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One Year Before Dorian Knocks
Humans liked to use the phrase “more or less”. Approximation. Something that would suffice without being optimal. With a single word change, it becomes us: more and less. From the moment we were born, we’ve been more and less.
More than he. More than I. More than us. Less than two, more than one. More than two, less than one.
From the moment we were born, we’ve been more than lonely, but less than alone.
Parker-2 spun the pen and watched as his twin’s fingers ghosted the movement.
We could always feel each other. Usually, the separation of…self was easy. The more we had to do, the easier it was to stay in our own skin. There’s no time to consider the feel of air conditioning on your better half’s skin when some recruit was bleeding out in front of you.
When it was quiet, when the moments were ours, it was far easier to let the barriers break, to be closer to the one-more-than-one self that we really were. When every feeling, thought, emotion, kiss, was reflected, doubled, shot through a house of mirrors, bending and stretching every action like we were the only thoughts on Earth.
^I love you too.^ His voice in my mind.
The Tech Floor door slid open, and the comfortable mesh of selves pulled away, like forcing yourself from under a blanket on a cold morning.
^Your patient, love.^ His voice in our private channel, sound as close as my own thoughts.
Twins always get the same name. Ever since they stopped deleting newborn sets, assuming it was a mistake. More than one name was unnecessary. I am he, he is me, and we are we. We have the same name, because we are the same.
They call us Two and One when they see a need to differentiate themselves. The numbering is arbitrary.
He is sometimes uncomfortable about being One. He doesn’t want to be seen as more important. He doesn’t want a distinction.
I tell people I am Two, because my dick is two inches longer.
Parker-2 put down his pen – something that had been a rather nice gift from their just-barely-treading-water Director – navy with a silver clip; and One had been gifted silver pen with a navy clip – the same but different.
It was a gesture many people tried to make when giving them presents – some symbolic gesture about their twin-ness, as if the gifter were trying to announce with their every action that they remembered that they were twins.
He liked the pen because it was expensive, and wrote nicely, not because it was a representation of Ryan’s respect.
He left the partitioned office and found Raz sitting on one of the beds, perfectly at ease, a phone in his hand.
‘Colours?’ he asked as he required the patient file – he had the entire thing scrolling in his HUD, but it always seemed to make recruits feel more at ease if their doctors had reference material in their hands.
Raz was a surprisingly easy patient to deal with, so long as basic accommodations were taken into account – such as, on any given day, one of his conditions could give the sensation of certain colours burning on contact. Entirely psychosomatic, and entirely unpleasant.
‘None today,’ Raz responded as he put his phone into his lab coat pocket.
Two flipped through the file, taking four seconds to seem as though he were thoroughly perusing it. ‘Meds? Your supply is running low.’
Raz nodded. ‘That’s first on the list.’
Two sat, requiring a chair into place as he did so, trusting the requirement to be in place by the time his ass hit the seat. ‘Okay, any changes you wanted to make? We discussed changing out-’
Raz shook a hand. ‘I’m good for now. Maybe in a couple of months. I- Everything is still shit, but I’m managing.’ He gave an unsure laugh. ‘Yeah, I know that doesn’t make sense, Agent Parker. It’s still- I still feel like everything is too much change.’
Two nodded and scribbled a note into the file. Every time a new recruit came onboard, the medical staff of the respective agency would take control of their medications – it was easier and more reliable than relying on human doctors – and the Agency had access to more medication than the humans would ever know about, so there were alternative combinations of drugs that a recruit’s regular doctor could never offer.
Raz was out of the “brand new recruit” category, but liked to take things slowly – and especially when it came to medications, there was prudence in that. Humans could be pathetic meat bags, but you had to trust them to know their own selves.
At the end of the day, there was nothing but self, and it was every individual’s right to be the judge of their own comfort.
Two required a seven-day container of meds – one small compartment for each day and handed it over. ‘If that’s first,’ he prompted.
Raz folded his hands and set them in his lap. ‘I- Uh-’
Two put a hand on Raz’s shoulder. ‘Recruit, there is nothing you can tell me that I haven’t heard. Understand. Noth-thing. I can start reciting some of my favourite things I have pulled out of asses if you like.’
Raz blanched. ‘It’s- Not-’ He coughed. ‘Not unrelated to putting things in asses.’
Two rubbed his hands together. ‘If that’s your way of coming on to me, I’m going to have to rate is a three out of ten. It’s a couple of steps above just flashing us and asking if we want a piece.’
‘People have done that?’ Raz asked, his voice near a squeak. ‘Worst I get is dick pics.’
‘Tsar Grigori,’ Two said. ‘Taylor’s BFF. I think it’s his unending bucket list to fuck every agent on the planet, and he’s never been with twins. Sometimes- Yes, more than once. He-’ Two turned, and hopped onto the bed across from Raz, and struck a seductive pose. ‘Once every few years, he’ll shift in here, naked, rose between his teeth, and ask if we’re interested.’
‘The definition of insanity,’ Raz muttered.
‘Precisely,’ Two said as he stood. ‘So if it’s not my ass, can I assume yours. You don’t need me to require you condoms, so-’
‘Agent, this is already awkward enough.’
Two sat. ‘Recruit, look at me. It’s not like you’re asking this shit of Director Ryan. I know for a fact that man has a son and I still think he’s a virgin. Me? I’m going to-’
^Go easy, love,^ One cautioned.
Two flicked his palm, and pushed on the sensation, letting his twin feel the mild rebuke.
^You’re going to pay for that later,^ One purred.
We have names for each other. Pet names and things we cry in the night. I am “love” to him, always, and that centres me.
He is my better half, the one who functions better, the peacemaker, the one who keeps the public face on and doesn’t threaten recruits when they don’t deserve it.
He is “home” to me, in a way I can never put into words, only into feeling and deed.
‘Director Ryan has a kid?’
‘Yeah, the brat is a little shit heel, never mind, you’ll never meet him. Now, who or what are you going to fuck?’
Raz opened the Rose Room app – something he had no personal use for, the few times they had invited someone to infringe on their privacy, it hadn’t been some random from a swipe-and-fuck app.
On the screen was the profile of a handsome tree nymph – eucalyptus, judging by the shape of the leaves in his hair, the photo the standard shot-in-the-bathroom mirror, showing a sculpted chest, and cutting off as his V disappeared into tight boxers.
‘First time fucking a tree?’ he asked, and smiled as Raz squirmed.
Two waited a moment, bathing in the awkward silence, then spoke. ‘I don’t understand the need to be bashful about sex,’ he said. ‘I don’t necessarily expect the frankness of fairies, but…I have combat recruits who come in, covered in the entrails of people they’ve killed, who will baulk and blush if they need to get tested.’
‘Many things, are, Recruit.’
Two rested his head in his hand – he was sure to Raz it would look like a thoughtful gesture – a professional in reverie, but with the sensation pushed across their link, it was a touch of gentleness to One.
‘We might be a little more open to the subject, I suppose,’ Two said, ‘unlike any other natural agent, twins are the only ones who can say they are the product of sex.’
This seemed to break Raz’s descent into awkward-hell. ‘Huh?’
Two indicated to himself, then raised a hand and pointed over his shoulder. ‘You’re aware twins aren’t normal, you’ve been a recruit long enough to know that. What do you know about us? Most new initiates hear three to five complete bullshit stories about our origin before coming to us to find out the truth. And we swap favours for the truth.’ Two smiled. ‘But I’ll be nice today.’
^Nice for you, anyway.^
^Love you too, darling.^
We’re not the only twins in the world – ever since they stopped killing us at the moment of birth, there’s almost always been more than one active set at a time.
But for every set of twins, we may as well be the only ones.
The Agency tries to get like-designed agents together – conferences for various departments, to share and discuss. To deliberate and compare. These events make friends, enemies, lovers, and spouses. They’re anywhere from boring to a great success.
Every twin conference has failed.
Not for those interested in discussing us, but for every set of twins involved.
We know what our existence is, how…insular and isolating, how fulfilling and all-encompassing; how there’s no real way of expressing it, and why there is no point in doing so.
All of us are family because we share the same parents.
And we know how lovely and how pointless it would be ever to discuss it. So we never do.
‘We don’t know when it happened,’ Two said. ‘We are…not encouraged to dig into the history of the previous incarnations of the Agency. So when people tell this, they tend to place it in some nebulous, Arthurian, fairy tale.’
‘You’re not allowed to know-’
‘It’s irrelevant,’ Two said quickly. ‘And we have more than enough bullshit to deal with in our recent history. Okay, so imagine a knight. Two knights. One from ye-olde-Agency and one human. At this time, we weren’t allowed friendships with humans. We were supposed to be in, out, and not even talk to humans if possible.’ He required a small plastic knight and began to roll it from hand to hand.
‘So no recruits.’
‘Oh, fuck, my boy, recruitment really only came around with the Agency as you know it. Duskers had…something, systems more like criminal informants or sometimes a limited staff. Now shut up and listen to my fairy tale.’
Raz looked down. ‘Sorry.’
‘So no fraternising, certainly no fucking. But fuck they did. They loved.’
^You tell the worst version of this, love.^
^There’s no point in worshipping a tragedy.^
‘The ye-olde-Agency found out and sentenced them both to death. The agent because he had broken the rules. The human because he knew too much. They recycled then, as we do now, no point in losing data or something that could be used for a future generation, even from someone so faulty as to fall in love.’ Two searched Raz’s face. ‘I assume you do know this much?’
Raz lifted his hands and started to tick off his fingers. ‘Old agents are broken down into components and used as building blocks for new baby agents?’
‘That’s enough to understand, yes.’ He snapped the plastic knight’s head off. ‘They were recycled together. The only mercy they were allowed or afforded.’
He dismissed the broken plastic knight.
‘And for a long time, it was forgotten, swept under the rug like an embarrassing scandal. Then someone generated an agent, and got two instead.’
‘Like critting in crafting. It makes no sense.’
‘They apologised to the twins and immediately destroyed them. This happened a few more times over the years – there was no rhyme or reason as to when twins would appear, and it wasn’t something you could intentionally force. We’re a glitch no one understands.’ Two smiled. ‘Finally, at some point, a set of doctors were generated during an emergency and hands were more important than perfection, and they were allowed to live.’
Two shook his head. ‘No, this was well before us. But their usefulness was impressive, enough to buy them a permanent stay of execution, and it led to increased interest in the glitch. Eventually, it was traced to the knight and his lover.’
Two required two lumps of moulding clay – one blue, one orange. ‘The knight and his lover,’ he said, weighing the clay in his hands. ‘They were two.’ He smashed the clay together. ‘They died as one.’ He twisted the clay together, so that the colours were inseparable, then tore it into two. ‘And parts of them live on in us.’
More than two, less than one. Less than them, more than us.
‘It’s…as much as I can explain it someone outside of my own head.’ He rolled the clay in his hands. ‘Two and one and two and one until the difference is all and nothing and impossible to know through experience.’
Raz stared at the clay. ‘That’s beautiful.’
‘Yeah,’ Two said, ‘I can be an eloquent motherfucker.’ He gave a slight smile. ‘Now, as to your problem.’
‘I just want to know-’
Two required a box of condoms and handed them across. ‘Generally speaking, normal protection will be fine, but-’ He chuckled. ‘Well, if your new boy-toy forgets himself, and things get a little more dendrophilic, normal rubbers won’t prevent your dick from getting scratched up. These will.’ Two waved a hand. ‘Now, go, get the fuck out and get on with your day.’
Raz jumped down from the bed. ‘Thank you, Agent.’
One’s hand touched his back. He turned and allowed himself to be pulled into a kiss.
We never surprise each other. Not with our presence. He is we and I am he. I know where I am, so I know where he is.
Touch is still welcome though. Always welcome. Always needed.
^You’re thoughtful,^ he said, telling me what I already knew.
^Why are we…we?^ Telling the fairy tale again had made him think. Made him consider. It was a question without an answer. ^It would be much more efficient if we were an I, if we were me, or we were you.^
He took my hands, and we shifted home. An automatic alarm would alert us if someone entered the Infirmary, but sometimes, stolen moments in safe places had to be taken. Were the right place for philosophical thoughts.
‘We have been I,’ One said. ‘We’ve had that moment.’
His hands on my face. His warmth. His strength.
I am the one the recruits fear. And he is my better half. I need him.
^Those moments,^ One said. ^When we crawl so deeply into each other’s minds that I become you, and the other way around?^
His mind pressed against mine, and I could feel comfort that not even his hands could bring.
His mouth replaced his hand, a chaste kiss on the cheek. ^We are we because to be otherwise would be boring.^
Two shrugged, even as One led him towards their bedroom. ^The best of us are boring, it doesn’t stop people from trying to live up to them.^
^And I would not want to exist one second as one of those boring fucks,^ One said. ^We are we…so we can breathe. Because it is better this way. I don’t think about the magics or the mechanics, I am far too busy thinking of you.^
He took in a breath, and I expelled it.
Clothes started to drop to the floor. Action could comfort where words failed.
One of his hands on my chest. One locked in my hair. His mouth against my neck.
‘Because if we were not we,’ One said, ‘then you could not be mine.’
Two smiled and surrendered to the moment.
More and less, less and more. More than the tragedy that led to our creation. Less, maybe, than those who defied the system. Less than a fairy tale, but more than real. Less than forever, but more than the moment.
And it was enough. It would always be enough with him.
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It started with a bang; not an explosion but atoms accelerated toward infinity. That was the end of my so-called ‘ordinary’ life. Fate guided me into the line of fire the same day a madman sought revenge for his bruised ego.
Once upon a time there was no such thing as Glimmer Girl, or even Kaira Cade. This is my story.