Rhys stands in the bank, queueing for just long enough that his eyelids begin to droop. His head nods for a moment, before he remembers the coffee in his hand. He takes a sip, then hums to himself. Quiet voices mutter around him; the gentle buzz of 8 AM chatter. To his right, Vaughn, his room mate and co-worker, yawns before rubbing at his face.
“Why did we stay up so late playing video games?” he says, muttering in despair. “I feel like ass, dude. What did we get, three hours sleep? Less?”
Rhys pulls his lips back into a tired smirk, shaking his head. “Well, I fell asleep pretty early. You just kept playing.”
Vaughn lifts an eyebrow at him. “Fell asleep, huh? Are you sure you weren't browsing that forum again, pretending to be asleep?”
For a moment, Rhys' eyes widen, before he crosses his arms and then tilts his head back, pouting. “I was just checking up on the news. I fell asleep while you kept dying on that boss over and over again.”
Vaughn rolls his eyes. “Sure you were. Checking the news is now synonymous with stalking your bank robber crush.”
Rhys huffs in defiance. “It's not a crush. I'm staying informed. He could walk in here right now and he could kill us all.” He gives Vaughn a confident nod.
“You wish,” he replies with a small chuckle. He yawns, which in turn, makes Rhys yawn. After waiting several more minutes, Vaughn glances at his watch. “This is ridiculous! We're gonna be late for work at this rate.” He turns around, then lets out a small gasp before tugging at Rhys' sleeve. “Bro, the weirdest thing is about to happen,” he rushes out, eyes wide, voice breathy.
Rhys frowns, narrowing his eyes. “What do you mean?” He looks up, and then his face drops. “Holy crap.”
A man is striding through the door, smug grin spread across his features. It's the same face that Rhys had seen on the internet all week. Handsome Jack.
Vaughn's breath turns shallow as he turns to face Rhys. “D-Did you freaking summon him? What the hell? Are we gonna die?” he hisses, face filled with terror.
“Shh! We'll be okay if we just do as he says,” says Rhys, resting a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder. Rhys and Vaughn stare as Jack stands in the entrance, sizing the room up. Several other sets of eyes wander to him, but the morning chatter continues. Jack rolls his eyes, then shifts an assault rifle around, before pointing it at the ceiling. The sight of such a weapon makes Rhys' hands feel clammy all of a sudden. He swallows. Is this really happening?
The question is answered when a loud bang reverberates throughout the room, followed by a deathly silence. Every person in the bank freezes, then turns to gawk at the man with the gun.
“Alright, kids,” Jack says, shifting his weight. “You know how this goes down. You've seen the movies. Watched the news. Soooo,” he draws the word out as he takes a few steps forward. Rhys' pulse quickens. “If you get down on the ground and don't give me any trouble – nobody gets hurt. Hmm? How about that? Now, I'll warn you – the last place I robbed, some guy thought it'd be real funny and brave or whatever if he tried to tackle me from behind. What an idiot, am I right?” Jack laughs. “Anyways, yeah I shot him right in his stupid face. He's dead now. Avoiding his fate is pretty easy, though. Just be good kids and do as you're told.” He lifts the gun, then points it forward at the crowd. “Haven't got all day. Down. Now.” His tone shifts into a dark growl.
Rhys and Vaughn share a nervous look, before carefully lowering themselves to the ground, hands raised in submission just above their heads. Everyone else does the same. Rhys can hear a couple of whimpers and muffled sobs amongst the room.
“Very good!” Jack says with a nod. “Now, since the police tend to try shooting at me unless I take a hostage, one of you lucky things will be coming into the back with me.” He hums, pursing his lips in thought. “Last week it was the cute blonde... she wouldn't stop fricken crying, though. Reeaally annoying.” Jack's gaze locks onto Rhys, who feels his entire body turn numb. “Hey, you. Yes, you – the brunette with the great hair.” He steps closer. Rhys' eyes are wide, mouth slightly open. Beside, him Vaughn stiffens up, sweat beginning to bead on his forehead.
Rhys swallows, looking around. There aren't another brunettes with great hair. Just him. Holy crap. This is affirmed for him when Jack kneels down, peering into Rhys' eyes.
Managing to overcome the sudden paralysis in his limbs, Rhys pulls himself to his feet. Jack gives him a smile that makes Rhys feel as if he might just melt into a puddle on the floor. A big, strong hand then grips his shoulder. Their eyes lock. “You gonna behave yourself for me, pumpkin?” he asks, raising a perfect eyebrow at him.
Rhys gulps. “Um... well, I don't really have a choice,” he stammers out, tripping over his words under Jack's intense gaze.
When Rhys feels the tip of the gun press against him, his breath hitches in his throat. He's pushed backwards. Jack keeps a firm grip on him as he steers him toward the back. “Open the door for us, wont'ya, cupcake?” Jack asks the woman behind the desk. She gives him a meek nod before buzzing him through. He shoves Rhys forward, then closes the door behind them. Once they're alone together, Rhys lets go of a breath he didn't realise he'd been holding in. Jack, in a rather rough manner, pushes Rhys into a corner. “Stand over there and don't touch anything.”
That's when Rhys' eyes widen even more, because holy crap – there's cash everywhere.
Stacks and stacks of hundred dollar bills line the shelves – not even locked up. They're just there, pretty much waiting for Jack's hands to grab at them. Something about the sight makes his breath hitch. “That is a lot of money,” Rhys murmurs, mostly to himself.
Jack snorts as he begins piling the cash into his briefcase. “It's a bank. This is what banks are for, kiddo.”
Rhys watches from the corner, awkwardly grabbing at his own arm as he bites down on his lip. “So, um... you're Jack, right? Handsome Jack?”
Rhys breathes out. “Yeah, aha – wow. A lot of people are talking about you online at the moment.”
“Well, you just said it yourself. I am Handsome Jack.”
Rhys chuckles, staring at his own feet for a moment, before letting his eyes wander back to Jack's hands, which continue to pile cash into the case. “People talk about bank robberies a lot, but I guess I never expected this to actually happen to me.” Rhys pauses, then finds himself rambling on. “Crazy actually, me and my friend were just talking about you... and then you just kind of appeared. Just, like – wow. Really weird... you know?” he trails off, then feels his cheeks flush red as he curses himself inwardly. Shut the hell up, Rhys.
“You're not special, pumpkin,” Jack says, waving a dismissive hand at him. He doesn't bother to look up. “Only dragged your ass back here because everyone else in that room was either ugly or crying. I hate both of those things.”
Rhys chuckles again. “So... how are you gonna get out of here? What if the police show up?”
“You talk a lot, kiddo.”
Rhys' brows furrow together as he pouts, crossing his arms. “Hey – I don't wanna die or anything.”
Jack straightens himself up, then begins closing the case. He flashes Rhys a glance. “Well, I'm gonna walk right outta here, and use your body as a fleshy shield if I have to.”
Rhys' frown grows deeper as he crosses his arms. “Well, that's just rude.”
“Here. Now. C'mon, cupcake. I haven't got all day.”
Rhys jolts forward, then rushes over to Jack before giving him an awkward smile. Jack then turns, leaning down slightly so that their eyes meet. His hand fumbles by his side, before he draws out a pistol. He holds it up, then gives it a little wave as his eyes glint. “You scared?” he asks.
Rhys swallows, shaking his head. His eyes are transfixed to the weapon, almost as if he's in a trance. Jack then lifts the gun, before tucking it under Rhys' chin. The cold metal sends shivers down Rhys' spine, who is now staring up with wide eyes. “How about now?” Jack asks, tilting his head. Rhys feels his pulse quicken, his heart beating hard enough for them both to hear it. His breathing is shallow but heavy. He shakes his head again.
“Brave little kitten, aren't ya?” Jack purrs. He drags the gun upward, over Rhys' chin, then across his mouth. Rhys' eyes flick down to Jack's lips, then back up to his eyes. Electricity seems to crackle in the air between them. “I could blow your brains out all over the ceiling right now. That's a warning, pumpkin. This isn't a game. There's a good chance you might die, understand?”
Rhys nods, breathing heavier as Jack teases the muzzle against his lips. Rhys lets his mouth fall open slightly. As he lets his tongue graze against the barrel, he feels something cold connect with his wrist, then a small click.
He looks down. Jack has handcuffed him to the case.
Jack continues to speak. “No flailing. No screaming. No crying, 'kay? You'll be less likely to get shot. Partly by the police, but mostly me. 'Cos I've had a tough week and each of those things really annoy me. You got that?”
Rhys gives him a nod. Then, Jack grabs him by the shoulder before shoving him toward the door. Rhys feels the gun press against the side of his throat, pushing up just beneath his chin. The cold metal against his skin raises goosebumps on his arms. As they walk back through the bank, Rhys feels oddly calm, despite his pounding heart. Everyone stares at them. Rhys only gets a brief second to flash Vaughn a reassuring smile, but Jack doesn't stop walking as they make their way to the exit. He shoves Rhys forward again as they go through the door, before grabbing his handcuffed wrist. He lifts it up so that the case dangles just in front of his face.
The police are armed and ready, several guns pointing right at them. One of them, dressed in a black suit, steps forward. “Come on, Jack – no one needs to get hurt,” he says, lifting a hand up. “Just put the gun down, then send the hostage here. It's over.”
Jack snorts out a laugh. “No, no, no – I don't think you get it, do you?” he asks, walking forward. The police share a few glances between them. “This bag? It's got a bomb in it. Any of your idiots over there,” he nods his head at the police. “Try to shoot at me or me or my pretty little friend here – then you can kiss your asses goodbye 'cos we're gonna go boom.” He smirks. Rhys tries to shoot him a look, but can't manage it from the angle he's at. Bomb? He didn't see Jack put a bomb in the bag.
“He's bluffing,” one of the other cops without a uniform says. “I can get a shot from here, right through his stupid smug face. Trust me.”
Jack tightens his grip on Rhys, pushing the gun against his skin further. Rhys whimpers, eyes squeezing shut as he waits. “Try anything and I'll drop the kid. By drop, just in case you were wondering, I mean kill. And then, this bag full of cash you so desperately want from me will explode, taking out at least half of your men. Sure, I'll be dead. But is that really a price you're willing to pay?”
The cop in the suit makes a frustrated sound, before letting his shoulders slump. “Stand down. We let him go.” He waves his hand at the other officers.
“What?” the other cop, the blonde one, hisses. “You gotta be kidding me. We've been after this guy for months. And we're gonna just let him walk out of here?”
“Yes,” he replies, then looks to Jack. “Go, before I change my mind. But take note, Jack,” he spits the name out. “The clock is ticking. You don't have much longer to enjoy this little... shopping spree of yours.”
Jack isn't listening. He's already walking away, dragging Rhys with him. They trail across a car park, then down an alley way. When they come out into another car park, Rhys breaths out, “I can't believe you just got away with that,” as he looks up at him. “How did you know they wouldn't call your bluff?”
Jack rolls his eyes. “Because they're idiots. Incompetent. I've used that bluff like three times now and they keep falling for it. It's hilarious!”
Rhys laughs with him, stumbling as he tries to keep up with Jack's long strides. “So... where are we going now?” he asks.
“Just here,” Jack says, stopping abruptly beside a silver car. Rhys turns his head to see that the police are well out of sight now. “Well, it's been fun, kiddo. You made a good little hostage,” Jack gives him a playful smirk. “Hope I see you 'round another bank sometime.”
Rhys blushes, then looks down at his feet. Jack begins fumbling in his pockets, but frowns. He hums, eyebrows furrowing as he pats himself down. “Crap,” he hisses.
“W-what's wrong?” Rhys asks, expression growing worrisome.
Jack lets out a sigh. “Looks like you're coming with us. Lost the damn key. So, you're gonna have to get in the car... or let me cut your hand off. What do you choose?”
Rhys narrows his eyes. “I'll keep my hand, thanks.”
“Well that's boring. Haven't cut any limbs off in a while,” he says through a smirk, before opening the back door. “Mind your head,” he says, before pushing Rhys inside.
“Hi,” the driver greets him. Rhys has to shake himself, then do a double take because he swore it was Jack's voice he just heard. He leans forward to get a look at the driver, before glancing back at Jack. What the hell?
They're both identical. Same face, same hair, same clothes, same voice. The only difference being is that the driver is wearing a pair of sunglasses. “You both look the same,” Rhys says, wonder on his tone. He glances back to Jack, who is now sitting beside him in the back of the car. “Are you twins?”
“Nope,” other Jack says. “He's just got too much money and a huge ego.”
Jack shakes his head. “He's my body double. Cute, isn't he?”
Rhys pokes his head forward again, causing the driver to shoot him a quick glance as he begins to drive. Rhys blushes and then moves back again. “Sorry,” he mumbles, looking down at his hands. “So... wow, that's – that must have cost a lot.”
With a curt nod, Jack says, “Worth every penny, aren't you, pumpkin?”
The body double rolls his eyes, then looks at Rhys through the mirror. “Who are you anyway? Why are you here?”
Rhys opens his mouth to answer, but Jack cuts in. “I handcuffed him to the loot, but the damn key disappeared. Sooo, he's coming with us back to the warehouse. Then, we'll cut off his hand or something.”
Rhys' eyes widen.
Jack grins at him. “I'd say I'm kidding – but who knows? Maybe I will cut it off,” he says, leaning in close. A devilish smirk plays on his features.
“Quit scaring the poor kid, he's just a civilian,” the body double says.
“I think he likes being scared,” Jack drawls into Rhys' ear. His fingers brush against the gun in his lap. Rhys watches him, chewing on his lip. “Didn't cry or beg for his life. Kept asking questions. Looked a little turned on when I stuck my gun in his mouth.” As Jack says this, Rhys feels heat rush to his cheeks, then his pulse quickens when Jack lifts the gun once again. He presses it against Rhys' throat, right down on his jugular. His mouth drops open, breathing shallow but heavy. His pupils are wide, but his eyes are half lidded as he stares into blue and green eyes. “See? The look on your face – you'd think I was jerking you off or something. That what you want, kitten?”
Rhys swallows, but doesn't say anything. When the sound of sirens hits their ears, Jack drops the gun, then shifts in his seat before throwing an arm around Rhys' shoulders. “Step on it, kiddo!” he shouts at the body double. “Do your magic, 'kay? Get us outta here and we can celebrate!”
The body double narrows his eyes, brows furrowing as he slams his foot down on the acceleration, before tugging the steering wheel to the right. The car makes a sharp turn, before flying down an empty street.
Rhys is sat, frozen in the seat, huge case of money in his lap, with Handsome Jack casually kneading his shoulder while whooping every time his body double does something cool with the car. He knows he should be praying that the police catch them, but Rhys finds himself routing for the criminals as they speed away to safety. This might just be the weirdest day of his life.
“You're grinning, kiddo. Exciting, isn't it?” Jack says. Red flushes onto Rhys' cheeks as he turns his head in order to meet Jack's eyes.
“I... I was? Well.. I mean, this is pretty badass. It's terrifying – but, like – wow – this is probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. Y'know, if you uh, don't chop my hand off later.”
Jack's grin spreads. He lifts his hand off Rhys' shoulder, before slapping it back down again. “I like you, kid. You've got guts, Maybe I won't cut your hand off after all.”
They pull into a car park, before coming to an abrupt stop that sends Rhys jerking forward slightly. Jack grabs Rhys by the collar, before pulling him out of the car. “W-Where now?” Rhys asks.
“We can't keep using this car, dum-dum. If we swap vehicles, they can't find us.”
“That makes sense.”
They ditch the car, then head over to a sleek black model a few parking spaces over. Jack keeps a tight grip on Rhys' shirt, as if he might run away at any moment, before pushing him inside the car. They drive again, just leaving the car park as the police pull up and surround the other vehicle. “Do you swap cars every time?” Rhys asks. “That must get expensive.”
“I know a guy at the impound,” Jack says, waving his hand. “He knows a guy, who knows a guy, who probably knows another guy, that gives them a new paint job and swaps their plate numbers.” He winks at Rhys. “Recycling, pumpkin.”
* * *
The warehouse creaks and groans around them, giving the place an eerie atmosphere. Rhys sits in an uncomfortable, squeaky metal chair, while the body double kneels at his side, fumbling around with the handcuffs.
Jack is arranging a white powder – most probably cocaine – into neat little lines on an old school desk. Rhys watches with curious eyes as he rolls up a twenty dollar bill, before lifting it to his nose. He inhales sharply, dragging the the note along one of the lines until it disappears. He then leans back, eyes fluttering closed for a moment before he shudders. He lets out a low noise of satisfaction, before his eyes snap open and lock onto Rhys. He flashes him a wide grin. “Want some, kid? Best coke I've had all month.”
Rhys blinks. “No thanks. I'm okay.”
Jack nods, then sniffs another line. He springs back up, then turns to face Rhys, eyes a little crazy. “You know, kiddo. Kid, kid – kiddo. I already said this once, but you've got some damn guts.” Rhys watches as Jack begins to pace up and down. His eyes remain on Rhys as he speaks, hands waving around in a dangerous fashion as he does so. “It's rare I encounter someone who can keep their shit together in a situation like that. It's stressful. Real fricken stressful. I mean, I freakin' hate it when asswipes point guns at me. Really pisses me off. But you?” He points at Rhys, leaning down. “You kept your damn cool. Did that porn face. Makes me think – are you meant to be here?”
Rhys stares on, dumbfounded. To his right, the body double lets out a weary sigh.
“But that's it,” Jack continues, straightening himself up. “Of course you're supposed to be here. I, me, Jack – walked into that bank picked you out right away. What can I say? I have great taste. God, the amount of fricken times I've gotten a headache from people that just cry and beg and just – they just don't shut up! Like, c'mon, dum-dum – that's how you get yourself killed! Be nice to the damn bank robber and he might just not shoot you in the throat!” He pauses, then racks up another line. “Stupid, incompetent wastes of my time. But you know what?” He doesn't finish the sentence, since he's busy burying his nose in more cocaine. Rhys simply sits and waits until Jack is ready to continue. “You know what?” he narrows his eyes at Rhys. “Never had someone look at me the way you did back there. I felt some weird, messed up little spark between us. Don't you think, kiddo?”
Rhys opens his mouth to reply, but is unsure of what he's going to say. It doesn't matter, since Jack continues talking.
“Plus, you're such a pretty little thing. Just look at you,” Jack lifts a hand to Rhys' face, then pinches his cheek. “Cute little nose, great hair. Pretty eyes. Oh, kiddo – and those cheekbones. You're killing me. You know what? Between the three of us, we'll be so sexy that they'll be desperate to throw money at us. We won't even need to ask for it! Just walk in and bam! Loot for daddy.”
The body double snorts back a quiet laugh.
“Anyway, kiddo. It's just dawned on me that you know about my secret hideout,” Jack gestures to the area around him with a proud smile. Rhys raises an eyebrow at him. “Sooo, that means you work for me now. Because,” he stands up, then places his hands on his hips. “I can't risk you running off and telling on me. So, you can either work for me or let me kill ya. Which ones it gonna be?”
“Uhh...” Rhys makes a noise, staring blankly at Jack. “Are you... are you saying you're going to kill me if I don't rob banks with you?”
Jack smirks back. “That's right, cupcake. So, what do you think? Wanna get rich? Have everything you could ever want and more? A chance to escape your miserable, boring life? 'Cos that's what I'm offering you... uh, hey – what's your name?” Jack tilts his head, moving forward.
Rhys suddenly forgets his own name. “Uh... Rhys?”
“Rhys.” Jack says, looking up. “Rhysie, Rhys, Rhys, Rhys. Rheeeese. Okay, Rhysie – if ya don't wanna die, I'd answer 'yes!' to this next question.” His face turns cold, eyes menacing. “Wanna get rich and have a fun time doing it?”
The body double looks up at him. “Jack, don't drag him into this -”
Jack turns, sharp on his heel to face him. “We already agreed, Timothy, that we need another man on our team. Ever since those assholes abandoned us, we've been cutting it closer and closer on every hiest.”
“Sure, okay. I mean you seemed pretty confident about going at this alone, but sure! Yes, we do need someone else... we could hire someone, though? Someone that knows what they're doing, maybe?” Timothy says, grimacing slightly.
Jack purses his lips, then looks at Rhys. “What's your skill, huh? What are you good at?”
Rhys frowns. “I'm a programmer,” he says.
“See!” Timothy half exclaims, gesturing at Rhys. “We're all programmers. We do not need another one. We need like, an explosives expert or something.”
Jack snorts. “Yeah, m'kay pumpkin.” Sarcasm coats his tone. “Maybe we'll get one of those eventually. For now, Rhys here will do. And we all love code, too – ain't that just great?”
“I, um – I'm not sure about this,” Rhys interjects with a nervous chuckle.
Jack glares at him. “You don't have a choice. Like I said, I can't risk you running away and getting me in trouble.”
“I don't think he'd do that,” Timothy adds. When Jack lifts an eyebrow up at him, he shoots a look at Rhys and then shrugs. “Sorry, dude.” A few seconds later, there's a clicking sound. “Aha, I got it! Go me,” Timothy holds up the loose handcuffs, smiling.
Rhys rubs at his wrist, breathing a sigh of relief at his new freedom. Then, something inside of him sinks. Freedom. Jack is... still keeping him hostage. The reality of the situation begins to weigh on him, swirling a mixed bag of emotions within his gut. He looks at Timothy, then to Jack. “This is great! You don't have to... cut off my hand,” he laughs again, rather awkwardly. “Umm, could really use the bathroom, though. Anywhere to take a leak around here?”
“Sure,” Jack responds with a nod. Rhys jumps to his feet, but Jack plants a firm hand down on his shoulder, then looks at Timothy. “Keep an eye on him – wont'ya, pumpkin?”
* * *
The body double waits just outside, giving Rhys the privacy to run into the bathroom and then begin having a meltdown. His breathing becomes rapid as his shaking hands fumble inside his pockets for his phone. He pulls it out, then calls Vaughn.
“Rhys? What the hell happened to you? Are you okay?” Vaughn pretty much yells down the ear piece.
“I... look, you're my bro, right?” Rhys asks
“Huh?” says Vaughn. “Of course I'm your bro, bro! Never question that.”
Rhys smiles, breathing slowing down as he leans against the grimy wall. “That's good to hear. Look, I'm still with Jack. It's been fucking batshit, man. He... look, I don't even know how to explain this,” he forces a chuckle, then runs his hand through his hair.
“What do you mean?” Vaughn asks, raising his voice. “Did he hurt you, Rhys? Have you called the police yet?”
“What? Wait – no, no police!” Rhys insists, waving a hand as he does so. “He hasn't hurt me. He.. I, oh, God this is...”
“Rhys, are you okay?”
“Yeah. Just a little shaken up. Look, I'm not gonna be home for a while. He's... threatening to kill me if I don't... Look, I don't know what it is exactly he wants me to do. This is really hard to explain.”
Vaughn sighs. “This is freaking me out a little, dude. I don't know what the hell is going on but please, please be careful, Rhys.”
Rhys nods his head, pursing his lips. “Don't worry about me. I'll be okay. He... seems to like me? I'll call you again when I get the chance, okay?”
“Alright,” Vaughn says, tone wary. “Please don't get yourself killed dude. I have no other friends.”
“That's... sad, Vaughn. I'll be in touch.”