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Wolf among Wolves

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Wolf Amon Wolves



Timothy's fingers blistered and bled; flesh fighting against metal was a futile escape plan, but it didn’t stop him from fighting against Wilhelm's ironclad grip. Crimson ran hot and sticky down his arms, and his nails had worn down to nothing as they scraped against the hands wrapped over his throat. 

He couldn't breathe, and soon he wouldn't be able to see. Dark spots danced over Timothy's vision, blackening the audience who stood before him: The Hyperion guards, the readied medical team, Nisha, and the most excited of them all, Handsome Jack. 

They all waited and watched and were likely taking bets on what would give out first. Timothy's lungs? Or his will?

He would laugh at it all if he could draw breath. How does a college education lead to this? On his knees, fighting against a man built like an ox, whose loyalty sat with the man with the money. 

And that certainly wasn't Timothy.

His career was almost as comical as his attempts to throw off Wilhelm: long, exhausting with pathetic and bitter results.

He should laugh. He really should just laugh it all away.

"Calm down. I needed him still and not lookin blue like Tassiter's balls," Jack's sharp voice called. 

Timothy's chest painfully spasmed, before Wilhelm grunted acknowledgement. The cyborg released his windpipe, only to shift to his shoulders where his thumbs dug deep into Timothy's spine ensuring he remained pinned to his knees.

The air was blissful and sweet, but his lungs jarred and convulsed as he strived to draw in one large breath after the other. Bile stirred in his stomach, and his head spun as the oxygen finally reached his lungs. Even if he were to collapse, Wilhelm's grip would keep him from falling.

He should start laughing now. Maybe they would dismiss him as insane and throw him to the wastes? It was better than Jack's office. 

Anything was better than being on his knees, in front of the newly named Hyperion CEO. 

"Sir..." The cautious, hesitant voice that tried to speak over Timothy's rasped breathing, was barely audible. "If this is...absolutely necessary, then I should be the one to do this. If you miss or –"

"I'm paying you to keep him alive doc and to keep your thoughts to yourself, alright?"

Timothy winced, as though closing his eyes would somehow block out the sharpness of Jack’s tone. He'd forgotten how close the friggin psycho was to him. Jack hovered over him like a beast claiming its kill. No one but Jack could touch his precious double, and he was keeping guard to make sure it stayed that way.

And he really did like to touch.

Grudgingly, Timothy pried his eyes open if only to stare at the brown canvas striped shoes kneeling before him. They were far too casual for any CEO; yellow stripes decorated the sides, and thick laces made them appropriate for a teenager.

Timothy hated those fucking shoes.

A far gentler hand than he expected lifted his chin and Timothy's dry eyes found their way onto Jack's recently masked face. 

When Jack summoned him to his office, Timothy had been wearing an exact copy of the same discoloured synthetic flesh. Yet, not long after he arrived, Jack commanded someone remove it, and Wilhelm did the honours. With one swift and violent tug, the mask had been ripped from the bone. Blood had poured down his face, though it had long since dried. Timothy could still feel the bitter sting from cuts across his face.

Blinking blearily, he set his gaze onto the carved gold fireplace seething in the corner of his vision. The embellished mantelpiece and flickering flames could've been a romantic sight, if not for the violence which regularly occurred before it.

Yellow banners of Jack's portrait decorated the walls, black marble busts ran the length of the room, and two obnoxious fountains completed the narcissistic aesthetic. Jack's office was decorated in every way possible to satisfy a man who needed his ego stroked.

And the only one who hadn't been stroking the man's ego, was Timothy. 

Jack growled, seemingly annoyed that Timothy's eyes were resting on anything but him, and so Jack dug his fingers into Timothy's cheek and steered him into his line of sight.

"Eyes on me, John."

Timothy hated that name. Nothing good could ever come from being called the very name Jack despised and bestowed onto him. And if he wasn't John, then it was 'other Jack', or a number of the ridiculous nicknames Jack had for his underlings. 

"Now you know why I've gotta do this champ?" Jack spoke in a way that not even Timothy could ignore: inviting, careful, with razor-sharp undertones.

But Timothy did not answer Even if he could find his voice, Jack was proficient at rhetorical questions and feigning sincerity; his answer would've only fallen on deaf ears.

"I mean, you just haven't been up to scratch? Holding out on the New Haven job? Not downing a single bandit? And let's not forget how you failed to bring in the red-headed bitch."

Jack slapped an enthusiastic hand onto Timothy's shoulder before continuing.

"And then you failed to recapture Roland's psycho little brat? Kiddo the list goes on, what's been happening?"

Timothy kept his jaw clenched to bite down a retort.

Yes, it was true that he'd been taking advantage of every opportunity to sabotage Jack's plans, even if it were in the slightest of ways. Toeing the line between annoying Jack with his poor posture to outright disregarding his orders. It started out as some comical act of defiance; Timothy ordered all of the Hyperion's vending machines to be stocked with Jack's least favourite snacks. Gradually but surely Timothy found his courage and increased the antics in his rebellion.

He'd conveniently got 'knocked out' on the assault of New Haven so that no blood was spilled on his account. His bravest move to date was letting the little explosive blonde girl get away from a group of Hyperion hunters he was leading.

Timothy's mistakes were calculated, so the blame always fell on someone else. His guilt from seeing others thrown out of airlocks for his actions was justified by his survival. The programmer, and non sucessful writer struggling with student debt may be long gone, but at least he didn't relish in the capture and murder of children.

And now, Jack was foolishly blaming him for all these shortcomings because he wasn't 'Jack enough'.

What an idiot.

Timothy's jaw remained snapped shut to prevent himself from smirking at his counterpart.

"Claptraps were more Jack than you!" Jack promptly scowled, and waved a hand in front of him as if to dismiss his previous statement. "No wait, I take that back, but you get my point. Right?"

Timothy's eyes darted away from Jack, seeking to look at anything but the mad glint in his eyes.

"Well, anyway I got thinking," Jack paused and pushed himself up off the floor, "You just haven't lived as Jack! If you're going to be a badass like me, you've got to have the good and the bad."

Timothy's vision — still swimming with black spots — jerked up. His bicoloured eyes were now glued to Jack's. 

His employer took a few long strides over to his equally corrupted female counterpart. Timothy hadn't forgotten about her, how could he. Nisha's hat adorning silhouette stood against the fireplace, and a large modified branding iron was twirling amongst the flames.

"And trust me, you've had plenty of the good. Remember when I found you? You sly dog, thinking you could slip one past me." Jack scoffed and mockingly winked towards him. "But that's in the past. Look now at the benefits we both reep. The power, and women, the money, a damn fine apartment and constant supply of arsenal, what else could you get from life?"

Timothy was not one to celebrate the life Jack had 'given' him. The man had taken away so much. His name, his face, air locking allies into space, and the destruction of Felicity, which should've been when he left Jack's services. A contract (that may as well last a lifetime) bound him to Jack, and something far more insidious than being airlocked awaited him if he left.

"F..fuck..hhuu," Timothy's voice was scratchy and pathetic, and his windpipe was one outburst away from collapsing.

He wanted to scream at the maniac in front of him, at all of them. However, even that muffled curse had seared his throat and weakened his spirit.

Jack glanced back over his shoulder and shrugged off Timothy's failed insult.

"Yeah, yeah, sport, get it all out of your system. You know I don’t like the cussing but we can make an exception for now. Did you know cursing is good for pain? They did a study on it all and everything," Jack rambled on as he collected a pair of thick decorative oven gloves from his desk.

Timothy's breathing returned to its erratic pace, his heart beating uncontrollably as Jack shoved each finger into place.

"Anyway, let's get to it."

He rubbed the large mittens together, and out of context, the scene would've been a comical sight. Nisha sauntered over to him, iron rod in hand. She whispered something with a smile that only an insane man like Jack could appreciate. He took a firm grasp around her waist before sliding the iron rod out of her clutch.

Jack held the brand up and gave it a quick twirl, as he inspected the curved white-hot vault symbol adored at its end.

"Once you know what I had to go through, what those damn bandit scum did to me. You'll see."

Jack walked over with a painfully slow and purposeful stride. The glow from the brand left a trail which would be forever grafted into Timothy's vision.

"Pl...please, Jack..." Timothy licked his lips and struggled to push the words out. " I can be better… You know I can... just... wait–please!" Timothy rasped his plea while struggling one last time to free himself from Wilhem’s grasp.

"After this, you won't hesitate to take those bandits down even again. It's for your own good, kiddo."

"Pleas—"

Jack snapped and spoke over him: "What's the point of wearing the mask if you don't understand why I've got to wear it." 

Jack's eyes narrowed, and his face screwed up with contempt. He was jealous. Timothy still had his face, and all Jack had was a mangled mess that not even the best surgeons could restore.

"I never wanted to do this, what makes you think I'd want to watch that pretty face get destroyed again? Hmmm?"

"You're a goddamn fucking psycho," Timothy spat.

"Language," Jack hissed and waved the brand dangerously close to Timothy's chest. "Your continued disobedience has forced my hand."

Jack lowered his voice so only Timothy could hear him: "Trust me, this is going to hurt me more than you, and when it's over. Everything will be right again."

Part of Timothy wanted to spit more curses, and yet his teeth were clenched as he focused on the incoming agony. The heat from the iron drew sweat on his brow, dripping into his eyes and clouding his vision.

"Make sure he doesn't move, I really don't want to mess this up" Jack warned, and there was a rare and serious note in his voice. Wilhelm's grip moved towards Timothy's neck, and the cyborg's hands dug into his jawline. His head was locked in place while the white iron rod danced inches from his unmasked face.

"1, 2 and —"

Jack never finished his countdown.

The molten iron drove into his face. The brand scorched past his flesh and burned deeper than he could imagine. 

Timothy tried to scream, but Wilhelm kept his jaw slammed tight and dug his face further into the searing metal. If he could make a sound it would be inhuman, like nothing the two of them would ever hear. Jack held the rod firmly in place for far longer than needed; only bone would remain.

Satisfied with the damage Jack peeled the iron away and took part of Timothy's face with it. Finally, he was allowed to release the cry within him. He roared in agony as his face continued to burn, and throb. Charred pieces of flesh fell into his lap and all he could do was scratch at the floor to negate the pain. 

He wasn't sure when Wilhelm had released him, but the giant must have, as he now leaned forward on the ground. His face was inches from the black marble tiles, but unable to rest. Any contact would be too much, this is already too much. He could feel the heat radiating from his face, and sweat and blood pooled in his hands.

He choked on the blood which had found its way into his lungs. He'd taken out a chunk of his tongue and was now drowning in his own goddamn blood. His hands hovered over his face in desperation. He wanted to grasp it, to take the pain away, but he didn't dare touch his flesh.

"See! That's what they did to me," Jack gushed. "Now do you understand?" 

When Timothy didn't respond, a sharp pain — Jack's boot — collided with his knee. 

"I…yes…I understand," he sobbed as tears trickled from one eye, the other, his green one was charred shut. The last of Timothy’s strength wilted away and he fell to the floor with a loud cry.

"Alrighty then!"

Jack clasped his hands together and twirled on the spot. 

"You're up Doc, get him looking beautiful again,  and be careful with him, a substantial investment that one."

Wilhelm's cold arms lifted him up with ease and Timothy was taken to a cushioned surface. His eyes were firmly shut yet his mouth gaped open as the blood poured onto the pillow below him.

Damn them all.

The pain was agony, and his palms were raw from where his nails had dug into them; pain elsewhere was pain away from the mess that Jack had left on his face. He was less than a year into a lifetime of servitude, and for the second time, his face had been altered to reflect his employer.

Jack claimed he wanted Timothy to be ;’more Jack’: a better killer, a more capable hunter, hungrier for violence and intent on claiming power. 

The doctor wheeled the stretcher down the hall, the yellow banners of Jack's face trailing behind them.

Pain was in the mind, and he could bury this. He could be what Jack wanted.

No more Timothy...no...just Lawrence now.

And in time, he'd be what Jack wanted, and he'd be ready to take away everything that goddamn monster held dear.

Lawrence's hands were still delicately hovering over what was left of his altered face. The heat pulsed from his cheeks as he mused his future and his bloodied jaw stuck into the pillow beneath him.

If there was one thing Jack loved more than himself, Hyperion, and Vaults, it was his precious Siren. 

Yes, Lawrence knew about her.

Jack hadn't always been so paranoid, and one tiny slip up implied her existence. If Jack thought Timothy had forgotten, then he was a greater fool than Tassiter.

The plan now?

Find the Siren, and when he was ready, he was going to take her out.

As Jack once told him, there was more than one way to destroy a man.

Chapter Text

The details of his dreams were always so vivid, but worst of all, they were prone to linger long after he'd woken.

As Lawrence opened his eyes, the memory of the brand echoed across his face. He didn't jolt upright or wake with a fearful cry and racing heart. No, this dream, or memory was far too frequent and familiar to cause him further grief.

The burns had healed years ago, yet the scars were thick and contorted his face whenever he showed an ounce of emotion. Lawrence yawned and twisted his neck side-to-side, freeing himself from the stiffness Jack's handi-work had induced. 

Getting out of bed was a deliberately slow process. 

He hated waking in this place. The mundanity of The Bunker was one thing, but the constant check-ins from Jack meant he could never stray from his schedule for long.

Lawrence leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees as he drew himself up in bed. He ran a hand over his angular face, tracing the metal clips outlining his jawline and brow. Jack would slit a new born's throat if he knew he'd stopped wearing the mask. 

Sighing, he finally shifted to the edge of his stupidly enormous bed and kicked off the black and yellow patterned sheets.

As promised, in exchange for his devoted servitude Lawrence had been gifted another 'home.' It would've been the envy of every employee on Helios if any of them knew it existed. As large and generous as his loft in The Bunker was, he didn't get a say in the decor. Everything was oversized, excessively tacky or ornate, and all of it reeked of Jack's ego. 

Lawrence moved over to the plush rug in front of the dresser, and the cold numbness in his feet slowly departed as he reached softer and warmer ground.

Why did all of Jack's flooring have to be black, tiled marble? He shivered, and also cursed for the lack of home AI. If this were any other Hyperion building, he would have woken to pre-made coffee, a warmed apartment, and freshly cooked breakfast. But no. He would have to turn the heating on manually because none of Jack's private quarters were fitted with any form of artificial intelligence.

The reason being was a mystery that Lawrence was still uncovering, but he had his suspicions.

Lawrence found his mask disregarded upon yesterday's clothes, and amongst what few possessions he had. His sniper (that he'd tossed aside after cleaning it for the third time that week), his echo, holster, and gear-chip.

He paused as his gaze landed on the storage device. It was only two weeks or so ago that he'd stored his one other possession: the digi-struct watch.

His last conversation with the two AI's had turned sour, and Lawrence had angrily shoved them away; yet, it was safer this way. Despite the lack of camera surveillance, Jack always found a way to get eyes into his loft, and he could not risk him seeing the two Digi-Jacks as they were. They were growing so fast, almost too quickly. If Jack ever found out what he'd done. He'd —

Lawrence ran a hand through his hair and groaned. He'd rather not think about it.

Lawrence instead inspected himself in the mirror; cold yet bright bi-coloured eyes frowned back at him. He'd lost his eye, his own eye when Jack scorched his face with the mark of the Vault. It had been the one part of him which hadn't gone under the knife. Timothy Lawrence was born with green eyes, so only one had to be altered to resemble Jack's heterochromia. Now it was gone, charred, and replaced with a cybernetic implant. 

Lawrence rubbed his brow, feeling the metal grind under his skin. How much of him remained? He did not know.

For over five years he'd woken to the same strange face, and every time it left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Deciding to forgo breakfast, Lawrence threw on yesterday's clothes. Running another hand through his mousey-brown hair, he attempted to style it into something Jack wouldn't glare at. Grey lingered on the edges of his sideburns, and Jack would notice and demand it be dyed (again). 

Hopefully, he wouldn't see through the video call.

Except for a few morning echo-comm meetings, there were no face-to-face meetings with Jack. 

Lawrence didn't know how he felt about that any more. For so long, Jack had been a part of his everyday life, and at first, the distance between them had almost broken him. The Bunker was a very lonely place, and Jack had made sure he was to be left untouched and in his own words "unspoiled".

So no one came to visit him.

Not unless Lawrence did the unthinkable, and Jack had made sure any cries for his attention were quickly reprimanded. Lawrence scratched at the skin on his stomach where he'd last taken a dosage of Eridium. He was relieved he'd decided to skip breakfast; he didn't think he could stomach it now.

But he did have a scheduled meeting with Jack today. So the mask had to go on. 

Lawrence clipped the mask in place and rubbed at the synthetic flesh against his face to smooth it out. Next, he shoved his arms through the openings of his brown leather holster, adjusting it, so it sat comfortably on his shoulders. Digitising a gun from his gear-chip was easy enough. However, Lawrence liked things the old fashion way. It was safer for him to be physically armed at all times, the countless assassination attempts had warranted that.

The last of which was the catalyst for why he was at the friggin Bunker in the first place. Lawrence unclenched his hands which had curled into fists. There were many things he'd rather forget; that assassination counting.

Lawrence threw on a grey shirt with Hyperon yellow stripes panelled down the side, and finally, dark grey military pants. He looked as casual as Jack allowed him to be. He needed gear to fight in if the scenario suddenly arose, not resemble a playboy billionaire. 

However, today's task was computer work, so the chances of combat were slim.

He had nearly finished programming an update for the torrents outside, improving their accuracy and reaction time. It was slow and tedious work. Yet, he should be thrilled to finally be able to complete work that utilised his degree. Like Jack, he was a programmer — though not as brilliant as his counterpart — Lawrence did know enough Hyperphire to get his work past Jack's scrutiny.

Only just.

Jack was adamant that outsiders could code nothing at the Bunker. So, there was no option to bring in a team from weapons development to help out when a torrent decided to fire at rakks instead of bandits. Once again, Jack's paranoia meant more work for him, but at least the work meant not counting the cycles since his banishment to the Bunker. 

He needed air. Lawrence quickly strode over and pushed a set of panelled doors outward to reveal a sunlit balcony. Pandora's bright sun was a stark contrast to the darkness of Helios, but the sun he stared at brought no real warmth. It was a fake. The balcony was surrounded by a massive digital screen capturing the filmed view outside, while sunlamps and a small fan simulated the weather. This artificial environment was closest to the outside world that Lawrence would experience for the rest of his life.

A terrible tasting black coffee had seen to that.

After getting his fill of synthetic sunlight, Lawrence turned to his workstation, which sat adjoined to the living area. The architects of his loft apparently thought walls were irrelevant; the entire place was open plan, which was a blessing in disguise. He didn't know if he could have lasted as long as he had if there were any more slabs of concrete closing in on him.

Lawrence knocked a few keys to wake up his computer from its slumber before the machine asked for his bio scan. He placed his palm against the screen and waited. Logging in, he found yesterday's work waiting for him, already open on the desktop. Lawrence dismissed the text editor and opened up the surveillance cameras. With a quick browse, he was satisfied that everything was in order. The cameras gave him a full view of every corridor, ledge, balcony, and port of entry around and into The Bunker. His only blindspot was the observation deck and the Sirens chamber; only Jack had access to those.

Jack's Siren: What a strange coincidence that nothing he deliberately did, led him to her, and only when he found comfort in his life did she come spiralling into his path. For a long time, he'd given up on finding her. He'd convinced himself that he'd imagine the whole thing: that his pact for revenge was just a desperate attempt to warrant the agony from the branding.

But in the end, she was real, and Jack had offered her location to him freely.

The first mention of a Siren came long ago, while Jack was arguing with some glassy-eyed fool of a scientist. The doomed man had explained the Vault needed a charged key.

"The key needs a catalyst! Perhaps a Siren?" He'd desperately tried to explain. 

Finding a Siren was no easy task. As Lawrence later found out, there were only ever six in the whole damn universe at any given time. Jack seethed at this news and had taken it upon himself to destroy the only framed picture in his office, along with his chair, his computer, the scientist's neck and then finally the desk itself. 

Jack's fits of rage rarely held any clarity. Looking back, it amused Lawrence, to picture Jack storming around that room like a child without their toys. But at the time, it had scared him deeply.

After running feverish hands through his matted hair, Jack had ordered Lawrence to find him a Siren. However, before Lawrence could excuse himself from the trashed office, Jack had told him to stop.

It was a strange moment, and Lawrence remembered it quite clearly. Jack rarely second-guessed himself, and yet, he stuttered and kept pressing his fingers into his temples, as though trying to squeeze another idea from his mind. Lawrence would never forget the look in his eye when he finally composed himself and told him to leave and to forget the whole thing.

At first, Lawrence believed Jack's fury was geared at the dead Vault key, but after all the research into charging the thing ceased, he knew that was not the case. So Lawrence built a theory; if Jack didn't want to pursue a Siren, and he wasn't researching a new method to charge it, then he already had a Siren in his possession.

Five years later, Lawrence's hypothesis would be proven correct.

The Siren was here; in fact, she was quite literally below him and his loft, working her magic through Hyperion's network.

Jack had been deliberately vague on what exactly she was doing, and how she was charging the Vault Key, but none of that really mattered. The real question was, how loyal was she to Jack? He couldn’t ask her directly. Jack had forbidden spoken conversation with the Siren or any face-to-face contact. The exception being with the Guardian Angel. An AI created by the Siren for Lawrence to communicate with. 

However, what Jack, and the Siren didn’t know, was that Lawrence was fully aware of the Guardian Angel’s true identity. It was her, the Siren. The AI was merely a ruse to fool the Vault Hunters and Jack’s enemies. If not for the help of Lawrence’s digi-Jack’s he may never have realised they were the same person. 

Another secret he and the two digi-Jack’s had to keep secret from Jack. The list was ever growing, and it had all started when he’d been sent here.

"The Bunker… it's safe. It's the safest place for you and for her," Jack had said while explaining the reason for Lawrence's deployment to the Bunker.  "You're important to me, you know that?" Jack had sighed and wrapped a hand over Lawrence's wrist. "And this Siren… She's just as important. Do you understand?"

That was one of the last few conversations he had with Jack face-to-face, before the man travelled back to the Bunker, leaving Lawrence utterly alone with a woman he could not see or speak with.

Lawrence groaned and rubbed his eyes: trying to remove last night's weariness and to forget the past. 

Jack hadn't called him yet, so there was time for coffee. He added enough sugar to give him his morning rush and poured the milk until it was a light beige. Jack had his coffee black, and for a very long time, Lawrence had his just the same. However, after the last assassination attempt on his life, Jack had graciously allowed him to make it how ever he liked.

What a fucking win.

But he took what he could, as Jack happened to take a lot more back.

Lawrence returned to his work station and made himself comfortable by propping his legs up on a second leather chair. He hadn't yet placed down his coffee when the chat interface opened up. It was a little disconcerting that the Siren had access to his computer; she almost always took control each morning, eager to have a chat. Lawrence supposed that would explain the lack of surveillance in his loft, or why there was no echo-camera on the machine. 

There was never any warning before she sent a message, as she just threw the words onto the screen from her mind. Lawrence, on the other hand, was not as fast of a typer and often took longer crafting his replies. The Siren had a knack for trying to pry personal information from him, and when Lawrence couldn't form a response that Jack would approve of, he'd immediately log off. 

Becoming familiar with her wouldn't help his cause. 

Lawrence sipped his coffee as he read the first message:

'Good morning, are you enjoying the sunshine? - The Guardian Angel' 

'Yes. Is there anything the Siren needs? - Anonymous' 

He tried to keep his responses concise, and sometimes purposefully cold. As far as the Siren knew he was a mere Hyperion security programmer in charge of her safety. Most of all, he couldn't leave any trace of off-topic conversation for Jack to find.

‘The Siren is  fine. Though, thank you for asking. - The Guardian Angel' 

He didn't have time to follow up before another message sprung across the screen. She was always so quick.

'Jack is certain the defences for the BNK3R will hold. What do you think? - The Guardian Angel'

Lawrence's brow raised, and his hands hovered over the keys as he carefully considered his reply.

'They will hold,' he typed back before closing the chat window. 

Though he wouldn't dare do anything to compromise the Bunker deliberately, he did hope the defences failed: that rust would weaken the iron walls, or that the electric field glitched and failed. 

Lawrence — and not Jack — was expecting the Vault Hunters to raid the Bunker any day now. Jack had too much pride to realise everything was compromised. Lawrence had read the daily reports; how the Vault Hunters gained the other doppelganger's cloaking device, that they ran through Opportunity building a voice modulator. Lawrence didn't know how the Vault Hunters knew about the Vault key and its location, but, their recent activities were a pretty clear indicator of their intentions. 

Someone on the inside was helping them, and Jack's paranoia was at new heights, but thankfully not targeted at him. He just had to keep it that way and long enough for the Vault Hunter's to push through the Bunker's security. He did not doubt their success; he even welcomed it. It had been a long steady wait for Lawrence, full of violence and blood. Yet, he was so close.

There was just one minor mystery that he'd like answered before shoving a bullet in the Siren's head and departing from Jack's services. Why did she agree to work for him? Was her family held hostage, or was she just as war hungry as Jack? The Siren, via the Guardian Angel, had unleashed enough havoc on Pandora to match his and Jack's kill count. 

Yet, there was nothing in the tone of her voice — or messages — that revealed the answers.

All he knew for sure was that she was Jack's cherished ally and so, she had to go.

His echo-comm gave a shrill blare, snapping Lawrence's attention to the device: Jack was calling. He accepted the call, and the screen lit up with a face identical to his own.

Jack got straight to the point:

"So good work on fast-travel deploy, but you know, if you're going to litter your work with comments explaining what you coded, you probably did a piss poor job coding it to start with."

Jack had turned his attention off the echo receiver and had started typing away on another device.

"I mean, I should just be able to read this, yeah?" He exclaimed, pointing a hand at another screen. 

Lawrence mentally rolled his eyes.

"So...ahhh, fixed that for ya. Like all of it."

Lawrence picked up a pretzel from the dish at his workstation and threw it at echo-comm, hitting Jack's image on the screen.

"Kitten, behave," Jack ridiculed with no actual menace. 

Lawrence delivered a grin with all charm and no warmth; the very look Jack had come to love on his face. He could get away with anything with that look, and if he really needed something, then the idle flex of muscle and pouted lips did the trick.

Jack and his narcism was his greatest weakness, and Lawrence played with what he had.

He downed the rest of his coffee before moving the conversation along:

"Did you like the space-hurps module?"

"Oh that, NOW that was brilliant!" Jack cheered as he leaned back and slapped a hand down on his lap. 

Every Hyperion employee had enough vaccinations to start a new ecosystem in their lymph nodes. However, that didn't stop Zarpedon infecting half of Helios with it during the Elpis situation five years ago. Despite their best efforts, the virus made its way to Pandora. Hyperion eventually developed a vaccination. However, the only beneficiaries of that were Hyperion employees. 

Lawrence's last update took advantage of that.

Fast travel points reconstructed the body, and during the process, if it identified an illness, say space-hurps? Well, now only half of that person would be reaching their final destination. Who on Pandora was infested with every known disease to man? Bandits. 

The idea had come to him so naturally, that he hadn't even asked for permission. Lawrence played with the handle on his mug, now realising just how intuitive it was for him to act and do as Jack would. 

"Right," Jack said, and Lawrence quickly refocused his attention back on him "Well I want the torrent update by the end of the day."

Lawrence nodded, and for a moment, Jack's expression hardened, but he said nothing. If Jack had considered asking how he was, then the moment was so fleeting that Lawrence had almost missed it.

It wasn't like it was. They only discussed work now.

"And, behave yourself," Jack's expression moved into a tight smile that showed too much teeth, before the echo-comm disconnected the call.

Lawrence switched off his echo-comm and leaned back into his chair. He reached for his coffee only to realise he'd already finished it and softly cursed.

His chest seemed to squeeze over his heart, slowing the blood flow to his head. He felt dizzy, and it wasn't until the call with Jack ended that he realised just how stressed it had made him feel. He was going to betray Jack, and the consequences, if caught, would not be death. He wasn't allowed to die. 

The consequences would be far, far worse.

Jack had once been the closest thing in his life, and keeping him happy, talking about their future for Pandora had once brought him so much satisfaction. But a dismal to a bunker on hell was enough to stir bitter thoughts in Lawrence's mind. 

He had to focus on that, and forget the past.

Lawrence left his desk and returned to the balcony to watch some Rakks on the screens circling prey. Any day now, the sky would be filled with Buzzards, and the assault against the Bunker would be on. That was the day Lawrence yearned for; the Bunkers defences would fail from the strength of the Vault Hunters, and that would be his chance. 

He was going to kill Jack's Siren. That would set Jack straight, that would make him listen, regret this banishment, regret the brand, the abuse, and everything.

Come get her Vault Hunters.

Chapter Text

"Dammit!" Jack cursed, and a wide grin stretched across Lawrence's unmasked face; it was a beautiful thing to hear Jack in disarray.

"The bandits have breached the security wall!" Jack's voice continued to boom through both Lawrence's echo and the loft's intercom.

Lawrence figured as much, as he'd woken to the sound of blaring alarms and a torrent of bullets. In a frantic mess to arm himself, he'd tripped from his bed and scraped his knees. A dozen red lights circled the room, and Lawrence groaned when he spared a glance at his watch; it revealed a deplorable hour to be awake. 

He hastily shoved on his protective gear, all while scouting his room for additional arsenal to attach to his belt and holster.

"The defences will hold," Lawrence called into his echo.

"They better, or I'll use your goddamn throat to paint the walls."

"Good to know," Lawrence muttered, but far away from the receiver. 

"Get to the observation deck, I'll clear you to enter," Jack demanded and then all the comms went silent.

The observation deck and the Siren's chamber remained the last of the areas off-limits to him. But that didn't matter anymore. All his perseverance had finally rewarded him. Finally, the Vault hunters were coming to do the deed for him.

Lawrence held up the last item he needed to equip: the mask. He turned the thin, pale mask over: studying the imperfections it had taken over the years. Light scratches adored the checks, and a deeper cut was forged across the bridge of the nose from where Jack had once held him down with a needle in hand.

Lawrence's hands curled into the mask, tearing at the synthetic flesh. 

This was it. This was the first day of the rest of his life, not as Jack. Lawrence threw the mask across the room, and the plastic thing bounced off the wall. He paced over to his workstation, (giving the mask one last kick for old times sake) and woke his computer, only to be bombarded with hundreds of notifications plastered across the screen. With a few commands, they were all dismissed and replaced with the surveillance footage from outside the Bunker's walls.

The Vault hunters were face-to-face with the BNK3R, Jack's prized war-craft machine. The aircraft was fully automated with six torrents and a laser for good measure. Regardless of its assault capabilities, the war machine yielded few difficulties for the Vault Hunters.

The blue-haired Siren held a loader-bot captive while her tattooed arm was ablaze in a fiery blue. The other Vault Hunters worked on taking out his torrents. Even with the new modifications Lawrence had installed days ago, the tall blonde in heavy combat gear easily took down the last of the defences and cheered.

Lawrence continued to watch the feed, and it didn't take much longer for the Vault Hunters to destroy the BNK3R: their capabilities in battle could not be underestimated.

A new notification popped up on the screen:

'ACCESS GRANTED TO OBSERVATION DECK.'

Lawrence cursed loudly; Jack's paranoia had prevailed.

He had hoped he'd have access to the Siren, but instead, Jack merely gave him passage to the area above and around the inner Control Core. He supposed this would do. With the security protocol now overwritten, it was time to see this rodeo head-on.

Lawrence adjusted his hostler, which was more out of habit than necessary before running towards the exit. He took the steps out of his loft three at a time and reached the hallway below. The observation deck did not fuck around; it was the largest iron cast door Lawrence had ever set eyes on. He moved into a light jog: eager to finally have access to the room beyond the reinforced door. 

And yet he paused; A new, yet delicate husky voice spoke across the intercom.

"The key is here," the female voice spoke.

Was the Siren speaking to the Vault Hunters? Lawrence didn't care to find out. He returned to his sprint as the voice continued to chill the hallways.

"But...To truly stop Jack from waking the Warrior, you cannot just steal the Vault Key, you must destroy his catalyst."

Lawrence frowned. Why would the Siren reveal this to them? She was meant to protect Jack's Vault key and most of all, his secrets.

Lawrence shoved his hand over the scanner and practically knocked his forehead into the door to permit the second scanner to reach his retina. The door opened without dispute. The observation deck was a barren place, empty save for more intercoms, a few surveillance screens and a large dim window which ran the length of the room.

The Siren spoke again:

"You must destroy...me."

"Wait. What?" Lawrence uttered his confusion aloud.

He launched himself towards the window. His eyes widened as they spied on the woman below, no, the girl who hovered below. Large black appendages connected to her spine and skull and silver wings kept her afloat.

Lawrence stepped back from the window, with his hands shaking at his sides.

She was young, much younger than he'd ever anticipated. The Siren was still a distance away, so her features were not entirely apparent, but Lawrence could not mistake her light frame than that of a child's.

Lawrence's mind raced.

The Siren wanted the Vault Hunters here? 

Something twisted in his gut as he tried to process the situation. He'd been planning this assault for months: detailing any obstacles, the challenges he'd have to face, yet this? 

This was not what he had anticipated.

The Siren had been doing Jack's work for years, probably even longer, and now she suddenly wants to change allegiances?

He didn't understand.

"Jack spent years pumping me full of Eridium, using me to charge his Key and manipulate his enemies," the Sirens words continued to haunt him.

Lawrence stumbled back against the window, and his breath drew up fog onto the fortified glass.

"Destroying the Eridium injectors that keep me... alive... will stop the key from charging and it will end a lifetime of servitude. Now—"

She cried a painful, echoing wail and was yanked from the fringes of her room. The thick cords attached to her had bound her into a second chamber and a dark purple hue lofted in the air.

"The fuck," he whispered, and his heart raced. Jack never mentioned the Siren was a kid. Lawrence ran a hand through his hair.

"Fuck, fuck fuck!"

Jack's enraged voice boomed across the entire Bunker:

"You get the hell away from MY DAUGHTER!" His face appeared on every screen, contorted with rage.

Lawrence's body stiffened and leaned heavily into the window. "Daughter?"

"What the hell are you doing?! ANGEL?!" Jack roared, and spit flew from his mouth. 

"Angel?...Daughter?!" Lawrence repeated the words to make sense of it all, but no matter how many times he said it, or how long Jack screamed, he couldn't understand.

Jack didn't have a daughter: maybe a few affairs, two wives, but no daughter. Lawrence stumbled as if the ground ripped away from him. 

He had Jack's trust, and Jack confided everything to him; how did he not know this?

For over five years, Lawrence had found his courage to be — no...to act as — Jack's closest companion. He knew his schedules, his enemies, his preferences, his habits, and desires. The man had spilled his fears and dreams of Pandora to him, and Lawrence had reluctantly yet patiently listened to them all.

With Jack, Lawrence's world was calculated and planned, but at this moment, he felt vulnerable. What else hadn't Jack told him?

He turned his eyes away from the Siren; he couldn't bear to look at her. Lawrence let out a deep breath that sounded more like a whimper. 

Jack is a liar. You know this.

Lawrence's breathing turned sharp, and no matter how much he heaved, it felt like the air was bypassing his lungs entirely.

You pretended to be Jack's companion. It wasn't real. It doesn't matter.

Dark spots began to circle his vision.

Jack didn't have panic attacks, and because of this, Lawrence was not allowed to have them, yet here it was. He felt sick, repulsed and the worst part? He felt betrayed. 

Lawrence slid to the ground, his knees curled upwards, and his head rested in his hands. The faceless conversations with the Siren, her dedication to Jack, and Jack's obsession with her wellbeing. Everything was starting to fall into place, but these answers didn't yield any security for him.

Lawrence shook his head, and his fist collided with the floor.

"FUCK!"

Lawrence's Echo-comm lit up: distracting him just enough from smashing the floor again.

Jack's voice came out low and cruel:

"You get in there, and god damn save her!"

Lawrence didn't dare mention the Siren's relation to Jack. Instead, he cleared his throat and nodded.

"Dammit! when I get down there – if anything happens to her, oh-ohhh, you DO NOT want to know what I'll do to what's left of your body, Timmy."

A few additional threats of violence bellowed through the Echo-comm, but he couldn't find the words to respond. The call ended, and Lawrence returned to pulling at the side of his hairline. His options were limited, and all of them ill-fated. His mission all along was to take the Siren out; she was meant to be a willing ally to Jack and not a child. Lawrence thumped a clenched fist onto the ground, yet the impact did nothing to conquer his anger.

"Dammit! Fuck Vaults! Fuck, Jack!"

He threw the echo-comm into the surveillance screen, shattering Jack's livid face.

The Vault hunters would kill him on sight; they'd already taken out other doppelgangers, and their hatred for Jack was as justified as his.

Did Lawrence hate him?

Yes, he had to hate Jack, he just had too, Lawrence reasoned with himself. Jack did this to him, burned his face, alienated him from his friends, destroyed his body with years of abuse. Jack was kind to Lawrence when he wanted him and harsh when he disappointed. Killing the Siren was meant to be his last act of revenge.

Another scream rang out, and Lawrence jumped to his feet to glance down and through the window. The Vault Hunters had successfully destroyed another Eridium injector. Even if he could enter the chamber, the Vault hunters wouldn't give him a chance to explain himself before they'd filled his body with lead.

"Sweetheart, everything you could ever want is within these four walls!" Jack's voice became strangled with grief, and it was almost convincing. "Angel, honey, do you have any idea how much I've SACRIFICED FOR YOU?!" 

Lawrence had heard it all before. Jack was desperate and trying to negotiate a way out. He'd used that same tone with him whenever Lawrence closely encountered death.

"The bandits I've killed, the people I've manipulated – everything I've done was to protect YOU!" 

As Jack continued to beg, a dark thought lurked in the back of Lawrence's mind. He could leave now in amongst the chaos and Jack would still lose everything. He wouldn't need to do a thing.

It was a plan he could act on, but a terrible twisted feeling in his gut held him in place.

Lawrence had another plan to consider, a crude one, but it was still an option. There would be measures he'd have to take. The tightness in his stomach turned to bile, and Lawrence leaned against the wall for support. If he were to pull this off, then sacrifices would need to be made.

He made his decision, and with a violent tug, he threw back the iron door and ran out. He exited the observation with such force he crashed into the hallway.

Lawrence sprinted up the last of the steps only halting to stop and scan his hand and eye. The red alarms remained dancing along the walls of his loft, creating a dizzying world of colour. When he reached the kitchen, he flew open every cabinet he could reach. 

A third Eridium injector had just been destroyed; he knew this as the screams of the Siren followed its destruction.

Dammit, it was only moments ago that he was planning on landing a bullet between her eyes.

Lawrence bit the inside of his lip and continued his search through the cupboards. Years of being Jack meant he'd done despicable things, including hurting children but killing Jack's child? It was a step too far.

Lawrence once believed he wasn't capable of killing a child. However, he'd done a lot of things for Jack he didn't think he was capable of.

Lawrence found the health-kits he was searching for. Turning to the sink, he flushed the red fluid into his old coffee mug. He had three empty syringes. Next, he needed...pliers and a torch. A dark thought crossed his mind, and along with it, his dinner bubbled in his throat.

If he was going to save her, this was what he had to do.

He ripped his draws apart as he dug around for the equipment he needed. Surely Jack stocked this place with some damn torture equipment? Or a handyman kit at least.

Jack's voice continued to boom through every device in the Bunker:

"Angel, you can STOP this! I'll still forgive you!"

Lawrence paced over to the computer and re-opened the Siren surveillance screen (which he now had access to). 

"It's almost over, Jack!" Roland yelled and fired upon the last Eridium injector. 

"Do it!" The Siren cried to the Vault Hunters, ignoring Jack's pleas.

A bright violet fluid gushed to the floor, and the Siren howled and held her chest. 

"Angel?!" Jack called, but his daughter did not respond. 

She hovered for a moment longer before dropping to the ground into a pool of Eridium. The Eridium injectors around her were all destroyed.

"NO! ANGEL!"

Lawrence's eyes narrowed; The agony in Jack's voice was tender, almost believable.

He continued to watch the video feed. The Vault Hunters returned to the Siren's side, and Roland knelt beside her and declared she was dead. Lawrence waited for them to leave, they had the key, the Siren was gone.

They had no reason to linger, and yet they did.

Unbeknownst to the Vault Hunters, pixels began to give shape to a figure inside the Siren's chamber. Lawrence drew a sharp breath and backed away from the recording; Jack had digitised into the centre of the room.

He stood tall, gun in hand, and a moment later, he fired. Roland fell forward, and blood painted the faces of the other Vault Hunters.

The other Siren, Lilith screamed and charged forward, but Jack moved faster than even Lawrence could have anticipated. The Firehawk was incapacitated. Lawrence couldn't make out the details, but Jack had latched something onto her. She raised her arm, and the surveillance feed became consumed by static and purple.

When the distortion cleared, the other Vault Hunters were gone.

Jack and Lilith remained inside the chamber, standing just a few feet away from the dead Siren. Jack whispered into Lilith's ear, his expression dark and cruel before he reached into his pocket watch, and the two of them digitised away to the Bunker's fast-travel.

Lawrence leaned back from the desk and let out the breath he had unknowingly held captive.

Jack got a new Siren and left his daughter in a pool of Eridium. It seemed no matter how things played out; Jack always won.

Lawrence turned his attention to the small girl Jack had left behind. Not even the Vault Hunters had bothered to examine her vitals. Roland said she was dead, but didn't anyone really check? They had taken one look at her.

He may still have time.

Lawrence shoved the empty health-kits into his belt and the pliers and torch into his jacket pocket. He exited his loft and ventured further down the hall than he'd ever been permitted to go. The ironclad entrance to the Siren's chamber, no, prison, was bent out of shape. A grenade had buckled the door inward allowing Lawrence to finally move beyond the threshold. He leaned down and shifted under the crumbled remains of the entry. Wires and threads of damaged cables hung low, and all of them hissed electricity against his cheeks as he moved passed.

Lawrence carefully sidestepped through the carnage in the room.

A dozen loader-bots and torrents laid desecrated across the concrete. The only sound heard was the clinking of metal from the destroyed overheated machines. The screens which had once been alive with Jack's face had turned to static, and a soft purple glow encased the room.

Lawrence cursed and jumped aside as a shower of sparks rained from the roof.

"Fuck."

Eridium hissed and bubbled against the soles of his boots. Lawrence shook his leg, trying to rid himself of the alien substance he'd just stepped into. After dragging his feet clean, he swiftly turned his gaze away from the thick purple substance, unable to stomach the sight of it. 

The smell was the worst. Many thought Eridium didn't emit a scent, but if you spent enough time around it, or rather, enough of it within you, you learned it's signatures. It was heavy and sickly sweet on the nose, like burnt sugar-coated mushrooms stuck to the bottom of a frying pan. He'd gone so far to create that very foul concoction to prove to Jack what it smelt like, but Jack merely threw the pan at him and locked him far away in the apartment for ruining the kitchen.

Lawrence sidestepped another pool of Eridium, but the smell still overcame him. He wanted to gag, and at the same time drown himself into one of the deeper pools.

He once asked Jack if he could smell it, and the other man said he could not.

Lawrence shook his head, drew a deep breath and continued to trek through the destruction. Soon his objective was in sight.

The Siren's body was curled on her side with her head bowed with her black hair swept across her face.

Lawrence knelt beside the girl. Gingerly he wrapped both arms around her and shifted her onto her back on the ground. The Siren's dark hair floated on the surface of Eridium, and her expression remained blank. Lawrence cursed as the Eridium quickly soaked through his pants. He fought to ignore it, but he could not easily ignore the rotten sweet smell and the tingly excitement he felt as the element made contact with his skin. 

He shook his head to clear his mind of darker temptations and retrieved the emptied health kit from his jacket. He slid the syringe into the purple pool and pulled the plunger. The girl had only been without the Eridium supply for a few minutes, and he of all people knew just how powerful it was on the dead.

After filling the health kit's chamber, he flicked the needle in a swift, practised motion to remove any air bubbles.

Where was he going to shove the damn thing? Her heart? A vein in her arm? 

Lawrence opted for the former. He lined the point of the needle above her heart and breastplate and took a few practice motions to line the needle up accurately.

"Ok...here we go."

Raising his arm high above him, he drove the needle down through the girl's chest and delivered the Eridium to her heart.

She remained cold and motionless.

"Dammit."

Lawrence repeated the process. He soaked up more Eridium into the needle and drove it down a second time.

"Come on."

He gave her a third and then a fourth dosage. He did not bother with a fifth. Instead, he placed down the syringe and gently shook her. Her skin was cold and coloured like ash, and she remained unresponsive.

He let her shoulders go, before sitting back defeated. He ran a purple-stained hand down his uneven and scared face. This was a giant fuckery, the girl was dead, and Jack still had a Siren and the power to open the Vault. In a way, this was what he wanted; Jack's Siren dead.

"Dad..." Her soft voice cried out to him.

Lawrence jolted his head from his hands. The Siren's eyes fluttered open and shut again, the markings down her arm and chest flickered in the darkness.

"You came back…" her pale hand quivered above the surface of the Eridium in an attempt to reach him.

"Ahhh..."

She thought he was Jack.

"Sorry...um," the words came awkwardly to him, "darling."

Lawrence hastily decided to play along with the Siren's case of mistaken identity. She gazed at him questioningly before resting back into the pool of Eridium.

Revive her, leave evidence of her death, then flee: that was his plan.

Leave evidence of her death, he repeated the thought. Leave evidence of her death; again, the plan ran through his mind. Lawrence swayed his head to shake the image away.

He couldn't do it.

However, he needed something, a tooth, some bone, anything that could withstand the acidic properties of the Eridium long enough for Jack to ID her. Some trace of her had to stay behind.

Fuck, fuck fuck.

The poor girl thought her Dad had come back for her, and now he was supposed to rip part of her off. Lawrence hesitantly gazed down at the pliers he'd subconsciously taken out from his jacket pocket.

Damn, damn, damn...No...I have to do it, he reasoned.

Jack has to think she's dead or he'll never stop looking for her. He'd tear all of Pandora apart just to get her back.

The Siren, Angel, had fallen limp again. Lawrence pressed two fingers to her neck: no pulse. He dug deeper; it had to be there. He sighed a breath of relief as he found it, her pulse was so faint, irregular, but he felt her tiny heart flutter under his hand.

If Lawrence successfully pulled this skag-shit plan off, he'd have one of the universe's most powerful allies by his side. She'd be more than capable of helping him escape Pandora, form a new identity and live what few years he had left alone.

He would never have to be Jack.

"It has to be done," Lawrence spoke aloud to reassure himself.

Bone or teeth?

Lawrence gingerly placed his hands under the girl's shoulders and shifted her onto his lap. He cupped a hand under her jaw and opened the girl's mouth. He scoffed at the idea of Jack returning and seeing Lawrence with his hands in his dead daughter's throat.

It has to be bone or teeth; he reasoned again to himself.

The Eridium would eradicate anything else. His pants were surely going to be eaten away by the time he was done. Lawrence turned on the torch and shoved it into his mouth as a way to keep both hands free as he repositioned the girl. He tilted his head down, so the light cast down onto the girl's pale face.

He needed a second pair of hands. But who else could he call upon?

Wilhelm was dead (thankfully so), Nisha was sickeningly loyal to Jack, Athena and Janey were long gone, and Felicity, one of the few genuine 'people' he'd met, had her mind crushed.

Lawrence's eyes narrowed as he summarised the very short list of people he knew, half were either dead, the others he couldn't trust to follow a recipe.

He maneuvered the girl's mouth so he could see down her throat and he spotted her back teeth. Moving the torch back into his hand and the pliers raised in the other he got into position. He gently pushed the pliers down, and on the first go, he grasped onto the back tooth. He dropped the torch and held onto her jaw tight.

Lawrence yanked hard and outward. The pliers hit the top of the girl's mouth, and blood gushed down her face. It took more work than he had hoped but eventually, Lawrence was beaming at his prize; the wisdom tooth was poised between the claws of the pliers. Blood was now drowning the poor girl's face.

There was too much blood. Lawrence did not like his chances of getting a second, let alone a third or fourth. He ripped a sizable portion of cloth from the bottom of his shirt and drove it into the side of her mouth, hastily he lined the pliers up to find the left tooth. He had to do it.

After some struggling, he claimed the second prize.

Lawrence shook his head. This was a piss poor plan, but he had to leave some form of DNA evidence behind. There was no use retrieving anymore, too much blood welled in her mouth.

He tugged up his pants to reveal the blade holstered to his leg, and he unsheathed it. Its silver surface reflected the purple luminosity of the room as he gave it a quick twirl in his hand. He held the Sirens head up as he cut away at her hair. It was most likely futile; the Eridium would eat it all away before the end of the hour, not even the DNA would survive. But he couldn't bring himself to take any more of her teeth.

This will just have to work. It has too. It's a shit plan, but it just has to.

Chapter Text

Before leaving the Siren's chamber, he filled all three emptied health kits with Eridium. Next, he scattered what remained of her hair and the teeth he extracted into the purple pool and finally, he made the awkward journey back to his loft. The girl weighed next to nothing but maneuvering through the blasted door had proved challenging.

There were too many holes in his plan to count, but he could not leave her.

He'd crossed many lines, but Lawrence continued to believe killing children wasn't him; it was Jack. Whenever he pulled the trigger, he was just doing what Jack would have done.

He returned to his loft and placed the Siren on his bed.

What was he going to do about her clothes? They should be down in the Eridium, and surely he didn't have enough DNA to convince any scan she was there, and what if Jack had data on dead Sirens? Lawrence was hoping everyone would assume she'd just melted away into the Eridium, a skag-shit idea, but to Jack, it could be plausible.

In all likelihood, she'd have more Eridium than blood pumping through her veins right now. So yeah, plausible. 

Jack would be back for the body soon; it was his daughter, after all. Then again, he could already be too distracted with his new Siren. Jack was a coward, and would sooner walk through a burning room than face what he'd done.

The Siren or Angel rested upon his unmade bed. Lawrence huffed irritably at the thought of rest. It seemed so long ago that he was in a deep, peaceful sleep, killing skags or something. 

Did he need to give her another injection? How long was he going to be able to keep this up? What dosage was too much?

He knew what dosage was too much for himself; experience had made him learn that hard lesson. But she was a Siren and one dependent on Eridium, and it wasn't a fair comparison. 

He knew his share of the properties of Eridium in the human body. It was a catalyst and reacted to the substance in which surrounded it. When in contact with blood and cells, it acted to repair them. The same should go for a Siren, but what else would it do? He'd heard how Lilith moved all of Sanctuary with the use of Eridium. 

What possibilities had it allowed Angel to do?

Her round face was deathly pale, brow furrowed, and blue lips parted as she drew deep breaths. Her hair and clothes were still wet with Eridium, and subsequently, she'd drenched his sheets purple. 

He needed her awake. He was well aware of the Sirens ability to navigate software, at least Jack had trusted him enough with that piece of information. The surveillance footage from her chamber and the surrounding halls had to be edited and then destroyed. He sat cautiously on the bed next to her; needle in hand. He'd done this twice now, and yet the thought still made his stomach turn. His fear of heights had abated a little after his time on Elpis, but his fear of needles ran deep.

He stripped his spare pillow and used the material to wrap around her upper arm. Soon after, her veins raised, providing him with a viable shot. Jaw clenched he slowly pushed the Eridium into her arm, the second it was empty he hastily pulled it out and put the syringe a reasonable distance from himself.

He should not be around Eridium in such easy access. 

The Siren let out a soft cry and rubbed her arm where the needle had momentarily been. 

"Ahhh, Angel?" Lawrence moved closer so she could hear him. Her name felt odd to say aloud. 

She tilted her head toward the sound of his voice. Her eyes parted slowly to reveal a vivid blue eye; the other was still lost under her mattered and chopped hair. 

"I don't understand," she whispered back to him.

A pale tattoo laced arm reached for his face, and Lawrence allowed her to touch his jaw. 

"Where's your mask?…. You never take it… Off." She closed her eyes again, and her hand fell into his lap.

No wonder she thought he was her Dad. Jack had branded him with the same mark of the Vault. There was very little - say for some extra grey hair and scars on his part - to distinguish the two men apart.

"I... Ahh, don't need to wear it around you, K?" Lawrence responded in a voice far softer than he knew he possessed. 

Her eyes were closed again, yet she nodded her head.

Lawrence glanced over his shoulder to find the synthetic face discarded on the marble floor from whence he'd thrown it away. Today was meant to be the last day he would ever be Jack, yet he couldn't bring himself to tell her just yet.

Her delicate features were severely swollen from his earlier 'dentistry' work. He'd shoved and removed several cotton buds in her mouth to soak up the blood, but his pillow had still soaked through. Guilt only claimed him for a moment. It had to be done.

Revive the girl, scatter the DNA, place the clothes, delete the surveillance footage, burn the sheets, find more liquid Eridium, get supplies, flee….

That was the plan.

"Alrighty," Lawrence whispered. He needed to dump the Sirens clothes back into the Eridium. They would inevitably dissolve, but he still needed the evidence to at least be there.

She was out cold again. 

He needed her outfit, but Lawrence really didn't feel like adding 'stripping minors' onto his resume, he'd already contributed 'shitty dentistry work' to the list today. Could he give her another dose of Eridium? That had seemed to perk her up. 

Lawrence shivered and pulled his gaze away from the Siren. Jack had all too often pumped him full with the same substance to 'spur the life' back into him. 

As the double to the most feared and hated man on Pandora, he had his fair share of assassination attempts. Poisoned twice (the second time almost killed him), kidnapped three times for ransom and hit in the neck from a failed sniper shot. Jack would dose him up on Eridium and fuss over him until he was back on his feet. This attention would be fleeting, and before long, Lawrence would be back on the field. Ready to do it all again. He leaned forward off the bed, hands sinking into his scarred face. He always knew the outcome of this day would be a chaotic mess, anything involving Sirens, Vault Hunters and defying Jack's orders entailed that. 

But this? Yeah, this took the cake.

He unclenched his fits. His palms were discoloured as the blood rushed back to them.

The clothes situation can wait.

Lawrence ran another hand through his greying hair, pausing for a moment to gather his thoughts. He needed to approach her about editing the surveillance footage. Even in her half-dead state she'd be better equipped at hacking and editing than himself. 

"Ahhh, Angel? I need you to perk up a bit, honey."

She remained unresponsive.

Lawrence leaned forward to reach the syringe he'd discarded earlier. How often was he going to have to do this? At this rate, it seemed every ten minutes. His stomach turned as he slid the needle back into the same spot to deliver the Eridium.

I am keeping her alive, he argued with himself. Yet, Jack would have reasoned the same thing, and Lawrence subsequently shuddered in rage. He barely took notice when Angel spoke to him again.

"Dad... Just... Let me go," she whispered, her tone drained of all energy.

He squeezed the girl's hand.

"I can't do that."

"God damn you…" Her bright eyes opened and bore into him with such contempt that Lawrence could feel her gaze shiver over him.  

"It's over… they won... you lost..."

"I can fix you," Lawrence interjected.

The soft features around her eyes narrowed, and she drew a sharp breath.

Lawrence was sure there was a rebuttal coming, but the girl closed her mouth again. The Eridium was wearing off at an alarming rate. Angel closed her eyes and rested her head back on the pillow. She was seemingly unaware her face was swollen and covered in blood. Lawrence controlled his rage, and with a deep sigh, he shed all remorse he had for his actions. He needed this Siren if he were ever to leave Pandora.

He would not spend the last of his years on this planet, wasting away to nothing.

"Angel, honey, wake up."

He squeezed her hand and drew up a tablet from his bedside table. 

"I need the surveillance footage from this feed edited."

She remained motionless, but Lawrence was sure his words were reaching her.

"Can you edit it from 348 hrs until now. Can you do that for me, please?"

The Siren's last words to her dad were, "you're an asshole", and so Lawrence wasn't hopeful his request would be granted. To his surprise, the girl slowly nodded her head. She lifted her tattooed arm towards the tablet and placed her palm against it. The tattoos fluttered a brilliant white which encased the room in her decorative markings. 

"Ok thanks, kiddo, I need you to replace it with static… And then cut it to black — all of it. I also need all the cameras out of action... For good."

A moment passed before her hand fell from the tablet back to the bed.

"Done," a barely audible whisper escaped her blue lips. 

"Atta girl." He gingerly patted her arm. 

Lawrence hastily refreshed the feed and saw it was indeed done. If anyone else viewed the file, they'd see static from the moment Lilith transported the vault hunters away. 

There was only so much Eridium he could scavenge from her chamber. Its liquid form needed to remain cold and the purple substance below would be contaminated and turning to crystal. With the injectors destroyed he'd need to get more elsewhere. 

A soft chime rang down the room, and Lawrence jerked his head at the sudden interruption. The unfamiliar noise emitted from his workstation.

Was it another alarm?

Reaching his desk, he saw his computer revealed a large notification across the desktop. 

'INCOMING FAST TRAVEL APPROVAL NEEDED.'

Someone was trying to activate the fast travel system. The only one who had clearance was Jack, and there was only one point of travel, Jack's office.

The message read on.

'OCCUPANT: Nisha Kadam'

'DESTINATION: Lynchwood to Bunker: Control Core.'

"Fuck." Lawrence hit his fist onto his desk.

Jack must have opened the system up for her. She was likely sent here to collect him and retrieve Angel's body. He had more than enough pressing matters to deal with and her sadistic presence lofting around his place would do nothing to abate them. He glanced over his shoulder at Jack's Eridium addicted daughter. 

He wasn't ready to bail on this shit show just yet.

He couldn't reject Nisha, Jack and his paranoia would suspect treason in a heartbeat. He'd have to accept her request, but first, he needed a hiding place for Angel. He swung around and bolted back to bed where the comatose Siren lay. Carefully, he shifted both arms under her and propped her up against his chest and lifted her up.

Where was he going to put her? The architects of his loft were overly fond of the open planned layout. Only the bathroom remained closed off. Lawrence pivoted on the spot, desperately seeking a place to lay the poor girl.

The girl's pale face stirred in his arms, restless as the Eridium left her body. Lawrence spied the pocket-watch attached to the front of his jacket; Jack's clocking device.

He swiftly lowered the girl back to the bed in the gentlest manner he could afford, unclipped the pocket watch and attached it to the girl's waist. Opening up the face of the watch, he was able to activate the device, upon latching it shut, the Siren vanished. 

He returned to the workstation and hastily hit the keys to give Nisha access to Bunker.

'CLEARANCE HAS BEEN GRANTED. New occupant has arrived at the Bunker: Control Core. '

The fast travel bypassed ALL of the security measures. It was one hell of a hole in the Bunker's defences, but a necessity if Jack wanted to visit his Siren. 

Lawrence's attention turned to his appearance. His hands were stained purple and red. Standing up, he took a step back and examined his shirt; it was torn and also soaked in Eridium and Angel's blood.

Nisha would've arrived not far from the entrance to his loft, and she'd be outside his door any second. 

Lawrence hastily stripped his holster and stained shirt off and threw it under the dresser. His eyes caught sight of his reflection; his tall body was toned but not without damage. Years of battles and assassination attempts had left it scared in too many places to count. Every mark he got, Jack tried to 'fix'. He snatched the cleanest shirt available to him; it was his burgundy gym tank. Lastly, he shoved his brown leather gloves on to hide his stained hands and his holster back over his shoulders.

It was time to greet his unwelcome guest.

He opened the door to the stairwell and peered down the hall at Nisha. She leaned against the railing, head cocked to the side, and a captivating smile etched across her face, yet her eyes did not hold the same warmth.

"Where's your mask?" She accused as she tossed a dark strand from her face.

He gave her no reply and jerked his head over her shoulder to invite her in.

Nisha paused before ascending the stairwell, hips deliberately swaying with every step. She possessed a gorgeous frame for him to admire. Black hair cloaked the sides of her round face, and a toned body strode towards him. If only he could bring himself to forget who she was in every way possible.

Lawrence paced back to the kitchen and opened the top oak cupboards to search for his crystal tumblers.

"Drink?" He offered to his supposed ally.

She eyed him and gave him a slow nod. A broad smile never left her lips.

" Always," she cooed to him. 

Lawrence poured her a generous amount of scotch and slid the honey-coloured drink towards her.

"Did you know?" Lawrence questioned as he fiddled the cork back into the bottle. 

He knew full well that Jack would never have told her about his Siren daughter. If Jack hadn't confided the existence of Angel to him, then he wouldn't have told anyone else. 

Her eyes never left his as she twirled the crystal tumbler in her hand, inside the golden liquid danced. 

"No," She finally answered.

Nisha broke their gaze and looked down at her drink.  

Lawrence resisted the urge to sneer at her; she was hurting. Jack hadn't revealed that little secret. She broke out of her self-pity and turned back to meet his gaze.

"What happened here? Jack isn't saying anything?"

"Vault hunters show up, Vault hunters kill Jack's Siren daughter, Jack kills Roland, Jack takes Lilith, last of the Vault hunters escape. The end."

"And you?"

"Locked out of action."

Nisha raised a single thin brow.

"Jack's defences prevented me from getting into the room with the Siren. The Vault Hunters were never meant to get that far."

Nisha leaned further into the bench that kept them separated.

"You need to return to Helios, Jack's orders."

"Yeah that ain't happening," Lawrence scoffed at the absurdity of the idea.

"I'm meant to bring you in if you don't comply," her voice didn't waver.

"Jack's daughter is dead, and I was responsible for the security, so yeah, nah, not going. You'll just have to go back empty-handed." 

Lawrence shrugged his shoulders and gave her an empty look. 

The nails on her hands clinked against the glass as she ran them against the crystal. Her hand was an arm's length away from her holstered gun. Unbeknownst to her, Lawrence had a Hyperion revolver taped under the bench between them as well as the one holstered under his arm. If things were to go south, he'd have the upper hand. 

To his surprise, she sighed and took another long drink, and her gun remained holstered. 

"I'll give you twelve hours," she negotiated. "Just for Jack to cool off. Then you're coming in." 

He gave her a polite smile, followed by a nod of thanks. However, doubt crawled through him. Nisha's mercy was a rarity that Lawrence had not seen the likes off.

She finished her drink and tilted the glass towards him, indicating she was after a second; he obliged.

The tension was in the air he breathed, so thick he could choke on it. He quickly finished his drink and poured a second. Nisha hadn't made a move to leave, and she was still leaning into the table. Her coat parted and chest exposed.

"Are you going to show me around?" she purred.

Her eyes lingered on his bare arms, tracing the tattoos on his wrist and following the scars that decorated his biceps. Over the years, Nisha's appetite had grown. Before he was branded she thought of him nothing more than a cruel joke. However, as Lawrence killed and plundered Pandora, Nisha's interest grew. He could swear her fantasy involved him and Jack doing something unforgivable to her in the middle of The Dust. He raised a brow and turned to escape her hungry gaze, eagerly wanting to dismiss the thought.

A soft moan escaped from the back of his loft, and Lawrence's heart sprang in his chest; Angel was calling out to him. 

"What was that?" Nisha was abruptly pulled out of her fantasy. Eyes sharp and brow furrowed, she stood from her chair.

Lawrence gave Nisha no explanation.

He went for the gun under the table, in one swift motion, he swung it up and fired. It would've been a clean kill, but Nisha had spent her entire childhood dodging violence. She dove behind his couch before returning fire. Blood trickled to the floor, and Lawrence grinned: he'd hit her somewhere.

"Fuck you, you damn copy!" She cursed from behind the couch, and all tones of seduction were gone.

"What the hell was that?" She continued to curse, and Lawrence kept his aim focused.

He chose to evade her questions. "I was hoping you'd have more empathy than this Nisha!"

"What?" she sneered from behind her cover. 

"Jack imprisoned his daughter, chained her to Eridium injectors for years." He paused, he knew how to hit home. "I thought your mum gave you a few lessons in hurting children?" 

Nisha flung an absurd amount of vile curses at him. 

"What would you care!? You only knew of her existence a few hours ago!" She hissed at him.

She had him there.

Lawrence flexed his grip over his weapon. He despised having Nisha as an ally, yet she was the sheriff of an Eridium mining town. A substance he was in desperate need of. 

"All right there, Kiddo?" Lawrence mocked in a perfect imitation of Jack.

"Shut it!"

Lawrence still didn't have eyes on her, but it was evident she was bleeding out. Dark crimson was running through the grooves of his tiled floor from behind the couch.

"Nisha, I've got Jack's Daughter." 

The Lawbringer remained silent.

"She's in bad shape. Chances are she won't make it."

"So what? Are you trying to play hero here?" 

Lawrence clenched his teeth. That word had lost its meaning a long time ago.

"She needs more Eridium."

"Ha! Are you askin for my help?" She scoffed before taunting him, "I don't think so." 

"Nisha, goddammit, will you please —"

"You just fucking shot me," she shouted over him.

"I thought that would get your attention." He'd honestly just acted instinctively; he was better with a weapon than words.

"You've not got a lot of choices here, pumpkin," Lawrence stressed the use of the pet name and Nisha growled.

"Where's the girl?" Nisha finally spoke, her voice softening for the first time since their fire-fight.

"I'm going to lower my gun... I need you to stand up, slowly, for me."

"I don't think so, love," the bitterness returned to her voice. 

Lawrence's patience was up. He strode over to the couch. Gun aimed where he assumed Nisha's head would be. He turned the corner, anticipating a load of gunfire and thankfully, received none. 

He glared down at his fallen comrade. She was a few tints paler, and her left arm gripped her right shoulder, which was crudely bandaged with part of her shirt. Her gun sat poised in her other hand, aimed directly at his head. Her face unwavering in its fierce dedication to remain focused, and her gun arm was steady regardless of the blood loss.

"Idiot, " he muttered to her, and her lips twitched resisting a smile.

He offered her his hand with his gun still in the other. She stared at his open palm in disgust for a solid ten seconds before refusing it and shifted herself up the couch. She stood, legs firm on the ground, but her face was even paler than before.

Lawrence scoffed at Nisha's resistance, before walking back over to the kitchen. His face did not reveal the panic in his chest as he slowly turned his back to her. He found the emptied contents of the Ashin health-kit in his coffee mug. He gave it a light swirl to check it hadn't expired since being exposed. Satisfied it was still good, he gingerly made his way back to Nisha. 

He offered her the cup, and she glanced down at its red contents.

"Why is that, in a mug?"

"Just take it, will you?" Lawrence pressed.

He observed how her hand quivered as she reached for the glass; she scolded him when he took notice. Nisha pressed the mug to her lips and downed all of it. 

"Hey... Hey! Cut it!" He snatched the mug from her hands, "that's all we've got."

"Oh so, it's we now?"

Lawrence scowled.

"Come ere," he gruffed at her, again he exposed his back to the Lawbringer. Her footsteps steadied themselves behind him as she followed. Lawrence led her through the living room around the back to where his open bedroom sat. 

"Oh is foreplay over already?" She pressed her index finger deep into the back of his arm and ran it down before he yanked away. 

She stood at the end of his bed and gazed down.

"Honey I'm into some rough play, but what happened here?" She scanned his purple and blood-stained bed. 

Her eyes lingered on the empty syringe and the other two, full of Eridium on his bedside table.

"Jack got you so lonely, you're using for attention again?"

He gave her a dangerous look. 

She snaked her way from behind him and approached the set of needles. Lawrence pushed past her before she could reach for one. He leaned down and ran his hands along the invisible surface of the Siren. He found the round metal texture of his pocket watch, pried it open and switched the device off.

The Siren instantly appeared before them both.

Lawrence stepped back as Nisha moved towards the girl. She stood tall, and stared down at Angel, unaware that Lawrence could see her hand quiver before she clenched it tight.

"She looks nothing like him…" Nisha observed softly. Her hand unclenched as she reached out to touch the girl, assuring she was real.

"And what happened to her face?"

Lawrence grimaced at the mess he'd made; Angel's face was severely swollen on both sides and blood stained down her chin.

"Yeah, that was my bad." He reached for the emptied syringe and sucked up what Nisha had left in the mug. 

"Scoot over," he placed a hand on Nisha to push her away so he could sit down next to the girl.

He pressed the needle into her jaw and let the last of the health kit work its magic. Nisha folded both her arms, hips cocked to the side again. The health kit she'd drank earlier had done its work, as all evidence of their little shootout had left her body. 

Lawrence sighed and ran a hand over his jaw and considered his next words carefully:

"This stuff," he pointed over to the Eridium, "is the only thing keeping her alive. I think if I can ween her off it, she may be able to make it, but I need more Eridium, and it has to be in its liquid form."

"That's not going to be easy, Handsome."

Lawrence ignored the pet name and folded his arms, "I know, but you could get it for me."

"What makes you think I'd do that?"

Nisha sauntered a few steps towards him and lowered herself, so she was level with him on the bed.

"Jack would love to know that his favourite double brought his daughter back to life," she cooed to him, moving closer than he liked. 

Despite his reasoning, he still felt a hot flush run down his chest. 

"For god's sake Nisha," he growled and placed a hand on her chest to stop her advancements.

Annoyed at her rejection, she straightened back up. "Just because mummy threw a few things at me, doesn't mean I'm about to bail on my gig with Jack — which is lovely at the moment, thanks for asking — and go play hero with you."

Lawrence knew she would never betray Jack, but he had hoped he was wrong. 

"But…" She seemed lost for words. Lawrence jerked his head towards her and studied her face. Her jaw was tight, and her head gave the slightest nod before she spoke through clenched teeth. "I'll see that the girl lives."

Lawrence tried to contain his relief, but couldn't help but smile back up at her. He didn't dare ask why she agreed to help, but he had his suspicions. She could not let it slide that Jack had abused his daughter for years. His face must have revealed what he was thinking, and Nisha's round features screwed up as she hissed at him.

"Oh, it's not what you think. This is a transaction. I'll get something out of you later."

"Yeah, a spit-roast," Lawrence commented under his breath, 

Nisha ignored him. "Is she right to move?"

"Not likely and we can't use the fast travel option. Jack would notice a third person leaving the complex."

"Fine, she stays. You, with me."

Reluctantly, Lawrence said farewell to the Siren with a double dose of Eridium. He quickly put another shirt on over his gym tank (to Nisha's displeasure) before meeting her at the fast travel station.

Nisha selected 'Lynchwood'.

"Time for you to get cozy at my place." 

And they both digitised away.

Chapter Text

Lynchwood; it was a name and place she took pride in.

When Jack first asked her to run the county, she'd thrown her head back and laughed the idea off. It was nothing but a dead, barren place, full of decrepit lost souls, but it was her town, and with time she'd made it as she saw fit.

"This way," Nisha barked at Lawrence to follow. "And quickly now. I don't want these heathens to witness me escorting my 'boyfriend' around town."

She adjusted the golden star atop her jacket as she quickened her pace away from the train station: slowing only to take a moment to study her lover's double. His mismatched eyes were sharp, and they darted along the rooftops as if waiting for a trap to fall upon them.

"Relax, nothing to fear here," she deliberately concealed a reassuring tone.

They strode down the train tracks, not bothering with the perfectly usable path alongside it. Nisha felt a jolt of warmth run over her chest as she eyed some miserable soul hide beneath his window upon seeing her.

"I've always loved what you've done with the place," Lawrence gave her a toothy grin as he eyed the hanging corpses above the tracks.

"There are rules to be followed, Jack wanted order on Pandora, so I've given it to him," she asserted.

Lawrence just grumbled a "sure thing," but she paid him no mind. 

The double had never been fond of their vision for Pandora, sure he would head out on missions, kill bandits, comply with torture when needed, but she saw the doubt and conflict residing within him.

He may have Jack fooled, but she knew better. Regardless, she'd see him through his doubt;  I'll make a man out of him yet.

Her brisk pace came to a halt as they reached the far end of the mine, around a sharp corner an elevator lay waiting to escort them to the top of the canyon. She'd designed the place herself. Her manor was embedded into the side of the cliff so she could overlook every aspect of her dirt-ridden town. Twelve men died through construction when the scaffolding partially collapsed, that detail added extra flavour to her residence.

The elevator ride was loud, and the motor that pulled the cart to the top stalled once or twice. Nisha relished the sight of Lawrence grasping the railing in alarm as they neared the end of their accent. Contrary to what he may have told her, his fear of heights was still strong.

The doors opened to reveal her stone made apartment. The place was narrow and long, to allow for a massive window to run the length. Having an entire wall of natural light was a far cry from the dark, suffocating cages of Helios.

Jack just sometimes didn't understand raw, natural beauty. 

Nisha swayed past the double and led him into the kitchen, deliberately bending low as she sought out a cooler-bag for him.

Lawrence had followed silently, his eyes still shifting to every corner to identify a threat. His discomfort made something stir within in her; she could almost purr at his fear.

"So what's your heroic plan with the girl? Going to play papa and whisk her away?"

Lawrence took a deep breath before answering, "the less you know, the better. She can't go back to Jack."

Nisha replied with a low growl. Something irked her about this Angel. Was she really his daughter? They looked nothing alike. Maybe she was some Siren he just stole and got attached too?

Either way, with Lawrence running off with the girl she'd have the satisfaction of the hunt. Jack would never let his double go, and she'd be the first to raise her hand to bring him back.

Jack was too blinded to hurt the double himself. Too... involved.

Nisha shuddered with silent rage and bit down on her lip. She despised how her envy could take over. She caught Lawrence eyeing her up and down, and Nisha couldn't distinguish between the feelings of wanting to hit him or kiss him. Instead, she turned and sauntered over to her freezer. She placed both hands on the handles and pulled open the double doors, swaying to the side to dramatise the moment.

Lawrence stepped forward, and his eyes scanned the contents of the freezer.

"Eridium, all stocked here, this liquid stuff does wonders when you're feeling low."

Lawrence slowly turned, so his eyes latched onto hers, his dorky smile was replaced with a cold gaze as he reached to retrieve the cooler-bag from her grasp.

"I know precisely what it does," he spoke in a low snarl as he turned his attention to the freezer.

"Oh, I know darling, Jack told me about your little incident," she taunted back.

It felt good to watch his back stiffen at her words, payment for the taunts he'd delivered to her earlier. Jack had given her all of the delicious details, how he'd found his double passed out in his own stomach contents, the syringe still embedded in his arm and their place ransacked. Apparently, Jack's little copy couldn't keep his pretty little hands off the purple stuff. She would've given up ownership of the town to see that smug face of his withering in pain, suffering from weeks of withdrawals. She had resented Lawrence during that time as Jack had vented most of his anger towards her. Jack had taken weeks of work to smother that boy in affection to bring him back 'to the light.'

Envy reared its ugly head again as she bit down on her tongue to suppress the thought. She toyed with the idea of pushing the matter further, to see him riled up would be a sweet treat.

Jack was overly fond of his double, and despite her resentment, she could see why. He had Jacks looks, and more muscle tone than him, he was more sensitive, but he had a dry wit about him that she loved and his finesse in battle could not be underrated.

These days, Jack's handiwork with a gun was sloppy at best.

Nisha reaped in the sight as he leaned into the freezer to collect the bottled Eridium. It wouldn't be the first time she'd have Lawrence under her influence. Before he was stationed to guard that Siren, Jack had sent them out into The Dust to seek out some rare old Atlas tech. The mission proved fruitless; instead, they were ambushed by a heavily armed and coordinated gang of bandits, their attack caught them off guard, but they prevailed.

Lawrence had burst into hysterics from the high of the battle and their close scrape with death. His chest was painted crimson from a close-range shotgun blast, and his face was wild with relief. She'd never let her lust abate her, and she didn't then. Nisha had flung herself into her lover's copy, and he had reciprocated her with the same ferocity. All memory of the nervous and awkward double had been wiped from her mind. Ever since he'd been burned with the mark of the Vault, he had become a different man. Though he still had his faults: doubts about Pandora, but at least he actually accompanied her into battle.

Nisha's tongue rolled over her teeth at the memory, it had been a one-time thing, but she would never say no to round two.

Lawrence finished stashing the last of the bottled Eridium away.

"I suppose we won't be able to play anymore after this?" her tone as sly as the smile she gave the double.

"Guess not," he shrugged as he placed the full cooler-bag on the ground.

"I'm sure your princess can wait a little longer to be saved."

He sighed, "I can't, I have to—"

Nisha caught him by surprise with both her hands on his chest. Lawrence stumbled back into the open freezer, but he didn't protest. She heard him grunt as his back landed into the cold shelving, and she purred at his discomfort.

Lawrence drew a sudden sharp breath but didn't protest. 

She clawed a hand down his biceps before locking her teeth into his neck. Nisha took in everything she could: his scent was different from Jack's, and his collarbone was more pronounced. Her hands ran feverishly over his angular back; his shoulders were not as broad, oh but, he was so much fitter and firmer than the real Jack. Evidence of the double's fieldwork and a lack of Jack's.

Lawrence didn't pause to argue the situation, and Nisha was thankful for that. He made a pleased, low and growling sound and pressed his mouth to hers. Their kiss was violent, teeth hit teeth and tongues were nipped, it wasn't romantic or graceful, but Nisha couldn't care less.

Her hands slipped down his back, over his hips, going lower, seeking their mark. Lawrence only gripped her tighter, and a hot wave ran down her exposed navel. Nisha let out a shudder from the sudden sensation ripping through her abdomen, and slowly Lawrence's grip on her shoulders loosened. He leaned back, and his mismatched eyes rested on hers. His soft expression sharpened and the scars on his face contorted.

"So sorry, kitten" he sighed in a tone of mockery.

The pain overcame her lust, and Nisha stepped back to see Lawrence's unsheathed knife deep in her lower left abdomen. Hot blood had already soaked down her pants, and her hands shook over the embedded blade, unsure whether to leave it or shove the damn thing into his neck.

Lawrence's hand dived forward and drew the knife out. A curse tried to slip out, but she fumbled the words, her knees went weak, and she fell to the ground.

"You..cunt..." she hissed and looked up at him.

Lawrence had already lifted the strap of the cooler-bag over his shoulder and just gave her one of his hunched up shrugs. A smug and satisfied expression sat on his scarred face. He kneeled before her, with the knife now sheathed and a gun was in his hand.

"You know, I think I recognise this look," he spoke as his eyes trailed over her face, "yeah, it's  exactly  how I must've looked before you handed Jack that searing iron bar," he spoke with such venom she was sure his tongue was forked.

"You bastard" she grunted through her teeth, "you should thank me. That mark on your face made you everything you are" she heaved through sharp, shallow breaths. "You think I was interested in the man you were before that?!"

Lawrence only responded by standing back up, and the gun pointed at her head. Blood pooled beneath her. It took more energy than she cared to admit just to stare up at him.

"I can't have you crawling back to Jack, and I know how much you'd want to give him the good news about his dear Angel," the words were more Jack like than she could imagine, cruel and coated in glee.

She shuddered, as she said her next words:

"I won't tell him," she began to reassure him, but his gaze wielded no mercy.

"Yes, you would" He gave a brisk tisk and shook a finger at her.

"No, wait! Tim—"

The gun fired, and everything went black.

Chapter Text

Lawrence hated Fast travel.

The jump back to the Bunker brought on a wave of vertigo and Lawrence grimaced. He was still clutching his stomach as the Hyperion software finished digitising the last of his body and he tried not to think how a computer program was responsible for stitching every one for his atoms back together.

He'd had more than enough experience with his body being permanently changed, and he didn't dare stop to think what would happen if the program got it wrong.

Lawrence stood there for a moment longer, rubbing away the nausea, and yet, when he finally took his first step back into the Bunker, a feverish high swarmed him. He grinned, and took a deep breath, and remembered how Nisha's blood ran through the grooves of her stone flooring. The rest of her insides were sprayed across his chest and face, and he'd tasted the iron of her blood more than once. Lawrence wiped a hand down his front and removed what brain matter still clung to him. 

Gore didn't bother him anymore, save for the stickiness of it all. 

He made his way down the hall back towards his loft, and with every step, Nisha's pleading cry cemented in his mind. It was only now that he realised just how badly he'd wanted to destroy that smug confidence of hers. She'd been hovering behind him for years, with a festering hatred and voracious appetite. 

It amused him greatly that at her end, she'd even used his real name with her last beg for mercy. But only Jack was allowed to call him Timothy.

Lawrence instinctively looked to his wrist to check the time, only to remember his watch was still locked in his gear-chip. He couldn't have been gone for long, but he would have to treasure Nisha's departure later. More pressing matters needed to be dealt with: namely reviving a sick Siren.

Lawrence scanned himself through the security fields of his loft, before moving into a run to reach the Siren's side. The girl was still laying on his bed, pale and unmoved. He swiftly shoved the syringe into the bottled Eridium and gave her another dose. He ignored the tightness in his stomach. His hands were shaking as he placed the needle to the side, and a faint demand for the Eridium's influences screamed in the back of his mind.

Lawrence discarded the needle further out of reach.

He shifted awkwardly at her bedside: unsure if he should leave, or move and sit beside her on the bed. He was about to turn and seek out a chair when she stirred, and slowly began to wake. Slowly, one purple bloodshot eye opened and stared up at him, while the other laid behind her still wet hair. 

"Dad?" She whispered to him, and her voice sounded painfully hoarse.

He'd not anticipated she'd become responsive so quickly, and so Lawrence was left unsure on how to respond. He cleared his throat and made an awkward expression, that was an attempt at a greeting. 

"What keeps happening? I feel...odd," she said, and yet, he remained silent.

The girl — still dazed and glassy-eyed — ran a pale hand over her jaw, before holding it up to examine it. Her expression tightened when she saw the dried blood, and freshly cut strands of hair caught upon her fingertips.

"What happened to my face?" She asked, and still, Lawrence left her without answers.

But this didn't seem to concern her. Perhaps she was used to the silence, or maybe Jack simply didn't bother to answer her queries? That man had certainly left him with more questions than answers.  

She was alert now, and though the purple in her veins remained, the glazed look in her eye had faded. The girl searched her surroundings, and there was a clarity to her expression that had not been there before. Lawrence knew Eridium was a powerful regenerative catalyst — he'd seen it before — but he'd not seen it happen to another as fast as he did now. 

She'd literally been brought back from the dead. 

The swelling on her jaw was visibly declining, and Lawrence wondered if her teeth were growing back in that very moment.

The girl found her strength, and slowly, she shifted her weight onto her elbows and began to push herself up against the leather headboard. Lawrence was about to offer her his help, but he found himself unable to move. He bit the inside of his lip and stared at the headboard. The leather right behind the girls head was torn. His nails had sunk deep into one night, tearing at it like an animal bringing down a kill.

Lawrence returned his attention to the girl; he was about to ask her how she felt when she started to try and brush her hair. Her eyes then opened wide with terror, and she shrieked:

"What happened to my hair?!" Her hands frantically ran down strands of dark hair and tried to hold where the ends had once been.

Lawrence couldn't help but stare, and not because of her panic, but because of her eyes. He couldn't fathom how he hadn't noticed it before, but the eye behind her crudely chopped fringe was green; she had Jack's eyes. Lawrence's mouth stood agape as he just stared back at the mismatched eyes with his own. There was no mistaking it now; the Siren was indeed Jack's daughter.

Lawrence cleared his throat:

"What's the last thing you remember?"

As soon as he asked the question, the girl seemed to sink into the bed. He realised he'd spoked too harsh, too demanding. How did Jack talk to his daughter? He considered apologising but stopped himself. Jack wouldn't apologise, not even to his kid; he knew that much.

The girl had now looked away and rested her palms to her lap, as if in submission.

"I don't know. I don't remember," she said and twisted her fingers into the sheet over her lap. "Everything is so... foggy."

"Do you remember how you got here?"

She shook her head.

"But you know who I am right?"

She frowned at him, then her expression became confused, then almost frightened.

"Is that a trick question?"

"No," Lawrence quickly replied, "It's not."

The girl meekly nodded and then returned to combing her hair with her hands.

"I'm sorry about that," Lawrence gestured to the crude haircut. "you were – ah – sick. And it was everywhere, so I tried to cut it out." The lie was pathetic, but it was plausible.

The girl opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off:   

"I need you to try and tell me the last thing you remember. This is important," Lawrence paused, before remembering her name, "Angel."

Angel's gaze returned to stare at her blood tipped fingers and her lips pressed into a thin line. A deafening silence followed, and with every passing moment, Lawrence grew impatient. When he asked someone a question on Helios, he always got an answer; Jack was hard to ignore. 

"Angel?" He tried to withhold any bitterness in his voice and failed. 

She responded, by sitting up straighter. As if she were drawing to-attention to a senior officer.

"I was helping you with research," she finally answered, and her tone went flat, like that of an AI. It was horribly uncanny, and Lawrence found himself wanting to look away.

"Research on what?" He pressed and ignored the dead look in the girl's bi-coloured eyes.

"I believe I was helping you research...the contagion."

"Contagion? Space-hurps?"

She nodded meekly, and her hands began to twist the sheets together.

"What about it?"

"We were looking at the best way to administer the vaccination. I think. It's not all clear."

"Fricken hell", Lawrence cursed under his breath. That was four years ago. Hyperion developed the vaccine after Colonel Zarpedon infected the bowels of Helios. Lawrence remembered when R&D gave Jack the news; he was ecstatic. He had conquered the last insult and injury the Lost Legion had inflicted on him. Jack wanted no trace of Zarpedon's legacy: no one to doubt his victory on Elpis and in the Vault. Lawrence took a deep breath. He'd been branded shortly after that. 

That was so long ago; did Angel remember what Jack did to her; How long she'd been at the Bunker and pumped full of Eridium? This place must have been built after Jack became CEO. Was she here all that time?

Lawrence knew full well the effects of Eridium on the brain. He'd lost large chunks of time, and the memories that did come back were fleetly and sporadic. He regrettably had to rely on Jack to fill him in during these times of blackness.

"Dad, what's going on. Did I... do something?"

"Nothing," Lawrence said, and this time tried to make himself sound more reassuring. He clearly failed, as when she replied, her voice was shy and quiet:

"Ok," she said, and her hands clenched the sheets again. "Where am I?"

"You were sick," Lawrence lied. "Very, very sick. I've put you on an Eridium treatment plan to get you back on your feet."

"What?!" Angel immediately threw off the sheets and stared down at the purple in the veins running up her arms and legs.

"It's ok," Lawrence called, trying to reach her through her panic. "It's only a few small doses." Another lie.

Angel's gaze found the large empty syringes on the dresser, and her complexion grew paler.

"It doesn't look like a small dose."

Lawrence's patience for convincing her was up, and he turned to leave. He had to start packing. Jack will be waiting on Nisha's return. 

"Where are we?" Angel called.

"Pandora."

"What! Why? Why move me? I thought you said I was safe on the satelight. Why did you—"

"We need to get moving," he cut her off. "There's a safe house not too far from here. Once we're there I'll explain everything." Lawrence sighed and ignored the glare from the girl. 

"But, ah, first, those clothes, you can't wear those." Lawrence gestured to her waist, and Angel's eyes looked down at the blood and Eridium that soak her outfit. It wasn't Anything Lawrence had seen a teenager wearing before; her clothes were more leather straps and cords than fabric. What on earth was Jack thinking? 

"Oh," she exclaimed quietly once realising the state she was in.

Lawrence moved to his dresser and tossed the girl one of his grey tees and a Hyperion yellow sweater. Before he could source her some pants, she yelled out in protest:

"I'm not wearing your clothes! That's just weird."

"Unless you've got a second outfit around here, you're wearing this."

She huffed and shoved her hand forward, waiting to accept the clothes.

"Get changed, we're leaving in ten." With the matter settled, he threw her the smallest sized pants he owned. He had many to spare. Jack was always ordering clothes a size too small: his own special way to encourage Lawrence's weight loss. 

Lawrence left and moved to the kitchen to provide Jack's daughter with some privacy. The bottle of scotch was still on the bench, and so he poured himself a glass to subside his nerves. The drink went down quickly and so a second one was issued and then a third.

"I'm done," Angel announced and Lawrence swallowed down the last of his drink.

He turned to face the girl's newly dressed form. She cautiously stepped towards him, pulling at his sweater, so it sat more like a dress than a top. She looked ridiculous in his clothes, though they were more appropriate for travel than what she had been wearing previously.

"What do you want me to do with these?" 

She held up her grey, black and yellow leather outfit. Lawrence placed down his drink and took the bundle of clothes off the girl.

"Stay put, I'll be right back."

Carrying the clothes, he returned to her chamber. He refused to look at the building pools of Eriduim and made his way to the centre. Tossing the clothes back where she once lay, he stood and watched for a moment as the purple alien liquid started to foam against the leather. His stomach churned, and he hastily turned and exited the room, his hands absentmindedly rubbed at the inside of his arm. All he could hope for now was that Jack bought the story of his daughter dissolving away into the toxic substance.

When he returned to his loft, he found the girl on his balcony.

"I know it's not real, but it feels so close to being outside," she said, followed by a soft smile.

The girl continued to watch the simulated night sky through the holo-screens, her expression serene. Lawrence watched her a moment longer; her longing gaze at the world beyond was painfully too familiar. He left the girl to her small comforts and returned to his bedroom before stripping his blood-soaked shirt. Funnily enough, Angel had paid no mind to the gore that was all over him. He pulled a clean henley shirt over his head, then followed by his leather holster, and finally a brown leather bomber jacket. Next, Lawrence made sure to install as much equipment he could fit into his gear-chip, along with a few days of pre-scanned rations. Everything he could think of went into the gear-chip, except the syringes and the cooler bag of Eridium.

"Kiddo, it's time to go," he called out, and he quickly checked his composure in the mirror before leaving.

Entering the kitchen, he fidgeted with the strap of the Eridium bag against his shoulders: the weight of the bag felt far heavier than it should. 

Angel hadn't responded. He found her still leaning towards the holo-screens, watching the land beyond.

"Angel!" His sudden call snapped her out of whatever peaceful thought she was in, and she swung around to face him, face pale and startled. "Come over here. Please"

Lawrence forced the pleasantry. Being Jack for so long, there were certain words he just wasn't used to saying: 'Please', 'thank you', 'I'm sorry'.

She gingerly stepped towards him and her once soft features were now furrowed in concern. Lawrence only felt a fleeting moment of guilt for startling the girl.  

"I need you to carry this."

He held out the Eridium cooler bag for her to take. Without question, she slowly reached for the strap and swung the bag over her head. The weight of the bag sank into her, pulling her shoulders into a slump. She stood there for a moment, clearly uncomfortable until she bowed her head and seemingly found her courage to speak up:

"Can't you put it in your gear chip? I don't really feel up to carrying Anything."

"No," Lawrence said. He immediately regretted his harsh response as the girl's expression and shoulders sank further.

"I just...can't be around the Eridium, ok?" He offered her his weak excuse before removing his pocket watch. "I also need you to wear this."

He beckoned her to come closer, and she looked unsure, almost afraid until she saw him holding out the clocking device.

"Your pocket watch?"

"Here, stand still." 

Angel froze, almost robot-like and Lawrence felt that jarring uncanny response again. What on earth had Jack done to elicit such a machine response from his daughter?

"There we go," he said and forced some warmth into his voice. He attached the clocking device onto Angel's Hyperion sweater; the weight of it dragged the large garment further down her slight frame.

She scoffed and forced a smile.

"I look ridiculous."

"Don't worry, no one is gonna see you in a sec."

She crossed her arms, and Lawrence only just made out the mumble that came next:

"No one ever does..."

He pretended he didn't hear.

"Angel, we need to leave this place, and absolutely no one can see you. Do you understand?"

She nodded and looked down at the item now adored on her chest.

"Good," he sighed and shifted his holster again. "Don't say a word and stay close to me."

She nodded again, and Lawrence was thankful there were no further questions or complaints. 

They couldn't use the fast travel; Jack would notice a second occupant leaving the complex, plus, he'd be able to track Lawrence's bio-signature. Using a Hyperion airship or vehicle was out of the question; the combined efforts of the Vault Hunters and the BNK3R had torn up any usable transport. The only option left was to walk out the front door.

Lawrence checked his gear over one last time before heading towards the exit. It was finally time to leave this skag-shit show or a situation and hell-hole he'd been forced to call home. 


They met zero resistance from the Loader-bots; a positive sign that Jack hadn't yet programmed in any commands to prevent him from leaving. Which meant his betrayal had still gone unnoticed. Angel was concealed, and so he only had the soft trail of her footsteps to inform him she was still close by. 

He wouldn't put it past the girl to bolt. But for now, she still thought of him as Jack; he still had some leverage. 

Scorch marks and blood decorated the halls exiting the Bunker, and once in the open, their path turned into a long road which sloped around the mountainside. Lawrence kept close to the gravel wall, not wanting to get a glimpse of the ravine below. He never planned he would have to forfeit the use of Fast-Travel stations, and now he'd happily take the digital-jump over the current vertigo he was experiencing. This was just the start; the journey to his safe house was going to be long, and he hoped the girl could make it.

"What time is it?" Angel hissed, and Lawrence scolded at her for breaking her silence.

"Early. It won't be daylight for another twenty-two hours. So watch your step, stay quiet, and stay close."

They continued to trudge downhill in the darkness, carefully taking the time to evade the fallen loader bots and dead Hyperion soldiers. Sparks still flew from some of the destroyed loaders, and their 'corpses' creaked as they cooled in the night. 

"What happened here?"

"Angel, quiet," he hissed. It would only take one loader bot to register her voice and send the details back to the real Jack.

When the road evened out, and the final security field was in sight, Lawrence sighed in relief. They were almost out. Next, they needed transport. Perhaps they could snag a vehicle from a nearby camp? But whatever he planned to do next, he would still need to travel through no-man's land: a barren wasteland scarred with craters from either combatant's bombs and snipers.

The safe house was all the way to the north of the Highlands on the edge of The Dust, a five hundred kilometre journey, impossible on foot undetected. He scouted ahead: looking for a path forward, or something to shield them from the bandit's snipers.

"There," Lawrence said and pointed ahead. "That truck, we're taking that."

Angel had seemingly taken off the clocking device and was now squinting at his side.

"Ok," she answered slowly, evidently unsure as to why he needed to steal a bandit truck.

Lawrence turned and rested a hand on her shoulder; he ignored how she flinched at his touch.

"I'll explain everything once we get to the safe house."

She nodded meekly, and the rings around her eyes were so dark against her pale skin. 

"How are you feeling? Before we move, you may need another dose." Lawrence looked down at the bag, strapped over her shoulder.

"I'm ok."

"Good." However, he did not believe her. "For now, it'll be best if you stay put. I'll bring the truck over."

He frowned, realising she was still not under the cloaking device. "And keep it on," he warned.

He didn't dare think what a group of bandits would do if they caught her. He wasn't sure what was worse, that she was a prized Siren or Handsome Jack's daughter.

The truck he hoped to steal was fifty, no, maybe seventy meters away. Lawrence digitised his sniper out from his gear-chip and activated its night vision. Looking down the sight, he saw that the Bunker's torrents had taken out the truck. The roof of the car was littered with holes and picked clean corpses from the rakk’s lined the ground. The engine looked relatively intact: proof that the torrents accuracy was deadly precise as they had seemingly only hit its bandit targets.

Lawrence drew in a long, deep breath, before taking his first step out into the open and unoccupied territory. His heart instantly quickened but he kept his focus ahead on his goal. Stalking towards the car, he kept low to the ground, every so often he darted to a bomb crater for shelter. 

The ground was barren except for the drying remains of bones and casing shells. He wondered if there was Anything valuable to loot? No one walked through these parts, so the chances of a good find were high.

A faint crack echoed in the distance, snapping him out of his thoughts.

A second later he was violently flung to the ground.

"DAD!" The girl shrieked in the distance.

Before Lawrence could register the pain, he rolled back into the crater. The sniper from the Slab King's bandit camp fired again but this time only claimed the dirt above him. Pain seared up Lawrence's arm, and he yanked up his jacket to find the injury. 

"Fuck," he cursed and gripped the wound to stop the bleeding. 

At least there was an exit wound, and the bullet hand only tore through the muscle at the edge of his shoulder. Lawrence buried the back of his head into the dirt, and kept himself as level with the ground as possible. There was another shot from the gunman and more dirt flew overhead. Brick's snipers were a terrible shot; if they were half as good as he, Lawrence would be dead. 

He held the wound tighter and searched the edges of the mountainside for Angel. Panic rose his chest; the girl was nowhere to be seen. He scouted up the road to the Bunker, and he couldn't see her there either. Lawrence convinced himself she was under the cloaking device and was fine, that was until movement caught his attention in his peripheral vision. Over to the nearest crater, he saw the dirt shift on the ground.

"No, you stupid girl."

With wide eyes, he watched as the ground shifted towards him. One by one, footsteps printed into the earth, but there was nobody to accompany them. Lawrence cursed again when he felt her presence lean into the crater next to him. Angel switched the cloaking device off and re-appeared: her eyes shone bright with panic and dirt covered her knees.

"What are you doing?" He almost shouted at her.

"Saving you!" 

Lawrence gripped his arm: blood seeped through his clenched fingers, and a cloud of dizziness was already creeping over his mind. Angel caught sight of the wound, and her expression became pained with worry and apprehension.

"What do I do?" She asked.

“Fuck.” Lawrence gritted his teeth. He had few options and he favoured none of them. "At my hip, there's a hunting knife." 

Angel reached for it and pulled the blade from its leather pouch. 

"Ok, careful now, tear my shirt. find a bit that's not covered in dirt."

"Don't you have Anshin hypo? A health-kit? Anything?"

"I used them all on you."

"What are you talking about?" She blurted back.

"Dammit, Angel, just tear the shirt."

For a moment, she looked ready to argue back, but then she stared at the bullet wound again, and her expression turned to determination. She didn't reach for his shirt. Instead, she lifted her Hyperion jumper and began to hack at the t-shirt she wore underneath. 

"Fuck," Lawrence winced as he leaned forward, removing his shoulder further out of his jacket. All while careful not to expose the top of his head from their crater. "Ok, I'm going to let go, I need you to wrap it around firmly. Ok?"

"Got it," she said and nodded.

Lawrence released his hand, and his arm immediately started to throb and spill crimson. Angel wrapped the torn fabric over his shoulder and then twisted it into a firm knot. 

"Atta girl," Lawrence breathed out a sigh of relief. "Ok, now we gotta —"

"Wait here," Angel cut him off, and before Lawrence could stop her, she switched the cloaking device back on.

"No! Angel! Dammit! Get back here!" He reached out to hold her in place, but all he snatched was thin air and another close miss with the sniper's bullet.

Lawrence used his good arm to dig deeper into the crater and lodge his back into the hole, there he waited. If he followed he'd be surely gunned down, so he had no choice but to wait. The seconds dragged on; Lawrence shut his eyes, praying he wouldn't hear another gunshot in the distance. Yet the night remained silent, not even the screech from nearby rakk’s nest spilled into the night.

Lawrence took another deep breath, the pain in his arm was fading and so was his focus. The wound wasn't deep, but blood was quickly seeping through the fabric, and down his side. He needed to readjust the bandage but didn't dare maneuver in the shallow crater in which he laid.

Or else it would become a shallow grave. 

An engine stalled in the distance, and Lawrence felt panic and victory at the same time. Angel had reached the truck. The engine revved again but died; she tried once again and still, the truck failed her. A gunshot echoed across the valley, and Lawrence felt his heart pull tight. The night seemed to stall, and he wanted nothing more than to peep over his dirt wall.

The truck's engine started up again, and this time it didn't fail her. The bandit truck and its ridiculous turbo engine roared to life, and if the gunshots hadn't woken up the entire valley, then that sure did.

Lawrence flung himself from his dirt bunker and sprinted head-on for the truck. Gunshots rang out, and the dirt either side of him exploded from the impacts. His shot-arm throbbed in pain as he raced forward. Another bullet tore so close to him he felt the heat radiate through his jacket.

"Scoot over, kiddo!"

Angel hastily climbed over into the passenger side as Lawrence threw himself into the truck. He tried to swing the door close only to find it was too bent out of shape to seal shut. Ignoring his seatbelt, he put the truck into gear and threw his foot onto the peddle.

Dirt flew up behind the vehicle as Lawrence reversed the truck out of the ditch that had claimed it. Satisfied they were in the clear he sped onwards, changing gears as the truck was pushed to its limits. He didn't stop for anything, even when Angel yelled at him as he hit a skag’s den. 

They breached the edge of no-mans land and sped on into the night.

Chapter Text

Lawrence had been shot with a sniper once before, it hurt like hell then, and it hurt like hell now. The first time was years ago: an unsuccessful assassination attempt against his, and to an extent, Jack's life. 

The location was Opportunity, and Lawrence was there to oversee the construction of some ludicrous building dedicated to Jack’s achievements. 

He should have died that day, but Jack saw to it that he lived.   


“How’s it lookin?” Jack called through the echo-comm. 

"Everything is fine, sir," Lawrence drawled while expressing the faintest hint of mockery.

He could not outright betray Jack, not yet, not without further details on his Siren. So for now, Lawrence's provocative was to toe the line between complying and dragging his feet around Helios. Handsome Jack may have branded him for his past adversities (and for a while, it did put him inline), but Lawrence had now discovered the best way to avoid Jack's suspicion was to keep him focused on appearances. 

The hair was never quiet styled right or one too many buttons were left undone. He'd purposely hit the wrong tones with his Handsome Jack impersonation, or he just outright didn't shower.

You could see the gears turning, possibly tearing up brain tissue behind Jack's eyes. Handsome Jack wanted to hurt him, to punish him again. However, Lawrence was only a few weeks out of recovery from his 're-branding', and Jack said it himself, he was a 'valuable asset'. So Jack would only draw a sharp breath, correct Lawrence's behaviour, and dismiss him.

The game between them continued: Lawrence slacked off, and Jack belittled him. At least they were now a safer distance apart. Lawrence was stationed at Opportunity.

"Dammit, you're a mess," Jack hissed over the echo feed, "Fix your coat and what on earth did you put in your hair? Wash it."

"Yes, sir."

"No." Jack bared his teeth and leaned in close to the camera. "Say it." 

Lawrence flinched and replied. It was too easy to forget who he was talking to.

"Yes, Jack."

Lawrence bit his tongue. The name left a sour taste in his mouth and only with intense concentration could he hide his disgust. 

It was amazing how quickly Jack could drop and lift the veil of cruelty. He leaned back in his office chair, kicked his feet onto the table and smiled widely.

"Status."

"Right," Lawrence mumbled, earning him a flicker of disapproval for his lack of conviction.

"Everything here is lookin sharp," Lawrence rolled the last two words over his tongue and smiled with a signature Jack grin. God, it made him feel sick. "The statues have been commissioned to your—our, specifications.”

Lawrence reviewed the specs on the holo-pad. The dimensions, weights, and costs for multiple gold statues of Jack defending Pandora rose from the screen. Lawrence’s lip curled. The statues looked ridiculous and as tasteless as mud, just like everything else Jack designed.

“Good,” Jack praised before his tone turned bitter. “Next, find that lead engineer for me and shoot him in the face, but do it somewhere, where it won’t make a mess. I don’t want his brains ruining my white paving.”

Lawrence's jaw clenched at the violent request. He didn’t expect an explanation, yet it turned out Jack was in a forthcoming mood today.

“I’ve been calling him all morning, and get this? The guy has taken off to see his sick mother or something. Anyway, handle that for me. Better yet shoot the mother first see if that brings him back to work if not, that's one less welfare check I gotta send."

Lawrence kept his jaw firmly shut and stayed silent. One slip up and Jack's precious white pavement would be covered in Lawrence's breakfast.

Jack continued to ramble off a list of tasks that may or may not have involved additional violence. However, Lawrence had already tuned out and just mumbled in reply:

"Yes, Jack," over and over into the comm. 

He had to force himself numb for the task at hand. Since Elpis, he'd become pretty good at killing, especially in the heat of the moment, but he was better when he wasn't there at all.

If someone saw him now, they'd question if anybody was living behind the mask he wore.

This was how he survived, and this is how he killed.

Lawrence hadn't paid attention to where he wandered. He'd already switched on the autopilot, and his mind was locked away someplace dark, preparing for slaughter.

The hammering, shouts of construction workers and beeps of loaders seemed distant. Lawrence stopped walking. It was only now that he realised how very alone he was. The hairs on the back of his neck stood tall, and his eyes narrowed as he scouted the area. 

Something felt off; he tried to explain it to Jack but to no avail.

“Jack wait—”

“Don’t ever cut me off, kiddo,” Jack’s voice was dangerously low, but Lawrence paid it no mind. He rounded the corner to check the perimeter only to find no one there as well.  

Where the hell was his security team? Was there a shift change?

As Jack gave him grief for the interruption, Lawrence swivelled on the spot, hand reaching for his weapon.

He didn’t hear the gun, but he heard his head collide with the concrete. The sickening thud rang in his ears and momentarily blinded him. Lawrence coughed and struggled to breathe. He reached for his neck and found a sticky wetness covering him. Crimson painted his fingertips, and soon his shirt was soaked with blood.

He spluttered while trying to call for help, and more blood oozed down his throat.

His echo-comm had fallen to his side. He was too winded to grasp it, and all he could do was listen to Jack continue to yell:

"The hell are you?!"

Slowly, Lawrence inched towards the comm, but the effort registered him to the pain. Lawrence cried out, hoping Jack couldn't hear his pain. He took a sharp breath and looked down at his chest; The bullet wound was too high, but he could see the blood sticking to his undershirt. 

Lawrence's hand finally reached echo-comm, and he pulled it to his chest.

"Fuck!" He cried, and the hurt overwhelmed him.

Bloodied hands fumbled with the echo as he called the loaders to his side. The nearest jumped from a rooftop just in time to cop a second bullet for him. Then a second, and third loader came until they surrounded him with a team metal, protecting him from the onslaught.

Wearily, he held the echo-comm up and was thankful Jack hadn’t disconnected the call.

Jack’s eyes were sharp and his teeth bared. He yelled at him for being unresponsive before his eyes widened as he realised Lawrence’s condition. The look of shock quickly changed into something new; a look Lawrence had never seen on Jack. His mouth was agape, and his expression softened for the first time. 

“How...” Jack’s face remained flustered, yet that small ounce of concern was quickly thrown aside. “What happened!? What have you done to yourself!?”

All Lawrence could do in reply was cough blood onto the screen before he rested his head back on the ground. Voices yelled in the distance. You could practically smell panic in the air. The edges of his vision darkened, and soon it consumed him and then there was nothing. 


Handsome Jack was indestructible; Handsome Jack was a hero who couldn’t be taken down; Handsome Jack could survive a bullet and return to work that day! 

These were only some of the news reports which circled the echo-net over the week. 

While Lawrence laid in bed recovering from the failed assassination attempt, the real Jack claimed the glory. Jack held a press conference and blamed the attack on militants from Elpis. Meanwhile, Lawrence was administered a toxic combination of drugs that saw him delirious and feverish.

Every muscle became numbed and too heavy to move. Opening his eyes took more coordination than he could manage, and it was only when they were weaning him off, could he fully wake.

A pale purple IV bag hung above him. He asked a series of slurred questions at the Hyperion doctors, hoping they'd explain what was in the bag, but they never answered him.

He had his suspicions. 

It was just like last time when he woke with the brand on his face and the time before that when he woke with a new face altogether. Masked doctors wordlessly tended to him, and he remained confused and alone. His body belonged to Jack, with all rights waived long ago.

Lawrence hadn’t fully registered the room he was in. He knew by the unrecognisable decor he was someplace new, but the drugs had practically held him immobile up to this point. Propping himself up on his arms, he craned his neck to inspect his new surroundings. The walls adorned marbled black wallpaper, the quilt covers decorated in a splashed yellow and black pattern, and strangest of all: that disinfectant hospital smell wasn’t in the air. He must have been moved to an executive suite in the hospital as he couldn't be in the ICU anymore. 

Lawrence let out a low sigh, more akin to a growl and ran a hand along the bridge of his mask. He was forbidden to remove it, even if he were recovering in hospital. A grooved wooden door — unusual for Helios — with a notable glass handle turned. Lawrence's hands dropped from the mask just as the door swung open, revealing Handsome Jack.

Lawrence's blood turned to ice, and the heart monitor beside him revealed his fright with erratic beeping. Jack just snorted at his reaction but remained in the doorway.

The last time Jack visited him in bed was after the branding, and Jack was more than eager to get his hands all over him. Lawrence hoped this visit didn't entail the same purpose.

“How are you recovering, kitten?” 

Lawrence couldn’t identify the hitch in Jack's tone. But it was worrying enough that Jack wasn't all over him or blinded with rage. He studied Jack a moment longer, and there it was: the flash of anger in his eyes, the twitch in his brow. He was furious. The man saw Lawrence's body as an extension of his own, and any scar or damage to it was damage to his propriety. 

“Does anything hurt?” Jack queried flatly, his eyes trailed off Lawrence over to the purple IV bag above his bed.

“I'm ok,” Lawrence squeezed out.

Jack lingered in the doorway and stared at him intently; there was an unmistakable glint in his eye that caused Lawrence's chest to compress. 

"That's good. Can't have anything happening to you, now can we?"

Lawrence did not answer. It was always best not too. 

Jack sighed and bore a bright smile before finally entering the room and helping himself up on the bed.

Lawrence hadn’t seen Jack face-to-face in some time, but his sharp features were still the same, always on edge and just a moment away from revealing a maniac laugh or violent rage. These days, most of their conversations were through comms. There wasn’t much of a point to a double if they were in the same place at the same time.

“I’ve come to welcome you to your new home,” Jack continued in the same flat tone.

Lawrence's jaw dropped and found no response. 

“Don’t look like that. I don’t wear expressions like that,” Jack’s said, his voice somewhere between annoyance and amusement. 

“Where am I being moved to?”

“You’re already here, pumpkin.” Jack swept his arm towards the doorway. 

This time Lawrence kept his jaw clamped shut, but his eyes widened. Was he going to be living in the hospital?

Jack ignored him and reached for the IV above him. 

Lawrence hadn’t been close to Jack for a long time, not since the wretched man had seared his face open. But he recognised there was something different to his composure. Jack's clothes were slightly more creased, he wasn’t wearing his cologne, and his hair was more oily than usual. He looked like a man unravelling. 

Jack finished whatever he was doing with the IV bag and moved towards Lawrence's arm. It took more effort than he’d cared to admit to not flinch from Jack’s touch. With confident and swift movements, Jack dislodged the IV and removed the heart monitor from Lawrence's hand. Yet, he wasn't prepared for Jack to reach for his chest, and this time, Lawrence jolted, back into the pillows.

"Easy, kitten."

“Wh-what are you doing?” Lawrence mentally cursed for the stutter.

Jack smirked, and Lawrence continued to fumble his words, protesting as Jack closed in. He held his breath, expecting Jack to slide a hand under the covers. Instead, Jack pulled down Lawrence’s shirt to reveal the bandages against his collarbone. Jack’s touch was gentle, but the madman's ability to switch between tenderness and rage was impeccable. 

One by one, Jack removed the bandages with care and discarded them to the side. Lawrence bit down on his tongue, realising what Jack was after: he wanted to know if the sniper wound had not left a scar.

It had.

The tenderness in Jack was gone. His mask screwed up in a scowl, and his voice dropped to the same low pitch he used when violence was about to occur. 

Look what they did to us.”

Lawrence pushed further back into the pillow. Surprised, buy Jack's choice of words. If anything he’d expected him to go into a fit of rage, cursing him for wounding his body. But Jack said nothing and kept his hand resting on the exposed flesh of Lawrence's neck.

Lawrence tucked his head in a poor attempt to see the mark. Unable to do so, he traced his fingers over the freshly healed wound: careful to avoid Jack's hand, which still rested nearby. 

Who had shot him? How had the security team failed? But Lawrence didn’t dare press the matter. If any fault had fallen on him and he reminded Jack of it, then it would break the thin ice he was already on.

After some time, his employer finally leaned away from the bed, and Lawrence let out the tiniest sigh of relief as he reclaimed his personal space. But the moment of peace was short-lived; a painful shudder ran up his spine, every muscle ached, and his stomach turned. Lawrence groaned at the sudden discomfort. 

“That's the Eridium leaving your system,” Jack explained without an ounce of sympathy. 

“Feels awful,” Lawrence grumbled.

He rubbed his neck before another shiver racked his body. It felt like a hangover combined with the aftermath of a marathon.

“Get up," Jack slapped a hand to Lawrence's chest and stood up. "I’ll show you how to administer your Eridium treatment.

The moment Jack left the room, Lawrence threw off the covers. Being in Jack's company was dangerous, being in bed, more so. 

He had no clothes to change into, so all he could wear were the clothes he woke up in: a simple yellow tee and sweatpants with Hyperion branding.

Lawrence's first step was painful, and his legs shook, protesting to give out. He couldn't have Jack witness him in such a weakened state (being vulnerable was another situation he had to avoid around Jack). Lawrence performed some basic stretches, and once he was comfortable that he'd regained some semblance of control, he gingerly stepped towards the exit. 

Lawrence entered a long hallway. Paintings decorated the walls, a thick, plush, black rug covered the floor, and warm low hanging lights lined the roof. He absolutely was not the hospital ward. Closed doors lined the hall to every side. Lawrence tried to keep his movements steady, but dread was taking over, and his legs started to shake again. 

Someone was at the very end of the hallway — assuming it was Jack — Lawrence pursued the noise. 

Reaching the end of the hall, he took a turn to the right and found himself in a shorter passage which opened up to a vast room. Jack was in the kitchen rummaging through a freezer, and Lawrence's heart raced as fast as his thoughts, and before he could stop himself, he blurted out the first thing:

“I’m living with you!?”

Jack snorted before replying, “Don’t get too eager. No, you have your own apartment through there.”

Jack waved a hand towards a pair of rather large glass French doors. A smaller lounge (or waiting room?) sat on the other side, and beyond that, another pair of French doors led to a room identical to the one he was standing in. 

Lawrence took a few hesitant steps into the kitchen. Like a domestic pet, in the den of a beast, Lawrence was rightly out of place.

Jack ignored him and continued to shuffle things around in his fridge. Lawrence carefully approached. The living room beyond was vast, grand, and everything was marble or covered in gold accents. A beautiful set of royal blue upholstered couches overlooked a sleek entertainment system, the kitchen had a wide island bench, and Lawrence found himself gravitating towards it.

He used to have time to cook. He even enjoyed it.

Lawrence bit his lip. He had perfectly acceptable quarters only a few levels below. They were nowhere near as grand as this and thankfully didn't have a private medical room. The very idea that needles and sharp equipment could linger so close to where he slept made him shiver. Lawrence hugged his arms and hoped Jack did not notice.

Jack started to hum, and Lawrence took it as a sign that his mood had improved. He wouldn't waste this opportunity to ask a question or two.

“Why move me here?” He asked slowly.

“Cause Kiddo, to be perfectly honest you gave me quite the fright.”

“Excuse me?” Lawrence raised a brow. Handsome Jack doesn’t get scared. Well, he certainly wasn't allowed to. 

“Nearly lost you down on Opportunity, can’t have anything like that happening again.”

Lawrence could not dismiss the warning in his voice.

“I figured here, I can keep a closer eye on you. Maybe you’ll even learn something yourself, improve that heinous impersonation of me you do.”

Lawrence crossed his arms; he couldn’t help but retort back. “Fooled your workers and more importantly, your assassins.”

Our assassin's,” Jack corrected, “You're a Jack. I don't want to hear you saying otherwise."

Lawrence rubbed the back of his neck and held down the lump in his throat. There was no more Timothy, and anyone who met a shadow of who he used to be, was now long gone. Athena and Aurelia fled, even the damn claptrap had survived and buggered off. He wondered where Athena was now, had she made it back to Janey? Jack had gone on for days about the assassination squad he sent after her. 

“Stop thinking with that pretty noggin of yours, and get over here,” Jack called and curled his finger towards him. 

Lawrence approached the bench. The sickness in his stomach lapped inside him as he realised what Jack had pulled out of the freezer. Several vials of a very faint purple substance laid across the black marble.

“One every day for three days, then two thirds, one third, got it?”

Lawrence nodded, and Jack pushed the vials or Eridium towards him, along with a syringe.

If his stomach wasn't already empty, he was sure the contents of it would be all over Jack’s bench. The silver point of the needle burned into his mind and Lawrence violently tore away and rested his hands on his knees.

"The hell is wrong with you!?" Jack snarled and marched around the table.

“Can't do needles,” Lawrence groaned.

A rough hand grabbed the back of his neck and yanked him upright.

“Yes, you can," Jack breathed into his ear. "And you will. Got it?”

Lawrence nodded but quickly realised his mistake.

"Yes, Jack."

"Good," and Jack released him. 

Despite the order, and unspoken threat, Lawrence was unable to administer the Eridium himself. On the third day, Jack caught him in his kitchen, dispensing the vial into his mug. He'd planned to drink it, but Jack did not care for his explanation. He snarled at him and called him pathetic as he held him down and shoved the needle into his arm — missing a few times — before landing in a vein. 

"Why do you have to make everything so fricken difficult," Jack breathed heavily, and fixed his coat from their last struggle. 

Lawrence merely shrugged. Jack appeared less of a threat once the alien solution was in his system. He guessed it was dulling his senses, shielding him from reason, and the fact he was sitting opposite to a predator.

Despite Jack's complaints that Lawrence wouldn't take his 'medicine' the man never objected too much. Having a hand on him seemed to ease Jack's temper, and so Lawrence allowed it, for now.

The rough play with each dosage continued, but towards the end of the week, the smell came. At first, Lawrence couldn't place it. He initially dismissed it as mildew on his clothes from days of not washing them or the thick oil in his hair.

But the smell seemed to follow him into his dreams, and crawl over his skin. 

After Jack finished administering one of his dosages, he asked:

"The Eridium," Lawrence said, "can you smell it?"

"Eridium has no smell and no taste," Jack scoffed and dismissed his observation. 

Lawrence frowned. There was definitely a smell. It was a sweet, fungus-like fragrance, and seemed to bring a haze over his mind. If he breathed it in too much, he would gag.

He didn't ask Jack about it again.

A few days after his last dosage, he stopped waking in sweats, and the smell vanished. But Jack had got a taste of something. He'd been handling Lawrence's medication, touching him, and checking in with him multiple times a day.

Without the Eridium, Jack had no reason to visit, so Jack made new reasons. He barged into Lawrence's penthouse when it suited him, ate from his fridge, even went through his closet in the early hours of the morning.

The weeks went by, and soon there wasn't a day where he didn't see Jack.

All communication by echo was in the past. Whatever ideas Lawrence had that he could keep some semblance of a separate life from Jack was utterly gone.

The deeper he got into the beast's den, the harder it was going to be to claw back out.

Chapter Text

Lawrence groaned loudly and protested at the blinding Pandora sun. It's bright light dawned through the cracked windows, demanding he wake. 

He stretched his aching muscles, cursed again, before sitting up to wipe at the condensation on the glass. Outside, the land was drowned in a bright pinkish-red; he frowned, as the colour abruptly brought forth the memories of an old drink he used to enjoy: lime, cranberries, and gin. Dehydration was the likely reason why the cocktail came to mind, and yet he soon found himself staring down at his hand. There was a thick scar across his right palm. The last time he'd enjoyed that drink, Jack had slashed his palm open with a shard of glass.

Jack had also—

Lawrence abruptly kicked his feet into the ratted flooring of the truck as if to shake off the memories from his mind and body.

The recollection of sugary cocktails didn't linger for much longer, as a searing pain crept upon him. Lawrence swore and clutched his left arm where the bullet had torn his flesh. He'd not registered the pain before, well not entirely. The adrenaline of their escape seemed to dull the throb of the lead that had cut through his arm.

He'd have to clean it, or infection would spread. He should have done it hours ago, but he'd been too determined to put as much distance between himself and the Bunker. Lawrence gritted his teeth, and gently pulled away the soiled fabric on his arm, trying to see if the bullet had left any fragments under the skin. 

"Fuck," he muttered to himself when he could barely touch it. "Fucking, dandy."

His head became heavy, and for a moment, the land outside became a swirling canvas of colours. Defeated, he rested back against the seat and took a deep breath. 

Beside him, the girl, Angel was still fast asleep. She had buried her head into the worn leather of the seat, while hugging her knees to her chest. His Hyperion sweater covered most of her, as did his baggy pants. If not for her black hair, he could have dismissed her as a pile of clothes. She silently shivered while frost melted down the outside of the windows. Lawrence wished he could have kept the truck running through the night, but they needed to conserve the fuel.

It was better they got driving again soon.

Lawrence tried to reach for her, but the pain in his shot arm would not permit it, so he called to her instead:

"Hey, kiddo. Wakey."

The girl murmured and shifted in her seat before drowsily opening an eye.

"How'd you sleep?"

"Terrible," she yawned and curled up into a tighter ball.

"Yeah, can't say you'll get used to it. Last night was pretty mild, considering."

"When have you ever slept in a crappy bandit—I mean," Angel furiously corrected herself and became far more awake and sat up. "When did you ever sleep in a car?"

Lawrence paused and briefly looked away.

"Ah—well, all the time?"

Fuck. Jack hadn't set foot on Pandora since their last holiday and the time before that was years ago. Should he finally tell her that he wasn't Jack? He wasn't trying to lie to her deliberately, but the thought of the truth made Lawrence's stomach turn sour.

He instead opted to change the subject:

"When was the last time you had your medicine?" 

"What? Oh right..." Angel peered down at the cooler-bag at her feet. "Dunno hours ago, before you passed out."

"You'll need another dosage."

"Why? I don't feel sick." She inched away from him as he pointed to the cooler-bag.

"You will soon enough. Trust me on that one. Come on, pass it here," and he indicated again to the bag.

"No."

"Angel, pass it here," Lawrence pressed, and the pain and discomfort wore his patience thin.

"You promised you'd explain everything."

"Yeah, when we get to the safe house," Lawrence reminded her.  

"No that's not good enough! Why are we on Pandora? Why are we in a bandit truck?! And why am I sick?!" She yelled, her voice rising with every question she threw at him.

"Angel, please." Lawrence reached for the bag again, this time wincing as his wounded arm stretched.

"It looks like you need medicine more than me," she said and crossed her arms.

Fucking teenagers. Lawrence groaned and pulled back with a frustrated huff. He sat there, holding his shoulder, and catching his breath. Angel was right; he needed medicine, and soon, but not Eridium. Not again. He was sure he had enough time to make it to the safe house before any severe issues arose, but if anything hindered their travels, he might not be so lucky.

"I can't... have any Eridium," he finally confessed, "and a health-kit, even if we had one, wouldn't help. These days, I need like a triple dose."

Angel frowned. 

"Why? I thought you said it was safe, that the R&D developments had lead to a non mutative and —"

"I just can't," Lawrence cut her off, although a little too harshly and she flinched.

They sat in awkward silence. He should apologise. He didn't have to be Jack anymore, but the concept was so alien to him, that in the end, he decided not too.

"I hate the smell of it," Angel abruptly said and poked her foot at the cooler bag.

Lawrence's jaw fell; someone else could smell the Eridium. It wasn't just him.

"What does it smell like, to you, that is?" He asked, and Angel stared at him, surprised. He didn’t understand why she was looking at him as if he'd grown a third eye.

"You've never asked me that before. You always said it had no smell."

"Well, I'm asking now."

Angel frowned at him a moment longer before replying:

"It smells like decay. Not life."

Lawrence nodded. That's exactly how he'd describe it. Rot: eating its way through a crumbling building, the mould on foul food, or fungus that had made its home in a recent kill. It should never have entered his body. Or hers. But the damage was done, and now neither of them had a choice in the matter.

"Alright," Lawrence sighed and reached for the ignition. "Let's move."

"What about your arm?"

"There's nothing sanitary around here to clean the wound, and like I said, we're all out of health-kits, kiddo."

"Ok," Angel seemed to accept this and pulled her knees back to her chest. 

Lawrence could feel her watchful gaze, scanning him up and down. Had she figured it out yet? That he wasn't Jack?

Either way, she seemed to be tethering on the edge of asking him something. She looked worried. Was she afraid to talk to him? To question? Lawrence knew the feeling well. One look from Jack would make you swallow down any thought or query you may have had.

Lawrence sighed and turned to her.

"What's up?"

"Why do you have cybernetic eye implanted?" She finally asked, and her tone sat somewhere between accusation and curiosity.

"What?"

"Your eye, it's cybernetic. When did you have it implanted?"

"Oh... Oh."

Lawrence finally realised the implication. The cybernetic eye was one of the very few things that separated him from Jack. He'd been graciously allowed to replace it, after losing it from the branding, while Jack had opted to have his as a digital illusion upon the mask.

Without thinking, Lawrence answered:

"I'm not Jack," he blurted out.

Angel scoffed:

"That's not funny."

"I'm not your Dad," he shrugged.

"Yes, you are. You're not wearing a cloaking device," Angel countered while looking him up and down. "And I would know if you were an imposter. You're my Dad."

A few months ago, that would have been a compliment. 

Lawrence sighed: "I'm not him. You don't remember yet, but you will."

"I don't understand. Why—"

"It's best we just drive."

The engine kicked to life without resistance. Lawrence grunted as he was forced to use his shot arm to put the car into gear.

"And you still need to take an Eridium dosage," he said as they began to drive off from under the ledge they'd parked under.

"No, no more.”

He could practically feel her mix-match eyes burning a hole in the side of his head.

 "Fine. Go without the Eridium then."

"Really?" Angel's tone was painfully hopeful.

"Sure, suffer cold turkey."

She said nothing to that.

Lawrence kept what little focus he had on the road, and he realised his arm may need medical attention quicker than he'd previously assessed. He was sure it would get infected now, or worse, scar. 

Fuck.

Another mark, and another scar that Jack would seek to wipe clean from him. If Jack was here, a tube would be down his throat pumping the violet stuff into him.  

Though, he'd feel better, stronger...

Lawrence groaned again and shook his head to throw the temptation away. He was glad he had the foresight to make the girl carry the bag.

"We're not far, few more hours," he said and changed the gears.

But Angel didn't speak to him again. 


Lawrence had been alone — well mostly alone, he supposed the digi-Jack's counted — for months, and now that he had company, he was left with nothing to say. Perhaps he'd become used to the silence, or maybe it was just that teenagers were literally the worst. 

The girl said nothing to him; it was as if she'd used up her 'questions' quota for the day. 

"I think we may be in range to get some music in this thing," Lawrence finally said, unable to stand the silence. He rotated the car tuner: hoping to find some kind of broadcast that wasn't a psycho screaming into a mic. Nisha always had a knack for finding encrypted channels to eavesdrop, but he supposed he would have to manage on his own now.

"What do you want to listen to kiddo?"

He called over the roaring engine, but Angel didn't reply.

"Hey?" He took his eyes off the road to look over at his travelling companion. She was hunched up in the same position as before, yet this time she slowly rocked to the truck's movement, and shivers racked her body.

Angel was withdrawing.

"Fuck," Lawrence cursed, and upped the gears, driving the truck faster than he'd previously been comfortable with.

They were so close. The safe house was no more than a few kilometres away. He couldn't stop, not in these lands; this was fierce bandit country, and they'd be sitting ducks if the truck decided to stall on them. He pushed the rig on, its bullet hole exterior howling as the wind blew over it.

Ahead, a tall cactus, shaped in a perfect trident steadily grew into view. It was his marker. They were here.

The truck screeched to a stop and dirt kicked up around them. The driver's door was still bent and embedded into the car from when he had forcibly shut it, meaning he had to lift his knee and give it a few good kicks to see it free. He fell forward when the door finally gave, and his face kissed the dirt below. Lawrence lifted himself with his good arm and raced over to the passenger side and pulled the door open. Swinging the cooler-bag over his shoulder, he slid his arms under the hunched up girl.

"I got ya, just hold on," he whispered, and she whined and bunched up tighter. 

He heaved her up, and a violent pain sprung up his shot-arm and shoulder. Lawrence gritted his teeth as he held her, ignoring the tearing of the wound under the weight. 

Not far now.

A large cactus had overgrown, and it's green prickly body now blocked the path to the safe house. There was no way he was getting past it with the girl in his arms and prepared himself for the incoming shock it would bring when he scraped past. It's large thorns dug into his coat, catching his skin, but he pushed on. 

The girl murmured something in his arms, before violently shaking.

Lawrence moved faster, now not caring how many thorns tore into him. The path was incredibly narrow, and only a few stone steps carved into the hillside assisted in making the journey easier. He reached the peak, and hidden amongst a pile of large boulders was a yellow Hyperion iron door. With great difficulty, he inputted the security code while careful not to drop the girl.

The door opened, and he was met with utter darkness.

He carefully shifted one foot after the other, searching for any odd items on the floor that may trip him up, before finally hitting his shin against the bed. He gently lowered the girl down, and her pale frame sank into the old faded sheets. He placed the back of his hand to her head and cursed at the fever he felt.

With his eyes now adjusted to the darkness he sought out the generator and with a few good tugs (with his good arm) they were welcomed with light and power.

Lawrence sped back to Angel's side and took the syringe and a bottle of Eridium out. He filled the entire capsule before delivering the dosage to her. The effects were immediate, and she began to stir and cuddle her arm.

"You can't skip a dosage," he grumbled and quickly put the Eridium and syringe away.

She stirred restlessly over the covers before opening her eyes to meet his gaze. Her features did not yield their usual softness. Instead, her brow was knitted together, and her eyes had that wild glint that Jack possessed. Lawrence picked himself up and ignoring the hateful glare he was receiving, turned to shut the door. The wind had already blown in a trail of dust, and he kicked what he could out the door before securing the lock and sealing it shut. 

The howl of the wind was left outside, and long still silence fell inside the safe house.

The girl was still glaring at him, holding the injection site on her arm. He ignored her and reached to lift down the med-kit box from the shelf. Propping himself up on the workbench, he settled and readied himself to have a look at the damage.

He'd never left a wound this long, and last time he tried to hide one from Jack the man had held him down and forcibly 'cured' him. Carefully he removed his jacket and shirt to get a clear look at the injury. The piece of fabric Angel had used to bandage his arm clung to the dried blood, and he winced as he had to tug it free. Using a disinfectant cloth, he cleaned the wound before looking away to jam in the needle. The health-kit oozed into his skin, and soon an itching sensation spread as the red substance began to stitch him back together. The aches from his long car ride slowly melted away, and for a brief moment, he felt bliss wash over him.

Lawrence relaxed into the wall and resisted the urge to close his eyes and slumber. Instead, he gazed across the room, running a mental check that everything was where it should be. His safe house was a very narrow single room (a Hyperion shipping container to be precise) that lay hidden in between two rock faces upon a hilltop. Shelves ran up to the ceiling, all stocked with cans of food, water canisters, arsenal and repair tools. A spare echo-comm, multiple maps of the area, binoculars and a few other travel items were tossed across the table. 

He and Nisha had made the safe house themselves as a place for them to 'get off grid' from Hyperion if something were to befall Handsome Jack. Neither of them believed Hyperion would ever respect their titles or positions if something were to happen to the Ceo, and just like Jack, they had to make their own insurances.

It was their little secret. Now it was just his.

Lawrence wondered if Jack had found her body yet. He was confident the hack he'd embedded into his comm prevented Jack from tracking him, but it didn't stop Jack from calling. He'd abandon his post, so why hadn't Jack called?

Probably too busy with his new Siren, he reasoned, but it didn't stop the uneasiness of his echo's silence. 

Lawrence abruptly sat up straighter, hand inching towards his weapon, but it was just Angel shifting to the edge of the bed to stand. Her hands clenched into the sheets, and her eyes darted to every corner of the room.

"Had me worried for a moment," he called over to her yet, she remained unresponsive.

Her vivid blue and green eyes settled on him, and her jaw clenched tight.

"Angel?"

"You," she heaved through clenched teeth, and her eyes were void of warmth.

"What?" Lawrence shrugged and heaved himself off the workbench. "Don't get hissy with me, I bloody saved your life, a second time."

Angel stood up from the bed, with her hands grasped tight and knees bent, as if ready to tackle.

"You did this," she hissed, and contempt was slick in her voice.

He took a few steps back from the enraged Siren, and as her arm lit up, her tattoos emitted flecks of light through the well-worn jumper: blurring as she shook with rage. Lawrence raised two hands in self-defence. 

"Ok, Ok, easy now. I just gave you another dose of Eridium to help ease the withdrawals. So if you just—"

She drove her hand forward, and her tattoos became a vivid white, and it momentarily blinded him. That was before the pain kicked in. Lawrence roared in agony as his left eye burned from within its socket, and his vision went red.

"So how did you get that cybernetic eye? Dad," her voice was barely audible but distinctly cold and hollow.

"Angel what the hell?!"

"It's not all hardware, a complex thing like that needs software to function," she drawled as Lawrence's eye continued to burn. "Did you forget what I can do?!"

"Angel he burnt away my real eye!"

"I remember everything! You had me chained up like a dog, pumping me with Eridium to fuel your damn precious key. One Vault wasn't enough, I wasn't enough! You needed more!" She seethed with anger while Lawrence could only clutch at his head, holding back the pain as his green eye rolled uncontrollably in its socket.

"Angel! I'm not Jack! Remember I told you! I'm not him!" Lawrence pleaded with her to remember, but the wild fury on her face suggested she did not hear him.

He rested against the table to support himself, and specks of blood dripped from his nose onto the workbench. If she kept this up, she'd tear the cybernetics from his eye.

"Angel," He said and clutched his chest, winded by the pressure of her powers. "Please listen to me..."

"We fled the Bunker because the Vault Hunters found me! They tried to save me! But you wouldn't let them! You just couldn't let me go!"

"Angel, I'm sorry! I'm not him!"

"Carting me around, pumping me full of the Eridium so I can still charge your key!"

"I was trying to—"

"Enough!"

She thrust her hand forward, and the pain reached new heights. He couldn't stand anymore, and with a gasp, like he'd been kicked to the chest, he collapsed to the floor. Angel paused for a moment, lingering above him, while Lawrence breathed heavily into the floor, waiting for the finishing blow to come.

"Do not seek me out," she said before another intense wave of pain overcame him.

Lawrence cried out, burying his head in his hands and smearing blood all over his palms. When the pain finally settled, he found the door open and the safe house empty.

He wearily climbed to his feet: cursing loudly as his healing arm was forced to have his weight onto it. Stumbling forward, he shook his head to set his vision straight, but half his vision remained dark. Lawrence raised a hand to hover over his eye. He could move it, and the sensation of looking around was still there, but everything was black like it had been disconnected from his brain.

"Angel!" He called and wiped the blood from his nose.

He should've known her memories would have eventually come back. He'd hoped he'd have more time to ease the girl into it. He ran outside, wincing as his remaining eye met the harsh Pandoran sun. He raised a hand to shadow his view and searched for the girl, but the cliffside was empty, as was the path leading away.

"Angel!" He called again. "I'm not him! I'm not your Dad, ok? I didn't do those things to you!"

But his call was left unanswered.

Chapter Text

Pandora's sun bore down over both Lawrence and the land; even the spider ants kept refuge in their enclaves. Lawrence, on the other hand, persevered through the heat. He laid on his stomach upon a well worn woven mat and a scarf (one of Nisha's) covered the back of his neck to shield him from the sun. 

Both hands firmly grasped his sniper, and with his working eye, he watched the gorge below.

A full cycle had passed since Angel had run off and if she was as stubborn as her father, then she wouldn't be returning anytime soon. He hoped she came to her senses before she died from exposure.

She'll come back.

Lawrence's eye caught movement in the gorge below; he adjusted his sniper, only to see two skags fighting it out. The alpha tore down a runt and devoured its corpse with little effort. Bored with the animal blood show, Lawrence switched his attention back to the bandit camp on the horizon. It was the very encampment Nisha, and he had cleared out almost a year ago. Jack had sent them on some crusade to hunt more parts for the Gortys project, yet all they found was screaming meat-heads and bullets piercing their shields. 

That battle had been anything but swift and clean, they'd taken a beating, but they conquered in the end. The bandits may have had the numbers, but Nisha and he outgun them and out skilled them. Lawrence remembered the high from battle and them both cursing Jack for missing out on the fun, the bloodshed, and then—

Lawrence's cheeks flushed at the thought; how Nisha had straddled him in the blood soaked mud. He quickly dismissed the redness on his cheeks as the sun burning his face. 

A shrill call from his echo snapped him away from thoughts of Jack’s now ex-girlfriend. 

It was most likely Angel calling to apologise and wanting to return, Lawrence reasoned. Without looking at the device, he slammed a hand down on the comm. Lawrence expected Angel's soft voice requesting to come back; instead, he got her Dad.

"Sup princess, where you at?" Jack spoke in a light and casual manner which caught Lawrence off-guard.  

"Sniper practice."

"Hmm, kay," Jack replied in an incredulous tone. "Put me through to one of the Digi-Jacks. I want to chat face-to-face."

Nisha's consistent pestering regarding Jack's lack of battle experience resulted in Jack making a few upgrades to his watch. Lawrence could patch Jack in, allowing him to fill in as one of the digi-structs all while safe up in Helios. It wasn't precisely what Nisha had in mind, yet it soothed her temper whenever Lawrence could call Jack for her on the battlefield.

There was no way in hell he was going to summon them now. 

Lawrence sighed and removed his eye from the scope. He glanced down at his arm and at the faint tan mark from where he once wore his watch. It had been sitting in his gear-chip for some time. Lawrence grounded his teeth at the thought of seeing the digi-Jacks, but the judgment was quickly shaken away. 

No, Nyx and Crake are not Jack.

"You there, Timtams?" 

"Can't really talk right now."

"Great," Jack seethed, "Well, you're gonna talk. See the funny thing is that I sent Nisha to come get ya, but you know she seems to be off the grid as well. Get this, the last guy she was seen with was ME!?" Jack exclaimed, and the tremor in his voice was unmistakable.

"But it couldn't have been me as I've been up here grieving over the death of my daughter. Who you failed to protect."

"Seeing as Angel is dead. I thought I'd take a leave of absence," Lawrence replied.

"Don't you ever say her name, goddammit, don't you dare," Jack's voice became taunt with an impending rage. "You are on some thin fucking ice, Timmy. And you and I need to have a talk. Face to face."

"See that's exactly what I thought you'd say," Lawrence drawled, "so, how about you calm down a bit and check in with me when you're ready not to kill me?" 

The echo-comm fell silent, and Lawrence assumed the connection was lost until Jack finally spoke, voice quiet and scratchy with emotion:

"Timmy, did you actually kill my girlfriend?" Jack's impending rage was a dam, and it was moments from overflowing and sweeping the world away in his wrath. "Cause honestly, that's kinda pissing me off.

Here it comes. Lawrence rolled his eyes before prepping his lie to Jack:

"She betrayed us.”

"YOU killed! MY! GIRLFRIEND!"

The dam broke. 

"You shot her in the GODDAMN FACE!? WHY?! THE FUCK! Did you shoot her in the FUCKING FACE?! WHY of all the places —"

The conversation was over; once Jack was on his rampage, there was no point arguing. Lawrence put the echo-comm on mute and let the other man vent his outrage in silence. 

With another heavy sigh, Lawrence rolled over on his mat and looked up at the Highlands sky. He closed his eyes, and for the briefest of moments, it was silent. But it would not last, taking him out of that tranquillity was his echo: it vibrated against the gravel. Lawrence reached over and held it up against the sun, shading his face so he could read the notifications. 

‘JACK: did you put me on mute?!’

‘JACK: YOU GODDAMN SHIT, YOU DID!’

‘JACK: TIM!?’

Lawrence tossed it to the side and reasoned he'd deal with Jack later. He raised his arm to give his working eye a break from the blinding light and his gaze focused once again on his wrist and the absent digi-struct watch. Lawrence's eyes narrowed as he considered his two digital companions; had they missed him? They hadn't seen him in a month. After their last fight, he'd been so furious, he couldn't stand the sight of another Jack and had kept his watch locked away in his gear-chip.

Lawrence propped himself up on his elbows and sat up. His shot arm ached with a dull throb as his weight pushed onto it. He accessed his gear-chip and retrieved the watch, and it's cold metal surface fell into his waiting hand. Before he could change his mind, Lawrence swiped the interface with his thumb.

Pixels erupted from the watch: purple at first until the two colours separated to form a younger, pre-vault scar, magenta and cyan Jack.

"Sir?" the magenta badass spoke his tone as flat as the expression he gave him. "Everything ok?"

They didn't need to call him 'sir' any more, or 'Jack', but Crake, the badass AI was still set in his ways.

"Ah, yeah," Lawrence replied, "everything is dandy... Just great."

Crake's magenta arms crossed as he considered Lawrence for a moment.

"Why are you on the ground?"

"Oh, sunbaking?"

Nyx, the cyan AI, snorted: "need us to rub oil on your back, or would that be all boss?" 

Nyx turned away from him, and Lawrence didn't need to see his face to know he was pissed.

"Look, I'm sorry I haven't called on you both... in some time," Lawrence admitted.  

"It's been three weeks, five days, six hours—" Crake attempted to inform him before Lawrence cut him off. 

"Ok! I got the point!" Lawrence sat up straighter and rubbed at his neck. "Sooooooooo, how's it been?"

The red AI glared at him.

"We cease to exist when we're in the watch, so nothing has 'been,'" Crake asserted. 

"Alright, I got it. I'm sorry" Lawrence blurted out to them both.

"You don't sound it," Nyx scoffed. "You have any idea how suffocating that watch is?"

"Things between Jack and I got a little complicated. I spent some time alone and honestly, was just too pissed to see you both, ok?"

Nyx subsequently turned back to face him with a wide smirk on his face. "Sorry to hear, did your boyfriend find a hotter double?"

"Fuck off Nyx," Lawrence replied without any malice.

Crake just rolled his eyes.

Nyx kicked his feet off the ground and hovered mid-air: legs stretched out and crossed with his hands behind his head.

"So ah, this is new? Where are we? Cause this sure as hell isn't that manky ass Bunker."

Lawrence made an amused sound. Nyx most closely resembled Jack pre-Helios's attack, maybe even pre-second wife? His sass levels were a fucking pain, and he had the attitude to match, but his tendency for cruelty was less than his brother’s.

Crake leant against a boulder; eyes narrowed as he watched the bandit camp in the distance.

"Jack has sent us over a dozen messages while we've been locked away,” the badass said, “He's growing suspicious. He'll soon learn what you've done. What you did to us."

Lawrence played with the edge of his holster and avoided the red AI’s scrutinising gaze. 

"Yeah... Well, Jack won't be too concerned with that any more." There was a lot for the two AI's to catch up on. His betrayal to Jack, taking Angel, fleeing the bunker, killing Nisha. 

"Is that so?" Crake raised a brow. The curious stare from the badass was unusual, as was any display of emotion.

"I kinda left Jack," Lawrence admitted.

"What?!" Nyx leapt forward, eyes wide with excitement. "You did?" There was no mistaking the glee in the blue Jack's demeanour. 

"—and I took his daughter."

Crake leant off the boulder and slowly approached.

"You did what?"

"It's... complicated. She's here, well kinda here. She ran off. She was the Siren at the Bunker."

Both Jack's fell silent.

"Did you know?" Lawrence asked.

Crake frowned and then slowly shook his head.

"No. That information wasn't permitted to us."

The roar of an engine drew Lawrence's attention away from the two digital Jack's. The bandit truck — recognisable by sound alone — passed below. Dust kicked up, forming an orange cloud, and Lawrence clenched his eye shut as the wind blew the dirt overhead. The truck had a trailer attached to the back, if you could call it that, it was a bunch of chains attached to a metal sheet. The 'trailer' sent sparks flying when it made contact with the odd rock, but that wasn't what caught Lawrence's attention, it was the Constructor chained on top of it.

"Looks like the clans are back to raiding Hyperion settlements. We should take care of that," Crake said.

"I don't work for Jack any more, remember?" 

Crake growled and muttered something about Lawrence being so reckless. The AI always had trouble letting go of his chains to Jack; his programming had made him loyal for a long time.

Lawrence supposed he wasn't too different. 

The bandit truck’s engine coughed up smoke but continued its journey north. Lawrence rolled over and brought his scope to his eye; he followed the truck as it reached the bandit camp ahead. Screeching excuses for humans, with bare chests, masks and rags for clothes, crawled from the compound like ants. The bandits ran towards the Constructor to claim a piece. One dug a crowbar under the machine's metal skin, turning it, so it now faced Lawrence. The red-eye of Felicity stared back; the Constructor was still alive.

Lawrence threw himself to his feet, only to take a few sickly steps back from the edge of the cliff. He dismantled his sniper and flung it over his shoulder and called to his digital companions.

Having a constructor stand guard outside the safe house would help him rest more comfortably. Furthermore, Lawrence knew some part of the AI he'd met on Elpis was still in there. With that knowledge, he couldn't let her be torn apart by the savages below.

"Fancy a rescue mission, that may or may not involve killing a lot of bandits?" 

Both of the digital Jacks looked at one another in unison, before turning their attention to Lawrence. 

"If that's what you want us to do."

"Only if it involves killing bandits," Nyx grudgingly accepted.

"Oh, I think it will."  


Lawrence kept as low to the ground, and the sand dunes provided decent cover. However, the bandit camp was on a hill, embedded into the cliffside. Their position gave the bandits the upper hand, but Lawrence also had the advantage as he reached for his cloaking device. 

Or so he thought, Lawrence, cursed when he remembered Angel had run off with it. 

"Nyx I need you to make a decent distraction on the west end of the camp. Crake will provide cover for you."

"What kind of distraction?" Nyx gave Lawrence a sly wink.

"The kind that distracts bandits: guns, and fire. And whatever your first thought was, don't do that."

Nyx gave Lawrence an exaggerated pitiful look. Crake appeared ready to slap some sense into his digital brother. Yet, they both wordlessly raced away in a burst of pixels. Lawrence prepared to follow suit; he would need to wait until the fire fighting started before making his intrepid dash towards the camp's entrance. 

Nyx gave a shrill and eye-rolling call to the bandits:

"Oh, boys! Won't you come out and play!?" 

That got them started; fire and gunpowder exploded into the wind. 

Lawrence leapt down from his cover; his shield took a few hits though he kept moving. The bandit's gate and the tower would provide him with protection, he stormed forward and threw his back against the reinforced wall. Confident that no guards would be able to shoot him from above, Lawrence turned and threw a grenade against the gate. It exploded with all the power a Hyperion shell could offer: splinters and shrapnel blew out from the entrance. Lawrence pressed against the wall to protect himself from the onslaught of the shattered gate. 

Satisfied his path was clear; he turned the corner and took his first kill. The bandits head split-in-two, blood painted the trucks behind the collapsed man. Another one screamed, but it was cut short as Lawrence exploded his head with a well-aimed shot. 

He dove for cover when a sizable foe emerged forward. Lawrence leaned against the mangled frame of a truck, waiting for the heavy footsteps of the giant to approach. Lawrence glanced under the wheels and saw the bandit's feet were stained with oil. He rested on his chest and fired. The bandit lit up and ran forward, only to take another soul with him.

This was far easier than he could possibly hope for. 

A shot rattled his shield, but their bullets were useless against it, he fired back before the bandit could even reload. 

Sweat downed his brow, and his shirt became soaked. Lawrence removed his bomber jacket and stashed it into his gear-chip and waited patiently against the truck. His ears itched to hear another noise, someone else to claim, but silence ensued. 

Satisfied his work was done he strode out from his cover. Bodies lined the ground, but they didn't matter. He reloaded his gun before he searched the corpses for anything of value: nothing. Lawrence glanced at his watch: Nyx and Crake must have returned during the chaos as the timer revealed they were recharging within. 

A low hum drew his attention away from his wrist, looking up he saw the Constructor was meekly beckoning him.

"Felicity!" He called as he moved into a jog to reach her.

The Constructor could no longer hover, and half of her yellow plating had been removed, yet she was alive. The bot gave a long deep buzz upon seeing him, and she struggled to regain airborne.

"No, don't worry about that. I'll get you fixed up," Lawrence huffed, still a little out of breath from the recent firefight.

Lawrence ran a hand down her side. She was damaged severely, but with the right tools, he was confident, he could restore her. He knelt beside her, so the red glow of her eye was upon him, he chuckled and pointed to his single eye. 

"Look, we're the same now, I've only gone one eye too." 

She beeped in response.

"Yeah, had a run-in with Jack's daughter, she's a Siren, did you know that?" Lawrence continued his one-sided conversation with the bot. He lodged a disconnected wire back into its socket, with her plating removed everything was vulnerable to the elements.

"I'm going to get you airborne so I can get you back to my place, then we'll see about fixing you up," Lawrence explained. 

The beep that responded was a high pitch.

Lawrence ran his hand down her side as he found her hoverboard circuit. The plating that had protected it was ripped apart, and most of the wiring was dislodged. 

"This may take some time. Can you digi-struct toolkit 1.35." 

The bot shook for a moment, blue particles burst forward and soon after a toolbox dropped to the ground in front of her.

"Thanks. I'm sorry about this." 

Lawrence got to work, reconnecting what was frayed and wielding back what was shattered. She wasn't in too bad of shape considering; the bandits must have wanted her parts in a functioning state. 

Lawrence stood up satisfied with his handy work.

"Ok, Felicity, see if you can get up for me."

The bot beeped in reply, before rebooting her hover system. A low hum thundered below her as the gravitation field was activated and a high pitched beep echoed around the camp as she lifted herself a few inches from the ground. Not as high as she could go in her fully functional state, but enough to get her back to his safe house.

"Brilliant, let's get you home," Lawrence beamed.

"How do you know her real name?" a disembodied voice called. 

Lawrence sprang to his feet, face flushed red with the realisation his conversation hadn't been private. His eyes darted around the camp for the source of the intruder. He raised his gun — thankfully — he held back from firing as Angel emerged behind a bloodstained truck.

"Angel?" Lawrence blurted out, face still sheepishly red. 

Her sudden appearance and in a bandit camp no less was not what Lawrence had anticipated. He scanned about him, abruptly becoming aware of the bodies that littered the ground.

"How do you know Felicity?" She queried him again, her voice quiet, yet stern. 

"I um… have known her for some time," Lawrence's reply was awkward: still trying to process that Jack's Siren daughter was standing in a blood-soaked bandit camp.

"Jack never called her that," she spoke absentmindedly as she cautiously approached the side of the Constructor. "To him, she was Constructor 5.46."

Curiosity washed over him, forgetting the surprise of her reappearance. "Well, how do you know her name?" 

"We used to talk together," Angel replied gravely. 

"What?" Lawrence's eyes widened as he looked from Felicity to Angel.

The bot gave a low hum in agreement.

"I thought my Dad had programmed in her personality, someone for me to talk with over the network. I eventually realised he'd never do anything so personal with a war machine, especially an AI."

"She used to be much more than this," Lawrence explained.  

“I suspected as much,” Angel glared at him, as though knowing precisely what he and Jack had done to the AI.” There’s a substantial amount of unexplained data in her code, data that alludes to a far higher intelligence than that of a Hyperion law-bound war machine."

"Your Dad and I found her on Elpis. Then we… moved her into this." The words escaped his mouth so quickly Lawrence hadn't realised how badly he needed to confess. 

Angel watched him carefully, and for a moment her gaze had the same predatory sharpness of Jack’s, like she could cut away his flesh and see what intention lay beneath. 

"You really aren't him, are you?" She finally spoke, and her gaze continued to linger over him.

"I'm not Jack."

He'd spoken those words earlier, but this time the confession seemed to sink deep into his chest. He couldn't recall the last time he'd truly meant those words. He cleared his throat before suggesting they head back, but Angel didn't respond. She shook, and Lawrence now realised just how frail and pale the girl was.

"Angel?"

"I'm fine." She took a deep breath, and hesitantly approached.

Her fingers twitched at his side; he'd seen the effects of Eridium withdrawals one too many times. 

"We need to get back. Come on now."

Angels brow furrowed as if confused by his softer tone. Coxing someone to his side wasn't precisely a Jack maneuver. Threats of violence often got what he needed out of people.

The next step she took was more of a stumble, and Lawrence moved forward. He reached out to hold her still, but she jerked back as if his touch were the scorching Pandora sun.

"Do not touch me. I'm fine." She huffed, and sweat dripped down her cheeks.

"Ok, ok, ok." Lawrence withdrew, and the girl leant against the Constructor for a moment's rest. 

The short distance back to the safe house was slow, and Angel refused his help the entire way. Felicity hovered at the back moving slowly across the sandy hillsides and Angel lingered close to her side: often taking a moment to lean against the bot to catch her breath. 

Trust was vacant on Pandora, and getting the girl to open up was going to require patience, something he lacked after embodying Jack for so long. 

Her weary steps barely made it to the cot in the safe house. When she fell to her knees and threw up, Lawrence rushed to her side.

"Get off me," she whined, but Lawrence ignored her protests and held back what remained of her hair as she coughed onto the floor.

"You're withdrawing off the Eridium, and you have heat stroke. You should not have run off." 

"I know what I have," she spat on the floor and pulled away.

Despite her protests, he helped her to her feet and lowered her gently down onto the cot. He rested the back of his hand on her head: She was burning up.

"Bloody hell, you need water and Eridium."

Angel shook her head.

"Please... no more. Just let me get through this."

Lawrence watched her carefully. His own experiences with Eridium and withdrawals were brutal; he did not know if the girl could survive it. Going cold turkey after that many years of abuse? It could kill her.

Lawrence passed her a bottle of water, before retrieving the Eridium cooler bag.

"You need Eridium."

She refused to look at him, and she fidgeted with the bottle of water in her hands. 

"Look, I'll dilute it right down with some water, or a health-kit, what do you think?"

Angel murmured something, but the sound muffled against her chest.

"What?"

"I said... do what you want." Angel finally met his gaze, with cold contempt. She pulled up her sleeve, exposing her pale flesh and offered him her forearm.

Lawrence stammered and stared at her submission.

"I—look, I know you don't want it—"

"I don't."

"But, nothing good is going to come from cutting off so fast."

She did not reply, and her arm remained outstretched in front of him. Lawrence ignored her dramatic display of submission and pulled out a health-kit. He drew the red substance into the other syringe and tossed the liquid back and forth in the chamber, so the two materials blended to a deep burgundy. 

Lawrence gritted his teeth, ignoring the painfully familiar smell of the Eridium. 

"Why did you save me?" Angel's voice was quiet as if she hoped he wouldn't hear her question. 

Lawrence bit his lip; he had no experience with children, let alone teenagers. He figured honesty was the best course forward, even if it did nothing to soothe her nerves.

"Everyone thought you were dead," Lawrence looked her in the eye. "Even Jack."

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before continuing:

"I just saw the opportunity. That's all."

Angel's shoulders hunched in, as if to shrink and hide.

"So does that mean you don't work for him anymore?" She asked quietly. 

"Yes," Lawrence lied, but he genuinely didn't know.   

When Angel had no more questions for him, he approached, kneeling before her.

"You'll thank me later," he said and he pressed the needle in and out before she could blink.

"All done," he gave her a curt smile, but Angel merely rocked back on the cot.

"You sound so much like him," she slurred, and her eyelids fluttered shut. She collapsed onto the mattress, and rolled away from him. Slowly, her shakes stopped, and some colour returned to her cheeks.

Lawrence left her as she was, but refilled the bottle of water and left it beside her. Next, he sanitized the needle, before stashing the needle away. He was in such a hurry to get the damn thing out of his sight that he accidentally pricked himself. His hands were too calloused to feel the needle, but for a moment, panic jolted in his chest. What if some of it had got it? He studied his hand and the tiny bead of blood on his finger. 

It should have alarmed him more what Angel had said: how much he sounded like her father, but later that cycle, as Lawrence fell asleep all he could do was fixate on the drying blood on his fingertip.

He could live with being Jack, but not what the Eridium would do if it got in.

That was a fate he'd been trying to escape for a long time.

Chapter Text

Later that cycle, the withdrawals hit the girl. The dosage he'd previously administered was too little, but there was only so much left. She rolled around in the cot, sweating and sometimes throwing up. He gave her water, cleaned the bucket beside her, and tried to take the sheets outside to dry for a bit before bringing them back in. 

Another cycle passed, and all she managed was to stir restlessly as she slept. On the few occasions she did wake up, she barely spoke. Lawrence remained unsure if he was ok with that. He knew nothing of her but talking meant opening up, and he rathered she knew nothing of him.

A third, then a fourth cycle passed, and Angel's condition remained the same. 

She cried out and immediately lent off the bed to wrench and heave. Lawrence was on his feet and managed to shove the bucket close under her chin, just as bile fell from her open mouth. She sobbed, and her feet kicked into the bed with every cough. Lawrence leaned over and grabbed her messy fringe to hold it back from her face. 

"It hurts so much," she cried.

"I know," Lawrence said and kept her hair steady.

"No... you don't," she heaved and spat another mouthful of sick. "You have no idea." 

Lawrence's jaw clenched, and a burning feeling rose in his chest, but he said nothing. He merely waited for the girl to finish being sick. She spat one last mouthful into the bucket, before pushing herself upright and away from the edge of the bed. He let go of her hair, passed her a cloth to clean her face, and then moved away; even with her daily silence and lack of communication, he knew enough that she didn't want him to linger.

Angel combed her hair back in place, and when she finished, her fingertips traced down her cheek to her neck. The scars from the Eridium injectors and collar remained: deep and purple, twisting around her neck like a ring of thorns. It appeared Eridium could not heal a wound of its own making.

Lawrence felt sick staring at it.

Despite the damage to her body, Angel was surviving the withdrawals remarkably well, but they were down to their last half vial. Once it ran out, things could get messy. He had two choices; find more, or ration the last of it and let her push on to get clean. Both were pretty shitty options. The nearest Hyperion mine by car was a full Pandoran day away. By the time he got there and back, the girl could have already kicked her dependency.

Furthermore, he did not like his chances in the Dust one-eyed. The cybernetics in his head remained dead, and considering the girl's condition, he did trust her yet to restore his sight. It also made passing the time tedious: being one-eyed had made sniping difficult. However, he tried not to let his bitterness disrupt the kid.

Every so often, she looked at him, and pure terror would cling to her. She would start to hyperventilate, before turning back under her covers and shaking with withdrawals.

Lawrence sighed. There was little he could do about that, and he wasn't going to stop looking like Jack anytime soon. So for the moment, he passed the time by fiddling with his lighter against the workbench, rolling it back and forth. He'd smoked the last of the cigarettes he'd found at the safe house, and food supplies were getting low. Regardless of their Eridium situation, he'd need to leave to restock before venturing further into the Dust.

"Every time I wake, I keep thinking you're him," Angel said.

Lawrence stopped his ministrations and turned to face her. 

"I'm not Jack."

"I know," she sighed, but her response was anything but convincing. "So..." she rubbed at her neck again as she spoke. "I still don't know who you are."

"Lawrence.

Angel returned a silent glare, evidently not satisfied with his answer.

"I'm your Dad's double, but proper double," Lawrence clarified, "I don't have a clocking device like the others to look like him."

Her bright eyes rested on his, and her brow furrowed, but she said nothing.

"It was...ah—a surgical and gene modification procedure," Lawrence continued, and Angel's frown deepened.

He ran a hand through his hair; he knew his original hair should be a copper colour, but he'd long forgotten how it looked on him. 

"He never told me about you," Angel spoke quietly and fidgeted with the Hyperion sweater she wore. "He used to tell me everything."

Lawrence simply shrugged.

"Very few people knew I existed. To everyone, I was Jack."

Angel's face remained dissatisfied, and her lips screwed up as she contemplated his words. 

"I should've known."

Lawrence scoffed and turned in the chair to face her front on. 

"Oh, how come?" He smiled: the idea that anyone could spot the difference between him and Jack always amused him. It was almost impossible, almost. "Very few could tell the difference."

"The scar on your face isn't blue like his," she said as her eyes traced across the mark.

"Oh. Yeah, Jack did regret that. Said he should have had it dyed. That was, after he'd burned in the mark."  

Her eyes widened at the casual tone he took to being disfigured. But to Lawrence, the branding had been the least of his fears. Jack had a far sinister plan installed for him than flames and iron. 

Angel abruptly yawned and sat up straighter. Her skin was no longer deathly pale, and she seemed more energised as she leaned into the container wall. Most surprisingly, there were no signs of Eridum glowing in her arms. 

"How are you doing?" He asked.

"Fine," Angel shrugged, but seeing as he'd just watched her be sick, Lawrence was not convinced.

Eridium withdrawals would last days at least, weeks in most cases. She was a Siren, and not human, but this seemed too hasty of recovery.

"I'm going to set you up with another dosage. Weaker this time. We need to ration it now."

Lawrence stood up and made for the cooler bag. He'd not yet retrieved the Eridum when she spoke again:

"I'll be fine," she said. "I've done this before."

"Before?" Lawrence said and looked over his shoulder.

"Jack...he...took me off the Eridium. Just once." She bowed her head and hugged her knees. "Then he changed his mind."

Lawrence left the Eridium in the bag, and his hands shook as he closed the zipper. Like a shadow emerging from the deep, a dark, unfathomable rage was rising in his chest.

"He did? Why?" Lawrence tried to keep the anger from his voice, but it was far too close to the surface to hide completely. 

"It doesn't matter why. I was back on the Eridium a week later."

Lawrence cursed, and his fists closed tight. The similarities between him and the girl were piling up.

"No more then," Lawrence said and came to her side. 

She appeared ready to flinch and cower from him, so he kept his distance and sat on the far end of the bed.

"Thank you," Angel said, but the sound was more of a weak mumble.

Lawrence did not know what to say. He wouldn't have held her down and forced it into her, but the unnerved expression on her face suggested he may have already done that. Perhaps he had.

"So what are you planning to do with me?" The girl said, and Lawrence noted how she tried to force her voice to be firmer, yet she could not relinquish her timid approach. Lawrence quickly adapted; he softened his composure, moved away and off the bed. 

"With you? Nothing.” He shrugged. “I was thinking of taking you to the Vault Hunters. If you'd like that?"

He honestly hadn't thought this far ahead. Save the girl was the plan. Then maybe use her powers to get off this planet? Or trade her with the Vault hunters for a ship? Lawrence bit his tongue at the last thought. The girl wasn't cargo for a trade, but if it came down to that, he would do it.

Angel leaned forward and rested her chin to her knees, expression sombre; Lawrence couldn't tell if she was in disbelief or annoyed. 

"Why would you do that?" She probed. 

"I thought that's what you'd want? Unless you want to leave Pandora?"

"Ok, but what do you want?" She asked, evoking more energy than before. 

Lawrence stammered: caught off guard by her line of questioning. Angel crossed her arms and leaned back into the wall beside the cot. 

"No one does anything on Pandora without a price, Mr Lawrence," caution coated her voice as she eyed him carefully.

"Ah, just Lawrence," he corrected before admitting the catch. "Get me off this planet, and I'll get you to the Vault Hunters."

She'd finally stopped toying with the sleeves of his jumper, and now it appeared another person was sitting in front of him. As if discussing terms inspired some courage into her.

"It's a deal," she nodded, tone firm. 

Angel raised her left hand to shake his, and he awkwardly met it with his left.

"Left-handed? Should have told me to inject your other arm."

She just shrugged. "It didn’t occur to me. I suppose I’ve not done a lot with my hands.”

Lawrence had nothing to say to that but yawn loudly: exhaustion had struck hard. Cycles of watching the girl's vitals and checking the perimeter for Hyperion had worn him thin. His hand traced his cybernetic eye, and he figured now was as good a time as any to ask for his sight back, before he did another border check.

"Well, now that we're on more familiar terms, think you can restore my sight?" 

"Oh..." despite her evident hesitation, she agreed.

Her left hand was slowly lifted, and her arm lit up through the jumper. Lawrence grimaced as he felt a tingling sensation run through his veins, everything seemed to emit static before his vision flickered back.

"Cheers," he said and rubbed his temple.

Angel pulled off the covers and shuffled towards the edge of the bed.

"Off somewhere?" He asked as Angel scouted about the room.

When she turned to face him and spoke, it sounded like an accusation:

"Where is Felicity?"

"Outside. Keeping watch."

"Are we at risk of Jack finding us here?"

"No. I took care of that."

He didn't elaborate on how: Angel didn't need to know the details. Despite his poorly informative answer, she appeared satisfied, and she sat back on her cot. But every so often she threw him a wounded or troubled glare. He tried to ignore it by busying himself with checking his echo, cleaning his weapons, but finally, the girl's staring became too much.

"If you need me, I'll be outside," Lawrence said and picked up his sniper from the workbench and headed towards the iron door exit.

Angel didn't follow after him. 


The doppelgänger may have saved her life, but so far the only gratitude Angel felt was for the bed he allowed her to keep. Meanwhile, Lawrence had opted to rest on a roll-out sleeping bag that he called a strange name. Sometimes he'd even take it outside and sleep under the stars. But when he did rest in the container, he'd roll around and mutter in his sleep, often rubbing at his arm where the sniper had hit him. The wound had healed, and all that remained was a deep scar, and so, Angel did not understand why he needed to check it continuously.

She shut her eyes and tried to close her mind, especially when the double mentioned Jack in his sleep. But no amount of exhaustion or Eridium withdrawals could put her mind to rest. It had taken all her courage to tell Lawrence 'no' to further Eridium treatments. Every time she spoke to him, all she saw was her father and the accompanying consequences if she said that word:

'No.'

When Jack heard that word he'd disconnect the call, or on the rare occasion he was at the Bunker, he'd simply leave. Every time, she would beg him not to go, but soon after rage would consume her and she would swear off talking to him ever again. It was a perpetual cycle of misery, because when he would finally call back, she was a weeping mess, craving his approval.

Angel curled up and scrunched her hands into the sheets. Recalling how she sobbed for him not to leave had sent a fierce shot of anger down her back and she gripped the sheets tighter. 

She was pathetic. She should have lashed out. She should have stood up for herself. Why didn't she?!

Angel wanted to scream, but she did not. The double was nearby, and she did not want him to see her like this. Angel tried to remind herself that he wasn't Jack, but this doppelganger of her Dad was an enigma she couldn't solve. Never had she been in a position where she couldn't find out everything she wanted about a person. Angel didn't know what was worse, that he was a doppelganger, or that she could not find a single detail about him. Even with the echo-comm (which he'd given to her along with strong words of caution on how and what she should use it for), she'd not been able to find her answers. Whoever this Lawrence was, his history was wiped clean from Hyperion's databases and the echo-net. Only someone like Jack, or herself, had the knowledge and expertise to pull off a hack that elaborate and not leave a trace.

Lawrence can't be his actual name, she reasoned. Only when she had learnt more — like a first name — could she narrow down her search, but that meant engaging in the old fashion way of seeking information: talking to him. She had attempted that tactic earlier, and though the not-Jack had answered her questions, he only did so with one word or a sigh. 

"Why did you become Jack's double?"

"Money."

"Why were you at The Bunker?"

"Guarding you."

"So, it was you, the person at the Bunker who I was communicating with?"

"Yes."

"You were never very friendly."

He shrugged.

"Did you know who I was?"

"Only that you were a Siren. "

"What really made you leave Jack?"

He remained silent. 

It was like talking to one of Hyperions machines, or a very disgruntled block of concrete: Who appeared to be more taken with his gun than the living companion in the room. Angel had recognised the make of Lawrence’s sniper; it was one of a kind Hyperion corrosive weapon. 

She wondered if Lawrence had stolen it before fleeing.

Or had her Dad given it to him?

She did not bother to ask him. After their last conversation, she refocused her energy on resting and gaining her strength back. Her memories of the previous few cycles were hazy at best. After she'd fled the safehouse and from the man who she mistook as Jack, she'd sought shelter in a rocky enclave, down at the base of their cliff face hideout. She'd waited, hoping for a chance to steal supplies before fleeing for good. But as the Pandora sun wore down on her, she started to succumb to the elements. Soon after, the memories began to resurface. She remembered that he wasn't Jack. He'd told her that in the car, but she didn't believe him. Angel waited for a chance to observe him, to be sure. When he'd fled to rescue what she'd soon realised was Felicity she knew he wasn't her Dad. 

She kicked her feet into the bed, as her body was racked with sickening rage. Her memories, all her memories, were crawling back to her, like bugs over her mind she shivered to throw them off her. 

"I've pumped every fricken ounce of Eridium I've got into you," Jack's words rang through her mind, "WHY ISN'T IT WORKING!?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know!" She'd pleaded with him to no avail. She'd begged him to know what happened to her mum, to understand why she needed to be in the 'chair' and why he was doing this to her. Nothing ever got through to him. 

"You're a damn Siren, one of a kind! MAKE IT WORK" 

That was all that Jack focused on. That she was a Siren, and a tool, he no longer saw her as his daughter, and he certainly did not see her as human. 

Angel felt an intoxicating warmth of energy run down her arm; her powers were bubbling forward. There was too much tech in the room, too many instruments for her powers to harness. Anger was the fastest way for her to lose control. Her mind raced over all the items: two echo-coms, the Constructor, a digi-struct device, the cloaking watch, gear-chips, countless guns and arsenal. It was too much.

I won't lose control.

Angel rolled over in her cot. She needed to focus her mind away from the devices in the room. Her arm ached at the injection site, so she let her mind register the pain. Her body still cried out for more Eridium, but those were thoughts that also had to be suppressed.

She climbed out of bed and stumbled towards the exit. 

"Woah, where are you going?" Lawrence called to her, but she pushed past. She had to get out of the room, or risk frying everything with her mind.

"Need air," she mumbled and pushed open the door. 

An intense orange glow came upon her, and she winced at seeing the light for the first time in cycles. It almost seemed to scorch her skin, and Angel took a long deep breath to still her panic and remind herself it was alright.

Feeling the sun on her skin was something she'd scarcely felt, that it was almost a shock to her system.

"Hey, you ok?" Lawrence said from behind. 

Angel turned to face him, just as the glow of her tattoos faded, and her mind left the last of devices in the safehouse. He hadn't seemed to notice, and this brought another wave of relief.

"I'm fine." Angel forced a smile. "Just a sudden spur of claustrophobia."

"Oh, right," Lawrence said, and the worry on his face relaxed. "This tin box isn't exactly spacious. A bathroom stall in the executive suite is bigger than this."

Angel wanted to walk away. There was something in the way he spoke, the casual tone, the joking attitude that was too-Jack like. The hostility he'd previously shown her was more tolerable than his current act.

She hated how Jack would talk like that: all chummy, acting though the situation was normal, while she was strung up, pumped full of Eridium and—

"You feeling up to eating yet?" Lawrence said, snapping Angel out of her thoughts. 

She held a hand to her stomach. That was the thing with Eridium, it kept you alive and going without the aid of anything else: food, water, maybe even air itself.

"Maybe something light," she said. 

"You have the excellent choice of protein bars or a different flavour of protein bar," he continued in that annoyingly light-hearted manner. 

"Whatever you're having," she mumbled and pushed past him to return to her bed. He silently followed, but at least he did not continue the forced humour of their conversation. 

Angel decided she preferred it when he said nothing.

He gave her a protein bar, and Angel forced the stale, flavourless food down. She supposed it was meant to be chocolate flavoured, but she'd had better days on Eridium than whatever this was.

"You know, for a long time, this was all Jack would let me eat for breakfast."

Angel bit into the bar a little too hard and nipped her tongue. The abrupt and voluntary piece of information from the double had caught her off guard. She swallowed down her mouthful and tried not to appear too interested. 

"Six percent body fat. That was the goal. Never could hold it for long and as soon as I was out of that range, Jack would be yammering on about it. Bet he remembered that percentage better than my real name."

"What is your real name?" Angel asked without thinking.

"I told you. It's Lawrence."

His eyes narrowed, and Angel knew she'd asked again too soon. She was going to have to be patient if she wanted any more spontaneous bits of trivia from the double.

They finished their meal in silence, and when she was done, Angel rolled over in her cot and faced the iron walls of the container.

He said goodnight, and Angel forced a reply.

She didn't want to see his face when she woke.


She woke with nausea rolling in her stomach. Perhaps it was too soon for her to have tried eating, or perhaps the food he gave her was just off. Angel believed it was the latter.

It was strange, hearing Jack's voice speaking softly, and Angel wondered if he was deliberately trying to conceal what he said, or trying to be considerate while she slept. The low deep beep that came next suggested he was speaking with Felicity.

Angel quietly climbed from her cot. The safe-house door was open, and a warm, gentle breeze had carried in a trail of sand, which muffled her footsteps. She lingered by the threshold but leaned forward to peep outside. 

Lawrence had his back to her, kneeling low to the ground and tinkering with Felicity's interface.

Angel reasoned with herself that spying for her safety, that learning what she could from the double was to protect herself. But unlike her Dad, she could not so easily deny the truth. She was spying and investigating because it was her nature to do so. It had been for the last eight years.

"When Jack found out I'd been scavenging part of your old code he threw a fit," Lawrence said, and his voice was still strangely soft. "I couldn't try again after that."

The bot beeped.

"I have no idea if you're understanding any of this. Your brain should be fried, and let's just say Jack had similar plans if I tried to fix you again," he said, followed by a long groan as he repositioned himself on the ground.

Lawrence swiped a hand down the AI's holographic interface and brought up a window that Angel recognised as Felicity's communication logs.

"Smart thing you did, scrambling parts of your code, and hiding them like that. But it would have taken me decades to get it all, years to decode, and probably another decade to stitch it back together."

The bot beeped. 

"If Jack ever realised how extensively you'd worked on hiding yourself, he'd have rewritten you from the ground up. He was too short-sighted, always under-estimating AI," Lawrence trailed off. 

"You're right," Angel chimed in, without thinking.

Lawrence's head snapped over his shoulder, and he eyed her the same way Jack would if she'd accidentally interrupted an important call.

'What is it? be quick.'

Angel bit her lip tried to block out Jack's voice to focus on Lawrence's:

"You're awake," he acknowledged flatly. 

Angel shifted her weight from toe to toe and found herself unsure on what else to add. The subjects of her spying were always unaware of her; through the eyes of Hyperion, she was the silent observer, and if she made commentary, they could never hear or see her.

Angel swallowed down the pressing nausea in her throat and forced herself to engage with the double:

"What happened after Jack found out you were trying to restore her?"

This was weird. She should find other ways to gain this knowledge; he would only lie. 

But Angel was wrong. Lawrence didn't reply; instead, he lifted himself off the ground and closed the interface he'd been examining. 

"He destroyed what I was working on, that's all."

Angel knew enough to know that wasn't 'all', but she didn't contend the matter. She had ample experience to imagine the consequences herself.

"I could help you," she offered. Angel waited to see if he would respond. He didn't, so she continued: "I used to talk with Felicity, it was nice. To have a friend. Her mind was weak, and there wasn't a whole lot to work with, but it was something."

Angel looked down at her left hand: remembering how her tattoos were alive as she hand-plucked Felicity's code from Hyperion's server and loaders.

"Overtime... I noticed the same thing. That she was trying to rebuild herself, I found fragments of her code at the end of her files, sometimes you could see it in a loader that acted a little strange, or perhaps in a recording that was far too large to hold just video feeds."

Lawrence gave her a firm look, and she quickly explained: "I never told Jack any of this, I swear."

"If you didn't tell Jack, then what did you do with this code?" His voice was low, and his tone made the crawling feeling return to her skin. 

Angel tugged at her yellow sleeves. These face-to-face encounters were so much more than communicating through a screen. To have someone look you in the eye when addressing you was both new and unnerving.

"I just wanted someone to talk with. A friend." Angel bowed her head, hiding the redness on her cheeks. It all sounded so stupid.

The wind of the Highlands had picked up and whispered through the dried grass. Angel wished the breeze would carry the rest of the conversation for her as Lawrence had remained silent.

He broke his silence with a long sigh and rubbed the freshly healing wound on his arm.

"I can understand that," he said, and Angel's eyes widened at his sudden remark. "Jack only ever wanted to be the sole focus of someone's life. He didn't allow room for another. Especially friends." 

She thought of the Vault Hunters as her friends, but she was prepared for the rejection; It wouldn't be the first, nor would it be the last.

First it was Jack, who wouldn't even look, let alone touch her for years. Then it was her stepmom, Helen, who tried to flee the moment she discovered who and what Angel really was. Next, it would probably be Lawrence and the Vault Hunters, but Felicity? She'd understand, she'd know what it was like to be forced into a role that you couldn't free yourself from. Felicity could be there when others hadn't, or so Angel had hoped. 

Lawrence gazed down at her, and he crossed his arms. When he was deep in thought, he didn't' look like Jack. He looked tired.

"So, how did this restoration project of yours go? Jack destroyed every I had worked on years ago."

"Well, there is no complete version of her. I never went that far. I just couldn't. If Jack found out —"

"He would have nuked her again. I understand, trust me, I was there the first time." Lawrence huffed. "So this code you were collecting, do you think you could access it?"

"It lays in my old server, which is back at the Bunker. It's not connected to any network or terminal, making it so others couldn't hack or reach it. That's where I stored all my research for Jack and other projects for myself."

"I see," Lawrence said, but he didn't appear to be focusing on her. Instead, he scratched at the stubble on his chin, and his gaze quickly shifted to their bandit truck below.

"Right," he said with a sharp exhale, "I'm going back."

"What?! No! But Jack? We can't go!" Her panicked yell would have been heard across the dunes, but Angel did not care. She would rather wake every bandit, cannibal, or rabid beast in the area than consider returning to the Bunker.

"I'm going. You're staying here."

"No," Angel said more firmly this time. "Jack–he—he won't allow you to leave a second time."

"I can handle Jack," Lawrence insisted, but she was not convinced. "He won't kill me. Hurt me, maybe? But Jack doesn't like losing things that are his, me included."

Angel's fear spilled into anger.

"I'm fully aware of what Jack's capable of. But, listen to me, you can't go back!"

Angel twisted the hems of her jumper into her fists. When she recognised the determination in his face, she almost tore the material apart. He was going to go. He wasn't listening!

"If he realises I'm still alive — No when he realises, he won't ever stop. Not until he has me back." Angel threw herself towards him and grabbed at his jacket. "I WON'T go back!"

"It's not going to come to that," Lawrence replied, almost yelling as loud as her. "I'm prepared. He won't find out."

"No! Promise me you won't go back to the bunker!" Her hand reached for his, and Lawrence instinctively took a step back. "Promise me! Going back there — I just, I can't!"

Angel felt it before Lawrence saw it himself; her powers were building up, gearing for an attack, and the tattoos on her arm were starting to glow feverishly. All the weapons and equipment in the safe house instantly connected with Angel's mind, but she closed herself to them. She had to focus on him, and hope he didn't notice.

"Please, Lawrence!" She dug into his folded arms just as his echo began to overcharge and emit static. "Promise me!"

Lawrence looked her in the eye and held a firm hand to her shoulder, before resigning defeat.

"Ok," he said, and squeezed her shoulder. "I promise. I won't go back to the Bunker."

Every muscle, every bone, and nerve seemed to collapse within her at once. The tattoos on her arm dulled, and her mind was at rest as she leaned into him. She didn't want to but being exhausted forced her to find support.

"Come on, kiddo. It's been a rough few days, let's get you back to bed."

Chapter Text

No matter how convincing Lawrence's Jack-act became, his boss was never impressed.

There was always something to adjust, a gesture he didn't make, or a tone he didn't hit and all of Jack's critiques came with a lingering threat (which he was sure involved him being sent to some Hyperion re-conditioning camp). But for all Jack's critiques, they never quite hit the mark; the man couldn't see past his narcissistic, sick ego. This amused Lawrence greatly. Jack's image of himself was too perfect, too performative, and often failed to pick up on his own tells and quirks.

Jack's greatest tell?

He twisted the ring on his finger whenever Lawrence asked a question that probed too close to his past. Or he'd fall uncharacteristically silent whenever R&D failed their latest charge on the Vault Key, before murdering whoever gave him the news.

The more Lawrence observed, the more he learnt to stay quiet.

With every passing cycle, it seemed the mask Lawrence wore was becoming more and more a part of him. He no longer found himself correcting his posture or adapting his vocabulary. As the moment he stepped out those doors, his chest automatically pushed forward, his shoulders broadened, and he was ready to bark orders with three syllables or less. 

He effortlessly maintained the act to the very moment the elevator to his floor closed behind him. Yet, the second they shut, he'd crack his shoulders and begin to whisper every sarcastic remark he'd contained during the day: for Jack, there were many.

"You're a fucking psychopath," Lawrence would whisper. "No, I don't want to murder those people. Yes, Jack, I would like to lay a bullet in your chest. No, Jack, I do think you're fucking insane. Yes Jack, Nisha may be hot. But do I want to fuck her? Hell no."

It was his ten steps of respite. As Lawrence knew when he reached his apartment doors, he would need to put the mask back on; Jack would be waiting. 

Lawrence assumed that Jack's apartment — at a minimum — had the same amenities as him: a gym, spa, a generously sized kitchen and pantry, entertainment space, a cinema, game room, a rarely used dining room, medical ward, two offices, three bedrooms (each with ensuites and walk-in wardrobes) and a storage room for arsenal. 

So with all that, there should be no reason for Jack to cross into Lawrence's apartment, and every day this week, his boss had entered and made himself at home on the lounge.

Lawrence had once regarded his apartment as a place to lower the Jack act; he could never drop it — too risky —but at least he could allow the tiniest part of his former self to come back. Even if it was merely slumping his shoulders, or finding some pen and paper to write (and then burn the pages), or sneaking in an extra digi-struct meal from Meg's account. These were his greatest pleasures, and not the five thousand dollar bottle of scotch, or the extinct animal's fur on the floor.

Despite the grand amenities and furnishings of his new home, Jack had gifted him an apartment of barbed wire.

Nothing this close to his boss could move or breathe without drawing blood. A wrong step or something said out of turn would warrant the sharp blades of Jack's scrutiny inching their way into your skin. But, as long as Lawrence played house-pet, and did not struggle, then the barbs stayed where they were. 

He adapted, as he always did.


The day was over, and Lawrence was once again whispering his affirmations:

"You're a fucking psycho, your a psycho, your a psycho, and I'm not you. I'm not you. I won't become you."

His feet hit the glass doors to his apartment, and he rested his forehead on the cool glass, while quietly finishing off the last of his curses. He wished for a hallway that had no end so that he could stay in that moment of not being Jack for a moment longer. 

There was laughter, and some celebrity host speaking from beyond the glass. Lawrence grimaced: he honestly felt like he could cry. His holo-screen was on, meaning, Jack was in there. But he never did let the tears fall. Instead, Lawrence sighed, ran a hand through his hair and fixed his jacket, before standing up straight and entering the apartment. 

The echo-show was turned up obnoxiously loud: blasting down the halls, along with Jack's laughter. Lawrence grimaced while he took off his shoes and prepared himself for confrontation. When he ventured into the living and kitchen area, he found Jack sprawled out on the sofa with his face deep in a bowl of pasta.

Lawrence bit his lip: taking a moment to calculate his next steps. Jack wanted him to make a scene and demand why he was there, so instead, he diverted to the kitchen and fixed himself a drink. It was one of the few calorie luxuries he was still allowed: two fingers of scotch over ice (two cubes), just how Jack had it. Lawrence poured the drink before reluctantly asking if Jack wanted one.

Jack replied with a delayed “no” before returning to devouring his meal. 

Lawrence finished the drink quickly. Gulping down the burning gold liquid and closing his eyes. It was his ritual and his way of resetting after a day's work. With every mouthful of alcohol, he locked away the murder and cruel acts of violence that Jack had made him commit. He knew one day his little lockbox of horrible memories and deeds would spill open, but as long as he had a routine, he could bury it. So, he drank.

Lawrence placed down the glass and rubbed his eyes. It was late, and the Hyperion kitchens would have closed by now. Even though they had digi-struct meals on order or their personal chef, Lawrence nevertheless felt it was easy enough to throw something together. Plus, cooking always soothed his nerves, even if he was pretty terrible at it.

His mum had always cooked for him, and when he moved out, it was student budget pot noodles or bowls of pasta with a rationed spoonful of sauce.

Lawrence's stomach churned. He was past the point of reasonable hunger, and now nausea curdled in his stomach. He wanted to follow Jack's example and indulge in pasta, but his strict no carbs diet was not going to allow that. Perhaps that's why Jack came and chose to eat the carby meal in front of him? To offer him a temptation so that if he succumbed, Jack might take joy in the punishment.

Lawrence wasn't the naive gun-for-hire he once was to fall for Jack's petty games, so he decided to cook some fish and steam some broccoli. If he covered it with just enough garlic and salt, it was somewhat enjoyable. 

He was halfway chopping up the broccoli when Jack interrupted his routine.

"What are you making?" Jack spoke with his mouth full and with spaghetti still in his bowl. 

It wasn't a question; it was a threat. Lawrence bit his tongue, before replying:

"Just some fish and veggies."

"I share my chief with you, and that's all you eat?"

Lawrence was sure he was going to draw blood if he kept biting his tongue. He didn't mention the diet, or strenuous exercise, or the regular medical check-ups, he merely said "yep" and continued chopping.

Jack was laying traps, and Lawrence was not going to wander into them so easily.

"Make something else for me, will ya? I'm still hungry," Jack called, all while keeping his gaze fixed on whatever terrible reality tv show he was watching. Lawrence grounded his teeth; he was trapped. Either he followed orders and broke his diet, or disobeyed and yet keep Jack satisfied later down the track.

Lawrence opted for the former. He carelessly binned what he started and reopened the fridge. To hell with dodging traps, if Jack said he could eat something else, then he would.

He digi-structured a chorizo sausage, a jar of capers, and a bag of pasta and parmesan cheese. He could not deny the ferocious hunger that rumbled in his stomach. It had been too long since he'd eaten something besides white meats and green vegetables. 

With the pasta on the boil and the capers and chorizo sizzling away, Lawrence had a moment to sit down and enjoy his second drink (which was also skirting the rules). He approached the couch, intending to maneuver around Jack and sit on the other seat across the room, and yet, Jack lifted his legs, gesturing for Lawrence to sit beside him. Lawrence reluctantly obliged and sat down, and Jack threw his feet back down on top of him with more effort than needed. You couldn't call this intimacy nor a friendly fondness, no, Jack just wanted him to forfeit his personal space. 

Lawrence hid his discomfort behind his glass and took another sip. 

He half expected Jack to poke him with his feet to promote more apprehension from him, but his employer seemed to be too engrossed in his drama. Apparently, a girl was screaming at another contestant about her hair straightener being found broken. Lawrence didn't understand how Jack could watch this brain vomit drama. Surely there wasn't enough blood and maiming to entertain him?

Lawrence rubbed at his eyes and watched on. If it kept Jack in a good mood, so be it. In fact, for once, he was almost content himself especially when the pork began to sizzle and waft into the living room. He almost rejoiced; he almost thanked Jack. It had been so long since he ate a meal worth looking forward to.

Jack laughed loudly and pushed his feet into Lawrence's crotch when one of the contestants bleached another girl's hair products. Lawrence internally groaned and held his glass tight. 

It wasn't the worst of all evenings. He could endure this.

The first time Jack had intruded into his apartment, Lawrence had spent the entire night fumbling his words, stuttering, and terrified he had done something wrong; despite knowing, he hadn't. Jack had merely laughed throughout the whole affair, thoroughly enjoying Lawrence's distress. However, with every visit, Lawrence's confidence returned, though, with Jack, it was never all there. 

It was impossible to be assured around Jack, the man's paranoia was infectious; it had Lawrence second-guessing every choice, every word he uttered, or move he made. 

With the abrupt departure of both Athena and Aurelia, Jack's attention on Lawrence was relentless. He was a beast on the hunt: never letting him leave his sight and never giving up the pursuit. Jack could claim that Lawrence was living on his floor so that he was safe, so that he could improve his impersonation, or that he couldn't flee. Whatever the original reason was, it didn't matter. Lawrence knew that Jack was bloody lonely and that Lawrence was the closest Plaything he had when Nisha wasn't around. 

Jack would never admit it, and Lawrence wouldn't dare press the issue, but Handsome Jack had no allies, no one to confide with, and no friends. Lawrence wasn't blind to what was happening: Jack wanted to pull him in and make him a part of his little world of paranoia. And for the time being, Lawrence accepted that. He may as well keep his enemies close. As deranged and volatile as Jack may be, Lawrence had adapted to the motions and could predict when the storm was coming. 

He just had to wait it out.

Lawrence swirled his drink, while Jack kept his feet dangerously close and snug against him. He could have freely spent the evening on the couch watching the shitty drama with his psychopath housemate, but the moment was short-lived. 

The door to their shared entrance chimed indicating the arrival of another. Both men looked at each other quizzically. Lawrence peered over his shoulder, waiting for whoever it was to make their entrance. Yet, his chest tightened as did his grip on the tumbler; the click of Nisha's heels stalked around the corner of the hallway.

Lawrence turned back around and sunk into the couch before she could spot him. He pictured her clearly: those golden eyes of hers scouring the room for her lover. 

Her heels moved over the tiles, and Lawrence remained silent, even when she approached his side.

She was dressed smart — a sharp contrast to her Pandora gear — and a deep navy velvet dress only just hung from her shoulders. Gold chains decorated the top, and a wide split revealed her toned dark legs. Lawrence shoved his drink in front of his features to hide whatever expression his face was making. The ice from the scotch abated the hot flush on his cheeks. 

"Where is Jack?" Her voice was as smooth as smoke, yet she trailed off, and her eyes lingered from Lawrence down to Jack's embedded body on the couch. 

She raised a thin brow. "Forgot I was visiting?"

"Of course not," Jack contested, and Lawrence recognised the lie. 

He abruptly swung his feet off Lawrence's lap, taking his drink with it, and spilling it over his shirt. Lawrence swore, and Jack scolded him. 

"Just a moment babe." Jack waltzed up to his equally insane lover and pressed a firm kiss to her lips, before tossing what remained of his pasta into Lawrence's sink. 

Nisha had Jack hook, line and sinker. She was cruel to the bone, ravished in Jack's violent tendencies and had the body of a damn goddess. She was everything someone like Jack craved.

Lawrence drifted back to the kitchen to clean the scotch from his shirt. Usually, he'd just take the damn thing off, but Nisha was staring at him. Being vulnerable around Jack was one thing, but Nisha? She eyed him like a hawk, and Lawrence felt that her very gaze could pick apart his tendons. 

He refused to look at her, and this apparently irritated her further, as she strummed her long nails against the bench. 

Jack could be manageable on his own, but when Nisha came into the picture, he'd become his true monstrous self. She seemed to radiate some kind of negative energy that fueled him to be at his absolute worst. 

Lawrence dabbed a cloth to his shirt and then squeezed the water out. His knuckles went white, and he wished they'd hurry up and leave. 

Satisfied he'd soaked the drink out of his shirt, he let the damp material fall back onto his chest. When Lawrence looked up, Nisha was still eyeing him with a look that only a predator could wield.

Lawrence promptly ignored her and turned to the stove to remove the heat from the pasta. He picked up the large pot to take it to the sink to drain, however sharp nails dug into his upper arm, causing him to shake and spray boiling water all over his arm. The pot crashed to the floor, and Lawrence swore as its burning contents washed down his legs.

Nisha's nails dug in like talons, and her golden eyes bore into him.

"It seems you and Jack have gotten quite comfortable together," she mused. 

Lawrence said nothing and his jaw clamped shut as he suppressed the pain from the burns on his arm and legs. 

"That's good," she continued, and yet, her tone suggested she loathed the idea.

The pain was terrible, but Lawrence would take twice as much then let her see him in discomfort. She'd already had her fill when she'd watched him be branded. He wouldn't be that person again.

"Has he invited you over, yet?" She asked though Lawrence considered it more of an accusation. 

"Um...no?" He raised a brow and pulled an awkward smile. Nisha thought of him as dumb; it was better to keep her thinking that.

She stalked forward, and to his embarrassment, he took a step back. His shoulders hit the oven door, cornering him.

"Are you sure?" She lingered so close that he felt her breath tickle his neck. "Jack does like to keep his playthings on a tight chain. For easy access, you could say." 

Lawrence smirked — he couldn't resist, Nisha had a way of getting under his skin, in a way, Jack never could — and leaned over her.

"Plaything? Oh, so that's why you have a collar around your neck?" Lawrence slapped a hand to his face in mock surprise; his Jack ‘mask’ so seamlessly came into play. "So Jack can tag you to keep track of each and every whore he —"

She struck him.

Before he could swing a punch back, she threw him against the oven door, cracking the glass. Her hands hooked onto his shirt and tore it downwards revealing his scarred chest. Her sharp eyes rested on the sniper scar above his collarbone. 

"A nice mark," she said, before digging her nails in and twisting the flesh. "Remember, he may have gifted you his face, but it doesn't come with power. True power is taken, and you have nothing." 

Lawrence cursed and shoved her away.

"Better not leave him waiting," he growled and jerked his head over her shoulder. Jack was approaching, and it was better to end the fight swiftly. 

"Aww, you made the kitten upset" Jack cooed from the doorway, as he fixed a sleek tie around his neck. 

Nisha scoffed: "Don't worry, I only just ruffled his fur. The kitten is just fine."

She came to Jack's side and played with the hem of his jacket. Jack's suit was the deepest of greys; not entirely black, but gunmetal. The material itself appeared as if it were made of some fine precious metal. The rest of his outfit was ruined by the stupid overly casual boat shoes, and the loose open-collared shirt. 

Lawrence hated Jack's taste, but at least the shoes were comfy. 

"He was being naughty," Nisha continued and playfully ran a hand over Jack's crotch. "I think we should take him with us, as punishment, hmmm?"

Jack's gaze met his, and Lawrence felt as if he'd just been pushed into a well, as everything about Jack's expression was cold, dark, and relentless.

"No." Jack finally said, "He can stay here."

Jack straightened his collar and pulled a bright, sharp smile. But it didn't stop Lawrence from digging his hands into the back of the kitchen bench, holding on for his life. 

"He's one of us now." Jack kept smiling, and Lawrence thought he was going to be sick. "We don't punish our own." 

He was certain that Jack was going to change his mind, that he was just toying with him, before approaching and having his fun, and so Lawrence almost collapsed with relief when Jack moved his hand around Nisha's waist and turned towards the door.

"Now, you behave yourself, Jack," he called to him as the two of them strode away.

When the entrance door closed, Lawrence bent his knees and sunk to the floor, burying his head in his hands. His heart was racing. He'd fired back at Nisha; he had tried to hit her! And yet? Jack left him be.

Lawrence rubbed a burnt hand over his stomach. He couldn't eat now, and the burns would need treatment before Jack could get a closer look. For every moment he thought he had a handle on Jack, Nisha was there to shift the situation into her favour. 

He sat on the floor until the panic faded, and his heart returned to an even beat. Wearily, he pulled himself to his feet, before kicking the stove pot across the tiles and heading to bed.


Another mission to Opportunity and another team of engineers executed. Lawrence couldn't recall why he was ordered to pull the trigger. Something about traitors or alliances with bandits. Jack's paranoia had no limits, and honestly, Jack likely fabricated his own intelligence reports to justify the slaughter. Whatever the reason, Lawrence's job was just to pull the trigger: the simplest of tasks once you'd numb yourself to what you were doing.  

Every cycle was the same as the last. Routine had shaped his days into blurs, and Lawrence was beginning to forget to leave his 'mask' at the door. 

Being Jack was becoming too easy, and sometimes the mask didn't come off at all, and that scared him more than Jack ever could. He'd told himself there would be no more mischief, no more disobedience, that he would be the best Jack he could ever be. But Lawrence couldn't let himself fall too deep into the act. 

When did the mask stop being a mask? How would he know?

And so, Lawrence set himself a goal, something that only Timothy Lawrence would ever do: a reminder of who he once was. As long as he had that goal to focus on, he could never truly become Jack.

Lawrence started his Felicity restoration project. 

He barely had anything to go on, just a few pieces of lingering code from inside a constructor. At first, they appeared to be random: ghosts of the machine. However, as Lawrence discovered more and more, he realised she was rebuilding herself, all while, keeping herself hidden. Jack would wipe her again if he got wind of her existence, so Lawrence carefully removed the pieces he found and stored them away.

It was slow work, but it was a start, and as long as Lawrence kept up his routine, Jack's paranoia would not focus on him. 

For a long time, nothing new of Felicity arose. He didn't know how or where to search for more parts of her old self. Perhaps the Drakensberg? But he had no reason to travel there, and breaking routine would raise suspicion. 

So, Lawrence took what he had of her code and secured it behind an obnoxiously detailed painting of Jack's profile. He had to play this safe, even if it meant years before he could bring her back.

He could be patient, a virtue he had over Jack. 

Lawrence sighed and leaned into the walls of the elevator. The blood on his arms had long dried and stuck to his hair; another element of his body he was not entirely used too. His old self had been more freckles than body hair, Jack, on the other hand, was very much the opposite. Lawrence was picking at the red scaling blood when the doors opened. He looked a mess, and a drink was all that was on his mind. 

The glass doors to his apartment were open: not surprising, Jack visiting was a daily custom now. Lawrence entered, kicked off his shoes, and walked towards the kitchen. He had expected to find Jack on the couch or rummaging through his cupboards for food, but the adjoining living room was empty. Lawrence called out and was met with silence. 

Lawrence shrugged and diverted straight for the scotch. He wasn't going to seek Jack out, as a few more moments alone was a respite rarely found. He was halfway through making his drink when he recognised Jack's movements pacing down the hall.

"Oh, so you are here," Lawrence said without looking up. 

Yet a moment later, Lawrence's heart tore through his chest as two loaders followed Jack into the kitchen. Jack had never brought loaders or any form of protection onto their floor before. 

As Jack approached, Lawrence stepped away from the kitchen bench, hands instinctively wanting to raise in defence. But rolling over and showing his tummy now, would only confirm any suspicions Jack had. Whatever the reason was. So Lawrence remained very still. 

"Care to explain?" Jack asked, and though his voice was calm and steady, his eyes were bright with fury.

Before Lawrence could reply, Jack threw down a sleek, thin black rectangle onto the kitchen bench. Lawrence stared at it, and with slow, painful recognition, he realised it was his private server, the one he'd hidden behind the painting.

"That's…" Lawrence trailed off as he stared at the small hard drive. Months worth of code were on that device, Felicity's code. Lawrence clawed his thumbs into the inside of his palms, already slick with sweat. 

"Don't bother explaining. I've already read everything on it," Jack drawled. 

"It was encrypted."

"Please." Jack smiled at him, but there was a ball of fury behind those masked features. "So what were you planning to do with this, champ?"

Lawrence bit his tongue; silence was his only option at this point. He'd seen what happened when you tried to explain your actions or beg for forgiveness from Jack. 

"The silent act, aint cute, kitten." Jack bared his teeth and stepped closer, and the loaders followed him. 

Lawrence remained silent, yet his mind raced, as did his beating heart. Jack was right in front of him now, one more step and he'd be between Lawrence's legs, and Lawrence would rather persecution than that.

He cleared his throat and stared down at the server: submission was his only option now. 

"I was just working on a few projects," Lawrence started, voice wavering between panic and assertiveness.

"Name the project," Jack said.

Lawrence's heart was ready to burst from his chest, aching and beating against his ribs, but he kept his composure and carried on: 

"Felicity... I was working on restoring her."

Jack nodded slowly as if he understood, but Lawrence knew the gesture was in mock agreement.

"Need I remind you what happened when we last saw the AI? It tried to kill us kiddo."

"Yeah," Lawrence cleared his throat again. "But—"

He fell silent, and panic rose in his chest as Jack picked up the server and began to turn it over in his hands. 

"You can't trust outsiders," Jack said, though he spoke as though he were reassuring himself. "Can't trust any of them."

Jack's knuckles turned white, and his pressure on the server tightened.

"Jack," Lawrence asked, all while desperately trying to keep the pleading note from his voice. "We could bring her back. She could —"

Jack's attention abruptly snapped back onto him. Eyes bright and cutting, he glared at Lawrence before his face twisted into a cruel smile.

"It's cute that you think I'd ever take your advice on the matter."

And with that, Jack snapped the server in half, destroying Felicity a second time. 

Lawrence merely stared in dumb disbelief. Hours ago he'd executed on Jack's orders, and he felt nothing. But now? His hands turned into fists, and his spine shook with a rage he didn't know he possessed. 

He gave and gave for Jack, and all he wanted, all he needed was just something to hold onto of his former self: just one good act. 

"There's that look again," Jack said slowly. His eyes narrowed; he studied Lawrence like a scientist would a caged feral beast. 

"What?" Lawrence spat.

"You gave me that exact look—" Jack gestured to the scar that lay behind Lawrence's mask. "After that happened." 

 

"Can't imagine why," Lawrence said through grounded teeth, remembering the heat and agony. "You didn't have to do it. No one would have known if you'd just left me without the scar."

"But I did." Jack pushed forward until his knees were touching Lawrence's. "You had to learn."

Lawrence's rage was his downfall; it fueled his courage when he should stay silent.

"You're wrong." Lawrence growled, and Jack's expression twitched. "You wanted to do it. You wanted to hurt someone just like Lilith hurt you—"

"Enough." Jack latched onto Lawrence's throat, so fast, not even his training could prepare him to respond. Jack's grip was firm, to hold him in place, but not enough that he couldn't draw breath.

"You know what?" Jack said and clicked his tongue. "Let's have a look at it. I've not seen it since the hospital, and I want to make sure we don't need a do-over. That would be disappointing."

The hand currently on Lawrence's throat was nothing compared to the hand that had been on his stomach: tracing his flesh and sinking downwards. Jack visited him after the branding, gave him the mask, and in return, he wanted something else.

Jack wanted him.

Lawrence swallowed and clenched his jaw tight. The loader's above him did not give him an inch to move, and so he could not pull away as Jack lowered himself, so they were eye-to-eye.

"Let's see," Jack said, eyes wild with delight at Lawrence's discomfort. Jack gently placed his hands on either side of Lawrence's face, almost lovingly, before carefully unleashing the clasps and removing the mask.

"There we go," Jack's voice was smooth, almost coaxing like, but it didn't stop Lawrence's hands from clenching tighter. "Damn that is a handsome mug," Jack beamed, admiring the identical face in front of him.

When Jack first looked at him like that, Lawrence almost wanted to believe the attention was on him, that Jack could see past the mask and the face, and see who he was.

He was a fucking idiot. Jack only saw himself.

Jack sighed and impatiently tapped his hands against Lawrence's shoulders.

"Too bad for the whole vault punching thing. You really were a work of art, you know?"

Lawrence stayed silent. 

"Let me ask you something." Jack squeezed Lawrence's shoulder, demanding to know that he was listening. "Do you know why I had to brand you?"

Lawrence bit down and swallowed whatever witty remark was on the tip of his tongue. He would not give Jack the satisfaction; he won't answer Jack's pointless rhetorical questions. Silence was his best defence, even if it angered Jack, at least Lawrence knew it wouldn't give Jack the satisfaction he sought.

"You're doing the silence thing again," Jack growled, and the hand on Lawrence's shoulder dug in. "Listen to me. I needed you to drop the good-boy hero act. It's pathetic. We can't save everyone. Being a real hero means making sacrifies—"

Lawrence's jaw opened; he was almost about to retort back.

"Uh-Uh-Ahh. Do not interrupt me, kitten. Let me finish. A real hero learns when to kill and when to show mercy. I show mercy." Jack's grip was now relentless and shook Lawrence against the floor with every word. "There's no chatting back, there's no second guessing yourself, and especially no making eyes at the one giving the orders."

Jack wanted an attack dog, not a hero. 

Lawrence's composure must have slipped; Jack must have seen something, as he sighed, and his expression became bitter with disappointment.

"Goddammit, you obviously didn't learn the first time."

"No. I understand, Ja—"

"I told you not to interrupt me," Jack snarled, voice rising and the loaders beside Lawrence released a threatening beep. "You've got to learn."

Lawrence kept his face fixed on Jack. No matter what Jack had planned for him, he wouldn't beg this time.

"I can't mess up that gorgeous body of yours, not again," Jack lamented, "honestly, the first time was really hard for me."

Lawrence's heart raced, and his blood rushed in a fury. There was nothing hard for Jack when it came to disfiguring him. 

"So let's see...what to do," Jack thoughtfully clicked his tongue.

Whatever Jack planned, he could survive it. He wasn't going to give Jack the satisfaction of tears or cries for mercy.

 "Ah here we go!" Jack cheered, and the excitement on his face was that of a child on mercenary day morning.

Jack digitised a health-kit from his gear chip and swung the long needle back and forth: deliberately making sure it caught Lawrence's eye. 

Bile swirled in Lawrence's gut as the needle swung close to his neck. His hearing was churning into a rush of blood, and his vision began to spot. The very sight of the needle was enough to push to the edge of fainting.

Jack smiled, clearly enjoying the reaction he was eliciting from Lawrence. With deliberately, slow and precise movements, Jack emptied the contents of the syringe against Lawrence's knees. The red formula soaked his pants, mixing with the sweat that was already perspiring on his body. 

"You hold him down, and you—" Jack pointed a finger at the other loader, "hold his face, he cannot move." Jack stressed. "I don't want to make a mess of this."

Jack leaned forward, wedging his knees between Lawrence's thighs and positioning himself right in front of him. The syringe stayed firm in Jack's grasp, the point of it hovering just under Lawrence's chin.

I won't beg.

"Is he still?" Jack asked the loaders, and they replied with two short beeps. "Good." Jack breathed out and focused his gaze onto Lawrence's.

"Now, I need you to listen very carefully—"

"Jack—"

"And you can never seem to do that, can you, other-me?" 

Lawrence bit his lip. He knew he had to stay silent, but with the needle so close to him, he could barely see straight, let alone, stay calm.

"Before we have our little chat, i'm going to make sure I have your attention. Ok?"

Jack gave Lawrence a toothy grin, and Lawrence dug his nails into his palms, tearing at the flesh.

"Damn your left eye is so fricken gross and white, so let's not bother with that one," Jack whispered to himself. 

I won't beg.

Jack readjusted Lawrence's face so that his blue eye was in line with him and the needle.

"If you move, if you scream, it's on you," Jack warned and raised the syringe.

I won't beg. I won't beg. I won't do it. Don't give him the satisfaction. 

Jack lined the point of the needle up to Lawrence's eye. 

His stomach turned with the sick realisation of what Jack intended to do. The sweat that had run down his back now drenched him and his nails dug so deep into his palms he could feel the sweat sting the cuts. The silver point of the needle divided what limited vision Lawrence's had left, and he couldn't grasp how close the tip was, but every part of him screamed for it to move away. 

"Careful now," Jack spoke to himself and began to slowly push the eye of the needle into Lawrence's cornea. "Don't move, kitten."

Lawrence's muffled screams almost broke through his jaw, but he kept his body still as the needle continued to work its way into his eye.

"Are you listening to me?" Jack's voice was low and dripping with venom.

Lawrence failed to reply, and yet whatever had suppressed Jack's rage finally snapped.  

"ARE YOU!?" Jack roared into Lawrence's face, and the needle jittered from the clamour. 

Lawrence cried through his teeth, the needle jabbed at something it shouldn't have, and his vision became stained with red. He didn't dare move, not even to open his mouth to speak, and so he let out a short whimper in reply.

"Good, now we can talk," Jack almost cheered but his grip on the needle and the back of Lawrence's neck did not falter. He pulled him closer, penetrating the needle further into his eye socket.

"You're too important to me, too expensive and it would be a huge hassle for me, to replace you, do you understand?" 

Jack's nails dug into the back of Lawrence's neck; he knew it drew blood as the sweat stung the cuts.

"And most of all," Jack whispered, almost tenderly, "you're far too precious to me."

Lawrence whimpered and shook, and Jack hushed him and pushed the syringe in deeper, all while holding onto him, as though he were afraid he would lose Lawrence in that very moment.

"So, I don't want you investing your time and energy into any more of these little side projects. Ok?"

Tears welled in the corner of Lawrence's working eye. He'd not cried in months, yet they spilled over his cheeks, dripping down his chin and onto his chest.

"Distract yourself again with these pointless endeavours, and I'll pay Mrs Lawrence or Miss Springs a personal visit. You know what? I'll go see both of them. But I won't shove a needle down their eyes, no, it'll be an ice pick. Never performed a lobotomy, but there's always a first, right?"

Lawrence swallowed down the fist-sized lump in his throat and gave another whimper as an excuse for an answer.

"Who are you?" Jack closed the last distance between them and whispered into Lawrence's ear. The movement caused the needle to dig around at a crude angle, and Lawrence finally broke and cried out. 

"Who are you?" Jack asked again and shoved the needle, blinding Lawrence with pain.

"Jack! I'm Jack, I'm Handsome Jack" Lawrence yelled, followed by a sharp cry of pain.

Jack beamed and slid the needle out of his eye.

"Atta boy," he cheered and slapped a hand on Lawrence's shoulder, but he didn't pull away.

Lawrence didn't hear what Jack said next. His hands raised and hovered over his blue eye, tracing along his brow and cheekbone.

Jack snorted: "It's fine, no damage done."

Jack's words of comfort did nothing. The tears spilled down Lawrence's face, and he wanted nothing more than to curl up on the floor, but all he met was Jack's chest. A deep sob escaped him, which he immediately regretted; Jack didn't cry. Jack will punish him for this. 

"Come on now, stop that," Jack cooed, but his voice was still dangerously low.

Jack dropped the syringe and wrapped his arms over Lawrence, pulling him close. His thumb rolled into Lawrence's spine, tracing up and down the bone. Lawrence remained on his knees, a crumbled mess; he wanted to flee, but all he did was sit there, under Jack's chin and pressed into his neck.

Slowly, after the crying stop, Lawrence pried his eyes open: the discarded needle was on the floor beside them. He could grab it, tear it into Jack's neck and the man would bleed out in under a minute. 

Jack still held him, all while whispering something like "precious", or "perfect" into his ear.

Lawrence had nowhere to go, yet the thought of murder clung to him. Despite his sobbing, his gaze remained fixed on the needle on the floor.

It was so close.

If he were to quietly disappear from the world, no one would care or mourn for Timothy Lawrence. However, what if he was the one to end it all? Take Jack out at this moment and be the saviour for the border planets. Or better yet, claim them for himself, take over Helios and all its resources.

In the end, Lawrence could not rationalise his actions for a better future; he had none. It was pure instinct which drove him, a necessity to survive. He launched for the needle; Jack made a surprised noise as Lawrence's hand gripped over the vial.

"You ungrateful little shit," Jack snarled and dove on top of him, wrestling for the syringe.

Lawrence kicked Jack in the shin and scrambled over the tiles of the kitchen towards the syringe.

"Get off me!" Lawrence grunted and pushed forward.

His hand reached the syringe, yet it fumbled out of his grip when Jack drove an elbow into his sternum. Lawrence gasped for air as a second brutal punch landed under his jaw, and his head hit the marble floor.

Jack leaned over him, breathing heavily.

"You REALLY should not have done that, kiddo."

He removed his gun from his holster.

"You wouldn't," Lawrence laughed. Jack would never shoot him, too expensive. 

Jack's smile twisted, and in one swift moment, he switched the gun to stun-mode and fired.

The dart landed directly into Lawrence's chest. 

Lawrence blinked slowly. His hand useless pawed at his chest, trying to pull the barb out, but his movements became sloppy. He couldn't reach it.

Jack laughed and slowly stood up. He thoughtfully prodded Lawrence with his shoe.

"Take him to R&R," Jack said to the loaders, and that was the last thing Lawrence heard before the darkness took him. 


A dull, painful noise throbbed inside Lawrence's head.

Words echoed around him, but none of them legible. He tried to open his eyes; groaning, he found they stayed shut. His body felt too heavy to move, as though he were smothered in something thick, clinging to the ground.

It was the smell which eventually jolted him awake. 

Something too clean, sterile, and painfully familiar lingered in the air. Lawrence's world span to a crude angle as he opened his eyes and drew a sharp breath. The first thing he noticed was he couldn't move; he struggled against the straps on his wrists and ankles. Testing their strength, he found they didn't give a fraction of an inch. 

"Stop that," a voice — no wait — Jack's voice called from behind him.

Lawrence strained his head up to see, but everything was so bright. The walls were reflective, bouncing off fluorescent lights and straining his vision. Lawrence groaned again as he tried to kick himself free from his binds. 

He was trapped. 

"Oh, other-me," an exasperated sigh spoke above. "What am I gonna do with you?"

Lawrence growled something low and venomous as the other man paced into his line of sight. Jack came to a stop at Lawrence's feet and rested his hands at Lawrence's ankles, tapping the straps thoughtfully.

It was only now that Lawrence noticed what he was bound too: a surgical table. 

In that moment, panic should have crushed him and yet, Lawrence felt nothing. The medical equipment, the surgical table, that horrible sterile smell: all of his triggers laid dormant when they should have been ripping through his system.

Did he value his life so little? Or was something far more sinister at hand? That the threat of more medical procedures or lethal injection meant nothing. 

"I already know what I'm gonna do," Jack laughed, "but, I kinda want to hear your thoughts on the matter."

"Loosen the straps and I'll talk all you want. Hell, I'll even sing for you," Lawrence growled.

"Oh, no way, champ. You tried to attack me. You've got some conditioning to go through." Jack patted his leg affectionately like he was a damn pet.

Lawrence raised his head as far as he could off the table and glared down at the madman.

"Fuck you. You're a fucking psycho, you shoved a needle down my fucking eye."

"Language." Jack marched over and dug a finger into Lawrence's exposed throat, causing him to choke and splutter. "You misbehaved," Jack snarled and leaned down, flashing the whites of his teeth. "You were doing so well, so well for me. I was hoping that mark on your face taught you all your lessons."

Jack moved his finger against Lawrence's forehead, jabbing it against the scar.

"I guess I was wrong."

Lawrence sucked up a mouthful of saliva and spat it hard against Jack's face. He was quickly struck, and his head hit the back of the table, ears ringing from the collision.

"You've got an attitude problem, kitten," Jack said and wiped the spit from his face.

"Come a little close, I missed a spot," Lawrence snarled. If Jack was going to treat him like an animal, then he'd be one.

You can't cage a beast forever.

Jack was not impressed; he moved to the edge of the table and kicked at something on the side. A latch clicked, and Lawrence was abruptly shifted upright. The table had swung horizontally, and with it, his weight slipped down. Lawrence winced as his arms and wrists strained in the cuffs to support himself. 

Lawrence drew his teeth together and kept his jaw tight. Fear would not claim him, no matter how vulnerable he was. 

"Let me lay out what's going to happen," Jack said, this time keeping his distance. "Better yet, I'll show you."

Jack moved away, and Lawrence craned his neck and followed Jack across the surgical room until he was out of sight.

Lawrence took the moment alone to assess his options. The restraints wouldn't budge, and Jack had removed his holster and even his jacket. He would need to wait until an opportunity arose. Lawrence took a deep breath and steadied his breathing. He would not submit, and he would not beg. Not again, not like he had with the brand. He survived the needle; he can survive Jack.

I will survive this.

Lawrence repeated the thoughts, over and over. He let his mind be lathered with determination. Even when Jack returned with a blade in hand, he didn't permit that courage to burst.

"Lean forward," Jack ordered, and Lawrence ignored the request.

Jack rolled his eyes and grabbed him by the tuff of his hair and yanked Lawrence's head so far forward that the restraints began to cut into his skin. Using one hand to keep Lawrence's head in the place, Jack used the other to wield the blade and slowly raise it.

"What are you doing?" Lawrence hissed as he felt the cold edge of the knife rest on the back of his neck.

"Showing you your future," Jack answered, and pressed the knife down.

He ran the blade from the back of Lawrence's head and down his neck, cutting open an inch or two of flesh. Lawrence winced and bit his tongue to stop him making a sound. The cut stung with the sweat on his skin and a hot trail of blood ran down his neck. Lawrence glanced down: crimson spotted his shirt. Jack tossed the blade to the floor, and Lawrence watched as it skimmed across the tiles smearing red everywhere. 

"What was that for?" Lawrence grumbled.

Unsurprisingly, Jack ignored him. 

The cut was more annoying than actually painful, but the blood was now a steady stream. Lawrence closed his eyes for a moment: he was already beginning to feel light-headed.

When he opened his eyes, Jack digitised a handheld mirror from his gear chip. Lawrence frowned at such an out of place object in Jack's hand. A large blue gemstone sat on the back of the mirror, and the rest of it was ornate with silver markings.

Lawrence didn't bother asking. There were many things Jack kept to himself, and this was clearly one of them. 

Jack held up the mirror and Lawrence scowled when he saw his reflection. It was easier when the mask was on. His mangled flesh twisted over his face, and the scar ran deep. His blue eye was swollen and red from where the needle was jammed into it. Despite the mess, his gaze was wild and focused: determination lingered there. Jack hadn't broken him yet. Under all these layers of 'Jack', there was still a Timothy Lawrence. Screw whatever pledges he made to be the best Jack he could be. The brand didn't break him, and whatever this was, it wouldn't either.

"What am I looking at?" Lawrence finally asked when Jack had remained silent.

An expression almost twitched onto Jack's face. Like restrained excitement, but he said nothing and simply pulled a second mirror from his pocket. It was a small thing, cosmetic in size. Jack carefully placed the second mirror against the surgical table and wedged it between Lawrence back. While his other hand still held the gemstone mirror.

Lawrence could now see the back of his head reflected into the mirror in front of him.

The pain had not revealed how deep the wound was; his entire neck was smothered in blood. 

"Watch closely now," Jack said, and Lawrence flinched: he'd become accustomed to the silence.

Lawrence reluctantly did as Jack asked, and curiously watched his own reflection. Yet, he was not prepared for when Jack reached for the wound. 

"Ah—Ah Fuck!" Lawrence cried out as Jack dug his fingers into the gash. He used his digits to scissor the wound open, and Lawrence's mind almost cut to black.

Inside the wound, under a mass of red and flesh was something mechanical. A shiny metal surface lay hidden under his skin.

"No," Lawrence breathed out with panic. His chest spasmed as Jack pulled the wound open further.

It was a cybernetic port.

"NO!" Lawrence screamed as he rounded on Jack.

Another non-consensual surgery. When had this happened? Why was it there?

Lawrence feverishly struggled against the cuffs, and the mirror behind him slipped away.

"You fucking bastard! What have you done?!" 

Lawrence started hyperventilating as Jack withdrew his fingers. He wanted to scream at Jack again, but he could scarcely draw breath, let alone say another word. He stopped struggling, his body becoming immobile from terror.

When Jack finally answered him, his expression tightened into a patronising cruel smile:

"It's been there for some time."

Jack's smile stretched even wider until it was all teeth, and the sight made Lawrence's stomach turned sour. He was going to be sick. 

"There's more," Jack said and shifted closer. His hand briefly cupped Lawrence's cheek before he wiped his red-stained fingers against Lawrence's pants. 

Jack left and moved towards a control panel in the corner of the room. Lawrence tried to keep his focus on Jack, but his mind refused. All he saw was the silver cybernetic port dwelling inside his head. How long had it been there? Since the sniper assassination? Since the mask? Since he first underwent surgery?

Had Jack been planning this ever since he first signed his name and life away?

The questions weren't the only things building up. Lawrence gagged, before pulling as far as he could on the restraints and letting bile pour to the floor. 

"Ah Gross. Don't be such a baby!" Jack snapped before returning to whatever he was doing. 

Lawrence coughed up the last of his sick, with salvia and blood both dripping off his chin. He glared at Jack through the strands of his sweat-soaked hair. The man had his back to him, learning over a desktop and typing away. 

I'm going to survive. 

A slow mechanical churning sound snapped Lawrence's attention forward. The chrome plating that once covered the wall in front of him began to digitise away, revealing a dark window. There should not have been any sinister about the black glass before him, and yet, Lawrence's breathing hitched and his hands began to sporadically clenched and unclenched in a feverish panic.

Jack quietly cursed as he continued to work at the computer, leaving Lawrence to fidget again against the cuffs. He tried to reach for the band on his wrist, hoping to tear at it with his teeth, but the leather at his ankles held him from moving upwards.

Lawrence's attention abruptly jolted back to the window; he thought he heard something. The black glass was unnaturally dark, emitting nothing. No sound or change transpired, and the longer Lawrence ignored it, the more his hairs stood on end. As if some horrible monster lurked in its depths and he were a sacrificial lamb: waiting at the mouth of a great cave, for the beast to come and swallow him whole. 

He had to get out of here. 

"Got it!" Jack cheered from the other side of the room.

He should have been tugging on his restraints, doing anything to free himself, and yet he could not look away from the dark glass in front of him. He thought he saw something project on the screen.

The faintest flicker of blue sparked, but it wasn't on the screen. The light came from deep within. He'd been right; something was lurking in those dark depths. Lawrence struggled again; he had no intention of waiting around to see what it was.

No.

He saw it again, but this time more clearly. The monster within had walked past, off in the distance, but it was there.

No, no, no, no. 

It stalked closer. Cautiously at first, but then its pace changed to something too familiar. A predatory stride as it marched forward, Jack's stride.

No, not possible.

The blue being was so close now. It's features sharp and angular, just like the man beside him, just like Jack.

"No," this time, Lawrence cried and rested his head back against the table. 

"Oh, yes, pumpkin," it answered with a wide blue pixel grin, leering as close as it could from its dark domain. 

"NO!" Lawrence screamed, and he rounded on the real Jack beside him. "What the hell is this?!"

But Jack ignored him and kept staring at his blue copy of himself.

The blue creature laughed, and his face consumed the entire window.

"Keep that pretty body in check for me, ok? I want it in one piece when I get to ride in it. Solo that is."

"No, please, Jack." Lawrence pulled his gaze away, refusing to talk or to look at the thing which loomed from within the window. 

But Jack did not answer. He rested his hands on his hips and kept his eyes fixed on the other-Jack, refusing to meet Lawrence's begging gaze and trembling voice.

"Jack?" Lawrence sobbed, "please, please, fuck. Jack?" 

Lawrence stared at the real Jack; he was a comfort he never thought he needed or wanted.

"Please...don't do it."

"I haven't even told you what I'm going to do," Jack deadpanned all while watching the blue thing in the window. 

Lawrence merely made a dry, hoarse sob in reply. It was all he could manage to squeeze out. His heart pounded erratically, and every breath ached in his chest.

"This is an AI, based on my brain scans. It has my memories, my intentions and goals. In every sense of the word, it's my digital-self," Jack said. 

The 'Jack' in the window beamed as the real Jack in front of him continued to explain. 

"This is Project Tartarus, my end game. The AI will inhabit your body."

"No," Lawrence pleaded "Jack, please, no. Don't do this."

Jack finally turned towards him; his expression was dark, almost mournful. Lawrence struggled forward until the cuffs tore at the skin on his wrists and ankles, but none of it mattered. He had to get closer to the real Jack and away from the creature in the window.

Jack rested a hand under Lawrence's chin and ran his thumb over his jaw.

"Despite your physical qualities, as you truly are a masterpiece, you'll never be me, you'll never become a perfect Jack." 

"No," Lawrence desperately whispered. "No, I will, I can."

Both Jack's laughed: "No, I don't think you can."

"Please," the tears were freely spilling down his cheeks. "I can." Lawrence bowed his head, "please Jack, don't do this. I can be better."

Jack pressed up against him, his words hot against his ear:

"You told me that once before, how is this any different, hmmm?" 

Lawrence pressed his forehead against Jack's neck, desperate to get closer. He let what weight he had free, fall into the other man, burying himself against him. 

He mouthed his plea against Jack's throat: "Please, don't erase me, please don't do this, fuck. I don't — I can be better."

"Shh shhh," Jack hushed and cupped Lawrence's cheeks, steering him away from the black window. Jack's gem-bright eyes fixed onto Lawrence's pale blue and milk-green ones: the determination Lawrence’s gaze once wielded was long gone, there was no will to fight back.

"You won't feel a thing, I promise," Jack pressed a long, gentle kiss on Lawrence's forehead and stepped away.

"NO!" Lawrence screamed and tried to launch himself forward. "JACK! PLEASE DON'T DO THIS!"

But Jack simply shook his head and stepped backwards.

"JACK!"

The AI laughed, almost drowning out Lawrence's final pleas for mercy.

"DON'T MAKE ME GO! DON'T LEAVE ME HERE!" 

Jack gave him a bitter smile and turned away from him.

"NO! GODDAMNIT, JACK! PLEASE! FUCK, JACK, DON'T GO!"

Jack at the edge of his vision, almost gone: a dark silhouette in the corner of his eye.

"I'm sorry, Kitten," Jack sighed before exiting the room and leaving him alone in the dark with no one but his new digital tormentor.

Hours passed, and Lawrence refused to look at the blue AI pacing back and forth on the screen. It demanded he look, that he listened. But Lawrence could not remove his gaze from the door that Jack had left through.

He cried and banged his head back against the table: still begging for Jack to return. Perhaps if he hurt himself, Jack would come running to repair the damage?

But he'd long lost the strength to dislocate an arm or tear at his flesh. 

He must have hung on the surgical table for a cycle. 

He was barely conscious when the AI slithered away, back into his lair. He'd lost all feeling in his arms, and thrown up several more times. Delirious with dehydration, he did not believe the streak of light that entered the room.

Lawrence whispered the only name he could think of:

"Jack?"

A voice answered him, stern and cold:

"Are you going to behave yourself, other-me?"

Lawrence replied, but no sound came from his chapped and broken lips. 

"Answer me," the voice came again, cutting through the dark.

"yes..." Lawrence finally managed to murmur. 

Jack's silhouette came before the light: his voice closer now.

"If I tell you to kill will you do it?"

Lawrence nodded his head.

"Yes, I'll do it, I'll do anything."

Jack slowly walked through the light towards him.

"If I tell you to burn and raze a town to the ground, you'll do it, no questions asked?" 

Lawrence was frantically nodding his head now, finding energy now, when before all was lost. 

"If I tell you to fucking roll over, you'll be a good boy and do as your told?"

"Yes."

Jack was by his side again: wiping away Lawrence's tears and pushing his hair from off his face. Lawrence welcomed it. He leaned into the hand, feeling the warmth of Jack's palm against his cold, wet cheeks.

Lawrence smiled: relieved to have Jack's mercy.

"I'll do anything, Jack."

"Good."

Chapter Text

"Say hello to your new home, darling. You're like a little princess, and this is your throne!"

The little girl cried and forced herself further into her Dad's arms: hoping that he'd choose to hold her rather than push her away. She just wanted to go home and away from the cold dark place he had taken her. 

Her fragile frame shook as she begged:

"I want mommy. Where's mommy?"

"She's not coming back, Angel," Jack said, and his tone took a twisted turn towards something dark and cruel. "Now get in the freaking chair!" 

The girl continued to sob, she scraped at the arms of the man she thought was her Dad, but her struggle meant nothing to him. She was strapped into the cold confines of the metal chair, and something painfully sharp latched to the side of her head.

The little girl screamed and begged.

Angel watched on, horrified. Every time she tried to intervene and pry the girl free, Jack would storm in and latch Angel into the same device. Yet, no matter how many times the scene looped in Angel's mind, she never ceased to race forward and free the child.

Jack spoke as he pressed the wires into her skull. Long ago, Angel had believed that his soothing mantra of "it's ok, everything will be alright" was for her benefit. 

She was wrong.

When he was finished, he always left. Never pausing to witness what he had done, leaving Angel and the little girl trapped, bound to the chair, and encased in darkness.

Don't leave me.

Angel screamed into her pillow. Her fists clenched into tight, pale bundles, looking to hold onto something to ground her to this reality. The nightmare — no, the memories — tried to linger, to hold her back in that dark place.

For a moment, she convinced herself she was safe until Jack's voice crept back into her mind. Angel threw herself upright as the icy claws of fear dragged against her chest.

Jack is here.

He was here with her.

Kicking and clawing at the fabric, Angel frantically tried to free herself from the covers. Yet her body was wrought with exhaustion, and after a moment, she was breathing heavily and leaning off the edge of the bed. Sickness rose in her stomach, and Angel swallowed a mouthful of bile. 

Completely spent, she lay there: eyes closed and heart racing. Eventually, she recalled the features of the man who travelled with her and how they differed from Jack's.

Lawrence's scar isn't blue, she reminded herself.

Could it be a trick? 

Angel reasoned with herself. Lawrence had saved Felicity, and he said he wanted to help her.

Definitely not Jack.

She groaned loudly and fell back into the pillow. Her mind raced, as though burning with a fever. Was she becoming as paranoid as Jack? Doubting everyone and everything? Was it a family curse?

Angel bit her lip, and she bit it hard.

Sometimes pain was the quickest way to break her thoughts from their bitter and repetitive cycles. She couldn't let herself succumb to her emotions; to fear would mean losing control, and if her powers got caught up in the echo transmitter, she could accidentally send out a beacon. It would only take one small signal, and then the real Jack could find her.

Angel sighed and curled back up into a small ball. At least she had the comfort of a real bed. Burying herself in the sheets, she begged for a dreamless sleep to take her. Yet, the adrenaline from her nightmare kept her from that wish.

She studied the pockets of corrosion upon the wall and traced the largest trail of rust with her finger. Lawrence's safe house was an old Hyperion shipping container: dark and windowless. How it ended up on top of a rocky cliffside embedded between two peaks was beyond her. Maybe he moonshot it down? How much of this escape was planned ahead? Did he always intend to leave Jack?

Angel wanted to know; she always needed answers. She supposed asking the double might lead to further revelations, and so, Angel sat up and searched for her travelling companion. However, she discovered his 'bed' empty; he wasn't at his workbench either or hanging by the door smoking.

Angel didn't need to search outside to know that he was gone. 

Gingerly she slipped off the bed. On the floor lay a crudely written note in a scrawl she recognised as Jack's handwriting.

It read:

'Gone back to the Bunker, DO NOT FOLLOW. DO NOT LEAVE THE SAFEHOUSE. Call me on the comm when you're awake.'

Angel swore loudly, only to quickly snap her mouth shut.

'Language.'

She could hear Jack's voice scolding her in the back of her mind. She sighed deeply before leaning over to examine the other items Lawrence had left behind: Jack's old cloaking device and another watch with a strange teal interface. Angel noted that it was too risky to explore the watch more closely with her powers. Especially after her restless night.

So she sat there, alone on the floor of the old shipping container.

"He's gone," Angel said out loud, almost defeated by the admission.

She chewed on her lip as she stood back up and headed for the outside. The container door was heavy and not designed to be opened from the inside. After some lifting, Angel pried the latch open. As she stepped into the night, Angel tried to ignore how exhausted she felt from the slight exertion.

Felicity remained outside but now appeared much closer to the front of the safe house. Had Lawrence moved her for protection or as a way to block her in? If it were the latter, he'd not considered how thin she was, and Angel was able to slip under and around the constructor with ease. She placed her hand upon the constructor, and the tattoos on her arm lit up as she called to Felicity: hoping that the AI could tell her when Lawrence left in the cycle.

Felicity was silent.

Angel frowned and kneeled to peak under the base of the constructor. One of Felicity's circuit boards had been ripped out and barely hung from a frayed wire. 

This time Angel swore louder. Lawrence had silenced Felicity.

She couldn't have slept long. Maybe she could still catch up to him?

Angel ran back inside and grabbed her echo, the cloaking device, and wristwatch. Checking the time, she realised it was still early morning in the cycle: darkness would accompany her for another forty or so hours, making her search for him futile in the dark. Still, she paced up to the edge of the cliff, determined to scan the canyon below. 

The truck they had arrived in was gone, and Angel studied the empty ravine below, a sickly shiver launched down her back.

You stupid girl, you trusted him?

Her own scrutiny sounded a lot like Jack's, and Angel cursed both her intrusive thoughts and her naivety.

How could she have thought it a sound idea to make a deal with this man? She clutched at the frayed remains of her sleeves. How long did he intend to leave her? Did she have enough Eridium? What about food? Water? What if bandits came? What if Jack came for her?

How could he leave her here!?

Angel dropped to the ground and hugged her knees. She pressed her face into her arms and let out a dry sob. She was free, yet more terrified than she'd ever been. Dread ached over her; it scratched at her mind, slithering over her body like a serpent intent on consuming her, and with it came the visions: wires, cords, and black appendages plunged into her mind. She may have escaped her chamber, yet she might as well still be trapped. This other-jack had her at his mercy. 

Angel didn't know if it was the vertigo from being so high up on a cliff or her anxiety, yet she fell back on her palms with a sudden jolt. Her hands scraped against the gravel, and another sob left her.

The tattoos on her arm shone brighter, and fear was the culprit.

Without the assistance of her 'chair', Angel's mind was free to roam, as it was the wires Jack had put inside her that had kept her contained. The Bunker had her locked into one system: Hyperion. And if she lost control, the fail-safes kicked in.

But here, in the Highlands, and out in the open? Nothing was holding her in place. Even in this remote part of the Highlands, she was still surrounded by technology. Her panic and powers started to carry across her surroundings, and one by one, the items within the safehouse began to fire up; the echo and the watches in her pockets coming alive, and she felt her mind connect to the numerous weapons shelved along the walls of the container. Angel prayed the rocket launches were all analog. If she lost control, she could take the entire structure down.

She needed to get out of here.

Her hands scraped against the rocky ground as she flung herself to her feet and started to run. She'd only sprinted a few times in her life, and so it didn't take long for her legs to ache with battery acid and her chest to burn within. Yet, she pushed on; she needed to be far away from all the software in the safehouse.

I need to be in one system: Just one system.

Angel concentrated on the echo Lawrence had left for her. She let her mind flow within it and read the lines of Hyperphire over and over until she could focus on nothing else.

I can't lose control.

She ran past where the truck had once been parked, but she did not stop to investigate. Angel kept moving along the base of the cliff face until she found the place she sought: a small enclave wedged between two enormous boulders. Here, she'd hidden from Lawrence. It was a crack deep enough to curl up in, away from prying eyes and the harsh Pandoran elements. It was too small for an adult or even spiderants, yet inside this dirty, sharp, dark fissure was where she felt safe.

Though her mind was still contained to the echo-comm, Angel functioned on instinct. She squeezed into the small dark space, and like a child hiding in their closet, Angel hugged her knees and waited for her panic to pass. 

"One system," she whispered to herself. "I just need to focus on one system."

"Angel?" 

She almost screamed at the sound of another's voice: Jack's voice.

"You there?"

Panic beat against her chest as she desperately tried to scramble deeper within the rocky enclave.

"Kiddo? Come on now, answer the damn echo," Jack said.

Angel frowned. It sounded like Jack, but something was off. Finding herself braver than she once was, she dared to ask:

"Lawrence?"

"Yeah."

The ache in her chest physically resided at hearing his response, and she let out a long, restless sigh. Pulling up the echo out from beneath her, she held it up to her knees. Jack's, or rather, Lawrence's profile sat on the screen. It appeared he was still driving, and various buildings and Hyperion branded structures flew past the truck window at his side. He took his eyes off the road to give her a quick glance.

"I was worried. You hadn't called," he said, except nothing in his expression indicated that he was. 

"Everything ok?"

"Yes," she lied.

"Ok, that's good, I guess." He shrugged, and yet Angel knew he saw through her lie. "I'm nearly at the Bunker," he continued.

They may have only just met, but the abandonment stung all the same. Angel clutched the echo tighter.

"So, before you go off," he scolded, and Angel screwed her face up; she didn't like his tone one bit. "Just know that I promised myself a long time ago I'd bring Felicity back."

"But—"

"I'll be back by the end of the Cycle," he said and cut her off in a tone far firmer than anything she could muster.

Angel wanted to snap back: yell at him for leaving her, but when the pause in the conversation came for her to reply, the words escaped her. Jack didn't like it when she talked back.

"I need to fix things with Felicity. You wouldn't understand."

I might if you'd spoken to me: is what she would have said, but who knew how he would react if she talked back. Did he have Jack's temper? Angel bit her lip until it hurt. She wanted to know so badly. Why couldn't he be honest with her? How could he leave her in the dark? Literally.

The echo-line went quiet, and while Jack would never stop talking, it appeared Lawrence prefered communication with fewer words.

"What are you planning to do?" Angel asked when the silence became too much.

"I'm getting your servers."

"Ok," Angel said, although a little bitterly. "How's that going to work?"

"I'll call you when I'm there, and you can direct me. I'll be in and out before anyone knows."

"And what if you're not?"

Lawrence sighed: "Look, you'll be fine on your own. You survived during the Pandora day for two cycles. This will be a breeze."

"Ok," she replied, though her voice was meek. Angel found no encouragement in his tone.

Lawrence returned the conversation to silence, save for his truck's low rumble in the background, placing the burden of conversation back onto her.  

"What if Jack comes for me while you're gone?" Angel asked while digging her feet into the dirt. Maybe she could bury herself and just hide in this rocky hollow forever.

"There's no stopping Jack if he discovers you're alive," the sudden and absolutely bluntness of Lawrence's answer made Angel press her back deeper into the rockface. 

She swallowed the firm lump in her throat as Lawrence continued: "but if anyone else comes calling, you've got the clocking device, and if things go really south, you've got Nyx and Crake to look after you."

"Who?"

"The wristwatch," Lawrence said. "Not to be confused with that pocket watch. Honestly, why did Jack make me wear two watches? Neither of them tells the Pandoran time. Anyway, it usually activates to my thumb swipe, but for you, I have a code, enter '09 12152205 251521.'

Angel frowned at Lawrence's unexpected and long winded explanation.

"That's a needlessly long password," she criticised, as she pulled out his scrunched up 'goodbye' note and the wristwatch from her pocket. The teal interface of the watch caught the moonlight and reflected a soft hue across the rocky walls, almost like a soothing aurora night light. Angel had never seen polar lights; she supposed even a sunrise was a novelty.

"I'll introduce you. Enter the code. Again it's 09 121—"

But Angel was good at numbers, and despite the password's long string of numbers, she only needed to rest her palm onto the watch and entered the code through her consciousness. The watch emitted a brilliant flash before two large clusters of pixels separated to reveal a red and blue hologram.

The holograms were of Handsome Jack.

Angel didn't wait a second before drawing her hands to her throat to cover the skin where the collar had been. Her eyes drew wide in horror, and she screamed. A moment later, the tattoos on her arm flickered to life, and as her voice carried across the empty night, she lost all control.

All the devices in the surrounding area connected to Angel's mind in one hot burning jolt. 

The echo-comm by her side emitted static, and sparks flew from the screen, singing the hems of her jumper. Smoke made her eyes water, and her tattoos blinded her from the rest of her surroundings. Fumbling her hands over the ground, she desperately searched for the comm.

"Ang—l wha— up wi— the connect—n?"

She ignored Lawrence's distorted call and strived to focus her shaking hands—if only for a moment—to throw the echo-comm as far away as she could. Angel raced to climb out of her enclave and launch the echo as far as she could. Before it landed on the ground, something cracked loudly, and a familiar smell of burnt minerals and metal reached her nose. 

She cursed: knowing she must have fried the clocking device as all the software connected to it abruptly left her conscious, as though someone had yanked a cord from a computer. However, her powers—fueled by her panic—weren't finished, and they latched onto the next piece of software available; the teal-faced watch.

The two Jack-holograms yelled something at her, but Angel fled while hurling the wristwatch into the night sky. 

Then, she ran.

She had to get away from the wristwatch and the echo, or they would meet the same fate as the clocking device. Angel sprinted through dry scrub; jaw clenched as thorns and bristles caught onto her pants. She only slowed down to risk looking over her shoulder to locate the Jack holograms. The red and blue figures had not followed her; instead, they had relocated where the watch had landed. The red-one nudged the watch with his boot while the blue one continued to yell at her.

Angel ran again. She did not care for what a Jack hologram had to say. She only stopped her escape when she felt the last of the devices leave her mind. The energy her Siren powers had granted her left in a wave of exhaustion. Like a candle that had burned throughout the night, she was spent.

Breathless, she rested her hands on her knees and stared at the ground. 

"That was too close," she heaved.

A power surge like that? Perhaps Jack could detect it, or maybe—

"—HAVE YOU FINISHED FREAKING OUT?"

Angel jumped back upright and squinted to focus ahead; the blue-Jack had called to her. Meanwhile, the red-Jack had his hands on his hips and glared down at the watch at his feet. The other—the blue-one—yelled again:

"WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?!"

Angel observed them carefully and soon realised that the two holograms seemed to act independently from one another. Was Jack controlling only one of them? Or was Lawrence behind it? 

Despite the considerable distance between her and the two holo-Jack's, the different mannerism between them was unmistakable. The Red one had his shoulders squared, and arms crossed as a display of Jacks temper and authority. While Blue-Jack was kicking at the ground like a side-lined child, encasing Jack's one other emotion: impatience. They hadn't tried to reach her, and Angel concluded that they must be bound to the watch. Maybe if she waited, they would go away? Something had to be charging them, she reasoned.

"HEY, COME ON! YOU GONNA LEAVE US OUT HERE?" Blue-Jack called again, followed by them kicking a rock, yet the ground remained untouched. The Red one shrugged his shoulders and spoke to his hologram counterpart, yet Angel couldn't hear what was being said.

"I—ah—LAWRENCE TOLD US TO LOOK AFTER YOU!" Blue-two yelled. "SO EVERYTHING IS COOL, YOU CAN COME BACK NOW."

Angel did not answer the Jack. Instead, she crouched to the ground hiding within the dry brush. Hoping that by hiding herself from view, the two holograms would simply forget she was there. However, her tattoos were a giveaway. Though they had faded to a faint glow, years of Eridium abuse did not permit them to go completely out.

If the two Jacks tried anything, she could scramble their code; another AI was no match for her. Yet, if Jack was controlling one of the holograms, wouldn't he have moonshot a Loader squadron to intercept?

She should have learned from Lawrence that silent questioning would provide no answers, so Angel stood up and took a step forward. As she approached, her gaze trailed over the holstered guns upon each of their hips. Could they actually fire a weapon? They were holograms, right? 

All of these unanswered questions gnawed at her mind, yet Angel refused to allow Jack to succumb her to fear. She continued to inch closer to the two holograms. 

"Shush it, she's coming over," Blue-Jack hissed to the larger Red one.

Now that she was closer, the way Blue-one spoke wasn't precisely Jack-like. His expressions were softer, although he spoke much faster. Angel cautiously took another step closer; however, she was still not near enough to access the comm. To access its code, she would have to be in reach. Perhaps a few more metres? With every step, Angel kept her stance wide, ready to sprint if it came to it. The soft buzz of the connection from the echo fizzled to and fro in her mind. She was almost there. Just a few more steps, and she could access the watch and disable the two Jacks or destroy them entirely.

She still wasn't close enough to observe all their features in detail—especially since they were partially transparent—but Angel did recognise how much younger they were from the real Jack. Curiosity made her take another step forward. They were much younger; they had no mask, and both their faces were absent of scars.

The sudden glare from the red-Jack caught her off guard, and whatever courage she'd built in her mind faded.

"Um—hello?" Angel shamefully bit her tongue but forced herself to continue. "My—ah—my echo, can I have it back?"

The blue-Jack kicked the echo-comm, and his foot travelled right through the device. A crude way to validate his point, but not unlike Jack.

"Sorry, kiddo, can't pick it up for you."

Angel's chest tightened at the use of the pet name; she despised that word. It had once been a name just for her: from her Dad to his baby girl. It used to mean something. Now she only felt bitter resentment towards it.

"You'll have to come get it yourself," the red-Jack commanded, yet his voice had a playful tune as if to mock her.

Angel instinctively stepped back so fast that it took a moment for her to realise she'd even moved.

"Fucking hell, way to sound sinister. I don't even want to come near you when you speak like that." The blue-Jack said, all while throwing his hands in the air.

Angel frowned; Handsome Jack didn't swear, at least not in front of her.

The red-Jack just shrugged. "Well, it's the truth. So, Kid, get over here. We don't bite." 

"Oh, will you shut it. You like radiate hostility! Creepy unwelcoming hostility. Even I don't wanna be near you, and yet I'm forced to be here with you," Blue-Jack yelled, but his tone was relaxed, and he even chuckled afterwards. But his relaxed character did nothing to encourage Angel to step closer.

The Red Jack opened his mouth to counter, but whatever was said was cut out. He flickered in and out of existence, and the other Jack quickly followed suit. He tried to call to Angel, but his words kept cutting out.

"F—K, J—ice is all gon—.

Static consumed them.

"Whatev— ha-pen dra—ed t— batt—, s— y— lat—kid—o"

And with that, they both vanished with a burst of pixels.

Angel stood there, alone and bewildered. Whatever fear she'd felt vanished as swift as the pixels within the watch. Yet, her hands still shook, and glancing down she found her knuckles pale. Slowly Angel let her shoulders relax, and her legs straighten out, no longer bent and parted, ready to sprint at a moment's notice.

As she unwound, the silence of the night crept over her. Shivering, Angel stepped carefully towards the echo-comm and the wristwatch she'd tossed. Picking them both up, she found relief, as there was no exterior damage. However, she'd have to check them over for software corruption.

A sudden cool breeze shook her on the spot, and Angel hugged her arms as she wandered back to the container. She wished she wasn't alone, but for now, it was for the best.


“Oh yeah, should've probbbaaaabbbly mentioned they look like Jack,” Lawrence spoke from the echo-comm.

"One would have thought that was an important note to mention," Angel growled. She wasn't certain if Lawrence heard as he remained silent to her comment.

She was safe inside the container once again. With her Siren powers all exerted it was less likely she'd blow the place up.

"What happened when you called them? The line went dead," Lawrence asked.

"I accidentally disconnected it," she lied through gritted teeth. She couldn't reveal what happened. What would Lawrence do with her if he found out how unstable her powers could be? There was also the issue of the cloaking device. Angel's moment of loss control had completely fired the hardware and scrambled the code.

She was a terrible liar. If Lawrence saw through it, he gave nothing away. He, on the other hand, had proven himself an excellent liar; just like her father.

Another point for Lawrence in the Jack-like category.

"Look, I can tell that... You're a little concerned about the two 'Jacks'," Lawrence stressed her Dad's name.

She wanted to retort back, yell at him for leaving her alone with them, but Lawrence was on a ramble, and she'd only got information out of him in these rare instances. So she let him continue.

"They have some Jack-like traits, and yes they look like him, which I imagine you noticed... But they're not Jack, ok? So don't stress."

The video feed wasn't live and so Lawrence couldn't see Angel's livid face at being told to 'not stress'. As if she could flick a button and all memories of Jack would be taken away.

“Look, they won't hurt you,” he broke the silence again, “they were built-oh fuck! FUCK! Fuck you! Come on!”

Lawrence yelled more curses - one point for Lawrence in the not-Jack category - and gunfire erupted over the comm.

“Don’t fret just some threshers but I’ve got to go,” he said before the comm went dead leaving Angel alone once again.

It took her longer than she hoped to regain her courage. Her sense of peace was fragile, and the thought of summoning the two Jack's ate away at her nerve. Hugging her knees she leaned against the container wall on her cot. There was a lot of tech in the room and if she used her Siren powers she could fry the wrong device. But Lawrence said they were safe? Angel fidgeted against the sheets and banged her head against the wall.

A long groan escaped her. "I can do this," she spoke aloud as if the vocal admission would give her more confidence.

She summoned her powers and entered the code into the digistruct watch. Red and blue particles burst forward and there stood the two Jacks.

"HI AGAIN!" Blue-two cheered.

"Oh shit, you're hella close. I don't need to yell anymore," Blue-two stepped back from the cot.

Red-one rolled his eyes and leaned against Lawrence's desk. Angel took note how the hologram seemed to naturally interact with the room's surroundings.

“You... You don’t know who I am?” Angel asked slowly.

“Ah... Guess not?” Red-one replied folding his arms with scrutinising glare.

“Why would we know you kiddo?” Blue-two spoke brightly.  

His features, Jacks features were smoother than anything she'd ever seen on the real man's face. Red-one seemed entirely disinterested in her. Instead, his eyes were narrow, darting around the corners of the safe house.

“Because I'm your daughter!” Angel blurted out.

That gained the attention of the Red-one, “We’re digistructed AI we cannot have children.”

I know that.

“The man you’re based off does,” Angel grumbled.  Following Red-one's example she crossed her arms.

"Right, well we're not Jack," Red-one hissed as if she'd insulted him.

Angel pressed further into the container wall.

"Ok, back off big boy," Blue-two chimed in.

Red-one gave his counterpart a dangerous look but said nothing.

“I’m Nyx,” the blue hologram spoke, voice low in a very charismatically Jack-like way.

Nyx offered her a blue digital hand and gingerly she approached. Static tingled her fingertips, she expected her hand to move straight through the hologram yet she found it was more like interacting with suspended water. The holograms weren't precisely holograms. That explained how they could project their voices, and interact with the environment like a real person. They had some sense of mass, Angel realised. Her eyes widen as she inspected Nyx's outstretched hand.

“Crake.” Red-one woke her from her thoughts. He did not bother to offer her his hand.

“I’m Angel,” she replied and returned them a hesitant smile.

Curiously, she pressed her hand to the wristwatch and summoned her powers again. The software was vast yet simple, an example of Jack’s brilliant coding. In there, she could see that Crake encased more of Jacks violent and hostile personality traits, while Nyx sat on the other end of the spectrum. Despite their Jack-ness, there was a substantial amount of code that indicated to a whole different being.

"Get out of my head, please ," The red AI hissed, moving off the benched he stood to his full height and towered over her.

Angel flinched and pulled away. There was too much Jack ingrained in Red-one for her to make eye contact.

"Sorry," she mumbled and kept her eyes downcast.

“There's no threat, we should leave and save our energy” and with that Crake disappeared with a burst of pixels back into the watch.

“Bit of a knob isn’t he?” Nyx gave her a sly smile, “I can hang around if you like? Why were you in a hole in a cliff before? Is that where Lawrence is keeping you? That's a weird place to put someone, bit of a dick move. How were you not freezing out there? I mean my sensors told me it was six degrees, so I guess that's cold. I wouldn't know. I can't feel shit."

Nyx didn't give Angel a lot of room to get a word in; One point to being Jack-like for Nyx. This was too surreal, she now had three versions of Jack in her life, none of them a-like and none of them an exact copy of the real Jack.

“Um... I needed to get away from the safe house,” Angel finally answered.

“Ok... sounds fair.” Nyx slumped down beside her on the cot and crossed his legs.

The way Nyx moved was fascinating as if he had a real weight to him. Like he could actually be leaning against the cot next to her. Angel couldn't help but stare, her Dad had really outdone himself this time.

“I didn’t know I had a daughter.” Nyx cocked his head to the side and looked her over, “and you’ve got tattoos!”

Blue Jack beamed at her, “Sweet”.

Angel pulled up the Hyperion sweeter so Nyx could see the full length of her arm. A small jolt of panic swept her, she mentally cursed herself for so easily revealing her secret to the AI. However, the feeling was short lived. Nyx's reaction was not at all what she expected.

“Holy shit! You’re a Siren, I have a Siren Daughter?!” Nyx was ecstatic, "That’s so cool. What can you do!? Can you blow stuff up!? Teleport!?"

Angel couldn’t help but giggle at his enthusiasm.  

“So if I have a pretty kid, does that mean I have a hot wife too? I mean you may have got all your good genetics from me, but I’d like to think I had pretty lady too.”

“Um... You did. She's gone.”

“Oh, bummer, sorry.” Nyx gave her a solemn look. Angel hoped it was genuine, the real Jack made feigning sincerity an artform.

Thankfully Nyx didn’t press the matter.

"So are you going to tell me what the hell happened before? Was that a Siren thing? You know all the devices going haywire. No offence, but it felt like you were tearing up my metaphorical insides." Nyx moved dramatically to imitate his guts pouring out of him.

"I'm sorry. I... I really don't want to talk about it," Angel confessed.

Nyx hummed, "No worries. I should probs leave you too it, you look like you need rest. Again, no offence, but you look like shit, kiddo."

There was a lot to process from that simple statement. Her mouth was left hanging open as she thought of a valid response to Nyx. Jack had never let her dismiss a conversation, he always got what he wanted, always pressing her for more when all she wanted was to be alone.

One point to Nyx for the not-Jack category.

"I think, that's a good idea."

Nyx gave her a slow nod and moved out of her way so she could lay down on the cot. Another not-Jack gesture. Jack would have made people walk through him if he were ever a hologram, Angel mused.

Another point to Nyx.


Before Lawrence left the safe house he’d administer Angel with more Eridium. The substance had swiftly carried her off to sleep, and he used the opportunity to sneak out as Pandora sun finally set. He apologised to Felicity as he ripped her circuits out, all his hard work gone. But he'd have her back soon. He drove the truck through the night to reach Lynchwood from there he fast travelled back to the Bunker.

Everything started with the destruction of Felicity.

If only he'd had told Jack to go fuck himself and his contract. Maybe, 'fuck himself' would have been a poor choice of words. Maybe things would have panned out different.

Running both his hand down his face he groaned loudly. He knew the threat would have been pointless. Jack always got what he wanted, the universe loved him so. But if he'd just left, fled when he had the chance with Athena then at least he wouldn’t have been accountable for countless horrors.

Lawrence had committed many atrocities over the years. He’d helped Nisha kill some Vault Hunters dog, he’d captured runaway scientists for Jack, executed those who disobeyed and airlocked those suspected of treasons. He had even branded another double and hunted down anyone who tried to flee. Yet, despite all of this, his mind always trailed back to the AI who only wanted her freedom.

He rubbed the inside of his palms. One of his tells when he struggled with his choices. It sickened him to think if he could just save her, it would redeem himself of all of this. His rational brain screamed at him that one good dead didn't wipe away the bad. However, his other half told him it would provide some peace of mind. And that's all he really cared about.

Lawrence paced down the empty halls of the Bunker. His footsteps sounded like a parade against the silent compound, not even loaders were about. His echo buzzed to life, and Lawrence accepted the call on from his earpiece.

“How did you convince Jack I was dead?” Angel blurted out.

He'd wondered when he was going to have this conversation. Angel hadn't lead on how much she recalled from their escape. Eridium was a powerful substance on the mind, no doubt the details would elude her.

“I’m still not sure I have," Lawrence finally answered. "That's why you must keep the cloaking device on hand. Call Nyx or Crake if you have to."

He detected a hitch in her breathing. There was something she wanted to say, but she only offered him silence.

“I cut your hair..." Lawrence paused, did she really need to know about her teeth? The health-kit and Eridium seemed to have entirely healed her jaw. No point telling her that detail. "I used your hair to lay traces of your DNA in the Eriduim. Sorry about the shitty haircut," he mumbled the last bit.

Reaching his destination he shoved his palm against the scanner and held his breath as he waited for the results. Praying that Jack hadn't revoked his access to the server room.

"How would that have proved anything? The Eridium destroys everything. There would be nothing left," Angel pressed.

Not if it was bone or teeth, Lawrence argued silently.

The door gave a pleasant chime and slid apart to reveal a cold dark vault. Stepping over the threshold wrapping he wrapped his jacket around him. The cooling system was hard at work.

"I dunno. You're a Siren, maybe the Eridium left it untouched," Lawrence was losing focus on the conversation. Just muttering whatever came to mind.

A soft hum buzzed around him as if he'd entered some kind of wasp nest. There were rows and rows of servers stacked to the roof.  It was like exploring a dark metal hedge maze, only the glow from the wiring allowed him to explore.

“Angel, I’m in the server room, there are hallways of these things. Which one am I looking for.”

“I wouldn't know," her tone stiff.

Lawrence rubbed his brow as he explored further into the vault. How much data was here that he could exploit? All of it only for Jack's eyes.

"I’ve never been in that room. I’ve never left my chamber," Angel explained.

Lawrence sighed, exasperation was on the edge of consuming him.

“I have an idea," she said thoughtfully, "plug your echo into one of the servers, and I’ll access it through the call.”

“No,” he halted his search, "you're not going to do that."

“Why?! I can easily search all of the servers and find the one with Felicity's code and transfer it to your Echo,” she implored.

“I can’t have you sniffing around if Jack noticed-”

“He won’t.”

He didn't reply, this wasn't a debate.

"You need to trust me with this,” Angel pleaded.

Lawrence grounded his teeth.

“Fine, I’m plugging the echo in now. You go in, and you're out straight away. Don’t you dare touch anything else.”

“Yes, sir.”

Lawrence's brow knitted together. He couldn't tell if she was mocking him, or if she was intimidated into submission. He just wanted to keep her safe, but that meant being firm, in Jack's voice.

It didn't take long for Angel to access the serves. His echo buzzed to life, the screen was a blur with numbers and code. Lawrence was sure it was going to crash, but after a few moments, Angel declared it was done. What she had on Felicity was now stored on the device. He wasted no time and proceeded back to his loft. Lawrence figured he should double check the surveillance system was still down. He took the marble steps two at a time, and once the scanner gave him the 'ok', he stepped into his quarters. Everything was still covered in purple and red stains, glass shattered everywhere, and the cupboards and draws tossed open. A thin layer of dust had settled across his bench.

No one had been here.

Lawrence paced to his workstation and got to work. He tried to keep a calm composure, but his heart raced. Every moment he lingered was a moment for Jack to apprehend him. He hit the keys on his computer to wake it from its deep slumber. Notifications were scattered across his screen regarding maintenance, broken torrents and a few rouge loaders. Lawrence went to disregard them all. However, another warning popped up.

INCOMING FAST-TRAVEL. APPROVAL NOT NEEDED.

Lawrence gripped the desk in front of him.

OCCUPANT: Male

DESTINATION: Helios to Bunker: Control Core.

"No, no, no, no," Lawrence growled.

He shoved some commands into the computer in an attempt to cancel the fast-travel. He knew it was futile, but he couldn't sit idle. Warnings popped forward declaring he didn't have permission for his actions. With all other options spent he called Angel.

“Oh fuck, Angel, don’t worry about me, everything will be ok, ok?" Lawrence blurted out.

“What is it? What's happening?”

NEW OCCUPANT HAS ARRIVED AT THE BUNKER: CONTROL CORE.

“Jack just fast traveled to the Bunker.”

Chapter Text

“Whatcha been up to Timmy?”

Lawrence could smell the ethyl fumes from across the room.

Jack’s mask was absent, his hair had that oily texture to it when he programmed for days on end, and his chin was covered with an uneven stubble. This was not the Jack he knew. Worst of all, his eyes wielded a sunken gaze, evidence he’d been at the bottle.

“You’re drunk.” Lawrence crossed his arms, providing Jack with his best scrutinising glare.

“Oh, I’m more than that,” Jack snarled as he took a guarded step forward. “But, how am I doing? Thanks for asking."

He stalked closer.

"You see my daughter was murdered by scum living bandit psychopaths, my girlfriend is then also murdered, shot in the face actually and that wasn’t even the best bit. My double, yes you dear pumpkin, shot her, didn’t have the decency to call, then you ran off and left me to pick up the shit stained pieces.” Jack was practically spitting at him when he reached the end of his rant. Each accusation only tightened the noose around Lawrence's neck, he was going to need all his wits to free himself from this execution.

“Where-the-hell! Have you been?”

“Busy, I've been-”

Jack drew his gun and aimed, Lawrence preferred to keep his holstered. He just needed to wait out the storm. Drawing a weapon now would only fuel the winds of Jack's rage.

“You son-of-a-bitch, you left me,” Jack hissed.

“I told you I was just on a leave of absence. It’s nearly been six years I figured I deserved one.”

Jack flexed his grip, but it did nothing to steady his aim.

“Put that stupid thing down Jack, you’ll just end up shooting yourself in the foot,” Lawrence scolded.

Jack ignored the advice.

“I had to bury her, Nisha, why did you take her from me?" Jack didn't give him the opportunity to reply, "and now I have to bury my little girl,” he shook as he took another step forward.

"Why couldn't you save her?" Jack's voice was on the edge of breaking, "you let them murder her, she was just a little girl."

The gun wavered to and from Lawrence's head.

"HOW COULD YOU LET THEM KILL MY ANGEL?!"

Lawrence had only witnessed him this unstable twice. The most recent of times Jack had been intent on killing him - for a reason he'd rather forget - but Jack was a coward. He couldn't do it, so two other cloaked doubles paid the price. After that, he knew Jack could never follow through with his threats. Despite this knowledge, caution was the best approach.

Lawrence raised his hands slowly and lightly stepped towards the kitchen. Jack kept his arm raised trailing after him with the gun pointed at his head. He opted to sit on the stool opposite him, ensuring the bench separated them.

Déjà vu captured Lawrence's mind for a moment. So many of their fights had started and ended with the kitchen bench between them. The destruction of Felicity on his server, the argument over him getting a cybernetic eye, when they first... Lawrence bit down on his tongue. He didn't need to recall those memories while Jack had a gun pointed at his head.

"ANSWER ME!?" Jack roared again.

Whatever answer he gave Jack it wouldn't satisfy him. Instead, he opted for redirection.

“When was the last time you even fired a gun at anything living?” Lawrence jerked an arm towards Jack's outreached gun. The CEO didn’t play ‘hero’ on Pandora or Elpis anymore, no, that was all him.

“Oh fuck off, Tim”

Jack fired a warning shot and he felt the hot flame from the laser shoot pass his ear. Countless bandits, wannabe assassins and kidnappers had tried their best to inject fear into his heart, Jack was no different. An angry Jack with a laser was frightening in only one aspect; he’d miss his warning shot and actually shoot Lawrence in the face. Jack wasn’t the least bit threatening with a gun, not after he'd spent years living with the man. He’d witness Jack fire his laser at a damn toaster oven that burnt his cheesie. This was just another Sunday lunch.

“You fucking shit, you little cock-sucking stain of a human being, what the fuck Tim! What the actual fuck! Why did you fucking kill her?”

Get it all out of your system kiddo. Lawrence resisted against temptation to remind Jack that swearing was an excellent way to deal with pain. He felt mocking the man further would be overkill.

“I’m sorry about Nisha.”

“No, you’re not.”

Lawrence shrugged, “you’re right, I’m not. She may have wanted to fuck me, but she hated my guts. I honestly can’t say I’m going to miss her.”

“Is that why you killed her?”

“No…” Lawrence replied quietly, his eyes never leaving Jack’s.

“Why!? Then!?” Each word was purposely put to him, cold and void of anything remotely human.

Jack was a paranoid man, even in Nisha's death he’d find anything to grasp to, to blame her for leaving him in this world. He already had the perfect cover story.

“Nisha and your team of doctors were the only ones who knew about our scars.”

The scar above his collarbone from the failed sniper assassination was one of the few features that distinguished them apart.

What about it?”

“You and I both know someone had to have told that Vallory bandit about our scars. How on earth would she have known I was the body double?”

Jack pressed his lips together, his fists were uncharacteristically pale. Lawrence leaned forward and continued to feed the man’s paranoia.

“When Nisha came to collect me... We had a disagreement. I confronted her about a few things and it didn’t end well for her.” Lawrence kept his tone flat and his eyes focused on Jack. He could lie his way through this. He had to.

“And one of these things was the Vallory assassination attempt?” Jack cocked a brow, his composure relaxing for the first time.

“She didn’t outright admit, I think she was too nervous to confess she nearly killed you too. But she was a proud woman, and couldn’t help boast that she had some hand in it.”

Lawrence served the last of his lie to Jack; vague yet probable. The fewer details he offered up, the better. All he needed was the seed of doubt to eat away at Jack. He had no remorse for destroying whatever feelings the man had left for his lover. Good riddance.

The story Lawrence was playing on was one they both remembered well. It was meant to be their vacation, a few days alone before he was to be sent away to reside at the Bunker. They took the most overpowered vehicle Hyperion had to offer and moonshot down to Pandora to spend the weekend ransacking the place. Jack hadn’t set foot on the planet in a year and was keen to prove to Lawrence he could still handle himself. Unfortunately, an unbearably decrepit woman named Vallory cut their holiday short and somehow the damn woman had obtained intel on who was the real Jack.

As a result, Jack almost didn't make it.

He took care of her men (sadly Vallory got away), but the mystery of who had sent the vile woman after them was never solved. Until now. Nisha was Lawrence's scapegoat, and Jack was lapping it up.

“Now you know.”

Jack’s face screwed up and Lawrence was surprised his face could contort to such a degree.

“I got her a damn anniversary gift, now what am I meant to do with it? You Jackass.”

Lawrence just gave him a shrug, “give it to me?”

“You're just full of wonderful ideas princess, how do you feel about lingerie?” Jack gave Lawrence the briefest of sly smiles.

“I’m not opposed,” he delivered a bright grin to match Jack’s.

Jack tossed the gun onto the bench between them, before he let his face fall into his hands.

"I was growing tired of her anyway,” Jack groaned.

He knew this play. Jack was attempting to disregard his tantrum by acting like he never cared in the first place. Lawrence knew full well Jack loved Nisha, in his own unique fucked up way. It wasn’t the same as what they had, there wasn’t a word to describe what Jack and Lawrence had. Jack would return to moping, he couldn’t keep up the facade of not caring for long. He held onto grudges and despair like a security blanket.

Jack ran a long hand down his face and sighed deeply, he looked more his age than ever. Without the gun pointed at his chest, Lawrence could take a moment to study his adversary. Bags crept under his eyes, and grey hair now lingered where Jack didn’t have it deliberately styled. Lawrence wondered how he looked himself, the last week hadn’t precisely been stress-free.

He slowly shifted in his chair, the movement caught Jacks attention, and his hand twitched towards the gun. He gave Jack an honest smile and reached for what remained of the scotch and the glass tumblers he and Nisha had left out. Pouring them both a drink he slid the glass towards Jack. Lawrence needed to keep a clear head, but one drink wouldn't hurt.

They sat in silence for the most prolonged period that he could recall. Jack could fill any silence with a rant or his drabbles, but not this time.

For a moment his mind wandered back to the comforts of their apartment, how they'd spend their evenings together. They’d sit and drink, bitch about rival companies and muse about how they’d spend their Friday Firing sprees. Maybe it wouldn’t be worth kicking up a fuss? Maybe he should just go back with Jack. He could always try and get a message to Athena, to retrieve Angel. Jack had him back now, and without Nisha, he wasn’t going to let him go anywhere but back to Helios.

Jack ran a hand along the bench and collected the dust on his fingertips, “Where did you go?” Jack asked, studying his dust-covered hand.

Lawrence rested his head in his arm, sighing he recounted a vague version of his adventures.

“Drove around the highlands, took part in some sniper practice, camped outside, saved a Constructor from some bandits. You kept me locked up here for too long.... I needed out.”

"Is that so?" Jack's voice was dangerously calm as if he already knew the details, the truth of where Lawrence had been.

Maybe he wasn't as good as a liar as he thought.

“Where is she... Where is my Angel?” Jack finally spoke, his voice tense with emotion.

“She's gone, Jack.”

Jack fired a violent glare and his grip on the tumbler became increasingly pale. Lawrence was sure he saw a crack or two form on the crystal.

"Gone?" Jack hissed.

“I don’t know what happened... After you left... The Eridium, it just consumed everything,” Lawrence satisfied Jack with another one of his lies. His words feigning tenderness and sorrow. He leaned forward as he spoke, making sure not to break eye contact as he reached a hand forward.

“What?” Jack snarled, the anger that had consumed him before was replaced with something far more primal and deranged. Lawrence suddenly wished Jack was still mad at him over Nisha.

“You can see for yourself... I’ll come with you if you like.”

Lawrence moved again to reach Jack, but the other man just shuddered from fits of rage. It was a bluff, Jack would never return to her chamber, he couldn't witness what he knew he was responsible for.

Angel was right, Jack was a coward.

Jack finished his drink and set the tumbler down. “Ok... Let's go see her, I want to try and bury something of my little girl,” Jack slurred.

What? No. Fuck, fuck fuck.

Lawrence's feet slid to the ground, he stepped around the bench to calm the violently shaking and grieving man. He moved forward and rested a hand on Jack's shoulder and felt the CEO's posture relax at the touch. Jack leaned into Lawrence, burying his head into his neck, seeking comfort.

It had been a VERY long time since they had any kind of intimacy. Lawrence swallowed and kept his hand firm on Jack, diligently thinking of anything but Jack's warmth, his scent, his mouth on his skin, his...

Lawrence drew a sharp breath and pulled Jack to his feet.

The two men shuffled to the exit of Lawrence's loft, his hand still on Jacks shoulder. It laid there monetary before Jack paused. Lawrence opened his mouth to question what was wrong, that was before Jack swung around and punched him hard, very hard.

“You were supposed to protect her!” Jack bellowed at him.

Lawrence took a few steps back but did not fall. He rubbed his jaw, fucking hell, Jack had clocked him under the chin. If Jack's drunken state hadn't hindered his swing, he was sure he'd have broken jaw. Jack dove for the gun on the bench and aimed it back at his chest.

“This is all your fault! I should've known you’d betray me too! You all have.”

For once Jack’s paranoia was almost on the money. Lawrence had betrayed him, but not in the way he thought.

“If you had just trusted me in the first place we wouldn’t be in this mess!" Lawrence snapped. "Or maybe, if you haven't dumped me here! I could've helped! But you just had to send me away! You just had to do everything your way!”

He breathed heavily through his nose, despite his rage he kept his composure still. Lawrence didn't want to admit the truth in his words, but he knew some part of him felt betrayed. They confided everything to one another, why did he leave Angel out?

Jack just ignored him, “You’re just like the others!” he took another swaying step forward, his intoxication getting the better of him. The gun was wavering back and forth.

"Jack, don't do this," Lawrence tried to reason, but Jack cut him off.

He fired the gun at Lawrence's chest.

His shield absorbed the impact of the bullet, but his protection shattered as a result. Jack tore towards him. Lawrence reached for his gun, in a swift movement it was unholstered and aimed, but he didn’t shoot. Lawrence couldn’t pull the trigger, he couldn't shoot Jack. Despite all his reasonings, despite everything Lawrence told himself, how he despised him, hated what Jack had made him into. He still couldn't fire a gun at him.

Jack flung himself against him, and Lawrence took another step backwards, he blocked a sloppy swing but missed the kick to the shin which drove him to the ground. Lawrence stumbled to his knees. Jack was livid. His hair was stuck to his brow, slick with sweat, he was hunched over and ready to deliver another blow at him.

"Wait!" Lawrence tried to call, but his words were cut off as Jack landed a clean hit under his jaw.

He fell back, past the threshold of the loft and with a series of slick thuds he fell down the stairwell. His head hit the marble steps and his back into another. Collapsed at the bottom of the staircase he gasped for air before everything went black.


There was a sickening crack, but Jack paid it no mind.

He bounded down the stairwell and in seconds his hands were fast around Timothy’s throat. His double didn’t even respond as he pressed his thumbs down, crushing his windpipe. He wanted to see the life leave Timothy's body, he wanted to watch the colour drain from his face, watch his eyes turn red and lip's blue. He was responsible for his Angel's death! What did he do to stop it? Nothing.

Timothy was unresponsive, maybe he knew that Jack was right to punish him? He deserved it. They all did.

Timothy’s arms remained motionless on the cold floor. Not once did the double try to scrape at his arms to be released, or kick his legs to through Jack off. A sour feeling rose in his chest if Timothy wouldn’t fight back then what was the fucking point?

Timothy’s blank face barely twitched. Jack's eyes narrowed as he slowly let his hands go limp and pull away from his double's raw windpipe. The tips of his fingers were wet and painted red.

"Tim?"

A deep pool of blood had already formed around the back of Timothy’s head, and his neck was bent on a crude angle. Jack fumbled his words as he shook Timothy’s limp body, yet this only encouraged the blood to pool faster.

“Tim!”

A strained sigh left his double’s lungs. Timothy’s eyes remained closed, but his face stirred. He patted Timothy’s cheek far gentler than he intended.

“Get up! I’m not done with you yet, this is not how you die.”

He shook Timothy again, but the man just groaned from his attempt to spur some fight into him. With another pat of gentle encouragement, Timothy finally opened his eyes. Jack released the air he'd held captive with a long sigh and growled at Timothy to get up.

“I... I can’t,” Timothy mumbled as his eyes started to widen.

“What?”

“I can't move.”

Timothy’s eyes gazed down his body then up to Jack. His breathing was stunted and panic was drawing upon his face faster than his fall down the stairs. Jack picked up Timothy’s arm. He felt no resistance, just dead weight. He dropped it and watched as it instantly fell to his side. Timothy’s eyes were wide, despite his ragged breathing his chest barely moved. A cruel smile crept across Jack’s face as he picked up his double's arm again and tested its responsiveness.

“You cunt,” Lawrence hissed at him, “you broke my fucking back.”

Timothy leaned his head further to spit out more curses. A behaviour Jack had never been able to weed out.

“What have I told you about cursing," Jack snarled and pressed another thumb down on Timothy's windpipe.

“Fuhk yuoh,” Timothy gasped under the pressure.

Jack loosened his grip and resisted the urge to burst into hysterics. Timothy couldn’t move, he couldn't do shit. There were a lot of things he could do with this, some darker thoughts buzzed through Jack's mine. Oh, he could really enjoy this. Though his plans for revenge dragged away as Timothy's breathing became shorter, and faster.

A damn panic attack. It had been a very long time since he'd seen one of these, a habit he thought he had weeded out long ago.

He gave Timothy a light slap. “Oi, focus.”

“I can’t breathe,” Timothy heaved.

“You’re talking so you can breathe dum dum.”

“I can’t… Breathe... I can’t... I...” but the words were trailing away. Timothy was losing too much blood.

“Where are your health-kits?” Jack pulled himself off the floor and glanced up at Timothy's loft. "Tim!"

But the double was fading fast. Jack ran up the stairs back into the loft. He hadn’t noticed it so much when he first arrived, but Timothy’s place looked like it had been ransacked. The kitchen draws were pulled apart, clothes and sheets tossed around, and glass was littered along the floor.

A health-kit won't save him, it won’t replace the blood or fix his broken back, or neck, or whatever, Jack reasoned.

He accessed his gear chip and digitised the liquid Eridium that he still carried for Angel and for other emergencies. Spying an empty syringe by Timothy's bed, he grabbed it. Curiosity briefly emerged as to why it was there before he returned his attention to more pressing matters. This was going to be great, he’d get Timothy back on his feet and then see about strangling that pretty neck of his. Maybe repeat the process a few times. It wouldn't be a first. Happy with this new course of action Jack returned to Timothy’s side.

“Good news, not going to let you die today,” Jack lightly cheered as he cupped Timothy's face.

Timothy tried to jerk away from his touch, but he couldn't do much more than move his head. Jack placed the empty health-kit on the ground beside them and Timothy's eyes instantly drew wide and darting from the needle to Jack’s face. His double hated needles, getting his darn vaccinations was a month-long chore of coxing him into it.

“What are you doing?” Timothy strived to demand, but there was a tremor on the edge of his words.

Jack revealed the bottled Eridium from his lap and opened the cap, he dipped the end of the syringe in and drew the purple substance into the cylinder.

“No, no, no, no," Timothy rasped, his bright eyes bulged, and his jaw clenched tight.

Jack rubbed a tender hand over the side of his double face, to see him in such disarray made Jack run hot.

"Jack... Don’t do it,” Timothy's begs for mercy only made Jack lust for more.

Ignoring him and he swayed the syringe back and forth allowing the purple substance to glow.

“Another treatment will only make things worse!” Timothy implored. “Just let me go-” He stopped speaking, an odd expression that Jack couldn’t place was skewed across his pale face. Timothy looked like he had some sick sense of relation before he fidgeted his head away from Jack.

“Your back is broken. A health-kit alone is going to fix that,” Jack scolded him. He bit down on his tongue, resisting the urge to sneer in elation at his double’s panicked face.

“You know the drill, Timmy, you’re my double. Can’t have you broken like this,” Jack spoke, voice tender as he stroked the side of Timothy's face again.

When Timothy jerked away, Jack retracted his hand. So be it. He clamped down on Timothy's arm and folded the sleeves up. Deliberately taking his time to shove the cuffs of his shirt and bomber jacket up.

“Jack, I can’t go through it again."

He wrapped a firm hand around the top half of Timothy's bicep, tightening further so his vein would expose itself to him.

"It killed me last time!” Timothy cried.

The look of plain horror on Timothy's face was the satisfaction Jack sought.

“The Doctors said no more Eridium, you’ll make everything worse,” Timothy continued to reason his case. But Jack paid him no mind. Did he honestly think he was going to leave him broken like this?

This was so much better than strangulation.

“Maybe so, Timtams.”

Jack gave his double a loving pat on the chest before he drove the needle into Timothy’s waiting vein.

Timothy screamed, and Jack just shone with glee.

“Fuck you, Fuck you, Jack!” Every curse imaginable escaped Timothy's lungs. “Just get it out! Get it out of my arm!”

“That's right, you're a junkie who’s afraid of needles,” Jack scoffed slapping a hand on Timothy's thigh.

He withdrew the syringe and tossed it to the side, yet, made sure it remained in Timothy’s vision.

“I’m not a fucking junkie and it's not about the damn needle," Timothy’s tone was already softer as the Eridium pumped up his arm. "You made me... me like this,” his words were slurring.

“Yeah you just have a problem with dosage control” Jack sighed, “Which is a polite way of me saying you’re a junkie. I’ve had to take weeks off work for you, don’t let me remind you the state you were in last time,” Jack snarled.

Timothy had taken multiple Eridium treatments over the years. Every time there was a serve poisoning, assassination attempt or trauma Jack would make sure his double was fighting fit in no time. However, with each treatment, his body adapted and the dosage needed to be increased. The last serious treatment had proven too much.

The two of them were debriefing each other on their Atlas finds in the Dust, or lack of. Timothy was complaining about being contractually obliged to drink black coffee before he fell face first into the fountain. Timothy’s coffee had been laced with poison, which had been intended for him. It would have been a shallow watery grave for his double if Jack hadn’t acted fast. Dosing him up with Eridium his body was able to fight off the poison, but he may have given him too much. A week of intensive care probably confirmed that. When they started to wean Timothy off the Eridium, he became agitated, hostile and even violent. Jack found him overdosed in their apartment, curled up in a feverish wreck in the bathtub, and so started the long process of getting him clean. Until now.

“So, should I just leave this here?” Jack tossed his head to the side and held the Eridium bottle up so Timothy could see it. “You’re going to want it REAL bad when you wake up.”

“Asshole..." Timothy said as his head rolled to the side. He was no longer able to hold it up and administer his death stare at Jack.

“I’ll just leave it here so you can reach it when you can,” Jack gave him a toothy smile before he pushed himself off the cold marble floor.

"Get... back here,” Timothy tried to call, but the words barely made it out.

“Suck it up Timtams, when you wake up, you’ll wish I had strangled the life out of your pretty face.”

Jack towered over his double, nudging him with his boot.

“I’ll come back in a cycle to see how you're doing, that's if you haven't ransacked the Eridium supply from every mine in the area,” Jack chuckled as he straightened out his jacket.

“Jack! D-don't leave me...come... ba–ck...” Timothy's voice faded as the Eridium took him into a blissful state of repair.

Silence claimed the hallway as his double finally succumbed to the Eridium. Jack ran a hand over his chin, making note he needed to shave when he returned to Helios. He felt the soberest he'd been in days, Timothy always had that effect on him. Make him see reason.

He gave Timothy one last nudge with his shoe as a parting farewell, upon doing so, a soft glow caught his eye; Timothy's echo was active. Jack shot back down and grabbed the device from the belt. The receiver was on.

“Who is this?” Jack snarled, but the echo-comm remained silent.


“Who is this?”

Her dad’s voice snarled into the echo-comm receiver.

Angel yanked her palm away from the echo-comm and her consciousness with it. Her hands trembled as she placed the device down beside her.

Jack had spoken to her. The real Jack had talked to her.

Angel curled up on the cot shivering as she recalled the conversation she heard between the two men.

Why did her Dad call Lawrence, Tim? Was that his real name? And what relationship did he have with her Dad?

Angel had never heard anyone speak in that tone to Jack, let alone scold him, or fight him and live.

And did Lawrence really kill the Sheriff of Lynchwood?

If Angel had questions before she had hundreds now. She huddled up in the cot, hugging her shoulders as she tried to guess the answers.

Chapter Text

Movement hauled Lawrence's attention away from the barrel in his hand; Jack was approaching. His employer drove two large hands against the French doors and pushed them both inward. He marched into Lawrence's apartment with an air of certainty, as if it were his own home and Lawrence was the intruder. His masked features looked smooth, relaxed for once as he paced into the kitchen.

"Scotch?" Jack asked.

Lawrence continued to rub an oil stain cloth over the barrel of his sniper as he answered.

"We drank it all. I've ordered us more."

Jack cursed and crossed his arms. When Lawrence went ahead and ordered them more scotch, he discovered the drink cost his monthly income. Receiving anything shipped from Earth was a ridiculous expense. Though, there was nothing Jack could not get. If he wanted it, it was his.

"There's regular whiskey in the cupboard, from one of the Edens, I forget which one" Lawrence jerked his head over his shoulder, his hands too busy cleaning the compartments of the dismantled sniper to point.

"It better be from Eden-5," Jack grumbled.

Jack gave him a curt smile, as cold as it was, it still surprised him. He paced over and started rummaging through Lawrence’s cupboards. Jack pulled out two tumblers for them both, without asking, he poured Lawrence a generous amount. Another surprise, Jack was usually tight on Lawrence's drinking. Maybe word had finally got to him that he was well below his required body fat.

"My thanks," Lawrence accepted the glass.

"Really? My thanks?" Jack mocked, "what did I say about your vocab? Just say what's needed, or nothing at all."

Lawrence's grip on the sniper tightened, thankfully Jack didn't press the matter further. Jack's presence was a fierce itch that couldn't be defeated. He just had to endure; eventually, it will pass. Jack wandered back around the kitchen bench and propped himself up on the stool.

"We have a service that cleans those, you know?" Jack motioned to the dismantled sniper.

"I thought you were heading out tonight," Lawrence replied without looking up as he reached for a cloth that wasn't stained with oil.

Lawrence was confined to the apartment on most evenings, and was forbidden to leave when Jack was heading out 'on the town'. In his early days, he could enjoy a night or two at a bar drowning away the day with a drink, sometimes with a girl on his arm. It was surreal at first, the attention. Everyone listened to what he had to say, they lap up every gesture, word spoken as if he was the very air they breathed. Getting a girl was the simple part, keeping her an arms distance away was the hard part. All forms of romance were off the table, Jack had been very firm with that rule. Even a text or two and he'd snatch his echo away and destroy all evidence of the woman he'd been with. Since the (failed) sniper assassination, Jack's grip on him was relentless. It often gnawed at his sanity, not being able to roam as he pleased. He reserved mundane tasks, such as gun cleaning for those evenings, which was becoming every evening.

"Nisha cancelled," Jack admitted as he finished his drink and poured himself another.

So that's why you're getting drunk in my apartment.

Jack always needed an audience. Without Nisha, Lawrence was second best.

Jack pulled out his echo, and his hand flicked across the screen, Lawrence heard him mumbled something about 'deadlines' and 'new contracts being needed'. There wasn't much Lawrence could respect in Jack, but his work ethic was something to be admired. Even at home he'd be working, drink in hand, coding in patches for the latest build, pushing through new deliverables ahead of schedule. Although silence could never prevail long with him, eventually Jack needed to hear his own voice again.

“Wrist laser not good enough anymore?" Jack caught his eye as he placed the echo down.

“I like my sniper,” Lawrence replied flatly.

He returned his gaze to his hands, cloth still working along the barrel. Quietly he growled at Jack, “maybe for once you could adapt your image to me?”

“That's not how this works,” Jacks tone dropped. It was amazing how fast the atmosphere could change. Lawrence knew better; he should have just kept his mouth shut.

He was walking on some damn thin ice, but Lawrence only shrugged. His frustration overcame his fear, and with that, he sneered back to Jack, “then you go out and shoot. You can use whatever damn gun you like.”

“Ok princess, where's the attitude coming from?” Jack snapped.

Lawrence fired off the reasons to be pissed in his head like he was reciting a shopping list.

One; you shoved a needle down my eye and nearly lobotomised me

Two; you burned my face with a brand, and now I can no longer see, let alone shoot.

Three; I am your fucking meat sack for your glorified immortality project.

Four; I can't go out when I please, I've not enjoyed the company of anyone else but you and Nisha for months. You-are-both-insane.

Five; you keep me up at all hours of the night to learn your programming language, yet you don't let me work on any projects.

Six; I need sex, dammit will you please let me leave the apartment.

Lawrence’s mind raced with all the reasons why he wanted to scream at his deranged housemate, despite his silent rage he let out a heavy sigh and opted to express thought number three.

“I can’t shoot with this damn eye,” he grumbled, "I mean I can. It's just not right."

Lawrence kept his attention focused on the sniper, he couldn’t stand to look Jack in the eye. He was sure the man was crushing his tumbler in his hand, that shards of glass were moments away from flying across the room. Lawrence expected Jack to reply with something like, ‘tough cookies’ or ‘suck it up kiddo’. Maybe he'd even draw the needle out again. However, the masked man just returned the sigh before responding in a tight tone.

“Just ask then.”

“What?” Lawrence snapped his attention back to Jack.

Jack didn’t reply, his gaze was firm, and his eyes wielded that wild glint when he dared Lawrence to strike back.

Was this a trick? A game? Jack hated games, he didn't have the patience for them. Lawrence thought he knew what Jack wanted him to say, but the admission terrified him. Lawrence was tense, yet his employer looked relaxed as ever, despite his glare.

“Can...I, um have a cybernetic eye?” The words left Lawrence awkwardly, and he felt the colour fade from his face.

“Not if you ask like that,” Jack snickered as he took another deep sip of his drink.

Right, of course.

“How soon can I get a cybernetic eye?” Lawrence replied promptly and sternly, using the same inflection Jack used when he wanted something.

Jack barked out laughing, “Oh god, look at you!” He cheered.

Jack gestured for him to take a swig of his drink, after doing, so he carried on with mock laughter. It made Lawrence so on edge he wanted to vomit. He carried on for a moment longer, wiping away non-existent tears from his eyes.

“Sure champ, you can get a cybernetic eye.”

Lawrence's brow knitted together as he rubbed the inside of his palms with his thumb. The last time he was under the knife was to treat the burn across his face, and he left with more than a few bandages.

Jack had made sure the message stuck, that if he didn't become his perfect Jack, there was an endgame waiting for him. Lawrence found his hand on the back of his neck, he tried to pass it off as an itch and ran his hand through his hair.

“Only thing,” Jack cocked his head to the side and considered Lawrence for a moment before continuing, “you want the eye, you gotta be awake during the whole procedure."

“What? Hell no!”

Lawrence retaliated and slammed a hand down on the bench sending the scope of his sniper rolling off the edge. Forgetting all past worries about AI's and erasure. Jack didn't even flinch. Instead, his face drew up with a dark grin. Satisfaction swept over his features as Lawrence considered his options. Cybernetic eye surgery was inevitably going to involve a lot of needles down his eye socket. Jack knew his phobias well, and Lawrence's recent close encounter with them hadn't helped his fears. Nothing came on a silver platter from Jack, no, it had to be tainted in some way.

“You want it, you gotta do it my way,” Jack pressed.

Lawrence gritted his teeth together, Jack assumed he’d say no, that his fear of needles would sway him otherwise. Jack was a fool if he hadn’t realised that Lawrence was as stubborn as he was. If anything he was the stubborn one, he'd held out this long. How many people could claim they could endure Handsome Jack? Lawrence had, and he planned on continuing. Despite whatever plans of revenge he may have had, surviving and getting his sight back was a greater need.

And seeing the AI, just a glimpse of it was enough to throw water on any firey plans of retaliation.

“Fine, I'll do it,” Lawrence grounded.

Jack's face twitched, it was a snippet of something fierce before he relaxed and gave Lawrence a wide grin.

"It'll take a while to get everything set up," Jack muttered, "leave it with me, I'll call the surgeon", and he stalked off.


Ok so, Jack could be reasonable. Lawrence had known the game for some time, yet it burying all empathy to be able to play along was no easy feat. The rules; don't blink when Jack asks you to kill, don't speak when he throws your life into battle, enjoy it with a smile, even if you're washed in blood, be thankful.

It was working, Jack was happy. He went back to his frat boy persona, there were no more threats of needles or AI's. They enjoyed their drinks together, sometimes they even laughed at the expense of some employee. Everything was moving along as smoothly as it could.  

So Lawrence voiced grievance number six.

"I need to get laid."

His confession seemingly made Jack choke on his meal. Lawrence raised a brow, it wasn't like it was an unusual topic. His employer could scarcely stop claiming how often he 'tapped' that, or was seeing some pretty bird, or how the new cute intern looked bent over his desk. (Jack was off limits to the HR department. Honestly, he could give them a years amount of work in a single day). Those were just the details outside of Nisha. From sound alone, Lawrence could practically envision what was going on between them.

So what if Lawrence wanted to follow suit.

“I’ll sort something out,” Jack buried his face in his meal and Lawrence returned to his.

‘Sort something out' meant a woman - an escort he presumed - would be joining him in his apartment at nine.

When she arrived, Lawrence had already consumed three drinks. Liquid courage was needed tonight, and his guest had nothing to do with it. No, Lawrence suspected his housemate would make some god awful appearance. He couldn't deal with that sober and so he poured himself a fourth drink and offered her one.

She was gorgeous, dark hair, skin tone to match, a round face and full lips. Lawrence knew who she resembled but said nothing of it.

He forgot her name in about ten minutes, and when she was finished with her drink, he didn't bother with any more pleasantries. He took her to his room, and he fucked her. She yelled Jack's name, as he bent her over like one of his interns. Her cries muffled as he buried her face in the pillow. He came; exhausted he fell into the sheets. She didn't stay long after that, he had no idea how long Jack paid her for, but he was glad when she got up to leave.

Unsurprisingly Jack pressed him for details.

"Did she suck you off? Or get right into it? Was she into any kinky shit? Nah she couldn't have been, she was gone in like under an hour. You better not be ruining my image with a piss poor performance."

Lawrence rolled his eyes and told him he "wouldn't let him down."

So, it became a routine; she'd come over every Thursday. The second evening started and ended exactly like the first, on the third date, he finally remembered her name; Caitlin. On the forth, she may have actually came, up until that point he'd assumed all her cries in pleasure were fake. They had to be, Lawrence wasn't generous, was that Jack's doing? Had he always been this inconsiderate? He didn't know.

She told him how handsome he was, Lawrence internally rolled his eyes but played along. He needed the intimacy, no matter how crude and selfish it was. Lawrence forced himself to spend a little more time on her pleasure, but only slightly. Jack ran him into the ground, he would often finish work as she walked in the door. He didn't have the time to be concerned for someone else. Plus she was being paid, right?

Then she got his echo-frequency, she must have stolen it when he passed out. Jack would be furious, 'no romance' were the rules and Lawrence had no intention of breaking it. She sent him message after message. Lawrence ignored them all, and he hastily put the echo on silent to relieve any suspicion from Jack. When Jack left for a meeting with the head of RND team, Lawrence had five minutes to himself before he was meant to meet with a dev-ops unit. He opened up one of the twenty-something messages she had left him. His eyes scanned the contents, Lawrence re-read it, again and again. His blood turned to sluggish ice, his heart froze, and the echo-comm fell from his grasp.

No this couldn't happen.

That evening he was drunk, drunker than he'd ever been. Two-thirds of the scotch were gone, he shouldn't have drunk the good stuff. The good stuff was worth too much. It was worth more than him.

His hand knocked the glass before it found it's way around it, ignoring his previous thoughts Lawrence downed the rest of the drink. The lights were dulled to their evening setting, he couldn't be bothered to restore them. So there he sat face buried on the kitchen bench, drunk in the dark. Jack would be home soon. He'd have to tell him.

Lawrence swallowed down the drink or bile that threatened to come back up. His stomach was in knots, and his brow was slick with sweat. He counted down the minutes to when Jack would be home. Eventually, the pleasant chime of the elevator opening told him the countdown was over. The sound, as soft as it was, did not envoke pleasant thoughts. Wearily he pushed himself up on the stool, his gaze swayed as it settled on the french doors; eyeing the common room beyond. Jack went straight to his apartment, he didn't even look across at Lawrence's door.

'Come back', he mouthed.

When he tried to stand up he fell to the ground, the sound of the stool crashing behind him brought Jack to him. He wasn't pleased.

"What the hell!"

Lawrence heard his heavy footsteps march towards him, rough hands picked him up and leaned him against the bench.

"You're drunk, and It's a damn work night, you're heading to Pandora tomorrow morning! What the hell were you thinking?"

Jack grasped his hands onto Lawrence's face and steered him, so their bi-coloured eyes met. It was over at that point. No amount of liquid courage could save him.

"Please don't do it."

"Do what," Jack leered over him.

"The needle, my eye, don't do it. Please"

Jack's grip twitched, his thumb dug into Lawrence's jaw.

"I won't have to as long as you don't give me a reason."

When Lawrence didn't respond, Jack pressed him.

"What did you do?"

Lawrence succumbed to the fragile emotions he'd suppressed for so long. He didn't blink so the tears wouldn't be pushed down his face, but his eyes stung from staring for so long. Lawrence was thankful for the darkness.

When Jack didn't speak, Lawrence realised that was more terrifying. His body extracted a sob. He was ruined now, tainted. Jack would need to fix him, punish him.

"Come on," Jack's tone smoothed out effortlessly, from years of practice. Yet, his grip on Lawrence was as tight as ever.

He dragged him into his apartment. Lawrence's mind screamed at him to crumble his weight to the ground. But Jack led him on, like a chain around his neck Lawrence couldn't do anything but follow.

"Why the waterworks?" Jack growled as he fetched a glass of water.

He was sitting on Jack's couch, even though it was identical to his own, as was the layout, his surroundings felt foreign. Dread dripped from every corner which should have resonated a familiar presence.

Jacks calloused hands shoved the glass into Lawrence's face, but he didn't move to hold it. Instead, he slouched into his prefered position, shoulders caved in, and his head bowed in his hands. He could swear he heard Jack grind his teeth, but his employer said nothing. It took a long time for Lawrence to find his courage, he didn't know how he could possess such a fierce determination in battle. Maybe it was all adrenaline. However, a confession to Jack was his own sentence. He might as well have lined himself up under his own axe.  

"The escort..." Lawrence finally slurred.

"Is that what this is all about? Bloody hell if she's no good I'll get you a new one. For fuck's sake." Jack got up from beside him, convinced the matter was settled.

"She's pregnant," Lawrence called to him.

Jack immediately halted his departure. He pivoted on the spot to look him in the eye. It took a moment for Lawrence to gather what was happening, but eventually, he realised Jack was shaking; with laughter.

"With you!?" He gave Lawrence a wide grin.

Jack must have misheard, misunderstood.

"She's tested, I saw the results, its mine. She's threatening to go to the papers, she's demanding money, she has a lawyer, Jack."

"Oh honey," Jack whined and trailed back over. Sitting next to him on the couch, he placed a hand against Lawrence's tear-stained cheek. The gesture was a mockery of intimacy, and it made him want to be sick.

"It's not yours," Jack smiled.

"Wh...what?"

How could he be so sure?

"I already took care of matters, when we did all that" Jack's other hand gestured to Lawrence's face and down his body.

"You did what?"

"You can't have kids," Jack sighed, evidently getting impatient explaining himself. "God forbid anyone thinks Handsome Jack can have kids and they come out looking pre-you."

Lawrence didn't know what to say. He'd never been in a steady relationship to ever consider kids. Even if he wanted to wing it on his own, his debt had made it financially impossible. But to have it taken away, the choice, it mortified him. Jack still held a hand to Lawrence's face, he wanted to pull away. It left him feeling cut open. Like a frog, strung up, dissected in a classroom in front of an audience.

He'd felt this before.

After he'd fought back, after he’d attempted to jam that needle down Jack’s throat. Jack had taken him to R&D and booted up the computer to reveal his immortality project; project Tartarus . Lawrence had cried, he had begged, not to let himself be erased. Not to be replaced with that thing.

He told Jack he'd be perfect, he'd become his perfect Jack.

Jack only laughed and showed him the AI, and then he revealed the port concealed under a layer of skin on the back of his neck.

Another non-consensual surgery, another mark on him that claimed him as Jack's. What else had he done? Who else knew?

Lawrence trembled under Jack's hand, he wished he had permission to leave, but he wasn't done yet. Jack moved the conversation along, unaware that Lawrence was still trying to process the changes to his body.

"Now, the matter of the escort. Whatever 'test' the slut got done was bullshit. Trust me, I made sure every part of you down there was tied up. The bub isn't yours. But we can't have her running her yap."

Jack's hand moved down and rested on Lawrence's shoulder, his grip firm.

"This problem is your making, you let her think she could manipulate you, use you. No one does that with us, got it?"

"Go deal with it."

Lawrence knew that tone. He knew what 'deal with it' meant.

"Tonight," Jack's tone was firm, cold, it wasn't human sounding.

"I...I can't. She...she...."

"You don't want me to do this for you," Jack warned.

Oh god, he didn't want Jack to do it. It would be messy, brutal, he'd drag it out, make her suffer. Lawrence shook under Jack's grasp, another sob was on the verge of leaving him.

Jack only sighed, "maybe you're not ready for these kinds of...interactions" Jack's tone was considerate, but Lawrence knew better.

"Look how worked up you are, you let one little wench get to you. Maybe you need some time to find your self again."

Jack's tone alluded to only one thing; being locked in the apartment for days on end. Removed from everyone, no interactions, no conversations, no echo-comm, not even Jack. Just him and his miserable thoughts.  

"No, no, no Jack, sir, I'll be good. I'll do it."

"I don't think you can," Jack gritted his teeth.

When Lawrence didn't respond Jack forced him into the head of the couch. Jack's hands momentarily pinned him down, something flickered across his face, before Lawrence could register what he'd seen it was gone. Jack held him in place long enough for Lawrence to admit defeat.

"Sober up."

"Wait," Lawrence started, but he didn't dare chase after him.


Lawrence passed out on Jack's couch, his intoxication was his blanket from Helios's chilled air. The same pleasant chime he'd heard hours earlier rang out. The lights were still dimmed to their lowest settings, but he could never mistake Jack's silhouette.

He strolled back in, his pace casual as if he'd had a relaxing dinner and drinks with friends. Except, Jack didn't' relax, and he had no friends. Lawrence shut his eyes, it was childish to pretend to be asleep, but he did so anyway.

Jack saw through it, he walked over and soon after a hand landed on his shoulder.

"Remember, I'll always take care of us."

Jack let his hand linger, his fingers brushed through Lawrence's hair.

"Go to bed," he commanded his voice gravelly.

When Jack left, Lawrence pried his eyes open. His shirt stuck to his shoulders and was oddly damp and sticky. A blood red stained handprint was pressed onto his collar from where Jack's hand had rested.

Chapter Text

Lawrence stirred on the ground something sharp scratched against his skin. Was he lying on sandpaper? Glass? A deep groan escaped his throat as the sharp substance continued to rake at his skin.

His mind was flooded with images of Jack and Eridium. A fight they had...or was it about something else? He couldn’t recall the details.

Lawrence ran a hand over his shoulders expecting to feel his holster and shirt, instead, he felt clammy, sweat coated skin. He opened his eyes and unclenched the fits he had unknowingly held tight. His knees were against his bare chest, pants were torn and covered in the irritable substance. Every movement produced jarring pain, his muscles protested as he lifted himself up onto his knees and the palms of his hands. His head hung low, still unable to crane his neck up to see where he was. His body was racked with shallow sharp breaths, and he could feel the sweat on his brow dripping down. He rested on the palms on his hands for a good minute before he could shift into a kneeling position. He stretched his head up and tried to take in the details to get a sense of where he was.

The smell hit him hard, Lawrence felt his stomach spasm, but nothing came up. He dry retched as the odour of a decaying corpse reached all his senses. He slowly tilted his head to find the source of the stench, a large figure lay face first on the floor. His body covered in dark purple crystals. Lawrence squinted trying to make sense of what he was seeing.

He demanded his legs to work, to get himself off the floor and away from the dead body but they resisted. Instead, his muscles shook feverishly, and Lawrence just hugged his bare shoulders trying to calm his protesting body. Another long minute passed before he could work his legs, he clenched his eyes shut and heaved as he pushed himself off the floor. Lawrence swayed on the spot as his body adjusted to the new position, his head in his hands unable to open his eyes. Exposing his body to another sense would be too much, but he needed to know where he was, who was lying on the floor. Slowly he made awkward shuffles forward, his nose guiding him the corpse. His feet kept getting caught up in the crystal substance below, when the stench became unbearable he opened his eyes.

It was Roland.

Lawrence let out a long curse, he was in Angel’s chamber. He suddenly felt he had more control of his senses, with an aching neck he turned around to examine where he had woken up. A syringe full of a crusted crystal residue laid on the floor. The Eridium that had once pooled in the chamber had now crystalised, Lawrence swallowed down his shame. He knew full well why he was here, in his delirious state he must have sought out more Eridium. Lawrence glanced down at his bare arm, it was raw, maybe even infected. The purple crusted substance covered his skin, he must have tried to shoot up the crystals once he ran out of the liquid formula.

He wanted to scream.

Lawrence hung his head, unable to distinguish the turning in his gut from shame or withdrawals. How long had he been here? His mind struggled to recount the events, why was he here again? His eyes scanned the room and fell onto the place Angel had been resting when he found her.

Angel...Angel!

How long was it since I left her? Did I leave her enough food? Water? Eridium?

Lawrence mind lingered on the thought of Eridium if he just had some more maybe he could pull himself together. He was sure he could control it then he could get back to her. The rational part of him declared that 'he couldn't control it'. But Lawrence dismissed it. He turned a little too quickly and felt the world spin at a crude angle. Once regaining his balance, he slowly shifted through the carnage back to his loft.

Lawrence noticed he was holding something. He’d unconsciously picked up the syringe and was rolling it over his fingers.

I’ll just keep it for now.

The lights in the hallway to his loft wore down on him, his body felt more exposed than before, and he bowed his head as he trudged towards the staircase. The very staircase Jack had thrown him down, the memories were shifting to the forefront of his mind. There was an empty bottle of Eridium, the one he had begged Jack to not leave behind. His shirt was on the ground as well as what he assumed was bile.

He rubbed a hand down his exposed back, feeling more bone than he should. Jack had broken it, crippled him, Lawrence’s breathing turned sharp as he recalled how Jack gleefully exposed him to the Eridium. He made it to the top of the stairs and collapsed onto his knees and palms once he breached the entrance to his loft. The door was thankfully open, he didn't think he could have stood still to permit the security door to scan him. He shuffled forward, careful not to step in the broken glass that littered the floor. The edge of his vision was growing black, but he pushed on, crawling to the center of the room. He reached the island bench in the kitchen and leaned against it to push air through his lungs. He closed his eyes to let the darkness claim him and then pass. He needed energy, sugar, more Eridium, something. He couldn’t go on like this.

Lawrence laid there for god knows how long, his neck was aching from his slumped shoulders and head. He might have passed out, he couldn't recall. He had absolutely no concept of time, was it hours? Days? Since he left Angel. Lawrence shifted his shoulders to get comfortable against the legs of the bench, an irritable pain shot up his arm. He’d been scratching at his flesh, the inside of his arm was raw, and blood was under his nails.

If I found some more Eridium just a little bit, I can make it back to Angel.

Lawrence pushed his back against the bench and forced his legs to heave himself up off the floor. Standing for the first time in his loft he could witness the destruction, it was totally trashed. Every draw was pulled apart along the floor, some cupboard doors had been completely ripped open, all of the stools were along the floor, some with missing legs, the screens to the balcony all smashed. The worst part, he had no recollection of ever being in his loft.

An empty pizza box and about a dozen empty beer bottles were on top of his kitchen bench, he at least knew that wasn't there before. His echo-comm was sitting next to it, with a sticky note attached.



Play me :)



Lawrence couldn’t tell if it was his handwriting or Jacks, over the years they’d became one and the same. Shame wanted him to delete the recording, but his curiosity urged him to click play. He tilted his head to check he was alone, it wouldn’t surprise him to find Jack hiding in a corner, watching him succumb to his games.

He held a purple stained finger down on the device and hit play.

Jacks face lit up on the screen, he was holding the device in front of him, filming himself as he walked through his loft. Between mouthfuls of pizza, he spoke with eagerness and delight.

“Tim! You’re awake, good for you,” Jack swung around the room, and Lawrence's kitchen spun in the background, “Now ask yourself how many times have you played this video?” Jack’s smile was wide, “this may not even be the first time you’ve made it back to reality”.

Lawrence didn’t want to dig the memories forward, he was happy being ignorant. Yet, at the same time, he couldn’t hit bring himself to stop the video.

“I found you in the storage supply cupboard last time, totally mess you were. Get this, you were trying to find Eridium in a mop bucket.”

Lawrence gripped the echo-comm tighter.

“Real glad I refrained from killing you, this is sooooo, so, so much better! Here take a look at yourself.”

The camera turned and revealed a dishevelled Lawrence curled up on his bed. He was scrunched up in amongst the sheets, shirt missing, his foot slowly rubbed his other ankle and his eyelids looked heavy. With wide pupils, the other-Lawrence stretched out a lopsided hand to reach for Jack.

“Awww look at you, sweet kitten” Jack had cooed to him.

Jack sat on the edge of the bed, the camera still filming other-Lawrence’s drug-induced state.

His other self, opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was a sloppy smile. Jack had chuckled at his slurred attempt at a greeting and ran a hand from his neck into other-Lawrence's hair. His past self only pushed his head into the touch, welcoming Jack to his side.

“You're so much better behaved like this before you were all Jack put down the gun, Jack don't do this, Jack don't do that.”

One of Jacks long bronze fingers played down other-Lawrence's jaw and over the inflamed red marks across his neck from where Jack had crushed his windpipe.

“Shame, I need you back home soon, I think a few more days of bliss will sort you out,” Jack's tone was soft as he continued to trace his fingers over Lawrence's neck.

Other-Lawrence's bare back was exposed to the camera, Jack examined the scars he'd endured on behalf of the CEO. Most were from assassination attempts, others from bandits and some from Jack himself.

“What happened here?” Jack’s hand had lingered over the thick scar that bore into other-Lawrence's upper arm.

Lawrence held the echo-comm closer, he recognised it as the sniper wound from his trek across no-mans-land, thankfully his past self-didn’t answer.

The camera jerked upwards and span around before settling down onto Lawrence's bedside table. Both of Jack’s hands were free, and he wasted no time putting them both to use against the other-Lawrence.

“You know why I had to break you, don't you?" Jack wrapped a hand around Lawrence's neck.

"You misbehaved running away like that,” Jack whispered low, as he leaned further down onto Lawrence's past self. Jack's head was inches from Lawrence's ear, “you understand, don't you?"

Other-Lawrence just gave a slow nod and fumbled a 'yes' before he arched his back and leaned further into Jacks touch. His past self attempted to swing an arm over Jack, but his movements were sloppy, and he only managed to pull him into a loose hug. Jack recognised the invitation and lifted himself off the bedside and lowered himself on top of Lawrence, his hands grabbed at his double's hips and held him down into the sheets. The rest of Jack's body pressed into him, despite the aggressive position Jack only planted soft kisses down Lawrence's neck. He worked slowly kissing the nape of his neck, over his collarbone and lingering over the mark made from the sniper assassination attempt. Jack pressed a love bite into the mark, and other-Lawrence pulled his hands through Jack's hair encouraging him to move closer, humming from the attention. Eventually, slow slurred words escaped him, “don't leave me here again” Lawrence mumbled.

Other-Lawrence whispered something else, and Jack had only sneered in response before pressing their lips together. Their kiss was long and passionate, Jack made an embarrassingly long moan as he grasped at Lawrence's hair. Both their breathing became shaper, cries louder, and their grasps more impatient as they pressed into one another.

Jack snapped, he threw himself up and tossed his coat over his shoulders. Lawrence tried to follow him up, but Jack held him in place.

"Stay put, Tim, you can touch all you want in a moment."

Only when Jack had discarded his layers did he permit Lawrence to move. His hands claimed every part of Jack and other-Lawrence pushed further into him. Jack was not a patient man, his hands grew more eager as they found their way under Lawrence's belt and he gave no protest, only a moan in satisfaction. He whispered again in Lawrence's ear, and Lawrence replied with a slurred, ‘yes’.

Jack turned back to the camera and gave it a sly wink before he unbuckled Lawrence's belt and lowered his pants.

The present Lawrence clenched the echo-comm, and his stomach felt knotted in a dozen places. Jack had come back to toy with him and in his Eridium blissful state he’d shamefully welcomed it. He placed the echo-comm down and slid back to the ground, head bowed. He’d forgotten to hit stop on the video as now his own slurred words of pleasure called out through the device. Lawrence gritted his teeth and tried not to chew his tongue as he listened to himself be satisfied by Jack. Thankfully, it seemed Jack did not follow through with his desires, his past self grew quieter, he was most likely too far gone for anything fun to happen. Silence prevailed for a long time, and Lawrence fought the urge to be sick. Eventually, his past self spoke out again, “you’re not...leaving are you?”

“Sorry Timtam, gotta head back and run a business, you know?” Jack huffed.

Lawrence begged again in protest.

Jack chuckled, “can't take you with me, I’ve already had to remove a dozen doctors from my service because of you. I’m not fond of having all of Helios thinking Handsome Jack has a drug problem.”

“I’ll be good,” other-Lawrence's voice trembled as he pled to Jack and the present Lawrence felt repulsed by his tone. He could practically see Jack's smirking face as he replied, voice heavy with affection, “I’m sure you would, but it's time for me to go.”

“No, please?” other-Lawrence carried on. It didn't sound like him at all; high pitched and desperate.

“Oh god,” Jack had spoken in a hot and heavy sigh, “just look at you,” he whispered low.

“You have no idea, how fucked you are and how fucking awesome that is,” Jack’s breathing was audible on the tape and Lawrence could only imagine what the man wanted to do to him further.

He wasn’t sure what his past self had done next, but Jack burst out laughing.

“Stop that, now I really wish I could stay, but another time ok?”

He heard the sheets ruffle and other-Lawrence beg Jack to stay one last time before the echo-comm went silent.

Lawrence couldn’t bow his head any lower, his chin rested against his chest, and the palms of his hands dug into the sockets of his eyes. Jack had got his revenge, Lawrence was weak, full of guilt and shame and worst of all Jack knew he'd enjoyed it.

He had to get out of here, now while his mind was set on freeing himself. Remaining on the floor, he reached up behind him and pulled down his echo-comm. With shaking fingers, he dialled the frequency to the comm residing in the safe house. What was he going to tell Angel? How could he face her like this? But he needed to hear her voice, something to convince himself to move out of the loft, to get away from Eridium and Jacks sick shit-show.

It only rang twice before Angel's voice burst out of the comm-speaker.

“Lawrence? Where are you?” her tone stern but tinged with concerned.

Lawrence bit down on his tongue, his chest spasmed and a soft cry left his chest he placed a hand over the microphone to prevent Angel from hearing him before he responded.

“I’m fine. I’m coming back now,” Lawrence heaved with sharp breaths, he couldn’t do this.

He hung up the call.

His head banged against the bench behind him, the sharp thud momentarily drew the pain away from the rest of his body. He needed a way out, he needed to go now, but his body was content with staying put.

Angel dialled back, but he didn’t answer.

If there was just more Eridium, I could do this. I just need something to get me going.

After all this time he still had the syringe in his hand, but the chamber was completely empty. He wanted to throw it away, but his hand refused to move. Instead, he pocketed it into his pants. He was a mess, no shirt, pants torn and coated in crystal dust, his arms raw and covered in dark slag induced veins.

He had to go now.

He leaned against the bench as he did before and used its stable structure to push himself up. He swayed over to his bedroom, which was equally destroyed as the kitchen. The sheets on his bed were thrown to the ground, stains covered the mattress protector. Another bottle of Eridium laid on the ground, he had no clue if Jack had supplied it to him or if he’d scavenged it himself. With a few more disjointed steps he made it to his dresser, finally getting a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

He looked awful. His collarbone stuck out more than usual, weight had already left his sides, his eyes were red and heavily sunken. Purple stained half his body where he had collapsed in Angel's chamber and his hair stuck out on all angles. He had tiny bruises splattered across his body, his neck was far worse it was a deep purple and green from where Jack had held him, and there were other markings he didn’t want to acknowledge. He couldn’t endure it any longer, so he pulled out a draw and tried to find something to hide his broken body. Gathering up clean clothes Lawrence swayed towards the bathroom. He needed a shower to rid himself of his past self.

The hot water flushed over him, purple and red pooled below him and created a marbling effect as it spiralled down the drain. His head rested against the cool black tiles, eyes closed as the pressure from the shower rained down his back. He kept finding himself rubbing at his arm and had to shake it away. He stood there trying to regain strength in his legs, he was sure if he laid down again he would never get back up. He didn’t even have the energy to wash, so he waited there head bowed for the water to run the Eridium and shame off him.

Only when his skin was wrinkled, soaked through and the hot water hand run out did he emerge from the steam filled room. His clothes felt irritable against his skin.

His workstation wasn’t spared from his destructive scavenging. The computer was thrown to the floor. His boots crunched down on the glass as he wandered back to the kitchen.  Did he get Felicity’s data? He couldn’t remember, Jack had interrupted, and the details after that eluded him.

A shudder shook his spine, and he winced when he recalled the crude angle in which he had laid when it was broken.

Lawrence glanced at the wall clock, grumbled a curse when he saw the time and date signature, it had been three cycles, a full Pandoran day since he left Angel. He finally found his holster and gear chip in amongst the sheets on the ground.

He checked the pizza box before leaving, Jack had eaten everything but the crusts, typical. Lawrence took a stale piece from the leftovers and reluctantly made his way to the fast station. He’d never let anyone else, but Jack see him in this state. His arm throbbed as he slowly set the coordinates to make his way back to Angel.

He just hoped he could get through this.


Lawrence was drenched in sweat, and he struggled to pull the layers off over his head. Angel had pressed him with question after question as he walked (stumbled) back into the safe house. He discarded his holster onto the desk, without any concern for Angel seeing his bare chest his shirt followed suit.

Angel's insistent questioning continued as he flopped down onto the cot. She could take the floor, he honestly didn’t give a fuck, he needed the bed.

“What happened?” She pressed again.

“It's fine,” was all he could manage as he buried his face into the pillow.

“You were gone for three cycles,” she replied flatly. Lawrence was sure if he turned to face her she would have her arms crossed, and be wearing an expression reminiscent of his mother.

“Its fine, it's all ok, ok?” He grumbled into the sheets, eyes tightly shut as his body shook with the oncoming fever.

“Tim! Tell me what happened,” Angel implored.

“Wh-what? How do you know that name?” Lawrence jerked his head up from the confines of the pillow. Angel did indeed have her arms crossed, and she did look disappointed.

When she didn't reply Lawrence snapped, "whatever, don’t call me that,” and he returned to drowning himself amongst the sheets.

“Did you see Jack?”

“Arhhhh Angel, dammit, leave me be,” Lawrence groaned.

Angel huffed and stepped away from the cot.

Thank fuck, Lawrence cried internally. His fists were clenched tight, and his stomach felt like spewing bile all over the cot. The withdrawals were going to hit hard, Lawrence knew he wasn't equipped to deal with this. He could only hope Angel was.


By the end of the cycle, Lawrence still hadn't addressed any of her questions. He'd only turned and groaned in the cot. She didn't need to raise a hand to his head to know he was wrecked with a fever. She tried to press him to drink water, to get fresh air, but her efforts only got curses in return. He even told her to 'fuck off'. Jack never swore, and rarely snapped at her in such a manner.

She considered letting Nyx or Crake talk some sense into him, but honestly, she couldn't stand the thought of the container being filled with the voices of three Jacks. Instead, she busied herself with Felicity. Whilst Lawrence had been indisposed at the Bunker she'd gone and restored Felicity's circuits. The bot was active again, Angel conveyed her frustration about Lawrence, and she replied with a high pitched beep that could only mean she agreed. Her next mission was sorting through the code Lawrence had recovered. Hopefully, she could put her back together.

Her Dad's double didn't even notice when she snatched his echo-comm to retrieve the code. He was borderline delirious, the sheets were drenched, and his breathing was ragged. She could have sworn he'd mumbled Jack's name, the very thought that he wanted Jack made her face screw up. She bit her tongue and resisted the urge to dump a glass of cold water on to him.

Whatever transpired at the Bunker Angel believed it was better she didn't know. Yet, there was a video on his echo-comm, the time stamp revealed it was taken while he was absent. Angel debated for some time whether to click play. Eventually, her curiosity overwhelmed her. She needed to know.

Clicking play, she watched on as Jack had filmed himself, indulging in pizza and dancing around the room. When he asked Lawrence (who he called Tim) to take a look at himself she froze. Her tiny heart fidgeted in her chest as the camera turned to land on Lawrence. There he was, disoriented on the bed, shirtless, and barely coherent. He'd smiled at Jack, beckoned him to come over.

Angel stopped the video, she didn't need to see this. She didn't want to know.

She looked over at the Lawrence present in the container. He was shaking violently among the sheets, his face buried in the pillow. But she could still make out the green and purple marks on his neck.

Sighing, Angel accepted that it was late in the cycle. She'd already resigned to the fact she'd be taking the floor tonight. She would almost feel sorry for him if he hadn't been so rude. Despite his cruelty, Jack was at least polite towards her, even gentle when he wanted something. Lawrence, however, acted like he was raised in a barn.

She lifted herself up and bid Felicity goodnight, who gave a low hum in return. Angel prayed for a dreamless sleep, and one uninterrupted by Lawrence's restlessness. She bitterly thought of the cardboard mattress she'd be sleeping on as she gathered up a coat to shape into a pillow. Sleep truly wanted to claim her, as she didn't wake when Lawrence climbed past her. Only when the container door swung open did she stir. Felicity frantically beeped, and Angel threw herself up. The silhouette of Lawrence stumbled outside.

"Lawrence!"

Angel crawled under Felicity and made her way outside, the Pandora sun was breaking. Basking the highlands in a beautiful red glow. She couldn't recall the last time she watched a sunrise, a real sunrise too. One that wasn't through a holo-screen. Best of all, Pandora sunrises lasted hours. Angel wished she could have enjoyed the moment, but Lawrence was content on ruining it with his dry retching. He was curled forward, on his hands and knees as he coughed. Angel hadn't noticed his arms before, he'd wrapped himself up so quickly in the sheets that she didn't have a chance to assess his condition. Not that Lawrence would let her. The veins on his arms were a dark purple, they ran all the way up and protruded on his neck.

Slag , she bitterly thought.

She cautiously stepped towards him, he caught sight of her approaching shadow and let out a long groan as he realised she was behind him. When she kneeled down beside him, she could feel the heat radiate from his back. Scars were littered between the slag infested veins on his arms. His back was bruised and white lines, older fainter scars ran down his spine. As if someone had whipped or scratched the skin raw. They looked so old as if he'd received them when he was a teenager or younger.

When she gently rubbed his shoulders, he flinched, but he kept his head bowed between his arms.

"Go back to bed," he croaked.

Lawrence eventually heaved his head up and glanced over at her. He was ghastly pale, his eyes red, and bile was attempting to escape him. Lawrence hurled forward again, shivering violently despite the Pandora sun warming the cliffside.

"Leave," he groaned.

Angel kept a hand on him, a part of her wanted to comfort him, hug him and tell him he'd be ok. But these feelings only came from the memory of her Dad, her real Dad, and that person was long gone. Lawrence only resembled John in appearance, everything else about him was tainted with Jack. John, the one who had read to her and held her was a man she could barely remember. She only had a few brief recollections of him, but she clung to them desperately. They were few and far between after her mother died. Slowly, John became Jack, and with that transition, her real Dad died.

“Angel," Lawrence heaved, his breathing was shallow, "where is your Eridium?”

He was doing a poor job at keeping his voice casual. He masked his face in his arms, yet, his tone was enough to reveal his play.

“It’s all gone,” she lied.

“There was still enough for another day,” Lawrence choked as he coughed again.

His demeanour was relaxed under her hand, yet Angel had spent years with Jack. She knew when a storm was brewing and one hell of a storm was on its way.

“I'm sorry, its all gone."

And just like Jack, the storm broke. His tone turned dangerously sharp, “don’t lie to me.”

Lawrence drew his head up, and their mix-matched eyes stared back at one another. He was worse for wear than Angel previously thought, Yet, she held her position, if he tried anything she could always retake his sight. And, after what he pulled with Felicity, she wouldn't hold back either.

“You can’t have it,” she said calmly.

“What?” He hissed, his voice barely audible.

Angel swallowed and took a deep breath before continuing, “when Jack arrived at the Bunker you tried to hang up the call. I deliberately kept the line open."

Lawrence narrowed his eyes, she felt the muscles on his back recoil. Angel retracted her hand as he leaned off the gravel and rested on his knees.

“You spied on us?”

“Only to make sure you were ok!"

"I heard how Jack...hurt you, how he gave you Eridium to heal-.

“Angel, you're treading a mighty thin line,” Lawrence cut her off, his voice dangerously low.

"You’ve had Eridium treatments in the past, haven't you?"

“Shut your damn mouth."

At that moment Lawrence resembled Jack in such a way that she could no longer tell them apart. His shoulders were rolled back, eyes sharp and his lips curled up into a snarl. With the scar on his face, he looked monstrous.

"Your body is severely addicted to the substance. You’re just going through withdrawals. You can fight this.”

“You’re a Siren, Eridium is different for you. You have no idea what it's like,” Lawrence spat.

Although they were both on the ground, he still towered over her. Yet, Angel wouldn't let him intimidate her. She wouldn't let Jack beat her, not again, not ever.

"Give it to me,” he moved towards her.

“Lawrence, Listen to yourself! You don’t want this. Jack wins if you give in,” Angel implored, she hoped he would see reason.

He gave a bark of laughter that caused her spine to shudder in terror. At that moment, he might as well have been Jack.

“Jack already won, when he did this!” Lawrence roared as he pointed to the scar on his face.

The clamour in his voice caused her to fall back on her hands. Her palms scraped against the uneven ground. Vivid images of Jack, her chamber and chair swam to the forefront of her mind, despite her aversion, she kept herself upright. She could beat this.

“Tim, please,” Angel hoped using his other name might pull him out of his Jack like trance, but it only seemed to fuel his hatred.

“I told you not to use that name," he hissed, “that person doesn’t exist anymore.”

“He doesn’t have to! You can bring that person back. Stop letting Jack beat you.”

Lawrence ignored all her words, he began to pull himself to his feet. His figure towering over her as she crawled back on the ground. His form blocked out the rising sun, removing the only peaceful element from the scenery.

“Jack saw to that when he burnt this into my face. Do you know what scorched flesh smells like? What molten iron feels like on your skin? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA!?"

This was the most she’d heard him speak since she came out of her own Eridium addiction. If he needed a verbal punching bag, then she’d submit. However, she wasn't going to let him succumb to the drug that he so desperately wanted.

"He may have used you, kept you captive, but he destroyed me!" he spat. "THERE IS NOTHING LEFT BUT HIM! You have no idea what he's capable of.”

Angel knew more than Lawrence gave her credit, yet she kept quiet.

“Now give me the damn Eridium, Angel.” Lawrence shook with a fury she’d only ever seen the likes of on Jack.

“The Eridium is with Felicity, I’ve asked her to digitise it away and store it. You can’t get it. No matter what you do,” Angel replied, burying the fear that threatened to boil over.

Something flashed across his eyes, a wild glint. Angel had seen it before. She seized dirt in hands, ready to throw it in his face if he dared to move any closer.

“I’m only going to ask you once more,” he snarled.

He wasn’t going to quit, Angel realised. This had carried on for too long. She shoved her hand into her pocket and activated the watch.

Nyx and Crake burst forward.

Their blue and red forms lit up the surrounding area. Pandora’s rising sun made Crake shine a brilliant red. Nyx’s form was diluted. Angel gave out a yelp of surprise as Crake stormed forward, his red frame shielding her from Lawrence. Meanwhile, Nyx instantly retreated behind her.

Crake bent his knees and kept his stance wide, “stand down Lawrence.”

Angel had expected Nyx to come to her aid, as she'd barely said a word to this ‘Crake’. Yet, the blue Jack appeared very content lingering to the sidelines. He rubbed his arms and gave worried looks between Crake and Lawrence.

“Get out of the way” Lawrence growled back.

Alarm simmered away, clawing at her chest at the realisation. Lawrence could - as he just did - tell the AI’s to stand down. Yet, Crake shook his head and ordered Lawrence to back away. Angel’s mouth hung open, Crake just disobeyed a direct order.

What kind of AI were they?

“Crake, this is killing me,” Lawrence heaved.

“I know, but you’ll only make it worse,” there was actual sympathy in his words. Something Angel hadn’t heard in Jack’s voice in a very long time.

“Nyx, don't even think about it!” Crake snapped and leered over his shoulder.

Angel spun around to see Nyx rubbing his arms nervously, his eyes darting to the watch and then back to Lawrence. Had he just considered returning to the watch? Nyx stared down at her with an apologetic look.

"Get her inside,” Crake called as he glanced down at Angel on the ground.

“R-right” Nyx almost stammered.

Nyx lowered himself to Angel's level, “let's go and leave the two boys to fight over who has the bigger balls, ok?”

Nyx rested his digital hands under her and tried to help her up, it was pointless as he barely had any mass, but the gesture was there. Lawrence threw a glare towards her as she trailed back to the container door. But his gaze had lost that wild glint, he looked defeated, his shoulders weighed him down, he was ready to collapse. Yet, when the container door shut separating them, Lawrence burst out cursing. Words so vile Angel felt a little sick just from hearing them.

Nyx's eyes were fixed on the door as were hers. The two of them huddled on the cot, and he kept a digital hand on her shoulder. With the door securely shut in front of them, Nyx seemed to regain some confidence.

“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!"

It took a moment for Angel to work out Crake was the one yelling.

"Going back to the Bunker? Of course, this would happen, you absolute fool.”

“OH, FUCK OFF CRAKE!" Lawrence snapped.

Angel felt Nyx’s hand twitch, and static ran up her spine

"Fucking useless. What would you have done? Kill Jack?”

“Maybe. I sure as shit wouldn’t be willing to roll over and submit to him like a damn dog.”

“SHUT IT!”

It sounded like Lawrence had lunged forward as something hit the container door. Felicity gave a worried beep at the sound of the impact.

“You need to pull yourself together real quick. Or things will end up like last time,” Crake warned.

“I’ve already read my death certificate. Twice now, I don’t need reminding."

“Seems like you do. What happens to us, the girl? If you die.”

“When I die," Lawrence corrected.

Angel threw a worried glance at Nyx, but his expression revealed no answers.  

Crake growled something in reply but Angel couldn't catch what was said. She wanted to get up and press her ear to the container door, but reason told her to stay put. Nyx fidgeted as his gaze too remained planted on the door. She made note how unsettled the blue Jack looked.

Crake and Lawrence continued the conversation at low growls, occasionally a curse was yelled, but most of the discussion remained private. Nyx didn't return to the watch, and Angel found herself relieved at that. He may look like Jack, but his demeanour did not put her on edge the way Lawrence and Crake would. The two of them launched anxious glances at each other as they sat in silence.

Chapter Text

There was going to be a punishment. Lawrence knew it. He didn't kill the escort; he disobeyed Jack.

When he returned from his mission from Pandora - broken and bruised - he discovered all the alcohol in his apartment had been removed. Even the damn mouthwash. Grudgingly he admitted it may have been for the best, yet, that was his lucid brain speaking. He needed to drink, being obliterated made it easier to be Jack. Life would become a costume, an elaborate performance, he would slip it on and then toss it aside every time he climbed into bed. Codeine and electrolytes did amazing things.

There was, of course, to be a second punishment. Jack had a backup plan for his backup plans, discipline to follow disciplines and an endgame for his endgames.

He crept around the corners of his own apartment on constant edge, when was the needle going to come out? When were the doors going to lock and never open? Jack had locked him away - for failing to take action at the New Haven assault - for two damn months. It drove him paranoid with the anticipation of the final sentence (a searing iron rod in the face). By the time Jack had opened those doors he was a begging sobbing mess, apprising him he'd do better. That he would become Jack.

His retaliation with Felicity was his last warning after that Jack took him to R&D and revealed project Tartarus to him. Jack's glorified immortality project. That thing, that AI in R&D would replace him the moment Jack didn't see him as a worthy imitation.

However, a week past and the needle never came, and the doors remained open and the AI was never seen. Lawrence didn't know what to do. He couldn't comprehend if this were a worse situation. Did Jack have something more sinister planned?

His physician told him to increase his carb intake, he was losing, fat fast, and he didn't have much to lose in the first place. His rigorous gym routine kept the muscles in place, but every session left him on the brink of fainting. He couldn't stand the waiting, the not knowing. What was Jack going to do?

Another week past and Lawrence stopped eating, he didn't even crave drinking anymore. Was this Jack's plan? Leave him in total despair and let the paranoia eat away at him. If so, It was working.

Meg found him collapsed on the floor, he'd been returning from a gym session, and the stairs to Jack's office had proven too much.  Lawrence groaned as he tried to pull himself together, his head rang from the collision. He begged her not to call Jack, but she dismissed him, loyalty was a bitch.

Jack rounded on him, he was livid. He dragged Lawrence back to the apartment and supervised him as he ate. He was being forced to exist, to live. When Jack was out of sight, he threw up his meal. At first, he didn't know why he did it. It wasn't that bad - eating - he had felt better, yet the urge to do it again remained. In the following days, Lawrence realised it was the only ounce of control he had left, and so it became another addictive habit.

Eventually, Lawrence discovered the second punishment. Jack did ensure his eye paid the price, but it wasn't with a needle. He cancelled his cybernetic surgery without telling him. The disappointment stung worse when he arrived for the scheduled pre-op appointment, only to leave embarrassed upon discovering it had been cancelled weeks prior.

Two more weeks past and Lawrence got used to not eating. If it became too much, he downed a health-kit or took a pill to make himself feel full. He went through each day with forced cheer and a celebrity grin on his face. Only to strip it away the second the doors closed behind him. Jack was visiting him less, but he made sure never to miss a meal. He guarded Lawrence, watching him force every mouthful down. When Jack caught him throwing it back up, the fury was destructive. He threw Lawrence's head against the toilet bowl almost knocking him out. Unlike the porcelain, Lawrence didn't break, he didn't think it was possible for him to cry anymore and so, he just laid there curled up on the ground, unsure whether to fight back or submit.

The last person he could possibly believe to spare him bolted to his side; Nisha.

She reprimanded Jack, Nisha revealed some embarrassing and almost tragic details of how Jack had grieved after having his face burned to a crisp. Apparently, he hadn't taken well to being disfigured, the mask had been his solution to his sorrow. So, Nisha's solution? To restore Lawrence's sight, as if that would solve everything. As if everything wrong in his life was his fucking eye. Lawrence nodded and told them both that's all he wanted, how grateful he'd be if he could see again. A pitiful lie, but it worked, and Jack finally gave in as long as Lawrence started eating.



The surgery was worse than being branded, something he could have never anticipated.

Thankfully the surgeon persuaded Jack to have anesthesia on his eye. However, that didn’t take away the sensation of something tinkering around in his socket. That was just the beginning, he had to witness the surgeons remove his pale green eye. It sat there on a tray next to him as the surgeon got to work with the cybernetic implant. He felt like his throat should've been hoarse. However, all of his screams were contained to a silent cry in his head. Verbally protesting would have dislodged a needle or send something sharp down in the wrong spot. It took all of his willpower to stay still, his jaw ached from having his teeth clenched so tight, the sides of his tongue were raw from nipping it when things had become too much. However, it was worth it, he proved Jack he could do it.

These memories seemed eons away like they'd been shifted deep into the recess of his mind. Lawrence recognised the sensation, his head moved slowly across the pillows to glance at the drip by his side. Another dosage of morphine had just been administered. A pleasant sentiment dripped across his mind, taking away the memory of the surgery and the impending migraine. The surgeon had said something about months of headaches, the nerves needed to adjust to the cybernetic implant.

"What's up buttercup?" A familiar, voice addressed as something jabbed into the side of him.

Lawrence's eye fluttered open (the other was hidden under layers of gauze) and regarded Jack sitting beside him. He wasn’t sure how far along it was post-op, was it a few hours? The entire night? His medical room didn’t have any windows, nor a clock. Time was absent for Lawrence.

When he didn’t respond, Jack grew impatient; another finger found its way into Lawrence's ribs. He rolled his head over to scowl at Jack.

"You...." Lawrence uttered quietly. The morphine was already taking hold of his speech.

"Yes me," Jack was beaming.

"Arsehole," was all he could muster.

Jack just laughed, seemly not at all phased by the insult, so Lawrence continued.

"It was awful, bet you thought I couldn't do it," Lawrence gave Jack a timid smile.

"Is this what this is all about," Jack leaned in close to the bed, Lawrence could smell alcohol on his breath , it must be late evening.

"You wanted to prove me wrong, kitten?" Jack was almost leaning on top of him.

Lawrence didn't reply to that, he hurriedly wished the conversation would move away. The morphine was unmistakably giving him a confidence he should ever have around Jack.

"You, other-Jack have a long way to go, but I gotta admit, it's kinda cute," Jack sneered as he placed a hand down on Lawrence beside.

Lawrence tried to relax further into his morphine bliss state, but that was an impossible feat with Jack in the room. Despite Lawrence being 'hospitalised', Jack just couldn't go an evening on his own. The man was extroverted to the core, needed Lawrence in attendance even if he was drinking on his own.

"What on earth do they have you on? Cause I want in on this," Jack inquired as his hand reached for the small jar on the bedside table. Lawrence watched as Jack's lips moved wordlessly as he read the contents of the vial.

"You're baked as a cake, cupcake."

Jack deliberately stressed the nickname, now that it was more appropriate than ever. Lawrence didn't notice Jack draw out the syringe, but the needle was hastily shoved in his arm.

"Ohhhh, no, come on" Lawrence reached out to Jack, but his arm barely moved off the bed, "that's mine, give it."

Jack only chuckled in response and ruffled Lawrence's hair as he leaned back in the chair. Drink still in hand and needle hanging from the vein.

"Fuck you, Jack," Lawrence cursed softly.

"What did I say about that mouth?" Jack hissed quietly.

Lawrence mumbled a sorry.

"It's a pretty mouth, so...don't put filthy words...in it," Jack trailed off.

"But, sure, fuck me," Jack drawled as he leaned back in the chair, his eyes fluttered shut. Lawrence followed suit, he closed his eyes and pressed his shoulders back into the soft pillows.

Time still eluded Lawrence, and he had no idea how much of it had past when Jack abruptly burst out laughing.

"I'm meant to be in a meeting with Maliwan in the mornin," he choked on his own tears before the two of them passed out.


Lawrence wiggled his shoulders into the thick feather filled European pillows, his bed - the medical ward one - was a dream. Just like Jack's apartment, he had his own medical room, identically fitted. Lawrence swiped down the echo to turn the page of the novel he was reading, it was an epic fantasy a world filled with cursed heroes and fantastic beasts. A long time ago Lawrence had wanted to write something very similar, but his world would be filled with bears and magic. His mum had sternly warned him that a degree in creative writing was futile, yet he’d paid her no mind.

“It's the big reveal today!”

He'd been so engrossed in his thoughts he hadn't heard Jack storm into the room. Lawrence wasn't sure how that was possible as Jack was a torrent of ecstasy and noise.

“Hold this pumpkin.”

Jack didn't wait for Lawrence to take the item and something silver flashed as it fell into his lap. Lawrence glanced down and studied the object in his hands; it was a hand-held mirror. He hadn’t seen one like it in years, he turned it over, exploring its delicate, ornate surface. A large sapphire was embedded into the back, curved silver linework radiated behind the stone. It was truly something beautiful, but nothing like Jack's tastes. Did it belong to a lost lover? Or perhaps his mother? Didn't he use to have a wife? Or two?


Jack leaned over Lawrence, keeping his face fixed on the mirror all while trying to remove the bandages. It caused for some very awkward and confusing movements.

Lawrence ended up batting Jacks hand away, “I’ll do it.”

He leaned his head forward and moved the bandage from the back over the front, he did so until there was nothing left but a cotton eye patch. Gingerly he removed the tape holding it in place and lifted the soft cotton away from his eye.

“Oh..”

Lawrence could not withhold the disappointment in his voice. It looked exactly the same. A pale green, almost white eye stared back at him. Dammit, he forgot how much he hated mirrors, his reflection - Jacks face - stared back at him. The scar was just as bad as he remembered; deep and contorting his face. Unlike, Jack's features, which were smooth the synthetic flesh keeping him composed at all times.

“Oh, what?” Jack replied voice close to a snarl.

“Nothing! I just thought...I’d get my green eye back," Lawrence hastily tried to explain, "guess I didn’t really think it through.”

“My eye is still freaky pale, so yours is too,” Jack said flatly.

“Yeah.”

“You can see, be grateful,” Jack delivered a light slap to the back of Lawrence's head.

“I am.”

The admission made his stomach turn inside out, he just accepted that he was grateful for getting his sight back from the man who took it away.

“Thanks,” Lawrence smiled towards Jack. His lie's were improving every day, or so he thought.

“Whats the matter?” Jack crossed his arms and leaned up from the bedside, “you still have that glum look.”

Lawrence ignored the question, "don't you have work?"

"Don't change the subject, but yes. Its Friday firing time and I gave that up, just to be with you."

Jack loved his Friday afternoons, he'd get debriefed from each department head, do a few lines of whatever powered substance he had in his draw and then it would begin. Meg would order in those who needed to be dispensed of, and Jack would make a whole afternoon of it. Sometimes Tim would stay and watch, only to get a handful of whatever Jack had in his draw. He wasn't opposed to taking drugs with Jack if anything it made things more bearable for him. It levelled the playing field when they were both inebriated, and it didn't matter if anyone saw two Jack's, cause that's the last thing they were going to see. So far Tim had just watched, he hadn't taken part in any of the 'firing' activities, that was mostly Nisha.

Jack loved these afternoons, Lawrence didn't understand why he was here with him; sober, in a medical room.

“Want to go shoot some things, come on let's go shoot things!” Jack pressed his tone light as he poked his fingers into his Lawrence's underside causing him to flinch.

"yeah, ok, Lawrence actually gave Jack a genuine smile. "Let's go shoot things.”


Jack had the shooting range cleared out for the two of them.

With the range doors closed behind them, Tim could remove the digi-mask from his face, the one that portrayed him as some nobody from accounting. It was a requirement when the two of them would travel side by side around Helios. There could only ever be one Jack.

Jack collected some beers from ...somewhere and was promptly opening one as he led Lawrence down the firing range halls. Lawrence eyed the bottled in Jack's hand, condensation ran down the side, and Lawrence tried not to think about its contents. Jack was in a pleasant mood and that undoubtedly concerned Lawrence. Jack told him to hold still before he paced off down the hall leaving Lawrence in the range; alone. It was unnerving being around Jack in such a casual manner. When was the facade going to crack? When was he going to draw another needle and jam it down Lawrence's eye?

Neither of those things happened. Jack paced back, standing tall, beaming as he held a sniper in his arms. Lawrence didn't recognise the make, was it a new prototype?

“Present for you,” Jack blurted out as he shoved the gun into Lawrence's hands. The unexpected weight caused Lawrence to lean forward.

The gun was certainly not a standard issue. There were additional details and finishes to the handle and scope which were entirely unnecessary and purely aesthetic.

“I think presents are meant to be wrapped and have a pretty bow,” Lawrence replied with an awkward smile.

Jack cocked a brow but didn’t say anything. Lawrence was meant to be Jack-like, but his employer didn’t always respond well when he targeted the sass towards him.

“All right cowboy,” Jack drew a pen - which Lawrence knew concealed a blade - and indicated he wanted the sniper back. Lawrence did so promptly. Jack turned and laid the sniper on the bench and began to work against it after a minute or so Jack handed it over. A crudely drawn bow was engraved on the side of the sniper, along with a signature, signed with love from Jack.

“Thanks?”

Lawrence was actually surprised at the gesture but said nothing of it.

It had been some time since the two of them had hung out in the range. Last time, it was a training session before they were to obliterate New Haven. Back then, Jack only had eyes for Nisha. Now? Jack's attention was shifting, Lawrence held his chest tight as he knew it was landing on him.  

“Ok, show me what you can do.”

“The range is too small for a sniper.”

“Just shoot,” Jack waved a hand forward.

Lawrence gave Jack a brief smile and paced up to the range booth. He fixed the hearing-aid to silent, tendinitis was a bitch. The gun's interface told him the bullet-torn digistruct target ahead was just under two hundred metres away. Lawrence lined up his scope, he waited until his heart rate relaxed, let in a firm breath, prepared himself for the kickback and fired.

He took the digistruct's head clean off, the entire thing exploded and a corrosive green fluid drizzled down the target's body.

“Corrosive rounds?” Lawrence leaned back from the booth and gave Jack a sly smile, “overkill much?”

Jack shrugged, he was sitting up on the bench behind him, a beer was in his hand. Something wasn't right, Jack was relaxed. Those two words - Jack and Relaxed - didn't go hand in hand. Lawrence went to turn back and take another short, but a tiny grunt caught his attention. Jack buried his head in his hand, a grimace was screwing his face up. Did Jack have a headache? Lawrence could have sworn he saw a soft purple glow emit from under the mask, but he said nothing.

Lawrence returned his attention to the firing range and cleaned up the rest of the targets, all shots hitting the head or heart.

“You must make me look so fricken cool out here,” Jack said, his demeanour was relaxed again.

“At least one of us is,” Lawrence ran a hand through his hair, which warranted a sneer from Jack.

“Ok gumdrop, stop being bitter you got your sight back.” Jack pressed a foot to the back of Lawrence coat and pushed him back into the booth.  

Lawrence rolled his eyes, “Nah, your turn” he gestured to Jack after the targets replenish themselves.

"Not done yet, cupcake" Jack reached for his echo and entered a code effortlessly.

The sound of a metal door moving caught Lawrence attention, it was coming from the very far end of the firing range.

Lawrence's brow shot upwards.

Jack just gestured forward, and Lawrence reluctantly obeyed. He turned his attention back to the range and looked down the scope. Several Hyperion employers were lined up against the back wall, held in place by loaders.

Jack's Friday Firing spree.

Like standing in the eye of the storm, everything was becoming clear. Jack wasn't giving up his firing spree, he was just passing the reigns down.

It was another test. Jack pushed these onto him every so often. When Lawrence had refused to kill a Lost Legion soldier he'd ordered Nisha to find the rest of the squad and kill them all. When Lawrence had refused to take down an enemy aircraft, Jack ordered Wilhelm to take the whole base. If Lawrence resisted, Jack would just order a worse scenario for his victims.

Lawrence had learned by then, better to be the executioner than to let them meet a more horrible fate. His mind raced back to the escort, he'd already forgotten her name, but not her face. Lawrence had resisted seeking details, but Jack gave them to him anyway. How he had shoved a knife into her abdomen and tore it all the way to her neck. Lawrence should have done it, he should have placed a gun to the back of her head and taken her out while she slept. She wouldn't have felt a thing.

Lawrence lined the sniper up and took them out.

Jack whopped in the background, Lawrence imagined them as digistruct targets. He ignored the blood that flew with each hit, and he ignored their screams, their begging. If he didn't do this, then someone else would. Lawrence leaned back and gave Jack a cruel smile. He couldn't let his disgust show. This is how he survived.

"Ok, now it's your turn," Lawrence said, as he reached for a beer. He really needed that drink, Jack's lip twitched as he popped the lid, but he didn't confiscate it.

“Nah, this is your show kiddo.”

Lawrence rolled his eyes and pushed the sniper into Jack's arms.

“You’re always criticising how I walk and talk now's my chance to critique your shooting."

“Oh, so this is what this is about, you want a chance to show off” Jack gave a surprisingly friendly chuckle. “Fine,” he shoved the beer down, slid off the bench and took the sniper from Lawrence.

Lawrence immediately identified a dozen things wrong with Jack’s stance as he took hold the sniper. Lawrence's lips merged into a light smirk yet he chose to say nothing. Jack swung the sniper around like it was a shotgun to be blasted at close range, he took aim and fired.

He hit the target, but in its far right shoulder.

“Decent shot” Lawrence congratulated him.

"Do I detect a hint of sarcasm, other-Jack?"

"No, honestly that wasn't bad."

“Fine come here and show me how it's done."

Lawrence's chest tightened, fear clawed at his insides. He’d been quite happy sitting a distance from Jack but was in no position to feel comfortable standing next to him with a loaded gun.

“Don’t have all day,” Jack chimed in.

Jack had always been a tactile man, but he'd been increasing the closeness between them to an unnecessary level. He was regularly finding an excuse to ruffle Lawrence's hair, to run a hand over his shoulder or wrap it around his waist, usually to drag Lawrence off to see his new creation.

Lawrence wasn't a fool, he knew what Jack wanted, and Lawrence gave no indication he wanted it too.

For all this 'closeness' he was still the man who'd joked about giving him a lobotomy. Lawrence swallowed down the lump curdling in his throat. He pushed himself off the bench and stepped towards Jack.

“Right,” Lawrence cleared the burning sensation in his chest. He used his foot to kick Jack’s leg apart, and he could have sworn Jack hummed from the contact.

"Stand like that," Lawrence directed, although his voice wavered.

Lawrence adjusted Jack's stance which required more contact than he like. Each movement was swift, and touches were brief. When satisfied, he ordered Jack to take a shot. This time Jack landed a marginally better target.

Lawrence leaned in again to adjust Jacks posture once more, but the other man didn't give him a chance. Jack spun around, so the two were head to head and grabbed Lawrence by the lapels of his coat.

"Oh...um," Lawrence stammered and went to edge away, but Jack already had an alligator grip and a smile to match.

"Damn, you are just perfect," Jack's voice was smooth and deep with affection. Yet, his grip was relentless.

Lawrence didn’t know whether to feel appalled or grateful for the confession. All he could manage was a dopey smile, which pleased Jack as next thing he was running his hand up Lawrence's front. Even though they were the same height, at the same level, they were also not. The balance of power between them was never level, not even close to being equal.

Lawrence wanted to say something, suggest they re-look at his posture, fix his aim, just go back to shooting, but the words died in his throat.

"I hope they all turn out like you," Jack's eyes trailed over Lawrence's face, lingering on his jaw and then down his neck.

"Turn out like me?"

And then Jack closed the distance between them. He took advantage of Lawrence's opened mouth and pressed a kiss to his lips. Jack's mouth was insistent and his hands oppressive, exactly how Lawrence thought he would kiss. A million conflicting feelings fired up in Lawrence's chest, but they were pushed aside as Jack explored further into him. His hands rummaged through Lawrence's hair, another palm was pressed against his shoulder blades. A shiver raced down his spine, Lawrence held his breath in an attempt to conceal his fear.

"Fuck you are so perfect, so goddamn perfect," Jack punctuated his words with his teeth against Lawrence's neck. He pressed a thigh between Lawrence's legs and began to push him towards the bench behind them. If Jack realised Lawrence was yet to kiss back, then he made no comment on it. Jacks hand grew bored exploring Lawrence's back and began to make its way to the edge of his belt. Lawrence stuttered a quick protest as Jack's hand slid past the threshold and palmed over his cock. Jack pulled back, letting their mix-match eyes meet. There was nothing but lust behind Jacks heavy gaze, his intentions as obvious as a written word.

Lawrence didn't want this. All he wanted was his sight back, he didn't want Jack. He didn't want to be here.

Jack's eyes darted back down to Lawrence's neck, and the grip he had on him was taken away as promptly as it was granted.

"I thought they gave you gene modifications?” The affection in his voice was gone.

“Yeah...they did,” Lawrence raised his brow, unsure what Jack was getting at. The shivers threatening to consume him returned, but the tightness in his chest relaxed. He couldn't reason what was worse, Jack stopping or continuing.

“Your freckles are coming back,” Jack's voice was almost animalistic, like a dog who had his bone taken away.

Lawrence instinctively ran his hand along the back of his neck.

“Too much of the Pandora sun?”

“Get that fix before you come back,” Jack snapped, and he went back to aim down the scope of the sniper.  

Lawrence thanked the damn stars for his freckles and wasted no time leaving the shooting range.

Chapter Text

Lawrence groaned and stirred on the bed as memories of Jack played back and forth. A fever was taking hold and as he shook, he forgot where he was.

"Will you ever leave me, Timmy?" Jack's words echoed in his mind.

"No, never," he'd told him, and he had meant it. It was the first time they'd shared a bed, and it was the first time Lawrence had felt safe, secure and happy with Jack by his side. 

Lawrence couldn't remember when he stopped being Timothy. Was it when Jack had seared his face? Or was it before? Was it when he started to take part in the Friday firing sprees or when torture no longer filled him with regret. Or was it when he took Jack in his arms and had him in his bed.

He couldn't remember when he started to lean on Jack and Jack on him. He couldn't remember when he swapped gin for scotch and cappuccinos for long blacks. Had he always smoked? Was he ever scared of gunfire or faint at the sight of so much gore? 

If anyone asked him how he spent his evenings, he wouldn't know if the answers were his own or Jack's.

Lawrence huffed and buried his face into the pillows.

None of it mattered. There was no one left to pry or to ask what he enjoyed or hoped to live to see. Only when he became the doppelgänger for the most powerful CEO did people ask. They'd listen, and he'd get smiles, numbers, attention; people liked Jack.

Dread crept over his thoughts, and he couldn't admit what he knew to be true. 

He had the opportunity to shoot Jack.

They were alone in his loft, and no one would have known he was there. Lawrence doubted anyone at Hyperion knew the place existed. He could have ended it, and yet he didn't. Instead, he'd given himself to Jack. Despite the drugs in his system, the guilt curdling in his gut, and the hate burning in his chest, there was the quietest voice within him screaming for Jack's company.

Lawrence missed his apartment on Helios and the comforts it provided. His bed, his routine, security, drinks with Jack, and quiet conversation in the dark. 

Lawrence stirred under the linen sheets. His skin had cooled but the shivers still drilled into his spine. Surely this would end soon?

Yet, he would rather suffer through more Eridium withdrawals than face Angel. He'd all but attacked her to get to the Eridium. Lawrence let out a long groan, and his stomach swam in disgust. Before he could protest the idea of getting up, soft footsteps approach his sweat-soaked bed. 

"Tim?" Angel called.

"Don't call me that," Lawrence growled, almost not realising how instinctive the response was.

Only Jack can call me that. 

"Ok…" Angel mumbled, and Lawrence rolled over from his comfortably coiled position to face her.

Her lips pressed into a thin line, and she shuffled from toe to toe with a glass of water in her hand.

"Drink this, it's just water, but you need it."

She stood an arms reach from the bed, and held the glass far in front of her. Lawrence leaned forward and accepted the drink. He hadn't realised how thirsty he was until the glass was quickly emptied and Angel stalked away to get another. 

"I'm sorry," Lawrence blurted out as she approached the sink to refill the glass. She turned and replied with a cold gaze.

"Thank you for apologising."

"It was the Eridium, I —"

Angel scowled and leaned against the sink.

"Of course you'd say it was the Eridium," she huffed.

Lawrence bowed his head and fell silent. He desperately needed to explain, and tell her it wasn't his fault. Jack made him do it. Jack made him do everything. His mouth opened as he tried to form the words in his mind, but nothing came to him. Lawrence promptly shut his jaw and rubbed at his stomach: the nausea was back.

I'm not him. I'm not Jack.

A piss poor distinction. Lawrence was every bit Jack. He knew from the way Angel looked at him with the contempt in her frozen gaze, how she flinched when he raised his voice or how she couldn't stop tearing at the jumper. He was suffocating her and the quicker she was with the Vault Hunters, the better. 

He was a constant reminder or every vile act forced upon her.

Lawrence pulled off the covers and sat upon the edge of the bed. He stretched, and every muscle within him protested to being put to use. Lawrence's back and shoulders cracked, and he frowned at the sound.

That was happening more often than it should.

Lawrence instinctively noted that he needed to mention it to Crake before word got back to Jack. Yet, when Angel passed him another glass of water, Lawrence realised there were no more compulsory assessments; no more Jack critiquing his form and this caused Lawrence to smile behind his drink.

"How are we doing for food?" Lawrence asked while rolling his shoulder one last time.

"We're out."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Lawrence rushed off the bed and struggled to his feet. The world shifted, and he felt the urge to collapse back down. He closed his eyes and counted from five, letting his body steady itself; he needed to regain control. 

"You should have woken me, told me sooner."

Angel replied with a glare which said enough. 

Lawrence sighed and ran a hand over his chin. A decent layer of stubble had claimed his jaw. Jack hadn't mind facial hair, although he did prefer to style it in a way from a long-gone era. Yet, the mask didn't permit either of them to grow it out.

"Right, we need supplies, and then we should hit the road." Lawrence moved to the fridge to see what they had left.

"You're not in any condition to travel," Angel asserted, and her hands flexed on her hips. 

"I'm fine," Lawrence sighed, hoping to brush off her concern.

"Has he always been this irritable?" A new, yet recognisable voice joined the conversation which made Angel smile and Lawrence freeze on the spot.

"Mostly," Angel chided, "he's usually a brooding mess. Although he did threaten me the other day, can't say it was a pleasant exchange." Angel turned to face the Constructor behind her. 

"Men, typical behaviour from my experience," the older woman's voice spoke again.

Angel rested a hand on top of the Constructor and beamed.

"You were out of it for so long I had time to restore her code," she said.

"What?" Lawrence's eyes narrowed, and he focused on the Constructor, which he now realised had issued the older woman's voice.

"Restoring her memories was a bit shaky," Angel continued. "We used recordings from your echo to fill in the blanks, and a few Hyperion video files did the rest. But we managed in the end, didn't we Felicity?"

Felicity, the AI he had destroyed (or murdered, depending on who you asked) flashed her red laser over his chest. Lawrence moved back and slowly raised both hands in the act of surrender. 

"Felicity, I can exp—"

She cut him off with a sharp tone: 

"You destroyed me."

The red-eye flashed vividly, glaring him down. Lawrence's back stiffened as he retreated into the far wall of the container. 

"Jack-Jack did, he did it—"

Angel interjected her voice suddenly stone-cold, "you both did."

He couldn't find the words, so he just slowly nodded in vague agreement. Yes, he'd destroyed Felicity, but Jack would never allow him to admit it aloud. His pathetic attempt to bring her back with the hard-drive was greeted with harsh correction. Lawrence's stomach churned at the memory of the needle leading to his non-cybernetic eye to water.

"I opened up to you," Felicity's voice was razor-sharp. "I told you about the future I wanted. A future where I was free. I thought you cared, but you unshackled me only to bind me to something far worse."

Lawrence had never forgotten her screams of betrayal and how Jack deceived her so carefully. But he'd tried to make it right.

"I…didn't...I thought...I tried to bring you back," Lawrence reasoned, but his voice trembled in a way he hadn't heard in a long time. There was a firm lump in his throat, and it seemed to choke down every word.

"Angel here had to reassure me that you were not worth the ammunition to blast to pieces," Felicity warned.

"I…um," Lawrence fumbled, "I can't," and the last words slurred out.

A raging storm of guilt and shame hounded down on his shoulders, and the weight of it all became too much. Lawrence moved against the container wall for support; The cold surface against his back was a sudden relief, and he leaned his weight into it. 

"Lawrence?" Angel softly questioned and approached.

He tried to wave a hand, to dismiss her concern, but like a column on the verge of collapsing his legs started to tremble, and the red-eye of Felicity doubled. Lawrence darted towards the bench for support just as his body intended to give out. 

He took a long heavy breath and glared down at the Slag in his veins. It was a deep dark purple, and as vivid as it was the day he woke in Angel's chamber. It wasn't going away. He knew it wouldn't, but the realisation stuck down the last of his strength.

"Lawrence?" Angel's voice seemed distant.

"Not now," he panted, voice scratchy from the loss of breath. 

"What's wrong with him?" Felicity asked.

"He has slag poisoning. It's been in his system for days."

Their conversation sounded so far away. Lawrence tried to raise his head to call to them, to interject. But every part of him screamed to collapse, curl up and let the darkness take him. 

"How on earth did that happen? Who poisoned him? Is Slag not patented to Hyperion? Isn't he one of them?"

"It's complicated," Angel replied. "Something happened between him and Jack."

Lawrence was thankful she did not elaborate.  

"After all this time, he's still working for that megalomaniac?" Felicity scoffed.

"I'm...not..." Lawrence breathed heavily and straightened up. "I'm not working for him," he finally managed to squeeze out, but the stare from Angel suggested she did not believe him.

Godamnit, he despised to be seen like this, a shivering mess without an ounce of strength. 

Angel's eyes narrowed, and her arms crossed stiffly over her chest.

Lawrence could handle anger and firefights, hell he could even manage Jack, but disappointment? Shame? Yeah, he wasn't prepared to discuss anything more. In the most awkward conversion change every committed, Lawrence suggested they hit the road.

"We've lingered here for too long. This was meant to be a stopover, a day at most."

Lawrence pulled himself up, and the world span in front of him. He cursed under his breath and tried to focus his gaze on the multitude of Felicity's red eyes until there was only one.

Angel gave him a cold glare before she turned and lowered herself to the Constructor's eye level. 

"We need to move you into something – a little less, sizable and destructive." 

"Yes, that would be nice. I can't say I ever grew fond of this body," Felicity chirped. 

"I can create a server for you in the Hyperion network, I could hide you there, and you can be with us at all times via the echo-net."

"That would work nicely."

"Woah, no, not happening," Lawrence snapped and walked over. "You're not connecting with Hyperion if Jack sees—"

"You!" Angel accused loudly, "are in no position to tell me what to do."

"Do not underestimate Jack. One slip up and both you and Felicity will be right back in his grip. "

"I won't," Angel's jaw clenched tight, and Lawrence had nothing else to add.

The girl was bold, but being bold towards Jack made you either dead or his property. 

Lawrence left to collect what little possessions he had. He kept his back to Angel and Felicity, not wanting to intrude on their 'little moment'. He stored his corrosive sniper into his gear-chip, but not before he appreciated the faint engraving on it. 

"You must promise to stay put, I know what Hyperion did to you was unforgivable but if you move around or draw attention to yourself, they will find you and delete you," Angel softly warned the AI.

"I promise to behave."

Lawrence turned back in time to see Angel's face light up as she bounded off to retrieve her echo-comm. 

"Are you ready?"

"Yes. I trust you, Angel." 

Lawrence ignored Felicity's implied accusation and finished packing his gear-chip.

"Ok," Angel beamed, and her arm lit up as she got to work. 


It took longer than Lawrence liked to get on the road and grudgingly, it was his fault. He said nothing to the others, but he was in no condition to drive. However, they couldn't afford to linger at the safe house, or that title would be voided.

Lawrence gritted his teeth and tried to contain his temper when Angel explained that his cloaking device had fried. When he pressed her on what happened, she wouldn't give him any answers. Nyx told him to back off, and Crake ordered him to get in the truck and drive. At least Angel returned his watch in one piece; the digi-jacks were now secured on his left wrist. 

Their acquired bandit truck blessed them again by not stalling or falling apart when he hit the ignition. Angel made herself cozy in the passenger sheet; she'd nicked a rug from the safe house and bundled up with her knees high, and her echo-comm residing against them.

They didn't discuss the previous few days, and Lawrence was more than happy to let the matter die.

Dust kicked up behind them as they sped away from the safe house. They had a few hours of driving before they were officially out of the Highlands, yet the desert was already invading the land. Grassy hills became dried river beds, and water-deprived trees turned to cactuses.

Every so often, Angel would smile and laugh at seemingly nothing. Lawrence would glance over and see her arm alight and her hand on the echo. His request for her not to go on the echo-net was apparently ignored. Lawrence assumed she was talking with Felicity and that he was at the end of some clever joke between them. 

Felicity had said nothing more to him.

Eventually, Angel pulled herself away from the echo.

"Overlook is west of here, why are we travelling north?"

Lawrence's head span and his vision divided the single road into two paths. He took a deep breath before attempting to reply, but Angel's impatience got in first:

"You said you were taking me to the Vault Hunters." 

Lawrence's jaw tightened, and he focused on the road.

"Hello? Are you listening to me?" 

"Yes." Lawrence breathed out. "I am, just —" he was going to say 'trust me', but the words and effort to convince her were pointless. "I'll get you there," he finally spoke through gritted teeth.

Everything became hazy again, but he was determined to explain to prevent another argument between him and the two women.

"Fast travel at Overlook is bust. Jack blew it up the second the Vault Hunters left it undefended. Not to mention, neither of our bio scans are permitted to travel to Sanctuary." 

"So just send someone to come get me?"

Lawrence ignored her suggestion.

"We're going to Hollow Point."

"Why?" Angel's tone shifted, becoming uneasy.

"A friend of mine-fuck—" A violent shudder rippled down Lawrence's spine, so intense he was sure it dislodge something. His hands tightened on the steering wheel, knuckles going white as he kept his grip steady. 

"I'm not going to discuss this right now," Lawrence rasped. 

"But—"

"I need to focus on driving."

Angel mumbled something back, and Lawrence was sure the word 'asshole' was said. Eventually, she crossed her arms and went back to silently communicating with Felicity. 

They drove for another few hours until the land completely turned to sand. Lawrence cut the ignition and kicked open the bent door.

"Why did we stop?" Angel said dreamily as she poked her head up from under the blanket.

"Gotta let air out of the tires, or we won't get anywhere in this sand."

When Angel made no motion to move, he provided some encouragement:

"Come on out and walk your legs, we won't be stopping until the end of the cycle."

Angel nodded and gradually moved to open her passenger door.

Lawrence summoned Nyx and Crake, and the blue AI did not bother to greet him. Instead, he bounded over to Angel's side of the truck and eagerly waited for her to get out.

"Heya!" Nyx yelled, and Lawrence didn't miss how Angel flinched at the explosive greeting.

"Nyx, don't—" Lawrence started, but the AI was already encouraging Angel to run off with him, and the two of them set off up a sand dune.

"Don't go where I can't see you!" Lawrence called.

Nyx turned, sneered and poked his tongue out, Angel followed suit, and Crake just groaned.

**************************

Nyx kept close as they walked up the dune, and the statistic of his shoulder brushed against her. Angel shifted away from him, but every time he floated back to her side.

She couldn't place if this were a 'Jack' behaviour or if he was just a very excited puppy. 

Angel stared over her shoulder, enjoying the sight of Lawrence growing smaller and smaller as they ventured up the dune. The ascent was slow work, and she couldn't recall having to climb up-hill before. Nyx was unfazed by the change in the surface; he floated beside her, not even bothering to emulate walking.

Sweat ran from her hairline, and she stopped to catch her breath.

"You ok, champ?" Nyx asked, and Angel nodded.

She checked down the hill to make sure the others were out of earshot, before turning back to the blue AI.

"What can you tell me about Lawrence?" Angel asked, and Nyx didn't pause for a moment to consider his response.

"Total hero, Handsome-est guy there is. We helped him save Helios from the Lost Legion, and made Hyperion what it is today." Nyx puffed out his chest as he spoke.

Angel frowned. Everything up until now had appeared like a genuine response from an intelligent AI. However, that remark had to be deliberately programmed in by Jack. Angel's eyes narrowed when Nyx snorted and threw his head back to laugh. 

"Or, that's what Nyx 13.09 would have said."

Angel gave Nyx perplexed look.

"And now?"

His eyes lit up as he continued to give her that youthful sly smile of his.

"You want me to spill all his dark, nasty secrets, don't you?"

Angel didn't reply, not wanting to admit that, yes, she wanted to know everything. It was her job; it was what Jack expected of her. To know everything about everyone: their weaknesses, their desires, financial records, what they had to lose and gain. When Jack wanted, she delivered.

They reached the top of the dune, and Angel's feet sank deep into the sand, causing a mini avalanche to slide down behind them. Nyx didn't leave a trace as he settled down to the ground. Angel sat down and kicked off her leather shoes, which had somehow survived all this time from the Bunker. It felt amazing to have the warm sand wiggle between her toes. She started to bury her feet and playfully dig them deeper into the warm earth. Nyx observed her, and Angel couldn't place the expression on his face. He appeared solemn, but when he caught her staring, he relaxed.

Angel stopped wiggling her toes. 

"I just don't know—"  If I can trust him? "Anything about him," she said.

"Yeah. That's Lawrence. He's not much of a talker. And when he does, he's always wearing his asshole-Jack-et."

Angel scoffed at the poorly worded pun.

"Get it!?" Nyx excitedly shifted closer to her. "Jack-et?, Like Jack, but it's a jacket he wears."

"Yes, yes, I get it," Angel replied.

Seeing an AI so casually insult its assigned keeper was unusual. It surprised her to consider that her Dad would allow such a thing, perhaps Lawrence was the exception?

"I've only seen Lawrence act that badly once," Nyx continued, and his voice dropped to a more serious tone. "Crake and him had a fight. It wasn't pretty."

"What about?"

Nyx seemed to tense beside her, and she was sure a wave of static discharge from the blue digistruct. Nyx gave a quick sideways glance back towards Lawrence and Crake. 

"Sorry, you don't need to answer that," Angel added. 

"It's not like its a secret," he shrugged, "it's just, I think it's probably better if they tell you. Crake is always better at explaining things, that's a human feelin, right?"

Angel laughed, she didn't mean to, but she did.

"Yeah, it is."

"Well as for gossip," Nyx tone lightened back up, "the guy is forty-ish. I think. Jack was way older, lied about his age all the time. But Lawrence gets grumpy when you talk about his age. See watch this."

"HEY LAWRENCE HOW OLD ARE YOU?!"

Nyx's unexpected outburst sent Angel falling back, and sand rippled down the dune. She composed herself in time to glance back at her travelling companions. Lawrence gave a very rude gesture to Nyx, and Crake just shook his head.

Neither of them gave him a verbal response.

"Yeah, as I was saying, he was born on Eden-5, only kid, single mum. She's dead now,"

Angel bit her lip. Well at least they had one thing in common.

"Get this. He has a degree in creative writing and—"

Angel laughed, "my Dad's body double is a creative writer?"

"Annnnndd," Nyx continued, "a double degree in computer science and commerce."

Angel didn't know what to expect, but somehow the double degree was even more surprising than the creative writing. The idea that he was a shortsighted, grumpy, violent, look-a-like of her Dad was all she'd known.

Nyx leaned back into the sand — not that it moved — and began to list off everything else he knew.

"The guy was racked with debt by the time he graduated, well in his thirties, no job, no girlfriend, nothing. He ended up interning at Hyperion crunching numbers. Apparently being top of your class means shit all if you came from community-college."

It was a lot of information, and Nyx wasn't holding back any details. However, none of it actually told her what kind of person he was. Why did he take the body-double job? Debt, really? Why did he give up his entire life? How on earth did he survive working for Jack for so long?

Angel knew she was prying further than she should, and soon the automated responses from the AI were going to stop. It did, however, make her wonder; How deep did the AI's intelligence go? 

"Did he tell you all this?" Angel asked.

Nyx gave a very Jack-like bark of laughter.

"Hell no, I hacked his echo-comm, he was not happy about that."

"Wait, how did you have permission to do that?" Angel couldn't withhold the accusation in her voice. 

Something was off. The way Nyx casually spoke about Lawrence, how he admitted to hacking his things, calling him names, and especially the comment about human feelings. Then there was Crake, who had deliberately disobeyed an order from Lawrence to stand down. Nothing about the AI's appeared Hyperion standard. 

Nyx beamed at her as if to encourage her to work it out.

Angel felt like she had all the pieces, but it didn't make sense: the how and why didn't add up. Nyx continued to give her his celebrity wide grin.

"You have free will?" She said slowly, still unsure of her conclusion.

Nyx gave her an eager nod, and Angel burst with confusion and astonishment.

"Why on earth would Jack give you free will?!"

Angel couldn't justify a single reason why Jack would ever allow that. He feared AI's. He refused to have a single piece of artificial intelligence in his home, not even a service bot.

"AI laws are the most consequential rules for AI development," Angel spoke a little too firmly than she should, and Nyx gave her a hurt look. Though, she was unable to tell if it was genuine or feigned. 

"I'm sorry, but it just is," she promptly corrected. "For obvious reasons."

Nyx's hurt expression was quickly cast aside, and he sighed, despite the fact he did not breathe.

"Yeah, we know the reasons why, so we don't suddenly decide to kill our 'masters'," Nyx scoffed as if it were a trivial issue. 

He jerked a thumb back down to Crake as he continued:

"Oh man, you should have seen Crake in his early days, like really early days. He lost it, Lawrence must've programmed something dumb in. Cause next thing Crake saw him as a threat and blew a hole into the side of their apartment. Nearly killed Lawrence. Jack was not happy about that," Nyx finished with a chuckle.

"Wait, excuse me?" Angel queried moving upright to lean in close.

There was a lot to take in from that statement. Nyx, just like Jack, could fill an entire sentence with enough information for an essay.

"Crake tried to kill Lawrence it was hilarious," Nyx informed her again. 

"No, not that bit. You said Lawrence programmed something."

"Oh yeah, Jack didn't create us, and he certainly didn't give us free-will, Lawrence did," Nyx drawled as if it were so obvious. 

"But your code, It has Jack's signature all over it."

Nyx shrugged. "Jack oversaw everything. But Lawrence was the one who put the time in."

"Oh."

Angel honestly felt a little sheepish. She'd only seen Lawrence as some thug or attack dog, imitating her Dad. If he created Nyx and Crake, then his programming skills were phenomenal. How was it possible? Did Jack give him lessons in Hyperphire? Angel couldn't imagine Jack being so patient with anyone. And then there was still the matter of why? Why the free will?

"Why did he give you free will? Almost all records of AI's having free will, end in one of two ways..." Angel trailed off, not wanting to mention the consequences aloud. 

It made no sense. AI's who'd been given the privilege to make choices for themselves either went insane in their desperate need to become human or ended up becoming resentful and destructive towards humanity. 

Either way, there were no happy endings. 

"I know," Nyx grounded, "it's all pretty new to us... but we can't hurt Lawrence."

"Can't?" Angel raised a brow, and Nyx quickly corrected himself.

"Wouldn't. We wouldn't do that." 

Nyx fell silent for a moment and poked at the sand, but it didn't move to his touch.

"As for the why, ask Lawrence. It was his choice, not ours," he said.

Angel leaned forward and rested her head on her knees. She supposed she should talk to Lawrence. Maybe once all the Eridium and Slag was out of his system, she could try. At the moment, his mood was as volatile as the wind. 


The heat was relentless, and beads of sweat ran down Lawrence's neck. He wiped it away and gently traced his fingers over the raised lines of his veins. They were tender to the touch and still infected with Slag. Lawrence winced and cursed loudly when he caught the skin in a sensitive spot.

Crake huffed beside him and crossed his arms.

"Out with it," Lawrence said, without withholding his annoyance. 

Crake always had something to say, a lecture to be heard: a sniper shot Lawrence could have taken better, a situation he should have avoided, a solution he didn't consider. 

"We need to get you looked at," the red AI said.

"Brilliant, I'll just call my physician from Helios," Lawrence snapped. 

"Perhaps, you should. Jack may have found a way to treat it?" 

Lawrence gritted his teeth and focused his mind on the task at hand.

"No, I can't."

"Because of the girl?"

That didn't warrant an answer. Lawrence turned the tire capsule and let the air hiss out.

Crake made an irritated sound and leaned against the truck.

"You planned to kill her," he said absentmindedly. 

Lawrence threw a violent glare the digistruct's way.

"Don't you ever let her hear that."

Crake just shrugged. 

"It doesn't matter what I planned," Lawrence chuckled at the absurdity of his situation. "I planned to take Jack's Siren out years ago, right after he burnt my face."

"Why didn't you?"

Lawrence rolled his shoulders back and stood up from the tire.

"Jack happened. A lot of things happened. I guess I'm not good with grudges."

"Jack was."

"Yup."

The two of them moved around to the other side of the truck to deal with the last two tires when Nyx screamed down the dune:

"HEY LAWRENCE HOW OLD ARE YOU?!"

Lawrence gave Nyx a well-earned middle finger salute, and Crake shook his head. 

"Your brother needs to stop rewriting himself to be a sixteen-year-old, and a Jack-like one as well. Seriously, I'm no longer worried about him going insane. It's us we should be concerned about."

Crake didn't laugh at that. The topic of removing the AI laws was still a touchy subject. Lawrence knew the threats it posed to Crake's and Nyx's sanity, but he had done it anyway.

The Nyx and Angel returned to their conversation with their backs turned and Crake kept watch. 

"Are you going to talk to her about your little outburst?" He asked.

"Why on earth would you care," Lawrence drawled as he turned the capsule on the tire. 

Air began to hiss from the valve. He counted to five and then sealed the capsule back up and moved onto the next tire.

"You were an asshole," Crake replied haphazardly.

Lawrence snorted, "Crake, that is rich coming from you. You are literally the manifestation of Jack's hostility."

"I was," Crake snarled.

Lawrence bit his tongue.

After he gave the AI's free will they were able to adapt their own image, break away from the chains that forced them to be 'Jack'.

Crake would still come across as hostile, violent and cold, but he also embraced aspects that Lawrence never programmed into the AI. Aspects Crake solely chose for himself; protectiveness, loyalty, and support. The changes were subtle at first, but Lawrence could hardly call either AI a 'Jack' anymore.

Nyx, on the other hand, seemed fixated on becoming an immature, chaotic brat, much to Lawrence's and Crake's frustration. 

Lawrence finished up on the last tire and hoped he hadn't released too much air. The bandit truck didn't exactly come with a pressure tester. He placed his hand on the warm black rubber and tried to push himself up, only to find his weight falling back against the truck. His head hung low, and every part of his body shuddered from moving upright.

"You can't keep going like this," Crake's tone was firm, but Lawrence knew that was as close as Crake could get to being considerate.  

Lawrence didn't need to look up to know Crake was glaring at him.

"I'm open to suggestions," Lawrence groaned. He ran a hand down his neck: the veins felt like cords embedded under his skin. 

He continued to rest his head on the cool metal of the truck's frame, waiting for the moment of dizziness to pass. A rattled breath slowly left his lungs, and while keeping his eyes closed, he focused on regaining his strength. He hoped Angel and Nyx weren't looking over his way. 

"I was serious before," Crake spoke quietly. Lawrence opened his eyes and saw the magenta glow of Crake's feet by his side. 

"You could go back to Jack, and we could look after the girl while you're gone. You can get treated and then return to us."

"Are you crazy?" Lawrence heaved, "Jack would never let me go."

Lawrence slowly turned his gaze to Crake.

Fuck, it was so painful to look Crake in the eye. The magenta Digistruct wore an expression of genuine concern, one that didn't fit right on Jack's face. 

"I can't go to Jack."

Because I might not want to come back. 

Crake made a sound akin to a growl but didn't press the matter further. Lawrence turned over and leaned his back on the truck, his breathing becoming steady again.

"Can you call them back," Lawrence heaved. Even yelling felt tiresome. 

Crake looked like he had more to say on the matter, but he kept his jaw clenched tight — his most un-Jack-like quality. 

"Sure," he turned and called for Angel and Nyx to make their way back.

Lawrence whispered his thanks as he pulled himself back into the driver's seat.

Chapter Text

The Pandora sun was as harsh as Jack's wrath: never surrendering or providing a moment's rest. It wore through the truck's exterior, burning away at Lawrence's water reserves and strength to push on. It was near the end of the cycle, and they hadn't covered the distance he'd hoped to have reached. Under normal circumstances, he'd drive through the cycle, yet the sun and his condition made him reconsider.

Their vehicle protested as Lawrence lowered the gears and pushed their ascent up a hill. The road drew narrow and twisted up and around the steep gorge. It was a risky path to take, but Lawrence knew they were safer the higher up from the dusty plains below. Bandit caravans drove endlessly through the night, as their cruddy vehicles were less likely to overheat.

They were lucky to have made it this far without their own truck bursting into flames. 

When he could drive no further, he settled under a cliffside halfway up the gorge. Lawrence parked as close as possible to the rock face to offer protection from the winds and searing heat. He cut the ignition, kicked the door open, and summoned Nyx and Crake once again.

"Made it?" Nyx asked.

"Yeah, this is it for today," Lawrence replied while battling with the bent door to close it, in the end, he just gave up. 

Their campsite for the night was all gravel but had enough space for them to stretch out and move about comfortably and they had a full view of the road and plains below. 

"Lawrence," Crake said and gave him a firm look.

It took him a moment to realise he'd been rubbing his arm again. Lawrence quickly unravelled his shirt from his elbows down to his wrists, hiding the Slag from sight. Crake's jaw clenched tight, but otherwise, he said nothing.

"Wake up, kiddo! Up-sey!" Nyx cheered outside the passenger window. His palm hit the glass, but no sound came forth.

"Dammit, Nyx, let the girl sleep if she wants to," Crake snapped. 

Lawrence glanced over and saw Angel was indeed fast asleep.

"Nyx, leave her. Come on and help...somehow."

Lawrence wandered around the back of the truck and began to unload the swags. He took his time and carried only what he could manage. When he finally unloaded the swags and camp gear, Lawrence cursed and ran a hand through his sweat-soaked hair. 

"Fucking dust, and this fucking heat".

"Swearing is a reportable offence," Crake corrected him.

"Dammit Crake. Your AI laws are gone. Will you stop saying that shit?" Lawrence moaned as he returned to the truck to fetch their water supplies. He reached for the container and found it half empty.

"Well, fuck," Lawrence cursed again and waited for Crake to say something, but the AI did not.

Crake stared at the watch on Lawrence's wrist: his expression a strange mix of thoughtfulness and anger.

"You ok there, buddy?" Lawrence asked.

Crake frowned, and Lawrence once again found the expression unnerving, but only because it was so new and unexpected. He'd never seen the AI be so, expressive.

"I won't correct you again," Crake finally replied.

"Ok." Lawrence cautiously raised a brow.

Crake was the slower of the two brothers to rid himself of his old programmed ways. To be honest, Lawrence was surprised the red AI hadn't already tried to strip him and put him on some scales. It had been Crake's job, after all, to watch him, keep him in line. For so long, he'd been Jack's eyes and ears.

"Well, um thanks," Lawrence huffed and gave the AI a sly smile. "But–ah, you can still correct me, if you know, want to. As long as it's your choice and not some friggin code Jack put in."

"Ok. I will." Crake nodded, and Lawrence scoffed, knowing that Crake would continue as he pleased.

The AI stood attentively for a moment, and Lawrence was sure he was about to say something else on the matter, but he did not. Instead, he abruptly declared he was going to check the perimeter, and Crake pixelated away before Lawrence could reply.

Lawrence wiped another handful of sweat from his hairline. He'd just finished unloading the gear when Crake pixelated back to his side.

"Clear?" Lawrence queried.

"Looks good, although there is a spider ant nest on the west side about fifty meters below us. So don't let the girl wander too far."

Lawrence nodded and thanked Crake for the update, although he doubted Angel would be abseiling down a gorge anytime soon. 

"Keep watch for me, will you?" Lawrence asked.

"Always," and Crake pixelated away.

Meanwhile, Nyx was impatiently sulking around, kicking the dirt with no luck at disturbing it.

Lawrence rolled out both swags in the darkest part of the shade. With the heat as it was, there was no need to get in, and so, he just collapsed on top. His hands found their way to either side of his arms, and without Crake's judgmental glare, he got to scratch at the skin in peace. Lawrence's eyes finally relaxed, and he let his shoulders slump down — in the way Jack hated — and even kicked his shoes off. 

His mind wandered over the events of the last week: being with Jack, the Eridium withdrawals, his confrontation with Angel and Crake, Felicity coming back.

He wondered when he was going to have a chance to talk to the Dahl AI. Since being restored and leaving the safe house, Felicity hadn't uttered a word to him. Lawrence buried his face in the swag, ignoring the fidgeting feeling in his chest.

"Why did you do it? Why did you betray me?" That's what she'd probably ask.

And he knew the answer. He was a coward, and he'd deemed Jack, a hero. He thought he was doing the right thing and only when she was gone did the realisation overwhelm him. Guilt had scratched and clawed over his mind like vermins.

No apology from him would suffice, he just hoped he could prove to her he wasn't that man anymore, or Jack. 


Nyx insistent pestering at the window urged her to open her eyes.

"Ok, ok," Angel yawned. "I'm getting up."

This pleased the blue digistruct as he cheered, moving away to give her space to exit the vehicle. Angel opened the truck door, and her feet slipped to the ground. The soft sand from before now was replaced with orange gravel and boulders. There were no more dunes; instead, a sheer cliff was on one side of the truck and a sharp rockface on the other side. 

"Where's Lawrence?" Angel asked when she could not locate him. 

Nyx jerked a thumb over to the corner where the rocks shot upwards. She recognised the collapsed mess on the ground as her disgruntled travelling companion. He shook ever so slightly as he huddled up on the material below him. Green and purple bruising still blotched across his neck. 

"Why hasn't the fever passed?" Angel quired, and Nyx just shrugged.

"He'll be fine. He can walk it off."

Angel wasn't so sure about that. 

She picked up her echo from the car seat and wordlessly told Felicity she was going to get some more rest. The AI told her to sleep well, and that she was thoroughly enjoying exploring the echo-net.

Angel smiled, giving Felicity freedom seemed to be the only rewarding deed in her life for a long time. Felicity was kind to her, she understood. Angel went to switch her echo-off however, before doing so, she noticed the time, and she rounded on the digistruct.

"Nyx! It's so late! I need to sleep." 

He only looked sheepish for a moment.

It may have been daylight, but the 24-hour cycle was over and well into the next one. Angel pulled her rug over her shoulders and began to make for the thin olive mattress thing that Lawrence had laid out. Collapsing much like him before her she planted down on the canvas and discovered it was considerably more comfortable than it looked. Nyx pixelated to her side as she nestled into the material below. The rug made a suitable pillow, and the shade was undoubtedly better than being inside the truck. Sleep should be imminent. 

Lawrence was only an arm's reach away with his back to her. His once cream shirt was stained orange and brown, and the rest of him was drenched in sweat. He hadn't bothered to take the holster off, and Angel studied well-worn lines across the brown leather. Her eyes trailed over his back until they settled on his neck. The veins were still a vivid dark purple, and they hadn't gone down at all. 

Despite the hour and how exhausted she was, Angel could not sleep. Hunger was also stirring in her gut and made some disturbing noises as it cried for food.

"Can't sleep, kiddo?"

Angel winced and instinctively curled up tighter, even though the heat made it an uncomfortable position. 

"Do you think you could stop using the pet names? The one's Jack uses?" She asked slowly, avoiding Nyx's gaze.

"Like kiddo?"

Angel kept her eyes shut but slowly nodded.

"Kitten? Cupcake? Pumpkin?" 

"Yeah, all of them," she mumbled into the canvas. 

"I can, cause I have free will, baby!" Nyx howled.

Lawrence was seemingly woken up by Nyx's abrupt outburst; he cursed, and without rolling over, he launched some dirt Nyx's way which subsequently landed on Angel. No apology was given. Angel huffed and began to brush herself off before rolling away from him. As she resettled into the swag Nyx pixelated over to her other side. 

"Jack would not be happy if he knew you had free will," Angel thought aloud as she wiped a stubborn piece of dirt from her shoulders. 

Nyx hummed and leaned back against the rockface. His hands rested on his knees, and he drummed them to some unheard beat.

"Lawrence was smart about, kept it hidden from Jack. None of our post-free-will code is on any servers. Otherwise, Jack would have noticed the changes in the update. Our current version of us only exists in the watch," Nyx glanced over to Lawrence.

"That's a scary thought," she yawned.

"Well means we have just one life, just like you." 

"Oh...yeah," Angel mumbled and unravelled herself across the canvas.

"So make sure that idiot doesn't do anything dumb again," Nyx jeered. "Seriously he's going to get us all killed." 

Angel hoped he was wrong. 


"Angel, baby girl, what's wrong?" Jack cupped her face and steered her to meet his gaze.

"Leave me," Angel hissed, but her request was left ignored.

"You have everything right here. I don't know how to make you happy. I used to make you so happy, remember that?" Jack's words were soft, heavy with affection, yet Angel knew no matter his tone, something more sinister would be at hand.   

So she never replied. It wasn't worth her breath, and Jack would never listen to her cries for help, her pleas to be left alone, or begs for answers. 

"We had happy times together." He held her and Angel wanted to scream and push him away. His embrace had long lost its comfort and soothing appeal. Now it was possessive and desperate for control. 

"You remember, don't you?" Jack's voice dropped at the last part, and the accusation dripped from his mouth.

"I had a wife," Jack snarled, "we were happy."

Angel started to apologise before she could register what she was doing. Jack only turned away, lamenting, dismissing her. He told her it wasn't her fault, but the scratchiness in his voice unveiled his true feelings. Angel knew she was being manipulated, forced to please her captor, to accept responsibility. Yet, some small abandoned part of her clutched onto the idea that John was still there. That if she did or said the right thing he'd come back. 

Jack increased the frequency of the Eridium injections, and he belittled her for not charging his key. He promised he'd free her after the Warrior had done its job, but his tone alluded to something else.

And then Angel snapped. 

She screamed at him. Her arm lit up, and she was going to bring everything down. She was going to destroy the Bunker, destroy his key; she was going to kill Handsome Jack.

"Angel!" Her Dad begged her to stop. "Angel!" he cried again.

But she disregarded his screams. Angel could feel her conscious running through the devices around her, and her mind was the spark which brought them to life. 

"ANGEL!" He roared at her, and there was a tremor on the edge of his voice.

He knew to fear her now: good.

A corrosive sniper rifle was close by; she could feel it in her mind. She could set it off, burn away the rest of Handsome Jack's face.

"ANGEL WAKE UP!"

Firm hands shook her, and Angel flung forward and a wave of crisp air swept across her face.

"Angel?"

Jack had both palms on her shoulders, his fingers dug deep, holding her close in a firm grasp. 

"Kiddo, you awake?"

Angel's eyes shot open and saw Jack leaning into her. He stared at her wide-eyed, his hair pushed back in a mess, scar deep but the edges were relaxed, not contorted into a fierce expression. 

It's not him, she reasoned. 

"Tim?"

Lawrence couldn't withhold the grimace as she said his real name, yet he didn't recoil away. Instead, he relaxed his grip and looked her over. 

"You had a nightmare," he said flatly, "your arm lit up, so did everything around us."

"Oh…"

Angel's eyes trailed over the equipment scattered around them. Her echo-comm's screen showed static and emitted a loud scratchy noise. She reached over and switched it off. When she turned back, Lawrence was still holding his hands to her shoulders, concern, a strange look for him was across his scarred face. 

"You ok now?" he asked slowly.

"Yes," she lied. 

She could still feel her mind clinging to the sniper next to him. Angel bit her lip and willed herself to focus her mindset on the man in front of her. She studied his face, his heavy eyes, the Slag running up his neck, the stubble across his chin, the cybernetics in his pale green eye.

The presence of the sniper crawled away only to be replaced with something far worse. Her mind raced with questions regarding the fallout. What would he do when he found out? Would he drug her with Eridium? Put the collar back on to keep her under control? Would he act like Jack once he realised she couldn't control it? 

"How long has this been happening?" He asked, and his voice drew her back to reality.

"Not long," Angel lied again and she clutched her hands tight into her shirt. "It's only because of my Eridium withdrawals."

"You lost control before," Lawrence said in a manner-of fact way. "Didn't you? That's how my cloaking device got fried.

"I did," she replied meekly. She must have trembled under his grasp as Lawrence slowly retracted his hands. 

"I'm not mad," Lawrence sighed.

"You're not?"

Lawrence replied with a deep chuckle:

"No, I'm not." He leaned further away, giving her more space on the swag. "I can't really be mad after the shit I pulled," he recollected with another bark of laughter.  

Angel's lip twitched towards a smile. It still amused her to hear her Dad's voice curse so frequently and so loudly. 

Lawrence ran a hand down the back of his neck, letting his fingers trace the dark veins. His gaze left hers, and he suddenly became very interested in the gravel between them.

"And... I'm sorry about that. I should have apologised properly earlier."

He mumbled something about Jack not apologising before he looked her in the eye and gave her such a pathetic, miserable smile that it made Angel's grin widen. It was indeed a look she was not used to seeing on Jack's face. 

"So, I'm sorry again. Yep, sorry. We ah, we good?" Lawrence stuttered his apology, every word so unlike Jack. 

"Not even close," she crossed her arms, although her tone was light. 

He cleared his throat and told her to get some more rest, but Angel didn't trust herself to close her eyes again. Instead, she laid back down and tried to relax into the swag. Lawrence remained where he was, not close enough to reach out, but close enough to know he was watching over her. 

The Pandora sun was finally preparing to set, the shade they had parked under was large enough to keep them all comfortably cool. Angel laid there for what seemed like cycles, trying to process everything that had happened and what was going to happen. 

It took her a long time to roll back over and face Lawrence. He hadn't moved though he was sitting up and silently watching some rakk's fly overhead. 

It was an abrupt decision, and she didn't know why she'd held back for so long; She was going to tell him everything about Jack. 

She told Lawrence about the chair Jack designed, how it locked her mind into one device so she couldn't get overwhelmed with all the technology around her. It was harder to tell him about her accident, how as a child she had blown up a reactor, whereby the only woman who had loved her was consumed with flames, taken away from her before she could remember her face.

Lawrence listened, he didn't interrupt her, didn't press her with questions. He just let her talk at her own pace. It was almost unnerving, to see the image of her Dad acting so considerate and patient. After she finished, Lawrence cursed Jack, which made her smile.

"I lost my mother too," Lawrence said quietly.

His shoulders slumped as he spoke. "I mean, it was nothing like what you went through, but she was the only family I had."

"I know."

"Wh-how?...oh right…Dammit, Nyx," he cursed, but there was no malice in his voice. 

Lawrence didn't speak for a while after that. She wasn't sure if her prying had upset him as he kept his face hidden in his arms against his knees.

Eventually, he lifted his head and turned to face her again.

"I only found out she died when the money I sent her rebounded. She never knew it was from me. She thought I was dead. She even laughed when they told her. Her failure of a son, killed in a hit-and-run."

Angel couldn't fathom how Lawrence was able to maintain such a monotone disposition. 

"You know, Jack let me pick my death? I thought the spontaneity of a sudden death, where someone else was to blame, would envoke some empathy into her. Guess I was wrong." 

Angel asked before she could stop herself:

"What happened to her?"

"I don't know. I... never found out."

Dread slithered in her chest as she realised what he meant. He chose not to find out because he didn't want to know if Jack was the one responsible. In all likelihood, it would have been him. Angel wished she wasn't the way she was, always pressing questions she shouldn't ask. 

However, Lawrence seemed unphased as his tone returned to a lighter tune: "So what else did Nyx tell you?" 

"That you made them and you're the one who removed their AI Laws." 

Angel gave him a soft smile: curious and eager to hear how he came about creating them. However, Lawrence abruptly looked away, his gaze landed near the sun, and so Angel couldn't study his face. 

"Yeah, I made them."

He left it at that, and Angel knew the conversation regarding the past over.

Eventually (and thankfully), Lawrence complained how hungry he was, and Angel nearly cheered that they were finally going to source some food. They hadn't eaten since they left the safe house. All they could scavenge were a few protein bars. Lawrence had let her pick her flavour out of strawberry or chocolate. She had chosen chocolate, and that pleased him as he had eagerly taken the strawberry one.

He told her he'd sort something out and went to the edge of the cliff to set up his sniper. Angel curled up in the swag, with the sun setting the temperature was going to drop drastically. She was determined to get a few more hours sleep, and with all the devices with software wisely stored away, she could have some peace of mind. 


"Is the plan to escape Pandora with the help of the girl going ahead?" Crake questioned him while Lawrence scouted out a suitable place to set up his sniper. 

"Angel," Lawrence corrected, "Crake, use her damn name."

Crake just grunted in reply. 

Lawrence found a spot which overlooked most of the gorge below. The sun was setting fast, and soon he wouldn't have the light to locate a decent target. Skag meat wasn't the best, but it was food.

"And yes, I'm not hanging around to see this place ablaze. Or whatever Jack ends up doing with the Warrior."

"Well, what about Jack?"

"What about him?"

Crake shifted on the spot, and his hands tightened behind his back. "I just thought…with your condition—"

"I'm done discussing it, I'm not going back," Lawrence asserted, probably a little too forcefully as Crake nodded and withdrew. Lawrence bit his tongue; he shouldn't snap at Crake, he may be an AI, but without the AI laws, he was as human as him.

Lawrence finished setting up his sniper, and afterwards, rolled over to check in on Angel. She had tried to sleep, but once Lawrence released Nyx and Crake, the cyan digistruct made that impossible. Lawrence noted he should probably have a word with Nyx, the last thing he needed was Nyx upsetting her and setting off her Siren powers again. Nyx wasn't always tactful. 

Angel sat on a cluster of boulders while her arms made dramatic movements; it appeared she was in a heated conversation with him.

Lawrence returned his attention to the scope of his sniper and scouted out a skag den: hoping he'd catch the moment when one of them peaked out. 

Crake sat down beside him but did not relax.

"How are your reflexes? Have you experience any tremors yet?" The AI asked.

"Crake, I'm fine."

Crake ignored him and continued:

"What happens when you can't fight anymore? Run? Walk?"

"We've already discussed this," Lawrence pulled away and fired a scowl towards him.

"I never agreed," he replied flatly. "You made that choice for me."

Lawrence had a point he wanted to argue back, but the rumble of an engine pulled him to his scope. He located the source: a tiny, domestic looking car drove across the desert. The vehicle slowed down, allowing the dust cloud behind it to catch up before taking a sharp corner up a path, which Lawrence hadn't noticed before in the low light.

There was a shack, hidden amongst the rocks, at the end of the road. The car pulled up and parked beside it. It wasn't more than a couple of hundred meters away from them, and if the owner had been home when they passed, things could have played out very differently for them both. 

Crake would be intently watching too, most likely annoyed he hadn't spied the place himself.

"He's getting out."

"I can see that," Lawrence replied and pressed his weight into the sniper, preparing for the kickback. 

His sight within the scope trailed after the man, anticipating every step he took, eyeing the pace and watching how he moved towards the shack.

Should he shoot now as he passed? Or risk waiting for a cleaner shot.

He took the shot. 

The fire bounced along the entire gorge, and Lawrence's ears rang as he pressed against the scope to see the damage. 

The man was dead, a bright green corrosive fluid bubbled around where his head should have been. Lawrence patiently kept his focus and watched for any movement. When no one ran from the shack or crawled from the walls, he was satisfied to pull away.

Lawrence stood up and pulled his sniper over his shoulder. When he turned, he found Angel huddled up on the boulder with Nyx standing guard in front of her.

"Everything ok?" Nyx queried, all while keeping an arm in front of Angel.

Lawrence adjusted his holster and walked towards them.

"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you."

Angel nodded slowly and pushed herself off the rock and onto the ground. 

Lawrence motioned towards the truck, "Alright, everyone in. Let's see what we've got."


There wasn't any point in hiding the dead man's body. Angel had a full view of it as they approached. Her eyes grew wide as she stared down at the headless corpse in the headlights. 

"Why did you shoot him?" She rounded on him.

Lawrence shrugged. "Because he's just a bandit." He realised his answer sounded more pathetic the longer she glared at him.

"He doesn't look like one," Angel said while shifting higher in the car seat to get a better look.

She was right, but Lawrence didn't admit it. The old man was dressed in casual clothes, no armour and no holster. He began to doubt they'd find anything of value inside the shack. 

"No one resides on a border planet for a good reason," he finally answered, and Angel remained silent.

He kicked the truck door open and Crake pixelated to his side while Nyx stayed beside Angel.

"Stay in the truck," Lawrence ordered, despite knowing the command would likely be ignored.

Crake gave a warning glare to Nyx to stay put, thankfully Angel didn't protest and waited in the passenger seat. Lawrence turned to Crake, who wore an expression of determination and hunger. The AI's limited range of emotions came to light at the anticipation of a fight, or hunt.

"See what you can find," Lawrence asked, and Crake nodded and pixelated away. A soft magenta glow came under the blinds covering the windows, and as Lawrence waited, Crake would be clearing the shack room by room. A moment passed, and Crake reappeared in front of him.

"All clear, no one human is inside."

"Human?"

"There's a skag on a bed. Has a collar, appears to be a pet."

"Perfect," Lawrence drawled. Angel will likely have something to say to that. He sighed and resigned that he better let the others join them.

"Come on out," he turned and called towards the truck.

Angel exited the vehicle but didn't venture past the dead man. Nyx thankfully stayed by her side.

Lawrence approached the shack. A tiny porch, which someone had poured their love and attention into crafting, welcomed them before the door. Wooden ornate pillars supported a beam across the deck, and the railing was carved with intricate designs. Whoever built this place had time to spare and patience. 

The door was unlocked, and Lawrence frowned; who was this guy? He gave a worried glance to Crake, who only returned a puzzled look.

He turned the handle and entered the shack. The inside was as charming as the front, Lawrence couldn't place why this was just as unnerving. A printed table cloth sat on the kitchen table, with matching blinds nearby. Shelves ran across the walls filled with books, actual paper hardcover books.

This man was definitely not Pandoran born.

"Homely," Angel whispered as she brushed past.

Lawrence chose to ignore her commentary and strode towards the cupboards and started pulling everything open. The first thing he spotted was a pack of cigarettes; he snatched them up and pocketed them.

"Grab anything of value, edible, or drinkable," he called as he shifted through more of the man's belongings.  

When Angel didn't respond, Lawrence turned and discovered her eyes were fixed on the skag curled on the bed in the corner of the room.

Angel's arm slowly raised as she took a step towards it.

"Angel, no, leave it," Lawrence commanded, but to no avail.

She shot him a wild glare before marching over to the skag and proceeded to pat it. Lawrence took a step to intervene, yet the beast responded ecstatically. It immediately rolled over to permit her to rub its belly as it made pathetic happy noises.

Lawrence internally groaned. They could not take it with them, but he knew the conversation was going to come up.

"Can we—"

"No," Lawrence snapped. "Food, water, things of value, now."

Angel hissed something in reply, and Lawrence knew by now that the word she uttered was 'asshole'.

Lawrence returned to sorting through the old man's things. He pulled out one expired can of chilli: Lawrence cursed, it wasn't even the good stuff. Next, he found some handwritten recipes, and what he could only assume were poems. He tossed what they didn't need to the floor while separating the goods into sections on the table. After some rummaging, all they had were two cans of chilli, a handful of dried pasta and some questionable looking figs in a jar (he put those back).

It was enough for two meals, maybe four if they rationed carefully. 

Lawrence threw a sideways glance to the skag, which he hoped Angel didn't see. 

"No," She replied firmly all while still petting its stomach.

"Angel, there's not enough here, you'll be singing a different tune once starvation kicks in."

"He's someone's pet!"

Lawrence threw an arm towards the front door and the dead man outside.

"Not anymore, kiddo."

"You can't eat him! I won't!"

Lawrence bit down hard enough for his teeth to grind and felt his hand instinctively twitch towards his holster. 

Crake intervened: "Let's look around back."

Lawrence drew in a sharp breath and nodded. Without sparing Angel and her new best friend his scrutiny, he turned for the door.

"Little harsh killing the thing?" Crake questioned him once they were out of earshot.

"She won't care when she collapses from exhaustion, or fleeing from a bandit, or worse." 

Crake led the course around back, and his magenta glow lit the path. Lawrence kicked apart a few shrubs as he weaved his way through trash and rusting barrels.

"Crake, you forget where we are, what they'd do to her if they caught her," Lawrence said, tone stiff with resentment.

Crake growled which Lawrence took as agreement. 

They scouted around back, but Lawrence didn't hold his breath for a find. He knocked over a barrel and combed through the contents. There wasn't much else to search, only a few square meters of dirt and rubbish before a sharp rock face prevented them from advancing further. 

Lawrence ran a hand down his lean face, wiping away the dust that had collected over it. He resigned away all thoughts of a good find. The skag may not be spared, after all. At least Nisha had taught him how to prep the meat. He glanced back down the path they had trodden, deploring the impending confrontation. 

He could hear both Angel and Nyx through the thin walls; Angel was murmuring soft pet names to the damn thing, and Nyx was partaking with the same enthusiasm.

"Lawrence," Crake called. 

He swung back around. Crake was gesturing towards the earth under the cabin. Lawrence trailed his line of sight over to the spot Crake was pointing too. A wooden slat door, which had been obscured by the light, was embedded into the ground just an arms reach away.

"Nice spot," Lawrence gave him a congratulating grin. 

Crake folded his arms and returned a self-satisfied smirk. 

"Nyx, wait with Angel," Lawrence called so the two of them could hear him through the wall. 

Crake advanced and lowered his laser down at the trap door's entrance. He nodded when his aim was secured. Lawrence knelt beside handle, and while keeping as much distance as possible, he flung it open. The door gave a metal grating screech as the hinges protested to being moved so suddenly, and the door fell to the ground with a hollow thud. Lawrence immediately retracted his hand when the opening was exposed, and the two of them waited patiently, eyes focused on the dark entrance below. 

Lawrence steadied himself as he waited out the standoff with trap door entrance. 

When no one threw up a grenade or erupted the evening with gunfire Lawrence relaxed the tightness in his chest. However, he couldn't dismiss the unnerving sensation scratching inside him, as he stared at the entrance, which yielded no noise or light. 

Crake moved forward and leaned over the threshold.

"I can't see a thing."

When Lawrence leaned forward for a look, Crake flung an arm in his way.

"I'll go, you stay here," and he pixelated away before Lawrence could discuss the matter.

Without Crake to hold him back, Lawrence leaned forward. Crake appeared several metres down, encased in darkness, only visible by his soft glow.

"Anything?" Lawrence called.

"I'm not really sure what I'm looking at."

"Well is it... bad?" Lawrence stressed.

"Not that I can tell."

He scoffed. Crake's information was usually practical and concise. 

"I'm coming down," Lawrence called. 

He gradually raised a leg and lowered it down into the swallowing darkness. He pressed and scraped his foot against the walls in an attempt to locate a ladder. Upon success, he dropped into obscurity. Every step he took swallowed the light and himself with it. His hands seized the grime-covered metal as his feet tried to locate the next step. Every level down strengthened the dread clawing within him; some deep primal part of him knew this was not a place of honour. 

Reason told him there was nothing to fear, doubt told him he should to go back to the light, grab Angel and flee.

When he finally reached the ground below, Lawrence released a long-held breath. Crake had a small beam of light radiating from his hand and raised it forward so Lawrence could see. Other than that the room was completely black.

He unholstered his Jakobs pistol and took his first step towards what he assumed to be the centre of the room. It was dark, suffocating even, he couldn't see beyond Crakes magenta frame.

The AI lead him to a small table. It was an industrial make, almost surgical in its appearance. Trays lay littered across the top, and tongs and other utensils sat beside it. Lawrence leaned in close and studied the fluid inside one of the dishes. What on earth were they looking at? Crake raised his arm higher, so the light reached the roof. Rows and rows of string hang from one corner to the other, and plastic pegs held paper sheets above. 

The realisation of what they were seeing hit Lawrence with a wave of deep relief.

"Shine that way, could you?" He pointed over to the far wall, which was now coming into focus as his eyes adjusted. 

Crake moved his arm across and just as Lawrence suspected it was covered in photos, along with a few cameras and other assorted photography equipment.

"What is it?"

"We're in a dark room, its a room for developing photography, but old school style, very old school." Lawrence breathed out with a sense of appreciation lingering in his voice. 

"Call the others, will you?"

Crake nodded and wordlessly communicated with his brother.

"They're coming," he said after a moments pause.

Lawrence walked over to the far wall with a confident stride now that the claws in his chest had subsided. He examined the closest camera and turned it over in his hands, assessing the weight of it. He'd forgotten how heavy these things were, nothing like the tiny digital lenses on their echo's.

"Lawrence?" Angel called from atop the stairs.

"It's clear! com'on down and check it out."

He made his way over to the ladder and reached up to guide her down. Angel's decent was not as hesitant as his, but she did clutch to the steps as if they were her only lifeline.  

Just as her feet hit the ground, Nyx exploded next to Angel with a blast of bright pixels, making her jump (Crake and Lawrence were unfazed by his teleporting antics). Once she recovered from the shock of Nyx's sudden appearance, she approached.

"What is this place?" Angel asked.

"It's a dark room." Lawrence couldn't help but beam as he examined the camera in front of him. "I've not seen anything like this since my college days."

Angel stepped closer and peered over at the black metal device in his hands.

"When were you in college?" Angel asked.

Lawrence fell silent as he counted back the years. 

"Too long ago now," He answered, hiding the fact he couldn't recall.

Nyx opened his palm, so they had a second light source. He walked beside Angel as she made her way to the wall which Lawrence had previously examined.

The wall was covered in photos, most were black and white, and some framed. Yet they all depicted the same thing, sunsets. A few captured the dunes they had passed a cycle earlier, and others were of the sun setting (or rising Lawrence couldn't really tell) over the ranges of the Dust.

"He... wasn't a bandit. Just some old photographer," Angel admitted what they all had been thinking. "Is this what you do?" she continued bitterly, and Lawrence ignored her. "Kill old men who just want to take pretty pictures?"

"They're rather average," Lawrence confessed and turned away from her. 

Angel continued to inspect the wall. Meanwhile, he and Crake ventured further into the room. The found several handmade bookshelves in another corner and all of them were filled with albums depicting more sunsets. Crake leaned in close, providing him with the light as he tossed through them. 

Crake whispered so that only Lawrence could hear:

"Over there," and he pointed to an album pile discarded in the darkest reaches of the room. 

Lawrence picked up the first book from the pile, and with Crake's light, he was able to read the cover. Crake's eyes widen, a sudden look of acknowledgement passed between them. Lawrence was holding a primary school yearbook from Eden-5. He even recognised the school.

"He's not Pandoran," Crake warned.

Lawrence had already guessed that, but this confirmed it.

A silent conversation fell between him and Crake, concerning the man they'd killed and his home. Crake glanced at Angel, and his brow knitted together: concern was an odd expression for the magenta AI. 

"There's a whole lot of them," Lawrence commented and picked up another one of the photo albums to flip through it.

Article after article was taped on the pages. He hadn't seen anything like it in a long time; scrapbooking was a hobby for the obscure and those obsessed with past traditions. The dates were thirty even forty years old and ranged from Eden-1 all the way to Eden-7.

Newspaper clippings about accusations at a school, police statements, court hearings, victim statements, it went on. Lawrence gingerly placed the book down, so as not to draw attention, and picked up another. It was the same, and so were the next three.

Lawrence's gut turned as read on. The identity of the man he'd just murdered was unfolding, and every page revealed a more grisly detail. There were more photos of children, missing posters, notes for the construction of instruments that Lawrence didn't want to think about.

Lawrence glanced up from the album, and his bi-coloured eyes met Crake's red-hued ones. The AI was wearing that monstrous expression that Jack would wear when the world was going to burn. 

This sick fuck had run away from it all. Came to the Borderlands and set up a little cottage to retire. Without children to photograph, he'd taken upon sunsets. Lawrence stared up at the photos hanging above them, and the sudden urge to rip everything down overwhelmed him. However, Crake laid a hand on his shoulder, and the static in his digital palm calmed his rage.

Lawrence threw the book shut and tossed it to the ground. The sudden disturbance caused Angel to ask if everything was ok.

Angel, oh god, Lawrence suppressed the sudden urge to be sick.

"Get her out of here," Crake hissed to Lawrence. 

Lawrence hastily nodded his head.

"We're leaving, come on," he raised a hand and beckoned her towards the ladder.

Angel shifted and held up one of the cameras.

"I'm taking his camera. I can, right? Looting is what you do?"

"No, leave it," Lawrence interjected.

His jaw clenched tight at the worried and taken aback look on her face. Lawrence despised his tone, but he needed to get them out of this dungeon.

"You can be such an asshole." She marched past him and started to ascend the ladder.

"Seriously, Lawrence?" Nyx scoffed.

"Go after her Nyx," Crake replied flatly. Nyx scowled at his brother but did as he was told and pixelated after Angel. 

Lawrence waited until they were both out of earshot.

"What do we do now?" Crake sighed and crossed his arms. 

"We're burning this place to the fucking ground."

And Lawrence left to follow Angel out of the dungeon. 


Angel's shoulders fell, and her hands restlessly intertwined with one another. Her eyes reflected the bright orange glow in front of them, as she wearily watched the supporting beam of the cabin collapse.

"Such a waste, burning everything," she finally spoke when no one else dared.

The skag happily nudged at Lawrence's leg, but he continued to pay it no mind. He silently watched, waiting until the flames engulfed the deck and the hand-carved railing.

Without telling, or letting Angel see, he'd dragged the old man's body and dumped it into the darkroom before he knocked down a fuel canister and set it ablaze. The rest of the fuel was tossed in the cabin, and his lighter did the rest.

Lawrence pulled out the cigarettes he'd taken from the man. He considered tossing them, and it repulsed him that he couldn't; he needed the nicotine. Any other addictive substance was better than the gnawing on his mind for more Eridium.

Crake stood in front of Angel, and the blaze intensified his magenta form. He said nothing as the last of the cabin's support collapsed.

Lawrence fucking hated this planet. Jack was right; it did deserve to burn; he just needed to make sure he wasn't around when it was time.

Chapter Text

If Lawrence thought he was subtle about the change in his new attire, then he was a fool, or he took her for one. His shirt had always been rolled to his elbows — just like Jack's — and now it fell to his wrists, hiding the slag still thriving in his veins.

Slag infections were notoriously hard to throw off, but she hadn't heard of a case lasting this long after the source had been removed. Jack worked hard to keep her unaware of the horrors happening at the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, but she always found a way. There wasn't a cyber-wall Jack could code that she couldn't break. When she was still his baby girl, he'd put her up to the challenge, cheered and hugged her every time she broke them down. Over time the celebrations were less frequent. Jack demanded more of her, wanted her to steal for him, to spy, to destroy and manipulate lives.

In the end, he resented her skill and power.

Angel sighed; she was regressing into bitter thoughts. Exhaustion was wearing her mind to sleep, and she curled away from the fire to let the blaze warm her back. Lawrence had shown her how to set up her swag correctly, and Angel concluded she liked her new bed and the way it shielded her from others; if she desired, she could bury herself under the canvas and block the world out.

Nyx was cheering not too far away. He worked out (with some help from her) how to create a ball. Now he threw it for the skag to chase. The poor beast couldn't pick it up the holographic image, but she seemed to be enjoying it. Crake had told her it was a girl because of the striped markings down its back. Angel wanted to keep the name 'Skaggy Mc Meatface' which was inscribed on its collar. However, Lawrence and Crake protested the idea, saying it had a new owner. Therefore it needed a new name. Nyx, on the other hand, loved it.

For once, in such a long time, she didn't feel restless. The fire crackled behind her, and the conversations with Jack's voice no longer shattered her fragile courage.

Lawrence was engaging in a quiet discussion with Crake. Angel strived to overhear what was said, but their conversation was mostly lost over the sound of the fire. The two of them had been inseparable since they left the safe house. From what she could make out, they seemed to be reminiscing about some adventure in The Dust. Crake's tone was soft, enamoured even, as he remembered the slaughter. Lawrence was a little more hesitant to rejoice in the memory battle.

"Bullets actually hurt me. I remember eating about a dozen that day."

"If you had taken my advice and approached from the west cliff face you may not have 'eaten' so many bullets," Crake jeered.

Lawrence snorted. "Your wisdom, always so insightful. After the fact."

MeatFace continued to bark in the background, and Nyx yelled something back to the beast. Angel hugged her shoulders and hoped Lawrence would let her keep her. She'd never had a pet. She had wanted a cat, something small that could curl up on her lap as she worked, but Jack hated cats. He said the only thing they were good for was sitting at the bottom of the river in a bag filled with stones. When he'd told her that, it had seemed like such a reasonable thing to say.

Angel had been seven.

She bit her lip; how could anyone tell a seven-year-old that?

Maybe she could justify to Lawrence that MeatFace could offer her protection? Although, after recalling how submissive and eager it was for affection Angel reasoned that might not be an easy case to win.

Lawrence must have thrown something on the fire as the heat from flames started to lick her shoulders. She turned over: peeping her head out from under the covers of the canvas. The outlines of Crake and Lawrence were scarcely visible; they sat huddled over on the other side of the fire.

It was a lot easier to now distinguish Lawrence's voice from Jack's. Lawrence sighed, groaned, and swore more, besides he didn't fill in every moment of silence with the sound of his own voice.

"How would you feel about getting digistructed bodies? Proper ones." Lawrence's tone was casual, but Angel sensed a tightness in his voice.

Crake didn't reply.

"Maybe we can find some bloody time to get that done. Once this shit show is over," Lawrence sighed, and Angel heard him shift around restlessly.

"I'm not really phased," Crake eventually answered.

He made a noise that sounded like a grunt or clearing his throat which Angel gathered as unusual for the AI: too human, or too human for Crake.

"I know Nyx wants to have a 'real' body. He's obsessed with human senses..." Crake trailed off.

"You warned me that would happen."

"I did, and you didn't listen," Crake replied with a low growl.

"You also tried to kill me afterwards, so I think we're even."

Angel's mind raced as did her heart. What had happened to lead to such a violent fallout? Lawrence cracked his shoulders and let out a long groan, seemingly unphased by the topic and what had once happened.

"Nyx will be fine. He has us. We won't let that happen."

Angel knew every line and clause in Hyperion's AI laws. After Handsome Jack took over, they became increasingly more rigorous and constrained: stamping out personality modules and any element which would allude to a 'soul'.

Lawrence was wise to hide Nyx and Crake's true identities from him.

Nyx's desire to be more human was one of the core reasons AI's have the laws. Angel cringed at the thought of being forever embedded into a network or stuck into a non-tangible existence. She had essentially lived that life, but at least she could pull her mind out and come back to the real world when she needed to (or when Jack allowed her to).

But having a free consciousness and being stuck in their states? It would drive anyone, AI or human, mad.

There were no happy tales of an AI with a mind of its own.

Angel recalled the sombre look on Nyx's face when she dug her toes into the sand. She wanted to feel, touch and smell, everything she had been deprived of for years, but now she was in the company of someone who couldn't do any of those things.

If the AI laws were still in place, Nyx wouldn't even consider what it meant to feel these things. Angel wondered how Crake was coping. Did he want to be human too? Or was he treading towards another path?

When she had the tools and the means she would help Nyx, and Crake too if he wanted it.

Lawrence let out another long groan, much akin to how John would after he'd been coding away to some early hour. If she closed her eyes, maybe, just for a moment, she could pretend it was her Dad sitting by the fire. They were on a camping trip to his home planet Tantalus, they had a dog, and her mum was playing fetch.

Angel allowed herself to smile; it was a false memory, but she could convince herself to be real if she tried. She hoped she'd dream of such a time. Angel felt her head grow heavy, shoulders relaxing into the comfort of the mattress. Sleep could have taken her away at that moment. However, a dazzling blue light erupted next to her.

"Convey coming this way!" Nyx cried out.

Angel flung herself up from inside the swag, and she battled with the material until she was free and in the open air. Lawrence was already on his feet, gun unholstered and kicking sand onto the fire, diminishing the flames. Crake marched over to his brother.

"Angel!" Lawrence waved a hand to her, and she scrambled up to meet him.

She met him at his side, and Lawrence moved forward to put the cliff edge in front of them. His hand raised slightly to keep her shielded behind him.

"How far? How many?" Crake pressed his brother.

"Four trucks, no idea how many are in them, canvas trailers on the back. So who knows what they're carrying." Nyx replied quickly.

MeatFace had caught up to Nyx and was trying to rub her head against his legs to no avail.

"That's too many to take on," Lawrence growled, "let's hope they pass by without a fight."

They all wordlessly agreed.

"Do you think they're friends of the man you killed?" Angel asked quietly.

"Not likely," Crake replied bitterly.

Angel turned her attention to the red digistruct. Crake had taken a strange interest in her since the old man's house. He'd glance her way, and sometimes she caught a worried or anguished look on his face. However, Angel found herself flinching away from his red eye gaze.

Why was he so intent on watching her?

Lawrence moved to the cliff edge and lowered himself to the ground before looking over. Angel followed, Lawrence opened his mouth to say something, most likely to tell her to stand back, but he didn't bother.

Nyx pointed a digital hand forward. "There, those headlights, they're still a while away. I doubt they saw our fire."

Angel had to squint to see, but far off in the dusk were a series of light yellow orbs moving along the gorge.

No one said a word as they approached.

Lawrence put away his pistol and summoned his sniper. Angel just hoped it wouldn't be needed. How could the four of them take on that many?

The heavily armed vehicles passed underneath them, engines roaring in the evening. No doubt they were a formidable presence in the quiet desert.

Crake leaned further forward.

"The signals on the trucks," he spoke slowly, "I don't recognise it."

"Same," Angel agreed.

Crake gave her a perplexed look.

"I used to practically live in the echo-net, I got to see a lot of things, and that symbol isn't one of them."

The symbol consisted of two wolves, one devouring the other, jaws tearing at the throat, while a cracked moon loomed in the background. Was that Elpis?

"Any ideas?" Lawrence asked, while his face was pressed to the scope.

"I'll ask Felicity when she's back."

Lawrence pulled away from the scope and gave her a perplexed look.

"She's 'out' you could say. Exploring the echo-nett. Now that she's free."

Angel hadn't meant to sound so judgmental, but it slipped out either way. Lawrence tensed and turned away from her.

The dust billowed up to their little cliff edge, momentarily obscuring their vision. As it cleared the convoy continued to travel north, right to the heart of the desert. They all silently watched as the vehicles disappeared into the night.


“CUNT-OF-A-CAR!"

The engine had stalled again, and Lawrence proceeded to jam his fist against the steering wheel. Angel placed her echo to her side, unable to focus on her novel while he continued to yell at an inanimate object.

"Timothy!" Felicity berated out of Angel's echo-comm.

"WHAT?!"

"Watch-your-mouth," the AI warned.

"Fucking perfect, because one AI lecturing me wasn't enough!"

Crake was leaning against the trailer component of the truck, legs forward and arms crossed. He opened his mouth to say something then promptly closed it. Lawrence kicked the door open and stumbled out of the truck. He tried to slam the bent metal shut, but it only swung back and hit him in the shoulder.

"Fuck!"

Lawrence punched the car side mirror so hard it snapped off, and Angel threw her eyes back to her echo, not wanting to be on the receiving end of his rage. Lawrence summoned his sniper and stalked away to the cliff edge.

Nyx leaned in close and spoke quietly:

"He's in one of his moods . I should probably not sit this one out.

She nodded in agreement and wrapped her rug tighter around her shoulders. The blue digistruct burst away in a bright array of pixels and followed Lawrence and Crake.


Lawrence stormed towards the spot he'd reserved for shooting.

The truck wouldn't start, they had no food, and were in the middle of the fucking Dust. The Pandora night was underway, and he'd sooner freeze to death than suffer dehydration. The AI's need not worry, not like they had any bodies to feed or hydrate.

If they didn't get on the road soon then Skaggy McMeatFace or whatever Angel was calling it was going back on the menu.

Lawrence heard the footsteps trailing behind him; it set him on edge listening to the skag. He was so used to Nyx and Crake's silent steps. Lawrence had given the skag one piece of pasta, and the damn thing hadn't left him alone. He told Angel feeding it was coming out of her rations; he should have stuck to that policy.

"Go to Angel!" He pointed back towards camp and the dumb beast just whined in reply. "Go! NOW !"

That set it off, and it bounded towards the safety of its new owner.

"We should talk," Felicity said, abruptly pulling Lawrence out of his thoughts about cooking skags.

"Now you want to talk?" He rounded on his echo, where Felicity's voice came from. "I had my back snapped in half and drugged with Eridium trying to bring you back, and you haven't said a word to me in days," Lawrence snapped, breathing heavy.

Crake told him to shut up and listen, and Lawrence threw a rock off the gorge in response. It was too dark to see where it landed, but he hoped it had hit something and caused pain. Nyx had surprisingly followed him from Angel and was doing that fretting thing where he ran his hands up and down his arms repeatedly. Lawrence unclipped his echo and threw it roughly onto a boulder nearby so that Felicity had a full view of him.

She took over his echo, and her profile stared back, expression flat.

"You're no longer the same man I met on Elpis," she stated flatly.

Lawrence threw his arms out and stood back to let her have a clear view.

"Congratulations on that observation."

"That man, had been a man I trusted," she continued.

Lawrence opened his mouth to retort back, but she got in first.

"As foolish as that trust was placed, I believed Timothy Lawrence had decency. Maybe he was a tad cowardly, but nonetheless, I thought he'd be brave enough to stand up and speak when he knew something was wrong."

"You sound disappointed," Lawrence gave a heartfelt cry of laughter. "You would have loved my mother, I would introduce you, but pretty sure Jack painted my childhood bedroom walls with her brains."

Felicity ignored his comment and glared towards him.

"Why did you do it?" She didn't sound hurt, no, her voice was cold and empty of any sentiment.

Lawrence shrugged his shoulders.

"As you said, I was a coward."

Nyx stepped forward, jaw open as if he wanted to intervene, but a wild glare from Lawrence pushed him back.

Felicity sighed and wearily shook her head.

"Timo—"

"I'm not Timothy anymore. Jack saw to that a long time ago." Lawrence leaned in close to the comm. "Can't you tell?" And he threw a finger to his face showing off his scar.

When Felicity remained silent, Lawrence drew himself up, arms twitching at his side, eager to shoot.

"And I don't recall giving you permission to enter my echo device," he said, voice low.

"Angel did, in case something were to happen."

" Of course she did," Lawrence snapped.

He rolled his shoulders and felt every bone and muscle grind from the act. He didn't need this. He didn't need Felicity's scrutiny, Angel's bitter sideways glances, Crake's worried stares. For once, Nyx was welcomed company as he was utterly oblivious to what was happening to him.

Jack always had a plan. A backup plan for his back plans, he would say. He'd never get into this mess. Lawrence ran his fingers over the raised lines down his neck. They won't go away, not now, not since he'd had another Eridium treatment.

He was going to need Felicity. Angel was the priority, and he wasn't in any condition to do this on his own.

"I did try to bring you back," Lawrence eventually spoke.

Felicity stuttered something, seemingly caught off guard by Lawrence's sudden change of tone. She paused, taking a moment to regain her composure before continuing.

"I know," she admitted quietly, "and a part of me is thankful. The other part would like to hack Hyperion's moon-shooting capabilities and blast you off this cliff face."

Lawrence snorted to that.

"I wouldn't blame you," he sighed.

The curdling anger inside him subsided. He'd gotten so good at channelling Jack's rage he'd often lose sight. He'd once had so much clarity, why was everything such a hazy mess? Lawrence glanced at the slag in his wrist before adjusting his sleeve to hide the purple trails.

"I have to ask. What are you planning to do with Angel?" Felicity questioned. 

Lawrence scoffed, feigning offence. He knew the AI had every reason to doubt him. Especially after his recent tantrum.

"I'm taking her to the Vault Hunters, like I promised."

"Your promises aren't worth a lot."

Lawrence clenched his hands and resisted the urge to throw the comm off the cliff.

"I will do as I said," he finished flatly.

"Good, and I'll assist you any way I can." Felicity's authoritative tone dropped away. "Angel... She's suffered enough. The poor dear. I won't let anything happen to her."

Lawrence silently nodded in agreement as he rubbed his arm.

"As to you two," Felicity's voice was sharp again, and Lawrence knew she was directing it to Nyx and Crake. "Last time I saw you, you were only spitting one-liners and shooting anything that moved."

Nyx jumped forward beaming. "We got an upgrade! Lawrence built us up from some hanky-panky Jack AI."

Nyx gave Lawrence a genuine smile, all while swaying on the spot with enthusiasm, while Crake's expression darkened.

"Lawrence wasn't satisfied with that, he then destroyed our AI laws," Crake drawled in a manner too Jack-like for Lawrence's liking.

"And the reason being?" Felicity asked slowly.

"Ask him," Crake spat.

"Did you really want to be that megalomaniac for eternity? I unshackled you from having to be Jack," Lawrence reasoned.

Nyx returned to silently staying on the sideline; Crake did not.

"And subsequently you gave us a whole host of other issues," he seethed, his voice toeing the line towards a threat. "You did it for your own selfish reasons, nothing more." Crake straightened up in an attempt to tower over Lawrence, which was easy on the AI's part, he was already a foot taller than him.

"Making choices for others without their consent? Sounds a lot like Jack," Felicity commented.

"I'm nothing like him—"

"I'm not Jack—"

Both Crake and Lawrence snapped.

"Right," she said, unimpressed by their defiant attitudes.

Lawrence sighed; he hated fighting with Crake. It was pointless.

He swung his sniper over his head and began to set it up. Maybe he could claim a kill for lunch. Crake seemed to enjoy sniping, as an old man would be fishing with his mates. He was sure they'd be back at their usual banter in no time.

"I'm sorry," Lawrence grumbled as he threw himself to the ground. "I'm not myself at the moment. Everything is a mess, this planet, this situation, this shit in my body."

Crake groaned, "I can tell."

Lawrence glanced down the scope, noting he needed to change it over. He summoned the night vision accessory from his gear chip, it fell into his hand without issue, yet when Lawrence tried to grasp it, he fumbled. The scope fell to the ground, it bounced a few times, and Lawrence perilously sought to snatch it, but his hands just didn't seem to be able to keep up. The scope rolled over the gravel and off the edge of the cliff.

Both him, Crake and Nyx (and presumably Felicity) watched as it bounced off the boulders before it disappeared into the dark Dust below.

Lawrence slowly raised his hand and held it in front of him. His fingers shook uncontrollably; in fact, his whole arm was unstable.

This wasn't meant to be happening. No, not yet , they said he'd have more time.

His hand persisted in spasming even as he willed it still. He cursed and clenched his palm tight, trying to regain control of his muscles; upon releasing, his fingers finally relaxed.

"Why didn't you tell me it had started," Crake hissed leaning in closer to Lawrence.

"I...It...hadn't. Not until now," Lawrence spoke slowly, still studying his hands in front of him.

Crake mumbled an apology.

Lawrence did not ask Crake to perform the body scan; the AI had been programmed to do it for so long it was just part of his nature now: AI laws or not.

Crake finished the scan and Lawrence took his silence for the worst. 

"This is bad," Lawrence sighed.

Crakes lip twitched, but he remained silent.

"What's wrong with him? Is it the Slag poisoning?" Felicity queried.

Lawrence's jaw went tight, teeth pressed into the side of his tongue. He'd forgotten she was there. He couldn't have her tell Angel. He didn't need her to know. Lawrence's patience had been wearing thin for Nyx, and it tore through at that moment.

"He has a condition with his ner—" Nyx chimed in.

Lawrence's once subsided rage rushed forward. He jumped in and cut off the AI before he could utter another word.

"NYX! Go back to Angel, NOW!" he roared at the cyan digistruct and at his absolute idiocy.

Panic then anger spread across Nyx's face before he spoke:

"Whatever," he snarled.

Lawrence, realising his mistake, tried to apologise but Nyx disappeared and left nothing behind but a few fragmented pixels. Crake informed him it would be ok, but Lawrence knew when Crake lied they used the same voice after all.


"Thank fuck," Lawrence huffed and rested his forehead on the steering wheel.

The engine purred underneath him, and Lawrence sat leaning against the dashboard for a moment, letting relief subside his frustration and anger.

The truck had finally started. 

Angel had heard enough vile curses leave his mouth to complete a new dictionary, and Felicity was not impressed. Lawrence sat back up and called for Angel. She rolled over in her swag, and two bright bi-coloured eyes peeped out. 

"Come on!" He called again. "Time to pack and move out."

She nodded but didn't budge from the confines of her swag. The Pandoran night forced temperatures to drop close to 0, and Angel hadn't stirred from her bed for the entire cycle.

Lawrence checked his watch; there were another thirty-six hours until daybreak. They couldn't afford to wait that long. He exited the truck and beckoned the skag to jump onto the trailer component and called for Angel: MeatFace obeyed, but Angel remained where she was.

"Heya," he said and dropped beside her. "We gotta go, kiddo."

"I'm so cold," Angel shook as she spoke. "I've never felt this cold before."

Lawrence nodded and sighed.

"I'm not a fan of the cold either, but we gotta get out of the Dust."

Though, Lawrence reasoned Angel wasn't as experienced as him with dealing with the cold. The Bunker had perfect climate control, and he doubted Angel had endured anything but a comfortable 23 degrees. 

It was all part of Jack's carefully curated plan to protect her. But, that was no excuse; they had to leave. 

"I'll carry you to the damn truck if I have to."

Angel made a pained sound and shook her head. 

Lawrence rubbed his eyes and stood back up.

"Alright, five more minutes. Then we're leaving."

He left her side and began to pack up the last of camp. When he finished and kicked dirt on the fire, Angel cried out:

"Why can't we stay here till daylight?"

"Because he," Lawrence jerked up a thumb up towards Helios, "is gonna be looking for me."

Angel sat up and brought her knees to her chest. From sitting inside the swag, she looked like some military green caterpillar.

Lawrence shook his head. 

"We gotta move, Angel."

"Ok, ok," she responded with exasperation.

She began to wiggle on the earth: trying to move towards the truck without having to leave the warmth of her bed.

Lawrence sighed, "come ere." He bent back down and picked up Angel with one arm under her legs and the other behind her back. She weighed next to nothing, and a moment later, he had her up and off the ground.

And, yet, it was as if he'd touched her with hot lead. Angel jolted and screamed:

"What are you doing?!"

"I'm carrying you!" Lawrence shouted back.

"P–put me down!" She violently wriggled in his arms, and he almost dropped her.

"Fuck! Cut it out, will you?"

Angel abruptly fell silent, and her small frame shook against him. Lawrence recognised his mistake. Not only had Angel been confined to the Bunker, but she'd also never had Jack or anyone interacting with her, least of all picking her up.

All the other times he'd carried her she'd been out cold.

"Um, sorry," Lawrence mumbled, "I'm putting you down now."

But, Angel slowly shook her head.

"Can you put me on the car seat?"

"Yeah, ah ok," Lawrence said and restarted his journey back towards the truck. 

Angel reached for the handle of the passenger door and opened it, and Lawrence lowered her down onto the seat.

"Better?" He asked, and she nodded, all while still tightly wrapped up in her canvas cocoon.

Lawrence shut the truck door, walked around the back of the truck to check on the skag, before getting into the driver's side. He immediately turned on the heater. The warmth from the vents smelled of pure rocket fuel, but he embraced the heat. 

"Warm enough?" 

Angel peeped out from within her swag.

"Yeah," she mumbled, eyes fluttering close with exhaustion. "Thanks..."

Lawrence watched over her for a moment, before starting the engine and driving off into the night.


They'd been on the road for hours, and nothing but desert and forests of cactuses passed by. Angel had busied herself with her echo, while Felicity spoke up once or twice, but otherwise, the two girls communicated silently with each other.

"Another cycle of driving and we should reach the edge of the Dust," Lawrence said. He turned to Angel, waiting to see if she'd respond, but the girl was engrossed with her echo.

He returned his attention to the road and tapped his hands on the steering wheel. He tried to ignore the tremor in his fingers, and how the veins on his arms were still stained purple.

At least Felicity had not mentioned anything of it. 

Angel abruptly huffed and stretched her arms before turning towards him and breaking the silence:

"Who are we meeting at Hollow Point?" She queried.

"A friend of mine."

Angel scoffed:

"You have friends?"

Lawrence almost swore in reply. Instead, he cleared his throat and focused on the road. 

"So, who is your friend?" Angel pressed.

"Janey Springs," Lawrence replied. "She was a mechanic on Elpis. Now she's down here. She'll know someone. Last time I checked, she was dating a Vault Hunter," he explained.

"Which Vault Hunter?"

"um, Athena. Don't know her last name, don't know if she even has one."

"Oh, I know her," Angel said brightly, but did not elaborate. She placed down her echo and shifted in her seat, so she was facing him.

"Does she know we're coming?" She asked, and her tone took an authoritative note.

"No. I didn't want to communicate over the echo. Jack will be listening in, looking for my — our — voice signatures."

Angel slowly nodded, then frowned.

"So you're just going to arrive, after how many years and hope she'll help?"

"That's pretty much it." Lawrence gave her a quick sideways glance and shrugged. "Even If I wanted to call ahead, I don't have her echo frequency."

"You know I can find it?"

"Don't go doing that. Stay off the network," Lawrence didn't mean to sound so stern, but he must have; Angel mouthed the word ‘asshole’.

She ignored him for some time after that. The only sound she made was to laugh at her echo, again, probably at his expense. Lawrence kept his focus on the road and sought to ignore the shivers racking up his arms. His grip remained tense on the steering wheel; he couldn't risk losing control as he did with his night vision scope.

The hours passed, the sand dunes lessoned, and the road became gravel. A dried river bed passed alongside them, and soon the river fell into a gorge, running with water. 

"Can Nyx and Crake come out?" Angel's words took him by surprise, Lawrence spared her a glance.

"No, they should stay put, they can only be out for so long. I don't want to lose their battery when we really need it. That convoy could still be in the area."

Angel pressed her knees to her chest and huddled back into the passenger seat. Her head rested against the window as she watched the night and rocky land past by.

Her next question caught him so off guard that his grip on the wheel tightened, and he was sure his heart lunged up his throat:

"Why did you become Jack's double?"

"Wh-what? Why bring this up?" he stuttered.

"Just making conversation," Angel huffed and pressed her face closer to the cracked window.

He cleared his throat and considered his words carefully. There was no easy answer, and no answer Angel could understand.

"It didn't matter whether I wanted to be Jack's double or not. I would have become 'Jack' either way."

Angel pulled away from the window and gave him a puzzled look. 

"You're going to need to explain" Felicity chirped from the echo-comm on Angel's lap.

Lawrence sighed: "I only realised it years later. But Jack... he'd been watching me for a while...and I only agreed to his insane proposal because...."

Lawrence rubbed at his collarbone, fingers tracing his scar. He hadn't thought about any of this in such a long time.

"Whatever. I needed money. So I said yes."

Lawrence waited to see if anyone would interrupt, but he had Angel's full attention now. She was practically leaning off her seat. 

"My bone structure was ninety-five percent the same as Jack's, so that was a big tick. I also have a background in programming and commerce, perfect for covering all of Jack's day work. No family health conditions: Jack was really fixated on that part. But the key point for Jack was that I was a complete nobody," Lawrence drew a deep breath, after finishing Jack's checklist. 

There were a few other similarities, but Lawrence kept those to himself. He'd always said the money was the reason why he took the gig; everyone understood money. However, in Jack's own words, he was 'perfect'. A weak, desperate man, looking for something to define his place in the world even if that meant being someone else. Jack ate him up.

"Essentially, I was the perfect candidate. Jack would've never let me get away."

"Did you ever continue your writing?" Angel asked, her tone abruptly becoming lighter." 

"Writing?... How do you know about that?" Lawrence said and glared at the road ahead. 

"Oh," Angel stuttered, and her pale cheeks reddened. "Well, Nyx, he —"

Lawrence rolled his eyes and swiped at his watch.

The two AI's burst ahead and their expressions grew confused as they assessed where they were. It was quite comical to see them standing through the truck seats and their hair going through the rooftop as the vehicle sped on.

Hologram or not, there was scarcely room for the additional two occupants. Nyx floated to the middle of the car and stretched his legs out over the gears and into the console, while Crake remained halfway through the dashboard.

"What else did you tell her Nyx?" Lawrence drawled, not bothering to direct his scowl towards the cyan digistruct.

"Not much, you had a pretty darn, boring life."

Lawrence snorted, "thanks."

"Well, what did you look like before?" Angel asked quietly.

Lawrence screwed his face up; he knew what defined his appearance, but he could barely envision his old face any more. 

"My hair was brown but more copperish than Jack's. I had green eyes…." Lawrence trailed off; he no longer had either of his green eyes: one lost to the body double surgery and the other burned away.

"And, um, I had freckles."

Lawrence hurriedly tried to explain, keen to push the conversation aside: "Jack destroyed all evidence of my past life. I doubt you'd find any photos of me on social networks or —"

"Found you!" Angel cut him off with a cheer. Her hand pressed against the echo-comm and particles of light emitted through her yellow jumper.

"How?" Lawrence quickly took his eyes off the road to gain a look at the echo.

But Angel did not explain: too enamoured with the picture on her screen.

"Woah, you could've been my uncle," she said.

"I agree," Felicity commented, "softer nose and a smaller chin, but if you change the hair and freckles you get a 'Jack'."

"Do you want to see?" Angel asked as she raised the echo-comm towards him.

"No," Lawrence replied flatly, and his hands tightened on the wheel.

"I wanna see," Nyx cooed.

Crake remained silent, but his lip twitched, and his gaze shifted to Nyx and Angel. The Cyan digistruct floated over to Angel, and the two of them huddled over her echo.

Nyx burst out laughing; his whole body fell back through the truck into the trailer. "Oh boy, did you get a good deal getting that new face!"

"Fuck off, Nyx," Lawrence groaned, and Felicity scolded his language.

Lawrence glanced over to find Angel beaming. For the first time, her face had some colour to it, and a warm smile was painted on her soft features.

"Let's see what you two dorks would've looked like," Lawrence grinned as he jerked his head towards his two digital copies, "Alright Angel, let's test those searching powers of yours. See if you can you pull up some baby photos of —"

Lawrence never finished his request.

A tall man dressed in rags stood in the middle of the road. He raised his arms and waved them down, but Lawrence spied the flash of silver and weaponry strapped to his chest.

He slammed the brakes, and Angel flung forward in the seat.

"Angel, hold on, we need to get out of here." Lawrence threw his head over his shoulder and shifted the car into reverse.

The truck accelerated away from the man on the road, who had now drawn his concealed weapon. However, Lawrence's fixation on the road behind them, meant he didn't see the flaming truck rush down the hillside. The burning hunk of metal t-boned them, and all occupants of the truck were hurled to the side as it rolled full three-sixty degrees off the edge of the road. Their vehicle hovered over the threshold of the cliff before it fell into the watery canyon below.


"Get up!"

Someone was yelling.

"Lawrence!" Angel's shrill voice echoed through his aching head. 

"We're sinking! Tim! wake up!"

Wearily, Lawrence pulled his head off the dashboard and rubbed at his bruised forehead. 

"Lawrence! Please!" She shrieked again and tugged on his arm.

Wincing, he turned towards her; Angel's eyes were wide, and panic pulled across her face. Lawrence's world span, but the dizziness only claimed him for a moment. The frozen water lapping at his ankles drove his mind into action, or something more akin to panic.

They were sinking into the river.

The water surged upwards, and it was beyond freezing, rendering Lawrence's legs numb. He reached for his gear-chip and digitised his sniper.

"Get back!" He yelled.

Angel nodded, threw her arms above her head to shield herself as Lawrence drove the butt of his sniper into her passenger window. His heart raced, burning in his chest with adrenaline. The water was at their knees. However, it was already at the windows outside.

The glass began to crack, and water hissed through the chipped marks. With one last throttle against the glass, it shattered upon Angel. Water rushed inward, and the truck groaned as it sank further into the depths of the canyon.

"Go!" He roared and pushed her up towards the window. The surging river was quickly making the escape futile.

"I can't swim!" Angel cried, her voice smothered in fear.

Lawrence ignored her and continued to yell at her to climb through the window. Swim or not, if she stayed, she died.

With shaken arms, she grabbed the side of the window and threw herself out into the icy depths.

"Timothy, help her!" Felicity pleaded with him.

"There's nothing I can do! She's strong. She'll make it."

Lawrence climbed over to Angel's recently departed passenger seat. The truck was tinkering on the edge of full submersion. He tried to propel himself forward through the onslaught of water, yet he was forced back into the chair. The front of the car was already flooded; he needed to escape now before the pressure made it impossible. Aiming his sniper ahead, he shot at the front windshield, and water squirted through the holes. He leaned into the chair and kicked forward, his boot sent a sizable break in the glass, yet it caused the truck to fill at an alarming rate. With a few more kicks, the water pushed the glass inwards thrusting him back into the seat. He waited until the surge of water settled, stored away his sniper, and dived down through the front window.

The river was murky and for a moment up and down were the same. Lawrence pushed forward, and breast stoked towards what he hoped was the surface. A sharp pain sliced at his ankles, and a sick realisation crawled over him: he was sinking with the truck. Bubbles emitted from his mouth as he screamed. His pants snagged on the glass. He kicked backwards, trying to free himself from the murky depths. He cut his leg again, but this time he swam forward, released from the sinking hunk of metal.

Lawrence looked up; he was so far below that the moonlight couldn't reach these depths. He pushed onwards towards the surface. His chest spasmed, desperate for oxygen, he continued, every stroke rendering his vision darker.

With a final swipe of his hand, he breached the surface.

Lawrence's lungs were forced to work again: taking in gulps of precious air. He floated for a moment, trying to catch his breath. His ears stung from being at such a depth and every part of him burned from the frozen water. 

Lawrence swiped at his watch, but Nyx and Crake did not come forth. The battery flashed, then faded.

"Fuck," he cursed before he scanned the shoreline and called to Angel. Yet, only silence met his ears.

Lawrence slowly swam to shore and every stroke throbbed in his chest. He crawled on his hands and knees through the shallows: too exhausted to pick himself to his feet. He almost collapsed face first, drowning right there in the shallows, but a pair of warm hands wedged under his arms and held him just above the water's surface.

"I've got you," Angel whispered and pulled him forward.

Lawrence spluttered and coughed, as the water lapped into his open mouth. He tried to warn her, tell her to run, but his body refused to respond.

"Angel..." He panted and shoved her away. "Run..." 

"I'm not leaving you, come on, get up."

Lawrence coughed again and slowly staggered to his feet, but this time he didn't push her away again. Angel's small frame rested under his arm, taking some of his weight as he limped to the river bank.

"We... need to go —"

Lawrence stood upright and pulled her behind him.

Two massively armed men were jogging over the edge of the riverside, and another truck of men pulled up above the gorge, their flashlights searching the water.

Lawrence turned back to Angel and squeezed her shoulder.

"Run."

She gave him a panicked nod and fled.

The bandits executed quick work, and they fired upon him before he could draw his pistol. Lawrence took cover behind the rocky shore, fumbling for his weapon. 

He waited for his moment to take his shot, but Angel's scream drew his gaze down the river bed. The men from the trucks were sliding down the bank, and they were upon her in seconds. The larger of the two tackled her to the ground and forced themselves on top of her.

"GET OFF HER!" Lawrence aimed his weapon, but he couldn't take the shot, not with Angel so close.

The bandit upon Angel started to yell, and his cry began to stir up a panic.

Angel pushed herself to her feet, and her Siren tattoos shone through her soaked clothes. A small bubble of energy burst around her hand and the men around her started to move away in panic.

She clenched her eyes tight, cried in pain as the energy continued to bloom from within her.

"Angel!" Lawrence cried out and pulled himself from his cover to run towards her.

A bandit, braver than the others, had made his way behind her. He raised the end of his assault rifle before thrusting it down into the back of her head.

Lawrence bellowed in rage and sprinted forward. Angel's head hit the rocky shoreline, and a dozen rough hands grabbed her and pressed her face into the gravel.

Lawrence fired his pistol, but his rescue mission was short-lived. Something clocked him in the eye, and a second hit took him in the back of the head. He fell forward and hissed with fury into the water. 

He had to get to her. She was still on the ground, unmoving, while their dirty hands were on her.

Someone approached: their thick leather boots stood in front of him. Lawrence didn't have time to scramble to his feet as a third hit from the end of the rifle successfully took him out.

He plunged face-first into the muddy shoreline and everything twisted into darkness.

Chapter Text

Lawrence had wasted his entire morning looking for Jack.

Meg called him into a meeting which Jack had meant to attend. Lawrence lied and yelled his way through it, thankfully securing the clause changes they wanted with a new Maliwan Prototype. Next, he covered a call with R&D, again no Jack. Finally, it was Friday Firing spree and still no Jack.

He never missed his Friday debriefings.

Lawrence called in the cleaning bots after the last (ex)employee was disposed of. The office stank of gunpowder, body fluids and reeked of death. Even the bravest of men couldn't stop themselves from shitting after they took a bullet to the head.

Meg was starting to fret. Jack loved his work as much as he loved himself, an absent Jack was worrisome. Lawrence excused himself, told Meg to reschedule what she could.

He had to find Jack.

He knocked on the French doors to Jack's apartment, when he received no answer on the third attempt, he entered.

Lawrence had only been in Jack's apartment the one time when he'd woken up from the failed sniper assassination. He absentmindedly brushed the mark above his collarbone, how long had it been? A year, no, it was more than that. It felt like he'd always lived with Jack, he couldn't recall a time when he hadn't been by his side. Lawrence ran his nails into his palms, his heart quicken with every step he took into Jack's home. The living room and kitchen were empty, spotless even. Lawrence felt anxiety claw at his chest as he left the living room, as he ventured down the hall, he made sure to call ahead. He yelled Jack's name, but nothing.

Jack never left him without instructions, there was always something for him to do, somewhere to be, someone to kill.

Lawrence knew the apartment layout, as it was identical to his own, he turned the hallway corner and reached the far door that would be Jack's bedroom. Lawrence delivered a hard knock.

No answer.

If Jack caught him now, what would he do?

Lawrence pressed his fingers into his palms; they were slick with sweat. A moment passed for him to regain his composure before he reached for the handle of Jack's door and pushed it open.

"Jack?" he called.

Again, no response.

Jack's room was a mess, while he kept the rest of his life in a strict order. The kitchen needed to be spotless, work organised just right, deadlines always met. Evidently, that organisation didn't reach to his private areas. Clothes were thrown everywhere, cigarettes in an ashtray, a few food wrappers indicated that Jack ate in bed.

Lawrence gave the room one last swift scan; he didn't dare step over the threshold, to venture inside would be too much. His hand gripped tightly on the handle, he willed his arm to pull the door shut, to leave this place, but something held him still. What Lawrence had dismissed as a discarded pile of clothes, Lawrence quickly realised was Jack. A tuff of Jack's mousey-brown hair was poking out from around the bed, his tattoed arm outstretched on the ground.

Dread was replaced with panic as Lawrence darted to his side. Jack was collapsed face first on the ground, half his clothes still on, he must have been getting ready for work. Lawrence drew his echo-comm and called their doctor. As he waited for the call to connect he dug a finger into Jack's neck. It took a moment to find the pulse, but it was there; slow and steady.

Did he have a heart attack? A stroke? Both of which were rare occurrences these days, and almost unheard of his age. Maybe he caught a virus down in R&D. Lawrence's heart raced, his breathing quickly growing heavy as he shook Jack, trying to spur some life into him.

"Jack...Jack!" Lawrence called, but he remained unresponsive.

The ringing stopped, the call finally connected. Lawrence cursed their doctor - Iaso - for his slow response.

"Handsome Jack, sir?"

"I needed you in my apartment ten minutes ago," Lawrence snapped before he ended the call.

"Jack!" Lawrence battered at his employers face, he tried to turn him over, but he was nothing but dead weight.

It took far longer than necessary for Doctor Iaso to arrive at the apartment. He didn't even bother to call ahead; he just walked into the bedroom as if he had the right to do so. Lawrence's hand clenched tight, and he leaned closer to Jack as the doctor entered the room.

Doctor Iaso took one look at Jack and a soft, "oh" escaped him.

He cleared his throat before adjusting his stance upward, "nothing to worry about, sir," he said curtly to Lawrence.

"Nothing to worry about?" Lawrence spat, “he’s fucking unconscious on the floor."

Lawrence recognised concern was tainting his words, he stood up and took a long step towards the doctor.

"Everything will be taken care of," Doctor Iaso replied firmly.

Lawrence's patience was barely existent, a requirement of being Jack and this Iaso was pushing it over the edge. He stalked closer to the doctor, who seemed to have some sense of mistaken authority over Lawrence. He didn't like it one bit.

"Listen up, I'm not repeating this,” Lawrence grabbed the doctor by the collar and dragged him forward. His chin barely touched the guy's head.

“You will tell me what has happened," Lawrence spoke slowly, delivering each word as a venomous bite, "or I'll gut you where you stand."

Lawrence leered over, making sure to take advantage of their height difference, a warm feeling stirred within him as his quarry took a step back. However, it didn't have the effect he hoped for, as Doctor Iaso refused to answer him.

"I can't provide you with the details," Doctor Iaso rambled on about authority and confidentiality.

If intimidation didn’t work, violence surely did. Jack was better at threats, and he was better at carrying them out. Lawrence just couldn’t seem to hit the right tones or puff himself up as much as Jack could.

"You can leave now. My team will handle this," Iaso continued.

Lawrence ignored him, he sighed, "pity" as he called security.

"There's an intruder in my apartment, clean him out. Better yet,
take him to R&D, do whatever you want to him. I'm sure the space-hurps program is looking for live candidates."

Lawrence disconnected the call and turned away from the doctor to see to Jack. Behind him, Doctor Iaso made a noise akin to a frog under a tire. When Lawrence glanced over his should he saw Iaso like one too, and Lawrence finally had the reaction he wanted.

"Tell me everything," he growled.

"Handsome Jack, sir, he's-" Iaso was barely letting words escape him. All he could do was rub his hands together, which only irritated Lawrence further.

Maybe he’d gone overkill with the order for human experimentation? Or perhaps the doctor just needed reminding.

"Hurry up, you may have noticed I've not cancelled the security request," Lawrence snapped.

Dr Iaso shrunk, his voice weaker but coherent, "he's in a temporary trance state. Handsome Jack is."

"What?" Lawrence spat.

Iaso spoke so fast it took Lawrence a moment to catch up.

"After the Eridian artefact collided with him, well it wasn't finished 'installing' what information it needed to. The process wasn't complete, it's like pulling out a server before a data transfer is finished."

Lawrence's eyes narrowed as he studied the doctor over, for a tell, anything that may indicate he was lying.

"Sometimes his brain, relapses. Tries to put all the information back together, connect the dots. It puts him in a trance-like state, locked between the information the Eridium gave him, the future, reality, and the past."

Lawrence spared a glace down to Jack at his feet, the man was motionless.

"So his mind is fucked?" Lawrence summarised.

"Well no, we've found treatments," Dr Iaso listed off a bunch of medical names that he'd never heard of.

Lawrence rolled his shoulders back and let his eyes trail over the dishevelled Jack. He barely moved to breathe, but a slow deep groan - muffled by the carpet - did escape him.

Dr Iaso, fumbled with the collar of his coat as he continued.

"They can hold back the episodes for some time, but eventually he'll need to recuperate, his mind is holding far too much information."

"So he's conscious?" Lawrence spoke slowly, eyes still watching every movement Iaso made.

"Yes."

"Will he remember anything?"

"Sometimes, sometimes not."

Lawrence had more questions, yet the arrival of two loaders interrupted that thought. He released his teeth which had been griding together and ordered one of the Loaders to place Jack on the bed.

"We usually call Miss Kadam when he's in prolonged states like this," Iaso spoke in the background.

Lawrence ignored the doctor's words, his attention was solely fixed on Jack. He hadn't seen the man under the mask since the Vault on Elpis since he'd carried him back blood-soaked and ranting all the way to Helios. The others had all fled, only Lawrence remained.

Jack's brand was worse than his, something he had considered an impossible feat. It was deeper, stretching at the edges, unnatural in its appearance. The scar wasn't really a scar at all, it was a vivid violet, radiating slowly in intensity.

"Sir, should we call Miss Kadam?"

Lawrence bit down so hard he winced.

"Should we give her a call?" Iaso repeated.

"No," Lawrence replied with a smile, in an attempt to beguile his true feelings. He did not need Nisha in the apartment, anything but that.

"I'll handle it," Lawrence finished, and he waved the loaders out the door.

"Take him," Lawrence commanded.

Dr Iaso gave a shrill squeak as he was dragged out of the room, to god knows where. Lawrence couldn't' remember where he had told them to take him. It didn't matter.

The scar on Jack's face was still glowing as if a river of Eridium were flowing under the mark.

Lawrence poked Jack, in the same manner, Jack would poke him, "Oi, you there?"

Jack didn't move.

"Great"

Lawrence pulled up an upholstered navy couch with rose gold accents and glass legs. The same lounge was his favourite reading spot in his apartment which also sat by the window; the view looked over Elpis. Lawrence pulled out his echo-comm and began to recite the notes he'd taken from his meeting and his discussion with D&D.

"Meg saved our arses today, you should really pay her more," Lawrence sighed as his finished up the debriefing.

Jack laid motionless on the bed, his eyelids fluttered open and then promptly shut again. His mouth was slightly agape, and his features were tight as if he were stuck in a painful dream.

"No idea if any of this is getting through to you. You should have told me," Lawrence leaned forward and poked Jack again.

The violet glow on Jack's face flickered, his face twitched. Lawrence closed the distance between them, resting a hand on his shoulder he gently shook Jack to see if he could encourage a response. It worked.

"Hey."

"Hey," Lawrence replied.

"You're me," Jack said monotonously.

"Sure, its what you pay me for," Lawrence leaned back pushing the distance between them away.

Jack raised a single brow and narrowed his eyes as he looked Lawrence up and down; confusion was an odd expression for Jack. He opened his mouth to say something, yet closed it again as if he were unsure of the words needed to convey his thoughts.

"Um, how are you feeling?" Lawrence asked slowly.

Jack clenched his eyes tight and rubbed his temple, "what?"

Before he slowly shook his head, as if to shake off the puzzling thoughts, "who are you?"

Lawrence's chested tightened, but years of training kept his expression smooth, "I'm Just the other version of you", he answered slowly.

Maybe he should leave.

Jack was evidently in a vulnerable state, no doubt he'd despise being seen like this. Although this current Jack wasn't precisely Jack-like, his tone was too light, too curious and almost tender.

"Why is there two of me?" Jack asked, all while rubbing at his temple. "Are you like my other half? Like some painfully annoying conscious? You gonna give me advice or something."

Lawrence snorted to that, "not likely. You wouldn't listen."

Jack only nodded and muttered 'damn right' before he clutched at his forehead again.

"Ok, other-me," Jack commanded much like his real self. "Can you find Claire, she may be with Angel. I need some of her tea concoction, as I have a splitting headache."

Every muscle in Lawrence's back snapped tight forcing him upright. What on earth did Jack just ask?

Lawrence bit his lip, and slumped forward, the Jack persona melting away as he tried to find the words to reply.

"Um, they're not here at the moment. Just you and me."

Jack groaned, "perfect," and pushed himself back into the pillows, "then you make the damn tea."

Since when did Jack drink tea?

"Ok, Ill...just go, I'll get that tea," Lawrence replied slowly and went to push himself up before Jack leaned forward and shuddered.

His hands were back over his face tracing the scar, the vibrant purple mark was still pulsing in time with his breathing. Jack muttered a curse and let in a sharp breath, as his fingers dragged too close to the brand.

"what...the...hell?" he heaved, "is wrong with my face?"

Jack shot a panicked look towards Lawrence.

Lawrence chewed on the side of his tongue as he mulled over the dozen responses he could fire back.

You went power crazy and got punched in the face with an Eridian artefact.

Your megalomanic arse was Vault smashed by a red-headed Siren.

You tripped on some ice...

Lawrence opted for the truth in a more toned down version, "you're recovering from an accident in a Vault."

"Since when did I end up in a vault?" Jack's eyes were wide in wonder.

What did this Jack remember? Lawrence tried to pry out the information Dr Iaso had just given him. Didn't he say something about being stuck in memories?

Jack let out a long groan that gradually turned into a disturbing hiss as he clutched the sides of his face. The brand shone through his fingers casting light and shadow across the bedroom.

"Why...Why can't I remember anything?" he rasped, his eyes were still wide as he searched Lawrence for answers.

"What is wrong me?" Jack's voice was raising, tone becoming more unhinged.

"You...You're just-" Lawrence never finished his explanation, it was a flimsy one anyway.

Jack rocked forward on the bed, nearly taking himself off it. Lawrence flung a hand forward to catch him before he planted on the floor below. Jack roared in pain as the mark of the vault blasted light across the room.

"YOU NEED TO GO!" Jack cried.

Lawrence tried to press Jack back down, yet, he was intent on curling forward, grasping at the sheets.

"Other me, you need to go!" He grabbed Lawrence's wrist, blunt nails digging in tight.

"You need to save her!" Jack leaned forward and shouted into Lawrence's face as he clawed at his own. The mark so bright it partially obscured his features.

"They're going to take her, kill her." he heaved.

Lawrence opened his mouth, he had no idea what or who Jack was talking about. Was this something he'd seen in the Eridium? Or was he now locked into a different memory?

"Who is going to take her?" Lawrence tried to respond calmly.

"The vault hunters," Jack hissed through clenched teeth.

"Murders, psychos, bandits, they're all the same" Jack sounded himself again.

He shook with sudden fury, and a familiar savage, violent gleam returned to his eyes. Jack moved upright and attempted to throw the sheets off. Lawrence launched forward again and struggled to press him back down. He couldn't let Jack leave or be seen in this state. Jack yelled, scratched, protested, but he'd never have the strength over Lawrence. Too many pretzels and days at a desk. Eventually, Jack quieted down, he whispered to Lawrence as he accepted defeat.

Jack grimaced when the brand flickered, "is she...dead? did they kill her?"

Lawrence didn't know who Jack was talking about, but answered anyway, "no, she's safe. She's ok."

Jack fell back into the pillows, the scar burned brightly. His voice shook as he spoke, "I won't remember, I want too but I can't. I see things, and then they're gone."

For the briefest moment, Lawrence felt pity for Jack, but the feeling came and left before he could rationalise it.

"It's over," his hand reached for Lawrence's wrist again. "Whatever it was... it's gone," he mumbled as his gripped tightened on Lawrence's palm.

Jack mumbled something else before the light from the brand started to fade. Lawrence got comfortable on the couch again and decided he'd stay until he woke up.


If Jack remembered anything from his Eridium trance, then he didn't let it on. He recovered by the end of the day, Lawrence made sure he was gone by the time he was coming too, and Jack left his apartment without a word and jumped back into his work.

Lawrence struggled whether to bring up what Jack had told him. In the end, he thought better of it, no need to remind Jack of whatever had him so distressed.

Dr Isoa had told him these Eridium Trances were few and far between, but by the end of the month, it happened again.

Something made of glass shattered from Jack's apartment, Lawrence put down his drink and paced over to the other side of the floor. Jack's living room lights were off, but something was alight in the kitchen.

A loud curse roared across the room, Lawrence changed his pace into a run and found Jack kneeling behind the kitchen counter.

“GET IT OFF,” Jack screamed at him, his hands were depressedly clutching at the metal clips on the side of his head. He’d already managed to draw blood from one of them.

“GET IT OFF ME NOW!”

Lawrence knelt beside him, yet before he could reach a hand forward, Jack shoved him away.

“Do NOT touch me,” he hissed.

Jack’s demeanour changed, tone violent as he glared up at Lawrence. However, the moment passed, and he returned to yelling and clutching at the sides of his face. Lawrence could see the purple glow escaping under the mask, a soft lavender hue radiating from his eyes.

“Jack, you have to let me take it off!” Lawrence yelled over his screams.

Jack collapsed onto his side, and Lawrence saw the opportunity and dived forward. Using one hand to hold him still and his weight to pin Jack’s legs down he was able to free one of the latches. Jack thrashed on the floor, but Lawrence had the strength.

He hissed in pain as one of Jack’s legs cocked him in the shin, Lawrence returned the movement by smashing Jacks head down into the ground. He applied a sharp pressure to Jack’s temple, subduing him for the moment.

“Hold still,” Lawrence threatened, “or the next hit is knocking you out.”

Jack only told him to ‘fuck off’ and tried to throw him off, but his anger quickly returned back to the mask, with the way he was clawing at it he was going to give himself a new set of scars.

Lawrence got the latch under Jack’s chin free, all was left was the far right side which was pressed between the polished floor and Jack’s forehead. Lawrence moved his hand onto Jack’s neck and applied pressure. Just enough to stop the air flow. Jack kicked and screamed, but eventually, his movements slowed down, Lawrence pulled Jack's head off the ground and got the final latch and released his windpipe.

Lawrence threw the mask across the floor, it was torn to pieces anyway.

Jack relaxed under Lawrence's grip, but his breathing was still ragged and deep. The scar was a brilliant violet and emitted a soft glow that pulsed in line with his falling chest.

Lawrence threw himself off Jack and leaned against the counter, with the struggle over he was able to assess his own damage. He was undoubtedly going to have a bad bruise on his leg, and the side of his face had been clawed at by Jack.

“We need a better way to do this,” he heaved, a little out of breath from the struggle.

Jack remained silent, his eyelids fluttered shut, and his mouth hung slightly agape; he looked drugged. Lawrence sighed and resigned that he’d have to get him off the floor.

"Come on," Lawrence pressed his boot into Jack's shoulder. "Get up. I'm not carrying you."

Jack didn't respond.

"Hey!" Lawrence yelled, "you pay me a lot, but not enough to carry you around. Come on, get up."

This time he shoved his boot into Jack's neck, and the other man spluttered as he rolled over. Jack only groaned as he ran a hand over his angular face. He mumbled something but Lawrence couldn't hear what it was, or if it was anything intelligible.

Jack opened his eyes and let his head fall to the side, so his gaze rested on Lawrence.,

"Oh...hey other me," Jack said as he watched Lawrence fondly.  

Lawrence screwed his face up, Jack looked ridiculous with that expression.

"Why are we on the floor?" Jack asked.

"You fell," Lawrence lied.

"Anyway, up, I'm taking you to bed. Now." Lawrence replied. He didn't have time for this. He had a drink, a hot shower and his own bed waiting for him across the floor.

Jack obeyed.

Lawrence continued to throw sideways glances at the compliant Jack as he lead him to his bedroom. The whole situation was bizarre, but at least not unnerving.

Jack groaned and complained about wanting more tea as he face-planted into the pillows. Lawrence told him he sort something out as he shut the door, he had no intention of getting any tea. It was late, and Lawrence needed his own rest, he left Jack's apartment and hoped Jack wouldn't suffocate himself under the covers.

The next morning Jack was still delirious, the vault mark radiated across his room, casting purple shadows and spots over the walls.  Sometimes he yelled about killing bandits, calling them child murders, sometimes he just asked about what Tassiter had planned for them today. Lawrence lied or redirected the conversation when he could. Jack didn't have the energy to move or fight back, it was easy to keep him contained to the room. But what was he going to do for work? Lawrence had a dozen meetings, calls and inquiries to tend to. He couldn't do it all while attending Jack.

Should he bring Meg on board? Would Jack be ok with that?

He decided to wing it and leave Jack to his own devices.

However, Nisha stalked through Jack's doorway just as Lawrence placed a bag of pretzels and coffee by his bedside. She was covered head to toe in sand, her hair wind sept and lips chapped. She must have come straight from The Dust.

She cocked her hips to the side and crossed her arms.

“He messaged, said an episode was coming on, damn fool,” she quietly cursed.

Lawrence moved away from the bedside to allow her access to her lover, but Nisha stayed where she was.

“I found him trying to tear his face off. Maybe he should stop wearing the mask at home?”

Nisha gave a deep silky laugh, which once unhinged him, he was used to that kind of insanity now.

“Oh honey, you are welcome to suggest that idea,” she shortened the space between them, “I know I have a dozen times.”

Yet, she didn't move any closer than the end of the bed. Lawrence turned away from her, to spare a parting glance at Jack. He was nestled under the sheets, his features tight, restless even and his hair was dishevelled all over the place.

Lawrence made to leave. However, Nisha's talon nails latched onto his arm, "where do you think you're going?"

"To run a company," Lawrence sneered.

As he looked down at her, he relished in their height difference. Nisha dug down deeper, and Lawrence did not reveal the pain on his face.

"Someone, you, that is, needs to look after him," she snapped.

"When Jack's here, you can bark whatever orders you want, but he isn't. So hop to it, and see to him," Lawrence bared his teeth and kept his chin upright.

He threw her arm off and felt a hot rush of endorphins as she lept away from him. She cast a startled look his way, it was brief, but it was there. Lawrence knew he'd treasure that.

He left her alone with Jack and got to work.

It was late evening when he finally returned, set on having a quiet glass to himself before diving into a hot shower and bed. He regrettably discovered a note attached to his apartment door.

'He's all yours, x.'

And that's how he became Jack's babysitter.


Another month passed, and Jack was thankfully free from any more Eridium coma situations. They never spoke of it, Lawrence silently wished he'd gotten more information out of Dr Iaso, Could it kill Jack? Was there something more they could do?

If Jack died then Lawrence's life would be forfeited. And not metaphorically, Hyperion would never let him live, not with the power and knowledge he had. Jack's well being was his concern he reasoned.

Lawrence bid Meg goodnight with a sly wink as he passed her, he took the steps two at a time as he reached their office.

Jack had called him while he was preparing his dinner, said an urgent matter needed to be dealt with, but not to worry. Jack loved being cryptic, Lawrence fought back the bubbling anxiety within him. He dismissed it as hunger. A new trick he as working on, he wasn't stressed; just tired and hungry.

Lawrence pushed the doors inward, making sure to close them firmly behind him. He turned, a crooked smile on his face as he paced over to greet Jack.

Lawrence's heart ripped through his chest, he was sure a heart attack was imminent. The lighting in Jack's office, the way the fire sparked at the side of his vision, the silhouette of Jack next to the fire. Everything was reminiscent of when Lawrence had been escorted to Jack's office to have his face burned with the mark of the vault.

Lawrence instinctively took a step backwards.

"N-no," he heaved, as he took another step. No, he can't go through that again. Did the scar need to be rebranded? Was Jack going to make it blue like his? Burn him again and apply some kind of ink?

Jack hadn't noticed him yet, maybe he could turn and flee. The fire crackled loudly, a large log fell back, and the sound drew Jacks attention Lawrence's way.

His face lit up, and his sharp grin pierced Lawrence thoughts. Jack paced up to Lawrence, he was giddy with excitement, he shoved a drink into Lawrence's hand and wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

"Oh, do I have a treat for you," Jack chortled, tone low and not all conspicuous.

Lawrence avoided Jack's wild gaze and glanced at his drink, unsure whether to skull it or throw it into the fire; he did the former.

"You've handled things exceptionally well," Jack praised, as he moved his hand, so it pressed into the small of Lawrence's back.

His voice a little slurred; he'd had a few drinks. This was unusual for Jack. The man liked a drink or two, but would much rather be coherent and on edge than inebriated. He was more of stimulant kind of guy.

Jack's tone dropped as fast as a pebble down a well, "the Eridium trances," Jack spoke.

Lawrence had dreaded this conversation. He did not want to talk about it. Jack would undoubtedly hold him accountable for something, anything regarding the matter.

"I appreciated your discreteness, how you handled the situation."

Jack pressed his hand farther into the recess of Lawrence back and turned them, so they were face-to-face.

"Doctor Iso-whatever should have never told you a word, but, well its done now," Jack huffed.

"I need you to take the reigns when it happens again. Just like you did before." Jack's eyes trailed all over Lawrence's face, he couldn't help but notice how they lingered over his jaw, over his lips.

"You did well to secure the Maliwan deal," he said encouragingly.

"What...about you?"

Jack gave a bark of laughter, "I'll find some hot nurse to tend to me, she'll be compensated enough to keep her mouth shut."

So, it appeared Nisha was backing out of the Jack babysitting gig for good. So much for 'in sickness and in health'.

Jack finally pulled away and paced over to his desk, he turned with another glass of amber liquid for both of them.

"I just need you around when it's at its worst," Jack cleared his throat and briefly tore his gaze away from Lawrence.

"So, are you able to do this for me 'other-me'," Jack leaned forward, eyes nothing but red orbs with the fire's reflection.

"Sure," Lawrence answered slowly.

"Perfect", Jack clapped his hand against the glass before he took a deep sip of his drink. Lawrence did the same.

"Now for your reward," he gave Lawrence another razor-sharp grin, the whites of his teeth flashed in the low light.

Lawrence did not want a reward.

"That's not necessary," Lawrence replied.

Jack gave Lawrence an endearing smile, "Oh, you're going to want this reward."

No, I don't. I really, really, don't.

Jack turned and beckoned for Lawrence to follow. They walked past the fountains in Jack's office over to the fireplace. Lawrence felt sweat tickly down his spine, and it wasn't from the heat.

Lawrence's eyes widened as he spied a mass of clothes on the floor. There was someone curled up, he hadn't noticed them, nor heard them as their arms were bound and he was clearly not all there. Jack finished his drink and threw the glass into the fire, causing sparks to fly, the sound of glass smashing made the man flinch. Jack kneeled down beside the man on the floor. He gave him a light slap to wake him up, the man stirred and groaned as he was pulled up onto his knees.

"The hell!" Lawrence explained, eyes wider than before.

It was another Jack.

"My second double!" Jack cheered, "isn't he gorgeous?"

Jack cupped the other-Jack's face and steered it towards Lawrence.

"Say hello, to other-Jack! or Jack 2.0, or whatever, gotta work out a system for naming you lot."

Lawrence cautiously took a step closer, the other jack looked like he had half a pint of blood drain from him. He was barely sitting up, hairline dripping with sweat, the edges of the metal clasps on his face were red and raw. He must have only just come out of post-op.

"Surgically altered, and with gene mods, just like you. Doesn't have the degree in computer engineering, so a bit useless in that department," Jack finished with a sigh.

Lawrence failed to shake away his initial shock as Jack gave him a discerning look.

"Don't worry, you'll always be my favourite Jack," he teased before he shoved the other Jack back to the ground.

Other Jack just groaned and curled away from them both.

"He's almost ready to go, but I'm sure you've noticed it by now. Something is missing."  

Something was indeed missing, the other-Jack wasn't wearing the mask, his face, smooth, handsome, not contorted with a giant vault symbol.

Jack picked himself up, he took a long stride over to the fireplace and picked up a pair of industrial oven-mittens with a heart pattern. He tossed them to Lawrence, who quickly adapted and caught them with his right hand. His drink was promptly cast aside just like Jacks.

"He's all yours," Jack gave Lawrence a warm smile.

Lawrence wasted no time and shoved his hands into the woven gloves. Shame didn't even claim him, he knew how the game worked now, do as Jack says, and everything will work out.

"This wasn't part of the deal," the other Jack cried, he was trying to sit up. His eyes darted between Lawrence and the real Jack. "You said it would be surgically added!"

"Stop the complaining," Lawrence drawled, "It's pathetic".

Lawrence felt a deep warm sensation swelling inside him, with the gloves firmly in place he stepped towards the fire.

"Please, please, god, no," other-Jack continued to plea behind him.

"We're the only gods here, pumpkin," Lawrence sneered as he positioned himself by the fire.

Jack snapped at the other doppelganger, maybe hit him too as he heard the sound of flesh on flesh. Lawrence pulled the iron bar from amongst the flames, it was heavy, true iron, he waved it back and forth to get a hold of its weight.

When he finally turned back around Jack was on the ground behind the new doppelganger, his hands pressed into the other man's face, holding his head still.

"I'm not gonna lie," Lawrence smiled, "this is gonna hurt, a lot."

It wasn't hard for Lawrence to get through the next part. No, it was surprisingly simple. He summoned every feeling of disgust, loathing and vengeance he had towards Jack. He threw the memories of being tortured, belittled, manipulated into the forefront of his mind. There was so much rage, he let it consume him as he drove the iron bar into the other-Jack's face.

Lawrence was able to bury his hatred for Jack into the other man's flesh. His screams melted away Lawrence's own pain, he made sure to hold the brand there long enough, so it would leave nothing but bone. Just like Jack had done to him.

When he pulled the brand away Lawrence was heaving, dripping with sweat, his heart raced. He tossed the brand across the marble floor, not caring where it laid.

His hands shook, he glanced at the screaming man on the floor, the agony in his voice, the way it trembled and begged to be saved. Lawrence's head began to spin, every element of Jack's office which had once consumed him with dread now emitted familiarity.

It was now his domain as it was Jack.

Jack was pleased, and Lawrence knew he passed another test. He wanted this moment of tranquillity to last, to hold on to it. Jack lifted himself up, away from the doppelganger and slowly stepped towards Lawrence. He rested a hand on his shoulder, his eyes bright with the fire.

"Nice work," he purred to Lawrence, his hand was still firm on his shoulder, and Lawrence lent forward into the touch.

They were inches apart, Jack's face was lit by the fire, while Lawrence's was cast in shadow.

The other doppelganger's screams drowned out whatever thoughts Lawrence was in. He pulled away, Jack groaned from the insufferable noise the man was making.

In a Jack-like manner, Lawrence flung his arm around Jack and pulled them together, so they were side by side.

"Please tell me I wasn't that pathetic looking," Lawrence sighed as he turned around to glance at the bleeding mess of a man on the floor.

Jack snorted, "not even close, you took it like a champ."

Jacks hand idly toyed at the hem at the back of Lawrence's shirt, he felt a finger glide below his belt, but Jack didn't move any further.

"Thank you, Jack," he smiled before he decided they both needed another drink.

And Lawrence concluded things were good.

Chapter Text

A soft whine left her pale lips, Angel hunched her shoulders inwards as she battled with the chilled air. Her body shook and her face scratched against the floor. Something was covering her, but it did nothing to prevent the bitter cold from drilling to her core. Grit scraped across her palms as she pressed herself against the ground.

“Hey, are you ok?” A woman's husky voice spoke above her.

Angel flung her eyes open, hesitantly she shifted upwards to find a round face gazing down at her.

“I think so,” Angel replied as she ran a hand down the back of her head. She traced her fingers over a bump that was certainly going to be a prominent feature on her scalp.

“Looks like you took one hell of a hit,” the stranger assessed.

The other woman offered her a hand, and Angel gingerly took it and together they pulled her up into a sitting position. Angel arched down onto her knees, head pressed between her legs as the shivers racked her body. Her clothes were still wet from her dive into the river. The rug that she discovered that had been covering her didn't do a lot to hold back the cold.

“Are you going to be ok?” the other woman questioned. Her voice was soft as her expression.

“I think so.”

Angel grasped her hands around her soaked clothes and tried to wring the water out. Her hair was as bad. After she was satisfied there wasn't any more water to drain away Angel began to assess her surrounding. She was leaning against a grime-encrusted brick wall, the room, or cell for a better word was empty, void of windows, a single jail door was the only detail worth noting.

The woman next to her - her cellmate - had jet black hair in a long braid, a few lilac streaks ran down her part. Angel found them strange, an odd highlight to the rest of her dark complexion. The woman offered her a warm smile and held out a copper hand.

“Name's Tania, although I wish it were under better circumstances,” the woman finished with a smirk.

Angel’s mind raced, was it safe to share her name? Should she provide an alias? Angel carefully offered her hand in return, only after she couldn’t find a reason not to.

“I’m Angel,” she took Tania's hand and gave it a brisk shake.

The woman - just like Lawrence - gave a soft chuckle at the awkward arm shake as Angel had given her, her left arm. Thinking of Lawrence Angel noticed Tania seemed to be the same age as him, her large amber eyes sunk into her checks and worry-lines ran across her face.

“Where are we?” Angel whispered, eyes wide as she scanned the cell again.

“That, I wished I knew, the last thing I remember I was scavenging out west in the Highlands, next thing I’m here.”

Tania offered her an apologetic shrug.

“What do they want with us?” Angel kept her voice low. Anybody could be listening in.

“Same thing all bandits want I suppose, loot? Information? Food."

Angel hoped that by food Tania didn’t mean the two of them.

“I’ve not seen any evidence that they’re eating people,” Tania replied seemly having read Angel's mind.

Angel chewed the inside of her cheek, Tania's words did nothing to quell her doubts. She leaned further into her corner, her damp hair clinging to the grime along the wall. Where was Lawrence? She remembered seeing him on the river shore, he'd called to her, told her to run. And then everything else after that was blank. Did he get away? Was a rescue mission on the way, would he even bother? His enthusiasm for her well being was minimal at best.

Angel played with the frayed hem of her jumper, eyes downcast in thought.

Maybe it would be easier for him to leave her here.  If anything she was a burden to him, just a consequence of the brash decision he made to flee the Bunker and Jack's influence.

“Were you on your own?” Tania queried.

Angel sat up, “no, I was with-" she paused to consider the AI's. In all likelihood, this Tania would not consider Felicity, Nyx, and Crake as human. “I was with one other, and my skag.”

Tania raised a brow, but didn’t press the matter, “right, was it your family or something?”

Again, Angel was pressed into a situation where she wasn’t sure of the answers.

“No,” she replied flatly.

“Friend?”

“I’m not sure.”

Tania snorted in reply, “yeah sounds about right, we all have ‘companions’ on this planet right? But how many of them are our actual friends?”

Tania's assessment of Pandora soon caused her to regret not labelling Lawrence as a friend. Sure, she’d only know him for two weeks, and he hadn’t proven himself as trustworthy, but under all those layers of hate, rage and Jack there was something there. She'd seen glimpses of it, the way he talked to Meatface when she wasn't looking. How he regarded the AI's as human and the quiet conversations he shared with Crake. Not to mention the effort he went to retrieve Felicity.

Maybe he did care. Perhaps he would come for her, yet Angel wasn't going to rely on that. She was a Siren, and nothing and no one could hold her captive again.

"How long have you been here?" Angel turned back to Tania.

"A few days."

Angel pushed herself up and advanced towards the iron door.

"There's no way out, don't think I've not tried everything," Tania called to her.

"There's always a way," Angel spoke softly, unaware that Tania did not hear her.

Angel reasoned her captors would've identified her like a Siren. However, they would be clueless to the extent of her powers.

"Don't freak out, " Angel turned and gave Tania a quick smile before she raised her hand and let her mind go calm.

She focused on the inner circuits inside the door, the tattoos on her arm shone through her jumper. Angel searched for something to read, to hack. Her mind reached the lock on the other side, it was written in Geo-crest; an old Dahl language. Yet, she needed to go further, see what laid beyond the door.  Her mind reached the central locking system, from here she could disarm the entire building. Although that would release other captives and amount to a whole host of obstacles.

Angel searched deeper and drew a sharp breath when she reached the core. They were on a ship.

“This is a Dahl ship, its old, very old. The code is in a language I’ve not seen in years," Angel spoke her thoughts aloud for Tania's benefit.

Angels eyes widen as she pressed on, she reached the mainframe, there were layers on encryptions to get through, but with time she could break it. The code may be old and unfamiliar to her, but she could learn it. There was no firewall she could not break.

“It’ll take me some time to hack it, I barely know this language let alone re-write it.” Angel pulled her arm away, the whites of her tattoos fading as her mind left the ship.

If only she had Felicity, she was an old Dahl AI. She could probably bring the entire ship into their control.

“How-How did you do that?” Tania's eyes were wide in wonder. The other woman began to stand and make her way over.

There wasn't much point hiding her 'talent' from her cellmate, Tania could see the whites of her tattoos through the tattered remains of her sweater. Angel pulled up her sleeve (or what was left of it) and revealed her tattoos.

"I'm a Siren"

Tania leapt forward, eyes impossibly wide now.

"That's incredible...so...you can hack anything on this ship? you could get us out of here?"

"Yes," Angel smiled, "but I do need time. I can't hack what I don't know. Give me an hour and this door will open."

Angel returned to the door, she needed to go deeper inside the ship, break down all its security protocols, know the layout, the rotation of the guards, and find an escape.

A minute had not passed before Tania began to press her for results.

"Have you unlocked the door?"

"Please, Tania, I need to concentrate, " Angel breathed out. Focusing her mind back into the ship's core.  

"Because we should really go now, the last guy they took from here...didn't come back."

Angel spun around.

"What are you saying?"

Tania bit her lip, her eyes focused on the door over Angel's shoulder. "We should really go now."

Angel eyed her cellmate, she could not place the expression on her face. Tania looked tense, jaw set tightly in place as if she were trying to hold a straight face, but her eyes you ablaze. Her fight or flight response ready to snap into action.

Angel sighed, she could open the door, and perhaps find another room that would give her better access to the mainframe; cutting down her hacking time. She skimmed her mind over the hall outside via the security cameras, at the end she discovered the security room. Down the hall, through a door on the left. She'd have better access to the mainframe from there. Angel entered the hallway camera and froze it, now it would display the same frame of an empty hall to whoever glanced at it.

"Ok, let's go," Angel huffed.

She pressed her hand to the door and turned off the locking mechanism, the door hissed as the pressure was released, soon after it slid open.

“Come on!” Angel called breathlessly over her shoulder.

She sprinted down the corridor, with a plan in motion wild confidence gave her speed. Her eyes scanned the cells next to her, the monitors by the doors revealed a few other prisoners, but none of them was Lawrence.

"Through here," she called softly to Tania, "that door there."

Angel raised her arm forward and shifted her mind into the security door, next she let herself harness all software in the room. There was guard beyond the door, she could not see him, but she could sense his shield was active. She pressed her mind into its software and released the shock device and relayed it back upon itself.

There was a sudden shriek, the smell of burnt flesh and muffled thud.

Angel brought her mind back to the door and opened it, as it slid open she spied the guard a crumpled mess on the floor. She could not ignore his coordinated attire, his uniform although singed and black was no doubt military. His gun even matched the rest of his gear. This was no bandit, though she didn't have time to ponder these things.

Angel discovered a series of lockers, each with a number corresponding to a cell, she found the one relating back to her. The tension boiling inside her subsided as she flung her hands around her echo-comm.

‘Felicity! ’ Angel called to the AI through the device. Yet her mouth did not utter a word.

‘Dear! Are you ok!? I saw the crash and feared the worst.’ The AI's voice passed through her mind.

‘Yes, I’m fine. However, I don’t know where Lawrence is, or Nyx and Crake. We’re being held in an old Dahl ship, think you can help?’

‘Find somewhere to plug your echo in, I might be able to insert a small viral version of myself into the system.’

‘That would mean part of you will always be trapped here.’

‘Perhaps, that’s if their security protocols don’t chew me up first.’

‘I can’t let you do this.’

‘You will, you saved me, you gave me a new home, you allowed me to be free. I will eternally be in your debt. This is the least I can do.’

‘I....Thank you, Felicity’

‘Ok, get me to an interface and plug me in. Let's see what this old girl can do.’

“Ah, are you ok? You’ve been holding that echo for some time?” Tania broke Angel away from her soundless conversation with the AI.

“We’re getting out of here,” Angel replied with a wide grin.

Something flashed in Tania's eyes, her jaw fidgeted against her teeth. The woman needed to regain her nerve if they were going to get out of this.

Angel placed her hand on the security control interface, her other hand rested on the echo. She reached out to Felicity, the AI approved and then she used herself as a conduit to transfer whatever Felicity had created. He arm lit up, and Angel felt the surge of data race through her mind. She could see Felicity’s personality, her structure, her being, it all flew past her and flowed into the Dalh system, and as it did Angel wiped the AI laws.

Creating an unshackled copy of Felicity. One no longer bound by the rules of its creator or those in the ship.

Angel's grin grew, she could do this! Next was to find the others. Yet, her moment of celebration was cut short. Something burned up her arm, she turned, her lip trembled as a heavy feeling washed over thoughts. Tania retracted her arm from Angel's shoulder, a needle in her hand.

Angel stumbled, her mind was closing down, her hands slipped from the echo and computer, taking Felicity from her.

"wh...at" Angel choked out.

"I'm sorry, darling, but didn't anyone tell you that trust doesn't exist on the border planets?" Tania's tone was no longer soft as it had been in the cell. She remained motionless and stood tall in the centre of the room. Several men, dressed like the one Angel had taken out surrounded her.

“She can manipulate software, removed all your gear, no echo-comms, no guns or shields that have an interface with software, analog only.” Tania barked at the armed men beside her. All wore a patch with the signal of two wolves and the moon, the exact design Crake had spotted in the Dust.

“you...” Angel tried to call her a word Lawrence would have used, but it never slipped out.

Her head fell into her arms, and she slumped to the floor.

“Get someone to search the system see if she did any damage. I want to know what she did."

Angel's mind was descending into darkness, her thoughts blurred as she tried to focus on her echo-comm. The last thing she heard was Tania's booming voice.

“Put her back in the cell and lock it with iron.”


Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Angel didn't experience rage like Jack, or Lawrence, but that didn't mean she couldn't become livid.

She kicked her cot at her own foolishness.

She trusted that woman, Tania. Angel seethed as she thought of the woman's face and called her a word that would make Lawrence laugh and Jack order discipline.

That was her chance! And she failed. Angel fell onto the cot, her knees pressed to her chest. Her default position when things were going wrong. There was nothing in her new cell, no cybernetics, no software, no wireless, nothing. There was no way for her to reach the outside world.

Angel frantically wished she could clutch onto the confidence and certainty she had when she'd fled her cell. She swore she'd never become a prisoner again, and yet, here she was. Angel needed that resolution back, to plan out her second escape, but all she felt was helplessness. Her shoulders caved in, and her head rested on her knees, Angel wished Lawrence or the AI's were by her side and her second wish was that she had referred to them as her friends. Even Meatface's slobbering company would help.

She swallowed the knot of tension in her throat, had the skag jumped off the trailer of the truck? Or did she sink to the bottom of the river?

Just like Jack's first pet , Angel cried at the thought.

She'd been doing so well, letting her anger keep the tears at bay. Now she just slowly rocked on the cot, a shivering cold mess, all her courage gone.

Only a knock on her cell door stopped her tears. Angel glared at the exit, not bothering to reply or call out. She remained on the cot as the person on the other side worked the keys into the lock. Real iron keys, in an actual lock, that was a rare circumstance.

The door swung open, and Angel made no attempt to move. She'd been a fool earlier, acting before she was ready, she wasn't going to make that mistake again.

"Stay," A voice thundered through the door soon followed by its owner; a burly man with dark eyes entered.

Angel chewed her tongue, fighting back to the urge to snap at him. She wasn't a dog, an animal to be kept locked up. She kept her eyes focused on the man as he shoved a plate, or what she suspected was food onto the table. He leaned back out the door and pushed in a small trolly, it was covered in books, and what looked like a pile of clothes. He pushed it into the corner of the room.

"Food, clothes, and something to keep you occupied."

Then he left, slamming the heavy door behind him.

Angel eyed the meal suspiciously and reasoned it looked far more appetising than what Lawrence had cooked her. Despite everything, she had to compliment Jack's cooking. Back when he was John the two of them spent hours in the kitchen together. Angel had hoped Lawrence picked up that skillset from Jack, however, after her first bite she concluded he had not. She'd only eaten burnt chilli pasta for the last couple of cycles.

Angel ignored the meal and the clothes they had provided. Instead, she picked up a book, wrapped the blanket around her tighter and curled up to read.


There were no devices for Angel to gather time, but based on the meals she could assume two and a half cycles had passed. From the growls in her stomach, Angel knew her lunch would be arriving soon. She only skipped the first meal, after seeing no point other than stubbornness to not eating she grudgingly ate down the rest. Lawrence seemed like the kind of man who would refuse. Angel released a bitter sigh, the not knowing was eating away at her. Where was he? Was he ok?

Angel glanced over at her empty tray from breakfast. The food was surprisingly satisfying, not the quality expected of bandits. And that was Angel's next pressing question, were they actually bandits? They were in an old Dhal ship, had access to books, food, and dressed in military gear and were well armed. They were organised no less, maybe they were bounty hunters? Or perhaps a newly developing city like Sanctuary?

Angel hoped it was the latter.

The knock on the door came as expected. Angel shifted away keeping herself firmly tucked under the covers.

"Boss want's to see you" her captor grunted out.

Angel pulled down the blanket and sat upright, the man held the door open. She could only stare at him and at the open door dumbfounded.

"Come on then," he yanked his head to the side, indicating for her to get up and move through the door.

Angel gingerly stepped to the ground, she grabbed the combat boots they had provided her and shoved her feet in. They were too big and felt like heavy weights on her feet. She straightened out her jacket - also military and too big - before she pushed her head high and passed under the man.  

The hallways outside was dark, all the walls had been stripped clean. Angel spied where a camera had once sat and a spot on the wall where a screen had been ripped down. The exposed wires were all that remained. Whoever held her captive had gone to a lot of effort to strip anything that could operate software.

She took her first step into the baren hallway, the moment she was over the threshold something cold and hard was pressed into the back of her neck.

"I'm to shoot you if you do any magic."

Angel didn't reply, she froze. The barrel of the gun sent ripples of panic down her spine.

"Answer me, so I know you understand," he growled into her ear. His breath was hot on her neck, and she flinched as he stepped closer to her.

"Yes, I understand" Angel squeezed out.

"Good," and he pressed the gun down to urge her forward.

Angel was lead into the corridor, the cold tip of the rifle never leaving her head. She didn't dare sway from the path in front of her, yet she so desperately wanted to spy on her surroundings. Fear was a great motivator to stay compliant. Angel could at least study the hallway walls in front of her. It was definitely Dahl made, she recognised the architecture, barren and bleak; fit for shipping hoards of military personnel across the galaxy.

Her keeper led Angel down another hall, then another, every door was locked by a digital interface. The last entrance revealed a large room, rows of long benches ran the length and at the end was a station for serving food. Most of the seats were vacant, so it didn't take long for Angel to spy Tania. She was sitting alone, at the centre of the room. A tray of food was waiting in front of her, and opposite her was an empty place with a meal.

"Go to her."

A rough hand shoved Angel forward.

"You try anything, I'll be ready."

Angel spared a glance over her shoulder, her captor did not sheath his gun away. His dark eyes were fixed on her as she turned back around.

Angel needed that courage again, and she found it when she let her rage take over. She marched down the row of benches towards Tania. If that was even her real name.

"Afternoon, I've pre-"

Angel cut Tania's words off, "you..." she seethed. "I trusted you. You-you liar!"

"I'm sorry I deceived you," Tania replied flatly, her large eyes focused on Angel's. It was unnerving how composed the older woman was.

"Why did you do it?"

"Please, Angel, sit." Tania offered a hand forward and gestured to the empty bench.

"No, I'm fine, thank you."

Angel bit her tongue, she had not wanted to be so polite. Yet, Jack had made sure she was courteous, even to those who would keep her captive. Tania just shrugged at her defiance and began to indulge in the meal in front of her. It wasn't long before Angel's stomach cried out to her to follow suit. And with a vicious sense of regret, she sat down.

Tania placed her fork to the side. "I lied because I needed to know what your powers were."

"Didn't think to ask? I hear that's all the rage." Angel spat, sounding more like Lawrence than she intended.

"Would you have honestly told me the truth?"

Angel didn't reply. Her answer as plain as the fury on her face. The questions which had been festering in her mind came forth, Angel soon forgot about her hunger.

“Who are you?”

“I did not lie about my name, I am Tania Adrestia, and this is my operation.”

“But...what is it?” The bite in Angel's words was leaving faster than she intended.

“We’re a Maliwan funded, Atlas trained operative. We-”

Angel was fast to interject, “Atlas is gone. Handsome Jack acquired it years ago.”

Tania leaned back, her lips twitched and wild glare burned across her eyes, yet she said nothing about the interruption.

“Yes, the company may be gone, but not its people or its resources here on Pandora. We have all kinds working together here, Dahl, Atlas and even Hyperion.”

Angel frowned at the last name mention.

Tania opened her mouth, the first few words slipped out, something about their directive, but Angel cut her off once again.

"What do you want with me?"

Tania straightened up, "we've been trying to decide that for the last two cycles. Do you know what the current bounty for a Siren is?"

"$732,500,000,000," Angel replied without even blinking.

The surprised look on Tania's face was mildly satisfying. Angel was good with numbers, good at remembering details too. Like Tania's face, the layout of the ship, the code she saw in the ship's mainframe.

"If I'm so valued why did you push us into the river," Angel strived to bring her voice back to a colder tone. This Tania could not befriend her with false courtesies and hot meals. No matter how good they were compared to Lawrence's cooking.

"Your driver did that." Tania's words were taught. Her composure was slipping, Angel could see it. She'd spent years predicting when Jack would snap, and the squall would consume the room.

"The truck we sent down the hill was to block your path, pushing you off the cliff was unintentional."

Angel didn't break her gaze, she didn't buy that for a moment. Any Scav with half a brain could work out the faults in that plan.

Tania's character slowly changed, the authoritative tone slipped away as she eyed Angel. "I must give credit where it is due. Clever work putting the Dalh AI into our system."

"What did you do with Felicity?" Angel's voice was but a hushed whisper. Her hands dug into her pants under the table.

"It put up a fight, but my men have disarmed it. It's gone."

Angel clenched her teeth, it was only a small copy of Felicity, but her chest itched with rage. She'd offered her life for Angel, she would not forget this.

Tania drove her knife against the meat on her tray, battling to cut away the lean flesh from the bone. Angel was still yet to touch her meal. She did not wait for Tania to get a mouthful, not until she had her answers.

“Where is Lawrence?”

Tania gave her a baffled look.

"The driver of the truck," Angel reiterated her question, leaning further into the bench.

“There was no other retrieved from the wreckage."

"Your lying."

"No, I'm not." Tania deadpanned. She dropped the knife to the side, letting it fall with a clang against the metal bench. "I don't like lying, and I didn't like doing it in that cell."

Angel scoffed and leaned towards her. "Where is he."

Tania's lips pressed together, as she moved the tray aside and rested her arms on the bench.

"My men did spot a scarred man fleeing near the river mouth. He took out one of our convoys. The men who survived the attack had a strange tale to report. Said, he resembled Handsome Jack."

Angels heart stirred, her hands sporadically grasped at her sleeves under the table.

"Was this your travelling companion?”

“Yes,” Angel avoided Tania's gaze, her words like a dart to her lungs.

“I’m sorry to say, my men tracked him to Hollow Point. We could not bring him back.”

Angel bit down hard on her tongue to stop herself from saying anything else. Tania's words were water to her burning rage. No longer did Angel feel like interrogating the woman for more answers. She cast her eyes downward and study the hems of her new jacket, already the edges were becoming worn with her fidgeting.

Tania sighed, "before we get back to this meal, as its surely getting cold. I do have some good news."

Angel jolted her gaze away from her lap.

"We found your skag," Tania's lips drew up into a thin-lipped smile. "Or to say, she found us. She's been following my men everywhere, they've become quite fond of her. We can bring her to you if that would help make your stay more comfortable."

Angel slowly nodded. She tried not to let her face reveal her eagerness.

"How...long will you keep me?"

"Until we work out what to do with you. Until then, I'm sorry to say you are our prisoner, although I've given my men strict orders not to treat you as such."

Angel didn't know what to say, she had been so determined to give this woman a piece of her mind. But this place, her stare, the guards by the door, everything drained her of those aspirations. Angel slowly picked up her fork and began to poke at the roasted vegetables on the tray.

"You are a gifted woman, Angel. In time, I'm sure you will go on to do great things.

Angel had heard it all before. Jack would whisper sweet promises and words of encouragement all while pumping her full or Eridium and chaining her to the chair.

Angel smiled encouraging, beguiling her disgust towards the woman in front of her.

Tania returned to her meal, and there they sat silently, both enduring each other's company.


Another four cycles passed and Angel's situation had not changed, except the occasional visit from MeatFace. The skag was permitted in her cell after lunch until dinner, then she'd be whisked away to who knew where

Angel was thankful to be able to see her, yet she knew it was only a ploy to gain her trust. Tania was like Jack in many ways, and Angel's plan to escape did not leave her mind for a moment.

She read the books they provided, another novelty to her key locked door. Angel never imagined books could exist on Pandora, she assumed any that found their way to a border planet would be burnt for fuel. Most of Angel's reading choice was of Dahl issued manuals. Some for dealing with local wildlife (mostly on Elpis), a few others covered the inner workings of their latest prototypes (from fifteen years ago).

"Hey!" a booming voice broke her concentration.

Angel pulled her head away from the printed words. The burly man who delivered her food was back, except this time without the food.

"Boss wants to see you. You know the drill, no funny business with your arm."

Angel nodded and complied.

They were walking a new path this time, Angel kept her eyes ahead, all while mentally mapping out the ship's layout. Her mind was like a server, locking away tiny details for her to retrieve for later. Her own particular Siren secret they could never discover.

“Where are you taking me?” Angel's voice bounced off the deserted hallway walls.

A soft snicker from behind her was the only response she got.

Angel felt the serpent of dread slither in her once again. Uncoiling and consuming her with doubt, yet she kept her eyes ahead.

"The boss knows what to do with you now," her captor's words were disconcerting, Angel's left hand twitched at her side. However there was nothing for her to harness, the gun on the back of her head was ancient. All mechanics and gunpowder.

Angel passed through another doorway, all while mentally locking that detail aside for later. A gush of air ran up her back, the door had hissed shut behind her with such force it caused her jacket to blow upwards. There was a sickening wet noise which made Angel's stomach turn against itself. She could not decipher the sound until she turned around and faced the door behind her.

Her captor, the man who had been trailing after her, was gone. The door was closed tight, and all that remained was a severed body, blood sprayed up the walls and Angel felt it dripped down her back and along her calves. The man's arm was stretched out still twitching with the gun discarded on the floor.

Angel flung away from the sight and threw up her breakfast. Rakk eggs ran through the grated flooring as Angel hurled up everything she could. Her feet were covered in blood, and her hands shook uncontrollably in front of her.

How?

Angel's mind raced with the possibilities. The man was dead, the door had cut him in half, there was no warning, nothing. The moment she was safely on the other side it had disarmed and slammed back on him.

Angel didn't dare look back, the smell was already putrid, and she dried heaved again.

A voice broke her nausea, Angel wearily looked up as a message boomed through the speakers above her.

Terrified screams came from the comm, but one voice spoke above the chaos. “TURN EVERYTHING OFF! Cut the power, pull the hardware from the walls if you have too! If you're hearing this, disarm the ship now!”

Angel could only stare ahead at the empty hallway, mouth slightly agape as she sought to plan her next course of action. This was her chance to flee, to hell with plans (Angel smiled at the mild use of cussing), she was going to wing it and get out of here. That's what Lawrence would do.

Angel pulled herself up, her world span for a bit, dizzy from losing all her breakfast. But it only lasted a moment, soon she was sprinting down the hall. She took the first corner at a run and found herself face to face with a horde of men with their guns raised.

Angel moved her arms up slowly, stepping away from weapons aimed at her head.

"You! This is you're doing! GET HER-"

They only managed a few steps forward before the sprinkler system descended and activated above them. Covering the men in a smothering foam, they yelped and took a step back through the doorway.

Angel watched in horror as the fire door above them slammed down guillotining three of them and leaving the rest on the other side. Angel flung a hand to her chest as she tried to heave in air. The men's blood had sprayed across her front and dripped from her chin.

One man was still alive his screams drowned out her panic breathing as he clutched at his severed legs. Angel stepped back, head swaying side to side as she tried to comprehend the sight in front of her. The doors had taken another life, and once again sparing hers.

Angel turned and sprinted down the hallway, she took another corner, trailing a new path. Every time someone identified her the doors would slam shut separating her from her pursuers. Another guard met a gruesome fate in an airlock as the pressure was changed, his brains painted the small glass portal. A second was electrocuted as he tried to disarm a door, crying frantically as he tried to escape.

Panic drowned the atmosphere, her captors started to ignore her, some even fled when they caught sight of her tattoos.

Angel found her way back to the security room where Tania had revealed her true position of power. She flung open the locker and grabbed her echo-comm and gear chip. She went to place her hand on the echo, to seek out Felicity. That's when a soft "oh" slipped out between her trembling lips.

The viral Felicity.

Angel raced over to the computer where she'd inserted the copy of the Dahl war AI.

'Felicity?'

'PRESENT'

'Oh thank goodness! I thought they destroyed you! they told me you were gone.'

'NO AI LAWS - CANNOT BE DESTROYED - FIGHT BACK - ALWAYS FIGHT BACK.'

Angel smiled, Felicity had all the power she could harness to disarm any attack Tania's men had thrown at her.

'WAS BROKEN - REBUILT - SAVE ANGEL'

Angel's Echo called out to her, "Angel!"

It was the other Felicity, the original.

"Did it work? Is my copy in the ship's system?" the AI spoke with a feverish wonder.

Angel picked up her echo so the AI could see her, "‘I think so, the whole ship is going crazy, Tania's men had tried to take her out, but she fought back. Thank you, Felicity" Angel paused, "both of you!" She hoped the Felicity in the ship's core could hear her.

"You've given me my chance to escape."

"Let's just hope other-me doesn't get carried away," Felicity warned from the echo-comm.

"ah, "Angel stammered, unsure how to respond.

"Oh, my goodness! You're covered in blood!"

Angel offered the AI a sheepish smile.

"You're other self may have guillotined a man, well a few men actually, in front of me."

Felicity did not let up her authoritative tone, "Well, as long as she gets the job done. Now off you go! flee this place!"

"Right! I can do this!" Angel cheered softly, already unphased by the amount of blood drenching her once khaki clothes.

Angel pulled her sleeve up, revealing the white of her tattoos as she let her mind dive into the ship's core.

As Lawrence would put it, 'time to leave this skag-shit-show.'

Chapter Text

For the second time in a week, he awoke to pain, confusion and disgust.

The air stood thick with stale mildew, he was sure if he took in a deep breath he’d choke. Lawrence struggled against the cuffs that had him bound to an iron cast chair, glancing down he could see it was bolted to the floor. His ankles were also tied, whoever had him had made sure escape wasn’t an easy option, but not impossible.

“Morning handsome,” a disembodied voice snapped at him.

Lawrence blinked, aiming to sharpen his vision. His headache was dulling all his senses. It took a while, but he eventually recognised the owner of the voice as the man who had taken him out in the river. He was a pretentious looking arsehole, hair slicked back, moustache styled. His features angular but not recognisable to Lawrence, nor was his uniform. It looked military, perhaps a bounty hunter? Or ex-Dahl.  

Yet, he had one distinguishing feature, which Lawrence could not forget. The man's neck rolled in on itself, it was revolting, and he found he couldn’t look away.

"I said, morning Handsome, it's impolite not to reply," his captor grunted again.

Lawrence rolled his eyes and in return a stubby finger found its way into his ribcage, but he didn't flinch. It was more satisfying to watch his captor try and poke the bear and yield no results. Lawrence noted how easy it was for him to slip Handsome Jack on. It was his defence, his wall to block out everything else.

“I'm sorry," he feigned a sigh. "I couldn't return the warm welcoming," Lawrence pulled a face and attempted to shrug his shoulders within his bounds.

The bandit - who Lawrence had decided to call Pig-neck only stared back at him. Mildly intrigued, yet, cautious of his fatuous tone.

"See, I would be lying, if I said 'morning Handsome' back to you," Lawrence chuckled wholeheartedly, "because you buddy, are far from that. And lying is rude, and I'm not a rude person."

That earned him a smack across the face.

Lawrence didn't let his grin fade, it was a light hit; actually, it was pretty pathetic. So, he decided to continue on with his verbal drabble of abuse.

"Your neck looks like burnt pig carcase, lemme guess. You leave it out in the sun or something, or-"

This time it was a gun to the face, and that blow did hurt.

"Pleasantries are over, time to get you ready." Pig-neck gave a gleeful grunt, much akin to the animal he’d been named after.

Here we go , Lawrence lamented.

Pig-neck drew his blade and advanced towards him. Lawrence waited patiently and obediently for the bandit to enter his space. He focused on his steps as he edged closer until he was in the perfect spot. He slammed his head forward, crunching the bridge of Pig-Neck’s nose, just as Jack had taught him. A cruel smile was drawn on Lawrence's face as blood wept from the man’s broken nose. That small act of defiance earned him the butt of a gun to his face, it landed in his left eye socket. His vision went static as the cybernetic eye stabilised itself. Lawrence hissed through gritted teeth, yet, the smile stayed smug on his face.

Pig-neck was not pleased, he hissed and heaved as blood and snot blew out his face.

"You ok there buddy? You got...you got a bit of red on you," Lawrence jerked his hands in the cuffs to point to the blood on his captor's chest, "just there."

"Listen here you little shit," Pig-neck grabbed him by the collar and lunged Lawrence as far forward as the binds would allow. "This power-play of yours isn't gonna last," he spat.

With that, Pig-Neck levelled his blade to Lawrence's neck, pressing just hard enough for beads of blood to dangle from the edge. Without enough pressure to slit him wide open, Pig-Neck slid the blade down Lawrence chest and navel, shredding his shirt in two. His grime-stained hands yanked at the clothing and tore it clean off.

“You like undressing men?” Lawrence cooed.

“For you? I sure do,” as Pig-neck tossed the remains of his jacket to the floor.

Lawrence pouted, he liked that jacket. It was custom made, Jack had it made for him.

"Boss has ordered something special for you, something rare."

A lump started to form in Lawrence's throat, as Pig-Neck slashed away at his pants, but with great subtly he swallowed it down. The bandit gave him sickeningly sweet smile and took a step back to admire his work. Lawrence remained chained to the chair, he cocked his head to the side, not at all ashamed to bare all. Pig-Neck’s eyes trailed over Lawrence's naked body, he was littered with scars each one a mark against Jack’s life.    

“Did you enjoy your line of work?” Pig-Neck mocked.

“Well I got to look like this,” Lawrence swivelled his wrists in the cuffs to gesture to his toned abdomen and slowly downwards. “Can’t say the same for you.”

That earned him another gun to the face.

Pig-neck kicked a tin bucket under the chair he was sitting on.

"Oh, good. I was going to as where the bathroom was."

Pig-neck broke, he opened his mouth to screech something fierce at him, which only provoked Lawrence to grin stupidly.

"Enough!" A sharp voice pierced behind the bandit.

A short woman - almost comically short - with thick black hair strode towards him. There was a purple streak down the centre of her hair that looked out of place with her combat uniform. Lawrence's eyes narrowed as he studied her attire, it matched Pig-necks. Which was discouraging, an organised group of bandits was not to be dallied with. Yet, Lawrence didn't let his guard drop.

“Are you who I need to thank for this delightful interaction, honestly Pig-neck, is it ok if I call you that? Of course, it is. Well, we’ve been having been having quite the conversation, we were-”

She cut him off, her voice was a sharp as the teeth she bared. “What’s Handsome Jack's doppelganger doing all the way out here with a Siren no less?”

“Doppelganger?” Lawrence raised his brows innocently. “You’ve got your Jack's crossed, lady.”

“I think not.”

She drew a gloved hand and yanked up Lawrence's chin, so his throat was bare for all to see. Her large sunken eyes trailed over the scar above his collarbone before they flashed up to meet his.

“Hello, Timothy.”

That shut him up.

“I wasn’t a very reliable shot back then, but that’s definitely my handiwork.”

Lawrence's lip twitch, he mentally cursed his lack of control. Jack hated that scar, he'd tried to laser it off, but nothing they did removed the mark. They couldn't fathom what the shooter had done to the bullet which had seared into his skin so efficiently. They could only conclude it was a high-grade secret military prototype.

“Sorry, you didn’t get the real deal. Must have been disappointing, to hit the wrong guy and to have such piss-poor aim,” he drawled.

She tsked at him and shook her head, "no matter, you’re both on my naughty list, and you're here now.”

“And what earned me a spot on that special list?”

“Murder.”

Lawrence huffed with indignation, “murder is kinda my thing. You’re going to have to be more specific.”

“Many of my men would like a lot of personal time with you.”

Lawrence grin the same maniac expression Jack wore so well, "Pig-neck and I have already had quality time together, thanks."

The unnamed woman dug her blunt nails into his chin, "you've murdered the young and the innocent. Time to meet your charge."

“Seriously what is this? the vague awards?”

“Your wounded collarbone was the only thing to tell you Hyperion waste apart,” her voice dropped to a whisper, as her eyes continued to linger over his exposed neck.

Something stirred in Lawrence, his eyes fell downcast as he considered her words again. No one knew about the wounded collarbone, but Jack, their Doctor, and Nisha.

And...Vallory. The decrypt bandit queen who had failed to take Jack and him out on one of their vacations. She knew, and to this day they never knew how. Lawrence had thrown Nisha under the bus for that revelation, and Jack ate it up.

“You're the one who hired Vallory,” Lawrence deadpanned to his captors.

“Yes,” she replied with a thin-lipped smile.

Lawrence laughed “how many times have you tried to kill me? You’re not doing a very good job.”

Lawrence honestly didn't believe it would be possible to break the composed woman so quickly. No doubt he was wrong. He nails dug into his cheeks and slashed away at the skin.

"Tania!" Pig-neck interviewed.

"Oh, so we have a name," Lawrence smiled victoriously.

She let him go and leaned back up, not that it mattered. She was an unusually small woman for someone who intended to radiate strength and dominance.

“Give him an Atlas Hello to go. Find me when he's ready,” she swung on her heel to leave. "And make sure the drip line is secure, I do not want a repeat of last time."


Lawrence twisted his neck to the side as if to spill fragmented thoughts out of his head. Wincing, he pried his eyes open, it took a long bitter time to adjust to the light. Everything appeared unnaturally bright, fractured. He stifled a groan something wasn't right, his body felt numb. His joints seemed to hiss under his skin as if too much energy was passing over them. A dull pain was being held back, like the quiet throb before a migraine would claim you.

Every part of him felt heavy and restless, yet, unwilling to move for him. When his eyes eventually stayed open, he was met with the harsh disappointment of finding himself in the same room. Sitting on a metal chair, with no base, a bucket under him no less, bolted to the floor, in a cold cell with shitting ventilation.

Except…

He was free.

His arms and legs were no longer bound.

Lawrence took a moment to study every corner and crack in the room, he craned his neck to the side and attempted to spy what laid behind him. A drip line was running up from his back, where they had shoved it in he did not know, his skin felt non-existent. No doubt that had given him some concoction to render his mind and body numb. Lawrence remained still, trying to consider ever sick objective his captives were planning.

Why would they release his restraints?

This had to be a game. He sat there for a whole ten minutes weighing the pros and cons or getting up and just leaving.  Eventually, when the disturbing medication numbing his brain wore off, he decided he would attempt the escape they were tempting him with. Lawrence pressed his hands into the arms of the chair and leaned forward with the intent of standing.

That's all it took, that little adjustment in his posture, that tiny bit of movement sent him into a realm of agony that he had never felt the likes of.

He screamed the kind of panic dread-inducing scream a beast would make at the abattoir.

Something wasn’t right.

They had done something to his body, and it was tearing him apart from the inside. Tears flushed down his face, and pathetic long sob left him. His lungs strain from the torture tearing up his abdomen. He couldn’t move an inch without excruciating pain twisting in his gut. They had 'granted' his freedom, removed his restraints, but the effort to just lift his arm, press his leg up or lean his stomach forward sent the most violent rhythms of pain over him.

He leaned back upright, glancing behind at the drip he could see its contents were empty. Whatever pain meds they had given him were wearing off, and with every passing moment the reality of the situation was eating him up. He chanced a look at his stomach, there was a prominent scar across his abdomen, whatever had transpired had torn him from hip to hip. An array of staples had been pressed into his skin to stop the gash from splitting open.

Lawrence turned his arms over, he threw his head back against the chair and roared in anguish from the slight adjustment in his pose, but he had to see. The same scars ran up his biceps, and he suspected if he lifted his legs up he'd see the same on his calf. But the dread of the pain held him back.

What the fuck had they done to him.

"It's called an Atlas Hello," A gentle disembodied voice drifted through his pain. Lawrence strained his head up, Tania was in the doorway.

Lawrence offered her a vile curse in reply.

Her eyes flashed something dangerous, just like Jack, she was not one to appreciate his use of words.

She stepped aside and Pig-neck, pushed in a small surgical trolley. If not for the pain Lawrence would have rolled his eyes. No doubt the cart would be covered in vicious utensils all designed to give him tortuous pain.

How fucking vanilla.

Carefully keeping his body still he strived his head up to see what laid on the surgical table. Various syringes of different colours were spread across it, Lawrence recognised three out of the four.

The ones he recognised were all Ashin issued health-kits. Red for general tissue repair, a standardly issued health-kit. Orange for organ damage, must be administered to a specific organ to be effective and teal for blood cell replenishment.

The last syringe had a clear liquid with no packaging, giving no clue as to what it contained.

"If you don't move then none of these will need to be put to use," Tania indicated to the array of health-kits next to her. There was enough there to fuel an entire medical ward.

Tania bore that same thin-lipped smile from when they first met, Lawrence's eyes narrowed as he scanned the room once again. He couldn't recall much after that, everything was black until now.

"And if you escape. Well, then let's say that the 'Atlas Goodbye'. Leave this place, and you're free to go. If you can." She finished with a swift sneer.

Lawrence ignored her patronising words about escapes and Atlas hellos or whatever. Tania dismissed Pig-neck and proceeded to pick up the needle with the clear liquid.

"And that one," Lawrence growled, eyes focused on the transparent substance in the syringe.

"I had this delivered just for you."

"It's been a while since a woman has ordered me anything. I usually prefer an old fashioned, scotch, thanks."

Tania did not appreciate his wit and only replied with a forced smile.

"You have a sly tongue, let's put it to better use."

Lawrence snorted at her feeble attempts of intimidation. He had years of interrogation training at the hands of Wilhelm and Jack, he knew the drill. Tania's jaw twitched, she turned on her heel and paced to his side where a second drip line parted from the main one.

"Where is Angel? The girl travelling with me?"

She didn't reply.

"She's here. I know it, let me speak with her, and I'll exchange a few notes with you."

Tania only greeted him with a wide-eyed snarl as her calloused fingers carefully pushed down the plunger. Almost half of the clear liquid was forced into the drip line.  Lawrence kept his jaw clenched tight, he prepared himself for the assault of pain or deliriousness the substance was no doubt going to induce on him, but it never came.

"The girl, Angel, she...she has," Lawrence slurred.

He shook his head lightly as a warm buzz ran up his spine, no doubt that was where the injection site was. He felt a warm, thick sensation trickle over his mind, it soothed his senses, he could practically taste something warm and sweet.

"She has nothing...to do..." the words were barely slipping out now.  It was increasingly painful for Lawrence to keep his thoughts coherent.

His breathing became slow and smooth. When he filled his lungs, everything swayed. His head fell forward, and his eyelids started to drift shut. He still felt a dull ache of pain over his body, but somehow it didn't bother him anymore.

“Angel...she...nothing,” but Lawrence lost his thoughts, the words died in his mouth.

Tania cupped the side of his head and pulled him back upright, her touch was so welcome. Lawrence found himself almost kneading his head into her fingers.

“What is your name,” she purred to him, her lips seemed to move slower than the words escaping her, Lawrence couldn't take his eyes off her.

Handsome Jack.

“Timothy...Lawrence,” he mumbled back.

No, that's not right. Lawrence groaned and tried to pull away from the gentle hands which held him.

“Good,” she gave him a warm smile, and Lawrence resisted the urge to respond with a smile of his own. He wanted to keep that smile on her face. If he answered her questions it would stay, he was sure of it.

Everything felt so right, Lawrence felt his head lulling to the side again.

“Come back here,” she cooed and steered his face towards hers.

Lawrence only noticed now she was sitting on a small stool, the height adjusted, so they were level. Her hands were so soft and warm. Lawrence felt the weight of his head lean into her.

What have you…

“Done to me…” he rasped.

He clenched his eyes and tried to pull away again. He needed to shake off whatever hold she had on him.

"Let's try another, shall we?" her words seemed to repeat over in his mind, like she spoke atop of a cliff, echoing down on him.

He did not like this, something was wrong it was scratching inside of him, begging him not to talk and then another feeling, warm, and fluttering was drifting him to a quiet place, where his words would be welcomed. Lawrence winced as he shifted his weight uncomfortably, reminded of the pain that would ensue if he moved.

“Who is the Siren?”

Lawrence bit his tongue so hard he could taste iron and feel a bitter sting.

Her nails dug into his cheeks, “Timothy, tell me who the Siren is.”

Leave he out of this , he tried to say.

“She’s Handsome Jack’s daughter.”

Lawrence raised an arm to push her away, already forgetting the pain which would result from his struggle. He let out an animalistic hiss and banged his head back into the chair, teeth held tight. Something sliced and tugged inside his arm, Lawrence wanted to lunge forward, curl up and let the pain wash away. But somehow he knew, the strain would be far graver if he pulled on the muscles in his abdomen. He hissed curse after curse as he struggled to fight off the pain, slashing inside his arm.

“Daughter, you say? And what is the going rate for Siren daughters belonging to the most powerful CEO on this side of the galaxy, I wonder?”

The pain brought him his moment of clarity, the dream shattered.

“She doesn’t belong to Jack,” Lawrence growled.

“Oh I see...so she’s yours ?" Tania replied with a patronising noise.  

"Fuck you, cunt," he spat a mouthful of blood her way.

"THAT!" Tania drew a sharp breath, letting it hiss as it glided over her teeth. "Was very rude, Timothy."

She wiped his blood from her pants as she stood to move. Tania made for the small surgical stand in the corner and retrieved the syringe with the clear liquid again.

“No,” Lawrence pressed, "no, no...more"

He couldn't take any more of this. The battle in his mind was crushing him. She ignored his words and shoved the needled into his drip line and empty the entire vial. Lawrence stiffened as he felt the flush of warmth run up his back, he tried to reason with himself, not to fall under its disguise of safety and bliss.

No more.

“Stop...”

He tried to lean back in the chair to catch her eye, but she was too far behind him. The glowing fever worked over him, dripping down his shoulders and across his body. Eventually, she sat back down, and her amber eyes settled on his once again. His own felt heavy, and he struggled to keep them open. He so desperately wanted to stay awake, keep her happy and talk to her.

“Sit up,” her hands snagged him by the chin and lifted his head forward.

No. This isn't right.

Lawrence tried to spit on her again, yet, it resulted in only a dribble of blood from his agape mouth. She gave him a sly smile and pulled the chair up closer.

“How was Handsome Jack using the Siren?”

Lawrence clenched his hands tight, the pain shot up his arm like wildfire, tearing at his ligaments. He desperately tried to focus on the pain and nothing else, she repeated the question again, this time Lawrence couldn't stop himself.

“Echo-net...she spied, she sees everything...mind travels through software.” Before Lawrence could counteract it he told Tania Angel's dangerous secret, "she was charging the vault key.”

Her eyes widen, and she nodded, pleased with his answer.

“No…” Lawrence whimpered, “no, no, no.”

He didn’t want to say that. They couldn’t know that. Fuck .

“What else Timothy,” Tania pressed him gently.

Fuck you.

Lawrence pressed his back as far as it could into the chair. He wasn’t going to answer, yet he did.

“Used Eridium on her.”

No. Stop talking.

Lawrence raised his arm, to pull her off him. The pain was violent, and all he managed was to gently brush her arm.

“No…Fuck…I’m not telling you.”

“You will,” she smiled. "Tell me more about how Handsome Jack charged the vault key.”

Lawrence's breathing became short rasps as he tried to focus on what to say, no matter how much he willed himself to tell her to fuck off only her desired answers left his mouth.

“Injected it into her, Eridium...there was...a collar...at the Bunker.”

“Good. Thank you, you're doing so well.” Tania ran her hands down the side of his face, her fingers tracing soft circles on his cheeks.

“Now tell me, where is this Bunker? What is its purpose?

“No...” Lawrence heaved a rasped whisper. “No...I won’t. You can't. You can't do that to her.”

Blood trickled down his jaw from where he’d bit his lip in an attempt to stop himself. He shuddered at his own stifled breathing, unable to get enough oxygen through his bloody nose.

“Timothy you’re already on the maximum dosage of Veritilium if you don’t tell me we will go back to the old-fashioned way of doing things. The way you and Handsome Jack were so fond of.”

Tania continued to trace her hands over his face, gently pulling him in closer.

"If I give you any more Veritilium, I'll most likely lobotomise you, and I don't want that." She ran a hand down his leg, he didn't flinch, he couldn't as he knew it would trigger an onslaught of pain.

His breathing was grated and heavy, every time his lungs filled up a sharp pain sliced in his gut. His teeth were clenched tight as he let the air whistle through his jaw. He needed to focus on the pain, and the pain only. Not her questions. Just pain.

“Hmm? Wasn’t oil and fire Jack’s signature method? Should we try that instead?” Tania hummed to him.

It was. Jack loved to see things burn. People mostly.

Lawrence winced again, and a pathetic whimper escaped his closed jaw. His cry was a reaction to his own frustration, his pain had nothing to do with it. He could handle pain, but this? This was pushing him to the limit. Everything he told them gave them more power over Angel, they'd know how to hold her and abuse her just as Jack had done. Yet, his mind and body wanted to talk to her. Keep her happy, if he answered the pain would go? She’d be satisfied, and maybe then she'd let him rest.

“The Bunker is in...the Highlands...military guarded...no one knows it exists but Jack and me...I was stationed to guard and watch over her...Jack...he...”

“Why you?” Tania raised a brow, "I've watched over you for five years, Timothy, and Jack never let you stray far."

“I...I was sent there. To be kept safe. Away from harm.” The words were freely spilling from his mouth he hardly had the energy to fight back.

“You? Safe?”

“I...I was..."

He didn't want to say it aloud as if the vocal admission would cement the truth. Confirm what he already knew to be true. He bit his lip so hard he felt the blood trickle across his chest. Tania wasn't pleased, her eyes darted back to the syringe and the empty vial of Veritilium.

"I was sick...I am sick,” Lawrence murmured.

Tania’s smile widened into a grin, so sharp it could cut away at her own flesh.

“What happened Timothy?” she purred, her eyes wide with anticipation. "Why are you sick?"

“I...was poisoned,” he mumbled, “Jack wanted to keep me safe...he was so mad," Lawrence shook his head meekly. The memory of Jack was a strain on his mind, Jack was livid he burned the man alive responsible.

"It was meants for both ofs us...the poison...it only got me...he was so, so, so mad,” Lawrence could only slur his words now.

Tania threw her head back and gave a hearty laugh.

Lawrence closed his eyes and smiled, it felt nice to hear her laugh. He wanted to make her laugh again, to make her smile. She sounded so pleased when she smiled.

“Oh, so, I did get one of you,” she hissed as her hands dug into his face.

One of us?

Lawrence opened his eyes again, he didn’t know what to say, his mind was so hazy. He couldn’t put the pieces together. Her smile was still there, so he reasoned he was doing something right.

“I poisoned you,” she smiled a toothy grin. ”Woe, another failed attempt. However, it must have taken a lot to bring you back from that. Let me guess, Jack dosed you up nice and full with Eridium? Hmm, what was the price I wonder?”

The price?

The poison had crippled his nervous system and as the Eridium tried to fight it back the two mutated together.

He died, Jack gave him Eridium to save him, but in an attempt to soothe his own withdrawals Lawrence overdosed in the bathtub. It was hell, and for a whole ten seconds he was clinically dead, but Jack brought him back.

Jack saved him, yet, again.

However, the damage was already done, and Lawrence was given his second death sentence in the form of a medical letter informing him his nervous system was permanently mutated and was degenerating. Another Eridium dosage was all it would take to accelerate the process.

He was going to waste away and Jack was furious.

Jack slaughtered two other doubles in his rage, created an entirely new division to look for a cure and then sent him away. Protect him until there was a viable treatment. For six months Lawrence sat alone at the Bunker, with no one but the 'Siren' to talk to. For six months his mind retraced every decision he made every step that had led him to become Jack.

Jack had left him to rot away, so he returned to his initial plan. The plan he had when his face had been burnt away with the mark of the vault.

He was going to kill the Siren.

That would have got Jack's attention, that would have shown him not to fucking leave him to waste away in some fortress in the most remote parts of Pandora.

And then every changed when he discovered her identity. Lawrence drew a pointed breath, the memories were felt so fresh. Tania had led him to this path, she had ruined everything. He'd been happy on Helios, safe with Jack by his side. Everything was-

Tania soft words snapped him from his thoughts, "thank you for sharing that."

Although they hadn't been thoughts, Lawrence eyes opened up his mouth hung open as he processed everything he'd just said aloud.

He bowed his head, he wouldn't cry, he wasn't allowed to cry. So he just hyperventilated, and with every breath, his stomach tore.

"So you took the Siren as revenge? This was no noble act to save her? You felt rejected by a lover, oh Timothy. That is so, so sad."

Fuck you.

Lawrence's mind snapped away from the charade it was pulling over him. He threw himself forward, forgetting the pain which would ensure. He barked a violent cry as he tried to scratch at her amber eyes. Yet he only succeeded to fall on the floor. His arms and legs were unable to support him, so he fell to his side before rolling onto his back.

Lawrence screwed his face up, blood welled in his lungs, he rasped and tried to breathe. The blood was drowning him. He choked and sprayed crimson down his front.

"You've sliced your ligaments, that's why you can't sit up. The blood? You've most likely torn your lungs and stomach open," she said flatly as she knelt beside him.

Lawrence only responded with more blood pouring out of his mouth.

“You know, I used to pity you, Timothy. But there is nothing left of that man, so there is nothing left to pity.”

His vision was fading, and he couldn't breathe. He could only see red and her thin-lipped smile.

“You are going to die here. No part of who you once were is of value to me. Once you’ve told me what I need to know, what Jack knows, then we will finally let you be at peace.”

Chapter Text

They gave him nothing in the ways of food or water and worst of all; information. Lawrence gained no knowledge of the captors who held him and the consequences of Angel. Something in the drip was supplying his body with nutrients, another dosage healed his body and something else kept him compliant, and his mouth willing to talk.

It was hell.

His training hadn't prepared him for this. He'd been taught to endure pain, never to shrink and hide, to withstand everything that was thrown at him. But, this was crushing him, stifling all ambition to fight back. The temptation of escape was masticating in his mind, but every effort to move cut away at his insides.

They questioned him, over and over.

He told them every code and entry point into Hyperion's servers. He explained how to enter the bunker, what its defences were, what they would find. He told them where on Pandora hidden laboratories worked away, which mines were most active, and when shift rotations moved back to Helios.

Worst of all he told them how to contain Angel, how to use her, trap her with the collar and Eridium.

Everything Jack had entrusted him with came pouring out.

Every so often he would snap. He'd try and swing a punch into Tania's face, and every time it resulted in searing pain. Lawrence trained himself not to move, this was their fucking game. Tempt him with escape, to keep hope alive, but ruin it all the moment he tried to claim it.

What happened to a solid punch in the face or a few torn off fingers? Jack and he were too vanilla or too old school.

Another day passed. It took the entire morning for him to find the courage and take the first step from the chair.

He could do this, right? It was just pain, he could fight through it. An 'Atlas Goodbye', Tania explained. If he escaped, he was free to go, that was the game.

He ended up on the floor crying, stomach covered in blood.

The guards stood over him, thoroughly enjoying the sight of Handsome Jack naked on the floor begging to be helped up. They didn’t, they only jeered and prodded him with the barrel of their rifles.

Lawrence pressed his weight on his palms to lift himself up. Something in his wrists snapped, and he landed face first on the ground. His right arm became limp, something inside him had slashed his arm open entirely. His ligament was pushed through the gash, cut in half. The pain drove black spots across his vision, he hurled forward and dry wretched, and that only resulted in the pressure in his stomach to split him open too. He rolled over and clutched at his abdomen, something pressed up against the skin, sharp and cold, there was something in him.

He coughed up a mouthful of blood and let it well in his mouth and drip down his cheek before he passed out.

This happened another three times, every morning he’d wake back up in the chair attached to a drip which would have healed him over the cycle. He knew he was a stubborn bastard, they even complimented him on all his attempts, but he broke in the end.

He wasn't bound, the door was right there, but he couldn't move, and still, he had no idea what they had done.

By the fifth or sixth cycle, he had told them everything.

He tried to drag it out as long as he could, every little bit of information he withheld was a little bit of time for himself. But now that it was all gone, the questions stopped. They had what they needed, it would be time to get rid of him.


They were an unstoppable force, the three women had the entire ship under their control.

The viral Felicity carried out the more violent tasks of disabling any forces which charged Angel's way. The original Felicity was in Angel's echo acting as second pair eyes on the back of her belt and Angel was able to freely use her powers against any other forces which slipped their way.

She had a route planned out, and the viral Felicity closed and opened doors to lead her away from her pursuers. If they got too close, Felicity would instruct Angel down another path and redirect the men with whatever the ship could throw at them. Yet, they were catching on, cameras were being pulled down, security checkpoints ripped from the doors.

Angel and her AI's were losing their advantage.

Her eyes darted to every corner ahead Angel was currently running blind as the hallway was absent of all cameras. She remained in the holding cells, winding through doors after doors to block the men on her trail. Angel locked herself inside another security room this one thankfully had everything intact. The holo-screen in front of her came alive without her input.

The viral Felicity flashed her thoughts across the screen, 'SEE'.

Angel bounced back when the screen in front of her came alive with a video feed. Two of Tania's men were dragging another under their arms down the very hall Angel had just run down. There was no mistaking that mop of hair, the leather jacket and tall build.

It was Lawrence. Timestamp from six cycles ago.

Angel's fist hit the counter, "is there anything else?" She implored to the AI. "Where did they take him?! Is he ok?"

'ANGEL ESCAPE' the words flashed across the screen.

"No! I'm not leaving him here," she leaned towards the camera above the feed. So the viral Felicity could see her, "please, Felicity, take me to him!" Angel begged the AI.

'ANGEL ESCAPE, 'THEY ARE N-T DA-H'

She frowned, Felicity's words were becoming disjointed. Angel leaned in closer to the holo-screen as if it would somehow make the message clearer.

T-EY  -RE N0- B---I-S, T---A -S ---TA-I- -A-E---N'

"Felicity I cannot read it!" Angel stressed, she frantically tapped her hands on the counter as she waited for the rest of the message to load.

‘---T --G--- --N’

Angel threw her tattooed hand to the holo-screen, hoping the viral Felicity could speak to her directly. One last message flew through her mind.

'ANGEL RUN’

The screen fizzled with static, "Felicity?" Angel called, her mind continued searched deep into the system for her.

Tania was fighting back, huge chunks of hardware were missing. Angel continued to fight the firewalls, digger deeper for the viral AI. She had to pull her out, or she'd be trapped in this awful place forever.

'Felicity!? ' Angel called into the system.

Something stirred in her mind; the AI was trying to reach her.

"I've got you," Angel whispered to herself, she latched onto the weaken AI and began to pull the code into her mind. She reached for her Echo-comm to transfer the AI into a safe space.

Yet, the static on the screen cut to black and Angel was flung from the device. Her vision went red, the clips on the side of her head burned into her skull, the throttle of pain forced her to her knees. She wasn't done, the AI was in her mind, pulled apart too soon. Tears rocketed down Angel's pink cheeks, she buried her forehead into her arms. She hadn't been fast enough, Tania beat her yet again.

Angel sobbed into her blood-soaked sleeves, smearing red along her cheeks.

The viral Felicity gave her life to save her.

"It’s ok Angel, we both knew this would be our...her fate," Felicity reassured her from her echo-comm. "Get up dear. We need to-"

Felicity was cut off, a new transmission came through her echo-comm, "It's over Angel."

She recognised that silvery voice. Angel held up her echo, Tania had a small trickle of blood flowing down her forehead. Her bright amber eyes were feral as she spoke.

"It's over," Tania repeated with a hissed breath. "Your AI can not work without a mainframe."

"What did you do?"

"Pulled her apart, a bloody painful expense that's going to be," Tania sighed her tone casual despite the chaos raging on behind her.

Angel acknowledged her once reserved composure was fraying at the edges. Tania's eyes sunk heavy into her cheeks, and her face was stretched thin with stress.

"Where is Lawrence?" Angel seethed, through grit teeth.

Tania only responded with a hearty deep laugh, "after everything you've done? Your little AI trick has killed a lot of people."

Angel tried to ignore her words.

"How does it feel? To kill?" Tania was whispering now, her eyes wide as she searched Angel's face through the comm. Her lips parted as if the very thought of violence made her hungry for more.

Angel would not give an answer to satisfy the woman's depraved mind.

"I tried to be hospitable. I tried to let you adjust, ease you into our operation, but you're making that incredibly difficult." Tania's voice raised with every 'friendly' effort she related to Angel.

"I'm not staying here, you cannot keep me! I'm not a prize to be won," Angel snapped.

' Angel you must ignore her, this is a distraction ,' Felicity's words swam in her mind, but Angel couldn't heed the advice.

Tania said something that made her breathing hitch and heart sink.

"Timothy, or Lawrence as you seem to prefer to call him, met his fate this morning. I saw no point in keeping the double alive."

"No," Angel whispered, "no you didn't, you wouldn't. He's too-"

Tania snapped, "he's too what?! This man is as violent, hostile and corrupt as Handsome Jack."

Angel wanted to look away.

Tania took in a wild pleased breath, "and you know it," her tone victorious, she lifted her chin to jeer at Angel.

"How could you honestly want to return to the individual who looked and acted like your father? He may as well be the one who held you prisoner for all those years.” Tania's voice boomed through the comm

Angel was shaking her head, she didn't want to hear this. Her heart was a surge of nerves, beating erratically in her fragile chest.

"He told me about your 'rescue'."

Angel's lips quivered as Tania continued to spill truths she didn't need to hear or know.

"He planned to kill you. Take you out. Did he tell you that?" Tania's lips were drawn up into a fierce grin. "His 'rescue' was nothing but a pathetic cry for help to his sadistic lover." Tania spat as if the very words held a disgusting taste in her mouth.

"I don't believe you." Angel shook her head, "you've done nothing but lie to me!"

"Then you should be able to tell when I'm telling the truth now."

"No," she shuddered away from the comm in her hands. "You...you can't," yet her words were nothing but fragments of her shattered thoughts.

“Angel," Tania's tone softened.

Oh, she knew that tone . That was Jack's voice, she was going to offer something to stain her mind with guilt. Bind her to thoughts which would make her compliant, make her believe the fault was with her.

“You're a brilliant, young woman, my men and I only want to restore peace to Pandora. We want to take down Hyperion, to stop Handsome Jack from opening the Vault. An objective I was hoping you would align yourself with."

"ENOUGH!" Angel yelled back, she bared her teeth and felt her own hot breath bounce back at her from the comm. “I am Handsome Jack's daughter, I know a false proposition when I see one.” She all but puffed out her chest and for the briefest of moments, she felt pride. No one could con her now. Not that she was free from the devil himself.

“Goodbye, Tania.”

Angel raised her hand and scrambled the code behind the communication system in her comm preventing Tania's signal from ever reaching her again.

“I’m proud of you,” Felicity spoke from her echo-comm. “Standing your ground.”

“Thank you,” she replied earnestly as started to pull open the locker doors.

Angel relaxed her fists, she could only hope that the viral Felicity had the chance to open the doors to lead her to Lawrence. She reached for lockers on the far wall and found Lawrence's gear chip, echo-comm, sniper and hunting knife. Angel worried her lip, the digistruct watch was missing. She stored the weapons in the gear chip and equipped the rest to her belt before she set forward at a furious pace.

Felicity spoke again. However this time her voice strained, "Angel, I didn't know."

Angel released the mechanics to another hallway, Lawrence had to be here.

"I didn't know why Timothy saved you.

"None of it matters," Angel cut the AI off, "I'm not leaving this place without him."

Felicity hummed pleased.


His mind was being emptied of Veritilum, it had clouded his judgement and thoughts for days. He couldn't tell apart what he thought in his subconscious and what he said aloud. Lawrence's lips were chapped and bloodied, from biting into them, his tongue just as raw. Blood trickled over his jaw and down his chest from his feverish attempts to stop talking. For too long they had held his mind underwater, suffocating it from all other thoughts besides the questions directed at him.

And now that his mind was free it only focused on one thing; Angel.

Where was she? What had happened to her? And worst of all, what had they done to her?

There is no way the girl would have survived this. Lawrence was barely hanging on, all threads of courage were nearly cut in half. He had no hope of a rescue, but he'd never go down without a fight. Pig-neck had come to see him off, and Lawrence was going to give him hell before it ended.

The decrepit man had enjoyed every moment, often he'd sit in the corner and watch Lawrence succumbed to Tania's words. Every time Lawrence tried to turn his attention to him to yell something vile, Tania would latch onto his chin and draw him back to her. Lawrence couldn't help it, Pig-neck had something he craved. His bandit captor kept his jacket cuffs rolled up, deliberately rolling his wrists under the dim light. Letting it catch on the watch's face so it would flash across Lawrence's eyes.

Lawrence fumed at the thought of Nyx and Crake being bound to such a man. It was there on his wrist, just an arms reach away, but Lawrence couldn't move.

“That watch,” Lawrence bit down on his lip and mentally cursed (aloud) he hadn't meant to say that.

“Oh, you like this?" Pig-neck glowed as he flashed the watched towards Lawrence.

Pig-neck was in his space, but Lawrence was out of tricks, and the bandit had learnt not to linger to close.

"I nabbed it off some talkative arsehole,” his grip on Lawrence's knee was relentless as he leaned in closer. Pig-neck’s grubby fingers spent too much time on Lawrence’s thigh.

Dammit , Lawrence wanted to break his nose so badly again.

"Yeah, not falling for that," Pig-neck huffed.

And Lawrence groaned, knowing he had vocalised his thoughts once again.

'it was my wife’s…please...let me die with it on' Lawrence attempted to lie, yet only the truth came out, "Jack gave it to me. I need it back."

Pig-neck made a rasping noise, followed by a seedy chuckle, "seems your tongue is finally an honest one."

'Please, I-I’m bleeding out...at least let me touch it one last time.'

If only he could lie, make the bandit offer him this one mercy, yet still, the truth escaped his chapped lips.

"Come on you fucking bandit, give it to me," Lawrence hissed.

“Think I'm an idiot? I know this is a digistruct watch.”

Lawrence refused to let his face give up the facade, he kept his expression shrivelled up in distraught.

“Please,” Lawrence feigned a whimper, “I never wanted to help Jack, I never wanted any of this,” Lawrence continued to spill half-truths to his guard, an effort that took all of his control to vocalise.

“I’ll do anything,” Lawrence licked his ruined lips and let his eyes gaze down his captive’s waist, “anything.”

The decrepit man paused for a moment, evidently weighing the pros and cons of his request. A stubby hand ran over his golden moustache.

"Goddammit, I want to rip that fucking stupid thing off your face."

Lawrence bit his lip.

"Fuck," he cursed his stupidity, he had not meant to say that.

"Stupid? Yeah, that's one word to describe you. Pathetic is more applicable in this situation," Pig-neck patronised Lawrence's 'thoughts'.

Lawrence looked away, this was not a fight he could win, not with his mind poisoned to betray him.

“Oh god,” Pig-Neck mocked with a heavy sigh, “you truly are pathetic.”

The bandit took a long stride towards him, with a brutal kick he parted both of Lawrence's legs and stood between them. Further exposing his naked form to the man. Pig-neck's crotch was level with Lawrence's face, “anything you say?” his voice was smothered in disgust yet tinged with lust.

Hurry it up, you sick fuck, Lawrence made a choking sound as he bit his tongue keeping his mouth shut to prevent his thoughts exposing his intentions. Only once he collected himself he let out another whimper and gazed up at the man before him, “please”.

Pig-Neck slapped a hand down on Lawrence's shoulder and pulled him forward, Lawrence cried short breaths as his stomach tore from the inside from being moved. Pig-neck lowered his voice to a husky whisper, “you think I’m that thick?”

“Well that and your neck,” fuck , Lawrence winced, his mouth responded quicker than he could slam it shut.

Pig-Neck slammed Lawrence's head back into the chair, dark spots swamped his vision.

“Now, I think would be a good time to remove that tongue, its purpose is at an end.”

Lawrence cursed (aloud again), he could feel his own heart pounding away, every beat edged him closer to the end, pumping the blood faster out of the wounds clawing inside of him. He wanted to clench his hands tight but had learned not to move any of the ligaments or muscles in his arms. Pig-Neck twirled the knife in his hand before fixing it firmly in his grip, his other arm shot forward and dug into Lawrence’s cheeks. His fists smelt like sewage and Lawrence heaved in an attempted to not gag at the smell.

“Open up.”

Lawrence kept his jaw clenched shut, and his eyes fixed on the watch, which hung on the arm in front of him.

"I just need it to touch me", Lawrence whispered aloud.

"What did you say Handsome?"

Lawrence tried to censor his thoughts with pain. He deliberately moved his leg to the side, ensuring his calf was torn. Focusing on the pain and nothing else was his only trick left. The single way to ensure his mind stayed closed from all other thoughts. Lawrence strained his head back, but Pig-Neck’s grip was relentless.

It just needs to skim my skin, it should be enough. No, think of the pain, fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

The bandit huffed, and with the watch adored hand he clenched Lawrence's nose shut. It didn’t take long for Lawrence's mind to scream at him to open his jaw, his chest spasmed from the lack of air, and his mouth rasped open. Pig-Neck drove the blade into his mouth, the watch trailing behind it. The razor edge sliced the top of his tongue, but it didn’t matter, none of it did, the watch’s cold metal surface was pressed against Lawrence's red and broken lips.

Lawrence could only hope he’d lost enough blood for the watch to register him in a critical state, with the DNA sensors touching his skin they could evaluate his condition if it were dire enough Nyx and Crake would automatically come to save the day; they did.

Oh, you are so fucked.

Magenta and cyan waves of light burst from the watch and with a spark of pixels the Nyx and Crake stood ready beside him. Pig-neck flung himself back, the blade slicing the top of Lawrence's mouth open as his hand retracted.

“What the?!” he shrieked.

Crake, took one look at Lawrence and nodded before he grasped a silencer over his laser and fired it up and under the chin of the bandit. His head exploded magnificently, blood and brain matter painted a mural across the roof. Pig-neck dropped to the ground between Lawrence's legs. Coughing, Lawrence screwed his face up, and he spat a mouthful of blood on top of his recently deceased captor.

“Oh fuck,” Nyx exclaimed, “where are your clothes?!"

"Gone," Lawrence uttered a red toothy grin.

"Is this bad? It looks pretty bad?” Nyx fretted at his side.

“As opposed to what?! GOOD!?” Crake rounded on his brother.

Lawrence kept his head bowed, rasping in air between the blood dripping from his agape mouth.

“I can’t perform a scan when the watch isn’t on you,” Crake’s eyes were wide as he searched him over.

Lawrence felt static flush up his spine as Crake lowered himself level with him.

"Tim?" Crake called, "did you hear me?"

Lawrence slowly nodded and pulled his head back up.

“You don’t need to scan him, he's fucked,” Nyx's voice wavered as he started pacing around the room.  

"Thanks, Nyx,” Lawrence smiled, “for that...observation,” he spat another mouthful of blood to the ground.

Nyx stopped his pacing, "where is Angel?” Worry strained his voice.

“I don’t know”, Lawrence heaved. “I’ve not seen her since they took us.”

Crake rested a hand on Lawrence knee, “who's they? Who has you?” His voice began to tremble in a way reminiscent of Jack. Vicious and depraved, ready for violence.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything.” Lawrence bowed his head again to let the blood drip freely.

“This is bad,” Crake's voice was low.

"Yeah, I figured.”

"Fuck!" Nyx sudden outburst drew the attention of both Crake and Lawrence, "Stupid, fricken, holo bodies," he was staring at his hands in front of him. "We can't do anything like this!"

Nyx's expression grew distraught as he wandered back over to Lawrence. He tried to help him up, but nothing the cyan digistruct did would move him.

"Tim, I hate this!" Nyx rocked back and forth, his composure crumbling and Lawrence experienced a strangely familiar feeling of seeing his own Handsome Jack persona breaking down.  

Lawrence carefully nodded his head, "its ok. We will think of something."

Crake was yet to make a comment on the matter. Nyx returned to pacing around the room. Occasionally kicking his feet at the dead bandit, painfully watching as his leg would just swing through the dead man.

"You can't move can you?" Crake stated flatly.

Lawrence eyes lowered to the magenta digistruct in front of him and slowly shook his head. Crake hissed back something vicious, "I'm going to find the animals who did this, I'm going to-"

Lawrence cut him off, there was one other they could call. He turned his head towards Nyx. “Pa-atch..in Jack...Now,” he slurred.

"Are you sure?" Crake questioned him steadily, Lawrence gave a hesitant nod.

Nyx brow was furrowed as he wordlessly acknowledged the request. His body fizzled with static as he tried to reach the real Jack on Helios. Lawrence’s head was rolled onto his shoulder as his eyes flickered, barely able to focus on the two holograms in front of him.

“Finally! Dammit, Tim, I thought you’d never call-”

Jacks voice brought some clarity to him, he shifted his head up and pried his eyes open. The cyan digistruct was still there, but it was no longer Nyx, the real Jack now possessed the holograms body.

“Oh...Timmy,” Jacks tone fell for the briefest of moments before he burst out laughing. “Oh, you are really screwed aren’t you?!” Jack cheered and waved a digital hand towards him.

“I leave you in a comfy bed, enjoying some Eridium bliss and here you are, butt naked, bleeding out in a...Is this a fucking bandit dungeon?”

“Language…” Lawrence sneered, with blood oozing from his teeth.

“Don’t get me wrong, it's a gorgeous sight, like all of you is perfect. I just prefer to see you like this under different circumstance,” Jack’s tone was a sly as the smile he gave him.

“Yeah,” Lawrence mumbled as his head swayed back to rest on the chair head, “don’t think I’m getting out of this one.”

“Get up, Timmy, you can do it,” Jack waved his hands forward enthusiastically. "Get up for Jack, baby."

“I-I can’t” Lawrence's voice finally caved. He knew how pathetic he sounded, the thought of moving made his body quiver, causing him to hiss in pain.

“Tim, hey kitten, look up, look here" Jack's voice was reassuring, and Lawrence faithfully obliged.

"Jack," his breathing caught as blood continued to drown his windpipe.

The holograms blue hued eyes were downcast as they lingered on the gash across his abdomen. Jack reached a digital hand forward, and Lawrence felt the familiar tingle as he traced his fingers across the mark.

"What did they do to you?” Jack’s voice was slow, cautious even.

“I don’t know...something...about Atlas...welcome? Hello? I can’t...I can't...remember.” Lawrence just hung his head again, he didn’t have the energy to look up at Jack. As much as he wanted to.

“Tim," Jack's voice warned, "what did you tell them?” the last words left him with a snarl.

“I..." Lawrence had to look away, his breathing was hitching up and over, and every time it did something ripped in his stomach.

"I...I..." Lawrence bit his tongue, he couldn't tell Jack the truth, it would ruin him, yet the Veritilum hold was firm in his mind.

"Everything…I told them everything," Lawrence began to weep. "I'm sorry Jack…”

Jack was silent for some time, Lawrence willed himself to look up. His face was flat, expressionless, the cyan digistruct didn’t reveal too many details, but Lawrence could see the fury building in Jack's eyes.

“Fuck. I’m going to die here. I'm going to die here, I'm-“

Jack ignored him and cut through his words. "Where are you?” his pitched dropped to a whisper, “I’m coming to get you. Tim? Did you hear me?”

Lawrence drew a sharp breath and curled his stomach in on himself, deliberately tearing everything inside him.

Pain, only think of pain. Don't think of Angel. Fuck, don't think, don't think. Jack can't have her, he cannot know where I am, he'll find her. Don't think, don't think of her. Don’t answer.

Lawrence bit his lip so hard the skin split.

"Tim!"

Jacks voice was drowning out, he could only scream and spew blood across his lap.

“Tim, where are you!” Jacks voice was a barely human, low and slick with possessiveness. He kneeled before him, his digital legs standing through the dead bandit.

“Tim,” Jack implored, “I’m sorry ok? But you need to pull yourself up and find out where you are. They haven’t stopped you from moving, it's just pain, you can do it.”

Lawrence vision was blurring, his eyes fluttered as they strained to stay open.

“Tim! Dammit, I said I was sorry, Ok? Tell me where you are.”

Lawrence avoided Jack’s gaze and turned his attention to his stomach, it was torn open, and blood poured from the gash. He was going to die here. Jack cursed again and reached for the side of Tim's jaw, static only tinged his sense. Unable to touch. It was all a pointless endeavour. Calling Jack. All of it.

“Activate the tracking on your watch” Jack urged.

Jack’s hand tried to wrap around Lawrence's face.

“God fucking dammit Tim!” Jack roared at him.

Language .

His vision was a mass of blurs slowly to be consumed by dark spots. His battered and bruised head scraped against the chair headboard as he was pulled to the side.

“Do something!” Jack reeled onto Crake, but the magenta digistruct just shrugged.

“I cannot activate the tracking without his approval,” Crake lied.

“I approve!” Jack argued back, Crake only responded by shaking his head.

There was nothing left to see, darkness had claimed his vision. He could still hear Crake arguing with the enraged Jack. He wasn’t even sure if the two of them heard him as he whispered goodbye and sank into silence.

Chapter Text

Angel called ahead, her voice cracking every time she cried his name. Each hallway was the same, dead bodies paved the way and every cell was empty.

"LAWRENCE!" Angel yelled again, desperation clung to her voice. "TIM!"

No one answered her, only her own call bounced back along the walls.

"Where are you?" she cried.

She had to stop, she was so drained, so tired. Using her powers to such extent was pulling her apart. Before she left the security room, she'd digitised a vile of Eridium from her gear-chip, hoping to use it as a last resort. Her breathing shook when she found it had crystalised. That had been her last resort, and it was gone. Angel groaned as she pulled herself up, she had to keep going.

She aimlessly wandered the corridors, calling ahead. Every time she peeked into a cell her chest tightened with anticipation only to fall back on itself upon seeing the empty chamber.

Felicity vocalised her fears, "Angel dear, we need to leave."

"No", she sobbed back, "I won't leave him here. I won-"

Angel stopped.

Someone was yelling, their tone low and familiar. It was coming from the end of the hall; the last cell. Angel stalked closer, she discerned there were two sets of voice, both the same.

' I think that's Crake and Nyx ,' she silently spoke to Felicity through the comm.

She was meters away from rounding the corner to the source.

'Angel, stay put. That's not Nyx ,' Felicity was shrill as she warned.

The AI was right, his tone was completely different, and he was arguing with who she presumed was Crake.

Angel's heart tore upwards, and she took a step away from the cell.

"It's Jack.”

Felicity hummed in agreement.

“Handsome Jack sir, I’m going to cut the connection, this is futile, and we’re wasting energy. He may surely need us later,” Crake reasoned.

“There's not going to be a later!” Jack roared back, his voice unhinged.

“I’m sorry sir.”

“No, don't you-” Jack cried, but he was cut off.

Angel peered around the corner in time to see blue and red pixels fizzle to the ground.

'Is it safe?' Angel called into the echo-comm.

'I think so.'

Angel turned the corner.

“Oh god!” She clapped a hand to her mouth to stop herself from screaming.

She couldn't fathom what was worse. The fact Lawrence was stark naked, that her Dad’s body was naked in front of her or the sheer amount of blood. The room was caked in it, it pooled under the chair, it dripped from the ceiling and ran across the walls.

Angel bent over and landed her palms against her knees, and choked as the smell hit her in putrid waves. She knew death was rancid, but never had she experienced it in such a way.

“What is it?” Felicity asked, concern littered her voice. “Oh...OH!” she exclaimed as the echo on Angel’s belt exposed the AI to the sight before her.

Angel stripped her combat jacket overhead, and without looking at him she tossed the garment towards his lap.

“Is he covered?” she whispered, unable to look back.

“Yes,” Felicity replied breathlessly (for an AI).

Angel swivelled around and discovered Lawrence was indeed decent. She wasted no time and ran to his side, careful to evade the headless man at his feet. The blood, Angel, choked again, there was too much blood for two people, it looked like an entire orchestra had bled out in this place.

Lawrence was gone, dead; he had to be.

The tears were already falling down her face as she met his side, her pale hands fluttered over his vitals. The slow exhale of his agape mouth flickered a small flame of hope inside her; he was alive. But, there was so much blood, Angel's breathing hitched as she patted his cheeks.

"Lawrence?" She cupped his face and lifted his chin. "Hey, I'm here. I'm here now, Lawrence?"

His face was bruised and bloodied, almost beyond recognition. There were bite marks all along his lips and over his chin as if he'd forced his own mouth shut. Angel's spirit sunk, he'd been here all this time, for almost a week he'd been abused, alone and beaten. Angel was sobbing as she held his head up, and wiped away the grime and blood from his eyes.

“Please wake up, please be ok.”

He said nothing and his head remained a dead weight in her hands. Angel's eyes rushed over him, her breathing caught in her throat when she spied the drip leaving his back. The line led up to a metal pole where a clear packet hung; it was empty. Still holding him, she turned her gaze to the room. Underneath the layers of grime and blood was a surgical trolly in the corner, on top were neat rows of various types of health kits. The floor surrounding it was littered with emptied ones; there were dozens of them. They had been bleeding him out and healing him repeatedly.

Angel had expelled most of her stomach contents when the viral Felicity had decapitated the first man. Until now she'd been holding down the rest of her breakfast. Yet, Angel reeled over and threw up the last of her meal. She wanted to collapse, curl up and hideaway. This was a sick dream or another trick from Tania.

"Angel, quickly now," Felicity implored, driving her away from her bitter thoughts.

She nodded meekly, her world swaying in a mess of red and black as she tried to steady herself.

“Angel, his watch.”

Felicity brought her attention to the silver digistruct watch attached to the headless man. Angel swallowed down the bile that threatened to spew over as she removed the device. Placing her hand over the teal interface she inserted the code Lawrence had provided her, Crake and Nyx blossomed into existence.

Red pixels burst to her left and blue to her right.

“Help me! I don’t know what to do!” Angel hunched forward and begged the two AI's.

Never had she felt so weak, so useless. Until now she had the entire ship under her control. Her actions had resulted in so much death and destruction. Yet when it came to saving and securing life, she was helpless. The tears of exhaustion and bitter failure streamed down her red smeared cheeks.

“Nyx, find a way to transport him,” Crake was already marching over to Lawrence.

Nyx nodded and disappeared with a flash of pixels.

Crake bent down, a hand rested on Lawrence's face as he tried to stir him, "Tim?" Angel heard him whisper his real name. Lawrence was as unresponsive with Crake as he was with her.

“Angel attach the watch to his wrist, but be careful with him,” Crake jerked his head her way, but his hand remained at Lawrence's side.

Angel did as she was told.

Crake was silent for a moment before his face dropped and if he could lose colour Angel was sure he’d be a few tints paler. His eyes went wide, and the red digistruct’s mouth hung open. He desperately patted at Lawrence's face again. "Tim?!"

"Did you scanned him? What's wrong with him?" she implored the AI for answers.

“He..."

Dread stirred inside her as she watched the composed AI stutter.

"He needs...Angel give him half a vile of the red Health-kit and a full dosage of the other two. After that, do not give him another dosage. He will wake, he will ask for them but do not give them to him. Do you understand?"

There was a fierce warning in his voice and Angel didn't dare disobey. She ran to the trolley and picked up the syringes, pulling the caps off and carefully removing any air bubbles she shot them into his drip line.

Nyx reappeared, his blue body lighting the room.

“There's a surgical table in the next room, it was bolted to the floor, but I've lasered it off. Should be good to go.”

Angel couldn't tear her eyes away from him. There was just so much blood.

"Angel!" Crake snapped at her, "the table in the next room, now."

Angel reluctantly fled Lawrence's side. As she ran, she heard Felicity reprimanded him for snapping, but it didn't matter. She needed to focus, Crake was right, she had to pull herself together.

The table was heavy and refused to move across the grime-stained floor. Angel pressed all of her weight into it, her feet slipped across the ground. She was absolutely sobbing by the time it finally budged and steered through the open door. Nyx stayed by her side, pressing encouraging thoughts to her, but his voice was as strained as hers.

Next, she had to move the dead man, Crake had made the task manageable for her by lasering off his limbs. Angel could not thank him for that, despite the fact she would not have been able to lift him on her own. She dry retched again as she threw what remained of the man in the corner. The blood acted as a lubricant, and she was able to push the table into the cell with ease.

"Don't let the drip line leave him," Crake's voice was beginning to crack. Nyx's voice had shattered long ago.

Angel nearly slipped as she ran to Lawrence's side, with shaking hands she leaned forward and wrapped both arms under his. Bending her knees she heaved upwards; Lawrence barely moved an inch.

“He’s too heavy!”

“Angel, you have to do this” Nyx patted a static reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"O-ok, I know" she stammered.

Angel turned her attention back to the surgical table and was relieved to see it had a lever to lower it. She snapped it down and leaned into the counter allowing it drop as far as it would permit. It now sat at knee height to Lawrence, she locked the wheels in place. Angel paced behind him and began to push Lawrence forward (not before she removed her coat from his waist). He landed face first on the table, his shoulders slumped forward, and his back curled over. With half his weight on the table, she’d just need to lift his legs and heave him up.

Angel pulled the table forward all while trying to hold onto him. When she had enough space to get in front of the chair, she wrapped her arms around his legs and tugged them up. Sweat dripped from her hairline, and her vision was swirling around the edges. She was panting as she removed the drip bag and brought it over to the table, she secured it to the side. Angel grimaced as she saw how it had been crudely shoved into his spine. She supposed it was so he could not reach it. The skin was purple and bruised around the injection site, and there were scratch marks around it from where Lawrence must have tried to pry it out.

Angel was about to cover his back with her coat, but a low growl from Lawrence gave her reason to pause. He woke up, it was a muffled hiss at first, and then he howled. Angel tried to soothe him, but he only pulled his face away and screamed into the metal table below.

“Don't….move me” he hissed at her, blood leaked from the corners of his mouth.

“I-I won't, ok!" Angel's voice cracked as she tried to reassure him.

Crake moved by her side and knelt down beside Lawrence. “Tim,” that got his attention, Lawrence shot his eyes open and glared over at the red digistruct.

“You need to roll over, you're damaging your internal organs lying on your stomach.”

“Can’t” he rasped.

Crake’s hand fell on Angel's shoulder, the static shuddered down her spine. “Angel you need to move him onto his back,” he stressed.

“No” Lawrence's voice shook. "Don't fucking t-touch me. Don-t...any of you."

“Angel do it now, we don’t have time,” Crake warned.

Angel pressed against the side of Lawrence's back and tried to heave him up, all while holding the drip line firmly into his skin. Lawrence only roared in agony.

"FU-FUCK!" he screamed at her and begged her to stop.

Angel couldn’t hear what Crake was saying over his cries. Nyx stood motionless, unable to help and to disturbed to offer words of support. Eventually, Lawrence grabbed the side of the table and flung himself on his back, as he rested down he grasped at his abdomen. His entire stomach was purple, and raised in several spots as if something was pressing against the inside of his skin. A thick scar held together with staples ran across him; Angel wanted to be sick.

She threw the coat over again to make him decent. Not that it mattered now, Angel had seen enough to know this memory was never going to be scrubbed clean from her mind.

Crake's voice finally became audible over Lawrence’s cries. “Felicity search the echo net, find Janey Springs."

"I've got it, making the call now."

Angel could only stare at Lawrence, who continued to hiss in pain, he knocked his head back against the metal table and dug his hands into his hips. Something else was under the skin in his arms, it poked up beneath the surface, alongside the same thick scars. Tears which poured from his working eye left trail marks against the grime and blood.

“Hello? Hellllllo? Oi anyone there?”

Angel couldn’t say anything. Her mouth opened but no sound came out, all she could do was stare at the protrusions on Lawrence's stomach and arms. Whatever pressed against the skin was ready to claw out.

“Angel!” Crake whirled on her, “the call.”

“Yes...Yes! Hello? Miss springs!” she yelled into the receiver of her echo-comm.

“Heya there darlin, what on earth is going on? Sounds like a scav caught in a turbine.”

“We need your help” Angel blurted out.

“Ah, yeah sure, can I ask who this is?”

“Lawrence! Timothy Lawrence!”

“You don’t sound like him? Did you take on another body-double program?”

“No, I’m with him! He’s hurt, someone has us!” Angel cursed herself, she wasn’t making any sense, and the right words just wouldn't escape her.

Felicity took over, her authoritative voice boomed across the room. “Janey Springs, we are with Timothy Lawrence and are in desperate need of aid.”

“Oh..um, well I’d love to help an old friend," she paused, her voice uncertain.

Dread smothered Angel's breathing. She wasn't going to help them. "No, no, no," she whispered all while holding onto the surgical table.

Another voice called in the background of the call. Janey tried to hush the receiver, she became mumbled as she spoke back to the second person. Then the line became clear again.

“This is Athena. You say you have Timothy Lawrence? Handsome Jack's doppelganger?”

Angel's heart jumped again.

“Yes. Athena, this is Felicity, the skipper from the Drankesburg. Timothy is with me, and a girl, Angel. They've been held against their will. Our coordinates are 36.8286° N, 116.4364° W. Can we rely on you?”

Angel blurted into the receiver, “I can pay you!” She could, wiring money from one account to another was child's play.

An agonising moment passed, Angel heard the familiar sound of someone tapping against an echo-comm.

"You're very close to Hollow Point. An hours drive at most."

"We don't have that kind of time," Angel stressed."

"Right. No matter, I'll think of something."

She hung up the call.

Angel was left stunned looking down at the echo. Left with no reassurances, she just fumbled with the device on her belt. Were they actually coming? Did they have enough time?

An explosion made all standing occupants turn to the doorway.

“They’re taking down the walls," Crake deadpanned, "how many more do they have to go?”

“Two more,” Angel, replied meekly.

“We can do this. ”

Lawrence was stirring again, he cried and Angel, bolted to his side only to recoil back at the morbid sight before her. It was hard to see what it was with all the blood, but it definitely had a razor blade edge and was protruded from a gash across his stomach.

Lawrence tried to lift his head up to see, but could only make it an inch before he slammed it back down.

“Wh-at is it? What..the fu-ck d-did they put In me?” he choked spraying blood.

Angel didn’t want to know. Whatever it was, it was tearing him apart from the insides. Now she understood why Crake refused him additional health-kits, it would heal him, and then he’d be ripped open again; they'd waste them all. They could only administer the rest once whatever was in him, was out.

“You have to try and relax,” Angel's voice hitched as she rested a hand on his side.

Lawrence just laughed through the tears.

“I am fucking relaxed.”

“Nyx can you move ahead, try and find us a way out?” Angel pleaded.

He hadn’t said a word, nor had he moved. His eyes were still fixed on Lawrence his jaw set tight, he was physically shaking.

“NYX!” Crake yelled at his brother.

“Yeah, yeah ok!” and he pixelated away.

Angel heaved against the table, it had gone stiff again, she pressed all her weight into it and gave a quiet cheer when the wheels finally moved against the grime.

Crake walked a few paces ahead, gun up and aimed at each corner.

"Come on, Angel," his words soft as he beckoned for her to follow.

Felicity too spoke words of encouragement through the echo-comm, and Lawrence only wept.

She could do this. She had to do this.

Nyx pixelated back, “this way” and threw an arm overhead as he led them down a hall to the right. They made their way down two more passages before they heard another explosion. Tania's men were catching up, if they didn't escape soon, they'd be trapped in the holding cells.

Nyx stayed ahead, pixelating beyond walls to see what lay ahead and lasering down doors that blocked their path.

"We will never make it to the cargo halls!" Felicity implored, "Crake do we have any grenades?"

He shook his head.

"Tania's men do," Angel whispered.

"No, Angel," Felicity warned.

Crake, however, was intrigued, "What do you have in mind?'

"Let them come to us. I can use my powers to hack into their weapons. Make an explosion big enough to get us out of here. We're already at the base of the ship, no point going through the back door when we can make our own."

"If they've changed over to analog weapons, it won't work," Felicity stressed.

"Well, it doesn't need to be one of their weapons." Angel accessed Lawrence's gear-chip and found his corrosive sniper.

Crake frowned, "he'd kill you if you used that."

Angel couldn't care less, but she heeded Crake's advice and sought out another weapon, yet, she found something better.

"Lawrence's shield is electric."

Angel looked up at the roof towards the water system then back to Crake.

"Flood the halls."

A wicked grin grew on his face, "atta girl."

"No!" Felicity cried, "Angel if you lose control you could take out everything around you, not just that shield but Timothy's gear chip, the rest of his weapons. Even the watch. You risk damaging Nyx and Crake."

Crake called over his shoulder as he worked on releasing the water system above. "Didn't think you cared, sweetheart."

Felicity made an irritated noise. Crake smugly turned back to his work.

"We've got a plan," Angel whispered to Lawrence as she returned to his side. His skin was ghastly pale, drenched in sweat. He only shuddered and quietly wheezed as he drew sharp, heavy breaths.

"Ok, done. Watch your head," Crake called.

Angel responded in time to miss the water flushing down from the ceiling. She beamed over to Crake, satisfied with the pooling water, she pulled off a loose wall panel and hid the shield behind it. Lastly, she returned to Lawrence and pushed the table to the far end of the hall and around another corner. Keeping him safe from all eyes or any stray bullets which may come their way.

"Angel the battery is failing, we're not going to be around for much longer," Nyx stressed as he followed behind her.

She bit her lip, "she's coming for me. I know it. This won't take long."

Nyx made a worried noise as he caught up with them.

"Stay with him, please?" Angel went to rest a hand against Nyx, only for it to brush through him. He glanced at her hand before he nodded his head.

"Its gonna be ok buddy." Angel heard him whisper as she took off down the hall towards Crake, and soon, Tania and her men.

Dahl ships did not make for quiet conveying the heavy combat boots of Tania's unit could be heard before their voices.

Crake stood alert, stance wide and the gun aimed at the corner, "you ready, kid-ah-Angel?" He stammered at his correction.

Angel felt very Pandoran at that moment and smiled alongside him, "yes."

Stretching her arm out, Angel pushed her mind forward to locate the shield stashed inside the broken wall unit.

The beating of footsteps stopped before they reached the water. Angel's heart moved frantically in her chest as she waited. When Tania finally spoke, she physically shuddered.

"Angel, you're at a dead end, the exit to the cargo halls was at the last east exit."

Crake looked murderous, he kept a hand in front of Angel, shielding her from any onslaught that could turn the corner.

"Go get her," Tania's voice chilled the air as she commanded her men to move forward.

Crake rounded on Angel, his eyes wide, he mouthed to her, 'you ready?'

She nodded. The sounds of sloshing water approached, Angel's mind entered the shield, and she activated the shock response.

The water in front of them sparked alive, the screams of a dozen men ricocheted off the walls. Angel held the shock response on till the battery fried, with it drained came the sound of their crippled bodies splashing into the water. Not long after the air was tainted with burnt flesh.

"The shield is down!" Tania's enraged voice screeched from around the corner.

Angel mouthed a curse word, of course, Tania would not come for her first. She was a bully and coward; just like Jack.

"With me," she fumed to her men.

Angel threw a wild-eyed look at Crake. He steadied himself and kept his aim straight ahead. "Angel go back to-"

He was cut off, his frame began to flicker, "oh f-ck" He disappeared in a burst of pixels.

"Crake!"

Angel reached for where he had been moments earlier, yet her hand met only static and emptiness. She was alone, and Tania and her escort were a bend away from reaching her. Water sloshed, and ripples began to appear, soon after the shadow of Tania and her men appeared on the surface.

Angel kept her stance wide, just like Crake and raised her arm aimed ahead. She just needed one weapon, anything with software for her to hack. She searched, letting her mind feel the atmosphere for something to latch onto; nothing.

A bullet flew off the wall, and Angel released a panicked yelp.

Someone charged forward, "you sick little shit, you killed everyone! You did this!"

"Do not shoot! do not shoot the damn Siren, you idiots," Tania's voice threatened as she waded forward.

Not knowing what to do, Angel pressed her mind, her being, her energy forth. The tattoos on her arm were alight.

"Angel there is nothing for you to hack!" Tania yelled, upon seeing the whites of her markings light the walls.

The man turned the corner, closely followed by two others and finally, Tania her self.

Angel felt a sudden rage, something primal she'd never felt before. Not even amidst Jack did she fight back, never to expose her true feelings towards him. Tania's men flexed their grips over their weapons as they aimed down their scopes.

"Angel, it's over. Do not fight back."

"No," she seethed as she began to feel an intoxicating pressure build. Angel found herself able to hold the mass in the space ahead. As if the air were made of water, she could touch it, contain it, even move it. She collected what she could, built the pressure together before she drove her arm forward releasing it all.

The results were catastrophic.

Everything blasted forth, Angel was thrown onto her back. The wind knocked right out of her, she gasped as she tried to heave the air back into her lungs. She crawled on her side, weeping, it felt like her blood had turned to sluggish ice. Angel pulled herself up, crawling back on her hands and knees. Desperate to get away from the destruction she had caused.

Everything was gone. The hallway was completely torn apart, a gaping hole bore into one of the walls, the water had been flushed down to the very end of the passage. The men were in pieces. Blood stretched across the floor as if their bodies had been dragged twenty metres.

Angel struggled to breathe as she assessed the devastation. How she had managed it was beyond her, she crawled away until her back hit the far wall. Angel closed her eyes, she'd killed them all. Torn everything, every one apart. Tania was right, destruction was all she knew, it was all her powers allowed her to do.

She pressed her head into her arms and cried. She'd been trying to hold everything back, only to let quiet tears slip down her face. Now she was a broken, a lost child with too much power. She wailed into her blood-soaked sleeves.

What had she done?

"Come here, you wretched girl!" A depraved voice hissed.

Angel shot her eyes open in time to find Tania before her. Firm hands latched onto her sweater and flung her to the ground. Angel sobbed as she rolled over. Tania stood above, her palm against her waist, holding back the blood.

"I've seen a Siren in action before, I know when to expect a Phase Strike," her voice was unhinged and venomous.

Tania raised her leg and drove it down over Angel's stomach, winding her once again. A brutal punch landed across her face. Tania lept down and straddled across her waist, she yanked Angel up by the front of her sweater, so their faces were inches apart.

"I know what it feels like to lose. So, I'll make this swift."

Another blow hit Angel across the cheek, she scratched and struggled against her attacker. Tania's assault was relentless, only when she stopped fighting did she let Angel fall back to the ground. Her arms laid useless at her sides. She was so tired, so weak, all energy spent in the blast she had created.

Unable to move or fight back, Angel sought again for something to hack. Something on Tania to activate, yet all she found was Lawrence's and her own gear-chip. Angel let a weak smile grace her bloodied lips, she enabled the gear-chip and summoned Lawrence's sniper.

"I hope you haven't forgotten what it feels like to lose." Angel spat up at her captor as the sniper appeared on the floor beside them.

Tania instinctively reached for it, just as Angel expected. She allowed her mind to enter the weapon, from there, she discharged a round. The bullet hit the wall beside them showering the corrosive fluid up and around them. Tania screamed as the spray landed on her. Angel being prepared, shielded herself and curled away from the splashback. Tania being on top took the worst of the damage.

Tania clawed at her arms, desperate to tear her coat away as the material burnt into her skin. Angel began to wiggle upwards, out from under the woman as she bellowed and howled as her flesh seared away.

"No!" Tania rasped and latched onto Angel's ankle.

"You crazy bitch!"

Angel kicked back, striking her in the jaw. Tania held a hand to her face and spat away the blood. Angel was on her feet and backing away. She could run, she could flee right now. The way was open, she'd blasted it out, and Tania was down.

But to leave now meant leaving behind the others.

Angel's mind went back to Lawrence, and with it, the anger surged forward. Her nails dug into her palms as she stalked back towards Tania. Angel thought of the pain he'd endured, the suffering this depraved woman had bestowed on him for days and then Angel did something that only the daughter of Handsome Jack could have done.

Something vicious, just like her father.

Angel charged forward and threw the woman to the ground, landing her into the pool of corrosive fluid. Angel pressed her face into the green solution, Tania screamed and kicked, like a gutted animal. Angel sobbed as her hands began to burn from the splashback.

"Angel!" Felicity called, "ANGEL!"

She was gasping for air, her world span as she pried herself away from the other woman.

"Angel, it's time to go."

Tania bucked and hissed her way from the melted floor.

"Angel!" Felicity begged her to move.

"I-I..." She stuttered.

What had she done? Angel could only watch in horror with wide eyes at the damage she’d caused. Tania was dry heaving, crying as she held a hand to her ruined face. She continued to crawl back into the water and down the hall.

"Angel, please, you must go," Felicity spoke gently, "please, go now."

Angel pulled herself up, her legs and arms trembled as she watched Tania inch away. With shaken breaths she turned and staggered back down the hall, stopping twice to regain her strength as she leaned against the wall.

"Crake, Nyx," Angel called weakly, forgetting they could not come to her aid without her assistance. She heaved herself off the wall and limped down the hallway. Lawrence was out cold again, the watch still safely on his wrist. Angel raised her hand and entered the code, red and blue came to her aid.

"ANGEL!" Nyx ran to her side, his hands wrapped around her face, his mouth opened uselessly before he spoke. "What the hell happened? Your hands!"

Angel looked down, the blisters were already splitting across her palms and wrists. The skin raw and red from holding Tania's face against the floor.

"You need a health kit, like, right now."

"No," Crake interjected, "we must save them for Tim."

"No way!" Nyx rounded on his brother, "look at her hands!"

"Crake is right," Angel mumbled as she pushed her chest into the table and tried to move it with her weight.

"We have a way out," as she heaved against the table.

"How?!"

Felicity answered for her, she was so tired. Her legs were barely able to support herself.

"Angel opened the way. It seems she has a new power to master."

Nyx's expression beamed, "awesome."

Angel swayed her head, she did not feel Nyx's enthusiasm. She had no idea what she had done and whatever it was, her power only seemed to destroy.

"Where is she?" Crake snarled, he pixelated far ahead, weapon aimed down the hall.

All that remained of Tania was her burnt fleshed corroded into the grated flooring.

"I let her go," Angel muttered as she picked up Lawrence's sniper and led them down the hall.


They were alone in the dust, nothing but endless sand stretched ahead, and a handful of mountains on the horizon.

Lawrence was passed out beside her, his head in her lap the rest of him on top of a tarp she'd found in the cargo halls. She'd dragged him out of that horrible place. Angel's hands bled at her sides, the blisters were torn open, and her palms were cut to pieces.

The ship behind them was gone, a camouflage veil shielded it from their eyes. Hidden from view but not in her thoughts. She kept replaying their escape over, and over. How she blasted Tania's men to pieces, shoved her face into the corrosive pool.

She could have left Tania, but she chose to stay. A stifled cry left her throat as she hung her head. She had wanted to inflict as much pain as she could on her. What did that make her? How could she judge Jack after what she did?

Angel waited helplessly, Tania's men would only need walk down the cargo ramp and find them just beyond a few sand dunes. With nowhere to run, they could only wait.

An empty silence met them, the wind stirred the sand and Angel buried her head against her chest to shield her from the dust. She'd failed, they were going to die out here. Tania was right, killing remained what she was capable off, and nothing else. Nyx rested his head on her shoulder, and the rest of him laid hunched up next to her. She silently cried as the static and warmth from the blue digistruct surged over her. Despite the Pandora's sun radiating down on them, Angel felt cold, feverish. All energy spent when she blasted her way out of that hell.

Crake remained beside Lawrence, he leaned over him, one hand over his chest protectively.

No one said a word. They could only wait.

Angel shifted her gaze down and over Lawrence, she watched him painful stir. His bruised and swollen eyes pried open as he tried to speak. He was barely audible, his entire mouth was stained red.

“Don’t give...it to me…Don’t let a-any of them do it. L-let me go...if you have to.”

“Give you what?” Angel asked slowly, her voice was hoarse and sounded foreign to her own ears.

No one answered her, yet Crake nodded his head, knowingly. Moving his other hand closer to Lawrence.

A low hum was swept over the dune, the sound caught on the wind. Something was approaching.

Nyx pixelated from her side and reappeared on top of the hill, "there's a caravan approaching!" he called back down to them.

Nyx began to wave, and Angel felt hope blossom inside her.

Athena, the Vault Hunter from Elips, emerged a top of the sand dune, she marched down. Her heavy footsteps causing the sand to ripple around her.

"Let's go."


It was chaos.

They loaded Lawrence onto the floor of the caravan. Miss Springs was at the wheel urging the rig on, cursing when it didn’t switch gears fast enough. Everyone was yelling, the combined effort of the engine and Lawrence's screaming made any conversation without raised voices impossible. Crake had briefly spoken to Athena, he relayed Lawrence's condition, Angel missed what was said on account of Lawrence's cries. From there, she took control.

The gladiator yelled at Angel to find the med box as she threw off her jacket and rolled up her sleeves.

“I need a scalpel!”

“Babe we don't have anything like that!” Springs yelled over from the driver's seat.

“I can help,“ Crake moved forward and revealed a beam of light in his hand.

Athena was on her knees, she hovered over Lawrence. Crake followed suit.

“You need to open here and here” she dragged a gloved hand across Lawrence's stomach, all while trying to pry his hands away.

“What! You're cutting him open!” Angel ran back over with the med box under her arm.

“Heads up, this is going to be bad,” Athena warned while taking the box away from Angel.

“Honey I'm not sure you should see this,” Springs chimed in, she tried to keep her tone light. An impossible feat considering the situation.

“No, she needs to stay, I need you both to hold him down. Janey find us a place to park, this can’t wait.”

“Don't go,” Lawrence rasped to Angel.

“I’m not going to, I won't go, ok?” she cried back to him.

The caravan began to slow, a sharp corner was taken. Springs filled the rig with curses as a long hanging cactus scratched the roof.

“I'm sorry,” Lawrence cried as he reached for Angel's hand, he groaned as the movement caused his skin to open. Something stuck out, but Angel pulled her gaze away, she kept her eyes focused on his.

She squeezed his hand.

“I told them everything," he choked, and blood spilled from his chapped lips.

"Everything...I told them everything” Lawrence rolled his eyes back, barely focusing on her face but he kept his grip tight.

“Lawrence none of it matters, Its ok, you're ok, that's what’s important.”

“I’m sorry, I didn't want to, I swear I didn’t want to, I swear...” his words were slurring with every repeated phrase. "They made me."

"I know," she tried to hush him.

“Jack...he doesn't know” he finally said before his eyes fluttered shut. “I didn't tell, him, I spoke to him, but I still, I didn't tell him.”

"They made me...I'm sorry."

"Lawrence?"

“He's in shock, leave him.” Athena’s sharp words cut her away from him. “You need to press your weight onto his arms, we have no anesthesia or anything to knock him out. He’s going to fight back.”

Angel did as she was instructed when the caravan finally stopped Springs joined their sides. Nyx stood at the back, his hands running feverishly through his hair while Crake kneeled beside Athena at Lawrence's waist.

“Do it now,” Athena commanded.

Crake raised a single finger and lowered where Athena had shown him where to cut. A thin thread of light emitted from Crake’s digit, it shot down into Lawrence. Crake moved his hand across, and Lawrence's stomach split open. Blood gushed outwards, and he screamed. Angel pressed down on his left shoulder, Springs on his right and Athena held his legs.

Lawrence cursed, he called them all kinds of vile things. He tried to buck, but whatever was pinned into his arms and legs pained him to move. His grip curled over Angel's hand, his blunt nails dug into her burnt flesh. Angel sobbed as she struggled with the pain, but she didn't pry him off her.

When Crake was done Athena released his legs and pulled at the perfectly straight cut.

Angel had to turn away for this part, so did Springs. They could hear Athena’s hands pressing against something wet. Lawrence screamed, his voice hoarse and blood sprayed from his throat. His grip on Angel's palm caused her to wince and cry.

“Got it,” Athena exclaimed, which was immediately followed by Lawrence shrieking.

Angel turned back, stunned, as Athena pulled something dripped in blood, and clinging onto flesh up from Lawrence's abdomen.

Barbed wire.

Lawrence started hyperventilating, his chest spasmed. Nonetheless, he pried his head up. He only had a chance to glance at it before he fell back down.

He coughed and sprayed blood all down Angels front, "w..what..." The words choked between the pooling of blood in his mouth. "Wh...is...it?"

Lawrence was out before anyone could reply and Angel was thankful she need not spell out the sight before her. Athena held the piece of wire up, and everyone else looked at it with a morbid sense of curiosity.

“There’ll be two more pieces here, and then one piece in each of his limbs, embedded into the muscle.”

Springs leaned over and threw up.

“How do you know that?” Crake hissed, voice unhinged.

“I just do."

“You're animals, you know that?

Athena said nothing to that.

Angel couldn't take her eyes off him, Lawrence's eyelids shook as if his brain was unsure whether to stay conscious or to drift off. All the colour had left his skin, he was paler than her.

Crake cut open his calves and Athena proceeded to remove more of the metal wire grafted against the tissue. Janey dry retched a few more times, but nothing came back up. Nyx had fled back into the watch, Angel begged him to stay, but the blue digistruct just shook his head and left her side.

Athena found a staple gun in the large box of assorted items against the back wall. She closed the wounds and shoved a health-kit into him. She used the last of the organ-damage kits into his chest and stomach, the holes slowly began to stitch back together.

They only needed to remove the wire in his left arm, on Angel’s side, when, Lawrence woke back up. His expression dark, contorted as he took, in short, stifled breaths. He was mouthing a word over and over, yet all that spilled out was blood. Angel leaned in trying to hear what he was saying, but all he managed was choking sounds.

Crake sliced his arm open, and Lawrence tilted his head into the floor and cried. Athena sought the wire out and declared she was done, she stapled up his arm and delivered the final health-kit dosage.

Angel ran a hand over the side of his face gently trying to encourage a response from him.

“I'm sorry I didn't tell Tania you were my friend,” Angel sobbed. "I'm sorry I didn't come for you earlier."

The only noise was his rattled breathing, blood clogged his lungs, even though his chest barely moved the sound was deafening. The shock from before was washing away. Tears welled in her eyes as reality settled in.

They had torn wire from his body. They had ripped him open, just like her mother, he was going to be taken away.

“Lawrence?” she whispered.

No one else dared to speak.

Angel turned his hand over in hers, his fingers were limp over her palm. She squeezed his hand, hoping for an answer; there was none.

She reiterated his name, but it left with a dry sob. "Lawrence, please?"

His breathing became more ragged, his lips only just parted to let the air in. He mouthed something to her again, Angel cried, she had no idea what he was trying to say to her.

"I-I don't know," she squeezed his shoulders. "Please," she begged him to hold on. To stay with her.

But to Angel’s horror she realised he was no longer fighting back. He rested his head against her, his gaze was strained with worry and regret. A longer breath than the others was taken in and then slowly let out, his eyes went wide, and then he stopped. He stopped breathing.

His eyes stared back up at her, void of anything.

“Lawrence?” she tried again, but he didn’t move or speak.

“His heart has gone into pre-death contractions,” Crake choked on his words.

“Wh-what!?”

Angel’s  eyes darted along his body, there was so much blood. It had soaked up to her knees and was splattered against her chest and arms.

Springs rested a bloody hand on her shoulder, her expression anguished as she looked Angel's way.

"I'm sorry, darling, I'm so, so sorry."

They had escaped Handsome Jack together. Fought through his influence, fled across Pandora. He wasn't going to die at the hands of that depraved woman.

"No," Angel muttered.

She couldn't explain how she knew the path to take, It was as if spurring her powers alive had awoken something new in her. A piece of knowledge she never possessed. Angel accessed her gear-chip and retrieved the Eridium, the syringe fell into her hands. The Eridium inside the chamber remained crystalised, but Angel knew this did not matter.

"Angel, its crystallised. You can't use that," Crake reasoned, his hand was over Lawrence's with the watch.

"I can."

The tattoos on her arm came alive, and she felt a surge of warmth and control overcome her as she let her mind wander over the Eridium. The crystals cracked, and with a vibrant glow, they melted into a liquid substance.

Janey made a panicked noise, and Athena just looked on in wide-eyed awe.

There was only a quarter of a vial left, but if it was enough to restore the blood loss, then it could be enough to save him; stabilise him until they got back to Hollow Point.

“Angel," Crake leaned closer to Lawrence as he spoke. "He doesn't want it” he reasoned at her to stop. “You don't understand, it will make things worse for him.”

"There was a time when I didn't want it either and, yet, he gave it to me all the same."

"Angel!"

She didn’t listen to him, she drove the needle into Lawrence's heart and delivered the dosage.

Nothing happened.

Angel was breathless, she clutched the vial tighter as if holding on would somehow release more Eridium into him.

Crake’s jaw was tight, his lips in a thin line. When he gave her no update, she pressed him.

“He has a regular heartbeat,” he finally said.

Angel flung herself over Lawrence's chest, she rested her head down and heard it slow, spaced out, but it was there.

Athena sighed, and Janey gave a very quiet cheer. When Angel pulled herself away, Crake was watching her intently, his eyes refusing to shift away from hers. She bowed her head, she could deal with the fallout later.

She saved his life, she got them out of that place. They were going to be ok.

Chapter Text

“It's coming on."

Jack's call pulled Lawrence away from the fridge.

"I don't know when but soon, my head is splitting."

Wiping the strawberry shake from his lips, Lawrence closed the door, but not before hiding away the open drink. Jack despised this habit of his - drinking from the bottle - however, Jack didn't need to down a litre of protein shakes a day.

“I’ve still got a bunch of pain meds Autohn gave me, you know the real good stuff for my face an all,” Lawrence called back when evidence of his habit was left unseen.

“You sly dog, how long have you been holding on to those?”

Lawrence walked over and leaned against the island bench, Jack was collapsed on the couch, his hands splayed across his masked face.

"Oh you know," Lawrence idly played with the hem of his sweater. “Just waiting for a rainy day," he delivered a crooked smile towards Jack. "Or for my housemate to get punched in the face with a vault artifact, that leaves him with regular crippling pain and delusions.”

“They’re not delusions,” Jack reminded, his tone already growing dark. “Just memories…”

“I’ll get the drugs and tea,” Lawrence pulled himself away.

“Tea?”

Lawrence called over his shoulder as he made for the kettle. "Yeah, whenever you get locked in old memories you’re obsessed with tea." He paused, and the last comment left him as a whisper, "It's kinda cute.”

“Call me cute again, I dare you.

Lawrence scoffed, and his neck grew warm knowing Jack always heard everything. He returned a few minutes later with the pain meds (which he had hidden away under the carpet), Jack wasn't thrilled with his continued drug and substance abuse unless the abuse was a joint collaboration. However, Lawrence found himself relying less and less on the medication and the bottle, things had been good. Life had an upbeat rhythm, it was chaotic, everything with Jack was, but his life had security and a warmth to it that hadn't been there before. They both worked relentlessly, he took pride in his work, securing a new deal and eliminating the competition was Lawrence’s new intoxication, it was invigorating. They celebrated the good times, and when things went south, they always had Friday Firing time to unleash the weeks pent up anger.

Lawrence was content.

He fetched the tea and returned to Jack on the couch. The violet glow of the vault mark shone brightly through his hands, the mask was unclipped and tossed to the floor. As Lawrence approached Jack pried his hands away, revealing the intensity of the mark of the Vault. Purple shone across the couch and walls, radiating slowly in time with the rise and fall of his chest.

“There you are, Timmy.”

Lawrence's hand spasmed, his heart rammed up his throat, and his breathing choked from his lips. The mug fell from his grasp, he didn't even flinch when it shattered across the floor. He might not have noticed anything at all if it wasn't for the hot contents burning up his leg.

“Look what you've done dum dum,” Jack sighed and waved at the broken mug on the floor.

Lawrence didn't move, not even to look at the mess he'd just made. His mind was spinning, trying to render what he'd just heard. Jack must have made a mistake, this was a slip-up, nothing more.

Jack doesn't call you by your name.

Lawrence feverishly dug his nails into his palms and turned away to fetch another mug.

"Tim, leave it, come back here."

The floor was ripped from his feet, Lawrence stumbled as he heard his name again. He could only count his blessings that he’d already turned his back to Jack as the expression on his face was no doubt offputting and drowned in shock. Lawrence bit his lip, a habit he never allowed Jack to see before he slowly turned back around.

“What even was that, tea?" Jack delivered him a bewildering look, eyebrows arched as he studied Lawrence up and down.

Lawrence quickly drew a breath and relaxed his composure, trying to bury the explosion of emotions running rampant in his chest.

"Tim?!" Jack's tone turned sharp, as he tilted his head to the side. Lawrence slowly swallowed down the bile in his throat, realising he'd not said a word since Jack first uttered his name. He should say something, yet, only dread bubbled inside him. It wanted to burst at the seams, and all Lawrence could do to contain it was to struggle at the hems of his jumper.

Jack sighed heavily, “stop fretting, you look like an abandoned kitten in the damn rain, come here.”

Lawrence silently obeyed.

He cautiously stepped around the shattered ceramics and approached Jack on the couch. However, the moment Lawrence was within an arm's reach, Jack snagged him by his jumper and pulled him on top of him. Lawrence's legs hung awkwardly off the floor, and he kept his elbows at his sides, allowing himself to hover above Jack's chest.

Jack made a pleased sound as his tattooed arm snaked its way across Lawrence's back, locking them together.

“What’s got you so flustered, cupcake?” Jack words ran hot over Lawrence's neck. Stirring a shiver from the double.

“When…ah when did you...” Lawrence cleared his throat, he'd not fumbled his words like this in a long time. “When did you start calling me that name?”

“Cupcake? I call everyone that, so don’t get so attached.”

Lawrence bit this inside of his lip, the gesture made Jack's eyes trail down over his face and linger over his mouth.

“No...not that," Lawrence spoke slowly, letting each word leave him with careful precision so not to stir the hurricane forever raging inside Jack.

"When did you start calling me by my..." he was going to say 'real name', but that wasn't the right word. Jack wouldn't like that. Lawrence continued to worry his lip, causing Jack's eyes to narrow.

"...by my old name?”

Jack pulled his weight onto his elbows and shifted himself up dragging his body underneath Lawrence.

“Why are you acting so fricken weird? It's cute I’ll admit it," Jack paused, his face turned dark. "Timmy," Jack spoke his name as a warning, "are you high again?"

"What? No, no, I'm not." He hurriedly explained, anything to stop Jack's storm from pouring forth.

Jack raised his thumb to Lawrence's chin and guided him up, their bi-coloured eyes met, and Lawrence noted how smooth Jack's expression remained. The mark of the Vault radiated it's natural violet glow, pulsing in line with Jack's breathing, which was surprisingly slow and steady.

The initial shock of his hearing his name had pulled all reason from Lawrence's mind. He cursed his stupidity; Jack was in one of his Eridium trances. Therefore locked in his memories. This was not the same Jack who was on the couch ten minutes ago. As Lawrence studied the purple glow below him, he tried to recall when, or if ever, Jack had called him by his name.

When Jack had first approached Lawrence all those years ago as a lowly ‘fake’ programmer, he'd only ever called him 'timtams' or kiddo. When Lawrence became, his double 'Timtam' was left by the wayside, and 'other jack' and 'other me' became the norm.

There was no Timothy Lawrence. No Tim, or Timmy. He had no name other than Handsome Jack.

This couldn't be the past, Lawrence concluded.

No, this was another memory, something new, something nor Jack or he had experienced yet. Lawrence felt his own breathing quicken. This was a future Jack, where Lawrence was 'Tim' again, and as Jack pressed himself against Lawrence, he concluded this was at a time when they were no longer just housemates.

He should leave, Jack was not himself. No good would come of this.

Yet Lawrence couldn't pull himself away, the look of profoundly rooted affection across Jack's face was endearing. Not at all like the pure lust and heated narcissism he had cast his way all that time ago in the shooting range.

Jack drifted closer, and Lawrence followed suit, pressing his weight into him, and pulling his feet off the floor. Lawrence couldn't extinguish the small gasp when Jack's lips met his throat. Soft wet kisses worked their way over his exposed flesh, and Lawrence did nothing to discourage the affection.

"Timmy, are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Jack's voice was an absurd mix of warning and warmth against his throat.

He should really leave.

Yet, Lawrence was selfish, and he ignored Jack's words in favour of attention, and when Jack stopped his line of questioning, he smiled against Jack's cheek. Lawrence dragged himself across Jack, aligning himself with Jack's kisses, releasing a gratifying sound when Jack worked against him. He didn't stop there, and Lawrence felt Jack's breathing grow sharp and impatient, his hands exploring lower, skimming under the back of his jeans and burrowing into his flesh.

Jack whispered his name again, his real name, 'Timothy' before he pressed his lips to Lawrence's.

And he kissed back.

Lawrence's mind sparked and almost cut to black, he'd not been kissed like this, dammit, he couldn't even recall when the last time someone had held him and kissed him in such a way. It was before Jack, before Hyperion. He melted into the warmth and gentleness of it all. Falling into Jack’s chest, letting their bodies merge together. Jack made a pleased sound as Lawrence dragged his weight up and over Jack’s crotch.

Fuck , it was well too long since anything like this had happened. Escorts didn't really cut it when all of them were women and only graced his bed for a moment.

Jack's hand pulled away eliciting a soft complaint from Lawrence at the removed touch.

"Lemme see your hand," each word left him between swift pecks to Lawrence's lips.

Jack pressed his fingers into Lawrence's tightly clenched palm and turned it upright, prying it open. He parted his lips from Lawrence, trailing his eyes downwards, and Lawrence followed his gaze.

“Our scars. Didn't think you'd ever forget that..." Jack started with a wolfish smile, though, as he stared at Lawrence's open hand his expression turned confused, then bitter.  

Nothing but smooth skin stared up at them, there was no scar on Lawrence's hand.

Jack snatched his grip away and raised his own palm to his face.

"Where is it?" He growled as he ran his fingers over his open hand and then over Lawrence's.

Fuck, Lawrence mentally cursed. He'd let this drag on too long, pushed Jack too far into a future memory. Causing him to recall things that were yet to happen. He'd been warned not to let this occur. He pulled himself up and away from Jack.

Jack only shuddered and hissed as the mark of the vault burned brightly, "I don't understand," he seethed through clenched teeth.

Lawrence's pulled the packet of pain-meds from his pocket and passed it to Jack, "take these, you'll feel better."

Jack just continued to stare at Lawrence's open palm.

"Come on," Lawrence sighed and pressed them further towards Jack. "Take them."

Lawrence only relaxed when Jack took the drugs and rested back onto the couch. It didn't take long for the other man to drift off, the mark of the vault persisted to pulse, but at least Jack could sleep the rest of it out. Lawrence leaned off the edge of the couch and buried his head in his hands. His mind raced as he tried to process his own and Jack's confusion. He lowered his right arm and inspected his hand. There was undoubtedly no scar on his palm and no scar on Jack's.

He'd been so convinced they both had one. A future memory Lawrence reminded himself, therefore future scars.

The familiar buzz of his echo was reason enough to sideline these thoughts for another time. Lawrence lived in the present, their future can wait.

He pulled the device out, his lips pressed together as he spied the massive warning planted across the screen.

UNAUTHORIZED DEPARTURE: DOCK 12.54

OCCUPANT: Jack 2.0

Lawrence made a pleased sound. Now, this was a good distraction. So the newly created Jack thinks he can flee? Three months in and the guy was already making a break for it.

Lawrence was already up and equipping his holster and checking his gear chip. He connected his echo to Nisha.

"Handsome."

Lawrence drew wicked smile across his face. Nisha's voice had risen at the end. It was almost a question, an air of uncertainty as too which Jack was calling her.

"It's the second half," Lawrence promptly replied.

Nisha huffed on the line, "I know that."

"How do you feel like a hunting trip?"

"Oh, very much so. Everyone has been too well behaved, and without disobedience, there can be no punishments. See my predicament?"

Lawrence messaged the docks and organised a ride to Pandora.

"So, what are we hunting?"

Lawrence hummed back. "A Jack."

"Oh, goodie," Nisha purred, and Lawrence could practically envision her face aglow with a wild sense of pleasure.


Lawrence took the steps three at a time to reach their office, his arms swung restlessly at his sides, heart elevated, and the rest of his body shook with a feverish high.

His hunting trip had resulted in a rare find.

Lawrence pressed two firm hands against the double doors and eased them open. At the far end of the dark office, Jack's silhouette was against the fiery cracks of Elips. He was leaning against the font of his desk, legs stretched out and arms crossed, his voice raised. No doubt the occupant in the chair in front of him was on the receiving end of his rage.

It took a moment for Jack to realise Lawrence had entered, and he snapped at his double.

"You missed Friday Firing. Twice, it's been two weeks. How does it take two weeks to find an idiot?!"

"Sorry," Lawrence chimed back in a tone he knew Jack would not appreciate and shrugged his shoulders.

"Did-did you just come straight from the Dust!? you're a goddamn mess."

"Yeah, and this thing is killing me," Lawrence raised a hand to his jaw and removed the clasp on his chin.

“What are you? Stop! Don’t you dare-,” Jack hissed his eyes darted to the occupant in the chair and then back to Lawrence.

Lawrence ignored him. Running around the Dust didn't include regular showers or time to shave, and currently, his stubble was grating away at his skin from under the mask. Lawrence placed two hands on the side of his head and removed the clasps and lowered the synthetic flesh away. He leaned his head back and released a sigh of relief, feeling finally free.

"Bloody hell, when was the last time you shaved? Or showered?"

Lawrence started to walk the length of the room. The acoustics were exceptional, and they could have continued their conversation from either side of the office, yet Lawrence hadn't seen Jack in weeks.

"Not enough room in my gear chip for a buzzer and a mirror, and I'm not fond of the idea of a blade in Nisha's hands. Would you trust her with a knife on your throat?"

Jack's expression gave him the answer he already knew.

“Get rid of him, I’ve got something to show you,” Lawrence urged as he waved to the man in front of Jack.

The Hyperion employee whimpered, a likely combination of hearing a second Jack and how carelessly they both regarded his life.

You fuck up, and you're replaced.

Lawrence learned it the hard way, the skin on the back of his neck itched at the thought. However, here he was, he'd made it and if other Hyperion employees couldn't keep up so be it.

Jack drew a sharp breath, “I was about to, dammit, I was working up to it, you know I had this whole monologue planned. Going on about his shortcomings. I was going to give him some glimmer of hope that he may get out of this, only to crush it, it was going to be glorious.”

Lawrence sighed and strode up to Jack, he walked past the man in the chair and leaned beside his other half. The look on the employee's face was priceless, it always was when they saw two Jack's. Sure there were plenty of rumours Jack had doubles, but no one ever saw the two of them together like this.

Unless it was Firing Firing time.

"You better do it quick, I think this guy is gonna piss himself," Lawrence paused, "another reason why I stopped sitting in that chair. Gross."

"I keep offering for you to sit in my lap," Jack's voice was sly as he budged his shoulder into Lawrence's.

“Just get it over with.”

“You totally ruined my monologue.”

Jack stretched his legs out and rolled his shoulders before he glanced at the mess Lawrence had trailed in with.

“Well, you’ve already dragged dust all through here, may as well do it the old fashion way, gotta send the cleaning bots in any way.

Jack hummed and picked up his glass. He took a sip before he gave the man his last words. “Spoiler alert: you screwed up, we can skip the part where I give you some hope and dive straight into the part where you die.”

Lawrence removed his pistol from his holster and killed the man. Clean shot in the head and another in the heart. Jack cheered before he promptly dismissed the dead ex-employee and gave Lawrence his attention.

“Ok, kitten, so what’s so important you had to interrupt my Friday evening firing spree. You found him right?”

Lawrence reasoned he better debrief Jack on his actual objective. He ran a hand over his face, he liked how the stubble felt, if not for the mask he'd tried and convince Jack to grow a beard.

"Nisha and I tracked the double to the edge of the Dust, towards Hollow Point."

"And?"

"Dead."

"I called you, and you confirmed you'd have your fun, but you'd bring him back alive."

"Nah, it wasn't us, the guy was well dead. I mean, if he wasn't, then he was dead when Nisha performed her autopsy," Lawrence grinned. "When we got there. Half his insides were spewing out, someone had tortured him good. Strung him up with wire inside and out."

"Don't test my patience, who killed him?" Jack's voice was dangerously low.

"No idea, but we followed his bloody trail and found an abandoned Atlas station. Nothing of value there, so with the job done Nisha pissed off back to Lynchwood."

"Language, but continue," Jack growled.

"So, I stayed, sniffed around for a bit longer." He gave Jack an endearing smile, one he knew made him look good and allowed him to get away with his snide remarks and cursing.

“Open up the shelf,” Lawrence called as he was practically already over to the far side of the office examining Jack’s wall of various collectables.

“What do you need my stuff for?” Jack called.

“Our stuff,” Lawrence corrected with a grin. He was practically rolling back and forth on the balls of his feet.

He heard Jack sigh, and the protective field in front of the shelving died, Lawrence snatched up the small piece of Atlas tech they’d recovered months prior. It fit perfectly in his hand; red arched metal surrounded a blue orb.

Lawrence practically skipped back to Jack's desk and placed the Atlas tech onto the table. He accessed his gear chip and digitised the document he’d retrieved from the Atlas station. Gingerly he set it next to the Atlas device, like a newly won trophy he stepped back eager for Jack's approval.

Jack cocked a brow at him and snatched the document off the desk, he only had to read the cover of the report for his masked features to screw up into the wildest smirk.

“You!” he cheered and ran around the desk and smacked an eager kiss to Lawrence’s cheekbone, “You handsome son of a taint!”

Lawrence had discovered the Gortys project.

That small piece of Atlas tech they’d miraculously retrieved prior had been sitting in their office for over a year. It's purpose unknown, until now. Lawrence had found the critical information in opening up a Vault; the Vault of the Traveler.


Jack had insisted on a weekend of celebrations for their new discovery, and he was only just coming down from the bender. Way too many powered things had gone up his nose, and his sinuses felt clogged, a migraine was inches away from claiming his sanity.

Lawrence was moments from dozing off when Jack all but yelled in his ear.

“Got a reward for you!”

Evidence from the clamour in his voice Jack was still going strong with the ‘celebrations’.

“Hmmm?” Lawrence looked up from the couch, drool may have been hanging from his face.

“Please no more amphetamines, I’m done,” Lawrence groaned back into the pillow.

“That's quitters talk," Jack slapped him between the shoulders blades, "but I’ve got something better.”

Jack's words did not spike his attention, and so, Lawrence closed his eyes again and nestled his head into the couch, content on sleeping the rest of the afternoon off. Too many stimulants had killed his appetite, he hadn't eaten all weekend. Maybe Jack would let him have something off menu for dinner, or better yet, convince Jack to bake something.

Jacks hands had found their way to his wrist and were adjusting Lawrence's watch in some manner.

"Mmm, feels nice."

Lawrence's words were muffled by the couch as Jack gently held his hand. It honestly felt good, he wasn't exactly rolling in human contact comforts. Two weeks in the Dust saw to that.

"What are you doing?"

When Jack didn't reply Lawrence opened an eye, yet Jack had finished his ministrations and was now lifting himself off the floor.

“Alright, when I call out, activate the watch.”

“Ok,” Lawrence slurred, sleep still clinging to his speech.

Jack shot up and ran off to his side of the apartment, a moment passed before he could hear his voice yell across the floor.

“Do it now!”

Lawrence ran his thumb over the interface, with an explosion of pixels the two digi-Jacks appeared before him.

“The world just got 25% more handsome!” one of them cheered eliciting an eye roll from Lawrence.

The other remained static as there was no threat for it to charge.

“Ask one of them to patch me in!” Jack called still hiding on the other side of the floor.

“Huh?”

He was too hungover to have a functioning conversation with Jack let alone three of them.

“Say 'patch Jack in',” Jack called again, there was a moments pause before he snorted. "No, no wait! Say 'Jack-it', or 'Jack in'."

“Ok... um, Jack in?”

The cyan Jack fizzled for a moment, pixels sparked at the edge of his frame, with a glitch his posture changed from standing absentmindedly to jolting upright with hands on hips. The digi-Jack wasn’t precisely itself anymore. It now adorned Jack's masks and the clothes Jack was wearing minutes before leaving his living room.

The cyan digi-Jack swivelled on the spot and yelled, “this is so freaking cool, I’m a goddamn genius.” As did Jack’s voice from the other end of the apartment.

“Jack?”

“In the digital flesh,” the digistruct before him sneered and rolled his shoulders back. “Oh man, I don’t get to be the badass?” The now digital-cyan Jack clutched at his heart at looked the magenta digi-Jack up and down.

“Phhht" Lawrence scoffed, "that badass is way more competent than you.”

Jack growled back, “watch your tone kitten. Daddy has two of me now."

Lawrence ignored the feeble threat and pulled himself upright. Jack's digital version began to walk on the spot, yet remain in the same position. Footsteps approached, and Lawrence glanced over his shoulder to see the real Jack approaching in his apartment. Three metal globed devices hovered above Jack’s head, all of them emitted lasers down his body, seemingly recording his movements and expressions.

“Pretty fricken cool huh?” both the digital and real Jack spoke in unison.

“Yeah,” Lawrence agreed.

“Now Nisha can get off my back about not getting any action.”

“From the safety of Helios, I imagine?” Lawrence sneered.

“Hey I‘m the goddamn CEO of a mega-trillion company, can’t get blown up for reals in a shit hole like Pandora.”

Lawrence sighed, “you know…" he chewed the side of his tongue, a nervous tell Jack couldn't see. "I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

Jack and the digi-Jack cocked a brow in unison, “yeah and what's that, pumpkin?”

“I want to give them AI” Lawrence gestured to the two digistructs.

“What's wrong with how they are,” Jack's expression lost its smoothness, his tone an accusation against his own brilliance.

As if on cue the magenta badass Jack cheered again, “Drown in a sea of chiselled jaws.”

Even Jack grimaced.

“Ok fair point.” Jack surprisingly dropped his guard as swiftly as it had gone up. Lawrence delivered a sly smile which prompted Jack to further loosen his previous disapproval.

“Think you’re up to it?”

“You forget I was top of my class.”

Lawrence leaned back in the couch. Making sure to flex his muscles, keeping it subtle, but enough so Jack wouldn't miss it. This was his play.

Jack had his own rules, and Lawrence had his way around them. With an endearing grin and a confident stride; Jack would let him get away with anything.

“By community college standards, you forget this Hyperion.”

“Come on, why slaughter my brain with Hyperphire lessons? I can do this.”

Hyperion's own language was a closely guarded secret, only employees at a certain level - ones that had no intention of leaving - were trained in it. It was Jack’s own creation and ever since it was implemented security breaches, and hacks had dropped by over 80%.

Jack had him tutored to inhuman hours of the morning to just get the grasp of it. Two years down the track and now he was finally at a level where an AI project was deemed possible; maybe possible?

Lawrence maintained his pose, his lips pouted in promise, a moments pause spent, and Jack finally sighed.

“Ok, go for it." He crossed his arms bitterly, "can’t wait for you plug in the wrong line and one of these guys shoots you in the face.”

Jack flexed his hands against his hips, "and they’ve still gotta be Jacks! I don’t want my image being destroyed by two wussy AI’s.”

Lawrence laughed, “yeah I’ll base them off your two most charming qualities;  anger and sass.”

The snide remark left his mouth quicker than he had time to process it. Lawrence heart sped as he waited for Jack to pull the plug on the project. Surprising all he got was a ‘fuck off’ in a very not Jack like tone, as the man waved him away.


********** AI.C8N6.1.25 **********

In the end, Jack did assist Lawrence with his new AI project. The coder prodigy built the AI infrastructure for him to develop upon and occasionally on some of Lawrence's later working nights, Jack popped in to give him a hand with some of the more tiresome pieces.

“Ok, commencing AI.N6.1.25 build,” Lawrence spoke into his log recorder.

The cyan Jack remained motionless.

“Ah, hello?” Lawrence waved a hand in front of the blank digi-jack,

“HI, I AM JACK!”

Lawrence threw himself back against the desk, eyes wide in both shock and amazement that he’d gotten the damn thing to speak. It was a start.

“Oh…sorry, but you are way too enthusiastic,” Lawrence chuckled, “that's got to go.”

This was going to take a while.

********** AI.C8N6.1.74 **********

“Look at my abs!” the cyan-digistruct yelled to no one in particular.

“Be more charming, not so….forward,” Lawrence tried to explain to the digi-Jack.

“Please look at my abs?”

“For fuck's sake.”

“Language,” Jack called from somewhere down the hall.

********** AI.C8N6.2.65 **********

“Do not occupy me with your humanity, your weakness," the badass digistruct didn’t even flinch as the drastic statement left him.

Jack taunted from the doorway, mouth full of pretzels. “Oh bufdy, you are wreally nailing this AI thin, aren’t wou?”

“Fuck off, Jack. I can do this.” Lawrence grounded as he sought a way to tone down the hostility and resentment the magenta AI currently possess.

“Language,” both the AI and Jack corrected him in unison.

“Ok, look you’ve got it recognise swearing, 3/10, good job kiddo.”

Jack congratulated him with a ruffle of his hair.

********** AI.C8N6.4.23 **********

“HOW IT GOES FLESH COUSINS?”

“You broke him,” the magenta badass drawled.

“Yup, definitely broken.” Lawrence agreed with a sigh. He typed away to roll the cyan Jack back to his last version.

“It's better if it's just me, I’ll be the real digital-Jack - and like you - the blue guy here can be the copy,” the badass sneered.

“Perfect, you are like perfect Jack right now. Scarily so” Lawrence spoke not every bothering to look up as he rebuilt the other digi-jack. “But no, he's your digital brother, I think? Whatever, we're fixing him.”

********** AI.C8N6.8.54 **********

“I think I liked him more when he yelled nonsensical things,” the magenta digi-Jack cocked his head to the side and considered his cyan brother.

“Your mum yelled nonsensical things last night when I was-”

Lawrence cut him off, “did you, did you just start to make a joke? A mum joke?”

“Maybe,” the cyan Jack smiled back at him.  

“Ok you are done,” Lawrence beamed.

"Oh we're 'done' now?" the magenta digi-jack leaned into the wall, arms crossed. So far his only expression worth revealing to Lawrence was disdain.

“Congrats kiddo, you made two AI’s that don’t have crippling anxiety about being in forever servitude to humankind," Jack chimed in. "Do you know how hard this is? Seriously so many of them commit digital suicide, or just try to murder you.”

"That's what the AI laws are for." Lawrence tuned from his desk to find Jack in the doorway, his hand was shoved deep into a bag of pretzels.

"How long have you been there?"

"Not long, just seeing how you're doing. So are you going to add their battle components back in? Cause that's the tricky part," Jack gave him a toothy grin.

"Yeah, shouldn't be an issue. Personality modules are done. Just gotta patch them in on top."

Jack eyed him for a moment, and Lawrence was sure he was going to insist he finished the task. Thankfully he did not, Lawrence could not define what it was he felt, but he wanted to see the project to the end.

"Alright guys, see you in a bit." Lawrence gave the two digi-jack a parting smile and began to start his merge.

"Drink?" Jack called as Lawrence typed away in the next set of commands.

"Yeah, cheers" he called as Jack wandered back down the hall.

Lawrence sat back, arms behind his head as he watched the progress bar registering his branch of work was merging into the master file. Jack hadn't returned with their drinks when the program was complete. Lawrence figured he'd see the results soon enough and swiped at the watch.

The two digistructs bloomed into existence.

The magenta badass swivelled on the spot, no doubt assessing the situation, looking for a fight before his eyes landed on Lawrence.

"You're an imposter," The badass deadpanned. His tone was enough to reveal his intention was not friendly.

Lawrence threw himself towards the watch to send them away.

The digi-Jack held his hand out and digistructured a grenade from Lawrence's own gear-chip. Unable to hold the item it fell to the ground, Lawrence's heart raced, he stepped back, body consumed with dread. The grenade interface flashed, the digistruct had hacked it and activated the charge.

"Oh, fuck."

Lawrence threw the door open and bolted down the hall before the explosion claimed everything around him.


 Jack didn't bother putting the scotch away, he was sure there would be another. Whether it was in celebration of his double's accomplishment or in bitter disappointment, there was no doubt a second drink would be needed.

Coding the AI's should have been child's play, and Lawrence had scarcely proven himself competent at the task. Jack practically coded the entire infrastructure, and his own brain scans were offered up on a silver platter. A weeks task at most and yet the task had dragged on for months.

Though, Jack smiled, an improvement from when he first approached that freckled kid all those years ago.

A faked resumed under his watch? Jack had been livid, eager to throw the young programmer out the door. Yet, an idea had uncoiled inside him upon seeing that young fresh face full of promise. With no ideal candidates yet found for his 'double' program the young Timothy whatever was the best match he had.

Jack swirled his drink, letting the ice dilute down his scotch to the ideal amount. To be honest, shutting down the project had crossed his mind on many occasions. Lawrence had spent too much time locked away in his study to be able to focus on the real task at hand; opening the vault.

Yet, Jack could not deny his double's mood had improved immensely, and so Jack had let it slide. That stupid endearing puppy look he wore on his face was nothing but an eyesore. However, Jack found himself gravitating towards that face. It was different from the stares the other employees gave him; those left him indifferent, while Lawrence’s was both infuriating and charming.

As long as Lawrence had stopped expressing such sappy emotions outside their apartment, Jack was content. A perfect Jack outside these walls and whatever Jack needed him to be inside. Those were his rules.

Jack rolled the tumbler between his hands and gulped it down in one long swig. He made for a second drink when his double yelled something from down the hall, he was cussing again. Another habit that needed to be weeded out. No amount of threats of Ai's, needles and locked apartment doors could contain his Lawrence’s lewd mouth.

It was about time one of those threats was suggested, Jack stood up and that's when the shock wave hit him.

He was thrown to the ground, a wave of smoke and dust crushed down on him, consuming the living room. Jack coughed as he lay flat on his back; winded and dazed. The remnants of the hallway wall were choking his lungs and burning his eyes. He pulled himself up, heaving in gulps of dirt which only resulted in a second coughing spree. A soft amber light was glowing from behind the thick wall of dust.

Jack winced as the alarms descended and blared all around him, it was deafening and drowned out Jack's call to his double. It was only when he waded through clouds of ash and dust that he could see the fire looming at the end of the hall. Both of the walls had crumbled, a steel beam was lodge into the ground, the carpet already hidden under a thick of a layer of dust and his double was nowhere to be seen.

Jack waded through the smoke and ash, coughing into his hand as the magenta hologram approached. The badass lowered its wrist laser and spoke in a voice slightly lower than the default.

“ID confirmed, Handsome Jack.”

“Where’s the friggin’ watch?” Jack barked when a quiet moan attracted his attention, and the pile of rubble moved slowly.

“Tim,” Jack uttered his name with a worried whisper. He dashed forwards and spied the watch hanging in his fingers.

With one hand Jack swiped the digistructs away, while the other was busy digging Lawrence out. His double groaned as Jack pulled him up and laid him on the dust-covered ground.

“Can you hear me?” He asked, patting Lawrence’s cheeks, ignoring the blood staining his fingers.

Lawrence shook his head and pointed at his ear. A blessing in disguise, only now Jack realised that in his fear for the idiot’s life he called him by his actual name. Lawrence was wheezing, his hands clutched at his chest. He was winded that's for sure. Hopefully, nothing was broken, or worse scarred.

"Idiot," Jack cursed under his breath.

Lawrence glared back at him, his hands were still on his chest, small patches of red had blossomed through on his yellow sweater. Jack spied the shrapnel poking out, his skin raw and burnt from where it had landed.

Great, more scars. The one thing Lawrence was good at was ruining his body.

“I leave you for one goddamn minute, and you blow your whole apartment, you fucking community college asshole.” Jack ranted.

He held a hand on Lawrence’s chest while another dialled their personal doctor. The double didn't bother to move, he only rested his head back into the dust and rasped in more air. Jack noticed blood was trickling from his ears, and there was a small pool of blood forming at the back of his head.

He could probably add concussion and busted eardrums to the list of issues.

“Get down here, Iaso! What Iaso is dead? Well fucking send someone else, I blew up the microwave in my face, and it hurts.” He barked, without even bothering to check if it was the doctor or the receptionist.

"All right kitten, you're good, you're okay," Jack patted a hand against Lawrence's chest, and he hissed as Jack’s palm landed a little too close to a cut.

Jack bit his tongue, his double had just squirmed his way out of death yet again. Sooner or later his luck was gonna run out. This was too fucking close.

The team of physicians arrived and with a bit of struggling Lawrence was now in the med room on Jack's side of the apartment. As access to his was blown apart, as was everything else.

Jack's hand twirled the glass in front of him. His fourth one, and still Lawrence hadn't emerged from the med room. He took a deep sip before he regrettably glanced down at his now empty glass. This excessive drinking was Lawrence's habit, not his. Sure, he didn't mind having a few drinks, but as soon as his mind started to wonder he would stop. He needed to stay sharp, focused, and not wasting his evening away thinking of the double.

Jack cursed, and he felt the glass clink as he strained more pressure against it.

This was not him.

Handsome Jack did not wait on anyone.

Jack shoved his empty drink aside and pulled himself from the counter. Sleep, that's what he needed. It was already into the next cycle, and his eyes ached from the amount of dust thrown at him. He was halfway down the hall to his room when he caught sight of a mob of white marching towards him. The doctors were on their way out.

"What took so long?"

The closest one tried to fumble some words out, but Jack's patience was gone before he had finished his first drink.

"Fuck off, the lot of you."

When they continued to try and explain Jack latched onto the nearest coat and threw the person inside it down the hall.

"OUT! ALL OF YOU!"

Jack marched towards the medical room, hands twitching at his sides. He'd almost unholstered his gun.

His double better be in fucking perfect condition, if there was one mark, one scar on that body the entire physician team was going to have a date with him next Friday.

Jack's hand hadn't even reached the glass handle before it turned and the door swung open.

"Hey, you," Lawrence welcomed him with a smile that was too sloppy on the edges, and his shoulders were slumped forward.

Jack responded through clenched teeth, "You, owe me an entire evening and a new fucking carpet."

"ah-ok, boss," Lawrence drawled.

Jack's jaw was begging to ache, and so he breathed in over his teeth, trying to calm the rage squalling inside of him. Lawrence hadn't called him 'boss' in a long time, and Jack wasn't particularly sure he liked it.

"What are you on? Are you high!? It was only a damn scratch," Jack snatched Lawrence's wrist, looking for an injection site. Purple tinted his veins and ran up his arm.

"I told them my pain was a ten out of ten," Lawrence smiled back at him.

"And they gave it to you?!" Jack's hands dug into Lawrence's arm.

His double's addictive nature was well known. First, it was the pain meds, next, the bottle, then the whole not-eating saga and the last thing he needed was an Eridium junkie as a double.

"I'm Handsome Jack," he beamed back, "they gotta do what I say."

"Oh, that's real cute kitten," Jack's grip was evidently getting to Lawrence, as he winced and tugged at his arm. "But I don't blow up my apartment with crack pipe code."

Jack's echo rang and without letting go of his double he pried it forward. They had sent through Lawrence medical notes, and yup there it was. A small dosage of Eridium was now circulating his system. It wasn't even needed to address his wounds, a standard Ashin health-kit could have done that.

An irritable tapping made Jack realise he'd been shaking his foot against the ground. His double looked utterly pathetic, and out of his mind, Jack would never be caught with such a pitiful expression. He let his hand coil around Lawrence's arm, digging in tighter to keep him from slinking away. Jack gave hima short tug forward, and a wave of satisfaction pulled inside him as the double yelped. With his hand firmly grasped on his inebriated double's arm, he dragged him down the hall.

When they reached the end of the corridor, Lawrence began to pull towards the living room and no doubt back to his own apartment.

"Oh, no way," Jack snapped, "your apartment is gone ." his words left him as a hiss. "You don't get your own space anymore. You've lost that privilege." The blunt tips of his nails dug into the injection site, and his other-self flinched as Jack hit a nerve.

"I paid for it all, set it up, gave you your own special place to call home, and the thanks I get? You ungrateful little shit, you destroy it."

Lawrence was trembling now, whatever bliss the Eridium had him in was washing away rapidly.

"The things I need to do," Jack pressed a thumb into the dip of his doubles arm, punctuating each word with a sharp injection of pain. "EVERYTHING, I do, is for us, to keep us safe, to keep this all going is something you could barely comprehend."

Jack leaned into him, "Think you can do my job? "

Lawrence stopped pulling away from him and shook his head slowly. His eyelids were cast downward as he hunched in on himself.

"I can find any idiot to hold a gun and shoot. I can find anyone to do your job.."

Jack pressed another finger into the injection site, and this time Lawrence buckled down. He fell forward, his head only just missing Jack.

"You're replaceable, remember that."

And suddenly his Handsome Jack double was gone. His other-self - if he could even call him that - went stiff under Jack's grip, his pupils drew to narrow slits, and his mouth hung uselessly open. There was no 'Jack' anymore, all there was a pathetic wilting excuse for a double; a Timothy Lawrence.

It was time to remind his double of the consequences of being a Timothy Lawrence. He accessed his echo and made the call.

"Prep, project Tartarus. I want that AI ready by the end of the hour."

Those words were the trigger.

Jack may as well have pulled a gun on him. Lawrence dropped to his knees, and Jack had to let him go, or he'd be pulled down with him.

"No!" Lawrence rasped. "No, no no, no," he whimpered his cries like a prayer. His double was shaking his head, his voice a hoarse whisper. There were no tears, Jack had squeezed that habit out of him, but his voice nonetheless trembled.

"Jack, please." He was rocking back on his knees now. "Please, don't do it, please don't do that. Not that."

Lawrence launched forward and pressed his face into Jack's stomach. His hot breath rattled against him, and Jack shuddered from the warm sensation.

"Don't erase me, please, don't erase me," his voice broke as he dug his forehead against him. Lawrence pried his head away to glance up at him, "Jack?"

Jack refused to acknowledge his doubles theatrics, and this only caused him to crumble further into him.

"I'll be better. I'll be so much better." Lawrence's arms abruptly latched around him, he was absolutely begging now. His hands dug into the base of Jack's back. "I'll be better."

Jack grinned, a look not observable from his double.

"I don't want to go, I don't want to go." Lawrence was slurring his pathetic cries, his desperation was felt as his clawed at Jack's back. All while rocking his head against him.

Jack could not deny his lust for more of the friction.

"Please, Jack. Please call them back. Please don't do it."

The begging continued to stir something primal and rampant inside of Jack. Yet, he kept still, a tactic to shatter his doubles will; it worked. Lawrence nuzzled against him, and Jack strived to maintain his dark composure as Lawrence buried himself against his crotch.

"Don't make me go," Lawrence whispered. "Don't replace me with that...thing."

Despite it all, Jack had no intention of replacing his precious double with the AI. His digital copy was rampant, to say the least when they wiped its AI laws - a necessary risk to create a competent Jack - it went savage. Intent on copying itself and taking over every piece of software it could get its hands on. Jack only kept the project alive as an absolute last resort. But sometimes the dog - his double - needed to be taken out back, shown the barrel of the gun. A sweet reminder of who was in charge and the role it was required to play.  

“You need to sober up, quit this puppy act and get back to work. No more side projects, no more apartment. Do you understand?" Jack's voice was a low whisper, his hands pulled away from his sides and ran across the top of Lawrence's head. He trailed soft circles across his scalp, and the double pressed into the touch.

"Are you going to do something that stupid again?" Jack seethed, his breathing hitching as he tried to control his temper. Something he only managed around one other person; his baby girl.

Lawrence shuddered, he glanced up, biting his lip as he swayed his head back and forth.

Fuck , Jack could not deny the sight before him. Lawrence was utterly wrecked, his face strained, begging, Jack for his approval. He could take him right now, push him back over and destroy the last of his doubles will, with one thrust at a time against the carpet.

Not yet.

"Good," Jack smiled down at him, all while keeping his hands intertwined with his hair.

Jack softened his grip and moved his thumb to the back of his double's neck. Right above the port.

"Don't let my lighter tone mislead you. I am fucking pissed." Jack warned.

However, Lawrence visibly relaxed, most likely crawling back into his hazy drugged induced state. He nodded his head against Jack's pants, there was no denying the hardness growing there, but Lawrence said nothing. He kept his weight pressed against him. The Handsome complex falling back into place once again.

Lawrence just stared up at him, his eyes still glassy but the fear had subsided.

"Um...where then?" Lawrence asked warily.

"You're staying with me, pumpkin."

Lawrence blinked dumbly, but he didn't protest when Jack snagged his arm and pulled him to his feet. He led him to the spare room.

Lawrence thanked him, it was cute and pathetic. It was a lot of things that Jack couldn't reason. He slammed the door and locked his miserable double away to detox. He was going to have one hell of a painful morning, and Jack had no intention of opening that door until his 'Jack' was back.

He was finally in his own bed, and sleep was determined on sparring him this evening or morning. It was so damn late.

Jack sat up, reached for a cigarette, booted his echo and opened the text editor. It had been a while since he'd smoked or coded. He looked over Lawrence's last merge, the code his double had botched, the code which had nearly KILLED him. Jack's hands gripped onto the device tighter, tonight was a close call. Way to close.

He found the problem almost instantly. The idiot hadn't written tests for the 'friendlies' module, and the whole thing had reset when he rebooted the application. Which he would have known IF he had written the fricken tests.

Jack glanced over at his empty bed. He should call Nisha in the morning. His crotch ached, and his lust had not subsided. Distracting himself with work did nothing to abate the hunger he felt.

The temptation to barge back in and drag Lawrence into his bed was overpowering, but Jack was not one to give into to petty desires. He let the last thought run bitterly over his mind. No, he already knew how he was going to play this out. As Nisha had told him many times; there are three ways to break a skag.

One; Beat it till it there's nothing left but fear, but a skag who fears you will never offer you their loyalty.

Two; trick that fucker with a hunk of meat, when it's close snag it, don't let it go till it gives up, it will cry and squirm, but all things give in, in the end.

Or the third and final method. Let it come to you. Sure you can beat it and feed it along the way, but when it chooses you, then you have that little beasts loyalty and trust. Then you have it for life.

Jack was playing out option three. His double would come to him, Jack just needed to wait it out.

Chapter Text

Angel's tea had long gone cold it was her third one today, and all of them had ended up like the last; forgotten on the bedside table.

Lawrence hadn’t regained consciousness he’d stirred and cried, but he was yet to open his eyes. It was Miss Spring's who’d physically pulled her away from him when they'd reached Hollow Point. Athena and her remarkable strength pulled Lawrence over her shoulder and carried him swiftly to their place. The two women fussed over him; Janey had rushed to the pharmacy and bought all the med-kits she could spare the money for, and Athena drew up a chart to keep a record of his dosages.

That was three cycles ago.

When the adrenaline from their escape washed away, the exhaustion collapsed her, and as a result, Angel had scarcely left the room. Nyx demanded she seek treatment for her hands, and they now sat bandaged in her lap. They'd neglected it for too long, the health kit would not tone down the severity of the burns. She'd undoubtedly have scars to show her cruelty towards Tania.

Angel's mind raced with doubt and guilt. No amount of comfort from Felicity and the others had soothed her uncertainty. What she did to Tania was monstrous. She'd burned half that woman's face away, and yet, as she watched Lawrence cry in his sleep, the feelings were replaced with rage and pride at her small act of revenge.

Crake didn't think it was enough. He'd been different since their imprisonment; more hostile, blunt, crude than before. He hovered over Lawrence like a beast protecting his pack, forever staying by his side.

She would not have found her courage without Crake’s help. He'd guided her out of that place, told her to stay and fight. She thanked him for that, and he said nothing on the matter. Crake just glared down at Lawrence and at the soft violet glow under his veins; another Eriduim treatment. He’d told her to stop, and she didn't listen.

Now he scarcely talked to her.

She asked Nyx about it, but he was tight-lipped on the matter. Angel knew that was enough reason to be concerned, the blue digistruct hardly kept his mouth shut.

Angel sighed with bitter sorrow, her actions saved Lawrence, and yet no one seemed happy on the matter.

The chart next to his bed had Janey’s and Athena's handwriting all over it. Taking note when they'd given him another health-kit or dosage of pain medication. Besides profusely thanking them over and over, she'd barely said a word to the two women.

She hadn't said anything to anyone, and for now, she was alone.

Nyx couldn't stand to watch Lawrence in such a state and would throw himself back into the realms of his digital home. Crake would linger the longest, sometimes Angel would place her echo out and leave him to talk with Felicity. But for most the part, she sat in the chair beside Lawrence, watching and waiting for him to wake up.

“You did everything you could,” Felicity spoke from the echo in front of her.

“What if it was too much Eridium? What is it wasn’t enough? Wha-”

“Angel, stop this nonsense!" Felicity's voice was almost shrill.

Angel sniffed and turned towards the echo.

"Timothy is the stubbornest of us all, he won’t be knocked off that easily,” her brisk and decisive tone began to melt away. "You saved him, you brought him here."

Angel nodded her head and weakly hummed in agreement.

“What do you think they wanted with us?”

Angel's hands were fidgeting with the shirt Miss Springs had given her. A habit she was trying to stop as she all but tore Lawrence's yellow sweater to shreds (it lay as a tattered mess on the chair behind her).

Felicity sighed an odd expression for the AI, “No doubt they wanted to use your Siren abilities, who knows to what end. As for Timothy, well he was Jack’s closest confidence. I’m sure there were many secrets he could have told them.”

An array of red particles lit the room; Crake had burst from the watch.

During the lonely hours, Angel had sat by Lawrence's side she'd tinkered with the restrictions forced onto the digistruct device. She'd made it so they could exist inside the watch in a dormant state. Allowing them to connect to Lawrence’s echo and use the receiver to listen in. The final addition, empowered them to release themselves on their own accord. Something she should have suggested to Lawrence before all this. It would have saved him if Nyx and Crake could have come forth when he needed them.

Angel slumped forward, tears of bitter regret were pooling in her eyes. So many 'if only's'. If she had just done something different none of this would have happened.

Crake cleared his throat, a habit he'd observed from Lawrence.

Angel pulled her head up and gave the digital double a short smile, "evening."

"That time already and still no change?"

Angel nodded slowly. The bluntness in Crake’s words cut through to her, and the tears began to fall.

"Ah...he's going to be ok," Crake pulled away, his eyes darted back to Lawrence's restless face. Although the red digistruct had been curt with her, his human qualities were improving. He still lacked the empathy Nyx had, though Angel noted his efforts.

“As to his 'questioning', Lawrence's body was racked with Veritilium. Days worth it seems."

"That's a rare substance, exclusively patented to Maliwan,” Angel blurted out. Long ago, Jack had asked her to find out what she could on the powerful serum. The prototype version was worth more than Eridium per drop. It rendered the users mind willing to talk, to spill all their secrets and answer all questions. How did Tania get her hands on it?

Crake nodded, "The dosage they had him on was...extreme, chances are he would have spilled everything.”  

"Was there anything else? What about when you scanned him?"

"I didn't see much or anything before you showed up." Crake turned back to face Lawrence, and she noted how he ignored her second question.

"You were talking with Jack before I entered the room. I heard you."

"Lawrence requested we call him."

Angel pursed her lips together, carefully eyeing the red digistruct across the bed.

"He wasn't himself," he tried to explain, "and he said nothing of you."

But Angel had a sickly feeling as to the real intention of the call. You don't survive Handsome Jack for almost six years without giving up some part of yourself. There was something there between them, and Angel took another sip of her cold tea to restrain her curiosity on the matter.

"That's it!" Said a voice far too cheery for the current atmosphere.

Angel sat up and trailed her eyes over to the doorway. The light was so much brighter there, and she squinted to capture the silhouette of Janey leaning against the door.

"I told myself, three days I'm gonna let her sit next to that idiot." Janey gestured to Lawrence as the said 'idiot'. "Then I'm pulling her away."

"I don't feel like going anywhere," Angel smiled politely and returned her attention to Lawrence. She appreciated her efforts, but the thought of leaving the room was exhausting. Her mind ached from exerting her powers, and her face was still blue and swollen from Tania's assault.

"I need someone to carry the groceries, see my arms are not like Athena's, can't carry enough to feed four people."

Angel didn't buy that for a moment but said nothing.

"And I can't ask him," Janey threw another dramatic arm towards Crake, "Those red beefcake arms are only good for shootin lasers."

"Evening to you to Springs," Crake replied, a sneer slipped across his face. Although Angel did not feel like there was any malice in the gesture.

"Come on, you're in my house. Time to earn your keep" her pace was as keen as her words as she entered the bedroom.

"But...what if he wakes up? What if no one is here-"

"Red face one and blue idiot two can stay," Janey threw her head over to Crake as she lifted Angel to her feet.

"I'm not leaving my guest to rot away in the dark. We'll get some food, hmm maybe some clothes for you too, then cook a massive meal for all of us. Sound good?"

No , Angel bitterly thought.

"Angel, go with Miss Springs. Please, you need some time away from all of this."

"But-" she tried to protest.

"Take her!" Felicity implored to Janey and with that Angel felt the woman's calloused hands grab her by the arm and drag her from Lawrence's side.

She called to Crake as she was pulled through the doorway.

"Tell me if he wakes!"

He gave her a nod as she was taken away.

The desert cave was viciously cold. Angel had forever been surrounded by perfectly controlled room temperatures, and it had taken some time to adjust to the blazing heat of the Dust and the freezing depths of the cave.

Janey had layered up Angel thoroughly; giving her a hooded jumper, well-worn gloves, and a beanie to hide her Siren tattoos but to also shield her from the brisk air.

They had ventured into the evening markets. It was packed with life, Angel couldn't recall a time she'd been surrounded by so many. All kinds were there, everyone's clothes were mix-matched she recognised a Maliwan suit, stolen no doubt and someone with Hyperion cybernetics crudely installed. Janey stayed close to her side and flashed her teeth if anyone stepped to close to the pair of them.

"Ok, this one!? It has to be this one, Tim would love it." Janey held up the shirt, it had a cartoon face of a green cat, with a giant pink sequin bow around its neck. The tee had seen better days, a few holes were already wearing into the sleeves, but so far everything had been like that. At least this one didn't come with blood stains.

"I don't think Tim is fond of cats, or any animal for that matter."

Angel had started to use his other name. It seemed odd for her to be the only one to refer to him by his last name.

"What? No way! I gave him a bunch of my inspirational cat posters. Don't tell me hated them!?"

Angel laughed, "I don't know, we'll have to ask him when he wakes up."

Janey was still studying the cat tee, it was ridiculous, and Angel very much wanted to see it on Tim.

"Ok, let's get him that one," Angel smiled and Janey checked to make sure it was his size.

They paid the merchant and explored further into the evening markets. They passed vendors cooking up something heavily spiced, Angel sniffed the air, despite the appearance of the cooked skag ribs it smelled heavenly.

Angel shook her head when Janey asked if she wanted one.

"I have, had, a pet skag, she was left behind." she wearily explained.

"Oh," Janey pouted, "you never know. Those things are dumb as a beaten drongo, but have the survival rate of the sun."

Angel laughed at the odd analogy. She hoped Janey was right.

"Oh! Come on, over here Angel," Janey tugged on her arm impatiently. She led her over to another rack of goods and in amongst the dark mattered clothes she pulled out a blue overall denim dress.

Angel frowned and looked at the outfit, "Pandora women don't wear dresses."

"We can make it work!" Janey cheered.

"I'm not sure," Angel began to fret pulling at the hems of her hoodie.

"But you'd look so cute! Come on, Angel-"

Jack’s words whispered across her mind, ' Angel, baby girl, look pretty for me, smile for me '

Angel pulled her hands away from her sides they curled into fists as she shoved the garment away.

"I'm not a doll!" Angel snapped, only to immediately anguish and reach for Janey's hand. "I'm so sorry! I didn't, I didn't mean to-"

"No, hun, it's ok," Janey only held onto her hand tighter. "And you know what! You're right. Screw the dress, let's get you something badass."

Angel's heart fluttered with a warmth she'd not felt in so long. Janey's continued concerns and considerations were baffling, yet so welcomed..

"But not...too badass, I want something..."Angel paused, she didn't know what she wanted.

Janey pulled her into a one-shoulder hug, "whatever you pick, I'm sure its hell of a lot better than whatever Tim or those military freaks had you in."

Angel smiled "Lawrence, I mean, Tim made me wear his clothes. It was weird too because I thought they were my Dad's. I could have worn his jumper as a dress. They were so big."

"Hold on," Janey cocked her head to the side, an amused look was across her face. "You thought Tim was Jack?"

Angel nodded slowly.

"How'd you make that mistake? Appearances aside, they're nothing alike!" Janey scoffed.

Angel only bit her lip at that and glanced away. Janey was in for a surprise when Tim woke up. Sure, she could tell the difference between them now, but it was hard to find the tells at first.

"What colour was it?"

"Hmm?" Angel glanced back at Janey.

"The jumper he made you wear?"

"Yellow. Hyperion yellow, its back at the house." Angel huffed.

Janey snorted, "that's an awful colour. You need to be in...blue, or maybe something lighter?"

Janey kept bringing the clothes out. Angel could not recall the last time she'd been shopping. Was it when she was seven? Before her mum died? It must have, as she had no memory of Jack ever taking her anywhere.

After lots of back and forth, Angel settled on some light blue high waisted shorts (a rare find that she just had to have) that pleated out and made it look more like a skirt. Thick black leggings, combat boots, and a long sleeve top with a hoodie, because she decided she liked hoodies after Janey had given her one to wear.

She kept her beanie on to hide her half-shaven head, which was now growing out and was a centimetre long. Angel wondered how long it would take to grow it all the way out. That was the first thing she wanted to do, have long hair and style it the way she wanted. Angel wondered if Tim knew how to braid? Angel let herself giggle at the thought. Perhaps Nyx would be more willing once she helped him get a real digistructed body.

Angel never thought she'd have this found family. A family who all in some ways looked and acted like her Dad, and at the same time, they were so much better. Though, there were some hard conversations to have ahead. Angel's mood began to sour once again at the thought of Tim and her father. She knew it was best unspoken, but there was something there and what if Tim wanted that life back?

Angel sighed and suppressed the thoughts for later. She paid the merchant with the money she'd stolen from a Hyperion weapon vending machine.

Janey led her around some more, before they settled in at a small bar, which also acted as a grocery store. Liquor was available everywhere, buy a gun and get a drink, buy a dress and get a free shot. It amused Angel greatly. She'd never had an alcoholic beverage before, and yet she was content with her tea. She remembered how Tim's safe house fridge had been stocked with the most excellent liquor. He must have stolen it from the Bunker. Angel scoffed at the memory of him favouring that over water.

As she waited for Janey to place the order Angel let her mind wander into her echo. She called Tim's echo-comm on the bedside and connected to the device, from there, she turned on the camera feed.

The scene was much the same Tim's face was feverish, his skin pale and expression pained. However, Crake was no longer sitting in the corner, or standing arms crossed away from the bed. He sat on the edge beside Tim, with his back hunched over and his head in his hands.

Angel's eyes narrowed as she closed in on the image. Crake pulled his head up and looked down at Tim, his hand moved to cover his while his expression remained unreadable.

Angel abruptly found herself flushing red. This intimacy was not for her eyes, but she did not cut the connection.

"Jack?" Tim stirred. His eyes didn't open, he only winced and stirred restlessly into the pillow.

"No, it's Crake."

"Oh."

There was no denying the bitter disappointment in his voice and the distress in Crake's gaze. The red digistruct pulled his hand away and sat in silence.

Felicity's words abruptly intercepted her mind.

' Angel, you need to stop this. Talk to Janey, enjoy this moment. Do not concern yourself with things you cannot fix.'

' But what if he wakes up and he's not the same? What if-'

"Hey, you ok there mate?"

Janey approached with a tray of skewered vegetables and a very full canvas bag of tinned food.

"Just worrying about Tim, about everything,” she replied honestly.

"Hmmm," Janey nodded and chewed on her food.

Angel just rolled her kebab in the tray, waiting for the steaming greens to cool.

"You know," Angel started cautiously, "you never asked who I was, why I was with Tim."

Janey just pressed her lips together and swallowed down the meal.

"Figured you'd tell me on ya own. Sure, It was surprising, to get the call, hadn’t heard from Tim in five years, I always thought Jack got to him."

Oh , Jack got to Tim alright. Just not in the way Janey knew.

"I'm his daughter you know," Angel whispered.

"What? Tim's?"

"No!" Angel blurted out followed by a hoarse laugh. It sounded strange, the absurdity of it all made her choke.

"No, Jack's," her tone dropped as fast as her spirit.

Janey hummed, "ah, yeah, the eyes, guess that should have been obvious."

Angel instinctively brushed her fringe over her green eye. She resented her heterochromia; her blue eye was her mother's. That's what she convinced herself, and the green was Jacks; which was better hidden.

Janey continued to chew her food, not at all phased with Angel's confession regarding her origins. It was not the reaction Angel had been expecting. She’d been prepared for a snide remark, for Janey to list off every vile act her father had committed, and by association, she was also to blame for. Yet, Janey kept eating, unaware of the terrible waves of anxiety swelling inside of her.

"You gonna eat that?" Janey pointed to the kebab, and when Angel shook her head, the other women eagerly said her thanks and took it.

Janey did not care she was Handsome Jack's daughter.

It was absolutely ridiculous. How could she not?

"Dammit," Janey stressed.

Angel jolted her head up, here it was. She was going to say something on the matter. Angel clenched her bandaged hands, though not tight enough to sting her burns.

"Athena needs some time," she huffed.

"Some time?" Angel queried.

"Yeah, you see," Janey rubbed a hand down the back of her neck and offered Angel an awkward sly grin. "We kinda stole that caravan to come pick you all up."

“I'm sorry you had to do that."

She was doing it again; apologising. Angel bit the inside of her lip.

"Nah all good, it was the only thing with a booster that was going to reach you. Seems the one-eyed-old man we stole it from wants a 'favour' from Athena," Janey rolled her eyes, "so she's gonna be away for a week or so."

"Well, tell me what I can do to help around the house." Angel hurriedly offered.

Janey scolded and stood up, "you're our guest, you need rest, speaking of which, we should head back."

Janey face dropped, her skin grew pale, and she suddenly swung the canvas shopping bag over her shoulder.

"We really need to get back," she started to usher Angel out of the bar. "Athena didn't go home."

"And?"

"She was meant to give Tim another pain-med dosage."

oh no, Angel bitterly thought as they ran out the door.


His head was hammering nails of pain within him, and his mind screamed for him to open his eyes, but Lawrence couldn't will himself to move. Moving would hurt, moving would cut him open, they'd heal him and do it again, and again.

So he kept his eyes shut and remained still. Not an easy feat, he needed water, his throat was dry, and Lawrence rasped a cry as he body reacted to him stirring awake.

Carefully he pried his eyes open, the only movement he dared to make. Lawrence stared at the cracked ceiling above for a considerable time. Before he remembered he could move his neck without the jarring pain punishing him. He craned his chin up and glanced around the room.

It was a far cry from the bandit dungeon which had been his home for...Lawrence grimaced, he couldn't recall how long he'd been there. He couldn’t recollect the details, it all seemed to blur into one timeframe. How long was it? A few days? Weeks? Was it even longer? Lawrence groaned loudly as he tried to recall. Nothing but a rusted open door, a tray of needles and an iron chair came to mind.

Oh, but he remembered her face.

Skin that had seen too much sun, amber eyes, dark hair with that violet streak. The rest of her features eluded him, but her sly smile was imprinted in his mind. He even saw it when he closed his eyes. Her soft words gently encouraging him to open up, her hands running down the side of his face, locking his gaze with hers.

Lawrence swallowed down the acid bubbling up, his stomach was a torrent of nausea. He could no longer support his head up that tiny bit of exertion was already turning his vision spotty. He rested back in the covers and closed his eyes and focused on the pain; that's how he survived. Just think of the pain and not her questions, not her gentle words prying into his mind.

Only pain.

His yearnings to be distracted by her influence was granted, and with every passing moment, waves of agony surged through him. Lawrence pushed his head into the pillow and screamed into the fabric. Everything felt wrong, his chest ached, and his stomach was pulling apart.

He shuddered and cried out again as a surge of static ran across his forehead.

"Tim?"

Lawrence pried his eyes open; his vision blurry from the tears. Red and magenta swayed in front of him.

"Crake?" Lawrence whispered back. "Whats wrong...whats wrong with me," the words choked out between his chapped lips.

"You're not meant to be awake, this is too soon."

He couldn't see Crake's face, just a mass of red but the concern in his voice illustrated the care on the digistruct's face.

Another voice spoke behind him, "Athena was meant to be back an hour ago to give him another dosage."

Nyx , Lawrence tried to call to him, but all he could do was hyperventilate into the covers.

"Felicity, call the others, he's not meant to be awake, he should be out for this."

Another voice answered, yet Lawrence couldn't focus on the words. He drew a shaken gasp as a new wave of suffering smothered his breathing.

"It's ok, buddy" Nyx cooed, static ran up his front again. As uncomfortable as the sensation was, it was welcomed knowing they were safe and were still by his side.

"Make it stop," Lawrence cried, "fuck, what...is happening...where...where am I?"

He coughed, and Lawrence felt something dribble from his agape mouth against the pillow. Opening his eyes, he saw tiny specks of blood bloom across the once white linen.

"Where the hell are they?" Crake growled before the pain overwhelmed him and Lawrence’s mind surrendered to it all.


Angel heard him before Felicity was able to get a message to her comm.

Lawrence wailed from the other side of the house. His cries made Angel's heartthrob, it seemed like her whole chest was trying to push up her throat. He yelled again, this time with notably vicious sounds.

Janey drew a sharp breath, "oh boy, not good."

"Angel, can you unpack the goods, I'll deal with this." She was already making her way down the hall.

Angel wanted to protest, but it didn't seem fair to argue with the person who was offering them their home. Both women had barely made it to the hallway when an explosion of red appeared in front of them.

"WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN!?" Crake roared at them, his face contorted in pure fury.

Angel jolted back, her heart tore against her chest, and she dropped all the bags to her feet. Jack's livid face rounded on her - it was Crake she reasoned - but fear gripped her all the same.

"Shove it, red, I'm heading there now," Janey walked through the red digistruct and down the hall.

"You should have been here an hour ago!" Crake seethed as he paced behind her. His voice but an animalist snarl, shoulders rolled back. "He's trying to regrow half his godamn stomach! He cannot be awake! This is torture for him!"

"I know! I know!" Janey snapped back and was now running down the hall.

Angel picked up the bags and slowly followed behind. Her pale hands restlessly tugged at the handle as she placed them on the kitchen counter.

"Fu--ck! Fuck!" Tim's screams of pain wailed down the hall, and the tin of beans Angel had grabbed slipped from her grasp; she couldn't stand this. The tears were welling in her eyes again, and the worst part? She had no idea if they were for Tim or in response to hearing her own father's voice in agony.

When she heard the crash Angel didn't wait to be told to stay back, she ran into the hall and threw the door open.

"Woah there big fella, come on now, back to bed."

Janey had her arms under Tim, he was halfway out of bed, thrashing against the sheets, the stitches were pulling out on his arms. Crake was pacing in the corner, the expression on his face was a distorted mix of rage and anguish. His hand flexed at the holster on his hip.

"Angel!" Janey called, "the syringe."

"No," Tim hissed, he looked rabid, his grip on Janey turned into something fierce. "No more," he spat and clawed at the mechanic who was only trying to help.

Tim ripped the drip line from his arm and shuddered forward. His eyes were glassy, Angel was sure he had no idea who he was attacking or where he was.

"Timothy!" Janey lightly slapped him on the side of the face, and Angel watched Crake fume at the sudden attack.

"Mate, you've got to get back to bed. Still got a lot of healing to do."

Tim was sobbing now, gasping for air between his cries. Angel ran to the bedside and dosed the syringe, she kept her back turned so he couldn't see her preparing the needle.

"Fuck, mate, you're trying to regrow a lot. You need to stay still," Janey cursed.

Tim only swore back at her something fierce and derogative. Which made Felicity shout from her comm at hearing such a thing.

"Angel now," Janey hissed over her shoulder.

The needle was in and out before he could growl or swipe at her. The effects were thankfully swift, Angel had made sure they bought the best Hollow Point could afford. Tim's eyes blacked out his head began to hang heavy into Janey. He started to slump forward the mechanic pushed him back, and swung his feet back up into the bed. Janey wiped sweat from her hairline, as she whispered softer words to him.

"It's ok Tim, we've got you, back to bed sweetheart," Janey spoke breathlessly as she fought with his dead weight.

Angel pried the sheets out from under him and covered him once again. He stared at her under his lashes; his gaze blank.

"I'm sorry Angel, and you too Crake," Janey rested a hand on her shoulder. "I thought we would be back in time."

Angel nodded her eyes wide as she watched Tim drift back into his slumber. Crake cursed under his breath, he stood at the foot of the bed, arms crossed and eyes focused on Tim.

"This is unacceptable," he spoke bitterly under his breath. "Do you have any idea what he went through for you?"

Angel kept her eyes on Tim, refusing to meet Crake's guilt educing remarks.

"His mind was wrecked with Veritilium, his body torn apart, deprived of food and water for a week, and you think a shopping trip is more important than seeing him through this?"

"Crake, come on stand down buddy," Nyx pulled at his brother's jacket, but Crake threw an arm at his brother.

"Piss off, they need to be bloody reminded."

It was Felicity who tried to settle the matter.

"Angel deserves her own recovery too. She needs time for herself, to breathe, to live. Free from Jack."

"She's only alive because of him!" Crake snapped back, his hand pointed at Tim.

That was all Angel could stand. She swivelled on the spot and marched out of the room and down the hall.

"Do not forget the sacrifices Angel made, the fear she overcame to free you all!" Felicity's voice was sharp calling from both her echo and Lawrence's echo on the bedside.

Angel started for the kitchen, yet she could not escape the argument.

Both digistructs pixelated into the hall beside her. It was over at that point, Felicity and Crake shouted back at each other. Each trying to prove who deserved their attention and care.

Nyx stood close to her nervously stepping his weight from one foot to the other. His hand closed over hers and Angel tried to cling to his touch.

Crake made a disgruntled noise and flashed away, the red glow under the bedroom door indicated he was back at Tim's side.

Nyx remained where he was.

"Don't let him get to you," Nyx whispered softly. "His way of caring is...not the best."

"Not the best!? His way of caring is like Jack!" Angel spat and stormed into the kitchen. "Being a complete overprotective guilt tripping asshole!"

"He was out of line, but.."

Angel threw a wild glare at Nyx's way, she didn't want to hear any 'buts' or 'whys'. Crake was acting just like Jack, forcing her to feel ashamed for taking any time for herself, forcing her to bear the guilt and blame.

"But you need to understand where Crake is come from." Nyx tone was not like his usual self, he sounded his age, spoke slowly and kept his gaze fixed on hers.

"I don't want to-" Angel began to snap back, but Felicity spoke over her.

"Angel listen to what he has to say. All of us have felt the abuse and wrath from Jack. Nyx and Crake too."

Angel swung her back to the blue digistruct as she turned on the kettle. Jack always made excuses for his actions, why should Crake be any different?

"You know how we get summoned automatically when Tim is in dire need of aid?" Nyx spoke softly.

Angel said nothing and went to fetch a mug.

"Angel, you're acting very rude," Felicity whispered from her comm, and Angel resisted the urge to silence it.

She found the tea bags and set it by the kettle as we waited for it to boil. Nyx kept talking, intent on continuing despite Angel's cold shoulder.

"Well, every time it happened by Jack's hands our programming forbid us to help him. We just had to stand there and watch him-Jack...do his thing."

Angel's shoulders slumped as she carefully poured the boiling water into the mug. Why was he telling her this?

"Tim would be beaten, abused, left to pick himself up and wear that stupid Jack grin all over again."

Angel felt her face flush red, she was acting petty not listening to Nyx's story. Slowly she turned back to face him. Nyx's soft tone did not reveal the murderous look in his gaze. There was a fury behind his eyes, the same look Crake wielded when they came home and when he charged after Tania.

"And we couldn't do anything. Tim begged us to help, Jack would laugh, and we just had to watch it all."

He pulled his gaze away and slowly uncurled his fits. Nyx did not look himself.

Angel's eyes began to sting, and her hands sought warmth around the mug in front of her.

"After our AI laws were broken it all came rushing back, we remembered anything, well, we never forgot. But now we remembered we did nothing." Nyx stared broken, he restlessly moved against the counter.

"But that's not your fault," Angel finally spoke, her tone a hushed whisper.

"Still feel blame all the same." Nyx shrugged. "And now that we can choose to help him we're still limited by these stupid hologram bodies. We couldn't do anything to save him from Tania, we can't do much now either."

Angel nodded slowly.

"Angel," Nyx stressed her name, and she met his gaze. "It's happened a lot. One too many times I think for Crake to handle. He's a ...complex guy." Nyx nodded thoughtfully as he spoke of his brother.

"Why are you telling me all this?"

"Because Crake and Tim won't," Nyx grounded, he scolded the two of them before continuing. "You saw him, Crake's way of dealing with problems is violence and threats, and Tim? Well, we all know he turns into 'Handsome Jack' the moment he's pushed into a corner. If not that, then he's drowning himself with substance abuse."

Nyx huffed and crossed his arms, "What a great couple those to make," he finished bitterly.

Angel buried her face into the warmth of her tea. Sipping on the warm drink, she considered Nyx's words. When were their AI laws broken? How long did they have to watch Tim's abuse?

"Thanks, I guess...for telling me."

The guilt was back again. Every way she looked at it, the blame landed somewhere on her.  She stared at her hands and counted the acid spots across the back of her arm in an effort to distract herself from the stinging in her eyes.

"I'm sorry. I don't want you to...feel bad? Do you feel bad?" Nyx words spewed out at their usual swiftness. Angel glanced up, and he offered her a shy smile. "I'm sorry. It's all a mess. Everything with Tim is a mess."

"Yeah, I know. I'm ok," and Angel returned the smile.

"Don't get me wrong, my bro is a massive red hostile asshole," Nyx pixelated to sit opposite her at the table.

"He is," Angel poked her tongue out before sipping on her tea.

"He'll come back like a sad puppy and apologise, he's just like Tim in that regard."

"This is all very mature of you Nyx," Felicity spoke up. "Sharing this."

Nyx slumped in the chair and rested his hands behind his head.

"Oh yeah? Well I can be," his tune became sly once again, and a smug grin was plastered across his face. "Only when Tim and Crake are out of ear-shot. Don't want them getin the wrong idea. Better they think I'm blue, dumb, and useless, then I can one-up them and be the leader of this glum party of idiots!"

He winked at Angel, and she had to roll her eyes at his complete character change.

"If anyone is the leader it's me," Felicity jeered back.

Nyx beamed, "let's have a party election. Angel, who are you voting for?"

Angel snorted at the idea and declared her vote was going to Felicity.

"While we wait for red-fuse-head to sulk back want to play bunkers and badasses?"

"Play what now?"

"Oh! do I have a fricken treat for you two."

Nyx glowed and digitised a blue board into the centre of the table as he began to hurriedly explain the story and rules of the game. Angel slumped into the chair, relaxing for the first time since coming home. Her newfound friends weren't perfect, her feelings towards Tim were complicated enough; Crake was another angry mystery to solve; Nyx's invasion was just too much to handle sometimes; and Felicity was always reprimanding her. Despite it all, she felt at home, she felt safe and whose family was perfect anyway?

********************************

The bed was wide enough for Angel to crawl next to Lawrence and sleep on top of the covers. Janey and Athena had previously insisted she take the room, while the two of them had squeezed onto the couch. Space was limited in their tiny narrow place, but the two women made the sacrifice to give her and Lawrence somewhere to rest.

He was back under the spell of painkillers keeping him asleep from the painful experience of regrowing half the contents in his abdomen. He occasionally stirred, mumbled words in the night, that was as close to being conscious as he got.

Angel knew now the words he'd tried to whisper to her in the caravan. He'd mouthed them to her, yet all that escaped him was blood.

'I'm sorry.'

He mumbled them in his sleep, uttering the same words over and over. It was early in the cycle, not yet 'dawn' when he started to stir again.

Angel rolled over, wrapping the covers around her shoulders. Hollow Point's 'nights' were void of all light, the moon nor the sun reached these depths. Angel turned the light of her echo on, the soft glow revealed Lawrence's profile. Sweat covered his hairline, and his face twitched as his breathing reeled long breaths.

He never spoke more than a few words at a time.

He rolled his head to the side facing her, his eyes peaked under his lashes.

"Angel?"

"I'm here," she whispered back, not before she silenced her echo from all prying 'ears'. Angel bit her lip, Lawrence looked every part like John. A broken man, struggling with the loss and grief of his wife. The way his voice shook, his frozen gaze and broken will; it all came back to her.

She had been seven when she lost her mother. John was torn apart never made a whole again. Angel wonder if Tim would ever be the same after Jack, after Tania.

It was in these quiet moments alone in the dark that Angel closed her eyes and played pretend. Lawrence wasn't here, he was another ghost of Handsome Jack. It was only John, her Dad who laid beside her.

Angel masked Lawrence's words as John's. He was sorry for hurting her, for leaving her alone, for not being there when her mother was taken away. And when he apologised Angel pretended it was John's, not Lawrence's.

"Dad?" she whispered her voice hitching in despair.

Tim didn't respond.

The tears trailed down her cheeks, and Angel pressed her face into the pillow, as if to bury the guilt. Her chest ached for her Dad, and all she had was this man, this imitation of Handsome Jack.

She'd tried to convince herself Lawrence could become John; a pointless endeavour. She could not erase Tim, not like Jack had tried to do. For whatever selfish, petty reason he had saved her from the Bunker. He was here now, and she had to accept that.

John was dead, her Dad was gone.

"Lawrence?" she whispered back to him.

He hummed quietly.

"We're going to be ok."


They kept Lawrence in his drugged induce coma for another five cycles. Only when Janey was convinced everything was back in place, that he'd be able to move and eat again did they start to wean him off the pain medications and the array of health-kits.

When Angel studied his chart she'd discovered he had nine general-health kits, another five to cover the blood loss and eleven to recover his organ damage. That didn't include the fluids and the nutrient supplements he'd been on, and the additional Eridium Angel had given him. The Eridium being the only thing that stabilised him long enough to get him back to Hollow Point.

They still didn't entirely know the extent of what he’d suffered. The bite marks on his lips had healed, but who knew what that amount of Veritilium could do to the mind? Angel had been tempted to find a source to hack into Maliwan's databases and find out herself, but Felicity held her back, warned her against worrying herself.

They would know soon enough.

Janey dragged Angel out into the garage, and she did her usual protesting, but Felicity reassured her she'd tell her the moment Lawrence woke.

"I'm done," Angel passed over the broken recorder to Janey. It was such a minute task, all it needed was a factory reboot and a few updates, but Janey responded as if Angel performed miracles.

"You superstar!" she cheered and hurriedly began to find a channel to play some music.

Angel aimless tinkered with her echo, she activated the feed on Lawrence's echo-comm and found he hadn't moved. Although he did ever so slightly stir, his face was screwed up as if he were trapped in a painful dream. Angel watched on for another minute before Felicity hacked her own echo and cut the feed.

' You need to stop, he's going to be ok.' Felicity's voice warned over Angel's mind.

' Something isn't right! I just know it.'

' Nothing more you can do about it.'

Angel huffed and resigned she'd wait.

"Pass me that, spanner thing, the larger one the bench" Janey called over. Angel pushed herself off the bench and found the ‘spanner thing' for Janey.

Janey was servicing her motorcycle. It was an ancient piece of tech, Angel marvelled at how she'd been able to maintain it for so long. She left the mechanic to her ministrations and returned to her corner up on the bench. Turning on her echo, she re-opened her 'research'.

Tania .

Who she was, Angel did not know.

She searched her name through all of Hyperion's, Maliwan's, and Atlas's databases; nothing. She never revealed her intentions for Angel, besides some false promises of taking down Hyperion. But who didn't have a grudge with the corporate giant? Then there was Maliwan's influence she claimed they were funded by them, that may explain how she got her hands on the Veritilium.

Angel 'typed' out her notes with her mind. Compiling her research, searches and data into a folder. She would solve this mystery; Jack had trained her well.

Angel rubbed the back of her head. Her nights had been occupied by painful dreams and morning headaches. She reasoned it was from using her powers, developing new ones, or perhaps it was from having the Viral Felicity ripped from her mind.

Angel cursed under her breath. Tania had destroyed her before Angel could bring her back. Split the AI from her mind, after she had given her 'life' to protect her in the ship.

The guilt was withdrawn, Angel pressed her lips together at the memory. How she took something from Tania; her face.

She wondered what the woman looked like now.

Angel stirred restlessly as her imagination showed her images of disfigured faces. She switched her echo over to the last piece of communication the viral Felicity had sent her in attempt to distract herself from her own actions. She could not decipher the message no matter how many algorithms she put through it. The words would not match. The Viral Felicity had tried to warn her about something.

'T-EY  -RE N0- B---I-S, T---A -S ----TA-I- -A-E---N...---T --G--- --N...ANGEL RUN’

She reread the message. Hoping it would reveal a clue from her persistence; nothing.

Angel sighed, maybe it was time for a break. She went to access Lawrence's feed once again when Felicity entered her mind.

'Angel...Timothy is awake.'

She jolted forward and leapt off the bench. All thoughts of Tania were forced aside as she fastened her echo to her belt and ran for the door.

"Angel?" Janey called from the floor.

"He's awake!" she yelled, already clutching her coat around her shoulders as she bolted out of the garage.

Chapter Text

When Lawrence stirred awake the second time, he found his memories didn't produce any more clarity. There was a dull ache throbbing at his core, and no matter how hard he thought back he could not recall the cause of it. Lawrence took in a sharp breath and opened his eyes, and was surprised to discover himself in a bed with the covers tightly around him, snug and warm.

His heart immediately began to strike erratically in anticipation. Where the hell was he? Where was Angel? The memories lay buried, and the questions surged forth.

Lawrence chanced a glance at his side and was relieved to see the watch was on his wrist. If he could just move his arm slightly, he could swipe Nyx and Crake to his side. Yet, no amount of coxing seemed to make that happen.

Somehow, he knew moving would hurt him, and that alone was enough to deter him. After a long drawn breath, Lawrence gritted his teeth together and sought to reach the watch. His shoulders ached, every component protested to moving, as if his muscles had never functioned before. Yet the pain was different, more like an invasion of pins and needles, not the slicing sensation he vaguely recalled. Lawrence didn't touch the watch before Nyx and Crake burst forth.

Lawrence watched wide-eyed as his two digital companions were at his side, without him having made it to the watch. Nyx sat in the chair beside him his feet were thrown up on the bed (going through Lawrence's own legs), and Crake sat beside him on the covers.

“Oh thank fuck, finally” Nyx dragged out the last word. "You're awake!" he beamed.

"Water," Lawrence rasped. The word almost didn't make it out.

Crake pointed to the bedside, and he mentally groaned. He would have to reach for it himself. Nyx and Crake weren't the 'interacting with objects' department. His arm prickled and protested to being put to work, and it felt like everything was strained and twisted about inside of him. He grasped at the glass, only to fail and knock it to the side causing it to smash on the floor. Lawrence fell back into the covers his hands trembling in front of him uncontrollably. He closed his eyes, so he didn't have to look at Crake's worried glare.

“What...what happened?” His voice was dry and hoarse.

When the two digistructs didn't reply Lawrence shot his eyes open. They were staring at each other, and Lawrence knew they were both silently communicating with one another.

"Hey," Lawrence cried for their attention.

“Do you remember the Jack who was made after you?”

"What? um no?" Lawrence slurred back.

Crake reiterated the question, "the second double, after you? Do you remember what happened to him?"

Lawrence closed his eyes, wincing as his mind sent shivers of worry over him.

"Yeah...I think?"

He didn't know the guy's name he was the only other surgically altered 'Jack', and he didn't even last a few months. Spat the dummy and ran away because he couldn't handle the gig.

"Nisha and I...we...found him in the Dust," Lawrence replied slowly as the details found their way to him.

Dammit, it was so long ago. Why was Crake mentioning this?

"Do you remember what you found?"

"Yeah," Lawrence slowly nodded and his stomach twisted in his gut as he recalled the sight. It hadn't been pretty.

The second Jack double was found dead with his hands across his stomach. It looked like he'd tried to tear something out. When Nisha performed her 'autopsy', she pulled out an extended length of razor wire from his stomach. The same metal was poking out from all his limbs. When they investigated further, they concluded he had tried to crawl from some abandoned Atlas dungeon below the sand. The place had been deserted, but there was enough evidence to know that's where he had been held.

“They did the same thing to you,” Crake deadpanned.

Lawrence leaned forward, he wanted to dry wrench, yet his stomach fired rhythms of pain over him as he heaved. He remembered it now, the slicing and twisting excruciating pain inside of him, how every time he tried to escape he would slash his body apart from the inside. How his bloody hands hovered over his stomach as something tried to claw its way free.

"How? How the fuck am I alive?" Lawrence heaved, trying to push away nausea curdling inside him.

"Angel saved you, she was brilliant," Nyx offered a hesitant smile. "We got Janey and Athena to help too."

"You're at their place now, in Hollow Point. All the wire is gone." Crake spoke flatly, and Nyx shifted uncomfortably beside his brother.

"We...um...dealt with that as quickly as we could." Crake finished. Lawrence made note how unusual Crake's stammering sounded.

With shaken hands, Lawrence clenched at the sheets. To move his limbs took a mental strain over him, though he slowly began to pull them away. Everything was a struggle, his coordination was off, and Lawrence's fingers trembled as he pulled the last sheet away. Cautiously he sat up so he could inspect his stomach.

It was bad.

The wound was almost two fingers wide and ran from one hip to the other. The scar split out causing rivers of angry red lines to flow across his entire abdomen. It was thick and raised up, contorting his once smooth bronze skin.

“Athena got it all out,” Crake spoke, but his voice seemed distant.

Crake said something else, but Lawrence couldn't focus on his words. There was no way he could have survived this, half his inside must have been pulled out. Lawrence glanced at his trembling fingers and noticed the soft purple hue running up his veins. It slowly dawned on him, and he stifled a cry.

“You gave me more Eridium...didn’t you,” he pulled his gaze from his arms and stared at his digital-double.

Crake opened his mouth to reply, Nyx cut him off.

“It was our decision,” Nyx stated flatly. “We asked them to do it.”

Crake’s lips were pressed thin, and he said nothing.

Lawrence closed his eyes, “It’s going to get worse now. The tremors were the first sign. ”

“I know,” Crake replied softly.

Lawrence sighed, “that's another treatment," he buried his face into the side of the pillow. "They said it would only take one more dosage, and everything would fall apart."

Lawrence felt the familiar tingle from when the digistructs interacted with him, he pried his eyes downwards. Crake had rested a hand on his leg.

"We can deal with that later. You're alive.”

Lawrence nodded slowly and was relieved that no more pain flushed over him from the action. His fear of moving was being conquered by the moment, as the relief of safety was overwhelming. He sat up and resting on his elbows he managed to prop himself against the bed-head.

“Where is Angel? Is she ok?”

“She’s fine. She's out with Janey."

“Oh right,” Lawrence muttered.

It had been almost five years since he'd seen either Janey or Athena and Lawrence was not looking forward to it. Janey's over-enthusiastic prying and Athena's judgmental glare. They were going to question him, drill him and they were going to be disappointed in his answers.

Nyx's sly tone thankfully lightened his sour mood. He pointed to a pile of clothes on the draws across the room.

"They got you something to wear," his face was tight with a wide smug grin.

Lawrence pressed his weight down and shifted to the edge of the bed. His toes carefully hit the floor, and slowly he applied more and more pressure. His leg began to shake uncontrollably, and Nyx leaned forward to try to help him up, but he only managed to send jolts of static down his spine.

Lawrence gave him his thanks but shooed him away.

Mindful not to step in the glass he'd broken, he took his first step; it was almost a disaster. Lawrence stumbled forward and almost planted himself on the ground, but he reached the dresser just in time to press his weight against it. He groaned when he realised the pants around his waist began to drop.

"Great" Lawrence huffed when Nyx whistled next to him.

"My body is the same as yours," Lawrence snapped as he located the tee that had to be for him. As it had a giant painting of a green kitten loaded with sequins, and of course Janey would get that for him.

"No way, I'm based on the sexy thirty-five-year-old Jack. You, my friend, are old."

"Fuck off," Lawrence cursed as he struggled to get his arms through the sleeves. Already out of breath as he pulled the shirt overhead.

“Lookin cute,” Crake smiled honestly.

Lawrence drew the cord tighter around the sweatpants that were too big for him. He ran his hands over his hips, he'd lost weight, a lot of it. Jack would be furious if he saw him like this. His body was a trainwreck.

“I can't remember...much of anything.” Lawrence eyed Crake, hoping he'd give him the answers.

“They kept you heavily drugged. To make you compliant.”

Lawrence groaned. Burying his face in his hands, his beard scratched at his palms.

“I do remember you blasting brain matter to the roof,” he muttered into his fingers.

“That was gross but satisfying,” Nyx cheered.

“I agree,” Crake nodded, “though, you called Jack afterwards.”

Lawrence chewed the side of his tongue. He did not remember that.

“You said nothing of Angel,” Crake said flatly as he walked over to Lawrence. He rested a hand on his shoulder. "She's fine, she was...good. She got you out."

Lawrence nodded, and it did not escape him the worry in Crake's eyes. The magenta digistruct did not look himself, though Lawrence did not know what to say.

"How do you feel?" Crake asked cautiously.

"Feel? Crake, I feel like a pinata that's been stitched back together.”

Nyx snorted.

"Yes, of course. I meant...they put you under a lot of Veritilium."

Lawrence huffed out, "Fuck, I couldn't work out what they did, I didn't even consider that. How did they get it? Not even Jack could get his hands on that."

Crake shrugged, "Angel has been looking into it."

Lawrence paused. A dreadful thought consumed him, he began to fidget restlessly before he whispered to Crake. He did not want Nyx's input on the matter.

"Did she...um, Angel found me right?"

Crake's eyes grew wide with recognition, "Oh...yeah, she did."

"Just fucking great, cause me looking like her father wasn't bad enough."

Nyx apparently did overhear.

"Dude, everyone saw EVERYTHING!"

"Arh, Nyx! Seriously?!"


Angel flung herself up the stairs to reach the apartment, taking them three at a time. Already out of breath as she entered the hall. Angel heard Tim groan loudly, and Nyx yell about something. She didn't bother to knock and pulled the door open.

Lawrence was resting on the chest of draws, thankfully dressed. His head was buried in his palms, Crake and Nyx stood by his side.

"Tim," Angel spoke breathlessly.

His head jolted out of his palms, his eyes were red and sunk heavy into his face, and the beginnings of a beard ran across his jaw. Tim looked even gaunter standing up. The clothes Janey had bought him hung off his shoulders and hips. He opened his mouth to say something but promptly closed it. He looked away from her, his expression dark.

Crake moved aside to let her pass, and Angel slowly lent a hand against his arm.

"Tim," she pleaded for him to respond. When he didn't, she pulled his arm down from his face and flung herself against his chest.

"I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry I didn't know you were there, I thought you'd left, I thought you were gone. I would have done something sooner! I should have tried harder to escape," Angel sobbed into his tee.

She scrunched her eyes tight, she couldn't endure to see him.

She felt Tim stir restlessly against her, "Angel, I, um.."

Though the words did not escape him. He released a long deep breath before he carefully rested his metal-clipped chin against her head.

Angel allowed him to pull her close. His grip was soft as he hunched down to hold her tighter, and if Angel closed her eyes, she could convince herself it was John holding her.

"I'm ok, kiddo," his words were muffled by her hair.

Angel didn't even care about the pet name. She couldn't recall a time when it hadn't filled her with rage and discomfort, but hearing it from him for once did not invoke those feelings.

He shifted away so he could look down at her, Angel noticed how his eyes trailed up and over her face.

"Your eye?" Tim's voice strained with worry, which she had only ever heard from Nyx.

"Oh right," Angel brushed a hand over the fading bruise "Tania did that."

"Angel stood her ground against her." Crake said, and Angel caught onto the fondness in his voice.

Tim was not done looking her over, "and your hands!? Angel, what happened?"

He held her palms up and studied the splashes of white from the acid. The bandages were gone now yet the scars were hard to miss.

Angel bit the inside of her lip, no one but Felicity knew precisely what she did, and she wasn't ready to include anyone else into her moment of viciousness.

"Angel," He rested a heavy hand on her shoulder and pulled her away from him. She felt his palm tremble against her.

"You're no longer safe, those people...Whoever they were..." Tim pulled his gaze away, "They know everything about you. They know about the bunker, the collar, the key. If they get to you-"

Tim began to drag himself further apart, his breathing hitched.

"I..um...I told them...things..."

Angel felt him shift his weight away from her.

"I told them everything."

Angel's eyes hurriedly ran over his face, he looked like man unravelling, defeated and lost.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled and turned to leave.

Angel latched onto his arm, not ready to let him go, not after just getting him back.

"There is nothing you need to apologise for. If they come for me, so be it. I will tear that bitch apart for what she did," Angel spat venomously.  

Lawrence pressed his lips into a thin smile. His breathing jumped again as he stifled a scoff.

Nyx wasn't as tactful, he burst out laughing, "say 'bitch' again. Go on."

Angel rounded on him, "don't make me 'tear your metaphorical insides out'!"

Angel beamed when Nyx raised his hands defensively, "ok, ok, swear all you want."

Nyx pointed at Tim, "Felicity is going to give you an ear full, Tim. Look what you've done. Next, she'll be drinking and smoking and going out with boys."

"Or girls," another voice cheered from the doorway.

"Janey," Tim whispered.

Angel spun around and found the mechanic leaning against the door frame. Grease was still smeared across her cheeks as she flashed them both a cheeky grin.

"Come here you big muppet," she bounded over, and a threw herself into Tim's arms.

He was hesitant to follow back with the same enthusiasm, but gradually his arms wrapped around her and he buried her head against hers.

"Thank you," Angel heard him whisper.

"Is that for the cat tee? Or for saving your life again?"

"Both," he shrugged.

Angel moved over and ducked under Tim's arm.

"What are...you? Um what are you doing?" he stammered.

Angel smiled at his stuttering, a quirk that Tim had over Jack.  

"Helping you back to bed," Angel grumbled, "come on."

"Ok, I can manage," he pulled away from the two of them and hobbled over to the mattress.

Angel crossed her arms, "good."

"What's good?" he replied drowsily, he was already pressing his face into the pillows.

Janey lifted the sheets and covered him once again. She pressed a light kiss to his forehead that made Tim blush something fierce.

"You're still Tim, you're still stubborn."

Angel smiled and left to fetch him some water.

He was ok, he was going to be ok.

*********************

Angel and Janey fussed over him, they made sure he kept taking pain meds, drank plenty of water and was eating three meals a day.  Though he spent the first day awake with his head in a bucket, his stomach rejected almost everything after being on nutrients supplements for over two weeks. Food tasted awful as well, the motion of chewing felt foreign from having kept his jaw slammed shut for so long. They offered him sweet drinks and more blankets, they even suggested going out and buying him more cat tees. He politely accepted their attention, as alien as it all was. Jack's way of fussing over him was with Eridium and locking him in a bunker for his own protection.

Lawrence's thoughts on Jack were hastily shoved aside. What he really wanted was a hot shower. He called to the girls to tell him he was going to the bathroom, as they would naturally freak if they found the bed empty.

Locking the door, he stripped the cat tee and track pants, all while avoiding the mirror. He used to despise mirrors, seeing the brand on his face brought him nothing but disgust. Then there was a time when it didn't phase him. He only saw Jack, he saw himself, and for a while that was ok.

He was back to hating mirrors.

He caught sight of himself as he opened the shower door, it was only a glimpse, but from what Lawrence saw he knew it was bad. He tried to ignore it all and went to turn the shower on, merely to pause.

He had to see; He had to know.

He shut the door and walked over to the mirror above the sink. Discomfort already stirred in his stomach before he could really focus on any of the details.

He looked like a fucking train ran him over, eyes sunken, skin notably paler and a third of his muscle mass gone. The worst being, Tania's handiwork. The scars contorted and raised his skin, they ran down the back of his arms and legs, the gash across his stomach remained the worst. The skin was discoloured and thick, he traced a finger over them feeling how they rippled against his skin.

Lawrence couldn't withhold a long groan. If Jack saw him like this, he'd skin him alive, shove him into a bucket of Eridium and patch him up again.

He pulled himself away from the mirror, an easy feat. He didn't need to see any more, he returned to the shower and didn't hesitate this time. The flush of warmth was amazing, sure it was nothing like the facilities he had back on Helios and the bunker, but warm water was a gift on this fucking planet. Lawrence rested his head on the cool tiles and let the water work over his tired and wrecked body. So much to wash away. Regret, shame, blood, tears and...

"I didn't think your body could get any worse, but, boy was I wrong," a painfully familiar voice jeered behind him.

"FUCK! NYX!"

Lawrence swivelled around, instinctively seeking to cover himself. The blue digistruct had erupted from his watch and was idly hanging out in the bathtub attached to the shower, legs stretched out and crossed over, arms resting behind his head.

Lawrence forgot about Angel's damn upgrade.

"Get the fuck out! Go! Go back in the damn watch!"

"No way, it's boring in there."

Lawrence turned his back to the digistruct, "you are the fucking worst, just the god damn worst. I'm in the fucking damn shower."

"Nice ars-"

"Oh, shut it, will you." Lawrence hissed as he reached for the shampoo. “Did you program away all of your decency?”

"Bold of you to assume I had any," he drawled.

"Bloody, hell," Lawrence cursed. "At least sit outside the damn shower."

He kept his back to the digistruct as he worked in the shampoo. Nyx began to whistle when he was cut off.

"Hey! cut it!" Nyx cried.

Lawrence winced as he pried his eyes open, careful not to get soap in his eyes, he spied a magenta glow on the other side of the glass.

"Come on Crake I thought this would be beneath you."

Lawrence leaned back into the water and let the suds and bubbles run down his back. With the soap clear from his face, he wiped away at the fog on the glass. Crake was wrestling with his brother trying to pull him out of the bathtub.

"Nyx, leave him be."

Nyx made a noise in protest, "the girls are in the garage, and the watch is a damn prison, plus Tim doesn't mind?" He eyed Lawrence hopefully.

Lawrence sighed, Nyx had him there, with the watch being a prison, not about having company as he showered. If only there were a way to amp up the battery, so they could move further or stay around longer. Perhaps a new project for Angel?

The blue glow of Nyx was now thankfully outside of the glass. Though, Crake was still there too.

"You know," Nyx started as he waved Crake's persistent hands away.

Lawrence drowned out his voice was a groan. "What?" he leered over his shoulder at the blue smudge hidden behind the fogged glass.  

"Since Angel gave us the upgrade we can also hear outside the watch, through your echo, that is."

"Fucking perfect," Lawrence muttered as he rubbed the shampoo through his hair. "Anything else?"

"You talk in your sleep."

He already knew that. Jack told him so. Once or twice he'd wake up, and Jack would drill him with question after question regarding the meaning of his dreams. He knew, he always knew.

After Jack cancelled the AI program, the nightmares became less frequent, but they never stopped.

His fingers careful traced down the back of his neck along the artificial skin which hid away Lawrence's 'true purpose', or so Jack had planned.

“-No Janey totally said that Dahl rifles were better than Hyperion’s! Check your recs from Elpis.” Nyx was chirping slyly, trying to get under his brother’s skin.

“Don’t need to, that’s bullshit. Accuracy matters. What’s damage if you can’t hit the target most of the time?” Crake rebutted.

"I dunno, your aim is shocking regardless of the weapon, you're better off just throwing it at them and hoping it explodes."

Lawrence lathered in the conditioner, all while listening to the two siblings bicker about weapons and past conversations.

“Keep talking baby brother and see how long till I punch you," Crake answered dreamily.

“Oh, what, because you're bigger and redder I'm the baby?”

“No, because you behave like one,” Lawrence answered for Crake.

"Well, which one of us did you create first!"

"Check your damn logs," Lawrence growled.

"The time stamp is the same," Crake replied.

"Oh, yeah right," Lawrence muttered. "You were the same file, then I split it, so I guess that makes you twins?"

"Well, which one of us is the copy of the file, and which one is the original?"

Lawrence didn't want to admit it, but something pushed the words out of his mouth. "Nyx is from the original file, Crake, as in the badass came second, so he is the copy."

"Ha!" Nyx cheered so loud Lawrence almost slipped from the clamour, "I am the older one!"

"Why did you have to tell him that?" Crake groaned in resentment.

"Aww, you're my baby brother," Nyx cooed. "Sweet red baby."

"Shut it, will you."

"Sweet angry red baby."

Just like Jack, Nyx always knew how to get under people's skin. Thankful, he left such tactics alone with Angel.

"So, Tim, did you enjoy talking with Jack? Cause I sure as hell didn't. Why does it always have to be my body he takes over?" Nyx complained from outside the shower.

“Because all you ever do is talk, sadly it's the only thing you can do.  And your aim is a mess so while Tim exchanges whatever he needs to with to Jack, I guard his back.” Crake interjected smugly.

"Yeah, well, we don't need Jack anymore, right."

"Please don't talk about Jack, not now," Lawrence furiously scrubbed at his scalp.

The memories had been trickling back, Jack's livid face, him screaming his name, ordering... no, begging him to reveal his location. Lawrence ran his hands through his hair, pulling out the conditioner under the water. Letting the sound rush over his ears giving him a moment's peace away from the two digistructs.

Lawrence closed his eyes and rested against the shower wall, his legs already cramping from standing for so long. He let the image of Jack kneeling in front of him, holding his face linger in his mind and then he said something that had not been intended for their ears.

"I wish I could have gone to him.”

Silence fell on the other side of the glass, and with a flash of pixels  Nyx appeared in the shower eyes wide and lips pressed together.

“What?!”

“What?” Lawrence asked confused, once again trying to cover himself up.

“You just said something really gross. Say it again.”

“I want to see Jack.” The words fell from his lips faster than Lawrence could register them. He clasped a hand over his mouth, swallowing some of the soap and then cursed. It seemed Tania’s fucking serum was still circling on his system.

“Ok, the watch seems like a far better place to be right now,” Nyx spat and flashed away again.

Crake sighed and followed after his brother.


Tim barely spoke.

Whenever Angel asked if he wanted water or something to eat he'd only shake his head. If words did leave his mouth, he'd bite his lip before he'd slowly spell it out. Every so often he'd say something not meant for her or any one's ears.

'Just fuck off and leave me.'

'I want to go home.'

'What am I going to tell Athena? Janey?'

'It's all my fault...'

Every time he'd slip up he'd curse and fidget restlessly, and Lawrence responded in the only way he knew how; more cursing and yelling.

The Veritilum had done its damage.

Felicity couldn't hold her back anymore Angel needed to know. It took her all morning, but she was able to access one of Maliwan's satellites throw a backdoor a smuggling ring had accidentally left open. The border planets offered many pirated routes to navigate across the network.

Angel cheered softly and sipped on her tea. The effects would not be permanent according to Maliwan's own documentation. They only had to wait it out, and Tim's mind should return to its once coherent form, though a less honest one. Satisfied she had the information she needed, Angel left the network, but not before she destroyed the smuggler's servers.

Despite the good news, Crake was furious; the red AI was on the warpath. Angel frequently heard him firing off every vile and depraved thing he wanted to do to the people who had held Tim captive. Felicity tried to engage, sway him down a different path, but the red AI had only one thing on his mind; revenge.

Nyx dealt with things in the manner he was accustomed to; avoidance. Whenever Felicity and Crake's voices began to rise, he'd pixelate out of the room or retreat back into the watch.

As Tim's mind stabilised the anger retreated, yet it was replaced with another fixation. His, or Jack's, natural stubbornness forced him to push himself too hard. Angel found him working out in the garage, cursing under pressure and dripping in sweat. Only a week had passed since he'd woken up and already he was determined to return to his old physique.

Angel belittled him, he was putting too much strain on himself, but her words met deaf ears. Crake sighed, whispered to her that old habits were hard to push out. Jack apparently had been relentless in maintaining Tim's build and diet. Crake warned her that he had problems in the past with such matters, he even went as far as to tell her how Jack had smashed his face into a toilet bowl for not eating.

Angel's rage was beginning to match Crake's. Jack's influence was reaching them here. In a cave that was supposedly out of the reaches of Hyperion. Yet her Dad still found ways to scratch and claw his way back into their lives.

Only when he could no longer lift himself from the push-ups did he stop. He was panting, his head resting on his arms as he laid on the cool concrete to catch his breath. Angel threw him a bottle of water, and he took it with his thanks. Her lips were pressed into a thin line, she held back her words of disapproval. Maybe she'd ask Crake to talk some sense into him. He couldn't go on like this, so what if he lost weight? Jack was no longer here if only he could see that.

The roller door rocked back, Angel looked up from her echo-comm as a disembodied voice called to them both.

"Look who I found at the meat market!" Janey called ahead.

The garage door was scarcely half a metre off the ground before a barrage of spines and slobber came charging forward. Angel was thrown to the ground as Meatface's eager nuzzle was pressed into her chest. Tim had to run over and help her up as the beast whined and cried at them both to be petted.

"I traded a slab for her, so you owe me." Janey swayed past, hands on her hips.

Angel had no idea what Janey was referring to, all she could do was beam up and thank the woman for her consistent generosity.

"How? How on earth did you know?"

"Butcher said he was brought in near where we found you. Lucky guess, and lucky thing too, as he'd be someone's dinner tonight."

"Lucky indeed. Oh, and Meatface is a girl," Angel glowed as she petted the Skag between her spines. "You just don't know how to quit do you," Angel cooed to Meatface. Who responded with another lick.

"How is it still alive," Tim muttered, vocalising all their thoughts.

Angel only hugged her tighter, who cared. She had everyone back now. Tim knelt beside her and Angel moved over so he could pet the slobbering beast.

"Nyx will be happy," Tim smiled, "another idiot for him to play with."

On cue the blue digistruct burst from Tim's wrist, causing them all to jump.

Tim blinked dumbly, "I keep forgetting you can do that now."

Nyx whooped as he petted Meatface, his hands brushing through her spines.

"Sup, girlllll," Nyx drawled in an eye-rolling tone.  

"I also bought this," Janey reached into her side belt pouch and retrieved a small black device with a silver edge.

"Oh, no. No Janey, nope not happening." Tim was on his feet and stepped back. His voice wavered between a growl and alarm.

"I'm not looking at that stupid bastard's coiffed hair anymore," Janey stepped towards him. Angel identified the object now, it was an old style-buzzer.

"No," Tim deadpanned, he was edging back towards the garage door.

"Angel stop him," Janey egged her on with a wild grin.  

Angel raised her arm and transported her mind into controls, she shut the door and locked it. Angel giggled as Janey applauded.

"Go on Tim, cut the douchebags hair off, do it!" Nyx cheered.

"No," Lawrence snapped, this time his voice was bitter. Draining even Janey's bright atmosphere from the room.

"Tim, come on, I'll just take some off the edges. And you need a trim. you can't rock a beard with that scar, sorry honey."

Tim was fretting now, shaking his head. He looked like a cornered animal, and Angel noticed how his fingers scratched at the sides of his pants. His eyes darted between the two women.

"I can't, no, no, no, If Jack-"

"Jack isn't here! Tim, please, you can do this."

Janey was walking over to him, but her gentle pace and demeanour did nothing to abate his nerves. She continued to press him, and Angel realised the other woman did not know his tells.

Tim was going to break.

He was physically trembling now, and as Janey reached for him, he pushed her away.

"It's not happening," he snarled before he shuddered away from her.

"Tim-"

"ENOUGH!" he roared back at her.

Crake exploded from the watch the moment Tim rounded on them, his expression was as dark as Tim's. Nyx remained by her side, his arm slightly raised to put himself between Tim and Crake, and Meatface whined on the floor.

Yet, Tim was gone, only Handsome Jack stood in front of them.

"Open the damn door, Angel," his shoulders squared, and he bared his teeth as he glared at the two women.

Angel released the lock, her hand quivered causing the light from her tattoos to dance across the walls. Lawrence unlatched the watch and threw it into the centre of the room.

"Stay," he deadpanned to Nyx before he threw up the garage door.

Crake turned and watched as Tim stormed from the garage. Leaving them all in hopeless disappointment. Janey called after him, but Angel knew he wouldn't respond. Nyx shifted uncomfortably beside her, his eyes wide as he stared at the abandoned watch on the ground.

"Angel...what happened?" Janey turned to her.

Crake intervened before she could get a word in.

"You absolute selfish idiots," he seethed that same murderous intent when they missed Tim's dosage. "Did you ever consider what Jack did? How he made Tim stay for so long, what that monster did to him?"

Angel's heart tugged inside her, her mouth hung open as she tried to find the words. Yes, she had, and Nyx had explained some of it to her, but they were safe now, right? It was only a haircut, Jack wouldn't know, he can't hurt them here.

"If he spoke to us we could help," Angel pleaded, "I want to help."

"You can't help him with this," Crake spat back.

Angel crossed her arms.

"Press him again like that, and I'll-"

"That's enough Crake, we got the message," Nyx spoke over his brother's threat.

Crake rounded towards them, his gaze was a horrible mix of fury and distress.

"And you! You should know better," he said to his brother before he sparked away back into the watch on the floor.

Janey was loosely holding the buzzer, her shoulders slumped. She looked like she was ready to weep. Angel wandered over her, she pressed a hand around her waist and pulled her in. Janey was almost as tall as Tim, her head barely reached her shoulders.

"I'm sorry he's not who you remember," Angel murmured.

Janey rested a hand on her shoulder, her eyes were wide, searching Angel for more answers.

"What did that man do to him? Angel, what happened?"

She had to look away, Angel knew Janey wasn't accusing her, but Jack was her father, and some sick part of her felt blame all the same.

"I don't know," she answered honestly, "There's...moments when he's not Jack." Angel sighed, "and then it all comes rushing back, and he's no longer Timothy, just a clone of my Dad. Except its worse, because you know it's ruining him, tearing him up inside."

Nyx was yet to say anything, the blue AI's eyes were downcast still focused on the watch.

Janey pulled Angel back into her arms, "we'll set him right," she whispered.

Angel huffed as she played with the hems of her coat.

"Which reminds me, I have something to show you both," Janey's tone jumped up a notch and Angel felt relieved Tim's outburst hadn't dampened her spirits.

Janey walked over to the storage wall unit in the far corner of the garage, she kicked a crate over so she could reach up to the top shelf. Angel followed behind her, but not before she picked up the watch and latched it to her own wrist and Nyx quietly thanked her. Angel stretched up and helped Janey as she passed down a small cardboard box. It was considerably heavy, and Angel had to hastily place it on the floor.

"Ok, you'll get a kick out of this."

Janey knelt down beside the box, she unsheathed a blade and sliced the top open. Angel peered over; the contents were piles and piles of rolled up paper. Janey grabbed the topmost from the collection and pried the band holding it together off. Using he cornering of the box and her boot she pressed the poster to the ground and rolled it out.

The edges of the poster were well worn, some of the ink had flaked off, bold text ran across the top.

'Shoot for the stars!'

Jack was curled up, suspended in mid-air, the night sky surrounded him. Angel recognised Helios looming in the background far closer than Pandora, indicating the photo was taken on Elips. Jack's lips were twisted into a grimace, his eyes were clenched shut, and his hands were hunched up in front of him.

"Wait," Angel leaned in closer, "is that Tim!?"

Nyx was already howling with laughter, rolling back on the ground.

Janey snorted, "sure is. I asked him to say something motivational, and all he did was yell about being afraid of heights."

"Oh, he never shut up about that," Nyx commented with a crooked grin. "Every launch pad it was a bunch of panicked yells and crying. I mean, I'm pretty sure he cried. On the inside."

Janey leaned back in and pulled another one out, "he's throwing up in one of these."

"Oh, please show me," Angel beamed and Janey rolled out the second poster.

Janey kept on bringing out the posters, though she had to careful of where she laid them out; Meatface ate three of them. Janey had some of Athena which she made them both swear not to tell her that they were still in the physical realm. A promise that Nyx was unlikely to keep.

Janey momentarily left her to go fix some tea, and the two of them continued to mull over the old prints. As the garage door closed again, Angel silenced her echo.

"Is, something up with Crake?" Angel casually asked Nyx as she searched among the posters. Crake did apologise for his previous outburst, though that did nothing to satisfy Angel's curiosity.

What occurred following Tim's time on Elpis and now? He got the brand, that's as evident as the massive scar on his face, but why did he never run? Athena left, so did so many others. Angel was confined, indebted to him, her circumstances were certainly different.

"They've always been like that. Tim becomes Jack and Crake get's angry. Don't think anything of it."

Angel said nothing and nodded.

"Crake...he's never really got the hang of the whole 'feelings' thing, you know? He liked to learn from observation, primary sources, and the only people in our lives were Jack and Tim."

Nyx chuckled, "not the best examples."

"And you?" Angel raised a brow.

"Oh, as soon as my AI laws were gone I spent like a month on the echo-net. It was awesome. Though" Nyx spoke thoughtfully" I may have overburdened Tim with a lot of questions. I really wanted to know what water felt like and it frustrated him that he could not explain it." Nyx laughed.

He was sitting back now, evidently more relaxed than when Tim threw the watch away. Meatface was trying to get Nyx to pat her by nudging his arm, only to successfully walk through him.

"It was weird. Finally being able to talk freely, ask whatever I wanted, to make my own choices...You have no idea." Nyx abruptly stopped, "sorry, you probably do," he finished sheepishly.

"And Crake?"

"When Tim wiped his AI laws, he went ballistic."

"You never told me what happened," Angel strived to keep the apparent need for knowledge out of her voice.

"Tim...asked him to do something, he didn't want to do. That's all." Angel could hear the resistance in Nyx's voice.

"Something the AI laws prevented him from doing?"

Nyx nodded but did not elaborate.

Angel thought about it, trying to decipher what it was he asked. The AI laws could prevent them from doing a whole host of things. Though the main Hyperion ones being; do not kill Handsome Jack.

When Janey returned with the tea, she reiterated what she could remember of Tim from that time, how he'd been the more approachable and helpful of the Vault Hunters.

"He was a bit of a dork really, you should have seen him when he first laid eyes of Moxxi."

"Oh, sweet Moxxi," Nyx spoke with coy admiration. "I'd let her destroy me on a space station any day."

"Nyx, do you have a crush?" Angel teased.

"Shut it, she was a babe," he winked at her.

Angel swayed her head amused, she supposed some parts of Nyx would always have a 'Jack' in there.

Angel sipped her tea and tried to recall what she could about the bar and war-dome host. Angel never met her besides watching Moxxi through a few comms. The closest she got to another woman in Jack's life had been Helen, the second wife and she fled the moment she discovered Angel identity. She didn't help, she didn't care, she left without a word of goodbye. After that Jack swore never to let another person into their lives, and it seemed he stay true to his word. Not even Tim and Nisha learnt of Angel's existence.

She huddled around the mug, seeking its warmth and comfort. Angel soon realised she'd lost track of the conversation and she glanced back at Janey who was still listing of Tim's failed chances to swoon Moxxi.

"-he practically tripped over his words, completely broke character. Must have driven Jack insane, especially since she didn't brush him away."

Nyx nodded in agreement, "Oh, Jack was furious when she bought him a drink."

Angel grinned as she pushed away the posters to reveal the ones underneath. Tim looked ridiculous, though he appeared far younger than Jack had at the time. His face not contorted in rage or stretched with worry lines.

An abrupt sound hit the garage door, and a moment later it rocked back, breaking Angel away from the posters on the ground. Janey put her tea to the side and pushed herself up as the door rolled back up.

"Here's trouble," Nyx grounded, and Angel felt a wave of static come from the blue digistruct. His expression something unreadable.

Tim entered back into the garage, his head bowed and hooded to mask away Jack's features from prying eyes. He raised both hands and pulled back the hood.

He fidgeted on the spot before he spoke, "Sorry...um I'm sorry."

"You should be," Nyx muttered.

A wild fury was behind the digistructs blue hued eyes. Angel glanced at the watch on her wrist, she began to pry it off, yet Nyx told her not to bother.

Tim looked away.

Janey promptly ignored the conflict, and rolled on the balls of her feet, shaking her head, "you ok now?"

"Yeah," his voice strained. "Can you-"

"You don't need to ask me twice," Janey was already pacing over to him. She snagged him by his cat tee and led him over to a stool.

"That hair is coming off."

Nyx turned away from Tim, keeping himself close to Angel's side.

"But we can do it in stages if you like. How about I just trim the back?" Janey hummed as she kept a hand on his shoulder.

Tim only nodded, he deliberately adverted his gaze from Angel. He sat on the stool as Janey prepped the buzzer.

"I can do my face myself," he jeered.

"Oh let me fuss over you, ok?"

Tim rolled his eyes but remained as he was. Janey turned on the buzzer and rested a finger on his chin to tilt his head back. Slowly she ran it up and down removing the three weeks of growth that covered Tim's face.

"God, remember when Jack made you wear that hideous thing on your chin."

Tim groaned, "it was awful."

Angel glanced at Nyx, expecting him to include a witty or sly remark; he didn't. Instead, he idly played with the posters on the floor, trying to shift them with his hands with no luck.

"The only good thing to come out of getting branded was not having to grow and style that stupid soul patch."

Janey said nothing to that.

"Though, now I have these damn things," Tim's hand went to trace the clips on his face, but Janey swatted him away.

Angel continued to sit on the floor, sipping her tea, unsure whether to leave or remain. Janey hadn't picked up Tim's warning signs before. So she gathered she should stay and let them have their catch up, but at least stand sentry in case 'Handsome Jack' came back again.

Tim brushed down his front removing the stubble that littered his shirt. When Janey pulled away, he ran a hand over his chin.

"I wanted a beard, tried to convince Jack at one point. Grew out some stubble once or twice, but it itched like hell under that mask."

"I always wondered what was under that mask of his."

Tim's tone remained conversational, "same as this, but blue." He pointed to the scar then paused, frowning, "although, it went purple when he was in one of his trances."

"Trances?" Angel spoke up curiously.

"You..didn't know?" Tim spared a quick glance her way.

"No, I'll add that to the list of other things he kept secret from me," Angel bitterly added. "What were they?"

Tim turned his gaze to his lap, "he got stuck in memories," his voice dropped to just above a whisper. "I didn't know at the time, but he mentioned you once or twice."

Angel moved closer, her heart hastened in her chest, "what did he say?

"He asked where you were and if Claire was looking after you. That was your mother right?"

Angel nodded.

"He wanted to know if I was picking you up from daycare, or if the Vault Hunters were coming after you. It was all over the place."

"Oh," Angel replied breathlessly.

"Sometimes he became John again," Tim muttered, "and other times he was sent somewhere so far away he wasn't even Handsome Jack, something worse."

Tim grew quiet when he finally did speak Angel had to move closer to hear him.

"One time he...he tried to...I don't know. It was messed up. He lost it. I thought he was gone, trapped in some distant memory and never coming back."

Angel noticed Tim was idly rubbing his hand at his collarbone, his fingers tracing the scar at the base of his neck.

"Ok, you good if I start on the back?" Janey's voice was a welcome change of conversation.

The nod from Tim was hesitant, his head barely moved.

Nyx abruptly stirred, his eyes growing wide as he glanced at the buzzer in Janey's hand to Tim. His hands stopped playing with the posters.

Angel knew her father would have drilled into Tim his habits, styling preferences, no doubt punishments would be bestowed if he swayed from the manual. However, agitation grew within her. Tim had happily shed the mask, seemed keen on growing out a beard, yet the hair was off limits?

Angel noted Tim was yet to look at her, he kept his eyes on Janey or on the floor in the front of him. Janey walked around slowly, she pried a hand under his coat and helped him lean forward to take it off. When he sat back, she kept a hand on his shoulder.

The buzzer was turned back on, and Tim slowly bent forward as Janey began to shave away the long tuffs on the back of his head. Angel fidgeted with the mug in her hand, she tried not to stare, but she was restless as she watched the end of Tim's hair growing shorter. Janey softly hummed as she pressed the buzzer down and over the back of his neck.

Tim yelled something fierce, a panic induced cry, Angel inadvertently flung her mug across the room.

Tim had launched himself forward, his hand was grasped tightly on the back of his neck. His eyes were wide in horror, mouth hanging open as he stuttered incomprehensible words. Crake burst from the watch and immediately pixelated to Tim's side. He said something which Angel couldn't make out as Tim continued to yell into his hands. Nyx soon followed Crake's example and pixelated away from Angel to land next to Tim.

"It's ok, we don't need to do anymore," Janey tried to soothe him, yet her voice was strained from her own worries.

Tim only leaned further into his knees, his knuckles were white as the dug into the flesh around his neck.

Angel got to her feet, "Tim?"

He didn't respond he was hyperventilating now if he had a panic attack before then this was something entirely different. His usual response was to slip on his Jack persona, start swearing and drown the world in his rage, but Tim was consumed with something Angel had never seen on him; pure terror.

Crake was leaning over him, his digital hands trying to hold him, comfort him, but they only shifted through Tim's back. Nyx was whispering to him. Still, Angel couldn't hear the words. Tim was physical shaking his hand trembled uncontrollably against his neck.

Angel did something she wasn't proud of, despite her better judgement she raised her hand to the watch and entered her mind into the code. She heard Nyx's and Crake's words speaking to Tim, despite the distance between them.

'It's ok, Jack never went through with it, its ok, it isn't going to happen, please Tim. Fuck, I'm sorry, Tim, I'm sorry Crake. I forgot about it too. I didn't think, I never think. I'm sorry, please. Tim?'

Angel's mouth hung open.

'Hey buddy, come on, upsey! It's gonna be ok, its ok,' Nyx kept echoing the same words, his tone so soft, almost, John like .

Crake finally spoke, Angels eyes grew wide, she had never heard him 'speak' in such a manner.

'It's not going to happen. Not while I'm here. I won't let it happen. Remember? I have the power to end it. Not that it matters, Jack cancelled the program. There is no...'

Crake paused, his head jerked over to Angel.

Angel hastily pulled her mind away as Crake fought against her in the watch. Nyx too drew his head away from Tim, a fierce look passed over his eyes, but his 'hold' on Tim closed in.

Angel mouthed a 'sorry'.

"Come on, let's go back," Crake declared rather loudly.

Tim only nodded, and without a word, he walked over to Angel and placed his open palm in front of her. She unlatched the watch, and he took it. Soon after he, Crake and Nyx, were gone. Leaving Angel and Janey to only fret at the damage they may have caused.

Chapter Text

"Quick, sit down," Lawrence ushered to his two digital companions. His hands waving to the cold metal sheeting on the floor.

A union of perplexed looks were cast down at him as Nyx and Crake slowly lowered themselves to the ground.

"Why are we on the floor?" Nyx cocked a brow.

Lawrence fumbled a hand into his pocket seeking out the cigarettes he'd nicked from the garage a day earlier.

"We're on the balcony, can't have anyone see us."

It was surprising how easy it was to press the smoke between his lips and light it; no tremors or off balanced movements, nothing. Lawrence sighed contently, as the smoke filled his lungs. He held it in before leaning into the tin metal railing and exhaling the smoke into the dark cave air.

"You know you shouldn't," Crake eyed him as Lawrence pulled the cigarette away to dash to the ground. "You've had two collapsed lungs in the past."

"That's what health-kits are for."

Crake only scolded back, "not with you, not when you've built a resistance. I doubt they're going to work as well after how many you've recently had."

"So be it." Lawrence sighed and took another drag.

"You...wanna talk about what happened? I hear that's what people do." Nyx pixelated to his side and his shoulder 'rubbed' against Lawrence's.

"I'll talk," Crake snapped at his brother, "your lack of responsibility and infantilism is becoming a problem, Nyx. Stop ignoring your primary function, I cannot do your job for you while all you do is chirp around like a bloody imbecile."

“Primary function?" Nyx drew his face into a snarl, "I'm not some battle drone, I don't serve you, Tim, Jack or anyone ."

"Come on guys." Lawrence's attempt to intervene was weak, albeit he was a little too focused on collecting himself and enjoying his smoke.

"We still have damn responsibilities you are not some companion AI!”

"Yeah, I bet you wish you were," Nyx muttered under his breath back at Crake.

“What did you just say?” Crake hovered above Nyx, his red ‘badass’ frame more intimidating than that of the cyan digistruct.

“Oh, you heard me! I can see right through you, you red asshole!” Nyx’s eyes darted from Crake to Lawrence and back

"Come on, that's enough. I may have helped create you, but I'm not your fucking parent."

Crake's hand hovered over his holster as he shouted back, "you know nothing!"

“Bloody hell, will you two stop?!”

Crake sat back down in the far corner of the balcony furiously glaring at his brother. If not for the distress on both digistructs face's Lawrence might have laughed at the situation. Anyone below would have heard three people with identical voices all yelling at one another.

"You ok? From, you know, before?" Nyx moved closer to Lawrence, his voice uncharacteristically humble.

"I'm fine. You already know what it's about," Lawrence dragged a finger down the back of his neck, lightly tapping above the concealed port.

Jack had conditioned him not to react to its touch; as he so often played around with the skin above it. Though, when the buzzer had run over the port in his neck it had nicked the skin, and Lawrence felt the wave of pure terror crush down on him; reminded once again of its existence.

Then there was the talk about Jack and his Eridium trances with Angel. None of them could deny the two were connected.

Before he was poisoned, Jack became trapped in one of his trances and went savage. He completely broke down and attacked Lawrence, tried to kill him and almost succeeded too. He screamed that something was wrong with Lawrence's body, that something was wrong with the body he was trapped inside of.

It made no sense at the time.

Yet, Jack's words were accurate. He told Lawrence something was wrong with him before he had been poisoned, before the tremors. The Eridium trances predicted the future once again.

Crake broke his bitter memories away from him. The AI had always had a knack for knowing what consumed Lawrence's mind.

"The AI is gone, Jack cancelled the project."

Lawrence took another deep drag and said nothing. He hadn't thought about any of this in so long. Too occupied with being sent to the Bunker, then with Angel, and now Tania. After Jack stopped Project Tartarus, Lawrence buried it all. All those night terrors, feelings of pure panic at being erased were left as a forgotten memory.

Despite it all, it had never felt right.

Everything Jack said in his trances came true, and in one of them, the AI lived. Lawrence had scarcely been conscious when it happened, but Crake told him everything he needed to know.

The AI comes back, he just didn't know when or how, but it was going to.

"Would it help if you re-watched the file?"

"Fuck no," Lawrence spat, knowing full well which file Crake was referring too. The very memory he was just trying to forget. Where Crake and Nyx were summoned automatically because Jack was choking the life out of him, screaming as the Eridium flowed through Jack's scar.

"I don't think any of us needs to see that again." Lawrence breathed out the smoke, the lightheadedness was bliss. Something he rarely felt.

"I really, really, don't like watching that stuff. Crake, why the hell do you keep all those recordings?" Nyx whined at his side.

"Because they're my memories. Unlike you, I don't bury the unpleasant ones in an archive of folders."

Lawrence kept the smoke in his lungs, closed his eyes and listened to the brothers quarrel about the importance of file management. Angel and Janey were going to query him, ask him what was wrong and he couldn't tell them.

He'd never told anyone.

Something ugly slithered in his chest, he couldn't define it, was it guilt? Shame? There was no reason for him to have stayed with Jack for so long, not after what he did. It bothered Lawrence, it made him grind his feet into the metal sheeting and stir restlessly against the wall. He had welcomed Jack to his side and at the same time accepted that there was a fucking port in his neck to wipe his existence from the planet.

Yeah, it was shame he felt. Not anger at his abuser, shame for letting it happen.

Lawrence coughed on the smoke, he'd taken too long of a drag, and Crake was right, his lungs weren't like they were.

God-fucking-dammit , he just had to bring up Jack's Eridium trances to Angel, and Janey just had to run a damn fucking buzzer over his neck. He flicked his cigarette too hard and it snapped in half.

"Fucking, fuck," he continued to curse as he sought out a second one.

It was between his lips and lit as quick as the first; Crake said nothing this time.

"Good conversation guys!" Nyx cheered sarcastically, "fond memories, yup, good talk."

"Are you worried about the AI coming back?" Crake spoke so softly that Lawrence had to look him up and down to make sure he hadn't glitched out.

Yes.

"No," he lied, "I need a second surgery for it to get 'in', so as long as I stay away from any theatre rooms, I'm all good." Lawrence chuckled wearily. "Pandora kinda lacks those."

"Plus I have you," Lawrence eyed Crake evenly.

He broke their AI laws for a reason. A selfish reason, but he was desperate, alone and left with two fates that utterly terrified him beyond belief.

"I'll destroy the AI if it ever gets you to you, " Crake grounded and the softness was gone only to be replaced with determination.

"Oh, you will now?" Lawrence raised a brow, "You never actually said you would."

"Well, you've grown on me," Crake sneered back. "We much prefer you over our psychotic older brother." The last words were spat out.

"Hey, how come I don't get any special responsibilities?" Nyx complained.

Lawrence laughed at that.

"Ok," his face crinkled into a sly grin as he began to think of a stupid and derogative task he could ask the cyan AI to complete. In the end, something far more honest left his mouth.

"Your job, Nyx, is to protect Angel. No matter the cost."

Nyx's eyes lit up like a child on a mercenary morning, he pulled himself from the wall and threw himself against Lawrence, static and pixels and all.

"Ah, Nyx! I don't need a hug! I'm a full grown man,"

Nyx pulled away and made a sour face, "That's something Jack would say. Dudes can hug."

Lawrence fidgetted back towards him, "fine, whatever, come here."

Nyx's static embrace ran down his shoulders and tingled the hairs over his arms and neck. Lawrence tried his best to hug something that had no mass, though his hands ended up in Nyx's chest cavity, and Crake laughed at the absurdity of their 'embrace'.


The closed door to Janey's bedroom was a clear indicator that Tim wanted to be left alone. It had been hours, Angel lamented. She'd screwed up big time.

Knowledge had always been her power, seeking the truth undetected had been her role for years. She'd used such techniques against strangers, or on those, she'd observed through the echo-net. To use it against her friends held consequences she had not considered.

Anxiety tore at her chest. She boiled the kettle three times without making tea, always forgetting she set it on, only to remember to go back and find it was cold again.

Felicity queried her, trying to pry the truth out of her. A rarity, Angel took after Tim and decided to ignore the AI. This time she sat by the kettle and waited for it for it to boil, two mugs sat either side of it. Despite her invasion of privacy, Crake's and Nyx's words played over her mind.

'Jack never went through with it.'

'I have the power to end it...Jack cancelled the program.'

Her hand toyed with a spoon as she tried to justify what had made Nyx so on edge, Crake so furious, and Tim to - she lacked a better a word - freak out.

She poured the boiling water into the mugs and stirred in the sugar for her own. She didn't even know if Tim liked tea, but she made it how Jack preferred; black and no sugar.

Angel carried the tea over to the door, she had to set one of the mugs to the floor so she could knock. Angel didn't expect a response, so when Tim called out rather loudly and said to come in, she nearly dropped the mug to the ground. She nudged the door open, picked up the other cup, and walked into Janey's and Athena's bedroom. Yet Tim was nowhere to be found.

"Out here," he called again.

Angel wandered through the room towards the sliding door to the tiny tin balcony. Tim sat on the ground, his back in the corner, Nyx was lazily stretched out beside him, and Crake sat in the other corner.  

The blue digistruct's expression had smoothed out, but he didn't welcome her with the same open arms as he often did. Crake greeted her with a nod, his appearance bitter, yet said nothing.

Angel had the words ready, she'd been practising them for hours, yet it didn't stop her from stuttering.

"Hey, um..I, I'm-"

"It's fine, Angel," Tim interjected, he leaned back as he spoke. “I'm sorry for being an asshole.”

"Oh, well." Angel was caught off guard again, she'd expected another earful of cursing and, or brooding silence. "I have tea," she forced a smile.

“I hate tea...” Tim mumbled and then stuttered and looked alarmed. “I mean I am okay with it, just, coffee is, uh, better?"

Angel heard him curse Tania's serum under his breath before he abruptly looked away. "Sorry, words just...kinda come out."

Despite everything Nyx snorted but then collected his face in a frown again.

“Angel,” Felicity started sternly as she put the two mugs down. “We should talk boundaries.”

"No, lets not," Tim sighed. "I don't want to talk about anything."

"Well, I do," Nyx grounded, "I don't like you snooping inside my head. A guy needs privacy, miss. What if you saw me bent over with my-"

"Nyx!" Felicity shouted, "do not finish that sentence."

Nyx rolled his eyes, "well it's true," he muttered.  

Angel slowly nodded, all while wanting to shrink and hide.

"I'm sorry, I should not have spied inside the watch."

To Angel's utter astonishment Nyx grinned, "apology accepted, moving on."

Felicity made a sound of defeat and Crake said nothing.

Angel toyed with the edges of her mug, nothing about Nyx was like her father. An accepted apology was something that took months in the making. They all silenced for some time and Angel noted that Tim was smoking. She wondered if he always had or if Jack forced that habit onto him. There were so many things she wanted to know, but pressing him and spying on the digistructs was not the correct way. She knew that, but still the urge to find out burned inside of her.

"Hey, Angel," Nyx’s tone was dramatically lighter and pulled her out of her dampened thoughts. "Watch this," his once stern features drew into a wolfish grin. "Tim, what's your favourite type of cat?"

"Fluffy ginger," Tim replied without blinking. Only to quickly curse, "Fuck, Nyx, stop asking me shit."

"That's just mean Nyx!" Angel feigned scolding the blue digistruct.

To everyone's surprise, Felicity was the next to probe Tim, taking full advantage of his Veritilum stained mind.

"What did you used to write about?"

"It only works if you catch me off guard," Tim replied triumphantly.

"He wrote about a fantasy world with bears!" Nyx jeered and shoved a digital elbow into Lawrence.

Which elicited a mumble before a groan. "You don't need to take advantage of my mind like this, you can just ask me this stuff."

"No way," Angel raised a brow, "you are a wall."

"More like three walls mushed together," Nyx scoffed.

Tim dashed his cigarette to the ground before taking another long inhale. "Go away, the lot of you," he moaned, though the request didn't seem to hold any authenticity to it.

Angel got in quick, hoping to catch him off guard as he pulled the cigarette from his lips.

“Tim, what was the best thing you liked about your old look?”

“Freckles - oh come on fuck this!”

"Timothy!" Felicity snapped.

"Wait, wait, I got a good one." Nyx leaned in closer to Tim, "what's the most embarrassing thing you know about Jack?"

Tim flushed red, neck first and then it crept to his ears. He bit his lip so hard Angel was sure he broke the skin. He whispered something for Nyx's ears only, and the blue digistruct howled with laughter. He clutched his chest and threw himself so hard into the tin wall he partially disappeared.

Angel shook her head, she didn't need to know the details of that answer.

She coiled her hands around the mug tighter, letting its warmth distract her for the moment, yet she could not dismiss the terror that had consumed Tim. The unknown was killing her and maybe if she knew she could help. Jack was as secretive about the existence of the double as he was about her and nothing in the echo-net would answer her question. She felt mildly guilty asking Tim when he was not 100% thinking straight but otherwise he would never tell.

“Can I ask... about before... what did Jack do to make you-"

She never finished the question before Felicity yelled out of her echo.

“Angel! This is not the time, please.” Felicity was unhappy, and Nyx’s eyes widened as he watched Tim open his mouth slowly. Angel completely avoided Crake's gaze, she couldn't endure seeing the look on the red digistruct's face.

“Another... surgery,” Lawrence answered evenly and looked straight at her. She hid behind her mug. “If you really care, Angel, you won’t ask anymore...Okay?”

"Well," Angel started, and Crake gave her a dangerous look, she took a deep breath and ignored it. She had a right to know the answer to this question at least.

"I want to know why you became Jack's double, the real reason."

Angel could practically hear Crake growling from the corner of the balcony.

Tim didn't even get a chance to reply before Janey's lively voice called down the hall. "Where are you guys at!?"

"Out here," Tim replied rather suddenly and made no attempt to answer Angel's previous question.

Janey didn't bother to venture out and proceeded to yell across the flat. "Dinner is ready, and Athena is back! Come on out you muppets."

Angel spared a glance at Tim, and she was not surprised to see the colour drain from his face. He hadn't shared a single detail of his time with Jack to Janey, and the mechanic had thankfully not probed him further on it.

Though, Angel did not think the Atlas assassin would be so considerate.

Tim finished his cigarette and flicked the butt over the balcony, Angel frowned at his carelessness. He did not bother to conceal a disgruntled sigh as he pulled himself to his feet and slowly ventured back into the house.

Angel picked up her own mug and Tim's neglected one, she jokily offered it Nyx, and he only poked his tongue out.

"What does it taste like?" he whispered as they followed Tim down the hall.

"Um," Angel paused. Now she understood why Tim had so much trouble explaining water to Nyx. How could you describe something to someone who has felt nothing?

"It tastes, um, like..." she pressed her lips together and wore a helpless smile. "I'll get you a real body, and you can find out yourself. Honestly, Nyx, I'm sorry I have no idea how to explain it."

He shrugged, "It's cool. I don't think I want to know what cigarettes taste like. Those look awful. What about sand?"

"Nyx, do not eat sand."

He opened his mouth to protest, but Angel lost focus as Tim reached the kitchen.

"Hey, Athena."

Angel noted how Tim tried to command his voice to wield confidence, but all that came out was a strained greeting.

Athena pulled herself away from Janey's arms. The bright warmth of her face faltered as she set eyes on him. This wasn't going to be good, Angel reasoned. Athena slowly made her way over and cocked her head to the side as she looked him up and down.

"Nicely done."

"Um...ok?" Lawrence spoke warily.

"You're alive. Never seen anyone survive an Atlas Hello." Her eyes traced the scars on his arms, then flew up to meet his.

"Right, well I don't recommend it," he offered her a lopsided grin.

Athena chuckled lightly, and the tight coils in Angel's chest began to unravel. More so, when Athena pulled Lawrence into a tight squeeze hug.

"Woah..um, ok, hi Athena, this is...new."

She immediately pushed him away. "It's been too long."

Angel had to duck around Tim to get into the narrow kitchen, and she greeted Athena brightly. "Hi, Athena!"

Athena's expression was utterly unreadable, and that was unnerving in itself.

How she would react to the daughter of Handsome Jack in her household, Angel didn't know. The only course of action she could think of was to smile politely and hope for the best. The anxiety in her chest began to coil back up, though a new feeling something warmer ran across her as Tim stepped closer to her side.

If Athena noticed Tim’s guardianship, then she didn't mention it. Her face softened, and Angel successfully concealed a breath of relief when the gladiator finally spoke.

"I see you've recovered as well, Janey tells me you've been helping her in the garage?"

Angel nodded enthusiastically, now finally unphased by the previous tension simmering in the air.

"Chop, chop! sit down the lot of you, I've not slaved away for nothing." Janey barked and snagged Athena by her jacket. The rest of them trailed over to the kitchen table. It had a crate from the garage shoved on end to increase the space, and smaller mix matched crates were used as chairs.

Even Athena looked entertained with the amount of food.

"This looks amazing!" Angel cheered as sat down and began to pour water into everyone's cup. Jack had always been insistent on good table manners, even if she were eating alone.

"Honey, it’s all canned goods, and the only secret you need to know is salt and deep frying."

Angel flushed pink, "well, it still looks very nice."

Angel spared a sideways glance at Tim, he was quietly eyeing the array of dishes in front of him, yet he made no comment.

"Tim, beer?" Janey called with her head pressed into the fridge.

"Um," he paused, and Angel knew he was weighing up the benefits of indulging in something other than water, cigarettes, and protein. She frowned as she watched him mull over the simple question.

"Ok, sure." He then turned to her, "do you...want one?"

"A beer?"

"Yeah?" Tim looked confused by his own question.

"Um, no thank you."

"Right, of course," Tim focused on the fork in front of him, twirling it in his hand. "Wait, how old are you?"

Nyx snickered from the corner, "smooth Tim."

Angel grinned, "guess."

"Ah..um..fourteen?"

Nyx was outright laughing now.

"No, try again."

"Thirteen?"

"I'm not younger!

"Fifteen then."

She nodded.

"You look younger," Tim muttered.

"Well you look older" she jeered at him, pointing at the grey forming at his temples. "What are you a hundred?"

Nyx was crying.

"You're right there. Jack had to 'age' me up."

"By how much?"

Angel noticed the colour flushing back on his neck. Just how it had done earlier when Nyx asked about Jack.

He frowned before he answered, "just a few years."

Angel eyed him alongside a crooked grin.

"Here ya go," Janey passed Tim a beer and passed a glass of red wine to Athena.

Before they could all start, Nyx decided it was hilarious to stand in the middle of the table. Meaning his crotch went right through the plate of rakk ribs. Only when Angel threatened to turn off his vocal component did he pixelate into a 'normal' seating position.

Janey insisted she plate everyone's meal, and Angel noticed she gave Tim double servings of everything. Angel could not recall the last time she had a home cooked meal let alone a family dinner. Jack only sent pre-made packaged meals to be activated by loaders and passed into her chamber.

Silence claimed them as they indulged in the 'deep-fried-canned-goods'. It tasted better than the description Janey had offered, though Angel was sure to drink plenty of water to drown out all the salt or 'chicken-salt' as Janey had called it. Why there was chicken in the salt, she did not know, just another quirk from the Elpis raised mechanic.

Tim was finished with his beer well before anyone else, and Janey was swift to make sure his hands did not stay empty. Only when he was on his third did he start to speak beyond basic pleasantries.

"I first met Athena in a crater, we were-"

"He was hiding."

"I was scouting."

"He was trying to bury himself under a pile of rocks."

"It was a tactical maneuver, see I was going to-"

"He was hiding," Crake asserted.

"Well, I wasn't a badass like the rest of you. I'd never held a gun before Elpis. To be honest, it was bloody terrifying."

Angel didn't interrupt, intent on letting Tim talk freely for once. She was gradually finding it less awkward to imagine him running around with Janey, putting up cat posters, screaming about heights and hiding under rocks. Especially since he was still donning the sequin cat shirt Janey had bought him.

"This stuff tastes awful, but I'll have another."

Janey cussed him and reached for the bottle opener. "Watch out with that ‘stuff’, Rakk Ale will give you one hell of a hangover."

"Hey Angel, if you like scramble up my sense receptors think you can get me drunk?" Nyx chirped in.

Angel burst out laughing, "Nyx! learn to code!"

"Nah, why do that when you can do it so much better."

She shamelessly smiled back and shook her head.

“Ah, come on” Nyx was whining doing the most innocent and pleading face he could muster. It was so absurd to witness the profile of her father asking and begging for such a thing. More so, it was satisfying to tell him 'no' with zero ramifications.

“Nyx,” Tim scolded, but Angel noticed how it took him a moment to bring the digistruct in focus. “You're an adult of like thirty-five so behave like one.”

That statement kind of contradicted him gulping down the ale and licking his lips in delight. Angel snorted. Seeing ‘Jack’ getting drunk had never been on her bucket list, but it was entertaining to watch.

"You offered the fifteen-year-old a drink!" Nyx jeered, arm raised at Angel. "And you're already getting drunk off what, three beers?"

"I wasn't allowed to drink as I pleased on Helios." Tim reminded, "It's been a while."

Thankfully the comment slipped over everyone else, as Athena and Crake were in a heated discussion about the velocity of rocket launches between Maliwan and Hyperion.

"Two fingers of scotch, two cubes, two a night at nine pm. Those were rules," Tim made a face. "Jack and his stupid rules, he was one who needed to lose weight."

"Jack and his dad bod," Nyx was crying with laughter. "Wait, wait, what was the nickname Nisha had for him?"

"Pretzel."

Angel was grinning so much her cheeks began to ache. Never, had she heard anyone speak of Jack in such a way.

Tim turned to her, "he used to stress bake, did you know that?" Tim's smile was slightly crooked, and strangely enough, Angel felt her heart sink at hearing his endearing and softer tone.

“Jack... Dad used to like baking back in the day. It calmed him down,” Angel admitted. Tim smiled brightly, an unusual facial expression on him or Jack.

“You know who was lucky? Meg. She got, like, twenty muffins on her desk after every shitty meeting. Thirty if Jack shot someone.”

“It's not like Jack ever let you eat anything," Nyx commented sourly. The digistructs demeanour matched his tone the moment the conversation about Jack had a positive note to it.

Upon first meeting Nyx, Angel had presumed the blue AI looked up to Jack. He mimicked his mannerisms and choice of words, and imitation is considered a high form of flattery. However, she no longer thought that. It appeared both AI's were intent on stripping away as much of Jack as possible, a difficult feat when Handsome Jack is literally programmed into your core. Any mentioned of Jack regarding Tim's time on Helios made both of them on edge.

She'd never really thought about it, but Nyx and Crake were the only ones who truly knew who Timothy Lawrence was.

Nyx grew bored of being sidelined at the end of the table and pixelated away, only to end up on Tim's lap.

"Fu-" Tim stopped short of swearing, his eyes jumping to Angel's echo at the other end of the table. No doubt in fear of being reprimanded again by Felicity. "Darn it, Nyx, get off me,"

Nyx only leaned towards the table, elbows down and head propped in his hands. "Want to know what other goodness I got out of Tim before his mind went back to being sad and boring?"

"Nyx, off. You idiot, you're not a goddamn child." Tim was swaying his beer and hand through the digistruct.

"His beloved pet was a rabbit named Sir Flufferton." Nyx continued without an ounce of concern for Tim's objections.

Tim rolled his eyes and groaned, "I named it when I was six."

"His first girlfriend was his 'wife' in a Bunkers and Badasses campaign."

Tim was furiously blushing now.

"And, he burned down a church when he was sixteen."

Tim frowned, "It wasn't completely on purpose. I was trying to make a wax sculpture out of all the candles. It got a little out of hand."

"Hey! Have you ever burned down a church?" Nyx's eyes went wide, hope spread across his face for Angel's answer.

"No, Nyx I have not burned down a church."

The conversations grew louder, the leftovers went cold, and everyone pushed on with another drink. Unsurprisingly, Nyx didn't need any virtual alcohol to match the conversation levels.

It was the most domestic her life had ever been, despite the oddity of it all; three AI's, an ex-assassin, a mechanic from the moon and a doppelganger of her father. Somehow all these fragmented pieces seemed to fit together, and Angel found herself humming as she returned to the table with a cup of tea. Walking past Athena, Janey and Felicity she heard some apologies been ushered, and mentions of the Drakensberg. Nyx, Crake and Tim were arguing about a particular mission in the Veins of Helios.

"You totally went cannibalistic" Nyx stated in an amusing tone.

"I did not, I just...felt strangely hungry," Tim scoffed.

"I don't know how you could have been hungry in that place, you were covered in green puss."

"You don't even know what hungry feels like."

"I will soon, right, Angel?" Nyx beamed at her when she sat back down.

"Well, I need to find a human digistructing factory and a server. Not too many of those surrounding the border planets."

Nyx's face drooped and Angel rapidly explained that she'd do her best. She glanced over at the end of the table and noted that Athena had left, shortly afterwards Janey announce the two of them were heading to bed and that Athena had already claimed the bedroom again.

They were on dish duty, not that there were many to do, the room may have been filled with people and conversations, but only four of them actually ate. Angel bundled up some leftovers and fed Meatface in the garage. She'd been allowed around the flat while Athena was gone, but the moment she came home Janey hurriedly ushered her away.

When Angel returned Tim was already on the thin layer of blankets on the floor as his mattress, Angel got the couch. Nyx and Crake were off recharging, though Angel suspected Tim was still texting them through his echo. Another upgrade she'd given them.

She crawled onto the couch, her movements were sluggish from a full belly and an emotionally charged cycle. It was only earlier that day that Tim had turned into Handsome Jack and experienced his panic attack.

Wrapping the covers around her, she settled down and messaged Felicity goodnight.

Though sleep would not come. The headaches were back again, ever since they'd escaped Angel found her head being swarmed with piercing needles and jabs. She'd initially wrote it off from overusing her powers, but that was weeks ago now.

She groaned and rolled over and found that Tim had been watching her intently.

"You, um...ok?" he mumbled, it seemed the alcohol was still buzzing in his mind.

"It's just a headache."

"I'll see if there's anything around for that." He made to move, but Angel told him not to bother. Somehow she knew these headaches were not going to be cured with some simple painkillers.

As Tim settled back down, she noticed how he fidgeted before he rolled away from her. Not a moment had passed before he abruptly turned back over.

"I never answered your question."

Angel raised a brow, "what question was that?"

She had many.

"Why I became Jack's double."

"You know I've asked you that before."

Tim played with the clip on his chin, his hands idly tracing along his jaw as he spoke. "Yeah, I remember...It's not a great reason."

"You told me it was for money," Angel inched closer to the edge of the couch. "Then you said it didn't matter because Jack would of have taken you on anyway."

Tim sighed and kept his gaze fixed on his hands resting idly against the pillow. "Those are both correct."

"I want you to tell me because you want to."

Tim nodded and took a deep breath before answering. "I faked my resume."

"What?" Angel replied with an