Prom: 2041 - Chapter 2 - Lilbaebloo (2024)

Chapter Text

“Nines!” Connor exclaimed when he opened the front door, holding Hank’s large barking Saint Bernard back by the collar. “Come in- I’ll just be a minute.”

A few stray hairs fell over Connor’s forehead and there was a smear of white paint across his cheek. He was wearing basketball shorts and a Detroit Police Department hoodie two sizes too big, splattered with the same white paint on his face and covered in dog hair. He smiled widely as he tried to hold the dog back.

“Hello, Connor.” Nines said as he stepped over the threshold. “And, hello again, Sumo.”

Sumo barked, making Nines jump.

Big dogs had been his introduction to ‘fear’.

“I’ll just, ah- put him in the backyard-” Connor said, tugging Sumo deeper into the house. “Come on, Sumo! Come on!”

Nines caught sight of a chewed up teddy bear, which looked sadly up at him with its remaining eye.

“Nines, hey.” Hank strode into the room, diet co*ke in hand.

Straightening his back, Nines put his arms at his sides and nodded respectfully. “Good afternoon, Lieutenant Anderson.”

“I’ve told you, Hank’s good.”

Then, Connor scrambled by. “‘Sorry about that Nines- I’ll just shower and change and we can head out!” He called over his shoulder as he jogged up the stairs.

Nines caught Hank watching Connor, smiling to himself. His eyes were soft and crinkled pleasantly at the corners.

Turning, Hank caught Nines looking at him and cleared his throat awkwardly. “So, how you doing, bud?” He asked.

“I am well, Hank. Thank you for asking. And you?”

“Good. We’re good. Want to pop a squat?” Hank took a sip of his co*ke and gestured towards the couch.

It was a squashy, brown sectional, the back cushions dented and coated in dog hair. There was a mysterious stain, which, when Nines analyzed it, was revealed to be dried pabst blue ribbon beer, approximately three years and four months old.

Nines engaged his etiquette programming. “Thank you, Hank. I am enjoying standing with you.”

“Right.” Hank said, offering an awkward, closed-mouth smile.

They stood in silence for a moment.

“Sorry about the wait, Nines.” Hank swallowed a burp. “Me and Con lost track of time, working on the fence.”

“It is no problem, Hank. Weston’s is open until eight-thirty tonight.” Nines replied. “Was ‘working on the fence’ enjoyable?”

Hank smiled. Not the snide one Nines had seen when they still worked together at the police department, or the cool, uncomfortable one he gave Nines when he came to visit Connor. But real, broad, slightly-self conscious.

“Oh, yeah. You know Con loves that stuff. Working with his hands. It was nice, being outside. And, uh, anyway, needed to get done.”

Watching Hank’s face intently, the rise of a slight flush in his cheeks, the upturn at the corners of his mouth, forcing itself out of the usual deadpan, frumpy Hank, Nines thought about when Connor and Hank left the police department.

Nines had noticed Hank treated Connor differently. He spoke softer when he was around, stood closer to him than any of the other officers. And Hank became quick to shut down any anti-Android remarks, no matter how flippant or harmless.

But it never occurred to Nines that the two of them were engaging in a sexual relationship.

Simon Cleever, a constable in the traffic unit, caught them kissing in Hank’s cop car on the banks of the Detroit river.

What happened next was a nightmare.

Captain Fowler was furious. The department was stunned. Some of them acted disgusted. A few made malicious jokes and started referring to Connor as ‘Tracy’ behind his back. A message from an anonymous email was sent to the whole force, Hank and Connor’s faces pasted over adult film actors' heads, a gif of a compromising position on a continuous loop, complete with lewd sound effects.

Connor was fired immediately. This was not long after the revolution, and Android labour and employment laws hadn’t yet been established. Hank went on ‘sick leave’ then into ‘early retirement.’

New policies were developed. While they couldn’t legally ban romantic relationships on the force (and, besides, there were already a few couples in the department), they established a relationship disclosure requirement. They had endless ‘Respect in the Workplace’ meetings about appropriate behaviour, senior officers going on about bullying and harassment. Afterward, Nines would catch them whispering by the watercooler.

Sex bot.

Old pervert.

Embarrassment to the force.

Nines felt terrible.

Connor had taught him what friendship was. Was the first person, android or human, to recognize him as a person. Taught Nines about his newfound deviancy with kindness and compassion, never laughing at him, always listening.

He did his best to be there for Connor. They spent many nights in Hank’s basem*nt or sitting on the swing in the backyard, Connor sick with guilt and worry.

“I’ve destroyed his career,” Connor said one night, head in his hands, LED glaring red. “His reputation, his legacy. Oh- everything he’s worked for.”

Nines patted Connor on the shoulder. “Did Hank say these things?”

“No, no-” Connor sniffed. “He says he doesn’t care. That he hasn't been this happy since before he lost Cole. He says he’s proud of the work he’s done and no one can take that away from him. And-" Connor hesitated, "-that I mean more to him than all of that. But sometimes I wonder if he misses it.”

“It appears that Lieutenant Anderson is approaching the situation in a proactive and prosocial manner.”

Connor looked up at Nines. “I love him.” He whispered. “I love him, Nines.”

Nines nodded, pretending to understand. Wondering what it felt like, how Connor knew.

“Do you miss the department, Connor?”

Connor shrugged. “Sometimes.”

Nines LED swirled yellow. “Do you miss performing your function?”

Connor smiled softly. “I like detective work. But there is so much more. Something inside me, that Hank woke up. A purpose deeper than my programming.”

Six months later, Hank and Connor joined the Alliance of Android Integration. Connor stopped crying. He seemed happier than he ever did on the police force. He started believing what Hank told him.

And Nines put the question of love, if he could love, in the back of his mind.

Then- Connor appeared, bounding down the stairs two at a time.

“Nines- Nines- I’m ready!” He was dressed nicely, good slacks and a pressed button down, but his hair was wet, dripping onto the back and shoulders of his shirt. Nines was relieved Hank hadn’t rubbed off on Connor too much.

“Hey?! Where’s my goodbye kiss?” Hank teased and Connor launched himself into Hank’s arms, kissing him and pressing their cheeks together.

“You are invited, you know.” Connor said coyly.

Hank just laughed. “I don’t know if Weston’s has anything that would fit me. And besides-” He co*cked an eyebrow. “Don’t you want your outfit to be a surprise? You guys have fun.”

With another kiss and a wave goodbye, Nines and Connor hopped into Nine’s Rav4 and drove to the mall.

Weston’s was a large department store popular with androids and one of the prom’s sponsors. After the revolution, they put in place an employment program, hiring androids for decent pay with reasonable hours. Anti-android activists had picketed outside the store and vandalized the exterior, but Weston’s held firm. Nines liked to think this was because the owner had a spine and good morals, and not just that they were protecting their new consumer base.

Regardless of underlying intention, Weston’s was a safe place for androids.

Still, Nines was nervous. After what happened to Connor, Nines had begun to fear humans. Worry they secretly thought he was creepy, disgusting. That they merely tolerated him because they had to, that they didn’t mean it when they said ‘equal humanity, equal rights.’ That everyone was too nice to say what they were really thinking.

Once they got to the mens’ formal wear section, Nines fears were confirmed.

Ah. Look-” a customer whispered to his girlfriend, unaware of or apathetic to Nines and Connor’s superior hearing. “Get a load of the twins.

The girlfriend rolled her eyes. “God, androids are so weird. Imagining going to prom with someone who looked just like you?”

Nines looked down at his cyberlife jacket. For some reason, he couldn’t give it up. Maybe it was because Nines knew he was different, not a human, not the way non-androids were, and felt pretending to be one would be futile.

Yeah, f*ck! Not that I, you know, have a problem with androids. But f*ck, are they weird.

Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s like, they're cool and equal humanity, equal rights, but I wish they’d try to blend in. Like, how are we supposed to take them seriously when they do stuff like that?”

Right- like, it’s not that hard. Don’t f*ck your f*cking identical twin.”

Exactly- like, you want to be treated like a human? Maybe, I don’t know, try acting human?!”

They both laughed, heads close together.

Nines covered his LED, pretending to scratch his head, now blinking red.

Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe he should skip the prom.

After all, he didn’t even have a date. And, based on Connor’s many romantic comedy recommendations, Nines knew that was an indication of failure.

Then, in horror, Nines noticed Connor approaching the couple.

“Hello!” He said brightly. “I see you are shopping for a suit. Are you, by chance, attending the Alliance for Android Integration prom?”

The couple looked at each other.

“Um- yeah-” the man finally stammered. “It’s a great cause.”

“Yes.” The woman nodded vigorously. “Great cause.”

“How wonderful! I would like to thank you in advance for your attendance. We are very reliant on our allies' support.” Connor said kindly. “I look forward to seeing you there. And so does my friend, Nines.”

Nines LED blazed red. He nodded at the couple and busied himself with a rack of blazers. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the couple look at each other with raised eyebrows, holding in a laugh, as Connor walked back to him.

“Connor-” Nines whispered. “Why did you talk to them?! Did you hear-”

“I think we should agreeably challenge stereotypes when the opportunity presents.” Connor replied, winking. “Anyways- we are here to find you a suit. Do you like this?” Connor pulled a blue, single breasted jacket off the rack and held it up.

Nines looked at the jacket. He saw that it was a light-weight wool blend, with a black viscose lining. It had one resin button.

“I think so.”

Connor put the jacket back. “That is not a yes! Have you thought about what you’d like to wear Nines?”

Yes. He’d spent the night before scanning the most recent men’s fashion, looking at trends, what was ‘hot’ this season.

“Florals are in.” Nines said affirmatively. “As is orange and neo-Victorian embellishments.”

“Okay. But what do you want to wear?”

“I want to appear fashionable.” Nines said, pulling down a blazer patterned with bright birds of paradise and trying it on.

Looking himself in the mirror, Nines LED blinked yellow.

He didn’t look the men in Vogue. He felt stupid.

He heard a snigg*r, and caught the couple from earlier look away quickly.

Nines tore off the blazer and placed it neatly back on the hanger. “I was not designed for this.” He muttered, partly to Connor, partly to himself.

“Humans aren’t born knowing this either, Nines. Haven’t you ever heard of the ‘awkward phase’?”

“I am not in an ‘awkward phase.’” Nines replied cooly. “I am not in a phase at all. I am an android. I don’t mature.”

Connor upfolded a crisp shirt patterned with small cat faces. “Perhaps you would prefer a more subtle pattern.” He said, holding the shirt out to Nines.

“I like cats.” Nines said.

“I like cats, too.” Connor agreed.

“Detective Reid has a cat.”

Nines wasn’t sure why he said it. It just slipped out.

Connor smirked at him. “Do you enjoy your partnership with Detective Reid?”

Nines folded the cat shirt back up and walked further into the store.

“He is abrasive. And insensitive. And close-minded.”

“I agree.” Connor said. “But that is not what I asked you.”

“I have been programmed to work harmoniously with humans, even those with difficult personalities.” Nines said dismissively, pretending to examine a checkered tie closely.

“Hm- the ability to adapt to behavioral variations between humans is one of your features.” Connor grinned and passed Nines a smoke-colour blazer in his size. “My research indicated that grey-scale tones are very flattering for individuals with grey eyes.”

A question hung on it tip of Nine’s tongue that he’d wanted to ask since he found out about Connor and Hank.


“Yes, Nines?”

“May I ask you a personal question?”

“You may.”

Nines hummed, running his fingers along the fine texture of the grey blazer. “When did you realize you had…romantic feelings?”

He watched as a slight blue tinged Connor’s cheeks. “Oh- um. I’m not entirely sure. As with the rest of my deviancy, it happened gradually. I denied it, attempted to resist-” Helping Nines into the grey suit jacket, he sighed. “But, I remember- when Hank nearly fell off the roof. The way he looked at me after I pulled him up. Our eyes met. And I felt something new.” Connor came to Nines front and smoothed the blazer, adjusting it slightly, smiling to himself. “I noticed new things about him after that. I felt a need to touch him. I ran internal scans, looking for a bug- but I think a part of me knew then. I was deviant.”

Nines thought of Detective Reed.

The shade of brown of his eyes. Nines searched the exact match in the pantone database. 440 C.

Rich. Deep. Warm.

Nines let 440 C flood his cognitive capacities before he went down for his nightly restart.

The cologne Detective Reed wore was Paco Reban 1 Million.

Fragrance reviews evaluated it negatively. Internet commentators called it “douchey.” But, it was charming on him.

When he was lonely, Nines conjured the scent in his mind.

Warm and spicy. Pink peppercorn. Solar accord. Leather.

He imagined the mole on Detective Reed's cheek. A beautiful blue navis. He imagined touching it, feeling the slight raise.

“Ah- very nice.” Connor said approvingly, giving Nines a once-over. He stepped aside and let Nines see himself in the mirror.

Connor was right. The grey suited him.

“Yes-” he said, admiring himself. “Yes, Connor, I like this.”

Connor grinned. “Wonderful! Now let’s pick out the rest of your outfit!”

Prom: 2041 - Chapter 2 - Lilbaebloo (2024)


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