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Avalanche

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February 12th, 2039

RK900 pulled his car up to the Anderson residence and sat for a moment, contemplating. Was this really necessary? He supposed it was… But the urge to withdraw completely, to let the cracks mold back together, to give Amanda the control she desired… If only to quell the ache in his chest, the urge sat in the back of his mind, tempting and taunting.

Another beat of silence before he shut the car off and stepped outside. The house was a quaint little thing, with manicured gardens that were definitely the work of Connor (Hank would never have had the patience). RK900 followed the path to the front door, hesitating, before deciding to send a message to Connor instead of knocking. No use getting their dog riled up.

The door swung open a moment later and Connor greeted RK900 surprisingly warmly. “Glad to see you made it, I almost thought that you would change your mind,” he jested, stepping aside to welcome RK900 into the living room. A soft “boof” was the only greeting from Sumo as the older dog lounged on his raggedy bed, tail wagging lazily.

“I almost did,” RK900 spoke, inclining his head to Connor, “but I am better than some virus that wants to control me.”

Connor chuckled at that and moved to sit on the couch, RK900 following suit. The difference in their postures was immediately noticeable – Connor lounged back into the cushions, legs crossed, hands loosely folded in his lap; while RK900 remained perfectly rigid as if waiting to spring into action at any moment. It set Connor on edge ever-so-slightly, however…

“You’re changing,” he noted, shifting to fully face RK900. The other android didn’t look directly at him, eyes unfocused and gazing at the ground.

“I suppose I am. The… cracks are getting worse. Amanda is infuriated. Since last night, I have had this dull ache overtake my chassis, radiating from my thirium pump,” he spoke, voice level despite the glimpses of concern that danced across his face and his LED dancing back and forth from blue to yellow.

“What happened last night?” Connor asked, leaning a bit more forward, now thoroughly curious.

“I…” RK900 took a second to gather his thoughts, unsure of entirely what to give away. He cleared his throat, an unnecessary gesture but one that felt appropriate. “Last night, I was called to what was originally described as a particularly violent scene at a local bar. A couple patrons had over-imbibed and engaged in a bar fight; apparently, a knife was pulled. One patron was badly wounded, but not mortally. The scene was blown massively out of proportion by a few very inebriated women – in the end any officer could have handled the scene, but I am glad that I went. Unfortunately, no charges were pressed, and no one wanted to point out who the other person was that engaged in the fight and chose to pull a knife.” A swift wave of rage coursed through him – awful humans protecting more awful humans. “That badly wounded patron just so happened to be Detective Reed.”

Connor sighed heavily at that, an action that startled RK900; he would have thought the story would be shocking to Connor, not something to sigh at. Turning to level a confused glance at the smaller android, Connor raised a hand defensively. “I’m sorry, probably not the reaction you expected. This isn’t the first time something like that with Gavin has happened – in fact, one of the things that brought us to trust one another was me being called to a similar incident. In this case, however, it was… well, it took a different turn than a simple bar fight, I’ll leave it at that.”

-~-

It was mid-December, snow lightly falling and temperatures below freezing at midnight. The call came in on a late Saturday night – some domestic dispute at a popular gay bar in the heart of Downtown. A patron had walked into the bathroom and caught site of a rather brutal scene off in the corner; he grabbed a staff member who had placed the call. The rather burly perpetrator had tried to defend himself, saying that the other guy had started it – but he didn’t have a damn scratch on him and the other guy was beat half to shit, clearly in the midst of being taken advantage of. When his story wasn’t well-received, the idiot decided the best course of action was to take a swing at a cop – an action which got him tased, cuffed, and shoved in the back seat of a cop car.

When Connor arrived on scene, he found the absolute last person he expected to be involved in a domestic dispute and possible rape case. He had stepped into the gay bar, fully prepared to take a careful analysis of the scene and gather evidence, but all thoughts flew out of his mind when his eyes fell on the battered form of Gavin Reed. He halted dead in his tracks, the other officer behind him – a beat cop who covered this area by the name of Danielle Schrute – practically running into his back.

“Sorry,” he offered weakly. She glanced up from her notes and followed his gaze, eyes landing on the Detective. Connor barely registered her soft “ah, fuck”.

He looked over his shoulder, out the entrance, at the cop car that housed the large man, Damien something, still out of it from the likely mixture of drugs, alcohol, and being tased. Slowly, he turned and carefully made his way over to Gavin, who hadn’t even seemed to register his presence. He was sat on a bar seat, towel held to his busted lip, other arm wrapped tightly around his torso. The silence felt heavy, thick, almost suffocating. Connor had to take a deep breath before he could even think about talking.

“Gavin-“

“Shove it. I’m not pressing charges.”

“Gavin,” he stressed, and the Detective jumped at that, recognition glancing across his face. Shocked and watery green eyes lifted to see Connor’s concerned face – one was slightly swollen shut by a deepening black eye. The silence returned, and Connor noted how red Gavin’s eyes were, how obvious it was that he had been crying, and how it looked like he might start crying again. The android’s metaphorical heart broke, at seeing Gavin – the absolute bastard he had knocked out less than a month ago – so completely vulnerable and broken before him. Connor’s own vision blurred with unshed tears, and he took another, unsteady yet deep, breath.

A few more moments passed, before Gavin seemed to release the breath he had been holding, his head dropping again as the tears finally worked their way through. “Fuck, you’re the last person I hoped to see me like this. Surprise, surprise, I’m not the tough fucking asshole I act like every single day.”

“Gavin, I am… I am so sorry,” Connor whispered, folding his arms across himself, struggling with what to do.

“Don’t be, I deserved it,” he muttered, using the bloodied towel in his hand to wipe away his tears. “Should have known better, but I run my fucking mouth too much.”

“Gavin! No one deserves to be…” Connor let the unspoken word linger between them, and Gavin pulled into himself more, a broken sob escaping his lips. Connor let impulse drive him in the next moment, and he pulled Gavin into a tight but gentle embrace, feeling the human tense for a moment before relaxing against him, free hand clutching at his jacket. They stayed like that for quite a while, until Gavin was finally able to stop sobbing and at least make an attempt to regain control of himself.

Someone cleared their throat from behind the pair, and Connor turned to see Hank, awkwardly standing there, hands in his pockets. “Hank, I thought you were on our other case…”

“I was, until Officer Schrute contacted me and told me that our victim here was Reed.”

Gavin pulled back then, blurry vision focused on Hank. “Please, you two can’t tell anyone about this at the precinct. Especially not Tina, she’d freak the fuck out.”

“Gavin, why don’t you want to press charges?” Connor asked, voice soft. Gavin still flinched away.

“Because, this will be all over the fuckin' news. Fuckin' stupid-ass DPD Detective gets... assaulted by the stupid fucking piece of shit he was not even really dating. Great, sounds fucking great. And if my Dad…” He shut up then, jaw audibly snapping closed, a shudder rushing through his body.

Connor and Hank shared a look, followed by a nod, before Hank spoke, “Look, kid, that Damien fucker had more than enough drugs on him to lock him away for a long time. Plus, he assaulted another cop… So, I get it. You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to.”

Gavin hung his head, nodding. “Thanks,” he muttered.

-~-

“Connor?” RK900’s voice broke through Connor’s thoughts, and the smaller android suppressed a shiver, wishing his LED would stop blaring bright red.

“Y-yea, sorry. That was… that was a terrible night. It’s not my story to tell, however,” he managed, eyes downcast as he focused on a loose thread on the sleeve of his sweater, mindlessly playing with it.

RK900 frowned at that, concern washing over him as he wondered just what had happened to the Detective. What kind of tragic life had he lived? What atrocities had he suffered? How similar were the things RK900 went through – months and months of horrible training bordering on torture that he simply went along with – how much of that was similar to what Gavin dealt with?

“Anyways, this time of the year… It’s particularly horrible for Gavin. If you checked his files at the DPD, which I’m sure you did, you would see that his partner was killed in action almost ten years ago as of this Monday.”

“I did see that, yes. Ryan Loughlin, correct? He was 29 at the time, unfortunately. Left behind his parents, an older brother, and a younger sister.” RK900 shook his head slightly, wondering how much of an impact that could have had on Reed. Many of the details of the incident were inaccessible – the file on it had simply stated that Loughlin was shot point-blank and was deceased on scene. So why-

“Ryan was Gavin’s fiancé.”

A cold chill shot through RK900, his eyes widening in shock, led spinning immediately red. He felt speechless, breathless, absolutely shaken to his core. That explained the intense impact on Gavin, then…

“Hank told me about it… He had just been a Detective then. Gavin and Ryan were relatively new to the force, but they’d been together for just shy of six years – met in the academy. Hank said that… that it changed Gavin… He’d always been particularly rough and kind of mean, and Hank had joked about whatever it was Ryan saw in him, but afterwards, he got… worse. He was completely and thoroughly broken.” Connor swallowed hard, shaking his head. He had only found out about this a month ago, when Hank had pulled him aside and requested that he be particularly more careful with Gavin for a bit and Connor had questioned why - always probing.

RK900 sat in stunned silence, mind still reeling – a few more cracks had formed with this new knowledge, but more importantly, the dull ache blossomed ten-fold and radiated through his entire being – almost like a searing pain. He brought his hand back up to his chest, willing himself to take a deep breath, ignore another crack, take another deep breath, close his eyes as his vision blurred, try to center himself, ignore another crack, deep breath-

“RK?” Connor’s voice broke him from his false meditation, and he lifted his eyes to look at Connor.

“Apologies, Connor. I had no idea, but that… explains many things.” RK900 offered a faint, barely-there smile, before it quickly disappeared and his face settled back into impassivity.

“I figured it would,” Connor muttered, turning his attention back to fiddling with the loose string on his sleeve. “Of course, we also need to discuss what is going on with you. It’s obvious that something is breaking your code, even if it is doing so slowly… and we do not know the potential fallout from that.”

“I am aware, yes,” RK900 spoke, glancing away. “I blame Reed for a good portion of it. He has pushed and challenged me in ways I had not expected.”

“That sounds like Gavin,” Connor huffed out, a breathy chuckle following. “He’s great at button-pushing.”

“Indeed, he is…” RK900 sighed softly, shifting his posture ever-so-slightly, feeling almost uncomfortable with being so rigid. “I have been particularly cruel to him, especially in the beginning, when he was late one too many times and I… I suppose I snapped.”

“Oh, you mean when you practically through him into a table in the break room?”

“I did not!” RK900’s voice was incredulous, and Connor merely tilted his head back and laughed.

“I’m not an idiot, you know. I’m more than capable of piecing together what had happened. Hank and I had a similar incident in the beginning of our working relationship, but I was on the receiving end of being grabbed by my collar and shoved up against a wall.” A flush colored Connor’s face a light blue, and he swallowed hard, shifting his position at the same time. “A-anyways, if Hank and I were able to get past that, I’m sure you and Gavin can as well.”

“Connor, Gavin completely distrusts me, and very nearly despises me. It’s been two weeks; for you and Hank, it only took a couple days.”

“Fair, but Gavin is, believe it or not, way more stubborn than Hank ever was.”

A gruff, “hey!” echoed from the hallway and Hank appeared then, dressed in a tee and loose sweats. “You can’t talk about a man in his own house while he’s sleeping, damn.”

Connor laughed at that and bounced off the sofa, going to kiss Hank good morning. RK900 watched them briefly, but the dull throb resonated stronger as he observed their casual, easy-going show of love, and he was forced to turn away before the throbbing turned almost painful again. What was this…?

Connor returned to the couch eventually, and Hank offered a half-hearted greeting to RK900 before making his way into the kitchen and pouring himself a cup of coffee. He sat himself at the kitchen table, scrolling through his phone.

Connor turned back to RK900, studying him quietly. After a moment, he asked, “What do you think might happen if you were to deviate?”

“I am not entirely sure. I am aware of the desire to disregard and fight against Amanda, but she is a virus, and most machines fight against viruses regardless – like you did,” RK900 sighed once more, offering a barely noticeable shrug. “I do not particularly… feel anything. There are brief notions, yes, but that may just be programming. The only thing that I have truly, wholly felt is this thrum, this resonating throb that emanates from my core.”

“That is interesting,” Connor murmured, head tilting to rest in his hand. “When I deviated, it was a fully conscious choice, but there had been action upon action that led up to me making that final decision, and crack upon crack in my coding. But I was built with deviation in mind; you were built to be absolutely nothing like me, despite sharing a similar visage.”

RK900 nodded at that. “Incapable of deviancy, or so they said. I’m beginning to wonder if they even know what causes deviancy, or if deviancy is just something that is meant to happen in all androids regardless.”

“That seems possible – most androids after the revolution chose to deviate almost immediately, influenced by Markus. A few remained undeviated out of choice, not willing nor able to deal with the emotions and feelings that comes with deviation at that moment. In fact, many of our police androids are only just now exploring deviancy, having worried that the impact of the job would have done irreparable damage to them.”

“Understandable,” RK900 murmured, wondering if he was actually fully capable of deviancy. But did he want to go down that path?

Did he want to confront Amanda, and deal with whatever would be unleashed? To have to balance emotions, needs, and desires? He supposed, that… that maybe if it meant getting closer to Reed, he would consider it. So, they could have a better work relationship, at least.