coat pockets while grinning triumphantly.

Scowling like his life depended on it, Gavin’s entire face grew beet red as he sneered and spat out fussily, “You should try out for Nirvana some time, Nines.”

“Reed—”

“I don’t need your help, Nines,” Gavin argued quickly in spite of the fact that his speech was rather slurred. “Just go home and I will, too.”

Nines hadn’t been expecting a sophisticated set of responses from Gavin, so he wasn’t altogether that badly alarmed and that much shocked or disappointed. Gavin clearly didn’t want to ask for help, but Nines knew this wasn’t a matter of what Gavin wanted or didn’t want; this was a matter of morality and safety, and he truly wanted for Gavin to be safe and sound than injured and in trouble. After all, they could argue about it all later when Gavin was sober, possibly.

Wrapping a hand gently around Gavin’s elbow, Nines began tugging him away from his seatbelt urgently. Initially, Gavin didn’t struggle, but as soon as he noticed Nines trying to undo the seatbelt, he roared and fought back.

“Stop it, Reed,” Nines warned, “I’m only trying to undo this.”

“Dude,” Gavin growled thickly, “you licked my fuckin’ face back there…”

Ah. So the unrestricted, open, brazen, and aggressive Gavin Reed was back due to being drunk and belligerent, after all.

Not too thrilled about being put on the spot, Nines merely hissed softly, “So did you.”

Shaking his head wildly, Gavin cried, “I was doin’ it for the game, Nines…you were doin’ it because—”

The seatbelt was unbuckled with a loud ‘snap’, and Gavin was free. However, rather than leaving as Nines originally suspected he would, instead, the android found himself practically nose-to-nose with Gavin Reed. As the angry detective glared him down, Nines leaned back marginally. He truly was unable to predict what the emotionally charged and inebriated human was going to do, but he created some distance between their bodies in case something drastic happened.

Eyes half-lidded slits, Gavin grumbled, “Are you only helpin’ me tonight because we nearly ate each other’s face?”

Glowering at him for uttering such an idiotic statement, Nines chided, “What a stupid question to ask, Reed.” Shifting in his seat, he mumbled, “Is compassion that pandering to you and so foreign that it has to come attached with a price tag??”

Sniggering, Gavin rolled his eyes and shook his head, “Maaan,” he coughed as he tilted his head back and shut his eyes for a brief moment. “I swear, Nines, if there was a sport for ‘mental gymnastics’, dude, you’d bring home U.S.A. gold every fuckin’ Olympics!”

Understanding the implications and symbolism of that statement, Nines merely yanked Gavin forward again as he wrapped one long arm around the back of his neck, and one around his waist firmly. “Can you get out of the car on your own, or should I carry you like an infant?” he asked his question with more attitude and bite than necessary, though only due to how much Gavin’s previous comment had affected him.

“I c-can walk, calm your ass down,” came Gavin’s snippy reply after he shoved Nines’ limbs off himself. All Nines then did was hold open the car door for Gavin, though his hand remained outstretched, cautious of a fall anyway.

Together, they walked inside the apartment building, and Gavin yawned a few times on the way up as they took the elevator.

“It would’ve been easier for me to go to a motel, Nines,” Gavin groused once the elevator stopped on the floor Nines’ apartment was located on.

Glaring at him while they cautiously stepped out, Nines spat back, “Your toothbrush, toothpaste, bedding, as well as a fresh change of clothes are already in my apartment, Reed, what difference does it make?”

“True,” Gavin mumbled, nearly tripping over his own feet once Nines unlocked his door and ushered him inside. When Gavin took off his heavy boots and walked around aimlessly in the front hallway, Nines stared at him for a moment, just taking time to study the inebriated man for a while.

Gavin was pacing without any purpose or a sense of direction, and Nines peered down at his feet, noticing that his socks were somewhat filthy, and he still reeked of alcohol…

Mind made up right then, he grunted, “Take a shower before you go to bed, Reed.”

“Wha?” Gavin muttered inelegantly, “why?”

“You stink,” Nines lied, “that’s why.” Truthfully, he couldn’t smell anything other than alcohol on Gavin, but he still wanted to be a little petty and rude anyway.

Pausing, Gavin lifted his arms, and he sniffed at his left armpit. Recoiling, he grunted, “Shit, I k-kinda do…sorry, Nines.”

“No need for apologizing,” Nines drawled on lazily as he pushed Gavin towards the bathroom and turned on the light. “Your body’s…natural reactions can hardly be controlled,” the didactic android explained carefully, trying not to leave room for nasty implications that a drunk Gavin Reed could take in the wrong way. Thankfully, Gavin didn’t comment much as Nines brought to him a clean towel, a fresh change of clothes, as well as helped him take off his jacket, at least.

Staring away from the swaying detective, Nines muttered irritably, “I hope you can handle the rest on your own, but I’ll be outside if you need anything—”

Gavin reached out with both hands, and with a mighty shove, he pushed Nines hard in the chest. The android stumbled back over his own feet, but in a few seconds, he recovered and held onto the edge of the bathroom door while glaring and scowling away heatedly at Gavin.

“Thanks, Reed,” Nines spat. “I’ll be leaving, then.”

Winking sloppily at him, Gavin hiccupped as he hissed thinly, “Appreciate it, babe.”

It literally took everything Nines had not to yell, swear, and put Gavin in his right place, no matter how much he wanted to, and no matter how badly he felt and thought that Gavin needed to hear it. He wasn’t one to abuse another, and he wasn’t going to attack Gavin when he was already at a relatively low point in his life.

All Nines could do was scowl away at Gavin while the other man seemed to gloat and purr at him in sheer delight that would’ve caused any gluttonous person to weep from insurmountable bouts of pride.

Gavin was truly insatiable.

Chapter Text

Image may contain: one or more people

 

Nines couldn’t believe he’d practically been tossed unceremoniously out of his own apartment, but he kind of had when Gavin booted him from the bathroom. Well, Nines could understand the desire for privacy and such, but Gavin could’ve technically requested that in a nicer way…

Having nothing to do while the detective cleaned himself in the other room, Nines eventually decided to take it upon himself to pack Gavin’s alcohol-smelling clothes into a basket and take it down for a quick wash in the laundry room. Thanks to the umbriferous atmosphere the dimly lit laundry room provided, Nines wasn’t really questioned as to what he was doing down there in the first place, even though two nosy old ladies who lived a floor above him were also washing their clothes at this ungodly hour of the night.

Finishing his task as quickly as he could due to placing the clothes in for a ‘speed wash’, Nines found himself back in his apartment in no time, and Gavin had already finished his shower.

Good.

But the ‘not-so-good’ part was that rather than finding Gavin in bed or at the very least preparing for it, Nines discovered that the detective had yet again helped himself to some alcohol that had remained left over in the freezer in the kitchen.

Damn it.

As Gavin tipped his head back and downed the ice-cold liquid, swallowing it greedily, Nines let out an annoyed roar as he stormed over towards the human and snatched the bottle right out of his hands. To his horror, he found that Gavin had almost finished the contents halfway…

“Wonderful, Detective Reed,” the irritated android sneered, “I leave you alone for not even ten minutes, and you’ve already turned back to the very substance we’ve tried to clear out of your damn system in the first place.” With a head shake, he growled, “Phenomenal fucking job.”

Gavin was dressed in a wet-stained white workout tank top and black shorts. His bare feet slid a little as he tried righting himself up. His hair was still partly drenched, as was his upper torso, hence why his white shirt was matted to his chest and mostly wet also. Eyes widening slightly, he let out a tiny hiccup once he saw Nines.

“Sup, man?”

Not even answering him, Nines tipped the beer bottle upside down, and he poured it all down the kitchen sink. As the drain swallowed it all down, Gavin let out a pained gasp, and he squealed in protest as he threw himself at Nines wildly with his arms flailing.

“NOOOOOOOO!!!!”

“Silence!”

“NIIIIIIIIIINES!! WHAT THE FUUUUUUCK!??!”

Holding him back with a strong, firm hand, Nines kept Gavin away from trying to snatch the bottle back into his own hands. Fingers tried hooking onto the bottle, but it was no use; Gavin was too drunk, and therefore incapable of coordinating his fingers to even latch onto the bottle.

All he could do was pout and scream out, “Niiiineeesss! I paid m-m-money for thaaaat!!!”

“Oh really?” Nines snapped back sarcastically with a head tilt, “I thought you paid for this in chocolate kisses, Reed.”

Together, they watched as the last bits of the alcohol swirled and swished down the drain, completely gone and out of sight, now. Crumbling back in defeat, Gavin visibly deflated. His shoulders sank and caved in, and he looked absolutely regretful.

Not enjoying the sorrowful look upon his face, Nines set the now empty bottle down on the kitchen counter and rounded on him. Peering down at the disgruntled male with his yellow LED light first, he sneered, “You really need to find better coping mechanisms for whatever ails you, Reed.”

Not even taking a second, Gavin threw back with pure attitude, “And y-yooouuu neeeed to m-mind your o-own businesssss!” He was back to being the drowsy, intoxicated Gavin Reed who could hardly even keep his balance on both feet.

Helping him before he crashed to the floor, Nines propped Gavin up against his side as he muttered, “Let’s just get you to bed, Reed; I don’t have the patience for this right now.”

As he was dragged down the hall towards the bedroom, Gavin hissed, “H-heeeey, meeee toooo, what’d’ya knooow?”

“This is grating, Detective,” Nines commented as he gently placed Gavin onto the center of the bed once they entered the room. It was rather dark due to the grey curtains they’d picked out and purchased now hanging before the windows, and Nines knew he couldn’t risk turning on the lights in case Gavin was slightly hung over. They would have to make do with the faint lights from the hallway, and as Gavin steadied himself back against the soft mattress and clean sheets, he let out a tiny sigh of relief. It seemed he’d completely forgotten about the wasted beer, but Nines was grateful for that. Less of a headache for himself to go through.

Now, he could relax, himself.

While Gavin lay back with his right arm draped over his forehead and eyes, Nines took refuge in his closet, and he quickly changed out of and hung up his brand-new clothes. Dressing into a simple, black long-sleeve shirt and black denim jeans with tears running along the back of the legs and kneecaps, Nines felt a lot more comfortable.

As he pressed the hem of his black shirt down over his abdomen, he heard soft snickering coming from behind himself.

“I s-s-saw your ass for a moment, th-there,” Gavin giggled immaturely, “nice underwear, maaaan.”

Glaring down at his bare feet, Nines hissed acerbically, “Yes, that tends to happen when one has nowhere to change due to a surprise guest occupying their bedroom.” Slamming the closet doors shut, he turned and scoffed at Gavin. He found that the other man had removed his arm from over his forehead and eyes, but he was staring at the dark ceiling rather than at Nines.

“Sleep, Reed,” Nines ordered, shifting himself towards the door, “I’m going to leave, and—”

“Noooo, don’t g-g-goooo,” Gavin argued, turning awkwardly onto his side as he grunted out with minor difficulty, “staaaay f-for a biiiiit.”

“Why do you need me in here?”

With a lazy shrug, Gavin answered, “Just because.”

“Not good enough, Reed,” Nines grumbled, but he still approached the edge of the bed, and very tentatively pressed down on the mattress with his right kneecap digging into the softness as he glared down at Gavin.

Rearing up suddenly, Gavin yelled out, “Staaaaay, fuck sakes, Nines!!!”

Not wanting Gavin to shriek out anymore, Nines acquiesced. Originally, he’d been seated on the edge of the bed, but apparently, that wasn’t good enough for a drunken Gavin Reed.

Waving him over, Gavin cooed, “I’ll sc-coot over, kay?”

Nines only offered him an apprehensive look, but didn’t say anything else as Gavin rolled closer to the opposite side of the bed. Patting the extra spot to his right, he said, “Come on.”

“I’d rather not, Reed,” Nines replied dully, and Gavin snorted at his answer.

Sniffling, he asked, “Why?”

…..

Not sure of what specifically he’d wanted to say, Nines merely offered, “Because you’re still drunk, and I don’t want to be in the way should you need to go to the bathroom and vomit.”

Gavin huffed, “Well, th-that’s wh-why you’re here…so I can barf on you, Nines.”

“Thanks, Reed.”

“Mhm,” Gavin yanked the android’s shirt collar aggressively, “c’mere.”

Initially struggling, Nines held himself back. Although Gavin was beyond drunk, he was still rather strong. Well, Nines didn’t want to risk fighting and making such strong, wild moves that Gavin would possibly end up feeling dizzy and sick as a result. It was just better to go along with this, even though it was so incredibly wrong.

In a jiffy, Nines found himself lying down on his back right next to Gavin’s side. Thankfully, there was a bit of space between their bodies, and they both stared up at the dark ceiling in silence.

Unfortunately, Gavin didn’t wish or want to remain silent for long.

“This is like a sleepover, huh?” he hiccupped out violently, causing the bed to shake a little.

Nines only stared at him from his peripheral vision, “You should sleep, Reed.”

“I’m w-wide awake,” Gavin hiccupped again, turning his head to the side as he inhaled sharply. “Bed’s comfy.”

“It is,” Nines replied back, “and you should try and enjoy it on your own—” a finger suddenly smacked over his lips, and Nines scowled down at it.

Gavin hissed, “Shh, juuuuust shush, Nines…I can’t th-think.”

Thinking didn’t seem to be a requirement in such a state as this, but Nines wasn’t in the mood to argue. Dislodging Gavin’s finger from his lips, he leaned back as he asked, “So, how was it revisiting your past, Reed?”

Slow on the uptake, Gavin grunted, “Huh?”

“Marsha,” Nines reminded him, “your ex-girlfriend. How did it feel seeing her after so long?” He particularly didn’t really care to know one way or another, but while he was there next to Gavin, he didn’t wish to spend the time in pure silence, either. Plus, the more he engaged the man in talking, the faster Gavin would fall asleep, hopefully.

With a sluggish eyeroll and sigh, Gavin cried out softly, “I dunno, man, I can’t r-really s-say a lot because me and her were never like alalalalaaaaa,” Gavin sang out by sticking his tongue out obscenely, evidently pantomiming making out with someone heavily while using tongue. He laughed afterwards, sighing as his head lolled to his right. Physically close to Nines, now, he sighed through heavy-lidded eyes, “I’m ha-happy she moved on.”

Slightly surprised to hear this, Nines pushed out, “I’m shocked…I thought you would be envious.”

“Nah,” Gavin disagreed, “sheee’s happier thi-this way, and I am t-too.”

There was a lot to Gavin Reed that Nines found he didn’t know. Almost shamefully, he discovered that all this time, he’d only drawn his conclusions about Gavin from what he’d observed, reflected on, and as much as he hated to admit it, but rumors had also played a huge role in this factor as well. He realized he truly knew next to nothing about Gavin, even though they’d worked together in the same place for two years. Nines considered this a bit of a failure on his part, as he usually was more thorough with his research and investigation than this. Had he simply turned more of a blind eye to Gavin simply because they didn’t really get along in the past??

Perhaps…perhaps not. Although he hoped he wasn’t that biased, Nines felt a little uneasy with himself while Gavin inched closer to him. When Gavin’s facial stubble rubbed against his neck, Nines broke out of his thoughts.

With an inquisitive eyebrow lifted, he hissed, “Reed, what’re you doing?”

“S’hot in here, Nines,” Gavin complained as he stretched his legs out before himself, “isn’t it hot?”

……

No, it wasn’t, but before Nines could say anything about the temperature of the room or the apartment, he felt Gavin’s lips and nose brushing against the long column of his neck. Freezing up immediately, Nines growled, “Reed, get to sleep.”

His warnings hadn’t been heard, clearly, and Gavin muttered, “S’hot…Nines…”

“Reed,” Nines growled louder this time, “I mean it, you—” He stopped when he felt something warm, hard, thick, and something that was definitely throbbing and growing against his thigh. Craning his neck down, Nines saw a dark tent in between Gavin’s legs forming, poking obscenely against the fabric of his black shorts. He didn’t need to scan anything else to know what was going on here.

Gavin was aroused.

Now, this situation was beyond wrong; it was horrifying.

Inching away as if the bed was on fire, Nines cried out in anger, “Reed! Let go!”

Chasing after him, Gavin latched on with his arms and legs, sticking tightly to Nines’ side. “Noooo,” he mumbled brokenly, “Nines, heeeelp meee…sooooo hot!!!”

“I don’t care!” Nines barked, arms flying up to Gavin’s in an effort to yank the limbs away, “you’re drunk, and you’re going to regret this in the god damn morning!”

“It’s hooooot,” Gavin repeated, and a second later, to Nines’ growing reverent terror, Gavin lifted a leg, wrapped and draped it around Nines’ own body, and he slowly began moving against Nines. The motions Gavin was making were undeniable; he was grinding slowly and deeply against the shocked android.

Once or twice, Nines tried shoving Gavin off himself, but it seemed that the more he put up a struggle, the more Gavin pursued him. Unrelenting, the detective panted and moaned into his neck, his hip movements growing fast and erratic. As uncoordinated and messy as the they were, Nines felt himself responding in kind between his own legs. Gavin’s ragged panting wasn’t doing well in keeping his self-control in check, and the android slowly turned as he struggled one last time to get away.

As soon as part of his back was turned towards Gavin, however, the detective snarled possessively, and he yanked Nines back down. This time, he spun Nines almost towards himself to lie down on his left side, but as Nines fought back for the final time, Gavin moved forward with a particularly powerful thrust.

Their clothed lower torsos made contact and rubbed deliciously, and that friction was enough to send Nines over the edge. He lost any bit of self-control he had, and he chose to obey his bodily functions instead.

Fuck it.

Gavin must’ve felt Nines responding, even though he was unable to say it. His gaze fell to his partner’s crotch, where his cock was obviously straining against the black cloth that covered it. Slowly, Gavin’s hand followed, and he delicately touched the large bulge Nines’ dark pants could not hide.

Though he tried, Nines found he could not stop his hips from jerking towards Gavin’s, nor could he prevent the groan that escaped his throat. Encouraged, Gavin ran his fingers down the length of the android’s clothed cock. Gavin’s innocent touch nearly made him come right there. However, somehow, Nines found the strength to gently remove the other man’s hand.

Damn him and his sense of righteousness!! He’d been programmed for shit like this to happen, he wasn’t unaware of that. But what he hadn’t been programmed for was to have hyper-sensitive reactions that practically made him burn and ache with need when the situation was so uncalled for. The limits of his patience were now being tested, and he wasn’t sure if he could fight back for much longer.

When a deep, throaty moan emanated from Gavin and sailed into his audio receptors and riveted potently through every portion of his bio-sensors, Nines found that the sound also was doing things to his cock that never should’ve been happening to begin with.

Shit!!! He was slipping!!!

Trying again to slide off the bed, Nines pushed back, but again, Gavin chased him down with his hips. Their arousals rubbed hotly, and Gavin slammed down over Nines’ length with raw need. He meant to moisten his own lips, but when his tongue flickered out and when Nines reared up at the same time, Gavin managed to lick Nines’ neck instead.

Now, Nines was entirely gone. He didn’t care what they were doing, he didn’t care what the context of the situation was, he didn’t care what would happen in the morning following this, nor did he care that Gavin was drunk. He just needed to feel.

With a deep growl, Nines propped himself up on an arm and rolled on his side towards Gavin. Hips bruising hips, he forced the shorter male back as he rolled on top of him. Gavin’s legs parted and wrapped around his hips as the inebriated, aroused male continued to thrust his own lower body against Nines. As they moved, Nines’ control was shattering. He could be inside Gavin’s tight warmth in three quick movements and one thrust. Why not? It wasn’t as though Gavin would blame him; after all, he’d started this!!!

But that would be…

No…he couldn’t even bring himself to think of ever doing such a thing. It was disgusting vile, and so evil.

Nines never knew how he found the strength to hold back, but somehow, he did. Although he didn’t get off the bed or Gavin, he soon found himself looking down at the other man. His erection was painful; his lust so strong that he wasn’t thinking much more clearly than Gavin, no doubt. Never had he wanted anything more than to tear open his pants and plunge into Gavin’s body, hearing how his initial screams of shock slowly turned into moans of desire.

Wanton thoughts whirled around in Nines’ head, nearly causing him to roar out with frustration. The pain in his balls however cleared his head somewhat, and he was able to look at Gavin intently again. Beneath himself, the detective lay there staring at him with mingled passion and fear. His hair was still slightly damp, and due to the darkness in the room, it looked almost quite black. Still, there was a faint, rosy glow stirring in Gavin’s cheeks, and even his scar somehow stood out clearly for Nines in the lights coming from the hallway.

Seeing Gavin like this spurred Nines on. The detective’s shorts were already halfway down his strong hips, and his shirt was nearly coming off his bulky arms.

Nines thought he never looked better…

No, he couldn’t fuck him.

Equally as frustrated as Gavin, now, Nines felt his thoughts aflame as he struggled with a possible solution to this conundrum that wouldn’t make it so that he would suffer terribly negative and horrific consequences afterwards.

While he couldn’t fuck Gavin, he supposed that didn’t mean he couldn’t get him off in another way…

Sliding his hands nimbly down Gavin’s shorts, Nines kept his eyes on Gavin’s face, closely watching and on the alert for any signs of distress and fear. When he didn’t see any, he continued. While still thrusting and gyrating his own clothed body on top of Gavin’s, Nines ran his hand down Gavin’s underwear. Yes, the heated erection was throbbing as it strained the cotton of the underwear, and Nines was swooning as he gently touched Gavin a few times on top of just the underwear. He couldn’t wait to have Gavin’s cock in the palm of his hand, but he took it slowly still, just in case Gavin wanted him to stop.

Writhing in pure need, Gavin didn’t seem to want for Nines to stop what he was doing anytime soon. Arching his back and chest off the bed and into the air, their bodies were now firmly pressed together. Nines’ senses went on overdrive, and he was reeling and dizzy. He’d never felt this way, but now that he had some kind of a taste for how glorious physical pleasures could be, he began to lust after and chase for more.

It wasn’t enough; it was too hot.

Fingers gently massaging Gavin’s erection through the cotton underwear, Nines gained confidence and enough courage to take it a step further. Needing to feel flesh heating up flesh, he pushed Gavin’s shorts and underwear just barely down to expose his mons pubis. At once, as Gavin’s desire sprang forth into air, Nines again gripped it firmly. He pulled plenty of heated moans from the human as he gave him a few experimental pumps. Once he found that Gavin keened so sweetly, Nines wanted to hear that sound again…and again, and again, and again. He’d never have his fill.

Greedily, he chased after the sounds slipping out of Gavin’s mouth, and as he leaned forward on an elbow and allowed his head to hover by Gavin’s cheek, he took in more of the heavenly sounds and thoroughly enjoyed them. Each of them sent powerful blasts and shock waves throughout his system, lighting each and every little thing on fire. So this is what it meant to be alive…

Not wasting time trying to drag it out, Gavin was moving his hips quite erratically against Nines, and the faster he went, the jerkier and more uncoordinated everything became. Due to being lost to his drunkenness, Gavin wasn’t able to hold himself up for long, and he crashed down onto the mattress a few times. Nines didn’t mind; he loomed over Gavin, propping himself up carefully so he wouldn’t crush the other male, and his hand flew up and down Gavin’s erection expertly.

As Nines had dreamed and fantasized earlier, Gavin’s sobs turned to moans and coos of desire. His arms wrapped around his neck, his legs gently curling around Nines’ own legs. With a nudge, Nines was able to prop up Gavin’s lower half against his own. Firmly, Nines’ hands grasped Gavin’s ass, showing him how to move to meet his thrusts. Both of them were fast in losing control now, their pace speeding up as they rocked together. And then, Gavin was coming, exploding around Nines, throb after throb of ecstasy that didn’t stop as long as the android was driving himself right into Gavin.

No, he could not deny it, but in the end, neither did he wish to. After all, Nines acknowledged the heady sexuality as the last paroxysm of pleasure swept through Gavin, and he heard the lust-filled detective call out something incoherently. It’d happened in one second, and Nines had missed it, but he didn’t care. He’d never experienced such sweetness in conceding defeat.

Though he knew Gavin had fainted right after his explosive orgasm, Nines still couldn’t stop what he was doing. His lust had finally broken free of his control. One hand went to his jeans, where he fumbled for a moment with the buttons, then with a grunt of impatience, he simply ripped open his fly and took out his hard member. A few strokes were all it took for him to climax. He groaned into Gavin’s sweet-smelling neck and skin as his cum spurted over his hand and spattered his pants.

It matched how wet Gavin had made his hand, and Nines continued gasping and panting against Gavin’s neck as he rode out the last bits of his own orgasm pleasantly. Mind spinning out of control, he found that his thirium pump was nearly about to explode as he spilled all over his hand and over his jeans for the last time.

Was it going to end???

Oh, how conflicted he was with wanting to end such bitter-sweet misery, yet simultaneously wishing this would never finish.

But it had, and as he was spent beyond belief, he brushed his low hanging bangs out of his eyes and away from his forehead. When his vision had readjusted and been refocused down onto Gavin as he moved himself off the other man, Nines felt his thirium pump plopping right down to the pit of his abdomen where it settled and almost got destroyed.

The weight of the one, single question suddenly slammed into him, and as it did, he was plagued and haunted by his own choice to pursue this.

What had he done?!?! He’d taken advantage of Gavin when the man wasn’t even in complete charge and in full control over his own faculties!!! He wasn’t cognizant enough to confirm he wanted it, and Nines had selfishly just swooped in and taken what he’d wanted from Gavin!!!

What had he done?!?!?

Muffling his own groans and cries that threatened to spill out of himself, Nines held up the back of his right arm over his mouth as he stared down at the sleeping Gavin Reed. The man was in a deep sleep, of course, and for once, Nines thought he looked…peaceful. Gone were the usual lines and creases in the corners of his eyes, and the few indents in his skin that he often wore during the waking hours were now gone. He looked years younger, more innocent, and above all else, Detective Gavin Reed looked happy.

But would he be come dawn? Would he still look just as pleased, calm, poised, innocent, and gentle once he opened his eyes and his mind poured forth every bit of every detail regarding what had transpired between them?

Nines didn’t think so, and he wasn’t a fool to try and assume such a thing. More than likely, the polar opposite was guaranteed to happen, and he’d been completely to blame. He was at fault; he’d done this. He was a monster, a sicko, and as Gavin had perfectly called him out on it, he was a god damn pervert.

Nines was truly ashamed of himself as he gently rolled over towards the edge of the bed, rather than sleeping next to Gavin as he’d wanted to for the rest of the night. After pulling up his sullied jeans, he rose to his feet and padded off into the darkness.

A terrified, worried expression accompanied him all night long, and no matter what he did, he couldn’t rid himself of it.

Perhaps he never would.

 

 

End of Part 1

Chapter Text

Part 2-Winter

 

Image may contain: one or more people, shoes and skyscraper

 

A cloistered upbringing was never something Gavin Reed recalled having. Ever since the young boy could recall, his parents ensured that he hadn’t been without love, though they showed it in rather odd ways. His mother was gentle, loving, kind, and pleasant at all times. She baked cookies every once in a while, read him stories at bedtime, bought him any toys or games he wanted, and would often take a more ‘open’ approach to discipline that focused on solutions instead of lamenting about the problem. Yes, she’d been kind, virtuous, refined, and a very intelligent example for her son. Of course, as perfect as every parent was in the eyes of a child, while the child grew and developed, they gained a certain ‘cynical’ sense and perception of the world as their eyes opened to new things that may not have always been what they seemed only due to a special rose-tinted lens children often wore. Over time, those lenses blackened and grew sullied considerably, but of course, certain life experiences could also contribute and factor into make the lens darker faster.

Perhaps his home life hadn’t been so perfect, after all.

Yes, his mother had her wondrous attributes, but what of his father?

Being as fair as he could, Gavin often dreamt of his father more than he wanted to. However, in those dreams, he wasn’t entirely sure whether he was seeing the real Felix Reed, or the one his mind had created and purposefully fantasized about in order to shield up and protect himself from the truth…and just what was the truth???

The truth was rather subjective and murky at times, wasn’t it?

His father…his father?? What of his father?

Did Gavin remember Felix Reed as a slightly bookish, knowledgeable man who often looked too tired for his own good but still somehow managed to form a small smile on his face and entertain his son after a long day’s work? Or did he recall Felix Reed as a selfish, arrogant, emotionally stunted beast who liked to pick fights at random with Gavin’s mother? Had he really missed out all those times on family dinners, social gatherings, special holidays, birthdays, and parties just to flirt with women in his office? Was he a strong-minded father who often shared a lot with his son, loved answering questions as much as being asked them, and wanted to continuously help his child grow and learn? Or was he as abusive, narrow-minded, cold, and removed from all semblances of Gavin’s youth like he’d once thought??

What was real? What was fantasy?

If only he knew…but to know would require digging into the past, and digging into the past meant opening up old wounds that had taken almost two decades to seal up and almost heal. No…he wasn’t going to be foolish enough to do such a thing. Perhaps it would be better to ask for help, to ask for someone to walk him down that path hand-in-hand, but Gavin Reed didn’t like asking for help. Sometimes, asking for help automatically meant being indebted to someone else, and only the weak had to resort to such means.

It was better to brave the storms and face the harshness of reality if it meant becoming a stronger person at the end of the day. Yes, he was content with wearing his battle scars like trophies as he listened to his own internal lamentation of his failures eventually leading him into glory. Through failure and through hardship, the sweet taste of success always tasted better and sweeter.

He would create his own memories if he had to start from scratch, but he found it was far less painful if he was willing.

Gavin Reed was always willing and prepared.

……

And yet, something had happened to him. He was certain of it the day after he woke up and left Nines’ apartment sheepishly. It wasn’t a case of him having memory problems…no. Gavin Reed’s memory was fully intact; he remembered fully well what had happened between himself and Nines, and he vividly was able to recall all the sordid details even midway into the next week after it’d happened.

No matter how busy he was, no matter how many tasks Fowler threw his way at him, Gavin remembered. Well, he couldn’t be entirely ungrateful for his memories; they provided a decent enough distraction to momentarily forget about his mother and his deceased father, at the very least.

Ever since Carrie had visited her son, she hadn’t bothered to call, email, write, or do anything else to reach out to Gavin. While that would of course be nothing short of worrisome for most parents and children, for Gavin and Carrie, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary at all. They’d already passed most of their lives with extremes, and sometimes, going months without contact wasn’t all that horrific…only, it worried Gavin now, because he’d been concerned about his inheritance.

As sociopathic as it seemed even to his own mind, he really wanted to know what was going to happen with the money. If only he could get in touch with his father’s lawyer…who was it, again!? Damn his memory for choosing to fail him now, of all times!!!

Oh well. He was far too busy with work as it so happened, and he also had to think of Nines where his inheritance was concerned. This whole plan circled around an imaginary relationship he’d doctored with the taciturn android, and that aforementioned android was nowhere in sight. In fact, he hadn’t been around for the entire week back at work, and it was getting on Gavin’s nerves.

He’d mentioned that Nines was difficult to get a hold of when he didn’t want to be found, and boy, did Nines ever play into that damn role so very well. Seriously, it appeared as though Nines was nonexistent. He wouldn’t answer his phone, he wouldn’t reply to Gavin’s texts, and it didn’t even matter if Gavin tried to catch him at his office. Nines was just gone.

Well, Gavin couldn’t really blame him for it at all. He’d had plenty of sexual experiences in his life to know the difference between an awkward ‘one-night stand’ and a pretty good one. What had happened was simply one of the awkward one-night stands, although Gavin found that more often than not, they weren’t entirely mutually exclusive.

But this had been his first time with a man. This made all the difference in the world, and he wondered if Nines suspected it was his first time with a man also.

…..

Was he really that transparent?!?!

A part of Gavin hoped he wasn’t, but he knew that he could only fake being confident about certain things for so long until something somewhere along the lines snapped and broke apart. There was also a matter of whether or not Nines was furious with him for making it happen, or perhaps he didn’t think Gavin wanted it, either.

Now, things were really getting tricky. Gavin could conjure at least a hundred different explanations and reasons, but his brain would implode and likely self-destruct if he didn’t get any closure. He was a guy who needed closure. It’s usually what he thrived off of, and Nines was denying him that. He already had to guess plenty of theories and such for work, and he didn’t need to do the same in his private, personal life.

Damn Nines!! Why couldn’t he just make himself available?!!? They needed to communicate!!!

Cringing, Gavin noticed he sounded a lot like his therapist.

……

Speaking of, as he checked his phone, he found that he’d received at least four missed calls from his therapist. Gavin knew exactly why, however. Around Christmas last year, he’d had something of a scary nervous breakdown in his therapist’s office, and it’d resulted in Gavin having to be kept on close watch by the professional, otherwise, he stated he would have to call a hospital and have the then-thirty-seven-year-old male committed…

What a disgusting memory.

Immediately doing something about ‘wiping it away’ in a sense, Gavin closed out of the notifications and cleared his ‘call log history’. He knew his therapist was more than likely just concerned, and he supposed he had a right to be. He’d missed at least six sessions, and the last five, he hadn’t provided a solid excuse for…

Fuck. He really was slipping.

But first things first, he needed to talk to Nines. That really mattered to Gavin the most right now, and his blatantly obvious damage control mechanisms could be addressed later…maybe…never.

Yes…that made him feel better already. He could go find Nines, scream at him, maybe try to punch him in the chin, and then tell him that although what they’d done felt really amazing and had been very good, it would never, ever happen again, and if Nines even thought about it, Gavin was going to beat him to a blue pulp.

…...

But why did he think it felt good??? Why couldn’t he stop thinking about it?!?

The detective for once was stumped. He was almost like some possessed, enamored sycophant, wanting to follow Nines and hound him until he provided him with an answer. How troublesome!! He was now the very apotheosis of a stalker, and a crazy boyfriend!!!

Perhaps he was working too hard…the days were of course colder, shorter, darker, and as Gavin had correctly picked apart the patterns of crime, it was steadily rising and increasing by the beginning of the third week of November. The month was creeping along quickly, but most days, Gavin hardly noticed time flying as he worked on closing as many of the cases he knew were top priority as possible.

By Thursday, November 22nd, things had really turned far too crazy for Gavin to handle. People and things moved about in colored blurs, and the rooms all spun as Gavin was tossed from one floor of the DPD to another, trying to run around like a chicken with its head cut off just to make deadlines. Evidence was literally piling up his ass, and plenty of calls were coming in as far as tips on missing persons was concerned. Now, he had to follow those leads, track down which ones were credible, which ones were bullshit from people with a sick idea of a joke, or people who just wanted attention, and he had to write a god damn report on each and every single one of them…

Fuck!

In the middle of all this, roughly around 11:53 a.m., Fowler suddenly took an interest in calling Gavin into his office. With the wave of a hand as he stood next to the steps leading up to his office, he barked out boisterously, “Reed!!! Get in here!!”

Suddenly, all thoughts of Nines, their sexual encounter, the weirdness surrounding Marsha, Charles, his mother, and the inheritance flew clean out of his mind. His body knew only one path to take, one direction to go into.

Racing towards where Fowler was, Gavin reached the other man in no time.

“You wanted to see me, sir?” The tentativeness in his own voice galled him. He sounded like when he’d been a student reporting to a teacher for detentions. Straightening up, he met Fowler’s gaze, determined to see this through no matter what the aggressive superior of his said to him.

Unfortunately, a rather insipid look crossed Fowler’s facial features. Yanking his reading glasses off his face, he pinched the bridge of his nose as he ground out, “Reed, do you think you can head over to the photocopier and photocopy this?” Holding up a sheet of paper Gavin hadn’t seen him carrying before, he squinted as he stared at its colors.

His stomach dropped immediately when he saw the red and green colors. He knew what the universal symbol and meaning for those colors happened to be…

Christmas…how damn turgid.

Swallowing nervously, Gavin wheezed, “Umm…sir?”

“Christmas party posters, Reed,” his boss snapped irritably, clearly in no mood to have such an ‘elementary-level’ conversation right now. “I’ll need about fifty or so.”

Understanding it all immediately, Gavin nodded, but the rebellious streak he still possessed enabled him to mutter out under his breath, “It’s not even December, Jeffrey…”

Immediately, Captain Fowler rounded on him. “What did you say, Reed?”

Wincing, Gavin tried softly, “But sir, don’t we usually get these out later? And why are we printing them out this year?!” All were valid questions Gavin felt he had every right in the world to ask, but apparently, Captain Fowler seemed to disagree.

Shoving the poster directly into Gavin’s chin, he snorted, “Reed, don’t get fresh with me! First of all, you should know that in the past, whenever we emailed and sent out newsletters, a lot of people seemed to miss them and not check their damn emails!!” Thickly, he added, “And second of all, you aren’t that damn busy; just do this, and then get back to playin’ with your hair or something!!”

Snarling, Gavin griped, “Are you even out here to see what the hell’s goin’ on most days, Jeffrey?!” He couldn’t believe it, but he just shook his head as he snatched the poster in his hands.

“Fuckin’ unbelievable!!”

Waving him off, Fowler mumbled something that sounded a lot like, “Damn you and your marital problems with Nines,” but Gavin couldn’t be entirely too sure.

Livid, he hurriedly made his way past a crowd of officers who’d bustled in, the cold, white snow still partly visible on their dark blue uniforms as they marched past him and down the hall.

Gavin fought his way the entire time towards the photocopier, unaware of two angry pairs of eyes shining in a sinister manner at him as they tracked and followed his every move.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

Gavin suspected he was getting a cold. He just knew it; all the signs were there. Oh, how he hated the signs of catching a cold and the symptoms before he actually had his cold develop into a monster. His body felt weak, for one, but he also experienced ‘hot flashes’. Temperatures fluctuated terribly, going from hot to cold in less than two minutes sometimes. His knees felt like jelly, and Gavin had no idea how he even made it to the photocopier to begin with. His nostrils burned, as did the rest of his nose, his eyes burned and watered, his head throbbed, his ears kept popping and aching, and he felt like complete garbage all around.

Yes, he was certain he was catching a cold.

Fucking god damn.

Well, it didn’t necessarily have to be all that bad; he still suspected he had some sick days he hadn’t used up, and now was a good time to consider how many he had left…

Fidgeting nervously in the scanning and photocopying room, Gavin tried making it so that he stood directly beneath the heater above in the ceiling, but that failed exponentially when the photocopier let out a loud ‘beep’, and then shut off.

…..

What the…he hoped he hadn’t broken it…

Moving forcefully to check it out, Gavin stared at the display on the screen of the machine, and he let out a pained groan when he saw that it’d run out of colored ink.

What the fuck was he going to do, now?!?

Almost on the verge of crying in misery when he blinked and then felt a stupid sneeze that never came-only tortured him with notions that it would come out, Gavin yanked on his jean pockets before shoving his hands deeply within them.

Perhaps someone else in the damn building would know where they stored the colored toners and cartridges?! Well…it was worth a shot, but he really didn’t want to leave; the room was tiny, and the heat had already circulated around and within it so nicely!!!

This time, Gavin sensed he really was about to cry, but only because the damn sneeze kept getting backed up and stuck in his nose. What the fuck kind of a cold was this?!

As soon as he stepped out of the scanning and photocopying room, he held a hand around his mouth, and he let out a loud ‘ACHOO!’ Face scrunched up as he grimaced in pain, he wiped his eyes hurriedly and then made his way across the bullpen towards the storage closet. Perhaps the extra cartridges would be there?

Well, he was hoping and praying, otherwise, everyone in the DPD would have to somehow suffer his wrath. A sick Gavin wasn’t a ‘fun’ Gavin.

Sneezing his way over towards the storage closet, Gavin forgot that the damn door was locked, usually, and it required a damn key. He’d been given a set of keys since he first started working for the DPD, and supposedly, they were all labeled clearly for which door they fit into and opened. Only…Gavin had accidentally lost his keys some time back in April…and he hadn’t reported it to Captain Fowler or HR so they could log it and do something about it.

His incompetence really was grating, but he was too exhausted to be angry with himself. All he wanted to do was reload the damn photocopier and print out the pages without so much of a damn fuss, but it seemed like that was asking for the world wrapped in a silver or golden bow!! Nothing and no one would co-operate, it seemed.

Playing it cheap, Gavin initially waited by the storage closet door, hanging around the water fountains and vending machines in the hopes that someone would wander towards the damn door and unlock it with their own keys so he could swoop in at the most opportune moment and look for what he needed. If he played it by ‘coincidence’, it wouldn’t rouse anyone’s suspicions, and he would be able to perhaps get away with it…

…...

But would anyone show up??? Nope. Not a soul had dared to wander by in his general direction.

Gavin paced around the vending machines, pretending he was eyeing some chips and chocolate bars for nearly fifteen minutes when it felt too fake. No one poked around the damn vending machines for this long!!! So he went back to the water fountains, moved down the hall, and turned back again. This was his ‘path’ for another fifteen minutes before his sneezing turned almost too aggressive for his liking.

When he cleared his throat after sneeze number eight, he knew his throat was on fire.

Great. Sore throat, burning nose, eyes, ears, and one weak body. Yep, he definitely was catching a seasonal bug that often floated around the DPD every year around this same damn time. Actually, Gavin was truly surprised he hadn’t been sick for most of the autumn, and while he didn’t feel he should’ve been complaining, now, he still didn’t like being sick. It sucked.

Eyeing the clock high above on the wall before himself, he felt his patience growing thinner and thinner by the moment. Of course, on the very same damn day that he needed to make a show for going into the storage closet, no one would turn up.

His luck was perfect.

Muttering a simple ‘Fuck it’, Gavin spun around and was about to head back to his desk, when he rammed himself roughly into another solid body. Sailing backwards, it really took all of Gavin’s energy not to topple down onto the floor and make an ass out of himself in front of everyone. He managed it, however, and he steadied himself on his legs as he hissed and cursed under his breath.

For a moment, Gavin’s brain suddenly screamed one thing at him:

It could’ve been Nines he’d bumped into!!!

With renewed hope flowing through him, Gavin dashed ahead, eyes wide and seeking focus, in spite of being weaker than usual, and in spite of his pre-cold symptoms wrecking him silly.

However, the smile that was steadily starting to grow on Gavin’s face dampened measurably as he saw who he’d bumped into.

Chapter Text

“Oh,” he visibly deflated, “hey Hank.” Although it wasn’t entirely bad seeing the aloof Lieutenant after not having seen him since before Halloween, Gavin wasn’t too thrilled that Nines was still somehow elusive as ever.

Hank looked well physically, which was the complete opposite to how Gavin felt and looked. His hair was slightly longer, and Gavin assumed it’d grown since late summer into late autumn, now. Hank had pulled it back from hanging in his face into a tiny, loose ponytail, though some strands spilled and poured forth. He had glasses on, and he smiled at Gavin from the top of the rims. He was wearing a grey jacket which looked to be new, and comfortable dark blue jeans.

Nodding his head at Gavin respectfully, he greeted, “Hey Reed, you’re looking…umm…” It was at this point that Gavin understood Hank’s plight perfectly well. If he stated the truth and how he felt about Gavin’s true appearance, there was a potential lying about that Gavin could snap. However, the worried and more paternal side of Hank was also battling fearlessly behind blue-grey eyes.

With a sigh, Hank murmured, trying to be mindful to keep his voice down. “You look like shit, Reed…you okay?”

Appreciating raw, blunt honesty whenever he could get it, Gavin nodded and flashed Hank a thumbs-up. “Mhm,” he somewhat lied, “I mean…just catching a cold, I think.”

“Oh?” Hank snorted, though it wasn’t in the way of cruelty or for the purposes of poking fun at Gavin, “is that why it looked like someone stole your kittens when you saw me?”

Gavin looked confused for a moment, and then Hank elucidated, “I’ve had better moments where people weren’t so disappointed when they saw me, but meh, it’s all good, Reed.” Showing his good faith, he gently pet Gavin on the shoulders a few times and smiled a genuine smile.

Gavin-happy to know that Hank wasn’t offended-smiled as well. “Actually,” he began in a soft chuckle while scratching the back of his head, “I’m glad you mentioned the kittens, but not in terms of abduction, haha.”

Intrigued, Hank’s smile grew, and an almost arcadian effect expanded from him to Gavin. It did well to soothe the detective’s nerves, emotional upset, and it was contagiously making his smile grow as well. “Didn’t know you liked cats, Reed,” Hank commented gently, leaning against the wall next to the storage closet as he took off his glasses and folded them into his jacket pocket.

While it wasn’t something that Gavin expected to be an axiomatic fact or knowledge floating about the DPD, he didn’t feel it would be too inappropriate in terms of sharing more information than necessary with a co-worker. Besides, everyone, everyone in the office had their fair share of goofy pet stories to talk about. Perhaps he had some, too.

Folding his arms across his chest more so because he was freaking cold and wanted to hide his fingers into his armpits for warmth, Gavin stated, “I’ve had this stray orange tabby living with me on and off for almost a full year, and she had kittens a while ago…” Eyes gleaming, he whispered, “But they’re almost three months old now, and they’re adolescents, I think.”

“Seems about right,” Hank added, “how many do you have?”

“Six,” came the honest reply.

“Hmm,” Hank leaned back, “that’s quite a lot to handle, Reed!”

Eyebrows raising, Gavin nodded, “I know, and they’re gettin’ used to bein’ indoors since I raised ‘em practically myself, and now I need to figure out a way to give them away to people.” A sullen, somber look was upon his face, and he turned his head down, hoping Hank wouldn’t catch the change in expressions.

However, Hank had been a Lieutenant for half his life, practically, and he was also a very compassionate, empathetic person. Sensing Gavin’s sadness, he nodded as he softly pushed out, “It’s tough parting with something you love, I know.”

“Yeah,” Gavin grunted, and quickly avoided further emotionally charged conversation as he craned his neck up and smiled, “anyway, I know this might be weird, but I’m probably gonna have to start thinkin’ of how to give them away.”

Scratching his beard for a moment, Hank’s eyes lit up as he suggested, “I could take one, Reed.”

Gavin’s jaw fell wide open, and he gasped, “But Sumo?”

Waving that off with a smirk, Hank confidently answered, “Oh, he’ll love a new friend. He’s kinda gettin’ up there in age like myself, and I don’t want him turning into a lonely, grumpy old fart.”

Covering up his laugh with a hand, Gavin really enjoyed hearing what Hank had to say. A few people stopped to stare once the laughter rang out brightly in the corridors and halls, but they went about their business hurriedly afterwards when nothing that out of the ordinary seemed to be at the center of attention.

“Sorry,” Gavin calmed down and composed himself, sniffling as he stood back and just smiled. “So, you will take one?”

Hank grinned widely, “Yep! Whenever you’re ready to make that happen, let me know, Reed.”

Before he could shift away with an auspicious wave, Gavin reached out to him and cried, “H-hey, Hank?”

Stopping abruptly, the older man nodded at him, “What’s goin’ on, Reed?”

Almost shyly, as if he were a child again asking an adult for permission to do something, Gavin wrung his hands around each other nervously as he inquired, “Umm, are you headin’ in the storage closet by any chance?”

As if a light had suddenly turned on in Hank’s head, the older man’s eyes widened drastically, and he snapped his fingers as he chuckled cheerfully. “Shit! I was going to do that!!” he exclaimed as he chuckled more, “damn old age!! Nearly forgot, but thanks for remindin’ me, Reed.”

Laughing a tad awkwardly, Gavin pressed out, “Aha, yeah, don’t mention it, man.” As he stood back and waited for Hank to fish out his pair of keys and unlock the door, he allowed the older man to head inside first before he dove inside and searched all around for the colored ink cartridge. To his sheer luck, he found the last box sitting behind some old Christmas decorations.

Opening it up swiftly, he kicked at the Christmas decorations box as he said to Hank, “I’m shocked Fowler hasn’t decorated the damn place with these, yet!”

“He’s too busy,” Hank snorted, “but I’m sure one of us will have to do it, eventually.”

“Yeah,” Gavin stated simply, grabbing what he needed and waving a hand at Hank. “Well, thanks, Anderson…hope to catch you around some time—”

Chuckling deeply, Hank commented, “I’m not really one to poke around in areas that don’t concern me, Reed, but I’ve been meaning to ask you how your Halloween went?”

Freezing for a moment before he collected himself, Gavin replied smoothly, “Oh, it was fun! Spent it with Nines.”

Smiling and nodding in approval, Hank said, “Good, I’m truly glad to hear that, Reed.” Fishing around for what he needed, he began stacking boxes of extra blank sheets, extra chart paper, extra markers, and placed them on top of each other while he resumed his search for whatever he was looking for.

Not wanting to be too rude, Gavin stepped towards him and offered his assistance. “You need some help?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, that’s very nice of you, Reed,” Hank stood back and sighed, “fuckin’ old age kickin’ up again; forgot what the hell I needed in here…”

Snickering softly, Gavin commented, “I’m sure it’ll come to you when you least want it.”

“Ain’t that the story of my life,” Hank muttered, and then his eyes lit up again. “Hey! Reed!” he barked out loudly, causing Gavin to leap up a bit only due to how sudden and abrupt it was. “How’re things with Nines, by the way?”

Now, this was where Gavin was stuck. If someone asked him about Halloween, he could’ve easily answered, as he genuinely had information on that memory. But as far as the events that came afterwards were concerned, it would be a matter of lying and making stuff up, but Gavin didn’t want to do that. He had no energy for details, specific, phony emotions of the time and place that would add flair to the story, and he didn’t want to put in an effort to make the story credible, either.

That would require far too much effort, and he didn’t have that stamina now, especially when he was about to fall ill.

Simply resorting to shrugging, he answered swiftly, “It’s…well, it’s whatever, I guess. Why?”

Immediately, Hank was suspicious, and Gavin nearly booted himself in the ass for thinking he could get away with trying to pull a trick before a seasoned Lieutenant’s eyes and mind.

Tapping a finger on his chin as he squinted and narrowed his eyes at him, Hank stated, “That sounds like code for ‘some shit went down between yourself and Nines’, Reed,” lowering his voice, then, he asked, “wanna talk about it?”

‘No’ had been on the tip of Gavin’s tongue, as it was the most used word in his selection of vocabulary on a daily basis. But for some reason, he found himself uttering, “Yes.” He didn’t know what had possessed him to give in so easily, but he figured it wouldn’t help to talk to Hank. After all, he’d reached out before to the older man and sought his words of comfort and advice, and it was a good venting method. It wouldn’t be so bad to have a repeat incident for his own benefit, Gavin supposed. It wasn’t like he was going to make a habit out of this and always rely on Hank’s help and guidance.

A protective, stubborn-headed portion of himself still struggled and fought back against opening up completely to anyone. It was more than a privacy issue or concern; letting someone in usually didn’t yield the best results, and Gavin didn’t want to foolishly fall into a trap or a pit of his own self-originated stupidity. Perhaps he could pick up the pieces and figure things out on his own…perhaps he couldn’t. But why he’d taken Hank Anderson up on his offer so easily stunned and puzzled him. Right down to his core, he’d worked so hard for many long years at trying to build walls. What was the point of building these great, thick walls if someone could so easily tear them down???

As he stood while thinking, Hank cried out in zeal, “Ahaaa!! Holy shit!! I found what I was lookin’ for, Reed!!” Bending down, he grabbed clear tape and masking tape, and he bundled them to his chest. “For the posters,” he announced, “Fowler asked me to help you with your task, but holy shit, did it ever become a mission to remember!!”

Smiling weakly, Gavin couldn’t say anything to that. His thoughts still burdened and troubled him, and naturally, the only thing he could do was disassociate.

Again, Hank noticed it, and his face took on a concerned look as he whispered urgently, “Reed, let’s get out of here and find somewhere quiet to talk, okay? I’ll even get you some coffee from the Break Room, just give me a sec to put the tape on my desk.”

Again, the word ‘yes’ came out without even the slightest bit of a hesitation or fight.

Perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing to say, really. After all, he really needed a talk and some words of comfort, and he wasn’t going to damn himself for chasing after them.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

By the time Hank and Gavin reached the Break Room, prepared the steaming cup of coffee, and found a seat when everything was quiet, Gavin’s cold symptoms had worsened. His nose was runny, now, and he’d used up two tissues already to keep it dry. His head was pounding, and his voice sounded far too nasally for his own liking.

Being sick sucked.

Sitting down in front of him at a small table for two near the back, Hank slid his own coffee cup towards the sugar, and he grabbed one packet and tore into it before turning it upside down and dumping it all into his coffee. Rubbing his hands together as he got comfortable, he stared down at his coffee and smacked his lips. “Can’t wait for this baby to cool off,” he joked, and then stared up at Gavin and winced, “I hope you can taste some stuff, Reed…”

“I’m not that sick yet,” Gavin answered, blowing his nose again as he sighed, “fuckin’ brutal.”

Snickering, Hank suggested, “Get a flu shot.”

“Those don’t work, and you know it,” Gavin grunted, but he was well aware that Hank had meant that comment to be more facetious than anything else taken seriously.

The flippant Lieutenant finally got serious as he said, “Right, so, Gavin, if you’re okay with sharing it with me, what happened between yourself and Nines?”

Long story.

Not sure where to begin, Gavin propped a hand up and leaned it against his left temple while staring down seriously into his coffee, as if it held all the answers he’d been looking for. The clock ticked loudly somewhere, and the flat screen Panasonic HD TV mounted high in the Break Room played some news segment as he thought about his answer. It somehow suddenly seemed far more difficult to answer than a college final exam, but he eventually managed to scramble for an answer he hoped was good enough for a start.

Scratching his nose gently, he replied, “We had some kind of a weird experience, I think.”

Loaded statement of the century, and possibly of all mankind.

As if he felt the same way, Hank sighed as he used his coffee cup to warm his hands by wrapping the limbs around the cup tightly. “That requires specificity, Gavin,” he stated blandly, “I mean, my mind’s goin’ in weird directions, so help a guy out, here.”

“Err...”

“Listen, Gavin,” Hank interrupted, “I am aware we are not on the best of terms, but I can assure you that I will be nothing but professional and discreet about this. I have seen a lot of weird shit in my time, one more embarrassing than the next, and even if something along the lines of sexual happened between you and Nines—”

Gavin cringed, and it was enough to give everything away as he flushed deeply.

“—Something sexual happened between you and Nines,” Hank stated flatly as he looked a bit spooked, but otherwise remained nonjudgmental.

Shamefully, Gavin only stared at the floor. “Yeah.”

“I see.”

While Gavin was eternally grateful that Hank hadn’t reacted in a drastic way and for the most part seemed to be open-minded enough to listen, he still vowed not to really get into details as he braced himself for a retelling of the version of events in a ‘PG’ way.

On the same track, Hank sighed as he ruffled the top of his hair, “Look, Gavin, I’m not one to judge, and if you don’t want to tell me what happened, I can respect that, but seein’ as it’s easier for me to piece stuff together with some kind of a picture painted, it’d be best to explain what happened in some way or another.”

Turning gaunt, Gavin croaked, “Well, see, I was—”

Holding up a hand, first, Hank added, “Err, Gavin, keep in mind, you don’t have to tell me everything, like who did what and how it was done and where stuff went in…yeah…”

Even more embarrassed, Gavin coughed around what he’d heard before he calmed down significantly. Although he didn’t exactly feel ‘ready’ to continue, he reminded himself to keep his statements as ‘open’ as possible without giving away too much that could potentially make Hank not want to listen anymore and be his confidant. At least he had the gift of one person wanting to hear him out, and he wasn’t going to ruin his luck when it was just going moderately well for him.

Settling for how it all started in the first place, Gavin explained slowly, “Well, we were just hangin’ out with some friends, and long story short, I was pretty drunk, and Nines didn’t want me to drive on back to my place.”

Already leaping to conclusions, a fearful look instantly crossed over Hank’s face. Eyebrows knotted and wrinkles creasing his pale skin, he rasped uncomfortably, “Gavin, I hope you’re not suggesting that Nines…you know…he…” Face twisting in disgust, he wasn’t even able to finish his sentence. Not that he needed to; Gavin understood him perfectly well enough.

Taking measured breaths, he intoned, “No, Hank, nothing like that happened, believe me.”

Immediately relieved, Hank sighed out, “Holy shit, thank God…woah…” Panting, he then chuckled as he added, “I didn’t think Nines would ever even think of doin’ that, but you know, wherever alcohol is concerned, it’s—”

“It wasn’t a matter of consent,” Gavin cut in quickly as he leaned into the table, “I mean, I didn’t mind what happened; I liked it, and I don’t regret it at all.”

Holding up a finger tentatively, Hank wheezed, “You mean…you guys…oh Jesus…”

“No!” Gavin coughed out terribly, “we didn’t like…we didn’t have sex in the way you’re thinkin’ Hank! He just got on top of me and jerked me off, and then he—”

Hank’s coughing and groaning turned wild, out of control, and he shielded himself with his hot cup of coffee. Holding it up before his own eyes, he closed them tightly, grit his teeth together, and waved a hand firmly in the air. “Stop, stop, stop, Gavin!” he cried out painfully, not even bothering to sip his coffee as he placed it back down onto the table and shivered.

“Gavin,” he continued when he was ready again, “I honestly am not one to preach, and God knows that I’m not really an advocate for how people should carry themselves out in a relationship, seein’ as my ass has been divorced for almost over two full decades, but let me tell you something I’ve learned over the years.”

Sitting up, Gavin’s ears were trained seriously on Hank. For once, he genuinely found he gave a damn as to what this man had to offer, and he was going to hear it out, no matter how awkward or strange it made him feel. It was always like taking bitter medicine; it tasted foul and horrible at first when you swallowed it down, but it was always good for you.

What was good was always difficult to hear and difficult to understand.

Covering his mouth for a moment as he sat deeply in thought, Hank then pushed out as he lowered his hand, “Sex aside, you really need to try and understand the person you’re with a little more each day.”

While that wasn’t bad advice, it was far easier said than done, especially when everything was still brand new to Gavin, and especially considering the fact that Nines was being way too elusive.

Throwing his hands into the air, Gavin croaked out of his dry, aching throat, “But that was seriously my first time with another guy, Hank, and to be honest, I’m feeling kind of…hurt?” He didn’t know what word he wanted to use, but the application of the word ‘hurt’, and all its meaning seemed apropos.

Eyebrows arching, Hank repeated, “Hurt?”

…Perhaps that hadn’t been the best word, then.

Mildly irritated, Gavin groaned, “Well, I mean, after we umm…yeah…” he blushed, “…after that happened, Nines just kinda…left?”

The way he’d pushed that out more like a question instilled plenty of doubt and confusion within Hank. Sipping his coffee slowly, he eventually had his fill and set it down. “Left? What do you mean he left you, Gavin?”

At the risk of sounding like some enamored teenager who’d just lost their virginity for the first time ever and been callously dumped, Gavin groaned deeply, “I mean he just left me with feelin’ awkward after…get it?” Oh, he hoped Hank would understand, now.

Blinking a few times, Hank suddenly gasped, “Ooooh, so it was one of those odd, ‘almost-one-night stand’ things, huh??” Before Gavin could intervene, Hank chuckled, “I guess the tides have turned, Reed, y’know, with Tina?”

Rolling his eyes tiredly, Gavin sighed in a dreary manner, “Hank, for God’s sake, please be serious for a moment.”

“Sorry,” the other male apologized earnestly and genuinely, “I think I get what you mean though, Gavin.”

Sitting up, Gavin piped up, “You do?” This was a bit of a first. Truthfully, Gavin didn’t want to be rude and mean enough to assume that Hank lived out and practiced a celibate lifestyle since his divorce. It was a rather invasive, intrusive, touchy subject, and it wasn’t his business at all. Plus, he didn’t want to have Hank tell him ‘none of your business’, so he kept that part of his comments to himself.

Tilting his head to the side as he stretched his legs out before himself, Hank replied, “I mean, I’ve never been with a guy, personally,” he paused, and both men cringed before Hank was able to continue, “but it’s fair to say that as oddly as you feel about it, perhaps Nines is going through the same thing…maybe even on a stronger level.”

Gavin had considered this, but again, how was it his business?? “The only thing I can say is that it—” he paused, and then took a few seconds to sniffle before he sneezed twice quite loudly. It shook their tiny table, and Hank’s jaw fell for a moment before he composed himself.

Gavin muttered, “That s-sounded worse than it actually was, honest.”

“Not sure if that’s ‘good’, Gavin,” Hank joked politely. “So, you were saying?”

“Yes,” Gavin resumed his little rant, “I’m just a bit annoyed because it feels like I kinda got dumped or something…well, not like…” he made air quotation motions with his fingers, then, “dumped, dumped, because I’m not really with Nines, but let’s just say that it doesn’t feel that great to be used for sex and then just walked out on.”

Face scrunching up in a transpicuous show of disdain for what he’d said, Hank disagreed. “I wouldn’t say you were ‘used’, Gavin,” he muttered gently as he slid his empty coffee cup towards the edge of the table before turning his body to the right, indicating nonverbally that he was heading out towards the large, black garbage bin near the opening of the Break Room.

“I think the most logical thing going on here is that Nines was weirded out by that experience, you were weirded out, and that is a heck of a nasty combo, especially when you two aren’t talkin’ it out.”

Gavin mumbled, “Talking?? I already escaped that form of therapy, Hank; I don’t need to go through it some more.” After all, what good did talking ever do, really? Sitting in a stuffy, cramped room while staring away at shitty colored walls, having to fess up and talk to some idiot who was overpaid and didn’t give a shit about his problems really didn’t seem all that appealing.

Hank wandered over towards the garbage bin, and then muttered, “Shit, forgot this should be recycled.” He then tossed the paper cup into the green recycling bin right next to the garbage bin instead. “Keep it all in mind, Gavin, but it’s really much healthier to talk shit through instead of bottling it up.”

Angry with all this suddenly, Gavin couldn’t help but blurt out, “Oh, yeah? Well then, are you gonna listen to me, Hank? Hmm?” Pressing on, he jabbed at Hank with sarcasm dripping off every word spoken, “Are you gonna volunteer to take up the job of a licensed therapist-someone who gets paid like two-hundred and fifty an hour to sit there and listen to people’s problems, and yet you’re gonna do it for free??? What a fuckin’ joke.”

The moment he was through with proclaiming this ever so sarcastically, Gavin’s stomach flipped and sank down to his toes. He’d fucked up. He’d given into his vitriolic, impulsiveness as always, and he’d gone ahead and ruined what potentially could’ve been a unique opportunity for his own good. Why was he such a fuck-up and such a loser?!?

Kicking himself mentally over and over, Gavin repeatedly cursed himself for his big mouth. No matter what, he just couldn’t bring himself to look at Hank. He feared that if he looked up, he’d either be met with a strong fist in the face, or curse words far worse than anything he himself could’ve conjured up.

…..

But it was just too, too quiet.

It was more than likely a bad, bad thing, and it captured Gavin’s curiosity.

Peeking up blearily at the other man, Gavin winced once his eyes landed on Hank’s face, but it wasn’t for the reasons of Hank being angry or irate with him.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Hank was only smiling warmly and displaying so much patience in spite of what Gavin had said and done to him. The younger male was frankly quite shocked and frightened, but soon, relief weighed over that fear, and he felt himself straightening up as he looked down in submission at his own feet. Hank’s method of remaining quiet seemed to work, and as he smiled with his eyes twinkling out an almost sapient sort of aura, Gavin was taken aback by his own actions.

“I’m sorry, Hank. That was beyond rude and uncalled for.”

Slowly reaching into his jacket pocket to withdraw his glasses, Hank placed them back on the bridge of his nose again. Still smiling the entire time, he empathetically replied, “No need to be sorry, Gavin; but you really need to talk to Nines; not me.”

As Gavin continued to stare down at the floor, he had no idea how on Earth he gathered his guts and energy to nod slowly. He did, however, and as he nodded, Hank took a few steps back and slowly spun around on his heels to head back towards his desk.

“Think about it, Gavin,” he advised gently, “you don’t have to do anything now, and you don’t need to answer any of these questions any time soon, but you really need to face them some day; remember that.”

And he was off with one last smile thrown in Gavin’s direction.

Strangely, Gavin found that when he caught sight of such a smile, it warmed him up, at least marginally.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

The end of the day arrived just the same, and Gavin was still feeling worse. Now, he really felt like hammered shit through and through, but at least the posters for the DPD had been posted up, and for the remainder of his shift, Gavin handed out the other posters physically to any of his co-workers he happened to run into. Of course, he’d missed at least fifteen or so people, but he stacked the last few posters neatly in his desk, locked the drawers and filing cabinets, and then cleaned up a little. It was still as messy and as clustered as hell, but he could always clean up on Friday before he left, he supposed.

His pounding, throbbing head and temples told him that it was better to get the hell out of dodge and just head home to rest, and that’s what Gavin wanted to do. Gathering his keys, papers, and anything else he felt he really needed, he was almost the last person to exit from the DPD building.

Outside, the weather was almost darker than he’d have liked, and it made Gavin feel colder and weaker. It sucked having to even be caught in this type of ambiance, but he was going to go home soon!!

Practically making a run for it, he’d barely gotten past the exit doors leading into the parking lot, when a thick hand wrapped itself around his neck and squeezed him back. Yelping in fear and pain, Gavin was then slammed into a broad chest, and he was yanked back inside the DPD.

Trying to put up a struggle in spite of being tired and under the weather, Gavin saw the floors and ceiling of the DPD spinning, but he was unable to make anyone out when he was forced through rooms and halls with his back facing his attackers. He was certain there were two of them, however, because he heard one of them breathing raggedly as he held onto him, and the other kept opening and pushing doors open hurriedly.

“Fuckin’ let me go!!” he shrieked a few times in anger, but he may as well have been talking to a door or a chair.

Moving back with the arms around his throat, Gavin’s eyes watered, and he ceased putting up a fight lest he choked to death right here and now. Swallowing mouthfuls of air whenever the hands slightly relaxed their hold on him, Gavin heard one last door opening up before he recognized an old hallway and stairwell no one really used, but it led to an alternate way to get to the second and third levels of the DPD building.

The lights here were brightly lit, and they hummed and buzzed as Gavin was dragged back more until his aggressor decided they’d reached the end of their journey. Throwing Gavin down violently to the cold, hard floor, he backed away hurriedly as the shorter male coughed and gasped while gingerly touching his aching neck and throat.

“Motherfucker!” Gavin roared when he felt his adrenaline rushing and flowing in his veins wildly, and the only thing on his mind was revenge. Standing up swiftly to his feet, he rounded on his attackers, and then leapt back in pure terror.

There weren’t two as he’d initially suspected; there were three men.

The first was the tall, muscular, brown eyed, raven-haired Mischa Barker. Hair slightly matted as his cheeks puffed in and out, he looked terribly frightened as he stood next to another blonde-haired man slightly taller with piercing blue eyes and a long, hooked nose. He was quite thin compared to Mischa, and Gavin suspected his name was ‘Luke’. While Mischa looked terrified beyond imagination, Luke did not, and he glared at Gavin as his arms hung out to his sides. It was a defensive, aggressive stance, and Gavin didn’t like it as he coughed a few more times and finally threw his most heated scowl over at the last man.

Of course, it was Gary Foster. The brunette’s dark brown eyes looked almost black as he leaned against a wall in the small alcove beneath the stairwell. With a ghostly wave as he remained hidden in the shadows, he hissed, “Hello, Gavin.”

Already piecing it all together, Gavin sneered as he spat, “Nice to see you too, Gary.”

Arching his brows, Gary eased casually away from the wall. “How’s it goin’, Reed?”

Still massaging his throat, Gavin croaked weakly, “Ah, you know, pretty good when I’m not bein’ attacked and abducted like this, but meh, who’s complainin’, here?”

Luke continued glaring at him, lips pulled back in an angry, silent snarl, while Mischa trembled and shook uncontrollably. If Gavin didn’t know any better, he thought that Mischa had also been ‘forced’ into this. He looked absolutely freaked out, and he held back a tiny whimper the longer the silence stretched out.

Eventually, he broke down as he cried out to Gary, “O-okay! We did wh-what you wanted, Gary! But I think we should—”

“Shut the fuck up, Barker,” Gary admonished the shorter, thinner male, clearly the more dominant one of the bunch. Pointing at the man he’d reprimanded so harshly, he spat, “You’re already neck-deep in this, so you better continue to play along nicely, got it?”

Hanging his head low, Mischa shook, but remained quiet.

Approaching Gavin steadily, Gary’s almost onyx colored eyes bore right into the center of Gavin’s, but the detective knew for a fact that this was only an intimidation tactic. Gary wanted him to be scared, and even though Gavin knew that this had been a well-planned attack due to the fact that this part of the building didn’t have working security cameras recording and monitoring activities past 5:30 p.m., that didn’t mean he was going to let his guard down more and allow Gary to assault him.

Coming right out with it, he demanded, “What’d you want, Foster?”

Smiling almost sweetly, Gary blinked as he cuttingly answered, “You. Gone.”

Luke began snickering, while Mischa kept trembling potently.

Gavin was taken aback. “I’m not sure I—”

“Reed, it’s simple,” Gary interjected, “from tonight on, you’re gonna prepare a resignation letter appealing to both Fowler and Human Resources, you will get that shit signed, and by the middle of next week, you’ll clean out your desk and get the fuck outta town.”

Thinking it was all a joke, Gavin chuckled, “Ha, you’re pretty fuckin’—”

Again, his comment had been cut off as Gary leaned into him as snarled, “This isn’t a joke, Reed; we want you gone.”

Staring over at Mischa and at Luke for a moment, Gavin more so asked them instead of Gary, “Why? What did I do?”

“Because we don’t wanna see this place turn into some kind of fuckin’ fairy temple, Reed,” Luke answered before Gary could, “already, you’re getting everyone nervous with your new engagement to your robot boyfriend, and it’ll be one thing that leads to another, and soon, everyone will want to marry their computers or their fuckin’ phones. I’ll be damned if I stand by idly and let this place turn into a fuckin’ shithole.”

Shaking his head in protest, Gavin snapped sharply, “This is a fuckin’ crime! You dipshits don’t get that?!”

Apparently, his words really seemed to affect Mischa, and the more passive male chirped out, “Okay! We scared him enough, Gary! Let’s j-just let him go, now!”

“I said shut the fuck up, Barker!!!”

Knowing that Gary was distracted for a moment, Gavin chose to take advantage of it. He bolted forward, trying to make a break for it towards the steps so he could at least create some distance between himself and the attackers.

Unfortunately, Gary was quick to react, and he screamed out at his cronies, “GET HIM!!!”

Lunging forward from the side, Luke caught hold of Gavin’s right arm, wrenching the man’s fingers away from grasping at the handrail of the staircase. As he tugged Gavin back brutally, he sent the short man skittering away from the steps and back under the alcove where the shadows encased Gavin’s form. Right behind Luke, Gary grabbed Gavin’s left arm, twisting it behind his back. With a wide grin, the cruel leader leaned over Gavin’s back while the other male struggled for his life. Gary’s eyes twinkled with sadistic glee as he watched Gavin fight back.

“Not so special now, are you Reed?”

Shocked and rendered speechless-literally-it took Gavin a moment before he started to struggle once more. But struggle he did, almost ripping his arm free of Luke’s grasp. Not wasting effort on trying to speak, he tried to kick his way free of the larger, bulkier men holding him. With a grunt, Luke tightened his hold, jerking Gavin’s arm behind his back as well. Gary widened his stance and yanked Gavin’s other arm up higher, threatening to dislocate his shoulder.

As this happened, Mischa began panicking as he screamed repeatedly, “LET HIM GO!! ENOUGH!!! ENOUGH!!”

Stepping forward as he ignored his colleague, Gary smirked. “Oh, give it up, Reed. You’ve lost, and you know it.”

Gavin would’ve yowled in pain if he could; instead, his lips moved soundlessly. Not wanting to give these bastards the satisfaction of knowing they got to him, he still struggled. However, even as Gary and Luke forced him down to the floor, pinning him on his back against the cold floor, Gavin felt his spirits dying down when he rapidly lost the stamina required to fend off the aggressive assholes.

“Okay, Gary!” Luke grunted as he jammed a knee in the center of Gavin’s back when the pained detective rolled to his side, “we’ve got him!!”

Gary rolled his eyes, shaking his head as he stepped forward, a clenched fist at the ready. “I’d tell you to cry out for help, but... oh dear, you can’t and won’t, will you?” He snickered again, amused at himself, but shot Luke and Mischa a narrow-eyed look when they were too silent.

Nodding at his friends, he barked out, “Now then, I’ve given you my warnings and conditions, Reed, and the rest is up to you. Shall I let these two hold you still while we finish up here, or are you interested in listening so we can all go home in peace?”

The internal rage burning within Gavin’s mind couldn’t be heard, but from the look on his face, it was pretty clear he was cursing Gary, and most likely insulting his parentage. When the stronger, younger male stepped closer, Gavin went still a moment, and then lashed out with super quick reflexes. Brutally, he made it so that his heel connected sharply with Gary’s shin.

He found that what his mother had once told him about bullies rang true; fight back and they turn into cowards. Immediately, Gary attempted to jump back, but wasn’t quick enough. Yowling in pain and hopping on one foot, he clutched at his shin and cursed Gavin up and down. Blinking at the kick and from the sight of his leader hopping about ridiculously, Luke winced and shifted to pin Gavin down more firmly, grabbing hold of his leg. Encouraged, Gary ran forward, and put more of his powerful weight on Gavin. Even as he put more effort into holding the sick, bound male in place, he couldn’t help but want to attack Gavin even as he was down, and he bashed him in the jaw a few times quickly. At the sight of Gavin Reed spitting and sputtering out ruby blood, Luke and Gary hooted and howled in their triumph.

“GUYS!!!” Mischa cried, but he was still ignored.

Luke and Gary grinned in gleeful triumph, watching as Gavin coughed and spat out more blood, though he defiantly sneered through his pain and tears. At least he got some back not breaking down so easily. Sneering at his rivals, he struggled futilely against Gary’s and Luke’s hold on him, well and truly pinned.

As Gavin tried rounding on Luke with a snarl, the other man already knew what was going to happen. Moving quickly, he set both of Gavin’s feet on the floor again. Meanwhile, Gary restrained himself from lashing out at Gavin. Instead, he only kicked Gavin in the stomach once. “You’ll pay for this shit, Reed,” he spat, pointing his fists at Gavin’s face from only a few inches away. “You’ll pay, and don’t forget; you were given a choice.”

Looking up at Mischa, he screamed, “Hold his feet still, you lumbering behemoths!”

Having no other choice, the other fearful man obeyed. As Luke leaned to pin Gavin’s arms more securely, Mischa finally lay himself across Gavin’s legs at the knees, effectively pinning him. He quickly whispered, “I’m sorry,” to Gavin before looking away in remorse.

Smiling once Gavin was firmly held down, Gary approached. Then, he shrugged his anger off, and instead smiled a smile that portrayed how much he was enjoying this. Bending quickly, he punched Gavin in the chin once, and while he was down there, he aimed for the center of his sternum brutally. Cursing soundlessly and helplessly, Gavin kept struggling, unable to move the much larger males off himself.

“Don’t let him move,” Gary ordered as he stepped closer. Luke nodded, and shifted to pin Gavin’s arms to the hard floor with a knee and his right hand, laying his left forearm across the other man’s throat to hold him in place while also choking him slowly. Tearfully, Mischa kept his place across Gavin’s legs, managing somehow to stay out of Luke and Gary’s way. Once the trio held Gavin firmly in place, Gary raised a booted leg, and aimed it right for Gavin’s nose.

Closing his eyes as he braced himself for the bloody impact, Gavin held back tears of pain and just waited…and waited…and waited…

…..

Nothing happened to him…

As he opened his eyes, he first heard a loud scream, and then saw Gary knocked back into the air a good few feet like he weighed nothing.

This did well to distract Mischa and Luke. Mischa screamed in terror, but before he could leap off Gavin, he was slammed back violently. Nearly crashing into the walls of the alcove beneath the stairwell, he bashed his skull against the wall, and he was knocked out in an instant.

Roaring when he saw what was going on, Luke got to his feet at the same time Gary did. As they advanced towards their attacker, a thick, heavy chain could be heard rattling in a dangerous warning. Suddenly, the chain had been flung forward, one end of it wrapping around Gary’s outstretched arm. Once it was perfectly looped there, Gary was tugged ahead on his feet across the floor. Rolling terribly over and over, he lost his footing and was kicked roughly in the stomach.

As he doubled down in fear while gasping for air, Luke leapt ahead as he screamed a war-cry. In one second, the chain rammed him in the chin, and then it was swung it over again. It met the nose of Gary just as he’d been attempting to crawl forward for the last time. Blood burst and sprayed forth, and that was it for the young man. Eyeballs rolled back into his head, and just as his trembling hands flew up to cradle his broken nose, he collapsed and fainted.

Before Luke could do anything else, the chain pulled back, and then came hurtling at him. Though he managed to swat at it as quickly as he could for a frightened man with super-fast reflexes, it was no good. At the same time, a dark force flew ahead and knocked right into him, throwing him back into the walls. As Luke tried ducking the chain, it missed him once and smashed against the wall, but a long leg jutted out quickly and rammed knee-first into Luke’s solar plexus. The sound of the impact had been terribly brutal, a loud ‘CRACK’ echoing in the empty hallway before Luke crumpled down like a lifeless puppet just like his friends.

As Gavin’s vision cleared and his mind steadied itself, he gasped out in relief now that he’d been freed. Though his mouth gushed more blood, he knew the injuries Gary and his lackeys suffered were seriously way worse than his own. Now wasn’t the time to complain; he had to thank his savior.

Staring up at the shadowy figure beneath such bright lights, Gavin wiped his wet eyes with the back of a sleeved hand as he whispered, “Th-thank you, man, I—” Pausing, he let out a pained gasp once his eyes took in just who his helper was.

Jaw dropping as his heart skipped many beats, it took him almost a full minute before his brain acknowledged the facts first, and then his mouth and tongue moved to form the next word out of his mouth.

“Nines?!?”

Chapter Text

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, shoes and outdoor, text that says 'I'M NOT A SLAVE'

 

No wonder he hadn’t been able to recognize the android upon a first glance. Nines looked absolutely different, and it was terrifying. In the last week and half that Gavin had been unable to get a hold of him, Nines was finally here in the flesh before Gavin’s eyes, and he looked totally like a new person altogether.

He’d changed his clothes, donning bolder punk and gothic fashions. Right now, on his feet he had completely monochrome black, All Star Converse sneakers with black laces. On his lower torso, he had on black, slim fit ribbed zipper jeans, and on his upper torso, he wore a brand-new punk zipper biker jacket that was as jet black as the night.

But that wasn’t all that was different about Nines’ appearance.

His hairstyle had also changed. Instead of a neatly cropped and shortly trimmed hairstyle that demanded grace and finesse, Nines now had an angular fringe hairstyle. The sides and back of the hairs on his skull were the same length as always, but in the front, his hair had been fashioned into bangs that almost covered majority of his forehead. It balanced his cheeks and cheekbones nicely, hid his LED light well enough, and had been styled to hang at an angle that made him look a bit younger, in Gavin’s opinion.

And to top it all off, his hair color was now as black as the very clothes he was wearing.

He really had changed…

Groaning, Gavin snapped out of his state of awe, and he instead screamed from the top of his lungs, “Where the fuck have you been?!”

A hand stretched before him calmly, and it stuck out right in front of Gavin’s nose. He must’ve been hurt pretty badly, for it took him nearly thirty seconds to notice that Nine was trying to help him up. Taking the offered hand in his own tightly, Gavin grit his teeth together as he was helped up on both his feet.

Not seeing how Nines’ right hand tentatively hung around his waist, cautious and prepared for a fall, Gavin gaped at Nines’ hair and over all, his clothing style. Taking a step back when his neck hurt from tilting it back to study the very top of Nines’ new hairstyle, Gavin found himself lost to deeper instances of awe, shock, and surprise. No, he was amazed that Nines had changed his entire persona and outward appearance.

But why had he??? Had he only done it because of Gavin’s prior comments about his hair needing to be changed??

Feeling slightly guilty if that were indeed true, Gavin gently nudged Nines in the chest. He realized that the android had been silent for too long, simply staring down at Gavin with a rather peculiar expression in his eyes that seemed to be tranquility…but then again, it could’ve also been a look of insouciance. Gavin couldn’t pinpoint which of the two it was specifically, but all he knew was that Nines had saved him; Nines had appeared out of thin fucking air after having been gone for nearly a full week and a half without a single word.

Amazing.

Huffing in anger, Gavin pushed his bangs and loose strands of hair back as he growled in a gravelly, hoarse voice, “All this time…all…” he coughed before he continued, “…you were gone all this time, ignored me, and for what??”

An eerily slow smile grew on Nines’ face, then, and Gavin could barely see the blue of the android’s LED light beaming at him from under all that curtain of hair. Nines seemed suddenly…taller?? At least to Gavin, he certainly did, and it bothered the detective. Feeling even more flustered than ever, Gavin was reduced to a state of viridity, though not by choice. He was aware of agathokakological phases co-existing within any individual, though perhaps more so in phases of development, but this didn’t exactly seem like a ‘phase’ Nines was going through.

While Gavin got lost in his thoughts and assumptions regarding Nines, the tall, darkly dressed android smirked as he tilted his head down at him. Softly sighing, Nines began in a voice above a whisper, “I’ve been rude, I apologize…” Eyes lighting up, he then asked, “How’ve you been, Reed?”

Finally, Gavin’s jaw fell wide open. “How’ve—how’ve I been?! Really, Nines?!” Rubbing his eyes and forehead angrily, he grumbled out, “I swear, I’m gettin’ too old for this shit!!!”

Still smiling down warmly at him, Nines purred, “Are you alright?”

Dropping his hand away from his face, Gavin asked, “What?”

Unaffected by that, Nines stared around the hallway and sighed, “They hurt you…” Staring at Gavin’s minor bruises and bloodied lips slowly swelling up, he then scanned the rest of his body swiftly. “You’re also coming down with a nasty cold, Reed.”

An absolutely baleful billow of air had started up in the hallway. Spinning around to survey his surroundings, Gavin winced when he saw the three unconscious men not too far away from himself. Each of them had been lying down in a rather odd, uncomfortable position, with Gary having the length of the chain looping around his forearm over to where Luke lay out cold flat on his back.

Turning back around to face Nines, Gavin whispered, “We’re gonna hear about this from Fowler tomorrow, aren’t we?”

Merely scoffing gently, Nines then hissed, “You’re the ‘detective’, Reed, why don’t you tell me?”

“Nines!!” Gavin’s voice rang with scorn and disgust, “now’s not the time to be a sarcastic douche!! Jesus Christ!!” Didn’t the damn android understand what had just happened?!? It was like Nines had somehow suddenly forgotten that there was such a thing as actions and consequences. It was truly bizarre to Gavin, especially considering how Nines was working as a law enforcement officer. He should’ve known about how the intricate details involved in dangerous situations would pan out, both for victims as well as perpetrators!

Well…at the best, Nines was an aggressor, but only to help Gavin…no, to save his life…

Nines had saved him…

Hanging his head down in obeisance, Gavin gratefully pressed out, “Nines, I’m honestly grateful you saved my life back there, but you—”

“Don’t mention it, Reed,” came the way-too-cheerful response, and Gavin’s head snapped up.

Still smiling gleefully, Nines continued, “However, rather than having you stand here beaten, battered, and shivering from the cold, how about we get you some place warmer so we can tend to those injuries? Hmm?”

…..

Something was terribly off about Nines, and it didn’t require for Gavin to work for years around the android to sense that. Just one look at the RK900 told Gavin that something was truly amiss. While Nines was smiling fully at Gavin, it was a smile more so for ‘show’ than an actual, genuine smile. Nines smiled more with his lips and mouth; not his eyes. His eyes looked sullen, regretful, exhausted, and spiritless.

Had Nines not so easily beaten the shit out of three men as effortlessly as he had, Gavin would’ve stated openly that he felt sorry for him. He wagered that Nines was only like this due to the sexually intimate experience they’d shared together, and the android likely had no idea what to say about it.

Suddenly, a painful thought rang out in Gavin’s head, bashing all around his skull before settling in the warm space between both his ears where it pooled and coiled like a serpent about to nest.

What if Nines regretted what had happened?!? What if he hated it, what if he hadn’t wanted to do that with him ever, what if he’d been forced, what if he’d done it all out of pity?!

Feeling overwhelmed by his thoughts burdening him so suddenly, Gavin swayed on his legs. He was almost certain that he was developing a fever, too, and on top of it all, he had to worry about potentially being fired, sued by three people and their families, and possibly locked away in jail for a while.

Perfect.

Nines caught him effortlessly at the last minute before he crashed forward. Holding him up powerfully in his grip, as Gavin’s vision swam and grew foggy, he found that his ears worked perfectly well enough to hear what Nines was whispering soothingly to him.

“Shh, I’ve got you, Gavin. Don’t worry,” he gently cooed as he wrapped an arm around Gavin’s waist, “I’m going to help you. We’re going home.”

Home…home sweet home.

Gavin held a tiny smile on his face, momentarily abandoning all thoughts of violence, hatred, malice, and horror that he knew he would no doubt have to face come morning, but for now, he at least wanted to go home to a warm bed ready and waiting.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

Gavin had fallen asleep on the way to Nines’ apartment. The ill detective was able to tell when he woke up in Nines’ bedroom with his boots and coat off, already curled beneath the thick, heavy blankets cozily. A warm cloth rested above on his forehead, and a heating pad rested around his neck and shoulders, providing comforting heat radiating into his stiff body.

How long was he asleep for?!?

Turning his head to the left, he peeked at the curtains, and they were pulled slightly apart to let in some light the moon, the stars, and the parking lot streetlights provided.

Sighing wearily, Gavin coughed as he stirred and shifted around on the bed. When he jerked up too quickly, he found his head throbbing, and then a large hand gently pressed down on the center of his chest.

Momentarily shocked, Gavin choked out, “Who--??”

“You shouldn’t move around so quickly, Reed,” came Nines’ deep, comforting voice like warm caresses on his skin, “you’re running a high fever.”

Shit. So it really had been that bad, after all.

Plopping his head back down onto the fluffy pillow, Gavin moaned out, “What time is it?”

Nines’ tongue clicked against his lower teeth, “Only quarter after eight, Reed.”

What the fuck…not even two hours had gone by??? Why did it feel like it was already almost two in the morning??

Disoriented, Gavin opened his eyes, and he nasally ordered, “Turn on the damn light.”

“As you wish.” A moment later, the lights in the room were on, and every corner of the bedroom had been illumined.

Eyes aching as they adjusted to the sudden onslaught of light, Gavin hissed as he hid beneath the covers, and then slowly opened his eyes once again when he felt he was ready.

Nines wasn’t too far away, so he found. The android was seated on the edge of the bed, surprisingly, and though his biker jacket was off, Nines had worn a black pull off strings shirt.

Thinking it looked pretty cool, Gavin stated his honest opinion in his bleary state. “You look nice.”

Smiling, Nines nodded, “How do you feel?”

“Like trash,” Gavin threw back quickly, cradling his throat, “my throat really hurts.”

A dark look was instantly upon Nines’ face. “Yes,” he growled, “you have a sore throat, but your neck is also suffering semi-mild bruising from the attack you persevered through.”

“Don’t remind me, Nines,” Gavin sighed as he pushed the sheets down just to the middle of his chest. God, he really hated being sick. His body constantly was in a battle of indecisiveness, only due to the cold his immune system was trying to beat. He was both hot and cold simultaneously, and his stomach-although longing for solid meals-was also queasy and topsy-turvy.

He hated it.

Draping a hand across his forehead, he muttered, “I’m hungry, but I also feel like puking…”

Rising from the bed slowly and softly, Nines could hardly be heard moving about as he approached Gavin’s side. “You should eat something small, Reed,” he advised cautiously, LED light yellow beneath his long bangs styled downwards, “I’ve brought you some medicine, but I’m afraid it won’t work as effectively if you take it on an empty stomach.”

Almost like a little boy, Gavin whimpered fearfully, “But wh-what if I throw it a-all up?”

Not even hesitating, Nines truthfully gushed out, “Then I’ll take care of you, be with you through it, and try to nurse you back to health.”

Shaking his head in pure disbelief, Gavin asked, “Why’re you helpin’ me, Nines? I mean, could it be because of what happened between us?”

For once, Gavin both cursed himself for being so impulsive, and also congratulated himself for it. He felt liberated now that he’d asked Nines what he’d been meaning to ask for a week and a half. It was fitting to ask such a thing, of course, and he frankly wanted to also know why Nines had avoided him. Trying not to pressure the android, however, Gavin stared at him in silence, studying the patterns and designs in Nines’ shirt while he waited.

Though he didn’t have to wait for long, Gavin already had sensed that the reply he was going to receive wasn’t going to thrill him. Nines genuinely looked sorrowful and uncomfortable at the same time. His eyebrows tightened on his brow ridge, his lips were set in a thin, straight line, and his eyes narrowed into slits as he turned the blue depths down and cast them at the floor. It didn’t take a genius to read the displayed body language and decipher the signs and codes.

Nines was avoiding the topic, and he wasn’t too happy at all.

Raising his head, he whispered carefully, taking his time to select his words, “Reed, I’m not that shallow.”

Wincing, Gavin realized his previous question may have come off entirely the wrong way. Vowing to rectify it, he cleared his throat, which proved to be a stupid move when his throat burned and ached even more from it.

“Nines,” he rasped, cleared his throat gently this time, and then continued, “I didn’t mean it like that, I swear.”

Smiling almost sadly, Nines said, “That’s a relief, then, because I assumed that you were so upset that you were going to claim you didn’t remember it, and that I took advantage of you.”

Gasping mildly, then covering up for himself, Gavin wheezed painfully, “No, I mean, yeah, I was drunk, b-but I remembered it all fully w-well, Nines…I remember it like it happened yesterday,” he managed to push out as he blushed deeply into his own embarrassment.

Thankfully however, Nines wasn’t really staring at him, and due to how silent he’d been, Gavin began pulling on a small, loose thread in the blanket.

“Err, Nines?” he asked tentatively, “I’m not gonna report you, if that’s wh-what you were worried about…”

Staring up slowly at him, then, Nines asked, “You mean you wanted it to happen? Did you like it? Or…err…fuck…” Shaking his head, he laughed as he pushed bits of his bangs away before they stubbornly fell back down into his eyes the moment his hands were gone. “Sorry, Reed,” he laughed again, “I don’t know what I’m saying.”

Filling in for him quickly, Gavin said, “Look, I…it wasn’t bad, but like…”

Catching on quickly, Nines hissed out softly, “You don’t want a repeat incident of it?”

“Exactly,” Gavin answered in relief as he hung back and searched Nines’ face for any possible signs of discomfort, unease, anger, or sadness. Thankfully however, none of that was there at all. In fact, Nines looked to be just as relieved as Gavin, except he didn’t really advertise it on the same mass level.

Hanging on the thought before it turned into a fleeting one, Gavin asked, “You’re not upset or anything, are you?”

Something pulled in the center of the taciturn android’s eyes for a moment afterwards, but since it was such a quick thing to happen, and due to how sick Gavin was, he’d missed it. Gone as soon as it appeared, Nines smiled widely as he only replied with, “No, of course I’m not angry, Reed. I want you to be comfortable, and as long as you don’t think you were taken advantage of, then I suppose we can just work on moving past it.”

That was a great suggestion! If only his other failed relationships and one-nighters held the same attitude!

Smiling-albeit tiredly-Gavin nodded, “Appreciate it, Nines.”

Humming a rich, deep sound that radiated warmth, the android moved back towards the dresser, and he grabbed a tiny pill that was resting next to what appeared to be a bowl of soup propped on a plate. Gavin knew he really was getting sick if a bowl of steaming soup couldn’t have been detected by his damn nose.

Gripping the bowl as he slid the pill next to it on the plate, Nines then walked over to Gavin’s side. Kneeling slightly, he asked, “Do you think you can consume most of this?”

Not even bothering to sniff it, Gavin inquired, “Is it chicken noodle?”

“Chicken broth,” Nines corrected, “I’m afraid I didn’t have noodles, but if you wait for maybe ten minutes, I can go down the street and—”

“Nines, relax,” Gavin cried out before a tiny sneeze interrupted him. Wiping his mouth and nose with a soft, white tissue Nines handed to him, he sat back and then blew his nose one last time as Nines steadied the plate and bowl onto his lap. Carefully balancing it and making sure it rested properly on Gavin’s lap, Nines then slid the box of tissues on the night table next to the bed a little closer for Gavin.

Smiling in appreciation, Gavin held onto the warm bowl, and even though it was far too hot for his body given how deeply he was buried and nestled beneath the sheets, he knew it was good for him.

Staring at the tissue box, Nines softly stated, “I hope that should be everything to make your experience a little less unbearable, but if you need anything else, I’m going to be outside in the living space.”

Waving a weak, tiny wave, Gavin rasped, “Okay, Nines.”

“Make sure you have enough in your stomach before you take the pill, else you’ll—”

“Throw up,” Gavin interpolated uncomfortably, “yeah, I won’t forget, Nines.”

With an affirming nod, the tall android rose from the side of the bed, and he walked towards the door. Right as he was closing it, Gavin suddenly felt something was terribly missing…yes, yes there was…

Coughing once to demand for attention, he watched as Nines ceased walking, and then Gavin cried out, “Th-thank you!”

Frozen for a moment, Nines simply stared down at the foot of the bed before his eyes slowly swam up the length of Gavin’s body lying on the bed. As if seeing him for the first time ever, Nines tilted his head curiously. His eyes then flooded with recognition and sensibility, and he whispered back just as kindly, “You’re welcome, Reed.”

Looking away nervously for a moment, Gavin coughed out, “Tomorrow…Fowler—”

“We’ll worry about that in the morning,” Nines asserted, and Gavin nodded curtly.

“Goodnight, Reed,” Nines bid him his parting, the door squeaking as he made to close it once again.

Then, as the door closed and sounded out its confirmation ‘click’, Gavin still felt something was missing. Although in his delirious, dizzy state, he couldn’t think of all too clearly and point it out even for himself, he knew he would have to eventually return to it at some point. It could’ve been something that either helped or tormented him until he properly remembered it. Staring down at his steaming soup, he only prayed it would liberate him whenever he remembered it…

If he remembered it, anyway.

Chapter Text

Captain Fowler was indeed livid the next morning. He was livid and exploding with rage, which hadn’t been the worst of it. The worst thing Gavin discovered the next day, was that his cold symptoms had gotten worse, unfortunately. But that didn’t instill any sort of mercy or pity within the Police Chief at all. The moment Mischa, Gary, and Luke entered his office sporting purple-blue bruises all over while limping and cringing as they were barely able to sit down, Captain Fowler soon pieced everything together.

He still permitted the men to all have their say and their own input, but he called Nines and Gavin into his office shortly thereafter. Sneezing and holding his wad of tissues up to his nose, Gavin blinked back hot tears for the twentieth time that morning as he sat down in the corner as far away from the three men Nines had beaten up just the other night.

For a while, no one said anything, and the only thing that could be heard in the office was Fowler’s sharp, ragged panting and breathing. Gavin was certain his own thrumming, beating heart could also be heard among the dead silence, but he remained quiet to the end as he felt Nines brushing up against him as he stood calmly and quietly.

Mischa Barker’s neck was wrapped in a brace of sorts, while Luke’s entire jaw sported the nastiest bruises Gavin had ever seen. His cheeks and chin were swollen, and he kept his eyes glued down firmly to the floor since Nines proudly walked in. Gary Foster wasn’t intimidated, however; he glared openly and boldly at Nines while he had bandages, wrapping, gauze, as well as fresh stitches around the corner of his lips. He looked by far the worst, and it pained Gavin to even peek at him.

Brutal.

After moments of uneasy quiet, Captain Fowler let out a heavy, strained sigh. Sitting back on his chair, he dug his fingernails into his desk, and he nearly clawed away at it like a feral beast. His fingernails sounded horrifying as they ran up and down the desk, and as he shifted himself on his chair, it clicked beneath his heavy weight. Eyes twitching, Fowler stared at every single person in his office for many minutes, and Gavin knew then that the man was truly on the verge of exploding.

God help them all.

Still fighting to keep his voice low so others outside in the bullpen wouldn’t hear anything, Fowler growled thickly right at the center of his desk, as if he were speaking to it rather than to the men currently occupying his office space. “Would anyone like to tell me just what the actual fuck happened last night?!”

Immediately, Gary sniped, “Sir, we already told you! We were on our way out, and then Nines suddenly attacked us, and Gavin joined in on it!!”

Not even sparing a moment in spite of his throat killing him, Gavin roared, “He’s lying!!”  

“REED!” Fowler warned in a bombastic tone of voice that shook the office walls and floor. Clearly, his self-control had waned, and now, he didn’t appear to care about the volume or the tone of his voice.

Settling back almost forcefully, Fowler huffed as his chest heaved up and down. “Let me ask Nines,” he emphasized again before Gary could jump in, “I said Nines only gets to talk, are we clear?!”

Nodding as he shut his mouth, Gary looked down in submission, while Mischa trembled uncontrollably again just like last night.

Feeling his gut clenching if Nines had to regale the barbarous version of events, Gavin shivered both from the cold as well as the awful violence he’d been involved in just the previous night. He knew this was required, however, in order for Fowler to hear and dole out the necessary punishments, but he didn’t want to actually be in the room while it happened. Plus, he was the victim, and he supposed once he explained his side, he would leave and be done with this!

At least, he hoped.

However, before Nines could utter a single word, the door to the office banged open wildly, and heavy footsteps boomed inside quite hurriedly. A second later, a gruff voice gasped out, “Gary! Shit!!!”

Everyone in the office knew to whom that voice belonged to…it was Captain Allen, Gary’s distant relative.

…And this was precisely why Gavin felt frightened and sick; they never should’ve fucked around with someone related to the brutal, insane S.W.A.T. team leader.

As Captain Allen stormed in, striding about like he owned the world, his eyes swept over Gary’s face for a moment, and then he drew himself closer to Luke and finally Mischa. Acquiring all the evidence necessary for an explosion, he directly turned on Nines and Gavin.

Eyes bloodshot, he screamed from the top of his lungs, “THE FUCK DID YOU TWO DO TO MY COUSIN’S KID AND HIS BUDDIES?!?!”

Trying to deescalate the situation, Fowler stood to his full height as he leaned over the desk and stuck a thick arm out as a barrier of sorts between Captain Allen’s body and Gavin’s. “ALLEN!!! BACK OFF THEM FOR A MOMENT!! NOW!!”

Unrelenting, Captain Allen roared, “FUCK THIS, JEFFREY! LOOK WHAT THEY DID TO GARY!!! YOU’RE GONNA LET THEM JUST—” Pausing, he stared at Nines for a moment, and then he snorted, “The fuck?! Why’re you looking so different?”

“That’s what I’m wondering,” Fowler added in, staring again at Nines for a long time until the android shifted.

The android was wearing black Doc Martens on his feet, torn, black skinny jeans, a black dress shirt that was short-sleeved, as well as a red tie that hung in the center from the neck. Although Nines’ appearance was indeed a rather odd, amusing spectacle, Gavin knew they had other things to worry about for the time being.

Apparently, Luke was already on that frame of thought. “I’m suing,” he growled out, pointing at Nines as he screamed, “this son of a bitch attacked me with a fucking chain!!!”

Face scrunching into something horribly unpleasant, Captain Allen gasped, “A chain???” Turning on Fowler, then, he added in a ghastly way, “JEFFREY!! That’s an assault with a deadly weapon, and you’re just gonna sit there and do jack shit about it?!”

“Wait, Allen, wait!” Fowler cried out, this time making his way around his desk as he held Captain back from leaping ahead at Gavin and Nines.

While he tried calming the angry S.W.A.T. Captain down, the man screamed out all sorts of profanities at Gavin and Nines, made horrific threats promising revenge, as well as flung out nasty words and jabs at Nines and Gavin as individuals.

Blocking majority of it out, Gavin held his tissue to his lips as he moaned out in exhaustion, “Gary and Luke attacked me first, Allen! So why don’t you fuckin’ sit back and think about that for a moment before you threaten to kick my ass?!”

It didn’t matter to Captain Allen.

Bucking up against Fowler’s thick, strong body, he defiantly cried out, “You’re not a fuckin’ victim, Reed, so why don’t you shut your fuckin’ mouth and—”

“ARE YOU DEAF?” Gavin took his turn to scream out, immediately regretting it as his throat burned and reminded him how sick he was, “THEY ATTACKED ME!”

Eyes widening drastically as equally innocent expressions carved the way on both Luke’s and Gary’s face, the two men faced Captain Allen as they cried out in protest, “That’s horseshit!!! Gavin and his psycho android fuckin’ cornered us and beat the shit out of us for no damn reason!!!”

Casting Gavin a smoldering look, then, Captain Allen pointed at him above Fowler’s head as he spat out, “Watch your fucking back from now on, Reed, you hear me?” He chuckled cruelly, “Watch your fuckin’ back if you know what’s good for you.”

“Are you threatening me?!” Gavin screamed, but then Fowler interrupted with a mighty roar of his own.

Once things had settled down only slightly due to his beastly noise, Fowler bellowed out at them all, “EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!”

Obediently, all the men in the office piped down, though they glared away at each other as they no doubt promised murder and violence continuously.

Spinning around in a circle so he could address them all, Fowler continued, “Everyone will get their turn to explain what happened, but for now, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to put you all under suspended leave without pay!!”

Blurting out their protests, Luke, Captain Allen, and Gary began arguing, while Mischa held his head in his hands and cried out weakly.

Waving his hands in the air, Fowler cried from the top of his lungs, “I said you will all have your piece, but until a proper investigation is done and this shit is looked into, you’re all going to have to fuck off out of here!!”

“For how long?!” Gary screamed uncontrollably, while Gavin broke out coughing in shock and rage.

Staring at him in disgust, Fowler snapped, “Three weeks.”

Mischa wept, “B-but…it’s November 23rd, and that means we won’t be—”

“You’re banned from the DPD Christmas Party, yes,” Fowler answered for him, “tough shit, Barker.”

Shaking his head back and forth as a sneer crossed his face, Captain Allen spat with pure venom, “You’re handling this perfectly well, Jeffrey, thank you.” Clapping sarcastically, he then reached out for Gary, and he gripped him tightly by the shoulder. “Come on,” he whispered to the younger man he was related to, “let’s get the hell outta here.”

Not wanting to sit back in silence, as Captain Allen and Gary left, Gavin steadied himself back up as he snorted at Fowler, “Sir, with all due respect, they told me to quit my damn job, and they threatened that if I didn’t, they would attack me.” Staring past Luke’s heated gaze, he then elucidated, “I’m sure you would take that seriously as well, so please tell me how the fuck it’s fair for me to be suspended now for three fuckin’ weeks when I did nothing wrong??”

“I never claimed it was fair, Gavin,” Fowler snapped back while Mischa and Luke limped back towards the door, trying to communicate with Captain Allen and Gary as they slowly disappeared.

“But it’s what you get,” Fowler continued coldly, “at least until I can get to the bottom of this shit.”

“Unbelievable, Jeffrey,” Gavin coughed violently, wrapping his arms around himself as he leaned back and bumped into Nines. Staring at him for a moment, he then addressed his boss as he said quietly, “Look, Nines wouldn’t just up and attack anyone without a good reason, so why don’t you listen for a moment before you boot us out of here, Jeffrey?”

He was grabbed roughly a second later by the shoulder, and then Gavin saw himself being dragged over to a window behind Fowler’s desk. With a thick finger, Fowler pointed out his office at the top floor of the building. “Son, would you like to head on upstairs to HR yourself and have this same chat with them?” he asked crudely, “because I doubt you’d be able to handle those motherfuckers, and trust me, this is me makin’ your job easier, and I’m trying to clean up your damn mess!!”

Wriggling out from Fowler’s powerful grip, Gavin righted himself as he leaned against the cold window. Shivering due to how icy it felt against his weak body, he mumbled out, “You…you don’t even give a shit, do you?”

Leaning into him, Fowler’s overbearing glare was what made Gavin turn his eyes down to the floor.

“Son,” came Fowler’s deep, serious growl, “believe me, if I didn’t care, I’d just leave you to the wolves and monsters out there. I’m doing this for you, but I need you to co-operate with me for once in your damn life.”

Could he do that??? Could he trust that Fowler would indeed handle everything effectively and appropriately???

Staring up at his superior’s dark, wise eyes, Gavin saw a twinkle there in the center of the depths, and he let out a tiny sigh.

“Alright, Jeffrey.”

He would never admit aloud that he wasn’t convinced…not by a long shot.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

It was Saturday morning again, but it wasn’t a Saturday Gavin was looking forward to. Still sicker than a dog, he now had the heavy burden and knowledge of being without pay and without work for a full month on his shoulders as he threw box upon box of his autumn and spring attire down into his hallway closet.

Since he had time off again, he decided to clean his apartment, but also take time to think about how to find good homes for his growing kittens. That was going to be quite the challenge, and Gavin hated to admit it, but a part of himself didn’t want to send the kittens away. He’d raised them, grown attached to them, and he loved each and every single one of them. It was like sending a teenager off to live on their own, and he didn’t like the idea of doing that. How could he part with his kittens???

Not wanting to think about it, he instead decided to distract himself yet again. He would call his mother.

Unsure of her schedule as far as her teaching went, Gavin knew it was the right thing to do to reach out just to see how she was, at least before she called him and accused him of being an uncaring pig, or some shit like that. That was the last damn thing he needed to hear right now.

Tapping her number on his phone, he sat back on the floor next to his closet, putting on a fake smile as the phone rang twice before she answered.

Deciding to opt for a video call, Gavin hit the camera icon on his screen, and once his mother accepted, they were connected ‘face-to-face’.

Her office came into full view as Gavin held his phone up, and he saw quite the number of Christmas cards and gifts already piled up on her desk as she pushed her laptop to the side and glowered at him.

Well…that wasn’t a nice greeting, but he wasn’t all that shocked.

Waving awkwardly, he grunted, “Hey mom.”

Sneering, she spat while she waved her hands at her papers, files, laptop, books, and binders, “Why’re you calling me right now? Can’t you see I have work to do?”

Eyeing her mountain of papers and books sprawled out everywhere on the surface of her desk, Gavin chuckled. “Well, it’s good one of us is working, anyway.”

Sighing, she rolled her eyes as she crossed her arms and took off her reading glasses. “You got yourself suspended again, didn’t you?”

Yes, this wasn’t the first time he’d been suspended, but he didn’t want to tell her for how long it was, and he certainly omitted the fact that he wasn’t being paid during his suspension.

Shrugging coolly, he focused on the ice and snow covering her office windows behind her as he grunted out deeply, “How’s the weather there?”

She turned to peer out her window, and then spun back around in her chair as she shrugged as well. “Cold as a witch’s tit, Gavin,” came her snide answer, “how about you?”

Taking a moment to study his mother, Gavin suddenly noticed that she seemed extra stressed out, and extra tired. But something else lingered there on the other side of the screen…she seemed…thinner?? Paler??? He truthfully wasn’t sure. Perhaps, in his weakened, delirious state, he was imagining things…

On cue, his thoughts were interrupted by abrupt coughing, and he felt the powerful waves breaking through himself as he shook and let everything out. His throat tightened and ached, his nose burned even more, and still, the tremors didn’t stop coming.

A look of concern came over his mother, and she gasped lightly, “Shit, you’re sick, too?”

Nodding as he finished his coughing, Gavin waved at her eventually as he wheezed through his teeth, “It happens.”

Staring around as her eyes shifted past him, then, his mother asked, “Where’s your fiancé?”

Freezing up, Gavin cleared his throat to provide an answer, but his mother let out a strained sigh, clearly having arrived at her own conclusions already.

“Did you fight with him as well, then?” she accused, tsking as she shook her head, “smart move, Gavin.”

“I didn’t fight with him,” Gavin argued back, “I just—AHHH!!!” He’d been interrupted when the sensation of sharp claws dug into his thighs, and as he stared down while trying not to drop his phone, he caught the sight of two kittens scratching playfully at his jeans. They’d torn through the fabric, but he didn’t mind.

Reaching down, he pet their heads gently while chuckling.

His mother pressed a hand against her chest, and she cried out, “You almost gave me a damn heart attack, Gavin! What the hell happened?!”

Answering truthfully, he sighed, “It was the kittens clawin’ at me, relax.”

As she relaxed and calmed down considerably, she inquired, “They must be big, now, can I see them?”

“Sure,” pointing the phone down at the two currently writhing on his lap, Gavin heard his mother cooing and laughing heartily when she saw the kittens playing innocently.

“Aww, my grandbabies are having a good time!” She amused herself as she sat back and watched the kittens for a moment, and then asked Gavin in a serious tone, “What’re you doing back in your own apartment, by the way?”

Glaring back at her as he stared into the screen, Gavin cried, “Mom, I just wanted some space, holy fuck…why’re you making such a huge deal out of it?”

“Don’t bullshit me, Gavin,” she argued heatedly, “I’ve gone through plenty of breakups to recognize the signs of trouble in paradise when it’s so blatantly obvious.”

Immediately on the defensive side, Gavin roared, “Oooh, I’m sorry, mom, but how many years has it been exactly since you had a man in your life?!”

He’d intended for this to hurt and scar her, but all it did was make her shake her head as she closed her eyes and straightened her reading glasses on the bridge of her nose.

Taking her time, she created enough tension within her own son before she softly replied, “I may not have had a man for quite some time, Gavin, you’re right…” Then, a very serious expression took over her face as she stared directly through the screen and practically into Gavin’s soul. “…I may have been single for some time, but I’ll let you know, I’ve been around men far longer than you have.”

The apartment around Gavin grew horribly quiet, but then the wind outside blew by powerfully, making his windows rattle. Air sucked in and out beneath doorframes, howling monstrously as mother and son glared away at each other for many long minutes.

Finally, Carrie broke the silence. “How was dinner with Marsha?” she asked coldly, and Gavin only shrugged.

“Ask her yourself,” he snapped at her, though it lacked any true bite and malice before he started coughing again.

Holding up a bony finger, Carrie hissed, “Cough syrup; ask your boyfriend to get you some.”

Wincing, Gavin wheezed out, “Get back to work.”

“I was just getting to that,” his mother retorted, “cough syrup, and rest up before you get worse.”

“Goodbye, mom.”

“Goodbye, Gavin.”

They disconnected at the exact same time.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

It was late Sunday afternoon when Gavin found himself texting Nines yet again. He couldn’t help it, though; he was bored, but he was also incredibly pissed, and when Gavin Reed was pissed, he needed to vent and rant out his frustrations to someone who listened empathetically enough. Right now, Nines proved to be just that excellent soundboard, and he listened and texted Gavin back as the disgruntled male raged on and on for almost an hour.

Gavin Reed, 1:49 p.m.

Fowler didn’t even let u talk.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 1:50 p.m.

I noticed.

Gavin Reed, 1:50 p.m.

that doesnt bug u?

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 1:50 p.m.

Not really.

Gavin Reed, 1:51 p.m.

Daaaamn Nines, pretty sonte cold, huh?

Staring up from his phone, he felt his fingers aching from the cold, and it only contributed to more typos along the way. Still, he didn’t want to stop texting Nines; he was actually enjoying their conversation.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 1:52 p.m.

Speaking of colds, you know you’re not getting any better, right?

Gavin Reed, 1:53 p.m.

i kno.

“Why do you care, Nines?” he asked out loud, massaging his back as he got up from his kitchen chair and paced around. His entire body felt battered and broken, but it was more from the cold getting worse. Not wanting to stuff his system with painkillers, however, Gavin decided to ‘tough it out’. Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing well for him in the slightest.

Eyes watering from the pain, he read Nines’ next text message and gasped.

Fuck Stick Plastic Prick, 1:54 p.m.

Calling you.

A moment later, the phone did ring, and Gavin answered it before it got to the second ring.

“Yeah?”

A deep chuckle met his ears, “That was a speedy reaction.”

Blushing, Gavin hissed, “I didn’t want the damn phone ringing away and make my headache worse.” Cringing at himself for bitching and complaining already, he racked his brains trying to think of a way to cover that up, but Nines was already chuckling in amusement.

“Why don’t you come over for a bit?” he suggested, “I can take care of you and hopefully provide good company for you until you get well.”

His heart sank, and Gavin felt his mouth and throat turning dry.

“Nines,” he croaked out, “I appreciate that, but I’ve got kittens to look after, and I need to get ready to somehow find them good homes.” Coughing violently, he was actually more so grateful for his cold and his bodily reactions; he didn’t know why, but Nines’ offer of taking care of him was…shocking. Needless to say, Gavin didn’t respond to it well, and he tried hiding his mortification and shock through his coughing fit.

When he’d calmed down, Nines suggested, “So bring the kittens along with yourself, then!”

Freezing mid-cough, Gavin snorted, “Wha??”

“You heard,” Nines drawled, “bring them over; we can find them good homes together.”

Slowly smiling, Gavin nodded as he stared down at a kitten that had taken an interest in playing with his boot laces. It batted the object between its paws and chewed away at it, tail swishing back and forth as it purred in delight.

“Two heads are better than one,” Gavin supplied, “I get it.”

“Come on over,” Nines hummed deeply, “I’ll leave the door unlocked for you.”

Gavin found he didn’t even want to reject the offer.

Chapter Text

Image may contain: one or more people

 

It was nearly three in the afternoon by the time Gavin gently placed all six kittens in a large cardboard box and drove them over toward Nines’ apartment. Surprisingly, they all were relatively well-behaved, and they hardly made any sounds of protest or made moves to leap out of the box for the entire ride. Such well-behaved babies!!!

Carrying them towards Nines’ apartment door, Gavin found that it was open ajar as Nines said it would be. Boldly, he knocked once before pushing it open the rest of the way with his shoulder.

“Honey, I’m home!” he joked, and then regretted it immediately. God damn his stupid mouth sometimes.

Gentle footsteps padded their way down the hall towards him, and Gavin smiled bashfully once he saw Nines approach and then stand before him. The android wore black socks, thin, black denim jeans, and a punk rock black wool button up slim fit t-shirt with leather and hoops weaving around the sides and front of the shirt.

Beaming at him, Nines welcomed him in with an outstretched hand. “Good afternoon, Reed.”

“Hey Nines,” Gavin replied, and as he stared down at Nines’ hands, he frowned mildly. Those were the same hands that had beaten up three men with perfect ease…

Eyeing his disgruntled expression, Nines’ face took on a conflicted nature before he softly rasped, “Everything alright?”

Shaking out of his stupor, Gavin blurted out on the spot, “Oh…yeah…um…was just thinkin’…nah…” His face scrunched up, “Forget it.”

Clearly, Nines didn’t want to simply ‘forget it’. Stepping closer to Gavin, he nudged and probed him verbally, “It’s okay, what did you want to tell me?”

Thinking quickly, Gavin responded with, “Oh, it’s just gonna take some getting used to seein’ your new style and hair…that’s all.”

Looking rather hurt, Nines asked, “Is it…bad?”

…...

“Oh! No! Fuck no!” Gavin pushed out quickly, not wanting to stall for time and have Nines not believe him, “It’s different for sure, but not a bad different.” Eyes sweeping down Nines form, he unwittingly added, “I mean, it’d be cool also if you got a fancy tattoo or somethin’ to go along with it all, but meh, it’s a good look either way for you, Nines.”

As he stared up to meet the android’s blue eyes, Gavin saw a sharp, penetrating look bearing down into his own eyes once he made eye contact with Nines. It wasn’t anything offensive or cruel, however. It teetered on the edge of mild indifference, before Nines’ demeanor changed abruptly.

Thinking that his officious tone had put the tall android off, Gavin apologetically gazed down as he stated, “Sorry, it’s none of my business either way, Nines.”

A tiny smile was upon the android’s face, and then Nines brushed back a few messy strands of his raven-colored hair. “It’s fine, Reed,” he drawled lazily, “I like hearing your opinions.”

Suddenly, a few loud meows and tapping emanated from the cardboard box Gavin was holding.

Leaping up slightly, he chuckled as he set the box down, “Sorry, they’re a bit uneasy after having been in the car for so darn long.”

As they both bent to peer into the box, a tiny white and orange paw batted up into the air and waved erratically a few times. It made Gavin break out into a chuckle, and he gently reached down inside and picked up one of the kittens.

Nines grinned widely, “Ahh, the whole family then, I take it?”

Setting the kitten down to explore its temporary home, Gavin elucidated calmly, “Well, ma’s gone, but I guess being a single dad isn’t so bad, right?”

Snickering along with him for a moment, Nines sported a fist beneath his chin as he remained bent on his knees, gazing down at the little kittens while one by one, Gavin pulled them out of the box and allowed them to roam free. They soon chased each other, while the more fearful ones took cover beneath the sofa and other bits of furniture. Their mewls and hisses rang out in the warm air as they stretched their limbs out and observed everything in sight.

While their tiny paws and claws skittered and clattered about on the floor, Nines turned to Gavin. Now that they were at the same eye-level perfectly, they gaped at each other for a moment before Nines pushed out, “So, how do you want to go about finding good owners and homes for the kittens, Reed?”

Although it was in intriguing question, Gavin felt a small portion of his worries and sadness could be driven away. Smiling as he thought about it, he quickly replied, “Well, Hank said he’ll take one…you know.” He snorted as he lightly elucidated, “Kinda like a new friend for Sumo.”

Nines nodded slowly as he took that information in. “That’s good, but what about the others?”

Yes…again, the sad, somber feelings had returned blindingly, and they nearly made Gavin crash down to the floor. Feeling weaker than ever, he gripped the edge of the sofa, and he got up to his feet. Nines stayed crouched, however, gazing playfully under the couch at a pair of bright yellow, shiny feline eyes regarding him curiously.

Running a hand through his hair, Gavin grunted out with difficulty for various reasons, “Should we make flyers lettin’ people know about the kittens?”

Shaking his head while staring away at the kitten, Nines replied smoothly, “No, that may take a while; let’s just post the ad on Craigslist.”

“Cool,” Gavin conceded, “if someone creepy shows up, at least I don’t have to worry about being robbed or beaten up, right? Haha…” Although he’d meant for it to be taken completely as a foolish joke, he soon came to the conclusion that it hadn’t been the wisest thing to say.

Nines stared at his own hands, remaining silent while the kitten hiding away beneath the sofa poked its head out and seemed to trust him enough to venture forward slowly. Standing out of its way, Gavin also turned on his heels, feeling anger, resentment, and mortification sweeping into his mind and system.

This still was technically Nines’ own doing. If only he hadn’t—

No.

It wasn’t proper to lash out for now. He could’ve wound up in the hospital, horribly battered, possibly paralyzed, or worse.

Pushing aside those gruesome, dark thoughts, Gavin backed away as he unzipped his coat and went to hang it up in the hallway closet. He was certain he could feel Nines’ blue eyes on his form the entire time.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

“I have five tiny kittens looking for a good home. Three are male, two are female. I’m located at one-seventy-seven Portland Street, in the brown apartment building to the right. Let me know if you’re interested by either texting or calling me at—” pausing, Gavin frowned as he snorted in derision, “not sure if leavin’ my cell number up here for strangers is wise, Nines.”

“Use mine, then,” the android responded, waiting patiently until Gavin rolled his eyes and resumed reading the ad they’d composed together on his phone.

“Call or text me and we’ll set up a time. The kittens aren’t declawed or vaccinated, however. Thank you.”

Sitting back next to Nines on the sofa, he sighed as one kitten rested on his lap, one was on Nines’ lap, and another was somewhere between his back and the sofa back resting behind himself. It was very warm, of course, but Gavin needed his eyes on the kittens at all times. The last thing he wanted was to clean up Nines’ orderly apartment when he was still sick as all hell.

Eyes reading one last time over the ad, Nines concluded, “I think it’s fine; send it off.”

“You mean post it,” Gavin corrected, turning in his seat once he felt a warm, fuzzy tail tickling his lower back. Fingers gently wrapping around the midriff of a kitten, he grabbed the small animal and placed her over next to her sleeping brother currently on Gavin’s lap.

The other sibling resting on Nines’ lap opened an eye lazily, then yawned, sharp teeth gleaming as her ears pulled back slightly. Finally, she nuzzled Nines’ legs, and went back to sleep.

Smirking down at her, Nines commented, “I can see why you don’t really want to let them go, Reed; they sure are cute.”

“Mhm,” Gavin hummed, hitting ‘post ad’ and watching as the darn thing loaded up with his ad posted first under the category: ‘Pets’. Turning to Nines, then, he asked while avoiding eye contact, “Do you think they’ll respond quickly?”

Nines only shrugged, “Who can say, really?” Staring down at the kitten on his lap, he added, “You should figure out which kitten you’re going to be giving Hank, Detective.”

……

“Oh, yeah,” he was slowly waking up to that, but it wasn’t something he wanted to think about for too long. What did it matter, anyway?? Asking this very same question, Gavin intoned to Nines, “Well, does it matter? I mean, Sumo gets along with anyone, really.”

A large hand came down on the back of the kitten currently resting in his lap, and Nines began stroking the little animal gently. “It’s not that easy, Reed,” he chuckled while the kitten arched its back and let out deep, loud purrs of gratitude for the attention lavished upon itself. “Sumo has been alone for a long time, save for Hank,” Nines stated factually, “you should take a kitten Hank may want, and just for a few hours, you should observe and check whether they will even get along.”

“Settling in, right,” Gavin sighed, stretching his legs as he very carefully picked up the kitten sleeping in his lap and set him down next to his two sisters. Staring away at the other male kittens playing about and thankfully not really destroying anything or otherwise getting into trouble, he felt his stomach burning and aching from hunger. One peek at his phone told him that it was almost past 4 p.m.; he needed to eat.

Almost uncomfortably, Gavin peered at the coffee table, unable to shake off the odd feeling he received when he learned that Nines was still staring at him. The way Nines was regarding him was merely out of curiosity, it seemed. As his head tilted in time with the ways in which Gavin’s eyes and neck moved about while trying to evade those eyes, the android’s pitch-black hair and bangs swayed slightly. Gavin thought the new fringe hairstyle really suited Nines well, but he kept that thought to himself only for the time being. It did well for his features and chiseled face, and the black contrasted with his white skin so nicely, that his freckles almost were impossible to see, now.

As he’d been studying Nines quite intently, the android stared back resolutely. Having gathered some courage, Nines glanced over at Gavin’s mouth before peeking up at the rest of his facial features; taking in his lightly colored blue-grey eyes, noticing the long eyelashes framing those round eyes, and finally, his gaze fell back again down to those lush, pink lips.

In the heavy silence, the short detective couldn’t help but gulp slightly when he looked up to find Nines glancing back at him. The android seemed to be equally studying Gavin’s face and moving ever so slightly closer. Without even thinking as he relied on innate, natural feelings and sensations, Gavin found himself unknowingly leaning closer to Nines. His own warm tongue tentatively wet his lips as he glanced down at the android’s slightly parted lips and mouth.

Nines was also gazing quite seriously at Gavin’s mouth, and he leaned in ever so closely…

Suddenly, Gavin felt one of the kittens starting to fumble with his socks by clawing at them. It did well to snap him out of what he’d been about to do, and the moment was over. Practically leaping right off the sofa, he rasped uncontrollably, “I-I better go g-g-get some food…”

Moving back towards the opposite end of the sofa, Nines frowned in confusion. Staring out the window, he pointed out, “Reed, it’s snowing again.”

Clumsily swaying, Gavin sighed, “Yeah, that tends to happen around this time of year, Nines.”

“No, Reed,” Nines tenderly pet the kitten on his lap one final time, and then scooted the little feline on the seat Gavin had once sat down on. The animal stirred, yawned, arched her back while stretching, and then leapt off the sofa without another word.

“It’s too cold for you to be wandering around outside,” Nines pressed on, standing up to his full height and towering over Gavin. Though not meaning to be intimidating, Nines continued wisely, “You’re not well, still. How about I go and get you what you want, okay?”

One look out the window followed by hearing how badly the wind howled outside was enough for Gavin to make up his mind. Taking Nines up on his offer, he sighed, “Okay, but if it’s not much to ask, can you also maybe pick up some cough syrup?” Pointing at his throat, he expounded, “I’m not able to get rid of this fuckin’ cough for long before it bounces back with a vengeance.”

Nodding once curtly, Nines replied, “I’ll be sure to do that, Reed.” Remaining civil as he picked up his trench coat from the closet hanger once Gavin followed him into the hall, he asked, “What do you want for supper?”

Not even having to think about it, Gavin shyly asked, “You remember that Cantonese place we ordered from last time?”

Nines’ smile told him that yes, he did remember.

“I umm…yeah,” Gavin fumbled for his words, “I wouldn’t mind that again.”

“Alright, Reed.”

“Thanks, Nines.”

Watching as the android slipping into dark, heavy winter boots and pulled his hood over his mop of black hair, Gavin had nearly called out, ‘Come back fast.’

Thank goodness for self-control, otherwise, he would face severe embarrassment.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

Nines stood behind the counter of the small Asian store while he waited for Gavin’s meal. Already thinking ahead of time, he’d made a quick stop at a tiny grocery for cat food. He’d realized that Gavin had forgotten to bring some with him, and he hoped the cans and packages he’d purchased would be enough for the little felines running about in his apartment energetically.

As he was lost in his thoughts, the chef’s ‘grandmother’ and ‘daughter’ wandered over towards him, though the little android girl didn’t try to strike up a conversation with him. Hanging behind her ‘grandmother’, she giggled cutely as she waved at him in a friendly manner.

Waving back, Nines smiled, and then directed his smile at ‘grandmother’. The elderly lady smiled in return, though she didn’t speak. Nines assumed she wasn’t strong or fluent in English, but he felt more relieved that even if she was, she didn’t seem to want to engage him in a conversation. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure how he’d be able to handle it if she wanted to talk, anyway. Already, far too much was on his mind regarding Gavin…

A piercing blue LED light suddenly beamed brightly into his eyes, and as he stared straight into it, he heard a little effeminate squeal, and then footsteps retreated. He only saw the back of the android child’s head as she ran away from him while giggling excitedly.

Moments later, steam blew out from the kitchen, and it was a nice contrast compared to how cold it was outside. The chef soon exited from the cooking station, and just like last time, he held out his hand expectantly once he tore his glove off.

“Money?”

SMACK!!!

He recoiled as he hopped on his feet, “AYIIIIIEEE!! Grandma!!”

Nines only smiled, “I’d like some water as well, please.”

Quickly, the chef made to get it, but suddenly, a flash of pink and green zipped by. Nines caught it, and he knew it was the little android girl dressed in her pink jeans and light green sweater. Her hair flew about her small, round face, and she yanked open the fridge door and had already fished out one cold water bottle. Giggling, she held it up to Nines once she felt confident enough to approach him.

The tall android smiled down at her, and she inched up on her toes. The counter was still a little too high for her, but as she proudly offered the water bottle to him, Nines slowly wrapped a large hand around it and grinned down warmly at her.

She only giggled in her reaction, but he still said, “Thank you, little one.”

Bowing her head, she then ran away, skipping and singing a little tune that lingered sweetly and mysteriously around in the air even long after she was gone.

Looking back up at the chef, Nines sighed, “How much do I owe you?”

As he shifted about and paid, he took the food in one bag, and the cat food in the other, but before he could turn away and head towards the door, he heard something akin to wrapping paper crinkling closely behind himself.

Looking over his shoulder, Nines saw ‘grandma’. She held out both hands, and in each hand, there was a fortune cookie sitting right in her palm.

Her little white teeth beamed eagerly at him, and the chef mumbled while rubbing the back of his sore head, “Don’t forget fortune cookie!!”

Though he really wasn’t interested in taking them both, he still did.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

Gavin had tried to rest up a bit while Nines was gone, but the android’s phone alerts woke him up constantly. In total, Nines’ phone received three alerts, and Gavin’s received two. Both his own had been from his landlord demanding payment for last month’s rent, otherwise he would be forced to evict Gavin. The weary detective knew he was behind his payments, but with a full month of no work and no remuneration, he couldn’t cough up that money anytime soon.

He still held onto the texts as a reminder to have the money in somehow by the end of next week.

The third text on Nines’ phone had been from a guy on Craigslist asking for photos of the kittens, and when Gavin sent one back, the man stopped replying. The fourth happened to be a phone call from a random, wrong number, and finally, the fifth had been a missed call just as he’d been falling asleep again from a mother stating that she’d seen his ad and wanted to take a kitten for her young son and daughter. Since it seemed quite legitimate compared to the other weird shit that he’d encountered on Craigslist, Gavin happily answered the phone and spoke with the mother.

She sounded quite pleasant, he decided, and as it so happened, she lived a few blocks away from the apartment. Already, he’d set up a time for her to come pick a kitten, and she said an hour would work for her.

Perfect.

As soon as he hung up the phone, Gavin realized he had one other problem…he was alone, and with Nines abandoning Gavin to his thoughts while off to get food and the medicine, the detective began thinking back to their ‘almost kiss’. Pacing in the living room while almost all the kittens napped comfortably, Gavin stared at the empty space on the sofa that Nines had not so long ago occupied.

Had Nines really thought about kissing him? His mind raced as his fingers thrummed restlessly against the sides of his temples. He had a headache, but that didn’t seem to deter the thoughts from flying and slamming in and out of his head.

Did their most recent experience mean that Nines was interested? Had he finally gone back on his promise to him?!?!

Heading towards the bedroom, Gavin had to consider the fact that perhaps Hank was right; perhaps he really had to start talking to Nines after all. Unfortunately, that prospect still sickened him and made him weary.

Throwing an arm over his eyes as he slumped down on his bed, Gavin sighed as his mind continued to mull over what he mentally dubbed as the whole ‘Nines Situation’. His confusion on what he should do next began exasperating him as he fought to come to some decision.

Realizing then that this was a lot more complicated than he initially thought, Gavin instead shifted the questions more on himself rather than on Nines. He knew himself; he didn’t really know Nines, still, and that was a problem in and of itself as well, but one he could always return to and tackle another time, another day.

But what about himself?

Was he even—no…he didn’t want to put labels on things. Putting a label on things wasn’t always good, at least that’s what his therapist had once told him. Calling himself ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’, or even ‘bi-curious’ was only going to damage his self-worth and self-esteem, at least for now. Rushing to labels was something teenagers and young adults did, and Gavin was far too damn old for that crap. Adults talked things through, adults tried new experiences, but adults were also able to confidently carry themselves around without the levels of confusion he faced.

Breathing deeply as he turned to lie down on his side, Gavin could have sworn he was able to still smell Nines’ scent lingering around the place. Closing his eyes, he somehow heard the rumble of the android’s voice washing over him, as piercing blue eyes stared up into his own so deeply. Rolling over to sit up, Gavin groaned in frustration, laying his head in his hands as he stared down at his feet.

What the hell was he doing? Every time he saw Nines lately, Gavin knew he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to wind his fingers in that ever-messy hair and kiss the guy, or kick himself in the ass for having those feelings. Then, whenever Nines’ presence wasn’t influencing him, his thoughts were constantly filled by the dark haired, blue-eyed android.

Why was Nines-another man-able to do this to him? When Gavin had first learned of his father’s last will and testament, the hard boiled detective knew he was at the mercy of his estranged co-worker if he wanted to come out of this in one piece. Back then, he’d never been so overwhelmed by fear in his life. All he wanted to do was rush over to the end of the Earth as fast as he could and fling himself off the steepest, highest ledge. The need to wrap his arms around himself as he plummeted far below into an unending, deep darkness had been far too great. There was no chance that he would be okay, but the thought that Nines at least would undoubtedly see his plight and misery, and perhaps be there to catch him at the bottom of the pit…

Gavin actually wanted and needed Nines to catch him…

Why was this ‘thing’ with Nines so confusing to him? He’d never suffered like this with the other women he’d liked! But then, thinking about it, Gavin knew he’d never felt this way about anyone else.

“That’s it, we gotta talk,” Gavin murmured to himself as he jumped off his bed, the realization of what needed to be done finally dawning unto him.

Checking his time quickly, he found that he still had a little under fifty minutes to get all the talking done.

……

Well, he hoped it would be enough time…

Chapter Text

Courage was often talked about, written about, and thoroughly studied in various forms of art, literature, bodies of law, history, and throughout the formation of the world as everyone knew it. Courage was a gift, a personal attribute, an admirable quality highly sought after. It was a motivating factor that drove people to doing great things; to achieving new heights they never thought they would ever achieve before. Courage was what made a serious change and difference in the world, as the ideas of many that had been kept and tucked away at the back of their heads and in the recesses of their mind surfaced to the top and was put into action. Courage was healthy, courage was strong, courage was good, courage was great.

And when you didn’t have courage, you were beyond fucked.

As such was the failure on his end, and Gavin Reed began cursing himself up and down when Nines arrived back to the apartment with plenty of bags hanging on his arms. The kittens were brilliant enough to sense he had food for them, and as they circled him and cried out for attention and their meal, Nines opened up the six cans of cat food and fish he’d purchased. Lining them along the bottom of the walls inside the kitchen, Nines allowed the hungry kittens to dine as he set out a large bowl of fresh water for them. Moving back to the hallway, he shook off from his trench coat a thick sheen of freshly fallen snow, patting it down onto the floor mats as he hissed in anger.

Gavin looked back at the kittens eating together, and he huffed out in surprise and mild joy, “You got them food…”

It was a declarative statement, but Nines answered anyway, “Yeah, you forgot to bring some, but it’s fine.” Putting his trench coat away finally, he slipped out of his boots, placing them on the floor mat neatly as the water drained onto it.

Staring down at the slosh-covered mat as it soaked grossly, Nines spat out, “Fuck! I need a—”

“I’ve got you,” Gavin replied, hurrying back into the kitchen and ripping one sheet of paper towel and handing it to Nines. Hanging back as he watched the android mop up majority of the melting snow off the place mat and then his boots, he eventually knew that he’d forgotten his words and his courage had flown right out the damn window.

Shit.

Standing up, Nines threw out the soaked paper towel, and he gripped his bags as he handed one to Gavin. “Your food,” he announced, setting the other down on the coffee table as he sighed out, “I also bought some cough syrup.”

“Oh,” Gavin numbly commented, “th-thanks, Nines.”

The android grunted churlishly, but tore off the protective plastic seal from the top of the cough syrup bottle. “Don’t take that until you have food in your system,” he advised as though Gavin was a child, “I’m going to have a quick shower.”

As he stood and paced towards the bathroom, Gavin cried out, “That’s actually a good idea, because someone’s comin’ by in less than half an hour to pick a kitten for her kids!”

Slowing down in his pace, Nines threw back, “Oh, right on, Reed, I’ll be even faster, then.”

And with that said, he left Gavin to his own devices.

It didn’t take the ailing detective long to finish his fresh meal, and as he downed it all in enjoyment, he reluctantly threw his head back and gulped down some of the cough syrup. It tasted like shit, and as he stared at the label on the bottle, he sighed, “Why do they always make it in a cherry flavor??”

No one answered him as he wiped his lips and threw out his empty food carton while Nines finished with his shower. Changing into black, slim fit cotton pants and a grey jumper, Nines hurriedly ran a towel through his hair as he opened the bathroom door wide open and let out the steam that had gathered in the tiny room. It wafted over towards his windows, fogging up the glass while his plants slightly swayed and moved along with the heat beaten down on them from warm heaters Nines had going on for their growth and maintenance.

Sighing, Gavin chuckled out, “It’s like a damn greenhouse in here, eh Nines?”

Throwing the towel over his shoulder, Nines nodded as he disappeared inside his bedroom for a moment. “That’s the idea, Reed,” came his deep, velvety voice before he re-appeared without the towel.

As he pranced about, Gavin again tried mustering up the courage to talk to him, but failed miserably. The words just never came out. No matter how hard he thought about them, no matter how focused he was, it just wasn’t meant to be. Like a blank slate, his words and thoughts evaporated into the air, and he stared at Nines blankly while the android watered his plants. The amused android then smiled down at a kitten who was brave enough to leap up on the windowsill and gently nuzzle one of the thick plant leaves.

Nines’ smile was so contagious, and Gavin couldn’t help but smile in return while Nines explained to the kitten what kind of plant she was sniffing. He literally spoke to her like she was his own child, and Gavin had to just delight in it for a while.

It was a fleeting moment, however.

When Nines had finished spraying his plants, he turned to Gavin and asked, “So, how much are you going to ask for the kitten?”

Staring blandly at him again, Gavin let the words sink in, and then grunted dumbly, “Wha?”

Slightly on the edge of impatience, Nines explained, “The kittens, Reed; you should ask for money for them.”

That was where Gavin disagreed. Frowning slightly, he shook his head slowly and hissed, “Nah, I don’t think it’s what I ever said in the ad.”

“It’s Craigslist,” Nines snapped irritably, “you aren’t giving things away for charity.”

“So what?!”

Voice increasing in volume, Nines pressed out, “You need the money, don’t you?”

Well, he did, but it wasn’t Nines’ concern in any way shape or form, and even though he was late on paying his rent, Gavin still loathed to even think of demanding money for the kittens.

With a firm head shake, he rebuked, “I think it’s kinda wrong to ask for some money from this woman, Nines; she sounded nice.” Ignoring how the android rolled his eyes, he ground out, “Besides, these kittens mean more to me than just exchanging them for hard cash as if they’re objects, Jesus Christ…”

Glaring at him for uttering such a statement, Nines shortly snipped, “I never claimed that you don’t care about the kittens, Reed.” Moving closer to the detective, he briskly added in one go, “I was just trying to be a little helpful here when you’re clearly in need of money.”

…..

At once, they both winced, and then turned away from one another as a foreboding sense of dread passed on between them. It was at times like this when Gavin knew of the term ‘past the point of no return’, and he figured they were at it, now. They’d both said things to each other they likely shouldn’t have ever dared to say, and such delicate things were more out in the open, now. Gavin’s financial burdens, his discomfort, his psychological upheaval in regards to saying goodbye to his kittens, Nines knew about all of it, and there was no going back.

What else did he have to lose?

Still, Gavin was ever the prideful, boastful man, and he crossed his arms over his chest while sneering at Nines.

“I’m not askin’ for money, and that’s final, Nines.”

Now, the android’s LED light was shown to be really red, and even beneath the black frame of bangs, Gavin saw it perfectly well.

Lips curling back, Nines snapped, “Have it your way, but don’t come crying to me if you’re in need of some money, because I’m done doing favors for you.”

As this had been uttered out so cruelly, a rather bellicose nature began brewing between the two men. What Nines had said was riveting, but not in a good way. It wasn’t a pleasant spellbinding sort of brilliance that pinned and fastened Gavin’s heart and mind on the spot to hear and yearn for more. It wasn’t anything that instilled hope, tranquility, and humility within himself, either. It was harsh, raw, visceral, and it made him feel like someone had stabbed him directly in the heart. Even that muscle in his chest seemed to slow down a little, but he recovered from the initial state of shock as his defense mechanisms kicked in.

So, Nines wanted to inadvertently let him know that he was a pain or a burden? So be it, but Gavin had other ways of getting his own back.

Acting unphased, he waved a hand in the air as he calmly and nonchalantly drawled out, “That’s fine, Nines, I won’t ever come to you for help again, don’t worry…” Staring intently at the android, then, he quipped in a bilious outburst, “I know that this was all overwhelming, especially considerin’ how empathy and compassion are waaaay above and beyond anything you could ever even hope to try and do…or feel.”

That did it. Gavin saw just how he’d struck a chord within Nines.

LED light blinking off quickly, a furious expression overtook and overpowered Nines’ normally calm demeanor. Though he did not tremble, he took his time clenching and unclenching his fists, and as his shoulders fanned out, he growled mutinously, “Fuck you, Reed.”

Whistling as his eyebrows rose, Gavin laughed out dryly, “Yeah, fuck you too, Nines.”

He’d been wrong about Nines, after all, and it hurt. He hated being wrong, and what hurt even more was that he found he hadn’t wished to be wrong about Nines. He hadn’t yearned for the fact that he’d been let down so badly, and Gavin felt himself burning from the inside out.

Before Nines could insult him further, Gavin held up both hands, and he grunted as he backed out of the living room carefully, “I’m glad to know that you’d argue about something this small and petty, Nines.” Ignoring the android’s eyes darkening, Gavin went on, “You fucked up my weekend already with this shit, and even before, you had to go and land us both in the shithouse because of your crap at work, and to that, might I say—” he paused, raising his middle finger high in the air as he spat, “fuck you very much, Nines. Fuck you to the ends of the Earth.”

Unaware that the android had inched closer to him, Gavin kept on backing up while trying to simultaneously run away from the pain flowing in his heart. “Let’s just agree to leave each other alone until this woman arrives, Nines, okay?” Happy with his own suggestion, he affirmed, “I’ll wait in the bedroom. You can hang out here for a moment, and when she—” Feeling a hand grabbing his shoulder, Gavin’s eyes widened, and he nearly tripped over his own feet.

Things were moving too quickly, and still being slightly sick and weak, he couldn’t keep up with them.

“Wait, what are you—” was all Gavin managed to splutter out before he was abruptly silenced as Nines’ lips came crashing down roughly and possessively on his own. The kiss was awkward and one-sided as Gavin initially struggled in confusion under Nines’ weight.

Gently and carefully cradling the back of his head, Nines pushed himself on top of Gavin, and he sent them both down to the floor. Making sure Gavin wasn’t in pain, he then held onto his cheeks firmly. The mouth beneath his opened and a tentative tongue crept out. Nines met it back gingerly with a stroke of his own.

Letting out a tiny moan, Gavin was mildly surprised to find that Nines actually tasted quite pleasant. Not quite like any food or soft drink, but if Gavin had to place the taste, his best bet would be sweet candy.

Obviously gaining some confidence, Nines’ tongue extended and dipped into Gavin’s mouth, and while it was obvious that this was probably Nines’ first kiss-at least in comparison to the experiences Gavin himself had, he determined that it was not too bad.

Wanting to take control to show off his prowess, Gavin suddenly pressed himself up, and then rolled Nines over. Once he was on top, he pushed down against Nines, almost smiling when he felt a long-fingered hand barely touching his back. Arching into the touch, Gavin boldly slipped a leg between Nines’ and pressed his almost interested groin against a thin thigh. In response, Nines’ other arm came up around him, his fingers weaving into his hair, and the sensation of fingernails on his scalp sent shivers down Gavin’s spine. His cock went from barely interested to rock hard in moments.

Nines abruptly sucked in a harsh breath, and pulled away from the kiss, much to Gavin’s dismay. As the stunned detective looked deeply at Nines, he found that his eyes were wild, and almost panicked looking. They stared at each other for a moment, Gavin’s senses coming back to him long enough to feel embarrassed. He could not tell if Nines was as aroused as he was, but when he rolled off the android and lay down next to him, he saw an obvious tent straining up against the fabric of Nines’ dark pants.

Wanting to say something, Gavin licked his lower lip, and gasped out, “You—”

Of course, Nines didn’t let him speak. Once again, Nines had taken it upon himself to handle the situation. This time, Gavin was more than happy to let him.

Abruptly, Nines reached down under Gavin and grabbed the man’s ass with his other hand as well, lifting him up high into the air and shoving him against the living room wall. Cursing his short genes, Gavin felt Nines looming over him. However, he was grateful that he was still on the slim side, and he thanked the fact that Nines was larger and stronger than he was. Gavin’s breath caught from the roughness of the action and the feel of Nines’ erection against his own. The strong android held him against the wall with his hips while his hands roamed all over Gavin’s body. Ardently moaning as he enjoyed feeling thoroughly wanton and more turned on than he’d been after a long time, Gavin wrapped his arms around Nines’ neck and fully gave in.

Nines rocked against him, pleasure shooting through Gavin from the friction of all the clothes between them. The other man’s face was an inch from his, and Gavin was close to climaxing just from the intensity of Nines’ lustful gaze held for him. Gavin’s next moan was cut off by a savage kiss, and he held desperately to the larger man’s shoulders as he parted his lips to Nines’ questing tongue.

It was a hard, fast, brutal kiss; Gavin felt almost ravaged by Nines’ mouth and he loved every second of it. At least a year of pent-up need was exploding, right here, right now. Nines’ hands found their way under his shirt, touching every inch of skin they could reach. Gavin was overwhelmed and swept away, his trapped cock throbbing. When Nines finally pulled back, they were both panting. Gavin was still stunned by the other man’s passion. “Nines…” he moaned out, and in an instant, he felt the other man still rocking into him as he reclaimed his mouth, driving all reason from Gavin’s mind.

Nines pulled away and allowed Gavin to come up for air after what seemed like an eternity. He then grinned down at Gavin while snickering softly. “You taste of cough syrup.”

Gavin continued to look at him, ever so stunned. “What just happened?”

“I did something that I wanted to do for a long time,” Nines tried whispering to himself, but Gavin caught it quickly in his highly aroused state.

“But you’re…you…” Gavin muttered in disbelief, shaking his head when hair fell into his eyes.

“Yeah and?” Nines chuckled again, brushing Gavin’s bangs out of his eyes. “You know what? Shut up.” And with that, Nines kissed him more forcefully this time and let his left hand slide up and down Gavin’s body, smoothing over his slim form as he pressed his seeking tongue against Gavin’s closed lips.

Gavin could feel himself relaxing under Nines’ ministrations; the feeling of the taller male’s hand running over his heated skin, caressing at his waist before cupping tenderly at his cheek.

A wave of unfamiliar sensations flooded the amorous detective’s body as Nines continued to kiss him, his tongue working softly to part Gavin’s closed lips. Immediately moaning softly as Gavin finally surrendered and parted his lips to allow him access, Nines released Gavin’s limbs from around his neck and took a gentler turn with the smaller, shorter man in his arms.

A soft groan escaped his lips as Gavin allowed himself to drown in the feeling of Nines’ roaming tongue caressing against his own, his own hand coming up to fist his fingers into the android’s short hair at the base of his skull.

His hips lifted to meet Nines’ as he deepened the kiss, and Gavin held on for life as soon as Nines began pushing him towards the bedroom. Fingernails digging into Nines’ biceps, Gavin shut off all parts of logic ebbing away into his brain for the last time. He vowed to enjoy whatever was going to happen next properly.

…..

And suddenly, just as they’d pushed through the door, a loud knock echoed down the hall against the front door.

The knocking came louder this time, and Gavin reluctantly shoved himself out of Nines’ arms. Though the interruption hadn’t arrived at a propitious moment, Gavin realized it was better this way…much better.

Trying to make a grab for him, Nines’ fingers swung through Gavin’s hair, but the shorter male snapped out of his embrace quickly.

“Wait, stop,” Gavin said, pushing Nines aside and shuffling down the hallway as far away from Nines and the bedroom as he could.

Following him, Nines whispered, “Gavin? What’s wrong?” He even tried to reach out to him, but Gavin slapped his hands away.

“Don’t, Nines!” came the acerbic hiss just as another knock echoed at the door.

A feminine voice cried out on the other side, “Hello? Anyone home?”

Tilting his head awkwardly, Nines inquired, “What’s going on?”

“Don’t play stupid Nines,” Gavin spat as he flinched away once again from Nines’ hand trying to latch onto his clothes, “it’s the woman from Craigslist!!”

Evidently, that didn’t matter to the stricken android. “Gavin, I-”

“Shh! Nines!” Gavin hissed, deterring Nines from saying whatever it was he’d wanted to say. Racing up towards the door, he peered in through the peephole first, and once he saw two children and a middle-aged adult woman in a green tuque, he let out a tiny, relieved sigh.

Unlocking the door so he could let them in, Gavin remembered to put on his best and friendliest smile. “Heeey guys!” he greeted kindly and politely, “are you all here for the kitten?”

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

They sure took their sweet time. The children ended up being a lot pickier than Gavin initially suspected. After he’d handed them some candy he brought along with himself, and offered the mother a cup of hot coffee, they practically made themselves right at home. The boy was especially noisy, energetic, and loud. He chased the kittens around, which made them all hide away throughout Nines’ apartment. Gavin and Nines had to hunt them all down and fetch them so the children could select one they really wanted.

Completely turned off by the runt of the litter, the boy and the girl eventually selected a lean, slim healthy female, and after a few words of small talk about the cold weather, the economy, and upcoming Christmas plans, the mother collected her family, and they were off again.

Once Gavin and Nines were left all alone once more, Gavin looked down at the remaining five kittens. They didn’t seem too depressed that their sibling was now gone, but they cuddled closely together, perhaps due to being frightened by the small boy and then chased all around the apartment by an equally frustrated Nines and Gavin. Now that there was peace and silence in the apartment, they wandered off, had some meals, and then were happy to relieve themselves in the same cardboard box Gavin brought along with himself. Afterwards, when he’d thrown it out before it could stink up Nines’ apartment, Gavin saw that it was almost half-past eight already.

Odd how time had somewhat slowed down…

As he moved about preparing for the night, he noticed that while Nines was silent, he was observing every move he made. It didn’t bother Gavin…at first. He resumed his regular ‘evening duties’ on a Sunday, which consisted of him checking his phone, playing some games on it, having a beer, and then staring back up at Nines when he couldn’t take that smoldering look on his form any longer.

Yes, he realized there was still a lot they had to discuss and go over, and now that they’d kissed and touched, it made matters far more complicated. Gavin wasn’t a fool. He knew that by the way Nines was staring so intently at him, he was smitten in some way with him. It was flattering, of course, but there was only one problem.

Gavin wasn’t gay.

He wasn’t bisexual, he wasn’t even curious about it, and there was no way on God’s green Earth that was ever going to change. Yes, he appreciated Nines’ masculinity and beauty in its own attractive, handsome right. Yes, he thought the android was rather good looking, especially now that he changed up his style and acted more like himself with his own unique personality rather than a ‘copy and paste’ version of any android freshly out of CyberLife’s doors. He liked that they could chat often, he liked that Nines was a pretty good soundboard, a confidant, and a friend in some sense. He enjoyed Nines’ odd, quirky sense of humor, and he held some amount of respect for the fact that Nines had his back and would help him if he needed it. But that certainly didn’t mean Gavin was attracted to him on a sexual level, and that didn’t mean he wanted him.

No. Gavin Reed wanted women. Ladies got him erect, ladies satisfied him, and lovely women with big breasts and curvy hips usually were his top priority when it came to bedroom antics. As much as he could be open minded and appreciate a healthy male figure and frame, he couldn’t actually imagine fucking a man or being fucked by another man. Why, just the thought of a man pinning him down and dominating him was enough to send shivers running up and down Gavin’s spine, and he banned that thought right out of his mind in an instant.

Meanwhile, Nines was still gaping at him like he’d hung the stars, and Gavin hated it.

Sticking out a finger, he pointed it in an accusatory manner directly at the android. “Don’t,” he warned as he puffed out his chest arrogantly, “don’t look at me like that, Nines.”

“Like what?”

He’d naturally expected a stupid question like that, but he calmed down in spite of his first impulsive reaction to go ballistic.

Feeling his heart racing for some weird reason he couldn’t place, Gavin answered snidely, “Find someone else to mess around with, Nines.”

The android’s jaw dropped, and he gasped, “Wait, I thought—”

“And I thought we weren’t going to do this kind of weird shit?” Gavin barked, “I mean, didn’t we both agree on that not even a few days ago, Nines?”

Nodding slowly while a petrified look grew on his face, the RK900 seemed upset, but he quickly recovered as he bit forth, “I don’t understand.”

Why was he being so dense?!

Waving his hands, Gavin ecstatically cried out, “What’s not to understand, Nines?” Pointing at himself, then, he slowly spoke out, “I. Am. Not. Interested. In,” he then pointed directly at Nines once more, “YOU.”

“I find that ridiculous, Reed,” Nines snorted, “you were into it just as much as I was.”

Cheeks aflame, now, Gavin resisted the urge to deck Nines hard as he could in the mouth. Instead, he mentally counted to ‘three’ and took a deep breath before he spoke up again.

“Listen, Nines,” pointing at his cough syrup bottle still on the coffee table, he then said, “I’m still kinda sick. What happened was just a one-time thing, and I swear, I was too messed up to even understand it.”

Eyes narrowing and squinting at him, then, Nines hissed, “I hope you’re not suggesting that I go around trying to seduce unwell and drugged-up people, because if you are, then—”

“No, Nines!” Gavin roared mightily, “are you insane? Jesus Christ!!!”

“Then how would you explain it?”

Truthfully, Nines’ question was the very same one Gavin had been wondering about all night. How could he really explain his new, bizarre curiosity and fascination around his male, android co-worker, who was supposedly acting as his fiancé?

Hooking onto that as an excuse, Gavin supplied, “I think this whole wedding thing is getting to me, maybe.”

Looking as though he didn’t believe it, Nines snapped, “It sounds weak to you; you know it.”

Again, he’d said too much, and Gavin did what he always did best; prevaricate.

Clapping his hands together, he sighed out, “Okay, I’m gonna get ready for bed, Nines, and in the morning, hopefully more kittens will be gone, and then we’ll see Hank about his own kitten too, okay?”

Nines could’ve been seen reaching deeply into his pockets, but he didn’t say a word. Gavin clearly took that as a sign of agreement and confirmation, and he nodded as he backed away and padded off into the bathroom.

Somewhere tonight, Gavin knew a heart had been broken, but he wasn’t entirely sure if it was Nines who suffered the most.

Chapter Text

“Hey dad!! Wanna see the drawing I did at school today?” Gavin shyly peeked into his father’s half-open study. As a rule, his mother had strictly warned him that he was not to go in here whenever his father was home, as that often meant his father was working or studying. But the seven-year-old had been way too excited after not really having seen much of his father all throughout the week. Now was his chance, and he stood in the doorway, his toes curling and unfurling over the thick cream-colored carpet. It felt so smooth, warm, and fluffy between his toes, and he let out a tiny giggle just from feeling it on his skin.

Gavin saw his father grinning over at him from behind his desk. A laptop was resting on the surface as usual, but the moment his father heard his little voice, he closed the lid of the machine, and he rolled his chair out away from his desk.

Patting his legs, he called out, “Come here, Gavin.”

Gavin ran, and in one leap, he was already crawling on top of his father’s lap. The older Reed helped Gavin settle on his lap, and he ruffled his son’s light brown hair as the youngster held his drawing in both tiny hands and waved it in the air like a flag. He was so proud of his work, and he knew his dad would be as well.

“Is that our house?” his father asked as he pointed at a large brown and grey building Gavin had drawn quite neatly.

“Yeah!” pointing around, he showed his father through the open window a smiling face peeking out at them. “This is you working in your office!!”

Smirking, his father then pointed at a lower level window, where a feminine face smiled through a wide-open window. “And this is mom, right?”

“Yeah!”

“Always cooking away for us, huh?”

Gavin’s nose told him this in fact was the case. He could smell his mother’s talented cooking all the way from downstairs, and it made his mouth water, his hands sweaty in anticipation, and his stomach grumbled again.

His father heard it, and he laughed as he gently tickled Gavin’s sides. “Someone’s hungry!” he commented as he tickled his son playfully, and Gavin laughed brightly as he hopped off his father’s lap and ran around his chair a few times, then the desk.

“Come on, dad!! Take a break from work like I do at school!!”

His father clasped his hands together as he unplugged two phones that had been charging on the edge of his desk. Tying up the chords neatly and placing them inside his top desk drawer and closing it, he chortled, “Gavin, adults don’t get play time and recess like kids do.”

Pausing as he was now out of breath, the young Gavin cried out, “They don’t??”

“Sorry kiddo, that’s not how it works for us big guys.”

He was a little mad, but he ran back to his father as he pressed himself against his legs and knees. “Your recess is now with me and mom!!!”

A deep laugh rang out, and he smiled upon hearing his father laughing so happily. It warmed him up hearing it, and he realized he hadn’t heard it for a long time. He loved making his father happy; it was a poignant aspect of his young life.

Sitting back, the older Reed stretched his arms out, and once he’d gazed down at Gavin in adoration, he sighed out, “Old curmudgeons like myself don’t really have recesses, Gavin.”

Frowning upon hearing such an adult-sounding word, Gavin tried repeating it with major difficulty. “Cur…cur…curmmy…pigeon?”

His father threw his head back and laughed even louder than last time, and Gavin laughed along as well once he knew he wasn’t being mocked.

Wiping the tiny tears from the corners of his eyes, his father calmed down significantly as he shook his head and corrected his son. “Curmudgeon, Gavin. Sound it out with me!”

He loved learning and being taught by his father, so he paid close attention.

“Cur,” his father sounded out, and Gavin repeated it immediately, eyes on his father’s mouth so he could capture the words properly and completely. “Muj,” his father stated, “sound out the ‘j’!”

“Muj,” Gavin repeated slowly, smiling as he knew he got it right.

“Good!” his father encouraged, “now, say: jun!”

Giggling, Gavin hurriedly said, “Jun!”

“Now, we say it all together. Think you can do it?”

Nodding eagerly, he cried out with zeal, “Yeah!!!”

“Let’s do it!”

They counted together as they held up their fingers one at a time.

One.

Two.

Three.

“Curmudgeon!!”

“Curmyjun!”

……

As predicted of his young, playful age and nature, Gavin couldn’t pronounce the word accurately, and he stumbled upon the word as he broke out in a fit of giggles along with his father. They laughed and laughed and laughed until Gavin’s mother called out to them that dinner was ready.

These were some of the best moments of his young life that Gavin could remember; making his father laugh, and his father making him laugh.

It’d always been so innocent, once…

But somewhere along the line, it all came to an end, and why? He really couldn’t remember…

All he could hear in his thoughts and dreams was music, but that music was often accompanied by tears and the distinct sounds of sobbing and wailing…

Shaking himself awake almost violently, Gavin reared up on the bed he’d been lying on. He wasn’t sure why, but it nearly felt like someone or something was smothering him on his chest…peeking down, he saw that two kittens were curled up and sitting on his sternum.

Of course.

The not-so pernicious, curious felines purred at him once they saw he was wide awake, and one of them nuzzled Gavin by rubbing its little skull beneath his chin. It brought a small smile to his face, and Gavin rubbed its head and ears as he let out a tiny sigh.

“Today, we’re gonna see if we can give one of you a new home!” Gavin yawned out as he gently held both kittens to his chest as he slowly got out of the bed. He was well aware that he was still in Nines’ apartment, but thankfully, Nines wasn’t in the bedroom at all. Glad that Nines respected his wishes, Gavin slowly prepared for the day.

After showering and shaving as best as he could with his tiny mirror, Gavin headed out into the kitchen, and he found Nines watering his plants that were lining up the windowsills. The morning light was fresh, bright, and rather colorful with mixtures of orange, white, yellow, and soft reddish hues beaming along the horizon and past the clouds. Altogether, it wasn’t looking too shabby outside, as the snow had ceased falling, and the wind wasn’t blowing as harshly as it had been yesterday.

“How did you sleep?”

Nearly missing Nines’ soft-yet deep-voice asking the polite question, Gavin felt his heart leaping in his chest. Already, upon hearing the android’s deep, masculine voice, his feelings and reactions began to obfuscate his concerns.

What the hell?? Why was he reacting like that for?? Nines hadn’t really shocked or scared him, but his heart was thrumming in his chest as though he had!!

Why?

As Nines stared intently at one of his plants, stroking the leaves gently and carefully, Gavin cleared his throat as he nodded. “Good,” he answered briskly, “I slept well.”

Nines hummed, “Hmm, did the cough syrup help?”

“Do you hear me coughing?”

…..

“No, I do not.”

Gavin shrugged, “There you have it, then.”

Awkward silence permeated throughout the apartment, then, but Gavin went about with feeding the remaining five kittens as he pet each and every one of them while thinking about which one Hank could like. He honestly couldn’t settle on answering that, so he pulled out his phone from his jean pocket and redialed Hank’s personal number as he had well before Halloween.

He had a feeling Hank was off for today, as anyone who worked the mail room had quite the erratic work schedule, no doubt.

Not incorrect in his assumptions, Gavin wasn’t surprised when Hank picked up on the third ring.

“Gavin?”

Now, Gavin was shocked and surprised when Hank just knew he’d called. That had either meant that Hank added him as a contact on his phone, or otherwise had some form of caller I.D.

Clearing his throat, he gently greeted, “Mornin’ Hank…how did you know it was me?”

Not even hesitating much, Hank replied, “I have you as a contact on my phone, Gavin,” lowering his voice so he sounded gentle, yet reserved, he asked, “that’s okay with you, right?”

“I’m not anxious or fearful about it, Hank,” Gavin chuckled, “don’t worry. I guess this makes it all easier for chatting.”

“Exactly,” Hank laughed now that he was in the ‘clear’ and seemingly understood.

Waiting for Nines to move back into the bedroom, Gavin took his time as he spoke out, “You’re off today, right Hank?”

“Sure am!” Hank chirped, “and thank God for that! It’s cold as Satan’s balls outside, and it’s the kind of day where you wanna curl up in bed with a good movie or book.”

That sounded like a pretty decent suggestion-minus picturing what Satan’s balls looked like, but Gavin didn’t find any interest in any movies that came out recently, and he wasn’t an avid reader for the most part. Not really wanting to comment on that when he heard Nines shuffling about with the bedroom door still mostly wide-open, he sighed out as he grunted, “I gave one of the kittens away last night.”

Hank gasped, “Oh! Right!! Forgot about that for a moment!” Chuckling, he then asked, “How’s that goin’?”

“Meh,” Gavin avoided going into details regarding the fact that he was still emotionally upset with the notion that he had five more kittens to say goodbye to. At the risk of not sounding like a sap, he glossed and skated as far away from what made him emotionally uncomfortable right around the same time Nines emerged from his bedroom dressed in a black, thick sweater, and black skinny jeans that weren’t torn or ripped, but had buckles and bindings wrapped around the thighs separated from each other every other few inches or so as they ran up and down along the length of the leggings. Around his neck, he wore a silver necklace with a dark skull emblem hanging from the center just above the middle of his chest. On a few fingers, he even had some silver and black patterned and styled rings gleaming and shining brightly in the sunlight pouring into the apartment from the windows.

“Gavin?” Hank’s voice roused him again, “you alright?”

…..

Blinking away from Nines, he sighed, “Yeah, I’m fine, Hank.”

“So, what’re you plannin’ on doin’ now that you’re on suspension?”

Jesus…had news really spread that quickly like wildfire in the DPD?! What was this? A high school?!

Pushing aside his anger since he didn’t want to lash out at Hank when he hadn’t done anything to deserve it, Gavin quickly stated, “Well, gotta find homes for the kittens because they’re gettin’ to be too much for me to handle.”

He could almost hear Hank nodding. “Right,” the older male softly spoke, “I think it goes without saying, but you want to know if you can come over and let me pick one, right?”

Grinning a toothy grin, Gavin chuckled out, “You didn’t become a good Lieutenant for no reason, huh?"

“Don’t doubt it!”

Staring at the time on his phone as he pulled it away from his cheek for a brief moment, Gavin suggested lightly, “Should I drop by in an hour, maybe?”

“An hour’s good,” Hank backed up as he then hissed down at Sumo, “I’ll text ya my address.”

Smiling, Gavin said, “Thanks, Hank.”

Before he could hang up, however, Hank quickly got out one final thought, but it was a thought that Gavin knew was more of a wish, and a desire.

“Gavin? Bring Nines along with you, if you can; I want to talk to him.” After that, Hank disconnected the call.

It left him with an option, of course, and as Gavin turned to peek over his shoulder, he caught sight of Nines sitting with one long leg crossed over the other, hands folded in his lap, and posture straight and poised on a shiny black chair near the kitchen table.

There was a tiny gleam in the android’s eyes Gavin was unable to place or decipher, and since the unknown made him rather uncomfortable, Gavin was only able to focus on one thing, and one thing alone…

Nines was staring right at him and watching him quite intently, and a small smile eventually broke out from the corners of his lips until it enveloped his entire face.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

Every cloud has a silver lining, they say. Some are harder to find than others, though. But where did one start looking for that silver lining? HOW could one even start if they had no inkling where to begin, what resources they required, and who else to turn to and rely on?? How could you see much of anything in the middle of dark, grey stormy skies??

As such, this seemed to be the toughest dilemma Gavin was facing, but he still hung on the tiny thread of hope that there were plenty of hours still in the day that could potentially help it turn into a ‘better’ one…at least he truly wished so.

Holding onto a new cardboard box Nines found in the laundry room of the apartment, Gavin peered down at the five remaining kittens within it stirring playfully and restlessly. At least they were now slightly more accustomed to being given rides, and they poked their heads out of the top of the box and tried to look out the window.

Nines drove the car, and as he sat back dressed in a blue-black fancy motorcycle lacy arms faux leather jacket and the same jeans with the buckles, Gavin stared at his clothes and then at the black sunglasses he’d also donned on his face, now. In Gavin’s opinion, Nines looked absolutely amazing. A younger and more daring version of the silent detective would’ve even referred to and described Nines’ appearance as ‘hot’, if he really had been bold enough. Once again in such a short span of time, Gavin felt confusion and states of disbelief stirring within himself as he studied Nines for quite some time.

Not even peeking over at him, Nines grumbled as he stroked his smooth, hairless chin with his right hand while holding onto the steering wheel with the left, “You’re staring, Reed.”

So he was.

Blushing as he quickly turned away and peeked out his side of the window which was all fogged up due to the heater being turned on and paired with his own labored breaths and the kittens’, Gavin haphazardly assented, “Well, it’s because your new look fits you rather nicely…so what?”

Staring straight ahead at the road, Nines replied, “I’ll take that compliment, then.”

“Okay, Nines.”

“Okay, Reed.”

What was with the attitude, lately?!?! Was Nines seriously that butthurt over a stupid rejection?! If that was the case, then oh boy! He was in for a real treat!!! Rejection was the story of Gavin’s life, for the most part. Due to his social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder, according to his therapist, anyway, his social circles were diminishing, and it was sometimes more difficult for himself to find as many people who accepted him. Of course, that didn’t always mean romantically, but Nines was pretty damn good-looking in comparison to most men Gavin knew!! If those guys-given how stupid, immature, fat, drunk, and lazy they were could land dates and get laid, then seeing as how in-shape, handsome, attractive, and socially appealing Nines could be at times, he should’ve had zero problems and issues with landing a date.

However, Gavin knew that this wasn’t really his business either way. For the most part, whatever the hell had happened between himself and Nines only stemmed from and was rooted in confusion and from the circumstances forcing them to be ‘tied’ together and communicate more with each other than they regularly did.

Yes!!! That seemed pretty logical, at least for Gavin.

Wanting to share this with Nines in the hopes that he would not only convince the android of it and ameliorate the bad situation, but Gavin also partially hoped to convince himself that there wasn’t anything wrong with what had happened, and with his rejecting Nines.

Smiling-albeit weakly-he lightly brought up, “Nines, I know I was kind of a jerk this mornin’ and last night, but you gotta trust me when I say that it’s legit nothin’ personal in regards to us not bein’ together…” Pausing, he stared intently at the android as he added, “…I mean, you know that, right?”

Gently shifting the wheel when a speedy, impatient driver switched lanes before them, Nines’ head tilted to the right, and his bangs fell over the handle of his sunglasses slightly. Still, he hadn’t uttered a word, and that troubled Gavin.

Frowning, the detective supplied indignantly, “I mean, I’m not sayin’ I don’t like bein’ around you and I’m not claiming that I don’t like the idea of us bein’ friends,” he expounded, “I just mean that because you’re kinda playing my partner here, certain things kinda happened on their own anyway, but it’s like a byproduct of the situation, y’know?”

Staring deeply at Nines as he leaned to the left, he almost whispered shyly, “I think anyone in the same situation-regardless of partner-would behave the same way, so that’s it, Nines. Don’t worry about labels or anything like that; it just happened because of the situation bein’ weird, but it likely could’ve happened to anyone else goin’ through this shit, too.” Sitting back once he was done with his verbal tirade and rant, Gavin felt much, much better already.

However, Nines remained purely silent, and as the silence stretched on, Gavin’s happiness died down exponentially.

Lifting an inquisitive, impatient eyebrow, he nearly croaked out the android’s name, when Nines slowly pulled up into Hank’s street.

“Now, let me get this straight, Reed,” came Nines’ deep, velvety tone finally, “you’re meaning to tell me that this bizarre occasion weighed heavier on your actions than any personal choice or bias, correct?”

Gavin nodded, “Err, yeah, that’s a way to summarize it, I guess…”

Not even pausing, Nines went on as he pulled up beside a curb, “And with that in mind, you’re meaning to say that you didn’t really have full control over your own choices as you normally would if you were given a wider range of freedom, yes?”

……

“Sure…?” He hated the insecurity in his own voice.

Nodding, Nines parked the car, but before he turned off the engine, he turned to face Gavin completely, and he most definitely was making eye contact with the other male. Upon seeing it so raw and real, Gavin felt his mouth and throat turning as dry as a desert, practically, and he was unable to blink for almost a minute as Nines stared at him in pure silence.

Finally, when one kitten hissed, Nines’ lips twitched, and he stated with a blank, neutral expression, “So with circumstances being what they are, Reed,” the seats groaned and rustled as he leaned closer to Gavin, “does that mean that if for example…let’s just say ‘Connor’…” Pausing, Nines grinned almost maliciously when he saw Gavin turning pale before continuing on, “…What if Connor had to be your ‘partner’ in this scenario, Reed?” Leaning in closer and closer towards the detective, Nines’ eyes-which were still heavily shielded by the dark sunglasses-shined playfully as the titillating sensations enveloped both men in the car, though Gavin was unable to really see it.

Licking his lips quickly, Nines purred, “Would you really also be eager to stick your tongue down Connor’s throat, only to then blame it all on the pressure of the situation, Gavin?”

As Gavin’s eyes widened while he emitted a strained gasp of sheer shock due to Nines’ word selection, the android cleverly swooped down before the startled male. However, before he could hungrily place his mouth over Gavin’s, the other male unlocked his car door, and he tugged himself and the box of kittens out of the car in one deft move.

“Hank’s expectin’ us, Nines! Come on!” He coughed out uncomfortably, and he wasn’t able to see the way Nines gently lowered his sunglasses so his blue eyes piercingly gazed at Gavin while he smirked with great amounts of confidence.

Chapter Text

Gavin thought he’d never live to see the day where he found Hank god damn Anderson dressed in a night robe. But it seemed that such a day was now; the time and place were set. Hank answered his door literally dressed in a dark blue night robe that hung down to his ankles. His feet were bare, however, but he looked beyond exhausted regardless. It seemed like he hadn’t slept in weeks; dark circles and bags hung under his eyes, his hair was messy and stood out like he’d been electrocuted, and his beard was wild, unkempt, and twisted as certain bits of the hairs stood out at odd angles. If Gavin hadn’t known any better, he would’ve wagered that Hank had literally just rolled out of bed upon hearing the doorbell ring.

Gavin blinked rapidly a few times before rasping, “Umm, Hank? Is it really a good time??”

Soft pattering echoed from behind the exhausted older male, and soon, loud sniffing sounds were heard before a dark, wet muzzle and nose pushed its way past Hank’s legs and in front of the open doorway. With a deep huff, Sumo greeted them in his own way, tail slowly wagging from side to side as he looked at Nines first, and then at Gavin.

Shivering, Hank mumbled, “Of course it’s a good time! Now get in here; you’re lettin’ all my heat out, you bastards!!”

Chuckling once he realized Hank was in good spirits, Gavin moved inside the house first, and Nines lingered behind him as he slowly took off his sunglasses.

Eyeing his new style, Hank grunted as he lazily winked at Nines, “I like your new sense of fashion, Nines.”

As Gavin held the box to his chest, Sumo whined and tried pawing at him gently before leaping up on his hind legs. Hank clapped angrily as he roared, “SUMO! DOWN!!”

A few of the kittens seemed beyond frightened, and they immediately hissed, mewled loudly in their protests, and huddled together in one corner of the box. Standing awkwardly about while Hank grabbed Sumo’s collar and tugged him back enough, Gavin stared at the kitchen table. It of course wasn’t nearly as messy as his own, though it held a small plate with plenty of crumbs, and next to it was a beer bottle.

“Err, can I?” Gavin inquired, motioning with the box over at the table.

Hank snickered, “Need ya ask?”

“Right…” Wandering over to the table, Gavin set the box down in the center, making sure it was well balanced before he stepped away from it and held out his hands. “Here they are, Hank! Come take a look for yourself.”

Gently pulling Sumo along with himself while Nines hung back in the dark shadows of the living room, Hank muttered, “I think Sumo should have a look at ‘em, too, because he’s an even pickier old bastard than I am!”

Smiling warmly, Gavin assented, “Yeah, I mean, take your time, if you want.”

Hank definitely did that as he himself first peeked down into the box. Upon realizing they were looking at another human as opposed to a monster that was larger and furrier than they were, the kittens stretched their heads and necks up, but weren’t any less frightened. Hank gently reached in the box with a hand, but the kittens all shied away and dashed towards the other end of the box.

Hank gasped, “Ah shit, they don’t like me…”

“Maybe it’s because you have Sumo’s scent on you,” Nines suggested, and then Hank turned and stared at him again.

Slowly, the old Lieutenant smiled as he said, “You see, I didn’t think Gavin was gonna bring you along with himself when I first asked him to do it, but you know what?” he then turned to Gavin, “I’m glad you did, Gavin.”

While Gavin had no comment or opinion ready for that statement, he stood back and observed as Hank picked up one apprehensive kitten and held him up in front of Sumo.

“What’d’ya think?” Hank asked his canine friend. Sumo huffed, clearly indifferent, and the kitten hissed and wailed in anger as it tried scratching Hank’s hand.

“Okay, okay, okay!! Gosh!!” Grumpily, Hank set the kitten down in the box, then, and he went through the same motions where he would pick on up and present it to Sumo. After doing this three times, Hank wasn’t yielding any good results, and he sighed as he grunted, “Fuck it, let’s have the ‘Master’ himself pick.”

Gavin nodded, “Shall we?”

Together, they guided the box down to the kitchen floor, and the moment they did, the kittens hissed, scratched at the sides of the box wildly, and tried getting as far away from Sumo as possible.

Sighing in frustration, Hank muttered, “This may not work, Reed…they’re too young and obviously too scared to—”

“No,” Nines interrupted, raising a finger and pointing at the box, “wait…”

Staring down simultaneously at where he was pointing, Gavin and Hank saw that while the other four kittens were struggling and fighting to keep away from Sumo’s massive size in comparison to their own, only one tiny kitten was brave enough to venture out of the box. The one kitten bold enough to crawl out and approach Sumo curiously happened to be the ‘runt of the litter’, ironically.

As everyone watched intently and silently, the frail male kitten wandered off towards Sumo. The large dog panted heavily, and a second later, his thick, bushy tail wagged excitedly. Bending down, his large, wet tongue hung out, and he started licking the tiny orange-white kitten’s body. Rather than run away, the little feline purred and arched his back up into the air, nuzzling and kneading Sumo’s giant paws before curling down on top of them and losing himself to a fit of purrs.

Hank slowed looked up to meet Gavin’s eyes, and it didn’t even take a few seconds before he smiled softly. “That’s the one,” he commented in assurance, “I think this guy will get along well with Sumo!”

Even Nines seemed highly amused, and he was grinning proudly as he crossed his arms over his chest and uttered, “Figures that the least likely one would end up being the bravest one…eh Gavin?”

Immediately upon hearing the detective’s first name mumbled out, both Hank and Gavin snapped up in awe. Hank was the first to repeat, “Gavin?? Well…” he chuckled as he scratched his long hair, “that’s a first I guess…you two gettin’ along, now?”

Shaking his head, Gavin went to answer, but a long arm draped itself around his shoulder. Instantly, his body brushed up against Nines’, and as he glanced up, he noticed Nines was awfully close…too close, in fact.

Sunglasses resting atop his head nestled between thick bunches of his black hair, Nines smirked as he leaned against Gavin, his arm almost hanging protectively around his shoulder. “I’d say we’re getting along pretty well, Hank…” Staring down at Gavin next to himself, he could only smile wider.

“Things couldn’t be better, really.”

Hank nodded cheerfully as he turned around and walked towards his coffee machine while Sumo insisted on grooming his new friend. “That’s excellent to hear, Nines,” the older man commented as he then began whistling while he prepared his morning coffee.

Nines never stopped staring deeply into Gavin’s eyes. It truly appeared as though Nines’ thoughts began a torrid affair with Gavin, consisting primarily of the ghostly feeling of their prior stolen kisses and hasty hand jobs. Right now, Nines’ fingers skating sensually up and down Gavin’s length of bone and shoulder seemed to whisper all sorts of illicit promises while his hands worked their own brand of magic.

“Yeah…excellent.”

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

By the middle of the week, all the kittens were given away to new homes, much to Gavin’s dismay, and relief. He was happy he didn’t have a huge family to look after, now, but he missed his kittens like crazy. As he was alone in his apartment, he scrolled through the photos of them he’d taken on his phone, reliving each memory he could. Very soon, he realized he was sulking, and it was almost 4 in the afternoon.

He’d been lazing about in bed since before noon, and he hadn’t done a single productive thing all damn day long.

Well…just because was still suspended, didn’t mean that he was going to sit and do nothing!!

Gathering his gym clothes, Gavin went across the street to the gym he frequented, and he worked out for nearly an hour when his phone rang incessantly.

His anger and frustration went up another notch as he shook his head, eager to try and ignore it at first, but when the calls started up again, he finally got away from the treadmill he was running on.

Shutting off his music and yanking out an earpiece, he set himself down on a small wooden bench by the wall as he made to answer the call.

Freezing for a moment, he glared when he saw it was from Fuck Stick Plastic Prick.

Lovely.

He had to wonder why Nines was calling, though; Nines never called him. Yes, he’d reached out by text once or twice, but he hardly initiated chatting, and only seemed to do it when he wanted something, or needed to insult and or bitch at him. Perhaps this was the case, and Gavin braced himself as he brought the phone up to his ear while he closed his eyes and got ready to listen.

“What do you want, Nines?” It was pretty damn rude to answer a call that way, but Gavin had only just recently gotten over a bilious fever, his own weird confusion surrounding Nines, and he was still trying to work on getting used to coming home to a purely empty and quiet apartment now that the kittens were gone.

Nines took a moment before his deep voice chuckled, “Bad time?”

“Your timing always sucks, Nines,” Gavin snapped out irritably, glaring away at a nosy group of teenagers who were working out nearby on a bench press. They’d taken up a sudden, random interest in Gavin’s conversation, and the grumpy detective reminded himself to talk softer.

Heading back to his initial question, he reiterated, “What do you want?”

Nines sighed softly, “To take you out for a bit, Gavin. I sense you’re as bored as I am.”

“Okay, first of all,” Gavin growled under his breath as he glared away at his sweaty legs, “stop callin’ me ‘Gavin’, it’s so weird!” Clearing his throat, he realized how parched it was, but he had to get out the last bits of his exclamations. “Secondly, why do you think I could be as bored as you? Huh? You’re the one who has no social life, you dweeb!”

Hoping that he’d somehow hurt the android’s feelings, Gavin grinned in triumph, but that grin was quickly erased when Nines laughed heartily at him.

“Are you—” he froze, shaking his head as he spat, “I know you’re not laughing at me, but what the hell is so funny?!”

Still chuckling, Nines took his time to calm down as he finally replied, “Nothing, Gavin. Sorry for offending you, but I assumed that—”

“Nah, you assumed shit,” Gavin interrupted as he wiped away some heated sweat that had gathered on his forehead, “just ‘Reed’ is good.”

“Okay, Just Reed.”

Gavin nearly blew a fuse. “Nines!!”

“Sorry, Reed.” The mischievous RK900 didn’t even try to mask his chuckle that time. “So, you’ll join me?”

“Yeah…how about a ‘no’, there.” Gavin firmly concluded, “My answer is ‘no’. I don’t wanna hang out with you.”

Coolly, Nines drawled, “Ah, come on, Reed; it’s almost December, and there’s a lot of interesting things going on around town. Why not join me for a while?”

Irritated, now, Gavin held his phone tightly while on the verge of explosion. “I don’t need your pity, you freak!”

“I’m not pitying you,” came the honest reply, “just keep me company for a bit.”

Suddenly, Gavin’s mother’s words of ‘wisdom’ rang out into his ears from the back of his head. She’d often warned him: ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’, and he couldn’t help but think of it now in this case. Of course, it applied substantially. Nines was helping him work towards his inheritance. What good would it do him to be snarky, snide, rude, and bite off the hand that was ‘feeding’ him?

Not too bright.

Trying to reject Nines gently, now, Gavin sighed, “Look, Nines, what did I just say?”

Tongue clicking, the android stated with caution, “You said ‘no’. I didn’t think—”

Interrupting rudely, Gavin hissed, “No, of course you didn’t think. You never think.” Exasperation rolled off his shoulders in nearly visible waves when he noticed the teenage males walking around the bench press and cussing one another out while also throwing him dirty looks.

Nines droned on in mild agony and anguish, “I came to you to offer you some company, same way you needed my help, and yet you insulted me.”

Raising a brow, Gavin snorted, “Are you gonna cry about it, Nines?”

…..

A deep chuckle was heard on the other end of the line. “No,” Nines purred pleasantly, “not unless you come out with me for a bit…”

That voice…damn it, and all its enticing features!

Groaning, Gavin stretched his legs out before standing up and wiping his brow once more. “Are you gonna leave me alone and stop buggin’ me if I say ‘yes?’”

He could almost hear Nines smiling, for God’s sake.

“That’s the idea, detective.”

Shockingly, though he fought it down as hard as he could, Gavin was unable to stop himself from smiling in return.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

Tower Center Mall of Michigan, Detroit was one of the busiest shopping malls, especially around December. A lot of families were already flocking to the little outlets, trying very desperately to get their hands on early Christmas gifts, sales, deals, and specials, naturally. Plenty of Santa Claus events and games for children were starting to get set up, and the entire place was more like a menagerie of wild zoo animals than anything else as people ran around, screamed, laughed, cried, bought things, returned them, and rushed their kids about from store to store.

At the East end of the mall, at least ten rows of plastic tables had been set out for children to paint, color, and to also have their own faces painted by ‘Santa’s little Elves’. Each little elf wandered from table to table, handing out sparkles, crayons, pencil crayons, glitter, glue, fake eyelashes, makeup kits, as well as anything else for the children. They were all smiling, laughing, and portraying sincere and utmost joy, and it all seemed to flock throughout the mall. At every corner of the damn place was something advertising for Christmas, New Year’s, and Boxing Day.

It made Gavin sick, truly, and he wondered just why the hell Nines had dragged him out here to begin with. Well, he supposed they weren’t here to buy anything, but perhaps they were in the mall for…for what?? Gavin didn’t get it.

However, it didn’t feel too bad walking next to Nines, as comely as he was. Wearing his pure black All Star Converse on his feet, Nines looked mighty fine in dark dress pants that showed off his long legs, and some punk-styled, rave steampunk and gothic military black army jacket on his upper torso. It sat just below his hips, and even though he was dressed and covered properly, Gavin was still imagining and wondering just what kind of a physique Nines was hiding beneath his clothes…

He tried not thinking and pondering about it for too long, however; they were still in public, for one, and the mall soon grew even more crowded as they tried sticking together while moving past the food court.

All kinds of lovely-smelling meals were half price, apparently, and a lot of youngsters and teenagers scrambled for hot dogs, cookies, fries, burgers, pizza, and everything that was no doubt high in calorie and carbs, but so fucking good on the tongue.

Christmas music constantly played above on the speakers, echoing all throughout the mall, and it couldn’t be heard much when babies and toddlers screamed from the top of their little lungs. The walls and ceilings of the mall had been painted nicely with candles held by little angels and woodland animals floating above them, and over the length of the ceiling showed the star-filled sky above, half from the artistic paintings, and the other half from skylights above. The rest of the mall was decked out with Christmas trees bedecked in ornaments, lights and tinsel strewn about. As they walked further inside the mall while being unceremoniously and ungracefully shoved out of the way by shoppers in quite the hurry, Gavin felt his hands brush against Nines’ own.

Both men stared at each other for a quick moment, but recovered from it the second Gavin pointed at a large Panasonic HD TV on full display by the top floor of the mall. It was right above the escalators, and it was playing the newest remake of the Christmas classic Frosty The Snowman.

Nines caught his line of inquiry, and he briskly flitted ahead past a group of carolers as they sang gleefully while accompanied by an older man playing on a trumpet. The singers threw their heads back and seemed to be singing ‘O Holy Night’. It was by far the loveliest live rendition of the piece Gavin had heard.

“O holy night the stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining!

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth!”

“Reed?” Nines called up at him, breaking his concentration suddenly.

“Wanna ride the escalator?” Gavin called after him, and Nines only winked.

Together, they rode the way up, plenty of other bodies bunched and pressed up between theirs until they finally reached the brightly lit top floor of the mall. While Frosty danced around with a bunch of children on screen, Nines hung back behind Gavin as the shorter male peered up at the movie.

“Did you watch a lot of Christmas movies with your parents?”

Gavin was taken aback by the random question, but he couldn’t entirely blame Nines for ‘small talk’. After all, it was far better than the alternative of just being silent all the time…

Not looking back at him, Gavin nodded, “Kinda, I mean, whenever they were on, I guess we all watched.” It hadn’t been a lie; he remembered many Christmas specials playing on the TV while he sat wedged between his father and mother, the fireplace making their family room toasty and warm, a bowl of popcorn on his lap, their red, green and white stockings hung up on the fireplace, eggnog wafting in the air…

He smiled fondly at the memories fleeting by.

“It’s a bit early for Christmas stuff, if you ask me…”

“I actually agree with you on that one, Nines.” As he turned and offered the tall android a small smile, the program on the TV suddenly was interrupted, and a voice Gavin never wanted to hear for the rest of his life spoke up.

“I appreciate you having Chloe and I here today on the show, Sandra,” came the chuckle and stuck-up voice of none other than Elijah Kamski, “it’s a thrill, really!!”

Gavin’s blood ran cold in his veins. Ever so slowly, he turned around, and as he peered up at the news segment, he saw a reporter dressed in a tight black skirt with matching black heels and a pink top sitting inside the grandiose living room which looked to be bigger than the entire mall of Mr. Elijah Kamski…

“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new glorious morn!”

Elijah sat before an enormous fireplace, and it was lit and glowing warmly behind himself. He was dressed in the cleanest, whitest suit with a black bow tie Gavin had ever seen. Next to him was none other than the infamous Chloe, also known as the RT600 model; the first android model Kamski designed to successfully pass the Turing Test. She was wearing a lovely black dress with white sashes flowing and running down to the shiny black floor. A gigantic Christmas tree was in the background, and beneath it were stacked at least fifty Christmas presents.

They both smiled as they joined hands and sat comfortably, and the reporter flipped back her long blonde hair as she cried out for the audience, “Christmas with Kamski is looking to be good this year!!”

“That’s right, Sandra!” Kamski sang out as he motioned behind himself at the horde of gifts, “this year, CyberLife is proud to announce that we’re giving away plenty of new—”

No…he’d had enough.

Staring all around himself, Gavin saw that at least two dozen shoppers and citizens of Detroit had circled and gathered beneath the TV, and they were watching in pure awe as Kamski and Chloe showed off their luxurious gifts, their fancy smiles, fancy colors, rich lifestyle…

“Reed?”

His head was pounding, and he turned away from the TV abruptly.

“Fall on your knees,

O hear the angels’ voices!

O night divine,

O night when Christ was born,

O night divine, o night!

O night divine!”

He had to get out of here before he had some kind of a terrible panic attack or seizure. Feeling bile rising into his throat was not a good thing, but it was what he felt as he brushed past Nines and stormed over towards the escalators again.

Fighting to remain calm lest Nines see what kind of an affect Elijah Kamski had on him so he could put the pieces together and figure it all out, Gavin waved at Nines as they fought their way towards the escalator. “I’m fine!” he cried out in pain, “j-just, come on!”

“Reed!!” Nines cried out, swiping at him a few times while Gavin stood in the middle of the escalator as it slowly went down.

It was too slow…why the hell was it moving so slowly?!

The music soon began blending and turning to mush, and as Gavin tried not to focus on it, he held a hand up and cradled an ear while gripping the railing of the escalator in another one. His hands were cold and clammy, and he felt so dizzy, suddenly.

I’ll be home for Christmas,

You can plan on me,

Please have snow and mistletoe,

And presents on the tree,

Christmas Eve will find me,

Where the love light gleams,

I’ll be home for Christmas,

If only in my dreams…

“Reed!!” Nines thundered after him, and just as he did, Gavin broke away.

“This thing is g-going too slow, Nines!” Now, he practically leapt down two steps at a time, his heart rising and falling as his blood surged forth in his system. His stomach felt full and empty at the same time, and he held a hand to it before he collapsed. He felt so sick, so apprehensive, so dizzy…

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,

Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,

But do you recall,

The most famous reindeer of all?

When Nines caught up to him on the second last step of the escalator, he lay a large hand on his shoulder as he whispered, “Reed? What happened back there?”

Gavin snorted, “S’nothin’, Nines…”

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,

Had a very shiny nose!

And if you ever saw it,

You would even say it glows…

Not giving up, Nines followed Gavin as he made his way past video game stores, bookstores, and a coffee and chocolate shop. “No, it’s not ‘nothin’, Reed,” he growled, “you freaked when you saw Elijah Kamski on the TV!”

He was hearing voices, and his head was pounding brutally with a god damn vengeance Gavin had never felt before. Bracing himself up against a wall, he gasped out, “Isn’t the music too loud in here suddenly?!”

I’ll be home for Christmas,

You can plan on me,

Please have snow and mistletoe,

And presents on the tree…

“Reed,” Nines growled again, trying to get a hold on the shorter man, but Gavin quickly broke away and made a beeline for the ‘exits’.

The entire time he ran, Gavin muttered all sorts of odd things to himself, and it was a means of drowning out Nines’ accusations and questions. He didn’t want to hear them right now, so he focused on the music…but if only his damn thoughts and memories would allow him to be at peace for once…just once! How was it that such a placid day had turned cruel and foreboding in such a short span of time??

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring tingle tingling too!

Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you!

“Reed!! Wait!!”

“I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving,” he repeated to himself. This was a bad idea; coming here was bad, and now, he was going to make sure he left.

At the doors, now, Gavin fumbled for his car keys in his pocket, but he had no idea which pocket they were in…

All of the other reindeer,

Used to laugh and call him names!

They never let poor Rudolph,

Join in any reindeer games!

The sliding doors opened and closed numerous times, and icy cold air blew in his face, each time, terribly distracting him. Not wanting to give up his search, Gavin gasped and wheezed, “Where a-are my k-keys?!” Hands slipping, he let out a deep groan when he felt something rough in his pockets…

The keys!!!

As soon as he’d yanked them out of his right back pocket, he let out a sigh of relief, but then Nines’ large hand wrapped around his own.

Christ is the Lord! Oh, praise His Name forever!

His power and glory evermore proclaim!

Oh, night divine, oh, night when Christ was born!

Wincing, Gavin whimpered, “Nines, please! It’s t-too loud in here, and I c-can’t think!”

Leaning into him, Nines cried out fearfully, “I know Elijah’s your stepbrother, Reed! I know that!”

As the doors opened again, Gavin felt his heart shattering like the icicles hanging from the edges of the rooftops of buildings outside.

Nines knew…

How…

Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling “yoo hoo!”

Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you!

Wrenching his hand out of Nines’, he spat with plenty of hatred in his voice as his eyes squinted up at the android, “You don’t know shit about me, Nines!”

Shaking his head, Nines pressed on urgently, “Gavin, that’s not true! I’ve watched you, and I know that—”

Holding up a hand, Gavin hissed, “Don’t call me that…”

“Gavin!”

“I’m warning you, fucker…”

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices,

Oh, night divine!

Oh, night when Christ was born,

Oh, night divine, oh, night when Christ was born!

It was so fucking loud…

Unable to stand it any longer, Gavin shoved his way through the exits with Nines hot on his heels. At least the music hadn’t followed them, but Gavin lowered his head into his chest, chin tucked down as the cold night air blew violently into his face. It was so powerful and so potent that he could hardly blink. His eyelids felt frozen stiff…

“Please!” Nines called out at his back with desperation that was so wild it made Gavin slow down. “Don’t run away; just talk to me, Gavin!!”

…….

Gavin…Gavin…

With a last warning growl, the infuriated detective snapped, “Nines, don’t you fuckin’—”

“Please! Gavin! Don’t you see I want to help you?!”

Gavin…Gavin…

Gavin…

……

“You know I’ve always loved your mother, don’t you, Gavin?”

……

He saw red.

With a beastly roar, Gavin whirled around just as Nines was diving towards him. Dominant fist raised, Gavin drew it back, and he punched Nines right in the face as hard as he could. Pain seared and surged through his knuckles and towards the back of his fist, but he didn’t care. He’d landed in one good punch, and even though it hurt him more than Nines, he felt proud.

No, he felt free.

Nines’ head turned to the side, and he gently held up a few fingers as he touched his nose where some thirium had leaked down from his nostrils. Other than that, he hardly looked troubled, but his LED light blared red before he turned and scowled at Gavin.

“I warned you, you fucker,” Gavin growled, and even though he could hardly move his right hand, he managed to point his index finger at Nines. “Stay away from me; don’t talk to me, don’t try and contact me, and you can get home by yourself.”

And with that cruelly uttered, Gavin wandered over to where he’d parked the car. As he unlocked it, sat down, and turned on the engine, he didn’t even bother looking back at Nines as he drove on out of the parking lot and into the cold, dark night.

Chapter Text

“So, let me see if I got all this correctly, Gavin,” Hank sighed weakly as he sat down next to Sumo and the new kitten on his living room sofa, “after having a pretty decent time out with Nines, who only wanted to take you out so you wouldn’t be bored out of your damn mind during your suspension, by the way, you got angry with him for askin’ you some questions about Elijah Kamski, and then you punched him in the face???”

Drumming his fingers over his thighs while his face turned beet red, Gavin cringed. “Err, I may have also left him stranded on his own in the mall parking lot…”

Shaking his head at him in disbelief, Hank looked beyond exhausted as he mumbled out brokenly, “How do you get yourself in these situations again, Gavin?”

Looking at the ceiling, Gavin murmured, “Don’t know, honestly.”

Listening in lazily, Sumo yawned and then nuzzled his kitten, the tiny furry creature nesting and sleeping in a tight little ball curled up next to his stomach. Sumo’s thick, bushy tail protectively curled around the kitten, and according to Hank, the pair were inseparable.

Gavin wished he could engage Hank in much better conversation than what he was here for, but it wasn’t the case. Not even a day after he’d punched Nines, he called Hank immediately and requested his time for a chat. Due to the urgency in his voice, Hank was naturally concerned, and he was up well before nine in the morning and announced that Gavin could come over.

The day passed around him in the same somnolent haze as the night before when he attacked Nines. He was grateful that his feigned mood of ‘I’m fine’ seemed to placate his own damn ego, but Hank wasn’t easy to convince. After he’d prepared toast and jam for himself and Gavin as they ate in silence in his kitchen, they’d finally ceased giving each other weird looks and Hank eventually asked if he was alright at random intervals. Unfortunately, his exhaustion made Gavin feel like the day had been turned into one painfully long college lesson. No matter what he did, he couldn’t clear the sleepy and murky fog from his brain.

Hank had muttered something about needing to decorate his house for Christmas, at least until Gavin’s head was cleared enough for talking and presenting his thoughts to him. His guest had volunteered to help him with setting up Christmas decorations, and Hank gladly took him up on his offer immediately after breakfast.

They worked together silently for some time, and Gavin found that unlike the previous two evenings, he had too much on his mind to even feel bored. He chewed on the cuticles around his thumbnail absently and punctuated his work with a few furtive glances towards Hank. The older man hid his weariness well at first, though as they got lost in their efficacious work, Gavin grew distracted with time. Furious at his inability to concentrate for the third time in a row, Hank gently smacked him on the back for messing up something so ridiculous. It roused him out of his daydreaming, and also unsettled Gavin by the growing warmth in the pit of his stomach every time he glanced out the foggy window while thinking of Nines. He felt his cheeks grow warm, but if Hank had noticed, he didn’t comment on it.

When the older man suggested for Gavin to take a tiny break, the distracted detective garbled something rather incoherent that sounded like it was close to ‘yes sir,’ but it seemed to stumble in his throat, and came out as a grunt. He strode over to the window and resumed the tedious task of thinking about Nines his brain had set out for him.

After two more hours of brooding about Hank’s house, the Christmas decorations were finally complete. The front entrance was covered in glittering decorations from top to bottom. Gold garlands hung tastefully from the walls, dotted with floating fairy lights plugged into the electric outlets. A soft, red blanket and matching pillows now rested on the sofas in the living room. Gavin could see a large tree fully decorated in gold and silver. It too was covered in a garland, and glass bulbs reflected the blinking lights. Tinsel draped artfully along the walls throughout Hank’s house, and everything seemed warmer and friendlier.

Happy with their work, Hank suggested that they go out for a brisk walk, especially considering how Sumo needed it, as well.

In the end, Hank, Sumo, and Gavin all ended up walking to a dog park next to a children’s playground, only a tiny fence dividing them from one another. The kids-happy and eager enough to play with the dogs-still snuck out their fingers in between the gaps of the chain-link fence. Rounds of giggling rang in the air when the dogs would lick their little fingers, their breaths coming out as thick clouds of steam in the cold, afternoon wintery air.

Gavin and Hank sat down on a very cold wooden and black framed bench. Taking the time to have a cigarette while Hank unleashed Sumo inside the dog park to play around a little with the other dogs, the older male sighed as he leaned back and crossed a leg over his kneecap.

“So,” he finally grumbled out as he stretched his hands out behind himself and rested them on the length of the top of the bench frame, “you wanna explain why the hell you’re being such an asshole towards Nines lately?”

Gavin rolled his eyes while puffing out the first drag he’d taken from his cigarette. “It’s a bit weird, Hank.”

The older man snorted, “Surprise me, then. I’m pretty damn old, and believe me, my life’s not that exciting anymore, so I could use a laugh or two.”

Fine, he’d asked for it.

Trying to keep it clean, Gavin sighed out as he too almost mirrored the same body posture and sitting posture Hank had taken up. “Nines is…I think he l-likes me…” he stated with a lot of difficulty, and he missed how Hank sarcastically tilted his head at him.

Sneering, the older man gasped in a strident manner, “Oh! No shit! What gave it away??” Hank’s sarcasm practically dripped off his face, a moue of disgust flooding his otherwise tranquil demeanor.

Surprised by what he’d heard, Gavin held onto his cigarette while fishing into his jacket pockets for his gloves. Eyebrows raised high, he found his gloves, put them on, and then took another deep drag from his cigarette. “H-how did you know?”

Hank waved a pink hand at him, the skin a bit bothered due to the cold. “Well, when you guys showed up to help me pick out a kitten, Nines wouldn’t and couldn’t stop starin’ at you.”

He hadn’t noticed, of course, and Gavin merely hung his head down as he balanced his cigarette between his gloved fingers. “I’m not gay though, Hank,” he stated openly, hoping he hadn’t offended the man with too much detail at once.

Shrugging, Hank muttered openly, “Well, for all you know, perhaps Nines isn’t either, but maybe he doesn’t give a fuck about shit like that in order to be close to a person and care for them.”

That was a rather jarring statement, and Gavin frowned upon hearing it. Flicking his ashes down beneath his boots, he growled, “I don’t want to be with Nines, Hank.”

“Why not?”

Gavin groaned irritably, “Because I can’t picture myself taking a dick up my ass, Hank! That’s why!”

Hank only winced, “As eloquent as ever, I see...Gavin.”

“I’m sorry,” Gavin stated as he blushed, a penitent expression flooding his facial features as he continued on. “Anyway, I just don’t need his help, but he’s really damn persistent sometimes.”

Children ran and played out in the square playground beyond the divided line between where they were sat and the dog park. Their shrieking giggles of delight did not permeate Gavin’s ears horribly, but the evidence of joy was unmistakable on their faces. For a while, Gavin watched them, and tried to siphon off some of their joy. He could see the now snow-covered old overgrown hedges of the maze beyond the park move abnormally in the light breeze, and he could make out the shape of someone smoking near a tree in the far back corner of the playground.

Letting out another pained sigh, then, Gavin held out his hands, waving them in an animated way as he jumbled his contumacious thoughts out. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate what he’s doing; but he’s not my god damn therapist!!”

As his tobacco and nicotine breath floated about in the air, Hank sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. Perhaps to keep himself warm, or perhaps to look more serious and intimidating. Gavin didn’t know, but he felt drawn to listen as he stared on at Hank.

“Gavin,” the older man spoke out with utmost patience and calm in his voice, “did it ever occur to you that perhaps you don’t need a therapist right now?”

Thinking about it in silence, Gavin sniffed, and then just shrugged an insouciant shrug.

“You can’t go on like this, Gavin,” Hank advised, staring seriously over at Gavin until the younger man felt compelled to look over and meet Hank’s penetrating gaze.

Growling between clenched teeth, Gavin hissed, “I’m not gonna have sex with Nines, Hank!”

Reaching over and shoving him roughly in the shoulder, Hank only offered him a glare. Nearly dropping his cigarette in shock, Gavin mumbled under his breath, but remained silent due to the rather intense and smoldering look Hank cast his way.

“Would you get your mind out of the damn gutter for a minute and hear me out?” Trying to keep his voice down, Hank pressed on, “Never mind the sex stuff for a moment, Gavin!”

When Gavin proved to remain silent and pensive for long enough, Hank prattled on superbiously.

“I meant to say that perhaps Nines can provide more for you than any damn therapist ever could!”

Surveying over the entire park as he slowly held out his hand holding the burning cigarette to his lips, Gavin then wet them with a quick swipe of his tongue before snickering coldly. “Oh yeah? And what the hell could that be then, Hank?”

As a few crows and geese flew through the air high above the icy, wintery lands, drowning out the sounds of children laughing and dogs barking for a brief moment, Gavin stared down at his hands in mild shame for lashing out yet again at Hank when the older male was only trying to help him.

Peeking at his boots, next, he crunched hard, frozen ice and snow beneath his feet, and for some reason, it gave him some sort of calm and levity.

While he continued crunching away and molding the snow under his boots, Hank gently reached out again, but this time, he massaged Gavin’s shoulder. Gavin didn’t even pry the other man’s hand off his cold, rigid body; he didn’t mind the kind, soothing gesture, actually.

Inhaling softly, Hank’s nose twitched. “Nines can offer you a listening ear from the perspective of friendship, Gavin,” the sagacious advice suddenly came out. Lowering his leg to the cold, hard ground, Hank stared over at Sumo as the canine ran around some tree stumps and chased after a few other small dogs.

Smiling then at the state of happiness his own pet displayed, Hank concluded, “Nines isn’t getting paid to listen to whatever you have to say, Gavin; either way you look at it, he’ll be an unbiased source, and in my personal opinion…” Allowing his voice to trail off for a moment of dramatic effect, he finally took his time before he finished, “…He’ll be a good friend to you, Gavin. I don’t know about what else the future may hold, but one thing I can take with me to the grave is the knowledge that Nines can be the most loyal friend until the end…if you allow him.”

Gavin reflected on this statement until it’d grown so dark and cold that they needed to head back to Hank’s house. The entire way there, plenty of conflicting thoughts plagued and burdened him, but at least he was at peace and proud of himself for reaching out to Hank.

Those who admitted they had problems often got help for it, so it seemed.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

When Gavin had asked Hank whether or not he could spend the night in his home, he honestly hadn’t been expecting for the older man to actually allow him to do so. Hank went ahead and surprised him, however, and as soon as he’d been permitted, Gavin found himself sleeping rather comfortably on Hank’s living room couch.

He couldn’t complain, as it’d been warmer than he anticipated, and he discovered that the Christmas lights hanging about the hallway and on the walls actually soothed him and sent him into a deep, dreamless sleep. Unfortunately, at first morning light, Gavin woke up to a rather intense and-in his opinion-rather rude phone call message his landlord had left for him. To his dismay, the bleary detective learned that he was to begin his first week of December being evicted.

Knowing he seriously couldn’t cough up the money for his rent, Gavin knew it was time for himself to begin looking elsewhere for shelter. He wasn’t however going to abuse his inflated pride and ego by asking or begging anyone for money or for a place to stay. Gavin Reed never begged. He considered very briefly for a second that perhaps he could ask his mother for some money, but remembering his current age, he snapped out of that. Grown adults dealt with their own personal shit and worked through their struggles, regardless of the intensity of them and the difficult obstacles strewn about.

Perhaps he could appeal to the bank and take out another loan…?

On Wednesday, December 2nd, Gavin made the painful, treacherous journey back to his own apartment to pack up his personal belongings and leave for good. He wasn’t interested enough in battling with his jackass of a landlord and taking him to fight in a small claims or Federal court. The man was far too stubborn, recalcitrant, and would probably end up having a damn field day with the case more than anything else.

No…as much as he liked and trusted the legal system of his country, it wasn’t perfect when it came to certain, sensitive things. He knew that due to having first-hand knowledge working as a detective and observing so many similar cases.

Packing his collection of belts, boots, gloves, and old scarves in a large box, Gavin found he should’ve thrown out some of his older clothes, but for some reason, he didn’t want to part with them for now…god damn attachments!!

Maybe he really was a stupid hoarder after all…

A few times as he’d been emptying out his closet and looking under his bed for anything he may have hidden and stored away long ago, the mother tabby came in and out of his apartment. She seemed to be quite bored and exhausted, and she only resorted to grooming herself as Gavin cleaned beneath his bed thoroughly.

His furry feline companion watched him for a while, but then she decided to take an interest in rubbing herself playfully and affectionately against Gavin while he cleaned and worked. Though he didn’t mind it, the motions she created pushed his items around, and she soon randomly decided to take a nap right on top of his stack of clean sheets, towels, and bedding. Gavin let her rest there for a while, but when he needed to place his sheets into a basket to take out to his car, he had to move her.

Mewling and growling angrily for being awakened and moved, she headbutted his back while he placed the bedding and towels inside a dark, plastic basket. Gavin reached down and rubbed her head affectionately, and she soon wandered off afterwards back towards the open window.

Looking at her as she leapt up on the windowsill and bounded off, Gavin knew she was lonely and now that her kittens were all gone, she likely had nothing else to do…almost like himself.

…..

Well, he had something to do, but it was a matter of him being lazy, egotistical, and prideful. That was the only block between going for what he wanted and just ignoring the itch that seemed to begin in his head, and then very slowly, it spread all throughout his body.

He needed to talk to Nines; he needed to apologize, first.

But Nines was…had he even arrived home safely the night Gavin just left him there?! Was he angry with him??

The questions annoyed Gavin to no end, and he decided it was wise to take a break from packing. Might as well man up to what he’d done and beg for forgiveness? No…maybe…??

Since his bed was now clear of sheets, Gavin sat himself down on the edge of it, and as his stomach tied itself wildly in knots as did his heart while racing far too quickly, he held his phone in his hands and stared at Nines’ contact number.

Text…no!

…..

Call!

Calling would be much better, and Gavin could properly apologize on voice.

Yes…that was a good idea, but his hands trembled, and he nearly dropped the phone before his index finger tapped on Nines’ contact information and dialed him right up.

Leaving it on speaker, Gavin listened to at least six rings go through before a loud ‘beep!’ echoed into his ears. Cringing, he disconnected, and then tried again.

Beep!!

What???

Frustrated, Gavin tried again, and this time, after the ‘beep’ went off, Gavin decided to leave a message. It was good that Nines hadn’t blocked his number, but since the android didn’t exactly have an ‘answering machine’ or an ‘outbox’, who was to say whether he would get the message???

Well, he had to at least try and take a chance!

Closing his eyes as the beep went off again, Gavin finally tried speaking from the heart as Hank had instructed him to do. This was going to be a sincere apology, of course, and as he rehearsed it once quickly in his head, he licked his lips and went for it.

It had to come out naturally.

Croaking, he rasped out, “H-hey, Nines, it’s…it’s me…”

No shit.

Wincing, he continued, “I just…you’ll find this funny, I think, but I just got evicted from my apartment, and I guess it’s pretty good payback for—”

His recording had been cut off, and Gavin heard a ‘click’.

A second later, a deep, angry voice growled out to him, “Don’t talk to me, Reed.”

Shit…Nines was definitely pissed, but he technically had every right to be pissed.

Surprised Nines hadn’t hung up on him, yet, Gavin quickly cried out, “Nines, I’m sorry I—”

“Reed,” Nines warned in a hiss as he punctuated out every word slowly and carefully, “You. Beat. Me. Up. And. Left. Me. Stranded…why the hell should I listen to a word you have to say?”

“I wanted to apologize!” Gavin snapped irritably, “my life’s no fuckin’ picnic, Nines, and I swear, in the middle of all my stress associated with leavin’ my damn apartment, I—”

Interrupting him again, Nines growled thickly, “Oh, and I suppose you’re only coming to me for a place to stay then, are you?!”

Enraged by this accusation, Gavin screamed out, “I don’t need your help!!”

“Like hell you don’t, Reed!”

Whimpering like a broken child, suddenly, Gavin cried through clenched teeth, “I c-can’t ask you to let me s-stay, and I won’t!!”

Not even a moment went by before Nines lowered his voice, and with utmost gentleness, he declared, “You can stay, Reed.”

Gavin’s heart flew through the air, and then came crashing down to his feet, right where he felt his stomach was, practically. After everything…after all he’d done to Nines, the android was still being kind to him? Why?

“Why’re you h-helping me?” he breathed out with minor difficulty, shaking and trembling so much that he lay on his back flatly and closed his eyes.

It took Nines a while to answer, and for a moment, Gavin assumed he’d offended the dour android by going too far with his question. But then, through it all, Nines surprised Gavin yet again as he replied, “Because I just want to help you, Reed; there’s no ulterior motive for me in this.”

“I…I don’t—”

“Then don’t; just stay.”

Eyes still closed, Gavin sighed, “Are you sure?”

“If I weren’t, I wouldn’t offer.”

They remained on the phone in silence. Gavin struggled to find something to say that didn’t sound completely stupid, but he kept coming up empty. When he felt drained of the last of the energy he really had, he only muttered out, “Thank you.”

With a semi-exhausted sigh, Nines drawled, “Don’t mention it, Reed; just don’t punch me ever again, alright?”

Nodding quickly, Gavin’s brows came together in a furrowed motion as he asked gently, “Wait, how did you get home, anyway?”

“Funny invention, Reed,” Nines began in quite the sarcastic growl, “it’s called a ‘bus’! Useful machine, isn’t it? You should really take one some time.”

“Oh, knock it off, man!” Gavin interrupted briskly, eyes rolling so far back into his head it hurt. “I already said I was sorry, and I feel like shit because of all this!!”

With a grunt, Nines whispered, “Prick.”

The child in Gavin retorted moodily with, “Asshole.”

Nines didn’t say anything after the last crude remark, but that had calmed Gavin. Sometimes, certain things didn’t need to be said, but felt. The weary detective relaxed significantly, though he could still feel the faint quiver of his hands shaking a little. Oddly, he could no longer tell if it was from excitement or nervousness.

Fabric rustled on the other end of the line, and it hurt Gavin’s ears to listen to since it was on speaker.

“What’re you doin’, Nines?”

With a tiny snort, the android replied quickly, “I’m merely lying down on my infernal sofa, Reed, is that alright with you?”

“No need to be sarcastic, you jerk!” Gavin snapped back, though it lacked a lot of bite. He was honestly curious as to why Nines was lying down on a piece of furniture meant for humans.

Deciding to ask due to his incessant curiosity nagging at him to do so, Gavin spoke out, “Comfy, there?”

More rustling came at his ears, and Nines responded gently, “As comfy as you are in an empty apartment, I imagine.”

“Half empty, I guess,” Gavin sighed as he stared all around his bedroom. “Just me and my empty bedroom, Nines.”

Suddenly, the android purred out semi-seductively, “Alone, huh?”

As soon as he’d said this, for some messed-up reason, Gavin closed his eyes, and he imagined Nines standing there in his room regarding him with a look of hungry desire. It sent shocks of arousal to his groin, and he felt his cock twitch slightly. His thoughts scrambled erratically as he tried fighting it down. Now was not an opportune time for this, and he hated that his lusty body had reacted in such a horrible way to an innocent question Nines merely asked.

As Gavin continuously imagined Nines in the room, he felt himself flush under the android’s intense gaze. Coughing, he then quickly licked his lips in nervous anticipation.

“Alone is good, Nines…”

Shifting again, the android asked quietly, “Is it?” His voice left odd, lingering effects on Gavin’s body, and the detective strained his ears as he focused too much on the deep richness of Nines’ voice that was almost akin to scissors gliding and cutting through silk so softly…

Damn him…

His cock was fully hard, and Gavin quickly took Nines off speaker. Pressing the phone against his ear, he whispered, “You uh…you wearin’ your punk, err…I mean, goth outfit, there?”

…...

What a stupid, perverted thing to ask. Gavin nearly cursed himself for being so out of practice that he had to resort to asking what Nines was wearing in such a crude manner, but it seemed the android didn’t mind.

Chuckling warmly, he seemed to get the hint as he said, “If you wanted to know what I was wearing, Reed, all you had to do was ask.”

Gavin groaned softly, and he shifted his hands upwards to try and stifle his groan from escaping, but it was too late.

Nines growled wantonly, “Are you—”

Gavin coughed out, “No, I mean…not really…are you?”

“Yes,” Nines purred, “I only have my pants on.”

Throwing his head back, Gavin wheezed out, “Holy fuck…” Nines without a shirt sitting there with his perfectly smooth and chiseled abs and chest out in the open?? Greek gods would weep!! Gavin’s mouth went dry immediately.

Shifting again, the sofa creaked as Nines whispered out seductively and hungrily, “Are you going to take anything off?”

Encouraged, it took only a few seconds for Gavin’s hands to go from cupping his mouth to slipping under his shirt and pressing against his ribs. Allowing his hands to slide slowly downwards, he let his fingertips trail a warm path before resting on his waist. His fingers slipped under the hem of his shirt to caress the skin stretched over his hipbones. The light contact made him shiver.

As much of an imagination and fantasy as Gavin had going, Nines apparently had his own, as well. Growling deeply as he settled himself on his sofa, he didn’t make half as many wanton sounds as Gavin had made, but his sense of self-control seemed to heat up Gavin from the inside.

He wanted to hear Nines come undone.

Eyes partly open in small slits, Gavin gasped, the oxygen in his lungs already so fugacious, “Are you…umm…are you touching y-yourself, Nines?”

“Not yet,” the android answered him truthfully, “lie down in the center of your bed, first, and imagine me there with you.”

Scrambling as he did just that obediently, Gavin whispered hurriedly, “O-okay, I will…”

“Such a good boy,” Nines commented, the grin on his face practically more than obvious for his own good. “Lie back on the bed and tell me what you’re doing.”

Too quickly, Gavin cried out, “I’m g-gonna lie down and jack off to your voice.”

He could almost see Nines’ nod as his LED light beamed blue. “You’re going to enjoy my voice now.”

“Yesssss…”

While Gavin could still feel the smallest bit of nervousness underlying his conglomeration of other emotions, his near-painful erection straining against his trousers did most of the thinking for him, and he allowed himself to be led away.

A distinctive wet spot had blossomed on the front of his jeans, a sight that made the aroused detective moan as he rested an incredibly sweaty hand lightly over the bulge of his own erection. Letting out another moan, he was certain that it would take very little effort to bring himself to orgasm at this point.

Gruffly, Nines hissed passionately, “Are you thinking about me?”

Imagination on overdrive, Gavin sighed out ardently, “Yesssss!”

In his mind, Nines was on top of him on the bed as well. The android would press his palms onto Gavin’s thighs just above his knees, and slide his hands slowly upward. His thumbs would brush the innermost part of the limb, stopping just short of Gavin’s very obvious and now near-painful erection. He groaned in frustration, arching his hips invitingly, but still, Nines only growled back in reply. Gavin then opened and closed his fists, trying to work through the pile of mush his brain had become, struggling to form a coherent sentence to demand that Nines do something before he exploded.

“Take your jeans off.”

His deft fingers unhooked the button and unzipped the garment, peeling it off at a pace so slow that Gavin was certain it had to be deliberate.

Grinding his teeth together as he arched his back and ass off the bed and threw his jeans to the floor, he moaned out, “Nines…I w-wish you were here with me…”

In a low growl portraying just how much Gavin’s words had affected him, Nines almost hungrily and greedily exclaimed, “I am here…I am here for you.”

Gavin never wanted Nines to stop talking. It was odd; he’d never been so highly turned on and aroused by a man’s voice, but Nines’ voice dripped sex and lust, now, and Gavin’s carnal side only wanted more as he began curling his fingers around his cock over his boxer briefs.

Auditory powers now heightened; Gavin heard Nines’ own hand moving over his slick length. Nines’ movements soon became more erratic, causing Gavin to gasp when he imagined feeling Nines’ hand instead of his own shifting from his hip to coil around his cock. Would he palm Gavin in time with his own thrusts??

Longing to hear more of Nines’ deep groaning that spurred him on beyond belief, Gavin was clutching his cock with a death grip and holding onto the edge of the bed-frame with another hand, desperately trying to keep his voice down so neighbors wouldn’t hear. It proved to be difficult, so he opted for a different strategy.

Begging as he gripped the phone, now, he cried out while his right hand was still resting beneath his boxers, “Nines…God…p-please s-say something!!”

Grunting, Nines inquired, “What do you—”

“Please!” Gavin whined, “I’m a-aching all over!”

Though he was less than thrilled to wake from his highly satisfying dreams and fantasies to find his own right hand absently stroking himself rather than Nines’, hearing the android talk hotly in his ear would greatly help. He was at once horrified and too horny to care about the fact that this was still Nines, and he beat himself off halfheartedly while waiting for Nines to acquiesce to his last demand.

Gavin’s ears caught the sound of slick, heated flesh being grabbed at and stroked, and he knew Nines was eagerly touching himself. Imagining the powerful, well-built android lying there completely naked on his leather sofa while masturbating sent a wave of shock and sexuality slamming into Gavin so potently, that the multitudinous amounts of self-control he had to exert over himself were unsurpassed.

Almost coming apart at the seams, he cried out, “Niiines, d-do something—”

“I need you, Gavin,” came the deep rumble of a reply, “I want to hold you close, touch you, kiss you, and—”

“Noooo!” he shook his head, his hand momentarily releasing his own cock as he completely shimmied out of his boxers. “Nines,” he coughed as he tried catching his breath, but it was so difficult due to what he’d wanted to ask.

Sensing his hesitation, Nines’ strokes slowed down as well. “Gavin, what is it?”

Toying with the hem of his shirt, Gavin couldn’t decide to take it off, so he left it on. Staring at the ceiling for a moment while he was in a semi-lucid state, he shook in pure mortification. “Nah…it’s…it’s n-nothing, Nines…” he uncomfortably blabbed out, hands shaking again, “…please f-f-forget it?”

Nines didn’t even hesitate before he supplied, “No, I want you to feel good, Gavin, and I’ll do anything you need me to.”

That was a rather loaded statement, and the implications of it sent delicious throbs and pools of desire right into the tip of Gavin’s already tumescent cock. Naturally, his hands resumed their motions over his erection, stroking it quickly and firmly. Not wanting to lose the moment, Gavin whined, “Just…please…it’s…it’s embarrassing!!!”

Nines still hadn’t resumed touching himself, and that seemed to annoy Gavin. Not wanting to be the only one beating off and run the risk of being viewed as some kind of a pervert, Gavin groaned, “Fine…forget it…”

It was stupid, anyway.

But as he went to move off the bed, Nines clicked out hurriedly, “Nothing’s embarrassing between us, Gavin. Tell me what you want.”

His cock begged and begged and begged, and he couldn’t stand the idea of walking around with a painful erection all day long. Also not wanting to be that older, single guy without a girlfriend and having gone so long without physical intimacy who jerked off at the smallest thing, Gavin arched off his bed in sheer frustration. He could feel his skin turning hotter and sweatier, and it was enough.

Sitting up, he yanked his shirt off, and now, he was completely naked on his bed.

Lying back down, he hissed in a warning at Nines, “D-do you promise you w-won’t repeat this or f-f-find me weird??”

Already, he could hear Nines stroking himself shamelessly again, clearly egged on by Gavin’s lewd and lust-filled moans and whines. After a deep groan that was hardly suppressed, Nines sang out, “I promise you, Gavin, I won’t think you’re weird.”

That was a relief, and Nines truly sounded like he meant it.

With renewed courage coursing through his system, now, Gavin once again took to playing with himself. Starting from his balls, he massaged them gently, still thinking that it was Nines’ hand over his own instead of a solo job. Throwing his head back and sighing as his body lit up and was covered with more thick drops of sweat, he cooed loudly, “I n-need you to talk t-to me, b-but…” Wincing when he’d pulled on the tip of his erection a tad too roughly, he trembled before continuing, “…I need you to r-really talk dirty to me, Nines…”

Would Nines understand, now?? Though Gavin didn’t want to go into explicit details, what he yearned for extended far beyond a simple mash of ‘I want to do such and such and this and that to you’. No, he needed to be talked down to, he wanted to be degraded, and he needed to know just how damn filthy and sullied he was. Only then would he feel wanted, complete, desired, and valued. Sex to him always came as a means of exchanging certain desires and needs until both parties were satisfied, and this was much the same. He was using Nines, and Nines was using him, and when they were done, it wasn’t going to mean anything. Why be so ‘romantic’ and ‘fluffy’ about it?

Having convinced himself of this enough while he waited and prayed for Nines to get on with it, Gavin lost and surrendered himself to his fantasies. Now, they consisted of his own fingers laced through the messy black strands covering Nines’ head, pulling roughly at different intervals when the handsome android would do something particularly enticing to his body…preferably such as sucking his weeping cock.

Positive he was beyond ready and wet, now, Gavin was about to cry out again, but Nines saved him by cutting through the barriers.

Voice teetering on the edge of losing self-control, he gravelly spat out, “Are you absolutely sure you want me to—”

“Oh God! Yes!” Gavin screamed in mild anger, “yes I’m sure, Nines!”

“Very well, then.”

Bracing himself, Gavin closed his eyes tightly, blocking out the sounds of the wind outside, traffic moving about, and the old heating system kicking up in the apartment. Now, he just needed and wanted Nines’ voice to be his undoing; his breaking point, his salvation, his state of constant misery, and his only thread of sanity in the waking world.

Stroking himself languidly to draw out the pleasure before the moment finished all too quickly, Nines took his time, as though he was slowly piecing the words together. But Gavin however knew that this was the utmost form of torture; making him wait and anticipate the moment that chocolate rich, deep voice reverberated through his body.

Breaths hitching in his throat as he waited, Gavin let out a strained whimper when the more anxious and flustered side of his brain warned him that perhaps Nines wasn’t going to go through with this…

And then, Nines emitted a low, beastly growl that made Gavin’s hair stand on end.

“Are you still stroking your cock while imagining my hand on you?”

Staring down at his cock in his hand, Gavin nodded, “Y-yes.”

“Hmm,” Nines hummed in thought, “bet you’re a greedy fucking whore then, aren’t you?”

At that exact moment, Gavin felt his toes involuntarily curling. Moving his hand over his length faster, his mind and heart both reeled in pure delight. “Ohhh…” he panted out in raw need, “fuuuuck…”

Chuckling, Nines commented, “I wonder if you’re aware of how slutty you sound.”

“Moooore, Niiiines,” Gavin wheezed as he writhed around in the center of the bed like a worm on a hook dangling.

Only degradation was what he wanted, and Nines seemed happy with providing that for him.

“Don’t even think about taking your hand off your cock, you bitch,” came his deep growl, nearly making Gavin’s rib cage rattle from the intensity of it, “so needy, so deliciously pitiful...”

He was, and he needed to hear more of it.

“Niiines, keep g-going!”

“Yeah, I bet you want me to keep going, because it’s never enough for that greedy body of yours, is it?”

Now, Gavin really was imagining the things Nines was saying he wanted to do to him, and his body was on fire as he whined and thrashed almost violently on the bed. All sorts of obscene noises emanated from the bed squeaking and creaking in time with Gavin’s hips thrusting out, and his labored breathing rose above it all as he stroked himself firmly.

Snarling, Nines spat, “Are you really that much of a slut that you can’t even wait to have my fingers in your needy ass? Or are you going to immediately stuff three of them in one go?”

It was horrifyingly debasing, but Gavin still cried out for more as his eyelashes and eyelids fluttered rapidly.

“I bet you’re tight,” Nines purred deliciously, and it sent lovely sensations throughout Gavin’s entire body. “I bet that ass could really take the pounding it so deserves from me.”

“H-holy fuck!!”

“Is that what you want, you fucking whore? Hmm?” Nines goaded him licentiously, “think you can behave yourself? I doubt you have the self-control for that.”

Yanking at his hair while his right hand flew up and down his cock with potent bursts of speed, Gavin garbled out a stream of nonsense while he heard Nines also shifting and moving harder and faster on his sofa.

Snapping at him, then, Nines bellowed, “How do you want my dick, baby? Hmm? Want me to fuck you right in front of everyone you know and everyone we work with? Is that it?” Viciously, he hissed thinly, “Outside? Do you want them to see and hear while I show them all just how good this big, hard dick makes you feel as you take it all inch by inch?”

“Yes! Yesss! Yess!! Fuck!!!” With each accentuated word, Gavin wildly thrust his hips, and he knew he was close when his balls tightened in that age-old delicious, rapturous way. It really had been too long for him, after all…

Taking it as far as he could, Nines proudly groaned out, “I’m going to make sure everyone knows who you belong to, who owns you, and who can only make you come as hard as you’re going to come, now.”

Eyes slowly opening, Gavin whimpered out on a high note, “Niiiiiiiiiiiiines!!!”

Crudely, the android added, “Your body is only a tool for pleasure; nothing more. I’m going to just use it for that purpose, and when I’m done with you, I’ll make sure my scent and my mark are all over you.”

Images flew in Gavin’s mind as he imagined Nines biting him, sucking his skin until he had love bites all over and hickeys, and in a second, he also saw Nines coming all over his face…

He let out rounds of hungry, deep groans, completely unable to contain himself any longer.

“That’s right, you fucking—”

“NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINES!”

“Touch your nipples, NOW!”

Obediently, he ran his finger over one hard nipple, and the sensation caused Gavin to shiver. He hadn’t forgotten about his cock, and as he stroked it, he made sure he paid attention to other sensitive areas of his body. This was truly new; he’d never really played with his nipples in this way, but now that Nines had drawn attention to it, Gavin couldn’t stop touching them.

Focusing again on Nines’ voice, he heard the android huffing heavily, but for some reason, the stroking seemed to have stopped on his end…

He didn’t care; he needed release, and that was the only thing Gavin had on his mind for the time being.

Before he could beg Nines, however, the android seemed to be a few steps ahead of him.

“Who told you to slow down? Hmm?” Again, the dominant, deep voice pulled at the center and pit of his stomach, “Keep going, filthy, dirty slut.”

“Ooooh!! Nghh!! S-so c-close!”

In a demanding tone, Nines cried, “I want you to come for me, Gavin…”

And he did without much more effort.

With a strained cry, Gavin came for the first time that evening, sputtering over his stomach, the bedspread, and his own hand. His cries seemed to have pushed himself to the edge, and he released one final time before slumping forward and fell boneless onto the mattress. He realized he’d been screaming so loudly that his throat ached and burned, and his lungs felt as though they’d been stretched. His sternum hurt as though an elephant had sat on him, and he tried gasping for mouthfuls of fresh air like he’d been drowning and only resurfaced at the last minute.

With his heart beating steadily in his ears, he felt the steam and heat rising off his neck, cheeks, and from the top of his head. When he moved, he felt how sweaty even his hair was, and the wet strands clung and stuck to the back of his neck in a disgusting manner. His own spend was rapidly cooling off and sticking to his skin, and the distinct smell of semen flew about in the air.

Recoiling from it, Gavin wriggled onto his side, and as he fought to gain his strength back in his knees and legs, he smiled weakly.

He’d never felt better.

Clearing his throat once he felt ready enough to talk, he whispered breathlessly, “Th-thank you, Nines, that was the be—”

And suddenly, without so much as a warning, Nines hung up on Gavin.

Chapter Text

Gavin was truly baffled. Not only had Nines helped give him one of the best and most delightfully powerful orgasms he’d experienced in a long, long time, but in the same breath, he’d also pushed Gavin right out. The detective was rendered beyond speechless when he’d attempted numerous times to reconnect with Nines, only to find that again, his number was blocked.

Stupid Nines!! Didn’t they supposedly have an agreement for Gavin to stay over at his place?! How could the blasted android have reneged on his promise?!

After sending numerous texts inquiring about just that, Gavin found that his messages were not only ignored, but each and every one of them bounced right back to him. When he’d received his tenth ‘error, failed to send to recipient’ text, that was when he took his belongings and stormed down to return his apartment key to his landlord in the basement level of the damn building. A dark cloud of anguish seethed over his head the entire time, so much that it practically buried and smothered Gavin beyond comprehension. Even breathing was difficult…

A quick phone call with Hank Anderson however was his lifesaver. The older man stated that after his own work shift, he would be more than happy to allow Gavin to stay with him for as long as he liked and needed.

Ideally, although grateful, the irate detective didn’t want to overstep his bounds, so he elucidated to Hank that he would stay only until he could get a hold of Nines and figure out what was going on.

Immediately after saying this out loud to his elderly co-worker in the late morning the next day, Gavin fell into deep-seated regret. Not only did Hank toss him scornful looks, but he also decided to dish out plenty of lectures while he tried probing Gavin for more information pertaining to what he’d done to Nines.

“Hank, leave it alone,” Gavin wailed mournfully for the hundredth time as the other male filled up Sumo’s doggie dish with fresh food and treats. Almost right away upon hearing the bowl being filled up, the orange and white kitten ran over towards the bowl and began feasting merrily. Sumo soon joined his kitty companion, nuzzling the tiny, furry animal as they ate together.

Pointing at the sheer oddity of it all, Gavin commented weakly, “But he’s a cat…”

Staring over at the animals in the kitchen, Hank’s eyes widened slightly. “Oh yeah,” he let out a small, subdued chuckle, “apparently, Shinobi thinks he’s a dog; eatin’ outta Sumo’s bowl is the most natural thing in the world for him and has been for a while, so I just let him keep doin’ it.”

Gavin quirked a brow, “Shinobi?”

Blushing, Hank chuckled louder this time. “Yeah, it’s what I named the cat.”

Sumo and ‘Shinobi’? Somehow, that wasn’t a poor choice for a name…

Nodding in his approval, Gavin had meant to continue branching off into that type of a new topic, but Hank stopped him shortly.

“Nice try with the little distraction technique there, Gavin, but you forget that I’ve been playing this game long before you even had a cellphone, kid.”

Glaring at Hank’s triumphant grin plastered on his face, Gavin snorted crudely, “Wise ass.”

“So tell me, then,” Hank softly goaded as he sat down across from Gavin at the kitchen table, taking a quick second to eye his baskets, boxes, and duffle bags containing his personal belongings.

Gavin’s entire world was now simply reduced to boxes and baskets which hung around the entrance to Hank Anderson’s bright kitchen.

“Tell me what miraculous thing you did to shut Nines down from helping you.” The demand was raw and clear in Hank’s voice, and Gavin couldn’t ignore it.

However, his mind had wandered.

Nearly missing the Lieutenant’s posed question the first time around, Gavin’s brain hurriedly repeated it over while the spoken words slowly and deeply sank into his head, penetrating the levels of consciousness and understanding one nerve ending at a time.

Trying to stifle a displeased, uncomfortable gasp, Gavin was already scrambling for a fabricated version of the events. Unfortunately, Hank sensed it, and he immediately pointed a finger sharply in his face.

Scowling heatedly, Hank’s thick, grey eyebrows clenched together firmly on his brow ridge before he warned, “And no lies or bullshit, Gavin!! Do you hear me?”

Rolling his eyes petulantly, Gavin wheezed, “Well, it’s kinda embarrassing, Hank…”

“I don’t care, Gavin,” his older friend briskly barked out, “if you don’t talk to me, then I really can’t help you.”

As truthful and visceral as this was, Gavin really didn’t want to have to go through this stupid ordeal. However, knowing he’d already shared a lot of personal information with Hank without really suffering overly ill effects, his trust in the older man shot up a bit as he nodded and braced himself.

Fingers drumming steadily on the table, Gavin watched as Shinobi and Sumo finished their meal and began grooming each other, now. Sumo made sure to clean behind Shinobi’s small, pointy ears, while the tiny feline purred and ran his rough, pink tongue over Sumo’s chest.

Clearing his throat again, Hank managed to capture Gavin’s attention once more while he still waited patiently for the explanations that would hopefully soon roll out of Gavin’s mouth.

No longer wanting to drag it out so as to make himself suffer, Gavin held a hand over his burning eyes and croaked out, “Okay, so I basically took your advice and apologized to Nines for punching him and leaving him stranded in the mall parking lot.” Taking a quick breath, he continued, face still hidden and shielded by his own hand.

“Like, I a-apologized and I tried t-talking to him as a friend, b-but then stuff g-got weird…” Hoping that would suffice, Gavin lowered his hand from covering his eyes just to check on Hank’s current facial expression.

Evidently, the Lieutenant was nothing short of absolutely confused. Shaking his head lightly, he said, “Go on, Gavin; ‘weird’ can literally mean anything. You’re gonna have to be more specific.”

Specificity was something he was more than used to answering and being faced with in his line of work as a detective. However, when it came to his private life, specifics were avoided like the damn plague.

Bashfully, Gavin tapped one hand on his knee, and another on his chest. It was a gesture and motion for the intent to steady the wild thrumming of the muscle currently throbbing a mile a minute in his chest.

Gulping down a few mouthfuls of air, he silently prayed that Hank wouldn’t throw a damn fit.

Pressing his hands together to contain his increasing anxiety, Gavin pushed out in a deliberately gentle tone, “I…we were chatting, and basically, things k-kinda got o-out of hand…” Right away, his own sex-starved, lusty thoughts supplied the memory of his conversation with Nines, and he felt that technically, things had kind of been in hand…Gavin nearly blushed at his own perverted thoughts running amok.

Hank, on the other hand, seemed slightly confused, still, but his mind was working on ‘solving’ bits and pieces of the mystery Gavin was slowly unraveling.

Rubbing his nose for a moment, Hank asked, “Out of hand?”

Gavin hated it when people asked questions based on often repeating information he’d already given. Didn’t anyone understand a thing or two about implications, subtlety, and the ‘fine social art’ on taking a hint?

…..

No, perhaps Hank didn’t get it.

Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Gavin truly felt ‘cornered’ and mildly suffocated even though Hank hadn’t said or done anything menacing or threatening to him. Implications seemed to be enough, though.

Fessing up, he painfully droned on, “Basically, I…l-like, we got excited and we…” He stared in a blatantly obvious manner between his own legs.

Looking down there as well for a nanosecond, Hank gruffly breathed, “Yeah, and?”

…..

He really didn’t understand, and how it came to be that Hank Anderson was this dense truly scared Gavin.

Not really wanting to be blunt or rude, the detective tried once more. With utmost amounts of anguish marring his facial features, Gavin tried, “We…had…phone…sex?”

…..

Hank let out a long, sad sigh as he wheezed with half closed eyes, “Frivolous…Gavin, truly a show of fuckin’ frivolity right there.”

Frowning, Gavin tilted his head, “What does ‘frivolity’ mean?”

Holding a hand up mimicking the stop for pedestrians symbol on traffic lights and signals, Hank lethargically and very slowly closed his eyes, brows furrowed as he grunted, “Gavin, I get it; you and Nines were…” Shivering, he interrupted himself as he opened his eyes marginally and coughed on broken notes, “You were…acting like a bunch of befuddled teenagers going through puberty, I get it. Nothing really wrong with that, but—”

“Do you have to be so crude about it? Jesus!!” Not really wanting to ‘be here’ and be engaged in the conversation, Gavin turned his neck to the side and chose instead to stare out the kitchen windows at the whiteness outside.

Shaking his head in disappointment, Hank sighed, “I told you to be Nines’ friend, Gavin; not engage in ma-mast…yeah, that shit with him when you obviously are both not yet prepared to be in that type of a relationship, because you yourself especially…”

As Hank droned on and on, a part of Gavin’s brain just shut off to the words. Soon, he found he wasn’t even really listening to Hank as he just continued to gaze out the windows of the kitchen. He knew he should’ve been listening to what Hank had to say, especially considering how he was taking his time and staying in his place like a guest, but he just zoned out completely. It was a familiar defense mechanism when someone either lectured him on things he didn’t want to hear, or it happened whenever he was faced with an uncomfortable truth. His brain and imagination created a schism between the present situation, and his future dreams looming large.

Enchanted by the sight of the thick flakes swirling in the chilly air outside, Gavin saw the odd streetlights and car lights standing and passing by sentinel in the background. Hank went on, but Gavin paused in his inner musings with his face lifted, inhaling the crisp air, taking in the almost magical scene. He missed the snowy Christmas times of his school days; there was just something about Christmas and snow that went together in his mind. In spite of everything else, things looked…perfect.

Eventually, noticing that Gavin wasn’t listening, Hank sighed as he threw his hands in the air and bemoaned deeply, “Aaand just like that, I’ve lost you. Well done.”

Smiling fondly, Gavin continued to look out the window almost longingly, and as he did, his smile grew wider.

Not letting go just yet due to the ‘progress’, Hank tapped Gavin’s arm, which rested lazily on top of the kitchen table. “Gavin? You hear a word I said?”

Only Sumo’s loud yawning and Shinobi’s soft mewls were Hank’s replies. The small feline had thoroughly enjoyed consuming his meal and bath. He’d then resorted to settling himself on top of Sumo’s large back when the dog lay himself down on the carpeted floor of the hallway for an afternoon nap.

In hardly any time at all, Sumo’s tremulous snoring emanated from just down the hall behind the kitchen and living room, and Hank threw the pair of animals an incredulous look.

“Eat and sleep, eat and sleep,” he grunted as he scratched an arm softly, “that’s all those two clowns ever do.” Ending one portion of his rant, he fleeted to another as he glared away at his pets in disdain.

“When you first brought Shinobi over, I thought his youth would inspire and spark more energy in Sumo! You know? Get ‘em to act more like a puppy or somethin’, but nah, I can see that Sumo’s rubbed off on Shinobi; it’s like that cat’s ancient, now, and he’s ever so damn lazy.”

His smile covering his entire face, now, Gavin almost let out a tiny chuckle, unrestrained as he listened to Sumo’s snores, Shinobi’s light purrs of sheer satisfaction and delight, and the wind coolly blowing outside the house.

Hank soon found himself smiling as well, though he didn’t want to.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

They fell into a gentle, quiet routine afterwards. Hank went back to work after December 3rd, and up until the 5th, Gavin remained alone inside Hank’s house just doing absolutely nothing. Yes, he was a guest, but he didn’t give himself the free right and permission to snoop about in Hank’s house or touch any of his personal items and belongings. However, the least he felt he could do to return Hank’s kindness was to make sure he didn’t create much of a mess, and if he did, he cleaned it swiftly.

Gavin soon turned into something of a ‘housemaid’ for Hank Anderson; cleaning all throughout the house, feeding Shinobi and Sumo, bathing them, taking Sumo out for walks, shoveling Hank’s driveway, sorting out the recycling, trash, and compost. His days consisted of dusting, cooking, sorting and organizing Hank’s fridge and freezer, and making sure everything else was in proper order.

However, as nice and as generous as that all happened to be, by December 5th, Gavin was bored. He enjoyed helping Hank wherever he could, but after having dusted every corner and inch of the house, mopping the floors, and doing his own laundry for the second time, he’d run out of options and chores.

It was only at the behest of Hank that Gavin woke up on Thursday, December 6th and had been more or less ‘booted’ and launched from his older friend’s home for the purposes of getting fresh air and taking a walk.

“A change of scenery is good, Gavin,” the old, wise Lieutenant had grumbled out to him as he’d headed out the door and right up to his car while munching on still warm toast. “Go out to town for a bit if you want, but make sure Sumo and Shinobi are fed first!!” And with that, he was gone, and Gavin was left to his personal devices and choices.

For the first two hours after Hank had left, Gavin moped about and wallowed in his own self-pitying misery. Watching Sumo and Shinobi play around and chase each other about the house was also getting quite tedious, so Gavin did what Hank instructed. Feeding the animals first, he then let Sumo out into the cold to do his business. Once the large animal bounded back into the house and curled himself right up next to a napping Shinobi in Sumo’s dog basket, Gavin felt the same pangs of boredom and emptiness seeping into his system once again.

It slammed and riveted into him, and over time, it morphed into fear.

What was he afraid of???

…..

Loneliness…

“Alone is good, Nines…”

Nearly vomiting at remembrance of his own words spoken earlier, Gavin headed to change into something warm. His mind was made up right there: it was better to go out and get some fresh air. Sitting inside all day long would not only enable him to develop a sense of ‘cabin fever’, but he was also ruminating and pondering on subjects and topics that genuinely made him feel uncomfortable…better to avoid altogether.

Glancing once more at Sumo and Shinobi napping, he headed out before he changed his mind.

It was beyond cold outside, but it was crisp and refreshing, just like Hank said it would be. The cold wind blowing by slapped into his cheeks, freezing them up from top to bottom. The tip of his nose ached as he inhaled nothing but cold, dry air. Soon, his skin was burning-though not from the warmth; but from the brutal, unforgiving coldness. It made his eyes sting, but it hurt and was too much of a great feat to even blink. His eyelids felt as though they weighed a ton!!

Although his clothes keep his torso warm, a lot of unnecessary things happened to make his day rather unpleasant. He was barely halfway down the street, when a large truck zoomed by, far too close to the curb for Gavin’s liking. Since it’d rained in the early hours of the morning, the snow that was blanketing the grounds had turned to brown-grey slush.

Gavin had been in the middle of enjoying the various Christmas lights and decorations on full and proud display throughout the street, but it seemed the truck didn’t want to allow him to enjoy the sights to the fullest extent. It drove right by him in a flash, splashing cold snow-mud on his boots, and the charm was gone, just like that. Grimacing once he got over the initial shock, Gavin shook the muck from his pant legs and set out across the quiet street, making his way towards downtown.

Suspecting a lot of activity in the busy, hustle and bustle at the heart of the city, Gavin headed quickly for the first place his eyes landed on. When the wind ceased blowing so harshly, he inhaled a deep breath and saw a bar he hadn’t ever been to yet.

It would do; he could use a drink right about now.

The pub was deliciously warm and crowded when he pushed through the door, the fragrances of apple and pumpkin pie heavily permeating the air. Ale and mulled pumpkin juice contrasted and provided a spicy counterpoint to the thick smell of cigar and smoke. Several people looked up and nodded in a welcoming manner at him as he passed. Friendly folks! Returning their greetings with a smile and a nod, Gavin felt rather awkward after not having been in a bar for a few months. Still, he didn’t pause. He was late as it was, and he’d already steeled himself for the inevitable fact that there weren’t going to be any booths or seats left for him.

Checking the bar thoroughly with his eyes alone, Gavin confirmed that it was true; he couldn’t sit or stay here.

Stepping out through the back door, he waved his hand negligently at a few bartenders calling out to him as he passed through. When he was back outside again, the wind picked up. Gavin could hear the grinding of feet and wet tires along pavement and ice. Citizens milled and fluttered about, window shopping, getting exercise, and exposing themselves to fresh air as well. Gavin avoided eye contact with anyone who passed him by as he strode along the busy streets briskly. A breeze tossed an eddy of powdery snowflakes into his face, and he flipped his jacket collar up around his chin.

Glancing up at a few windows, he saw TVs blaring inside shops and restaurants notifying everyone of precisely when the Santa Claus Parade would be happening…

Detroit City wasn’t often a wondrous place at any time, but as Christmas approached, it truly seemed enchanted. This year, majority of denizens seemed to have taken up an almost ‘old fashioned’ theme and style of décor. The windows and sides of buildings were all alight with flickering torches and colored lanterns, brilliant with assorted eye-popping displays. Androids and humans walked side-by-side, hand-in-hand, laughing, crying out in glee, singing songs, and having the time of their lives. The dark days of the Android Revolution were long forgotten, but for the slightly pessimistic detective, how it could be that anyone who had seen what a sad and grey place Detroit had become could not help but make comparisons. Its pre-war exuberance was back, tenfold, and it always made Gavin smile, especially when he came within sight of Mad Dog Gaming, a little game shop that his parents had often taken him to every month or so. A mad riot of color even during the war, now, it was nothing more than a child’s storybook run amok.

He pushed through the bright red doors, dodging two young boys who ran past shooting some sort of spark guns at one another and ducked around a gaggle of pre-teen girls who were gathered near the hot pink, ‘android unicorns and elf’ toys on display. One of them caught sight of him, her eyes widening comically, and she elbowed her friend.

Gavin rolled his eyes when he brushed past the girls and heard one of them whispering out, “He’s kinda hot!!”

“Eeeewww!” her friend shrieked in return, “he’s like, my dad’s age!!”

Wounded by what he heard, Gavin ground his teeth over each other as his body stiffened almost involuntarily. How fucking rude. Where his day had once been not so bad, now, upon hearing that comment, he felt like dog shit. He didn’t need to be reminded of his own damn age and looks, and his self-confidence fell into the toilet as he heard the girls giggling impishly.

Was he really that old already?!

Realizing he’d been searching for a mirror before he himself took notice of it, Gavin felt his heart fluttering while he imagined in his mind just what his current state of appearance happened to be.

Was he as disheveled as he suspected? Was his hair sweaty, matted, greasy? Were his cheeks pink? Gaunt? Were there deep-sunken bags under his eyes?! Was his skin wrinkly?!

…..

No, there wasn’t a mirror on the first floor of the shop, from what he was able to recollect. As such, Gavin began making his way towards the second floor.

The second floor was filled with more merchandise, most of it of far less interesting to the younger children. A lot of older teenagers and college-age people hung around the shop’s second level. A small coffee shop had been added into the establishment, Gavin noticed. While the older groups hung around there, the slightly younger ones peeked around shelves and display cases for goodies. The games and toys were now reserved to the vast main floor; the second floor was for stealth and tracking merchandise, as well as some rather advanced consoles and video game sets.

Checking them all out for a quick moment only because his eyes happened to see them, he returned to his quest for a mirror…where was it?!?

Speeding by a group of teenagers sitting and lounging about on beany chairs, the nervous detective nearly missed a few steps, and he tripped over his own feet due to walking so quickly. Though he didn’t fall to the floor as he’d feared, he sure as hell made a fool out of himself. The teenagers and older college-age adolescents snickered at him, but as he hung his head down and blushed through his mortification, he made his way past them towards the back of the shop.

He found no mirror, to his horror. It was gone. In its place above the wall it used to once hang from, Gavin found a large window to the outside world.

What the hell!?

Disappointed beyond imagination, he thought about punching right through it in anger. Why was it here?! It had no right to be here!! What was it doing on this wall instead of sporting the fucking mirror?!?

Shaking in bouts of uncontrollable rage, Gavin steadied his breathing as he noticed he was fogging up the glass pretty heavily. It covered the entire window, practically, and its dewy essence made Gavin feel kind of gross.

Reaching out with both hands, he hissed when his warm skin pressed against the icy cold there, and he rubbed hurriedly. It had to go! It was going to disappear!!

Wiping and rubbing quickly, he leaned in closer and closer until his forehead touched the glass. He felt his mind throbbing and brain aching from the coldness that seeped into his head, but he didn’t stop his hand motions or breaths.

Squinting as he took a moment, Gavin looked outside for the longest time, just watching quotidian traffic speed by. The world was unaffected, but he was having a small panic attack as he longed to take a better, clearer look at himself. But it was impossible when the glass was so foggy…he only saw distorted things.

…..

They moved…

What was he seeing?!

Whatever it was, it drew Gavin further and deeper into the window. He didn’t care about the cold; he was seeing himself, finally.

As clear as day, he saw an eight-year-old version of himself running around in the exact same store, and it was unmistakably uncanny, and as real as anything he’d ever witnessed before.

Why, he could even hear his own laughter ringing in his ears…strange, even the laughs that escaped him sounded far more innocent…

Chapter Text

Short legs ran through the warm, cozy shop. Chipper, innocent laughter trailed after him and sweetened the ambiance as other customers and shoppers smiled once they caught sight of him. He climbed the second staircase at the back of the crowded game shop floor, up to the door that led to a world of happiness at the center of Gavin’s imagination and heart.

All smiles, he pushed through the doors, the distinct smell of popcorn and cotton candy slamming into his nostrils at once.

A tall, jovial Santa Claus standing close to the door waved at him merrily. “Hello little boy!!” after waving auspiciously at Gavin, he dug into a large, brown leather bag that was supposed to be his sack full of toys and treats. Knowing that he was in for a real surprise, Gavin could hardly contain his excitement, and he began bouncing up and down with his arms outstretched.

The Santa’s eyes twinkled as he chuckled out deeply, “My, my!! You’re already so happy, young boy!!”

“My gift!” Gavin cried out, and just before he could leap up into the air to grab at the leather bag, a large hand slammed down powerfully over his shoulder.

Effectively held down at once, Gavin stood frozen stiff. Eyes shifting to the right, he took a small peek at the large hand, and he recognized the owner.

“Dad?”

His dark hair blowing in the potent burst of air from the heaters, eyes somehow both exhausted, yet holding scrutiny within their depths, and mouth set in a thin, pursed line, Felix Reed stared down at his son. Not yet removing the hand upon Gavin’s shoulder, the Reed patriarch didn’t seem to move for a long time. The air around him grew stale all too quickly, and an almost unpleasant aura wove about him before it affected Gavin and the Santa Claus.

The blissful actor stared once at Gavin, and then at Felix. All too quickly, he coughed out, “Ho-ho-ho! Meerrryyy Christmaaaas!!”

Not returning the holiday cheer, Felix barely nodded. While still staring at the Santa, he spoke out to his son. “I told you to stay by my side, Gavin, and what did you do?” Not allowing the boy to answer, he continued softly, “You bolted up the steps and didn’t even bother answering me as I called after you.”

Sensing something rather awkward and unpleasant about the situation, the Santa actor reached over his thick, dark belt buckle, where a few silver and golden bells hung. Ringing them playfully, he sang out, “The boy deserves a gift!!”

“Oh really?” Felix-still polite sounding-drawled out as his eyebrows rose gracefully on his face, “think you know my son that well, huh?” His hands jammed into the pockets of his long black wool coat; the very coat that Carrie had given him on last year’s Christmas. The older Reed’s face turned impassive, but his eyes reflected both the light and heat of the luminescent decorations about in the store.

Things really turned sour, from there on.

Wincing, Gavin still eyed his gift, which the Santa was holding curled in a black gloved hand. Nodding at it while still reminding himself not to leap up or forward in excitement when his father had already given him a warning, Gavin only whimpered. He felt so small, hopeless, and childish, but he really wanted his gift…

His father sniffed, and then gruffly barked out, “Come on, Gavin; we only have an hour left before your mother will start to worry.”

That was it; what father said, goes, as his mother had often told him.

Hanging his head down sadly now that he knew he couldn’t obtain his gift, Gavin nodded. Only turning away from the Santa when he heard his father shifting backwards, he missed the sad smile followed by a genuine look of concern the Santa actor tossed his way.

Felix stood back tall and proud, and Gavin moved out of the room to head towards the steps leading back down while his father studied him with watchful eyes. He stood that way until he heard his son’s tiny footsteps hurry past, and he looked over his shoulder to watch the Santa actor trudge away.

As Gavin obediently stood and waited for his father to walk him down the steps, he saw plenty of children running around flying tiny airplane models and drones in the store. He really wanted to check them out, but his father wouldn’t let him!!

Pressing a hand in the center of his son’s back, Felix sighed tiredly, “Let’s move it, Gavin; I have a client to meet up with, and then we have to get going.”

So they began their descent.

Along the way, Gavin saw amazing sights. Unable to help the gasp that suddenly spilled forth from his mouth, he felt delighted when rows of colored lights sprang into view as they were slowly being lit around each of the dozens of windows outside. Across the steep roofline of the building next door visible through windows, Gavin could see dancing people having the time of their lives. More pretty lights wrapped around the banisters of the wrought iron railings leading up to the front door of the shop, and now that it was getting darker, the lights automatically buzzed on.

“Woooah!” Gavin cried out, “dad, can we stay maybe a bit longer?”

Rubbing his forehead as soon as they walked down to the first level of the shop, Felix held Gavin back as he loomed over him. “No, Gavin,” straightening his son’s scarf, he then dug into his own pockets. Withdrawing from them two blue mittens and a blue hat, he fit them over Gavin’s hands and head. “We’re leaving,” his father reiterated, this time more roughly, “and I don’t want to stand here all day arguing with you.”

The scarf was a bit too tight around his neck, but he didn’t say anything. He allowed his father to press it up protectively over his nose while the doors of the shop opened. Making sure his son’s hand was held tightly in his own, Felix Reed led the way back out into the cold, wintery world.

As they walked together on the sidewalks, Gavin enjoyed how his boots crunched the salt that had been sprayed there earlier to remove dangerous black ice so people could walk safely. Playfully, he tossed the salt along with his boots, watching in amusement as the round beads skipped ahead a few feet before slowing down and waiting for him to kick again.

“Gavin, slow down a bit,” his father warned him, and obediently, the young boy ceased playing around.

Before he grew bored, he stared around up in the sky at large apartment buildings and expensive, fancy houses past the shops. Candles burst into brilliant flame in each darkened window outside, until the entirety of the façade of the old townhouses, apartment buildings, and streets glowed with light.

Gavin wanted to stay out more! He wished he had his camera with him, but there was no sense in taking photos. His father was pushing him down the sidewalk, and just when the impatient child had wanted to inquire where they were headed to, Gavin saw it.

Even though it was almost pitch dark outside due to the days being short and nightfall stretching on for too long too soon, Gavin saw the clear outline of a woman not matching that of his mother waving at them.

A smile was instantly on his father’s face. “Aha!” he cried out in joy, “there they are!”

“They?” His question hadn’t been heard; his father let go of his hand, and he paced too quickly for Gavin’s shorter legs to catch up to so suddenly.

“Dad! Wait for me!!”

Dad…

“Keep up, Gavin!!”

The wind was blowing into his eyes, and he blinked back tears as he held his arm out for his father. “Waaaait!!!”

Speeding up as much as he could, Gavin ran and ran and ran forward. His boots pounded into the snow, and more of the stuff was falling from the sky, blanketing his view terribly.

As he drew closer and closer, he blinked one more time, and he saw that the woman wasn’t alone…

Dad…

“Sir? Are you alright?”

Gavin blinked again, and as he remained at the window glaring angrily into the foggy glass, he saw the shadowy figure standing slightly next to himself.

Turning, he grunted when he saw the same two teenage girls who’d regarded him earlier that same day. They peered curiously at him, though the one who’d stated he was old seemed more amused in a sadistic way. Her friend eyed him carefully, chewing on her lip gloss covered lip for a moment.

Gavin mumbled, “What time is it?”

“Uhh…” they both checked their phones, “like, almost five.”

“Fuck,” he was amazed at how gravelly his voice sounded, and just how dry his throat was. It seemed like a phase one went through after not having spoken in weeks or months…

Watching him carefully as he reached into his own pockets for his phone, Gavin ignored the eyes of the teenage girls. He needed to know if Hank had texted him, first and foremost. He didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but he hadn’t lost this much time before in memory land. It hadn’t even been noon when he first walked into the store, and now, it was almost five in the evening???

Something was wrong…well, a lot was incredibly wrong, but he needed to leave before he thought about putting the infernal pieces together. There was no conceivable way he could think in such a crowded, noisy, busy, warm place.

As he spun around a few times, just trying to get a new sense of direction, apparently, he was a rather goofy sight for the teenage girls. The one who’d sadistically smirked at him resorted to flushing and giggling in the collar of her green jacket. Her raven-haired friend elbowed her roughly, scowling at her while Gavin fumbled around inside his pockets.

“Where’s my damn—” Not a second later, his phone buzzed, right on cue.

Leaping into the air like he’d been electrocuted, Gavin’s antics managed to make the meaner of the two girls lose herself in a fit of giggles. Her friend tried to approach Gavin, but the confused, weary detective was already moving away from them as he withdrew his phone from his pocket.

Behind him, the mean girl whispered icily to her friend while turning her nose up at Gavin, “Get away from him! He’s crazy!”

“I just want to know if he’s okay!”

“Pfft, bullshit,” came her friend’s snappy retort, “you just think he’s ‘hot’ for some fucked up reason. Girl, you have a shitty taste in men.”

Unlocking his phone screen, Gavin saw something that truly worried and terrified him. It scared the raw daylights out of him, and for a moment, he wondered if this all were a horrible nightmare. Wanting to test it out, he turned around, and he waved his hand in front of the girls’ faces.

Not really startled, they hissed and moved away from him.

“What the hell!?”

Blushing, Gavin coughed, “S-sorry, I just…um…” Eyes darting nervously, he leaned into the raven-haired girl, and he gently asked, “Err, this is all happening now, right?” When he saw her jaw drop in shock, he quickly pushed out, “I mean…what day is it?”

Squinting at him, the dark-haired young female spat, “The sixth of December, dude! What the fuck?”

Her friend sighed, “I think he’s either high or retarded.”

That was when Gavin decided he’d had enough of their ‘conversation’. He heard them whispering and muttering more cruel, judgmental things about him, but he really couldn’t be bothered to care; he had other things to attend to, and a rather urgent pressing matter…

He had received seven missed call notifications from his therapist, and one from Captain Fowler.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

“Gavin, it’s Dr. Rivera, could you please give me a call as soon as you’ve heard this message? It’s really urgent. Thank you.”

“Hey Gavin, Dr. Rivera again. Just wondering if my last message came through. Let me know, thanks.”

“Gavin, I’m hoping you’re not set on ignoring me, but if you could try to reach out and give me a call, I would be very happy to chat with you regarding something highly important. Thank you.”

“I hope you’re well, Gavin. I’m getting rather concerned. My secretary informed me that you haven’t bothered returning any of my calls. I understand why, but I need you to also understand that you were once my patient. Even though you aren’t now, that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about you. You need to call me back; I can’t stress this enough. Hope you’re well. Take care.”

“Christ, Gavin! I know you’re receiving these! You’re just ignoring me, which is fine, but I’m going to let you know that the only reason I’ve been chasing after you for so long is because your own mother is worried about you, Gavin! You heard me! Your mother’s been constantly calling my office every other day, and she’s been begging me desperately to invite you back into group therapy! She is super worried, Gavin. You’re all alone there, and from what your mother told me, your fiancé isn’t supportive! This is bad news, Gavin, and I want you to know that you don’t have to go through this alone! Group therapy and ‘Men’s Talk’ group is offered every—”

Gavin stopped listening to that message left by his therapist straight away. Hurriedly, he accessed his inbox for his voicemail, and one-by-one, he deleted all the messages his therapist had left for him. He was beyond furious, now. Why the hell was this idiot of a man calling?!? He was a grown adult, and his mother should’ve ceased interfering in his life years ago!!!!

Lips curling back in anger as he walked through the gentle snowfall around the city, he was making his way back to Hank’s when he finished with deleting all the messages. Irate now, he decided he was going to have a word with his mother.

Trying to remain calm, Gavin listened to the rings that echoed in his ears as he pulled his jacket’s hood over his wet hair when he’d had enough of the snowflakes falling into his hair and getting melted there. He was cold enough already, and he couldn’t stand being drenched anymore.

Finally, his mother picked up on the fifth ring.

“Gavin,” came her rough voice, followed by a quick cough, “what the hell do you want?”

Sneering, he growled viciously, “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that?!”

Pausing for a moment, she grunted, “About time you listened to those messages Dr. Rivera sent you. How long do you think you can go on ignoring everyone, hmm?”

Pointing at the phone against his ear, he snapped irritably, “Listen here, I’m almost forty-god-damn-years-old, and that means—”

Loud coughing broke into his ears, and Carrie coughed for a minute straight. As angry as Gavin had been, his sense of irritation and rage dampened considerably when he listened to just how violently his mother was coughing. She sounded like she was in severe pain, and as she wheezed and groaned through her coughing fit, she gagged, and then the phone was held away from her. Gavin heard rustling and moving, followed by more coughing, though it sounded far away.

Now, his mind was flooded with concern, and as his mind raced through all sorts of horribly dark imaginings of what was going on with his mother, all he could do was stop walking and cry out to her.

“Mom?! Mom?!?! What’s happening?! MOM!! Talk to me!!”

There was an incredibly painful, difficult silence to listen to and bear. Standing knee-deep in snow as it continuously fell, Gavin’s heart was racing. Opening his mouth to pant when he could no longer contain his nervous breathing, Gavin felt his own face perspiring when his foggy, steamy breaths blew out before himself. He felt like some creepy, fire-breathing dragon about to attack, and as he waited and waited, he finally heard his mother shifting to grab her phone.

Coughing a few more times, she growled at him, “I’m fine, I’m fine, just relax.”

Gavin’s eyebrows shot up, “Fine?!? FINE?! What was fuckin’ fine about that shit?!”

“Gavin—”

“It sounded like you were fuckin’ dying—” at once, his words got caught in his throat. His eyes involuntarily flooded with tears, they burned and stung, and there was an uncomfortable lump in his throat. He couldn’t even swallow it down. He supposed it may have been his heart leaping in his chest, but he couldn’t do anything about it as he stood there in the snow.

Odd…he didn’t really feel cold anymore…

“M-mom?” He hated how he’d stammered this out like a little baby, but he really was frightened after what he’d heard.

She sighed, “Gavin, you have to get a hold of yourself and go back to therapy.”

Shrugging her off, his voice returned to a little more in control. “I’m fine,” he lied, “I don’t need anyone’s help, especially that stupid quack of a Doctor!”

Clearing her throat for a second, Carrie nearly had her son worried again that she was going to begin coughing violently, however, she seemed in control of her own coughing as she said softly, “Gavin, it doesn’t matter how old you are, and it doesn’t matter how angry you want to get at me…you’ll always be my little baby boy, and I’m not gonna stop caring about you. Do you hear me?”

This time, something wet and warm slid down from his eyes over his cheeks. The tears dribbled down, and he sniffed as they landed down into the snow. Despite feeling weak and so small, he growled brokenly, “You never gave a shit before, so why do you care now? Hmm? Is it suddenly convenient to care??”

…..

Realizing he’d said too much and pushed too far as the wind howled almost angrily at him, Gavin really wished he could’ve had the power to take his words back. Some things really didn’t need to be said, and he’d gone way too far without thinking. He’d always been an impulsive man, and he knew his mother meant well. Why couldn’t he have just shut his damn mouth and allowed her to say whatever she’d wanted to say?? Why was someone reaching out and caring for him always such an ill-received notion to him?? What was wrong with him!?

Perhaps he really needed to take up therapy again….

…Perhaps, but his ego wouldn’t allow it. It couldn’t accept it…

With a deep sigh that sounded more like it hurt, Carrie grumbled under her breath, “Fuck it. I tried.”

“Mom?” Not even realizing he’d spoken out again, he flinched like she’d somehow be able to reach through the phone and slap him.

What a silly notion.

“I gotta go, Gavin.” She repressed a few more coughs, but Gavin could hear them panging and thrumming in her chest and throat as she wheezed, “Go to therapy, don’t go; it makes no difference because you’re right; you’re an adult and I can’t force you…but…” Inhaling sharply, she cleared her throat again and emitted a strained sound that was rather difficult for Gavin to listen to. He’d never heard something akin to this from her, but he listened quietly and patiently while a few cars drove by.

The world would never stop spinning for him…

“Maybe ask your fiancé to go with you,” she suggested finally, “there is after all a ‘Men’s Group Talk’, and anyone is welcome. If he’s as loving as you once tried to force me to believe…well…”

Gavin nodded, “I got it.”

“Talk to you around Christmas, Gavin.”

“Yeah…you too, mom.”

Simultaneously, they hung up.

Oddly enough, Gavin felt like he was the only one with the feeling of a hole being burnt into his heart at the time.

Reluctantly, he continued the rest of the journey back to Hank’s home.

Chapter Text

No photo description available.

 

 

😮😮😵😵😵😱😱😱😱

Oh. My. Dear. Goodness!!!

I can certainly say that it takes a LOT to shock and or surprise me, but when I am drawn to that point, it’s very rare I’m surprised in a ‘good’ way!! Guess what, though? In spite of all the weird stuff that’s been going on with me, throughout it all, I realized I DO have kind people supporting me and helping me grow as a content provider. I’ve said it before, but I must emphasize that the generosity and good will of a lot of people motivates me BIG time.

Thanks to reader: Ye_Olde_Taffer, I am smiling my crazy arse off and have been for HOURS. This magnificent, beautiful person did an equally magnificent, beautiful art piece based off Nines’ Goth look in this fic!! Seriously, when I saw the art, my jaw just fell, and then I immediately showed it to anyone who knows me in real life and knows I write fanfiction. Needless to say, can you imagine their reactions?!👀😮🙏🤘

We’re all MAD here, but Mad as Hatters!!!!😱😱😱👀

Seriously, this is by far one of the BEST and most FAVORITE depictions of Nines I have received yet. I love ANY piece my readers draw, of course, but I swear, this sits in my heart nicely. I have a soft spot for this already, so much that I’m downloading it onto my personal computer!! I love the way Ye_Olde_Taffer captured the details I described in terms of Nines’ clothes, his hair, and even his facial expressions. I honestly have mad respect for you, friend, and I hope you can keep on doing art (not just of my work) but art in general because I know you have a very unique talent for it.

Please, if everyone reading could go and spread a kind word of praise or even drop a kudos for Ye_Olde_Taffer, I’d appreciate it like a cool New Year’s gift. Art deserves a lot of praise and love, especially since a lot of artists do things and create their craft from passion, emotions, and interest. It can be a thankless job at times, but I can safely say that this work isn’t going thankless!!

Here are links to Ye_Olde_Taffer’s page, and they’re an author themselves, so please do them the kindness they did for me and bless them!!!

Their A03 page containing the artwork itself: https://archiveofourown.org/works/22042606

And their profile containing another awesome story they did! https://archiveofourown.org/users/Ye_Olde_Taffer/pseuds/Ye_Olde_Taffer

Thank you so much once again, friend! You’re a true gem!☺🎁🎀⛄⛄💓🎈

You also deserve a bow! 

Image result for bloodborne bows gifs

Chapter Text

On Friday the 7th of December, Gavin was ordered by Captain Fowler to come to the DPD at 2 p.m. for a mediation meeting, as well as follow-up report for the violent incident he’d gone through. According to the voicemail, a representative from the Human Rights office, the head of HR, a member from the Employee Labor Relations Unit, as well as Captain Fowler himself would be present for the meeting to file the complaint and investigate into it.

Dispute resolution sucked.

Hank drove himself and Gavin to the DPD before noon, and he dropped Gavin off at the entrance to the HR building before going to his own workstation.

Great. Gavin was all alone, now.

Unfortunately, this hadn’t been the first and only time he’d been inside this damn building for violence and harassment. However, in his younger years, Gavin himself had been the harasser and the aggressor, and now he was the victim. Odd how the tides and tables turned, and he supposed this was a weird form of ‘karma’ and ‘justice’ the universe threw back at him after all the years he’d tormented and bullied people he didn’t particularly like at work.

Well…he thought he deserved it, anyway.

The secretary signed him in and told him to wait outside in the waiting room. Thankfully, he only had to wait three minutes before the secretary led him down the hall and to the second room on the left. The door was partly open, and she knocked on it once before she announced that ‘Detective Reed’ was here.

As Gavin peeked into the room, he saw Captain Fowler, as well as three other people seated patiently. Two of them were women, and only one was a male. The women were slightly younger than Captain Fowler, and one was African American. On her blue business suit lapel, her name tag read: Lisa Rowe- Human Rights Office Manager. Right beside her at the rectangular table sat the second woman, a brunette with her hair tied back into a super tight bun. She wore no makeup, but had tanned skin and green eyes. Her name tag read: Ivanna T, and she was supposedly from HR. At the far end of the table sat an extremely elderly man in a black business suit and a blue tie matching Captain Fowler’s. There wasn’t a name tag on his person, but Gavin quickly put two and two together, and he knew this man had to be a member from the Employee Labor Relations Unit.

So the whole gang was here after all.

Captain Fowler-as well as the other three individuals in the meeting room-all had tiny laptops sitting before themselves; no doubt to take notes on whatever it was Gavin was going to say.

Trying not to stress out, Gavin stood awkwardly in the doorway until Captain Fowler hissed, “Sit down, Reed.”

Nodding quickly, Gavin sat down on a chair at the table directly across from the one the people interviewing him were seated at. Shimmying into it, he cleared his throat as he stared at random spots on the table. Aware that he was being awkward as all hell, there wasn’t a lot he could do but wait until he was permitted to talk. He knew how the rules of this game already went, and he didn’t dare break them.

Finally, Lisa Rowe sat back and put on thin-framed glasses. “Detective Reed,” she began in a rather authoritative tone that commanded attention, “how are you today?”

Staring dully at her, Gavin sighed, “Been better?”

Someone snorted, and Gavin supposed it was Fowler.

Lisa’s nose twitched, and she nodded. “I won’t waste much time today. I’m from the Human Rights Office, and I’ll be asking you a few questions-as will my other colleagues.”

Somehow, he figured that all out without explanations.

Nodding, he confirmed, “Okay, that’s fine.”

She didn’t care about his opinion. Sitting up tall, she barked out, “On what day were you allegedly attacked?”

Allegedly?!? Why was this word even spoken and brought up?! He hadn’t been allegedly assaulted; he’d definitely been assaulted!

Trying not to burst out in an emotional explosion of unmitigated rage, Gavin grumbled under his breath, “It happened on Thursday, November 22nd.” Would that suffice?!

Immediately, everyone in the room except for Fowler began typing away. This made Gavin nervous, and it was because they were typing steadily for nearly half a minute. Originally, he’d assumed they were going to report exactly whatever came out of his mouth. But why did it take almost a minute to write down: Thursday, November 22nd?

Now, he was suspicious, and he really had to hold back on asking what they were writing. It wasn’t his business…yet it was.

“Next question,” Ivanna spoke out this time. “Approximately what time did the attack take place?”

At least she hadn’t prefaced it with ‘alleged’.

“Umm,” he paused, thinking about it before he supplied, “after five-thirty, I think.”

After more typing, the elderly man sitting close to Fowler smiled. He wore glasses, and they seemed quite thick. Squinting at the younger male for a moment, the elderly man in the suit opened his mouth and almost too quietly spoke out, “Detective Reed, we hope you understand that this is a mediation process, as the reports pertaining to workplace harassment and violence have already been filed.”

Gavin stared blankly at the older man before he gruffly clipped out, “Am I being sued?”

Captain Fowler rolled his eyes, but the older man seated next to him answered gently, “Due to the nature of the occurrence, no. It happened on the grounds and premises of the Detroit Police Department building, however, according to our policy, we do not condone or tolerate workplace violence or bullying and harassment of any kind. We are committed to providing a safe and respectful work environment for all staff. Any complaint will be treated seriously, fairly and confidentially. This policy statement applies to all workers and will be reviewed annually, which is why we’re addressing the issue; not the people.”

…It still felt as though he’d been the only one on trial.

Gavin already knew this song and dance. Usually, ‘mediation’ in and of itself wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, for himself, and for those who doubted mediation’s effectiveness, Gavin himself personally viewed it as an unsatisfactory “short-term fix” for deep systemic issues. As well, he worried that the mediators here were likely unable to control volatile participants, or to maintain a level playing field. At a minimum, mediation skeptics such as himself argued that the process couldn’t be successfully applied in the contexts of criminal conduct; aggression falling short of criminal acts, and bullies in general with a bad attitude.

Portraying his sense of doubts, he looked quickly at everyone else before he groused, “Well, if it happened here, then that’s something of an issue, right? I mean,” eyeing Fowler deeply, he snapped, “shouldn’t employees feel safe and secure coming into work?”

Fowler coughed immediately, already catching on to Gavin’s raw implications. He seemed nervous, but thankfully for Fowler, the other three members of the meeting were way too focused on Gavin.

Lisa scowled as she typed something quickly before snipping at him snobbishly, “We’re the ones asking the questions, Detective; if you wait until the end, you’re free to ask any questions you may have, alright?”

Bitch.

Curtly nodding, Gavin didn’t even bother with answering. He didn’t trust his mouth and temper, quite frankly.

Continuing with the interrogation, Ivanna prodded, “Walk us through what happened as you remember it please, Detective. Don’t forget about specific details; it may help with the report and mediation process.”

Obediently, he regaled everything he could remember. He talked about how he was ambushed by Mischa, Luke, and Gary. He told everyone he was dragged into the empty stairwell and alcove there, and as much as he didn’t want to, he went into any vivid detail he could recall. The beatings were talked about, the verbal threats for more incoming violence, the ultimatum Gary had given him in terms of quitting and leaving the DPD; everything. When he was through with his explanation, Gavin felt his entire body sweating and on fire. He’d obviously felt the effects of the experience taking a toll on his system, and he cleared his parched throat.

Fowler nodded at him, “Would you like a glass of water, Reed?”

“Yeah! Would I ever.”

While Captain Fowler walked outside the room-no doubt heading towards a water fountain-to fetch the water, Lisa leaned into Ivanna, and the two women whispered while pointing at their laptops and notes. As they did this, the elderly man whose name Gavin still honestly didn’t know was constantly watching him. His eyes were way too observant; assessing, studying, analyzing…Gavin didn’t like it, but he couldn’t do anything.

As he waited for his water, Lisa finally glanced up at him. While typing away a few more times, she glared at him, and then finally stopped making her notes. Sitting back, she crossed her arms over her chest, and she too seemed to be assessing Gavin.

Ivanna smiled one of the phoniest smiles Gavin had ever seen. In his line of work, it was a smile he himself had often employed, namely for the purposes of trying to ease people and suspects he was interrogating into a false sense of calm and security. Oh, how it sucked to be on the other end of the table…literally and figuratively.

Fluttering her eyelashes at him, Ivanna chirped out on a high-pitched note, “Well, at this point, Detective, as vivid and detailed as your version of the events are, we regret to inform you that it’s now a matter of your word against the three men you had an altercation with.”

Fowler walked in a second later, and he slid Gavin a glass of clear, cold water.

Taking it slowly in his hands, Gavin wheezed dryly, “I don’t…I don’t understand…my word against—”

Removing her glasses from her face, Lisa sneered as she folded them and tucked them into their case. “Detective Reed, I’m sure that someone as talented and skilled in your line of work can understand,” pausing, she threw a sarcastic smirk over at him, then, and Gavin wished nothing more than to be able to wipe it clean off.

Raising her head in vanity and a level of haughtiness Gavin had never seen before, she continued, “The gentlemen who were attacked came forward with crucial evidence, and they reported what happened a lot faster than you did.”

What…

This time, Gavin was unable to control himself.

“That’s because Gary’s related to Captain Allen, and he’s always runnin’ around this damn place like the world owes him something!!!”

“Reed!” Fowler slammed a large hand on the table, but Gavin didn’t even jump or flinch. Unaffected, he merely glared at Fowler for interrupting.

Shaking her head, Ivanna sighed, “Nepotism doesn’t play a hand in this, Detective; the policy states that you are to report a violent incident or happenstance as soon as possible after experiencing, witnessing, or being involved in such an incident.”

Holding up a hand, he gruffly hissed on the edge of impatience, “And you mentioned ‘crucial evidence’, what the hell does that mean?”

At once, the women went completely silent, and only the elderly man leaned forward. Almost a few inches away from Gavin, a rather serious look was upon his face, and his eyes darkened menacingly as he growled, “That’s none of your damn business, Detective.”

“I’m afraid it is.”

Everyone turned their heads swiftly upon hearing the new voice. It was thick, deep, supremely masculine, authoritative, and a tad bit on the side of aggressive, at least to Gavin’s ears.

Once his eyes settled on the owner of the voice, his jaw dropped practically down to his chest.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

It was Nines.

Gavin couldn’t believe it, but there Nines stood clear as day after not having seen Gavin in almost over a full week since he hung up on him.

What was he doing here?!?!

Eyeing him up and down curiously, Gavin saw that Nines had once again donned his shiny, black Doc Martens. He had taken to wearing tight skinny jeans with tears and the threads hanging down from the sides of the legs and in front, though it looked pretty fashionable. Nines wore a black and grey plaid shirt, and he’d just barely rolled the cuffs back to reveal his wrists. His hair looked super clean and dark as always, the bangs swinging to the left side of his forehead while he hung out in the doorway. He seemed to be staring mostly at the elderly man who’d spoken out standoffishly to Gavin.

Waving a hand at him, Fowler beckoned him inside. “You’re a bit late, Nines,” he sighed out wearily, “have a seat.”

Late?! Late??? This was odd news to Gavin, and he stared in confusion at his superior. Hadn’t Fowler claimed that it was only Gavin himself who would be interviewed?! Why was Nines here, then?!?!

Blinking at the tall android, he watched as Nines coolly and collectedly strut over to the chair on his left, and he drew it back while seating himself onto it. Not even staring over at Gavin to regard his presence in the same room, Nines sat with a leg draped over a knee, and his arms were crossed over his chest. He almost grinned straight at Lisa, and the woman dropped her hands away from being draped along her own chest.

Not even bothering to waste time, Ivanna spoke out to Nines, “Your name?”

Nines scoffed, “Captain Fowler already mentioned it.”

Woah…Nines was…Nines was definitely far more aggressive than Gavin remembered, and he swallowed nervously as he stared intently at the android seated next to himself for a few minutes.

“Answer the question, please,” Ivanna hissed thinly, an eye twitching at Nines, which signified her patience was being tested all too quickly.

Pointing at himself, Nines grinned as he supplied, “I’m sure you mean you want to know my model number, so I’ll give in…” Chuckling, he said, “RK900.”

They all typed back on their laptops, and as they did, Gavin took a more in-depth look at Nines. The android looked different, yet he didn’t. While his sense of fashion and style remained punk and gothic, the major difference Gavin had been able to sense right off the bat effortlessly was a dramatic shift in Nines’ personality.

He was more aggressive.

After being a detective for as long as he had, Gavin understood the basics of human behavior and psychology. Seeing Nines’ body posture the way it was, Gavin concluded he was closed off, yet also on the verge of ‘defense’ as he accosted the interviewers. He seemed tense, rigid, and his chest and chin jutted out oddly. Any moment, it appeared he could unleash an attack. Gavin could tell he was trying to make it seem like he was relaxed by kicking a leg up and settling back in the chair, but it wasn’t working if one really knew Nines too well.

Eyes sweeping over Nines’ wrists, Gavin saw a dash of black he nearly missed the first time…black and green?!

Leaning oddly forward, his eyes and body were now angled so he could have a closer look at what he’d seen. After peering deeply and intently at Nines’ left wrist, he could make out the bit of green and black…was it a tattoo?!

Nines had a tattoo?!?!

However, before Gavin could look closer, Nines seemed to sense what he was doing and what he was looking at without even addressing or regarding him. Draping his arm across his stomach wrist down, he made sure his skin was effectively covered, much to Gavin’s chagrin. Not wanting to be caught staring more than he already was, he sat back and cast an angry glare down at the floor.

All typing ceased in the room before the elderly man coughed, and then cried out in hopes of asserting himself and his authority. “RK900, err, I mean, Nines, pardon me.” Flushing, he stared deeply at Nines as he continued, “As I understand it, you were also involved in this physical act of violence, correct?”

Snickering coldly, Nines replied, “I was.”

“Were you also being attacked?”

“No.”

Ivanna leaned forward, “Then what made you brutally beat down three other men?”

This time, Gavin looked up. He didn’t think Nines was going to lie when it came to this matter, and he really was hoping that Nines would come clean with the truth in regards to answering something Gavin himself had even pondered about for so long.

Why?

Blinking slowly, Nines’ eyes shifted ever so slightly down, but it happened so quickly that only Gavin caught it due to staring quite closely at the android. “I just…” he sighed weakly, “…I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Not impressed, Ivanna and the elderly man shook their heads. They took to jotting their notes, and Lisa Rowe barked out her next question. “What you did was assault three unarmed men, Nines. How do you feel about that?”

Almost immediately, Captain Fowler coughed out, “Hold on!! Now,” looking at Nines for a moment, he meekly smiled at Lisa, as if trying to get on her good side. “What Nines does out of work hours is his own concern, Mrs. Rowe! You can’t hold the DPD accountable for—”

She interrupted sternly, “What Nines did, Jeffrey, happened to take place on your building’s premises, and he was responsible for injuring these men! What do you have to say about that?!”

Before Fowler could continue, Nines set his leg down, placed both hands on his kneecaps, and his LED light beneath his bangs blinked yellow. Everyone stared at him as he smiled-albeit a tad ruthlessly and puckishly. Once he was sure he had everyone’s attention, he very carefully selected his words.

“I have my exact version of the events, and as of a few seconds ago, I forwarded them and emailed them to you in video and audio format.”

Visibly panicking, the elderly man, Lisa, and Ivanna turned slightly pale, and then they stared down at their laptops.

Nines smiled on. “You say that the men I attacked have bruises and injuries? Well, so did Gavin on that night.” Drumming his fingers over his kneecaps, he drawled out slowly, “I haven’t tampered with this, and if you look carefully, Gary had a knife the entire time on himself that was hidden, so you may want to omit the fact that these men were unarmed…” Snickering again, he added with attitude, “You know, for the sake of fucking clarity.”

Fowler coughed uncontrollably, “Nines!! What the—”

Over his coughing, one of the interviewers had already started to play the footage, and Gavin heard himself screaming to be let go. Gary threatened him, laughed, and then the sounds of Gavin behind held down and kicked violently could be heard.

Ivanna and Lisa looked up at Nines, and the elderly man gasped out, “How did you come across this footage?”

Rolling his eyes, Fowler snapped sardonically, “He’s an android, you idiot! He recorded the whole damn thing!!”

Shaking her head, Lisa muttered, “I…I don’t…I’m sorry, Detective Reed…”

“Yeah, ‘sorry’ is good,” Nines intervened rudely, “but it doesn’t exactly cover for all the bullshit, does it?”

Pointing sharply at him, Ivanna hissed, “You watch your damn mouth!!”

While Gavin continued to gape at Nines in raw shock and awe, the android stood up, and he held his hands down at his sides, evidently still making an effort to hide his tattoo from Gavin. “If I’m not needed anymore, I’m leaving,” he announced, holding his head up high as he called out to Fowler, “if anyone else would like to have a go with me, I invite them to meet me in the gym; no pads, no helmets.” After saying that as proudly as he had, Nines walked right out the door.

Sputtering after him, the elderly man cried out, “W-wait!!”

“Jeffrey!” Lisa hissed poisonously, “this is unprecedented!!”

“Yeah,” the burly man replied as he sat back and shook his head, smiling as he stared out the door after Nines. “That’s our Nines, after all.”

Weakly, Gavin whispered, “Umm, sir? Can I leave?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, get the hell out of here, Reed,” Fowler snorted as he waved at him like he was trying to shoo a fly out of the room. “We’ll call you if we need anything else, but now the investigation has taken a new turn and this crap could take weeks to sort out.”

No shit.

Standing quickly, Gavin nodded at everyone in the room, but the interviewers were far too busy with watching the footage once again to say anything else.

Good…they were distracted, and that was enough for Gavin.

With a grateful wave thrown in Fowler’s way, he hurriedly tucked his chair in, and rushed to the door, eager to catch up with Nines…wonderful Nines, helpful Nines…

“Good Nines…”

 


HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!! HURRRRAAAHHHH!!🙏😵😵😱✨🍾💖🍷🎊🎉🎇🎆🧨 May 2020 bring everyone happiness, joy, wealth, success, and absolute stress-free healthy lifestyles!! I truly wish for nothing but the best for everyone, and let's start off this New Year NOT as scared as I am hiding beneath my own insignificant self-perpetuated fears!!! 

 

Related image

Chapter Text

Image may contain: outdoor

 

“Nines!!! I love your new look!! Holy Christmas!!”

“Lookin’ good, Nines!!”

“Wowza, Nines! Sweet look you got yourself there!!”

“Looking sharp, Nines!!”

Comments and words of bright praise flew around the DPD as Gavin tore after Nines, the android’s broad back in clear sight. Nines was a super-fast walker, it seemed. Gavin’s lungs burned as he tried speeding up to catch the android, but for every step he took, Nines seemed to effortlessly power walk right on ahead, crossing the distance that two men couldn’t even cover if they tried.

Connor however stood up and stopped Nines right in the nick of time when Gavin felt he was going to pass out from exhaustion and a lack of air pumping into his heart and lungs. Thank goodness for Connor.

The curious RK800 held out a hand with his human skin deactivated before Nines. Gavin had seen them doing this before, as well as the other androids in the precinct. It wasn’t anything new, and usually, Nines always accepted it kindly, exchanging information and interfacing with Connor rapidly. However, today, Nines seemed distant.

Despondently, Nines held his arms back as he gruffly sighed, “Not today, Connor.”

Catching up to them finally, Gavin landed with a hand on Nines’ right shoulder. Keeping his hand there for purchase in case he fell, he panted and wheezed painfully. Righting himself up, he held a hand over his racing heart which felt like it was going to explode right out of his sternum, almost as means to calm the muscle down.

Nodding in a way of greeting at Connor, first, he rasped, “H-hey…”

Connor waved, but Nines quickly shrugged Gavin’s arm off his shoulder. Once again, he took to moving ahead, and Gavin felt his heart crashing and burning.

“Hey!! Wait!” He was aware that people were staring, but Nines quickly solved that problem; he tore through the bullpen, went down the hallway to the left, and kept on walking. Not stopping once, Gavin ran after him, hot on his heels.

“Nines!! Wait a sec!!!” Despite his efforts, the RK900 didn’t seem to want to stop at all. This unnerved Gavin to no end, but he didn’t give up. Forcing his body to bear the burning pain churning about in his chest, Gavin pushed through the discomfort, and he put on one last burst of speed to get to Nines. He almost had him…almost…and then, Nines abruptly turned around.

Gavin slammed right into Nines’ chest on account of not being able to stop himself right on time. Colliding violently with the powerful, tall android, Gavin felt pain searing into his forehead, now. It was a pretty good way to distract from the pain coursing through his heart and lungs, but pain was pain, and it sucked!!

Holding himself back, he groaned as his vision swam. Peering up, he almost saw two of Nines, and his mind reeled from it all. “Nines…” Unable to believe that was his own voice that sounded so weak, Gavin winced.

“Shit,” he panted out as he wiped sweat off his forehead, “I’ve gotta quit smokin’…”

Nines apparently didn’t care for what was going on, and as he stood with his hands held at his sides, he sneered down at Gavin. “I don’t want to talk, Reed,” came his deep warning growl, “leave me alone, alright?”

As he’d been turning around, Gavin’s hand shot out, and he latched onto Nines’ elbow roughly. Yanking the android back to himself, Gavin hissed a salient hiss. “Nines, you ignored me all damn week! What the hell?!”

Not really staring at him, Gavin noticed that Nines was looking in his general direction, but he was doing well to avoid looking at him. He stared off somewhere around Gavin’s ear, and he commented, “I was going about my daily business and routine, Reed, much as you should be doing.”

Shaking his head defiantly, Gavin snapped, “What the hell kind of a dickish reply is that?!” Demanding to know, he grounded out, “Where the fuck were you all this time?! What were you doing?!”

Though he had no business at all, really, Gavin couldn’t help but feel a strange sensation of jealousy and resentment flooding into his brain. Why he felt like this was unbeknownst to him, and rather odd. Rather than assessing that and diving into the possible sources, however, Gavin’s mind wandered over to the possible whereabouts of Nines since their awkward phone call. Too much time had passed, and he had too many questions…

Why was he even asking such questions??? Was he a jealous lover scorned? Was he a possessive spouse? No…as far as all things were concerned, Nines wasn’t obligated to tell Gavin anything. Gavin had no right and no business demanding things from the stoic RK900, and deep down, the churlish detective knew that.

But it still persisted and bothered him like a kick in the head…he was left feeling astonied, but not so much that he would be able to remain silent.

“Nines?!” he repeated louder, “where the fuck were you?!”

Lips curling back in a silent snarl, Nines aggressively inched himself closer to Gavin immediately. Given how tall he was, and now that he was wearing darker clothing, Nines seemed to be a huge black mass as he swept closer to Gavin. However, the shorter male clearly wasn’t fearful or intimidated; he glared resolutely back and stood his ground.

Snickering coldly, Nines threw out dauntingly, “I was wandering all around town for the first few nights just pondering what the hell was to become of me, Reed.” Pausing, he finally inched his eyes to Gavin’s, and they finally made eye contact.

The pressure Gavin felt at once was unsurpassed, crazed, raw, visceral, and ethereal. Was Nines feeling this way, too?! Gavin felt like drowning and being born simultaneously. He felt so dead, and yet so alive as he lost himself in those burning blues…

Teeth gleaming, Nines continued, though his voice seemed pained rather than cruel. “After losing myself to my own pity and madness, would you rather I make up some bullshit lie about self-depreciation enabling me to seek out a few whores and having my way with them?? Hmm?” Leaning closer to Gavin as he lied into his ear almost too intimately for it to be a threat or a harsh word, Nines spat, “Should I tell you how I threw money at them for their less-than-adequate services?! Huh?!”

The wild asperity of it all drove Gavin insane with the burden of his own grief. He couldn’t stand Nines’ breath in his ear, though it wasn’t hot or warm. It was just there, and he couldn’t bear with it. With both hands, he shoved Nines back as hard as he could.

“If you—”

“What, Reed?” Nines cut in aggressively, LED light beaming red even beneath his raven-colored bangs, “isn’t that what you think of me? Hmm? Don’t you regard me as some sex-deprived, freakish lunatic?!”

Not wanting to back down, Gavin hissed through clenched teeth, and held his equally clenched fists tightly at his sides. Trying to contain himself before he exploded right there in the DPD for everyone to see, he very softly and eerily proclaimed to Nines, “I never said that to you, you god damn piece of plastic junk!!!”

The last word had been uttered too loudly, and like all the horrible things he’d blurted out to his mother over the years, it was far too damn late to take this one back.

Stunned, Nines flinched for a second, eyelids fluttering as he stepped away from Gavin. It appeared that those cruel, harsh words finally bit through to him after all. Though the halls were quiet, the thrumming in Gavin’s chest and ears that was his heart, and Nines’ thirium pump working hard and quickly overpowered anything else to the point where they both were unable to hear someone else approaching them quickly.

Casting Gavin a withering look, Nines held a hand up to his chest, when suddenly, the moment of complete pain and mortification had been rudely interrupted.

“Hey! Nines!!” At once, a fist flew forward just when the android looked up. It bashed him right in the nose, and Nines’ head turned to the side roughly as soon as the knuckles impacted with his nose.

Holding his hands up to cradle his nose though it likely didn’t hurt, the android could only stare blankly. Gavin gaped in awe, frozen to the spot as he saw thirium trickling out of Nines’ nostrils in two steady streams again.

Shit…

Turning around swiftly, he frowned when he saw Hank Anderson standing by. His hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, and he wore his reading glasses Gavin had seen him donning before. Eyebrows furrowed on his brow in pure anger, his chest puffed in and out as he fanned out his shoulders, no doubt trying to appear a bit bigger than he normally was if he needed to accost Nines once again. However, that soon stopped when his eyes widened, his chest caved in, a pained expression crawled along his face, and he drew his pink fist up to his mouth.

“Jesus!” He cried out in agony as he kissed his knuckles, “I’ve always wanted to do that, but I can’t say it feels good on the wrist!!”

As Hank massaged his sore fist, Gavin whispered heatedly at him, “What the hell are you doin’, Hank?!” When he wasn’t granted an answer right away, he crowed, “Have you lost your mind?!”

Hank Anderson of course had always been quite the eccentric colleague of Gavin’s, but never had he seen him lashing out at Nines especially. He’d witnessed a few times when the older Lieutenant had roughhoused Connor, but that had been when the android was a new ‘recruit’ of the DPD, and had been forced to work with Hank. Still, the grumpy Lieutenant had warmed up to Connor in no time, and since then, his entire personality and outlook on life had changed as well.

But why had he punched Nines?! Had he hoped to somehow expiate himself for his previous wrongdoings? Or was he genuinely angry with Nines??

A curious Gavin Reed stared helplessly back and forth between Hank and Nines, trying to anticipate who would make the first move. Evidently, it hadn’t been Nines. Although he’d been brutally punched, Nines sniffed once, and wiped his nose and lips quickly with a tissue he’d hidden in his jean pocket. A blue stain still could be seen on his pale skin, but they all had bigger and deeper matters to attend to.

Glaring at Hank, Nines stood back and shoved his hands in his pockets once he’d cleansed his skin as best as he could. Hank met his glares equally, though he didn’t speak just yet.

Unable to tolerate and withstand the heavy tension stinking up the air, Gavin wheezed at Hank as he gripped the back of his neck tightly in a hand. “What the hell’s gotten into you, Hank?! What the fuck was that all about?!”

Pointing at Nines as if he’d been pointing a weapon at him instead, Hank cried out testily, “This slippery son of a bitch has been too evasive!!”

Well, Gavin could agree to that, and seeing as his relationship with Nines had been at odds in such a way that they needed possibly a third party to intervene-if only as an interlocutor, he felt his mouth snapping shut. What was he to say to that, really?

Looking at Nines, he hoped the android would say something, and to his shock, Nines didn’t fail him.

“Hey Hank,” he growled deeply, his voice bizarrely unaffected much by the brutal punch he’d received a moment ago.

Eyebrows shooting up drastically that it appeared cartoonish, Hank choked, “Hey Hank? Hey Hank, my ass! The fuck is your problem, Nines?!”

Shrugging nonchalantly, the android replied, “I don’t know what you—”

“Oh, cut the shit already, Nines,” Hank snarled venomously, eyes glowering dangerously with a trace of murder written in them. “You wanna explain right now right here why the hell you’ve been avoiding Gavin and pushing him away like he’s got Herpes or something?!”

Both Gavin and Nines winced before Gavin weakly said, “Thanks, Hank. I appreciate that.”

Ignoring the other implications, Nines straightened his clothing as he hissed, “It’s not a matter that concerns you, Hank,” staring quickly at Gavin, he continued, “I just wish to be left alone.”

This form of spurious reasoning and response tipped Hank’s patience. Cheeks turning beet red as his knuckles, he pushed past Gavin quickly, and he bunched up Nines’ shirt collar in both hands. With a potent burst of energy and strength neither Gavin nor Nines had ever seen him display, Hank tugged Nines closely against his own chest. Once they were eye-to-eye, Hank snarled angrily at Nines.

“Listen here, you god damn self-righteous piece of shit,” while Hank began screaming at Nines, Gavin looked around the halls feverishly.

Although he appreciated Hank’s need to defend him, it wasn’t wise to do this at work!! He knew people could walk by at any minute, and seeing as he’d already had to go through one case of harassment and violent altercations, the last thing he needed was another one to top it all off in less than a day!!

“Hank!” he tugged at the man’s coat sleeves almost desperately, “just forget it!!”

Apparently, that had been the worst thing to say.

Throwing his head back and emitting a rather sarcastic laugh, Hank guffawed, “Oh ho, ho!! Oh boy! That’s exactly how pricks like this get away with it, Gavin!!”

“Hank, I—”

Still hanging onto Nines tightly, Hank’s fingers turned white, and he growled a deep, monstrous growl as Gavin eventually silenced himself. He’d never seen Hank this upset before, and it was just too shocking for him to be unable to do anything else except for staring on.

Almost butting heads with the RK900, Hank strongly emphasized to him, “After work today, you will invite Gavin back to your apartment, you will treat him like a guest, you will be more kind to him, and you will start learning how to fucking communicate with him, got it?!”

When Nines didn’t answer, Hank shook him again roughly. “I said got it?!”

Footsteps were steadily approaching, but all Gavin could do was inhale sharply. It came out like an odd wheeze, almost akin to a squeaky toy, but he didn’t care much about how he sounded. What he cared about was being caught in such a compromising position, and he tugged again on Hank’s sleeves to get his attention.

Slowly, as Hank stared Nines down, something flickered deep in the center of the silent android’s eyes. A small smile formed its way onto his face, but he kept his hands down at his sides while continuously peering into Hank’s eyes.

Hank blinked once, and in the brief second he did, Nines leaned back.

“I got it, Hank,” he finally stated, though he didn’t make a move to even free himself, yet. “I’ll do what you said.”

Releasing him slowly while keeping his eyes out for signs of deception or deceit, Hank only squinted at Nines menacingly, but offered him a sharp nod after his declaration.

“Fucking good,” waving at Gavin, Hank placed a hand on the center of his back, and he shoved the shorter male right against Nines.

Gavin blushed when his body smacked into Nines’ again, and this time, he was certain he felt some odd heat radiating from the tall android. He didn’t look up to meet his eyes, but he was sure he could feel those cold blues on his form the entire time.

Finally, Nines whispered, “Come on; let’s go home.”

With a sad sigh, Gavin hung his head down, and he followed Nines quietly. Luckily, no one else had stumbled upon their minor conflict, which Gavin was grateful for to no end.

As they’d walked away, both Nines and Gavin missed the proud look of triumph Hank wore all day after.

At least the older male had a good enough reason to.

 

~0~0~0~0~0

 

The lack of good jobs had truly made many formerly middle-class people impecunious in Detroit. Gavin was such a sufferer of the declining economy, but he still knew he had to count his blessings as he drove from Hank’s house all the way to Nines’ apartment. The up-scale part of town he was now in wasn’t any less dangerous at night, unfortunately, but it sure looked pretty in December, to say the least.

Plenty of Christmas trees and lights were on display from every household, apartment complex, and neighboring building. The decorations were all green, yellow, red, and white, accenting the elegance of the homes’ stately architecture while the odd snowman or two hung outside in the front yards. However, among the ‘good’ and ‘lovely’, there also existed the ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’.

Sadly, a lot of that seemed to be centered around the Christmas decorations. As Gavin drove on, every so often, he would peek outside his foggy window, and he would see a random snowman with his nose missing. The carrot serving as the nose would often be placed right in the last mound of round snow sitting at the base of the snowman. Right in the center of its lower torso, the carrot would point out obscenely, no doubt serving as a representation of its manhood. Some houses had their garage doors spray painted with terribly crude words attacking Christmas music lyrics. Gavin even managed to see two reindeer statues outside a house having been rearranged so they mounted each other in a full mating display.

Sighing as he drove on just a bit faster, he’d reached Nines’ apartment in no time. He unpacked his belongings all on his own, and he knew he had to make at least three trips all by himself while Nines left the front door open for him. Well, at least he had half the decency to do that, Gavin supposed.

When he finally settled, Gavin took his time to look around the apartment, and to his shock, Nines had indeed redecorated for the Christmas Holiday. Two fully decorated Christmas trees stood on either side of the large living room, while Nines’ blooming plants bordered them, as well as hung around on the kitchen table and on the counters. The luscious evergreen swags hung around each window, replacing the grey curtains and drapes Gavin originally purchased back in the autumn. There were golden trims around the curtains, and Gavin thought they looked rather pleasant to the eyes. Nines didn’t have any presents by his Christmas trees, though Gavin saw when he’d wandered into the kitchen at the back that the android had changed the Detroit City model to a wintery landscape. He’d thrown glitter and white paper over the model, making it seem like snow had blanketed everything. Leaning over it to study the lovely city model, Gavin was interrupted not long after by a small ‘hooting’ sound.

It sounded an awful lot like a train…

Walking back into the living room, he gasped, and then chuckled in glee when he looked down and saw a tiny train set and train tracks he’d missed the first time around the base of the shorter tree in the living room. The red, brown, and black steam engine drove and wove its way around the first tree, and then cut around the sides of the walls until it looped around the living room all the way to the second, taller tree!

Amused by it, Gavin made his way over towards Nines’ bedroom where the android had holed himself up all evening. The door was firmly shut in his face, of course, but Gavin didn’t let that deter him.

Raising his hand, he gently rapped once on Nines’ bedroom door and then he pushed it open when he heard something he hoped was an invitation for entry.

He found Nines seated behind a small desk facing the only window in the room right across from the bed. It hadn’t been there last time, oddly. Before Nines on the desk happened to be a stack of newspapers, books, magazines, as well as a pair of scissors…Nines was pushing the scissors aside, and when Gavin drew closer, he saw that some glue and glitter were also resting before Nines. If the detective had to wager, he supposed Nines was cutting out whatever he needed from the magazines and newspapers, possibly for a scrapbook of some kind??

Nines didn’t even bother to look up from his desk, continuing to work on whatever was in front of himself. “Go away.”

It had been only two seconds and he hadn’t said a word, but Gavin could already tell this was not going to go well. Irritated beyond words, he nonetheless gathered his courage and continued anyway while Nines picked up his scissors and snipped away at paper.

“I need you to just hear me out for a moment, Nines…”

“No.” Stubbornly, Nines still didn’t turn around to look up. His voice was flat with recrimination as he spat, “Go away and don’t come back in here unless you want to sleep.”

“No.” Determined, Gavin stood tall and folded his arms over his chest. If the recalcitrant android was going to be stubborn about it, he could be too. The utter ignominy of having to beg for this tore at his pride and made him queasy. “I know I was an asshole earlier to you, Nines, but I need to talk…err,” he swiftly corrected himself, “we need to talk!”

Again, Nines hissed, “No.” There was no give in his voice; his refusal sounded final. “Get out of my room.”

On one hand, Gavin realized how petty and childish this could’ve sounded. Truly, it seemed like they were two brats arguing over a place to play at recess.

“I’m not leaving until you let me talk!” Gavin admitted to himself that he should have done that anyway, even without the promise of having his words returned or even understood. He felt bad about what he’d said to Nines earlier, but also when they’d first met. He realized that over the years, he’d actually referred to Nines by all sorts of cruel, demeaning names. It didn’t make it any less proper, but he shouldn’t have been so cruel, no matter how angry and livid he was.

Walking closer to the android as he worked, Gavin began his little rant. “Look, Nines,” he sighed as he placed his hands on his hips and slanted to the side. “I know we’ve had a weird relationship, but I need you to—” His breath died down in his throat, and it was only because of what he’d seen when his eyes landed right then on Nines’ exposed arms.

While the android kept on cutting, Gavin saw that he’d pulled his shirt sleeves up to the elbow. On his wrists, Nines wore thick, black handmade leather wrist bands. They’d been crudely tied together, but that wasn’t what made Gavin gasp out in shock. What had taken Gavin by complete surprise was the fact that on Nines’ left arm happened to indeed be a tattoo, just as he’d suspected.

This tattoo began just above the wrist, which was why Gavin had been able to catch a glimpse of it earlier in the DPD. It stretched out along Nines’ forearm and twisted along the top of his arm as it crept up. It was indeed in black and green. The greens were vines that twisted mystically around Nines’ skin, and out of the vines had grown black flames. The flames swirled and swung around Nines’ lower and upper forearm, sweeping along his human flesh quite nicely in a winding pattern of fury, power, and perhaps anger in terms of what they represented.

As Gavin stood and gaped at it for a moment, Nines growled, “What else do you want, then?”

That seemed to shake Gavin out of his mini pause, and he woke up back to reality.

Glaring at the back of Nines’ head, he viciously snapped, “What the hell makes you think I want something from you, jerk?”

“Well, it’s obvious,” came the harsh jab, “since the only reason you would even come here is because you need me to do something for you.” Setting the scissors down, Nines barely looked over his shoulder at Gavin. “Anything else you do would be rather meaningless, don’t you think?” Turning around more in his seat, Nines finally looked up at him. His face was impassive, but his eyes were furious.

Swallowing thickly, Gavin felt a weird lump rising in his throat again. “Do you want an apology?”

“If it were me, I would have apologized anyway,” Nines answered. “Though I doubt it matters now.”

Rolling his eyes, Gavin hissed, “Look, I know I was being an ass, but pain does that to a person…” Humiliated by the whine in his voice, Gavin grit his teeth and went on, “Surely, even you can understand that.”

He wondered if he’d said too much; gone too far.

Scowling, Nines spat, “I understand nothing. Did you not say that to me once?” Nines then sneered at him, his face ugly and twisted with disgust. “If you feel that way, then I don’t care.”

It suddenly struck Gavin that nothing he could say would change Nines’ mind. Unbelievably, Nines had gone too deep into the words they’d exchanged, once, and now, he simply wasn’t even willing to hear him out. Gavin shouldn’t entirely have been affected by that, and yet, the human was rather shaken by the idea. He honestly hadn’t expected Nines to deny his plea, to leave him in pain. With a sigh that allowed too much of his defeat to be heard, his shoulders slumped in defeat, and Gavin took a step back.

Nines didn’t resume working; he glared hard at Gavin, and as he did, the detective felt the need to spit out an insult.

Eyes capturing the sight of the tattoo, he snarled, “Think that shit impresses me?”

“Close the door on your way out,” was all Nines had to say. His tone was implacable; he really didn’t care.

Without another glance at Nines, Gavin turned and left. He felt like he’d been slapped and stunned, as he always did when someone was ruthlessly cruel. Even with everything he’d seen and been through in his life, it always came as a shock when callousness had been bestowed upon him.

Trudging up the long hallway towards the glowing, gleaming warm lights in the living room, he looked back, half hoping Nines would come after him. Unfortunately, the door clicked shut, and then Gavin heard the lock clicking. He should have known better. There was no mercy in Nines, no understanding, no compassion. Only malice and hate, and bitterness. The fact that it was Gavin’s own fault that he’d incurred Nines’ wrath unto himself made the stunned detective feel all the worse.

He really had no one else to blame.

Chapter Text

His hand gentled unconsciously as he picked up the small framed photograph from the bedside table. He’d espied it for a while, and the moment his bare skin made contact with the object, electric jolts and waves of energy moved through his body.

The photo itself showed a little boy in a bright red snowsuit with bears embroidered on the front, small hands encased in navy blue mittens, and a small head covered in a matching hat. His lips, nose and cheeks were chapped and bright from the cold. He was reaching out to touch the hat on the top of a small snowman with coal eyes and a celery nose, then turning to look at the camera with a shy smile. He’d been two and a half when the photo had been taken of his first Christmas with just his father, and even now he could remember the professional photographer snapping it on that fine crispy morning. His father had chased him throughout the backyard, and then they were both laughing when the dark-haired man had made the little snowman dance by puppeteering its branch-like arms as he stood and hid behind its round body. The small boy had clapped his hands in glee. Everything had been perfect that winter; he’d been young, and in love with the youthful innocence around himself, and that little boy had seemed to embody so much promise for the future…

He blew out a weighted breath and flopped back onto the silver duvet, his eyes on the dark blue velvet canopy above the bed, the picture on his chest.

Gavin opened his eyes.

He wasn’t on the bed he dreamed about. There were no lovely, gentle colors of silver, velvet, and blue. All he saw was a dark ceiling, occasional lights flickering, and the shadows of the train as it drove on continuously along the floor.

Sitting up, he noticed that he’d fallen asleep on the sofa in Nines’ apartment with his jacket draped over himself like a blanket.

Pathetic.

Groaning and then shivering, Gavin pulled his jacket around his shoulders as he stood up. Peering ahead at the windows, he felt his stomach churning when a gust of wind blew newly chilled night air against the tightly shut windows powerfully. It sounded like hell outside, and he felt grateful to be indoors…however, there was an overbearing sense of emotional coldness still present within the apartment that Gavin was unable to escape from. That same iciness seeping into his bones and muscles only served well to bolster his discomfort, anguish, and inner resentment.

Wondering what Nines was up to, the mildly curious detective placed his jacket back down on the sofa and faced the hallway leading to Nines’ room. Hadn’t he stated that if he needed to sleep in the room, he would leave?

Wanting to check it out for himself, Gavin paced up to the door, and he pressed a hand gently against the cold, hard wood. The lights of the room were still on, as the faint glows indicated beneath the door frame.

Was it still locked??

Hand hovering over the door handle, Gavin squinted in the dark at it, but just before he could gather his courage to even touch it, the lock clicked, and the door swung wide open. Gavin had to look away due to harsh light pouring into his eyes directly. Not accustomed to so much light at once, he shielded his eyes with a hand while Nines stood before him scowling.

“What do you want, now?”

His skin buzzed and prickled. There was an energy building in the air like the moment before a lightning strike. Gavin’s stomach twisted with the ignominy of the situation. He’d foolishly thought that Nines had gotten over it after spending some time alone, but it appeared he was wrong. He found he was wrong about many things, lately…

When he hadn’t been quick enough with a response, Nines growled, “Are you here with the hopes of insulting me??” Snickering, he bowed his head sarcastically. “I had no idea it was anything more than rudimentary gratitude on my behalf not to accept it, but—”

The decadent words and associations were enough for Gavin.

With a tired sigh, he grunted, “It’s late, Nines; can we argue about this tomorrow?”

Nines quirked a brow, “Tomorrow? I think you mean later ‘today’, Reed, especially seeing as how we’re bickering now in the wee hours of the morning, unless you mean to suggest that we continue this damn tirade into the next day?”

Shrinking back from that, Gavin trumpeted, “No, please, Nines, please don’t start that again…”

The stubborn android aggressively pontificated, “Shall I find something else to do with your pretty mouth then? Hmm?” His eyes flashed dangerously as he orated suggestively, “I’m sure we can put it to better use…”

“Why are you so bitchy lately?” The words had already slipped out, and Gavin rubbed his eyes while more than anything else wishing he could wipe all memories of this on-going incident from his mind altogether. “I just want to sleep, man.”

“Spare me your misbegotten sympathies,” Nines muttered resentfully, “that won’t work here, you know.”

Pressing a hand against his forehead, Gavin literally felt his brain throbbing. This was sheer torture. “I wasn’t sympathy fishing,” he answered with pure honesty, “I’m grateful that you stepped in and showed those assholes what Gary and his buddies did to me, you know.”

Nines stared dully at him for a moment, but Gavin knew he was at least listening.

Encouraged, the detective quickly said, “I really felt like for once we were partners, and it was great knowing you had my back, Nines. That’s loyalty, and it’s really rare to come by these days.” Shifting, he was silent for a moment, and then added in, “Thanks for that, and thanks again for—”

“If you’re done with your half-assed words of gratitude,” Nines spat cruelly as he glared at Gavin resentfully, “then you can get to bed, unless you need to use me for some messed-up sexual release…as usual!”

That had been the ultimate statement he didn’t need to hear. It reminded him that he was one sick, demented pervert, and Gavin shrank considerably from the accusation.

“I didn’t use you, Nines…”

“You most certainly did, you jackass!”

“You know that’s not true,” emphasized Gavin, stepping forward, resisting the urge to shove Nines, hard. “You know I’ve had to go through just as much shit as you. You just don’t want to admit there might be a lot we have in common, and you’re enjoying lumping me in with a group of Fedora-tipping, neck-bearded assholes who think about nothing but sex all damn day!!”

Raising his voice as the tension and heat of the argument got to him, clearly, Nines roared mightily, “You think we have things in common?!” Snorting, he threw at Gavin, “Reed, you had me speak to you in a sexually degrading and abusive manner; how is that anything we share in terms of likeness?!”

“Well you seemed to be as into it as I was, you moron!” Gavin screamed back, slowly slipping further and further into madness by way of Nines guiding him with each verbal prod and shove.

Shaking his head, Nines sneered sharply at him. “Reed, I’ve never spoken that way to anyone in my entire existence!” Freezing up, he almost whispered, “Do you have any idea how horribly I felt afterwards?!”

Jaw quivering before he composed himself, Gavin answered, “But that was just ‘fuck-talk’, Nines…all couples do it…”

Rolling his eyes for a second, Nines groaned, “I’m aware of that, Reed! I wasn’t created entirely clueless, I’ll have you know!”

“Okay,” Gavin snapped, realizing the android wasn’t as vacuous as he originally thought, “then what’s your point?”

Lingering in the doorway before him so tall, Nines hissed down at him, “I believe your constant need for abuse, disregard for your own person, your lack of control and care when it comes to your temperament, as well as your previous promiscuity and need to resort to alcoholism are signs of a deeper-seated and deeper-rooted problem that you have yet to acknowledge in order to begin working on, Reed.”

As Nines advanced looming over the shorter male, Gavin looked a little panicked, and panic made him relatively angry. He truly felt ‘on the spot’ and under the ‘light’, now, and he curled back in fear.

“Y-you’re the freak, Nines!” he accused, brain scrambling for anything to make it so that the tables were turned on Nines, and that he was blamed and the one feeling like complete dirt. It was what Gavin often resorted to doing whenever he felt backed into a corner, and the need to lash out for the sake of protecting himself was much too high, now.

The insult rolled off Nines, however. Gavin may as well have thrown fluffy feathers into his face and tried beating him with them. “Everyone has an imperfect aspect of themselves, Reed,” he spat with unnecessary venom, “that’s what I learned first about humans since I became deviant, and it’s a lesson I’m never going back on. So don’t play the role of some innocent when you’re the most broken man I’ve ever met.”

That had really been a character assassination and a calumny Gavin couldn’t accept. Nines was just like this therapist, now; he was saying there was something wrong with him, something broken and not working…he too was judging him…he was like everyone else…

A disappointment.

Forcing himself to recover quickly from the verbal harpoon Nines had lanced forward and assaulted his heart deeply with, a wounded Gavin Reed bit out with utmost vitriol and rage, “And here I was thinking we could have—”

No…he wasn’t going to go there, and he shut his own damn mouth.

Almost said too much…

Nines however wasn’t quite ready to let go of what Gavin nearly spouted. Looming over the other male, he stared him down as he demanded, “What was that, Reed? Finish your thought.”

Shrugging, Gavin quickly lied, “I just don’t think there’s anything here worth talkin’ about.” He hoped Nines would now buy it and leave it the hell alone.  

Eyeing him warily, Nines whispered, “What could possibly be here?”

“I don’t know,” spat Gavin, “but I’m starting to realize it might not be worth the effort.”

Something dark and dangerous flashed across Nines’ eyes, and then his LED light blared red.

Immediately, Gavin had a horrible moment of self-awareness, just for a fleeting second before Nines’ large hands were bunched in his shirt and he was dragged into the bedroom wildly. The detective found his lissome back was slammed up against the wall near the closet with such a potency that it frightened him. It hurt to have the wind knocked clean out of him, but for Gavin, the highest point of his fear was psychological and emotional. Nines could’ve been wrapping a hand around his throat and slowly squeezing, but what hurt more was the child inside Gavin, the one that still cried and wailed in the coldest, gloomiest, and darkest of nights. This child was always crying inside, and convinced that no one, not a soul was ever going to love him. That crying child was why he raged at Nines’ injustice, his rejection, hatred blooming like an ugly weed. Nines’ anger was able to bring out many hard truths Gavin had buried and repressed all along. He knew that he’d never had the friends he once thought he had, never known what it was to have people really care, and he’d always experienced just the same social and emotional rejection to deal with. People telling him he wasn’t worth the pain or worth the effort. Even his mother…even his father…

It was an icy shock, sudden and painful, to feel what he had always known about himself.

But it made no sense. How could he be this hurt, especially by Nines? In the past, Nines didn’t even like him, didn’t want to be bothered with him! Yes, he’d always wanted approval from Captain Fowler even as he feigned interest at the prospect of working and being partnered up with Gavin a few times. The human male knew he’d wanted every bit of recognition and respect from Fowler and wanted it in the line of work for the DPD Nines so very desperately coveted, and he’d wanted it most of all from the rest of their human co-workers especially.

While holding him up against the wall, Nines stared at him, wild and a little absent, angry without seeming to know quite what he was doing. Gavin wondered if this fight was really going to be about something as...absent...as his mother and father. It’d been a long time since he’d looked into a mirror and seen anyone but himself. Strangely, he figured that it seemed to be the same for Nines…

“You’re something else, Reed,” Nines finally snickered acerbically. “Clearly you can dish it out, but you can’t take it, huh? What a real piece of work.” The hands pushed him again, just a little, and Gavin tensed, resisting, but in his minor resistance, he found himself listening keenly to Nines.

The android snarled menacingly, “You’re only here because of what you want from me, don’t you get it?” Shaking Gavin a little, he expounded, “You often come to me whenever you’re in need of help, but lately, you’re drawn to me to seek out sexual relief paired with some delusions of a happy ending that’s owed to you.”

Knowing he was again attacking the promise of assisting him in terms of the requirements of the will his father left behind, Gavin remained seething. His own hands came up to push Nines away, but the strong android didn’t even budge. It was rather unsettling how much Nines had changed in terms of his appearance and how aggressive he’d turned out to be. It was a complete dynamic shift when Gavin thought of the first moment he’d laid eyes on the RK900 newly introduced to the DPD the moment he’d left CyberLife…

It hardly mattered. Nines had changed, but for better or worse wasn’t really a topic for discussion.

Glaring down at the tattoo of the dark flames borne out of the sharp green vines, Gavin hissed, “You don’t even have a clue who or what you are, do you?” Now, they were both rather distracted and hot with anger, but neither of them seemed to be able to stop. Writhing for a moment, Gavin eventually pressed out, “You’re a fuckin’ mimic, Nines; you only went ahead and got this shitty tattoo because I haphazardly mentioned you’d look better with one…” Knowing he had the android’s undivided attention, a sudden burst of power took over Gavin. Now, he felt the wild need to assert himself further, even if his assumptions were absolutely wrong.

Nodding at Nines’ clothes, he ranted emotionally, “Same with your clothes. Only when I led you into that damn punk and goth clothing store did you suddenly find an interest in dressing that way; before that, you never showed an interest in this shit, and you know it!!”

Voice rising steadily, Gavin felt his throat already burning, but he didn’t want to quit. Nines was seething and fuming, but he couldn’t say anything. His jaw tightened, and his fingers curled in Gavin’s shirt, but he made no move to interrupt the detective.

“A fuckin’ mimic!” Gavin reiterated his accusation, “Do you even have one fuckin’ clue?? Do you have a single trait of originality in there? Or are you going to always live out your life the way you think other people will like?”

In response, Nines actually snarled. His hands were still twisting Gavin’s dark shirt up, body an inch away and radiating heat. Gavin didn’t like it. He knew he didn’t like the sense of rising alarm and rising awareness, the feeling that somewhere, a line was being crossed. That a line could even be crossed. Nines had never overstepped his mark as a colleague before. Yes, he had in his worst moments raised his voice a few times and shoved chairs and desks around mildly, but he’d never been like this–violent, physically touching anyone, looming with a threat that he was able to hit or do whatever he liked. Gavin supposed though that now, Nines had nothing left to lose in doing this, and only because they were on their own time now, and supposedly equals.

And the detective realized he was breathing steadier now, but quickly, like he’d been running. While Nines listened to his tremulous breathing, he reacted, and that panicked look was emerging again. Seeing it there before, Gavin understood that he felt he wanted to know what it was that scared Nines so much. No…no, on second thought, he didn’t want to know. To know would mean he had to get closer to Nines; to open up to him, to open himself wounds and all to Nines, and be vulnerable.

Gavin already had plenty of open, festering wounds from his past, so there was no telling what effect it would have, and that was all this was–the strange and alien side-effects of a dangerous psychological substance. It didn’t need to be analyzed; it didn’t need to be given more attention. Even though Gavin knew there was something, something going on in the space between them and the expression on Nines’ face. It seemed to slow things down, but the android’s hands were loosening on his shirt, and Gavin didn’t know what it could’ve meant and implied except bad things about to occur.

He believed this wholeheartedly for the split second it took for Nines to reach up and grab his hair, pulling it back as though to look for an answer to the unspoken question in Gavin’s face. He still believed it as he licked his dry lips, and then observed Nines emulating that same gesture.

He didn’t know quite when the tension came to its peak, and then shattered. He didn’t know who did it and who started it. Gavin wasn’t even thinking the word or action of kiss. He was just feeling, feeling a mouth over his, pressing hard, and it felt enough like a battle that it was easy to fight back with an open mouth and sharp teeth. And, oh, terror was rising in his chest, a bloom of heat sparking his fingertips, flooding with adrenaline ready to fight.

Except it really wasn’t a fight. They just bit at each other’s mouths wildly, a most violently charged pantomime of sweet intimacy.

Panic stopped Gavin from breathing and he pulled away, but then Nines tried to pull away further and Gavin couldn’t deal with meeting his eyes and admitting-admitting anything, anything at all except that he so very much enjoyed that hot slick feeling and the warmth of a body against his. Immediately, pulled Nines back.

Though he let Gavin back down to his feet, Nines slammed his hands back on the shorter male’s shoulders, pressing hard. As he did this, Gavin unleashed his own version of an assault by wrapping his hands around Nines’ neck, and then yanking as hard as he could on his black hair strands. It was as though if they hurt each other they could imagine something else sufficing as a release from the painful reality and truth of their current seat of problems.

It was now more or less a twisted competition to see who could inflict the most pain. However, Nines was winning whatever the game was, because now Gavin was pinned by the length of Nines’ body pressing him to the wall, and there were hands in his hair and his legs felt weak against the assault.

It wasn’t a good kiss. Applying such a word to it would be ridiculous, because it was hot and wild and incautious, barely a kiss at all, with an edge of desperation. But it was...Gavin didn’t want to think what it was. He only confirmed that he didn’t want it to be real, so he closed his eyes and slid his hands over Nines’ broad chest, mind flickering over the notion of imagining someone else. Right when he did, he felt a little sick at the perversion of his own thoughts and clung a little harder. Nines shifted his hips, and someone-Gavin didn’t want it to be himself-made a noise like nothing he’d ever heard. It was something part fear and all desire, and it was too much to handle.

He pulled his head back, hitting the icy wall with a dull crack. He kept his eyes closed, his hands tight around fistfuls of black clothing, and tried to remember what it was like to breathe. Watching him carefully, Nines stayed close; his breath was on Gavin’s neck, harsh and ragged.

“I—” began Gavin, quickly horrified when his word came out breathy and pleading. Wincing, he continued, “I just don’t—”

“Then don’t,” Nines groaned out, no more composed. It was startling to hear that hitch in his breath. Startling and sort of powerful, a bit heady and dangerously exciting, and because it stopped Gavin from thinking through any rational thought. Knowing he was the source and the caus