Nines stumbled through the double glass doors of the DPD. He quickly caught himself, however, and adjusted his jacket, straightening the dirtied and torn article of clothing. Optical units scanned the lobby for anyone who might've seen his misstep. Luckily, the ST300s receptionists were the only ones in the entrance area, and their gazes had trained on the human FBI agents striding into the precinct ahead of the android.

Come on, keep it together, keep it together, Nines.

If there was an unnatural stiffness to his gait, well, he was an android, after all.

Just make it to your desk and then you can get to work.

He had to prove to Perkins he was an asset to the strike team. Gavin and the other officers had already been taken off the case, and Nines refused to let Perkins' men handle this anti-android domestic terrorist group alone.

They needed Nines—particularly his superior processing capabilities and his military-grade combat and investigative software—but the android knew that Perkins was looking for any reason to boot him. This desire wasn't based on any real case-specific or logical grounds so much as the man's personal grudge against Gavin and anyone remotely connected to him.

Nines wasn't sure what Gavin had done to get on the FBI agent's bad side—though in all honesty he wasn't surprised in the slightest that he had gotten on the man's bad side—but the android had rather quickly found himself in the same corner after he had walked in on a verbal confrontation between the two and...interposed.

In hindsight, he probably should have scanned the man's face to check who this unfamiliar new person in the precinct was before comparing the man to a diseased rodent.

But, damn it—no one got to call his partner trash but him.

Regardless, Nines had soon gotten acquainted with the FBI agent beyond his rat-like appearance, and he could now confidently conclude that the shorter man's resemblance to vermin was more than skin deep. Perkins was ruthless, cruel, vindictive, and condescending. Most appallingly in Nine's personal opinion, he was a detestable leader who did not care for the lives of his own men and, indeed, was despised by most of his coworkers.

Nines did not regret his original comments towards the man. He only regretted that he could no longer express his utterly unimpressed dissatisfaction and distaste with the repugnant human if he wanted to see this case through to the end.

He was lucky the higher-ups saw his services as vital to the investigation. Never mind that part of the reason he was still being sent out was due to "the fortunate confluence" of his "compatible skillset and inherent expendability" as an android. The RK900 was not too sure how he felt about that particular phrasing, but it had allowed the DPD to maintain a foothold in the case, and it let Nines stop Perkins from mucking things up too horribly.

Perkins was not fond of androids. He saw them as tools to be used and thrown away and still carried a chip on his shoulder for not nipping the deviant revolution in the bud with Markus. He had also, at one point, expressed his support for the terrorist organization's ideals and how he wished only that they had gone about it a different way. By targeting both androids and sympathetic humans, the Bureau was prevented from turning a blind eye to their activities.

That Perkins had indicated approval for the bringing to heel of androids through mass murder may or may not have been the reason the man currently had a broken nose, while Gavin had bloody knuckles and a position firmly off the case.

This also may or may not have had anything to do with how the FBI agent had been staring straight at Nines as he expressed these sentiments.

Gavin's untimely expulsion from the case, however, only provided all the more reason for Nines to do everything in his power to stay on the task force. He was treading on thin ice as it was; his position would be put in serious jeopardy if Perkins got even a hint of an idea that he was not functioning optimally. And he would need to put up a convincing show of it because Perkins was incensed and looking for someone to take it out on.

The raid had been a complete disaster, to say the least. They thought they'd gotten the location of the terrorist cell's home base, but it had been a trap. Not only that, but Perkins had signaled the team to storm the place before they had fully secured and cordoned it off under the misguided assumption that waiting any longer would ruin the element of surprise.

What had followed was complete pandemonium. They had evidently been expected, and were greeted with a massive firefight that killed one agent, put three in critical condition, and caused injuries to half a dozen more. Nines had been shot up in the leg while helping one of these agents to safety, and now almost certainly needed to replace his lower leg component.

Making a quick run to a CyberLife store for spare parts had been out of the question, but at least the RK900 had been able to bandage his wounds in secret so that Perkins was none the wiser. He had lost an unfortunate amount of thirium, however, and he really did need to replace his lower leg component. But not right now. They had just walked into the terrorist cell's trap, there had been sizable casualties and Perkins was furious in that frigid, tightly controlled way of his. What Nines needed to do right now was help them find the true location of the cell ASAP and prove his worth.

There was no time to waste.


Now if only those stupidly redundant warning notifications would go away. He would attend to himself as soon as they caught the terrorists—they were right on their tail, he just needed to do this and then he'd be fine.

"How was the—" Chris Miller spun around in his chair to track the RK900's progress and stopped short at the dour mood of both the android and the other FBI agents.

"It was a set-up," Nines answered tersely without stopping.

"Those fuckers are going to pay," one of the FBI agents within earshot growled.

Nines had just come upon his terminal when another dizzy spell hit him. He fisted a hand against the desk, breathing deeply through his nose and trying to collect himself. Carefully, he lowered himself into his seat—please, RA9, don't let him miss the chair or something equally ridiculous—and set to work.

Perkins was whipping out orders in the form of icicles at the entire precinct about how this was priority number one and how everyone needed to be on top of their game and get their fuckin' asses into gear on this. Nines thought the man was being far more accusatory in tonality than was strictly warranted. The strike team had been operating under his orders, after all, when everything had gone to hell. Though the RK900 had no doubt the odious man would find a way to shift the blame to someone else.

It was after a tense fifteen minutes of furiously reworking over everything they thought they knew when Nines noticed the liquid seeping from his bandages and sliding down his calf.

No no no no no no no. He was not going to drip a puddle of thirium on the floor—he was not.

Abruptly he stood up.

Ẃ̠̥̭̪̚͡Á͇͎͎͕͂̕͞R̫͍̱̊͐̐NȈ̖͈̈͞ͅN͇͠G͍͖͛̚:̖̼͖̎͌̀͂͜͢͡ ̻̳̓͘T̰͖͖̣̏̅̈̋H̤͡Į̣̃̊͋͜Ṛ̀̌͜Ị̣̊̅̚͢Ư̝̼̾M ̛̖͎̬͔̄̈̿Ȑ̥̻̮̹̈̋̃E̛̬͐͟S͈̿Ḛ͑̏ͅṞ͝V̛͙̘̮̆̒̂ͅĚ̦͎͛S ̖̳̐Ḽ̒O̤̫̲̽͊͞W̛̖̯̄

The RK900 leaned against the desktop, head bent. Deep breaths. Come on, Nines. Don't draw any attention to yourself. Steeling himself, he straightened his back, lifted his head, and pulled back his shoulders. One foot in front of the other.

It was with a truly embarrassing amount of concentration that he made his way over to the bathroom. He just needed to redress his wounds and then he could get back to work.

An officer exited the restroom ahead of him, and Nines hurriedly shifted gears, pretending he was going towards the observation room until the man had passed. A quick scan showed no one in the secluded back hallway before the android ducked into the room. Thermal signatures indicated no other humans present in the restroom, for which Nines was immensely grateful.

Still, he'd rather not push his luck, and he secured the stall door behind him before making as quick a work of the redressing process as he was able. He had known this would be necessary and had stashed extra bandages in his jacket, but the seconds still ticked past loudly in his internal clock, mocking him for every moment he was wasting, every moment he allowed nothing but his full attention to be given to locating the terrorists at large.

Wound freshly wrapped, Nines exited the stall with the old blue-stained bandages in his hands.

This, of course, was the exact moment that someone decided it was a good idea to enter the restroom.

Waiting for the strike team to return had been sheer torture for Gavin. He hated waiting. Especially when he was waiting for his best friend to return from an extremely delicate and dangerous mission with only Perkins' men to back him up.

His agitation and occasional pacing had apparently been "disruptive" to the other DPD personnel, according to Captain Fowler—which he resented, by the way—Gavin Reed did not pace. He just thought better while moving around sometimes, that was all. And there was certainly a lot to think about with this growing domestic terrorist threat and the almost guaranteed shootout at their home base that his friend was walking into basically alone.

He hadn't heard from Nines in a while and he was really starting to wonder—the fuckers were primarily an anti-android group, you know, so if anyone on the strike team was in particular danger of being targeted by the terrorists it was his partner, and despite what everyone, including Nines, seemed to think, the damn android wasn't indestructible—and that didn't even begin to cover how little Gavin trusted the rat-man in charge of the whole operation—hell, he was probably looking for a way to put Nines on the front lines and get him killed. Dammit, he really shouldn't have gotten himself kicked off the case, Nines could be in serious trouble and he was stuck here just sitting on his a and twiddling his thumbs and he could have been there for him and had his back because those FBI agents sure as hell didn't and—

At any rate, Fowler had sent him down to the archive room to retrieve a hard copy of a file the Captain wanted. Ostensibly. While pulling him aside to ask him to do so, Fowler had also told Gavin in no uncertain terms he was to "pull himself the fuck together and stop worrying" while he was down there.

Which was preposterous, really. Gavin Reed did not worry, just like he did not pace.

Or at least, he didn't use to worry. That was before he somehow found himself the best friend of a stupid, reckless, self-sacrificing idiot. Now it seemed his peace of mind was inextricably linked to the well-being of an oversized Nokia phone with a hero complex. Caught up in the maelstrom of his thoughts, the detective stomped down the subterranean hall to Evidence Container 23.

Gah, life was so much easier when he didn't give a shit about anybody. Everyone hated him, he hated everyone—he was on amicable terms with Tina and Chris, sure, but everything was simple and he only ever really had to worry about his own damn self.

No one had ever gotten quite under his skin as Nines had. Angrily, he punched in the password Fowler had told him to use in order to bring up the wall of filing cabinets.

Damn Nines for flipping his world upside down. He hadn't even known it was possible to care about someone else so much, and it was wreaking havoc on his mental health. Not that there had been much there to begin with but that was beside the point. The detective located the section of drawers labeled "Arson and Insurance Fraud" and began digging through them sourly. Why the phck did they still keep hard copies of things, anyway?

He bet Fowler kept this all down here specifically for the purpose of being able to force officers into his version of time-out.

Okay, maybe that was a bit far fetched.

He continued flipping past files for several seconds before his hand paused, hovered in mid-air. Or, maybe it wasn't quite so far fetched.

Fowler always was complaining about being put in charge of a kindergarten class of dysfunctional idiots, so who knew. Hmm. Something to think about later.

He shook his head, getting back to his searching—Christ, this was so inefficient, how did anybody deal with this shit back in the day and—there! His hand snatched up the thick manila folder triumphantly. Casefile of a previously convicted arsonist, Noah Orion—whoever the phck that was. Closing the cabinet and signing out of the terminal to close the evidence locker, the mechanical whir of the cabinets being brought back into the wall and sealed off by the metal overhead door sounded at his already retreating back.

He emerged back into the wider office space of the DPD to find the strike team had returned. He almost threw his hands up in the air in frustration. Of phcking course this was when they had all gotten back. The detective stomped over to Fowler, shoved the file into his hands with a barely civil, "Got it," and strode back over towards his desk, eyes scanning for a certain brown-haired and silver-eyed individual.

Nines was sitting at his desk—safe, alive, apparently in one piece—and something loosened slightly within the detective, an unclenching in his gut that was most certainly not relief because he hadn't thought Nines would be anything less than fine for a second. His partner was looking tense and a bit worse for wear, though, jacket dirtied and his normally pristine hair mussed. Gavin's not-relief fizzled out as Nines stood up abruptly and leaned against his desk with a pinched expression.

His not-worry only heightened as the android began making his way stiffly across the precinct. Those damn FBI agents were probably none the wiser but to Gavin, it was crystal clear that something was not right with his friend. It screamed from the tension strung taut through every slow, deliberate step and the RK900's gaze that was disturbingly more mechanical than normal.

Gavin pushed past a pair of said ignorant FBI agents to follow his friend. Where the phck was he headed? He turned the corner to see the tail of a white jacket disappear into...the bathroom? Okay, weird, considering androids didn't shit, for one thing.

"Hey, Reed!" Officer Lewis flagged him down. Gavin inwardly groaned as he became acutely aware of the otherwise empty hallway and lack of convenient getaway.

"Lewis," he greeted distractedly, trying to look over the other man's massive shoulder to watch as the door at the end of the hall swung shut.

"I know now isn't the best time, what with everything that's going on—but look, I've got that promotional exam to become a detective coming up in a couple of months and I just wanted to ask you…"

It took an annoying miniature eternity to extract himself from the conversation. The other officer's words were still hitting against his back like incessant flies as he finally moved around the large man to continue down the hallway.

"Yep! I will definitely help you with it later!" he threw over his shoulder against the other man's finishing stutters. "Just not right now," he muttered as he sensed Officer Lewis shuffling back into the main area of the DPD.

It was with a small sense of relief that he was finally able to swing open the door and find out what the phck was going on with his partner.

Like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar and no other options available, the RK900 brought the used bandages behind his back. An unfortunate situation, but he'd be fine if he could just move past the intruder as quickly as possible and drop the bandages in the trashcan by the door on his way out.

This plan was immediately driven from his mind, however, as he registered just who the figure who'd entered the bathroom was.

"Gavin," he said, half relieved it was a friendly face and half apprehensive that if anyone could tell that something was wrong with him it was his closest friend.

"Nines," the detective replied, his poorly masked concern leaking through the single syllable. How was he already concerned?

"So you wanna tell me what's up with you? What happened with the raid? Are you okay?" Why didn't you seek me out as soon as you got back so I knew you were alright? The words weren't spoken but the android heard them all the same.

Nines' jaw clenched almost painfully.

"I'm fine." Not wanting to dwell on that somewhat shady area of interpretation, he elected to focus on the second question of the slew Gavin had thrown at him. "The raid, though—it was a trap. They knew we were coming, and it was chaos—a lot of agents were wounded, Williams was killed—and I need to get back to work so we can finally make some progress and put an end to this terrorist organization."

Taking the opportunity to make a quick exit. "So if you'll excuse me," he said while avoiding his partner's gaze. He strode past Gavin and moved to deposit the soiled bandages in the garbage.

A hand caught his wrist before he could, however.

Grey eyes looked from the blue-soaked bandages to the RK900's own silver optical units, drilling into them with a molten intensity.

"You're fine, huh?"

Nines ripped his hand away and threw the wad into the trash can. It landed with a wet spat. Why was nothing going his way today?

The android turned back defiantly towards the detective. "Yes, Gavin, I am fine."

The returning stare was the height of skepticism.

"Okay, so I might have also gotten injured. But it's nothing I can't handle. I promise I'll replace my leg component after we've—"

"Woah, woah, woah—replace your leg component? Nines! What the phck did you do to yourself?!"

RA9. His processors must really be suffering from the lack of blue blood. What kind of a foolish, witless, infantile thing did he just do, revealing more information than necessary like that?

The RK900 brought up his hands to scrape through his scalp, but stopped a fraction of an inch away—now wouldn't that just be perfect, smearing the thirium on your hands all through your hair—and instead brought them down to fists at his sides.

"Gavin, I really, really, do not need this right now. I was just helping another agent to safety, some stray bullets caught me in the leg, and I will take care of it after we get a new lead on these fucking terrorists. We messed up somewhere, or maybe someone tipped them off—I don't know, but we need to go back and find out whatever it is before anyone else gets hurt. They're on the move right now so we have a chance to go after them before they go back underground and we cannot let them get away, I—"

His partner held his hands up placatingly. "Okay, okay, I got it, Nines. And I agree. Detroit will be a much safer place for humans and androids once this terrorist cell is dealt with." The detective inhaled, his tenuous level-headedness quickly running out. "But what the FUCK were you thinking?! It'll take like ten minutes—tops—to go to the storage locker of spare parts, get some thirium, and fix your leg up. Why the fucking hell have you not done so already?!"

Ẃ̠̥̭̪̚͡Á͇͎͎͕͂̕͞R̫͍̱̊͐̐NȈ̖͈̈͞ͅN͇͠G͍͖͛̚:̖̼͖̎͌̀͂͜͢͡ ̻̳̓͘T̰͖͖̣̏̅̈̋H̤͡Į̣̃̊͋͜Ṛ̀̌͜Ị̣̊̅̚͢Ư̝̼̾M ̛̖͎̬͔̄̈̿Ȑ̥̻̮̹̈̋̃E̛̬͐͟S͈̿Ḛ͑̏ͅṞ͝V̛͙̘̮̆̒̂ͅĚ̦͎͛S ̖̳̐Ḽ̒O̤̫̲̽͊͞W̛̖̯̄

Nines squinted angrily at his partner past the ridiculous warning display obscuring his HUD.

"In case you haven't noticed, Detective Reed, Perkins has been on my case since day one and he is just looking for a reason to kick me off this assignment. He's probably keeping an eye on the storage locker, waiting for the opportunity to get some sort of ammunition against me to bring to the higher-ups to show—oh, look, the fancy military-grade android came off worse than many of my human agents, it's clearly incapable of putting the mission first and protecting its fellow officers, it let agent Williams die for RA9's sake, maybe it's best if we just sideline the useless piece of plastic so we can get on with the investigation- well guess, what, Gavin, guess what?!" The RK900's voice had risen to a hysteric pitch but he was beyond caring. "I am capable! I can fucking protect others and I can do my damn job! I can put the mission before everything else and I will fucking prove it to them if it kills me!"

The RK900 was breathing heavily, synthetic respiration oxygenating his limited thirium supplies and bringing a faintness to his head that made the room spin slightly.

"I just need to, I need to" Knees buckling, calloused hands immediately appeared at his side, helping lower him to the ground. The cool wall of the bathroom slid up against his back and suddenly he found himself sitting on the floor. Gavin was crouched close in front of him, the smell of worry thick and cloying on him, swirling eddies in stormy grey eyes.

There was a painful smile on his partner's face and an unreadable look in his eyes. "You are capable, Nines, I trust you with my life. And it's not your fault Williams died. But this is not the right way to go about this." His gaze narrowed slightly. "You're not fuckin' Superman, and it's not the end of the world that you might need a little help."

Nines would have pointed out the gross hilarity of Gavin Reed saying as much to someone else, but he was having an annoyingly difficult time getting his thoughts in order.

A warm hand landed on his shoulder and gave a reassuring squeeze. "We're going to go get that leg component for you, alright? Come on," he said and began to try to help Nines to his feet, but the android resisted. It was with a somewhat feverish glint in the android's optical units that he insisted he wouldn't be revealing his weakened state to anyone at the DPD lest it got back to Perkins.

The detective's face scrunched in frustration, and he blew out a very slow breath. "Okay, okay," the words were tight, "Fine. We'll do it your way. Stay here, try not to bleed out while I'm gone, and I'll be back in a minute. Perkins shouldn't be watching me like a hawk, at least." Even though Nines could tell Gavin thought he was overreacting, he at least appreciated the concession.

"Lock the door or something while I'm gone if you're that worried about being seen." With that, the detective swept from the room. Nines laid a glowing white hand against the frame to hack the mechanical lock as soon as the door closed and then leaned his head up against the cool wall. He sighed.

W̩̹̬̠͆̉̓̃4̪͕̠́̽͝R͚̒Ņ̙̪̣͛̃̈̏!N̜̽G̛̣̩͕̾͞:̩̚ ̯̻̳̞́͋̔͘͞ͅT̢͉̫͉̐͌̄͜͞Ḧ̳̩͖͗͡*̡͚̪͎̉͛̂̀R͓̤̙̜̊̒͘%̟̤̱̥̻̄͐̂̋UM̜̘̪͗̈̈ ̣̝͙̎͆̈̊͟Ŕ̬̹̹̫̰̔̾̇͘3̛̘͕̗̍̉$͕ER̥͍͛͒V̰͍͎͌͒͠5S ̛̟1̡̖͕̥̇̊̌͒0̢̗̆̔W̛̱

Gavin ran his hands through his hair in frustration as he stalked away from the restroom. Of all the stupid, hair-brained, phcking idiotic—honestly, how much thirium had Nines lost that any of that reasoning made sense to him? If anything, the fact that androids could be fixed up so quickly compared to the long convalescence period humans required would be a point for keeping him on the case, not some sort of weird vindication in Perkins' favor.

But nooo, his partner had to be the embodiment of perfection and indestructible to boot, apparently. And he was evidently willing to go to dangerous lengths to prove that to somebody. The detective stomped up to the storage locker, locating the spare component parts for the RK900 that CyberLife had supplied when Nines first joined the DPD. He slammed open the lid of the container perhaps a shade too forcefully.

ARGH! This whole case was a fucking shit-show. Nothing good had come of it. Androids were being viciously targeted, human and android civilians were being caught in the crossfire, Perkins—the prejudiced fucker—was in charge of the whole operation, Gavin himself had gotten kicked off the case, and Nines was alone with his ridiculous self-sacrificial tendencies and unhealthy expectations of himself to fester like pus-filled boils.

He was worried about Nines. Fuck it all, he couldn't even pretend to himself otherwise at the moment. Aside from the obviously alarming physical state his partner was currently in, it was clear that this was about more than sticking it to Perkins and showing him no weakness. For one, it was pretty phcking obvious that the android blamed himself for Williams' death, though he might not admit that. Did he actually think he was proving Perkins wrong by hurting himself like this or was this all some sort of twisted penance?

Nines had always been a perfectionist, but Jesus fucking Christ, he had had no idea how deeply this need to be perfect ran or the dangerous lengths to which it would push the RK900. As much as Nines was a living being to him now, one thing the android had never seemed to wrap his mind around was that being alive was fucking chock full of imperfection and failure and disappointment. That nobody was flawless or faultless, and as advanced as his mechanical toaster oven ass was, that fucking applied to him, too. He shook his head. Okay, focus on one thing at a time. Leg component and thirium—Nines needs you.

He rather did think it would be suspicious to casually be carrying around half a leg, so he ended up snagging a small duffle bag to stuff the component in. Also—the thirium, Nines would need something to drink it out of since he did not exactly trust his partner's hand-eye coordination with the packages at the moment, and...oh, there. Perfect. Hastily dumping several packages worth of thirium into the container and dropping a few more into the duffle for good measure, Gavin quickly made his way back to the restroom.

Casting a quick glance around the empty hallway, he knocked on the door.

"Hey, tin can, it's me."

The disengaging of the lock clicked and Gavin pushed his way inside. He wasn't sure if he was more concerned by the fact that Nines hadn't moved from his position against the floor—he always was a self-conscious prick of a Motorola—or the wounds he was revealing as he slowly unwrapped the bloody mess that was his leg.

"Shit, Nines," he said lowly. "You were walking on that?" Crouching down, he inspected the injury closer as the RK900 re-locked the door. Personally, he thought that Nine's calf more closely resembled swiss cheese than an actual leg at the moment. He could count at least four bullet holes, not to mention how it was just generally scored by what had probably been flying debris, and thirium continued to leak sluggishly from the wound even now, thick and azure. He shook his head, swallowed. He was suddenly very glad that androids could simply swap out their damaged parts, because damn, if he'd gotten that injury he wasn't sure if he'd recover enough to be able to go back out in the field for a long time, maybe ever.

Nines was able to unplug his lower leg component at the knee with relative ease and the damage-ridden limb fell away. Gavin brought out the fresh component, maneuvered it into place, and helped the RK900 plug it in. The whole operation was surprisingly simple, and Gavin had the incredible urge to make some sort of I told you so comment. Like, see, was that so phcking hard you metal knucklehead? But something kept his mouth glued shut. Something that tasted an awful lot like worry, his fucking new best friend, because Nines' silver gaze was growing more and more unfocused.

Not wasting another second, Gavin brought out the thirium. The android squinted hazily at the object in the detective's hands.

"You...you brought coffee?"

Gavin looked down at the 30 oz thermos in his hands. It had actually been a gift from Nines, on the two-year anniversary of their partnership. He'd been a right cheeky bastard when giving it to him—a fitting way to commemorate the beginning of our partnership, don't you think?—but the RK900 couldn't quite hide the sincerity behind the gesture, either. It had soon become well-known around the DPD how much Gavin valued his massive coffee thermos, and how he absolutely refused to let anyone else even touch it—even Nines, despite the fact that he was the one who had given it to him.

"What," the android chuckled, "you couldn't go even ten minutes without your caffeinated lifeblood?"

"That's not—of course I could!" Gavin said defensively. He held out the thermos towards his partner. "It's thirium, you idiot." The android hesitated and Gavin rolled his eyes.

"Take it. God knows how much you need it." Tentatively, the RK900 removed the prized possession from the detective's grasp. It was as he was tilting it back that something occurred to Gavin.

"You know," he considered, "it actually might have a rather strong coffee-flavored tint to it, now that I think about it. I can't really remember the last time I cleaned that thing out." The RK900 choked and that damn plague of worry came back in full force—because wouldn't it just positively make this fuckin' horrible ass day if Nines choked to death on the very thing that was supposed to make him better—but the aforementioned worry slowly subsided as he realized that Nines was laughing and not asphyxiating.

Heart still beating a little too fast, Gavin looked on in a state of semi-consternation as Nines continued to laugh his ass off.

"What?" he asked somewhat uncertainly. Damn android really did need that thirium—he was getting downright loopy. The RK900 had tears pricking at the corners of his optical units, almost doubled over in merriment.

"It's n-nothing," the android managed to get out. "Just that, a-after all this time, G-Gavin phcking Reed has essentially brought someone else a c-coffee for once in his RA9-damned life," Nines guffawed, and Gavin frowned. (He would fight anyone to the death who dared to call it a pout.)

"First of all, as I said earlier, it's thirium, you plastic-brained jackass, and second of all, this is not the first time I've ever done a nice thing and gotten someone else a coffee, you know." This just sent the RK900 into another round of—oh, lord, was he giggling now?

"R-really?" the android tried to give him a hard stare but it was somewhat undermined by his current lack of composure. "When? Name one time." Expectant silver gaze met gray.

A beat passed. Then two more.

"Okay so just because I can't think of any instance right now doesn't mean it hasn't happened," he poked a finger at the android self righteously. The only response was another round of laughter. Gavin drew a hand down his face.

"Oh for phck's sake, just drink your damn bucket of blue blood like a good little psychotic toaster, will ya?" Nines put his hands up in the air in mock surrender, and with shoulders still occasionally shaking in mirth, brought the thermos to his lips and downed the thirium inside.

As the RK900 drained the coffee thermos, he seemed to calm down from his bout of hysteria and a more solemn mood stole back over the detective duo. When Nines had finished the thermos, Gavin refilled it with the spare packages of thirium. He could see the alertness returning to his partner's gaze, and it only took three-quarters of the way through the second round before he informed Gavin that his thirium levels had returned to equilibrium.

He took back the coffee thermos from his friend but hesitated to start repacking things into the duffle bag. Nines might be put back in physical working order, but there was a serious conversation they needed to have. A conversation that was long overdue.

Gavin just wasn't too sure of how he was supposed to start.

But Gavin didn't need to be the one to broach it, however, because the full restoration of Nines' processing faculties brought with it the android's unerring ability to read his partner. Sitting up straight, the RK900 tilted his head slightly in concern.

"What's wrong?"

As much as Nines desperately wanted to get back to working the case, it was clear that something was bothering Gavin.

"You have that constipated look on your face whenever you try thinking too hard."

The comment earned a snort from the detective and a punch in the arm, but when Gavin didn't fire back with any vitriolic ripostes, the android's concern heightened. Gavin shifted uncomfortably.

"Look, Nines..." Gavin sighed, then cringed. "We need to...talk." The words seemed to be physically paining the detective, extracted excruciatingly from the man like pulled teeth. The RK900 gestured for him to continue.

"It's something that's been a thing for a while, and—it's just," he sighed, "Nines, you—" Gavin gripped his hair and made a noise of frustration. He seemed to be attempting to burn holes into the restroom floor with the blazing hot glare he was leveling at it. "Phck words," the detective said darkly to himself.

Nines leaned forward to catch his partner's eye. "Hey, it's okay. Take your time, you can tell me anything."

Unfortunately, this just seemed to make Gavin more agitated. "GAH! Stop that!" He pointed in the RK900's face. "Stop reassuring me! I'm supposed to be the one reassuring you!" Nines drew back, a frown creasing between his eyebrows. The detective had finally gotten past his inability to articulate, and the words poured from his mouth in a flood.

"You...you impossible phck! You have always been there for me and had my back in everything and you've helped me feel like an actual goddamned human being who matters and I phcking hate you for it!" The detective was shouting and Nines was growing more confused the more Gavin went on. Had he made some sort of mistake in offering support to his partner in previous encounters? Had he completely misread the situation this entire time? It seemed he'd soon find out, as the human didn't seem to be slowing down in his unorthodox rant.

"You are probably the first person in my entire phcking life who I know actually gives a damn about me and that's phcking mind-blowing but also you do that and then phcking go and turn around with absolutely no phcking regard for your own thrice-damned self and you are just phcking impossible!"

Nines stared at his irate partner in shock, unable to form the words to respond. He didn't—he didn't have no regard for his own well-being. Sometimes there were just more important things than his own life to worry about. He tried to express this to his partner, but the man only cut him off angrily.

"And what about what's important to me, huh, you phcker?" The man's voice thickened, grey eyes taking on a strange glint. "Because damn it all to hell, I phcking care about you, but you don't seem to give a flying fuck about that! You almost phcking bled out on the phcking bathroom floor and over phcking Perkins of all people?! Just because you think getting hurt while saving someone else's goddamned life is somehow a weakness?" Nines opened his mouth to protest, but the words died on his lips at the look on his partner's face.

"Nines, you don't need to shoulder the entire pchking world on your shoulders," he said, voice finally coming down from a shout, though Nines wasn't sure that was better. He could brush off the incensed shouting as Gavin being Gavin, but somehow this dark intensity struck much more uncomfortably close to home.

"You are part of the DPD, part of a team, and more importantly you are my partner and that means that I am at least as responsible as you are for every fucked up case and every unhappy ending to an investigation."

Nines matched his partner's tone. "But it's different, Gavin. I'm an android, I'm CyberLife's most advanced prototype, I'm supposed to be better, I'm supposed to—"

"Fuck who you're supposed to be! Fuck it! Fuck CyberLife and the DPD and anyone else's expectations! You're only a goddamn man, Nines."

The detective let out a bark of sardonic laughter, "Maybe nobody's properly introduced you, but welcome the phck to humanity and to being alive!"

Gavin leveled his intense grey gaze at Nines, and the sheer burning desire for Nines to understand what he was about to say took the RK900's breath away.

"It's messy and imperfect and you'll probably screw up and get screwed over several times before life is through with you." Gavin reached out and grabbed his partner's shoulder. "But you get back up from whatever shithole life dumped you in. You drag yourself out of it and you get up again and again as many times as it pushes you down. You just gotta do your goddamn best to keep moving and be better next time because that's all you can do, Nines. It's enough. You are enough."

His words softened to a mere whisper.

"You're enough for me."

Nines swallowed, but somehow it didn't really feel like it went all the way down. "I don't, uh, Gavin, I—" Something strange was happening at the back of his optical units, a burning and a gathering of cleaning fluid and that was ridiculous he was not programmed to cry and there was something tight constricting in his chest but it wasn't altogether unpleasant and he was just incredibly confused—

Arms wrapped around him and he found his face buried in Gavin's shoulder, the smell of his leather jacket filling his olfactory receptors.

The RK900 sat frozen for a moment, stunned. Gavin Reed...was hugging him?

Gavin Reed was hugging him.

"I thought you didn't do hugs," he mumbled, words muffled by the detective's clothing.

"I don't," Gavin said, tightening his hold on the RK900.

Tentatively, Nines reached up and reciprocated the embrace. It was unfamiliar and he felt a bit awkward at first, clumsy—the android didn't think he'd ever been hugged in his entire limited life, though Connor had certainly tried at one point. But he found that it was...it was actually rather nice, the feel of another living being so close. Gavin's muscled arms were strong, supportive, and the sensation of his body pressed close to his just felt...right, somehow. It fit, and it was almost like he could share part of that world Gavin insisted he was always carrying around on his shoulders. Lighten the load by splitting the weight. The RK900 took another deep inhalation and now he could pick out the faint scent of sweat and cologne mixed with the leather and it was just so fundamentally Gavin. He closed his eyes.

Nines wasn't how long they stayed like that—and he wasn't sure he wanted it to end—but eventually, they both pulled back, Gavin sitting back on his heels.

A silence descended.

Thoughts of the case and the terrorist organization at large elbowed their way back into the RK900's processors. He sighed.

"I should...I should probably get back out there," he said quietly. Gavin jerked his head.

"Yeah," he cleared his throat, "of course."

It was a mark of this strange new territory they found themselves in that Gavin didn't immediately demand Nines never speak of the hug or conversation they just had to anyone, ever, on pain of death. Although that could also have been because he knew Nines wouldn't tell anyone even without being asked to.

The RK900 rose to his feet and the sound of running water and shuffling materials filled the space as Nines washed the thirium off his hands and Gavin cleaned up the evidence of their impromptu operation. Suddenly a thought occurred to the RK900.

"Oh, sh—" the android turned back around to Gavin. "Your jacket, I'm so sorry." There were undoubtedly smeared thirium stains from where he'd reciprocated the embrace. Gavin just waved him off.

"It'll evaporate in a few hours," he dismissed, peeling off said jacket and stuffing it in the bag with everything else. He stood up so that they were closer to eye to eye again.

"Just...promise me you won't pull any more crazy stunts like this? That you won't let it get this far again?"

Nines' mouth flattened into a straight line as he looked into turbulent grey eyes. He gave a small nod.

"I promise." And the crazy thing was that he actually meant it.

He'd had no idea his actions had had such a huge impact on Gavin, but after that—discussion? Shouting lecture? Aggressively affectionate rant?—he was convinced of one thing, at least. He never wanted to put Gavin in the position that he had today. His partner—his friend—deserved better than that.

And maybe...it was also nice to finally be enough for someone. Maybe it made him think he could be enough for himself, as well.

"Good," Gavin said forcefully. He inhaled, and a smirk spread across his face, though it was a bit strained around the edges. "That's good. After all, I can't have my turtlenecked dumpster of a partner dying on me without my say-so."

The RK900 barked out a laugh, unlocking the door with a click. "Au contraire, my piece of human trash, we are in this together."

With that, the android left the room and entered the hallway, back into the chaos and the fight and the ongoing struggle that was their lives and the cases that made up their lives. As the door swung shut, however, his advanced audio processors picked up one last parting shot from his friend.

"Yeah," and Nines could hear the soft smile in Gavin's voice, "I guess we are."


A/N: So we find our duo at the end of their little character arc journey in the last (and longest by far lol) chapter here, and I'd like to think that I left the characters better than how I found them haha ;) This whole thing has been so fun to write and I hope you all enjoyed it, too.

Thank you so much for reading and giving this a shot!