Sleeping with Handsome Jack had been unexpectedly enlightening.
Not fucking Jack; that had been a lot of things, but it hadn’t brought on any revelations, aside from an unsettling realization that being a truly awful human being was not a deal breaker for Rhys. But quick, frantic fucks slowly became longer and more regular; brief intimacies became sought out time together, unspoken and undefined until Jack sent workers to pack Rhys up and move him into his penthouse.
Rhys stood in his empty apartment and gaped, wondering what type of thieves would be so completely thorough as to steal his second-hand couch and old socks. When his Echo rang, he answered it without thinking.
“Thai,” Jack declared. “I haven’t had Thai food in forever. What do you usually get? Nevermind, I’m ordering a spread. Where are you?”
“I was robbed,” Rhys said, turning slowly in place.
“What? When?” Jack asked, voice going sharp. “Are you sure?”
“I’m standing in the middle of my apartment and I’m the only thing here. They took everything,” Rhys said, going to look at the door to see if it had been forced.
Jack was quiet a beat, then his laughter came in waves. “You’re precious, cupcake. Stop playing around and get your fine ass over here.” He hung up and Rhys only discovered he’d moved all Rhys’ stuff after he’d shown up himself, still on call with security. Jack had hung up for him and looked utterly confused by the entire argument that followed.
The argument ended when Jack threw up his arms in frustration and stalked out. By the time he came back, Rhys was asleep on the bed.
“See?” Jack muttered, rolling his eyes. “It’s better here, anyway, idiot.”
Rhys didn’t move back out, so Jack considered it a victory, overall, though odd that it had upset Rhys to begin with. The other man could be weird like that, like the time he’d come home to find all the cats that Jack was temporarily, temporarily housing until R&D 7 was finished and they could be released. Rhys had found him playing with a laser sight and a pair of kittens, and completely seemed to miss the point in regards to the massive layoffs Jack had personally executed. How Jack was the bad guy in that story, he’d never understand.
For the most part, Jack was unconcerned by Rhys’ moving in; he seemed to like having the other man close on hand. (Literally, most nights, and that unwavering, demanding focus Jack showed to his company also translated to his lover.) Whatever changes Rhys made, he accepted in stride, personally, for all he would fight like a junkyard skag when Rhys tried to change anything regarding Hyperion.
Overall, Rhys considered himself a hard worker, but he came to understand that he was sinfully sloth-like compared to Jack’s manic focus when it came to Hyperion. He was everywhere, reviewing proposals, developing new products, managing advertising campaigns, meeting with investors and prospective partners, there wasn’t a single part of the company Jack didn’t, in some way, influence or understand.
And it would have been impressive all by itself, but Jack was constantly making connections, improving and tweaking things; Rhys found him in R&D once, in a suit, covered in grease as he helped the overhaul of the new loader bots.
It wasn’t unusual for Rhys to fall asleep in the dim glow of Jack’s Echo, as the other man caught up on emails and read over contracts and proposals. The first time it happened, Rhys had laughed; Jack had wandered naked into the bathroom to get a damp washcloth for Rhys and come back reading the Anshin contract. Rhys had watched, curious to see what Jack would do, and the other man did not disappoint. He flopped back down on the bed, handed Rhys the rag, and then tilted his wrist to show Rhys the projection of the contract.
“Subclause six is weird,” Jack had said. “I think they’re trying something.”
Rhys had rested his chin on Jack’s shoulder and read over the clause. “They’re definitely up to something. It sounds like the language from the old contract.”
“That’s it,” Jack agreed, swiping a hand through the projection. He typed in a note, sent the memo back to legal, and brought up his email without seeming to notice the very naked man beside him.
Rhys enjoyed himself for a while after that, testing Jack’s focus, seeing what he could get away with and what would distract Jack from his work. Sex was almost always a sure bet, but food had only a 50-50 chance of succeeding; higher if it was something sweet. The cats had a moderate average compared to Rhys himself, but both would find themselves absently pet and set aside when Jack was fully focused. On one notable occasion, Rhys had tried to distract Jack away from a very high priority proposal and received a hand to the face, gently guiding his head to rest on Jack’s chest and hold him there, out of the way.
Someone had trained him, Rhys figured, that he needed to stick around after sex, but they hadn’t been able to get him to understand why. Jack would stay in bed the same way he hung up his dry cleaning; automatic and without any real thought. Jack wouldn’t leave, but it was rare that he fell asleep next to Rhys. More often than not, he would show up late, or still be working and Rhys would have to track him down and drag him home.
Because of their hours, because Jack thought an 80 hour work week was a vacation, it took Rhys a while to notice how rarely Jack slept. The first time he woke up in bed alone, he’d checked the entire penthouse to find himself the only one there. He had finally called Jack to find out he was in his office, on a call, and that he would be up when he finished. Rhys had gone back to sleep, but had begun to notice a pattern.
Waking up to the cold bed, he dragged on the closest thing, one of Jack’s sweaters, and padded to the elevator, barefoot. It was late enough to qualify as early, and Rhys was midyawn when he stepped in to Jack’s office.
Jack was wearing clean clothes, hair styled, working on something. He glanced up when Rhys walked in, and Rhys didn’t miss the way he immediately checked the time. On anyone else, it would have been guilt, but Rhys had a suspicion the expression Jack wore actually betrayed wariness.
It happened sometimes; Jack would say or do something and Rhys could almost see him realize that it wasn’t a normal reaction, that he’d done something odd that he never realized was weird until that moment. It was the same look Jack had given him when Rhys had been surprised by wholesale slaughter of a department, in the name of rescuing some cats.
“What’re you doing up?” Jack asked, switching off his screens to give Rhys his attention.
Rhys walked closer, catching a brief glimpse of the projects Jack had been working on, before they disappeared. “When do you sleep?” he asked, leaning back on the desk to look at Jack.
Jack blinked, then shrugged. “Worried about me, Rhysie? I got a couple hours.”
“When?” Rhys asked, folding his arms.
Jack considered it, considered lying, and decided on the truth. For a man who wore a mask, he was remarkably easy to read, Rhys thought.
“Last night,” he said.
“Is that normal for you?” Rhys asked, reaching out to mess up Jack’s perfect hair.
The wariness was back, quickly masked by bravado. “Why? Keeping track of my habits, cupcake?” Jack asked.
“Yes,” Rhys said, simply. He sighed and took Jack’s hand, pulling enough to drag him out of the chair.
Jack wrapped his arms around Rhys from behind, inhaling at the base of his neck. “If you wanted me to come back to bed, princess, all you had to do is ask,” he murmured.
Rhys hit the elevator call button, unimpressed. “To sleep, Jack. You barely get any sleep, you only eat when someone remembers to feed you. You work too much.”
“Hey, someone has to,” Jack said, leaning back against the elevator wall and pulling Rhys with him. “And I have a pretty good sex life, thank you very much.”
“It’s going to kill you,” Rhys said.
Jack groaned and rolled his eyes. “Who are you, my--”
“This is what partners do,” Rhys interrupted. “Didn’t any of your ex-wives ever…” He stopped at the open, curious look on Jack’s face, the same look he had when someone showed him an interesting new bit of code.
“What?” Jack asked.
They hadn’t, Rhys realized. No one had ever nagged Jack to take care of himself. No one had worried over him. He understood sex, he understood wanting someone, needing someone, but there was a vital piece missing from Jack’s past. Rhys thought about Moxxi, thought about Nisha, pulled up the snippets of information he knew about Jack’s childhood. Had anybody ever cared about how little he slept, or how much he worked? Rhys knew the answer before he finished the question. It was written plain in the confusion on Jack’s face.
“Rhys?” Jack asked, frowning. “Stop that. You look like… I don’t know. You look awful.” He squinted his eyes at Rhys. “Geez, if it’s that big a deal--”
“I need you to sleep with me,” Rhys said, taking Jack’s hand and leading him off the elevator, back into the apartment. Jack followed, unresisting, as Rhys stopped and helped strip him out of his jacket.
“What, every night? I’m not a security blanket, kiddo,” Jack said, but he obligingly ducked his head and let Rhys pull off his tee shirt.
“Jack,” Rhys said. “It’s important. Every night.”
“Why?” Jack asked, genuinely baffled.
Rhys pulled him down on the bed and considered his answer, carefully. “It’s what heroes do,” he said.
Jack opened his mouth to protest, looked down at Rhys, then sighed and flopped back on the bed. “You’re a strange guy, Rhys,” he said, but that was the last time Rhys went to bed alone.