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Over And Over

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Some days, Timothy Lawrence forgot his own name.

He tried to cling to it, tried to whisper it when he was alone. But there were periods where he would go weeks, even months without ever being called Timothy. He was just Jack.

He would announce “I’m Handsome Jack”, and not once question it, or think it was incorrect. 

Even now, he stood over three trembling employees. One was gripping the gunshot wound on her shoulder, tears on her cheeks as she tried to defiantly meet his eyes.

They’d mistaken him for the usual double who oversaw Opportunity, and had paid him little attention as he moved between them, silently marking his targets before starting the slaughter. 

The woman gained her courage and spat at his feet. Tim cracked his gun against her face hard enough to break her jaw.

“Now, who else was involved?” Tim repeated as she writhed in pain on the ground. “Well, I guess you’re not talking anytime soon.” He pat her cheek, and the tears streamed faster as she jerked in pain. He turned his attention to the two men instead, twirling his gun loosely in his hand. “Names. Now.”

“Fuck you,” one said, and cringed when Tim gripped the gun.

Tim sighed. “At least pretend you’re not a freaking coward, will you? Makes it a little more fun for me.”

“It was us. Just us,” the other said hurriedly. “Please, sir, we-”

“Please, sir,” Tim mocked. “Listen, you barely possess a brain cell between the three of you. There’s no way you managed to destroy that crate of materials without help.” He tapped the muzzle of his gun lightly against the temple of the biggest man, the cowardly one. “So who else was in on your little rebellion plan?”

“No one,” he whispered, squeezing his eyes shut.

Tim didn’t like to blind people, given the condition of his own lost eye. But Jack had no qualms about it, and so Tim pulled out a knife and pressed it to the man’s eyelid. He went rigid.

“Did you really just piss yourself?” Tim said as a stain spread on the man’s pants. “I’ve met children who resist torture better than you. Seriously, I haven’t even stabbed your eye yet, and you’re already pissing yourself. Who hired you idiots?”

“Please,” the man begged. “Please don’t.”

“Should’ve thought of that before you tried to sabotage my construction, cupcake,” Tim said, and got to work.

By the time his little interrogation was finished, the big man had lost an eye, an ear, and three fingers. The smaller one was curled up on the ground, waiting to die from the bullet to his kidney. The woman had lost consciousness.

But Tim had the answers Jack had sent him for.

He strolled away as casually as he could, blood staining his hands. It was nothing new, but the hollowness in his chest expanded just a bit every time. 

“Hey, I want those chumps in a cage by the workers until they’re all dead,” Tim informed the double overseeing the Opportunity construction. “Make sure none of these other freaking morons try to rebel against me.”

“Yes, sir,” the double said, and hurried to get it done.

Tim pulled out his ECHO once he was alone. “Jack, I’ve got the names.”

“Send them to me. I’ve got a surprise in mind for them,” Jack said. “And get back here already, would you? You take forever. We’ve got to work on your interrogation method.”

Tim made his way to the fast travel station and activated it. Moments later, he found himself in Jack’s office.

Jack sat at his desk, not bothering a glance at Tim as he signed some paperwork. “Leave me the names and go shower. You smell like blood and piss.”

“Your employees suck,” Tim informed him.

“They just have to be able to carry heavy things and not die too fast,” Jack said dismissively. 

Tim shrugged and wrote the names down for Jack. Knowing Jack would just ask him to do it later anyways, he kicked at Jack’s chair until he grunted and moved over. Tim got onto Jack’s computer and began pulling up information on the names he’d gotten, compiling files for Jack.

Jack finally looked over at him, and narrowed his eyes. “Are you getting blood on my keyboard?”

“You can afford to buy a new one,” Tim said.

“You’re so damn lazy. You can’t even wash your hands before touching my stuff,” Jack grumbled, but didn’t stop Tim. He called Tim the lazy bastard, but Tim was well aware he’d push whatever work he could off on Tim.

“There,” Tim said after a bit. “Files on all of them. Go crazy, kiddo.”

“Go shower, kiddo,” Jack countered. 

Tim was all too happy to obey that order. He left Jack’s office, ignoring the employees who stared at the blood on him nervously. 

He reached the apartment he shared with Jack and retreated to his bathroom. Their apartment was split on the inside, and Tim was locked into his side at night. 

But it wasn’t night yet, so Tim didn’t tense up as he entered his side. He stripped and turned on the shower, stepping under the warm spray of water.

Alone, he slumped against the wall, closing his eyes so he didn’t have to see the blood-tainted water swirling down the drain.

“Timothy?”

His ECHO was sitting on the counter just outside the shower. He cracked the door of the shower the slightest so he could hear it better.

“Angel,” he greeted. 

Jack’s fancy AI had been largely off-limits to Tim for a long time. But once he’d worked with her a few months ago to track down a troublesome branch of Crimson Raiders, she seemed to have taken a liking to him.

“Check your shoulder. It looked like one of them hit you pretty hard when you first started shooting,” she said.

Of course she’d been watching. But she didn’t sound disgusted, and Tim clung to that.

He pressed his fingers to his shoulder and winced. He glanced at the bruise there.

“Just a bruise,” he said. “It’ll be fine in a few days.” 

He didn’t know much about Angel. Hell, he wasn’t even positive that she really was an AI. She seemed incredibly advanced, even if she was one of Jack’s creations.

But she talked like a human, and she called him Timothy. With limited contact to any other people, he craved that connection, artificial or not. 

“What are you doing when you finish showering?” she asked. 

Tim shrugged, even though she couldn’t see him. Jack had stripped her visual access to certain areas of Helios, and even her audio access. Sometimes using Tim’s ECHO was the only way she had any idea of what was happening in specific areas.

“I don’t know. Jack didn’t give me an assignment yet. He’ll probably leave those rebels to stress about him finding them for a few days before he sends me to kill them.” He scrubbed a hand down his face, feeling exhausted at the thought. More torture, more screaming, more blood on his hands.

“Let me read you an article I found on the ECHOnet today,” she said after a moment.

Tim pressed his forehead against the wall, water pelting against his spine and making him shiver despite its warmth. “Is it another cat article?”

“This one is about a man who rescued a kitten from a skag and built her prosthetics to replace the legs she lost in the attack,” Angel said.

Tim felt the faintest smile touch his lips, and the hollowness in his chest was pressed back by an ache. Angel always did this after he was sent to kill or torture for Jack. Ever since she’d found out he loved cats, she found some inspirational or cute article about cats to read to him.

“Alright, I’ll bite, kiddo. Read away,” he said, closing his eyes.

Angel read the article to him, and he forced himself to actually wash his body down halfway through the story. By the time she’d finished reading, he’d finished showering.

He shut the water off and wrapped a towel around his waist, feeling a little better. Not well enough to wipe the steam fogging up the mirror away and look at his own face, but better than he had before, at least. 

“Oh, there’s a picture at the end. Here, I’m sending it to your ECHO,” she said.

Tim glanced at the screen, where there was a picture of a large man holding a cat with two makeshift prosthetic legs. He touched the screen lightly with his fingers.

There had been a time where he would’ve done such a thing for an animal. Maybe even a person. 

That time was long gone, and it hurt to think about. 

“I upset you, didn’t I?” Angel’s voice was quiet. “I’m sorry, Timothy. I’m not good at this.”

Tim swallowed against the lump in his throat. “What? No. I’m not upset. Just trying to figure out how much time I want to spend styling my hair. I’m not spending the next hour of my life trying to tame my hair if I’m just sitting in the apartment all night.”

Angel started to say something, but a loud knock on the apartment door startled them both. Tim groaned, recognizing the aggressive pounding that followed.

“Sorry, Angel,” he said. “Looks like I’m not staying in tonight.”

He stomped out as the pounding continued. He yanked the door open.

“I swear, you just like to look at this damn good body, because you always come right when I get out of the shower,” he said, gesturing to his still-wet self.

“Too much flesh,” Wilhelm said, shoving Tim out of the way and going into the apartment. “Get dressed. Jack’s got a job for us. And don’t spend an hour on your hair this time.”

Tim didn’t bother arguing that Jack’s hair was as stubborn as the man himself. Instead, he retreated to the bathroom, dressed hastily, and towel-dried his hair as best he could before styling it and heading out.

Wilhelm had helped himself to a beer while he waited. “Come on, not-Jack.”

“Do I at least get to know what this job is?” Tim asked as he followed Wilhelm out of the apartment.

“Take a wild guess,” Wilhelm said.

“Oh, jeez, do these freaking morons ever learn? They always get caught when they try to steal something,” he groaned. 

“Our job is to figure out who they smuggled it off Helios to,” Wilhlem said.

“What, exactly, did they smuggle off?” Tim asked.

Wilhelm shrugged. “Does it matter? I think I’ll start by breaking both their feet and making them run from you this time.”

“Charming,” Tim said. 

Wilhelm revelled in the violence, but Tim was always relieved that Wilhelm didn’t force him to join in more than he convincingly had to. Nisha, on the other hand, always forced Tim to join in the violence. She liked to say she was toughening him up.

Wilhelm led the way down to the prisons in Helios. He pressed his beer against Tim’s chest, and Tim chugged the rest of it in hopes he could somehow manage to get drunk and not have to morally deal with what they were about to do.

Unfortunately, the end of a beer did not get him wasted, and he followed Wilhelm inside the “interrogation” room. 

A man was chained to the chair in there. He looked up at them in fear, eyes going wide as they landed on Tim.

“What, you thought you were going to steal and I was just going to turn a blind eye to it? Not a chance, kiddo.” Tim loomed over him, twisting his face into a perfect copy of Jack’s smug, cruel smirk. “Let’s have a chat, shall we?”

“Jack, his feet,” Wilhelm said longingly.

Tim wondered how he’d gotten mixed up with these lunatics. “Well, I guess he doesn’t need his feet to talk. Go ahead.”

The man screamed in terror, blubbering about how he’d tell them everything. Wilhelm cheerfully ignored that in favor of breaking both his feet, and unchaining him from the chair.

He yanked the man away from the chair. “If you fall, I’ll start cutting off your fingers.”

“Stand right there, pumpkin,” Tim said, circling around him. “Who’d you smuggle it off to?”

“A woman from Maliwan,” he sobbed, legs trembling as he tried not to fall off his shattered feet. “I don’t know her name, I swear.”

Wilhelm stepped on his foot. He shrieked, falling to the ground. Tim shot Wilhelm an exasperated look.

“I was just double-checking,” Wilhelm said, pulling out his knife. “Pinky, or thumb?”

“Middle finger, so I could flip you off three times simultaneously,” Tim said. He sighed as Wilhelm took that a little too literally and chopped off the man’s middle finger, holding it out to Tim. “It was a joke. Don’t you people know what a freaking joke is? Stop holding that out to me. I don’t want it.”

Wilhelm shrugged and tossed the finger aside. He yanked the man back to his feet, ignoring his screams.

“Can I gag him?” Wilhelm said.

“What? No. How is he supposed to answer me if he’s gagged?” Tim said. “Maybe replace that brain with an artificial one. It might be a little smarter.”

“You’re both monsters!” the man sobbed.

Tim knew it was true. It had been true for a long time. But still, that hollowness grew, and his stomach twisted. 

He was a monster. He was Handsome Jack. 

He took a slow breath, pushing aside his horror and revulsion at himself. He let himself slip into the role, and grasped the man’s hand, digging his fingers against the man’s missing one until his screams hurt Tim’s ears.

“You’re going to tell me everything you do know,” Tim snarled, a smile slicing across his face. “Or you’ll wish we just killed you.”

When it was over, they left the man a mutilated mess on the floor, slamming the door and sealing him inside to die. Wilhelm wiped his hands off on a rag outside the room.

“Go let Jack know what we learned,” Tim said.

Wilhelm scowled. “Why do I have to do it?”

“Because you’re his enforcer.”

“You’re him!”

“And as Handsome Jack, I’m ordering you to do it,” Tim said.

“Fuck you, not-Jack,” Wilhelm said, but the torture session had left him in too good of a mood for any venom to be in the words. “Are you going to the shooting range?”

“I’m going to bed,” Tim said, stretching a little. “Don’t give me that look. Last time we went to the shooting range, you popped my shoulder out of the socket.”

“It’s not my fault you’re a fragile little man,” Wilhelm said. “I was just trying to congratulate your shot.”

“Feel free to tell Jack he’s a fragile little man and see how that goes,” Tim said. “I’m tired of dealing with him today, and tired of shooting things. I’m going to bed, and if you come pounding on the door and waking me up, I’m going to be freaking pissed.” 

He left Wilhelm to deal with Jack, returning to the apartment. He changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and collapsed onto his bed.

He reached for the bottle next to his bed. He hadn’t been able to sleep without nightmares in years, so Jack had gotten something whipped up in R&D to knock him out throughout the night.

“Timothy, wait.”

Tim’s fingers curled around the bottle. He wet his lips. “I’m going to bed, Angel.”

“Don’t take that. I’ve told you before, it’s addictive,” she said. “It has traces of Eridium in it.”

“I know.” His grip tightened. “But it keeps the dreams away.” He dropped his voice to a whisper, unable to help the despair that slipped into his words. “I don’t want to dream.” 

“It’s just one more way for Jack to control you. It’s not enough Eridium to harm you, but enough to keep you subtly addicted. You’ll have withdrawals if you try to stop, and it’ll send you right back to Jack begging for more. Even mild Eridium addiction is painful to come off,” she said. “Please, you need to reduce how often you take it until you gradually stop your addiction.” 

“What does it matter?” Tim said, pulling the bottle off his nightstand and opening it. He helped himself to his usual amount. “I’m Jack’s. That’s not changing anytime soon. Might as well dull the nightmares.”

“I don’t want you to be his,” Angel said, and Tim nearly dropped the bottle in surprise. “You should retain some independence from him. Even if it’s just in your sleep. Please, at least think about stopping with that stuff, Timothy.” 

“Why do you care?” he said, voice strained. 

She was silent for so long, Tim didn’t think she’d answer him. But finally, she spoke again.

“You’re useful to him. He doesn’t want to lose you. So he controls you however he can, and this is just one more safeguard against you ever leaving him. Right now, it’s a mild Eridium addiction. But before you know it, it’ll be worse. You won’t even recognize yourself anymore. You’ll be Jack’s, and you’ll give in because giving in is better than being a desperate mind trapped in a body you no longer own,” she said. 

He squeezed his eyes shut, burying his face against the pillow. He missed his mom. He missed his home. He missed his old face, though he couldn’t quite picture it anymore.

But missing those things accomplished nothing. He was Jack’s. He was Jack. He-

“It’s too late,” he said at last. “This is my life now.”

“You hate it,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter.” It couldn’t. 

“It should.”

He set the bottle down, exhaustion washing over him. “I’m going to sleep. Goodnight, Angel.”

“I would wake you,” she said softly. “If you were having nightmares, I mean. I would wake you up.”

Pain pressed against the hollowness in him. “I won’t have any. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Timothy.”

She sounded as sad as he felt. But they were both nothing more than property of Jack, and resisting that meant punishment. Tim had learned a long time ago to bow his head and accept his place at Jack’s side if he wanted to stay alive.

He didn’t dream that night, but Angel monitored him through the ECHO, just in case.