Actions

Work Header

Alpha Sigma Phi

Chapter Text

Rhys shuffled nervously in his spot in line as he glanced down either end. He was relieved to see everyone looked just about as nervous as him, which made sense. They were all freshmen trying to pledge their oath to Alpha Sigma Phi, Hyperion University charter, one of the oldest fraternities in the country. In all honesty, Rhys had been planning on joining a fraternity his first year in college, though he was expecting to join one of the more educational variety. He wanted the opportunity to make friends with people who had the same interests as him with minimal hazing involved; he’d heard the horror stories in high school, everyone did.

So, how did Rhys end up in one of the largest, predominantly party-based frat houses hoping to get picked as a pledge? A hot guy, of course. It was a stupid decision, he knew that, but he figured his chances of being chosen were slim to none anyway, so what did he have to lose? Rhys wasn’t even really interested in partying his college years away. Sure, he planned on going to some parties, but just thinking about blowing his already surmounting student loans on ragers made him sick to his stomach. Unlike most of the people at this college he’d gotten there with his brain, not his money.

Rhys glanced at the seniors surveying them on the large sectional couch in the common area of the frat house. He felt like he was on display and, frankly, it was embarrassing. Each freshman had gone through and introduced themselves, answered a few ridiculous questions offered by random frat members, and then were told to stand at attention while the seniors decided on which pledges they were going to choose. Forget embarrassing, this was humiliating. Why was he even here? His eyes fell onto the senior that had caught his attention out in the courtyard a few days ago, all strong jaw and oozing confidence. Right, that was why.

I’m such a fucking idiot, Rhys thought, licking his lips nervously, I should just leave.

And he would have left, too, if they hadn’t made eye contact. Rhys felt caught, like a mouse under a cat’s paw, when his eyes met the senior’s blue and green ones. How the hell was this guy so handsome? He had no right. Rhys knew this guy was bad news, could tell just by looking at him. He had his arm slung over the back of the couch casually, foot bouncing idly where he had his ankle propped up on the opposite knee. Everything about him screamed danger, but that only made Rhys that much more intrigued.

Rhys flushed as the man’s lips pulled into a sly smirk, and he had to try really hard to make sure he didn’t visibly shiver. There was so much power in that gaze, like this guy ran the whole damn place, and somehow Rhys didn’t doubt that. A surge of excitement and arousal tingled through his body from his head to his toes when the senior winked at him, tongue peeking out to lick his dry lips. Why was his mouth so damn dry? He gave a shy smile back, which only stretched the man’s smirk into a big, toothy grin.

One of the other seniors started talking, directing their attention from each other. This one, Roland, if Rhys remembered correctly, had a very serious air about him that didn’t quite fit the rest of the group. He was the one who gave out what Rhys could only describe as orders to all the freshmen when they’d first arrived, and Rhys might have thought him to be the leader if the man across from him didn’t have such a suffocating aura to him; but maybe that was just Rhys’ dick talking.

“All right, recruits,” Rhys made a face at the term. What were they, soldiers? “Decisions have been made and all are final. That means no begging, no re-applying, nothing. If you’re not chosen tonight then you’ll never be an Alpha Sigma Phi.” All the seniors let out a loud whooping noise at the name drop. Did they always have to do that? Creepy.

The amount of freshman versus seniors was staggering, and each senior only got to pick one freshman. Ergo, there was going to be a lot of disappointed faces. At this point Rhys was just ready for this weird experience to be over. This frat was way too cult-y for him anyway, and at least he’d gotten a little recognition from the hottie across from him.

One by one the seniors called out their pledge picks, going down the line in order. Once a pledge was picked they stepped from the line and stood beside the man who pretty much owned their life for the next year. Yeah, this was definitely creepy. They looked like obedient dogs, all too eager to please as they silently joined their master’s side. Celebrating wasn’t allowed, not until the big commencement party that was being thrown after.

Rhys was a little puzzled when the senior across from him was skipped over, and admittedly a little disappointed. He knew it wasn’t going to happen, but a part of him wanted that fairytale miracle of being picked by the hottest guy in the room; unfortunately, that was impossible when the guy didn’t even get a pick. Whatever, his life would probably be better without this freaky frat anyway, no love lost.

Unsurprisingly, Rhys wasn’t picked by the time they reached the end, awkwardly standing amongst the rejects. He just wanted to leave, never show his face to these over-compensating men again in his life. Oh god, were they going to have to do something humiliating as punishment for not being good enough? He really didn’t think this through. He just hoped whatever it was didn’t get filmed and posted somewhere public.

“My turn,” came a sly voice, and oh, it was him. Rhys swallowed nervously as he watched the senior rise from the couch, only a few feet separating them. Maybe this guy was the leader of this deranged wolf pack. The room was silent, expectant, like this pick mattered the most. If this guy wasn’t the leader then he was at the very least damn important.

It only took two steps for the man to close the distance between them, that wicked grin plastered on his face again. A ringed finger came up under Rhys’ chin, tilting his head up so he had to meet his gaze. It was impressive that this guy was taller than him, even if it was barely an inch. Was it bad that that did something for him? It was definitely bad, someone as tall as him didn’t have a right to be into tall guys. He nervously squeezed his hands where they were clasped together in front of him, embarrassed by how hot his cheeks felt.

“What was your name again, kitten?” The man purred, and Rhys could feel everyone staring. Yeah, this was a big deal. Why was this a big deal? He licked his lips again, praying there was a glass of water in his near future.

“Rhys,” he murmured, voice wavering just slightly. He sucked in a silent gasp when the finger under his chin became fingers as the older man gripped his chin.

“Didn’t quite catch that, princess.” When had he gotten so close? There was hardly any space between them now, close enough that Rhys could smell the minty twang of gum or a Tic-Tac. His eyelids fluttered.

Rhys,” it was louder this time, and he was proud of himself for shaking the nerves out of his voice.

“Welcome to Alpha Sigma Phi, Rhys. You can call me Jack.” Jack let go of his chin and pat him on the cheek, leaving an unsettling feeling in Rhys’ gut.

This was bad. This was so bad. How the hell did he let this happen? Okay, yes, there was a part of him that was thrilled and ridiculously excited, but the smart part of him, the better part of him, was terrified. Somehow, that part of him felt so small right now, though, the adrenaline of it all pushing away rational thought. Not only had Rhys gotten picked to be a part of this weird ass cult life, he’d been picked by the guy he’d thirsted after, the guy that got him there in the first place.

What the hell was happening?

—-

All new pledges were instructed to go back to their dorms, get ready for the party, and then return back to ‘base,’ as Roland had called it. (Seriously, that guy weirded him out, Rhys swore he must have gone to boot camp as a teenager or something.) Naturally, Rhys was staring in front of his mirror, checking over his third outfit now. He wanted to make sure he looked good without looking like he was trying too hard, which he felt like he accomplished with this outfit.

He was wearing a blue and white flannel shirt, unbuttoned to reveal a plain white t-shirt underneath. He had the sleeves of his flannel rolled up over his elbows, giving a good show of his cybernetic arm and the tattoos on his flesh one (the tattoos had been a graduation gift to himself, he’d spent all summer doing sessions on it and, subsequently, spent all of the money he’d saved up on them). It was a good sneak preview of both, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t trying to impress Jack at least a little. He topped it off with a simple pair of jeans that hugged his butt (Rhys didn’t own a pair that didn’t hug his butt) and one of his (nicer) pair of sneakers. He thought he was pulling off cool and casual pretty well.

Rhys glanced at the time and cursed as he realized how close he was to being late. It was a decent walk to Frat Row and he had just barely enough time to make it without instantly getting kicked out for being late. As he hurried out of the cramped dorm room he nearly crashed face-first into his roommate, Vaughn, a dorky accounting major Rhys was actually getting along with pretty well. He wouldn’t say they were friends, not yet, anyway, but Rhys could tell they would be soon enough.

“Whoa! Sorry, bro,” Rhys said quickly as he dodged the shorter man trying to enter the dorm at the same time he was trying to step out, “my bad.”

“Sorry, sorry!” Vaughn returned, laughing awkwardly. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with a nervous smile. “You, uh, you headed out?”

“Yeah! Sorry I didn’t give you a head’s up, been a crazy day. Got accepted into that frat I mentioned the other day, kind of, so I gotta go to this stupid commencement party. I’m actually running late, though, but I’ll tell you about it tomorrow! Don’t wanna get kicked out before I’m even in!” Technically speaking, Rhys wasn’t in the frat, not yet. He was just a lowly pledge dedicating his entire first year of college to trying to get accepted into said frat. AKA, he was on thin ice, like, at all times.

“O-Oh, okay. See you tomorrow, bro!”

“Later, bro!”

Rhys rushed down the hallway as he threw a wave over his shoulder, taking the stairs two at a time. The air was crips when he finally breached the doors of the dorm building, the smell of fall thick in the air. He loved this time of year, loved watching the leaves change and the excitement of Halloween looming right around the corner. Maybe going to one of the biggest house parties on campus within his first month of college wasn’t the best idea, but he had a feeling it was going to be a good year.

Frat Row was… Well, intimidating. It was just like they depicted it in movies, a long street with houses on either side donned with giant Greek letters to signify which frat it belonged to. Sorority Row was the next street over, set up in the same fashion. Rhys’ new frat was the largest on campus, and definitely the most important. The house was smack dab in the middle of the street, the largest one on the block, with tacky Greek pillars and everything. He wasn’t kidding, straight out of a movie.

It was already dark out now that the sun was starting to set earlier and earlier every day, but the Alpha Sigma Phi letters were lit up by huge spotlights that Rhys couldn’t miss. Oh, and the music was already bumping so loud Rhys could hear it from down the street. It was way too loud, Rhys realized, once he entered the building. Without tons of bodies filling up the rooms and absorbing some of the sound it was practically deafening, making him visibly wince once inside.

Most of the seniors were there, obviously, since almost all of them lived in the building. All of the freshmen were there, too, setting up tables for cup games and making coolers accessible. Right, that was their job now, being the lowest on the totem pole and all. It came as no surprise when one of the seniors approached him and started barking orders, sending him off to what was deemed the ‘beer pong room’ to set up the tables and cups in there.

Another freshman was in there struggling to set up a table by himself, to which Rhys quickly offered help. They got all three tables up before they started stacking the cups, avoiding idle chatter once they realized they couldn't really hear each other well over the music. Rhys was halfway through the cups on the last table when someone came up behind him, way too close might he add.

“There you are, kitten,” a familiar voice murmured close to his ear, making him jump and knock over all the cups he’d just set up, sending them scattered across the table and onto the floor.

“Shit!” Rhys shouted in surprise, scrambling to catch as many of the cups as he could. His heart was pounding in his chest, hands shaking as he tried to keep the red plastic cups from rolling off the table. Once he was certain they were settled enough that no more would full he spun around, lips pursing when he heard one bounce onto the floor as soon as he wasn’t looking.

“Did I get’cha?” It was Jack, grinning like a madman. Rhys glared at him defiantly and took a step back only to hit his ass on the edge of the table, sending more of the loose cups onto the floor.

“What the hell was that for?!” Rhys shouted over the music, blushing at the way Jack erupted into a booming fit of laughter. Rhys took Jack’s distracted state as an opportunity to, more or less, check him out. Black leather jacket (what was he, some kind of Greaser?), grey t-shirt, black jeans, and some ratty ass sneakers. It was simple, nothing really special at all, but his t-shirt was tight over his broad chest, jeans hugging his hips… Damn, Rhys, stop being so thirsty, he thought, irritated with himself.

“Oh man, I wish I could have seen the look on your face. Hey, kiddo, did you see that?” Rhys looked over his shoulder at the other freshman in the room that Jack was now addressing. He shook his head dumbly, causing Jack to let out a frustrated sigh. “Whatever. So, Rhysie, which one of these tiny-dicked assholes thought they could order you around?”

Rhys felt himself blushing harder at the nickname, completely confused by the question. “Uh… What?” He really didn’t appreciate the way Jack rolled his eyes.

“Look, I get it, it’s your first day as a pledge and all that jazz, so I’ll cut ya some slack. But let’s get something clear. You? You’re mine for the next year. That means you listen to me, and me alone, got it?” Damn, if those implications didn’t send shivers of arousal down Rhys’ spine.

“O… kay?” Rhys responded warily, completely taken aback by Jack’s words. He huffed when Jack patted him on the cheek in that same chastising way he’d done earlier.

“Good boy,” Jack cooed like he was talking to a dog, and Rhys wrinkled his nose, “now gimme your phone.” Jack held his hand out expectantly and all Rhys could do was stare at his hand cluelessly. Wow, he’s got big hands, Rhys thought, appreciating that a little too much.

“Can I ask why?” Despite his suspicions Rhys pulled his phone out anyway, placing it into Jack’s open palm.

“So I can give you my number, dumdum.” Rhys unlocked his phone with his thumbprint in the same motion as Jack took it from him, tapping the icon for his contacts. It made sense that Jack would give him his number, he was probably expected to be on call for any shitty hazing he was going to have to endure.

When Jack had given him his phone back his messages were open, Jack having already taken the liberty to text himself from Rhys’ phone so he had his number, too. Somehow, in the few seconds Jack had had his phone, he’d given himself a contact picture. Rhys clicked on it, frowning at how damn handsome he looked, grinning so confidently. When the hell had he even done that?

“Did you really put your name as ‘Handsome Jack’?” Rhys asked as he locked his phone, quirking an eyebrow at the older man. What a loser.

“Just in case you’ve got any other Jack’s in there, you’ll know which one’s me,” Jack winked at him, making Rhys scowl.

Before Rhys could register what Jack was doing there was a phone in his face, the distinct sound of a photo being taken, and then laughter. Rhys scowled harder, punching the older man in the arm.

“What the hell! I didn’t say you could take a picture of me!” Rhys protested, reaching for Jack’s phone but missing when Jack yanked it away from his grabby hands.

“Aw, come on, but you look so cute,” Jack cooed as if he were talking to a baby, turning the camera screen so Rhys could see the picture of himself. “Look at that pout.”

Rhys glared at the picture, then at Jack, then turned back to the beer pong table. The other freshman from before was gone and from what Rhys could tell all the cups had been filled with beer except for the ones that were still knocked over on his end of the table. He started straightening them up, trying to ignore the way his head was throbbing from the loud music.

Before he could get more than two cups standing Jack was pulling him away by the collar, making the younger man squeal in protest. What was with this guy? Invading his personal space, making fun of him, acting like they were friends. He’d just met Jack today! Up until just now, the only thing Rhys had said to him was his name. Jack was really taking this whole ‘mine for the next year’ thing seriously.

Jack finally let him go once they were in the kitchen, though he replaced the grip on his collar with an arm slung around his shoulders. Rhys fidgeted uncomfortably at the close contact and accepted the plastic cup Jack forced into his hand.

“Lighten up, buttercup,” Jack said as he grabbed himself a cup as well and lead Rhys out the back door. Rhys certainly hadn’t been expecting a back yard, let alone one this big. There was lawn furniture scattered about a giant pool, which, what the hell, why did they need a pool? For some reason it was still open, one of those little cleaning robots floating around, collecting any fallen leaves. Were people really planning on swimming in this weather?

Jack brought him over to one of the four kegs lined up against the side of the house and started pumping the tap. He brought his plastic cup up to his mouth so he could bit it with his teeth, freeing his hand up to grab the spout. Rhys offered his cup easily enough, letting Jack fill it before he grabbed the one between Jack’s teeth so he could fill that one, too.

“So, what, am I just like, your accessory for the night?” Rhys asked before taking a slow sip of his beer, eyes unamused as he peered at Jack over the rim of his cup. Jack looked like he was pondering the question for a moment, lips curved in a thoughtful frown.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Jack replied nonchalantly with a shrug of his shoulders, “all you gotta do is get me beer and look pretty, pumpkin.” Jack flashed him one of those grins again, the kind that made Rhys blush all over, and then took a big gulp of his drink.

—-

It wasn’t long before the Alpha Sigma Phi house was packed beyond reason (Rhys was pretty sure they were violating more than a few fire codes). Walking around was hell, the sea of people too dense not to bump into someone when he walked by. Rhys had suddenly developed a very real fear of losing Jack in the masses, constantly reaching out for his arm or the back of his jacket when they moved about the crowd. He might not have known Jack very long but he was, quite literally, the only person Rhys knew at this damn party. He didn’t exactly do well in big crowds when left alone, so Jack was pretty much his lifeline.

Jack, on the other hand, seemed to know every single person they bumped into. Or, at the very least, everyone knew him. Most of the people that stopped them in their stride or interrupted a conversation to say, ‘what’s up, man’ might as well have been strangers; Jack usually made a comment once they walked away that was some variation of ‘I have no fucking clue who that person was.’ Clearly, Jack was a popular guy.

That fact left Rhys wondering why that made him somehow hotter. Jack seemed to be the life of the party, lighting up the room as soon as he walked in. It made Rhys feel like he was with a celebrity or something. He didn’t think he’d like this kind of college life, partying, having too many friends to count, being in a fraternity. But it was all starting to seem pretty cool, much to Rhys’ surprise. The music didn’t seem too loud anymore, the beers were going down easy, and Jack was really good at making him laugh.

Rhys was already four drinks in by the time Jack dragged him into the beer pong room Rhys had helped set up. All the tables were full with crowds of people watching like it was some kind of professional sport. He was pretty sure Jack skipped over some people waiting to play, staking claim to play next at whichever table finished first. Nobody said anything, though, so Rhys just let it happen.

“Hey pumpkin,” Jack murmured in his ear, close enough that Rhys could feel his breath. He knew that Jack had only leaned so close so he could hear him over the music without shouting, but it still sent shivers up Rhys’ spine. He blamed it on the alcohol. “Go get me another beer while we’re waiting, mmkay?”

Rhys glanced up as Jack pulled away, mad at himself for getting so hot in the face when Jack winked at him and handed him his cup. He snatched the cup and hurried out of the room, heart thundering in his chest. He felt like a kid with their first crush, it was ridiculous. For some reason Jack just made him so… He couldn’t even think of a word to describe it. Nervous? Probably that, yeah, but it wasn’t just that. Jack just had some kind of energy to him that was practically ethereal, and Rhys could tell he wasn’t the only one who thought so.

“You gonna keep letting that spill over, buddy?” Rhys didn’t recognize the voice as any of the seniors from the frat, nor any of the freshmen that had been accepted alongside him. He glanced down at Jack’s overflowing cup and let the tap snap free from under his thumb with a shocked squawk.

“Here, let me help you.” Rhys decided he didn’t like this guy’s voice. It was so smarmy and condescending, like this guy thought he was the shit or something. He flinched a little when a large hand wrapped around his own where it was holding Jack’s cup before it was taken from his hand.

Without a word Rhys started filling his own cup, face turned down in a scowl as he pumped the tap. He ignored the way the guy moved closer to him, concentrating on not over filling his cup. He wasn’t sure why he was so perturbed by this guy, but again, it was probably all the beer in his system.

“Name’s Hugo,” funny, Rhys didn’t remember asking for his name. He finally glanced up to look at the guy, fighting to keep himself from making a nasty face at the sight of him. So greasy, was the first thing that popped to mind, eyes darting back down to his drink, which was thankfully full now. He reached for Jack’s cup, but Hugo moved it out of his reach.

“And yours?” Hugo asked expectantly, taking a sip from the cup he probably assumed was Rhys’. Shit, now he’d have to get Jack a new cup.

“Rhys. You can keep that,” he said flatly and pointed at the cup, stepping over to one of the tables that had stacks of unused ones on it. He took one just as he heard a splash, glancing over to the pool. Well, that answered his question about people swimming in the fall. He went back to the keg and started pouring another beer, annoyed that Hugo didn’t leave.

“You here with someone, Rhys?” He really didn’t like the sound of his name in this creep’s mouth.

“I have two cups, don’t I?” Rhys narrowed his eyes at the guy like he was an idiot, which, clearly he was.

“Ooh, feisty, me likey.” Gross, why the hell was this guy so gross? Rhys tossed the tap back in the direction of the keg the second he was finished, already walking away. “I’ll see you around, Rhys!”

“God, I hope not,” Rhys muttered against the rim of his cup before he took a big gulp of the cold liquid. Once he was back in the beer pong room he nudged Jack in the side with his elbow to get his attention, passing him his beer.

“Thanks, cupcake! What took ya so long? Get lost?” Jack grinned manically at him and Rhys rolled his eyes.

“No, some creep was—“

“Ya gotta speak up, kitten, I can’t hear ya!”

Rhys let out a huff and tried again. “I said, some creep was trying to… Hit on me or… Something!”

Jack quirked an eyebrow and opened his mouth as if he were going to say something, only to be stopped short by loud cheering from one of the tables. Both men looked over to see that one of the games had ended, meaning that it was their turn to play. Rhys followed Jack over to their side of the table, nerves finally setting in. He’d only ever played beer pong a few time in his friend’s basement in high school, so it went without saying that he wasn’t very good. He really didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of all these people, in front of Jack, but he hadn’t exactly thought about that when he’d agreed to play.

“Ummm,” Rhys mumbled as he looked up at Jack, who was tossing the pong balls down to the other team, “so, full disclosure here, I suck.” Rhys gave a sheepish smile, stepping off to the side as one of the lackey freshmen filled their cups up with beer.

“Only if I’m lucky,” Jack replied, grinning from ear to ear. It took Rhys a minute to catch the undertones of that statement, face flaring red.

“At beer pong. I suck at beer pong, Jack. So, since I warned you, you have no right to be a jackass about it later.”

“Aww, what makes you think I’d be a jackass about it?”

Rhys didn’t bother answering.

—-

Rhys was pretty sure the other team thought he was hustling them, which was pretty reasonable. He was having the game of his life, nearly making every cup he aimed for. Each time they scored the girls across the table looked pissed, and Jack wasn’t helping with all the comments he was flinging at them. Normally, Rhys would be mortified by Jack’s attitude, but he was way too drunk to care. Actually, he was just drunk enough that he was encouraging it, effectively falling into place as Jack’s hype man.

Rhys pulled the ball from the cup that one of the girls had sank, quickly downing the beer in it before he set it aside. The next girl missed, Jack caught the ball in the air, and then stepped aside for Rhys to throw.

“You got this, Rhysie!” Jack shouted, making Rhys lower his arm with a giggle.

“Cut it out! You’re distracting me!” He retorted, sticking his tongue out at the older man. He set himself back up for the shot and sank it with a triumphant shout from Jack. “Heatin’ up!” Rhys shouted, high-fiving Jack when he offered his hand up. Jack’s massive hand left his own stinging from the impact, but he sucked it up.

Jack stepped up to throw his ball, hitting it off the rim of one of the cups. Jack cursed as the ball began bouncing back towards them on the table, all four players diving for it simultaneously. Rhys snatched it up with his cybernetic hand just as Jack grabbed him by his arm so he didn’t fall on his face. Jack steadied him, the both of them laughing the whole time.

“Just so everybody’s clear, this is for fire,” Jack stated to the group, holding his arms out towards Rhys like he was presenting a prize on a game show.

“Don’t worry, I’ll fuck it up. There’s no way I’m making a shot behind my back.” The girls on the other end of the table looked like they weren’t buying it. The taller one had her arms crossed over her chest, the shorter one waving her hands over the cups obnoxiously in an attempt to distract him.

Jack squeezed his shoulders encouragingly as he got into position, mimicking a few practice throws. When Rhys sank the shot his arms shot up in the air in victory, just as Jack smacked his ass, hard. Rhys whipped around so fast he got dizzy, but Jack just had that same grin on his face, like he hadn’t just spanked Rhys right in front of everybody. Rhys was sure his entire face was red, but the embarrassment wasn’t enough to quell his triumph. He gave Jack another high-five and a big smile, because apparently they were just going to ignore the spank.

“Hell yeah, kiddo!” Jack shouted, motioning with a hand for the girls to send Rhys’ ball back. “I thought you sucked at this?” His tone was accusatory as he placed the ball in Rhys’ hand.

“I do! This isn’t normal, I swear. I can never play another game of beer pong after this.” Jack laughed and ruffled his hair, much to Rhys’ displeasure. He fixed his hair with a harrumph and pushed Jack out of the way so he could take his shot.

It was definitely going to be a good year.

Chapter Text

Rhys felt like actual death. The sun was too bright, his mouth was too dry, and it was about a million degrees in… Wait, where was he? With a pathetic groan Rhys blinked his eyes open, squinting at the way the sunlight pierced his eyeballs and sent daggers of pain straight to the back of his skull. It only took him a few seconds to realize he was in his own dorm, which was a relief but also worrisome. How the hell did he even get there? He didn’t remember leaving the frat house, and the more the thought about it, the more he realized he didn’t remember.

Slowly, very slowly, Rhys sat up in his bed, fighting back the nausea sitting in the back of his throat. He gave himself a quick assessment, realizing he was fully clothed and… Still wearing his shoes. Not the weirdest thing ever, but he’d definitely have to wash his sheets now. He peeled the blankets back from his body, shuddering at the hot, gross, sticky feeling all over his body. He really wanted to brush his teeth immediately, but the idea of putting something in his mouth made his stomach churn.

“Good morning, sunshine,” came Vaughn’s voice from above, like some god greeting him from the heavens. Really, he was just sitting on his weird not-bunk-bunk-bed and Rhys was hungover so everything felt really dramatic.

“How did I get here?” Rhys asked as he fell back onto the bed, voice groggy from sleep, and maybe shouting, had he been shouting last night?

“Some guy carried you. You were both pretty trashed, I honestly have no idea how he got you here.” Rhys turned his head just slightly so he could see Vaughn sitting cross-legged on his bed, typing away at his laptop. Rhys always thought those high dorm beds were cool, Vaughn’s desk tucked underneath with all of his things. It helped make their tiny ass dorm room feel a little bigger, but alas, Rhys was way too tall to sleep in one of those things. He’d smack his head on the ceiling just trying to sit up.

“What… Ugh, I need water,” Rhys rolled onto his side and reached blindly around on the floor, relieved to find an old water bottle he’d left there a few days ago. He downed what was left of it in one gulp. “What time is it?”

“Noon,” Vaughn replied simply, making Rhys let out a loud groan. “You didn’t get back until 3 AM, bro. I don’t know how you’re alive. What made you join this fraternity again?”

Rhys waved his hand noncommittally at Vaughn and turned his head into his pillow to hide from the sun. “Wait, I was carried here?” Rhys asked incredulously, the words finally sinking in. “Who—,” just then his phone vibrated somewhere in the bed, his hand swinging about in search of it. He hissed as he stubbed his finger against it and sent it crashing to the floor, nearly sliding right off the bed when he reached down for it.

It was a text from Jack. Rhys had to hide his smile in his pillow as he opened up the message, not really hearing what Vaughn had started to say.

>u alive, kitten?

Was Jack… Checking up on him? He wasn’t sure if it was nausea or butterflies in his stomach, the hang over was really kicking his ass. Some faint memories started to come back to him, little bursts of information fading in and out. He remembered absolutely killing it at beer pong… Did they do shots? A burp bubbled up in his throat at the thought, or maybe that was vomit, but he swallowed it down with a grimace. The taste settling in the back of his throat told him yes, they definitely did shots. Everything else in between that was pretty fuzzy. He vaguely remembered Jack making him chug a bottle of water, an arm slung over shoulders, and… Oh shit, was Jack the one who carried him home?

>>barely. did you bring me home?

Rhys hit send before he could chicken out, finally toeing his shoes off of the end of the bed. He let his eyes fall closed as he tried to will away his throbbing headache, gagging as he caught the smell of beer on his shirt. He ignored his phone at first when it vibrated a few times, not ready to face the harsh light of the screen in such a fragile state. He never, ever wanted to drink again.

>yea ur drunk ass could hardly tell me where u lived lol
>had to carry u
>ur legs are 2 frickin long, btw
>suuuuuper annoying

Well, that was embarrassing. Rhys shoved his phone under his pillow and decided he was going to spend the rest of his day wallowing in his self-pity and wishing he was never born. Yeah, that sounded good. Reflect on some bad choices, or, actually, maybe all of his life choices. Clearly he didn’t know how to run his own life. His phone vibrated again and he just barely pulled it out from under the pillow, squinting to see the single word on his screen.

>breakfast?

That sounded… To be honest, good-bad right now. The idea of eating made him want to puke all over the floor, but he also knew some shitty, greasy food would make him feel infinitely better as long as he could keep it down. Also, this gave him the opportunity to explain himself so Jack didn’t think he was a total idiot. But first, shower.

>>sure, gimme 15 to get ready

Jack sent back a thumbs-up emoji as Rhys dragged himself out of bed, dragging his feet as he gathered up his things for the shower. He picked out the most comfortable clothes he could find that were still acceptable to be seen out in public and headed down to the communal bathrooms, shower caddy and towel in one hand, clothes in the other.

—-

Rhys was just pulling his shoes on when Jack texted him that he’d arrived, to which Rhys had replied that he’d be down shortly. He told Vaughn he’d be back later as he made his way out of the dorm, hands shoved into the pockets of his zip-up hoodie. Each step down the hall felt like it was going to be his last, making him regret agreeing to leave his bed. He just hoped the food made him feel at least somewhat normal.

When Rhys made it outside he didn’t see Jack anywhere. He walked down the sidewalk slowly as he looked around before he realized he didn’t even know what he was looking for. Had Jack walked? Did he have a car? These were details he probably should have worked out before hand, and guessing by the lack of Jack he must have driven. Rhys had no idea what car to look for, so he stopped walking and pulled his phone out before he hit call on Jack’s contact. The answer was almost immediate.

“You lookin’ for somethin’, cupcake?” Rhys really didn’t need the sarcasm right now, his head hurt too much.

“Yeah, you. Where are you?”

“I’m literally right in front of you, dumdum. You need glasses or something?”

Rhys glanced around his immediate surroundings without moving, because clearly Jack could see him looking around like an idiot. What the hell was he talking about, right in front of him? The only car that was on in his general area was way too nice to be—

A loud honk had Rhys jumping out of his skin with a startled shout, his phone falling out of his hand and onto the ground with a loud clatter that made him wince. He could faintly hear Jack’s obnoxiously loud laughter coming from the speaker of his phone where it was lying face-down on the sidewalk. Rhys closed his eyes as the pounding in his head intensified from the loud sound, and right now he was seriously considering vomiting all over the hood of Jack’s fancy ass car.

Rhys bent down to snatch up his phone, blinking away the stars behind his eyes from standing up too fast. When he got into the car Jack was still laughing, though he seemed to try his best to calm himself as he wiped tears from his eyes. Rhys glared at him from the passenger seat and slammed the door shut before he examined his phone for any cracks.

“First of all, fuck you,” Rhys started as he wiggled his phone into his pocket once he deemed it unscathed, “second of all, how do you have such a nice car? It’s obnoxious. Also, I’m pretty sure the tint on these windows is illegal.” It was a Dodge Charger, all black… Everywhere. It was sleek and, if Rhys was being honest, kind of sexy. There was no air freshener in sight but it smelled divine and there wasn’t any garbage, textbooks, not even a spec of dirt in the damn thing. Either it was brand new or Jack took really good care of it.

“What are you gonna do, call the cops?”

“Maybe,” Rhys mumbled as he closed his eyes and kicked his feet up onto the dashboard, only to have Jack punch him in the leg. “Ow! All right, sorry, jeeze,” he grumbled as he took his feet down and wiped away the scuff marks with his sleeve. He reclined his chair a little with a groan as Jack started to drive.

It started to dawn on him that he didn’t know where they were going and that he’d very willingly gotten into someone’s car that he didn’t know very well. Not his best decision, but he figured if Jack was decent enough to carry him home and put him to bed then he was decent enough not to drive him into the woods and murder him or something, right? This was how friendships started, hanging out, going places. He just needed to relax and remember not all friendships were based on playing video games and staying indoors. He was an adult now, and adults did things.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Rhys muttered, cracking an eye open to glance over at Jack. He was definitely driving too fast and only had one hand on the steering wheel but damn if Rhys didn’t dig it. Was he really that naive? He watched as Jack’s hand flexed on the wheel, the tendons in his wrist flexing under the ink of his tattoo. Yeah, he was that naive.

“What, about the car?” Jack shrugged with one shoulder. “Saved up a shit ton of money for a massive down payment and bought it on impulse. Probably should have put that money towards all the loans I’m gonna have when I get out of this crap hole but, y’know, too little too late and all that. It’s how I get all the ladies.”

Rhys scoffed at that and closed his eyes again, but not before he caught the stupid smirk on Jack’s face. “Right, because you need a car for that.”

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say you’re hitting on me, Rhysie,” Jack cooed as the car came to a stop either at a red light or a stop sign, Rhys couldn’t tell with his eyes closed. What he could tell, though, was that his face heated up at the comment embarrassingly.

“How are you not dying right now? Because I’m dying right now.” Rhys deflected as he pulled his zip up tighter around his body.

“Oh, I’m dead inside, I’m just used to it. You better get used to it, too, pumpkin. There’s a lot more parties where that came from, and you’ve gotta go to ‘em all.”

Rhys whined in the back of his throat while Jack laughed at his misery. There was no turning back now, was there?

—-

In actuality, it hadn’t taken that long to get to the breakfast spot, but it had felt like forever. It probably had to do with the raging hang over pulsing through his body, making time go by slower than ever. The rest of the ride had been pretty much silent, both men focusing on not needing to pull over on the side of the road to up-chuck the alcohol from the night before.

Jack parked the car and both men practically crawled out. Rhys had to take a minute to hunch over and adjust to how bright it was outside compared to the dark interior of Jack’s car. When he finally rounded the side of the car where Jack was leaning against the hood he frowned at the sight of him.

“Are you wearing sweatpants?” Rhys asked incredulously, gaping at the ill-dressed man. He wouldn’t be caught dead in sweatpants out in public, but here Jack was, looking like a damn slob. Don't get him wrong, somehow Jack pulled it off and still looked good (Rhys had to catch himself staring at Jack’s crotch because of the way the grey material clung to him, almost like he wasn’t even wearing underwear).

Jack scoffed and pushed off the hood of the car, placing a hand on Rhys’ back to guide him into the pancake house. “You’re lucky I showered before I picked you up.”

Rhys was hyper-aware of how close Jack was once they got inside. He could feel the warmth of his chest just a few inches from his back, making his heart flutter and his stomach do flips. His hands were suddenly clammy in his pockets, cheeks a soft shade of pink that he would blame on the hang over if necessary. How did Jack get him so tense? He felt like a teenager who was too shy to be around their crush. It made him feel like an idiot.

As soon as they were sat at a table Rhys folded his arms on the surface and put his head down on them with a groan. “Why,” he mumbled, ignoring the way Jack chuckled from behind his menu, “why do I feel like this?”

“Probably all the shots,” Jack muttered, and that had Rhys picking his head up way too fast. He blinked away the dizziness and took a big sip from the glass of water that was in front of him.

“What do you mean ‘all the shots’? I only did one…,” Rhys trailed off, unsure of that statement. He remembered doing one shot, but that didn’t mean that was the only one he did. Judging by the sly grin Jack gave him over the top of his menu, it was more than one.

We did one shot, together. But then the seniors made all the pledges do two, three? It was definitely three. So technically, you did four shots. But who’s counting?” Jack shrugged and went back to looking at his menu.

Four shots?!” Rhys whisper-shouted as he covered his face with his hands. “Oh my god, how could you let me take four shots. I have like, no tolerance to alcohol. Am I going to die of alcohol poisoning at some point this year? Please tell me nobody’s died from hazing in this frat.” Rhys rubbed at his face a few times before he went back to sucking down his water.

“There’s usually at least one a year,” Jack said casually as he put his menu down. Rhys blanched, mouth agape as he stared at Jack with wide eyes. Thankfully, Jack was only able to hold it together for a few seconds before he started laughing.

“So, uh… You’re joking, right?” Rhys chuckled nervously as he started to chew on his straw. Jack’s attention seemed to be drawn to his mouth at that, his laughter dying down as he watched Rhys flick the little piece of plastic around with his tongue before he started chewing again.

“Of course I’m joking, idiot,” Rhys frowned at the insult, “don’t worry, Jack’ll take care of ya.” Jack grinned, and it wasn’t until the older man was licking his lips that Rhys noticed he was definitely being watched. Rhys blushed and pulled away from the straw quickly, pushing his drink towards the middle of the table.

“That somehow makes me more nervous,” Rhys mumbled just before their server arrived.

—-

Somehow, breakfast turned into an all-day ordeal. Once both men were full and less hung over (but admittedly, still very hung over) they drove around town without anywhere to go. They talked the whole drive, Jack asked about Rhys’ tattoos, showed him a few places around campus, told him about the bars that didn’t ID (which was most of them). Rhys asked Jack what his plan was once he graduated, and much to his surprise Jack didn’t really seem to have a clue. Jack made it very clear that his college experience was more about having fun then having any kind of direction with his life, figured he’d probably go to grad school just because that seemed like the next step. Rhys admitted he didn’t really know what he wanted to do, either, and they bonded over that for a while.

About an hour into their joy ride Jack stopped to get gas while Rhys went inside to grab some snacks. Jack couldn’t help but smile at the big grin on Rhys’ face when he came out of the gas station with two armfuls of junk food and, yeah, those were definitely energy drinks stuffed in his pockets. They drove some more before Jack decided to park in an abandoned parking lot where they watched the cars drive by and ate their snacks with the windows rolled down. Jack let Rhys put his feet up on the dashboard, but only if he took his shoes off. He then proceeded to make fun of Rhys’ ridiculously patterned socks and Rhys honestly wasn’t even surprised.

What did surprise Rhys was how easy their conversation flowed, like they’d been friends for years. It had been like that the night before, too, but Rhys figured it was the alcohol and Jack’s charismatic personality. Even the silence was comfortable, only the sound of the chip bag rustling and the cars passing by filing the space. It wasn’t quite like what him and Vaughn had, even though he’d hit it off with the shorter man just as easily. The friendship he was building with Vaughn was a bromance in the making, they shared the same interests, had similar goals, and were both equally as awkward (well, maybe Vaughn had him beat a little bit in that category).

With Jack it was different. Jack had gone to college just to party, whereas Rhys had been hoping to avoid partying as much as possible (not that that worked out). Jack was cool and charming, his friend group was enormous, and he was kind of a dick. But Rhys was drawn to him, even more so now that they’d spent the whole day talking. Maybe it was his infatuation getting in the way, but Rhys had a good feeling about Jack.

Rhys was surprised to see it was already 4 o’clock when he checked the time. He also had a text from Vaughn asking if he was alive, to which he’d quickly replied that he in fact was and that he wasn’t sure when he’d be back. He figured they wouldn’t be sitting in Jack’s car much longer, and he was a little disappointed with the idea that he’d have to go back to his dorm soon. Not that he was disappointed with what he had waiting for him, he’d probably just end up playing video games with Vaughn all night, but he was having fun with Jack. He didn’t want to have to wait for the next party to see him, even if he probably only had to wait until next weekend.

“You wanna watch TV at my place?” Came Jack’s voice to his left, causing Rhys to look up from his phone. He blinked at him stupidly as if he’d heard him wrong, muttering a drawn out ’uhh’ for a while before he found his voice.

“Yeah, sure, why not? Actually, wait, do you mean back at the frat house?” Rhys quickly backtracked, not sure he was up to being surrounded by that many of Jack’s friends. Jack alone was a lot to handle, even though Rhys was up to that challenge. His friends, though? Not really interested, especially when he had the remnants of a hang over pulsating through him.

“Nah, I’ve got an on-campus apartment. Got sick of trying to fuck with a roommate in the next bed,” Jack’s grin was wicked in a way that made Rhys’ stomach flip, and damn it, now he couldn’t stop thinking about Jack getting laid. For some reason that made him jealous, which only made his thoughts shift to him getting laid by Jack, and that was a dangerous road to go down with the man so close and horny hang-over-hormones in is system. He really didn’t want to get an ill-timed boner right now.

“How do you pay for that?” Rhys asked as Jack started the car, shuffling back into his seat so he was sitting normally again. He opened Vaughn’s messages and let him know not to wait up for him, along with an apology.

“Student debt. Lots and lots of student debt.” Rhys laughed at that, because damn if it couldn’t relate.

The ride to Jack’s had Rhys very high-strung. He was nervous about being in Jack’s place, alone, even though there was absolutely no connotation whatsoever. They were just two dudes ready to binge on some TV. Still, he couldn’t shake the nervous feeling in his gut, couldn’t stop chewing on his lip or fiddling with the zipper on his hoodie. He knew nothing was going to happen, and they’d hung out all day without it being weird, but there was something about being in Jack’s apartment that made Rhys get butterflies.

Chapter Text

Jack had gone away to college for two things; to party and to get laid (and get a degree, but that was more of an added bonus). He knew he was known around campus for being a player, and why wouldn’t he be? He was young and good looking with his own apartment and a damn nice car, he wasn’t about to limit his options and get a significant other he’d probably end up leaving when he graduated anyway. He’d only had one girlfriend throughout college and that had been enough for him. Nisha had been an intense, albeit short-lived, ride of his life. She was older than him, more experienced, and honestly had taught him a lot of great things in bed. Jack appreciated her as a stepping stone in his sexual history but it wasn’t like he ever loved the girl. He was a sophomore and she’d been a senior, of course he was gonna jump on that opportunity.

But now? Relationships were out of the question. Jack didn’t need the stress of someone breathing down his neck always wondering where he was, it was just too much commitment for him. Plus, with a face and body like his, he practically had guys and girls alike lining up to fool around for a night. Why would he choose to fuck one person all the time when he could fuck lots of different people? He’d just be limiting himself with a relationship and he had plenty of time to do that after college.

Jack’s intentions with Rhys were no different. As soon as he saw the kid he couldn’t stop thinking about all the filthy things he wanted to do to him. Jack had never seen such a pretty guy in his life before, pale, all legs, nice ass. He knew he needed to wreck this kid one way or another, so when he found out he was trying to pledge he let all the seniors know who he was picking so everyone knew to keep their hands off. Rhys was naive, he could tell that much, and that fact almost made him want to sleep with him more. Jack knew he could get Rhys to bend to his every whim and damn if he wasn’t gonna make that happen.

It was the perfect opportunity now, he’d already gotten Rhys back to his place and he seemed comfortable enough. He was stretched out on Jack’s couch watching some TV show Jack wasn’t paying attention to, his shirt riding up just enough that he could see a little bit of Rhys’ soft belly peeking out. God, he wanted to run his tongue over the spot, make Rhys fall apart for him. He couldn’t stop stealing glances of the younger man, of the sleepy look on his face and the way his hair was kind of messed up from being mushed into the throw pillow he was laying on.

Jack wanted to make a move, he did, and with Rhys’ feet propped up in his lap it’d be easy for him to run his hand up his leg suggestively, but for some reason he couldn’t. Jack never got nervous in these situations, not anymore. He’d been around the block enough times to know what he was doing and rejection was never something he worried about (again, too handsome for that). So why was this freshman making him nervous? It was irritating to say the least. The closest he got to making any kind of move was when he put his hand on Rhys’ knee, but he’d done that about twenty minutes ago and Rhys hadn’t even flinched. He didn’t blame him, it wasn’t much of a move at all; Jack was disappointed with himself.

When Jack threw another glance Rhys’ way and saw the kid was almost asleep he knew he’d ruined his opportunity. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t have others, he could tell Rhys was more than eager to hang out with him, but he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t been looking forward to getting laid that night. Rhys just looked so damn cute laying there, eyes half closed, hoodie all rumpled. Jack figured it was time to be the good guy and take Rhys home.

Carefully, Jack moved Rhys’ legs off of his lap and onto the couch so he could stand. Rhys looked up at him dazedly when Jack leaned over him, one hand braced on the back of the couch while the other gently cupped Rhys’ shoulder so he could jostle him just enough to get him to focus. Rhys had a dumb little smile on his face like he was happy to see him and Jack ignored how it kind of took his breath away. He looked so innocent lying there, arching into a stretch with his hands above his head like a content little kitten. It didn’t escape Jack’s notice that Rhys’ shirt rode up a little farther, revealing the soft skin of his belly button.

Jack cleared his throat, squeezed Rhys’ shoulder. “Come on, kiddo, I’ll take you home.” Jack couldn’t help but smile at the pout on Rhys’ face, arms dangling over the armrest now that he wasn’t stretching.

“So comfy…,” Rhys murmured tiredly. Jack could only chuckle and stand up straight, letting go of Rhys’ shoulder.

“Let’s go, the J-train is leaving.” Jack patted Rhys’ knee before he went to slip on his shoes and grab his car keys. It took Rhys a few minutes but he eventually peeled himself away from the couch, dragging his feet the whole way.

Rhys fell asleep on the ride back to his dorm, head butted up against the window with his hood pulled up around his head. Did Jack maybe sneak a picture of him? That was his business. He gently shook the younger man awake and offered to help him inside, but Rhys insisted he’d be fine. Jack smiled when he gave him a little wave as he walked by the front of his car and Jack watched that fine little ass walk away until he made it inside.

—-

“So, how was it?” Jack glanced up from his phone at the question, thumbs hovering over the keyboard tentatively.

“How was what?” Jack deadpanned, resuming his reply.

“Oh, come on, don’t try to be modest now, Jackie. I’m talkin’ about that little twink you were braggin’ about the other night.” Right, that’s why they were there, weren’t they? Jack promised Wilhelm he’d have lunch with him so he could dish all the dirty details about Rhys since he’d been bragging that he was gonna fuck the kid silly— well, something along those lines at least. Wilhelm was his best friend, they practically had an unspoken pact to dish out all the details.

“Nothing happened,” Jack muttered, and wasn’t it ironic that he was texting the kid now. Normally an ‘I had so much fun yesterday!’ text would have had Jack running for the hills (he did not entertain clingers), but waking up to Rhys’ text that morning had put a smile on his face for some reason.

“Wait, wait, wait, you can’t just say, ‘nothing happened’ and leave it at that. You were pretty fuckin’ confident at the party that you’d be getting laid last night. What the hell happened? He a virgin or somethin’?” Jack made a face at that and finally put his phone down.

“What? No, I don’t know. We just… Hung out.” Jack knew Wil was going to grill him for this, and judging by the look he was giving him it was coming soon. “He fell asleep,” Wilhelm looked like he believed that even less, “fuck off, he did!”

“That’s never stopped you before, Jackie. Could’a woke him up. From the sound of it, and this is based on what you told me, this kid would be droolin’ for your dick no matter how tired he was.” Jack was learning a very valuable lesson about bragging at the moment.

“What? What do you want me to say? I got nervous?” Wilhelm’s eyebrows shot up at that but Jack didn’t give him room to talk. “It just didn’t happen, all right? End of story. Don’t frickin’ look at me like that.”

Wilhelm held his hands up defensively but Jack hid behind his menu before he could see. “All’s I’m sayin’ is the Jack I know would have gotten laid last night. You soft for this kid or somethin’?”

Jack slapped his menu down onto the table for the dramatic effect, revealing his very unimpressed expression. “I swear to god I’ll tell everyone about Tim if you don’t shut your damn mouth.” Ah, that worked nicely.

—-

If Wilhelm noticed Jack was on his phone a lot during lunch he didn’t say anything, probably because he took Jack’s threat seriously. They’d been best friends long enough that Wil knew Jack would follow up on his promise if he was pushed too far. Jack didn’t care that his best friend was in a long distance relationship with his twin brother, Wil was just the type of person who didn’t like other people knowing his business (and he definitely didn’t want anyone knowing he was whipped enough to commit to something long distance). So what if Jack used that to his advantage?

Somehow, between all of Rhys’ overly-excited texts, Jack had agreed to see him again. He wasn’t really sure how it happened, or when it had happened, all Jack knew was that he was picking Rhys up and that they were going to go apple picking. Apple picking! How dumb was that? Okay, so maybe he did know how he ended up in this situation, kind of. He didn’t know how apple picking came up exactly, but Rhys had said he’d never gone, so naturally Jack said he’d take him, and now he had plans to go fucking apple picking.

Wilhelm had given him a weird look when he ordered a burger to go once they were nearing the end of their lunch, and he’d given him an even weirder look when Jack said he had plans to Wil’s offer of day drinking and video games. Regardless, Wil didn’t ask any questions, so Jack didn’t give any explanations. There was now way he was gonna let anybody know that he was about to take some freshman out apple picking, even if he was a little excited.

When Jack got to Rhys’ dorm he went inside this time, mostly because he didn’t want Rhys getting the idea that he could eat in his car. He had Rhys’ to-go bag in one hand, car keys in the other when he knocked on the dorm door and received an answer only a few seconds later. The first thing Jack thought was wow when he saw Rhys in a chunky, burgundy cable knit sweater looking so damn warm and cozy that Jack just wanted to hug him. This boy had no right to look so cute with his light blue jeans and dumb sneakers with that big stupid grin on his face. He made Jack feel underdressed in a plain black long sleeve t-shirt even though they were literally going to a farm.

“Hey!” Rhys chirped happily, stepping aside so Jack could enter the dorm, not that there was really anywhere for him to go. There was hardly any room to walk around and the only places to sit were Rhys’ bed and his roommate’s desk. Jack opted for the desk chair as a safe option as he handed Rhys his food, to which Rhys eagerly took and sat down on his bed. He definitely didn’t miss freshman dorms.

“Thanks for the food, I’m starving. I can give you some cash.” Rhys leaned over his bed to grab his book bag, presumably to get his wallet, but Jack knocked the bag out of his hand with his foot before he could get too far.

“Don’t worry about it, just hurry up and eat so we can get going.”

Rhys did just that, eating his burger just fast enough that it was probably embarrassing. Once they were in the car Rhys looked up the nearest orchard on his phone and set the GPS, which he talked over the whole time, causing Jack to miss more than a few turns. It took longer than anticipated, but they eventually made it there in one piece even though Rhys almost had them skidding off the side of the road when he suddenly shouted that the turn was right there oh my god Jack you’re going to miss it! Jack really couldn’t let Rhys take all the blame, he’d been speeding the whole time.

Jack drove slow down the long dirt road that lead to the orchard while Rhys looked out the window at all of the apple trees. He was a little peeved to find that parking was just an open muddy field that kicked up onto his car and caked onto his tires but he didn’t say anything, not wanting to damper Rhys’ excitement when all he had to do was get a car wash to fix it.

Rhys was practically skipping ahead of Jack towards the main building, glancing back at the older man over his shoulder. Jack smiled just a little before he had to quickly reach out and grab Rhys by the arm when he started to trip over his own feet.

“Watch where you’re going, dumbass,” Jack chided, helping Rhys right himself. Rhys only giggled and tugged Jack along where he was still holding onto his arm.

“Sorry, I’m just excited. Aren’t you excited? You don’t look excited.” Rhys pouted, so naturally Jack took the opportunity to fuck with him.

“I’m allergic to apples.”

Rhys stopped mid-stride and gaped at Jack, mouth open in awe. Jack let that settle for a minute before he started laughing and continued on his way.

Wow, you actually feel for it. I mean, you’re pretty gullible so I’m not surprised. Do you really think I’d come to an orchard if I was allergic to apples? That’s, like, assisted suicide at that point, right? Man, you should have seen the look on your face, classic,” Jack stopped talking for a second to laugh again as he played over Rhys’ reaction in his head, “you are such a— oof!

Jack stumbled forward a few steps as he felt something solid connect with his back. He managed to gain his footing before he could fall on his face, his hands instinctively grabbing Rhys’ thighs when he realized that younger man had jumped on his back. He must have taken a running start considering he almost knocked the air right out of Jack’s lungs. Suddenly there was an arm around his neck that probably could have choked him with the right technique, but all Rhys could mange was a slight pressure on his Adam’s apple.

“Are you trying to choke me out?” Jack asked as he glanced at Rhys over his shoulder. “Because if you are you really suck at it.” Rhys huffed in his ear and settled for letting Jack piggy back him the rest of the way to the main building. When they got up to the counter Rhys happily took a map of the orchard and a bag for the apples they were going to pick from where he was perched on Jack’s back.

“Where do you wanna go?” Rhys asked as he held the map out in front of both of them. Jack shrugged as best he could with Rhys on his back as he hoisted him up a little farther.

“You’re the one who wanted to come here, you pick.” Rhys made a thoughtful noise and then pointed at a spot on the map labeled ‘pink lady’.

“Let’s go here! Onward, noble steed!”

“Nope, not doing that.” Jack let go of where he was holding onto Rhys’ thighs, making the freshman kick his legs around with a squawk as he tried to balance himself. Once Rhys got his feet on the ground he started stomping off in a random direction like he knew where he was going (he clearly didn’t). Jack thought about telling him he was going the wrong way but he decided against it, instead following behind with a smirk.

—-

Jack was genuinely surprised at how much fun he could have on a farm with some dork he just met a few days ago. Rhys picked way more apples than he could ever eat and Jack was forced to carry the bag around the whole day but he didn’t complain too much. Jack made Rhys try every single type of apple the orchard had even though Rhys complained that he was going to get a stomach ache. There were a few times Jack managed to disappear before Rhys could notice only to pop out from behind a row of trees and scare the shit out of the younger man; the first couple times Jack actually got him to scream.

Somehow Rhys managed to get Jack to climb more than a few trees just so he could get what Rhys deemed to be ‘the perfect apple’. Jack even let Rhys get onto his shoulders a few times, and even though Rhys insisted no, he wasn’t scared, Jack could tell he was definitely nervous once he got up that high. Their day seemed to be going great, up until Jack finished paying for the apples and turned around to find Rhys talking to some other guy.

Jack instantly felt jealousy creeping up his spine as he watched from a distance. This guy, whoever he was, kept putting his arm on Rhys’ shoulder like he knew him pretty well. He couldn’t really get a read on Rhys, but that was probably because he was too focused on sending as much negative energy he could muster in the form of a hard-set glare in the stranger’s direction. This guy wasn’t even good looking, Rhys was way out of his league and hello, Jack was the hottest guy on campus. Why the hell was Rhys giving him the time of day? And why the hell was Jack so damn jealous?

Rhys glanced over at him and met Jack’s gaze with what Jack was pretty sure was a ‘help me’ look in his eyes; that’s what Jack was taking it as, at least. Clearly he needed to save Rhys from this guy. Jack snatched up their bag of apples and strode his way over to them, taking a possessive position at Rhys’ back; he pretended not to notice that Rhys took a half step backward so Jack’s chest was pressed against him.

“What are you two lovely ladies talking about over here, huh?” Jack asked in a mockingly sweet tone, flipping a switch from his previous bout of anger. The greasy rat before them finally looked Jack’s way, eyebrow quirked cockily as if this guy really thought he could intimidate him. Did this prick even know who he was?

“We were just talking about how funny it was that we ran into each other here, right, Rhys?” Jack narrowed his eyes at the way he said Rhys’ name, catching the bob of Rhys’ head out of the corner of his eye as he nodded in agreement.

“Mmkay… And who are you? Not to like, put you down or anything because you don’t seem like you’ve got too many friends but uh, you here alone, buddy?” Jack couldn’t help but smirk at the way the guy tensed at Jack’s insinuation that he didn’t have any friends. Jack could tell his jaw was set tight now and Rhys seemed to relax against him a little, his shoulders trembling slightly against Jack’s chest where he tried to stifle some laughter.

“Vasquez, Hugo Vasquez,” the slimy little fuck said as he held his hand out for a handshake like he was James Bond or something, “my friends are outside. And you are?”

Both Jack and Rhys scoffed at the same time at Hugo’s inquiry. This guy was really trying to play dumb, huh? Jack maneuvered the bag of apples into Rhys’ hand so he could reach his right hand forward to shake Hugo’s at the same time he brought his left hand up to grasp Rhys’ bicep, this time welcoming when Rhys leaned back into him. Jack enjoyed the impact his threat clearly had on Hugo’s pride. What was his silent threat, precisely? Back the fuck off.

“Sure, let’s pretend you don’t know who I am, princess. Y’know, that name sounds familiar. Hugo… Hugo, hmm…,” Jack gave Hugo’s hand a painful squeeze before he let go and in turn grasped Rhys’ other bicep.

“This is the guy I was telling you about, at the party,” Rhys chimed in, turning his head to look back at Jack, “remember? Right before we played beer pong?” Ahh, now that rang a bell.

Ohh, you mean the guy who was trying to hit on you?” Jack let a beat of silence settle in the air just to make Hugo squirm. “I remember now. Well, I’d say it was a pleasure but then I’d just be lying and that’s just rude. Ciao!” Jack flashed Hugo a threatening grin before he guided Rhys out of the building by the grip he had on his arms.

Once they were outside Rhys broke out into laughter, stammering his words through fits of giggles. “Oh my god, you destroyed him. I mean— I mean, I don’t know if he deserved all that but it was fantastic! You totally saved me back there, I owe you big time.”

“You owe me, hmm? Don’t think I won’t remember that, Rhysie.” Jack could think of a few things he could cash in with that over, and more than half of them were sexual; not that that would exactly work, he didn’t think Rhys was that easy. Regardless, Jack had a favor in his back pocket, and favors were always good things to have.

Chapter Text

Rhys stared blankly at the white board in front of him as his professor started to explain their first project of the year; a group project, much to Rhys’ dismay. He didn’t really have any friends in class, or really any of his classes, so there wasn’t anybody for him to cling to. He was a few weeks deeper into the semester and his only friends were still Vaughn and Jack, which was really his own fault. He didn’t exactly give himself time to make friends with anybody else. Almost all of his time was spent with Jack (not that he was complaining), and whatever time he had left he either spent doing homework or hanging out with Vaughn.

It seemed that having friends in class didn’t really matter anyway, considering the professor was pulling out a sheet of names that already appeared to be paired up. Rhys was a little relieved, he was at least spared the embarrassment of being that kid who sat there waiting for someone to come to him only to be the last one without a partner. Regardless of who he was paired up with he had a feeling he was going to be doing most of the work, which he’d honestly prefer so he knew he’d get a good grade. It peeved him to be stuck with all the work, but he was fully prepared to sit down with whoever he got paired up with just to let them know he was planning on doing the project alone so that they only had to meet up the day before presentation so they were on the same page.

As his professor read off names Rhys glanced over the packet that had been handed out with details about the project. It seemed easy enough, it was only a gen-ed class anyway, nothing to worry about. He could probably crank the whole thing out in two, maybe three nights. He’d been so wrapped up in setting a game plan that he’d almost missed his name being called, almost. The only reason he’d looked up was because of the name that came after his, the one that he was paired to. He quickly raised his hand, causing his professor to stop speaking and direct his attention to Rhys.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat who I’m partnered with? I think I misheard,” Rhys said sheepishly, uncomfortable with all of the eyes that turned to him for interrupting with only a few more minutes of class left. His professor didn’t look impressed either, his eyes lazily scanning back over the paper.

“Hugo Vasquez,” hearing it a second time didn’t make it any easier to comprehend. He didn’t even know Hugo was in his class, and now he had to be partnered with him? This had to be a bad dream, he was probably going to stand up to leave class and he’d be in his underwear and everyone would laugh at him before he’d wake up from this awful, terrible dream.

Rhys nervously glanced around the classroom in search of is partner, still baffled by the fact that he’d spent so much of the semester completely oblivious to the fact that Hugo was in his class. When he finally found him it made more sense that he’d never seen him. Hugo was sitting in the seat directly behind him, grinning from ear to ear. Rhys started to wonder if he’d bribed the teacher into pairing them up.

Just then, like some kind of bad omen, his phone vibrated in his pocket. He quickly turned around and pulled his phone out, keeping it hidden under his desk as he read over the new message:

>we still on once ur out?

Rhys wrinkled his nose in disappointment, fully aware that he had to be the responsible adult and cancel his plans with Jack so he could, unfortunately, meet up with Hugo. Just the idea alone made his stomach flip, and he knew Jack wouldn’t be happy about him canceling, especially not when he caught wind of the reason why.

>>can’t :(

It was the best he could manage without getting caught texting. He quickly shoved his phone back in his pocket and tried his best to ignore the several vibrations he received in quick succession. Yeah, Jack was definitely not happy.

Once class was dismissed Rhys gathered his things and bee-lined for the door, only to have a thick, leather-clad arm block the doorway. Was this really what his life was going to be like over the next few weeks of this damn project? He glanced up at what was undoubtably Hugo blocking his way, his gaze lingering on the too-tight leather jacket he was wearing. It was clearly brand new, judging by how stiff it looked and the strong smell it was permeating.

“Would’ja look at that, partners, eh?” Rhys couldn’t be bothered to hide his grimace as he ducked under Hugo’s arm and continued on his way.

“Let’s just get this over with, okay? I had plans today and you’re ruining them,” speaking of which, Rhys pulled out his phone to glance at the barrage of texts Jack had sent him.

>what?
>r u ditching me?
>not cool kiddo
>who r u ditching me 4???

“Don’t be like that, pumpkin,” Rhys stopped dead in his tracks, glancing up from his phone for a fraction of a second so he could give Hugo his best ‘what the fuck?’ face.

>>Hugo just called me pumpkin

Probably not the best way to let Jack know that he was essentially getting ditched for the worst human being on the fact of the planet but Rhys was too shook by hearing someone say the word ‘pumpkin’ that wasn’t Jack.

“Look, if you want, I’ll just do the project myself. You’ll get a good grade, I promise. I’ll even say you did half the work! Deal?” Rhys held his hand out expectantly, even if he really never wanted to touch Hugo in any way, shape, or form. His phone buzzed in his hand, but he ignored it for the moment.

“Well, that’s just not fair, now is it? I’d never make you do the whole project by yourself, kitten.” Rhys visibly flinched at the pet name this time, drawing his outstretched hand back into himself. What the hell was going on? Why was Hugo talking like that? He glanced down at his phone quickly, pursing his lips at the message waiting for him.

>ur ditching me for assquez??????

That was a fair reaction. Rhys tried to type up a new message but Hugo snatched his phone out of his hands before he could get much of anything written.

“Hey! What the hell?!” Rhys reached for his phone only to have Hugo hold it above his head like the child he was, not that it really did much. Hugo wasn’t any taller than him so it was easy for him to reach up and snatch it back, deleting the random mush of letters that got tapped in their scuffle.

“I don’t even know why you bother with that guy,” Hugo muttered, crossing his arms over his chest. The motion only made it more apparent that his jacket was too small, sleeves riding up past his wrists, shoulders pulling tight. Rhys was really confused by this whole interaction, honestly. Rhys quirked an eyebrow at the insinuation that Jack was somehow the problem here, which only made Hugo roll his eyes. Rhys would have defended Jack if he gave a crap about what Hugo thought, but he didn’t, so it wasn’t really worth the energy. Something told him Jack wouldn’t really care, either.

“Let’s just go to the library, okay?” Rhys deadpanned as he brushed past Hugo again, taking long strides that had Hugo struggling to catch up.

>>I have to do a project with him, I’ll call you later.

—-

Rhys did call him later, to which Jack had complained for about ten minutes, and then complained even more when Rhys let him know that he’d probably be busy for the next few days. Hugo was eating up all his time, constantly making plans to meet at the library and work on their project. Rhys could have said no, which was Jack’s suggestion on more than one occasion, but he actually cared about his grades. Rhys might have been thirsty enough to join a frat for a hot guy but he wasn’t thirsty enough to abandon school work and start failing.

The next few days went like that, Rhys cancelling or declining plans. He could tell Jack was getting fed up, judging by how whiny he’d been lately, but it was Friday now and Rhys had a feeling Jack wasn’t going to let him off too easy. Friday meant there was a party, like every other damn Friday, and Jack had said Rhys had to go to every frat party as part of his initiation or pledging or whatever the hell it was called (Rhys really didn’t care about frat culture, honestly).

Rhys was kind of glad to have an excuse to not go to a party for once. A break sounded nice, even though he had a feeling Jack wasn’t really going to allow that. Jack had already texted him during his last class to confirm that he would be there tonight and Rhys was promptly ignoring it. The longer he put off saying no, the less time Jack had to come up with a way to get him to go. Rhys had tried to explain to Jack a million times that the more time he worked on it now, the more time they’d have to hang out later, but Jack was apparently a spoiled brat who didn’t take no for an answer.

But now, class was ending and Rhys knew he had to answer Jack. Hugo was already waiting for him at the library and as much as Rhys would have liked to cancel on him, his strong work-ethic and desire to do well was getting in the way. Rhys was just pulling up his messages on his phone when he received another text from Jack:

>see u at the library

Rhys didn’t really like how cryptic that sounded but he didn’t bother to answer. Jack was probably just messing with him, anyway. At least, that’s what he thought up until he walked into the library and saw Hugo and Jack sitting at one of the group work stations. Neither of them were talking and there was an empty seat between them, presumably for Rhys. There was a moment where he thought about turning around and walking right out of the library, but then Jack tore his merciless glare away from Hugo and caught sight of him instead. Too late now, Rhys thought bitterly as he approached the table.

“Uhhh…,” Rhys muttered as he set his books down across from the two men before him; he was not about to be subjected to being sandwiched between the two of them. Jack was grinning now as he reached across the table to grab a folder Rhys had on top of his stack of text books. Jack flicked it open and started sifting through the papers. He looked like he was about to say something, but Hugo cut him short.

“Rhysie!” Both Rhys and Jack gave Hugo a strange look at the nickname but didn’t bother to comment. “Jack decided he wanted to, how did you put it? ’Help’ us,” Hugo’s dramatic use of air quotes did not go unnoticed, “I tried to insist we were doing just fine but you know how he is.” Hugo reached over the empty seat between them and clapped a hand onto Jack’s shoulder. Both of them stared at Hugo’s hand, Rhys in bewilderment and Jack in offense.

Slowly, Jack reached up and grabbed Hugo’s (too short) jacket sleeve so he could pluck the intrusive hand from his shoulder and let it drop between them. “Yeah, I’m gonna ask you to not touch me again,” Jack muttered, letting his glare linger on Hugo a little longer before he turned his attention back to the project documents, “and clearly you do need help. It’s okay, we can’t all be as smart as me.”

“Sorry, I’m just a little confused,” Rhys finally interjected, gently kicking Jack under the table to get his attention, “what exactly is going on here?”

Jack didn’t bother looking up from the papers in front of him when he started to speak. “I am so graciously offering my time to help you two finish this project,” Jack started fishing around in his jacket pocket idly, pulling free a pair of glasses, “didn’t you get my text? We have a party to go to tonight and I can’t have you missin’ out, pumpkin.”

Rhys watched with flushed cheeks as Jack slid the glasses onto his face. This man had no right to look so good in a pair of glasses with his lips all pursed in thought. “You wear glasses?” Jack glanced up over the frames of his glasses at the question, but then Rhys remembered the real problem here. “That’s not important. Jack, I don’t think the party is gonna happen. We really need to get this done—.”

“And that’s why I’m here,” Jack said with a grin, “I told you, you gotta go to every party, or else,” Jack sucked his teeth and made a scissoring motion with his fingers. Right, no party, no frat. “Plus, how do you think that make me look, cupcake? Showing up without my little pledge? Not gonna happen.”

Rhys knew he wasn’t going to win this one so he just shrugged his shoulders and opened up one of his text books. He wasn’t exactly losing, either. If Jack was so confident he could get them to finish their project then maybe Rhys wouldn’t have to spend so much damn time with Hugo anymore, and even though part of him wanted a break from partying the other part was more than ready to drink the night away. Plus, he hadn’t seen Jack all week, they were overdue to hang out.

—-

It was amazing how quickly Jack worked through their project. He pretty much did the whole thing for them in about an hour and a half while Rhys just ogled him in those glasses and Hugo looked dumbfounded. Rhys figured Jack must have done the project when he’d been a freshman, but regardless it was still impressive. Hugo looked more than disappointed when it was all said and done. There was an awkward attempt made by Hugo to try and tag along to the party with them, but Jack shut that down quick.

“Is it just me or is Assquez trying to like, cramp my style?” Jack said as they slid into his car.

“Oh my god you noticed, too?! It’s weird, right? He showed up to class in that awful leather jacket the other day and he keeps calling me all these weird ass pet names,” Rhys grimaced at the thought while Jack laughed from the driver’s seat, “well, the names themselves aren’t weird, it’s just weird when he says them.”

“I don’t blame him, who wouldn’t want to be me?” Rhys rolled his eyes and punched Jack on the arm, which only made the older man cackle. “What’s the matter, kitten?” Jack teased, mimicking his best Vasquez voice he could muster. It was a pretty good impression, honestly, but Rhys never wanted to hear it again.

“Never do that again,” Rhys said with a frown, which naturally only egged Jack on more. He talked like that the whole ride back to Rhys’ dorm while Rhys covered his ears and tried his best to ignore him.

Once they were inside Jack flopped down face-first onto Rhys’ bed, arms and legs stretched out as far as they could go. Rhys worked on finding an outfit for the party, the two idly chattering about the past week. It was nice to have Jack around again, even if he wasn’t really gone that long, and it wasn’t like they didn’t text each other every day. If Vaughn were home he probably would have called them obnoxious and made fun of their separation anxiety.

By the time Rhys was dressed and ready to go it was time to leave. Jack had fallen asleep at some point so Rhys had to nudge him awake, heterochromatic eyes looking up at him dazedly with sleep. Rhys really wished he could have gotten a picture of him, a little drool trickling down his chin and his usually perfectly styled hair mussed. Rhys was a little annoyed when all Jack had to do was run his fingers through it a few times to fix it, Rhys could never get his hair to be that cooperative.

The party was already started when they got there, music blaring and crowds of people forming. Their first stop was the kegs, filling up a cup each before they made their way into the crowd. Rhys really hoped he didn’t see Hugo tonight, but he had a feeling if he did Jack would take care of it. There was a moment where Rhys let himself fantasize about Jack and Hugo fighting over him, not that he wanted Hugo to fight for him. It was more just a fantasy of Jack clocking Hugo in the face so hard he was knocked unconscious, and then him and Jack could go make out in a corner somewhere for the rest of the night.

The beers were going down fast for both of them, Rhys felt like he was making runs to the keg (and the bathroom) every few minutes. It was on his way back from the third (fourth?) refill that he was confronted by two girls that looked vaguely familiar. They were both pretty intimidating, giving him the stink eye like he’d done something to them. Had he done something to them? He hoped not.

“Hey, you’re the kid who beat us in beer pong at the first party, right?” The taller one said, adjusting the hat on her head idly. Rhys squinted as he looked between the two girls. Was that where he knew them from?

“Ahh, haha, well, it wasn’t all me,” Rhys said sheepishly, drinking from one of the full cups in his hand. The shorter one stood up a little straighter at the comment and crossed her arms over her chest. Was he about to get jumped by two girls?

“What’s your name, kid?” The taller one spoke again as the shorter one took a step closer to him. He was pretty sure he was about to get jumped by two girls.

“Uhh, Rhys?” He wasn’t sure why it came out as a question, all he knew was that he was really nervous right now. Rhys’ hand felt sweaty, although that could have just been the condensation on his plastic cup. Both girls seemed to study him for a minute, or maybe it was more scrutinizing, he wasn’t sure. Then, the taller girl held her hand out for a handshake that Rhys couldn’t exactly return.

“I’m Fiona, and this is my sister Sasha,” Fiona cocked her head towards Sasha, “I thought for sure we were gonna beat you, I’m impressed.” Rhys’ shoulders slowly relaxed, lips curling into an uncomfortable smile. Fiona was still holding her hand out expectantly, eyebrow cocked as if she were prepared to be insulted. Rhys looked between Fiona’s hand and her sister a few times before he fumbled one of the cups into the crook of his arm so he could shake her hand.

“Nice to, um, meet you,” Rhys muttered, eyeing Sasha suspiciously when she pat his shoulder condescendingly.

“You want a rematch?” Sasha asked with a grin, her stance all confidence. Rhys felt like he was getting conned out of his dignity right now.

“I think Jack wanted to play flip cup, actually,” Rhys popped up onto his tip-toes to look over the crowd in search of Jack, thankfully finding him where he’d left him. “If you guys want you can—.”

“Make a second team and kick your asses? Yeah, duh,” Sasha stuck her tongue out at him to punctuate her insult and Fiona gave him a wink before both girls were heading in the direction of the game tables.

Rhys hurried his way back to Jack and handed over his beer. Jack looked like he would have asked where he’d been if he wasn’t in the middle of a conversation with a pretty intimidating-looking woman and a much less intimidating-looking woman. Rhys smiled at them politely before he leaned close to Jack’s ear so he could let him know that they had definitely been challenged to a game of flip cup by the girls they beat in beer pong weeks ago. That seemed to like Jack right up, his posture much more antsy now that he knew there was some real competition involved. It wasn’t long before Jack was hurrying his conversation along and tugging Rhys into the next room eagerly.

Fiona and Jack were deemed captains, and Rhys wasn’t surprised at all to see that Jack knew her. Rhys also wasn’t surprised that Jack picked him for his team first, strutting over happily so he could stand by Jack’s side. It wasn’t long before teams were picked and lined up on either side of the table.

Rhys had a feeling it was going to be a wild night.

Chapter Text

Pain. All Rhys felt everywhere was pain. His head felt like it was going to crack open at any second and his mouth was so dry it was hard to swallow. Rhys groaned when he tried to roll over but was only met with a hard wall, a shock of pain shooting up his arm when his elbow smashed against it. He tried rolling the other way but was stunted again, and even though he reached out blindly with his hands he couldn’t tell what he was feeling. He blinked his eyes a few dozen times before he squinted against the sunlight coming through the window, gently shoving at what appeared to be… Legs?

Rhys jumped in surprise when he realized someone was in the bed with him, though he had to cover his mouth at the nausea that flooded his stomach at the sudden movement. He decided to ignore the feet on his pillow at the moment in favor of burying his face into the soft material. He could feel that hungover guilt creeping up on him as thoughts of I’m never drinking again and why would I do this to myself started to taunt him.

Whoever was sleeping beside him shuffled around a little bit, groaned, and then seemed to settle again. Rhys had a pretty good idea of who it was, but he cracked open an eye curiously anyway and glanced down to the opposite end of the bed. Unsurprisingly, Jack’s head was nearly hanging off the end, along with both of his arms. Rhys gently nudged him in the ribs with his knee, which only made Jack groan. He did it a few more times until Jack was grabbing his knee and shoving it away from his body with a soft grumble of “fuck off.”

“Come on, Jack, wake up,” Rhys muttered, knowing full well that he wasn’t going to be able to fall back asleep; if he couldn’t sleep, neither could Jack.

“Why does my ass hurt?” Jack groaned into the comforter. Rhys lifted his head to look at Jack’s ass curiously, though there wasn’t much to see through his pants.

“What do you mean your ass hurts?” Rhys shifted so he could sit up only to hiss in pain. “Okay, yeah, my ass hurts, too.” When the realization of what that could mean hit him Rhys went cold instantly. There was now way they had… No, definitely not. They were both clothed and Jack wouldn’t take advantage of him like that, right? The more he thought about it the less it made sense. Jack wasn’t even in to him like that, and why would Jack’s ass hurt also? Plus, it was more of the ass cheek that hurt than anything.

“Seriously, what the fuck?” Jack was suddenly shuffling off of the bed (much too fast for Rhys’ stomach to handle) and groping at his ass, only to shout a loud curse at the first contact. Rhys whined at the loud noise and took it upon himself to take up the rest of the bed now that Jack had gotten up.

The sound of a belt jingling had Rhys opening his eyes in shock, cheeks flushed as he watched Jack fumble with his pants. He was honestly amazed that Jack was standing right now, just the idea of moving made Rhys want to die. Rhys was about to close his eyes when Jack finally got his pants down far enough to reveal his ass until he saw the big, black square of plastic. He made a confused face as Jack twisted his body to try and see, only to double over in either pain or nausea (or probably both).

“What is it?” Jack wheezed out between deep inhales (definitely nausea).

“Uhh… I dunno, a black piece of plastic?” Rhys shuffled to the edge of the bed and poked at it, making Jack jerk away with an angry grumble. Rhys picked at one of the corners until it lifted so he could slowly peel it back, only to find his… His name, tattooed on Jack’s ass, in his handwriting no less. Rhys let out a startled sound at the sight of it and clamped a hand over his mouth.

“Are you gonna frickin’ tell me what it is?!”

“It’s a tattoo…,” Rhys mumbled from behind his hand, glancing up at Jack who was glaring down at him over his shoulder. Rhys removed the hand from his mouth so he could speak more clearly, “a tattoo! It’s a tattoo of, um—.”

Jack started laughing, full-bellied and loud like he’d just been told the funniest joke of his life. Rhys stared on in horror, glancing between the tattoo and Jack’s laughing face. How could he think this was funny? A drunk tattoo was the most stereotypical frat-boy mistake ever, and Jack was just laughing about it. Rhys remembered the stinging pain in his own ass cheek and paled at the realization.

“Take a picture!” Jack said between cackles, trying to glance over his shoulder again in an attempt to see the tattoo. “Oh god, please tell me you got one, too.”

Rhys grimaced at the idea and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He was startled to find he already had a picture of Jack’s ass with a grinning Fiona and Sasha on either side giving a big thumbs-up. He didn’t just have this picture, it was set to the background of his phone. He had a feeling Fiona and Sasha played a big role in all of this…

“Guess I already have a picture,” Rhys grumbled as he passed his phone up to Jack before he buried his face into his bed with an undignified whimper. Unsurprisingly, Jack was laughing again once he saw the picture, though it seemed to cut short this time. Rhys lifted his head curiously only to find Jack climbing over him, one knee pressed into the mattress beside Rhys’ shoulder and his crotch pressing dangerously close to Rhys’ face.

“Jack, what the hell!” Rhys shouted as he tried to turn his head away, face so flushed that the tips of his ears felt hot. He let out a startled squeal that faded into a hiss of pain as Jack started to tug at his pants, effectively ripping Rhys’ own protective piece of plastic off in the same motion as pulling down his pants. Rhys covered his face with his hands in embarrassment, not ready to face his mistakes.

“We match!” Jack exclaimed, much to Rhys’ dismay. Rhys let out a loud groan, though his disdain was momentarily forgotten as Jack’s big hand cupped his ass and squeezed. Rhys’ breath hitched and he quickly turned to look back at Jack, though the older man’s attention was solely focused on the fresh ink.

From what Rhys could see at the awkward angle he indeed had a matching tattoo, Jack’s name marring his otherwise unblemished flesh with an obnoxious heart drawn around it. He gaped at the permanent mark on his skin, mouth hanging open in shock. He was ruined. Who would ever want to sleep with him after this? He had another guy’s name tattooed on his ass!

“My beautiful ass is ruined,” Rhys moaned, blinking away the tears in his eyes; that was just a little too dramatic for him. “You ruined my beautiful ass!” Rhys elbowed Jack in the stomach probably a little too hard, forcing the older man to grunt and tumble onto the bed beside him. Rhys scrambled off the bed and onto his feet so he could stand in front of the full-length mirror hanging on the back of his door, turning so he could look at the tattoo.

“How could you do this to me?! I thought we were friends!” Rhys pulled and prodded at the skin around the tattoo with a deep-set frown. Did he seriously have to look at this for the rest of his life?

“Aw, come on, buttercup,” Jack whined from the bed as he shimmied his pants back up properly, “aren’t you being a little harsh? I didn’t ruin you.”

Rhys glared at Jack’s pouting reflection in the mirror. “Yes, you did! Look at this thing, it’s hideous!” Rhys looked back down at the tattoo, then turned his head so he was facing Jack again. “My sex life is over! Nothing screams ‘attachment issues’ like a tattoo of somebody’s name on your ass!”

“I think you’re overreacting,” Jack muttered as he reached out to spank the spot gently, making Rhys yelp and scoot away. The younger man quickly pulled his pants back up around his waist, covering up the awful brand.

“Just— shut up, Jack!” Rhys flopped back down onto the bed with a loud groan. Now that the utter shock and total dismay were wearing off his awful hangover was coming back full-force. “Go get us fast food, it’s the least you can do.” Rhys blushed and buried his face further into the mattress as he felt Jack pinch at the tattoo again through his jeans, the skin stinging in his wake.

Fine, text me what you want.”

“You’re paying for my coverup tattoo!” Rhys shouted behind Jack as he exited the dorm with a quiet chuckle.

—-

“Do you think it’s gonna work?” Rhys asked for the third time as he tapped the ‘Post’ button. He watched the little progress bar load across the screen before the new picture popped up on his timeline. It was a selfie of him and Vaughn, Rhys had his arm draped over Vaughn’s shoulders and they were both smiling, although Vaughn looked slightly uncomfortable.

“You didn’t just invite me here to make Jack jealous, did you?” Vaughn muttered as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, a frown set hard on his face. They were at a sorority party that Fiona and Sasha had invited Rhys to, and it wasn’t that Jack wasn’t invited, Rhys just kind of felt like he owed Vaughn some bro time after spending so much time with Jack. Were there some ulterior motives? Maybe. Were those motives to see if Jack would notice that Rhys was hanging out with another guy and hope that he got jealous? Also maybe.

“What? No! I needed some bro time, bro,” Rhys held his fist out expectantly for a fist bump, to which Vaughn returned rather unenthusiastically. “Look, I feel bad that we haven’t hung out much lately, alright? And if I can do a little test to see if Jack would get jealous than I’m gonna take the opportunity.” Rhys shrugged and took a gulp of the fruity drink Sasha handed him as soon as he walked in. It was amazing, honestly, and it sure as hell beat the crap out of beer. He smacked his lips together to savor the flavor and let out a pleased hum.

“Your obsession with this guy is getting kind of weird,” Vaughn gave Rhys a sidelong glance as the taller man choked on his drink and tried to catch his breath.

“I-I am not obsessed!” Rhys’ cheeks were undoubtedly pink with embarrassment, though he told himself it was from choking like an idiot and not because he was definitely obsessed with Jack.

“Uh-huh, sure you’re not.” Rhys decided to ignore the way Vaughn rolled his eyes, his own blue and brown narrowing suspiciously at the shorter man sitting beside him. He sucked down more of the frozen treat perhaps a little too fast, flinching as he felt a brain freeze coming on.

“We’re just good friends— oh, he texted me!” Rhys eagerly held his phone up and smirked as Vaughn scooted closer. They were both just as eager as the other to see how Jack would react, whether Vaughn admitted it or not. The fact that the text had come so quick was certainly surprising and only piqued their interest further. Two notifications were highlighted on his screen, one from Instagram and the other from Jack.

_jlawrence liked your photo!

>wat u up 2 tonight kiddo?

Rhys and Vaughn turned to each other, the former with an ear-splitting grin and the latter with a quirked brow. There was a moment where they both shared that weird best friend telepathy where just a look said everything before Rhys was opening his messages and typing up a response.

“Wait, wait! Don’t answer yet!” Vaughn interrupted as he reached over to quickly delete the text before Jack could see that Rhys was responding a little. “We need to think this through. First of all, you’re gonna seem super desperate if you answer him right away— what’s that look for?”

That look was shock. Rhys looked completely surprised that Vaughn was giving him texting advice like he was some kind of expert. “I just… Wasn’t expecting you to give me advice. Well, at least not good advice.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?! I give great texting advice, thank you very much! I bet you’re one of those people who double texts, ugh,” Vaughn stuck his tongue out in disgust and snatched the phone from Rhys’ hands, “you need to be subtle. Act like you don’t know what he’s talking about.” Vaughn typed up a message and handed the phone back to Rhys for review.

>>nothing much, you?

Rhys read over the message, glanced up at Vaughn, and then looked back down at the message. “Okay, so… When do I send it?” He looked back up at Vaughn again who was glancing down at his (very embarrassing) calculator watch.

“Give it a couple minutes.”

“A couple minutes?!” Vaughn snatched the phone again and locked it before he shoved it into his pocket. “But I wanna know what he wants!” Vaughn gave him a narrow-eyed glance that had Rhys snapping his mouth shut.

“You know what he wants, bro. You know what he wants.”

Rhys groaned dramatically and picked his drink up from where he’d set it on the coffee table. He drained the last of the strawberry-flavored liquid just as the glass was swooped from his hand only to be replaced with a fresh one. He glanced up to find Fiona and Sasha grinning down at them wickedly.

“What’s up, losers?” Fiona chided as she motioned for them to scoot down on the couch, to which the two men made room.

“Nothing, nothing at all!” Rhys replied perhaps a little too quickly. Vaughn’s elbow in his side was enough to let him know he wasn’t getting out of this that easily.

“Rhys is trying to make Jack jealous by posting pictures of us on social media.”

“It was one picture.”

Sasha clapped her hands together excitedly and leaned over Fiona so she was in Rhys’ personal space. Rhys tried leaning away, but that only made Sasha lean closer.

“Ooh, a lover’s quarrel? I’m in!”

Rhys flushed a bright shade of pink and batted Sasha away with his hand. He opened his mouth to speak only to be interrupted by Fiona.

“You’re a good kid, Rhys, but you’d better be careful getting so close to Jack.” Rhys rolled his eyes and sunk back into the couch with an exasperated huff. Why was he being treated like a child? Fiona wasn’t his mother, and he didn’t need his friends breathing down his neck about this.

“Oh, yeah? And why’s that?” Rhys asked with another dramatic eye roll. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Vaughn pulling his phone back out of his pocket. Rhys snatched it before Vaughn could do much about it and quickly sent the text message that had been queued up. I need to be more drunk for this, Rhys thought as he sucked down his second drink.

“Jack’s a player,” Fiona said solemnly as she placed a hand on Rhys’ shoulder like she was consoling him for some great loss, “he’s gonna chew you up and spit you out.” She pat his shoulder in a way that seemed more insulting than anything, so Rhys took it upon himself to pluck the hand from his shoulder by her sleeve.

First of all, it’s not even like that!” As if on cue, all three of them gave Rhys the most deadpanned look they could muster. His lip curled up into a half-pout, eyes yet again rolling in their place. “It’s not! Shut up, we’re just friends. Second of all, I don’t remember asking for any advice from any of you!” Just then his phone vibrated with two alerts again.

_jlawrence liked your photo from 8 weeks ago!

>wanna chill?

Fiona and Sasha were already bickering amongst themselves, and a quick glance at Vaughn proved he was just as distracted by the two sisters. Rhys took this as his opportunity to text freely, sinking further into the couch so as to go unnoticed.

>>can’t tonight :(
>>did you just like a picture of me from 8 weeks ago?

Rhys wrinkled his nose as he realized he’d ‘double texted’ as Vaughn had called it. Was that really a thing that wasn’t allowed? Why were there so many rules to texting? He was just tucking his phone into his pocket and Vaughn was just getting in on the girls’ argument when Rhys got another text.

>thought u weren’t busy

Rhys waited a few seconds to see if Jack would address the fact that he was definitely stalking his Instagram but wasn’t left too surprised when no such admittance came.

>>hanging out with Vaughn

>who’s Vaughn?

>>seriously? you’re not kidding?

>…… no

>>my roommate!! you see him all the time!!!!

>o u mean four-eyes?
>short stack?
>fun size?

>>I get it Jack

>so where u at? i’ll meet u

Rhys felt his cheeks heating up again and suddenly the (relative) silence around him was glaringly obvious (relative because, well, this was a party and nothing about it was silent, but his friends were). He glanced around the little group nervously and quickly locked his phone before anybody could read their messages.

“Uhh… Jack wants to know if he can come?” Rhys asked sheepishly on an awkward chuckle, shrinking under his friends’ hardening gazes. That wasn’t what they wanted to hear, he could tell.

“Do we have to say it?” Sasha grumbled through clenched teeth. Rhys was starting to think that maybe he didn’t want to make so many friends in college.

“I’m gonna say it, Rhys isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed,” Fiona said as she rolled her eyes, “he’s not invited.”

“Great! Thank you, thanks for calling me stupid, really appreciate that. You wanna break the news to him? Because I’m not, no way.” Rhys’ eyes widened in shock as Fiona pulled her phone out of her pocket as if it were her duty to do so. Her thumbs were lightning-fast on her keyboard, each little click like a needle in his skin. He thought about making fun of her for having her keyboard sounds on but thought better of it, he didn’t need to be berated again tonight.

“Done,” Fiona said simply, which had Sasha cackling by her side. This was not how he pictured this night going. Rhys’ phone buzzed in his hand, which had the three amigos leaning in like a nosy group of cats.

>never mind

Rhys felt his heart sink into his stomach as he read the very curt response, shoulders slouching in defeat. If he was being honest with himself, he would have liked Jack to come even though that defeated the purpose of this whole thing. He was here to spend time with Vaughn and show Jack that he didn’t ‘run his fun’ (Vaughn’s words, not his). Was it really so bad that he liked spending time with Jack? According to Fiona it was, and he got the impression Vaughn didn’t really like him either. He didn’t really understand it, Jack was always so nice to him. A jerk at times? Sure, but it was all in good fun.

Sasha reached over her sister and snatched Rhys’ phone from him so she could tuck it into her pocket. “Forget about him, let’s have fun!” She exclaimed, standing up from the couch and grabbing Rhys’ arm to pull him with her. Rhys caught a glimpse of what seemed like a sympathetic look from her as she pulled him away, Fiona and Vaughn close behind.

Chapter Text

Buzz buzz buzz.

Jack shuffled around in his bed for a moment before settling again, sighing softly.

Buzz buzz buzz.

Jack squeezed his eyes shut tighter and tried to ignore the sound of his phone vibrating on his nightstand. He had no idea what time it was and didn’t care to, all he wanted was sleep.

Buzz buzz buzz.

With a frustrated grunt Jack rolled over violently so he could snatch his phone from the bedside table. He quickly silenced the call without bothering to see who was calling him and shoved it under the spare pillow on the vacant side of his bed. He tucked the covers up under his chin and curled into a tight ball, ready to fall asleep. It was when he was just on the cusp of it, his body just starting to feel heavy again when he heard it.

Buzz buzz buzz.

Jack groaned into the silence of his room and pulled his phone out again, this time hitting the ‘accept call’ button. He figured whoever was calling wasn’t going to stop until he answered at this point so he might as well get it over with. He glanced at the time quickly, 3:48, before he brought the phone up to his ear.

“Hello?” His voice was groggy with sleep, eyes hardly even cracking open to peer through the darkness up at his ceiling. Jack cleared his throat so he didn’t sound so awful as he rubbed a hand along his face.

“Ja~ack!”

Jack flinched at the loud voice on the other end, yanking the phone away from his ear in surprise. He cursed under his breath softly from the ringing in his ear. He was not awake enough to handle this kind of volume, nor the loud hiccuping he could hear on the other end even with his phone at a distance. He squinted at the bright light illuminating his phone and sighed heavily as he read the name. Slowly, carefully he brought the phone back to his ear.

“You sound wasted, pumpkin,” Jack murmured into the receiver, rolling onto his side so he could rest the phone between his ear and the pillow.

“You sound— hic!— sound wasted!”

“That would be the exhaustion,” Jack ended the statement on a yawn. He was trying not to let his eyes fully close, afraid he might fall back asleep as he did so. He fixated his gaze on a shoe lying on the floor, as dull and blurry as it was in the dark.

“Ja~ack,” Rhys had that lilt in his voice again like when Jack had answered the phone. It was that kind of lilt that usually meant he was going to ask for a favor.

“I need— hic!— I need a biiiig favor.”

Yup, there it was. Jack sighed, again, one of his hands peeking out from under the covers so he could pinch the bridge of his nose. He could probably take a very good guess at what Rhys needed. He was wasted at almost four o’clock in the morning and, from what Instagram could attest, was at a sorority party. Jack was already slowly sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of his bed, trying to shake the sleep from his bones.

“Let me guess, you need a ride?” It wasn’t that Jack sounded mad, but he definitely didn’t sound thrilled. He wasn’t sure how he was going to get back to sleep after this, not when he had to be up in a few hours for class. What idiot went to a party on a Sunday night, anyway? Jack paused with his hand hovering over the table lamp on his nightstand as he heard giggling on the other end, a tired smile pulling at his lips. Rhys sounded like a drunken fool.

“How did you— hic!— know?!”

Jack rolled his eyes, not bothering to warrant the drunken question with a response. He set his phone down on the nightstand and tapped the speaker button so he could get dressed. There was mostly silence on the other end as he pulled on a hoodie over his bare chest and slipped into some sweatpants he found on his floor. He could hear faint conversations in the background every now and then, Rhys’ voice occasionally muffling as he pulled his phone away to speak to someone. Some loud scraping sounds followed by a distinct thud had Jack staring curiously at his phone as he pulled his shoes on.

“You okay there, kiddo?” Jack called as he stepped over to his phone, taking it off speaker so he could wedge it between shoulder and ear.

“Hic!— I cracked my ph— hic!— my phone,” Rhys sounded exceptionally pouty when he said this, which only made Jack smile. He chuckled softly into the receiver and headed out of his room.

“Do you think you can handle sending me your location, Rhysie?” Jack scooped his keys up from where he usually left them on the kitchen counter on his way out of the apartment. Rhys quickly exclaimed that he could definitely, absolutely handle that, only to be followed by a bunch of aggravated muttering and loud taps to his screen that even Jack could hear. Needless to say, Jack had to walk Rhys through the process, but within moments he had his location and was heading down the road.

Jack stayed on the phone with him as he drove, although Rhys wasn’t really paying much attention to him. He was mostly doing it to make sure Rhys didn’t hurt himself or wander off somewhere. At one point Jack was pretty sure Rhys forgot he was on the phone and stuffed his phone into his pocket, judging by the sudden rustling sounds and the muted tone everything held. Thankfully he only had to suffer through a few minutes of that before he was pulling up to the sidewalk where Rhys was standing and rolling down his window. There was a moment where Rhys looked confused to see him, but then Jack could physically see the realization dawn on him.

“You came!” Rhys shouted as he dove into Jack’s window, effectively clocking him in the jaw as he attempted to wrap his arms around Jack’s neck and squeeze him too tight. Jack cupped his jaw where Rhys had accidentally punched him, the spot throbbing only slightly (thankfully).

“Jesus Christ, kid, can you—,” Jack made a choking sound as Rhys squeezed him tighter, still hanging halfway out of his window. Jack made quick work of pulling Rhys’ arms away and pushed him outside of his car by the elbows. Jack was close behind, quickly shifting his car into park before he stepped out onto the curb. Rhys was instantly latched to his chest once he was outside, though Jack wasn’t sure if it was because he was happy to see him or just because he couldn’t hold himself up.

“Okay, let’s get you in the car.” Jack wiggled one of Rhys’ arms up around his shoulders and pried the other away from himself so he could guide him to the passenger’s side of the car. It wasn’t exactly a smooth transition but it worked, and Rhys was mostly helpful getting himself into his seat. He grinned up at Jack with the goofiest smile he’d ever seen as he closed the door for him.

By the time Jack got in the car Rhys was already nodding off, his head slumping forward slowly before jerking back up in surprise. Jack shook his head at the sight and pulled away from the curb as gently as he could. The ride was quiet other than some sleepy, drunken murmurs from Rhys as he faded in and out of consciousness. Jack kept a close eye on him as he drove, worried he might smack his head against the window or puke in his car (Jack would never talk to him again if that were the case).

The trudge up the stairs to Rhys’ dorm was a nightmare. Rhys’ legs didn’t seem to work very well so Jack ended up having to carry him most of the way while Rhys complained in his ear. As they neared the top of the steps something dawned on Jack; hadn’t Rhys gone to that party with his little friend?

“Hey, Rhys,” Jack muttered, jostling Rhys with his shoulder, “where’s the pip squeak?”

Rhys muttered something that Jack couldn’t understand which was enough for Jack to give up on trying to talk to him. Jack just hoped he wasn’t going to have to head back because Rhys abandoned or forgot about him.

Jack was surprised to find that the door to Rhys’ dorm was unlocked (it was honestly a relief, he didn’t want to have to deal with finding Rhys’ key while simultaneously trying to hold him up). The dorm room was dark save for the night light plugged into the wall; Jack still wasn’t sure which one of these losers needed a night light.

There was some faint rustling to his left that had him hugging Rhys close to his side defensively. A tired, very drunk-sounding murmur of, “who’s there?” erupted from the weird bunk bed tucked into the corner as if whoever was occupying it could do anything about the two men that were stumbling in. Jack was relieved to find that it must have been shorty, nobody else could have fit in that small ass bed. He ignored the question, instead using his energy to dump Rhys into his bed finally.

It was almost like Rhys had never been out of it at all with the way he latched onto Jack’s hoodie and tugged him down into the bed. Jack grunted at the force, just barely catching himself so he could fall beside Rhys instead of on top of him. Before Jack could even attempt to get back out of the bed Rhys was cuddling up to his chest, fingers still curled tight in the soft cotton of his sweatshirt. He tried gently tugging them free only to be met with a pathetic whimper, confused mismatched eyes peeking up at him.

“Stay,” Rhys whispered as he tucked his head under Jack’s chin as if he were hiding, voice cracking from exhaustion and dryness. A soft chuckle puffed past Jack’s lips, carefully letting go of Rhys’ wrists. How could he say no to that? He could just stay a little while, it was warm and cozy despite how the both of them didn’t quite fit on a twin mattress together.

“Just for a little bit, mmkay?” Jack murmured into Rhys’ hair, silently promising himself he’d leave once Rhys was asleep. He smiled at the happy little noise Rhys made as he shuffled impossibly closer to him, clumsily shoving one of his legs between Jack’s in his efforts.

Jack let his eyes slip closed as he slipped an arm around Rhys’ waist. It felt amazing, being held and having to hold. He let himself give in to the moment, relaxing against Rhys’ warmth with a bodily sigh. All at once Jack felt like he’d finally gotten something that he’d been wanting for a while, even though he hadn’t really noticed he’d wanted it. Maybe it was the lack of sleep talking or the sense of calm that washed over him, but this felt good. They were slotted together so nicely, hanging on the cusp of sleep dangerously.

A lapse of judgement had Jack slipping his hand down from where it rested at the small of Rhys’ back to the curve of his ass, dipping underneath the loose waistband of his jeans so he could palm the soft flesh bare. Somewhere in his sleep-addled mind Jack remembered the tattoo, the memory pulling a subconscious smile to his lips. His fingers curled to squeeze at the plumpness, some part of him absolutely satisfied with the way he could fit the whole thing in a one-handed grasp.

All at once he was woken from his stupor, eyes snapping open like two rubber bands that split under the tension as he felt cold hands on his abdomen, creeping up towards his chest. Jack sucked in a tight breath and quickly pulled his hand free from Rhys’ pants, remembering who he was, where he was, and the circumstances of his presence. This wasn’t right, Rhys was drunk and practically asleep. What the hell was he thinking? The moment had caught up with him too fast, pulled him under like a heavy blanket, threatening to keep him there.

Jack grasped Rhys’ wrists firmly and pulled them out from under his hoodie with such jarring force that Rhys gasped. Those eyes were looking up at him, innocent and vulnerable, making Jack’s gut twist painfully. He knew he wouldn’t have gone through with it, he wasn’t a complete asshole, but the fact that he’d allowed himself to mindlessly slip away as far as he did was enough to make him feel guilty.

“You’re drunk,” Jack said firmly, the edges of Rhys’ face blurry from the lack of light in the room. Tauntingly, there was a soft glow about the top of Rhys’ head, glimmering like a halo from the night light. Innocence, it mocked him, dread joining the guilt.

“I’m not,” Rhys whispered, though the slur in his voice and the sting of alcohol on his breath suggested otherwise. Jack squeezed his wrists and started to slide away from Rhys, only to be caught at the collar.

“I have to go.” Jack tried to sound soft, he didn’t want to hurt Rhys’ feelings in his delicate state. Rhys’ hands were weaker now, it didn’t take much for Jack to pull them free. Rhys whined, and Jack could see the dampness in his eyes shimmering against the night light.

“Why don’t you like me?” More guilt, creeping up the back of his throat and settling with a bad taste on his tongue. Rhys was starting to sit up the further Jack moved away, like he was trying to chase. Jack gently cupped his cheek and eased him back down into the pillow, stroking his thumb over his cheekbone.

“Shh, it’s not that, baby, I promise. Just go to sleep.” Rhys’ hand caught on his sleeve even though Jack could see the way his eyes were growing heavy. He stood at the edge of the bed now, knees pressed against the mattress, arm outstretched where Rhys tried to hold on.

“Issit ‘cause I di’n’t invite you?” Rhys’ words were slightly muffled by his pillow, face turned into the plush material as sleep started to overcome him. Jack smiled sadly at the notion, turning his hand over so he could catch Rhys’ when it released his sleeve.

“I mean, that was kind of a dick move.” Some tension eased from Jack’s shoulders when Rhys quietly giggled at the comment, his eyes fluttering back open just barely while he smiled up at the older man.

“Knew you were jealous.”

Jack smiled and squeezed Rhys’ hand, leaning down to nudge his nose against Rhys’ temple. Rhys hummed happily and turned his head just enough that Jack’s lips brushed his forehead gently. Jack let the touch linger, his fingers lacing with Rhys’ only for a moment before he was pulling away entirely. Even though Rhys’ eyes were closed he still whined at the loss of contact, to which Jack affectionately patted his head and stroked fingers through his hair.

“I know, but—.”

“You have to go,” Rhys muttered knowingly, too tired to open his eyes.

“Yeah,” he whispered as he took a step back from the bed, his fingers lingering on the cheap comforter until they slipped free. Jack watched him for a moment, finally asleep and peaceful, chest rising and falling evenly. He clenched his fist at his side and took another step back, ashamed with himself for missing the soft caress of Rhys’ skin.

With a deep breath Jack finally tore his eyes away and turned for the door. The glint of Vaughn’s glasses caught his eye, their gazes meeting briefly. He wasn’t sure when short stuff had woken up or how much he’d heard, but the curt nod Jack received proved he’d definitely heard enough. There was approval in the gesture, like he respected Jack’s decision, and the way that resonated with him was oddly comforting. Jack nodded back as he pulled his hood over his head, silently sneaking out of the room as best he could.

Once he was free of the heavy atmosphere of their dorm Jack was practically sprinting down the hall. His feet were quick as he descended the stairs, heart hammering in his chest and air swift in his lungs. He knew he’d wanted to sleep with Rhys since he’d laid eyes on him, he was too damn pretty to pass up. Whatever was bubbling up in his chest and wreaking such havoc in his gut, though? He hadn’t anticipated that.

The cool fall air was a relief on his skin, cooling the sweat on his forehead and sending a chill up his spine. He took deep lungfuls of the fresh air on his way to his car and rolled down his windows as soon as he had the engine roaring, thankful to feel his headspace clearing. His tires skidded as he pulled out of the parking spot he’d been occupying, wrist faster than a hairpin trigger as he shifted gears and took off through the parking lot. It felt good to have the wind whipping against his face hard enough to knock the hood from his head, waking him up for the albeit rather short drive back to his apartment.

It wasn’t that Jack thought he would take things too far, he just wasn’t that type of guy. Hell, he’d beat the shit out of guys for thinking they could take advantage of someone. Jack would never, not in a million years, not to Rhys or anyone. It was the fact that he’d fallen into it so easily with Rhys, holding him like that and wanting more was what was shaking him. It felt horribly cliche to think, and he definitely wasn’t going to say it out loud, but it felt right. There was nothing he wanted more at that moment than to turn around and slink back into Rhys’ bed just so he could hold him.

Jack’s fingers drummed restlessly on his steering wheel as he drove way too fast, eyes darting about nervously in search for any nearby police. Thankfully there were none between here and there, tires skidding as he pulled into his parking spot. He slammed his car door loud enough to get the dog across the street barking, the sound echoing through the night.

Quick to strip himself of his clothes once he was in his apartment, Jack stepped into a cold shower with a quaking shudder. His mind continued to wander as he rinsed himself off, thoughts lingering on the way Rhys felt in his arms, aching to feel him there again. He hoped to sleep this feeling off with what precious little hours he had left, but even as he sunk into bed the thoughts wouldn’t release him. They danced around tauntingly, keeping him restless. Jack tossed and turned, one central thought tugging at his mind.

What was he supposed to do now?

Chapter Text

“So you don’t remember anything?”

Rhys squinted against the sunlight as him and Vaughn exited their dorm building, holding a hand up to shield his eyes. He honestly had no idea how he was alive right now, let alone functioning well enough that he was actually heading to class. Other than the headache he didn’t feel that hung over, but that was maybe due to the fact that he might have still been drunk. Judging by how everything felt just slightly off, yeah, he was pretty sure he was still drunk.

“Not anything after that third drink Sasha made me, at least,” Rhys muttered as he hiked his bag up higher on his shoulder, “what the hell were those things, anyway? They’re fucking dangerous.”

“Strawberry daiquiris, which you’re not allowed to drink anymore. So you don’t remember throwing a hissy fit last night? Or Jack bringing you home?”

Rhys only groaned in response and shook his head solemnly. Jack had to take him home again? He seriously owed him, like, way too many favors. Rhys really hoped he hadn’t been too embarrassing last night, but he got the feeling Vaughn was going to reassure him just how embarrassing he must have been. That’s what bros were for, right?

“Well, you wanted Jack to pick us up from the get-go even though Fiona offered to drive us back. You literally refused to get in her car and proceeded to call Jack anyway, so Sasha watched over you on the curb while Fiona took me home. Before you get mad, Fiona was sober, she had a test this morning so she didn’t drink much. Apparently you threw up in a bush at some point, too. Sasha said it looked like blood because it was so red from all the daiquiri mix.”

Rhys groaned again and covered his face in embarrassment, though he quickly realized that was a mistake as everything started to spin. Everything about last night had been a bad idea. Partying on a Sunday? Stupid. Drinking until he blacked out? Fucking idiotic. Calling Jack to pick him up and doing only god knows what once he got there? Literally his worst nightmare. Rhys wished he could crawl into a nice, dark hole somewhere and hide from everyone and everything. He didn’t want to go to class, he didn’t want to hear Vaughn’s cringe-worthy retelling of their night, and he definitely didn’t want to face Jack. Thankfully, his phone was completely dead so he had an excuse not to text him with an embarrassing apology just yet.

“I’m never drinking again,” Rhys moaned as they neared their building, dragging his feet more and more as they went. Vaughn gave him a comforting pat on the back, although there was definitely a condescending undertone to the gesture. Whatever message Vaughn was trying to get across was right, they both knew Rhys would be drinking again by the weekend. It was his duty, after all, being in Jack’s dumb frat.

“Meet me after class?”

Rhys nodded his confirmation before the two men went their separate ways.

—-

>u alive?

That was pretty much every text Rhys had when he finally plugged his phone in. That particular one was from Jack, though the others from Fiona and Sasha were pretty much some variation of the same question. As embarrassing as it all was Rhys tried to look on the bright side, being that his friends at least cared enough to check in on him. He’d replied simply enough that he was, in fact, alive, albeit a little worse for wear. At least, that’s how he replied to Fiona and Sasha. Jack deserved, at the very least, an apology.

>>Yeah, I’m good. Sorry about last night, I don’t really remember you picking me up or… anything after that. Sorry if I was a mess or did anything weird lol. Thanks for picking me up tho! Sorry again for making you do that.

Okay, maybe three apologies. He’d hesitated over the send button for a while and deleted more than a few drafts before he actually sent it over. Overall it caused a lot of anxiety and Rhys was pretty sure Vaughn was going to scream at him if he asked what he should say one more time. Rhys was more than a little worried that Jack was going to make fun of how much of a mess he’d been the night before, but thankfully his replies were short and to the point.

>lol
>don’t worry about it
>dinner?

And that was how Rhys ended up stuffing his face with the most outrageous burger he’d ever eaten. The grease felt amazing in his stomach, soaking up all the alcohol from the night before. He was sure he looked like a pig but he didn’t care much, not when he could finally stomach some food.

“So, Halloween is next week,” Jack said as he bit into a fry that had more ketchup than potato. Rhys quirked an eyebrow at the implications Jack’s voice held, like he was suggesting something without saying it.

“Yeah, so?” Rhys’ mouth was full of burger, the word muffled to the point of incoherence. He quickly swallowed the bite in his mouth and cleared his throat, wiping some of the grease away from his lips with the napkin closest to him. “Yeah, so?” He repeated, just in case Jack missed it the first time.

So, that means there’s going to be a party at the frat house. A Halloween party.” Jack had this devious look in his eyes that Rhys didn’t completely trust. Whatever Jack was planning, Rhys knew it was going to bore down on him. After all the things Rhys had heard about hazing he was considering himself lucky, the most Jack had ever made him do was drink (which he was going to do, anyway). It was only a matter of time before it caught up to him.

Rhys gave Jack a deadpan stare, cheeseburger hovering a mere few inches from his face, ready for another bite. “Yes, generally people have Halloween parties on Halloween, Jack. What’s your point?”

Jack ‘tsk’d at him like he’d already told Rhys a million times what his point was, shaking his head solemnly despite the grin on his face. Rhys fidgeted nervously in his side of the booth and carefully put his burger back onto his plate in the event that whatever Jack was going to tell him would make him choke on his food (judging by the look on Jack’s face it was, at the very least, choke-worthy).

“My point is, kitten, we need costumes, and I know just what you’re going to wear.” Jack gave him a sly wink that made the hairs on the back of Rhys’ neck stand on end. Rhys felt on edge, rubbing at the prickling sensation is his neck nervously. He had a feeling he didn’t want to know what Jack had picked out for him, and he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to find out.

“I… Take it you’re not going to tell me what exactly that is, are you?” Rhys grumbled, frowning at the way Jack steepled his fingers like some cartoon villain. It was creepy, honestly, and didn’t make Rhys feel any better about his situation at all.

“Now why would I go doing that, dumdum? Can’t risk you trying to thwart my plan.” Jack dunked another french fry in ketchup and bit it with a pointed snap of his teeth; the wink that followed after was absolutely not needed, in Rhys’ opinion.

“Is this payback? For last night? I’d rather you just tell me in excruciating detail how embarrassing I was if you want to get back at me that badly.”

Rhys was a little surprised by Jack’s reaction to the idea, his eyes falling downcast to his plate quickly. Rhys swore he could see a dusting of pink on his cheeks as Jack’s whole demeanor changed. He almost looked… Embarrassed? Ashamed? Rhys couldn’t tell, but it was unsettling to see such an emotion on Jack, who was always so confident and sure of himself. It made Rhys wonder just exactly what he had done to make Jack react in such a way; just as quickly as he wondered, Rhys realized he’d rather not know. If it was that embarrassing for Jack, Rhys was pretty sure it would be devastating for him.

“It’s not… No, it’s not payback,” Jack seemed to steel himself, setting his jaw tight as he took in a sharp breath. “I’ve had this planned for a while, pumpkin. Gotta get to hazing sometime.” Jack shrugged his shoulders, and just like that, the tense feeling around them was gone. Rhys relaxed back into his booth, not even sure when he’d wound himself up so tight. What he was sure of though, was that he never wanted to find out how much of an ass he’d made of himself last night.

—-

Okay, admittedly, Jack felt a little bad about this one, but just a little. He was thrilled for himself, which Wilhelm had pointed out was ‘sick and perverted’, but Jack didn’t ask for his opinion so what did it matter? It was all in the name of hazing (which one could argue in itself was perverted), and if Jack kind of got off on it then so be it. What was he really hurting, anyway? Rhys’ dignity? He’d get over it.

Jack grinned back at the very angry kitten glaring at him from the couch, clearly proud of his work. He popped the cap back on the eyeliner Nisha had let him borrow (under the agreement that she would get pictures) and clapped his hands together excitedly. Oh yeah, this was exactly how he’d pictured it. Rhys was wearing all black from head to toe, jeans so tight they could pass for leggings and a v-neck deep enough that the edges of his expensive tattoo were showing. Atop his head sat little black cat ears, three whiskers drawn on each cheek (thank you, Nisha), and a colored-in little pink nose.

“I’ve gotta say, Rhysie, you’re really pulling off the whole ‘bitchy cat’ thing. You practice that sour puss in the mirror or somethin’?” Jack wasn’t at all surprised that Rhys only glared at him harder despite the fact that it was impossible to take him seriously with whiskers and ears.

“Shut up. Where’s your costume?” Rhys spat, bristling around the edges. He really couldn’t have been playing into the costume more, even though it was clearly genuine.

“Pfft, I don’t do costumes. Now stand up so I can put your tail on.” Jack snatched the fuzzy appendage from the coffee table, smoothing out the faux fur with a stroke of his hand. When he met Rhys’ gaze again he was standing, as requested, and looking more pissed than ever.

”What?” Rhys seethed, practically vibrating with his rage.

“Whoa there, kitten, put away the claws!” Jack couldn’t stop the snicker creeping up his throat as he stepped around Rhys so he was standing behind him. He looped his finger in one of Rhys’ belt loops and gave a firm tug, smirking at Rhys’ indignant huff as he took a half-step back. Jack clipped the tail into place and wiggled it around a little as if Rhys were swaying it angrily.

“You’re telling me I have to wear this… This… Embarrassment and you’re not even going to wear a costume?!” Rhys tried to turn his head to peer at Jack over his shoulder but the older man was much closer than he expected, their cheeks almost brushing with the proximity. Rhys let out a surprised sound and tried to step out of Jack’s space, though the finger still hooked in his belt loop prevented him from going anywhere. Jack could feel the warmth of his blush radiating off of him this close, spreading far enough that his ears were a fiery red.

“You got a problem with that?” Jack whispered in his ear, exaggerating just how much breath he needed to expel so Rhys could feel it on his skin. Jack grinned big and wolfish when Rhys’ lips pursed tight, eyebrows knitting together.

“Yes, I have a problem with that! I have a problem with all of this! You’re making fun of me!” Jack flinched back a little from the volume of Rhys’ voice, high-pitched and abashed. It actually made Jack feel bad for the kid, a frown pulling at his features. He spun Rhys around so he was facing him, placing his hands on his shoulders with a comforting squeeze.

“Hey, I am not making fun of you! Okay, well, maybe a little—,” Jack broke off with a smile as Rhys glared up at him through his lashes, “but that’s what hazing is about, kiddo. Come on, lighten up, at least you look cute.” Rhys quickly averted his gaze at that, casting his eyes down to the ground. The blush was darker now, and it made Jack’s gut twist in a funny way.

“Whatever…,” Rhys mumbled so softly Jack almost didn’t hear it. The older man rolled his eyes with a loud huff and poked at the pink tip of Rhys’ nose, successfully getting the little kitten to look up at him again.

“Is this gonna ruin your whole night? I’m not about to show up to a party with a pissy pussy.” That got Rhys’ mouth to fall agape in shock before he swiftly punched Jack on the arm with enough force to have him wince in pain. “Jeez! That make you feel better?” A smile was creeping its way onto Rhys’ plump lips, though it was obvious he was trying to keep that from happening.

“I hate you.” Rhys tried to sound angry still but it was evident the malice was gone from his voice, lips pulled tight to try and keep his smile at bay.

“Yeah, yeah, come on, we’re late.”

“We’re always late, Jack.”

Rhys turned on his heel and headed towards the front door to his apartment. Jack blamed the tail for catching his attention, his eyes glued to the tight hug of Rhys’ jeans around his butt. It left him dumbfounded for a minute, staring unabashedly at the smooth curve of Rhys’ (objectively) best feature. Wilhelm was right, this was definitely perverted.

—-

It wasn’t long before the night turned into a crazy whirlwind of a blur. Halloween was always one of the craziest parties of the year, and respectfully so. Who didn’t love dressing up in crazy costumes (Jack) and getting wasted? Everyone seemed to let their extra crazy side out on this night, and Rhys was no exception. The sexy little kitty was pounding them back like Jack had never seen before, though he supposed that might have had to do with the costume. Rhys had whined and complained the whole ride to the frat house, and although he seemed in better spirits than when he’d first put the costume on, he was clearly still having issues with being seen like this. So, the booze helped.

Jack didn’t exactly shy away from the alcohol, either. He made trips to the bathroom almost as often as he made trips for refills, though neither were nearly as often as his eyes lingering on Rhys’ body. Whoever said black was slimming was right, not that the kid needed it. He looked taller and thinner than ever, the black material clinging to him in all the right places. The drunker he got, the more he stared, his eyes roving over Rhys like he was a piece of meat. How had he not gotten a piece of that yet? Watching Rhys bounce around in excitement when he sunk a cup in beer pong was like torture, and Christ he’d never looked cuter smiling up at Jack, cheeks flushed with intoxication, whiskers scrunching up adorably.

Eyes became hands, pinching and squeezing at Rhys whenever he could. The reaction was usually the same, a shy little gasp or a pouty little huff, but not once did Rhys tell him to stop. This game they were playing was fun, floating around each other teasingly, testing boundaries. Jack could feel eyes on them, watching, making assumptions, but he didn’t mind much, all of his attention was on Rhys and the way his voice seemed to squeak up a couple octaves when he was drunk. Jack didn’t remember commenting on that part out loud, but he did remember Rhys saying, “yeah, well, yours gets lower.” The way Rhys deepened his voice mockingly made Jack smile.

There are moments that Jack remembered where their bodies were closer than they absolutely needed to be, but it’s clear they both wanted to be. He remembered pulling Rhys toward him by his back pocket so he could whisper some shooting advice in his ear, remembered the way Rhys threw his arms up in the air triumphantly when he sunk the cup. He remembered Rhys pressed up against his side during flip cup, then again by the kegs, and again in the back yard, complaining about the cold. It made Jack feel giddy, and he wasn’t sure if he was more intoxicated by the beer or by Rhys.

The answer is the beer. Jack wasn’t sure what time it was when they started stumbling back to Rhys’ dorm, he also wasn’t sure how he ended up wearing the cat ears, but that’s neither here nor there. Rhys was rambling drunkenly about something Jack couldn’t focus on, hiccups interrupting nearly every other word. About halfway into the trudge Rhys stumbled into a mailbox, apologized to it, and giggled uncontrollably when he realized it wasn’t a person. Jack would have thought it was cute if he hadn’t been so tired.

Rhys is light as a feather, so it didn’t take much effort for Jack to hoist him up over his shoulder, slung haphazardly like a sack of potatoes. Jack could feel him clinging to the back of his shirt, fingers twisting in the material, hiking it up just enough that Jack could feel the bite of cool air on his lower back. The rest of the walk seems lightning fast after that, and before either of them realize it, they’re in Rhys’ dorm. Jack dumped the drunk kitten onto his bed unceremoniously before crawling in beside him, smooshing Rhys up against the wall to make room for his larger frame.

“Hey, you’re—,” Jack cut Rhys short by shushing him, at least one of them was mindful of Vaughn. Rhys started again, this time in a whisper-shout. “You’re taking up the whole bed, jerk!”

Jack hummed softly in his ear and slung and arm over his waist, squeezing Rhys closer to his chest so he wasn’t completely crushed into the wall. “Better?” Jack mumbled tiredly, ready to fall into a drunken slumber.

Apparently, that was no on Rhys’ list of things to do. The younger man fidgeted around restlessly, squirming in Jack’s grasp like a fish out of water. Just when Jack thought he’d settled there was the loud clunk of his shoes being kicked off onto the floor, startling Jack out of his half-asleep state.

“Can you… Ugh, can you take this stupid thing off?” Rhys whispered harshly as he tried to worm an arm between them in an attempt to remove the clip-on tail. Jack shuffled back just enough to get to the tail, though Rhys’ incessant squirming and blind grasping kept him at bay (though he supposed the drunk spinning in his head wasn’t helping, either).

“Stop moving!” Jack hissed as he gripped Rhys’ hip with one hand and ripped the tail free with the other, the loud sound of fabric tearing echoing through the otherwise quiet room. Without much regard Jack tossed the cheap costume piece onto the floor, giving Rhys just enough room to shuffle around rather violently until he was facing Jack.

“You ripped my— pfft,” Rhys cut himself short as he tried to stifle a laugh, cupping a hand over his mouth.

Jack scrunched his face up in confusion, offended by Rhys’ sudden outburst. “What’s so damn funny, sweet cheeks?” Jack grumbled, craning his neck so he could lean closer to Rhys’ face accusatorially.

“Wait, wait, wait, just… Wait one second,” Rhys muttered hurriedly as he reached into his back pocket, but not before punching the wall in his haste. He cursed softly under his breath from the impact before he pulled his phone free, and honestly Jack should have known something was up with how long it was taking Rhys to figure out how to use his damn phone. After a few minutes of struggling there was a bright flash in Jack’s eyes, making him squint against the sudden light.

“Son of a taint, what the hell, Rhys!” Jack’s hand flew up to shield himself from the flash, albeit a few seconds too late thanks to his drunken reflexes. His clumsy hands knocked the phone free from Rhys’ fingers, sending it flying against the wall at the head of the bed before it slid between the crack and thunked against the floor.

“Aw, come on! I was just taking a picture.” Jack could just barely see the pout on Rhys’ face through the flash-shaped circles burned into the back of his retinas. He rubbed at his eyes incessantly, fighting against the headache prickling at the top of his skull.

“Give a guy a little warning,” Jack grunted, taking no notice to the arm that snaked around his waist, nor the hand that patted around blindly before pulling his phone free from his jeans. Sober Jack would have been very disappointed with how easily he’d been pick-pocketed.

“What’s your— hic! damn it… What’s your passcode?”

“Your thumbprint’s in my phone, jackass.”

“Oh, right.”

It took Jack a good few minutes (or at least what felt like a few minutes) to blink the stars from his eyes, his vision coming back to him as best as it would in a dark room. When he could see Rhys again his phone was illuminated by the cellphone screen, his eyes fluttering up and down like he was scrolling through something. Jack raised a curious eyebrow, but before he could ask Rhys was aiming the camera at him again. This time Jack was ready for the flash, though he was still squinting uncomfortably in the photo. He wrinkled his nose once he saw the cat ears, quickly plucking them from his head so they could join the tail on the ground.

“You think I look funny?” Jack snatched the phone from Rhys and quickly snapped a picture, catching the scrunched-up look of surprise on his face perfectly. The black eyeliner that had been used to draw his whiskers was smudged, leaving awkward black lines smeared in all different directions. His pink nose was cracked and flaking from drying, though otherwise still in tact. Rhys opened his mouth to protest, only to let out a loud, high-pitched hiccup instead.

Shhh, don’t wanna wake four-eyes, now do we?” Jack’s own words contradicted his statement, his voice slightly louder than before, lost in the throes of intoxication. Rhys could only glare at him and take the phone back, mouth sewed shut to quiet his returning hiccups. Wordlessly, Rhys shuffled onto his back and held the phone above them. He flipped the camera to front-facing, put on his biggest cheese, and snapped another picture.

Jack wasn’t sure how many pictures they took, giggling in the dark like idiots. It started off with cute pictures, smiling in the dark in hopes that their faces were in frame. Then it led to silly faces, tickling, Jack was pretty sure there was some pictures of him trying to scrub the makeup off of Rhys’ face, too. They threw up peace signs, stuck their tongues out, and Jack was pretty sure Rhys bit his face at one point. Jack wasn’t sure who fell asleep first, but in the end, they both passed out from exhaustion, sprawled out over each other as best they could in Rhys’ tiny bed.