They made it a hundred miles east before the van needed gas. Ben stayed hidden in the back. Twins are always easier to remember than one guy and they wanted to leave the smallest impression possible.
Alec pumped forty bucks worth of gas and knew it wouldn’t be enough to get them very far. When he went inside to pay, the attendant and three customers were all staring up at the television in the corner. The announcer was telling them about the terrorist Transgenics that escaped from Terminal City, how they were armed and dangerous, how they carried unknown but deadly diseases. A map spread on the wall behind the newscaster. A large red circle on the map estimated the range the Transgenics could have run by then. The little nowhere town where Alec stood was well within the edge of the circle.
“All residents in this part of the country are urged to be on the lookout for strangers in their early twenties or younger, identified with a bar-code mark on the back of their neck. It is also possible that some of the more bestial Transgenics also escaped. If you encounter either type, do not try to detain them. Please call this toll-free number for immediate assistance...”
Alec slid the money across the counter, to all outward appearances just another bored and tired traveler. Inside his head he calculated the angles and decided the order he would disable them if someone made a fuss.
One of the other customers coughed then, a guy who was around Alec’s age, and all attention focused on him instead.
Alec turned without a word and went back to the van. There was no way to stop them all, the humans hurting each other, crazy like too many rats in one maze. Ben had become his mission. His only mission. He checked his brother in the rear view mirror to make sure he hadn’t lost his mind sometime in the last ten minutes and wandered off, but green eyes met his in the glass as he put the van into gear and pulled away.
“The vehicle is the weakness,” Ben said as he slithered into the passenger seat with a half-unfolded map in his hands. “No matter what we drive or how often we requisition another one, they’ll find us by the gas stations and the stolen cars.”
Or a mob will, Alec thought. It would just take one glimpse of a barcode. One little slip-up at the wrong time and they’d have to kill or be killed, and White would have an exact place to start his search again.
Ben studied the paper for a moment. “The vehicle is an equalizer. They drive as fast as we do.”
“So what’re you saying?” Alec asked, soft so he didn’t derail his twin’s train of thought.
Ben stared at the map for another moment. “Abandon the vehicle. Deploy cross-country. Go where they can’t go. Fall completely off of the grid. Minimize human contact to a factor of zero. Create too many variables for effective follow-up.”
That gave Alec pause. Yeah, he could survive in the wilderness as well as any other Manticore-trained X-5. He just never considered it as a position he’d choose to put himself in. Which meant the guys who were hunting them probably wouldn’t either. If human soldiers hunted them, they could out-pace them in the forest without even trying. It wouldn’t be hard to hide their tracks. They could hear helicopters before they got within thermal imaging range and take steps to disguise their heat signatures.
And then--there was no way White’s men could cordon off an area that large. Alec and Ben could hide as long as they felt threatened. It wouldn’t be the lifestyle Alec had become accustomed to but it sure as hell beat an executioner’s bullet.
“It’s a good plan,” he said when he had gone over the logistics. Ben might have been crazy but he wasn’t stupid.
There was a brown sign for a national park a few miles up the road and Alec took the turnoff even thought the tank was still full of gas. Anything that could give them even half a day’s head start would help. He drove as far as the road could take them and then stopped the van.
Together, without a word spoken, they rolled up the blankets and ate the last of the food. They took the guns with them, and the knives from the soldier’s gear. They dressed in the black leathers but kept a change of clothes for each of them for when they eventually decided to emerge into human society again.
They stepped into the forest like ghosts without footprints. The power of it filled Alec’s chest with a wild strength. More than at any other time in his life he knew himself to be the top of the food chain, the alpha predator. For the joy of it he broke into a run, feet falling silent on dead leaves and rough rocks. To his left ran Ben, a silent shadow, his brother, his family.
They ran fifty miles that first day across terrain where no vehicle could follow and at a pace no dog could track. A family of deer scattered in front of them and Ben raced to touch his hand against the buck’s flank as it fled.
The rush of freedom sang through Alec’s veins, a fierce joy that his body could barely contain. When he stopped at the top of a ridge, with the setting sun blazing orange and red and purple in the sky in front of him, Ben was there at his side. Beautiful and strong and his, and he wanted, he needed, but he didn’t dare open that floodgate.
They made camp for the night in the shelter of a fallen log. No fire, not that first night. Alec wasn’t surprised when Ben made one bed from their blankets. They lay down together, warm and close in the quiet of the night. It was good to have the leather between them, getting in the way of what had to be a bad idea. Alec listened to the sounds of crickets and night birds and a fox yipping in the distance and to Ben’s soft words whispering in his ear that this was their better place and they could sleep as long as they wanted and didn’t have to be afraid ever again.
Smooth fingers worked their way between jacket and pants and rubbed slow and sure over his stomach. It was a sensual touch instead of sexual. It felt intimate and comforting and calming. Giving instead of taking and Alec hadn’t been touched like that before.
They didn’t need to stay awake to keep watch. No threat could come close without them hearing it.
After that the days blurred together. They moved southward with the coming winter. They hunted with their bare hands, catching and killing what they needed to eat. Alec didn’t have to be anything, he didn’t have anybody’s expectations to live up to. There was a freedom in his chest that he’d never felt before as he ran wild with Ben.
They didn’t speak much. Who needed words when they were together and the same?
The only words Alec needed to say were the ones he kept inside. Are you mine? Can I touch you know you fuck be fucked by you? Can I keep myself if I give myself to this? Will you live for me be sane for me keep White from fucking killing you for me? He ached with not saying, not asking and somehow knowing that he’d already lost, already given all of himself away with not even a promise of something in return, no promise but Ben’s arm around him every night, Ben’s breath on his neck, Ben’s body warm and tight against his.
Sometimes he thought that Ben remembered Max’s concept of family and couldn’t be that for him, couldn’t find the fire in his nerves, the itch that demanded to be scratched, the pull towards the sweet release of not thinking about anything at all for one damn moment.
Sometimes Ben looked at him and Alec saw a spark in his eyes that only needed a breath of wind to turn into a flame. One whisper and Alec held it quiet in his chest until it ached through him in a way that had nothing to do with sex.
Alec had thought it would be a spark and a sudden inferno, but when it came it was slow and gentle as rain. A dream of being held and touched that he woke from to find himself held and touched. Ben’s hand was cupped over his dick and Alec’s own hand over his twin’s. Not guiding--just there. And then Ben nipped and sucked at his neck. Whispered pleas against the back of Alec’s ear.
“I’ll behave,” Ben said. “I’ll be good I promise,” and Alec didn’t know what that meant but there was nothing he could think of that Ben might want to do that Alec didn’t want done.
“Yeah,” he whispered and Ben slithered against him and down under their blanket. His hands were sure on the zippers and snaps. His breath was hot against Alec’s sensitive skin. Next to that warmth a human would feel cold like death and Alec knew in that moment that he’d never be with an ordinary again. Not for recreation at least.
Alec pulled the blanket up and away because seeing was half the fun. Half the turn-on. Ben’s eyes met his as he took Alec in his mouth. Swallowed him smooth down to the root. They were nothing alike. Exactly the same. Long lashes and freckles and those lips around his dick and Alec was right on the edge when he saw Ben’s hands. Wrists crossed over his lower back like he was manacled.
“Wait,” Alec groaned out and Ben pulled off of him with surprise in his wide eyes and spit slicking his reddened lips.
“Your hands,” Alec whispered and Ben offered them palm up. Alec guided them to his waist and chest and hips. Up under the military leathers. Let Ben touch him. Learn him. Showed Ben he was trusted. He ran his fingers through Ben’s hair and Ben cautiously lowered his head again.
It was right.
Alec thought about that hands thing again in the morning. It wasn’t hard to guess who’d given Ben his sex education. Alec had been restrained pretty much the same way himself his first time. It pissed him off that Ben had been used that way though and it took him a while to figure out why. It came to him as they gathered wild blackberries for breakfast.
Alec had been trained by Manticore. Ben was just used. They never intended to send him to the field. Never planned on him being undercover or distracting a guard. It was just some doctor or guard or soldier using a multi-million dollar piece of genetically engineered perfection for his pretty face and inability to fight back.
Shame and pride were two sides of a coin Alec didn’t feel the need to flip very often. He had always done what he needed to. To survive. To make friends and influence people. Hey, even just to get laid. Getting laid felt good. What is, is, and all that Zen crap.
So it wasn’t pride or shame that had him breaking into a small-town five and dime to pick up the supplies he needed. It was an issue of what had to happen for them to be alright. If Ben wanted to do the sex-thing that was fine with Alec. Great in fact. But there was no way Alec would ever hurt him and he figured it would only be fair to show Ben what his options were. And to make sure he enjoyed every second of that education.
The way Alec figured it, it was about time he put his lessons in “Advanced Seduction and Consummation” to good use.