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A Dangerous Path To Take

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Ever since Rhys set foot on Helios he was focused on achieving success. He believed he could pull it off, he had good brains for programming which was proven by his impeccable school record. Straight A’s, overachieving in every single subject, well every single subject that mattered, Rhys never considered physical education among those. He had brains and the necessary wit – he knew when to stay quiet, who to bribe and how to backstab someone – without actually stabbing them in the back. He was never the one for violent solutions. That was a road set for corporate CEOs and Handsome Jack was a good example of that.

But back to Rhys. He had done everything to accomplish his plan of becoming the youngest Head of Programming. He stayed over hours and worked on every single weekend to raise his efficiency, he even got himself noticed by a few ingenious adjustment to the newest line of Hyperion weapons. Rhys also managed to get into the inner circle by bribery, sucking up to Henderson and sabotaging a few of the projects his competition was working on. All of that to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming the big man.

Of course one could go much higher in Hyperion than head of the department, but Rhys was ok with that position. Going any further would require killing and that was definitely out of his safety zone. Besides Rhys had pretty good preservation skills and he knew that going higher and joining the board would end in his untimely death. It was common knowledge that coming into direct contact with Handsome Jack usually ended with a fast retirement, like out into the space fast. If you were lucky you were airlocked, and if being airlocked meant being lucky then Rhys didn’t even want to dwell on other imaginative ways Jack found to get rid of his employees. So yeah, Rhys would be pretty satisfied with being Head of the Department.

Of course achieving such a thing at his age was no small deal and he probably wouldn’t have managed to get as far as he was without the help of his best friend Vaughn. Ever since day one when Rhys entered Hyperion and met his roommate he knew that they would hit it off. Vaughn, contrary to the rest of Hyperion, was a guy with standards. Sure he embezzled some money here and there but he a) never killed anyone and b)never helped with killing anyone and that was a huge, yet bizarre, accomplishment given the many years he spent at the station. Rhys was lucky his best friend was in accounting, which made things a lot easier for him. He knew if someone was low on cash and thus proved an easy target for bribery, also if he himself was short on cash, it was equally easy to get some additional funds. Not big cash, he wasn’t stupid, just the right amount so that no one will notice.

Vaughn was a good and valuable friend, one of the only two he had. The other one was Yvette… she was mostly good, and mostly valuable. Actually she was very helpful in getting some restricted files he needed now and then, but she was a horrible liability to his wallet. If Rhys was counting all the free lunches she coerced out of him then he would probably have enough money to bribe Handsome Jack if he wanted to… okay maybe not as far as that, but close.

Both Vaughn and Yvette had been his closest friends since day one, but even they didn’t know the secret he would die protecting. You see Rhys was excelling in more ways than one, apart from his good brains and a decent survival instinct, he also had powers no other human possessed. Rhys was a siren, which gave him abilities such as  phasewalking or phaseshifting to name a few. So why wouldn’t he put that to his advantage? It’s because it wasn’t an actual advantage, it was a deathly liability.

Sirens were extremely rare, actually more like nonexistent at this point. And a male siren? That was unheard of. Rhys was thankful for that, because he could easily pass off the blue siren marking he had on his torso as ordinary tattoos. He knew that if someone ever found out what he really was, he would end up in  a locked laboratory, with endless tests being performed on him. That’s how most sirens he had heard of died. Some were controlled like animals and used as war weapons, either way the result was usually the same. Rhys didn’t want to end up as a test subject so he vowed never to use the powers given. It was tempting at times, but he never broke the rule, which is also why he wasn’t even exactly sure what powers he possessed. Every siren had a unique set of abilities, but he was okay with living without ever knowing his. It was a fair price to pay for freedom and a carefree life.

Well a carefree life might be a bit of a far-fetched statement. Currently his life was far from that. The day started great for Rhys, he was finally going to get that promotion he worked so hard for. He was going to be rewarded for all the late nights and hardships he went through. With that thought in mind, he went to Henderson’s office, for once with a confident look on his face, only to be shocked by the image of his previous boss, floating carelessly in the dark space behind the grand window. Ok again, careless is not the right word to use at the moment, he needs to work on that.

Rhys stood dumbfounded, his mouth hanging open and eyes wide, he did not understand how this could’ve happen. He never actually liked the man, but what Rhys saw in his mind’s eye was his promotion slowly drifting into the black abyss of space.

“So glad you’re here Rhysie” said a familiar, irritating voice.

Rhys looked in the direction of Henderson’s desk in time to see a man, who up till now was clearly admiring his handiwork, slowly rotating in the chair.

 “Vasquez” Rhys said through clenched teeth.

“That’s Mr. Vasquez kiddo.” The man said standing up.

Rhys hated Vasquez with every fiber of his being, he was an incompetent halfwit who thought it’s cool to imitate Handsome Jack. That’s why he kept using all of the nicknames for which their leader was known for. However, as Jack elicits fear and respect, the only thing Vasquez is able to evoke is a mild nausea from looking at his smug, dumbass face. At least in Rhys opinion.

“I get it you already saw that Henderson had to leave us in a hurry, I bet it was some huge emergency, grave matter I’m sure” he bursted out  laughing. “Get it? Grave matter…..GRAVE.” Vasquez said evidently proud of his joke, but seeing the unimpressed look Rhys was giving him he sobered up a little.

“So Rhys, since Henderson is no longer with us it seems all of his duties fall onto me as I am the NEW head of programming”.

“What?! You’ve got to be kidding me?” Rhys asked angrily soon after receiving a solid punch to his left eye. He grabbed his face hissing in pain, this will surely leave a nasty bruise.

“I would advise you to think twice before speaking to your boss in such a manner. Now where were we? Ah yes my recent promotion. Well what can I say, I deserved it. But don’t think I forgot about you. I believe a promotion is also in order for you. All in all you had some slightly above average ideas and I always believe that initiative should be rewarded.” Vasques said jovially, putting one of his hands on Rhys shoulder, shaking the boy a bit as if to force excitement out of him.

“Promotion?” Rhys did not believe a word he said and if he could, he would cut off Vasquez’s arm off, just to stop the man from touching him. There was no way he would get promoted, going up would only mean becoming the head and Rhys was sure as hell the broad man was not about to share a pretzel with him, let alone his office.

Vasquez had been one of his competitors for the position, but he never treated him as an actual threat. The man had zero programming skills, was obnoxious and everyone hated him, plus he was simply an idiot with a big I. Rhys saw no way in which Vasquez could become head of the department. However, he never considered that someone could simply airlock their boss. But thinking on it now, it actually seemed like a fitting ‘strategy’ for the simpleton Vasquez was. The man was more than 10 years older than him and never achieved anything major, all of his so called achievements were faked, hell even his hair was fake if he were to believe the rumors.

“Yes Rhysie a promotion. I would never forget your contribution to this department. That is why I am promoting you to Head…. Janitor!” he said clapping Rhys so hard on his back that he nearly toppled over.

“Wh…. What?” Rhys asked with an incredulous look. He knew Vasquez was not about to share his power with him, but demoting him to janitor? This was just absurd on so many levels.

“I know I know, this is a big step for you, a lot of responsibilities you’re not sure you can handle. But Rhys” he said placing both of his hands on Rhys arms, looking straight into his eyes “I believe in you and I know you can do it…. Or would you prefer to join Henderson on his early vacation?”

Rhys was absolutely furious, he was not a violent man but now was the first time he imagined killing someone and the thought brought him a shit ton of satisfaction. He imagined peeling that stupid face off of him, together with that sickening smile, and throwing it down to Pandora for the Psychos to do whatever shit they like to do with torn off faces. Yes, that was a nice mental image.

“So what will it be Rhys?” Vasquez asked, his tone changing slightly, facial expression more stern.

Was he able to read minds?

Once again Rhys looked at the window, at Henderson’s body still floating in space, oddly twsisted. He always prided himself on good survival instants and right now they were screaming at him to take the offer. If Vasquez had no problem with killing their boss, what would stop him from doing the same to Rhys? God knows they hated each other’s gut since day one. However, he couldn’t help the feeling of wanting to retaliate. He worked so hard for this and now some shit face halfwit was to take everything from him. Was killing people the only option on Hyperion now? Was he capable of doing so himself?

The answer was no, Rhys was certainly not capable of killing anyone, not even a shitface such as Vasquez.

“Ok” he said showing as little emotion as he could. He sure as hell did not want to give any satisfaction to the man, who was clearly getting off on this.

“Great to hear that Rhys, great to hear that. I knew you’d be the right man for the job. Imagine all that trash you will have to supervise, you’d be like the KING of trash? Now ain’t that cool? You get it? It’s because…”

“I get it” Rhys said fists clenching.

“Ok ok great, report to level -5 at 11 pm. Oh right I forgot to tell you that janitors work on night shifts, you know, we wouldn’t like to bother any decent Hyperion workers. But hey, if you work hard I bet you can become the CJO in no time. Imagine that Rhysie, you as the Chief Janitor Officer, now that’s something! Now off you go and don’t disappoint me!” He said in a sing song voice practically manhandling Rhys out of his office.

As soon as he was out the door, his friend Vaughn came to him and started pestering him about what happened. With an angry yell he kicked the trashcan standing on the corridor.

“Janitor Rhys, please report to corridor I-27 on lever 14. There seems to be a little mishap there.” An electronic voice announced reverberating through all of Hyperion.

This was the WORST day ever.

—o.o— 15 hours and 2 whiskey bottles later –o.o—

Rhys was currently quite inebriated. Before he started his shift at his ‘new job’ he met with Vaughn and Yvette to work on a new plan of action. There was no way in hell he would stay idle moping the floors of Hyperion till the day he turned grey. Unsurprisingly instead of working on some solution right away the three of them decided now was a good time to get piss drunk. Rhys gulped down more shots than he ever remembered drinking. It seemed that the alcohol was helping their imagination in working out the best ways to get rid of the problem they were facing. Most o them revolved around different ways to kill Vasquez, others around blackmail and a few involved making a video of Vasquez trying to imitate Jack, as he always tried to do, which in their minds resulted in his sudden demise. Everything was good when it involved the man dying, but dying by the hand of his idol was even more satisfactory than the rest.

It was 4 am in the morning and Rhys was making his was, mostly in a straight line, for the main assembly hall, where two golden statues of Handsome Jack were standing menacingly on either side of the entrance. Some said they were build to make the workers feel as if their every move was being watched, but in Rhys opinion Jack hand simply a huge ego, and 50 feet tall statues were always complimentary to an ego like that.

Rhys made his way to the small podium between the statues, on which the CEO gave a few speeches on special occasions. When he reached the podium, he suddenly let out an angry shout, more like a roar, broke his mop into two and send the bottom part flying. For the first time in a long while Rhys felt fury taking over him, he saw red. The newly appointed janitor started yelling and cursing, spilling out all of his anger and resentment.

“Fuck you asshole!” he yelled remembering his earlier conversation with the new Head of Programming, especially his smug face when he announced Rhys ‘promotion’.

“I have enough of fucking backstabbers like you. Is airlocking someone the only fucking shit you are capable of doing? I suppose with the brain of yours it must hurt to even breath, with all the thinking involved in the process. I mean with the fucking breath-in, breath-out, breath-in, breath-out it must be chaos in that small space your brain occupies within your humongous skull!” Rhys hollered at the top of his lungs. Part of it was the alcohol, making him lose control like that, but part of it was actual anger, no, not anger, rage that he was feeling at the moment. He pointed an accusatory finger somewhere in front of him, imagining Vasquez standing there. His vision was so blurry he wouldn’t even know if the guy was actually standing right in front of him.

The comment about Vasquez big ass head made him remember the first day he met the man. He remembered him saying that with a face like that, there’s nothing standing between him and a promotion. Well if you had no brains you had to rely on something, then again in Rhys opinion there was nothing handsome about the man what so ever. He saw poles with better looks and more natural charm.

“Yeah that’s right, you think you’re handsome, pffft with that huge forehead of yours? Please, and how about that hair of yours? I bet it’s all implants, that’s what it is.”

Rhys knew that he was rumbling like a stupid idiot, alcohol clouding his brain, but then again he was sober enough to know that no one in his right mind would venture to the assembly hall at 4 am in the fucking morning. Or would they?

—o.o— in the meantime –o.o—

A sudden beeping noise made the man stir in his sleep, as soon as the first conscious thought seeped into his brain he was standing wide awake, two guns drawn and pointing at opposite directions from one another. After a moment he realized the strange noise was just some reminder he had set on his computer. It kept beeping annoyingly demanding attention. The man holstered the weapons, dismissed the reminder and looked at his computer displaying the time. It was almost 4 am in the morning.

“Fuuuuuck!” he cursed under his breath, regarding his reflection on the huge window behind him. Clearly he fell asleep face first on his keyboard, as an array of key mark was left on his face.

“I need to take better care of my beauty sleep.” he said to himself and then looked into his reflection and, as if speaking to it, he added “You ain’t called handsome for nothing, learn how to live with the burden.”

Yes Handsome Jack was known for being handsome, among other things. He was also a bit paranoid and had huge trust issues, his real face under the mask was a constant reminder not to trust anyone but himself. He knew it was the right choice even if it resulted in him often waking up with his two favorite guns loaded and ready for some action. Jack was also known for his ego, there was a shit ton of merchandise with his handsome mug on it, there were drinks named after him, oversized golden statues standing here and there, just as a standard reminder of who was the boss.

Jack prided himself on a great sense of humor, it wasn’t his fault some people just didn’t appreciate it. Last night for instance he called in all of the members of the board to discuss a pressing issue, when the all gathered he started walking around the office in circles, with slow and deliberate strides. The topic of his ongoing monologue was the issue of loyalty. Every time he stood behind one of the members he said something like ‘however it seems some people don’t share this value, some people may not believe in it, SOME people may go against the golden rule of loyalty’  then he stood behind the desk, looking each and every one of them in the eyes. When everyone seemed to be waiting for him to draw his gun, Jack gave the biggest grin ever, like teeth and all, and said ‘luckily none of them are you, just wanted to make that perfectly clear, thanks for coming guys, your presence was much appreciated’.

He still had tears coming from his eyes every time he remembered the fear stricken faces. How could they not find it funny? It was motherfuckin’ hilarious, in Jack’s opinion at least.

So Handsome Jack - vicious, slightly paranoid, changing mood faster than a teenager on her prom night with her period raging on – had a brilliant sense of humor. He was also handsome. That’s Handsome Jack in a nutshell.

Not many things surprised Jack, he didn’t like surprises in general, most people knew that after his last birthday party and a small mishap with the ‘stripper cake’. Someone who planned it definitely didn’t account for Jack’s paranoia, because someone jumping out of his fucking cake was not on Jack’s to do list. Needless to say if the stripper could argue, she’d definitely protest that the stunt she did was way below her pay. Not that she can argue anymore though.

So imagine Jack’s surprise when, crossing the hall with his two golden doppelgangers, he gets hit on the head with a mop. A fucking mop of all things. He had put his guard down, no one was ever here at this time of night, he should know as he often made such trips to his apartment – he really had to work on that beauty sleep. Furious he turns in the direction from which the assault-mop came from and he notices a lanky figure looking straight at him.

“Fuck you asshole!” the noodle figure yells. Jack is so stunned he actually turns around just to be certain that it was directed at him. He feels a bit like the kids at school, who always look around the class in hopes that it wasn’t them the teacher was pointing at. But he was Handsome Jack and he did not hope, he crushed hope, that’s what he did (he made a mental note to remember that one, it was catchy).

“I have enough of fucking backstabbers like you. Is airlocking someone the only fucking shit you are capable of doing. I suppose with the brain of yours it must hurt to even breath, with all the thinking involved in the process. I mean with the fucking breath-in, breath-out, breath-in, breath-out it must be chaos in that small space your brain occupies within your humongous skull!”

Ok. Assaulting him with a mop was one thing, yelling was another, insulting his intelligence – that was a whole different level of what the fuck – but insulting THE face was taking it way too far. In all honesty each of those would grant the kid a sudden life-shortening experience. But now Jack was totally pissed, no one has ever been so audacious and this was what, a fucking janitor of all things?

He drew one of his guns, the elemental one that promised a more painful death, and pointed it straight at the kids face. He expected him to cower at the idea of his imminent death, instead the janitor just pointed an accusatory finger at him. Or was it somewhere above him? He couldn’t tell.

 “Yeah that’s right, you think you’re handsome, pffft with that huge forehead of yours? Please and how about that hair of yours? I bet it’s all implants, that’s what it is.”

OK ok ok, big forehead, hair implants? Forget the gun, this was personal now. He will kill the kid with his bare hands, watch the last breath escape his lanky figure, eyes bulging out as pressure accumulates in his whole face. Maybe he’ll let him take a breath every time he was about to tip over just to start the procedure again. With that resolution in mind, he began advancing at the idiot who clearly had no survival instincts. Nobody even looks at Jack the wrong way and lives to tell the tale. The kid was going down.

“You are the worst piece of shit Vasquez, when I’m done with you, your own mother won’t recognize you!”

Vasquez? Jack was certain he heard that name before, where was it. He though hard about that, all in all he had more important things to store in his brain, some corporate lackey was definitely not on the top of his priorities list. But somehow that name sounded familiar… big forehead, hair implants. Suddenly Jack widened his eyes, realization downing on him.

—o.o— Rhys –o.o—

Rhys was almost hyperventilating at this point. He wanted to continue with his rant but a sudden loud rumble erupting from somewhere near the podium stopped him from doing so. He jumped startled, for the first time seeing an actual figure standing before him. Everything was so blurry that he couldn’t’ make out the strangers features. He couldn’t say who it was and that worried him greatly. What if they went to Vasquez and retold him everything. He’ll be venturing the space together with Henderson for all eternity or however long it takes a corpse to dissolve in space.

“You were talking about fucking Wallethead. Ahahhah that was a good one. You know for a moment there kiddo I thought you meant me, now that would be like fucking crazy, am I right? Don’t answer that, of course I’m right. Anywaaaays….”

Rhys felt the stranger approaching him and grabbing at his janitors vest to look at his name tag.

“Chad… wow your parents must have thought looong and hard on that one, huh cupcake? So Chad I like your attitude, if you weren’t such a spiderant on those long wobbly legs of yours I would have considered you for a body guard. But seeing your rather delicate disposition I think you are good at what you’re doing. Just don’t let those mops fly around haphazardly mkay?”

The stranger said a lot of things and fast at that. Rhys could only make out the name Chad, which was the previous janitor. He briefly wondered if he was also airlocked by Vasquez in order to make this position available for Rhys – do janitors get airlocked at all?

“Yo, cupcake, you with me?” the man asked rudely snapping his fingers in front of his face. “I know that seeing me is usually a shocker, but I was hoping that with all that zest in you, you would at least muster a ‘yes sir’ for me.”

Rhys tried to focus on the face in front of him but it was no use, damn he was in for a huge hangover tomorrow.

“You…” Rhys said finally trying to focus his vision “talk a lot… but don’t worry, it’s ok, you have a nice voice, so don’t worry about it.” He said eventually, not even sure of what he was saying at that point.

The man in front of him was silent for a moment and then suddenly bent in half and started laughing like a maniac. After a moment he turned around and started walking in a different direction, his voice slowly fading away.

“Man Chad, I wish I had more janitors on the board meetings, that would be so much fun. Anyways nice talking to you cupcake.”

Rhys only managed a quiet and confused “;m not Chad” but the stranger did not hear him. Only the sound of retreating footsteps could be heard reverberated throughout the hall.

 

 

 

Author's comment:

Sooo what do you think? And before you come up with any conclusions – this is not a Cinderella story so there will be changes soon. And yes, just as the tags indicate, Rhys still doesn’t have his cybernetic arm, but he will, in due time. It’s gonna be a slow burn with plot – yay for ploy.

Hope you guys enjoyed it. Sorry for my poor English.

Chapter Text

Ch II

 

Jack looked at the faces of the board members. What did he fucking pay them for? They looked at him cowering one behind the other, not adding anything to the discussion. Weren’t they here to make problems go away? Instead they actually caused them, his growing headache for instance. Or was that the result of his late night encounter with a certain janitor and his mop? He couldn’t tell, but maybe if he hired janitors instead of these douchebags then something could be solved and at the very least he would have a clean office. A half-rotten skag would be a better addition to the room than these gaping iditiots.

“So I wake up in the wee hours of the morning, make my way here because I get an alarming message that our latest line of guns is doing worst than ever and you fuckers have nothing to say? Nothing? Nada? Null? In that case ladies and gentleman please have your picking.”

Silence followed as finally one of them asked “Picking of what, sir?”

“Of a fucking airlock moron. You can choose the left one or the right one, I suggest the one on the left as it has a better view of Elpis, but maybe you would feel more at home when facing Pandora and its piece of trash population?” Jack hollered, his proposition finally stirring the board members into action.

“Sir it’s because our current line of weaponry is directed to a specific ‘audience’ so to speak. It’s mainly heavy guns for military usage. Such weapons will not reach the price targets of the commercial ones.” The head of R&D responsible for the gun project said while nervously shifting through the documents he brought with him.

“Mike, Mike, Mike” Jack said and looking at the confused face of the man he added “or Jake was it? Not important. What is important is why the hell are you lying to my face you dickhead? You’re saying we cannot sell a good amount of weapons for military use? That should bring a shit ton of money!” Jack yelled aggravated.

“No…. uh what I mean is that… well…. ah” the man said scattering his notes everywhere.

“I’ll tell you what that means…. Joshua? In my ears it translates to ‘the right airlock sir’” Jack said and made his way to the trembling man. He pulled him out of his chair, threw in the direction of the airlock and activated the contraption. The man had barely any time to register what was happening, when a minute later he became a part of the view on Pandora. Actually he bumped into a guy that was floating there from yesterday and now they were both obstructing the view of the planet.

“Huh, it’s becoming crowded out there.” Jack mused. They usually ‘floated away’ after a day or so, but the guy from yesterday seemed somewhat persistent. Maybe he wanted to haunt him after his death, at least it would mean his ghost had more spunk in him then guy himself. Jack turned on his heel facing his terrified audience.

“Now you want to know why I airlocked Tiberius? I do not appreciate being made a fool of and that moron  thought he could pull one over on me. Sales are plummeting because our dear friend floating over there  thought he could use an old gun project we sold a couple of years back, hoping that no one will notice. Well I did notice, hell if those Pandoran shitfucks could figure it out then it didn’t take a genius to notice it.  By the way the other persistent guy next to him, he was in on it as well.” Jack said chancing one more look at the duo. He really fucking hoped they won’t pester him for the next couple of days.  It was such a drag when human corpse tended to obscure his view. He should have chosen a different way to deal with them or at least a different airlock.

Contrary to what people said about Jack, he almost never killed people without a solid reason. He fired a few assholes that simply pissed him off, but to go on his black list you had to actually give him a reason. Jack knew he had a temper and if it was up to him the rest of the board members would be flying together with Tom right now, but, surprisingly enough, those people were not so easy to replace. What a shame.

“So any brilliant ideas on how to raise our sales?” Jack asked not hoping for any sensible reply.

“Well, I think we should modify the current weapons, enhance them in some way to make them stand out on the market. We can’t release the exact same weapon twice.” The head of Sales department chipped in.

“Wow…. like wow. We can’t release the same weapon twice? I would have never guessed. I just threw out two people for that exact reason, but hey maybe it were the ties. I mean talk about bad taste in clothing.” Jack said sarcastically, but of course no laughter ensued. He really wished to have a better audience, one that had some sense of humor. He bet that Chad would totally dig his humor. Wow he remembered the kids name. That’s a new one.

“Soooo, any brilliant ideas?” Jack said, his fingers taping impatiently on the surface of the desk.

“Well one of the most popular enhancements was that elemental rotation we added to our GE I-75 line. Maybe we could do something similar but with a twist for big guns?” the head of robotics dared his luck.

Jack remembered that enhancement, he was particularly fond of it, even had one of his favorite revolvers upgraded so that he would also have the possibility to either fry, shock or corrode the hell out of his enemies – ah fun times, fond memories.

The CEO made his way to the guy and patted him on the cheek with a ‘good idea’ comment. It was rather condescending, like petting a dog for finding a ball on a plain field, but it didn’t stop the guy from grinning proudly. Jack was sure he would wag his tail if he had any.

“So who was responsible for that project?” Jack asked looking from face to face.

“Well it was actually someone from the programming department.” Someone added.

“What? Since when is programming involved in guns? And who the hell was that?” the CEO asked bewildered.

“Well weapons are manufactured in the weaponry division, but all the new projects and enhancements come from either R&D or, at times, from programming. We don’t have a name of a single person, it was probably a group project.”

“Huh well then” he said reaching for his ECHO communicator. “Yo Becky, send me the Head of programming here asap.”

“It’s Meg.” The girl on the end of the line replied.

“What?”

“My name, it’s Meg, sir”.

“How the hell do you expect me to remember that when you secretaries change every week or so?” Jack asked irritated.

“I’m working here for over a year now.”

“Well you won’t be able to do that for much longer with that attitude babe! Head of programming. My office. Now.” He said with finality in his tone and was about to cut the line but suddenly decided against it.

“And maybe you’d like me to give you his name? Or my middle name? Or the name of my diamond Pony at that?” Son of a taint, dealing with women… Where the hell did they put all that attitude? Sure as hell Becky didn’t hide it in her boobs, otherwise he might have remembered her name. Or not.

Sure enough 5 minutes later he heard someone running to his office door. The guy stopped, probably to redo his tie, like that could help him. Let’s hope he had a better taste then Mr. Twiddle Dee and Tweedle Dum floating leisurely behind him. With a few coughs the idiot strode into his office. Now this, Jack thought, was precious.

“Wallethead? You are the head of programming? Ahahaha…. this is hilarious, I never would have guessed you made it anywhere above that mailroom I first saw you at. Oh and the funny thing is you became quite ‘popular’ lately, just this other night a met a dude who spoke about you and ooooh he spoke a lot.” Jack said laughing, he could not believe an idiot like that would be responsible for programming.

“It’s… it’s an honor sir Jack, sir. I’m happy to know my colleagues speak fondly of me.” Vasquez said adjusting his tie and swallowing nervously.

“And when the hell did I mention ‘fondly’? But never mind that, we have more pressing matters here. So those two idiots behind me” Jack said pointing at the general direction of the window “yeah well they fucked up the newest line of guns that we released not long ago and now you, my dear old chump” he said coming closer and putting on hand on Vasquez shoulder “you’re the one who’s gonna make things right again.”

“Mmmme sir? But how?”

“Yes yyyyou. Well remember that nice enhancement your department made, the rotating elemental effect? Well we want something similar but on big guns, maybe add something new as well. So what do you say? It’s Friday now so you should have it ready for Monday.” He smiled dangerously at the man as if daring him to protest. After a minute he continued.

“Great then it’s settled. Now everyone get the fuck out of my office, there is some actual work that needs to be done. Adios!” He said and pushed the obnoxious people out of his office. Just before shutting his door he turned to the secretary.

“Oh and Clarice, the name of my pony is Butt Stallion just so you know.” He said and forcefully shut the door. He went to his desk, plopped on his dopamine inducing chair, pressed his Echo communicator and yelled at the top of lungs.

“Butt Stallion!”

The sound of a cup shattering could be heard outside of the office.

 

—o.o— Rhys –o.o—

 

Rhys woke up with a massive headache and, surprisingly, half of a mop. He wondered vaguely where the other half was, but decided he had more pressing matters like finding out what stupid shit he pulled off yesterday. He was a bad drunk always making some kind of a mess. Usually his friends were there to make sure he did not wake up in a ditch somewhere, this time however he had the brilliant idea of drinking before his work.

Thinking about work made him remember something he’d like to forget – he was a janitor now. Probably no amount of alcohol could make him forget that. The plus side to this was that now he could party every day and not worry that, due to his poor performance, he’d lose his job. Then again this type of lifestyle would probably lead him to an early grave – there was just this much his liver could handle.

He tried to stand up from the bed but soon toppled over, his insides twisting painfully. He really hoped for the content of his stomach to remain exactly where it was. He heard the sound of his door opening and felt something cool pressing to his forehead, which made him look up. Rhys was never so happy to see a simple bottle of water offered to him by his friend.

“You really went overboard yesterday bro. I mean don’t get me wrong, I totally would’ve done the same, get wasted and forget all that shit. That’s why I’m so sorry to be the bearer of these news but you need to get your shit together, like asap bro.” Vaughn said with the most apologetic face he could make. Seeing that Rhys was barely able to kneel on the floor at the moment, he helped him with the water as well.

“What? My next shift doesn’t start until way into the night, I have all the time I need to recover” Rhys replied reaching desperately for the offered liquid.

“Nah bro you see, I just read a message on your Echo, seeing as you were lying here half dead and all. It was Vasquez…” the accountant explained.

At the mere mention of that name Rhys felt his stomach becoming upset. If he went to Vasquez and threw up all over his place then so be it. Then again he was the janitor in charge so he’ll probably end up cleaning the place, that is, unless he wasn’t airlocked beforehand.

“What does that fucker want? To rub it in my face again? Or did I do something idiotic yesterday… Vaughn what DID I do yesterday?” Rhys asked with a panic stricken voice, his fist gripping Vaughn’s vest. He vaguely remembered having a conversation with someone in the middle of the night, but he had no idea who that was. He said a lot of shitty things about Vasquez and wait, did he hit the random person with his mop? Was that why he only had half of it now? What if it was Vasquez? No that was not possible, otherwise he would already be dead. But what if it was someone from the programming department who later retold the whole story to his shit-head boss? He was so dead.

“Bro I have no idea what you did, you went to work, remember? Anyways whatever it is it can’t wait. Vasquez said you are to show up in his office within 5 minutes. I think so far it’s been 10 minutes…” it was all Vaughn was able to say before he saw his friend taking off, the bottle of water discarded on the floor.

Rhys was frantically making his way to Vasquez office, bumping into every single person along the way. He still could not get a hold of the whole gravity thing, today was definitely not his day. He still felt like throwing up but he was too caught up in the idea of someone telling Vasquez of his late night tirade. He simply had to know what this was about. However if that was actually the case then wasn’t he running towards a certain death? He should really think things through, maybe at least take a gun with him? Did he even know how to shoot a gun?

“Rhys, finally, I said 5 minutes not an hour!” he heard Vasquez yelling from the end of the corridor, it was no denying it was him. Nobody had such an annoying voice. It screamed dickhead with every syllable. So there went the plan with the gun. He followed Vasquez to his office closing the door behind him. Come to think of it that might have also been a bad move.

“So Rhys, I actually just came here from Handsome Jack’s office.”

That certainly stunned Rhys into silence.

“You see me and him, we go waaay back. He’s actually a good pal of mine. So as his friend he asked me about an opinion about the latest weapon line, which, to be frank, isn’t doing so well. We came to the conclusion that a good idea would be to install some upgrades, like that fancy little elemental rotation thing.”

Wow this was definitely not what Rhys was expecting. He knew that the latest project for the new gun line was worth shit, it was obsolete. When Rhys first saw the guns he had a vague feeling that he has seen those particular models already, but he would need to check the records to be certain of that. However at the time he figured it’s not his problem but R&D’s so he wouldn’t bother. Apparently it now became his problem.

The person responsible for creating that particular elemental upgrade was him. He knew that no one outside of programming didn’t know about it, he let Henderson put it as a department success rather than his and was to be rewarded for being a team player. The reward, however, was rudely snatched from his hands by none other than Vasquez. Remembering that particular detail Rhys could not stop himself from saying.

“Of course I understand, but what can a janitor do really?” Rhys knew he had a leverage and he was sure to use it. No way as hell would Vasquez manage to do that upgrade on his own.

“Rhysie, I know you are a reasonable kid. I was just testing your resolve, I wanted to see if you wouldn’t crack under the pressure. But you took it like a man! That is why I have a great proposition for you. If you manage to do this project for me then you will have your old job back. How about it?” Vasquez asked putting both of his hands on Rhys shoulders.

If Rhys had any say in this, he would cut the offending appendages off, but thinking about Henderson made him reconsider. This was by no means a good deal, but it was better than he could hope for. Being back in his old job would opened new possibilities, ways to backstab Vasquez without him even knowing. However he wasn’t planning to say yes without a fight. He could actually gain something from this if he played his cards right.

“I’ll agree under one condition.”

“Oh and what is that.” Vasquez asked, irritation evident in the twitching of his brow.

“I want this project to be submitted under my name.” He was certain Vasquez would protest, but maybe by some miracle…

“OK”

Now Rhys was the one dumbfounded.

“What?” he asked, not believing his ears.

“I said ok, you’ve got yourself a deal Rhys, granted that you project will prove successful of course.”

“Of course” Rhys was confident he could pull it off in a week or two, but he didn’t like Vasquez agreeing so easily. There had to be some kind of a trick behind it.

“Great I want the project to be ready for Monday morning!” Vasquez said beaming, clapping his hands as if he was already counting the profit.

“WHAT?” ok so THAT was the catch.

“Get to work Rhys, you have a busy weekend ahead of you. Now go go go. Time’s a wastin’!”

 

—o.o— Monday  –o.o—

 

Rhys was practically operating on fumes - coffee, energy drinks and snack bars were his only means of survival. For the past 2,5 days he slept less than 5 hours constantly working on the project. At the beginning he was in despair, he didn’t think it was possible to finish such a major project in so little time. Last time it took him a month to finish and now he was down to a weekend.

When he came back to his apartment he was in a frenzy. Rhys decided that the only thing left for him to do was to pack his things and leave for Pandora, it was either that or being airlocked on Monday. Pandora at least offered him a slight chance of survival. Slight. If it wasn’t for Vaughn who talked him out of it he would already be halfway down to the desert planet infested by Psychos.

“Bro I believe in you! You can do it!” looking at the despair in his friend face he added “Well and if you can’t then you can always pack and go in the middle of the night, before Monday comes. That way you will at least be certain that it was indeed a fools mission.”

Luckily Rhys saw some sense in that and started working on the project right away. At first it was like cutting his veins with a rubber knife – slow and agonizing. If Siren’s powers were a useful tool for creating a project he would forgo his vows about never using them and made the best out of a miserable situation. Sadly those powers weren’t of any help outside of a battle zone. Surprisingly though on Saturday night he managed some progress and things started looking better. On Sunday morning he was actually becoming hopeful and as Monday rolled in, believe it or not, he had the project ready for Vasquez.

Needless to say the man was pleased and, without even looking at it, went straight to Handsome Jack’s office. Now all that was left to do was wait. If the project was deemed satisfying, then Rhys hoped to get recognition for it. Who knows, maybe they’ll send him to R&D. Considering his current boss that was actually not a bad idea, if he can’t kill him then putting a healthy distance between them would be the best solution. However Rhys really liked programming and he hated the idea of sacrificing something he loved because of some asshole.

“He kiddos this is Handsome Jack speaking. Soooo I’ve got a great announcement to make. Thanks to our beloved” suddenly there was a murmur ‘what department was that again, ah ok ok’ “so thanks to our programming department we will have some sweet ass modification applied to our newest line of guns, which will ultimately result in a shit ton of cash, yay cash, everyone loves the shiny. Sooo I’m ordering a meeting in the main hall where I want to test this new mod and also give some recognition to the designer. See you in ten kiddos.” The line went silent for a moment. “Oh and DON’T be late.”

Oh my God Rhys was going to have a heart attack. He was going to meet Handsome Jack himself! And to be recognized for his work nonetheless! It was about as good moment as any to faint.

“Rhys, bro did you hear the announcement!” Vaughn said bursting into his room followed by Yvette. “I can’t believe it’s happening bro, you’re gonna be famous”.

“Well as much as I hate to be the good person” Yvette chipped in “Rhys actually deserved it. I mean I have no idea how you pulled that off. Jack owes you one for saving his budget.”

“Yvette it’s Handsome Jack we’re talking about, he doesn’t owe anyone. He only let’s souls that are lucky enough to help him.” Rhys said shocked by Yvette’s words, well maybe a tiny bit pleased, but mainly shocked.

“Oh and there we go with the fanboy stuff again” she replied rolling her eyes.

“Oh please, it’s been years since I pulled those Handsome Jack posters off my walls. I did admire the guy, sure, I still do, but let’s not get crazy about it.” Rhys said and looked as his so called friends exchanging glances.

“Aaaanywho let’s get down to the hall, I, of all people, cannot be late!” Rhys said and dashed out of the room, his friends trailing behind him.

Rhys couldn’t believe his luck, three days ago he thought his life was over and now he was going to get the recognition he deserved. Everything was finally going great for him. Sure he actually worked hard to earn the praise and not many in Hyperion can say that, but what mattered now was the outcome. Judging by the bustling assembly hall the outcome would be amazing. They were just in time to see handsome Jack making it to the stage.

“So ladies and gentleman, I will try to keep it short as I know you busy bees are all eager to make some honey for Hyperion! Aaaanyway I invited these fine Pandoran lads to help me with my little presentation.”

Well Rhys never thought about how Jack is going to show off the gun he’s made. He turned in the direction Jack was pointing to and saw a few Psychos restrained by chains, one of them was a badass. He only heard of those but never actually saw one. The thing was three times the size of a normal one, with one hand big and the other tiny, muttering something unintelligible. Well Rhys was glad his gun wasn’t tested on some poor Hyperion workers, the psychos will do just fine.

“As you know some time ago we had a project that involved elemental bullets for revolvers. Well now, as the first company ever, we decided to move on to the big stuff. For today’s entertainment I’ll use a shotgun, but this modification can be applied for smgs, sniper rifles aaaaand, wait for it, rocket launchers. Haha yeah baby, imagine a big ass kaboom with corrosive effect. I bet there will be some nasty stain left to deal with. But enough of talking, let’s get on with the show!” Jack yelled to the audience, then took the shotgun, loaded it and set a mode on the caliber. He walked to the first psycho.

A loud bang could be heard and the psycho was consumed by flames. It was an effect known before only this time five times more intense. It consumed the psychos in no time. That was actually Rhys intention, to make the effect as massive as he could, so that no one would have to suffer for an extended period of time.

“Sweet ain’t it!” Jack said grinning like a maniac. “I would actually lessen the effect so that our target would suffer a bit more, but this is also fine.” He commented and moved on to the next psycho. Jack and Rhys definitely did not see eye to eye on that one.

Again a loud bang could be heard only this followed by the electrical effect intensified a couple of times. The third one, as expected, got the corrosive effect. Let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty view. All of this was to be expected but no one knew what would be the added enhancement. Would it kill such a colossal psycho in one shot? The anticipation grew with each second as Jack tempered with the modes.

Again a loud bang and the badass psychos was down, with one shot. Actually down would not be a good description. The psycho ended up flying through the entire hall, above the head of all of the spectators, and ended up impaled on one of the railings. Well even if he didn’t, he’d surely end up dead. The new mode seemed to work as some powerful kickback, surprisingly though Jack did not move an inch, whereas a colossal body of a badass psychos was left spiraling though the air. It was something like a wind effect, a badass fucking wind effect.

“Ooooh my God this is amazing, waaay better than I have hoped for! Imagine telling someone to buzz off and then take one of these babies and turn them into a fucking rakk newborn who doesn’t know how to fly yet. Ahahhahha this is some major shit, oooh it’s definitely going into my personal collection.”

Hearing all of this out of Handsome Jacks mouth was unbelievable. He was becoming giddy now, stomping from one foot to the other, anticipation building inside of him. He felt Vaughn placing a hand on his shoulder, Yvette nudging him in the side. At the moment though he wasn’t able to focus on his friends, instead he had his eyes glued to the scene.

“So to finish this small presentation with a well deserved applause, let’s thank the person responsible for completing this project. To be honest I didn’t think it was possible but he pulled it off. So let’s welcome”

Rhys couldn’t help the grin plastered to his face.

“my man…”

Rhys was practically jumping in place

“my one and only”

He was already making his way towards the scene.

“Wallethead a.k.a Vasquez!!!”

There was a round of applause as the man ascended the stairs while Rhys stopped dead in his tracks.  He heard blood rushing though his body, pressure rising. He went on autopilot, not registering anything that was happening around him. He tuned out the loud clapping, the words of gratitude for the recognition Vasquez received, the worried voices of his friends. Silently he made his way to Vasquez office not aware of anything that was happening around him. He stayed there for minutes, maybe hours he couldn’t tell. Finally the sound of door opening could be heard.

“Oh Rhys what a pleasant surprise” Vasquez said with saccharine tone, a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. “So glad you came in to congratulate me.” He said while passing Rhys and making a beeline for his chair.

“You lied.” Rhys said in a deadly, yet quiet voice.

“Well Rhysie don’t tell me you believed I would give you back your old job? Wow you really are naïve, if I didn’t know you I’d say you never laid a foot on Hyperion.” He said in a smug tone, putting his legs up on the desk, hands clasped behind his head.

“You piece of shit. You motherfucking lying piece of SHIT! You are so pathetic it hurts to even watch you! You are capable of nothing on your own, you could not distinguish left from right if someone didn’t point you in the right direction. You are absolutely worthless! And let me tell you, killing Henderson to get where you are because you’re obviously not capable of making it on your own is one thing, taking my job? That’s just petty, BUT taking ownership of my project, that was a BIG fucking mistake.” Rhys hollered, hands shaking. Never in his life was he so furious, he practically saw red.

He was certain Vasquez will retaliate, probably with brute force as it was all he was capable of and Rhys did not know where to take it from there. He hadn’t planned so far ahead, actually he hadn’t planned anything at all. He simply came here to vent, taking his project was the last straw.

What he did not expect, however, was the confused look on Vasquez face as he abruptly stood up from his chair and backed away, looking at Rhys up and down. If he had cared enough to look into a mirror hanging not far away, he would have realized  that currently all of his tattoos glowed bright blue, his hair floating a bit from their normal swept-back state. Rhys didn’t realize all of that until it was too late.

In a split of a second every object in the room, which wasn’t solidly nailed to the walls or the floor, flew in Vasquez direction. All of the anger stopped as soon as his boss fell to the floor. Only then did Rhys realize what happened. He let loose of his emotions and activated his Siren powers, something he promised he would never do. But he wasn’t even conscious of it, the powers seemed to act up of his angered state and the sudden wish of seeing Vasquez dead.

Vasquez was lying on the floor in the pool of his own blood which was slowly seeping in all directions. He had a multitude of objects sticking out of him, pens, scissors, broken parts of the mirror, even Henderson’s golden statuette he was so fond of. He looked like a pin cushion. The view made Rhys feel sick as well as terrified of what his powers were capable of doing. Still some small part of him, one he did not wish to recognize, felt satisfied that the man was who has taken everything from him finally got what he deserved.

His semi-victory was short lived and panic took over. What if someone heard them? What if someone saw what he did? The cameras! They were everywhere in the office. Rhys sat down quickly hacking the main computer, as soon as he got to the recorded footage he deleted all of it, leaving no trace of what transpired in the office. It was no use trying to hide the body, he would not pull it off without getting spotted. The only option left for him was to run and make sure no one will connect him to the murder. He quickly made his way out of the office, leaving the corpse of his former boss lying sprawled on the floor. A fitting death for a pompous douche.

Chapter Text

Jack didn’t like what he was seeing. He was standing in a massive pool of blood, over the corpse of the newly appointed Head of Programming. Don’t get him wrong, the CEO didn’t give two shits about Wallethead, though he did like that sweet elemental enhancement the man made. He could’ve been useful to him in the long run, but what can you do. Spilt milk and all that shit. What he did not enjoy, however, was the fact that his new sneakers were ruined, soaked in Wallethead’s blood. He’ll throw them out as soon as he steps out of the office… fuck these were his favorites!

“Man this is such a loss!” the CEO commented while circling the body.

“That’s true sir, he was a brilliant man. Those upgrades he created…” a guy from the ‘cleaning team’ interjected.

“I was talking about the shoes you moron.” Jack said eyeing his sneakers with distaste.

Every single time a murder took place in Hyperion there were these ‘cleaning guys’ who’d come get rid of the mess. They also investigated the scenes in order to identify the culprit. Jack was sure they didn’t complain about lack of work. Also they probably had a steady cash flow from people who tried to cover their tracks - bribery was so common in Hyperion. That was also the reason why the culprit was almost never found. Besides this is Hyperion we’re talking about. No one even cared.

Unfortunately this time was different, Jack DID care. If there was someone in his corporation who could make a pin cushion out of a man then he needed to know who it was. Fast.

“What happened here? How the fuck is this even possible? Is it a work of some sadist who kills people and then stabs him with everything that’s in his range of vision?” Jack asked pushing a hand though his unruly hair with a hint of grey, exasperation evident in his voice. “Did something like this ever happen before?”

“Well sir, this is the strange thing. There is no bullet trace, nothing that could identify the weapon used. Also, after inspecting the wounds, we came to the conclusion that all of the objects were not injected postmortem.”

“So are you telling me he was stabbed with all of this” Jack motioned wildly to the objects sticking out of Vasquez’s body at various angles “simultaneously? While he was fucking alive?!”

“Yes sir, it seems so.” A short and chubby woman answered.

“What the hell? How the fuck would it even be possible?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out. We have a theory of a gun or some type of fancy electronics, that can maybe create a gravity pull in a set location. That’s the only logical explanation at the moment, but we’re not sure such a device would even exist.” A tall man interjected, fiddling with his glasses to hide his nervousness.

“Of course it fucking doesn’t exist, if it did I would’ve known, don’t you think dumbass? Unless someone created something new without my knowledge and if that was the case then I need to get my hands on it. Imagine the money!” Jack exclaimed, envisioning the success of such a weapon going into mass production under the Hyperion brand. This would be even better than the new added elemental. Too bad Vasquez was dead, he would actually be useful right about now.

“We think that if such a technology existed it might come from the vault. We have heard many times of the alien technology that could be found there.” The short women piped in.

Ah yes that would make much more sense. Well if it couldn’t be reproduced then Jack’s number one priority would be to a) own it or b) destroy it. He couldn’t let a threat such as this exist. What if the next time he’s giving a speech someone decides that his face should be the centre of gravity? Given his awesomeness he actually already was in the centre of the universe, but he sure as hell didn’t want to bring it to a level which would result in him becoming a pin cushion. He was pretty sure that if a thing like that happened then his octagonal shield would serve its purpose… still he did not want to take any chances. Determined he made his way to the computer.

“What are you doing sir?” the guy with the glasses asked. It seemed as if he was trying to protest in a way, probably something about contaminating the murder scene, but faltered at the last moment.

“Something you idiots should have done a long time ago, provided you had any brain cells at all.” Jack commented offhandedly. “All of the main offices have a security system implemented, there are several cameras monitoring this room as we speak.”

Jack was confident he would know the identity of the culprit in no time, most of Helios’ workers did not have two brain cells to rub. If the person responsible for ruining his favorite sneakers was still on the station then he would deal with them in a matter of minutes. Oh he could not wait to get his hands on the device.  The CEO got to work in no time, spending several minutes quickly inserting codes into the security system in order to retrieve the video footage.

Jack was not great when it came to designing, though he would never admit to falling short on anything. Anyways he had people for that stuff, people he paid way too much in his opinion. Programming though was a different story. Jack loved it and he was pretty sure there was no one at the station that would be a match for his skills. The whole security system of Hyperion was something he programmed and executed on his own. Sadly lately Jack did not have as much time to indulge in the hobby, but he relished every chance he got. He was a fucking Coding God, that’s what he was.

That is why when Jack couldn’t find the footage after several minutes, he knew something was wrong. It should be a matter of two minutes for him, instead it was now fifteen minutes and he was still tapping angrily on the keyboard, trying to insert different commands into the system. An idea came to his mind and he opened up a new window to check the commands that were inserted in the past 24 hours.

“Fuck!” He cursed and curled his hand into a fist, hitting the desk with all the force he could. The action left a sizable dent.

“Wha… what happened sir.”

“We’re not dealing with an idiot here.” Jack stood up and started walking up and down the big window, leaving a trail of bloody footprints on the floor. “He erased the video footage from last night, from ALL of the cameras. Even the hidden one, he also managed to erase the copy of the files on the main security drive. He shouldn’t even know it existed in the first place.” Jack muttered mainly to himself. He stopped abruptly and looked at the team.

“I want a list of Vasquez possible enemies, ones with good programming skills. It may have been someone from his department. Someone who didn’t like Wallethead advancing the corporate ladder… or should it be Pincushion now? Anyways I want names on my desk.” He said with a threatening voice and made his way out of the office, stepping over Vasquez on the way.

“You have an hour” Jack said with finality in his tone before slamming the door shut.

As expected there was a list waiting at his desk 59 minutes later.

 

—o.o— Rhys  –o.o—

 

Rhys was drinking his second, or was it third, cup of coffee that morning. The programmer was jittery, his nerves on edge. He did not catch any sleep that night, thoughts coming back to what happened. Every time Rhys closed his eyes he would see Vasquez shell-shocked face and then a multitude of objects stabbing his body. Rhys had murdered someone and even though it technically happened on an accident, the intent was still there.

It’s not as if the guy didn’t deserve it, he sure as hell did. Still it didn’t make Rhys feel any better about it. At least not at the moment, when he was terrified of what would happen to him. He knew that, come morning, someone will definitely find the body starting off an investigation. If he was lucky it would end at that – everyone knew that the cleaning team was as efficient as a blind man working on interior design. What worried him though, was the possibilities of higher-ups being involved. Since Vasquez demise was…. rather unusual, it was sure to attract attention.

Suddenly someone burst into the apartment, running for the kitchen. His heart almost stopped for a moment but soon felt relief flooding him when he saw the familiar face of his best friend.

“Dude, did you hear the news?!” Vaughn asked short of breath.

“Calm down bro… wha.. what news.” He asked as if he didn’t already know the answer. He couldn’t tell Vaughn about it, sure he was his friend, but he didn’t trust anyone with his secret.

“Assquez is dead!”

“What?!” Rhys feigned surprise.

“Dead! As in kaput, null, not breathing, resting casually in the pool of his own blood!” Vaughn shouted excitedly, which wasn’t very proper given the news.

“Whoa… how did this happen?” Rhys asked the question that has been nagging him ever since his friend came to relate the ‘happy’ news.

“No idea bro, the team is working on it as we speak. But who cares! This means you can finally get into THE seat, no Mr Smarmy there to stop you.” His friend said excitedly. If only he knew.

“Well that’s good to hear…” he said and heard the door to his apartment opening again. This time a click clack of heels could be heard. Rhys was certain it was Yvette coming to join the party, however, to his surprise he saw an unfamiliar enter the room. The woman had a Hyperion style office dress and an equally Hyperion style disdain written on her face as she was looking at Vaughn up and down.

“You Rhys?” she asked in a clipped tone. “Come with me”

Rhys knew this wasn’t good He could practically hear his stomach clenching, nerves overtaking him. If not for the strong grip on his cup of coffee he was sure his hands would tremble shake like crazy. He was also pretty sure that he was about to faint any second now. For a brief, very brief, like almost inexistent moment, Rhys considered the option of pretending Vaughn really was him.

What was happening to him? First murder and now using his best friend as a human shield? Pathetic that’s what he was…. The option was tempting though…

“Uh no, I’m Rhys. May I ask what this is about?” Rhys asked as nonchalantly as he could, better not to cause suspicion.

“You’re next on the list.” She said impatiently.

“And what list is that?” he felt like he didn’t really want to know the answer to that.

“Handsome Jack’s ‘to do’ list. It seems you’re the last one.” She said and turned her back on him. “Come on, we ain’t got all day. Mr Jack doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

So Rhys was going to die, that was certain now. He wondered briefly if it was worth making a dash for it. He knew the shortest route to the shuttles that could take him to Pandora, but let’s face it he would not survive a day down there. Maybe he could if he used his siren abilities, too bad he wasn’t even sure how to use them. Besides if he did that then he would place himself on R&D’s radar. It seems there was no way out of this.

What comforted him a bit was the fact that he was on ‘a list’ which implied that Jack wasn’t sure who actually committed the murder. He was pretty sure he did a good job of erasing the video footage from the system. He even made sure that the hidden copies were dealt with. Rhys knew Jack was responsible for creating the whole security system of Helios, a pretty damn admirable thing to do, and knowing the man’s paranoia, for which he was famous for, Rhys knew there had to be a hidden file with backup copies. Sure enough he found one, however, now he wondered whether there might be a hidden hidden file somewhere. Everything was possible when it came for Jack.

After an impatient growl from the women he stood up on shaky legs and made his way out of the room, Vaughn passing a worried glance at him. He followed the neatly dressed women to the main elevator shift, she ushered everyone to get off and put some kind of a pass code into the elevator’s system.

“Destination 44th floor.” The automatic elevator system announced.

So he was going to meet Handsome Jack in person. He would be ecstatic at the idea if it wasn’t for two things. One, as much as he admired the man he was also terrified of him, like everyone else on Helios. Two, he was most likely making his way towards an early demise. Rhys wondered briefly what kind of death awaited him, airlock, hidden passage of doom (there were rumors about it being installed somewhere on the floor of Jacks office, he needed to make sure where he stepped), or a plain bullet to the head. Somehow he favored the third option. He hoped that Jack wouldn’t use his elemental enhancement on him. Oh the irony.

Suddenly a terrifying thought entered his mind. What if Jack knew this was the work of a siren? The man was known for his unusual interest in them, had been the reason for the demise of half of their population (which probably equaled the number of three, maybe five). All of the sirens caught by Jack had been sent to R&D for testing. The CEO had some major plans concerning the unusually gifted people and was extremely disappointed in the result. Rhys wasn’t sure what the plan involved, he knew one thing, being experimented on until he died was not his idea of fun. Suddenly the death trap did not sound as bad.

The elevator announced their arrival. He saw the woman approaching the desk next to Jack’s office door, in that case she was probably his secretary. If he knew it was Meg then he would’ve asked her about some survival tips on the way, everyone knew she was the record breaker – the longest lasting secretary Jack had. No time for that now. She ushered him into the office. There were four bodies lined on the floor. Now he was definitely going to faint.

He didn’t have much time to admire the legendary office, with its huge view on Elpis (were there people floating outside?) when he saw the yellow chair turning. Rhys felt his knees getting weak. Sure enough there was Handsome Jack sitting cross legged, one ankle placed on top of the other legs' knee, elbows resting on the armchair, fingers touching, a pensive look on his face.

“Finally!”

 

—o.o— Jack  –o.o—

 

He turned towards the door as soon as he heard it opening and shutting. He really had to get it over with as soon as possible. The four babbling idiots really got on his nerves. None of them confessed but he wasn’t really expecting a confession out of them. He settled on eliminating any possible threats and that was that. There was only one more idiot to deal with. This was actually the most possible suspect. According to the papers he received, this Rhys person (he’s parents must not have loved him enough to give him a legitimate name) was supposed to be the one appointed by Henderson as the next Head of Programming. He had the most reason to kill Wallethead, who apparently got rid of the old geezer to get the promotion. Jack knew right away that there was something fishy about the idiot being so high up the corporate ladder.

“Finally!” he exclaimed, turned around in his chair, and stood up. Instead of going around his desk he unceremoniously stepped on it and jumped off, making a bee line for the new visitor. Either the floor was unusual bumpy or he might have stepped on a few corpses on the way. When he stood in front of the younger man he put both of his hands on the guys shoulders. As if the lanky figure was not terrified enough as it was.

Wait a moment. When he was eye level with the programmer there was something nagging at him. He was sure he knew the guy from somewhere. Where the fuck did he meet him? Long-ass spiderant legs, lanky figure, overall a pleasant face… for a guy, nice hair… not as nice as his of course but still. Where the hell… where the hell..

“Sir Jack sir…. Uh it’s a pleasure” The boy said clearly on the verge of fainting.

Jack started spinning him around, looking at him left and right and the programmer just let him do whatever he wanted, like a rag doll or something. In the meantime Jack was becoming more and more pissed. That squeaky voice of his did not help his concentration, he knew that not everyone was blessed with a voice like his but still. Actually it reminded him of that compliment the…. suddenly his eyes widened.

“Chad! Haah so good to see you man” Jack said grinning and clapped the janitor on the back, apparently hard enough to almost make him topple over.

“Um excuse me?” Chad asked, could those eyes get any bigger?

“Oh come on Chad, don’t you remember me? Now I feel offended. You hit me with a mop remember?” Jack said and saw realization and dread mixing in the janitor’s features.

“Nah don’t worry Chad I’m not mad, you made up for it with that comment about my voice being angelic and such. Of course you didn’t tell anyone I got hit by a mop did you?” he asked schooling his features to stay neutral, though that never really worked for him. He hoped for Chad’s sake he wasn’t stupid enough to go an blabber such things. In case he had though, the body count would have to rise, no way around it.

“No no no… of course not.” Chad said shaking his head violently. Jack gripped his jaw effectively immobilizing it.

“Good boy. Now I’m assuming you were called in to take care of this mess.” Jack said gesturing at the bodies. “You’ll have to wait a bit though, there’s still one coming up any second now. Have you ever witnessed a man being killed Chad?” Jack asked, his mood rising with the janitors presence. The boy wanted to shake his head again but Jack’s grip prevented him to. The CEO got the notion though.

“Ah kiddo you don’t know what you’re missing! Anyway today’s your lucky day, you’ll get to hog the front seat while I deal with this Rhys guy.” At his words the janitor seemed to go three shades paler. Maybe he wasn’t as fun as Jack remembered him to be.

“Oh come on cupcake, don’t be a spoilsport, it’s gonna be fun, I promise.” Jack said happy to have an appreciative audience this time around. He finally let go of the lanky figure, causing him to stumble a bit.

“Now let me just call that secretary of mine, what was her name again….” Jack asked no one in particular, making his way to his Echo Communicator.

“Meg” the janitor said faintly.

“What? Nah kiddo Meg was like a few secretaries ago. Now it’s hmmm” Jack paused. He pushed the button of his comm. “So Janice, where the hell is Rhys?”

“He’s in your office, sir. Also the name is…” She said and was cut off rather rudely.

“No no, Chad is in my office, as in the janitor. I want the programmer. Not that me and Chad aren’t having a fun time over here, still I hate to leave things undone.”

“Jack, sir. Well conditioned brown hair, brown eyes, long ass legs, shaky as a leaf on the wind – that’s your programmer.” She said in a stoic voice.

Jack looked at the man expectantly, shutting his communicator. After a minute he broke the silence.

“Care to explain?”

 

—o.o— Rhys  –o.o—

 

“Care to explain?”

Ok Rhys breath in breath out. What’s the way out of this mess? If Jack knew he was the programmer he would kill him instantly, but lying was not an option. If he did, they’d just check his employee card and will have all of the information they need to identify him. Besides lying to Handsome Jack was definitely not an option. So the truth then. Hah the truth, this was going to be good.

“Ah ha ha. Yes. Well you see sir. Um…” He laughed nervously, one hand scratching the back of his head.

“Well get on with it sweet cheeks, remember I don’t admire your voice as much as you do mine.” Jack said taking out his gun from the holster. The elemental one. Fuck.

Jack casually leaned on his desk. His gaze left him for the moment to focus on the gun he was playing with. The lack of eye contact made Rhys relax a bit, which was funny since now the gun was the main focus.

“So it’s a funny story really. I was supposed to become the Head of Programming, but then in comes Vasquez and airlocks Henderson. Needless to say I was not happy with it. I mean…” he looked at the guys floating outside the window “not that there’s anything wrong with airlocking someone. Pretty efficient way to be honest.” Now Jack was looking at him again, his face expressionless.

“Uh well I’m just saying in general sir… Anyways Vasquez demoted me to Head Janitor and I was really pissed… understandably so. That night my mop… accidently strayed from my hands, was my first shift. I had someone’s vest at the time hence the name Chad…. That’s about it. I swear I did not kill anyone.”

Jack looked at him for a long moment not saying anything.

“Soooo, all the angry shouting about wanting to kill Vasquez?” Jack said referring to Rhys drunken speech.

“Ahahah that? Noooo those were just some anger issues I was going through. I would never kill anyone, you’ve got to believe me sir.” Rhys said nervously, gauging Jack’s reaction. Still nothing. He figured that if he didn’t come up with something soon, then he’d join the line of bodies littering the floor. At that moment something actually came to his mind but he wasn’t sure whether it would prove to be a good leverage, or maybe just a nail to his coffin. He decided to try his luck.

“To be honest sir I had a lot to be angry about. It’s… it’s not just the demotion to janitor, I mean sure it wasn’t cool but pffft I’m so over that. Water under the bridge. What really got to me was the fact that he stole my project. You see sir, I am the one responsible for those elemental upgrades. That’s why I was supposed to be promoted in the first place. I can tell you all the details about that gun you’re holding sir, which is not pointed at anyone… which is nice.”

Now Jack stood up from his desk and again made his way towards Rhys. He fucked up. Rhys slowly started backing away, still trying to talk his way out of it.

“Mr Jack sir, I can still create a lot of new upgrades that would bring huge profit. But that’s all I can do, I mean haha look at me sir? Is this the face of a killer? Sure I was angry with Vasquez but I wouldn’t kill him, not that I’m not happy someone did… I mean he was a total douche but still…”

Wow what the fuck Rhys? Weren’t Jack and Vasquez friends or something? At least that’s what the dickface said…. he’s gonna get killed now. Sure enough Jack loaded his pistol, turning the mode to air elemental (when did he have the time to install that in his personal gun so fast?). Ok so Rhys will basically fly through the office with the speed of a hungry skag attacking its pray, and then hit the wall. The impact will no doubtly crash his skull but hey, at least it’s not the corrosive one.

And then came the loud bang.

 

—o.o— Jack  –o.o—

 

Jack fired the gun. Of course not in the head of the janitor, which by the looks of it the kid was expecting him to do. He had closed his eyes and was wincing as if some force had hit him, his knuckles white from how much pressure he put into his fisted palms.

“AAAhhhhhahahahah you should have seen the look on your face kiddo!” Jack said laughing so hard he had tears in the corners of his eyes. He was bent forward, hands on his knees laughing uncontrollably. This was precious. Finally after a minute or two he sobered up and looked at the bewildered kid.

“Ah sorry there pumpkin, I had to do it. You see these guys” he pointed in the direction of the corpses, at which he aimed the gun at “were slowly getting on my nerves, so ya know, had to blow them away since my assumed janitor turns out to be a programmer in disguise. Then again technically you’re still a janitor no?” Jack mused scratching his chin with the gun he was holding. The corpses in mention were still littering the floor only now they were scattered on the other side of the office. Although it did help to clear out the immediate space, now they were in many more pieces. Huh. Annoying even after their deaths. Just like a certain someone who, according to Jack’s eerie feeling, was still floating somewhere outside his window. Really… the corpses he had to put up with.

“I… I can take care of that if you wish me to, sir.” Rhys question shook him out of his musings. Ah yes the spiderant kiddo.

“Nah, there are more entertaining things you can do. Listen Rhysie, may I call you that, yes great so… That story of yours was so fucking hilarious. I mean for a long time I hadn’t had so much fun. It’s like every time I see you, you crack me up. But I bet you’re wondering why I haven’t killed you yet.” Jack said and stepped closer to Rhys, circling him like a predator.

“Well yeah but I do not mind my current state of living…” Rhys said looking at the floor which he seemed to find fascinating ever since Jack came closer.

“Ahaha you are a real tiger ya’ know.” Jack, while laughing again, put one hand around Rhys’s shoulder. His other hand was still holding the pistol, waving it haphazardly while he talked.

“Well I was planning to eliminate every possible threat and you were on top of the list because, let’s face it, you had the most reason to kill Wallethead.” He felt the kids muscles tensing, ah he did have quite an intimidating nature, but Jack kept forgetting that. He always thought his entertaining personality overshadowed the ‘irritate me and I will kill you’ side of him.

“Don’t get your panties in a twist kiddo. You see I thought all that before I met you and now, seeing that it’s you, well the threat part got nullified. I mean look at you, the most you can do is threaten someone with a mop. Now don’t get me that look kiddo, there’s nothing bad in being a lanky, fear-stricken noodle. Ok well it might have some disadvantages, like you see someone else taking credit for what you worked your ass off and you do what? Cry in a corner? Or what does your type do. Never mind that, at least you’re happy the dickface is gone, I would’ve thought something was seriously wrong with you kiddo, if you said he didn’t deserve such a fate. He sure as hell did.” Jack finally let go of Rhys and made his way to the sofa under the window panel. He plopped down on it and started analyzing his gun again.

“Sooooo you’re saying I’ve got you to thank for this elemental upgrade? Pretty damn impressive, now tell me pumpkin, do you think that there could be some kind of enchantment to a gun that would allow a gravity concentration in a set location?” Jack asked for two reasons. First of all he wanted to test the kid, sure he said he was behind all of the work, but could he trust him so easily? Jack did not trust anyone and even though the kid looked like he couldn’t lie convincingly if his life depended on it, he had to make sure. Secondly he genuinely wanted to know what type of technology caused Wallethead his sudden and hilarious demise. Well it was hilarious to Jack, the man always had a bloated ego, about time someone put a pin to it, are a dozen.

“Gravity? I never put much thought into it, but I don’t think it would be possible. Not with a gun at least….” The kid said and went silent for a while. Jack didn’t say anything, which was rather uncharacteristic for him, but that’s because he knew the kids cogs were turning. He was thinking over possibilities, analyzing variables in his head, much like Jack used to do every time he worked on a new project. He could give the code monkey a few minutes, Jack felt rather generous today.

“But… Well it’s hard to tell for sure without prior calculations, but it might be possible to make gravity concentration a primary effect of a grenade. With a gun there is the risk of the effect starting off a soon as someone fires a gun, which would not end well for the user, but with a grenade it might be plausible. Maybe a launcher could also work, but the effect might be too drastic. The gravity field might sustain for a long amount of time and there would be too many variables to account for…..” The kid was in his own world, it’s as if he forgot where he was and who he was talking to, all that was in his line of vision was work. It reminded Jack of himself, every time he found himself an interesting project he would delve into it and forget about everything else. Just like when he was creating Hyperion Security, he was out for days programming day and night. No one knew what happened to the CEO who suddenly disappeared.

“So to sum it up, it might be possible for grenades, but I can’t say for sure, it would require some work and a lot of resources.” Rhys stated and as soon as he did, his face changed, as if he just remembered where he was and who he was talking to. He quickly added a mumbled ‘sir’.

Jack smiled, the kid was definitely not a threat, he would bet his money on that. In all his years working for Hyperion he came across different types of people. Type 1 a lot of muscles a bit of brain. Type 2 a fair amount of brain and no muscles. Type 3 a bit of a mix. They further divided into a) boot lickers b) backstabbers c) cold killers.

And where was Rhys in all of this? Nowhere. The kid was a bit of type two, so the brainy type, but he was also easy on the eyes, despite beeing the noodle he was. Behavior wise though, he seemed neither. It’s like he  wanted to make his way to the top with honest work. What a fucked up kid. There was something about him though, something that made Jack relax. It’s as if his relentless paranoia was not present around Rhys. It must be because there was not a bad bone in the kids body. If you ask Jack it was a bit pathetic yet oddly refreshing.

“Okay pumpkin, get on it then!” Jack said holstering his gun. He clapped his hands whilst standing up.

“On with what?” Rhys asked while looking at something intently. Jack followed his gaze to the window behind him where sure enough mr persistent was still floating, followed closely by his companion mr annoying. Ok that’s three days in a row, seriously.

“Well with working on it. If there is a possibility of creating a gravity concentration, and looking at our friend Wallethead there sure as hell is, then I want to officially own this technology before it goes into mass production by any of our competitors.” Jack said and once again put one hand around Rhys shoulders, this time leading him towards the door. He would enjoy chatting with him some more but being the CEO he had to get things done.

“Um technically I’m still a janitor sir.” The kid said meekly.

“Ahahaha yes forgot about that. Well then you’re now officialy the Head of Programming, congrats kid, you deserved this” he said in a saccharine tone, patting Rhys on the shoulder. “Unless you prefer to be a janitor, in that case let’s pretend I never said anything. Now Rhysie imagine that, a janitor at Hyperion creating the first ever gravity grenade! How cool does that sound, huh pumpkin?”

“Uh I’m not sure the project will work, I still need to…” The kid was saying something but Jack did not really focus on it.

“Ah just kidding with ya tiger. So you are officially promoted. Also you get unlimited access to R&D research facility. My secretary Tatiana will give you the pass together with an Echo Comm for an easy way to reach you. Shout out on the echo net if you need anything. So yeah that’s about it, now go do your stuff. Time’s a wastin’” Jack said and pushed him out of the door. He really wished he could chat more with the kid, damned be his duties. Oh he just remembered on more crucially important detail.

“Rhysie one more thing, now I need your honest opinion on this. Since you’re a fan of my voice and all, do you think I should do something with it, I mean like market wise? I’ve got a lot of merchandise with my face on it and all, should I do some with voice acting, a cover maybe?” Jack asked holding the door to his office open. Looking expectantly at Rhys.

 

—o.o— Rhys  –o.o—

 

Fuck he was almost out of the danger zone and now the CEO had to land such a bomb on him. Firstly is there a right type of answer for this or was it a tricky question? Secondly, was Jack ever going to let it go that, while being drunk, Rhys had complimented his voice. And thirdly FUCK the man talked a lot.

Ok Rhys you’re almost at the elevator, you can do this.

“Better not sir” Rhys said and looking at Jack’s irritated expression he quickly added “I always say better leave some things to the imagination.” Rhys answered as vaguely as he could.

“Huh, like my voice could overwhelm the masses? Well that is a fair point, I’ve got too much fans as it is. You see Rhysie, I knew it was a good choice not to turn you into my office carpet.” He said with a satisfied smile and turned to the secretary. “Audrey give Rhysie here an Echo Comm and a clearance card for the R&D facility.” He added and the moment the doors shut behind him Rhys felt like he was about to fall to his knees and die from amount of stress that built up in his body.

“Hey ass-licker, here are the things you need.” Meg said handing him the communicator and pass. Rhys didn’t even argue, knowing that his last comment was so lame. Apparently one would do a lot to live. He couldn’t hold it against Meg. Which reminded him.

“How the hell did you manage to stay here for so long?” Rhys asked causing Meg to smile slyly.

“Fashion baby. I change looks every couple of days and Jack thinks I’m a new secretary for the one he fired. On some days I even say I’m Meg playing a bit on his paranoia. Don’t look at me like that, I know it’s risky but hey, I’m working here all alone. I need to create my own entertainment somehow. Worst case scenario I’ll just have to redo my hair for the next day. I actually have a few wigs at home.”

Rhys thought that Meg and Jack complemented each other quite well, but decided not to say anything. He made his way towards the elevator. Rhys had some serious thinking to do. He couldn’t wrap his mind around all of what transpired. Did a mop assault on the CEO of Hyperion just save his life? He was fairly certain he would be dead by now if it wasn’t for that chance encounter.

Suddenly he heard a small beep and saw his Echo Communicator glow slightly. He always wanted to have one of those but they were only reserved for the hire-ups. Now apparently for him as well. He opened the device and looked at the message he received.

The1&onlyHJ: I’m in a generous mood today so I left you a present. I just hacked into the electronic system in your room (by the way your room has 8 square meters in total, even a noodle like you should have some semblance of a normal living space, buy a new apartment asap) and changed your alarm clock. It’s a surprise, I’ll just say I did you a favor. Hope you won’t be OVERWHELMED… hahahaha >smiley face< >rotfl< >lol<

The message was followed by a completely unrelated gif of a spitter skag being ran over by some bandits who in turn met their doom colliding with a train.

The1&onlyHJ: Sorry that one always cracks me up >super smiley face<

Okay now he was certain that his advice was not taken seriously. What he also knew was that the man he admired and feared for years, the man half of Hyperion would die to shake hands with, Handsome Jack himself…. was FUCKING exasperating.

Chapter Text

“Waaaaake up sunshine. Rhys and shine! Get it? RHYS and fucking shine ahahaha.”

“Nghaaaaaaaaaaaaah” Rhys jumped out of the bed and threw his pillow at the source of the ongoing laughter. True to his word Jack did change his alarm clock and now the obnoxious laughter woke him up every day. On top of that the man did not even know how to pronounce his name correctly. It did things to his nervous system. Rhys could swear that he started having nervous twitches ever since the damned alarm clock was changed.

At first he woke up in a panic, thinking that it was actually his boss deciding against keeping him alive. Now that he got used to that goddamned thing it was mainly just annoying. The laughter especially. Rhys wished he could destroy the alarm clock but he was afraid Jack would somehow find out about it and then install something even worse. Like an alarm with an automated gun giving you 5 seconds to turn it off before shooting. Yes that would be definitely something Jack would’ve enjoyed. Rhys tried to hack the clock but Jack made sure that there was a report system, which meant that his boss would know as soon as he tempered with it.

He made his way out of the room to greet Vaughn who was already sitting at the table, munching on some toasts. Jack did suggest to find a new apartment, but he really enjoyed living with Vaughn so he did not entertain the idea. Sure the space was small, but he spend most of the day at R&D anyways, so he felt there was no need for change. Besides it’s not like Jack would remember that offhand comment, or even care about Rhys accommodation.

“Hey Rhys, the alarm still  gives me the chills. You sure you can’t do anything about it?” Vaughn asked while busying himself with a crossword of some sorts. He was a total nerd.

“You don’t think I tried everything already? Believe me bro, this is not the way I wish to greet every single day of my life.” Rhys answered annoyed, scanning the cupboard for any leftovers. They really needed to do grocery shopping regularly.

“Still what are the odds of meeting Handsome Jack who has intended to kill you and yet keep on living. It’s like those psychos at Pandoran circus who put their heads in the claws of a spiderant king and then pull them out just as the creature is about snap its pincers.” Vaughn described his vision animatedly while stuffing another toast in his mouth.

“Thank you for the visual presentation Vaughn, that… was really unnecessary. It’s not like I’m not stressed enough as it is, with this idiotic project. I don’t know how the hell I’m going to pull it off. Gravitation grenade, was I nuts?” Rhys despaired.

“Come on bro, if anyone is able to do it, then it’s you. Besides it must be possible, look at the way Vasquez ended up. There is just no other explanation.” Vaughn tried to reassure his friend, little did he know he was doing the exact opposite.

Of course no one knew the truth behind the murder. It was not any kind of weapon that ended Vasquez life, but Rhys powers wakening due to his emotional turmoil. That was another thing to worry about. If rage made him lose control who said the same wouldn’t happen when Rhys was stressed. His powers might act up and seeing how stressed he was lately, he might have a meltdown any day now.

“We’re not certain it was a gravity grenade, anyways what happens if I don’t manage to do it? Will Jack decide it was not worth keeping me alive?” Rhys decided he was knees deep in shit. Shit.

“Don’t stress out bro. I’m sure he already forgot about you. He didn’t contact you once since that time and how long has it been? Two weeks?” Vaughn tried to reassure his friend.

“Well if not for the project then he’d surely forget all about me. It’s not like I’m counting on regular chats with the man, I’m not stupid. But I’m sure he’ll come around soon, with that revolver of his, waving it all around the place. And what will I say? I’m sorry Jack I wasn’t able to finish what you asked for. I might as well kill myself and be done with it.” Rhys said, his voice rising with every sentence. “Besides the past week he’s been supervising some important shit on Pandora. I’m sure that when he gets back he’ll want to see results.”

“I’m sure that’s not gonna happen.” Vaughn paused for a moment. “But, let’s assume, I mean let’s hypothesize….”

“No you cannot have my sock collection you vulture! Seriously it feels like you’re circling over my half-dead body already. I bet Yvette’s not far behind…” Rhys stated suddenly losing all of his appetite. Besides the sooner he got to the labs the more time he could spend on figuring out why the hell gravity was such a bitch to handle.

“Oh come on bro, I just wanted to lighten the mood.” Vaughn said apologetically. Rhys only narrowed his eyes and looked at his friend with as much disdain as he could muster before he left the apartment. He knew his friend meant well, but waking up with the damned alarm clock for two weeks now made him a bit apprehensive of jokes in general.

He was making his way to the R&D labs. It was still rather early and not many workers were crowding the halls. Rhys decided it was actually a good thing since lately he didn’t even bother to dress in his usual corporate attire. Since he was spending all of his days alone in the labs, working till the early hours of the morning, he didn’t bother to dress properly. Instead he was usually clad with a pair of light gray sweatpants, black wife beater and a black hoodie. Yvette commented it was an actual improvement to his usual looks, but he didn’t want to believe the comment. He liked his everyday style, Hyperion vest, blue shirt, black skinny jeans and his favorite red tie. What could possibly be wrong in his choice of clothing?

He finally reached the labs and immediately went to his secluded area where he did all of the work and testing. What he wouldn’t give for a breakthrough. He heard that Jack was coming back any day now and he really wanted to have some results he could present just in case the CEO still remembered his existence. Truth to be told though, there was nothing more Rhys wished for than to distance himself from his boss.

It’s funny really, not long ago he would’ve given up his right arm for a chance of meeting Jack. Still reality and dreams rarely went in pair. In person Jack was every bit as terrifying as the rumors portrayed him to be.  But there was something much worse than that. Dangerous he could handle, he knew what to say and when to shut up, but Jack was the worst mix possible. He was both dangerous and unpredictable and that was the worst combination ever. Rhys felt like Handsome Jack could draw a weapon at any given moment during a casual coversation. He could not find much reason behind the man’s actions. One minute he was murderous and the other he was all smiles and jokes. What triggered the CEO’s reactions? He really wished he knew.

It’s not that Jack didn’t have his strong points. He was a brilliant man considering he managed to bring Hyperion from a barely recognized corporation to the very top. He had ingenious ideas, knew how to keep things in check, was on top of everything that was happing both on Helios and Pandora and was fearless in action. Those were all things Rhys could admire, he just preferred to do it from afar. If he had a say in the matter he’d gladly do it from Elpis or anywhere else Jack would not find him.

Well there was also one more thing that the Helios population admired, which were Jack’s looks. While facing the CEO he had hardly thought about that, concentrating more on the gun the man kept flaunting about. But if he was to be honest with himself, he would have to admit that Jack did win the lottery in the looks department. He had a completely different built than Rhys, broad shoulders, muscular arms, big hands, sturdy posture. The face of course was not falling short, though Jack did wear a mask and there were a lot of speculations going around about the nature of his true identity. It was said that the mask was modeled on his face, but then why wear a mask at all? Was this some kind of a kink, or did it actually hide something far less pleasing to the eye. Since no one ever dared to question it, Rhys would probably never find out.

 

—o.o— 15 hours later  –o.o—

 

“Vaughn you won’t believe it!” Rhys bursted into the apartment, placing a stack of papers on the kitchen table. He had barely any time to acknowledge that Yvette was also there, as usual, eating everything that was left in the fridge.

“Wow Rhys, wanna give us a heart attack or something.” Yvette asked , eyeing the documents skeptically.

“I’ve got some sweet news! I finally had a breakthrough in my project!” Rhys exclaimed. He was ecstatic to say the least, for the past two weeks he had spent every waking hour on the grenades, fear consuming him every time he thought about not advancing with the project till the time Jack returned.

“Whoa man, did you actually manage to make the grenades?” Vaughn asked happy for his friend. Truth to be told he was actually getting a bit worried about Rhys, but didn’t want to let him know. It was enough that Rhys was becoming hysterical, worrying him more would not help at all. Apparently jokes about socks didn’t do the thing either.

“No, of course not, but I finally came up with a viable solution for creating a disruption in the gravity field. Guys this was the worst part of it. Knowing this, it’s probably a matter of a few weeks to finish the job.” Rhys said beaming, the muscles on his cheeks feeling odd at the notion as if he hadn’t used them much these past days. That was highly plausible.

“Rhys I won’t pretend I know what you’re talking about but hey, this calls for a celebration, right? We haven’t spent much time together lately. The last time was when you had been demoted, now let’s actually drink to celebrate something good for a change… So” She said with a barely concealed smile, rubbing her hands like a kids movie villain “What pizza do you want to order?”.

“Yeah actually it calls for celebration, so why the hell not. God knows I’ve been working my ass of these past two weeks, I really need some chill out time. And Yvette” he said pointing an accusatory finger at his friend “Don’t think I didn’t notice that barely concealed attempt at getting your hands on free food. But given my recent promotion and all I’ll let it slide.” Rhys said in a good mood for a change.

“Awesome and we can play badass and bunkers! We haven’t done that for ages!” Vaughn said excitedly. It seemed they had plans set for the evening.

This really turned out to be a great day in the end. They stayed up playing the board game for two hours, stuffing their faces full of pizza. They didn’t drink as much as last time and Rhys was grateful for that, he still remembered how he barely stopped himself from throwing up in Vasquez office, he was sure that if he actually did that, the story of his life would have ended there and then.

They were in the middle of deciding the tactics on dealing with a particularly nasty skag they encountered at a dungeon, thanks to their imaginative game master Vaughn, when Yvette decided to raise a certain topic that kept bothering her ever since she heard Rhys new alarm clock.

“So Rhys, ever wondered why Jack has spared you? I mean we all know that barely ever happens. Actually I don’t recall ever hearing about someone giving Jack the slip.”

“Hell if I know, his moods change faster than someone’s facial landscape after meeting a psycho with a light trigger finger. All I care about is that I’m alive and now that I managed to make some actual progress on the grenade thing, I’m hoping that the number of my encounters with Jack will come close to a zero.”

“Uhum” Yvete just nodded making side glances at Vaughn.

“Now what the hell was that?” Rhys asked indignantly noticing the exchange between his friends.

“Oh nothing nothing, let’s just keep playing.” It was one of Yvette’s games  that were meant to piss him off. Worked every single time.

“What is it, I demand to know!”

“Oh well, I just think it’s awfully strange that Jack would go out of his way to change someone’s alarm clock just for laughs, if you catch my drift.” She said eyebrows waggling. Ok Rhys decided she was definitely drunk.

“If you are implying what I think you are then believe me, had you been with me in Jack’s office you would know the nicest thing he said to me so far was that I would suit the body carpet in his office. As in a carpet consisting of actual bodies. If I can help it I never want to set my foot there again. Ever.”

Yvette was ready to go into a full confrontation with him when suddenly they heard a low rumble. The source of the sound seemed to be located in Rhys’ bag. He picked it up and rummaged though his things when finally his hand rested on the vibrating object. He took it out. It was his Echo communicator he practically forgot he owned, never really having the chance of using it. He opened the display and saw one unread message. Rhys clicked to open the text, his two friends curiously looking through his shoulder to read it as well.

The1&onlyHJ: Hya Rhysie. I need you here asap. As in 5 minutes. No scratch that, make it 2. When you’re in the elevator put in the following passcode:4278554 >expectant face<

Rhys turned a few shades paler.

“Oh shit Rhys, is that who I think it was?” Vaughn asked, not even Yvette was making jokes now. There goes his first peaceful day in weeks.

 

—o.o— Jack  –o.o—

 

Jack came back from Pandora in a sour mood. He absolutely hated the dirt covered, psycho infested planet. The only good thing that came out of these trips were the killing sprees. Oh yes Pandora was great for shooting things in the face, it was like a giant shooting range with targets that varied in shapes and sizes. Especially for this occasion he took a shotgun with him that had Rhys’ newest elemental upgrade. Ohhh how much fun it was to wait for the psychos to run near, screaming intelligible bulshit and then BAM baby! They were flying like rakks. He had to thank the kid for enabling him such entertainment. He’ll give his final approval on that new line of guns tomorrow, Jack was certain it will be a real money maker.

As much as he enjoyed Pandora as a shooting range, he absolutely detested dealing with the shitstains that occupied the planet. If not for the eridium that might be destroyed, he would moonshot the planet as a whole. But since he needed some of the resources Pandora offered, he was forced to do the best he could with the planet. One of his projects was Opportunity and he felt really good about it, he gave the miserable population of thieves and inbreeders a chance to redeem themselves. He basically presented them with a city that no well evolved planet would be ashamed of. And what did they do with it? Bandits took over and started their reign and with Atlas guns at that! Fucking Atlas! They signed their death certificates by that.

Jack basically spend the past week covered in dirt and blood, destroying the city he put so much effort in building and passing out punishment. He had to do a lot of damage control to make sure his Eridium sites were out of danger. Basically this was one hell of a fucked up week. That’s why it made him twice as happy to be in his own apartment again, where there was an actual shower he could use. It took close to an hour to get rid of the blood and dirt, but most of all Pandora’s smell. Getting out of the shower he felt like a raisin, his body never exposed to so much water in his life.

For once Jack was actually excited for a prospect of a lazy evening. He decided he deserved it.  The CEO spent the first hour playing video games, later stuffing his face with all the unhealthy food he buy. However as the time passed Jack was becoming increasingly fidgety. He considered returning to his office and working, but that prospect didn’t hold much appeal either. He hated feeling bored.

“Aaaaagh I’m the fucking king of the world yet have no entertainment at all. Life, why u so cruel!” he yelled in a theatrical way used to talking to himself. He was doing that a lot. First of all there weren’t many intelligent people he could hold a conversation with, secondly he liked hearing his own voice, thirdly he liked to talk, a lot. The real reason though was the fact that Jack despised silence, it unnerved him. That’s why he was always making sure he’d be busy. He actually didn’t need to try too hard, because being the CEO of Hyperion left him with little to no personal time. Today, however, he was hell bent on spending a casual evening.

Looking at the bag he brought from Pandora he suddenly remembered something that put a smile to his face. He went to the bag and looked through its contents, finally spotting what he was looking for. Skag ring of death III.

“Sweet” Jack said grinning. He was so looking forward to watching this. He saw part 1 & 2 a couple of times, it was his favorite action slash horror slash crazy ass movie. The level of absurdity and violence was so high that there was no way not to love it.

Happy with his plans for the evening Jack put the film in his dvd player and sat sprawled on the rug, propping his back on the white sofa. When the movie started Jack was as excited as when he shot his grandma, ah the fond memories. He kept watching the movie, laughing and commenting the scenes to no one in particular. His initial excitement quickly dissipated in place of something he couldn’t quite put a finger on. He paused the movie and briefly wondered what was off. His favorite movie - check, junk food - check, his brilliant self – check. Audience? Aha. He quickly walked to his Echo Comm and knew exactly who to text. Sure enough a couple of minutes later he heard the elevator doors opening. Jack grinned.

 

—o.o— Rhys  –o.o—

 

When Rhys reached the elevator he put the override code into its panel. That was the first time he did that. He was fairly certain it would take him to Handsome Jack’s office, thus he was all the more surprised when the elevator announced that they’re going to the 45th floor. Was there even a floor like that? He never heard of it. What if floor 45 was a code for an airlock? Maybe the lift took you as high as it could go and then puff, you’re being sprung into space. The vision was both hilarious and terrifying.

Rhys quickly rehearsed what he wanted to report. He was so fucking lucky for today’s breakthrough, otherwise he would be pissing himself at the moment. He prayed for this to be the last encounter he would have with the man. When the elevator finally announced the 45th floor Rhys could not have prepared himself for the view that met his eyes.

It was a penthouse, a huge one at that, which had an even bigger window panel than Jack’s office and that was saying something. In the very centre of the huge room there was a king size bed, which seemed twice as big than the regular king sized beds he’s seen. The penthouse was basically a vast open space. On the right side there was a modern white kitchen, with barstools and a huge wine shelf. Next to it was something like a dining or sitting area with a digital fireplace. Between those there was a door leading to what he could only assume would be a bathroom. On the left side of the room there was something like a study area with a big couch, huge ass television an shelves filled with tons of video games. Under the window panel there were numerous cupboards and drawers, which were used as storage. It was designed in a way that made it looked like a wall panel. The penthouse was spacious, filed with mainly white colors with some hints of yellow and purple.

“Admiring the design I see” a loud voice said from behind, practically right into his left ear. Rhys jumped a few feet away like a startled cat, letting out and indignant cry. He turned quickly and, unsurprisingly, saw Jack cackling like a maniac. By now he was used to his shouts, all in all they were a part of his everyday routine.

“Hya Rhysie. So do you like my humble abode? Ok who am I kidding, this is the most luxurious and expensive place you’ve probably seen. See that rug you’re standing on? It cost more than your yearly salary. Yes I know exactly what your yearly salary looks like. Quite a sad amount of zeros. ”

Hearing that Rhys made a quick dive for his shoes, taking them off hurriedly. Jack also seemed to be walking without any, actually the man was barefoot at the moment though still clad in his everyday clothes, so Rhys assumed he was one of the people who enjoyed a clean floor. As soon as his shoes were off he regretted his decision. He really did not think about his choice of socks for this day.

“Whaha omg Rhysie are those, no I can’t believe… hahahah. Who has socks with claptraps on them? How did you find those adult size. Zooo my gosh I was not wrong about you, was I. You are totally harmless, you’d probably even suck at suicide if you ever decided on that option.” Jack was clearly enjoying himself way too much. “Anyways do like the design of the apartment, I planned it all myself.” He added proudly.

Rhys could not wrap his head around the fact that he was to give a report on his progress in the man’s apartment. He never heard of anyone being here, ever. Did that make him special in a way? Suddenly Yvette’s comments came to his mind, he blushed wildly and took a quick glance at the huge bed. He passed it off as doing a quick reevaluation of the room in whole.

“It’s very nice sir. Ugh I like the color palette and how spacious it is….” Rhys, surprisingly, manage not to stutter. He was getting better at this.

“Thanks pumpkin, that reminds me, how’s your new apartment? Better than the old cramped one?”

“The new ap.. apartment?” Shit, there goes his progress. “Well sir, truth to be told, I was so focused on this new project that I didn’t get around to that. A ha ha… ha”

Jack made a displeased face, he probably wasn’t used to his orders being ignored. He stared at Rhys while the programmer prayed that he would not flip just because of this. Luck seemed to be on his side as Jack’s expression soon changed, grin back in place.

“Well pumpkin do I need to remind you what asap means? If not then I hope you’ll remedy that soon. Anyways how’s that project going…. No actually scratch that, today’s not about work, you’ll leave a report for me on that tomorrow.”

What the hell? If today was not about work then…. Rhys did not dare to chance a glance at the bed again. What if Yvette was right, what if his boss made a move on him. What would he do? Oh he knew exactly what he would do. He’d lay on the bed stiff as a board, letting the man do whatever he pleases out of fear for his own life. He remembered vaguely this had a name…. ah yes. Fucking rape.

But no this could not be it. Rhys knew he was not hard on the eyes, but hell he was not a model either, besides Jack could have anyone he wanted, why would he choose him. Also it was proven that Jack was into boobs, big boobs at that, so there was no way sex was on the plate tonight. He never heard of Jack doing it with a guy. And again, wit Rhys of all people. He would have laughed at the theory if it weren’t for his current predicament. Okay he absolutely had to know what was happening here.

“So sir, if not for the report then, may I ask, what am I here for?”

“We’re watching a movie.” Jack announced casually.

If Rhys could hear his own thought process at the moment then utter silence would meet his ears. He was just standing there, looking at his boss, with a vacant stare. Somehow his synapses could not make the connection between Jack, who wanted to murder him not long ago, and a casual movie night. Jack and a movie night did not add up in his brain, there was simply no connection.

“So princess are you going to stand there all day starin’ or are we gonna get on with it.” Jack said while moving to the coach. “If you want something to drink then feel free to grab whatever’s in the fridge. If not then plop your way to small ass here and let’s get started.” He said while indicating the white coach. Jack made himself comfortable on the floor where he was sitting before. “Did you watch Skag ring of death 1 & 2?”

Rhys just shook his head, words still escaping him.

“Whaaaaaat? Kiddo you’ve gotta be shitting me. Well in that case get yourself ready for a movie marathon. You could tell me you had a cat fighting ring and I couldn’t care less, actually Henderson had one of those, but not watching Skag ring of death? I’m appalled Rhys, like truly, deeply appalled. So move your ass and let’s get started.”

“Henderson had a cat fighting ring?!” Rhys blurted out before he could stop himself. His brain was barely accepting the amount of absurdity he was faced with at the moment, but the cat ring comment, that was just overdoing it.

“Yeah he was a fucked up dude, killing employees that’s one thing, but hurting cats? That’s just cruel.” Jack said in a serious manner as he reached for the first dvd and inserted it in the player. “What the hell are you still gaping there for?” he said with an annoyed tone.

Rhys made his way to the white sofa, which was as big as the rest of the furniture that filled the apartment, and plopped on it. An order was an order, even if it seemed absurd. But seriously what the hell were they doing? Was this a casual movie night with his boss? Were they getting friendly or something? Wasn’t there anyone else Jack could torment?

Come to think of it Rhys never heard of Handsome Jack having friends. He heard of a few women with whom Jack hit it off, but he did not recall his boss ever being in a relationship. Was it because of the paranoia? Rhys guessed it must be hard to enjoy a casual evening with someone while looking over your shoulder to check if they don’t have a gun pointed at you. In that case the fact that Rhys was sitting on the sofa, behind Jack, showed some unusual amount of trust.

Pffffffft yeah right, as if that was the case, Jack didn’t trust anyone, Rhys would not be an exception. In that case the only logical explanation was that, in Jack’s eyes, Rhys was such a loser he did not pose any threat to him. Yes, that sounded about right. Not very flattering, if Rhys had any say in it, but accurate. Oh if Jack only knew about his secret… He killed all of those man suspecting them of murder and when the real culprit showed Jack spared him. Thinking about those people who died because of his action made him feel guilty. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, but it’s not like Rhys knew this was going to happen. If he knew though, would he have stopped it?

“Now look closely at the first scene, see that unsuspecting bloke over there, well I’m not gonna tell ya what will happen but ooooh boy shit will happen. By shit I mean lots of blood and stuff. Aaaaany second now!” Jack said excitedly while Rhys tried to make himself feel at ease, which was not an easy task to do. He felt borderline uncomfortable but tried to pay as much attention to the movie as he could. God the man was awful at watching movies, he was basically retelling all of the scenes. This was going to be an agony. Besides Rhys was terrified of horror movies. Yep it was going to be a long night.

 

—o.o— Jack  –o.o—

 

Yes audience was definitely the needed factor. Jack realized that the best part of watching these movies was actually gauging Rhys reactions and boy those were rich. Not exactly what he was counting for, in his mind he pictured the lanky kid to cheer on during the especially awesome gore scenes. Instead he was squeaking more often than not, giving a death grip to one of his pillows. Well that actually kind of annoyed Jack, he liked his pillows, but seeing Rhys emotional rollercoaster was a reward in on itself. Seriously, when the particularly gruesome scenes rolled in, Rhys had actually acted like a damn child and covered his eyes, peeking though his fingers every now and then. It was hilarious. Not what he expected, but amusing nonetheless.

They watched both of the movies and when Jack was finally hyped about watching the newest one which he hasn’t actually seen before, he noticed the kid dozing off around the time when the end titles appeared. The end titles consisted mainly from characters such as ‘guy who had his eyes gauged out’, ‘guy whose head exploded’ ‘randome dude’ ‘guy whose head exploded nr 2’ so he didn’t blame the kid for dozing off. However looking at his watch he noticed it was nearing 4 am at the time and as much as he wanted to see the last movie, it might actually be good to catch some sleep.

He looked at Rhys who was curled in a fetal position, still clutching the pillow. His lips were parted and he was snoozing lightly, lucky for him there was no drool, otherwise he’d be dead already. Jack turned around and propped his elbow on the couch near Rhys head. He leaned over the kid, studying his face. He actually never took a good look at the kid. Jack decided he was generally easy on the eye, as much as a dude can be. His hair was pretty neat, he’d give him that, but basically he looked rather normal. A bit on the delicate side, but he supposed that matched his character.

 Jack briefly wondered about the kid’s age, he would say around 30 given the fact he made his way to the top of his department, but he couldn’t say for certain. Momentarily giving into his curiosity he entered his laptop which was conveniently placed under the sofa. Closing the page titled ‘101 ways of achieving satisfaction in bed without killing your partner’ (Jack was the epitome of compassionate and understanding) he entered the database with information on all of Hyperion employees. He quickly found Rhys file and skimmed though it. He had seen it before when he intended to kill Rhys, but never paid much attention to the age. Ah there it was. 25 years old.

The Kid was fucking young. He was almost impressed with it considering the fact that Rhys had already crafted two successful gun upgrades. Of course Jack had achieved a lot more before he was 25 but still, he had to give the noodle some credit. Looking at the young face again it actually annoyed him a bit. Somehow the realization that he was almost twice as old did not sit well with him. He actually looked pretty damn well for his age of 43, but it still pissed him off that age was catching up to him. He played it cool with that streak of grey hair, but he still remembered how he hyperventilated when he first discovered it.

The kid looked so fucking peaceful…. ‘It was time to change that’ Jack thought with a grin. Besides it’s not like he’d let him stay over, he might watch a movie or two but sleeping in the same room with someone was not acceptable. He never let any of his girls stay over, the very idea of letting someone near him when he was sleeping and most vulnerable caused his paranoia to waken. He could imagine all the ways they wanted to finish him off. Nope, no way, no one was staying. With that final thought he stood up and, remembering a gag he had played on Rhys, screamed on the top of his lungs straight to the kids ear.

“Rhys and shiiiiine~~!”

 

—o.o— Rhys  –o.o—

 

Rhys heard the annoying sound of his alarm clock, head groggy. Was it morning already? He somehow felt that he had even less sleep than usual. Annoyed he took the pillow he was holding and started hitting the offending object. To his surprise the clock fought back (wtf?) and soon he felt a steadfast grip on both of his wrists. He opened his eyes and saw heterochromic ones staring straight at him. Suddenly he remembered everything with great detail. The man’s usual perfectly styled hair was tossled, sticking out at different angles. It only meant one thing, he had just attack the CEO of Hyperion with a pillow. That was a second time now. He was as good as dead.

“Oh so that’s how you want it to be eh?” Jack said and to his surprise, looked more amused than ‘I’m gonna killed you’ kind of scary. He had little time to react when he felt the man letting go of his wrists and a pillow connecting with his own face. The CEO climbed on top of him, either leg pressed on both of his sides, successfully pinning Rhys to the couch. With a self satisfied grinned he pressed the pillow to Rhys face.

“Now Rhysie you’re gonna die a slow and painful death, any last words?” Jack said, clearly finding the whole situation rather amusing. Even though it might sound like a great joke to the man, Rhys did not appreciate being strangled. Panic was settling in the pit of his stomach and, acting on reflex, he yanked Jack’s hair causing him to lose balance and fall off the couch. When Rhys realized what he had done he quickly jumped up and knelled next to the broad man, who was lying face first on the floor.

“ Jack are you ok? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do this.” He said panicking. He hovered over the fallen figure but didn’t dare to touch him. He felt relief when he saw the man moving, slowly standing up. Of course he wasn’t afraid he had done anything to the man,  that would require an amount of physical strength he clearly did not posses. He was, however, afraid that as soon as Jack moved it would be to strangle him. 

Jack stood up, dusting himself from invisible dirt, and put both of his hand on his hips. He assessed Rhys, who was still knelling on the floor, with a critical look. He then bent his upper body, his face stopping just inches away from Rhys’.

“You know Rhysie, people generally don’t do that.”

“I know, of course, this won’t happen again. It was an accident, I swear, I just wanted to get rid of the pillow and…”

“People don’t generally call me by my name.” he said, gaze calculating. Only after hearing this comment did Rhys realize what he had done in the fervor of the moment. He was a complete idiot.

“I’m sorry sir, that won’t happen again.” Rhys said giving the ma an apologetic look. After a few more seconds Jack finally straightened up.

“Nah it’s fine kiddo. Now please go and check whether that small ass of yours isn’t standing outside of the door to my apartment.” Jack said making his way to the bathroom.

“What?”

“Beat it kiddo! When I come back I want you to be gone, understood.” Jack opened the door to the bathroom and halted for a while. “And don’t think you’re forgiven for falling asleep on the most awesome trilogy of all time. We’re watching the last movie tomorrow 11 pm sharp. Don’t be late and bring some stuff to eat. You can’t always rely on my hospitality.” The man said with a wicked grin and shut the door behind him. Rhys heard a faint sound of a shower running.

Rhys stood up and made a bee line for the elevator. As soon as the door shut behind him he let out a sigh of relief and sagged to the floor. What the fuck was this? Were they friends now or something? If so he felt like a fish befriending a cat on a water deprived desert, a particularly wild and unpredictable cat. Why couldn’t he live a happy, stress free life?

Chapter Text

For the whole day Rhys couldn’t focus on anything. As promised he dropped off the report about the progress he made on the grenade project. Even though continuing his work should be easy after the recent breakthrough (now that he finally figured out the gravity trigger) work has been more sluggish than ever. He couldn’t focus on what he was doing, his thoughts constantly drifting to the appointment he had tonight. Another movie night with Jack.

He didn’t know what to think about this newfound interest in him. Was watching movies with Jack normal? Were there other people the man casually invited to his apartment? Will it stop after he’s seen the damn trilogy, which by the way gave him nightmares straight from hell. So many questions kept going through his mind but only one thing was clear at this point - whether he liked this situation he found himself in or not, he had to go. There was no way in hell to refuse Handsome Jack’s request, unless he’d be curious to closely inspect the barrel of Jack’s revolver.

That is why currently he was dutifully making his way towards the elevator. On the panel he entered the passcode given to him yesterday and began the rather long journey to the 45th floor. All the time he prayed Jack either had to work late or simply discarder the plans in favor of some better entertainment. When he reached his destination it seemed like his prayers had been answered. The door didn’t open which meant Jack either wasn’t there or didn’t want him there. Either case was fine.

Happily Rhys pushed the button for the floor where Helios’ apartments were located at and leaned next to the elevator’s door. He released a breath he didn’t realize he was holding and smiled to himself. Luck was on his side today….or not, he thought as the elevator stopped on the 44th floor. As the door opened he saw Jack standing on the other side.

“Hya cupcake, didn’t think I forgot about our movie night did ya?” Jack said grinning happily although Rhys could tell the man was tired. No wonder if he stayed in his office until 11 pm, probably working from the early morning. Considering how late they finished the movies yesterday he probably only had two or three hours of sleep. There was also one more thing Rhys noticed, to his dismay, Jack had blood splattered on his face. Not his of course. It put him on edge.

 “So Rhysie, mind telling me why this elevator was heading down?” Jack said while overriding the panel, setting the lift to go up again. Probably noticing Rhys’ worried glances he studied his reflection in the chrome wall of the elevator and noticing the blood still remaining on his cheek he wiped it off. The action seemed almost mundane to the man.

“I thought you had some more pressing matters to attend to sir.” Rhys said unsurely, gripping a plastic bag he took with him.

“More important than Skag ring of death III? Never. Dahl could be invading Helios and I would order them to fucking wait their turn, because Rhysie there are some priorities in life. Besides you made me wait long enough to watch it, I planned to do that yesterday but someone couldn’t handle it.” Jack said gesticulating wildly as was in his nature.

 They reached the apartment in no time and Jack made his way to the couch, casually kicking of his sneakers on the way. Rhys also took off his shoes and placed them neatly near the elevator entrance. This time he had put more thought into choosing his socks deciding that the ones with spiderants would be a good fit considering Jack’s constant remarks about his legs. He wondered briefly whether the man would appreciate the pun or even notice it, but at the same time marveled as to why he cared about it to begin with. Rhys was here because he was forced to. End of story.

“So I remembered mentioning something about food yesterday. I hope you got something good.” Jack said looking for the movie.

“Um, does lasagna sound ok, sir?” Rhys asked unsure of himself. Truth to be told he had no idea what to take. In the end he opted on making a lasagna. Rhys was a pretty decent cook and he enjoyed it but cooking for his boss was more stressful than anything else. He was freaking out over the smallest of details and ended up spending twice as much time preparing it than usual. It was damn perfect, the best thing he has ever made.

“Lasagna? I thought you’d buy something like chips and pretzels. What’s a fucking lasagna?” Jack asked incredulous.

“How can you not know what a lasagna is?” Rhys asked disbelievingly and suddenly realized he was forgetting himself when speaking to his boss. He quickly added a ‘sir’ at the end.

“Weren’t we on a first name basis? Also I don’t really go to restaurants because I don’t trust what they put into my food.” Jack said offhandedly finally locating the disc.

Rhys wasn’t sure the man wanted him to use his name or not. It was safest to ask, but if Jack said yes could he really feel comfortable calling Handsome fucking Jack by his name? He seriously doubted it.

“Would you prefer if I didn’t call you sir…. sir?” Now  that was lame.

“And did I kill you yesterday when you called me by my name Rhysie? If you’re still breathing then that’s a go. Unless you get off on the whole sir thing. People have such strange kinks, I knew this one guy who was a total fan of mine. Like who isn’t, right? Anyways he worked in security and fallowed me around Helios. He would then go to the office and find all of the footage with me and him both in the same picture. He would print that and put it on his wall of fame.” Jack said and shivered, a look of distaste on his face. “Wall of shame if you ask me. Needless to say as soon as word got out I made sure there was a vast amount of space between us. And by saying space I’m being very literal.”

Rhys didn’t know what to say to this rather unsettling revelation. There was a moment of pregnant silence between them and it was getting more and more awkward for Rhys. It was like during those times when you ride an elevator with someone you know nothing about except that they’re working in the same department, so technically you’re obliged to make conversation but in reality you’re just counting the seconds until you reach your floor.

“You’re not much of a talker are you Rhysie? Anyways what’s that lasagna thing?” Jack asked and it seemed to Rhys that the man was slightly disappointed. It made him feel bad, he knew he wasn’t much of a conversation partner for the man, but how the hell was he supposed to act normal when it was Handsome Jack he was dealing with. Nevertheless he couldn’t just keep staring at the man like an idiot. He calmed himself as much as he could and decided to try his best to act natural.

“It’s a dish made of pasta, tomatoes and meat. Naturally I added some other ingredients as well sir… I mean Ja… I mean, yeah.” Was that acting natural or making a moron out of himself? No wonder the man didn’t take him seriously. Look at him, the only thing he poses a threat to is his brain.

“Wait, wait, wait, fucking rewind. You said you did that? As in by yourself?” Jack asked suddenly jerking his head in Rhys direction.

“Uh yeah, I kinda like cooking.” Rhys admitted studying the carpet intently. He was pleased the man was somewhat impressed.

“Well then I’m not eating it. And who the hell cooks, that’s what we have bots for.” Jack admonished him. Well then impressed wasn’t the right word to use. Surprisingly it angered Rhys, it was a stupid thing really but he spent so much time perfecting the dish only to be made fun of.

“So what do you eat when you don’t trust other people preparing your food?” Rhys asked indignantly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Also I thought I did not pose a threat?”

He didn’t think he would be ready to ever call Jack by his name, so leaving out the ‘sir’ part seemed the easiest way.

“Wow it speaks! And pouts as well it seems.” Jack chuckled slightly surprised. “Now don’t get all sad on me sweet cheeks. Of course you’re not a threat, but eating something someone else made is kind of… gross. I mainly eat pretzels, also canned food as it’s usually mechanically prepared. Once or twice I did cooking buuuuuut it’s for losers. No offense though, it kinda suits your image kid.”

Don’t be offended, cooking is for idiots, but since you’re one then it’s cool. Nah Rhys was not offended. Not at all.

“It’s really unhealthy to eat like that.”

“Awww is someone worried about me? Now get those spiderant legs here and let’s start the movie alrea….” Jack broke off midsentence when he finally noticed Rhys socks.

“Ahahaha omg kid you do have some humor storage in that lanky body of yours! How many of those do you have?” Jack asked theatrically wiping away tears. Well at least Rhys did something right.

“Well I have Pandora special edition which includes all the monsters, then there’s Helios special merchandise stuff and Atlas newest weapon line…”

“What the hell you traitor! Why merchandise our competitors’ products? Also by Helios stuff do you mean socks with my handsome mug on them? Oh and a double also, you are such a nerd.” Jacks said cackling.

“I simply have all of the special socks editions….” Noticing the smug look on Jack’s face Rhys decided not to incriminate himself any further. He came up to his usual spot on the couch, no scratch that, he did not have a usual spot. He just sat on the coach, end of story.

They watched the movie which was even more gruesome and gore filled than the two previous ones. On a couple of occasions Rhys felt like puking, never being one for physical violence. When the action focused on car racing rather than acts of killing, he decided it was a good time to eat his lasagna. So what if Jack thought it was gross, Rhys was actually hungry and he didn’t want his cooking to go to waste. Jack was munching on some snacks while commenting on every single movie scene, as per usual.

Rhys shifted a little and opened the sealed dish, it smelled amazing. Luckily he put some paper plates and plastic knifes before leaving, he wouldn’t dare to rummage freely through Jack’s kitchen as if it was natural for him to do so. Also considering what Jack revealed today about his eating habits he highly doubted there was even any kind of cutlery in the penthouse. How the hell did the man survive on pretzels?

Rhys put a slice of lasagna on his plate and began eating while watching the race. It was easier to eat when Jack’s attention was focused mainly on the movie. His stomach would not clenched nervously and he could relax enough to actually enjoy the food and it was the best lasagna he had ever eaten. His peaceful time was short lived when he noticed a pair of eyes on him, or rather his plate.

 

—o.o—Jack  –o.o—

 

The movie was every bit as good as he had hoped for. There was drama, action, guts, blood, car races, crushed hope - everything one could want from a movie. This time around even the kid seemed to warm up to it as he did a lot less of cringing and left his pillow intact.

They were currently halfway into the movie, a particularly awesome scene of a car race playing on the screen, when all of a sudden Jack heard Rhys open that dish he brought. He did not mind it, Rhys might as well eat it since he did the cooking. But seriously who the fuck cooks? The programmer was already on the feminine side with his looks, did he really have to add fuel to the fire? Not that Jack had anything against his looks. And not that he cared.

It was hard to focus on the movie though, because the smell was absolutely mouth-watering. Not that Handsome Jack would ever admit it. He kept glancing at the funny looking food Rhys kept gulfing down. It looked good, maybe if he had just one bite… No, absolutely not. He had his standards and hand-made food was gross and dangerous… and gross. But damn that fucking smell. He was curious now. The kid seemed to notice his hard, unmoving gaze directed at the plate.

“You sure you don’t want any?” Rhys asked.

Well if the kid ate it then it couldn’t be poisoned. Not that Rhys would manage to do that, or even consider it. He was talking here about a guy who wore claptrap socks and cooked. It was still kind of gross, but one bite wouldn’t kill him right? He reached out to take the kids plate and looked skeptically at the dish. He analyzed it at every possible angle, even looking at the bottom side of the plate. Ok coast clear. He held up the fork and took a bite. And another and another and another.

“This is fucking amazing! It’s like the best shit I’ve ever eaten. Do people cook like this, was I missing out on so much? Why the hell didn’t you say it was this damn good? Why did no one ever bring up the concept of lasagna  to me?” Jack asked between mouthfuls of lasagna. He soon finished whatever was left on the plate and moved to the sealed package.

“I’m glad you like it. Though wouldn’t you like a fork of your own?” Rhys said emphasizing the last word. It fell on deaf ears though as Jack was solely concentrated on the amazing concept of homemade food. He finished the whole thing in no time and already wished there was more. He looked expectantly at Rhys as if he was to magically conjure more from a hidden pocket or something.

It was then that he noticed Rhys smiling for the first time. He had never seen the kid do that. Why was he grinning like that? The kid was such a tool at times. But damn he did know how to cook. Jack also decided he had a pleasant smile.

“Why are you grinning like an idiot with a sunstroke?” Jack asked hoping the remark would somehow divert Rhys attention from the fact that, despite of all the protests, Jack practically devoured the whole lasagna. His comment made Rhys cast his eyes to the floor, damn the kid had a thing for his carpets.

“I’m… I’m just happy when people enjoy my food.” Rhys mumbled fiddling oddly with the end of his shirt.

“People? Am I just some people?” Jack asked indignantly. He didn’t like to be thrown together with a nameless crowd of life forms that were obviously beneath him.

“I… uh… no. What I mean is I like it when you enjoy it.” Rhys said and for a moment they stared at each other in some kind of consternation. This was just too much for Jack.

“Ahahaha easy there kiddo. I wasn’t waiting for a love confession or anything. Should I worry you have tons of photos of me on your wall?” Jack asked cackling. It clearly made the kid feel awkward, his face was turning red and he was embarrassed as hell. Rhys was so entertaining.

“Only 65 of them, I swear that’s all.” Well that comment sure as hell made his laughter die down in an instant.

“What?!” Jack asked incredulous. He did not appreciate stalkers, has he somehow misjudged the kid, was he also some dipshit psycho he needed to worry about? His paranoia was kicking in. What did he just put in his mouth? Was the food poisoned?

“Uh… that was a joke. Ah hah... not a very good one it seems” Rhys said embarrassed even further.

Oh a joke, what a fucking relief. Wait a moment, a joke? The concept was foreign to Jack, sure he had a brilliant sense of humor and made puns all the time, but no one has ever tried to joke around him. This was something new.

“Well Rhysie remember, all you need to do is ask. I can even give you a special signed edition of my poster. You can put it right above your bed or something. It will make you sleep better at night, knowing that the one and only Handsome Jack is watching over you.” Jack said leering, while Rhys turned red like a tomato, sputtering indignantly. He obviously thought Jack didn’t believe it was a joke. Watching the kid’s emotional rollercoaster was always so much fun.

They ended up watching the rest of the film as per usual, with a multitude of comments on Jacks side and a pillow death-grip delivered by Rhys. When the movie ended Rhys collected the dirty dishes, thanked him for the movie marathon, said his awkward goodbyes and went to the elevator. Oddly enough Jack wanted him to stay longer, but what would they do, eat chocolate and gossip like two teenage chicks? Nah, this was for the best. He just didn’t like the deafening silence at times, but it was nothing some loud music couldn’t fix. Besides he had work to do.

 

—o.o— 3 days later  —o.o—

 

Rhys spent the next couple of days without seeing or talking to Jack. So maybe it just really was the movie Jack wanted to see with him and nothing more. Or maybe he just got fed up with him. Not that Rhys would mind, it certainly took a load off his shoulders. Interacting with the man wasn’t easy, he never knew what to say and always had to be on guard not to trigger the CEO’s mood swings. So it was better and safer this way. He tried to ignore the small part of him that actually looked forward to spending time with Jack.

After spending two evenings at Jack’s apartment Rhys realized that by each passing moment he was feeling more relaxed, sure there was still a lot of tension in the air, but the sole fact he managed to make a joke yesterday was a solid improvement to the first time when they spoke and Rhys was stuttering all of the time. Maybe if they spent even more time in each other’s company Rhys would be able to act more less natural. He’d probably never feel at ease, like he did with his friends, but he could see himself actually talking with the man. Also there was some small part of him that relished the fact that it was him the CEO decided to invite to his apartment. They were even one a first name basis, but it’s not like anyone would believe him.

Still after three days of zero contact Rhys decided the man probably wouldn’t get in touch with him again. And it really was for the best. No matter how it boosted his ego, it was still too dangerous a path to take. Staying close to the man was like playing with fire and adding to that the fact that he was a siren, well it could only end up in a disaster. Jack was far from being an idiot and even if he, as most people, would not suspect him at first since no one knew a male can also be a siren, there would surely come a time when Rhys would slip. Handsome Jack would be the first person to send him to R&D for a round of experiments, he was more than sure of it. This really was for the best. Anyways he had other things to occupy his mind with.

All week long he was working on the grenade enhancement making steady progress on it. Luckily today was Friday which finally meant some rest. What’s more it was actually Vaughn’s birthday today and together with Yvette they decided to go clubbing. Rhys was not good at holding alcohol so he didn’t party often, but today he felt like he needed to. It was a good way to relieve oneself from stress and fuck knows this week took a toll on him. He was currently trying to decide what to wear, while his friends waited for him in the kitchen. Deciding that a pair of skinny jeans and a simple white v-neck t-shirt would do the trick, he quickly changed his clothing and left the room.

“Finally, what took you so long! Let’s leave already!” Yvette said in an exasperated tone.

The three of them took the Hyperion transportation system which took them to the most popular Friday night destination – the club zone. As soon as they got off loud music invaded their ears, the sight of bright neon lights filling their view. There were people everywhere, most of them just arrived as it was still early, but some already managed to get so intoxicated they were barely standing on their feet. Yes Hyperion workers definitely needed their fair share of alcohol after a week full of staying over hours to meet the budget. Nothing like working for a corporation.

The trio made their way to their favorite club called Three Shots Under and found some empty places at the bar.

“So who’s buying the drinks?” Yvette asked wiggling her brows.

“Like hell Yvette, today’s Vaughn’s birthday, if anything we should buy drinks for him.” Rhys reprimanded his greedy friend.

“Nah it’s fine, I can buy the drinks guys.” Vaughn said and placed an order for their drinks. He was usually the one who settled any arguments in the group.

“Fine but the next round’s on me and the one after that on Yvette.” Rhys deadpanned.

“Look at Mr. Stingy over here, he got a huge ass promotion, his pay probably doubling in size, especially since he started being all best friend with the CEO, yet he cannot buy a single drink for his best friend. Wow Rhys, what a gentleman you are. Like wow.” She said giving her best impression of a hurt voice.

“I didn’t even get my first salary yet, besides who said I’m friends with Handsome Jack? The man doesn’t have any friends and you know it.” Rhys said crossing his arms.

“Well yeah but you’ve got to admit bro, the whole movie night idea was kinda odd.” It seemed even Vaughn wasn’t on his side.

“I know I know, but it’s not like he contacted me since that time and I feel like it’s gonna stay this way.” He explained.

“Awwww, missing him already?” Yvette cooed.

“Oh just shut the hell up, both of you. And here I was thinking you were the ones I could count on.” Rhys said turning in the barstool, trying to give his friends a cold shoulder. Of course it didn’t last long and soon all three of them were laughing their asses off at the memory of one of their first nights out. Rhys and Vaughn ended up so plastered that they could hardly remember anything. They ended up falling asleep in the transportation cart and riding it for the whole night until someone tripped over them on their way to work. They also had a few scribbles on their faces, courtesy of their Hyperion coworkers. Rhys had a sign saying Vladof’s bitch on his cheek while Vaughn had the entire text of the claptrap non-aggression pact written on his forehead.

Time went by really fast and it was now nearing midnight when Rhys heard a beep on his watch. He connected it to his Echo device so that now he could communicate via his watch instead of carrying the Echo Comm everywhere, he wasn’t a programmer for nothing. Besides the idea was pretty neat. He opened the small dialogue box and sure enough there was a message from Handsome Jack.

“Oh man, is that who I think it is?” Vaughn asked already a bit tipsy.

“Yeah… shit should I read it?” Rhys asked his friends. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what it read but was extremely curious at the same time.

“Hell yeah I wanna know what he wants.” Yvette said and they all stared at the digital screen displayed from the small device.

The1&onlyHJ: So Rhysie that lasagna has been bothering me all day today, how about you stop by and make one. Like stop by in 10 minutes. I’m fucking hungry cupcake.

“Wow, like wow. I was teasing you before but seeing this, you are really getting domestic with Jack. And what’s with the lasagna, did you actually cook for the fucking CEO of Hyperion? And don’t even get me started on the ‘cupcake’ thing.” Yvette said clearly shocked by the content of the message.

“Well he asked for food and I had to bring something. And the name calling is just something he does with everyone. Shit I shouldn’t have read that message, now I need to respond, he’ll know I’ve read it.” Rhys whined placing his head on the bar. He was too drunk for this shit.

“Bro if you gotta go then you gotta go. It’s Handsome Jack we’re talking about here.” Vaughn said trying to be reasonable about the whole situation.

“No Vaughn, it’s your birthday bro, I’m gonna write I can’t. I’m sure he’ll understand.” Rhys said.

“Nooo Rhys Vaughn is right, better not take any chances, I heard he had killed for less.” Yvette added, the message clearly sobering her up.

“Well too late guys, I already wrote back.”

“Whaaat? When? What did you write?!” Rhys friends asked in unison and looked at the digital display. “Rhys, you are so screwed.”

 

—o.o— Jack  —o.o—

 

Rhys: I’m totally sorry but today is my bros’ birthday and we’re having a night out with my friends. I’ll drop by some other time.

Jack stood gaping at the message. All day long he thought about how he’s going to devour that mouth-watering lasagna and now the kid says he can’t make it. He can’t fucking make it because some dickhead bro of his is having a birthday party? Who the fuck cared1 And what’s up with the ‘I’ll drop by some other time’?!?!

Jack stared at the message some more, thinking that it might be another lame joke on Rhys’ part. He looked at the elevator and waited. Five, ten, twenty minutes have passed and there was still no sign of Rhys. Jack went for his laptop and entered Helios’ security system. He opened the footage from the club district and scanned every joint one by one. Sure enough there was Rhys, sitting casually at a bar at one of the clubs in the district. Jack remembered visiting it a few times with some random hook-ups. It was a low class bar with deplorable alcohol.

Handsome Jack was positively furious watching Rhys drinking alcohol without a care in the world, his buff friend slinging his arm casually around his shoulder while the other busty friend was making eyes at the bartender. Were this really the people Rhys stood him up for? Handsome Jack was not denied anything, clearly the kind was far more of an idiot than what he originally thought. It pissed him off to think that he had refused Jack. Nobody fucking denied him anything. His rage was rising, knuckles white from the pressure he applied while clenching his fists.

Suddenly anger took over him and he began trashing the apartment. The next thing he knew he was standing in the middle of his penthouse breathing harshly, assessing the damage he had done. The glass table was shattered, his sheets torn, his CDs thrown haphazardly all over the floor, two chairs were broken into pieces. He let out a deep breath he was holding and ran his hand through his now disheveled hair, trying to keep them at bay.

Handsome Jack hated his anger blackouts, they happened to him randomly, sometimes a trigger could be a seemingly trivial thing, like a supper invitation gone wrong. He didn’t mind the anger per se, but he hated the fact that it made him loose control. He hadn’t registered breaking all those things only realizing he did so once he saw the mess. He remembered having his first anger blackout when he was still living with his grandmother as a kid. He didn’t really want to relive that particular memory.

He went out the door, not wanting to stay in the wrecked apartment. His first thought was to go down to the club, fire a bullet into Rhys’ head and be done with it. On second thought though it would be more satisfying to just kill his friends. They were fucking hogging Rhys attention the whole time when he had far more important things to do, like his lasagna for instance. Yes getting rid of them seemed like a better idea. Deep down though Jack knew that this was not enough of a reason to kill them, even though he sure as hell wouldn’t mind doing so.

Rhys spend every evening with those leeches, he knew he lived together with some guy and he could only assume it was this ‘buffed birthday bro’. Who the hell uses that word at this day and age? Anyways they were definitely hogging too much of his attention, Rhys had the grenade project going on and on top of that he had to be free in the evenings, just in case Jack wanted to eat something. But those two were constantly in his space. He had to do something about it. He pondered over all of the options while going down in the elevator. Suddenly an idea sprang to his mind, which caused a self-satisfying grin to appear on his face. Yeah this could work.

 

—o.o— Rhys  —o.o—

 

It was around 2 am in the morning and they were already heading back to their apartment. Vaughn had been the one to end the celebration early. He tried to pick up a girl he saw a few times at the sales department and to give himself liquid courage he gulped down a mix of a few drinks he ordered earlier. Needless to say it wasn’t the best idea he had that night and now the girl was sure to avoid him like plague. This will surely add on to their list of epic party stories, Rhys and Yvette will make sure of that.

The two of them were holding up Vaughn by his sides and making their way to their apartment. Rhys briefly wondered about Handsome Jack.  For a moment he was stressed when he hadn’t received any message from the CEO. The man wasn’t one for a prolonged silence, yet he didn’t write back after Rhys subtle decline. Maybe he just didn’t care or found someone else to bully. Rhys was too tired to think about it too much.

They reached their apartment and Rhys took out his identification card. He pressed it to the verification panel. After a short beep a sign appeared saying ‘access denied’. He tried a few more times but nothing changed.

“What the hell Rhys, you were so drunk you switched your card with someone? Here” Yvette reached for one of Vaughn’s pockets and took his card out “try this.”

Rhys did as he was told and the door opened. Damn whose card did he take? They went into the apartment and made a bee line for Vaughn’s room. They laid their half-dead friend on his bed and Yvette made her way for the bathroom. Rhys decided he was too tired to wash, the only thing he wanted to do was to lie face first in his pillow and sleep till Saturday afternoon. He went into his room and stood rooted to the floor. The room was empty except for a small note left on the windowsill.

“What the actual fuck?!” Rhys went for the note. All that was written was: room 186, 37th floor. Someone was fucking with him and Rhys did not appreciate being fucked around with. Especially not in his drunken passive-aggressive state. Without stopping to even think on the matter he stormed out of the apartment and made his way across Helios all the way up to the 37th floor. When he finally reached the room he banged angrily at the door.

“Whoever it is, open the fuck up!” He yelled hitting the door one more time for good measure. After a few seconds he heard someone making their way to the door. When it opened a familiar face greeted him.

“Took you long enough kitten.” Jack said half amused, half angry. “Well come on in” he said impatiently and took hold of Rhys wrist to drag him into the apartment. Rhys didn’t know what was happening.

The apartment they entered was quite amazing, not as big and luxurious as Jack’s, but pretty damn impressive. It was also a big open space, the only separate room seemed to be the bathroom. It had warmer shades of brown and green and the floor was wooden. The kitchen was the most impressive piece though, perfectly designed with all the high-tech devices and appliances Rhys only ever saw in culinary catalogues. In the back there was a dark grey brick wall which only added to the modern look of the white kitchen.

Contrary to Jack’s place there was no massive bed in the middle of the apartment, instead there was a round staircase in the corner of the room leading to a small mezzanine above the kitchen. A huge mattress was filling the space, successfully turning it into a spacious bedroom towering above the room. If one looked carefully there were also many cupboards and drawers designed as parts of the walls, so that the place seemed open and spacious instead of cluttered.

“So how do you like your new place cupcake?” Jack asked studying Rhys’ scrutiny of the place. Judging by his smug expression he already had an answer to that.

“What?!” Rhys asked dumbfounded, no way would he ever afford such a place. On the 37th floor nonetheless. This was a floor reserved for board members and other influential people - Rhys was far from that.

“Well I clearly told you to get a new place, but did you listen? No, of course not. So I decide to just select one for you. I won’t lie, I focused mainly on the kitchen for obvious reasons.” Jack said making his way to the barstool. He was clearly sitting there before, papers scattered all over the counter, his laptop sitting on top of them. The CEO was probably working before Rhys came here.

“I can’t afford this!” Rhys said the only that came to his befuddled mind.

“Already taken care of.” Jack said waving it off.

“No, sir… uh Jack I can’t accept a gift like this.” Rhys stuttered.

“And who said anything about it being a free gift. This is a transaction. You see I give you this kick-ass apartment and in return you shower me with awesome food. Look I even had the fridge fully stocked.” Jack said and leaned over to the fridge to open it and present its contents. Sure enough there were all the ingredients necessary to make a feast fit for a king.

“And one more thing. This is an apartment solely for your use. There is a thumbprint security system you’ll activate. This means no one else is allowed in here. If you happen to let anyone in the security might recognize them as a threat and then pew pew.” Jack’s explanation was accompanied by a small presentation of finger guns in action. “The lasers and stuff. Imagine the stains on the carpet. It would take weeks to clean them off.”

“Lasers?? There are lasers here?” Rhys asked looking around the room, he didn’t spot any movement monitoring devices or anything.

“Yeah well one can never go lenient with security. Anyways Rhysie enough of staring, get started already.”

“Started with what exactly?”

“Why lasagna of course!” Jack said grinning like the devil he was.

Rhys had an eerie feeling this had something to do with his earlier refusal but again, he was too drunk to think about it any further. Maybe it was worth saying no to the CEO if it resulted in such gifts? Hah Rhys was sure he’ll change his mind as soon as he sobers up, but for the moment he settled on making that damn lasagna, stopping every now and then to admire his new place. It was fucking awesome, although he felt like this ‘little’ gift of his will come at a higher price than a few homemade meals.

Chapter Text

A boy around the age of eight was standing in the middle of an old fashioned living room. He was crying, little fists clenched so hard his knuckles turned white. The boy wasn’t crying like any normal kid his age, his jaw was clenched, anger mixed with sadness on his face. It was as if he was fighting with the sadness to go away, but even he couldn’t stop the tears slowly trickling down his cheeks.

“I told ya boy, no animals in the house.” An old woman said regarding the child coldly. She was smoking a cigarette, puffing out the white smoke every so often, deliberate in her movements.

“Why did you kill it.” The boy said with closed eyes. He didn’t want to look.

“Jackie boy you thought this dog was a friend?” She took another long drag of the cigarette. “How many times do I have to teach you, the world is a cruel place, you can’t trust anyone. Everyone is just out for their personal gain, if you had no food then the damn thing wouldn’t even bother to stick around. And do you know what it would do if starved? It would grab at your neck and tear out the flesh…”

“It wouldn’t! It was my friend!” the boy protested vehemently but was soon silenced by his grandmother who struck him so hard across the face, he could hear a high pitched sound ringing in his ears.

“How many times do I have to repeat myself! Nobody fucking loves you, no one ever has, no one ever will. I’m just trying to teach you that important lesson and maybe you’ll manage to stay alive. Everyone is waiting for an opportunity to get you. Don’t you see! They’re everywhere, just waiting to stab you in the back when you’re not looking!” she yelled and looked frantically around the room as if waiting for someone to suddenly appear. She turned and raised a corner of the stained, flowery curtain to take a peek out the window, as if someone was to attack them at any given moment.

When she turned back it wasn’t the face of an old woman but a younger one. She looked with disdain at the boy lying on the carpet. Eyes cold and unforgiving.

“You should’ve listened to her daddy. Everyone is out there to get you, no one would ever want to stay near you, they’re just waiting for the right moment.” Suddenly her facial expression changed to something between a smile and a sneer. She looked sinister. “Face bothering you under that mask?”

Suddenly the boy realized he had a mask over his face and tried to remove it, fingers moving frantically over its surface. Finally he managed to tear it off and quickly ran to the nearest mirror. What he saw terrified the little boy who kept screaming and screaming at the top of his lungs, while the sound of a woman’s laughter echoed throughout the house.

 

—o.o—   —o.o—

 

Jack woke up with a yell, jumping out of the chair he must have dozed off in. As usual he had both of his guns drawn, looking frantically at the unfamiliar surroundings. It took him a moment to recognize the place and its recent owner. The kid stood terrified in the kitchen, both of his hands in the air, muttering something along the lines of ‘please don’t shoot me’. Jack stared at him some more not saying a word. When finally everything clicked into place and he realized he had one of his fucked up nightmares, Jack holstered his guns and with a heavy sigh ran both of hind hands down his face. His masked face.

“Are… are you alright?” Rhys asked lowering his hands, a worried frown on his face.

Why did the kid sound so worried? No, more importantly how did he allow himself to fall asleep in someone’s presence? He had never done that before. Damn all this late night work seemed to take a toll on him. Good thing it was Rhys of all people, the fact that the kid had the perfect opportunity to kill him and didn’t take the chance only proved his earlier assumption. Rhys was as harmless as they get. It was surprising how he lasted so long on Helios. Either the kid was an idiot and everyone just ignored him, or he was lucky. Since he actually designed one of the best weapon upgrades he had seen in a long while, Jack’s guess would be lucky.

“Of course I’m alright pumpkin. Just had some dream about killing skags badass style. You know like that scene from the movie, you know the one which starts with them spooning out this guy’s eye and…”

“I remember, I remember, no need to go into detail.” The kid said hurriedly. Ah Jack remembered the grip of death he had on the pillow while watching, seriously he had never met anyone with such a delicate disposition. On Helios nonetheless. It was like finding a feather in a shit pile. Ok he was getting too poetic over here.

“Yeah so I got way into the action, good thing I didn’t kill ya sweet-cheeks. Would’ve been a waste.” The comment seemed to make the kid relax a bit. “Anyways my lasagna ready or what? I’m starving over here.”

“Well kinda. Just make some space and I’ll take it out of the oven.” Rhys replied and busied himself with the dish.

Meanwhile Jack sat on one of the barstools near the counter where, a few moments ago, he was working on the recent reports from the Eridium sites down on Pandora. He must have dozed off for only a couple of minutes, couple of minutes too long considering he head company. But it was Rhys so maybe it was ok? Jack still felt conflicted on that. What if he somehow misjudged the kid? He looked from where he was gathering the papers at the form of the lanky programmer who just managed to burn his fingers on the stove. Nope he is spot on with this one, completely harmless, unless we were talking about danger he posed to himself.

Jack put all of the paperwork to the side and closed his laptop. He planned to thoroughly enjoying his dish.  The thought of eating lasagna has kept him alive the whole day. He was bouncing like a fucking five year old when he finally saw Rhys coming to the counter with the dish. However when he saw the contents his mood faltered.

“What the hell is this?” Jack asked outraged. Where was his lasagna! It sure as hell wasn’t this!

“Uh well there was actually one crucial ingredient that was missing, seems the fridge wasn’t stocked for that particular dish. So I decided to improvise and make something with a bit of a similar taste. It’s not the same of course but… but I think you’ll like it as well.” Rhys said. Wow that was the longest the kid has ever spoken to him, except for that time he was still a janitor but that didn’t really count. Anyways this didn’t change the fact that there was no fucking lasagna on his plate.

“Cupcake when I say lasagna then I mean fucking lasagna! You could’ve gone to the store for the missing ingredient!” Jack said angered. Someone would say he was pouting but Handsome Jack did not pout.

“All of the stores are closed, it’s 3 am in the morning.” Rhys said sounding apologetic.

“I’m the CEO of Hyperion, I could announce it on the damn speakers and every shop would be opened in no time dum dum.” Jack explained exasperated. Well it was too late now so he had to make due with what he had. He took a fork in one hand and tentatively poked at the dish. Well it did smell rather nice so he could try it at least. Jacked scooped some of the food and took a bite, closing his eyes like his mouth would explode any minute now. And explode it did, with the most awesome flavor ever.

“Wow I thought nothing could beat lasagna but this is fucking amazing. What is this?”

“It’s called cannelloni, basically it’s a type of stuffed pasta. I’m glad you like it.” Rhys said with a pleased smile, though still a bit timidly. Jack would have to work on that later, the kid couldn’t be this tense all the fucking time. If he were to stick a coal somewhere in that body of his then he’d have a diamond in a matter of minutes. Now that was a rather unsettling thought.

“Like it? Rhysie I fucking love it, if everything that you make tastes this good than I’m open to all of the experimentation you can think off.” Jack said grinning between mouthfuls of food. He wiggling his eyebrows in a suggestive manner just to rile the kid up. As expected he jumped up startled and quickly tried to find something in the kitchen he could occupy his hands with, just to avoid looking at Jack. Rhys was such an easy target.

While he was eating his dish, though devouring might be a better word, he watched Rhys as he busied himself with cleaning the kitchen. He noticed the programmer wore a different set of clothing than usual. He couldn’t exactly remember what he was wearing before, but he was sure it was an eyesore. The kid’s fashion sense was atrocious to say the least. Was he the one with a red tie tucked into his pants? For a brief moment Jack wondered what he was doing there, but then looked at the half-eaten dish and the mystery was solved.

“So pumpkin, you finally acquired some fashion sense or did you decide that looking in a mirror from time to time was a good idea?”

At that Rhys turned to face him, a questioning look on his face.

“The outfit kiddo.” Jack said, pointing up and down Rhys’ body with the fork he was holding. He had his elbows propped on the counter, munching contently on his food.

“Oh this” Rhys said pointing to the white v-neck t-shirt and skinny jeans “it’s something my friend bought for me. She’s constantly pestering me about my fashion sense and keeps buying me clothes every chance she gets. I wouldn’t wear them to work but I guess outside of it is fine. Besides it makes her happy so that counts.”

“They’re ugly ass clothes.” Jack said in an unimpressed voice. Ok so a moment ago he might have thought they were an improvement, but now that he looked closely at them they were awful. Like look at the quality, they were clearly substandard. The kid probably forced himself to wear them just to make the bitch happy. Now when Handsome Jack gave someone presents, they were a show stopper. Like this apartment for instance, Jack could see how the kid liked it, stopping every now and then to admire the interior. But the clothes? Like he said, he wouldn’t even wear them for work.

Why was he getting so riled up about this?

“Uh, you think so? Well I’m not into fashion so I wouldn’t know.” Rhys said looking down at his t-shirt and tugging at it awkwardly.

“No shit. And here I was thinking red skinny ties were in trend this summer.”

“I like my tie.” Rhys protested meekly.

“Yes, sadly I know that.” Jack said finishing his meal. “Damn kid I could forgive just about any fashion blunder of yours for this amazing food. Anyways how do you find the kitchen? I made sure it’s well equipped.”

“Oh I love it, actually the whole apartment is pretty great but...” Rhys said hesitantly pushing a hand through his hair. The kid did that a lot. It looked cute. Not that Jack digged cute, nope he preferred the dangerous and alluring. But it suited him… contrary to the ugly ass clothes he got from some overbearing friend.

“But what pumpkin, having complaints already?”Jack asked irritated. So he gave Rhys the best fucking apartment he could find on short notice, or rather the best apartment whose previous owner he could evict on a short notice, and the kid wasn’t happy with it? Yet he wore those fucking ugly clothes… Jack felt his temper rising.

“No, no, no! The apartment is amazing, it’s just that…. It’s too much. I can’t accept a gift like this.” Rhys protested wildly.

“Oh kitten, if Handsome Jack decides to give you something you say ‘thank you very fucking much’. You do not question my motives and most certainly you do not turn away the offer.” Jack punctuated every word he said. There was a moment of silence on Rhys part when he clearly analyzed the new piece of information. Finally he decide to break the silence.

“Well in that case… thank you very fucking much…?” Rhys said unsurely, his hand scratching at the back of his head.

“Glad we understand each other pumpkin, now I need to get back to work.” Jack said and reached for the papers and his laptop.

“You still plan to work? It’s 4 in the morning.”

“Yeah well work needs to be done, besides sleeping is out of fashion.. not that you would know.” Jack commented off-handedly and began typing away on his laptop. After a moment he felt eyes on him so he lifted his head only to realize Rhys was still standing in the exact same spot.

“Kiddo, although I do appreciated the admiration on your part I’d much rather work without someone gaping at me.”

“Uh.. sorry… just, what am I supposed to do?”

“Like I care, go to sleep if you’re tired or something. It’s your apartment, ain’t it. Now shush.”

 

—o.o— Rhys  —o.o—

 

Ok so it seemed Handsome Jack wasn’t going anywhere soon. Did he expect Rhys to just casually get ready for sleep when the CEO of Hyperion was sitting at his kitchen counter? But he couldn’t just ask him to leave, the apartment was a present from the man so asking him out didn’t seem very appropriate. Hell even if it wasn’t a gift from him Rhys still wouldn’t dare to order him out.

Rhys felt too awkward to go to sleep while the man was sitting in the apartment so instead he busied himself with work as well. He sat on the sofa in the far corner of the room and took out the calculations he’s done so far on the grenade project. He managed to stay upright for fifteen whole minutes until his head started dipping ever so slightly, sleep slowly overtaking him. Ok this was ridiculous, he needed some sleep. Badly.

Rhys figured that maybe if he got ready for bed Jack would somehow get the hint and return to his apartment. Therefore he grabbed a few essentials and made his way for the bathroom. He closed the door behind him and took a shower. It was something that usually relaxed him, only this time he felt incredibly tense. The thought of his boss sitting outside of his door unnerved him. At some point he even thought the door to the bathroom was being opened but soon discarded the thought. He finished his shower quickly and walked out to change. He put on his boxers and looked around for the white t-shirt. He was sure he brought it with him but it was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly Rhys heard a loud bang outside in the living room, as if something exploded. Without thinking about it he ran out and looked around the apartment. He saw Jack standing in the middle of the room, his back facing Rhys. Sure enough something exploded, there was a dark hole in the wooden floor, a few centimeters deep, and small pieces of clothing were lying here and there. The smell of singed wool filling the air.

“What the hell happened here?” Rhys yelled taken by surprise.

“Oh well Rhysie I decided to be the better man you know. Initially I wanted to leave you to your horrid fashion taste but then I thought ‘wow Jack, you’re cruel, Rhysie here does his best to cook this amazing food and you leave him looking like something that a rabid rag has just spit out’. Soooo I decided to help!” Jack said still assessing the damage. “I just didn’t think this particular grenade was so potent.”

“And you decided that the best way to ‘help’ me was to blow up all of my clothing with a grenade?!” Rhys demanded.

“Yup.” Jack nodded with a self-satisfying grin. After a moment of silence he added “No worries I’m gonna get you some proper clothing real soon. No need to thank me.”

Thank the man? Rhys wanted to kill him. What right did he have to destroy his things? He had clothes which held sentimental value, things he liked to wear. Now it was all gone in a puff of smoke. Did that mean Jack actually went into the bathroom and took his shirt while he was taking a shower? Now that was unsettling on a whole new level. Why the hell did the man even do such a thing. Was it to make fun of him? Was this his idea of a fun time?

Jack was unstable - that was for sure. This was why Rhys didn’t want to stay anywhere near him. Handsome Jack was unpredictable. What if one day he decides that a good idea was to use a grenade on him?

Jack slowly turned to face him, probably unsettled by the ongoing silence. Seeing the CEO grinning only made him angrier. Suddenly there was a change in Jack’s facial expression. It became focused and calculating. He was looking at Rhys’ chest, which made the programmer realize that he wasn’t wearing anything beside his boxers. It suddenly made him feel very self-conscious, especially when he saw the man advancing towards him.

The programmer stood rooted to the floor, all of his anger gone replaced by the feeling of panic and awkwardness. Suddenly he realized that the man was staring at his tattoos. He raised one hand, fingers tracing the outline of the blue tattoo on his collarbone. Shit, Rhys panicked. Could the CEO connect it with sirens? Would he know the difference given how long he spent chasing after them to acquire their abilities? Rhys had to think of something quickly and Jack touching him did not help his thought process one bit.

“Uh the tattoos…. I had them since my college years. I thought they would look cool. Girls seem to like guys with tattoos so I figured why the hell not? Hah.” Rhys said backing away, not liking how Jack focused on his siren markings. The man looked at him with a calculating gaze.

“Funny, it really resembles siren markings.”

Shit. Fuck shit. Rhys began to panic and this was not good, extreme emotions could actually trigger his powers. He needed to calm down fast!

“Hah yeah I actually wanted the tattoos to look like siren marking, thought sirens were cool at the time. Now I feel like a dumbass cause only chicks are sirens and… well let’s just say the number of girls in my phone book did not change after this.” Rhys tried to cover his nervousness by  laughing sheepishly, at the same time trying to awkwardly cross his arms over his chest in order to hide as much of the blue signs as he could. Jack looked at him with a raised brow, he’s expression a bit far off. After what seemed like an eternity to Rhys, the man closed his eyes, heaved a sigh and was back to his regular, playful demeanor.

“Seriously Rhysie, sometimes it seems to me like you’re going out of your way to be an idiot. Like I know there are some brains cells  in there screaming for attention” Jack said while poking Rhys temple with his index finger “so do try to make them feel useful from time to time. Luckily you now have me to stop you from making any other stupid ass decisions.” Jack said patting him on the head, the gesture seemingly a bit condescending.

“Yes… that hole in my floor seems like a brilliant idea.” The words were out before Rhys registered what he was saying, and more importantly, to whom. Luckily Jack took no offence, just laughed it off.

“No worries pumpkin, I’ll deactivate the lasers for a short time and have someone here to fix it tomorrow. Anyways even though the reason for those tats was the lamest thing I heard since like forever, they do look good on you kiddo. I didn’t know you had it in you.” Jack said casually while retreating to his usual working spot.

“Thanks… I guess.” Rhys did not really feel like thanking the man. Thanks to him he was now standing in the middle of his apartment, clad only in a pair of boxers. He could already feel a shiver creeping up his spine. Ever since he could remember Rhys was vulnerable to cold, that’s probably the only reason why he wanted to visit Pandora. He heard the whole planet was a scorching desert, sun beaming most of the day, whereas on Helios they were surrounded by the never-ending darkness of space. The only semblance of light came from the reflected shine of Elpis.

“Um Jack? Did you happen to spear any single item of my clothing?”

“And why would I do that sweet-cheeks. Those things caused my eyes to bleed every time I looked at them.”

“Yes well, I‘m kinda freezing over here.” Rhys whined.

“Well why didn’t you say so earlier dum dum.” Jack said nonchalantly while he started to take off his garments. When it came to the third layer of clothing Rhys spun around on his heel. His back facing the man.

“Wha… what are you doing?” Rhys asked, face red. He only heard a chuckle from the man which wasn’t reassuring at all. He felt his body go tense when suddenly some object hit him from behind, draping over his face. He lost his balance momentarily and quickly took hold of the offending object. It was the yellow sweater with the Hyperion logo the man was always wearing beneath those multitude layers of clothing. He took a peek at the man who put back most of the layers, only his jacket laid discarder on the counter.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” Rhys asked dumbly, of course he guessed the reason, but still had to make sure.

“Oh you know the usual thing you do with a sweater. Use it as a weapon of mass destruction and strangle every person who as much as gives you the wrong look. That’s what I use it for anyway.”

Rhys looked at the man incredulously.

“For fucks sake kid, it’s a sweater, wear that damn thing. Seriously what did I tell you about using those brain cells of you. I’m really beginning to wonder how you managed to design those weapon upgrades when the purpose of a sweater gives you a mental challenge.” Jack said shaking his head, but not taking his eyes away from the screen of his now open laptop. Rhys was starting to get used to the crude sense of humor Handsome Jack favored, not that he appreciated it much.

He pulled the sweater over his head and inspected himself in the nearby mirror. How the hell was this an improvement to his wardrobe? The sweater seemed old, had a few holes here and there and was stretched out beyond measure. It looked funny on Rhys lithe form. It was going down to his mid-tights and falling off one of his shoulders. It made him realize just how much broader the man was.

“See, better already!” Jack said looking up momentarily. When Rhys looked at him the man seemed happy, but there was also something else there. He didn’t know what it was but it seemed dangerous in a way. The look Jack was giving him was way too intense for Rhys liking so he decided to quickly make his way to the spiral stairs.

The staircase was open, without any railings, which complimented the space nicely. He went up to the mezzanine where his bed, or rather mattress, was located. The whole space was covered in it and otherwise empty, aside for two small night tables on each corner of the platform, with lamps on them. There were no walls at the corners of the mezzanine, only a low metal railing which would ensure that no one would fall of the bed in the middle of the night. Because of this the apartment seemed like one big open space, aside from the bathroom of course. (Thank heavens).

He got into the bed and decided it was the most comfortable thing he had ever laid on. Given his tiredness and how comfy his new bedroom was, Rhys was certain sleep would overtake him in no time. He was wrong. There were a couple of things that were unsettling his mind so much, that he could not find it in himself to fall asleep.

First of all how could he sleep peacefully when he knew that the CEO was in the same room. He made his presence known every now and then by either tapping on his laptop keyboard or shuffling through the documents. This set Rhys on edge. If he moved his head to the opposite side an picked over the railing he could probably see Jack at work. Not that he wanted to get spotted while doing that.

Secondly this damn yellow sweater was smelling like the man and it was so distracting. It smelled like gun powder and something else, a heavy scent he could not exactly describe. There was also the distinct smell of the cologne the man was usually wearing. Generally it smelled nice but not when it was the only damn thing he could smell. And not when Rhys wanted to sleep. He considered taking it off but then Jack might feel offended or something. Rhys guessed Jack didn’t part with his clothing easily.

The whole situation was just crazy. A couple of days ago Rhys only knew Handsome Jack from the posters, the random announcements the man made, as well as the stories that circulated around Helios. The man seemed unapproachable for someone like him and although Rhys wanted to meet him, he knew it was safer to just stay away. Now, by some bizarre chain of events, the all powerful CEO was sitting in his kitchen, in the apartment he had given to Rhys, typing leisurely on his laptop while Rhys tried to fall asleep. It seemed weirdly domestic.

Some part of him wanted to enjoy it, not everyone could boast about spending a casual evening with the man and surviving it. It was doing wonders for his ego and some part of Rhys wanted to rub it into everyone’s faces. Handsome Jack? Yeah we’re best buddies, he comes to hang out at my place which, by the way, he gave me as a present. We’re like best bros. Haha ok that just sounded stupid and absurd.

But there was the other side of Jack that he didn’t feel so eager to explore. The man was usually playful and mainly a jackass, but at times, when someone got on his bad side, the dark and dangerous part of the him would shine through. Worst part was no one could ever predict what triggered these reactions.

Jack had his own weird way of reasoning and Rhys had no clue what his motives were. Like why the hell did he spare his life? Not that he complained but still it did make him wonder. Why did he invite him to watch those movies when it was clear Rhys was not a fan of gore. But those two weren’t even on the top of the list. What made him really unsettled was that, since the short time they’ve known each other, Rhys was given an apartment, had his clothes blown up for no good reason and was now forced to share his living space with the CEO. What was happening here?!

“Good night kiddo!” the man said while continuously tapping on his keyboard, jolting Rhys from his internal musings.

What the hell? This was so weird. It was like trying to be domestic with a rakk hive. One wrong move and he could be stomped to death. Oh the joys of his life.

“Good night… Jack.” Rhys decided to answer, since it seemed like a polite thing to do. He groaned into the pillow, trying to wrap his mind around everything that happened. The man’s smell irritating his senses. After what seemed like forever Rhys slowly drifted into a restless sleep, all the time wondering how the hell is he going to hide the fact that he’s a siren.

Chapter Text

When Rhys woke up silence met his ears. That could only mean one thing, he was alone at last. Crawling to the end of his platform bed he looked down at the kitchen area, yup no Handsome Jack in sight. He went down and did a quick check around the whole apartment but found no one. Heaving a sigh of relief he sat on the coach. 'Finally a moment of peace' Rhys thought. Sadly enough that didn’t last long as soon he heard his Echo Comm buzzing, however, seeing that it was Vaughn trying to connect with him he decided to answer.

“What’s up bro?”

“What’s up? You tell me what’s up?! We wake up with Yvette and you are nowhere to be seen, what the hell happened? We were worried sick, tried calling you a couple of times already but you weren’t answering.” Vaughn said, his tone angry yet Rhys could also hear relief in his voice.

“Yeah sorry for that, I just woke up.”

“Woke up where exactly? And where are all of your things? Your room is empty man.”

“Yeah about that, I kinda have a new apartment now. It sort of happen yesterday, or was it today morning? Can’t tell anymore.”

“New apartment?” he heard Yvette shouting from the back. “And when did you plan to share the news? Where’s that apartment, why haven’t we seen it yet?”

“Well it’s a long story, how about we go for lunch and I’ll tell you everything that happened.”

“No Rhys, no stalling, you tell us now.” Yvette demanded. Wow if she just put down a lunch offer then she meant business.

“Ok ok I get it. So I’m living on the 37th floor…”

“Dude that floor is reserved for the VIPs! I knew you got a promotion but hell you didn’t mention how lucrative it is.” Vaughn piped in.

“Well it’s not like I could afford buying this place. It was a… gift.”

“A gift...” Rhys could hear the doubt in their voices. No wonder they didn’t believe it, he himself had a hard time believing in everything that transpired. Anyways here comes the difficult part.

“Yeah a gift… from Handsome Jack.” And there was the silence he expected. “Look guys I have no idea why he did it, the only reason he gave me was that he wanted to eat the food that I make on a regular basis and this apartment has an awesome kitchen guys, if you could just see it.”

“You cook for Handsome Jack, like is that a regular thing? Also what does it mean ‘if you could see this’? Aren’t you going to invite us to your awesome apartment?” and there was Yvette back with her accusations.

“It was only two times so far… but he did mention he’ll drop by to eat stuff. And of course I’d like to show off my awesome apartment but… I can’t. It has some super enhanced security system which responds only to me. Anyone else tries to get in here and the lasers go ape crazy.” Rhys explained.

“Everyone except you and Handsome Jack apparently. And lasers? Bro what’s up with that? Isn’t it a bit extreme?” Vaughn said clearly unsettled by the whole apartment of imminent death deal. Not cool.

“You think I like it? It creeps me out bro!” Rhys wanted to protest further but there was a doorbell. Now who could that be. “Wait guys I’ll just check it out real quick.”

When he stood in front of the door he wondered briefly if it was a good thing to open it, but decided it should be safe. Worst case scenario he’ll just get back inside and have his lasers kill the hell out of whoever it was…. He couldn’t believe he just thought the lasers were actually useful.

“Uh hi… what can I help you with?” Rhys asked eyeing the tall man standing outside.

“I have a delivery to Mr Rhys. Is that you sir? Please sing this and I’ll be on my way. I’d help you with the packages but I was instructed not to enter your apartment.” The guy explained.

At the mention of packages Rhys looked around and noticed there were at least five boxes lying on the floor. What the hell was in them?

“Oh but I didn’t’ order anything.”

“Man I don’t care just sign here ok? I have a lot more stuff to deliver.”

Rhys took the delivery form and signed it, meanwhile noticing the guy craning his neck like crazy, obviously trying to take a peek into the apartment. Seeing Rhys eying him he smiled sheepishly.

“Can’t blame a man from wondering. I mean I have pretty weird orders now and then but it makes one wonder what’s going on in someone’s apartment if they threaten me not to go in. So what is it? Illegal drugs, money trafficking…. A cat fighting ring? Always wanted to see one of those.” The man asked taking back the signed form.

“Dude do I look like a cat fighting ring owner?”Rhys asked slightly irritated as he began to move the packages into the apartment.

“Nah, not really.” He said and eyed Rhys up and down. “So it’s one of those body selling establishments then?”

“Good bye!” Rhys said slamming the door in the man’s face. The nerve of some people! Maybe he should’ve just invented him in. What a jerk! Rhys did definitely not give off that kind of vibe! Did he?

“Rhyyyyyys bro! You there?” he heard Vaughn yelling through the communicator. He quickly made his way to fetch it.

“Yeah just some delivery guy. It seems I received quite a lot of packages.” Rhys said eyeing his floor.

“Well what’s in them?”

“Hell if I know.”

“Then check it! I’m curious over here!” Yes Yvette was always the one to put her nose in someone else’s business.

“Ok ok fine. Hang on as I unpack those.” Rhys began unpacking all of the parcels and soon discovered they were full of…

“Soooo what’s in them!?” his friends asked in unison.

“Clothes…”

He actually also found a note attached saying ‘no need to thank me sweet-cheeks, see you at dinner’. Well even without that note Rhys would have guessed who the sender was. In the packages there were all kind of clothes, mainly skinny jeans black suit pants (equally tight), some white and black shirts, a few sleeveless shirts and some hoodies. There were also a couple of more elegant three layer suits – Handsome Jack really had a thing for layers. The colors, surprisingly, were toned down. A lot of blacks, some blue jeans and a white shirt here and there. The only color accents were those on the black clothes, they were mainly yellow, some had teal as well. All in all he could tell the clothes were pretty expensive and definitely high quality.

“Why the hell would someone buy you clothes?”

“Ahahah you see, funny story. Yesterday Jack kinda exploded my whole wardrobe, so I was left with nothing to wear and I suppose these are supposed to compensate me for that little incident.”

“Rhys why would Handsome Jack destroy your things just to buy you new ones the next day…. Also does that mean you are currently walking bare arsed?”

“How the hell would I know, he just said I had a bad fashion sense, then boom grenaded the hell out of my wardrobe and now I have a new set of clothing….. And of course I’m not walking nude! I’m wearing Ja….. I’m wearing a sweater ok.” Rhys said defensively. Ok hearing himself retell the whole story actually made him realize how fucked up it really was.

“Rhys bro, not to worry you or anything, but there is something seriously wrong with Jack. I mean what are his motives? Why did he suddenly start showering you with gifts?” Ok now it sounded three times as bad. “And you do not own any sweaters Rhys….”

“He does not shower me with gifts! He just bought me some clothes…. and an apartment…. and I’m wearing his sweater now…. oh my God guys this is bad. I don’t know what the hell is happening!” Rhys started to panic.

“Ok ok calm down bro, we can figure this out. Let’s meet at the usual spot for lunch and discuss this new… situation.” Vaughn suggested. Yes making sense out of this whole mess did seem like a good idea. He’ll just get dressed… in the clothes that he received, which, as he was putting them on, Rhys realized that fitted perfectly. Ok this was positively unsettling. He needed to see his friends, now.

 

—o.o— Diner  —o.o—

 

The trio was sitting at their favorite diner. It was later than usual so this time it was not bustling with customers - all the better given the sensitive subject they wanted to discuss. When the waitress came to take orders Rhys decided to stick with his usual which was coffee and pancakes. He always liked coming here since, unlike other places on Helios, the staff was actually pleasant. Also pleasing to the eye, Rhys thought as he eyed the girl with brown dreadlocks taking their orders. It was surprising how a smile could make a meal taste better. Rhys wondered briefly whether he’ll ever work up the courage to actually talk to the girl.

When the waitress took all of their orders and went to a different table Yvette was the first one to break the silence.

“So Rhys, we were actually discussing what you told us on our way here. You must know it’s pretty damn strange right? Being showered with gifts by a total strangers is one thing” Rhys wanted to protest at the whole ‘shower with gifts’ thing again, but Yvette had none of it “but getting those from Handsome Jack? You realize how ridiculous that sounds right?”

“It’s not like we don’t trust you bro, we’re just surprised that’s all. I mean I never heard of Handsome Jack being nice to anyone, the only stories that involve him, either have the word airlock in them or ‘sudden death’. But cooking food for him, watching movies… him buying you an apartment and clothes. What I mean is…. did Jack… uh bro I’m not good at these things.” Vaughn said frustrated, one hand rubbing at the back of his neck. “Ok what I want to ask is… did Jack do anything ‘untoward’?” Vaughn asked looking everywhere but at his friend.

Rhys stared at both Vaughn and Yvette, gaze moving from one to the other, mouth wide open. Did he? Did he just imply what Rhys thought he did? The programmer was slowly turning tomato red.

“You think that, that he, that we?! What the hell were you thinking?!” Rhys spluttered.

“Oh come one Rhys, what the hell were we supposed to think. He fucking bought you an apartment! He bought you clothes and you’re all domestic watching movies, eating dinner together. And don’t get me started about you wearing his clothes.” Yvette said and suddenly Rhys decided that talking with his friends was not helping him as much as he had hoped.

“Guys what the hell. Of course he didn’t DO anything. I mean come one, this is Handsome Jack we’re talking about. He’s all into boobs and stuff, besides he could have anyone he wanted and do you seriously think he would’ve picked me?” Rhys asked getting all worked up.

“Well he has a point.” Yvette admitted. Ok ouch. That didn’t really help his already nonexistent confidence.

“I… to be honest I have no idea why he acts the way he does. The man is really impulsive, he just thinks of something and then does it. Like the whole wardrobe thing, I think he just thought it would be funny, or wanted to screw with me, either way it was just Jack being his impulsive, crazy self. Also buying an apartment, although it does sound like a big deal to us, is like buying coffee for Jack. I don’t think any of this was a big deal for him. Having easy access to home-cooked meals was just as good of a reason as any.” Rhys tried to explain as best as he could.

“Ok bro you might be right, but it still doesn’t explain why you? I mean why did he never pull stunts like these in the past? I’m sure there are thousands of people who would die to be Handsome Jack’s personal chefs.” Vaughn asked, still not convinced by his friends logic. Judging by Yvette’s face neither was she.

Rhys heaved a sigh, putting his face in his hands. Yes why did Jack choose him? Rhys would really like to know that. But Handsome Jack was as unpredictable as a claptrap when trying to hack a closed door. You could never guess the outcome. How was he supposed to know the man’s reasoning.

“Here are your orders” the waitress came back. And there was that smile again, yes Rhys already felt his mood lifting.

“Boys, boys, boys. I think we need a woman’s perspective on this one.” Yvette said with an all-knowing face.

“Great, where do we find one?” Rhys countered.

“Ha ha ha, very funny Rhys. Now stay quiet and answer a few of my questions, without your brilliant puns if you may. So first question – what did Jack say his reason was for not killing you, as he intended to when you first met him.”

“Uh something about me being completely harmless.” Rhys said vaguely, but judging by Yvette’s harsh gaze he knew she wanted details. “Ok so he might have said something along the lines of  me being a wuss, letting people get advantage of me, allowing other people get credit for my work, crying silently in the corner, not being much of a threat to anyone but myself….. Do I seriously need to go on?” Rhys asked aggravated. This certainly did not make him feel any better.

“Easy, easy I got my answer. Now second question, what was your last interaction with Jack before he got you that apartment?” Yvette asked while making mental notes.

“Ugh let me think… oh right I ditched him on the Echo comm. He wanted me to drop by and make lasagna for him but I said I can’t because I’m celebrating my best buddy’s birthday.”

“Wow thanks bro, nobody ever turned down Handsome Jack for me.” Vaughn said actually moved.

“No big deal bro!”

“Bro!”

“Ughhhh guys enough of this! My God dealing with men…” She ostentatiously rubbed at her temples. “Now I only have one more question. Before Jack blew up your clothes, did you guys have any conversation on the topic of clothing?”

“Not that I can recall.” Rhys answered focusing on his pancakes. The smell was mouth-watering.

“Think Rhys!” Yvette pressed the issue further.

“Well  if I can’t remember than… oh wait I think there was something actually” That earned him a roll of the eyes “I was actually wearing the clothes you bought me, you know the ones I was wearing to the party yesterday. So Jack asked me about this change from my usual atrocious outfits – his words not mine.” Rhys explained and tried not to focus on the ‘I told you so’ comment he heard from the woman. “So I told him this outfit was a gift from a friend and that I don’t know much about fashion but as long as it makes them happy I’m fine with wearing whatever. Now can I get back to my pancakes?” Rhys asked in exasperation.

Both him and Vaughn have been halfway though their meals when Yvette decided to speak up.

“So you honestly don’t see a pattern here? Both of you?”

“What pattern?” they said between mouthfuls of food.

“To Jack’s behavior idiots.” Yvette said clearly annoyed. Both men just looked at each other, shoulders raising in a sign of confusion. “I swear men are useless when it comes to things like this. Ok Rhys I think I know what motivates Jack.”

“Seriously? I’ve been trying to figure that out for the past couple of days and you know it after those three answers I’ve given?” Rhys asked disbelievingly.

“Sometimes it’s all it takes, now you guys wanna know or not?” Yvette asked with a hint smugness in her voice. Both Rhys and Vaughn nodded enthusiastically.

“Handsome Jack. Wants. To. Own. You.” Yvette said punctuating each word.

“What?!” Rhys spluttered indignantly, struggling to contain whatever food he was chewing in its rightful place. “I told you it’s not like that!” Rhys protested, face turning red.

“Oh please will you let me finish? I’m not saying own you as in a sexual way.” Yvette said earning a groan from both men “I’m saying own as in a way a child would like to have full control over its favorite toy or pet.”

“I’m not sure which sounds better at the moment.” Rhys said with zero enthusiasm.

“Now listen carefully. We all know Jack has paranoia issues which is why he always kept everyone on distance. He wouldn’t let anyone near him in fear of being killed or whatever. The man has some serious issues. So when a dumbass like you comes into the scene he sees you like the most harmless idiot ever, in which he is right by the way.”

“Ouch Yvette, like ouch.” If looks could kill Yvette would probably be dead by now. At times like this Rhys wished he could simply use his siren powers, just to see the looks on their faces.

“Don’t interrupt me please. Now where was I? Ah yes Jack thinks that it’s ok to stay near you since his paranoia doesn’t act out, ergo you are the first person since, who the hell knows how long, maybe since forever, that Jack can spend time with. I think you may actually be a sort of a friend for him, though I’m not sure Jack sees you as such, hard to tell. Anyway imagine living all your life looking over your shoulder for people who want to kill you and then having the first person with whom he can interact more or less naturally? I’m guessing even Handsome Jack gets lonely at times, so it must be nice to have you around, even though the two of you are like fire and water, complete opposites.” Yvette paused for a brief moment to take a sip of her coffee, the smug look not leaving her face.

“So imagine having the first person to talk to after such a long time? Would you want to share them? The answer is no. Jack wants to own you, as in make you his lapdog, his pet project, his whatever. He got pissed when you turned him down for the sake of your friends so he decided to isolate you from us. An apartment with turrets is a nice way, I’ll give him that. Then he hears you talking about the outfits I bought you so Handsome Jack is pissed. Yes ladies and gentleman Handsome Jack is jealous of me, now how cool is that.” Yvette said with a self-satisfied smirk. “Anyways his solution is to destroy all you clothing and replace it with what he buys for you, because he wants you to be dependent on him. Handsome Jacks want you to be exclusively his.”

Rhys sat there shell shocked. Did all of what Yvette just said make any sense? It most certainly did and it was both terrifying and exciting. He was afraid to think what else the man would do to ensure that Rhys was ‘his’. He didn’t like how the CEO clearly wanted to control him, but at the same time he found it oddly thrilling. No one has ever paid him much attention and now the man who was a Hyperion legend was focusing all of his attention on him. The thought was oddly pleasing but he knew there might be dire consequences. Jack was unpredictable and if he blew up his clothes there was no telling what he’ll do next. Rhys didn’t even want to think about all of this in the context of his hidden powers.

“Guys, what am I supposed to do?” he asked at a loss.

“Well first of all I don’t think Jack realizes all of this. Like you said he often acts on a whim and doesn’t think much about the consequences. So my guess is that he hasn’t realized yet what was the real motivation behind his actions. If you’re lucky he’ll find something different that will catch his interest and move on… and if not… well it was nice knowing you.” Yvette said in a joking manner but it did not help to raise Rhys’ mood.

“Well I for one find it a bit hard to believe.” Vaughn shared his doubts. “I mean there is some logic in what you’re saying but…  c’mon it’s Handsome Jack we’re talking about. He has a corporation to run, chasing after some distorted form of friendship doesn’t seem very fitting…”

“Ok so let’s test my theory then!” Yvette said excitedly.

“And how am I supposed to do that?” Rhys asked massaging his temples, he could already feel he’s not going to like it.

“Do you know when you’re going to see him next?” Yvette asked.

“Well he left me a note saying that he’ll be back for dinner.”

“Bro you’re like Handsome Jack’s wife at this point.” Vaughn said with a snicker.

“Shut up Vaughn.” Rhys did not have the patience to deal with this right now.

“Ok so write him on your Echo Comm. that you won’t make it because you’re meeting with us. But write that the food will be ready. If it’s really the grub that he’s after he won’t mind, but if he wants to control you like I said , then he’ll make sure you’re not gonna meet with us.” Yvette said nodding with conviction.

Rhys wasn’t so sure about this.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack was in the middle of a particularly boring meeting. The head of the accounting was summarizing their recent sales and the targets reached. He knew that technically he needed to listen to this crap but – also technically - he wanted to strangle the accountant. The second choice seemed much more appealing. Just when he was visualizing how he’d strangle the guy his Echo Comm buzzed. He looked at the new message.

Rhys: Hello, I just read your message, by the way thank you for the clothes, I can tell they’re quality stuff. Anyways as for the supper, I’m sorry but I won’t be able to make it. I already have plans with my friends, but I’ll make the meal and it will be ready for you when you come by. Promise it will be great.

Jack stared at the message a while longer then closed the communicator. He looked back at the man summarizing recent sales. For a moment all he could register was the man opening and closing his mouth, the words not quite reaching Jack. However, when he said that they did not reach a target set for the revenue from distribution around Pandora’s Salt Sands area Jack stood up abruptly.

“So I give you one single fucking task to fulfill and you can’t even manage that?!” Handsome Jack hollered and made his way towards the man. Everyone was caught by surprise by the sudden outburst.

“Sir, but every single other target has been met.” The man protested meekly.

“Oh and is that supposed to satisfy me? So you’re telling me that when I go on a date and don’t get laid then I’m supposed to be satisfied since every single other target has been met? Or when I decide to break every single bone in your body but fail to kill you, am I also supposed to be satisfied as well?!” Jack yelled.

The guy was a mess buy now, trembling and cowering behind his chair. Jack soon stood before the man and encircled his fingers around the man’s throat. He raised his arm effectively cutting out any air from the man’s lungs.

“So what do you have to say?” Jack asked and the man tried to respond but all that came out of his mouth were intelligible groans.

“What is that? Can’t hear you pal?” Jack said mockingly, the man slowly growing paler.

“Did you say ‘sorry sir, it won’t happen again, I’m a total ass and I’ll work on improving the targets.” Jack said and the man, who was barely conscious by now, managed a small nod. Seeing this Jack let him go and crouched before the wheezing man.

“Glad we understand each other” the CEO said with a dangerous smile, stood up and walked out of the room. He had two more meetings ahead of him, but before that, he had to deal with a small issue that caused his sudden raise of temper.

The1&onlyHJ: Rhysie baby, I think you misunderstood my note. Since you’re such a dum dum I’ll clarify it for you. By see you at dinner I meant see YOU at dinner. Ciao!

If the kid thought he could turn him down twice then he had to think again. Half of Helios would die for an opportunity to spend some time with Handsome Jack yet the kid had the balls to refuse him! Oh he would surely need to have a long conversation with the young programmer. Clearly he did not understand that when Jack said something, it had to be done. And if they did not see eye to eye on this, well then maybe some friends of his needed to admire the beauty of the endless space from outside of Helios.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

The three of them were gathered around Rhys’ communicator, reading the message that just came from Handsome Jack. This did not look good.

“So Rhys, or should I say Mrs. Handsome?” Vaughn cackled obviously finding the whole situation hilarious.

So it seemed Handsome Jack really wanted to own him. Great… that was just peachy. So what do you do when an overbearing and controlling boss of yours wants to literally own your life.  Why did Rhys always get involved in situations like this? Why wasn’t life ever easy on him?

Chapter Text

For the next two weeks which followed Yvette’s rather unsettling revelation, Rhys felt like he was walking on a rope suspended high up in the air, above a nest of bullymongs. A really big nest of really hungry bullymongs.

According to Yvette Jack wanted to control every aspect of his life and own him, which lit up all possible danger sensors in Rhys’ head. However, not much has changed between them since that time. Sure Jack usually showed up at his apartment for dinner and later stayed to work on some new project or analyze reports, but that was all there was to it. No abnormal behavior, no clothes being detonated.

With every passing day Rhys’ demeanor began to change as he slowly felt more relaxed  when talking to the man. It was funny how accustomed he got to the CEO’s constant presence. One night, when Jack went to some corporate party, Rhys had the apartment all to himself. He thought he would be happy but instead found it hard to fall asleep without the constant keyboard typing noise coming from the kitchen area where his boss used to work.

Jack was still being Jack, a bit overbearing, a bit paranoid and a shit ton conceited. He kept poking fun at Rhys every chance he got, and if Rhys counted, and he did, Jack issued at least a dozen death sentences from his kitchen via his Echo Comm. So it wasn’t like Rhys was forgetting how dangerous the man was, it was just that being so close to the man he got to see a side of him not many, if anyone at all, could witness.

Handsome Jack, believe it or not, was actually caring. Not in the ‘how’s your day been’ kind of a  way, more like ‘you managed to somehow survive yet another day,  high-five amigo’ way. Basically Jack was like anyone else on the feelings department, the only difference being that he could not always express himself properly and often took things to the extreme. Like this one time when Rhys burned himself while making coffee the CEO got really upset. So upset he took out his gun and shot the coffee machine with an explosive bullet. He was like a child who thought violence could solve every issue. It didn’t. He still had a burnt hand but now no coffee maker.

Knowing that, for a short time of the day, Rhys had Jack’s undivided attention made him feel rather special. The fact that the legend of Hyperion went out of his way to spend time with him, even if only for the pretext of food, did wonders to his ego. Too bad no one would ever know it. They always met in Rhys’ apartment, rarely in Jack’s penthouse, but never outside when other people could see them. Rhys felt like a kid wanting to show off that he was the teachers favorite, but at the same time he knew that would never happen. Jack could not compromise his image by being seen in the company of some code monkey.

“Hey, hey, listen to me Johnny or whatever the hell your name is.”

Speaking of the devil. Jack barged into Rhys’ apartment as he always did. No knocking, no doorbell, he just waltzed in like he owned the place, which actually was the case, still he could really use to learn some manners. A couple of times Rhys thought he’d have a heart attack when the man crept into the room unannounced and then yelled something into his ear. That was the kind of childish thing Jack liked to do every now and then. Rhys detested it.

This time Jack walked into the room while talking on his Echo Comm, irritation evident in his voice. He made his way to his usual spot at the counter, setting down his laptop and a couple of unusual looking books. Without giving any kind of acknowledgement to Rhys, he continued his conversation walking all around the spacious apartment. Handsome Jack was always very animated when he talked.

“I actually envy you, yeah yeah you, you dum dum. You see you are not burdened with any of the stuff that normal people have to deal with. Like morality, loyalty, sense of decency and most of all intelligence. I’d add in good looks but that’s solely my hardship to face. Get it? Face, ah ah?....” Jack laughed at his own joke, as he always did. “Anyways just to make sure we’re on the same page here, you know I’m gonna kill you right? Do you have any kids Johnny? If so I suggest sending them faaaar away, cause the next time you open the door it’s gonna be kdsh brfffffffffff and that my friend, is the sound of your brain exploding and hitting the wall. As pleasant to the ear as it may be, I doubt your youngsters would appreciate it. Imagine this, some day they bring their date to the house and when asked ‘where’s your dad’, you don’t want their answer to be ‘oh dead, but I can show you the place where his brain splattered on the wall.”  Jack made a gesture with his hand at that, like he was splashing paint on the wall. It was not meant to be paint.

“So being the caring person I am, I felt like giving you this small advice. Oh and don’t try running, like seriously. These are my two golden advices for you. I’m feeling rather generous today. Actually Johnny just do me a favor and kill yourself. That would make everyone’s lives so much easier. Anyways, gotta go, farewell and say hi to the Misses for me.”

Rhys just stared at Handsome Jack, who finished his monologue and was now making his way towards the kitchen. The man was devil incarnate. Scratch those good sides of him Rhys noticed as of lately, Handsome Jack was insane. The programmer couldn’t imagine ordering someone to kill a man and then just eating dinner like nothing happened. So what, would he just casually ask him what’s for dinner like nothing ever happened?

“So what’s for dinner pumpkin?” Jack asked with a face splitting grin, leaning over the counter, elbows propped on the surface. Well Rhys got his answer…

Jack gave a one over to Rhys and whistled “Now someone’s looking hot today. Whoever had such good taste in clothing?”

“Yes Jack the clothes are… really nice, thank you.” Rhys bristled, waving a hand. The first time he heard that comment, he turned red as a tomato. Now it was slowly getting on his nerves how the man was fishing for compliments. Jack simply loved to be praised… But on to the important matters.

“What did that man do?” Rhys had to know.

“Who?” Jack asked as he really had no idea what the kid was talking about.

“Johnny?” Rhys said, not leaving the matter.

“Johnny?” Jack asked confused. “Ooooh right, Johnny. Aww don’t worry your pretty little head over him pumpkin. He was a bad man and bad men deserve a bullet in the face.” Jack said offhandedly while making a bee-line for the fridge.

 “And what would constitute a bad thing?” Rhys was not letting the subject go.

“Oh come on cupcake, just let it be.” Jack said exasperated, but decided to answer nonetheless. It wasn’t often Rhys wanted anything. “He gave away our eridium site location to Jacobs.”

“OK that was a bad thing.”

“Geeeee you think dum dum.” Jack said while rummaging through the contents of the fridge.

“But wasn’t there a different way… like a non brain splattering solution?” Rhys clearly had a death wish today.

Jack let out an exasperated sigh, took one of the cookies he found in the fridge and placed it on the counter. He then hung one arm around Rhys’ shoulders and moved him toward the counter, hunching a bit so that now they both looked like they were studying the cookie as if it was some alien specimen.

“Rhysie, imagine this cookie is me. Now what do you think people would do if they found out that those who steal from me and sell out company secrets had lived to see another day? They’d say ‘hey, let’s make a shit ton of money selling out Hyperion’s secrets, it’s not like we’ll die or anything.’  And then, Rhysie, they will be all like ‘ahahah Handsome Jack is such a lame cookie, let’s crash him and BAM” Jack yelled while hitting his fist on the aforementioned treat, making Rhys jump slightly in surprise “Handsome Jack is Handsome no more. Now do you understand Rhysie why this had to be done?” Jack asked turning the boy to face him. Rhys only nodded.

“Good boy.” Jack said smiling wickedly and patting Rhys on the cheek. “Anyways back to the important stuff. I saw something cool in the fridge, what is that.” Jack said and pointed to a chocolate cake Rhys had made earlier. It was actually made for Vaughn, it was his favorite and Rhys kept promising to make him one for some time now. He hadn’t expected Jack to just rummage though the fridge freely.

“Nah that one… I mean…. I made something different for you, it’s in the oven. That one you wouldn’t even like.” Actually Rhys had no idea whether the man had a sweet tooth or not, but he didn’t want to find out by sacrificing Vaughn’s cake. It took him so much time to make, no way in hell was he going to prepare a new one.

“Well I want it.” Jack said. Of course the man would say that, he was like a child, deny him anything and he’ll want it twice as much.

“To be honest I made this for Vaughn. It’s a chocolate cake and……… hey Jack stop, I told you…” Rhys protested as he saw the man reaching for the plate.

“Oh I heard you pumpkin but guess what, this kitchen, this whole apartment actually, was a present from me. You were supposed to cook for ME not some nerd friend of yours. But no worries, I’m sure there will be plenty left and you can give that to the dear friend of yours.”

By the time the CEO finished eating everything was gone. He ate the whole cake… how the hell does one eat a whole fucking cake. Now Rhys wasn’t sure whether the man actually enjoyed sweets or simply ate that out of spite. He did say it was awesome a couple of times but he wasn’t sure whether to believe the man. Handsome Jack was an overgrown baby.

While cleaning up the kitchen Rhys’ attention focused on the peculiar looking books Jack brought with him. They looked old and expensive and he was curious what they were about but didn’t want to chance his luck, as Jack might think he’s prying in his things or something. However with the way Rhys kept staring at them only a blind man wouldn’t have noticed his interest.

“See something you like kiddo.” Jack asked sprawled on the chair, beaten down by a chocolate cake.

“Oh… uh sorry. I was just curious about the books.” Rhys said scratching his cheek, looking everywhere but at Jack. Even though he became more at ease when in the CEO’s presence, he still had a problem with eye contact.

“Those are pretty rare you know. I always tend to collect things like these, cause you never know when they might come in handy. This one” he picked a book with a thick, purple cover “I actually brought for you.” Jack said and handed him the book.

Rhys read the title and the book almost slipped out of his hands.

“Wow, watch out tiger, this is a really rare thing. I actually read this one even though I absolutely hate books. It didn’t even have pictures! Who reads books with no pictures? Surprisingly though it was very informative and I actually enjoyed it. Since you said you’re also into sirens, I thought you might like to read it.” Jack said casually and then, as if reflecting on what he said, he quickly retreated to his normal loud and slightly obnoxious self. “Damn I am feeling generous today. Anyway kiddo, return it when you finish reading it and please do not destroy the damn thing. It cost me a fortune…. Nah just kidding. I only had to kill a couple of people. No biggie.”

For a moment there Rhys panicked. Seeing the title he thought it might be some sort of allusion to the his blue tattoos, luckily though that wasn’t the case. He scrutinized the cover interested in what information the book may contain. Not that he ever wanted to use any of his powers, but it would be cool to know. He actually knew so little about what he was, it scared him at times.

“Thank you, it’s really… thoughtful of you?” Rhys said surprised by his own words. Since when was Jack a thoughtful person? It seemed strange that he would actually remember Rhys’ interests, no scratch that, he was amazed the man even listened to him in the first place. Jack always seemed so concentrated on himself that the programmer thought that nothing of what he said occupied the man’s brain for more than ten seconds.

“Like I said, I’m feeling generous today. Anyways kiddo, how much time do you need to finish the work on my grenades. I’d actually want to launch them next month. I heard that Dahl is working on some unique project as well so it would be good not to give them an opportunity to shine. So far Hyperion is in the leading position and I wouldn’t like for that to change.” Jack said scrunching his face at the mention of their competitor. It was common knowledge that Jack absolutely hated Dahl.

“Oh I only need a week or two so it won’t be a problem. I already ran some preliminary tests, all seems to be working fine. The only thing that’s left to do is to run a series of tests in a real environment… well or as close as it gets to one. So yeah basically I’ll need R&D testing site for a couple of days.” Rhys said while gingerly putting away the book he only just received. This one was a rarity and Rhys would sooner die then let it be ruined.

“No problemo cupcake, I’ll notify the lab rats to let you use the facility. Now that we have the business matters settled, tell me, will you be attending the gala tomorrow evening?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, why?” Rhys asked tentatively, he was afraid Jack would follow his question with some insane request.

“Nah just wondering what were my chances of a late night snack… Anyways why would you even want to attend it, it’s the most boring event ever. I’d literally prefer to listen to a claptrap list all of the things that can kill me on Pandora rather than go there.” Jack let out a frustrated moan.

“How could you not go?  The speech you give is the main event every year! Also you just ate a whole chocolate cake and you’re already thinking of food? How did a glutton like you survive so long on pretzels?” Rhys asked and only after saying it he realized he probably offended the most powerful man that ever lived. However considering how much time Rhys spent with him, slip ups like this happened more and more often. It was almost like talking with his friends, almost being the key word.

“I survived because I did not know the blessings of good food.” Jack scoffed. “Anyways Rhysie you tellin’ me you went every single time just to listen to my wonderful voice?” Jack asked with a stupid grin, eyebrows wagging. Damn Rhys forgot about that idiotic comment he once made about the man’s voice. Jack will never let it go, will he.

“Well now that you know how normal food tastes like then the gala should be a blast for you. There are always so many awesome snacks and meals, they are absolutely mouthwatering.” Rhys said already wondering what delicious stuff will be there tomorrow. “But aside from the great food I always attended them because all the important people were there. If someone is serious in advancing their career at Hyperion then this event is a must.” Rhys tried to reason.

“Cupcake I ain’t touching no one else’s food and you know that. The job of feeding the all powerful boss of Hyperion goes to you.” Jack protested and looked at Rhys. His mood suddenly becoming sour when Rhys mentioned why he attended the gala. “So you’re saying that you went there to suck up to some random knuckleheads instead of listening to my speech? I’m the damn CEO, if you want to work on your career then shouldn’t I be the person to go to?”

“Oh and how do you imagine a middle-worker casually walking up to the president of the whole company? Besides it’s not like I didn’t listen, of course I did, every single time. You are like the most unapproachable person in Hyperion, so everyone, especially the newcomers, always attended to finally see you in person. I actually remember my first year here. I couldn’t wait for your speech, I’ve heard so much about you before and I wondered how the stories I heard compared to reality.” Rhys said recalling his first years at the corporation. He was such a tool back then. He had a lot of fond memories though… and some he’d like to forget. Yeah most of them he’d happily erase from his mind.

“Awww sweet-cheeks you’re making me blush. So did my awesomeness blow your fucking mind? Your eyes could not handle this face” Jack said pointing at his smug expression. Oh the man did love compliments, it was definitely doing a thing for his ego.

“Well… no” Rhys responded but seeing the dissatisfied look on Jack’s face he decided to continue. “What really got to me was how passionate you were about what you wanted to achieve. I remembered one of the things you talked about during the speech was the completion of the security system. I’m a programmer so I know how huge of a task that was. I was really amazed at how many security levels were implemented and how well the system was integrated. And you talked about this among other plans you had for Hyperion and the projects you set on Pandora, but always with so much conviction and anticipation. I could see you really believed in the vision you were sharing with us, so it made me believe in it as well.” Rhys explained but seeing the intense stare Jack was giving him he suddenly became very self-conscious. Rhys blushed a bit, realizing he might have sounded like some fanboy. He started laughing awkwardly while rubbing at his neck.

“Um well that sounded kind of cheesy ahaha. I Just meant that…I mean” Rhys mumbled stupidly when suddenly he felt a heavy hand ruffle his hair. He looked up from staring at the floor and saw Handsome Jack standing in front of him, smiling.

“Thanks kiddo.” He said and probably wore the most earnest expression Rhys had ever seen on the man’s face. Soon the pleasant feeling of the man’s hand was gone and he saw the CEO heading towards the apartment’s door.

“Got something to work on today. Anyways see you at the gala tomorrow cupcake. Try to prepare that fanboy heart of yours for this year’s speech, it’s gonna be awesome. Well like all of my speeches. Ta ta!” Jack said smiling and left the room. Of course he just had to make a pun on the fanboy thing, Rhys thought irritated. One more thing added to the ‘how to best tease Rhys’ list. The programmer sighed, he was practically handing out bullets to the man. He should really think before he speaks.

 

—o.o— The Gala —o.o—

 

“Look who finally decided to show their face.”

Rhys turned around and saw his friends standing at the food table. He was looking for them for the better part of the hour. This year there seemed to be even more people attending, like that was even possible. Finding anyone was damn near impossible. Then again he should have guess that if he were to find Vaughn and Yvette, the snack bar was the first place to visit.

“What do you mean? I was looking for you everywhere, whereas as I see it, you were just happily munching on food over here.” Rhys said feigning hurt.

“What she means is that we haven’t seen you for the last couple of days. What have you been up to stranger? By the way, nice outfit bro.” Vaughn explained.

“Well you know I’ve been busy with this project of mine, but it’ll end soon, so no worries. And with all the lasers in my apartment it’s kinda difficult to just hang out. Also please don’t mention the clothes” Rhys said irritated. He had enough of those comments from Jack. However he was looking particularly smart today. The programmer was dressed in a three piece black suit with a dark grey vest underneath, with a few hints of teal here and there. It was a very classy outfit, definitely nothing he would’ve bought for himself.

“Oh I don’t think that lasers are the main problem when visiting your apartment. I would say that a certain territorial CEO was the real issue here…” she said with a smug face earning an annoyed look from Rhys. “I’m surprised you actually came alone.”

“Oh please Yvette, don’t be crazy. Even though Jack does occasionally drop by my apartment” at that Yvette cleared here throat theatrically “ Drops by everyday… he wouldn’t give me the time of the day during the gala. Honestly if we were to somehow bump into each other, he’d probably just pretend he didn’t know me.” Rhys commented.

It’s true that lately he came to spend a lot of time with the CEO, but Rhys wasn’t delusional. He knew he was just some middle-management and if Jack were to show himself in his company, that would undermine his image. Ok maybe not so far as that, but it simply wouldn’t add up to the picture. They could act ‘friendly’ back at his apartment when nobody was aware of it, but out here? Out here he was just a code monkey and Jack was the unreachable Hyperion legend. He didn’t mind though, it just seemed logical to Rhys.

“Whatever you say Rhys, speaking about the man of the hour, he’s just about to make his famous speech. Let’s grab some food and find some place to sit. Knowing our boss it’s not going to be short.” Yvette instructed and the three of them gabbed as much food as they could handle and made their way to one of the huge windows at the upper level. It was the best place because you could see the speaker and, most importantly, sit during the whole thing. Some of the employees had a similar idea, luckily there was still enough room for them thanks to the newcomers, who wanted to be as close to the stage as possible and crowded the lower area.

As expected Jack’s speech was rather long, but since the man was so charismatic, it was more like listening to a stand-up performance rather than a long lecture about how their company has met the budget and what new challenges they have to face. Typically for Jack he cracked a lot of jokes, probably offended a couple dozen of people and aimed with his revolver at a few who he thought wanted to throw a grenade his way. Jack and his paranoia. Everyone was scanned at the entrance so there was no possible way someone could bring in any kind of weapon to this event. Still Jack preferred to stay cautious.

The speech ended with a standing ovation, which was the usual case. Now all that was left to do was to drink, eat and schmooze. This year though Rhys wasn’t in the mood for the latter. He already had the position he aspired for, was making a good deal of money and as an added bonus, he’d soon gain recognition for his newest grenade project. Everything was exactly the way he wanted, so there was no need to be all smiles with the hire-ups who, as Jack would’ve put it, were a bunch of dickheads. This year Rhys decided to just relax with his friends, drink a lot of champagne and eat all the free food he could get his hands on.

It was well into the night and the gala was at its peak when the fates decided Rhys would not be blessed with a quiet evening. When he stood up to go for  a refill of a pretty neat punch they were drinking, some obnoxious guy, who was clearly drunk, came up to them and started pointing an accusatory finger at Rhys. The programmer though he had seen the guy somewhere, but couldn’t remember where exactly.

“You’re so fucking annoying you know that? Do you think you can just waltz in and do whatever the hell you please?” He yelled earning a couple of looks from people who were standing in the vicinity. The man was swaying slightly, his eyes unfocused. Still it seemed he definitely recognized Rhys.

“Look man I’m not sure what this is about but I don’t want a fight.” Rhys said calmly, arguing with drunk people was never the way to go.

“Oh you don’t know do you? Well let me tell you, because of your stupid project they are closing down the testing facility.” The man said even louder this time. Suddenly Rhys remembered the man, he was one of the works at R&D.

“Sorry I really do need it, but it’s gonna be three days tops, so no worries.” He tried to reason with the man. Yvette and Vaughn looked like they wanted to intervene but Rhys just shook his head. Better not to give the man anymore reason to vent.

“Only a couple of days he says! Well for me those days are crucial, but noooo. Mr I’m So Much More Important Than You has to have it his way. Who did you sleep with to get such privileges huh?” Now Rhys was slowly getting frustrated. He actually had a respectable position at the moment and he would not appreciate it if stupid rumors where to be spread because of some pissed drunk idiot. He wanted to retort but saw two of the man’s friends approach.

“Steve, here you are. Come on man, you’re drunk and talking shit.” One of them said and tried to steer the drunkard towards the exit. At least his friends seemed to be reasonable.

“The hell I will! We still haven’t finished here, right noodle boy?” Steve hollered this time loud enough for half of the gathered people to hear. Rhys pushed his hand through his hair, a frustrated growl escaping his throat. He could really use a peaceful day, without any shit like this happening. It just seemed like luck wasn’t on his side.

“Listen man we’re sorry for our friend here. Steve definitely had too much to drink. We’re gonna go now.” The two of them finally steered the drunkard towards the nearest exit. Rhys relaxed his shoulders thinking that this was the end of it, when suddenly Steve broke out of his friends hold and spun around, his fist connecting with Rhys’ face.

“Motherfuck...” Rhys muttered and spit blood. His face hurt like it was split in half. Damn he shouldn’t have let his guard down so fast. In the rear of his vision he saw his friends sprinting towards them, face angry and ready for confrontation. Rhys grabbed them in the last minute, an open fight with a drunk ass idiot in the middle of the gala was not what he needed.

“Fuck Steve, are you nuts?” One of the friends yelled. Now there was a huge commotion around them, everyone looking in their direction.

“Now what’s happening here ladies?” a low, mildly irritated voice could be heard. Everyone snapped their eyes in the direction of the voice, sure enough Handsome Jack was standing there.

Shit Rhys did not need this. He saw Jack look at him questioningly and then at the other guy. His hand was still clutching his face so Jack probably didn’t see the damage yet. Rhys guessed he had either a split lip or a broken nose, as he felt the hot liquid on his face. He really hoped it wasn’t the latter. He had the taste of blood in his mouth so the lip was a good guess… then again it could be both. At any rate he sure as hell didn’t want Jack to be involved in this stupid mess.

“Nothing really, sir. We’re fine now, right Steve?” Rhys said, which looked weird as he was still clutching his face. His voice was muffled , but still those standing near them were able to understand. Actually not many were standing near at the moment. Since Handsome Jack decided to show up, everyone was cowering one behind the other. Steve’s friends were nowhere to be seen, while even Vaughn and Yvette didn’t dare to come any closer. Good to know he could count on his friends. Steve was also a cowering mess, but he was clearly lacking in brain cells as he decided to tattle to Jack like a five year old.

“It was his fault sir!” Steve yelled pointing at Rhys yet again. “He’s obstructing our progress at the R&D. I… I was working on a real important project a… and he just thinks he can…” Steve was mumbling like he was left strained on a Pandora desert for far too long. If he only knew that Jack was the one who ordered this change at R&D.

Handsome Jack just sighed in exasperation and it seemed he was about the make some retort or maybe one of his death threatening lectures when he spotted the trail of blood on the floor. His eyes came up to Rhys face and he started advancing toward the programmer. Rhys just wanted to be anywhere else, anywhere where life was easy. When Jack stood up in front of him he grabbed his wrist rather forcefully and yanked the hand from Rhys’ face.

Clearly the view of his blood covered nose? mouth? Did not make the man happy. Rhys saw a sudden change in Jack’s expression which went from annoyed to something darker. Something a lot more deadly, the look itself made Rhys shiver.

He had barely enough time to register that Steve came up to them, still mumbling some accusations, when with one swift move of his hand, without even tearing his eyes from Rhys, Jack drew his revolver, put it into Steve’s mouth and pulled the trigger. Brain splattered around the room, some blood hitting Rhys on the side of his face. He registered a few terrified shrieks and a girl fainting. In the distance he also saw Vaughn who desperately tried not to puke, probably for the first time witnessing someone getting killed. And in such a manner at that.

Rhys on the other hand stood rooted to the floor. He was too shocked to move even a muscle. His brain still not comprehending what his eyes registered a moment ago. He saw Jack kneeling over the body and wiping the end of his revolver in Steve’s clothing. He then stood up ever so slowly and looked at Rhys again, eyes cold and stern.

The CEO lifted one of his hands and gripped Rhys chin, moving his head left and right, clearly inspecting the damage. When he was done he tried to wipe away the remaining blood from Rhys’ cheek, but as it was not coming off he decided on a different tactic.

“Huh, this will not do.” Handsome Jack mused to himself, grabbed Rhys chin in a firm grip and moved his head right, so that he was looking at the bloodied cheek. Rhys, on the other hand, had a great view on all the onlookers who gathered around them, curious about what was happening. Suddenly he felt something wet on his cheek, faces of the crowd showing a mixture of shock and curiosity. Well no wonder they had reacted this way. It wasn’t like every day that Handsome fucking Jack had just stuck out his tongue and licked someone’s face.

“Much better sweet-cheeks.” Jack nodded to himself seemingly satisfied with his work. “Now where were we” he looked around to find the person he was having a conversation with before the whole commotion started. When he spotted the man, who stood dumbfounded like everyone else, he made his way towards him, stepping on Steve, as if to emphasize a point. Soon they were out of the view.

Rhys stood there stock still, trying to process all that has happened. He felt a hand on his shoulder and only then realized his friends steered him out of the hall. He hasn’t realized he moved at all.

“Rhys listen, this is…” Vaughn started hesitantly.

“Fucking dangerous Rhys is what it is. Up till now I’ll admit I had my share of fun out of your predicament, but this? Rhys he is bat-shit crazy. I mean Handsome Jack had just killed someone because they dared to lay their hand on you.” Yvette said, worry lacing her tone.

“I know.”

“He also licked you like some crazy fuck, like he was marking his territory or something.”  Yvette continued her rant.

“I know.”

“You’ve got to distance yourself from him! He’s not sane.” This time Vaughn was the one who warned him.

“I know.”

“Yes we know that you know, but will you actually do it?” Yvette asked sternly.

“I…” Rhys was at a loss for words. Of course he should. For fuck’s sake Jack has just killed a man for punching him in the face. Any sane person would be on their way to Pandora, Elpis or virtually anywhere else but Helios. Rhys felt like shit. A man just lost his life because of him. Even though he was a major dick Rhys knew he still didn’t deserve such a fate. He could not let it happen again. Yes, running was the only option.

So why wasn’t he? Why did he leave his friends and make his way for his apartment instead of the shuttle bay?  

It’s because……because deep down a part of him enjoyed it even though he didn’t want to admit it. He reveled in the fact that someone so powerful decided to shower him with attention. It felt good to be special, it was a feeling foreign to Rhys. He never knew how badly he wanted it until he got to taste how it felt like. And the feeling scared him. He was afraid to admit to himself that the thought of Jack killing a man for him was oddly exhilarating.

Rhys would be lying if he said he wasn’t afraid, but he was also curious enough to stay and see where all this would lead him.

Chapter Text

It was way in the wee hours of the morning when the last officials attending the gala finally decided it was time to head back. It was high time too, as Jack thought he’d sooner chop off his right arm than stay one minute longer at the mundane event. He spent the whole night listening to different trade proposals some of the competitors were eager to sign with Hyperion. Jack found it funny how a couple of years back, when Tassitier was still leading the company, not many heard of their corporation. No one had foreseen Hyperion’s success so it came as a huge surprise. Now they all lined up for the opportunity to cooperate with them.

It was all thanks to him really. The recent transformation of Hyperion would not be possible if not for Jack’s idea to utilize eridium . He modernized the gun market, implementing upgrades no other company had thought of. He also modernized the corporation, making Helios one of the best and most secure operational bases anyone has ever seen. The H shaped station loomed over the skies of Pandora and Elpis, as a constant reminder of their domination.

To think that with all the power he had Jack still had to suffer through such tedious events was annoying to say the least. Listening to some stuck up shitheads talking about bridging an alliance with Hyperion was not his idea of fun. Most of the propositions he heard that night were utter garbage from which Hyperion would not profit, luckily there were two or three actually worth considering. Like the possible agreement with Jacobs. Out of all the other companies Jack always valued their vintage style yet deadly fire power. Not that he would ever admit that.

The only entertaining event that happened during the whole night was that shifty brawl he witnessed. He was surprised to see that Rhysie was involved, he would never peg the kiddo as someone who’d start a fight or even participate in one. However seeing that the drunken guy had the nerve to touch his programmer made him furious. No one touches what’s his. Well basically every single worker on Hyperion was, by extension, his property. But Rhysie was more so than any other worker bee.

In Jack’s opinion the decision about killing that guy was definitely justified, though he realized that what followed might not have been necessary. He’ll admit that licking Rhys was going a bit overboard, but he had to make a display of what’s his in order to avoid similar situations in future. Now everyone will probably avoid the programmer like a plague, which he regarded as a positive outcome. He wasn’t so sure about his favorite code monkey though, which is why he currently arrived at his apartment, despite the ungodly hour.

As expected the apartment was silent as he came in, only a dim light coming from Rhys’ night table. Usually Jack would’ve made a bee line for the fridge and despite the hours he was truly tempted to do so, but first things first. He came here to check up on the kid and that’s what he’ll do first. He came up the spiral stairs for the first time looking at the apartment from a different angle. He often worked while Rhys slept here, but never once came up.

He took off his sneakers near the staircase and silently stepped on the mattress which was essentially filling the whole space of Rhys’ so called bedroom. He sat crossed legged and looked at the kid. Unsurprisingly the programmer didn’t even stir, dreaming about some video games or whatever shit programmers dream about.

Jack decided to use this chance to study the young man’s features without any distractions. He reached out, fingers ghosting over the split lip. It was still swollen but it looked better than when he first saw it. He thought the kid might have a broken nose or a loose tooth or two. Luckily the pretty face was still intact. Yes Handsome Jack actually thought Rhys’ face was pleasant to the eye. For a guy he had very delicate features and seemed rather feminine, though Jack guessed the kid would not appreciate that comment.

Rhys looked so peaceful when sleeping, he actually envied the kid. Ever since Jack could remembered weird nightmares had always haunted him. He kept having them so often he actually detested sleeping. Sadly being human meant that at least a few hours of sleep  were mandatory. Jack usually drifted away in his office while working, it wasn’t very gratifying but he learned to accept things as they were.

He was actually awfully tired at the moment but there were so many things he had to work on, still he needed to at least stretch his limbs a bit. Deciding that this was as good a place as any, he plopped on the pillow next to Rhys. He laid down on his right side, one arm under the pillow, and looked at Rhys’ sleeping form. The kid had moved a bit but did not wake up, which amazed Jack to no end. How can someone be so at ease? Good thing he had the laser turrets installed in the room otherwise Rhys would probably be dead within a week. Killing him in his sleep was like immobilizing a skag whelp, not challenging in the least.

Looking at Rhys he only now noticed that the kid was actually still wearing his torn out yellow sweater for sleep. He did remember giving it to the kid back when he grenaded the hell out of his clothes. Ah fun times. He actually looked good in it, Jack thought half consciously, fighting with his eyelids which seemed as heavy as lead.

“Ok I’ll just close my eyes for two minutes tops.” was all he managed to mumble before falling asleep.  The sweet smell he became familiar with spending the nights working from Rhys’ apartment lulling him to sleep. For the first time in a long while Handsome Jack felt at ease.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

The minute Rhys woke up he knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t exactly place what it was. He woke up in his own bed which was good. His past experiences with alcohol taught him to always be grateful when waking up in a familiar environment. Those were some memories he didn’t feel like revisiting at the moment. So the place was ok. He was also intact, every limb in its place, no massive headache or anything, which was also good. Everything seemed in its place, so why the nagging feeling that something was off. Rhys looked to his left side and saw his boss sleeping next to him. Which was soooo not good.

“What the hell” Rhys said startled and quickly propped himself on his elbows. This was so wrong on so many levels. What the hell was the man doing here? He would’ve remembered if he came back to the apartment with his boss. He might have been a bit out of it, seeing how a man was killed right in front of him, but he still registered everything that happened. He actually couldn’t fall asleep thinking about all that has transpired at the gala and ended up reading the book about sirens way into the night.

So the only logical explanation was that Jack came here while he was sleeping, which was kind of creepy. But sleeping next to him? That was going way over the boundaries. Then again were there ever any boundaries when it came to Jack? He just did as he pleased, never explaining himself to anybody and boy did Rhys need an explanation right now.

Their strange relationship changed quite drastically over a very short period of time. Handsome Jack bought him an apartment after knowing him for a few days, then he personally picked his wardrobe, kept visiting him almost daily and now, to add to the list of oddities, he had killed someone for Rhys. The thought was as terrifying to him as it was exciting in some weird, unexplainable way.

Actually it was quite easy to explain. All his life Rhys had to fight tooth and nail for everything that he had. He was never appreciated for any of his talents, no one ever told him he was special or even gave him any attention. That is why this special treatment from Jack was something he took pride in. It was one thing to be treated this was by someone, but quite the other to receive such a treatment from THE Handsome Jack. Most of the Hyperion workers would sell their own mother for a chance to meet the CEO in person whereas Rhys was becoming a part of Jack’s life. How he managed that, Rhys had no idea, but he knew one thing. The look on the faces of the crowd, when they saw the way Jack was treating him, that was absolutely priceless. He reveled in the thought that all of the Hyperion workers envied him, for being this close to the CEO.

But there were two sides to the coin. The other far less pleasing side was related to his sleeping problems as of late. As Yvette said Jack wanted to own him and as exciting as that may sound, it actually terrified the hell out of Rhys. Looking at how quickly things progressed he was not sure how far Jack would go to satisfy this need of control. He already killed someone for fucks sake and it did not sit well with him. Rhys was not a violent person and knowing that someone lost their life over some trifle dispute was sure to be a cause of future insomnia for him. Though it was not his fault, Rhys felt partially responsible for what happened. He even tried to cover up the quarrel and pretend nothing happened, if it wasn’t for Steve and his idiotic need to vent he’d probably still be alive.

So the cold blooded murder was one thing that caused him an immense amount of worry, but the licking part? That just made him furious. Handsome Jack was treating him like an object on display, dangling him before the eyes of the audience to show them who his owner was. The action was so animalistic in its nature. Like a fucking dog pissing on a fence to mark his territory. God maybe he should be happy that the licking treatment was all that he got. He shuddered at the mere idea.

That weird train of thought actually made him wonder, how far was the man willing to go in his ministrations? Would he ever do something… physical to him?

“Nope, no way, completely out of the question.” Rhys muttered to himself while violently shaking his head. Handsome Jack was known to be a lover of boobs, he had actually so many women that everyone lost their count, probably Jack did too. He had never heard of the CEO being close to a man. He could not picture Handsome Jack being in that kind of relationship, though speaking of that Jack probably never was in any kind of relationship. All of the girls he heard stories about were either one night stands or bootie calls on standby. Either way the thought of something ever happening between them was completely ridiculous. So what was the man doing in his bed?

“Butt Stalion, my trusted companion…. Chew their heads off.”

Huh. He didn’t know Handsome Jack talked in his sleep. Though it shouldn’t come as a surprise, the man was talking all the time. The only moments he was blessed with silence was when he actually had work to do. Rhys looked at Jack who stirred slightly in his sleep, muttering some intelligible things. He actually looked quite peaceful. It was probably the most serene expression Rhys had ever seen on Jack’s face, or mask to be more accurate. Come to think of it he was always curious how the mask felt. It was actually a good opportunity to check it now, because no way in hell would he ever dare to touch the man while he was awake. Besides touching his face would be rather weird, then again Jack licked him publicly, it doesn’t get much weirder than that.

He tentatively stretched out his hands. Jack was clearly deep in sleep, no way would he feel it. Besides it was just a matter of a brushing it with the tips of his fingers. Completely safe, right? Wrong. The minute his hand got anywhere near the man’s face, Jack’s hand shot out and grabbed him by his wrist, his hold almost bruising.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”Jack asked, his eyes now wide open, staring angrily at Rhys. Did the man have some kind of sensor around him that informed him whenever someone was near? That was the only logical explanation, there was no way someone would wake up so abruptly.

“Ah sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you. I was just  curious… about something. But nevermind that.”

“Curious about what pumpkin? Whether you’d be able to strangle me in my sleep? Tough luck kitten, the answer is  y.o.u. w.o.n.’t.” Jack said menacingly, his grip tightening even further.

“No, of course not. I… I was just curious about your mask. I mean it looks so natural, I was wondering about its components and how it feels to the touch.” He said not being able to hold the man’s inquisitive gaze. “Jack, you’re hurting me” Rhys added not being able to withstands the bruising grip Jack had on his wrist.

“Sorry cupcake.” Jack said coming out of his trance, abruptly letting go of Rhys’ wrist. “Still it is kind of weird, touching someone’s face while they’re sleeping.” Jack said grinning, the look on his face telling a different story.

“Yes because slipping into someone’s bed is so much  more acceptable.” Rhys commented. Despite his occasional stutter caused by the fear he felt when in Jack’s presence, he was becoming better at talking with him as if they were equals.

“Touche.” Jack said grinning. “Fine you can have a go.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh don’t be coy with me sweet cheeks. Go on, you can touch THE face. I’m giving you thirty seconds, so please spend them wisely. A lot of people would die for this opportunity.” Jack said while turning over and casually lying on his back. With head resting on his raised arms, he seemed to be studying the ceiling intently.

 “Ah no it’s a weird request. Forget I said anything.”

“Rhysie, what did I say about being coy huh? Unless you only have courage when I’m sleeping? So how about this.” Jack closed his eyed with all the theatricality he could muster and pretended he’s sleeping again. Rhys suspected that riling him up was Jack’s favorite part of the day. But so be it, he won’t back out of a challenge. Besides this really was a rare opportunity.

Rhys tentatively stretched his arm out, his fingers reaching Jack’s cheek. He brushed it lightly with his fingertips, marveling at the natural feeling. It was almost like touching real skin, the only indication of it being a mask was its temperature. It was slightly colder to the touch than human skin, but other than that it felt really natural. For a moment he was curious about touching the lips but decided that it would be way too weird, so he opted for the area near Jacks temple where the mask blended with the real face. He thought Jack relaxed to the touch, but that might just be his imagination.

“What’s the material that was used? I’m not aware of any that would seem so natural to the touch.” Rhys asked honestly curious. “Jack?” He prompted when he received no answer.

“Wha…?” Jack asked in a dazed manner, only now opening his eyes. “ The material? Oh yeah that’s just a shit ton of skin cells gathered from the people I’ve killed. No biggie.” That made Rhys retreat his hand in an instant.

“Hahaha don’t be stupid kiddo. You are so gullible, honestly had I told you I shit in gold would you also believe that?” He laughed. “It’s not a single material, it’s a mix of many. It wasn’t easy to get the proportions right, R&D took their sweet time with this, but in the end it was worth it. Like you said, feels like the real deal.” Jack explained and remained lying as he were. After a moment of silence Rhys was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable in this situation and felt the need to break the silence.

“So, um, if you don‘t mind me asking. What are you doing here?”

“And what do you mean by that. I’m in your apartment every other night if you haven’t noticed. Maybe you haven’t, given how loud you snore every single night while I try to quietly concentrate on my work.”

“I do not snore!” Rhys said indignantly, though he actually had no way of knowing that. “What I meant was, what are you doing in my bed?” Rhys asked and earned an incredulous look from his boss.

“Clearly Rhys you don’t know how to use the opportunities life is throwing at ya.” Jack said wiggling his eyebrows, causing Rhys to break eye contact yet again. “Easy pumpkin, I just came to check on you. That drunken idiot got you real good last night. Good thing I was around. I was pretty tired so I only closed my eyes for like two minutes but then you were all hands and ‘oh Jack please let me touch your face, I will remember this day for ever and ever and…”

“Ok ok I get it.” Really the man was getting on his nerves.

“I know pumpkin, but just in case you don’t then I’m gonna bring this topic up every possible chance I get. Now I need to get to work. I have a meeting at 9 am and need to prepare some shit.” Jack said raising himself into a sitting position, hands rubbing at his face.

“It’s almost noon Jack.” Rhys commented looking at the clock.

“Yes good one Rhysie, like hell I would have fallen asleep…” he said while looking at his watch “holy shit it’s almost noon.” Jack yelled, stood up abruptly, put his sneakers on and was out of the apartment sooner than Rhys could even blink. Shit, he really wanted to talk with the man about the whole licking incident…

 

—o.o— Diner —o.o—

 

Rhys needed to get out of his apartment because sitting there made his thoughts constantly return to Handsome Jack, which in turn made him remember in gruesome detail what happened yesterday at the gala. So in order to think about something else he took his book about sirens and went to his favorite diner. A change of scenery would surely do him some good.

The book Jack gave him also proved a good distraction from his thoughts. He already read through half of it. All of the known siren powers were described in detail and although it did not explain how to use them, Rhys didn’t mind. It’s not like he planned to use them anytime soon, or ever at that. But it was good to know what abilities he could posses. Some of them were common to all sirens, but every siren also possessed a power of their own. In Rhys’ case he assumed it would be the power of making a pin cushion out of someone. Not very useful when living on Helios, but could probably be a life saver down on Pandora. The grenades he was making also did a good job, but there had to be a certain distance between him and the gravity epicenter, otherwise it could prove harmful to the user. Hence the grenade.

In his case though, he killed Vasques standing a few feet away from him yet nothing hurt him. He didn’t remember much from the night but had a distinct memory of some objects flying through him and hitting Vasquez. Given sirens’ phasewalk ability it was entirely possible that things could temporarily phase through his body. Based on the records the book had provided there four main abilities that a siren could possessed.

1 Phasewalk made it possible to instantly travel through small distances and even phase through objects or walls. Phasing through people was also possible but that either caused permanent damage to them or even killed them on spot. Not something Rhys was willing to test.

2 Phaselock allowed a siren to immobilize someone in a bubble of energy that was concentrated in a set location for a short amount of time. Again super useful on Pandora when a bunch of skags chased you around the desert, not very helpful on Helios where the most he could do was stop someone from hitting him with a finger gun.

3 Phaseshift caused a temporary change in the environment. Based on the records it involved sirens to spawn ammunition on a battlefield, gathering it from nearby locations. No wonder sirens were used on the battlefront so much, this definitely proved useful for prolonged battle.

4 Phasestrike which allowed the siren to accumulate energy in their hands in order to execute a powerful strike. Rhys could imagine this would probably look like his latest elemental upgrade, causing people to fly a couple of feet in the air with the power of the blast. Ok that would look cool.

Other than that there were two more important facts he came across. The first one was about sirens’ healing abilities which proved far more superior than those of regular people. For instance if a siren’s life was in danger due to serious wounds they would enter a state similar to a coma, which almost looked like they died. Instead it was sort of a trance their bodies went into in order to heal. No matter how you look on it, healing powers were always useful, even on Helios.

The other information was about sirens and eridium ore but Rhys had not finished that chapter yet. He only knew that there is a definite connection between them, something about power enhancement, but he was not sure about the details.

“Hi what can I get you?” Rhys looked up and saw his favorite waitress smiling at him as usual. He had a plan to talk with the girl every time he came here, but he was always accompanied by his friends. This time he was alone so it was a perfect chance to strike up a conversation.

“Becaon and eggs…. Do you like… beacon?”He did a mental facepalm at his answer. Smooth Rhys, really smooth.

“Ugh yeah…. Listen you are the guy right?” she asked cocking her head to one side.

“What guy?”

“The one everyone is talking about. The one marked by Handsome Jack” at that she stuck out her tongue and had the audacity to wink at Rhys, obviously finding his embarrassment funny.

“That was…. it wasn’t like… is everyone really talking about it?” Rhys asked and scanned the diner. It was only now that he noticed how everyone was peeking glances at him. Actually ever since he left his apartment he had the eerie feeling people were watching him. But he didn’t want to get paranoid like Jack so he just dismissed the feeling. Now he was getting really self-conscious.

“Of course everyone is talking about that little display, thinking who the hell is this guy who has all of Jack’s attention on him.” She said rolling her eyes, the playful smile still on her lips. However seeing Rhys dismay she looked around and then sat in the both in front of him, shoulders hunched as if she didn’t want anyone to hear what she was about to say. “No worries, I’m sure it wasn’t exactly your idea to be on Handsome Jack’s radar. Just between you and me, the man is a total nut job.” Yeah that was definitely something no one should hear. It was also oddly refreshing to hear someone not singing peons for Handsome Jack.

“Well he has a lot of good qualities to him…. but yeah a total psycho.” He said in an even quieter tone, they both looked at each other and suddenly bursted laughing. “Sometimes I have no idea what goes on in that man’s head and I have no clue why he focuses his attention on me. Either way it’s new to meet someone that isn’t worshipping him. Hard to find someone like that in Hyperion.”

“That’s cause I’m not Hyperion trash.” She said earning a reproachful glance from the programmer. “Don’t give me that face, you’re more less ok. Anyways my name is Sasha and I come from Pandora and down there no one is worshipping Jack. They usually use his posters for gun practice, I know I do.”

“Wow you’re from Pandora?” he eyed the girl in awe. “I heard it’s real tough down there, but I thought Jack is trying to make it a better place, without the bandits and all that shit.”

“Oh boy the Hyperion propaganda is really successful I see.”Sasha said, her eyebrows raising in surprise. “No. Jack is not making Pandora a better place, he just uses the planet for his purposes. He needs eridium and since bandits are making his life harder down there hence the ‘let’s get rid of bandits and make Pandora an orderly place’. That’s what Jack does, he uses things until he doesn’t need them anymore. Like you for instance.” She pointed at Rhys who looked at her with a mixture of anger and interest. “That little display was to make sure you’re his property and no one comes near you. And why did he do that? Well let me tell you, not for your wonderful personality.”

“Hey!” Nice smile or not, the girl was outright insulting him.

“Don’t go pouting at me. I’m not saying you’re not fun to be around with. I just want you to be aware that Jack doesn’t care about people, he uses them. He needs your abilities, aren’t you the one responsible for all those high profit gun upgrades? Not to mention that top secret project you’re working on. I’m not sure what it is exactly but I’m positive it’s going to be a blast. Pun intended.”

Rhys never really thought about it like that. Were all Jack’s actions intended on ensuring he would keep working for him and bringing profit. So what would happened if he had no new ideas to implement, would he be deemed as useless and airlocked? No, that didn’t seem right. That public display of ownership might be about that, but spending so much time wit Rhys? Would the man force himself to do it only to ensure his profit?

“Oh don’t look so down. It’s better you learn the truth from me now than when you’re cast to the side in favor of something more profitable for Jack. Anyways enough talking about the man. I actually really wanted to talk with you. I’m a serious fan of you work you know! Up till yesterday’s events I had no idea you were responsible for those upgrades. Really me and my sister are using them all the time down on Pandora. I’d say fire was my number one favorite.” She said enthusiastically. Rhys would never have guess a girl could be such a nerd for guns. Still it did feel good to be admired for something. Maybe this was his chance to shine.

“You know if you want, I can install the air elemental upgrade for you. That is, if you have a weapon with you.” Rhys said this time trying to play it cool.

“Do I have a weapon? Please I had several brought here with me and at least a dozen back on Pandora. But I have one which is my favorite, but it’s Vladof, would you be able to integrate it?” She asked excitedly. Yes guns were definitely the way to go with her.

“Yeah it should be possible, just don’t ever admit I did that. I don’t think Jack would be happy to hear I upgraded a Vladof weapon with Hyperion tech.”

“Wow that is so amazing! When can you do it? How about today, let’s say around 8 pm? That’s when my shift ends.”

“Yeah sure no …” Problem. Yeah actually there was a problem, during that time Jack usually came to visit and he was not sure how he would take it if he wasn’t there. He definitely didn’t want to endanger Sasha after what happened with Steve. He would have to play it safe. “Actually evenings are not good for me. How about during the day?”

“Ugh too bad. I suppose we could do it earlier, I start work at 11 everyday, but that would mean we’d have to wait till tomorrow.” She seemed very disappointed at the prospect of waiting for the upgrade to be installed. Too bad she wasn’t disappointed about not seeing him…

“Ok so how about tomorrow at nine, it should give me enough time to finish it. Come to the R&D department, I’ll let you in since I have the clearance card.”

“Sure.” Sasha agreed and brightened visibly at the prospect. “Okay I’ve been bothering you long enough. Besides I think my boss is not too happy with me, customers are starting to look very pissed. I’ll be back with your order in a moment.”

Was the meeting they’re going to have a date? Probably not, but if he plays his cards right then maybe something could come out of this. God knows he’s been eyeing the waitress ever since she started working here. He didn’t expect her to be quite this… fierce, with her soothing smile he always assumed she’d be a timid person. Well she definitely wasn’t that, but he decided he liked her personality. The girl definitely knew what she wanted, besides growing up on Pandora, you had to be tough. Eat or be eaten, quite literally at that.

There was a sudden buzz in his bag he had with him. There were a couple of unread messages from Vaughn and Yvette which he didn’t feel like answering. Rhys was certain they were going to nag him about yesterday and he didn’t feel like talking about it. Ever. He checked it out and sure enough it was his Echo Comm. Jack was calling him. Great, that’s what he needed.

“Hello?” he answered it . He tried to switch it to the earset mode but of course Jack was having none of it. Video conference was the only option which is why he was now looking at the digital display of a small screen projected from the Echo Comm. He tried to hide it but there was no use, everyone in the restaurant saw and heard who he was talking to. Luckily Sasha went back to the kitchen, he didn’t want her to hear the conversation.

“Rhysie pumpkin, just a quick call. I set the date of the final testing of your project for next week, sadly I won’t be there to witness it so please make some video footage. I’ve got to see the effects.” The man had his legs propped on his desk, arms behind his head. It didn’t look like he was working too hard.

“Oh ok I’ll do that. Is there something else?” Rhys tried to be as up to the point as he could, wanting the conversation to be over soon. He was attracting too much attention as it was.

“What? No ‘where are you going Jack? I’d like you to be there for the testing. I’m soooooo disappointed I won’t get to see your face for so long.” Jack said feigning a hurt voice. Damn he didn’t want people to get the wrong idea. Rhys knew Jack was joking, but judging by the intrigued faces around him, others did not.

“I Just thought you won’t be there because you have some other meeting planned. Are you going somewhere?”

“Yeah something came up down on Pandora.” Jack sighed changing his demeanor, he clearly wasn’t happy with whatever was going down on the planet. “I need to go there today and won’t be back until Friday next week. But don’t think I would ditch you kitten if it wasn’t something important. I’ll be back in five days, but I’ll call you.”

“Why would you call me?”

“Seriously dum dum, what’s with the brilliant questions today?” Jack asked and put his face right in front of the screen, eyebrows raised. “Wouldn’t like you too miss me too much while I’m gone.” Jack said with a satisfied smirk.  Now this was the wrong thing to say while talking publicly. Rhys could already feel his face turning red, imagining how the occupants of the restaurant would react to such a statement. Maybe he should just be thankful Jack didn’t mention them sleeping together that night. Fuck that sounded so wrong. At that moment he saw Sasha coming out of the kitchen with his order.

“Ok so talk to you soon I guess.” Rhys said hurriedly.

“So eager to get rid of me cupcake?” The man wriggled his eyebrows, but seeing how he was not getting the desired response he decided against taunting the programmer any further. “Fine, fine. Be a good boy while I’m gone.”

Rhys snapped the video call shut just as Sasha approached his table.

“What happened while I was gone? What’s with all the commotion?” Sasha asked while placing his order on the table.

“Oh I wouldn’t know.” Rhys feigned ignorance. “Listen Sasha, it just so happens I’m free tonight so we can meet at 8 pm as you wanted. Like I said, entrance to the R&D.”

“That’s awesome! Can’t wait for that upgrade, imagine what it’ll do to rakks! Oh the possibilities.” She said excitedly while Rhys only hoped nothing bad would come out of it.

He supposed that as long as he finds the time for both, Jack and Sasha, the man shouldn’t get angry. Actually there was no reason he should know about Sasha’s existence at all. Rhys tried to reason with himself but something at the back of his mind told him that it may not end well. Still he was too happy at the prospect of spending time with the girl to think about any possible repercussions at the moment. He’ll think about what to do when Jack comes back from Pandora. For now Rhys decided to simply see how thing will turn out.

 

—o.o— 18 days later, Pandora —o.o—

 

Handsome Jack was furious. For the past couple of days he had tried to secure a new eridium site that the Hyperion troops had scouted. The problem was that the site has been heavily overrun with bandits and eliminating that proved a difficult task. At first he thought that sending a couple dozen loader bots would do the trick. But as luck would have it the lowlifes had been well stacked with corrosive weapons. There were times he loved Rhys for the elemental upgrades and times when he hated him for them, now was the latter.

So with loader bots out of the question it was down to him and his men. Usually he would not take part in such operations but this time he could not allow the troops to step in with heavy machinery, destroying everything in sight. Securing the eridium was the most important factor. The mission required some stealth and brains, hence his involvement. Sadly it took much more time than he anticipated.

He really liked putting bullets in bandits’ brains, it was a lot more satisfying than killing those incompetent, sniveling fools back on Helios. But even he had a limit and stacking bandits full of bullets three days in a row was tedious to say the least. The only breaks he got from the constant fighting were usually at night, when he’d retreat to their camp after securing yet another patch of land. At those times he just wanted to drift away and catch a few hours of sleep, but the problem was that he couldn’t.

Sleeping on Helios was difficult for him but sleeping on Pandora was downright impossible. On a planet where even air tried to kill him – he has so much dust in his lungs he swears he’s gonna suffocate any day now – his paranoia was much worse than usual. He needed something to ease his nerves so he figured, just like on Helios, Rhys would do the trick. Now this led to his second problem and the reason why he was furious. The kid had dared to ditch him. Him. The fucking CEO of Hyperion.

So far he had given the kid everything he had wanted, but he couldn’t find time in his busy schedule to talk with him. The first night he called it was rather late so he though the kid might be sleeping already. Just to make sure he entered a series of code into the Echo.Net and the footage from Rhys’ apartment showed up on his computer screen. That was right, he did install cameras in the apartment which he failed to mention to the programmer. But those were just minor, unimportant details. Not worth mentioning really.

He looked at the live feed from Rhys’ apartment but the kid was nowhere to be seen. Naturally concerned Jack went on to the security system cameras and checked on the footage from the R&D department. When he saw Rhys working at his station his first thought was ‘what a diligent little worker bee’, but that soon changed when he saw the kid was not alone. There was some bimbo chatting with him animatedly.

So Rhys was ditching him for this? He zoomed the camera on the girl. Ok so she might have a slightly above average appearance, but overall she looked very common. She certainly wasn’t from Helios, probably one of those part-time workers that came every now and then to make some extra cash.  Rhys was an idiot to even give her the time of the day. He could do much better than this. Not to mention that he had let a stranger into the R&D department who was snooping way to much while Rhys wasn’t looking.

The idiot seemed happy though, a smile plastered to his face while he worked on…. was that a Vladof gun? Seriously the crude taste this woman had. Still it stung. Not only did Rhys completely forget about him, he seemed happier with this bimbo than he ever was in his presence. The only thing Jack got were half smiles, but Rhys’ face muscles seemed to be working just fine in the presence of that trash. Jack zoomed on her face once again, made a screenshot and sent it to his intel department. He needed to know everything about her.

Instead of trying to call Rhys after the first time he failed to connect, Jack settled on watching the footage from the cameras every chance he got. They were meeting every day. Chatting animatedly, bickering, telling each other stories of their lives, or that is what Jack assumed they did, sadly there was no audio available on the live stream videos. Jack watched them go to a movie once, such a commoner’s thing to do. It was actually the movie they watched back in Jack’s apartment. He remembered how Rhys had been nauseous after watching some of the more detailed gore scenes. This time though? Now he was acting all manly, laughing away at scenes that seemed to make the bimbo happy.

That was also the first time Jack broke his computer screen. The second time happened when Rhys cooked for the girl at the diner she worked at. They went in after closing hours and broke into the kitchen, laughing like a pair of children who found a cookie jar. Rhys cooked for her and made a show of setting the table, candle and all that cheap shit decorating the surface. That was when Jack broke his second monitor. The third time was only an hour ago. He had been watching them walking around one of the artificial gardens on Helios. The bitch had stopped to admire a flower of some sorts, how very imaginative, so Rhys decided it was a brilliant idea to pluck one of the flowers and put it in her hair. And that’s when it happened.

The pair kissed, just a short brush of lips really. It was more awkward than anything, nose bumping and all that. They actually laughed awkwardly, Rhys putting a hand behind his head, the girl trying to stay confident, but it was evident she also felt fazed by it. It was all that happened really. They continued their walk, talking about some shit Jack had no idea about. That’s when Jack broke his third monitor. He actually took hold of the laptop and with a vicious snarl tossed it into the nearby wall. It happened around the time the door opened.

“Hello Jack, you sent for me.” The woman said with a leering smile while entering the room. She was not fazed by the recent display, already used to Jack’s tantrums. She had a top hat on her head, short brown hair and the biggest rack one could find on Pandora. Well apart from Scooter’s sister Ellie, but she was something Jack would not come near. Ever. The other thing that made her appearance so unusual was a clown’s makeup, it was a wonder that she could actually pull it off.

 

—o.o— Moxxi —o.o—

 

“About fucking time Moxxi. Get yourself ready, I’m not very patient today.” Jack demanded, his mind seemingly elsewhere.

“Jack baby, you should know I’m always ready.” She said and made a show of it by sitting on Jack’s desk and spreading her legs in an inviting manner.

“Well today we’re trying out something different. You’re gonna be on all fours, if you catch my drift.”

Moxxi had more than enough experience in the business to know when a man was asking for anal. It was surprising considering that the request came from Jack, she didn’t know he was in that kind of stuff. Not that she minded really, a pay was a pay, and Jack always paid…. handsomely. She started preparing herself, while Jack only looked out the window, seemingly lost in thought, an angry look on his face.

“Okay Jack, I’m ready for…” Moxxi did not manage to finish her sentence when she was unceremoniously pushed on the desk. She knew Jack was usually rough, but this treatment was brutal. He slammed into her like a rag doll, not caring about any satisfaction on her side. It was actually becoming quite painful.

“Jackie dear, what...” She tried asking, face turning slightly to the left, to observe the man above her. Her head was quickly slammed back into the desk, the ministrations even more forceful.

“Did I ask you to speak? No? Then shut the hell up.”

The unsatisfying action continued for a little while longer. Jack ramming into Moxxi, while she whimpered in pain. She had gone though many rough rounds in her life, but this seemed especially cruel. Like Jack was taking pleasure in deliberately hurting her. When it finally seemed he was on the verge of cumming, Jack lowered his upper body and whispered something in her year, biting at it painfully.

“Say you are mine. Say that I own you.” He seethed. There was no use arguing with a man in such a state.

“I’m yours baby.” She said in the best saccharine voice she could muster given the circumstances.

“No!” Jack yelled grabbing a fist full of her hair and yanking it painfully. “That’s not how he would… Act terrified, like you knew I had your life in my hands!”

Mystery solved. So this was some kind of a sick projection, which was actually interesting. Moxxi never heard of Jack doing it with a guy, but this made a lot more sense. She was curious about the man who was able to get under Jack’s skin to the point of pissing the powerful CEO so much. In all the years she knew Jack, she had never seen him this fazed over someone. She’d definitely like to know who the mystery man was.

“I…I’m yours Jack” She said in a shaky voice. If this is what Jack wanted then so be it. “You own me.”

That was all that was needed for Jack to finally cumm and dislodge himself from her body. Much to her joy. She just wanted to get out of the office as soon as she could. Asking for money now would not be the wisest thing to do, but she knew Jack always paid his debts. Moxxi quickly got dressed and was about to walk out of the room when she felt the barrel of Jack’s revolver pressed to the back of her head.

“You were not very keen on listening to the instructions given.”Jack said and pressed lightly on the trigger.

“Now listen Jack…” Surely Jack wouldn’t do this. The man had a bit of a borderline personality but this was just ridiculous. Killing her over some quarrel he was having with his lover, or whoever the hell that mystery man was, was going overboard. If he was so pissed at the guy why not just kill him instead? Luckily for Moxxi someone decided it was a good time to knock on the office door.

“I’m sorry sir, we have the intel on the girl you asked for. You should really see it sir.”

There was moment of hesitation on Jack’s part, pregnant silence feeling the room. Moxxi only prayed Jack would come to his senses. Luckily for her he finally decided to lower his gun.

“You can go. Let the guy in on your way out. I’ll send you the money later today.” Jack said while holstering his gun and returning to his desk.

Moxxi did as she was told and hurried out of the room. She had enough craziness for one day. However curiosity got the better of her and she looked back at Jack who was already scanning through the papers the guy provided for him. The more he looked at it the more his expression changed. He was now grinning from ear to ear, thanking profoundly for the intel. Damn couldn’t he have seen those papers before they met? Ah well never mind that. The important thing was that she was still alive and there was going to be a big stash of money delivered to her soon enough. Life was good.

Chapter Text

Rhys felt so happy for the past two weeks, things were going well with Sasha and last night they even kissed. Well it wasn’t the best of kisses, given his inexperience, but the girl didn’t complain so that was good. He enjoyed every moment they spent together and kept thinking about Sasha all day long. For the first time in his life he felt so infatuated with someone, a stupid grin not leaving his face.

 At first he was just drawn to Shasha’s looks and that pleasant smile she kept giving him when he came to the diner, but as they spent more and more time together, he decide that her personality was the biggest magnet. She was headstrong and knew what she wanted out of life, admittedly she had more guts than most of the Hyperion workers put together. But he supposed growing on Pandora would do that to any person. Still despite her harsh demeanor there was something delicate about her, like the time when she admired the wildlife during their walk in Helios’ parks.

He was actually just waiting for Sasha outside of the R&D department. Today was a big day for him, the final testing of his new project. He had to keep it top secret all the time, but decided it was ok to show it now, since it’s going to be released into production starting tomorrow. He already did most of the testing , sending the footage to Jack as promised. He received permission to release the project which was actually a bit strange.

Rhys assumed Handsome Jack would at least call him, write a ‘good job’ note on his Echo Comm, basically do anything. Instead he had not heard from the man since the time he went to Pandora. He remembered him saying he’d call but other than that one missed call he had on the first day Jack was gone, there was no communication between them. He couldn’t answer it at the time since he left it back at his apartment and met up with Sasha that night, but he did write to him when he came back. He asked Jack what he wanted but received no answer since.

Part of him thought that the man might be angry with him for not picking up the first time, but it seemed a bit ridiculous. Handsome Jack was probably way too busy down on Pandora. Rhys heard there were some complications, something about a bandit camp, but no one knew the exact details. He hoped the man was ok. He had to be since he was the Handsome Jack, still it did make him worry at times.

“Hello there Hyperion boy, waiting for someone?”  

Rhys shook out of his inner musings as soon as he heard her voice. Sasha just turned the corner and was making her way towards him, smirk ever present on her face. Throughout the time they knew each other Rhys learned that the pleasant smile was just a cover, a condescending smile was the real thing. Not that Rhys minded, at this point he’d probably accepted anything concerning the girl.

“Oh yes I was about to show a certain someone something amazing, but there just won’t be enough room in the R&D department unless that person leaves the attitude outside.” Rhys said playfully, banter was their thing.

“Well someone’s feeling cocky today. But enough of the talking, I wanna see the show!.”

“Fine fine, let’s go.” Rhys said shaking his head in defeat.

“One more thing” Sasha said grinning while lightly bumping his upper arm with her fist. “That’s for luck!”

“Oww…”Rhys whined theatrically “wasn’t there a more pleasant way to do that. I dunno I kiss would be nice.” He said playfully and was surprised when Sasha actually stood on her toes and pecked him on the cheek. There really was a height difference between them.

“All you needed to do was ask.” She smiled one of those gentle smiles she saved for special occasions and winked at him. Yes he was definitely falling hard.

“Now it’s definitely going to be a success.” He said huffing a laugh, absentmindedly touching his cheek. “Come on let’s go.”

They went inside of the R&D department and made their way to the testing site. Most of the staff recognized Rhys as he was a constant addition to the team for the last few weeks. Sasha also seemed to visit quite often lately, so by extension they were also familiar with the girl. Nobody made a fuss when Rhys asked for the testing site, luckily Steve wasn’t around anymore to protest.

They went inside the room which was very plain except for the huge glass walls here and there. Actually they weren’t plain glass walls but were made form the most durable material known to mankind. Most of its components were crystals gathered from creatures known as crystalisks living in one of the most dangerous areas in Pandora called the Caustic Caverns. He heard rumors of that place and would not dare to venture there, even if his siren powers were at their fullest.

“There was this new project I was working on for the past couple of days. Jack had assigned me to it and although at first it seemed like an impossible task I actually managed to make it.” Rhys explained with an air of pride around him. He was eager to show it to someone and Sasha was the best person for that because of two reasons. 1) He really wanted to impress her 2) she loved weaponry.

“Ok show-off, time for some action.” Sasha said rolling her eyes in a playful manner.

“Fine, fine… I wanted to give you a bit of an introduction but I guess I’ll just show you.”

They came up to a huge room with walls consisting solely of hardened crystal glass. There were a couple of dummies in the center surrounded by all kinds of objects. Rocks, conveniently placed swords and basically all types of sharp and deadly objects.

Rhys came up to a box titled ‘boom baby’. Of course he didn’t write that, probably other scientists did. They loved playing all types of jokes on people. At first Rhys thought it was funny, until they actually decided to pull one on him. He came to the testing site on day and a geeky looking man came up to him, feigning interest. He asked how did his grenades work so Rhys explained that it was just like in the case of any regular grenade - pull out the pin and throw it as far as you can. Even a kid could do it.

So what does the lab rat do? He pulls out the pin and asks ‘like this’ stretching his hand out towards him, grenade still in place. The moment he did that Rhys made a run for it, screaming like a damsel in distress. It was only when he noticed the reaction it evoked did he realize it was a toy grenade. Of course everyone was laughing their asses off and sure enough there was a video of him screaming like a thirteen year old girl, hands flailing. He really hoped that when he becomes a noted figure in Hyperion, and that day will come, that video won’t become viral.

Rhys took one of the grenades and asked Sasha to observe the room. One of the walls had a circular opening, which could be closed easily after inserting whatever deadly explosive one wished to test. Without further ado he pulled out the pin and threw the grenade in the centre, right in front of the dummies. It only took a couple of seconds for the magic to work. As soon as the explosion went off, every possible object in the room was flying in the direction of the dummies. When the show ended they were spiked with everything that laid in the vicinity.

Yes the grenades were definitely ready for the market. He wondered briefly how much profit they would make and if perhaps he should demand a raise. Yeah like he needed it considering he had the best apartment ever and he didn’t even have to pay for it. Nope, a raise was not needed for the time being. He turned to Sasha gauging her reaction. For a moment she just stared at the glass room. Rhys didn’t know whether it was because what she saw was so underwhelming or so overwhelming.

“Rhys…” she said finally turning to face him. “This is amazing!” She practically leaped in the air and started running around the glass room, inspecting the damage done to the dummies. Yes definitely overwhelming then.

“Can you imagine how many lives it would save down on Pandora? This has a much quicker fuse time and a bigger radius than anything I’ve seen so far. Imagine a bunch of spiderant warriors chasing you and then using one of these babies. With normal grenades there’s always an issue with accuracy but with the range of these babies even a kid would manage to do it.”

Sasha talked animatedly and Rhys basked in his moment of glory. It wasn’t often the girl was so open with compliments. Technically she was complementing the grenade, but since he was the one who created it, it felt like all of the compliments were directed at him.

“You know even though you strike me as a nerdy type, you can do pretty amazing things when it comes to guns. It makes me think you’re even better than Felix. That’s…. really a talent you should be proud of.” She said earnestly and stood right in front of him.

Rhys remembered Sasha mentioning that Felix was like a father figure to her, he was the one that actually raised her and her older sister Fiona. She mentioned Felix had a talent for tinkering and could construct almost any device from scraps only. She seemed to admire the man a lot so the comment was definitely genuine. It made Rhys feel all warm inside.

“Thanks Sasha.” He said and extended a hand encircling the girls waist. She did not make a move to protest so Rhys decided to proceed. A bit unsure of himself he put his other arm around her, encircling her waist. They looked at each other for a brief moment and Rhys began inching his face to meet Sasha’s. They were about to kiss when suddenly a sound of clapping made them break apart.

Rhys looked around the room for the source of the offending sound. Soon enough he spotted Handsome Jack standing in the open doorway. He felt panic rising within him, dreading Jack’s reaction. He wasn’t sure how the man would react, remembering all the other times he made sure his attention was focused solely on the CEO. Rhys had to make sure Sasha would not suffer from this, even at the cost of using his siren powers, however he had no intention of hurting Jack as well. Shit what was he supposed to do now? He had not expected Jack to come back unannounced.

“Great show kiddo.” Jack stood there smiling, clapping his hands loudly. Rhys wasn’t sure the man was complementing his project or giving a lewd comment on Rhys’ previous actions. There was something dangerous in the man’s eyes.  He came closer to the duo, hands still clapping ever so slowly, deliberately.

“J..Jack I didn’t know you’d be back today.” Rhys said stepping closer to the man, trying to ensure the CEO was focused on him rather than on Sasha.

“I wouldn’t miss your little show kitten.” He said with a wide, predatory grin, putting one hand over Rhys’ shoulders. All the time Sasha kept watching them with a calculating gaze. Rhys only hoped Jack wouldn’t do anything stupid and that by the aforementioned show Jack meant his grenade testing.

“Yeah as you can see all works perfectly well. The grenades are ready for the market.  They’re going to be released tomorrow… or so I’ve heard.” Rhys was doing that thing again. Every time he got nervous he started blabbering.

“Yes cupcake you did a nice job.” Jack said and patted him on the head, ruffling his hair a bit. “So that’s one thing out of the way, now the other reason for which I came back a little bit earlier. Guards” he said in a louder, stern voice. Immediately two soldiers appeared in the doorway, dressed fully in Hyperion gear, helmets covering their faces. “Take her to the interrogation room”.

“What?” Rhys yelled at that, facing Jack directly. “No no no, she’s done nothing wrong. I asked her to accompany me, surely she won’t cause a problem. We’re gonna release the grenades tomorrow so…” Rhys was rudely interrupted by a large hand covering his mouth. He looked at Jack whose face was now only a couple of inches in front of his.

“Rhysie, Rhysie, Rhysie. What we have here” he said motioning to Sasha with his head “is a Pandoran spy. We can’t let spies roam around Helios freely now can we?”

This had to be a misunderstanding or better yet Jack’s paranoia kicking in again. Was it because he got close to the girl? Was she going to die only because Jack disliked how close they were? Rhys felt panic rising in him like a tidal wave. He couldn’t let Jack do this. He won’t let an innocent person get killed just because Handsome Jack was into some power play with him. He backed away from Jack, determined to hurt anyone that got even close to Sasha.

“Everyone back away.” Was what he wanted to say, but someone bet him to it. He turned his head to look at Sasha who was now pointing her Maliwan pistol at him. No this was not possible.

“One wrong move and I’ll blow his brains out. And I know you need him Jack, so don’t test me.” She yelled. How the hell did she even manage to pass the security control with her gun?

Rhys was standing shell shocked. He could not believe Sasha was a spy. Was all that happened between them just some ploy to get more information on Hyperion? Shit he had actually given her access to the R&D department, probably allowing her to get information on all of the newest projects they were working on. Rhys felt sick and betrayed but most of all he was furious at himself for believing it was all real.

“Oh bitch you do not want to test me.”Jack growled and pulled out his revolver. Rumor has it that he was the fastest shooter alive and it seemed the man lived up to the legend. He shot Sasha with a shocking bullet faster than Rhys managed to blink. The girl had no time to react, one minute she was standing, the other she was kneeling on the floor, face concerted with pain. Clearly it was a non lethal voltage level, otherwise she’d be dead within seconds.

“Take here to the fucking interrogation room and make sure she can’t move.” Jack ordered holstering his revolver and pushing a hand through his hair. He turned to Rhys, frustration evident on his features. “You ok there kiddo?”

Rhys nodded meekly. Physically he might be ok but mentally he was fucking far from being ok with what just happened.

“Great, now I need to deal with all of this mess. But I’ll want to talk with you real soon Rhysie.” He said calmly and followed the guards. Looking at the man’s retreating back Rhys thought that maybe he won’t be ok physically for much longer. It was his fault that Sasha was able to penetrate Hyperion structures so deeply, no way would Handsome Jack just let it slide.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack walked into the interrogation room just as the guards finished tying the girl to the chair that stood in the middle. Oh how he wanted to gauge her eyes out or at least cut those pretty little lips. For some reason he had a strong distaste for them, maybe because they touched what was his? Handsome Jack hated sharing. He learned that back at the time when he was still living with his grandmother. There used to be a bully in the neighborhood who made a point of taking what wasn’t his. He once made a mistake of taking something from Jack without asking. Needless to say the bully didn’t cause any problems after that incident. One could say that was Jack’s first step towards cleaning the scum from Pandora.

“You can torture me as long as you want you asshole. I won’t tell you anything.” The girl had the audacity to spit at him. Luckily Jack wasn’t standing anywhere near her.

“I don’t need you to tell me anything doll, I already know everything. You  come from a small organization lead by a man named Felix. You basically take up jobs that no one else would even consider, hence the handsome reward you receive if you don’t get yourself killed beforehand.” Jack said circling the chair Sasha was sitting on in slow, deliberate strides. “I even know who your current employer is, which would be the Atlas corporation. You see I have a hefty network of people working for me down on Pandora, not much escapes my attention.”

“Well if you know everything then why the hell won’t you kill me already? I won’t work for scum like you if that’s what you’re after.”

“Ohohoho now that was rich. ‘won’t work for a scum like you’.”Jack said imitating her voice. “Please have you looked in a mirror recently? You are a Pandoran merc who’d do anything for the highest bidder.”

“Not everything, but what can I say, doing something that’ll harm you just adds to the enjoyment.” She said with a smile, looking at him with disdain evident in her eyes.

“Whatever let’s you sleep at night doll. But tell me” Jack came closer and grabbed the girls hair, yanking her head forcefully, earning a low hiss from Sasha. “What made you point a gun at Rhys? By the way I knew it wasn’t loaded, even though Maliwan guns are made from light materials, they use lead bullets just like everyone else. You wouldn’t manage to pass the security gates.”

“So you’re not as stupid as you look.” The comment earned her another forceful yank which caused her to hiss through clenched teeth. “I wouldn’t hurt Rhys, despite hating Hyperion he actually is a good person. I just figured he’d be my only bargaining chip to get off Helios. I planned to take him hostage, actually I wanted to take him either way. He could do so many great things…” Sasha was silenced by a forceful hit to the side of her face.

“So you actually do like him, how sweet. News flash though, Rhys is not going anywhere, he’s right where he should be. Besides what made you think I’d allow you to leave?” Jack asked incredulous.

“Well I knew Rhys was important for you, hell any corporation would like to get their hands on him, given his talent.” She said and coughed abruptly, spitting some blood on the floor. Handsome Jack used a lot of force when he was mad. “But I thought that’s it, you know the goose which lays golden eggs and all that. But when I saw your interaction… it made me realize… he’s special for you, isn’t he?”

“You don’t fucking know me, you may think you do, but you don’t.” It was increasingly harder to not kill the annoying Pandoran scum.

“Oh but I know I’m right. That’s also the reason why I wanted Rhys out of Helios, he may not see you for the monster you are, but I know he will. Though it might be too late for him. You’re bad for him.” She said raising her gaze and looking directly into the eyes of Handsome Jack with as much hatred as she could.

By that time Jack was livid. He did not have to listen to bullshit spoken by some trash that meant absolutely nothing. He sneered and launched himself at the girl, hands encircling her throat in a death grip. Yes this was so very satisfying, looking how the over-confident look on the girls face was replaced with fear as she knew her life was at its end. Jack found it amusing how everyone struggled. Didn’t they know there was no escaping it. When Jack decided to kill someone, it was just a matter of time. However, despite how satisfying it was to see the girl squirming in her chair and gasping for air, he had other plans for her.

“Speaking of Rhys” Jack let go of Sasha’s throat, causing the girl to wheeze and cough frantically. “Seeing as we both have his best interest in mind, there is actually one last thing you could do for him. You see my plan is for him to kill you.”

“He “ she tried to speak but started coughing violently. After a few moments she continued. “He wouldn’t do that. He’s not that type of person.”

“Oh believe me I know, that’s why I’m suggesting you make it easier for him. Because I will not let this one go, Rhys is going to have to kill you and believe me that is the best scenario for you doll. If not then a) I’m gonna have a long talk with Rhys and he might not like it and b) I will be the one killing you and believe me when I say it, a bullet in the head is a mercy compared to what I’ll do to you.”

After explaining the available options, or lack of them, Jack gave her a few minutes for the information to sink it. It was clear she was calculating whether or not to do it. After a long moment though Jack was growing impatient.

“So what will it be?”

“Alright I’ll do it, but it’s only for him. I’m not afraid of you, or what you’ll do to me, but I don’t want you to force Rhys into this only for guilt to eat him inside out.” She said in a small voice, her face rigid, only eyes conveying the sadness she felt. “But know this. No matter how much you’d like to control him, he’s a human being. You’ll never be able to force someone to feel something that isn’t there.”

Jack hated every single word that came out of Sasha’s vile mouth. She didn’t know anything and he sure as hell wasn’t going to let her get to him. This was his plan and he needed to execute it. He needed Rhys to kill her, it was the only way he could look pass the fact that Rhys thought the Pandoran scum meant anything more to him. The kid was deluded and he needed him to see the truth. He walked up to the intercom near the door and pressed the button.

“Guards, I want Rhys over here, asap.” He tapped his fingers impatiently, arms crossed over his chest. Actually he couldn’t kill the girl, but he could still torture her a bit. With that thought in mind Jack let loose of his frustration, however he only managed to land a few blows on her before the door opened. By that time she was still in a pretty decent state.

“Rhysie, how nice of you to join us.” Jack said turning to the frightened man, wiping his bloodied knuckles on his pants. Rhys’ eyes were all red which irritated him even further - the girl did not deserve to be cried over. He wondered briefly if Rhys would ever shed tears for him. “So now I know all that I needed to. She’s from Pandora but works for Atlas corporation, they paid her handsomely to get intel on our newest projects. Taking her on a tour in our R&D department was not the wisest thing to do.”

 “Look Jack I’m so sorry, I had no idea.” He mumbled backing away. He looked at Rhys who was nervously studying Sasha’s state and then looking at him again. He was definitely scared. This was not going as planned.

“Listen pumpkin” Jack said walking closer to where Rhys stood. “I know you were tricked. I mean you did brake some laws by allowing unauthorized personal into our labs yada yada, but you were fooled, so I’ll let that one slide. However you do need to prove your loyalty, which is why” Jack said and pulled out his revolver making the boy cringe as if he was about to be shot “you’re the one that has to kill her.”

Rhys looked at the gun which was unceremoniously shoved into his hands. The boy looked at it as if it was about to burn him and raised his gaze to look at the girl. He studied her for a moment and then turned to Jack.

“Jack… I can’t. This isn’t me. I don’t kill people.”

Now Jack was slowly becoming pissed. He gave the kid an easy way out, magnanimously disregarded his errors and decided to trust him… but what does he get for all that? He really tried to avoid this but the kid had to be taught a lesson. Jack advanced towards Rhys when he heard the girl speak.

“Wow you’re really lame you know. Can’t kill me even when I’m all tied up? I knew you were a pussy but this is seriously hilarious.” Sasha said with a sneer, which didn’t exactly reach her eyes. “I played you like an idiot. Do you possible think I’d find anything attractive about you? I just used your stupid ass to get what I wanted and I would’ve killed you the second we stepped off of Helios.”

Well that definitely worked as now Rhys was pointing his revolver at her, his face filled with anger but also what seemed like sadness. Despite all the words that Sasha said the kid still hasn’t pulled the trigger. At times like this Rhys was a wonder to him, what would it take for him to kill someone? Kill his parents, his favorite pet, torture him? Seriously this was getting out of hand. Maybe a different approach would work better.

“Listen cupcake” he said in the best soothing voice he could, standing directly behind Rhys and pressing their bodies together. He could feel the kid go tense for a while, gun still pointed at Sasha, his hands shaking. Jack encircled his arms around Rhys’ torso, effectively hugging him from behind. He put his chin on the kid’s right shoulder and began speaking in a low voice.

“Rhysie this is not me trying to force you into anything, this is me giving you a chance. If you let people like her walk all over you, you’ll regret it through the rest of your life.” He felt Rhys relax and ease into his embrace. “Scum like her exist everywhere and anyone will betray you for the right price, I know cupcake, I’ve been there. But you need to learn from this and not let her words get to you.”

Jack could see Rhys fingers slowly tightening on the trigger. It was only a matter of seconds now and a few well placed words. Sasha was looking directly at Rhys her face angry but eyes telling a different story altogether.

“But you and me kiddo? We are a team, and I always look out for my team.” Jack said shifting from one leg to the other, this time placing his chin on Rhys’ other shoulder, pressing his face slightly into the kid’s neck.  “So I’m just asking you to trust me, because I am the only one that will never betray you. I see your worth and I am the only one that can appreciate it. You and me kiddo, we’re going places. You just need to take that one final step.” Jack said speaking nothing but the truth.

For a moment everything went perfectly still as the sound of a  loud bang reverberated throughout the room.

Chapter Text

Rhys couldn’t believe he actually did it. It was nearing midnight now and he was lying in his bed, tossing and turning, sleep eluding him. But how could he sleep when he had actually killed someone? Sure one could argue that he had already killed Vasquez but it wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t deliberate. Not like this. Not like holding a gun to a person’s head and pulling the trigger. He shuddered at the image which came to his mind, the thought of what he did tormenting him.

He had been vomiting ever since he came back from the interrogation room. Jack needed to deal with some stuff and asked the guards to escort him back to his apartment. He was actually glad he didn’t have to interact with the man, in his current state Rhys didn’t know whether he could control himself. He was angry with Jack for asking him to do it, but part of him also admitted he was right.

Rhys had to learn how to deal with his own problems and, considering how much danger he put the whole corporation in, this was something that had to be done. He should’ve been the one to end it and he had every right to kill the girl.  What’s more Sasha expressed no remorse when he confronted her in the interrogation room, so his actions seemed more than justified. Who knows, maybe if it wasn’t for Jack she might have even killed him without batting an eye… However even knowing all of this Rhys still didn’t feel any better about doing what he did.

He never felt so betrayed in his whole life and started to understand why Jack was so paranoid all of the time. He couldn’t believe that all the times he shared with Sasha were just a game for her. To be honest even when faced with the facts, Rhys wasn’t sure he’d believe it if it wasn’t for the gun Sasha pointed at him. He could not fathom how someone could act out different emotions so naturally. She had simply toyed with him and all that happened were lies. The nauseous feeling was back and all Rhys wanted to do was to stop feeling altogether. He wanted to curl in his bed, cry all night and never wake up.

Sadly he would not be given the luxury of a one quiet evening, as he heard someone entering the apartment. Of course it had to be Jack. Rhys wasn’t sure he wanted to see him, he felt like he needed someone to talk to, but Jack wasn’t the most appropriate person. He would perhaps understand the feeling of betrayal, but killing to him was like breathing, while Rhys was sure he’ll be hunted by the image of Sasha’s lifeless body till the end of his days.

He heard the stairs creaking which could only mean that Jack was heading his way. Rhys wanted to groan as he heard Jack slipping off his sneakers and felt a dip at the end of the mattress. He really wanted to avoid this for as long as possible, so he didn’t even turn to acknowledge the man’s presence.

“Hey Rhysie, you ok there kitten?” the CEO said in a cooing voice, which was surprisingly nice. Most of the times Jack made crude jokes and was simply obnoxious so this gentle demeanor of his came as a surprise. Rhys felt a strong hand turning him over to his back and saw Handsome Jack inspecting his face. His void of any emotion.

“Explain something to me Rhysie” Jack began sighing loudly, sitting cross-legged on the mattress. “Why would you cry over someone who has betrayed you? You should be fucking ecstatic now that the bitch is gone.”

“I’m no crying… something just got into my eyes.” Wow, way to go Rhys, Handsome Jack will surely buy such an excuse. He looked at the man  who, as expected, pointedly rolled his eyes. “I’m not sad that she’s gone, I just. It sucks you know. To feel this way. I really thought I could trust her… And… and even if she deserved it, killing just doesn’t sit well with me.” Rhys felt a bit uncomfortable sharing his thoughts with Jack, but he really needed a distraction from the tormenting thoughts, otherwise he’d end up dehydrated from all the crying.

“I know that at the moment it sucks, but it’ll make you stronger in the long run, I can promise you that cupcake.” Jack said studying Rhys’ features. The man propped his elbow on his knee and rested his chin on his palm, slight annoyance evident on his face “But I wonder, why would you get close to her at all?”

“I just…” Damn what was he supposed to say? If Yvette was right about her theory Jack would probably be pissed if he said that he fell for Sasha. He didn’t feel like listening to the man’s tantrum so he opted for an answer that was a bit farther from the truth, but probably wouldn’t cause Jack’s sour mood to get any worse.

“Well with all of my work here on Helios I rarely had any time for…” Suddenly the ‘easy way out’ didn’t seem so easy anymore when he actually had to say it out loud. “Well you know… I just wanted to… I mean she looked good so…” Damn why did he have to feel so embarrassed about it.

“Is sex the word you’re looking for?” Jack asked calmly, head cocked to the side. Rhys just nodded reverently and turned the other way. Oh god if he kept acting like this Jack would know…

“Oh my fuck Rhysie are you a virgin?” Jack asked, an incredulous smile on his face as he bent over the boy who was now a cocoon of blankets, trying to hide his face from the man.

“Oh shit you are, aren’t you? Hahaha oh this is rich. How old are you kiddo?” Jack said clutching his sides, laughing hysterically.

“I’m 25 ok, and I had a lot on my plate. Not everyone has time for that sort of… activities. Also I would really appreciate it if you didn’t make fun of me. I’m feeling like shit at the moment and you’re not helping.” Did he just scold Handsome Jack? It seems he did, but the man fucking deserved it.

“Oh Rhysie don’t be mad” Jack said trying to control his laughter, while wiping tears from the corners of his eyes. “It’s kind of kittens-in-the-face cute. But you should have said it was all about getting laid, there’s nothing wrong about that. Now that I know I can help you.”

Oh yes Rhys could imagine his way of helping. Hiring some hookers to spend a wild night with him was not on top of his to do list. Rhys was a romantic and whether it was stupid or not, he actually wanted his first time to be with someone special. He always imagined he’d fall in love and spend his life with someone he cared about. For a short while he even thought that Sasha might be that person, but now the mere idea caused the nauseating feeling to return tenfold.

“Listen Jack I’m really not into paid sex. Don’t worry about it, I’m fine.”

“And who said anything about paid sex? Rhys didn’t I tell you that you’re on my team? And I always look out for my team, I wouldn’t offer you anything substandard. Get ready to have your mind blown away, because the experience I’m about to offer is going to take your mind off of everything. Seriously trust me kiddo.”

Trust Handsome Jack? Well that was something he’d never learn to do. Maybe he had good intentions but at times the man was emotionally lacking. How would Rhys even think about sex after everything that happened? Sure some say it’s a great way to just let loose and forget about everything, but he was not about to test that theory.

“Listen Jack” Rhys turned facing the man, letting loose the blankets he had cocooned himself in. “I appreciate it but I doubt now is the right moment for me to think about…sex.”

“Oh you’ll soon learn that every moment is a good moment to think about sex.” Jack said with a devious grin. “Especially when you’re having it with me.”

Wha…. What. What? WHAT!? Rhys surely just heard wrong, Jack had to be pulling his leg or something. No way would Handsome Jack have sex with him. First of all he was a guy, secondly he was Rhys, nothing special in the looks department, thirdly he was a guy!

“Haha very funny.” Rhys said, but judging by Jack’s reaction he wasn’t joking. Rhys propelled himself abruptly into a sitting position and began backing away until his back hit the wall. No way, this was not happening.

“Rhysie I’m offering you something half of Helios would die for. No, what am I saying? All of Helios would die for. Imagine having your first time with the CEO of the biggest corporation in the universe. Now that’s something not many can boast about.” Jack said still smiling, but his eyes were dangerous.

No sooner had Jack said those words Rhys felt the man grabbing his ankle and yanking him towards the middle of the bed. He had no time to react before he felt a weight pressing over his hips. Due to the sudden movement he had closed his eyes shut, but now opened them only to discover Jack straddling him. The man was fucking pinning him to the bed!

“Ja… Jack! This whole… you don’t need to do this. When I was talking about sex I was thinking about women you know.” Rhys said, pushing at Jack’s chest in order to keep some distance between them. “I know you like women as well, so no need to force yourself.”

“Are you trying to say that sex with some random woman would be better than with the most powerful man that lived?” Now talk about an overblown ego. However Rhys could see that Jack was actually taking offence at his words. If he was to get out of this predicament he’d have to change tactics.

“No, not at all.” Yes it would be fucking better, mainly because he wouldn’t be the one being fucked! There was a fundamental difference in that!

“Great we have that established.” Jack said, his frown disappearing. “It’s true though, I never had sex with a man, but I suppose it’s not quantum physics or anything. I’m just not sure about the whole ‘preparation’ bit so let me check on that real quick.”

Jack actually opened a digital display of the Echo.Net from his watch. Looking up at the man Rhys decided that this had to be the most ridiculous thing he’d ever experience. It was admittedly the weirdest situation Rhys had gotten himself into. Yvette warned him that Jack wanted to own him in a way, but Rhys never would have believed it would extend to the physical side of their strange relation. Yet here he was, pinned to his bed by Handsome fucking Jack who, oh shit this was absurd, was researching on the Echo.Net for ways to have gay sex. Un-fucking-believable. This had to be some kind of a joke.

“Jack if you don’t like men then why force yourself?” Rhys tried a different angle.

“What… ok this is how it’s done. Not very sanitary but I guess we’ll manage.” Jack mumbled to himself and closed the display. “What were you saying, ah yes something about me forcing myself? Rhysie first of all Handsome Jack does not force himself to do anything alright.”

“Does that mean you actually want to…” Rhys felt his face turning red.

“For the inventor of one of the best gun upgrades that ever existed, that brain of yours can be remarkably slow.” Jack said smiling as he leaned over to Rhys’ night table looking for something in the drawers. He seemed satisfied when he found a tube of the boy’s hand cream. Suddenly dread overtook Rhys. “Ok this will do nicely. Now where were we. Ah yes. Sure I want to do it, I’m always willing to try new things and honestly if I were to do it with a man then you’d be an obvious choice.”

“Why’s that?” Rhys asked to keep the conversation going, but what he was really racking his brain for, was a way out of his current predicament. Was he about to get fucked by his boss? Wasn’t this some sort of sexual harassment? Rhys started squirming under Jack’s weight, trying to make a run for it.

“Oh fishing for compliments are we?” Jack said while he slowly began to remove all of the layers of his upper clothing. Luckily he had a lot of them so it took some time. “Have you ever looked into a mirror? Your face is as pretty as it gets for a guy. Also even though I say you’re lanky, I actually think you’ve got better legs than most of the woman I slept with. You may not know it yet, but long legs give great possibilities during sex.” Jack said wagging his eyebrows while removing the final piece of clothing which left him bare-chested.

Rhys was dying, he was having a stroke. He felt the heat in his cheeks increasing by several degrees and was sure his face would melt at any moment now. He never realized someone would think of him as pretty, although for a man he wasn’t sure whether to be happy or angry about it. He also never imagined he would find himself in a situation like this, his boss sitting on top of him, wanting to fuck him.

Even though Rhys never imagined having sex with another male and was never really attracted to the same sex, he had to admit Handsome Jack was really something else. He had a great face of which every feature seemed to be chiseled to perfection, his mismatched eyes only adding to the allure, while his body was nothing short of what every guy wanted. Great abs, well toned body, rippling muscles - he was everything Rhys wasn’t.

Jack was broad in the shoulders, had huge hands and was covered in just the right amount of body hair. Rhys, on the other hand, was well toned in his own way, but had a slim built. Features delicate, skin pale and fingers of a fucking pianist – he was the exact opposite of Jack. He also knew he had extraordinarily slim legs. He remembered making a bet with one of his coworkers during his first year at Helios. She was certain Rhys would fit her pants, but he protested. In the end he lost the bet.

Maybe his body was meant to be attractive for men? The unsettling thought brought him out of his musings. He looked up at Jack who was currently putting his clothes away which caused him to raise his body a bit, giving Rhys the freedom of movement. It was now or never.

Rhys quickly flipped onto his stomach and began crawling towards the staircase, like a soldier making his way out of a mining field. It must have looked hilarious. For a moment he actually thought he was out of the danger zone when suddenly he felt a hand clasping around his ankle and yanking him towards his oppressor. Again he was lying under the man but this time pinned not only by Jack’s hips but also his wrists - two strong hands holding them above his head.

“Rhysie kitten, I know you’re scared, this being your first time and all, but trust me, I’m going to take great care of you.” Jack said smiling hungrily and leaning down.

Rhys closed his eyes shut, only one thought going through his head. ‘This is happening, oh fuck this is actually happening’. He soon felt lips pressing into his and opened his eyes tentatively. Jack was actually kissing him. This was his second time and it was so different. With Sasha it was a bit awkward and sweet and with Jack it was… holy fuck it was different.

Rhys let out an awkward noise he didn’t realize he was holding and felt something wet enter his mouth. Good thing he brushed his teeth after all that vomiting he did earlier. Was this a good time to think about shit like that? No. But Rhys had a hard time focusing at all.

Jack’s tongue was exploring his mouth, touching every crevice, sliding though his palate, encircling his own tongue. Rhys had no idea this was what real kissing meant. Admittedly he felt a bit awkward lying there and doing nothing. This whole situation seemed so absurd he could not allow himself to fully participate, although it was hard not to respond to the man’s ministrations.

He soon felt Jacks body pressing into his and holy shit the man was actually hard. So it seemed Rhys didn’t have to worry about not being adequate. Wait a second wasn’t he supposed to be pissed, he was forced into having sex with his own boss and although it was flattering in a way, knowing that Handsome Jack chose him of all people, it still didn’t change the fact that he was against it in the first place.

Jack stopped the assault on his mouth and raised himself a bit to look at Rhys, a playful smirk on his lips. “I’m glad to see you’re enjoying yourself Rhysie, despite your… ‘tentative approach’.” Jack said smirking. He let go of his wrists, which now laid limply above his head.

And what did he mean by that? Suddenly he felt a hand pressing to his crotch and he jumped at the sudden contact. His hands covering his mouth to stop the groan that was about to escape. He was actually hard, how has he not noticed that? Did he really enjoy this?

“Now Rhysie part of your charm are the noises you make.” Jack said and took his hand from Rhys to push away the hands that were clamped on the programmer’s mouth. He resumed kissing him, this time biting at his lips as he grinded their erections together. All the while Rhys was having an internal battle with himself over what he actually wanted and what his body seemed to yearn for.

“Aaaahngh” Rhys unwillingly moaned into the man’s mouth after a particularly hard trust, his hands clutching tightly at the sheets. Handsome Jack has managed to get him hard in a matter of minutes, reducing him to a quivering mess. He could not let this happen, if he didn’t stop it now, then there was no way of going back. He made use of the chance he got when Jack raised himself to look at Rhys yet again. The man must really enjoy watching him like this.

“Ja…ah… Jack this is wrong, we shouldn’t do this.” Rhys said, his voice shaky from what they’ve been doing. He pushed lightly on the man’s muscled stomach and felt the rumble of the man’s laughter.

“Sweet cheeks if you could see yourself, you’d know why I’m laughing. You say we should stop but you’re already hard, reduced to a whimpering mess. You look” Jack said and lowered himself to Rhys’ ear “delectable.” The man whispered into his ear and started nibbling on it, eliciting  something between a whine and a moan from Rhys, who still kept pushing Jack away, his attempts growing lesser and lesser by each passing moment.

“I’m gonna eat you whole, cupcake.” Jack said and licked the side of his face, bringing back the memories of his little public display a few weeks back. Rhys arched his hips at that, the memory doing a weird thing to him.

Rhys couldn’t believe he was reacting this way. It was as if his own body was betraying him. Would a person get aroused when assaulted? He didn’t think so, but it was in a way natural to react to someone’s touch. However what made Rhys really unsettled was that he was reacting more to Jack’s words than anything else. The concepts he began to place in his head left him wanting.

“But first we’ve got to take care of all that clothing.” Jack said while gazing at him. “As much as I like you in my sweater, it’s gotta come off.” Jack began pulling the offending piece of clothing upwards, but Rhys was quick to pull it back down. He was feeling self-conscious as it was and really didn’t want to lay there clad only in his boxers.

“Ah ah ah. What did I say about being all nervous and shy?” Jack slowly extracted the boy’s hands, which were balled in the fabric, and pulled the yellow Hyperion sweater over his head. After successfully removing it, he just sat there on top of him, looking at Rhys as if he was a dish to devour. It made the programmer feel so embarrassed that he tried to cover himself by crossing his hands over his bare chest.

“Now don’t obstruct the view kitten, I wanna see you whole.” Jack smiled and licked his lips. Next he began to pull at his boxers, which made Rhys spring upwards, clutching at the man’s large hands.

“No, no, no…..no. This is as far as I’ll go.” Rhys protested and this time tried really hard to fight off the offending hands. But he was no match for Jack as the stronger man grabbed both of his wrist in one hands and took of his boxers in one pull. At this point Rhys wanted to die.  Perhaps if there was no light this would’ve been better but as his night lamps were on, everything was visible. He automatically crossed his legs, trying to hide his evident erection.

“No, no, no… no.” Jack said, mimicking Rhys’ previous reaction in a playful manner. “I want to admire you fully before I devour you.” Jack said and grabbed a hold of his knees spreading Rhys legs wide apart. He also moved the programmers hands to his sides, looking at him up and down. Rhys squeezed his eyes shut and didn’t dear to open them. Never in his life did he feel so exposed. He could feel the CEO’s eyes roaming over his body. This should make him feel uncomfortable, yet he was still hard.

“I can’t believe no one has ever claimed you before. But that’s good kitten, because I will be the one to own you.” Jack said, his gaze not leaving Rhys as he took hold of the boy’s ankle and began kissing and sucking at the appendage. Slowly he began licking and kissing his way down Rhys’ inner leg, the action coupled with his words causing the programmer to writhe in pleasure. “You’re gonna be all mine Rhysie, all mine” Jack reached his thigh and began sucking on it, intent on living a mark on the delicate skin.

“Nghhhh… Ja.. Jack” Rhys moaned arching his back, biting on the fingers of his left hand which was clamped over his mouth, his right one twisted in the sheets.

“That’s right baby boy. I’m gonna take good care of you.” Jack purred and just when his mouth was about to reach Rhys’ sensitive area, he pulled his body up and pressed it against the boy, his elbows propped on either side or Rhys’ head. This made the boy look up into the lust-filled eyes of the man. Jack had a devious grin plastered on his face, which made Rhys tremble in both fear and excitement.

“I’m gonna give all that’s best for you Rhysie.” He said while inspecting every inch of his face. Rhys could not hold the man’s gaze and turned his head to the left, letting moans and whimpers escape his lips without even registering it.

“I’ll take care of you.” Jack said moving to the blue tattoos on his chest. He made a point of tracing every single symbol with his tongue, which sent sparks of electricity down Rhys’ spine. He knew it was a sensitive spot for him but Rhys could not imagine how good it would feel to have someone do that to him. The feeling was amazing, it was as if waves of pleasure were rising within him. The feeling almost too much for him to handle.

Through hooded eyes he saw Jack reaching out for the tube of cream he found in his nightstand. Rhys was not an expert when it game to sex between men, but he knew what Jack meant when he mentioned preparing him. This made his whole body tense as he saw the man coating his fingers with the lotion. It didn’t go unnoticed by Jack.

“Relax pumpkin, I’m gonna prepare you real good.” Jack said sliding his fingers between Rhys butt cheeks causing the boy to tremble in anticipation as the man played around his entrance. Rhys actually reached for a pillow and covered his face with it - he was always a shy person but this was just too much for him. He heard the man chuckling.

“Oh no Rhysie I want to see that pretty face of yours all flustered.” Jack said and Rhys felt the pillow being yanked away from him. He saw the man looking at him with hungry eyes and soon felt Jack’s lips on his again. Sucking, biting and exploring.

Rhys was so out of it he barely registered when one of the fingers that were playing at his entrance entered him. It was such a weird feeling to have something foreign in his own body. He arched his back yet again, fingers twisting in the sheets. He had not dared to touch the man, but in the end he allowed Jack to do anything he pleased to him, succumbing completely to the pleasure he felt. Soon another finger joined in, and he felt Jack making scissor like movements inside his body.

“Aaaaaah” Rhys moaned loudly into the man’s mouth when he felt one of the fingers touch a sensitive nerve bundle. Feeling the man’s thumb rubbing around a sweet spot caused his eyes to roll back into his head, another shattering moan escaping his lips. Jack stopped kissing him in favor of looking at Rhys once more.

“Told you I would make you feel good. I’m not sure you realize pumpkin, but you are being fucked by the most powerful man that ever lived. I have power over everything, everyone is there for my bidding, yet it’s you I decided to make my own.” Jack said looking into Rhys’ eyes while the boy tried to avert his gaze, lips moist and parted, his breathing ragged.

It was all too much for Rhys. The words he was hearing, the physical pleasure he experienced through Jack’s ministrations. He felt like he was going crazy, his mind clouded. He felt the man’s strong hand grip his chin, forcing him to look into those demanding, blue and green eyes.

“So you see Rhysie, you are very special to me. I’m gonna give you everything you want baby boy, nobody will dare to hurt you.” Jack said lowering his lips to Rhys’ chest, licking his way down to the boy’s abdomen until finally reaching his erection. He took a hold of its base while entering the third digit into the boy, which was actually causing a disconcerting amount of pain, however, the only thing Rhys could focus on where Jack’s words and the way his tongue licked his shaft from its base to the head, licking the pre-cum that leaked out.

“Jack…..please…. I…….ah” Rhys yelled not able to control himself any longer.  He began trashing violently, moving his hips up and down in a rhythmic movement. Jack licked and delicately nibbled on his cock, which sent new waves of pleasure down his spine. This, added to the fingers which kept stroking that sensitive spot inside him, made Rhys go over the edge. The strength of what was building was staggering and he felt that any minute now his body was going to be blown to atoms. However just as he felt he was about to cum, a large hand tightened quite painfully around his member, causing him to whimper in displeasure.

“Oh you moan so nicely for me kitten, but you do want me to enjoy this as well, right?” Jack asked and raised himself to his knees while pulling off his lower garments. Rhys just laid there with barely any strength to protest. He saw the man slipping off his boxers, revealing a huge erection. Rhys thought it was easily almost twice his size and he was sure there was no way the man would be able to enter him.

He saw Jack slick his member with the cream and felt his lower body being raised. Jack put both of his legs over his shoulders, which wasn’t a difficult task considering how long they were. He then felt the tip of Jack’s erection pressing at his entrance. Thinking about what was going to happen made Rhys tense suddenly, fearing this might cause more pain than pleasure for him. All of a sudden a lucid thought managed to reach his lust-clouded mind, only now realizing one thing - there was no going back after this.

“Now don’t get all tense on me Rhysie, you were doing so well.” Jack said while raising one of Rhys’ legs and kissing it. The man must really like his legs, Rhys thought observing Jack through hooded eyes. He then felt one hand clasp around his erection, moving up and down in slow motion. This made him relax momentarily which did not go unnoticed by Jack, as he used the opportunity to thrust forward.

At first all that Rhys felt was an explosion of pain, the man wasn’t even halfway in him and he already felt like he was filled. The preparing did help a bit and it might have been ok for a regular sized man, but of course Jack had to be big all around. Tears welled in the corner of Rhys’ eyes as his body tensed yet again. However, he soon felt the man laying kisses at the corners of his eyes, which surprised him greatly. Rhys didn’t think Jack was capable of such a delicate display of affection.

“Now relax for me just a while longer kitten. You are very brave.” Jack whispered the words and soon Rhys felt those big hands leaving his erection momentarily in favor of roaming over his body, making soothing motions everywhere possible. Rhys had no idea Jack could ever be so gentle and despite the pain he was experiencing, he felt himself relax. After a few moments of such ministrations and gentle thrusting Jack was finally all the way in.

“Knew you could do it cupcake.” Jack said pleased while raising his upper body, Rhys’ legs still thrown over his shoulders. He now began a slow and rhythmic movement, hitting Rhys’ sensitive spot over and over again, making him squirm and moan and plead for Jack to go faster, the young boy tormented with desire. Rhys lowered his legs and clamped them around the man’s waist, driving him further into him until their sweat-slick bodies were sliding together, ragged breathing and hungry moans filling the air.

“You don’t have to worry about anything… sweet-cheeks.” Jack said a bit out of breath, raising the rhythm of his thrusts, making it more aggressive. “I own you now, you are all mine.” Jack said pushing harder into Rhys. “You won’t have a single thing in your life that isn’t me, or hasn’t come from me.”  

“Aaaaaah…. Jack… please I need to…. Jack nghnn.” Rhys could not take it anymore. Aside from the spasms of pleasure his body was feeling, the words the man spoke turned his moans into high-pitched orgasms.

All his life Rhys never imagined that this would be something he craved. At first he tried not to pay attention to it, then he went into denial, but now, being spread under Jack’s powerful gaze, hearing the possessive words directed at him, Rhys could not deny it any longer. He marveled in the feeling that Jack wanted to own him. He felt excited at the idea that he would give the man full control and at the same time be consumed by him.

It was true that Jack was the most powerful man in the universe and this excited Rhys. This power play was tugging at his strings and he wanted to be owned, to be toyed with and displayed to the public as Jack’s favorite. He also enjoyed the age difference between them. The fact that Jack was older than him by eighteen years made him all the more willing to just let go and let the man take care of him as he said he would.

“I want to hear you say it Rhysie.” Jack said thrusting hard into him, while sucking at his neck, leaving marks of his ownership on the porcelain skin. “Say that you’re mine, say that I own you.”

He felt there was no going back after this, admitting this out loud would probably be the end of him. As much as he wanted to say those words there was a part of his mind that kept pulling him back. Kept reminding him that this would not last and that Jack would turn on him sooner or later. He suddenly felt the man biting painfully in the crook of his neck, which rendered his brain completely useless.

“Nhaaaaah, Jack. I’m yours Jack…ahh. All yours.” He yelled cumming, his vision going white, back arching, legs twisting on the man’s back, toes curling.

He barely registered Jack thrusting a couple of times before he felt his insides filling with something warm. Jack had not even bothered to dislodge from him, instead he fell on top of Rhys, pinning the half-conscious boy to the mattress. Rhys felt his eyelids becoming increasingly heavy, sleep overtaking him. He heard Jack whispering something into his ear, but he had not registered what it was. Soon sleep overtook both of them, as they were lying in a tangled mess of limbs.

People were right, sex did help to forget about unpleasant thoughts. At least for a while.

Chapter Text

Rhys woke up late, his head groggy. For a moment he was in that blissful state between sleep and wakefulness, when one didn’t know what day it was, whether they had to get up and rush to work or start remembering things they’d like to forget. Soon though his mind was becoming more and more lucid and Rhys started noticing things he wished were not real. First of all he was hurting all over, his muscles aching as if he’d run a marathon. He had cramps in both his abdomen and tights. Rhys wondered briefly why would that be when suddenly another unpleasant sensation made itself known. The bed sheets didn’t feel as comfortable as they usually did and he was sticky all over, especially in places he’d much rather not think about.

It was then that he became fully awake and a multitude of memories flooded his brain. Pulling the trigger, killing Sasha, feeling betrayed and then….

“Oh God.”

Rhys sprang to a sitting position, a sudden pain coursing through his spine. He remembered now, with vivid detail, the events of past night. He had sex with Handsome Jack.

“This is not happening.” Rhys said out loud to no one in particular, the other occupant of his bed long gone. He rubbed at his face, a multitude of feelings assaulting him, the forefront of which was anger. It wasn’t anger directed at Handsome Jack but at himself for allowing everything to happen. He had shot Sasha which, contrary to Jack’s words, brought no satisfaction, and then he allowed Jack to do whatever he pleased to him.

Although it was easy to blame Jack for that he knew deep down that he had allowed for this to happen. Rhys did protest but he never outright said he didn’t want it to happen. Had he actually done that, the night might have ended differently. Rhys didn’t believe that Jack would actually rape someone, sure he would manipulate others to get what he wanted, but forcing someone to have sex with him didn’t sound like something the man would do. And if he did then at least Rhys would know who to direct his anger at.

The programmer extracted himself from the dirty sheets and decided that a shower was the thing he needed most at the moment. He went downstairs to his vast bathroom and stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed his reflection in the full body mirror hanging on one of the walls.

Rhys had a multitude of bite marks and hickeys that started at his calves and went all the way to his neck. They were littering his neck in particular as well as his inner tights.  He traced some of the marks with his fingers, a look of pure shock on his face. In the fervor of things he did not even register the man had given him so many marks. Did Jack do it on purpose, treating this as some weird statement of ownership?

Despite the mixed feelings he was having, Rhys could not lie to himself any longer - he actually enjoyed everything that transpired the previous night.  With all the half-hearted attempts at stopping Jack, not once did he outright say that he didn’t want to do it with the CEO. He wanted to believe it was otherwise, but the truth was it felt wonderful to have Handsome Jack’s attention on him. The words Jack spoke the previous night causing an unknown yearning to stir within him. It was dark and scary but once Jack kindled that desire within him, he could not stop himself. He wanted Jack to take him, wanted to feel sated.

Rhys felt satisfied but at the same time a feeling of anger and animosity came over him. He walked into the shower cabin, letting the warm water run over his body. He stood for a while looking absentmindedly at his body. Suddenly he yelled slamming his fist into the only tiled wall of the cabin. He screamed at the top of his lungs, the sound of rushing water muffling his outburst.

“Stupid fucking idiot!” Rhys hollered and slumped to the floor of the cabin, water running soothingly over his tensed muscles. He felt tears running down his face. All of the emotions he experienced recently suddenly catching up with him. It was like an onslaught of painful memories.

What was happening to him? He hated killing yet he pulled the trigger without much protest and ended someone’s life. He let Jack have him, even though he always imagined he’d share that experience with someone he loved. At the beginning he wanted to stop it but not because it went against his moral code. He protested because of the embarrassment he was feeling and the fear of what would happen next rather than a real wish of refusing Jack.

He remembered the words Jack spoke to him and it made him shiver. Despite how ruthless the man acted sometimes, he was really gentle with him, saying all the things he needed to hear. How he’d protect him, take care of him, how he owned Rhys. It made the programmer discover a part of him that he didn’t know existed. He realized he liked the idea of someone as powerful as Handsome Jack taking care of him, it felt nice and safe and comfortable… and utterly fake.

Jack was still Jack. An intelligent, manipulating man who did everything for his own gain. He could kill on a whim so having sex surely wasn’t a big deal. Jack just had his share of fun with him, a new experience as he so kindly put it, and that was that. He’d move on to a different source of entertainment and would not spare a second thought to what occurred last night. The fact that he was nowhere to be found come morning only evidence of this. The thought irritated him.

That is actually what really got to him. Rhys wanted to believe that the anger he felt was caused by the fact that he killed Sasha, or that he allowed himself to casually have sex after everything that happened, but the truth… the truth was that Jack had let him believe in all those stupid ideas he put in his mind, only to disappear like nothing ever happened. Rhys knew Jack was not to be trusted, was more than aware that the CEO didn’t do relationships, but somehow hearing everything Jack said last night coupled with how gentle the man was made a small part of him believe that it could be real. Rhys was pissed at Handsome Jack for being a total dick. If he just wanted sex then why go through all the trouble of saying such nonsense.

Jack got what he wanted from him, he finished the grenade project, which would be released today. Not only that, Handsome Jack also had his share of fun with Rhys. He took everything he could from him, coerced him into shooting Sasha and then even took his virginity. There was nothing left to take, so that was that, end of story. He’d probably never hear from the man again. But so be it. Rhys knew he was stronger than this. He had to be.

With a sigh he stood up, wiped the remaining tears from his eyes and finished washing himself… thoroughly. He came out of the shower, determination written on his face. He wiped his body clean and rummaged though his clothing irritated at the idea that Jack bought all of them. Now was the time he really wished he had something of his own. Deciding on a turtleneck shirt, skinny jeans and a Hyperion vest he quickly changed in the bathroom. He hated turtlenecks but it was the only thing that would cover the damn marks.

He desperately tried to vanquish the feeling of hope when he thought about the reasons Jack had for leaving his apartment. Maybe there was something urgent? Maybe he’d contact him soon? However, as days passed without as much as a text message from the man, Rhys knew he was right in his theory and that there was no point in thinking about the Jack’s return.

 

—o.o— 4 days later, Vaughn’s apartment —o.o—

 

Rhys entered his old apartment, which was currently occupied by his best friend and Yvette. She had been quick to take over his old room, saying how she’d pay less rent this way. Rhys could already pity Vaughn, as he envisioned Yvette trying to get everything for free, be it food or even the shower gel. Nothing would stop her from getting something for free.

“Now who do we have here? The man of the hour! Finally decided to show your pretty mug in the poor district?” Yvette greeted him with as many kind words as usual. None. “And what are the bags for? Bringing food for the homeless?”

“No , these are just some clothes I bought.” Rhys explained leaving the bags near the door. He had spent most of the day going through different shops and stopping at a small café to simply enjoy himself and finish that book on sirens that he still had. Just in case he had to return it soon. Besides he didn’t feel like coming back to his apartment. Rhys decided it would be best to just walk around the shopping district and wait until evening when he knew his friends would be home.

“And why would you do that to yourself? Your fashion sense is horrid, Handsome Jack was actually doing you a favor there.” Great, like Rhys needed to hear that right now.

“Hey Rhys what’s wrong.” Vaughn asked him with a worried look. He wasn’t even here for five minutes and his friend already knew something was up. That was one of Vaughn’s gifts… and a curse at times. They knew each other longer than him and Yvette and every time there was something off Vaughn always knew. He was like a walking Rhys-o-meter.

“What do you mean, he looks fine to me, all the more since he didn’t have time to change in any of those clothes he bought. Now tell me Rhys, are there any red ties in there?”

“Is it something about Sasha?” Vaughn asked disregarding Yvette’s comment. “Not that I’m not happy to see you, but you ditched us for her every chance you got for the past three weeks. You didn’t even respond to my last message which I send like what, 3 days ago?”

Rhys facial expression changed immediately. He really didn’t want to talk about this with his friends, but he guessed it was better to do it sooner rather than later. With a huff he sat on one of the kitchen chairs and rubbed at his face with both hands, suddenly feeling tired and emotionally drained.

“Hey Rhys, you ok?” This time it was Yvette. She wasn’t really the ‘ready to console’ type, but she did know when to shut up.

“Well funny story.” Rhys said with a fake laugh, trying to look as if he didn’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, which was how he felt at the moment. “She turned out to be a spy hired by Atlas.”

“What?!” his friends shouted in unison.

“Yeah the world is a funny place, ain’t it.” Again with the fake smiles.

“So what happens now? Where is she?” Vaughn asked concerned.

“Dead.” Rhys said, silence filling the room. For a moment nobody dared to speak up, even Yvette seemed stunned by the news.

“What? Are you sure?” Vaughn asked placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Yeah, she did take me at gunpoint one time. Seems she used me to get an easy access to the R&D.”

“Oh man, that’s rough. I can’t believe Sasha would do that”. Vaughn said sitting across from him, expression worried. “I guess even knowing all this, it still must have hurt… When did this happen?” Rhys was about to answer when suddenly Yvette came out of her reverie.

“Good riddance for the bitch.” She exclaimed angrily, slamming her fist on the table, causing both of them to jump up startled. “I mean she fucking used you, why the hell would you worry about what happened to her? If someone did this to me, I’d be happy to pull the trigger.”

At times like these friends like Yvette were needed. You know like you usually have that one mean, down to earth friend who always says what they think. That was Yvette for you, and while other people showered you with overused phrases such as ‘you’d get better soon’ Yvette was the one to say ‘fuck this shit, it sucks, let’s drink our asses off, it’s not like there’s much left to do at the moment.” And right now this kind of treatment was exactly what Rhys needed.

Rhys actually started laughing, it was a bit hysterical, but he felt like a weight was lifted off his shoulders. He wouldn’t tell his friends how it actually hit close to home, that he was the one to pull the trigger, but hell even his friends thought Sasha deserved it. In a way that was really reassuring for him.

“Yvette that was kind of…” Vaughn wanted to probably admonish her but Rhys stopped him.

“Yvette that was actually very accurate. She brought it on herself. It doesn’t help much with the feeling of utter betrayal, but it’s a start. Anyways there’s not much more to be said about this. What happened happened, and that’s that.” He would probably continue to have nightmares about it, but thinking on it day and night wouldn’t help. He’s actually done too much of that for the past couple of days.

“But was Jack pissed at you for giving her an easy access to the labs? Shit with that stunt he pulled at the gala we were really worried about you Rhys.”

“Jack was… no I wouldn’t say he was angry with me. But anyways Jack is also a thing of the past.” Rhys said spiking his friends’ curiosity. Might as well get everything over in one go.

“What do you mean by that?” Yvette asked eyeing him with interest. “Does that mean you’re not his number one boy toy anymore?” She made it seem like a joke, but she actually sounded relieved.

Now remember that thing about it being good to have those down to earth, mean friends who would always say everything straight to your face? Well Rhys was wrong, he’d much rather have those gentle, supportive friends around at the moment.

“Is that so hard to believe? He got everything he wanted, I finished the project, the grenades are being released to the market as we speak and there’s not much more I can give him. He basically took everything he could…”

“And what do you mean by that?” Yvette asked sensing the odd play of words. She scrutinized him with narrowed eyes, suddenly realization downing on her face. “Oh no you didn’t.” There was no going back now, he had to say it. He knew his friend would know the truth sooner or later.

“Sadly I did.” Rhys said hiding his face in his hands.

“Did what?” Vaughn asked looking at his friends for clues.

“Oh my God Rhys I can’t believe it. You and Handsome fucking Jack.” She said with an incredulous smile.

“You’re not really helping.” Rhys felt ashamed. Yes Yvette was not the type of friend you’d want around for this kind of news.

“Can someone fucking tell me what’s going on!” Vaughn stood up, hands flailing about, looking at his friends expectantly.

“Oh Vaughn I’ll tell you what’s going on.” Yvette said putting both of her hands on Vaughn’s shoulders, steering him to look at Rhys. “Our dear Rhysie here had sex with Handsome Jack.”

“What?!” No way bro, you didn’t!” Vaughn asked in a shocked voice trying to gauge any kind of reaction from Rhys. He waited expectantly for some kind of protest, but as nothing happened he continued. “Didn’t you always say you wanted it to be with someone special? I mean Handsome Jack is very special, don’t get me wrong, just maybe the wrong kind of special. Not like retarded special but…” Yvette stopped his rambling.

“Oh come on Vaughn, our boy has become a man, be happy for him.” She said beaming.

“No Vaughn’s right, I did want it to have more meaning than just plain sex and I fucking feel bad about not sticking with what I believe in. I just… gave in…” Rhys explained, words heavy on his tongue. Well there was actually more to that but he didn’t feel like going into details.

“He did not force you though, did he?” Vaughn asked worried. Yes this is the type of friend you want around, at least he’s not gonna send him on a guilt trip.

“No… I mean Jack is Jack… it might have been a bit more his idea than mine… but still.”

“Oh come on you two, how old are you? Life’s life, it was time you lost the v-card my friend and if you ask me, losing it to the CEO – pretty nice accomplishment!” She said giving him a thumbs up, making Rhys groan in annoyance. “Seriously Rhys, I never knew you had it in you! My advice is you put in your CV under ‘Rhys The Maneater! Able to seduce even the manliest of CEOs!”

Rhys stood up and flung himself at his friend, the comment was just too much. He ended up chasing Yvette around the kitchen table, throwing empty threats of her sudden death. He hadn’t even realized when he started laughing, all his worry dissipating with every minute he spend with his friends. After a few more rounds of angry shouts and high-pitched laughter they all piled up on the couch, breathing ragged.

“Honestly Rhys, you shouldn’t worry. I know you’ve pictured this differently, but sometimes things happen in our lives that don’t go according to the plan. Besides remember how panicked we were after the gala incident? Maybe it’s better that this happened and now you’ll be free from the CEO’s influence, right? As for the sex… well let’s be honest with ourselves, not many would refuse Jack. Not just because he’s dangerous, I mean, look at him, who wouldn’t want to have sex with that walking six-pack with a gorgeous smile.”  Yvette said nudging Rhys to the side.

“I for one.” Vaughn said rising his hand, earning a smack in the back of his head from Yvette.

“I guess so. This is better than ending up with someone random after drinking too much on a night out.” Rhys said shrugging his shoulders. Yeah he shouldn’t stress himself out over this. What’s done is done, he needs to move on.

“Yeah now tell me Rhys, how is he?” Yvette asked wiggling her eyebrows.

“What do you mean?” Rhys was not sure what his friend was getting at.

“Oh don’t give me that! How is Handsome Jack in bed? Would you give him an average 5 on 10 or maybe  a wholly fuck my brain has been blown away 50 on 10? Then there’s also the measurement department, was he big big or huge big…” rest of her sentence was muffled by a pillow which connected to her face.

“Thanks bro, I really don’t think I’d manage to listen to that any longer.” Vaughn said happy Rhys decide to silence their friend. “But there’s something that’s nagging me. I mean obviously Yvette doesn’t seem to even notice it, but when the hell did you turn gay?!”

“I didn’t!”

“Says the dude who slept with another dude and is whining about his v-card being carelessly thrown to the wind.” Yvette mumbled through the pillow, which was still being pressed to her face by Rhys. Not hard enough apparently.

“I’m not into guys, seriously! Nor is Jack, that was… actually his first time with a man.”

“Another v-card being lost, who would’ve thought…” Nothing else could be heard aside for violent gasps for air.

“It just sort of happened. But it doesn’t mean I’ll start chasing after guys now. Anyways could we please leave this highly uncomfortable topic. I just want to forget about the turmoil this week has been for me. How about a movie night guys?” Rhys suggested and as there was no protest they settled on a late night movie marathon.

Even though at times his friends were annoying and Yvette was hell bent on asking the most uncomfortable questions she could think of, they still helped him a great deal. Rhys felt like a weight was lifted off his shoulders. Just being there with his friends and laughing at some stupid comedy they were watching helped him forget about all the uneasy memories. He felt like the worst was behind him and he could finally focus on his duties as the Head of Programming Department. Now that there were no more distractions, he knew he could finally work on his career. His friends were right, this was for the best. No more drama that is Handsome Jack.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack was livid. Six days ago he was having one of the best nights he had in a long, long while and now he was sitting on Elpis, with some morons who thought they could force an alliance without him knowing about it. He received a message on his Echo while he was still lying in Rhys’ bed, content on ogling his handiwork on the sleeping programmer. According to the message Dahl and Torgue decided to go behind his back and breach an existing alliance, even though it went against Hyperion’s business. Now way in hell would he let that happen.

This was why he had to leave in the middle of the night and head straight for Pandora’s moon. He came just in time to prevent any deals between his two competitors ever coming to fruition. Granted he had to kill a few insignificant people, but that just came with the job. Business and all that. The whole thing wasn’t meant to take more than 3 hours of his time, so together with the journey he thought he’d be back on Helios by noon.

Luck sadly wasn’t on his side as Elips went into one of its static blizzards which successfully prevented him from boarding his ship and leaving the planet. And this wasn’t even the worst news. He soon found out the damn storm is going to last six fucking days. For six miserable long and boring days he was left stranded on the planet with little to nothing left to do. He only came with a couple of his guards which meant he couldn’t really plan on anything major. To top it all off due to the static disturbances he could not even get in contact with Helios, which practically meant he had to sit on his ass for six days and do nothing. Oh the agony.

At first Jack entertained himself with his favorite pastime which was killing all the things that were unfortunate enough to come across him. He thought of so many imaginative ways of using the elemental upgrades that even he was astonished by his own ingeniousness. But as the days dragged slowly by, he lost all interest in this shooting range of his.

Stranded on the planet with nothing to distract him, Jack noticed his thoughts constantly drifting to one particular person. He wondered how Rhys would react to waking up without Jack after what they did. The kid was so emotional Jack could imagine how disappointed he’d feel, which for some strange reason pleased him. Jack could imagine the number of messages Rhys probably left for him by now, wondering where the hell the CEO has been. A lot of people must have wondered the same thing, but there was no way of establishing a steady connection with his Echo.Net.

Jack hated to be patient. Luckily today was already the sixth day and after making sure the static was back to its normal state, they could finally leave this godforsaken planet. Jack was going stir crazy and if he had to spend an hour longer here, he’d start to talk to the sand. Seriously. He’d have a fucking tea party with it and they’d talk about the sense of life and all that heavy bullshit one thought about when they had nothing to do.

As soon as his crew decided it was good to go, they boarded the ship and set the course for Helios. When they were finally in space the first thing Jack did was scan through his Echo Comm. As expected he had a shit ton of messages from his secretary, some from people he was meant to get in touch with during the week and also a lot of different business proposals. No messages from Rhys. Nada. That was strange. He closed his Echo Comm, not really wanting to go through all of the messages. He considered contacting Rhys but then decided it was only an hour before he was back on Helios so he might as well talk to him in person.

Jack regretted not leaving any message for the boy, but at the time he was sure he’d be back to Helios before Rhys was even awake. Honestly, looking at the programmer’s sleeping form Jack did not have it in him to wake the boy up. He was becoming way too soft with him and it was not something Jack allowed himself to do often, or ever at that, but Rhys was something different.

To be honest - and Jack completely hated to be honest with himself as it always brought on some uncomfortable thoughts – he was amazed at how affected he was by Rhys. Truth to be told he never planned on having sex with him, his previous actions were all meant to be a joke. Admittedly it might have been a stupid idea at the moment, but he did want to cheer the boy up and humor was the only way he knew how.

His plan was to pretend to want to have sex just to tease the boy a little. He might have gone a little overboard with the whole grabbing Rhys by the ankle and pinning him to the bed thing, but god the expressions on the kid’s face were priceless! When he got to the point where he researched for ways to have gay sex on his Echo.Net Jack was practically dying on the inside, fighting with himself not to laugh. Even though he never actually had sex with a guy, he’d still know how to do it, duh. But the incredulous look on the boy’s face was just priceless.

So it was all meant to be a joke to ruffle the boy’s feathers, but somewhere along the way it all went out of control. First of all he kissed Rhys, which he actually wanted to do just to show him how inadequate that Sasha girl had been. But somehow everything went south when Jack noticed he actually got hard. He was quite shocked at the discovery, but even more so when he noticed Rhys was in a similar state. Jack had not expected that.

From that point on one thing followed the other and somehow, what started off as a joke, ended up being one of the best experiences he had. Jack had no idea why he reacted this way towards Rhys who, let’s face it, acted like a total virgin he was and just lay there most of the time. Still the noises he made and his lust-filled face alone caused Jack to go crazy with want. Even thinking about it now would be sufficient for a perfect jerk-off session. Come to think of it…

An urgent message displayed itself on his Echo Comm, sighing he scanned through its contents and cursed loudly. Great it seemed that as soon as he got back to Helios he’d have to head to Pandora, another business crisis on its way. It shouldn’t be a long visit, maybe two days’ long but hell it sucked being the CEO of the biggest corporation in the universe, because it meant he could never allow himself the luxury of a day off. Still he would be damned if he went without visiting Rhys first and eating something decent. He swears that if he sees another pretzel ever again it will be too soon.

The fact that Rhys hasn’t tried to contact him still made Jack wonder. Maybe the kid went up to his office while he wasn’t there and his secretary told him he went to Elpis? Yeah that must be it. Anyways Rhys was probably eager to see him. Jack only wished they had more time than a measly hour because there were soooo many things he wanted to do to the boy. This made his mind wander back to his earlier train of thought.

It really came as surprise that sex with Rhys was pretty damn good. The boy didn’t even do anything major. Yeah sure it was his first time and he was probably in awe seeing him in the nude and all that, but still the kid could have done something. Yet despite that, Jack did not remember the last time he had gotten so into it. Maybe he liked it when someone gave him full control? Rhys pretty much seemed like a little porcelain doll he could do all that he pleased with and it was strangely satisfying for him - to be able to control someone like this.

For his partners he usually chose some busty women who had a lot of experience in the sex department and could handle a gun pretty well. Rhys was a complete opposite… oh and also he was a man for fuck’s sake! In all his life Jack would never imagine having sex with a guy, two dudes going at it was always a big no no in his dictionary. So why doing it with Rhys was different? He should probably think on that…

There was an announcement from Helios that they were nearing the station and would dock soon. He didn’t have much time before his next travel so Jack needed to be quick about it. Someone should work on arranging the next flight while he takes care of his business.

“Hey you, guy with the yellow helmet.” Jack said to one of his crew members only to realize that everyone was looking at him. Who the hell designed these Hyperion armors? They fucking all looked the same.

“Ok the guy standing near the chubby one.” Jack explained in an exasperated tone.

“Me?” a random soldier asked.

“No, no, no. The one on the right from the chubby man.”

“Me?” this time a different soldier inquired.

“No! The one between the chubby man and the guy who clearly doesn’t know how to use their gun, standing in front of the one with crooked legs.”

“Me?”

“NO! Fuck the guy who….. you know what?” Jack said his irritation rising. He pulled his favorite revolver and pointed it in the general direction of the crowd. “Whoever fucking gets a bullet in their knee first, will be the one to..”

“I’ll do it sir! I’m volunteering!” suddenly one of them yelled. And there goes his fun.

“Now look at Mr. Overzealous here, wanting to impress.” Jack said in an exasperated tone while holstering the gun. “Fine. Go to the docking station as soon as we arrive and get a crew of twenty people ready for a flight to Pandora. I’ll be there in an hour and we’ll leave right away.” Yes, first Jack needed to take care of some very important business.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

It was now six days since the last he heard from Handsome Jack. Just as he predicted the man has not showed up ever since their rather memorable night. He had taken all that he wanted from him and now that Rhys could not offer anything more he just up and left for good. But the more time passed the more relieved Rhys felt about the whole situation.

Even if f Jack was to ever show up at his apartment he probably wouldn’t know how to act around him anymore. Since Jack was used to having sex with random people the CEO would probably act every bit the same, not even dwelling on the subject. Rhys, on the other hand, would not be able to let it go. He could just picture the awkwardness and embarrassment, which was why he was glad it turned out this way. This really was for the best.

He just finished making a pretty damn good risotto and was about to start digging. The last couple of days he finally managed to have some semblance of normalcy back in his life. Rhys started working regular hours as the Head of Programming and enjoyed his job greatly. It was a lot of responsibility for one person and he often ended up taking his work back home, but it was still better than meeting a deadline on a project nearly impossible to accomplish. Also it proved a great distraction from his wandering thoughts.

Rhys was just about to eat when he heard the door to his apartment opening. The fork he was holding almost slipping out of his grip. Oh no no no. This could only mean one thing.

“Hya cupcake, missed me?” Jack entered the apartment, striding to the kitchen with a confident smile on his face. “Wow something smells amazing.”

Rhys watched incredulously as Jack sat on the barstool next him and unceremoniously grabbed his bowl of risotto. He even took the fork from the programmer’s hand and began gulping down the meal at a great rate. Rhys just fixed him with a blank stare, not knowing how to react to such a display of rudeness. Or was it familiarity at this point?

Rhys was shocked to see the man casually appear at his apartment after so many days of silence, but more than shocked he was pissed. Just as he thought Jack acted as if nothing happened and it really struck a nerve. However two can play this game. Rhys wasn’t about to show that he cared at all about Jack’s disappearance. He’d act as if nothing happened, hoping for the man to be out of his apartment as soon as he finishes eating.

“I hope you’ve got more of this stuff, it’s amazing.” Jack said between mouthfuls of food which Rhys decided wasn’t very aesthetic to the eye. Then again it might be his annoyance with the man that caused Rhys to overanalyze his antics. He stood up without a word and made his way to the pot containing the dish. So much for enjoying it for himself, knowing Jack’s appetite it will be gone in a matter of minutes. He came back to the counter and, without a single word,  gave Jack a refill just as the man finished eating what was in the bowl.

“Ah I’m in heaven, I swear pretzels are for people who lead a sad, unsatisfying life.” Rhys wanted to remind the man that he practically lived on pretzels his whole life up till now. At the last moment he decided against it, he didn’t want to talk with Jack so it was best to minimize their interactions.

If Jack wanted to go back to the usual routine and just drop by for free food then so be it, not that Rhys cared. He’ll act every bit as normal as he could. With this resolution he turned his back to the man and went to the sink to take care of the dishes while Jack rambled on about how someone should redesign the Hyperion armor sets, or basically just apply some name tags to them. According to the CEO attaching different color flags to their heads would also do the trick, but then it might be kind of ‘in your face’ for a battle field.

Rhys hasn’t said a single word since the man came to his apartment, however, Jack, being the egocentric he was, didn’t seem to notice or mind the silence. While he was in the middle of washing the dishes he heard the barstool screeching the floor and assumed Jack was on his way out. He decided he won’t even turn to the door to acknowledge him. Rhys realized he might be acting out of spite, but Jack deserved the cold treatment. Something was off though, as he didn’t hear the sound of the doors opening or closing.

Suddenly he felt the man’s presence right behind him and before he realized what was happening, two strong arms encircled him from behind, Jack’s body pressed tightly to his, the man’s head placed on his right shoulder. By sheer strength of will Rhys managed to continue cleaning the dishes, stopping only for a short while. His brain was a complete blank. What was happening?

“So Rhysie you don’t seem too thrilled to see me, or am I just imagining things?” Jack said and Rhys could swear he sounded hurt. The nerve of the man! First he leaves without a word, then reappears as if nothing has happened expecting things to go back to normal and now what? Did he expect Rhys to be in tears because he was gone? He’ll sooner die… still he felt his resolve crumbling just a bit, the proximity of the man doing strange things to him.

“Why would you say that?” Rhys decided to play dumb, still focusing on the dishes.

“Oh I don’t know, maybe because you prefer to do the fucking dishes instead of talking to me? Also weren’t you umm… I don’t know… what’s the word I’m looking for? Help me here cupcake ok?” Jack said turning his head a bit, lips ghosting over Rhys neck every time he spoke. “When ya know, there is a person, who has normal human emotions and all, and they lose contact with someone they know? So what do they feel hmm pumpkin? Do they get all tense and think ‘hey I think I should do the fucking dishes’?” Jack’s voice lowered dangerously causing Rhys to stop what he was doing.

Rhys had no idea what was going on, Jack just went up and disappeared for a couple of days then he shows up out of the blue and starts accusing him of something. And what was up with the proximity, was this supposed to intimidate him? Well the longer it lasted the more it worked, that’s for sure.

“You… you mean worried?” There goes his confidence. Damn Handsome Jack and his threatening voice. The fact that the last time they stood like this Rhys had shot Sasha in the head wasn’t helping the situation one bit.

“Bravo, what a clever boy you are.” Jack said sarcastically making a show of it by clapping his hands a few times in front of Rhys. “But you didn’t look very worried when I came here Rhys, now tell me why’s that.”

So that’s what it was? The man wanted Rhys to be worried about him? Now this was rich. Rhys won’t give him the satisfaction, that’s for sure.

“I just thought you were too busy to come by. It’s not really my place to ask you to make time for me.” Rhys lied easily, he was becoming better and better at it. Well he had to, it’s not like he was going to say out loud that since the man left for a couple of days after they had sex, Rhys figured he was bored with him.

Suddenly he felt Jack’s arm leaving his waist only to grip at his sides, turning him abruptly to face the man. Rhys yelped at the motion, looking at the irritated expression of the older man. The CEO tightened his grip on Rhys’ hips and raised him onto the nearby counter, practically manhandling him. Jack stood between his legs, arms on Rhys’ sides, angry expression on his face.

“Rhysie how the fuck wouldn’t I want to come here? My visits won’t stop anytime soon, so I won’t mind when you drop by a line saying ‘hi Jack, haven’t seen you for a week, are you lying in a ditch somewhere?’… So nice when people care, so nice.” Jack said looking directly at Rhys.

What the hell? Rhys didn’t know what to think anymore, what did the man mean by ‘visits won’t stop anytime soon’. Would those visits entail eating his food or other things as well? Considering how Jack thought it was natural to be this close it made him think the man expected much more. There was a small spark of joy at the thought, which was soon followed by confusion. What did Jack want from him exactly?

Looking at Jack’s face he immediately saw the discontent written all over his features. Why was the man making such a show of his sudden disappearance?  He was a grown man, Rhys figured that if he wanted to stay in contact with him he’d just use his Echo Comm. He should be the one that was pissed not Jack.

“Listen Ja… Jaaaack.” Rhys suddenly jumped a bit when he felt the man’s thumbs sneaking under his shirt to draw small circles on his hipbones. It made Rhys awfully squirmy, as usual blabbering things when he hoped to hide his flushed state. “I didn’t want to bother you, that’s all. “ Oh God those eyes just kept boring into him. The CEO was downright intimidating, exuding such an aura of dominance that even despite the frustration he felt towards the man, Rhys felt his resolve crumbling.

“Rhysie, you’re not a bother, did someone say you were?” Jack asked his features softening slightly. Now not only his thumbs but the man’s whole hands were placed at his sides, fingers moving up and down ever so slightly, causing Rhys’ skin to prickle under the pleasant sensation. Rhys only managed to shake his head as a way of answering the question. Suddenly a frown was back on Jack’s face.

“What the hell is this?” Jack said looking pointedly at Rhys’ clothing.

“Oh I bought some clothes for myself.” Rhys said trying to keep from moving when all he wanted was to squirm and turn, the hands causing heat to rise to his cheeks. He could not gather his thoughts.

“Rhysie if you needed more clothes you should’ve said so. I don’t mean to be rude but your sense of fashion is… nonexistent. Ok that might have come off a bit rude, so umm… I want the best for you and all that crap you say not to make people offended. The point is I don’t want to see you wear them ok. Now is there something you’d like from me?” Jack’s hands traveled higher, sending weaves of heat wherever they touched his skin. Again Rhys just shook his head with fervor.

“You sure baby cakes?” Jack asked moving his face closer to Rhys’.

“There’s nothing… nothing I need.” Rhys said in a shaky voice. Was this how it’s going to be from now on? This casual closeness between them? Maybe he should be more at ease with it considering they had sex, but somehow Rhys felt every bit as tense as the night six days ago. He couldn’t stop his body from reacting to Jack’s touches and it really pissed him off, especially considering how Jack didn’t give a damn about leaving for a whole week after they had sex. He should be angry not aroused.

“M’kay.” Jack said and Rhys felt his wet tongue licking the side of his neck. Rhys jumped up startled, which caused him to bang his head on the nearby cupboard. This made Jack back away slightly. He looked at Rhys again, a small chuckle escaping his lips.

“Damn kiddo I thought that helping you with that virginity thing would loosen you up a bit, but you’re as tense as a bullymong’s grip.” Jack said huffing out a laugh. He then lowered his lips to Rhys’ ear and whispered quietly, his lips brushing his earlobe. “Had I put a piece of coal in that tight ass of yours I’d have a diamond in no time.”

No no no, this was too much for Rhys. Being this close to Jack was one thing, but dirty talk wasn’t something Rhys could stand. He’d die from the embarrassment. His body was responding so eagerly to Jack’s ministration he could already feel himself getting semi-hard. He’d sooner die than give the man the satisfaction of seeing him succumb just after a few words. Jack has left for six days without as much as a word and now he expected him to act natural with all of ….this. Nope. Not happening.

“No I don’t believe that would happen and I certainly don’t want to test it.” Rhys said, his face flaming red, whilst Jack had a look on his face which probably translated to ‘you’re no fun’.

Pushing at Jack’s chest to put some space between them Rhys racked his brain for a way to get out of this situation. If Jack kept at it, Rhys’ resolve would crumble and he’d hate himself for it. He was not a plaything for Jack to do as the man pleases. He won’t tolerate the man playing with him whenever he felt like it and then leaving the next second. He had to somehow divert Jack’s attention to a different topic.

“So…um it’s funny you should mention bullymongs, they live on Pandora right? Always wanted to see the planet…. So you’ve been there a couple of times, how’s the planet like? As in… you know..” great he was mumbling like an idiot again. Why did he have to do that every time he got embarrassed? But it seemed he was doing something right as Jack finally let go of him, a look of joy crossing his features.

“Pumpkin, you actually just gave me a great idea.” Jack said grinning like a maniac. “Pack your bags, you’re going to Pandora with me!”

“What? When? I have work to do, I don’t think…” Rhys was silenced by a finger pressed to his lips. Jack checked his watch on the other hand.

“In ten minutes in the docking station. Get ready and change those horrid clothes.” Jack said and put his hand in Rhys’ hair yanking it with just a bit of force, causing the programmer to yelp. “And don’t think we’re done with our little chat here Rhysie.” He said in a low voice and released his hold. “Now chop chop. I want you ready in ten minutes. Time’s a wastin’!” Jack exclaimed happily, finally stepping away from Rhys and giving him some breathing space. He turned around and walked out of the apartment with a confident stride, leaving a disheveled Rhys gaping at his retreating back.

What the hell just happened? One minute he was ready to forget about the man entirely and the next he just appears in his apartment. Not only that he seems pissed that Rhys didn’t try to contact him whereas he was the one to leave him right after they had sex! Not only that, instead of getting any answers as to why the man disappeared and what the hell was this weird thing between them, Jack threatens him with ‘the talk’ speech. And now he was apparently going to Pandora of all things!

To think that a few days back Rhys was angry with Jack for leaving and now all that he wanted was for the man to disappear again, because life was just so much more simple without the man around.

Chapter Text

The ride to Pandora was rather uneventful, save for the fact that more than a couple of times Rhys thought he’d puke all over the cabin. The last time he sat foot on a spaceship was during the time when he journeyed to Helios from his home planet Eden 6. It was some time ago and Rhys forgot what a horrible experience it was. He was left feeling nauseous for at least a couple of days, not being able to consume anything solid. He was awful when it came to space trips. Luckily Pandora was a lot closer than Eden and it took considerably less time to reach it. Besides this time he was travelling on one of Hyperion most modern and well equipped ships. There was a lot less shaking involved which helped considerably. Still he felt his insides twisting as soon as they set off.

Jack, being the considerate person he was, had to make a few jokes about Rhys’ ‘delicate disposition’. It’s not like he could help it, some people were not meant for space travel. Luckily Jack had been busy giving orders to whomever he kept talking to through the intercom on the spaceship. Rhys was grateful for being left alone especially since he felt that every Hyperion soldier’s attention was focused solely on him.

Rhys had to admit it must have looked strange when Jack came to board the ship accompanied by some lanky programmer. He looked so much out of place, no gear, no guns. There was no place for him down on Pandora, where, according to the tales he heard, everything was out to get you. Thus it was understandable that the soldiers kept giving him skeptical glances, or at least that’s what he assumed they were doing under those identical helmets they were wearing. There was no reason for him to be here.

Part of him regretted coming along, but another part of him was actually excited - not many workers on Helios could boast about going to Pandora. Besides it would be good to finally see the place where all of the guns he modified were used, getting some overview of it might actually help him get some new ideas. Also he was simply eager to see something new outside of Helios’ cold, metallic interior. Working on a station surrounded by darkness, where the only form of light was artificially created, made one long for natural sunlight.

When they finally landed, not without Rhys almost puking the contents of his stomach, he was in awe of what he saw. It looked like an ever expanding desert with many canyons, hills and steep passages. Here and there he could also spot roads with concrete cracked from prolonged exposure to the ever glowing sun. Rhys could also see a few odd buildings in the horizon, or were those settlements, he couldn’t tell.

When he turned around he spotted a huge Hyperion base which stood out in the scenery like a drop of rain in the desert. It looked so out of place with the futuristic buildings, bright colors and high-tech solutions. Compared to the building he managed to see in the horizon, which seemed to be made from rusted steel plates, the base looked impressive… but also totally unnecessary.

“So Rhys, what do you think?” Handsome Jack asked out of nowhere. He had barely exchanged any words with the man since they departed, but now Jack seemed to finally finish whatever he was doing and stood expectantly beside him, hands on his hips.

“What is this?” Rhys asked pointing to the modern base.

“A Hyperion military base.” Jack said and made a waving motion with his hand, as if he was presenting mankind’s biggest accomplishment. “We have many of those scattered around Pandora. It’s one of the best guarded fortresses on this shit-hole planet.”

“It definitely looks impressive, but why do we need a base like this in the middle of” Rhys made a point by looking around the area “nowhere?”

Jack looked straight at him, an unimpressed look on his face, head shaking. “Seriously kid I know you haven’t been to Pandora and all that, but sometimes you act like a baby dolphin which hasn’t seen the cruelties of the world. Just how innocent can you get?” Jack said in a disbelieving voice which, despite the rude words, held a hint of fondness. Suddenly Jack spun him around now standing right next him, one hand placed on Rhys’ shoulders, the other pointing to something in the distance.

“See that canyon over there?” Jack asked and as soon as Rhys nodded he continued. “There’s a nest of pretty vicious spiderants there, and I’m not saying like warrior spiderants, I mean those nasty fire things which can melt your pretty face away in a matter of seconds. Now to the left there’s this high ass hill where rakks breed like rabbits. We tried to get rid of them a couple of times but they always reappear. Now that nasty pit-hole all the way up there.” Jack pointed to the place that Rhys believed was a settlement. “That’s a bandit camp. They have regular scum there but also all the mutated, inbreeding shits like badass psychos or goliaths.”

“Oh.”

“Yes oh. Now imagine a new shipment of our guns being delivered, do you honestly think no one would decide to take them for free? Do you think they would be like ‘oh look they are delivering high-tech guns, how nice of them, but being the perfect gentlemen we are, let’s not take them away. Sure it would bring us tons of money but to have a moral code – that’s what really counts’.” Jack explained trying to mimic a different type of voice, always exaggerating things to a his point. “So I hope now, dear Rhysie, you understand why this particular military base should remain where it is.”

 “Ok ok I get the point… So I suppose this also means there’s no exploring the planet…” Rhys said a bit deflated. He really wanted to see more than Hyperion’s base which actually reminded him of Helios.

“Obviously I’m not letting you roam anywhere outside of the base, you’d be dead in a matter of seconds.” Jack stopped to look at Rhys, probably noticing the crestfallen look. “Don’t look so sad kiddo. Actually...” Jack looked at his watch with a pensive look, as if he was calculating something. “You know what, you’re right, sitting all day around the base is no fun. I don’t have much time but enough to do some exploring. So how about it kitten?”

 “No, if you’re busy then it’s fine.” Rhys only now realized that he was acting like a child. The man obviously had some important things he needed to deal with and instead he was to babysit him on a sightseeing trip. Also he still remembered they needed to have ‘the talk’ and Rhys was afraid that having some time alone would the be perfect opportunity… Then again it also surprised him that Jack was willing to go to such trouble just to make him happy. It was a pleasant thought.

“Nonsense. I’m as excited to go and deal with these idiots here as someone spotting an advancing tresher in the distance. I’ll tell you that’s not the best of feelings. I much rather go on an exploring trip with you kiddo.” Jack said reaching out and holding Rhys’ chin. Looking sideways at the staring soldiers Rhys quickly stepped back, feeling very self-conscious. The action made Jack frown, he was clearly dissatisfied but it seemed he decided not to comment on it for now.

The CEO turned around to the soldiers and ordered them to get back to the base. He then came up to a young woman holding a stack of papers. Jack ordered her to prepare some testing by the time they get back. Looking at the women, she seemed oddly out of place. She had short brown hair, a white hat adorning her head. Dressed in a brown jacket, white pants and a dark red shirt underneath, she didn’t fit the image of a typical Hyperion corporate. Maybe they looked different on Pandora?

“So wha'd'ya wanna do?” Jack walked up to him, his voice excited. Maybe he was being honest when he mentioned he’d prefer to go exploring with him. “Oh how about we raid that bandit camp? No actually I wouldn’t risk that with you around… Oh but we could sneak on them with a sniper rifle and hit a goliath straight in the head! It’s the best fucking shit! They go all berserk after that, a tiny brain connected only by this squishy spine to…”

“No, no, no!” Rhys clearly did not want to hear the rest of that. The mere idea left him feeling more nauseous than when he was traveling on the spaceship and that’s telling something. Actually Rhys had an idea of what he’d like to do and what would let them see more in a short amount of time. The problem was, he was not used to asking. Technically Jack did tell him to ask for whatever he wanted but somehow it did not sit well with him.

“You’re no fun Rhysie.” Jack said a bit annoyed and crossed his arms over his chest. Sometimes he really acted like an overgrown child. “In that case what’s your idea of fun?”

“Well I was thinking…” he started but soon faltered and began rubbing at his neck. Jack was looking at him expectantly so he decided to go for it. “I actually always wanted to ride in a car… it would be cool and we could see more. But if there aren’t any cars here then it’s cool. No problem. Just thinking out loud.”

Jack didn’t make a comment, he just turned around and made his way in the opposite direction. Did Rhys made him mad? Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything and just agree with whatever Jack wanted to do. Was he supposed to follow him? He saw Jack walking up to a grey machine with a green digital display and heard a voice saying ‘catch a ride’ or something similar. Jack pressed a couple of buttons and in a matter of seconds a car appeared before them.

“How…. How did you do that?” Rhys asked dumbfounded. What kind of technology was this? The programmer in Rhys really got excited at the idea of figuring out the coding behind the device.

“What did I tell you kitten, ask and you shall receive.” Jack said with a self-satisfied grin. “Now hop on, we don’t have much time and I wanna show you some cool places.” Jack said and hopped into the driver’s seat, while Rhys quickly followed situating himself in the passenger’s seat right next to Jack. This was going to be awesome.

 

—o.o— Hyperion soldiers —o.o—

 

Two of the soldiers remained at the scene, looking at the retreating vehicle, while the rest of them moved to the base.

“So Steve what do you think this is?” one soldier asked the other, pointing his head in the direction of the car which, by this point, was barely visible.

“Beats me… I’ve never the boy. Who the hell is he?” the other replied bewildered. “He sure as hell gets a lot of attention from Jack, so it’s surprising he’s still alive.”

“Oh ladies, sometimes I wonder at how little you know.” Another soldier walked up to them, seemingly eavesdropping on their conversation.

“Oh look who we have here, our very own Mr. Overzealous.” Steve commented and the two soldiers laughed roughly.

“Oh fuck you guys, if it wasn’t for me someone would have a bullet in their knee, or worse.” The man clearly took offence.

“Yeah right, don’t try to be the hero of the day, everyone knows it was you who Jack was talking about from the beginning, you just played dumb to get out of another assignment. We all heard how you planned to have a nice long weekend at Helios’ club zone.”

“It wasn’t me!”

“You were standing between chubby Chad and shit-aim Ted, in front of crooked Bart.” Steve said in accusation.

“That was pansy Sam! Ah you know what, never mind.” The soldier said clearly losing his temper, his hands flailing about. “Next time see if I care! You can all have a bullet in your knee!”

“Calm down dude.” They both said shaking their heads. “Anyways, what’s up with the lanky boy?” Steve inquired.

“That” Mr. Overzealous said “is the programmer responsible for all the recent elemental upgrades and the gravity grenade.”

“Oh so that’s him. No wonder Jack is keeping a close eye on him, the kid’s ideas bring a shit ton of cash for Hyperion…. But why the hell would they need to drive around Pandora with skags chasing them all the way.” Steve asked incredulously.

“Betas me."

“Well fellas I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying…”

They all turned in the direction of the new voice “Sam? When the hell did you get here?” Overzealous asked.

“Oh long enough to hear your accusation… Anyways it’s obvious what Handsome Jack is doing, riding the desert with this cute programmer.”

“Oh really?” Steve said unimpressed. “Mind telling us what it is then?”

“It’s a date.” Sam said proud of himself but he soon realized the other soldiers just turned their backs on him and began walking away towards the base.

“What the hell guys?” he yelled offended.

“Always with this stupid ass nonsense. Last week it was all about Nakayama being obsessed with Handsome Jack and now it’s Jack dating another dude. Seriously it’s because of shit like this no one treats you seriously Sam.” Steve said walking off with the other two soldiers.

“Fuck you guys, fuck you.” Sam yelled indignantly.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

Rhys was having the time of his life.  They were speeding down Pandora’s desert roads, the planet revealing its deathly beauty to him. Being on Helios for so long he forgot how it felt to breath fresh air or feel the sun on his skin. Pandora might not be the most amazing of planets, to most it would seem rather barren, but for Rhys it was the most exciting place he had ever visited.

“So kiddo how about we try those grenades of yours in live action?” Jack asked obviously enjoying himself.

“On what exactly? And do you even have any with you?” Rhys yelled, they were speeding so fast it was hard to hear each other through the gushing wind.

“Of course I do! I planned to see them in action myself. Oh and you can test it, let’s say, on that horde of skags running after us?” Rhys was sure this was a joke but just to be safe he looked behind.

“Holy shit Jack we’re being chased by some mutated dogs!” Rhys yelled, panic settling in.

“That’s skags for you. Anyways no time to talk, here” Jack turned around and fished out two grenades out of the bag he put on the back seat, all the time glancing at the road ahead. “Since you made them, I hope you know how to use them as well.”

Rhys looked at the two grenades that Jack pushed into his hands. Testing them in lab was easy, but in a real life situation he wasn’t so sure about his aim. He was terrified to do it but the skags seemed to be catching up with them. If they got too close he won’t be able to use the grenades, not without inflicting harm upon themselves. It was now or never.

“Now kiddo!” Jack yelled, pressing on the acceleration pedal.

“Ok ok!” Rhys yelled back frustrated, adrenaline pumping in his veins. With one last glance to assess the distance he pulled out the pin and threw the grenade in the general direction of the skags. It wasn’t spot on but close enough for the gravity concentration to do the trick. In a matter of seconds the skags were pulled in its centre together with all surrounding objects creating a pulp of blood out of their pursuers.

Relief washed over Rhys as they left the gruesome view behind. His happiness was short-lived though, as soon he spotted a skag which was triple the size of those that were chasing them. The beast appeared from the side, probably hiding on one of the hills nearby. It was monstrous in size and was covered in a purple, slimy matter. When it spotted them, it advanced so quickly that in no time it was mere meters behind the car.

“Jack I can’t use the grenade, the thing is too close!” Rhys said panicking. Will he die because of this stupid wish to explore the godforsaken planet? He saw Jack looking behind, assessing their chances, his grim expression did not give much hope.

“It’s a slag skag, fuck, we need to try and make it over the canyon!” Jack yelled and made a sudden turn left, heading for a ramp built on one side of the huge gully.

“Jack we’re not going to make it! We’re moving too slow! We’re gonna die!” Rhys yelled panicking, as the skag managed to claw at the back of the vehicle, causing them to drift for a short while until Jack managed to straighten their course. He was clearly a great driver but with their current speed they were never going to make it.

“Hold on tight Rhys….” Jack yelled and pressed the acceleration pedal as far as he could. The mere fact that Jack didn’t use any nickname already told the programmer how serious their situation was. They were almost at the ramp, the skag relentless in its pursuit. “We might not make it…”

No no no. His life was not supposed to end like this. He looked at Jack who had a terrified look on his face, he had never seen Handsome Jack scared, somehow it made him even more terrified than the idea of jumping over a canyon with no chances of survival. He was going to fucking die.

Suddenly Jack’s expression changed to a grin and right before going on the ramp he pressed a button near the steering wheel. Rhys felt his whole body being crushed into the seat with the speed they were going at. It had to be some acceleration boost. In no time at all they drove on the ramp and sprung in the air, Rhys screaming at the top of his lungs while Jack kept laughing like a maniac. They flew over the canyon and landed on a platform in the middle of it, shock absorbers working at their fullest capacity.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

“Oh pumpkin if you could see yourself, the faces you make when you think you’re facing imminent death are fabulous.” Jack said laughing, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes. Ok he knew it had been a dick move not to inform Rhys of the power acceleration but it seemed like a great prank at the moment.

He stopped the car right after the landing. They were in a small space in the middle of two canyons, nothing there except sand and a few rocks. There was another ramp placed on the opposite side of the plane. Jack guessed the place was probably used for stunt racing.

He looked back at Rhys who was silent all the time. Upon close inspection he noticed the kid shaking slightly… shit he overdid it again. It seemed like a great idea, but now that he saw the state Rhys was in he felt a bit like a douche. Had it been anyone else Jack would’ve been laughing his ass off at their trembling state, but seeing Rhys like this somehow didn’t sit well with him. Damn he hoped the kid won’t cry at least.

“Listen Rhysie I’m…” Jack said tentatively, reaching for the kids’ shoulder when suddenly Rhys stood up in his seat, putting his fists in the air.

“That was fucking amazing!” Rhys yelled at the top of his lungs, the sound echoing in the depths of the canyon. What the hell? Jack looked at him skeptically. Was the kid in some kind of a shock?

“It was awesome!” Rhys said excitedly looking at Jack, face bright with laughter. “We flew over the fucking canyon… and… and Jack did you see how I exploded the hell out of those skags?”

The kid was actually excited. Seeing him like this made something stir in Jack. Rhys was usually timid and calculated in his words but now he was seeing a different side of him, one that, Jack decided, he liked a great deal. It also felt good that for once he was the reason for making the boy laugh. Not that he paid much attention to such unimportant details… but it unnerved him how the kid always seemed this happy only when Jack wasn’t around. That actually reminded him of something…

Jack quickly scanned the place they were currently at. It seemed safe enough, no threat of skags or other creatures reaching the plateau between the canyons. It was decided then. He pulled the switch beneath the seat and backed it as far as he could, creating more space between himself and the steering wheel. Then in one fluent movement he grabbed the still laughing boy by his hips and pulled him donw onto his lap. As expected the laughter soon died down replaced by a surprised yelp.

“So Rhysie, remember that talk we didn’t finish?” Jack asked, his hands on the kid’s hips. Rhys only shook his head violently. As usual the programmer began squirming, eyes looking anywhere but at him. It seemed ridiculous that Rhys would be hyped about jumping over a canyon yet seating on his lap reduced him to this.

“Fine if you want to pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about then I’ll be frank with you.” Jack said, never the patient man. “After a rather pleasant night we had…” The kid turned even redder at that “oh don’t get all flustered kitten I know you enjoyed it, if the delicious sounds you made were any indication. Anyways that’s not the point. What I want to know is why, after being summoned to some planet for an urgent business matter and being stranded there for who knows how long I don’t even get a single message from you kitten. On top of that you didn’t seem very happy to see me.” Jack reached up to weave his fingers through Rhys’ hair, which were surprisingly soft to the touch. “So tell me Rhysie, what’s up with that?”

As the boy struggled to answer Jack lowered his hand and made small, circular motions with his thumb on the back of Rhys’ neck. This action caused the boy to whimper slightly, though he clearly fought hard to contain it. Jack busied his other hand on the boys hip, slipping his fingers under the waistband of his shorts, fingers brushing over the skin. All the while Rhys was sitting on top of his lap, leg on either side of Jack’s hips, the boy squirming terribly. He held his hands awkwardly at his sides, as if he didn’t know what to do with them.

Jack wasn’t sure why the boy made him react the way he did. It bothered the all-powerful CEO that he’d react this readily to a mere programmer who acted so flustered every time he touched him. Jack always preferred confident women who had a lot of experience and knew their way with a gun. Women that were not afraid or shy when it came to sex. Rhys was the exact opposite. He was delicate, timid, nervous when close to Jack and….. what else was there… ah yes he was a man. Any combination of those would usually irritate Jack to no end, so why was it different with the kid?

He actually liked how Rhys couldn’t keep eye contact when being close to him, how he didn’t know what to do with his hands, how he gave Jack control over his body. It excited him to know that Rhys reacted this way towards him and how he’d let Jack do whatever he pleases. Jack didn’t want to dwell on the reason as to why he reacted this way to Rhys and frankly, he didn’t feel like he’d like the answer. It was fun so why not, no need to overanalyze things.

“So Rhysie, mind telling me why you acted this way?”

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

After the last week Rhys was fairly sure this kind of situation would not repeat itself again, yet here he was, sitting on Handsome Jack’s lap. The first time they did it he thought Jack only treated it as a form of experimentation and he would not be eager to do it again. The fact that he disappeared after they had sex and had not contacted Rhys for a couple of days only proved his point.

This was the second time Jack accused him of not caring to contact him, which seemed rather absurd. How was Rhys supposed to know Jack wanted that, especially when the man just went up and left? It only seemed logical that the CEO would forget about him as soon as Rhys finished the grenade project. Besides why would he be interested in having sex with him again when Rhys knew he was absolutely useless when it came to being close with Handsome Jack.

“So Rhysie, mind telling me why you acted this way?”

Rhys could not focus with Jack’s hands on him. The fingers playing at his neck and his hip were doing strange things to his body. He felt he was getting aroused though he tried hard to fight the feeling.

“I thought… I thought you didn’t want to contact me again after… aghn.” Rhys could not help the moan escaping his lips as he felt the hand that played with his hipbone move under his shirt. Jack had places his palm on Rhys’ belly and slowly mowed it upwards, raising the shirt in the process.

“Rhysie give yourself some credit, sex with you wasn’t that bad.” Jack said chuckling while continuing the ministrations.

“No… ah… I meant.” Rhys tried his best to explain himself, but could not focus when he felt the man pinch his nipple with the thumb and index finger, aggravating the flesh. He began rubbing it slowly, evidently satisfied with the noises that escaped Rhys’ lips. Liking his reactions Jack decided to lean over, licking the swollen flesh, soothing it with the circling motion of his tongue, only to bite it soon after, eliciting another moan from Rhys.

“I meant the project… I thought you won’t contact me again after I finish the… the grenade.” Rhys managed to say at last and as soon as he did Jack stopped in his actions, hands retreating from their previous positions, the man leaning back in his seat. Rhys did his best not to whine at the loss of contact, his body fighting with his mind.

“Now why would I do that?” Jack asked in a serious voice. Rhys managed to finally look up, his eyes meeting with Jack’s angry ones.

“I just thought…”

“Yes, what did you think?” Jack asked impatiently.

“I thought, I don’t know, I thought you just played with me a bit to pass the time… and that you’d be gone as soon as I finish the project…” Rhys decided on an honest approach, not that his mind was capable of devising any kind of a plan at the moment.

“Well I didn’t know you were so eager to get rid of me.” Jack said in a spiteful tone, yanking forcefully at Rhys’ hair. “So you thought what? That you’ll just go along with whatever I do and suffer through it until you finish the project and be done with it?”

“No! It’s not like that. Jack please, you’re hurting me” Rhys protested, trying to pry the man’s strong hand away. He felt Jack loosen the hold ever so slightly, but not releasing it altogether. “I didn’t know what to think. I don’t know why you wanted keep in contact with me in the first palace. I felt…. I felt bad that you just left me like that, but I figured it’s not my place to question you. I didn’t think that what I want matters at all.”

 “So Rhysie tell me, what do you want?” Jack let go of his hair and cupped the boy’s cheek in his hand. He looked at him intensely, voice dangerous.

“I…” Oh boy did he want to know that himself. A part of him wanted this, whatever it was, but a part of him was also terrified by it. There was one thing he knew for sure though. “I just know that I don’t want to get hurt.”

The answer didn’t seem to satisfy Jack completely, but the man’s features did seem to soften, his body relaxing. He let go of Rhys’ cheek and took hold of his hands. He put them around his neck and moved his hands to Rhys’ hips yet again.

“Trust me baby boy, I won’t hurt you.” Jack said in a leveled voice. Again with the trust. Trusting Handsome Jack was equivalent to putting your hand straight into a beehive in hopes that you won’t get stung. The man stared at him some more causing Rhys to avert his eyes yet again. He really wanted to retreat his arms, but as Handsome Jack placed them around his neck, Rhys figured it was best to just keep them there. He maintained a loose, awkward grip around Jack’s neck.

“Rhysie, how come you get excited to jump over a canyon yet sitting in my lap gets you all flustered.” Jack asked.

“I guess the canyon’s just less of a challenge.” Rhys muttered in truth.

“Hahaha” Jack laughed loudly, his mood changing in an instant. “Oh kitten how could I abandon you when you’re so much fun? Now how about I tell you what I want?” Jack said and moved his lips near Rhys’ ear, licking at the earlobe. “I’d like you to move those hips of yours.”

Rhys turned beat red. Did the man suggest to rub against him? At that point they were both semi hard and some friction would do wonders, but Rhys could not imagine initiating it. The action was so out of his comfort zone. Jack doing it was fine, but no way was he doing any of that.

“I can’t, I just…” Rhys tried to retreat his hands to instinctively cover his face, trying to hide his discomfort, but Jack had none of that. He gripped both of his arms and placed them again where they were.

“It’s easy pumpkin, here I’ll show you.” Jack said in a husky voice and again gripped Rhys’ hips. He forced the boy to move against him, their erections rubbing in the process. Jack thrusted his hips as well, helping Rhys in the notion. “Hmmm that’s the way sweet-cheeks.”

Rhys movements were timid at first, but as his body urges took over, he began rutting shamelessly against the man, hands gripping at his neck. Rhys kept moaning all the time, his head tilted backwards. He felt one of Jack’s hands traveling up his chest and stopping at his neck. He gripped his throat lightly moving his hand hungrily up and down, feeling Rhys’ adam’s apple moving under it.

After a while of rutting against each other, heated moans filling the air, Rhys felt his precum slowly leaking from his fully erect member. He barely registered Jack’s hand moving from his throat and heard the sound of a zipper being opened. When he realized what was happening, he felt the man reaching to his pants and pulling out his member.

“Nghn Jack… I… please.” Rhys whined shamelessly.

Jack took out his member and soon did the same with his, now gripping both of them together, his hand moving up and down their lengths, precum slickening the movement.

“Mhm you’re so gorgeous Rhysie, why would I ever leave a pretty little thing like you?” Jack stifled a moan when Rhys’ hands moved up his neck, gripping the man’s hair tightly. Jack reached out to the programmers neck and brought their faces together in a hungry motion, crushing their lips in a bruising, wet kiss. It wasn’t as calculated as the one they first shared, it was wild and possessive and so very accurate.

When they separated for a  short while Rhys looked into the man’s hungry gaze, his own eyes hooded with pleasure. “I told you Rhysie, I’m gonna take care of you, I meant what I said. I won’t hurt you, but I promise to kill whoever does.”

Of course Jack would only understand his words in their basic meaning. By saying he doesn’t want to get hurt he didn’t mean physically but emotionally, however he doubted Jack understood that. Even so, at this moment Jack’s words were too much for him, coupled with the man’s strong thrust. Rhys tipped his head backwards, pleasure overriding him. He saw stars as the man latched at his throats, leaving a trail of wet kisses and bite marks.

“Aaaaah…..Jaaaack” Rhys yelled as he cummed, the sound echoing in the canyon. Jack gripped his hips tightly and with a few additional strokes of his hand he was over the edge as well, a deep moan escaping his lips. He collapsed on the seat, breathing ragged.

For a moment Rhys wanted to follow his movement and just lay on top of the man, but when his vision cleared and he regained clearness of thought, he decide against it, leaning on his back. This proved to be the wrong decision as he accidently pressed the horn with his elbow, the sound causing him to jump startled. Flustered he looked back at Jack who was watching him lazily, a small chuckle escaping his lips.

“Dum dum” Jack muttered reaching out for the boy and forcing him to lean over him. Jack’s arms encircled his form, one hand traveling up and down Rhys’ back in pleasant motions, a small hum escaping the man’s lips. Rhys let himself relax, deciding this was actually quite nice, odd considering who was practically hugging him, yet very, very nice. He could actually get used to this.

Chapter Text

When they came back to Hyperion’s military base after their rather ‘eventful’ ride, Rhys was left to his own devices as Jack went back to his full CEO mode. The trip wasn’t meant to be long and if everything went according to plan they were supposed to go back to Helios tomorrow. Rhys wasn’t looking forward to the spaceship travel but he definitely didn’t regret going.

Despite the short stay he was able to see a lot of Pandora thanks to the trip they’ve taken. Of course it was only a small portion of the huge planet, but it was still a lot more than most Helios’ workers would ever see. Definitely none of them could boast about exploding the hell out of a dozen of skags or jumping over a canyon. Also probably none of them could brag about having car sex with the CEO.

That was a part of the journey Rhys’ did not foresee. Not that he did not enjoy it, he sure as hell did, also his experience level has gone from zero to sex in a car level in no time. Rhys was still awfully awkward when it came to being close to Jack, but the way he sees it, he definitely made some improvement. They even managed to set some things straight, which was a step forward, although Rhys was aware that they still had major communication problems. How was he supposed to talk with the man when every time they were close Jack was all hands?

Despite how satisfying sex with Handsome Jack was, it always brought a feeling of uneasiness. Being so close to the CEO was a feeling akin to parachuting. It was amazing when it lasted but afterwards Rhys just kept thinking that someday the parachute will fail to open and then there is a long fall ahead of him. Rhys was not naïve enough to think that he could actually be in any kind of relationship with Jack. Even though the man might have suggested this was not exactly a temporary thing, Rhys still knew there was no way in hell it would last.

Unfortunately the programmer was not left with many options, so for the time being he decided to just go with it and have fun while it lasted. He was sure Jack’s interest in him won’t be long lived. It may take a week, a month, maybe even a year, but it definitely had a termination date. He just needed to wait it out till that time and enjoy it while it lasted. Forming any kind of emotional attachment was out of the question. He was serious when he told the man he didn’t want to get hurt and getting emotionally involved was a sure way to a long and painful fall. No parachute included.

Rhys spent most of the day walking around the base and learning about different projects that were undertaken on Pandora. He had no idea Jack had so many plans here and this was just one of the many planets Hyperion supervised. He had no idea how Jack was able to stay on top of it all and still make some time for Rhys.

He was actually just waiting in one of the shooting ranges that Hyperion troops used for their trainings. On their way back to the base Jack decided it was a great idea for Rhys to learn how to shoot. Of course he had protested vehemently but the man had none of it. Rhys suspected the CEO would actually enjoy teaching him how to shoot so in the end he decided to indulge the man. He was currently waiting for Jack who was running a bit late, finishing some kind of a deal involving slag experimentation. Remembering the beast that was chasing them not long ago Rhys didn’t really want to know any details.

As he was waiting in the range he heard a rhythmic click clack of a woman’s heels. He turned around and spotted the girl he saw earlier when they arrived, the one wearing the characteristic white hat.

“Hi, I’m looking for Handsome Jack.” The girl asked extending a friendly hand. “The name’s Fiona by the way.”

“It’s Rhys.” He replied extending his hand as well. “Jack should be here any moment now, he said he wants to teach me how to shoot.” Rhys said to keep the conversation flowing.

“Oh I didn’t know Jack gave private lessons.” The girl looked him in the eyes with evident interest. It was as if she could look right through him, analyzing his every past deed. “Well I suppose you couldn’t get a better teacher.” She added after a long pause, a smile on her lips.

“Yeah I guess so…” Rhys said not really willing to elaborate. “So what do you do at this base. You don’t look like the rest of the workers here.”

“Oh is that because I’m a woman or because I’m not wearing the standard issued Hyperion armor which is bullshit when you’re actually searching for someone.” She teased laughing.

“Ha ha. Very funny.” Rhys replied trying to make an annoyed face but failing at it. The earlier tension was gone, replaced by a feeling of familiarity. Even though he didn’t know the girl it felt as if he was talking with one of his friends. “What I meant was that you don’t look like a typical Hyperion corporate. Your style is different.”

“Oh so the hat then.” Fiona teased further. “I’m a temporary substitute for the executive around here.  It sounds like an impressive title but a military base executive is closer to a secretary. I basically have to stay on top of everything that’s going on at the base and make sure all the documents are signed. Bring stuff to be honest. The previous executive got sick and they needed someone short notice so here I am.” The girl laughed while taking her hat off and giving a mock bow. “I come from Pandora so maybe my fashion sense isn’t up to Hyperion’s standards.”

“No I didn’t mean it like that, it’s just different. The hat is pretty stylish though, I like it. I also had a bit of a different style but… let’s just say I was forced into the standard Hyperion fashion.”

“It suits you though.” The girl said playfully, sending him a wink.

“Thanks.” Rhys reciprocated the smile and was about to continue the conversation when he heard the door opening. He spotted Jack striding in the shooting area and waved to him a bit awkwardly.

“So sweet cheeks done some shooting already? Hope you didn’t hurt yourself in the process.” Jack joked as he came up and ruffled the boy’s hair. Rhys hated when the man did that, managing to keep his hair the way it was without using gel was a bitch.

“Jack, Fiona’s been meaning to have a word with you.” Rhys said and looked pointedly at the girl. He noticed her whole demeanor change. He knew people reacted strangely in Jack’s presence, hell even he was still a bit tense every time he saw the man, but there was something different there, something dangerous in her eyes.

“Well then Fiona here has to wait, because I promised you a shooting lesson and that’s what you’re going to get. Have you started already?” Jack asked ignoring the girl completely. He didn’t even turn around to acknowledge her which made Rhys feel bad for Fiona.

“I’m sure it’s not gonna take a long time, I can wait.” Rhys tried to help the girl.

“Always with the polite bullshit.” Jack huffed a breath and ran his hand through his hair, tiredness evident on his face. “Fine whatever, hope this won’t take long. You can start your practice in the meantime, just don’t kill yourself kitten.”

Rhys tried hard not to roll his eyes at the comment. He might not have a lot of practical experience when it comes to guns but every Helios’ worker had to take part in a mandatory training before joining the station. He knew the basics at least. Point the barrel of the gun anywhere but at yourself, easy. He looked at Jack as he checked the shooting stations one by one.

“Damn aren’t there any guns at this place?” The man said in annoyance and took out his own golden revolver. He tossed it at Rhys who barely managed to catch it, the gun slipping from his fingers twice before he had a firm grip on it.

“Am… am I supposed to use your gun?” Rhys asked bewildered, he knew it was Jack’s favorite, he never heard of anyone being allowed to use it.

“No I just want you to put it under the leg of that wobbly table over there. It drives me nuts every time I look at the crooked thing.” Jack said pointing in the direction of a nearby table. After a moment of silence when the man kept looking pointedly at Rhys he sighed rolling his eyes. “Of course I fucking want you to use it, geez kiddo the questions you ask sometimes. Anyway it’s not like we have a choice seeing as there are no guns available here.” Jack looked around one more time as if a gun was to magically appear somewhere.

 “Now get those training dummies tiger.”Jack pushed Rhys in the direction of one of the shooting stations. “If they give you any trouble or as much as give you the wrong look then yell and I’ll come running - being the hero I am.” The man just loved to poke fun at him. Rhys wished they were just regular friends, because he would like to give Jack a piece of his mind. Technically they were more than friends, but it was still difficult to mouth off to the CEO.

“Saving the damsel in distress I gather.” Rhys couldn’t help the annoyance in his voice.

“You gather correctly princess.” Great, another nickname for him, one he’d prefer not to hear ever again. Sadly he was almost certain Jack was going to use that one on him later, seeing how he kept laughing at it.

Rhys almost reached the shooting station when the seemingly peaceful atmosphere that surrounded them changed abruptly.

“This is the end of the line you asshole!”

Rhys heard the sudden yell and spun around, his whole body going rigid at what he saw. There was Fiona standing a couple of feet away from Jack, a small revolver protruding from here long sleeve, mounted on a mechanism of some sorts. She was pointing the barrel at Jack who stood dead in his tracks, his gaze cold as ice, which promised a sudden and painful death. It was the first time Rhys had really witnessed the truly dangerous side of Jack.

“What… what’s happening here?” Rhys asked before he could even register his lips were moving. In no time both pair of eyes were on him.

“Pumpkin, this would be a great time to use that revolver of mine.” Jack said through clenched teeth, his eyes pointing to the gun he was holding.

“Stay out of this Rhys, I don’t want to hurt you, I just came here to take care of this monsters. God knows someone has to get rid of this psycho murderer.” Fiona said with venom in her voice, looking between Rhys and Jack, her gun still pointed at the man.

“Rhysie don’t listen to her and make use of that damn revolver!” Jack hollered.

Rhys didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t just stand there and let the girl kill Jack. It was his fault the man didn’t have his revolver in the first place. But he also didn’t want to kill Fiona, he had more than enough of killing for a lifetime. Besides who says he’d be fast enough to stop the girl from hurting Jack? Quickly going through the possible options Rhys decided it would be best to point the gun at Fiona, but try to talk her out of it. Maybe he could still reason with her? Besides having a gun pointed at her would help to keep Jack safe.

He raised the gun in the direction of the girl but she was faster than him. Before he even noticed what was happening the girl fired in his direction. The next thing he knew the revolver was flying out of his hand and landing on the floor a few feet behind him.

In the meantime Jack yelled and lunged himself at the girl but was not fast enough. The distance between them was too big and in no time the revolver was pointed at him once again.

“Consider this a warning Rhys, next time I’ll be firing at you instead of the gun.” Fiona looked angrily at Rhys and then focused her attention on Jack once again. “I know he’s your boss and you’re just following orders. My talent is to analyze people and you seem like a good person so I don’t want to hurt. I don’t enjoy killing, contrary to this monster.”

“Don’t be an idiot bitch, the second you pull that trigger all of the guards will be onto you in no time. You’ll never get out of here alive.” Jack spat out the words, looking condescendingly at the girl.

“I don’t care, not anymore. My sole purpose was to kill you, as long as I accomplish that it won’t matter what happens to me… You killed my sister you monster and for that you’re going to pay.”

Suddenly everything clicked in Rhys’ mind at once: the name, the characteristic hat, the attitude – it was Sasha’s sister. She had told him once about her but Rhys assumed it was one of her many lies. Apparently the girl really existed  and now she wanted to seek vengeance on Jack, who actually wasn’t even the one who killed the girl.

Rhys felt panic rising in him, he couldn’t let Jack die for his stupid mistakes. He was the one who was naïve enough to let Sasha have access to all of the Hyperion’s secrets. He had to kill her because of his stupidity and now, because he couldn’t even shoot properly, Jack’s life was in danger. No he couldn’t let the man pay for his bad decisions.

Rhys was at a loss and time was of the essence, he had to take action otherwise Jack would end up dead. This seemed like a good moment to use his siren powers… but he wasn’t even certain how to do it. If he killed Fiona the same way he killed Vasquez then there was  a high chance of hurting Jack as well. Besides the girl expressed her willingness to die for the cause, so even if he managed to attack her she’d still probably have enough time to fire the bullet. No he had to think of a different approach. Suddenly an idea came to his mind.

“Well I suppose you were wrong in assessing my character.” Rhys said feigning arrogance, trying to sound as confident as he could. “I do enjoy killing, in fact I was the one who killed your sister.”

“Wow you’ve really trained them well Jack, they are willing to die for you so easily.” Fiona said with pity in her voice while Jack looked at Rhys, confusion written on his face. His expression relaying the message of ‘what the hell are you doing’ to Rhys. He decided to ignore it and continue with his plan.

“Jack didn’t even know Sasha.” At the mention of the name, Rhys had Fiona’s full attention. “I, on the other hand, got acquainted with her quite well, especially when I tortured her to gain some information about your little organization.”

“You’re lying! Besides Sasha would never say anything.” Fiona yelled, the hand holding the revolver shaking slightly.

“Kid, what the hell? Enough with the bullshit!” Jack hollered, his face a mixture of anger and confusion.

“Oh yes she was a feisty one. Every time I hit her in the stomach asking about her accomplices, she’d only cough out blood and say ‘screw you’.” Rhys said in the best imitation of a menacing voice he could muster. “She kept repeating that over and over until she was barely conscious from all the beating and cuts I inflicted.”

Rhys noticed Fiona rile up, barely holding it in. He knew only a few more words and she’d pull the trigger. Jack on the other hand kept yelling at him to ‘cut the crap out’. For the first time since forever Rhys ignored his boss. He wanted to use the information about Felix, he remembered Sasha told him he was like a father figure to them, so it should work. Rhys only hoped that the information wasn’t another lied the girl conjured.

“But she did break in the end when I told her I knew exactly who she worked with. She pleaded with every fiber of her being to leave her sister Fiona and Felix alone, that she was working solo. You know I didn’t really need to torture her, I only did it to see her will break and there it was. Sasha reduced to tears and begging. It was a pleasure to finally pull the trigger, sending a bullet straight here.” Rhys said in a deadly voice, pointing to the middle of his forehead with his index finger.

After that everything happened all too quickly. Fiona yelled at the top of her lungs and pulled the trigger, the bullet going straight into Rhys’ right arm, the one he was pointing at his forehead with. He felt an unimaginable pain course through his body. Luckily the bullet didn’t go all the way through but instead lodged itself in Rhys’ arm. It was a shock elemental bullet, one of his very own making, oh the irony of that.

Rhys felt an indescribable force course through his body as he screamed from the pain, falling to his knees and clutching at his arm. The electricity kept tearing through his joints and tendons, as if tearing the flesh apart. The pain started at the point where the bullet entered his body and slowly coursed though his entire arm, spasms of pain twisting his features.

When it was close to reaching his chest Rhys felt something stir within him. Some inner power blocking the electricity from reaching any further. It was like two massive forces clashing at one another within his own body. He guessed it were the siren powers activating to keep him alive, which was what he was hoping for all along. It wasn’t a great plan but it was the only thing he could come up with given the situation. However there was no telling whether he lives or dies.

The last thing he remembered seeing was an enraged face of Handsome Jack as Fiona’s body fell to the floor, her empty, lifeless eyes looking straight at him. Soon he felt darkness overtaking him, as he could no longer withstand the pain tearing though his flesh like razor blades. He simply wanted to sleep.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

When Jack saw the stupid bitch pulling the trigger it was as if everything was happening in slow motion. He screamed for Rhys to duck but how the hell was someone supposed to duck from a bullet. The next thing he saw was a course blue electricity tearing through Rhys’ body as he fell down due to the immense pain. Seeing the lithe form of the boy toss and turn, face twisted in pain as the electricity tore through his flesh, Jack saw red.

The next thing he knew he was holding his revolver, not even registering when he ran to get it, and put a series of elemental bullets in Fiona’s body. First it was shock elemental to let the bitch feel the exact pain Rhys was going through. Oh but he wasn’t going to go lenient on her. Next it was the corrosive, hitting the side of her face and distorting that ugly face of hers, next it was fire, the bullet hitting the girl’s arm and melting the flesh there. The next few rounds he fired were probably aimed at a dead body anyway. He walked up and kicked the lifeless form a few times for good measure, cursing profusely.

“You stupid ugly bitch” he spat kicking the body for the uptenth time “if I could reanimate you somehow then I’d gladly do it just to let you suffer longer.”

For a short while Jack did not register what was happening as he had one of his rage epsiodes. The only sound he heard was a high pitched sound as he lost sense of reality. When he finally managed to regain his senses, he looked at the mutilated body in front of him and then frantically to the other one lying not far away.

In matter of seconds he was at Rhys’ side, kneeling next to the body. Jack knew that there was no chance of living through an elemental bullet, especially given the proximity of the shooter, but he wanted to hope beyond hope. He turned Rhys’ body on his back and put his ear to the boy’s chest. For a moment he wasn’t sure whether it was some kind of delusion he had, but he was positive he heard a weak heartbeat. He examined Rhys for a while and noticed the boy’s chest was heaving up and down, his breathing still present although extremely labored. It was a fucking miracle.

He put Rhys’ head on his knees and weaved his fingers though the boy’s hair as he connected to his crew with his Echo Comm. Jack noticed his hands were shaking.

“Jack, sir.” The soldier responsible for supervising the mission on Pandora answered.

“Come to the shooting range as soon as fucking possible and take the medic team with you. I want to see you here in fifteen seconds, no less.” Jack spat angrily and disconnected, knowing very well that the guy will be there shortly, out of sheer fear if nothing else. Exactly as he predicted the soldier ran into the room a few minutes later, a medical team trailing right behind him.

“He has been shot with a shock elemental bullet, but he’s still breathing. Do a full check on him and assess the damage.” Jack barked his orders, all the time stroking Rhys’ hair, not leaving the unconscious boy. Only after the not so subtle hints from the medical team did he gently lay Rhys’ head on the floor and move away to make space for the team.

Jack kept walking nervously up and down the room, impatiently waiting for any news regarding the boy’s state. After what seemed like forever a member of the medical team came up to him.

“So? How bad is it?” Jack asked stopping dead in his tracks, his fists clenching and unclenching, adrenaline still coursing through his veins.

“Considering the close proximity of the shooter as well as the fact that it was an elemental bullet then I’d say it’s a miracle the boy’s still alive.”

“I don’t pay you to fucking state the obvious!” Jack yelled frustrated at the lack of actual information.

“Right… I’m sorry sir. According to our quick medical scan it seems his right arm absorbed most of the damage. We’re not sure how it happened, but it might be a faulty bullet, either way the boy was lucky. Still his condition is quite severe, I would advise to put him under anesthetics and transfer him back to Helios as soon as possible.” The medic reported while nervously looking at the mutilated body lying not far away.

“I… I suggest he should undergo an operation no later than tomorrow. The muscles in his right arm were torn completely, so it won’t be of any use to the boy. It has to be amputated, however, the nerves in his shoulder seem to be miraculously intact which is why I’d suggest a robotic arm implant as soon as possible, as the nerves in the shoulders are still responsive and the arm could be attached easily.”

Jack relaxed visibly, he was afraid he’d receive much less pleasant news. A robotic arm… was actually not a big deal, considering what Rhys’ body went though. The fact that he lived at all was a blessing. He could not believe Rhys was stupid enough to play the hero. Why would he make himself the victim? Why sacrifice himself just so nothing happened to Jack? No one had ever done  anything for him without a hidden agenda… but now was not the time for internal musing.

“Ok you, the overzealous dude.” Jack turned to the soldier that was standing near the doorway. “Escort Rhys to the medical department on Helios and make sure that they do the best job imaginable on his hand. I will spare no costs, I want him to have the best of the best, understood?” After the soldier nodded his head frantically Jack continued.

“Take the ship we used to get here and order one to be sent back for us. If I could I would go with you but I need to make sure that every fucking person belonging to this bitch’s organization” Jack pointed to the corpse “was left hanging on their own intestines in the middle of a desert. If I don’t act now chances are I won’t manage to trace them.”

“Understood sir, I’ll take care of him.” The soldier said pointing his helmet towards Rhys.

“Oh you better, because if I find out something happened to him you’ll join the hangmen party.” Jack looked menacingly at the soldiers who only gulped loudly. “What’s your name? And take off that stupid helmet.”

The guard took off his head armor revealing a blonde man with short hair and equally short beard, an earring adorning his ear as well as nose.

“It’s August, sir.”

“Well then August you better do your best because this” Jack pointed to Rhys’ body “is a very precious cargo.”

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

Rhys opened his eyes slowly, a bright light invading his vision. It sent a sharp pain to his brain causing him to  squint his eyes to adjust to the brightness gradually. He wanted to lift his right arm but found that he could not move it, panic coursed through his body. He felt sore all over yet at the same time his body felt like cotton, numb to everything. He was barely feeling the bed he was lying on. Where was he actually?

“Hey kid, take it easy. You were stuffed full of painkillers.” A voice said to his right. Rhys turned his head and saw a blonde man sitting beside his bead.

“Where am I?”

“Medical wing on Helios.”

This didn’t make any sense, the last Rhys remembered he was on Pandora. Jack was supposed to teach him how to shoot and then… Fiona….

“I was shot…” Rhys said to no one in particular, still dazed with shock.

“Yeah, but you were pretty damn lucky kid, the bullet only managed to damage your right hand. Handsome jack sent me with you to make sure you get the best treatment and the operation is successful. It’s August by the way.” The blonde man said.

“What operation?”

“Well I’m sorry to say but your right arm is damaged pretty badly. They plan to replace it with a robotic one.”

They were going to amputate his arm? No this was not right, he remembered his siren powers fighting against the voltage damage. In all honesty he hoped that he either died from the process or woke up intact, having his arm removed was not part of the deal.

“I can’t have a robotic arm!” Rhys said in panic, raising from the bed. The man named August pushed him down gently. Truth to be told even without doing so Rhys wouldn’t be able to stand on his own, his body was practically rendered immobile due to the damage he received. “I’m a programmer, I need my hands to be deft. I construct very meticulous devices, I can’t let them replace my arm!”

“Easy there kid, no need to worry, Jack made sure you’ll get the best tech there is. I hear that those chrome hands are as precise in movement as real hands. Don’t worry. Besides it’s not like you have much of a choice, all the muscles in your right arm were practically torn to shreds.” Now that wasn’t a pleasant thought.

“Now get some rest, the medical team will be here shortly and they’ll start the procedure. I just wanted to make sure you were ok. Handsome Jack has inquired about your well-being.” August said and stood up making his way for the door. “Chin up boy, there are worse things that could’ve happened, a robo-arm is not that bad.” The man said and had the audacity to wink at him before leaving the room.

Rhys felt like crying. Maybe a robotic arm was not the worst thing for a military man, but it was a huge hindrance in his line of work. Rhys could not imagine himself working on small, integrated systems with a robotic arm that had less mobility then his human one.

Rhys did not regret his decision and was glad Jack had not been shot. If that were the case the man would be surely dead, no siren powers helping Jack fight through the pain. But what Rhys’ hated among everything else was feeling useless. At long last he was the Head of Programming as well as the person responsible for creating all of the latest Hyperion weapon enhancements. Losing his right arm meant that his career would be over.

Rhys heard the medical team nearing his room and he started hyperventilating thinking about the grim possibilities ahead of him. Unless… he turned what seemed to be a useless situation into something he could actually benefit from. As the team entered the room he quickly planned out the course of action.

“Mr. Rhys as you probably know by now you are to undergo a procedure of replacing your right arm with a robotic one.” A member of the medical crew explained.

“Yes I know that. It’s supposed to be the best tech you’ve got, right?”

“Yes of course, we will be replacing you arm with the newest chrome robotic hand, we’re sure you won’t even know the difference once you get used to using it.” The man explained.

“Well sadly I will know the difference and so will Jack, do you know who I am?” Rhys asked in a confident voice. “I’m the person responsible for all those elemental upgrades plus the gravity grenade. It’s of utmost importance that my hand is as precise as can be.”

“And it will be, we can assure you of that.”

“No. No you can’t. You know it, I know it, Handsome Jack knows it. He’s not a man to be satisfied with average solutions. The robotic arm won’t be sufficient, not if I am to be of any use for Jack.”

“So what are you implying?” another man asked unsure of the point Rhys was making.

“That in order to compensate for the mobility in my arm you also need to do… an Echo Eye implant.”

“But sir do you know the mortality rate for the operation?!” the man asked, his voice raising.

“7% of it being successful, I know.” Normally Rhys wouldn’t risk it, but chances of surviving an elemental bullet were close to zero yet he still lived. Judging by what was written in the book about siren powers Jack gave him, he should be able to live through the procedure. If anyone was to make it out alive then Rhys was the best candidate.

“Jack specifically asked for it. He wouldn’t invest so much money in me unless I brought profit to the company. It’s not like he’s doing it out of the goodness of his heart.” At that the doctors looked at one another, finding the argument believable.

“Still I was only aware of the arm procedure being requested by Jack.” One of the men protested meekly.

“Oh and do you want to call Jack and ask? Go ahead, but let me tell you he won’t be very happy to leave whatever he is doing only to clarify something that should’ve been obvious. We all know that the best time for an Echo transplant is while attaching the robotic arm.” Rhys explained and hoped that the doctors will be too scared to try and contact Jack. After a moment of silence the leading medic finally spoke up.

“Very well, we’ll get you ready for the two procedures. Nurse, please apply a double dose of the anesthetic. The operation will take longer than expected.”

So it seemed his plan worked and the doctors will do the Echo Eye  implant as well. The possibilities his new eye would give him, coupled with the robotic arm, were limitless. For his line of work it would mean a vast improvement, quicker calculating abilities, easy hacking, access to advanced circuitry. He could not wait to test it all out… the only thing that was left to do was to survive the operation. Rhys only hoped that he made the right decision and that his siren powers would not fail him.

Chapter Text

“This is for daring to go against me.”

A loud bang followed.

“This is for having the audacity to think your shitty little organization could kill me.”

Another bang could be heard.

“And this…” Jack said breathing heavily, a maniacal glint in his eyes. “Is for hurting that which belongs to ME!” he yelled and put a series of bullets into the body of an old man lying on the ground. He was dead for some time now but that didn’t stop Jack from venting.

Jack spent the last couple of hours gathering intel on the organization that Sasha and Fiona were involved in. He had a pretty vast network of spies working for him on Pandora so getting information on a middle class organization wasn’t much of a challenge. It took some time to pinpoint the exact localization of their leader Felix, but no one would escape his wrath, the lifeless body lying in front of him a clear proof of that.

As soon as he was sure that all of the people responsible for the attack on him were either dead or in the process of being tortured, Jack made his way back to the military base. He hastily finalized all the deals he intended to go through before all chaos broke loose. Jack finished everything as quickly as he could, his mind elsewhere. He wanted to get back to Helios as soon as possible.

It was late afternoon when he boarded the ship which was deployed to Pandora by August. All the time the same question kept repeating itself over and over in his head - why the hell did Rhys take a bullet for him? Contrary to what people may think he wasn’t grateful, no, Handsome Jack was pissed. What right did Rhys have to protect him with that scrawny body of his? He was the CEO of Hyperion for fucks sake, he could easily handle situations like that. He didn’t need Rhys to act like his human shield.

Honestly though, he didn’t think the boy had it in him. He was always so stressed and timid Jack had no idea where that bravery came from… or was it stupidity? If that were the case then it might be easier to understand the whole situation, but the fact still remained that Rhys took a bullet for him and Jack didn’t know what to think about it. Nobody had ever done such a thing for him, what was Rhys hoping to achieve? Clearly the fact that he survived was a miracle itself. It was probably only due to a faulty elemental bullet that the boy didn’t end up fried by the electricity currents coursing through his body.

 So the only plausible answer was that Rhys was willing to sacrifice himself for Jack with nothing to be gained from it. It was a strange thought. Part of him was pleased but another part of him was unsettled, he just didn’t know how to react to such a display of loyalty. The boy sure was something else. Rhys was lucky he was still alive and although losing an arm was the best possible outcome, it was still a big sacrifice on the boy’s part and Jack was more than aware of it.

The fact remained though, Handsome Jack was utterly pissed. He wanted to get back to Helios as soon as possible and give the kid a piece of his mind. By this time he should be out of the surgery already. Jack wondered briefly how the mechanical arm will suit him. He had specifically ordered for the newest model to be the one to replace the boy’s real arm. Most of the robotic arms were bulky and not very precise, they were good for combat but nothing else. Rhys needed something better, something that would still allow him to continue his line of work. The newest Hyperion issued robotic arm should be perfect - smaller in size, matching the boy’s posture, the finger movement as precise as that of a real hand.

When Jack finally arrived at the space station he made his way towards the medical wing. He needed to see Rhys, needed to know he was ok. Ever since he saw Rhys’ unmoving body lying on the floor, he had that image stuck in his head. It was like  a slowly throbbing pain at the back of his skull. He needed to see the boy and make sure he was ok, only then would he proceed with yelling at him for being a stupid fucking idiot.

When he entered the surgical ward he saw the soldier he had sent together with Rhys. What was his name again?  It seemed the soldier was very dutiful, guarding the boy even after the operation. Jack assumed he would be nowhere to be seen as soon as he delivered Rhys to the medical department -Mr Overzealous indeed. He should give the man a raise.

“Hey you… it was August right? You are relieved from your duty. I gather the operation was successful?” Jack asked offhandedly, not really meaning to stay and chat with the soldier. However, at the worried look the soldier sent him, he knew immediately something was wrong. Jack felt an unpleasant heaviness settle in his stomach.

“What is it?! Tell me!” he demanded grabbing the man by the front of his jacket. The soldier was in his casual attire, yellow armor nowhere to be seen.

“Handsome Jack sir, there was a slight complication.” August stammered, trying to keep eye contact with the raging man.

“What kind of fucking complication!” Jack seethed, doing his best to keep his rage in check. It wouldn’t do any good if he were to kill the man before he finds out what happened. “Speak!”

“Well I was waiting here for the operation to finish, they initially informed me that it would take no more than three hours, so after four hours I began to worry. I questioned one of the nurses that came out of the operational room about it and she told me that the arm was already implemented, but the second procedure would take a lot more time.”

“What fucking second procedure?” Jack asked, anger and worry mixing in his voice. Was there something else wrong with Rhys, did those incompetent fools back on Pandora miss something?

“That’s what I asked them sir. I told them he was to undergo an arm transplant surgery, just as you instructed. I was not informed of any additional operations.” August explained slowly, trying to somehow calm the man down. It wasn’t working. August braised himself for what was coming next.

“So why the hell is he having an additional surgery, was something else wrong!?” Jack spoke through clenched teeth, his patience dwindling by every passing second.

“He’s having an Echo Eye implant.” August mumbled closing his eyes, as if waiting for the inevitable to come. Surprisingly enough no blow came his way, instead Jack only let go of the jacket he was gripping mere moments ago. August looked up at the CEO and saw an empty look on the man’s face.

“An Echo Eye…?” Jack mumbled to himself, his face faraway and distant. Memories flashed in his head of all the subjects that underwent the surgery. He once thought an Echo Eye would be the future of Hyperion, he learned of the technology while still working for Tassiter and upgraded it so that, combined with a robotic arm, it would be the fastest processing computer that ever existed. It would enhance its user’s cognitive capabilities by eighty percent at least.

It seemed like the future of the corporation was in those implants, that is, until he started receiving reports about the test subjects who willingly underwent the surgery. As soon as Jack took over the role of Hyperion’s president he ordered for the tests to begin. He remembered reading through the reports he had received… all one hundred of them.

 

Test subject number 1

Died of severe blood loss  before the implant could be installed.

 

Test subject number 2

Died during the operation, exact cause of death unknown.

 

Test subject number 37

The Echo implant could not be connected with the mechanical arm. Patient died due to severe trauma.

 

Test subject number 534

The Echo implant was successful, however, upon waking, the subject could not withstand the pain. Died soon after.

 

Out of all of the test subjects only seven survived, but none of them had the potential to put the Echo Eye to full use, their only real asset being above average strength. Jack kept staring ahead, not really wanting to think about the inevitable way this would end. The seven subjects that survived where at the peak of their physical strength, they were so much stronger than Rhys. One of them was Wilhelm, the man could basically crush skulls in his hands. How could someone as feeble as Rhys survive this much pain?

“Why?” Jack asked the man, all his rage leaving him in an instant, feeling nothing more than a sense of emptiness and numbness.

“They told me the boy said you ordered it. That he would be useless to you otherwise.”  August said in a small voice. “Sir, if they informed me beforehand I would’ve told them those weren’t your orders, I’m sorry.”

“No it’s fine.” Jack said face still blank. “If he’d go as far as killing himself just to get away then so be it. At least now I know what that so called act of bravery was. He’s basically asking to get killed.”

“Sir, I’m not sure…..” August tried to interjected but it didn’t seem like Jack was listening to him.

“But sooner hell freezes over than I’ll let him go without a fight. He is my fucking property and I do not let my things get snatched easily!” Jack said a look of deadly determination on his face.  His gaze suddenly becoming distant and dangerous. “If he thinks he can just kill himself then he’s in for a surprise…”

Other than the pure physical strength of the test subjects that survived the operation there was one more factor which allegedly helped them overcome the pain. All of the people who survived were woken up for a brief moment during the operation, the pain was excruciating but it supposedly helped the body to ease into the pain before fully regaining consciousness. It was like administrating the pain in a smaller dose, so that the body would get used to it.

Jack found the operation room and barged in. At first the medical staff wanted to stop him but as soon as they saw who it was, they just stepped aside, giving the man full access. Rhys’ unconscious body was lying on the bed, his hand already attached, though not fully operational. He also had the Echo Eye in, but the work on the port was still in progress. There was a lot of blood everywhere.

“Wake him up.” Jack said emotionlessly, his dead eyes scanning the seemingly lifeless body.

“Sir, that will most likely kill the boy.” The main surgeon said with caution.

A humorless laughter erupted from the man. “And what won’t kill him? The chances of surviving this are almost nonexistent, I know, I’ve read the reports. His only chances are to ease him into the pain. Two minutes should suffice. Then you can put him under anesthesia again.”

There was a silence in the room when no one dared to disagree. Jack saw they recognized truth in his words but knew why they were hesitant. Waking someone in a sate like this, even for two minutes, was excruciating for the patient. It was like saying to someone – hey, I’m gonna peel the skin off your face but it’s only going to take two minutes. Sometimes two minutes could be an eternity.

Jack saw one of the men retreat to the back of the room and come back with a syringe. He injected it into the boys IV and looked at Handsome Jack one more time before administrating the liquid which would wake the boy up. After the CEO nodded the doctor continued. Jack swallowed, suddenly not so sure about his decision… but it was the only way for the boy to survive… besides Rhys chose this himself. Jack could have given everything to the boy, but he chose this. So be it.

“Quick everyone hold his body down, he’s going trash around and we can’t let the work we’ve done so far go to waste.” The doctor ordered and soon each member of the medical staff was holding onto one of Rhys’ limbs as the boy began to stir slowly. Jack basically heard a countdown in his own head, anticipation and nerves rising. Four, three, two, one….

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh” Rhys yelled at the top of his lungs, his eyes opening widely. Jack had never heard a yell this terrifying. It was as if, through the screams, Jack could feel the pain in his own body.

“Stoo…. staha…. no….” Rhys yelled and sobbed. It was like a wail of an animal in agony, pleading for someone to end its life, to put an end to the pain. It was nauseating.

Seeing as the boy kept trashing harder and harder, Jack decide to step in and hold Rhys by his shoulders. Only one more minute, he kept chanting in his head. In his life Jack had tortured numerous men and witnessed a lot of gruesome things he’d like to forget, but this… this was by far the worst. When Rhys opened his eyes and looked at him, face twisted in unimaginable pain, Jack felt his resolve crumble.

“J…..aah….ack.” the boy recognized him despite the pain, which probably felt much like a hot coal being placed directly in his brain. Nerves still vulnerable from the procedure. “Pl…please.” Rhys whined pathetically, sobs escaping his lips twisted in pain. Tears were streaming down his right eye, while blood oozed from the Echo implant. It was a gruesome sight.

Jack wanted to say something, but he felt his  throat constrict, no words escaping him. He looked helplessly at the boy, who chose this instead of him. Bitterness, pain and despair mixing on Jack’s features. He didn’t even register when the anesthesia was injected in the IV and Rhys fell in a restless sleep-like state, finally void of pain.

Jack stormed out of the operational room soon after, the yells still echoing in his head. He didn’t even register when he was back at his apartment at the 45th floor.  He did not remember coming there, his mind was a blur.

Rhys’ pleading look was haunting his vision, those eyes desperately asking him for help. For a moment Jack just wanted to do it, help the boy ease the pain, kill him just as the boy wanted. Maybe he should have…

“No fuck you!” Jack screamed, rage once again accumulating in his body. “You betrayed me!” Jack yelled as if the boy was standing in front of him. “It’s your own fault, you deserve the pain.” He yelled, knuckles white with the pressure he put into his clenched fists. It didn’t make him feel any better though. The despair started fueling his rage and, like many times before, Jack saw red.

 At moments like this Jack would not register what he was doing, it was like his mind went into override mode and his body was acting on its own. He acted like a damn psycho goliath, screaming and yelling, attacking everything in sight. Luckily he was alone so the only thing that suffered was his apartment.

When he finally came to his senses and looked around he saw various furniture broken. His huge tv was lying on the floor, a leg of a chair protruding out of the screen. Books and papers were scattered all over the floor, glass shards littering all of the crooks and corners of the penthouse. Jack looked around and started breathing heavily. He was gulping for air as if he was drowning.

Jack went to the bathroom and put his body weight on the sink, his hands trembling as he held onto the coolness of the porcelain. He was still gasping for air, his fingers frantically reaching for the metal clasps of the mask. Nervously he undid all of them and let the mask fall to the floor, his breathing still ragged but slowly evening up.

He looked up at the image in the mirror, a man he had not seen in a long time staring back at him. He seemed scared and lost, the ugly image of the scarred face filling the view. He touched his cheeks and felt wetness there, he couldn’t have… Jack slid down to the tiled floor, his back to the wall. He hadn’t had a panic attack since the time he lived at his grandma’s.

“I told you boy, nobody loves you.” A sickening voice echoed in his memories.

“Go away!” Jack yelled, pounding his fist in the tiled floor, his back hunched.

“You can’t trust anyone, everyone is out there to get you.” The voice was relentless.

Jack put hands on his ears, shaking his head, as if this would help him block the voice at the back of his head. His body cringed instinctively, remembering the crude beating his grandmother used to deliver after each of her little speeches. She had a favorite tool for that. Jack could still remember it tearing at his back.

“Even your daughter hated you enough to kill herself.”

Angel…. He had to restrain Angel powers after what she did to her mom. She couldn’t control herself, it had to be done. But he came to love her, wanted her to be safe, he even considered forgiving her after she had betrayed him and worked in secret with the vault hunters to destroy him. But she…

“Dad, I have to tell you something… you’re an asshole.”

That hurt, that really hurt. Sometimes he could still hear her cold voice, as she said those words. She’d rather kill herself than be close to him and truth to be told so did Rhys. He did the exact same thing. First with the bullet and now with the Echo Eye… why not just kill himself instead of going through such immeasurable pain. Was he really this desperate to get away from him? Did he despise him so much to go through such drastic measures?

 

—o.o— —o.o—

 

Jack sat in the silence of the room for what seemed like ages. He kept staring ahead, his gaze unfocused. His head spinning with memories of everything that happened to him within the span of a day. Suddenly his Echo Comm rang. He knew they’d call sooner or later, he waited precisely for the call. He took out his watch, which was connected to the network, and accepted the incoming call, not saying a word, waiting for the caller to say what they needed. After a moment of silence he heard a shaky voice.

“Handsome Jack sir, we finished the operation and tried to wake the subject. We did everything according to the standards, the eye was implanted exactly as…”

“Is he dead?” Jack interrupted the man in a monotone voice. A moment of silence ensued.

“…..Yes.”

“I thought so. Is there something else?” Jack asked in a lifeless voice.

“Uhm no sir…. ugh what are we supposed to do with the body?”

“How the fuck should I know… whatever you do with a dead body.” Jack said and disconnected the call.

He reached out for the mask lying on the floor, put it on his scarred face and slowly fastened each clasp, one by one. When he was done he stood up and looked into the mirror at his dishelved state. Jack ran a hand through his hair and straightened his jacket, trying to look more or less presentable. He walked out of the apartment and into the elevator. He was the CEO and there was a lot of work needed to be done.

It was fine, it was better this way, Jack kept repeating in his head. Getting attached to someone was useless, nothing good came of it. He didn’t plan for it, it sort of happen, but it’s better it ended sooner rather than later. People were a liability and his previous display of emotions was the best proof. He didn’t have time for all those stupid shitty feelings. He had a company to run, things to do, actual important things, he’d make do without the distraction. Besides Rhys had not been honest with him… he hated Jack just like everyone else close to him did. Not like Jack cared though…

The only thing that was bad about this whole business was that he lost his best programmer. He’d hoped Rhys would make some decent upgrades in the future. That was a shame. Nothing else… Maybe just the food, he got used to eating the good stuff so going back to pretzel’s would be a bitch, but he’ll make do, like he always did.

There was also one more thing, one that Handsome Jack tried his best to push out of his thoughts. It was the feeling of anticipation. Lately he noticed that whenever he’d come back to Helios or simply when he ended his work, he’d look forward to seeing that stupid kid’s face. It was a nice feeling, having something to look forward to. He never had anything like that and if he did, it was taken from him before he could truly revel in the feeling.  Sure he had work, he was oftentimes excited about different new projects or some new kills, but this anticipation was different. It was a steadfast thing. Something simple and , to be honest, a bit mundane, but it was there and it felt nice.

But this was for the best, it was ok. The kid chose his own fate and good riddance. He deserved it and it was better this way. It was better, it was better, it was better… Jack kept chanting to himself as he stepped out of the elevator.

For the first time in his life, he was glad to be able to hide his real face under the mask.

Chapter Text

Rhys woke up and panicked. All he could see was darkness. Was he dead? No, not if his aching body was any kind of indication. He felt a numbing pain all over his body but especially in his right shoulder and left temple. The pain there was very acute but not unbearable. He touched the part which hurt most with his left hand and was surprised when he felt his fingers touching something cold and metallic. Suddenly everything came back with startling clarity. Fiona shooting him, the surgery, the unimaginable pain he felt for the briefest of moments and Jack’s face which looked so unfamiliar at the time, showing emotions he had never seen on the man’s features.

Did this mean the robotic arm and the Echo Eye implants were successful? If so, why was everything pitch black? Suddenly a scary thought came to his mind, causing a feeling of dread to spread through his body like a wave, leaving his fingers numb in the process. Did he lose sight due to the operation? No, no, no, this couldn’t be right, this couldn’t be happening. What has he done? He had not foreseen something like this happening.

Not knowing where he was and seeing only darkness Rhys felt paralyzing fear. He made a quick move to get up but soon bumped into something. Not used to operating his robotic arm yet, he checked out his surroundings with the flesh hand. There were walls everywhere. He was in some type of a small box, just large enough for him to lie in. Was… was he in a coffin?

Rhys felt a new wave of panic rise in him as he began trashing about, yelling for someone to help him. When he administered a powerful kick to the wall near his feet there was a small sound and a crack of light came into view. Thank God he wasn’t blind. He kicked the wall once again and soon realized it  was in fact some type of a door. Rhys quickly opened it and scrambled out of the enclosed area. When he crawled out a white room came into view, with a large, long sink on one side and a whole wall with multiple small door-like openings on the other.

He was in a fucking morgue. No wonder it was so cold! Rhys shivered and tried to warm up using his hands. Luckily they didn’t strip off all of his clothing; the black pants and sleeveless white shirt were still present but his boots were nowhere to be seen. Traces of dried up blood could still be seen on his shirt. He was standing barefoot in the middle of the Helios’ morgue trying to figure out what the hell happened.

Rhys came up to the long mirror above the sink and looked at his reflection. What he saw amazed him. While his right eye was still the color of hazel, his left eye was now vibrant blue. He also had a port in his temple which was the source of the throbbing ache. He touched it lightly and hissed in pain, the area around it was still tender so he’d need to watch out.

Rhys focused his attention on the robotic hand, which he decided to finally move around a bit. He tried clenching and unclenching his fist, the movement awkward at first, but soon became more natural. Surprisingly the chrome limb was as deft as his real one… So he basically put his life in danger for nothing as he could clearly continue his work with the robotic arm. Rhys could not believe how advanced it was, he never saw a model like this which is why he couldn’t believe it when the doctors kept saying how lifelike it would be. It probably cost a fortune…

He looked into the mirror once again and studied his heterochromic eyes - having and Echo Eye was fucking amazing, he could not believe his plan worked. Granted it was pretty reckless… and stupid of him to risk his life like this, but at the moment he felt it was definitely worth it.  First though he had to make sure that it wasn’t malfunctioning. Rhys quickly activated the eye which changed color to golden as he saw different scanning options. He focused on a stack of papers lying on a small table in the corner. Those were the deceased files. He scanned through them swiftly until he reached his name. He needed to test one more thing.

Rhys opened the palm of his robotic arm and commanded for the display to appear. And there it was, the file shown in clarity on the monitor projected from his robotic hand. He could now read things without even physically lifting a single page - it was fucking awesome. The ability to quickly extract information from reports or databases would facilitate his work greatly.

Rhys quickly  scanned through the file, hoping it would hold some information about his current predicament.

Name: Rhys

Cause of death: Failed Echo Eye surgery. Patient showed no life signs after bringing him back from anesthesia.

Time of death: 19th April, 11:38

Rhys checked the current date… he had died two days ago. How did this happen? How come was he still breathing if the doctors said he showed no signs of life. Unless…. he vaguely remembered reading about siren’s healing abilities and how, when put under a life endangering situation, a siren would go into a state of a comma and let the powers heal the host. Rhys assumed coma would indicate that he had a fucking heartbeat but it seemed that was not the case. Or maybe he had one, just subdued so much that the doctors did not register it. Shit if he knew, siren’s powers were still a mystery to him, as well as to the rest of the world.

If he was dead then his friends probably heard about it, so he had to make sure they knew he was ok. Also Jack… Rhys remembered once more the face of the man while he had a brief moment of clarity during the procedure. Jack could probably wait… Rhys thought and made his way out of the morgue. Truth to be told he was just scared to face the man. He’d have to do it eventually, just… not right now.

When going to the residential district Rhys avoided the busy passages, opting for the less traveled corridors. He didn’t want anyone to question why he was barefoot and had blood on him. Also his heterochromic eyes stood out too much and he didn’t want to attract attention. A few people on the station had a robotic arms or leg, but an Echo Eye? That would definitely give cause to a lot of unwanted questioning from his colleagues and coworkers.

The journey was surpassingly easy, he actually hadn’t come across a single soul which was strange to say the least. It was as if the whole station was completely deserted. When he finally reached Vaughn’s apartment he heard the sound of weeping from behind the closed door. Great, he really hoped it would go easier. He tried the door handle and surprisingly it was open.

He followed the sobbing sounds and was soon meet with the view of Yvette sitting at the kitchen table, her head in her hands, shoulders shaking. He didn’t want to startle her but how the hell was he supposed to greet her calmly when she thought he was dead. Still it was kind of moving how she’d cry for him for two days straight.

“Yvette…” he said loud enough for the girl to hear. Momentarily she raised her head and screamed, jumping out of the chair.

“Rhys?” She asked in a shaky voice, eyes wide as saucers.  “… They told us you were dead… I saw your fucking body! Shit I’m losing it, I’m finally going fucking crazy. That’s what I get when I part with both of my friends in matters of days…” She kept backing away from him, muttering to herself about going crazy.

Seeing her like this caused a pang o guilt to rush through Rhys. When deciding on the operation he never once thought about how his close ones would react, all the time focusing on what he would gain from having an Echo Eye. Ha had a lot of explaining to do, if Yvette was so shaken he didn’t even want to think how Vaughn reacted to the news of his death.

“Yvette it’s really me… I think I was in some kind of a coma… All I know is that I woke up in a fucking morgue, glad as hell that I somehow made it.” Well it was mostly true, except for the siren powers part which would actually make this whole thing believable. Lying to his friend made him feel even more shitty.

Yvette approached him slowly, tears still wet on her face. She stretched out one hand and lightly touched Rhys’ shoulder, gasping loudly as if she expected her hand to phase straight through him, like he was some kind of an apparition. After a moment of silence she basically jumped at him, hugging him so hard he could barely breath.

“Fuck Rhys, don’t you ever do this to me you stupid asshole!” she yelled relieved.

“Ok Yvette, I promise never again to wake up in a morgue after being announced deceased.” He said in a joking manner which resulted in Yvette letting him go and hitting him hard over the head. Ok he deserved that.

“You think this is funny?! I thought you were dead Rhys… what kind of a moronic doctor can’t recognize when someone’s in a coma!?” Probably the kind which has not treated a siren yet, Rhys thought to himself. Suddenly he remembered something Yvette said a moment ago which didn’t sound quite right.

“Wait, what did you mean by saying that you parted with both of your friends…” Rhys said thinking some more on her statement. Suddenly not seeing Vaughn anywhere made him extremely worried. “Where’s Vaughn?”

“Shit Rhys! Maybe he still has a chance! Since you’re alive not everything is lost yet! We’ve got to hurry!” Yvette yelled and grabbed him by the arm, leading him out of the apartment and down the corridor.

“What do you mean? Hey Yvette wait! I don’t even have my shoes on!” Rhys yelled, feet cold from walking on the metal floors.

“Rhys I don’t give a damn about your shoes, if we don’t hurry Handsome Jack will kill Vaughn!” Yvette yelled as they went into the elevator and pushed the button for the Hub of Heroism.

“What?! Why would Jack kill Vaughn?”

“Now listen because I won’t repeat myself!” she exclaimed in a raised voice just as the elevator doors closed behind her. “Have you noticed how no one’s around the base? Well that’s because there is a big ass execution today. Jack went bonkers and started reviewing the work of every department. Yesterday it was robotics and let me just say this - it wasn’t pretty. Today it’s the accounting. Since Vaughn’s team had the worst season yet, before the release of your upgrades that is, the blame for not meeting the targets will fall on his team, which basically means they’re dead.”

“What? Jack never did anything drastic like this… sure he did fire people for not meeting the targets but killing them… are you sure?” Rhys asked, it was hard to believe Jack would do something like this.

“I’m fucking positive, yesterday he killed three people from the robotic team with the lowest performance… right now Vaughn’s team is at the lowest so you’ve got to save him!”

“Shit…” Rhys could hardly wrap his mind around this new information. “Wait… wait, wait, wait… how am I to stop Jack from doing this?!”

“Because it’s your fault to begin with!” She yelled frustrated. So much for being happy for his return from the dead.

“How is any of this my fault!? If you haven’t noticed I’ve been dead for the past two days!”

“Exactly! Why do you think Jack went all ballista on the staff? You think it’s a coincidence that he started this crazy purge after you died?”

Rhys was silent at that. Was it really his fault? Would Handsome Jack react to his death so drastically? It was really hard to believe. Maybe he was angry with Rhys, he did lie to the doctors and risked his life on the smallest of chances, though he really hoped the siren powers would work. Still Jack didn’t know any of that and was probably pissed that Rhys threw his life away and with it all the possible gun upgrades he could create in the future.

“Ok… but how am I to stop him?” Rhys asked unsure of this whole plan.

“You just walk up to him and say ‘Hi Jack, guess what? I’m not dead!’” Yvette said and grabbed him by the hand again, pulling Rhys out of the elevator as they reached their destination.

“And how will that help? Unless you just want him to channel his frustration on me, because that’s what’s going to happen. Instead of killing Vaughn, he’ll settle on killing me.”

“Don’t be a moron, Jack won’t hurt you.” Yvette managed to finally pull the reluctant programmer out of the elevator.

“And how do you know that?!” Rhys asked nervously, seeing as they were almost at the Hub. He could hear Jack making one of his threatening speeches and soon saw the whole place filled with Hyperion workers. How the hell was he supposed to do this?

“Trust me Rhys he won’t” she said making her way to the stage. They came from the back of the room and were standing behind the main platform, nobody spotting them yet. “You wanna know how I know this and you don’t? It’s because, contrary to you, I’m not an oblivious fucking idiot.” She said and with the last threatening look forced Rhys to actually climb the platform on which Jack was standing. He’s gonna die. He should have never woken up, even staying at the damn morgue seemed like a better option…

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

“I give you one fucking job to do, one! Balance the fucking ledgers, but noooo. This seemed like a task too difficult for you. I mean not like you’re the accounting team…. Oh yeah wait, you are the damn accounting team!” Jack yelled frustrated. Did these idiots really think he’d just allow them to fuck up his funds. He sure as hell won’t work day and night on new ways to bring cash just for idiots like these to fuck it all up with their incompetence.

“So boys and girls, I’ll give a chance to redeem yourselves. You tell me who was actually responsible for this fuck up and no one else needs to die.” Jack reached for his gun. “You won’t tell me and soon the Hub of Heroism will be sporting new colors. How does crimson red sound like?”

Jack was about to draw his favorite revolver at a random accountant and wait for his sobbing confession when suddenly he noticed people staring somewhere to his right. What the hell? Was someone stealing his limelight? Frustrated Jack turned to the source of his audience recent bewilderment and stood rooted to the place.

“Uh… hi Jack.”

Jack just stood there staring, not a single thought entering his mind. He looked back at the audience to make sure they were actually looking at the programmer. Good, this meant he wasn’t going crazy.

“Sorry to interrupt your speech.” Rhys said tugging at his shirt, which he tended to do every time he got nervous. “I just wanted to… um let you know that I’m not dead and stuff. It seems I was in a comma.”

Handsome Jack’s mind could not process the information, instead he kept staring at the boy. Sure as hell it was Rhys, with his fidgeting, with the nervous running of his hand through his hair, lack of eye contact. This time though he had eyes similar to his heterochromic ones, a mix of piercing blue and hazel. A robotic limb replacing his left arm. He was standing barefoot, traces of blood from the operation still on his clothing.

“Sooo enough about me, whatcha doing, some yearly performance review? That’s… good and everything, but how about, this is just a thought, how about you don’t kill anyone today?” Rhys said nervously while Jack turned fully towards him and started moving in the boy’s direction in slow, deliberate steps.

“I mean of course you decide, but you know… I think that forgiveness is the true virtue of a hero, don’t you think?” Rhys laughed nervously while backing away as far as the podium went. “I mean you can always kill them next year, right?”

Handsome Jack’s fist connected with Rhys’ face. He was being generous aiming for the right side, which was left untouched by the surgery. The kid almost fell from the stage but he grabbed him by the shirt just in time, spun him around to the centre of the platform and delivered a pretty nasty blow to his stomach. Rhys yelled from pain and fell down to his knees, clutching at his stomach.

The eyes of the audience were directed towards the programmer, silent gaps filling the room. Handsome Jack was furious, he was livid, he wanted to rip the boy’s throat apart. He imagined himself doing so, he then imagined kicking the boy until he fell unconscious and waking him up again for another round of beating. Oh the things he wanted to do to the ungrateful little brat.

He reached for Rhys’ head and gripped a fistful of hair, yanking the boys head upwards, forcing him to face Jack. He bent a bit over the kneeling kid and registered the audience gasping, though he did not pay much attention to them. He was friggin’ Handsome Jack, he did not give a fuck about anyone, least of all his minion workers, who should’ve been dead by now if it wasn’t for the momentary distraction.

Still Jack wondered why, out of all the possibilities he envisioned in his mind, he opted for kissing, but he would make sure it was the most bruising kiss the kid had ever felt. Rhys gasped in shock which made his job all the easier, sliding his tongue in the open mouth. The kid tried to say something but it was muffled by the kiss.

He ravished Rhys’ mouth, movements strong and bruising, pausing the exploration of his tongue only for the briefest of moments to bite angrily at the boys lips, eliciting a strangled moan from the boy. Soon the taste of blood filled the show of submission. Jack released Rhys’ lips after a short while and stepped away from the kid, whose discomfort was written all over his face. The programmer scrambled to his feet, glancing nervously at the audience and trying to hide his evident embarrassment.

“Now where were we? Ah yes, the major fuck up of the accounting team.” Jack said bringing his attention back to the team standing at the forefront of the crowd. In his peripheral vision he saw Rhys backing away slowly, one look directed his way told the boy to stay rooted to the spot, or else.

“I want a report on my desk tomorrow morning with a detailed explanation why shit went wrong, who is to blame and how you’ll work your asses off to make it right again. But don’t think dipshits I’ll go lenient on you. Heads will roll for this. Now scram, everyone, back to their work.” Jack bellowed and everyone ran out of the Hub as fast as they could, probably fearing that the CEO may change his mind any minute.

Only a short and weirdly buffed accountant was reluctant to leave the room, sending worried glances in Rhys’ direction, but a growl from Jack caused the programmer to urge the accountant to follow the rest. When finally there was not a living soul left in the Hub he turned back to Rhys.

Jack just stared at the boy while clenching and unclenching his fists, trying to control the anger which threatened to overcome him any minute. He focused on his breathing, in his nose, out his mouth, in his nose, out his mouth. When he finally calmed down a bit, he fixed the trembling boy with an angry gaze.

“Explain.”

“I uh, well long story short.” Rhys said swallowing loudly in the middle of the sentence, a clear sign of nervousness. “I woke up in the morgue today and found out I was declared dead two days ago. The only explanation would be that I was in a coma, no other idea comes to my mind.”

“I didn’t mean for you to explain how the hell you’re standing here when you were supposed to be dead! I’ll be sure to castrate the whole medical personnel for that.” Jack said voice low and dangerous. “I want you to explain why the hell did you decide on the brilliant idea of undergoing the operation you fucking moron! Did you just want to die? Was that it?”

“Of course not!” Rhys protested though Jack found it hard to believe. “It’s just that… Jack what I am, what I managed to achieve in my life, all of this depends on the work of my hands. My talent lies in programming and designing weapon upgrades, for that I need hands that are precise and deft…. The idea of losing all that, of losing the only talent I’ve got… it terrified me. I didn’t want to be useless, I knew I had to do it… I’m sorry that I lied, but I really believed I could make it, against the odds. I mean hell if I survived an elemental bullet then I thought I have a good chance of making it. And having an Echo Eye seemed the only way to stay on top of my field.”

Son of a taint the kid was a fucking idiot. Jack had no words to describe just how frustratingly stupid he was.

“Well news flash, that arm you happen to have is the best fucking tech Hyperion has to offer. You could basically  juggle eggs with it without breaking them. The motorics of that baby rival real hand movement in every fucking aspect!” Jack yelled in annoyance.

“Yes… I see that now. I had no idea the technology was so advanced…” Rhys had the decency to blush in embarrassment, scratching at the back of his head.

“He sees that now, he fucking sees that now!” Jack said enraged while walking in circles, hands flying in the air. He stopped and looked straight at Rhys. “You know what, maybe I’ll just kill you here and be done with it, because there is definitely something feeding off your brain cells and it’s best it doesn’t spread.” Jack ran a hand down his face, he could not believe he tolerated the kid. “So apart from your brilliant idea to put your life at risk instead of just testing the movement of the robotic arm, why the hell did you take that bullet in the first place? Because the way I see it, you just want to end your life and be done with it.”

“Why would I want to die?” Rhys asked raising his brows.

“You tell me kid… maybe you just want an easy way out… to escape…”

“Escape from what?”

Jack searched the bewildered expression of the boy, but couldn’t find any trace of a lie or deception. He did not feel like sharing his theory on why he thought Rhys wanted to kill himself, but he couldn’t just let it go either. He needed to know what was the kid’s reason.

“Why then, why did you take the bullet?” Jack asked, eyes narrowing.

“Well I figured it should’ve been me Fiona was aiming at in the first place. I was the one who killed her sister and also the one who started this whole mess by allowing her access into Helios’ restricted departments. Besides…” Rhys paused for a moment, his eyes looking anywhere but at Jack, which at this moment annoyed the man greatly. “I figured my life is more expendable… not that I wanted to die or anything, but you’re the President of Hyperion, it’s so much more important for you to make it rather than me.” Rhys said honestly, without much emotion, his shoulders raising as he was explaining his logic. As if whether he lived or died was a trivial matter for the boy. Somehow it pissed Jack even further.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

“Now listen to me Rhysie and listen good.” Jack said as he made his way towards him. The fact that he used his pet name gave him hope, but he still saw how angry the man was.

“I want to make something very clear for you. I own you as in you are mine to do as I please, you do not have the right to decide whether your life is expendable. You do not have the right to put yourself in danger. Only I can make that decision. I don’t remember giving you permission to put yourself at risk and I sure as hell won’t allow you to die.” Jack said in a low voice, standing right in front of him. The man was borderline scary. Rhys had no idea what happened in the span of the few days, but from a man who joked about him losing his virginity, he turned to someone so much more… intense and so much more dangerous.

 “Do you understand Rhysie?” Jack said looking him straight in the eyes. Rhys only managed to nod, swallowing loudly. He didn’t like where this was going. He didn’t like the idea of becoming someone’s property, but Jack’s presence made him weak. The CEO was always exuding so much power, Rhys did not have it in him to protest. It was the most natural thing to do, to simply agree, signing the contract with the devil.

“Good.” Jack said and placed his hand on Rhys’ cheek. He instinctively closed his eyes, suspecting the man might hit him again, given how angry he was just a few seconds ago. To his surprise though the touch was gentle. Rhys opened his eyes and saw the man studying his robotic arm, touching it lightly here and there, raising the palm in his own hand and flexing the fingers. He then looked back at his face, the hand which he held Rhys’ cheek moved to inspect the port in his temple.

When Rhys hissed at the touch Jack retreated his probing fingers, instead holding the boy’s chin and turning his face left giving the CEO a better view. Rhys felt Jack’s lips barely skimming the surface of the port and felt shivers running down his body. He did his best to suppress any kind of noise that was about to leave his throat. Then Jack turned his head yet again, inspecting the Echo Eye, analyzing it but trying not to touch the sensitive area. When he was done inspecting the new implant he let go of Rhys’ chin and put both of his hands on the boy’s cheeks, looking at his face with eyes that, if Rhys didn’t know any better, he would say were adoring.

“A gorgeous little thing like you could never be expendable.” Jack said and kissed his forehead.

Rhys felt like he could melt at any moment. He could not understand it. A moment ago Jack hit him with brutal force, then forced him into submission in front of the whole of Helios to revel in his embarrassment, or that’s what he thought. But now, as they were standing here alone, Jack was being so gentle Rhys was fighting the urge to just burry his face in the man’s chest and lose himself in the tender touches. The care and attention Jack was giving him was just too much. Oddly the whole situation made Rhys remember a long forgotten quote that people in his hometown used to recite from time to time.

‘The devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wished for.’

Chapter Text

After their bizarre exchange in the Hub of Heroism Rhys was following Jack through Helios, unsettled by the fact that every worker they passed kept giving him curious glances. It seemed there was no escaping his ‘fame’ after what Jack did. Rhys was actually pissed at how the CEO treated him in front of everyone, at the same time though a small voice in his head kept reminding him that he might have deserved it.

In the midst of panic he decided to undergo a life-threatening operation never once thinking about how others might react. Only when he saw Yvette did Rhys realize how his death could affect others. He didn’t even want to think about Vaughn’s reaction to the whole situation. During Jack’s speech Rhys only managed to catch his shocked look when he appeared on the stage, but then urged him to follow the rest to avoid bringing Jack’s wrath on the accountant.

Handsome Jack was a different case altogether. Similarly to Yvette Jack was also extremely angry with him, which might be understandable to a point, but he could not fathom his later reaction. After laying a few punches on him Jack’s mood changed entirely – he became extremely gentle, inspecting his body and checking out the new implant. The CEO kept looking at Rhys with adoring eyes, which was strange to say the least.

Knowing Handsome Jack for a while now, Rhys noticed that there was a very thin line between being gentle and violent, though until now Jack had never hurt him physically. It was amazing how the man could change moods so easily, going from being furious to being kind and caring in a matter of seconds. Nevertheless the frequent mood swings was something Rhys got used to, what made him worry though was what followed.

Currently Jack’s expression was blank, not showing any kind of emotion. It was as if, after seeing Rhys and venting for a while, releasing the pent-up anger, there was nothing left. As Rhys kept following the man, Jack had not uttered a single word, his face serious, no presence of the mischievousness he was known for, no signs of anger or irritation as well, his face completely blank.

This deeply unsettled Rhys, who kept thinking about what was to come. Would Jack give him some kind of lesson for disobeying him? Would he hurt him? Would he try to think of some sick way to control him? Rhys shuddered at the very thought. He had no idea what to expect. This Jack, this emotionless Jack, was something new to him.

When the elevator dinged and the door opened Rhys entered Jack’s apartment and saw the man go for one of his closets. Rhys was left standing in the middle of the spacious room, stepping from one foot to the other, not sure of what to do with himself. His feet were still bare and only now he started paying attention to the blood still present on his clothes. With each passing minute the programmer felt more and more uncomfortable.

As he was standing there all sorts of unsettling scenarios played in Rhys’ head. Maybe the man would disciple him in some weird way… Rhys slowly felt dread rise in his body as he kept imagining what Jack would do to him and what physical pain it would involve. The programmer wasn’t sure he could stand any of it.

Rhys nearly jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He yelped loudly and turned around abruptly, eyeing the man with suspicion, body tense.

“Easy there tiger.” Jack said in a calm and tired tone and handed him two pieces of clothing. Rhys took them without a word but looked questioningly at the man. “You can’t walk around covered in blood all the time.”

“Ok, thanks… But I could go to my apartment real quick for a change of…”

“No.” Jack interrupted abruptly. “You’re not going anywhere. Take a bath and change into these.” Jack said in a commanding voice and went to fetch his laptop. There was something strange about the man, something was off but Rhys couldn’t exactly tell what it was.

With the clean clothes in hand he went to the bathroom, glad for the distraction. Rhys found it hard to interact with the man in this state, so he preferred to keep his distance for the time being. The bathroom was as amazing as the rest of the penthouse, it was monochromatic, adorned with grey and black tiles, only the bathtub remained white, creating a nice contrast. Overall the room had a very modern look.

He took his shirt off and briefly wondered whether it was ok to take a bath given that one of his limbs was now made of metal. He should keep it above water, just to be safe. Rhys went up to the huge, triangular bathtub which took up most of the space. He set the water running and started peeling off the rest of his clothing.

Only when the adrenaline finally died down did he realize how uncomfortable he was feeling. Rhys’ clothes were stiff from the dried up blood, he had bruises around his right shoulder and left eye, reminders of how painful the procedures actually was. He felt sore all over his body and now, thanks to Jack, he had an additional bruise on his right cheekbone and stomach.

He threw all of his clothing on a pile in the corner of the room and only now noticed how some of the tiles there were cracked and had a few dents in them, as if someone hit them with brutal force. Rhys swallowed loudly and turned around, not willing to dwell on that. He stepped in the bathtub and added some soaps that were standing on the inner wall shelf next to it.

When finally the tub filled with water and he closed the tap, Rhys felt his body relaxing for the first time since the day when the bullet entered his arm. His happiness was short lived though, as soon he heard the bathroom door opening. Rhys cursed under his breath and lowered himself into the water as much as he could, only propping his right arm on the edge of the tub. Luckily thanks to the added soap nothing could be seen through the surface of the water which was covered in a thick layer of bubbles.

Jack made his way to him and sat cross-legged on the floor next to the tub, propping his arms on the side. For a moment he just looked at Rhys who was already on edge with the silent treatment. The programmer looked intently to the place on the surface of the water where it met with his knees. He refused to look at the man afraid of what might happen.

“You don’t have to worry about the arm, this model is completely waterproof.” Jack said and Rhys was thankful for that information. He put his robotic arm under the water and sank even deeper so that only his head and shoulders were sticking out of the warm bath.

Suddenly he realized that he was sitting in Handsome Jack’s bathtub. He had no idea why he hadn’t thought about this little tidbit of information before. Now, however, as he realized where he was, his mind started wandering to the images of Jack using the very same tub everyday. His cheeks felt hot and the fact that Jack kept sitting and silently looking at him was unnerving.

Minutes ticked by in utter silence, when finally Rhys decided he couldn’t stand it any longer. He looked directly at the man and a funny sight met his eyes. The CEO was fighting with himself not to fall asleep, his head was dropping to the side, eyelids heavy. Every time Jack closed his eyes, he would shake his head to wakefulness before it fell to the side, looking like a stubborn child trying to stay awake.

“Jack, if you’re tired then go to sleep.” Rhys admonished. The sound of his voice bringing the man out of his trance.

“Wha….? Um no no, I still need to finish some stuff.” Jack said yawning and rubbing at his eyes. He then focused his attention back on Rhys. “You still have some blood on you.” He said pointing to Rhys’ face.

“I know, it just hurts so much when I touch the area around the port.”

“Here let me.” Jack said and moved behind Rhys’ head.

“No, no, thank you Jack but I don’t want to mess with it right now.” Rhys said moving to the middle of the tub, away from the broad hands that were reaching out for his face. If Rhys couldn’t be delicate enough then Jack sure as hell wouldn’t. Those hands were build to crush things, not to be gentle.

“Relax kitten, you won’t feel a thing.” Jack promised and Rhys wanted to laugh at those words, considering that an hour ago those same hands hit him hard as hell.

“Put your head under the water for a minute.” Jack instructed and Rhys faltered in his movement, imagining how easy it would be for the CEO to just hold him there, those strong hands tightening around his throat. Nonetheless he decides to comply. Rhys emerged from under the warm water after a brief moment and Jack instructed him to lay his head on the edge of the tub.

Rhys did as he was told and saw Jack squeezing a bit of soap from a nearby bottle and then moving his hand toward his face. He shut his eyes and cringed, expecting a sharp pain the moment those muscular hands would touch his face, instead he only felt light, feather like touches. Jack started with his chin, his hands slowly moving to the sides of his face. The CEO put extra care when he worked on the port area. It still hurt a bit but not as much as Rhys thought it would.

Rhys opened his eyes and studied the man’s face up close. Jack’s eyes seemed tired and he could only assume there were bags under his eyes, hidden beneath the mask which always gave off the same, well kept look. He briefly wondered whether seeing the man without the mask would reveal a ‘different’ Jack.  Suddenly the boy cringed as the man moved to the bruised cheek. Jack stopped his movement monetarily and looked at Rhys, a strange expression on his face.

“Rhys… kitten, I’m sorry I had to do this.” Jack said sounding apologetic.

“You didn’t have to do anything.” Rhys countered. He might be afraid of the man, but he sure as hell won’t allow himself to be his punching bag. For a moment he saw anger flash in those heterochromatic eyes, but it was gone in a matter of seconds.

“I was… so furious with you cupcake for acting like an idiot.” Jack explained and resumed cleaning Rhys’ face. “Don’t you ever dare to do it again.”

“You mean go into surgery, die and wake up at the morgue. Sure, I promise.” Rhys said trying to lift up the heavy atmosphere but his words seemed to have an opposite effect on the man.

“I’m fucking serious!” Jack said, voice stern, which caused Rhys to flinch slightly. “Also don’t think I’m letting this go, I’ll want a report from the medical personnel as to why they cannot tell a living person from a fucking dead one. If they cannot give me any valid reason then…”

“Can’t you just let it go?” Rhys said worried that if the medics start going over everything, testing his blood samples or whatever, they may somehow find out about him being a siren. He had no idea whether his DNA was normal or somehow altered due to his powers, but if it was then he really didn’t want the doctors to look into it any further.

“Let it go? Let it go!? Given how their incompetence caused me…” Jack said in a raised voice but stopped himself soon after.

“Jack, I just want this whole thing to be over, if I ever see another doctor again it will be too soon.” Rhys said in a pleading voice which caused the CEO’s mood to change. He saw the man relaxing slowly, his earlier anger forgotten.

“Oh you don’t need to worry, you won’t have to deal with them ever again.” Jack said in a low voice, a faraway look on his face. After a  minute he looked back at Rhys, brows knitted. “Promise me you won’t pull anything like this again.” Jack demanded, voice stern.

“Only if you promise not to hurt me again.” Rhys countered. Two can play this game.

“You’re a cheeky little shit, you know that.” Jack said with a hint of a smile, the first one Rhys has seen on the man’s face, though he still looked drained.

When Jack finished cleaning his face, he reached for the shampoo and started slowly massaging his head, causing a wave of pleasure to course though Rhys’ body. He heard people saying that having your hair washed by someone was a pleasant sensation, but he never had the chance to experience it. To think that he’d receive such treatment from the CEO of Hyperion was hard to imagine. It had surprised Rhys greatly just how gentle the man could be. He weaved his fingers through Rhys hair causing the boy to shudder lightly. The sensation was wonderful.

Was this a way of apologizing? It seemed that Jack felt genuinely sorry about hurting him, and was taking extra measure to ensure that he was well cared for. Well it definitely worked, because Rhys felt really good, in fact he felt so good that it was harder and harder to contain the moans that threatened to escape his lips. To think that such a simple notion could feel so good.

Suddenly the sound of Jack’s Echo Comm buzzing from the other room interrupted the pleasant silence. Jack heaved a sigh, washed his hands from the remaining foam and went to the other room instructing Rhys to finish the bath otherwise he’ll look like a raisin. Rhys whined at the loss of the touch but would not utter any protests aloud. It would simply be too embarrassing.

He quickly finished his bath and went out of the tub, noticing he got a bit hard. Good thing Jack wasn’t there, otherwise he wouldn’t hear the end of it. He looked at the odd clothing he got from Jack. Aside from a pair of briefs, there was a pair of grey sweatpants and a white shirt, just like the one Jack wears under his vest. He always thought it looked rather funny with how long it was, but it suited the man, he wasn’t so sure it would look good on him though.

The size was obviously smaller because it fitted him quite well. No way would Jack manage to put that on with his broad shoulders, which made Rhys think whether this was a shirt he used to wear when he was younger, meaning that at some point Jack was as lean and scrawny as him. That was an entertaining thought. He put on the clothes and inspected himself in a mirror. He actually looked good, with the sleeves of the white shirt reaching his elbows. The sweatpants were a bit short, stopping right before his ankles, but overall he looked quite good.

He came out of the bathroom and saw Jack speaking with someone on the communicator. Rhys decided prepare something to eat as he was hungry as hell and made his way for the kitchen, rummaging through the cabinets in order to find something edible. There wasn’t much, but he could fix some dish made out of rice and a couple of other ingredients he found. There weren’t many utensils, one pot, one pan and basically nothing else, but he’ll make due.

He started preparing the quick dish and laughed as he remember when he first came to the apartment. He was so stressed he didn’t even want to go near the fridge for a can of soda and now he was freely moving around the kitchen, preparing something to eat. As he was halfway done with the meal, he heard Jack walking up to him while still talking on the communicator. He pressed his body to Rhys from behind, encircling one arm around his waist.

Rhys tried not to tense at the movement, though it still felt awkward to be this close to the man. He resumed stirring the contents of the pan while Jack kept talking to someone, while still hugging him. It was as if the CEO had the need to stay in the same space as him. Maybe it was separation anxiety? Rhys read about the symptoms a while back, but he found it hard to believe Jack would react so badly to his loss. Yes he might have been angry with him, but anxiety was taking it a bit far.

When Rhys finished preparing the meal and wanted to try whether it was good, Jack went on mute with his call and kept chanting “lemme try, lemme try” while opening his mouth. Rhys only rolled his eyes, noting that the man was slowly going back to his normal state – that of an overgrown child. He put the spoon to Jack’s mouth and saw the man munching happily. He resumed the call and gave Rhys a thumbs up in a gesture of approval before moving to the couch.

Rhys didn’t really trust Jack’s taste buds, after eating what he did for most of his life, the man would probably be content with anything he made, which didn’t mean it actually tasted good. He put a portion of the food on a plate and set it on the table in front of the man, who was in the middle of discussing some trade agreement. He wanted to eat at the kitchen counter, but Jack stopped him by gripping his elbow. Rhys turned to the man with a questioning look and soon felt his body being yanked forcefully. Losing his balance he fell, rather forcefully, on the man’s lap. Seeing the smug look on Jack’s face made him realize it was the man’s intention all along.

The CEO placed the Echo Comm on the table, put one arm around Rhys and resumed eating with the other. Okay maybe separation anxiety was not a bad diagnosis… As he watched the man eat his own stomach began to rumble, he was actually pretty hungry, all in all he hasn’t eaten for two whole days. Noticing this Jack stopped his fork mid-air and, instead of putting it to his lips, moved it towards Rhys. The programmer looked bewildered as the man kept pushing the offending utensil to his lips , all the time talking with some guy over the communicator.

Sighing in defeat Rhys opened his mouth and chewed on the food. It was surprisingly good, considering how little he had to work with. Jack smiled happily and altered his eating habit, bringing the fork to Rhys’ mouth every other turn. It made him feel ridiculous, being fed by the man. Rhys felt a bit irritated, he didn’t mind Jack wanting physical contact, it was actually rather endearing, but they were grown man for crying out loud. What was he supposed to do? Glue himself to the CEO for the next couple of days until Jack feels like he’s finally satisfied?

As they finished eating, Rhys relaxed a bit and made himself comfortable in the man’s lap. He tried to stand up a couple of times but Jack clearly had a different opinion on that. He held the boy in place with a firm grip. Finally Rhys decide it was no use dealing with the man when he was in such a mood, so he leaned into Jack a bit, feeling awkward while doing so. Jack took this as a sign of capitulation and loosened his grip, waving his fingers through Rhys’ hair.

Maybe the man wasn’t as oblivious as Rhys thought and he did notice how much he liked it when Jack washed his hair. Rhys felt so good that he actually allowed himself to snuggle into the man. Not long after his eyelids started to drop, his head following soon after. He placed it in the crook of Jack’s neck, dozing off while listening to the man talking, his chest vibrating lightly with each spoken word. It made Rhys feel oddly safe, which was disturbing considering how the CEO had treated him not so long ago.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

When Jack woke up he expected to find the weight of Rhys’ body to still be there and it came as a surprise when he did not see the boy anywhere. He had talked with the Atlas representative for the better part of an hour, while Rhys had just fallen asleep on his lap. When he finally finished the call he didn’t have it in him to wake the boy, so instead he moved him slightly to lay his upper body on his chest and circled his waist with his hands. He must have fallen asleep soon after, the sleepless nights taking a toll on him. The fact that he was able to sleep in Rhys’ presence becoming less and less surprising for him.

The lack of the familiar body heat unsettled him. He looked around the apartment but Rhys was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t possible for the boy to leave his apartment without him noticing, he was such a light sleeper he’d wake up at the slightest of sounds. There was just no way he would not notice the boy extracting himself from his arms.

Familiar panic settled in his chest. Was it all a dream? One of the tricks his mind played on him when his emotions got the better of him? Like the time he had dreamt about talking with Angel only to wake up to the reality, of which his daughter was no longer a part of.

He stood up abruptly ignoring the pain in his body caused by sleeping in such an uncomfortable position. He quickly went through the things that happened and remembered they had eaten something. There was no sign of the plate on the coffee table. He hastily strode to the kitchen area and it was as if nothing has been used there. He felt his stomach dropping, a nauseating feeling that had left him just recently coming back with full force.

He ran to the bathroom and looked around for Rhys’ clothing. They were nowhere to be seen. “No, no, no, no…” Jack began chanting in an unstable voice, hands tugging at his hair. This was not happening. Not again, not like this. He stormed out of the bathroom looking around the spacious room, no traces of the boy. He could’ve sworn he touched the boy, his smell lingering in the air.

Jack sat on the floor at the foot of his bed, both hands rubbing at his tired face. “No, no, no… not again, not again…” he kept muttering to himself, his body aching, eyes hollow, voice strained. Why would he torture himself like this? Wasn’t once more than enough, why keep reliving this? “Why do you keep tormenting me this way?!” Jack yelled and hit himself on the head, as if he could punish his brain for conjuring things he did not wish to see.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

When Rhys came back to Handsome Jack’s apartment an unsettling view met his eyes. He saw the man sitting on the floor, hands in his hair, a broken chatter of accusatory words directed at no one in particular.

Rhys woke up an hour ago and extracted himself from the man’s embrace. Surprisingly the CEO was fast asleep and hadn’t even noticed he was gone. He first busied himself with cleaning the kitchen, but as minutes ticked by and the man was still sleeping Rhys decided to take his old clothes to his apartment and put them in the washing machine. Jack had to be deadly tired to sleep through all of it.

On his way back he also stopped at Vaughn’s place to make sure his friend was ok. The visit took more time than he expected since Vaughn wanted to hear about what happened to him in full detail. The accountant was not satisfied with his answer and wanted to talk about the whole situation between him and Handsome Jack, but Rhys could not wait this long. He promised his friend a proper talk soon and made his way back to Jack’s apartment.

He figured that the man would probably call him via the Echo Comm if he woke up, but as he received no message Rhys assumed Jack was still sleeping. Nevertheless considering Jack’s odd mood as well as everything that happened lately, he felt the need to go back sooner rather than later. Seeing the man in his current state only proved it was the right choice.

He quickly went up to the crouching man and knelt before him, grabbing at the hands which were painfully twisted in the man’s hair. Jack looked up abruptly, startled by the touch. His face morphed from pain to bewilderment to relief so quickly Rhys had no idea what happened. Jack started touching him frantically over his face and body, as if to make sure he wasn’t some kind of apparition.

“Jack, what happened?!”

“I thought…” Jack said releasing a shaky breath, while running a hand though his hair. “Damn it Rhys, don’t do this again!” Jack said, his earlier panic morphing into frustration.

“Do what?”

“Sneak out! For now you’re not leaving my sight, understood?!” Jack said in a stern voice, looking at Rhys with angry eyes, his brows knitted.

The CEO composed himself rather quickly, only mild irritation evident on his face, however, this time it was Rhys who was in shock. He could not really believe it, he saw it, he heard it, but his mind could not process it. Yvette had told him that the whole purge Jack did was because of Rhys’ death, but he found it hard to believe. He also wasn’t sure Jack just wouldn’t kill him the moment he stepped on to that stage to persuade him not to end the lives of the accountant team.

He was angry with Jack. With how he reacted, how he punched him, how he later acted like a child clinging to him all the time, but seeing this, it finally made Rhys realize something. His death has taken a toll on the man, so much that the all powerful CEO went into a state of panic when he wasn’t around. All this time Rhys had refused to acknowledge that Jack, who was the leader of the most powerful corporation, who acted like a spoiled child whenever denied something, the man who could also be deadly dangerous if someone crossed him, had actual emotions and that he could also be hurt.

It was easier not to acknowledge it, to dehumanize the man, to disregard this , whatever it was, between them. He didn’t want to like the man, he didn’t want to feel sympathetic towards him and most of all he didn’t want to care for him, because Rhys knew it would end badly. Still, looking at him now, Rhys couldn’t help the tightening of his throat, thinking about how unjust his judgment of Jack has been.

He found the courage in himself to move forward and wrap his arms around the man’s neck. It was the first time Rhys had touched Jack out of his own volition and he noticed how surprised the man was, though he didn’t say anything.

“I’m sorry.” Rhys muttered, still holding the CEO. He heard the man sigh and wrap his strong arms around his back.

“Just don’t leave all of a sudden.”

Jack had clearly misunderstood what his apology meant but it was ok, so long as he felt better. After a moment Rhys backed away though the hands holding him were not so willing to part with the sudden source of comfort. He soon felt a wet sensation at the crook of his neck and saw the man kissing and licking at the spot. Ok Rhys did not mean for the hug to lead to this. Suddenly he felt two strong arms grabbing him under his shoulders and legs and lifting him from the floor.

Rhys let out a startled yelp as he was tossed on the king size bed and saw Jack taking his clothes off. Ok this escalated quickly.

“Um Jack… if you’re tired and all…” Rhys began meekly, he was so not good at the sex thing.

“Rhysie, I thought we were done with the shyness?” The man said as soon he was making his way on the bed in all his naked glory.

“I’m not shy.” Rhys protested looking everywhere but at the man.

“And is that why you suddenly find my ceiling so fascinating?” Jack chuckled, but soon his demeanor changed and he continued in a more serious tone. “Rhysie, baby, although I find it weirdly alluring how you usually twist into an emotional pretzel whenever sex is involved, this time I really need you to be a bit more ‘direct’ in your approach.”

Rhys looked at him and saw the raw need in the eyes. Of course both him and Jack knew that they’d end up having sex whether Rhys protested or not. Not that he did not enjoy himself, he did, he did so much it scared him at times and he didn’t want to get used to this feeling. But, looking at Jack, Rhys knew that he didn’t want to hear any protest. The man needed to feel him and for Rhys to accept him. He was desperate for it.

Rhys willed his heart to stop racing as he started unbuttoning his own shirt. He still kept looking anywhere but at the man, as he removed his shirt and sweatpants, only the black briefs remaining. He made himself look at Jack whose eyes roamed every inch of his body. Rhys felt uncomfortable every time the man did so and he tried to hide himself as much as he could.

He was also very self-conscious of his body which didn’t look the same anymore. He now had a robotic arm and an eye implant and although Jack did say he looked gorgeous, it still made him wonder whether it was true. Maybe his hand was off-putting? The more he thought about it the more he tried to hide it, positioning his body in a way that would cover his artificial limb.

He saw Jack crawling closer to him and taking a hold of the arm, probably noticing Rhys awkward body language. He took the arm and started laying kisses on the metallic fingers, all the time looking Rhys straight in the eyes. Rhys felt that warm feeling in his chest grow as he looked at Jack, who, deemed as a cold-hearted killer, could respond so beautifully to his insecurities.

Jack kissed all the way up his arm and began licking at all the bruising on his shoulders and then at his temple. He was extremely delicate and Rhys just allowed his ministrations, feeling a numbing pleasure course through his body with every statement of reassurance those lips made on his skin. When he finally felt them on his lips, he responded easily, not like the times before. The kiss was long and hot and also a bit desperate. All the while Rhys kept moaning shamelessly as Jack kissed and nibbled at his mouth.

When Jack’s lips parted his, Rhys was already a mess and it was only from kissing the man. He felt Jack’s hand pushing at his chest, urging him to lie down. Rhys did as instructed and felt the man licking his way down his chest, while his hands played with his nipples, tucking and squeezing, making Rhys writhe on the bed. When he felt those lips reach his member he was already hard.

Jack lifted himself on his hands and looked at Rhys appreciatively, again causing the boy to turn his head to the side.

“Rhysie, I think you don’t realize just how breathtaking you are.” Jack said and chuckled lightly as the boy stubbornly refused to look at him. Jack rummaged for something in the night table and was soon back at his previous position, his fingers coated with lube. He started licking at Rhys member while his fingers played at the boys entrance. He’d tease Rhys by inserting his fingers slightly only to pull them out again, all the time playing with his hardening member.

“Naaaahahh Jack, please.” Rhys couldn’t stop himself from pleading, his body craving for the man, back arching, fingers digging into the expensive sheets.

“Tell me, what do you want Rhysie.” Jack said as he licked his member from its base all the way to the tip, gliding and swirling his tongue, while pushing his fingers deeper and deeper. Rhys didn’t want to give in easily but as the man rubbed at a spot which sent electricity throughout his body, he couldn’t help himself, any form of dignity forgotten in favor of succumbing to the pleasure.

“I want….you. I want you Jaacaknng” Rhys moaned as Jack finally removed his fingers and Rhys felt the man positioning his legs higher, as he placed the tip of his equally hard member at Rhys entrance. He pushed with some force and Rhys noticed how this time it was a lot less painful, maybe because he was not as tensed anymore, ready and waiting for the man to take him.

As Jack buried himself deep in Rhys, the boy began to moan, wrapping his legs tightly around the man’s back. They began moving in a rhythmic motion, both making sounds of pleasure. For the first time Rhys looked straight at Jack and found his gaze almost animalistic – hungry, possessive, territorial. At the moment Rhys wanted nothing else but to be possessed by the man.

They kept the rhythmic motion a while longer and went over the edge together, Rhys screaming Jack’s name, Jack biting at his collarbone, renewing the mark he had done when they first lay together. When they were done Jack had made no attempt to let the boy go. He rolled the programmer on his chest, so that now their positions were reversed and Rhys was lying on top of Jack, breathing heavily, a content smile on his face. Not long after they both fell asleep, Jack having the most peaceful dream in years, void of nightmares and voices that haunted him.

Chapter Text

Rhys woke up and felt a pleasant warmth surrounding him. He snuggled into it, wishing for the sleep to continue, sadly it was hard to fall asleep once the brain goes into that moment of consciousness… especially when it registers that something was off and something was most definitely off. He opened his eyes and saw he was not in his apartment. Actually he was already able to identify that by the smell alone which overpowered his senses - a heavy scent of gunpowder and sun. Jack.

Without a doubt he was still in Jack’s apartment, what’s more the man in question was firmly pressed to his body, effectively spooning the boy. Rhys swallowed loudly willing his body to relax. Judging by the even breathing Jack was still fast asleep, which was surprising considering that it was already around noon.

Rhys decided that simply sleeping with the man was even weirder than having sex with him. In case of the latter the man was simply being his needy, controlling self, wanting to own Rhys and make him his. Although it wasn’t very reassuring at least it was something that Rhys came to understand and accept in a way. The other Jack however, the one that liked to sleep in and snuggle, that was foreign territory.

Rhys slowly turned on his back trying to extract himself from the man’s grip. Alas it was to no avail. Jack tightened his hold around the programmer’s waist and added a leg which he draped over the boy effectively immobilizing him. Since he couldn’t move anyway, Rhys decided to at least turn his face and study Jack’s features, taking advantage of the fact that the CEO was unaware of it. The man seemed at ease which was surprising as Rhys knew that due to his paranoia he had problems with sleeping. For a moment Rhys wondered whether he ever even slept with anyone like this. Was he first?

Going back to yesterday’s events Rhys had to face the cold truth - on some level, on some weird and inexplicable level, Jack actually cared about him. He was forced to acknowledge the fact that the man was capable of such genuine emotions and although it was pleasant in a way, a part of Rhys detested the idea. He felt great thinking that Jack cared about him and hated it at the same time, he felt moved seeing how strongly Jack reacted to the idea of his death, yet his stomach twisted unpleasantly at the same time. It was like with every pleasant feeling Jack evoked there was a dark, foreboding feeling that followed.

If it was anyone else that showered him with this much attention Rhys would be ecstatic, but it was Jack and that changed everything. Rhys was not naïve, he knew he could not hope to have any normal relationship with the man. Even though he knew the Jack obviously cared for him there was no way a relationship between them would ever work out. For all Rhys knew the man might be obsessed about him at one moment and have sex with some else the next. He could say he cared for him but would make a public display of owning him like he was a mere object.

Being with Handsome Jack was out of the question and Rhys knew it, but he also couldn’t help to take joy in these peaceful moments they shared. However he would not let that feeling progress any further, he would never, under any circumstance, allow himself to fall for the man because he knew that would destroy him. That is why, even though he adored the gentle side of the CEO, he hated it equally as much, because it made the task of disliking Jack so much harder.

He could do it though, he could stay emotionally unattached through all of this. All in all it was just a matter of time before Jack focused his obsession on someone or something else. He’d get bored soon enough, but for the time being Rhys would play along, besides it’s not like he had any other choice. He decide to treat this whole thing as an ‘interesting adventure’… and why not enjoy himself while it lasted?

“What are you thinking so intensely about this early in the morning cupcake?” Jack asked which startled Rhys so much he would’ve jumped if it wasn’t for the iron grip Jack had on him. “You don’t want that pretty face of yours to be all wrinkled.” He said tapping his index finger at the crease between Rhys’ knotted eyebrows.

“You startled me.” Rhys said pouting and turned his back to the man. Well it definitely seemed that Jack was back to normal.

“Aww princess don’t get your panties in a twist.” Jack said with a mischievous smirk. “Oh right you’d have to how those in the first place.” He said squeezing Rhys’ bum, causing the boy to yelp in surprise. To hide his embarrassment and let loose of the irritation Rhys grabbed a pillow and hit the man square in the face.

“Oh no you didn’t!” Jack yelled feigning anger and took hold of Rhys’ waist tossing the boy to the other side of the bed. He quickly crawled on top of the shocked programmer and smiled triumphantly, teeth and all. “I admire your bravery kitten but let’s face it, you defeating me is close to a claptrap tackling stairs - impossible. I’ll give you cuteness points though.”

Rhys didn’t want to go out without a fight. Jack was currently holding him by his wrists so he decided to take advantage of that. He quickly pulled his mechanical arm to the side, which was a lot stronger than his flesh one, causing Jack to lose his balance and land face first in a pillow.

“You should not underestimate me.” Rhys said proud of his little accomplishment.

“Well now I’m afraid of all the other deathly tactics you may use on me.” Jack said his voice muffled by the pillow. He propped himself on his elbows and looked at Rhys with a face-splitting grin. “What comes next I wonder? Vengeful eye staring contest? The pout of death? Oh I know, you’ll moan so much during sex that my ears will actually start to bleed and I’ll end up having a hemorrhage. It’s gonna be all like ‘Oh Jaaaaaaaaack’” The CEO said raising his voice incredibly high while Rhys tried to smoother him with a pillow.

“I never considered myself to be a masochist but oddly enough I can’t wait to be tortured by you Rhysie.” Jack cackled and took hold of Rhys and rolled them around yet again, so they ended up in their original position, Jack spooning the boy from behind. Rhys kept trashing, all the time blushing like crazy.

“Easy there tiger, I don’t want you to hurt yourself before you get the chance to kill me.” Jack chuckled and nuzzled his nose in the boy’s neck, effectively silencing the programmer.

Rhys wondered where was the gentle Jack from the day before. Instead he had to deal with the overgrown child version again. This was absolutely embarrassing  though the feeling of Jack playing with the back of his neck did send a pleasant shiver down his spine. The CEO placed a couple of kisses on his neck and the nuzzled the hair, ostentatiously breathing in Rhys’ scent, causing the boy’s hair to stand on end.

“How the hell is your hair so soft kitten.” Jack murmured as he continued his ministrations.

They laid like that for a while, neither speaking a word, Jack only humming contently as he kept playing with the boys hair and kissing the back of his neck. Rhys relaxed and decided not to fight the pleasant feeling. All in all his idea was to enjoy himself and this definitely felt good.

Feeling the strong chest behind him raise and fall, the beating of the man’s heart thrumming rhythmically at his back, Rhys felt safe and relaxed. He slowly began to drift away, letting himself enjoy the feeling of warmth that surrounded him.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack was feeling content. He had the best and most peaceful sleep he ever remembered having. Oddly enough, contrary to what he thought, sleeping with someone proved to be quite gratifying. It was nice to wake up to Rhys sleeping next to him and being able to tease the boy, who was obviously embarrassed about their closeness. He wondered whether Rhys would ever get used to nudity or if he would always squirm and shy away. The kid was a complete dork, but oddly enough Jack liked that about him, maybe because it reminded him of himself back in the days when he still lived on Pandora. It was a miracle he survived on the planet, but he wasn’t about to share that knowledge with anyone else and ruin his image.

Coming back to Rhys though, there was one thing that irritated him beyond measure and the more time they spent together the more he focused on it - Rhys never initiated anything. It was always Jack kissing him, hugging him, basically doing everything. Jack liked control and he actually enjoyed how the boy gave him complete reign over his body, but… considering how Rhys never once touched him in this way somehow made him feel like the programmer didn’t even want for all of this to happen, which of course couldn’t be the case. He was Handsome fucking Jack, everyone wanted him.

“Sooooo Rhysie, mind telling me why, so far, you failed to touch me or otherwise express your fondness over my wonderful person?” Jack asked in his typical joking manner, but truth to be told he was quite serious about the matter. It really struck a nerve.

“What… what do you mean? I’m touching you plenty, too much actually.” Rhys said trying to create distance between them, as if only now realizing they were lying there naked.

“Nah ah ah. You stay right where you are baby cakes.” Jack admonished him only tightening the grip. “See that’s what I’m talking about, always shying away. I know you’re timid and all princess, but you could sometimes, I dunno, show some kindness of heart?” Jack said in a light tone, but the kid refused to respond in any way.

He was Handsome Jack dammit, he won’t beg for someone’s affection. The whole thing really got on his nerves, he shouldn’t need to tell Rhys to fucking kiss him or hug him, that should be natural. Everyone wanted a piece of him, even Jack wanted a piece of Jack! He was so damn good looking that every time he spoke with his body double he could not concentrate, the voice was just too damn sexy. But nooo the kid thinks he’s so much better. Fine so be it.

Jack let go of the programmer and went to take a quick shower, still angry at Rhys’ refusal. Of course he could force him into obedience or intimidate the kid, he could do all that and more… but there was no satisfaction in that. He wanted for Rhys to yearn for him, as every sane person would. This was just not enough.

He stormed out of the shower and started putting on some clothes. He had work to do and he already allowed himself to spend half of the day in bed. And for what! Not even a kiss.

“So you’re going to your office?” Rhys asked sitting on the bed. The kid wasn’t stupid and had to notice his sudden mood change. After a moment of silence he continued.

“Well I guess I’ll go back to my apartment.”

“Out of the question.” Jack deadpanned.

“What? Why?” Rhys asked, the tone of his voice rising slightly.

“You are still recuperating, look at your face, all bruised and shit, I won’t have you walking around Helios where you can faint at any moment.”

“I’m feeling fine, besides you can’t have me caged in here.” Rhys protested.

“I can and I will if I deem it necessary.” Rhys was slowly getting on his nerves.

“But I have work to do, I can’t stay cooped up in here!”

“Rhys!” Jack hollered, bending slightly to be at eye level with the boy. “It’s two or three days tops, just to let your body heal.” He was so fucking unreasonable and stubborn, all Jack wanted was to make sure he was safe, that ungrateful little brat.

“Well maybe it would’ve taken less time if I didn’t have those bruises on my face and stomach!” Rhys countered in anger, he’s face soon changing, as if realizing what he had just blurted out. It was a low blow, but one Jack knew he deserved. Still he did apologize yesterday and he did promise he’d never do that again, what more can he fucking do?

“Listen Jack I’m… I’m sorry I know you already apologized, I didn’t mean to bring that up. Just… don’t force me to stay put, don’t hold me here like some bird in a cage.” Is that how he felt? Like Jack was forcing him to stay here? Was it really so damn awful to stay at his place, for what, two fucking days?

“Fine, have it your way. Do whatever you want… but you’ll have a security officer trailing you and there is no negotiating this.” Jack spat and stormed to the elevator, not bothering to look at Rhys as he did so.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

Rhys came out of Jack’s apartment in a hurried state, his mind replying the argument he had with Jack. Obviously the man was angry at him but Rhys wasn’t exactly sure why. With all the teasing it was hard to see when the man was being serious about something. Basically Jack accused him of not initiating any contact between them, but how could he? He sucked at sex and even when they were close he still kept being self-conscious and shy.

Perhaps if it was someone else in question Rhys wouldn’t act this way, but Jack was just so intimidating and self-assured it made Rhys pale in comparison. How was he supposed to muster the courage and initiate anything remotely sexual with Jack when he barely had it in him to keep the man’s gaze when they were doing it. Damn he was being such a loser, wasn’t he?

With all his internal musings Rhys didn’t realize someone was heading his way until he collided with them quite forcefully, causing Rhys to lose his balance and fall on his ass.

“Watch where you’re going robo-boy.” The man said with annoyance while rubbing at his forehead. Rhys recognized him, he was the same guy that helped to transfer him to the hospital ward after he was shot. What was his name again?

“Ugh sorry, I was distracted…” Rhys mumbled an apology while standing up, dusting his clothes a bit. “What was your name again?”

“Ouch… I basically saved your life kid, waited outside your goddamn hospital room during the entire procedure and you what, don’t even remember my name? Not cool.”

“Well excuse me for not remembering much while suffering from immense pain and then, oh right, ‘sort of dying’ and being transported to the morgue.” Rhys said annoyed by the man’s accusations, he was only trying to be polite, not like he needed his name or anything.

“You wouldn’t have ‘sort of died’ if you weren’t an idiot, but noooo you needed to have a cool shiny eye.” The man argued, crossing his arms over his chest. “Don’t even get me started at how pissed Jack was, it’s a miracle I’m still alive really.”

“Well congratulations. Now I’ll be on my way.” Rhys said irritated, not wanting to spend a minute longer in the presence of the obnoxious man. “Also, for your information, this ‘shiny eye’ is the most advanced technology available at Hyperion, so hell yeah it was worth it.”

“Omg you’re worse than a woman, no wonder Jack bangs you, I bet you’re even louder when…”

“Excuse me?!” Rhys turned on his heel, face red and fuming. The audacity of this man! How the hell did he dare to say such things to him and in public no less! Rhys quickly did a double check of his surroundings to make sure no one heard them.

“Ok listen robo-boy.” The man said raising his hands in defeat, a playful smirk adorning his face. “Let’s have a fresh start shall we? Name’s August, you better get used to me as I’ve been assigned to babysit your ass for the next couple of days.”

Great that was just what he needed, a smart-ass Hyperion soldier following his every move. Jack did mention that he’ll have someone make sure he’s safe, but Rhys was hoping Jack would not follow on his word. It seems luck wasn’t on his side today. Well since he obviously had no choice in the matter then he might as well play nice.

“It’s Rhys and to be honest I’m not thrilled by the idea either.” Rhys sighed while running his hand through his hair.  “I don’t understand why Jack keeps insisting someone should watch over my back, I told him I can handle myself, besides I only have a couple of bruises...”

“I remember your name, but calling you robo-boy is more fun.” August replied smirking. “Anyways, kid your Handsome Jack’s boy toy, of course he’d like to keep an eye on you.”

“Would you stop with the comments already!” No, playing it nice with this guy was out of the question.

“All right, all right. So tell me, where are we heading?” August asked, probably sensing that it was time to back off.

“I… I actually don’t know. To be honest I just wanted to get out, I’d like to check on my friends but seeing as it’s only noon they’re probably working.”

“Okay in that case I may have a suggestion!”

 

—o.o— Helios’ club zone —o.o—

 

Rhys had no idea how the hell he’d allow the guy to drag him into a bar this early in the day. Drinking around noon certainly wasn’t healthy, but what else could he do with another guy. It’s not like they could go casually strolling around the base. Pub seemed like a decent enough idea, besides Rhys thought he might as well indulge the guy, seeing as he was stuck with him for the next couple of days. August certainly liked his alcohol, seeing as he was drinking his second glass of whiskey, while Rhys only fiddled with his drink.

“You gonna drink it with that shiny eye of yours, since it’s so high-tech and all.” August asked laughing.

“Well I’m sorry if drinking during the day seems an unhealthy notion to some.” Nevertheless Rhys decided to take a sip of the alcohol, it was actually quite good. He was always a sucker for sweet beverages. “As for my eye, I might not be able to virtually down drinks with it, but it has other cool options you know.”

“Like what?” August asked, sounding genuinely interested. An idea came to Rhys’ mind. He activated his Echo Eye and decided to scan August. He didn’t really have time to test his new implant and he was actually curious about its functions. To his surprise scanning August actually provided him with some interesting details.

Name: August

Age: 32

Occupation: Hyperion soldier, second rank.

Other Information: Born on Pandora, mother - Vallory, father - unknown. Merc and a bar owner on Pandora, joined Hyperion military ranks two years ago. Weapon of choice – high fire rate smg.  Interests – booze. Hotness level: 8/10

Rhys was surprised by the info he acquired, he guessed his Echo Eye was linked to the Echo.Net hence all the information. Since August was working for Hyperion now they probably had this type of information in their database, but who the hell added the hotness level details? What was it based on?

“Well robo boy, I’m waiting for some awesome shit.”

“Ok if you really want know then I can acquire a lot of information just by looking at you with my ‘shiny eye’.” Rhys countered while taking another sip.

“Mhm so what did you find out?”

“That you’re 32, working for Hyperion for 2 years now, previously you owned a bar hence the unusual interest in alcohol.” Rhys said trying to get under August’s skin, obviously it didn’t work as the man only kept laughing.

“That’s not useful at all, I said I wanted to hear something cool.” August countered, causing Rhys to try even harder to prove to the man that he was wrong. He scanned his surroundings a bit more, finally finding some information he thought the man might find useful.

“Ok by scanning your drink I know that it’s only 65% whiskey, the rest is water. Also it’s the cheap shit from Elpis.”

“The hell! We’re like the only two customers here and they still rip me off!” August said indignantly, squinting his eyes at the bartender. “Anyways kid that eye might actually be useful, maybe thanks to you I’ll finally find a pub worth revisiting.”

“I see you have high aspirations, it’s good to have something to aim for.” Rhys said, actually causing August to laugh. Well maybe the guy wasn’t such a douche after all. “So why join Hyperion?”

“Honestly? I just had enough of Pandora, of my controlling ass mother… I wanted to get out of that shithole and took the first chance I got. Had I stayed I would probably be fighting tooth and nail for my life at the moment and instead I am in charge of babysitting my boss’ boyfriend and enjoying my 65% of alcohol.”

“I’m not his boyfriend!” Rhys protested. Why did the man insist on riling him up with all the jibes.

“Oh yes because Jack kissed you in front of everyone just for the heck of it.” August downed the rest of his alcohol and ordered another drink, scotch this time. Surprisingly the alcohol didn’t seem to affect him at all. Rhys guessed it was due to the years of practice.

“Yes he did kiss me, right after punching me in the face.”

“Minor detail.” August snickered looking at how flustered Rhys became. “Ok so if you’re not his boyfriend then what’s the deal with the two of you?”

 “It’s… complicated.” In all honestly Rhys would give everything to know the answer to that question, but he had no idea really.

“Sure it’s complicated, I mean we’re talking about Handsome Jack here, the man is seriously bipolar. One moment he’s all smiles and the other he starts shooting people… though usually he’s still smiling, I’ll give him that.” They both started laughing at that.

Rhys started to appreciate August’s straightforward personality, he might be a prick most of the time, but at least he was honest about it. Something told him that they would be the best of friends with Yvette.

“Seriously though robo-boy, I think the man might be seriously into you. I mean I had never seen Jack go this shit crazy over someone. You should have seen his face when I told him that they were installing the eye implant for you. The mortality rate is so high there were basically no chances.” August went silent for a while, swirling the ice in his drink. “The look on his face… it was so void it scared me. I had never seen Jack like that.”

“Listen… I know that he cares about me… in some weird twisted way only Jack could care about someone, but..”

“But what?”

“But it’s Handsome Jack we’re talking about! He’s unhinged, like you said there is no telling what he’ll do next. Everything is just a big joke for him… until someone pisses him off, then he gets all shits of crazy. I mean don’t get me wrong, he has his good sides. He can actually be pretty gentle, even empathic” Rhys mused remembering the time Jack noticed how self-conscious he was about his robotic arm and how he tried to make him feel at ease with it. “But… he’s just… he’s Handsome Jack…”

“So what you’re trying to say is that he is not capable of loving someone?” August asked looking at him, at first Rhys thought it was another snide remark, but the man seemed pretty serious. It was so weird to talk about this sort of stuff with some guy he only just met.

“No, I think… I think he can, but in the way Jack is able to love someone.” Rhys didn’t like where this conversation was going.

“Meaning?” August pressed the matter further.

“Well meaning that he wouldn’t pay attention if someone got hurt in the process, he’s only concentrated on what he wants. Like he’d say he loves someone but then fucks some random person because it seemed like a fun idea at the moment and he wouldn’t think it was a big issue.” Rhys paused, not sure how to formulate his thoughts on the matter. “He’s just so impulsive and does everything on a whim, without really thinking about the consequences...”

“And how would you know that?”

“I don’t know… he just seems like the type of person. Damn August can we change the topic already.” Rhys was beginning to feel really uncomfortable.

“Nope, not until you hear me out on this.” August said putting his glass to the side, ok the man was serious about it now. “Wanna know my thoughts?” he asked but continued nonetheless. “I think everyone just assumes Jack is this or that but nobody gives him the chance to prove otherwise. So maybe you should give him a chance? I mean what do you have to lose?”

“Umm let me think? My life for one thing? I doubt I’d survive if something goes south… Besides you say it like he’s this poor misunderstood soul and nobody loves him. I think everyone on Helios would leap at the chance of being with Jack.”

“Yes but why would they do it? Because they want to gloat about being close to the legend, but you, you seem to really see him. I mean don’t want to get all sappy and shit, but hell robo-boy you keep saying how he’s this and that, like you really know the man, not just the Hyperion legend. Besides it is you Jack chose, not anyone else.”

“But I don’t want to try it ok!” Rhys said frustrated, rubbing at his face.

“Ok ok so let’s assume you can see the future.” August said animatedly. Ok the alcohol clearly kicked in at this point. “So if you could know for sure that Jack could be trusted and he wouldn’t pull any weird shit on you, would you try? I mean try to be with him?”

“August let’s just drop the topic ok?” Rhys pleaded but the man had none of it, determined to get his answer. “All right… assuming I can see the future” Rhys said while rolling his eyes “then yes I would try.”

“Aha! That answers my question!” August said satisfied, downing his drink in one gulp.

“Oh then please enlighten me… also maybe you should ease on the drinks…” Rhys suggested seriously worried about the man’s health.

“Nonsense, alcohol makes a man strong.” At that he ordered his fourth drink. Damn it wasn’t even two o’clock. “Well your answers tell me that… you’re a coward.”

“I’m not even deigning this with a reply.”

“No hear me out. You’re a coward because you obviously like the man but don’t want to risk it and try to be with him, like seriously be with him. But I think you should because robo boy, believe it or not, I like you.” August said obviously encouraged by the alcohol he drank. He gave a strong pat to Rhys’ back almost causing the boy to fall out of his barstool.

“You’d be a good influence on Jack. Not like all those girls on Pandora like Moxxi or Nisha or… never mind really. Don’t you see Rhys? You actually saved the lives of a few people yesterday. You made Jack reconsider and I’ve never seen anyone managing to do that. Imagine how many people you could save...”

“Oh yeah it’s easy for you to say. ‘Rhys be the hero, try to make Jack to be a better person’, but the reality is, I don’t know if I can.” Rhys said standing up. He had enough of the man for one day. “You want me to sacrifice myself in hopes that I could change something, but maybe I don’t want to sacrifice myself… Now I’m going back to the apartment, you can either follow me or keep drinking, not like I care.” Rhys said storming out of the pub.

August downed his last drink and stood up following the boy, muttering to himself on the way. “He says sacrifice but he’d jump at the occasion if he wasn’t scared shitless. Damn robo boy, why go through the trouble of having a shiny eye if you can’t see what’s right in front of you…”

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack was trying to do his best to concentrate on work. He had a shit ton of things to do, people to meet and more importantly dickheads to airlock, but he could not focus on any of it, instead all that he kept thinking about was the stupid quarrel he had with Rhys. It was actually something that was nagging him for quite some time now.

At first he thought Rhys made no move to get close to him because he was too shy but the longer it lasted the more it pissed Jack. The words that the bitch Sasha said coming to him with vivid clarity.  No matter how much you’d like to control him, he’s a human being. You’ll never be able to force someone to feel something that isn’t there.

He didn’t need to force anyone to want him, he was the goddamn hero, the legend of Hyperion, everyone wanted him. Jack stood up abruptly, his golden chair rolling backwards until it hit the huge window. He started pacing nervously around the office, cursing under his breath every now and then. He could not fathom Rhys. The boy took a fucking bullet for him, allowed Jack to do whatever he pleased but he never once showed any initiative, never once showed that he actually wanted any of this. The more Jack thought about it the more he came to the conclusion that Rhys did not really want it, he merely allowed it and it fucking pissed him off.

Handsome Jack didn’t need anyone’s pity, he could have everyone he fucking wanted. His face was chiseled to perfection, he was the leader of the most successful corporation that existed, he was a damn god! Jack snarled in frustration, kicking a glass table with all the force he could muster. Needless to say the poor piece of furniture did not survive the assault.  

Suddenly the sound of the intercom broke the silence of the office. Huffing a frustrated sigh he came up to his desk and pressed the unnerving, glowing button.

“Hello Jack, it’s your favorite sheriff speaking.” He heard a woman’s voice.

“Nisha…” Any other time he’d be happy she called, but now was not the best time. Nisha was great and understood him like not many did, well she understood his need for kill at least, that was something they had in common, other than good looks that is. She was a feisty woman and could handle her gun like no one else did.

“Well you don’t sound very happy to hear me.” She said in an angry tone. Yes Nisha was the only person who wasn’t afraid of Jack and he didn’t mind it really. She was tough and knew how to handle herself.

“Naaah babe, just have a lot of work… and people that piss me off, so everything as usual.”

“Well in that case you should be happy to know that I’m coming to Helios in two weeks. I just wanted to let you know beforehand so that you’ll mark it in that busy schedule of yours, handsome. If I have to go to that floating spaceship of doom I might as well get something out of it and god knows I’ve been needing a good fuck for a while now.”

“Oh… yeah babe about that…” Jack started but for the first time in forever he found himself at a loss of words. What was he supposed to say? That he can’t? And why the hell would he say that? It’s not like there was anything substantial between him and the code monkey, so he might as well agree. Then again…

“No fucking way, don’t tell me Handsome Jack is off the market!” She said with a cackle, adding a suggestive whistle at the end. “When did this happen?”

“No I’m not… damn it Nisha don’t go spinning some shit ass theories.” The woman did nothing to ease his sore mood.

“Aha, then why the hesitation Jackie? I know you, you’d usually jump at the chance of a good fuck, and since it’s me we’re talking about, it’s a great fuck. Also you’d throw in a few lewd comments by now but nooo, you’re acting like a damn pansy.”

“Don’t piss me off Nisha, you do not want to test me babe.” He said angrily, his fists tightening. “Fine I’ll schedule a late night appointment, but for your sake I hope it’s gonna be as awesome as you sound it to be.” Jack just wanted the conversation to be over with and avoid unnecessary questions, he wasn’t really planning to meet Nisha.

“Oh handsome, it’s gonna be even better.” She said in a confident voice and Jack could almost see the smirk on her face before she hung up the phone. Why was everyone hell bent on pissing him off today? He pressed a button on his intercom to connect with his secretary.

“Get me the medical team here, asap.” Well the least he could do today was to airlock some dickheads. At first he was planning to do some investigation, but seeing as Rhys didn’t want to be anywhere near the medics and, to be honest, Jack didn’t want that either… well then there was only one solution to the problem of major incompetence.

“Also put up an add saying that we’re looking for medical personnel.”

 

—o.o— Jack’s apartment —o.o—

 

When the long day was finally over and Jack came back to his apartment a pleasant scent assaulted his senses. He saw Rhys cooking and it helped to soothe his sour mood a bit. He made his way to one of the barstools placed near the kitchen counter and sat down, all the time observing the programmer.

The kid definitely knew he came back but made no move to acknowledge his presence. His movement seemed tense, an air of irritation surrounding him. Jack felt the tension growing between them by each minute they spent in silence. The whole situation pissed him off, Jack wasn’t one for prolonged silence, if he didn’t like something then he’d just say it and be done with it. Or he’d use his revolver, either way he’d get the issue solved. But what was he supposed to say now?

The more he thought about it the more he came to the conclusion that Rhys forced himself to stay in his presence, or at the best he tolerated it. Normally Jack wouldn’t give a fuck what the other party involved wanted, but somehow this time was different. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew that as long as Rhys would not admit to wanting him, he won’t be able to let the subject go.

But what was he supposed to say? Ask the idiot to say that he wanted him? That was just pathetic, Handsome Jack would never stoop so low as to beg. Also, even if he did, the kid might just say anything he wanted to hear and he wouldn’t know if it was the truth or not. No, he had to say it on his own.. but Jack had the feeling that he’d sooner own a Vladof weapon than actually hear any form of affection from the shy boy… He had to facilitate it somehow, but how?

Suddenly an idea popped into his head.

“Easy there cupcake, you can stop insisting already.” That definitely got the boy’s attention who turned to look at him with a quizzical look.

“I’ll tell you how my day went if you wanna know so much.” Jack said making a jibe at Rhys and judging by the boy’s reaction it did not go unnoticed. “I’ve been buried with papers the minute I got to my office because, now get this, I guy blew his fucking face up in the R&D. So I’m all like ‘for all I care, he could have made a skin pizza from it’…. but it turned out that the unfortunate bloke was an intern from an exchange program we’ve had with Torgue, so of course they use this incident to send all of their lawyers to extort as much money as possible from us.”

“Since when do we have an intern program?” Rhys asked in honest curiosity.

“Really? I mean from all the things I just said you decided to ask about the fucking intern program? Seriously kitten, the way that brain of yours works at times... Anyways so here I was fighting lawsuits left and right when somebody comes up from the R&D and tells me that in fact it was a Hyperion worker that had his face microwaved by - now this is the good part – the Torgue intern. So I hit the ball back at them” He explained while  making the gesture of hitting a ball with a baseball bat “aaaand  strike, we have ourselves a hefty amount of money.” Jack explained while pretending to bow in front of an audience.

“Bravo” Rhys said clapping in pretend admiration, sarcasm lacing his voice “and to think all that could be achieved with one smoldering face.” Ok the kid was a fucking smartass at times but he actually liked it. Anyways on to the thing that he really wanted to say.

“Yeah what can I say, when I see an opportunity I seize it… So other than that nothing really happened… well my good friend Nisha called, wanting to meet up in two weeks time. I’m wondering whether I should go…”

To be honest Jack wasn’t really planning on meeting Nisha, he just said it to get rid of the girl, he really wasn’t in the mood today. However Jack deicide he could actually use it now to test Rhys. If the boy gave a rat’s ass about him he won’t agree to this. Playing on jealousy was a low blow, but he had to force Rhys into action, otherwise the words that Sasha said to him will never stop haunting him.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

Ever since Rhys came back to the apartment he’s been on edge. The conversation he had with August made him think about things he really preferred to ignore. In order to focus his mind on anything else Rhys started cooking, knowing that Jack would probably want to eat something later anyway. He was in the middle of preparing the dish when he hear the man enter the apartment, earlier than usual.

At the time he was still pretty tense, his mind focusing on all of the things the blonde man said. That is why he failed to acknowledge Jack’s presence until the man let his disappointment be known by the obvious jibe. One thing he knew for sure – Handsome Jack hated to be ignored. As he listened to the CEO talk about his usual day of work Rhys started to loosen up a bit, actually even managing to make a joke. He felt almost relaxed at that point… until he heard the name Nisha.

For the briefest of seconds his body tensed, stopping in his movements, but he soon tried to recover and play it cool. He remembered August mentioning Nisha as one of Jack’s girls, still he had to make sure.

“Nisha… is that one of your girlfriends?” Rhys asked as nonchalantly as he could. He won’t give Jack the satisfaction.

“Where the hell did that come from?! I do not have any girlfriends.” Jack answered obviously annoyed.

“Ah I’m sorry, one of your fuck friends then?” Rhys was irritated and it was increasingly hard to keep a straight face.

“And if she was?” Jack asked, eyes narrowing.

So this was it, he was getting all worked up over what August said today, thinking that maybe he wasn’t being fair with the man by locking his emotions away, when all the time he was the one in the right. Rhys knew it wouldn’t take long until Jack slept with someone, however, he didn’t think it would happen so fast. Even though he promised to stay as emotionally unattached as he could it still hurt him. But he had his pride and he won’t let the man have the satisfaction of his jealousy.

“Nothing, just curious. So… you plan to have sex with her?” Rhys asked fighting with his voice to stay neutral. Suddenly he heard the noise of a chair scraping over the floor. He looked at Jack who was now standing near the counter, his face and body language screamed anger, but he did not move an inch, which was curious.

“Maybe I will.” Was all he said while keeping a steady gaze on Rhys, eyes narrowing.

Rhys felt something twisting in his gut in an unpleasant way, but he kept reassuring himself that this is what he wanted. It was best to get out of the crazy relationship with the man as soon as possible. He knew a day like this would come and although it happened a lot sooner than he predicted, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. He wasn’t sure how Jack saw it, but Rhys knew that there was no way in hell he’d stay this close to the man while he slept with anyone he pleases.

“Ok” was all that he said while he resumed cooking. The dish was almost finished. He didn’t want to burn it and he also needed a distraction from the man’s inquisitive gaze.

“Ok?...Ok!? Is that all you want to say?” Jack asked in a hurt voice which actually sounded hilarious to Rhys. Was he expecting Rhys to pull a jealous fit, to beg him not to go? Well if that was what Jack was after than he’d be sorely disappointed.

“Well it’s your decision.” Rhys replied while turning off the cooker. Ok this was now or never. He exhaled a long shaky breath and turned back to the man, facing him as he asked. “Actually, since we’re on the topic… if you plan to sleep with Nisha then it’s not a problem for me to sleep with someone else, right?”

Wasn’t this how open-relationships worked? But it’s not like Rhys would actually do it, he would never seek out a random person to fuck, that just wasn’t him. The only reason he said it was to make a clear line for Jack – if he wants to be with someone else than Rhys has the right to do it as well. Also if it hurt Jack in any way… well then the satisfaction would be an added bonus.

“Ok I see… you must have waited a long time for this haven’t you?” Jack said in a venomous voice, still the man made no move from where he was standing. Rhys wasn’t sure what he meant. “You know what, let me make this easier for you. There’s the door, if you want then just walk out of the apartment and be sure I won’t BOTHER you anymore.” Jack said, practically spitting the last words.

There it was, Jack was giving him a way out and Rhys could not believe it. He had expected the man to get pissed, to force him into something, but not this. Simply letting him go? This didn’t seem like something Jack would do, unless he was already fed up with him. Yeah that could be the reason, Jack was simply this type of person. One day he’d start killing people trying to deal with Rhys’ loss and the other he’d cheat on him because he was bored. The funny thing was he didn’t see his fault in it, making it seem as if Rhys was the ungrateful one. So be it.

With one last look directed at Jack’s anger-filled eyes he slowly made his way towards the door. He half expected Jack to grab him when he was passing the man, so it came as a surprise when nothing happened. It was the best possible outcome really, but Rhys couldn’t help the heavy feeling in his chest. Looking at how easily Jack got rid of him was painful, he knew not to trust in the words Jack spoke, still all those times the man said he’d take care of him came back with a painful jolt to his heart.

Rhys was surprised at himself because he believed he managed to stay emotionally unattached, still with every step he took it hurt him how Jack made no move to stop him. All the times Jack kept saying how special he was, how he belonged to the man, how he wanted him… they were like a mockery now. Rhys swallowed painfully as he reached the elevator and pressed the button on the panel to close the door, the man doing nothing to stop him.

Chapter Text

Two weeks have passed in a blur since he left Jack’s apartment. Rhys went back to his work as the head of programming department though a lot has changed since the day when he was promoted. After that stunt Jack pulled in the Hub of Heroism he was now a well-recognized figure. Rhys thought that being manhandled by Jack in front of everyone would no doubly undermine his position, surprisingly though quite the contrary thing happened.

Everyone seemed to be focusing on the fact that Rhys managed to convince Jack to spare the lives of the accounting team. Obviously that was a big deal, as every Hyperion worker knew that once Jack decided on something, it was impossible to change his mind. In a way people started admiring him for standing up for them, as well as having the power to influence Jack in some way.

He also became recognizable for his Echo Eye. Rumors started spreading of how he was one of the lucky few who managed to survive the painful ordeal. Not only that, Rhys was also finally recognized for his work. At long last he took credit for the work he did and the income was going through the roof thanks to his recent elemental upgrade as well as the gravity grenade.

Rhys felt his popularity increasing day by day. Even walking down Helios’ corridors he could feel eyes on him - a lot of awe stricken worker bees commenting on his presence which, to be honest, made him feel quite good though it was still a bit odd. Yvette made fun of him every now and then, pointing out how all the admiration got to him. In her opinion even his way of walking changed and even though he did not want to admit it, Rhys knew she was right.

The programmer used to have a lot of nervous antics but now he tried to play it off cool, his back straight, a sense of confidence in his movements. So maybe she wasn’t far from the truth, but hell anyone would feel proud at the amount of attention he was receiving.

So everything was going well for him, he was gaining popularity, had a well paid job which he really enjoyed doing, minus the fact that he often had to stay late. Everything was peachy… except that it wasn’t. Ever since he left Jack’s apartment two weeks ago he had no contact with the man. It shouldn’t be surprising, that was actually the deal, but he could not ignore the heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach every time he thought about the man.

Rhys assumed the feeling would be gone within a day or two, but the more time passed the more he kept thinking about the decision he made. He could not find peace of mind, somehow it felt like there was no closure between them, that there were too many things that were left unsaid. Still wasn’t this what he wanted - to end things between them? So why the hell was he feeling like a skag that was ran over by bandits.

The door to his office opened and in popped a blonde head, putting an end to his internal musings.

“So robo boy, are you ready or what?” August asked, striding into the office and sitting on his desk.

“Do you realize you placed your ass on one of the most expensive desks on Helios?” Rhys asked in a joking manner, but truth to be told he really damn liked his desk.

“Ohoho look at the big man over here, my ass isn’t good enough for you anymore?” August asked, a playful smirk on his lips.

“Now that sounded wrong on so many levels.” Rhys said chuckling, shaking his head at the man’s antics.

August became a part of his little circle of friends ever since the day of their uncomfortable conversation at the pub. He was rude and annoying most of the time, but he had this weird quality about him, the man could extract any kind of information from anyone through his honest approach. Most people tried to adhere to social rules while August simple did things as he pleased, saying anything that came to his mind. This was a quality Rhys treasured given that every day he was surrounded by liars and, as of late, sycophants.

“You just don’t know what you’re missing. Anyways we’re waiting for you boy, so let’s get going!” August stood up and made a gesture with his hands urging him to hurry.

That’s right, they were planning to go clubbing today and as usual Rhys lost track of time, only now noticing it was already 10 pm. With the way he worked he was slowly turning into Handsome Jack. He stood up from the desk and joined August on the way to the club zone, Yvette and Vaughn already waiting for them at the elevators. He decided not to waste time changing clothes, he looked pretty damn good with the three layer suit, but he discarder the jacket in his office. He was wearing black pants and a black short-sleeved button up shirt with a burgundy vest on top of it. It looked expensive and he felt hot. Check and check.

“Took you long enough, good thing I sent August to fetch you.” Yvette said tapping her foot.

“Like hell you sent me anywhere! I’m not yours to order babe!” August countered, falling into the usual banter with the girl. Rhys and Vaughn exchanged a look while shaking their heads, already used to their bickering. At first he thought August would get along perfectly with Yvette but that was pretty far from the truth. They mostly just annoyed each other, though Rhys had a feeling that it was all for show.

“So late night again? You really need to ease up on the work bro.” Vaughn commented as they entered the fast travel cart that would take them to the club zone.

“I know but there’s just so much to be done. I’ve basically left things without any supervision ever since I became involved with the grenade project. There is a shit load of work that needs to be done before I can have some vacation time.” Rhys complained.

“Can’t you hire anyone to help you?”

“I could but to be honest I just prefer to stay on top of things myself, besides it’s a good distraction from everything that happened lately.” As soon as he said that a tense silence fell around them. They all knew what Rhys meant, but they decided that Handsome Jack was a taboo subject.

“You know what else helps you get your mind off things? Alcohol!” August smiled clapping Rhys on the back hard enough for the boy to lose his balance. With all his abrasiveness he was a pretty emphatic guy, especially when it came to Rhys. He had no idea why, but the blond man always went out of his way to make him feel better. Rhys suspected August was the type of person to play it all manly on the outside, but coo at soft kittens when in the privacy of his apartment. Rhys snorted at the mental image.

“You see! You’re happy just thinking about it!” August said full of confidence, obviously misinterpreting Rhys’ sudden change of mood. “Follow me, I know where the hottest place tonight is going to be. Had a couple of tips on that.”

“Lead the way then.”

They soon ended up in front of a club that was bustling with people, everyone doing their best to get in. The line was so long Rhys didn’t even want to think about standing in it. He wanted to have a drink not wait his turn until someone got wasted enough to stumble out of the club so that he could get in.

“No way, we’re not standing in the line, look how many people are waiting outside.”

“That’s right robo boy, that’s why you’re going to make them let us in as the VIPs we are.” August said pointing at the bouncers.

“What? I can’t do that!”

“Rhys, for the first time I have to agree with the blondie.” Yvette said cringing theatrically at the mere idea. “Use that damn status of yours and get us in.”

“What? They won’t let us in guys.” He tried to protest but even Vaughn was against him. “Fine damnit, I’ll try, but no promises.”

“Play it cool bro!” Vaughn piped in reminding Rhys to keep to his practiced confident stride, which irritated him even further.

As he approached the bouncers he couldn’t help the antic of rubbing his robotic hand at the back of his head. Just when he thought he managed to get rid of the fidgeting... He was about to struck up a conversation, already certain that he won’t succeed, when one of the bouncers looked at his neuro port for a brief moment, clearly recognizing who he was by the Echo Eye.

“Mr Rhys, a pleasure to meet you sir!” The man said enthusiastically. Wow Rhys was not expecting this.

“Uh hi. You see I wanted to get in with my friends.” He said pointing at the three traitors waiting at a safe distance. “So I was wondering what were the chances…”

“No problem sir, you can go in.”  Ok Rhys knew he gained popularity lately but this was getting ridiculous.

“Thank you.” He said awkwardly and motioned for his friends to follow him.

“No problem, anything for the man who created the gravity grenade. Just last week my younger brother said it saved his life down on Pandora, when he unknowingly ventured in bullymongs’ territory. You did a great job on it sir.”

“Glad to know it’s useful.” Rhys said beaming, it was really a great feeling to be complimented on his work, better yet to hear that the grenade helped to save someone’s life.

“Look at our little hero, proud of his achievement.” Yvette teased as they miraculously managed to find a free booth in the bustling club. “I think you should celebrate it by buying us drinks.”

“You know what, I might actually do that and overlook the fact that you’re trying to be a leech as usual.” He sent an admonishing look in the girls way but she didn’t seem to register it. Yvette stopped listening as soon as she heard the words ‘buy’ and ‘drinks’. “All in all heroes are generous so I guess it’s only fitting, so what will it be guys.”

He started taking orders when he noticed August not being his usual happy self and August was always happy when they were in the vicinity of alcohol.

“Something wrong?”

“No nothing… I just think this might not be a good place after all. Maybe we should change it, huh?” They were all surprised by the man’s behavior, Yvette already protesting that she likes the place.

Meanwhile Rhys looked up at the balcony where August kept glancing whenever he thought Rhys wasn’t looking. A sudden coolness shot through his body as he noticed the occupants of the booth on the balcony. Handsome Jack together with some cowboy girl. Fucking perfect.

“Nope it’s fine we’re staying.” Rhys deadpanned with a determined gaze while waiting for August’s order.

“You sure robo boy?” August asked while Yvette and Vaughn kept sending quizzical glances towards them, not knowing what the fuss was about.

“Yes I am sure.”

“Ok in that case scan the alcohol with your shiny eye and pick the one that has the biggest amount of ‘percentage’ in the bottle.” August really liked to take advantage of Rhys’ eye as of late.

Rhys came up to the bartender and made the orders, all the time trying his best to avoid looking at the balcony. Still he could not help sending sideway glances at the man. The girl was probably Nisha, he remembered Jack mentioning that he’d meet with her in two weeks, oh right and that he’d fuck her as well. Good for him, Rhys thought bitterly, his hands tightening on the drinks so forcefully that for a moment he thought he’ll crush them before managing to get back to his friends. Sometimes it was hard to control his metal arm.

When he returned to the table, Rhys kept downing drinks one after the other, August sending him worried glances as he kept looking at the balcony. A couple of times he saw how close Jack was to Nisha and it pissed him off that the man would discard him so easily. Why did he have to say all that things about wanting to care for him? Couldn’t he just admit it was sex and nothing else. Now instead of moving on Rhys kept reliving every moment he spent with Jack and all that nonsense the man uttered whenever they were close, which was essentially driving him nuts.

An hour into the evening he thought it would be his worst night out ever until a waitress came up to their table and placed a drink in front of Rhys, pointing to a person who bought it. Rhys looked up and saw a broad handsome man with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Damn, it seemed guys really had a thing for him… He didn’t recognize him from anywhere but it was all the better for him. Rhys stood up and made his way towards the tall stranger, determined to at least have some fun tonight. The fact that he was half-drunk also came into play.

“So thanks for the drink.” He said casually standing next to the stranger. “Name’s Rhys, what about you?”

“Wow I was hoping for this but never thought it would work, it seemed like a move which was only good for movies.” The guy said with a sheepish smile. Now that Rhys looked at him up close he seemed quite young, probably even younger than him. “I know who you are sir, everyone knows I think. The name’s Zack.”

“So Zack, do you want to dance? And please call me Rhys.” Ok so Zack was kind of cute and had a nice smile, he could do worse. Besides he just wanted to have some fun and if by any chance he managed to get a certain asshole CEO jealous then it’s all for the better.

In all honesty he didn’t think Jack would even notice him, but just in case he did, Rhys was determined to give his best show as of yet. Only a few people knew this about him, but he was an awesome dancer. Also admittedly he had to be drunk to pull a low stunt like this, no need to worry about that though, morning was always the perfect timing for remorse.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Handsome Jack was having one of the most miserable weeks of his life. He hated when things didn’t go his way and for the past two weeks it seemed like the whole universe was against him. Given how many things he suffered through in his life like the death of his daughter or the lost battle against the vault hunters for the control of the warrior, it seemed like an argument with some shitty code monkey would not be on the top of the list. Strangely though the boy affected him like no one else.

Jack had no idea why he acted the way he did, it shouldn’t matter to him really. He had plenty of things to focus on, thousands of people wanted to give everything to be recognized by him, still all he kept thinking about was Rhys. He hated it. Twice he caught himself on the way to the boy’s apartment, only his willpower stopping him. Jack told himself it was best to distance himself from Rhys, because he didn’t like the emotional turmoil he went though because of the idiot.

It was clear the programmer didn’t want him by the way he so casually walked out on him. He could of course force him into obedience but it was not what Jack was after, there was no fun in that, no satisfaction. At some point during the week Jack considered killing him. If he can’t have him then what’s the point of keeping him around just to torment himself? Admittedly though the boy hasn’t done anything wrong, on the contrary he brought millions of profit for the corporation. Also Jack wasn’t entirely sure he could go through with it, which was a novelty feeling.

Actually Rhys was slowly becoming a noted figure around Helios. He was a damn nobody when he first came up to his office, a simple janitor for fucks sake. Everything that he had he owed to Jack, still it did not cause the boy to change in his ways. For a while Jack hoped he’d come running to him after a few days’ time, apologizing for being an idiot. Jack would probably forgive him, because, even though he didn’t want to admit it, he was weak when it came to any requests Rhys made.

But Rhys didn’t come knocking at his door, didn’t write, didn’t call, he basically ignored him which infuriated Jack. But two can play this game, so Jack decided to ignore the boy in return, hoping that either he’ll simply forget about him in due time, or that Rhys would change his mind. The former was also the reason why he was currently sitting in one of the popular clubs, Nisha at his side.

“So let’s play our game of hot or drunk-hot, how about it?” Nisha suggested while sipping her alcohol. It was a stupid game they used to play when visiting clubs on Pandora. Nisha pointed to people around the club asking Jack how many drinks he would need to bang them. Considering the fact that they played it on Pandora, Jack ‘s minimum were five drinks – all in all he had some standards. Later Jack would do the same and the one who named the biggest number of people without much shots needed would win.

“Sure whatever you say babe.”

“You’re no fun today handsome, I seriously hope you’ll make it up to me later.” She smiled one of those predatory grins and stood up leaning on the balcony’s railing, spotting possible victims Jack could fuck.

“Ok I see a delicious 10 on the dance floor, my can that cutie move, but I’m not sure you’re into guys at all.” She asked looking back at Jack who was focused on his drink. The irony of that question.

“Hard to say really…” He wasn’t really into guys. Other than admiring the looks of his body double, which was understandable, he never caught himself assessing another dude. Rhys was a different story altogether… damn again with that kid.

“Okay so I’m gonna risk it then and name the boy. But be honest with yourself and don’t lie to me, I always know when you lie.” She said warning him, the girl was really competitive, even when it came to stupid ass games like this. “I’m sure even you’d bang a doll face like his, he even has a nice Hyperion arm to go with it, like the perfect little employee. I like my men rough but even I’d have my fun with that ass.”

The minute Jack heard the comment about the arm he stood up completely forgetting about his drink, which he spilled on the floor. He stood near Nisha and looked in the direction she was pointing. Just as he suspected it was Rhys, not many people on Helios had a robotic arm and the programmer was probably the only one with the new Hyperion tech. What he did not expect though, was to see the boy having the fucking time of his life, dancing with some guy he has never seen. The CEO felt his temper rising.

“Son of a taint…” Jack said through gritted teeth, hands clenching at the railing.

“Does that mean you’d fuck him without any drinks? Hah knew it.”

Jack could barely contain his fury when looking at Rhys. While he had been in a sour mood for the past two weeks the kid evidently forgot all about him, as if he could replace Jack with just about anyone. Hasn’t the kid been a virgin up till now? So what was this?! He could barely keep eye contact when they had sex but look at him now, dancing like an a-class slut around that drooling Hyperion worker who was a nobody. Fuck he was pissed.

The way the boy kept moving his hips, his back pressed to the tall idiot, their bodies rubbing as they kept dancing, a sexual tension between them. Jack saw red, he wanted to break the jaw of the idiot who dared to lay his hands on what was HIS. Rhys belonged to him, whether he fucking liked it or not! He’d sooner cut off those offending hands than let the man touch they boy.

Jack acted on autopilot pulling out his revolver and firing a few rounds into the ceiling, his eyes not leaving Rhys. As soon as he did so the boy stopped moving and looked directly at him, surprise evident in his eyes. He would have fired directly at the idiot standing near Rhys, but there was a chance of hurting the boy in the process and he preferred to avoid that… for now.

“What the hell Jack?” Nisha asked, but he did not pay her any attention.

“Everyone get the fuck out, this party is over.” Jack yelled causing everyone to run for the door. Everyone except Rhys, whom Jack dared to move an inch with his hard gaze. “You too Nisha.” Ha added quietly to the girl.

“Fucking great. I don’t know what’s gotten into you but I’m guessing it has something to do with that delicious piece of meat you’re sending death glares at.” She said placing one hand on her hip. “Whatever, just know that you owe me one.” She added and left Jack, knowing better than to press the matter any further. She really knew whim well. 

In the meantime he saw Rhys’ friends sending him worried glances while the boy urged them to leave with the rest. They protested a bit but in the end caved in, smart move on their part. When the club was finally empty, Jack hopped over the railing and landed on the dance floor. It wasn’t too high and he definitely faced bigger challenges while jumping over lava-filled chasms down on Elpis. The peculiar gravity pull of the planet did help though.

He made his way towards Rhys as the boy backed until he reached one of the now empty booths. Jack grabbed at his vest and without further ado threw the boy on the table directly behind him, causing  all of the drinks to fall to the floor. As Rhys was sprawled on the table, his long legs dangling from one side, Jack scrambled onto the table, looming over the boy like a predator eyeing his prey, his hands painfully gripping at the edges of the table.

 “You fucking…” he wanted to follow that statement with something suitable. Like whore, or slut or shithead or asshole or dickhead or scum or…. There were so many suitable words that could describe Rhys at the moment he could not decide which one was the most fitting. However before he managed to pick one something rather unexpected happened.

Rhys moved his mechanical arm undercutting one of his hands, causing him to lose balance. The boy used this to quickly change their positions. Jack was caught completely off guard, not suspecting the programmer to pull a move on him. As the boy sat on top of him, legs at his sides, Rhys back leaning on Jack’s legs which were propelled on the table, the boy took hold of his jacket and leaned down locking their lips in a bruising kiss.

When Rhys raised himself to look at Jack, breathing heavily, he could do nothing else but blink at the boy. His mind was completely blank. Was this even Rhys?

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

“Now you listen to me you idiot!” Rhys said panting heavily, all the emotions he’s been feeling for the past two weeks overflowing him. He knew it was not a good idea to drink so much alcohol and that in consequence, he might do some things he’d end up regretting, but he could not back away anymore, not now.

“I did this to make your stupid ass jealous.” He yelled, his voice breaking. “You stupid son of a bitch, you think you can play with people? You think you can say whatever you want just for the heck of it?” Rhys screamed letting his emotions loose. Jack looked at him with a bewildered expression while propelling his upper body on his elbows.

Rhys began hitting the man blindly on his chest without much force, all the time yelling and cursing, tears forming in the corners of his eyes.  He wouldn’t cry though, he won’t give the man the satisfaction, it was enough he was getting all hysterical while spluttering nonsense.

“You can’t treat people like toys and throw them away when you get bored you bastard.” Rhys kept yelling, dignity all but forgotten. Jack might kill him for this little stunt, but he’ll at least give him a piece of his mind beforehand. Suddenly the man raised himself in a sitting position taking hold of the boy’s wrists, preventing Rhys from hitting him any further. When he stopped trashing Jack gripped his hips and changed their positions yet again, pinning the boy to the table one more time. So this is when he dies then.

“You absolute fucking moron!” Now it was Jack’s turn to yell as he grabbed one of the empty glasses that rolled onto the sofa of the booth. Acting on reflex Rhys covered his face with his hands, figuring Jack might hurt him, instead the man threw the glass at a nearby wall with an angry roar, the glass shattering into pieces.

“You’re the biggest idiot I have ever met, I fucking swear…” Rhys peeked over his hands to look at the man who was seething in fury, hands tugging at his own hair. It was like Jack was trying to do his best to control his anger, which was surprising considering he could basically treat Rhys as his punching bag at this point. Composing himself slightly he took hold of Rhys’ wrists and pinned them to the table above his head.

The man launched himself at his neck biting so hard Rhys was sure he drew blood. The programmer hissed at the pain it caused but soon felt a soothing feeling when a tongue lapped over the sensitive spot. After leaving a bite mark on the side of his neck Jack moved to his adam’s apple, teeth tightening yet again. For a moment Rhys thought the man would bite though his throat like a rabid animal. He felt Jack’s jaw tightening as he swallowed nervously, the sensation dangerous yet strangely arousing.

Jack then moved to his jawline biting and sucking and kissing, most certainly leaving marks everywhere, causing Rhys to moan loudly. Jack raised his head to look him straight in the eyes, expression wild, daring Rhys to protest. He let go of one of his wrists and started unbuckling his jeans with one hand, not uttering a single world.

With erratic movements he released his already hard member and then forcefully yanked Rhys’ pants down to his ankles while still kneeling over him. Rhys felt as if the air around them was filled with electricity, he was terrified of how forceful Jack was but at the same time weirdly satisfied by it. Jack placed one of his hands over Rhys’ mouth ordering for the boy to lick it.

Feeling his pulse going unbearable high, heart pounding in his ears, he started licking the digits, coating them with a thick layer of saliva, all the time his eyes not leaving Jack’s. He knew what the man wanted, the thought sending dread and weaves of pleasure through his body. When Jack deemed it was enough he put the saliva covered hand to his member, at the same time pulling one of Rhys’ legs out from the binds of his pants and boxers.

Rhys felt the whole room go still, his breathing erratic as Jack positioned one of his legs over the man’s shoulder. He positioned the tip of his swollen member at Rhys’ entrance and pushed hard. The programmer yelled loudly fighting with his muscles not to get too tensed. The saliva doing little to ease the motion. It has been two weeks since the last time they did it and taking Rhys without any preparation was a painful ordeal.

Rhys dug his fingers into the table, back arching as Jack kept trusting relentlessly. It was the strangest feeling he ever experienced, pain mixing with pleasure, one eliciting the other. Rhys paid no attention to how uncomfortable it all was, the hard surface of the table digging into his back, the rough thrusts becoming harder and faster. He felt like a mess of limbs, moaning loudly for the man to take him. His brain blank.

“Jaaa…ngh… ahh… Jaaack!” He yelled trashing all over the table, hands stretching for the man above him who seemed to be in a trance of his own. He weaved his fingers through the man’s hair and pulled him down kissing him desperately. Jack kissed him possessively, his thrusts becoming more painful and more satisfying by each powerful push. The kiss was messy, full of saliva, teeth, and tongues twisted in a weird form of a needy dance.

Rhys arched his back, pressing his body tightly into Jack’s, hands moving to the man’s back, nails digging painfully into the CEO, causing bloody scratches all over his back. Jack took hold of the edge of the table above Rhys’ head and thrust with even more force, moaning loudly into Rhys’ mouth.

“You’re mine.” Jack kept muttering in a frenzied state in-between the hungry kisses.

Rhys struggled to breathe through his nose, his lungs burning with the need of oxygen. His heart kept beating like crazy, vision getting blurry as he felt waves of euphoria traveling all over his body, reaching every single nerve. He broke the kiss, arching his neck, eyes fluttering shut as he moaned loudly riding his orgasm, Jack biting harshly at his neck.

He felt seed leaving his length at the same time as a hot liquid filled his insides, both of them cumming at the same time, latched onto each other, their hunger finally sated. Rhys felt the whole world spinning as he clutched to the man laying above him, not wanting to let go,  Jack holding him just as desperately.

Chapter Text

Rhys tried his best to stand up but his knees kept giving up on him. Given the amount of alcohol he drank and the… unconventional way the programmer and Jack decided to make amend, it was a wonder that he managed to stand up at all. The muscles of his inner tights hurt terribly, his head was still spinning and he had barely any strength left. While he struggled to collect himself Jack stood watching him silently, hands crossed.

“Jesus pumpkin if I have to wait any longer I might grow a decent beard. Tried that once, did not go well with the image so I’d really like to avoid that.” Jack said with a hint of mockery in his voice, obviously finding Rhys predicament funny.

“I had too much to drink…” Rhys mumbled, trying to justify his current pitiful state. Jack had none of it.

“Oh yes because that’s all due to alcohol. Funny that a moment ago you seemed perfectly fine.”  Jack said, an air of victory surrounding him. Soon though he seemed to lose patience with Rhys and with a roll of his eyes he came up to the boy. “Fine, it seems there’s no way around.”

Before Rhys realized what was happening Jack placed his arms behind his shoulders and knees and with one swift move picked him up bridal style. Rhys let out a startled yelp as he realized that Jack planned on carrying him, like he was some damsel in distress. No way would he allow that, Rhys had enough of humiliation for one day.

“Jack! I can walk on my own!” He protested squirming in the man’s hold, he wasn’t sure he’d actually manage that, but everything seemed better than walking out of the club like this.

“What are you being so embarrassed about pumpkin?” Jack said making his way for the exit, determined not to let Rhys out of his clutches.

“Ugh maybe the fact that I’m being carried by a guy?”

“No” Jack admonished trying hard not to laugh at Rhys’ embarrassment.  “You’re being carried by Handsome Jack, there’s a fundamental difference in that kitten.”

Despite his loud protests Jack actually carried him out of the club, to the boy’s utter horror and embarrassment. He tried to make himself as small as possible, hiding his face in Jack’s neck, avoiding looking at the crowd of onlookers. The club zone was always bustling with people on weekends, it was hard to move around without being seen. It was twice as hard when being carried by Handsome Jack.

They finally managed to reach the travel cart which was empty the minute the CEO set foot in it. Even those workers who seemed to be piss drunk a minute ago managed to sober up as soon as they saw Jack and knew better than to rile up the man. The news of Jack’s little  display at the club probably reaching everyone by now. When the door closed Jack pushed a few elevator buttons with his elbow, never relenting his secure grip on Rhys.

“Uhm you can let go now.” Rhys mumbled, face still hidden in Jack’s neck.

“And what if I don’t want to?” Jack asked cackling lightly and Rhys could feel the laughter rumble in the man’s chest.

“I’m heavy, you’re arms must hurt.”

“That noodle body of yours? Heavy? Please, I don’t even feel like I’m carrying you at all.” Jack puffed out his chest, like a child trying to impress with how big and strong he was.

Truth to be told, even though Rhys’ legs were definitely longer, both of them were of similar height yet the programmer always felt small compared to Jack. Even now, as the CEO was carrying him to his apartment, he felt tiny in the man’s broad and strong arms. He always liked Jack’s physical built, it gave him a weird sense of security, which is probably why, somewhere during the walk, Rhys placed his arms around Jack’s neck, allowing himself a small moment of indulgence.

Jack carried him into his apartment and up the stairs to his platform bed. He lowered him on the covers and then sat beside him, removing his sneakers beforehand. For a brief moment they didn’t speak to one another, Rhys struggling a bit to remain fully awake.

“So kitten, even though I did  not mind our previous activities we actually do need to talk, though I realize how conventionally boring that may sound” Jack said sitting cross-legged next to him. “We can do that now or in the morning. Your call.”

Even though Rhys was extremely tired he didn’t think he’d managed to fall asleep with the foreboding feeling of THE talk looming over him. He’d much rather just get it done with and finish what he started, thus with a shaky voice he broke the silence.

“We can do it now.” He said while looking down at his hands, playing with the crumpled sheets.

“Damn kid I just wanna talk, so ease up with the high school drama.”  Jack shook his head smiling, however soon his expression became more serious. “So mind telling me what you were hoping to accomplish with that little display on the dance floor?”

Rhys really didn’t feel like sharing his thoughts with the man but it seemed it was high time to do that. They were running in circles ever since the first time they had sex and the misunderstandings between them started piling up, one after another. So logically it seemed that talking openly about everything was a good idea, however, it didn’t make it any easier. Rhys was afraid of telling Jack his real feelings, but more than that he was afraid how the man would react. He might not like the answers he’ll receive tonight.

“I told you already, I wanted to make you jealous.” Rhys mumbled still playing with the sheets.

“And why the hell would you do that?” Jack asked irritated.

“Well I dunno… maybe because you were having the time of your life with some wild west woman.” Rhys wanted to add that it pissed him off but he decided against it.

“First of all what made you think I was having the time of my life? Was it my bored expression? Or maybe the complete lack of interaction between us?” the man asked in a mocking tone. “Secondly I don’t appreciate being played Rhys, and that stunt you pulled with the guy really got on my nerve. The idiot should be happy I pointed at the ceiling when shooting.”

“Well…” Rhys wanted to explain himself but anger got the better of him. “And do you know what I don’t appreciate? You meeting with other women!”

“If you didn’t like the idea of me meeting with Nisha then why the hell did you say it was ok in the first place?” Jack said, raising his hands in frustration.

“Because it’s not my place to tell you what you can and cannot do. If you wanted to fuck her then what did you expect me to say?! Please Jack, don’t have sex with her?” Rhys yelled, his temper rising, finally finding courage in himself to hold the man’s angry gaze.

“Well if that’s how you felt then yeah, I’d appreciate you saying it!”

“And if you were able to comprehend any form of human emotion, then you’d know asking me such a question was a dick move!” Rhys yelled raising slightly on his knees, voice shaking. “If you’re bored with me and want to sleep with other people then go ahead, but don’t expect me to plead you not to do it.”

“It was just a stupid question I don’t see how this is such a big deal… and when did I ever tell you that I was bored with you?! I just asked this because…”

“Because what?!”

They were both shouting at this point, one over the other, fists clenched, eyes angry. Rhys could see Jack was struggling with the answer, either he didn’t really know why he asked that question, or he didn’t want to answer. Either possibility pissed Rhys off. Fine if the man wasn’t about to be honest with him then Rhys would have to be the one to do it.

 

—o.o—Jack —o.o—

 

What was Jack supposed to say, he could not mention Sasha’s words that kept bothering him because Rhys couldn’t know about the things that really went on in the interrogation room before he came in and killed the girl. He was also Handsome fucking Jack, he wasn’t about to whine about some stupid insecurities he had. He simply wanted a confirmation from Rhys, just a simple statement that he really wanted this, whatever it was between them. Jack didn’t want to second guess himself all the time, to think whether Rhys is acting this way because he feels forced or threatened. It pissed Jack off that he was powerful enough to have everything he wanted, but some things took more than sheer power to secure. He was about to speak up when suddenly Rhys broke the silence.

“Jack you just don’t… you don’t ask a question like that to someone that cares about you… If you want to sleep with someone else then so be it, I won’t beg you not to. But if you want to keep… doing what we do, then I’m not about to tolerate you sleeping with someone else. I…” Rhys paused for a moment, his voice growing smaller, eyes cast to his fumbling fingers. “You asked me once, back on Pandora, about what I want. I told you that I don’t want to get hurt and in order for that not to happen it cannot only go one way. You say I’m yours and… I like that. But what I also want… is for you to be mine too.”

Rhys let out a shaky breath and he seemed to be at a loss for words for a while. Then the boy looked up straight at him, expression wary, pink hue covering his cheeks. “I don’t want to share you.”

Jack was dumbfounded. He kept looking at Rhys but for once, and that was a rare thing for him, he was at a loss for words. What he expected, no, what he hoped he would hear from the boy was some kind of confirmation that yes, he was willing to continue their current ‘arrangement’. What he heard instead successfully eradicated any coherent thought he might form.

What Rhys just said was probably the most affectionate thing he heard for his whole life, not even his own daughter ever acknowledged actually caring for him. Handsome Jack was a hard man to deal with and he was perfectly aware of that. All the girls he slept with so far kept saying that he was just too crazy for them. They always made it sound like a joke but underneath all that he knew they were speaking the truth.

No one ever showed him anything akin to actual affection and no one ever dared to try. Sure, oftentimes he heard people saying how they liked him, or how they loved this and that about him, but as soon as they did, they were gone. Not that Jack cared, he knew he was a difficult man and, despite being aware that his grandmother was an insane women, he actually believed her when she said that no one would ever love him. But he accepted it, never really seeking out any reciprocation.

Yet here he was, with this naïve, shy and nervous boy who proved to have enough guts to want to pursue something deeper with him. He won’t lie, it felt nice. It was like something warm and fuzzy spreading throughout his body, leaving him contented. It was a pleasant notion, but together with it came doubt. Handsome Jack didn’t do relationships because a) they leave you vulnerable, b) it would require a level of trust he wasn’t sure he’d be able to give and c) he’d probably suck at it.  As if reading his thoughts Rhys spoke yet again.

“So I’m guessing that’s a no then.” He said sounding a bit crestfallen which caused Jack to feel a twinge of pain pierce through him. Where the hell did all these feelings come from?

“It’s fine, I didn’t really believe it would work out. I know you don’t care about stuff like this… But in that case Jack, you need to know that I cannot continue this.” The boy said making a motion with his hand, drawing a line between the two of them, as if there was some inexistent bridge there that was crumbling with every word that Rhys uttered. “I’m not like you, I cannot just casually have sex and not get attached… You know come to think of it.” Rhys said and paused, a sad smile appearing on his face. “This would never work, I mean we’re so different and you…”Rhys looked at him “you wouldn’t really know how to…” The boy stopped abruptly, as if only now realizing what he was about to say.

Now that struck a nerve.

“I wouldn’t know how to what? Care for someone?!” Jack said irked by the boy’s dismissal. “Does a person who doesn’t know how to care about someone buy them an apartment? Or run through half of Pandora to find and kill people who hurt them. Or ensure they have the best medical help available in the whole universe. Or… wait wait, this is a good one, go into a fucking panic attack when thinking they were dead!?” Jack hollered, his anger rising, shoulders going up and down with his heavy breathing.

Looking at Rhys’ bewildered expression he finally realized what he just said. Shit, he didn’t really mean to say all that, but the boy pissed him off with that offhanded comment. He already did so much for this ungrateful kid yet it was still not enough. So what was that he wanted? A relationship? Sure, fine, he can do that… probably. Well if everyone else could do it, then he sure as hell was capable of it as well. He just wasn’t sure how to go about it, or what exactly it entailed… And the thought of being this close to someone for an extended period of time caused his paranoia to go into a hyperdrive mode… But otherwise he was fine, definitely fine. As fine as one could be. Probably.

Besides it’s not like he had much choice at this point. He kind of got himself in a corner here urging the boy to show that he actually cared for Jack. So now he knows the kid does care, which is great… but he would be perfectly fine with knowing all that and not really changing anything. But of course Rhys, being the sensitive little noodle he is, has to take everything to the extreme. So now it’s either a relationship or nothing.

It’s not like Jack was about to give up on the great food or, surprisingly, awesome sex. He also got used to the boy’s presence and found that being with Rhys was the only time he could actually relax without having the constant need to look over his shoulder. It was pleasant to look forward to seeing Rhys whenever he wanted, so he didn’t want to throw all that away. Still… he wasn’t sure he could handle a relationship. He has been avoiding those all his life, even with Angel’s mother he never really committed.

What the boy was asking from him was really something out of his comfort zone. He could of course refuse, but that would mean losing the boy and he wasn’t really prepared for that alternative either. Forcing him was out of the question, Jack wasn’t a person to take satisfaction in forcing someone to do as he liked. Granted he did want to own the boy, but he’d have to submit willingly, otherwise there was just no point.

 So there he was, faced with no other alternative than to try and make this relationship thing work. He was really uncomfortable with the notion, but he’s Handsome goddamn Jack. He vanquished vault hunters, single handedly managed to bring down a siren, secured Hyperion’s leading position on the market… so surely being in a relationship wasn’t that big of a deal. Right? Right?!

“Ok” Jack said slightly defeated and made his way for the door, running his hand through his hair, sighing loudly. Why did people always want everything to be so conventional? Wasn’t eating dinner together and having sex good enough?

He could do this.

 

—o.o—Rhys —o.o—

 

What the hell did just happen? Rhys looked dumfounded at the closed door not understanding what Jack meant by the ‘ok’ comment. After yelling at each other for the past half an hour, Jack sat in total silence for what seemed like ages and then stood up and left. It seemed to Rhys that he was having some internal battle, the outcome of which, however, remained unknown.

To be honest Rhys didn’t really expect anything. He was more than certain that Jack wouldn’t agree to stay exclusive and that is partially why he delayed having this conversation for so long. Rhys was not naïve, he knew Handsome Jack wasn’t the type of person to get this close to anyone and there was no way he’d agree to Rhys’ terms. Part of him was also afraid Jack might want to force his way with him, luckily this was not the case.

For a while Rhys considered not saying anything, just continuing the way they were, with the casual sex and unexpected visits. Even though the idea was tempting, he also knew that he’d suffer more than it was worth later on. So in the end he decided it was better to leave things out in the open and let Jack decide.

 For a moment a small part of him hoped that Jack would actually agree, especially given what he said about caring. Rhys has never thought of it that way, but looking back, there were actually many occasions in which Jack really tried to do his best to care about him. Granted it was always in a rather forceful ‘ I want everything to be my way’ kind of fashion, but still it did show he cared.

Sadly though he knew all along that this could not be. Why would the most powerful man in the universe decide to forgo his privileges to cater to some boy’s wishes. Jack could have anyone he wanted, so why would he sacrifice that just so Rhys’ would be satisfied. He didn’t’ blame Jack for not wanting to do so, why would he? Still all the logic in the world didn’t make that feeling of sadness and disappointment disappear.

With heavy footstep Rhys went downstairs to the bathroom and took a quick shower – god knows he needed one. Putting on his yellow sweater in which he usually went to sleep, he froze for a moment, thinking whether it was a good idea to torture himself like this. In the end deciding that he might indulge himself for a while longer, he remained in the sweater and made his way for the bed.

He was exhausted but found it hard to fall asleep, thoughts of everything that happened recently playing over and over in his head. He buried himself in the sheets, catching the light scent of the man still present on the piece of garment. It was barely noticeable by now, but still lingered on the fabric. Soon though it will be gone and with it all traces of the man’s existence in his life. The thought caused an intense feeling sadness to settle in his chest, tears unknowingly welling in the corners of his eyes.

It was funny how in the beginning he was terrified of the man, panicking whenever the CEO was near him. As time went by other emotions came into play, like familiarity, anger, happiness, frustration and even lust. Then a couple of days ago he walked out on Jack only to wish for the man to return. It was really a roller coaster ride and even though their talk only facilitated Jack’s decision to end it, at least now Rhys had a sense of closure.

Suddenly he heard the sound of doors opening and slamming shut. There was no one else who could enter the apartment freely other than Jack, but why would he come back? The next noise Rhys could make out was of something heavy hitting the floor. He later heard Jack going to his bathroom and, judging by the sound of running water, taking a shower. What the…?

Rhys rose to a sitting position and crawled to the edge of the platform, looking at the room below, hoping that he’d find some clues as to why the CEO decided to come back and  use his shower of all things. The only thing that he spotted, which was not there earlier, was a big duffle bag laying near the door. For a moment he considered going down and checking what was in it, but in the end decided against it. He didn’t want Jack to think he was prying.

When the sound of water stopped Jack came out of the bathroom, clad only in a pair of boxers. He was drying his hair with one of Rhys’ towels and making his way towards the duffle bag. Not knowing exactly why, Rhys went back to his previous position and pretended he was sleeping. He didn’t want Jack to think he was waiting in hopes of his return or better yet spying on him while the man thought he was asleep.

Soon he heard footsteps on the staircase and felt something soft hit the space next to his head, causing him to flinch involuntary. There goes his cover.

“Not asleep yet pumpkin or did I wake you?” Jack asked casually, discarding the wet towel on the staircase.  Great manners.

Rhys was still in a state of shock, trying to comprehend what was happening. Jack should really learn how to use his words. Normally it’s difficult for the man to shut up, but when it comes to stuff like emotions he is the least talkative person and most confusing one at that.

The programmer turned on his back looking for the object that caused him to jolt earlier. He discovered it was a pillow, which looked eerily familiar. It was made of satin and was mainly white, with just a few hints of purple. Those were the dominant colors in Jack’s apartment.

“You brought your pillow?” There were so many other things he wanted to ask but no, instead he asks about the damn pillow. Maybe Jack wasn’t the only one who had problems with conveying his thoughts?

“My, you get sharper by each day kitten. I don’t know how will I ever manage to stay ahead of you.” Jack, as usual, had to answer with his trademark mocking tone. Rhys hated when he did that, but the man did have a point. It was a dumb question.

“What I meant was why did you bring your pillow?”

“Well what can I say, people get used to stuff and I really do like my pillow. Helps me sleep and all that shit. But in all fairness, you do a nice job at that as well baby cakes. With your strengths combined, I’m expecting to have the experience of a lifetime in the sleeping department.” Jack said and laid next to him, punching his pillow lightly a few times to make it the perfect shape. He then places his head on it, on arm below the pillow, body turned in Rhys’ direction.

“You plan on sleeping here?” Rhys asked dumbfounded.

“Well… isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in a relationship?” Jack asked with an honest expression, shrugging his shoulders.

Did… did Handsome Jack just say what Rhys thought he did? The word ‘relationship’ sounding so odd on the man’s lips. He kept looking at Jack, no words coming from his mouth, he was too shocked to say anything.

“I’ll interpret your silence as a confirmation. Anyways go to sleep, it’s like four in the morning at this point. I have a shit ton of things I need to do tomorrow and damn do I need to catch at least a few hours of sleep.” Jack said yawning and scooting closer to Rhys who still lay there, trying to comprehend what was happening.

Jack placed on hand on his shoulder and steered him gently so that now he was facing the opposite direction. The he moved even closer to Rhys and put his left arm around his waist, spooning the programmer. With Jack’s body heat pressing to his back Rhys felt his face turning red. He could practically feel the man’s beating heart. Jack’s lips, on the other hand, kept brushing at the nape of his neck, the man’s breathing tickling his skin, the feeling so pleasurable that he had goosebumps all over his arms.

Rhys could not believe this. One minute he was crying over what will never be and the next he was lying in one bed with the man, Jack hugging him securely as he slowly drifted into sleep. Had Jack misinterpreted his wishes? All that Rhys wanted was for the CEO to promise him not to sleep with anyone else while they were together. He hadn’t meant for anything to change and he surely wasn’t hoping to be in an actual relationship with the man.

He knew Jack hated the idea and was probably terrified of it as well. With his constant paranoia Rhys could only guess how difficult it must be for the man to be so close to anyone. As far as he knew the man could not sleep in the same room with anyone, yet he just came to Rhys’ apartment set on sleeping with the boy. Sure they might have done that once already, in Jack’s apartment, but it was after having sex. Somehow the idea of Jack doing this without any prior ‘activities’ made the action a lot more intimate – if that made any sense.

Well one thing was sure, if this was the way Jack understood him and still decided that it was worth continuing what they had… then he really had to mean something for the man. For Jack to even consider having a relationship was a huge step. Sure it might not go well and it’s definitely going to be a challenge for both of them, but damn Rhys was happy to even try.

Perhaps driven by the amount of endorphins coursing happily through his body, he somehow found courage to test his luck even further. If he managed to accomplish this much in one day then who knows?

“Sooooo Jack?”

“Hmm?” The man replied sleepily.

“Are you like, my boyfriend now?”

“Just sleep you dum dum.”

Chapter Text

When Rhys woke up he felt a throbbing pain in his head and a pulsing ache shot through his temples as he tried to look in the direction of the glowing light. He blinked a few times slowly lifting his upper body, head still groggy. There was only one state that caused him to feel the aforementioned symptoms: a hangover. Rhys definitely drank too much when he went clubbing yesterday.

Thinking about last night made him remember the stunt he pulled on Jack and how, driven by his anger and bottled up emotions, he basically pinned the man to a bar table. He acted like a total idiot and to top it all off Jack carried him to his apartment. How was he supposed to look in the faces of his friends after this? The teasing will be endless. With a groan he took one of his pillows and buried his face in it, trying hard to suppress the waves of embarrassment that attacked him with every detail that he remembered.

A familiar scent of gunpowder and sun filled his nostrils, he lowered his hands looking at the pillow, realizing it wasn’t his. That little revelation made him remember the more pleasing events that took place last night. Handsome Jack agreed to start an actual relationship with him, something that Rhys never thought would be possible.

Rhys never hoped for the man to agree to a relationship because he knew Jack simply didn’t do relationships, they could have sex, meet casually, do stuff together from time to time, but to actually be together? Rhys knew it was definitely out of Jack’s comfort zone and that he was doing it for him, which caused a feeling of happiness to settle in his chest. He hugged the pillow once more, smiling stupidly to himself. Rhys realized he had to look like some crazy teenager but he didn’t care, for the first time in a while he was truly happy.

With all the ups and downs they were facing, it seemed that for the first time things were transparent between them. Rhys saw the effort which Jack put to please him and realized he had misjudged a lot of his actions, not really being fair to the man. They should’ve talked long ago and maybe avoid all of the drama, but it was not easy for him to confront the man who, even though he liked a great deal, was still quite intimidating when he wanted to be. Obviously Jack was no better at expressing his emotions hence all the misunderstanding.

Rhys was not naïve, he knew it won’t be easy to be with Jack. He was impulsive and moody and sometimes acted like a bomb with a short fuse, but with all that they went through Rhys got to know the man a bit better and hoped that he could handle himself around Jack. It’s definitely going to be a challenge and he knew all too well that there were high chances of things not working out between them, but he at least wanted to try.

The most probable thing that could happen was Jack getting cold feet. Even though he agreed to be in a relationship and made a show of moving his stuff to Rhys’ apartment, the programmer knew he was reluctant about it. Emotions scared the man and being this close to someone must be a big challenge for him. He has to work around his constant distrust for people and learn how to be close to someone without ordering them around or treating them like his property. Rhys sighed loudly, this sure ain’t gonna to be easy…

Come to think of it, where was Jack? Rhys looked at the empty place next to him, while still holding onto the pillow. For a short moment he felt an unpleasant feeling settling at the pit of his stomach. Did he get scared already? Did he decide it was not worth it? Shaking his head Rhys quickly banished the thoughts, there were so many other reasons for Jack not being there, he didn’t need to get all panicky about it. When he focused his senses he heard some small noises coming from the kitchen area so he moved to the edge of the platform to look down. Sure enough there was Jack, munching on a bowl of cereal  while working on some papers.

“Morning.” Rhys said causing the man to look up, spoon still in his mouth.

“M’nng cup’ke” Jack mumbled through a mouthful of food. Now that he raised his head Rhys noticed he was wearing a pair of glasses. He didn’t know Jack wore them but it made him look… nice. A bit older than usual, no, older was not the right word, mature maybe? For the first time Jack was also wearing casual clothes instead of his standard jacket, vest and long white shirt. Now he was clad only in a pair of grey sweatpants and a black v-neck sweater, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Rhys decided he really liked the look.

As Jack went back to his papers Rhys kept thinking about his age. Come to think of it he wasn’t exactly sure how much older the man was, he heard rumors about Jack’s age so he just assumed the difference earlier. The more he thought about it the more curious he got and, seeing as Jack was focused on his work, Rhys decided he can use this chance to scan the man with his Echo Eye. He wanted to do that for quite some time but never really got the chance. This seemed like the perfect opportunity so without thinking about it any further he activated the eye.

“Aaaaaah shit!” Rhys yelped as his vision distorted for a short while, a light electric current going through his system. It didn’t really hurt much, more like surprised him. What the hell happened to his Echo Eye?

“Did you just try to scan me?” Jack was now looking directly at him, eyes narrowed, a look of slight anger but also amusement present on his face.

“I…” Somehow only now Rhys realized it might have been rude to scan someone without asking them for permission, but he couldn’t help it, he was curious about the info he would get.

“Well since you didn’t care to ask you learned your lesson the hard way – NO ONE scans Handsome Jack.” The man narrowed his eyes yet again but despite his threatening voice Rhys could definitely see how the whole situation amused him.

“Sorry that was terribly rude of me…” Rhys said honestly, a pink hue covering his nose.

“Yes it was baby cakes.” Jack said as if he was teaching a five year old to stay away from the cookie jar. “If you want to know something about me then all you need to do is ask.”

“Well actually I was wondering about your age…”Rhys said looking to the side.

“Then you should’ve asked kitten. I’m 43.” Jack said not really making a big deal out of his age. “But I look like a 30-year-old and in bed I’m a very experienced 18-year-old, but I guess you know that by now.” Jack said wiggling his eyebrows.

“Wow…” So he did get Jack’s age right, which meant there really was a big difference between them. He’s shocked expression didn’t go unnoticed by Jack who narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“And is there something wrong with my age?”

“No, not at all.” Truth to be told Rhys liked the fact that there was this age gap between them. Somehow it added to Jack’s image, although he really didn’t look his age. “For someone your age you actually look really…”

“For someone my fucking age!?” Jack spluttered indignantly. “Wow what’s next, you buying me socks for b-day and dental care vouchers?”

It seemed that unintentionally Rhys really did struck a nerve. He didn’t want to cause the CEO to feel insecure about his age, that was not his intention at all. However, saying outright that he liked the fact that there was an eighteen years difference between them sounded weird.  Jack could practically be his father so normally this shouldn’t be ok, but somehow for Rhys it was. He might really have a thing for the whole being taken care of, but he’ll sooner die than reveal that information to Jack.

“I didn’t mean for it to sound like that, honestly.” Rhys made an apologetic face and Jack seemed to drop the subject, though something told him that this was not the end of it. After a few moments of comfortable silence where Jack kept working on some projects while Rhys just allowed himself a few moments of laziness, he heard the sound of chair scraping on the floor. He looked down yet again and saw Jack gathering his papers.

“Off to work?” Rhys asked observing the man from up above.

“Yeah, what can I say, not everyone is allowed the luxury of laying in bed all day.” Jack huffed a laugh and went to the bathroom to change into his regular clothing. When he came out and looked ready to go he stopped and looked expectantly to Rhys. After a minute of absolute silence between them Jack finally decided to speak up.

“Well?” He said expectantly, one hand making a circular motion. He was definitely waiting for something, but Rhys had no idea what it was.

“What?” Rhys asked raising his eyebrows.

“Well I am GOING out.” Jack said putting emphasis on the verb, as if that would make Jack’s intentions obvious to the programmer.

“And?”

“Jesus, I thought I was bad at this whole relationship thing.” Jack said rubbing his face with his hands. Next he huffed a breath and rolled his eyes, as if he was explaining to Rhys the principle of breathing.

“And… don’t I get a kiss?”

Rhys tried his best not to laugh. Seriously did Jack’s knowledge about relationships come from soap operas, or better yet maybe a 101 dating guide? At first he thought the man was joking, or maybe he just tried to think of a way to steal a kiss, but looking at his earnest expression, it seemed like Jack really thought it was obligatory to get a goodbye kiss when being in a relationship. It was kind of cute…

Come to think of it Rhys had never really kissed the man, it was always Jack initiating it. Suddenly what seemed like a funny situation caused Rhys to become self-conscious. What if he sucked at kissing? However looking at Jack’s expectant face he could not deny the man a simple kiss. For fucks sake the CEO was going out of his way to cater to Rhys’ wishes, so the least he could do was kiss the man.

“Oh right, sure.” Rhys said trying to sound confident when really he was just covering his nervousness. He made a motion to stand up but Jack halted him. Instead the man stepped on the kitchen counter… which was actually really unhygienic. Rhys needed to clean that later.

By standing on the counter Jack was now only a few inches below Rhys, making it easy for the boy to just bend down and kiss the man. Easy… yeah right. Nothing was ever easy when it came for physical contact for Rhys, he would always turn into a blushing idiot. But he really wanted to do it for Jack and it was just a damn kiss, no big deal.

“You know I don’t have a whole day muffin.” Jack said grinning, as if he could see right through him and knew the programmer was having an internal battle with himself.

He took a breath and bent forward, practically hearing the beating of his heart in his ears. He put a short, chaste kiss on the man’s lips. He was half expecting Jack to deepen it, as he used every chance he got to get his hands on him, this time though the man only smiled.

“Next time don’t forget to breath.” Jack said with a wink and hopped off the counter. He gathered his things hastily and walked out the door, saying a short goodbye before leaving.

Only when the door closed did he release the breath he was holding… damn Jack and his smug comments. It was funny though, how they did everything in reverse. Usually a relationship would start with simple acts such as this and later evolve into something more sexual. In their case a goodbye kiss seemed like something far more intimate than anything else.

Rhys heaved a sigh, plopped down on the bed and, looking around as if making sure he was actually alone, hugged the purple tinted pillow once again, smiling like an idiot.

 

—o.o—Jack —o.o—

 

Jack walked out of Rhys’ apartment with a smirk on his face, laughing internally at how tense Rhys was when complying to a simple request for a kiss. Damn the kid will never change, though Jack wasn’t sure he wanted him to.

As he spun around after closing the door he bumped into someone, his mood suddenly changing.

“Fucking watch where you’re going!”

“I’m sorry Jack, sir.” The man mumbled an apology. He seemed familiar but Jack couldn’t place the face. Blonde hair, earrings in his nose and ear… oh right. “You’re the overzealous dude.”

“It’s August sir.” The man had the audacity to correct him.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Tell me August, what are you doing here?” Jack asked suspiciously. “The way I see it you came to see Rhys.”

“Yes… that’s correct.” August mumbled. The man annoyed him the minute he said that but he had to give him some credit. Normally people would lie to him and tell him whatever he wanted to hear, but this one had the balls to say the truth and better yet, keep eye contact with him.

“Well August.” Jack said and put one hand over his shoulders, which seemed like a friendly gesture, but it was not meant to be such and the man surely knew it. “As far as I remembered I asked you to keep an eye on Rhysie when he was recuperating, which was… two weeks ago?”

“That is right sir.”

“So what, may I ask, are you still doing here?” Jack asked with narrowed eyes, face mere inches away from the man.

“Well sir.” August gulped loudly, yet he still held a steady gaze on Jack - the nerve of this man! “We kind of became friends and I just wanted to check up on him.”

Friends? Of course he became friends with Rhysie, who wouldn’t. The boy was intelligent, good looking, nice – everyone would want to get close to him, which actually pissed Jack off. If he had it his way, he’d scare everyone away from the boy so that he would have no one except him. Jack didn’t have friends so why did Rhys need to have any?

Sighing Jack let go of August. Even though he’d gladly get rid of the man who got on his nerve – the guy was even taller than him! – he knew Rhys wouldn’t take it well. Considering what someone else wanted was a bitch… no wonder he didn’t do relationships before.

“Ok but you better know your place.” Jack said scrutinizing the taller man, who nodded fervently.

“Of course, we’re just friends, nothing more.” He said, raising his arms up, like a man held at gunpoint. Well at least he wasn’t an idiot.

“I sure hope so…” Jack said in a deadly voice and turned around walking down the corridor. Suddenly an irritating thought struck him so he turned to the blonde who was still observing him from a distance.

“How old are you?”

“Excuse me?” August asked bewildered.

“Did I not say it clear enough? Want me to use Morse Code or something?” Jack said irritated. When he still didn’t receive any answer from the dumbfounded man he heaved a sigh. “Fine, dot, dot, dot, dot pause dash dash…”

“I’m 32 sir.”

Damn that tall blondie, now Jack really hated him. He made a gesture with the index and middle finger of his hand, pointing them at August and moving them to his eyes. He repeated the motion for good measure, to make sure that the ‘I’m watching you’ sign did not go unnoticed. Judging by how pale August suddenly became it definitely didn’t.

 

—o.o— Rhys —o.o—

 

Rhys let go of the pillow abruptly when he heard the sound of loud banging on his door. At first he just wanted to ignore it, but as the sound only got louder he heaved a sigh and stood up, making his way for the door.

“Well you definitely took your sweet time.” August said with annoyance. “I am basically putting my life on the line trying to be friends with you but I see it’s too much of an effort to get your ass off the bed princess.”

“First of all I didn’t know it was you, secondly it’s your fault for letting me drink so much last night, my head is killing me, thirdly – how may I ask, are you risking your life?” Rhys replied annoyed, he knew August meant well but it was just too early in the morning for making speeches.

“Well your boyfriend gave me the look of death just now.” August said and seeing as Rhys found it hilarious he added. “Well I’m glad you find it funny but remember it’s Jack we’re talking about, one wrong move and I’m dead.” He said and made a move to enter Rhys’ apartment.

“No, no, no wait!” Rhys shouted abruptly and pushed the startled man back. “You can’t enter my apartment, didn’t Yvette or Vaughn tell you? There are turrets here, if someone else enters my apartment the security system goes off and you’d look like a cheddar cheese within seconds.”

“See?!” August said with an indignant look, hands gesticulating wildly. “One wrong move!”

Well truth to be told August was right, being around Jack was like walking in a cage of a sleeping lion. Rhys didn’t feel as stressed now, but he could certainly still remember the feeling. Come to think of it he really did have great friends if they were still willing to stay by his side, even though it was kind of risky. If something bad were to happen Rhys was fairly certain he could reason with the man, but it was still better to be cautious.

“Anyway robo-boy, I came to check up on you and see if you weren’t dead.” August explained looking Rhys up and down. “You seem a bit mistreated here and there, but I bet you’re quite fine with that.” August said with a smug look pointing at Rhys, who only now noticed how many bite marks and hickeys he had on his body. Suddenly self-conscious of his state he tried to cover as much of his body as he could with the yellow sweater.

“Hey no need to be shy around me, I’m a grown man.” August said with a smirk and a wink only causing Rhys’ blush to deepen. “So I’m guessing it’s all better between the two of you.”

“Well…” Rhys stuttered a bit thrown off balance by August. The man had a perfect talent for that, pointing all the things that made him uncomfortable. But damn for a badass military guy he had a soft heart if he worried about him enough to check on him first thing in the morning.

“Seeing as you are slower than usual on this fine morning let me share my thoughts with you on that. Judging by the love-marks littering your body, the fact that you’re dressed in Handsome Jack’s clothes and that you did not protest when I referred to him as you boyfriend, then I’m guessing things went swimmingly last night.” August replied with a toothy grin.

“Damnit August, why do you always have to be so, so, so…” Rhys said in frustration, trying to find a word that best fitted the irritating man and his loud, blabbering mouth.

“I’m happy for you robo-boy.” August said with an honest smile and a small chuckle, while ruffling Rhys’ hair. “Anyway now that I see you’re ok I really gotta rush, I need to train some newbies today.  Show them which end of the gun does what and all that shit.” The tall man said and made his way down the hallway, before turning the corner however he looked back at Rhys and yelled.

“Oh and I need to rub it in Yvette’s face that I won the bet.”

“What bet?” Rhys asked confused.

“Oh she thought you’re going to have hot angry sex and then have another one of your arguments and all of the departments will have to suffer through Jack’s sour mood for the rest of the week. I, on the other hand, had much more faith in both of you and assumed you’d end up officially dating. In your face Yvette!” August cackled evilly while Rhys snatched the first thing near him and threw it at his friend yelling profanities. Scratch everything that he thought a while ago, the man was an asshole.

 

—o.o— Rhys’ office —o.o—

 

Most of Rhys' day was rather uneventful. He finally got on top of all of the project in the Programming Department and had surprisingly little meetings that day. He was actually grateful he could hide in his office for the most part of the day as he feared that the rumors about last night might catch up with his employees. Every time someone looked at him he got the feeling they were envisioning different ways in which his argument with Jack might have ended. Now that was a highly disturbing thought.

Thanks to having a peaceful day at work he could finally focus on a side project he was working on. So far he did not say anything about it, as he wasn’t sure it would work. He knew that, even though Jack didn’t say anything so far, the man expected him to come up with new ways to enhance Hyperion weapons. For now though, Rhys was focusing on a completely different project which, if it worked, might bring a new flow of cash to the company.

His idea was to expand Hyperion brand by going into the shield market. They already produced top class weapons, were in charge of the reviving stations down on Pandora and lately made a move into the explosive market thanks to his grenades, so all that was left were the shields. Everyone knew Anshin was the leader in that department so if he wanted to create something to enter the market, it had to be twice as good for people to even consider to change their products.

When he was working in the R&D department he noticed that they already had most of the necessary equipment to start a mass production of shields, so the only factor that was needed was some great upgrade that would help to launch their product into the new market. He thought long and hard about it and decided that if his upgrade was to be successful, it can’t affect the delay and recharge rate of the shield which was a challenge, but he’ll manage that, especially now that he had the ECHO Eye.

He won’t lie and say that the only reason he did this was because he found the project interesting. Of course it was one of the major reasons, but the other was a bit more trivial. He basically wanted to make Jack happy and also be acknowledged for his work. Rhys knew it was a childish notion, but he really did want to stand out, especially now that they were in a relationship. He wasn’t even sure whether Jack would ever tell anyone that they’re together, but if he did, he didn’t want to be a source of embarrassment for the CEO. He wanted Jack to feel proud of him… damn he was acting like a teenager again, wasn’t he?

A sudden beeping sound took him out of his revive. He checked his ECHO Comm and sure enough there was a message, but it was from an unknown ID. It was strange because he only used the chatting system for private conversation and no one, outside of his friends and Jack, had access to it. Intrigued he opened the chat.

Unknown: Hello Mr. Rhys, for quite some time now I’ve been tracking your progress and let me say it is quite remarkable. The upgrade designs you make are one of a kind and I know exactly how hard it is to account for all the variables and make a ready to sell product.

Rhys: Excuse me but who are you and how did you get my private number?

Unknown: That is of little importance. The main reason I’m writing to you is because I have an interesting idea, an opportunity so to speak, that I’d like to share with you. I am certain we can both benefit from it. When you’re ready to hear me out then please write and we can arrange a meeting.

Rhys: I’m sorry but who is this? I’m not going to meet with you when I don’t know who it is I’m writing to.

Unknown: I’m not at the liberty to tell that at the moment, but we can meet in a public place if that makes it easier for you.

Rhys: I’m afraid that won’t happen.

Unknown: If you change your mind you know how to reach me. I’m certain you’d gladly hear what I have to say.

-unknown user has logged off –

What the hell was that? Was it some kind of a joke, or was it a serious proposal, if so then why did they need to hide their identity? It all sounded way to fishy and Rhys knew it was better to stay as far away from it as possible. He can’t say he wasn’t curious though…

Suddenly the door to his office opened and in strode Vaughn.

“Hey Vaughn, what brings you here?” Rhys asked and stood up to greet his friend with a hug, all thoughts of the earlier conversation forgotten for the time being.

“No, no hugging today, I’m pissed at you Rhys.” Vaughn said with irritation in his voice, which did not happen very often, and stepped back when Rhys came near, his hands crossed over his chest.

“Hey, bro, what’s wrong?” Rhys asked honestly surprised.

“Oh don’t you bro me. What’s wrong? Wow you don’t even know… Well let’s think, maybe the fact that you didn’t call or text me once since Jack fired those shots in the club?! I was worried sick man and I have to ask Yvette to tell me that, what, you’re dating Handsome Jack?” Vaughn said hysterically while walking in circles in Rhys’ office “I mean what happened with the ‘it’s best to stay away from the man’ phase.”

“Yeah well things kinda changed and…” Rhys kept scratching at the back of his head, not really knowing what to say.

“Listen Rhys.” Vaughn said with a sigh, calming down a bit. “You know I’m fine with whoever you choose to be with as long as it makes you happy, but Handsome Jack… up till now I thought it’s just a phase that will pass but when I heard you’re actually together, well, is it really wise? You know how the man get’s and I’m just worried about you. You think you can handle him?”

“Well I see news travel fast, I didn’t know August was such a gossiper.” Rhys joked but seeing how serious his friend was he quickly sobered. “Do I think I can handle Jack? To be honest I have no idea, but I guess I want to find out. If it it’s not going to work in the end then I would still prefer to have tried rather than never giving it a chance… if that makes any sense”

They were both silent for a while, Vaughn giving him a skeptical look, soon though he seemed to cave and a smile was back on his face. “I suppose there’s no way around it then, just please don’t invite him to our movie nights, I can accept you being with Handsome Jack but I’d literally choke on my popcorn if the CEO was anywhere near me.” They both started laughing at that, visualizing a casual movie night with Handsome Jack.

“Ok, now is the time for a bro hug.” Vaughn said as they were both cackling like crazy. Just when they were about to hug the door opened and in strode none other than Handsome Jack.

“Now what the fuck is going on in here?!” Jack asked in an accusatory tone, looking at the proximity between Vaughn and Rhys. The accountant jumped back in horror, as he started to fidget nervously, all the time correcting his glasses.  

“Um Jack this is my best friend.” Rhys said awkwardly.

“What the hell, another one? I just met one of those this morning, so what the hell is this?!” Jack said crossing his arms over his chest, pointing with his head in the direction of the terrified accountant.

“Well  people usually have a couple of friends…”

“Son of a taint, are there many of them left?” Jack said irritated, moving to stand between Vaughn and Rhys, looming over the smaller boy and scrutinizing him with squinted eyes. “At least this one isn’t so tall, but he’s weirdly buffed, what’s up with that?”

“Uh, Haaandsome Jack sir.” Vaughn mumbled trying hard not to faint on the spot. “The name’s Aughn, I mean Van, that is Vaughn.”

Jack raised an unimpressed eyebrow, both hands on his hips. He turned his back to the stuttering man and looked pointedly at Rhys.

“I don’t like this one either.”

“Jack!” Rhys admonished the man trying to give him eye signals to be more polite.

“Oooh right, sorry cupcake.” Jack said and then, with all the theatricality he could muster, he put his hand to the side of his mouth, as if trying to make an effort for Vaughn not to hear him, and added in a fake-whisper. “I. don’t. like. this. one. either.”

“Jack don’t be rude to my friends.” This time Rhys was the one to cross his arm over his chest. “You don’t even know Vaughn.”

At that Jack turned to Vaughn and, after assessing the accountant yet again, he added. “Yeaaaaah, that’s not gonna change anytime soon. Also, shorty, next time you want to manifest your friendship, please do that with an appropriate distance, or else.”

Vaughn only managed to nod fervently, desperately trying to avoid the man’s scrutinizing gaze.

“Jack I told you to be nice to my friends!”

“And I heard you pumpkin, why else did you think I used the word ‘please’ in that sentence?” Jack said seemingly proud of his effort. “Now enough of this, I came here to fetch you for the movies, we don’t have much time so hurry up!” Jack grabbed him by the elbow and practically dragged him out of the office.

“What? But I have work to do!” He protested.

“It’s already seven. Also work can wait, I can’t.”

Rhys only managed to mouth a short ‘sorry’ to Vaughn before he was manhandled by Jack from the room. His friend didn’t seem to mind though, sagging into the nearby chair as soon as Jack was out of view. Damn he really needs to work on Jack’s manners, though something was telling him that his efforts might be futile.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

This morning Jack woke up early which was nothing out of the ordinary, but the day started off differently than usual. First of all he was not in his room, secondly there was a body pressed into his, thirdly he was in a relationship. The last part made him panic for the briefest of moments but he soon managed to control his emotions. All in all it wasn’t so bad waking up with Rhys snuggled to his side, he could definitely live with that. So far so good.

However the longer he thought about it the more unsettled he became. He agreed to being with the kid but had no idea what people do in relationships, he did not have a single clue. Weirdly though he wanted to make an effort for once, wanted to be good at this whole thing. Jack didn’t know whether it was his ambition or simply the wish to not screw things up between them yet again, but he wanted to try at least.

That is why after he went down to the kitchen he actually found a 101 dating guide on the internet. Jack would die if anyone ever found out he needed a stupid guide to figure out something that should’ve been obvious to him. Luckily he had so many encrypted catalogues and passwords on his laptop that there was no way someone would ever find the incriminating pdf file. And if by some chance someone managed that, well, so far there wasn’t a problem that his trusted revolver couldn’t solve.

So according to the booklet he found a few interesting tidbits of information. Some he liked, like the goodbye kiss thing, but some he detested like ‘making an effort to accept our partners friends’. He assumed he did a good job on both accounts so far: he received the kiss and managed not to kill the friends. Check and check.

Next on the list was a date. He thought about it for some time, at first he wanted to do something grand, something that would suit him. Handsome Jack did not do plane, if he went out for dinner, he bought the fucking restaurant, he did not do regular and boring. However, thinking on the matter made Jack remember the unfortunate time when Rhys went out with that bitch spying for Atlas – clearly a lack of judgment on his part. Jack remembered they went to the cinema and that gave him an interesting idea.

He would also take Rhys to the cinema and show the boy how an awfully pedestrian thing like seeing a movie could be un-fucking-forgetable when Jack was involved. And if, in the process, he managed to show the boy that dating that girl was a huge mistake and that Jack was oh so much better – well then it’s all for the best. Also he had a hidden agenda as well – the surprise he was going to give to Rhys would also benefit him.

This is why currently he was in the middle of watching some action movie, which title he did not even remember. They were sitting in the middle row while everyone else was huddled in the back. At first someone was actually sitting near them but as soon as they took their seats they evacuated in a matter of seconds. Well good for them, if Jack heard one person munching on popcorn while he tried to enjoy his movie he might do something rash. Only Rhysie had the privilege to annoy him with his munching.

Now, according to his guide, a typical movie date would consist of an attempt at putting your hand around your partner or holding hands with them. Lame! Jack did not do lame and he sure as hell did not do hand holding, what he did do though, was something a bit more daring and definitely worth remembering. With a smug smile plastered on his face he made sure that no one was sitting in the close vicinity and slid down to the floor, while trying to not attract too much attention.

“Jack?” Rhys asked, probably wondering why the hell did he kneel on the floor in front of him. The space was a bit narrow but he’ll make do.

“Oh don’t mind me baby cakes, you just enjoy your movie.”Jack smiled lecherously as he put both of his hands on either side of Rhys’ hips causing the boy to tense slightly. Was he in for a surprise.

“Jack what are you….angh.” Rhys moaned while quickly clamping his hands over his mouth to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

“Oh I’m just making this evening a bit more special.” Jack smiled as he bit through the fabric of Rhys’ pants. Well in his opinion a blowjob in the cinema full of people was definitely something unforgettable right? Jack was sure he was going to enjoy it, so Rhys should as well. All in all having Handsome Jack on his knees was a rare gift, so Rhys should definitely appreciate it. Ah the things he did for the munchkin… and for himself.

“Jack!” Rhys hissed in a hushed voice. “We can’t! There are people here!”

“Well that is why, even though I love your voice, you’re gonna have to work hard to tone it down a bit. Think you can manage?” Jack said while unbuttoning Rhys’ pants. As expected the boy took hold of his hands, always making a show of reluctance. It wasn’t a big challenge though, as he easily pinned Rhys’ hands and took out the boy’s semi-hard member. We can’t my ass, the boy was practically begging for it.

It was actually the first time for Jack to give a blowjob, and although he wasn’t too thrilled at the general prospect, the faces Rhys made were more than enough to make him willing. Even though it was dark in the cinema, the light from the screen allowed him to see all of the emotions displayed on the boy’s face and they were delicious. Rhys’ brows were knitted, his eyes pleading, teeth biting his lower lip, a vulnerable look on that pretty face. Jack loved the view.

Kneeling between Rhys’ legs, which were raised on the tips of his toes in what he could only assume was anticipation, Jack licked his lips and proceeded to rub them up and down the hardening shaft. He then stretched out his tongue and swirled the head with slow and deliberate movement, causing the boy to moan, biting his lips even harder, hands gripping the arms of the chair until his knuckles turned white. Rhys’ face and the noises he made brought a wave of pleasure and satisfaction. Who knew only looking at the squirming boy could make him hard.

“Jaaack, someone will hear.” The boy hissed but made no attempt to stop Jack.

“Well then you have to be careful with that little mouth of yours.” Jack said with smugness.

He positioned his open lips on top of the swollen head and slowly let Rhys’ member enter his mouth. He gripped the base of the shaft and started sucking slowly, which caused Rhys to put his hands over his mouth in order to muffle the noises he was making. The thought that just a few feet away there were people that might see what they were doing Jack. He liked how embarrassed Rhys was about it but at the same time how much he craved it.

Jack lifted his mouth all the way up and gently kissed the top of Rhys’ length before he found the right rhythm and felt the boy getting even harder. He quickened his movements as he felt Rhys fighting hard not to start buckling his hips upwards, trying his best not to bring anyone’s attention to them. Jack was actually grateful for that as he could avoid the nasty gagging reflex.

“Jack ah… I’m gonna…” Rhys tried to say as quietly as he could though his voice kept hitching unnaturally. The heterochromatic eyes which were looking at him with so much need were absolutely beautiful.

Jack stopped his motion for the briefest of moments and looked at the disheveled boy. He then added his tongue to the bobbing motion finally causing Rhys to cum in his mouth, the boy biting into his own flesh hand to avoid making any loud noises, though he still couldn’t help the few stifled moans that escaped his lips.

As Rhys sagged in his seat Jack finally let go of the now soft member and, looking at the boy, swallowed the cum, wiping at the corner of his mouth to get rid of the excess of the liquid. Looking at the kid’s state a smug smile appeared on his face, Rhys was a total mess.

“My Rhysie, you are literally delicious baby boy.” He said with a lecherous grin and raised himself a bit to kiss the programmer only to be stopped by Rhys putting his metal hand to Jack’s lips.

“You… are not kissing me with that mouth.” He said quietly, breathing ragged.

“Fine.” Jack said smirking and moved to the seat next to the boy. He resumed eating popcorn as if nothing really happened, glad that his plan was accomplished. When Rhys finally managed to gather himself and straighten up, his breathing going back to normal, Jack leaned a bit his way and whispered into his ear.

“You know I’m hoping for a rematch at some point in the future.” He said grinning as he saw Rhys’ eyes going wide. “Preferably near future.” He added and cackled at the panicked look Rhys was giving him. Oh he was having so much fun with the kid, if this is what dating is about then count him in.

Chapter Text

“Rhysie”

Rhys covered his head with a pillow, groaning loudly.

“Kitten.”

“Pumpkin.”

“Baby cakes.”

“Sweet cheeks.”

“What??!!” Rhys asked frustrated, finally tossing the pillow to the side and sitting up. All he really wanted was to sleep in for once. Lately he had so much work he kept writing codes till the wee hours of the morning and contrary to Jack he didn’t cope well with sleep loss. Today was the first day he had some time off and all he really wanted was to lay around doing nothing and sleep till noon. Of course Jack had different plans.

“What was so important that you had to wake me up on Saturday at” Rhys made a quick glance at his watch. “7 am?! Jack I told you I want to sleep in.” Rhys groaned.

“Oh now that you say that, I remember you mentioning something yesterday.” Jack had the decency to look apologetic at least.

“Mention? I kept asking you all day yesterday not to wake me up early.” Rhys sighed, his shoulders sagging. He should start leaving sticky notes for Jack, preferably on his forehead. “So what was so important that you had to wake me up?”

“Yeaaaaah… I want pancakes.”

Rhys stared disbelievingly at the man. Fucking pancakes? Honestly?! Jack was so insufferable at times that Rhys had a feeling one of those mornings he’ll smother the man with a pillow. Maybe Jack’s paranoia was a self-defense mechanism, like a was a way for his psyche to communicate to the man that no one would be able to suffer with his whimsical nature and that assassination attempts were highly possible.

“Fine.” Rhys said while rubbing at his face. “Give me five minutes.”

Jack leapt happily like a five year old and went down to the kitchen, obviously happy that he managed to accomplish what he wanted. Rhys should stop indulging the man - showing Jack the blessing of pancakes was not his wisest decision. Ever since the CEO tried them he kept insisting for Rhys to make them every day. Needless to say with the amount of work he had Rhys could not comply so they agreed to a very reasonable term - they’ll have pancakes during the weekends.

Rhys went down to the kitchen still dressed in his pajamas, which consisted of Jack’s Hyperion sweater and a pair of briefs. He yawned loudly as he started preparing the banter, Jack helping as much as he could, which basically meant he tried really hard not to make a mess of the kitchen… instead he usually made a mess of Rhys. Jack was really clingy in the mornings which usually resulted in burnt pancakes, but there was just no reasoning with the man.

Two months went by since the time they officially started dating and surprisingly everything was going pretty well. They were both quite busy so it was not like they could spend a lot of time together. Jack usually woke up so early that he was out of the apartment before Rhys even managed to wake up, so it was only during the weekends they could spend their mornings together. Rhys might complain a lot every time Jack woke him up but truth to be told he was happy to spend some time with Jack.

Even though everything went really well this past two months, especially considering how much they bickered before, it didn’t change the fact that Handsome Jack was a difficult man to be with and it took a lot of patience on Rhys part to make it work. Some of his antics were endearing, but some were downright annoying.

 The most difficult trait to work with would probably be the man’s jealousy, if Jack had it his way, Rhys would stay put in his apartment and wait like a loving wife for the husband to return. As if. Luckily Jack did understand that he could not really force Rhys to cut all ties with the outside world, but he still complained every time the programmer went out to meet his friends.

Jack was often busy with work in the evenings so Rhys took it as an opportunity to meet up with Vaughn to play some video games or go clubbing with August. Yvette was always around whatever they did really , so they would all spent time together. However Jack soon noticed how Rhys would go out whenever he wasn’t around so he’d make a habit of taking his work back to the apartment just so he’d be around Rhys. Sometimes he’d also ask what were his plans and whenever Rhys admitted that he was going to meet up with his friends, Jack would suddenly decide that he had some time to spare and that they could go out together.

Rhys worried that due to the man’s jealousy and possessiveness his work would suffer, but luckily it seemed that Jack had everything under control. The fact that he usually slept for 4 hours tops was probably a major factor. Rhys often offered his help but Jack always preferred to supervise everything himself and Rhys could understand that perfectly, as it was the same when it came to his job.

“So what are your plans for today muffin?” Speak of the devil’s flaws.

Rhys was in the process of putting the banter on the frying pan when the larger man came up behind him. Jack did this whenever he cooked and although it was one of those endearing things about the man, it was really difficult to cook.

“Nothing much, I need to finalize a project at my department but it shouldn’t take too much time. I was planning to go later and get some sleep, but SOMEONE had other plans.” Rhys answered trying to sound annoyed.

“Well someone has to work on this relationship kitten. You know that mornings are our quality time.” Jack chuckled as he embrace Rhys from behind, sucking at the boys neck.

“You mean someone has to make pancakes.” Rhys said turning his head slightly to the right. Jack gave him a quick kiss on the lips and then proceeded to plant marks on the boy’s neck. “Why do you insist on doing that every morning?”

“I wouldn’t have to if you agreed to the tattoo.” Jack responded still focusing on the boy’s neck, causing Rhys to stifle a moan.

Handsome Jack had the most ridiculous ideas that were born out of his illogical jealousy. Roughly a month ago he focused his attention on Rhys’ blue tattoos which caused a reasonable amount of worry for the programmer. He kept thinking that maybe Jack found something unusual about them, as he kept studying the markings with a scrutinizing gaze, brows furrowed.

When finally Rhys could not take it any longer and asked about the reason for Jack’s unusual interest in them, the man said that he did not like the reason for which Rhys decided on the tattoos. The programmer had to search his memory for a long while to even remember what reason he gave to Jack the first time he asked about the markings. At the time he said that he wanted to be more popular with the girls, or some other nonsense, either way this seemed to be a new cause of jealousy for the man.

Rhys tried to reason with Jack that it was a long time ago and that it’s not significant anymore but the CEO didn’t seem placated by that, so when Rhys finally stated that there’s not much he can do about it now, Jack had a different opinion. He said that now Rhys should have a new tattoo, preferably somewhere visible, that would be done just for him, or better yet, designed by Jack himself.

At first Rhys started laughing hysterically thinking it was a joke, but as the man kept pressing the matter the programmer protested. If Jack had it his way Rhys would probably have his body littered with signs saying ‘mine’ or better yet, have a big sing tattooed on his forehead saying ‘property of Handsome Jack’. There was just no way in hell Rhys would agree to that. Besides tattoos hurt like hell though he couldn’t give that as a reason as the man believed all of his siren markings were tattoos.

“I told you Jack it’s not gonna happen.” Rhys replied struggling to focus on the pancakes when the leech of a man kept assaulting his neck. His friends were laughing at him because every time he came to work he had those ridiculous hickeys. He tried covering them with stand up collars but, as always, Jack protested.

“Well in that case I’m gonna be relentless in my assaults until the time you finally cave in.” Jack said and his hands crept to Rhys’ sides.

“Oh no you won’t!” Rhys knew exactly where this was going.

“You brought this on yourself pumpkin.” The CEO responded with a mischievous grin and started tickling Rhys - damned be the day when he discovered Rhys was ticklish.

“Pfff… Jack… ah stop… the… pancakes.”

Rhys took the ladle that he used for the banter and tried to hit Jack with it, sadly he ended up pouring some of the gooey stuff on his face and shirt, causing Jack to back away and laugh like the true jackass he was.

“Now look at the mess you made kitten.” When finally his laughter died down and he saw that Rhys did not find it amusing whatsoever, he came closer with a placating smile, put his hands on the boy’s hips and proceeded to lick off the banter from the boy’s face. “What would you do without me?”

“Oh let me see, I’d sleep longer, have peaceful mornings and wouldn’t have my neck constantly attacked by a lecherous monster.” Rhys said while rolling his eyes.

“That’s right baby cakes, you’d be miserable.”

The one thing Jack always managed to do was to make him laugh, no matter how infuriated he was with the stubborn man, he’d always know what to say to change his mood. They kissed for a while but Rhys stopped it from becoming too heated – that was the other major reason most of his pancakes ended up burnt. 

 

—o.o— Rhys’ office—o.o—

 

Truth to be told Rhys didn’t have any projects he needed to finish, but instead he wanted to spend some time working on the shield. He already made some good progress and came up with a great enhancement that would surely revolutionize the market, the only problem was that he could not implement an energy source strong enough to sustain it without an incredibly long cool-off time. However he felt that he was on the verge of a breakthrough, he just needed a bit more time.

He was amazed that he managed to keep it from Jack this long given that he often had to use the testing facility down in R&D. Jack always knew what was happening in his research department, but maybe because he trusted Rhys, he did not control his every movement whenever he used it.

Suddenly he heard a buzzing sound coming from his communicator. An unknown ID displayed itself on the digital monitor but he decided to pick up, lately a lot of unknown numbers tried to reach him. Being the head of the department he had to deal with so many people that it was not uncommon to see an unknown ID these days.

“Programming Department, Rhys speaking.”

“Hello Mr. Rhys, have you thought about my proposition.” It was a voice belonging to a male, he sounded young.

“I’m sorry who am I speaking with? And what project are we talking about?”

“I reached out to you around two months ago, I mentioned I have an interesting project that you might want to work on.”

Now that Rhys thought about it he did receive a message from an unknown number. He was wondering what it was all about, but with how much work he had to deal with everyday, he had little time to ponder on the issue.

“Yes I remember. I also remember saying that as long as I don’t know who it is that I’m speaking with I won’t agree to a meeting.”

“Yes… the reason I didn’t want to mention my identity is because I thought that you won’t be interested when you’ll know who I am, but since there’s no other way around it then I guess I’ll have tell you… I’m an intern at Helios’ research department.”

Rhys was silent for a while. An intern huh? Well that did not sound very promising but he remembered his days back in the internship program and some of the great system upgrades he came up with at the time. It was so frustrating when nobody wanted to give him the time of the day, ignoring his ideas just because he was a low intern.

“I realize being an intern is not much, but I really have something that I think you might find interesting. All I’m asking is for you to give me twenty minutes of your time sir, let’s meet and talk.”

Rhys rubbed at his temples, he really wasn’t planning on doing any additional work today, but he didn’t want to turn into one of those stuck up guys who couldn’t see potential in a young talent.

“Ok fine, let’s meet at the New Haven pub in half an hour.” Rhys said with a sigh.

“Thank you sir, I am sure you won’t regret this!” The young man said enthusiastically and hung up. Rhys really hoped this won’t be a waste of his time.

 

—o.o— New Haven Pub —o.o—

 

Rhys walked into the pub and scanned his surroundings. As expected there weren’t a lot of people inside, aside from the couple of regulars who, just like August, liked to enjoy their alcohol at any given moment during the day, the pub was otherwise empty. It was therefore easy to spot the intern who sat in one of the booths, a file with some documents placed in front of him.

Rhys came up to the boy who stood up as soon as he was near and extended his hand towards him. Rhys ordered two beers and as soon as they were handed their alcohol the boy pushed the file in his direction. Rhys figured that it contained the project and opened it hastily, taking a quick look through the pages. It took him around thirty seconds to close it back again, an angry look on his face.

“What the hell is this?!”

“Something that I believe might interest you.” The boy said with a cautious look on his face.

“I came here under the impression that you have an idea about a project I could help you with. This” Rhys said pointing to the stack of papers, a disgusted look on his face. “is information on Handsome Jack. I don’t even want to know how it was obtained.”

“Pleas Mr. Rhys, don’t feel offended. I really wanted to talk with you about a project, no, actually a series of projects we’d like to collaborate with you on.”

“We?” Rhys prodded impatiently, one eyebrow raised.

“Yes we, as in the Atlas corporation.”

“And what the hell makes you think that I’d betray Hyperion for you, given how you basically tricked me into talking with you.”

“Not really, I said the truth. I’m an intern at Helios, but I’m an Atlas intern.”

Damn it now that he thought about it, he remembered Jack saying something about an internship program between different companies a while back. He mentioned it when saying that some intern from Torgue caused an accident which left them with a hefty amount of money.

“Even so you deliberately omitted that information. Besides what makes you think that I’d turn my back on Hyperion, especially since we’re currently number one on the market.” Rhys questioned, more and more angry at the situation he found himself in.

“This.” They boy said pointing to the stack of papers “is what will change your mind. It’s all the information we managed to gather on Handsome Jack. We know that the two of you are… close, but I don’t think you actually know the man you work for. You seem like a decent person and I am sure that, after reading this, you’d think twice on who you’d like to keep working with.”

Rhys stood up abruptly, fury clouding his mind. What right did the Atlas have to pass judgment on Jack, or to trick him into meeting with them. Also what makes them think he’ll believe in anything that is written in those files.

“I’m sorry to say I’m not interested and I don’t need your stupid file to get information on Jack.” He turned around and was about to leave when he heard the boy speak up.

“Well I guess since you two are together he probably already told you that he killed his own grandmother.”

Rhys did not want to listen to this, the man might be laying, besides it wasn’t fair to Jack, he’d be furious if he found out about this conversation.

“Or that he had a daughter who was a siren…”

At that Rhys stopped in his tracks. Handsome Jack had a daughter who… was a siren? What happened to her, why did Jack detest siren so much if his own daughter was a siren? Unknowingly he cast a glance at the files lying on the table, it was all that the intern needed.

“We would be really eager to work with you Mr. Rhys, I hope you make the right choice.” He said, titling his head slightly and left the pub. All the time Rhys couldn’t decided whether to leave the place with or without the stupid files. He shouldn’t read them, he really shouldn’t. He was in a relationship with Jack and if he really wanted to know something he should simply ask.

But how do you ask an intimidating man such as Handsome Jack about his dead daughter?

 

—o.o— Rhys’ apartment —o.o—

 

Rhys came back to the apartment in a frenzied state, his mind kept going back to the unfortunate meeting at the pub. He had to calm down otherwise Jack would notice something was off. Strangely enough for a self-absorbed man as he was, he always knew when something was off with Rhys. He learned that the hard way when he once came back annoyed after a rather unpleasant talk with one of his workers.

Jack sensed something was off so he asked about it and, without much thought, Rhys told Jack how a worker of his was rude to him. Jack just came up to him, kissed him on the forehead and told him not to worry and that he’s going to take care of it. When Rhys asked how exactly he envisioned that, Jack replied, without much care, that he’s gonna kill him for ‘angering his bunny’.

At first Rhys found it funny but when he actually saw Jack giving an order to one of the military men over his ECHO comm., he had to argue with the CEO for a better part of an hour to spare the man’s life. Rhys might be angry with the worker but not to the point of killing him! Anyway every since that day Rhys was extremely careful not to say anything bad about anybody in fear of Jack going to extreme measures to make him ‘happy’.

It was also around that time that Rhys discovered how much of an influence he had on Jack. The man would probably do anything he asked for, which gave him a scary amount of power. Luckily Rhys wasn’t going to take advantage of that, but he could imagine how bad it could’ve ended if jack was with someone else. Maybe August was right in saying how he was good for the man.

When he came into the apartment he saw Jack napping on the couch his laptop still on the man’s stomach. Rhys took it as quietly as he could, not to wake the man. Jack had so little sleep during the night that it was good whenever he managed to catch a short nap. Actually the view wasn’t so uncommon for him as of late.

Rhys busied himself with his work, trying to be as quite as he could. He could not help thinking about his previous encounter though, which meant that his work wasn’t very productive. Frustrated he was about to switch to a book and just leave his work as it was, when he saw Jack muttering something, his body moving in short, nervous spasms.

Jack did it sometimes, it did not happen often, but he still kept having nightmares. Usually he slept through them but sometimes they were violent enough for the man to wake up. One time Rhys made the mistake of trying to wake him up in order to reassure him – it was a bad move as Jack unknowingly took hold of his throat and began choking him. Luckily he regained consciousness in a matter of seconds and stopped immediately, apologizing to Rhys profusely. He also warned the boy never to wake him up during one of his nightmares.

Rhys kept sitting at the kitchen counter, looking helplessly at the man who kept trashing about, muttering something intelligible. It seemed that this time the nightmare was more intense so Jack would probably wake up. As if on cue with his thought Jack sprang up on the sofa, going for his revolver as he assessed the surroundings. Only after seeing Rhys did he calm down holstering his gun.

“One of your nightmares huh?” Rhys asked conversationally only receiving a grunt from the man.

Jack never wanted to talk about his nightmares so it was hard to get anything out of the man. However with the earlier conversation with the Atlas intern still in mind, Rhys was hell bent on getting some answers from Jack. The things he heard today lying heavily on his conscience.

“You know I’ve read that most of our nightmares stem from our childhood.”

“Well sorry to disappoint you doctor Rhys, but mine obviously come from all the S class horror movies I’ve seen.” Jack said, an annoyed look on his face. Memories were a difficult subject with the man.

“I’m  trying to be helpful here… But you know come to think of it, you never talked about your childhood.” Rhys prodded.

“Well and I ain’t gonna cupcake. Seriously this therapy session is over.” Jack said sitting up on the couch.

Ok Rhys decided on a different tactic. He made his way to Jack and sat on his lap, straddling the man. This obviously pleased Jack since Rhys was still a bit timid when it came to physical closeness. Even after two months he still failed to show a lot of initiative, but at least he always responded eagerly, which was definitely a progress.

“I’m just saying that I’d like to know more about you.” Rhys said putting his hands around Jack’s neck.

“And you know me perfectly well Rhysie.” Jack responded with a lecherous grin and started biting and nibbling at Rhys’ throat.

“Jack I’m serious. Like I don’t know anything about your family. What were your parents like?” He would not succumb before getting any kind of info from the CEO.

“Didn’t know my dad.” Jack said offhandedly while biting harder on Rhys’ throat. “My mom didn’t give a rat’s ass about me so she dumped me at my grandmother’s place with an adios postcard.”

The way Jack said it made Rhys feel really bad for the man. Jack answered with so little emotion that he could be reading a grocery list instead of telling him about his childhood story.

“I’m… sorry to hear that.” Rhys said in a small voice.

“Well I’m not.” Jack said not stopping his ministrations.

“So in that case your grandmother must have been great, right?”

That made Jack stop in his actions to look at Rhys, his face unreadable. It was like Jack wanted to say something but was fighting with himself whether he should.

“What makes you say that?” Jack asked, eyes squinting. Ok so maybe that was not the right thing to say, especially considering the information he heard from the Atlas guy. Could it be he was right? Did Jack kill his own grandmother?

“Well since you said that you’re not sorry your mother left you at your grandmother’s place, then I’m guessing she was good to you… So what kind of woman was she?”

Jack heaved a sigh and put some distance between them. He leaned back on the couch, but still held onto Rhys’ hips.

“She was a woman.” Jack said but as Rhys kept looking at him expectantly he continued a bit frustrated. “You know the general type, all wrinkled, grey hair, bad breath, the regular stuff. Anyways muffin what I meant by saying that I’m not sorry is that for me the past is the past. If you keep looking too much into it you’ll never manage to move forward.”

“If you wanna get to know me then this.” He said pointing to himself. “Is all you need to know and I mean it Rhys. I…” Jack stopped for a while, a pained expression flashing on his features which was gone as soon as it appeared. For a short while Jack kept looking somewhere beyond Rhys, a faraway look in his eyes, soon though he focused his attention back on the programmer. “You especially Rhys. I want you to know me the way I am now, ok?”

Rhys only managed to nod, knowing that it was a serious matter for the man. He would respect Jack’s wish although he’d really like to know what happened in the man’s life to make him the way he is. He’d like to know this and so much more, but… if Jack’s wish was for him to forget about his past then he’ll try to do it.

“Good boy.” Jack said with a pleased smile and continued his previous actions.

Yes he can do this, he can respect Jack’s wishes, although it will be extremely hard to do given that the files containing all of the details about Jack’s life were hidden securely at his office desk…

Chapter Text

Being in a relationship with the CEO of Hyperion was not an easy task, it required a lot of patience and self-restrain, but Rhys felt like he was doing pretty great. There were things that annoyed him, other than Jack’s overbearing personality of course. Jack was still a possessive bastard most of the time, but Rhys also saw how the man tried to please him. He’d buy him gifts, even though Rhys insisted that he had everything that he needed, but his request fell on deaf ears as new objects kept appearing in his apartment as well as the office.

Of course it was nice to get gifts, everyone liked that, but it made Rhys feel pressured. For him it felt like being pampered twenty four hours per day while he did nothing. Rhys wanted to somehow repay Jack for trying this hard but it wasn’t easy to think of a gift for the man who had everything. As for dates… well he was only good in romantic stuff which he had a feeling Jack would not appreciate as much.

There was one thing that Rhys could do for the CEO, which he knew Jack would appreciate, but he didn’t feel ready for that. Ever since their first unforgettable date at the cinema, which was equally as embarrassing as it was amazing, Rhys felt he should return the favor. He knew Jack was counting on it, as he wasn’t very subtle about it commenting on the subject from time to time, but Rhys just couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Jack was so experienced when it came to sex and Rhys was… Rhys. He was good at the receiving end but initiating something was always a big deal. He was afraid he’d disappoint the man somehow and there was just too much pressure on the subject. Rhys did get better when it came to being close with Jack, but he was still a long way from giving Jack a casual blowjob.

The man was just so intimidating and self-assured Rhys had a feeling he’d ridicule him in the middle of the whole thing, which would be utterly embarrassing. The programmer also had a vision in which he tried to do his best but Jack wasn’t responding at all, which would be twice as humiliating. He knew he was being an idiot and that, despite his harsh humor, Jack always knew when to shut up and appreciate Rhys’ awkward display of feelings.

So after a lot of deliberating and beating himself up about it Rhys was finally determined to give Jack what he wanted and if by any chance he happened to drink a few beers at the movie night with his friends, well then it’s all for the best. Liquid courage and all that.

As if on cue Rhys looked at his glowing ECHO Comm and noticed he received a message from Jack.

The1&onlyHJ: Gonna be late tonight pumpkin, got a meeting with someone from Atlas. >sad face< >crying face<

At the mention of Atlas Rhys felt a quick jolt of fear. The file that he received from the intern was still lying securely in his desk. So far he had resisted the temptation of reading it, but Rhys was afraid that the longer it sits there, the higher the possibility of him going through the files.

He didn’t want to go behind Jack and read on his life when the man clearly didn’t want him to know of his previous deeds. Rhys tried to pry some information from Jack every now and then, but the man was as closed off and unresponsive as someone receiving an invitation for claptrap’s birthday.

Rhys also had the feeling the whole encounter with Atlas could backfire on him. What if Jack found out about their conversation in the pub, with his paranoia issues he might interpret it as another way in which Rhys betrayed him… which would actually be true. His conscience was eating at him and he knew he should tell everything to the CEO, but the longer he waited the more it felt like he wanted to hide something from Jack. Maybe it was best to simply destroy the files and pretend nothing happened?

The1&onlyHJ: Hellllloooo!

The1&onlyHJ: Cupcake

The1&onlyHJ: Are

The1&onlyHJ: You

The1&onlyHJ: Ignoring

The1&onlyHJ: ME?

The1&onlyHJ: >angry face<

Rhys: Not really an easy task, is it?

Rhys: How late are we talking about?

The1&onlyHJ: Awww kitten don’t wanna stay in the apartment all alone? You can come to the meeting as well. I have a special seat reserved just for you. My lap. >old pervert smirk<

Rhys: Yeaaah, not happening. Besides I think you forgot that I’m meeting my friends today.

The1&onlyHJ: Out of the question.

Rhys: Because?

The1&onlyHJ: Because

The1&onlyHJ: …

The1&onlyHJ: …

The1&onlyHJ: I need you home, otherwise I’m gonna stress out thinking that you’re somewhere dangerous and I won’t be able to lead a successful negotiation, which will follow in our company going bankrupt, people being fired, hearts of small children breaking at the news of their daddies and mommies being kicked out of the company. >broken heart<  All this because you couldn’t stay at the apartment. It’s kind of selfish, don't’cha think? >judgmental face<

Rhys: You’re not guilt tripping me into anything. Besides who are you kidding, you never fail at anything.

The1&onlyHJ: Yeah that is right, ain’t it? >smug face< >crown< >respect<

The1&onlyHJ: …

The1&onlyHJ: Did you just play on my vanity?

Rhys: >smug face<

The1&onlyHJ: My kitten is getting claws, somebody needs to TRIM them. >serious face<

The1&onlyHJ: I’ll be back at 10 pm sharp. I want you at the apartment by that time.

Rhys: Fine by me.

The1&onlyHJ: Good.

Rhys: Jack?

The1&onlyHJ: Yeah?

Rhys: You’re bored at a meeting, aren’t you?

The1&onlyHJ: You know me so well pumpkin. >grinning face< >stuck-out tongue<

The1&onlyHJ: >vine - the horror of sitting through a board meeting you had no idea would take place<

Rhys laughed at their conversation. Even though usually Jack was pretty intimidating, when talking to him on a chat he was totally lame and inserted an unhealthy amount of emoticons, gifs and vines. Rhys supposed none of the Hyperion workers would ever believe that the powerful CEO could be such a dork.

 

—o.o— Vaughn’s apartment —o.o—

 

Rhys always figured that if he ever watched a horror movie with his friends then Vaughn would suck at it the most, surprisingly though that wasn’t the case. Sure his best friend was a bit tense, just as Yvette who tried to play it off cool, though Rhys could tell she was stressed because she stopped eating the popcorn which was for free. Oddly enough August was the most panicky of them all was.

“What the hell man, don’t go in there, don’t you fucking go in there!” August yelled as he clenched his pillow tightly. He was the aggressive-scared type, which was always the most dangerous one. If Rhys were to play a trick on him now and tap August’s shoulder to scare him, he’d undoubtedly loose an arm.

“Dude, you do not enter a scary place. You fucking run!”the blonde man yelled. It was funny how emotional August got. One would think that being raised on Pandora prepared you for any scary shit, but seeing August right now made him seriously doubt that.

After a lot of screaming and panicking they finally managed to see the whole movie through. Rhys was already in a pleasant state of being drunk, it was somewhere between falling face first on the floor and being tipsy – the perfect amount for finding courage in oneself and doing stupid shit. He was ready to see Jack now. It was almost ten so the timing was perfect. He stood up to bid farewell to his friend who weren’t too happy about it.

“Come on robo boy, we only just started the fun!” August protested.

“Fun? One more horror movie and that faint heart of yours will go into early retirement.” Yvette snickered, thrilled that she had some blackmail material on the blonde man.

“So what if I get a bit emotional when watching horrors? It’s the way their supposed to be watched!”

“Uhm I think Vaughn would disagree.” The girl remarked snidely.

“How many times do I need to say I’m sorry?! I already apologized, ain’t that right, little man?” August looked at Vaughn daring him to disagree with his glare. “It’s not my fault he jabbed me just when the serial killer jumped out of the closet. Anyone would panic at that.”

“I have a black eye, I’d call that something more than panic.” Vaughn said with a flat voice bordering on irritation.

“Guys seriously I need to get going, if I don’t I’ll be the one sporting a black eye.” Rhys announced grabbing his things. Of course Jack wouldn’t do that, but he exaggerated it just a bit so that his friends would finally let him go.

“Didn’t know you had a curfew.” Yvette snickered and the rest joined in. Traitors.

“It’s the last time I’m buying you alcohol.”

“We love you too.” Vaughn piped in and August was quick to follow. “And don’t forget to say hi to the man of the house!”

Rhys flipped them off and was out of the apartment just before ten. He had a goofy smile plastered on his face while he lazily made his way down the corridors.  Maybe he overdid it with the scotch at the end as he felt the alcohol kicking in, smiling like an idiot to no one in particular, but he was in the perfect mood. No worries, no tension, no stress, just the good old alcohol euphoria.

When at long last he reached the 37th floor and went out of the elevator a familiar silhouette met his eyes. He smiled to himself and, being under the influence of alcohol, decided that the best idea would be to creep up on Jack. He made his way to the CEO as quietly as he could and when he was in the vicinity of the man he did the classic – covered the man’s eyes and followed it by ‘guess who?’

“H..hey? Who’s this?” Jack jumped a bit startled, which was the first time Rhys saw him do that. Was he really so stealthy? Normally it was near impossible to approach the man unnoticed and Rhys was pretty sure he wasn’t the quietest person in his current state. Maybe Jack saw him and just wanted to play along?

“Meow.” Ok seriously this was the dumbest thing he did. Ever. Jack turned around and looked at him a bit startled. There was something different about him but Rhys couldn’t place exactly what it was, especially not when the world was spinning. He put his hands on the CEO’s neck and leaned in to kiss Jack. Yes he was definitely ready to return Jack’s favor tonight.

“Oh… all right… I guess.” Jack said in a slightly higher voice than usual. He looked Rhys up and down. “I guess I can work with that. You’re a cutie, aren’t you.”

Jack smiled at him and the smile was a bit off, it was warm, and pleasant, no hint of smugness, no sexual innuendo followed. Rhys cocked his head to the side and studied the man’s face, narrowing his eyes slightly to focus on the details that didn’t fit. It was sill his Jack, but he had a small, triangular beard and also  freckles dusted over the bridge of his nose. Wait!

“Jack, where is your mask?!”

“Oh, uh… took it off for the night?”

“You never take it off. Besides why would you need it if your face looks exactly the same.” Rhys said pointing stupidly to the man’s face , swaying slightly on the balls of his heels.

“Yeah… well time for change and all that. The mask, it, uh adds to the drama. I guess?”

Figures Jack would go all the way to wear a mask just to be more intimidating to his worker bees. To think that all this time there were legends going around about how the man really looked when in fact it was an exact replica of the mask, minus the freckles and the beard. Well but all that was not important right now. He needed to act on his liquid courage before it passes.

“So Jack, I was thinking, maybe I should return that favor.” Rhys said smiling coyly.

“Oh and what favor would that be, babe.”

“You know the one you kept pestering me about this past two months. So” Rhys said stepping closer to Jack and putting his left hand on the man’s lower belly, sliding the tips of his fingers under the waistband of Jack’s pants. 

“Oh tha… that favor.” Did Jack stutter? “Ok, lead the way babe.”

They made their way into the apartment and on to the platform bed. Rhys was surprised Jack was this quiet, normally he’d put in a few snide remarks already, but he was oddly silent. He could tell he wanted this, but something was off and Rhys couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Maybe the negotiations didn’t go well? Or maybe he found out about Atlas contacting Rhys? No, if that was the case they wouldn’t be doing what they were.

Rhys guided Jack to the bed and ushered him to sit down, he then knelt between his legs working on opening the man’s jeans. Even the way Jack was dressed was different. He was still asleep when Jack left the apartment in the morning so that’s the first time he was seeing him today. He had high leather shoes, which he took off when they entered the apartment, blue jeans, a leather jacket and a yellow Hyperion sweater. The style was less sophisticated than his usual one, but it fitted him quite well. He could never understand how Jack could normally go around with so many layers of clothing.

“Wow… this escalated quickly.” The CEO said with an uneasy smile, while leaning his back on the wall. Was he nervous? No, not possible.

“Do you want to do something other beforehand?” Rhys faltered for a moment. When Jack did it he went straight for the deal so he figured he’d just copy him.

“No no no. It’s fine, it’s perfectly fine. Peachy even.”

Rhys looked one last time at the man who had an expression on his face which was quite unfamiliar to him. It was something between anticipation and excitement, he was actually showing a multitude of emotions today. Was this how Jack normally looked like? Did he wear the mask to present a different image of himself?

Rhys could ask him all he wanted in the morning, but for now he wanted to do something for the man and this certainly seemed like something Jack would be grateful for. He opened the man’s zipper and pulled out his half hard member. Rhys took hold of its base and began licking at the sides in a swirling motion, causing the member to be fully erect in a matter of seconds. Well at least he’s doing something right.

Trying to build up the tension a bit, instead of taking Jack’s member in his mouth, he began laying kissed on it, teasing the man who’s anticipation seemed to grow every time his lips touched the swollen length.

“Aaaanghn babe, you do wonders with that mouth.”

Ok Rhys had to be doing an amazing job because even though Jack was quite vocal when they had sex he never moaned like this. Rhys raised his gaze to the man and saw he was biting on his own thumb in order to stop himself from moaning even harder. Seeing Jack this… submissive, was an odd yet thrilling view.

Encouraged by the sounds Jack was making, he kissed the top of the swollen head, and finally opened his mouth engulfing Jack’s member. At the first touch Jack began buckling his hips right away, clearly needing for Rhys to take him in even deeper. Rhys complied willingly and took Jack all the way, surprised he did not gag at the feeling.

Rhys wanted to tease the man even further, alter the speed with which he sucked Jack and also added the movement of his tongue but… it was over as fast as it started. Jack actually came into his mouth panting loudly, his breathing ragged. Slightly bewildered that it all happened so fast Rhys released Jack and was about to swallow his cum when the CEO protested.

“Ah no babe, you don’t have to do that.” Jack protested and Rhys wished he had done that sooner as he already swallowed the salty liquid. He did not enjoy that part, but figured Jack would find some pleasure in that, surprisingly though the man protested.

Rhys was actually a bit smug that he managed to get Jack off faster than the CEO did back at the cinema. He was a bit hard himself but did not feel like doing anything more than this. He was already sleepy and the alcohol wasn’t making it any better for him. However, he suspected this won’t end so quickly if Jack had any say in it. Just as expected Jack took off his jeans and jacket, leaving only the Hyperion sweater and shorts.

Jack urged Rhys to do the same so the programmer did as he was told, he wanted to take everything off but when he was down to his t-shirt and short Jack grabbed him and urged Rhys to lay on his chest. Surprised the programmer embraced Jack’s waist and put his head on Jack’s shoulder as the man started playing with his hair and kissing his forehead and temple, but not doing anything more than that.

“Aren’t I the lucky one tonight? You are the cutest thing ever. I think I’m gonna keep you.” Jack laughed wholeheartedly. He was so jovial and gentle that Rhys was caught off guard. Even his scent seemed different than usual, or maybe he was just this drunk?

“I think that you kind of do already.”

“Do what?” the man hummed sleepily still playing with his hair, which sent weaves of pleasure down Rhys’ spine. He didn’t want him to stop.

“Keep me. Isn’t that what being in a relationship is all about?” Rhys huffed a smile, but his answer seemed to make Jack tense.

“We’re in a relationship… and for how long?”

“It’s not like I’ve been counting.” He was. “But it’s been what, give or take three months now?” It’s been 2 month and 27 days.

At that Jack sat abruptly causing Rhys to groan, he didn’t like the fact that the hand wasn’t doing those pleasurable circles at the nape of his neck.

“So how often do we do this?” Jack asked sounding a bit panicky. Rhys finally sat up as well looking at the man with confusion written all over his face. What was with Jack today?

“I don’t know Jack, you tell me. If it was up to you it’d probably be every day. Seriously though what is wrong with you?”

“Ok babe just one last question – are we going steady?” Jack said in a higher tone than usual.

“What’s with all the questions? Of course we are going steady, wasn’t that the deal? Seriously what’s wrong with you today?”

“Shit… shit, shit, shit.” Jack said looking around nervously. Rhys was about to question him further when he heard the door opening. Who the hell had keys to his apartment?! Alarmed he crawled to the end of the platform and looked down only to see… Jack.

“I see you’re still waiting for me pumpkin.” Jack said with a smug smile but soon it faltered. “Those idiots from Atlas went into so much detail it took more time than I expected. Glad it’s over though. I’m just gonna grab a shower and I’ll be up in 5 minutes kitten.” Jack said and made a bee line for the bathroom.

In the meantime Rhys kept gaping at the place where Jack stood mere seconds ago, his brain completely frozen. What the living hell?!?! He jumped like crazy when he felt the man, who was supposed to be Jack, touch his shoulder. He turned abruptly, his eyes narrowed at the imposter.

“Who the hell are you!” Rhys seethed.

“Oh boy, I am sooo sorry. I’m Jack’s body double and …”

Rhys did hear the stories of Jack having a body double but he always assumed they were lies. It just seemed ridiculous to have a body double, what would he need him for?

“And what gave you the right to trick me! You knew I thought you were Jack!” Rhys said in a loud whisper, the only thing stopping him from shouting was the fear of Jack finding out that his body double was currently in their bed. Jack is going to fucking kill him for this. Both of them probably.

“Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m really not the type of person to pull a low move like this. But Jack never dated anyone, he always only had one night stands who didn’t really care if they fucked him or the body double. Sometimes Jack even urged me to sleep with one of his girls to see if they saw the difference. I…didn’t really like that, but you seemed cute and my type, so I thought maybe we could hit it off if Jack said it was ok, but I’m assuming he won’t be ok with this.” The man explained in a hushed voice, tripping over his own words.

“No, he will not be fucking ok with this, he will kill us both so you better get out of here as soon as you can!” Rhys said in a panicked voice and they both started hastily locating the double’s clothes, but of course, as luck would have it, the bathroom door opened.

“I forgot the damn towel.” Jack came out of the bathroom still fully dressed. He was about to make his way up the stairs for the towel which he always kept leaving at one of the night tables near the bed. Both Rhys and the body double paled and looked at each other and the programmer made a dash for the towel. He grabbed it and threw it in Jack’s direction before the man had the time to climb the stairs, hitting Jack in the face with it.

“Wow, thanks muffin, that’s what I needed after a long day at work.” Jack said in an unamused voice as he took the offending piece of clothing from his face.

All the while the body double quietly gathered his clothing. He put on the jacket and held onto his jeans, waiting for the right opportunity to put them on.

“Just trying to be helpful.” Rhys said with a nervous laughter not really focusing on what he was saying.

“Are you ok pumpkin?” Jack asked, one brow arching. Damn the man for always knowing when something was off with Rhys.

“Everything is fine… perfectly fine.” Rhys said nervously causing Jack to look concerned. The man made his way for the staircase as Rhys desperately racked his brains for a way out of this situation. “Jack!” he yelled causing the man to stop in his tracks. “it’s just, I was watching a lot of horror movies today and I’m a bit on edge, that’s all. Now you must be tired as well so go and take that shower.”

“Aww not before I hug my scared kitten!” Jack said in a mocking manner and went up the stairs. Jack was up on the platform in no time and Rhys was expecting him to go into one of his frenzies when nothing happened. He looked around and was bewildered to see that the body double was gone. Soon though he noticed two hands holding the railing at the corner of the platforms. The man was fucking hanging off the platform.

As Jack hugged him Rhys paid no attention to what the ma said, only seeing that the hands released the railing. He probably stepped on the kitchen counter. He saw the body double try to make a run for it but at that exact moment Jack let him go and made his was down the stairs.

“I’ll be right back cupcake so no need to worry. Jack will get rid of all the nasty ghosts.” Jack laughed as he was descending the stairs. Meanwhile the body double backtracked and hid behind one of the kitchen counters, his jeans still in hand.

Rhys was so stressed he thought he’ll faint and he was ecstatic when he saw Jack heading for the bathroom door. Just two more minutes and the damn imposter will be out of his apartment. Jack doesn’t need to know about anything. It felt like standing on needles, the anticipation rising with each step Jack made. But then the man stopped, his whole body language changing.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack was almost at the bathroom door when something strange caught his eye. He stopped and noticed a new pair of shoes he had never seen Rhys wear, something about them was oddly familiar though. Wait, didn’t he use to wear an exact same pair back when he was still working for Tassiter? So what were they doing here? Jack furrowed his brows when suddenly everything clicked into place. The way Rhys acted… it made perfect sense now.

“TIMOTHY!!!” Jack hollered, spinning around, throwing his towel on the floor. He looked around the apartment, fists clenching. “Get out here you fucking coward!” Jack bellowed and soon saw movement in the kitchen area.

“Ugh, hello sir. Um I can explain.”

In a few quick strides Jack made his way to the trembling man and as he came closer, he saw that he wasn’t wearing any pants. Before he knew it Jack swung a fist straight at the face he spent millions to look just as his. Screw it,  he felt perfectly fine with remodeling it with his fists.

“You fucking asshole!” Jack yelled and tightened his steel grip on Timothy’s throat, cutting oxygen from the man’s lungs. Oh he’s going to take pleasure in this.

“No! Jack stop!” Rhys pleaded and ran down the stairs, he grabbed one of his arms and tried pulling at it, which angered Jack even further. For a moment he let go of Timothy and looked at Rhys, eyes full of venom.

“Oh you are precious, aren’t you! Saying how you won’t tolerate me being with anyone else and then you go and screw HIM behind MY back!” Jack bellowed pointing an accusatory finger at Timothy.

“I only did it because I thought it was you!” Rhys protested.

“Oh that’s rich. You know what, even Moxxi and Nisha were able to tell as apart, but for you I guess it doesn’t matter which one of us screws you.” Jack practically spat the words, his fist hitting the counter, leaving a sizable dent in it.

“That’s not true! I knew something was off but I was drunk and… we didn’t have sex.” Rhys said in a defensive tone, but the display of force on Jack’s part made him want to run as far away as he could.

“Then, pray tell, WHAT did you DO that required him to remove his pants!?!?” Jack hollered pointing at Timothy’s state of undress. Before Rhys had any time to reply, Timothy answered.

“He just gave me a blow job, nothing else!” Apparently to Timothy that was not a big deal, but it was definitely the wrong thing to say.

“Just a blow job? JUST A FUCKING BLOW JOB?!” Jack said fuming and hit Timothy once again, this time in his stomach, causing the man to fall to the floor with a painful groan.

“I see Rhys you are quite the player when I’m not the one concerned.” Jack said in a hurt voice, his anger turning into disappointment. Rhys wasn’t sure which was better.

“Jack…”

“Just shut the hell up Rhys.” Jack said frustrated, rubbing his face with one hand. “And what were you planning to do, huh? Pretend that it didn’t happen, letting him out of the apartment so that I won’t notice?”

“Jack, sir.” Timothy tried to intervene as he stood up on shaky legs, clutching at his stomach. “This is my fault, the boy did sense something was wrong, but since you always let me… be with the people you slept with, I didn’t think this was any different.”

“Well it was! It was fucking different!” Jack said in a bitter tone, seemingly drained from all his energy. “But now it’s not, so go ahead and have fun kiddos.” Jack said, disgust and loathing mixing on his face in an ugly grimace, causing Rhys’ stomach to drop.

“Jack please!” Rhys tried to protest but the man was out of the apartment in no time, leaving a heavy silence behind. The programmer felt despair creeping over him as he turned to the imposter with a look that could kill, his hands trembling with fury.

“YOU!”

Chapter Text

Rhys was pissed, no he was fucking furious. All the progress that they’ve made, all the ups and downs they faced to reach the point where everything was transparent between them, all that laid to waste by one stupid mistake. He didn’t even believe he was the one at fault, how the hell was he supposed to know Jack really had a body double, especially in the state of drunkenness. Now though, as he sobered up due to the shocking revelation, he could not believe he made such a mistake.

Jack’s backup file – Timothy was his name – was a complete opposite of the CEO. Aside from the face they did not share a single thing in common. Timothy stuttered, he was a bit shy, his body language lacked confidence but most of all he was… genuinely nice, which actually pissed Rhys the most. Why did such a good person decide to trick someone into having sex?

Rhys was having a real hard time keeping his fury at bay, but he knew it was necessary otherwise, Timothy might end up like Vasquez and even though a small part of him considered this option, he knew that no matter what killing a person was taking it too far. Even if said person deserved it in a way.

“Explain to me why the hell did you decide to ruin my life?” Rhys said irritated as he sat down on the sofa rubbing his aching temples.

“Listen um…”

“Rhys.” The programmer practically spat.

“Yeah uh Rhys, I am so sorry for what I did, have I known you two were a thing I would’ve never done that. It’s just that Jack was never in a relationship and all his dates were one night stands or booty call so…”

“So you thought that you might have your way with me since I’m only a plaything for Jack and I wouldn’t really care, is that it?!”

“No, no, listen it’s not like that.” Timothy tried his best to calm him down but it wasn’t working. The man sat down across from him, his expression vulnerable – something he never saw reflected on Jack’s features. “My contract states that I cannot reveal my identity, besides I didn’t think I’d hurt anyone by it and truth to be told I… I found you attractive, I mean you are totally my type, cute, tall, smart.” Jack’s look-alike said scratching at the side of his nose, a pink hue covering his cheeks. Damn what Rhys wouldn’t give to see such an expression on Jack’s face.

“I was really hoping that maybe something could work out between us in the long run. I…” Timothy stopped for a while, a faraway look on his face. “It’s just that a life of a body double can get pretty… solitary.”

“Well then what made you decide on this line of work in the first place?” If the man thought he could elicit compassion in him then he was sorely mistaken.

“I must admit that when I decided to take this job, well let’s just say it wasn’t my brightest moment, but I had a lot of student loans to deal with and not a dime to pay them with. I guess you could say I was really desperate, but believe me when I say that I’d do anything to turn back time.” Timothy sighed and looked at him, deep sadness evident in his eyes.

“You’ve got to forgive my blabbering, it’s just the first time since forever that I’m able to talk to someone while not pretending I’m someone else. Like I said,  it’s stated in my contract that I cannot disclose any information about myself to anyone, you being the exception since it was Jack who told you my real identity. You wouldn’t believe what acting as someone else does to a person. At times I feel like I’m forgetting who I really am, it’s like constantly acting out a part in a movie until you can’t seem to remember anything outside the script.”

Ok if Rhys wasn’t feeling sorry for the man he sure as hell did now. Even though he was still utterly pissed at Timothy, he could see the man was speaking the truth, his crestfallen look a clear indication of that.

“Look at me, talking about my shitty problems when I messed up your life.” Timothy said looking at Rhys, concern filling his voice. “Like I said, had I known you two were together I would’ve never done something like that. It’s just so hard to believe Jack would ever consider a relationship, how did you manage to do that?”

“To be honest I have no idea.” Rhys said solemnly, looking at the troubled man. “The first time I met him, he was set on killing me and then one thing led to another and here we are, dating like any semi-normal couple. I mean we were dating until today’s fiasco.” Rhys said causing Timothy to cringe.

“It’s great to hear Jack finally found someone that he feels comfortable with, still it’s so surreal. You don’t even seem the type of person Jack would sleep with.”

“Oh and why is that?” Rhys said defensively while crossing his arms.

“Well you’re a guy for one thing, I never imagined Jack being interested in men. But other than that you just seem so… nice. I don’t know you but the fact that you are even speaking with me after what I did says a lot and Jack” Timothy looked at Rhys as if considering whether he should say the next part or not. “Well he doesn’t do nice things. He destroys nice things.”

“I don’t know where you got that from, but he’s never hurt me. Well ok he might have hit me twice.” At that Timothy looked at him disapprovingly, a grimace showing on his face. As if he could judge him! “But he was pissed at me for risking my life. He basically went into a panic attack after I’ve been shot and he doesn’t cope well with feelings so you know. It’s not like it was ok, but he promised never to do that again and I actually believe him.”

“He had a panic attack because he thought you were dead? Wow… I never saw him react this way, not even when his daughter…” Timothy seemed shell shocked.

“Did Jack really have a daughter?” The information shocked Rhys. He remembered hearing about it from that Atlas intern, but he half-expected it to be a lie. How did Jack manage to conceal such an important information, what else was the man hiding? This brought on an unpleasant thought that Jack might have had a wife. Even though Rhys knew Jack had a lot of experiences he still couldn’t help feeling slightly jealous and uncomfortable at the idea.

“Had… but I cannot say anything more about it, I thought he might have told you already.” The Jack look-alike seemed troubled about spilling information about his boss’ daughter, but certainly not as troubled as Rhys was. “Still it seems to me he really cares about you. He never really cared if any of his girls slept with me, but he was so pissed when he saw me just now.”

“Thanks for reminding me.” Rhys groaned, grabbing a nearby pillow and stuffing his face into it, half-lying on the sofa. “He’s never gonna forgive me for this.”

Rhys’ voice cracked even though he didn’t want to show any emotions in front of this imposter. He might be a nice person, but it didn’t change the fact that he ruined his chances with Jack. This past three months have been great and Rhys had never felt so alive. Despite all the fears he had they were doing really well, and he loved all the feelings that Jack evoked in him. His childish side could always make him laugh, his confidence made him feel secure and his pampering was a sign that he really cared for Rhys, enough to go out of his way to make the programmer happy. But now all of that was gone.

“Hey, hey, not all is lost.” Timothy said in a soft voice, kneeling next to him and patting him on the back. Rhys jerked his shoulder trying to get rid of the offending hand.

“You don’t know Jack the way I do! He’s so possessive, he’ll never get past the fact that I was this close with someone else. He’s pissed at me for having friends so I don’t even want to imagine how angry and disappointed he must be feeling.” Rhys was feeling so miserable he wanted to cry. If it wasn’t for the presence of the other man, he’d be doing that already. Actually why hasn’t he thrown Timothy out of his apartment yet?

“Listen Rhys I may have an idea. I mentioned to you that Jack would sometimes ask me to sleep with one of his girls only to see if they saw the difference?”

“Yes, and reminding me that Nisha and that Moxxi chick were able to see the difference and I wasn’t isn’t really helping me at the moment!” Rhys raised his upper body and tried to hit the man with the pillow. He was pissing him off! Timothy seemed to have good reflexes though, as he managed to catch it just in time.

“Please try to calm down and listen to what I have to say.” The doppelganger said sincerely, his expression serious. Ok Rhys could grant him a few minutes to explain before he smothers him with a pillow. “So as I was saying, he did that to see whether they could see the difference and he was always so pleased when they could. As you probably know Jack has a huge ego and he loves when people are paying attention to him. So my idea is for you to try and use that to your advantage…”

“And how the hell am I supposed to do that now? Need I remind you that I gave you a blowjob without realizing you weren’t Jack!?” At this point Rhys wasn’t even sure whether he was pissed at Timothy or at himself.

“Don’t worry about that, I’ll take care of it. I’ll go to Jack after he calms down a bit and I’ll tell him that you were drunk and that I tricked you into this. You did see the differences, I could see that, but it’s my fault that I played you.”

“You… you’d do that for me?” Rhys was dumfounded, even if it was Timothy’s fault to begin with, it was a brave move on his part to try and persuade Jack. Most people would be running in the other direction, happy that they survived an encounter with a furious Handsome Jack, but Timothy was willing to help him, even though he’d be putting himself at risk.

“Well it is my fault to begin with.” Timothy said scratching at the back of his head and only now Rhys noticed a faint trace of freckles on the bridge of his nose. For the tiniest of moments a thought entered his head – maybe Timothy would suit him better? - but it was gone as soon as it appeared. Yes it would be easier to be with his look-alike, but only Jack was capable of eliciting such a myriad of emotions in him. It was Jack he wanted not Timothy.

“Besides…” Timothy continued uneasily. “Even though I would much rather try to hit it off with you, I also care for Jack in a way. I mean, he’s the worst possible employer anyone could ever have and there are times that he pisses me off so much that I’d like to peel my own face not to look at his image, but at the end of the day, I do want what’s best for him. We’ve been through a lot together, down on Elpis and Pandora, and I know he didn’t always have it easy… So maybe he deserves someone like you?”

They stared at each other for a moment, neither saying a thing. All the things that Timothy said made Rhys curious about Jack, it seemed that everyone knew more about the man than he did. But now was not the time for being selfish, he had to do his best to make Jack forgive him.

“Prolonged exposure to the man’s craziness does strange things to a person.” Rhys said smiling lightly, finding hope in Timothy’s willingness to help. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all?

“Yeah it does.” Timothy smiled brightly. “So this is what you’re gonna do…”

 

—o.o— Timothy —o.o—

 

Timothy was scared shitless, sure he knew this had to be done, but it didn’t change the fact that he’d do anything to back away. The idea that he was making his way to Jack’s office, after tricking his friggin boyfriend into giving him a blowjob, was making his hair stand on end. Timothy wasn’t even sure Jack wouldn’t just outright kill him, but he’d have to face the man sooner or later anyway, Jack was his employer and there was just no way around it.

The whole situation was basically a series of ill placed events that were making his already hard life a living hell. He came to Helios yesterday, as discussed with Jack, to give him detailed reports on what was happening down on Pandora and to go through their next move concerning eridium mining. He waited for the CEO to show up for the better part of an hour, but it seemed that Jack forgot about him yet again.

Finally fed up with all the waiting Timothy decided to head back to his temporary apartment which was actually located in the VIP area on Helios – courtesy to Jack. So as he was nearing his apartment, dead-tired and wishing for nothing more but to have a warm bath and a well deserved sleep, this mismatched eye beauty attacks him. Rhys was just too good to be true, he was cute, had the best pair of legs he ever remembered seeing and was suggesting to fuck him.

He’d be crazy to turn down an offer like that, besides it wasn’t like he could tell the boy his true identity. Of course he could’ve just declined, but Timothy was missing human contact, like real human contact. There were a lot of batshit crazy people down on Pandora and if someone wanted to have sex, and given that he looked like Jack they did want that quite often, Timothy always ended up with some fetish driven psycho. For once he wanted something nice and the beautiful boy had innocence written all over his face. So what’s the harm in a bit of indulgence?

Great, great harm. Especially when the said piece of eye candy turns out to be your employers boyfriend. Since when did Jack do relationships anyway? And with such endearing muffins nonetheless? At first when Rhys told him they were going steady Timothy felt sorry for the boy, he thought he was one of those fantasy driven fans who think they’re dating Jack after they get fucked by him somewhere over a bar counter. But when Jack came to the apartment to casually stay over for the night he knew he was sorely mistaken.

It was amazing how Jack could never start a relationship because emotions terrified him and when he finally did it was not only with a man but also someone so different from his previous interests. Timothy could not fathom how Rhys managed that, or how it was possible for them to have any semblance of a functional relationship, but he could see Jack really cared for him by how he reacted to the idea of Timothy sleeping with the boy. He had never seen Jack this distressed over anything and he knew the man went through some crazy shit.

He wasn’t lying when he said that Jack deserved Rhys because really, thinking about all that he went through, he’d really use something good in his life. Rhys seemed perfect for the part, loyal, innocent, good-looking and he didn’t seem to pose any danger. The last thing Jack needed was someone betraying him for personal gain, which happened so many times before. But Rhys seemed like the last person to do that and Timothy had a feeling Jack knew that as well. The only problem was that now, in a way, it was Timothy that joined the long list of people who put a knife into Handsome Jack’s back.

He finally reached the CEO’s office and with a heavy sigh he pushed the door open. Jack was sitting on his golden chair, facing the huge window with the view on Elpis. Timothy messaged him on the ECHO Comm so that the man would know he was coming, he did not get any reply but he wasn’t counting on Jack saying ‘yeah sure, drop by my office, let’s have a casual chat after you fucked my boyfriend’.

“If you value your life I would suggest getting the fuck out of my sight.” Jack spoke up not even turning to face him.

“Jack, sir… you’ve got to listen to me.” Timothy sounded unsure even to his own ears. The sudden rotation of Jack’s chair caused him to jolt slightly. Jack turned around facing him, his mask was off which made him look even more dangerous. Timothy almost forgot how the man looked without it, the last time he saw him like this, it was right after Lilith punched the vault sign straight into his face, causing an unimaginable pain to go though Jack’s body. He lost an eye back then, which was replaced by a robotic substitute. The scar remained though, as a constant reminder of that day, the upturned V haunting Jack’s image.

“I do not need to do shit!” Jack roared standing up, punching his desk with so much force that it caused Timothy to wince. The furious look on the scarred face making him lose all his courage. “You fucked Rhys and now have the audacity to come here and say that I need to listen to you?! What makes you think I won’t make target practice out of your stupid ass face?!”

“I… I realize you must be furious, but I did not make it on purpose. How should I have know you are in a relationship?” Ok the original idea was to come here and man up to his mistakes, but seeing Jack like this made Timothy revert to his terrified old self and make up excuses to justify his actions. Not a good direction to go.

“Well let me think, oh right, maybe you should’ve simply asked before fucking Rhys! Looking at your dumb expression I can practically see your brain cells committing suicide one by one. You bring shame to my fucking perfect face!” Jack practically roared, incredulity written all over his face.

“You are right of course, it is my fault for assuming.” Timothy said quietly finding it hard to keep a steady gaze with the raging CEO. “But please take under consideration that you always said it was ok to sleep with your girlfriends, sometimes you even encouraged it. Also you told me never to reveal my identity…”

“First of all those weren’t my girlfriends!” Jack cut him off. “Secondly, are you saying that agreeing to Rhys’ little proposal was the only way out of the situation? Like what? They boy would’ve gutted you if you refused?! He definitely looks like a serial killer, doesn’t he?”

“Ok, all right, I admit it was my fault.” Timothy said in a defeated tone, Jack was right, there was just no way to justify his actions, even if none of this was ever intended. But he came here for a different reason and it was time to do something about it. “I understand your fury with me and I won’t argue with your accusations.”

“How very fucking generous.” Jack spat.

“The reason why I came here is to ask you to forgive Rhys. This… if anyone is to blame then it’s me. I tricked the boy, how was he supposed to know that you have a body double?”

“Oh I know it’s your fault, but it doesn’t change the fact that he wasn’t able to see the difference! I…” Jack sighed rubbing at his face, anger mixing with disappointment yet again. “I cannot forget that it happened and go back to the way it was. You fucking ruined that for me you idiot.”

“Don’t take the resentment you’re feeling towards me out on that boy.” Timothy said more firmly, finding courage in himself and facing the CEO head on. He hoped that Jack would appreciate it somewhere in the long run. “Even though he was drunk, Rhys was still able to spot the differences, so you can only blame me for tricking him.”

“Oh really?” Jack said with venom in his voice. “And didn’t you just say that you weren’t to blame?”

“I… my point is that if you have to blame someone then blame me, because it sure as hell wasn’t Rhys’ fault.” Timothy explained though it was hard to appeal to Jack’s logic as he was obviously in a state of fury. “Anyways I brought this for you, so that you won’t have any doubt that Rhys would recognize you in a beat of an eye.” Timothy said and extracted a small notebook from his jacket and placed it on Jack’s desk.

“What the hell is this supposed to be?” Jack said, not amused by in the slightest.

“Just read it and you will know.” Timothy said looking at the brown notebook. “And Jack, I know you’re angry with me but I treat you as a… well sort of a friend, even though technically you’re my boss. So I’ll allow myself to give you an advice, though you might not like it that you’re hearing it from me.” Timothy said and looked solemnly at Jack, who was still angry, but did nothing to interrupt him. He took it as his cue to continue.

“I don’t really know Rhys, but he seems like a really good person and he genuinely cares for you. He was so distressed when you stormed out of the apartment.” At the mention of Rhys’ state Jack features shifted slightly, though it was obvious the man schooled them to stay angry or neutral at best. “So what I’m saying is that he’s really something good Jack… don’t do something you’ll end up regretting  just because I was being an idiot and manipulated the boy into doing something he would’ve never done on his own accord.”

After Timothy’s speech there was a heavy silence in the spacious office. It seemed like Jack was considering what he just heard and weighing his options. Finally he seemed to reach a decision, a determined look on his face. He bent down slightly and beckoned Timothy to his desk, when he did the man ordered him to come even closer, as if he wanted to whisper something into his ear. Timothy did as was requested of him and stepped right up to the desk, placing his hands on it and  leaned in Handsome Jack’s direction.

Before Timothy had time to register what was happening Jack took out a knife out of nowhere and stabbed one of his hands, pinning it to the desk. The pain was unimaginable and it caused Timothy to drop to his knees, letting out a high pitched scream.

“Now you listen to me TimTams and you listen good.” Jack said grabbing a fistful of his body double’s hair and yanking his head upwards, so that the kneeling man was facing him. “I stabbed your fucking hand because you dared to touch what was mine and I DO NOT like to share.” Jack seethed, the ominous scar on his face  making him look ten times more terrifying than usual.

“You should be happy that it’s not your cock that I decided to chop off because that was my intention originally.” Jack leered and pushed the knife even further causing Timothy to whimper, the pain shooting through his hand like a thousand shards of glass. “But if you ever go anywhere near him be sure that I WILL kill you.” Jack said and with one swift movement took out the blade releasing Timothy’s hand, causing his look-alike to fall to the floor, his hand a bloody mess.

Fuck his hand hurt like hell, but given the situation Timothy was expecting a much worse outcome. If this is what lets the man vent then so be it, he could only hope that it would be the last of it. Despite the pain he was feeling he’d still consider that it was worth coming here if he managed to somehow appease Jack and help him forgive Rhys. Besides it wasn't anything he couldn't handle, doing Jack’s bidding back on Elpis he found himself in many situations that were worse than this.

“Now whether I decide to forgive Rhys or not is none of your concern. For now I want you as far away from me as possible. You’re going to Pandora effective immediately… and let’s hope for your sake that I’ll be in a better mood the next time we meet.”

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack was livid. Timothy was long gone, the only sign of him ever visiting his office was a pool of blood of a decent size along with some weird notebook he came with. Why the hell didn’t he just chop of his dick like he intended to? It would’ve been much more satisfying, instead he was in a sour mood, a bottle of whiskey being his only consolation. He was drinking his third round and as much as he wanted to focus on other things, all he kept thinking about was how they did it. Was Rhys satisfied? Did Timothy resemble him in any way or was Rhys this fucking dumb?

Jack knew there was an easy way to find out, but he was fighting with himself to avoid doing it. He had security cameras in Rhys’ room so all he needed to do to get his answers was to enter Helios’ security footage. Only he had access to Rhys’ cameras but there was never any need to use them. Jack didn’t really want to see it, he knew it would be torture, but at the same time he was also aware that it was a lost cause -  he simply needed to know.

With a heavy sigh he picked up his laptop and entered the security footage. Jack knew this would probably eat him alive but he just had to see it. He played the video watching every detail of Timothy’s and Rhys’ interaction and with each passing minute his hand tightened more and more on the glass holding the whiskey, until the point when it finally shattered, breaking into tiny pieces, a few shards cutting his hand. The cuts stung like hell, blood mixing with the remnants of alcohol, but he didn’t pay any attention to it.

This hurt, this fucking hurt. Even though a logical part of Jack’s mind tried to rationalize the situation it still didn’t help the fact that Jack felt betrayed. He wanted to have Rhys all to himself, he needed for the boy to be his completely. The CEO didn’t want to admit it, but it was important for him that Rhys’ first experience was with him and he hoped that it would stay that way, but now he didn’t have that anymore. Technically Tim didn’t have sex with the boy, but they still went too far for Jack to be able to forget it, not to mention forgiving them.

What pissed him even more was the fact that Rhys went through with it. A logical part of Jack’s mind tried to argue that there was no way for him to know that he had a body double, still it fucking hurt. Tim was so damn different than him, yet it seemed he was good enough for the boy. Would it even matter if someone else wore his mask and fucked Rhys? Shit, he hated feeling like this. He didn’t want to mope around like some teenage girl, he was Handsome goddamn Jack, a hero. He won’t be sulking just because someone hurt his fucking feelings. He was better than that.

But the image of Timothy’s ecstasy-filled face kept flashing in front of his eyes, Rhys catering to his every fucking whim. Rhys, who couldn’t fucking bring himself to look at him without shying away when they had sex, was ready and willing when Timothy was involved. Maybe Tim was a better substitute? Maybe the only worthwhile thing Rhys found about him was his appearance? Maybe for Rhys Timothy was not a copy but an upgraded version of himself?

“Ghraaaaaaaaaaaaaah.” Jack yelled swiping everything from his desk on to the floor, shoulders going up and down with his heavy breathing, fists clenched. He looked down on the overall mess, the notebook standing out from the pile. With a crestfallen expression Jack slumped to the floor and reached out for the annoying object. With a heavy sigh he opened the notebook, leaning his back on the desk. He began reading what seemed to be Rhys’ writing.

 

Reasons for which I know Jack is Jack.

   ⱷ He wrinkles his nose every time I add parsley to a dish (probably disliking it) but says nothing.
   ⱷ He talks a lot. Even in his sleep. Especially in his sleep.
   ⱷ When talking on a chat his emoticon to sentence ratio is 3:2
   ⱷ He likes small children though he won’t admit that.
   ⱷ He dislikes old people and he will admit that.
   ⱷ When he fakes a smile the left corner of his lips turns down.
   ⱷ He invades personal space to be more intimidating.
   ⱷ He is scared of insects though he’ll never admit that.
   ⱷ He has a toothy grin whenever ice-cream is involved.
   ⱷ He tends to overanalyze things.
   ⱷ He’s very self conscious of his image.
   ⱷ He looks left whenever he’s lying.
   ⱷ He prepares a lot before every negotiation but pretends as if he didn’t do a thing.
   ⱷ When addressing me he uses the following nicknames: kitten, pumpkin, cupcake, muffin, princess, baby cakes, sweet cheeks.
   ⱷ Kiddo is also used but in a negative sense.
   ⱷ He has a slight OCD – has to brush teeth for exactly one minute.
   ⱷ His ears are sensitive.
   ⱷ He has a bounce in his walk whenever it’s pancakes day.
   ⱷ His favorite color is blue – Hyperion is yellow only because Tastier hated it.
   ⱷ He rubs at his face whenever he’s frustrated.

 

That was page one of what seemed like twenty or even thirty pages. Jack read them in silence and when he finished he kept rereading them, all the time not certain whether it scared him more or calmed him down in a weird way. A part of him wanted to find a mistake, some kind of a loophole, but the more he read it the more accurate it all seemed.

He turned the notebook back to page one and went on reading the notes for what seemed like the fifth time.

Chapter Text

Rhys was feeling miserable, for a week now Jack has been avoiding him. He tried everything to talk with the man but each time his secretary either told him he was busy or Jack passed him in the hallway as if he wasn’t even there. It was Saturday now and he didn’t even feel like getting out of his bed, his plan for the weekend was to keep feeling sorry for himself.

Rhys was covered in his sheets when he heard his ECHO com ringing. Luckily he had it right next to his bed because yesterday he talked with Yvette until midnight. His friends tried to be supportive and he appreciated it, still it didn’t make him feel any better.

“Yes?” Rhys answered the call on his communicator not even paying attention as to who it was.

“Hi Rhys, feeling any better?”

“Timothy, I thought I told you not to pester me with a call every day.” Rhys groaned and pulled a pillow over his head.

“How can I not?” The man said with a worried look on his face, the video from the call displayed on the digital screen projected from the communicator. “I can see that you’re feeling miserable and my conscience is eating away at me. I was really hoping that the notebook would help.”

“Well it didn’t.” Rhys replied flatly lifting his pillow high enough to peek from under it and send an angry glare Timothy’s way.

“Did you try talking to him in person like I told you to?”

“Did I try? Oh man I’ve been trying every day for the past week, he just keeps avoiding me.” Rhys whined.

He had no idea why he tolerated Timothy who was the real reason behind his agony, but somehow ever since that miserable night a week ago, they’ve been in contact via his communicator. Despite the blowjob incident Jack’s body double turned out to be a decent guy, he kept checking on Rhys, asking about any progress and in general worrying about the situation between him and Jack. Timothy even got his hand stabbed while trying to influence Jack to forgive Rhys. So even though it would be satisfying to channel his anger at the freckled man, he couldn’t find it in him to stay mad at the gentler version of Jack.

“Maybe you should somehow force him to listen to you?”

“Pfft force Handsome Jack? Look at me Tim, do you think I’d be capable of that?” Rhys asked sarcastically while throwing off the pillow. “I can keep trying but unless he actually wants to talk with me than I don’t see any way in which I could make him forgive me.”

“Damn I wish I could think of a way. Rhys I’m so…”

“If you’re gonna say you’re sorry for the hundredth time this week then I’m going to punch you in your digital face.” Rhys interrupted the man, he was really fed up with his constant apologizes. “Anyways now that you interrupted my plan of weekend sulking I might as well get some things done. I wanted to test that prototype I made, it should be finished just in time for the grand gala for Jack’s birthday.”

“Oh cool, you managed to find an alternative energy source?” Timothy asked generally intrigued. Even though his knowledge about design and programming wasn’t overwhelming, especially compared to Jack, but Timothy was a great listener and Rhys found that talking to him was really nice. He was attentive to everything that he said, which caused Rhys to oftentimes say a bit more than he intended to. His project was supposed to remain a secret, but somehow Timothy managed to extract that information from him. However given that he was all the way down on Pandora and also that he promised to keep his mouth shut, Rhys didn’t think it was a big issue.

“Yeah I did, I finished it yesterday, just wanted to run some final tests.” Rhys replied slowly scrambling out of the sheets. “Do you… do you think Jack might forgive me after this?”

“You know that there is nothing to forgive and I think Jack is simply being an oversensitive asshole…  but answering your question, I’m not sure really. Jack is not a person that is swayed by gifts, although he’d be an idiot not to appreciate a design that will make his company famous.”

“You’re a tough guy when Jack’s not around, aren’t ya?” Rhys teased knowing that Timothy would never allow himself to speak so freely around the CEO.

“Rather than a coward I prefer to consider myself as a man that is highly aware of life-threatening situations.”

“Oh and is that why you decide it was a good idea to get a blowjob from me?”

“Rhys…” Timothy said in a whiny tone, causing the programmer to chuckle. It was so easy to get under the man’s skin, Rhys could not resist the temptation.

“I’m off to the R&D, I’ll talk to you later.” Rhys cut the conversation short before the ma would start apologizing again. He quickly put on some casual clothes – his favorite black hoodie and grey pants – and went out of the apartment.

He was on his way to the research department to have the final test for the shield when he came upon a familiar silhouette in the Hub of Heroism – broad shoulders, well-coiffed hair, confident stride – Jack. For a moment Rhys wondered whether he should go and pester the man when he was clearly avoiding him, but the need to talk with Jack and explain things to him was stronger, so he decide this was too good of an opportunity to waste.

Jack was talking to a guy Rhys recognized as one of the board members. They were probably discussing some business opportunity so he decided to wait until the man was out of the picture. An opportunity presented itself soon enough when they guy entered one of the offices nearby leaving Jack alone. It was now or never.

Rhys made his way down the stairs and walked up to the CEO who had his back turned on him. For a brief moment Rhys wondered what was Jack to him now - boyfriend, ex-boyfriend or maybe simply his boss and nothing else? He quickly decide to discard that line of thought and focus on what he wanted to say.

“Jack…”Rhys began and saw the man flinch slightly, though he made no indication that he even heard him. Again the CEO seemed to be set on ignoring him which really hurt. “Jack, please stop ignoring me. I want to talk to you, I’ve been trying to for the past week…”

He looked at Jack hoping to elicit some kind of reaction from the man… and that he did. Jack reached out for his ECHO Comm and without even acknowledging Rhys’ presence he began giving orders to his secretary.

“Meg are those papers I requested yesterday on my desk by now? Well let me tell you they’ll better be, otherwise…” Rhys did not register the rest of what Jack said as he was overwhelmed by the feeling of both sadness and anger. Is this how it’s going to be now? Jack ignoring his existence until he finally stops bothering the man.

When Rhys saw Jack turning in the other direction and simply walking away he was furious at the man. As betrayed as he may feel he was acting like a total child. Was he afraid of talking with him? Or was he doing this on purpose to not only humiliate but also hurt him? Well if he was then it was fucking working. Rhys was beyond pissed as tears of frustration started to gather at the corners of his eyes - he felt that he needed to act, no matter what it was, he simply had to do something.

“You fucking asshole!” Rhys yelled at the top of his lungs, attracting the attention of people around him, Jack included.  The CEO stopped in his tracks and turned around just in time to catch the object that Rhys threw at him which would inevitably collide with his head. The room was deadly silent after that, everyone expecting Jack to pull out his revolver or simply to strangle Rhys.

Rhys was a bit shocked at himself, it wasn’t typical of him to lose his temper, but Jack ignoring him like this put him on edge. It seemed like everyone in the spacious room was holding their breaths as they looked at each other. Jack had a mixture of anger and frustration written on his face and Rhys could sense that he wanted to act on it, to lash out, perhaps to even hurt him, but in the end he did nothing.

He dropped the object on the floor, turned around and left Rhys without a word, not even deigning him with any kind of repsonse. Being ignored was definitely worse than anything Rhys had ever felt, he’d actually prefer for Jack to punch him in the face, because this silent treatment hurt ten times more.

 

—o.o— R&D —o.o—

 

Rhys brought the shield to the testing site of the R&D department which he reserved all for himself in order to keep his device a secret. The test went swimmingly well and he had a ready to sell product which would revolutionize the market. He should be ecstatic at this point as it was no small thing to achieve, he should be proud of himself, but he was feeling nothing at all. He looked at the shield that he held in his hands and felt utter nothingness.

He won’t lie to himself, the major motivation behind constructing the shield was not Hyperion’s profit - it was made specifically for Jack. He planned to make a surprise announcement during the gala that always took place on Jack’s birthday where all Hyperion’s achievements from the previous year would be taken into account. Rhys wanted to make Jack proud of him and for everyone else to see him as a worthy player in the upper ranks. But now all of that didn’t matter.

Jack didn’t give a shit about him anymore so what was the use? He was working so hard on this, spent every free minute he had for the past month to make progress with his secret project but now all that he felt was deep sadness, which in turn awoke the feeling of anger. Jack wasn’t being fair by ignoring him like that. It wasn’t his fault to begin with, but the CEO was the most stubborn person that ever existed and he refused to change his mind.

Rhys felt anger rising inside of him- anger at Timothy, anger at himself, but most of all anger at Jack. It was so easy for the man to just ignore him, to forget whatever they had and go back to his everyday life. One fucking mistake and everything was gone and it just wasn’t fair. Why did Rhys’ life had to be so fucked up? Whenever something good happened it couldn’t last long, could it?

He threw the shield with all the force he could, causing some parts to break. It wouldn’t be hard to create a new one, now that he had all the blueprints, so he could vent as much as he wanted. He felt his hands begin to shake, heart rate elevating. He started breathing in quick shallow breaths, fists clenching and unclenching, teeth grinding. Rhys wanted to scream, to let it all out, it felt like his blood was boiling, but he did not utter a word.

It seemed like his mind went into an overdrive mode, all that he could sense was anger and he focused all of that on the broken device. After a moment a blue, circular shape started to form around the shield lifting it from the floor, the shape started spinning, the motion accelerating  while Rhys’ mind seemed to operate on autopilot. The spherical shape started to grow and rotate until it was pulsating so bright that Rhys had to close his eyes.

The next time he opened them there was no sphere in front of him, instead the room looked completely wrecked, like a huge explosion had taken place, even though nothing happened to Rhys and he only heard a faint noise in his ears. But it was like all anger was gone, like it seeped out of him, leaving a strange sense of calmness.

He didn’t know what was happening when he heard someone hitting on the heavy door leading into the testing site. He turned around only to notice that the whole room was a total wreckage, it was as if there really was an explosion inside. Did Rhys cause it? Did he use his siren powers again without even realizing it? He looked down at himself and noticed that the blue tattoos that he had around his collarbone now appeared on his entire left arm and there was also a light blue hue around them.

He quickly looked into a broken piece of glass and noticed that both of his eyes had vibrant blue irises while the rest of the eyes were pitch back. His hair glowed lightly as well, floating slightly as if there was some sort of gravity change around his body. Rhys was terrified, he did not know how he could’ve let this happened. He frantically looked around the room checking whether any cameras caught the footage of him going siren crazy.

There was only one camera left as the rest of them were blown away by the explosion. Before he even realized what he was doing he raised his left arm in the direction of the device and balled his hand into a fist, a small spherical shape appearing around the camera and exploding with much less force this time around. Only after doing this did he realize he used his powers as if it was the most natural thing to do, as if he had done it so many times before.

“Hello, anyone there?!” someone yelled behind the steel door. It was bashed pretty badly so they probably couldn’t open it in any normal way. He saw a red glow cutting through the door which meant that someone was working on it with a laser to get inside.

“Shit, shit, shit, fuck, shit.” Rhys looked around in panic, there was no way to escape, that door being the only way out. His eyes were still black and blue and he had a faint hue around his arm, the tattoos not disappearing. How was he supposed to go back to normal?!

He noticed the man progressing with the laser, it was only a matter of minutes until they enter the room and see him like this. His heart was beating like crazy, what the hell was he supposed to do? He did the only thing his panicked mind could come up with, he ducked behind one of the steel desks which was bent terribly and lying in the far corner of the room.

Rhys had to hide his body from their view and try to calm down, otherwise they will find out about him being a siren. He ducked under what was left of the furniture, squeezing his body between the desk and the wall. He quickly cut himself in few places on his arm and cheeks to make it look as if he was also injured in the explosion – otherwise it would look way too suspicious.

Rhys knelt under the desk and heard someone yelling behind the door, he clamped his hands over his ears and began counting to ten, praying for his body to go back to normal. He had to calm dam, he absolutely had to calm down.

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Wow the kid had some audacity, to pull a stunt like that in the Hub of Heroism. He should be fucking happy that Jack ignored the whole incident, though given how many people saw it he should have really reacted in some way. But oddly despite everything that happened Jack couldn’t hurt the boy. He was pissed at him, he felt betrayed and it fucking hurt like hell, even worse than all the other betrayals he lived through and he did have some experience in that field, still he didn’t want to harm Rhys.

Jack thought he was being generous in avoiding Rhys, but the kid was relentless. Did he expect Jack to forget about everything? Oh how he would love to do that, if someone could only erase what happened between Rhys and Timothy Jack would be thrilled. He would like for nothing more than to go back to the way things were between them, because things were real good.

Surprisingly the whole relationship thing, though it seemed like a terrifying concept at first, turned out to be quite pleasant. Even more than pleasant actually. Jack had quickly gotten used to the comfort that came with someone’s constant presence in his life and he was finding it reassuring in a way. He enjoy sharing all those stupid and mundane everyday things with Rhys and he had no idea why he was so against doing relationships in the first place.

Well now he knew, it was because betrayal stung like hell when it happened and it always happened. Part of him knew that what Rhys did wasn’t technically a betrayal, but he just couldn’t get over the image of the boy sucking off that two-faced freckled cockroach. He wasn’t so sure anymore whether he wouldn’t kill Timothy the next time he sees him. He did bring him the notebook though and despite wanting to be otherwise, Jack really loved those notes Rhys made.

He kept the notebook hidden in his office and he found himself going through it a couple of times during the day, pages already wrinkled and worn. In a way it was satisfying and pleasing that someone paid so much attention to him though maybe a bit creepy in a way. However if he was honest with himself, he’d probably also be able to write such notes about Rhys and they would be at least a couple of pages long. Of course he’d never do such a thing, he was Handsome Jack, he did not do sappy.

Still as much as the notes were pleasing to him they were also a bittersweet reminder of what can never be. He cannot just casually forgive Rhys, but at the same time forgetting him was a task damn near impossible. He tried really hard but no matter how much work he buried himself in, his thoughts kept going to the boy. It was fucking frustrating and Jack was beginning to consider the option of cutting out a part of his brain responsible for memory storage. While he was at that he could also cut out the damn emotion sensor or whatever it was that made him feel like a pile of shit.

Jack was on his way to the accounting department when he heard a loud explosion which almost caused him to lose balance. It was big enough for the whole base to shook so he could not just leave it be. He quickened his pace and went in the direction of the explosion. It wasn’t easy to identify the place as there was a steadily growing group of people who rushed in the same direction, trying to see what was happening. Finally he reached the source of the explosion and the swarm of people separated as if he was poisonous, giving him an easy access.

“Of course it had to be the testing site, what the hell did you manage to conjure up this time? This explosion was the biggest so far.” Jack said irritated, looking at the guards who used lasers in order to get past the metal door, which had a huge dent in them. Well whoever was inside certainly was a pool of blood by this time.

“We’re terribly sorry sir, we’re working on it as we speak.” One of the researchers replayed.

“Tell me something I don’t know idiot.” Seriously were these people the smartest lot on this base? If so then he really needs to start getting worried. “Who the hell was using it and what for.”

“Oh right, let me  check that for you sir.” A man in a white suit and spectacles said and hurried off for the testing log, he came back soon enough with a worried expression. “Sir, I don’t know what was being tested, we only have a general note about that, but the whole testing site was reserved by… well it was reserved….”

“Spit it out dum dum, I’ve got places to be.”

“Um yes it was reserved by Rhys, sir.”

Jack’s blood ran cold, he heard ringing in his ears, his throat going dry. The annoying guy kept saying some other shit to him but he did not register anything beyond Rhys’ name. He stood there for a minute, looking dumbly at the people surrounding him when finally his senses kicked in. He turned around to the men who worked on the lasers and kicked one of them in the gut.

He came up to the door which was almost opened by now and administrated a hard kick causing a crack in it, big enough for a person to go through. Without much thought he squeezed through the opening and stood in the front of the room, which looked terrifyingly hollow. He ran to the middle of it, from where the explosion seemed to originate, and looked around frantically, turning left and right, his eyes scanning for any sign of life.

“RHYS!” he yelled, his heart beating loudly in his ears. The room looked like a big wreck, glass shattered all over the place, remnants of what used to be furniture were either littering the floor or were practically embedded in the walls. There was no way anyone could survive this, yet he refused to believe what was right in front of his eyes.

“RHYS! You fucking idiot, where the hell are you?!” Jack yelled even louder as if the boy was playing some wicked game of hide and seek with him. His mind did not want to accept the inevitable truth displayed before his eyes. But… there was no blood, nothing.

Even if the explosion was this big there would still be something left, the thought causing nausea to hit him with full force. Jack doubled over at the thought, supporting his hands on his knees, his breathing labored. Then as he was having an internal battle with himself he heard a faint sound coming from  the corner of the room. He focused on the sound and thought he heard someone… counting? Was his mind playing tricks on him?

He ran in the direction of the sound and knelt near a steel desk that was almost bent into a u-shape. Jack looked under it and saw movement which caused a sparkle of hope to settle in his heart. He stood up abruptly and with as much force as he could, he moved the desk away from the wall, which required no small amount of strength. He felt as if the adrenaline caused his muscles to perform beyond normal human capabilities. The CEO looked down and could not believe his eyes.

“Rhys!” Jack yelled and knelt next to the boy who looked at him with terrified eyes. “Fuck kiddo, why do you always have to pull this shit, I thought you were dead you absolute moron!”

“Ja..Jack?” Rhys looked at him and then back at his flesh arm, inspecting it as if it was the first time he saw the damn thing. He was probably in shock so yelling would not do much good.

“Hey, hey it’s ok now.” Jack said in a more soothing voice, not sure whether he tried to convince Rhys or himself. He took hold of the boy and frantically inspected his whole body looking for any major damage or pain that might be sign of internal injury, luckily the only things he managed to see where a few cuts along his arm and cheeks, nothing that wouldn’t heal.

“You are one lucky idiot.” Jack sighed and embraced the shock-stricken boy, he didn’t like how his own voice seemed so shaken. “What the hell happened here?”

“I…I…” Rhys tried to reply but his gaze was still unfocused.

“Ok, ok shhh.” Jack tried to calm the boy down. “You don’t have to explain now, we can talk about this later, I’ll take you home now.”

Jack scooped Rhys into his arms and carried him back to the boy’s apartment, all the time Rhys kept silent. He could only hope the programmer would not suffer from some permanent shock, but he guessed that it would pass in an hour or so.

The most important thing was that Rhys was alive, if it wasn’t for that stupid desk the explosion would have a far more tragic outcome. Jack quickly shook his head, trying to rid himself of the unpleasant thoughts. He didn’t even want to think what he’d do if that was the case. He looked down at the boy who was tucked securely in his arms.

He’d go crazy if something happened to Rhys.

 

—o.o—Rhys —o.o—

 

Rhys was terrified of his own powers. He could’ve practically blown a sizable hole in Helios if it wasn’t for the fact that he was in the testing facility which was made of the most durable materials in the whole base. He was also scared shitless that someone might find out, it was so close this time, much more than all the other times. When he first saw Jack he was expecting the man to have a fit about Rhys being a siren, luckily though it seemed that his powers receded just in time. One more minute and his secret would be revealed. What would happen then? He didn’t want to think about it.

He felt Jack placing him on his bed, he hadn’t even registered when they reached the apartment. Jack looked worriedly at him, checking for any other injuries he might have missed. He brought some kind of antiseptic and bandages to take care of the cuts that littered his arm and cheeks. Ones that he administrated himself… if Jack knew that…

“You had some fucking luck kiddo, mind telling me what the hell happened in there?” Jack asked mildly irritated. Now that the shock has finally died down it was Rhys’ turn to be pissed. All in all the man was the main reason for his earlier outburst.

“So what, you’re talking to me now?”

“Don’t be a cheeky little shit.” Jack responded, eyes narrowing. “I asked you a question.”

“So did I.” Rhys was not about to let go. Jack humiliated and ignored him for the whole week and now acted as if nothing really happened. He had every right to be angry, Rhys wasn’t some toy to play around with.

“Yes I’m fucking talking to you now and you’d be wise to just accept it as it is.” Jack seethed.

“No, I would like to know where we stand, I don’t want to wake up tomorrow to see you gone or receive silent treatment from you for the next month.”

“You wanna know where we stand?” Jack asked looming over the injured boy. “I’ll tell you where we stand. At the point where you betrayed me by fucking with my body double and if you want to know whether you’re forgiven then the answer is no and you’ll never be forgiven, nor will I ever forget it. But… I’m also at the point where I don’t want to fucking lose you because of some huge ass explosion or a stupid ass quarrel!”

Rhys looked up at the angered man, he could see how heavily the explosion affected Jack, even though this morning he seemed like he did not give a shit about him anymore. Now that Rhys knew Jack still cared about him he felt genuinely bad about causing him to worry so much. He was still pissed at the silent treatment but he knew that Jack also had the right to be angry with him. Not only that, once again Rhys put his life in danger and it was doing a number on the CEO.

Rhys didn’t know what to do or say, all he knew was that he was fed up with all the arguing, so he did what he wanted to do for the past week now. He scooted closer to Jack and embraced him, putting his arms around the man’s waist and his head to the still heaving chest. He stayed like that until Jack finally calmed down, all the time strengthening his hold until Jack reciprocated it as well.

“I’m sorry Jack.”

“I know you are kiddo.” The man replied in a small voice and put his chin on the top of his head. “Also ‘kiddo’ is not always negative, you got that one wrong.”

“So you did read it.” Rhys said suddenly embarrassed by all the things he wrote.

“Mhm.” Jack hummed, weaved his hand into Rhys’ hair and played with it which always brought a wave of pleasure for the boy. He sank deeper into the embrace if that was even possible at that point. “You’re the sappiest thing alive, you know that right?”

“Well I’m sorry for sharing my observations, I won’t do that anymore.” He said with a pout, a bit offended at Jack making fun of something he put so much thought into doing.

“Of course I want you to continue, in fact you have to continue. I wanna know my baby thinks about me day and night.” Jack said in a mocking tone.

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

“Oh not at all, I’m deadly serious, I mean you should know, right? What was it.” Jack pretended as if he was pondering something for a while. “Ah yes, he is serious whenever he knits his brows. Look at my eyebrows, they’re knitted as hell!

“Aaaaah stop it!” Writing it was one thing but hearing Jack recite the stupid quirks he wrote was so much more embarrassing. It’s like the difference between acting in a play and then being forced to see your performance videotaped by one of your relatives. Rhys let go of Jack and grabbed a nearby pillow, putting it over his head while he ducked under the covers. The humiliation will never end.

“Oh come on baby cakes, don’t feel embarrassed by making me your only focus of attention. I mean, it’s me we’re talking about, it’s understandable.”

“Jaaaaack!” Rhys admonished the man who only kept laughing, obviously finding humor in this situation.

“Ok fine, I’ll stop.” Jack said, theatrically whipping tears that formed in the corners of his eyes. Soon though he sobered completely and asked Rhys in a more serious tone. “So Rhys, what the hell happened in the testing site? You almost blew up half of Helios!”

Of course they needed to talk about it but Rhys preferred to leave the topic completely. What was he supposed to say? That he was pissed and created a small armageddon with his siren powers? He never thought his powers could have such a vast and terrifying effect. For all he knew about sirens he never heard about them having abilities such as his.

Part of him knew that maybe he should tell the CEO about the powers because the possibility of Jack finding out about it by accident was becoming bigger with each passing day. It was better to own up to it, but at the same time he still wasn’t sure whether he could trust the man with this. What would Jack do with the knowledge? Would he help him conceal it, would he use it to his own advantage, would he send him to some testing site like most of the sirens he came across, would he be angry with him? There were just too many unknown factors and Rhys could not yet risk telling him. He’d just have to be more careful from now on.

“I was testing a gun upgrade and I made a rookie mistake, it won’t happen again.”

“Well it better won’t, but what kind of mistakes sends the whole R&D testing site into oblivion?!” Jack asked, eyes narrowing.

“I… well… I placed an energy supply core right next to the heating trigger and…”

“You did what?!” Jack shouted, his eyes going wide. Good thing the CEO knew a thing or two about designing upgrades, so he’d know that such a combination could sometimes result in an unwanted explosion. “Shit, Rhys that’s like the most rookie mistake I’ve ever heard of. I could believe anyone else on this base could do it, but you? You’ve created one of the most sophisticated designs as of yet, how did you manage to decrease your grey cells level enough to make such a dumb mistake?”

“Well… I was distracted lately I guess.” As soon as Rhys said that Jack’s expression changed from accusatory to guilt-ridden. Rhys knew that pinning his supposed distraction on the way Jack was acting towards him was a low blow, but it was the only thing that came to his mind.

“Just be more careful next time, ok? I don’t want to see you get hurt. If it wasn’t for you hiding behind that desk… you probably saw that the reactor is overheating and hid there, right?” Rhys only nodded. “Well and just in time it seems, I don’t know what I would’ve done if…”

Rhys just hugged the man again, guilt eating him from the inside. “I promise I’ll be more careful next time.”

In truth he felt like shit for lying to Jack, it was easier at first when they didn’t know each other too well. It was a means of survival and that was all. But now as he kept lying about his powers Rhys had an unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wanted to tell him, he really did, but he was also afraid. Rhys did not know what Jack would do with that information so he had to keep it a secret, for now at least. But the lies just kept piling up…

Chapter Text

Rhys woke up engulfed in warmth. If he had it his way he’d stay like this forever, but as the head of the programming department he couldn’t simply leave everything to his minion workers and be done with it. If he did then there would probably be no department to come back to. Reluctantly he opened his eyes and to his surprise discovered that Jack was still sleeping beside him. Actually he was the source of the warmth. The CEO kept his face buried in the nape of Rhys’ neck, one leg thrown over his limbs, arm embracing the programmer’s waist, their bodies flushed together.

Despite how clingy the man was it was pleasant to wake up this way, Rhys did miss it a great deal. With the whole blowjob fiasco he was afraid that he might have lost his chances as Jack was anything but forgiving, luckily the explosion forced the CEO to look past the unfortunate events.

Come to think of it there was a correlation between his near-death experiences and Jack’s emotional level going unnaturally high. Who knows what would happen if Rhys pushed it far enough, like if he was kidnapped by bandits down on Pandora, would Jack go ballistic on the camp and then propose to him or something?

The image of Jack raiding a bandit camp solo and then protruding a ring was so hilarious that Rhys couldn’t help himself and started laughing. Handsome Jack would sooner die than do something as cheesy as proposing, still it made for a funny image.

“What are you laughing so hard about cupcake?” Jack mumbled nuzzling his neck which caused Rhys to shudder slightly. The man knew exactly where his weak spots were.

“Just letting my imagination conjure some crazy images.” Rhys chuckled and turned around to face Jack. “What are you still doing here?”

“What? Want to get rid of me already?!” Jack said indignantly.

“No, not at all. But you were always up before I even noticed it.”

“Well my body was tackling some serious Rhys deficiency all week, so I need to restore it to normal levels again.” Jack wiggled his eyebrows and attacked the usual spot on his neck, sucking at it trying to leave a mark as he used to do so many times before. “So I’m thinking about skipping work today.” Jack mumbled.

“You’re the CEO, you can’t just skip work.” Rhys squirmed trying to free himself from the human leech.

“Why the hell not? What’s the purpose of being the big boss if you can’t call in sick from time to time?” Jack whined releasing Rhys when he was finally satisfied with the purple mark that was fully visible on the left side of the programmer’s neck.

“Do what you want, but I need to actually show in for work, there are things that need to be done.”

“You are seriously no fun.” Jack huffed and without another word stood up and went to the bathroom.

Looking at Jack’s retreating back  made Rhys feel guilty in a way. Somehow it always looked like he was trying to get away from Jack when in fact he would prefer to do nothing more than to just lie around in the bed all day and enjoy their time together. He missed him so much these past few day so why did he always end up pushing the man away without a word of explanation? Rhys was angry with Jack for not communicating his emotions properly when in fact it seemed like he was even worse at it than the older man.

Rhys started putting on clothes when he heard the sound of the water running in the bathroom. Jack was probably still sulking about his unwillingness to spend more time with him, which caused the feeling of guilt to grow tenfold.

“Ah fuck it.”

Rhys muttered to himself as he took off his clothes and made his way downstairs, they were together long enough now, it was high time that he got some balls around the man… no matter how intimidating he was and how long the list of his kills was.

He strode into the bathroom, opened the cabin and joined Jack under the shower, visibly startling the CEO. Jack had pleaded many times for Rhys to join him, but he kept refusing, not really feeling comfortable with the idea of being butt naked in the middle of the day with no covers to hide him from the man’s penetrating gaze.

“Miss me already?” Jack asked with a wide grin, showing a row of perfectly white teeth. “ You’ve got to make up your mind Rhysie.”

Trying to ignore that they were both nude and standing mere inches from each other, Rhys looked earnestly at Jack. “I know that sometimes I may be a bit uptight.” Rhys said and faltered, breaking the eye contact in favor of following the water droplets which kept falling down the man’s toned chest. Damn the shower was probably the worst place to have a conversation.

“Princess, a bit doesn’t even begin to cover it.” Jack said in a snide tone, stepping closer to Rhys and flushing their bodies together.

“Alright, alright…” Rhys wanted to back away slightly but there was no space in the small cabin. He could feel his face heating up, while Jack took obvious pleasure in seeing him like this - if the shit-eating grin was anything to go by. “I just want you to know that I’m really glad that we’re together like this again” There, he said it.

“I’m happy as well pumpkin.” Jack said in a low voice and cupped his cheeks, bringing their lips together. It was the first time they kissed in a week and damn it was good. They were both starved of the contact and the kiss felt needy, their hands moving frantically over each other’s bodies. After a moment Jack broke the contact, their breathing labored.

Jack was looking at Rhys with expectant eyes, not doing anything other than embracing the boy, one hand placed on his hip, the other at the back of his neck. The CEO didn’t say anything but he didn’t have to, Rhys was well aware what the unspoken request was. That was actually the reason he came here for, though it didn’t mean it was easy for him. Swallowing thickly Rhys looked down at Jack’s semi-hard member and lowered himself to his knees.

“Are you sure that this time around you’re giving the favor to the right person?” Jack probably meant to ask that in a playful manner, but Rhys could still hear the bitterness in his tone.

To be fair Jack did say he wouldn’t be able to forget it and Rhys kind of suspected a remark like this, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t annoying. Still he kinda deserved it and for a jealous man such as Jack, stopping only at a bitter comment was a milestone.

“Yeah, only you would be enough of a dick to remind me about it at this time.” Rhys said in an unamused voice, which actually caused Jack to chuckle.

“Touché.” Jack grinned at him entangling his fingers in Rhys’ wet hair. “From now on my lips are sealed.”

“To be honest I’m kind of hoping for the opposite.” Rhys tried to cover his nervousness by making snide remarks, though this seemed to backfire at him as he was only raising Jack’s expectations.

“Now look who’s gotten all confident.” Jack looked down at him, lust filling his eyes. “Must say you have an advantage, seeing my kitten kneeling down in front of me is already doing half of the job.”

Jack wasn’t lying about it, he was actually hard and Rhys hasn’t even done anything yet. Maybe it would be even easier than with Timothy?

“Oh and one last thing cupcake.” Jack said in a stern voice, gripping at his hair hard enough to make it slightly painful, making sure that Rhys was looking straight at him. “If you think about that far from perfect copy of me for even the tiniest of seconds I will fucking know, so you better focus solely on me, got it?”

Damn was Jack a mind-reader or something? Hopefully it was just his paranoia and jealousy mixing in a dangerous combination, still just to be extra careful Rhys was going to make sure that his thoughts don’t wander to the freckled man. Not that he wanted them to, but it was natural to compare them when it was only his second experience at this.

Rhys only managed to nod and Jack loosened his grip, allowing him more movement. The programmer planned on teasing him a bit first but seeing how impatient Jack was and how he was already pretty hard Rhys went straight down to business. He swirled his tongue on the swollen head just for show and then engulfed the length in his mouth. Jack was definitely bigger than… the other experience he had, so it proved to be slightly more challenging.

He began with slow movements but quickened them fast enough, bringing satisfaction to the older man, who tightened his grip on his hair. Still Jack did not utter a single word and Rhys really wanted to hear the man moan, so he quickly thought about what could bring Jack the greatest satisfaction. Knowing that he was pretty self-absorbed most of the time and had a huge ego, Rhys decided to show the man just how enjoyable he found it to suck on his cock.

The programmer began moaning, deliberately looking up at Jack who obviously got interested, if the twitching of the hard member was any indication. Rhys kept at his ministrations, all the time moaning and looking at Jack, who’s facial expression was really something else. His eyes were wild, like he wanted to posses Rhys and that only his will was preventing him from slamming the programmer against the nearest surface and taking him.

Jack’s resolve started to crumble though, as he started buckling his hips, strangled noises escaping his throat. There were quite a bit of cursers involved, but Rhys could tell the man was really enjoying himself. Actually he was enjoying himself  a bit too much as the hard thrusts of the man’s hips almost caused him to have a gag reflex, eyes watering.

Jack seemed in a trance, unable to stop his rapid movements, so Rhys quickly grabbed the base of Jack’s shaft with his flesh hand, causing the same amount of satisfaction for the CEO, but thanks to this Rhys was able to take the man fully without the unpleasant feeling in the back of his throat.

He continued taking the swollen member in and out of his mouth, the sounds that Jack was making causing his own member to stir. Rhys had no idea he could have this much of a reaction through brining pleasure to someone else. With T… last time he did not feel half as good, as if his body knew it wasn’t Jack. Now he felt a pleasant electricity course through his body as he watched the display of emotions on the older man’s face. The fact he was able to bring the all-powerful CEO of Hyperion to this state was a cause of no small satisfaction.

“Fuck Rhysie… that mouth of yours… hot damn.” Jack kept muttering to himself as he sped up his movements alongside with Rhys’. They kept at it for a while longer until Jack finally reached his climax, throwing his head back, water running down his face as he moaned deeply, nails digging in Rhys’ scalp, toes curling in pleasure.

Yes, Jack was definitely satisfied and Rhys was proud of finally going through with it and with no alcohol at that. Sadly he forgot about the less pleasant part of swallowing the cum. When Jack took out his member his first instinct was to spit it out but of course Jack had none of it. He put a hand at the bottom of Rhys’ chin and raised it, knowing full well that the programmer would be forced to swallow it. Rhys did exactly that, trying hard not to cringe, a shudder running through him when he saw the need in Jack’s eyes. Just as he thought the CEO took pleasure in the act.

When they finally came to their senses Jack knelt in front of Rhys, his look stern. He leaned in Rhys’ direction and bit hard into his shoulder, drawing blood.

“Jack! What the hell?” Rhys hissed as the bite mark stung like hell under the running water.

“It’s just a small reminder that I own you baby-cakes.” The man said in a low, threatening voice. Rhys could not fathom how the threats Jack made and the possessive treatment always managed to work him up so much. He actually took pleasure in it, which was probably strange. Was there something wrong with him?

“You can only give this pleasure to me and if I ever find out about anyone else going near you, you can be sure that their remains will be scattered all over Pandora, providing entertainment to rakks for weeks to come.”

Well one thing was sure, he did not make a mistake this time around, this was definitely Jack.

 

—o.o— Diner —o.o—

 

It was lunch time already and after a rather eventful morning and a busy day at his office Rhys went down to the dining area to meet up with his friends and eat something. He spotted his three friends at one of the dining tables and hurried up to them, late as usual. When they noticed him they immediately stopped their chatter and focused their full attention on Rhys.

“Well someone made amends with their boyfriend.” August said with a smug smile, lazily stirring his coffee.

“Wha… how did you know?” Rhys asked dumbfounded, sliding into the seat next to August, Yvette and Vaughn sitting opposite from them.

“Please Rhys, it doesn’t take a genius to know.” Yvette snorted while munching on her meal. “First of all your goofy smile tells it all. Thankfully no more Mr. Emo for us, it’s tough to deal with you as it is.”

“What? I wasn’t Emo!”

“Uhu tell that to the moping version of you who didn’t even want to look at his food for the past week.”

Well he did eat, just not during the lunch, so what was the big deal?

“Secondly there is a bounce to your walk, you always do that when you’re happy.” Vaughn commented.

“I certainly don’t walk any differently!” Rhys spluttered indignantly. “I’d look like a retard!” There was pregnant silence after that statement. “Fuck you guys.” Rhys commented offhandedly while choosing his meal, he won’t deign those stupid accusations with any kind of an answer.

“Thirdly, you have your ownership mark back on.” August said and when Rhys looked quizzically at him he pointed to the left side of his neck, suddenly making Rhys aware of the hickey. He tried to cover it somehow but it was already too late. “My, does our beloved CEO have some weird tendencies, I wonder how else he likes to mark you.”

Rhys jabbed the man with his elbow, frustrated and embarrassed at the choice of topic for their conversation. Vaughn looked equally uncomfortable, but Yvette and August kept sniggering at his misfortune, some friends they were…

“Ok enough with the graphics.” Vaughn pleaded making a gagging motion. “Seriously though, how did you manage to make him forgive you bro? Once Handsome Jack is pissed there is no going back.”

“Yeah, Rhys, what did you do to get back on the good side of our murderous CEO? Nothing too compromising I hope.” Yvette asked while sipping her coffee.

“For your information I didn’t do a thing… well other than get myself nearly blown up in an explosion in the R&D.”

“It was you??!!” They shouted in unison. “The whole fucking station is talking about some lucky bastard who made it out of one of the biggest explosions Helios has ever seen!” August said in an angry voice. “Why the hell would you risk your own life just to get back with Jack? Shit have I known sooner I’d kill you myself!” August was really pissed, though Rhys knew that was simply his way of caring.

“Do you really think so low of me? That I’d risk blowing myself up just to get Jack’s attention?” Rhys asked irritated looking at his them one by one, no one muttering a word. He seriously needed to change friends. At least Timothy would understand. “The explosion was a fucking accident, that’s all.” Rhys hated lying to them, but he could not chance telling them the truth. Besides they wouldn’t believe him anyways.

“Damn bro, I’m happy nothing happened to you.” Vaughn said earnestly. At least someone was happy he was alive.

“You sure you’re all right though? It’s hard to believe you’d get out of such an explosion with only a few scratches.” August said and proceeded to inspect his body for any wounds. Damn he had enough of the checking from Jack already.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine so chill out.” Rhys said pushing August away from him. “During the explosion I…”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, are you Rhys?”

They all turned in the direction of the person who only just walked up to their table. It was a young lady who, but the look of her clothes, was working for the medical department. It was the first time Rhys was seeing her.

“Yeah?” he said unsurely, not knowing what it was about. For the briefest of moments he panicked thinking that maybe the doctors found out about his condition. But they wouldn’t just send one woman to face him, they’d go straight to Jack and Jack… well he didn’t want to think what he would do.

“I’m sorry, I know this is sudden, but I have a huge favor to ask.” The woman said, she seemed in a rush so Rhys nodded hastily. “I know you are ugh… close to Handsome Jack and he is refusing any cooperation with us. We are hoping you could be of some assistance to us. Maybe you could persuade him to take the examination.”

“I’m sorry what is this about? What examination?”

“Oh right, Handsome Jack fainted this morning and we have reasons to believe that it might be a virus that we identified recently in a few other sickness cases, but he’s refusing any kind of medical care. He actually said that the only person that he’d let anywhere near him is you, hence why I’m here.”

Fainted, yeah right. Jack was perfectly fine when he left him, however he did mention wanting to take a sick leave. Would he really go to such measures to have a day off? Pretending to faint? Well all the drama seemed like something Jack would do for fun and by requesting his assistance he would get exactly what he wanted – the two of them having sex all day long. Rhys told him that he had work to do, no way would he participate in his little drama show… even though it was kind of tempting.

“Well I’m sorry miss but I have work to do.” Rhys responded not really fazed by the situation. Everyone stared at him like he was the coldest person ever. Well he could just call out Jack’s lie, but he didn’t want to do that to the man. Jack can pretend all he wants, but he needs to leave him out of it.

“Sir I don’t think you realize how urgent this is. We’re not dealing with some common cold here.” The women said distressed while his friends urged him to go.

“Oh then what are we dealing here with?” Rhys asked while eating his lunch, no need to get worked up over nothing.

“We had some samples delivered down from Elpis, apparently they were contaminated with a virus known as LI09, we had a couple of people showing symptoms yesterday already. All of them had direct contact with the samples – Handsome Jack included. If we don’t administer the proper treatment it may be deadly.”

“What?!” That got Rhys’ attention. “But he was fine this morning! Besides why don’t you just start the treatment, why do you need me for?!”

“Well the thing is that the symptoms show suddenly, there is usually a high fever coupled with body weakness, fainting may occur as well. Luckily it’s not something that may be passed from one person to another, so we don’t need to worry about it spreading. As for the treatment… that’s the point, we did want to administer it but Handsome Jack said he won’t let us anywhere near him.”

“That stupid old man and his damn paranoia!” Rhys said grinding his teeth and hitting the table while everyone looked at him with shocked faces. True, most people would be dead after saying such things about Jack, but damn did the CEO deserve it this time. He’d sooner die than let professionals take care of him. Talk about stubborn. Without wasting any more time Rhys stood up and urged the woman to show the way.

 

—o.o— Rhys’ apartment —o.o—

 

Rhys barged into the apartment, the medical personal standing outside. He couldn’t let them in because he didn’t know how to disable the security system which would surely kill them on spot – Jack knew what he was doing when he came here. But he could sure as hell drag the stubborn man outside. He took off his shoes on the way and ran up the stairs, sure enough Jack was lying there, looking much worse than he did this morning.

“Jack, what the hell?” He knelt next to the man.

“Took you long enough.” Jack mumbled in a raspy voice, it was the first time Rhys saw him so weak. The image was unsettling.

“Why the hell won’t you let the doctors help you? They say it’s a virus and unless it’s treated you’re gonna die!” Rhys said in a panicked voice.

“And how the hell am I supposed to trust those coat-wearing freaks. Last time I did you ended up in a morgue.” Jack said looking at Rhys, his eyelids heavy.

“That was different! They know what they are doing now, there were a few such cases since yesterday and the doctor said everyone is getting better after the treatment.”

“Yeah that’s” Jack stopped for a moment having a serious coughing fit. “That’s the other thing. You know how many assassination attempts there were on my life so far? Do you know how many people want me dead? I cannot let those lab-rats anywhere near me, especially not when I’m so weak. Besides they’re all new employees, they haven’t proven their loyalty yet.”

“What do you mean new employees? They’ve been working here for years now!” Rhys protested, frustrated by the illogical reasoning.

“Noooo, I’ve killed the medical staff after that mishap with your implant.”

“You did WHAT?!” Rhys asked not believing his ears, Jack couldn’t have…

“What did you expect me to do? You almost ended up being burned alive in the damn morgue because of them.” Jack said, his voice raspy and strained. “Besides it was you who told me that you didn’t want to have anymore contact with them.”

“But that didn’t mean…”

Rhys felt awful, in his cowardliness he kept focusing on hiding his powers, never once thinking about how it would affect other people. He could not believe Jack killed so many good people just because he lied about the reason for which he ended up in the morgue after the operation. He felt like shit, he felt bile rising up from his gut thinking about the repercussions of his actions. He couldn’t keep hiding his powers, not when innocent people died because of it.

His frantic thoughts were interrupted by another fit of coughing. Jack really looked miserable and if he didn’t act, the stubborn man might die because of it. He has to deal with this for now and later, when Jack feels better, finally talk about everything. He could only hope it would end well for him, for now though he had other things he needed to focus his attention on.

“Jack I can go and find out what the therapy is, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to do this on my own. I would much rather see you in a medical ward, I could watch over you there and have professionals…”

“Rhysie, I am not letting them anywhere near me, end of discussion.” Jack breathed heavily, he was in pain and Rhys could see that. “If I could have it my way I wouldn’t even have you here, I hate when people see me when I’m weak… but I need some help and you are the only one I can actually trust.”

The weight of those words made Rhys feel even worse about himself. The fact that Jack openly admitted to trusting him was a huge thing. The CEO had serious issues when it came to trust - his paranoia causing him to be weary of people - so the fact that he’d let Rhys take care of him in this state spoke volumes. However it made the programmer feel ten times more shitty for betraying that trust and lying about his powers. He needed to put an end to it and he needed to do it fast.

“Ok wait here, I’m going to learn about what medicine to administer in order for you to get better.” Rhys stood up and made his was downstairs.

“Ain’t going anywhere muffin.” Jack said trying to lighten the mood, but his voice was extremely strained. It actually hurt Rhys to hear the powerful man’s voice so weak.

As soon as Rhys got out of the apartment the medical personnel jumped him with questions, most of them wanting to know whether Jack will agree to the therapy or not.

“I tried to convince him but he doesn’t agree. It seems that the only way around it is for me to look after him, so could you please tell me what to do?” Rhys asked feeling helpless, he was good with programming and designing, not medical stuff.

“Ah it’s not good, but it’s better than noting I guess.” One of the doctors replied. “The treatment is facilitated with the usage of our medical devices, but without that it should still be feasible, though it might take a bit longer. What you need to do is to administer this medicine every two hours in form of an injection to the arm, also please give him two pills every three hours.” The man fetched the needed medicine and handed it over to Rhys.

“As in case of the flu, please make sure that his body temperature is kept below 39 degrees.” Another doctor added. “Otherwise the medicine won’t take effect. However you cannot put his body into any sudden heat loss, so a cold bath is out of the question. Cold compress on the forehead should suffice.”

“And make sure that he drinks a lot of water.” Another doctor piped in.

The instructions seemed easy enough, but considering the fact that doing something wrong may cause Jack’s state to worsen was terrifying. He wasn’t feeling confident at all with taking care of sick people and now if he messed this up Jack may actually end up dying. If push comes to shove he’d drag the man out of the apartment by his hair, but with Jack’s current state, even though he seemed weak, Rhys doubted he could do that.

With one last nod confirming that he understood everything he went back to the apartment hoping for the best.

 

—o.o— 4 hours later—o.o—

 

Jack wasn’t feeling any better, in fact his condition has worsened during the last couple of hours. Rhys administered the medicine just as the doctors ordered him to and he kept changing the cool compress every fifteen minutes, but Jack’s temperature kept rising. He didn’t know what was wrong, but as long as the body heat remained this high the pills and injections won’t be effective. Rhys kept fidgeting nervously, hating the feeling of helplessness, he wanted to help but he just didn’t know how.

“Don’t panic muffin.” Jack mumbled, surprisingly he was still conscious but Rhys guessed it was the man’s stubbornness that kept him going.

“Jack I need to take you to the doctors, you’re not getting better.” Rhys said, worry filling his voice.

“I will… get better soon. I always do.” Jack mumbled, he was lying on his back, head turned slightly in Rhys’ direction, gaze unfocused.

“Your temperature is not going down and I have no idea why, you have to go to the medical team.” Rhys pleaded and pulled lightly on Jack hand.

“I told you that’s not happening, if you.” Jack started coughing yet again. “If you try to drag me out I’ll use my gun on you, I kid you not.”

“Fuck Jack, I don’t want you to fucking die ok?!” Rhys yelled tears welling at the corners of his eyes. “You are such a stubborn idiot, with a thick layer of idiocy covering your brain and…”

Wait, wait, wait. Thick layer. Layer…

“Jack!” The programmer yelled in an euphoric state, finally finding the cause of the problem.

“Dammit Rhys I won’t feel better with all the hysteria and yelling going on.”

“It’s your mask! That’s why your temperature’s not going down! What material is it made of? Does it permeate water…”

“No.”

“It doesn’t right? That’s why it’s not working, how could I have been so fucking stupid. Ok so…”

“No as in I’m not taking it off.” Jack scoffed and turned his back to Rhys, even though it took a lot of effort for the man to do so. Jack was so weak that it was surprising how he wasn’t delirious yet, given how long his temperature was up.

“Jack I don’t give a fuck, it’s either you take it off or I do.” Rhys patience was wearing thin, he was so stressed because of Jack’s state he didn’t care to listen to any stupid excuses.

“If you do I will fucking kill you!” Jack shouted angrily, his voice cracking at the end. With barely any strength left he sat up leaning his back on the wall, streaks of sweat coming down his body. “I am not kidding.”

“Well then it’s either you dying now or me dying later, I guess I’ll have to take my chances.” Rhys said advancing at the man.

“Rhys I am warning you, if you touch the mask you are dead.” Jack snarled viciously. Normally Rhys would not dare to defy the man, but he won’t allow for Jack to die because of his stupidity. “I don’t want anyone seeing me without it, especially you!”

“Well then it’s your choice, either I take off the mask or you agree to go to the medical facility.” Rhys yelled in frustration, giving the man an ultimatum.

“I am not fucking…” Jack started coughing violently yet again, this time wheezing heavily. “Doing either of those…”

Fuck it, Rhys had enough. He sat on the man’s lap, pinning Jack’s hands under his knees, and proceeded to undo the clasps. All the time the CEO kept trashing and yelling, but his strength was so depleted by the illness Rhys had little trouble with overpowering him. It was probably the first and only time in his life when he was able to manhandle the all-powerful president of Hyperion.

“I’m going to hate you for this!” Jack tried to push him off of him but failed miserably.

Rhys felt really bad about forcing the man to reveal his face this way, he always hoped that someday Jack would decide to do it on his own, sadly this wasn’t a time when he could respect his wishes. Normally he wouldn’t dare to disregard someone’s feelings like this, but facing the possibility of Jack’s death, he was prepared for all consequences, even losing Jack’s trust.

He finally undid the last clasp and took off the mask. As soon as he did Jack stopped all movement, he just sat there, face contorted with pain and some of the ugliest emotions Rhys had ever seen. The CEO turned his face to the side, not saying anything, just sitting there and looking resigned.

It seems the mask was hiding a peculiar scar which ran all the way from Jack’s jawline to his forehead and then down again through his left eye. It was probably damaged when Jack got the scar and was replaced by an artificial one, hence the different eye color. Surprisingly the scar had a slightly blue color to it, it was definitely something Rhys had never seen before.

Rhys wanted to cringe but not because Jack’s face looked ugly, in fact he didn’t mind the scar at all, if anything it made his looks all the more unique. No, he wanted to cringe because he could only imagine how much it had to hurt given the extent of the injury. However what pained him the most was the look on Jack’s face. If someone didn’t know Jack the way he did, they might think the CEO was angry, but the truth was he felt vulnerable without the mask.

His face was exposed for Rhys to see and he was clearly ashamed of it. It hurt Rhys how hiding the scar mattered so much to Jack, even though for him it wasn’t important at all. The sheer fact that Jack avoided eye contact spoke volumes to him. Now was a crucial moment, he had to show Jack that he wasn’t disgusted by what he saw, but he couldn’t use words of consolation as well – Jack hated pity. It was crucial to use just the right words, because if he screws this up, the CEO will never want to face him again. Rhys only hoped he knew the man as well as he thought he did.

“This is what all the fuss is about?” Rhys said rolling his eyes, which caught Jack’s attention. “Honestly all of Helios is gossiping about it and it’s just a scar? To be honest I’m a bit disappointed.”

Jack finally looked straight at him, eyes narrowing. “Don’t play games with me!” The man hissed.

“What games? Now who’s the princess of the two of us? Making a drama because of some scar, which by the way looks kinda cool. Look at this.” Rhys raised the sleeve of his shirt to point to a place on his elbow, where a small scar was barely visible. “I have a scar as well, but you don’t see me making a fuss about it.”

They stared at each other for a moment, neither of them speaking a word, finally Jack broke the silence.

“Rhys.” The CEO said freeing one of his hands from the boy. “You are the shittiest.” Jack said freeing the other hand. “The dumbest.” He took hold of Rhys’ face quite forcefully. “And the most perfect thing I have ever met.”

Despite obviously feeling drained and having barely any power left Jack kissed Rhys with as much fervor as he could muster. When they broke apart Rhys looked back at Jack and he could tell he still had some reservations about his appearance, so without much thought Rhys took hold of Jack’s face and kissed the scar in the place where it crossed the bridge of his nose.

“I like you like this.” Rhys said leaning away to look Jack in the eyes. The stayed like that for a moment, Jack creasing his brows, his eyes searching for any indication of a lie. After a moment he closed his eyes, shaking his head slightly, when he opened them again the distrust and disbelief seemed to be a distant memory.

“You’re weird.”

“Says the man who has to brush his teeth for exactly one minute.”

“What can I day, a smile like this takes a lot of work.” Jack grinned but soon went into another coughing fit, which effectively broke the intimate moment between them. They finally separated and Jack laid down yet again, the previous argument taking a toll on him. Rhys was quick to support him and put the cooler to his forehead, which this time around should have the desired effect.

Rhys stayed at Jack’s side till the wee hours of the morning, changing the compress, giving him medicine and water and basically just being there if the ma needed him. Jack kept slipping in and out of consciousness and every time he woke up he would check if Rhys was somewhere near only to fall asleep soon after.

Rhys just laid beside him, speaking some nonsense to him from time to time, playing with his hair and kissing Jack’s face every time the man woke up. Somehow it was different kissing the CEO without the mask, it was like some kind of a barrier that Jack built around himself has finally crumbled.

When Jack woke up a couple of times he tried asking him how he got it, but as usual Jack insisted that things of the past should stay forgotten. It was annoying but Rhys didn’t want to pry any further, especially not now, not when when Jack was feeling so weak.

But the lack of information was eating at him more and more and in the light of recent events he felt that there was one thing that he had to do. Rhys decided that he wanted to tell Jack about his powers, because he didn’t want other people to get hurt because of his lies, he also didn’t want to keep having secrets from Jack. However there were so many things he didn’t know that it was hard to decide whether it was safe to share that information with Jack.

Out of all the things Jack didn’t want to share with him, one thing bothered him the most. It was the information the Atlas intern told him, the one about Jack’s daughter being a siren. It couldn’t be a lie since Timothy mentioned her as well and Rhys was determined to know the truth. He really wanted to tell Jack everything, but if Jack’s daughter was a siren and he still decided to hurt her or mistreat her in any way then he definitely won’t make an exception for Rhys.

That is why in order to get the needed information, Rhys left Jack’s apartment in the early morning, when his condition was finally stable and the temperature dropped, and made his way for his office. Rhys decided to finally read those documents he received and even though he might not like what he sees there, he felt he needed to know what happened in Jack’s life if he wanted to make a conscious decision about revealing his siren powers. He can’t keep avoiding the subject any longer.

Chapter Text

Rhys closed the file he was reading ever since he came back to his office. There was a lot of information in it – some of it more unsettling than the rest – but overall he was expecting something much worse. The Atlas intern made it seem like Jack was the king of hell so he was half-expecting intel on Jack burning down orphanages or something equally heartless. Luckily that was not the case otherwise he wasn’t sure how he’d feel about being romantically involved with the CEO.

There was of course a fair share of violence, killings, manipulation and other stuff that wasn’t exactly great, but they were not living in a perfect world either. Spending some time down on Pandora made killing seem like something almost natural. But it doesn’t justify all of the things Jack did – like the way he was trying to bring order to the bandit infested planet by taking control of the warrior. Maybe in Jack’s mind that seemed like a heroic and noble thing to do, but toying with alien beasts and going through every possible measure to open the vault was by far a noble act.

Jack also did some other stuff that was a bit unsettling – like the way he took over Helios or manipulated vault hunters to do all the hard work? There were definitely many things Jack did that Rhys would not consent to, however there was one thing that made it all better. Rhys could see that behind all of his actions, no matter how crazy or ruthless they may seem, there was always something good motivating the CEO. Rhys really believed that Jack tried to change Pandora, or to help Hyperion grow into a powerful corporation with the usage of eridium – why not profit from something that was there for the taking? And the way he stopped the Dahl corporation from destroying Elpis? That was pretty cool.

So all in all there wasn’t anything that would cause him to hate Jack, which was something he feared most, but there were a few cases which made him weary. The news about Jack sending bandits to kill his grandmother was definitely something to worry about. To be honest he could not think of a reason that would justify killing a relative, but Rhys hoped that maybe one day he’ll get to hear the real reason behind it - until that time he’ll refrain from passing judgment on the man. Besides it was not like he’d trust Atlas on everything, they were Jack’s enemies so it was obvious they’d conveniently miss out on some things.

All in all he was not as shocked by the information that he read as he thought he would be, one thing was sure though  - he absolutely CANNOT tell Jack about his powers, never, ever, under any circumstances. First of all the reason he had the scar, which was obviously a taboo subject for the man, was because a siren named Lilith punched the damned vault sign straight into his face. Rhys had no idea how Atlas acquired this kind of information but it was safe to assume that the vault hunters might have given it to them.

That was another thing – Lilith used to work for Jack and she betrayed him, along with a couple of other people, Timothy excluded. No wonder Jack had paranoia issues, with so many friends and allies turning out to be backstabbing traitors everyone would go crazy. Rhys wasn’t sure he’d be doing any better if his friends turned out to betray him like this.

Knowing how many people lied to Jack it was a bit difficult to tell him that Rhys was doing so ever since they met and that he was really a siren. But that was not even the worse part. Knowing all this he might have still considered telling Jack the truth if it wasn’t for Angel, Jack’s siren daughter. The information on her was very vague but the way Atlas put it Jack kept her in an enclosed space, pumped her full of Eridium and when she tried to go against him she ended up dead. Rhys didn’t want to make any judgments on it as the evidence gathered was not as compelling as in the case of all the other information he read, still it did not change the fact that Jack had a daughter, who he kept like a prisoner to use her siren abilities, that much was certain.

If Jack had no qualms about using his own daughter to achieve his plans then he sure as hell would not make an exception for him. He might use Rhys as a war machine or try to find another vault key with the help of his powers – who knows, they only thing he knew for certain was that he didn’t want to take part in any of that.

He wouldn’t risk telling Jack about his powers on the off chance that he might not do anything about it. He’d have to keep it a secret as long as he can and hope for the best, but from now on Rhys will have to be extra careful so that no innocent people get hurt. The incident with the medical staff was enough to add to his guilt list, he felt nauseas every time he thought about it.

A sound of an incoming message startled him from the grim thoughts. Rhys put the folder back into his desk making sure the drawer was locked and checked his Echo Comm.

The1&onlyHJ: Where are you?

The1&onlyHJ: Better yet.

The1&onlyHJ: Why are you not here?!

Rhys: Sorry Jack, I needed to do something at the office, I’ll be back in an hour.

The1&onlyHJ: A trip to your office and back takes you 15 minutes tops. Explain >dubious face<

Rhys: Yeah I’m just gonna grab a quick lunch with the guys and I’ll be right back.

The1&onlyHJ: A quick lunch? Wait, wait, wait, waaaaaaait, so do you mean to tell me that when your boyfriend is fighting for his life you go out to have lunch? >shocked face< >picture of orphans looking disapprovingly<

Rhys wasn’t an idiot, he knows how Jack dislikes using that term and never referrers to himself as his boyfriend… of course unless he wants to emotionally blackmail him into something.

Rhys: Let me remind you that I spent all day yesterday, all night and all morning making sure that you’re all right. You are certainly not dying, your temperature is not high, all symptoms are gone, you just need to rest. There’s breakfast in the fridge – that’s how awful of a boyfriend I am.

The1&onlyHJ: You think cold cereal is all that a patient needs? It’s like you’re hightailing from the battlefield in the midst of war.

Rhys: It’s pancakes and please, it’s not a war, a kindergarten squabble is more like it.

The1&onlyHJ: Know this – if it wasn’t for the pancakes we’d end this discussion differently.

The1&onlyHJ: still…

The1&onlyHJ: >sulking face< >ten more pictures of disappointed orphans<

Really the drama show that was Handsome Jack… If anyone was to read his texts no one would believe it was actually the CEO of Hyperion. Anyways at least talking to the man was a good distraction for his grim thoughts. He should actually hurry and meet up with his friends, knowing Jack if he comes back later than an hour he’ll send security to fetch him and Rhys would much rather avoid that. His friends had enough of blackmail material already, adding to the pile was not on the top of his to do list.

Rhys left his office for the cafeteria all the time thinking about the information that he read on Handsome Jack. He won’t lie, it was weighing on his conscience a bit, but he wasn’t naïve either. Every person that had as much power and influence as Jack has done a fair bit of backstabbing and killing, so it’s not like it came as a surprise. Even though Rhys preferred non-violent solutions he wasn’t blind to what was happening around him. For fucks sake he was creating gun upgrades which probably facilitated hundreds of deaths by now.

It is of course true that being involved with Jack might make him a bit more biased - so to speak - and he might be willing to either forgive or excuse close to every of Jack’s deeds, but it doesn’t mean he lost his sense of morality. He still believed in justice and that a desired outcome could be achieved without the spill of blood, but life wasn’t always perfect like this. As the CEO of Hyperion Jack needed to be ruthless at times, otherwise he would have never been able to keep control for as long as he did.

There was one thing Rhys could do though, he could actually help to keep Jack in check. He could see that his opinion mattered to the man, which also filled him with pride. Jack was an ambitious person who managed to achieve great things in his life, so it felt good that someone so powerful valued his opinion so much. Rhys knew he could influence Jack to a big extent and that was probably the man’s flaw – when he cared for someone he seemed to put them above anything else. Luckily Rhys would never abuse this influence to manipulate Jack, but he was certain other people might. So maybe that was his mission? To help Jack in avoiding decisions like those he made in the past, even if his intentions seemed good.

“Hey Rhys, we’re over here!” The programmer raised his head only to discover that he already reached the cafeteria. He was so lost in thought he didn’t even realize when he reached the place. He looked in the direction of the voice and saw Vaughn waving at him. As usual he slipped into the seat next to August and began chatting with his friends.

“So guys we haven’t played badass and bunkers for a long time, maybe we could meet up today?” Vaughn suggested not even half-way done with his lunch. He was always the first one to appear at their table but the last one to finish eating.

“I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about shorty.” August replied leaning back in the booth and placing one hand on the backrest behind Rhys, relaxing after his meal.

“Seriously man?” Rhys asked looking at the blond beside him. “That’s like the most awesome game ever, we have a game master and…”

“Sounds nerdy to me.” August replied raising his eyebrows, quite skeptical of Rhys’ enthusiasm.

“We always have snacks and booze.” Yvette added while drinking her coffee.

“Count me in.” August replied without further ado. “You seriously need to work on your sales skills robo boy.”

“Well I’m sorry that your only joy in life comes from alcohol, I’ll let you know that…”

“Hello there ladies!” An all too familiar voice yelled next to him. Rhys had barely any time to register what was happening when he felt someone placing a kiss to the corner of his lips. He turned around, eyes wide, mouth gaping, to see Jack casually taking a chair and placing it at the end of the table to join them.

Did Handsome Jack just kiss him in the public, in front of all his friends no less? He took a quick glance around the cafeteria and noticed that everyone was staring at him, some people even took out their phones probably hoping to take a picture if the opportunity arises again. Rhys was now in the centre of everyone’s attention and he felt like crawling under the table, his cheeks probably glowing red already.

He turned to Jack who was staring at August with narrowed eyes, the blond man seemed frozen the minute he noticed the CEO. Suddenly Jack stood up, pulled Rhys by his arm and made him switch seats. The programmer was a bit out of it so he didn’t even protest sitting on the chair.

“Hi there blondie, long time no see. I bet for a big guy like you these booths must seem a bit crowded right?” Jack said with a fake smile. “No wonder you invade other peoples’ space…”

“Jack!” Rhys finally admonished the man shaking out of his momentary shock. In the meantime August quickly took his arm from the back of the seat and scooted as far away from the CEO as possible. Jack was still in his face though, scrutinizing the man like pray.

“Jack, what are you doing here?”

“Whaddya mean pumpkin? You said we’re having lunch with the gang so I’m here.” Jack said and started nibbling at Rhys’ food.

“I said I am having lunch… and since when do you eat food outside?” Rhys asked trying to hold his temper, he won’t take kindly to being controlled like this.

“Well I figured I might as well try it, besides it was already tested on you and you don’t seem like you’re dying anytime soon Rhysie.” Jack said with a face splitting grin, but noticing Rhys’ sour mood he added. “No worries, it tastes like shit compared to your cooking.”

“No shit, you cook Rhys?” Yvette asked amused, she seemed like the only one that wasn’t fazed with Jack’s presence. “As far as I remember it was difficult for you to even make a grilled cheese sandwich back when you were living with Vaughn.”

“Well maybe that’s because I knew you’d gobble everything in a matter of seconds.” Rhys said looking accusingly at the girl. “You know, rent was high at the time.”

For a moment Jack just listened to their interaction, looking from one person to the other, but of course being Handsome Jack he couldn’t stay quiet for too long.

“Soooo I already know Mr. I have too little space over here, the weirdly buffed guy also seems vaguely familiar though I can’t say for sure. How’re ya hanging there buddy?”

“I…” Vaughn stammered in shock.

“Thaaaat’s awesome.” Jack cut the poor guy short before he even managed to utter a proper sentence, he then pointed at Yvette as if he was holding a finger gun. “But you seem like a new addition to Rhys’ club, so what’s up with you?”

“I’m the sane one of the bunch.” Yvette met Jack’s stare head on, while Vaughn kept hyperventilating in the corner.

“Or so she thinks.” Jack commented offhandedly grabbing a fry from Yvette’s plate. The moment he did that all three stared at the girl, knowing full well that if there’s one thing you don’t do with Yvette, is steal her food. It’s a sensitive subject. As expected her gaze hardened though she tried not to let it show.

“Well me and Rhysie go waaay back.” She said in a saccharine tone leaning towards Rhys to put an arm over his shoulders. The programmer only managed to whisper ‘you’re playing with fire’ to her before they separated. He knew what she was trying to do and although it was extremely risky and stupid, he still admired her for her courage.

“Oh really, how nice.” Jack said in a flat voice, looking from Rhys to Yvette.

“Yeah, we’re really close, right Rhys?” Yvette looked at him with an uncharacteristically bright smile. “We know everything about each other, know all our secrets and what not. Ah but what am I saying, being Rhys’ boyfriend I am sure he told you all those things as well.”

Rhys looked at Jack and panicked, he could see the usual signs: teeth grinding, left eye twitching, brows knitting, jaw clenching – if he doesn’t do something fast Yvette may really regret teasing Jack.

“Oook guys, it’s time for us.” Rhys stood up and grabbed Jack by his arm, trying to drag the man away from his friends.

“Didn’t know we’re in a hurry.” Jack said in a low, dangerous voice while still staring at Yvette.

“Yeah we are.” Rhys finally managed to drag Jack away from the booth and in the direction of the exit, though it wasn’t easy since the man kept glaring at Yvette, at one moment he even wanted to go back, to get back at the girl no doubt, luckily Rhys managed to appease him.

“What are you doing out of bed, you were supposed to take it easy today.” Rhys asked as they made their way down the corridor. It wasn’t often they were seen together like this. Usually when they spent time together it was either at the office or his apartment. Their jobs didn’t involve a lot of interaction so it only seemed logical.

“I was bored.” Jack said in a sulking voice, probably replaying the words Yvette said over and over in his head. The man was ridiculous sometimes. “Let’s go back through the Hub, I need to check how the preparations are going.”

“Oh right, the big ceremony is in three days right?” Rhys asked trying to avoid how everyone’s eyes seemed glued to them. He wasn’t used to this much attention.

“Fuck the ceremony, all the geezers talking about how awesome they are and how many targets they achieved. I would prefer to analyze every sand grain in the Pandoran desert than to listen to those morons.” Jack rubbed at his temples, annoyed at the mere thought of listening to the annual reports. “If half of what they say was true then I wouldn’t have as much work as I have.”

“Well let me remind you that as the head of the programming department I will also be the one to bore you out of your mind with a detailed report.” Rhys said just as they reached the Hub of Heroism which was bustling with workers trying to prepare the stage where the main speeches would take place.

“Oh if every head of department was half as good looking as you kitten, I wouldn’t mind listening to them all day.” Jack said with a lecherous grin and as they were walking side by side to the stage he put a hand over Rhys’ hips and leaned over biting his ear.

“Jack!” Rhys squeaked and jumped away from the CEO, who had a quizzical look on his face. “Th… there are people here!” Rhys hissed embarrassed by all the looks they were receiving.

“Oh you never change, do you kitten?” Jack’s confusion was replaced by a warm smile which caused Rhys’ insides to twist pleasantly, like he had a swarm of butterflies in his stomach. He never thought Jack would be this open about them being together, somehow he always assumed that the man would be ashamed of admitting that there was anything between them. Instead he was the one who was acting natural about it while Rhys was an absolute retard when it came to other people seeing them together.

“I just… don’t like to have people’s attention on me.” Rhys mumbled.

“We couldn’t be more different, could we pumpkin?” Jack laughed heartily, crossing his arms over his chest. “I wonder how you’re gonna make it through the ceremony then?”

“Oh I have my report memorized already, it’s not that long so I should manage.” Well he did have that surprise for Jack as well, which caused no small deal of nervousness on his side, but he was confident that the shield would turn out great, he just didn’t like the fact that he’d have to present it in front of everyone.

“I don’t give a shit about the annual reports, we’re mainly celebrating my birthday baby, so you do realize you’d be out on the stage the entire time.”

“Wha… what??!!” Rhys shouted a bit more loudly than intended. “Why would I be there?!”

“Well duuuuh, we’re together so isn’t it normal for you to be on the stage with me sweet-cheeks?” Jack said like it was the most natural and logical thing to do. “You do want to celebrate my birthday with me, don’t you?”

“I… well yeah but…”

“But what?” Jack came up to him, one eyebrow raised.

“Well to be honest I didn’t think you’d want people to know we’re together, I mean I’m nothing special, I won’t be offended if you don’t want me there.” Rhys said scratching at the back of his head, eyes cast down, feeling embarrassed for saying all this out loud. It wasn’t like he had no sense of self-worth, but Jack was the leader of the most successful corporation in the world, so it seemed natural that he’d have to be more aware of his public image. “I don’t want to embarrass you or something.”

Jack didn’t say anything after his short monologue so Rhys finally raised his head to check the man’s reaction. He was surprised by the look of disbelief the CEO was sending him. He had his eyebrows raised high, mouth slightly parted, as if he just heard that a claptrap opened a door on the first try.

“Are you serious?” Jack finally asked, his expression somewhere between incredulity and amusement. “Do you think I’d be ashamed of you? Rhys I know that for a guy who achieved so much you can be incredibly dense sometimes, but this just cracked me up. Kitten you do realize that you’re the youngest head of department ever and that your fame as an upgrade designer reached even Torgue, and that is saying something because for those guys the concept of designing a weapon is equivalent to throwing a couple of parts from a high cliff and hoping for the best. Aaaaand let’s not forget the most important fact - you’re a piece of eye candy, so do you seriously think I’d be embarrassed by you?”

Rhys was left speechless, his face bright red. He never imagined Jack was thinking so highly of him, that he may actually be proud to have Rhys around. He was feeling giddy inside and it was hard to keep a straight face when all he wanted to do was to smile like an idiot.

“Baby I’m gonna be flaunting you all day long on that stage, I even have clothes designed for you especially for this occasion, you’re gonna look haaaaaawt.” Jack said with a wide grin, teeth and all. “So I’m hoping you will join me during the celebration.”

Rhys looked at Jack feeling a bit panicked by the idea of so many people paying attention to him, of so much pressure that would be put on him because of his association with Handsome Jack. But at the moment all of that didn’t really matter, he was just so happy with how Jack managed to make him feel wanted and appreciated that he’d probably do anything to please the man. Not that Jack needed to know that, all in all the programmer did have some pride.

“Well I was told I have an amazing set of legs.” Rhys said with a smug smile.

“That’s the spirit pumpkin!” Jack laughed and went to the constructors to make sure that all preparations were made according to his instructions. Half-way to the stage however he spun on his heel and asked with an angry expression. “Wait, who the hell said that?!”

Rhys only shook his head, rolling his eyes at the man. Jack would never change, would he? He didn’t even remember he was the one who said that. He seriously could not understand the obsessive jealousy the man was showing, Rhys couldn’t imagine ever acting that way.

 

—o.o— Rhys’ apartment —o.o—

 

Rhys was lying on his bed, reading a book for a change. He was tired with all the work that piled up lately and stressed out by the whole virus thing. Jack was working on something on his laptop downstairs so he took this as a great opportunity to just lie around and do nothing. Besides knowing Jack this serenity won’t last long.

As if on cue with his thoughts he heard Jack going upstairs, but he decided to ignore him for now. The man placed his laptop next to Rhys and unceremoniously laid down on the boy, placing his head on the programmer’s stomach, his hands entwined under his chin. Rhys kept reading his book, intent on finishing at least one more chapter.

“Rhysie”

He ignored the man which wasn’t easy as he weighed quite a lot and lying on his stomach did not make it easy to breath, still he would not surrender easily. Jack was a walking distraction.

“Pumpkin.”

“Hmm?” Rhys hummed turning to the next page. He had his head propelled on the pillow, while the rest of his body lay flat on the bed. The programmer held the book upright on his stomach which prevented him from seeing Jack’s face.

“So I was wondering…” Jack began. “What type of secrets did you share with that broad-hipped chick.”

“With whom?” Rhys finally lowered his book and looked at Jack.

“Well ya know, the annoying one.”

“Jack you find everyone annoying.”

“Oh come on Rhysie, the one we saw at lunch.” Jack said propelling himself on his elbows, face annoyed.

“Yvette? You seriously think she was telling you the truth?” Rhys asked actually amused. “She was just trying to get under your skin.” Jack was still annoyed by the answer but he visibly relaxed. “Besides if anyone knows things about me it’s Vaughn, we’ve been friends since forever, that guy…” Ok judging from Jack’s expression that was not the right thing to say.

“Then tell me the stuff he knows.”So it seems today it was ‘Jack the spoiled child’ yet again.

“Jack listen, you can’t get jealous over stupid things like these, those are my friends of course they’re gonna know things about me that you won’t and vice versa, no need to be sulking about it.” Rhys admonished the man, his patience wearing thin. “Besides if you’re so bent on getting to know me then let’s do it like this – I tell you something but in return you tell me something about you, about your childhood or whatever.”

“Nah my story is boring, I’d much rather just hear yours.”

“Oh yes, because you’re just the CEO of Hyperion, you must have the most boring back story ever.” Rhys rolled his eyes at the man.

At that moment Jack’s laptop started ringing, the Echo Comm software transmitting an incoming call. Jack looked at Rhys and then back at the laptop with an annoyed face.

“This isn’t over yet.” He mumbled and scrambled to his knees, answering the call. “The CEO of Hyperion who did not have as many awesome adventures in his life as some may think, how may I be of service?”

“What bit your ass, handsome?” Rhys heard the voice of the girl but did not see the image displayed on the monitor as it was turned the other way.

“Hi Nish, what’s going on?”

“Nothing much, just wanted you to know I had a small encounter with the vault hunters yet again, an annoying bunch really.”

“But I bet Lynchwood is still doing great under your sexy jurisdiction.” Jack said smiling, which pissed Rhys off.

“The day I won’t manage to handle my guns is the day Pandora will cease to exist.”

“I bet.” Jack laughed heartily. “Ok Nish I’m guessing you wanna give me an update on the device I sent you to fetch.”

“Fetch is a fancy word for breaking into a camp full of bandits.”

“Well be it as it may, do you have it? No actually hold that thought, I need to jump to the bathroom like real quick, besides of course you have it, it’s you.” Jack stood up and made his way down the stairs.

“Someone’s getting old or misses me a lot.” Nisha chuckled though Rhys assume Jack probably didn’t hear that.

Listening to their conversation Rhys was getting pissed. How dare Jack have jealous fits when he was flirting with the cowboy bimbo while sitting right next to him. The old man had a fucking problem with August sitting beside him when he was practically Echo fucking with the cowgirl. The nerve of that man.

But Rhys was better than this, he won’t act like Jack driven by some petty jealousy even though he had every reason to. So what if they were calling each other pet names, had a history together and basically eye-fucked through the communicator, but Rhys refused to be riled by this. He was better than that, he was…

“Ok fuck this.” Rhys said to himself and took hold of the laptop, double checking if Jack was still in the bathroom. Threats are never petty.

“Hi, Nisha right?” he asked in a cold, matter-of-fact voice.

“Well hello there, I didn’t know Jack had guests. Wait I know you from somewhere…” She put her elbows on the table and leaned into the camera to study him in more detail. “You’re that hottie that Jack went crazy for back in the club. Damn I missed out on a good fuck because of you, now how are you going to repay me for that, sweet boy. Normally I don’t do sweet and innocent, but I’d make an exception for you.”

 

—o.o— Jack —o.o—

 

Jack came out of the bathroom and was surprised when he heard Rhys talking to someone upstairs. Was he speaking to Nisha? Well that would be an interesting conversation, despite how much he liked Rhys he knew that the boy would stand no chances against her. She always had a dirty mouth and Rhys would blush into oblivion if they ever spoke in person. How the hell did he like people who were so different? Either way he should tell Nisha to tone it down a bit, not that Rhys would get jealous or anything, which was a bummer, but it kinda seemed like a decent thing to do.

Handsome Jack being decent, the world is coming to an end.

“What are you doing to me pumpkin?” Jack mused quietly to himself as he came near the staircase, what he heard though made him stop in his tracks.

“Now listen to me Nisha.” It was definitely Rhys’ voice. “You stay away from Jack and I am not kidding. You don’t flirt with him, you don’t talk with him unless it’s business and you certainly don’t visit to have casual sex. If I see you anywhere near him then believe me when I say this, those gun-toys of yours won’t be of any help.”

What the hell, did Rhys just threaten Nisha? Was he jealous, seriously? Ok so maybe considering the way they usually talked Jack guessed he wouldn’t stand for it if any of Rhys’ friends did that. But the programmer never showed this type of behavior, but now he was… fighting for him?

“Ohoho look at you, I guess I misjudged you, you’re a feisty one. I like you boy, you sure you don’t want to spice things up? Change the old man for this gal? I am sure I’d be able to teach you plenty of…”

That was all Nisha was able to say before Jack stormed up the stairs and closed the laptop right in the middle of her sentence. He’d seriously need to have a talk with her. Nobody gets close to Rhys, not even fucking verbally.

“Jack… listen I’m sorry for intruding on your call but…” The boy stammered surprised at being caught and probably misinterpreting the reason behind his anger.

“Shut up.” Was all Jack managed to say before he lunged at the boy, their mouths colliding with ferocity, Jacks’ hands undressing the boy with frantic movements. If Rhys thought he’d be angry with him for this then he’s sorely mistaken. Jack was hard, his blood was boiling and all he wanted to do was to have the boy there and then, to roam every inch of his body, to posses him. And the fact that Rhys wanted him equally as much was doing things to him he never thought he’d feel.

Chapter Text

“So, are you stressed before the big event?”

“Stressed? I mean come on, I’m just going to stand in front of thousands of people, present the shield I spent hours working on and during all that time I’ll probably be judged by everyone as an inadequate partner for someone like Handsome Jack who is treated like a semi-god around the station, so no biggie. I’m fine.”

“Well good to know you’re ok with that.”

“Tim, you wouldn’t recognize sarcasm if it was spelled out for you on a neon sign in a dark alley, would you?”

“Hey, no need to be snappy about it, I’m just trying to help.”

Rhys knew Timothy was doing his best to raise his spirits, but the thought of standing on a stage in front of everyone was simply terrifying. Maybe he was putting too much pressure on this, but he really wanted to do well for Jack. Not only that, he also wanted to be recognized as someone that could be on equal terms with the CEO. He didn’t want other people to think that he was playing favors, that he has the title of head of the programming department only because he’s Jack’s partner.

Rhys knew all too well how Hyperion workers acted, if someone was doing better than them they always found ways to criticize them or diminish their success. He was sure that as soon as the ceremony ends there will be ECHO comments circling the station of Rhys earning his position by sucking Jack’s dick – or something equally crude. That’s why it was so important for him to do well with the shield, to manage to stop such stupid rumors before they spread. If he manages to secure another high-profit sell for Hyperion then he would have nothing to worry about.

At this point Rhys was quite sure of his product, he didn’t think anything could go wrong. The thing he wasn’t so sure of was his performance. He was such a klutz when it came to public appearances that it often involved stuttering, nervous fidgeting and of course turning red as a tomato.

Picturing what would happen didn’t make sleeping any easier.  Yesterday he kept tossing and turning in the bed, all the time picturing in his head how he falls down of the podium or does something equally embarrassing. At some point during the night Jack growled and threatened that he’ll smother him with a pillow if he keeps waking him up. That did not help.

“I know you’re trying to help, I’m just a nervous wreck ever since Jack told me that I need to stand by his side during the whole ceremony. That definitely wasn’t something I anticipated.” Rhys whined looking at the digital display of his ECHO comm. The ceremony was only a few minutes away but he didn’t feel like going out of his apartment. Maybe running was a good option?

“Well you better get used to it, you’re Handsome Jack’s boyfriend now, so it’s only natural for you to take part in events like this.” Timothy said looking straight into the camera with a bright smile. “You should be happy he wants to show you off, so place a confident look on your face and act like everyone is beneath you, that should work perfectly.”

Timothy was right, he should be happy because of it and part of him was… but the other part was scared shitless and there was nothing he could do about it. Just as he wanted to reply he saw an incoming call from Jack.

“Ok Jack is calling me so I need to go, wish me luck. Who knows maybe I’ll manage not to suffocate on air while speaking.”

“You’ll do great Rhys, I know you will! Look I already made a fan t-shirt.” The man stood up and the programmer looked at the white shirt with a badly written #TeamRhys on the front. Timothy was ridiculous at times, but it was part of his charm.

“Careful there, you don’t want to be starstruck.” Rhys replied with a smile and waved to the man before finishing the call. He made Jack wait long enough.

“Yes?” Rhys asked answering the CEO’s call.

 “Yes? What’s that supposed to be? Do you think I called you to give a weather report or something? Get your well-toned ass here asap. We’re starting in two minutes.” Jack said clearly irritated.

“Well can I…”

“The answer to that Rhysie is NO, you cannot.”

“But I didn’t even…”

“The only butt I am able to talk about at this moment is yours. Here. In two minutes.”

“But I…”

“What did I just say?”

“Bu…”

“RHYS!”

“Ok ok I’m going, for the love of…”

“I’m glad that we always manage to find a compromise, pumpkin. I never imagined I’d be this good with relationships.” Jack said as if proud of an achievement while Rhys only rolled his eyes, cursing under his breath. “Also, now it’s one minute, and if you’re late I’m telling everyone we cannot start because we are waiting for my diva boyfriend who apparently wants a grand entrance.”

OK now Rhys was practically running down the corridors, that was definitely not something he wanted.

 

—o.o— Ceremony / Rhys’ nightmare —o.o—

 

Everything was going surprisingly well, Jack started the ceremony with a long speech, as was the usual custom. The CEO thrived on attention and having so many people gathered in the Hub just to hear what he had to say was doing great things for the man’s ego. He was a born speaker, even though he’d digress a lot, Jack was always very witty and he knew what to say to keep the attention of his audience. Even though most of what he said was about himself people still kept listening to him like he was their hero, the younger workers bearing an awestruck expressions on their faces.

Luckily all Rhys had to do so far was to stand not far away, together with the rest of the department leaders. He was afraid that Jack would announce his presence or do something else that may focus people’s attention on him, luckily though he didn’t do anything of that sort. Maybe he was being considerate knowing how Rhys dreaded public speaking or maybe he simply forgot about it focusing on the most important subject of that day – himself. Either way Rhys was glad as he quietly awaited his turn to present a report on his department doings.

When Jack finally finished the speech he called the executives one by one to give their reports. Most of them were pretty boring and Rhys could see how the audience was growing impatient. Everyone was waiting for the feast to begin and to finally have the chance to go up to Jack, wish him all the best on his birthday and shake hands with the legend. Usually the line of people who wanted to talk with Jack was quite huge as it was oftentimes the only chance to speak to the man in person, even to just say a short hello and shake hands with him.

Of course Rhys was the last one to give his speech which only increased the dread he was feeling ever since he woke up. He just wanted this whole thing to be over as soon as possible. When it was finally his turn he could practically hear his heart drumming in his ears. He went to the middle of the podium and the only thing he kept chanting in his head was don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint.

Before he could start though Jack managed to get a hold of the microphone and seeing this Rhys cursed in his head. He was hoping the man would stay out of this.

“Now I want you guys to give a special round of applause to Rhysie over here, who managed to not only double, but triple our sales in the last quarter.” Jack said obnoxiously loud coming up to Rhys and placing an arm over his shoulders. “As some of you may know he’s the guy responsible for creating that awesome elemental upgrade few months back as well as delivering the gravity grenade to us. So take this extremely sexy man as your role model munchkins, because if more of you guys showed this kinds of initiative we’d be swimming in cash. OK I’d be the one swimming in cash but I’m sure we’d add in a benefit or two for you guys. Like a cuppa coffee at the cafeteria for half-price or something. Aaaaanyways without further ado I give you Rhysie!”

Just as commanded everyone was clapping dutifully while Jack went to the back of the stage to give Rhys some space.  All the time Rhys was having an internal battle, all he wanted to do was to run from the stage because if the expectations weren’t high before they were now reaching the roof. He knew Jack wanted to give credit to his work and that was something a CEO should do, but it didn’t change the fact that Rhys wanted to die.

He was fighting with himself to keep a neutral face, even swallowing proved difficult at this point. He could not focus his gaze anywhere while the sound of clapping echoed around the Hub. The clapping finally stopped but he still could not start his speech. After a minute of silence he noticed some people were growing impatient while others started whispering something to one another. In the meantime he just stood rooted to the spot, paralyzed by fear, his insecurities growing tenfold under the scrutinizing gaze of the audience.

Finally his eyes landed on the group of his friends who were standing at the back of the room on the upper floor. They were all waving and encouraging him with thumbs up. When Rhys focused his attention on them he noticed they were all wearing those stupid white t-shirts with the word #TeamRhys written in the front. August also had one even though he looked utterly ridiculous in it.

And then just like that Rhys started to laugh internally at how stupid yet great his friend were and the paralyzing fear finally gave away to the feeling of confidence. Jack was right, he overachieved in every single aspect this year and he could be damn proud of himself. Rhys looked once more at his report and started speaking as if it was the most natural thing to do. He was well prepared and he could say everything without the notes. He had it memorized perfectly.

Throughout his whole speech he did not stammer, did not faint or fall off the scene so yeah he was doing pretty great. Actually Rhys sounded quite confident even to his own ears and he was damn proud of it.  When he finally finished the report Jack was fast to take over.

“Oooookay thank you for that Rhysie, now we can move on to…”

“Actually there’s one more thing.” Rhys said turning to Jack who only raised his eyebrows in confusion. For a moment he moved the microphone away and mouthed a silent question to Rhys, not knowing what was going on. Rhys only smiled back trying to somehow reassure Jack that it was ok. With a shrug of his shoulders Jack finally gave in, although the skeptical look remained on his face.

“Ok the floor’s your pumpkin.”

“Thank you.” Rhys nodded and turned back to the audience. “I wanted to take this chance to introduce a new product my department is planning on releasing. I was thinking about a possible market area where we could introduce a new product and, as our CEO likes to say, crush our competition and earn a shit ton of money while bathing in their misery.” That earned Rhys a roar of laughter from the audience. “Since we’re already doing pretty damn great in every gun related field I thought to myself that perhaps the shield market is something we could make a significant impact on. We already have all the necessary equipment to mass-produce them, so why not use it?”

Rhys went up to the projector and turned it on, showing a couple of slides presenting different shields well-known to the general market.

“As we know so far Anshin has a monopoly on shield products but they are using the same old tricks over and over. We all heard of shields that catch bullets or give an elemental burst whenever depleted, however, in practice those special effects rarely have any decisive influence on the outcome of the battle. So what if we put on the market a product with the same recharge and capacity stats but with an additional effect that can deal actual damage? So with that in mind, this is  what I’ve been working on lately.”

Rhys opened a short video which was projected on the large screen. It showed the shield tested in a real fight down on Pandora. He had the footage thanks to Timothy who took it upon himself to force one of his minions (who thought he was Jack) to enter a bandit camp and test the shield in real life situation while he captured the footage. The video showed a Hyperion soldier who was surrounded by a bunch of bandits. Before they started raining bullets on him he activated the shield’s special effect. Soon after they all started shooting at him with everything they had, a missile launcher included, while the bullets were all stopped by the shield. However, contrary to what usually happened, they bullets did not disappear but appeared stuck in the force field of the shield. When it was depleted the special effect took place and the shield gave off a large burst sending the bullets back at their owners all at the same time. Needless to say there wasn’t a single bandit left standing.

“So this is what I came up with. It’s suited not only for solo raids but also team-work is ok, as long as our allies have the same shield type they won’t be harmed by the bullets, even if their shields are depleted. It is ready to be sold on the market, just waiting for our CEO’s approval.”

Rhys said and turned back to Jack, trying to read the man’s reaction. The whole Hub was quiet, no one speaking a word before Jack would give his opinion. But the man just stared at the replay of the video Rhys showed, not saying a single word. The silence stretched unmercifully while Rhys was becoming more and more nervous. Maybe Jack didn’t like the idea? Maybe he was pissed that he went behind his back to finish this project?

Jack finally turned to look at him but Rhys was not able to place his expression, it was unreadable. With slow, deliberate strides he made his way to Rhys who stood perfectly still going over in his head through different ways this might end in. Would Jack yell at him, fire him, kill him? No he wouldn’t hurt him… right? When the man finally stood right in front of him and raised his hand Rhys closed his eyes, ready for a blow. And it came, just not in the way he imagined it.

Jack kissed him. Like on the lips. With the whole fucking audience looking at them. And it wasn’t just a quick peck, no it was a full on smashing of lips and if not for the hand entangled in his hair at the back of his head, Rhys would probably back away. But as it was he just let the man kiss the hell out of him. Rhys heard some murmurs in the audience but he could not focus on anything else except the fact that Jack was fucking kissing him in front of everyone.

When the man finally moved away, he looked at Rhys with a vibrant smile and the programmer could tell the man was proud of him. He had a half-smile half-smirk plastered on his face and a knowing look on his face, like he expected Rhys to overachieve like this, like he knew he could do this. Rhys was not one to be overdramatic be he literally felt his heart melting when Jack was looking at him like that.

Ever since he was just a rookie intern on Helios he always looked up to Jack and wished that one day he would be recognize by work. He was just like every other awe-struck worker bee trying to shake hands with the big man. Jack probably didn’t even remember him but he was present on every birthday ceremony and always waited diligently in line to meet up with Jack face to face. He feared the man but also admired him greatly and to be standing in front of everyone and seeing the approval on Jack’s face filled him with so much pride that he could literally die.

The other reason he could literally die though was embarrassment with a big fat E. Why the hell did Jack need to kiss him in front of everyone?!

“Well ladies and gents, I have the best friggin’ boyfriend ever, am I right?” Jack said putting an arm over Rhys’ shoulder making them both face the audience. Did Jack just call him the b word? He fucking addressed him as his boyfriend? Rhys didn’t know whether he should have a goofy smile on his face or a look of horror.

“Now that.” Jack said pointing to the video showing the shield Rhys made. “Is what you call a fucking awesome present. I hope all of you dipshits were equally considerate - I’m waiting for a whole lot of awesome gifts this year! Sooooooo all of you hand-shakers get in line because your dream is coming true! Handsome Jack is graciously allowing you to get in his vicinity so do not waste this opportunity!”

“As for you.” Jack said facing Rhys while the queue already started forming. “I want to talk with you, but not now, too many crazy fans and as much as I would love to have you hanging from my arm the whole evening, I know this is a torture so you’re free to go.”

“So you mean to tell me I got into so many layers of suit for nothing?” Rhys teased the man. Just as promised Jack delivered a suit tailored especially for this occasion. It was mostly black with a few grey stripes here and there and bore the standard Hyperion yellow in some places. He had to hand it to Jack, he did look hot, although if he had a say in this, they pants would definitely not be as tight as they were.

“For nothing? Baby they could not take their eyes off of you, you look ravishing, but as those lowlifes can only imagine I get to own.” Jack said with a dangerous smirk playing on his lips.

“Own?”

“Yes, property of Handsome Jack. I should tattoo that on your ass or something.” The man smirked shamelessly groping Rhys’ butt out in the public causing Rhys to yelp in surprise.

“Well for that comment you’re not getting your present.” The programmer said putting some distance between them. Like hell he needed Jack to grope him in front of his workers.

“You have something else for me pumpkin? Damn I feel spoiled, you already overdid it today.” Jack said but could not stop his typical excitement, he loved getting presents. He was much like a dog wagging his tail whenever he was pampered by Rhys, which didn’t happen very often as it was usually the other way around – Jack spoiling Rhys.  “Sooo… what is it? Does it involve you in a blindfold and a thong?”

“Wha… what?! First of all please don’t say such things so loud when there are people around, secondly – where did that come from?”

“Oh kitten there is a lot of different ideas from where that came.” Jack grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. “Anyways Rhysie you are killing me here, I want the present!” Jack said almost bouncing on his heels.

“Ok ok, here.” Rhys protruded a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to the man. “Happy birthday Jack.”

“Rhys…” Jack said and for a moment he was stunned into silence while the programmer enjoyed watching his clueless expression. “Essentially this is a white piece of paper. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice piece of paper, but… it’s a piece of paper. What the hell am I supposed to do with this?”

“It’s not just any piece of paper, you’re supposed to make a design on it.”

“What design?” Jack was still clueless.

“The one you were whining about for the last two months.” Rhys said smiling, but as Jack still didn’t get it he had to spell it out for the man. “For the tattoo Jack.”

At that Jack’s expression brightened and Rhys could already see the cogs moving, he only hoped it would not end badly for him.

“Do you mean to say I can finally design a tattoo for you?!” Jack asked excited. “Oh cupcake you won’t regret this, it will start all the way down…”

“Jack it’s not meant to be bigger than that piece of paper.”

“But it’s too small, how can you put such cruel restraints on a great mind like mine.” Jack whined but as he saw it wasn’t getting him anywhere, he changed his tactics. “Ok fine but it has to be in a visible spot.”

“Fine, but please don’t make it ridiculous like I know you want to. So no texts, it’s supposed to be a design.” Rhys warned.

“Ok ok fine, I can work with that.”

“And no tattoos of your face.”

“Oh daaaaaamn Rhysie, that’s my best feature, you’re taking all the fun out of it.” Jack whined although Rhys knew he was just teasing him. The man liked to do that a lot and after all this time he knew how to tell the difference between his jokes and crazy whims.

“So where do you want to put it.” Rhys asked preferring to get acquainted with the idea sooner rather than later.

“Oh I have a perfect spot in mind.” Jack gave him a lecherous smile and before he knew it, the CEO pulled him closer flushing their bodies together and sucking on the usual spot on his neck. Go figure, of course it would be the neck.

For a brief moment Rhys forgot that they were in the middle of the Hub of Heroism with thousands of eyes looking straight at them. When Rhys’ mind cleared a bit and he realized that most of the people were either looking at them or taking pictures, he was quick to slip out of Jack’s clutches. How the hell did he forget about all those people? His friends will probably tease him with the pictures and videos of this for months to come.

“I’m going now, you should tend to your crazy fans.” Rhys mumbled and took a few steps back.

“Oh I think they were pretty satisfied with what just transpired.” Jack smiled stupidly at him.

“I will talk to you later.” Rhys deadpanned while trying to hide the blush that lately seemed ever-present on his face. He only heard Jack chuckling as he made his way through the crowd. Some people gave him curious looks while others had the audacity to give him a thumbs up. A fucking thumbs up! He needed to get out of there, fast.

 

—o.o— Jack’s office —o.o—

 

It was well after midnight when Jack texted him to come to his office asap. Rhys was almost sleeping at the time so he wasn’t too happy about it. He tried asking Jack what it was all about and whether it could not wait but the man insisted without any further explanation. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was Jack’s birthday he would have never complied, but given as it was Jack’s special day he decided to indulge the man.

He was already quite generous letting Rhys go after the main ceremony, the programmer really feared Jack would want him to stay throughout the whole party, listening to people trying to suck up to the man in power or witnessing employees making total fools of themselves in Jack’s presence. Luckily the CEO was considerate enough to let him go after his speech, so the least he could do was comply with whatever crazy wishes the man had at the moment.

When Rhys finally reached the office the first thing he noticed was how quite it was. The room was dimly lit, save for the lamp on Jack’s desk and two lights directed at Jack’s golden statues in the middle of the room. Talk about megalomania.

“Jack, are you here?” Rhys asked unsure if there was anyone in the room.

“Come here Rhysie.” Jack said, he was sitting on his yellow chair which was turned the other way, facing the view of Elpis, which was why he didn’t notice him at first. Rhys didn’t like the serious tone of the CEO’s voice, somehow he assumed he’d be in a more playful mood, after a day of hearing compliments and non-stop admiration.

“Jack why is there no light in here?” Rhys made his way up the platform and rounded the desk, standing between it and the chair. “Is… is something wrong? Couldn’t we just meet back at the apartment?”

“No, unfortunately the party ain’t over yet, but I had to slip away for a short while because my levels of frustration are skyrocketing at the moment.” The CEO said in a loud voice.

“Did something happen at the party?” Rhys asked unsure of what to say. Finally Jack turned the chair to face him, something akin to anger or irritation written on his face.

“Did something happen?... Yeah, yeah I guess you could say that.” Jack said standing up, his face deadly serious. “You lied to me, that’s what happened.”

What the hell was going on? Why was Jack so pissed at him? He was more than fine a few hours ago, so what happned? Dread started slowly sipping into his body as Rhys went through all of the possible things Jack might be pissed at. Did he find out about the file in his desk, about the operation or maybe the explosion? The list was endless which only made Rhys realize how many things he’s been keeping from Jack.

Did he know Rhys was a siren? How did he find out? Rhys felt his breathing stop, he backed away until his legs hit the large desk. He gripped the edges with his hands, trying to find something to steady himself. He felt his knees going weak, his heartbeat increasing rapidly.

“Jack…”

“You are a little liar, you know that, right? And all night long I wasn’t able to focus on anything because all I kept thinking about was how Rhysie tricked me and the more I thought about it the more frustrated I became.” Jack advanced at him and was now standing a few inches away, his breathing heavy.

“And that frustration grew and grew and grew, until it was fucking unbearable.” Jack muttered and leaned towards Rhys, who closed his eyes waiting for the man to strangle him. He heard the CEO was pretty fond of that when things became personal, however, instead of doing anything to Rhys Jack moved his arm and with one forceful swipe, he threw everything off of his desk. The objects fell to the floor with a loud rattle, causing Rhys to flinch involuntary.

“Listen Jack whatever it is I can explain…” Rhys tried meekly despite the utter fear he felt at the moment.

“Try to explain what exactly? That you fooled me into believing that you were as harmless as it gets?! That you were this stuttering little programmer who could not even hold my stare for too long. That you could barely keep up with life?!” Jack said and grabbed Rhys hips hoisting the boy up on the desk.

“And then you go and have angry sex with me in the club, you threaten Nisha, you’re not afraid to go against me and you are an audacious little shit who pulls my mask off… But today? Today you really overdid it. You go up on that stage, looking like a thousand dollars, act all confident and shit and then you pull one on me? You finished a whole project behind my back to surprise me and you actually managed to pull it off?!”

Jack said leaning dangerously close to Rhys, whose mind was completely blank. What was this about?

“So I’m left at the party, shaking hands with some losers while all the time I keep thinking about how fucking perfect you are and how, instead of spending my time with those dipshits, I’d rather have you right here on this desk.” Jack said and moved his lips closer to Rhys’ ear. “So like I said, my frustration grew and grew and grew to a point where I had to slip away from my fucking birthday because I was getting blue balls thinking about you all evening. So, what are you going to do about it R.h.y.s.i.e?”

“Oh…” Rhys felt relief wash over him like a cold tide on a hot summer day. A moment ago he was freaking out so much when Jack was simply toying with him. However what just happened made Rhys realize something – as long as he doesn’t come clean he’ll never be able to fully enjoy being with Jack because all his secrets will pile up and slowly eat at him. It doesn’t matter what he read in those stupid documents, he’ll have to man up and confess. The sooner he does that the better for him.

“Oh? Is that all you’re going to say?” Jack smirked licking at his earlobe.

But the whole coming out thing can wait, for the moment he had more pressing issues.

“Well what can I say, it’s your birthday Jack.” Rhys said in a playful manner as he hooked his fingers through Jack’s belt loops. With how he treated Rhys the CEO really deserved some indulgence today. “Anything to please the birthday boy.”

“Now that’s more like it. Don’t go too wild though, I like my kitten sweet and innocent.” Jack hummed biting Rhys’ ear and buckling his hips creating a wonderful friction. “Gives me great pleasure to devour you.”

“I have a wish of my own though.” Rhys said leaning away from Jack just before he managed to capture his lips, which caused the man to growl. “Can we do it without the mask?”

“Why the hell would you want that?” Jack asked knitting his eyebrows, a look of confusion and annoyance evident on his face.

“I like your real face better.” Rhys murmured while reaching for the clasps. Jack flinched slightly which was barely noticeable but the programmer saw it. Still he pressed his luck and went for it, Jack allowing him to have it his way. “Or maybe I simply like the fact that I’m the only one that can see you like this.”

“Hmm.” Jack hummed as Rhys undid the last clasps and took off the mask, placing it on the far corner of the desk. “Rhysie you possessive little shit, I l… you’re perfect for me kitten.”

Rhys wanted to act on his new-found confidence as much as he could, but hearing so many compliments at one time caused his trademark blush to grow tenfold. He broke their heated gaze for just a few seconds, looking to the side, but it was enough for Jack to chuckle and tease him. If Rhys didn’t know any better, he’d really think Jack likes him like this. Shy and flustered.

Jack and Rhys stared at each other, both not saying anything for a moment when suddenly, as if understanding each other’s want, their mouth collided. It was a bit needy and rushed but exactly the way they both wanted it. Jack nibbled at his bottom lip while his hands scraped down the boy’s thighs, causing Rhys to moan loudly into the kiss.

Taking advantage of that Jack slipped his tongue into the boy’s mouth, savoring Rhys’ taste while their tongues fought for dominance. In the heat of the moment Rhys forgot completely about his shyness, his fingers traveling frantically over Jack’s chest, looking blindly for a way to have skin contact. Annoyed at the layers of clothing which stood in the way he yanked quite forcefully on Jack’s jacket, pulling it off and throwing it to the ground.

Jack did not stay far behind, tugging at Rhys’ vest and pulling it off together with the jacket. Still kissing with a ferocious intensity they both started undoing each other’s shirts, Jack being the first one to get rid of the offending piece of clothing. Rhys followed in turn and as soon as the shirts were out of the way, their hands found their way back to each other’s bodies.

When they finally broke apart they were both breathing heavily, their lips swollen. Rhys gasped loudly as Jack’s fingers found his nipples while the man licked his throat all the way from the base to his chin, causing Rhys to pull his head back, a load moan escaping his lips. They began kissing again, while their hands roamed their bodies. He started panting into Jack’s mouth as his blood began to burn with need.

He could feel Jack’s mouth curve upwards in amusement as Rhys’ fingers slid through the slightly gray hair, his other hand tracing the outline of Jack’s scar. Next he moved his hands to the broad shoulders , palms pressing into Jack’s back, urging him to get closer, to cause more friction between their bodies. Their clothe covered erections slid against each other and they groaned at the sensation. Jack buckled his hips harder in response, both moaning at the action.

Not feeling satisfied Jack hastily unbuckled his jeans and pulled them down, he then focused on Rhys’, also trying to get rid of the last piece of clothing that was preventing them to have full body contact. He undid the button and the zipper and then proceeded to pull the pants down forcefully, together with Rhys’ boxers. He slid one hand on the boy’s lower back, helping Rhys to pull up so that he could get rid of the clothing.

Jack hastily pulled it off one leg but stopped then, not being able to wait any longer, his hunger for the boy growing tenfold. He quickly coated his fingers with whatever moisturizer he could find in his desk while Rhys finally pulled his pants from his right ankle. When he finished Jack pushed him flat on the desk and scrambled onto it as well, towering above Rhys, looking at him like a predator eyeing his pray.

Rhys turned his face to the side, not able to withstand the gaze, gasping for air and feeling slightly lightheaded. Jack bent down and bit at the side of his neck, while the programmer cursed and moaned brokenly, his arousal strained painfully. Rhys was only half-aware when Jack’s hands roamed his body. When the older man took hold of his swollen length, positioning two fingers at his entrance, Rhys moaned loudly while his eyes fluttered close.

When Jack added more fingers to stretch Rhys, the boy glanced up at him, eyes half-lidded, distractedly parting his legs to give the man better access. He watched those green and blue eyes darken with lust and his breath caught when he felt Jack hitting at his pleasure point, causing him to writhe on the desk, hands clutching at the edges, moving his legs up and encircling Jack’s sides with his thighs.

Rhys cried out when Jack pulled out his fingers and replaced them with his length, entering Rhys without any warning. Jack’s hands were confident on him, like everything else about the CEO. Captivated by the sight of the man above him he reached out his hands and entangled them in Jack’s hair, pulling their mouths together. The craving they were feeling for each other at the moment was almost physically painful.

Jack urged Rhys’ legs further apart with his hands, guiding them around his torso. Rhys did exactly as the man wanted and  wrapped his limbs firmly around the older man. In turn Jack circled his arms around the boy and with a sudden tug pulled him up from the desk, earning a loud yelp of surprised from the programmer. Clutching his legs even harder around the man, he felt Jack going deeper into him than ever before.

Jack moved towards the huge window with the view of Elpis, Rhys’ back hitting the window panel with some force. At the moment though he was unable to feel any pain, only yearning to get even closer to the older man. When Jack’s length hit the sweet spot the younger man cried out at the sensation, digging his fingers into Jack’s back and drawing blood. Rhys’ cries grew increasingly desperate, his hips moving up and down as much as it was possible with Jack holding him up against the glass panel.

Jack began to move even faster, giving in to his urges, their moans increasing in intensity. It wasn’t long before Jack buried himself deep in Rhys, biting down on the boy’s neck as they both came, Rhys letting out a sound between a yelp and a loud cry. The air around them was filed with ragged breaths as they rode out their orgasms.

Jack’s legs finally gave away and they both slid boneless to the ground, still holding each other in their arms, trying to even out their breathing. Rhys buried his face in Jack’s neck and inhaled his scent. He was happy, never in his life did he feel so utterly content. They stayed like that for quite some time, neither moving or saying a word.

Finally it was Jack who backed away slightly, creating more space between them, he looked at Rhys and the boy felt like that gaze would swallow him whole. Never before did he see a look like that on Jack, it was so solemn… so earnest.

“Rhys… I…”

And before Jack had the possibility to continue a loud alarm went off in the station, causing both of them to tense.

“Jack what is that?”

Jack looked at him, the look of serenity gone, replaced by a feeling of unrest.

“The station is under attack.”

Chapter Text

Chapter XXIX

 

After the alarm went off Rhys and Jack started frantically pulling their clothes on while the older man also kept making calls one by one, barking out orders and yelling in general. Rhys had no idea what was happening, the only thing Jack mentioned was that they were under attack and from what he could make out from the bits of conversations he overheard, Helios’ sensor shield was disabled allowing ships to enter the docking station unnoticed.

Rhys had to admit this was the perfect time to conduct such an attack given how everyone was focused on the party going on in the Hub of Heroism. There were probably only a couple of soldiers guarding the lower parts of the station and most of them were relying on the security system which was either hacked, although that was highly improbable given how advanced it was, or someone from the inside disabled it.

The main question still remained though – who the hell was audacious enough to attack Helios and take Jack head on? Hyperion had the biggest military power in the whole galaxy so those who attacked them were either crazy or had a very well-devised plan and both of those possibilities deeply unsettled Rhys.

“Kiddo we need to get you out of here asap!” Jack yelled which brought Rhys out from his reverie.

They were both dressed and the older man finally finished barking out orders through his ECHO comm. For a moment Rhys regarded Jack who was dressed as usual except for the additional gun holsters that he strapped on either side of his hips and one on his back. This was the CEO everyone knew and feared, he had a feral expression on his face, Rhys could practically feel the anger seeping from the man. He was out for blood.

“What the hell is happening here Jack?!” Rhys asked while he was yanked quite forcefully by his upper arm and steered towards the door leading to the elevator.

“Someone had the audacity to attack MY station!” Jack bellowed, his temper rising though his gaze was stern and cold as ice. “They think they can fucking waltz in here without an invitation, well let’s show them how we treat unwanted guests.” At that the older man took hold of the shotgun that was holstered on his back and pumped back the handgrip ejecting a spent round of ammunition. Rhys swallowed loudly, the gun must have been used recently.

 “But how did they managed to reach Helios without being detected?” Rhys was seriously starting to freak out at that point but curiosity got the better of him. They entered the elevator and Jack pushed the security code on the panel. For a moment it seemed like the other man didn’t even hear him, his grip on the gun so tight that Rhys could see his knuckles turning white. When the elevator started moving the CEO finally seemed to have a moment of clarity. He turned to Rhys and looked at him pointedly, but remained silent for a short while.

“It’s the Atlas corporation that’s attacking us, never thought they’d dare to pull a move like this. Fucking cowards, they’ll make a jigsaw out of their body parts when I’m done with them!” Jack shouted yet again, though Rhys could see how he tried to control himself in his presence. He gritted his teeth and took a deep breath before continuing. “We had an internship program with them, knew this was a stupid fucking idea. It turns out one of said interns was actually a well trained spy who managed to infiltrate our systems. He’s already dead by the way.”

Fuck was this the intern that offered Rhys to switch sides? The programmer felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. If he told Jack about it would he have prevented all this? He’d probably have him killed or would end the intern program altogether, either way this whole mess could’ve been avoided if only he had been honest. But how was he supposed to know Atlas would dare to pull a move like this? They had a cooperation agreement with Hyperion… They were probably planning this for months and seeing Rhys’ talent they wanted to pull him to their side before it was too late. Was this what the intern meant by saying that they didn’t have time?

“Now listen Rhys.” Jack said putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders and making Rhys look straight at him. It was the first time he saw him this serious and it made the programmer’s fears grow tenfold. “I ordered two soldiers to escort you to the safety room, all of our workers have already been sent there. The enemy is at the lower levels of Helios so there’s no worry in them getting here, but just in case I want you to take this.” Jack said and let go of Rhys, grabbing one of the holsters and extending his golden revolver to Rhys.

“Jack this is your…” the boy tried to protest but was quickly cut off.

“My lucky gun, yes, that’s why I want you to take it. I don’t need luck to take on those bastards, I killed my share of scum in my life, a dozen more won’t make a difference. But I want you to promise me to make it to the safe room as fast as you can and text me when you’re there, understood?” He said and took off the empty gun holster to put it around Rhys’ waist.

Understood? Was Jack joking or what? He was far from understating anything at this point. He took hold of the gun, though he wasn’t sure he’d put it to good use if he was faced with the enemy. What he didn’t understand is how Jack even had the time to think about petty things like these when the station was under attack. He’s supposed to send him a message? Is he fucking kidding or what? So many questions kept going through his mind and Rhys didn’t know where to start. They were already reaching their destination so time was growing thin.

“Jack I’ll be fine don’t worry about me, you have more important things on your mind right now.” Rhys said holding the gun.

“No! You…” Jack rubbed at his face, frustration and anger evident in his tone and body movement. “I won’t be able to focus and be at my best if I keep thinking whether you got there safe or not. We’ll kill those bastards, every one of them, but if I end up hearing that something happened to you then…” Jack seemed to be looking for the right words, his worry-filed eyes regarding him. “Then I’d prefer to escort you and make sure you’re safe, even if it means that this whole fucking station would go down.”

Rhys felt his eyes going wide, he wanted to say something, but he felt that his own voice would fail him right now. In the midst of all that was happening, he just heard the most heartbreaking confession he thought he’d ever hear from the man. Jack said he’d literally pick him over Helios and Rhys knew that the station meant everything to the man. He devoted the better half of his life to making Helios into what it is now – the most advanced station, the symbol of Hyperion. It was everything to Jack and yet…

Rhys threw himself at Jack, one arm squeezing Jack’s neck, while the other was still firmly holding onto the gun.

“I’ll watch out and text you, I promise.” Rhys mumbled into Jacks neck while he heard the elevator door opening. “And please don’t take unnecessary risk.”

Jack chuckled slightly and patted the back of Rhys head. “Don’t worry kiddo, I’m the hero of this story, heroes never die.”

They separated and Rhys noticed there were two soldiers already waiting for him, one of them was August, already armed in Hyperion gear. He acknowledged his friend with a quick nod and squeezed Jack one more time for good measure. They separated and Jack went in the opposite direction in quick strides, probably planning on reaching the Hub. Before he disappeared completely, Rhys yelled out to him.

“Jack!” he shouted and the man turned back monetarily. “Make those idiots pay. Nobody fucks with Hyperion!”

Jack grinned, teeth and all, and raised his shotgun. “You got it baby!”

When the man was no longer in view Rhys hurried to the upper part of Helios where the safe room was located, holstering his gun on the way. Rhys knew of its existence but he never once visited the place. They made their way to the West side of the base where a fast travel cart was located, usually used for maintenance purposes only.  The programmer looked to his left at the blonde man who hasn’t uttered a word since they saw each other.

“So how are our chances?” Rhys asked as they entered the travel shaft.

“To be honest their numbers are bigger.” August said grimly.

“What?! Does it mean they can actually overtake the station?! But…”

“Easy there, I didn’t say we’re on the losing side.”

“Well I’m sorry to have come to the obvious conclusion.” Rhys said panicked and nervous, what if something really happens to Jack? The man was a living legend, he seemed invincible, but Rhys, more that anyone, knew that  he was as human as everyone else.

“The reason their numbers outgrow ours is because seventy percent of our military power is based on Pandora, but we have a special procedure in event of the base being attacked. Our soldiers are departing the planet on special convoys as we speak, they should be here within 15 minutes and then it will be child’s play.” August explained as they rode the elevator.

“Well a lot of things could go wrong during that time.” Rhys replied, the idea that the outcome of the battle will rely on military power that wasn’t even here yet made him extremely nervous.

“You don’t need to worry, anyway you’re just gonna sit in the safe room with everyone else while we take care of things.” August said surely meaning to cheer up the boy but his words had the opposite effect.

 “You think I can relax when I know that people are risking their lives out there, that you are fighting out there…”

“That Jack is fighting out there.” The blond man added with a smile as they made their way out of the elevator. He might be smiling but Rhys could feel how tense he was, even though he was doing his best not to show it.

“I’m serious, please don’t do anything stupid. Stay out of it if you can.” Rhys said in a worried voice as they finally made it to the safe room. The other guard put the required code for the panel to let the programmer in.

“Oh and how do you imagine that? I have a superior rank so I need to get out there and shoot some people in the faces.” The taller man said and put one hand on Rhys’ shoulder. “But don’t worry robo boy, I’ve been through a lot of shit down on Pandora, if there’s anything I know how to do properly it’s drinking booze and shooting people, not the nicest set of skills but at this point I won’t complain.”

“Ok just be careful.” Rhys said and hugged the taller man who clearly wasn’t used to such shows of affection.

“Now as much as I appreciate ‘this’ I don’t want to go through a battle just to be killed by Jack at the very end.” August chuckled and they bid each other farewell, Rhys entering the room and texting Jack soon after.

There were a lot of people gathered inside, close to the amount that was present in the Hub of Heroism. Actually the room was of similar size, it was quite huge, with a few facilities like toilets and something resembling a cafeteria. By the looks of it they could probably stay cooped up in here for days if needed be. Hopefully this would all be over within a few hours.

Rhys set out to find his friends, a foreboding feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was afraid, scared for people that were out there risking their lives for all of them. He also felt an enormous amount of guilt, thinking that maybe all of this could’ve been avoided if only he came clean with Jack. He could’ve at least double-checked the intern’s background. He should’ve spotted something wasn’t right if an intern was given such confident materials.

“Hey Rhys! Over here!”

Rhys turned in the direction of the voice and spotted Vaughn and Yvette, he quickly made his way towards them through the crowd. As soon as he reached them the accountant threw himself at him, hugging him so tightly he was barely able to breathe.

“You see, I told you Jack wouldn’t let anything happen to him.” Yvette commented, but she was clearly relieved to see him.

“I was so worried bro! I looked everywhere for you before the guards ordered us to get here. I was hoping to find you here, but when I didn’t I thought that something may have happened.”

“Vaughn…can’t… breath.”

“Oh right sorry bro.” He quickly let go of Rhys and took a step back. “Sometimes I forget how strong I became after putting that exercise bike in my office. Anyways do you know what’s happening out there? Guys from the R&D are trying to connect our main monitor to the security cams so that we can have a look, but they’re still figuring it out.”

“Not sure if that’s a good idea… though I am curious how things are going.” Rhys said, uneasy at the idea of seeing the fight, but not knowing was probably even worse. “We’re waiting for backup from Pandora, as soon as it arrives we’re on the winning side.”

“So what, does it mean we’re losing now?!” A panicked voice called from beside him. Rhys turned around and noticed that a lot of people were gathered around him, waiting for what he had to say.

That’s right, after the party he wasn’t anonymous anymore, people recognized him and right now they were looking at him as if he was some kind of authority, as if he could tell them what to do. It was crucial not to spread panic, he probably said too much already.

“Nobody is losing at the moment. I’m just saying we’ll have massive backup in a moment  and then we’ll win in no time.”

“And what if they won’t come!” Another panicked voice yelled from the back of the room.

“They will.” Rhys said confidently and prayed that he won’t be mistaken about this.

People seemed to calm down a bit, but there was still a heavy filling of unrest amongst them. Even if they were working for a corporation that produced guns it didn’t mean they had any practical knowledge on how to use them. They were just regular workers who had no idea what a real fight looked like. Safely cooped away on the station, far from the brutalities that happened on Pandora and other planets that they sold their merchandise to, they were just a bunch of scared, defenseless people.

“We have visual!”  Someone yelled from the far left side of the room and Rhys recognized them. It was one of the employees of the technological department. Apparently they managed to link the huge monitor suspended above the metal door to the safety room with the security cameras, which allowed them to see what was happening. In an instant everything stilled in the room as everyone’s attention focused on the display.

What they showed stunned them into silence. The guys from the R&D switched the footage from one camera to the other, starting from the docking area where Atlas’ ships arrived. There was literally a trail of blood and bodies that went all the way up Helios’ lower levels. There were dead soldiers lying everywhere, bullet holes littering the walls, some cameras showing only a distorted image or a white screen because they probably took damage.

Rhys felt his body going rigid, cold fear gripping him, it was hard to breath looking at the images the cameras showed. The footage was horrid even more so because the majority of the dead soldiers were wearing Hyperion yellow armor. Everyone waited in dread as the images changed on the screen, showing footage from cameras on the upper levels, all the time the same gruesome image presented itself.

Finally the footage reached the Hub of Heroism where the remaining soldiers were located. The R&D guys set it as the default image and they could all observe what was happening. Jack was standing in the front, his guns  loaded, while around 50 Hyperion soldiers remained at his side. Seeing that Rhys felt his knees going weak. Even though Jack had his trademark grin set in place, his face that of a crazy man waiting for a  kill, blood splattered across the mask, it didn’t change the fact that there were twice as many Atlas soldiers.

They couldn’t hear what was being said, the cameras only showing the image, but it was enough to cause unrest in the room. Rhys tried to stay as confident as he could, but truth to be told he wanted to be part of the crowd, to yell, lament and shout as much as he could, but now, with so many eyes looking expectantly at him, he had to put  a lot of thought into his actions.

He should’ve been there, helping as much as he can. He is a siren and aren’t sirens meant for battles? Their sole purpose was to be effective battle machines, instead he’s cowering here with the rest… But what difference would he make against a hundred of enemy soldiers? So far he killed one person with his powers, he’d probably sooner get killed than help anyone… if he only learned how to control his powers better…

“Rhys look it’s August!” Yvette shouted pointing to a place a couple of feet away from the podium. “Is he…?”

“No.” No, no he couldn’t be dead, yes he was lying on the floor, but on closer inspection Rhys could see he was breathing. He was clutching his right shoulder, probably where a bullet hit him. This wasn’t good, if nothing changes he’ll lose them both, he can’t afford to lose August and he certainly can’t let Atlas scum kill Jack.

Currently Jack was talking with the leader of the Atlas corporation, she was a scary looking woman with white hair and blue tattoos adorning her chest and left arm. Rhys recognized her, it was Commandant Steele, there were rumors going on that she was a siren but no one ever saw her use any special abilities. She was one of Atlas’ best guarded secrets. Rhys wished he could hear the conversation, because he had no idea what was going on. All of the remaining soldiers had their guns pointed at each other but it was obvious that without the backup Jack would lose.

Rhys looked closely at Jack and noticed he kept glancing at his ECHO comm display every now and then, probably trying to stall until the ships from Pandora arrive. Suddenly though Jack’s body language changed, he became more tense, his expression grim, though most wouldn’t even notice it. Something was up and Rhys knew it, what if something happened to the ships from Pandora?

Rhys couldn’t take it anymore, he had to know, he simply had to find out what was happening down on Pandora. As if to answer his prayers his Echo Comm signaled an incoming message, he quickly opened it up and saw that it was from Timothy. Of course how could he forget? Timothy would surely know what was happening down on Pandora and how far was the backup.

“Rhys, I’m writing on Jack’s behalf. Get out of the safe room by the back door, the code is 37098. Go to the emergency escape shuttles and go to Pandora, I’ll make sure someone picks you up… The backup isn’t going to make it.”

Rhys felt bile going up his throat, he wanted to vomit. What the hell did he mean by saying that they aren’t going to make it and how is he writing on Jack’s behalf. Did the CEO think of an escape plan for him in case he won’t manage to save the base? Did he expect him to just run and leave very one behind, to leave him behind?

“What do you mean the backup isn’t going to make it?” Rhys typed nervously, going to the back of the room. He quickly told Yvette and Vaughn not to worry, he didn’t want them to follow him in case he breaks down at the news. The last thing he needed was for them to panic as well.

“Atlas made an alliance with The Bandit corporation, they attacked all of our bases simultaneously… No time 4 explanations… GET OUT OF THERE. Have 2 go. Waiting for u. I’m sorry…”

He fucked it up, it was his fucking fault this was happening. He should’ve told Jack but now… He looked at the image from the camera just as the battle renewed. Jack activated his shield he kept pinned to his jacket, it was the best one ever created so it would withstand a long time, but not forever. The soldiers opened fire, bullets raining everywhere.

The problem was that Hyperion soldiers kept dying while Atlas remained standing. Did they have some shields Rhys hasn’t heard about? How the hell did they manage to avoid so many bullets?

“The commander… she’s a siren!” Someone yelled from the room and only then did Rhys notice that the tattoos on her arm were glowing, just as his were when he blew up the testing site. Now that he looked closely upon the scene he noticed there was a light, blue hue surrounding Atlas soldiers. So that was her ability…

She used her powers to save lives and what did Rhys do? He was covering here, whereas he should be helping Jack. So what if he dies, he won’t be able to live with himself either way. He has to help them, he has to try at least. His hands were shaking, he was scared and he didn’t know if he’d be able to activate his powers at all. But he had to try. He simply had to try.

“Jack’s shield is down!”

Rhys looked up at the monitor and saw Jack breathing heavily, he was out of bullets at that point and finally his shield gave up. He was standing in the middle of the room, every way as confident as he always was even though he was facing certain death. Every Atlas soldier had their gun pointed at him, only a couple of Hyperion soldiers left alive.

The unrest in the room grew, people started shouting, voices of anger and despair filling the room. They all knew that if Jack dies then all is lost, no one is going to save them. The Atlas corporation will take over, raining bullets on all of them. This was the end and everyone knew it. People started crying, some felt sick to the stomach looking at the number of bodies that lay slain, others prayed for something to happen, for someone to save them.

Rhys run to the door and put in the code, luckily everyone was facing the screen. Before leaving he quickly forwarded the message with the code to Vaughn and Yvette, hoping that they will read it in time and that at least they would get out alive. Maybe they’ll even help a couple of people on the way.

While Rhys ran down the corridors he thought about Jack, how he never got the chance to face him, to tell him all this the way he should’ve. He was a fucking coward and now he’s paying for this. All the lives will weigh heavily on his conscience, the least he could do is sacrifice his own trying to help. Jack did so much for him already, even at such a time he thought about ensuring Rhys’ safety, which caused his chest to tighten.

He can’t let Jack die, he absolutely can’t. As his mind kept chanting this over and over again, his mind showing him the image of the man standing defenseless against an army of traitors, he felt the spark of the power he felt before ignite within his body. As he ran he felt it grow larger and larger, until it filled every part of his body. He felt as if his body was an electric current, raw power coursing through him.

Before he knew it he wasn’t running anymore but phase walking, adding speed to his movement. His tattoos started glowing brightly and now they went all the way down his arm, eyes going black and blue as before, hair floating slightly with the power coursing within him. All the time he had only one thought in mind – he absolutely has to save Jack and avenge all those soldiers. He was only hoping he won’t be too late.

 

—o.o— Hub of Heroism —o.o—

 

“Give it up Jack, you won’t manage to get out of this one.” The commander said in her harsh accent, a satisfied smirk playing on her face.

“Like hell I will! Don’t you know that heroes don’t die!” Jack yelled.

“If you’re waiting for your little troops down on Pandora then I’m sad to say they won’t come. I really hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is your end.”

“You… motherfucking excuse of a commander. So what, you didn’t manage to secure your own place in the corporate world so you’ll just go and steal someone else’s work?” Jack hollered throwing his guns to the ground, hands clenching and unclenching.

“This is a cruel world we live in Jack, eat or get eaten.” The commander laughed.

“It’s scum like you who makes it a world like that. You are nothing more but a bandit! You are no better than the scum down on Pandora, oh right they are your new business partners I’ve heard.” Jack seethed, he couldn’t believe he let such scum pull one over him. “So tell me what are you going to use to make your guns, plain oil or maybe the blood of the innocent as they prefer to do on that parasite infested planet?”

How the hell did this happen… Just when he finally got to the top, when everything was going so well. Hyperion was the number one corporation, he had power, he had fame… and he had Rhys. Why was the whole world build this way, when he tries to make it a better place he loses the ones he loves. When he focuses on building the corporation this too is taken away from him. Why always like this…

Jack knew very well this is the end, he knew it as soon as he got the message from Tim but he stalled because he didn’t want to go out without a fight and because he wanted Rhys to have enough time to escape. He didn’t want the boy to die, it killed him that he won’t be able to be there anymore, to protect him even though he promised he would, but at least he’ll be alive and that was the only comforting thought he had at the moment. Rhysie deserves better than this…

He hoped they could be ruling Hyperion together, the boy proved to be so much more than what he originally thought he was. During the party, when he saw Rhysie present on that stage and then surprise him with that shield he knew he wanted to have him by his side. Rhys was perfect and he was the only person Jack would ever trust his corporation with.

Jack was utterly pissed. The work of his life was to be taken away from him by some motherfucking cowards whose only way to success is by taking away someone else’s achievements. He will lose everything to the filth he spent most of his life fighting against… But most of all he was angry because he was given so little time with him…

“I see you’re not taking the news of your impending doom too well. I suppose it must be hard, to be a legend and then be killed just like any mortal.”

“I am a legend because I build everything from scrap, all that I have I owe to MY work. So yes I am a GODDAMN hero and I REFUSE to fucking die!” Jack yelled not being able to contain his rage. He was bitter, this was not the ending he deserved. “I won’t die! Not at the hands of a filthy bandit!”

Not like this… Not when he finally had everything.

“Hub of Heroism…” The white haired woman mused, looking around the room in a theatrical manner. “Seems like a suitable place for a Hero to die, don’t you think?”  She laughed raising her arm to give the command. “Boys, shoot!”

Jack fell down to his knees and closed his eyes, waiting for the pain to come. He felt absolutely nothing, was this how death felt? Was it really so fast that he didn’t feel a thing? Was he already dead?

He opened his eyes and to his amazement he saw that there was a sphere like shape around him, which prevented the bullets from hitting him. Did his shield restore itself already? No it wasn’t possible. So what was happening? He noticed Commandant Steele point to the balcony in the right upper corner of the room. He followed her gaze and saw someone standing on the balcony… was that, was that Rhys? He was standing far away and he was only seeing his profile, something seemed off but when he saw the robotic arm he was sure it was him.

How, how the hell did he get here? He fucking told him to run, the only consolation that he got from all of this was the fact that he’d manage to save him. That for the first time in his life he’ll protect the person he cared for. Jack was about to yell at him to get the hell out of there when the commandant beat him to it.

“Watch out!” The white haired woman yelled. “It’s a siren!”

A what? Where? Jack checked his surrounding but saw nothing though the shield around him clearly looked like a work of a siren. But what siren would’ve helped him? Angel? No, she was dead. So who? The CEO looked at the commander once again and saw her pointing to Rhys. No, it’s not possible. Rhys was a male, he can’t be a sire. He would’ve known…

“Shoot at him you morons!” She yelled.

“RHYS! Get the hell OUT of here!” Jack bellowed, he can’t witness Rhys’ death. The boy can’t die, he just can’t.

Jack scrambled to his feet, looking for the nearest gun to somehow prevent what was about to happen, to divert their attention to him, but the shield prevented him from moving any farther. He couldn’t walk through it so with dread he looked as the soldiers pointed their guns at the boy. It was as if he was seeing everything in slow motion, the soldiers firing their guns all at once.

And then… and then Rhys created a shield around him. He created a fucking shield and now Jack was able see the tattoos, the eyes, all the trademarks of a siren. The CEO just stared at what was happening, he was completely speechless, no thought entering his mind as Rhys raised his flesh arm, now riddled with blue markings, and took control of the enemy’s turrets pointing them at the Atlas soldiers.

The commander tried to withstand the assault with her shield but Rhys… Rhys was so much stronger than her. He phase walked from the balcony and went through the troops harming some of the enemy guards. He then turned around and looked vicious, looked like anything but Rhys. He abandoned the turrets and raised his hand yet again, this time creating a few balls of energy within the troops, which caused all types of objects to fly in their direction killing most of the soldiers.

Suddenly it all clicked into place - Vasquez, surviving the lethal ECHO eye procedure, the explosion at the R&D facility. All this time… all this fucking time…

The Commander saw that she was on the losing end, her whole army annihilated, so she made a run for it and Rhys decided to follow. Just before leaving though he turned around and for a split of a second their eyes met. Jack had no idea what kind of expression he was making, he didn’t even know what to do at the moment, what to think.

Before he knew it Rhys was out of the room while he kept kneeling at the podium, a sea of bodies littering the Hub. He put his face in his hands, emotions running wild after what he just witnessed. Rhys was a siren. He single-handedly killed a whole army...  He felt so many things at the same time - anger, relief, confusion, shock, curiosity and the most bitter of them all – betrayal.

“What the hell kiddo…”

 

—o.o— Emergency Shuttles —o.o—

 

“Don’t move!” Rhys yelled as he finally caught up with the commendant in the area with emergency shuttles. She clearly knew her way around Helios station and was planning for a quick escape. Over his dead body. It was hard to catch up with her as she was also using the phase walk ability.

“You won’t be able to kill me boy, you might be stronger but you and I both know that we’re at our limit. Your power is depleted and so is mine.” She turned around to face him, but was backing away towards one of the shuttles. “Besides your siren tricks won’t work on me, I know them too well.”

“That’s why I have this.” Rhys said and before giving her the time to react he pulled Jack’s revolver and sent a bullet her way. He wasn’t good at handling guns, but he managed to hit her on her side, to the right of her belly. She fell down clutching the wound, blood already seeping through her fingers.

He had no qualms about killing her, on her orders half of the station was massacred. It probably wouldn’t be so easy if it wasn’t for the fact that their strengths were already depleted. Rhys saw his tattoos going back to normal, the source of the powerful energy dying down - it will probably take a while for it to be restored. This probably meant that the shield surrounding Jack will be down as well which unsettled the programmer.

“This is the end.” Rhys said walking up to the white haired woman.

“Yes” She said coughing up some blood. “Contrary to Jack I know when to finish… but do you know boy? Do you know it’s your end as well?” She asked, a hideous, contorted smile twisting her lips.

“What do you mean?” Rhys asked perplexed.

“Jack didn’t know, did he?” She asked and smiled reading what she wanted from his expression. “I knew it… and do you think he’ll just forgive you? Did you even read that file? The man locked his own daughter in an eridium pumping machine to use her powers.” She said coughing up more blood, quickly losing strength. “You think you’d be an exception? He’ll use you for your powers just as he did with Angel, everyone does…”

“I… I know that might be the case…”

“So don’t be naïve, run while you still can.” She said her breathing coming in rasps. “Even if he decides to forgive you, which he won’t, you’ll be a threat to the station. You know what will happen if the news of a male siren spreads? Everyone will want to have your powers for their own, they’ll attack the station, kill your friends just to get to you. Why do you think I kept my powers a secret for so long… Why did you keep them a secret?”

“Why do you even care what happens to me?” Rhys asked not really wanting to hear all this, all the more because he knew she spoke the truth.

“There’s nothing I admire more than raw power… and you’re a fellow siren, I’d hate to see your stupidity kill you. Run away while you still can. Jack won’t forgive you, he never forgives betrayal.”

Rhys stood there watching as the life drained from her eyes and suddenly what he did hit him full force. She deserved it, yes, but she was also human and he took her life. Not only that he injured and killed dozens of people. Everyone saw him do it, his coworkers, his friends… Jack.  And the man’s expression… Rhys would give anything to erase that expression from his mind.

She was right, he can’t stay on the station. Jack used his daughter down on Pandora so what’s stopping him from doing the same with him? Rhys would sooner die than be a pet project closed in a glass jar for the rest of his life. He also didn’t want to face Jack, even though he did all of this for his sake, he also knew that he lied to him, just as everyone else did. He did the one thing Rhys promised himself not to do – he betrayed the man’s trust. Maybe if he’d done it differently, if he came clean sooner… but now there was no going back.

He was almost sure the man wouldn’t forgive him, that he’d use his powers and even on the off chance he didn’t he’d still endanger his friends by staying here. He had to go, that was the best choice for everyone, though a heartbreaking one for him. He came up to the shuttle and set it on the closest destination – Pandora. He’d have to reach some place fast and hide so that Jack wouldn’t track him down.

It was a difficult choice – he’d be leaving behind everything. His friends, his career, all the good memories… Jack. If there was any other choice he’d gladly take it, but there was no other alternative and it was all his fault. It was Rhys’ own choices that led him to this point.

As if on cue he saw Jack turning the corner, he was clearly looking for him. Their eyes met and Rhys resolve wavered for a moment. He wanted to hug Jack, to apologize, to make everything right again, but he knew he couldn’t. He was past the point of forgiveness.

“I’m sorry Jack!” He yelled, his voice cracking as he pushed the button on the shuttle and entered the small capsule.

“Rhys!” He heard Jack yell and in his peripheral vision he saw him running towards him.

This had to be done. He doesn’t want to be used, he doesn’t want to put his friends in danger. There was no other way.

He sat in the capsule and closed the glass door, quickly pushing the button to set off. As the counting started Rhys felt his heart sinking to the bottom of his being, tears welling at the corners of his eyes. Jack managed to catch up and he stared straight at the boy, pounding on the glass door and yelling for him to abort the flight, and with each time the man hit the glass door Rhys felt more dead inside.

10, 9, 8

“Rhys!”

7,6

“Stop it you idiot!”

5,4,3

“Abort!”

2

“RHYS!!!”

1

Chapter Text

Jack was pounding on the glass door of the shuttle, yelling for Rhys to stop as the counting slowly went from ten to zero. His mind was trying to process all that just happened, but time and time again he just couldn’t believe in what was right before his eyes. He could not believe that Rhys - who used to get nervous just by being in his presence, who could not hold eye contact for more than a few seconds, who wasn’t even able to kill one person without his prompting - was a siren. That his Rhys killed an entire Atlas army.

“You’re so funny Jack.” The boy said which caused his incessant pounding to stop. He looked at the boy whose facial expression went from scared and heartbroken to vicious and scornful.

“I mean you, the CEO of Hyperion, allowed Atlas scum to almost crush you? Where was your mind I wonder?” The boys said cackling. “Not only that, you also let a siren near you? You had no idea right? YOU, with your constant paranoia, allowed ME to get near you. See the irony in that? I could’ve crushed you in an instant if I felt like it.”

“Rhys…why?” Jack had a thousand thoughts running through his head at the time, but that simple question was the only thing he managed to mumble. Suddenly he felt weak, he felt small, he felt like crying and before he knew it he was standing in the middle of the all too familiar living room. The faded carpet, black and white tv, stained, flowery curtains… he was eight year’s old again and just like then he felt like suffocating.

“Because child nobody cares about you, how many times do I need to say it before it gets through that thick skull of yours?!” His grandmother bellowed, appearing in front of him out of nowhere.

“Because you’re an asshole.” His daughter supplied to the left, looming over his trembling frame.

“Because you’re a deranged psychopath, and someone needs to stop you.” A red haired women standing to his right added, disgust evident in her tone.

“Because you’re simply not worth it.” A final voice deadpanned from behind him and when he turned around there was Rhys looking at him with pity and something he could only describe as revulsion. Then all four attacked him.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaah!” Jack yelled at the top of his lungs springing up into a sitting position. It took him a few moments to realize where he was and that all of what just happened was thankfully a part of a dream, the exact same dream he’s been having ever since Rhys left.

Jack looked around the familiar surroundings of the boy’s apartment. At first he thought he would never set a foot inside the place, but after many futile attempts at sleeping, he found it impossible to fall asleep in his own apartment. So he came back here for what little comfort he could get, even though he despised himself for that, even though it was killing him to wake up every morning after another nightmare only to realize that he wasn’t there anymore.

A part of Jack knew he was torturing himself but he couldn’t help it. It was either a short amount of sleep with a rather nasty nightmare induced alarm clock, or sitting in his own apartment and reliving what happened over and over again… and after all even heroes need sleep.

And such a fucking hero he was. He failed miserably at protecting his own station… It was hard to admit, but if it wasn’t for Rhys they would’ve been dead. Jack had no idea how he could’ve missed it – Atlas planning an attack on Helios right under his nose. Maybe he was too confident, too sure of himself, maybe he simply underestimated his enemies which was ironic considering the fact that he was never the one to trust others blindly.

Jack rubbed at his face tiredly, thankfully he had his mask otherwise everyone would notice just how big the bags under his eyes were. He was barely functioning at this point, his thoughts were a constant mess, he also lost some weight because he had to switch back to his pretzel diet, which now seemed even more disgusting than ever. His only consolation was coffee which he drank in buckets, but that only caused the twitching in his eyelid to become even more annoying.

He stood up from the bed and with heavy footsteps went down to the bathroom steering clear of all sorts of things on the way. Few hours after the attack Jack came here and literally crashed the apartment, one week later he tried to clean up the mess he’s made but lacked any motivation to go through with it and at the moment he just threw everything on the floor, not bothering about the state of the apartment anymore. Who knows, maybe he’ll just burn the place down next week?

He went to the bathroom and spotted the white folder lying on a coffee table, the mere sight of it causing his stomach to drop. Jack went into the shower cabin, peeling his clothes off on the way, not bothering where they landed. He turned on a stream of hot water and just stood there, his thoughts going to the file even though he tried his best to think of something else, anything else.

Everyone on the station thought Rhys was a hero, he saved them from certain doom, he was the new legend alongside Jack, which caused a hysterical laughter to erupt from the man, the ugly sound echoing in the shower cabin. Yes, Rhys did save them from Atlas, but what everyone  failed to notice was that the wonder boy was the hero as much as the villain of the tale.

In the many days that followed the attack Jack tried to make reason out of what happened. He went through a lot of camera footage as well as Rhys’ office and what he found did not put him in a good mood. The boy came in contact with the very same intern that infiltrated their systems and allowed Atlas to get near the station by disabling the sensor shield.

At first Jack was furious, he thought the boy betrayed him, that he was in on the attack – but why would he kill everyone then? It made no sense, so when he finally managed to somehow contain his fury he studied Rhys’ ECHO comm conversation history. It seemed that Atlas tried to make Rhys switch sides but the boy refused – which managed to appease Jack’s fury for a short time, that is, until he found the white folder that was supposed to convince Rhys to betray Jack.

It had a detailed history of Jack’s life, his every failure, every bad decision, simply EVERYTHING. Rhys knew all there was about him and yet he pretended he didn’t. Jack acted like a fool all those times he refused to share his story with Rhys when in fact the boy already knew. He went behind his back and decided he’d prefer to hear Jack’s life story from an enemy rather than confront him about it directly.

And then everything became crystal clear – the way Rhys acted, the way he hid his powers from him, the way he kept lying. The reason why he ran, why he left him without a word of explanation was because he was scared. Rhys was afraid of him, he read those files, saw him for the monster everyone else believed him to be and he ran. Because he thought that Jack would hurt him, because he thought that he’d end up like Angel and what was it the files said about that? Oh right, it was something along the lines of:

Handsome Jack forced his only daughter into captivity, pumped eridium into her and killed her when she no longer was of use – when she refused to do his bidding.

Jack turned off the shower, but kept standing there motionless, just looking at the water droplets that kept falling down. He took off his mask before entering the shower, so the rough texture of his marked skin was easily distinguishable under his palms that he kept rubbing over his face, the excess of water in his eyes flowing out persistently.

He loved Angel, more than anything in the world, he would’ve given her everything… To think that someone thought he used her made bile rise in his throat. Rhys was just the same, he simply assumed Jack was the monster those files made him to be. So what did he think? That if he stayed Jack would pump him full of eridium? That he would kill him?

A dry, humorless laughter escaped his throat yet again. Jack finally went out of the shower, not really feeling any better than how he did a few moments ago. He put his standard clothing on, mask included, and went out. After the attack there was a lot to do – security had to be doubled, they needed to take over Atlas and most of all make sure that every scum involved in the attack was dealt with. Jack took it upon himself to fulfill all those tasks, especially the last one.

He went down the corridors of the station which was finally up and running, no blood staining the walls, no bodies littering the floors. The corporate life was back on its track and with it all the mundane duties he had to face every day, one of which were board meetings. Jack went to the boardroom, stopping by his office to grab the necessary papers from his secretary and a cup of coffee as usual. With the steaming liquid in hand he barged into the room and felt the atmosphere becoming tense.

He realized he might have killed a bit more people than he planned to, which was probably causing the completely unnecessary amount of unrest among his workers, but he couldn’t take any chances. After someone betrays you there is no going back, he learned that the hard way at the very beginning of his career. The first person ever to blatantly betray him was the Meriff of Concordia who double-crossed him by contacting Dahl troops which at the time attacked the station.

So what did Jack do to him? Nothing, he decided that, since he had the needed information, he’d let the scumbag of a man go. No need to kill him, his career was already over as it was, so what use was there in unnecessary violence? Plenty, plenty of use. The moment Jack turned his back on the man he took out his short-barrel gun and shot at him – if it wasn’t for his outrageously poor aiming, Jack would’ve been dead by now. Needless to say the Meriff did not live for long after that.

Looking back at what transpired in Concordia Jack was actually glad that the Meriff did what he did, because he taught him a valuable lesson – never forgive betrayal because the next person might have a better aim. And since that day on he never did, killing one by one all of the people who tried to double-cross him. There were quite a few of them by now and everyone was dead, well everyone except for Rhys.

Actually the whole station wondered as to what happened to the boy, even that blond friend of his, leaving the hospital with his arm in a cast and a bullet whole, had the audacity to come up to him and ask about the boy’s whereabouts. At least now Jack knew that his friends had no idea where he was either, because Jack sure as hell didn’t know that. In fact he never looked.

His first instinct was to organize all possible resources and send a search party down to Pandora, because that is where Rhys was – that much he knew. Problem was they had no one they could send from Helios and it took a few days before things settled down on Pandora after an open conflict with the Bandit Corporation. Of course Jack could’ve asked Tim to send at least a few soldiers to find the boy, except that he didn’t. He decided not to.

Rhys saved Helios but at the same time he destroyed it – if he told Jack the truth from the beginning then there was no way he’d let the Atlas intern live. What’s more Rhys waited, he waited till the last goddamn second to join the battle, but by then almost every Hyperion soldier was dead. But no one seemed to notice that – they were all just happy that someone stepped in the last minute, when they all thought they were doomed.

The truth was Jack didn’t want to find Rhys because then he’d be left with no option. He would have to do the only thing that he could do with a traitor, the only possible course of action –  kill Rhys. And even though in a way the boy deserved it, even though it was something that he had brought upon himself, Jack wasn’t sure he’d be able to go through with it. He knew he was being a stupid, sentimental old fuck, but he just couldn’t imagine himself giving the order and he didn’t want to put himself in the position where he had no other option than to do it.

The logical part of his mind told him that he was an idiot, that Rhys had no problem with leaving him, so why would he care what happens to the boy? But another part of him protested, Rhys did save his life, despite everything that he did, all the lies that he said, in the end he was there for him. But knowing how many things he kept a secret, how many times he made excuses that weren’t true, made him doubt in everything that the boy said.

Suddenly a grim thought struck him, one that he had not thought of before. What if everything that Rhys did, everything that he said, was a lie? What if he acted the way he did just  to get close to Jack because he thought it would be safest for him that way? Maybe he thought that if he manages to manipulate Jack he’d be safe, that no matter what happens Jack would always be on his side and turn a blind eye to everything.

And it was true – had it been anyone else he’d never let things slide past him so easily. He would have investigated the matter with the failed surgical operation, but instead he killed the doctors just because Rhys said he wanted nothing to do with them. And how about the explosion in the testing site? How could he have believed Rhys made such a rookie mistake as putting the energy supply core right next to the heating trigger. Rhys – who was the best gun engineer there was…

What if it was all a lie, what if he was simply being manipulated all this time?

Jack stood up abruptly in the middle of the meeting which started a good while ago, though Jack did not listen to anything that was being said, battling his thoughts like he did every day since the attack. Everyone’s attention focused on the man, fear evident in their eyes. The one most afraid seemed to be the recent speaker, who thought he said something to offend the CEO.

Not paying any mind to the trembling fools Jack took his ECHO comm and dialed the number for the supervisor of the docking area. When the man answered he wasted no time.

“Prepare my ship, I’m going down to Pandora.” Jack stated earning quizzical looks from people present at the table.

“Of course sir, when are you planning to departure?”

“Now.”

 

—o.o— Pandora —o.o—

 

Pandora sucked – that could be the general conclusion drawn from spending three weeks on the monster-infested planet. Rhys couldn’t even count the number of times he was attacked by something or someone. He first learned his lesson in a small town that he came across when he arrived on the planet. He came up to a guy roasting skag meat, or whatever the hell it was, and kindly asked for directions.

The lesson he learned was that a) he cannot travel on Pandora while wearing a Hyperion uniform b) he shouldn’t be talking to strangers c) he shouldn’t be talking to anyone in general. Obviously he was attacked on the spot and if it wasn’t for his siren abilities, he would’ve been dead. Luckily after the battle on Helios and activating the full potential of his siren abilities, using them now seemed more or less natural, though he still has a long way to go before he can say that he fully mastered them.

After that little adventure he basically laid low. Timothy proved to be a great help at the beginning as he provided him with a vehicle and some supplies. He explained the whole situation to the freckled man but decided to leave soon after because he was certain Jack would come looking for him and he didn’t want to put Tim in danger for protecting him. Of course the man protested at first, saying that he’d be dead in a matter of seconds, but after he saw the footage from Helios that was all over ECHO.net he had no more objections, only said that Rhys can feel free to contact him anytime and he’d be sure to provide help.

After that Rhys was on his own. He spent the first week travelling around the planet and visiting different cities, always wearing a light brown coat and a hood that successfully covered his features. With an ECHO eye and a robotic arm everyone would distinguish him too easily. Luckily he wasn’t drawing attention with his get-up. On Pandora there were more than enough shady characters, no one paid attention to one more.

He was sure that soon he’d hear news about Hyperion troops looking for him, or find posters of his face along with a hefty bounty for whoever finds him. But as days turned into weeks and no news reached him he came to the conclusion that Jack gave up on him.

There was something comforting as well as disheartening in this. On one hand he thought Jack would kill him, so no bounty letters meant that he decided to let him be, to let the boy live his life as peacefully as he can on Pandora. On the other hand though he felt… disappointed? A crazy part of him hoped that he mattered a lot more to Jack, that the man would not cope well with losing him, that he’d do everything to find him.

It was childish of him to think that way, especially since he was the one that decided to leave, even though Jack pleaded him not to. He often laid awake late at night, thinking how things would have been if he stayed. Would Jack have killed him? Would he have forgiven him? More often than not he’d find himself imagining that the latter would’ve happened. That he’d be able to continue his peaceful life up on Helios, with his friends at his side, with Jack…

But at least he knew that everyone was alright, he asked Tim to get information on his friends as soon as he landed on Pandora. Rhys really missed them all, Jack especially. What he wouldn’t give to have the man at his side, he’d even manage to make Pandora fun. Once they were here together and boy was that a journey. Being chased by skags, jumping over the canyon, making out in the car – the planet seemed a lot more appealing than it did now.

Rhys knew he cared deeply for the man, but only now, when he was forced to be away from him, did he realize just how used he got to the other man’s presence. There were times when he sat alone and suddenly spoke up as if addressing Jack – he must have looked like a deranged nut job. It was at times like this that his resolve would crumble, that he’d consider going back to Helios, but what was the point? Jack didn’t look for him, so he already gave up on Rhys – those where the cold facts.

It’s not like Rhys blamed him, after all he was the one who left the man first and this – Rhys mused to himself, looking around the bandit-filled bar he was sitting at – was what he chose. Those were not the best of his decisions, but wouldn’t everyone like to have a peek into the future, to see the outcomes of their actions and only then decide? Sadly life was a bitch and now he’s got to make do with what he chose, even if his heart withers away every time he thinks this could’ve been avoided… if only he had the courage to face his fears before it was too late.

“So you’re the one that’s supposed to fix my baby?”

Rhys looked up to see a tall, broad-shouldered man sitting next to him on a bar stool. He had quite a lot of guns with him and gave off a military vibe. He had short, blonde hair and a tattoo above his left brow. He was looking at Rhys with intense green eyes. Another customer.

“If it’s guns we’re talking about then yeah.” Rhys replied, hiding as much as he could under his hood. But was there any use to do that if Jack wasn’t looking for him?

After his first week on Pandora, when all his supplies had gone dry, Rhys decided that it was high-time to fend for himself. He could just kill beast for the meat but first of all he didn’t feel like doing that, secondly he tried to limit the use of his powers as much as he could. No use in going around and flaunting that he’s a siren.

The only thing he was good at, other than programming which was of little use down on this desert, were guns. The first time he helped to repair a gun was about two weeks ago in a run-down pub such as this one. A guy sat there all night complaining how he can’t use his beloved gun anymore because the trigger isn’t working, frustrated by the lamenting Rhys finally went over and fixed it before the guy even realized what was going on.

His first payment was a couple of shots but from that time on people actually started requesting his help. It seemed there were a lot of people, psycho included, who were attached to their guns, that, and repair was cheaper than buying  a new one. So that was his work now – helping people on Pandora kill each other faster, thought truth to be told he was already doing that back on Helios… it just seemed more dignifying back then.

“First of all it’s not just any gun, it’s my baby.” The man corrected him and Rhys only rolled his eyes. “And secondly it’s a turret.”

“Ok give her here and I’ll see what I can do.” Looking at the pensive face of the blond man, Rhys sighed, it seems this guy was just another weirdo. “No worries, I’ll be gentle.”

They changed seats to the nearby table and Rhys went straight to work, the guy ordering a beer for himself and the boy, and sitting in the booth across from him, following his every move, as if he was about to steal the damn piece of junk. It was a very dated Vladof model.

“Say, you hide under that hood, but you’re quite an eye candy.” The man said after a while, sending a goofy smile his way. Was this guy for real? “The name’s Axton, what about you?”

“The name’s not-any-of-your-business.” Rhys replied unfazed, hoping his cold demeanor would put off the blatant advances. Not quite.

“Ok Mysterious Boy, I like your attitude.” The man, Axton, replied with a hearty laugh. “I’d use someone like you on my missions. I’d be broadening the smiles of bandits left and right and you’d be tending to my baby. I’d find other stuff that you might tend to as well.”

Was the man for real? He had never heard such crude flirting before, even Jack was far more subtle than that… or maybe he wasn’t.

“Yes. Innuendo, how very predictable.” A strange looking guy sat down next to Axton. He was carrying a katana of some sorts and was dressed mainly in black and grey, with a mask covering his face.  Wait, was this…

“Zer0?” Rhys asked before he managed to stop himself.

“That is accurate, and you are?” The masked man asked and before Rhys replied Axton cut in.

“Oh so you do not know Axton, the greatest vault hunter there is, but you know this deadbeat? He’s virtually the most boring guy ever.”

“I’m not boring, I just value patience and precision over randomly waltzing into enemy territory.” The man said in a low voice.

“Whatever man, this sweet piece of eye candy is working on my turret, he’s the mystery guy who keeps repairing guns and shit.” Axton said taking a loud gulp of his beer.

“Interesting. How extensive is your knowledge? Do you know how to calibrate a sniper rifle?” Zer0 asked and placed his rifle on the table. It was a Jakob’s model – classic, not too fast but had deadly accuracy and dealt huge damage.

Rhys left the turret in favor of the gun, which earned him a dissatisfied grunt from Axton. Upon quick inspection he noticed that indeed the scope could be tempered with and enhanced though it would require a special upgrade part. He did have it on him, as he was carrying a few upgrade parts ever since he got into the business, but he was saving it for a special pay. Then again this was Zer0 ,it doesn’t get any more special than this.

“Here, it should be more accurate now, close to 99% I believe.” Rhys handed him the rifle after tempering with it for a few minutes. Zero took it and looked through the window using the scope.

“Impressive.” Was all he said, though Axton commented that he had never see him this excited before.

“No problem. I mean you’re… you’re really cool… I just… I wanted you to know that.” Rhys mumbled like the idiot he was, playing with his fingers. It was hard not to admire the guy, he was the legendary vault hunter who could disappear at will. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Zer0 looked at him and after a short while a heart shaped emoticon was projected in front of his mask.

“Oooooh come on, you’ve got to be kidding me!? That guy? Something is seriously wrong with you kid.” Axton lamented, but Rhys paid him no mind, he did go back to repairing his turret though, he needed a good pay and he heard that vault hunters paid handsomely.

“Did you hear the news Axton? It’s actually why I came to see you.” Zer0 said still inspecting his sniper rifle.

“What news, I hear a lot of new, you gotta be more specific man.”

“News about Handsome Jack.”

At that Rhys froze, leaning in to hear the exchange. He was almost finished with the turret anyway and was planning to return it to Axton, but now he pretended he was still working on it.

“They say he was caught in the old bunker in Opportunity.”

“Ya sure it ain’t the body double? I heard he’s on Pandora as well.”

“Well rumor has it that it’s the real deal and that a vault hunter has him. I spoke with Salvador already and I know it isn’t him, as for you, well I haven’t had high hopes to begin with, but how about Maya? Have you heard from her?”

“No, actually we haven’t had contact in a few days….hey! Hey kid, where the hell are you going?! What about my turret!” Axton yelled as he saw Rhys taking off.

“Already fixed!” The programmer yelled as he burst out of the bar. It might be Timothy, it might be Jack, hell it might even be a stupid a trap, but there was no way in hell he’d risk it. He had to check just in case, Opportunity wasn’t far away, in his car he should get there in no time. And even if all of this turned out to be a trap, it should be easy enough to escape using his powers.

 

—o.o— Opportunity —o.o—

 

Rhys rushed through the ruined city, wondering how it got to the state it was in. It seemed like a great place, far more modernized than any other city he visited on Pandora so far. Well maybe except for the huge statues of Jack – those were kinda creepy. He didn’t like them too much in Jack’s office but this was just overdoing it.

He went quietly through the abandoned city expecting a welcoming party, but not a living soul seemed to be nearby. He went around looking for a map that could guide him to the entrance of the underground bunker. Finally he found a city plan and took a picture of it with his ECHO eye. It took him a while to find a working entrance as most of them were covered by rubble, but he finally managed to do it.

At long last he reached a door that was still functioning and pressed the button for it to open, his heart beating in his ears, every muscle tense.  Rhys wasn’t really sure what to expect so he was ready to spring into action at any given moment if needed be. As soon as he opened the door something went straight at him and before he knew it, Rhys used his powers to blow up the object. Luckily it turned out to be one of the Hyperion drones, probably a remnant of the battle that took place a long time ago.

Going down the stairs leading to the bunker he noticed a lot of Hyperion Loader Bots lying on the floor, most of them already eaten by corrosion due to the humidity in the place. There had to be a huge fight here once… actually now that he thought about it, Rhys remembered reading something about it in that file from Atlas, but everything seemed so distant and foggy at the moment.

The only thing he remembered reading was that Jack wanted to force people of Pandora to inhabit the city, which seemed puzzling to him because Opportunity seemed like a pretty nice place to live. Of course now it was mainly rubble, but before that Rhys assumed it must have been the safest facility in the whole Planet. So why would Jack need to force people to move here?

Rhys stopped his internal musings when he  finally reached the lowest level of the facility, he passed the huge control room and went straight for the bunker. The boy slowed down in his movements, calculating each and every step. The place seemed deadly quiet so there was no way in hell someone could be holding Jack here, if the CEO was in Opportunity, he’d hear him from a few miles radius – the man never knew how to shut up.

Unless he was dead and the mere thought of it rendered him almost immobile, cold fear gripping him