Chapter 20: Epilogue


"Sooner or later I'll be buying coupons instead of condoms." - Gavin Reed


...in which, a few months later, our two leads are domesticated AF and Gav closes the very last chapter of his childhood in order to truly be happy.


A/N: Referenced Suicide (one line about Gav's mother) and Implied Sexual Situations.

Shout-out to the wonderful Eya_Silvers on AO3 who wanted to translate this fic into French! Find it linked on Chapter 1: Prologue on AO3 :)


GAVIN

~ AUG 25TH, 2039 * AM 03:01 ~

Gavin was a light sleeper. Even when the tiniest amount of sound echoed, he'd stir awake. Insomnia was a bitch that way. A clinking sound - plastic, maybe - hitting porcelain was what awoke him this time.

Rubbing his eyes, he blinked, turning his head to see that Nines' spot was empty. He would've been concerned if it happened any less infrequent. The light emerging from the gap in the bathroom-within-their-bedroom door gave a clear indication to where he might be. Sighing, Gavin pushed the sheet aside - shuddering as 64F hit him - before throwing feet over the bedside to encounter the floor beneath. Lucky for him was said floor carpeted. Nines' adjustable body heat was usually enough, but Gavin had a tendency to sleep in a pair of sweatpants anyway.

That is if they hadn't had sex beforehand.

Throwing on the cloth closest to him - revealing itself to be one of Nines' grey turtlenecks worn the other day - he left it unbuttoned and stepped into the bathroom. He couldn't help but shadow his eyes with his palm at the new light source. The clear contrast with the room's whiter walls increased its exposure greatly. Nines' fully-clothed back was turned against him, but in the mirror, he could see the drainage in his expression as he stared down at the pair of scissors in his hands.

"Nines, the fuck are you doi -?"

When his eyes landed on the right side of his temple, however, something was clearly missing. He'd removed his LED. Sure enough, the circle - yellow, now - lay in the sink. The guilt hit him like an airstrike.

It was only the other day that he had pulled away when Nines, in public, had gotten just a tad bit too close to be considered 'friendly.' He'd seen how his face had dropped. It was an unconscious action on Nines' part, too. When alone, cuddling up on the couch was a common occurrence. That was, of course, only when Nines initiated it. Gavin rarely initiated anything whatsoever aside from the occasional peck on the cheek in fear he'd seem clingy - as well as comforting Nines when he felt down - but thankfully, Nines got that covered.

Now used to the light, Gavin lowered his hand. "Jesus. If this is about what happened back at the bridge..."

"This was entirely my decision," he said, putting the scissors down on the mirror edge. Gavin could tell he was telling the truth - Nines always did - yet the guilt didn't leave. Nines palmed his hands on the sink and bowed his head. "I know you're not big on public displays of affection, Gav. I simply forget myself at times and I apologize for that."

Stepping up to the sink, Gavin couldn't help but unconsciously reach for the deactivated LED. He held it in his hands and stared down at it with a mix of emotions. It would be strange seeing Nines without it.

"If this ain't about me, then why'd you remove it?"

"Convenience, mostly. There's a reason I leave the interrogations up to you and remain an observer," he replied, ascending his gaze to look at himself in the mirror. Brows drew tight. "Controlling it takes a lot of effort. You've seen that I sometimes can't help but get a bit... emotional. Slip up. The suspects can spot my triggers and use them against me. Provoke me into doing actions I'd rather avoid."

Naturally, Nines still didn't have full control of his program. His emotions. Gavin knew that as Nines, being the calm sort, had looked ready to snap on a few occasions. A reaction to when suspects threatened anyone he cared about. He was working on it - had been ever since he got out of CyberLife's clutches - but it was a slow process. A slow process just like Gavin learning to adjust to having a boyfriend again. Thankfully, neither of them had to deal with it alone. They helped each other out the best they could.

"Doubt that's the only reason."

Nines shifted and turned his head to avoid his eyes, but the flickering LED in Gavin's hands gave him away.

His douchebag display had indeed influenced the decision.

The fact that Nines had actively gone out of his way to try to hide his android nature broke his heart.

"Enhanced hearing makes it difficult to block out those expressing their dislike for men and women 'not being able to land an actual human'," he said, still not meeting his gaze. "They invalidate you for it."

Gavin puffed a laugh. "You even realize who you're talking to right now?"

Expression twisting in mild confusion - the characteristic, cute, crease between his brows appearing - Nines turned his head to catch his eye.

"I... don't follow."

"I came out as being into guys at eight, for fuck's sake. It was still pretty frowned upon back in 2010, but I didn't think twice about it. Those that gave me shit ended up with a broken nose and avoided me going forward out of respect," he replied, watching the crease smoothening out. "Babe, I don't give a fuck. Those jackasses are clearly sporting a below-average IQ for thinking that a 'state of the art' prototype android with a stick up his ass - only wearing fucking cashmere - is easy to land. I take pride in this."

"Valid point. I do have refined tastes."

Smirking, Gavin stepped up into his face. Nines' confidence never failed to make him hot under the collar and Nines knew it all-too-well. The way his icy grey eyes sparked of mischief proved that.

"That's my man," Gavin purred.

He sealed the statement with a kiss, hearing a dirty 'mmm' sound escape Nines' mouth when he pulled away, going right down.

Fucking asshole.

"There's still prejudice out there. We've already seen these extremist groups up close. How they target so-called 'android sympathizers.' This is the only way I know of that can help keep those I care about safe."

He could agree on that front.

Gavin nodded, looking down at the LED.

"Keep it," he suggested, practically feeling Nines' expression soften. "Who knows? Maybe you wanna glue it back on. Fuck if I know."

Downplaying his sincerity, there was a certain vulnerability that he strayed from like always. Yet there was nothing harsh about the movement of his hand as he grasped Nines' wrist and gave the LED back to him.

About to leave, Gavin stopped in the doorway. "You coming back to bed?"

He couldn't help but feel somewhat relieved when Nines, instead of throwing it into the trashcan, gingerly put the LED back on the mirror edge. Pushing away from the sink, he took Gavin's outstretched hand - skin pulling back and Gavin pressing a kiss to his now white knuckles - before Nines followed him back into the bedroom. The small smile Nines wore wasn't lost to him, either. He could tell he'd appreciated his comment. The LED was a part of him and Gavin firmly believed it was something worth holding onto.

In the end, it was Nines' decision. He had no doubt his inquiry would have him reconsider, though.

"You should wear my clothes more often."

"Oh?" Gavin said, arching a cocky brow. "This getting you all hot and bothered, toaster?"

With wicked eyes, Nines pushed him down in bed. "Yes."

What followed was probably the best blowjob Gavin had ever gotten.

The turtleneck stayed on.


~ OCT 6TH, 2039 * PM 07:12 ~

Ever since Gavin took the step of maintaining contact with his father, he tried to call once a month. It was only natural that said call came on his birthday, but his father would be unavailable at the 7th and thus it happened the day before instead. The longest they'd spoken was seven minutes. Physical visits had yet to happen. He could tell that his father was hesitant about it as Gavin's offer had been refused. Frankly, it hurt. More than it probably should've. Their relationship had never been the best one, but they held mutual respect for one another.

Yet, he put distance between him and Gavin personally. At least to an extent.

Gavin had opened up as he had a lot on his heart - something he was unable to do when he was a kid - and his father asked a lot of questions. Humoring him, probably. His own answers were cut short when Gavin asked in return, however. Something about it being boring and not worth discussing. That he didn't want to take up his time. That, in return, had Gavin doubting.

Eventually, he was sick of being kept in the dark. How his father simply couldn't say, 'I don't give a shit,' sent him fuming and thus Gavin voiced his thoughts. The answer hit him like a freight train.

"After everything, I don't feel like I deserve it."

He'd misjudged him completely. It wasn't that Gavin's father didn't care. Truth is, he cared too much.

So much that he wanted to distance himself from him.

Gavin asked nonetheless. "The fuck is that supposed to mean?"

"C'mon, kiddo. You know I was anything but a good father. Never was ideal from the get-go. Then your mother died and..." he tried, voice faltering before clearing his throat to return to its powerful nature "...Then your mother died and I just lost it. Couldn't deal. You never should've found her like that and I should've picked up on the signs. She was struggling, but I didn't see it. I was too busy with my own problems that I didn't pay attention to what was happening around me. You wouldn't want someone like that in your life."

Just like Gavin being too busy with his own pain that he didn't pay attention to the pain of others. Like Hank. Like Nines. Hell, like everyone.

"We've all been there," he said, standing by it. "If I didn't believe in second chances, I never would've contacted you. I'm trying to fix what you fucked up, but you've gotta work with me. You want that or not?"

There was silence on the other end, and for a moment, he thought he'd hung up.

Then the answer came. "That... that would mean the world to me, Gavin."

The cloud dissolved.

"So tell me about work. Something. What do you do?"

"Private detective. I'm sticking to my roots. Never was one to work behind a desk and it's bad out there. After all that shit with Brinks went down, you'd be surprised how many people come to me offering work," he replied, finally opening up. He fell into a pause. "I still haven't come to terms with just how much you put at risk to get the truth out there."

Gavin looked down, brows tight. "We've talked about this."

"I know, but I'll keep saying it. Thank you. Was it my old man, I don't think I would've done the same. You're a good man, Gavin. I guess it all goes to show that you're lucky I didn't raise you."

"Can't take all the credit. You taught me independence. Hard work. For a time, I looked up to you."

"Well, thank god you stopped before I got outta hand. I'm proud of you. I know your mother would be, too."

"I guess I've been pretty unfair to her."

"Now when did you come to realize that?"

"Almost a year ago. Wise words from a glorified toaster, believe it or not."

"A machine taught you empathy. Damn, what a world we live in. Then again... I know it's more to 'em."

"Sure is. I mean, shit, that was way before I even got the ring -"

"Ring?"

Gavin composed himself. "Yeah, fuck, guess I never told you that. Haven't proposed yet, but... I don't know."

When he heard the door swing open, he looked up to see the one in question stepping across the threshold. Nines met his eye, realized he was on the phone, and shot a thumb over his shoulder as if to ask if he should come back later. Gavin shook his head. Nines might have enhanced hearing, but he couldn't hear what was said on the phone unless he hacked it and Gavin knew he wouldn't. Nines respected his privacy. If he wanted to know something, he asked straight-up, and that was one of the many reasons why he loved him.

Realizing he'd never actually told his father that he was gay, coming out to your parents at thirty-six - soon thirty-seven - surely wasn't the most common occurrence. One usually let it go at that point. Remain unsaid.

Yet he couldn't say that he was worried about it. His father had always been the accepting sort.

"So who's the lucky guy, chief?"he asked, Gavin's entire body freezing solid. He was just about to ask how he knew before he had his answer. Gavin heard the smile in his voice. "I ain't no slouch, kiddo. Was a good detective back in the day. Picked up on a couple things. You didn't seem to care when those of the female persuasion batted eyelashes at you. That girl - Tana or something - was the only one you hung out with."

"Tina. Tina Chen."

"That's the one. Don't think I ever met her, but you practically lived at her parents' place. I thought she was your girlfriend at first."

"Yeah, no, you're not the only one. We were pretty close. Still are. She just made 'detective' at the DPD."

"Is that right? Good for her. It's a stable position."

Re-directing his gaze, Gavin found his target. Nines had dropped into the lounger part of the living room couch with a pad in hand, probably going over reports, a content look on his face having replaced his usually concentrated expression. Disarmed. Without worry. His legs were kicked up on the cushions, crossed at the ankles, his arm thrown over the backrest.

"As for the 'lucky guy'," he began, smirking fondly knowing he could hear him. "It's my, uh... plastic pet."

He watched as a small smile curved Nines' lips, icy grey rolling.

"Nines, huh? Had my suspicions hearing you talking so highly about him."

"How 'bout you? Your old bones getting some action?"

"Watch your fucking mouth, sonny," he replied, but there was no bite in it. Gavin was left grinning. "I'm too old for that shit. Let's not go there."

"What? Noo! Plenty of other two-century-year-olds looking for some love. Try the morgue."

"I should disown you," he replied, although he could hear the humor in it. Gavin puffed a laugh. His father took a serious tone. "I'm happy for you. About a year back, I remember dating an android was unheard of. Guy must really be something. That aside... I've gotta get back to it, all right? Don't hesitate to give me a call if you need anything. I'll get back to you as soon as I can."

"You got it," he said, just about to end the call before pressing in a question. "Hey, uh... if that 'thing' happens… can I count on you being there?"

A brief silence. "If you want me there, I'll come," he replied, leaving Gavin nodding as he pressed his lips together. "Whatever time and place... good luck. Something tells me he'll say, 'yes.' Have a good night, Gavin."

Hanging up, he pocketed the phone and grabbed his coffee before approaching the couch.

"Your father, I take it?"

"Shit, what gave it away? Scoot."

"Bits and pieces to form a picture," he replied, moving for Gavin to settle in behind him. Nines dropped his head back to his collarbone and Gavin rested a forearm on his own escalated knee. The other wrapped around Nines' shoulder. "Everyone else knows at this point. The fact that you didn't anticipate Tina screen-shotting that Snapchat and forwarding it to the entire force is still difficult to grasp."

At first, Gavin had asked him to keep a lid on their relationship. See, in private, if the entire thing was going to work. Nines respected that wish and thus they set boundaries. It worked for a few months until Tina's questions to Gavin of, 'Have you asked him out yet?' became too tedious. Tedious to the point that Gavin just sent that Snapchat of him giving the finger and Nines planting one on his cheek with the smug side-eye. The response was an all-caps 'yaas bitch' followed by a bunch of crying and heart emojis.

Hank was the first who found out and it happened the very moment Nines returned to the DPD. His knowing look told as much. For Connor, it took a while. He was ace and thus didn't pick up on things like that easily.

The topic of fraternization was something else entirely.

There were certainly instances where they both had an urge to compromise missions to keep each other safe. When Nines got scared, he grew quiet, and Gavin had to apologize before he spoke a single word to him. When Gavin got scared, he lashed out, and Nines had to calm him down. Sticking to the plan when Nines ended up in dangerous situations was one of the most challenging things that he ever had to do. For Nines, his stress levels hovered close to fifty on multiple occasions. There were minor hiccups, but they both managed to remain professional.

"She'd been goading me for fucking months. I had to do something."

"There were far more professional ways to handle the situation, Gavin."

"Yeah, sure, but what the fuck is the fun in that? I'm just bending the rules a bit, big guy. Making sure you'll never get bored with me around."

"Regarding you, 'getting bored' is my last concern."

"Case in point."


NINES

~ OCT 7TH, 2039 * AM 10:12 ~

"The fuck have you been?"

Not looking up from the pad in his hand as he stood by the kitchen isle bar solution - hip cocked slightly as he leaned on his preferred left leg - Gavin's expression was tight, his jaw locked and brows furrowed.

"Good morning to you, too," Nines replied nonchalantly, closing the door after him and crouching down to Paws. "I had some matters to attend to."

"All right, you cryptic piece of shit. It's not like I thought CyberLife got ahold of you again or anything."

Although Gavin spoke calmly as if disinterested, he was clearly upset. It didn't take much effort to put two-and-two together.

Especially today.

Nines had left before Gavin had the chance to wake up. The former only needed two hours of stasis, but he always stayed in bed until Gavin's alarm went off. One of his favorite pastimes was to just listen to his breathing, hold him close, or simply watch him with the lines in his forehead smoothed out. There was a Twilight joke there along the lines of, 'Am I your Bella?' when Gavin first found out, but he'd told him he didn't mind. For Nines, it was all about those rare moments when Gavin was able to sleep properly. Insomnia often took that away from him.

Watching him suffer in silence was painful as there was nothing he could do. Thankfully, Nines' presence seemed to help his situation. At least a little. Gavin hadn't slept this well in years.

It wasn't uncommon for Nines to wander a bit at night, however. He quite enjoyed stepping out on the balcony and just watching the city lights dotting the horizon. Only after his deviancy did he see the true beauty of it. If said insomnia interfered, Gavin often joined him, taking a smoke. They talked about everything or nothing at all. Nines loved those moments.

"I didn't want to wake you," he said as he walked up behind him, one hand pocketed as he was fumbling with the object inside. Nines nuzzled into his hair. "Happy birthday, Gavin."

"Fuck that. Last thing I need is a reminder I'll be dead in a couple years."

"You're only 37."

"Exactly. Fucking ancient. Sooner or later I'll be buying coupons instead of condoms."

"Not on my watch," he deadpanned, Gavin letting out a puff of laughter. "It's not like we use them, anyway."

"Again, my point stands," he said, taking a sip of his coffee. "Gonna tell me why you're being so fucking fidgety right now? Software update that went deviant? Virus pop-ups with 'hot singles in your area'?"

"Not exactly," he replied, snatching the pad from him and putting it down. "Do me a favor. Close your eyes."

Gavin groaned. "You serious?"

"Just trust me."

"For fuck's sake," he muttered, putting down his mug and palming the table on each side of the pad. Gavin closed his eyes. "I made it pretty fucking clear I didn't want you to buy me anything."

"Well, too bad."

"Nines," he whined, keeping his eyes closed.

Having thumbed the object in his pocket the past few minutes - as well as all the way home - Nines finally pulled out the necklace. Gavin wasn't the jewelry type, so his heart was acting up wondering what he would feel about this. It was brown leather, so it wasn't exactly flashy. Nines hoped it was 'subtle' enough. He detached the clasp before gingerly reaching over and draping it around Gavin's neck, joining the far ends again. Nines didn't fail to see how brows tightened ever so slightly once the lace came in contact with the skin of Gavin's nape.

"The fuck you dolling me up for, tin can?" Gavin asked, impatient eyes fluttering open again. They fell to see the yellow circle attached at the base of said necklace. Amusement spread on his features before meeting Nines' gaze. "What, we married now? Pretty sure that thing goes on the finger. It's also way too fucking small, so I'll try not to be too offended."

Nines pocketed his hands. "Look closer. For the record, I only bought the lace."

Amusement dying down and confusion replacing it, Gavin reached for the object and held it up between his thumb and forefinger.

"Wait... the fuck? Is this...?"

"I kept it. I admit it does have sentimental value. Quite a significant one."

He hadn't failed to see how gently Gavin had been holding his LED when he first removed it, as if it was something precious, and how he'd told him to keep it. It had flattered him like nothing else. Gavin had downplayed it of course - like he always did - but Nines could see past all that. It gave him enough courage to be open without the fear of rejection.

"The hell am I gonna do with it?"

Nines rolled his eyes. "If you don't want it, give it back -"

"Fuck off. No refunds," he replied with a grin, wrangling away as Nines reached for it.

Feeling his wrists grasped, Gavin had Nines' arms wrapped around his waist so he couldn't get to it. Nines was unable to contain the smile at that. Dipping his nose in the crook of Gavin's neck, he took in the amazing fragrance that was Gavin Reed, one that he'd been blessed to have woken up next to the past few months. He'd taken a shower this morning, but past the soap, the personal, pleasant scent was yet present. Being near him gave Nines a sense of peace. He never thought anyone could mean this much to him.

"So you're keeping it?"

"I mean, shit, if that turns you on," he teased, once again downplaying it as he turned in Nines' arms to face him. Gavin palmed the table surface behind him. "In all seriousness, that's... weirdly fucking sweet. Didn't know you had it in you, Nines."

"You bring out the worst in me, and believe me, that's not a compliment. I'm still considering to strangle you with the attached lace."

"Oh yeah? That a threat or a promise?"

"Both, if you're lucky."

Nines looked down at him through heavy eyelids. Reaching up, he trailed the outline of Gavin's lips with the tip of his thumb. Lips that he, admittedly, had been obsessing over ever since he first felt them upon his own. Gavin's pupils had already dilated slightly. He had always been beautiful, but once disarmed, the vulnerability that only Nines could see made him even more attractive. Nines' fingertips ghosted down his neck, stopping to rest the now blue LED on his forefinger's middle phalanx, thumb keeping it in place.

Lightly tugging Gavin in by the lace, lips were joined.


~ JULY 15TH, 2040 * PM 11:05 ~

Having returned from their shift five hours ago, a case was close to being solved, and thus Nines made the decision of bringing the evidence home. They were already assigned five other cases of which no more evidence had been presented, so it would feel better to wrap up at least one by the end of the day. He'd spread said evidence over the dinner table to go over it.

Although the cases on android hate-crimes had dissolved to an extent - being well over a year since the revolution took place - it was far from over. Groups were yet spread across Detroit and the DPD was hard at work.

"Hey, Nines," came a familiar voice, Nines looking up to see Gavin by the balcony door. "Wanna join me outside for a bit?"

Gavin's hand was in one of his back pockets to fish up a pack of cigarettes, dark grey set on a spot at the floor in front of him before meeting his. He was again resting on his left leg. The uncharacteristic, almost bashful, demeanor caught his attention. It was the same look that Gavin gave him whenever he knew he'd done something wrong. Made a mistake such as accidentally put colored clothes together with one of Nines' white dress shirts. If he was caught red-handed trying to solve a case on his own.

They liked challenging one another. Despite them having been a couple for about a year, the competitive - albeit healthy - nature between them never perished. The banter was stronger than ever. Sharp attitudes among others, but when they were together and alone, they allowed themselves to put down their guard. Their relationship was built on mutual trust.

"I'll be right there, love."

Nodding, Gavin propped a cigarette between his lips. He moved onto said balcony.

Nines turned back to the evidence, bringing his other hand to the table and shuffling the documents more neatly together.

Clearly, Gavin wanted to talk. He always got a bit weird whenever that happened although it certainly wasn't as bad as it once were. As time passed, Gavin had started opening up more and more to him.

He'd told him how he was never the kind of guy that followed the stereotypical 'romance.' That he wasn't the 'restaurant, chocolate, and flowers' kind. Naturally, that didn't matter for Nines. He didn't eat and flowers were useless unless related to medical purposes and photosynthesis. Besides, he was never that ecstatic about being forced the responsibility of maintaining said plant. They were pretty to look at, though. Not to mention that Nines had developed a mild fear of roses as it brought him back to the Zen Garden, but said fear slowly perished.

Gavin had also told him why he'd been avoiding romantic relationships for over a decade.

He was, simply put, scared. Scared of not meeting expectations. Scared that his job would put his loved ones in danger. Scared that he'd hurt, be hurt, disappoint and be disappointed. Scared of the way Nines was looking at him like he was someone incapable of making mistakes. Someone without flaws. Nines knew he had flaws, and frankly, that was what made him so endearing. These imperfections that were perfect in their own way. Like everyone else, Gavin had flaws, and androids were no exception. Nines had flaws, too.

Every day, he fell a bit more, first with the bigger quirks. How morally just Gavin was. How quickly he took the more dangerous cases so no one else had to. How he in his extroverted nature always stepped in to break things up when Nines became overwhelmed. How he always made a good effort to include everyone in conversation not to feel left out.

Now smaller events also contributed. How a mild pout would emerge and nose crinkle when he was concentrated or jealous. How he and no one else could read Nines' micro-expressions. How he would cradle Paws like a baby. How he would grab Connor and rustle his hair when he'd solved a tricky case. How he would lean on Nines, using the excuse that he was 'just resting,' when the truth was that he simply wanted contact. How important he made Nines feel. How he one day, in public, slipped his hand into Nines' and stopped pulling away.

To this day, Gavin's laugh remained his favorite.

Stepping onto the balcony, Nines found him resting against the building wall. An arm laid horizontal across his chest - one elbow atop his wrist - and eyes half-lidded as he stared on the city lights below.

A mild breeze pushed through the air. The smoke from the cigarette in his hand emerged upon the night sky.

When Nines spun a half-circle around him - taking said cigarette with him in the process - there was no argument. No fighting back. Gavin did purse his mouth to suppress the smile, however. Nines stumped it in the tray next to an empty beer bottle and glass atop the table just to his left. Right shoulder propping to the wall just next to his, Nines' body remained turned his way as he pocketed his hands. Gavin had greatly cut down on the smoking, but he had a tendency to grab one whenever he was stressed.

"Can't even have one smoke these days, huh?"

"Until they invent a non-harmful equivalent, no, you cannot," he deadpanned, watching as Gavin stepped away from the wall and approached the banister. Calloused hands encountered the railing. "Is everything all right?"

Gavin bowed his head. "Just something I've been meaning to talk to you 'bout for a while."

"Oh-oh."

"Oh-oh?" he repeated, mocking offense - an amused glint in his eye - as he turned his upper body to face him. Gavin let his left arm drop in the process. "Look. I love you, but don't, 'oh-fucking-oh' me."

"It's a spontaneous reaction."

"Prick," he said, but there was no bite in it. Settling in a chair, Nines propped a hand to his thigh as the other forearm rested atop the other. Gavin parted his arms with the doe-eyes. "You gonna let me finish now?"

"Proceed."

"A few months back when we did research on android passports, they needed a last name to put on your ID before you were allowed on a plane. We were doing that undercover op, so it didn't matter at the time, but I later asked what name you were planning to use outside of work. If you were gonna claim 'Anderson' like your brother or stick with 'Stern'," he said, one arm falling to his side. Nines couldn't tell where he was getting at. Avoiding his eyes, Gavin let out a cough behind his fist. "You said you were holding out for 'Reed'."

"Correct."

"Okay, so... were you just fucking with me, or that still the case?"

"Both, obviously."

"Good, 'cause what I'm 'bout to do is probably the scariest fucking thing I've ever done... so go easy on me. I blame you if my knee pops."

Nines arched a brow. "Why would your knee -?"

His question was cut short seeing him slowly drop to said knee. Recognizing the implication, his throat closed as Nines sat straight, and between Gavin's pecs did his LED flicker yellow. Forearms moved to rest atop thighs and two practiced hands reached for his left limb. A stubbled jaw clenched, dark grey focusing on said limb as the artificial skin pulled back. A thumb and forefinger ghosted up Nines' annular digit before reaching his proximal phalanx. Said thumb rubbed gently against the empty area as the LED kept processing.

"It's fucking insane how much can change in near two years. Back then, I wouldn't think twice 'bout putting a bullet between your eyes. Almost did just 'cause of the turtleneck alone," he teased, an infectious grin emerging on his lips. It slowly faded. "I've been sitting on my ass for far too long, but I'm done waiting on the sidelines. Time to step up. You've held out with me so far, so kudos."

"I was surprised, too."

"Jesus, this is traumatizing enough as it is. Why the fuck do you have to be a dick about it?" he said as he met his gaze, his innocent look resulting in Nines' self-satisfied smirk as icy grey narrowed. Gavin's fell briefly. "So what do you say, tin can?"

I didn't hear the question, he wanted to jest, but he didn't take the words for granted. Nines could be a dick, yes, but not that much of a dick.

Simple was the answer nonetheless.

"Yes."

Gavin grinned at that. "Dramatic pause, much?" he teased, resulting in Nines' chuckle. He lifted Nines' palm to his mouth and pressed a kiss to the inside of it as he held his gaze. Rising to his feet, he helped him up. "C'mere, big guy."

Not needing to be told twice, Nines latched his arms around Gavin's neck. He nuzzled into the embrace.

They married later that year.


A/N: ...and that's a wrap!

Thanks to everyone who has read + actually gotten through this story. The support has been breathtaking *insert Keanu Reeves* and the comments never failed to put a smile to my face. This is certainly not my last contribution to the fandom, so expect to get far more Reed900 from me. This is my fav ship ever and I love writing my disaster sons sfm.

It's been a long journey. Take care :)