"Rhys! Just the man I was looking for!"
"Good morning, Mr. Henderson." Rhys said, looking up from his work and plastering his most helpful, sincere, please-just-fucking-promote-me-already smile on his face. The man had been dangling this promotion in front of Rhys for weeks, and Rhys was starting to get really, really irritated.
"Rhys, could you do me a favor?" Henderson said, a mad glint in his eye that made Rhys’ skin prickle unpleasantly.
"Of course sir." Henderson had to have known he’d say yes no matter what, but the fact that he asked made Rhys uneasy for reasons he couldn’t name.
"I knew you'd come through for me. Take these reports up to Handsome Jack's office for me, would ya?" Henderson said, dropping a few file folders onto Rhys’ desk.
"H-Handsome Jack, sir?" Rhys repeated, horrified. It was no secret that the department had fallen behind on their deliverables. Just this morning, he had told Vaughn and Yvette that he pitied the person who had to tell Handsome Jack that they’d failed to meet their deadlines. And now apparently that person was Rhys.
"Is that a problem, Rhys?" Henderson said, his voice stern and disappointed even though the smile hadn’t faded from his face. "Thought you were my man, my go-to guy. If you can't handle this simple task, then maybe I've been considering the wrong person for that promotion."
"No!" Facing Handsome Jack was one thing, but no one ever recovered from a reputation of not getting things done. It was the kiss of death for any career, especially for someone as desperate to move up the company ladder as Rhys. "I can handle it." Rhys swallowed around the knot in his throat, reaching for the files. "C-Consider it done, sir."
“Good man!” Henderson barked, placing a yellow Hyperion key card on top of the files. “That’ll get you up to Jack’s office. Be quick about it.”
“Yes, sir.” Rhys said, regretting his life choices as he gathered the files and the key card and headed towards the elevators. He placed the key card against the scanner, watching as the Hyperion logo at the top of the elevator panel lit up, and the elevator began climbing the floors at a rapid pace.
Rhys wondered if he should send a message to Vaughn or Yvette, say what may be his final goodbyes. By the time the elevator stopped, he had decided against it, not wanting to tempt fate any more than he already was.
The elevator doors opened without a sound, leaving Rhys to wonder at the opulence of the executive floors. The floor gleamed mirror bright, and large potted Pandoran plants flanked the doors to Handsome Jack’s office. The empty secretary’s desk looked like it was made of actual wood, and gigantic posters of the president stared down from the walls.
But Rhys was more interested in the small girl seated in one of the uncomfortable chairs outside the office. She was tiny, and she was crying softly, her hands folded in her lap. She hadn't noticed Rhys’ arrival, and seemed to be trying not to make any noise, but the little hiccups she made ripped through Rhys with the force of bullets. He frowned, looking around for anyone, but she seemed to be completely alone. Pushing his impending doom from his mind, he approached the little girl, wincing when she frantically tried to stifle her tears at the sound of his shoes.
"Hey..." Rhys said, sitting next to the little girl, close enough for her to feel his presence, but not enough to scare her. "Are you okay?"
She sniffled and shook her head slightly, rubbing at her eyes with the back of her hand.
"Here." Rhys said, searching his pockets for a tissue and finally unearthing one that seemed relatively clean. He offered it to her. "What's wrong?"
"D-Daddy's assistant won't let me see him." She sobbed, a fresh wave of tears falling from her eyes. "He said Daddy was too busy to deal with me right now. And nobody's here to call Daddy for me."
"What a…jerk." Rhys said, mindful of his language even as his mind reeled. He had known conceptually that Handsome Jack had a daughter, but he had never even seen a picture of her before now. Although the long raven-black hair wasn't anything like Jack's well-coiffed walnut locks, her eyes were the same bright blue as Jack's right eye. At least, Rhys assumed, having never seen Jack's eyes from close range.
"I'm Rhys, by the way." He said. She looked up at him with those wide eyes.
"I'm...I'm Angel." She said at last, taking the tissue from him and wiping her face and nose. “Thank you.” She said politely, making Rhys smile.
“You're welcome.” Rhys said, taking the used tissue back and throwing it into a nearby trash bin.
She gasped in wonder, staring at his arm. "Is that one of Daddy’s arms? Do you work in robotics? Is that where you got it?" she asked excitedly, reaching for it before stopping short. Rhys marveled at her manners, considering who her father was. Handsome Jack’s version of asking for permission usually involved bullets.
"No, I got this before I started working here actually. Do you wanna see?"
“Does it do anything cool? Daddy says that there’s all sorts of attachments and customizations on the new prosthetics.” She said, running her hand up and down the yellow casing of his arm. Rhys blinked as Angel began listing the various upgrades, surprised at her knowledge. She was clearly very brilliant for her age, a fact which, now that he thought about it, didn’t really surprise Rhys at all. Any child of handsome Jack would be extraordinary in some way.
“Well, I can pull up a screen on it that connects to my eye? It’s not as cool as the new models, but I like it.”
“Your eye?” Angel repeated, her brow wrinkling in confusion.
“Yeah, I have an ECHOeye implant in this one.” He said, tapping at his left temple. Angel’s eyes went wide.
“I thought you just had eyes like Daddy.” She said, sounding awed. “So you can scan people? Can you scan me, please? I’d like to see it work.”
“Sure thing.” Rhys said, activating it with a thought. Angel gasped as Rhys’ blue eye began to glow, focusing on her with a whirr.
“Let’s see what it says-OW!” Rhys shouted, clapping his hand over his eye as it began to send sharp bolts of pain into his brain, accompanied by an angry notification stating that the information he’d been trying to access was highly classified and way out of his league.
“Are you okay?” Angel asked, concerned. “Oh, right. Daddy doesn’t usually like people knowing about me. Sorry.” She said, looking so sad and so lonely for a moment that all Rhys wanted to do was hug her.
"Who the hell are you?" A female voice asked sharply. Rhys looked up to see a pale, athletic woman staring down at him with a fierce expression.
"Maya! You're here!" Angel said, jumping out of her chair and hugging the cerulean haired woman. The woman's face softened as she knelt down to return the hug.
"Hey there, munchkin, sorry I wasn't here." Maya said warmly. She frowned when she saw the tear stains on her cheeks. "Were you crying, honey? Was this guy being mean to you?" She asked, glaring at Rhys in a way that promised certain death if Angel's answer was yes.
"No, he helped me stop crying." Angel said, rubbing at her cheeks. "Blake wouldn't let me talk to Daddy."
"He what?" Maya said, her voice cold. Angel nodded. "The little toe rag...I'll talk to him after this guy's meeting, okay, sweetpea?"
"Good." She sat behind the secretary's desk, pressing a few buttons on her keypad before looking at Rhys.
"Handsome Jack will see you now."
Rhys paused for a moment, then held out his hand to Angel.
"Why don't you come on in with me, Angel, and you can talk to your dad before my meeting?" He said. Angel brightened, while Maya's eyes widened.
"But...won't you get in trouble?" Angel asked, hesitating. "Daddy can get cranky when people are late."
"I can handle a little trouble." Rhys said, puffing out his chest and making Angel giggle. "Besides, I'm sure your dad wouldn't want you waiting any longer."
"Okay! Thank you, Mr. Rhys."
"Ugh, way to make me feel old." Rhys groaned theatrically. "Just Rhys, okay?"
"Okay." She said with another giggle, taking his metal hand in hers.
Rhys’ breath caught in his throat as he entered Jack’s office for the first time. It was massive and spacious, with what was possibly the greatest view Rhys had ever seen, a panoramic view of Elpis, the cracked purple scar across the moon’s surface bathing the room with a slight violet glow underneath the fluorescents. A man whom Rhys could only assume was Blake was just finishing a report of some kind, clearly smug about holding the president’s undivided attention. He looked down his nose at Angel and Rhys and sniffed loudly.
“Your twelve o’clock appointment is here, Jack.” Blake said before walking past Rhys and angel without another glance.
"It's about frickin time you showed up! Didja get lost on the way here, idiot?" Jack asked, his back to Rhys.
"Daddy, don't be mean to Rhys." Angel chastised before Rhys could even open his mouth. Jack whirled around in his chair at the sound of her voice.
"Angel? What're you doing here, sweetheart? I thought you were with Gaige for the afternoon." He narrowed heterochromatic eyes at her. "You didn't walk all the way up here from R&D by yourself, did you?"
"Everyone was busy, Daddy." Angel said, but she fiddled with the hem of her dress, and wouldn’t meet her father’s eyes.
"That's no excuse and you know it, young lady." Jack said sternly, so focused on Angel, it was hard to tell if he remembered that Rhys or his assistant were even in the room. “You know I don't want you walking around alone. What if you got lost? Or hurt?"
"Felicity would find me." Angel said promptly. Rhys idly wondered if that was the name of her caretaker. "But I'll remember not to go alone next time."
"That's what I like to hear. You know I only want you safe, baby."
"I know, Daddy. I'm sorry."
"I forgive you, sweetheart, but don't do it again." Jack said firmly, but with a fond smile on his face.
"Okay, Daddy." Angel said. Jack nodded, satisfied with her answer, then seemed to remember Rhys' presence.
"As for you..." Jack growled, eyes flicking up to Rhys' face. "Is there a reason I'm still waiting on those reports?"
"W-Well, sir, I figured your daughter took precedence over this report." He said, trying not to cower under the CEO’s gaze.
"You'd be right about that." Jack said with a nod. "Why did you wanna see me, baby?"
"Since I finished all of my lessons for today early, and Gaige is too busy with other stuff to work on our stuff with me, I wanted to get lunch with you if you're not too busy." Angel said. She fiddled her dress again, her eyes downcast as she tried not to let her disappointment show. "But you have a meeting with Rhys right now, so you don't have to. That's okay, I can just go with the Claptrap-"
"I'm never too busy for you, baby girl." Jack said immediately, as if the very idea of not having time for his daughter offended him. "Also, no daughter of mine will spend any more time around those monstrosities than she needs to. Which is only the amount of time it takes to watch me throw one out a window."
"I think they're funny." Angel argued, but she was smiling.
"That's because you have no taste, sweetheart." Jack said fondly, before addressing Rhys. "You, guy, get lost. Come back later."
"His name is Rhys, Daddy. Be nice to him."
Jack raised his eyebrows at his daughter, then pursed his lips against a smile. "Fine. Rhys, you can deliver those reports to me later, right, princess?"
"Yes, sir." Rhys said.
"Good. Do that." Jack said, waving a careless hand in the air as he rounded his desk. "Talk to Blake about when. I have lunch plans." Jack scooped Angel up into his arms. "Let's go, babycakes."
"Bye, Rhys!" Angel called as Jack carried her out of the office, waving wildly. Rhys waved back, his eyes quickly spying the assistant seated at a desk in the corner of the room, reading something on an ECHOpad.
Rhys narrowed his eyes, his jaw clenched tight as he cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders to loosen them.
"Excuse me." He said to the man as he walked closer, his fists clenching unconsciously.
"Can I help you, sir?" Blake said in a bored voice, as though Rhys couldn't possibly be worth his time.
"Yeah." Rhys said mock cheerfully, taking the ECHOpad out of his hands and tossing it across the room, his metal hand wrapping around Blake’s throat in the same motion. "You see, Blake, you and me have a problem now. You left a little girl crying for her father outside in a waiting room for an hour, and, well, that just doesn't fly with me."
Part of Rhys was shocked at his own violent actions, but the cold, logical, furious part of his brain reasoned that the man worked for Handsome Jack; this was probably how the president ordered coffee in the mornings.
Blake choked and gasped, his hands scrabbling ineffectually at Rhys’ cybernetic arm. That bloodthirsty part of Rhys laughed at the look of fear on the man's face, and he gave Blake a slow, sinister smile, all teeth and no warmth.
"See, I'm going to be keeping an eye on you from now on, Blake. And if I hear about this happening again, if I even suspect that you've caused that little girl to feel even the tiniest bit sad, or ignored, or mistreated, I will personally introduce you to the spacey side of an airlock." He said, his voice cool and casual even as his fingers tightened viciously around the man's windpipe. "Am I understood?"
"Couldn't have put it better myself, kiddo."
Rhys stiffened, and turned to face Handsome Jack and Angel. The man had put Angel down at some point, and she was now clinging to his leg, looking up at Rhys with those wide blue eyes. Rhys quickly stepped away from Blake, who fell gasping to the floor, clutching his throat. "I-I thought you two were headed to lunch." Rhys said guiltily.
"Maya told me what happened in the waiting room." Jack said, his hand falling on Angel’s head and smoothing over her hair. "Imagine my surprise to come back here, intending to strangle my idiot of an assistant for making my Angel cry and find someone doing it for me." He cocked his head to one side, light glinting off the hinges of his mask. "I like your initiative, pumpkin."
"Thank you, sir?" Rhys said, unsure how to take the compliment. If it even was a compliment. He still felt a little guilty for exposing Angel to his display of violence, though. She shouldn't have to see things like that at her age, he thought. She could still have a few years of innocence left.
"Sir..." The man rasped from the floor, his voice hoarse. "I-I can explain-"
"What's there to explain, Blakey?" Jack asked, his eyes still trained on Rhys. "My daughter asked for me, and you made her wait. Alone. For an hour." He finally broke eye contact with Rhys to look down at his daughter. "Isn't that right, sweetheart?"
"Yeah…" She said hesitatingly, looking up at her father with trepidation. “But it’s okay, Daddy, Rhys was there, and he asked me if I was okay and he helped me stop crying-”
"See, now that's the funny thing, Blakey." Jack growled, interrupting her and casually drawing his pistol from its holster and spinning the barrel slowly. "Because I distinctly remember telling you on your first day that nothing is more important to me than my daughter."
"Sir, I'm sorry, I’m sorry, it won't ever happen again-" the man whimpered, his eyes wide with fear.
"You're damn right it won't happen again, you goddamn piece of TRASH!" Jack roared, his eyes flashing with fire as he cocked the gun, taking aim. "Nobody makes my Angel cry. NOBODY!"
"Sir!" Rhys said firmly, drawing attention to himself as he moved to stand between Handsome Jack and the man cowering on the floor. "As much as he may deserve it, sir, maybe you should deal with Blake’s termination in a more..." He cast a pointed glance to Angel, who had buried her face into Jack's pant leg, her knuckles white against the fabric. "Private setting?"
"...Right." Jack said after a moment. He slowly holstered his gun, turning his face away from the sobbing man on the floor. "Thank the man, Blake. He just saved your life."
Blake began spluttering thanks, crawling closer to Rhys, but Jack interrupted him. "However, if you're not off this space station in ten minutes, Blakey-boy, I'll find you and have you fired from the moonshot cannon into the biggest Rakk Hive nest on Pandora. Now get the hell out of my sight."
Blake whimpered in fear, scrambling to his feet and running out the door as fast as his legs could carry him. The door fell closed behind him, the noise echoing in the suddenly silent room.
"Angel?" Jack asked quietly, looking down at his daughter, gently resting his hand on her head. She flinched at the sound of his voice, keeping her face hidden in the fabric of his trousers. "Angel, baby, look at me." Jack said, pleaded really.
After a moment of hesitation, she obeyed, looking up at her father with watery eyes.
"Aw, hell." Jack muttered, kneeling down and gathering her in his arms. "It's okay, baby girl. Daddy's sorry he lost his temper and scared you."
"It's okay, Daddy." She mumbled into his shoulder.
"No it's not." Jack said emphatically, and there was something in his voice, some note of something resembling actual fear, that made Rhys’ heart stutter in his chest. "I don't ever want you to be scared of me, baby." He murmured, pressing a kiss against her forehead.
"I wasn't scared of you, Daddy." She insisted, like the mere idea of it was ridiculous. "I'd never ever be scared of you."
"Yeah?" Jack said, a relieved smile stretching his face. “Never ever?”
"Daddy, I see you when you wake up in the morning.” Angel said, a cheeky smile on her face as she boops Jack on the nose. “I don't think anyone could ever be scared of you after watching you walk into walls before you have your coffee."
Rhys snorted involuntarily at the mental image of Handsome Jack, bleary eyed and sleepy, walking into walls. Unfortunately, his laughter reminded both father and daughter of his presence. Handsome Jack cleared his throat, rising up from his knees in one smooth movement.
"Rhys, was it?" Jack asked, as he regarded Rhys with a critical stare. “What kind of a name is Rhys?”
"The one I have, sir." Rhys said without thinking, his heart starting to beat double time. What had he been thinking? He had just threatened a man, a man who worked directly under Handsome freaking Jack! And then he had presumed to tell Jack what he should do with said employee? And he still hasn't delivered that freaking report?! If Rhys made it out of this situation unscathed, he was going to be very surprised.
“Oh, now you're sassing me?” Jack asked, and if Rhys didn’t know better, he’d think that was something like…glee in Jack’s voice.
"Are you gonna need a new assistant?"
Jack blinked once, then groaned loudly, rubbing at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. "Yeah, baby, looks like." He gave Angel a strained smile, reaching down to smooth back her hair and press a kiss to her head. "But don't you worry, baby girl, daddy’s gonna make sure that the next one knows how to treat you right-"
"Daddy, you should hire Rhys as your new assistant!" Angel interrupted excitedly.
"What?" Jack asked, a sentiment Rhys echoed simultaneously.
"Yeah! He was so nice to me outside, and he defended me to Blake, and he stood up to you without crying or anything! He's perfect!"
"Huh. He did, didn't he?" Jack said, thoughtful. "Couldn't be any worse than the last few idiots..." He appraised Rhys once more. “Better looking, too.”
“Uh…sir?” Rhys asked, not daring to believe what he was hearing.
"Rhysie, I'm in the market for a new assistant. Would that be something you'd be interested in? It'd come with a sweet pay raise, improved living quarters, the chance to work directly under me..." He waggled his eyebrows at Rhys, smirking at his own innuendo. "Whaddaya say?"
What else was he supposed to say? Nobody said no to Handsome Jack and lived; and why would he want to? Sure, the average life span of Handsome Jack’s assistants was around a month, max, but the chance to work with his idol? How could Rhys pass that up?
"Excellent!" Jack exclaimed, clapping his hands together. "You can use the time Angel and I are at lunch to move your stuff up here and inform your superiors that you're mine now. I expect you to be ready to work by the time I get back."
"Daddy, you're making Rhys work during lunch?" Angel asked, sounding appalled. "When will he eat?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "He's fine, Angel."
"It's okay, Angel, I already ate." Rhys assured Angel, secretly touched by her concern. Angel pouted slightly.
"Will you come have lunch with us next time?" She asked hopefully. Rhys' heart all but melted in his chest.
"If your dad says it's okay." Rhys said. Angel looked at her father imploringly.
"We'll see, sweetheart."
"Okay, Daddy. Bye Rhys!" Angel said, hugging the cybernetic man around the knees. "See you later!"
"Bye, Angel." Rhys said, ruffling her hair fondly. He cleared his throat before looking at Jack. "Have a good lunch, sir."
"Right." Jack said, taking Angel’s hand in his and walking towards the door. "Talk to Maya about updating your biometrics, or you won’t be allowed back on this floor."
“Yes, sir.” Rhys said, but the doors were already closing behind him, leaving Rhys alone in the office.
“What the fuck just happened?” Rhys asked the empty office. “What the ACTUAL FUCK just happened?”
His own questions echoed back to him in the spacious room, and Rhys quickly clamped his mouth shut, not letting the hysterical laughter he could feel bubbling up inside him escape. He took several deep breaths, and left the office, turning to talk to Jack’s blue haired secretary
"Hi, uh, Maya, was it?"
"What the actual fuck did you do in there?" Maya asked sharply, her eyes wide. "First you walk in with Angel like she isn’t this company’s worst kept secret; ten minutes later, Blake runs out like the hounds of hell are after him, then Jack steps out offhandedly saying he's hired you as his new assistant after knowing you for less than a half hour?" She tapped her chin with a finger. “Did I miss anything?”
"Other than that one moment where I'm pretty sure Handsome fucking Jack was hitting on me right in front of his daughter? Yeah, that sounds about right." Rhys said on a sigh. How was this his life?
"You must have really impressed him, if he hired you on the spot." Maya said, typing away at her computer.
"I think it was mostly Angel's doing. She said he should hire me, so he did." Rhys could feel the goofy smile spreading across his face as he remembered how Jack treated Angel, like she was precious and loved, and did absolutely nothing to hide it. "I get the feeling there is very little Jack wouldn't do if Angel asked him."
"That is very, very true." Maya said, pursing her lips in thought. "I like you, kid. You might be exactly what Jack needs."