I know everyone has talked about this, but consider Nines, who was never designed to integrate with people like his older and decidedly scarier brothers, not having been programmed with any expressions besides 'unsettling blankness' and 'moderately terrifying scowl'.
Connor knows what's in his heart because they interface regularly, but most people don't, and so they avoid him, and it makes Nines feel awfully lonely. He has few friends and no idea how to make any. Friendliness does not come naturally to him.
He tries to learn how to smile and make small talk, but he's awkward at it, his smiles too sharp and unnatural, his small talk stilted, like he's reading a generic checklist of questions and statements downloaded straight out of some self-help book. People find it unsettling.
Connor worries, tries to get him to socialize, but Nines gives up on the idea of friends, stops even trying. Enter Gavin, who's never been able to restrain a single emotion he's ever had. They pass through him like a summer storm, obvious and loud in his stance and on his face.
Nines can't stop staring at him sometimes, like he thinks maybe he can learn some of that spontaneity just by watching. He can't. But he does notice that sometimes Gavin stares back, and it makes him feel inexplicably warm, even though the stares aren't exactly friendly.
Gavin finally confronts him about it. He wants to know what the hell his problem is, but Nines doesn't have one, so he's not sure how to answer. He doesn't think 'I like your face' is a socially acceptable response, especially since Gavin and him only spoke a few times before.
He doesn't know what to say. So he says nothing, stutters out an apology, and retreats to his desk. Gavin stares after him with a frown, follows him with his gaze to where he's sitting and working, entirely alone.

He keeps glancing up for the rest of the day, watching him.
No one comes by. No one says hello or spares him a glance. No one besides Connor, who touches him gently on the shoulder in greeting and smiles, but who is quickly distracted by the case he's working with Hank.

He leans back in his chair and frowns, tapping his chin with a pen.
That same day after work, he asks Nines to join him for a drink.

Nines almost drops the files he's holding.
But he does manage a 'yes, I'd like that,' and Gavin slaps his shoulder and then drags him outside into a crisp autumn evening.

They head for a bar, arm in arm, but silently. There's a look of steely determination on Gavin's face, even as they barge in through the door.
Nines is not much of a drinker. But Gavin buys him something bright blue that comes in a tiny glass and slides it over his way, so he sips it cautiously and feels something warm spark in his chest when Gavin snickers at him from behind his hand.

They get off to a rough start.
Nines is too nervous to say much, and besides, there's not much to say. So he just listens and watches as Gavin knocks back a few beers and talks and talks, gesturing, moving in close, responding to Nines' nods and 'mhms' as if they're making real conversation.
He talks about work, his two cats, then his sister. An hour in he sighs, and leans in so close Nines can feel the warm puff of his breath on his face. "So what about you?"


Gavin pokes his chest. "You. You need to relax. You've said maybe three words since we got here."
Nines stares at him. "I'm relaxed."

Gavin snorts. "Bullshit. You have the same stick up your ass they gave Connor. Kelly- another one for my friend - no, tin can, it's on me. We have to grease your wheels a little."

So Nines sips the drink, then another.
On his fifth one, he shifts closer to Gavin so he can hear his voice better. He smells like beer and kiwi and cotton soap.

He's an animated storyteller. And he smiles at Nines, even though Nines only shares the smallest tidbits of his life. He doesn't know enough about himself.
But he does know he likes Gavin, he decides another hour later as they finish up. He's forever amused, or angry, or excited. He pays attention when Nines talks, laughs with easy energy, touches him casually, like they're old friends.
It does something strange to him, the touching. It's never like this with Connor, or even when Hank squeezes his shoulder encouragingly on occasion. It sends little tingles racing up his skin, and he flexes his hands, staring at him, wondering if there's something wrong with him.
"Hey. You alright, tin can?" Gavin asks as they leave the bar. "You're quiet. I mean - more than before." He eyes Nines up and down, stumbles slightly over an uneven bit of sidewalk. He's a little intoxicated, and for that matter, so is Nines. But he still catches his arm.
Just to keep him from falling over, of course. And Gavin jumps a little, looks up, but they keep walking.

"Listen, if you didn't have a good time - "

"I had a good time," Nines says quickly. He didn't know how to be good at conversation yet, but just collecting data on Gavin -
like his scent, the precise hexadecimal code of his eyes (it was # 7A8B98) made the whole outing worth it.

Gavin grunts. "Yeah, well. You need to loosen up. I thought alcohol would help, but - you're just like this, aren't you?"

Nines drops his gaze. "I'm sorry."
"What? No, no." Gavin halts. Nines almost trips over him, and Gavin laughs, leans heavily against the brick wall to the side. "Listen, you're good company, you just need to chill out, alright? Here, look." And then he grabs Nines' tie, yanking him close.
His thirium pump almost malfunctions. Gavin just grins at him, loosening the tie, popping open the top button of his collar. Then he reaches higher, and ruffles Nines' hair.

Something in his chest short-circuits.

Gavin's hands are warm. And rough.
He's being playful about this, but when he's done combing his fingers through the stiff strands, he grins and cups his face. Pats his cheeks. "There, see? You look less like an asshole already."

Nines can't move. This feels too nice. No one ever touches him like this.
But Gavin suddenly blushes bright red, and Nines figures he must've been leaning too close for comfort. So he straightens up, stamps down the urge to fix his tie, and takes a respectful step back. Shifts uncomfortably. "Am - I supposed to walk around like this?"
Gavin clears his throat twice. "No. You're totally right. One more open button and someone might have to arrest you."

"Wouldn't that be your responsibility?" Nines asks, deadpan. The spark in Gavin's eyes feels easy to read, harder to rise to, but Gavin chokes out a laugh.
Nines likes the sound of that, too. He likes a lot of things about Gavin.

So they go out again. Not the next night, but the one after that. And one after that, too. It's still strange, and new, and makes Nines nervous, but every time it feels like he can relax a little more.
"Come on," Gavin says a few weeks later, throwing a jacket at Nines. It's a cold afternoon, and snow is starting to fall. "I'm taking you shopping."

Nines stats. He'd been drifting, distracted by thoughts he suddenly can't place. "I should finish the report first."
"Nope, chop chop. We're getting out of this place. It's full of losers. Come on." He grabs onto the back of Nines' chair and starts rolling him towards the exit.

Nines blinks. "But I don't need anything."

"Yes, you do. The only thing you own is turtlenecks."
Nines reaches up to touch his neck. "Is there something wrong with my turtlenecks?"

Gavin stares at him a touch harder than usual. "No."

"Then what-"

"I'm trying to get you to take a break, asshole. Just - come on. Don't you want a break?'
Nines thinks about it. He has paperwork to finish, but spending time with Gavin sounds much less tedious. It's been a few days since they've gone out, he's on top of his work. So he bids the others goodbye and leaves, something light and bubbly taking up residence in his chest.
The warmth in him spikes when Gavin puts an arm around him.

It's just how he is. Gavin is touchy with everybody. He presses on, ushering Nines along and dragging him into a taxi. There's a spark of feeling wherever his hands brush Nines' arm or hand or his back.
He should be used to it by now. The fact that he's not used to it would be confusing if he wasn't also too-aware of the smell of his hair, the way Gavin moves, the exact slope of his nose when Nines catches glimpses of him out of the corner of his eye.
It's quite obvious, when he thinks about it, but he's not sure how it /feels/ yet.

That becomes abruptly obvious when Gavin rushes him along into some department store, muttering something about what a sin it is that they haven't done this yet, because honestly, turtlenecks?
He's energetic as always, all that intensity suddenly thrown into piling Nines' arms full of shirts, jackets, pants, shoe boxes. And Nines isn't even really paying attention to any of it, not until Gavin beelines for the fitting rooms and tells him to try on anything he likes.
Nines isn't sure what he likes. His clothes are always plain, dark, practical. He's vaguely aware that he's not good at this 'preference' thing, but before he has a chance to feel embarrassed about it, Gavin is helping him with a series of what feels like a million outfits.
And that's when it occurs to Nines that it feels /nice/. Gavin is handsy and demanding and attentive, and wolf-whistles when Nines puts on something he really likes, complimenting him, offering advice, and the warmth in Nines' chest just builds and builds.
"Well? What about this?" Gavin asks finally, standing behind Nines and putting his hands on his shoulders, squeezing lightly. They stare at the full length mirror.

Nines tilts his head.

He looks... Good. He likes this. It's also completely unlike his usual style.
It's different. He's not sure it suits him, but Gavin seems to think so. The pale blue shirt has a very subtle floral pattern on it, barely visible, and the ones over Gavin's arm come in a similar assortment of colors, bright and pastel and - pretty.
Nines doesn't feel like a 'pretty' kind of person, but after some badgering from Gavin he relents, buys a few shirts, two pairs of jeans, and a very fitted, light leather jacket.

"Good choices," Gavin mutters. "You look -" he coughs - "great."
"Thank you," Nines says, starts when Gavin slaps him hard on the back.

"Come on. Why don't we grab some takeout? Do you feel like coming over and watching a movie or - or something?"

"Sure," Nines says, gently testing the weight of his words. "I would love to."
Gavin turns a little pink and smiles. “Chinese?”

“You know I don’t eat, Gavin.”

“You could though. I’ve been doing some research, it’s perfectly safe.”

“It’s wasteful. I can’t digest it.”

Gavin’s smile widens, “It’s not a waste if you enjoy it. Now, come on. Sun’s low.”
They stop for dumplings and fried rice, and head back to Gavin’s place. For some reason the ride home is silent, almost tense, even though Nines feels perfectly happy.

And isn’t /that/ a concept. Happiness.

He mulls it over. The source of it is not a mystery.
He feels a little guilty about that. Connor and Hank are the closest thing he’s fit to a family. He appreciates them. Loves them, even, or at least he thinks that’s what this feeling is. But Gavin’s the only one that’s ever made him feel this... seen.
"Are you nervous?" Nines asks when Gavin's hands shake as he fumbles with the key in his front door.

Gavin almost drops it. "Fuck. No. No, why would I be nervous?" He says, a little too fast. Nines frowns.

"Your stress levels are elevated." He shifts. "Is it something I did?"
"Is it something I did, he asks." Gavin huffs. The door opens. "Come on. Make yourself at home. Don't worry if the cats don't come to you, they're nervous around strangers."

Nines momentarily forgets his follow-up question.

He looks around as Gavin locks the door behind him.
It's a nice apartment, he decides. It's not in a particularly good part of town but it's not the worst one, either, and Gavin's made the space /his/ in a way Nines is not sure he'll ever be capable of. The shelves are full of books, art, knick-knacks. There's a giant cat tree.
Two cats perk up from where they've been lying as they come in. Nines ducks his head, remembering something about predators and eye contact.

They run up to Gavin, weaving between his legs and rubbing all over him, and he goes to the kitchen counter to get them each a treat.
One is a slender, black slip of a thing. The other is enormous and has long, soft-looking fur, like a lion's mane, and little tufts on his ears. He's silvery gray.

Nines blinks. "The big one reminds me of Hank."

Gavin looks down at his cats. Frowns.
The black cat starts climbing his leg, all claws and white teeth that dig into Gavin's pant leg.

Nines tilts his head. "Come to think of it, the little one could be Connor."

Gavin giggles in a surprised burst of laughter. Giggles! Nines' chest swells.
"Thank God they're both girls, then, or the resemblance would be uncanny," Gavin mutters, picking the black one up. "This is Chomp. And that's Athena. You should feed them some treats if they'll let you." He passes the box to Nines.
Nines does, taking out a couple of the soft nuggets and offering them

Athena eats them straight from his hand. Then headbutts his knuckles with a loud meow.

"She's so sweet," he says a little later with an armful of cat, after she's crawled into his lap.
Gavin smiles at him. It's a warm, affectionate look. "She likes you. They both do," he notes when Chomp starts cozying up to him, too.

"Must be because I don't smell like a human," Nines observes. "Not threatening."

Gavin hmms quietly. He leans in and sniffs his hair.
"Nah, I think they just /like/ how you smell. What is that, sandalwood?"

Nines scratches behind Chomp's ear. "Yes. But as far as I know, cats are not partial to the smell of sandalwood."

Gavin stares at him. Blinks. "Come on. Let's sit. The girls can come if you want."
So they settle down, and Gavin presents him with a selection of movies and the box of takeout.

They sit close together. And chat over the movie, barely paying attention, Gavin laughing over something Nines is saying and Nines feeling an unsettling pull towards his warmth.
He tries some of the fried rice, trying not to feel self-conscious under Gavin's attention, and finds that he likes the burst of taste and trying to unravel the exact composition of spices. Gavin positively glows and tells him all the foods he wants Nines to try.
It's s long list. He counts them off on his fingers, tells him all the places they can go out to eat, maybe even somewhere out of town. There's this little place, a handful of miles south...

"I envy you, sometimes," Gavin says after a thoughtful while.
Nines is a little taken aback. "Why?"

Gavin gestures vaguely. "Well, just look at you. You're - the world's your fuckin' oyster, you know? You have so much you can experience for the first time. Everything is new. You're smart, and you're probably gonna live forever.
- You can do pretty much anything you want. Go on a quest of self-discovery or whatever, and no one can question that, because why would they? And to top it of, you're- " he cuts of abruptly, heat rushing to his cheeks, "you know. You." The vague gesture makes a return.
"I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that."

Gavin huffs. Reaches - not far - to tug at Nines' bright, new shirt collar. "You know what I mean. You're really coming out of your shell. What do you want to do, Nines? Because whatever it is, I think you pretty much can."
Nines stares at him for a while, trying to unravel what Gavin is /actually/ trying to say. The world of possibility stuff all sounds nice, but there's something running underneath that, a pleasant undercurrent of warmth in his voice and his eyes.

"I don't know yet," Nines says.
Gavin hmphs. "Well, there's no rush. You'll figure it out, little bit at a time. You're getting good at this."

"Maybe," Nines concedes. Gavin's hand rests lightly against his chest. "You make me feel - at ease with myself."

Gavin laughs, warm and husky. "Good."
Nines just stares at him for a bit, taking in the flecks of color in his gray eyes, the scar on his nose, the rough stubble on his jaw. He kind of wants to reach out and touch it, almost does, but that's when Gavin flushes slightly and jumps up from the couch.

"I need a beer."
Nines leans back against the soft armrest of the couch, shifts to watch silently as he beelines for the kitchen. Gavin's eyes flick to his, then away, the flush rising.

Nines wonders if his hair is as soft as it looks.

"You want one, robocop?"
"I'm alright, but thank you."

"Hm." Nines followes him with his gaze as he returns, sitting back down, a little further away. He stares down at the bottle in his hands, then sighs. "Oh. I forgot the bottle opener."

Nines reaches out silently.
Gavin shoots him a look, then lets him take the bottle. It's cold, but Gavin's fingers are warm where they brush against Nines' hand.

He looks around, but he doesn't want to damage Gavin's coffee table, so he pops the bottle open with his teeth and hands it back to him.
Gavin blinks and stares at it, takes it with such an incredulous look on his face that Nines needs to stifle the amusement that tries to bubble out of him into Athena's silky fur.

Gavin freezes. Touches the back of Nines' neck. "Hey. Hey, is that a /laugh/?"
Nines tips his chin up, lips twitching in some involuntary urge to smile. Gavin cups his face, grinning. "Well, would you look at that."

Nines huffs. The smile stays. "Stop it."

"No don't - don't hide from me. Let's see those pearly whites."

Nines snorts, ducks his head.
Gavin's fingers thread through his hair, the tug of it soft, insistent, a little maddening. Nines looks up again, pressing his lips together.

He goes quiet. "Don't hide. God, just look at you. You're gorgeous, okay? And this looks sweet on you," he adds, poking his mouth.
Then that little touch turns into something that's almost a caress. Nines' limbs threaten to turn into liquid.

"You didn't break any teeth, did you? Jesus."

"They're basically indestructible," Nines mutters against Gavin's fingertips. He can almost feel his fingerprints.
His tongue is more sensitive than his lips, but he's fairly sure that licking Gavin's fingers would constitute some kind of violation. So he doesn't, but he can't stop thinking about it either, especially since it feels like Gavin's leaned somehow closer.
It's just - he's touching Nines' face, cupping his jaw, fingertips resting lightly against his cheek, then drifting into his hair, petting him like he's a kitten, and Nines isn't sure he can take it.

"Fuck," Gavin whispers fiercely. "Just - fuck. Nines, can you - punch me?"
Nines blinks, frowns. "What?"

"You're perfect. It's unfair."

A temperature warning pops up in the corner of Nines' vision. He dismisses it. Then again, more frantically, when it reappears. "Why would I punch you for that?" he manages, voice perhaps a little reedier than normal.
Gavin drops his gaze and laughs, but the sound of it seems a little forced. "No. No reason. Sorry, I guess I'm just - having a day." He leans away and drops his hands, and it's like all the warmth get sucked out of Nines all at once.

Gavin sips his beer. His hands are shaking.
Nines frowns and touches his wrist, abruptly worried. "Are you okay? Is there anything I can do?"

Gavin scoffs, leans forward. "No - God, no, Nines, I'm fine. Let's just - watch our movie, okay?"

Nines sighs. "Okay."

So they watch, but Nines is paying even less attention.
He watches Gavin drink, and then stare fixedly at the screen, then lean into the armrest of the couch, eyelids drooping and chin dipping down.

He passes out sometime when the credits roll, curled awkwardly in a position that cannot possibly be anywhere near comfortable.
Nines watches him doze for a little while. He snores, very softly. His lashes are a dark fringe, and Chomp is curled up near his hip. He wants to grab a blanket to cover them both, but he's not sure Gavin would appreciate him going through his things to find one.
So he rests his eyes for a little bit first and lets Gavin nap. He doesn't go into stasis, but he takes a few minutes to reorganize his head, set tasks, priorities, commit things to long-term storage. A lot of things orbit around Gavin these days. Not all of them, but...
He can no longer deny the pull he feels towards him, and has a hard time trying to categorize it as anything other than attraction. Which feels - wrong. Gavin is his friend. And if he wanted more than that, he would've said so by now, which could only mean that he doesn't.
Nines sighs and opens his eyes. He touches Gavin's shoulder and squeezes gently. Humans are fragile.



"Gavin, you should go to bed. You must be tired."

He mumbles sleepily, pressing his face into the armrest. "Mmmmmake me."

Nines' mouth quirks.
"You're going to be sore in the morning. Don't you want a good night's sleep?"

"Hm? Yeah," he drones out, not even a little bit conscious.

Nines stands. The way he sees it, he has two options. He can leave Gavin as is, let him give himself a cramp. Or he can take him to bed.
Lucky for him, Gavin is lighter than a feather, although he does initially panic when Nines scoops him up.

"Holy shit."

"Well, don't wiggle. Go back to sleep," Nines mutters.

Gavin wraps his arm around Nines' neck, like he's afraid he's about to be dropped. As if.
He tries not to think about how nice that feels and then makes for what seems to be the bedroom. Luckily, the door is slightly ajar, so he nudges it open with his foot.

The lights are off, but the glow coming in through the window is enough to illuminate the shelves, the bed.
He sets Gavin down very gently, then finds he can't escape, because Gavin's still got an arm hooked around his shoulders, and for someone so out of it, his grip is surprisingly tenacious.

"Stay," he mumbles. "Stay the night, okay? Wanna see you in the morning."
"Sure," Nines says with his pulse in his throat. "Are you going to let me go?" Nines is half on the bed, sinking into the soft mattress, oddly fixated on the concept of /comfort/ for some reason, even though he's never really been physically /un/comfortable. But Gavin is warm.
His hand slips a bit to rest on the back of Nines' neck, and it's even warmer, and so is his breath when he says, "Do I have to?"

Nines thinks about it. "No," he says, and shifts a little to lie down on his side next to him. He'll go, eventually. After Gavin falls asleep again.
In the meantime though, this is fine. More than fine, really. Gavin clings to him a little so he makes a point of moving closer, just so he doesn't have to extend his arms quite as much to keep them around Nines. He mumbles something unintelligible.
Nines can't quite help himself. It's dark, the street outside quiet, and Gavin keeps trying to nuzzle closer. He presses his nose to the top of his head, just for a moment, and inhales his shampoo and sweat and the smell of his skin, and closes his eyes because he's tired.
He lets his hand rest on Gavin's back, where he can feel the slowing, hard thump of his heart, the rise and fall of his ribs. He counts the beats. They're regular and soothing to listen to.

He slips into stasis completely by accident. It's the first time that's happened.
(signing off for the night myself, but have a Nines doodle.)
That's how they end up waking tangled, Gavin's head pillowed on Nines' shoulder, his hand on his stomach where his shirt is riding up, Nines' arms still wrapped low around Gavin's waist.

When Gavin realizes he's not dreaming, he yelps and makes a feeble attempt to get up.
Nines, blinking awake, lets him go and sits bolt upright. "What's wrong?"

Gavin whines, rolling onto his back and putting his hands over his face. "Phhhhuck. Nines, I'm so sorry."

Nines is too distracted by the sliver of bare stomach he sees to really process the apology.
When he finally does, he figures he's the one that should be apologizing. He's not entirely sure why Gavin thinks he's in the wrong.

"It's alright, Gav. I - didn't mean to overstay my welcome. I didn't want to wake you though. Did you rest well?"

Gavin laughs. "Never better."
He drops his hands and looks up at Nines, eyes tired, but a small smile quirking his lips. "Some host I am, right?"

Nines wants to tell him he's a good host, and a good friend, but somehow the words don't want to come out. He just can't stop staring. Gavin looks so sweet.
There's a beat between them, soft in the light filtering in through the curtains. Gavin shifts, sighs, scratches his stomach. "Gotta get up. Feed the cats." He glances at Nines and flushes. "What is it?"

Nines tilts his head. "I didn't say anything."
The flush seeps higher, and Nines wonders if his face is as warm as it looks. "You just - you know, sometimes you- stare at people, really really hard. Like right now."

Nines considers this. "I don't stare at people."

Gavin laughs. "Yeah, you do, Nines."

"I just stare at you."
Gavin blinks. Sits up almost fast enough to butt heads with Nines. "Right. Oh, wow, would you look at the time?"

Nines looks away. "I didn't know it made you uncomfortable. I'll stop."

"No, listen - no, it's not like that," Gavin says quickly, jumping out of bed.
"Stare as much as you want, I don't mind." He runs his fingers through his hair, as if that could stop it from sticking up in all directions. Then winces. "Fuck. Just. Let's have breakfast, okay? I need - I need some coffee."

Nines perks up. "I know how to make coffee."
"Good for you," Gavin mutters absently, eyes a little glazed over.

"No, Gavin, I'm - offering. Why don't you shower, and change, and I'll make coffee," he says, a gentle attempt at smoothing over whatever was suddenly awkward between them. "Then I'll be out of your hair."
Gavin groans. "That's not what I - okay, you know what? It's too early for this. You do that, and I'll meet you in the kitchen in five."

Nines nods, watches Gavin disappear into the bathroom, and after a short moment, gets up to take care of breakfast.
He figures that coffee is good, but food and coffee would be better, so he downloads a couple of recipes and raids the cabinets. There's not much to go on, but he does find some chili peppers, mushrooms, bacon, so he makes some spicy scrambled eggs and hopes for the best.
He gets focused enough that he doesn't hear Gavin come out of the shower, not until he's right behind him, hand low on Nines' back. His skin prickles warmly under the touch, so he shifts to say a proper 'good morning.'

The frying pan attempts to leap from his grip.
"Careful," Gavin mutters, taking it from him and setting it over the flames of the stovetop. "Don't burn yourself."

Nines blinks, staring at a drop of water trailing down from Gavin's hairline with his gaze. It follows his neck, then the intriguing contour of a muscled shoulder.
"Hello? Earth to Nines?" Gavin snaps his fingers in front of his face.

Nines drags his eyes upwards with a stifled sigh. Gavin's a little flushed from his shower, and his skin looks remarkably - damp, and soft, maybe even kissable. His hair is a shade darker, and spiky.
His sweatpants hang so low on his hips it's a wonder they manage to stay on at all. One little tug, and -

"Nines. Niiiiines."

"Yes," Nines manages.

"Seriously, are you alright? I'll put on a shirt in a sec, I just wanted to see what the smell was. You didn't have to do that.
"Its just eggs," Nines says, making an effort to pay attention. "I don't mind."

Gavin shrugs one shoulder. "Okay. Well, thanks. I'll be right back, okay?"

Nines nods mournfully and watches his back disappear down the hallway.

It's a nice back.
Although, he can't help but notice the scars on him now that he thinks about it. They don't make him look any less pleasant but they do make Nines think about the frequency with which Gavin's been hurt enough to leave a mark, and the thought makes him frown.
He's still frowning when Gavin comes back, wearing a loose t shirt that Nines wants to get his hands under.

He has eggs to focus on though, so he deliberately turns his attention to the taks at hand. Provide breakfast. It's the least he can do after falling asleep here -
without invitation, and then ogling Gavin all morning. Gavin's already noticed. He hasn't said he's uncomfortable, but he's also been softer with Nines than with others, and there's a high chance he's simply failing to report on the discomfort in order to spare Nines' feelings.
Nines is fairly certain he doesn't like the thought. He doesn't want to be spared. He wants... To be an equal. A friend. A partner.

An objective he dismisses immediately pops up in his view.


He mentally waves it away.
Then again for a second time when it reappears as Gavin stretches to reach for some sugar from a high cabinet.

A third time when, upon splashing a little half and half on his hand, Gavin sucks it quickly off his knuckle.

"Here. Sit." Gavin hands him a mug with his own coffee.
"Oh," Nines says, pleased. "Thank you."

He takes a seat next to Gavin, adjusts his now slightly rumpled shirt collar.

Gavin follows the movement of his hands. Then looks away. "So, listen, I - do you have plans today? It's cool if you've got-"

"No," Nines says quickly.
Gavin chuckles. "I was thinking, you don't have to go home. We can spend the weekend together. Do something fun."

Several 'fun' things to do pop into Nines' head. None of them are anything he currently dares suggest.

He nods slowly. "Did you have anything specific in mind?"
"Well, uh, I have something I have to do first, but after I'm finished, we could go see a movie, or bowl or- maybe take a trip somewhere. Not far, you know, but get out and enjoy nature or whatever."

"I'd definitely beat you at bowling," Nines points out.
He also tries not to fixate in the feeling that all of the options Gavin presented sound an awful lot like dates. Although, if he thinks about it, going out for drinks one on one, or coming over to watch movies at home together - also fit the parameters of a date.
If that's the case, they've been doing a lot of that lately.

Not that he should be thinking about it. But if they /were/ dates, then Gavin has a lot to answer for because he'd not kissed Nines even once.

Nines smiles lightly at the idle thought. It's a fantasy, but a good one.
It's wishful thinking, he knows it is, but right now it doesn't hurt so much as fill him with a warm soreness somewhere in his chest. Gavin's friendship means more to him than almost anything in the world. He'd never do anything to jeopardize that. At least... Not on purpose.
"/Definitely/, huh? Now you're just being offensive."

Nines tilts his head. "I don't see how a statement of fact is offensive."

Gavin is trying hard not to smile. Nines can tell - he's used to seeing the tight press of his lips and the warm, amused spark in his eyes.
"Admit it. You just think this puny human can't compete with whatever little algorithm you've got up there. I'll have you know I've been the DPD bowling champion for five consecutive years."

"This 'puny human' can't compete with my actual, mathematical precision."
Gavin gets in his face and pokes the center of his chest. "That sounds like a challenge."

"I wish it would be," Nines says primly. "The best I can hope for is a diversion."

Gavin smacks his arm. "So it's decided. We go out tonight, I kick your ass, and make you apologize."
Nines isn't sure what's gotten into him, not when he says "How about a wager, instead?"

Gavin shifts, the teasing tilt to his head gone, suddenly the picture of focus. "I'm listening."

Nines had not thought this far ahead. "Well, what do you want?"
Gavin blinks slowly, looking Nines up and down, then shakes himself off like he's Sumo. "Uhhh. Fuck okay, how about /when/ I win, you do all my paperwork for a week?"

Nines pouts, a little disappointed. "I suppose fair is fair."

"And your side of the bet?"
Nines shuts down the desperate urge to flirt. To ask for a kiss, or even just an official date, but those are words he can't unsay. And besides, he doesn't want Gavin going along with it just because he'd lost some bet.

"A favor, of my choosing, at a time of my choosing."
"A boon, huh?" Gavin sniffs. "Alright, sounds fair." He extends his hand, and they shake on it. Nines' skin memorizes the pattern of lines and calluses on his palm in the space of the handshake.

We should have a third party present," he mumbles to distract himself
"Nah," Gavin says. "I trust you."

"Maybe it's you I don't trust."

"Oof. Ouch, Nines. Ouch. You wound me."

Nines gets up and winks at him. "Just wait until you lose."

For some reason, Gavin doesn't answer. He stares at Nines for a few unblinking seconds, then nods very slowly.
They resolve to meet later that day, after Gavin runs his errands. Nines pets both the cats on his way out, but is startled when Gavin pulls him into a brief hug goodbye. It's a second. Maybe less. But suddenly, Nines really doesn't want to leave.

Nines decides to show up a little early; he doesn't mind waiting. He settles down at a table by the bowling alley bar and orders a drink, lets his eyes drift half-closed to the music so he can relax and think about that favor Gavin is definitely going to owe him.
It's not a very busy night, but there's still people around, and a good amount of noise and excitement and colorful lights. Nines watches it go by with a sort of detached curiosity, but it's much better than the swirl of anxiety he used to feel around people.
He's not sure he's acting or carrying himself differently, but people don't stare as much as they used to, or maybe he just doesn't notice. Or care. In fact, a few smile at him, including a young man that slides into the seat next to him and flashes his teeth in a bright grin.
Nines still isn't sure how he feels about smiling around humans who aren't Gavin, but he makes an attempt at friendliness all the same, inclining his head a little in greeting. People generally respond better when acknowledged.

The man's grin turns into a softer smile.
"Hey. You look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?"

Nines runs a quick scan. The man's name is David Whitall. He's twenty-six. And his features are unfamiliar. "No. We haven't met."

He leans against the bar, tipping his chin up. "Are you sure? I could've sworn -"
"I'm sure." Nines turns his head so David will see his LED. The smile falters slightly. The RK line never saw a public release, but Connor was one of the faces of the revolution, so it's not the first time someone has confused them.

"Huh. So you're- you're that Android that -"
"Also no. You're probably thinking of Connor. I'm his - brother," he finishes weakly, because it's not like they've ever spoken of their relationship in those terms. It just feels like the closest thing, the word that slips to his tongue most naturally.
He feels guilty for saying it out loud, though he's not entirely sure why.

"You look alike. What's your name?"

Nines looks up at David, his bright face and green eyes, and feels a fissure of an old discomfort returning. What's worse, he doesn't know how to answer.
Nines is what Connor, Hank, and Gavin have decided to call him. He's an RK900 model, which is how most people refer to him. He has a serial number. But he doesn't have a name. Not one he's comfortable giving, anyway.

He shifts uneasily, glancing at his internal clock.
Gavin is late. It happens sometimes, but he suddenly wishes it wasn't today. "Is there something you want from me?" he asks, still striving for politeness.

"I wanted to buy you a drink," David replies, the smile coming back. "What's your poison?

Nines looks down at his glass.
"I already have a drink. I don't need another, but thank you."

There's a pause. David leans in and reaches to touch his arm, and Nines shifts away before his hand can make contact.

He laughs, but in a way that's entirely unsettling. "Relax. I don't bite. Just wanted to chat."
"I'm waiting for someone," Nines says, irritation rising. He'd get up, but this is a good spot to wait, he's not done with his drink, and - he doesn't really have a reason to not want to talk to him. He just... Doesn't.

David makes a placating gesture. "Alright, alright."
He shifts back, sips his own drink. "Didn't mean to be off-putting. You're just interesting, is all. Don't see them like you every day."

Nines sighs. "Right."

He extends his hand "I'm Dave. Apologies for getting off on the wrong foot."

Nines shakes his hand uncertainly.
Dave slides closer. "So, are you waiting on a date, or...?"

Once again, Nines it at a loss. Technically the answer is no, even if he wishes it was a yes. He opens his mouth. Closes it. "I'm waiting for a friend."

Dave hrrmphs with a sly grin. "But not a date. Interesting."
Nines' annoyance rapidly boils over. He should get up. But he was here /first/.

He narrows his eyes at David, who swallows a larger gulp of his drink and glances away. "Unless you want something, I suggest you leave me alone."

"What if I do want something, then? Like company?"
"I'm not a companion model," Nines says stiffly.

Dave laughs. "Could've fooled me. Do you often sit around and glare at people trying to make conversation?"

Nines sighs. Makes to get up.

David scrambles up and grabs his wrist lightly. "No, no, wait. I'm sorry. Really."
"I don't care," Nines says, freeing himself. It doesn't take much effort. David lets him go. "I'm not interested."

"You're right. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pushed." He shifts from foot to foot, like a child. "I'm rusty at the whole flirting thing."

"That was flirting?"
David clutches his chest. "Ouch. Point taken."

Nines sits back down, considering this. He's not interested in flirting. At least not with David. But perhaps there's something to be gleaned from this interaction.

"If you were to do it right," Nines asks, "how would you?"
David blinks. “Huh?”

“Flirting. How would you do it correctly? I want you to show me.”

David’s expression shifts from confusion to something resembling interest. He smiles, leans back, crosses his arms. “Would you like to practice?”

Nines turns on a deep learning algorithm.
He could use a search engine of course, but it’s easier to absorb this. To calculate the angle of Dave’s head as he tilts it, the frequency with which he touches Nines’ shoulder, the distance at which he sits, firsthand. He catalogs every element, files it away. Returns it.
It occurs to him in some combination of delight and frustration, that there’s not much difference between this and how he is with Gavin. Dave sits close, talks about his life, smiles at things Nines says. Nines mirrors his position, tries to appear interested and attentive.
The difference is in how it makes Nines /feel/, which is to say, nothing much at all. Gavin’s eyes on his face always make his thirium pump stutter, and his touch sparks hotly under his skin, and his smile makes some unnamed, fluttering feeling turn over in his stomach.
David is just... there. If Nines wasn’t actively trying to focus and break down the flirting into its individual parts, he would hardly notice anyone is there at all. He’s easily ignored, and the symmetry of his features does nothing to entice him, nor does his conversation.
Dave makes another attempt to lean closer, puts his hand on Nines’ arm. “Is this doing anything for you at all?”

Nines blinks. “Hm?”

He sighs. “It’s like you’re paying attention, but not.”

“Oh. No, rest assured, I’m learning a lot,” Nines says politely. He pats Dave’s knee.
Dave shoots him a speculative look. “Perhaps we should turn it up a notch.”

And with those simple words, Nines’ steadily climbing comfort level plummets back down to zero. “I’d rather not. I think I’m done. Thank you for your help.”

“No, listen - if you just give it a shot-“
Nines grabs his wrist and squeezes it just hard enough to make him stop reaching again. “You should really listen when someone says ‘no’, David. I’m not interested in anything further.”

David frowns, but leans in close. “Listen, l think we really hit it off-“
“David -“

“-the least you can do is give a guy a chance, you know?”


David opens his mouth. A hand descends on Nines’ shoulder from behind, hard enough to make him jump. “Gentlemen.”

Nines’ whole body bleeds relief. “Gavin.”

Gavin shoots him a tight, steely smile.
Gavin reaches into his jacket, and flashes his badge in front of Dave’s eyes. “The man said no. Fuck off.”

David stands. “Hey, I don’t know what you’re on, but -“

“Get. The fuck. OUT.” Gavin pokes his chest as punctuation, eyes narrowed. He’s shorter than Dave by a few inches.
But he’s a cop, and he’s also just - /Gavin/. He has the kind of presence that’s difficult -impossible - to ignore. David backs down. Turns away with one last stormy glance over his shoulder as he retreats.

The last of the tension leaves Nines’ shoulders.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he says softly. “But - thank you for doing it anyway.”

Gavin is silent, but he squeezes Nines’ arm. “Right.”

Nines brushes himself off. He feels -askew somehow, off-balance, his thirium pump working too hard. Strange, because he isn’t stressed.
Gavin exhales slowly. Nines looks him up and down. He looks good, but he's tense, eyes still following David where he's hugging the far wall and watching them. There's a distinctly pissed look in Gavin's eyes.

Then his stare moves back to Nines, just as unflinching.
Nines tilts his head. "Gavin? Is everything alright?"

There's a heavy sigh. "Yeah. Yeah, it's all... I just need a moment, okay?"

Nines steps closer, and Gavin takes a corresponding step back. His brows furrow. "Is this about David?"

Gavin's lip curls slightly. "No."
It really feels like it might be, but Nines is not sure he can unravel that now. He still feels strange and the strangeness is not entirely pleasant. He came out here to have a good time with Gavin, and now Gavin was tapping his fingers on the bar and angling for a drink.
It's... Fine, really, except Nines can't quite help the stew of annoyance and disappointment. It's even harder to figure out the source of each. He leans back against the bar, crossing his arms, staring off at nothing while he gets his thoughts in order.
He watches Gavin down a margarita, then another. He shakes himself off like a dog, steps in to wrap an arm around Nines' waist, and drags him towards the bowling alley floor. "Come on. Time to get your ass kicked."

Nines would be relieved. Except Gavin still won't look at him.
Gav- Gavin, wait."

Gavin stops. Drops his arm.

He wishes desperately for the words to articulate the fizzling mess in his head.

"What? Do you want to go back to him?"

Nines' entire back crawls. "No. I'm just - I think I need a moment, too."

Gavin frowns.
He says nothing else, but he looks like he wants to. And Nines can't pick apart the thoughts in his head; not like this.

"Okay," he says after an uncomfortable beat. "Let's go play."

Gavin shifts. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Oh," Nines says softly. "I'm fine."
So they go play, although it starts out awkward, which - things haven't been between them, not in a while, and it makes Nines' biocomponents ache with anxiety.

He debates whether going easy on Gavin would improve his mood, concludes there's not a chance of that.
This is how, a couple of strikes later, he's on track to getting a perfect score, and Gavin is gradually relaxing. He whines about Nines 'cheating' and promptly decides to try and trip him, and for a little while things get better, lighter, veer into the category of fun.
But there's still a strange distance between them; one that hadn't been there before. Nines isn't sure how to approach it. He wants to ask what's wrong, but every time he opens his mouth, Gavin's face flickers with the kind of look that suggests it's probably a bad idea.
So they bowl for best out of three games, and Nines wins because suddenly he very much wants that favor.

Gavin sighs as he puts his ball away. He's quieter, something muted about his movements as they walk out to his car. It's getting dark.

”We should talk," he says suddenly.
Nines halts in his tracks. "Oh. Yes."

Gavin attempts a smile. It looks a little forced, even to Nines. "I'm sorry I'm in such a shit mood. Let me make it up to you? We can go grab dinner and - have a chat."

"We're you in a shit mood before, or only after you saw me with Dave?"
Gavin's eye twitches. "Does it matter?"

Nines steps up closer. "I'm just trying to work out the source of the problem. I can't figure it out if you don't tell me."

"Really, Nines? Really?" he asks, the picture of exasperation. Then schools his expression. "There's no problem."
Nines frowns. "Yes, there is."

Gavin pinches the bridge of his nose and exhales slowly. "Okay, so maybe there is, but that's not - it doesn't matter, because it's not your - it doesn't matter. Let's just go and eat, okay? I'm hungry, and I don't feel like junk bar food."
Nines steps in close. A car swerves around them, and Nines grabs Gavin's arm, moves them off to the side, closer to the curb. The parking lot is too busy for what he wants to say, but he wants to say it anyway.

Gavin getting hit by a car would throw a wrench in his plans though.
So he moves maneuvers Gavin up against his car, stares down at him, at the stormy defiance in his eyes - at the /hurt/ - and scrambles desperately for any explanation that doesn't fuel the fragile hope he's been fanning to life in his chest.


"What?" Gavin snaps.
Nines discovers, once again, that he is not good with words. But he has to at least try. "Are you... upset with me?"

"I have no right to be upset with you," Gavin mutters, looking away. "Or - maybe I do. The guy was a creep, Nines. Can't you at least be more careful?"
"So you're just looking out for me," Nines wants to confirm.

"Of course I'm looking out for you!" Gavin shouts. I leave you alone for five minutes and you go and find some - some asshole that wouldn't take no for an answer to cozy up to. People are fucking gross, Nines."

"You know what he wanted from you," Gavin says, eyes flat. "Don't play dumb with me, I know you're not an idiot."

Nines looks away. "And if I wanted it too?"

"From /him/?" Gavin almost shrieks. Chokes. "The fuck do you see in /that/ guy?"
"Not from him," Nines says, because for the life of him he can't think of a response to Gavin's question, not even a teasing one.

"Could've fooled me," Gavin mutters, although he looks somewhat mollified. He sighs. "Not that it matters, I guess. I don't own you, yeah?"
"No," Nines says.

"I can't tell you what to do, or who to flirt with or who to fuck. I'm sorry I interrupted. But I'm your - friend - and I just -"

Nines braces his hands on the car, on either side of Gavin's ribs. "Gavin."


"I was happy you interrupted us."
Gavin sighs and looks between his feet. Shrugs. "Yeah, well, like I said. Guy was a creep."

"I was waiting for you. He was the one to approach me. Then I thought I'd try my hand at - social interactions with strangers, and - you saw the rest."

Gavin looks up, brow furrowed.
"I wasn't interested in him," Nines feels the need to explain. "I was trying to get him to teach me how to flirt."

Gavin just stares sat him. Then his lip wobbles and he snorts with sweet, familiar laughter. "You're shitting me, right?"

"I thought it would be educational."
Gavin just shakes his head, head thumping back against the car door. "He was teaching you all wrong then. His technique was sloppy."

"Shame. I was looking forward to using it."

Gavin bites his lip and looks away. "You don't need pointers, trust me."
Nines wants to say with relief at the return of the ease between them. It's good, like curling up under a favorite blanket on a rainy night. It's easy. It requires none of the mathematical intricacies of Dave's instructions.

Nines smiles slightly. "But I want to be alluring."
Gavin makes a noise like he's been sucker-punched. Nines isn't sure why the sound makes him want to bury his face in the sweat-sheened curve of his neck, but he very nearly follows the urge.

Gavin touches the hair at the back of his skull. A tiny, playful tug.
"You are," he breathes, so close Nines can almost taste his margaritas. "You don't need advice, you need - to be contained. Someone should put up a warning sign or something." His fingers follow the angle of Nines' jaw, a soft touch that makes something buzz in his chest.
It doesn't feel very platonic.

Even less so when the distance between them suddenly disappears altogether.

Nines isn't sure who leaned in first.

It definitely doesn't matter. They meet halfway.

Gavin groans, and something in Nines' chest unlocks and turns into sunlight.
Nines has never kissed anyone before. He's not sure he's doing it right, even though some background process chimes in with a request to download Traci protocols.

He waves them away. He has to focus. Gavin's hands are in his hair. His mouth is softer than Nines ever imagined.
Nines can feel his heartbeat, the warmth of him when he shifts, the smell of sweat and alcohol and aftershave that is distinctly comforting to inhale, because he wears it all the time.

It lasts maybe two seconds, tentative and light. Nines lets his hands drift to Gavin's hips.
He pins Gavin down, just to keep them both steady, because he's sure they'd both fall over otherwise. His knees certainly don't feel like they want to support him anymore, not when Gavin sighs against his mouth and nips his lower lip sharply.

Nines' grip tightens.
Gavin jerks away. The world rushes back, cold and unwelcoming.

"Fuck. Fuck, I'm - Nines, I'm sorry, I -"

"Shut up," Nines begs. "Show me how to do this right."

Gavin drags him in again. Hard. The whisper of softness abruptly gone, the press of his lips insistent, possessive.
He doesn't say a word, and he's the one pressed against the car, but Nines feels trapped, and so warm he might actually explode. He moves his lips against Gavin's, hesitant at first, but Gavin is having none of it, pulling him down into his arms, his mouth, all teeth and stubble.
Nines chases the taste of him and feels dizzy, his thirium pump working double-time to send the blood around his body, his focus narrowing almost dangerously to - this. Just this. There doesn't need to be anything else, ever again, for all of time.

Gavin breaks away again.
This time it's not far, and he's panting against Nines'mouth, shaky and hot. It turns into a laugh on a sharp exhale. "Damn. One sec. I need air."

"Take your time," Nines mumbles against his cheek. Then he moves his way down Gavin's jaw, finds the pulse point at his neck.
He's afraid of biting it, but he does press his tongue into it and feels the flutter speed up enticingly.

Gavin goes a little limp in his arms.

Nines has no trouble at all holding him upright, not even when he sags into his grip with a low whine and a roll of his hips.
It's a small, involuntary movement, but it's enough to detonate something in Nines' skull. The kiss turns into a bite, right behind Gavin's ear.

"Fuck. Nines. Babe, not here. Let's go home."

Nines looks around, still not breaking away. Gavin's skin tastes like saltwater taffy.
There’s humans around though, and not enough alleys. Nines doesn’t really care, but Gavin seems to, and a few people are already staring. So he fumbles for the car door handle and pushes him into the passenger seat. His entire front where Gavin was pressed feels too cold.
Gavin gives him a dazed look when Nines holds out his hand.

“Keys, Gavin.”

“I - can drive.”

“Not fast enough. I can do twice the speed limit.”

Gavin groans, shifts, digs into his pocket and presses the warm keys into Nines’ palm.

Nines stares at him, momentarily frozen.
"What?" Gavin asks weakly, and Nines shakes himself off, shuts the passenger door, and slides across the hood to get to the driver's seat faster.

Gavin seems to find this terribly amusing. Nines is not amused. This is serious business, and any fraction of a second matters.
"You jumped over a car to get in my pants," Gavin wheezes when Nines veers out of the lot. "Holy shit."

"Not funny," Nines mutters. "If I floor it it's still going to take us fifteen minutes to get home."

Gavin presses his hands over his face, runs them through his hair. "God."
Nines considers the route. "If we drive straight through the park, we can shave six minutes off that time."

"Isn't there a pond in the park?"

"Details," Nines mutters.

"My car can't drive on water."

"An oversight. Get a better car."

Gavin giggles. Then reaches over.
He threads his fingers into Nines' hair and tugs gently. Nines sees white.

"Woah. Eyes on the road."

Nines squeezes the steering wheel. "Right," he says weakly.

"Relax. We'll be there before you know it." His hand slips lower, thumb pressing into the spot behind Nines' ear.
Nines back back a noise. "Nope. No, Gavin, that's not relaxing."

"It could be."

"It could be," Nines agrees. "But I'm driving."

"Shame." He doesn't drop his hand. It rests heavy at Nines' nape, and Nines does his best to ignore it.

The drive home is torture anyway.
Mostly because Gavin won't stop playing with his hair. By the time they pull into the driveway Nines feels like he's slowly simmering to death. He's wound tighter than a bowstring, but the second he puts the car in park, he's suddenly frozen anyway.

The hand in his hair stills.
"Listen, Nines, if you don't want to do this-"

"No," Nines says quickly. "No, I do."

Gavin shifts a little. "I just - want you to have an out. Lots of outs. There's no rush." His knee, Nines notes, is bouncing.

"Let's just go inside." Because if they don't Nines might combust.
Gavin nods, clears his throat, and almost falls out of the car. Nines follows him out, watches the flush rise to his face as he fumbles for the keys, even higher on the elevator ride up.

He thinks about staying silent, but he has something he needs to clarify.

"Hm." Gavin stares pointedly at the numbers as they light up.

"You have an out, too. I don't want to do anything you're not comfortable with. " He shifts uneasily. "Maybe I shouldn't have - you know, in the parking lot - if you'd rather pretend that didn't happen -"
This gets him a laugh. "That's the last thing I want." Then he eyes Nines. His eyes go a little dark, and Nines forgets what he'd been about to say because he suddenly can't focus on anything besides absorbing every bit of data he can gather. Except he's not close enough so...
Gavin laughs again, because the second the elevator door pings, Nines is dragging him down the hall to his apartment. Pushing him through the door and slamming it shut behind them, not really bothering with trivial things like turning the key. Or turning on the lights.
Nines doesn’t need them to see, but Gavin does - he manages to narrowly miss slamming his shin into the coffee table before Nines wraps around him from behind and gently tugs him away.

“Careful.” He presses his cheek to the side of Gavin’s head. Then twists to sniff his hair.
His shampoo smells good. He’s the perfect size to hold just like this, shorter than Nines but still strong. He tips his head to the side when Nines nuzzles against his neck, and reaches back to keep him there with a surprisingly gentle grip in his hair.

Nines holds him tighter.
Nines presses a few lingering parting kisses to his neck and his shoulder before guiding him along towards the bedroom. He avoids the coffee table, the cat tree where the girls are sleeping, the few fake mice scattered in the hallway. He just listens to Gavin’s breathing.
It’s a warm, unsteady rush that hitches entirely when Nines gives him a light shove and sends him awkwardly tumbling towards the mattress. He flips on a reading lamp.

For a little while, Nines just looks at him and nurses the warm little flame in his chest.
Gavin hmphs. “Are you planning on getting your ass over here?”

Nines smiles. “Of course. I just wanted to admire you for a moment.”

If possible, Gavin turns an even brighter red. “Damn, Casanova, no need to flatter. I’m already in your bed, yeah?”

Nines sits next to him.
The mattress dips, makes them shift closer together. It’s just the right distance to kiss Gavin’s temple. “Technically, it’s your bed,” he points out.

Gavin shifts. Nines can /see/ his pulse beating fast under the delicate skin on his throat. He swallows tightly.
“Nines, I - I’m gonna need your to hold the reins on this one,” he says, his voice hoarse. “Not - not every time, maybe, if we - ah. I just. I want to take my cues from you. Make sure this is all okay.”

Nines nods. Presses his lips to Gavin’s cheek. Then his jaw.
“That’s fine,” he mutters. “Just show me how to make you feel good.”

“Are you sure - that’s - what you want?”Gavin asks, breath stuttering unsteadily when Nines drags his teeth experimentally over the tendon in his neck.

Nines is sure. Nines is suddenly very sure.
He feels full of something fierce and content and appreciative, something that has him wrapping his arms around Gavin's waist and dragging him flush against his chest, kissing his stubbly jaw and humming softly into the texture of his skin. It's so - unique. And human.
He rubs his cheek against it, testing the sandpaper-y quality, and finds himself smiling.

“What are you doing?”

Nines’ hand sneaks up under Gavin’s shirt to rest on his side. Words he’d been holding back begin to slip to the front of his mind. “I like how you feel.”
Gavin blinks, shifts uneasily. "Oh."

Nines kisses him again, because he /can/ now, it's allowed, and his lips are right there for the taking. Gavin's hands curl against his back and find Nines' bare skin, and trigger a spark that shoots through him like a harpoon.
"I like how you taste," Nines mumbles, not breaking away for a second.

It's endearing, how much that makes Gavin just... relax. Nines is equal parts amused and horrified at the amount of tension that drains out of him. Mostly horrified.

He tugs at the edge of his shirt.
"Let's take this off," he suggests. "I'd like to touch you."

Gavin's mouth quirks. "You first."

Nines narrows his eyes. Leans away to have enough room to unbutton his shirt, one handed because he's gripping Gavin's arm with the other, just to keep him in kissing distance.
It's softer than their kiss in the parking lot, but the dark and the quiet around them makes it feel somehow - more. It sharpens Nines' want into something acute that rests heavy inside of him and doesn't ease until he pushes Gavin down into the mattress with an impatient growl.
Gavin huffs with silent laughter, hands going to Nines' buttons, then pushing the shirt off his shoulders in a clumsy attempt at removing in. "Oh, is that's how this is gonna be?"

"Hush," Nines says, gently grabbing Gavin's wrists and pinning them both over his head.
And oh, that turns out to be the exact right thing to do, because Gavin's shirt is maybe a little too tight, and stretched out like this it rides up and reveals a trim sliver of his stomach and the dark hair dipping into the waistband of his jeans.

Nines sighs wistfully.
Gavin swallows hard and flexes a little under him, testing Nines' grip. Nines keeps him pinned, something almost vicious prowling the corners of his mind, demanding he keep Gavin right where he is.

Then he blinks, releases him quickly, rubs Gavin's wrist where he squeezed it.
There are faint, pink impressions left by his fingertips, quickly fading but making Nines' heart stutter all the same. "Sorry."

Gavin shakes his head. He's breathing faster, pupils blown, heart racing. "It's alright." His voice is so low even Nines can barely barely hear it.
Nines rubs the center of his chest through the thin cotton of his shirt, then peels the garment off and repeats the motion against bare skin and coarse hair.

Gavin tips his head back, closes his eyes on a sigh. "Your hands are really warm."
Nines smiles down at him. "I suppose they are. I'm a little overheated at the moment."

Gavin's eyelashes flutter rapidly. "Fuck."

Nines tilts his head. "What's wrong?'

"Nothing. I just - you're really fucking pretty when you smile, Nines."

Something clicks into place.
Something about the way Gavin says 'Nines', the warm quality of it, the timbre of his voice. Nothing's ever felt, sounded more like his name. Nines isn't sure why there's ever been any doubt. He is Nines. It's the first thing anyone called him that wasn't 'RK' or 'tin can.'
It's what Connor and Hank started calling him when they wanted to make him feel loved, and it's what Gavin called him always. And now in this breathless, reverent tone of voice.

He shivers. "Gavin, lie back against the pillows and don't move. I want to take my clothes off."
"Are you always going to be this bossy in bed?" Gavin asks, apparently affronted, although Nines notes with some satisfaction that he does as he was told anyway. He stands up, considering this, shrugging the rest of the way out of his shirt and folding it into a neat square.
It's strange. He'd been in such a hurry, but now that he's here, all he wants to do is take his time.

"Maybe," he answers carefully. "If the way you wanted me to kiss you is any indication, it seems to me you're going to like it though."

Gavin's throat clicks.
Nines puts his shirt down, and begins to unbuckle his belt. He can't quite keep the small smile from off face. "Of course, if you'd rather I lie down and let you have your way with me -"

Gavin sits up quickly. "No. No. Just - Hurry up and come here."
Nines slows his movements and shoots Gavin a meaningful look. "These are nice clothes. I don't want to rip off any buttons."

Gavin groans. "You're doing this on purpose. I /want/ you."

Something in Nines clenches tight at the confession. It's... something about that word. Want.
It makes him move just a little bit faster, heat stretching lazily under his skin and filling his limbs. Maybe because he's never felt particularly wanted before. Maybe because want is new to him too.

Gavin gives him a smug little smile. "Oh, you like to hear that, do you?"
Nines huffs. "Lie back. If your pants aren't off in five secon- oh. That was fast. Good." He smiles, leans in to kiss Gavin again, intending for it to be brief so he can remove his own jeans. It doesn't quite work out that way. Gavin drags him down, hands in Nines' hair.
And his mouth is so soft, so warm and desperate, Nines can do nothing but follow him down, groan against his lips when Gavin wraps one leg around his hips and presses close to him, breath hitching at the moment of sweet pressure and friction.

Nines sighs, rubbing Gavin's side.
"You just never stay still," he mutters, rolls Gavin's lower lip between his teeth. "I can barely keep up. I'd say it drives me insane, only really I just can't stop watching you."

Gavin exhales, lips parting, and Nines relaxes, cups his jaw and deepens the kiss.
It's just like before, exactly like Gavin showed him - a little hard and toothy but also soft, Gavin yielding sweetly under his attention, pulling him into something that feels like equal parts embrace and prelude. He smells good, like sweat and shampoo. He lets Nines taste him.
And Gavin touches him back in a way that threatens to shatter something fragile inside of him, his fingers in Nines’ hair gentle, curling tenderly through the strands, slow and affectionate.

Nines has to focus on monitoring his vitals. He doesn’t want to leave him without air.
It’s not intuitive, because the greater part of him just wants to heedlessly consume. What’s worse, (better) Gavin /likes/ this, he likes being left a little breathless, he likes Nines’ self-control slipping incrementally, likes it when he starts pushing a little more.
He likes it a /lot/ when Nines, frustrated with his wiggling, pins his wrists to the bed again. Makes a harsh noise in the back of his throat somewhere and bucks his hips sharply, seeking contact.

Nines nips his throat. Keeping his breathing even is suddenly very difficult.
“Fuck,” Gavin whispers. Nines hums, thinking about the salt of his skin, working his way down to his collarbone. “Nines. Clothes. Please.”

“Oh, we’ll get there,” Nines says. “I want to taste every inch of you first.”

Gavin laughs quietly. “Oh god. I might die.”
Nines smiles. “Not without my permission.” Not ever, he thinks. Gavin will be the first human to live forever.

Gavin’s giggle dissolves into a little moan when Nines finds a sensitive spot of skin on his ribs with his teeth. Then his tongue.
His breath hitches altogether when Nines slides lower and bites the enticing jut of one hip bone. He pauses there, toying with the waistband of his boxer briefs, smiling when Gavin utters a tiny, breathless 'please.'

He looks up, rubbing Gavin's thigh. "Please what?"
"Stop teasing me and let me take them off?"

"I like teasing you."

"I noticed," Gavin bites out. Then whines when Nines inches his hand a little higher, palming his growing arousal through the thin fabric. "Okay. Okay. Enough foreplay. Just -" he sucks in a breath -"don't stop."
Nines is nowhere near done with him, but the little sounds he makes are well-worth going a little further than he intended, pressing in harder, just to feel the way he flexes into Nines’ touch. He thumbs at the damp spot forming in the front of his underwear, and Gavin shudders.
Nines can feel the answering arousal stretching under his own skin, the desire to take and claim Gavin as his own, second only to an endless curiosity. He wants to /know/ him. Every bit of him.

He tugs the briefs down, frees the straining length of his erection.
Gavin’s fingers yank sharply on Nines’ hair.
“Kiss me,” he demands, his voice odd and sweet and maybe a little vulnerable, so Nines shifts up because he can’t think of anything more important than making him feel safe and appreciated. He rolls on top of him, kisses his forehead.
Then his jaw, then his lips again, gently asking for entrance , humming with satisfaction when Gavin rolls his hips, gasps into Nines’ mouth when his flushed cock catches against the coarse denim.

Nines’ temperature spikes hard, turns into a vibrating coil.
He pins Gavin’s wrists over his head, kisses him hard, presses his thigh between his legs and feels a distinct thrill of delight at his response. It’s sharp and sweet, verges on a pained whine, but when Nines considers easing up Gavin wraps his legs around him to keep him close.
His cheeks have gone a lovely color, and his eyes are just a little glazed, half-lidded, lips tender and swollen, warm when he peppers Nines’ neck with kisses.

Nines’ breath stutters out of him. “Oh.”

Gavin’s arms go tight around him. He’s strong. It feels good. “‘C’mere.”
"I'm not going anywhere," Nines sighs. "You're like a pillow."

Gavin chuckles into his clavicle. "Should I be flattered?"

"Pillows are good, Gavin. Comfortable."

He punctuates his point with a tiny snap of his hips that has Gavin choking on another cry.
"This -" he wheezes - "Is comfortable?"

Nines reaches between them to wrap Gavin's leg around his hip, then to finish wiggling out of his own clothes. He manages it about as gracefully as he can, meaning with quite a lot of awkward friction, but he's sure Gavin doesn't mind.
Not if the short, breathless moans he's trying not to make are any indication, anyway.

He stiffens when Nines settles back down next to him, a little off to the side, pulling him in close by the waist and curling up, tangling their legs and pressing their lips together.
And something odd and wonderful happens. For the first time ever, Nines loses time.

It's so easy to forget himself, to feel and pay attention to nothing else. He has no idea how long they just lie like this, touching, breathing the same air and sinking into an intimate bubble.
They’re so close, and Gavin smells good. His temperature is high, and he whines needily when Nines brushes his fingers over his sternum, his shoulder blades, the coarse curls on his stomach, the leaking tip of his erection. There’s not a part of him that Nines wants unexplored.
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