Coda excerpt

Hanz was staring at an engine, up on the blocks, but wasn’t actually looking at what he was seeing. His hair had just been cut short enough that the curls didn’t have a chance in the short spikes, and he had a new grease smudge under his left eye. He’d been listening for Vision, and probably in no small part for the sounds of a struggle. When Vision walked in, he straightened and turned around. Vision waited, but Hanz said nothing at all.

Hanz glanced up to the chains hanging from the ceiling. Vision’s anger disappeared. He swallowed, hard. Hanz looked back to him, asking permission first. Vision nodded. His muscles held a residual tension, but Hanz would take care of that.

The controls whirred to life, and the hook came down to within Hanz’s reach. Still, other than summoning the chain down, Hanz didn’t move. Vision didn’t want to ask him to hurry up, but the silence after the eerie moonlit race put his senses, already on high alert, into overdrive.

Hanz smiled, tossing the hook away and then catching it. It was a lazy motion and yet seemed to take up all of Hanz’s attention. “Do you want to tell me what to do, sir?” he asked.

Yes. Yes, Vision did. Hell yes, in fact. Vision wanted to stalk Hanz backward, pin him against the wall, and make him —

Vision forced himself to relax. “No.”

“No what, Vision?”

“No. I don’t want to tell you what to do.” Vision bit back everything else he was going to say. Hanz nodded, regardless. He threw the hook one more time, caught it, and then let it hang still.

“What is it that you want, then?” Hanz came around the engine block. His voice was soft, but his face wasn’t. Vision could tell him to piss off, and Hanz would look chagrined for a second and be as deferential as ever. The blood was still raised inside him, and the desire that grew stronger the longer Kane was under his roof, but there was something calming about being alone with Hanz. Vision could relax.

“I want you,” Vision said. “You know I want you.”

Hanz cocked his head. Vision ground his human teeth. There was no pushing Hanz. Vision didn’t have to obey, but Hanz wouldn’t let him do both. If Vision were honest, he wouldn’t have it any other way. So he took a deep breath, held it, and exhaled. “Please, Hanz.”

Hanz’s smile didn’t change, but he put his hand on Vision’s shoulder and pushed him down to the floor. Vision knelt. He was a hundred times stronger than Hanz, but that wasn’t the point, either. The cold concrete wasn’t at all comfortable, though Vision hardly felt the chill at all.

Hanz settled down against the frame of the hot little orange sports car he was working on. He reached into the body just about half a foot from where Vision was and brought the bottle up to his lips, but didn’t drink. Not quite yet. He looked down at Vision, observed him for a minute and toed Vision’s knees further apart. Vision hissed before he could stop himself, and Hanz noticed. Rather than draw away, he rubbed his knuckles against Vision’s exposed fangs.

Vision snarled, drawing back, but Hanz raised an eyebrow. Vision exhaled but was unable to completely relax. The more he tried — and he did try — the less into the headspace he found himself. Hanz stroked the back of Vision’s neck, but rather than finding it soothing, the feeling annoyed Vision.

Hanz broke away and waited, but Vision stood up and started pacing. The rows of cars, all lovingly restored and maintained by Hanz, were just wrong. Hanz watched him, concerned. “It doesn’t have to be like this,” he called. “You could fuck me against the wall, if you like.”

Vision glared at him.

Hanz held out his hands. Vision still had anger inside him, but it wasn’t directed. He yanked the door open. Hanz began calling his name, but then time slowed right down. Vision had been stepping through the doorway, but rather than stepping into the private drive of his estate, there was nothing outside of the garage but more of the silvery moonlight.

Vision blinked, but the stark wasteland didn’t change. He looked behind him, to call Hanz over to him, but the garage was gone. He still felt the chill from the air conditioner in the garage, but he was alone. The moon was huge, yards across from where he stood, and the moon’s seas stared down at him like empty eye sockets.

Whatever had done this wanted Vision alarmed. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited. He could still hear the video game playing, but it was miles away, like the distant sound of traffic early in the morning.

“You don’t startle easily, Vision,” the moon said. Vision looked back up to it. The bone-like surface grinned down at him. “I have to give you credit for that at least.”

“I hate to break it to you, but you’re hardly my first bad guy,” Vision called.

The moon laughed, a bitter sound that shook the air. “I am going to enjoy destroying you.”

“Are you done?” Vision called mockingly, but tested where his power was as carefully as Kane had tried to move. No matter how much he pulled, however, the ground here was dead. No human had ever stepped here before, and there were no lines to pull from. But Vision was still full of his own tension. He stared at the moon, reaching out for it, and when he touched it, he felt the artificial constructs around him. He concentrated on the distant sounds of the video game. The sky rumbled, and huge flakes of silver began to fall, like twisting an oil painting.

Whatever it was, it fought against him, trying to slam him back. But Vision’s lands were still beneath the landscape, his lines of power still under the ground, and he’d never taken well to being challenged.

Something struck him from behind. Vision braced himself, and it did no more than make him stagger. Now he had a direction. He turned away from the moon, though it made the hair on the back of his neck rise. There was nothing behind him, just more silver light off gray ground. But he knew he was facing the house because the video game was louder. More strength came to him, and he pushed back whoever it was. The moon snarled at him, but Vision was back in the drive, Hanz’s hand on his shoulder.

“What was it?” Hanz was asking. There might have been more to the question, but Vision didn’t hear it.

He looked around, but the drive was empty. Vision exhaled sharply. “We’re expecting company.”

Without prompting, Hanz glanced at the moon.

Master of the Line series

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