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jack of all trades, master of one

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Rhys is alone in the caravan for five minutes before he’s hit by the unbearable urge to jerk off.

He groans. Sure, okay, maybe it’s not a bad idea, long is he gonna be by himself? No way to tell. Fiona and Athena are slipping into the nearest ramshackle deathtrap town to try to get more supplies, which could probably go all sorts of ways. Sasha and Vaughn are off trying to hunt a skag because Sasha’s positive she can cook it into something edible, so he’s not sure he should even expect them back at all. And Loader Bot and Gortys are...scouting? Exploring? Playing I Spy? He’s not totally sure, but they’re not around, meaning he’s defending their ride all on his own, praying this shady little spot has enough foliage to hide them from any stray psychos. 

Rhys leans forward, one elbow on the table, and slides a contemplative hand along his thigh. It’s not even that he’s horny, really--well, maybe he’s a little horny--but cramming five people and a couple robots into a vehicle meant for about three is starting to wear on him, everyone constantly up in everyone else’s personal space. It’s not--don’t get him wrong, it’s not like any of them hate each other. Even Athena’s mellowed out a little. But it kinda feels wasteful not to take advantage of this glowing opportunity when he has no idea how long it’ll be before he has a minute to himself again.

And, god, not to mention the stress. He hasn’t been this stressed out since, like, ever, probably? Even putting together that mining deal hadn’t left him feeling like this. There’s a weird jittery feeling under his skin, like he needs to do something with his hands, and this really isn’t the best environment for tinkering with any of his cybernetic parts. Plus he’d probably get Handsome goddamn Jack making comments over his shoulder, and god, like that’s not more pressure he doesn’t n--oh, shit.


A burning flush creeps its way up his cheeks as slowly, slowly, the realization dawns on him. Would...would Jack know? Oh god, would he be watching? He can’t believe this didn’t occur to him sooner--or, well, yeah, he can, because he hasn’t had a spare second to breathe since the moment the words “We steal his deal” first left his mouth up on Helios. Rhys runs a hand through his hair, inhaling deep and trying not to let the idea linger. Having to face that would be...awkward. Way too awkward. He’d had a hard enough time looking Jack in the eye to start with; this’d be like putting a nail in the coffin and then hitting it with a moonshot. Bad move. Extremely bad move. Catastrophically bad. Even if that was exactly the sort of thing that had been his masturbation fodder for the last few years--no. Still bad. Rhys can’t do this. Jack can’t know he was ever even considering it. He’d never live it down.

Which is, of course, why Jack’s voice by his ear makes him jump like a shocked skag, completely unable to bite back the yelp that he will probably also not ever live down.

“You know, it’s kinda refr--ooh, did I spook ya, kiddo?” Jack floats over on his side, head propped up on one arm and body as close as it can get to the table without clipping through. “Don’t worry, no bandits. It’s just me, your friendly neighborhood devilishly-handsome phantom.”

“You said you’d stop,” Rhys says, heart still thudding in his chest, because if he says anything else Jack will start asking questions and the absolute last thing he wants right now is for Jack to ask questions. It works; Jack’s brow furrows.

“Stop? Stop wha--oh, right, the ‘kiddo’ thing.” He huffs, drifting back into a standing position. “Well, Rhysie, what’s more your speed? Cupcake? Pumpkin?” Rhys is only watching in peripheral, but he could swear Jack’s eyes rake him up and down in that half-second pause. “...kitten, maybe?”

Rhys freezes, shoulders stiff. Kitten? Kitten is new. “That’s, uh--that’s weirdly sexual?”

“Yeah, well, you seem pretty smitten with me, so I really don’t think that’s an issue.” Jack leans back, crossing his arms. “Heh, ‘Smitten Kitten’...I think I went to a strip joint called that, once. Not a real classy place. Would not recommend on the first date.” He pauses, looking way too self-satisfied for a hologram. “Well, not unless she works there, at least.”

Rhys doesn’t really know how to respond to that, so he...doesn’t, which is a mistake, because Jack seems to take it as a cue to keep talking. 

“Anyway, you’re already blushing, sooo I’m just gonna go ahead and keep callin’ you that. Not all the time, though. Nicknames get boring when you don’t switch ‘em up. Variety is the spice of life or whatev--”

“I’m not blushing!” Rhys blurts out, way too belated to be anything but suspicious. “Not, I didn’t, uh.” What the hell is he saying? He scrambles to get back on course, turning his head toward Jack; he’s gotta play it cool, defend himself without being defensive. He hopes his tone seems light. “I’m not ‘smitten’, c’mon, I told you Vaughn was exaggerating back there. It’s just a couple posters, really. And, uh, y’know, maybe a bobblehead.” His voice drops for a second, quiet. “...couple action figures. Comics. Mint condition. Uh, hey, can I ask you a question?”

Jack looks...unimpressed, but he raises an eyebrow. “Shoot.”

“Where do you go? When you’re not here, I mean.”

It evidently wasn’t the question Jack was expecting, because his eyes go a little wide; Rhys starts to worry, but then Jack just shrugs and gives him a very noncommittal “I dunno.”

“ don’t know? Seriously?” He doesn’t mean to sound so shocked, but it’s a little unnerving to know that even now, neither of them really understand how this whole AI thing works.

“Seriously, I dunno. I just kinda chill out in your head. Y’know, leaf through your memory banks, dig up all your most embarrassing sexual fantasies, the works.” 

Jack laughs, and the panic must not have registered on Rhys’s face yet, because Jack doesn’t stop to hassle him about it. He just keeps chatting away, grin casual as ever. “It’s pretty convenient, actually, ‘cause I don’t gotta pay attention to what’s goin’ on out here. I see you’re on your way to the shitter and poof!--instead of watching you piss, I’m all holed up learning about how you took a fist to the face from ol’ Wallethead. Pretty sweet deal. In fact, I think I hear those memories calling to me right now.” Jack delivers what would have been a truly impressive clap to Rhys’s back, if he’d been able to feel it. “God, I’m never gonna get used to that. Catch ya later, cupcake.”

Jack vanishes, and Rhys is alone again.

...For about five seconds, before he starts to panic like the moon is falling.

That was a joke. Jack was definitely just joking. “Haha funny let’s fuck with Rhys’s head,” that’s exactly Jack’s style, even if they’re f...friends, now? Partners? Uh, business partners. Brain...brainmates? What are they?

I-trust-you-way-more-than-I-should-and-you-seem-to-like-me-and-also-you’re-inside-me is a weird thing to put a label on, honestly.

But it doesn’t matter; what matters is that Jack was definitely absolutely totally joking, and is in no way able to access all the thoughts Rhys used to have about getting fucked hard over Jack’s desk while Jack tells him how well he’s done to make it to the top.

That...would be bad.

But, again: joking. Had to be. Wouldn’t have been so chipper with him if he knew. Definitely would have gone back to being uncomfortable, definitely would never talk to him or help him again. Definitely would throw their little agreement out the window. And the thing about Vasquez, he must have...he must have recounted the story to Vaughn or Fiona or someone, Jack must have been listening. Definitely must have found out like that, because Rhys can’t remember ever telling him about it directly. Definitely like that, and not through reading his mind like a book.


Rhys spends the next hour and a half trying very hard not to think about this at all, and, alternately, trying to figure out a backup plan for every potential upcoming situation in which he could ever need to hack or scan something. The results are...disappointing. He’s gotten pretty fond of Jack’s attempts at being an encyclopedia. Going back to normal infodumps, useful as they might be, is going to be a challenge. And, of course, that’s beside the fact that Jack’s got overrides into stuff that would take him an inconvenient amount of time to crack into, if he could do it at all. He can’t really afford to lose Jack as an ally right now. 

That’s totally the rational plan-making part of him talking, and not the part whose heart did a weird thing when Jack said he wanted to help him go places. 

He’s back to the middle of the couch now, having shuffled through roughly every seat in the caravan and several on the floor in his attempts to clear his mind. He has no idea what’s taking the others so long--seriously, not even the robots are back?--but someone would be calling him if there was a problem, he’s sure. And Jack is...still quiet, still presumably tucked into some corner of his mind doing something.

The on-edge feeling has crawled back under his skin, and it’s only gotten worse.

Rhys breathes deep, flopping down and laying his head on one of the throw pillows. He stares at the panels of the wood-lined ceiling, and they stare back, inscrutable. Tracing the mazes made where the boards line up is a distraction, but it’s not even close to enough. Maybe...he wavers, anxious to even acknowledge the thought. Maybe getting off isn’t such a bad idea after all. He’s got a fine view of the door, after all. If one of the groups comes back, he’ll definitely hear them before they see him. As for Jack…

Well, Jack had basically said he’d given Rhys privacy before, right? And, like, Jack had a body once, too. Jack was clearly no stranger to urges like this. How many ex-girlfriends did the guy have? Like, fifteen billion? Jack was a pretty good guy (all the murdering people notwithstanding), and they trusted each other (didn’t they?), so he could maybe just look the other way while Rhys took care of this and then they’d never have to talk about it, right?



God, Rhys hopes he’s right.

Shame creeps up the back of his neck as his hand slips toward his belt, hesitant. He’s flushed and half-hard before he can even get his pants open; this feels all kinds of illicit for what’s ostensibly a masturbation session in an empty room. It’s been so long, though; even the gentlest of touches have him making quiet huffs, soft noises caught in the back of his throat. He swallows one with every stroke. It’s embarrassing, quite frankly, and it only gets worse when he tries to force himself not to think about Jack (succeeding only, of course, in being able to think of nothing but Jack). His right hand drifts up to the hem of his shirt; he knows he shouldn’t, because it’ll make getting caught so, so much easier, but he can’t stop himself from unbuttoning it to the collar and letting his fingers skim over his stomach and chest. The sensation of the metal against his skin has always been...strange. Pleasant. Mostly. It takes the edge off that feeling. He finds a comfortable sort of rhythm, and when it gets too difficult to pretend like he’s not thinking of Jack and his nicknames and his stupid charming smile, Rhys gives up and immerses himself further in his fantasies. It’s good. It’s so good. It shouldn’t feel this good, imagining Jack’s weight pressing down on him and Jack’s murmuring against his ear. It shouldn’t, and knowing that just makes it feel better. He bites his lip, absorbed in the moment, free hand hovering at the hollow of his throat. 

“Takin’ a minute for yourself there, huh? That’s initiative, Rhys. I like it.”

The voice jolts him upright, panicked, head whipping around for the source of the intrusion--and there’s Jack, arms crossed again, flickering blue by his legs and very much not looking the other way. In fact, he seems pretty pleased to be taking in the full extent of Rhys’s compromising situation; his smile is downright salacious as he leans closer, head cocked to the side.

Rhys was not right. Rhys has never been less right in his entire life.

He’s also never been caught with his pants down before, because Rhys has never really been the adventurous type, so trying to figure out what to say becomes an exercise in sputtering as many half-formed excuses as possible until he lands on something that sticks. The one that finally wins--that is to say, the one that actually manages to get all the way out of his mouth--is a painfully embarrassing “Y-you weren’t supposed to watch!”

He’s probably lucky that all it does is make Jack double over laughing.

“Oh-oh my god, it’s like you thought I wasn’t gonna notice! That’s great, kid, oh man, that--that’s just totally gold. Holy shit, I think I’m crying a little. Can holograms cry? I feel like I’m crying.” Jack makes an exaggerated show of wiping at his eyes and heaves a huge sigh, leaning one-handed against the couch, still bent over. “Haa, wow, that was incredible. Anyway, so, pumpkin, I see you’re usin’ that meat hand of yours. You sentimental about the feeling?” He squints, moving like he’s about to reach for Rhys’s machinery before he remembers he’s still intangible. “Or do the fingers on this thing just catch in your foreskin or whatever? That must freakin’ suck, like ten times worse than a zipper--”

“I-I’m left-handed,” Rhys stammers, utterly bewildered, and the way Jack’s eyes light up sets a whole new fire ablaze in the pit of his stomach.

“Ohhhh-ho, a southpaw, huh? That’s cute, kitten. Very endearing.”

He shouldn’t like that. Rhys should absolutely not like being told that, being called that--god, it aches, and his immediate panicked response is to start trying to make himself decent again, like if he can do it fast enough Jack won’t harass him about this for the rest of forever.

“Nah, nah, come on, no point in covering up,” Jack says, waving his hand. “Secret’s out, I already know you were yankin’ your crank, you know I know, what’s the point. So hey, does that mean you’ve never given this thing a try?” He points at the glinting metal that’s still gripping Rhys’s slacks.

“Uh,” Rhys says, because eloquence is his middle name. This isn’t at all where he was expecting this to go. “I mean, um, I’ve thought about it?”

“Rhysie, Rhysie, Rhysie…” Jack’s eyes look dangerous, and Rhys can’t hold back a shiver at the sound of his name. As Jack ghosts his fingers slow down the line of Rhys’s mechanical arm, his voice drips with delighted condescension. Rhys hates it. Almost.

“...why don’t you let me give you a hand?

The silence is palpable.

Rhys blinks slowly, once, twice--Jack is looking at him, waiting for something, and he has not the slightest idea how to react. There’s no way that can be a real offer. Jack is just...just fucking with him. Just doing some extremely high-level mind games. You can do that when you’re Handsome Jack, right? Even if the other guy has his dick out and was about five seconds from moaning your name? Evidently realizing he’s not about to get a response anytime in the next century, Jack’s shoulders droop.

“That...that was a joke, cupcake.” He sounds almost defeated. “See, it’s funny, because I’m gonna take your hand, you know? And then I’m gonna--oh fuck you, Rhys, it was funny! Gimme that--!” Exasperated, Jack waves his whole arm a couple times, short sharp shakes that Rhys thinks are a lot funnier than that terrible pun, right up until he realizes he’s no longer in control of his cybernetics.

“Theeere we go.” That awful smirk settles back onto Jack’s lips, and as he curls his fingers one by one, Rhys watches the fingers of his robotic hand smoothly follow suit. His breath catches in his throat. Holy shit, this is really happening? This can’t be happening, he’s--something got lost in translation here. Suddenly fearful, Rhys tries to take his arm back.

“Wait, Jack, hold on, what the hell are you--” He’d had it for a second, dammit, but Jack’s set on locking him out, and he’s nowhere near focused enough to fight for it. Jack continues to talk; Rhys realizes, quietly, that he’s shaking.

I, Rhys, am gonna show you the time of your life. Well, as best I can like this, anyway. How’s that saying go? ‘You scratch my back, I help you rub one out?’ Yeah, sure, let’s go with that. So--” he breaks off, frowning. “--hey, what’s with the face? You look like you’re expecting me to chop this nice dick of yours off. Am I movin’ too fast or something? Did you wanna get wined and dined first? ‘Cause, you know, normally I’d be able to arrange for that, but uh...not a whole lotta options out here.”

Rhys feels like he’s swallowing glass. “I, um...I-I-I didnt think I was your type?”

“Buddy-boy, I’ve been flirting with you since like the second I got up in your brain.” Jack shakes his head. “You didn’t notice? Seriously? Did my pickup game go to shit when I went virtual?”

“You flirt with everybody--!”

“Do I? I kinda do, huh? Well, as a good-looking guy, I have the luxury of surrounding myself mostly with people who are at least half as hot as I am. You, though, Rhysie...” Jack trails a fingertip down his own chest, Rhys’s arm mirroring him with cool metal against warm flesh. “’re a hell of a lot closer. Definitely at least a nine. Maybe even a ten, with that personality. Loyalty means a lot to me, you know?”

Rhys can’t even begin formulate a response to that. At least, not one that doesn’t begin and end with what it’s doing to his dick.

“I’m an eleven, though. Just to get that out of the way. Don’t want you getting cocky, pumpkin. Anyway, listen, it’s always nice to get with someone when you already know they wanna get in your pants.” He frowns again, harder. “Unless it’s, like, in a creepy way. Like that guy. You know, what’s-his-face. The science guy. He was a goddamn weirdo.”

Jack is...serious? About this? What? And he’s almost being complimentary, in a roundabout way, but Rhys is so frazzled that he can only default to trying to save face, trying to deny his way out of this bizarre dream-nightmare hybrid. “What makes you think I wanna get in your pants? I never said--I mean, not that, like--they’re nice pants, I just--” Jack cuts him off again with another laugh, shorter, sharper.

“Slow it down, cupcake. Let me lay this out for you. Number one: everybody wants to get in my pants. I’m the hottest son-of-a-bitch this side of Eden-6. Number two: I’m hearing a distinct lack of ‘No thanks, Jack’ coming out of your mouth--which I would listen to, by the way, because that’s the good guy thing to do, and you know I’m a good guy, right? So if you got somethin’ you wanna say, I’m open.” Jack smirks, bringing a hand up to cup his ear for a second like he’s straining to hear a response. “No? Nothing? That’s what I thought, because number three--you’re gonna love this one, Rhysie. Number three: I found some very interesting stuff tucked away in your head while I was gone. Something about...lemme see, what was it? Something about an office desk...a promotion...a real standout job, personal commendation from the company president...”

The panic is like a punch to the gut. No. No way. Nononononononono--

“...oh yeah, and your hero, Handsome Jack, balls-deep in your ass and whispering in your ear about how proud he is of you. Somethin’ like that.” The smirk might as well be painted on Jack’s face, at this point. “But go ahead, babe, tell me how you totally don’t wanna get in my pants.”

This is it. It’s all over. This is how Rhys dies: combusting from humiliation in the middle of nowhere, rock-hard, someone else in control of half his body.

“It’s fine, though--listen, I know you’re probably scared out of your skull, right?” He puts on a falsetto, flapping one hand like a mouth. “‘Oh noo, I can’t lie to Jack anymore about not being obsessed with him, he knows about how I used to jack off to him every niiiiight’--heh, you see what I did there?--’now he’ll haaate me, now he’ll think I’m creeeeepy, aaaaah what am I gonna dooo?’ Yeah, I’ll bet that’s you right now.” Jack snorts. “Well, lemme tell ya: I’m not creeped out. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if I’d found out back in the badlands I would’ve never spoken to you again, pumpkin. But now--now that I know that we can rely on each other, we’re friends, we’ve got this whole partnership thing goin’ on--it’s way less weird. It’s kind of flattering, actually.” 

He grins again, wider, and the single tiny part of Rhys’s mind that isn’t completely overwhelmed by this entire situation wonders if Jack ever worries about his mask splitting at the corners of its mouth.

“Plus, I appreciate that all your deepest darkest fantasies feature me on top. ‘Cause, y’know, Handsome Jack is always on top. That’s where I belong.” A pause. “Except with my girlfriend. God, she’s got a way with whips.”

Rhys will remember that, whether he wants to or not. It doesn’t so much surprise him that Jack has a girlfriend--or...had one, at least? When the AI was made?--but having her brought up so casually in this...situation...makes him squirm. He’s not totally sure he wants to know the answer, but he can’t help asking: “Your girlfriend, would she, uh...would she be okay with...what’s happening? Right now?”

Jack’s gonna fry the voice tech on his hologram if he keeps laughing so damn much.

“Would she--would she be okay with it, god, you’re such a crack-up, Rhys. Would she--she’d be fine with it! Hell, she’d be joining in! If she were here you’d have had a bootheel up your ass like ten minutes ago. But she’s not. Which sucks. More importantly, I’m here, so you don’t gotta worry your little head about anyone else. Got it?” Not even waiting for Rhys’s nod, Jack continues, setting one knee on the couch cushions as he apparently tries to decide on a position for himself.

“Now, I can’t do a lot about the desk--or the fucking, which is a goddamn shame, ‘cause you’d look great with my cock in you, christ do I miss having a body--but what I can do is the talking. You may not have noticed, Rhys, but I’m--move your leg, would ya?--I am an expert at talking. Hell, I could probably get you off just with the sound of my voice, but, y’know, why not go all the way? Because you, kitten...” Jack settles in between Rhys’s thighs, throwing another admiring glance down at the scene before him. “ deserve this. You’re a golden boy, Rhysie. You’ve got a lotta rewards comin’ your way for all the trust you’ve placed in me, but I think I’m gonna give you this one early.”

Rhys opens his mouth to reply, but all that comes out is a soft, shuddering breath, a little whisper of a moan--and that’s before Jack finally wraps his (temporary) hand around the base of Rhys’s cock, a fact that doesn’t quite manage to fly under Jack’s radar.

“Seriously?” he asks, his voice suddenly low. There’s not so much bluster in it anymore; it feels intimate, now. Scarily intimate. “A couple cheesy lines and you’re already makin’ noise for me? You’re so easy, Rhysie.”

Rhys clenches his jaw, indignant, trying to ignore the way that’d made his cock twitch. “I’d been at it for a little while, you know. It’s not like I’d just sta-haaaa--

“You’d been at it for like five minutes, pumpkin. Don’t tell me you were already gonna blow your load?” Jack’s started stroking with just the fingertips, slow, teasing, and--oh, god. He’s close enough that his holohand overlaps with Rhys’s so it looks like Jack’s actually the one--he’s--god --

Rhys grits his teeth, willing himself not to fall to pieces at two seconds of contact. “It’s...been a while...”

“Yeah? What, like, a week?” Jack’s teasing tone and raised eyebrow convince Rhys to give up completely on defending his honor; he’d rather just urge his hips up to meet Jack’s touch and hear the way it makes Jack laugh. Jack lets him do it a few more times before he starts meeting every thrust, nice and easy, palm optics smooth against Rhys’s skin

He can’t even begin to describe the feeling. His own arm, moving without his input, curled around the parts of him that are most sensitive; it should be terrifying, but instead the submission feels absolutely heavenly. Truth be told, the reason he’d never tried this himself was just fear--of hurting himself, sure, but also that somehow, some way, someone at Hyperion would know. Via recording, or a satellite pinging a warranty violation, or...or something. But if Hyperion was getting data from his cybernetics now, they’d all be a hell of a lot more dead, so Rhys is finally free to indulge in the forbidden. And oh, oh, is it sweet. Letting Jack deeper inside him was the best decision Rhys has ever made.

“Havin’ fun down there, cupcake? Don’t clam up on me, now. I like hearin’ that voice.” Jack picks up the pace just a little, just enough, and Rhys moans for real this time, eyes slipping shut. Is this where losing that promotion was supposed to lead him? Because he’d let it happen again in a heartbeat. This is worth it. This is worth all of it.

Jack’s name is halfway off his tongue when something goes terribly, horribly wrong--something gets caught, something gets pinched, and Rhys yells loud enough to shock Jack out of his arm for a second.

“Ow! Shit, stop, stop--that’s not gonna work, that--oh my god--” Rhys yanks the offending appendage back, betrayed, and looks at his own dick with a fearful concern. Jack, ever-helpful, gets in close to squint at it.

“Oh, c’mon, you’re fine, champ. You got, like, a reddish spot. I don’t even see any blood.” Jack glances back up at him and, wow, Jack looks good between his legs like this? Really good? Almost good enough to distract Rhys from the fact that Jack’s retaken his arm and is currently reaching for his dick again, to which his response is a loud and unmistakably firm ‘no’.

Jack’s eyes narrow. “‘No’? What do you mean, ‘no?’ I’m tryin’ to do you a favor here.” He curls Rhys’s hand into a fist, and it rests against the curve of his belly, a warning. ”Are you saying you don’t want it? What, Rhysie, am I not good enough for you?”

“Wh--n-no,” Rhys starts, stumbling over Jack’s sudden change in temperament. “It’s not--I don’t trust this hand, and that’s the last place I need to start bleeding? Of course it’s not you, Jack, you’re amazing, I just--”

Jack stares down at him, frown twisted like he wants to throw a fit but he can’t find the right reason. “Yeah,” he says, “I am goddamn amazing, sweetheart. But being amazing doesn’t fix this, now does it?”

Rhys doesn’t have an answer to that, and they gauge each other in silence. Jack’s eyes are searching. Rhys is still stupidly, ridiculously aroused. The tension between them is awkward, and terrible, and Rhys hates it. It goes on way too long, but when Rhys finally breaks the moment by turning his head resignedly toward the back of the couch, his staring partner isn’t having it.

“Hey, hey, whoa, eyes on me, princess.” Jack reaches up, and Rhys feels his own grip tight on his chin, jerking his head forward to face Jack again. Jack’s almost on top of him. God, what Rhys wouldn’t give to be able to feel him--to have something solid to press against instead of laying here shifting his hips against translucent static. And Jack has to have noticed how absolutely goddamn desperate he is, but he’s not saying anything about it. His gaze has dropped; he’s looking at...Rhys’s throat?

“You know,” Jack says, “I seem to remember there was something else that kept showin’ up in all those memories of yours.” He lets go of Rhys’s chin and gently trails the fingers down until they brush past Rhys’s Adam’s apple. Rhys puts two and two together just a second too late.

“Let’s switch gears, Rhysie.”

The panic from before flares back to life, searing his insides as Jack grabs and squeezes and Rhys finds his breath stuttering to a halt. His flesh hand is at his metal wrist before he can think, scrabbling for purchase, straining to tug away the pressure--he wanted this, he’s always wanted this, but it’s too fast and too hard and too much and it must be in his eyes this time because Jack lets up immediately, just barely pressing the hand to Rhys’s skin.

“Whoa, whoa, I thought you were ready for this. Is this your first time doin’ it for real? My bad. Take a breather.” Jack leans in and  brings his other hand up approximately to Rhys’s cheek, which Rhys can’t actually feel and so it shouldn’t be comforting at all, but it is. Jack’s voice gets low again. 

“It’s okay, kitten. I’m not gonna do any lasting damage. You go, I go, remember? Trust me. Can you trust me?” He’s smiling. God, Rhys wishes he didn’t trust that smile. 

“Yeah, I...yeah,” he mumbles, trying to even out the pace of his heartbeat. “’s fine, we can keep going, just. Uh. Don’t spring it on me next time? Maybe?”

“Sure, sure, anything you want. We’ll start slow. Whatever.” Jack gives him a second to recover, pulling back and rolling his shoulders. “Mm, god, you’re makin’ me so happy here, Rhys. Strangling people is, like, my favorite thing to do. You good yet?”

As good as he’ll ever be, probably. Rhys swallows hard and licks his lips, nervous; left hand slipping back down to his cock, he murmurs a soft agreement and tries to relax.

It’s easier, this time. His neck fits snug in the crook of his own hand--the touch no longer cool, not after this much contact with his own body heat--and Rhys, eyes shut tight, lets himself fail to breathe. 

Or, well--that’s what he’s expecting, anyway, but after adjusting to the new fuzziness on the edges of his existence, he realizes he can...actually still breathe pretty okay. this what starting slow means? Is Jack doing, like, easy-mode choking? Just for him? His stomach flutters. This is nice, actually, really nice--not how he’d expected it to feel, but then he’s not sure what exactly he’d been expecting. Still. Nice. And even nicer once he starts stroking himself again, heart pounding in his head and against his hand.

“You like that?” Jack asks. “Yeah? Who am I kiddin’, of course you do.” Has Jack ever actually stopped grinning? “I gotta say, you look good like this. On your back, hand at your throat, totally at my mercy. Maybe you just belong under me, huh, cupcake?”

Oh god, he wants to believe that so bad. Wants to believe he can give Jack his everything, like Jack hasn’t gone through a hundred and five ladder-climbers just like him. Like if he does well enough, if he does enough to please Jack, there’ll be a happy ending called “second-best” somewhere with his name on it. He wants to believe, and he doesn’t want to think about it. “Harder,” he gasps, trying to press his neck forward. “Please.”

“Ooh, now that’s what I like to hear, pumpkin!” Jack changes his grip, and suddenly the fuzziness is a lot more intense, every breath now scraping its way out of Rhys’s lungs. It makes him skittish, despite how much he wants this. He needs...something. A confirmation. Assurance, again, that this isn’t going south. His mouth moves, but it’s a fair few seconds before he can get anything else to happen.

“Jack...” he manages to whisper, harsh and urgent and it’s worth the effort to see the way Jack closes his eyes, listening.

“Yeah?” Jack asks, breathy, and Rhys can’t find the words for what he wants. He tries again and doesn’t get any further; just a little louder, a little less stable, a little more raw. 

“Rhysie, baby, keep sayin’ my name like that--” Jack grunts, and when Rhys tries one last time it comes out weak and needy and that must be good enough, because Jack laughs into a sigh. “Just like that, yeah, god, you're really doin' it for me here. You’re perfect, kitten, just--perfect.”

That’s it; that’s enough. It’s the praise that settles warm against his body and pushes him to the brink, and the whine caught in the back of his throat is all he has to fight it. He feels so light, floaty, like everything is static and the world is sinking away and it’s just him and his hand and Jack’s voice, Jack’s face, Jack’s name in his mouth over and over and over again, soft, desperate--and Jack is smiling again, smiling at him, and oh, god, isn’t this what he always dreamed of? He almost doesn’t notice the fury in those eyes, the teeth flashing behind those lips.

“ so goddamn frustrating,” Jack growls, rocking against Rhys’s body like he’s corporeal enough for it to do anything. “Do you know what I’d do to you right now if I could? Do you have any idea?” He presses harder, and the static gets louder, closer, too close. “Having you spread halfway across this table is just the start. You’d be begging for it, Rhys. I’d have your stupid tie around your neck and you’d be begging me for more, begging me to fuck you ‘til you can’t walk straight--’til you can’t even fucking see--”

Rhys’s vision is blurring. His eyes are wet. His hand feels too heavy to keep moving but he’s so close, so close, he’s so--

“--and you know what else? You know what else, pumpkin? You wouldn’t just feel it the next day, oh no. The marks’d show up everywhere. Your neck, your wrists, maybe your pretty little face--you’d remember every time you passed a mirror. Even if you tried, you couldn’t hide ‘em all. And everyone would know, Rhys. They’d just have to take one look at you, and they’d know--” Jack must be right above him now, leaning in close, because all Rhys can see is blue.

“--they’d know that you’re mine.”

Jack falters on the last word, his string of heavy breaths giving way to a loud groan that’s cut short as he vanishes entirely. Rhys’s arm returns to him. The death grip on his throat released, sweet oxygen also returns to him; the high is nothing short of electric, and it all goes straight to his cock. He can’t take it. Jack’s last words are echoing in his head and he’s jerking his fist as hard as he can, too incoherent to do anything but moan, back arched and head thrown back. He’ll be Jack’s, he’ll be Jack’s and Jack wants him, Jack wants him, he’ll give Jack anything, anything, Jack--

He comes, and his whole body’s wrapped up in it in a way it’s never been before, shivers sparking through every inch as he spurts warm against his hand. It feels like forever. He eases up, pressing harder, thrusting slow, clinging to every last sensation until it’s over and he’s finally, finally spent.

Rhys is exhausted.

He’s on the couch for maybe ten more seconds before Jack phases back into existence on the other side of the caravan, looking awfully rattled for being the guy who hadn’t just nearly blacked out.

“I, uh,” Jack starts. Shaking his head, he runs a hand through his hair and tries again. “That was, Ha. I didn’t--I didn’t know I could still do that? I, like, because of the hologram thing? I didn’t think...” He inhales in one deep, whooshing breath, and then lets it out gently. “That was...that was good, Rhys. Thanks. Seriously. God, I feel great.”

“G...good?” says Rhys, not entirely sure what kind of reaction Jack wants. Or what kind of reaction he’s supposed to be having, even. He still feels kind of weightless, like nothing is quite real.

“How you holdin’ up over there, huh? You alright?” Jack steps closer and gives him a once-over. “Yeah, you’re good. So, what did I tell ya? Time of your life, or what?”

“Y-yeah...” Rhys murmurs. It’s not...wrong, exactly, because that was better than anything he’d ever felt in his life, up to and including the moment his superiors told him he was getting that huge pay bonus. But something...something’s still bothering him. He tries to find the words for it through the fog in his woozy brain.

“Jack...when you were,, all that stuff about me...belonging to you? Was that, uh? What was…?” Rhys trails off, watching as Jack’s expression changes from surprise into something he can’t read.

“Oh, that. Yeah, I figured you’d be into it, so I kept going. You were into it, right? A little roleplay’s great for every occasion. But it’s not a big deal.” Jack makes a weird huff that Rhys also doesn’t know how to interpret. “What, are you tryin’a make it weird? Don’t make it weird, Rhys. Of course you belong to me, everything at Hyperion belongs to me.”

“Oh, uh.” That’s a pretty obvious answer, but that doesn’t make it satisfying. Not that Rhys has the courage to argue. “Yeah, okay. Makes sense.” And they’re silent a few moments more before Jack wanders away and Rhys decides he should probably clean himself up. God, it is so hard to move. Honestly, something he could really do with right now? Some cuddling. A post-coital cuddle buddy, just for a little bit, just to let him settle back in before he gets up and tries to be a real person again--that’d be great. He sits for a minute longer, contemplating the idea.

“Yeah, you might wanna hurry,” Jack says idly. Rhys glances up. He’s at the window.

“Why’s that?” Rhys asks, his stomach conveniently dropping in advance.

 “Athena’s on her way back, and she looks pretty pissed.” Jack glances back at the mess the two of them have made. “If she sees this, I don’t even think I could help you.”

“Shit. Shit.” Panic, Rhys’s new best friend, has stopped by again, and is once more having a hell of a time in his stomach. He springs up from his seat, struggling to find a cloth to wipe his hands on. “Oh my god, how close is she?”

“Too close for comfort, cupcake. And she stalks around like a soldier so, y’know, do the math.” Jack shrugs, then looks out the window again and perks up. “Oh, hey, Fiona’s right behind her!”

“Oh--oh god, okay. This is fine. I just gotta clean this u--oh my god, is it on the couch? It’s on the couch. Okay. Where’s the--”

“Well,” Jack says, leaning against the caravan wall, “if the party’s over here...I’m out. Hey, good luck with everything!” And Jack, that goddamn asshole, fingerguns at him with a pshew pshew and disappears. Furiously repeating his name proves fruitless; he’s curled back up in Rhys’s head somewhere, probably on the hunt for more terrible and embarrassing things to confront him with. Rhys groans, very nearly dragging his hands down his face before he remembers what they’re covered with.

Handsome Jack is going to be the death of him.