Chapter 1: Gorgeous
It was the annual Year's end party, an almost ritual event where Handsome Jack was to praise and wish luck on every employee for the upcoming year. The party room with high ceilings, gleaming marble floors and columns engraved with intricate scrawlings. It was decorated beautifully and elegantly with whites, golds and silvers. It looked expensive but not gaudy, with a ginormous chandelier, floor to ceilings windows AND a few statues of the most handsome man the CEO himself. However, Jack wasn't excited. Dressed in his casual everyday clothes the party barely begun and Jack was already bored out of his mind, he didn't want to be here but it was suggested by the board as a way to keep moral, increase work - blah blah blah. He didn't care, but honestly if it kept Hyperion on top, the board off his back about his excessive airlocking and got him an excuse to come in late the next day, he felt as though he could sacrifice at least one day.
Overall, Jack wasn't expecting anything interesting. At best he thought that maybe he could get some stress relief from some no-name fan eager to please. At worst, he'd just hear nothing but the drone of people who think they're more important than they really are try to convince Jack that their department was the best. So far the night was heading towards the worst path, no one at the party caught Jack's eye. Everyone in attendance being much older than he preferred or employees he knew were married or in monogamous relationships.
Just as Jack was starting to mentally prepare himself for a boring night there was a loud BANG and a screech of high heels skidding on the floor. He whipped his head towards the sounds hoping for something, anything, exciting to happen and was completely awestruck when he saw a gorgeous woman having a stand off with one of the guards at the front door. Walking towards her trying to get a better look, a flat chest, and -oh- she had legs longer than he ever saw a woman have with the height to match. She stood even taller than Jack with her white heels. Wearing a white dress with high slits on either side of the front exposing the entire span of her legs as well as her deliciously defined hip bones. The dress was strapless with a sharp sweetheart neckline her collarbones framed with some delicate necklaces. The top and bottom edges of the dress were both lined with this fabric that caught the light perfectly and sparkled. Her black hair was sculpted and curled without a single strand out of place and landed just above her shoulders. Her skin a soft pale, not a single mark whatsoever, unless you counted her right arm being completely cybernetic from the shoulder down. Jack didn't, the way she wore her arm was as if it were another piece of jewelry embedded in her skin, a lustrous silver that complemented the silver jeweled bracelets on her other arm.
Trying to subtly fix his hair Jack strode towards the scene, "What's going on here!?" Jack bellowed ascending the stairs leading to the entryway. The guard stood to attention his back straight, but Jack was more focused on the soft gasp that left the woman's red lips.
The guard cleared his throat before speaking, "Sir, we found out this woman didn't have a proper invitation and tried to sneak i-" Jack couldn't be bothered to hear the rest of whatever the man had to say as when he looked to the woman to his right he saw her electric blue eyes, absolutely breathtaking, he only knew one other person with similar eyes.
"Yeah okay," Jack adjusted the lapels of his coat ignoring the guard before fully turning to the woman. "You must be new here, I think I would've remembered a face and, uh, legs like those before." Jack spoke as smoothly and charmingly as he could muster with lazy gesturing to her legs, forgoing being intimidating in favour of wooing the lady.
He could see her eyes dart around and her mouth open hesitantly before attempting to speak, "I- uh," she swallowed closing her eyes briefly and sighed "Yes, I heard from a little birdie that there was this party being held that was perfect. I knew I just had to see it for myself." She spoke with a smile that squinted her eyes just enough to look genuine, her tone was sweet and flirty and the way she enunciated her words with small movements of her shoulders and neck. Jack just knew she must of grown up as a woman who was used to attention and knew exactly how to get what she wanted. With how she looked it would be ridiculous to think that others wouldn't want to please her with every wish and whim she had, it was just so very easy to get lost in her looks.
"Well gorgeous, I hope everything has been just as you hoped." Jack saw the guard shift in his peripheral as if he was trying to interrupt, Jack just waved him of with a flick of a hand and a quick glare that told him to fuck off. "Now may I be so lucky to get the name of this beautiful woman in front of me?" Ignoring the anxious feeling curling in his gut, the one he got whenever he spoke to someone especially pretty, Jack brought the woman's left hand to his mouth and kissed her just above her knuckles with a smile. It was soft, softer than he even thought possible for a mere hand.
Another small gasp escaped her lips before she softly stated, "I go by Echo," She lifted her eyes to meet Jack's and with a mischievous squint and smile that made Jack's eyebrows raise she added, "But some, call me Gorgeous." Jack couldn't help but chuckle at her statement.
"Well, Gorgeous Echo," For once Jack was glad he wore a mask as he felt his face heating up, "I'm Handsome Jack."
Chapter 2: The Long Run
I'm dead inside, just as I was getting close to finished I Ctrl W'd myself out of tab. RIP
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
-A Year and Two Months Ago-
"You can't do this!" Rhys yelled leaning forwards in his chair.
"Just did." Vasquez's voice was eerily calm as he strutted towards Rhys, a smirk on his face. You know that look, that 'haha- I won' grin entitled crotch goblins get after getting what they want even after you told them no. "Senior Vice Janitor Rhys, has a nice ring to it doesn't it? You better get used to it."
Abruptly standing up Rhys glared eye to eye at Vasquez, "You better watch yourself, Hugo. I'll make you pay for this." The only warning Rhys got was a glint in Vasquez's eye before he pulled back his arm and full on decked Rhys in the face and knocking him flat on his back.
"Be careful Rhys, no likes their janitors mouthy." Vasquez mused while shaking his fist and then wiping it on a handkerchief, "Now, get out of my office, before I take a crap on the floor and make you clean it up."
Visibly disgusted, and knowing he can't win a physical fight with Vasquez, Rhys quickly and quietly leaves the office. His rage only billowed when he felt blood trickle down from his nose.
"Bro! What the hell happened in there?" Without stopping and without a glance at his bro, Rhys stomped past Vaughn with a scowling pout on his face. Vaughn quickly started to trail behind.
"I don't want to talk about, all I'm going to say is that it involved Hugo."
"So I guess this means wine and steak are off the menu for lunch?" Rhys looked back at him with a glare. "Okay, okay bad timing. But don't worry Rhys we can figure something out!"
"Vaughn, my career was just pushed off a bridge by Vasquez! All my past coworkers, especially the ones who don't like me, are going to be out for blood and going to have a field day for the rest of my janitor life!"
"Look let's calm down, the only people who know about your position is you, me and Assquez. If we can keep your new job hush hush, super secret, long enough your career can easily itself climb back on that bridge!" Rhys sighed and stopped walking to rub his face with his hands, he saw a trash can from the corner of his eye and in one swift movement kicked it over.
Sirens stared to blare followed by the emotionless announcement of, "Senior Vice Janitor Rhys to sector D451 for trash cleanup because that is your job now, to clean up trash with your bare hands." Both Vaughn and Rhys stared emotionlessly at the trash on the floor, even Yvette who was around the corner stopped.
"Sorry, you were saying something. I interrupted you." Rhys' tone matched the lack of emotion that his face held.
"Rhys what happened to that promotion of yours? You know the one you couldn't stop ranting and raving about how it was going to change your life forever?" Yvette crossed her arms, "I mean I guess this is life changing but not in the way I really imagined."
"UGH, Assquez is now in Henderson's old position!" This earned him a stereo 'What!' from Yvette and Vaughn, "And while I'm here enjoying my new promotion Henderson is out there in orbit with his newest job as Helios' most recent satellite!"
"So lunch is off the table for today?" Both Vaughn and Rhys glared at her, "Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood. So now what?"
"I have no idea," Rhys huffed, "I was looking forward to this promotion all year! It's a high enough position to get an invitation to the exclusive Hyperion End of Year party, the one Handsome Jack himself attends! I've been saving up for a long ass time to make sure I looked as best as humanly possible at that party!"
"Bro, we still have time to figure something out. Let's order take-out and talk strategy, and before you get all pouty don't worry I'll pay." Vaughn nudged Rhys with his elbow getting a small smile out of him and started walking towards the elevator prompting the other two to follow.
"Sweet, lunch." Yvette chimed in, "I'm all for plan making. What's on the menu?"
Ignoring Yvette, Rhys felt his confidence coming back. "You're right, let's just talk it out. Think of a plan we can do this."
"W-wait, bro. Explain your plan again." Vaughn asked around a mouth full of noodles. All three of them where sitting in the living room of Vaughn and Rhys' shared apartment, with Yvette and Vaughn on the couch and Rhys sitting on the floor.
"Vaughn, this is the third time." Rhys sighed poking at his vegan pho with spicy tofu. "It's not that complicated, I sneak into Hyperion's End of Year party do some networking, hopefully digging myself out of absolute career damnation, AND if I'm really lucky I could get on Handsome Jack's good side. Easy."
"Rhys, that plan is missing at least five steps to make it even feasible." Yvette had her head in her hands, already exhausted from Rhys' completely flawless plan.
"FIVE? Bro, that plan is missing at least a GAZILLION steps! You can't just waltz your way into a guarded party, especially one where there's people who will recognize you! One blab from loud-mouthed Hugo and who knows what will happen to you! That's only if you could even through the front door in the first place!"
"Wow, thanks Vaughn that makes me feel so much better about this whole situation." Rhys crossed his arms with a pout. "Besides isn't it against accountant code or something to use fake numbers?"
"He's got a point."
"Thank you Yve-"
"I meant Vaughn you doofus. You'd be recognized in an instant!"
"Okay, fine. If the issue is me being recognized, all I need is a disguise right? I'll just wear a wig and get some coloured contacts. I can totally swing this in my favour."
Yvette snorted, "All offense Rhys, a wig and some contacts isn't going to stop your twink-ass from looking any less like Rhys."
"I agree with Yvette bro, but with no offense and less insults."
"Alright mister and missis 'your plan sucks' what do you suppose I do?" Rhys saw Yvette perk up in her seat followed by this foreboding feeling in his gut.
"Well, since you are really hung up about going to this exclusive party. You'll need an actual good disguise, one that no one would recognize you in." Yvette held her hands in from of her face slowly moving them outwards with her fingers spread, "Imagine this, instead of Rhys disguising himself as another man he disguise's himself as a woman. Covering all identifying marks like his temple port and his tattoos, completing the look with a brand new arm. And honestly, if you look pretty enough you could even get yourself a full encompassing pass straight into the party. Not to mention probably some free drinks as well. If you want to make this work you have to go full on balls out," Yvette smirked, "Or should I saw balls in?"
"...What?" Vaughn whispered shooting her and Rhys a confused look.
"Do you know how expensive that would be? I don't have anything to even start that! I have no makeup, tucking tape, clothes, wigs, corsets or anything to cover my tattoos and port!" Rhys listed everything on his fingers, "Not to even mention a brand new arm would drain well over half my bank account! Also two measly months isn't enough time to get good at applying all that stuff, unless I plan to show up at the party in baby drag. Looking like a child who for the first time in their entire life just found mom's makeup bag." Rhys threw his hands up in exasperation pouting at Yvette.
"...What?" Vaughn whispered even quieter with a face that didn't look any less confused.
"You've been specifically saving up money just for this party alone. Why are you so bent out of shape about spending it now?" She sighed, "Look, if you really need help I could give you some of my makeup." Taking a mouthful of food Yvette continued on, "Hell, I'll even chip in some money. As for the time issue thing, just plan it all for next year, save up some more money and get your practice in."
"First off, why is everyone talking with their mouths full it's gross. Second off, you, Yvette, certified lunch leech, is willing to chip in actual money? Why?"
"To be fair it just think it'll be funny." She settled back into her seat, "Besides, if everything goes well I am expecting some sort of compensation." She ended with a wink.
A moment of silence and a look of concentration on Rhys' face later, "I think you might onto something, this sounds ridiculous enough to actually work Yvette! It'll be a plan for the long run but I think we can pull this off." She responded with a shrug and self-satisfied smile.
"To get this plan started I think we should figure out a look for you. I'm thinking something along the lines of hoity toity model with a hint of 'rich white lady'. A look that would help excuse your long legs and flatter chest." Yvette took a small pause before dramatically adding, "And I know just where to start getting supplies."
"Hey bro." Vaughn lent over and whispered to Rhys, "What did she mean by 'balls in'?"
"Not getting into that. It's not important." Rhys pushed Vaughn by the face back into his seat.
Watching a 100 pound Komondor try to wedge himself underneath a table the same height as him while wearing a cone is low-key hysterical.
Chapter 3: Oatmeal
I'm real hype for Borderlands 3, I haven't bought the original Borderlands for PC yet so I'm also hype for the remastered version.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"This is your perfect place for supplies?" Rhys asked lifting his arms to gesture towards the shady store in front of him. A store that is tucked hidden away in one of the farther corners of Helios, the dull sign hanging above the front door read: 'Supplies and Stuff'. "This has to be like bargain bin quality stuff! Also what is up with the name? It's the most uninspired name I have ever heard."
"You're just saying that because you don't know how to get the most for the least amount of money, that and you're a bit of a pretentious ass." Yvette huffed striding past Rhys into the store, "Now hurry up or I'm going to buy you everything in a size down."
"So we've got purple stick glue, spray adhesive, skin safe might I add, clear duct and a lot of makeup. We even have some clear medical tape and face tape." Rhys counted scrounging through his shopping basket, a quiet 'That's a lot of tape.' came from Vaughn's direction, "This place is surprisingly good for finding stuff."
"I told you, this place is a hidden gold mine here on Helios. All the pretentious a-holes avoid this place, and since that's like ninety percent of Helios' population, almost no one knows about all the things you can get here." Yvette puffed out her chest confidently leading the group, "I even get my exotic wines from this place."
"What? No way, I searched up those wines you have and the cheapest I found them online was like a hundred dollars!" Vaughn abruptly yelled before quickly quieting to a whisper, "Are you sure this place isn't involved in the black market or something?"
"I'unno." Yvette gave a nonchalant shrug, "It can't be too bad if it's on Helios, everything has to get approval from Handsome Jack before they can even set up. Now I see some shoes over there let's get going guys I want to at least be able to have enough time to laugh at Rhys while he tries to do things for the first time."
"You two go ahead I want to see what else I can buy here," Vaughn quickly looks around, "Meet you guys at home, don't wait up for me." With that Vaughn ran as fast as he could, but without actual running, off into one of the countless isles with an expression similar to that of a child in a candy store.
"I can't help but feel like it was wrong of us to bring Vaughn here. Pretty sure he'll just flood the apartment with 'Cool knick-knacks I got for cheap, and hey look! This one is a calculator!' and I'm not looking forward to that." Rhys mimed using his best Vaughn voice.
Yvette rolled her eyes and grabbed Rhys by the arm jerking him to follow her as she walked, "For now let's just hope they have man sizes in their women's shoes."
After a full day of shopping Yvette and Rhys made their way back to Rhys' and Vaughn's apartment, walking in they thought Vaughn would've beaten them there but he was nowhere to be seen.
"Do you think he got lost?" Yvette asked looking around while Rhys struggled with all the bags by himself in the doorway behind her.
"I think the only thing he lost was his sense of time," Rhys huffed trying to close the door with his foot, failing a couple times before finally getting it. "You know how he is, has a list for everything."
Rhys sauntered to the middle of the living room and dropped their haul into a pile on the floor. Clothes, corsets, wigs, makeup as well as a couple shoes and various tapes spilled and started to roll everywhere. Yvette gave him a look which Rhys matched with a 'Help would've been nice' glare. Yvette walked to where the stick glue escaped to and picked it up along with some powder, concealer and a packaged eyebrow brush, all of which she quickly pushed into Rhys' hands.
"First let's try eyebrows," She paused, "You do know how to do this, right?"
"Pfft, yeah. I mean just glue down my eyebrows how hard can it be?" Rhys waved her off and headed towards the bathroom.
About fifteen minutes later Rhys came out, brows lumpy and sad. A defeated look on his face but before he could even open his mouth Yvette started to shake and cackle with laughter, doubling over as she sat on the couch. Not wanting to even try to say anything Rhys just stood arms crossed with a prominent pout on his lips and a burrow of his now somewhat vague eyebrows.
"O-oh my god-how do you even-mess up that bad-?" Yvette managed through bouts of laughter.
"Okay, maybe I don't actually know how to do this!"
"I can't believe you have the entire ECHOnet in your eyeball and you didn't even bother to search up a how-to video." Still slightly plagued by laughter Yvette stood from the couch picking up the rest of the makeup. "Come on Rhys no more pouting, I'll show you how to do your entire face."
As Yvette picked up the last item from the ground the sound keys rattling could be heard on the other side of the door followed by Vaughn stepping into the apartment with three bags, all full of whatever he thought was cool or needed from the store. He stopped immediately when he saw Rhys. "Uh, hey bro. What's on your face-" A pause from Vaughn as he studied Rhys a bit more. "I-is that oatmeal where your, uh, eyebrows are supposed to be?" Yvette was set right back into cackling with some breathy exhales of 'oh my god' and 'oatmeal' sprinkled in.
Rhys threw his hands into the air as he grumpily walked back into the bathroom, "Can we PLEASE just get this over with!" His voice slightly echoed from the bathroom. Yvette, still not over her second laughing fit, clumsily trotted after him into the bathroom.
Vaughn looked from his bags to the pile of spilled goods from Rhys' eyeing all the items they bought and quickly noting to ignore all the questionable underwear and clothing he saw. "I feel like I'm being left in the dark about a lot of things today." Vaughn couldn't help mutter quietly to himself as he stared blankly at the pile trying to put something remotely Rhys-like together from the bits and pieces he saw.
I want to make longer chapters but I feel since things are just setting up it'll feel too congested/choppy if I just keep having breaks whenever I want a new scene. When we get further in I won't scene jump as much lol.
Chapter 4: Big Ol' Family
It's been a month+ oops.
At the very least I finished drawing a personal depiction of Gorgeous Echo, you can see it here
also I may or may not have written this while procrastinating re-applying for uni.
Small reminder this is un-beta'd, so point out any typos/mistakes I have a habit of unconsciously missing words because I think faster than I type and I scramble some sentences since I correct the last half but not the first half lol
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rhys didn't start at his new position until the following Monday which gave him five days to practice doing and undoing his makeup in the privacy and comfort of his home and pajamas. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that the reality of becoming a janitor finally started to seep in as a delivery bot, which was just a loader bot wearing a mail hat, dropped off a Hyperion yellow and white jumpsuit. The sudden realization however, did not cause any dwindle in Rhys' determination and eagerness but instead fanned the flames even higher. In turn when Monday finally came around and after almost a week of constant makeup tutorials and a few stained towels Rhys ended up heading to his first day at work with a tight corset under his uniform, the loose boxy form of his uniform hiding any sort of definition of his body.
"Sooo, what do you think?" Rhys asked doing a spin in front of Vaughn.
"It's your typical bright and obnoxious Hyperion yellow alright. Hopefully the majority of the things you'll clean up today won't be the same colour." Vaughn was sat on one of stools in front of the bar table attached to the cul-de-sac that is the kitchen and it's counters. "You woke me up at 5am, an hour and a half before my usual time to show off your new janitor look?"
"What? No! I mean, does it look like there's anything weird or different about me?" Rhys straightened his back and waggled his eyebrows as he moved to stand sideways to his bro.
"If this is you trying to tell me you changed conditioners again I'm going to draw moustaches on all your Handsome Jack posters."
"I still can't believe you can't tell the difference between my change from a standard conditioner to one that adds volume." Rhys huffs, "But this time it's not about that, I'm wearing one of the corsets I bought. Can you see it, like at all?"
Silence fell upon the room and Vaughn harshly studied Rhys.
"Isn't that like gonna to be bad for your health to wear a corset to a manual labour job?" Vaughn said with a tone that was just coated with concern.
"Weelll," Rhys averted his eyes with a sharp inhale, "People don't recommend it, but it should be fine if I just take it off if it gets too hard. Besides this is the starter one, it barely pulls me in."
Vaughn sighs, "I can't see it at all," Vaughn quickly raised his pointer finger, "BUT, let it be known that I am only supporting this on the assumption that you'll take care of yourself and not force yourself until you faint and have to be taken to the hospital and then everyone will know you passed out because you were wearing a corset, then you'll have to confess you were planning to cross-dress to sneak into next year's End of Year party uninvited."
"Technically I could just say it's a personal wardrobe choice." Vaughn raised an eyebrow at Rhys which was accompanied with a growing frown, "BUT I guess with how close-minded a lot of the higher-ups are, and especially Mr. Ass-Hat-Hugo himself, it probably would go over just as bad." Rhys supplemented with an awkward smile.
Vaughn threw his head into his hands and groaned.
"Anyway Vaughn I gotta go, see ya later bro!" Rhys said as he quickly side stepped around Vaughn and then, just as quickly, opened the door and left their apartment.
It was a quick couple minute walk to the main elevators which led him to the Hub of Heroism, he had to take a dedicated maintenance elevator on that floor to get the sub-levels of Helios where the janitors and the other maintenance staff gathered. On his trek he saw only one other person, a man on the cusp of middle-aged undeniably drunk stumbled past him off to who knows where. Rhys grimaced with both sympathy and mild disgust, he only hoped he wouldn't have to see him later for a work-related call.
The maintenance elevator was in a secluded side of the Hub hidden in a hallway that was sat behind a faux tree one that would've made it almost impossible to find if Rhys didn't have his cybernetics. A press of 'B-6' and an ungodly amount of loud and repetitive elevator music later the doors opened and he was met with a corridor with a severe lack of posters or decorations of any type unlike the rest of Helios that loved to hang ridiculously large prints of Handsome Jack and Hyperion's successes.
"WELCOME!" A booming voice almost made Rhys jump out his skin, quickly spinning around he saw a white-haired and bearded burly man walking towards him, he quickly noted that the man was taller than he was. "You must be Rhys, the new Senior Vice Janitor! Which is a position I wasn't exactly aware we had, but if you're Vice Janitor I guess that makes me President Janitor!" The man laughed, Rhys couldn't help but feel as though the giant of a man had an unusual amount of energy and joy for someone who woke up before 5am with the job of being a Janitor at a Hyperion Corporation.
"T-that's right, it's me, Rhys, the new Senior Vice Janitor." Rhys said through an awkward smile and a strained smile, only slightly impressed the man got his name right first try.
The man laughed once again, his laugh more like a bellow the way his chest rose and fell. "Here I was thinking that our new 'Senior' would be someone much older. I'm pleasantly surprised to see someone so young, I often find younger people are more flexible with more energy." The man says as he harshly slaps Rhys on the back.
With a wheeze from the air being knocked completely out of him Rhys' entire torso flung forward making him almost fall flat on his face as his corset didn't allow for any sort of flexibility. Fortunately he was able to ungracefully stumble enough to keep his feet on the ground, he couldn't help but immediatly doubt his corset wearing decision.
"I'm, uh, a little out of shape, so I, uh, was hoping we could take it easy for the first day? I wasn't exactly expecting vigorous exercise today." Rhys awkwardly laughed wringing his hands together. His mind frantically hoping he'd been shown mercy and be allowed to just be given a rundown for the first day, or at the very least not be overworked before his first break.
"Don't worry we won't jump into everything head first, I'll take you around show where everything is and let you meet some of your coworkers. The best part about being a Janitor that no one tries to stab you in the back!" The man laughs once more before quickly adding a soft 'usually'. "Anyway! I never introduced myself did I?" Rhys shook his head. "I just couldn't help myself from getting excited some new blood in the Janitor family! My name is Theodore Lancaster, but everyone just calls me Leo. I'm the oldest one in maintenance, I'm basically everyone's dad." Leo laughs, he put his hand on Rhys' shoulder and started walking steering Rhys in the directions he wanted. "First off the repairing part of maintenance is at the very front, just in case they need to get out as quickly as they can. Most of the time they're very stressed, without them Helios probably would've broken down years ago. Try not fight with them." As they walked they passed T-intersection, "To your left are the haulers and builders, it's a fairly small section since Loader Bots became popular but sometimes a human touch for more delicate operations is needed. Finally to our right is the Janitor wing, it's the largest wing with only five more than repairing. Well it was five, it's six now." Leo laughs while taking the lead down the right hallway. "Come on now! No dawdling! We've got a bunch of people who would love to see the new face!"
Rhys had to jog, but not quiet, to catch up to Leo and his abnormally large and fast gait. Oddly enough the longer the tour went on the more he felt as though being a part of maintenance wasn't going to be as terrible as he thought.
The rest of the Janitor's were all older than Rhys save for one guy who, despite being three years younger, had a bald head and a massive ginger beard. Everyone around was bigger than Rhys either by beating him broadness or weight. Leo being the only one that also beat him in height, Rhys took a small victory for being second tallest. But, however tall his height Rhys still couldn't stop himself from feeling as though he was completely out of his element.
It was a quick and curt introduction with the rest of the crew with most of their names and nicknames going almost immediately out of Rhys' memory. The few that stuck in his head was purely due to how obvious or unusual their nicknames were. The first was Boils, a practically hairless man with a protruding belly and some red blemishes that Rhys couldn't identify on his body, apparently he was nicknamed that due to being previously infected with Space Hurps. The bald ginger bearded man was nicknamed Freckles, for obvious reasons. The last one he remembered was Curtsy, an attractive broad black-haired and just slightly scruffy man, named after his kind and slightly feminine personality. Curtsy was currently leading him to the personal lockers talking about how he came up with his nickname because he didn't want to be called Bow or Smiles.
"Eventually they'll come up with a name for you, you'll probably hate it with all your guts at first but it grows on you. Hopefully that'll be the only thing that'll grows on you during your time with us," Curtsy takes a small pause before continuing on with a softer voice, "Sometimes things can get messy. You probably won't get the messy jobs until next week, tomorrow at the soonest." Another pause this time just a little bit longer than the last, "I think."
"Thanks," Rhys opened his designated locker to see it stocked full with his own set of cleaning chemicals, rags, gloves, masks and single pager-like device. "So, uh, what now?" Rhys was secretly hoping Curtsy would leave so he could take off his corset. He hasn't worn it for too long just for maybe one and a half hours at this point, but it was already starting to get uncomfortable and his nerves over the whole ordeal wasn't making anything easier.
"We have to head to the gathering room, we get our assignments there. Grab your pager and we'll be on our way." Curtsy was watching him and rather than ask for time alone Rhys grabbed his pager, he can't believe he's using an actual pager, and followed Curtsy to the gathering room.
The gathering room wasn't anything too spectacular, the walls and floor looked like your average breakroom but the janitors stacked all the stiff chairs off to the side and replaced them with a few couches, loveseats and recliners set in a messy semi-circle around a wall-mounted TV with a stand full of movies, video games and consoles underneath it. On the other side of the room was a line of counters and wall cabinets, a stove, fridge, sink and microwave close nearby. Rhys thought everything looked a lot more like a part of someone's home rather than part of a cutthroat company and with everyone sitting or standing around it looked even more surreal.
"What do you think Rhys?!" Leo laughed arms spread, "Probably looks a lot different than the rest of Helios! This room was personally customized by us to make it more homey, there's food and drinks in the fridge. Probably some snacks and whatever in the cabinets, just snoop around make yourself at home! Also on Saturday nights after work the day crew have a get together, feel free to bring friends there's always tons of free food! And if you ever and whenever need a place to get away from the company above don't be afraid to hop on down here, there almost always someone around!"
"W-what?" This whole morning just kept getting weirder by the second, Rhys couldn't believe that this is the same Hyperion that just last week kicked his ass out of his middle manager position without a second thought. Even after he spent majority of his adult life working for them. Everything here seemed so unbelievably friendly, he couldn't help feeling skeptical.
"You'll get used to it! It's a big change isn't it?" The rest of the room chuckled in agreement all having fond expressions, Leo quickly and loudly clapped his hands making Rhys jump and drawing everyone's attention in one swift movement, "Anyway, onto the assignments!" Leo unclipped the clipboard attached to his belt and flipped a couple of pages. "Boils you're in the usual place, Curtsy and Buck you're on the main Hub floor." Buck is an average height woman with dark skin and natural 3B hair that bounced as she walked, she was tad chubbier than your average person but she was also far prettier than your average person. Rhys wondered how she ended up in maintenance. As the three passed Leo he handed them key-heavy keyrings, each labelled with tags for their respective places, Boils ring was tagged 'Boilers+Furnaces'.
"Freckles you're in the shuttle bay areas with Husky. Pin and Plugs are in the Med wing. Lab, Graphs, Dev and Temp will be on residental and community park duty." Leo flipped the page once more, "Looks like our newbie Rhys here has the Executive and higher-up floors along with Ink! Try not to make eye-contact with the higher-ups," Leo laughs, "They take eye-contact as a challenge, but don't worry because although they like to claim to be 'mightier-than-thou' they're the ones that have egos that are so messy and large that make them incapable of cleaning up after themselves."
Rhys chuckled at that, walking towards Leo he grabbed a key ring labeled 'Egos+StuckUps', a fairly tattooed man with his jumpsuit rolled up to his elbows grabbed the other, his jumpsuit was stained in serveral different places with black spots and splatters. He had dark blue-black hair with an undercut, he was just a few inches shorter than Rhys. "Nice to work with you." Ink's voice was low and calm, he held out his hand.
"Nice to work with you as well." Rhys shook his hand with his most businessman-like grip, Ink cracked a grin and started to laugh heartily. "W-what?" Confused Rhys looked at Ink then to Leo, who was also slightly chuckling shaking his head.
"A real business handshake!" Ink laughed then took his hand and rubbed his open palm to Rhys' left shoulder, "And your first real stain!" As Ink walked past Rhys looked at his cybernetic hand and saw it was covered in black ink, he then looked to his shoulder and saw a similar black smear.
Leo claps him on the back, though much softer than the first time, and leans in, "Don't worry about it, it's his sort of initiation. He's done it to everyone." Rhys looked around and saw that everyone had some sort of black stain on their suit, some just small smears others with much larger smears, all vaguely hand or finger-like in shape. "Off you go newbie, work hard!" Leo pushed him in the direction after Ink then continuing on with the list. While following Ink to their lockers Rhys sighed and wiped his inked cybernetic on his jumpsuit, no use in trying to keep it clean now he mumbles to himself.
His real work technically hasn't even started but he was already exhausted and sore, and as he and Ink packed their carts with chemicals and necessities Rhys felt his mind was a broken record with how much it hoped for an easy first day.
Leo is a happy giggly man
I don't mind Rhys' new voice, but funnily enough seeing Troy Baker as his voice actor was what made me check out Tales and thus got me into the entire fandom. I like Troy since he initially voiced one of my fav characters from one of my fav series (Kanji from Persona 4).
Also Rhys' last name being 'Strongfork' sounds like a play off of Reese Witherspoon ;)
Chapter 5: Dirt
Man the last day just a whirlwind of things happened? I got my nose pierced on both sides, got all the help I needed on my uni application stuff, got sick for the first time in 12 years not to mention it all happened within 4 hours?
Shout out for my sister's for being great people to not only vent to but also for support.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"So, what do we do first?" Rhys asked as he and Ink walked, pushing their carts down one of the many halls that sprawled across one of the few executive floors.
"Basically, we clean up their dirt. Walk around, check rooms, clean. The rare times we get paged on certain incidents, the worst is when we come across some angry ole' sob that's just itchin' to sate their superiority complex."
Rhys huffs a humourless laugh, "That's surprisingly close to working in any other position here."
Ink cracked a huge grin crinkling his eyes as he looked over his shoulder at Rhys. "There's one way that makes it a whole lot different." His voice went just an octave lower coming close to matching a hushed whisper.
Intrigued, Rhys matched his tone and leaned in a bit. "Oh?"
"I'm assumin' that since you seem to have experience working in the more 'dignified' parts of the Hyperion Corporation, that you have some beef with someone. Or somethin', if not everyone loves a little dirt." Ink chuckled as he made sure to say dignified in his best stuck up executive voice.
"What exactly are you getting at?"
Ink smiled at him and took a sharp turn into an empty room and signalled for Rhys to follow. Inside it was your standard meeting room, nothing that stood out as unique or peculiar. Rhys rose an eyebrow at Ink, asking a silent question of 'what?'.
"Usually we only share this sorta' info when the newbie is a few days in, but as I said, seems that ya have things you want to accomplish and someone that's blockin' ya. That an' you don't seem like the malicious type. I just want to let ya know, us custodians," Ink pointed a finger between him and Rhys, "Stick together."
"We haven't even known each other for a day, at this point I don't even think it's been more than a couple hours. What makes you so sure?" Rhys crossed his arms, his signature pout claiming his face.
Ink chuckled again, "Technically we've never met before today, yeah? But that don't mean that us down in maintenance don't know who you are, we've seen you around. Our interest especially peaked when we heard you called on the intercom one day, had us all confused, so we did a little digging."
Rhys was speechless, his eyebrows rose on his head in shock. He started to get a little hot under his corset trying to figure out what they knew and if they could possibly know about his most recent plans. "I, uh, wha-?" Rhys stuttered along unable to get any proper words out.
"Before ya ask, it was only surface level digging. Everything we initially found was all about your loyalty to ya friends how ya never really did anything out of maliciousness and more so for getting back for being wronged or for things ya needed for business reasons only. Nothing real nasty, just your typical Hyperion antics. That saying, you seem more like a real person compared to most of the other corporate drones." Ink paused as he took in Rhys' reaction, "Makin' any sense? Drawin' any conclusions?"
Rhys took a moment to consider things and wrap around the information just fed to him, "So basically, you're telling me that because I'm not completely full of hate and malice that you're trusting me with the knowledge of..." Rhys' face sparked in excitement and Ink's face mimicked it, "The knowledge that people in maintenance have free access to everyone's hidden secrets, a.k.a. their dirt?"
"Now you're gettin' it. An' to be fair, it wasn't just what we found while searchin' ya up. Anyone who comes into maintenance, in uniform, who doesn't cringe at Boils, who doesn't mock any of us for our names and just generally doesn't act like everythin' is below 'em. Like we had a few demoted saps that would come around angry and dismissive, mocking us and our work and tellin' us that they are above us." Ink chuckled, "We were able to chase all of 'em out." Ink started to walk around the table in the middle of the meeting room heading towards the podium where the presenter would usually stand.
"I, um, honestly never really thought about it like that." Rhys rubbed the back of his neck with his flesh hand his cheeks turning a bit pink, "I was just, uh, really concerned about not making a fool out of myself and, uh, all that."
"The fact that you think that you see yourself as able of being made a fool by janitors is very tellin' in it's own sense." Ink mused as he started to search the podium, after awhile he put on gloves he pulled out from his pockets and started to rummage through a nearby trashcan.
Rhys started to walk towards him tilting his head trying to see what he was doing.
Ink swiftly pulled his hands out of the trash and with a winning smile brandished a small crumpled and ripped paper, the quick movement startled Rhys and soon Ink was pushing it into Rhys' hands. Taking the paper in hand he had to look somewhat closely to make out the writing. "Bay 328 west 3m?" Rhys rose an eyebrow unsure what to make of this or why it was important.
"Western shuttle bay, port 328. Someone's having a meetin' there at 3am, an' I don't think I have to tell ya, but, nothing good ever happens at meetin's held in the early mornin's." Ink went back to rummaging through the trashcan, "The executive floors are blackmail goldmines, all ya hafta do is know what to look for and what all their little codes mean." He pulled another few pieces of crumpled paper, some even had stains. Ink waggled them at Rhys with a smirk.
Rhys hesitated and reached to grab them but noticed a very large questionable stain and quickly pulled back his hand to put on his own pair of gloves. He flipped through the papers, all of them had phone numbers.
"See, most of 'em you find are just numbers, they're the most common thing ya find. An' the most likely to not lead to anything real important. The best ya can find are the ones that just look like a jumble of letters and numbers, that's the code system the real importants use."
"When you say the really important people, you mean-"
"Not Handsum' Jack if that's what your askin', that code system belongs to board members. The big bad CEO doesn't need special codes to do what he wants, sure the man's secretive but he doesn't need to communicate through note passin'. Hell, from what I even hear is that he rarely shows up to meetin's unless he really has to. Just gets briefed on them or somethin' later."
"Wow, does everyone in Janitorial know about these things?" Rhys handed back the papers to Ink, he quickly pocketed them.
Ink grunted a confirmative, "Why'd ya think everyone in Janitorial seems happy-go-lucky? It's real easy to be happy and laidback when ya don't hafta worry about your job or life. We share all our info with each other so if someone wanted to use some murder to keep some mouths shut they'd hafta wipe out the entire Janitor force."
"And that would definitely not go well," Rhys chuckled shaking his head.
"Now, enough chit-chat. We still got a job to do," Ink patted Rhys on the back with a grin that seemed to found it's permanent home on his face.
The rest of the morning went better than Rhys could've hoped, there were of course a few more pieces of information on possible blackmail and luckily not any huge disgusting messes to clean up. When lunch rolled around Ink and him were able to meet up with Buck and Curtsy in the main Hub area to eat together.
At some point during lunch Rhys was able to excuse himself and take off his hidden corset within the safe confines of a nearby bathroom, his corset he promptly hid inside his personal cart.
The few hours of Rhys' work day went in a very similar fashion as to his morning. He cleaned, moped and vacuumed but what really made it enjoyable was listening to some of the funnier information Ink and his other coworkers found about some of the workers.
For example Rhys found out about Dylan, his old co-worker that frankly no one liked, had an accrued debt over him having a ridiculous amount of time logged calling some rather questionable hotlines. On company phones no less. Rhys even learned that his old Boss Henderson was a bit of a racist, yikes, talk about helping Rhys feel even less sympathetic over his death.
Rhys was actually enjoying his first day in Janitorial such much that he was so surprised when the end of the work day rolled around for him. When he got home to his shared home he found himself walking into an empty apartment, looking at the time he found he got off work before Vaughn did.
It was a good hour or so of Rhys lazing around and feeling comfortable that he heard the tell-tale sounds of a key jingling outside the door.
As soon as Vaughn closed the door behind him Rhys was all smiles excited to tell him about his day.
"Sooo," Rhys turned around on the couch to better face Vaughn, "Guess what I found out today?"
"If it has anything remotely close to how many hours or flight of stairs you can take in a corset before passing out I'm going to be very upset." Vaughn walked over to the breakfast bar and threw his keys on the counter and took of his shoulder bag.
Rhys huffed, "No, I took it off at lunch just in case. But, anyway what I want to tell you is that Janitorial is a goldmine for blackmail and information."
"Yeah, a goldmine."
A beat of silence.
"Yeah, goldmine, janitorial, blackmail and before you ask, yeah, information."
Vaughn adjusted his glasses before he spoke, "I mean that makes sense, Janitorial quite literally cleans up everyone's dirt."
"Do you know how much this could help us? A-and not just like little help this could seriously get us into some big places!" Rhys was gesturing with his hands making huge movements.
"So what you're saying you don't actually mind working in Janitorial?"
"Oddly enough, yeah so far my experience being a janitor has been pre-eh-ty enjoyable. The people are actually nice, like not fake nice you get from interns or ass kissers or the ones that really want to butter you up so you'll take their workload so they can run away to vacation on Aquator for a week."
"That actually sounds nice," Vaughn paused and looked sternly at Rhys, "Are you sure that even happened and wasn't some sort of fever dream caused by the lack of oxygen from a certain piece of clothing restricting your lungs?"
"Pfft, okay no. My corset and I were perfectly fine thank you, and trust me I had a hard time believing it myself."
"Alright, alright. So does this also mean you'll feel settled enough to gather all the blackmail and information you need to re-climb the ranks rather than spend a ridiculous amount of money and time trying to sneak into one of the most prestigious events on Helios?" Vaughn paused before dramatically adding in, "In drag?"
Some more silence.
"I was just thinking that all the stuff I could learn could help make the whole thing easier, like as a safeguard. Besides! It would take a really long time to get anywhere close to where I was going to be! The fact that Janitorial isn't the worst, you could even argue it's the best, place to be on Helios doesn't hurt."
Vaughn sighs, "You're really lucky that you're my bro, bro. I'm only even remotely okay with this plan because I know how important your career is to you."
"Bro." Rhys felt himself melt, putting his hand over his heart.
"But the whole thing is still pretty dumb bro."
"I mean if it's dumb and it works, it's, uh, not dumb?" Rhys offered with an awkward offset smile and a shrug.
"Well, we'll have to see about that one bro."
This headache has been around for like 3 days straight, what have I done to deserve this?
Also may I just mention I really am itching to write some Echo/Rhys and Jack interaction, but I know I'm a big hoe for exposition and I have a mighty need to flesh things out. Another mention of no beta-reading and I may or may not have posted this at 2am.
Chapter 6: Hate To See You
Look this fic still exists!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It wasn't until almost a full year later Rhys was able to finally get his hands on his new personalized right arm. It took at first a few months of deliberation between Vaughn, Yvette and himself and a few more months of building up the determination to press purchase on something that had so many zeros. It took even longer for the arm to be built and delivered, there were many sleepless nights where Rhys laid awake wondering if he wasted his money or not. He knew that if the arm wasn’t up to par his entire plan was down the drain.
Once the package came to his door he ran as fast as he could still clad in his ‘totally not Hyperion issued’ pajamas and slammed the door in the mail-loader’s face offering a shouted "Thank you!" behind the door as he quickly went back to his own room.
After setting everything onto his bed he pulled the arm out of its cardboard delivery box and revealed a sleek black box with a bold and golden 'HYPERION' on the front in equally sleek lettering.
Despite his excitement gnawing at him to open everything as quickly as possible Rhys took to slowly peeling back the folded top of the box. Inside laid a smooth and somewhat feminine ice-chrome cybernetic right arm.
The arm itself had 'Hyperion' imprinted on the shoulder in a very slight light blue, the joints between were a dark matte purple-grey just barely off a dark black. Just under the shoulder pad was a strip of neon blue, a colour that sat very close, if not exactly to the same, to his echo eye.
It was magnificent, the way the arm almost seemed to shine itself rather than just reflecting light. Rhys rotated it in his hands taking in every detail before quickly stripping himself of his shirt and current arm.
Once his new arm was attached he stood and looked to his full length mirror that hung on the back of his bedroom door.
The entire arm was much lighter and much less bulky than his previous yellow and black one. It even gave Rhys overall a much more feminine look. He was surprised how a change of limb could really change how he looked and felt. And boy did he feel good, it gave him a huge confidence boost. How could it not? It was a sleek and future-forward arm, one that costed much more than his old one. He was thinking how much of a waste it was to only wear it for one night and never again, maybe he'd pull it out once more after he felt it was safe to do so.
He was spinning and turning trying to see himself from all different angles in the mirror, a smile gracing his face.
It was everything he every hoped for. The slight blue shine to it perfectly complimented not only his eye but also his tattoos, and although he knew that he would be covering his tattoos he couldn’t help but preen on how good he looked.
Determined to show off he left his room looking to capture Vaughn’s attention. Luckily for Rhys it seemed his earlier door slamming prompted him to come see what was going on.
“Hey bro, what was up with the door sla-“
Vaughn paused as eyes finally landed on his new arm, “Woah. That looks really good, and, uh, really expensive.”
“Right?” Rhys gave an obligatory spin, “It may have drained a majority of my savings buuut, look at it! Totally worth it right?!”
Vaughn sighs, “If it was under normal circumstances, yes, totally worth it. But you bought it to wear it for ONE NIGHT! How is spending that much money on a single night worth it?”
“Come on bro, people spend just as much if not more on wedding dresses or like designer clothes they wear only once then never again. Besides I was thinking with enough time from the party I could, I ‘unno, brush off the dust and wear it then?”
“You and me both know there’s a difference between buying a dress to get married and buying a brand-new high-tech arm for a one time attendance at a party that happens every year.”
“Yeah, one gets you into a lifetime commitment and the other can possibly re-kickstart a certain someone’s entire career. Eh, am I right? Yeah?” Rhys offered with spread arms and a waggle of his brows.
“I thought you didn’t mind working as a janitor, I mean it’s been a year and you haven’t complained even remotely as much as you did back in middle management.”
“Well it’s not teerrrible,” Rhys drawled awkwardly.
“You seemed to have a fantastic time at their movie and game nights for the morning crew.”
“C’mon bro, I worked hard to get in middle management. As crappy as it was it helped to pay the bills and janitorial doesn’t pay as well. Also, if I give up and accept being a janitor it feels like I’m letting Hugo win. I can’t let that jerk win!”
“Couldn’t you just dig up enough dirt on Hugo to get him to give you back your old job or even to get his job? You did tell me that janitorial has access to all this dirt on basically everyone right? You could even get your coworkers to help you.” Vaughn took off his glasses to clean them on the hem of his shirt.
“I, uh, didn’t really think about that. But! The arm’s here it looks great, makes me look great, and if I back out now that be a waste of all my training, right?” Rhys gestured to his arm putting on a slanted grin, hoping Vaughn would agree with him.
“You’re making it sound like you worked out or something, you and I both know you don’t like exercise.”
“Wearing a corset is like exercise, excuse you.”
“Alright, aright. I relent, go do your drag show at the End of the Year party.” Vaughn threw up his hands and walked back into his room.
Rhys was completely giddy as he yelled, “Thank you!” He finally got his best bro’s blessing. Rhys couldn’t help but step a little lighter on his way back to his room.
Changing out his pajamas and into his work clothing we couldn’t help but begrudgingly remove his new arm. Feeling a little sad and not wanting to lose that new feeling he just had he decided to put on one of his tighter corsets for the day. It tugged in his waist a little more than his usual corsets but that only added to the confidence he was feeling, alhough it all would be hidden under his coveralls and work shirt.
Today was the worst, his high from the morning completely gone and replaced by absolute dread.
Rhys was assigned to his old floor, the one that Hugo was now in charge of. Upon seeing Rhys the bastard man decided he was going to make things extra hard for him. Curtsy was assigned on this floor with him but was soon whisked away by something that was without a doubt caused by Hugo to get Rhys by himself.
Assquez wouldn’t let Rhys have a single break to himself and had him running almost from end to end of the department. Rhys would be angrier, but he didn’t want to risk his job and frankly, Rhys didn’t have the breath to spare.
The damned corset, why did he of all days have to run into Hugo today. He had such a great morning and now if felt like his ribs would break from all the work Hugo dumped on him. 'Janitor Rhys called for Room 391.' that, 'Janitor Rhys needed for Room 162 bring a mop.' this. One call was so minor that all Rhys had to do was pick up a single piece of paper off the floor, and Hugo made sure that every announcement asked Rhys to hurry as if it all was an emergency.
“Looking out of breath there Rhys,” Hugo sneered as Rhys pulled himself past him onto the next issue Hugo created for him, “Maybe janitorial hasn’t been working you hard enough, after all, before this all you where doing was sitting behind a desk. But, looks like you weren’t good at that either.”
Rhys’ couldn’t stop his face from warping into a snarl.
“Oh? Poor Rhys is angry?” Hugo mocked him with what Rhys could only describe as being a baby voice, “But I can’t be for sure, Rhys are you upset at me?” Hugo draped his left arm over Rhys’ shoulders and started to put all his weight on him, “You need to speak up if you want me to know what you really want.”
Rhys didn’t respond just shoved Hugo off his shoulders before his legs gave out. He knew Hugo was trying to get him to explode and rant at him just so he would have an excuse to ruin Rhys’ career even more. Rhys just continued on his leaving the department room and into the hallway, Curtsy was walking in his direction with his cart.
“Hey Stutters,” Right, that’s his nickname. “Finally finished with all the nonsense work that ass put onto me-” Curtsy paused, “Uh, Stutters, you’re not looking so good.”
“Jus’ tired. Outta breath,” Rhys huffed slurring his words.
“You sure, you look real-”
Rhys’ legs gave out and his vision started to blur, that last thing he heard was a fading “Shit! Rhys!” before he finally fell unconscious.
When Rhys finally came to his vision unblurred to an amalgamation of different faces all looking down on him. His senses still dulled by prior delusion Rhys was unable to really understand who he was seeing and what they were saying. Everything coming in muffled to his ears.
“-Going to be fine.” Was the clearest thing that came to his ears.
Someone leaned down and snapped in his face finally knocking him out of his delusionary state. Rhys shook in surprise as he came face to face with Leo’s frowning face.
“Rhys,” Leo’s tone was serious and slow, it made Rhys nervous, “Why were wearing this?” Leo held up the corset Rhys put on in the morning. Unable to look at Leo’s face Rhys looked down and noticed that he was stripped of the top half of his coveralls and everything on his upper body. Bright red lines stretched across his waist.
“I, uh,” Rhys gulped racking his brain for an excuse. “I was, uh, training my waist to be slimmer so I can go incognito somewhere.” Rhys blurted out and immediately berated himself for basically outing himself.
Leo looked confused and surprised, “What?” He shook his head trying to look more serious just as a grin broke on his face, “I don’t care about why you wear corsets, well I am certainly interested now, but I was more concerned as why you decided to wear one to your physically taxing job.” Leo gestured to Boils and Curtsy that was off to the side. “Curtsy was so worried he carried you all the way down here and paged all of us to come down as an emergency. We had Boils check you over since he used to be a doctor back before the hurps.” Leo paused before he quickly added on, “He says you’ll be fine by the way.”
“Uh, thanks, and I'm sorry.” Rhys meekly looked around and saw all of the day team sitting in different spots in the room, “I didn’t want to make such a scene, I really am sorry.”
“Alright!” A smaller brunette woman, she was even thinner than Rhys and even the shortest of the team, pushed past Curtsy and Boils. “Sorry’s are all said, you’re going to be fine. Good, good. Fantastic. So!” She clapped her hands together a big smile taking over her face, “You were saying something about going incognito?”
“Uh, well, you see, uh.” Rhys tried to come up with her name but only ever saw this woman before in passing.
“Right! We haven’t been properly introduced before, they call me Rabbit! I’m the one that is permanently assigned to the Handsome Jack floor, I go to work earlier than everyone so it understandable you don’t know me yet.”
“Handsome Jack’s floor!? Is it okay for you to be-”
Rabbit waved at him cutting him off, “Yeah it’s fine. It’s my job to be inconspicuous like I was never there in there first place. I’m real good at my job.” She winked. “But! That’s not important, tell us your plans!”
Rhys looked around the room hoping for an out but just saw faces with varying degrees of interest and slight worry. With a defeated sigh Rhys told them about his plan, about his new arm and about everything.
A long silence followed.
“What about the CCTV system? How are you planning on getting past that?”
Rabbit sighed, “You know, the cameras, they’re everywhere!” Rabbit spun around but when she was facing Rhys again she had a knowing smile on her face. “Everywhere except for a few places, one of those places is this room.”
“I, well we, didn’t even think about that.” Rhys couldn’t help but feel a tinge of fear as he felt his plan edging on the cliff of failing apart.
“You didn’t think about it? If they really wanted they could just follow you all the way through the cameras. Your plan wouldn’t work in the slightest if they decided to check up on this mysterious attender.” Ink interjected walking up to stand beside Rabbit.
“Thaat’s why, we’re going to help you!” Rabbit beamed.
“You,” Rhys paused wondering if he heard wrong, “What?”
“Come on, Stutters. You think we wouldn’t help out a fellow custodian?” Leo laughed.
“Oh yeah we know where all the blind spots in the camera’s are, one of the first things we tried to learn, especially me since I work on the big man’s floor.” Rabbit interjected.
Ink leaned towards Rhys and slightly whispered, “We also know all the best hiding spots and have the best equipment for smugglin’ contraband, or in this case, people.”
“I feel like you guys already have a plan and I’m not catching on.” Rhys looked between everyone and they all shared a confident glance.
“Probably still in it’s infancy, but I’m willing to bet they’re thinking they can smuggle you in one of their carts with you all done up to one of the blind spots.” Boils chuckled.
“That! Or I was thinking we could even smuggle him to one of the bathrooms since they also don’t have cameras, and since we have everyone on every floor at basically anytime of day and night it doesn’t matter which one.” Rabbit knocked Ink on his shoulder, “I’m willing to bet everyone here is willing to help too! We all love a bit of adventure and danger. Anything to liven up the day-in and day-out job of mopping messes.”
“I-” Rhys felt at a lost for words, “Don’t know what to say, I never expected for everyone to be so,” Rhys waved his hands in front of him looking for the right word, “Eager to help?”
Leo laughed, “Told you this place isn’t like anywhere on Helios.”
Rhys couldn’t help but laugh along and insist that they all talk out the plan more, everyone started pitching in ideas and plausible obstacles to look out for and be prepared for.
Rhys lit up, his plan now felt more concrete than ever. Any doubts he had vanished, he was going to do this. And, it was going to work. He couldn’t wait to tell Vaughn and Yvette.
“One more thing,” Leo’s tone turned slightly serious, “No more corsets at work, we can’t have you risking yourself like that. If you feel like you must wear it, let us know we’ll try to make things easier for you.” He paused looking intently at Rhys, “Got it Stutters?”
Rhys nodded, “Got it.”
The next chapter will have the good stuff. ;)
Chapter 7: Handsome
New tags y'all.
Also I was debating a bit about tagging it for slightly dubious consent, but technically everything is completely consensual it's just that Jack doesn't know who Rhys is.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tonight, was the night, after more than an entire year of waiting, preparation and uncomfortable wardrobe tests. And where was Rhys now? Sitting fetal position with a full face of makeup and his new arm at the bottom of trash can with bags of trash on top of him. All according to plan.
His heart was pounding, he tried to calm himself and just focus on the slight sound of rolling wheels and footsteps. Ever since his coworkers all offered to help everything changed, every got much more serious. One of the first things they went over were camera positions and blind spots they ended up marking them all on the map in Rhys’ ECHO eye as well as adding tiny markings in paint in the more convenient blind spots just in case. After the first few weeks of run throughs and tests Rhys felt he had everything under control, but he wasn’t so sure now. The real thing always felt different than just a test and everything that could possibly end up going wrong started to run through his head.
What if the night ended with him out the airlock? The whole plan ending the way it started, a corpse out in space. But what if it ended with him being unceremoniously shot? Or what if he never even made it past the front door? He felt his leg start to bounce his heart beating fast, oh god was this even going-
“Calm down Stutters,” A soft whisper came to him from outside, “We’re almost there.”
“You know Buck, calling me ‘Stutters’ it, uh, it-” Rhys paused trying to control himself and try to think of his next words, “Doesn’t help, you know, since it came from me being all clumsy and jumbled.” If Rhys had any room he would be waving his arms around to his words but instead he just held on tighter to his legs.
Buck softly chuckled, “Oh honey, Stutters came from you thinking too far ahead of yourself and messing yourself up. Imagine a skipping record, it only messes up because it misses a ridge in its haste. Just slow and you’ll be fine. Don’t respond just stay quite and we’ll talk when we have more privacy.”
Rhys never thought of that way. It made him wonder if all the nicknames had some sort of actual meaning that he wasn’t getting. What about Ink’s name? Rhys initially thought it was because it was of his tattoos, but then thought it could be something about his ink based welcome or maybe it was about something completely different. Even Leo’s nickname could be from his horoscope or a mix of this first and last name, Rhys guesses it could even be due to his slight lion-like appearance with the beard and all.
Rhys was lost in own thoughts so much he didn’t hear a door creaking but he was brought back to his situation with a quite literal bump as he rolled over a divider between rooms.
“We’re here Stutters,” Buck started to remove the bags from on top of Rhys, it was so bright he had to squint as he crawled out of the cart. He looked around and he was where he was told where he would be earlier, he was in a bathroom, several stalls lining one wall and sinks on the other with a tampon dispenser close to the door. “Get ready, I’ll clean a bit while you do so it seems like I actually did something.” Buck handed Rhys a sizeable bag from one of the cart’s shelves and handed it to Rhys.
“Got it,” Rhys nodded and quickly rushed into one of the stalls. He zipped open the bag and pulled out a white dress with two high slits on either side. He had this handmade just for him all with the help from Pin and Plugs, two men that looked oddly like each other. Both had bleach blonde hair very short hair and ears littered with piercings with Plugs the only one with his ears stretched. Rhys initially thought they were twins or even just brothers, it turned out they were husbands. Rhys was embarrassed as they laughed and told him to worry as ‘They get that all the time”.
Smiling fondly at the memory he quickly took off his work coveralls and put on his corset, before he put on his dress he made sure to check on his tuck. The tape didn’t seem out of place and there wasn’t any bubble-gum going on and he slipped on a c-string just a precaution.
After he got the his clothing situated he left the stall to stand into front of the mirrors, he plopped the bag beside him on the counter. He pulled his wig out of the bag along with the glue, the travel didn’t ruin the hairstyle too much and what was squished was easily fixed. After gluing his wig down he threw on the rest of his jewelry, bracelets and a necklace to help obscure his Adams apple.
He looked up and stared at himself in the mirror, he barely recognized himself, two blue eyes stared back at him. They were just different in the slightest of ways, one glowed just a tad and was a little brighter in colour, though it was almost impossible to tell even if you studied them closely. His tattoos were covered with foundation, a joint effort with a few of his coworkers. His lips painted red and brown eyeshadow across his lids, a tinge of highlight on his cheeks. Even his dreaded eyebrows were covered and replace with ones far daintier and his ECHO port was covered by his wig, after being pre-covered with a small patch of SFX skin.
“Looking good there,” Buck stood beside him, she handed him heels completely white except for the red bottoms, “Thought of a name yet?”
Rhys stepped into the shoes before looking back at himself in the mirror, “I was thinking Echo?”
“Hm, I like it. Do a slow spin for me let me see if anything is out of place.” Rhys stretched out his arms slightly and slowly spun around, Buck hummed and went to smooth the fabric with her hands and touch up the foundation over his tattoos, “Alright, what are the rules?”
“One, use only my ECHO eye to page my coworkers.” Buck nodded, still fussing over Rhys, “Two, do not use my ECHO eye in any place that people can see me use it. If I must use it make sure to cover my face, close my eye or use it alone and in a camera blind spot.”
“And why’s that?” Buck stepped back to look for any other imperfections, and after finding none she took the makeup she had and put it into her own bag on the cart.
“It’s because on Helios there are very little people who have ECHO eyes and even fewer people that have a robot arm and an ECHO eye. As for using my arm the screen makes it far too easy for any prying eyes to see what I’m doing.”
“Good,” Buck lightly patted Rhys on the back a soft smile on her face, “Now go out there have fun, get it done girl.” She winked.
Rhys whispered a soft ‘Okay’ and grabbed the white clutch still left in his bag. Before he left the bathroom he looked over his shoulder at Buck who just gave him a nod with smile and gestured for him to go. He pushed open the door with a creak and left.
Walking down the hallway took for what felt like forever, Rhys wasn’t sure what was louder his heels in the empty hallway or the beating of his heart. The entire way he had his head down watching his feet thinking. He didn’t bring his head up until the sounds of clinking glasses, chatter and footsteps grew louder and closer.
He could see the doors to the Helios Ballroom as soon as he turned the corner, a single guard on the outside. The doors were closed, a few people dressed in fancy clothes that looked like they were asking to get in. Great, he had to get past what as essentially a bouncer. Rhys remembered what Ink told him as advice during one of the many debriefing sessions, ‘If there’s a guard hold your head up and walk confidently, people rarely question someone who looks like they know what they’re doin’ and we’re they’re goin’ just don’t falter’.
Rhys did just that, with a straightened back and a head slightly higher than his usual he strode confidently to the door. Past the group of people and past the guard, he put his hand on the door and pushed.
He was inside, past the door, past the guard, past the everything. He looked around and was enamoured by the marble floors, the high ceilings and the long pillars sculpted in intricate patterns that stretched between the two. On the opposite side of the doors was a large stage were a overly fancy podium and microphone sat alone in the middle. Behind was a large mosaic of one of the many conquests of Handsome Jack on Elpis, a beautiful landscape of the vault standing in a sea of purple and tech. It looked as though it glowed, as if it was lit by the scar of Elpis itself.
Rhys jumped and tried to quickly move away from the door but was quickly grabbed by the guard the quickly emerged from them causing Rhys to drop his clutch and slip causing his heels to make a very loud and very hair-raising screech.
“Got you,” The guard huffed his eyes angry and frustrated, “I don’t know why the hell you people think you’re so goddamned entitled to enter without being on the list.”
Shit, Rhys thought. “I-I am on the list.” Rhys tried to sound as confident as he could but felt himself start to sweat and slowly lose it.
“Sure, whatever.” He started to pull Rhys back towards the exit.
No, no, no. Rhys was panicking, he was so close.
“What’s going on here!?” A voice came and the guard instantly let go of Rhys and straightened his back.
Rhys looked to see the one who spoke and let out a soft gasp before he could stop himself. Handsome Jack, the Handsome Jack in person and so very close. Rhys felt himself start to panic even more, he didn’t even hear the conversation the guard and Handsome Jack had until he turned and faced him.
“You must be new here, I think I would’ve remembered a face, and, uh, legs like those before.” Handsome Jack loosely gestured to Rhys’ legs.
Say something, Rhys quickly thought. “I- uh,” perfect, elegant. Rhys swallowed, breathed in as he closed his eyes and exhaled in an attempt to reset himself before trying again. “Yes,” Rhys was attempting a more feminine voice he had been practicing, “I heard from a little birdie that there was this party being held that perfect. I knew I just had to see it for myself.” Rhys was hoping a little praise would help his situation.
“Well gorgeous,” Rhys’ heart jumped Handsome Jack just called him gorgeous, “I hope everything has been just as you hoped.” The guard tried to interrupt but Jack glared at him and he quickly retreated back to his post outside the door. “Now may I be so lucky to get the name of this beautiful woman in front of me?” Rhys paused for a second forgetting that for a second he was dressed up as a woman, in his slight confusion Handsome Jack took his hand and brought it to his mouth and lightly kissed it above the knuckles.
Rhys gasped before quickly stating, “I go by Echo,” Not thinking it was enough Rhys thought of the perfect thing to add, he lifted his gaze with a mischievous squint and smile, “But some, call me Gorgeous.” Handsome Jack chuckled and Rhys counted that as a win and did an internal fist pump.
“Well, Gorgeous Echo,” Rhys beamed with being called gorgeous a second time, “I’m Handsome Jack.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” If Rhys didn’t have to stay calm and in disguise he’d be freaking out and probably screaming with how his hand was being held Handsome Jack,
“The pleasure is all mine, Cupcake. Now, may I ask you for a dance.” Jack asked with a smile that made Rhys’ knees go weak.
“O-oh my g-,” Rhys cleared his throat, “Yes, I’d be honoured.” With that Handsome Jack led Rhys by his hand down the stairs, letting Rhys pick up his clutch in the process, and into the middle of the ballroom floor. The other attendees quickly moved clearing the way and making sure to give them a wide berth.
Once in the middle Handsome Jack continued to hold onto Rhys’ and put his other hand on Rhys’ waist, Rhys couldn’t help but focus how warm where his hand was on his waist while he mindlessly putting his hand onto Handsome Jack’s shoulder. He just couldn’t believe his luck, Rhys, a janitor, slow dancing with Handsome Jack the great big bad CEO himself.
“So, you we’re saying you just heard about this party?” Handsome Jack’s voice seemed to be quieter than it was before, it made everything feel more intimate.
“Yeah, I heard some people I work with talk about it and how it was the place to be around this time of year.”
Handsome Jack laughed, “Does that mean you came and crashed the party uninvited.” Rhys gaped, he tried to open his mouth to defend himself or make any sort of excuse before Handsome Jack laughed again but a little bit harder and cut him off, “That takes some balls to come and crash a party on Helios. Lucky for you that’s something I can appreciate.” He said with a wink.
Rhys’ full demeanor relaxed and felt himself grow more courageous. “Well, what can I say? I’m a person with some real balls.” Handsome Jack let out an even heartier laugh, pausing in their slow dance to laugh.
Once he was finished laughing he pulled Rhys in closer and put his other hand onto Rhys’ waist which prompted Rhys to put his other hand on Handsome Jack’s other shoulder. They were almost chest to chest, even with the heels bringing Rhys to a height taller than Handsome Jack’s Rhys couldn’t help but feel as though they were almost face to face. The world around them started to blur and all Rhys could do was focus on the man in front of him, everything else in this moment meant nothing to him and along with that he felt his heart beat faster but not from being scared.
“That’s not a very lady-like thing to say there Gorgeous.” Handsome Jack’s voice was an octave lower than before and along with the glint in his eyes Rhys could feel himself heat up.
Rhys hummed before answering, “Handsome Jack-.”
“Call me Jack, Babe.”
“Okay, Jack.” Rhys smiled, genuinely, “I never did say I was a lady.” Rhys knew he was walking a thin line with his jokes but he was hoping that with the tone he said it in would make it seem like he was alluding to anything other than being a literal man.
Jack’s eyebrows rose, “Oh? How so?” He had a teasing smile on his face.
Rhys had no idea what took over him when he leaned in a little bit closer and spoke in an almost whisper, “If there was a more private place, I’d show you exactly what I mean.” When Rhys leaned back he saw Jack’s face change and his eyes quickly dart around. Thinking he messed up Rhys was about to backtrack and see if he could fix what he said.
Before Rhys could even open his mouth Jack swiftly detached all but one of his hands from Rhys and pulled him into the crowd towards the direction of the backstage. Rhys’ heart started to beat even faster, which he didn’t even think was possible, as he realised what was happening. Rhys sped up his pace so it was more like they were walking hand-in-hand rather than Jack leading him.
Jack led him backstage and into a private room as soon as the door shut and the lock clicked Jack spun around and grabbed Rhys by his waist pulling him in for a kiss. Rhys’ eyes went wide and it took a few seconds for him to calm down enough to let himself let himself get lost in it and close his eyes.
The kissing started as slow closed mouthed pecks but soon Rhys felt Jack’s tongue touch his lips and that soft kissing turned into a messy make-out as Rhys let Jack’s tongue. Jack tasted like he had several cocktails and glasses of champagne, a mixture of sweet fruit and alcohol filling Rhys’ mouth.
Rhys hooked both his hands behind Jack’s head and let them hang while he let Jack have his hands slowly roam over his hips, legs, back and butt. His skin feeling warm all over but the skin where Jack’s hands slid across felt incredibly hotter. He was completely revelling in the feeling of Jack’s big hands all over his body. Rhys was completely content with just kissing, at least he thought he was until he felt Jack’s hips grind into one of his legs, and Rhys soon realised that he wanted more.
Sliding his hands onto Jack’s chest Rhys separated himself from Jack’s lips with a soft pop and what he thought would be a moment of bedroom eyes and excitement turned into Rhys trying to stifle his laughter as he saw his lipstick smeared all over Jack’s mouth and teeth.
Jack seemed confused at first until he too started to chuckle, “Well Sweetheart your mouth didn’t fare much better.” His hands were still resting on Rhys’ hips.
Rhys dipped his head and looked at Jack through his lashes, “We should see where else we can get lipstick.” Jack didn’t respond with words but instead with a nod and growing grin.
Rhys let himself slowly go to his knees in front of Jack, letting his hands drag slowly from his chest all the way to Jack’s hips. Jack leaned back and rested his upper body against the door spreading his legs to make more room for Rhys. Rhys looked up at Jack through his lashes and with a sexiest smile he could conjure and started to unbuckle and unzip Jack’s pants.
Rhys was greeted with the sight of black boxer briefs and a bulge that looked absolutely enticing. Using his left hand Rhys went to stroking the bulge feeling it grow bigger and harder as time went on. Jack exhaled and moved to get more pressure from Rhys’ hand.
Sensing his impatience Rhys pulled Jack out of his underwear. His cock was only half hard but was quickly hardening. Rhys licked his lips as he started to pump Jack to his full hardness. Rhys was fascinated by watching Jack grow bigger and harder in his hand, his cock everything he ever hoped for and more. Thick, long, uncircumcised, veiny and clean.
Rhys titled his head to the side and left slow sloppy open-mouthed kisses all the way to the base of Jack’s cock of where Rhys sucked and massaged with his mouth enjoying taste of him on his lips and his musk of him in his nose. He heard Jack slightly groan above him, excited and spurred on Rhys pulled back to open his mouth to properly suck on Jack’s cock.
He made sure to at first give plenty of attention to the slit on the tip of the head before taking Jack in deeper, Rhys positioned himself in such a way that Jack’s dick was rubbing on the top of his mouth. He brought his left hand up to the base of Jack’s cock and gave circular motions from the base to his mouth when he went down. He started slow with heavy sucking on the way back up, but soon Rhys sped up and the noises he was making got more and more sloppy and loud.
Jack moaned above him, Rhys tried to look up at him but saw his head titled back so he slowed until Jack looked down at him and with as much as a smile he could muster with a dick still in his mouth Rhys went down and swallowed Jack entirely, his nose nestled within the curly hairs at the base of Jack's cock.
Jack groaned louder and Rhys set to a brutal pace with a hum, for the most part Jack just leaned back and let himself enjoy Rhys’ ministrations. His breathing grew faster and Rhys felt Jack put his hands on his head in his hair. Rhys was about to let it happen until with a jump he remembered he was wearing a wig, he quickly and almost rudely removed Jack’s hands.
There was silence, Rhys feeling he might’ve just messed up again. He pulled himself off of Jack and held grabbed hold of Jack’s hands and guided them to his neck, “No hair pulling, I want to look at least a little presentable when we leave this room.”
Jack’s eyes widen before he shook his head with a chuckle, “You are a treat. Y’know that babe?” Rhys just smiled and went to return to giving the most enjoyable head he has ever given before Jack let one hand go and grabbed his dick himself.
Knowing what Jack wanted Rhys left his hands fall into his lap and opened his mouth as Jack slid himself in and started fucking his mouth. What started with controlled thrusts soon devolved into harsher and deeper thrusts and Rhys had to squeeze his eyes shut and focus on controlling his gag reflex as Jack’s cock prodded at the back of his throat. Soon Rhys felt comfortable enough to try and loosen his throat and hum, vibrating Jack’s cock as it passed through his mouth. Jack’s moans and groans grew more frequent and louder, his thrusts getting even more uncontrolled.
Jack put pressure into his hands and squeezed Rhys’ throat enough to cut off his breathing but gentle enough to be almost reassuring. Keeping his hands wrapped around Rhys’ throat Jack continued to fuck himself into the warm heat of Rhys’ mouth, the strangling only adding to the pleasure.
Soon Jack pulled himself out of Rhys mouth and started to jerk himself to completion. Rhys positioned his mouth over the cock’s head and Jack let him resume sucking. It didn’t take long before the back of Jack’s head hit the door with a groaned ‘Fuck’ leaving his lips and he was spilling onto Rhys’ tongue.
Rhys felt every jerk of Jack’s cock as it spurted every salty line of cum into his mouth. Even when Jack was completely spent Rhys continued to milk him with his mouth. He felt Jack’s entire body shake in his post orgasm his mouth open and his breathing hard. Rhys bobbed a few more times before pulling himself off of Jack’s softening dick with a smile.
“Ho-ho-holy crap, babe.” Jack took one his hands and framed Rhys’ face and slid his thumb over his lip. In that moment Rhys let his mouth open and stuck out his tongue slightly to show off the cum still in his mouth. A white puddle on his tongue with spots of white deeper in his mouth. Rhys slowly closed his mouth and made a show of swallowing, he stuck his tongue out the same as before but this time showing off a now clean mouth.
Jack quickly stuffed himself into his pants and pulled Rhys up onto his feet to capture his mouth in another crushing kiss. They stood there for awhile tonguing at each other enjoying each other’s taste. It was silent save for the soft smacking of lips all until Jack’s watch started to beep.
“Ah, crap.” Jack pulled away turning the alarm on his watch off, “As much as I want to continue and maybe do little something for you, I gotta go.” Jack patted himself down until he found what he was looking for, a business card and a pen. He crossed out whatever name was on there previously and wrote his own message. “Call me whenever babe, if I don’t see you after my speech I sure as hell want to see you another day.” With that he gave Rhys a couple of finger guns after handing him the card and rushed out the door rubbing at his mouth.
Rhys was left there standing by himself with a self-satisfied smile, he looked down on the card he held. ‘Call me, <3 HJ’ followed by a phone number was hastily written in black. Rhys held the card close to his chest and pranced in place celebrating silently. Remembering he still had lipstick smeared all over his face he took a mirror out from his clutch, his entire mood dropped. It was like someone poured ice water all over him.
Rhys just had this amazing night with Handsome Jack himself, but Handsome Jack shared that night with someone else. Rhys quickly cleaned up his mouth the best he could in the shortest amount of time possible. Before leaving the room he sent out a page to his coworkers, asking for a pickup. As soon as he got a response he started to swiftly leave the room, crossed the ballroom floor while the speech was being set up and Rhys left the party all together. He pushed past the guard and another group of people trying to get in.
Rhys wasn’t in any state to actually notice any looked he might’ve gotten, he was too focused on what just happened. He messed up, he messed up bad. Jack just gave Rhys, no, Jack just gave Echo his number and was expecting a call from her. Except, there is no Echo, there’s only Rhys.
Soon Rhys found himself in the designated bathroom for pickup, he beelined for the nearest stall and as soon as it was locked he pulled some wipes from his clutch and wiped furiously at his face. He was on the verge of a breakdown, he could feel it, it took all his willpower not to succumb to it.
The familiar creak of the door broke the silence and was soon followed by “Stutters? You here?” Rhys creaked open the stall door to find Buck looking at him with concern. “Rhys, baby, wants wrong?” She could tell Rhys was struggling to keep it together, he looked as if he were on the verge of tears.
“Buck, I messed up.”
He then rode back to the maintenance in the trash can he arrived in but this time in sadness.
A reminder that this is not beta-read, any mistakes throw them at me I guess. It's 4am when I'm posting and I start school in 2 days, yeehaw.
Chapter 8: The Average Time to Wait
I should mention that I'm not planning on dropping this fic, and even if I do I will without a doubt let everyone know. I've just have been busy with University midterms, essays and other University stuff.
(also *cough* *cough* borderlands 3 *cough*)
ANYWAY, enjoy this dialogue heavy chapter, because apparently I like to write dialogue.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Feeling that the water in his tub was hot enough Jack started to strip, preparation to soak and relax after a party that had left an almost bittersweet taste in his mouth. The department heads and other aspiring ass-kissers swarmed him as soon as his speech was finished, their insistent droning was nothing but incoherent rambling to Jack as he was more concerned with another rendezvous with a certain long-legged Echo. Unable to find her again left Jack feeling a bit disappointed and with a feeling he messed up somehow, a feeling he immediately tried to shake off and push down. Handsome Jack doesn’t just “mess up”.
The memory of their encounter made itself clear as Jack looked down at himself. His cock was a vibrant red, the sight of it made Jack laugh as he closely examined himself more. The red went all around with almost no skin appearing unstained. He was almost hesitant to step into the bath not wanting to wash the physical reminder off him. The idea that He’d meet her again and a promise to get more marks on himself and to leave on some her was able to quell any second thoughts.
“What do you mean you can’t find her?” Jack sighed rubbing the bridge of his nose. It was the morning after the party, the best time for Jack to do whatever he wants without any interruptions from department heads.
“I’m sorry sir, but It seems there is no record of any Echo that matches her description on Helios.” A voice came from the monitor to Jack’s right, the screen showing nothing but a blue voice wave.
“Angel, you don’t have to call me sir this is a private line.”
“I’m sorry… Dad.”
Jack sighed, “You don’t have to- You know what, never mind, moving on. What do you mean there’s no Echo that matches her description on Helios?”
“Perhaps she gave you a fake name? Or, at the very least a name that she isn’t registered under?”
“Who’s the one that matches her description the closest? Like a different hair colour or whatever?”
“There’s no Echo with an artificial right arm.”
“Ah.” Jack leaned back in his chair releasing a frustrated huff. After the party there were no calls, no messages, no nothing. Jack tried to do some digging on his own, he had no luck and went to Angel sure that the Siren who could control the entirety of Helios could be able to help. So far, it was a bust. “What about the cameras? We can track her from there, right?”
“Normally yes, but it seems that she enters an area without camera supervision, we lose her from there.”
“L-lose her?! What place on Helios doesn’t have cameras?”
“We have some blind spots, but they are impossible to leave without entering a camera’s view, oh, and bathrooms.”
“So, she just lives in the bathroom?
“I doubt that.”
“Where does she end up then?”
Jack huffs again. Jack was starting to doubt that Echo was even real. Did he hallucinate the whole encounter? He was sure Angel would be able to help How the hell was this chick able to hide from Angel? “So, what do you suggest we do?”
There was a long pause until Angel gave a hesitant, “Wait?”
Jack mulled over the suggestion for less than a second before pushing it aside, “Did you search the database for anyone matching description?”
“There’s no one on the station that has black hair, blue eyes, cybernetic right arm and matches her height. Not even someone who matches her height and cybernetic arm, leaving out any other descriptors.”
This time Jack couldn’t help but let out a yell of frustration, “This is friggin’ dumb. So, she appeared from a-?”
“The bathroom down corridor B on floor 69,” Jack let out a chuckle and before he could ask another question Angel quickly interrupted, “She disappeared in another bathroom, down corridor F on the same floor.”
“What do those two bathrooms have in common?”
“Other than both being woman’s bathrooms, they basically have the same layout.”
“That’s it? Is there anyway one could sneak out without being seen?”
“Well, they both have air vents.”
Jack half scoffed and half laughed, “A-are you suggesting that Echo, who was a sharply dressed and expensive looking lady, crawled through the probably super dusty air vents? Where would she even end up?”
“It’s a possibility. As for where she would end up, it’s hard to tell. The vents have gone under construction and the blueprints I have access to have not been updated, nor are there cameras in the vents.”
“Ah, I should get those to you then.” The was a long pause of awkward silence, “Inform security and whoever else you suggest to keep an eye out for her.”
“Are you sure, si- Dad?”
“Am I- am I sure?” Jack laughs, “Why wouldn’t I be sure?”
“It seems a little soon, it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours, or even twelve hours. I still suggest that waiting for at least a few days might be your best course of action. According to the ECHOnet the average amount people wait before giving a text or call can range anywhere from one to seven days.”
Jack sunk deeper into his chair crossing his arms and mumbled, “That’s firggin’ dumb.” If Angel could see him, she’d describe Jack’s current state similar t that of a pouting child.
Jack huffs and throws his hands up giving a loud, “Fine!” followed by a mumble of, “I’ll wait a day or something.” Jack started to slowly peck at his computer’s keyboard starting to type up an order to update the digital vent blueprints. ‘She better call.” Jack mumbled.
“Yeah, I’d hate to think what would happen if she didn’t…” Angel was barely audible, the wave of on the monitor barely moving to the sound of her voice.
“Huh? What was that Angel?”
“Nothing! Anyway, I gotta go, stuff to do. Bye!” Angel promptly disconnected from the call so quickly Jack didn’t have anytime to react.
Jack was left in a silence that was only disturbed by the slow clacking of him poking at his keyboard, still mulling over Angel’s suggestion. Jack quickly rose in his seat to quickly order security to keep an eye out for Echo, but not to broadcast it lest they want to permanently surrender their jobs. Jack decided he will wait to see if Echo would call, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t do anything to try and find her.
“When are you going to tell us what happened at the party?” Yvette asked Rhys over lunch, which Rhys paid for. Once more they all met in Rhys’ and Vaughn’s shared apartment.
“Yeah, you were so excited about it not you’re all,” Vaughn mimicked closing a zipper over his mouth making a “zppt” sound as he did so. “It’s kind of worrying, bro.”
Rhys sighed. He wanted to tell them, but he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Maybe he could leave out some details and just have the whole encounter left vague. He also didn’t really want to admit that that he was so quick to run off with a man he just met, regardless of him hearing and learning of said man for most of his corporate life. Rhys over the course of his career developed a reputation of being solely career-focused, ignoring relationships in favour of rising the ranks in his department.
Pushing around the vegetables on his plate he avoided eye contact with either Yvette or Vaughn when he started, “I, uh, might have come into contact with someone dangerous?” Rhys stated as more of a question rather a fact. He still wasn’t sure of the outcome that would befall him, but he was sure it would be something unfavourable.
“Dangerous? What do you mean dangerous?” Vaughn asked with his mouth full, he quickly swallowed before continuing, “Like fire you dangerous or might murder you dangerous or might ruin your reputation dangerous?” Vaughn gasped, “Are you being blackmailed?! Did some withered old man find out you were a man cross- “
“Vaughn, no! Stop it’s nothing like that.” Rhys paused, “I, uh, hope?” Rhys was anything but confident.
“Well, that’s reassuring.” Yvette added, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “Just tell us what happened.”
Rhys looked around the room, he was unsure if he was looking for something to change topics to or an excuse to not share. “Uhmm,” Rhys’ mind was trying to quickly come up with some sort or story. The growing worried expression on Vaughn’s face and Yvette’s expectant expression both served to make Rhys panic more. “Handsome Jack!” Rhys blurted out, he immediately berated himself mentally.
“What do you mean Handsome Jack? Oh my go-” Yvette was quick to push Vaughn over interrupting him midsentence.
“Ignore worrywart over here and just get on with the story. Did you talk to, or just see Handsome Jack?”
“Uhm, Yes?” Rhys gave Yvette a struggle of a smile.
Yvette let a frustrated sigh, “So, you talked to him?” Rhys nodded, “Was is a good conversation?”
“Define good and, uh, define conversation.”
“Oh, you absolute dumbass- Why do I even hang out with you?” Yvette groaned, “Just, just tell the story. The entire thing, start when you walked through the door, and don’t leave out any details so you don’t bust what’s left of your braincells.”
“Okay, okay, okay!” Rhys ran his flesh hand through his hair, “Um, so, I was almost caught by the guard, or rather I was caught by the guard, but then Handsome Jack just kind of, “Rhys made a swooping motion with his arms, “And pushed the guard aside, and, he then, um, he, uh,” Rhys felt himself blush, avoiding eye contact with either of his friends he quickly continued, “Asked me to dance with him. I mean, we talked a bit too, And, I, uh…” Unsure of what to say next Rhys just made vague hand motions.
“And you what?” Yvette leaned forward; Rhys felt like she was trying to stare into his soul.
“I, uh, might’ve,” Rhys’ voiced turned into a whisper, “gotten his number.”
“YOU WHAT?!” Yvette yelled loud enough to startle both Rhys and Vaughn.
“What? What’d he say? I didn’t hear!” Vaughn moved to sit back up from where he was pushed over.
“What did you do to get yourself Handsome Jack’s number? Is it even his personal number?”
“YOU GOT HANDSOME JACK’S NUMBER?!” Vaughn yelled enough for Yvette to cringe at the outburst.
“Ow, okay, no more yelling. We’re going to not yell anymore, quiet voices from now on.” Rhys sighed, “Yeah, I got Handsome Jack’s number. I, uh, don’t know if it’s his personal number,” Rhys went quiet again avoiding the eyes of his friends, “I, uh, haven’t called him, and I don’t know if I should.”
“Rhys,” Yvette’s voice was oddly stable.
“No, Rhys, you need to call Handsome Jack.”
“Okay, but how?”
“What do you mean how?”
“Like, I just, just can’t, “Rhys waved his hands around, “call him. Not on any of my tech unless I want to be found out.”
Yvette leaned back, crossing her arms. She looked up to the ceiling deep in contemplation.
“Why not just use the pay phones down in the hub?” Vaughn interjected.
“We have pay phones in the hub?” Rhys rose his eyebrows
Yvette looked at Vaughn surprised, “Yeah, even I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, there’s pay phones in the hub. I use them to call mom, the connection is more stable.” Vaughn pushed up his glasses looking smug he knew something Yvette didn’t.
“Okay, pay phones, but it’s in public there’s cameras in there. If he even just glances at them he can obviously see, well, me. I can’t just walk down into the hub like Rhys and call Handsome Jack when he’s expecting Echo.”
“Then go as Echo numbnuts.” Yvette rolled her eyes.
“I mean you did do it once so you can do it again, bro.”
“Why are you so keen on helping me this time?”
“I just don’t think it’s good to ghost Handsome Jack, it seems like,” Vaughn paused as he tried to figure out his words, “Like a really bad idea, bro.”
“I agree with Vaughn here, also, I have the perfect dress for you to wear.” Rhys gave her an unconvinced look, “What? It’s a dress that was a gift from an ex-girlfriend. I don’t really want to keep it around. And, it’ll fit you it has a flared skirt.”
“So, you’re both saying that I should do what I did for the party? Get chauffeured around in the trash by my coworkers, dress up as Echo and then call Handsome Jack via the pay phones in the hub? Then what?” Yvette and Vaughn shared a look, then they both shrugged, “Wow, how helpful, glad you’re both so full of insight.”
“Lay off the sass, besides you’re the one that somehow wrangled Handsome Jack’s number from him.” Rhys blushed and turned his head, “Honestly, I’m surprised nothing has happened yet. It has been three days since the party.”
Rhys could see Vaughn fiddling with his glasses from the corner of his eye, “Well, according to the ECHOnet the average time someone waits before calling or texting ranges from one to seven days. So, you’re still in the clear, bro.”
“Fine! I’ll go get my stuff and whatever and wear Yvette’s dress.” Rhys threw up his hands as he stood from his seat and grumpily walked to his bathroom.
“You owe me more lunch for the dress!” Yvette yelled after him, the only response she got was a frustrated yell.
Rhys was fussing over his appearance in the women’s bathroom in one of the bathrooms close to the hub. It was Buck who dropped him off again, everyone in maintenance seemed to be wary about Rhys’ choice but they all agreed that leaving Handsome Jack hanging was a bad idea. They also agreed that they didn’t really know what to say or do about the situation and told Rhys since he was the only one that ever really held a proper conversation with Handsome Jack he’d be the best to come up with the response.
Rhys stepped back to look at himself fully in the bathroom mirror. He was wearing the same arm and wig as before, the only difference there was the wig some slightly looser curls. The dress Yvette gave him was red with white polka dots, it came in around the waist with a large band that matched the dress’ fabric and it had a sweetheart neckline with a halter strap. The bottom did flare out like Yvette said and you could see a bit of tool underneath. Rhys decided to buy some stockings and matching red heels to complete the look. If he had to describe the look it really reminded him of those vintage pin-up posters, minus the breasts. He looked pretty good if he said so himself, and it gave him a confidence boost, all until he thought about what he was about to do. Taking a deep breath to calm his nerves Rhys pushed open the door and started to make his way.
Walking down the hallway he couldn’t help but notice the heads that turned to look at him, he felt they were all studying him. He could’ve sworn he heard a few whisper to each other as he walked past, he couldn’t hear what they said but his imagination was less than helpful giving him ideas. He did his best to keep his confident stride, head up with stable steps.
After a walk from the bathroom, that felt like forever, Rhys made it to the hub. Was there more people than normal? Or was his brain just playing tricks on him? Also was everyone staring at him or was that just him? Walking through the crowd he somehow prevented himself from looking around or making eye contact with anyone, god he could feel his heart beating like it was in his throat. Finally, he was at the pay phones. No one were using them except himself, at least that gave him some sort of privacy. Rhys did some deep breathing exercises to calm himself, although he wasn’t completely calm he felt like he was able to dislodge his heart from his throat and speak again. Digging out the credits he took out specifically for this call from his waistband he dropped them into the phone. With one last deep breath he started to dial the number on the card Handsome Jack gave him.
I can believe these men actually listen to advice the ECHOnet.
OH, I also started up a NSFW Twitter
in the past while.
Chapter 9: Little Nudges
When I look at this it doesn't feel like 3.2k words, but I guess it is? Also I really wanted to name this chapter some sort of eating out innuendo.
Also I wrote basically most of this chapter, if not literally all of it, during classes at university.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Friggin’ finally.” Jack’s personal echo was ringing, there was only one person he was expecting to call. Jack’s personal echo rarely rang, most people he would ever talk to on it were far out of its range and instead required the use of Helios’ communication system. Those that were close enough to use his echo he often just visited them, or he would be the one to call. “Angel, find where the signal is coming from and if she’s in public pull up a cam.”
Very quickly the monitor of his computer was pulled up to the security camera in the hub, it was focused on the pay phones. Echo leaning up against one of the walls, she had a sombre emotion to her. Overall Jack would describe her as that picture perfect imagine of a lovelorn lady who, without any other way to call, using a pay phone. An imagine he felt was something you would only really see in depictions in more vintage or classic films.
Jack’s awe was quickly submerged by a feeling of annoyance as soon as he realised that with Echo using the pay phones, he had no personal number or even any sort of digital phone trail to follow her from. It also put Echo in control of when they could talk phone-wise. With a slight huff of annoyance, he answered the call.
“Hey, Gorgeous. I was wondering if you were going to call or just leave me hanging.” Jack kept studying Echo through his monitor, he felt a little creepy doing so but he reasoned with himself. He told himself that he was allowed it this one time since Echo was able to outmaneuver all his security and tracking systems and hide from him finding her. That and she didn’t call Jack for an extended amount of time, but definitely more because of her outmaneuvering and definitely not due to Jack’s lack of patience.
Jack watched Echo fiddle with the phone cord before answering, “Hey, Handsome. You can’t blame a lady for wanting to settle all her errands before getting to her reward, can you?”
Jack gave her a hearty laugh, “You really know how to butter up a man don’t you, baby?” Echo gave him a light chuckle, “I have to ask, why are you using the pay phones?”
“A lady has her reasons, but how could you tell?”
“It shows up on my caller ID.” It doesn’t but Echo didn’t need to know that, and as such Jack quickly changed topics, “Have you eaten dinner yet?”
Echo hummed before answering, “What would you do if I said that I have?”
“Well, I’d just have to suggest another idea for a date.”
There was mock surprise in her voice, “You were asking me on a date? Lucky for you, I haven’t eaten yet.” She paused, her sentence ending as if she just realised something, “But, I, uh, did not expect a dinner date. I didn’t put much thought into my appearance today.” She mumbled.
“Baby, Echo,” Jack laughed, “If that’s you with barely any thought in your appearance then that’s more thought than most people working on Helios.”
Echo gave another pause, “So, you are watching me through the cameras.” Jack could just hear the smile in her voice, he cursed under his breath. “It’s impolite to watch without permission.” Jack watched his monitor and saw Echo’s head turn towards the camera he was using and winked.
“Alright, alright, you caught me. You can’t blame a man for being a little eager to see a gorgeous lady, can you? Jack wasn’t able to determine if he should be annoyed at himself for slipping so easily or annoyed with Echo for being able to make him slip so easily.
“I wonder,” Echo chuckled.
“Okay, stay right there you fox. I’ll be down there in a second and I’ll take you for the best damn dinner you’ll ever have.” Jack said standing from his desk and logging out of his computer.
“Oh? Is that a promise?”
“Bet your gorgeous face it is, be right there baby.” Jack clicked off his echo, eager to finish closing up to get down to the hub.
“So, you were found out.” Angel appeared through a screen in his office.
“Shush, you, forget that happened.” Jack couldn’t help being a little embarrassed by his mess up, and the only one he would ever even think about knowing was Angel. He couldn’t really hide anything from her if she wanted to know about it.
“She’s interesting.” Angel hummed.
“Oh? What makes you say that now?”
Angel softly snorted, “She knows how to handle you. It’s a rare trait, I can’t help but wonder about her even more now.”
“Oh, so being able to avoid you and all our systems for finding people makes her,” Jack shrugs and waves his arms a bit, “ehh, kind of interesting, or whatever. But when she’s able to get me to tell her I’m watching her through the cameras makes her super interesting?”
“Yep.” Angel popped.
“You’re lucky I have a date otherwise I’d be asking you more questions young lady.” Jack scolded.
“Don’t be late.” Angel sang after Jack as he left his office, the doors slide close behind him leaving Angel chuckling to herself through the monitor’s speakers.
Rhys was nervous, he was playing with the hem of his dress with both his hands. Lightly wringing the fabric with his fingers as he panicked internally.
Such a dumb thing, to accept Handsome Jack’s dinner date. What was he going to do? Rhys was mentally berating himself, how is he going to keep up this mysterious charade. He was planning on cutting off contact, maybe by making up a lie how he had to leave Helios for work and that he was only on this station for some business-related meetings and only went to the party to pass the time. Honestly, Rhys wasn’t even sure Handsome Jack would’ve bought that lie, or if he would’ve let Rhys go without some sort of connection. Or maybe he would’ve not cared at all? Rhys can’t pin down how Jack really feels about him…
Rhys sighed with his line of thought, he already knew what Handsome Jack thought about him. Rhys didn’t really exist to him. To Handsome Jack, Echo exists while Rhys doesn’t. Rhys knew he had it off with Handsome Jack, for a multitude of reasons. Alright, Rhys made up his mind, he had to cut ties between Echo and Handsome Jack.
A hand clasped around Rhys’ waist, he gasped but was able to supress any loud noises from escaping while he turned to the offending person. “Sup, Cupcake.” It was Handsome Jack, “Deep in thought?” Jack saw Rhys’ hands playing with the hem of his dress. “What did I say? You look better than most, if not all, of Helios. Save for me.” Handsome Jack took a step back and admired Rhys’ full outfit now he was facing him. “Wow, I thought you looked good from afar. You look even better up close.”
“I, uh,” Rhys paused gathering his confidence before talking, “Thank you.”
Replacing his hand back on Rhys’ waist Jack started to guide them both out of the hub. “I’ve got the perfect place in mind for us to go. It’s a real fancy place, only the best for the best.”
“The best? How so?” Rhys hummed.
“Oh man, it’s got the best steaks, meat that just melts in your mouth. They got some pretty good wine too. Plus, the reservation wait list is like months long, like every good place has really long wait lists.” Jack’s free hand was gesturing as he spoke.
“And you just so happened to get a reservation for us today?”
“Baby, please, my reservation is ‘I’m Handsome Jack!’.”
“So, other than steak what else is good that they serve?”
“I heard their salmon is pretty good, and their chicken. They have some pasta, probably, I don’t really go there and when I do, I usually only get the steak.”
“You don’t usually go there? Why not?”
You sure are asking a lot of questions.” Jack laughed, “It’s kind of a hassle to go there all the time, I mean I could always get them to deliver to me, because, y’know, I’m Handsome Jack. But the food isn’t that good for that hassle either.”
“Pfffftt,” Jack shot Rhys a raised eyebrow, “Let’s go somewhere else then. I know this place that I could eat from everyday and never get sick of their food, I mean I already kind of do, but you get the idea. I don’t really like to eat meat, upsets my stomach.”
“Upsets your stomach, eh?” Jack chuckled, “A good thing to know. Well, Gorgeous, lead away.” Shooting Jack a grin, Rhys slipped his hand around Jack’s waist and took over the leading.
Taking a leisurely pace, Rhys took Jack down a few corridors. Their conversation along the way had no urgency nor did it have any real subject, just aimless small talk filled with jokes and comfortable silence. The place Rhys had in mind wasn’t far from the main hub, it was at least a five-minute walk. Rhys almost wished it was longer, the warmth of Jack’s hand and body pressed into his waist was a comfortable feeling he was sad to have Jack let go.
“This is the place?” Jack almost scoffed, they were both standing in front of a contemporary styled restaurant hanging above was “The Veg Shack” spelt in wooden letters. “The Veg Shack?” Jack chuckled reading the name.
“It’s the best place to eat out.” Rhys grinned gesturing to the slogan written beside the door.
“O-oh my god, do they know how that sounds?” Jack laughed, a huge grin on his face.
“Trust me, they know.” Rhys gave Jack another grin as he grabbed his hand and dragged him through the entrance of the restaurant.
The staff upon seeing Jack immediately sprung into action, barely the man enough time to look around before guiding him to one of their best tables. The inside was just as contemporary as the outside. Stool sat around some high-rise counters and tables while there were some booths and chairs at lower tables, the place itself wasn’t packed but it wasn’t empty either.
Jack and Rhys were sat at one of the corner booths that had more privacy from the rest of the restaurant. Menus were quickly sat on the table and with a quick introduction from the waiter and drink orders, strawberry milkshake for Rhys and a cola for Jack, they were left alone to decide their meals. While looking at their menus Rhys saw a mix of emotion on Jack’s face.
“Is, uh, is this place a vegan place?” Jack’s voice was full of skepticism.
“Yeah, it is The Veg Shack.” Rhys soon saw Jack subtly cringe, Rhys kick nudged him under the table, “Don’t be like that! Have an open mind, if you go into vegan food thinking it’s going to suck then it’s going to suck.” There was a playful tone to Rhys’ voice.
“Hey, I didn’t say anything.” Jack said while kick nudging Rhys back.
“Maybe not vocally, but your face told enough.” Rhys returned the nudge.
“My face? Of course, you’d be staring at my face, I can’t blame you. I am Handsome Jack.” Jack gave another nudge.
Rhys gave a huff and nudged Jack back. Soon a game of slightly aggressive, but still playful, game of footsies emerged. Both of them where braced on the table using their feet to nudge and kick at one another, no sounds other than the occasional sound of exertion. Jack was able to knock off one of Rhys’ heels and was quick enough to drag it close to himself so he could pick it up and steal it.
Rhys gasped, “You thief!” Jack only chuckled in response and made foot movements trying to steal Rhys’ other heel.
It was only until the waiter returned with their drinks did Rhys and Jack’s game of footsies stopped, both quickly fixing how they sat instead.
After the waiter placed their drinks down asked, “Have you decided on your orders yet?”
Jack and Rhys gave each other a look before Rhys stated, “Not yet, thank you.” The waiter nodded and said she’ll give a few more minutes and left. Once the waiter was gone Rhys and Jack started to quietly laugh to each other before going back to looking at their menus.
“What do you even suggest I eat? I’m not really a,” Jack gave pause, “A veggie person, like I’ll eat my vegetables but, you know, every meal needs some sort of protein in it.”
“Don’t imply you can only get protein from meat and animal products,” Rhys huffed, “Buut, if you want a meal that’s more meaty, meat-like, tastes like meat.” Rhys paused confused by his own words, “You should try the Super Seitan Steak. It’s not like exactly like meat but it’s still really good and flavourful, it has a nice variety of sides too.”
“The Super Seitan Steak, hm. What’re you getting?” Rhys could tell Jack wasn’t sold on the whole vegan thing.
“I’m thinking of getting the Savoury-” Rhys coughed and slightly blushed as he realised the name of the item, “The, uh, Savoury Long Schlong.” Rhys’ voice became quieter as he spoke.
Jack broke out into loud laughter leaning over the table as he couldn’t control himself in his fit of laughter.
Rhys tried to hush him, “Shuddup! It’s a savoury faux sausage burrito wrap thing and it comes with fruit on the side!” Rhys quietly yelled at Jack.
Once he was calmer Jack waved calling back the waiter, upon her arrival Jack was quick to order, “I’ll get the Super Seitan Steak with fries and gravy on the side.” Jack looked at Rhys and started to snicker, “And this lovely lady will get the Savoury Long Schlong with fruit.” Rhys was kicking him under the table with his shoeless foot.
The waiter looks to Rhys, “What size would you like your Schlong, ma’am?” Jack was trying to hold his laughter in.
Avoiding eye contact and fighting the urge to cover his face Rhys answered, “Just, medium is fine.”
“Average size it is then.” The waiter marked down their orders and quickly added on, “Your food will be out as soon as it's finished.” She then promptly left with their menus.
Jack devolved back into a laughing fit, he leaned his head on the table and slapped the tabletop with his hand beside him. Rhys crossed his arms and gave Jack a pout.
Once Jack was done with his little fit he sat back up and pretended to wipe a tear from his eyes, “Awe, babe don’t be like that.” Rhys continued to pout, “Come on, you have to admit that’s like comedy gold. I mean Savoury Long Schlong?” Rhys’ pout started to crack. “A-and the size? Average? I bet the other sizes were like magnum and micro.”
Rhys’ pout formed into a smile against his will, “Stop it, don’t make me laugh. I’m tying to be mad at you.”
“Really? I couldn’t tell from that big smile on your face.” Jack grinned while Rhys tried to form a pout again but instead creating an increasingly awkward pucker.
Jack continued to tease Rhys the entire time until their food arrived, and even after it arrived Jack couldn’t help but to make thinly veiled innuendos about Rhys’ food, which may have resulted in Rhys stealing some of Jack’s fries to either eat or throw back at him.
Watching Jack’s reaction to his food was an experience, a flood of emotions running over his face to initial reluctance to disbelief and eventually landing on him being somewhat impressed.
“You know,” Jack started, his mouth half full of seitan steak, “This isn’t half bad. Like you can tell it’s not meat, kind of,” He swallowed his mouthful, “Maybe like seasoned differently than you’re used too meat.”
“I told you,” Rhys smugly popped a piece of cantaloupe into his mouth, “Though, some stuff is better than others. Like I’m not a huge fan of fake eggs, a little too rubbery for me. Unless that’s just me messing it up, you have to have the water at this certain temperature. I never do that.”
“Not much of a cook I see.” Jack nudged Rhys under the table, Rhys responded with a pout. Jack nudged him again.
“Nope, not going to fall for that.”
“Fall for what.” Jack grinned raising one of his eyebrow’s.
“You know exactly what I mean.”
“Sure, alright. You shoe thief.”
“It’s not theft, it’s spoils of war.”
“That sounds like something a shoe thief would say.”
“And that sounds like something a loser would say.” That statement earned Jack a kick from Rhys.
The dinner was fantastic, Jack sure if the food was actually that good or if his company made it better. Echo, god, she was easy to get along with and talk to. Jack and the inkling from their first encounter that Echo wouldn’t be hoity toity and too good for banter, their dinner date further solidified that. Jack learnt a few things about Echo that surprised him, she had a sweet tooth and an absolutely adorable pout.
Jack loved to tease and make fun of Echo so she would pout, she might’ve thought it looked threatening, it didn’t. The way she smiled, laughed and would scratch the back of her neck whenever she was embarrassed.
“You’re not going to make a lady walk missing a heel, are you?” Echo’s question knocked Jack out of his thoughts.
“Hm, know that you mention it.” Jack gave faux thought to it, “How about an exchanged?” Echo got up from her seat and Jack let her take her heel back.
“I’m listening.” Echo slid her heel back on, Jack watched her move, maybe letting his eyes linger a bit more on the curve of her legs.
Jack gave her his elbow and they walked out of the restaurant; their bill already paid by Jack. “How about, hm, your number?”
Jack saw Echo hesitate, her eyes darting around. She turned to him, putting her arms on his while Jack let his arms cradle and support hers.
Echo bit her lip and sighed, Jack was about to start asking more questions until Echo spoke, “It’s, um, kind of embarrassing to admit.” She was looking down, “I’m kind of between numbers, and phones, at the moment.”
“What happened baby? I’ll get you a new one if you want it.” Echo’s eyes shot up Jack’s in surprise, this close he could see the vibrant blue colour of them.
“W-what? N-no, you don’t need to do that.” Jack moved his eyes from her eyes to watch her lips move while she spoke, “I just had some issues with some, should we say, unwanted attention?”
“I can handle that for you if you want.” Jack moved his arms to cradle more of Echo.
“Don’t worry, it’s already been handled.” Echo let herself me moved forward.
“Just promise to call me when you have your phone, alright?” Jack leaned in closer.
Echo hesitated for slightly longer this time before she also leaned in and answered, “I promise.”
Jack closed the distance between them and kissed her.
Rhys is vegan literally only because I thought it would suit him and because he is like *super* excited about fruit whenever he sees it or when it gets mentioned, also shout out to my sister who is also vegan because her body doesn't agree with animal products for some reason.