Becile’s Boys (Part 2/3)
Title: Becile’s Boys (Part 2/3)
Word Count: 2,932
Summary: Your name is Hare, and you feel like the world’s punching bag.
T!W: Physical and emotional abuse, violence, language, slight? robot-gore, potentially disturbing imagery, “alcohol” use
A!N: I didn’t sleep last night, this needed to get DONE. I think I’ve got it done the way I want, but I suppose you will be the judge of its quality.
You’re older now and all the worse for wear. Your old man doesn’t offer to fix your busted eye or replace your vents, though he hooked your jaw back together at least, muttering that you brought it on yourself. When he finished you looked in the glass and saw that your new face was…well… Pops stood behind you with a bitter little smirk, his eyes daring you to say something, but like hell were you going to give the old bastard the satisfaction—so you popped your collar and walked out of the lab with your head held high, bragging to Jacky about your battle scars while your teeth flashed in the light.
You stopped giving a damn about your old man’s opinion years ago. He never treated you right to start with, but you’ve spent too many nights talking Jack out of hysterics and watching Skully humiliate himself for ’Father’s’ favor to think he’ll ever change. Jacky tries to stay out of his way now, speaks to him only when spoken to, goes quiet and still when he walks in the room, and some days it works and some days it doesn’t. God, you wish you could just take him out of here, throw what little you two got in a bag and carve out a little place somewhere, even if it was just one room in a tenement house it would be better than spending another day here. But this town ain’t kind to robots that try to make it on their own, and even you have to admit that picking pockets and bar room scams won’t keep your chassis dry and your furnace fueled for long. And even if he’s a delusional, dead-faced bastard, you don’t want to leave Skully behind. It wouldn’t be right, not even by your own low standards.
So most days you settle for going downtown, palming wallets for your afternoon’s pocket change. If Jacky’s with you, you buy cherry sodas that neither of you can really drink but he loves the way it fizzes, and you think it’s kind of fun. Not nearly the kind of kick a shot of gasoline gives you, that can knock you ass over teakettle and make you see stars, but not even Jacky knows you drink that. And when he’s at home, you hit up the dives where your exhaust is just another part of the haze and there are men with voices just as gravelly as your own, coins rolling on the tables when they play cards and knives in their hands and eyes. You rub elbows with crooks and learn how they talk, how they work, even help out with a few gigs here and there when the nights get too slow for your tastes. You get dirty glances in the street during the day and don’t give a shit, because you’ve never felt more powerful than when you send a grown man running at night with just a look or a sloshed bar fly breaks his hand on your chest. And some nights you just forget to go home. Why bother, anyway, when the air here is so fresh and you’ve never felt so goddamn free?
But you do, eventually, when your furnace is aching and whining and puffing on embers and you don’t want to power down in an alley or some bar’s storeroom. You put whatever energy you have left into shouting a half decent comeback at your old man when he bellows, and to hiss at Skully to stop staring, oughta just get a picture of my mug if you’re so damn entranced, and trudge to your room, hoping you make it there before Jack realizes you’re home. He’s the only one you ever apologize to. You hate that it hurts him, that you hurt him when you step out, and it’s always the same little golf ball of regret twisting in your guts when you run into him. And unlike Pops and Skully, Jack never reacts the same way twice—he’s done everything from thrown his arms around your neck to scream in rage and dent his knuckles throwing piss-poor punches, to forgoing a reaction all together and asking if you had a fun time, have any stories to tell me Hare, but the worst was finding him curled up in stasis at your bedroom door. It was 4 AM and you thought your systems were going to short-circuit from overuse, but you carried him back to his room anyway. You almost swore off your ways that night, but you were back with the siren song of an afternoon pit stop and you drowned your shame in gasoline.
You couldn’t even break the habit for Jacky, you selfish bastard. And he did ask you to stop, that time Pops chained him up in the workshop as punishment for filling his hand joints with cotton to stop the shaking. Oh, you’d been furious, furious with Jacky for being so stupid, you were the one who found him frozen at the kitchen table after all, hands in his gloves, trying to play it off like he was fine, he was great, not a glitch at all today, even though you could smell the oil and smoke coming off of him, saw that he was straining to keep from rattling and his smile was forced and too wide, and he’d screamed and nearly collapsed when you grabbed his hand and begged you not to take off the glove, his hands were practically wrecked and you’d snarled meaninglessly with anger and cold dread and worry as you dragged him to the workshop, but all of that was nothing compared to what you felt when Pops brought out the chains. There was only a single moment where you couldn’t believe what you were seeing, what he was gonna do, before you lunged at him, one hand around his wrist and the other going for his collar, your mind burning white-hot, and you barely manage to get out that you’ll break his arm if he touches Jack when something clamps around the back of your neck, your arms are jerked loose and Skully half drags half carries you to the door, swings his arm out and you’re stumbling rolling crashing into the hallway, and before he slams the door you look up and see he has a length of chain in his hand too the traitorous son of a BITCH!
It was a long hour of listening to chains rattle and Jacky scream on the other side of a door you couldn’t break, and when they finally let you back in you shoved past them and went straight to Jacky and you didn’t leave. The Skull stood silent guard so you didn’t undo the chains, and you didn’t look at his ugly mug once, he’s dead to you right now, you’d send his ass to hell in a second if you didn’t need to take care of Jacky, still whimpering in pain with his hands tied to his chest, leaking oil from misaligned joints even after the cotton is all cleared out. You tell him jokes and stories to keep his mind off of it and there’s a victory in every little half-smile he gives you, the stupid little son-of-a-bitch…
…But by the third day your fingers are itching and your words are trailing off in the middle of half your sentences, and you see card faces in the wood grain of the far wall, and no matter how much coal you shovel in your chest it keeps telling you it could burn brighter, hotter, all it needs is a splash of the good stuff, and Jacky’s telling you to go into proper stasis instead of just napping, and
suddenly you jump up, hey Jacky I got a better idea, how’s about I run into town and get you a Coke, eh? With a Maraschino cherry, floating right on the top, two of them if the jerk ain’t looking. He squirms and tilts his head to get the hair out of his eyes, giving you a strange look, he’s not buying it but you’re already out of your chair and stretching your joints, I’ll be back in a flash Jacky, don’t you worry, Hare, just take a snooze while I’m out alright, Hare, hang tight Jacky and you’re almost at the door, stepping past Skully when HARE, WAIT, you stop and look over your shoulder, and Jacky’s sitting up as far as he can against the chains, wig over one eye and the other pleading—Hare, please don’t go to the other place, please don’t leave me in here, just, just get the Coke and come back, okay? And it takes you a second too long to get the words out, ‘course Jacky, straight there and back, no funny business, I promise, and you’re out the door without meeting The Skull’s eyes.
You didn’t make it to the soda fountain, one game of poker became a hundred, and low quality as it is you steal enough coal from boiler rooms and train tenders to keep your fire burning. The gasoline makes the time go faster, keeps you from focusing on anything for too long because your mind is going a thousand miles a second and you can’t hear Jacky’s voice over the uncontrolled firing of your pistons, and sometimes your fail-safes kick in and force you to power down for hours until the excess energy burns itself out. You’ve lost track of time, you don’t count how many times the sun’s gone up and down since you left, and you can’t think about going back yet, you’re still stinging from the blow of what your old man did, even though you promised Jacky and that’s when you hit the gas again.
Then one day you’re laying in a bar with your face on the table, surprisingly lucid but without any inclination to get up, and you hear the scrape of wood on wood as someone pulls out the chair across from you and sits down, heavy but controlled, and you already know who it is before you look up. Skully looks the same as ever, hands folded on the table and the sparks of his eyes moving like fire, clothes immaculate, and you still can’t read his face but there’s something different about it today, maybe he got a new hat or something, you can’t remember, and you push yourself up and look at him and growl what. He stares at you and you hate the way he stares, and he says that this needs to stop, Hare, and you snarl but he cuts you off, your behavior is destroying you, and more to the point, it’s jeopardizing our…’family’, and you feel your brow try to leave your face at that one. You miss a lot of what he says while trying to get your focus back, but one word gets your attention, ‘Master,’ and you’re laughing harder than you have in months, Master? That old bastard, who treats you all like shit on his boot and always has, Master? Skully scowls, face darkening, and suggests that if you weren’t such a disobedient little rodent all the time, he wouldn’t be so inclined to punish you, or to take out his frustrations on The Jack, and you slap your hand on the table because don’t you fucking blame me for how he treats Jacky, and his gaze is still so godsforsaken steady, that reminds me, The Jack has been released, and he, a pause, a hesitation, misses you, and you drop your face into your hands and rub at your eye sockets, you’re so tired. The silence stretches on for a while, before he asks, oddly soft, will you be coming back, then? And you slam your oily mitt on the table again, why’d you do it, Skully, why’d you have to let him do that to Jack, why’d you have to help him? You didn’t even try to talk him out of it, for god’s sake, and you, you gotta know Jacky just doesn’t think things through sometimes, he was an idiot yeah but he didn’t deserve that—you know that, right? Skully, please, and he’s looking at the table between you, and you think he looks—perplexed? When he finally speaks he doesn’t raise his eyes, and his voice doesn’t sound like him in its sincerity—Hare, listen, the Master—Father, made us the way we are for a reason, down to every last detail, he knows what we are and what we’re supposed to be, if you and Jack could just stop and listen to him for once—so what, so we can go out and shoot people at night like you do? He starts, looks up, what, you think I can’t smell the gunpowder on you, of course hell for all I know you’re shooting clay pigeons in the dark but you sure as hell ain’t buying milk when you step out for ‘errands.’ Is that what you wanna be, Skully, you really wanna be daddy’s little killer? And he holds your eye this time, and as grave as you’ve ever heard him, says if Master wishes me to be.
You stand up slowly, fingers digging grooves into the table beneath you, leaning forward to keep your eye level with his so you can watch his pupils grow as you tell him you are not his son, Skully,
You’re his DOG.
And you smile and enjoy the honey glow in your chest when you see pain in his eyes, actual genuine goddamn hurt after all these years, and you’re just starting to feel bad about it when you notice his eyes aren’t just wide with surprise, the sparks keep growing and growing until they’re not sparks they’re fireballs, and you see embers flying until there’s a sharp CRACK in the air and you’re looking at the ceiling and your head doesn’t feel screwed on quite right, you trip over the chair behind you and see The Skull throwing the table aside like a newspaper as you hit the floor, you can hear screaming but you have less than a second to react before The Skull’s got you and is dragging you along the floor by your head, his thumb in your busted eye socket, he lifts you with one hand and crushes your face into the wall, good optic in so you can’t see anything and your feet are inches off the floor, you scramble at the wall for some kind of hold but there’s nothing but the pressure on the side of your head holding you in place, increasing as The Skull roars in your ear, take it back Hare, take it back you little cocksucker, and you cry out as the side of your head starts to dent inward, fucking take it back and he slams his fist into your back hard enough to crack the casing of your Core, Skully, oh god Skully, stop, please, and there’s another POP from the side of your head and you can feel the oil leaking out, you’re getting dizzy there are alarms Skully please I’m sorry, the knuckles hit your back again, danger danger red lights in your eye you can’t stop screaming plates shift in your head skully, stop, god Skully please, Skully you’re gonna KILL ME!
and you crumple to the ground heaving in pain, arms over your head, and it feels like forever until you can move your head to look, and yes he’s still there, and seeing you trying to form words his foot comes up and crashes against your chest, buckling your furnace door inward, and you sputter as his hollow voice falls like a guillotine, you have until midnight, Hare, he grinds his heel into the piping of your abdomen, if you are not back by then you will be considered dead to us. Choose wisely, brother, and his foot slams you against the wall one more time before he turns and walks away, what patrons remain backing out of his way, and when he’s gone you close your eye and think about death.
It’s ten minutes to midnight when you stagger through the door and collapse on Jacky’s horrified shoulders. This time he’s the one dragging your dripping frame to the workshop, trying to encourage you to stay online with every step, whispering the same pep talks you give him when he cries, and you’re so damn proud you could throw up, or maybe that’s just the trauma talking. The chains are still on the workshop floor and your legs give out at the sight of them, I’m sorry Jacky, I’m so goddamn sorry, and somehow his thin frame gets you to the workbench, helps you up, takes your hand and says he’s gonna go get Pops now, you just gotta stay online for a few more minutes okay, just stay online, but for god’s sakes Hare what happened to you?
There’s a cloud of embers outside the workshop door and you squeeze Jack’s hand, tell him you were stupid and picked a bad fight, never pick a fight you don’t know you can win kiddo, gets you beat up like stupid ole’ Hare, and in your head you swear on the devil’s fire that you’ll never tell, never have to let him know what your brother is willing to do in your creator’s name, you’ll keep him safe even if it actually kills you next time.
You swore, Hare.