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It All Started At The Midnight Hour

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Rachel Edenshire was not a woman, no matter what anyone had to say about it. He was simply living his life under a name that was not his own, parading around as a woman because he happened to look a certain way. Because his features happened to be softer, his shoulders more narrow and his hips more wide than they should be and because he hadn’t happened to be naturally equipped with the right parts.

He didn’t think that that really changed anything about him – he was still a man – but he knew that he would never be allowed to be who he was, at least not by his family. At worst, he would be sent away to an asylum and at best he would be hated. So he put his wants and comfortableness aside for the sake of duty to his family. Though, sometimes he needed to escape from the life that he was bound to, the repressed existence that he had been made to live.

So he would dress himself in the clothes of the stable boy and bunch his hair up underneath a cap and run off to a completely non discerning tavern and drink his worries away, play cards and indulge in conversation. He seemed to pass just fine as a young man, young enough to be barely past his adolescence – younger than he himself was. He was still thought of as a man and that was all that mattered to him.

On nights like these, he would go by his real name – not the one he was made to use by whoever seemed to believe that they had power over him – which happened to be Rhys. More often than not, he spent the night largely on his own and that was perfectly fine for him. This night had been different though, and company sought itself out for him.

“My name’s Jack.” He said and Rhys looked up at him. His first thought was that the man was distressingly handsome. Darkened skin and perfectly symmetrical features… and his eyes were- Rhys frowned and looked away, reminding himself that it was rude to stare. So he focused in on the mans’ voice, which he liked just as much as his features.

“You’re an American!” Rhys remarked in realization before blushing and looking down with shame, “I am so sorry, I just… I have never met an American before, though I have read about them and my father used to say the most terrible things about them.”

Jack chuckled, “I’ll tell you all about it, once I know your name.”

“Oh!” He exclaimed quietly, before remembering himself. “It’s Rhys,” he smiled genuinely then, he felt strangely trusting of Jack, although he had just met him. “Rhys Edenshire.”

“Rhys.” Jack hummed, repeating it a few times – allowing it to roll over his tongue, like he was getting used to the word itself. “That’s an interesting name. I’ve never heard of anyone named it.”

“It’s welsh.” Rhys explained quickly, a bit of excitement peeking out of him. It was his name, the one that he had chosen for himself and he held a special, reverent place for it in his heart. “It means ‘enthusiasm’. I think it suits me.”

“I think you’re right about that,” The older man said, indulgently leaning in. “It truly does suit you well. You do seem very enthusiastic.” he lowered his voice, “I’m wondering how enthusiastic you could be.”

It was then that he noticed Jack touching his hand – it was barely more than a slight contact but it felt so intimate to Rhys that it initially gave him pause.

Rhys lowered his voice down to barely above a whisper, “You…are an invert?” he asked in a low voice. He looked at Jack oddly, wondering why the older man decided to flirt with him like this– he could be sent away or thrown in a prison for being perverse.

“I am when it suits me.” Jack explained in just as low a voice. “And looking at you right now, it suits me very much.” he purred quietly, taking the younger mans’ hand in his own. “And why wouldn’t it? You are a gorgeous young man, Rhys. I’d have to be blind not to want you.”

“It’s a sin.” Rhys insisted quietly, vaguely attentive of the way that Jacks’ thumb gently rubbed circles in his wrist. “And a crime.” he added, even more quiet as he darted his eyes around nervously.

“Is it now?” The older man remarked mockingly, he leaned in a little closer. “I’m not hearing a ‘no’ from you though, so what’s the issue here?”

“You aren’t afraid of being caught?” Rhys was astonished by that, it just didn’t seem natural not to be afraid of what the consequences of being happy were. He was fascinated by the kind of boldness that Jack seemed to naturally exhibit – it drew him in and made him wonder about things he had long since let himself forget or repress. “Not even a little bit?”

Jack leaned in a little closer, “I may not look like much, gorgeous, but I’m a helluva lot scarier than anything else you’ve ever seen.” he spoke like it was a promise, “So, no. I’m not scared by a few drunks wielding billy clubs.”

“You are much braver than I.” The younger man admitted softly as he gently detracted his hand away from Jacks, “I would love to but I’m not sure that I can. I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize now, darling.” Jack assured him, “We don’t need to do anything romantic, we can just enjoy each others company,” he added quickly, “I would really like to get to know you, Rhys.”

There really was no way that Rhys could ever resist an opportunity like that. So of course, he was practically spell bound when he dreamily said, “Yes. Of course.”

The two of them spent the evening thoroughly enjoying each others’ company. Jack plied Rhys with drinks the whole time and it wasn’t until Rhys noticed how late it was that he worried. “I have to go,” He said suddenly, with an apologetic sort of look. “It’s getting late, you know? Strictly speaking I wasn’t even supposed to be out of my room.”

Jack nodded understandingly, “Well, I can walk you home if you like.” he offered, decidedly being gentlemanly about the whole thing. He usually found that much more condescending than he did now.

It didn’t really matter anyways, Jack couldn’t see where he lived. He would see right through him then and all he would see was what everyone else decided to see of him. He didn’t like the thought of that, it made him hurt deep inside. Then there would be the issue of his mother and father – if they found out that he was out at night again…getting whipped until he bled was the least of his worries.

“No!” Rhys blurted out quickly before he composed himself, “No, no, no. Please, it’s okay I can walk home by myself.” he smiled indulgently as he stood up, “But I’ll be thinking of you, Jack…”

“Jack Lawrence.” The older man laughed softly, he checked to see if anyone was looking at them before he gave the younger man a gentle kiss on the corner of his mouth. Rhys touched the spot where Jack had kissed him in bewilderment. He really was bold enough to seem insane, “I will see you around, Rhys. I promise.”

Rhys desperately hoped that he could hold him to that and that this wasn’t just some flight of fancy for the older man and that there was even a small chance that he’d keep his word and they would meet again. He would feel lucky even if he would just be allowed to leave the house any time in the future.

With his luck, his mother and father might decide to hobble him so that he stopped running off. If they did that to him, Rhys had no doubts that they would smile in his face and tell him that, “It’s for your own good Rachel, you need to learn to be a proper lady. These sinful acts you commit will have you locked up in an asylum.” Or, "No one will want to marry you if you keep acting foolishly like this, do you want to embarrass us by having a spinster of a daughter?" Internally, Rhys cringed in fear. He really hoped that no one caught him sneaking off – or at least that they wouldn’t say anything. No one said a fucking word about anything in that disgustingly pristine house. Not even when he screamed for hours - in gut wrenching pain from the penance he had to pay for disobeying them like this.

Despite all that, despite his fears and worries he couldn't regret it. He got to feel completely normal and attractive just as he was, that was worth a thousand lashings.

Chapter Text

After his experience meeting Jack, Rhys had gotten a glimpse of what life might be like if he were seen by those around him as he truly was – it seemed so lovely, so bright to be accepted and even liked as he truly was. It was enough temptation that he almost thought of running away but he quickly shook away the notion – deciding that it was silly and unrealistic.

He had gone back to pretending to be “Rachel” after that – not because he didn’t want to see Jack again, he did. He really did. But he was scared of what might happen in the end with Jack – partly he worried that Jack might think that he was lying about who he was and another part of him was terrified that he might let himself fall for Jack. That scared him more than anything else, because he couldn’t think of a single way that it could end well between them.

He decided that he would hold on to those memories with a fondness that would last him for a long time – probably into the years when he would be married to a man that he felt next to nothing for, he would still be able to think of Jack with fondness as he wondered about what might have happened between the two of them.

Or maybe not. Maybe, Rhys mused dreamily, he was just infatuated with the idea of a truly handsome and charismatic man fawning all over him like he was something special – something to be admired or cherished. Something to be loved, just as he was, without any unnecessary prettying up.

A knock on his bedroom door broke Rhys’ out of his dreamy state. “Come in.” He spoke out hesitantly as he waited for his visitor to enter. He was happy to see Vaughn. He was a good friend and one of the very few people who didn’t care about what he was or wasn’t. “Hey there,” he greeted softly, “Does mother need me for something?”

Vaughn smiled nervously, “You have a visitor.” he explained quietly, “American man, very loud and seems quite full of himself. He keeps asking about you. He calls you that name that you go by, you’re mother practically pitched a fit when she heard it.” He pursed his lips and lowered his voice as he spoke out cautiously, “I would be more careful, where I you. You have to understand what could happen-”

Rhys perked up slightly, “An American?” He exclaimed quietly, “I only know one American man but there’s no way it could be…” There was only one way to find out, He decided to himself as he quickly tied his hair up. He was practically giddy. “Alright, let’s go and see this mysterious American man that has mother pitching a fit.”

He practically skipped down the stairs to meet this man for himself.

Rhys’ mother was a tall and thin woman with elegant features. People always told Rhys that he looked just like his mother when she was young and he truly wasn’t sure how he should feel about that – on one hand, it made a lot of sense and he did suppose that she had been rather beautiful once, but on the other hand she had grown into someone cold and hateful. He found the fact that her name was Lily a little ironic.

Sometimes he wondered if there ever had been a time that she wasn’t like that, and if she did then why she was so cold now. Cold enough that she sought to make Rhys pay for all of his sins. His lying, his inversion, his sexual practices with both men and women. His outright refusal to acknowledge the young, high society girl that She wanted him to be. Realistically, out of all his “flaws”, in her eyes that was probably the most unforgivable one.

“Rachel,” She exclaimed, looking at him with an even sort of gaze. “You have a gentleman here to see you, one Jack Lawrence.” She extended a hand towards Jack, “Has been asking about you around town, using that dreadful moniker you give yourself.

Rhys couldn’t help but cower a bit. His mother was the disciplinarian in their house and she had no issue, moral or physical, using a whip or a heavy hand on him. He swallowed, “Well, no I didn’t do anything like that.” he explained, “I met Jack when I…”

The young man pursed his lips as he tried to think of a lie that she would believe – in truth, anything would be better than telling her, “Well, I was out drinking alone. Dressed as a man, which I know you hate, and Jack came and propositioned me thinking I was a man! It turns out we are both inverts! Could you imagine?”

Rhys continued to stammer and struggle with his words until Jack slowly inched across the room, drawing ever closer to Rhys until the two of them were standing right in front of one another. With barely a word of warning, he took the young mans’ hand and brought it to his lips. “It’s nice to see you again… Rachel, was it?” Jack hummed, looking at Rhys intently as he spoke. “The last time we spoke, well it wasn’t long enough. I really missed your company.”

He grinned like a shark, “I met Rhy…Rachel the other night,” he explained, “Poor thing got lost downtown, she was shivering and hungry. I bought her dinner and we talked at length before I had her sent home. I found her charming and… well, you know how lovely she is.” Jack was a natural-born liar, Rhys decided quickly. “I’ve been asking around about her for the past few days, it’s only tonight that I’ve found her again.”

“Really?” Rhys’ father questioned, walking over to where Jack stood. “I suppose that we should thank you then.” Rhys’ father was not a terrible man, he just happened to be very frivolous and out of touch and he never happened to be around when Rhys needed him. He was a bit weak willed, Rhys supposed that was one of his most horrible flaws.

“You can thank me by allowing me to take her out.”

“What do you do for a living?” He asked, looking at Jack in a suspicious manner. “I wouldn’t want my only daughter gallivanting around with some common American cad.”

“She shouldn’t have gone out with this man anyway!” His mother argued, already becoming incredibly angry with him again, for the second time this week she geared herself into a rant. “Alone and without a chaperon. You stupid girl-”

“Calm down, Lily.” His father said in a rare moment of assertiveness, cutting her off and leaving her stammering in annoyance and surprise. “Please, Mister Lawrence, answer my question for me.”

Jack ignored his mother pointedly and focused on his fathers’ line of questioning. “Well, you don’t need to worry about anything like that. See, I’m a business man and a damn good one at that.” His answered, “I own a lot of property and collect rent and taxes on them monthly.” he explained in a short tone, “I have a boy to collect the money, he takes about ten percent and sends me the rest. It gives me time to enjoy my wealth instead working my hands to the bone for the rest of my miserable life.”

“Father, may I speak with Jack in the parlor?” He asked softly, trying to be demure and coquettish enough that he could get what he wanted again. “Alone?” He added primly, as an afterthought.

“Well, I’m not sure if that-” His father began, only to be cut off by Jack grabbing his shoulder and directing his attention towards him.

“What’s your name again, sir? I don’t think I got it.”

“Er, Richard.” His father answered in a way that sounded like his tongue was a little too heavy, he stumbled over his words a lot – stressing the consonants.

“Please, Richard, let me and Rachel have some private conversation," Jacks' eyes glimmered darkly as he spoke to Rhys' father in an almost dream-like tone of voice. "You can even lead us down to the parlor." 

“I suppose that it’s no trouble…” He said, contradicting himself almost immediately. Rhys found that a little strange, but he supposed that it meant that Jack was even more charming than he originally believed.

As his father led them both to the parlor, Rhys felt like something was changing in his life. Though he wasn’t sure of what it was, he knew that Jack would be at the center of it, somehow. He just knew it.

After they had sat down in the parlor, a few servants brought in trays of food and a tea set. “The lord of the house wants to make sure you two are comfortable,” A serving girl stammered out, before skittishly wandering off – presumably back to one of her other duties.

The first thing that Rhys did when he sat down was make himself a cup of tea, if for no other reason than to quell his nerves. “So, um…” he started intelligently, “Y-you looked for me? I made that much of an impression on you? Really.” He sat back, looking at the older man with a curious sort of astonishment.

Jack laughed shortly, “Of course I looked for you, Rhys.” He said, “You left one hell of an impression and I like you. I wanted to know you a little better. Okay, I want to know you a lot better.”

Rhys couldn’t help but smile at that – Jack looked almost bashfully awkward and he thought it almost seemed inhuman for someone who presented themselves to be so charming to be tripping over their words like Jack was. Or maybe it was incredibly human, and that was why Rhys was so shocked by it.

“And does this bother you at all?” Rhys wondered out loud, “That I was not born a man. I know it’s not what you were expecting.” he shook his head slightly, “I would not blame you, were you to leave.”

The young man made a soft, surprised noise when Jack took Rhys’ face and cupped his cheeks. “I will say that you do make a rather pretty girl,” Jack hummed thoughtfully, holding Rhys’ face delicately as he inspected the young mans’ face. “But I like you so much more as you are. When I saw you, I thought that you were so pretty that you had jumped out of a painting.”

Rhys couldn’t help but laugh a little at that, “Does that line work often?” he asked rhetorically, “You are really lucky that you happen to be so handsome that I find that charming, Mr. Lawrence.” He added in a flirtatious tone of voice, barely above a purr. “In fact, I think that I find a lot of things about you charming.”

“Well, if you want me to be serious,” Jack leaned in, like he was trying to talk to Rhys on his own level. “I mean… I guess that I was a little surprised at first but it’s not an issue. Anyways, it doesn’t matter, I don’t really care what’s between your legs. Might even make things a little smoother… later.”

Rhys cocked his head to the side, “Is, is that supposed to be something dirty?” He asked softly, looking over Jack with a cautious sort of amusement. “I usually never understand when someone is saying something dirty to me but that one is a little…” he cheekily pointed to his nose, “… on the nose.”

“Yes, Rhys, of course that was a dirty joke.” Jack hummed affirmatively before looking around the room, “God, this place is terrible. Why does it look so… drab? Aren’t you upper class, high society folks supposed to be frivolous and uncaring?”

“My parents are both very religious.” The younger man agreed, “Protestants. So they are very…” he trailed off as he looked for the correct word to describe them. It was not as if he had no love for his parents, but he resented them all the same for how stifling it was to live under their rule.

“Boring? Repressed? Tyrannical?”

“Grounded.” Rhys decided, narrowing his eyes a bit. “Or maybe, controlling. I think that was more along the lines of what I was looking at. Tyrannical was pretty close though, but I don’t think that it’s that extreme. At least I don’t like to think that it is. They don’t like me as I am. They think it’s unnatural and sinful, maybe even criminal.”

“Yeah, you said something like that before.” Jack said, “Do they threaten to send you away?” he added questioningly, “I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard you mention being sent to an asylum before…”

“My mother does.” Rhys explained, “She’s the disciplinarian and she… thinks I need to be corrected for my wrongness is all.” he shrugged apathetically, “I think she means well, I hope she does. The threats are empty and I do know how to be obedient enough that those threats will always be empty.”

“That sounds like torture.” The older man stated emphatically. “How the hell do you put up with that?”

“I suppose that pretending to be meek and obedient is not as much torture as the gentlest treatment at one of those ‘hospitals’.” He said, “I’ve been to one, before… for a short time but I can’t do it again. I don’t know what you’ve heard of them but it’s inhumane. They treat the patients like animals and they would treat us worse than criminals.” he laughed bitterly, humorlessly. “And if you weren’t crazy before then you will be afterwards.”

“Woah.” Jack exclaimed, leaving Rhys to feel shame that he had just unloaded all of that on the older man. Rhys winced visibly and prepared himself for even more embarrassment as he tried to fix what he had just done.

“I, god, I’m so sorry.” He rambled, feeling more and more like an imbecile with every word that he spoke. “I have no idea why I said all of that. That’s not… good. You can go now, if you’d like, and never come back because I might have ruined everything by talking too much. I do that a lot. Talk to much. In fact I am doing it right now and-” he pulled a face, “I’m going to stop talking right now.”

Jack moved slightly closer to Rhys, “Look, cupcake I’m not sure if you knew this but you aren’t the only person in the world who has emotional baggage.”The younger man chuckled softly at his own expense as Jack continued on, “I hope that you know it’s not really a deterrent for me and hell, if anything it makes you more interesting.”

Rhys arched a brow, “I’m interesting?” He parroted, “I’ve not been called that before.”

“Take it as a compliment, honey.” Jack purred, “I’m a man of discerning tastes and I haven’t been pulled in by anyone in a long time.”

Rhys did as he was told, allowing himself to be drawn further in by the older mans’ charms. The two of them talked for some time, before Rhys’ mother had informed them that it was getting very late and maybe Mr. Lawrence should go home. The older man had agreed, but had requested to speak with her again. Rhys couldn’t help but scoff at the put upon expression on her face as she hesitantly agreed and walked off with Jack to talk, presumably, about him.

It’s been a while since Jack had ever been interested in a human but the moment he set eyes on Rhys, he had been drawn in by the young mans’ very being. He wasn’t sure what it was about him specifically, he liked a lot of basic things about the human – Rhys was pretty and he smelled sweet and he probably tasted even sweeter – but that wasn’t what led him to sit where the young man was and strike up a conversation with him.

He doesn’t regret going over to Rhys and he regrets shamelessly propositioning him even less – at first glance that had been all that Jack wanted of the young man to have him as a conquest. He wanted to have Rhys whimpering and moaning underneath him as he drank deep from him. He’d make it so the kid enjoyed each and every moment of it.

And after that? He had no plan for that. Maybe he would kill Rhys, maybe he would take him with him as a thrall, maybe he’d even turn him. He had been a little lonely since Nisha had been killed by hunters a hundred or so years back.

When Rhys had run off, he had considered influencing the kid to stay but had stopped himself. After all where was the fun in a conquest if he achieved what he wanted by cheating? No, he had to go about things the hard way or else there was no novelty in it. Otherwise, it was just another nighttime hunt and he did those all the time and he made sure to feed twice a day.

Tracking down Rhys had been fairly easy, he had managed to find someone that knew Rhys – a serving girl – and had influenced her to tell him everything she could, including the address. She hadn’t said a word about what name Rhys was called by others and definitely nothing about what had been between the younger mans’ legs.

When he saw Rhys, standing there awkwardly and looking off in an obvious display of his discomfort, in a long sleeved baby blue dress with so many frills and bows that it was ridiculous and long curly hair framed about his face and shoulders he had truly been surprised. He had been even more surprised when his mother called him Rachel.

Up until that point, Jack had been totally assured of Rhys’ sex and he was surprised of how different that the human looked now, dressed up like a doll, that he hadn’t even recognized the young man until he looked directly in Rhys’ eyes. After the visit and getting more time to talk with Rhys about things complicated and simple alike, he felt himself become more infatuated with the young man than he had been beforehand. It was almost like he was under Rhys’ spell, instead of the young man being under his as it usually was, as it always was. He was practically spellbound to see the young man again.

The minute that Jack was gone and out the door, the severity in his mothers face increased tenfold, sh was furious with Rhys and the situation at hand. Rhys shrunk from her gaze visibly, “You are not to see that man again, Rachel.” She said with that severe tone in her voice, the one that never failed to scare him into submission. “I don’t like him and he will not be good for you, I just know it.”

Initially Rhys was confused as to why she would even bring this sort of thing up – Jack had come in and they talked for a bit in the parlor and had tea – well, Rhys had had tea – but that was all that happened. Speechless, he just looked at her as if she had just grown a second head.

“Honestly, Rachel, if you think that gallivanting off with some brute of a man will prove something to either of us than you’re dead wrong.” She ranted, “I don’t care how rich he says he is, somehow he’ll leave you in ruin the minute he gets what he wants out of you.”

“Whatever do you think he wants out of me?” Rhys queried to her, sounding incredibly emotionally exhausted as he spoke. “What kind of villainy do you think he intends to do to me, mother?” he scoffed lightly, thinking that she sounded theatrical at best and utterly mad at worst.

“He plans to take you to The Midnight Hour, on the twenty-seventh of this month. He even asked permission of your father and I. Rather gentlemanly of him,” She spat, “Tell me, why must you spend all of your time pining after cads. Why is it so difficult for you to be well behaved?”

“So that’s what you were talking about?”

“Yes,” She assented, in an infuriatingly deadpan tone of voice. “That is what we talked about. I told him no, obviously.” she added with a roll of her eyes, “That’s not an event for a well behaved lady like you should be instead of… whatever you are now.”

“The Midnight Hour, he wants to escort me there?” Rhys barely spoke above a whisper, “Oh well…I can see why you’re angry then, mother.” he laughed a little in amusement at her expense. He couldn’t think of how scandalized mother would look, maybe she even fainted for a moment at the thought of her only daughter going to a low class dance for frivolous nobility and whores alike. It wouldn’t have mattered in her eyes, both of them were filthy sinners.

The Midnight Hour was a frequent, yet exclusive event. It took place on the night of every full moon at one of the most opulent theaters in London, a masquerade ball and dance of depravity where people could be just as dark and hedonistic as they desired, taking drugs and drinking the night away, or even just spending the eve naked and pressed up against one another – everyone knew about it, everyone heard of the torrid and scandalous things that went on there. Yet no one dared to put a stop to it, for reasons that Rhys didn’t quite understand.

What he did know was that Jack sweetly inviting him out to this instead of some boring, high collared event – one that would be good for him to go to, one that wouldn’t embarrass his family when they heard of what he had done – seemed like something of a love letter to him.

“Well it doesn’t matter,” She explained in a quiet voice. “I told him that you’re not to go. The audacity of that man…”

“What if he decided to take me somewhere more suitable, I could speak with him about that?” He asked, hoping for a bit of mercy from her. “I’m sure he didn’t realize that it’s improper to take me, after all it’s not as though he’s from here.”

“I will only repeat myself one more time, you selfish spoiled little girl, you are never to speak to him again.” She snapped out at Rhys, “One day, when you are older – you’ll understand why I did these things for you.”

“I don’t think I will!” Rhys argued back, “Why is it only an issue if a man like Jack wants to court me? Is it, is it because he actually likes me? Or is it because I’m happy when I talk to him? Please tell me why you forbid this,” He pleaded to her, “B-because you certainly have no problem shoving me towards every man in London, you and father practically whore me out to every merchant, baker and craftsman you see and I have loathed them all and you know I would be unhappy if I were to be married to one of those pigs, but the moment a man is interested in me and like me just as I am-”

Before Rhys could say another word, his mother slapped him hard, hard enough that he tumbled to the floor and her rings cut him on his cheek, where it met his mouth. He whined softly in pain and touched the spot where it cut him. By happenstance, she cut him in the exact same place where Jack had kissed him weeks before.

“You will not see that man again, Rachel.” She said, looking less like a buttoned up aristocrat and more like his prison guard. “I am your mother and you will listen to me. I urge you to quit this spoiled, childish behavior or else we will find someone who can properly correct you.”

It was a threat and not a thinly veiled one either. He frowned and nodded his head jerkily, “I understand mother.” he said, speaking monotonously. “If you don’t mind, I am going to go back to my room. I feel faint all of a sudden.”

Rhys made a point to be quick about running off back to his room, but not too quick that he made anyone truly notice his presence – he didn’t want anyone to see him feeling truly, deeply upset about all of this. When he is safe up in his room – he doesn’t cry or scream in anguish. He just sits there numbly on his bed with a world weary sort of tiredness set deep in his bones.

That is until he hears knocking against his window and out of curiosity, opened up the window to see Jack standing out there. “What are you doing?” He asked, laughing gleefully as he caught the older mans’ attentions.

Jack seemed just as breathless as he had been, “Can I come up there?” He shouted up to where Rhys stood. The younger man smiled and didn’t give himself more than a second of thought before he nodded cheerfully.

“If you can!” He shouted down, “It’s quite a climb!”

The older man laughed jovially, taking it as a challenge as he climbed of the greenery and metal siding that led up to Rhys’ bedroom window. The younger man was shocked at how strong and agile Jack seemed as he quickly climbed his way in. He arched a brow, taking Rhys’ hand as he extended it helpfully.

“You’re very athletic.” Rhys remarked, “I’ve never met anyone that could do that as easily as you do. You make it look easy.” He blushed, “I bet you make many things look easy.”

“And you’re very handsome.” Jack countered back, “I’d say you’re almost as handsome as I am.” and then after a moment of pretending to think about it, “Well, almost.”

Jack swallowed as he noticed the bit of blood on Rhys’ cheek and before he could reign in his impulses he moved forward to kiss and taste at the blood there. He was just as sweet as he had expected, “I heard the two of you arguing,” He said in a sympathetic tone touching Rhys’ cheek gently as he spoke. “She hit you as well?” Jacks’ voice lowered to a protective growl, “She hurt you?”

“No, no it’s okay,” Rhys dismissed, speaking in an oddly cheery tone. “She’s done much worse, I’m just happy to see you.” he looked down bashfully, “I did think of you fondly… the idea of you, at least. I never thought that you would ever see me again, if not by choice then by circumstance. When I saw you today I thought you might have been furious with me.”

Jack could hear Rhys’ heart flutter as he sat close with the younger man. “I like you, Rhys.” he assured the younger man quickly, “And I don’t really give a damn what your parents have to say about it, I’m taking you out to that dance and I’ll show you a good time.”

“What kind of good time do you have in mind, Mister Lawrence?” Rhys whispered back, the two of them were so close that their lips were practically touching, practically kissing with each word that the younger man said. “B-because there’s so much I’m not permitted to do. I have to wonder if you plan on corrupting me.”

Jack pressed a soft kiss to Rhys’ lips, “I don’t think you’d have any problems being corrupted, kitten. In fact, I think you’d love for me to spend all of my time and energy corrupting you.” Another kiss, this one to his bobbing throat, “You have a wildness about you that I really like.” He said, quickly and in a deep throaty tenor. “I’d love to nurture that wildness, see you become something really special. If you’d let me, that is?”

Rhys looked away, feeling flustered all of a sudden. “Are you sure that you’re thinking of me and not someone else?” He asked, “I don’t think I’m really all that wild.”

Jack hummed noncommittally as he took to pressing soft, feathery kisses all over his neck, jaw and throat until the younger man was left a sweet sounding, keening mess. “I disagree with you on that, sweet thing.” he purred, “I think you want to be wild and I know what a rebel you are and I adore that about you.”

Jack could feel Rhys’ heart fluttering, hear his blood pumping in his veins as Jack cooed and flirted with the younger man. “I don’t have much time, I have to go now darling.” He said, sounding almost apologetic. “But if you want to continue this you’ll meet me at that bar where we met, on the night of the dance.” He gave Rhys one final kiss before he stood up, “I just know I’ll see you there.”

“Well…” The younger man was a little hesitant, “I’ll come Jack, if I can. My mother has been getting stricter lately. Pretty soon the windows will be barred, if I keep getting caught.”

“You’ll figure something out, I’m sure of it.” He said, “I’ll see you there, pretty boy.” he added quickly as he climbed his way back out of the window. Despite all of Rhys’ thoughts to the contrary, Jack didn’t worry about the younger mans’ doubting thoughts. Instinctively, he knew Rhys would meet him there and he would be able to show the younger man all he could be. Maybe he would even be able to taste him again and he really hoped that he would.

He hadn’t had someone so sweet in a long time.

Chapter Text

Against all odds, and with the added handicap of bribing all of the servants on duty to cover for him and lie through their teeth if need be, Rhys managed to sneak back off to the bar where Jack had been waiting for him, just as he promised.

The older man grinned salaciously as he saw Rhys standing across the room, “Come over here,” he said, loud enough for the young man to hear him and skip over to where Jack stood waiting for him and pulled the older man into a tight hug. It had been almost two weeks since he had seen the older man and he felt a kinship that had him missing the company of him faster than he would be proud to admit.

Jacks’ skin was sort of cold, he noticed vaguely as their skin contacted during the brief yet tight embrace. Rhys found that odd, but he didn’t dwell on it for long – he missed Jack, and he liked Jack enough to ignore any sort of possible red flags that might be there when it came to the older man.

“You’re wearing a dress again.” Jack exclaimed, as he pulled back from the embrace. “I am going to assume this is because of your mother.” He shamelessly looked Rhys over, examining the young mans’ apparel. He couldn’t help but scoff at the extravagant frills and bright colors of it, “god, that thing is really gaudy isn’t it? Your mother sure seems to have a taste for dressing you up in incredibly feminine clothing.”

The younger man crossed his arms over his chest, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. “They found my clothes and-” Rhys huffed softly, disappointed with himself. “My mother had them burned. So I wore a dress to see you.” he smiled sadly, “What other choice do I have?”

Jack responded by taking Rhys’ hand and squeezing it in a gentle, comforting motion. “You have many choices.” He said, sounding almost vindicated in that belief. “I do have something for you, in my room upstairs. I thought you were gonna be dressed as a stable boy so I bought you something a little more formal.” He explained as he gently led the younger man along with him. “Come with me.”

“Oh, Jack you didn’t need to do anything like that for me!” Rhys exclaimed, feeling flustered by the idea of it all. It overwhelmed him a bit and it all felt like it was moving along so quickly. It was nice enough that Jack wanted Rhys the young man who had struggled, not Rachel the petulant young girl that didn’t know her place and refused to ever learn. “I’m not used to receiving presents.”

“I didn’t have to.” Jack agreed with a slight nod, “But I wanted to.” he added as he took Rhys’ waist in hand, holding the younger man closely and protectively. Rhys gave a tiny smile, occasionally looking over to see if anyone had said anything about the display – no one had, thank god, this bar was and continued to be the best place to stay unnoticed in London.

Jack led him up a creaky set of stairs and down a hall, until the two of them were standing in a room lit only by a lantern, with no windows in sight. Rhys wondered why they had been boarded up and why Jack would choose to live somewhere so drab but he didn’t dare ask about it. He worried about coming off as rude, so he kept his mouth shut.

Rhys sat himself down on the bed as the older man rooted around in an armoire for something for a few minutes. Nervously, he fiddled away with his skirts and tried to pull up the bust of his top, out from the heavy whale bone corset that had been forced upon him. He hated that restricting thing, it made him feel woozy when he walked and made it so that it hurt him to breath, it was awful.

He had no idea why anyone would choose to dress like that – to hurt themselves for the sake of… what? Looking nice? Rhys found the whole thing frivolous and harmful.

With a small, ‘Ah-ha’ noise, Jack pulled out a rectangular box that had been wrapped and dressed with an intricate bow across the top. Rhys arched a brow at the item as Jack presented it to him, “It’s for you, go on and open it up, babe.” Jack said, flitting his eye towards the box.

Rhys let out a small huff as he obeyed, delicately untying the silk ribbon enclosing the box. He opened it up to find that what was in the box was an outfit for him, a very expensive outfit he might add, to wear to the dance that night. He parted his mouth into a small ‘o’ as he looked at the contents of it.

“Something wrong, darling?” Jack purred from behind him, his hands bracing on Rhys’ shoulder and squeezing them gently. “Do you not like the outfit?” There truly was genuine concern, underneath the surface of what the older man had been saying but Rhys would have had to listen in very carefully for him to really hear it in his partners’ voice. Still, it comforted him just to think about it.

“I, well…it’s very nice. Really, very nice. I just… I don’t know how I can pay you back?” Rhys stammered out, shaking his head slightly. “I don’t have any money or assets and this is just so expensive looking I have no idea how I could ever repay you.”

The older man laughed shortly at that, “You can repay me by giving me time to enjoy looking at you wearing this,” he said, “Cause, darling if you can catch my attention wearing burlap that smells like shit than imagine how good you would look in silks and fine cloth.”

Rhys smiled bashfully, his resolve quickly crumbling under the praise. “A-alright well, you better not send a bill to my family home.” He joked as he lay the clothing out flat, absentmindedly feeling at the silky material of it as he did so. Rhys frowned, “Would you mind turning around?” he asked the older man.

“You know, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” Jack reminded him in an overtly friendly tone.

“Please just turn around!” the younger man snapped, managing to cull Jack into a temporary sort of submission. With that the older man turned away, leaving Rhys to a falsified version of privacy. Rhys quickly pulled off his dress and the petticoats underneath it, as well as the skirt hoop that had been forced upon him earlier and his plainclothes – which had been the simplest part of that outfit to remove.

When Jack turned back around, assuming that Rhys had already changed into the suit, the young man was standing in the nude other than a stiff, uncomfortable looking, drably colored corset that had been tied tight around his waist. Jack raised a brow as he saw it.

Jack gently stepped towards Rhys in a motion of helpfulness.“Do you need any help with the corset?” He hummed and Rhys could practically feel his smug grin as he spoke to the younger man. He rolled his eyes but quickly acquiesced to the older man with a small, almost reluctant, “Yes, please.”

Jack chuckled mockingly, “So polite.” he cooed as he walked over to where Rhys stood, nervously attempting to keep himself covered. He was horribly nervous, that much was obvious to the both of them. Jack really didn’t like the idea of that, so he sought to rectify it as best as he was able, “You don’t need to worry Rhysie.” He hummed, letting one broad palm rest on the small of the younger mans’ back.

Rhys blushed in response to that, “S-sorry, I’ve never…” He frowned and took to fidgeting slightly in his nervousness. “No ones ever seen me naked.” he pursed his lips, “Well, other than Yvette but she doesn’t really count.”

Jack didn’t say another word before his fingers took to dexterously untying the stiff knots of the corset. It had been tied so tight that Jack was surprised that Rhys could breathe with the thing on, “There,” he said, speaking in a triumphant sort of tone of voice as the restricting material fell loose. “Is that better for you, pumpkin?”

Rhys nodded and smiled shyly before he pulled off the last article of clothing, a sleeveless blouse meant to keep him from chafing and cutting himself by having the corset on. It was then that Jack noticed the crisscrossing scars all over the younger mans’ back. Jack pursed his lips in distaste as he noticed the scars marring Rhys’ back.

He recognized the scars as a testament to being beat with a horse hair whip, repeatedly over the course of the young mans’ very short life. “Who did this to you?” He asked, gently touching the scars with his thumb, “was it your mother?” his voice became even darker with each word that he spoke, it infuriated him that someone like Rhys could be abused like he had been. “Does she hurt you like this often?”

Rhys swallowed, suddenly feeling a tenseness in his throat. “I know what you must think about her but… I… she isn’t…” he trailed off, unsure of how to word it in a way that did not confirm all of the older mans’ beliefs about his mother. “I believe that she truly believes that she is doing what is best for me.” His voice was less than steady as he spoke. “I do think that she cares about me but-” There was nothing more that Rhys could say, so he left it there.

The silence hung heavy between the two of them for thirty seconds and it was thirty seconds to long for either of them to bear. “It’s alright, pumpkin, I didn’t mean to overstep.” He apologized quickly and then with a wry sort of smile, “Do you need me to turn around again?”

Rhys gave him a withering look before he sighed and shrugged, “No, I… guess that it’s alright? You’ve already seen me so…” He turned around and dressed himself rather quickly, making himself look somewhat presentable in record time – especially compared to the fact that it took him two minutes to get that corset untied and that was with Jacks’ assistance taken into account.

He looked good, he decided once upon looking at himself in a floor length mirror that had been hidden behind a privacy enclosure – presentable and good, like he belonged in the clothing that he was wearing. Bit something was missing, something that he hadn’t noticed until he brushed a stray hair out of his face.

His eyes sparked as he realized exactly what was off and he rooted around in the area for a pair of shears – he really hoped that this room had one – for a few minutes before he came up triumphant with the shears held in hand.

He chopped away at his long, curly hair – taking away the inches bit by bit until it was short enough that it barely touched the nape of his neck and framed around his face. He took some time to brush the stray hairs off of him before he was satisfied. He smiled genuinely as he looked at himself in the mirror, having the new haircut felt like it changed things for him, even just a little and in addition to the new clothes, it was almost like a damn metamorphosis.

Rhys stepped back out from behind the privacy enclosure with a gleeful smile on his face, he ran a finger through his newly shortened hair. Jacks’ eyes widened a bit, “Do you like it?” He asked, a nervous smile besetting his features as he spoke. “Or have I just made an utterly terrible mistake?”

Jack gestured the younger man towards him, “Come here, Rhysie, lemme have a look at you.” he purred, letting Rhys come towards him at his own pace. At the moment that his younger partner was in front of him, Jack put his hands on the others’ shoulders as he inspected him. “I like it,” he praised with a slick smirk on his face, “You look dashing.”

“Dashing?” Rhys parroted back, leaning into the older mans’ touch as Jack steadily embraced him. He smirked cheekily, “I, I’ve never been called ‘dashing’ before… I like that.”

Jack grinned down at Rhys, he really found the younger man adorable and charming. He would even call himself enchanted, if you asked him how he felt about the younger man.“Are you ready?”

Rhys nodded briskly, “Yes.” he said quickly, “Thank you for being so patient.”

“Let’s go then,” Jack hummed, taking Rhys by the arm in a gentlemanly manner. “We’re gonna have an amazing time together, baby.” He promised.

Rhys believed him – after all, he couldn’t even think of one time where Jack had lied to him. His parents, maybe – definitely, he lied through his teeth when they met him – but most definitely not him. Rhys was really excited for his first – and probably last, once he thought about it – night of hedonism and sinfulness. Oh, he just couldn’t wait.

The two of them took a carriage ride that seemed to stretch on for some time. Jack kept an arm around Rhys the entire time, holding the young man protectively and possessively close to him. While the two of them sat together, enjoying the ride and the warmth of the others’ embrace, Rhys wondered about what would happen and how it would be gone about.

He was naive about these things, that much he knew about himself, but he was excited to learn them. At this point, after he had been repressed in every single way for so long, he was happy at the idea of becoming the sinner (the natural born sinner, at that) that he had always been told that he was. He was just so tired of being complacent and he was even more tired of living his life to placate people.

“I’m excited,” He babbled to the older man as he curled up even closer to him, “Are you excited about this? Probably not, you’ve probably been to dozens of events like these. Well, it’s okay either way… I think I’m enthusiastic enough for both of us. I’ve never been to a party before, any sort of party, but this is different than any type of party that I would ever be allowed to.”

“I’ve been to a lot of these parties, that’s true enough.” Jack agreed, squeezing Rhys’ knee affectionately as he spoke. “But I have never had the opportunity to go with someone as…” he pursed his lips, looking for the right way to phrase the way he felt about his partner, “Sweet as you are. You’re goddamn precious to me, you know that right?”

“I had a feeling that you might have…” Rhys agreed coyly, putting his hand over the one that had been placed on his knee and squeezed it gently. “I find you… you’re amazing, I have never met anyone much like you.” he gushed, “You make me think I can do the craziest things… I’m so glad I met you.”

The carriage stopped abruptly, so abruptly that Jack grabbed a hold of Rhys so that the younger man didn’t topple over in a heap of his limbs. Given how lightweight and slender his partner was, it was a frighteningly likely possibility. “We’ve arrived, sir.” The carriage driver spoke back to them in a shy and almost subconsciously apologetic tone.

In any other instance, Jack might have gotten seriously angry with the driver – angry enough to drain and kill the man, just for being an inconvenience – but as it was, he had Rhys with him and he didn’t want to do anything to disappoint or, more likely, scare off the younger man off.

“Where’s the…” Rhys trailed off, realizing that they were in front of an abandoned theater. He looked over at Jack quizzically, thinking that the carriage driver – who he would have thought to know what he was doing – drove them to a part of town that hadn’t been entered in years, at least. He pulled an incredulous face that made the older man laugh shortly at his confusion.

“Come here,” Jack hummed, letting Rhys cling to the older man as they walked through the street and into an alleyway, “I know the way, I’ve been here before. You know, a few years back.” He assured the younger man as they walked through down the street and through an alleyway behind the abandoned theater, where the entrance stood – lit by a pathway of tea candles.

From the outside it looked like the place was decrepit and completely empty but on the inside it was so lively that Rhys thought that they could have been transported to another dimension where this party and only this party, took place.

The whole thing had a heavy sort of wonderment to Rhys, to the point that it was more than just a novelty to him. Everyone around them looked so glamorous and fantastic – like they belonged there, like they were permanent residents in this space.

“Hey, you feelin’ alright, kitten?” Jack hummed curiously, looking over the young man with a mixture of amusement and concern. He took Rhys’ chin in hand, making the younger man look over at him as he waited for the younger man to answer.

Rhys nodded his head jerkily, “Uh, yeah just… overwhelmed I guess.” He explained in a quiet voice, leaning in a little more onto the older man. “This place feels sort of, well there’s way too much going on here.” he explained, “but I like it! I really like it. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever…”

“You need to loosen up a little, pumpkin.” Jack purred, ushering over a girl with glassy eyes who had been holding a tray of drinks aloft.

“Would you or your companion like a drink, sir?” she asked in just as dreamy of a tone that he would have expected from the far away look in her face.

“Yeah, my friend here wants a drink and, eh, I’ll take one too.” Jack agreed, taking one of the champagne flutes in hand and handed it off to Rhys before taking one for himself. The younger man held the drink precariously in hand as he examined it.

The drink was a luminescent green in color, and it had a strangely acrid scent to it – he guessed it might have been absinthe, and he found that he was right as he took a sip of the liquid. Rhys became somewhat woozy the moment after he drank the entire glass, and leaned on his partner for support as he faltered and wobbled over in his step.

Jack didn’t mind Rhys’ clingy behavior in the least and wrapped an arm around the younger mans’ waist to keep him supported. “You’re a bit of a light weight huh, pumpkin?” Jack hummed inquisitively and at Rhys’ apologetic nod and smile he added in a reassuring manner, “Don’t worry, you can hang on to me as tight as you like.”

Rhys buried his face into the older mans’ shoulder in his drunken embarrassment as Jack led him around the space – he was so absorbed in going through the motions that he hadn’t noticed a woman dressed in something out of a french boudoir walking over to them.

“Jack! Well, you’re sure a sight, sugar.” She said, looking at Jack and smiling at him in a way that on the surface appeared to be friendly, but Rhys couldn’t help but detect some kind of passive aggressive undercurrent to it, “You know… I don’t think that I’ve seen you in-”

Jack interrupted her with a sharp tone of voice, “I don’t think it could be long enough if it had been a millennium, Mox.” he looked at her with a dull sort of annoyance in his eyes – like he was already tired of looking at her, even though it seemed like he hadn’t seen her in a very long time. Years, even.

“Oh Sweet pea, you haven’t changed a bit.” She replied in a deadened, annoyed tone. She looked over at Rhys, who had been leaning against Jack somewhat sluggishly – allowing himself to be held up in the older mans’ possessive embrace. “Who’s this?” She asked, “He’s adorable! I never would have thought this was your type.” She shrugged halfheartedly, “Maybe you have changed. A bit. I suppose. Maybe.” she frowned, looking over towards Rhys. “What’s your name, sugar?”

Despite the way that Jack acted towards her, Rhys had no bad feelings towards her – whether or not that was a good thing had yet to be seen – so he saw nothing wrong in answering her, “Uh, it’s Rhys. My names Rhys.” He said in a numb and slightly slurring tone. “Nice to meet you, miss.”

She smiled at him, definitely more friendly than the way that she regarded Jack. “You can call me Moxxi, Sugar.” She told him, “Take care of yourself, honey. Especially ‘round here, it’s dangerous for someone so… young. It’s not so common at these places.”

Rhys had no idea what she might have meant, but he didn’t really get a chance to ask her any questions about what she might have meant because Jack was already dragging him off to the center of the room and he moved so fast that Rhys struggled to keep up with him, “Jack?” He questioned, looking at the older man in confusion and helplessness.

“I thought that you’d like to dance.” Jack told him, “Plus I wanted to get you the hell away from Moxxi,” he added with a sly grin on his face as he looked towards the younger man, “She was right about one thing. I can’t let you out of my sight here, you’re so sweet someone might try to eat you alive.”

Rhys chuckled shortly at that, “Ooh…that sounds ominous.” he commented in a humorous tone, “But I want to dance, especially if I’m dancing with you… so I guess that it’s okay. For now.” He was only somewhat surprised when Jack kissed him on the lips again. He liked to think that he was learning and adapting to the older mans’ patterns quite well.

Before Rhys had realized it, the two of them were in the middle of the dance floor. The two of them pressed tightly together as they danced to a song that went along with a low and slow score to it. It was all incredibly intimate and if they were anywhere else then Rhys might have worried about the consequences of two men dancing together in public. Here, it looked like two men or women dancing embracing, kissing or dancing with each other was fairly common. At a glance, the young men had been able to pick out several same sex couples enjoying each other’s company without having to hide who they were. He liked the idea of that and he sought to enjoy it as long as he was able to.

“Are you enjoying yourself pumpkin?” Jack hummed with a knowing smile on his face as Rhys held on to the older mans’ shoulder a little tighter.

“Of course I am.” Rhys mumbled back, “I really don’t want this night to end,” he added in a confessional manner, “I wish I could stay here with you but,” He pulled a face, “That’s ridiculous, I know. I barely know you and…” Rhys trailed off, not wanting to say that, ‘I know this isn’t going to last, you’ll have fun with me and then you’ll get bored and I’ll suddenly never see you again. I’m okay with that but I’m not getting my hopes up for the life of me.’

“Why can’t you?” Jack asked in a way that seemed to Rhys like he could have been mocking him and it made the younger man scoff lightly in retort, “Because it’s silly, I mean I know you barely know me and it seems as though I know you even less.”

Jack was more of a mystery to Rhys than he would ever be comfortable thinking about – even to himself. He knew very little about the older man and even though he really did try to find out more about him Jack seemed to be a pro at dodging questions about himself. It was, most likely, one of the most frustrating things about being with the older man.

Jack made a contemplative noise, “Mm, not sure I agree with you about that, pumpkin.” He said, one hand moving to squeeze the younger mans’ ass playfully. Rhys wasn’t used to being touched like that though, so he practically jumped three feet in the air in surprise. “I think I know you pretty well.”

“Jack!” Rhys exclaimed, yelling in a scandalized whisper. “I don’t know how it is in America but it’s not proper here.” he looked around the space to see if anyone had noticed and honestly found it to be a miracle that nobody seemed to have cared.

“Oh, it’s not proper there either sweetheart.” Jack told him, “I just couldn’t care less about what some geriatric moron, Scotland Yard or a sheriff thinks of me.”

Rhys pulled an incredulous face at that, “Well, what if someone tries to stop you?” he asked, “What if someone said…” he coughed, putting on an impression of an overly polite officer, “‘We’re going to stop you from romancing men and touching people inappropriately, Jack Lawrence. We’re going to set you right, we are. Otherwise we’ll cart you off to prison!’ What would you do, then?”

Jack laughed at that, “Rhysie, if someone tried to stop me… well, you would probably be more worried about them than me. I can promise you that.” he coughed awkwardly, “But, eh, maybe you’re a little right. And I mean, a little. This isn’t ending tonight pumpkin, but I can’t take you away. Yet.”

Rhys raised an eyebrow, “You’d want to take me away?” He wasn’t sure that he believed that, but when Jack nodded back at him and took him fast by the waist to lift him up and carry him off to where Jack could take him somewhere else in the hall – a smoking parlor, apparently.

Jack spent the rest of his time with Rhys corrupting him in every single way that he could without just taking the younger mans’ clothes off. Rhys on the other hand, had never believed that he would enjoy being corrupted, but it turned out that he was perfectly fine with being corrupted so long as Jack, and only Jack, would be the one doing the corrupting.

In the coming weeks, Jack and Rhys found opportunities to see each other whenever they could and they spent all of their time just being together – talking to each other and learning things about each other that varied from pointless to dependent on knowing each others character.

There were things that the two of them just decided, mutually yet non-verbally, that they just wouldn’t talk about. Like the fact that sometimes Rhys just couldn’t find Jack anywhere and he seriously worried that, despite all of his bolsterings’ to the contrary, he might have gotten hurt or taken away to prison for public indecency or something like that.

Or the fact that after the party, Rhys began sporting more obvious bruises and marks of abuse on his body – the most obvious of all of them being a dark purple bruise blooming on his cheek. Neither of them could figure out a way to bring it up and even if they did – there was no way that it would make any difference.

Because, as long as Rhys was willing to be with Jack, in secret or otherwise, than he would continue to be punished by his mother. The only way to stop that was to leave and Rhys was not willing to leave Jack, at this point in his life his romance to the older man was the only part of his life that he still enjoyed. It was probably the only reason that he was able to get out of bed every morning.

He couldn’t let that one saving grace in a life that had more misery in it than happiness for him – let alone being able to express himself as his own person. Hell, he was barely more than chattel to his parental figures and most of the men that he was made to meet in hopes for a marriage thought the same or even less of him. He clung to the idea of Jack taking him away from the life that he was living made his life worth living and he wasn’t going to let it go easily – no matter what his mother or father or even the suitors that he had might have had to say about it.

So sometimes he would leave – not for long, a few hours or a night at the most – and be with Jack, just so he could be with a man who liked him and happened to have found him attractive as he was and not as he was made to be.