It’s been twenty years since Elijah Kamski and his former academic mentor and COO Amanda Stern died in a hair-raising collision of metal and glass on their way to DTW, and the news stations—most of them still owned in some way by Cyberlife, of course—still run specials on the anniversary of their deaths every year, catering to a public that’s become so hungry for cold cases and the insensitive drama with which they are presented.
“Jesus, if the cops didn’t catch who did it by now, they’re never gonna,” Jimmy grunts, wiping down the bar with a well-worn scowl as he pointedly avoids lending any further interest to the TV hovering over his shoulder and blaring the bad news that the person or persons who singlehandedly wiped out Cyberlife’s founding members were still at large two decades later.
“They’re both dead. That’s what matters,” Hank says lowly, throwing back his third drink of the last ten minutes.
Dead because I killed them both, even if Amanda Stern wasn’t supposed to be there and only Kamski was supposed to be behind the wheel, and I’m gonna have to live with that the rest of my fucking life.
“Yeah, yeah, poor bastards,” Jimmy sighs. “Speaking of poor bastards, Anderson, you want another?”
Kamski’s a poor dead bastard, and I’m gonna be a poor living one the rest of my fucking life.
Well, here’s to making it a short one, Hank thinks, only half-joking, and tips back a double.
“Are you sure you want to do this? All the intel says he’s just a sad old man who lives by himself in the middle of snowy Bumfuck, Nowhere. He’s been retired for a little while, but if you come in guns blazing, training will take over and he’ll just cut you down,” Dick warns, his hand on Connor’s shoulder like he’s got any right to be protective.
“You were in that car too. You were there when Mom and Kamski died. He couldn’t even look us in the eye when he pried open the door to check that they weren’t breathing.”
Dick frowns, his eyelid twitching slightly. Steeling his jaw, he spits, “I’m trying to save your life, Con. You’re my older brother and I—. Look, I’m supposed to be the one making all the rash decisions here.”
Connor swallows, puts a hand on his younger twin’s cheek. “It’s not reckless, Rich. I’ve been preparing for this since it happened.”
“You better know what you’re fucking doing,” Dick says, and bats his hand away.
It’s as good a hug as he’s going to get, so Connor nods and plugs the GPS coordinates to his new home in Bumfuck, Nowhere, into the car system.
He waves (encouragingly, he hopes, as he pulls onto the road), but Dick just purses his lips slightly and watches him drive away.
For such a revered individual in concept—the Black Kaiser, master fucking assassin—Hank Anderson in person is just this side of boring, Connor thinks to himself, frowning at the incongruous image of the man he’s been vilifying in his head for the past two decades reaching into the front seat of his beat up old Bronco and pulling out a fluffy St. Bernard puppy, the little dog licking at his face when it’s finally free of the stuffy SUV and voraciously sniffing at Anderson’s frost-covered front yard.
The old assassin even cracks a smile at the dog’s antics, and Connor’s brow knits.
He’ll have to take the pup for himself, get it out of harm’s way before he tries anything with Anderson.
Pulling up the long swath of flattened gravel to his own cabin—there were only two others in the immediate vicinity, Anderson’s and another on the far side, and the one that Connor hadn’t put a down payment on had been vacant for a long time—Connor feels Anderson’s eyes sliding over him, though the old man makes a show of being enamored with his new canine friend.
Letting out a breath when he doesn’t hear the telltale hiss of a warning shot fired past his ear, Connor puts his head on the steering wheel and sags into his seat.
What are you doing?
Only what needs to be done, he tells himself, though there was something about Anderson, his soft expression when he looked at that puppy.
He’s seen the man in photos, in nightmares nearly all his life, but he seems nearly harmless, with deep laugh lines around his eyes, a carelessly overgrown beard, a thermal flannel made of a pattern that makes Connor’s eyes hurt.
Damn it, he sighs, and forces himself out of the car and into his new life.
“Hey, neighbor,” Anderson greets, when they’re side by side in the canned foods aisle of the town’s single general store.
Connor nearly jumps. So, sneaking up on people was a real skill that Anderson had.
Didn’t make sense, for how big and broad he was, but maybe that was Connor’s mind playing tricks on him.
Anderson really did look friendly, if you didn’t know who he was. Must be all that simple living; did wonders for managing stress, maybe even better than assassinating strangers for a discreet six-figure wire transfer.
“Okay, strong silent type, I get it. It’s just no one’s wanted to buy either of those places for years. ‘Too far off the main road’, as if people who come out here didn’t move to get away from all that traffic and bullshit in the first place.”
“I’m Connor,” Connor manages to spit out, apropos of nothing, his hands trembling on his shopping basket.
There was a wood axe with some heft to it in his new backyard, and he can’t help but contemplate what he’d to with it if he had it in his hands right now.
“I’m Hank,” Anderson says, using his real name, the nerve of it all—.
Connor realizes he is angry in this moment, irrationally so, he considers in a brief flash of clarity, remembering his brother’s admonitions against letting gusto for his mission overcome common sense.
But it bothers him, that he doesn’t even remember what Elijah looks like before seeing it on those cold case programs they play every year. He can’t remember or the smell of Amanda’s perfume, or whether she wore any jewelry, or what stories she read to them at bedtime...
We were experiments, he had told Richard once. But they brought us to life, and they cared for us as best they could.
Oh sure, hyperintelligent super twin prodigies from a test tube, Richard had callously laughed. Some of that advanced neuronal development must’ve leveled off too early in you, brother, if you thought they really loved us.
Whether Cyberlife created them because they could, or because Kamski and Stern wanted to leave a legacy, none of that matters.
What matters is that they were Connor’s, until they weren’t, because the Black Kaiser took them away.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to find the perfect flavor of pork and beans on my own, thanks,” he says, gesturing to the store shelf, and Anderson catches himself halfway through a chuckle, unsure of whether or not Connor is joking.
“Sure, sure,” Anderson scoffs when it registers that he’s not, looking him up and down.
Who does he think he is? his eyes ask.
I could say the same thing to you, Connor muses to himself, tightening his hands into fists.
“Sumo! Sumo, come the fuck back here, Jesus...” Anderson is panting, right outside Connor’s kitchen window from the sound of it, and Connor pokes his head out the front door, heart melting a bit when he sees the puppy that his neighbor brought home last week snuffling and shaking himself clean of the powdery snow that had fallen early this morning.
“Hey, look, I get that you like your personal space, but this little guy had other ideas, I’ll get him out of here in a second—.”
Connor blanches, playing at sheepish.
“I’m...I was having a bad day, in the general store, when I told you off. I’m...I apologize.”
The words sit like ash in his mouth, but the aftertaste fades as Anderson threatens to smile at the apology, scooping his wayward dog up and wiping a snowflake off of Sumo’s nose.
Connor can feel his heart rate start to pick up.
“Hey, while I’m feeling generous—and no funny business if that’s what you thought I was after in the store—Sumo and I are gonna watch a movie tonight. Some nature thing with a bird migration, I dunno, but would you be interested in watching it with us?”
Connor nearly snorts.
“If you picked the movie, how do you not know what it’s about?”
Anderson shrugs, and honest to Christ blushes.
“Uh, Ms. Tina, from the elementary school, she actually invited herself over. She wanted to watch some gory horror fuckfest, but I told her it’s not exactly my genre, you know.”
“And watching a nature documentary with animals ‘migrating or whatever’ is?”
“I don’t like blood,” Anderson swallows, and Connor watches the movement of his stubbly throat.
“Neither do I,” Connor says, sobered, until he hears a sharp yip, and sees Sumo’s anticipatory face.
Gently petting behind the puppy’s ears, he leaves it at that.
“I’ll come over tonight,” he says, because it’s a way to get his target’s guard down even more, not because he wants to, that would be ridiculous.
“Great, uh, I mean, yeah, that’s great,” Hank says. “Six sound okay?”
“Six is fine,” Connor says, and tries not to tremble with some emotion between anger and longing.
He must be going crazy out here with nothing for miles around; only a week and he’s unable to tell the difference between the two.
After Tina has packed herself off because “it’s a school night, you heathens”, it’s just the two of them in Hank’s admittedly huge-in-comparison-to-Connor’s cabin.
Hank’s chivalrously lit a fire, which surprises the hell out of Connor, whose files on the other man had always claimed the reason he became an assassin was that he lacked the social graces to become a spy.
He’s got quite a mouth on him though, Connor thinks, a few mugs too many of Irish coffee into a nightcap and Hank tossing his head back to laugh, the low rumble of it settling between Connor’s ribs, certain as if the Kaiser had slipped a blade there.
“Are you fucking kidding me? In an elevator, with three tourists staring at you?”
“My ass hanging out of my pants and everything,” Connor says, and it almost feels like merely stating fact instead of blatantly baiting Hank to do something about the raunchy stories they’ve been trading since the liquor came out.
“Jesus, what a bunch of fucking cowards,” Hank grunts, his goofy smile turned on its head, something a bit darker and a lot more wistful peeking its way out.
“What d’you mean by that?” Connor asks, tilting his head in genuine interest (not flirtation, not flirtation).
“I would’ve said something to you; no way I could stand there with you getting your ass reamed in an elevator and not blurt out that you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”
Connor nearly bites through his lower lip at the words.
“I’m not—Don’t try to flatter me. It won’t work.”
“I’m not flattering. I’m tryna, guess I’m a little rusty at it...”
“At sweet talking? If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were probably tryna take advantage of me right now, Hank. Two of us in this cozy little setting together, drink in my hand,” he says lowly, pointedly placing his half full mug onto the coffee table and standing, brokering no argument that he would up and walk out if things got weird, and that Hank would let him go if he knew what was good for him.
“You don’t know better, we just met, but I’d never fucking do that to someone—Never—I’m not a monster, Connor, I’m—Well, Christ, I can’t blame you, seeing me hanging onto people half my age for a little human interaction, God fucking—.”
Connor doesn’t want to hear Hank defending himself (he knows Hank would never do that, no matter what else he’s done in his life), so he flops back down onto the couch. The movement is not lost on Hank; it says: It’s safe, I’ll stay.
Though he’s not above dicking with him a little, because he can.
“You want some interaction? Don’t wanna be alone? Wanna get drunk with me after our chaperone leaves and try to fuck me in front of your innocent dog who’s just trying to get some shuteye?”
Hank glances guiltily back at Sumo, snoozing by the fire.
“Whoa, I didn’t say anything about fucking.”
“You didn’t have to. I wasn’t born yesterday, Hank.”
“Well fucking excuse me, Smartypants,” Hank says, but doesn’t even try to argue anymore.
“Don’t overreact, I’m not gonna leave you alone tonight,” Connor says, because he’s half drunk and will probably fall face-first into a snowdrift and freeze if he tries to walk the thirty yards back to his own house on his own.
Believe it or not, he doesn’t want to be alone either. He’s spent years chasing Hank, and now that he’s found him, it almost feels anticlimactic to kill him too soon.
Or that’s what he tells himself, when Hank throws him a blanket and grunts, “You’ll take the couch.”
Connor keeps his mouth shut and makes his bed and tries to fall asleep to the sounds of the dying fire, but his mind’s still racing long after the wood’s burnt to embers.
Too much, temptations not worth it, Con—.
“Move over,” he whispers, shoving at Hank’s broad shoulder in the dimness, crossing the living room to Hank’s bed, which is open to the rest of the house.
“Not in front of the dog, you said,” Hank grouses, though Connor can see he’s nervous too.
Long time since he’s been with anyone?
No, the files said he liked whores. Female and male.
Long time since he’s been with anyone he’ll see again in the morning, then.
“I’ll do it wherever you want it, as long as you let me,” Connor trails off, hand wandering beneath the sheet to grab at the meat of Hank’s ass.
“Let you what, honey?” Hank chuckles, though his breath gets short when Connor climbs over him and presses their crotches together.
“Little known talent, I can get hard even if I’m three sheets to the wind,” Connor says, and Hank swallows.
“Okay,” he says, breath coming quick, skin hot, darkness of the room and arousal blowing his pupils wide. “Definitely getting that.”
It feels almost like conquering, when Connor stumbles for makeshift lube—some sort of cooking oil from the kitchen, smeared messily over everything—and Hank lets him get it everywhere, encouraging him with big huffing breaths and little bursts of dirty sweet-nothings in his ear. Conquering some fear that the boogeyman was gonna see right through him and tear him to pieces, even after he’d worked so hard to become someone who wasn’t scared of anything.
“Connor, fuck—You’re just a happy fucking camper right now, aren’t you? Little snarky bastard who just wanted to get me on his dick,” Hank’s cajoling, Connor running hands over hairy bulk and big arms, using his own legs to prop up thick thighs, the sheets tangled around them in an obscene, sticky mess.
“Hank,” Connor manages, because if he doesn’t, he’ll ruin everything; either snap or start bawling or worse, go completely blank.
There’s no question that the man beneath him now isn’t the same one who killed Mom and Kamski, not by a long shot, but can pity and desire and hatred continue to coexist in him without something falling to pieces?
Oh, don’t be stupid, Con, his brother’s voice hisses to him later, through the post-coital haze, Something already has.