When his lieutenants warned him about Atlas planning a hit Jack just scoffed. The bastards were always plotting, Hyperion was like a pustule on their ass: it came from nowhere and quickly started causing lots of discomfort and pain.
Jack Lawrence had the best informant network, the best connections and he was aggressively expanding into Atlas territory, brashly challenging their decades long rule.
“Sir!” the messenger was panting as he threw the door open, disturbing the meeting. Jack clicked his golden pen irritably and made a mental note to have a stern talk with the idiot later.
“What?” he barked and lifted his face up, the blue eye ablaze with anger underneath a mask he was wearing. The prosthetic features contorted into a displeased grimace as he eyed the intruder.
“Sir! Atlas, they - ,”the boy drew a sharp breath. “They retaliated! It’s your brother, he - ”
“The hell you’re saying?! What am I paying you assholes for?!” Jack jumped up, pushing the chair so hard in crashed onto the ground. He marched towards the young man who, in return, made himself visibly smaller: the cruelty and the bad temper of their boss was legendary. “You had one job! Make sure my brother is safe! ONE. FRIGGIN’. JOB!”
Before the kid had any chance to react, the gold - plated pen cut through the air and dug itself into the messenger’s eyeball with a sickening squelching sound . As the young man sank to the floor wailing thinly, Jack disdainfully eyed the bloody gunk on his polished pointed shoe and walked back towards the table with nothing but the victim’s sobs disturbing the profound silence that blanketed the room. He opened his mouth and then shut it abruptly, turning around swiftly and walking backwards to the messenger who was still sitting on the floor crying as the blood slowly trickled between his fingers. Jack scruffed him by the front and yanked the man upwards.
“Where is he?! Where is Timothy?!”
“En route,” the young man whispered listlessly and Jack let him go, flicking his fingers in disgust as if he touched something dirty.
Jack rushed out on the driveway, bodyguards in tail, to meet the transport personally. Unable to exercise his rage directly onto the source, he shot at least three more of own goons while running through what suddenly felt like endless maze of hallways. The gravel scraped underneath the wheels of an ambulance driven by a scared paramedic and the backdoors flew open as a stretcher was carefully rolled down on the ground. Ignoring his bodyguards Jack surged forwards, pushing people away and finally locking his fingers around the edge of the gurney.
“Tim. Tim!” someone tried to pull him away, a mistake they paid for dearly as Jack threw out his arm and blindly shot in the general direction of the unfortunate moron. “Don’t you dare! Tell me who did - Point me the asshole I will fucking skin him alive and let him eat his own shit,” his voice broke. “Baby brother.” He straightened his back and turned around, livid as they come. “Get him to Autohn! NOW!”
Fingers weakly scraped along his wrist as he was almost leaving, making Jack turn around. All he could hear were whispers and wheezing. He leaned forwards where Timothy’s face was covered with hydrating bandages to hear better.
“Don’t… hurt… him...”his brother breathed out weakly. “He has… nothing to do… with it.”
The paramedics, still being held at gunpoint, wheeled the gurney away leaving Jack alone in the driveway with a bodyguard’s body sprawled on the gravel, painting it crimson.
“Yo boss, what do you want to with this piece of work?” One of the goons called out from the ambulance and Jack heard the scuffle inside and then an angry yelp.
“Touch me one more time and I’ll - ”
Jack felt himself sucking the air through clenched teeth as he saw a tall and spiffy dressed young man being pushed out from the vehicle. Kid’s bi - colored eyes flashed angrily until his gaze fell onto the lone man in front of him.
Jack shot him the toothiest of grins and signaled one of his men. “Find a pretty bowl for our Atlas - bred goldfish,” when his goons looked puzzled Jack grunted irritably and ran the hand down his angular face. “Basement, idiots, take him to the basement!”
I’m sorry sir, I cannot salvage this! Too much skin had been damaged.
I’m sorry, he will lose the eye.
I’m sorry -
There were too many ‘sorry’s’ thrown around until Jack finally had enough and put a gun under Authon’s chin, amiably explaining his expectations and asking if the good doctor would kindly do his best. Autohn fell silent and nodded, his mousey face void of any color.
That was seven hours ago.
Now Jack sat by his brother’s bedside, watching Tim’s chest rise and fall slowly, his breathing better but still labored slightly. In addition to facial injuries his brother had several broken ribs, a punctured lung and multiple internal bruises. His fingertips hovered above the terrible scar that was burned into Timothy’s skin by, undoubtedly, a blowtorch. The angry bloated wound crossed his whole face from cheek to cheek, arching its peak at the forehead and going down again, most likely searing away the left eye. With a hoarse cry of anger and sorrow Jack clipped off his mask and threw it on the bedside table, fingernails digging into the old scarred tissue of his own mark, the one Vault Hunters forced upon him as a warning many years ago, at the dawn of Hyperion.
Jack overstepped the boundaries back then and he did so again, only this time someone else paid for his gall.
“You dick!” Jack hissed, curling his fingers into fists to hide the nervous shakes. “I told you not to leave! I told you this would happen! I fucking hate you and your stupid ‘too good for this shit’ attitude... you piece of... moron...” Jack began slurring as warm tears ran down his cheeks, the sensation so alien it startled him. Tim had always been the crier, the soft - hearted idiot of the two. “I hate you for making me care.” He whispered and lightly squeezed Timothy’s wrist, while trying to wipe away the stupid tears with the sleeve of his very expensive suit.
“I’m never… letting you live this… down.” Tim mumbled suddenly, making Jack pop his head upwards, eyes and nose swollen from tears and snot as he looked at his brother who had opened his eyes: a bloodshot blue and a pale white one where green used to be, just like his twin’s. “Handsome Jack… actually... cares.”
“I always - Fuck you, Timmy,” Jack’s neck got maroon from blushing as he squeezed Timothy’s shoulders gently, a complete opposite of the rage that still dominated his voice as he grit his teeth together. “Now tell me, how the hell did you end up with Atlas kingpin’s prodigal son?! The only reason he is still not choking on his colon is because you asked nicely.”
6 months ago, Opportunity
“That’s the guy I told you about,” Rhys peered from behind his tacky cocktail, nodding in the appropriate direction. He saw Vaughn’s eyes wander around the room and then his friend shrugged his shoulders.
“Which one? This place is packed.”
“God, bro, the bartender!” Rhys nonchalantly flicked his hand towards the center, hoping his clueless friend picks up on it. He took a sip from the sweet concoction he had ordered and set his gaze upon the man in question once again. The bartender was tall and lean, broad shoulders and wiry muscles were nicely accentuated by the simple tight black shirt he was wearing. Perfect, every inch of him. Rumor had it that his tanned skin was littered with warm freckles but Rhys was yet to get close enough to check.
But that was not the main reason why he, Rhys Evans, well known in most circles for being a spoiled trillionaire brat, had expressed interest in this particular man and was about to make his move.
Rhys was bored. Greatly annoyed would probably be more appropriate.
His parents made a choice to raise their only son outside family business, the decision Rhys had been unhappy about since the moment he realized what the said business entangled. He had been purposefully acting out until his father had enough and finally allowed Rhys to preside over one of the lesser companies that laundered their money. He was happy, for a while. But Rhys always needed more, he wanted in, truly ‘in’ but Evans Senior would not budge. Pissing his father off and testing the boundaries was the next logical step.
And this is where the good - looking bartender came in.
“So what’s so special about this dude?” Vaughn took a swig from his beer and sighted happily as he licked the foam off his upper lip.
“He’s Handsome’s twin.”
“He’s… What?!” Vaughn coughed violently as he choked on his drink, glasses bouncing closer to the tip of his nose. “The mafia guy?! The Handsome Jack?!”
“Shut up!!” Rhys hissed and his eyes darted around their booth checking if they were overheard. This information was not exactly widespread.
Handsome Jack of Hyperion was a very publicly known figure, mostly for the way he disposed of his equally shady competition and put the poor bastards on display to send the message to the other gangs. Despite all the fame nobody outside the crime syndicates knew what he looked like, for Handsome Jack did not mingle with the public and left the socializing part for his second in command, Nisha ‘The Lawbringer’ Kadam. Rhys was keeping tabs on all the Pandoran syndicates but Hyperion always had his main focus. Out of all the crime families they were the youngest and the most aggressive and had recently subdued Dahl: the last bastion before sinking teeth into Atlas, his birthright.
“Wait, wait,” Vaughn muttered and pushed away his beer, desperately searching Rhys’ face for an indication of this being a joke. “You want to seduce a brother of a very angry and vicious crime lord? You’re - You’re serious?!”
“And I want daddy dearest to hear all about it.”
Now, Jack’s mansion.
Tim had finally drifted back to sleep, the morphine drip making sure he would feel as little pain as possible. Jack was not sure if his brother realized yet what has been done to him and how much he remembered. Jack had questions. He needed names of the bastards who did it, names of the loved ones they held dear, names of their fucking pets. He would make them suffer, all of them. His fingers gently stroked Timothy’s hand and he stood up, clumsily clipping the mask on. He hated the thing but nobody was allowed to see him without it, save his brother and his long term girlfriend. Those who did have a misfortune of stealing a glimpse were too dead to talk about it.
Tim may have not been able to tell him anything but the porcelaine - faced Atlas squirt in the basement would be more cooperative if pressed. As he was going down the stairs, Jack remembered his brother’s plea and clicked his tongue irritably: not hurting the kid left him with limited options.
As he entered the small room with soundproof walls Nisha was the first thing he saw. The dark - skinned woman was leaning on the sturdy table, long lashes covering her beautiful amber eyes as she was filing her long and sharp purple nails. Behind her was the Atlas princess, roped to the chair like a prized hog. Nisha knew her knots and made sure that if he moved the contraption pulled on his limbs enough to cause pain. God, he loved that beast of a woman.
“Babe, sweet work as always,” Jack purred as he brushed a strand of raven black hair out of her face. Nisha leaned into his touch gracefully and then pouted.
“I feel cheated, loverboy. You owe me a toy. This one,” She nodded dismissively in the direction of Atlas who, in turn scoffed. “Would be perfect. Bet he’s a screamer.”
“They all are once you tickle them just right,” Jack’s hand slid down Nisha’s muscular back and rested on her ass, nails playfully digging in and causing the woman to huff softly, pressing against him.
“Would you kindly NOT?!” the royalty in the corner piped up and Jack’s almost laughed at the genuine irritation in his voice: the brat had some balls. He dismissed Nisha with a whisper and a nip at her ear and when the door closed, Jack turned towards Atlas who now had the dubious pleasure of his undivided attention. The kid shifted under his gaze, causing the ropes to dig under his armpits and he stifled a short cry, making Jack chortle.
“Sit still, cupcake.”
“I’m not a cupcake and I’m not a toy,” Atlas pursed his lips together and pulled his chin up. “I have a name!”
“Oh yeah, I know. Doesn’t mean i’m gonna use it,” Jack stared the kid down and pulled out his trusty knife, flipping it open and proceeding to balance it on one finger, letting the guy stew in his own fake sense of importance.
The name was Rhys Percival Something Something Evans. His father was a formidable rival and Jack, in his own way, respected the old coot. The only stain on syndicate’s reputation was Evans’ spoilt but dearly beloved son who was never happy with the five silver spoons in his mouth. The bratty entitlement of this kid annoyed Jack and if not for his dumb brother’s involvement with this preppy moron, he would teach the boy a lesson or three about how to abide and respect his elders.
“You can’t do this! This is against the rules!” The baby faced Atlas gave him a stink eye and whined as a rope dug into his groin: Nisha was truly a treasure.
“Cute,” Jack grinned widely, flashing his million dollar smile that rarely promised anything but pain. “Here’s the thing though, babycakes, you are in the family. You nagged your way into it and I bet your pops is really biting his elbows right now.”
When kid had nothing to reply, Jack stalked closer and the cold blade of the knife slid under Rhys’ chin, making the young man gulp down, eyes darting to the knife and back to meet Jack’s gaze.
“You know who was not in the family? My fucking brother,” Jack hissed, his hand curling tighter around the gold - decorated hilt. “Timmy ditched me five years ago, severed all ties. By your little rulebook, kiddo , he was a civilian, an Untouchable. So why the frickin’ fuck,” his voice fell to a raspy growl and the tip of the knife buried into the skin, drawing a sole droplet of blood. “Did your people come after him?!”
Rhys’ heterochromatic eyes shot wide open and he pulled backwards, shaking his head.
“It wasn’t Atlas… It can’t be.”
“And how the hell are you so sure?” Jack scowled at him in aggravated disbelief.
“It was Lance and you know that my father would never hire them, ever .”
Jack had to admit that brat was right. Originally Crimson Lance was part of Atlas’ elite enforcer group and one of the main reasons they have stayed so powerful and untouchable for so long. At some point Lance, done being a guard dog on a leash, separated themselves from Atlas and became a mercenary group for hire. They had no loyalties and would do anything as long as the fee was right. Atlas did not appreciate the move and was quick to denounce any previous affiliations with Lance, opening the doors for the lesser families to jump in and score some big kills. Jack himself was too paranoid to trust anyone but his own people and made sure his soldiers were worthy adversaries to the likes of Lance. Before Timothy left, Hyperion Hornets served and trained directly under him. The streets made his brother swift, precise and sharp, gracing him with calm mind and plenty of self - control: a perfect killer.
“Like I would believe anything that comes out of you plush Atlas mouth, babe.”
“Call my father then,” Rhys pursed his lips together and nodded towards his phone on the table. “He’ll tell you. He’ll show you, if you really are that pigheaded.”
“Watch your mouth,”Jack snapped and yanked the phone off the table and poked it underneath Rhys’ fingers for him to unlock the damn thing. It took a couple of tries with the kid hissing from pain and cursing at his stiff fingers. Once done, Jack scrolled through what seemed like a million contacts and finally fished out the number he was looking for.
“Rhys? What’s wrong now?” The man on the other line sounded tired and Jack had to admit he felt a bit of sympathy for the guy: his spawn was beginning to drive Jack insane and he spent maybe fifteen minutes with him.
“Not quite, papa Evans, not quite,” Jack drawled casually, signalling to Rhys that if he yells out something stupid there will be pain. The kid narrowed his eyes to slits, lips skewed in disdain but nodded.
“Handsome Jack. Am I to understand you have my son?” The voice on the other line was even and emotionless. “If anything happens to him - ”
“You have my brother to thank that this spoilt brat of yours is not eating and shitting through a tube yet.”
“What do you want?”
“The truth,” Jack hissed like a shake, curling fingers around the phone even harder and making the fragile touch screen nearly crack under the pressure. “Did you send people to kill Timothy?”
Some time later, Jack’s mansion.
Jack marched hastily to the small medical ward. His brother was awake and he wanted to see him. Autohn made sure to point out that morphine was still in Tim’s system, making him sluggish and not being able to think completely straight. Jack glared at the little groveling fuck as he lazily twirled the knife in his hands, to an outsider a threat but to Jack nothing but a nervous tick that worked marvelously in his favor. Autohn had finally stopped yapping in his ear and disappeared, allowing Jack to step into the makeshift but still well outfitted ward.
Timothy was leaning against the pile of pillows that were holding him in a half sitting position. His hands rested on top of the blanket and he seemed asleep but as Jack came closer, Tim’s eyes flew open staring groggily at the guest.
“Jack.” He said and swallowed slowly. “Water… Please.”
The jug was near the bed but it required a lot of movement his brother was not ready to make and Jack carefully poured ice - cold water in a glass, reaching out to Tim. Halfway he paused and picked up a little yellow straw, holding the glass close to Timothy’s lips so that he could drink easier.
“Is Rhys ok?” Tim’s voice was soft and very quiet. Jack rolled his eyes and gave his brother a condescending look.
“You don’t see your flesh and blood in five years and that is the first thing you ask?” he scoffed as his fingers squeezed Timothy’s hand lightly. “Your boytoy is fine. I promised , you know.”
“Those are often worth shit.”
“Not to you, baby brother.”
“I’m older... you ass.”
“By five minutes, bite me.”
They sat for a bit in a comfortable but unfamiliar silence. The Lawrences have argued since the moment they have learned to walk and talk: Timothy degraded Jack for indulging in his impulses without thinking and Jack thought the stick up Tim’s ass grew couple of inches longer every other day. Despite everything, they were still a great team; up to the moment when Timothy decided he did not want to do this - whatever ‘this’ meant - anymore and walked out, subsequently skipping town and disappearing. He had resurfaced in Opportunity a bit less that a year ago and since that moment Jack meticulously had him under surveillance. Not meticulous enough, for the Atlas princess had somehow managed to fly under his radar.
“My face. I need to see my face...” Tim tugged on his sleeve and Jack snapped out of his thoughts and shook his head.
“Don’t be a hero, Timtam.” He said gingerly.
“Is it like yours? Is it - ” His fingertips lightly grazed just below the blind eye and a hoarse cry left his throat as the inflamed damaged skin reacted to the touch.
“Mirror,” despite the quietness there were familiar iron notes Jack always remembered his brother by. Timothy might have been less outspoken and talkative but he always got what he wanted.
Jack was not the one to carry mirrors around so he took out his cell phone and flipped the camera, slowly lowering it to Tim’s eye - level. Every muscle in his brother’s body went stiff as he saw his reflection and drew a sharp breath. Jack was expecting rage, screaming… The things he went through all those years ago when Timothy found him almost dead, beaten and mutilated in an abandoned warehouse. They were seventeen years old then.
Instead Tim’s frame went limp and he slowly curled up on himself, hooked fingers hovering inches above the face as he sobbed and his body shuddered, falling apart amongst the powerful but stifled wails. Jack’s hands were on his shoulders, stroking calming circles where the skin was not ripped and bruised from beating.
“Blowtorch.” That was the only word Tim kept repeating as he rocked back and forth ignoring the pain in his body. “Like you. Just like you.”
“I’m sorry brother. Tim. Timmy,” Jack was whispering hastily, feeling the anger coiling inside him, its tendrils reaching higher and higher until he was nearly suffocating in their grasp. “Lance will die. Each and every fucking one of them, limb by limb. I will annihilate those sons of bitches,” he hissed out as his hand burrowed gently into his brother’s tangled hair. “Come. Come here...”
Timothy listened and leaned into Jack: the same way they used to do when they were kids and all they had was each other. Jack was mindful of the bruises and hurts, letting his hands run up and down Tim’s shuddering back as gently as he could. He felt ten again: weak and angry, cuddled up to his brother who was running a fever and unable to do anything because the pharmacist caught him shoplifting the medication. If not for a stranger on the street taking pity on the two twin urchins, Timothy might have not been here today. Today, however, they were together once more, and Jack was all grown up, feeling angrier than ever. He gently guided his brother to the pillows and wiped his tears with own thumb, avoiding the terrible wound.
“Rest,” he said curtly. “You’ll need a lot of it.”
The only answer he got was a shaky exhale as Tim closed his eyes and nestled back into the pillows, trembling slightly. Jack made a mental note to fish out Autohn and make sure Tim was knocked out good and long enough to heal better. Slapping some extra juicy threats on top would make sure doctor would not stray away from the patient for such useless necessities as bathroom breaks and food.
Jack was about to walk out when Timothy stirred behind him once more.
“They’ve mentioned - ,” he said almost inaudibly, making Jack turn around and lean forward, straining his hearing. “Steele.”
Rhys’ ‘quarters’, Jack’s mansion.
The door flew open, rammind the wall and Rhys jumped up on the bed where he was lounging a moment ago, lazily playing Candy Crush on his phone. Handsome Jack was livid. He covered the distance between them in two wide leaps and scruffed him by the front of a very expensive and one of a kind shirt. Normally Rhys would tell him off but something in Jack’s face made him bite his tongue and reconsider: whatever this was, he was on thin ice and Tim was not around to protect him.
“Steele,” Jack snarled, inches away from Rhys’ face. “Atlas is not involved my ass, you little skag shit!”
“What about her?” Rhys asked dumbly, wincing how close the other man was. He really did not appreciate people being up in his face like that, ignoring his need for personal space.
Sigrun Steele was one of the Atlas’ lieutenants and Crimson Lance was her division up to the point when the crime syndicate and the group in question violently parted ways. Steele did not follow Lance into their independence and stayed with Atlas: a decision that surprised many, considering her almost motherly involvement with the group.
“Tim said he heard them mention Steele. Your Steele,” Every word leaving Jack’s mouth was an angry hiss as his fingers ripped into the material of his favorite salmon colored shirt.
“If she acted, she did so without my father’s consent,” Rhys carefully tried to push Jack away: a risky business but he succeeded, the other man’s fingers releasing their grasp. “If you pride yourself in reading people, which you do, then you should know neither me, nor my father are lying to you, Hyperion.” He huffed and adjusted his shirt to a more presentable shape, lamenting the ugly creases.
“Your phone.” It was an order and Rhys unlocked his device, handing it into Jack’s waiting palm. Hyperion yanked it away and the next moment he was pacing up and down, phone pressed to his ear and free hand running through perfectly coiffed hair: a habit Rhys has seen plenty of times on Timothy if he was nervous or shy.
“Evans!” He barked loudly into the speaker. “Little birdie told me you can’t keep your subordinates in check.”
His father obviously inquired about the base for such wild accusations because the next moment Jack scoffed and switched the phone to another ear.
“The Siren,” there was a pause and he rolled his eyes in annoyance. “You have only one by that name, doncha?”
He fell silent again listening to the rambling on the other end of the line and then his animated face became serious and concentrated.
“I trust my brother on this so here’s the deal for ya. Get me the proof and get me the asshole responsible,” Jack paused, absentmindedly stroking the hilt of the knife he pulled out of his vest. “I’m keeping your golden boy here until that happens,” the voice of the other line had softened and Rhys could swear he heard pleading notes in his father’s tone. “He’ll be fine as long as you cooperate.”
Or you’ll have Timothy to answer to.
Rhys grinned to himself but the thought of his lover has soured the mood. He had not seen Tim since the moment they wheeled him away and Jack did not bother to inform him about anything. Perhaps if he tried not to piss Hyperion off so much, Rhys would finally be able to visit Timothy. It would be a feat to reel in his ego for the likes of Handsome Jack but it was worth it: there were things Rhys wanted Tim to know and he hoped he would get the chance sometime soon.
First of all, thank you SO much for all the kudos and comments and asking if I will expand this. I will be honest, I felt rather bad about my writing because of my other fic that was getting very little attention. I felt maybe I just suck at writing. But this gives me hope that maybe my other fic is not the skill problem but rather the 'content not for everyone' problem. :) Thank you for giving me some piece of my self confidence back :3
While this is not gonna become an epic long fic, there gonna be definitely another chapter and after that we will have to see what the story demands, so to speak.
I really wanted for jack to have a softer side (the only softer side he would ever have, haha) so even if it is a bit OOC I am content with how it came out.
let me know if you liked it, looking forward to hearing from all of you Xxxx
I figured out what is the main theme song for this fic is. Sue me but I do like my 80s. Tears for Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
6 months ago, Opportunity.
Vaughn had left earlier, drunkenly urging his friend to reconsider this suicide plan. Rhys smiled charmingly, once again amused at his friend’s inability to handle alcohol, paid for Vaughn’s drinks and called him a cab. In a last attempt to prevent the inevitable, Vaughn asked him to come along, an offer which Rhys refused and stubbornly decided to wait till the end of the bartender’s shift.
Cocktail in one hand and phone in the other Rhys settled down closer to the bar, watching the clientele come and go and keeping his eyes on the prize. He wanted to make his move but it was too busy and Rhys did not want audience. Not yet, anyway.
[Vaughn]: Are you still there?
[Vaughn]: You are, aren’t you?
[Vaughn[: Don’t be stupid, bro.
[Vaughn]: Uuuugh I feel like craaaaaaap. What was in that beer?
Rhys smirked and unlocked the phone, quickly typing the reply and congratulating himself on a sick burn he was about to deliver. Vaughn retaliated and they were soon engaged into an epic bro - out, Rhys’ attention engulfed by the glowing screen of his phone.
Vaughn must have passed out as he did not reply to the last message and Rhys victoriously raised his eyes, absentmindedly searching for the bartender and slowly realising he was nowhere to be seen. A curse left his mouth and Rhys quickly scanned the room, desperately hoping to see the man he was after. This when a tall glass filled with electric - coloured and toxic - looking yellow substance landed in front of his nose, making Rhys expel a small sound of surprise.
“Had to come and see for myself.” The velvety voice made Rhys sit down and focus on the glass and the arm that was holding it.
The long fingers let go of the cocktail and the large palm rested loosely on top of the polished surface. Rhys’s gaze went further, catching onto the wrist tattoo with an unusual design and then travelled upwards, along the toned forearm covered in soft dark hairs and finally stopping at the impressive bicep, snug in the black sleeve of a v - neck shirt.
“So, where do we go from here?”
“Um… What?” Rhys flapped his eyelashes dumbly, his plan to seduce Handsome’s brother crashing all around him as the latter seemed to take the matter into his own hands.
“Five ‘Yellow Hornets’, kid,” the other man drawled and dropped himself on the other side of the table. “You wanna get laid and you want it bad. And I,” he paused and rubbed his nose bridge slowly. “Had a long and tiresome shift and could use some R&R.”
“Name’s Tim,” He eyed Rhys once more, mismatched eyes sliding up and down young man’s frame and pausing at the lips, smirking at own thoughts.”But what’s in a name, am I right?”
The key hit its target on the third try. Timothy hissed something vile but inaudible as he pushed the door open and disappeared into the dark maw of the hallway. Rhys followed in rather meekly: he did not expect a brother of a filthy rich crime lord to live in a decrepit apartment block in the middle of one of the seediest neighbourhoods in Opportunity. It was both exciting and disturbing and Rhys was not sure if he wanted to touch and examine every weird thing he saw or douse it in disinfectant and burn with fire.
A switch got flipped with a loud click and Rhys found himself in a middle of a narrow hallway, old faded wallpaper still bearing traces of the original flowery pattern.
“Adorable,” Rhys commented as he observed the shelf with two porcelain tabbies arching their back as they stared at each other. The cats were guarding an old polaroid picture and he reached out to pick it up: two small boys were standing on the both side of thin and stern - looking woman. The one to the left wore a blue shirt and the one to the right was dressed in green. The boy in blue had his arm in a sling, face bunched up in anger, while his twin was hiding his eyes from the camera, nose red and swollen.
The sudden but powerful feeling on intruding on something extremely private made Rhys hastily put the photo back and walk into the living room, still gawking around like an idiot. So far nothing went as he had imagined. The plan was to show off and get a limo that would take them to his place: a penthouse in one of the highest skyscrapers in Opportunity. Rhys would be everything he always was: smooth, flamboyant and sharp, his capriciousness too sexy, according to some, to withstand.
He definitely would not be standing in a small dusty but neat room, feeling like a class A whore as a tall and a very handsome man in front of him slammed the last escape route shut and leaned on it, casually unbuckling his belt as the same lazy grin from the club crawled on his face.
“Come ‘ere, pretty,” He purred and Rhys felt tendrils of arousal coiling in his underbelly while some other part of him desired to snap at the brash tone the man was using. Nobody talked Rhys Evans like that.
Except for Timothy Lawrence, Hyperion’s finest.
Rhys’ hand snaked up and over Lawrence’s shirt, feeling ever muscle flex with anticipation underneath his long and, famously skillful, fingers. Despite the fact that both of them were almost of equal height, he stood up on his toes and caught Timothy’s lips with his own. Underneath the swagger and the wit there was undeniable hunger as the other man answered the kiss, a pleasurable hum vibrating deep within his chest. Large but nimble hands quickly undid Rhys’ striped vest and threw it on the ground, shirt soon following. The air was chillier than Rhys expected and a shiver ran up his spine as he pressed into Timothy, seeking warmth and smugly noting the undeniable hardness in the other man’s pants. With a soft chuckle his hand slid down and squeezed the rough material, shifting it just enough to provide the lightest and most tantalizing of frictions. Lawrence’s swollen lips pulled away, whispering only one word but it sounded like music to Rhys’ ears.
Rhys was laying on the right side of the small sofa bed, curled up under the ridiculously thin and uncomfortable cheap blankets, while dully watching the dust bunnies swirl under the tv unit that had no tv on it. Last night was absolutely amazing. Despite all the gruff talk Lawrence was a gentle lover and not at all how Rhys imagined a brother of Handsome Jack to be. In fact Timothy Lawrence was as vanilla as they came but he was good at what he did. Really fucking good.
“Cab will be here in ten minutes,” a voice in the doorway interrupted Rhys’ thoughts and he blinked in confusion at the man who wore nothing but sweatpants, wet hair pushed backwards and dripping on the fluffy white towel around his shoulders.”So get dressed, princess.”
Rhys allowed himself a moment of enjoying the beautiful scar-ridden view as he pulled himself upwards, frowning at the cold dismissal.
“Are you kicking me out?”
“Oh wait, was I too vague?” Lawrence threw the towel over his head and started drying his hair vigorously. “Fun time’s over, kid. I have a life to go back to and you ain’t in it.”
The attitude was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was one thing Rhys had zero tolerance for and that was people giving him lip. The young man took a deep breath as he swung his feet on the ground and stood up, letting the blanket slide away from his lean and very naked frame. Lawrence took notice of the display as the towel rustling slowed down and Rhys felt the other man’s stare from behind the long dark fringe.
Perfect, soak it all in, Hyperion.
“Do you know who I am?!” Rhys shot out arrogantly, arms crossed on his chest. He expected a lot of things when his comment sank in: realization of own fleeting stupidity, perhaps. Words of apology. Anything but the sarcastic scoff as the towel was tossed aside and a green shirt was pulled over the tight abdomen, making Rhys’ nails dig into his skin in mild disappointment at the loss of the view. It occurred to him he might have been ‘soaking in’ much more than Lawrence did.
“Oh I do and that’s exactly my point,” Timothy drawled, hands quickly running through his damp hair to give it some shape. “Evans of Atlas, the bored rich boy that doesn’t know what he’s getting into,” He picked up Rhys’ clothes off the chair and tossed them under the young man’s feet. “I’m too old for this kind of excitement. Get your kicks somewhere else, kiddo.”
The rejection hurt and it was unacceptable. Sure, Rhys had plenty of one night stands but he had never been one himself. This was infuriating and all it did was light up the young man’s determination to succeed. Timothy Lawrence would regret his attitude. He would rethink his stupid course of action and Rhys would get what he wanted. Because he always did and he yelled as much at an old peeling green door with dark nameplate saying ‘Higgins, M.’ as it got slammed in his face.
Rhys’ ‘quarters’, Jack’s mansion.
It was very obvious Handsome Jack did not tolerate demands. He could sure as hell pose them himself as was proven by multiple phone conversations with Rhys’ father but anything similar directed at him would be met with silence, if the person were lucky. Rhys was: he still had all his appendages and the only reminder of Jack’s distemper were healing rope burns under his armpits and around groin area. Anxious and annoyed at the lack of news, Rhys swallowed his pride and requested to see Timothy.
That was three days ago.
When the door to his quarters swung open Rhys expected Jack but his hostile disposition quickly deflated when he saw his two wardens, Wilhelm and Axton. Both were members of the Hornets, as their attire had suggested. Wilhelm did not engage at all and Axton tried not to but it seemed that keeping his mouth shut in front of the prisoner had been one of the most trialling tasks he ever had to perform. While the older Hornet was an unscalable rock, Evans managed to drag some crums of information out of Axton here and there. Due to peculiar scarring on the forehead Rhys had him pegged as an ex - Dahl and Axton confirmed as much. There also was a wife and a kid somewhere but he had no contact with either of them for a while now.
The most important information Rhys managed to acquire, however, was that Tim had survived: he could sense a great deal of relief in both soldiers as Axton delivered the news. This is when Rhys demanded audience with Handsome Jack: he wanted - no - needed to see Timothy. That is when he was ignored the first of many times. But he was nothing if not persistent.
He was led through a maze of hallways, eyes bound shut when the Hornets had finally stopped and unlocked the handcuffs, allowing Rhys to yank the annoying dark scarf off his face. The doors were pushed open and he walked into a spacious white room with no windows but plenty of artificial light.
“Dismissed, boys,” a voice from the furthest corner made Rhys straighten his back and look to the right where his gaze fell upon Jack: tablet in one hand, scotch in the other as his long legs rested on a small coffee table. The soldiers grunted in affirmation and retreated, closing the heavy wooden doors behind them.
“Jack,” Rhys greeted him dryly, hands in pockets. “Glad to see you can be reasonable.”
“Only because he keeps asking about you. If it was up to me - ” The sentence was left unfinished as Jack stood up and casually tossed his tablet onto the sofa, eyes relentlessly fixed on Rhys. “Damn if I know what he sees in your sorry ass.”
“You know, I keep asking myself the same question,” Rhys answered and grinned as he saw premature triumph on Jack’s masked face. “How can a wonderful person like Tim see anything in a vile piece of crap such as yourself.”
Jack’s face flared up with rage and Rhys heard a sharp cold sound of a blade springing to life. Handsome was about to pounce when a familiar voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Enough! Both of you.”
So similar to Jack’s and yet so completely different. Unlike his brother, Timothy did not need to scream or use derogatory nicknames to have people’s attention. He was standing in the doorway and leaning heavily on a crutch, long unkempt hair hiding his features from the two men in the room.
“He called me a frickin’ piece of crap!”
“Well aren’t you?” Tim asked, light amusement in his otherwise tired voice.
“Fucking maybe but I’m not taking that from the likes of him,” Jack huffed and the knife in his hand folded in two, disappearing in the pocket of the stylish black vest. “I’ll be in my office,” he grabbed his drink and scowled at Rhys. “And you? The moment Timmy is tired of you I’ll string you by the balls from the nearest tree.”
Rhys did not bother waiting for Jack to leave the room as he produced a long whine and bounced towards his boyfriend, determined to hug him. The blooming bruises and half healed gashes stopped him in his tracks and Rhys exhaled slowly, fists clenching at the sight. He carefully reached out to swipe away the fringe from Lawrence’s forehead and Timothy immediately moved away to keep the small distance between them.
“No, don’t,” His voice broke and it sent shivers down Rhys’ spine, he could not stand seeing Lawrence like that.
“It’s ok, Tim. Please let me see,” Rhys took one step closer once again and his fingers brushed along the soft brown strands, gently pushing them behind his lover’s ear. Lawrence’s face was turned away from him and he carefully took the man’s chin between two fingers, guiding the head to the left.
Rhys’s breath hitched in his throat at the sight of the ruin that was Lawrence’s face. Now that the blood and swelling was washed away, the damage became truly visible. The wound had began to scar over, painfully pulling and bunching up the healthy skin around it. The burn had destroyed his green eye, leaving behind nothing but white mangled mess surrounded by reconstructed eyelids.
The recognition flashed like a lightning in the mind’s eye: Rhys had seen this before, a long time ago.
He was ten when the two crime - aspiring brothers came to his father with a business proposition: leather coats with a letter ‘H’, jeans, chains and high boots. Young, badass and ready to take on the entire world.
One twin was loud and obnoxious and the other one a bit aloof but friendly. The brash one had the exact same scar Rhys was looking at right now.
“I’m so sorry,” was all he could say as he gently traced the untouched skin with his finger and planted a soft kiss on Timothy’s jaw. “You did not have to do it! I could’ve done something! I could’ve - ”
“Yeah, I didn’t have to,” Tim nodded and smiled curtly, hissing as the wound tugged on his skin, cracking the thin scabs at the edges. “But I wanted to.”
Rhys blinked absentmindedly and then snorted loudly, making Timothy raise his eyebrows in an unspoken question.
“Remember how we met?” Rhys asked brightly, sparkles of laughter in his eyes and fingers covering Tim’s bruised knuckles. “You know, the very first time?”
Atlas family estate, Opportunity.
He had finally lost Guinevere in the maze of the hallways. Having a new governess that did not yet learn the layout of their massive house had its uses, especially when he was too lazy to do his homework the night before. Latin was a dead language so why even bother?
Rhys made it all the way to the north wing where his father’s office had been and the ‘family’ stuff happened. He had heard the word being uttered on several occasion but never understood the need for hushed tones and whispers in his presence. He was family as well, right?
“So you are the Lawrences I have been hearing about as of recent,” His father’s voice rumbled through the hall and Rhys realized he was about to intrude on something juicy, his feet picking up the pace as he crept closer to the source. “Bold of you to just show your faces after the mess you caused at the Junction.”
“Oh what, that ? That wasn’t us,” A voice spoke, stretching vowels with a sole purpose of getting under a person’s skin. “Maliwan intruded.”
“And am I supposed to believe the two nobodies like yourselves?”
“We are not nobodies, you old fu- ”
“Jack!” The other voice interrupted and for a second Rhys thought he had experienced his first auditory hallucination: the voices, at their core, were identical. “We lifted camera footage and you can have it if you give us what we came for.”
“New Haven is ours, we earned it! Vault Hunters are no more,” the voice that must have belonged to Jack barked out angrily. “You all wanted them gone but only me and Timmy had the balls to go through with it. No more lowlifes breaking your deals and stealing your goods, they are gone. Done for. Fi-ni-to.”
“I have to see the recording before I pass judgement,” His father’s resolve did not waver under the younger man’s pressure and at that moment Rhys admired his dad more than he ever did in his entire life. Whoever he was talking to sounded dangerous and angry but his father showed no weakness.
“Mister Evans,” The other twin had spoken again, it was easy to distinguish them once the patterns in the speech became obvious. “We are here in good faith. As the bounty said - ”
“Frickin’ Jesus Christ, Timtam, stop licking his boots! I told you this won’t work!”Jack snapped irritably and Rhys heard the sounds of a small scuffle followed by an object falling to the ground and a crunching sound of plastic underneath a boot. “Here’s your precious footage! Keep New Haven and enjoy it while you can. Won’t be for very long, I can promise you that,” sound of a leather creaking under pressure. “Tim, we’re leaving.”
Rhys was almost at the doors when they swung open and two men walked out. The one who was striding ahead scoffed at Rhys, pushing him out of the way like an annoying fly. Nobody ever did that to him. Nobody. Before Rhys’ mind screamed at him for some common sense, his mouth flew open, the great marble hallway carrying his shout forwards.
The twins stopped as if they hit an invisible wall and turned around, giving Rhys a moment to look at them better. Dressed in identical set of leather jackets, jeans and knee - high boots they looked more like some sort of heroes from the old books rather than the gangsters they were trying to be. Perfectly coiffed hair, meticulously styled soul patches… The only difference between them was a terrible and ugly scar that contorted the features of the man to the left, coincidentally the one who was glaring directly at Rhys, seething with rage.
He moved in closer until he was towering above Rhys, hands loosely on hips as the scar pulled the upper corner of his lip in a permanent sneer. If he was brave enough he could be like his father right now, Rhys reasoned and took a deep breath.
“You’re scary, your face is weird and you just really really suck!”
“Oh my face is weird?” The man in front of him purred slyly and the small switchblade knife appeared in his hand as if out of nowhere. “Come here, kiddo, let me fix yours.”
Rhys gasped and took a step back, trying to bring the dully shimmering blade under his nose in focus.
“Jack, cut it out,” His twin’s hand was on the other’s man shoulder as he jerked his brother upwards. “It’s a kid.”
“A kid with some mouth on him,” Jack grumbled as he stood up swiftly but not before giving Rhys a meaningful stare and running a finger over the edge of the blade. “Come on, this place is getting shittier by the minute.”
The other brother, his name was Timothy Rhys suddenly remembered, crossed his arms on his chest and sighed.
“You know, kid, sometimes it’s good to keep your thoughts internalized.”
Rhys pursed his lips together and stuck hands in the pockets of his very expensive pants. More expensive than anything this Lawrence guy in front of him was wearing.
“I was fine. You did not have to do it! I could’ve - ”
“Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t have to,” Timothy shrugged his shoulders casually and threw a glance down the hallway where his brother had disappeared. “But I wanted to,” He paused and a cheeky grin illuminated his angular features. “You know, few told Jack he ‘sucked’ and got away with it. Count your blessings, Atlas”
And, as Lawrence left, astonished Rhys watching the tall figure disappear behind the door, that was the very first time the boy realized there was a lot more to Evans family than met the eyes. So much more.
Jack’s office, Jack’s mansion.
He was on his third cigarette, feet on the expensive mahogany desk as he watched the string of code run across the screen of the tablet. Angel, his most prized and well guarded creation always did its job even though it seemed that this time round the AI took longer than usual. Jack had created the hacking program long time ago when he decided that dealing in information would be their ticket to the top. He did not miscalculate: having dirt on everything and everyone opened the doors the two brothers did not even known existed, assuring that within few years Hyperion had shot to the top to reside alongside the other heavy hitters.
Jack looked at one of the monitors on his desk and made a dramatic gagging noise as he eyed the video feed from Timothy’s room: his brother and Atlas were huddled up together on the bed, looking disgustingly domestic as Tim’s fingers gently combed through the kid’s dark blond hair.
His brother, otherwise really fucking smart, had always been a huge idiot when it came to relationships. His flings rarely lasted, the surprising and almost unshakable faith in the other person’s intentions leaving him heartbroken as they, once again, skipped after getting what they came for. As much as their childhood and time on the streets left Jack suspicious of any kind of intimacy, it made his brother starve for a place to call home. Jack tried to make Hyperion just that for the both of them but it was never enough: Timothy was diligent and relentless when exercising his deadly range of talents but he was slowly wilting on the inside, Jack could see it in his eyes.
Their parting was ugly, to say the least and by the time Jack may have regretted what he said, Timothy was gone, leaving Hyperion wide open and vulnerable: something that still made Jack grind his teeth in anger five years later. If Nisha, his Nisha, did not step up, Hyperion would be - Jack’s nails restlessly dug into his bicep, making the hand that was holding the cigarette tremble slightly, spilling ash on the polished tabletop.
Tim, you asshole.
“Sir, I’ve gained access,” Angel chimed pleasantly and a celebratory puff of digital white feathers erupted on the screen. After a decade of functioning, the AI acquired adorable quirks that Jack did not have heart to wipe clean. It would be like taking a favorite toy away from your child, not that Jack knew how that felt: to put it mildly, he really did not like kids.
“Angel, kitten, you’re the best,” he smiled at the screen where an avatar of a young woman with electric blue eyes nodded back in acknowledgement. Jack picked up his tablet once again, combing through the dozens of folders until he lost his patience. Cursing at himself for not thinking about it in the first place, Jack opened the directory and typed in the series of commands, eyes glued to screen as the system was searching for the right file.
The video started without a warning and Jack leaned forwards to see better: the quality was rather grainy. He recognized both Tim and Atlas kid, his brother casually leaning on the bar counter, his stance extremely relaxed. Evans was sitting, long legs crossed as he was sipping his cocktail. Timothy’s head suddenly jerked sideways and he pushed himself in the upright position signalling the other man to keep quiet.
The feed scrambled and the next moment the image was back only now it had his brother encircled by at least five figures in black with a Crimson Lance symbol on their backs. Evans was restrained further away, one of the Lances holding what looked like a gun to his head. Jack’s eyes darted back to Tim who towered above the mercenaries, legs wide and hands on hips, taunting.
Jack sighed and paused the recording. Despite the imago of the aggressive twins, his brother was always less feisty of the two and preferred working in the shadows where he could prepare himself accordingly. When confronted with unexpected situations he would resort using Jack’s persona as a shield, a tactic his brother often mocked him for, albeit it did greatly stroke his ego. Pretending to be Jack provoked and angered people, distracting them enough for the other person to act: a trick that had saved their asses multiple times back in the day. Right now, however… Jack chewed on his bottom lip, a long forgotten tick, as his finger hovered above the play button. Right now he was in the wrong company to play that card.
Come at me, girls and boys.
Jack could almost hear his brother’s voice as Timothy swiftly swung around on his heels and punched the nearest assailant, disarming them quickly and with a deadly precision shooting the two men on the both sides of Evans. Atlas hesitated for a moment and then darted away, making Jack jump up and furiously yell out, watching how the remaining Lance ganged up on Tim. How they restrained him and how the brightness of the blowtorch sucked in everything else around it.
There was no need for sound, Jack had been through that, he knew how it felt to be alone and to be hopeless, grasping at the last bits of life as a seemingly living flame was searing away at your skin. Your bone. Your sanity.
With a scream of rage Jack threw the monitor on the floor and blindly opened one of the cabinets where he kept one of his many guns.
The little bitch ran. And Tim - His Timmy, his baby brother, did not see that. He trusted Atlas to have his back and he ran. He ran. The kid was a dead man walking and fuck the consequences, he would deal with those later while admiring Evans’ brains on the nearby wall.
Hissing the vilest of profanities Jack ran out of his office and towards the direction of the ward.
The damaged screen on the floor flickered several time and the video resumed playing, showing Rhys returning and hastily kneeling near Lawrence’s motionless form, closely tailed by both the paramedics who brought Tim in and the Hyperion informants Jack had ordered to monitor his brother’s movements.
Fuck yeah, another chapter done. Like my dudes, the work has been killing me. 40 hours a week with crazy hot temperatures ain't a joke. And the weather is going to get worse.
Thank you for all the comments and words of encouragement! I hope this chapter will be loved by you, my dear readers, just as much as previous one was. I tried my best. V_V Some parts I like, the others probably could be better... But then I think that about everything, haha.
Really looking forward to hear your thoughts and comments. Have a great day wherever you are and HYDRATE Xxx
PS: The theme song for most of this chapter (mostly Tim and Rhys in the ward), however, is this: Family First - Gabrielle Dennis. Or at least this was the song I had on repeat. That and Halo CE soundtrack XD
Timothy’s quarters, Jack’s mansion.
Rhys sighed softly as he let the warm water run down his head, soaking the hair and washing away the gel, finally pattering down the back and circling around his feet before disappearing into the maw of the drain. Life had hardly been good right now but he made do. Initially out of the question, Rhys learned to be somewhat flexible: Timothy was a very patient tutor.
At least his boyfriend was alive, thank fucking god. Rhys shook his head in frustration, letting the water and shampoo fly in each and every direction. Lawrence’s body may have weathered the beating, but the worst scars stayed on the inside and Rhys wished dearly he could get into his boyfriend’s head and help him process the pain. Jack’s twin had never been much of a talker when it came to any kind of feelings. Rhys guessed that years on the street made him extremely proficient in internalizing personal issues, masterfully avoiding anything that scraped deeper than the surface. It was understandable: you showed any weakness and you were an easy target to manipulate.
But Rhys worried and it was a well known fact he did not do it neither often, nor for everyone.
Realizing he was probably standing here long enough, Rhys quickly finished rinsing his hair and stepped out, grabbing an enormous fluffy towel, that had a vague smell of lavender to it. For a moment it felt like home, as if he was back in Timothy’s apartment and it occurred to Rhys that the twins might have more in common than Tim ever led on. He wrapped the towel around his waist and opened the door to the main room, letting out the steam and searching for his boyfriend. Lawrence was in bed, propped up on the pillows with his head turned sideways as he watched his fingers run through the fur of an enormous red maine coon that was stretched on the bed besides him.
Rhys’ heart dropped, face scrunching up sourly. He thought he had more time until Lawrence’s fleabags crawled out of the woodwork. Not long after Tim’s hasty ‘hospitalisation’ Jack had sent Hyperion goons to his brother’s apartment in order to recover personal items of importance, which also included Timothy’s two cats. It made Rhys grin thinking how pissed off Jack must have felt realising he knew about such irrelevant detail as the damn pets and missed his twin dating a rival family socialite for the last six months.
The young man stopped in his tracks and eyed the bed warily. The large red beast was awfully attached to Tim and passionately hated everyone else; so of course it had to be him purring loudly and kneading the blankets as his owners hand gently scratched the cat behind the ear.
Direct contact promised pain and Rhys grabbed a slipper, carefully poking Crake with it and making a noise indicating he wanted the cat to leave. The purr in cat’s throat turned into an irritated growl as he opened his amber eyes, irises narrowing to mere slits as he glared at the intruder.
“You are in my space, red jerk. Move.”
“Rhys, come on now,” Timothy gave him a theatrically weary look. “Don’t be mean to my cat.”
“While your cat can be mean to everyone else? No deal.” He scoffed and scanned the room. “Where is Nyx?”
“Under the bed, probably,” Tim shrugged his shoulders. “So watch those ankles.”
With that he hooked his hands under Crake’s front paws, urging the cat to move. The feline monstrosity yawned, displaying enormous pearly white canines and rolled onto its owner, making Tim cry out in pain as his ribs shifted under the cat’s substantial weight. Rhys might have had a lot of unsavory opinions about Timothy’s animals but he could not deny the obvious fact that Crake was exemplary smart. For a cat, anyway. After the short wail had left his owner’s mouth, the cat gently stood up and jumped on the ground, the fluffy tail momentarily poking above the edge of the bed before disappearing from the view. Most likely Crake went under the bed to find his much less intellectually challenged but more amiable brother.
Remembering the ankle warning, Rhys quickly slid into his pajama pants and crawled under the blankets, narrowly avoiding the cheeky grey paw that darted out from under the bed playing with the rustling sheets.
“I hate you and your pets so very much,” he whispered lovingly before gently cuddling up to Timothy, head on his shoulder.
Only half of that statement was true. A quarter, even. Factually Rhys did have a high intolerance to anything that was alive and had capability of leaving hair - as well as other bodily excretions - on his expensive clothes. Nyx was kept at arm’s length but spoiled with occasional toys and tuna. As to Crake, the first thing the cat did once he realised the intruder was becoming a permanent nuisance was to shit in Rhys’ priceless shoes. The cold war has begun and never really stopped. In this sea of petty conflict Tim was like Switzerland: he loved both his cat and his boyfriend and as long as both provided him with much desired affection and attention he did not interfere.
Rhys snuggled up even closer and the faint aroma of lavender tickled his senses, making Timothy hum fondly and dig his nose in his boyfriend’s damp locks. Both him and Jack carried that smell with them through the years - it used to belong to something they both shared and lost a long time ago. A ‘home’. The memory was bittersweet, more the first than the latter and Tim hated when his mind wandered back there. With a huff he reached out to the bedside table and took the morphine pills, swallowing them down and taking several sips of water. Timothy carefully lowered himself back trying not to disturb Rhys and closed his eyes, patiently waiting for the drug induced slumber to claim him.
At first he was not quite sure what woke him up, medication still weighing heavily on his mind. Timothy’s heart was pounding erratically, pumping adrenalin through his body and interfering with the drugs. Timothy opened his eyes and lent up, wincing as his broken ribs protested to the sudden change in position. Blinking slowly he tried focusing his stare on a figure in the doorway, which had soon enough revealed itself to be Jack marching into the room, the door kicked in behind him and a gun in hand.
"J - Jack?" Timothy’s mind was a mess as he struggled to keep his currently atrocious attention span on his brother. Something was off. Jack looked angry. Had a gun. Generally speaking, his twin all but woke up like that but this was different. Timothy could see that the safety was off and the murderous glint was way too obvious even for someone in Tim’s current state.
"Atlas, with me,' Jack rasped as two large hands grabbed Rhys' bare shoulders and in one swift motion pulled him from the bed and onto the floor. Timothy had no trouble recognizing that tone: Jack was hellbent on killing someone and for whatever reason, at this very moment, his unchecked rage was directed right at Rhys.
Jack put the gun away, yanking his boyfriend upwards by the hair and within a second he had him in the headlock, demanding for Rhys to stop squirming and protesting unless he did not treasure his precious Atlas windpipe. Timothy started throwing away the covers, cursing at how sluggish and uncoordinated his movements were. He felt as if he was wading through the sludge, all the while watching his brother manhandle his boyfriend.
"Let go of me, you asshole!" Rhys kicked and bucked, ignoring the threats but the only thing he managed to take down was a nearby chair, eliciting scared hissing from somewhere underneath the bed.
"Fuck!" Timothy grunted as he pried himself upwards and swung his feet on the ground. The effort alone was nearly debilitating and Lawrence leaned heavily onto the bed catching his breath and trying to ignore the heart pounding somewhere in his throat. “Jack!”
His brother paid him no mind as he was almost at the door that led to the empty ‘guest’ room.
"What the hell?!" Tim’s voice was weak and breathless as he struggled to lift himself up, watching how Jack finally managed to push Rhys over the threshold and slithered in afterwards.
“Jack, don’t you dare!”
"Rhysie and I just gonna have us a chat," his twin purred lowly, flashing all the thirty two teeth at once. “Don’t worry, baby brother. I’ll fix this.”
Timothy watched with ongrowing horror how the switchblade flashed dully in Jack’s hand the second before he promptly swung the door shut.
28 years ago, Tantalus.
Jack had finally managed to fall asleep. It took a while to settle down with a sprained shoulder even if Tim did his best to minimize the movement with a bandage. He asked why his brother took the blame but Jack just told him to get lost as his fingers traced the freshly blooming bruise on his cheekbone. Later in school Tim would have to imagine that Jack slipped and fell on some other surface yet again, while his twin would angrily glare him down but say nothing: admitting the domestic abuse would likely place them in the system and both agreed that it was better with the devil you know. Foster homes were hardly any better. If anything, they were much worse.
Jack whined in his sleep as his bruised face grazed the rough linens of the pillow and Tim sighed, carefully tucking his brother in. With a small huff the younger twin pressed himself into the corner of the bed, forehead nearly touching the wall. Only in his sleep Jack would let his guard down and Timothy often thought how exhausting it had to be to tirelessly swim against the stream. Sometimes he thought Jack did that on purpose so his brother would not have to. That last thing might have been wishful thinking on Tim’s part: Jack had always been angry, always broke things, always talked back and no amount of punches and caning would subdue him.
For all the tough attitude it was Tim who saw his twin cry helplessly as he tried to hold a pen in his swollen and bruised fingers or as he struggled to get dressed, tormented by the fractured collarbone. It was Tim who would calm Jack down and get him to bed and it was Tim who was left alone with his thoughts, listening to his brother’s muffled sobs as the other boy was finally drifting off to sleep, drugged by the painkillers and sleeping aid the twins diligently kept stashing in their room.
Today was no different.
Tim was the one to break the granny’s vase. He was mopping the floor, humming a tune he heard at the grocery store the other day and hit the small hallway table with his back. Before he could even turn around something shattered as it hit the floor and Timothy gasped, curling fingers around the mop in fear and desperation. Jack popped into the hallway attracted by the noise and the moment later their grandma descended upon them both, demanding to know what happened. Tim opened his mouth while shaking like a leaf but before he could even squeeze out a peep, Jack’s voice rang out brash and clear in the still heavy air.
“I didn’t see your stupid ugly vase, it’s dark in here!”
It was all she needed as the woman grabbed Jack by the hair and dragged him towards her bedroom where she kept the cane. His brother was screeching and Tim dropped the mop as he trailed after them, tears rolling down his cheeks as he begged their grandma to stop, hopelessly promising they would do better. She did not hear him. Most likely did not want to, either. In her own words Jack was ‘the devil’s child’ that needed to be set straight by ‘beating the wickedness out of him.’ Contrary to her theory the punishment did nothing but make his brother more vicious, antisocial and disobedient.
Carefully shifting the blanket aside Timothy stood up and patted barefoot towards the table, unzipping Jack’s highly reflective school bag and, after some rummaging, pulling out a small switchblade.
The knife was Jack’s pride and joy. He won it off some older kids in a bet: something along the lines of boasting he could run quite a distance in awfully short period of time. He was outright lying but luck had it that nobody at the new school knew of the twin that had missed the first two weeks due to flu or some such.
Jack’s plan worked out just fine: he won the bet and thus the knife. The next day, however, Tim had to go back to class, which, of course, resulted in the brothers getting cornered behind the dumpster by the same group Jack had swindled out of the switchblade and their pocket money. Despite appreciating the smarts and the balls it took, the older kids still beat the twins up something fierce but did allow Jack to keep his loot.
Since that moment the knife became Jack’s lucky charm. He took it everywhere and used in every way possible, including slashing principal's tires and opening up a couple of dead cats to see what was inside, much to Tim’s distress.
It felt as if the blade took the warmth of Timothy’s hand, adapting to it and almost becoming an extension of his body. Is that why Jack loved it so much? Because it made him feel a little bit more important? As if he suddenly mattered?
A floorboard creaked under his foot and Tim froze, recognizing the sound. He was in front of the grandmother’s room and Timothy exhaled softly: he neither noticed that he walked all the way down the hallway, nor that he had taken the switchblade with him. The door was opened slightly: grandma was listening. Always listening. The brothers were not allowed outside of their room at night unless it was emergency. And it never was: Tim still remembered having food poisoning and vomiting out of the window, anything not to go into the hallway after dark. The rose bushes covered in sick were discovered the next morning and Timothy, pale and feverish, had to not only clean it up but also wash the basement windows from outside.
It really was not fair. Neither him nor Jack deserved this life. They were not even orphans, they had a mother somewhere but she just did not want to care for them. The woman came by maybe once or twice, there was yelling, cursing and they never saw her again. Jack pretended not to give a damn, calling her ‘stupid’ and a ‘whore’ and obviously parroting their grandma. Tim thought that maybe she had her reasons but he did not say it out loud, Jack would laugh and granny would call him ‘idiot boy’, if he was lucky.
The air in her room was stuffy and smelled of lavender, in fact the whole house did but it was here where the smell was at its strongest. Tim tiptoed towards the bed and stopped inches away, worrying his lip. The knife in his palm was weighting away at him, cool metal burning into his flesh in silent vague beckoning. He was staring, wide - eyed, at the old woman in bed and how her sunken features, suddenly so smooth, looked eerily like theirs: the narrow face, the sharp cheekbones and, underneath those heavy lids, two odd - coloured eyes but backwards; right was green and left was blue. Her turkey neck was peeking out from underneath the flower - patterned blanket, the paper thin skin curling perfectly around the pulsing ugly veins. Timothy saw many movies and he knew what would happen if someone slashed at the neck. Also, one of the roadkill cats they found once was not completely dead yet and Jack wanted to try ‘that TV thing’ out.
Tim just wanted all of this to end. If grandma were gone, there will be nobody to hit them, to call them names and to try and shape them into ‘honest boys’. Jack would stop hurting and maybe he would smile with his eyes again and not like… not like now.
He pressed the hilt to her neck right in the middle of the vein and froze once more as he saw her react to the cold metal against the skin, eyelids trembling as the sleep began lifting off her form. She will wake up and punish him. Then Jack. And she will be doing it every day, forever and ever.
It would never stop. But it had to.
Trembling violently Timothy closed his eyes, hastily pressing the button and, as the blade burrowed into the flesh he yanked it sideways with all the strength he could muster.
Jack jolted awake, heart drumming in his ears as he tried to catch his breath. It was the monster again, big one - eyed thing with tentacles. It taunted and laughed at him in grammy’s voice and called him all kinds of nasty things. Biting his lips in order not to make a sound, Jack turned around and mindlessly stared at the empty space where his brother should have been sleeping. On the outside Jack was very vocal about how stupid it was to be ten and still sleep in one bed like some dumb girls but with the frequent nightmares he was happy when Timothy rolled over to comfort hug and tuck him in after Jack woke up sobbing again.
His gaze darted to the window and then to the bedside clock: it was deep in the night and Tim was not in the room. Being outside the room meant emergency, his brother would never leave otherwise. Timmy was what adults called a ‘good boy’. He did his homework, listened to the teachers and never talked back. Outsider would say that Tim liked to suck up to people but Jack knew better: his brother had learned early on that if he bends the right way, he will not get the cane. Jack would rather break before he bent and seeing his twin giving up and becoming so meek and compliant angered him, causing to act out and provoke. Anything not to be like that.
Jack bounced upwards on the bed, hissing in pain as his swollen shoulder shifted with the movement and crawled on the floor. His opened backpack stood on the table and Jack frowned, next moment distracted by what he thought was a noise coming from down the hallway through the wide open door. Grandma’s room was there and Jack started shaking, realizing that Tim might be there too. She might have caught him sneaking around and Jack was not there to shift the blame and now the cane would come out. On those occasions when Timothy got punished Jack did not know what to do or how to react: his brother would curl up on himself and stay like that for hours, ignoring comforting word, ignoring screaming, ignoring everything. Jack presented himself as guilty when he could, just so Timmy did not have to: watching his twin suffer silently was too much.
The muffled crying came from the dreadful bedroom and even before Jack pushed the door open a smell of lavender and iron hit his nostrils and he skewed his face, confused and scared of what was on the other side.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know why - I’m so so so so sorry!”
Tim’s voice pleaded, gurgling with tears and snot and Jack took a deep breath, pushing the heavy door open and entering the stale - smelling room. At first there was nothing but darkness until he found the light switch and flipped it upwards, illuminating the small space.
“Jack!” Timothy whined as he turned around, his shakes so bad that it took Jack a moment to understand what his brother was saying. “Jack please, I did -, I’m sorry, please! Help me, J- J- Jack...”
The sound of a metal hitting the floor as Tim unclenched his fingers, dropping the crimson painted switchblade on the ground made Jack shake his head and blink in confusion. He only now noticed his twin’s hands and clothes being covered in blood as he desperately tried to clean himself, smearing more gore over his grey pyjama with a happy cat print.
“I did.. Like you then, with that cat,” Timothy was scratching at his arms in utter panic. “But then I wanted to stop it and I couldn’t! I think I k- k- k-,”his speech slurred again into incoherent wails and Tim obviously was about to collapse in one of his stress - induced fugue states when Jack scurried towards him and grabbed his brother by the arms, pulling him away from the corpse, the blood and the smell.
“Tim! Timmy,” He whispered hastily, applying pressure on his brother’s wrists and demanding his attention. “She made you do it. You understand? Its her fault, not yours. Do you know the story about the dog?”
His brother slowly shook his head, worrying his already swollen lips. Ignoring the pain in own shoulder Jack cupped his brother’s face, wordlessly demanding uninterrupted eye contact and Timothy obliged, two bright gem - like eyes staring at him from behind the tear - stained eyelashes.
“They say,” Jack started slowly, keeping his tone clear and soft as if he was talking to a baby deer. “That if owner beats their dog long enough it will bite back. So gran was the owner and we - ”
“We are the dog,” His brother whispered quietly, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“We can bite. You can bite,” Jack pulled Tim in, awkwardly running his fingers along his brother’s blood and sweat soaked shirt as the other boy burrowed his face into Jack’s chest. “It’s ok Timtam, it’s ok. I'll think of something. Don’t worry, I’ll fix this.”
Timothy’s quarters, Jack’s mansion.
With a gargantuan effort Timothy lunged forwards, lifting himself up and failing to suppress a shriek of pain as he swore he felt one of the ribs pierce something inside him. Using the wall as support he had finally reached the door and began fumbling with the handle only to realize it did not budge. Cursing weakly he applied his whole weight and the door still did not move a single inch: Jack must have shoved something under the handle to prevent his brother from entering.
“Goddamit, Jack! Just listen to me, please!”
His only reply was a scuffle on the other side and a sharp cry of pain that undoubtedly belonged to Rhys.
“You fucking asshole why are you like that?!” Timothy yelled out and dropped to the floor, peering under the door. Jack was anything but a fool: a tilted wooden stool was on the other side and no amount of budging and hitting was going to bring the door down. Not in his current condition, anyway.
Desperately Tim glanced over the pretentiously decorated door and his gaze caught on the old fashioned hinges, the sight cracking his lips in a rogue smile. Jack's undying appreciation for vintage things would be his ultimate undoing for Timothy was about to perform a trick he did once before. Twenty or so years ago Jack, beaten, humiliated and seared locked himself in the bathroom, swearing and crying. His brother was in shock and not himself and Timothy feared for his twin’s life. After half an hour of uselessly yelling, banging and pushing against the door Tim finally managed to lift the whole damn thing out of the hinges.
“ - ran, like a fu - He trusted you!!!”
Rhys screamed thinly as Jack, no doubt, latched onto him and for a moment Tim could swear he had heard something crack. His brother may have lost an eye but the other worked just fine and it would be obvious enough that Rhys had -
He could do this. He had to.
Kneeling down, Timothy quickly slid his hands over the door searching for the best position and finally pressed his palms against the wood, pushing both forwards and upwards. He was fighting back the tears as his chest was tearing in agony from the pain and exhaustion but he had to get to Rhys, he had to stop Jack before his rash brother made another hasty decision.
Timothy cursed again, fighting against own body as he drove his weight up into the door. He was almost through, he just need to lift it by a fraction.
He was breathless when he finally felt the entire weight of the door fall back on him. With one final push Tim scrambled to get out of the way as, with a heavy thud, the door collapsed onto the wooden floorboards. On all fours he crawled through the doorway, coughing and blinking away the tears. Were it not for every fiber of his body reeling in agony, the picture in front of him would have had a nearly comic relief as two pair of differently coloured eyes stared back at him. Rhys was on the floor and in the corner, holding Jack’s switchblade defensively as Jack was hovering above him, Rhys’ right arm in his hand as the dying orange lights in the seams of the prosthetic were blinking erratically.
“Jack, please,” Timothy whispered completely exhausted and flinched, feeling blood trickling down his face where the scar tissue shot open once again. “What Rhys did… He ran because I told him to.”
Oh god it had been a month since I have updated. Work takes away most of my free time so the only way I could write was like 100 words per day on my phone in bed. And then I was very stuck with this chapter regarding present and thanks to awesome heavybreathingcat who provided source material I managed to move things along. And THEN I got the idea about the dead grandma and who did it. Bet you did not see THAT coming! Well, uh, I hope you didn't otherwise I really suck at revelations.
Please let me know how you liked this chapter, I love hearing from all of you and so much thank you for sticking around, I hope it was worth the wait.
Timothy’s quarters, Jack’s mansion.
There was exactly a second after Timothy’s hoarse confession, the dust still flying in the air when Rhys narrowed his eyes and turned back to Jack, curling his fingers tighter around the hilt of the blade.
“I told you, you daft Hyperion asshole!! I would never - ”
“I don’t care, Atlas. You fucking left my brother to the Lance!” Jack growled back, his fingers wrapped around the wrist of the prosthetic as he shook it at Rhys. “I’ll beat you to death with this piece of crap if I have to!”
“It costs more than your whole ugly kitschy-ass mansion!”
The yelling has escalated: both men were almost at each other throats, red - faced and extremely hostile. Neither of them noticed how Timothy flinched and leaned upon the doorframe, breathing heavily.
The tension in the air was so thick Tim felt as if he was beginning to suffocate, blood pounding in his temples. He tried tuning it out by using an old trick and counting to and from ten but it was not helping.
The noise was becoming deafening as the two people he cared about, for both in his own way, were spitting venom at one another barely a meter away from him.
It started with a shiver running up and down his spine and soon after Timothy began scratching at his arms and shaking visibly. He did not like this at all. It should not have been like this. Not again, not those close to him fighting and threatening each other.
“Please,” he whispered listlessly, feeling the nails run up and down his skin, catching onto the traces they left just a moment earlier. “Please don’t argue. I - I can’t -“
But Timothy Lawrence was not ten anymore and the problems did not seem to disappear the way they used to when he was a child and so Tim, hyper - concentrating on the painful marks his nails left behind, counted back from ten one last time and took a deep breath.
If the people were gone, the discomfort was gone.
His words fell right in between another hurl of vile abuse and both men had abruptly shut their mouth, staring at Timothy once more. Rhys was the first to react as he yanked his prosthetic out of Jack’s loosened grip and popped it back into the socket, sheathing Jack’s switchblade and approaching his partner.
“Tim, what did you do?!” Rhys exclaimed and reached out to touch one of the closer scratches that was seeping brilliant red droplets of blood. Tim pulled the arm further away and took a step back into the main room.
“I said out,” his voice was still soft but there was no life in it, just extreme and utter exhaustion. “Now.”
If they left, he could think again.
Rhys obliged as he quickly picked up his shirt and moved towards the exit. But Jack… Jack stayed. He crossed his arms, still breathing heavily from the rage outburst as his eyes quickly ran up and down his brother’s slumping frame.
“Shut - ”
“Talk to me, don’t do this.”
Timothy reached his nightstand and the next moment there was a gun in his hand, surprisingly steady and light, considering the circumstances. The sound of hammer clicking rang out all too loud in the sudden grave silence of the room. Rhys gasped softly, while Jack’s eyebrows flew upwards but he did not move a muscle. Without a warning Tim fired and the bullet landed an inch away from Jack’s perfectly polished shoe.
“Next will be your knee,” Tim said dully, feeling drained as he lifted the weapon once more. “Out.”
“Keep bottling it up, you absolute psycho moron! See where it gets you!” Jack spat out and turned around on his heels, following Rhys who flew out of the room after the first shot was fired. Jack slammed the door behind himself with such force that the glass table nearby rattled thinly.
Timothy stared mindlessly at the door, expecting and fearing them to come back and when no - one did he sighed slowly, gently putting the gun on the nightstand and shuffling into the bathroom. He needed water but the only place to get it contained mirrors. In truth Tim had been avoiding his reflection since the moment he woke up. There was no reason for him to even seek the mirror out as the - now truly identical - image of his brother had been around for over two decades.
But maybe for once in his life Timothy could confront what had happened to him instead of wordlessly accepting it as a given. He took deep breath, fingers clutching at the edges of the sink and raised his head, focusing his eyes - no, an eye - on the image in front of him.
It was what Tim expected, what his fingertips felt as he carefully touched his face during the past few days. Torn and mangled edges coiled and twisted until they finally formed an upside down ‘V’. The wound destroyed everything in its path: the brow, the eye… Everything.
There was nothing left of Timothy Lawrence and, worst of all, Rhys finally saw Tim for what he really was: a man whose pathetic act and lies finally crumbled, revealing nothing but a broken unfixable mess hidden within.
A loud crack made Timothy recoil in surprise as warm blood began trickling down his face. He had pressed his forehead into the mirror a bit too hard, breaking both the shiny surface and own skin.
Tim’s long exhale turned into a sob as he pushed himself away from the sink and slid down the wall, curling on himself and gently pressing wounded forehead against his knees.
He thought he got the hang of this, that the walls he had build were thick enough and well - placed to never let anything like this happen again. Freak out in front of people he cared about.
Twenty eight years ago Tim made a choice that had cost him and his brother a home and chance at different life. As two skinny boys stood in the stuffy room that reeked of lavender and blood, a promise was made. Jack upheld that promise as best as he could: he taught his elder brother how to stand up for himself, how to lie and how to steal. Above all Jack showed him how to survive. Eventually nurture turned into nature and Timothy became someone else, someone who made Jack proud. He was finally a person it did not hurt to be when he opened his eyes every morning. But deep inside, slumbering like a cancerous tumor was his true self: a coward and a doormat, someone who turned another cheek just so it would be over and done with.
That man was disgusting and Timothy scowled, once again digging nails into his flesh in attempt to steady himself. Self hatred never did him any good but it was all he had in order to better himself. To be like Jack.
Something soft and warm brushed against him and Tim lifted his head, face heavy with the tears he refused to spill. Nyx was walking around him in circles purring gently and it made Timothy’s lips lift ever so slightly in a fleeting smile. The cat might have been intellectually challenged but he always knew when his owner felt bad and came searching for him in order to try and ease off the gloom. His brother was much more reserved and aloof but if he saw Nyx doing it, he would eventually join just as he did now, putting his heavy paws on Timothy’s shoulder and nuzzling his ear, purring thunderously.
The tension in his muscles began lifting up slowly as the pressure in the forehead started to wane, sinking inwards and back into the depth it came from as Timothy’s fingers dug into the luscious silky fur of his beloved companions, feeling their purring vibrations run along the fingers and up his arms.
“Come,” He said quietly and scooped the smaller silver tabby in his arms. Standing up was a challenge but he managed, all the while Nyx was trying to paw at Crake’s magnificent tail. As he finally crawled into bed and wrapped himself in blankets, taking all the allowed dosage of the sleeping pills for the day and settling down among his cats, Timothy felt that he would get through this. He just had to shake it off and go back to before.
Somewhere in Jack’s mansion.
Jack was following the long-legged Atlas heir who was desperately trying to put his prosthetic into place and failing miserably. Despite being taller and having a long stride, Jack was not thirty anymore and it took him a while to catch up to Evans who looked dazed and confused, still trying to digest and understand what took place in Tim’s living room. The kid obviously did not know what he signed up for. But honestly? Few living people did. Timmy came with a long manual: a fact he had learned to hide well enough until something would set him off in a disastrous way.
“You gonna break your stupid arm, give me that,” Jack blurted out as he finally was by Rhys’ side, his hands locking around the prosthetic as he yanked it away, disconnecting already poorly attached wiring with one powerful tug. It was absolutely ridiculous that the pretty - faced princess had no idea how to fix his own cybernetics. “Come here, I’ll teach you something useful.”
“Yeah… no,” the kid answered sarcastically and scoffed, left hand resting loosely on his hip. “Why would I go anywhere with you ? How stupid do you think I am?”
“Sweetheart, you don’t want me to answer that,” Jack snarled and flashed a curt grim smile. It has been what, five minutes, and he already regretted talking to the entitled little shit. “My little brother would want you back in one piece and you obviously have no clue how to fix your own freakin’ arm, you idiot.”
“Oh and you think you can?” Rhys muttered behind his back, loud and aggravated enough for Jack to hear. This ‘talking back’ jig the Atlas kept doing had gotten real old real fast. Jack’s mind was already painting him beautiful and violent pictures of what he would do to the Evans brat, were it not for Tim’s silent protectorate.
“Kiddo,” He finally squeezed out after counting till twenty for about three times. “I was toying with such tech when you were still shitting in your gold - lined diapers. Plug up your pie hole and follow me.”
It seems that even a numbskull like Evans came to realize arguing with Handsome Jack was one in a lifetime experience better left unexplored. He clamped his pretty mouth together and shuffled after Jack, who tossed the cybernetic appendage over his shoulder and marched ahead, effortlessly orientating within same - looking corridors and doorways. To an outsider this was a maze but only he, Tim and Nisha knew the building like the back of their hands. Oh, and the genius architect who designed it. That guy was dead, of course. But Jack was not an animal, his family got paid handsomely. The amazing pun made him chortle in amusement as he finally opened a door to the left and flipped the light switch, revealing his personal workshop.
Rows of mechanical parts and unidentifiable husks in various conditions and from various manufacturers were piling up in the corners and gathering dust. Before Timmy so eagerly ditched him and the family, Jack had more free time on his hands that was spent down here, tinkering with scrap metal. It was something to do in order to relax and take his mind off things. He did not lie about de-assembling Atlas medical equipment either: know thy enemy was a motto he lived by. Jack had to admit that their prosthetic were nothing short of art, his own mask included.
The workbench, neat and eerily sterile was a sight for sore eyes. After everything that had happened in the last couple of weeks Jack was itching for release: he could feel the familiar tingle in his fingers. He hurried towards the bench, dropping the arm on it and quickly flipping on additional lights.
“Come here, Atlas, time’s a’ wastin’.”
When the brat did not heed his very obvious command Jack sighed and looked over his shoulder, searching for the young man and finally finding him admiring some vintage Atlas assembly bot in a corner. His long fingers brushed over the serial number, fingertips soaking in the grooves and the dents.
The kid jerked his head upwards and let the arm fall to his side, pulling himself away from the robot and walking towards the bench, face all bunched up in that prissy manner Jack already grew accustomed to. There were few people that got on his nerves as much as this precious Atlas heir and Jack just nodded to the second chair, extending an unspoken invitation. He did not bother to check if the kid actually followed his order until the defiant huff and the sound of leather creaking underneath the entitled Atlas ass indicated Evans did.
Jack’s eyes were on the prize: the prosthetic he laid out on the table, its wiring hanging limp and dead from the socket. The screwdriver in his hand made a skillful twirl between the fingers the second before Jack jabbed it in between one of the seams, resulting in an angry gasp from the precious princess. He only chuckled, reading the information off the chip and proceeding to the next connection, scanning for the damage and finding nothing that could not be fixed with a reboot and a game of twister with the ports in the kid’s shoulder. If Jack played his hand right the arm might even punch the dumbass in the face once or twice before the joke catches on. The joy at the thought must have crept on in his face as the next moment a nervous voice pitched up anxiously.
“What - What are you doing? You are doing something!”
“Oh kitten, I am always doing things,” Jack all but purred, even the mouthy brat could not spoil the bliss as his fingers traced the curve of the elbow, marveling at the sensation of the high - quality synthetic skin underneath his fingertips. The soft inhale distracted him and Jack finally raised his head to meet Evans’ gaze. “What.”
“Tim,” Rhys mumbled and Jack saw him fidgeting, perfectly manicured nail finding its way between the kid’s lips as he bit on it. “He talked just like that. Not, all the time but...”
“Surprises you?”Jack snickered dismissively and put the screwdriver down, crossing his arms and leaning back. His Timmy was a nearly perfect liar. Perhaps even better than Jack himself. That said, Jack did not really need to pretend or weasel around; he was very open about who, why and how he wanted to kill. And, most importantly, he did not have a whole other personality to maintain. However, the way Tim cared about this Rhys guy, Jack figured perhaps things were different, for a change. Evidently not.
“Maybe? I don’t know,” Evans answered but the capriciousness disappeared from his voice, leaving only uncertainty and worry. “He was always so - ,” His gaze slid over Jack’s face and he turned away, eyes downcast and sentence unfinished.
“Let me guess,” Jack grinned, lazily observing the sudden but not unexpected behavior as Evans stubbornly kept staring sideways, worrying his pretty pink lips. “He was so schweet and caring and attentive.”
The obvious mockery made the Atlas kid frown and he pursed his lips together, a small tell but more than enough for Jack to see he hit the jackpot. Amused, Jack lifted his elbows onto the table and picked up the screwdriver, toying with it idly as his harsh glare was glued to Rhys, soaking in every little twitch and frown.
“But there was always something, wasn’t there, Rhysie?” He asked sweetly, enjoying the expression on the doll face across the table. “Say Timmy got caught by surprise. You know, he really hates that, has a little something for that too,” Jack dramatically squared his shoulders and grinned lazily, lifting up his chin and sizing the man on the other side. He opened his mouth to say something but the kid was faster.
“Fuck you,” Was the only thing that left Evans’ mouth as his long fingers dug into the wooden surface of the working bench, unmistakably recognizing the posture and the glare. There was delicious panic and confusion in his eyes as he bowed forwards only to recoil a moment later and jump upwards, pushing himself away from the table and, most importantly, away from Jack.
“Think you got to know him, kiddo? Think again.”
5,5 years ago, Opportunity.
And now this fucking idiot was sitting on the pavement, yet another expensive suit torn to shreds as he used the sleeve to stop the bleeding from the cut on his lip. Timothy’s face was turned sideways, angular profile even sharper in the dim streetlights.
“I am not your freakin’ babysitter, Tim!” Jack hissed, pacing up and down while his brother remained silent, avoiding eye contact. “Look at me, dammit!”
When Tim remained still, Jack scoffed and marched up to him, finger clutching around the chin and forcefully lifting it up. His brother swatted at the hand but Jack’s nails just dug deeper, a grimace of discomfort crossing Timothy’s features. The next moment his brother’s face became smooth once more, empty - eyed and indifferent.
“Let me go,” He said evenly and Jack felt the jowls under his fingers tense, rolling with the skin. With a frustrated huff he let Tim go, wiping the bloodied fingers over his brother’s shirt: shit was ruined anyway. This has become too frequent and too tiresome. It could have been a new gambling joint but the phone call Jack got has always stayed the same: Hyperion’s finest was causing a scene. The reasons were different, of course. Occasionally he was accused of cheating and sometimes he thought one of the participants had looked at him wrong. Regardless, it always ended up in violence and death. Not that the latter bothered Jack but the thoughtless marring of the carefully built public image sure did. Hyperion was something to be feared and respected, not laughed at and brought to a level of a common thug.
“What is wrong with you?” Jack started pacing up and down, with every turn the grimace on his face becoming even more vicious. “I want you at your best, Timmy. I need you to - ”
A curt dry laughter cut into his tirade and Jack stopped in his tracks, looking at his brother. Timothy was smiling brightly but Jack knew better as his gaze was drawn to Tim’s eyes: lifeless and cold.
“You need me, how adorable,” His brother pulled a cigarette out of the pocket and absentmindedly rolled it in between the fingers before putting in his mouth and lighting it up. “Do you need me as your assassin, cleaner or right hand? Oh wait! Do you need me as your brother?” Timothy paused and started laughing theatrically, wiping non-existing tears. “A good one, Jack. A good one.”
“The fuck is your problem?” Jack scowled back, arms crossed as he was towering over Tim, who smiled once again and casually extinguished the cig on Jack’s expensive one of a kind shoe, forcing him to jump away and bark out a vile curse.
“I don’t have a single problem, Jack,” Timothy stood up and nearly lost his balance, clinging to the lamp post. Only now Jack noticed a small trickle of blood running down from under the disheveled hairline. “Not allowed to have any, remember?”
“Tim,” Jack stepped closer and reached out to brush away the caked bloody strands only to see his brother fluidly pull away. “Don’t be a fucking dick and let me see!”
“Piss off,” Timothy answered passively rummaging in his pockets as he pushed himself off the light post and further away from him.
Jack felt his teeth scrape against each other in rage as he watched the ungrateful shit take out his smartphone and scroll through the contacts, no doubt trying to get under his skin. Jack did not handle silent treatment very well. Never did and sure as hell was not planning to start now.
“Don’t you dare giving me this crap!! After everything I did to get us here!” He hissed as he rounded up on Tim, slapping the phone out of his hands and purposely stepping on it, the crunching sound of expensive glass under his foot almost cathartic. “After everything I did for you, you little freak!”
Timothy’s body stiffened as Jack called him out, hands curling into fists and shoulders rolling inwards. He felt cornered and Jack would be damned if he allowed his brother to talk back. Tim had no right, he had forfeited that privilege after begging to take care of the mess he, of all people, had caused.
“Hurts hearing what you really are?!” Jack spat out and his hand slid into the front pocket of his vest, taking out the small and overly familiar switchblade. Timothy’s eyes were glued to the shiny object: sure, he had seen the knife on many occasions before but only when vulnerable, that is when it really got to him. Just as Jack expected, Tim recoiled at the sight, fear in his mismatched eyes. “Sweet and quiet little Timmy… Nobody asked you to slit her throat, remember? It was all you, kiddo.”
The sound of the blade springing free was thunderous in the stillness of the night and Jack watched how Timothy’s pupils shot open in terror as the old memory he was, no doubt, reliving forced him to scream thinly, pressing a knuckle to the bloodied temple and bending in half, his whole body shuddering in anguish. Jack waited out the tantrum until the screams became the sobs and put the knife away, coiling his hands around Timothy’s shoulders.
“See what you made me do?” Jack asked softly, allowing Tim to hide his face in his chest. “Do you think I like this?” When no answer came Jack’s fingers dug into Timothy’s back just a bit harder, demanding a reaction of any kind. “Will you be good and let me take care of things?”
Nothing but a soft whine left Tim’s lips as an adult man curled up on his brother’s chest like a helpless child. Jack was the wall that guarded Timothy against the world and upon which he would all but break before Jack ever let him go.
“I always fix everything, Timmy, you know that.”
Jack’s workroom, Jack’s mansion.
Rhys was looking at that long face hidden behind the mask and tried to swallow the dread that festered at his chest at the sight.
“Think you got to know him, kiddo? Think again.”
He had never claimed to know people or even be a particularly good judge of character. The assholes were easy to spot: a prime example was sitting right on the other side of this suddenly very narrow bench. A schmoozer and an easy lay were a common occurrence as well. But his Timothy…
Timothy was different, Rhys had figured that out soon after he was left outside of Lawrence’s apartment all those months ago. He had never managed to fully uncover what made his boyfriend tick and why some of the quirks he had were the way they were but, surprisingly even to himself, Rhys did not pry. He was happy and Tim was happy and, despite what Jack had just said and showed him, he knew that Timothy was as sincere with his feelings and words as he could be.
“I don’t believe you,” Rhys answered finally, controlling the smoothness of his voice. Handsome Jack was a perfect predator: he feasted on fear and doubt. A single hint of weakness and he would swallow you whole, latching onto the imperfections and tainting everything like an infection. “Tim and I -,”
“What, fucked like skags in November?” Jack laughed and sized him up, snickering at whatever he had deemed hilarious at the moment. “Oh I can believe that. He is my brother and all that, runs in the family.” The saucy eyebrow wiggle was the final drop and Rhys felt the dread finally uncurl and disappear, giving way to pristine anger the likes of which he had rarely experienced. He walked around the table and with a swift motion pulled Jack out of the chair, something the other man had not expected.
“You!” Rhys breathed out and struck an accusing finger against Jack’s chest. “You are to blame! You made him this way, didn’t you?!”
“He begged me, Atlas!” Jack pushed the hand away and puffed his chest up, somehow inexplicably doubling in size but Rhys stood his ground, bi coloured eyes flashing angrily. “My brother needed me and I did what he wanted me to!”
“You broke him! And for what?!”
“Fuck off!” Jack roared and reached out for Rhys’ prosthetic arm, groping around blindly and visibly shaking from rage. “I said I’ll murder you with your crappy arm and I will if you don’t shut your freakin’ hole!”
Rhys avoided the blow and rammed into Jack, making the other man lose his balance and take a few steps back, all the while rubbing his chest where Evans’ shoulder connected to the rib cage. The counter attack came quick enough and soon after Rhys found himself face down on the workbench with own arm behind his back and the knife, once again, at his throat. He exhaled shakily and squeezed his eyes, tears running down his cheeks.
“Aw, is princess scared?” Jack muttered softly and Rhys felt the cold blade stroke his neck, eliciting an involuntary shudder.
“You won’t help him,” He whispered hoarsely, feeling the icy knife softly scrape against his skin as he talked. “You never did, Jack. Just for once in your life admit that you messed up where it counted the most.”
The deathly cold had disappeared and with the rough push Jack stepped away, breathing heavily. Rhys was scared to look around because what if he did and the reward would be getting his eye scooped out by those large fingers. He stood there, shivering in the cool air while the creak of leather indicated that the other man settled back on the stool behind the workbench.
“Sit. Down,” Jack rasped and Rhys obliged, gaze shyly creeping up to see an arm reach for the prosthetic and the other grabbing a diagnostics tablet. “And talk. But be careful what and how you say it, asshole. Otherwise no fingers are long enough to get the screwdriver from where I’m gonna stick it in.”
Hi guys! it had been what, two months? I am terribly sorry, inspiration has been fickle but I have been writing where and when I could. A lot of this has been written in bed on my phone, haha. Timmy has reached his limits and is crashing down hard, poor baby. And Rhys, look at that boy. he is growing up!
I was struggling to get inspired and deliver but I hope I did anyway. Please let me know how you liked this? I am very interested to hear from all of you <3
Cheers and love. Lots of kudos to heavybreathingcat for helping to move the scenes along by yelling at me,