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Re-Write The Stars

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Re-Write The Stars.

Tragedy.

 

 

Rhys hummed to himself, his excitement building as he checked his reflection a final time; admiring the snug fit of his blue shirt and the hug of his jeans around his ass, before sauntering out of his bathroom with a smirk. He sighed, relieved to finally have the chance to relax and let himself have a good time after several weeks of focus, dedication and hard work. Or rather, he would be, if not for just one small wrinkle in his plan with regards to the evening. "Bro, are you sure about this?" Vaughn asked again, as Rhys rolled his eyes and groaned, flopping face first over his couch. "Can't we just chill here? You have like, everything we could want..."

"Yes, you're right Vaughn. I have everything I could want here..." Rhys scoffed, raising his head to pout petulantly at his best friend. "Except for good looking guys to fawn over, outside of the TV set." He added, snickering when Vaughn scowled at him. "You know, actual physical men who I can both drool over and touch..." He said eagerly, making playful grabbing hands gestures.

"Sometimes I think you have a one track mind, dude..." He said, shaking his head as he straightened his shirt and sighed in reluctant resignation. 

"Hmm, I try but unfortunately my best friend usually keeps me home all weekend." Rhys snorted, throwing his legs over his couch and lounging across the seats. "But this weekend; we are going outside!" He cheered, jumping to back his feet as he was consumed by a restless energy, waving imaginary pom poms. "We are going to find gorgeous men!" He continued, spinning in a circle and jumping onto one of his chairs. "And we-" he paused mid cheer, glancing at Vaughn's sceptical look. "Okay... I, am going to have so much, amazing sex!"

"Glad to know your priorities are in order there, Rhys." Vaughn snorted, rolling his eyes as Rhys jumped down from his chair and threw his arms around his friend from behind.

"Vaughn, pleeeeease?" He pleaded pathetically, nuzzling his cheek affectionately. "I can't go without you..." He insisted, finally resting his chin on his best friends shoulder and pouting at him as he batted his eyelashes dramatically. "I'll let you have a Sunset Beach marathon tomorrow." 

Vaughn rolled his eyes, smirking as he shrugged Rhys from his shoulders and sent him sprawling across the couch. "First off, you could absolutely go without me, you just don't want to-"

"Because I am such an awesome friend, and I love you and don't want to abandon you..." Rhys interjected haughtily, petulantly plucking at his couch cushions. 

"Secondly," Vaughn said loudly, ignoring Rhys’ interruption. "You only actually want me to come so you can pretend I'm your boyfriend if some guy doesn't fit your tastes and won't take no for an answer-"

"That is just not true!" Rhys objected fiercely, glaring up at Vaughn, but quickly averting his gaze when his friend merely raised a brow at him. "... Entirely." He admitted guiltily, biting his lip to contain a small grin. "I want you to come because you're my best friend!" Rhys whined insistently, pushing to his feet and grabbing Vaughn's hands in his own. "I want you to have fun, and meet people... and be there to gush with me over the hot guys I should hit on!" 

Vaughn snorted with laughter, shaking his head as he sighed I defeat. "Okay, fine... but gimme a damn key first. I don't wanna end up having to wait outside 'til you're finished again, after having you ditch me at the club." He insisted, holding out his palm expectantly and raising his brow.

"Bro, one time!" Rhys protested, continuing to grumble to himself even after fishing his spare key from its hook on the wall and handing it to his friend. "Honestly, I don't know why you don't just keep it. You're the only person who I ever actually give it to anyway; or, who even actually... comes here..."

"I feel uncomfortable keeping a key to your apartment, dude... I am just not ready for that level of commitment." Vaughn scoffed, snatching the key from Rhys and stuffing it in his pocket, grimacing as he looked at his friend and sighed. "Pleaaaase, don't be doing anything on the couch... Like, at all, let alone when I get back." He pleaded, sighing when Rhys spread his palms and grinned, notably remaining silent as he waved his eyebrows suggestively. "Urgh... We are going to marathon Sunset Beach all next weekend as well, assbutt." He demanded with a grin pout, as Rhys laughs and threw his arm around his shoulders.

"Sure thing, buddy." He promised, kissing Vaughn's cheek noisily and laughing when his friend shoved him away with a groan, though Rhys suspected his ducked head was to hide a small smile. "C'mon dude, ya never know; you might even enjoy yourself!" He said cheerfully, clapping Vaughn on the shoulder briefly before grabbing his elbow and quickly dragging him to the door.

"Just in case I haven't mentioned it lately; I hate you, Rhys." Vaughn sighed, reluctantly allowing Rhys to lead him through his front door and down the stairs, exiting the apartment complex into the semi-light of the approaching dusk hours.

"You love me." Rhys scoffed knowingly, clearly unfazed by his friend’s sour tone or his irritated scowl as he easily rebuffed his friends playful jibe. He drew in a deep and steadying breath, acutely aware of the excited clamour of his heart in his chest. "Bro... it has been forever since we did this..."

"Your sense of time is horrifyingly selective." Vaughn snarked, grimacing as Rhys pointedly linked their arms and practically skipped along beside him. His cheeks darkened as he glanced around at the random people passing them by, trying to pretend he wasn't with the strange person attached to his arm. "It's been like, three weeks, at most."

"You know, I'm sensing a little negativity from you there, Vaughn..." Rhys pouted, swinging his legs in exaggerated steps when Vaughn purposely tried to make him walk slower, quickly convincing him to give up on the attempt to slow him down.

"Oh, really? You noticed that, huh?" Vaughn asked sarcastically, turning towards him with a flat scowl which he only half meant. "Funny how it still hasn't stopped you from dragging me along..." He muttered balefully.

"Well, I can hardly go on the pull without my trusty best friend slash wingman now, can I?" Rhys snickered fondly, ignoring the dramatic way which Vaughn rolled his eyes and gave an exaggerated sigh of weary resignation.

"You and I both know you could." He insisted sulkily, flashing Rhys a look which he clearly tried to appear frustrated; but the amusement which twitched at the corner of his lips revealed his lack of genuine irritation.

"Yeah... but maybe I just don't want to." Rhys admitted flippantly, grinning as they paused to wait for the lights to change and allow them to cross a road. "Life's only half an adventure, without a trusty sidekick!"

"Uh, excuse me, mister ego..." Vaughn snarked, scowling at Rhys as they jogged across the road between the halted traffic. "What makes you so sure that I'm the sidekick in this situation?" He demanded hotly, his lower lip jutting out in an adorable pout.

"Because I'm the one who had to drag your reluctant ass all the way here." Rhys snorted, tipping his chin towards his favourite club. "Now, stop looking like you just ate Nemo..." He said, leading Vaughn past the huge queue at the main entrance to an unremarkable door around the side. "Smile, be happy! Enjoy yourself among all the glistening, sexy bodies and-"

"Oh god, Rhys please shut up." Vaughn groaned, shaking his head as he laughed despite himself, looking at his friend in fond exasperation. "I promise to enjoy myself, just please, never finish that sentence." He said, sniggering as Rhys laughed and knocked on the door.

"Done!" Rhys agreed cheerfully, beaming joyfully as the door swung out towards them. "Hey, Brick! Two to tango?" He said, as a large boy laughed heartily and offered them both a large fist to bump with their own.

"Rhys, Vaughn!" He greeted warmly, grinning broadly as he stepped back and held the door open to allow them both inside. "Guys, this place is slammed tonight... Ya’ll are lucky you actually caught me! I gotta go work the main door in a little while." He said, closing the door behind them before any other customers happened to try and follow Rhys and Vaughn.

"Trust me, Brick, we are really grateful to have an inside gal." Rhys said leadingly, grinning as he offered his friend a twenty. "I mean, standing in the queue for this place is like, a soul destroying experience..." He added, insistently pressing his money towards his friend when Brick raised his hands and backed away with a grin.

"Hey, naw! No charge for friends little fella’s." He said, gesturing for them to slip through the backdoor curtains and into the club proper. "Just be ready to buy me a drink someday... or a keg." He offered, upon catching Rhys’ uncertain frown.

"Done." Rhys grinned, tucking his money into his jeans waistband, before slapping his palm to Brick's in an eager high five, turning to Vaughn when he jerked his arm free of Rhys’ suddenly.

"Dude, what the hell?" He spluttered, his cheeks red as his eyes dipped to Rhys’ waistband before flitting to Brick and around the surrounding area embarrassedly. "Are you some kind of stripper, or something? Use your damn wallet, like a normal person!" He demanded, shaking his head as Rhys snorted and rolled his eyes. "Roll your eyes all you want, you weirdo, I refuse to be seen with you when you're being such a... hussy... slash weirdo." 

"Fine, fine, keep your damn hair on, dude." Rhys finally huffed, making an exaggerated show of withdrawing his money from his waistband and stuffing it in his pocket. "Happy now?" He snickered, as he and Vaughn casually slipped past the curtain with a final brief wave at Brick, heading toward the bar.

"Do you want me to actually answer that?" Vaughn snarked, folding his arms over his chest awkwardly as he glanced around the club, his uncertain gaze flitting across the various patrons. "Wow, Brick wasn't kidding... this place is really packed tonight." He added before Rhys could answer him, pointedly turning his back on him as Rhys chuckled knowingly.

"Dude; it’s a Saturday night... and the feelin' is rig-" Rhys began, only to laugh when Vaughn whipped around suddenly and waggled an accusatory finger in his face.

"So help me, if you start singing right now I am going home!" He threatened, as Rhys grinned and raised his palms in placation.

"You usually love my singing, Vaughn..." He pouted playfully, snickering when Vaughn's lips twisted into a torn grimace. He turned to the bartender as they finished serving someone else, ordering a drink and a shot for both himself and his best friend.

"I like your singing when it’s embarrassing to you." Vaughn corrected, resuming their conversation as the bartender set about making their drinks. "Like, when I volunteered you during that overly energetic anti-smoking display we had a couple years ago..." He said with a smirk, as Rhys grimaced and rolled his eyes at the reminder. "Although, you disappeared like, halfway through that god-awful performance anyway, so you got away with not performing." Vaughn pouted accusingly, a small frown forming between his brows. "Where the hell did you go, anyway?"

"Dude, you expect me to remember shit from years ago?" Rhys laughed, turning towards Vaughn and offering him his shot of Tequila Rosé. "I barely remember what I did last week, and you know it!" He snorted, as Vaughn laughed in agreement and accepted his shot.

"I swear bro; you have the worst memory ever." He huffed, clinking his shot glass to Rhys’ briefly, before they both down the smooth strawberry flavoured liqueur. "That said, you never fail to remember my birthday so alls good." He added playfully, as Rhys laughed and handed him a colourful cocktail.

"Dude, I only forget unimportant shit." He assured, grinning as he grabbed his own drink and removed the small umbrella, before raising the glass to his lips and gulping the liquid down quickly.

"You once forgot three math tests in a row; and, your own date with that guy who transferred..." Vaughn persisted, shaking his head as Rhys slammed his empty glass back on the bar with a loud, satisfied gasp.

"Like I said, unimportant shit." He coughed, patting his chest as he turned and leaned against the bar, gazing out at the dance floor longingly. "Come on, Vaughn... Drink, drink, drink! I'm in the mood, for danci-"

"Go and stand somewhere else, assbutt. I am not associating with the weirdo singing Diana Ross in a goddamn club." Vaughn snarked, mockingly scowling at Rhys as he deliberately took his time in drinking his cocktail.

"Vaughn..!" Rhys whined, gazing at him pleadingly as Vaughn ignored him. He heaved an impatient sigh, watching his friend take purposefully long sips and cast nervous glances towards the dance floor, clearly aware that as soon as his drink was finished he would be dragged over. When his glass was finally empty, Rhys hurried to snatch it from him and slam it to the bar, causing Vaughn to snigger as Rhys grabbed his hand and indeed dragged him to the dance floor.

"I hate you sometimes, Rhys." He laughed despite himself, reluctantly beginning to sway and grind to the beat, though he cast furtive and self conscious glances at the oblivious crowd around them.

"You love me!" Rhys crowed, throwing his arms in the air and whooping loudly, soothing Vaughn's nerves as he happily made a fool of himself and danced to his heart’s content. 

Time blurred, lost in the pounding beat and rhythm of the music, as Rhys and Vaughn danced and laughed at each other. Finally, hot from the thick cluster of bodies around them and exhausted from the constant dancing, Rhys and Vaughn stumbled to the bar for more drinks. "Dude..." Vaughn huffed, panting for breath as he shook his head fondly and sipped at another colourful cocktail. "I don't know whether to be embarrassed or impressed... your dancing is..." He trailed off, waving his hand indecisively as he failed to find words to describe his friends dancing abilities. "You know what? I think I'm just gonna go dance some more..." He said loudly, setting his empty glass down to turn abruptly and hurry back to the dance floor.

"Assbutt!" Rhys called after him, shaking his head fondly as he laughed and leaned his back against the bar, watching his friend weave awkwardly around the edge of the dancing crowds, before falling into a rhythm with a guy who was somewhat taller than himself, painted blue by one of the neon strobe lights.

"Unique." A voice drawled from a bar stool to his right, and Rhys turned with a start to see a guy leaning his elbows on the bar, his short dark hair streaked with a skunk stripe of grey and partially obscuring his ears as he nursed a glass of whiskey. "I think that's what your buddy was gonna call your dancing... either that or he was gonna go for the kill, and tell you that you looked like a fish outta water." The stranger added with a smirk as he turned to look at Rhys, revealing mismatched green and blue eyes which darted over him quickly but appreciatively.

"Uh..." Rhys stammered, his eyes partaking of a much slower inspection of the stranger. He eyed the man's grey jacket with a raised brow, able to see the hints of toned muscle beneath his almost too tight, yellow jumper beneath; and a small tech tag, which hung around his neck and dangled to the middle of his chest. "Ahem, I mean..." He coughed, shaking his head and plastering a grin to his face as he returned his eyes to the other mans amused gaze. "I will have you know, I practiced a great deal to perfect the 'fish out of water' routine." He said confidently, smirking when the guy raised a brow in surprise, his lip curling as he angled his body towards Rhys’.

"That so, huh?" He asked, smirking as he took a large swig of whiskey. "Well, clearly your efforts paid off... You put so much practice into everything?" He asked, his eyes drifting toward the dance floor as Rhys felt himself flush at the question.

He bit his lip, his eyes darting briefly to where Vaughn was happily dancing with the same man as before, before looking back at the man before him and clearing his throat to get his attention. "I guess it depends how much I enjoy whatever it is I'm practicing..." He said leadingly, smirking when the stranger before him started briefly, turning back with his brows raised in obvious but pleasant surprise. "And then there's the stuff I'm just..." He added, pausing to slide an unsubtle step closer along the bar, looking up from beneath his lashes coyly as he leaned closer and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Naturally gifted at." He murmured playfully, pulling away and leaning back against the bar, pointedly arching his neck to allow the other man a full view of his body and exposed throat.

"Hmm..." The newcomer hummed, taking advantage of the view Rhys offered him. "That so?" He repeated thoughtfully, his voice dropping as his eyes lingered on Rhys’ collarbone.

Rhys felt his heart pause, before quickening its pace, thudding more insistently as his stomach flipped and twisted into a pleasant knot. "Mmhm." He murmured, shifting his weight to mirror the other mans position, angling his body towards him. "... I've even been known to give demonstrations." He said, hesitating a moment as the strangers eyes rose sharply to meet his own, before reaching his hand out slowly and tiptoeing his fingers across the other mans wrist. He peeked down at his playful hand, before looking up again with a heated and meaningful gaze.

"Damn... ya don't play around, do ya Cupcake?" The stranger huffed, shaking his head in amusement, though he made no move to stop Rhys from walking his fingers higher up his arm. "Straight for the kill, huh?"

"Hmm, I don't see the point in wasting time playing games." Rhys admitted, cocking his head so he could look up at the other man with a playful smirk. "Cupcake, though? I've been called a lot of things before... but never that." He said, his fingers slowly skipping along the other mans chest, drawn to the tech tag around his neck. "Do I really seem like such a sweet, good boy? So..." He paused, leaning closer to ghost his breath across the other mans ear. "Innocent?" He asked, smirking as he pulled back and looked up through his lashes.

"Not when you’re looking at a fella with those eyes." The stranger murmured, hesitantly reaching forward and trailing a single fingertip from Rhys’ shoulder to his elbow. "Those eyes are anything but innocent right now." He said knowingly, his finger slowly moving back up Rhys’ arm and causing a pleasant shiver to ripple down his spine.

"Hmm." Rhys hummed; his breath catching as he basked in the other mans attention. His fingers traced the edge of his tech tag, his gaze lowering as he made to turn them over. The other mans finger left his arm abruptly, quickly closing around Rhys’ and preventing him from reading the words printed upon them. Rhys looked up quickly, startled by the sudden movement and he was briefly concerned by the uncertainty in the other mans eyes.

"... Sorry, Cupcake." He said, clearing his throat as he gently eased the tag from Rhys’ grip, flashing him a cocky grin. "But you've gotta wine me and dine me before you get my name." He said, winking at Rhys and causing him to laugh in surprise.

"That so?" He snickered, tossing the other mans phrase back at him. "Well... I think I can probably manage that, as it happens." He said, relaxing again as the other man grinned at him, clearly pleased he hadn't given up. "Do I at least get to know what kind of super brainiac I'm going to be wining and dining with?" He asked teasingly, as the stranger snorted and tucked his tag beneath his jumper.

The other man hesitated, eyeing Rhys for a long pause as he deliberated, while Rhys tried to remain patient and hesitantly raised his fingers to the other mans arm again. "... I was a programmer for a weapons manufacturer." The stranger finally admitted, seeming to relax when he realised Rhys wasn't about to give up over his secrecy.

"Wow..." Rhys cooed, impressed by the revelation. He bit his lip, his fingers pausing in their tentative exploration, flicking lightly at the other mans jacket zipper. "I uh, don't suppose you'd want to... program your way out of here?" He asked, blushing when the other man laughed at his unsubtle prodding.

"That eager?" He asked, smirking and running the back of a knuckle across one of Rhys’ heated cheeks. He raised a brow at Rhys’ sudden sharp breath, his heterochromia eyes dropping to his lips as they parted, before returning to Rhys’ eyes.

"It's like I said, Handsome..." He breathed, closing his eyes briefly as the other man dragged his knuckle across his jaw and tipped his head back gently by his chin, before slowly trailing his finger down Rhys’ throat. "I don't see the point in wasting time." He repeated, his eyes reopening when the other mans finger reached his shoulder and hesitated, his warm palm splaying around the back of his neck and squeezing gently. "... Especially not when I see something I like." He admitted quietly, biting his lip as he waited nervously for the other mans response.

"Gotta admit, I wasn't expecting this the night I hit town." The other man chuckled quietly, pausing to inhale deeply through his nose. "I was kind of planning on just catching a drink and getting to know the place..."

"Well, I guess it's lucky for you that you caught something much more fun than some... drink." Rhys snickered, sauntering a step closer and cocking his head invitingly as the other man grazed his nails over the back of his neck and caused him to shiver. "So... is that a yes..?" He asked hopefully, throwing caution to the wind and invading the stranger’s space by sliding closer along the edge of the bar. "I mean, tomorrow is a Sunday... plenty of time still to explore and get to know the town, really..."

"Hmm..." The stranger hummed, though he didn't comment, instead flicking his eyes to the dance floor. "What about your friend..?" He asked, his breath ghosting across Rhys’ shoulder as he half leaned towards him, his fingers gliding over the back of Rhys’ neck, flexing restlessly.

Rhys glanced back at the dance floor himself, raising his brows when he saw Vaughn in a position which he hadn't expected his friend to be flexible enough for; still dancing with his tall, blue and handsome stranger. "He seems pretty busy right now..." Rhys hummed, turning back to his own stranger with a noticeable flare of hopeful desire in his intent gaze. "Wouldn't really be a very good friend if I interrupted him just now..."

"What about... if he ends up interrupting you?" The stranger drawled lowly, smirking as his lips brushed over Rhys’ ears and caused him to shiver against him.

"Then he and I will have to have some very strong words tomorrow." Rhys breathed, arching himself against the other man without actually touching him, his gaze dropping to the strangers lips as his heart skipped a beat in excitement. "Besides, once I'm focused; nothing interrupts me..." He added leadingly, his eyes rising to the strangers striking gaze again quickly when he squeezed the back of his neck again.

Rhys bit his lip, holding his breath as his eyes locked with the strangers in a lingering, heated exchange which left his heart pounding fiercely against his ribs. "... Alright, Cupcake." The other man finally huffed, shaking his head in amusement as Rhys grinned brightly. "Lead the way." He said, winking as he tipped his head for Rhys to walk ahead of him.

Rhys smirked, reaching forward to snag the other man’s hand in his own, backing away from the bar before finally turning away to lead him out of the club. "C'mon," he said, a quiet gasp escaping him as they stepped out into the chilled night air, a vast difference from the pulsing heat in the club; though it did little to cool the fire in his blood. He tugged at the other man’s hand, the pair of them jogging to cross the road between light changes, too impatient to wait when there was so little traffic. As he led the other man to his apartment, Rhys fished his phone from his pocket, sending Vaughn a brief explanation for his disappearance.

Oh my god! Super hot! Do not disturb; like, ever! But seriously... gimme an hour, at least..! He texted, sniggering when he imagined Vaughn's salty response later, though he had no intention of reading it any time soon, as he stashed his phone back in his pocket and glanced up at the building ahead of them. "That's the one..." He murmured, peeking at the man beside him and feeling his face warm despite the chill air, when the man looked back at him and squeezed his hand encouragingly.

"Lead on, Cupcake." He repeated, holding the front door open for Rhys to slip through ahead of him. "Stairs or..?" He began to suggest, when Rhys grasped him by the jacket sleeve and steered him to the elevator.

"Fourth floor." Rhys said quietly, moving to the far side of the lift and leaning against the cool metal wall, closing his eyes as he tipped his head back and tried to calm his frantically beating heart. He heard the click of a button and the ding of the elevator doors closing, a tense but pleasant silence building around them as Rhys’ eyes opened; locking onto the other man on the opposite side of the elevator, watching him intently.

Their eyes locked, a silent but heated gaze which grew until the atmosphere around them was almost crackling with desire and longing. When the doors pinged open, Rhys shouldered himself from the wall, holding out his hand for the other mans and leading him down the hall to his door. His hands shook with excitement and anticipation, as he dug in his pocket for his key, shoving it into his lock as soon as he found it so he could throw his door open wide. He stepped inside and turned, gesturing for the other man to enter so he could close the door. "Make yourself at home..." Rhys suggested quietly, sauntering into his living room and turning to face the other man with a coy smirk. "Anything I can get you..?" He offered suggestively, taking three exaggeratedly slow steps back, as he ran his eyes over the stranger and arched his neck provocatively.

"I got some ideas yeah," the stranger muttered lowly, narrowing his eyes as he stalked forward, their playful banter in the club forgotten as Rhys’ breath hitched. "Namely; you." He said fiercely, as they stepped forward together, all pretences abandoned as they collided in the middle of the room. 

Rhys’ delighted groan was muffled by the other mans lips, as they fell into a demanding and passionate kiss. Rhys arched himself closer, his entire body rocking against the stranger fluidly. His hands rose to fist in the other mans lazily coifed, skunk streaked hair and pulling him closer as his body reacted to the near aggressive intimacy eagerly, flooded by a sudden rush of excitement which left him breathless. "Mmm!" He moaned, his lips parting and allowing the other man to suck his lower lip between his teeth, nipping the soft flesh sharply and causing Rhys to whine with rising desire. He was vaguely aware of a crash, as they stumbled into the side of the couch, but Rhys neither knew nor cared what they'd broken; his only concern being to keep his perfect stranger locked against his body.

He sidestepped awkwardly; tugging at the other mans jacket and impatiently shoving it from his arms. He hummed in surprise as his legs bumped against the coffee table, turning to draw the other man against him briefly, before tugging insistently at his remaining clothes. Catching on to his demanding movements quickly, the other mans hands drifted, pulling at Rhys’ own clothing roughly and tossing it aside between hurried gasps for breath. Rhys hissed when he found himself chest to chest with his lover, his hands scrabbling quickly for his belt as the other man shoved his jeans over his hips. "Mmm!" He groaned hungrily, shivering as the other man’s hand curled around his cock and stroked him with almost painful urgency.

With a gasp he pulled his swollen lips free of their passionate kiss, pushing at the stranger’s chest suddenly. "Oof!" The stranger huffed, smirking as they panted quickly for breath, watching as Rhys dropped himself to his knees and tugged his trousers free entirely. His hands swept quickly over the other man's thighs, and he leaned forward to mouth at the thigh beside his head. "In a hurry there, Cupcake?" The stranger chuckled, his voice thick with desire, as he curled his hand around the back of Rhys’ neck.

"You asking me to slow down, Handsome?" He murmured, raising his head briefly to glance up at the other man, one hand gliding to the base of his cock and rolling his balls in his palm.

"Damn..." The stranger hissed, his hips straining forward as Rhys nipped his thigh with a grin, before quickly soothing the area with his tongue. "You're a goddamn teas-" the other man began, abruptly cutting off with a deep throated groan, as Rhys moved to take the head of his cock in his mouth.

He made no short work of lathering attention on the other man, swiping his tongue eagerly around his cock and flicking playfully across the slit. His lovers hand squeezed the back of his neck encouragingly, his body trembling beneath Rhys’ ministrations, as he groaned and rocked his hips to meet his movements. Rhys hummed in eager appreciation, sucking his lover deeper into his throat and hungrily worshipping his cock until the hand on his neck rose to his hair and tugged sharply. He gasped as he rose free, his hand still stroking the other mans cock as his lover surged forward and captured his lips in a rough and passionate kiss.

He lost himself to the sensation of demanding lips against his own, arching when his lovers hands caressed his burning skin, a deep whine of need and urgency escaping his throat when one curled around his neglected cock. "Ya got a pretty mouth, Cupcake, and I could happily let you carry on makin' damn good use of it..." His lover drawled, as he urged Rhys to his feet, steadying him when he stumbled from having knelt so long. "But I got somethin' else in mind right now." He added, his hands sliding down to Rhys’ ass and squeezing pointedly, as he pushed to his feet and pulled Rhys against him roughly. "Just say where." He said lowly, smirking when Rhys blinked and shook his head quickly.

"Uh..." He croaked, glancing at the clock on the wall and wincing when he realised Vaughn would likely be back any moment, and could have been for some time. "That way..." He said thickly, humming in pleasant surprise when the other man pulled him closer and crashed their lips together in another heated and near desperate kiss. Rhys curled his arms around the stranger’s shoulders, groaning when the hands on his ass squeezed before swatting him sharply.

"Lead on." He ordered roughly, and Rhys bit his lip as he took his livers hand and quickly led him to his room, his heart racing as he tried to catch his breath. He'd barely closed his door, when the other mans firm body pressed him back into the door, a needful whine escaping him as he rocked himself against the other man urgently. "I'm assuming you're aware of just how ridiculously hot you are..?" The other man muttered, his teeth grazing Rhys’ neck as he pulled him away from the door and turned, glancing over Rhys’ shoulder and steering him towards his bed.

"I am now..." Rhys gasped distractedly, shuddering with desire as his hands roamed the other man’s body eagerly. "Oh god..." He whimpered, biting his lip as the other man sucked at his throat.

"Nah, but close..." His lover chuckled darkly, as Rhys’ legs bumped against the side of his bed. "On your knees, Cupcake." He ordered, pushing him back to bounce on the bed briefly.

"Yes, sir..." Rhys snickered, quickly swinging his legs around and shuffling backwards, until he was kneeling on his bed. He grinned when the other man quickly climbed on the bed and plastered himself to his back, his hands splaying across Rhys’ hips as he encouraged him to further part his legs. "Oh, oohhh..." Rhys breathed, leaning forward to brace his hands against his headboard, as he felt his lovers cock glide against his own; the hard, hot flesh snug between his ass cheeks. He hid his face in the crook of his arm, moaning unashamedly as the other man shifted, his cock now pressing insistently to his entrance and slowly sinking into him.

"Damn..." His lover cursed, his lips, tongue and teeth moving furiously across Rhys’ throat and shoulders, as he rocked against him, thrusting deeper and grazing against the node of nerves which caused Rhys to shiver and moan hungrily. "Ya make the prettiest noises, Cupcake... Let’s hear you get a little louder though, huh?" He whispered against Rhys’ ear, thrusting harder as he gripped Rhys’ hip to prevent him from rocking back against him.

"Oh god... you're a sadistic bastard!" Rhys groaned, his body aching from the pleasure which coursed through him, his fingers curling tightly against the headboard. "Pleeeease don't tell me you're gonna torture me with this slow and- ah!" He gasped, a loud cry of bliss erupting from deep in his chest as his lover rocked deep into him, his hips snapping forward quickly and firmly, before slowing once more. "No, no, noooo... don't stop!" Rhys cried, turning his head to glance back pleadingly, his legs quivering beneath him as his body trembled from the unexpected burst of pleasure. "Please, don't stop... don't-"

"Heh, as you command, sir." His lover smirked against the side of his throat, his hands gripping Rhys’ hips tightly as he began to thrust into him with powerful and determined movements, driving Rhys to a consistent and dizzying wave of roiling pleasure. His lips and teeth moved across Rhys’ throat and shoulders constantly, eliciting needy whimpers and urgent moans from him, as his body twisted within itself; overwhelmed with pleasure as pressure began to build in his gut.

"Oh god, yes!" Rhys cried, dropping his head forward and moaning loudly. He groaned when his lovers hand slid from his hip to his throat, urging his head back up as his hips began to snap forward with more urgency. 

"Look at me now, you hear?" He drawled in a low husk, as Rhys whined and rocked his hips back against him pleadingly. His lover hissed, his free hand squeezing Rhys’ hip tightly, before gliding over his cock. Rhys turned his head, the other man’s hand warm against his throat as their eyes met, pleasure pooling in his gut at the heady, heated gaze which lingered between them. "Mmm." His lover hummed, leaning closer and splaying his fingers further across Rhys’ throat, as their lips collided in a consuming and demanding kiss which was bordered between passionate and aggressive.

"Mmm!" Rhys whined, arching himself back into his lover as the other mans hips drove forward relentlessly, pushing him closer to bliss as pleasure coiled within him like an inferno. "Oh god..." He gasped, his jaw falling slack as the other man kissed a fiery path from his jaw to his shoulder, his teeth sinking into the soft flesh with a deep throated groan which rumbled through his chest against Rhys’ back. "Oh god... Oh-" Rhys choked, his knuckled turning white as an incoherent cry tore free of his throat, his body finally coming undone around the programmer.

"Hmmm!" His lover growled, his hips first stuttering and then slowing, before finally falling still as they rest snugly against him. Rhys shuddered, his chest heaving as he panted rapidly to catch his breath, his body awash with the intense afterglow of his orgasm.

"Oh god..." He groaned contently, slumping back against his lover and hissing at the warm flesh still against him. "You're lethal..." He mumbled, ignoring the other mans chuckle as he grinned and glanced back slyly. "You're welcome to stay the night, so long as you do that to me again in a round two, before you actually have to leave..." He offered, smirking when the other man seemed to genuinely consider the offer.

Before he could answer however, their blissful haze was interrupted by a loud cry from the living room. "Dude!" Vaughn called indignantly, as the sound of the door slamming closed echoed through the apartment. "What did I say about the damn couch?!"

Rhys’ head fell forward against his headboard; his cheeks blazing with embarrassment as his lover gently withdrew from him. "Fun as this was, Cupcake, I think that's my cue to skedaddle..." He drawled, leaning against the side of the bed and carding his fingers through Rhys’ sweat soaked hair, his touch surprisingly gentle after their previous activities.

"Urgh, I am never going to forgive him for this." Rhys muttered darkly, scowling to himself before finally sighing and raising his head to meet the other mans gaze. "He has the worst timing..." He offered apologetically.

"I dunno, could've been worse..." His lover chuckled, trailing his fingers over the bite mark on Rhys’ shoulder suggestively. Rhys snorted and hummed in agreement, finally moving his pleasantly aching body and standing on unsteady legs.

"Holy shit..." Rhys laughed, shaking his head as the other man steadied him with strong arms. "You don't do things by halves, do you?" He huffed fondly, toying with the ends of the programmer’s dark hair playfully.

"Hmm, if a things worth doin', it’s worth doin' right." He replied, smirking when Rhys blushed heavily at the suggestive remark. He was saved from replying when his lover leaned down and kissed him again, his arms encircling Rhys’ waist and drawing him closer as the kiss slowly deepened and turned hungry once again.

"Oh god, please tell me that's not what I think it is on the couch..!" Vaughn's loud complaint caused them to pause, withdrawing by barely a breath as he continued to voice his displeasure. "Dude, we have to sit on that! Oh god... where's the bleach?" Vaughn's grumbling quietened, as he stomped away loudly.

Rhys huffed an embarrassed chuckle, reluctantly pulling free from his lovers embrace and easing him back a step. "Uh, just... wait here a sec." He said roughly, clearing his throat as he stepped around him and move to the door. "I'll uh, get your clothes..."

"What about-?" The programmer began, gesturing to Rhys’ similar state of undress.

"I'll grab those too." Rhys snickered, laughing when other man rolled his eyes at him. "You, stay... My friend just earned himself some mental scarring." He said, winking playfully as he opened the door and stepped through, closing it behind himself again. 

"Bro!" Vaughn yelped, dropping his cleaning supplies and scrabbling to cover his eyes, turning his back to Rhys quickly. "What the hell?! Couldn't you find some clothes first?!" He demanded, as Rhys snorted and began to quickly gather his and his lovers clothing from his apartment floor and furniture.

"That's what I'm doing, assbutt." He snarked, smirking at Vaughn's continued discomfort. "Hey, if you didn't wanna see the parade, you shouldn't have called me out here! It's nobody’s fault but your own, dude..." He said unsympathetically.

"I hate you." Vaughn muttered pitifully, as Rhys laughed and snuck up behind his friend, blowing against his ear briefly.

"Love you too, buddy. Now why don't you go wait in your room or something to protect your delicate eyes, so my hot guest can make his sexy ass, walk of shame?" He suggested, as Vaughn yelped and shot away from the breath of air against his ear, peeking around his hands to male his way down the hall and slamming the bathroom door closed behind him. Rhys laughed and shook his head, making his way back to his bedroom with his bundled clothing, proceeding inside and dumping his armful onto the bed. "Finders keepers?" He asked playfully, raising a brow suggestively when the programmer laughed and approached with a grin.

"You talking about the clothes?" He asked knowingly, as Rhys feigned an innocent, one shouldered shrug. He grinned as the other mans hands skimmed up his arms, before he sighed and knocked their foreheads together. "You’re pretty hard to say no to, ya know that, Cupcake?"

"Hmm, it’s my secret weapon." Rhys laughed, pressing a longing filled, open mouthed kiss to the side of his lover’s throat. "Sadly, it only seems to work when handsome, mysterious strangers have genuine excuses to abandon me after the best; most mind blowing sex I've ever had..."

"Oh?" His lover laughed, his eyes drifting over Rhys curiously as he pulled on his jumper and jacket. "You, uh... had a lotta 'mind blowing experiences' there, Cupcake?" He asked unsubtly, as he dug his underwear and jeans from the pile of clothes and stepped into them.

"Hmm... wouldn't you like to know, Handsome?" Rhys teased, smirking as he flashed the other man a playful wink. His amusement cleared abruptly, and he dropped his eyes in shy deference as he cleared his throat awkwardly. "But uh, as I'm feeling generous and all... No. I've had a few experiences sure, but... never hit mind blowing before. That one’s uh, new." He admitted, his voice slowly dropping to an embarrassed whisper. 

His lover paused in the middle of tugging on his jacket, eyeing Rhys thoughtfully as he slid his arms into the sleeves. He hesitated, before stepping closer and slipping his hands around Rhys’ waist, his lips lowering to brush across his shoulder. "Lucky me." He murmured, and Rhys couldn't help but laugh in surprise. He raised his eyes as his lover drew back, chafing Rhys’ cooling arms with his palms. "... Give me your phone." He ordered quickly, holding out his hand expectantly.

"Uh..." Rhys hesitated, slowly digging his phone free of his jeans pocket and raising a curious brow when the other man quickly plucked it from his hands. He peered over the other mans hands, his heart lightening as he quickly pulled back again to hide the small grin which spread across his face, realising his lover was saving his own number in his contacts.

"You ever want that round two, you just let me know." His lover said with a smirk, tossing his phone back and laughing when Rhys fumbled to catch it. 

"Oh, I will." Rhys promised with a cocky smirk, giving no indication as to whether he was promising to call; or to want the offered second 'round'. "For now though, I should probably see you out; before my crazy friend starts complaining again..." He said, biting his lip as he dropped his phone and grabbed his trousers, stepping into them quickly but not bothering to do them up. 

Rhys grinned as he led the way back through his apartment, opening the door and leaning his hip against the frame. "Well, thanks for the greeting... I just hope everyone else isn't so uh, enthusiastic." The programmer said as he strode through the door, turning in the hallway to throw Rhys a cocky wink. "I think I'd be exhausted before I was even here a week." He huffed, stuffing his hands in his jacket pocket with a grin.

"I can assure you, I am one of a kind in this town." Rhys laughed, smiling as he scratched the back of his neck shyly. "Um, thanks for the wild night..." He said, peeking at his lover from beneath his lashes, his heart skipping a beat as he sucked in a quick breath. "Next time, you'll have to let me take you for a ride..." He offered with a coy grin, causing the other man to chuckle appreciatively.

"Hmm, you'll have to give me the details when you call." He said, stepping closer and leaning in to kiss Rhys’ cheek sweetly. Rhys ducked his head with a small giggle, before looking up again and capturing the other mans lips briefly with his own.

"See ya round, Handsome..." He said hopefully, flashing him a bright smile as the other man backed away down the hall.

"Look forward to it, Cupcake." He replied with a cocky wink, finally turning away and heading for the stairs. Rhys watched him walk away, leaning his head to the doorframe and biting his lip to contain a giddy squeal, when his lover glanced back briefly; before disappearing down the stairs.

"He's so hooked." He said confidently, snorting as he pulled away from his doorframe and headed back inside, kicking his door closed with his heel. "Vaughn! It's safe now, assbutt!" He called, laughing at the unintelligible grumbling which returned to him. "Oh come on, it's not that bad..." He snorted, rolling his eyes as he fell back on his couch with a content sigh.

"You suck so bad, Rhys..." Vaughn muttered as he entered the living room, scowling at his friend’s obvious blissful state. 

"Pretty sure he would disagree with you... because he was really-" Rhys began, grinning as he made a lurid gesture; re-enacting his lover’s position from when he'd been gripping the back of Rhys’ neck.

"Oh god, please never do that again..." Vaughn groaned, grimacing and covering his face as Rhys laughed and rolled his head along the back of his couch. "I honestly don't know why we're even friends sometimes, you're so shameless-"

"Hmm, that's what you love about me." Rhys hummed, yawning as he gazed up at the ceiling with a smile still lingering on his lips. "God, Vaughn... He was exactly what I needed." He sighed, before throwing his friend a mocking scowl. "Thank you very much for spoiling the mood and scaring him away, bro... I'd almost convinced him to stay and do me aga-"

"Then I am not sorry in the least!" Vaughn said quickly, flopping onto the couch beside Rhys and jabbing his shoulder irritably. "I so do not need to be woken up by you doing your best porno voice again." He added, grimacing at the memory of Rhys’ last prank.

"Hey, at least it would have been my real porno voice..." Rhys countered, sniggering fondly as he continued to stare at the ceiling. They sat in silence for a long pause, before Rhys rolled his head towards his friend, running his eyes over him briefly. "... You know that's where he was sitting when I-"

"Oh, god Rhys!" Vaughn yelped, leaping from the couch as Rhys laughed hysterically. "Urgh, I hate you! Assbutt!" He complained, grimacing as he wiped his hands over his jeans, as if making sure he hadn't sat in something unpleasant.

"Love you too, bud-" Rhys’ witty, knowing retort was abruptly smothered by the cushion which smashed into his face, and his laughter rang loudly through the apartment, as Vaughn stalked away to the spare room, muttering that he was absolutely never staying over again.

Rhys finally forced himself to get up and go to bed sometime later, his body exhausted in the most pleasant of ways. He hummed tiredly to himself as he settled his couch cushions back into place and made his way to the bathroom, cleaning himself up quickly before heading back to his room. He paused in the doorway, the light reflecting from a small, dark piece of metal on the floor. "Huh," he hummed, walking over and picking up the ball chain which held his lovers tech tag. "Oops... guess you'll just have to come back some time now." He snickered, biting his lip as he tentatively reached for the tag. He paused, recalling the programmer quickly tucking the tag away before he could read them. "Hmm..." He huffed, shaking his head as he lowered his free hand and walked to his bed, dropping the tag on his nightstand and shutting off the lights, before wiggling free of his jeans and falling into bed.

"Oh..." He groaned contently, rolling on his side and drawing his knees to his chest, sighing blissfully at the tiredness of his muscles and the lingering tingle of pleasure along his spine. He sniggered to himself, curling his sheets around himself and unable to keep the smile from his face. His curious gaze drifted back to his nightstand, the tech tag glinting mischievously in the darkness. He's gonna know they're here... and I'm sure he wouldn't mind after... He thought, slowly reaching for the tag and running his thumb across the imprinted letters as he picked them up again. After a moment of consideration, Rhys sighed and rolled his eyes, lowering the chain over his neck and rolling to face the opposite way; the tag nestled securely against his chest as he closed his eyes, and allowed his exhaustion to take over.

The following day was spent in a haze of gleeful and occasionally shy recollections, often daydreaming and biting his lip; much to Vaughn's amusement and disgust combined. The tag remained hidden beneath his shirt, and though he began several text messages to explain that he'd found them; he continually deleted them, determined that he sounded too foolish or stalkerish, or both. By the time Vaughn headed home Sunday evening, Rhys was no further forward to either informing his liver of the missing tag, or inviting him over again. "Urgh, this is so stupid!" He growled, pacing his bedroom in agitation. "He's seen me naked for crying out loud! He's done more than just see too... and I've had his- oh god..." He groaned, flopping dramatically onto his bed and staring at the ceiling in horror. "I'm turning into Vaughn." He whined, before finally laughing at himself. He hesitated, slowly sitting himself up as he glanced down at his bare chest, the tech tag sitting innocently against his skin.

Rhys sucked in a deep breath, glancing away guiltily as he chewed his lip and slowly raised a hand to the tag, closing his fist around them as his heart thudded loudly beneath them. With a guilty chuckle, Rhys slowly opened his hand, finally peeking at the name imprinted on the surface of the metal. "... John Lawrence..." He murmured, a slow grin curling across his face. He hummed thoughtfully, taking a moment to process the information and wondering distantly why the programmer might not have wanted his name known, before pushing the thought aside. "Be seeing you soon." He snickered, reluctantly rising from his bed to spend the remainder of his evening, preparing for the following day.

"Dude, did you sleep at all?" Vaughn asked the following morning, as Rhys yawned loudly and ignored his smug grin. "Don't tell me you spent all night brooding over your mystery man..." He scoffed, shaking his head in mock disgust when Rhys merely grinned and shrugged in response.

"What can I say? That man was definitely worth brooding over." He said, looking around the crowded halls with a groan. "Urgh, I should've called him last night... maybe I might be more mentally prepared to face today then." He sighed, pouting when his friend clapped him on the shoulder.

"Dude, you are the most sex focused person I know..." Vaughn snorted playfully, as Rhys grimaced and followed him down the hall and into a room filled with familiar desks.

"Now that is just not true." Rhys pouted, slinging his bag onto a desk near the back where he and Vaughn sat. "I mean, Dean Winchester for one-"

"Dude, we've been over this. Dean Winchester is not real, assbutt." Vaughn snorted, rolling his eyes as he dumped his bag beside Rhys’ and sat down in his chair. "You can't keep comparing yourself to fictional characters!" He laughed, throwing a pen at Rhys’ head.

"Pfft, you're just jealous you're too short to be my Sammy." Rhys scoffed, rubbing his head where Vaughn's pen had struck. "Besides, I can compare myself to whoever the hell I-"

"Alright, that's quite enough blathering for one morning!" The loud, clear voice of Principle Kincaid cut across Rhys’ retort, and he hurried to seat himself before the older man would notice him. "You're here for your education, not to gossip like old maids about whom you think the hottest celebrity you know is... even if it is me." He bragged with a smug chuckle, as Rhys rolled his eyes and shook his head, scowling at his lap and picking at his tie to avoid looking at the Principle.

"Now, I know you've been woefully neglected in this class, these past few weeks... But no fear, children." Kincaid continued, clapping his hands together and gazing around them all with a condescending grin. "We've finally found ourselves a new History teacher!"

"Oh, joy." Rhys groused petulantly, frowning at his best friend, when Vaughn practically vibrated with excitement beside him. 

"Please give a warm welcome, for Mr. Zane Flynt." Principle Kincaid insisted, leading the class in a spattering of applause. Rhys rolled his eyes and turned to look out the window, sighing heavily and pursing his lips as he tuned out the rest of the Principles' introduction.

"Psst, Rhys... this guy is crazy hot..." Vaughn whispered, nudging him unsubtly with his foot. "Dude, look-"

"Vaughn please, all the teachers in this place are the damn same." Rhys sighed, stretching as he ran a hand through his hair. "They're all disgusting, old, pe-"

"Thanks, I haven't got much of an introduction really. Just don't nark me off, and I'm sure I won't have to mark you down or give you a detention." Rhys fell silent, his heart racing as his gut churned with disbelief. He turned to the front of his class, his eyes widening in disbelief and horror as he saw an all too familiar, handsome man at the front of the class. His hair was swept back neatly, and he wore a shirt and waistcoat, but even his grey jacket was undeniably the same.

"Oh god..." Rhys choked weakly, clutching his chest suddenly as the tag beneath his shirt began to burn against his skin. His breath quickened, his heart hammering as he watched Kincaid banter awkwardly with his new history teacher.

"Bro, are you okay?" Vaughn asked, watching him in concern as Rhys felt the blood drain from his face. "I warned you he was hot..." He said, frowning at the vacant gaze Rhys turned towards him. "Rhys..?"

"Yeah..." Rhys mumbled, shaking his head as he looked back to the front of the class, his heart sinking in dread. "Yeah... super hot." He agreed quietly, desperately wishing the floor would open, and erase him from existence.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

Shock To The System.

 

 

Jack stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets, gritting his teeth as he forced a grin and tried not to smack the pompous ass beside him in the mouth. No fighting. He recalled from the intense preparations he'd gone through with Zane, to make sure he wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize the mission. Aw, hell... What the hell kinda shithole have you dropped me in, Zane? He wondered, reluctantly shaking the Principles hand before he stalked imperiously from the classroom, leaving Jack to face down countless curious faces in identical uniforms. "Uh..." He balked, clearing his throat as he scratched the back of his neck awkwardly.

"It just me, or does Phony Stark there love the sound of his own voice?" He asked, earning several amused sniggers from the class. Whaddaya know, maybe this gig won't be quite so bad, after all... He thought briefly, clapping his hands together and drawing in a deep breath to steady himself. "Okay, well, ya can call me Mr. Flynt. I, uh, am gonna teach you all some history... stuff." He said, walking over to the desk at the front of the class and moving to lean against it, before changing his mind and sitting on the corner; folding his arms over his chest awkwardly. "Uh, why don't you all introduce yourselves? I warn you now though, I likely won't ever use 'em, because I'm an annoying bastard who gives nicknames to everyone... but I'll remember 'em well enough to mark your work." He said, clearing his throat and hesitating a moment, before gesturing towards a girl with mocha skin and dark brown hair tied up in dreadlocks, sat near the front of the class. "And if someone can give me a little heads up, as to what the hell you’ve all been doing in this class lately..?"

"Oh, uh... I'm Sasha Bailey." She said, smiling brightly as she steepled her fingers together before her. Jack watched her closely, raising a brow when she flushed and looked down at her table. "We've been studying the Second World War, and the attack on Pearl Harbo-"

"Urgh, alright, Pumpkin, that's probably all I need to know... I just bet they will have mangled everything." Jack scoffed, grimacing and shaking his head in disgust. "Forget whatever they told you, we'll do it properly once we get started." He said, hopping up onto his desk and leaning on his knees. "You, Hats, go." He said, pointing to a girl wearing a bowler hat who was sat beside the first girl.

"I'm Fiona." She said dryly, examining a streak of red in her hair as she otherwise ignored Jack, who consequently decided she had bad eyesight. “Fiona Bailey." She finished, rolling her head back and sighing heavily. 

Jack looked away, his eyes drifting across the various faces of his class as several other students introduced themselves. Oh god, how the hell did I let myself get talked into this? I hate kids- he thought, purposely cutting himself off as he drew in a steadying breath, and tried to refocus on the class.

"Axton Turret, I-" began a tall, broad shouldered boy with short cropped, dirty blond hair. Jack raised his hand, not needing to hear anymore about him, recognizing the kid from the bet he'd placed; and lost because of the, admittedly clever, shot he'd made.

"Alright, Soldier, that's plenty... Your sorry ass owes me twenty bucks for that slagging sneaky shot you made in that sniper tournament against Dahl last month." He snarked, smirking when Axton ducked his head and blushed faintly. "That said... you’ve got a good aim there. Could go far in-" he paused, clearing his throat and quickly gesturing to the girl with blue streaks in her otherwise dark hair beside the hot shot sniper star. "Er, Glowy, you’re up." He said, unsubtly changing the subject.

"Maya Storm." She replied, cocking her head and dragging her eyes over him slowly. "And I am definitely happy to help out with anything you-"

"Okay!" Jack said loudly, turning away to look at a different desk. "What's your deal, Broody?" He asked, catching sight of a disinterested girl with spiky red hair by the window, who appeared to be carving something into the table top with a compass needle.

"... Lilith Firehawk." She eventually replied, barely lifting her eyes to glance at him before continuing to scratch deeply into the table.

"Cool." Jack hummed, nodding slowly and raising a brow at her curiously. "... You got some personal grudge against that there table?" He asked, how other brow raising when Lilith tossed her compass onto the table and growled, turning to glare out the window instead. "Okaaay... How 'bout you, Bottomless?"

A large boy with arms the size of large watermelons and a thin spattering of brown hair sat in front of Lilith, and he jolted up from his desk suddenly, his eyes wide and guilty as Lilith smirked and lowered her hand from where she'd thrown a ball of paper at the back of his head. "The courgettes are singing!" He cried, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath, looking around with a frown. "Aw man, that was more disturbing than my Momma's idea of 'Waltzing with the Walnuts'..." He sighed, clearly relieved to have woken up from whatever insane dream Jack presumed he'd been having.

"Brick, man, what trip are you still coming down from?" Asked another large, muscular boy beside him, clapping him on the shoulder with a large hand, as a wide and knowing grin spread across his face. "More importantly, do you got any more?"

"Aw, man! My brownies must have had something off about them last night..." Brick complained with a sigh, as Jack rolled his eyes and dropped his head into his palm, rubbing his brow tiredly as he waited. "I'll have to try and work out what happened and fix it before I make another batch!"

"Oh for fu-" Jack began, cutting himself off with an abrupt cough. He glanced around when he heard an amused snort, clearing his throat after his near slip as he tried to smother his simmering temper. "You nearly done there, lovebirds? Not like the class is waiting on you or anything here, Knucklehead..." He snarked, taking a warped kind of pleasure from Brick's start of surprise.

"Whoa, man! I am still trippin' out over here!" Brick stage whispered to his large neighbour, who was flushing a furious shade of red, his large hands clenching into fists on the table. "Who's the-"

"Hey, I ain't no gay, amigo!" The large boy beside Brick growled, as Jack raised an unimpressed eyebrow at him. "You can't just accuse people of being-"

"Oh god, Sal, stop talking..." Sneered a girl with a high ponytail and a studded jacket which was almost certainly against school regulations, wearing an angry scowl as she glared at the muscled boy sat on the opposite side of the room. "Nobody said you were gay, loser. Just tell him your damn name already so we can get this touchy feely, share and care bullshit over with." She hissed, narrowing her eyes when the large boy turned a pout towards her.

"Damn, Aims... Rude much?" Sal sighed, shaking his head forlornly as he turned back toward Jack, who grit his teeth and gripped the edge of his desk either side of his knees tightly, and tried to swallow down his own acerbic comments. "Salvador Gunzerking," he said sulkily, jerking a thumb at himself, before thrusting it towards Brick beside him. "Brick Slabs... sir." He added petulantly, offering Jack a weak glare.

"Geez, Muscles, don't hurt your one little brain cell there." Jack snorted, rolling his eyes again as his frustration began to mount. "S’not like I asked for your back teeth or anything... yet." He scoffed, running a hand through his hair as he nodded to the angry girl at the desk behind Sal and Brick. "What's your poison, Spunky?"

"Anything with an alcohol content over fifteen percent." She replied flatly, scowling at Jack as he began to laugh.

"Damn, not bad." He said, saluting her roughly as he feigned a serious expression. "Ahem. Students shouldn’t be drinking, blah blah blah... School policy and shit- I mean, argh, godammit...!" Jack grimaced, sighing as the class sniggered at his slip. "Argh, slag..! And here I thought I was gonna make it through the first day at least."

"Yo amigo, that's nothing... You should hear the Coach sometime." Sal scoffed, high fiving with Axton by leaning around behind Brick. "Guys got worse language than Aims after she gets her ass handed to her on World of-"

"Seriously, Sal, shut up!" The angry girl snarled, glaring at him as she made to throw a paper ball at his head.

"Oh, come on now girls! We don't need to have no fightin' in the classroom, ya know!" Enthused a small girl sat behind the angry one, grinning broadly as she spoke rapidly and gestured between them both. 

Oh god, that's all I need... A morning person in the class. Jack thought, trying his best to stifle a groan. I wonder if I can sneak a bottle of whiskey in here tomorrow... Maybe hide it in a drawer? He wondered, blinking as he tried to clear his head and get back into the conversation.

"Come on, Amara girl... everyone knows you and Sal got it goin' on! Otherwise you two wouldn't spend so much time in the basement together! Ya know what I'm sayin'..." The cheerful girl cackled, as Amara turned a murderous glare towards her.

"We do not hang out in the basement, Tina!" Amara snarled viciously, jabbing a finger towards the bubbly girl. "I swear, if you say that to anyone else, I will end-"

"Look, fun as this is and all girls, I ain't got any mud or one of them inflatable paddling pools to hand; so why don't ya’ll just shelve the attitude, huh?" Jack asked, rubbing his forehead tiredly as a headache began to form. How the hell can Zane actually want to deal with this shit? He wondered distractedly.

"... Amara Fazal." The angry girl finally sighed, narrowing her eyes at him irritably. "Fail me and I will hack your phone and post every embarrassing photo you've taken or message you've sent online." She threatened.

Jack raised his brows in surprise, eyeing her for a long pause, before deciding she was serious. "Noted." He said, offering her a playful wink. "You’re assuming I’ve got a phone, though."

"Everyone's got a phone." Amara scoffed, rolling her eyes when Jack flashed her a cocky grin and waved his brows at her. 

"Let's see you prove it, Fiesty." He said smugly, before tipping his chin to the girl behind her. "You're up, Chirpy." He said, gesturing for her to introduce herself.

"Tina Burch; but you can call me Tiny Tinaaa! Hall Monitor and super awesome, mega efficient Prefect!" She burst energetically, almost shooting up from her chair, but just barely managing to contain herself at the last moment. "If you need anyone to help you find your way sir, I am ready to help!" 

"Calm down there, Energizer Bunny." Jack drawled, rolling his eyes at her exhausting enthusiasm. "Don't hurt yourself. I'm sure I'll manage just fine, figuring it out." He added, his eyes darting across the room to quickly scan the remaining students left to speak. "Okay... let’s wrap this up. You, Chuckles, c'mon step it up." He said with a heavy sigh, gesturing to an angry, piercing laden boy with short dirty blonde hair at the front of the class. 

"Excuse me?" The boy sneered, his lip curling as he eyed Jack with barely concealed contempt. "Is this a history class, or a pathetic attempt at bonding, or some such similar bullshit?" He demanded, scowling at Jack fearlessly.

"Ooh, Blondie has claws everyone!" Jack snickered, winking at the pierced boy and grinning when his cheeks tinged pink with embarrassment, while Jack remained unfazed by his needling. "Sounds like somebody thinks they're important... or at least, that they're mommy or daddy are..." He continued knowingly, raising a brow when the boy grit his teeth. "We gonna have a problem Pincushion? 'Cause you’re more than welcome to use that door over there, if you don't wanna play with the other kids here..." He said, gesturing around the class with his palm.

The angry boy glanced around, the tips of his ears turning red as he found everyone watching him. "... August North." He sneered, scowling around the class furiously. "Well? What are the hell are you all staring at?! Fucking get on with it already!" He snarled, gesturing towards a desk in the far corner of the room, beside the window.

"Looks like ya up, Nerdy Guy." Jack said, turning and tipping his chin towards a boy with glasses and short, curly brown hair. He raised a brow when the boy seemed to be distracted by something beside him for a moment, before shaking himself and turning towards him with a shy smile, and a small nervous wave.

"Uh, hi..." He said, flinching slightly before quickly clearing his throat, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his desk. "I'm uh... Vaughn Hardwick. History is... cool." He said, flinching again as his leg seemed to jerk slightly.

"Uh... yeah, okay..." Jack said slowly, frowning when the quiet voice seemed familiar, but he pushed the strange sensation aside as he clapped his hands together and glanced around. "Well done boys and girls; ya now know ya own names." He sniggered, hopping down from the desk and turning to face his desk. "Now, I got a note that ya all got ya textbooks and sh- ahem, stuff..." He said, quickly rectifying his slip. "I gotta plan somewhere... Uh, yeah. Find page two-"

"Wait, where's Rhys?" Quinn asked, turning to peer at the dorky looking boy by the window, who winced and bit his lip. "I'm sure I saw him come in earlier..." She said, frowning at the empty chair beside him. "Where'd he go?"

"Uh, bathroom!" Vaughn said unconvincingly, his eyes darting across the room in vague confusion and guilt. "He uh, he went to the uh- ah!" He yelped, his leg jerking against the table suddenly. "Bathroom!" He yelled, resting his arms on his desk and scratching the back of his neck guiltily.

Jack raised a brow, folding his arms over his chest as he gazed at the awkwardly shifting boy. "Okay, now, I like to think I'm an open minded kinda guy..." He drawled, a slow smirk of amusement curling his lips. "But uh, I think I'm gonna have to draw the line at having voyeurism in my class... especially my first class." He teased, chuckling at the loud bump from the table, as well as the way Vaughn's elbow slipped from the table and he jolted back with a yelp.

"What?! No-!" He cried in horror, and Jack paused at the vaguely familiar squawk, his cocky smirk freezing on his face as he tried to remember where he'd heard the voice before. "I mean, he just- he'll be back soon... from the bathroom, that is! I-"

"Look, I'm gonna be honest with y'all right now, I ain't got the best of tempers." Jack sighed, rolling his eyes in frustration, his stomach clenching in rising agitation. "Come on out, kid and let's get this show on the road. I haven't got all day for you to be playing hide and go suck." He snorted, his smirk returning at the loud bump from the underside of the table. For a moment he thought his mysterious student would seriously try and wait him out, but with an irritated sigh, he saw a body slowly emerge from beneath the desk. 

Jack's blood turned cold, his heart skipping a beat as he recognized the short, curly brown hair and long, graceful neck; his stomach dropping like a stone to leave his gut hollow, churning with horror and realisation. As the student reluctantly took his seat and faced the front of the class, Jack found himself relying heavily upon his hard learnt espionage tactics. The lessons to never break under interrogation, to remain stoic in the face of torture; he had never been so grateful as this moment. "Well, well, well." He drawled, his mouth thick and dry as he forced his easy smirk to remain plastered on his face, hiding any and all shock, recognition or discomfort beneath his own cocky attitude. "Nice of ya to join us, Cupcake." He said, catching the guilty wince of the student before he quickly turned away.

"Dropped my inhaler." The student lied smoothly, taking a moment to wipe all the embarrassment and recognition from his face, before facing the front of class again. "Do I still have to play Simon Says? I mean, you already know who I am now..." He said, glancing toward Quinn briefly.

"Right... well, I assume you’ve had your fill?" Jack sniggered, ignoring the scowl his jibe earned him as he deliberately turned his back, his hands balled into fists and his heart racing in trepidation, as he privately indulged in a moment of panic. He grabbed the teachers guide, turning to the page Zane had told him to mark and clearing his throat. When he turned back to the class again, his emotions were tightly locked away once again, behind his cocky bravado. "Lets get this party started, then..." Jack continued to give instructions and details to the class for what pages they should find, his eyes rising to meet Rhys’ only once, before he focused himself entirely upon the lesson.

An hour and forty three, painful minutes later, Jack was ready to collapse from the strain of maintaining his cocky attitude and trampling his panic. "Right, pack ya shi- uh, stuff up." He said gruffly, checking his notes over before chucking his guidebook onto hos desk behind him. "Homework; gimme an essay by Friday. To be no less than a thousand words, on the effects of the Pearl Harbour bombing for the poor sods who lost their livelihood." He said, sighing as he gestured towards the door tiredly. "Now get the hell outta here." He barked, shaking his head with a snort, as students hurried to obey.

Holy fuckin' skag shit... He thought, walking around his desk and busying himself with his second lesson plan, trying his best to keep himself distracted from the ugly truth. Unfortunately, the very pretty face of said truth, seemed to have other ideas. 

"Uh..." Rhys’ hesitant voice sounded from the far side of his desk and Jack paused, determined not to look up, lest he give himself away. "I, uh, I just..."

"Help ya, Cupcake?" Jack finally sighed, glancing at the door to see the rest of the class had nearly filed away. "Need something about your homework cleared up?" He asked pointedly, finally raising his gaze to meet Rhys’ guilt laden, deep brown eyes. 

"I just..." Rhys began, glancing at the door as he gripped and twisted his bag strap nervously. "I figured, I... might owe you a um, explanation." He whispered, biting his lip hesitantly as he dared a peek at Jack's stoic expression, before quickly glancing away again.

"No need, Cupcake." Jack said quickly, gripping his pen slightly too tight as he cleared his throat and glancing to the door. "Nobody wants to deal with Monday morning's... Next time you’re thinking of skiving off though, you might wanna do it somewhere a little better than under your desk." He said snidely, leaning back in his chair to watch Rhys grit his teeth tightly. "Now, you probably oughta skedaddl-" Jack bit his tongue, a heavy silence settling over them both at the familiar phrase.

"Look, I..." Rhys said finally, glancing at the ceiling briefly and sucking in a deep breath, his lower lip trembling as he tried to look at Jack, but instead turned to gaze guiltily out the window. "I'm sorry. I didn't know... I didn't mean to-"

"Just don't screw around in my class again, Cupcake." Jack said firmly, forcing himself to look back at the lesson plan before him, pretending not to notice the flash of hurt and guilt in Rhys’ face. "Now c'mon, you got a class to get to, and I got more 'bright young minds of tomorrow' coming, so... just," he paused, sighing as he closed his eyes briefly and drew in a deep breath which did nothing to calm the nervous, guilty hitch of his heart. "... just get outta here."

Jack looked up, to find Rhys gritting his teeth, nodding as he fought to keep his expression from showing his grief and guilt. "Okay... but I, I really need to-" he tried again, his hand all but clawing at the shirt and tie over his chest, as Jack slammed his pen onto his desk, his temper simmering dangerously.

"What ya need is to get to your next friggin’ class! Unless ya want a bloody detention on your first day?" Jack threatened gruffly, scowling at Rhys in rising irritation, as his expression hardened into a frustrated glare. 

"If you would just listen for a goddamn second..." Rhys grit out between his teeth, narrowing his eyes as he gripped his bag strap determinedly. "I-" he began, his voice low and strained.

"Get to your next bloody class already! You really wanna flap your damn gums so bad, huh? You wanna do it after school?!" Jack demanded, his temper finally breaking free at Rhys’ continued stubbornness. "No? Then get your bloody ass movin', Cupcake!"

Rhys glared at him a second longer, his lips curling into a tight, forced smile as he nodded his head sharply. "Yes, sir." He snarked, ignoring Jack's guilty wince at the familiar phrase and spinning on his heel, storming towards the door, where the dorky looking boy, Vaughn, was waiting for him with a worried expression. Jack scowled after them as Rhys glanced back at him regretfully, frowning as he plucked at his shirt and tie again before turning and following after his friend. Jack sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration, as his next class arrived too soon for him to regain his composure.

"What the hell are you lot waiting for? Written invitations? Get your goddamn asses in your friggin’ seats." He growled, turning his back and grimacing as he scrubbed his hand over his jaw irritably. Get it together, Lawrence. This... this is... I can deal with this. I can... He thought, swallowing heavily as he let his military training to take over and push his frustrations aside, turning to face the class with a focused calm. "Right, let's get this show on the road..." He began, launching into another class and telling himself to just get through the day.

It was with an exhausted and explosive groan, that Jack walked into his apartment that evening. He felt ready to drown himself in whiskey, and was about to do just that, when his phone began to ring. "Gimme a break, ya dumbass little bitch..." He groused, digging his phone free of his pocket and smashing the call reject button. "I ain't drank nearly enough to deal with any of this yet..." He muttered to himself, slinging a bag full of books and essays over his couch and scowling when loose pages fluttered in every direction. "This fuckin' asshole of a day." He snarked, gritting his teeth when his phone began to ring again.

"Leave me the hell alone, Zane..." He warned, smashing the call reject button again and dropping his phone onto his small dining table, along with a brown paper bag; which wafted the undeniable scent of a freshly cooked burger through his apartment. He moved to the kitchen and snatched his whiskey from the cupboard, while grabbing his glass from the draining board, before finally heading back to sit at his small table and pouring himself a large drink. "Son of a fuckin' taint..." He muttered, tipping his scotch back quickly and reclining in his chair, allowing himself to finally acknowledge the most disturbing predicament he found himself in. 

"I..." He choked, shaking his head and swallowing a large mouthful of whiskey straight from the bottle. "Aw, hell..." He sighed, lowering the bottle to the table with a loud and resounding clatter. "I-" he began, his thoughts unconsciously returning to the day he'd finally arrived in town. After spending a tedious day meeting the Principle and discovering where the most of his lessons would take place, he'd needed to relax; and had sniffed out the nearest bar, fully intent to marinate there until they closed and kicked him out. Of course, meeting an attractive guy who oozed confidence and was plenty eager for a night of fun, had quickly improved his mood. Jack hastily swallowed another large chug of whiskey, pressing his forehead to the cool glass bottle, as he reluctantly recalled the sounds Rhys had made and the feel of him against Jack's skin; and more than experienced, from the way he'd blown Jack's mind.

Oh god... I even gave him my number. He recalled, grimacing as he groaned and tried to push away the memory of their most forbidden night of passion. Guess its lucky he never called... least I can genuinely say is was a one off and I didn't know, if anyone finds out I... screwed a student. He thought, snorting and shaking his head at his own morbid sense of humour. "Shit... I-" he broke off with a growl, when his phone began to ring again.

With a scowl, Jack picked up his phone and accepted the call, putting it on loudspeaker as he tossed it back on the table. "Whaddaya want ya wrinkled cretin?" He groused, taking another quick swig of whiskey, before ripping into his burger bag.

"What did you do, Jackie Boy?" Zane demanded, his suspicious voice almost causing Jack to choke with nervous guilt. "Why didn't you answer my call? Floggin' ya log already? That desperate for relief after just the first day?" He asked with a snort, and Jack winced as he grimaced and shook his head.

"Shut up, ya suspicious bastard." He snarked, picking up his burger and taking a large bite, sucking the grease from his fingers quickly, before continuing around his mouthful. "I can still drop this stupid gig and just come home..." He threatened, uncertain whether he was actually relieved by the idea.

"Don't talk with your mouth full, ya animal... I know your grandma taught your uncultured ass better'n that." Zane taunted down the line, blatantly sniggering at his own hilarity. "Besides, you won't impress anyone if your make a mess tryin' to talk while your sucki-"

"Shut up, you perverted creep." Jack choked, his friends words recalling to his mind; the vivid image of Rhys on his knees, worshipping his cock as if his life depended on it. "What the hell is your obsession with my love life?" He demanded roughly, taking several quick gulps of whiskey to try and steady himself.

"What love life?" Zane scoffed, his amusement clear as he shamelessly continued. "You ain't had a love life in years, hell; you ain't even had a sex life since long before we were on the run from Tassiter... You were all 'work, work, work' back then. Now, you’re just plain borin'. It’s embarrassin’ to call you me bro, ya know?” He sighed, as Jack pinched the bridge of his nose to try and cut off his rising irritation. “... Unless ya tellin' me you’ve got yourself some hot little-"

"No!" Jack yelped, immediately wincing as Zane began to chuckle darkly down the line. "No, no, and no! There’s absolutely nothin' for you to be doing that for! Just... shut up, ya friggin’ dumbass! I mean it! I'll quit this whole dumb plan of yours and you can kiss your stupid dream job goodbye!" He threatened, growling as he took another huge bite of his burger to prevent himself saying anything else incriminating.

"You wouldn't abandon me now, Jackie Boy." Zane scoffed knowingly, his thoughtful hum echoing down the line. "So, you’ve got yourself a hot piece of ass then? Let me guess, needed to blow off steam when you got there?" He teased, as Jack bit his lip and remained silent, unable to deny that Rhys did have a hot ass; despite knowing he shouldn't be thinking about it anymore. "Silence is just confessin’ without words..." Zane taunted, as Jack scowled and forced himself to take another bite of his burger, despite his appetite having waned considerably.

"Thought ya didn't want me to talk with my mouth full..?" He asked pointedly, scowling at his phone despite his friend not being able to see him.

"Pfft, do what the hell you want, Jackie Boy..." Zane scoffed cheerfully, as Jack sighed and rolled his eyes, setting down his burger in lieu of having more whiskey. "Ain't me you’re gonna gross out, when your splutterin' around this guys di-"

"Sweet fuckin' Vault Monster, Zane!" Jack coughed, spitting up a mouthful of whiskey and glaring at his phone accusingly in response. "What the hell is the matter with ya?!" He demanded, shaking his head as he reached over and picked up his phone. "You know what Dickface, you can just piss right off, ya stupid-"

"Fine, fine!" Zane laughed, finally allowing the subject to drop. "So fill me in, how did your first day go?" He asked, his amusement fading in light of the serious subject.

"It was..." Jack began hesitantly, shaking his head briefly as he tried to find the words. "Good..?" He offered weakly, clearing his throat and taking another bite of his burger, despite no longer desiring it. "I mean, I didn't have to give any detentions or anything, so... I guess it was, uh... fine?" He said awkwardly, wincing when he remembered his threat to Rhys; and the stinging expression he'd cast him as he finally left.

"Hmm... that's it? That's, that’s all ya gonna gimme? My dream job, and all I get is, 'I guess it was fine'?" Zane asked, a frown in his voice as Jack stuffed his mouth with more of his now unappealing burger to keep from having to reply. "What about the staff? They seem suspicious of you at all?" 

"Didn't really meet 'em, if I'm honest. Was too busy makin' sure I didn't cock up your dumb lesson plan." Jack snarked, rolling his eyes at his friends sulky silence. "Look, if you wanna call this whole fiasco off, I can-"

"Aw, c'mon, Jackie Boy... don't get all butthurt." Zane sighed, as Jack scowled at his phone. "Ya know I'm grateful, even if I am yankin' your leg over it... I just, I'm tryin' to make myself heal quicker, but-"

"Shut the hell up already, Zane." Jack sighed, finally giving up on the second half of his burger and tossing it to the table, wiping his hands before picking up his phone and running a hand through his hair. "Just.... I got this, okay? I can handle all this, academic shit. Just focus on your recovery, and when the time comes, we can explain and work everything out then." He said, his fingers curling around the neck of the whiskey bottle, but not lifting it. "Seriously, Zane. Don't worry... I got this." He said, closing his eyes and shivering at the imprinted image of Rhys’ smooth and tantalizing back behind his eyelids.

"I know you do, Jackie Boy." Zane assured, groaning as he lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "I just got busted, but I'll check in with ya again soon. Just... Thanks, Jack. This chance really means a lot to me. After everythin' we've been through, I finally got this job... But with surgery and everythin'... I just, I dunno what I would've done without ya help-"

"Oh god, what is this sappy bullshit? Bonding one oh one?" Jack drawled, shaking his head as Zane laughed quietly. "Go on, hide your damn phone before Matron confiscates it from your sorry ass again. We're good; you know that." He said, stroking his whiskey bottle thoughtfully.

"Right..." Zane agreed, laughing at the outraged but unintelligible voice Jack could hear rumbling on the other mans side of the call. "Talk soon, Jackie Boy." He said, before disconnecting the call.

"... Yeah." Jack said, swallowing thickly as he tossed his heart phone onto the table, gazing at it hollowly for a long pause. "Godammit..." He sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly as guilt gnawed at his heart. "One fuckin' day, hell; not even that..." He groaned pushing his burger away as he grit his teeth and tried to tramp down the nausea in his gut. If Zane loses this gig 'cause I couldn't keep it in my pants, he’s not never gonna forgive me... Oh shit... He thought, his hand trembling as he quickly took another deep swig of whiskey and wiped his mouth. How the hell did the little bastard fool me? He even has his own fucking apartment! Unless it’s a friends, used to seduce the handsome, the fuckin' stupid and the downright horny. He thought, shaking his head as he got to his feet and grabbed the remainder of his burger, tossing it in the trash with the rest of his rubbish.

"Fuck this shit." He grumbled, grabbing the bottle of whiskey and moving towards his bedroom, when his phone pinged with a text message. "What now, ya dumb-" he began, breaking off when he caught sight of an unfamiliar number. "Aw, hell no..." He muttered knowingly, setting his whiskey down as he began to pace, frowning as he debated for a long pause. Finally he forced himself to stop, picking up his phone and hesitating with his thumb over the read button. "Gonna have to face it some time..." He murmured, reluctantly opening the message with an expectant wince.

I'm sorry, I know I'm probably the last person you wanna hear from, Handsome... I'm sorry about after class. I just... I need to see you. Please? Jack scoffed as he read the hesitant text message, dropping his phone like it had burnt him. He shook his head, his hands in his hair as he paced and grumbled incoherently to himself.

"Sorry, Cupcake..." He said at last, sighing as he scrubbed the back of his neck and approached the table, grabbing his phone and moving to delete the message. His thumb hesitated, his eyes drifting over the message again briefly as he recalled the regretful expression Rhys had flashed him upon leaving. He grit his teeth, his thumb lowering to the screen; and saving the number under the contact 'R'. "... Godammit." He growled, tossing his phone on the table and grabbing his whiskey, determined that he would at least stick to one goal he set himself; to drink until he obliterated the vivid memory of Rhys’ body against his own, and erase the sounds which still echoed in his head.

When Jack finally passed out on his bed three and a half hours later; he conceded that he remained a failure at both.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

In The Shadows.

Rhys whirled through his kitchen, a veritable storm of restless energy and furious urgency. He bustled quickly throughout the area, flour coating his counters and his bare chest in intricate but unintentional patterns, while sugar dusting his hair and floor. He swept up a large glass bowl into his arms, cracking two eggs into the mixture within and beating it with near vicious intent. "... watchin', waitin' for somethin'..." He muttered under his breath, scowling as he paused to wipe the back of his hand across his brow, ignoring the sticky sensation of having spread his mixture across his forehead. "... feel me, touch me, heal me! Come take me higher...!" He slid the bowl along his counter, raising his arms to beat urgently at the air as if striking a drum.

Rhys chuckled with the hint of hysteria suddenly, covering his face in his hands and grimacing at the sticky mess which he felt spread across his cheeks and chin. "... I guess that's kinda what got me in this stupid situation in the first place." He grumbled darkly, sliding across his kitchen floor to collect his bowl again and beating at his concoction furiously for a moment. Seconds later he set it down again, as he hopped to his stereo and turned his volume up a little higher. "... I've been waiting! For tomorrow... all my liiife..." He yelled loudly, slamming his hands along the counters to the potent cacophony of drumbeats, as he twirled through his kitchen gracefully and rolling his hips seductively.

Rhys whirled rapidly, a dust cloud forming from the flour which erupted from his trousers and hair at his energetic movements, which eventually stuck to his sweat slicked torso. He allowed himself a moment of thoughtless bliss, music thrumming through him loudly as he danced amid his mess; before the song slammed to an end in a dramatic rush, leaving Rhys panting and slowly returning to reality. As his eyes refocused, he shook his head and huffed to himself, running a hand through his hair without thinking as he returned to his mixing bowl. "Okay... If I remember right, you'll need about forty three minutes to bake, and... about threw hours to decorate because you're such a tricky ass-"

"Hellllllloooooo?!" Rhys froze abruptly, halfway through emptying his concoction into his baking tray. "Rhys! What the hell?!" He frowned, peeking his head through the doorway into his living room. 

"Vaughn?" He called uncertainly, scratching his head as he looked around his empty apartment. "Vaughn, is that you?" He tried again, frowning as he took a tentative step into the living room. "What-"

"Dude, seriously, what the hell is going on with you?" Vaughn demanded haughtily, as Rhys’ brows rose in surprise and confusion. "Of course it's me! Who the hell else is gonna put up with your bullshit, assbutt?" He groused, sighing as Rhys turned back to the kitchen again, his frown returning when he couldn't spot his friend. "You've been totally out of it all goddamn week now! I'm honestly starting to wonder if you got your brains entirely fu-"

"Dude, seriously, where are you?" Rhys asked quickly, desperate to avoid the reminder of his weekend; despite being unable to shift the undeniably enjoyable evening from his mind. "Are you in a cupboard or something?" He wondered aloud, as Vaughn scoffed in frustration. "... Marco..?"

Vaughn sighed heavily, before replying with obvious sarcasm and irritation. "Polo!" He called, and Rhys frowned as he continued to trade calls with his friend, until he finally found his phone; half buried under a pile of flour, chopped strawberries and chocolate shavings.

"Hey, I found you!" He cheered, as Vaughn slowly clapped his hands with obvious, heavy sarcasm. "You know I can hear the sarcasm of that applause." He said lightly, sniggering at Vaughn's frustrated huff.

"Dude..." Vaughn sighed, the line crackling as he moved, the sound of a door closing in the background before he continued quietly. "Rhys, what's going on? One minute we're talking about homework; the next your stressing..." He said hesitantly.

"I'm not stressing, I'm baking." Rhys said immediately, biting his lip as he realised his level of distraction, to have wandered off mid conversation. "Big difference, dude. Mostly being that I'm hungry..."

"You're not hungry, you've barely eaten this week..." Vaughn replied scathingly, as Rhys winced guiltily. "You've been totally weird all this week now, dude. Did something happen?"

"Vaughn, I'm fine... I just..." Rhys began, trying and failing to find the words to explain without outright lying to his friend. "I-" he began, his hand unconsciously reaching for the tag laying innocently against his sweaty, flour dusted skin, before he jerked his hand away as if burnt.

"Rhys; you are the only person I know, who will deliberately make a mess, so that they can stress clean..." Vaughn said firmly, as Rhys flinched and finished tipping his mixture into its baking tin, setting it in the middle of the oven carefully.

"Dude, I'm just making myself some dinner. I've barely cleaned all week; other than the very normal way, like, when I eat or something..." Rhys said, frowning as he moved to wash his hands in the sink.

"Uh huh, and tell me; this sudden, impromptu bake fest you decided you just had to have, mid-conversation at that..." Vaughn sneered knowingly, a faint drumming in the background which Rhys recognized as his friends fingers tapping against his desk. "Just how dirty has it made your kitchen?" 

"Uh..." Rhys paused, biting his lip as he looked around the devastation of mess which had exploded in his kitchen. "... It's not so bad." He said vaguely, scratching the back of his neck guiltily.

"You're such a bad liar, Rhys..." Vaughn sighed, pausing when Rhys failed to bite back a sharp, slightly hysterical bark of laughter. "Okaaaaay. Weirdo. Anyway... I'm guessing that you've made zero progress on your nonexistent essay for tomorrow, seeing as you decided you absolutely had to go bake." Vaughn snorted, and Rhys tensed, his heart clenching as the conversation steered back to their history homework.

And too close to the teacher for comfort too, knowing Vaughn... Rhys thought, grabbing his phone and moving to his living room, collapsing onto his couch with a faint groan. "Dude, stop worrying, my homework is fine. It's a thousand words, how hard can it be?" He scoffed, scrubbing at his eyes tiredly. "If you weren't distracting me, I'd totally be doing it right now." He lied, grinning weakly at his friends derisive snort.

"Rhys, you are so full of it, dude..." He teased, and Rhys couldn't help but laugh, rolling his head across the back of his couch as he tapered off into giggles, before sighing wistfully.

"Oh god, Vaughn... I wish that were true." He murmured, staring at his ceiling dejectedly as he bit his lip, recalling how amazing he'd felt when he'd unwittingly had his new history teacher sat on his couch. "You have no idea, assbutt..."

"Dude, this over sharing thing has gotta stop, Rhys." Vaughn complained, and Rhys could just make out the faint sound of his bedsprings creaking, as his friend doubtlessly flopped to his bed. "Seriously, are you still hung up on that guy from the weekend? Your 'perfect match'?" He sniggered, as Rhys bit his lip harder and closed his eyes, his free hand fisting in his hair as he remembered how his lover; now his teacher, had responded to his touch and eager worshipping of his cock. "Dude, if you're this desperate, why don't you just ask him over to screw you senseless again?"

Rhys sighed, his vague swell of arousal waning again, his blood cooling significantly as he opened his eyes and forcibly tore his thoughts away from the amazing night. "Because, dude, I'm five million percent certain... that he is not interested." He finally replied, his throat tight as he once more reminded himself, that his perfect stranger was now his teacher. "... And I am not desperate you... assbutt." He added with a scowl, as his friends words finally registered in his mind.

"Wow, I am so convinced Rhys, I mean... it only took you what, five minutes to realise I insulted you?" Vaughn laughed heartily, before quickly quieting himself. Rhys rolled his eyes and sighed as his friend muffled his laughter, before finally lowering his voice and continuing. "Dude, admit it. You want it, baaaad." He teased, sniggering while Rhys scowled at the floor and picked distractedly at his couch cushions.

More than you could possibly know... and way more than I should. Rhys thought darkly, clearing his throat quickly before throwing together a denial as convincing a denial he could manage. "I do not, you filthy swine. I am offended by your very insinuations." He scoffed, tugging at his hair briefly, as Vaughn chuckled quietly at his obviously weak defense. "Shut up." He snarked petulantly, pushing to his feet and stalking back to his kitchen grumpily. "Anyway, wonderful as its been to have you prying and poking at my life, I have cleaning to do before my cak- uh, dinner, is ready." He groused, coughing quickly to try and cover his brief slip.

"Yeah, yeah... and I should probably get going anyway, before-" Vaughn trailed off, sighing with such weariness that Rhys could almost hear him rolling his eyes in frustration. "Just... you know you can talk to me, right Rhys?" He said after a moments hesitation.

Rhys’ heart clenched painfully, as he looked down, and slowly reached for the flour dusted tag, dangling against his bare chest. I wish that were true, Vaughn... He thought desperately, his eyes stinging with the threat of hot tears. "Yeah dude... Of course, I do." He said softly, his voice cracking as his heart ached with the desire to just be able to speak to someone. But if there's one thing I should be used to... it should be knowing when to keep my mouth shut. He thought tiredly, shaking his head and clearing his throat. "I uh, I'll see you tomorrow dude." He said, drawing in a deep breath as he leaned against the counter and gazed dejectedly at the destruction around him.

"Yeah, okay..." Vaughn sighed, his bedsprings creaking on the background as he moved. "Meet you out front?" He asked, as Rhys scrubbed his face with his free hand tiredly.

"Yeah... yeah, see you then." He replied distractedly, lowering his phone and disconnecting the call, tossing it aside as he groaned and buried his face in both hands. "Oh god, why..? Why did he have to be a teacher?" He complained weakly, sighing as he ran both hands up into his hair, closing his eyes and holding his breath as he tried to grapple with the conflicting emotions, smothering his heart. Finally, his breath left him in an explosive sigh, and he glanced back at his discarded phone, hesitating a moment before snatching it up in his hand again. As he opened his messages, his free hand drifted to the tag around his neck, absent-mindedly stroking away the flour as he stared at his empty inbox with a familiar sinking sensation in his heart.

Rhys frowned, tapping the screen and typing out a new message, as hesitant and awkward as the first. With a growl and a grimace of frustration, he deleted the tentative message and slammed his phone back onto the counter. "... Stupid, Handsome." He muttered petulantly, shaking his head as he pushed away from the counter and glanced at the clock. "Fine, don't get your stupid tag back! See if I care! They suit me better anyway!" He snarked, stomping to his cleaning cupboard and grabbing his broom.

"Hell, for all I know these aren't even yours, Mr. Flynt..." He sneered, shaking his head as he swept up the spilt sugar and flour as best he could, creating a small pile of dirt in one corner of the room. "Maybe, 'Jack Lawrence', was a codename..." He muttered lowly, moving to return his broom and grabbing his brush and dustpan, collecting his small pile of dirt and tossing it in the bin. "Or worse, maybe it was a lover..." He thought aloud, his gut churning guiltily at the thought, his hand drifting unconsciously to the small piece of metal.

"Oh god... What if they're all you have to remember them by?" He wondered, his eyes welling with tears of sympathy as he imagined his teachers grief, after tragically having lost a lover. "What if you're going nuts looking for your lost piece of them, while I'm selfishly keeping hold of them?" He choked, panicking for a moment, before shaking his head and forcing himself to calm down. "No..." He gasped, squeezing the tag tightly as his thoughts returned once more to the club; to the other man’s face as he gently drew the tag from Rhys’ hand.

Sorry, Cupcake... but ya gotta wine me and dine me, before ya get my name. He recalled, blinking away his tears as he forced back his wild speculation. "He wouldn't have said that, if it weren't his name on the tag..." He muttered certainly, putting away his brush and dustpan and pulling out his Dettol spray and a clean cloth. "So then..." He wondered, his brow creasing in confusion as he set his cleaning things on the side and slowly moved to the sink and ran a bowl of hot, soapy water. "... Who the hell is Zane Flynt?" He asked the air around him, staring at the wall as he tried to work out the mystery.

Rhys sighed, blinking rapidly as he shook his head and glanced again at his discarded phone. "Whoever you are... I just, wish you'd replied." He began, trailing of as he delved his hands into the water and began cleaning his various equipment and utensils. "Not, that I blame you, Handsome... If I were you, I probably wouldn't respond either." He sighed, his thoughts tumbling over each other disjointedly, swamping Rhys with guilt, grief and an undeniable longing. "Oh god..." Rhys choked, biting his lip as his body stiffened, his skin igniting with a fiery blush as his thoughts turned back to the night they shared together; drawn once more to the pleasant memory and unforgettable experience.

"Stop it, stop it, stop it, Rhys!" He growled to himself, scowling as he splashed his hands back into his sink full of water, scrubbing at the last of his bowls before slamming it onto the draining board. He gripped the side of the counter, his knuckles turning white as he grit his teeth and closed his eyes tightly. "You can't keep going back to that... Its over; and he isn't coming back." He murmured, his voice breaking with grief as he sucked in a deep breath and reopened his eyes, glancing at the clock before grabbing his Dettol cleaner and spraying the counters liberally. "It's doing neither of us any good to remember how it felt... how his touch made me burn, or how hot it was when he-" he broke off, shaking his head in disgust when he realised his hand was splayed across his throat as his lovers had been. "Urgh, I just... I have to just get a grip. Forget it ever happened. Just like normal." He mumbled, though he knew that even without the extenuating circumstances, he'd of had a hard time doing so.

As Rhys scrubbed his sides furiously, cleaning up the mess he'd made while baking, he couldn't help but think of his other one night stands. But none of them even held a flame to him... He thought distantly, shivering as he recalled the other mans lips and teeth at his shoulders and throat as they'd moved as one. They were easy to forget because they never led to anything more. I knew where I stood with them, I knew I'd never see them again. I never expected... never hoped, for more. He thought dejectedly, his movements slowing down as he reached the final counter. Maybe that's why its so hard this time... When he gave me his number, I couldn't help but get excited. He thought, remembering the happy flutter which had passed through him. I thought I'd... but it still would have turned bad anywayHe'd have found out eventually, and it would have been worse if we'd been anything... more. 

Rhys sighed, tossing his cleaning cloth into the sink as he checked the time again, and removed his cooling racks from the cupboard. "Urgh, this sucks." He groused, grabbing his oven mitts and finally removing his cake from the oven. "Not you,precious..." He assured his mixture, setting the hot tray on his chopping board as he shifted it to carefully extract the base. "Just, well... me." He huffed, setting his cake upside down on the rack and dropping the tin into the sink of water, wincing at the hiss it made upon contact. He yawned, as he rummaged in his cupboard for his net cover, protecting his creation while he left it on the side to cool.

"Hmm, I should probably do my essay..." He sighed, rolling his neck as he walked slowly into his living room, eyeing his schoolbag thoughtfully, before turning away to take a shower instead. "Not like its going anywhere..." He muttered, wandering into his bathroom and stripping off his flour dusted jeans, tossing them in his wash hamper. He set the shower to his preference, humming contently as he stepped into the warm stream and closed his eyes, allowing the warm water to saturate his white hair and slowly turn it back to its natural warm brown. He turned and wiped his eyes, grabbing his shower gel and scrubbing himself thoroughly, ignoring the distant thrum of arousal from his lingering thoughts of the previous weekend and his former lover turned teacher. 

"Just tomorrow to get through," Rhys mumbled, worrying his lip at the thought of having to sit through another history lesson, though he was relieved it was only for an hour this time. "Just one hour... I can survive one hour..." He thought aloud, washing his hair quickly before rinsing himself. "I can do this." He whispered, standing idly beneath the stream until the water turned cold. Rhys shook his head, turning off the shower and grabbing his towel as he stepped out, first scrubbing his hair before drying the rest of himself. With only himself present, he hung his towel to dry on the rail, and strolled to his bedroom, where he found himself an old pair of pajama bottoms and quickly stepped into them.

"Urghhh..." He groaned, scratching his ear as he moved back to the kitchen, setting his cake into a tub and sealing its lid tightly, setting it on the counter to decorate after he got home from school. With nothing more to distract himself, Rhys reluctantly headed back to the living room and finally dug out the blank sheet which was supposed to be his history homework. "Somehow, I don't think he'll see the funny side if I just write 'I'm sorry' across this." He scoffed, biting his lip as he tapped the end of his pen to his textbook in agitation. Finally he sighed, leaning over his paper and setting his jaw determinedly. "I will not let myself be beaten by this. I can do this." He growled, resolving himself to work through the night if he had to, until his essay was completed.

The following morning however, exhausted and barely able to drag himself to class, Rhys’ strong will was waning. "I can't do this... I can't do this..." He muttered with increasing hysteria, his stomach fluttering uneasily at the thought of facing his history teacher again that afternoon. "Oh god I think I'm gonna puke... or pass out... or just, curl up and die over in a corner where nobody will noti-"

"What are you muttering about now, assbutt?" Vaughn asked, bumping into Rhys’ shoulder playfully and startling a guilty yelp from him. "Dude... did you sleep at all? 'cause you look like sh-"

"Thankyou, Vaughn." Rhys snarked, recovering from his shock as he rolled his eyes and pointedly ignored the concerned way Vaughn was looking him over. "Inspiring, really. You make me feel so appreciated, buddy." He drawled sarcastically, hoisting his bag higher on his shoulder and scrubbing his face briefly. "Really... feeling the love." He sighed, trailing off into a yawn.

"Were you really struggling with your homework that much?" Vaughn asked worriedly, his brow creasing as he fell into step with Rhys easily. "Or were you just stress cleaning all night?"

"I do not stress clean!" Rhys lied, grimacing as he shoved his way through various other students clogging the hallway, clearing a path for himself and Vaughn to their lockers. "Just, stop being annoying so early. I had no coffee this morning..." He pouted, scowling at Vaughn when he feigned exaggerated gasp.

"No coffee?! Oh no!" He trilled, dodging out of Rhys’ reach knowingly as he darted around him playfully, his eyes wide in feigned horror. "Whatever shall we do?! Rhys hasn't had coffee!" He cried, grabbing Fiona by the shoulders and shaking her gently, letting her go again and covering his mouth as she giggled and continued down the hall, shaking her head. "Everyone! Run for your lives! The world must be spared... the terrifying experience... of Rhys; without coffee." He trailed off darkly, coming to a stop beside Rhys, who stared at him with a flat glare which spoke volumes of his lack of amusement.

"Finished?" He asked tightly, forcing a smile to his face. "Feeling pleased with yourself, I'm guessing?" He snarked, his expression morphing into a scowl as Vaughn snorted and tried to keep a straight face. "I hate you." 

"You love me." Vaughn corrected smugly, bumping his shoulder again fondly as they each delved into their lockers to store their things. "Come on dude, phys ed first today. That'll soon wake you up; all that energetic activity!" He said cheerfully, as Rhys groaned and leaned his forehead to his locker door.

"There is only one kind of energetic activity I wanna partake of this early in the morning, and trust me; I would not be at school to do it." He complained, pushing away from his locker with a sigh as Vaughn's expression twisted between several various emotions, before finally settling on disgust.

"You are so shameless." He huffed, looking around uneasily, checking nobody was listening to them. "C'mon dude, lets just, go get gross and sweaty... for normal reasons." He added grimly, ignoring Rhys’ snort as he led the way towards the gym. Rhys scowled and followed after him, trying to decide which he dreaded more; an hour of phys ed, or an hour of history.

An hour of viciously walloping a ball against a wall later, Rhys’ mood was mildly improved. He panted heavily, squeezing in a few last strikes as the rest of his class headed to the changing room. "Dude, I don't know how you can enjoy Squash... I'mtired just watching you." Vaughn huffed, his breathing shallow as he waited on the floor beside the door, his racket held protectively before him; just incase Rhys should miss the ball at all, although he did try to aim across the court, away from Vaughn.

"What's not to like?" Rhys replied breathlessly, his eyes narrowed as he bounced across the court nimbly, slamming his racket into the ball with a resounding thud. "I get to beat the crap outta this ball, vent all my pent up energy; which I'm not allowed to vent the fun way..." He groused, casting a sly glance at Vaughn, who stuck his tongue out behind his racket as Rhys’ eyes darted back to the ball. "And to top it all off, I might potentially damage school property, which is not only allowed..." He huffed, grunting fiercely as he struck the ball again and sent it careening towards the far wall. "It's praised!" He growled, grinning at the satisfying thud of the ball striking the far wall.

"Dude, you are the single weirdest person I know." Vaughn sighed, shaking his head in mock sadness. "I don't know why I let myself be associated with you."

"Oh? Am I marathoning Sunset Beach by myself this weekend then?" Rhys scoffed knowingly, smacking the ball into the far wall again while glancing at Vaughn from the corner of his eye.

Vaughn blushed and scowled at Rhys, pouting as he cleared his throat. "I don't have to be seen with you to-"

"Hardwick!" A loud voice yelled, just as Rhys struck the ball again, causing them both to jump and turn to the newcomer guiltily. "What the hell are you doing sat on the floor?! This is not a class for you to sit on your ass!" Coach Wilhelm demanded, the head of the physical fitness department, striding towards Vaughn as he hurried to his feet.

"Uh, I was just... I was waiting for Rhys to-" Vaughn began hesitantly, lowering his eyes beneath the Coaches fury.

"I don't give a damn what the hell you were doing!" Coach Wilhelm growled, glaring at Vaughn as he backed him into the corner. "This is phys ed! I don't wanna see anyone sat on their godda- ah!" Coach Wilhelm spun abruptly, rubbing the back of his shoulder as he glared around, his eyes settling on Rhys’ too innocent expression as he walked over calmly.

"Sorry Coach..." He said, in a highly unapologetic tone. "You know what they say about staying off the Squash court when games in play... Coach." He drawled, his lips twitching with the faintest of smirks, as he casually joined Vaughn and successfully stole the Coaches attention from him.

"Ever the big mouth, huh kid?" Coach Wilhelm demanded, his lips thinking as he sneered at Rhys. "Ya know, I would say I'm mighty bored of issuing you with detention by now... but I honestly, don't think I'll ever be bored of knocking you down a peg, til you learn your place." He spat, locking glares with Rhys briefly, before jerking his arm towards the changing rooms. "Get moving, both of you! And I'll be seeing you after school!" He hissed, as Rhys rolled his eyes and turned away.

"Yes, Coach." He sneered, his hands curling into tight fists as he led Vaughn to the changing rooms. He scowled as he found his clothes, beginning to change without having bothered to shower. "C'mon, dude. We'll be late for class." He mumbled, gritting his teeth as he pulled his t-shirt over his head and reached for his school shirt. "Sorry, I should've packed up with everyone else... Urgh, that asshole is just-"

"Dude, what the hell is that?" Vaughn demanded, ignoring Rhys’ apology in lieu of gesturing to the tech tag which jingled gently against Rhys’ chest. Rhys immediately flushed, locking his jaw as he swung on his shirt and quickly began to button it, hiding the tag from view. "Oh my god... you're blushing! Oh, oh! Do it belong to the guy? The one from-"

"Oh my god! If I say yes, will you shut up?" Rhys demanded roughly, releasing a hissing breath as he ran a hand through his hair, immediately regretting his loss of temper. "... Yes, it belongs to the guy-"

"The mind-blowing guy?" Vaughn clarified excitedly, his eyes dropping to where the tag was hidden beneath Rhys’ shirt again. "What is it? Does it have anything on it, or is it just ornamental? Are you gonna tell him you found it?" Vaughn asked in a rush, and Rhys couldn't help but laugh weakly at his eager curiosity.

"Dude, seriously, it's not a big deal." He said quietly, throwing his friend a tired smile as he slowly drew in a deep breath. "He lost it at mine that night, and when I text him he said to just keep it." He lied, shrugging his shoulders lightly. "It’s just blank, so... guess it wasn't too important to him." He added, quickly slipping on his tie and knotting it securely.

"Huh..." Vaughn huffed, gazing at Rhys with a faint pout as he gazed at the spot where the tech tag had disappeared beneath Rhys’ shirt. "That's... kinda anticlimactic to be honest. I'm actually disappointed now... you really think he won't see you again, then?" He asked tentatively, his brows raising when Rhys failed to contain a bitter laugh.

"Trust me..." He said, trying and failing to cover his grief and bitterness with a grim smile. "I am the last person he would ever want to see again." He sighed, glancing over at Vaughn and raising a brow. "Dude, c'mon, you gotta-"

"Hmm? Oh yeah... no." Vaughn scoffed, pulling off his shirt and tossing it on the bench. "You might be content to stink of the manly stench of sweat, but I am not. I have mythology next with Miss Tannis, she won't even notice I'm not there..." He called, as he disappeared into a shower cubicle, his remaining gym wear and underwear appearing over the top of the stall a moment later.

"Assbutt!" Rhys called as the shower started up, shaking his head as he finished changing at a slower pace, content to wait until his friend was finished and walk to his next class with him. He sighed once he was ready, sitting down on the bench and raising a hand to his chest, briefly touching the tag beneath his shirt, before shaking his head and leaning back against the wall. "... the very last person he'd wanna see." He mumbled, closing his eyes as he waited for Vaughn to finish up.

Rhys and Vaughn were a full fifteen minutes late to their next classes; and while Vaughn's absence was indeed unnoticed, Rhys was forced to apologise and hurry to try and catch up with his Math class, a troubling task at the best of times. He spent the next few hours concentrating on his various classes, until he finally escaped to the lunch hour, whereupon his stomach once more began to cramp with nerves. "Hey, Rhys! Vaughn! You guys coming to Momma's club tomorrow? I'm gonna be on the main door from six, so you'll have to get there before-"

"We're staying in tomorrow, Brick." Rhys said, feigning a long suffering sigh as Vaughn gave him an indiscreet shove to his side. "Vaughn's still recovering from all the fun we had last weekend... he can't deal with consecutive weekends of socialising and merrymaki-"

"Shut up, Rhys." Vaughn groused sourly, shoving his side again as he scowled at his friend. "Just 'cause you met 'Mr. Mind-blowing, Super Hot' last week..." He pouted, ignoring Rhys’ eye roll as he continued to grumble to Brick. Rhys shook his head, shouldering his bag and reluctantly grabbing a banana and a muffin from the cafeteria, though only to satisfy Vaughn's insistent prodding. As they chose a table near the window however, Rhys frowned, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling uncomfortably. He looked around discreetly, his hand unconsciously moving to the hidden tag beneath his shirt, almost positive their owner must be nearby. 

What the hell..? He wondered, looking around the cafeteria in earnest, his heart quickening nervously as he tried to decipher why he felt so exposed all of a sudden. His eyes narrowed suspiciously, gliding across the room as he grit his teeth and tried to find something, or someone who looked out of place.

"... right, Rhys?" He snapped his attention back to the table, where his friends were laughing at something he had clearly missed. He blinked and shook his head, forcing away his feelings of unease and clearing his throat as he involved himself in the conversation again.

"Sorry, what? I was-" he began, only for Vaughn to snigger loudly. He raised a brow at his friend, glancing around at the childish snorts his friends failed to contain. "Okay, what the hell did I miss? Why're you all acting like such total Rakks?"

"I told you so." Vaughn said smugly, grinning as he took a large bite of a corndog. He thrust the remainder towards Rhys, brandishing it like a wand as Rhys grimaced and tried to flick the delicacy away from him. "Look at his unfocused gaze, his rosy cheeks and the slight crease of his brow; the longing in his frown! His 'super hot' guy Saturday, quite literally, blew his mind... and he still drifts off into his own little world thinking about it, even now."

"Vaughn!" Rhys hissed, glancing around worriedly for a moment, before turning a scowl toward his friend. "What the hell? Shut up, assbutt, I so do not do that at all... do I?" He said, pausing hesitantly as his friends all laughed.

"Little slab, you just gotta own it!" Brick enthused, grinning widely as he and Salvador slapped palms and bumped fists. "You had amazing sex; its okay to be a little dazed after that... and if you're still dazed dude, it must have been even better than Vaughn said, you said it was." 

Rhys raised a brow at his friend, his eyes flicking over him briefly, before he turned to Vaughn accusingly. "Why exactly are you telling people about my sex life?" He demanded, picking at his muffin and scattering crumbs over the table without actually eating anything.

"Why not? Its funnier than Sal trying to convince us Keanu Reeves is a vampire again..." Vaughn scoffed, grinning unashamedly as he high fived Salvador, immediately wringing his hand out afterwards with a pained wince. "Besides, seeing as you haven't been foaming at the mouth to get out and find someone to do you-"

"I do not foam at the mouth!" Rhys fumed, scowling and tossing a piece of his muffin at Vaughn's head. "You're just jealous I had such good sex. Amazing sex. Like, seriously fucking awesome sex..." He said, finally breaking out in a smirk as Vaughn's smug expression twisted into a grimace. "Oh, what's wrong, buddy?" Rhys asked innocently, snickering as he lobbed another piece of muffin into Vaughn's hair. "Not so much fun when I'm paying attention and talking back?"

"Not so much fun, because you're giving me vivid images I do not want or need in my head..." Vaughn groused petulantly, plucking the piece of muffin from his hair and tossing it back at Rhys. "Go back to daydreaming about your Mr. Perfect, it was easier to laugh at you then..."

"Hmm, I guess that's a fairly easy request..." Rhys sighed, his lips curling mischievously as he rolled his hips and sat a little lower in his chair, reclining slightly as he cast a sly glance around his friends. "I mean, the way his hands felt on my skin... the way his tongue felt, against the pulse in my neck..." He said lowly, trailing his fingers along his throat, gazing vacantly at the ceiling as he recalled his former lovers hand on his throat, keeping his head up and their eyes locked as they'd moved together frantically, finally approaching their peak. "Ahem..." He coughed, tearing himself from his memory, as his heart clenched with grief and longing. "Of course, there's always how powerful it felt, hearing him moan when I was sucki-"

"C'mon, amigo, chill with the deets Rhys..." Salvador growled, his cheeks flushed pink as his hands gripped the edge of the table tightly. "Not everyone wants to hear about your croquettes, fam."

"You mean conquests, man." Brick said, nudging Sal's elbow with his own playfully. "And I dunno, I think Rhys’ got like, the best and wildest lifestyle in school..." He said, a noticeable spark of amused excitement in his eye as he turned towards his friend.

Rhys laughed, distracting Sal from whatever gruff response he was about to give. "It's fine, Brick." He assured, sitting straighter as he ran a hand through his hair. "I really only go into such detail about things because it freaks Vaughn out so bad." He added with a smirk, breaking off another piece of muffin and sailing it through the air onto Vaughn's nose.

"Amigo, it must be so sick having you're own place..." Sal sighed, as Rhys’ laughter trailed off, his shoulder lifting in a noncommittal shrug. "Never having to worry who would walk in on you..!" He said wistfully, his gaze turning distant for a moment, before he looked back at Rhys with a huge grin. "Hashtag me jealous, dog. I wish my parents were so cool... How'd you swing it, man?" He said, shaking his head as Rhys smiled and spread his palms.

"Just lucky, I guess." Rhys hummed, turning to gaze out the window, as conversation returned to the weekend and the various plans they all had. Rhys tuned out, continuing to look out the window at the drifting clouds and losing himself in their peaceful passage.

"Bro..." Rhys jolted from his daze a while later, when Vaughn's hand gripped his shoulder and shook him rapidly, his eyes concerned as Rhys turned to meet his gaze. "C'mon, Rhys... Last class for the day, remember?" He said, his brow furrowing as Rhys shook his head and cleared his throat, tossing his uneaten lunch into the nearest bin.

"Oh... goody..." He said quietly, his palms turning warm and sweaty as he rose to his feet and grabbed his bag, trailing after Vaughn reluctantly. "Oh god..." He murmured, his stomach clenching tightly, as he made his way through the halls, finally approaching the humanities department and hesitating briefly, before finally stepping into his history class with a heavy sigh.

Rhys’ eyes immediately darted around the room, his hand rising to his collar as the tech tag clinked softly beneath his shirt. When he saw no sign of his teacher, he hurried to the front desk and laid his essay on the pile, before racing to his seat at the back, dropping his bag and lowering his head to his desk. "Dude, what the hell..?" Vaughn whispered, frowning as Rhys rolled his forehead across the desk briefly, relishing the cold surface against his blazing skin. His heart hammered in his chest, nervous energy coiling in his gut like a spring, readying to launch him to his feet to flee at any moment.

"Alright, pipe down already." the teachers voice called from the front of the room, as he strolled in with his hands in his jacket pockets, his clear eyes running across the various faces as he walked to his desk. "I’m not patient enough to do a roll call, so I'm just gonna mark you all down as present." He drawled, his gaze meeting Rhys’ for all of a second, before Rhys quickly sat up and turned his head to the side to look out the window. "Uh, I'm gonna... check your essays over, and y'all got a pop quiz to take while I do it." He said, moving to his desk and grabbing a stack of papers, handing a few to each of the front students with instructions to take one and pass the rest back.

"So, you’ve got forty minutes; and then ya gonna chuck 'em on my desk so I can give your essays back." The history teacher said brightly, clapping his palms together briefly and moving back to his desk. "Everyone got a paper?" He asked, looking around the class slowly as everyone nodded in reply. "'Kay, well... have at it, then." He said, waving a dismissive hand at them all as he sat down at his desk.

Rhys swallowed heavily, waiting until he knew the other man was engaged in an essay and casting a surreptitious glance around the room, before he looked over at his teacher with a faint frown. That's new... He thought distractedly, eyeing the shadow of stubble which dusted the other mans jaw. Is that because..? He wondered, before casting the thought aside, telling himself he knew too little about the other man to cast any assumptions. He hummed, chewing a pen lid as he eyed the stubble thoughtfully. It actually kinda suits him... He's even more handso- Rhys quickly shut his thoughts down, recognising the danger in them and instead lowering his eyes to his paper, forcing himself to concentrate as best he could for the remainder of the pop quiz.

Thirty seven minutes passed, and as the class began to rise and set their papers on the front desk, Rhys found himself fidgeting awkwardly as he slowly rose to his feet. His hand curled absently over his gut, nerves spiking through him the closer he got to the front desk. Seeing as he obviously doesn't want to see me, this might be my only chance to tell him about his tag... if it’s his tag... I hope it’s his tag... His thoughts clattered noisily in his head, and he wiped his clammy hand on the back of his shirt distractedly. He paused upon reaching the desk, his hand shaking as he lowered his paper to the stack. As Rhys opened his mouth, he found his voice had abandoned him. With a vague sound of distress, Rhys turned and quickly  made his way back to his seat.

As he sat down, his head fell into his hands, his breathing hard as he cursed his own cowardice. Screw it, I'll just... leave them on his desk sometime. Although, I mean, its been a week and he hasn't asked for them so, he can't be that attached... Maybe I could keep... Oh god... His stomach roiled, as he closed his eyes tightly and tried to banish the brief glimpse of their intimacy behind his lids. I can't handle this... He thought desperately, raising his head from his hands and quickly digging his phone from his pocket. He wants to ignore me then fine! But he can damn well take this stupid thing back, so I can do the same! 

Need to talk. He sent the message before he could convince himself not to, and a second later his cheeks stained a dark red, as a loud chime rang through the room.

Test your might! Kano! Liu Kang! Scorpion! Sub Zero! Sang a deep voice, and Rhys covered his mouth as his teacher flushed guiltily and cleared his throat, reaching for his pocket. Rayden! Johnny Cage! Sonya! Mortal Kombat! Unable to contain a small snort of amusement, Rhys broke out in a grin, his surprise smothering his confused and unstable emotions.

Sorry. He sent as another message, biting his lip as the loud ringtone rang again. Vaughn hid his face and snickered beside him, while Brick and Salvador chortled together in amusement, bumping fists with Axton nearby, as several girls broke out in discreet giggles.

"Okay, I'm gonna pre-emptively tell y'all to shut the hell up." Their teacher groused from the front of the class, scowling at them all before glancing at his phone, his expression darkening further in obvious frustration. He rolled his eyes and tossed his phone onto his desk, sighing as he got to his feet. "So, in future my phone is gonna be off in class, and unless ya wanna lose your own, I suggest ya do the same." He said tightly, looking across the class.

Rhys ducked his head, slipping his phone down to his lap and typing out a final message, biting his lip as his amusement faded and the emotions beneath began to jostle to the surface again. Please. He sent, though his teacher’s phone remained silent on his desk. Rhys slumped back in his chair, a frustrated sigh escaping him as he reached up and tugged at his short hair irritably.

"Well, well, here's another." He jumped at the drawling voice beside him, turning in time to catch their teacher reach over and snag his phone from his lap. "That makes three of ya to come and collect ya phones after class. As it’s only the first time, and I'm such a kind soul and all that sappy bullsh- uh," he paused, coughing as he tossed Rhys’, Salvador's and Fiona's phones to his desk. "Anyway, this time it's just ‘til the end of school. Next time I'll keep 'em overnight and if ya keep pissin' me off, I'll make it an entire week before ya get 'em back. We all clear?" He asked, folding his arms over his chest and raising a brow at them all. "Okay, then. Now, ya essays..." He said, gesturing to the sheets he'd returned to everyone's tables. 

"Y'all did pretty good honestly, I was actually kinda impressed..." He admitted, scratching his scruff thoughtfully before sliding his hand around to the back of his neck. Rhys bit his lip, his heart fluttering weakly at the movement as he shook his head, scolding himself over his desire for it to be his hand; curious how different the man may feel, may kiss, with his new stubble. He fidgeted in his seat, uncomfortable as he fought against his confusing desires, avoiding Vaughn's curious glance as he pretended to be focused on the speech their teach was giving; despite not hearing a word of it.

"Alright, ya buncha misfits. Pack ya sh... stuff." He finally called, dismissing them with a wave. "Watch Pearl Harbour over the weekend! It's probably more accurate than what this previous jerkwad was tellin' ya..." He added, turning to his desk and collecting Fiona and Sal's phones, as they grabbed their things and charged to his desk. "Don't let me catch ya on 'em again." He warned, as Rhys sighed and collected his things.

"Hey, I have detention tonight so, it would probably be easier to just come over tomorrow morning, dude... if you're still coming." He said to Vaughn, flashing him a brief uncertain look, before averting his eyes and swinging his bag to his shoulder.

"Okay... if you're sure?" Vaughn replied, frowning when Rhys smiled back at him tiredly. "I mean, I can wait around and meet you after-"

"Nah, don't worry buddy." Rhys said dismissively, moving slowly down the aisle towards the teachers desk. "I mean, I'm gonna have an hour of whatever tedious shit Coach is gonna make me do, so I'm probably not gonna be in the best of moods tonight anyway... I promise I won't ogle Ben Evans without you." He added with a chuckle, drawing a snort from his friend.

"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow then, dude." Vaughn said, slapping Rhys’ palm briefly before slipping out the door with the rest of the class.

Rhys hesitated, drawing in a deep breath and moving up to the front desk, his face carefully blank as his teacher leaned against the top; his sharp eyes watching Rhys’ approach thoughtfully. "I'm guessin' ya thought that was funny?" He asked quietly, as Rhys shrugged his shoulder dismissively.

"It wasn't my original intention, but sure, it turned out to be a little funny." He replied, eyeing his teacher warily, as he handed him his phone. "... I'm sorry. It really wasn't my intention to set it off, I was just-" He sighed, running a hand through his hair and glancing towards the door. "... it doesn't matter now." He mumbled, shaking his head as he took a step back. "I'm sorry, okay? Won't happen again... I have detention I need to get-"

"Wait a sec." The low drawl brought Rhys to a halt without his permission, a small and faintly irritated huff escaping him as he glared at the classroom door, his heart a constricted mess of emotions. 

"... You made it pretty clear you didn't wanna talk, sir." Rhys snarked, his hands curling at his sides as his heart hammered in his chest. "And I really don't have time now. I have to go-"

"I'll write ya a note." His history teacher said, and despite his determination not to, Rhys found himself hesitantly turning towards the other man. "Look, this ain't exactly easy, ya know? I was shocked as hell when ya head popped up from that desk..." He said, scratching the scruff on his throat distractedly. "And I ain't gonna lie, I was pretty pissed when ya text me... I'm still tryin' to wrap my head around all this, in all honesty."

Rhys lowered his eyes, his hand gripping at his bag strap while the other rose to his collar, half tempted to throw the man’s tag at him and bolt from the class while he caught them. "... You aren't the only one." He murmured, shuffling his feet guiltily. "I didn't know..." He said, gesturing vaguely towards the other man. "I mean, I didn't exactly expect you were gonna turn out to be..." He said, flushing as he huffed in exasperation and glanced up at the other man guiltily. "You're not the only one who was shocked and had to get used to it."

His teacher's mismatched eyes never faltered in their steady, intent gaze. "Little bit of a difference, Cupcake." He said in a level tone, his brow creasing slightly as he clicked his tongue. "You ain't gonna be slapped in cuffs for somethin' ya thought was just two people havin' a good time." He said, as Rhys flinched as if he'd been struck.

"I tried to apologize for that..." Rhys said quietly, his voice barely a whisper as he looked out the window. "I wasn't trying to... to get you in trouble, or anything. I was just having a good time..." He said, peeking up at his teacher and flushing dark red, before quickly glancing away again. "Better than just a good time... closer to the best time-"

"Don't even go there, kid." His teacher barked, trying to cover a surprised laugh as he ran a hand through his hair, finally looking away as Rhys bit his lip shyly and looked at his shoes. "Flatterin' as it is and all, I think we're better off steerin' well clear of all... that." He scoffed, shaking his head as if to clear it.

"Yes, sir." Rhys mumbled, snickering when he peeked up and caught the other man throwing him a withering glare. 

"Quit callin' me that kid... Think it’s a little late for us to be pretendin' we have any kinda professional relationship." He snorted, scrubbing his hand across his jaw as Rhys nodded and lowered his eyes again, the pair of them lapsing into a brief, awkward silence. 

"Urgh... I do not wanna ask this, but I know I gotta..." Rhys glanced up at his teachers strained voice, watching him move to the back of his chair and clutch it with a white knuckled grip. "How... I mean, just..." Rhys watched as the other mans throat constricted, his eyes glazed by fear as his expression twisted with grief and guilt. "Look there ain't an easy way to ask, so just tell me straight... just how old are ya?" He finally choked out.

Rhys sucked his lip between his teeth, looking away as he plucked at his bag guiltily; wishing he didn't have to answer, but knowing it was only fair. He looked up at his teachers groan, seeming to have guessed his answer from his reaction. "Oh god, don't tell me." He groused, raising his hands to cover his face, as Rhys’ heart clenched painfully with guilt. "No, wait... I gotta know. Just... just do it." He said, his hands scraping up into his hair, sweeping it from his face as he met Rhys’ guilty gaze. "Tell me."

"... You sure, Handsome?" Rhys asked quietly, fidgeting with his bag as he watched the other man closely, wincing at his scoff of disbelief.

"Not in the least." He huffed, shaking his head but gesturing again for Rhys to continue. "But regardless... I gotta know just how bad I fucked up."

"It wasn't your fault, you couldn't have known-" Rhys began to defend, his hand curling unconsciously around the tag beneath his shirt. He fell silent when his teacher raised his hand, shaking his head before gesturing for Rhys to continue. Rhys drew in a slow, deep breath. He bit his lip, and met the other mans clear cerulean eyes guiltily. "... My birthday is the sixth of January." He admitted quietly, his heart aching as the other man closed his eyes and exhaled heavily, his expression twisting with regret. "It's only a few weeks-"

"Days, weeks, months... don't make a damn lick of friggin’ difference, Cupcake!" The other man hissed, his eyes opening and glaring at his desk irritably. "Fact is, ya ain't... and I, I just gotta figure out how the hell I deal with that information."

Rhys swallowed back his defence, nodding his head in understanding as he exhaled a shaky breath and tried to fight off the sting of tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry..." He whispered, gripping his bag tightly as he stared at the floor. "You were never supposed to be in this position. You were never supposed to know..! You showed me an amazing night, and I was really, really looking forward to another!" Rhys rambled, the words slipping from his lips in a rush, his voice trembling as his heart ached from the other mans obvious regret. "And you were never supposed to feel like you did anything but good things, and I mean, really... really good things. I'm so sorr-" Rhys stopped abruptly, his eyes raising when a hesitant hand nudged his elbow gently.

"It's uh, just... stop... Okay look, I ain't any good with this sorta shit..." His teacher said, his frustration clear as he both tried to reach out to Rhys and also tried to keep his distance.  "Just... don't cry, alright? Pl-uh..?" He said, his lips twisting into a conflicted grimace as his eyes flicked over Rhys worriedly. "I mean... Look, Rhysie, we'll just... say it never happened, right?" He suggested, as Rhys ducked his head and half turned away, wiping at his eyes furiously.

"Yeah, sure..." He mumbled, avoiding his teachers eyes until he'd wiped away all the wetness he could feel on his face. "Heh, typical. I finally get a night to remember, and I have to forget it." He huffed, a longing sigh escaping him as he stared at the ceiling and tried to recompose himself. Finally, he looked back at his teacher with a sad, regretful grin. "Guess this means I'm not allowed to take you for that ride..?" He teased weakly, huffing as he shook his head in disappointment.

"... Sorry, Cupcake." His teacher drawled, his voice thick as he sighed in weary agreement. "But I can almost guarantee y'all soon find someone who can show ya an even better night." He said tightly, his brow raising in surprise when Rhys scoffed and rolled his eyes.

"Ha, yeah right." He snorted, scrubbing his eyes again as he looked up at his teacher with a pointed sneer of disbelief. "In this dumbass town? Not fucking likely."

"Hey, watch ya language." His teacher said on reflex, a frown marring his brow. Rhys felt his cheeks flush, gazing into the other mans piercing eyes which suddenly seemed to see too deep into him. He quickly lowered his gaze, his heart pausing for a moment when his eyes settled on his teachers hand still upon his elbow; before suddenly beginning to sprint in his chest. "Uh," his teacher coughed, clearing his throat as he hesitated a moment longer, before removing his hand and stepping away, moving to his desk. "So, that note I promised ya..." He said distractedly, glancing up as he grabbed a pen and a scrap of paper.

Rhys stepped behind the opposite side of the desk, about to reply when a new voice startled them both. "Ah, Mr. Flynt I was hoping to catch you... and Rhys, you're here. I was under the impression you had a prior engagement this afternoon." Rhys’ jaw clamped shut, his teeth gritting together tightly as he turned to see the Principle stroll in, his smug expression touched with surprise upon seeing him.

"... I was just leaving, Mr. Kincaid, sir." He sneered, refusing to lower his eyes from the other mans amused gaze. He held his breath as his jaw locked, tilting his chin up towards the Principle as if daring him to challenge his explanation. "I was just-"

"Was my fault." His history teacher cut in smoothly, flashing a confident grin to the Principle as he finished signing his note of explanation. "Made a little demonstration in class by takin' a buncha phones offa these guys, C-" he hesitated, glancing at Rhys and offering him his note.  "Rhys, was one who took it better and helped return 'em. He did say he had a detention, so I said that I'd give him a note explainin' why he's late." He said, turning back to the Principle with a confidence which made Rhys’ heart flutter dangerously.

Thinking he's hot while he tries to help me out is not going to help with the whole 'forget he blew my mind' thing... Rhys thought, biting his lip briefly, before quickly wiping his face of emotion. He gazed back at Principle Kincaid evenly, waving first his phone and then his note pointedly. 

"Yes, well, of course." Kincaid finally said, his smirk growing as he turned away from Rhys to look at the new history teacher curiously. "We all play nicely together here, don't we Rhys?" He said, gesturing towards the door. "Now you'd best be off to your detention, Coach Wilhelm is liable to give you another if you're too late..." He said, though Rhys smirked at the way he quickly continued, upon noticing the other teachers brow raising in surprise. "But I'm sure that he'll understand, now you've got your note to clear up this misunderstanding. Now, do run along, Rhys. Wouldn't want you to be any later now, would we?"

"No, sir." Rhys grit out, swinging his bag higher onto his shoulder and turning to leave, shoving his phone into his pocket as he walked to the door. He paused before exiting, turning back to the two teachers and glancing between them quickly, before settling his gaze on his history teacher. "Thank you for talking with me, si-" he hesitated, clearing his throat before continuing again. "Mr. Flynt." He said, his eyes locking with his teachers for the briefest of seconds, before he turned and walked out of the room.

Rhys took a deep, shuddering breath, desperately trying to calm his wildly beating heart. His emotions clamoured, urging him to feel disappointed, hopeful and sadness combined, as his teachers words repeated in his head. We'll just... say it never happened... He thought, shaking his head with a snort. Easy for him to say, he's probably had loads of sex way better than what I could give him... He thought dejectedly, his heart sinking further as he recalled the other mans gentle but firm rejection. But I really don't wanna put him in any more of an awkward position... He doesn't deserve to get in any trouble when it was my fault. So, if I can just forget about it... the best night of my life... He sighed, reluctantly trotting through the lunch hall towards the gym. Out of curiosity, Rhys drew out the note his history teacher had given him, frowning as he read the hastily scrawled words. 

Rhys was held back after history, helping me get shit sorted. I recommend that his detention be marked as already served... –Z.Flynt.

Rhys snorted, grinning at the note almost fondly as he shook his head. He traced his thumb across the signature at the bottom of the note, his breath catching as his hand rising to the tag beneath his shirt. "... Oops." He giggled, biting his lip as he gently pressed the cool metal back against his skin. "... Next time I guess, Handsome." He murmured, a small smile curling his lips as he paused outside the gym. He cast a final fond look at his note, before tossing it into the trashcan with a faint sigh and heading in to the changing rooms to begin his detention.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

Two Little Boys.

 

Jack hummed distractedly to himself, staring at his ceiling as he lay on his back, sprawled on the floor of his apartment with a half empty bottle of whiskey within arms reach by his side. His eyes traced lazy, nonexistent patterns while he tapped the fingers of his free hand to his flooring, a rough drumbeat resounding quietly through the room around him. His grading was finished, his lesson plans for the new week ready and his thoughts; his thoughts were locked on the huge lie he'd told both himself and his student.

We'll just... say it never happened, right? He recalled, a soft snort escaping him as he rolled his head on the floor lightly, his vision blurring from the small but dizzying movement. Chance'd be a fine thing. He thought sourly, his drumming fingers finally stilling as he reached up to scratch his head, his fingers threading into his hair with a tired, distracted sigh. Guess this means I can't take you for that ride then..? He groaned, his eyes closing as he recalled the words burnt into his memory, having wanted to say yes; what could it hurt? They'd already tangoed once, after all. But that was before I knew he was jailbait... Close as he may be to turnin' eighteen, I ain't about to push my luck. An accident without knowin' is one thing, lettin' it happen again... Jack grumbled tiredly, his phone on the floor by his ear; his texts to Zane explaining vaguely that he just couldn't help anymore abandoned and deleted before he could actually send them.

"I gotta do like we said, forget it ever happened... and just-" Jack trailed off with a frown, uncertain how to actually end his verbal thought. On the one hand he clearly knows what he wants, and I obviously ain't his first pick up... But, I can't. He thought, exhaling a long, weary sigh as he felt blindly for the bottle of whiskey he knew he had somewhere beside him. "Urgh, godammit... I'm pathetic!" He slurred, scowling as he rolled onto his side and sighed tiredly, groaning at the faint nausea and dizziness in his head. "I can't keep sittin' around, daydreamin' about some... some kid." He groused, grimacing as an image of Rhys’ pleading expression flashed behind his lids when he blinked. "This is just... It's the shock of it. Makin' me-" Jack choked off his own feeble attempts to persuade himself, the words hollow and unbelievable to his own ears. "... Shit." He cursed, groaning loudly as he rolled to his knees and sat himself upright, taking a long drag of his whiskey  before sighing and shaking his head.

Jack looked down in mild surprise, as a deep guitar rift began to play. I can't get no... satisfaction... His phone rang, blaring noise into his otherwise quiet apartment. He picked it up, pursing his lips as he considered for a moment, before accepting the call and raising it to his ear. "Whaddaya want?" He asked thickly, steadying himself by partially leaning on his bottle of whiskey, as he swayed slightly.

"How much have ya had, Jackie?" Zane demanded haughtily, as Jack rolled his eyes, taking another swig of his drink in lieu of answering. "Oh god... ya gonna get me fired before I even get there." He sighed, and Jack snorted, unable to contain his vaguely amused chuckles.

"Ah, c'mon Zane, I thought we agreed I was allowed to take Saturday nights to unwind from all this... teacher-y business. Stuff." He muttered disjointedly, frowning as he hefted his bottle and tried to guess how much he had left without actually looking. "Don't tell me ya goin' back on it now, 'cause I'm tellin' ya man... this whole gig is just a fuckin'-"

"Jack, it's Sunday." Zane said slowly, exhaling sharply as Jack frowned and blinked at the floor, trying to think back over the past few days. "Ah crap, Jackie! If ya didn't wanna fill in for me, ya could've just said so, rather than-"

"Are ya sure?" Jack asked suddenly, shifting his knees to the side so he could sit properly, scooting back to lean against the couch. "'Cause I'm pretty sure it's still Saturday, which means I still got over twenty four hours to sober up... which means at least another twelve hours drinkin'..." He added, sniggering at his own humorous comment.

"What kinda bloody paint stripper are ya even drinkin', Jackie?!" Zane demanded gruffly, as Jack huffed and rolled his eyes, struggling to get his feet beneath himself so he could stand. "... do, just drink all damn night?! What, ya been out at some club with ya hot piece of-"

"What the hell are ya talkin' about?" Jack asked, his brow furrowing as he swayed on his feet and waved his arm as if knocking Zane's hand from his arm. "Look, I ain't drank nearly enough to lose twelve... or twenty four, hours. It's Saturday night, and I got all my shit sorted and put up for Monday mornin', like a real good boy and everythin', sir." He sneered, snorting when his sarcastic drawl made him think of all the times Rhys had snidely called him sir.

"Godammit, fine. Look at ya phone, what days it tellin' ya, ya stupid ass?" Zane sighed, the unmistakable sound of his fingers tapping uneasily against his phone echoing in the background.

Jack rolled his eyes and looked at his phone, squinting at the date and time. "Starts with an 'S' and ends in a 'Y'..." He coughed gruffly, biting his lip guiltily as he tried to resist admitting he had lost more time than he'd realised considering his situation. "Seems 'bout right to m-"

"Jackie Boy, what the hell are ya doin' on?" Zane demanded tiredly, and Jack sighed as he pictured him in his hospital bed, guilt gnawing at his hollow gut. "Is somethin' wrong? Don't tell me ya fightin' with the other staff..!"

"... I ain't, exactly, met any of 'em... truth be told..." Jack admitted with a reluctant sigh, wincing at the shocked silence on the line. "I've been... busy. Adjustin' and shit... ya know?" He said awkwardly, shifting as he sat and eyed the bottle of whiskey still in his hand.

"... Jackie, if ya don't get ya shit together this week, I'm gonna tell ya Grandma that ya been havin' premarital sex while ya down there." Zane finally growled into the phone, and Jack flinched at the threat, his hand already lowering from the bottle and rising to his hair as his expression morphed into a scowl.

"Leave me Grandma outta this, ya skag shaggin’ bastard." He drawled scathingly, tugging a knot free of his hair. "Ya say a damn thing to her about it, and I'll quit this dumb farce just so I can come back and beat ya with a stick." He threatened, as Zane snorted derisively down the line. "... plus, I'll tell my brother 'bout that time ya puked in the trunk of his car and then blamed it on his cats."

The line remained silent for a long pause, as Zane considered the threat carefully, before finally snorting and voicing his amusement. "... Ya admit ya gettin' some then?" He asked, as Jack groaned and allowed his head to fall back against the couch. "Is he good lookin'? What's the idiots name?"

"I ain't gettin' anythin' from anyone." He groused petulantly, frowning at his ceiling as he rest his elbow on his knee. "And what makes ya so certain they'd be an idiot? Why can't I be fuckin' a smart guy?"

"Jackie, if they're willin' to put up with half'a ya shit; they're an idiot." Zane scoffed into the phone, and Jack opened his mouth to reply acerbically, but instead hummed and closed his mouth again, conceding the point reluctantly. "Soooo, there is someone puttin' up with ya then?"

"No." Jack immediately denied, scowling again when Zane began to laugh loudly. "Hey, shut up, ya goddamn-" he growled, falling silent when his friend gasped suddenly, instantly alert as a sudden lance of fear spiked in his heart. "Zane? What is it? Ya alright? Where's ya damn nurs-"

"Geez, Jackie, settle down..." Zane complained wearily, his pain palpable in his voice. "Just shifted wrong, is all. Laughin' too damn hard at your dumb ass..." He said, trying to make light of his obviously lingering discomfort. "... Havin' to learn a lot as I go, Jackie Boy. Just, forget every now and then, ya know?"

Jack sighed, his lips twisting with grief and guilt as he sobered considerably. "Just... take it easy already. Stop fussin' I'll... I'll meet the damn staff tomorrow and be on me best damn behaviour, blah blah blah..." He finally grumbled, gazing at his bottle of whiskey longingly, before slowly lumbering to his feet. "I'm gonna take a shower, then I'll catch some shut eye and be all sparkles and rainbows, and all that crap that ya like."

"Hey, just 'cause I'm laid up at the moment, don't mean I can't still kick ya ass, Jackie." Zane groused petulantly, as Jack snorted and grinned, wavering on his feet briefly before finally steadying himself on the arm of the couch.

"I'd like to see ya try, ya bastard." He sniggered, groaning as he carefully bent and collected his bottle; moving to the kitchen and reluctantly stowing it in his cupboard. "Ya ain't never managed to beat me yet, and I ain't about to go easy on ya now, just 'cause..." 

"Go easy..!" Zane spluttered, his outrage clear as he scoffed and Jack laughed. "I'll show ya who needs to have someone go easy on 'em! Just wait ya cocky-"

"Yeah, yeah, keep dreaming Zane." Jack snorted confidently, stretching as he slowly made his way through his apartment. "Now shove off and rest up already... I'm gonna shower and sleep." He added, a soft smirk curling his lips as he leaned in his bedroom doorway.

"Pfft, you rest up, Jackie. I got a fiesty little nurse comin' to take care of me." Zane scoffed, as Jack chuckled quietly. "Think she's gonna gimme a nice little rub down..." 

"Ha, ya great perv." Jack sniggered, sighing as he half turned in the doorway and rolling his head against the wall. "I'll talk to ya soon..." He said, smiling as he listened to Zane's nurse chirp down the phone, pushing away from the wall and walking to his bed. He shook his head as he disconnected the call, tossing his phone on his bedside table and scrubbing both hands over his face. "Urgh, I ain't cut out for this teachin'... responsibility and shit." He sighed, running his hands into his hair and closing his eyes, taking a moment to draw in a deep breath. After a moment, Jack hummed and knelt on the edge of his bed, allowing himself to fall face first into his pillows. "... Godammit..." He mumbled, his thoughts drifting through his mind lazily before he finally succumbed to the darkness which tugged at the edge of his consciousness.

The following morning, Jack woke in a daze, his thoughts clouded by the lingering haze of whiskey and pleasant dreams he didn't entirely want to give up. He stormed through his apartment irritably, cursing his aching head and scowling at the clock when he realised he had slept through his alarm. "Shit," he complained, jumping into the shower quickly to wake himself, before dressing in record time; hurrying out the door to his car, stray papers fluttering weakly against his tight grip. He drove to the school with his head pounding, his mood souring further when he walked into his class to a loud barrage of noise.

"Hey, pipe down ya little-" he bit his tongue quickly, scowling as he dumped his things by his desk and glanced around the room. "Here's the deal, 'kay? Y'all keep the noise down, and I won't fail each and every one of ya asses on principle. Also; first one of ya even breathes the word hangover, and ya gonna be in detention the rest of the damn week." He said scathingly, gritting his teeth as he glared around the various faces fiercely. He nodded when the class remained pointedly silent, grabbing his lesson plan and tossing it on his desk, glancing at his notes briefly. "Alright, page... Two four four." He said, exhaling a sharp sigh as he massaged his temple gently. "I wanna know how many died in the raid, how many ships were damaged and I wanna see a brief explanation on what Japan thought it was damn well doin'..." He groused, scrubbing his hand over the back of his neck and looked around the class again. "Well? Whaddaya lookin' at me for? Go on, get! Put ya theories on my desk when ya done then sit ya asses back down after to wait for... somethin', just... get on with it already!" He barked, gesturing towards their books with a dismissive wave as he moved to his desk and sat in his chair, leaning his aching head forward into his palms. 

Whether respecting his orders, or fearing punishment, the class remained blissfully quiet save for the few whispers of aide which Jack ignored. He looked up from his desk only once, glancing around to see everyone was working, before looking back at his desk and making some effort to appear as if he were at least reading essays. Holy hell, Zane... I never took ya for such a damn masochist. He thought, shaking his head as he turned a sheet of paper over and rubbed his eyes tiredly. 

Over the next forty five minutes, students slowly and quietly trickled up to his desk, gently setting their written work on the corner of his desk before returning to their seats. Jack didn't look up to acknowledge any of them, maintaining his feigned concentration. He was just in the middle of exchanging a essay, when a student left their paper on his desk with a light clatter, and he glanced at the stack to see a small packet of paracetamol upon the top page. He frowned, confused by the sight, until he caught a scent which immediately overwhelmed him with a memory. His heart hesitated for a beat, before quickly continuing, as Jack peeked up from beneath his eyelashes, to see Rhys returning to his seat. Well, well... whaddaya know? He can be discreet. He thought, snorting as he quickly snatched up the papers and stacked them on the opposite corner of his desk, discreetly tipping the tablets into his palm and stashing them in his pocket.

"Alright," he called to the class, sighing as he leaned back in his chair. "Anyone else still gotta hand in?" He asked, looking around as students glanced at each other curiously, before turning back to face him. "Okay... Now, I got you lot again last thing today, right? So I'll get this lot a rough grade for y'all by then." He said, jerking his thumb at the stack of papers. He glanced at his watch, and offered the class a brief flash of a tired grin. "Go on then, get goin'. See ya all after lunch." He said, shaking his head with a small snort as the class scrambled to collect their things and beat each other out the door.

Jack shook his head, leaning back on his desk and scrubbing his hands over his face, looking up in time to catch Rhys flash him a concerned glance as he walked out the door with his friend. Damn... looks like I ain't the only one with issues on this whole 'forget it' business. He thought, holding his breath for a heartbeat as he tried to convince himself there wasn't a small thrill of hope from the idea. C'mon McKenzie, get it together. He told himself firmly, shaking his head as he dug out the paracetamol Rhys had dropped on his desk. He huffed, grinning crookedly despite himself as he popped two tablets and swallowed them dry. "Urgh, dammit..." He grumbled, clearing his throat as students began to gather at his door again. "Well? Y'all know where ya seats are, don't ya?" He said, snorting as he waved towards the desks before him. He sighed as students streamed in, taking their seats quickly as Jack pushed up from his own and moved to lean against the front of his desk. "Now, who here likes surprise tests?" He asked, sniggering as a collective sigh ran through the class.

By the time the lunch bell rang, Jack was mostly recovered. His head was clearer at least, something he was immensely grateful for, though he would never actually admit it. His stomach cramped however, a tight grimace on his face at the thought of facing the staff room and the rest of the staff. Face down a room full of strangers oglin' and talkin' about teacher-y... stuff... or face down Zane when he's pissed? Jack debated, sighing in reluctant resignation as he stood from his desk and made his way to the staff room. This better not be me stuck noddin' along cluelessly to a buncha nerds talkin' for the next half hour... He thought petulantly, determined not to stay for the entire lunch break.

When Jack reached the staff room, he hesitated outside, smoothing down his waistcoat before scowling at himself. This ain't a damn date, McKenzie, get a freakin' grip... He told himself, irritated by the nerves which clenched his stomach. Just... don't fuck this up for Zane. So long as ya lay decent footwork, they won't fire him once he can get here. He reminded himself, exhaling heavily through his nose and strolling into the staff room determinedly. "Whoa... fancy digs." He murmured, looking around in mild interest at the various amenities.

"Ah, Mr. Flynt!" Jack grimaced at the smug, pretentious voice of the Principal, though he quickly morphed his expression into an easy grin. He accepted the offered hand as the other man approached, gritting his teeth to keep from reverting to his grimace. "I was wondering if you might join us this week. I trust your morning was a fruitful one?" He asked curiously, gripping his jacket lapels as he waited for Jack's reply.

"Uh, as fruitful as teachin' can be..?" He said vaguely, stuffing his hands into his jacket pocket as the principal chuckled appreciatively and clapped him on the shoulder, steering him towards a large table laden with food and drink. "I mean, I ain't quite finished gradin' my papers for the final class but, ya know... figured there was grub to be had and... uh..." He trailed off awkwardly, shrugging his shoulder in what he hoped appeared a nonchalant manner.

"Ah, that's what I like to hear." Kincaid said, squeezing Jack's shoulder as he curled his hidden hands into balls within the safety of his pockets. "Dedication, hard work and ambition." He sneered as he inhaled deeply, while Jack raised a brow and glanced around the room briefly to see if this was normal Principal behaviour. "Yes. That's exactly the stuff we need in this school."

"Uh, right ya are there, Pho- uh, Principal... Kincaid." Jack coughed, clearing his throat as he extracted himself from the older mans grip on his shoulder. One too many sly snifters in the office, eh? He thought dryly, barely containing a grin as he turned towards the table. His stomach rebelled at the thought of eating, but knowing himself well enough, he picked a few items and made up a small plate, finally grabbing a coffee before looking around for somewhere to sit. Why the hell do I feel like a goddamn schoolboy? He wondered, quickly clearing his throat and averting his thoughts before they could turn towards another schoolboy; and decidedly less innocently.

"I trust you've had no issues?" Kincaid pressed, as Jack looked up and raised a brow in confusion. "You're classes? Students?" Kincaid continued, leaning one hand on the back of a chair as he peered at Jack with open curiosity. "I recall you had issues with some students and their phones last week, and with our resident troublemaker, at that."

Jack frowned, pushing past the difficulty of trying to remember the previous day, let alone the previous week. "Who?" He asked, before he remembered suddenly, the conversation he'd had with Rhys after Friday's class; before the Principal had interrupted. "What, Cup- uh, Rhys? Pfft, he's hardly any trouble compared to some of the little bas- ahem, people I've... taught." He said, silencing himself by taking a large mouthful of his plain, black coffee; and forcing himself to hide a wince when he consequently burnt his mouth.

"That little loudmouth needs a goddamn reality check." Sneered a new voice, and Jack praised himself for not spitting his hot  across the table in surprise. "Cocky little git is forever answering back and sticking his nose where it don't belong." Growled a hugely muscled man.

Looks like someone didn't get the memo about steroids bein' bad for ya... Jack thought, smirking as the hulking man approached and offered his hand. He spread his palms in a feigned apologetic display, showing off the barbecue sauce he'd spread across his hand from a chicken wing. "Sorry, Action Man, I'm marinatin' here." He snorted, though the muscular man seemed not to notice his sarcasm.

"Kid needs a serious attitude adjustment." The brute continued, taking a seat opposite Jack uninvited, as he raised a brow in surprise. He watched the hulking man grab a glass of water in one large, beefy hand; dwarfing the tumbler in comparison. "I keep telling you, boss. Oughta let me bring boxing back, knock some sense into that damn head of his..." He grumbled to himself.

"Seems like a normal guy." Jack said dismissively, hesitating as he flicked his eyes casually between the newcomer and the Principal. "What is it he usually does to piss ya off so much, exactly?" He asked curiously, sitting back in his chair as he gnawed on the end of a breadstick.

"He's a punk," the newcomer insisted irritably, his massive hands clenching into large fists atop the table. "He runs his mouth, never listens, butts his nose into-"

"Now, now, Coach Wilhelm." Kincaid chuckled, folding his arms behind his back briefly as he bounced on the balls of his feet. "Lets not try and scare the poor history teacher, with tales of disobedient students. The last thing I need is to lose my newest staff member before he's even had his first paycheck." He joked airily, though Jack frowned at the insinuation.

These guys are a few planks short of a bridge... He thought, shaking his head to clear it, as a sudden thought occurred to him. "Wait, Coach... He had detention with ya last Friday, after school, right?" He asked, as Wilhelm nodded grimly.

"Damn right the little bastard did." He sneered, scowling at Jack furiously. "And still, that little bugger decided to show up late. Without an ounce of regret or respect in him... So I gave him another one for tonig-" Wilhelm grumbled, as Jack's brow furrowed.

"I gave him a note to explain about that." Jack interrupted, glancing at the Principal for confirmation. "I kept him back after class to help me out, and gave him a note to tell ya why he was late. Ya can't seriously be tellin' me ya gave him another detention for helpin' a teacher..." He demanded, narrowing his eyes as he looked between the Principal and the sports Coach.

"Little snot didn't gimme any note." Coach Wilhelm sneered, cracking the knuckles of his beefy hands as he glared at Jack. "Listen up, Zaney Waney-" he leered, jabbing an accusatory finger towards Jack's chest.

"The hell did ya just call me, Mr Muscle?!" Jack demanded, grabbing the finger and twisting it back as he got to his feet and quickly darted around the table, jerking Wilhelm's entire arm around behind his back and ignoring his surprised, pained gasp; his blood pumping as it hadn’t in months, since he’d started practising to be good. "What was that? I couldn't hear ya over ya wimpy ass cryi-"

"Now, now boys, lets not let ourselves get carried away." Kincaid interjected, frowning as Jack glanced at him, still easily restraining Wilhelm from the awkward angle of his arm. "It's true Mr. Flynt gave Rhys a note explaining his aide, but perhaps it was merely mislaid along the way, hmm?" He suggested, raising a brow at Jack as he scowled.  "Come now, lets not let our professionalism slip now, Mr. Flynt, Coach Wilhelm."

Jack grit his teeth, and after a moments deliberation, he reluctantly released Wilhelm. Immediately the hulking man swung around, his eyes blazing with fury as his scrunched face turned towards Jack. "Argh!" He growled, as he lashed out with a huge fist, which Jack quickly deflected to the side.

"That all ya got, Amateur Hour?" Jack drawled, smirking as he backed away, his raised fists easily batting aside Wilhelm's increasingly wild swings. When he felt a wall against his back, Jack snorted and threw the furious Coach a cocky wink.

"Raaaaurghh!" Wilhelm snarled, slamming his fist forward with as much force as he could muster. Jack smirked and ducked aside, leaving the Coach's hand to smash solidly into the wall, the sound of bones breaking easily depicted in the room. "Aaahhhh!" Wilhelm cried, drawing his hand back quickly and cradling it to his chest. "Holy-"

"Coach Wilhelm, really now!" Principal Kincaid yelled over the huge mans whimpering, striding over and taking the man by his elbow. "Attacking another teacher?! What would people say if this got out?" He demanded, looking towards Jack and eyeing him speculatively. "At least Mr. Flynt was competent enough to merely resist your idiocy." 

"But- arghhh..." Wilhelm began, trailing off with a pained hiss. "My hand... What the hell did you do to my hand?!" He demanded, glaring at Jack accusingly as he spread his palms and shrugged his shoulders innocently.

"Ya did it to yaself, Mr. Muscle..." He said, clicking his tongue thoughtfully as he stuffed his hands in his pockets and did his best not to grin smugly. "Sounded kinda like ya broke it..." He added, feigning a concerned hiss. "Probably oughta get it looked at... professional like." He suggested innocently, spreading his palms as he turned and strolled back to his table, picking up a french fry and dragged it through a large pile of spicy, chilli ketchup. "Guess ya gonna be doin' one arm push ups for a whil-" the remainder of Jack's cocky drawl abruptly broke off, a surprised and pained hiss escaping him as a large fist connected to his jaw. "Goddamn, cheap sh-" he growled, whirling back with his blood singing beneath his skin; his own pulse vivid and loud in his ears, familiar and comforting. Alluring. He was about to give in to the haze, when his fury abated and he blinked to find Kincaid already between himself and Wilhelm.

"Gentlemen, lets not forget we are the examples of this school." The Principal said firmly, glaring between the two. "I will not hesitate to fire either one of you, if you continue this ridiculous and unsightly behaviour." He threatened, causing Jack to hesitate.

"Fine," he finally groused, scowling at Wilhelm as he cradled his broken hand and whimpered. "Just so long as this asshole don't try and sucker punch me again... I won't even press charges." He sneered, sniffing as he pressed his cool jacket sleeve to his jaw briefly.

"What makes you think I won't press charges against you, Zaney-" Wilhelm fumed furiously, his dark eyes rimmed with fury as he glared at Jack hatefully.

"Mr. Flynt never laid a hand on you, Coach Wilhelm..." Kincaid pointed out, as Jack winked and grabbed another of his fries. "It would behoove you, to accept his very gracious offer." He warned sternly, glancing at Jack and clearing his throat. "Given the circumstances I think this evenings detentions can all be cancelled, and you make your way to the hospital."

Coach Wilhelm looked about to argue for a moment, but even despite his fury, he seemed to sense the futility of continuing to feed his temper. He sighed heavily, looking down at his injured hand for a long moment. "Damn..." He whistled, looking up at Kincaid and raising his arm to show off the damage. "Look at that, Boss! Prima-strength, right there!" He crowed, seemingly thrilled with his apparent show of strength.

"Yes, indeed." Kincaid sneered, clearing his throat as he turned towards Jack, reaching up to tug at his jacket lapels stiffly. "Well, Mr. Flynt... I trust there will be no further displays of testosterone driven masculinity." He said, pointedly assuring Jack with a firm look, that his suggestion was not a request.

"Yeah, sure." Jack snarked, moving to refill his coffee and grab two small chocolate muffins, before heading for the door. " I got gradin' needs doin' for final class." He said tightly, turning and tipping his coffee mug towards the other teachers. "Cheers." He said, winking at their stunned expressions, before hurrying out of the staff room and making his way back to his classroom.

Jack tossed the muffins on his desk and carefully set down his coffee, before he ran both hands through his hair and groaned quietly. "Zane's gonna kill me..." He sighed, gripping the hair at the back of his neck briefly, before grabbing the papers he needs to grade and heading back out of his classroom. With quick steps, he made his way to the car park, settling himself in the back of his car and reclining into the comfortable, soft leather seat. "Now why the hell can't my chair upstairs be so damn comfy?" He mused, before shrugging his shoulders and swinging his legs round, leaning back against the door as he swept up his papers and began to quickly read through and mark them.

Boring... boring... Straight outta the textbook... He thought, rolling his eyes as he assigned various grades to the short essays. Hmm, not bad actually. Factual and detailed, but no personal input. He mused over another, which was longer than half of the others yet just as empty feeling. Jack rolled his eyes, shaking his head at the countless to fulfil his request. He was about to give up hope for any of the class having an ounce of understanding, when the his eyes drifted over the opening line of another essay.

"Pearl Harbor was a dick move by a little weasel, who was scared of the awesome United States Navy..." He read aloud, chuckling to himself in surprise and amusement. "In nineteen forty one, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto won assent to formal planning of the Pearl Harbour bombing, most because he was a scared little cockwomble, who couldn't stand that the U.S. had a bigger army than Japan did. As with most male issues; it basically came down to fear of the oppositions dick size." He read, shaking his head in disbelief, trying to tear his attention away but fascinated by the refreshing and honest work. "The attack lasted all of ninety minutes, which speaks volumes of Japanese stamina, or lack thereof. At the end of their attack, two thousand, three hundred and thirty five American servicemen were killed, and one thousand, one hundred and forty one were wounded. Of the dead, sixty eight were civilians; and of the wounded, a further thirty five were civilians." 

"All of this came from only two air strikes; a third had been planned but a smart guy named Nagumo ordered the dwindling Japanese air force to withdraw; something Mr. Size Matters, later regretted..." Jack read, torn between frustration and amusement over the essay. "Ultimately, the entire thing was just plain shitty. In my, personal, opinion. Violence begets more violence, and war only begets more war... But that is something, we humans don't seem to be able to grasp; and as such, tragedies like Pearl Harbour are no doubt inevitably going to be repeated eventually." Jack exhaled heavily, running a hand through his hair as his brows rose in surprise. He ran his eyes over the brief explanation again, before scouring the page for a name.

"Heh, why am I not surprised?" He snorted a moment later, shaking his head once more as he found the owners name. "What the hell am I gonna do with ya, Cupcake?" He wondered aloud, quickly reading the essay through again. He sighed, forcing his thoughts to clear as he slowly lowered a pen to the bottom of the page.

First off, watch ya damn language, ya filthy brat. He wrote with a faint huff, amusement still bubbling within him. Second, take out all the cursin' and snark; ya got a fairly decent understandin'... He paused, scribbling a rough A minus on the top of the page, before returning to his note at the bottom. Third, stop tryin' to flatter and bribe ya teacher. He snorted, rolling his eyes as he set the paper aside and moved on to the final three.

"Entitled... Privileged... and, hmm." He hummed thoughtfully, sifting through them and grading them appropriately. "Interestin' take. They kinda look like, puppy biscuits..?" He murmured, cocking his head to look at the doodles covering a particularly graphic paper. "Urgh..." He groaned, tossing his pen on the pile of papers and sighing as he leaned back against the door, closing his eyes for a moment as he scrubbed his hands over his face tiredly. "Ah! Godammit..." He grumbled, grimacing at the dull pain in his jaw. "Lousy bastard." He muttered darkly, wincing as he anticipated Zane's reaction to his fight.

He was pulled from his thoughts by the bell ringing, signalling five minutes til class began. "Ah, shit..." He cursed, gathering up the papers and swinging his legs around as he threw open the door, stepping out into the car park quickly and closing the door behind him with his hip. "Late to me own damn class, twice in one friggin' day..." He complained, strolling leisurely back to his classroom and idly rubbing at his jaw.

By the time he walked through his door, his class had already arrived and his brows rose in surprise when he saw that they'd changed themselves around somewhat. "Alright, pipe down." He said, walking casually towards his desk as he discreetly looked around the room from beneath his hair. He saw that the kid with the stick up his ass was sitting beside the dark girl with dreads, while the girl with the hat had moved to sit beside the glowy girl with the blue streaks. The overly muscled homophobe had moved to sit beside the angry drinker, while the quiet, nerdy guy from the back had moved to sit beside the large bruiser. Jack frowned, his jaw aching faintly as he set the papers on his desk and slid his eyes to the back of the room, where he found Rhys in his usual seat, while the hotshot sniper star had moved to sit beside him. Jack swallowed thickly, his throat dry and painfully tight as he watched the muscular, sniper champion kid angle himself towards Rhys; smiling winningly as he talked with him, encouraged by Rhys’ polite smile.

A fierce tug pulled at Jack's gut, a bitter and nauseating sensation which he didn't even want to think about discerning. Despite telling himself to leave it, Jack found himself scowling around his class, his pulse quickening as his mood soured considerably. "What the hell is this, musical chairs?" He demanded, forcing himself to glare around each of the moved students. "Ya know where ya damn seats are, so get back to 'em. Ya wanna play touchy feely with ya bunch of princess’s, do it after school." He drawled, folding his arms over his chest as he stood tall beside his desk, relying on his espionage training to keep a smirk from curling across his face as students grumbled but moved back to their original seats.

He looked down at his desk, briefly glancing over his notes for the afternoon, before moving to hop up on the front and face his students. He glanced around the room, catching a brief confused glance from Rhys, before quickly moving on. "Yo, sir," called the beefy hack, frowning as he sat beside the large bruiser kid again and stared at Jack in confusion. "What the hell happened to you over lunch, bro?" He asked, tipping his head towards where Jack sat on his desk.

"Huh?" He hummed distractedly, trying to quell the satisfaction which seemed to roil in his gut like curdled cream. He touched his jaw briefly in sudden understanding, before chuckling and flashing a cocky smirk around the room. "Oh, heh, that's nothin'. Ya oughta see the other guy." He snickered smugly, chuckling to himself despite wincing and rubbing at his sore jaw.

"Who was the other guy?" The sniper star asked curiously, clearly unfazed by having been moved away from Rhys, though Jack noticed both he and the girl with blue streaks sat slightly awkwardly beside each other.

"Big dumb loser," Jack said dismissively, shrugging his shoulder lightly as he averted his eyes from the sharp shooter, uncomfortable with the smug sense of having beaten the kid somehow. "Think he's ya phys ed teacher or somethi-"

"No frickin' way?!" The beefy jerk cried, his eyes wide and his jaw slack as he stared at Jack in awe. "You took on Coach Wilhelm?!" He demanded, his voice rising with disbelief.

"Yeah, that's the one." Jack said, clicking his fingers quickly and snorting as he winked at the jock smugly, grinning as he cleared his throat and shook his head. "Now, ya can grab ya papers on the way out. Most of ya got passin' grades, but some of ya really gotta think about what ya wanna say. Don't just recite facts outta the book; put some of yaself into ya answers!" He said, turning his eyes across the room slowly, briefly meeting Rhys’ distressed gaze, before continuing on across the stern pale boy and the girls before him. "Show some originality, some empathy. This shit- ah, crap..." He groaned, rolling his eyes as the class barely suppressed their amusement. "Ahem, this stuff shaped the country... affected our armed forces and our civilians alike; and ultimately led to the revolution of the galactic space wars... which we’ll be movin’ onto next term. But uh, anyway... Think about what ya sayin' in future, and try to imagine how it might've affected you, had ya been there." He said, hesitating a moment, before clapping his hands together loudly.

"So," he said cheerfully, lowering his hands to the desk and leaning back on his palms. "What do ya think Japan should've done different?" He asked, looking around as several students cocked their heads curiously. "What might've given 'em the result they were after..?" He added, as hands began to tentatively rise into the air.

"The Japanese had hoped to severely cripple the U.S. Army, attacking the Naval base was thoroughly planned... but to achieve their goal, they should have-" Jack only half listened as the grifter with the attitude problem droned on, his answer accurate but emotionless. The other half of his attention, though he didn't show it, was distracted by Rhys’ burning gaze locking onto him; making the nausea in his gut both worsen and ease even as he tried to ignore it.

"Exactly, Prickles. But next time don't swallow the textbook before class just so ya can give an answer..." Jack drawled, clearing his throat as he tried his best to put his confusing and distracting feelings aside, and focus on the rest of his class.

Fifty three minutes later, Jack sat in his chair, tipping it back on two legs as he listened to the class debate how different scenarios might have occurred with different circumstances preceding them; and whether the events of Pearl Harbour might have been avoided entirely. "Alright." He called over them, his chair landing on all four legs again with a clatter. "Pack ya sh-tuff up and come get ya papers, then get the hell outta here." He said, picking up his stack of papers and handing them out appropriately, as students filed past him. 

Jack's heart slowly increased its steady beat to a rapid drum roll, as the number of students dwindled, until only Rhys and his short, quiet friend remained. "Here ya go, Nerdy Guy." He said gruffly, handing him the longest of the papers. "Nice job." He said, as the students eyes lit with pride, biting his lip at the large 'B plus' circled at the top of his work. "Just put some on you in ya next one, and I guarantee ya an A." Jack offered, snorting to himself when the student flushed proudly.

"Thankyou, sir." He said quietly, glancing at Rhys briefly, before slipping towards the hallway. For a brief moment, Jack continued to watch the door, trying to quiet his hearts loud thudding against his chest, before finally turning to face Rhys.

"Ya know any other teacher would've failed ya for the kinda shit ya put in there?" He asked with a snicker, grinning as he handed Rhys back his paper, whose brows rose as he quickly scanned his note and grade.

"Hey, I was not flattering or bribing-" he began, pausing when Jack tossed the paracetamol packet at him, catching it between his palms. "Okay, that was just... it wasn't-"

"Calm down, Rhysie." Jack snorted, pushing up from his seat and stretching. "I was only pullin' ya leg. Here I thought ya had a sense of humour." He sniggered, relaxing after a satisfying crack between his shoulders. He raised a brow as Rhys frowned at him, before hesitantly stepping closer and half raising his hand towards Jack's jaw.

"Maybe it’s just unavailable at the moment... buried under-" he said, cutting his words off by biting his lip. Jack's heart paused for an extended heartbeat, as Rhys’ fingers grazed his sore jaw tentatively. "What on earth, no; that’s not severe enough... what on Pandora possessed you to take on Coach?" He asked, his voice quivering with disbelief as his eyes met Jack's, his dark blue irises clouded by uncertainty and concern.

"I..." Jack began, blinking and clearing his throat quickly, gently averting his jaw from Rhys’ reach as he pretended to search his desk for something. "What can I say, the guy just had a knack for pissin' me off." He finally replied, shrugging his shoulder dismissively, before frowning suddenly and looking back at Rhys in confusion. "What happened to the note I gave ya Friday?" He asked curiously, leaning against the side of his desk.

Rhys flushed guiltily, lowering his eyes as he stuffed his paper into his bag. "Well, Coach isn't exactly the uh..." He began, pausing as he nit his lip and struggled to find the words.

"Brightest?" Jack supplied helpfully, as Rhys snorted and rolled his eyes in amusement, looking back at Jack with a small grin.

"Understatement of the year." He replied, snickering at Jack's amused but quiet laughter. "He would've just said I wrote it and given me another detention anyway, but I didn't wanna say that when you were so kind as to try and help..." He said awkwardly, his cheeks dusting pink as he lowered his eyes guiltily. "I uh, I didn't give it to him." 

"And got another one anyway." Jack said, frowning at Rhys as he shrugged dismissively. "Ya don't seem surprised." He drawled, watching Rhys as he broke out in a small, wry grin and shook his head playfully.

"It's honestly been so long since I haven't had at least one detention a week, I'm not sure I remember what its like not to." He huffed, a small sigh escaping him as he glanced at his watch. "Speaking of, I should probabl-"

"Nah, 's been cancelled." Jack said, waving a hand vaguely at the door, determinedly refusing to allow his cheek to burn as he picked up one of his muffins and took a bite. "Big Testosterone Baby is gonna be spendin' the evenin' at the hospital, and the Principal has authorised any and all detentions today be cancelled. So, not just like, yours or anythin'..." He said awkwardly, clearing his throat as Rhys’ eyes widened and stared at him in shock.

"What the hell did you do to him?" Rhys asked in an awed breath, his eyes wide and curious and far too innocent, considering Jack was aware of just devious and demanding he could be.

We ain't supposed to think about that anymore... Me, especially. Jack thought, hesitating to reply as his mind ignored him and smothered itself in memories of bare skin and breathy moans. "Uh, I..." He shook his head quickly, looking away and swallowing away the sudden thickness in his throat. "Heh, I didn't do anythin' truth be told but, uh... well, he walked away with a broken hand."

"No way..!" Rhys choked, his eyes lighting with joy, as Jack looked back at Rhys and raised a brow at the  obvious amusement radiating from him. "Sorry... well okay, I'm not sorry, but damn... that's just, well... Ahem, couldn't have happened to a uh, nicer guy." He snorted, his shoulders shaking with the effort to contain his amusement.

"Ya ain't exactly fans of each other, are ya?" Jack commented, shaking his head fondly as Rhys shrugged and sighed, seeming to relax as he realised he didn't have a detention to get to. 

"He loves to yell at students and give out detentions for stupid shit." Rhys explained, looking back down at his bag and fingering the edge of his paper. "I tend to mouth off so he'll leave Vaughn alone." He admitted, smirking as he looked back at Jack. "I hit him with a squash ball last Friday." He snorted, biting his lip unashamedly, his eyes lit with amusement as he rocked on the balls of his feet.

"Ah, so that's how ya got detention week." Jack hummed in realisation, shaking his head as he ran a hand through his hair and looked down at his desk. "... well, I guess I better get this shit packed up and graded." He said, finishing the second half of his muffin as Rhys cleared his throat and took a step back.

"Yeah, I guess I should uh, go home then..." He said, a small smile tugging at his lips. "I really ought to thankyou for getting me out of detention si-" he said, pausing as he cocked his head. "Mr. Flynt." He said slowly, as if uncertain of his reaction.

"Pfft, yeah yeah, I'm a regular hero..." Jack scoffed, looking away as his heart leaped into his throat, his blood rushing faintly in his ears. "Go on, get. Ya ain't got a damn thing to thank me for." He said, glancing up as Rhys snickered quietly.

"I dunno, I've never got such a high grade so easily before. I could probably thank you for that..." He said, biting his lip as he flushed guiltily. "Though, this really wasn't bribery, you know..?" He added, holding up the small packet of paracetamol.

"Pfft, I ain't that easy, Cupcake. Take more than that to bribe me anyway." Jack snorted, shaking his head and attempting to bite his tongue, cursing himself for instead allowing it to steer the conversation toward dangerous territory. "Ya gotta-"

"Wine you and dine you?" Rhys said, a shy smile curling at the edge of his lips, as Jack drew in a deep breath and forced himself to look away, turning his unseeing gaze to the window. "Not gonna lie, Handsome... I wish that were still on the table." Rhys said quietly, as Jack closed his eyes and exhaled heavily, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"... I shouldn't have-" he began to mutter, when he felt a finger brush against his lips. He opened his eyes to see Rhys standing far too close to him, his large eyes only a hand space from his own.

"I'm sorry." He said quietly, lowering his voice to a regretful whisper. "I shouldn't have said that... I know you're not, I mean I know you said I; that we, were supposed to forget, but... I just-" he babbled, his eyes searching Jack's face both nervously and hopefully for his every reaction.

"I know, Cupcake." Jack interrupted quietly, sighing as he pointedly stepped back and gestured towards the door. "Just uh, don't worry. Was my fault." He said gruffly, gripping the back of his chair as he glanced at Rhys’ uncertain expression, before looking down at his desk. "Ya oughta head home, enjoy ya detention free evenin'..." He said thickly, desperately trying to clear his head of the decidedly not innocent images tumbling through it.

He caught Rhys’ quiet nod from the corner of his eyes, a shaky sigh escaping him as the student hesitantly turned and behan to head towards the door. Jack wasn't sure what possessed him, but he assumed it was something about the dejected slump of Rhys’ shoulders that he just couldn't stand to see. "Hey, Cupcake, catch!" He called, grabbing the second muffin from his desk and tossing it to Rhys once he'd turned, winking when he caught it.

"Sir?" Rhys asked without thinking, biting his lip with a guilty flush as he peeked at Jack from beneath his lashes, his fingers curling gently around the muffin. "I mean-"

"Might not be winin' and dinin', but consider it payment for ya tablets." Jack said, his heart lurching when Rhys slowly broke out in a lopsided grin, seeming to understand the gesture as both thanks and apology. "Now go on, get..." He said briskly, clearing his throat as he began to collect up the papers from his other classes, placing them all in his bag for the journey home. He was just about to swing the bag to his shoulder, when a small projectile tapped against his head. "Hey! What the-"

"Just in case you need them again sometime..." Rhys said, grinning as he took a small bite of his newly acquired muffin. "And thanks." He added, winking playfully, before he backed out of the room and moved out of sight down the hall.

Jack snorted, smiling and shaking his head as he looked down at the desk and saw the small packet of paracetamol. He opened a drawer, and slid the packet inside, closing the drawer after and hesitating for a long heartbeat. Get it together, McKenzie... This ain't some game, at least, it ain't a rigged one. This is Zane's career, Zane's dream ya riskin' here. Rhysie’s... He thought, choking as he drew in a deep breath and curled his hand loosely atop his desk, gritting his teeth in reluctant determination and desperately trying to quiet the longing in his hollow chest. Rhys is off limits. Jailbait... Five years ain't much, but its enough, considering he ain't even legal for another few weeks. He thought, sighing heavily as he finally swung his bag on his shoulder and slowly walked to the door. "... Get a grip, Lawrence..." He muttered tiredly, shaking his head as he tried to ignore the small voice in the back of his mind; which said that was exactly what he'd been hoping to do.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

When I Kissed The Teacher.

 

Rhys frowned, toying absentmindedly with the tech tag around his neck as he half watched reruns of old tv shows, the classic and cheerful jingle of Supermarket Sweep playing in the background, as he fathomed through his own consuming thoughts. He sighed, leaning his head on the back of his couch and staring vacantly at the ceiling, biting his lip as he felt his emotions swirl and churn within his gut.

Why? He wondered, as he had countless times over the past three days, scratching his head as he tried again to understand. Why would he take on Wilhelm? It can't just be because I had detention... He must've had a reason. I mean, otherwise, that'd mean that he... He carefully snipped the budding thought off, shaking his head as he looked back toward the television. Do not start reading into things, Rhys. We were civil and, okay there may have been some... Very minor, miniscule even, very innocent flirting involved, but we had some pretty fuckin' hot sex, so... Kinda understandable. He thought, biting his lip as it twitched with the beginnings of a hopeful smile and his stomach made the familiar fluttering, which caused his breath to catch. Oh god, I want him... again. But maybe its one of those forbidden fruits things; can't have him so I want him. He mused, his fingers gliding along the small ball chain with a tag, dragging the metal across his bare chest in a soothing pattern. 

But...Rhys drew in a deep breath slowly, an explosive sigh escaping him as he turned his television off and got to his feet, dawdling down the hall to his bedroom. He's made it pretty damn clear he isn't interested. And I don't want to make him uncomfortable again... I didn't mean to the other day, but, we were getting along and playing, and flirting and... He thought, trailing off as he walked into his bedroom and let himself flop onto his bed. And it was just... nice. I've never really spoken to anyone again, after fucking... Maybe that's it? Or, maybe it's that he just makes me feel... Rhys propped his head on his arms, hugging a pillow beneath his chest as he bit his lip thoughtfully. He looked up, and in a burst of nostalgic energy, he swung himself up to hold his head board, closing his eyes as his body turned warm. "Hmm..." He hummed quietly, parting his knees slightly further as he gently rolled his hips, half turning his head over his shoulder.

Rhys felt his body blaze with heat, his heart quickening and his blood rushing to his crotch hopefully, as he almost managed to recall the feel of the other man behind him. "Oh god..." He muttered, biting his lip hard as he ghosted his own hand over his  throat as his, at the time lover, had held him. His stomach curled with desire, his cock swelling in his jeans as Rhys rolled his hips again, desperately wishing he could relive that night if only for the repeat experience. He palmed at his arousal, groaning at the rush of desire and longing which consumed him. He was about to slip his hand below his waistband, when instead he sighed longingly and pulled himself back to the present. He gazed dazedly at the wall before him for a long moment, lost within the vivid and pleasant memories as his heart thudded heavily in his chest and his cock pulsed with atoll strong desire. 

After waking from his pleasurable haze, he frowned at himself, utterly irritated by his own ridiculous behaviour. Oh god, I'm being a total bloody sap right now... I'm behaving like Vaughn! He thought petulantly, shaking his head as he determinedly removed his hand from his crotch. I am not some love-struck... schoolboy! He scathed, wincing and biting his lip as he turned and sat himself firmly against his headboard. Except... in the very literal sense. Which... is exactly why he isn't interested. Rhys groaned, his head banging back against the wall as he turned his eyes to the ceiling with a petulant pout. "Its not fair." He complained to himself, his eyes watering with frustration. "Why'd he have to be so hot? And so good at..." He paused, sucking in a deep shaky breath and releasing it slowly. "Why'd he have to be my teacher?" He sighed, running both hands into his hair and scratching his head dejectedly. "Being that good with your body, and then turning out to be somebody I'm not allowed to be with; ought to be illega-" He choked with a grimace, quickly reconsidering his words and instead lowering his arms with a childish and dramatic flourish. "And you can just-" he grumbled, frowning down at his still tented jeans to where his cock lay hidden beneath, frustrated but determined not to encourage his traitorous body.

"Ooooh... you touch my tra la la..." Rhys tensed abruptly, raising a brow as he slowly turned his head towards his phone, sat innocently on his beside table. "My ding ding dong..." His arousal was forgotten, as his phone continued to ring loudly. He hummed curiously as he reached for the device, hesitantly plucking it from the table and glancing at the withheld number, as his throat constricted with undeniable and irrepressible hope.

Oh, if ever there were a time for poetic justice to strike... Rhys thought giddily, his cock pulsing as if in agreement, as he stared straight through the screen; his heart beating a nervous, staccato beat against his chest. He cleared his throat and adopted his best sultry pose, exhaling a hasty and excited breath, before accepting the call and raised his phone back to his ear. "Hellooooo?" He drawled enticingly, his voice low and husky as he curled his feet beneath him, gripping the sheets as his blood thumped loudly in his ears, his heart rising to his throat.

"You sound like one of those god-awful, phone hookers." Rhys’ hopeful aura evaporated, his previously floating heart deflating, and crashing back into his chest heavily. "Dude, why do you sound like some sort of god-awful phone hooker?"

"Phone hookers, are not a thing, assbutt." Rhys snorted, rolling his eyes as he allowed his head to fall back against his headboard. "Besides which, if you hadn't withheld your number, then I would have known to avoid the use of my best phone fucking voice upon answering. I mean, how was I to know you weren't some hot guy, calling for a little fun..?" He teased, smirking at Vaughn's indignant splutters.

"I don't know what's worse, the fact that you have enough phone sex voices to know which is your best..." Vaughn complained, sighing as Rhys snorted with amusement. "Or just the fact that I had to experience it, firsthand." He snarked, while Rhys lifted an arm to his knee, his fingers reaching again for the tech tag against his chest.

"Never call me from an unknown number dude, I will assume you got it from a bathroom stall and answer at my most alluring..." He drawled, biting his lip to contain a laugh as be heard Vaughn choke and gag on the end of the line. "Anyway, fun as it always is to torment you with my great sexual prowess; is there actually a reason you called me, or are we just playing 'what's Rhys’ sluttiest feature'?" He asked, pausing briefly at Vaughn's distressed whine. "Spoiler alert; it's my ass."

"How the hell can your ass be your sluttiest feature?" Vaughn yelped, before quickly seeming to realise his error. "No, wait! Don't tell me! I don't want to know!" He cried, as Rhys laughed and toyed with the tags between his fingers, the metal clinking together softly.

"C'mon assbutt, why're you calling me at..." He stalled, pulling his phone from his ear to check the time, before quickly returning it to his ear. "Ten forty one? And on a school night at that..." He asked, frowning slightly at Vaughn's unusual behaviour. He felt a faint thrill from his crotch, as if his arousal were trying to regain his attention. He drew the phone from his ear briefly and scowled at his lap. "You just be quiet, you. You got us in enough trouble already..!" He scolded his body quietly, shuddering when his body coiled with heat, vividly recalling the very enjoyable trouble which Rhys was referring to.

"Way to be precise there, Rhys." Vaughn snorted, as Rhys raised his phone back to his ear with a final grimace, rolling his eyes while waiting for his friend to recollect himself and continue. "Well, to be honest, I was mostly calling because... Axton Turret text me earlier, and I thought you should know." He said, somewhat awkward despite his amusement.

"Why do I need to know this, exactly?" Rhys asked distractedly, frowning at his lap as he tentatively palmed at his stubbornly determined arousal. "I wasn't aware we were into the whole... sharing sexts thi-" he muttered, biting his lip at the pleasant throb which rippled throughout his body.

"Dude! It was not like that!" Vaughn cried, snapping Rhys from his growing haze and drawing a quiet laugh from him. "He didn't text me for... whatever dirty ass thing you're thinking!" He continued, grumbling as Rhys sniggered to himself and held his phone between his ear and his shoulder, freeing both hands to finally give in and undo his fly. "He wanted me to give him your number!" Vaughn said, causing Rhys to freeze mid process of opening his jeans.

"Huh?" He queried, frowning as he raised his hand back to his phone, shifting his position to sit slightly straighter against the headboard. "What did you just say?" He asked, glancing at the noticeable tent in his underwear and palming over it distractedly, his head rolling back against the headboard.

"I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the dance next week..." Vaughn said suggestively, as Rhys’ frown deepened, his hand falling still as he tried to make sense of his friends insinuations.

"What the hell makes you think that?" Rhys asked, gazing down at his lap in both longing and confusion. "Axton Turret has shown about as much interest in me, as I have in Herpes. He probably just wants to work something out about our drama project that's due tomorrow." He said dismissively, shaking his head as he closed his eyes and ghosted his fingers across the waistband of his underwear. "What on earth makes you think it would be for something so stupid as-"

"Because he said it was to ask you to the dance next week!" Vaughn finally cried gleefully, as Rhys choked in surprise and disbelief, lurching forward as his eyes snapped open wide. "He and Maya broke up and he wants to ask you to go to-"

"No." Rhys said suddenly, scowling across his bedroom irritably. "I am not getting involved in whatever weird relationship drama they have going on between them. You are hereby forbidden from giving Axton Turret my phone num-" he paused, his phone pinging against his ear. "Vaughn..." He asked knowingly, taking a moment to absorb the guilty silence before pressing on. "You did phone me before giving him my number, didn't you, buddy?" He said suspiciously, his eyes narrowing at Vaughn's awkward cough and lingering silence. "Vaughn!" He groaned, his head knocking back against his headboard.

"I thought I was helping!" Vaughn quickly defended, his voice wavering with guilt and the hint of apology. "You've been so busy pining over Mr. Mysterio of the tech tag, I just thought that, well... maybe having a good time with someone your own age might-"

"I don't want anyone my own age!" Rhys scathed, raising his eyes to the ceiling as his irritation flared. "If I did, I wouldn't go to adult clubs at the weekend through a goddamn side door, would I?!" He fumed, gritting his teeth as he scowled at the ceiling a moment longer, before rolling his head along the headboard and grimacing in frustration. "Just what the hell am I supposed to do with Axton 'perfect boy' Turret?!" He demanded, sighing as he scrubbed his hand over his face. 

"Uh, normal things?" Vaughn offered snidely, as Rhys scoffed and shook his head, his fingers curling into his thigh as he grit his teeth. "You know? Like go to the cinema, play games, eat and drink..." He said, trailing off uncertainly when Rhys remained noticeably silent.

"Are you..." Rhys began after a pause, his jaw locking briefly as he clicked his tongue. "Are you trying to get me to date Axton Turret?!" He realised, outrage clear in his tone as he felt his jaw drop.

"Well would that really be so bad?!" Vaughn demanded, as a frustrated sigh exploded from him. "What's so bad about wanting my best friend to actually have someone want him, to treat him right and give him what he needs?!"

"You don't know a damn thing about what I need, dude." Rhys snarked, his gaze hard and distant as he stared at his lap. "It is most certainly not Axton bloody Turret!" He scoffed, shaking his head to try and clear the needling thought of just what, or who, he did need. Don't think about him, don't think about him... He thought desperately, his hand unconsciously clasping the tech tag around his neck tightly.

"Oh, and what do you need? A bunch of random guys to give you a wild night of passion, and then flake on you right after?" Vaughn demanded back, his own rare temper flourishing. "Dude, this dog tag guy made you happier than I'd seen for awhile, so I was prepared to let it go, but now..." He said, his voice breaking as Rhys opened his palm and looked down at the tag in question, biting his lip guiltily. "Rhys, you are my best friend. The best friend, a guy could want... even when you're being gross or weird or a total assbutt." He added, sighing as Rhys grimaced at the emotional display on the other end of the phone. "I don't like to see you like this, dude. I don't know what this guy did but, Rhys please, don't waste you're time on him if he's just being a dick-"

"It's not like that!" Rhys defended quickly, his hand clenching around the tech tag in his palm again. "You don't understand, it wasn't his fault... It... It's complicated, dude." He said, sighing and releasing the tech tag; allowing them to clink softly against his chest, as he ran his hand up into his hair distractedly. "There was other stuff involved, and it was all my fault..." He said, gazing across the room vacantly for a moment.

"Rhys, you're not exactly toying with these guys." Vaughn replied, and Rhys’ lips quirked faintly, almost able to picture the concerned frown he knew his friend was likely wearing. "Its not like you give them any sort of expectation about ever seeing each other aga-"

 "No... not, usually..." Rhys sighed tiredly, his frustration ebbing slightly at the minor confession. Rhys debated for a moment at Vaughn's prolonged, curious silence and gazed at the end of his bed thoughtfully. "Vaughn... I've never had a guy give me their number." He said slowly, considering his words carefully before speaking. "This guy was already different because of that alone... But, when he, I mean..." He paused, licking his lips as his heart skipped a beat, quickly rearranging his words. "When I told him my age, he was pretty crestfallen dude... I think he's mostly put so much distance between us because of that. I don't think he can handle it..." He explained, his heart lightening in his chest at the careful confession.

Vaughn remained silent for a long moment, while Rhys bit his lip and lowered his eyes to his waning arousal, his fingers fidgeting with the button of his jeans nervously. "You told him your real age?" He finally asked, seeming oddly tentative about the conversation. "Dude, what the hell possessed you to do that?" He pressed curiously, as Rhys leaned back against his headboard with a heavy, thoughtful sigh.

Rhys hesitated, the words lingering on his lips like a thick layer of balm. His heart thumped noticeably heavier in his chest, his hand trembling slightly, before he curled it into a loose fist. "... I like him." He admitted quietly, the words escaping him in barely a whisper, and resulting in Vaughn's stunned silence. "I shouldn't. I know that... I, I can't have him." He said regretfully, his eyes stinging as he swallowed thickly, a euphoric rush of relief flooding through him as he partially confessed to his situation. "And it's not his fault, dude, he's just... he's made it clear he's off limits." He said, chafing his hand over his thigh lightly and easing some of the tautness from his muscles.

"Because of your age..?" Vaughn asked cautiously, as Rhys hummed in vague agreement, determinedly biting his lip to keep from saying anything more revealing and implicating their history teacher. "Wow. He... well, he actually sounds pretty decent after all, I guess. Kinda pissed about that now, to be honest." He sighed, as Rhys sniggered quietly, confused by the ridiculous sense of relief he felt; that his friend was so accepting of his former lover. "But, you're only a few weeks away now, right?" Vaughn asked, hesitating thoughtfully for a moment, before pressing on. Maybe... when you're legal, well, maybe he'll change his mind." He said reassuringly, and Rhys couldn't help but chuckle as affection and gratitude for his friend began to radiate from within his heart.

"I... I don't know, dude." Rhys said, a shaky sigh escaping him as his arousal twitched at the thought, as if in hopeful agreement with his friend. "I guess I... I hope so. But, I also understand, if he doesn't."

"Rhys..." Vaughn sighed, as Rhys leaned his head back against the headboard and looked at the ceiling, slowly dragging the backs of his knuckles across his exposed underwear, tentatively trailing over the reawakening flesh of his arousal beneath. "Only you could get yourself into this situation, assbutt." He snorted fondly, falling into a thoughtful silence for a brief pause. "So, those tag..?" He asked curiously, as Rhys snorted and laughed quietly.

"Real subtle Vaughn, didn't notice that at all. You're just so smooth, dude." He teased playfully, closing his eyes and biting his lip allowing himself a moment of indulgence; and imagining his history teachers hands on his hips, pulling him close and pliant beneath him. "... What about them?" He asked lightly, his lips parting to release a soft sigh.

"Well, you said they weren't anything important before... was that just, you know..." Vaughn pressed awkwardly, as Rhys inhaled deeply and slowly rolled his hips. "I mean have you actually tried giving them back?" He asked curiously.

"Hmm," Rhys hummed noncommittally, his hand resting lightly over his heated arousal, his thumb barely slipping beneath his waistband. "I was going to... but, we argued and I, uh," he paused, shuddering with pleasure and biting his lip for a brief heartbeat. "I just... didn't..." He finished weakly, his hips rocking upwards as he palmed at himself.

"You mean you've actually seen him again?" Vaughn asked, his surprise clear as Rhys fought off the pleasurable haze of warmth which encompassed him. "When was that, dude? You didn't tell me-"

"Contrary to popular belief, I do not actually broadcast my every... move to the world. Sexual or otherwise." Rhys snorted, his body arching forward slightly as it flared with a wave of heat. "It, hmm... it was last week. But, uh, it doesn't matter anyway. Nothing... nothing, c-came of it..!" He stammered, his gut clenching as heat pooled within him, his cock practically jumping beneath his hand; as he thought of his teachers strong hands, firm and demanding on his body.

"Dude, are you okay?" Vaughn asked worriedly, as Rhys cracked an eye open to half heartedly glare at his growing erection, holding the phone slightly further from him as he began to pant quietly. "What's wrong? Don't try and tell me you're coming down with something... I know you too well; you just don't wanna go to drama class tomorrow." He snorted in amusement.

Rhys snickered softly, biting his lip as he rocked his hips up into his hand, his fingers splaying across his exposed underwear and squeezing none too gently. "I'm... I'm fine." He said unevenly, cocking his head slightly as he imagined his history teachers burning kiss against his skin. How different would it be..? With his stubble..? Would it scratch or tickle now? He wondered, barely containing an eager whimper within his throat. "I just, I-"

"Dude, you sound like you're dying or..." Vaughn began, before pausing and falling suddenly silent. Rhys rolled his hips, his thoughts lost to the heated haze of his desire, conjuring the spectral memory of his teachers forbidden touch. "Oh god... Rhys!" Vaughn yelped suddenly, realisation and accusation in his tone. "Dude, tell me you're not-!" He broke off with a sound of distress, as Rhys’ eyes slowly opened, turning down to where his hand was toying insistently with his waistband. "Dude, this is so wrong. There's certain things; I just did not need to know about you, man." He complained loudly, a distressed whine echoing down the line as Rhys laughed breathlessly. "What the hell is wrong with you?! Your that depraved that you just... what? Just decide to start jackin' it when you're in the middle of a damn phone call..?!"

"To be fair dude, I was thinking about jackin' it before you even called..." Rhys corrected with a snort, utterly unfazed by his friends disbelief. "And then you went and brought up Mr... tag..." He choked, barely catching himself before outing his former lovers persona. If that's even his name... He thought distantly, his eyes flicking to the small ball chain with tag against his chest. "I really think you could be a little more grateful right now dude, I mean, I haven't actually done anything yet; and that's only out of my respect for our friendshi-"

"Don't give me that bullshit, Rhys!" Vaughn snarked, though his irritation was clearly giving way to an exasperated sense of amusement. "You're a horny little weirdo, and if you really haven't done anything yet, then I expect the only reason is that you're drawing it out; like you'd want him to, if he were there."

"Ah, you know me so w-well, Vaughn..." Rhys laughed breathily, arching his neck slightly as he began to tease his fingers beneath his waistband. "You realise of course, you only have yourself to blame dude. If you hadn't called me from a withheld number, I would have known to ignore you in favour of more pressing matters..." He drawled quietly, a small hiss escaping him as he finally brushed against the hot, hard flesh of his bare arousal.

"Oh god, you're a shameless..." Vaughn hesitated, seeming to search for the words. At the sound of Rhys’ not quite suppressed whimper, Vaughn gagged suddenly and seemed to give up on his search for an insulting description of his best friend. "Never mind, you're just shameless! Urgh, I need to kill as many brain cells as I can with bad tv now... Anything to get... this, out of my head. Just, oh god, never do this to me again!" He cried, just before the line clicked off into a dead and monotonous tone.

"No promises..." Rhys whispered, his teeth grazing over hos lower lip as he dropped his phone to his bed sheets, his now free hand gliding down over his bare shoulder to snag upon the tag he wore. "Oh god..." He murmured longingly, turning his wide eyed gaze to the ceiling as he curled his other hand around his cock, his heart hammering urgently in his chest. "I-ooohh..!" He gasped, his hips rolling forward as he panted quietly, sweat beading across his brow and his bare torso. His heart soared into his throat as he closed his eyes, relishing the motions of his hand while imagining another, stronger and firmer hand holding him.

Rhys lost track of time, focusing himself on the unusually intense sensations of desire and longing for a specific person which he felt. "Look at me now... ya hear?" He whispered lowly, a whimpering groan erupting from his throat when his arousal pulsed harder within him, but grew no closer to fruition. "Oh god... please..." He pleaded in a husky mutter.

Rhys forced his eyes to peel themselves open, lowering them to his feverish and flushed skin, and the cool metal tag which lay atop it. Where are you right now? He wondered distantly, his heart lurching as he considered what the other man might be doing. Are you out, seeking someone..? Or are you home alone, like me? Thinking... of me..? Like I am you..? He groaned with longing, imagining his former lover in such a similar predicament, desperately wishing he could know; wishing he could hear his low and husky drawl whispering in his ear once again. "Oh!" He cried, his body arching as a delicious peel of pleasure rippled through him, shivering down his spine enticingly; but still leaving him wanting. 

I could hear him... The thought struck him abruptly, accentuated by a sharp jolt of desire. He huffed as his hand slowed over his heated flesh, swallowing thickly as he turned his head and lowered his gaze to his abandoned phone. I could steal Vaughn's trick, hear his voice... and he'd never know... His free hand trembled, as he reached down and plucked the device from the covers, biting his lip as urgency welled in his gut.  "This is, urgh... this is so s-stupid..!" He rasped semi-deliriously, swiping at the screen until his number was successfully logged as withheld. His cheeks flushed as he scrolled through his numbers, finally hesitating over the only phone number he desired. His thundering heart stuttered, his hand squeezing his arousal almost painfully, as he pressed dial, and raised the phone to his ear; but muted his side of the call to be safe.

As the call rang on, Rhys felt suffused with excitement, regret, nausea and nervousness. He both hoped and dreaded the other man might answer, his breath quickening as adrenaline combined with his arousal. When the ringing in his ear stopped, his heart quickly mimicked it; pausing mid beat, before beginning to race frantically, rising to his throat as if trying to choke him. "... The hell is this and whaddaya want?" Rasped a familiar drawl, as Rhys’ breath hitched in excitement. "Hey, what the hells the matter with ya?" His teacher continued, as Rhys’ jaw slackened, his cheeks flushing with guilt and desire as he looked down at his lap, desperately wishing it were the other mans hand on him. "Whaddaya think ya playin' at, callin' at such a stupid hour?" 

Rhys whined needfully, clutching his phone to his ear with his shoulder, freeing his hand to grip the tag around his neck as he closed his eyes in an attempt to envision the other man before him. "Pfft, 's ya own bill ya addin' to asshole, not mine." His teacher snorted, seeming suddenly amused by the unending silence. "What, ain't got nothin' better to do?" He asked curiously, as Rhys bit his lip and heaved a shuddering breath, his heart thudding loudly against his chest. "What's the matter? Cat got ya tongue? Or ya just that in awe of me? I mean, I'm assumin' ya have actually seen me..." His teacher drawled, and Rhys choked at the low and snarky insinuation, his head slamming back against the headboard as a guttural groan escaped him.

"Oh god..." He whispered urgently, his chest heaving unevenly for breath as heat flared from his stomach, consuming him in a blaze of desire and need. "Please don't stop..." He pleaded, his hand beginning to tremble as he stroked himself.

"Look, whoever ya are, I got shit I need to be gettin' on with." His teacher finally snorted, and Rhys whined, shifting his weight and almost dropping his phone as his body arched and rocked itself urgently. "Fun as this was, I'm gonna have to skedaddle..." Rhys gasped suddenly, his body tensing at the familiar words; his mind flooded by the memory of his former lovers gentle touch and reluctant parting.

"Oh..." He choked, his breath catching in sporadic gasps as pleasure coursed through him. A wave of euphoria left him writhing  as his hand slowly stilled on his still pulsing flesh. "Mmm..!" He muffled his cried by biting his lip hard, his teeth close to breaking the skin as he swam in a haze of bliss he hoped never to surface from.

"Well, well, well..." His teacher drawled in his ear, drawing Rhys back from his near outer body experience. "Sounds like someone just had 'emselves a party for one." He added with a dry chuckle, as Rhys’ eyes snapped open, removing his hand from his former lovers tag with a soft clink and reaching quickly for his phone. He yelped indignantly as he checked the screen and found his call had been un-muted, realising that he must have caught the button when he'd almost dropped his phone. He slapped his opposing hand over his mouth, staring at his phone in disbelief as he heard his teacher laugh darkly. "Flatterin' as it is to know I just got ya rocks off by voice alone, I'm gonna warn ya fair... Ya better hope ya ain't who I think ya are, or-"

Rhys squawked an incoherent sound of distress, quickly mashing the button to end the call while still staring at the now empty screen. Oh god... He thought desperately, swallowing thickly around the lingering haze of his orgasm and euphoria. "Oh shit, shit, shit..." He muttered, though he felt himself breaking out in an irrepressible grin, his heart skipping alternate beats as laughter began to bubble within his chest. "Oh god..." He gasped, giggling wildly as he removed his hand from his mouth, his shock fading into amusement in light of his blissful high.

Lost amid the warmth of his euphoria and the lingering giddiness of his orgasmic rush, Rhys let his phone fall to his bed sheets, swiftly diving to the side to bury his face and smother his laughter in his pillows; content in that moment, that he'd just had the best experience of his life.

By the time he reached school the following morning however, his hollow stomach and jumping nerves were a vivid contrast to his prior post orgasmic bliss. "Oh god..." He muttered, reluctantly walking through the front doors, holding onto his bag strap with a deathly tight grip. "He's gonna kill me, he's actually, physically gonna kill m-ah!" He yelped, whirling guiltily when a hand settled on his arm.

"Dude, I want it on record that I was forced to binge watch bad tv for three hours last night, trying to forget... that... thing we are never mentioning." Vaughn groused, as Rhys sighed in relief and turned away, his heart racing as he began to move towards his locker again.

"You are such a drama queen sometimes." Rhys scoffed, glancing down the hallways nervously as he pushed his way through the crowds of other students. "C'mon, what was I supposed to do? I didn't know it was you-"

"You could just not answer your phone while you're... doing that!" Vaughn hissed, glaring at Rhys as he flushed with embarrassment and ducked his head. "You know, on principle! Like a normal person!"

"Vaughn," Rhys sighed, rolling his eyes as he paused and turned towards his friend, raising a brow as his lips twitched in amusement. "When is the last time I did anything like 'a normal person'?" He asked, snickering when Vaughn frowned and hitched his bag higher on his shoulder.

"Well, I mean... you made waffles last weekend..." Vaughn offered uncertainly, as Rhys laughed and stepped up to his locker, turning to lean against its neighbour so he could smirk at his friend.

"So my normality is decided by my ability to cook your breakfast at the weekend?" He snorted, shaking his head when Vaughn finally relaxed and grinned back at him. "Harsh, dude. Way harsh..." He sighed, turning and quickly opening his locker, biting his lip to stifle a half hysterical giggle as he recalled the lurid phone call he'd made. "But, uh... also probably kinda fitting." He choked, his breath quickening as he glanced around the hall anxiously.

Rhys guiltily flushed a deep shade of red, catching sight of his history teacher at the end of the hall. He made an indistinct sound of distress, dropping his things to the floor and quickly dropping to his knees to collect them, desperately hoping the older man hadn't spotted him. "Whoops splat..!" He giggled distractedly, grabbing the last of his things from the floor and rising to his feet while carefully hiding his face behind his armload. He glanced around the hallway again urgently, and was relieved to see his history teacher disappearing into a classroom. "Oh, thank god..." He murmured, stuffing some of his things into his locker and running a hand through his hair.

"Okay dude, seriously, what has got you so jumpy this morning?" Vaughn demanded, after several moments of discreetly observing Rhys’ constant fidgeting and obvious unease. "I mean, I thought it was just you feeling bad about facing me after what you did last night, but then I remembered; you're never ashamed of traumatizing me..."

"That's because you're just so darn cute when you're all flustered, buddy!" Rhys teased distractedly, before turning towards him with a frown. "And who's jumpy anyway? You're jumpy, you... weird, jumpy and... suspicious person!" He huffed, pouting as he stashed the last of his unnecessary books into his locker.

"I am not a suspicious person, assbutt, I just know you too well!" Vaughn protested, gazing at Rhys with a thoughtful frown and slowly narrowing his eyes as he debated quietly. "You did something last night." He said at last, smirking when Rhys immediately flushed a guilty pink.

"You already know what I did last night, assbutt..." Rhys scoffed haughtily, taking a moment to compose himself before casting his friend a sly glance. "Unless this is you asking for detai-"

"No! And I mean, after traumatizing me." Vaughn said quickly, waving his hand dismissively. "You did something else, didn't you?" He asked knowingly, folding his arms over his chest superiorly as Rhys squirmed.

"I don't know what you're talking about, assbutt." Rhys denied, his eyes shifting nervously down the hall, before cutting back to his friend. "You're just determined to think the worst of me." He added with a half playful pout.

"No, Rhys, I repeat; I just know you too damn well." Vaughn snorted, smirking as his gaze shifted over Rhys’ shoulder and tipping his head towards something he saw. "Ooh, hey look, here comes your new lover boy..." He teased, laughing as Rhys whirled with an indignant squeak, his eyes widening when he came face to face with Axton Turret.

"Oh!" Rhys gasped, overcome by relief and disappointment together. "Axton..." He said awkwardly, casting an annoyed glance at Vaughn, who hummed to himself and obliviously continued to rummage in his locker. "Uh, good to see you?"

"Really?" Axton chuckled, smiling winningly. "Is that why you look like you were just told you have to ride a snake or something?" He asked, slinging his bag to his shoulder.

"Hey," Rhys scoffed, recovering himself and forcing a confident grin to his face. "I will have you know, that uh 'snake riding,' is kind of my specialty." He said, winking cockily and smirking when Axton's eyes widened. "Though I admit, they're usually only the one eyed variety." He added.

"I see." Axton said slowly, his eyes lowering as he inspected Rhys with obvious sudden interest, and Rhys felt himself stiffen, regretting his flirtatious response. "I'll have to bear that in mind, just in case I ever need your uh, help... with that..." He said, his cheeks staining with a heavy blush.

Oh shit... Rhys thought, realisation coursing through him, as he tried to maintain his laid back expression. "Hmm..." He hummed noncommittally, clearing his throat as he moved to turn towards Vaughn, when Axton reached out and set a hand on his forearm gently. 

"Wait, Rhys, there was actually something I wanted to ask you..." He began, as Rhys’ heart lurched, panic choking him as he gazed at Axton with his face carefully arranged into polite curiosity. "I was wondering, if you would-"

"What the hell do y'all think ya doin', standin' around in the hall?" Drawled a new voice, causing Rhys to jump in surprise and jerk himself around to face their history teacher.

"Nothing, sir!" He said, his relief almost palpable around him as his shoulders sagged, instinctively relaxing around the other man. "I mean, we were just putting our things away, sir, then we just started talking about a class we have later; planning our goals and... stuff. Mr. Flynt, sir." He said awkwardly, forcing himself to ignore his wildly racing heart and keep his cool, as he smiled shyly but tried to keep his cool.

"Ya oughta be doin' that sorta sh-tuff in ya own time." Their history teacher insisted, his eyes darting to Axton and Vaughn quickly, before returning to Rhys. "Y'all got phones after all, right?" He asks pointedly, his gaze locking onto Rhys intently.

"Yes, sir." Rhys drawled, doing his best to rearrange his expression into something both innocent and mildly confused. "I was on the phone to Vaughn about it last night, sir, but I don't have Axton's number, so we had to just meet up to discuss it, sir." He added, biting back a grin at the way his teachers eyes flashed dangerously, over his repeated use of the word 'sir'.

"Well, you would have had my number if you'd returned my text last night." Axton said easily, causing Rhys’ heart to clench painfully, when his teacher seemed to stiffen almost imperceptibly, glancing towards the athlete sharply. "But, it was only saying the same as I just did; that I wanted to ask you to-"

"What can I say dude," Rhys said loudly, forcing a strained laugh as he glanced between his teacher and his classmate. "I can only handle one person at a time." He said, looking over at Vaughn with a raised brow when he snorted and grinned, waving his brows suggestively.

"That's not what you said after you watched that por-" he began smugly, as Rhys felt his cheeks burn with sudden, deep embarrassment.

"Okay, that was a private conversation and entirely different!" He hissed to his best friend, scowling at him and moving to jab him not so gently in the shoulder, only for Vaughn to snigger and dodge away from the blow. "I meant I can only handle one person, on the phone, at a time!" He scathed, glancing at his teachers faintly amused expression and blushing even harder. "Or, uh, in person! Because that'd just be... uh, you know what? We should really be getting to class!" He said suddenly, grabbing his bag and catching Vaughn by the elbow.

"I uh, I guess I'll talk to you in drama, Rhys..?" Axton asked with a small frown, as Rhys began to hurry Vaughn up, stashing his remaining unnecessary books for him. "We have our group project to perform, right?" He queried, as he stepped back and half turned away.

"Yep. See you then, Axton!" Rhys said firmly, as he began desperately trying to move Vaughn, who was stubbornly making himself heavy and immovable. "So help me, I will disown our friendship and forbid you from my Sunset Beach collection." He hissed in Vaughn's ear, scowling as his friend smirked wickedly.

"No, you won't." He snickered knowingly, far too amused for Rhys’ liking. "Besides, I rarely get to be the powerful one in this relationship. Let me enjoy this, dude..." He teased, grinning broadly at Rhys’ obviously frustration.

"I hate you so much right now, dude." Rhys snarked, narrowing his eyes when Vaughn merely smiled wider in response. "Sorry for taking up your time, sir, we'll be on our way in just... a second..." He said determinedly, gritting his teeth as he glanced at their frowning teacher and flashed him a grimace like smile.

Their history teacher raised a brow, as he folded his arms over his chest. "Ya feelin' guilty about somethin' there, Boy Scout?" He asked pointedly, his gaze dipping to Vaughn briefly, before returning to Rhys’ face, his sharp heterochromia gaze seemingly searching for signs of deception. "What, done somethin' ya know ya shouldn't of this mornin'? Or last night?" He asked, as Rhys’ heart skipped a beat.

"Sorry, sir." He said as evenly as he could, flashing what he hoped was a more convincing grin. "I'm very boring. I literally went to sleep right after I got off the phone last night." He said, his breath catching briefly as their teachers eyes flashed. "Vaughn and I were talking about our performance!" He blurted quickly, pinching Vaughn discreetly when he opened his mouth to contradict his statement.

"That so?" Their teacher drawled thoughtfully, scrubbing a hand across his stubbled jaw and narrowing his eyes briefly. "Performance, huh?" He asked, a calculating gleam entering his gaze as he pondered something. "And uh, when is that, exactly?"

"During drama class." Rhys said tightly, narrowing his own eyes in suspicion of his teachers sudden interest. "Is there anything else I can do for you, sir? After all, we really should be on our way." He asked in a deliberate sneer, raising a challenging brow to his teacher as the older man snorted in amusement and surprised.

"Fourth period." Vaughn supplied helpfully, grinning at Rhys when he spun to his friend with an irritated glare. "We're in the auditorium to perform one of our final pieces for the year... Its like, thirty five percent of our final grade." He added, ignoring Rhys’ murderous expression.

"Well, well..." Their history teacher drawled, as Rhys’ blood began to simmer in his veins, arousal warring with embarrassment at the familiar tone and words. "What a coincidence. Just so happens, I ain't got nothin' to do about then..." He said, smirking when Rhys glanced toward him sharply.

"Aren't teachers supposed to grade things during free periods?" Vaughn asked, his brow furrowing slightly, though his amused attention remained more consumed by Rhys’ obvious frustration.

"Eh, guess I feel like breakin' a few rules today." Their teacher replied with a shrug, as Rhys’ gaze locked onto him intently. "'Sides, everyone needs a break some time." He added, smirking as he offered them a rough, two fingered salute. "Maybe I'll see ya then, Cupcake... Nerdy Guy." He drawled, backing away as Rhys gazed after him, frowning as a pit of dread began to curdle within his gut.

"Vaughn..?" He asked uncertainly, watching their history teacher weave through the thinning students. "Have I mentioned how I hate you?" He continued, scowling over at his friend, after their teacher turned into a different hall.

"Yeah..." Vaughn snickered unrepentantly, finally allowing himself to be moved. "I love you too, assbutt." He said smugly, grinning wickedly as he followed Rhys to their first class.

As the day crawled past, Rhys felt his nerves escalate, his stomach cramping more insistently as he drew closer to his fourth class; nervous that his teacher might have been serious about his stopping by to see Rhys’ performance. When the time finally came, he stepped into the auditorium with his bag strap held close across his chest, prepared to flee should he feel the need to. "Dude, you look like Frodo Baggins, setting out on his quest to destroy the ring..." He rolled his eyes at Vaughn's teasing, turning to find his friend watching him with a smirk. "I have never seen you this nervous about performing dude, this is... this is just priceless."

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up buddy." Rhys grumbled, sniffing in disdain as he strolled forward and dumped his bag into his friends lap. "I'm still the best damn thing anyone will see in this performance."

"Ha, I like your confidence." Axton said, sidling over with Salvador, Fiona and Tina. "With that outlook, we'll all end up passing for sure." He said, throwing his arm around Rhys’ shoulder companionably.

"Uh, thanks... Axton..." Rhys said slowly, smiling uneasily as he glanced at Vaughn pleadingly. "We all make a uh, a good work team." He added, coughing awkwardly as Vaughn made no effort to help him and merely continued trying, and failing, to contain his laughter. "So, uh..." He said, clearing his throat as he shifted his weight awkwardly, trying to dislodge Axton's arm without openly removing it; hoping not to offend him. "Everyone ready?" He asked, looking around his group curiously.

"Chyeah, amigo!" Sal cheered, sharing a high five with first Axton and then Vaughn, the latter wincing and shaking his hand out after from the jocks excessive force. "Whoops, sorry little bro..." He laughed, as Vaughn chuckled and waved him off.

"So, Rhys... I wanted to ask you something," Axton said, leaning closer to Rhys and steering him slightly away from their group. Rhys tensed, shooting Vaughn a pleading look which he didn't see, too occupied in an animated discussion with Sal about Battlestar Galactica. "It's just, I know you tend to go stag with Vaughn and all, but I think you're-" Rhys only heard half of Axton's hesitant speech as he continued separating them from their friends, his attention locked onto the back of the auditorium; where their history teacher was leaning against the wall.

Oh god no, he can't be here... He thought urgently, his heart lurching violently as he imagined the older man watching his groups performance. "Uh, I don't feel so good!" He blurted suddenly, jerking himself free of Axton's hold and skittering away from him, unable to deny the small thrill he felt when the older mans eyes narrowed slightly; though his expression was carefully controlled, to reveal nothing of his thoughts. "I think I'm gonna just-"

"Rhys, c'mon assbutt, it's our slot!" Vaughn called, as Rhys felt the edge of panic begin teasing itself into his heart. "Dude, what are you doing? C'mon already..." He urged, frowning when Rhys remained locked in place.

"I uh, I'm not feeling well." He said weakly, partially telling the truth as he was overwhelmed by nausea. "I think I'm gonna go see the nurse, and um... just, not be here." He trailed off at his friends raised brow, swallowing as he glanced back at his history teacher; whose expression remained unreasonably stoic. This is going to make everything worse... He thought knowingly, his gut cramping with dread as he imagined the other mans response. "I... I forgot my lines!" He added unconvincingly, as Vaughn snorted and walked over, snagging him by the elbow and dragging him over to the stage.

"Dude please, you'll be fine. You have like, a sponge for a brain when it comes to this sort of thing. I've never known you to forget a song lyric in your life." He said reassuringly, unwittingly making Rhys’ uneasiness worse. "Trust me, once you're on that stage you'll give an A-star, award winning performance; and anything you think you've forgotten, you'll remember flawlessly."

"That's what I'm afraid of..." Rhys muttered, stumbling on the final step as Vaughn shoved him up to the stage. He glanced to the back of the room nervously, where their history teacher appeared to be locked into a quiet discussion with Principal Kincaid. Oh god... He thought, swallowing down his nerves as his group hopped up onto the stage and got into their starting positions.

Rhys bounced on the balls of his feet nervously, glancing back at his group and looking around the rest of the auditorium quickly, before forcing himself to push his nerves aside for the sake of his teammates. With a final deep breath, the group launched into the short story they'd been given. Rhys and his friends worked fluidly together over the next forty-five minutes, weaving a convincing scene of longing, lust and the hesitant journey to self expression.

Rhys felt his skin prickle with sweat, his heart skipping a beat as his friends took their concluding positions around the stage, leaving him to saunter over to Axton to begin their finale. After a moment of carefully trailing after Axton, Rhys made a show of gathering his nerve, quickly stepping up to kiss him on the cheek. Almost instantly, his friends feigned shocked expressions, and Rhys rushed across the stage to hold his hands to his face as if shocked by his own boldness.

"Everybody screamed..." He sang lowly, pausing to allow his friends to stage excited cries and flood across the stage. "When I kissed the teacher..." He continued, his face flooding with heat as he glanced at the back of the room nervously, though his former lovers expression gave away nothing of his thoughts about their performance. "And they must have thought they dreamed, when I kissed the teacher..."

"All my friends at school, they had never seen the teacher blush, he looked like a fool..." He sang, slowly turning around his friends as if they were trying to pry details from him, ducking his head as if embarrassed. "Nearly petrified... 'cause he was taken by surprise!" He cried, dashing away from his friends to the centre of the stage, and turning to the audience dramatically. "When I kissed the teacher... couldn't quite believe his eyes, when I kissed the teacher." He continued, falling into an easy dance routine with Tina and Vaughn, twirling gracefully between each other.

"My whole class went wild... as I held my breath, the world stood still, but then he just smiled..." Rhys sang, slipping away from the others as he sidled across the stage slowly, leaning against a small table prop and fanning himself. "I was in the seventh heaven, when I kissed the teacher!" He drawled, flashing a shy smile to the audience before darting away and hopping up onto a table between Fiona and Tina.

"One of these days!" He cried, throwing his arms in the air and rolling his hips suggestively, throwing a coy wink into the crowd. "Gonna tell him I dream of him every night! One of these days... gonna show him I care, gonna teach him a lesson alright..!" He crooned, pirouetting in time with Fiona and Tina atop their tables.

"I was in a trance... when I kissed the teacher." Rhys sang, pausing and swaying his hips gently as he tapped his feet lightly across the tabletop. "Suddenly, I took the chance... when I kissed the teacher." He continued, kneeling down at the edge of the table as Axton walked over, making a show of looking at whatever work Salvador and Vaughn were feigning. "Leaning over me..." He said, as Axton stepped closer and pointed towards the area Rhys’ work would have been had he been sat at the table. "He was trying to explain, the laws of geometry... And I couldn't help it, I just had to kiss the teacher..." He crooned, surging upwards to kiss Axton's other cheek before darting upright again.

"One of these days!" Rhys sang, spreading his arms around the audience and sliding to the opposite side of the table. "Gonna tell him I dream of him every night..." He sang, tapping his feet energetically in a tandem with Fiona and Tina. "One of these days, gonna show him I care, gonna teach him a lesson alright..." He continued, panting for breath quickly as he chanced a glance to the back of the room. His eyes met a heavy, piercing gaze, his teachers emotions carefully held back from his face, though Rhys felt himself encouraged by the fact he hadn't already left.

"What a crazy day," he continued to sing, shimmying on the table in sync with Fiona and Tina, twirling and gliding across the surface deftly. "When I kissed the teacher... All my sense had flown away, when I kissed the teacher." He continued, his eyes returning unconsciously to the back of the room whenever he faced forward.

"My whole class went wild..." He sang lightly, a smile curling his lips as he shook his hips provocatively, certain he noticed his history teachers lip quirk upwards briefly. "As I held my breath, the world stood still, but then he just smiled!" He cried, pirouetting to the edge of the table, where Salvador lifted him onto his shoulder and flipped him around in a quick and intricate motion; before depositing him back on the stage, to twirl to the far side and join Axton. "I was in the seventh heaven..." Rhys sang honestly, his eyes meeting his history teachers for a smoldering heartbeat. "When I kissed the teacher!" He crooned jauntily, his heart soaring into his throat as he felt Axton's arm curl about his waist.

Rhys finally tore his eyes free of his former lovers, his heart racing as he moved to kiss Axton's cheek again; only for the sharp shooter to duck his head and instead capture Rhys’ lips in a soft kiss. What the-! He thought, freezing in confusion and staring at Axton with wide eyes when he released Rhys a moment later.

"Sorry, but I've been trying to talk to you for a couple of days now..." Axton said unapologetically, though his lips curved into a semi guilty grin. Rhys blinked at him dazedly, shaking his head as he sucked in a sudden deep breath and turned to the stairs at the edge of the stage. "I just, I was wondering if you would come to the dance with me, this weekend..?" Axton called after him, as Rhys dove down the stairs and hurried away to his things.

Why? Why now? Why this? Why was he here?!  His thoughts cascaded together, disjointed and urgent as each clamoured for his attention. His rapid breathing slowly began to ease, as he forced himself to take deep breaths and scrubbed his hands over his face. I thought... for a moment it looked like- his thought cut off abruptly as he felt someone step up behind him, and he sighed as he shook his head slowly. "Look, Axton, I'm flattered and all but I really don't think-"

"Sorry Kiddo, ya boyfriends still on stage." Rhys tensed at the familiar drawl, whirling around in surprise to face the older man. "But don't worry he's on his way, and I'm sure y'all be holdin' hands and skippin' down the halls in no time." He said, folding his arms over his chest in an almost defensive manner.

Rhys swallowed thickly, shaking his head as his eyes cut towards his classmate. "Axton's not my boyfriend, hell, he's hardly even a friend in all honesty... He's just, a classmate. A guy I happen to know." He said, shrugging a shoulder in awkward dismissal. 

"Heh, ya spend an awful lotta time with someone who ain't ya boyfriend then, Kiddo." His history teacher scoffed, and Rhys frowned at the continued avoidance of his nickname. "How many guys do ya happen to 'just know' anyway?" He asked pointedly, and Rhys couldn't help but flinch at the obvious insinuation.

"Less than most people would probably assume." He said tightly, his hand curling into a fist and half rising to the tag beneath his shirt, before he quickly shifted his aim and ran his hand over his hair instead. "But certainly enough, I guess. Considering that I've not even actually had a boyfriend." He added, hoping to erase the strange hostility between them with a small dose of honesty.

"Pfft, sure thing, Kiddo." His history teacher snorted, frowning at Rhys when he gazed at the man reproachfully. Finally he shook his head, looking away from Rhys with a tightness in his gaze. "Ya sure put on a good show, by the way. Ya clearly a damn good actor." He drawled innocently, though the words caused Rhys’ heart to sink like a stone in water. "Y'all go far, knowin' how to fake it so well-"

"Don't." Rhys said firmly, swallowing thickly as his former lover glanced back at him. "Don't take that away from me." He pleaded in a quieter tone, low enough for only their ears. "Please." He added, knowing from the way his history teacher looked away that he understood his reference to their intimate acquaintence. 

His former lover drew in a deep breath, clearing his throat as he took a pointed step back. "Sorry, Kiddo, but its for the best." He said, shaking his head as if waking from a daze; while Rhys felt his heart glaze over with a chill frost, his eyes stinging with tears of frustration and betrayal. His history teacher glanced at the stage, and his lip curled in distaste. "Don't worry... looks like ya boyfriends ready to whisk ya away."

Rhys followed the other mans gaze distractedly, to find Axton moving towards them cautiously. His heart ached at the older mans clear dismissal and as his frustration rose, he found himself welcoming the other boy, as opposed to sending him away as he wished. "Hey, Axton." He said thickly, his tongue sluggish and uncooperative as he looked back at his former lover, noticing the man quickly averting his eyes. "Sorry for dashing off... never been asked to a dance before." He said, the words empty as his eyes remained on his teacher, who finally met his eyes with a cool and careful disdain that shattered Rhys’ remaining hopes and dreams of a reconciliation. "I'd love to go with you." He said, his gaze hardening as his hollow response hung heavily between himself and his teacher; the air thick with his longing, and his former lovers clear rejection.

Their history teacher snorted, glancing at Axton as he approached, a wide smile forming as Rhys’ acceptance registered. Rhys watched the older mans expression twist into a sneer, his mismatched eyes returning to him with a hint of frustration which made Rhys’ heart tense. "Ya'll make a perfect couple." He sniffed quietly, frowning as Rhys gazed back at him hollowly, the other mans tech tag resting against his skin, hidden beneath his shirt. 

"Thankyou for saying so, sir." He said, lowering his eyes as he swallowed heavily. "At least this way, someone will be happy." He choked, reaching for his things and gathering them up quickly. "Excuse me, sir. I really need to get going, sir." He said, slinging his bag onto his shoulder. "Detention, sir." He said, his voice breaking as he looked back up at his teacher briefly, who seemed taken aback by Rhys’ obvious emotional state. He stepped aside with a frown, allowing Rhys to dart past him before Axton could catch him. 

"Thankyou, sir." Rhys spat viciously, masking his distress as best he could as he fled the auditorium. He hurried through the halls blindly, his feet moving as if on autopilot as his breath hitched, his heart aching in ways he hadn't known were possible. "Oh god..." He choked as he reached the quad outside, the crisp October air causing his flushed skin to prickle uncomfortably. He paused in the chill air, panting lightly as he turned his gaze to the dull grey sky; unable to fight off the ache in his throat, or to hold back his grief, as his heart undeniably broke.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

The Red Strokes.

 

Jack grit his teeth, carefully moderating his breathing as he gripped the pull up bar of a workout frame in the school gym, raising and lowering himself slowly as he relished the burn in his muscles. His bare shoulders were slick with perspiration, his heart thudding in a pleasant, monotonous rhythm as he worked his body with military precision and dedication.

Concentrate, Lawrence. Focus. Breathe, up, breathe, down. He thought, occupying his mind with the exact kind of boring drills he had always hated when he was still in the Hyperion Espionage Unit. Breathe, up, breathe, down. He thought, grunting in quiet frustration as his arms began to shake, over strained by the physical and mental exercise. He scowled in determination, tightening his grip on the bar and growling with effort. Breathe... up... breathe... down...

Finally Jack dropped to the floor with an irritated scoff, landing lightly on his feet and reluctantly released the right control on his mind, as he glared down at the floor. C'mon, Lawrence, get a goddamn grip. This ain't some dumbass game, this is Zane's career. It's his name gonna be dragged through the mud... I can't do that to him. Besides, Rhys’... He's a goddamn kid, a minor, a... a fuckin' pain the bloody ass. He thought, walking slowly to a towel he'd set out on the gym bench beneath his shirt and waistcoat. He grabbed the red towel, patting his face dry before rubbing his arms and chest down quickly. "I did what I had to." He told himself, the words as empty and hollow as the countless other times he'd tried to convince himself.

So then, why do I feel like such an asshole? He asked himself, shaking his head as he sucked in a slow, deep breath and exhaled it heavily. Because... He thought grimly, closing his eyes for a brief moment. All I can see when I close my eyes, is that goddamn look he gave me... Like I just fed him his own, carved up heart. Jack sighed tiredly, his lack of sleep over the past two evenings making him feel weary and aged, especially with the added exhaustion of his excessive workouts.

"Goddamn it..." He sighed, opening his eyes and tossing his towel back on the bench, before moving away to a nearby sink. He scrubbed his hand over his jaw as he examined his reflection, noting the dark shadows beneath his eyes and the short, coarse stubble which covered his jaw. "Ah, hell..." He grumbled, scowling and shaking his head as he ran a sink full of water. He bent low over the bowl as he splashed his face several times, before scooping up his hair with one hand and cupping a handful of water with the other, dribbling it across the back of his neck. 

When he was finished he allowed his hair to fall back into place and straightened, leaning his palms upon the edge of the sink and gazing at his reflection again, as if expecting some vast difference to have occurred in the moments he wasn't examining himself. Thankyou for saying so, sir. At least this way, someone will be happy. Jack eyes slid closed once more, inhaling deeply through his nose as he swallowed thickly; remembering in vivid detail, the way which Rhys had seemed to crumble before him, until the younger had finally fled. Excuse me, sir. I really need to get going, sir. Detention, sir. He recalled, gritting his teeth and growling quietly at the sickening swirl of nausea in his gut, as he gripped the sink tighter and opened his eyes to glare at himself.

"What the hell're ya doin', ya dumb bastard?" He muttered to his reflection, narrowing his eyes when his mirrored twin remained silent and unhelpful. "It ain't worth all this goddamn drama. He pissed me off, I pissed him off; its a mutual pissin' off... and its for the best, anyhow." He drawled determinedly, though the twinge of guilt in his heart reminded him that it wasn't entirely true that it'd been Rhys’ fault. Why was I so pissed off..? He wondered again, his tongue swiping across his upper lip as he sighed and shook his head, his brows raising incredulously as he turned away and returned to his things.

Okay, I weren't exactly happy about that stupid phone call, but I can't prove it was him anyway... though who the hell else is it gonna be? He snorted, grabbing his towel and using a different section of the fabric to dry himself off slowly. The performance? That god-awful song! Okay, so yeah, I could've throttled him for that shit but... even that kinda seemed more amusin' than annoyin'... Jack dropped his towel and reached for his shirt, his hand pausing on the peg as he hung his head and drew in a deep, considering breath. So, why the hell did I chew him out so damn hard? He wondered again, determinedly smothering the tiny voice which screamed that he knew exactly what it was.

'Bout five foot nine, short blond hair, focused eyes, wicked aim. Jack grit his teeth against the unwelcome intrusion to his thoughts, snarling as he roughly pulled his shirt from the peg and shoved his arms into the sleeves viciously. C'mon, Lawrence, ya know it's true. He thought to himself snidely, as he scowled and continued to dress himself with rough, jerking motions.

"It ain't." He denied darkly, his eyes narrowing as his gaze turned distant, seeing straight through the gym as his mind returned to the day in question. He remembered catching sight of Rhys first thing in the morning, heading over to where he stood by his locker, intending to demand an explanation for the night before. He'd been entirely certain that it had been the cocky little shit on the phone, almost positive from the moment he'd overheard the breathy, muffled sounds of pleasure which so well matched those which were already burned into his memory. 

He'd made towards Rhys intently the following morning, determined to wrangle a confession from the ballsy little idiot, only to pull up short, when he'd seen the tall hot shot sniper star sidling up to him. Jack’s eyes narrowed, his fingers pausing halfway through buttoning his shirt, remembering the way his body had reacted, flushing with heat as an irrational storm of irritation began to simmer in his chest. He'd watched Rhys’ awkward interactions for a moment, his body language screaming that he wanted to be anywhere other than where he was, which had been frustratingly soothing to the irritation Jack had felt. But then he started bloody flirtin'... so maybe his body language was a lie. I saw for myself, what a good little actor he can be. Jack thought, shaking himself from his daze and moving to finish buttoning his shirt. 'Snake riding' is kind of my specialty. Rhys had said, and Jack's teeth had snapped together sharply, as he watched him regain his confidence, winking and smirking while the sharp shooter had practically leered all over him. Though I admit, they're usually only the ‘one eyed’ variety. Jack had almost strode over then, had even taken several slow steps forward, fully intending on throttling Rhys for encouraging the big shot. Luckily Rhys had seemed to realise his mistake, trying to ease himself out of the situation he'd landed himself in, only for the hot shot superstar to touch him.

Like he's just some sort of fuckin' pet. Jack growled at the familiar, irritating thought his temper flaring as it had that morning. He'd been unable to stop himself from marching over, barking at them like he supposed a real teacher might have, if they'd actually been doing anything wrong. Rhys’ relief at his intervention had been clear, his shoulders relaxing as he babbled but smiled shyly, unwittingly causing Jack's body to react in a highly inappropriate manner. Gotta hand it to him, little shit can handle himself pretty well. He admitted begrudgingly, reaching distractedly for his waistcoat and slipping it onto his shoulders.

Rhys had held his own against Jack, further impressing him, much to Jack's frustration a d amusement both. His face had been the picture of innocence as Jack had prodded him about his phone, and he'd deliberately goaded him by repeatedly calling him 'sir', though thankfully never so luridly as he had the night they'd met. Jack had been about to give in and potentially allow himself a few words of flirtation, reluctantly impressed with Rhys’ collected and calm responses, when his irritation had returned tenfold. It shouldn't have bothered me... It shouldn't bother me now. Ain't none of my business who's number Rhys has. He told himself, shaking his head as he looked down at his fingers, deftly buttoning his waistcoat and finally smoothing it down over his chest to tuck the hem into his trousers waistband.

Course, then his short little sidekick started talkin', and it was like seein' a whole different side of him... He thought, leaning one hand against the pegs he'd hung his clothes on distractedly. Rhys’ reaction to his friends teasing, had been more than worth the irritation he'd felt at whatever interest the sharp shooter had been showing. Without being intrusive, Jack had gotten to see a brief glimpse of the Rhys beneath the cocky façade he seemed to keep in place, the behaviour too similar to Jack's own to truly fool him. Seein' him blush such a pretty colour was a nice little bonus too... He thought, his lips twitching with remembered amusement at Rhys’ embarrassment. Jack had been unable to help himself, needling him once again about the lurid phone call he'd received and attempting to decipher if he were truly innocent; though Jack hadn't wanted to consider the implications if he were.

Then he mentioned that damn performance... Jack thought with a sigh, gripping the clothes peg tighter as he fought off a wave of regret in his chest, before pushing away and heading back to the sink. If I hadn't gone... He thought slowly, swallowing thickly and watching the motion of his throat in his reflection. I thought it'd put him on edge, make him slip again... And alright, seein' him flustered and panickin' when he saw me was pretty... He bit the thought off quickly, preventing it from straying into dangerous territory. But then that stupid song cropped up! He grimaced, gritting his teeth as he ran some fresh water and dipped his fingers in, before raising them to run through his hair, sweeping it back from his face smartly. But that weren't the worst part. I could get past that, 'cause when he looked at me, it was like... like it was just me and him, foolin' around. Which is dumb enough as it is... He thought, scowling at himself with a deep huff, before finally turning away and heading out of the gym.

I was over the shock of the stupid song, and honestly, he's got a good set of lungs on him... heh, which I guess I knew anyway. He thought, his lips curling into a small smirk, despite his best efforts. But then, dumbass Hot Shot went and bloody- Jack's hands balled at his sides as he walked stiffly through the school towards his classroom, his smirk vanishing from his face as he clenched his jaw tightly. He recalled the way Rhys had looked at him, the smoldering gaze they'd shared which had almost crumbled Jack's already weakened resolve. He recalled how every feeling of warmth and bubbling desire; had evaporated sharply, upon the snipers deliberate dip to kiss Rhys.

Everything Jack had been tentatively contemplating, every ridiculous notion of how mature Rhys was and how much he wanted him, the thoughts of offering to wait for him to be legal, and even the forbidden thoughts of confessing his identity; every fond thought he'd had over the morning was erased with a single kiss. Jack's heart had raced, as he watched Rhys rush from the stage, pushing away from the wall and casually making his way over to him. Blood had rushed in his ears, as he glanced to the stage to see the sniper star gazing at the glowy blue hair streak girl whom he sat beside in Jack's class, clearly locked into some sort of heated, wordless exchange. 

However, Jack couldn't see past the sudden irritation he felt towards the sniping superstar, his hands clenching as he'd looked at the hot shot; only able to see him with his lips against Rhys’. As he made his way towards Rhys, Jack felt the previously rising affection and softening thoughts turn to outrage and disbelief. By the time he'd stepped up behind him, Jack was left with nothing but bitterness and scathing in his heart, to the point where he'd been unable to even bring himself to use his pet name for Rhys. I was a dick. He thought with a heavy sigh, strolling into his classroom and glancing around the empty desks, his eyes lingering at the back of the class before dropping down to his own desk. But it was the right thing to do. I mean, Christ.... I was seriously considerin' tellin' him about Zane, about me... He thought, scoffing as he grabbed his lesson plan and checked the days classes, grimacing when he spotted Rhys’ class in the second hours slot.

"Get it together." He told himself quietly but firmly, straightening and walking to the window as the bell sounded, voices beginning to echo down the hall as students began to arrive. It's just one hour, and I don't even have to look in his direction. He thought, clicking his tongue as he gazed down at the parking lot briefly, half tempted to throw in the towel and head home. With a regretful sigh, he turned back to his desk and began sorting through his various stacks of mock exams lining them across the head of his table for each class. Within minutes, students began to filter in through the door and Jack drew in a deep breath, fully expecting the day to be a long one.

After the first hour, Jack found himself proven both right and wrong. His first class had been almost peaceful, and had passed quickly enough that he'd barely noticed the passage of time. His second hour, however, was not looking to prove so easy. Rhys had been one of the first students to enter with his short friend, walking quietly to the back of the room and taking his seat without a fuss. Don't look, don't look, don't bloody look- his thoughts melted into a sigh of frustration, as his eyes cut across the other students to where Rhys sat at with his friend, seeming tired and withdrawn as he gazed out the window beside him with a disinterested expression.

"Ahem, uh... y'all need to turn to page three oh six." Jack said, clearing his throat as the last few students took their seats and grabbed their books to comply. "We're gonna be lookin' at the air raid itself and how they could've better equipped 'emselves..." He added, turning to glance at his teachers guide.

"Amigo, they're all planes with bombs." The beefy jerk scoffed to his neighbour cheerfully, gesturing to the black and white pictures of a spitfire plane. "They're all pretty small though... Maybe they could've got something a little flashier, yeah?"

"Hey, shut ya mouth ya uncultured little brat." Jack snorted, scowling in disbelief as he gestured to the pictures. "Those were the best damn planes of the century, ya ask me. What I wouldn't give to take one out for a spin." He said, shaking his head ruefully. "But apparently they're all locked up in museums and it's insultin' to ask." He sulked petulantly, glancing at the class when some of them began to chuckle quietly. "What?" He demanded, scowling around the class suspiciously.

"You can fly planes, dude sir?" The large boy asked, his eyes wide as saucers as he stared at Jack in awe. "Like, legit and legal? Not just, like as a prank which may or may not go wrong and result in a rival school being temporarily closed?"

Jack raised a brow, both impressed and disturbed by the image presented by the large boys rambling. He glanced at the back of the class with a frown, noticing that Rhys was casting nervous looks between Jack and the other students. Shit... He thought, hesitating as he tapped the edge of his desk thoughtfully. Rhys glanced toward him again, and Jack was irritated to find himself overwhelmed by the urge to apologize to his previous harsh words. He pushed the thought from his mind, resolving himself to maintain the distance he'd finally established between them; regardless of whether he wanted to or not. 

Why the fuck not? Not like things can get anymore fucked up at this point... He thought with regard to the jocks question, grimacing as he folded his arms over his chest and glared around the class. "As a matter of fact, I can. Though, uh... legal might be pushin’ it a little." He said, feeling awkward beneath the interested gazes of the class and especially; beneath Rhys’ intense gaze, which he could feel on his skin like a branding iron.

"Man, that is bad-ass!" The big guy exclaimed, and Jack couldn't help but huff and roll his eyes at the excitement in his voice. "Have you flown planes like these? With bombs and guns and stuff, sir?" He asked eagerly, as Jack scratched the back of his neck and moved to sit on the front of his desk.

"Have you flown anywhere pretty?" The girl with the hat asked curiously before he could answer, leaning forward on one elbow as she scowled at him and blushed; as if embarrassed by her own interest, while the scruffy kid in the next seat glanced over at her. "Beautiful island paradises? Places with, ya know like... jungles and flowers and waterfalls?"

"Where exactly did a history teacher learn to fly?" Sneered the attitude riddled boy, his cheeks flushing slightly as hat girl showed such obvious, if embarrassed interest. Jack grit his teeth and scowled at the obnoxious kid, determinedly ignoring Rhys’ concerned glance as he sniffed and forced his expression into a cocky grin.

"Well, Chuckles, it was mostly in the Galactic Academy... but I admit some of it was self taught." He snickered, winking at the girl with blue streaks in her hair, as she gave an impressed whistle. "Only the real fun stuff though, 'cause the bigwigs don't approve teachin’ fancy shit like that." He added casually, smirking when the temperamental kid scowled and looked away.

"What classes as fun stuff, sir?" Asked the short guy beside Rhys, and Jack glanced over at them thoughtfully, noticing the way which Rhys was leaning on his desk and paying near rapt attention. Jack couldn't help the way his heart skipped a beat, undeniably and frustratingly pleased that the younger still seemed to be interested in him; despite his best efforts to continue ignoring him.

"Heh, wouldn't you like to know?" He huffed, his eyes meeting Rhys’ as the youngers lips twitched with amusement at the reference, and Jack quickly looked away as Rhys ducked his head to hide his slowly growing smile. Jack's frustration from the past few days seemed to both ease and multiply, his conflicting emotions making it difficult to stick to his decision to maintain distance between himself and his former lover.

"Wait, amigo, if you was in the Galactic Army, does that mean you got to fight in any wars?" The loud mouthed jerk demanded, his hands gripping the table as he leaned forward eagerly. “Did you get to use any guns? Real guns? Big guns?!” He demanded in rapid fire, as Jack raised a brow and shook his head shoulder

"Probably not the kind your thinkin', Big Guy... But sure, I guess." Jack said as he recovered from his disbelief, shrugging his shoulders dismissively. He looked around the room at the enthralled faces, vaguely amused by their fascination. He caught movement from the corner of his eye, and spotted Rhys shaking his head, locked in a brief, but seemingly heated discussion with his friend. "I was on Pandora about a year ago. Me and my partner were often behind enemy lines, surveyin' the terrain or makin' routine..." Jack paused, trailing off into silence as he lowered his eyes to his lap, momentarily lost to thoughts of his past.

"So, uh..." Jack shook his head, making a conscious effort to draw himself from his memories at the tentative voice which called out to him, after an awkward pause. "If you were in the Army, how come you came to be our teacher, sir?" Asked the dark girl with dreads, her fingers steepled beneath her chin as she looked at Jack curiously.

"I got a degree before I signed up, so after I discharged I just..." Jack said, repeating the same story which Zane had told him countless times. He spread his palms and shrugged his shoulders, before slapping his palms onto his legs, indicating he had nothing further to say.

"Why did you leave the Army sir, if you obviously love it so much?" The sniper superstar asked curiously, and Jack grit his teeth as he felt a prickle of irritation returning to his heart.

"What is this, twenty questions?" Jack asked brusquely, shaking his head as he hopped down from his desk, dusting his hands across his jeans as he turned his back on the class and tried to regain control of himself. "C'mon, ya little b- people." He coughed, strolling around his desk to look over his lesson guide. "Lets get back to teachin' and learnin', huh?"

"I think you should teach us all one more thing about flying, sir." Jack tensed, his shoulders locking as he stared at his book, his stomach roiling uneasily as he tried and failed to resist the allure of Rhys’ hesitant comment.

"Oh, yeah?" He finally sneered, slowly raising his gaze to meet Rhys’ curious, deep hazelnut eyes. "And what's that exactly?" He scoffed, raising a brow challengingly as his hand discreetly balled into a fist behind his desk.

Rhys cocked his head, leaning on his palm as he bit his lip for a moment, his gaze thoughtful as he examined Jack slowly; and caused Jack's stomach to flip in uncharacteristic nervousness. "What's it like?" He finally asked, leaving Jack blinking in surprise and confusion.

"Flyin'?" He clarified, frowning as he scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. "What, ya never been on a plane before?" He asked, trying to distract Rhys and buy himself some time to think. What kinda dumbass question is that, anyway? He wondered, his hand moving from his neck to his jaw as he considered.

"'Fraid not, sir..." Rhys replied, shrugging his shoulder dismissively as he continued to watch Jack closely. "I'm a very boring person." He added, and Jack had to fight hard against his instinctive reaction to snort in disbelief. He raised a disbelieving brow at Rhys, who merely threw him a discreet wink in response.

"Well, I guess it... I mean, it ain't really..." He began hesitantly, trailing off as he glanced out the window. "'S indescribable. Damn near the best feelin' in the world, in my experience." He said, shrugging and quickly shaking his head, as he turned back to his classroom full of students. "Now, if ya all quite finished cross examinin' ya teacher... page three oh-"

"Near the best?" Rhys repeated, grinning when Jack darted a knowing scowl towards him. "So then, what exactly does beat such a, literal and metaphorical, high?" He asked curiously, his lips twitching again in guilty amusement. "Sir."

Jack narrowed his eyes, frowning at the too innocent expression Rhys wore and wondering why he'd allowed himself to be so obviously manoeuvred by the younger. Don't play dumb Lawrence, ya know damn well why. He scolded himself, clicking his tongue in self irritation. "I'm sure it's nothin' any of you would know anythin' about... bein' underage and all." He drawled slowly, plastering a cocky smirk to his face, though the expression did not meet his eyes as he watched Rhys flinched back in his seat.

"Oooh, sick buuurn, amigo!" The beefy jerk chortled, laughing as he jostled the large, uncomfortable looking boy beside him. "Ha, like, double burn; 'cause everyone knows Rhys is just a dirty, little cock wh-" he continued, only for the large bruiser beside him to jostle him back harder.

"Dude, not cool." He said sadly, frowning as he glanced at Rhys guiltily.  Jack followed the large boys gaze to see Rhys staring determinedly at his own lap, though his cheeks were stained pink with embarrassment.

"Ain't no shame in knowin' what ya like, Gigantor." He said without thinking, shifting his gaze to the thick muscled kid, frustrated he couldn't just kick his ass like he would if he were an adult, hating the overwhelming need he felt to wipe away the self loathing he'd spotted Rhys’ half hidden expression. He glanced to the back of the room, to find Rhys’ eyes locked onto him, his brows raised in surprise of his defence. "Takes a lotta guts to own up to it, especially when ya surrounded by judgemental idiots and opinionated jackasses." He added with a snort, looking away from Rhys when he ducked his head to hide his expression. "Don't knock it, til ya tried it."

"Hey, I ain't no queer." The thick muscled kid growled, scowling at Jack as he looked back at him calmly, utterly unfazed by the boys angry expression or the way his beefy hands had curled into fists. "Besides, it ain't exactly some brave gesture when your own par-"

"Oh my god, Craig, don't have a hernia." The angry girl demanded, scowling at him irritably as she kicked her booted foot up on her desk. "You're killing my brain cells by being such a dumbass. I swear your mother dropped you as an infant, loser." She sighed, shaking her head and tossing her ponytail over her shoulder, as she doodled idly on a piece of paper.

"Damn," the jock whined, pouting at the angry girl, his rant forgotten in light of her scolding. "Rude, Aims." He complained weakly, grimacing when the large boy beside him gave him a gentle camaraderie nudge. 

"Right well, if ya all quite done with the dramatics..." Jack called, clearing his throat as he gazed around the room confidently. "Page three oh six." He repeated, forcing himself back into the lesson he had planned, and trying to pretend he didn't notice the soft smile on Rhys’ face.

By the end of the hour, the class had settled and managed to quietly wrangle their way through most of what Zane had planned for them. Jack sat behind his desk and scrubbed his hands over his face tiredly, glancing at the clock and deciding that he could stand to let them go early. "Right, get yaselves packed and get the hell outta here." He sighed, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms behind his head as he watched the class scrabble to obey. "Homework; write an essay on how ya think someone would've reacted, had they seen the attack comin' sooner. Due on Monday!" He added, stretching and reluctantly pushing to his feet. He gathered the worksheets the class had handed in, glancing up when another three sheets were held out to him. 

"Here, sir. Mine, Vaughn's and Rhys’ classwork, sir." The toned sniper said, a winning smile on his face as he helpfully offered Jack the three sheets.

"Thanks." Jack said shortly, his irritation sparking again as he quickly accepted the pages and added them to the stack, glancing up to find Rhys waiting with his friend nearby, a small frown creasing his brow. "Don't let me keep ya. Sure y'all got plenty of sappy, happy boyfriend crap to be sortin' for ya dance tomorrow." He said tightly, smirking as Rhys scowled at him, though Jack's eyes quickly returned to the sharp shooting star when he chuckled.

"Yes, sir." He said, slinging his bag to his shoulder as Jack lowered his eyes to his desk and began preparing his next classes papers. "It'll be your first dance at this school, won't it sir? Are you gonna be bustin' a move with the rest if the sta-"

"Pfft, first off; I don't dance." Jack scoffed, shaking his head and scowling at his lesson guide, determinedly refusing to look at Rhys again. "Second, I ain't gonna be attendin'. There's a perfectly good bar with my name on it, down the road from my place." 

"That's a shame sir, would have been good to see you show up the other teachers. I bet you have some killer moves..." The short guy replied, laughing as he began to wave his arms in intricate gestures which Jack could loosely interpret as dancing. 

"Right." He drawled, frowning as he shooed them away. "Thanks, but no thanks, Short Stuff. Now go on and get outta here, anyone still in this room in the next thirty seconds is gonna have detention for a month." He huffed gruffly, scowling as he looked up to see Rhys hesitating by the door thoughtfully.

He was saved having to commit to his threat, when the sports star wrapped his arm around Rhys’ shoulder and walked him out of the room. Jack's scowl darkened further, his mood plummeting as he jerked his eyes away from the display, his gaze skimming across Rhys’ as he tried to look back over the athletes arm. Goddamn ya Zane for makin' me come here and do this for ya... He thought scathingly, slamming his door behind the students and leaning against it as he scrubbed his hands over his face irritably. He sighed, shaking his head regretfully as he walked back to his desk. Ain't his fault I cocked this whole fiasco up... He reminded himself, leaning against his chair as he peered out the window and wondered why he hadn't simply home home while he had the chance. "What the hell's the matter with me?" He asked the empty room, gripping the back of his chair tighter and clenching his jaw. 

Ya know. Jack tried to ignore the quiet voice within him, not entirely sure if it was coming from his heart or his head. Ya know, exactly, what's wrong. Ya know exactly what ya feelin'. He thought despite his best efforts, closing his eyes and reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "It ain't." He denied thickly, desperately willing himself to believe the words. "It ain't..."

By the time the bell rang, sounding the end of the school day, Jack was exhausted both mentally and physically; and more than ready to head home so he could begin his weekends plan to drink, drink some more and then drink twice as much again. It was with this barely sustaining thought, that he finally gathered up his things and made his way to his car, dumping everything unceremoniously into his trunk to be sorted through in the morning. "Ah, Mr. Flynt." Jack curled his hand around his car keys tightly, half considering just driving away under the pretence of having not heard the familiar call. With a sigh, he turned and nodded to the Principal, as he strolled over at an unhurried pace. "I'm glad I happened across you, saves me having to pull up your records and find your phone number." Kincaid chuckled, as Jack blinked at him uncomprehendingly. 

"Somethin' I can help ya with, Ph-Principal?" He asked, clearing his throat as he folded his arms over his chest and tapped his fingers against his elbow, unsubtly hinting at his eagerness to be off.

"Yes, I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to attend the dance tomorrow as a chaperone." Kincaid said easily, eyeing Jack's car curiously. "We're a staff member down, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to step in."

"Say what?" Jack balked, shaking his head as he scowled in disgust and disbelief. "No thanks, I got plans this weekend. I ain't standin' around watchin' a bunch of horny idiots-"

"I'm afraid it is mandatory, Mr. Flynt." Kincaid interrupted sternly, casting Jack a disapproving glance. "I will be forced to reconsider you're contract, if you're unwilling to comply with school requirements..."

"Alright, alright, keep ya damn panties on." Jack groused, running a hand through his hair irritably and sighing in resignation, his brow furrowing as he mourned his lost drinking hours. "Just, what time does this damn... dance, start exactly?" He asked, injecting as much spite and disgust into his tone as he could muster, as he scowled at the Principal.

"The dance itself is scheduled to begin at six o'clock sharp, however..." Kincaid replied, reaching up to smooth his jacket lapels as he flashed Jack a smug smirk. "Staff are required to arrive at midday, to help with the preparations."

Jack grit his teeth hard, maintaining a carefully neutral façade while gazing at the Principal in well masked disbelief, before sighing and nodding his head sharply. "Alright." He said tightly, forcing himself not to dislodge, or break, the hand which the Principal clapped upon his shoulder. "See ya at midday, then. Sir." He drawled, his gut clenching as dread began to churn within him.

"Excellent! Good man!" Kincaid declared cheerfully, chuckling to himself as he took a step back and withdrew his hand from Jack's shoulder. "You can come straight to the main hall, we shall be working in there throughout the day."

"Great." Jack grumbled, rolling his eyes as the Principal flashed him another smug grin, before turning away and striding back to the school. Jack watched him leave, heaving a deep sigh as he grit his teeth. Just what I need. He thought sourly, scratching his chin as he realised he was going to be forced to watch over a bunch of horny teenagers even on the weekend; including, Rhys and his date. Heh, shouldn't be such a problem... Sneered the little voice in the back of his mind, the one which he hated. Seeing as you're so certain that you're not- Jack grit his teeth and slammed his trunk closed, drowning out the frustrating thought before it could fester. He quickly got in his car to drive home, determined to be drunker than he'd ever been, before the clock hit midnight.

The following day, running barely minutes late, Jack arrived back at the school. He glared at the building in silent disgust, mentally preparing himself for the worst, before finally giving in to the inevitable, and heading inside. "Whoa!" He huffed, quickly dodging backwards to avoid a pair of teachers who were hefting a long table past the main hall entrance, moving to the far side of the room to set up refreshments later in the day.

"Ah, Mr. Flynt, how marvellous you could join us." Kincaid called, waving Jack over to join him by a large bosomed woman who was up a ladder, tying ribbons and streamers to a hook. "I wonder, how are your construction skills?"

"What?" Jack balked, blinking in surprise at the request. He frowned, scuffing the back of his neck with his hand as he considered his answer. "Uh, I mean, I guess they're fine. Why d'ya wanna know?" He asked suspiciously, his hand unconsciously reaching to steady the ladder when he noticed it wobble slightly.

"We've had a slight mishap with a contractor who was supposed to be building a stage..." Kincaid said leadingly, gesturing for Jack to follow him as he moved away to the back of the hall. "We're going to have the school performing for themselves this evening throughout various time slots, and while we can use the props from the theatrical department, I was rather hoping for something a little more unique... If you think you're up to the challenge." He explained, pausing near the back of the hall and turning to face Jack.

"Depends what it is ya after..." Jack drawled, grimacing as Kincaid flashed another of his smug grins and gestured with a flourish to the back wall beside them.

"A stage that's worthy of notice, but makes those on it look better than the stage itself." Kincaid said, as Jack scowled and folded his arms over his chest. "Something with a little pizzazz, yes? Something... classic but new." He said, drawing in a deep breath and raising a brow to Jack. "Do you think you're able to do that, Mr. Flynt?" 

"Well yeah," Jack said, frowning as he examine the area thoughtfully. "If I had about fifty helpers and another twelve hours to work with." He snarked, running a hand through his hair distractedly.

"I can give you a solid dozen helpers, and not a hand more." Kincaid said imperiously, holding out his hand towards the back wall expectantly. "Well, Mr. Flynt?" He asked, glancing at his watch with a small frown. "Time is rather of the essence at this point."

Jack sighed, grimacing as he reached for his jacket sleeves and began to tug them off. "Alright. Can't promise it'll be fancy, but... It'll be solid and it'll be safe." He sighed, as Kincaid clapped his hands together and quickly called a dozen other staff members over.

"Good man, good man!" Kincaid declared cheerfully, beaming around the assembling team as Jack finished stripping off his jacket. "Splendid, just splendid. Well! I shall leave you to get on!" He said, and without another word, he turned and strolled away.

Yeah, we'll see if you still feel the same way when I piss in your 'special' coffee next week. Jack thought scathingly, scowling after the Principal for a brief moment, before quickly glancing around his new work crew. "Right, we got a lot to do, and roughly... five and a half hours, to do it in." He said, scratching the back of his neck as he examined the stage area thoughtfully. "So, I'm gonna tell ya what I need and your gonna get it for me fast as ya can. Now, first up..." He began, easily dividing his work force to quickly gather the materials he would need, and delving into the role of construction worker.

Five hours of intense labour and more than a little casual cursing, Jack eyed his creation critically and wiped his arm across his sweat speckled forehead. "Well..." He huffed, his breathing shallow as he turned and offered a lopsided grin to his clearly exhausted crew. "Ain't exactly a Michelangelo, but I'd say I owe ya all a drink. Unfortunately this is school premises, so ya shit outta luck." He added, earning several small huffs of laughter as he offered his hand to various other staff who'd helped out. 

"Extraordinary, simply extraordinary." Kincaid exclaimed, walking over with the woman who had previously been up the ladder, upon Jack's arrival. "Well, Moxxi? Do you think you have time to work your magic here, my dear?" He asked, as Jack raised a brow and turned to see her stride up to the stage confidently.

"Of course, Markus." She said, calling to some of the other faculty who were applying finishing touches to the now food laden table. "We have forty five minutes before the students can begin to arrive; and I guarantee none of them will be here upon the hour." She added distractedly, already moving away with the staff she had called over, giving orders and helping to decorate the stage.

"Ah, you may wish to shower, before the dance commences, Mr. Flynt." Kincaid suggested, gesturing towards the gym locker rooms. "If you'd be interested in a change of clothes-"

"Gonna stop ya right there, Daddy Weirdbucks..." Jack snorted, not even caring if the Principal took umbridge at the nickname. "I brought a change with me. Didn't see the point wearing a shirt to pin up a buncha decorations... didn't exactly expect to be workin' out so much..." He huffed, running a hand through his hair as he gathered uo his discarded tshirt and his jacket. "I'm gonna grab my things, then I'll take that shower. Sir." He scoffed, offering the bemused Principal a two finger salute before heading out to exchange his clothes.

After grabbing his shirt, Jack walked into the locker room, stifling a yawn as he quickly stripped down and strolled into a shower stall. As he stood beneath the warm spray, which eased his overstrained muscles, Jack felt his gut begin to twist with discomfort. I ain't lettin' some goddamn kid get the better of me. He thought with a scowl, closing his eyes and turning his face up into the water. Hell, I might not even see him all night. Especially if I just wait around the punch bowl for some little snot to spike it. Can just confiscate it all then, and it'll almost be like my night can go back to what I planned in the first place... just with more witnesses. He hummed, shaking his head and splashing water across the stall, as he turned and quickly rinsed the sweat from his shoulders, back and neck. Yeah. He and his little sport star boyfriend will probably be in the thick of the crowd, so if I stick to the edge of the hall, I won't even see 'em. He reaffirmed, his heart skipping a beat and lightening as he finished cleaning himself off and shut off the shower, grabbing a towel and drying himself thoroughly.

"Dumb night ain't gonna last forever anyway," he muttered, slipping on his clothes and buttoning his shirt quickly. "Few more hours and I can obliterate any brain cells still standin'." He snorted, moving to the mirror as he tucked his Hyperion yellow shirt into his black trousers and straightened his collar. Company might be a shit, but damn if this colour don’t pop better on me. He produced a small comb from his back pocket, and quickly swept his damp hair away from his face, finally sighing as he re-pocketed his comb and stepped back to examine himself. "Urgh, this night's already too long." He groaned, grimacing as he turned away and moved back out into the hall. "Let's get this over with." He sighed, striding back into the hall confidently and glancing at the stage, before doing a double take in surprise. "Well, I'll be damned..."

"Nothing so sinister, I should hope..!" Laughed a woman's voice, and Jack turned his gaze to the familiar, face applying finishing touches to his creation. "Honestly, you did a grand job, Mr. Flynt; I just accentuated it." She said, smiling and offering her hand as he approached.

"I'll say." Jack huffed, clicking his tongue as he ran his eyes over the tasteful swathes of fabric which covered his hard wood display, which were cleverly paired with occasional bows and large fake daisies. "Surprised ya didn't go with roses... No offence, but I thought that they were the goto flower for decoratin'."

"Ha, well yes they are typically used for this kinda thing." The woman agreed, carefully brushing her long, dark hair from her face. "But I'm a fan of simpler things; and daisies are just about the simplest of flowers." She said warmly, glancing back at the stage as the microphone and instruments were carefully set up. "I'm Moxxi, by the way. Moxxi Kincaid.... but you can call me Mad Moxxi; I know the youngun’s do." She said with a wink

"Nice to meet ya." Jack said, flashing her a dazzling grin. "Ya too pretty to be the Principal's sister, so I'm guessin' ya gotta be his wife?" He asked, raising a brow when she blushed and looked away. "Uh, sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"Oh, no... I'm sorry I'm just, not used to such flattery at a first meeting." Moxxi chuckled, looking back with a warm smile. "Well, it was a pleasure to meet you Sugar, you did a real steller job. I hope you enjoy the evening, hun!" She said, lapsing easily into informalities while moving away to help out elsewhere.

"Uh, yeah..." Jack drawled hesitantly, grimacing as he stalked away to check the stage over a final time. By the time he'd decided everything was up to standard and he'd assured himself his creation was indeed safe, students had begun to fill up the hall, until the entire room was packed with laughing, shouting and jostling students in smart shirts and glamorous frocks. Jack grimaced at some of the outfits, and outright scowled at the various public displays of affection; pausing to snap at several students to keep their wandering hands to themselves.

As Jack reached the punch bowl, he glanced at his watch, groaning when he realised it was only six forty, and he had the majority of the evening still laid out before him. With a weary sigh, he helped himself to a drink wishing he could make it to his classroom to dip into the small bottle of whiskey he kept at the back of his top drawer. Maybe in an hour or so. Can always bring it back anyway and just replace it Monday mornin'. He thought, his eyes roving the hall and idly passing over the various students.

As his eyes travelled over the area to the side of the stage however, he was startled to see a surprised face gazing back at him. Oh shit... He thought, barely managing to fight off the prickle of heat beneath his stubble, as Rhys surveyed him with wide, shocked eyes. Jack's mouth turned dry despite his drink, his heart skipping a beat as he quickly flit his eyes over the flattering green and blue striped shirt Rhys wore, before forcing himself to look away. He threw back the rest of his drink, quickly setting down his empty plastic cup and flowing seamlessly into the crowd. Godammit... He thought, peeking through the sea of bodies to see Rhys frowning and seemingly searching the crowd, before his attention was reclaimed by his friends. Damn... Shouldn't have been so surprised, I knew he was gonna be here. He groused to himself, scowling as he weaved through the crowd to the front of the hall, leaning against the wall beside the door so he could both watch the crowd and be prepared to escape to his class, if the call for his whiskey became too strong to ignore.

A high pitched ringing sounded in the hall, the students covering their ears in shock as the Principal stepped up on stage and turned on the microphone. "Good evening students, and welcome, to your midterm dance!" He said cheerfully, gazing around the upturned faces imperiously. "Please note that there are in fact separate areas for eating and dancing, and the two should not be mixed like last year." He warned, earning a loud whoop from the large, bruiser boy Jack recognised from Rhys’ history class. "Also, I should ask that you give a round of applause for Mr. Flynt and the team of workers he assembled, for building this magnificent structure... and at no extra cost to your evening." He added, stomping his foot delicately upon the stage.

Jack tensed, nodding awkwardly when faces all around turned towards him. He cleared his throat and waved them all off, causing them to face the stage once again as they began to chatter excitedly. "Now, we've decided that there's a thirty minute limit to each group who comes up, but provided you're all mature enough to share, I'm sure you'll be able to take more than one turn, should you wish." Kincaid continued to explain, and Jack snorted as he watched some students all but bounce with eagerness to take to the stage. "As an aside, we have set up an outside area for anyone who becomes overwhelmed by the evening. You may exit the hall via the side door," he said, gesturing to a door with a small sign taped to it. "But I should like to mention that this is the only other space in the school where students should be this evening. Any students found anywhere else within the premises; will be given a detention for Monday evening, immediately." He concluded, before clapping his hands together and grinning broadly. "With that out of the way, let the dancing commence!"

Loud cheers erupted throughout the hall, and Jack rolled his eyes at the excited rush of bodies toward the stage. He thought of his whiskey, nestled snugly at the back of his drawer and sighed as he pushed away from the wall and began to filter through the students, checking that nobody was breaking any of the various rules he'd been told while working on the stage. He glanced upwards when music finally began to sound from the various instruments, the first performers warming up and preparing. He did a double take however, when he spotted the person by the microphone, frowning as they watched him weave through the crowd. He scowled and turned away, but he couldn't escape the burning haze he felt upon his back fast enough. Finally the band struck up for real, and Jack moved to a discreet corner to escape the various bodies which surged forward to dance. His eyes reluctantly returned to the stage, as Rhys began to croon.

"Deep in Denialville... Tryin' a' fight the way I feel... I go jello when you smile... I start blushin'-my head rushin'!" He sang lowly, a secretive smirk curling his lips as he looked around his friends and school mates. "If you stand too close to me... I might melt down from the heat... If ya' look my way one more time... I'm gonna go out of my mind!" He sang, running his hand up his side and into his hair, slowly building to a frustrated cry. "Whatever you do..." He cried, pointing into the crowd suddenly. "Don't even think about it! Don't go and get me started! Don't you dare drive me crazy! Don't do that to me baby!" He sang heartily, swinging his hips as Jack carefully hid a scowl, almost positive he knew what Rhys’ eyes were seeking, as he watched the student search the crowd.

"You stop me in my tracks... My heart pumpin' to the max... I'm such a sucker for your eyes... They permanently paralyze!" He crooned, rolling his hips suggestively and flashing the crowd a distracted smile. "Whatever you do..." He cried, smiling more genuinely, as he threw his hand into the air. "Don't even think about it! Don't go and get me started! Don't you dare drive me crazy! Don't do that to me baby!" He sang, swaying his hips and winking into the hyped up crowd.

"You got my heart under attack... You give me shivers down my back... D'ya have to walk the way you do? I get weak just watchin' you!" He sang, crouching low as he appeared to plead, slowly rising up the microphone with a grin. "Whatever you do..." He demanded, striking a fierce pose while his expression grew frustrated, as he continued to search the crowd. "Don't even think about it! Don't go and get me started! Don't you dare drive me crazy! Don't do that to me baby!" He sang pleadingly, his gaze growing more urgent as he peered around the faces gazing up at him.

"Don't do that..." He drawled, glancing around the rest of the hall with clearly waning hope, as Jack remained quietly ensconced in his discreet corner. "Don't do that!" He finally pleaded, frowning as the music began to fade and he stepped back from the microphone. The crowd erupted into applause and Rhys scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, waving briefly before ducking quickly to the edge of the stage and beginning to argue playfully with his short friend. 

Jack scoffed as he disappeared into the crowd, shaking his head and easing away from his quiet corner. Principal Perfect can kiss my ass. I need a goddamn drink. He thought, stealthily stalking around the crowd to the exit and slipping into the hall, quickly making his way through the school to his classroom and striding to his desk. "Bloody hell..." He muttered, sitting on his desk and reaching into the top drawer and pulling out his whiskey, immediately unscrewing the cap and taking a large swig. 

Jack sighed heavily, his thoughts turning as they ever seemed to lately; to the very bane of his existence. He's mature, mostly, sure... and he's made it pretty fuckin' clear what he wants... He thought, sipping more slowly from his bottle. But still, I can't. He's pushin' now... probably still in shock, like me. But soon enough he'll give up, and things'll settle down. Maybe then we can both actually forget about- his thought remained unfinished, unable to force himself to complete the lie. "Ah, shit." He cursed, running a hand through his hair and downing another significant dose of whiskey.

He lowered the bottle suddenly, as voices filtered in from the hall. "Ah, shit!" He repeated, scowling as he quickly capped his whiskey and stuffed it back into his drawer. He hopped to his feet and stormed to the door, cocking his head as he paused to listen.

"We really should get back..." Jack was barely able to make out the quieter of the voices, its awkwardness lowering it's tone dramatically. The second voice however was not so restrained, and Jack set off down the hall with ab irritated sigh.

"Nobody will even know we came up here, I just wanted a chance to talk to you. Without everyone listening in..." They said confidently, and Jack rolled his eyes as he drew closer, shaking his head at the transparent pick up line. "Thanks for listening, by the way... you know, I really do-"

"Alright, ya horny weasels, get ya asses back to the main hall." Jack called, just before he rounded the corner. He stopped short when he spotted Rhys against the wall with a mildly uncomfortable expression, while his sniper star date leaned far closer than Jack believed necessary for 'just talking'. He flicked his gaze between the two, both appearing startled by his sudden appearance; the athlete embarrassed and guilty, while Rhys looked horrified. "Well? Whaddaya waitin' for? Get ya asses movin'!" He barked, scowling at the pair and shooing them away.

"But, what about Principal Kincaid, sir?" The hot shot asked, as Jack tore his eyes from Rhys’ pleading gaze, gritting his teeth as he turned his glare to the sports star. "I mean, he said that anyone caught would-"

"Ya actually want me to give ya a detention?" Jack demanded scathingly, narrowing his eyes and spreading his palms threateningly. "'Cause I can, by all means. If ya want, I can drag ya back to the hall myself and announce to the rest of the damn school that ya can't keep it in ya pants... But if not, then ya got til the count of two to get ya goddamn-"

"Yes, sir." The long range shooter said quickly, grabbing Rhys’ hand and hurrying to lead him down the hall. Rhys yelped and tried to turn back, scowling at Jack as his date dragged him away quickly. Jack snorted and offered a cocky wink and two finger salute, before turning away with a grimace. He stormed back to his classroom, grabbing his whiskey and pacing between the desks furiously, trying to ignore the way his heart seemed to burn within his chest, his pulse racing loudly in his ears.

Goddamn little shits... He thought scathingly, draining another large gulp of whiskey. Fuck it, I'm gonna just call Zane in the mornin', tell him he can stick his poxy dream up his ass 'cause I'm gettin' the hell outta here! He fumed, scowling as he stalked to the back of the class and knocked over a replica of a medieval settlement. "Goddamn you Zane, for makin' me come here..." He muttered darkly, immediately regretting the words and scrubbing his free hand over the back of his neck, while gazing down at the scattered pieces of the replica in frustration. "Screw the whole bloody thing... Monday mornin' I'm packin' up and... gettin' the hell away from hi-" he swallowed back the words, drawing a shaky breath as he shifted his hand up into his hair. He sighed forlornly, grimacing as he shook his head and took another drink.

"Breaking the rules are we, sir?" Jack grit his teeth, whirling at the familiar sneer to find Rhys leaning against the doorframe, scowling at him irritably. "Funny how it’s always alright for adults, but everyone else is given shit for it." He said scathingly, pushing away from the door and taking a step inside, as he folded his arms over his chest.

"Mind ya goddamn language, brat." Jack snorted, stalking over to his desk and setting his whiskey back in the drawer. "I didn't give ya a detention, or ya boyfriend either, so ya ain't really got anything to complai-"

"Axton is not my boyfriend!" Rhys insisted adamantly, his scowl deepening as he stalked further into the room. "Why the hell are you being such a bastard about it? You made it crystal clear, you wanted nothing more than to forget you ever met me! You told me to forget anything happened! So that's what I'm doing!"

"Heh, yeah so I can see." Jack sneered, turning his back on Rhys to lean on the edge of his desk, closing his eyes as he took a deep breath and tried to keep his hands from shaking. "Just try and keep it outta the hallways in future, hey Kid? Not everyone's gonna let ya off with a warnin'." He added, attempting to make light of his earlier threat as he tried to quiet the nauseating churn of emotions in his gut. "Get the hell back to the damn dance already, before I-"

"Before you what?" Rhys demanded, scoffing derisively as he stood behind Jack, unable to see his hands curling into claws at the edge of his desk. "Go and tell on me? Drag me in yourself and make a scene? I have had to endure way worse than whatever cheap embarrassment you can think up." He hissed furiously, as Jack tried to take deep breaths, desperately hoping to calm himself; to keep the familiar angry beast he knew hid within him in its slumber. "You should be happy. Your terrible secret is safe; you accidentally fucked a student, big deal... I'm not about to tell anyone, so what the hell do you have to worry about? I'm doing what you told me to, I'm moving on. So you can go and do exactly what you always wanted; and forget it ever-"

"I don't bloody well want to!" Jack roared, grabbing his whiskey off the desk and hurling at the opposite end of the room, where it smashed into a glittering cascade of glass and tinted liquid. "Hell, I don't think I could even if I actually did wanna..." He scoffed, scrubbing his hands over his face as he stood with his back to Rhys, his shoulders tensed rigidly as he tried to calm himself from his outburst.

Stunned silence smothered them for a moment, before Jack heard Rhys take a tentative step closer. "... What?" He asked uncertainly, as Jack scoffed and turned around with a scowl.

"What? Ya think any of what I said was what I wanted?" He snorted, shaking his head and running his hands through his hair, as he began to pace irritably. "It was a damn good night, and I don't wanna have to frickin’ forget it, but I need to; for a goddamn multitude of reasons-" he finally admitted, pausing mid rant and drawing in a deep breath, while looking to the ceiling with a frown. "I don't wanna forget it, but goddamn it I need to." He repeated, his shoulders sagging as he sighed in resignation.

"But then every time I try, that bloody..." He growled, as Rhys stared and blinked in surprise. "He keeps bloody well touchin' ya; and urgh!" Jack continued, turning fully and scowling as he gestured roughly towards Rhys, his irritation flaring again. "He keeps treatin' ya like ya some piece of property or a bloody trophy to show off in front of his friends!"

"He does not, you're just being an asshole." Rhys snorted, grimacing as he eyed Jack uncertainly. "You're seeing shit that isn't there, you paranoid bas-" His eyes widened as Jack stormed closer, quickly backing across the room til his back hit the wall.

"Ya really think so?" Jack demanded lowly, barely managing to get a grip on his temper and maintain a safe distance between them. "I just imagined his lips on yours did I, Rhysie? Durin' ya little performance?" He scoffed, his lip curling in irritation. 

"That was just a... a misunderstanding!" Rhys defended, his cheeks staining scarlet as Jack snorted and shook his head in disbelief.

"Right, course it was." He sneered, flicking his eyes over Rhys suggestively. "And I bet ya didn't enjoy it in the least, did ya?" He said, his eyes narrowing as he saw Rhys’ hand ball into a fist. "Heh, that's what I-" Rhys’ fist lashed out towards him and Jack reacted with military reflexes, snatching his wrist from the air and snapping it to his side, while his free hand clamped around the back of Rhys’ neck and jerked him closer.

Jack's lips met Rhys’ roughly and consumingly, still only for the brief second that Rhys sucked in a startled breath through his nose and gave a muffled whimper, before gripping him back fiercely. Jack growled as Rhys matched his every hungry kiss, twisting and arching his body urgently to press as much of himself to Jack as he physically could. Jack’s hand remained tightly locked behind Rhys’ neck, his other hand gliding to his shoulder and pinning him none too gently to the wall.

His skin burned, his heart racing as he kissed Rhys with every forbidden thought and feeling he had blazing in his mind, his body unconsciously rocking against Rhys snugly, as he desperately pulled Jack closer. "Mmm!" The breathy hums and gasps Rhys made only fuelled Jack's need and desire, his kiss deepening as his urgency spiked. However, when Rhys’ hands dipped to his belt, his fingers fumbling in their haste; Jack was pulled viciously from his mindless bliss.

He flinched backwards, his heart hammering as he forced himself to release Rhys and hurriedly back further away from him, panting heavily as he raised a hand to his lips guiltily. "Shit..." He cursed, pressing the back of his shaking hand to his mouth.

"Please," Rhys said quietly, breathing heavily while leaning against the wall and gazing at Jack dazedly. "Please... don't-" he began, half extending his hand to reach for Jack and draw him back; but Jack was already moving further away.

 

"I can't, Boy Scout." He said thickly, drawing in a trembling breath and shaking his head regretfully. "I just can't." He repeated, his eyes meeting Rhys’ briefly, his heart heavy with grief as he ignored his pleading expression. "... get out." He said, tipping his head towards the door as he closed his eyes, turning his back to the student once more. "Get out!" He roared, scowling as he stalked to his desk, his body tense and wracked with guilt.

Whether finally moved by his temper, or simply heeding his broken plea, Rhys reluctantly shuffled from the room to return to the dance; leaving Jack alone with his guilt and his obvious moral and emotional confliction. "Goddamn it..!" He roared, slamming his hands to his desk and gritting his teeth tightly. He groaned, hanging his head in defeat. "... And goddamn me..." He choked, no longer able to deny the jealousy or desires which consumed him.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

Going Under.

 

Rhys hummed to himself quietly, laying on his stomach with his feet swinging idly above his back. His finger tip traced nonsensical patterns across the top of his duvet cover, as he bit his lip to try and fight off his goofy grin. In answer to earlier questions... the stubble definitely made it better. He thought, his heart fluttering as he remembered his teachers fierce and desperate kiss. He closed his eyes, as his hand drifted across to the tech tag atop his covers, tugging at them gently as he traced the cool metal surface. I don't think I've ever felt so wanted, as I did in that one kiss. He mused, shaking his head in disbelief as he sighed and flopped over to his back.

But... every dream has a few hurdles to overcome, right? He thought, his brow furrowing as his eyes slowly opened to gaze at the ceiling thoughtfully. He admitted that this isn't just a one sided thing, but he's really scared of this blowing up... He mused slowly, carefully considering each thought as it occurred to him. So, what if I offered to wait? I mean, its only a matter of weeks til I'm eighteen! I can do that... He assured himself confidently, his heart skipping a hopeful beat, despite his best efforts not to let himself get carried away. 

So... That's what I'll do. He thought determinedly, his lips curving into a flickering and hopeful smile, as his heart stuttered weakly in his chest. But, how? How do I tell him? I could... write a note? He wondered, biting his lip as his expression morphed into a concerned frown. "Too childish..." He muttered dismissively, scowling at his own ridiculous thought. "The whole point is to show I can be mature and discreet and... stuff."

So, back to the whole 'how' question... He thought, sighing as he narrowed his eyes in contemplation. If I want him to respect me, to really see me as an equal... then I have to actually say it, to his face. But, that might be a little tricky... He hummed, debating as he began to roll his hips across the bed gently. "We have two hours tomorrow morning... and then last thing Friday." He murmured thoughtfully, before immediately snorting and rolling back to his front quickly. "Like hell I'm gonna wait that long if I don't have to though... So maybe I can just, wait for everyone to leave tomorrow morning, and tell him over the break. And then... well, then we can..." He frowned, biting his lip as he contemplated his teachers potential reaction. Okay, so be might need a little time to come around... But I can show him I mean it..!

Rhys whined and dropped the tech tag to his chest, propping his head one one hand, as his other hand raising to run through his hair distractedly. "Oh, why do I feel like this is gonna be a total nightmare? He's bound to already be on edge after the dance..." He mumbled, his fingers drifting down to his lips and tracing them fondly, as an unconscious smile broke out on his face. But my god, can that man kiss... Especially when he's frustrated! He thought, giggling excitedly as he gazed over the edge of his bed unseeingly. I mean, we were hot before, but last night... He thought, his breath catching in his throat as he bit his finger playfully. "God, I need him..." He whined, flopping forward to dramatically face plant in his duvet cover, barely muffling his low scream of frustration.

"Need who, exactly?" Vaughn's laughter rang through the bedroom, as Rhys yelped and shot across his bed, turning wide and accusatory eyes towards his friend. "Oh dude, I wish I had got that on camera! Wait, I'll go out and come back in; just pretend like you don't know I'm here again!" He pleaded, laughing when Rhys flushed with embarrassment and lobbed a pillow at his best friend.

"What are you doing here, assbutt?" Rhys demanded petulantly, scowling as he crossed his arms over his torso, feeling strangely shy and exposed before his friend. "How long were you standing there? And haven't you heard of knocking?! What if I'd been jerking off, dude?" He quizzed Vaughn rapidly, eyeing his friend suspiciously as he grimaced and nodded darkly.

"Yeah, okay, I did not consider that well enough..." Vaughn admitted, pointing a finger at Rhys accusingly. "It was traumatic enough on the phone, you are never to scar me with the visual aide of that experience!" He said sternly, as Rhys huffed and rolled his eyes, finally lowering his arms to his sides. "Bad enough you had to show me the goods after your romp with your Mr. Tech tag." Vaughn snarked, gesturing towards the tag around Rhys’ neck.

"Vaughn..." Rhys sighed, sending his friend a withering look as he knelt on his bed and walked across the covers, as opposed to walking around the obstacle. "My good, dear friend Vaughn..." He drawled, swinging his legs around and sitting on the edge of his bed, peering up at his friend with a raised brow. "What... are you doing here?" He asked, folding his hands in his lap and and cocking his head curiously.

"What, a guy can't just stop by and check on his best friend when he happens to be in the neighbourhood?" Vaughn demanded haughtily in response, though Rhys remained unfazed by his tone. He rolled his eyes as pushed to his feet, strolling past his friend into the living room.

"Dude, if you didn't live over on the snooty side of town, I might believe you had a reason to actually be in my neighbourhood." He huffed amusedly, as Vaughn grimaced guiltily. "Come on, why're you slumming it to come see me this late on a Sunday?"

"I come see you all the time, dude. I'm here like, every weekend." Vaughn scoffed evasively, sniggering when Rhys rolled his eyes again, though he smiled despite himself. "And besides, you used to live over the 'snooty' side of town too, ya know?"

"Dude, that was like, years ago." Rhys snorted, heading into his kitchen and opening his fridge, leaning against the door as he examined its contents thoughtfully. "That was the B-J era. Remember? Hell, they've probably got new fountains, monuments and all sorts of joyfully snobbish shit over there now." He snickered, and Vaughn couldn't help but huff in amusement himself.

"Yeah, well... You know I'd rather be here with you dude." Vaughn said awkwardly, his cheeks staining lightly with minor embarrassment at the confession. "Hell, I would happily live here as of right now, and you know it."

"Dude, that's so gay." Rhys sneered playfully, leaning around his fridge to smirk at Vaughn's deepening blush. "Seriously dude, I think I'm about to break out in hives or something, because that was just..." he paused, his hand settling on his heart as he feigned a trembling of his lip. "Just so beautiful, Vaughn-mmph!" He laughed when Vaughn grabbed a dishcloth and threw it at his face, scowling as he flushed darkly.

"You are such an assbutt." He snarked scornfully, folding his arms over his chest and pouting petulantly. "I hate you." Rhys snorted and rolled his eyes, grabbing some minced beef, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes from the fridge and closing the door with his hip.

"You love me." Rhys rebuffed knowingly, awkwardly pointing a finger at his friend despite his cluttered armload. "And best friend I may be, but if you don't tell me what the hells going on with you, King Weirdness, then come midnight; I am gonna toss your sorry ass outta here like the Cinderella reject you are." He added, setting his ingredients on the side and glancing up to counter Vaughn's pout with a grin. "And... I won't feed you." He threatened, raising a brow as he turned to bustle about his kitchen for the remainder of his ingredients.

"Urgh, you are the worst." Vaughn whined dramatically, as Rhys smirked and waggled his brows suggestively. "Dude, no. Do not even go there. I see that look, I know what that means. Just... no, dude." He warned, grimacing as Rhys laughed quietly and decided to take pity on his friend, keeping his lurid denial to himself. "Alright, alright, I just... I wanted to see you were okay." Vaughn finally sighed, glancing away embarrassedly as his cheeks dusted with pink.

"Huh?" Rhys frowned, glancing at Vaughn in confusion as his friend refused to meet his eyes. "Um, why? We spoke on the phone this morning, I told you I was fine... Why wouldn't I be-"

"Because you ran off before the dance was even over!" Vaughn finally burst out, his eyes concerned as he finally looked back at Rhys. "You and Axton disappeared! And the next thing I knew you were just... gone!" He exclaimed, as Rhys’ hands paused mid reach for an onion. "I mean, what the hell happened? Did you guys get in a fight or..?"

"What? No, what the hell would we fight about?" Rhys scoffed, recovering his wits quickly as he grabbed his onion and some potatoes from his vegetable basket, looking over at Vaughn with a frown. "Dude, Axton and I are not dating..." He said slowly, watching Vaughn's expression morph into a confused pout.

"Then what happened, dude?" He prodded, as Rhys sighed and dumped his things on the counter, rolling his eyes to the ceiling in frustration. "C'mon, you never bail on me like that unless you find some hot piece of- oh my god!" He cried suddenly, pointing to Rhys accusingly as his eyes widened. "You made off with some hot guy!"

"I did not make off with any hot guy." Rhys said calmly, though his stomach flipped at the close guess. No, just made out with my seriously hot teacher... He thought before he could stop himself, his cheeks flushing with heat as he recalled the urgency with which his teacher had kissed him.

"Uh huh," Vaughn snorted, a teasing gleam in his eyes as he grinned at Rhys knowingly. "And I suppose that's why you're lit up like a damn weather beacon right now, is it..?" He asked pointedly, sniggering when Rhys pointedly ignored him and began to peel his potatoes. "C'mon, Rhys, you know I'll get it out of you eventually..." He huffed, as Rhys glanced at him with a sly smirk briefly, before returning to his peeling. "Okay, so you met some guy at the dance, got hot and heavy in the bathroom and what? It was just so good you had to come home and jer-"

"Oh my god, just stop already!" Rhys finally snapped, running his hand through his hair distractedly  as he frowned at his friend. "Damn, for someone who hates me over-sharing about my love life, you really ask a lot about it." He sighed, pausing a moment before he wrinkled his nose in distaste. "And just what the hell kind of common tramp do you take me for, anyway? I do not make out in bathrooms, thank you very much."

"Dude, don't try and tell me you have standards." Vaughn snorted as he rolled his eyes, reluctantly taking the potato peelings Rhys thrust towards him and tossing them in the trash. "I know the kinds of places you used to go to. Namely-"

"Used to, being the operative words here." Rhys warned in a sing song voice, narrowing his eyes at Vaughn as he spun a knife in his hand. He chopped and washed his potatoes, putting them in a saucepan of water to boil. "... Is there any chance at all that you're gonna shut up if I ignore you long enough?" He finally asked, pausing to frown at his friend for a moment.

"Hmm..." Vaughn hummed, pretending to ponder as he broke out in a mischievous grin. "I'd say slim to none. In favour of none." He admitted, laughing when Rhys rolled his eyes and turned back to his preparations.

"Fine, fine." He sighed, grabbing his onion and beginning to peel it. "But you're helping me cook." He added, nodding towards his condiments cupboard. "Oil, pepper and oregano, bitch... and turn the main oven on."

"Pfft, jerk." Vaughn snorted, jostling Rhys’ shoulder fondly as he passed him to do as he was bid. "So, come on then. What happened?" He pressed, and Rhys paused, his lips twitching secretively while his friend was behind him, before he recomposed himself and took a deep breath.

"Its really not that big of a deal, dude." He said, chopping his onion finely and then doing the same with each of his differently coloured peppers. "Axton and I went for the walk around the halls, just talking about typical, high school junk-"

"Rhys, so help me if you give me anymore of this evasive bullshit, I'm gonna delete your Sunset Beach collection off the tv." Vaughn threatened, scowling as Rhys moved his chopped ingredients to the side of his chopping board and began quickly peeling his mushrooms.

"First off, that'd be your collection which I have stored." Rhys snorted indifferently, quickly slicing his mushrooms and sweeping them aside to make room for his tomatoes. "Second, even if it weren't, you wouldn't do it because you'd miss Ben 'Broody' Evans too much." He sniggered, as Vaughn pouted at him and leaned against the counter.

"I'll have you know, I am all about Ricardo Torres and Cole Deshanel... and maybe a little of Eddie Connor..." He muttered grumpily, stealing a cube of pepper and crunching it with an unrepentant grin when Rhys glared at him. "Now, start over. Give me details."

"Oh, you want details for once?" Rhys asked, smirking as he raised a brow suggestively. He laughed when Vaughn scowled and shoves st his shoulder, shaking his head as he looked back at the tomatoes he was dicing. "Urgh, fine. But if you repeat any of this to anyone, I'm changing my locks." He warned, opening the pack of minced beef as he cast a stern look at his friend. "Axton wanted to talk about Maya..."

"What?!" Vaughn yelped, slipping off the side of the counter as Rhys groaned and rolled his eyes. "Dude, don't gimme that 'oh god, you're being so embarrassing' look! It's not exactly normal for a guy to wanna talk about his ex with his current partn-"

"For the last time, Axton and I are not dating!" Rhys growled insistently, scowling as he grabbed his wok from the cupboard and lightly sprinkled it with olive oil. "Vaughn, buddy; bro, I love you... But dude, I am never gonna be interested in Axton goddamn Turret! Okay?" He demanded, glancing over at his friends sheepish grin. "Now, are you gonna shut your damn trap so I can tell you what you wanna know, or not?" He asked, shaking his head and rolling his eyes when Vaughn nodded in reluctant submission. "Finally..." He groused, sighing as he threw his onions into the wok, relishing the hiss and the immediate aroma which burst into the kitchen. "Well, like I said... Axton wanted to talk about Maya, and I just wanted some air after being on stage..."

"Which you totally rocked, by the way." Vaughn quickly interjected, before clapping a hand over his mouth to hide a grin, while Rhys rolled his eyes and added his meat to his onions.

"Yes, thankyou Volunteer Bob." He snorted, carefully turning his meat to help it cook thoroughly. "And for the record, the next time you shove me on stage, I am dragging your sorry ass with me." He warned, smirking when Vaughn choked in distress. "Anyway, shut up. So; me and Axton went for a walk around the halls. Turns out he and Maya broke up, because a bunch of her gold digger Barbie friends told Axton she cheated on him." He explained, rolling his eyes when Vaughn gasped dramatically.

"Oh... em... gee!" He breathed, staring at Rhys in disbelief. "You're shitting me?!" He demanded, his eyes narrowing when Rhys snapped his fingers and pointed to one of his cupboards. 

"I shit you, not." Rhys huffed, tipping his chin to the cupboard as Vaughn opened it. "I need two Oxo cubes." He said, holding out his palm expectantly. "For whatever reason, Axton decided it just had to be true... and he dumped her on the spot as soon as he next saw her."

"What?!" Vaughn yelped, his eyes widening in surprise as he dropped two Oxo cunes into Rhys’ waiting palm. "Why?! Maya never even looks at other guys, she literally adores Axton. Its... actually kinda gross." Vaughn said insistently, frowning as Rhys crumbled the Oxo's over the ingredient's in his wok.

"Yeah well, apparently the only person who can't see Maya's devotion to Axton; is Axton." Rhys snorted, stirring his mixture thoroughly. "He ended it, and immediately came sniffing after my hot ass." He huffed, shaking his head as he added his other ingredients to the wok. "And ever since... he's been trying to make her jealous, as payback."

"Wha-" Vaughn began, but forcefully choked back his startled outrage, upon receiving a withering glare from Rhys. He cleared his throat and moved back to the condiment cupboard, grabbing various bottles from the shelf and carrying them all to the counter beside the hob. "So, uh... what about the dance then?" He asked, frowning as he watched Rhys begin adding small amounts of various sauces to his creation. "Why did he go to so much effort to ask you..?"

"What, apart from my stunning good looks and my charming personality?" Rhys snorted, glancing at Vaughn when be swatted his shoulder. "Tomato purée, assbutt... top shelf in the door." He ordered, tipping his chin in the direction of his fridge. "Well, Axton's explanation went along the lines of..." He paused, a hand to his chest as he cleared his throat and turned to lean against the counter. "Ahem... 'I wanted to have the most eligible, but practically unobtainable guy in school on my arm,' and that is a direct quote." Rhys explained, shaking his head as he returned his attention to his wok, before finally turning down the heat to have his creation simmer. "If you understand that, then you're doing better than me. I literally just called him an idiot..." He scoffed, grabbing another pan and setting it on the counter, before taking his boiled potatoes off the heat. 

"Of course, he then decided to explain that he had always liked me, thought I was smart, blah blah blah, usual lame ass come ons." He sighed, straining the water from his potatoes and dumping them in a small baking tin, seasoning them with a generous dash of olive oil, rosemary and onion. "Then just as he was getting a little too close for comfort... Mr. Flynt caught us..." He said, sliding the tray into a shelf in his oven an closing the door, holding the handle a moment longer as his thoughts drifted to his teacher.

I wonder what he's doing right now... He thought absently, his heart pausing mid beat, before quickly resuming its excited thrumming. Drinking would be my guess. Seems like that's his go to response... He thought fondly, startling slightly when he heard Vaughn call his name. "Hmm?" He hummed, turning with a faint frown.

"Dude, what the hell? You totally just spaced out..." Vaughn sniggered, grinning as he watched Rhys roll his eyes and return to the hob. "So what, Mr. Flynt gave you a hard time? Do you have another detention to add to your growing repertoire?" He asked, folding his arms over his chest and leaning against the far counter as he watched Rhys place his new pan to the hob and grab the flour, milk and butter from the fridge.

"No, Mr. Flynt... Well okay, he was kind of a dick, but that's not exactly new. You know how he is..." Rhys explained vaguely, biting his lip to fight back a fond grin as he added a generous amount of butter to his pan and began to melt it.

"Boy, do I..." Vaughn sighed, a tight sound of shock escaping Rhys’ throat as he looked up at his friend sharply, his eyes wide as his heart hammered in his chest, a sharp sting of jealousy prickling beneath his skin. "What? Don't give me that look, I've seen you eyeballing him like he's your last meal." Vaughn snorted, jostling Rhys’ shoulder playfully as Rhys quickly lowered his gaze again. "I just mean he's totally rocking that whole; mysterious, grouchy, but hot as holy hell thing."

Rhys swallowed thickly, determinedly pushing aside the slight jealousy which he felt over his friends minor crush. "I guess he's okay, sure..." He said carefully, slowly adding some flour to his butter and stirring until he had a soft ball. "But, uh, anyway... I think he just wanted to get away from the dance. You remember how he said he didn't wanna go? I'm guessing he was just..." He paused for a moment, remembering the small bottle of whiskey he'd seen his teacher with, before he'd sent it careening to the far wall. "Ahem, I think he was roaming the halls to avoid everyone. Probably let us off just because he didn't wanna have to go back." He said evasively, his gut curdling with guilt for lying to his friend.

"Hmm, I guess that makes sense. He's not exactly a people person, is he?" Vaughn hummed thoughtfully, watching as Rhys added milk to his pan and slowly turned his small ball of flour and butter into a thick and creamy white sauce.

"Get my lasagne sheets out the cupboard by the door, assbutt." Rhys said, drawing in a see breath as he turned the hob off and moved to grab a large glass dish. "Well, at any rate; he was giving us a telling off and Axton started dragging me back to the hall. I was just, frustrated, I guess? I mean, I can walk just fine by myself... I'm a big boy, ya know? I don't need Axton bloody golden boy Turret to keep touching me or showing me off like I'm some kind of-"

"Whoa, dude... chill." Vaughn drawled, shaking his head as Rhys blinked himself free of his irritation, startled to realise he'd been repeating his teachers own accusations. "I mean, I get it. Axton's been kinda handsy with you, ever since the performance really... Though I guess it makes sense, if he's been trying to make Maya jealous."

"You really think..?" Rhys asked, his brow furrowing as he thought back over the past week. He shook his head, deciding to clear up his entire situation with the schools heartthrob, sports star during the week. One thing at a time... I need to make sure its known, by everyone, that Axton and I are not a thing. He thought, his heart lightening as he tipped half his meat into the dish and spread it evenly across the base. Then I just need to convince... whoever he is, to take a chance on me. He thought, biting his lip as he glanced quickly at the tag, laying innocently against his chest. "Uh, well... anyway, I just needed a break. Said I was gonna use the bathroom and I'd catch up. He actually offered to come with me dude, and I gotta admit, I was not impressed..."

"Pfft, dude that's hilarious." Vaughn snorted, passing the pasta sheets to Rhys so he could quickly fit a layer across the top of his meat. "But also, yeah, kinda creepy... So that's it, you just bailed?" He asked, raising a brow as he snagged a piece of meat before Rhys could pour the second layer atop the new pasta sheets.

"Uh," Rhys cleared his throat distractedly, his heart racing as he recalled the intimate, passionate encounter with his teacher. "Yeah...  waited for Axton to go back to the hall and just, walked home. I am sorry dude, I didn't think much past just, getting home to be honest..." He confessed, remembering how dazed and confused he'd been after leaving his clearly frustrated teacher alone in his classroom.

"I suppose I forgive you." Vaughn huffed, heaving a long suffering sigh as he nudged Rhys’ arm playfully. "Sounds like you had a bit of a night, so... I understand dude." He admitted gently, smiling at Rhys as he kept his eyes on his hands, as he applied the top layer of pasta sheets to his lasagna.

"Yeah..." Rhys said, swallowing thickly as heat and longing flared in his gut. "Hell of a night." He said, pouring his white sauce over the top of his lasagna and quickly grating some cheese across the top. "Oven, dude." He said, gesturing to the oven door as he lifted his creation carefully.

Vaughn opens the oven door, allowing Rhys to slide his masterpiece onto the shelf, before quickly closing it again once he was done. "So..." He said, looking at Rhys and bouncing on the balls of his feet. "You're gonna feed me some of that, right?" He demanded, jerking his thumb at the oven as Rhys shoved him playfully.

"You wanna eat, you help me clean." Rhys replied smugly, smirking when Vaughn considered for a moment, before caving in and helping him clean the kitchen. Together they quickly cleaned down the sides and washed Rhys’ various instruments, finally putting away all the condiments and other items which were no longer needed. "There, now, was that so hard?"

Vaughn grimaced and wisely chose not to answer, following Rhys through to the living room and flopping down on the couch beside him. "You put your feet on my coffee table, I'm gonna hit you with a spoon." Rhys warned, leaning against the back of the couch with his eyes closed, his lips quirking in amusement when Vaughn spluttered with indignation.

"I didn't do anything! And you're not even looking, how the hell-" he protested, before gasping in outrage, when Rhys lifted his legs and crossed his feet on his coffee table. "Dude!"

"House rules, buddy." Rhys snickered, opening his eyes to glance at Vaughn slyly. "As in, host makes the rules; guest shuts his cakehole." He said, sharing a brief serious gaze with Vaughn before they both dissolved into giggles.

"You are such an assbutt..." Vaughn finally sighed sometime later, as Rhys got up to turn off the over and begin dishing up two plates of food. "But your cooking alone makes up for it." Rhys snorted and tossed some cutlery to Vaughn, sitting beside him and handing him a plate laden with steaming food. "So..." He drawled, glancing at Rhys as he shoveled a large helping into his mouth.

"Hmm..." Rhys snorted, watching in amusement as his friend spluttered around the hot food, though managed not to spit it out. "You uh, you got a little something right... right here, dude..." He teased, gesturing to where Vaughn had spilt some sauce on his chin. 

Vaughn scowled and wiped the sauce away with his sleeve, muttering under his breath as Rhys hummed and ate his own food at a more cautious pace. "I was gonna say..." Vaughn began again, after carefully swallowing the remainder of his mouthful. "What's your plan? Like, for dealing with Axton?"

Rhys continued to eat quietly for a long pause, a slow smile spreading across his face as his heart flittered into his throat. "Oh, you'll just have to wait til class and..." He said, turning to Vaughn's pout with a huge grin. "... find out with everybody else." He finished, licking his fork clean with a suggestive wave of his brows, and refusing to say anything further on the subject for the remainder of the night.

The following morning his gut was a writhing mass of nerves, his heart racing as he and Vaughn walked into the school. I have to expect him to be a little... prickly. He thought, his breath catching as his stomach fluttered anxiously, eager to make his way to class. I have to show him I can be mature, that I'm not gonna let him get in trouble for an accident... and that I want to wait for him. I'll have to show him that too. He thought, exhaling a shaky breath as he and Vaughn headed to their history classroom. Oh god... Oh god, oh god, oh god... C'mon. Rhys... do not screw this up! He told himself, gripping his bag strap tightly, as he and Vaughn stepped into class.

Rhys’ heart rose to his throat, his eyes darting eagerly around the room, only to come up empty. He swallowed thickly and his heart began to sink, as he followed Vaughn to their shared table at the back of the class, tossing his bag on the table and pouting as he turned to gazed over at the doorway worriedly. What if he's not coming..? He wondered, panic flaring in his chest as he imagined having missed his chance to express his feelings. What if he's called in sick? Hell, what if he quit?! He was pretty freaked out... Rhys sucked in a deep breath, his heart clamouring desperately as his mind ran away from him, imagining worse and worse scenarios the longer their teacher remained absent. Oh god, what if he-

"Alright, ya goddamn... uh, Kiddos. Get in ya seats and shut ya faces." Rhys almost choked, leaning his elbows on the table so he could prop his chin in his hands. He watched intently as their history teacher stormed across to his desk, tossing his things down and scowling around the room. "Page two thirty." He snapped, folding his arms over his chest as the rest of the room hurried to obey, exchanging glances with each other in light of their teachers obvious bad mood. "Read the chapter, then write an essay on the aftermath of the attack. I expect detailed explanations on the propaganda used after the attack, and I want ya to explain in ya own words how Japan, 'won a great tactical victory at Pearl Harbor, and thereby lost the war'." He said, raising a brow when nobody moved. "Well? Hop to it!" He snarked, waving for them to get started.

Rhys’ heart trembled in his chest, his fingers clutched at the edge of his desk, nerves spiking through his spine as he watched his teacher look around the room sternly, before turning to take his seat, burying himself in the various binders and papers he'd thrown on his desk. He's blanking it... He thought, his heart lurching painfully at the realisation. He's going to make out like nothing happened... again. He looked down at the table, his knuckles almost white from his tight grip. He forced his fingers to release, his breath coming raggedly as he struggled to keep the surging sense of panic from overwhelming him.

"I can do this..." He murmured, his hands shaking as he grabbed his textbook and a pad of paper. "... I can do this." He told himself again, his confidence rising as he resolved himself to stick to his original plan. He drew in a deep breath, unconsciously glancing to the area of wall he'd back up against the last time he was in the room. He felt his cheeks blaze with heat, and he darted a nervous look to his teacher, before lowering his eyes to his work; trying to ignore the urgent clamour of his heart and the anxiety in his gut. 

Over the next two hours of near silent work, Rhys’ eyes repeated drifted to the front desk, his heart lurching giddily each time he dared to glance at his teacher, before quickly returning his eyes to his work. When the bell rang a second time, signalling the end of their double class, Rhys glanced at his teacher eagerly; his heart dropping when he saw the mans shoulders sag with obvious relief. Is he really that stressed, just to be in the same room as me..? Or did something happen? He wondered, gnawing his lip worriedly as he slowly packed away his things.

"Alright, put ya homework from last class on my desk..." Their teacher called, moving to lean against the wall and glaring at them all as students began to file down to his desk. "And don't let the door hit ya asses on the way out!" He grumbled, folding his arms over his chest and scowling at his desk, while Rhys frowned in concern and confusion.

He dawdled at the back of the crowd, waiting with the hope to be the last to their teachers desk. Once there he hesitated, waiting for the rest of the class to filter from the room. "Set ya homework down, and get the hell out, Kiddo." Their history teacher sneered, and Rhys snapped his eyes up to the other man in surprise, his heart aching at the return to the informal nickname. "I got sh-stuff to do, so hurry it up already, yeah?" Their teacher demanded, as Rhys’ expression hardened, the stinging pain in his heart flaring to indignation; upon realising his teachers plan.

He's gonna be a total ass and kick me outta here... He won't let us be alone again. He thought, looking down as his hand curled into a tight fist. But if I'm gonna tell him I want him, that I understand and I want to wait for him... I need to make sure we're alone... He hummed thoughtfully, narrowing his eyes briefly before raising his head with what he hoped was a regretful and guilty expression. "I'm sorry, sir." He said, spreading his palms apologetically. "I don't have it." 

"Why the bloody hell not, exactly?" His history teacher demanded, scowling as if he had already guessed Rhys’ plan. Various other students paused in the doorway, glancing back to see what the disturbance was about. "What, too busy with ya boyfriend over the weekend?"

"No, sir... I'm afraid I don't have a boyfriend, sir." Rhys replied sweetly, flashing his history teacher a secret wink. "Yet." He added, low enough that his classmates couldn't hear. His teachers hard expression softened into surprise for a moment, before he shook himself free and scowled at Rhys again.

"Then where's ya goddamn homework?" He demanded, narrowing his eyes at Rhys’ too innocent expression, his gaze dropping to his easy smile, before he seemed to flinch and quickly look away.

"... My dog ate it." Rhys lied glibly, his eyes meeting his teachers frustrated gaze when he looked back at him, clearly recalling his lack of a pet; but unable to call him on it. "Sir." Rhys added slyly, his lips twitching faintly when his teachers gaze hardened.

"Well, I guess ya better work hard to keep ya homework outta ya pets mouth in future." His teacher replied, running a hand through his hair distractedly as he glanced out the window. "Just... get it to my desk by the end of the day, Kiddo." He finally sighed, jerking his head towards the door in a clear dismissal. "Get goin'." He said gruffly, his eyes narrowing at Rhys’ bright smile.

"Thankyou, sir." He said, his lips twitching as he offered a rough, two fingered salute, a perfect replica of the gesture his teacher had thrown him at the dance. "I will, sir." He promised, though his teacher narrowed his eyes in suspicion when he gave a sly wink, before turning to saunter from the room. Proving I'm mature enough is one thing, proving I can hold my own against him and beat him at his own game, is quite another. He thought, keeping his expression carefully neutral around his curious classmates; though his hands drifted to his collar, where the tag still lay hidden around his neck.

For the remainder of the day, Rhys was unable to keep still. His fingers drummed, his leg jostled and always; his heart pounded within his chest. By the time final bell had finished ringing, Rhys’ bag was on his shoulder and he was sat at the edge of his seat, ready to dash out the doorway and hurry back to his history classroom. He quickly said goodbye to Vaughn, promising to meet him out the front the following morning. Okay, this is it... He thought, his heart fluttering giddily as he tried to walk calmly through the halls, dodging and weaving around other students in his eagerness. So, be cool. Be suave... Use every single goddamn persuasion point in your skill tree, Rhys! Convince him you're serious, and show him you're committed! Woo him- Rhys’ thoughts ended abruptly, swinging around his history classroom door with his hand raised to knock, only to find the room empty. "Oh..." His breath left him in an explosive sigh, disappointment striking him hard. He stepped inside, slowly approaching the teachers desk as he reached into his bag for his homework.

This... kind of puts a kink in the plan. He thought, trying to swallow down his disappointment. He glanced out the window, and stepped closer with a sharp intake of breath, gazing out the window to see his history teacher loading his things into his trunk. He watched the older man climb into his car, and pull out of the parking lot moments later. "Heh, well played... well played." Rhys huffed, turning with an exasperated shake of his head to place his homework on the desk. He paused, his hand hovering in mid-air briefly, before he slowly pulled it back and tucked his homework back into his bag. "Two can play that game." He snickered, his lips curving into a grin as he turned and walked out the class, determined to fight for what he wanted, just as much as his teacher was trying to resist it.

Rhys’ week passed with both amusement and exasperation, his history teacher seeming to evade his every attempt to corner him, almost as if anticipating his own ideas. Tuesday morning, Rhys had waited opposite the parking spot he'd seen his teacher leave the previous afternoon. However, by the time the bell rang, his teacher had failed to appear; and he had been forced to hurry to his first class. He'd tried to catch him in his classroom at lunch, only to find the man had already left for a 'staff meeting', according to the few students lingering in the room.

On Wednesday he'd purposely hovered in the the humanities department at the beginning of the lunch hour, only to spy his teacher talking with one of the female geography teachers, and had hurried away before they could spot him; consequently spending the rest of his lunch hour surly and wrestling with the irrational sense of jealousy he felt flaring in his chest.

By Thursday morning, he'd written out and deleted over twenty text messages, knowing only too well that they would be ignored and likely result in his number being blocked. Each time he typed out a message, he would grit his teeth and scowl, quickly erasing it and slamming his phone down somewhere; grabbing the tag around his neck and muttering to himself darkly, before he would return to his phone to repeat the process all over again. He'd spotted the man in the hallway once, but by the time he'd managed to make his way over to the area he'd spotted him, the man had been nowhere in sight.

Friday found Rhys both waspish and exasperated with everything and everyone, anticipating his last class of the day with the combined churning of excitement and nerves in his gut. Even Vaughn had wisely chosen to give Rhys time to brood and sulk over the lunch hour, leaving him to sit and fidget in uneasy silence. When the tome finally came for their final history class, his gut was a tightly twisted coil of nervous energy, fluttering weakly at the sight of the man who'd been so studiously avoiding him. His eyes dragged over the other man discreetly as he took his seat, taking in his ragged appearance and his slightly messier hair; and for the first time that day, Rhys smiled, certain the other mans dishevelled state confirmed his interest and own frustrations with their game. So... Time to stop running. He thought, removing his textbook and his pad from his bag. But, how do I make sure he doesn't just run off after class? He wondered, frowning thoughtfully as he tapped his pen against his pad slowly.

"Alright, ya grades are on ya papers. Hand 'em out and then continue ya essays from Monday... Here ya go, Chuckles. Make yaself useful." Their teacher drawled, handing a stack of papers to August, who sneered but reluctantly stood from his seat beside Sasha. "Now, I-"

"Sir," Rhys said quickly, raising his hand with an apologetic grimace. He kept his expression regretful, as his teacher reluctantly turned towards him, eyeing him with obvious suspicion. "I'm sorry sir, I never got to hand mine in... sir." He said, his heart skipping a best when his teachers jaw tightened, glancing around the room as he gripped the back of his chair.

"I... I'm sure I saw ya name on one of 'em..." Their teacher said evasively, clearing his throat as his gaze remained locked with Rhys’ for a moment, before he quickly looked down at his desk. "I'm pretty sure ya got a-"

"That'd be hard, sir." Rhys replied, narrowing his eyes as he realised his teacher was intending to evade him once again. "Considering I never actually finished it... Sir." He said bashfully, biting his lip as if embarrassed by his confession. He ducked his head guiltily, glancing up from beneath his lashes as their history teacher heaved a deep sigh, clearly reluctant to cave in and admit his predicament.

Their history teacher glanced around the rest of the class, quickly taking in their curious looks and recalling his earlier leniency. Finally, he shook his head, scowling as he looked back at Rhys in irritated defeat. "... I guess ya better stay after class and finish it then." He said stiffly, glaring as Rhys ducked his head in feigned embarrassment. "Rest of ya, quit ya bloody starin' and get on with ya work, less ya wanna join him." He added with a scowl, turning back to his desk as Rhys glanced out the window at the darkening sky and fought to keep a small, victorious smile from his face.

When the class finally came to an end, Rhys’ classmates began to rise and gather their things, while their teacher barked out the homework they were to hand in the following week. "Dude, I'll see you tomorrow then?" Vaughn asked, as he threw his bag over his shoulder and got to his feet. "I'll be round about half ten, okay?"

"Hmm?" Rhys hummed, glancing up from where he remained seated, slowly packing his things away. "Yeah, yeah totally..." He said distractedly, clearing his throat as he smiled at his friend. "See you then." He said, waving as Vaughn left the room with the rest of the class. He drummed his fingers against the table top, his heart fluttering lightly as his teacher watched the departing students, sighing heavily and folding his arms over his chest as the last of them trickled out.

"Well, you sure don't take a hint, do ya Kiddo?" He finally drawled, turning to Rhys with a carefully guarded scowl. "Gotta admit, that was a smart play though... really left me backed up against a wall there." He sighed, shaking his head as he walked to his desk.

"Like I said when we met... Handsome..." Rhys drawled, uncrossing his legs from under the desk and rising to his feet, swinging his bag to his shoulder as he slowly approached from the back of the class. His heart lurched when his history teacher fidgeted awkwardly at the nickname, frowning and stepping further behind his desk as Rhys approached. "I don't see the point in playing games... especially, not when I see something I want." He said with a suggestive glance over his teachers tense posture, as he came to a halt on the opposite side of his desk.

"Heh, well ya sure playin' a long game this week, ain't ya?" His teacher scoffed, narrowing his eyes foe a moment, before sighing and running a hand through his hair. "Look, Kiddo, I didn't wanna get into this. But the fact is-"

"Just wait a minute..." Rhys said firmly, startling his teacher to a halt. "Look, after... after the dance, I thought about everything. Like, I really thought about it all... thoroughly." He said slowly, his gut fluttering with nervous hope and desire. "I really like you." He said simply, biting his lip as his teacher swallowed and looked away, his brow furrowed heavily. "And... I would really like the chance to see, what this could be; but, I know... right now, it can't be anything. Because, I know you're uneasy about my age and the whole, you know... teacher thing." He said in a rush, sucking in a deep breath to try and calm himself as his heart raced, forcing himself to keep his gaze on his teacher despite his reddening cheeks. "But... In a couple weeks I'll be eighteen, and that's one hurdle down. So, if... if we could just wait..."

"I'm gonna stop ya right there, Kiddo." His teacher said suddenly, holding up his hand as if to ward off the remains of his speech. Rhys’ heart paused in his chest, obstructing his throat as he bit his lip and gazed at his teacher hopefully. "Look, I'm flattered and all, but this... whole thing ya describin', it ain't gonna happen." He said, as Rhys flinched and exhaled sharply, finally averting his gaze as his heart constricted painfully. "I got drunk at that dumbass dance... I shouldn't have, and I especially shouldn't have let anythin' happen. I'm sorry if ya think I was leadin' ya on, Kiddo... It weren't my intentio-"

"You said, you didn't wanna forget... that it... that you..." Rhys began, pausing to hide the way his voice tried to break. "You said it!" He finally choked, trembling as he gripped his bag strap tightly. His breathing quickened, and he looked back at his teacher pleadingly. "Please, don't... don't just brush this off. You said you didn't wanna forget, I don't wanna forget either! I want to try, and I'll wait... however long you ask me to, I'll do it, I'll show you!" He said brokenly, his heart sinking as he watched his teachers expression flicker indecisively for a moment, before hardening with resolve. "Please, please-"

"Sorry, Kiddo." His teacher said thickly, drawing a deep and steadying breath as he folded his arms over his chest. "But it ain't gonna happen." He repeated firmly, as Rhys choked on his grief and lowered his eyes to the floor, his hand gliding from his bag strap to the tag which lay hidden beneath his shirt, burning against his chest. "I ain't about to get involved with some Kid, who gets his rocks off seducin' older guys in bars." He continued, as Rhys jerked his head up in surprise, his eyes wide as he stared at his teacher in disbelief of the stinging remark. "I'm sure it weren't ya intention to hurt anyone, but that kinda deception leaves wounds, Kiddo. There's repercussions."

Rhys’ breathing quickened further, his chest rising and falling heavily as he looked at the floor, swallowing thickly as grief and the bitter sting of rejection overwhelmed him. Oh god... why the hell does this even hurt so much? He wondered distantly, his gaze vacant as tears prickled in his eyes, falling silently over his cheeks. Why're you even surprised, Rhys? He rebuked himself, chewing his lip to keep it from wavering. You thought the first time you actually want a guy to stick around, he's gonna think you're anything more than some cheap hook up? You know better...

"... Cupcake?" His teachers voice reached his ears at last, and he flinched back a step when he realised the man had cautiously rounded his desk, his hand tentatively on his elbow as he eyed him worriedly. "Dammit, don't... don't cry... okay? Look, I didn't mean to... I'm s-"

"Don't flatter yourself, sir." Rhys sneered, his hand drifting to his bag and pulling out his homework. "Here. Sorry its late, sir. I'll get out of your hair. Sir." He said haughtily, desperately trying to mask his pain with a bravado he did not feel in the slightest. He felt raw, naked as he hadn't felt before a lover since he'd learnt not to get attached. Way to screw up your own rules, Rhys. He thought waspishly, shoving his paper into his teachers hand and slowly backing away another step.

"... I thought ya said it weren't finished?" His teacher asked, a frown marring his brow as he eyed the page uncertainly, before looking back up at Rhys, concern creeping into his confused gaze as he watched him back away.

"Yeah... dumb, I know." Rhys scoffed self depreciatively, shaking his head as his throat ached with he desire to cry. "So desperate to talk to you and explain all this... feelings crap. Should've learnt my lesson." He snorted bitterly, turning away and taking a step towards the door.

"Wait, ya tellin' me ya had this all week?" His teacher demanded, frowning as Rhys half glanced back towards him briefly. He nodded, watching uncertainly as his teacher shook his head and ran a hand over his face, looking down at the paper again. "More secrets and lies, huh?" He sighed, his hand drifting around to the back of his neck.

"Ha, like you're one to talk." Rhys scoffed darkly, tensing when his teacher looked up at him sharply. "What? Don't like it that someone might know your little secret, sir?" He sneered, dragging his arm over his eyes and holding his breath as he unbuttoned his collar and grabbed the chain beneath, pulling the tech tag over his head with a faint jingle. "Well you don't need to worry... I didn't tell anyone your other one, so at least you know this ones safe as well." He spat bitterly, tossing the tag at his teacher. He watched his teachers eyes widen in surprise, his heart aching as the tag left his hand and sailed through the air away from him. Unable to stand their loss, or the loss of what he had felt in his heart could have been, Rhys turned away from the man he wanted with a sound of distress; and quickly slipped away into the hall.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

Oops... I Did It Again.

 

Jack one handedly snatched the chain Rhys tossed from the air, his eyes wide as his fingers closed around his missing tech tag. He blinked, staring at them in as his heart raced, surprised and conflicted by Rhys’ confession. He slowly used his free hand to turn the tag, running his thumb over the etching of his name. 

Lawrence, Jack .

"Where the hell did ya-" Jack began, looking up to find himself alone in the classroom. "Ah, shit..." He cursed, running his free hand through his hair distractedly. Well done Lawrence, ya traumatized the poor kid so much he's run off. He thought scathingly, cursing himself for pushing the student so hard. "Godammit..." He muttered, turning to lean against his desk as he gazed at his tag again in wonder. "So... That's where ya got to..." He murmured, shaking his head in disbelief.

Must have slipped out my t-shirt when I got dressed, or I dropped 'em when I was puttin' my number in his phone... Unless they never came through from the livin' room. He thought, sighing and rubbing his eyes tiredly. And he's been... wearing them? He wondered distractedly, blinking away his shock as best he could. How long..? He thought, his brows raising as he tried to decipher how long Rhys had worn the chain around his neck. Ever since..? He couldn't help the lightness in his heart, the awe which filtered through his disbelief to leave him with an unexpected warmth in his gut. "Damn, Cupcake... Ya really are full of surprises..." He sighed, shaking his head slowly.

Jack turned at the soft pattering on his window, noticing the dark clouds which had looked all day were finally breaking, a storm beginning to unleash itself on the unsuspecting who were outside. Well, ya sure made a mess this time Lawrence... He thought, swallowing thickly as he recalled Rhys’ insistent behaviour all week. He huffed, a half crooked smile forming as he glanced back at the homework Rhys had shoved at him. "Definitely full of surprises." He murmured, his fingers skimming the page in wonder. He had this all along, but kept it back... just so he could talk with me. He thought, pursing his lips and narrowing his eyes, as they drifted back to his tag. And I... didn't even give him the time of day. Damn... but, how was I to know..? He scowled, pushing away from his desk and pacing the aisle in frustration.

"Little shit never said anythin' about havin'-" he paused, stilling halfway between his desk and Rhys’ table at the back of the class, his brow furrowing as his gaze turned distant, looking back over the times Rhys had tried to talk to him since they'd found themselves in the unexpected predicament. "Well, shit..." He huffed, realising he'd been blind in his desperation to sweep his mistake under the proverbial carpet. He looked down at his tag, turning to glance at the doorway, before groaning and running his hands through his hair. "Goddamn it, Lawrence... Ya're a blind bastard..." He huffed, grimacing as his hand drifted over his stubble thoughtfully.

So that's what he kept tryin' to tell me... Why he text me. He thought, his eyes widening briefly in realisation, as he raised his tag before his eyes. And he was already wearin' 'em... He blinked in disbelief, drawing in a deep and ragged breath as he recalled Rhys’ constant awkward gestures, the fidgeting with his shirt and his urgency to make Jack listen. He had 'em the whole time; wore 'em the while time... He paused, swallowing as he looked at his tag, and finally lowered it over his own head. He knew, the whole time... He thought, swiping a thumb over his deeply etched name slowly. "And ya never said a thing to reveal it. Even to me..." He muttered, shaking his head in awe. Guess he's more mature and discreet than I gave him credit for... He thought fondly, wincing guiltily as he recalled his harsh rejection.

"Dammit... I didn't kno-" he growled in frustration, though he quickly tapered off with a sigh. Didn't wanna know. He silently corrected himself, scowling as he slowly returned to his desk and began packing his things away. He paused to glance out the window when the soft splattering of rain increased to an angry drone. "Great... just great." He sighed, gathering his things and finally heading out to his car.

Still can't believe the balls on him. He snorted at the thought, walking down the hall slowly in his distracted haze. Well, I can, havin' seen 'em... But still, did he really spend all weekend thinkin' about it? He wondered, reluctantly admitting that despite his firm rejection, he'd been impressed by Rhys’ careful, thoughtful presentation of his offer. Was practically word for word what I thought myself last week, right before... He swallowed thickly, pushing back against the swell of jealousy he felt. "Ain't got no right gettin' all worked up over it. 'Specially after dismissin' him like that..." He mumbled, frowning as he made his way through the school to the parking lot. He pulled his jacket up over his hair, and quickly pushed through the door, jogging through the downpour to his car and tossing his things in the back, before hurrying into the drivers seat. I guess we were really on the same wavelength about this whole thing... He thought, hesitating as he stared through the windscreen distractedly, almost able to picture the potential life they could have once his days of roleplaying as his best friend were over. 

But... Even if I could take that risk, he ain't gonna still wanna try. He thought dismissively, shaking his head as he dug out his key and firmly ignored the deep ache in his heart. After the way he slunk outta class? He ain't gonna be interested in even talkin' to me in future. He thought, swallowing heavily at the rush of guilt and loss which swept through him at the thought. He shoved his key into the ignition and started the car, drawing in a deep breath as he recalled Rhys’ parting barb. "Should've know better..?" He murmured, his brow creasing in confusion as he considered the words in a new light, without the urgent need to dissuade Rhys’ interest in him. "Just what happened to ya anyway, Cupcake..?" He wondered aloud, shaking his head as he realised he was unable to keep himself from using the fond nickname again. Hell, what a pair we make... He thought, snorting in weary amusement as he finally pulled on his seatbelt and carefully drove out of the school grounds.

"This is for the best." Jack said weakly, his hands gripping the steering wheel tightly as he slowly made his way around the school to the main road, turning east to his favourite liquor store. "He's finally gonna give up, I... I can't now..." He broke off with a sound of frustration in his throat, frowning as he raised a hand to scratch his ear. "It ain't fair to be honest now... just 'cause he ain't said anythin', don't mean I owe him." He scoffed, though his heart and gut both twisted in obvious disagreement. It ain't fair to confuse him... if he's finally gonna let it go, then I gotta as well. He thought, unprepared for the force of the grief which struck him at the thought. "... This is for the best." He muttered lowly, exhaling a bone weary sigh as he pulled up outside the liquor store. "'Course, ya realise this shit probably ain't helpin' ya..?" He said to himself, rolling his eyes as he shut off the engine and darted inside, quickly selecting a fifth of his favourite whiskey. After paying for his item, he hurried back to the car and tossed it onto the back seat with his various papers and workbooks, quickly starting the engine and turning around to head home.

I wonder if he would've managed it... He thought idly, as he drove slowly through the heavy rain. He really gives it his all, when he decides to go for somethin'. He added with a faint huff, his lips twitching with amusement as he recalled the stain in Rhys’ cheeks, as he'd determinedly held Jack's gaze and continued his speech. I'll be damned if he ain't the prettiest little bastard when be blushes... Although, I'm probably damned already by this point. He conceded, unable to fight off the small grin which surfaced on his face.

He was just preparing to turn down the side road a hundred yards ahead, which would take him almost directly to his apartment, when he spotted a bus stop just ahead, with a painfully familiar figure huddled beneath the only piece of roofing at the far end. Aw, hell... He thought, grimacing as he glanced over Rhys’ soaking wet appearance. His heart began to lurch unevenly in his chest, aching with to desire to help the younger and potentially even set things right, while also conflicting with his desire to maintain the new distance Rhys had formed between them. Jack sucked in a deep breath and held it, gripping his steering wheel tighter and determinedly fixed his eyes ahead of him, forcing himself to drive straight past Rhys. A total of five seconds later however, he stomped on his brakes and glared at Rhys’ reflection in the rearview mirror. "... Godammit." He cursed, slotting the car into reverse and turning to guide the car back to the bus stop. He wound down the window with a sigh, as Rhys’ surprised expression morphed I to a scowl. "Don't even start," Jack warned as he leaned across the passenger seat, anticipating his hostile response. "Just get in the damn car." He ordered, gesturing to the other door as he sat straight.

"All due respect, sir, but do one." Rhys scoffed, ignoring Jack's warning as he promptly turned away and walked back out into the rain. Jack cursed and scowled, unbuckling his seatbelt and leaning over the passenger seat again as he crawled his car forwards.

"C'mon, Cupcake, don't be an idiot..." He called, as Rhys stubborn refused to look at him, determinedly marching through the downpour. "Ya already soaked! Y'all get pneumonia or somethin' equally stupid, and then I'll have to kick ya ass for it... right after I take ya to the bloody hospital."

"Thanks for the offer, sir," Rhys sneered, turning his head as he continued to trudge through the rain. "But its really not your responsibility to care for me. I'll be fine, sir, don't let me keep you." He huffed, a noticeable shiver passing through him as he continued to refuse Jack's help.

"Okay, ya know what? I'm so done with this bullshit." Jack snarled, revving his engine as he sped his car up briefly, before swinging the nose up onto the curb, blocking the pathway ahead of Rhys. He shut off the engine and kicked open his door, scowling as he exited the car into the deluge and stormed around to face the stubborn younger male. "There, ya happy now? Now we're both gettin' wet ya goddamn pain in the ass!"

"How is that my fault?!" Rhys yelped, his eyes wide as he stared at Jack in disbelief, finally forced to a halt. "You're the crazy bastard who drove up the curb!" He countered, shaking his head as he recovered from his shock over Jack's actions. "What do you even want? You made yourself clear, okay? So just piss off and let me go home already!"

"Oh, shut up already, Cupcake... quit actin' all butt hurt, just 'cause I-" Jack paused, wincing as he recalled his harsh dismissal in his classroom. He swallowed heavily, words failing him for a moment as his heart leapt to the base of his throat. "Look, I might've said some shit I didn't entirely mean, okay? I was pissed off and... and..."

"You really don't owe me an explanation, sir." Rhys scoffed, though Jack could see the undeniable spark of something in his warm eyes. "I get it, okay? I'm just a dumb kid who whores around and can't be trusted to-"

"Oh Christ, kill the pity party would ya?" Jack snorted, running a hand through his sopping hair and sweeping it from his face. "Ya gonna make me reconsider this whole bloody stupid... thing." He groused, gesturing vaguely towards Rhys, as he stared in shocked disbelief.

"What?" He balked, blinking at Jack through the rain as his brow furrowed. "I don't..." He began, pausing to pointlessly wipe away the rain on his forehead. "You just said..!" He yelled, scowling as his lower lip trembled, though Jack couldn't tell if it was from his emotional state or the growing chill of the rain.

"Yeah, well, I'm a complicated bastard, alright?!" Jack snarked back, glancing back at his car and thrusting an arm out towards it. "Can ya at least get in the damn car so ya don't bloody freeze? Ya can yell at me just as easy in there, hell ya can hit me if ya want, I won't even- kff!" Rhys’ fist lashed out before Jack even realised, connecting solidly with his jaw and surprising him with the strength behind it. The younger took a startled step back, blinking at his own hand in disbelief as Jack rubbed at his jaw and frowned at him. "Feel better?" He asked petulantly, grimacing at the ache in his jaw.

"No." Rhys said quickly, shaking his head as he swallowed and blinked away his shock, looking back up at Jack distrustfully as the rain cascaded heavily around them.

"Wanna take another shot?" Jack suggested sarcastically, his brow raising in surprise and amusement when Rhys cocked his head thoughtfully at the offer.

"Maybe." He replied, though Jack noticed his hands quickly gripped his bag strap tightly, as if to keep them from striking out again.

Jack sighed, running his hand over his face and sweeping aside the sodden strands of hair which had stuck to his face. "Look, Cupcake..." He finally said, sighing when Rhys watched him warily, still dustrustful after their previous encounter. "I ain't exactly sure what to make of all this... Ya honestly, kinda scare the hell outta me." He reluctantly admitted, scrubbing a hand over his stubbled jaw.

"... Why?" Rhys asked confusedly, glancing towards the car with lingering hesitantly, before refocusing on Jack with growing urgency and undisguised hope in his intense gaze. "Why are you so afra-"

"Because, Cupcake..." Jack said sharply, immediately pausing to reign in his nervous temper. He met Rhys’ cautiously hopeful gaze with his own, swallowing thickly as the words stuck in his throat, before finally exploding free. "Because I ain't ever wanted anythin'... as much as I want you." He confessed, gazing at Rhys helplessly as they stood beneath the torrential rain.

Rhys stared at him with open disbelief, but as Jack watched, his expression changed. Slowly but surely, he watched the uncertainty fade, replaced by longing and hope as he took a deep breath and tentatively stepped forward. "... No more bullshit, Handsome?" He asked quietly, barely audible beneath the sound of the rain upon the pavement.

Jack huffed, unable to deny the dizzying rush of relief which flooded his heart at the gesture. "No more bullshit, Cupcake." He confirmed softly, offering Rhys a crooked smile and reaching a hand toward him, as he half turned to gesture back at his car with his other hand. "Now, can we get outta the goddamn rain..? Please?" He snorted fondly, his heart skipping a beat when Rhys’ cheeks darkened with a happy blush, biting his lip to contain a small smile as he took Jack's offered hand.

"I guess I could agree to that, Handsome." Rhys huffed, letting himself be guided to the car door, which Jack quickly opened so he could hop inside. He quickly closed the door, shaking his head at his own foolish giddiness as he hurried around the car and slid into the drivers seat.

He glanced at Rhys, a small lopsided grin forming on his face at the shy but hopeful expression the younger wore. Ya a goddamn idiot, Lawrence... but so help me this is the first thing that's felt right since I first left his damn apartment. He thought, gunning the engine to life and reversing back onto the road, before pulling away and heading back to his apartment; his heart hammering wildly in his chest as he gripped the steering wheel tightly, undeniably relieved to think he could finally be honest with someone.

The remainder of the drive passed in an uncertain, almost comfortable silence, the atmosphere of anticipation slowly building between and around them. Jack's mouth turned dry, uncharacteristic anxiety crawling in his gut as he tried to envision everything he wanted to say. Shit, I think it was easier facin' him down in the rain. He thought, glancing over at Rhys as if to reconfirm he was really there and noticing he was hunched and shivering. "Shit, uh, it ain't far, 'kay?" He muttered, reaching for the in seat heater button. "Sorry, I'd put the fans on, but I think it'd actually make ya colde-"

"It's f-fine, Handsome..." Rhys replied quickly, blushing as he ducked his head and gripped his bah tightly on his lap. "I'm f-fine... J-just... this h-helps, thanks..." He said, biting his lip shyly as he glanced back at Jack. "S-sorry, I'm making your c-car all wet and-"

"Naw, pfft, I mean... it's fine." Jack assured quickly, clearing his throat as their eyes met briefly, before they both hurried to look away. "Just... ya know, glad ya ain't still out in it." He said awkwardly, gesturing vaguely through the windscreen to the deluge beyond. C'mon Lawrence, get a fuckin' grip already! He scolded himself, gritting his teeth at the irrational sense of shyness which seemed to have gripped him tightly. What are ya, some kinda love-struck fool? He wondered irritably, turning the car into his parking lot and pulling straight into his spot. "C'mon, Cupcake..." He said, moving to reach through to the back to grab his things, only to realise the movement brought his face far too close to Rhys’ for comfort. "Uh, just... ahem..." He cleared his throat quickly, his cheeks burning beneath his stubble as he hesitated for a moment, paralyzed briefly by Rhys’ mild blush and faintly startled expression, as he stared back at Jack curiously. "Uh, if you wait under that... that balcony, then ya should keep fairly dry. I uh, I'll just... I gotta-" he said awkwardly, huffing in frustration as he gestured through to his things on the back seat. "I'll just be a minute." He managed, scratching his chin briefly as Rhys ducked his head and snorted, grinning as he bit his lip and quickly got out of the car.

Jack exhaled a deep breath heavily, scrubbing a hand over his stubble as he watched Rhys hurry to the cover of the balcony, before turning to quickly gather his things and ensure they were safe from the dismal weather. Finally, he grabbed his fifth of whiskey, tempted to down it for courage, before deciding against it and slipping it into his jacket pocket instead. Okay... try not to be an asshole, Lawrence. He reminded himself, scoffing at his own thought as he got out the car and hurried across to join Rhys beneath the balcony, swinging his key around on his keychain to let them into the building. "'S uh, this way..." He said, leading Rhys to the elevator and selecting the fifth floor. As the doors closed he turned, raising a brow when he found Rhys grinning from the opposite wall of the elevator. "What..?" He asked, cocking his head when Rhys snickered and glanced away briefly.

"I was j-just..." He began, hesitating for a moment as he looked at the floor, his cheeks staining with a touch of pink. "I had a little Déjà vu, w-was all..." He admitted, refusing to meet Jack's eyes as he ran a hand through his dripping wet hair and noticeably shivered.

Jack swallowed thickly, his mind providing a vivid flashback to the night he'd met the other male, riding the elevator up to his apartment with the tension growing between them. He cleared his throat and looked away, determined not to let it show that the memory affected him quite so strongly. When at last the elevator dinged, Jack all but charged through the doors and sucked in a deep, partially calming breath. "C'mon..." He called over his shoulder, glancing back to see Rhys following along a few steps behind him. Okay... I can do this, I can... I... Jack blinked and shook his head, clearing his throat as he swung his keys around on his chain until he had his door key in his palm, pausing to ram it into his lock. "There ya go," he said, stepping aside to hold the door open and allow Rhys to enter ahead of him. His heart skipped a beat when Rhys flashed him a shy smile and brushed past him, stepping up behind the couch in Jack's apartment. "Just uh, ya can leave ya bag on the couch if ya want... or there's the uh, table..?" He offered, strolling in behind Rhys and closing the door, tossing his own things onto his small dining table and feeling his cheeks burn at the empty burger wrappers and whiskey bottles atop it.

"I w-wouldn't wanna make your c-couch all wet, s-so..." Rhys said quietly, gesturing to the table as Jack cleared his throat and moved aside, allowing Rhys to shuffle around to the table awkwardly. He left his things beside Jack's, finally turning and meeting his eyes for the first time since they'd left the car.

Jack swallowed thickly, his eyes locked onto Rhys’ shy, but curious and hopeful expression; his heart seeming to extend the moment for an eternity, before he finally cleared his throat and lowered his eyes, scrubbing a hand over the back of his neck as his cheeks face with heat. "Uh, we should really get ya outta those clothes..." He said, glancing back at Rhys when he sniggered to find him trying to hide a grin behind his hand, his brows raised in surprise and amusement. "Shut up, Cupcake." He snorted, rolling his eyes as he turned away and gestured for Rhys to follow him. "I didn't... I only meant, I-"

"Oh g-god, Handsome, calm down... I d-don't know CPR if you end up giving yourself a h-heart attack." Rhys snickered, dutifully following Jack down the hall. "I know what you m-meant... Though, you k-know I wouldn't exactly b-be opposed to-"

"Ahem," Jack cleared his throat loudly, opening the door to the bathroom and gesturing to the shower and bath. "Get yaself warm, Cupcake. Ya can use whatever ya prefer... and uh, I'll leave some dry clothes for ya on the bed in here..." He said, turning to open the opposite door and revealing a spare bedroom. He turned back to find Rhys watching him, and he felt heat prickle in his face and gut.

"T-thanks..." Rhys said quietly, biting his lip as he continued to stand before him, making no move to enter either room as his shy gaze met Jack's. "Are you g-gonna be okay to wait..?" He asked after a long pause, gesturing to Jack's own wet clothing. "I mean, I don't m-mind if you wanted to go first... or, if you w-wanted to, you know..?" 

"Huh?" Jack frowned, looking down at himself briefly before looking back at Rhys as he fidgeted and flushed guiltily. "Wha-? Oh..." He huffed, shaking his head as he scratched his stubbled jaw distractedly. "Heh, ya ain't half as shy as ya seem sometimes, are ya?" He mused, shaking his head when Rhys made to respond. "I got an en suite, so I can clean up too." He assured, as Rhys failed to hide a brief pout, but quickly nodded his head and stepped into the bathroom. "Towels are, uh... up... there." He said, pointing needlessly to where the towels were hanging on a wall rack over the radiator. He felt a flush of heat from Rhys’ small snicker, and he quickly cleared his throat and stepped back from the door with a rough salute. "Take ya time." He said, closing the door between them, before he squeezed his eyes shut and mentally berated his foolish behaviour.

"The bloody hell is wrong with me?" He muttered as he moved to his bedroom, rummaging through his wardrobe quickly until he found an old pair of jacket and jeans from his days at the Galactic Academy, which he thought might fit Rhys well enough. Zane would get such a kick outta this... He thought distractedly, before shaking his head and snorting, as he carried the clothes to the spare room. Once he got past wantin' to kill me, that is. He snarked at himself, pausing in the hallway when he heard the shower start up. His throat tightened, dry and thick as he imagined the sight beyond the door, half tempted to reconsider Rhys’ open offer. Don't be such a goddamn pervert. He scolded himself, shaking himself as he regained his resolve. He ducked back into the living room, quickly clearing up and disposing of his leftover rubbish from the table and placing his new fifth of whiskey on the counter in the kitchen. He looked around the rest of the apartment quickly, and deemed it as acceptably clean for such a bachelor pad. 

How the hell's he keep his place so clean? He wondered idly, as he headed to his bedroom and shrugged out of his wet clothes. Maybe he has a little maid go in... or his parents. He thought, wincing guiltily and scratching the back of his neck as he walked into his en suite shower. "Don't think about it for now, Lawrence... Just, get through the talkin', see where this goes and then... then maybe ya can start worryin' about parents and shit." He muttered, turning on the taps and moving to stand beneath the spray of warm water. "Hmm..." He hummed, leaning on his palms as he touched his forehead against the wall, relaxing for the first time since he'd spotted Rhys at the bus stop. "This is insane." He scoffed to himself, shaking his head in disbelief of his own intentions to be honest about his situation. 

He gazed down at his tech tag distantly, wondering briefly if Rhys had worn them at all times himself, before forcing aside all thought except for the warmth which had begun spreading through him once again. With a heavy sigh, Jack pushed away from the wall and finally began to rub at his shoulders, easing away some of the tension in them and washing away the last of the chill from the rain. "Nnn..." He sighed, rinsing out his hair quickly, before finally turning the taps off again. He shook his head similarly to a wet dog, dislodging the worst of the water still in his hair, before stepping out of the shower and grabbing his towel.

Okay... warmed up and dried out... mostly. He thought, grimacing as he roughly towel dried his hair. So next is waterin' and feedin'... and then- his stomach flipped nervously, a shaky breath escaping him as he envisioned several awful scenarios in the blink of an eye. Quit it, Lawrence... C'mon, ya got this. He's here, that alone shows he wants to listen. Quit bein' such a goddamn yaller dog. He thought, scowling as he quickly pulled on some jeans and a t-shirt.

He checked his reflection and used a comb to tame his still damp hair quickly, before finally giving up and heading back to the kitchen. He paused in the hallway, listening to his other shower still running, the faint sound of singing barely distinguishable beneath the hiss of water. Least he ain't still stutterin'... He thought, his lips twitching with amusement as he continued past the door, walking into his kitchen to see what he had to offer in the way of food. "So, looks like..." He huffed, narrowing his eyes when he opened his fridge to see a single steak, a pack of minced beef and a pack of bacon; along with half a block of cheese and a bottle of milk. "... Take out." He snorted decisively, shaking his head as he closed the fridge and opened a drawer on the opposite side of the room, pulling out a handful of fliers he'd received since he'd moved in and taking them through to the living room table.

He opened his bag and pulled out some papers needed grading, setting them beside the take away fliers, before frowning at Rhys’ wet bag. I don't really wanna reach in, I mean... It ain't mine or, my place or... He thought, scratching his ear indecisively for a moment, before grabbing Rhys’ bag by the strap and walking to his nearest radiator, hanging it over the end to dry. "Close enough." He huffed quietly, turning back around and glancing down the hall to the bathroom, tapping his fingers to his leg in agitation. Finally he returned to his table and took a seat, deciding to grade what he could to distract himself from waiting for Rhys. He was three quarters of the way through the stack, when he was startled from his concentration by an unexpected voice over his shoulder.

"They misspelt pilot! How can anyone misspell pil- oh, it's Craig..." Jack jolted forward, rising to his feet as he spun to find Rhys stood behind his seat, biting his lip at Jack's reaction while his cheeks coloured with a blush, as Jack ran his eyes over him in surprise. "Sorry, I couldn't resist... you looked so serious." He said, ducking his head and averting his eyes shyly. "Thankyou, by the way. This... actually fits pretty nicely." He added, fiddling with the collar of the camo gear which Jack had left out for him.

"I'll say!" Jack huffed before he could stop himself, his throat tightening as he stared at Rhys. He scrubbed the back of his neck and glanced away when Rhys peeked up at him with a pleased smile, clearing his throat awkwardly as his cheeks flared with heat beneath his stubble. "I mean, uh... yeah, I guess it's fine." He coughed, glancing back to see Rhys grinning at him.

"You know, I'm already in your apartment." He said, sniggering as he tapped his fingers against his thigh in unknown mimicry of Jack's earlier restlessness. "I think we're probably past the point of being worrying about a few, very mild and polite I might add, compliments..." He huffed, rolling his eyes as he spotted his bag and headed over to inspect his belongings. 

"I guess so." Jack agreed, sighing as he watched Rhys pull damp things from his bag with a grimace. "I just... this is all-"

"If you're uncomfortable with me being here, I can go..?" Rhys offered, pausing to glance up at Jack with a hesitant gaze. "I mean, I didn't come to make you feel-"

"No..." Jack said quickly, sighing as he ran a hand through his damp hair and forced himself to relax. "Look, I wouldn't have brought ya here if I didn't want ya here. I just... I find it hard to remember sometimes, ya know?"

"Remember what?" Rhys asked, frowning as he watched Jack pace behind the couch in frustration, seemingly oblivious to Rhys’ question. He abandoned his bag and got to his feet, pausing for a moment before cautiously approaching Jack. "Handsome..?" He asked, stepping into Jack's path and almost colliding with the man when he turned to pace back again, causing him to an abrupt halt. "Remember what?" He repeated, his brows furrowing in concern, as Jack sighed and scratched his temple.

"That ya a student..." He said, grimacing as he flicked his eyes over Rhys guiltily. "Ya ain't technically an adult, but ya damn well act like one most of the time. I tend to forget, and then I say somethin' dumb and-"

Rhys blushed deeply, holding up a hand to silence Jack's babbling as he smiled up at him. "I'm sorry. I do tend to act more mature than my peers at times... I think its because I live alone, while they all have their mommies and daddies to pander to them." Jack raised a brow, curious about Rhys’ apparent lack of family, but choosing not to push when the younger looked away in obvious discomfort of the topic. "I just mean, I get it, okay? So... how about, just for tonight at least, we stop with all this awkward 'can I say that?' crap, and just treat each other like... two regular people who just met?" He suggested, as Jack snorted and hung his head briefly, considering the idea for a moment.

"I guess I can manage that." He finally sighed, his lips falling into a lopsided grin as he looked back up at Rhys in undisguised admiration. "Ya something else, ain't ya?" He mused aloud, shaking his head as he crossed his arms over his chest and eyed Rhys thoughtfully. "Okay," he said suddenly, as Rhys shrugged his shoulders and grinned. "Two people just talkin' sounds good, but how 'bout some grub to go with that?" He suggested, snorting when Rhys’ stomach growled as if prompted. "I'll take that as confirmation." He sniggered, moving back to the table and grabbing the take out fliers, carrying them over to the couch as he sat down. "So, whaddaya fancy?"

"I'll eat pretty much anything..." Rhys replied, moving over and hesitating only briefly, before taking a seat beside Jack. "You don't have to order though, I mean, I'm happy to just-"

"Shut up, Cupcake." Jack snorted, rolling his eyes as he jostled Rhys’ shoulder playfully, dumping the fliers into his lap. "Just pick somethin' ya like." He said, his heart skipping a beat when Rhys’ lips curved into a devious smirk, and he glanced at Jack slyly. "Food. Pick some food that ya like... from uh, one of... ahem, ya wanna drink?" Jack said suddenly, springing from the couch as Rhys laughed guiltily.

"I'm sorry, I promise I'll behave." Rhys snickered, biting his lip as he flashed Jack and almost sincere, apologetic look. "Um, anything's fine, thanks." He replied, turning back to the various take away fliers as Jack swept away to the kitchen, gripping the counter for a moment as he caught his breath.

Goddamn... Even when he ain't tryin' he's a fuckin' tease, but when he is fixin' on ya... He thought, running a hand through his hair distractedly, before searching out a pair of tumblers and pouring two fingers of whiskey into each. "Here," he said, as he carried the drinks back into the living room, offering one to Rhys; who raised a brow and tried but failed to suppress a grin. "Don't gimme that look, I met ya in a bar. Besides, 's kinda all I got." He huffed, smirking when Rhys shrugged and accepted the glass, clinking it to Jack's briefly with a small snicker.

"So... how does pizza sound?" He asked, taking a sip from his glass as Jack raised a brow at him. "What? I'm feeling the simple vibe. I mean, some of this stuff I can't even pronounce; let alone consider actually eating..." He scoffed, gesturing to some of the more obscure menu's. "Can rarely go wrong with pizza..." He mused, as Jack clicked his tongue and dug his phone out of his bag, dialling the number on the flier.

"Whaddaya want on it?" He asked, raising a brow at Rhys curiously, as he merely shrugged his shoulders and grinned dismissively.

"Surprise me." Rhys replied, smirking over the rim of his glass as he took another small sip of his drink. Jack felt a slow, lopsided grin lock into place on his lips, and five minutes later, the order was placed; to be delivered within twenty minutes or it would be free of charge.

"Can never decide if I want it to be late and possibly cold, or on time and hot, but just have to pay for it." Jack groused, shaking his head as he swirled his whiskey thoughtfully.

"Pfft, don't give me that... You know as well as I do you'd rather it be five minutes late, MrFlynt." Rhys snorted, his legs curled beneath him as he leaned back against the arm rest. "You just don't want to admit it... Besides, that's what microwaves are for." He snickered, as Jack glanced over at him thoughtfully. "... What?" He asked, cocking his head curiously.

"... Name's Jack." Jack replied at length, his hand unconsciously moving to his chest, where his tag once more dangled. "But, ya already knew that... didn't ya?" He asked, narrowing his eyes as if trying to figure something out.

Rhys lowered his eyes, biting his lip as he blushed lightly. "I didn't... not like, for certain anyway." He finally admitted, looking back at Jack with a semi guilty smile. "I mean, I hoped... 'cause it would've been weird if it weren't, I guess." He said in a rush, his cheeks darkening further as he cleared his throat. "I tried to tell you-"

"Yeah, I know." Jack said, waving Rhys’ apology aside dismissively. "I can be... kinda pigheaded when I wanna be and avoidin' ya; or at least avoidin' bein' alone with ya, was pretty high on my priorities to be honest."

"Why?" Rhys asked, frowning curiously as he cocked his head and half smiled. "Am I really that scary?" He queried, snorting as if the very idea was hilarious to him.

"Kinda... yeah, I guess." Jack admitted, sighing and running a hand through his hair a Rhys almost dropped his drink, blinking in surprise. "I ain't exactly the strongest of men, Rhysie... when it comes to stuff I want, I usually end up goin' for it full throttle. I needed the distance from ya to keep me from doin' that."

"Is that why you were such an asshole after my drama performance..?" Rhys asked quietly, his brows raising slightly in realisation, as he gazed down at his glass in his hands. "And after the dance? And after class-"

"Yeah, yeah, alright ya little..." Jack groused, scowling at the wall as he twirled his glass in his hand slowly. "I was actually... At first, I was thinkin' the same sorta shit you came and hit me with after class today." He confessed, sniggering when Rhys choked on a mouthful of whiskey, his eyes wide as he stared at Jack in disbelief. "What, ya think ya the only one can be rational? Heh, I can think shit through sometimes... hell, was damn near word for word what ya said yaself today." He admitted, sighing as he raised his glass to his lips and knocked back the last of his drink.

"But then, how come..?" Rhys began, gazing at Jack accusingly as Jack snorted and rolled his eyes towards him in a withering glare. "Oh." He said quietly, his cheeks steadily darkening as Jack purposely looked away again. "You were jealous..?" He asked in slow realisation, blinking in awe as he shook his head faintly. "Of Sean?!"

"Don't even go there, Cupcake." Jack warned, rising from the couch and striding to the kitchen, snatching up his whiskey and quickly returning to his seat to pour himself another. "All I'm admittin', is it pissed me off and made it easier to push ya away." He said, narrowing his eyes when he saw Rhys duck his head to hide what seemed to be the most beautiful smile he'd ever tried to avoid looking at, his heart stuttering at his brief glimpse of it.

"Sorry." Rhys snickered, utterly unrepentant as he practically beamed at the confession. "So, uh... seeing as we're finally discussing everything..." He said, clearing his throat as he changed the subject, much to Jack's relief. "Who exactly is Zane Flynt..? And why're you pretending to be him?"

Jack drew in a deep breath, his eyes rising to the ceiling as he considered the question for a lot longer than necessary. Rhys seemed to recognise his need to think and reigned in his curiosity to wait patiently, unwittingly earning both Jack's appreciation and gratitude. "Zane..." Jack finally said, his voice thick with emotion as he spoke slowly. "Is my best friend." He coughed, clearing his throat as he was overwhelmed by guilt for a moment. "He... Ahem, he's..." He tried, cocking his head as the words stuck in his throat like tennis balls. He glanced at Rhys in surprise, when he felt a hand ease his whiskey glass free of his grip and gently squeeze his own, his concerned face too close for comfort as Rhys shifted to sit beside him.

"Uh..." He coughed, his heart quickening to heavy thuds in his chest. "I met Zane at the Academy when I was eighteen, he was my bunkmate." He tried again, finally pushing the words free with a slight gasp of relief. "I always made more enemies than friends growin' up... but Zane and I, we hit it off right away. He's a funny asshole, and smarter than you'd ever think, given how he acts most of the time." Jack explained, his fingers unconsciously lacing together with Rhys’, before releasing them again; repeating the motion like a comforting routine. "Dumb bastard always tried to talk me outta fights, which was often... but he always had my back when he failed too."

"Which was even more often?" Rhys suggested knowingly, as Jack snorted and gazed at his hands, curled between Rhys’ in a supportive gesture which left his gut feeling both hollow and filled with butterflies together.

"Heh, yeah..." Jack admitted, grinning fondly at the memory. "We were the best damn soldiers the Academy had seen in a decade... I was obviously the better between us, though." He added playfully, flashing Rhys a cocky wink and a lopsided grin.

"Naturally." Rhys snickered, biting his lip to hide his own matching smile. "Sounds like you guys were pretty close." He prodded gently, startling Jack from a momentary daze as he thought about his past.

"Yeah... I love him like a brother, but uh, don't ever tell him that. Asshole would let it go straight to his dumb, big head." He said conspiratorially, pausing when Rhys’ eyes flashed with surprise at the unexpected invitation, before melting into something Jack couldn't identify, and he quickly looked away before he was encouraged to do something stupid; like kiss him. "Ahem... Best damn day of my life was when we got assigned to the same deployment. When we were out in the ground, fightin’ side by side... was probably one of the few times I could say I really felt happy." He said, scratching his cheek thoughtfully.

Jack saw Rhys eyeing him contemplatively, and both opened their mouths to speak, when a loud buzz made them both jump. Rhys sniggered, as Jack huffed and grumbled, detaching his hands from Rhys’ as he cleared his throat and got to his feet. "That'll be the..." He said, gesturing to the pizza flier they'd abandoned on the table. "I'll just..." He coughed, moving to the door as Rhys got to his feet and hovered by the couch, clearly unsure where to go. "Yeah?" He said, picking up the receiver by the door.

"Yo, pizza delivery for a Mr. Flynt?" Drawled an unenthusiastic voice, and Jack ran a hand through his hair as he buzzed the door open from his receiver.

"Yep, fifth floor." He replied, releasing the buzzer at the deliveryman's confirmation and returning his receiver to its mount. "It's on its way..." He said needlessly, frustrated that the awkwardness between them seemed to have returned at the interruption. "Uh, d'ya want plates and shit or..?"

"Oh, box is fine. I'm easy." Rhys said, shrugging his shoulders in happy deference, before blushing at Jack's amused snort and grin. "I would try and defend my dignity here, but... it'd probably be a fairly wasted effort." He huffed, rolling his eyes and hiding a small, embarrassed smile by glancing away.

Jack frowned, about to respond when there was a knock at the door. He grimaced and reluctantly moved away to answer the door, standing in the doorway as he reached into his back pocket. "How much?" He asked distractedly, raising a brow at the deliveryman.

"Twenty two, fifty nine." Sighed a bored looking teen, holding out a stack of boxes and extras. Jack dug through his wallet, finally coming up with a twenty and a ten.

"Keep the change." He said, trading the cash for the boxes and backing into his apartment, closing the door with his heel. "Here, make yaself useful, Cupcake..." He said, gesturing to the smaller box which seemed about to slip from the stack. "Grab 'em and find a seat." He said, waiting for a moment as Rhys glanced at the small table, before sitting back on the couch, allowing Jack to shuffle past and return to his own seat. "Okay, so..." He groaned, throwing open the lids of boxes and exchanging various things with Rhys, until they each had a pizza and sides to accompany it.

Jack's heart swelled, and he paused mid bite for a moment to consider the ease and comfort of their meal. Is this what it'd be like..? He found himself wondering, slowly taking another bite, as he surreptitiously glanced at Rhys; who had a string of cheese stuck to his lip. Jack's lips twitched with amusement, his breath catching at the endearing sight as Rhys looked over and happened to met his gaze. "... What?" He asked, his brow furrowing as he wiped his chin. "I have something on my face, don't I..?" He said knowingly, raising a brow as he tried to wipe the string away and continued to miss.

Finally Jack relented his private comedy show, and hesitantly reached up to gesture to Rhys’ lip. "'S..." He began, trailing off as he met Rhys’ eye briefly. "... uh..." His heart skipped a beat, as he swallowed heavily, reaching over to gently wipe the string of cheese away with his thumb.

Rhys blushed heavily, staring at Jack heartbeat longer, before clearing his throat and turning back to his pizza. "Thanks." He said roughly, as Jack wiped the cheese on the edge of his plate. "... I don't get why, but I think that was somehow the most intimate experience I've had." He snorted, shaking his head as he picked up another slice.

"I stopped tryin' to work this shit out ages ago," Jack huffed, offering Rhys a crooked grin when he glanced over. "Nothin' involvin' you makes a lick of sense." He admitted, chuckling when Rhys scowled and swatted his arm playfully.

"Hey, it's rude to insult your guests, you know?" He groused, though his lips twitched in amusement when Jack raised his palms in placation. He fingered the crust of another slice for a moment, before picking it up and turning toward Jack. "So, anyway... Zane." He said unsubtly, as Jack sighed heavily and nodded his head. “C’mon, I’m not that easily distracted.” He snorted, nudging Jack playfully as he chased a string of cheese from his pizza with his tongue.

 

Jack stared for an awkward half second, before clearing his throat and averting his eyes, recalling where he’d left off in his history. “Bein’ on Pandora...” he said slowly, inhaling a deep breath as he reluctantly glanced over at Rhys. “It wasn’t exactly all that... good for me.” He admitted, clearing his throat guiltily as he looked down at the suddenly unappealing pizza before him. “Seein’ what those animals did to people, seein’ the shitty little hovels people lived in... it pissed me off. Seein’ all those those damn bandits, murderers, rapists... seein’ ‘em just, obliterate everythin’-“ he said, narrowing his eyes as he clasped his hands together tightly over his knees. “... eventually, I think it drove me mad, Rhysie.” He sighed, shaking his head as he looked down at his lap in clear self hatred.

 

Rhys’ hand appeared on Jack’s thigh, warm and comforting and way too inappropriate a touch for the pair of them to exchange; though Jack couldn’t bring himself to move Rhys’ hand away. “I killed a whole lotta people down there, Rhysie.” Jack said in a low rumble, drawing in a deep breath as he opened his palms and stared down at his hands, certain he could still see the red which stained them. “And the worst part, is that I liked doin’ it. I loved that fear in those filthy bandits eyes; the ones ya could actually see, that is.” He sneered, his lip curling into a dark grin as he closed his eyes and remembered the thrill of the bloodlust he’d willingly sunk into, revelling in the violence and the freedom of the kill. “I was a very, very bad man Cupcake... and I loved it.”

 

“What about Zane?” Rhys asked, biting his lip as Jack glanced over, his expression inscrutable as he processed Jack’s heavy confession. “Was he as uh, enthralled?” He asked, toying with the edge of the jacket Jack had given him.

 

“Nah, dumbass kept followin’ me around; pretty much acted like damage control. Stopped me killin’ the wrong folk... I think he kinda thought it was funny sometimes, bein’ honest.” He said, sighing as he slowly pressed his palms together and rubbed them against each other. “And then, sneaky bastard went and, urgh I still can’t believe that asshole.” He growled, gritting his teeth as he sulked and remembered the audacity of his best friend; to put an end to his murderous rampage.

 

“What?” Rhys asked, shifting closer as he peered at Jack with obvious interest. “What did he do?” He pressed, shaking Jack’s thigh gently; his hand squeezing the soft flesh and causing a pleasant shiver to run down Jack’s spine.

 

“Friggin’ bastard went and tattled on me,” Jack grumbled petulantly, glancing over at Rhys when he heard him snort loudly, his eyes glittering with sudden amusement. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, alright?” He muttered, jabbing Rhys’ shoulder with his finger briefly and sniffing with feigned disdain, as he looked away. “My brother, Timothy... he’s a Galactic Guardian. Problem crops up; he goes and fixes it. Ever the goody two shoes.” He huffed, rolling his eyes and pretending not to notice the keen, piercing gaze Rhys burned into him with. “So there I am, blastin’ my way through the psychopaths and the bandits which seem to breed on Pandora like skags; and up comes my little brother, bitchin’ and moanin’ and all ‘oh no, Jack, don’t do that! I’ll write ya up, Jack! I’ll throw the book at ya, Jack!’ Frickin’ prick.” He huffed, shaking his head irritably at the memory. He sighed, looking up and staring at the ceiling vacantly. “’Course, I was gonna just ignore the fucker... but, then he went and showed me this picture and-“ he sighed, waving a hand dismissively as Rhys squeezed his thigh reassuringly.

 

“A picture?” He asked, raising his brows curiously as Jack nodded glumly and glanced sideways at him. “What... was it uh, of?” He asked tentatively, his brows furrowing uncertainly as he removed his hand from Jack’s thigh, seeming to suddenly remember his food.

 

Jack stared idly at his box, eyeing the three remaining slices without really seeing them. “... My daughter.” He said quietly, blinking as his haze of nostalgia cleared, his lips twitched with amusement; when Rhys choked and spat out his bite of pizza.

 

“Y-your...” Rhys gasped, patting his chest as he tried to clear his throat. “You have a-a... I mean,” he coughed, shaking his head and blinking dazedly before taking a deep breath and turning towards Jack with furious curiosity. “You’re a dad?!” He finally demanded, as Jack chuckled quietly.

 

“My reaction was kinda similar to be fair,” Jack admitted dryly sighing and shaking his head as he leaned back against the couch. “Wasn’t like I left anyone behind when I deployed for Pandora, but... ya know how it is.” He said, spreading his palms innocently; though the gesture was countered by his wicked grin. He winked when Rhys laughed and rolled his eyes, running a hand through his hair as he averted his gaze for a moment. Jack watched him for a full thirty seconds, before clearing his throat and returning to his explanation. “Anyway, turns out Handsome Jack’s genes are just too strong for such a simple thing as a condom, so... there she was. Her mom died just after she was born, Tim had been there and he kept her safe. Tried to track me down.” He said, his tone bleeding back to serious as his gaze turned distant once more. “Wasn’t exactly easy for him... I went off the radar in my, uh... bloodhaze. Zane was my best friend; so naturally, rather than call it in and get help, he came with me.”

 

Rhys nodded slowly, puffing out his cheeks as he slowly processed the idea of Jack with a child. He frowned suddenly, peeking over at Jack and biting his lip, before tipping his chin towards him. “So, does this mean calling you ‘Daddy’ is off the cards?” He asked with a straight face, though he quickly dissolved into a snorting fit of giggles when Jack blanched and threw him a withering glare. “Alright, I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.” He snickered, clearing his throat as he regained some sense of self control. They lapsed into comfortable silence, before Rhys flicked at his trouser leg and glanced up at Jack hesitantly. “... what’s her name?”

 

Jack smiled slowly, shaking his head as he looked down at his lap. “Angel.” He said, sighing contently as he leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling. “One look at that little face, and I was lost Rhysie...” he said, huffing a small chuckle as he recalled the multitude of emotions which he’d felt upon discovering his fatherhood. “It was enough though. Made me realise what the hell I was doin’, what I’d become.” He said, swallowing thickly as he rolled his head towards Rhys; not even bothering to scold the younger when his hand drifted to toy with Jack’s hair gently. “We went with Tim, I held her for the first time... it was like-“ he said, waving his arm to show he had no words to describe the feeling.

 

Rhys nodded in vague understanding, falling silent as he locked his eyes on Jack’s hair and carded his fingers through the area Jack knew had turned prematurely grey. Eventually, Rhys cleared his throat, seeming to recall the original topic of their conversation. “Uh, so... Zane.” He said, nudging Jack as he shifted away and picked up his drink, swallowing a large mouthful with a small wince. "... what happened, Handsome?"

Jack sighed, sitting up and petulantly reaching for his pizza to avoid answering. He shook his head, remaining silent for another pause as he gathered his thoughts, chewing his latest bite thoughtfully, as he gazed distantly at the opposite wall. “After meetin’ Angel, things changed. I had a reason not to give into that, darkness. That part of me that wanted to kill ‘em all, bandit or civilian or... anythin’ livin’. Me and Time figured it was best for Angel to stay with him, while Zane and I went back into the field.” He said through his mouthful, ignoring Rhys’ discreet wrinkling of his nose. "... We were runnin' recon missions," he said thickly, swallowing his mouthful and lowering the rest of the slice to his box. "Off the coast of a Pandora Bandit Camp, aidin' a town tryin’ to finally clear the crazy fuckers out, when Zane... discovered somethin'." He said, his hands curling into fists as the familiar hatred began to simmer in his veins. "Our commander was this real piece of work, went by the name Harold Tassiter." He said, gritting his teeth to try and reign in his temper. "Ya probably know the type... Kinda guy who always likes to talk tough, just so long as they're pickin' on someone who can't fight back." He sneered, shaking his head irritably.

"Yeah... I know the type." Rhys scoffed quietly and Jack glanced over to see him playing with his final slice of pizza distractedly. He glanced up when Jack paused a breath too long, an unconvincing smile on his face as he took a large bite. "Sorry... go on." He urged, gesturing for Jack to continue.

Jack frowned, sensing he'd touched a nerve and about to ask about it, when he caught the edge of concern in Rhys’ eyes; and decided to shelve his questions for later. "Well, turned out ol' commander Tassiter was into more than just bullyin'." He said, eyeing Rhys curiously as he continued to explain his history. "Zane discovered that he had a nice little business on the side. He was forgin' paperwork to request weapons we didn't need... and sellin' 'em directly to the psychos we were supposed to be fightin'."

"No way..." Rhys choked, his eyes wide as he looked back at Jack, disbelief warring with his concern. Jack sighed, glancing away as he swallowed thickly, folding his pizza box closed and placing the container on the ground so he could lean on his knees.

"Zane and I..." He began, his breath catching as his fingers splayed against each other. "We were gonna report him, but we needed to gather more evidence... and while we did that, Tassiter somehow found out." He said, sucking in a deep breath as his hands began to shake, his heart racing as his temper began to break free. "He sent Zane out on what he claimed was a standard recon mission... and Zane figured it would give me the perfect chance to find the last few bits of evidence we might need." He said, shaking his head slowly as he swallowed past the hard lump of emotion forming in his throat. "While I was searchin' I came across the orders... for a goddamn ambush."

"Oh god..." Rhys gasped, his hand rising to his mouth as his eyes widened in realisation, shaking his head slightly in disbelief. Jack nodded, his throat too tight to speak for long pause. He glanced at Rhys as he sat his box on the floor beside Jack's, the couch dipping beneath his weight as he tentatively shuffled closer and took Jack's hands between his own, squeezing them reassuringly.

"Was too late to call Zane back... So I grabbed everything I could lay my hands on, piled it all in the back of a scout truck, and I tore outta there like my damn ass was on fire." Jack explained roughly, closing his eyes and allowing the warmth of Rhys’ hands around his own to comfort and calm him. "Filthy Bandits shot Zane outta the sky... and his plane had been tampered with. He couldn't eject in time." Jack said thickly, drawing in a shaky breath as his mind returned to the awful scene he'd encountered, unheeding of the warzone around him. "Don't think I ever saw anythin' half so terrifyin' as his plane goin' up in..." He murmured, shaking his head as the words refused to come.

"... But you found him?" Rhys prompted gently, rubbing Jack's hands between his own. Jack scoffed, his heart swelling with fury as he recalled the scene which had awaited him.

"I found what was left." He choked brokenly, easing his hands free of Rhys’ to grab his glass and pour himself another drink. "... but yeah, he was alive... barely. And I'll always be thankful for that miracle. But still, I just wish I could've helped him. If I'd gone with him, or if I-"

"There's nothing you could've done, you know?" Rhys said quietly, his warm eyes clouded by sympathy. "You were right, it was a miracle you found him; and I mean at all, let alone alive... If you'd been with him, you might've both died, waiting for someone to find you." He said, gently removing Jack's glass from his hand and squeezing it tightly. "But there wouldn't have been anyone coming for you in that case... and then your commander Tassiter would have won. He'd have eradicated the only people who knew what he really was..."

Jack forced himself to draw in a deep breath, focusing on the warm and comforting touch of Rhys’ hand on his own, drawing him back from his guilt and his grief. "I uh... I never really thought of it like that, I guess..." He admitted, clearing his throat as he blinked and lightly squeezed Rhys’ hand back in gratitude. "I uh, I took him to the nearest hospital... damn near chewed 'em all out, til they finally helped. If it'd been the other way round, Zane would've had 'em eatin' outta the palm of his hands... But I ain't a thinker like him, so I just... yelled and threatened louder." He snorted, wiping his eyes discreetly as Rhys glanced away to allow him a moment of privacy. "They patched him up best they could, stuck us on a medical transport back to the Earth where Zane could be cared for properly, and as soon as I was sure he was gonna be okay, I called in a favour with a Galactic Guardian buddy of Tim’s... she collected everythin' I'd brought over with me, and combined with Zane's condition; Tassiter was charged and indicted before the month was up."

Jack sighed, reluctantly freeing a hand so he could scratch his jaw, before clapping both hands together. "That's pretty much it, save for a few crappy testimonies over the past year. We got nice shiny little medals, named planetary war heroes for our work to prove what Tassiter was doin'... But uh," he paused, clicking his tongue as he cocked his head and glanced at Rhys guiltily. "It don't exactly make up for the state he's in now, ya know?"

"That's... I mean you were both amazingly brave!" Rhys said earnestly, and Jack turned away as he felt his face warm beneath his praise. "I mean it! Not a lot of people would have even tried. It shows you're good people..."

"Yeah, for all the good it did us." Jack scoffed, pushing to his feet and pacing around behind the couch. "Zane ain't like me, he's smart, he had a plan... Me? I turned eighteen and I just, I needed to get the hell outta town, ya know? It was chokin' me, stayin' in that tiny, pissant town... I was made for bigger things, bigger places, bigger worlds!" He said restlessly, running a hand through his hair distractedly as he returned to the distant past within his own mind. "Not like Zane... he never wanted to join the military. He wanted to teach. But his Pop, see he didn't approve." He sneered, grimacing as he continued to pace, ignorant of Rhys rising from the couch in concern. "Naw, see, to be a real man in his eyes, ya had to serve ya world. So, right after Zane got his degree... he gave it up, enlisted next day." He sighed, slowing to a halt as he scrubbed his hands over his face tiredly.

"That's very, uh..." Rhys hedged, cautiously stepping closer with his palms raised, as if approaching a wild animal. "He was very brave, to do that." He said, stepping back again quickly when Jack snorted and turned away to pace again.

"He was a dumb bastard to give it up." He muttered, shaking his head in frustration. "When I found out he was gonna survive, for sure, I... I convinced him to send out a bunch of his old CV's, adapted 'em to include his service." He admitted thickly, sucking in a sharp breath as he turned on his heel and paced back across the room. "We didn't expect there to be any response really, but then this Kincaid fella sent a letter; 'start Monday, or don't bother'... But, Zane's just had another surgery on his...” he said, gesturing roughly towards his face as his throat tightened too fiercely to push the words out. “So he couldn't; and he's got physio still and so I-" Jack rambled, gesticulating heavily with his hands.

"So you came in his place?" Rhys asked, stepping into Jack's path and forcing him to stop pacing, pressing his hands to Jack's chest to keep him still. "You came here, pretending to be Zane... So he can finish his physio and recovery, and then come take over." He guessed, looking up at Jack's torn expression as he gazed back at him.

"That's why I can't... I can't..." Jack tried to explain, the words catching in his throat and clogging his breath. "I was freakin' out by the time I got here..." He tried instead, swallowing thickly as he gazed down at Rhys intently. "I needed a damn drink, and although I weren't lookin' for..." He paused, the air thick between them as his eyes met Rhys’. "Ya surprised the hell outta me... and I kinda thought, maybe this whole gig wouldn't be so bad after all, if I could just have..." He said lowly, wavering slightly before exhaling heavily and taking a firm step back. "But then-" he choked, falling silent as they avoided meeting each others eye.

"Then you saw me in class." Rhys finished quietly, fiddling with the collar of the jacket and jeans Jack had leant him. "And you panicked, because if it got out; it'd be Zane's name dragged through the mud." He sighed, running a hand up into his hair and tugging lightly, as he considered Jack's version of events. "... I'm sorry." He said, covering his face with his hands as he shook his head.

"Come again?" Jack yelped, his eyes widening as they swung back to Rhys, fighting the urge to reach put to him and failing miserably when he found his hand tentatively cupping Rhys’ elbow. "Hell, it ain't ya fault, I ain't blamin' ya... I wanted to, ya know?"

"You wouldn't have, if you'd known how old I was." Rhys sniffed weakly, dragging his hands over his mouth to gaze up at Jack with damp, reddening eyes. "You said it yourself... 'weeks, months, years; don't make a difference'. You wouldn't have touched me if you'd known-"

"Well, that ain't entirely true, I mean; I'm touchin' ya now after all." Jack huffed, trying to make light of their situation. "C'mon, Cupcake... Ya ain't, I mean... It ain't that big of a deal, alright? I know-"

"I just... I hadn't been out for so long, you know?" Rhys said quickly, his hands covering his eyes again as his shoulders shook, Jack's distress growing at Rhys’ mounting self depreciation. "I just really needed to unwind, I need to finally feel human again, like I wasn't just..." He paused, swallowing thickly as he ran his hands up into his hair and gazed at Jack as if pleading with his eyes alone for him to understand. "I really needed, everything you gave me; needed you, I just... I needed to feel-"

"Okay, seriously Rhysie, calm the hell down already!" Jack barked, gripping Rhys’ elbows and pushing him to the wall gently, carefully forcing him to lower his arms. "Look, it ain't like ya had anythin' other than fun in mind, okay? I get it... Sometimes ya just need to feel human." He said in a gentler tone, his gaze softening in mutual sympathy for their situation. "Ya couldn't have known I was gonna ruck up in ya real life, any more than I could've known ya'd fall into mine." He explained, sighing as he shrugged his shoulders. "I guess, it was just meant to be." 

Rhys swallowed heavily and looked away briefly, as Jack watched him try to draw himself back together. Jack felt his heart steadily rise into his throat, slowly choking him until he felt his hand begin to rub soothing circles into Rhys’ arms. "... This really sucks." Rhys finally choked, sighing as he faced Jack at last, but allowed his head to fall forward to lean against his shoulder.

"Heh, ya can say that again." Jack snorted, resting his chin atop Rhys’ head as his hands began to rub in larger circles, drifting across the backs of Rhys’ arms to his sides. "... and not the fun kind, either." He sniggered, encouraging a surprised laugh from Rhys.

"Oh god, what I wouldn't give for it to be the fun kind..." Rhys huffed, seeming content to leave his forehead against Jack's shoulder. "Again." He added as an after thought, as Jack laughed quietly, his hand slowly drifting higher to tentatively scratch at the back of Rhys’ exposed neck. A comfortable hush fell between them, Jack's hesitant ministrations growing more confident at Rhys’ small, content sigh. An unmeasured time later, Rhys finally raised his head with a small huff. "You know, when Zane can finally come do this job himself, you should probably look into a job as a masseur... You're actually pretty okay at it." He snickered, as Jack narrowed his eyes and squeezed the back of his neck playfully, his other hand resting beside Rhys’ hip.

"Thanks for that backhanded little compliment." Jack snorted, rolling his eyes briefly. "I'll take it under advisement." He huffed, looking back at Rhys fondly. He swallowed suddenly, his eyes lingering on Rhys’ as the air seemed to slowly change around them, a static charge thrumming beneath his skin. "Uh, I... I'm gonna need ya to tell me to stop now, Cupcake..." He said lowly, his breath catching as Rhys cocked his head in confusion.

"... Why?" He asked curiously, his eyes half closing in pleasure as Jack's fingers continued to massage his neck, his free hand squeezing Rhys’ hip lightly.

"Because, if ya don't, I'm gonna do somethin'... really fuckin' stupid." Jack admitted, his thumb rubbing small circles into Rhys’ hip, pausing to slip between the jacket and trousers. He was utterly enraptured as Rhys inhaled sharply, a soft hum escaping him as his hands rose slowly to Jack's stomach. "Pl... Rhys, tell me to stop." Jack pleaded, his chest hitching as his breath caught in his throat, his heart sprinting eagerly in his chest.

"... I can't." Rhys murmured thickly, his fingers walking gently over Jack's t-shirt and seeming to strike lightning into Jack's nerves beneath. "I'm sorry, but, I don't want you to stop..." He said, biting his lip as Jack splayed his free hand across his hip in a firmer grip, tensing briefly before giving in and pulling him closer.

"Godammit..." Jack groaned, his brow creasing with guilt and desire combined as he gazed at Rhys longingly, his heart racing as his skin burnt beneath Rhys’ touch. "... I'm goin' to hell." He muttered, his forehead touching to Rhys’ for a moment, as his hands both tightened on Rhys’ neck and hip briefly.

"I'm okay with that..." Rhys said quickly, his voice trembling as his hands clawed into Jack's shoulders. "So long as you take me with you-" he breathed pleadingly, as Jack groaned and tugged at the back of his neck, pulling him into a searing and demanding kiss before he could even finish his needy plea.

Jack's heart seemed to skip several beats, his breath catching at Rhys’ breathy moan upon the collision of their lips. He flexed his hand against Rhys’ neck, groaning at the pleased whimpers which Rhys released, as he writhed to press himself closer to Jack. "Oh god, yes..." Rhys pleaded urgently, as Jack kissed along his jaw briefly, before returning to his lips hungrily.

Jack groaned and kissed Rhys harder, smothering his body with his own and trailing both hands down his sides. "Mmm..." He hummed, his teeth nipping at Rhys’ lower lip, before his tongue quickly soothed the afflicted area.  He growled, as Rhys clawed at his shoulders, half attempting to find purchase to keep himself upright, as he ground his hips against Jack's eagerly.

"Please..." Rhys breathed, smothering Jack's stubbled throat with kisses as Jack tried to catch his breath, instead finding himself overwhelmed by Rhys’ every heart stopping touch. "Please don't stop..." Rhys pleaded quietly, as Jack's hands swept slowly over Rhys’ ass. Rhys gave a guttural moan, throwing his head back against the wall and affording Jack such a view that he cursed and squeezed Rhys’ ass firmly, before he bent his knees; his hands dropping to the back of Rhys’ thighs and lifting him easily. Rhys locked his legs around Jack's waist as he pressed him to the wall, trying to pull him closer as he struggled to pull Jack's t-shirt up over his back, while also kissing him passionately.

Jack's heart raced, his body heating with desire as he rocked against Rhys and groaned, his hands curling almost into claws on Rhys’ thighs. "You..." He muttered, his lips ghosting quickly but hungrily over Rhys’ exposed throat before him. "Are so fucking beautiful..." He murmured, panting as he kissed his way back up his throat to his jaw. "It hurts." He said roughly, his voice thick with longing and desire.

Rhys made an incoherent sound at his words, scrabbling hurriedly with his t-shirt and finally pulling it over his head, his hands instantly splaying across Jack's bare shoulders and pulling him closer. "Yes..." He breathed, the sound barely a whisper beside Jack's ear, and yet travelling straight to his rapidly swelling cock. "Yes!" He cried, as Jack groaned and bit his shoulder.

"Aw, slag..." Jack muttered, pulling back and lifting Rhys away from the wall, barely glancing down his hall as he began moving steadily towards his bedroom, while Rhys looped his arms tightly around his shoulders and rocked his hips against him eagerly. "Godammit, ya-"

Rhys silenced him with a demanding kiss, leaning down as they passed through the bedroom door, unlocking his legs and hopping free of Jack's hold, his hands fumbling at the front of the jacket Jack had loaned him. "Bloody... buttons..." He complained, as Jack's hands swept his own aside and slowly unbuttoned the jacket, leaving Rhys’ hands free to grope urgently at his shoulders. "Please... please..." Jack's heart lurched with every pleading murmur Rhys made, walking him backwards as he kissed him hungrily, until he hit his legs against the edge of the bed, falling to sit on the mattress. "Oh!" Rhys gasped, looking up at Jack in surprise as he smoothed his hands beneath the shoulders of his jacket, brushing it off his arms.

"... Is this how ya were when ya called me?" Jack asked thickly, his cock jumping in his jeans as he recalled the urgent and breathy whimpers which he'd heard, his hand cupping Rhys’ cheek as he leaned into the touch.

"No..." Rhys said, a mischievous smirk forming on his lips, as he kissed Jack's palm quickly, before rising to his feet and pulling Jack forward, pushing him to the middle of the bed and kneeling on the edge of the mattress. "I was against the headboard..." He admitted, glancing pointedly at the head of Jack's bed.

Jack raised a brow, scooting himself back until he was leaning against the headboard, his hands rising to cup Rhys’ ass as he crawled forward and swung his leg over Jack's lap. "Like this..?" He asked, squeezing Rhys’ ass and dipping his head forward to kiss his naval, his eyes locked onto Rhys’.

"Mmhmm..." Rhys hummed, his hand threading into Jack's hair, holding him close as he gasped and arched against him.

Jack groaned, kissing Rhys’ waist with as he palmed at his crotch, his eyes closing as Rhys’ sounds of approval and desire shot straight through his body. "Shit..." He muttered, using both hands briefly to undo Rhys’ jeans, gliding them beneath the material which covered his ass and slowly peeling it off as his heart thudded wildly in his chest. He swallowed heavily as he looked up at Rhys’ expression, twisted my desire as he bit his lip and trembled. He leaned forward and licked the head of his newly exposed cock, earning a choked hiss which made his own cock pulse eagerly. 

Jack squeezed Rhys’ ass firmly, as he kissed his way along the hard shaft, his tongue flicking out on occasion, before finally suckling at the head gently. "Oh..!" Rhys cried, his hands tightening in Jack's hair as his legs trembled briefly. Jack groaned, his mouth watering as he moved to take in more of Rhys’ cock, only for him to pull away sharply, dropping firmly into his lap to steal his lips in a desperate kiss.

"Rhys-" Jack groaned, pulling Rhys closer as he rocked against him, pressing his bare chest to Jack's as he rocked his hips urgently over the prominent bulge in Jack's trousers. "Holy fuck..." Jack panted, as Rhys pulled away briefly to rip open his jeans, his heart racing as the younger wriggled them free of Jack's broad hips. "Rhys..." He breathed, as Rhys kissed at his chest softly as he rose over him once more. His hands dragged roughly from Rhys’ ass to his shoulders, before returning to his ass again. He squeezed as his cock jolted eagerly, pulling Rhys closer and grinding his cock against his own, biting his lip at the dizzying friction between them. Jack's eyes met Rhys’, as he shifted his weight, his ass rutting snugly over Jack's cock as Jack felt heat build in his face, his heart and his gut. "Rhys..." He said thickly, trying to warn him there could be no going back, but failing to produce the words.

"Jack..." Rhys breathed, pressing back against Jack's cock more insistently, as Jack felt his heart stop at the sound of his own name from the youngers lips. "Please, Jack, please..." He pleaded urgently, as Jack squeezed his ass and finally rocked his hips up against him, his cock gliding over Rhys’ entrance teasingly. "Oh god..!" Rhys cursed, throwing his head back as Jack leaned forward and kissed his throat hungrily. "... You finally gonna let me take you for that ride, Handsome?" Rhys whispered in Jack's ear, biting the lobe gently as he rocked against Jack again.

"Ya can take me wherever the bloody hell ya want, Cupcake..." Jack muttered, his lips barely leaving Rhys’ skin. His heart hammered and lurched, as his cock caught against Rhys’ entrance, a warm rush suffusing him as he rocked upwards and nudged his cock harder against him. "Fuck..." He choked, his hand gliding down Rhys’ thigh to his cock, stroking himself briefly before finally guiding the head to his entrance again.

"Oh god I hope so, else you're the most sadisti- oooh..!" Rhys moaned, his hands curling into claws on Jack's shoulders, as Jack's cock finally pressed into him. Jack watched as Rhys bit his lip, his ass parting around him as he lowered himself experimentally, adjusting to Jack's intrusion. "Fuck..."

Jack huffed, his hands kneading at Rhys’ ass as he closed his eyes and dropped his head back against the headboard, relishing the snug warmth which enveloped him. "God I hope so..." He teased breathlessly, his eyes re-opening at Rhys’ amused snicker. "Rhys..." He murmured, rocking his hips up gently, watching Rhys’ pleasured expressions melt into each other, his arousal only increasing at Rhys’ breathy whimpers.

"Oh..." Rhys choked, just as he had the first night they'd met, causing Jack's heart to lurch and his hands to tighten on Rhys’ ass. "Jack!" He cried, as Jack's cock brushed against the nerves in his ass. Jack watched the pleasure erupt in Rhys’ eyes, his breath quickening as he began to move himself over Jack's cock.

"Mmm..." Jack hummed, sighing as he squeezed Rhys’ ass encouragingly, looking down briefly to watch Rhys lower himself repeatedly over his cock. "Damn..." He muttered, his thoughts clouding as pleasure sparked in his blood, his heart pounding as he returned his eyes to Rhys’ and began to match his movements.

Rhys leaned his forearms to the wall, caging Jack's face before his own as he panted and rocked his body over him, slowly building his pace as his urgency grew. Jack leaned forward and captured his lips, the kiss unusually soft given the passion which fuelled him. "Oohhh..!" Rhys groaned, his lips parting as a soft gasp escaped him.

"Hmm... good?" Jack murmured, his hips beginning to move with more urgency at Rhys’ sounds of encouragement. Rhys nodded weakly, his arms curling around Jack's shoulders tightly, as he sat back and rocked himself hard against Jack, taking him deeper as Jack hissed with pleasure.

"Oh, fu-" he gasped, pressure building in his gut as he curled an arm tightly around Rhys’ waist, his other hand gripping and kneading his ass relentlessly, as he thrust his hips upward urgently.

"Ah!" Rhys cried, freeing a hand from Jack's shoulder to delve between them and stroke his own cock, working himself roughly to the rhythm of Jack's increasingly powerful thrusts. "Oh god, yes... yes!" He gasped, as Jack groaned, overwhelmed by the warmth of Rhys’ ass hugging his cock snugly, moving over him urgently as he looked down to meet his eyes. "Jack-!" He cried, his jaw falling slack as his body tensed.

"Holy..." Jack panted, riveted as he watched Rhys come undone over him, his hand moving in quick jerks over his cock as he rode out his orgasm. He thrust deeper into Rhys’ ass, encouraged by the pulsing flesh which clung to his cock. "Oh, Rhys-" he choked, driving his cock deep into Rhys and stilling, his body spasming as he felt euphoric pleasure sweep through him.

Neither spoke, relishing the moment of blissful afterglow as they caught their breath. Jack rocked his hips gently, earning a pleased shiver from Rhys, as he looked down at him tiredly. Jack slid his hand over Rhys’ back, cupping the back of his neck and drawing him down into a lazy but content kiss. "Hmm..." Rhys finally hummed softly, arching closer to Jack and nuzzling his jaw affectionately.

"Hmm." Jack agreed, his lips twitching with amusement as he felt Rhys lean more heavily against him. He carefully shifted Rhys from his lap, moving him to his side and shifting to lay down beside him, grabbing his discarded t-shirt to clean him off quickly, before pulling the covers over them both. "Better, Cupcake?" He asked with fond amusement, his fingers curling tentatively against his cheek.

"Mmm..." Rhys hummed in confirmation, a happy if somewhat sleepy smile forming on his lips. "Be better if you were closer..." He mumbled, wriggling himself closer and nestling his face against Jack's chest with a brief cheeky grin, before he was consumed by a large yawn. 

Jack felt his heart swell with affection, his fingers massaging gently at the back of Rhys’ neck. Well, ya done it again Lawrence... Really went and cocked shit up again, ain't ya? What's ya excuse gonna be this time? He thought to himself, swallowing heavily as the haze of pleasure began to fade, reality creeping back into his mind. He watched as Rhys fought his drowsiness, before finally giving in and curling around him securely. Freakin' out can wait til the damn mornin'... He told himself tiredly, slowly drawing in a deep breath and exhaling heavily, closing his eyes and holding Rhys close; determined to enjoy what remained of their shared high, before facing the ramifications of his actions in the morning.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

The Only Way Is Up.

 

Rhys woke slowly, the haze of a pleasant and comfortable sleep slowly leaving him as he laid on his stomach, his arms curled beneath the pillow. "Hmm..." He hummed, stretching himself out as he inhaled a slow, deep breath. I should really get up... Vaughn's gonna be here at ten. He thought to himself, sighing contently as he snuggled deeper into the covers and ignored his own advice. He has the spare key. He reminded himself, fully prepared to go back to sleep. His brow creased slightly, as he smoothed his hand beneath the pillow his brain needling him uncomfortably as if he'd forgotten something.

"Oh man.... bad enough I gotta deal with Vaughn coming soon, now even my own head wants to screw me over?" He grumbled, sighing as he reluctantly blinked his eyes open slowly. "What the hell did I forget, exac- oh..." He trailed off as his breath caught in his throat, his eyes immediately locking onto the unfamiliar dresser beside the bed. "Oh god..." He choked, raising himself on his arms slowly to look closer at the dresser, the events of the previous evening rushing suddenly to the forefront of his mind, as he realised he hadn't just been dreaming."Oh..." He gasped softly, his face heating with a pleasant and glowing warmth, lips twitching as his heart radiated with giddy joy and his gut fluttering like wing beats as he watched the previous evening like a film in his mind. 

"Oh wow..." Rhys murmured, smothering his face into the pillow briefly to stifle his semi delirious, joyful giggling. When he'd taken a few minutes and had sufficiently got a grip on himself, Rhys resurfaced from the pillow with a full blown, irrepressible smile; his heart utterly radiant with joy. And it was just as amazing as the first time... He thought, flushing brightly as he recalled the intensity of their intimate encounter. His cheeks ached from the force of his smile, and he shook his head fondly, as he finally rolled to his side and half sit up, slowly looking around the far side of the room he'd barely paid attention to the previous evening. Why am I not surprised? He huffed, shaking his head fondly at the lack of decoration or personal touches, other than the clothes which had clearly been hastily collected from the floor and half hidden behind a small chest of drawers. Not exactly much of a cleaner, but I think that's probably manageable... He thought, his lopsided grin slowly fading to a frown as he reexamined the thought cautiously. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here Rhys. We need to talk, seriously, about just what it is we both want from this... and I need to decide what that even is first. Having never wanted 'more' before kinda doesn't help define what makes a healthy... 

Rhys felt his heart quicken, his breath catching as he bit off his thoughts before he could even consider the outrageous definition. "Ahem..." He cleared his throat quickly, his lips twitching as he tried to push aside the uncertainty and instead focus on the pleasant thrum of his heart, skipping random beats as giddy happiness blossomed and radiated through his chest. "So... I don't suppose there's any chance you'd let me do that-" he said, finally rolled over to the other side of the bed and sighing at the empty area. "... again." He huffed, falling to his back with a pout. "Of course not." He sighed, closing his eyes and running a hand through his hair distractedly.

"Oh god..." He muttered, his brow furrowed, as his eyes reopened, gazing up at the ceiling as he gnawed his lip worriedly. "...please don't be freaking out right now." He groaned, finally raising himself to his elbows and listening carefully, his concern growing when he heard no sound of Jack's movements in the apartment. "Please don't be freaking out..?" He whispered, though he shook his head as he rolled out of the bed, quickly finding the jacket and jeans Jack had loaned him and pulling on them both on, though he left the former unbuttoned.

With his modesty restored, Rhys sucked in a deep breath and stepped out of the bedroom into the hallway, quickly ducking into the bathroom to attend to his body's needs, before returning to the hall with his heart fluttering nervously. "... Jack?" He called tentatively, moving cautiously into the living room and glancing around, feeling strangely guilty as he searched for the other man. He heard a faint curse from the kitchen and momentarily hesitated, before taking a deep breath and heading towards the kitchen.

Rhys paused in the doorway, leaning his hip against the frame as he raised a hand to cover the small smile twitching at his lips, as he watched a shirtless Jack flinch and shake his hand quickly. He watched in quiet amusement as Jack sucked on his finger for a moment, muttering to himself as he glared at the oven grill. "You're not a cooking kinda person, are you?" Rhys finally snickered, biting his lip guiltily and blushing as Jack started and whirled around in surprise.

"Holy shit, Cupcake... I'm gonna have to get ya a damn bell." Jack choked, clearing his throat and leaning awkwardly against his counter, scratching the back of his head before beginning to fidget and finally folding his arms over his bare chest self-consciously. "Ya scared the bloody crap outta me." He huffed, recovering his wit slightly as he glanced at Rhys’ exposed torso, before pointedly looking away.

"Sorry," Rhys said quietly, chewing his bitten lip as he examined Jack's tense shoulders. After several seconds of awkward silence, Rhys couldn't stand anymore and he cleared his throat as he pushed away from the doorframe. "Do you mind if I..?" He asked, gesturing towards the oven Jack had abandoned. "I mean, unless-"

"Nah, by all means." Jack snorted, sliding what he deemed to be a safe distance away from the cooker and allowing Rhys access. He met Rhys’ eyes briefly as he passed, before quickly averting them again and jerking his thumb towards his fridge. "I thought ya might be hungry... Got some bacon I was gonna grill." He said, coughing as a moved away to a small kettle. "Ya drink coffee?"

"Oh boy..." Rhys sighed, pausing as he closed the fridge with Jack's aforementioned bacon in hand, drawing a deep breath as his heart clattered nervously in his chest. He exhaled slowly as he walked to the oven, setting the bacon down on the side slowly, before half turning towards Jack; though he was unable to meet his eyes, too scared the man might see the tears which stung at his eyes. "Look, if you want me to just get out, you can say it. Don't do the whole, awkward 'morning after' thing on my behalf. I'm not..." He paused, swallowing hard against the tightness which had formed in his throat. "I'm not expecting anything from you, you know... I can just go, if you rather forget this ha-"

"Rhys, shut the fuck up." Jack huffed quietly and Rhys started in surprise, looking up to see Jack was leaning against the counter beside the oven. "I'm sorry, I ain't exactly... I don't really know how to..." He sighed, looking away in frustration for a moment, his tongue in his cheek as he took a deep breath. "Look, I ain't exactly thrilled I let things go so far last night..." He said, his eyes widening as Rhys winced and moved to turn away. "No, no, no, no, no!" He stammered hurriedly, quickly taking Rhys’ shoulders to hold him in place, his brow furrowing in concern at the sight of Rhys’ watery eyes. "Shit, I didn't mean it like that, alright? Goddamn it, Cupcake... Last night was like, like fireworks, alright? Just as goddamn mind blowin' as the first... But I shouldn't have let it happen." He explained awkwardly, his thumbs massaging the curve at the base of Rhys’ neck.

Rhys frowned, finally meeting the other mans gaze carefully as he considered his words for a moment. "... Because of my age?" He asked uncertainly, his heart clenching and his stomach seeming to somersault in his gut, as Jack grit his teeth and sighed sharply.

"That... and ya my student." He said, slowly shaking his head as he unconsciously caressed Rhys’ skin. "There's so many levels of wrong involved, but I ain't immune to wantin' and desirin' somethin', or someone, who's honestly... probably the most ridiculously hot person I ever laid eyes on." He snorted, finally drawing his hands free with an effort and running then through his hair, as Rhys ducked his head and blushed furiously, his heart rising to his throat and skipping a beat at the confession. "I just..." Jack sighed, taking a small but determined step back from Rhys. "I don't know how to handle ya..."

"Oh, I have some ideas." Rhys snorted playfully, clearing his throat as Jack scoffed and rolled his eyes, his tense shoulders relaxing slightly. "Look, I'm not some innocent party being misled here. I'm the one asked you to keep going last night." He reminded, holding up his hand as Jack turned to him with a sour expression. "And yes, I know you 'could have said no' and all that... but, I'm really pleased you didn't." He sighed, scratching his chest thoughtfully. "I... I'm sorry. I know, you didn't want last night to happen, but-"

"Rhys, I've been wantin' last night to happen, ever since I first left ya apartment." Jack said quietly, shaking his head as he watched Rhys blink in surprise. "But... that don't mean it was right." He reluctantly added, glancing away as Rhys’ face warmed with a pleased blush.

"Oh..." He murmured softly, catching his breath quickly as he glanced around the kitchen dazedly. "Well... I just mean, it wasn't all you, ya know?" He finally said, unable to wipe the happy grin from his face as he gazed at Jack fondly. "And you know, I'm not really your student either. I mean, technically I'm Zane's student... so, one less thing?" He offered weakly, turning back to the oven as Jack considered his words thoughtfully.

"I guess that's kinda true... if ya really don't look too close at it anyway." He finally scoffed, shaking his head as he drew in a deep breath and held it for a heartbeat, before turning to Rhys seriously. "Look, I don't like it and I don't wanna say it but... last night can't happen again, Cupcake." He said firmly but reluctantly, as Rhys froze, his heart pounding furiously against his ribs. His breath seemed too thick and unsatisfying suddenly, as he leaned against the cooker, his legs quivering as if made of rubber.

"W-what..." Rhys stammered, clearing his aching throat as despair began to gnaw at the edges of his gut. "You... you mean..?" He managed to force the words past his constricted throat, his breath quickening slightly as he imagined Jack sending him away after all; obtaining a brief moment of bliss, only to lose it again. "You're gonna send me away and ignore me again, aren't you..? To pretend this didn't happen and be an asshole and-"

"No..." Jack said, sighing as his arms tentatively enfolded Rhys from behind, pinning him to the steady heartbeat in his chest as he nosed gently at Rhys’ hairline. "Calm down already... I can hear ya damn mental freak out from across the room." He murmured gently, chafing Rhys’ arms awkwardly as he tried to soothe his obviously frayed nerves. "Look, I ain't tellin' ya to leave, and I ain't gonna just... try and push it all aside again. This... ain't gonna go away, because the more I tried to forget about ya, the more I ended up wantin' ya. So lets, try somethin' different." He said slowly, taking his time to carefully choose his words and express himself. "I... like ya, Cupcake. I wanna-" Jack paused, sucking in a nervous breath and swallowing heavily, as Rhys peeked over his shoulder uncertainly. "This whole thing is such a bloody pain in the..." He finally sighed, releasing Rhys to scratch the back of his neck awkwardly. "Look, I don't really know how to... to say it right, ya know?" He said, stepping back from Rhys and frowning. 

"This ain't exactly ya... typical, conventional situation." He said slowly, leaning against the counter beside Rhys, tapping his fingers on the surface in agitation. "I can't give ya... I can't be seen with ya, or to be favourin' ya and, ya gonna have to still hang out with ya friends. Then even if we do... ya know, do this and work out what the hell this even is, I can't... I mean, we can't... Last night can't happen again. Fucking slag... this, this whole thing is gonna be dodgy as fuck, and its gonna be hard as hell to-"

"Jack, what are you saying?" Rhys sighed, rubbing his brow tiredly, his emotions clamouring uncertainly at Jack's continued floundering. "You're saying a whole lotta words, but you're not exactly making much sense with them, Handsome..." He said pointedly, sighing as he stabbed open the bacon with a knife from the nearby rack. "What, you want me to be seen with other people? Like, Axton? I don't un-"

"No! Not..." Jack immediately denied, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "I don't mean... Aw fuck." He sighed, scrubbing his palms over his face irritably. "I can't be some... regular boyfriend." He sneered awkwardly, spitting the word out as if it might bite him. "I can not be seen with ya, outside of school. Hell, can't even be seen with ya in it really... and ya can't constantly be hidin' out here either, ya got friends and shit..." He huffed, scowling as he tried to explain himself. "But I sure as shit don't want ya hanging around with mister bloody Captain America wannabe, with his handsy-"

"Oh for..." Rhys groused, frowning as he slammed the bacon on the counter and turned to Jack in irritation. "What the hell are you trying to say, here?!" He finally demanded, covering his face with his hands as he tried to pull back his temper. "What..? You don't want me, but you don't want anyone else to have me either?" He asked, scrubbing his cheeks roughly with his palms, before running his hands up into his hair.

"What? No! Bloody hell... I ain't some heartless asshole, Rhys... well, not anymore..." Jack snarked, frowning as he paused and examined him thoughtfully. "Maybe this whole thing is just, a dumb idea." He finally sighed, shaking his head as he turned to glare down at the floor irritably. "Christ if we're arguin' now, what the hell is a... a relat-" he broke off with a cough and despite the ominous direction of their conversation, Rhys felt a hopeful, electrical jolt strike him, an idea occurring to him which filled him with warmth and giddy joy.

"Are you..." He paused, drawing in a deep breath as he turned towards Jack, his eyes brightening as he cautiously took a step closer and trailed his fingers over Jack's hand, stilling their restless tapping. "Are you saying, in your own... long ass, roundabout, confusing as hell way... that you want to be with me?" He asked, his breath catching as he sucked his lip between his teeth briefly, half rocking towards Jack before forcing himself to straighten. "That you want this... want to try 'us'? But, you just... don't want us to have sex?"

Jack frowned, considering for a moment before looking at Rhys with a semi petulant scowl. "How the hell'd ya make it sound so easy?" He groused, as Rhys covered his mouth and choked, turning away as he bit his lip and quickly wiped at his eyes; his heart swelling with affection as it raced within his chest. "Hey, oh crap... are ya cryin'?!" He demanded, his brow creasing in concern as he reached for Rhys’ shoulder to turn him. "If it ain't what ya want, I'll understand Cupcake, but I can't..."

"Oh god, you're such a fucking idiot..." Rhys finally gasped, turning back to Jack with his eyes still watering, despite his best efforts to dry them. "Why the hell didn't you just say so? Rather than all that... shit?" He snorted, shaking his head as he scrubbed at his eyes again and hiccupped with giddy, light hearted amusement.

Jack raised a brow, eyeing Rhys’ happy smile for a moment, before hesitantly reaching up to cup his cheek. "Ya okay?" He asked quietly, his thumb sweeping away Rhys’ happy tears as he watched him intently. "Cupcake, last night was, amazin'..." He huffed, his lips quirking into a crooked grin, as Rhys leaned his face into Jack's palm. "But, I can't be let it happen again. Even if ya do choose to see yaself as Zane's student and not mine, ya still not legal and I... I should've been stronger last night. But after everythin'..." He paused, swallowing thickly as Rhys reached up to cover Jack's hand with his own, squeezing encouragingly. "Are ya gonna be able to deal with that? With me not fuckin' ya... even if its what ya want?" 

"Gee, am I gonna be able to cope with a guy wanting to spend time with me, without using my body for sexual gratification? Hmm, let me think..." Rhys scoffed dryly, rolling his eyes as he made a show of pretending to think. "I think I'll manage." He finally snorted, shaking his head as he slipped free of Jack's hold and moved back to the oven, his heart racing and his gut bubbling with joy. "So... you'll let me spend some time with you then..? Like, you'll let me come over and just, hang out for awhile? Netflix and chill... without the chill, kind of thing?" He asked, glancing at Jack almost shyly as he rooted through Jack's cupboards quickly and found a frying pan.

"I guess so, just so long as ya don't start ignorin' ya friends. I know I'm pretty irresistible and all..." Jack said teasingly, snickering and seeming to relax when Rhys playfully shoved him away while barely looking away from his task,  as he heated the pan and began to apply the bacon carefully. "But, I mean... are ya really sure ya okay with this? I know it ain't exactly a normal... ahem, relatio-" he cough, pausing for a second as Rhys glanced at him and briefly met his eyes, before looking back at the bacon with his lips twitching in amusement. "Thing. I'd understand if this was too much hassle for ya... I wouldn't hold it against ya, if ya decided to leave it at just; a couple really awesome nights." He said awkwardly, shifting uncomfortably as he scratched his ear.

Rhys remained silent for a long pause, carefully frying the bacon as he considered Jack's offer thoroughly. "Jack..." He finally replied, swallowing thickly as he flipped the cooking meat carefully and thoroughly, while Jack allowed him some space by moving away to butter some bread. "I, I've never really had an actual... relationship, uh... thing, before. I don't really know..." He hesitated, sucking in a deep breath as he felt his skin warm with embarrassment. He cleared his throat, turning off the hob and searching through Jack's cupboards quickly for two plates. "I've never wanted... this, before. More. There's never been... I mean, I wouldn't know what a, a normal relationship... uh, thing, would be like anyway." He said awkwardly, dishing up the bacon and turning to Jack shyly. "I'm... I mean, I think this; awkward and weird as it is... I think its kind of perfect. For me, I mean, not that the situation is perfe-"

"Shut up, Cupcake." Jack snorted, flashing him a cocky grin as he added two thick slices of buttered bread to each plate. "I get it. We can wet our feet together and just, see how it goes... For all we know this is gonna end in disaster, but I'm already goin' to hell anyway now, right? Might as well make the journey worthwhile, huh?"

"I hope not." Rhys said quickly, blushing furiously when Jack turned his intent mismatched eyes upon him. "I hope we can make it work... I really want to and just, spending time together is enough for me." He said, an irrepressible warmth blossoming in his heart, as he flashed Jack a coy smirk. "For now..."

"Heh," Jack huffed, eyeing Rhys curiously as his gaze softened. "Me too." He said, jostling Rhys’ elbow fondly. "C'mon, lets eat this and then, uh..." He trailed off, frowning as he cocked his head and looked out into the living room. "What the hell is that?" He asked, jerking his thumb toward the other room where the loud jingle was emanating from.

Rhys flushed red, clearing his throat as he shuffled around Jack and darted towards his things. "... My ding ding dong! Ooh, you touch my tra la la! My ding ding-" Rhys snatched his phone up quickly, scowling at the screen briefly before disconnecting the call.

"Uh, that was... just, um..." He said awkwardly, blushing furiously as be turned and tried to hide his phone behind his back. "I uh, I always... liked that song..." He muttered, flushing once more as Jack began to snigger. "Hey, shut up mister 'Mortal Kombat'... Stupid, Handsome." He groused, rolling his eyes as he moved to stuff his phone back into his bag, when it began to ring again. "Oh my god, I am changing my goddamn number!" He growled, scowling as he drew his phone back out and tried to muffle the sound, glancing at Jack when he began to laugh quietly. "Uh, I'll be back in..." He said, stepping towards the hall awkwardly as Jack continued to snigger.

"Sure thing, Cupcake." Jack laughed smugly, shaking his head as he set both plates on the small table and began to clear it up. "Go on, before the damn thing burns a hole in ya hand." He snorted, tipping his chin towards the bedroom.

"Thanks..." Rhys muttered, turning with a scowl and stomping back to Jack's bedroom, half closing the door before finally answering the call. "Dude, do you not understand the concept of the weekend? It means we are allowed to sleep in, laze and enjoy our extra sleep time, or jerk it without fear of being late to sch-"

"Gonna stop you right there, assbutt..." Vaughn said, talking loudly over Rhys to drown him out. "I do not need any more mental aides for your... lifestyle." He complained, and despite his frustration Rhys found his lips quirking into a grin, shaking his head as he flopped onto the bed. "Where the hell are you?"

"In bed." Rhys said honestly, glancing at the far side of Jack's bed where he'd slept, his cheeks tingling with warmth as he bit his lip. He rolled onto his back, gazing up at the ceiling as he remembered the nights events; the honest conversation he and Jack had finally had and the passion which it had led to, his cheeks steadily warming as pleasure and happiness rippled out from his heart.

"Uh huh," Vaughn hummed thoughtfully, falling quiet briefly as the sound of a door opening pierced the line. "That's funny, because I'm looking at your bed... and you are definitely not in it." He said, as Rhys felt his heart pause in his chest. "In fact, I would say you haven't been in it all night."

"Well, I never said I was in my bed." Rhys countered, quickly recovering his wits and shaking off his momentary daze, raising a hand to his hair and twisting the short strands around his finger. "Sorry, I needed to blow off steam after my detention last night. Went to the club, had a few drinks; you know the drill." He said, chewing his lip as his stomach churned with guilt, hating to lie to his friend but knowing it was a necessary evil. "Sorry, I should have called and warn-"

"You're so full of shit." Vaughn snorted down the line, startling Rhys into silence as he heard his friend sigh. "Brick wasn't working last night, so you couldn't have got into the club." Vaughn continued, as Rhys closed his eyes and grimaced, gritting his teeth as he tried to think quickly. "Dude... I know what you did."

"What?!" Rhys yelped, his eyes snapping open as his heart lurched, panic overwhelming him as he stared at the ceiling and stammered awkwardly. "I don't, I mean... Wha, uh, ahem... what d'you mean? I didn't, uh, didn't do anythi-"

"Oh please, Rhys... You're utterly transparent and I can see straight through all you're innocent bullshit." Vaughn snorted, as Rhys clawed at his head and fought off the urge to hyperventilate, his heart thudding loudly as he tried to think past the sound of blood rushing in his ears. "You went searching for him, didn't you? Your mysterious Mr Tag." He said knowingly, as Rhys moved the phone from his ear and muffled the receiver with the sheets, sighing heavily in relief, before returning the phone to his ear quickly. "So what, did Mr. Flynt give you a hard time in detention? Is that why you went and found him?"

"Dude, shut up." Rhys scoffed, scowling as he imagined Vaughn's irritatingly smug grin. "I am not that pathetic that I need to get laid if I have a bad day... Although it does help." He said, shaking his head as Vaughn remained silent on the other end of the line, obviously awaiting details. "Okay, fine... Yes; I met up with him, but... it wasn't intentional." He said, pausing to swallow thickly as his heart skipped a giddy beat. "He uh, he actually, kinda found me." He admitted, his lips curling into a smile as he recalled his shock, upon seeing Jack reverse to the bus stop for him; right before his temper had flared and he'd stomped back out into the storm.

"And..?" Vaughn prompted, as Rhys blinked and flushed deeply, realizing that he'd entirely zoned out of the conversation to immerse himself in his memories.

"And what?" Rhys clucked thickly, humming quietly as he cleared his throat and covered his face with his hand, pleased Jack couldn't see him blushing so ferociously.

"And, what happened?!" Vaughn demanded insistently, as Rhys bit his lip and peeked through his hand at the ceiling, his cheeks beginning to ache from the strength of his sappy grin. "I mean obviously he took you back to his place, and no!" He said sharply, a hint of frustration mixing with his excitement. "I do not want your lurid play by play! Or any details about that... at all."

Rhys snorted, smirking at his friends predictability as he rolled onto his side and stared at the pillows, his stomach alight with the giddy fluttering of hope and joy. "We... talked." He said carefully, biting his lip as he considered how much he could safely be honest with his friend. "Its complicated, but... it was good. Really good." He said, curling his legs to his chest and biting his lip as he recalled the rest of the evening. "Really... really good..." He huffed, chuckling fondly as his face flushed with warmth.

"Uh huh, yeah sure, Rhys." Vaughn snorted, as Rhys’ fond expression morphed into an irritated pout. "I'm really getting that whole 'talked' vibe. Thank you. I hate you." He snarked petulantly.

"Shut up, assbutt." Rhys groused in return, narrowing his eyes as he imagined his friends smug expression. "It is so not my fault if your dirty mind conjures explicit scenarios... Honestly, you're such a damn pervert, Vaughn." He drawled, smirking when he heard his friend choke on the other end of the line.

"M-me?!" Vaughn gasped, coughing and spluttering as Rhys hummed noncommittally and tried not to snicker. "You're the one who... whose actually..." Rhys bit his lip, closing his eyes and wrinkling his nose to keep himself from laughing. "I mean, you're the one who acts like some sort of... of..."

"Whore?" Rhys supplied with a snort, opening his eyes and gazing into the distance beyond the pillows. "What can I say, Vaughn. I know what I like; and I like sex. Most notably-"

"La la la! Not listening!" Vaughn sang loudly down the line, and Rhys finally laughed at his friends distress, quickly recovering from his momentary lapse in concentration. "And for the record, I was going to say you were like some sort of porn star..." He added, as Rhys laughed harder, envisioning his friends grimace. "Which... is really a mental image I did not need in my life."

"Vaughn, you're such a dork, honestly..." Rhys huffed, catching his breath after laughing too hard. "Sometimes, I don't know whether I find it funny or scary that my best friend is my polar opposite on the innocence scale..." He mused, shaking his head fondly as Vaughn snorted loudly.

"Right, of course... my lack of personal experience is the thing to freak you out most." He grumbled, as Rhys sniggered quietly. "Hey, I can hear you laughing, okay? Don't be judging me, mister expert. I'll get there in my own damn time, thankyou very much. I already know way more than I need to from your... your..." He paused, clearly flustered and searching vainly for the right words, as Rhys snickered. "You know what? Just shut up... bitch." He groused petulantly.

"Pfft, you started it... jerk." Rhys snorted, grinning proudly as he rolled back onto his front, dangling his arm over the far side of the bed. "Don't even try and pretend you don't love it." He added knowingly, smirking when Vaughn cleared his throat loudly.

"So, uh... Anyway; what's um, what's happening now, dude?" He asked pointedly, as Rhys puffed out his cheeks and considered for a moment. "Are you coming back soon or what?" He pressed, hesitating a heartbeat longer while Rhys continued to think quickly. "I feel I should confess that whatever your answer; I am raiding your fridge for leftovers you might've stashed away." He said, as Rhys rolled his eyes.

"Dude, your stomach should be bigger than Brick's." He huffed, toying with the covers fondly. "I swear, you only actually hang around with me for my food..." He pouted, his fingers slowly curling in on themselves as he sucked in a deep breath and held it for a long pause, his heart pounding in his throat. "Well... I uh, I don't think I'll be back before tomorrow. We... We still have a lot to talk about and I, I really..." He trailed off, his cheeks burning as he bit his lip with uncharacteristic shyness.

"More talking, huh?" Vaughn snorted, and Rhys scowled as he heard the clear jingle of his fridge door opening. "Dude, don't you ever get tired? Like, you're remembering to eat and sleep and stuff outside of all your 'talking', right?" He teased, as Rhys rolled his eyes and rest his chin atop his arm. "I'm eating your Tiramisu." He added nonchalantly.

"Dude! That's for-!" Rhys protested, before groaning and resigning himself to the fact. "Urgh, whatever. I'll just... make another one." He sighed, shaking his head in fond exasperation. "Look, I'll be home sometime tomorrow, okay? Just... don't go rooting through my drawers or, anything else weird or creepy."

"Why the hell would I do that?" Vaughn yelped, as Rhys sniggered and scratched beneath his chin. "Why would you even think I would do that?! Dude-!" Rhys laughed at his friends continued distress, finally raising his head to prop his chin in his hand. "I am not some sort of... of..."

"Vaughn, I love you my good friend... but that was for my Tiramisu." Rhys scoffed, smirking as Vaughn made strange choking sounds on the other end of the call. "Just don't eat everything, else I'll lock you out and never cook for you again." He threatened seriously, scratching his cheek as Vaughn sighed wearily.

"Fine, fine... assbutt." He groused petulantly, as Rhys smiled and sniggered quietly. "But before you head back to your 'talking', I know there's a full stock of your caramel drizzle and Disarono cookies you've hidden somewhere, and I want them..."

"Pfft, yeah like I'm telling you where they are." Rhys scoffed, raising himself to all fours and shuffling forward til he could sit back on his knees. "And so help me, if you go snouting around looking for them-"

"Yeah, yeah..." Vaughn sighed, as Rhys narrowed his eyes playfully, despite his friend not being present to see the gesture. "Change the locks, blah blah blah." Vaughn sneered knowingly, whining in frustration at Rhys’ rules. "But you better gimme some tomorrow, dude. Or I'm gonna have to seriously reevaluate our friendship."

"Go ahead, buddy." He said smugly, arching his back as he stretched contently. "You'll be evaluating my irreplaceable ass back into your life before a weeks up to get a cookie..." He snorted, grinning as Vaughn quietened, knowing he was trying to fond a suitable way to deny the fact.

"... I hate you." He finally muttered, as Rhys sniggered knowingly and clicked his neck. "Why are we friends? You're a horrible, selfish, cookie hoarding friend..." He groused, whilst Rhys grinned and gazed at his lap in distant fondness.

"I am a fabulous friend who gives you food and lets you perv over hot guys all weekend; and you love me." He said confidently, his heart warming as Vaughn grumbled but said nothing to contradict him. He sighed, sitting in content silence for a brief moment before clearing his throat and slapping his leg, bouncing on the bed lightly. "Well, I gotta go, assbutt. Stuff to do, talks to have. Don't go having any wild sex parties in my place without me." He finally said, laughing at Vaughn's outraged spluttering.

"Dude!" He choked, as Rhys snorted, shaking his head as he looked down at his lap. "Oh my god, you are just the worst-" Vaughn spluttered, pausing to draw in a deep and noisy breath, before releasing it in a rush. "You're such an ass." He huffed fondly, as Rhys’ grin grew goofy in his affection. "Whatever, I'll see your tomorrow dude. Remember to stay safe during all that 'talking' and stuff." He said slyly, causing Rhys to snort in amusement.

"For once... I can actually say I'm content with just talking, dude." Rhys said, sighing as he raised his head and looked at the pillows at the head of the bed. "I uh, I don't know where it will lead yet, or, if it will at all but..." He said, his throat tightening as his heart skipped a beat. "This more stuff suddenly seems a whole lot more interesting..." He admitted shyly, biting his lip as Vaughn fell noticeably silent on the other end of the call. "Ahem... but, uh... you know what, I have breakfast going cold so... bye Vaughn!" He said quickly, ending his friends lingering, thoughtful silence abruptly by ending the call. He pressed his phone to his lips, wincing as he imagined his friends smug attitude upon seeing him the following day.

"Oh god..." He groaned, falling sideways onto the pillows and rolling onto his front, hiding his face as it burnt fiercely with embarrassment. He's gonna be a total nightmare all week now. He thought, making incoherent and muffled sounds of frustration into the pillows. After allowing himself another few minutes to wallow in his self pity, Rhys raised himself from the bed with a sigh and swung his legs around to stand just as Jack's voice called out to him, growing closer with the sound of his approach.

"Rhys?" Jack called tentatively, hesitating in the doorway to make sure his call was over, before cocking a brow at him. "Ya alright? Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt ya-"

"You didn't." Rhys assured with a lopsided grin, eyeing Jack curiously as he remained by the doorway. "I was finished anyway, just... took a minute. You know, make sure I didn't say something stupid..." He said, slowly walking around the bed and flashing Jack a coy grin. "I don't bite you know... you can come closer."

"Pfft, I ain't steppin' near a bed if I'm within a hundred foot of ya, Cupcake." Jack snorted, grinning as he leaned his shoulder against the doorframe. "Bad enough I want ya so much, I ain't takin' any damn chances with my self control... I've already proven myself pretty weak to resistin' ya charms twice." He huffed, throwing Rhys a cocky wink as Rhys smiled sappily, his stomach somersaulting with giddy, hopeful joy.

"I'm not gonna lie that I'm very pleased about that." Rhys snickered, biting his lip as he slowly sauntered closer to the doorway. "But I guess I can respect the whole 'safe distance' thing, so long as it doesn't extend to the rest of any time we spend together as well." He added playfully, hesitating briefly before reaching up and gently toying with Jack's tags. "So, what's the plan for today, Handsome? I mean, if you wanna... spend the day with me, that is."

"Rhys..." Jack sighed, slowly curling his hand over Rhys’ fingers and stilling their near nervous jiggling of his tags. "I want nothin' more... But, well, we're kinda limited as to just what we can do. I can't be seen wanderin' around town with a student..."

"Right..." Rhys nodded, flushing in embarrassment as he took a cautious step back, easing his hand free from Jack's and scratching the back of his neck. "Low profile. Covert operation. Stealth-" he prattled, until Jack sighed and took his hand, pulling him into a tentative, one armed hug.

"Shut up, ya dum-dum." He muttered, nosing affectionately at Rhys’ hairline, as Rhys sighed and raised his hands to Jack's chest. "Look, I warned ya this was gonna be hard. This town just ain't big enough that we can really go anywhere or do anythin'... ya know, together..." He said, trailing off thoughtfully as Rhys accepted the comfort he offered him. After a few moments of companionable silence, Jack cleared his throat and Rhys glanced up at him curiously. "What about... would ya, would ya be interested in gettin' outta here, for the day I mean?"

"You mean, out of town?" Rhys queried, frowning as he tried to follow Jack's thought process. "Like, entirely?" He added, a cautious smile curling his lips as realisation blossomed slowly. "Like, so we can be alone and unknown and..." He clarified, flicking his hand to gesture between them quickly.

Jack scoffed and rolled his eyes, his cheeks dusting with pink as he released Rhys and ran a hand through his hair. "That was the general idea yeah..." He huffed, looking at Rhys with a gentle expression briefly, before glancing away awkwardly. "I just think this whole re-" he paused, clearing his throat as Rhys grinned and cocked his head at him, unconsciously weaving his fingers into Jack's free hand. "Thing... It don't feel right to be cooped up in here, right after decidin' to give it a shot, ya know?" He hesitantly explained, unaware of Rhys’ silent agreement from the eager racing of his heart. "So, whaddaya reckon? Ya wanna get outta here..? I uh, I kinda got somewhere I wanna take ya, anyway." He added, purposely avoiding Rhys’ curious gaze.

"Handsome," he drawled, shaking his head in a mixture of slow exasperation and affection. "I'd wanna take a ride anywhere, so long as I'm riding-" he said, pausing as Jack cleared his throat and shot him with a withering glare. "... with you." He finished lightly, rocking on the balls of his feet as he smiled innocently.

"Nice save." Jack snorted dryly, pushing away from the doorframe and tipping his chin towards the kitchen. "C'mon then, Cupcake..." He said, noticeably eager as his eyes lit with a similar excitement to that which Rhys felt bubbling in his gut. "Sooner we get movin', sooner we'll be there. Oh, did ya wanna grab ya wet stuff from yesterday? I can chuck it in the dryer for ya, if ya-"

"It'll probably be dry by now, to be honest." Rhys said thoughtfully, brushing past Jack as he moved to the bathroom and stepped inside. "Yeah... I can fold this up and put it in my bag once I dry that out... Or I can just wear it when I go home. It'll be fine, honest." He said, pulling his now dry uniform from the radiators he'd it draped over the night before.

"Well, well..." Jack huffed, clucking his tongue thoughtfully. "Regular little house husband, ain't ya?" He asked fondly, chuckling as Rhys felt his cheeks warm. "Alright, well, toss it in ya room for now and uh, we probably oughta get ya somethin' else once we're outta town." He added, scratching his ear as he grinned and eyed Rhys in his jacket and jeans with a mixture of amusement and pride.

"Hmm, if you want." Rhys hummed, shrugging his shoulder nonchalantly, though his heart skipped a beat at the suggestion of 'his' room. "I don't mind staying in this... Its comfy at least." He added, folding his underwear onto the top of his pile of uniform, before turning to Jack innocently. "So, can I just..?" He said lightly, gesturing to the spare room behind Jack, as he pointedly avoided looking at Rhys or his pile of clothes.

"Yeah. Right..." He said, clearing his throat as he stepped aside to his own room and grab an old Hyperion t-shirt while letting Rhys past. Rhys smirked and snickered as he set his things down on the bed, before returning to the hallway and moving back to the living room, raising his brows innocently when he found Jack waiting for him by the door with an expression which conveyed both amusement and frustration. "Why do I get the feelin' this is gonna be the longest journey of my damn life?" He wondered aloud, as Rhys spread his palms and grinned, wrinkling his nose and winking playfully as he passed Jack into the outside hallway.

"Oh, wait, my bacon..." He recalled, turning back to Jack's apartment as the man himself exited while pulling his jacket. He bit his lip at Jack's amused grin, the older man stepping dangerously close for a heartbeat, as he shut the door behind him.

"I'll buy ya breakfast when I get ya some damn clothes." He promised quietly, as Rhys waved his brows suggestively. "Don't even say it... I know ya thinkin' it, just don't... tempt me." He warned, pointing a finger at Rhys’ amused, innocent expression.

Rhys grinned and chopped a quick two finger salute, as he quickly kissed Jack's finger. "Yes, sir." He snickered, as Jack groaned and rolled his eyes, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he lead the way down to his car. "So..." He said, slipping past Jack into the elevator and leaning against the far wall, a knowing and mischievous grin curling his lips as Jack stepped in and pressed the button for the ground floor. "Am I allowed to know where we're going, or is this a mystery date..?" He asked, blushing shyly despite his cocky demeanour.

"Date, huh?" Jack repeated, smirking at Rhys’ flushed and burning face as he chuckled to himself. "Well, I guess as far as first dates go its gonna be memorable either way..." He huffed, shrugging a shoulder in feigned nonchalance. "But ya gonna have to wait and see..." He added, winking as the elevator doors opened and quickly stepping outside. "C'mon, we got a ways to go yet." He snickered, moving away with a slightly nervous twitch, as Rhys cocked a brow and trotted after him.

"Okay, mister secretive..." He huffed, trailing after Jack to his car, and sliding into the passenger seat after he'd unlocked it. "But if you think you're getting me naughty panties or something so stupid... you're gonna have to gimme a reason to wear 'em." He said, laughing at the withering scowl which Jack tossed him in response.

"I'll bear it in mind." He snorted, shaking his head as they fixed their seatbelts, before he started the engine and drove them smoothly out of the car park, quickly making his way down the road towards the outskirts of town. "... Last chance to change ya mind." He said suddenly, looking over at Rhys almost nervously as his fingers tapped the steering wheel.

Rhys turned back from gazing out the window and smiled slowly, reaching over to tentatively squeeze Jack's other hand where it rest upon the gear stick, his heart in his throat as it pounded fiercely. "I'm good." He said gently, his smile softening when Jack released a heavy breath and grinned at him lopsidedly. 

"Good." He huffed, revving the engine as he drove beyond the town limits and onto the highway. "Get some rest if ya want, we got a few hours drivin' ahead of us." He said, as Rhys released his hand and drew in a deep breath, reclining in his chair with a content smile as he turned to the window again, and watched the scenery pass with a lightness in his heart.

Three hours and forty six minutes later, he woke from a light doze to find Jack was just pulling into a parking space outside a clothing store. "Mmm..." He hummed sleepily, as Jack flashed him a grin and turned off the engine. "Are we there yet? The mysterious, mystery spot?" He asked, shaking his head as he woke himself.

"Snorer awakes, huh?" Jack teased, laughing when Rhys immediately pouted and glared at him. "Yeah, we're here. This is, uh..." He paused, glancing away as he seemed to take a deep breath. Rhys frowned and reached over to touch his fingers to Jack's wrist, startling the other man from whatever thought he'd become lost within. "Sorry... We uh, we better get ya a change of clothes." He said, flashing Rhys a cocky grin as he cleared his throat and exited the car.

Rhys frowned, but chose not to comment as he followed Jack's example and stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him with his hip. "Are you really so embarrassed to see me wearing your clothes..?" He asked as he rounded the bonnet, scratching his arm as Jack blinked at him in surprise.

"What are ya, still asleep?" He scoffed, rolling his eyes as he made to move away, when he stopped suddenly and half turned back to Rhys. With a lopsided grin, he reached out and lacing his fingers with Rhys’, pulling him closer as he his eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat.  "I'd be happy to see ya in my clothes as much as ya like; as much as possible in fact... But just, trust me on this, okay?" He said quietly, cautiously knocking his forehead to Rhys’. "Just this once, it'll be better if ya in ya own stuff." He murmured, his eyes meeting Rhys’ as he felt his heart begin to race, his palms turning warm and sweaty as Jack slowly leaned forward and pressed his lips to Rhys’.

Rhys hummed in surprise, his free hand rising haltingly to cup Jack's prickly cheek, as his lips curved into an irrepressible smile against Jack's. For an untouchable moment, they stood; exchanging an unhurried, languid kiss the affection of which Rhys was sure he'd never felt before. "... what was that for?" He mumbled after several long minutes had passed, gazing at Jack curiously as they both caught their breath.

Jack held Rhys’ arm tightly, his lips quirking into a brief smirk as he waved his brows, before he kissed Rhys’ cheek and drew back another step from him. "'Cause I can." He replied simply, tugging Rhys’ hand and leading him into the clothing store as Rhys felt his heart swell with affection, unable to wipe the goofy grin from his lips.

Fifteen minutes later, Rhys stepped out of the store wearing new jeans and a dark blue shirt, with Jack's old jacket and jeans in a bag, which the man himself tossed in his trunk. "Ya sure ya didn't wanna try and get a tighter shirt?" Jack sniggered, leaning on his trunk for a moment as he eyed the snug material for a moment. "I don't think this ones quite cuttin' off ya blood circulation..." He teased, as Rhys tolled his eyes and swatted his arm playfully.

"Shut up, Handsome." He huffed, sauntering around the car and leaning his hip against the door. "You chose this top, so don't go complaining now-"

"Oh, trust me, I ain't complainin', Cupcake." Jack interrupted, winking suggestively as Rhys laughed and shook his head, biting his lip as they lapsed into a momentary but companionable silence.

"Um, seriously though, Jack..." Rhys finally said, clearing his throat as his cheeks burnt with minor embarrassment. "Thankyou for... this. You didn't have to-" he said, falling into an amused silence as Jack sighed heavily and rolled his eyes.

"Is this how ya gonna be any time I buy ya anythin'?" Jack queried, smirking playfully as Rhys snorted and scuffed his shoe against the curb. "Goddamn, I'm already dreadin' ya birthday and Valentine's day..." He huffed, shaking his head in obvious amusement. "If ya really that bothered, ya can always pay me back." He said, clearing his throat as Rhys peeked at him from beneath his lashes, a brow raised and a wicked smirk on his lips. "Uh, ahem... Anyway, we oughtta get goin', it ain't far now." He coughed, gliding back to the drivers door and sliding in as Rhys laughed and hopped into the passenger seat.

"What's not far, exactly?" Rhys asked, raising a brow when he noticed the uneasy tapping of Jack's fingers against the steering wheel. "Jack..?" He murmured, frowning at the other mans sharp breath, his nervous energy palpable around them as he licked his lips and glanced over at Rhys.

"I..." He tried, words seeming to fail him as he shook his head and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "It ain't far, alright? Just... bear with me, Cupcake." He said, finally raising his eyes to meet Rhys’. "Pl-uh... ya trust me, don't ya?"

Rhys frowned as his eyes met Jack's heterochromia gaze, before pushing his concerns aside and smiling reassuringly. "Of course I do." He said, leaning back in his seat as he buckled his seatbelt and raised a brow in expectation. "Well? What're you waiting for, Handsome?" He huffed, gesturing to the steering wheel with an impatient flick of the wrist, his lips twitching with amusement as Jack snorted and seemed to relax marginally.

"Ya somethin' else." Jack huffed, starting the car and glancing over at him with a curious, but fond expression. "Ya know that, right?" He asked, as Rhys felt his heart radiate affection throughout his body.

"... I do now." He said quietly, smiling giddily as Jack gazed at him a moment longer, before finally throwing the car into reverse and driving away. Rhys turned to the window as Jack drove, hiding his smile behind his hand as a lightness settled in his heart. He touched his forehead to the glass, and closed his eyes, content for the first time in his life; that he was exactly where he wanted to be.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

Guilty.

 

Jack's fingers bounced unbidden against the steering wheel, his heart leaping into his throat as he drove. This Lawrence, is without a doubt, the single dumbest idea ya've ever had... He thought to himself, barely repressing a giddy grin as his emotions clattered surreally in his chest, like a tsunami wave about to consume him. And that's includin' the whole 'shower heads with sand' prank. He snorted, shaking his head faintly as he cruised slowly down a narrow road, changing down through the gears as his speed dropped even lower.

He noticed Rhys glancing at him with increasingly worried expressions, but he appeared to respect Jack's privacy and bit back his concern and curiosity as best he could. Way to go ya idiot... confusin' him at every opportunity. He thought scathingly, gritting his teeth and gripping the steering wheel tighter. What're ya so damn afraid of? Ya know he ain't gonna judge or shit... He grimaced, glancing in his mirrors as his stomach knotted uncomfortably. He opened his mouth to speak, but as always; the words died on his tongue and he quickly cleared his throat, feigning indifference to cover up his pitiful attempt.

Smooth, Lawrence, real smooth. He thought self depreciatively, scowling at the winding road as it curved around a bend and led towards a tunnel. Godammit, ya goddamn coward, just damn well say somethin'! He growled in his own head, licking his lips as his heart thudded heavily in his chest, forcing himself to take a quick breath and finally speak.

"I uh," he choked awkwardly, clearing his throat and silently cursing himself as he glanced across the car and met Rhys’ curious, concerned gaze. "It's... quiet out here." He said, biting back a grimace as he felt embarrassment burn his face.

"It is." Rhys agreed carefully, examining Jack's tense posture a moment longer, before looking back out the windscreen with a small smile. "Peaceful. It's nice not having the bustle of town or anything." He added, accepting the awkward conversation topic easily.

"Yeah, ya dig this sorta country schtick?" Jack asked, raising a brow and relaxing slightly at the opportunity to talk freely about something other than their destination. "Out in the wilderness places, I mean? I mean, I'm from a town so rural in Louisiana, it ain't even on the map; so this is right up my alley... But I though ya were more of a, ya know, a town boy..? No offence..."

"Pfft, yeah none taken, Handsome." Rhys snorted, rolling his eyes toward Jack with a fond smile. "You can buy me dinner for that later, just so you know." He added playfully, as Jack winked and flashed him a lopsided grin. "But yeah, this whole... out in the wilds thing seems so nice, compared to everyone being in your business all the time, thinking they know everything about you." He finally sighed, shrugging his shoulders as he looked back out the window. "Honestly though, anywhere is better than our shit stick of a town."

Jack glanced at Rhys, raising a brow at the bitterness and low-key vehemence in his tone. He debated for a heartbeat, before deciding not to comment for the moment, turning back to the road as they approached the entrance to the tunnel. "Ya know, I used to be scared of the dark as a kid." He said instead, changing the subject and determinedly keeping his eyes on the narrow road, as he noticed Rhys turn towards him from the corner of his eye. "Used to drive my Grandma crazy, hoardin' torches and shit... one night, she took 'em all away, said I needed to learn to grow out of it." He continued, mentally berating himself for babbling about something so mundane, but unable to stop himself when faced with Rhys’ grateful and curious, soft smile.

"My brother knew I was freakin' out... Little thing he was, snuck outta his room and came jumped in with me for the night. Held my hand and said 'You'll be okay. You're my big brother!' Like that was all there was to it." He huffed, shaking his head fondly at the memory. "Little brat was always showin' me up." He snickered softly, his pulse jumping suddenly as Rhys’ hand gently covered his own on the gear stick, his heart racing. This is bloody ridiculous... what the hell am I? Some love sick sch- he firmly bit the thought off, pleased for the darkness around them to hide his embarrassment and the chance to recompose himself.

"He sounds cute." Rhys said softly, as Jack felt his heart leap into his throat, his unexpected confession oddly intimate in their darkened surroundings; and Rhys’ reassuring touch almost too comforting. "I bet he used to drive you nuts..." Rhys continued wistfully, and Jack snorted at the knowing tone of his voice.

"Speakin' from experience, are we Cupcake?" He asked, raising his finger to brush over the backs of Rhys’. Silence dragged for a moment, and Jack frowned at Rhys’ obvious hesitancy, before clearing his throat and continuing with forced lightness. "Rebecca was a total monster for our Grandma durin' the day... Way too much energy, but he was the best to me. We used to spend whole days in the river out back of our house, swimmin' and fishin'... But our favourite trick, was prankin' the neighbours kids. Little thing we liked to call; Crabby Britches." He sniggered at the memory, his lips quirking into lopsided grin as the car exited the tunnel.

"Crabby Britches?" Rhys repeated, snickering as Jack glanced over to see him hiding a knowing smile. "You mean..?" He asked, his eyes creasing with amusement as Jack grinned and nodded with near childish excitement and pride.

"Exactly what it sounds like." He laughed unashamedly, shaking his head in fond reminiscence. "Strategically placed crawdad, right when ya least expect it." He chuckled, pausing a second too long as he glanced over to see Rhys laughing quietly. "Ahem," he coughed, looking back at the winding road as it cut a path through a small but dense forest. "Was a different world out there. Simpler way of life." He sighed, slowly steering them through the trees.

"It sounds like you miss it..." Rhys observed, cocking his head as Jack noticed his lover examine him from the corner of his eye. "The quiet life I mean..." He clarified, squeezing Jack's hand as he grinned knowingly. "Also kinda sounds like both you and your brother were little brats." He said, as Jack snickered and flashed him a cocky wink.

"We really were." Jack admitted, shaking his head as he drew in a deep breath. "It was great..." He said, slowly trailing off as his smile turned melancholy. He swallowed thickly, pursing his lips briefly before he sighed wistfully. "Ya right, I do miss it... all the damn time. Every day was a new adventure, ya know? Flyin' and fightin’ was the only thing came close to that sense of freedom, til-" he paused, clearing his throat to choke back the words which tried to escape him. "But uh, I ain't been back home since..."

"Since everything with Zane?" Rhys guessed, raising his brows in surprise, as Jack pointedly avoided meeting his gaze. "But I figured that was awhile ago, I mean, I assumed..." He broke off, biting his lip as Jack focused intently on a particularly sharp bend in the road. "How long has it been, Handsome?"

Jack sighed and grimaced, having hoped the question wouldn't arise, but reluctant to ignore it when Rhys wore such an innocently curious and concerned expression. "... Little over a year, since we got back to Earth." He admitted, quickly glancing at Rhys despite his best efforts not to.

"Then why..?" Rhys asked, his brow creasing into such an innocently confused frown that Jack sighed and resigned himself to explaining his behaviour. "Don't you want to go home, see your brother? Your daughter?" He asked, his eyes locked upon Jack, an indecipherable urgency in his gaze.

"'Course I do, Cupcake! But it ain't..." Jack protested, flashing him a frustrated glare. "I just, I wish it were that simple, ya know?" Jack hedged, fidgeting in his seat as the road finally opened out, leading towards a large, unmarked building. "I wanna see 'em, more than anythin', believe me. But-" He paused, swallowing thickly as he grimaced. "But if I go back... I gotta face everyone again. I might've been given a fancy title, but... Ain't exactly gonna add up to much when I'm facin' Zane's folks, is it? Explainin' how I failed..."

"Jack, you haven't failed-" Rhys began, his frown melting with sympathy, as Jack grit his teeth and scowled; gripping the steering wheel tighter as guilt churned in his gut.

"I did, Cupcake. I did." He said, clearing his throat as he steered them slowly past a guarded gateway, into a large spacious car park. "They already lost two boys... I promised 'em I'd keep him safe and bring this one back... not that I'd bring him back in pieces." He spat self-depreciatingly, scowling as he pulled into a parking space close to the unknown building and stopped the car, applying the handbrake as he took it out of gear and killed the engine. "Zane got hurt, almost died... on my watch. Because of me. 'Cause I weren't with him. And I can't-" he sucked in a deep breath, his shoulders tensing as he glanced out the window beside him briefly, his lower lip trembling in an uncharacteristic display of emotion. "I can't..." He tried again, only to trail off as he shook his head, the words sticking in his throat like toffee. “I can’t face my Angel, until I feel that I- I’ve cleared that debt, somehow... even a little.” He bit out roughly, determinedly forcing the words from his painfully tight throat.

"Oh... Jack." Rhys murmured, his brow creasing with sympathy and understanding as Jack glanced at him, shame combining with his guilt as he cleared his throat and quickly looked away again. "You do remember what I said last night? About you being with Zane when..." He hesitated at Jack's wince, sighing as he unbuckled his seat belt and leaned over to grab Jack's shoulder firmly, forcing him around to face him. "Handsome, you might be convinced you failed... but I can guarantee, his parents will prefer him alive and injured; to the definitely dead he would've been, had you not been around on the ground to find him." He explained gently, repeating his assurances from the previous evening with such soft but determined conviction, that Jack had to catch his breath quickly.

"Heh, got a real way with words, ain't ya Cupcake?" He finally huffed, shaking his head as he examined Rhys with a baffled expression, though his sharp eyes betrayed the gratitude he felt. "Don't tell me, ya wanna be a motivational speaker? Gonna run for mayor-"

"Shut up, you great prat." Rhys scoffed, shoving Jack's shoulder playfully as he rolled his eyes. "It's not my fault you're such an idiot. I figured the blunt approach was better than sugar coating it." He huffed, a small smirk curving his lips as Jack watched him duck his head and examine the building they'd parked beside. "So, have you brought me here to erase my memory with some super top secret, advanced military tech or something..?" He asked flippantly, raising a brow as he looked back at Jack curiously as he barked with laughter.

Jack's brows rose as his eyes widened in amusement and surprise, covering his wide and irritatingly sappy grin with the back of his hand. "Christ, Cupcake... Ya got a hell of an imagination on ya, I'll give ya that." He finally coughed, shaking his head as he cleared his throat and opened his door, gesturing for Rhys to do the same. "What the hell would be the point in that?" He asked as he shut his door, rounding the car slowly as Rhys pouted and did the same.

"I dunno, I just..." He said, shuffling his feet awkwardly as Jack watched him fidget and grinned with fond amusement. "I thought maybe you just said what you did to get me out here and then, ya know... erase a problem." He said shyly, avoiding Jack's gaze as his amusement slowly faded into concern. "I wouldn't blame you, and I would totally do it, if it's what you... really wanted."

"Cupcake..." Jack sighed, running a hand through his hair as he gazed at Rhys’ awkward and hunched posture in exasperation. "What the hell goes on in that crazy, ridiculously hot little head ya got?" He wondered aloud, chuckling quietly as Rhys finally peeked at him with a small scowl. "Ya really don't think too highly of me, do ya? To imagine I'd pull somethin'-"

"Well, come on!" Rhys interrupted dramatically, pouting as he gestured to the large and unassuming building. "I mean, look at this place! It's like-" he said, pausing as he stared hard at the building, while Jack snorted at his obvious struggle to name it. "Just shut up, okay! It looks like something out of Equilibrium or something." He groused, as Jack shook his head fondly.

"Rhys, even if that kinda dumbass Jedi mind wipe shit would actually work, I wouldn't have considered it." He sniggered, stepping closer and bumping his shoulder to Rhys’ playfully. "Have a little faith, will ya? I said we'd try... and I'm nothin', if not a man of my word. So I promise, okay? No magic mind wipes." He snorted, as Rhys shoved him away a step, though quickly followed after him.

"Faith and trust are kinda, tricky for me..." Rhys hedged, taking a deep breath as he glanced at the building again, before looking back at Jack with a nervous but determined smile. "So, if its not some super secret, interstellar military facility... what is this place then?"

Jack drew in a deep breath and held it, casting a pensive look over the building before exhaling heavily and reaching over to take Rhys’ hand. "Wouldn't wanna spoil the surprise now, Cupcake." He said, forcing a tight smile to his lips as he felt Rhys eye him worriedly. "I promise, ya'll see real soon. I just... I can't..." He said thickly, shaking his head despondently as Rhys sighed and nodded.

"Okay..." He huffed, casting the building a final dubious glance, as he squeezed Jack's hand supportively. "Lead on, Handsome. Let's get this whole... totally not ominous surprise trip rolling." He sighed, yelping suddenly as Jack tugged him closer by his hand, his lips slowly curving into the very same, beautifully shy smile which made Jack's heart stutter. "... what-?"

Jack knocked his forehead to Rhys’, closing his eyes and taking comfort from the younger for a moment, before pulling away with a more natural smile; his heart lighter for Rhys’ presence. "Just... thanks, Cupcake." He said, kissing the tip of Rhys’ nose as he both smiled and frowned in amused curiosity. "C'mon then." He huffed, stepping away and tugging Rhys after him. With his heart racing in his chest, and his pulse pounding in his ears, Jack led Rhys across the spacious car park towards the large building; Rhys’ warm hand a constant reassurance in his own, bolstering his determination to continue.

"Hey, Tiny." He called quietly, tipping his chin to a familiar security guard, as they walked towards a discreet entrance. The thick armed guard nodded, stepping aside to let them past, before once returning to a casual patrol of the entrance. Jack swallowed thickly, his breath quickening as his palms began to warm, moving to release Rhys’ hand, when the younger squeezed and determinedly held on tighter. Jack flashed him a quick, lopsided grin, before leading him down a wide corridor to a stairwell.

Jesus, Lawrence... Jack thought scathingly, drawing in a deep breath and holding it as they jogged up the stairs together, a thick but not uncomfortable silence wrapped tightly around them. Ya couldn't just take him to an outta town movie for a first date? He scolded himself, walking slowly to a door on the third floor landing. "Okay... this is..." He said, his words catching like a heavy lump in his throat. "Just uh, stay close and lemme do the talkin'." He huffed, clearing his throat as he glanced at Rhys, who squeezed his hand and eyed him worriedly as he nodded. "Okay." Jack said, nodding himself as he turned back to the door and reached out hesitantly. Get the hell on with it, Lawrence. Ya came this far, too late to turn back now. It's time to sink or swim, ya idiot. He thought, clearing his throat as he pushed the door open and led Rhys through into a loud, bustling hallway.

"What the-?" Rhys yelped, stepping closer and pressing himself into Jack's side, trying to avoid a large cleaning cart as it made its slow way down the hall. "Whoa..." He gasped, his lips parting as Jack watched, snickering at the innocent curiosity and confusion which flitted across his face.

"Still with me, Cupcake?" He chuckled, squeezing Rhys’ hand as he glanced at him and nodded. "Okay..." He huffed, weaving their way through the busy hall to a help desk with a familiar face behind it, releasing Rhys’ hand to pat the desk top. "Hey there, Matron. Jack Lawrence, here to see-"

"Only one visitor at a time." Interrupted a smartly dressed woman with her hair pulled into a tight bun, her dark eyes narrowing in recognition when she looked up to meet the cocky grin which Jack flashed towards her. "Oh. Its you." She said disdainfully, sneering as she ran her eyes over him critically. "I want no shenanigans on my ward. Now, just when are you going to take that menace away with you?" She demanded, folding her arms over her chest and raising her brow expectantly.

"Been givin' ya trouble, has he?" Jack sniggered knowingly, shaking his head as his heart ached, his nerves peaking as he looked toward an open door, halfway down the hall beyond the help desk. "We'll sort him out for ya, got somethin' that'll settle him right down and keep him outta ya hair for a couple hours." He said, winking cockily as he moved to brush past the desk. "Ya know I'll pick him up, just as soon as he's officially discharge-"

"Mister Lawrence, the rules of my ward here at Maliwan Hospital bend for no man, even one who believes himself to be so charming as you." The ward sister said haughtily, casting her sharp gaze over Rhys beside him, who raised a brow at her but said nothing. "One visitor at a time, you know this."

"Yeah, well that was before." Jack said smoothly, winking at the stiffly postured woman. "Ya know, when it was just me. But see I went and brought his, uh... nephew, to see him and I don't want him to get lost or someth-"

"Yes, I'm sure the half a dozen steps alone would be far too confusing for mister..?" She sneered, turning to Rhys with an expectant brow arched, her fingers moving over the keys of a computer quickly, hesitating as she waited for him to answer.

"Rhys’ fine." Rhys said, smiling at the ward sister softly as he leaned his elbow on the top of her desk and propped his chin in his hand. "I'm really sorry for my... uncle. He's always been a bit of a handful." He said conspiratorially, as Jack fought to keep the surprise from his face, his heart skipping a beat at Rhys’ easy banter and the effortless way he sank into Jack's deception. "Honestly, its been kind of a relief not having these two together for awhile." He added slyly, one corner of his lips quirking higher briefly.

"Hey!" Jack protested, narrowing his eyes into a playful scowl as if he were offended, desperately trying to ignore the warmth and affection which radiated from his heart at Rhys’ effortless cooperation. "Ya make out like we're naughty kids! I ain't done nothin'-" he said, glancing at the ward sister as she cleared her throat sharply. "... this time." He coughed awkwardly, flushing guiltily when Rhys laughed lightly.

"Why am I not surprised?" He chuckled playfully, shaking his head as he rolled his eyes. "Like I said, it's been kind of a relief, having them separated for awhile." He sighed, slapping his palm gently to the top of the help desk. "I was hoping to see my uncle and tell him about my moms... uh, well, it doesn't matter. I can just, um... I can wait." He continued, pausing to swallow thickly and brush away a stray tear from his cheek. "Um, do you have a waiting room please?" He asked politely, his voice trembling in perfect imitation of distress, as the ward sister examined him closely.

Jack held his breath, fighting to keep the surprise and amusement from his face, undeniably impressed by Rhys’ ingenuity and masterful display. Damn... I ain't ever gonna be able to keep a secret from him, when he can be that convincing. And that's without sex, too. He thought fondly, tensing and frowning as he turned his attention inwards, surprised by his lack of concern that he'd subconsciously been not only considering, but even planning a future with Rhys. Hell, this ain't somethin' I need to be dealin' with right now... Shelve it, Lawrence; focus on the now. He told himself firmly, returning his attention to the ward sister as she cleared her throat and eyed Rhys speculatively.

"You've not seen your uncle since the accident, have you?" She asked tenderly, and Jack scowled at the easy way which Rhys had managed to wheedle past her defences. The ward sister pursed her lips thoughtfully, as Rhys slowly shook his head, a forlorn expression crossing his face as he lowered his eyes to the desk top.

Little shit. Jack thought fondly, glancing between the ward sister and Rhys, as he used his free hand to trace patterns on the top of the help desk, as if shy or nervous. Finally the ward sister sighed, reaching up to brush her hand over her immaculately tight bun.

"I suppose, given the circumstances, it wouldn't hurt for you to have company on your first visit. The first time can always be... jarring." She explained, casting a withering glare toward Jack, as he quickly arranged his face into an innocent, but cocky grin. "Though I personally would have advised better company for the visit." She added in clipped tones, as Jack winked at her playfully.

"Ya a diamond gal, Matron." He said, slapping the desk top as he reached for Rhys’ hand and curled his hand around his elbow at the last second, gently leading him away from the desk before the ward sister could change her mind. "I promise we'll keep him under control, no uh, shenanigans." He added, as Rhys smiled and waved politely.

"If I hear so much as one-" she began to warn them, but Jack had already tugged Rhys down the hall, his heart racing faster with every step they took. He swallowed thickly, easing Rhys to a halt just outside of the all too familiar doorway, his breath catching as he felt Rhys’ hand slip into his own and squeeze gently.

"Handsome?" He murmured tentatively, his brow creased with concern as Jack reluctantly turned and met his curious, suspicious gaze. "Why did I just lie to the very nice lady at the desk for you, and say I was visiting my uncle..?" He asked, frowning as Jack nodded and lowered his gaze with a distracted huff.

"Ya were pretty damn amazin' back there, Cupcake..." He said, by way of distraction, eyeing the doorway beside them nervously, as he ran his free hand through his hair. "Almost had me convinced ya were his nephew, which is a hell of a thing, cuz I don't think he even has a damn-"

"Jack." Rhys said, quietly but firmly. Jack's babbling quieted, his eyes slowly rising to meet Rhys’ dark aquamarine gaze reluctantly. "Why did you bring me here?" He asked, running his eyes over Jack as if concerned he'd been injured somehow.

"I..." Jack began, falling silent abruptly as his breath stalled in his throat, his heart crashing in his chest as he choked back a semi hysterical chuckle, shaking his head as he tried to find an answer to the question for himself. "I dunno, Cupcake." He admitted, sucking in a deep breath as he frowned curiously, realising Rhys had figured out where he'd brought him along the way. "I guess, I just needed someone to understand... needed you, to understand, to really know..." He said, silencing himself with an abrupt huff. His heart ached as he met Rhys’ sympathetic gaze, who took a tentative step closer, as time stretched between them with a private exchange of strength and support.

"Just, ahem, uh..." Jack finally coughed, pausing to drag a deep breath into his lungs and steady his nerves, though his racing pulse continued to drum wildly in his ears. "Try not to stare, 'kay? And uh, don't listen to anythin' he says, 'cause the bastards full of shit... Oh, and don't-"

"Jack?" Rhys interrupted, his lips twitching with amusement as Jack felt his cheeks warm, clearing his throat as he cocked his head and hummed curiously. "Shut up. I promise to try and not upset him." He assured, tipping his chin towards the doorway. "Stop stalling." He huffed, squeezing Jack's hand encouragingly. Jack sighed, his free hand rising to tangle in his hair briefly, before gripping the back of his neck, as he turned to eye the doorway warily. "What is it you're so afraid of?" Rhys prodded gently, when he made no move to lead them in.

"... I'm afraid ya'll blame me after all." He finally choked thickly, swallowing past the lump which had formed in his throat, as he glanced back at Rhys befote quickly averting his eyes again. "Once ya see... Ya gonna realise what I've been tellin' ya-"

"-is complete and utter horseshit." Rhys said, snickering softly as he bit his lip and hesitated, glancing back to the help desk where the ward sister was intently focused on her computer screen. "Stop stalling." He repeated, as Jack grimaced and sighed, as Rhys’ lips brushed briefly across his cheek.

"Okay..." Jack said, steeling himself as best he could, before finally rounding the doorway and leading Rhys into the room beyond. He glanced around the sparse, sterile room, slowly walking past a small dresser towards a single bed; the sidebars raised to prevent the body within from falling out. "Hey," he called quietly, eyeing the still form on the bed as uncertainty began to build in his gut, pausing beside the railing to look down at a man with a handsome face, which was now marred by the faded burn scars which had licked up his throat to his jaw, his eyes closed as his chest rose and fell gently. His dark hair had grown back at last, finally free of the bandages which had covered his head last time Jack had been able to visit; though Jack was taken aback to see it had turned a stark white.

"Ya awake, Zane..?" He asked, immediately cursing himself for sounding such an idiot in front of Rhys. Though after everythin' else I've been babblin' about today, I dunno how he ain't already written this whole... catastrophe waitin' to happen off as a waste of his time. He thought, shaking his head as he scratched his jaw distractedly. "Zane... ya dumb sonuva-"

"... Jackie..?" Zane mumbled weakly, his brow creasing as he feebly tried to raise a hand, fumbling in the air until Jack snatched it up in his own. "That... you, Jackie..?" He croaked, a grimace twisting his face as he flicked his wrist and gestured for Jack to lean closer.

"What is it, Zane..?" Jack murmured, leaning closer over the railing as Zane frowned and struggled to raise his head from the pillow, the still fading scars on his neck twisting and stretching grotesquely. "What are ya- argh!" Rhys’ quiet sniggering beside him was drowned out by Zane's braying laughter, as Jack recoiled from the sudden lick to his stubbled cheek. "Ah, ya filthy skag licker! What the bloody hell're ya playin' at?!" He demanded, throwing Zane's hand back to his chest as he wiped the back of his hand over his cheek.

"C'mon, Jackie Boy, ya know I can't resist grossin' ya out at least once durin' a visit." Zane laughed, his eyes peeling open to reveal one as a familiar cerulean blue iris and the other, a mismatched gold. "Ain't exactly fun bein' stuck in this place with no one to visit, now that ya busy out in hot city central all the time." He snorted, jabbing Jack's arm playfully.

"Shut up, Zane." Jack groused, scowling as he continued to wipe his cheek on his jacket sleeve, grimacing at the lingering and unpleasant sense of stickiness. "Ya lucky I came to see ya dumb ass at all, Dickface." He complained, sighing as he finally gave up on wiping his cheek and lowered his arm to lean on the railing. "So how ya been? I take it from Matron's warm welcome ya ain't exactly been behavin' yaself?"

"Ah, she's in love with me really." Zane huffed confidently, smirking at Jack as he leaned his head back into the pillows. "She's just keepin' it professional til I'm discharged, which hey, oughtta be fairly-" Zanes eyes drifted aside from Jack to where Rhys stood beside him, his brows raising in surprise. "Uh..." He coughed, his gaze flitting quickly down to their joined hands. Jack felt his face burn at the wicked smirk which began to curl his friends lips, as he turned towards him with a devilish gleam in his mismatched eyes. "Well shit, Jackie Boy, if I'd known ya were bringin' guests I'd have got Matron to bring us balloons and cake so we could have a party." He snorted, quirking a brow expectantly. "What is this, show and tell? Ya gonna introduce us or what, Jackie?"

"Ahem, Zane... This is Rhys." Jack said loudly, talking over Zane with a pointed scowl at his grinning best friend. "He uh, well... I wanted ya to meet him. He's, uh, ahem... well, I mean, we met when I got to town. That night. Back when I first moved... before..." He coughed, trailing off with an irritated scowl, narrowing his eyes at Zane's far too amused expression as Jack's cheeks blazed with heat.

"God, Handsome... Don't give yourself a hernia already." Rhys huffed beside him, squeezing his hand as he winked at Zane and offered him a two finger salute, similar to Jack's own style. "Hi there, Hero, nice to meet you." He said easily, as Jack glanced at him sharply.

"Hero, huh?" Zane repeated, preening as he raised his arms behind his head and grinned at Rhys smugly. "Oh, I like him." He said, exhaling sharply as Jack jabbed a finger into his gut, his amusement turning sour as he turned to his friend. "I take it this is the hot piece of ass, ya keep daydreamin' about on the phone? The one ya keep pretendin' ya ain't-"

"Shut up, Zane, ya bloody..." Jack groused, his cheeks burning beneath his stubble as Zane grinned at him knowingly, and Rhys raised an amused brow beside him. "Nobody's interested in ya dumb-"

"No, please, go on Zane..." Rhys interrupted, cocking his hip as he leaned against the bed railing. "What was that you were saying? Something about... daydreaming?" He prodded, smirking back at the betrayed scowl which Jack aimed his direction.

"Hey, I thought ya came with me for 'moral support' and all that shit?" He demanded petulantly, his heart jumping at the easy smile which grew on Rhys’ lips as he winked at him playfully. "Just who's side're ya on here, Cupcake?"

"Whoevers side gets me the rest of this 'daydreaming' story." Rhys quipped, waving his brows suggestively as Jack finally snorted and rolled his eyes, unable to fight the amusement and joy which radiated within him at the comfortable atmosphere surrounding them all. "Sorry and all, Handsome, but that sounded like a very interesting story... and you know, I really like interesting stories."

"Handsome?!" Zane croaked, his eyes widening in comic amusement as he glanced between Rhys and Jack, who felt his face heat further at his best friends gleeful expression. "Oh damn, Jackie... hurry up and marry him!" He huffed, his devilish grin growing as Jack choked and spluttered indignantly, while Rhys covered his mouth in a vain attempt to hide his amusement.

"Wow, you said he was funny Handsome, but I gotta admit, I wasn't expecting this." Rhys snickered, as Jack scowled and prodded him in the rib, smirking when Rhys jerked himself away and marking the potential weak spot as knowledge for later battles. He grumbled to himself, pointedly ignoring both of his tormentors as he moved around the bed and grabbed Zane's chart. "Oh, look... He's blushing!" Rhys stage whispered to Zane, as Jack threw him a withering scowl briefly.

"Heh, somethin' tells me ya gonna be makin' him do that a lot. Ya got quite the effect on him, from the way he's been behavin'." Zane snorted, waving his brows when Jack glared at him warningly, despite the warm contentment which seemed to blossom in his gut at the pairs easy banter. "But I think we better wait til Cap’n Jack over there is outta hearin' range... Kinda looks like he's gonna try and kick my ass any minute now." He chuckled in a conspiratorial whisper.

"Ha, like I'd have to try." Jack snarked, throwing the pair a dirty glance as he scrolled his eyes over Zane's notes, eyeing the various sessions of physiotherapy and vision testing. "I could wipe the floor with ya at the Academy, and I ain't takin' it easy on ya just 'cause of a handicap... or two." He said, trailing off as he lowered his eyes back to Zane's charts, his distress and guilt slowly smothering the previously teasing atmosphere.

Zane sighed, shaking his head as Jack pretended to focus onto his charts and not notice the way his friend watched him for a moment, before clearing his throat and turning to Rhys. "So, ya don't seem to be freakin' out over all of this, so I'm guessin' Cap’n Blabber-mouth over there has told ya about..." He said, gesturing to where the blankets covering his waist ended too early, just below the knees. "Still not what ya were expectin' tho, I'll bet."

"Not really..." Rhys agreed, moving closer to Zane as Jack glanced over, grinning mischievously as he cast Jack a sly wink. "I mean, from everything he said, I was more expecting some sort of... bandage laden mummy. Like, from one of the old fifties horror films, ya know?" He teased, drawing an amused snort from Jack despite himself, as he relaxed and leaned against the side of the small dresser.

"Shut up, brat." He scoffed, his lips quirking into a reluctant grin as Zane blinked for a moment, before he began to laugh wildly. "And you can shut ya damn face too, ya smug bastard." He snarked, grimacing as Zane blatantly ignored him and continued to laugh, even slapping his bed sheets in his amusement. "Now look what ya done, Cupcake." He complained, replacing Zane's charts at the end of the bed. "I ain't never gonna hear the end of this now."

"Ha, damn right ya ain't." Zane gasped, patting his chest as he tried to catch his breath. "Just wait til I tell Timothy though, then ya really gonna know about it." He sniggered, as Jack tensed and glanced at his friend sharply. "Don't gimme that look, like ya some scared little street urchin. You might be willin' to risk ya brothers wrath by dodgin' his calls, but I sure as hell ain't. I know what that boy'll do to me, and I ain't into that whole pain equallin' pleasure shit." He scoffed, as Jack's lips twitched with amusement.

"Tim would eat ya alive, Zane." He snorted, shaking his head fondly as he proudly thought of his brothers recent promotion within the Galactic Guardians. "Hell, he wouldn't even pause to spit out the bones, he'd just keep on rollin' right over ya." He said, folding his arms over his chest and leaning against the bed rail, as he grinned down at his friend.

"TimTams can have as many of my bones as he wants, I ain't gonna complain..." Zane sniggered, flashing Jack a cocky smirk as the grin fell from his face, his nose wrinkling at the awful image his best friend painted. "Hell, he can do just about whatever he wants over me too... I wouldn't even care if he spi-"

"Very funny, Zane" Jack groused, scowling as he jabbed his friend playfully in the arm. "How 'bout I tell him ya said that, huh?" He asked slyly, as Zane cleared his throat and pointedly looked away from him, his gaze focusing on Rhys as his mismatched eyes gleamed with newfound mischief.

"So, Kid!" He drawled, a wicked grin curving his lips as he leaned back in his pillows, eyeing Rhys curiously for a brief moment of hesitation, before tipping his chin towards him. "Whaddaya do? How'd ya meet Sulky Jack over here and end up with his loser ass?" He asked, cocking his head towards Jack playfully.

Jack's heart lurched, skipping a beat as Rhys looked at him across Zane's bed with a fond smile. Shit, never thought to think up a background for him... He thought, his ears burning beneath the safety of his hair as he swallowed heavily and tried to think of a quick explanation.

"I'm a student." Rhys said, grinning lopsidedly as Jack choked, his breath catching in his throat as panic swelled in his gut. "I attend the College, Torgue, and stumbled across this... handsome stranger, at the local bar, just off of campus." He explained, raising a challenging brow at Jack's startled, wide eyed expression.

"Jackie, ya went campus crawlin', and ya didn't even invite me?!" Zane laughed, jostling Jack's arm playfully as he struggled to recompose himself. "Damn, I can't wait til they let me outta this place." He sighed, flopping back into his pillows dramatically. "Speakin' of, ya gonna take me for a spin already, Jackie Boy?" He asked suddenly, turning towards Jack with a suspiciously innocent smirk. "Ya get me a chair, and we can go down to physio... get my practice legs on so we can-"

"Hell naw," Jack scoffed, rolling his eyes at Zane, shaking his head at whatever hair brained scheme his friend has concocted this time. "I just got done promisin' Miss Matron that me and ya, uh... nephew here, wouldn't cause any trouble while we're here." He said, narrowing his eyes when Zane rolled his own and gazed at his friend with a withering, knowing expression. "Hey, no! Okay, abso-friggin-lutely not! There ain't even a chair to get ya outta bed with, so-"

"There was one just down the hall, as we walked in." Rhys interjected helpfully, a far too innocent smile twitching on his lips as Jack turned a betrayed grimace towards him. "Don't you remember, Handsome? We walked right past it..." He said, winking and gesturing to the doorway. "I mean, I could go get it, if you're too-"

"Ya even think of finishin' that sentence and I'm gonna go ahead and kick ya ass later." Jack groused, scowling petulantly between the pair before him, with an odd combination of amusement and irritation. "Fine! But if Matron comes a-chargin' for us all, then I'm blamin' this entire situation on you, Cupcake."

"I can live with that." Rhys said lightly, shrugging his shoulder nonchalantly, as Jack rolled his eyes and sighed, turning away to hide the amused twitch of his lips. "Don't worry, Handsome." He snickered, already helping Zane to sit up and pull away the covers. "I'll make it up to you later." He said, failing to keep a straight face, as Zane cackled beside him.

"Oh, I like this one Jackie... Maybe ya ain't got such awful taste as I thought, after all." He taunted between gasps for breath, as Jack scowled and turned away, storming out of the room to find the chair Rhys had mentioned. He stomped down the hall, his hands clenched in his pockets as he grit his teeth, torn between his frustration over Rhys’ teasing and Zane's goading, as well as the affection he felt bubbling within his heart,

"Damn..." He sighed, running a hand through his hair distractedly, as he glanced up and down the hallway and spotted the wheelchair just behind the help desk. He took a deep breath and sidled up to the chair with his usual confidence, naturally slipping behind the handles and gently tugging back down the hall, his eyes flitting repeatedly to the ward sister at her desk. Zane... He thought, shaking his head in mild disbelief, as he slowly made his way back down the hall. How the hell does he always have everyone eatin' out the palm of his hand? He wondered fondly, clucking his tongue thoughtfully. Though I guess, Rhys... may have a similar effect on me. Shit, its already hell tryin' to not think about him in... that, way. He thought scathingly, wincing at the small thrill he felt, at Rhys’ teasing promise before he'd left the room. "What I wouldn't give to let ya, Cupcake..." He sighed longingly, snorting as he shook his head. Focus on the now, Lawrence. What's happened has happened, ain't no changin' it. We'll be careful now, and we'll work through this whole... thing, together. He told himself, his constrained heart beginning to ease and radiate warmth once more.

Who would've thought these two clowns would get along so well? He asked himself, chuckling as he paused in the hallway, ducking down behind the chair as if tying some shoelaces, as the ward sister raised her head to speak with someone at the help desk. Well, I guess I did, else I wouldn't have brought Rhys here in the first place... He frowned, cocking his head as he peeked through a gap between the back of the wheelchair and the arm rest, trying to pinpoint why he had brought Rhys with him. I mean... It ain't like I was after his approval or anythin', was I..? Disturbed by the thought far more than he was willing to admit.

"Nah..." He scoffed quietly, making a show of tying his nonexistent shoelaces and pushing back to his feet, as the ward sister looked back at her computer. Just... stop stressin', Lawrence. He scolded himself, shaking his head as he dragged the chair toward Zane's door. Just loosen up, enjoy the day and worry about shit when Rhys’ gone home and ya on ya own tomorrow. He thought, his heart lightening at the decision, as he backed into Zane's room. "Okay, ya dumb bastard..." He said, turning to Zane with a grin. "Let's get this show on the road." He huffed, as Rhys snickered and smiled at him fondly, helping Zane to sit up and easing him into the chair which Jack positioned beside the bed.

Jack averted his eyes, guilt threatening to sour his newly found confidence briefly, at the sight of Zane's too short legs. However, seconds later, Rhys had covered them with a blanket, and Jack took a deep breath as he returned his gaze to his friend. "Ya ready?" He asked, smirking as he looked up at Rhys, his heart fluttering as the soft smile and the playful wink he threw him.

"Pfft, I was born ready, Jackie." Zane scoffed, sniggering as he gestured for Jack to hurry up with his new chair pushing duties. "Unlike some people I could mention." He snorted, laughing when Jack scowled and jabbed him in the shoulder.

"Shut up, Zane ya lame piece of bloody skag sh-" He began, before trailing off with a fond snort, finding himself too content with the entire situation to cast any further complaints. "All right, stay close Cupcake..." He said, throwing a cocky wink at Rhys, before leading the way out the door and down the hall away from the help desk.

The next couple of hours were spent in the physio department, helping Zane fit his prototype legs and carefully aiding him in taking a few steps. Jack's heart thudded wildly, his eyes stinging at the sight of his friend standing before him again, something which he'd thought was impossible; upon finding his destroyed body. Rhys and Jack allowed Zane to walk a few brief steps between them, as if they were preschoolers playing piggy in the middle, without the teasing aspect of the game. By the time they helped Zane back into his room, he was clearly exhausted but pleased with his efforts.

"Damn, ya gonna have to come visit more often, Kid..." He huffed, stifling a yawn as he leaned back in his bed, his head rolling tiredly across his pillows toward Rhys. "Jackie ain't nearly so much fun on his own." He snickered, raising his hand to shake Rhys’ hand lightly.

"Hey!" Jack protested, narrowing his eyes at Zane's obvious exhaustion. "I ain't bringin' him again if ya gonna overdo it, ya dumb sonuva-"

"I'll catch a bus." Rhys teased in a conspiratorial whisper, smiling at Zane as he chuckled appreciatively, before looking over at Jack with a wicked grin. "And don't worry, until then, I'll make sure he eats properly." He assured the tired man, releasing Zane's hand and gently folding it over his chest. "It was really nice to meet you, Zane... Keep resting and you'll be outta here in no time."

"Hrn... prefered 'Hero'," Zane teased, stifling another yawn as he chuckled. "See ya 'round, Kid." He said, as Rhys stepped back from the bed and moved to the doorway, allowing Jack a moment of privacy with his friend. "Hey, Jackie?" Zane hummed tiredly, reaching blindly through the air until Jack snatched up his hand, his heart clenching at the sight of his best friends obvious struggle to remain conscious.

"I'm here, Zane." He said thickly, his throat constricting painfully as he swallowed, like shards of glass were embedded in the soft flesh. "Rest up, 'kay? I'll come back and see ya again soon... I'll even bring Rhys with me, if ya lucky and ya ain't too annoyin' when I call." He promised playfully, as Zane snorted and looked up at him with his mismatched eyes heavily lidded.

"Jackie..." He tried again, his speech slurred by the thick blanket of tiredness which surrounded him. Jack frowned, hesitantly leaning closer as Zane forced himself to keep his eyes locked on Jack's. "... Marry him." He croaked semi seriously, as Jack snorted and rolled his eyes, pulling back with a wide, crooked grin to rival Zane's own.

"Yeah, right." He scoffed, shaking his head fondly. "I'll think about it, alright?" He promised, though he had no intention of doing any such thing. What he don't know won't hurt him. He thought, barely keeping himself from wincing as guilt tugged at his heart, his eyes darting towards Rhys quickly, before lowering back to his tired friend. "Get some rest now, ya hear me?" He said thickly, folding Zane's hand over his chest as Rhys had and patting it gently, before stepping away from the bed. "Keep practicin', yeah? I wanna be able to spar with ya and kick ya ass next time we visit."

Zane scoffed, his eyes drifting closed as he snorted quietly. "Jack... C'mon." Rhys urged, startling Jack as his hand slid into his own and squeezed supportively. "He's fine, Jack... He's safe. Let's leave him to rest." He said, gently leading Jack to the door as grief and guilt consumed him. "Oh god, Handsome, stop it. Or else I'm gonna start calling you Broody." He huffed as they exited the room, though Jack's attention remained unfocused, sucking in a deep breath as he ran his free hand through his hair.

"I just..." He began, swallowing thickly as he looked up at Rhys with a broken hitch of breath. "Don't ya see, Cupcake? I could've saved him..." He choked, biting the inside of his cheek as he looked back into Zane's room, his eyes falling upon his sleeping best friend.

"Jack, don't you see?" Rhys asked, squeezing Jack's hand and drawing his attention back from Zane. Rhys waited until Jack had fully turned back to him, before wrapping his free arm around Jack's shoulders and drawing him into a tentative hug, his forehead knocking to Jack's gently. "You did save him." He said firmly, smiling as Jack's breath caught, his heart skipping a beat as he pulled back a hairsbreadth, examining Rhys with almost urgent scrutiny. "Now, you've just gotta forgive yourself; for something that was never your fault to begin with."

Jack sucked in a deep breath, his eyes trailing over the earnest conviction in Rhys’ expression, his lips slowly curving into a lopsided grin as his pulse quickened. "... Ya somethin' else, ya know that, right?" He huffed quietly, shaking his head as he narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, wondering how the younger could be so entirely convincing.

"Hmm, I've heard that said, yeah..." Rhys hummed playfully, smirking as they parted and tugging at Jack's hand as he started down the hall. "Now, great as all this bonding and stuff has been; you now owe me breakfast, lunch and dinner." He said seriously, as Jack laughed, his heart light and filled with affection, as he idly followed after Rhys; who walked backwards down the hall at first, before twisting around to walk at Jack's side. "Honestly, I'm starving so; whatever is closest, you're buying me the biggest damn thing on the menu."

Jack snickered, releasing Rhys’ hand to throw his arm about his shoulders, scuffing his short hair up playfully. "Yes, sir." He agreed obediently, chopping one of his trademark rough salutes, as they made their way towards the exit. As they crossed the car park some minutes later, Jack felt a weight fall from his shoulders, and he looked over at Rhys in dawning realisation, as he slid around the far side of the car.

"What?" Rhys asked, hesitating after opening his door, blushing shyly as he noticed Jack's oddly intent gaze upon him. "Handsome? What is it..? Why're you looking at me like that?" He asked, his face growing redder as Jack slowly broke into a lopsided grin.

"Nothin', Cupcake." He said, gesturing for Rhys to get in the car, while he looked back at the unassuming exterior of Maliwan Hospital. "Nothin' at all." He huffed, shaking his head as he followed after Rhys, and ducked into the drivers seat. "C'mon, let's go get ya fed." He said, starting the engine and easing them out the car park onto the winding road which would lead them back to civilisation and eventually back to the real world; just as soon as they'd first found Rhys something to eat.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

Tell It To My Heart.

 

Rhys pouted as he watched Jack drive away, standing beside an old and unused park, a block away from his own apartment; wishing he could have kissed him goodbye; or at least that he could wave the other man off, but instead deciding to extend the use of caution to protect Jack's reputation. Or Zane's, at least. He thought as he sighed, shaking off the small stab of melancholy which tried to infect his heart. He smiled and bit his lip shyly, hitching his bag higher on his shoulder as he set off for home, his heart dancing lightly as he recalled the unusual but beautiful weekend. "Wow..." He huffed, dawdling along the pavement as he looked up at the clear sky, confused but pleased by the uncontainable happiness he felt bubbling beneath his skin, a restless energy which was almost strong enough to make him want to break out in both song and dance, there on the street.

With some effort he contained himself, instead taking his time as he wandered home. His peaceful reminiscence lasted the entire journey, but upon closing his front door behind him, it was abruptly popped like a balloon. "Oh my god, you are practically glowing!" Vaughn crowed gleefully, startling Rhys as he whirled in surprise, before rolling his eyes and scowling at his friend. "Do not even think you're getting away with not telling me everything that happened... sans the inevitable explicit content, please and thankyou." He demanded, grabbing Rhys’ hand and dragging him to the living room eagerly, as Rhys snorted in amusement.

"Have you been here waiting for me since yesterday morning?" He asked, raising a brow when Vaughn flushed guiltily and noticeably avoided the question. "Wow, for someone so adamant that he's tormented by my love life, you're really invested in it..." He snickered, tossing his things beside the couch as he flopped down to lay face first across the seats with a dramatic sigh. "Oh god... I am so tired, I could sleep for a week." He huffed, folding his arms beneath the cushions and humming contently.

"Dude, ixnay on the unnecessary info there, okay? I absolutely do not need to know about how you've been kept up endlessly by his insatiable appetite for you." Vaughn teased, sitting on the arm of the couch beside Rhys’ head. 

"Dude, you spend way too much time imagining my love life." Rhys huffed, raising his head and propping his chin on his hand as he grinned at his friend. "I feel like you should write fanfiction about me, because you're imagination is even more sordid and exciting than my actual sex-capades." He sniggered, his cheeks aching from the irrepressible happiness and affection he felt radiating from his heart.

"Shut up, assbutt." Vaughn said, rolling his eyes as he swatted Rhys’ head playfully. "It's hard to avoid hearing you're promiscuity in one form or another, being your best friend and all..." He huffed, stroking Rhys’ hair affectionately for a moment, as his friend rest his head on his leg. "But just 'cause I don't want x-rated content, doesn't mean you can't tell me the rest of it. So, you can fill me in on everything else that happened... Now come on, assbutt, start talking!" He demanded, poking Rhys’ shoulder firmly as he groaned and dropped his face back into his cushion. "What happened? What the hell were you doing all weekend? Are you gonna see him again?"

Sooner than you think. Rhys thought, sniggering into his cushion as he hid a gleeful grin. "We talked." He mumbled into his cushion, humming as he stretched out and kicked his shoes off the far side of the couch. "We talked and talked and... travelled." He sighed, finally raising his head and smirking at Vaughn proudly. "I have honestly, never spent time with a guy like that. Just; talking. He told me... so much." He said, grinning goofily as Vaughn raised his brows at him.

"And uh, did you do some talking in return?" He prodded, wincing and quickly hurrying to continue, as Rhys’ smile flickered. "I just mean, if he opened up and told you personal stuff... then maybe it'd be an idea to show the same kinda trust, yeah? So you know, you could tell him about-"

"Okay, good feelings gone." Rhys said loudly, rolling his eyes as he swung his legs off the couch with a groan. "Thanks so much, Vaughn. I was worried I might revel in that whole blissful feeling a little too long. Good sobering skills, buddy." He snarked teasingly, sighing and shaking his head as he pushed to his feet and stomped towards the kitchen.

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry! I just thought..." Vaughn hedged, biting his lip and leaning against the kitchen doorway awkwardly, as Rhys looked through his cupboards disinterestedly and tried to quell the uneasiness clawing at his stomach. "I just thought that if he was being all open and you were considering the whole 'relationship' and 'dating' thing, then maybe you'd have taken that leap of-" he trailed off as Rhys half turned towards him, a withering scowl on his face as he raised a brow. "Yeah... or not. Whatever." Vaughn sighed, as Rhys snorted and turned back to his cupboards, drumming his fingers across the surfaces briefly. 

"Lets go shopping." He said abruptly, slamming the cupboard closed and startling Vaughn. "I need a stock up on ingredients anyway... and if I'm feeding you, then I probably need about six tonnes more food than I have." He scoffed, smirking as he turned and walked over to his friend, jabbing him playfully in the shoulder. "And don't think I didn't notice you swiped all my vodka jelly babies." He said, stalking past Vaughn and grabbing his keys as he head to the front door.

"Uh, Rhys..." Vaughn called, grinning as Rhys turned back with a raised brow. "You might wanna change first? I know you're pretty used to the whole 'walk of shame' thing..." He said, trailing off curiously as Rhys blushed faintly and toyed with the hem of his shirt. "Okay... Whaaat, just got into you?" He asked slowly, his grin growing as Rhys pointedly avoided meeting his eyes.

"Nothing, I just..." He said awkwardly, clearing his throat as he looked down at his new jeans. "These are clean, I only got them yesterday." He said dismissively, turning his back on his friend to open the door and step into the hall. "You coming or what?" He demanded, jerking his head and storming down the hall. Stupid Vaughn... He thought, fighting the urge to smile as he glanced down at the clothes Jack had bought him, refusing to admit he only wanted to keep them on so he could feel close to the other man.

"Okay... so long as you talk while we walk." Vaughn sniggered, following after Rhys and closing the front door behind him, as Rhys groaned and hung his head. "Oh come on, you big baby. You've barely told me anything yet... I'm assuming as you were in his house all weekend, 'talking,' you've actually learned his name by now? Or is he still just 'dog tag guy'?" He asked, shoving his hands into his pockets as he caught up to  and looked over, waiting for his reply with a curiously raised brow.

Rhys lapsed into an extended silence, considering his response carefully and firmly ignoring Vaughn's continued rapt attention as they strolled through his apartment complex. On the one hand, giving him a name will shut him up at least... He thought fondly, narrowing his eyes and biting his lip, as they hugged down the stairwell and out onto the street. But then, it would also be a huge gamble. Letting Jack's name loose in town, hell... what if someone knows about Zane and Jack being close and puts it together? He wondered, a tendril of panic curling in his gut, before he quickly shook his head. That's stupid. How the hell would anyone know anything about either of them, especially when nobody knows that Jack is currently here in Zane's place. He thought, looking up at the sky briefly and pretending not to notice Vaughn's expression twisting with hopeful impatience. So then, what harm could it really do? If I stick to just the one name, but no details... He sucked in a deep breath, exhaling a long and loud sigh slowly. "... Jack." He finally admitted, squirming uncomfortably and glancing at his best friend, as Vaughn gasped.

"Oh my god..." He babbled, his hands leaving his pockets as he began to gesture emphatically. "Tech tag man has a name, shock and horror! I'm actually kinda surprised... Tech tag man was growing on me." He sniggered, turning and walking backwards ahead of Rhys, as he watched his friend with amusement. "So what's he like? Good looking, obviously. Does he have any tattoos? What about piercings? What's his hair colo-"

"Oh my god, you are so into all of this..." Rhys laughed at his friends eagerness, shaking his head fondly as he looked down and watched his feet. "Dude, no offense but... I am not telling you anything more about him..." He said slowly, biting his lip at Vaughn's scandalized expression on his face, as he blinked in surprise. "Look, it's just... If I give you any personal details about him, then you'll start looking for him everywhere and I..." He paused, finally looking up to meet his friends startled gaze. "I just don't wanna share him yet." He admittedly guiltily, flushing as Vaughn's expression turned thoughtful. "Right now we're just kind of getting used to the idea of seeing each other at all, anyway. I don't wanna have to deal with that and with you drooling all over him..." He huffed, averting his gaze again.

"Wow." Vaughn sighed, feigning a pained grimace as he pretended to bite his fist. "You finally start dating someone and you're all possessive already, after just a day." He teased, throwing his arm around Rhys’ shoulders, as he flushed and choked on air. "Oh, come on, you don't need to be all shy... I promise I won't develop a crush on your boyf-"

"He's not my boyfriend!" Rhys yelped, squirming away from his friend in discomfort. "We're not dating, we're just... hanging out sometimes. Maybe, I mean, there's no guarantee and we haven't made any plans for next weekend or... or..." He said, trailing off as Vaughn sniggered beside him. "Hey, shut up, assbutt! It's not funny! This is just a, a trial run of... more."

"Right, right." Vaughn snorted, rolling his eyes as he bumped his shoulder to Rhys’ playfully. "Whatever you say dude." He said, sighing and shaking his head fondly. "Only you could find someone who's equally as emotionally repressed as you are." 

"I am not emotionally repressed!" Rhys snarked, scowling at his friend haughtily. "I'm just... very recalcitrant when it comes to expressing anything beyond my frustration with you and your endless nosiness concerning my love life." He added, smirking at Vaughn's scandalized expression. 

"Rhys, you don't have a love life..." Vaughn said, quickly regaining his wits. "You never usually even see the same guy twice, I mean, this is a first in itself dude." He added, as Rhys lowered his eyes to the pavement and continued along in disconcerted silence. "Not, that that's a bad thing!" Vaughn said suddenly, noticing Rhys’ downcast expression. "I just... I mean..."

"Calm down already, idjit, I know what you mean." Rhys huffed, rolling his eyes and sighing as they walked down the street towards the store together. "Look, eventually... I'll tell you about him, okay? I just, I kinda wanna just, make this feeling last." He said, hunching his shoulders awkwardly.

"What feeling?" Vaughn asked, frowning as he paused beside the store doors, his hand outstretched on the handle but not yet pulling ut open.

"Being... wanted." Rhys admitted with a sigh, shrugging as he blushed and scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. "This is the first time a guy has wanted to spend time with me, without wanting or expecting sex. Its just... I'm not used to that. I kinda... really like it, ya know? I wanna enjoy that before I share details. Right now, I could walk past him on the street and you wouldn't know... I wanna savour that a bit before you start crushing on him and making me jealous or someth-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa... bibbity bobbity back the fuck up there a minute, assbutt." Vaughn demanded, interrupting his friend with a flick of his wrist as Rhys blinked at him in surprise. "You two aren't sleeping together? Like, at all? Like, as in, you're not having sex? You were there all weekened... and nothing happened?"

Rhys frowned and blushed, wrinkling his nose as he glanced around briefly. "Why is that so shocking?" He hissed, raising his hand as Vaughn scoffed and cutting off his reply. "Never mind, don't answer that." He said, sighing as he ran a hand through his hair distractedly. "It's just... you know he isn't comfortable with my age anyway. This was his condition for us even considering seeing each other... and honestly?" He said, his gaze softening as his lips twitched with fond recollection. "I've never felt so good about myself, as when I heard him say that he wanted me. Just me." 

Vaughn stared at Rhys for a long pause, as he fidgeted with discomfort and avoided meeting his friends eye. He yelped in surprise however, when his best friend drew him into a sudden and unexpected hug. "Dude, what the fuck? Hey, Vaughn, c'mon get offa me, you great..." He babbled, flushing as he glanced around and noticed people watching them curiously. "Okay, dude seriously, we are in public! So unless you want a reputation to match mi- oof!" He hissed, wheezing as Vaughn squeezed him tightly for a moment, before finally releasing him. "Dude, what the-" he began, rubbing his chest and straightening his t-shirt as he glanced around awkwardly.

"Sorry, it's just..." Vaughn said, swallowing heavily as he looked away down the street for a moment, shaking his head as Rhys watched him with wide eyes, his heart stuttering nervously at his friends strange behaviour. "You're my best friend, Rhys. Seeing you go through..." He said hesitantly, glancing at Rhys briefly, before casting his eyes aside again. "Everything." He said pointedly, clearing his throat quickly as Rhys also averted his eyes, his cheeks tickling with heat. "Well, it hasn't been easy. There's been some pretty low lows, but... but now there's this guy and he finally sees the you, I always saw." He said, glancing back at Rhys as he looked at his best friend with a raised brow. "I'm just... I'm relieved, honestly. I'm glad this guy has made you feel appreciated." He said, smiling awkwardly as Rhys continued to stare at him.

"Vaughn..." He began, pausing to swallow thickly and clear his throat. "Vaughn, hold me... that was beautiful." He choked, laughing as Vaughn sighed and rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, you can't say something half so gay as that and not expect me to rib you for it." He snickered, shaking his head as he jabbed Vaughn's shoulder playfully. "Now, c'mon assbutt. Shopping, and then I need to do my homework before I can actually make dinner." He added, running a hand through his hair tiredly.

"Damn, yeah. I didn't think of that." Vaughn admitted, frowning as he opened the store door. "Last thing you need is another detention from mister Flynt." He said, as he strolled through the doors.

"Uh, yeah..." Rhys coughed tightly, pleased his friend couldn't see his expression flicker with guilt. "Ahem... Wouldn't want that." He coughed awkwardly, clearing his throat as he followed after his friend, unable to quite wipe away the small, secretive curve of his lips. 

An hour and forty five minutes later they'd returned to Rhys’ apartment, storing the various purchases before Rhys had reluctantly sat down to complete his homework, while Vaughn lounged across his couch and watched tv. The afternoon passed in comfortable, companionable warmth, with the pair occasionally bantering light-heartedly and playfully bickering over the TV show Rhys pretended he wasn't intermittently distracted by. As the hours wore on however, he felt himself becoming increasingly drained, as a headache blossomed behind his eyes. "Urgh, I can't stand anymore." Rhys finally huffed, leaning back in his chair and tossing his pen atop his various papers, before scrubbing his hands over his face; massaging his temples as they throbbed weakly. "I'll finish it off later... time for some chow." He sighed, rolling his eyes at Vaughn's eager cheering.

"Dude, do the thing!" Vaughn pleaded, turning to lean over the back of the couch as Rhys slowly rose from his chair with a sigh, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly. "You know, the one with the red cabbage-"

"You can choose spaghetti, stir fry or to feed yourself, assbutt." Rhys snorted quietly, flashing a brief, weak smirk at Vaughn's pout. "I'm not feeling so hot, therefore... it's something quick or, you can go home and eat there." He explained, grimacing as he pushed to his feet and made his way to the kitchen. "What's it gonna be?" He called, humming quietly as he opened a cupboard and gazed inside for a moment, before unenthusiastically drawing out a pack of spaghetti and a jar of sauce.

"Store bought?" Vaughn commented, his brows rising in surprise as his eyes flitted between the jar and Rhys’ unenthusiastic expression. "Oh god..." He scoffed, walking over with a small frown and raising the back of his hand to Rhys’ forehead, as he scowled and ducked backwards, attempting to swat Vaughn's hand away with the spaghetti. "Are you dying, or something?" He demanded, his tone playful despite the nervous flick of his gaze over Rhys.

"Dude, what the hell? Get offa me, assbutt..." Rhys scolded, grimacing as he shoved his friend aside and waved the spaghetti at his friend in warning. "I am not gonna let you play doctor on me." He said, turning back to the hob as he ducked to grab two pans from the cupboard. "I still have a bald spot from last time." He added, shooting his friend a dirty look as he snorted with unrepentant laughter briefly.

"Oh, come on..." Vaughn sniggered, trying and failing to hide his proud grin behind his hand. "It was just a teeny bit of strip wax on your leg... how was I to know it would never grow back?! I mean, I did mine too; and that came back totally normally! You're just a... a..." He said, pausing as he tried to think of a suitable insult. "You know what, whatever. Point is, that was not my fault. So I call veto." He scoffed, folding his arms over his chest and narrowing his eyes worriedly, as Rhys blinked and rubbed his eyes tiredly.

"Right, real mature there assbutt." Rhys snorted, shaking his head minutely and grimacing at the tingle of dizziness which he felt. "It's probably just hunger anyway, dude. I'll be fine once we've eaten." He said unconvincingly, raising a brow as Vaughn gently eased him aside and took the spaghetti from his hand. 

"Just go and sit down, already." He sighed, eyeing Rhys worriedly as he began to cook the meat in one pan of water and set the other to boil, ready for the spaghetti. "I might not be Gordon Ramsay mark two like you, but I can manage. Now go rest." He ordered playfully, though the concern never faded from his eyes as they travelled over Rhys again quickly.

"Dude, how is inedible food gonna help me exactly..?" Rhys teased, as he reached to take back the pack of spaghetti. "You once burnt custard." He said flatly, when Vaughn petulantly held the packet out of his reach.

"Uh, yeah, because yours is better!" He drawled, sniggering as Rhys’ expression morphed into a scowl at the confession. "Shut up." Vaughn snorted, quickly slapping his friends hand with the spaghetti before pulling it back out of reach, putting it aside and lightly shoving Rhys towards the living room. "Just go sit down and let me deal with this. But just this once, dude!" He called after him warningly, before focusing on his new task of cooking. 

Rhys rolled his eyes, flopping down on the couch with a dramatic sigh and pouting at his friends possible deception regarding his lack of culinary skills. He fidgeted, not in the mood to watch anything with th faint ache in his head, but frustrated by his sudden lack of a task. He fingered his phone I his pocket, turning to peer into the kitchen suspiciously for a moment, before digging the device out and scrolling through his numbers slowly. Am I allowed to send him texts now..? He wondered, biting his lip uncertainly as he peeked over his shoulder again, a tendril of guilt curling in his gut as he considered his extended deception of his best friend. One day I'll tell him everything... He'll understand. He thought, looking back at his phone and selecting the contact saved as 'Handsome,' bringing up the messaging screen and quickly typing out a short text before he could change his mind or otherwise dissuade himself. His thumb hovered over the send button, his teeth digging into his lip as his heart seemed to throb fiercely in his chest.

Hey you. He re-read, frowning uncertainly at the possible awkwardness Jack might assume if he read the message. Just... wanted to warn you. I might be sick so, um... thought you should know? He rolled his eyes, running a hand through his hair as he sighed in frustration. He dropped his phone into his lap, groaning as he looked up at the ceiling and contemplated the strange predicament he found himself in. What if even texting is one of those things that's not allowed? How the hell are we supposed to do this, when there's so much red tape choking us..? He wondered idly, staring vacantly at the ceiling a moment longer, until his phone chimed softly from his lap. He raised a brow as he looked down, a small sound of distress escaping him when he saw his text had sent itself; and he'd received a reply. He held his phone to his chest and glanced over his shoulder to the kitchen quickly, before throwing himself sideways on the couch, rolling to his back as he bit his lip, his heart thudding heavily against his ribs. "Oh god, please don't be freaking out or mad or... anything bad..." He muttered under his breath, sucking in a deep breath as he picked up his phone again and hesitantly raised the screen before his face.

Ya know, I reckon I typed out at least a half dozen texts today and ain't sent any of 'em. Not such a brave inter-planetary hero after all, huh? The opening message read, as Rhys felt his lips curve into an irrepressible grin, his heart lightening at Jack's confession. What's wrong, Cupcake? Was it that dodgy lookin' shit ya ordered last night? Rhys snickered fondly, huddling down on his couch slightly as he re-read Jack's text briefly, shaking his head before beginning his own reply.

There is nothing 'dodgy' about scampi. He said, repeating himself from the previous evening, a quiet rumble of laughter escaping him as he recalled the seriously dubious expression which Jack had viewed his dish with when it was laid before him. I'll make you some fresh next weekend if you want, and you can see for yourself. He added, snorting as he hit send, imagining the other mans grimace. And no, it wasn't anything to do with the foodJust a headache and tiredness mostly... I may have exaggerated the severity of said illness and used it as an excuse to text you. He admitted, biting his lip as he felt his cheeks warm with guilt, though he could do nothing to fight of the lingering grin he wore.

Make fresh? Don't tell me ya cook as well as clean? Should I just start callin' ya Wonderboy? Jack replied, causing Rhys to snort and roll his eyes. Ya can make whatever ya want here, if that's somethin' ya like doin', not that ya have to though mindBut, I ain't eatin' no little blobs of... whatever that was. His second message made Rhys’ breath catch, his heart locking tensely in his chest as he re-read the words giddily, before finally remembering to breathe. His heart melted at the other mans subtle offer, an unfamiliar and almost overwhelming sense of happiness radiating from some deep and unexplored crevice locked somewhere within. Ya sure ya alright?

Jack's gently prodding message startled Rhys from his strange trance and he cleared his throat as he glanced at the kitchen doorway, not wanting his friend to see him when he was certain be would be blushing furiously. Yeah... yeah, totally. I'm probably gonna just eat and then have a bath or something. Turn in early and stuff, ya know? I bet I will be fine after that... Be all bright eyed and bushy tailed at school tomorrow. He replied, his heart still half choking him as it tried to float its way free of his throat.

Ya ain't gonna try and make me give ya detention again, are ya? Jack asked, and Rhys would have been worried the man was scolding him, if not for the unexpected emoji at the end of the message, winking at him similarly to how he knew the man himself would in person. Seriously though, don't push yaself, if ya ain't feelin' right in the mornin' just... blow the day off and take care of yaself.

Rhys felt his cheeks begun to ache, a giddy squeal bubbling in his throat, which he quickly forced himself to choke back, lest Vaughn overhear him and come to investigate. Yes sir, Handsome Jack, sir! I shall endeavour to blow myself all day! He sent quickly, smirking as he imagined the other mans reluctant laugh and roll of his eyes. But you couldn't give me detention this week anyway unfortunately, I'm fully booked! Which is a shame, because I would much rather attend your detention. So long as it was just us... He added, biting his lip as he sensed the dip into dangerous territory. But, like I said... fully booked. So you're safe! He sent, groaning as he read his messages back and immediately wished he hadn't sent them.

Not sure I'm ever safe around you, Cupcake, even by text. Jack replied quickly, as Rhys imagined him shaking his head. Just, take care of yaself and concentrate on feelin' better, 'kay? I could try and swing by end of the day, see how ya doin'? Rhys swallowed thickly, lowering his phone to his chest and drawing in a deep breath to try and steady himself, knowing only too well the level of risk Jack would be taking; but overwhelmed none the less that he had even offered.

Rhys cleared his throat, exhaling slowly as he picked his phone back up, smiling as he quickly typed his reply. Much as I really, really hate to say this... you probably better not. He sent first, his finger tapping the side of his phone as he hesitated, before rapidly typing and sending a follow-up message. But I'm a literal sappy idiot right now... that you offered at all. It means a lot, thanks. But, I don't want you to risk yourself like that. He sighed softly, still light hearted and giddy from the other mans offer.

"Hey, assbutt, you awake and ready for this?" Vaughn called from the kitchen, as Rhys started in surprise and hid his phone under his back, looking over the back of the couch at the kitchen doorway guiltily.

"Uh, yeah..." He called back, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Yeah, I'm awake... and uh, ready." He said, looking at the doorway a moment longer, before pulling his phone free from behind his back, his eyes quickly darting over the screen to drink in Jack's newest reply.

Yeah, I guess ya right. The first message read, and Rhys’ heart clenched at the palpable frustration which emanated from the message, a perfect match to the sense of regret he'd felt as he'd turned the mans offer down. This sucks. A second message read, and Rhys’ lips twitched with fond remembrance, his face warming as he bit his lip and recalled the feverish night they'd shared together.

You can say that again. Rhys replied, his heart throbbing and rising into his throat, as he tried to calm his rapidly heating body. And not the fun kind, either. He added, holding his breath as he anticipated the other mans response with barely suppressed eagerness. He began to fidget as he waited, his eyes flicking between his screen and the kitchen doorway nervously.

Finally Jack's reply arrived, and Rhys’ breath exploded from him in a giddy giggle as he imagined the other mans growl of frustration. Ya a goddamn tease... The message began, before continuing the memory Rhys had referenced. What I wouldn't give for it to be the fun kind. Again. Rhys’ pulse jumped, his heart racing as he pictured the other man delving into his whiskey reserves. Cupcake, how the hell can ya drive me crazy when ya ain't even here? Jack demanded, as Rhys bit his lip and relished the knowledge that while he was wanted; it was for more than just the gratification of two bodies combining.

Must be something in the whiskey... He replied with a goofy grin, hesitating briefly before quickly sending another message. You do the same to me. He confessed before he could stop himself, his heart light at the exchange between them. I should uh, probably go eat now... He added a moment later, leaning forward and peeking into the kitchen, as he heard Vaughn dig out some plates to dish up.

Know what I wanna eat right now. Jack's reply made him gasp, his face burning at the implications behind the message, his heart skipping a beat as he read, and re-read the message several times to be sure he hadn't mistaken the other mans meaning somehow. He was about to reply, when Jack sent another message through. Sorry, must be confusin' as hell to get that kinda shit after what I said. Fact is, I want ya, Rhysie... and it drives me nuts, cuz I know I shouldn't. I know I can't do what I wanna do, but I can't help still wantin' it either. Even if ya were here right now... I couldn't take advantage like that. Rhys swallowed thickly, exhaling a deep breath as he sat up and wiped his stinging eyes with the back of his hand, his throat thick with emotions he couldn't begin to understand.

It's fine. He replied quickly, sniffing back a choked sob as his tangled emotions all surged within his heart. I mean, it's not confusing. If anything... and I hope this isn't too weird, but, it actually kinda eases my nerves and makes me feel better? Not that I'm some kind of depraved, hormone driven idiot I mean, but it's just... Reassuring, I guess. He bit his lip, staring at the message received marker and glanced around as he sucked in a quick breath. Look I just, I'm used to people being physical to show they want me. So, it helps to know that you want that too, even though we can't... I just, I'm not used to this whole more thing but, so far I gotta admit it feels pretty amazing. He sent quickly, immediately dropping his phone to his lap and rubbing his hands over his eyes tiredly, groaning at his ridiculous rambling.

He started when his phone vibrated, scrambling to reclaim it from his lap and read his latest message. Ya know... one day we're gonna have a talk about your past, just like we did mine. Jack said, and Rhys’ heart froze, his breath catching in his throat as panic swept through him. Then I'm gonna track down and use my bare hands to personally choke the life out of anyone who treated so shitty and made ya feel that way. He swallowed thickly, dragging his hand over his mouth as his heart restarted with alarming haste, his mind racing with unfamiliar thoughts and feelings as he re-read the other mans messages. I know ya don't wanna... so no pressure. Just know I won't judge ya or whatever stupid shit ya got in ya head. Rhys bit his lip to contain his choked sound of surprise, his eyes stinging as he ran them over Jack's gently reassuring message repeatedly. This thing ain't, hell... this relationship, ain't gonna work if ya can't trust me, Cupcake. So, when ya ready; we'll talk. Now this just got awkward as fuck so... go eat and stuff. Lemme know how ya doin' later, 'kay?

Rhys shook his head, exhaling a shaky breath as he tried to push away the various emotions which tried to swamp him. Not awkward at all. He typed quickly, sighing as his fingers hovered over his keypad, uncertain how to reply further. Thanks. He sent, wincing at the obviously awkward message. "Shit..." He muttered, raising his hand to his lips and chewing his thumb nail worriedly. He slowly lowered his hand, about to type out another message, when he heard a voice over his shoulder.

"Ooh, are you sending secret, sappy messages to your super secret boyfri-?" Vaughn laughed as Rhys yelped and shot off the couch, whirling with wide, guilty eyes as he hid his phone behind his back. "I guess that answers that question!" He sniggered, waving his brows suggestively. "What, you asking him to wear something skimpy and come play doctor for you?" He asked, snorting at the idea before paling, when Rhys failed to respond, averting his eyes as his cheeks stained pink with embarrassment. "Oh dude, come on! I'm right here! I thought you said you two weren't-"

"What?" Rhys asked, glancing back at his friend as he shook himself from his thoughts and frowned. "We're not, and I wouldn't ask him over now anyway." He muttered distractedly, slipping his phone into his pocket as he ran his free hand up into his hair.

"Uh, and why would that be exactly?" Vaughn huffed playfully, jutting his hip out as he pouted at his friend, raising a brow at the nervous energy radiating from him. "What you ashamed of me now, assbutt?" He demanded, frowning as Rhys closed his eyes and grimaced rubbing his temples as the throbbing in his head grew stronger with his rising panic and frustration, his tone turning from playful to concerned in a heartbeat. "Hey, what is it? Are you oka-"

"No, I'm not bloody okay!" Rhys cried, spinning to turn his back on his friend, covering his face with his hands as he tried to reign in his temper. He took several deep breaths, as a pregnant silence fell between them, finally swallowing heavily as he lowered his hands and turned to glance back at his friend apologetically. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..." He mumbled guiltily, gesturing between himself and Vaughn briefly, wincing at his friends obviously concerned expression. "He uh, he wants to talk about my past." He said quietly, swallowing thickly as he scrubbed his hands across his jaw nervously. "W-what do I do? I need to think, I need to just think... and come up with a less pitiful history. What if I say I was adopted? No, that wouldn't work... I need, I need, uh... What if I-"

"Rhys, what you need us to stop freaking out." Vaughn said firmly, approaching his friend cautiously and gently taking his hands from his jaw. "There's no need for background mashups- no, wait... listen, Rhys!" He said, finally snapping when Rhys squirmed and tried to free himself, startling him to stand still again. "This guy has let you in, has told you about himself; and now he's just asking you to do the same. You have no reason to freak out, okay? This is your chance to let him in, to let him know you-"

"How the hell is that supposed to help me here, Vaughn?!" Rhys barked, jerking his hands free and shaking his head vehemently as he scowled at the floor. "That's the opposite of how to keep him actually interested in me! Nobody knows me, dude, nobody bloody wants to know-"

"He does." Vaughn said quietly, eyeing Rhys worriedly as his shoulders sagged heavily. "You and I both know that in this town... its hard not to hear stuff. Either, he's heard something and wants you to explain your side; or, he wants to hear everything from you, as opposed to from some gossip queen out there..." He explained slowly, worrying his lip as Rhys sighed and gazed at the floor dejectedly "What did he actually say about it all?" He queried gently, cautiously stepping closer as Rhys sighed heavily.

Without answering he turned away, moving into his bedroom and throwing himself face first into his pillows. "He said..." He began, knowing his friend had followed him. He dug his phone out of his pocket and unlocked the screen, scrolling up to the appropriate messages. "We're gonna have to talk about my past one day... and he knows I don't want to, so there's no pressure, but that I need to trust him if this relationship is gonna work. He said..." Rhys informed Vaughn, pausing and swallowing thickly as he was again overwhelmed by gratitude and affection for the other man. "He said, he won't judge me." He bit out, inhaling deeply through his nose, before hastily burying his face in his pillow; making sure to hide his phone beneath it.

"Dude..." Vaughn sighed, carefully sitting on the side of Rhys’ bed and leaning back against the headboard at an angle, affectionately running a hand through his friends short red spikes. "This is kind of making him seem like a pretty cool guy. I mean, 'no pressure' and 'not judging' sound like some kinda awesome perks here..." He said, scratching the back of Rhys’ head gently in an attempt to soothe his minor meltdown. "Look, just hear me out a minute, okay?" He said quietly, chuckling at Rhys’ pitiful whine into his pillow. "This guy... you two have already worked through a lot, right? The whole age thing was a huge step for you, but you told him. You've seen him a second time, you've talked about his past, you've stayed over at his house... you've both referred to this thing as an actual relationship." He gently reminded Rhys, who peeked one eye up at him balefully from the safety of his pillow. "Rhys, you're already taking the risk for this thing... you might as well do this yourself, tell him your past, your way. Because you know if you don't, well... eventually, someone else will. And they won't care if he still likes you after they're done." Rhys dropped his head back into his pillow, groaning despondently as Vaughn rubbed his shoulder and shook his head. "C'mon dude, its kinda hard to believe he hasn't heard anything about it yet... either way, I think there's more than just luck involved at this point."

"Hmmph, hmmrnna-" Rhys mumbled, waving a hand angrily in the air beside his head as he made pitiful and incoherent sounds of frustration into his pillow; his gut churning rapidly with too many emotions for him to decipher. "Irrass hmm nuffhein-"

"Right, and I'm labeled as the dramatic one." Vaughn snorted, shaking his head fondly as he allowed Rhys to continued his aimless venting for a moment, before rolling his eyes and finally swatting the back of his head playfully. "Okay, self pity time is up, assbutt." He huffed, grinning as Rhys turned his head to pout at him reproachfully. "Look, you knew this would come up sooner or later-"

"Yeah, and I was hoping for later!" Rhys whined, scowling as he propped his head on his hand. "Much... much later! When I had suitable lies and convincing, forged paperwork at the ready!" He scoffed petulantly, grimacing as Vaughn raised a brow at him knowingly. "What? Stop looking at me like that, even some sorta terrible tragedy is better than just..." He trailed off slowly, as he turned his face down to his bed with a miserable and weary sigh.

"Rhys..." Vaughn murmured, shaking his head as he squeezed his friends shoulder sympathetically. "Dude, I know its been hard on you. I've been there with you, as much as I could be... I know its not the same, that I can't understand what you felt or went through." He said slowly, as Rhys glanced up at him apologetically, swallowing heavily as he quickly reached up to squeeze Vaughn's hand on his shoulder. "But, dude... I honestly think this is something you need to do. This is the first time a guy has really seen you, even through all your tough guy, bravado bullshit. He wants you. So, take the plunge, dude. Trust him." He advised gently, resting his chin atop Rhys’ head as he held him close for a brief moment of comfort. "If not now, then when?"

"Well, duh... never!" Rhys scoffed petulantly, pouting as he sighed heavily and running a hand through his hair as it continued to throb, glancing over at his friend when Vaughn pulled back to watch him worriedly. "...urgh, this really fucking sucks." He muttered as he flopped back in his pillows, his heart stinging at the unintended reference to his private, running joke with Jack.

"Yeah..." Vaughn agreed slowly, nodding his head as he watched his friend thoughtfully. "But that's what being in an actual, grown up relationship means, dude... so suck it up. Tell him. And, if he's still around after that, you know he's perfect; and you should marry him on the spot." He said, ruffling Rhys’ hair fondly, as his friend pouted and groaned.

"Urgh, stop being all logical and making me act rational and grown up..." Rhys complained, rolling his head on his pillow and hugging his legs to his chest. "I want to wallow, dammit!" He whined dramatically, glaring at his friend pitifully. "I hate you."

"You love me." Vaughn countered gently, nudging Rhys’ shoulder as he huffed and averted his gaze as his gut continued to churn ominously. "Now come on, you need to eat-"

"I can't right now." Rhys muttered quickly, glancing up at his friend when he sensed he was about to argue and insist. "Dude I appreciate your effort but just leave some on the side for me for now, please? I just feel so..." He said, pausing as he held his breath and winced, cocking his head as a sharp spear of pain lanced through his skull. "I think I might puke if I try and eat right now, dude." He finally sighed, closing his eyes and exhaling a heavy breath. "Think I'm gonna just try and relax a bit; ya know?"

"Considering the state you got yourself into, I don't blame you." Vaughn snorted, shaking his head as he squeezed Rhys’ shoulder, before rising from the bed. "Try to rest and get some sleep... and I'll set some food aside for you, okay?" He said, folding the covers over Rhys as he hummed and rolled onto his other side, hiding his face from his friend as he bit his lip and tried to ignore the nauseous churning in his gut. "Hey, I said rest, assbutt." Vaughn accused knowingly, jabbing his shoulder with a sharp poke. "Not just, hide that you're still freaking out."

"Urgh, you're the worst." Rhys groused, shifting his weight and flopping himself back into his pillows dramatically. "Fine, fine... resting, I promise." He huffed petulantly, pointedly closing his eyes and taking a long, deep breath. "Hmm..." He hummed, exhaling slowly and attempting to clear his mind of everything, only to find himself focusing on something which made him grin and pull the covers around his chin. Jack said relationship... He thought giddily, never even realizing through his gleeful daze, that he was drifting off to sleep.

When he woke, it was to an uncomfortable scratch in his throat, a painful throb in his head and the discomforting sensation of having slept in his clothes. "Nng... Vaughn..." He croaked pitifully, whining when he received no reply. With a grimace, he peeled back his covers and stumbled from the bed, his head stuffy and slow, as if he'd been drinking. "Assbuuuuu-" He called as he stumbled from his room, breaking off with a hacking cough. Urgh, great. Just what I need. He thought sourly, as he shuffled through his apartment to the kitchen, switching on the light and immediately wincing as he peeked through the parted fingers of a raised hand to the oven clock, to find it was a short time past midnight. "Oh, man..." He whined, his throat protesting the sound and threatening to force him to cough again. "Urghhhh..." He grimaced, moving to his medicine cupboard and rummaging through, finally pulling out a box of tablets and scowling when he saw there were only four tablets left in the packet. Shopping tomorrow then. He thought irritably, grabbing a glass from the neighbouring cupboard and filling it with water from the tap, before quickly popping two tablets free of the packet and downing them with his drink. 

He set his glass down on the side when he was finished, turning and glancing around the kitchen to see it had been cleaned, and a note taped to the fridge. Didn't wanna wake you, so put food inside for you. Rhys shook his head at Vaughn's familiar scrawl, a rush of affection sweeping through him as he opened and glanced into the fridge briefly, before closing the door and continuing to read. Also don't wanna get sick, so I went home. Rest up, assbutt. Get well soon! Rhys’ previous affection vanished with a snort, which caused him to wince when his throat ached fiercely. He felt in his pocket, intending to message his friend despite the time, but frowned when he found that his phone was absent from his jeans. His frown deepened, his fingers tapping against the counter as he thought for a moment, before remembering his minor meltdown earlier in the evening. "Urgh..." He complained, sighing as he slowly made his way back to his bedroom and dug his phone out from under his pillow. He raised a brow upon seeing he had three messages, quickly opening the first message; which was merely Vaughn letting him know he was home safely. He shot off a quick reply, before refocusing on his other messages.

Feelin' any better, Cupcake? The first read and Rhys shifted awkwardly, upon noticing it was over three hours old. He shook his head, biting his lip at the conflicting emotions he felt; pleased at the show of concern for his wellbeing, but undeniably unsettled by their earlier exchange and Jack's interest in his past. Guessin' ya asleep... Hope ya feel better in the mornin', remember not to push it though. Take time off if ya gotta. Rhys felt his heart melt at the obvious concern and affection in the follow up message, sent an hour and twenty two minutes after the first. He worried his nail briefly, debating before quickly typing out a reply of his own.

I was sleeping yes, sorry that I missed youJust woke up and feel like hell, gonna have to go stock up on some meds tomorrow as I'm nearly out... He sent, shaking his head at his restless babble. He sucked in a deep breath, immediately regretting the action when he began to cough heavily. "Urgh, this sucks..." He groused, grimacing and patting his chest as his coughs finally abated. He looked at the time, debating whether to just go back to sleep, when his skin flared with an uncomfortable itch; reminding him he'd slept in his clothes and that his body did not approve of it. "Maybe that bath..." He muttered to himself, humming thoughtfully as he glanced back down at his phone. Sorry, hope that didn't wake you... or this... Think I'm gonna have a bath and go back to bed. He sent, before dropping his phone onto the end of his bed and shaking his head, unable to tell if his flushed cheeks were from his illness or his embarrassment.

Rhys sighed, ignoring the itch in his throat as he moved to his bathroom, plugging the bottom of the bath and turning on the taps, adding a liberal dash of lavender bubble bath to help him get back to sleep after. He looked around the bathroom and frowned, deciding that the bright overhead light was too harsh for his eyes at such an hour. He made his way to the kitchen, where he grabbed a dozen candles and some matches from his emergency power cut supplies beneath the sink. He strategically placed them around the bathroom, carefully lighting them all, before turning off the main light. He hummed contently, a faint smile on his lips, before it was forced away by a brief bout of coughing. When he's bath was two thirds filled with steaming hot, bubbly water; Rhys turned off the taps and stripped off his clothes, refusing to acknowledge the fond way he briefly examined them, before tossing them into his washing hamper and clambering into his bath. "Oh, god..." He croaked, groaning as he sank down and slowly submerged himself to his shoulders. "Yes..." He hissed, fighting off a cough as best he could, as he tried to enjoy the comfort and warmth of the lavender scented water.

As Rhys soaked himself, he lost all track of time; and he was surprised when he finally climbed out again, to find that he'd been lounging in the warm water for almost an hour. "Hmm..." He hummed, blowing out his candles and reluctantly turning on the main light as he grabbed a thick towel and began to dry himself off. He wrapped himself in his towel, as he released the bath water to drain, moving to examine himself in the mirror and taking particular note of his flushed cheeks. "Urgh, stupid cold." He groused, swallowing thickly to avoid another bout of coughing. With a yawn, Rhys shut off the bathroom light and moved back into his bedroom, and he was just about to discard his towel, when he heard a knocking on his door.

Who the hell is door hopping after one in the morning..? He wondered, frowning as he slowly made his way towards the door. He paused when the knocking came again, more insistent than the first; and he raised himself on his toes to peek through his peephole. He jerked backwards, his heart skipping a beat nervously when he saw two policemen on the other side of the door. What the hell..? He thought, caught at the edge of panic as he glanced down at his towel clad self before looking to his bedroom uncertainly. A third knock made his door rattle in its frame, and Rhys frowned in irritation, as he ran his fingers through his hair. "Just a second..." He called, shrugging his shoulders and readjusting his towel as best he could. With a sigh, he finally pulled the door open, glancing between the two men distrustfully. "Er... yeah?"

The policemen exchanged a glance at his appearance, one of them barely hiding the sneer like curl of his lips. "I'm sorry, but were you just in the bath?" The other asked, his gaze disapproving but less openly hostile than his partner as he flicked his eyes over Rhys’ appearance quickly. 

"Was it the towel?" Rhys snarked, coughing into his palm as he frowned between the pair and leaned against the doorframe. 

"Was it a bath with candles, perhaps?" The officer pressed, as Rhys frowned and glanced between the two men again, taking half a step back into his apartment as discomfort oozed through his gut.

"Not that I see why this is important to you guys, but yeah it was, actually..." Rhys reluctantly admitted, his heart skipping a beat nervously. "I'm sorry, its not that I'm complaining or anything about two handsome men in uniform being on my doorstep, but is there something I can help you with..?" He asked, holding his towel tighter as the other officer scoffed and sneered more prominently.

"Not likely, kid." He said dismissively, turning away as his lip curled with distaste. "He's fine. Can we go now?" He demanded of his partner, who frowned towards him briefly and waved a dismissive hand, watching as he walked a few steps away and waited by the stairwell.

"Sorry about my partner." The remaining officer said stiffly, distracting Rhys from scowling after the other, much ruder man. He looked back to see the remaining officer with a small frown on his brow, as he eyed him dubiously again. "Some of your neighbours reported seeing flames, and they were concerned a fire might have broken out." He explained, averting his gaze as he turned to follow his partner. "Perhaps you could be a little more cautious, in future." He warned as he walked away, leaving Rhys to glare after the pair. He jut his hip against his doorway, shaking his head in mild disbelief, as he watched the officers make their way to the stairwell.

"Thankyou, for your stellar work boys!" He called waspishly, unable to fight his irritation as he coughed behind his hand, smirking and even winking at the hateful sneer which the second officer threw back at him. "You be sure to keep up the good work now, ya hear?" He called, tossing them a mocking salute. He snorted as the angrier officer turned back, before his partner urged him away, leaving Rhys alone in his doorway. He glanced around the hallway, his breath quickening briefly as frustration welled in his heart, before turning and slamming his door closed; half hoping he woke anyone who was asleep, and just plain annoyed anyone who wasn't. "Stupid, shitty town..." He complained as he made his way to his bedroom, scowling as he tossed his towel in his wash hamper and  threw himself into bed. A soft thud caught his attention, and he groaned as he moved over to collect his phone from the floor. "Urgh..." He huffed, flopping back into his pillows and humming fondly when he saw he had a new message.

Nah, ya didn't wake me. Glad ya got some rest, how ya feelin'? Jack had asked and Rhys sighed contently, his earlier irritation fading slightly as he basked in the other mans attention. Hope ya got enough meds and shit for tonight.

Yeah I have enough for now, but like I said, I will have to go get some more tomorrow sometime. Rhys replied, shaking his head as he debated for a moment. The most stupidest thing just happened... He began, before proceeding to explain the surreal experience to the other man. Apparently my neighbours think I'm trying to kill them all. I had a bath and lit some candles, and I just had two police officers knock on my door, having been told my apartment was on fire! One took one look at me and guessed what happened, it was so crazy... He sent, shaking his head as he simmered and coughed. "Stupid neighbours..." He muttered, about to lower his phone when it chimed with a new message.

Ya neighbours sound like total frickin’ morons. Jack replied, and Rhys snorted as he imagined the other mans droll tone and the roll of his eyes. Bet those coppers were laughin' their asses off when they realised. Rhys rolled his eyes and snuggled deeper into his covers, finding his phone charger beside his bed and quickly plugging his phone in.

Oh yeah, totally. He replied sarcastically, frowning when he wondered briefly if Jack was actually serious. He shrugged, distracted by his latest bout of coughing. Urgh, I feel like shit... He complained, unsubtly changing the subject. My head feels like its in a vice, and my throat feels like I ate sandpaper... He text, pouting at his phone petulantly.

Damn, sorry to hear that Cupcake, wish I could do somethin' to help. Jack replied quickly, and Rhys ducked his head to his covers, biting his lip to contain a grin despite how awful he felt. As he reread the other mans message, he felt his heart warm, an excited shiver rippling outward and leaving him content but exhausted. That settles it, I see ya ass at school tomorrow and I'm gonna kick it all the way back to ya apartment. Jack sent, and Rhys bit his lip harder at the swell of affection he felt; his face heating and his heart melting at the other man's show of concern.

You telling me what to do, Handsome? He sent teasingly, coughing heavily and flopping into his pillows with a pitiful and tired grunt. He closed his eyes, his head seeming to swim with a wave of dizziness. When he opened his eyes again, it was to see he had three new messages.

Damn straight I am. Don't like to think of ya hurtin'. Jack had replied, and Rhys made a rough sound of content surprise in his aching throat. Just take care of yaself and get better, ya hear me? He ordered, though Rhys smiled tiredly at the playful undertones of the other man's message, the winking emoji lowering the severity considerably. I'm gonna let ya sleep now. Rest up, I'll check in on ya tomorrow, yeah? Rhys hummed happily, causing himself to cough. He yawned and attempted to type out a reply, but before he could hit send, he dropped his phone and was stolen away by his exhaustion.

"Hey, assbutt!" Vaughn's voice calling through his apartment woke him sometime later, and he groaned as he was immediately assaulted by a hacking cough. "Huh, guess that answers the question of whether you're feeling any better then..." Vaughn said, playfully hiding the lower half of his face with his coat. "Have you been sleeping all day..?" He asked, his brow furrowing with concern.

"Nng, Vaughn..." Rhys whined, scowling pitifully at his friend. "I have some cold meds in the kitchen, there's two left... then you have to help me go get more." He complained, forcing himself to sit up with a reluctant sigh. He leaned against his headboard, feeling around for his phone and glancing at his friend tiredly when he scoffed loudly.

"Dude, you are so not going anywhere." Vaughn said firmly, scowling as he dropped his coat and shrugged out of it, tossing it on the couch with his school bag. "I'll go get whatever you need... but this was on your doorstep, so it might be kinda redundant." He said, raising a brow and stepping into Rhys’ bedroom as he frowned from his bed.

"Huh?" He asked, as Vaughn dumped a large bag into his lap. "Oof! What the-" he trailed off, scowling at his friend briefly before peeking into the bag, which was filled with several strong medications, cans of soup and packets of fruit. His heart slowly rose to his throat, obstructing the cough he knew he needed to free as his face warmed. He spotted a note, tucked into a packet of fruit, and drew it out to quickly read through; a shy grin curling his lips despite his best efforts to contain it. "Rhys; rest and get well, don't be an idiot... J."

"You know, I think I like this guy." Vaughn hummed, eyeing his friends obvious and sappy reaction thoughtfully. "Now take the meds, and gimme that bag. I'll make you some soup." He ordered, drawing a packet of medication out and tossing it at Rhys’ head, smirking as he whipped the rest of the bag away from his lap. He turned and walked away, pausing to glance back and smile at his giddy friend. "Looks like this guy really cares about you, huh?" He remarked, before continuing on his way to the kitchen.

Rhys looked down at the medication in his hands, turning it over slowly as his heart fluttered with affection. He swallowed thickly, coughing and immediately shaking his head at the reaction. He reached for his phone and shot off a quick message of thanks, before he sank back into his pillows again. "... looks like." He mumbled, a radiant smile overwhelming him, as he threw himself into his covers and giggled; deeming the entire experience worth the coughing fit he knew would follow.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

In Too Deep.

 

Jack frowned and scratched his head, slowly working his way through a stack of papers which he needed to grade for the following morning. His fingers itched to reach for his glass of whiskey, but he grit his teeth and solidly refused to let himself, determined to reach the end of the pile before giving in to the temptation. Why the hell d'these kids even need to know about this shit? They're all gonna go off and forget like, ninety percent of this crap when they're beauty geeks, sports jocks and computer nerds... He thought tiredly, grimacing as he marked and graded with as little sarcasm as possible, something he felt was a great achievement on his part. And besides, they can get it all online if they do need to know... for whatever reason. He paused, glancing at his phone as it vibrated at the far end of his living room table. His lips twitched into a brief smirk, before he shook his head and returned to his grading, though his pen remained noticeably still in his hand.

Ignore it. Message ain't goin' anywhere. He thought, trying to keep his mind on his task. He maintained his determination to resist for another heartbeat, before dropping his pen and reaching for his phone with a faint sigh, his heart quickening as he rolled his eyes at his own ridiculous reactions. "Ya a goddamn idiot, Lawrence." He snorted, unlocking the screen with a reluctant grin.

Thanks again for that care package... but you really shouldn't haveRhys’ message was as predictable as ever, having sent the same thing every day of his illness so far. While Jack was well aware that he would have normally snapped and told anyone else to shut up about it, he was still amused that he found himself not in the least bit frustrated by Rhys’ repetitive behaviour. You really shouldn't have risked it, but everything has really helped. I can actually think clearly again! Almost breathing again too, so that's a plus... Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head, tapping the corner of his phone to the table top gently, before clicking his tongue and typing out a quick response.

Ya know, ya don't have to thank me every day. Just get better, that'll be thanks enough. He sent back, his shoulders lightening as a weight he hadn't even noticed began to ease away. The four days Rhys had been absent so far had been awkward, given that he'd half hoped his strange feelings regarding the younger male might have faded. Instead he'd found himself wondering and worrying if Rhys were okay, often even debating whether to head over and check up on him in person. The first day he'd been absent, Jack had subtly asked his friend if he'd be going to see him; his intentions hidden behind the curiosity of forwarding on homework. Days later, he still couldn't decide if he were pleased or frustrated that his friend had confirmed he would be seeing him regularly. Course, if ya really wanna thank me, I know a couple other ways for ya to. He added, snorting at the ease with which they now seemed to skirt the dangerous territory of flirting.

I am not just making you an endless supply of burgers for you to freeze... Rhys replied swiftly as Jack snorted, resting his chin on his palm and gazing at his phone with a curious sense of fondness which he'd not expected himself to ever feelBut I will make you something decent. I could actually make a few things and tub them up for during the week, if you wanted... though, I don't wanna overstep. He added a moment later, to which Jack shook his head and sighed.

"For someone so confident, ya sure insecure sometimes, Cupcake..." He huffed, narrowing his eyes at his phone thoughtfully. Yeah, and what exactly happened to him to make him like that? He wondered, wincing as he recalled the awkward way their conversation had ended after he'd brought up Rhys’ past. "Urgh, whoever did whatever to ya really needs my boot up their damn ass... or Zane's revolver in their stupid face." He muttered darkly, scowling briefly as his mood plummeted quickly, soured not only by the thought of Rhys’ obvious discomfort but of whoever had caused it in the first place. Told ya already, ya can make whatever ya want here. I'll give anythin' a go... He replied, smirking briefly as he snorted with amusement. So long as it ain't little pink, alien like blobs of weird. He added, shaking his head as he imagined Rhys’ reaction to their familiar bantering.

Jack set his phone aside quickly, ignoring the new message which dinged into his inbox and instead grabbing his pen to determinedly struggle his way through another small stack of papers. When he was finally finished, an hour and four minutes later, he piled them at the edge of his table, ready to load into his car the following morning. "Geez, Zane... what the hell d'ya see in all this?" He wondered, sighing as he pushed up from the table and snatched up his phone. He turned and flopped back onto his couch, sprawling himself across the seats and throwing his leg over the far arm. "Well, that's enough adultin' and responsibility for one night." He sighed, scowling over at the table as he realised he'd forgotten to bring his whiskey with him. "Aw, hell..." He grumbled, shaking his head as he ignored his drink in lieu of finally checking his messages.

You're phobia of scampi is both ridiculous and hilarious. Rhys had sent, and Jack snorted as he looked over the various emoji's which he'd attached. Just trust me when I say you'll love it. Honestly, I don't even know how you got away with not trying it before... Jack shook his head fondly and dropped his phone to his chest, scrubbing his hands over his face as he tried to calm the giddy excitement he felt bubbling in his heart.

This is whole goddamn thing is bloody ridiculous. He thought, blinking up at his ceiling with a curious half frown. How the hell can I wanna talk to someone so much? I never wanna talk, unless its to Zane... but even then its bloody begrudgingly. He sighed, swallowing heavily as a thought recurred to him from when he'd left the hospital with Rhys. "Nope. All the nope." He muttered, shoving the thought away before he could even consider it and picking up his phone again. I trust ya, Cupcake, just not necessarily ya dubious taste in grub. He typed, smirking as he continued. Dunno why ya gotta complicate it; good burger is all ya need. He said, hitting send and groaning as he forced himself to his feet to collect his glass from the table.

You want a damn burger so bad, I'll make you one Saturday... at least then you might stop eating those crappy ones from down the road. Rhys replied, causing Jack to pause mid-sip of his drinkYou try mine, and I guarantee the others will taste like shit in comparison. He bragged, as Jack swallowed and licked his lips, his attention torn between the nervous flutter in his gut and the hopeful lift of his heart as he reread Rhys’ message.

Them be fightin' words, Cupcake... He typed out slowly, drawing in a deep breath to try and steady his irrational nerves. Invitin' yaself over already, huh? Ya better be feelin' better by then, else I'll kick ya sorry ass outta here faster than ya can blink. He added, debating for a tense heartbeat before sending the message anyway. He won't take it the wrong way with that... will he? He wondered, frowning thoughtfully as he idly walked into his kitchen.

Oh? So long as I'm feeling okay, you won’t kick me out then..? Rhys’ uncertain but hopeful reply brought Jack to a pause by his cupboard, indecision warring in his gut. What if I just show up at any random damn time? Jack frowned, ignoring the message as he delved into his cupboard and pulled out a basic macaroni cheese pasta bake. I mean, not that I would do that... obviously. Rhys added a moment later, his discomfort and concern of having overstepped their hazy boundaries clear.

Jack sighed, considering for a moment longer as he tried to decipher whether their so called boundaries had ever really existed in the first place. It shouldn't be this easy... He thought, his brow creasing further as he remembered the first night Rhys had stayed with him, the natural ease of their banter and the pleasant, comforting atmosphere which they'd created and shared. This whole thing is so many shades of fucked up... and ya the worst fuck up of 'em all, Lawrence, for lettin' it happen. Jack shook his head, trying to dismiss the thought quickly as he grabbed a bag of pasta and a saucepan. He quarter filled the pan with water and set it to boil, picking up his phone and hesitating a heartbeat longer, before finally typing out a reply. Ya know I have this weakness when it comes to ya, Cupcake... I find it very hard to say no to ya at the best of times. He slowly wrote, narrowing his eyes after sending the message and immediately beginning another, though he was interrupted by Rhys’ swift reply.

But we should stick to weekends, right? And even then... not regularly. He said, and Jack grimaced at the twinge of regret and the hollow pit which seemed to open up in his stomach. I don't want to cause problems... but I'd really like to see you this weekend. There's a house party next week though, so... I was gonna goto that anyway, but now it'll also make sure people see me being out and normal and... things. A second message read, the words sparking an irrational spark of jealousy; not for the fact Rhys would be at a party or with his friends, but for the fact that Jack knew such simple outings would be impossible for them together. But, if you'd rather we leave it this weekend then, I get it... but I may get cranky in class.

Jack laughed despite himself, rolling his eyes as he imagined Rhys being moody and petulant for the indeterminable future classes they'd share. Well, can't have ya sulkin' in my class now... He replied, his lips quirking into a fond grin as he shook his head gently. Guess ya better come over this weekend then. He added a moment later, almost perfectly picturing the ridiculous but beautiful smile he was certain Rhys would be wearing as he read the message. He huffed an amused chuckle and set his phone down on the side, moving to add the pasta to the now boiling water.

Really? You're sure? Rhys sent back moments later, his enthusiasm clear as a barrage of messages began to bombard Jack's inbox; his phone chiming incessantly. Jack rolled his eyes and concentrated on his attempt at cooking, determinedly ignoring his hectic phone as he finished his meal and dished himself a bowlful, before finally snagging his phone and his whiskey and heading to the couch. Ooh! We'll have to get some stock in, I mean I can bring some stuff with me and maybe give you a list? But I need to see the fresh stuff myself really. Maybe I could go to the shop near you by myself and just carry that back... Jack raised a brow as he read his messages, quickly smothering the undeniable warmth which tried to spread cautiously through his gut with his disbelief of Rhys’ enthusiasm. If I make enough then you'll be set for the week with leftovers too! He finally finished with, a heart eyed emoji more than conveying his keenness.

Ya don't have to cook, ya know? Least of all for me... Jack replied, laughter bubbling in his chest as he tried to eat the resulting concoction of his own dubious attempt at cooking. I mean, ya know ya welcome to and all; but it ain't a requirement or anythin'... He said, snorting when Rhys immediately replied with a broken heart emoji.

I really enjoy cooking to be honest, it's something I actually seem to be half decent at too, which is a bonus! He added, as Jack searched for his television remote among the couch cushionsBesides, I promised Zane I would stop you binging on junk food! Can't go back on my word, Handsome! Jack snorted and shook his head, a playful pout on his face as he remembered the ease with which Zane and Rhys had taken to each other, though the expression soon softened with the rise of gentle affection he felt at the memory.

Idiots, the pair of ya. He replied, giving up on his search for the remote and instead finishing his meal quickly, setting the bowl on the floor beside the couch as he swung his legs up on the far armrest. Ain't ya got more interestin' things ya'd rather be doin'? He asked, scoffing at the stupid warmth he felt in his gut.

Well, yeah... but you said we're not allowed to do that. Rhys replied swiftly, causing Jack to choke in surprise as he eyed the winking emoji and shook his head with reluctant amusement. And hey, while we're on the subject... what's the policy in this relationship, for sending photos? He added curiously, as Jack raised a brow and tried to quell the nervous excitement which churned in his gut at Rhys’ innocent question. He tapped the side of his phone, taking a quick gulp of his whiskey as his mouth dried and licking his lips to savour the taste.

Uh... He replied, wanting Rhys to know he was going to answer and that he hadn't pushed too far. I guess, that depends on the type of picture ya thinkin' of sendin'... I mean, fillin' up a phones memory with indecent photos ain't exactly gonna go down any better than- Jack stared at the message blankly, a hollowness building in his gut as he considered his previous lapses in control. He sighed heavily, moving to delete the message and instead hitting send. "Well, shit." He muttered, grimacing as he imagined ruining the playful mood they'd established between them. He sat up, running a hand through his hair as he began to type out a new message, only to pause when a reply from Rhys appeared in his inbox.

I really wish I could see you panicking right now. I was talking about sending you a picture of some ingredients for you to get in tomorrowHe said, though Jack sincerely doubted his innocent intentions from the angelic emoji he'd used. He couldn't prevent the small snort which escaped him as Rhys continued however, his lips quirking into a fond grinHonestly, mister dirty mind... what am I gonna do with you? Thinking such things about my innocent messages!

Jack narrowed his eyes, scrubbing his hand over his jaw indecisively for a moment, before deciding he'd done far worse than some moderately innocent flirting. I got a few ideas. He replied, smirking when Rhys immediately replied with a bashful, blushing emoji; though his delight at Jack's reply was clear from his second message filled with love hearts. Cookin' me dinner for one. He added, laughing outright when Rhys sent a sulky face in response. He raised a brow when his phone began to ring a heartbeat later, his lip curling into a lopsided smirk as he accepted the call and raised the phone to his ear. "What's the matter, Cupcake? Bee in ya bonnet?" He drawled, snickering in amusement.

"That was neither what I was expecting or hoping for..." Rhys said, a clear pout in his tone, despite the faint rasp which remained from his illness. "I thought you were getting all hot under the collar for a second there." He sulked, as Jack chuckled quietly and pushed himself up to his feet, grabbing his bowl and moving it to the kitchen sink. "You're such a bastard sometimes... Urgh, and here I thought I was supposed to be the one who teased." He groused playfully, though his amusement was clear in his tone.

"I thought I'd shake things up a bit. Gotta keep ya on ya toes and all, Cupcake." Jack teased, chuckling at Rhys’ mild frustration. Their conversation paused a moment, comfortable silence falling between them for a short time, until Jack cleared his throat quietly. "'S good to hear from ya... I mean, ya sound good. Like... like ya gettin' better, I mean." He stammered awkwardly, turning to lean his hip against the sink and rolling his eyes to the ceiling, scowling at his own stupid mouth running away from him.

"Thanks, Handsome, was pretty hard hitting but I'm definitely feeling way better now." Rhys replied, coughing quietly before sighing wistfully. "I am so ready to get out of here too... Vaughn's great, but he's starting to drive me crazy with his dedication to the role of doctor." He snorted, as Jack smirked and raised a brow in amusement.

"Don't tell me he's been given ya an eyeful, runnin' round in skimpy scrubs." He asked, smiling more genuinely at the sound of Rhys’ surprised laughter down the line. "At least he's showin' ya that he cares, Cupcake." He finally said, as Rhys’ laughter tapered off to quiet giggles. "Rare to find that kinda friendship nowadays... 's good to know ya got someone who's got ya back like that. Even when they're a pain in the ass." He snorted fondly.

"Zane the same?" Rhys guessed, knowingly, as he was overwhelmed by a sudden but brief fit of coughing. Jack waited patiently for him to finish, biting his lip and frowning at the concern which he felt gnawing at his gut over Rhys’ state.

"Heh... dumb bastard is even worse than my mother." He finally snorted, clearing his throat as he idled away from the counter and made his way back to the living room, sitting on the arm of the couch and grabbing his previously discarded drink to take another large swig of whiskey. "One time, I think he legit thought I was gonna die." He huffed petulantly, wrinkling his nose in distaste as Rhys sniggered. "Wasn't even the worst hangover I'd had, so I dunno why..." He chuckled at Rhys’ quiet laughter, his lips quirking without his notice as he drained the whiskey which remained in his glass quickly. "Hmm... Well, good as its been to actually hear from ya, I... uh, I probably oughtta, ya know, get some stuff ready for tomorrow." He said awkwardly, reluctant to end the call but disliking the lingering rasp in Rhys’ tone.

"Wow, subtlety isn't your strong suit, is it Handsome?" Rhys laughed, the joyful sound souring as it turned to a hacking cough instead. "You could have just said you didn't wanna talk to me anymore, you know." He gasped, trying to hide the weariness he clearly felt.

Jack frowned, concern bubbling in his chest and festering into a strong urge to grab his keys and go see his secret lover. "Rhys-" he began, only for Rhys to laugh quietly, his breathing slowly calming to a slow rasp.

"Heh, I know, Handsome." He said, the smile clear in his tone as he hummed quietly. "I know... and I appreciate that you're worried about my health. I promise; no dance recital's today." He snickered softly, as Jack snorted and rolled his eyes.

"Who said I was worried, Cupcake?" He countered playfully, chuckling when he heard Rhys sigh on the other end of the line. "Ah, alright, alright... Ya got me." He admitted, hanging his head slightly as he worried his lip for a heartbeats pause. "Seriously though, get better soon, okay? Not sure I can handle ya friends bein' such idiots in class without ya much longer..." He half teased, before pushing away from the counter and walking back to the living room. "Take it easy, Rhys. I'll uh, ahem... I'll see ya at the weekend." He said awkwardly, as Rhys remained silent a moment longer, seeming almost shy all of a sudden.

"See you, Handsome..." He said, silence lingering between them for another second, before the line clicked dead and Jack finally lowered the device from his ear, tossing it carelessly to the nearby table. He threw himself onto the couch with a groan, covering his face with his hands as his mouth twisted into a small, reluctant grin.

Dumbass lil brat... He thought affectionately, sighing in exasperation as the nibbling thought returned to the edge of his mind. "Nope." He said firmly, shaking his head decisively. "No, no, no..." He said, rising from the couch with a determined grimace. "All of the nope." He grumbled to himself, shaking his head to toss the thought away as best as he could. He grabbed his phone and yawned quietly, stepping through to his bedroom and sitting on the edge of his bed, quickly plugging his phone in to charge on the bedside table. He allowed himself another brief moment of peaceful contemplation, carefully dodging thoughts which he knee he was most definitely not ready to confront, before clearing his throat and heading to the bathroom to clean himself up for the night. Jack peered into the mirror above the sink and examined himself critically, brushing a hand over his stubble in thoughtful contemplation as he hummed quietly. Probably oughtta keep on top of shavin' better. He thought idly, snorting and rolling his eyes while turning on the cold tap and cupping both hands into the stream. Yeah, 'cause that worked so well last time ya tried it. He thought disparagingly, holding his breath briefly as he washed his face.

Water blew from his lips at his faint huff of exasperation, recalling the jarring experience of seeing Rhys arise from beneath his desk at the back of the class. His stomach roiled at the reminder of his sin, his preoccupation with the younger male distracting him from the list of things he'd planned to keep on top of for Zane's sake; shaving being the most immediate, noticeable slip. "Damn, Cupcake... ya sure know how to leave an impression." He murmured lowly, staring at his reflection with narrowed eyes, as he pondered the depth of his own guilt. He drew in a steadying breath, forcing himself to stand straight as he examined himself critically, before finally exhaling with a heavy snort. "Fuck it." He huffed, turning away and walking back into his bedroom, peeling his clothes off and tossing them on the back of the chair, before flopping onto the mattress with a tired groan. "Too much shit to be dealin' with already, without feelin' guilty to boot." He sighed, tensing when his phone began to ring. For a heartbeat, he considered ignoring it, before rolling his eyes and reaching for the device despite himself, sighing in mock frustration as he leaned back into his pillows and sighed. "Whaddaya want, ya dumbass bastard?" He demanded, snickering at Zane's feigned gasp of shock.

"Eh, Jackie Boy, just 'cause ya got yaself a hot lil college boy, don't mean ya special." Zane snarked down the line, as Jack folded an arm behind his head and gazed at the ceiling distractedly, his heart twisting with guilt at the continued lie to his best friend. "What's got ya in such a grump? Kid still sick?" He asked conversationally, as Jack rolled his eyes.

"He's gettin' better, just spoke to him actually..." He replied, his voice drifting into a thoughtful silence as Zane scoffed and began to jauntily hum the traditional wedding march, causing Jack to snap from his thoughts and growl while his best friend laughed. "Aw c'mon, get ya sense of humour switched back on, Jackie... Ya been a right sourpuss while Rhys’ been sick, I dunno why ya didn't just go take care of him." He complained, as Jack sighed and frowned at the ceiling.

"Ain't that easy... he's had his friend practically stayin' over, anyway." He muttered, grimacing at the brief spark of jealousy in his heart. "I would've just been..." Revealed, caught redhanded, locked away before ya could've cursed. His thoughts helpfully supplied, as Jack stared at the ceiling with rising dejection. "In the way." He finally sighed, shaking his head briefly before his brow furrowed into a light scowl. "Why the hell are ya so damn invested in my love life anyway, ya perverted old ass?" He demanded, ignoring Zane's delighted laughter which brayed down the line at him.

"Oh god, ya really have got it bad, huh?" Zane sniggered, clearly revelling in Jack's misery. "Jeez, I dunno why ya ain't just moved him into ya apartment if ya pinin' this much, or at least given him a key of his own..." He sighed, as Jack choked and spluttered indignantly.

"What? Shit, don’t be such a dumbass, Dickface." He scoffed, running a hand through his hair distractedly as he tried his best to calm his shaken nerves. "Bit fuckin' early for that sorta crap, dont'cha think?" He asked, shaking his head as a heavy sigh escaped him. "Besides..." He began, before hesitating and biting his lip in sudden uncertainty. "I ain't... I ain't so sure we shouldn't just, call it a day." He finally muttered quickly, staring blankly at the ceiling as he felt the words cloy like tar in his gut.

An extended silence hung between them for a long pause, before Zane's loud snort of disbelief echoed down the line. "Bullshit, Jack." He huffed, though there was a hard tone of concern beneath his playful words. "Ain't no way ya as sweet on him and gonna be thinkin' to give him up." He said assuredly, as something rustled down the line. "What's got ya thinkin' that horseshit then, ya idjit? Finally realised he's outta ya league?" He asked, sniggering briefly at his own presumed hilarity, though he quickly quieted at Jack's prolonged silence. "Well, I'll be a-"

"Shut up, Dickface." Jack snarked, scowling at his ceiling irritably. "I just... I ain't sure I should be datin' a damn-" he paused, biting back the words which Zane would think nothing of, their truth known only to Jack and Rhys themselves. "I just, I think he can do better than a cynical old bastard like me. Ya know?" He explained gruffly, grimacing when Zane's first response was to laugh.

"Ya daft sod, of course he can." His best friend sniggered, clearly finding Jack's uncertainty to be hilarious. "But it ain't ya place to choose for him... He's decided, however stupidly, that he wants to give ya a chance." He continued, deftly ignoring Jack's grumbled cursing and name calling. "All ya gotta do is try not to screw it up... I know it's hard, seein' as ya such a self sabotagin' bastard, but I'm pretty sure ya already deep enough that ya don't wanna hurt him..." He said, taking Jack's grunt as agreement. "There ya are then. Stop bein' such a dumbass and just enjoy yaself for once." He said, falling silent for a heartbeat as Jack considered his advice. "Well, that and keep ya nose outta trouble, ya know; don't go startin' fights or causin' trouble in my name."

Jack winced, biting his lip guiltily as Zane snorted and laughed, unaware of Jack's turmoil over his teasing. "Uh... yeah." He coughed awkwardly, rolling his head across his pillow as guilt weighed heavy on his chest once more. "Right, well... ahem, I'll uh, try and remember that when that Coach fella inevitably pisses me off again." He muttered gruffly, scratching his cheek briefly before clearing his throat. "Well, if that's all ya wanted, I'm gonna ditch ya ugly mug for my beauty sleep." He said, his eyes narrowing at Zane's snort of derision.

"Well, I guess not everyone can be born so naturally, effortlessly perfect like me." He sighed, eliciting a sharp bark of laughter from Jack despite the turbulence of the conflicted emotions in his heart.

"Says the guy who struck out with every girl, guy or ‘other’ in that damn hospital." He scoffed in reply, shaking his head fondly at his best friends amused chuckle. "Go on, ya great idjit, before Matron comes and confiscates ya phone again." He said, rubbing his brow tiredly.

"Alright, alright ya lightweight." Zane sighed, a brief silence falling over them, before huffing a quiet chuckle. "Take care of yaself, Jackie. Be seein' ya soon." He said, ending the call with a fond snigger after Jack's noncommittal grunt.

Jack sighed wearily, returning his phone to his bedside table as he stared up at the ceiling in guilt and despondency. Ya a real piece of work Lawrence... His thoughts snarled at him, as he blinked and idly scratched at his scalp. Abusin' Zane's trust so damn much; and as for Rhys, heh... ya ain't no better than a common, petty perve- Jack grunted and rolled across his bed. Burying his face in the pillows and pretending he'd successfully smothered the annoying voice, at least for one night.

He woke the following morning to the familiar gnaw of guilt in his gut, but pushed it aside as per his habit, focusing on dressing and preparing for the last day before the weekend. He pointedly pretended he didn't notice the hopeful twitch of his heart, at the thought of seeing Rhys the following day, instead gathering his things and grabbing his car keys, before heading out for the day. His journey was smooth, his turbulent thoughts and feelings slowly settling into the monotony of his routine. His day ground to an abrupt halt however, when he walked into his class and found it already occupied. "I heard of eager beaver's before Short Stuff," he huffed, raising a brow when Rhys’ friend hurried to hop off his desk in surprise. Vaughn. His thoughts helpfully recalled, remembering Rhys’ complaints from the previous evening. "But I gotta admit, this takes the cake. Ya lost, or d'ya want help with somethin'?" He sked, moving to his desk and setting his things down, before turning his full attention to Vaughn.

"Oh, uh... S-sorry, I just... I didn't have anywhere else to go?" He said uncertainly, clearing his throat as Jack raised a brow in disbelief. "I was ready early this morning and I was gonna check on my friend, but he kicked me out because he said I was mother henning him again and he's feeling better and he had stuff to do..." He rambled quickly, as Jack snorted with amusement before he could stop himself.

"Ya buddy from the back, I'm guessin'?" He asked nonchalantly, moving to unpack his things and stack the essays he needed to return, desperately hoping his interest came across as merely professional or polite. "Been takin' care of him, have ya?" He asked despite Rhys already informing him so, his brow raising as he half turned back to Vaughn, when he scoffed darkly.

"Someone has to." He groused, surprisingly vehemently, considering his normally cheerful demeanour. "His family left town a few years back, so he doesn't really have anyone else... He's insanely independent and stuff, but he's also a lot more affected by things than he'd ever let on." He continued, seemingly oblivious of his worried ramblings, as he stared at the far desk opposite him. "He just, he needs people, ya know? Not that he'd ever admit to it or anything, but after all he's been throu-"

"Whoa there, Nerdy Guy, hold up." Jack said, raising his palm to Vaughn, drawing him to a surprised halt. "I ain't so sure ya little buddy's gonna be so thrilled if ya start givin' out his history to random folk... Even one's as distractin'ly good lookin' as me." He said, snorting at Vaughn's sudden awkward blush, despite the desperate yearning he felt to know more of Rhys’ past. Has to come from him... when he's ready. He thought briefly, his brow creasing slightly as Vaughn's chagrined expression. "I'm sure... whatever it is that happened, he's glad he has ya for his friend." He said pointedly, clearing his throat as he turned towards his desk.

"Thanks, sir... I know he is really, I just..." Vaughn sighed, before seeming to shake off his melancholy and grinned fondly instead. "He's an idiot, but I love him. I mean... totally platonically, that is. Familial love. Brotherly. I'm... gonna go sit in my chair now." Vaughn muttered awkwardly, his confidence backfiring again, though his 'teacher' hardly noticed.

Jack stood with his back to Vaughn, a worksheet clutched in his hands as he scowled at his desk. He felt the creeping tendril of jealousy in his gut, but knew he understood Rhys’ relationship with his best friend was similar to his own with Zane. I ain't damn well jealous of this little pipsqueak... He thought stubbornly, gritting his teeth and closing his eyes as he drew in a deep breath. No... Replied the cursed little voice which he thought he'd locked up within the deepest part of his heart. But ya jealous that he can say it so freely. Without thought, or judgement or doubt. Three little words and ya can't even admit 'em in the safety of ya own head, Lawrence. He grimaced, slamming the paper on the desk and unknowingly causing Vaughn to jump as he growled at his own traitorous thoughts. No, no; and some more fuckin' no. He thought gruffly, scowling as he firmly shook the thoughts away and returned to his preparations for the day.

Nine, long winded and short tempered hours later, Jack walked through his front door; grunting irritably as he slammed the door shut with his heel. His head ached, fighting and bickering with itself for the greater part of the day; before being forced to endure the Principal's general presence and following, soul destroying speech about the teacher's conference he was expected to attend the next weekend. He sighed, dumping his things unceremoniously on the table, before stomping to his kitchen for his whiskey. He poured himself a large tumbler full, before hesitating and finally shrugging his shoulders, taking a large swig from the bottle itself before replacing the lid. "Zane... ya a goddamn bastard, and I hate ya bloody guts." He complained, scowling as he scrubbed his hands over his face tiredly. He sighed, returning to the living room and setting his glass down in the table, debating briefly before reluctantly sorting through the days papers and essays. He grumbled to himself, as he set to his task of grading, reminding himself often not to use sarcasm in his comments. He worked diligently for several hours, before finally throwing his pen down with a scowl and rising to his feet.

He walked to the bathroom, relieving himself and freshening up, before heading to the kitchen to find something which might vaguely pass as edible. Probably oughta take Rhys’ advice, and actually start buyin' some more handy grub. He thought with a sigh, as his search turned up little to his satisfaction. "Fuck it." He groused, slamming his fridge closed and grabbing his phone, on his way back to the living room. He scrolled through his contacts, sipping his whiskey as he leaned against the table, before finally finding the familiar number he was after and tapping the green call button.

The sound of knocking at his door caused him to groan, a deep sigh of irritation escaping him as he turned to glare at the door. "Not interested in whatever ya sellin'." He called to the knocker, who only seemed to redouble their efforts. "Can't ya take a hint, asshole?" He asked, scowling at the door in rising frustration. "I said piss off, already!"

When the knocking continued ever persistently, Jack swore under his breath, ending the call to his favourite take away and pushing away from the edge of the table. He strode towards the door with a snarl curling his lips, throwing open the door with more force than was strictly necessary. "Look, ya goddamn pain in the ass," he snarked, leaning against his doorway. "I had a really fuckin' bad day, so unless ya want-" he paused, raising a brow at the person on his doorstep, surrounded by carrier bags. "What'sa matter, lose ya way to a fancy dress party?" He snorted, eyeing the leather pants which laced up at the side, revealing a strip of blue jeans beneath. A t-shirt with a man riding a diamond pony was half covered by a matching leather jacket, with laces and tassels abundant. Jack couldn't help but shake his head at the wild mess of tangled black hair, topped with a miniature top hat; or the giant sunglasses which covered most of the weirdo's face. "Lemme guess, Slade, right?" He sniggered, spreading his palms as he moved to grip the edge of his door. "Sorry pal, wrong door. Good luck winnin' first place though." He snorted, moving to close his door, when a hand shot out and held it open.

"So..." A low voice coughed awkwardly, as the stranger reached up to lower their sunglasses slightly. "Can I at least drop these groceries off..?" They asked, as Jack blinked in surprise. "'Cause they're really heavy, and I don't particularly wanna carry them all the way to the bus stop with them, Handsome."

"What the-" Jack choked, shaking his head as Rhys’ amused eyes peered at him over the sunglasses, as he bit his lip nervously. "Jesus Christ! What the bloody hell are ya-" he began, only for Rhys to quickly interrupt him.

"Okay, if you're gonna yell at me, can you let me in first? I would really like to get all this stuff off me..." Rhys said, sliding his sunglasses back into place and moving to collect his stack of shopping bags. Jack cursed quietly and grabbed the bags before Rhys could, blinking in surprise at their hefty weight.

"What the bloody hell is in here?" He demanded, frowning as he stepped back to admit Rhys to his apartment, before kneeing the door closed behind him. "Rhys, what the hell is all this..? What the heck are ya doin' here? I thought ya were supposed to be takin' it easy-" Jack quizzed rapidly, as he walked through to the kitchen and dumped the bags on the counter.

"I have taken it so easy, I have been practically horizontal for the past twenty hours." Rhys scoffed, as Jack walked back to the kitchen doorway and frowned, watching Rhys plucked the miniature hat from the wild hair, which he then carefully peeled from his head; revealing his familiar short brown curls with a shake of his head. "Honestly, I think if I spent a minute longer locked away in my flat, I might have gone totally crazy." He huffed, oblivious of Jack's disbelieving gaze running over him. "I admit, I didn't exactly plan to go so nuts with the shopping," he continued, pulling the leather jacket from his arms and hanging it on the back of the front door. "But, I wanted to make sure I would have plenty to work with, and still leave you fully stocked." He said, unbuckling the leather trousers and rolling them down over his jeans. "Oh, god... it's so good to get that stuff off." He sighed gratefully, smiling as he folded them and placed them in a carrier bag with the wig and hat, setting it all by the door as Jack quietly walked over to him. "Anyway, did you want me to start-"

"Rhys." Jack said, catching Rhys’ arm as he turned away and drawing him back to face him. He searched Rhys’ face, shaking his head slightly in confusion as he tried to swallow past the strange, thick lump which had formed in his throat. "Rhys, what’re ya doin' here?" He asked, his thumb sweeping across Rhys’ cheekbone as he unconsciously cupped his face in his palm.

"Cooking you dinner?" Rhys replied, his cheeks staining with a pretty blush that was almost enough to make Jack disregard every promise he made himself about not giving in to temptation again. "Um, Vaughn stopped by after school... He said, you seemed to have a rough day." He admitted quietly, his eyes lowering briefly, uncertainty clouding his gaze when he raised them again. "I just... wanted to help?" He said, biting his lip as he fidgeted and shifted his weight awkwardly. "I-I'm sorry, if I..." He began, drawing a quick breath as Jack's throat tightened, gazing at Rhys as if he were some impossible puzzle he couldn't work out. "I can go again. I mean, you've got the- hmpf!"

Jack couldn't pinpoint the force which drove him to kiss Rhys, his only explanation that he simply had no words to adequately convey his feelings on Rhys’ thoughtful consideration. He felt Rhys’ hands flutter uncertainly against his shoulders, before smoothing over his chest, his surprised hum melting into a quiet moan. His lips expressed through gentle brushes, what his voice could not with words. His own hand slid from Rhys’ cheek to the back of his neck, drawing him closer as he arched against him. Several languid minutes passed, his desire never flinching, only wishing to share the depth of his affection and gratitude. When he slowly withdrew, it was to find Rhys blinking at him in dazed affection, his brow creasing slowly as Jack huffed quietly and broke out in an awed grin. "Ya somethin' else..." He murmured, shaking his head slowly as he slid his hand forward again and lightly trailed his fingers over Rhys’ cheek. "Ya know that, right?"

"I... I've heard it said." Rhys mumbled, his blush spreading down his throat as he toyed with Jack's dog tags and peeked up at him from beneath his lashes. "Um, not that I'm complaining, or anything, but... uh, what... was that for..?" He asked, as his lips curved into a goofy grin. "And to reiterate, not complaining... because I would definitely, definitely be down for more of that." He added, his arms rising around Jack's shoulders to thread into the hair at the nape of his neck. "Like, a lot more. As often as you like... or possibly even more."

"Heh, ya ain't the only one." Jack admitted quietly, shaking his head as he drew in a deep breath and tried to smother the irritating little voice, trying to snag his attention from the back of his mind. "I just... I ain't ever had someone be so damn thoughtful for me before. It uh, it kinda took me by surprise... Seein' ya there, surrounded by all that-"

"Oh my god, the shopping!" Rhys gasped, dodging around Jack so quickly he almost thought he had whiplash. "I need to get my frozen stuff in the freezer, before it thaws!" Rhys muttered urgently, opening Jack's freezer and frowning at the few microwave meals he saw, momentarily distracted from his task. "Really?!" He demanded, raising a brow as he scowled at Jack, as if personally offended by his lack of decent food. Jack shrugged dismissively, a small grin curling his lips as Rhys snorted and pulled the frozen meals from the freezer, tossing them in the bin with obvious disdain. "Clearly, I'm going to have to do all your shopping for you in future." He sniffed, as he stuffed a tray of pork chops, three tubs of ice cream and a whole joint of beef into the freezer, before closing the entire thing and rubbing his brow as if pained. "I can't believe you had that garbage in there..." He sighed, as Jack's heart did a strange flip in his chest.

“Hey, ain’t nothin’ wrong with ‘em...” Jack protested, though his teasing was as much for Rhys’ obvious frustration than any real fondness of the ready meals, hiding a smirk when Rhys shot him an irritated glare. “Sometime’s a fella’s just gotta have somethin’ quick to hand, ya know?” He huffed, folding his arms over his chest and leaning against the doorframe, watching curiously as Rhys continued to unpack his excessive shopping.

“I can’t believe you actually ate those things... they’re tasteless gravel.” Rhys complained darkly, as he quickly stocked Jack’s fridge with greens, meats, eggs and other various products. “Honestly, it’s like you have no taste...” He muttered, as Jack grinned, his brows raising in amusement as he listened to him rant. “Well, except of course that you’re dating me, so it’s not like you’re totally tasteless.” He conceded, as Jack snorted at his blatant self flattery.  He watched as Rhys bustled about his kitchen, storing various items in cupboards until he’d ultimately decided that his shopping was satisfactorily put away. “Okay,” he finally sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he turned towards Jack with an eager grin. “Now we can get to the fun part... what would you like for dinner? Your very first, Piece de La Rhys?” He asked, snickering at his own sense of humour.

“I dunno, pretty sure I had two Rhys’ Pieces already...” Jack drawled, snickering at Rhys’ immediate blush and laughing outright at the finger which he raised in a rude gesture towards him. “...Surprise me.” Jack finally said quietly, his lips curled into a small grin as Rhys pouted at him. “Ya good at that. Besides, I trust ya culinary skills...” He said lightly, shrugging his shoulders as Rhys blushed, his eyes lowering as he bit his lips to hide a grin. Jack’s smirk grew, unable to resist the opportunity. “Seein’ as ya don’t seemed to have poisoned yaself yet, and all.” He added, laughing when Rhys rolled his eyes and grabbed a dishcloth, which he threw at Jack’s head. “Hey!” He sniggered, walking over and re-hanging the small towel.

“Don’t act all injured.” Rhys snarked, pouting faintly as he moved to the fridge and began looking through things thoughtfully. “You totally deserved that for being so sweet and then being so... you, right afterwards.” He snorted, though his smile never faltered, belying his true feelings on Jack’s teasing. “I guess I can start with... Spaghetti, for tonight?” He asked, looking over to Jack with a raised brow, biting his lip in uncertainty. “It’ll be quick, which is good because it’s already fairly late...”

“Relax, Cupcake...” Jack replied with a chuckle, nodding his agreement to Rhys’ suggestion and leaning back against the counter to watch. “I ain’t really fussy when it comes to food... so long’s its edible, ya probably on a winner.” He said, his brows raising when Rhys began to laugh at his comment.

“Oh, so I can make scampi instead then?” He asked teasingly, a knowing grin on his lips as he gathered an onion, tomatoes, peppers and courgette together on the side. He laughed when Jack immediately grimaced, turning away with a sneer. “Oh my god, what do you have against scampi?!” He demanded, shaking his head as he made quick work of peeling and chopping his onion.

“Ain’t got nothin’ against nothin’...” Jack groused petulantly, peeking back at Rhys with noticeably darkened cheeks. “But lil pink aliens on a plate? Pfft, don’t think so. Even if ya cover ‘em in breadcrumbs and shit, I ain’t givin’ those little bastards a chance to break outta my chest.” He grumbled, shaking his head as Rhys paused amid his tomato chopping, laughing too hard to dare use the sharp knife. “Just ‘cause they’re good at playin’ dead! I ain’t buyin’ it...” He said, his heart lightening at the sound of Rhys’ carefree laughter.

“Oh my god!” He gasped, moving to wipe his eyes free of the tears of laughter which had formed, before remembering the onion he’d chopped. He hesitated, waving his hand before his face as he desperately tried to calm himself. “Oh..!” He choked, sucking in a slow, unsteady breath. He hummed urgently, pressing the back of his hand to his mouth and biting softly as he held his breath; as Jack rolled his eyes, but couldn’t find it in himself to be offended by Rhys’ obvious amusement. “Oh... I can’t believe you just compared scampi to the Xenomorph...” He gasped, visibly struggling to keep from devolving into giggles once again. “Oooh...” He sighed, shaking his head and clearing his throat, as he went back to his preparations.

“Hey, ya do as ya like Cupcake, but I ain’t lettin’ those damn critters near me.” Jack groused, watching as Rhys shook his head fondly and sniggered quietly, his attention mostly absorbed in the quick chopping of his various ingredients. They lulled into a brief silence, the air comfortable and content around them, as Rhys smiled and worked on his preparations. “So... where’d ya learn to do all this? School?” He finally asked, wincing slightly at the mention of the school, but brushing off the guilt which tried to rise; too absorbed with watching Rhys work so effortlessly.

“Hmm, a little.” Rhys said evasively, falling silent again as Jack watched his fingers move carefully out of the way of the knife he was using. “I...” He said, pausing and swallowing thickly, as he grabbed a large frying pan and placed it on the hob and turning on the heat, while simultaneously grabbing a medium sauce pan and half filling it with water. Jack watched curiously, his amusement slowly fading as he sensed Rhys’ struggle. “I used to cook when I was younger...” He said haltingly, peeking over at Jack briefly, before lowering his eyes to the frying pan, dropping his onions into the pan with a satisfying hiss; the aroma of cooking onions erupting into the air around them. “F-for me and my... my little brother.” He finally said in a rush, as Jack’s brows shot up on his brow, watching Rhys as his cheeks reddened and he pointedly avoided looking up.

“Hmm...” Jack hummed quietly, moving closer as he tried to sweep the sudden nervous tension from the air. He stepped up behind Rhys, hesitating briefly before wrapping an arm around his waist and setting his chin on his shoulder, pleased when Rhys seemed to relax slightly and take comfort from his touch. “Sounds like ya enjoyed it. Big age difference?” He asked gently, his curiosity undeniably spiking at the revelation, though he did his best to stomp it down; remembering Rhys’ previous hesitancy when it came to his past and family.

“... Not huge.” Rhys said quietly, his movements noticeably slower as he sucked in a deep, unsteady breath. “He’d be fifteen now.” He hummed thoughtfully, as Jack nuzzled at the hair just behind his ear, offering gentle comfort through the obviously difficult topic. “I...” Rhys tried to say more, but Jack felt him tense within his hold, and he immediately began to shush him gently.

“Easy... ‘S okay.” He assured quietly, his lips brushing Rhys’ brow as he leaned back against Jack briefly, half turning and closing his eyes tightly as he accepted the offer of soothing and comfort. “I got ya.” He promised lowly, his lips dipping to skim Rhys’ briefly, before he chafed his arm gently and urged him back to his frying ingredients. “Look, Cupcake... not that I ain’t touched that ya opened up and told me about him, but what brought all this on? I thought ya family, ya past weren’t somethin’ ya really wanted to go into...” He said quietly, squeezing Rhys’ shoulder gently.

Rhys sighed, clearing his throat as he looked down at the pan and added a large pack of meat to his onions, slowing frying it as he took his time to think before answering. “Vaughn told me he spoke to you this morning...” He said at last, his words coming slow as he seemed to choose them carefully. “He told me about... how he started-“ he paused, tensing briefly as Jack rubbed at his arm encouragingly. “He said he started to say things, a-about me... but, you stopped him.” He finally said, turning towards Jack and eyeing him with a confused frown. “Why did you do that?” He asked, as if he couldn’t understand what motive Jack might have had to prevent Vaughn from revealing the things he’d hinted at wanting to know.

Jack hesitated, drawing in a slow breath and exhaling it even slower. “Ya made it clear that ya past makes ya uncomfortable, Cupcake.” He finally sighed, meeting Rhys’ warm brown gaze with his own mismatched orbs, as he tried to convey the sincerity behind his words. “Now, I ain’t gonna lie, I wanna know what the slag’s gone on; if only so I know who’s goddamn neck I need to wring so damn much... but, if it don’t come from you, then it shouldn’t come from anyone.” He said, snorting quietly at the surprise which flashed through Rhys’ eyes. “Rhys, if ya don’t wanna talk about ya past, I won’t make ya... I wanna know, because I think ya got a lotta shit stuck in ya head that ain’t true; and I can’t help ya get rid of it, unless ya tell me what put it there... but if ya can’t well,” he said, spreading his palms briefly, before wrapping them around Rhys again. “Then I’ll just have to deal with not knowin’.” He said simply, shrugging his shoulders dismissively.

For a long pause, Rhys remained quiet, his eyes lowering to the frying pan with his browned mince as Jack stepped back, allowing him to strain off the fat into a small empty pot, before setting it on a different ring briefly and turning to hug Jack tightly. “I...” He choked, clearly overwhelmed by emotion as Jack rubbed his back soothingly, frowning in concern as he held him tightly. “I’m sorry, it’s just... I don’t think anyone has ever...” He gasped, burying his tearful face in Jack’s shoulder. “... Thankyou.” He whispered, as Jack’s frown intensified, though he said nothing to press for any further details.

“Hey, no tears on my t-shirt, ya hear?” He demanded softly, his semi-playful tone drawing a chuckle from Rhys as he raised his head from Jack’s shoulder, smiling at Jack in shy gratitude and relief. “That’s better...” He hummed, wiping the remaining tears away with his thumb, as Rhys leaned his cheek into his palm briefly, before turning back to his cooking. “Now, c’mon, Cupcake,” he said teasingly, smirking as he leaned his chin on Rhys’ shoulder again and pointed to his creation. “Grub ain’t gonna cook itself, ya know?” He snickered, as Rhys rolled his eyes and swatted his shoulder playfully, his lips twitching with amusement as he picked up where he left off.

Jack made himself useful for the remainder of Rhys’ cooking, distracting him from their brief conversation as he asked various questions about ingredients or teased Rhys about his questionable dance skills, as she shuffled and shimmied before the hob with a proud smile. The meal itself was quick to cook, as Rhys promised, and Jack grabbed two plates from his cupboard and set them on the side; wisely standing out of the way to allow Rhys to serve as he saw fit. “Uh, kinda seems like there’s more than we’re gonna be able to eat, Cupcake...” He hummed, eyeing the copious amount of remaining food in the frying pan. He raised a brow and glanced at Rhys, running his eyes over him as he smirked knowingly, fully anticipating whatever teasing comment he thought up. “I know ya a growin’ boy and all, but this seems kinda excessive, ya know?”

Rhys snorted and shook his head, turning to look at Jack fondly. “You really are an idiot.” He huffed, rolling his eyes as he carried the two plates to the table in the living room; which Jack had hastily cleared of his work mess for them. “Once it’s cooled down, I’ll separate it into portions and freeze in the tubs I bought.” He said, grinning as he added a handful of grated cheese to each plate. “Here ya go... try telling me that it’s not worth skipping those dumb burgers you keep scoffing down.” He sniggered smugly, sat at the table and grabbed his fork, taking a delicate bite as his eyes eagerly watched Jack for his reaction.

Jack sat opposite him, his expression smug as he picked up his fork and scooped a small amount of Rhys’ creation, narrowing his eyes at him in playful suspicion. “And no aliens..?” He asked, grinning when Rhys choked and laughed, before finally eating the first forkful. He blinked, looking back down at the plate in surprise, before looking back at Rhys, who’s noticeably pink cheeks spoke of his shyness; despite the proud, even smug gleam in his eyes. “Holy shit, Cupcake...” He huffed, shaking his head briefly as he eyed Rhys with a new sense of awe. “Ya never stop surprisin’, do ya?” He asked, clicking his tongue thoughtfully as he felt once more; the rising surge of his emotions.

“So, it’s okay then?” Rhys asked, smirking as Jack rolled his eyes and began to eat with almost alarming velocity, the good food making him keenly aware of how late it was and how little he’d eaten in the day. “Hmm, just as well. You have like, four more portions of this.” He snickered, taking another delicate bite as he watched Jack all but inhale his serving. “But... something tells me portions are not gonna be much help for you.” He teased playfully, shaking his head as Jack ignored him and ravenously devoured his helping.

The meal passed quickly, with only muted comments of praise as and when Jack remembered. Soon enough, the plates were clean and even washed, and Jack watched with curiosity as Rhys separated the remaining meat into four containers. “So, is this whole feedin’ people a thing ya do then?” Jack asked, a soft smile on his face as he watched Rhys sort and store his creation, before taking the pan and cleaning it; leaving it to dry overnight on his draining board.

“Just the idiots who, apparently, can’t feed themselves.” Rhys quipped easily, a small yawn escaping him as he sighed and closed the freezer door. “That’d be you and Vaughn, if you were wondering.” He snorted, smiling at Jack lopsidedly as the elder swept him into a one armed embrace. “Hmm...” He hummed happily, leaning into Jack’s chest for a time, before reluctantly pulling away. “I should probably head hom-“

“Don’t be so fuckin’ stupid, Rhysie.” Jack sighed, rolling his eyes as he shooed Rhys through his apartment to the bathroom. “Ya stayin’ tomorrow anyway, right? Might as well just stay tonight now, too.” He snorted, shaking his head fondly as Rhys blushed and looked down at his feet briefly.

“I... I don’t have any clothes.” Rhys muttered, toying with Jack’s dog tags as he peeked up at him through his lashes. Jack fought to keep the rising heat from his face, pretending he didn’t immediately imagine Rhys in all his beautiful glory without clothing. “I didn’t think... I was so focused on the shopping, I just-“

“Don’t worry about it, Cupcake...” Jack said quietly, squeezing his shoulder gently. “Just... sleep as is tonight and we’ll work somethin’ out tomorrow, ‘kay?” He offered, as Rhys yawned again. “Hey,” he said abruptly, capturing Rhys’ chin with his thumb and index finger. “Thanks for all this, Cupcake... ya didn’t have to,” he said, ignoring the rapid thud of his heart as he hesitated briefly. “But I’m glad ya did.” He finally admitted, noticing the shift in the back of his mind as a sense of giddy resignation swept through him. He grinned lopsidedly, the panic and guilt he was used to noticeably dulling as he sighed and hesitantly leaned to meet Rhys in a sweet, chaste kiss.

“Hmm...” Rhys hummed, his eyelashes brushing his cheeks briefly, before he opened his eyes and smiled at Jack shyly. “For kisses like that, I’ll cook as much as you want.” He mumbled, snickering softly as Jack rolled his eyes and kissed him again.

“Help yaself to whatever ya want...  ya know where it all is now.” Jack said when he pulled back, sadly only a few short heartbeats later. “Make yaself at home and I’ll... uh, I’ll see ya in the mornin’.” He murmured quietly, stepping away and leaving Rhys to lean against the bathroom door, a beautiful blush adorning his cheeks as he gazed at Jack with a faintly confused but clearly happy expression. Jack saluted him roughly, relishing Rhys’ laugh before he disappeared into the bathroom, as Jack quietly closed his bedroom door between them; leaning against the heavy wood for a moment and closing his eyes as he gathered his nerve.

“I’m so fucked.” He sighed, scrubbing his hands over his face tiredly, finally covering his mouth as he peered across the room unseeingly. This is all gonna end in tears, Lawrence. He thought, as he finally forced himself off the door and walked slowly into his small en suite. Ya an idiot, a prize idiot! He told himself firmly, splashing his face with some cold water, before staring at his reflection dazedly. Ya’d think I’d look different. He thought absently, watching himself as he went about his basic nightly routine, trying to assess himself critically.

Finally he shook his head and walked back into his bedroom, stripping off his t-shirt and tossing his jeans on a chair, before sliding between the sheets, pretending his ears weren’t straining to pick up any slight sounds from Rhys. So, ya weren’t content just bein’ an idiot, Lawrence... ya had to go and one up yaself. He thought, snorting quietly at his ceiling, as he rest one arm behind his head and allowed the niggling voice in the back of his mind free reign; acknowledging and finally accepting the fact which he’d tried so hard to ignore and repress. Could’ve just let this all go as a bad mistake, but nah... He thought, though he couldn’t bring himself to even sound scornful in his own head, too lost in the heart warming dizziness which Rhys inspired in him. Nope; Jack Lawrence don’t do easy. Naw, Jack Lawrence goes and falls in love with underage boys. He thought, sighing as the feeling in his chest finally voiced itself; unable to deny it after spending the evening feeling so relaxed by the younger man. So, oh wondrous one... what the hell do ya do now? He wondered, though to this Jack had no response. Instead he stared at his ceiling, and wondered distantly what other reluctant epiphany’s the weekend might bring.

 

Chapter Text

Re-Write The Stars.

Baggy Trousers.

 

Rhys hummed to himself as he pulled a clean t-shirt over his head, as he stared straight through his reflection, instead replaying some of his favourite memories from the previous weekend. He sighed, recalling the various dishes he'd made throughout the days, enjoying the time he'd spent cooking with Jack either watching, 'helping' or just talking with him the entire time. They'd covered countless subjects, from birthday's to embarrassing stories, to the various places they'd travelled to. Although in truth, Jack did most of the talking.. . He thought guiltily, biting his lip as he smoothed his t-shirt distractedly. I wasn't exactly that open, after revealing about- he shook his head, pushing the guilt aside as his lips twitched with fond affection. No... he was so happy, just from me trusting him enough to tell him I even had a brother. After that, he kept the conversation going, even if it was just asking about whatever I was cooking at the time. He thought, sighing as he tried to drag himself from his thoughts and memories. He blinked and finally noticed what he was wearing, wrinkling his nose as he pulled his top over his head again.

"I may be distracted by thoughts of a certain, handsome teacher right now... But I am not distracted enough to wear that monstrosity." He sniffed, pouting as he inspected the remaining clothes he had in his wardrobe. "Urgh, why is everything I wear just so..." He complained, pursing his lips as his temper began to sizzle. " Urgh !" He growled, throwing his arms in the air and stalking away briefly, pacing at the other end of his bedroom. He finally forced himself to stop, gritting his teeth as he tapped his foot to the floor irritably . I don't even want to go to this stupid party ... He realised with startling clarity, his breath leaving him in a mildly amused huff. "I wanna be with Jack." He murmured quietly, a soft smile on his lips as he shook his head fondly. He hummed and turned back to his wardrobe, approaching slowly and barely looking through, before pulling out the dark blue shirt Jack had bought him. He grinned, pulling the top over his head and examining himself in the mirror. "Not too shabby, Cupcake." He drawled, snickering to himself with a lopsided grin, a fond sigh escaping him as he shook his head and tugged the shirt off again; instead grabbing a plain white dress shirt and doing it up quickly, rolling up his sleeves as he scrutinised himself before he dug his phone from his pocket and allowed himself to flop back on his bed with a small bounce.

Rhys narrowed his eyes, opening his messages and scrolling through the gifs folder, finally settling on a smiling shrimp waving its many legs in an excited greeting. He snorted, smirking and attaching a short message. Hey, Handsome, hope my little pink friend doesn't spook you! He sent, snickering at the older man’s expected expression. Just wanted to wish you luck! I heard those teacher convention things suck at the best of times, let alone when you're only pretending to be one! He added as a second message, littering emoji's throughout to emphasize his various comments. He grinned and spread his arms out across the bed, chuckling to himself as he imagined Jack's grumpy reaction.

"Dude, what is taking you so damn long?!" Vaughn called through the door, his frustration clear in his tone. "So help me, if you're jerking off when I open this door..." He threatened weakly, as Rhys turned his head towards the door, an amused smirk on his lips as his bedroom door slowly opened and Vaughn poked his head around.

"You know, one day you're gonna do that and I'll have a dick in my... well, somewhere, anyway." Rhys snorted, laughing at Vaughn's horrified expression. "Hey, if you don't want to see the show; don't go opening doors which are closed." He snickered, rolling his eyes as he sighed and propped himself up on his arms. "Well, not in my apartment anyway." He laughed, winking at Vaughn for good measure.

"You know, sometimes I wonder why we're even friends..." Vaughn whined, grimacing as he walked fully into Rhys’ bedroom and threw his best friend a reproachful look. "I really hate you, Rhys." He complained petulantly, throwing himself face first onto Rhys’ duvet.

"You love me." Rhys snickered smugly, grinning at his friend fondly. He flopped back on the bed again to lay beside Vaughn, as he ruffled his hair and laughed when he raised his head to scowl at Rhys in frustration. "Also, you should really be more aware of just where you throw yourself... I mean, I know I keep the place clean but if I had just been-"

"Oh my god !" Vaughn cried, rolling aside with a grimace of disgust. "Rhys, I just... I can't even, urgh !" He complained, ignoring Rhys’ raucous laughter as he pouted at his clearly amused friend. "You're the worst. You know that, right?" He demanded, rolling his eyes as he  smoothed his hair back into place.

"And yet, you won't just give up on me." Rhys huffed, grinning lopsidedly as Vaughn glared back at him an affronted scowl which lasted for all of thirty seconds, before his brow furrowed and he frowned at Rhys instead. 

"Of course I don't." He said, folding his arms over his chest and walking around the bed to his friend, who watched him with a semi amused, lopsided grin. " Never ." He added firmly, offering his hand to Rhys to help him from the bed. "I'd have nobody to complain about then..." He added, his frown clearing into a goofy grin as Rhys snorted and accepted his hand; rising and scooping his friend into a brief but affectionate hug.

"Dude, you are so gay sometimes." Rhys snickered, shaking his head as they parted and turning to scoop up his phone. "Honestly, for someone who hates going out so much, you are crazy into going to this stupid house party." He snarked dryly, opening a reply from Jack and smirking when he saw the mans various grumblings and threats. "Such a scampi-phobe." He murmured fondly, sending a winking emoji in reply before locking his phone and stuffing it into his pocket.

"Dude, you are such a sap now you're all... 'in a relationship' status and stuff." Vaughn snorted, his expression softening as he watched Rhys happily finish getting ready. "Honestly dude, it's awesome to see." He added, as Rhys made exaggerated gagging noises and rolled his eyes, looking over at him with a crooked grin. "Well it is! It's been ages since I saw you smile like that and actually mean it." He said, his eyes flashing with pain as Rhys’ gaze softened.

"Hmm... well, I haven't exactly had much reason to smile like this in awhile, but... he just makes me happy, I guess." He said, shrugging his shoulders dismissively, smirking as he threw his arm around Vaughn's shoulders and ruffled his hair playfully. "Now, enough of all this emotion and bonding chick flick shit... Let's get you to this party you're so obviously eager to get to." He said, snickering when Vaughn blushed and pouted at him.

"Assbutt…" he complained, righting his hair again quickly while Rhys laughed. "Stop fucking with my hair, or I'm gonna paint yours green while you sleep. Right before you go see your hot, totally not-a-boyfriend again." He grumbled petulantly, grimacing as Rhys spun them around and led Vaughn out into his living room.

"Honestly, I think he'd just find it funny." Rhys said fondly, thinking of the sense of humour Jack and Zane seemed to share. "So, nice try and all… oh!" He said as they reached the door, snagging his spare key and shoving it into Vaughn's hands. "Just incase." He said with a cocky wink, as Vaughn rolled his eyes and grimaced.

"I really hate you, Rhys…" he sighed, stuffing the key into his pocket as Rhys pulled open his front door.

"You love me!" He cried cheerfully, plastering a smacking kiss to Vaughn's cheek and laughing as he ushered him out the door. They jostled each other playfully as they trotted down the stairs, bantering fondly and heading out the main entrance; where they turned left and headed through the town toward their destination. As they drew closer, Rhys’ participation in their teasing banter began to taper off, his steps noticeably slowing as they reached the corner of the street where they were headed.

"Hey," Vaughn said, noticing Rhys’ growing hesitance and biting his lip as he glanced up the street ahead of them. "Dude, wait." He called, his hand rising to Rhys’ elbow and drawing him to a halt beside him. "Look, I didn't think this through too well... we can just go back to yours and chill with Ben Evans-" he said, trailing off when Rhys snorted and rolled his eyes.

"Vaughn, you're such a dork sometimes, I swear." He huffed, shaking his head and ruffling Vaughn's hair with a smirk. "It's fine, okay. I mean, yeah it's kind of weird being in snootyville again, but I'm fine." He said, shrugging his shoulder negligently and stepping around his friend. He glanced back to find Vaughn worrying his lip and he rolled his eyes again as he sighed in exasperation. "Dude, seriously; I'm fine! Okay?" He insisted, frowning as he ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "What, you think I'm gonna freak out because of a dumb location ? I'm fine, okay? Fine !" He huffed, turning around and stuffing his hands in his jeans pockets, striding purposely down the street. "We come to August's party every year, why the hell would I suddenly start being bothered by it now?" He asked waspishly, glancing sideways at Vaughn when his friend trotted to catch up with him.

"Right, fine yeah… I'm so getting that whole fine vibe, right now." Vaughn coughed awkwardly, shaking his head as he nudged Rhys’ side. "You realise you just stomped your way past August's place then I suppose, mister fine ?" He asked innocently, drawing to a halt as he grinned knowingly at Rhys when he too stopped abruptly.

He frowned, turning around and biting the inside of his cheek when he saw August's house was indeed now a short distance behind them. "I was just testing you." He sniffed, folding his arms over his chest and pursing his lips, deliberately avoiding his best friends incredulous stare. "Honestly Vaughn, you're just so determined to pick a figh-"

"Don't. Even. Try . It." Vaughn scolded firmly, as Rhys winced and looked down at his feet, scuffing his toe against the pavement as he frowned. "We've been friends too long, Rhys. You can't shut me out like you can everyone else." He said reproachfully, as Rhys sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes. "I mean it assbutt. So deal with it; because it doesn't matter how much of a total prick you act, I'm not gonna rise to your bait and I'm not going anywhere." He said stubbornly, folding his arms over his chest and raising a brow in thoughtful consideration. "... except maybe your couch with your homemade, alcoholic cookie stash. Now, let's go. Sooner we get back to yours, the sooner we can-"

"No." Rhys said, sighing as he ran a hand through his hair. Get a grip, Rhys… every year we come and every year I act like an ass as soon as we cross the clear divide between 'town' and 'snob town'. He thought guiltily, as he cleared his throat and gestured towards August's house. "There's free booze and food, right there. Let me save at least a few hundred dollars by feeding you August's snobbish junk food first." He said, the corner of his lip lifting in a crooked grin, the barest hint of an apology. Put aside all the drama and just have fun with Vaughn… and at least I can keep talking to Jack this year. That will distract me . He added, his grin growing more pronounced as he sauntered innocently past Vaughn. "Besides, maybe there's some hot stud I can introduce you to in there. Maybe get some stretch and flexibility out of that V-card of yours…" he mused, as Vaughn blanched and elbowed him hard.

"Sh-shut up!" He stammered, as Rhys laughed and jostled him back, grinning fondly as Vaughn flushed a deep beetroot red. "My V-card is staying just as it is, thankyou very much! I feel like its dirty enough just by knowing you…" he groused petulantly, pouting as they turned onto August's driveway and strolled up to the front door together.

"Hey," Rhys hummed, gesturing towards a fountain in the garden. "Isn't that new? I'm sure they used to have one of those creepy, topiary horse things there… you know, with the glowing red eyes and the-" he trailed off with a snicker as Vaughn elbowed him in the side, shaking his head in exasperation despite the grin on his face at Rhys’ idiocy.

"August had the entirely normal topiaries torn out over the summer." He said flippantly, smirking at the fact that he knew more than Rhys about something for once. "He said this inspired 'a more natural and pleasing aesthetic within the garden'." He said, emphasising heavily with slow air quotations. "Personally I think he just got bored and wanted to waste some more of his new stepdads money to get his attention." He added with an inelegant snort.

Rhys rolled his eyes and shook his head fondly as Vaughn laughed, his gaze wandering back to the fountain; where a pair of goggles draped over an impressive hat. Gee, I wonder if there's more to that than meets the eye, August. He thought, snickering at himself as he waved off Vaughn's curiously raised brow. For someone so private, he sure makes things obvious sometimes… and yet nobody notices! He thought sulkily, pouting as he sighed with frustration. I only have to damn well sneeze and the whole stupid town is all over it . He huffed, shaking his head in an attempt to clear his melancholy. " Hmmm.. " he sighed as his thoughts drifted away from the sour topic, wondering what Jack might be up to at his 'teacher convention' and snickering fondly as he imagined his secret lovers frustration.

"Urgh, you're doing it again." Vaughn complained playfully, nudging his shoulder with a grin as they approached the front door to Kincaid Manor.

"What?" Rhys blurted, blinking as he came back to reality abruptly. "Doing what? I'm not doing anything…" he complained, pouting at Vaughn and nudging him back much harder than his best friend had first playfully jabbed at him.

"Dude, no offence; but you totally are." Vaughn scoffed, snorting inelegantly as Rhys scowled at him. "You're doing the whole, 'wistful sigh of the wayward lov-' hey! Uh, ow! " Vaughn pouted as Rhys rolled his eyes and lowered his hand from where he'd swatted his best friend around the ear, his cheeks stained with a faint red glow of embarrassment. "Hey, just because I have some way to mock you for once, does not mean you can abuse me for it!" Vaughn complained, though the laughter in his tone and the sparkle of mischief in his eyes told Rhys his reaction was only fuelling his friends amusement.

"Shut up, assbutt." Rhys huffed, stuffing his hands in his pockets with a petulant pout, as he nudged Vaughn to knock on August's front door with his elbow.  "C'mon already… you're missing the 'oh so important party' you were so eager to get to." He groused sulkily, sticking his tongue out in childish exasperation, before breaking out in giggles with his best friend a moment later.

"You're such an idjit." Vaughn sighed, shaking his head in fond, feigned dejection. "Why the hell do I let myself be associated with you, assbutt?" He wondered in playful thoughtfulness. 

"Wild guess here," Rhys snorted, rolling his eyes at his best friends weirdly vibrant attitude. "But probably for the food." He snickered, as August pulled open the front door for them. "Hey August," he greeted, winking and saluting with two mocking fingers raised to his brow; his heart lightening at the reminder of Jack's regular gestures to him. "Thanks for the invite. I brought you a Vaughn." He said cheerfully, brandishing his arms toward Vaughn as if performing a magic trick, while his friend blushed and shoved at him.

August gave a long suffering sigh and rolled his eyes, pulling the door open wider to admit them. "Rhys." The blond boy sneered, closing the door behind them after they'd entered the manor. "Your feeble joke grows more amusing each and every year." He said, shaking his head as he folded his arms over his chest, his lip curling with the barest twitch of a pained smile.

"Careful August," Rhys warned, winking over his shoulder playfully as he turned and began to saunter down the hall. "One of these years, that's gonna be a full blown smile you give me." He teased, smirking when August snorted and walked away without commenting further. "Ah well, maybe next year." Rhys mused indifferently, pulling his phone from his pocket and opening his messages. Made it to the party… hope your Teacher Convention is as much fun! He typed into a new text, lifting his phone to snap a picture of August's dining room; laden with alcohol and the kind of rich people food which Rhys knew Jack would despise as much as he did himself, adding the attachment to his message with a smirk. I promise to snag you a bottle of the best Whiskey I find. He sent in another message, snickering as he returned his phone to his pocket and looked over at Vaughn to find him smirking at him knowingly. "What?" He demanded, bristling as he sauntered over to a booze laden table in the corner.

"Oh, nothing ." Vaughn teased, his smile growing to alarming proportions as Rhys tried to ignore him; instead investing his attention into the copious amount of alcohol on display. "I was just thinking how cute it is that you keep texting your boyf- "

"Okay, he is not my boyfriend!" Rhys hissed, glancing around the room carefully, before scowling at his best friend. "You are way too cocky right now. We should get you laid already." He huffed, cutting a sly glance across the room as he stood straighter and cocked his hip in sudden playfulness. "Ya know, Axton's over there… and you were awful excited to try set him up with me. Maybe I should return the favour, huh?" He asked innocently, smirking as he picked up a bottle of Vodka and began to mix himself a cocktail, while his best friend spluttered beside him.

"What?!" Vaughn yelped, his eyes wide as he followed Rhys’ glance across the room to see Axton talking animatedly with Salvador and Brick. "Uh, n-no! I'm good, thanks!" He said in a rush, blushing furiously and snatching Rhys’ drink from his hand as he laughed and leaned against the alcohol laden table, watching with amusement as Vaughn gulped his drink down quickly.

"I don't know what's worse…" Rhys mused, shaking his head in fond exasperation. "The fact you just decimated what was supposed to be my very classy and tasty drink… or the fact you think I would actually do that to you." He said, feigning a sigh of dejection as Vaughn scowled and nudged him roughly.

"Sh-shut up, assbutt!" Vaughn huffed, his cheeks still dyed a magnificent shade of rouge as he thrust Rhys’ now empty glass back into his hands. "Axton Turret is… way out of my league. Like, there's this whole galaxy between us!" He said, shaking his head as he looked away and bit his lip guiltily, fiddling with the hat shaped cap on a bottle of Tequila. "Axton Turret would, he would never even look at… ya know what, assbutt, it's just not gonna happen so just, gimme another damn drink, already." He finally muttered quickly, as Rhys raised a brow and examined his friend carefully.

"You're right." He said firmly, nodding his head slowly as Vaughn looked up in surprise; betrayal and hurt in his eyes as he peered at Rhys in disbelief. "It'll never happen… because I'll die before I let such an unworthy cretin as Axton Turret set a finger on my best friend." He sneered, sniffing as he looked over at Axton; and caught the sniper star keep glancing over at him. "He's not worthy to lick your boots, dude. You are entire mountains out of his league… and neither he; nor anyone else in this pisshole of a town, will ever be good enough for you." He insisted, grinning at the heavy blush and irrepressible grin which Vaughn tried to duck his head to hide.

Vaughn fidgeted for a moment longer, before shoving Rhys’ shoulder with a playful grin, clearing his throat as be glanced around to make sure nobody could see his furiously flaming cheeks. "You are so embarrassing." Vaughn hissed in a silky whisper, though his wide grin spoke volumes of his true feelings over Rhys’ assurances. "God, I swear Rhys, you just- urgh . Let's just, drink already… assbutt." He muttered quickly, ignoring Rhys’ smug snickering and smirking; as he shoved at him in rough playfulness, encouraging him to make them more drinks from the ample supplied before them.

"So… are we going to be really wild; by having Sex on the Beach?" Rhys asked innocently, brandishing a cocktail umbrella before his best friend. "Or are we swimming in the Blue Lagoon?" He wondered, winking coyly before plucking the bottle of Tequila which Vaughn had previously been toying with. "Or are we being rebellious; staying up all night to watch the Tequila Sunrise?" He whispered playfully, waving his eyebrows suggestively at Vaughn as he hummed and considered with heavy exaggeration.

"Hmm, well… I don't need to know anything more about your sex life than I already do; plus, I really hate sand. So, I think I'll pass on the uh, the beaches…" he said, clearing his throat and shifting his weight as he tried to pass of his awkwardness as nonchalance. "And, as much as you know I love your Tequila Truffle Trifle… I think the sunrise is a little too far away for my liking." He said, spreading his palms and sighing as Rhys snorted with amusement. "Looks like it's just gonna have to be… a Blue Lagoon night." He said, snickering as Rhys’ hands moved swiftly through the various bottles to mix their chosen cocktail into large pitcher, before finally pouring them a pint glass of the sparkling blue liquid each.

"You're such a dork, Vaughn." Rhys huffed as he handed his best friend his drink. He shook his head fondly, clinking his glass to Vaughn’s and grinning as they both took a deep gulp of the sweet, refreshing drink. " Mmm… " he sighed contently as he topped up their drinks, unaware of the soft smile twisting his lips as he watched the clear blue liquid refill his glass, until he heard Doego feign gagging sounds beside him. "Uh, excuse you very much… I just made you a fabulous drink, assbutt; so just, why are you daring to give me such outrageous cheek?" He demanded haughtily, pouting at Vaughn as he petulantly sipped at his drink.

"Because you were ogling it like some sappy, l-" Vaughn paused teasingly at Rhys’ sharp glance of warning, grinning smugly as he lowered his voice and leaned closer. " Ooooovestruck idiot." He snickered, as Rhys scowled and rolled his eyes, turning away and stalking away from the drinks table. "Oh come on! You were totally staring at that dumb drink like it just gave you an orgasm." Vaughn scoffed, following along in Rhys’ wake with a playful grin, amused to have the upper hand and the opportunity to fluster his best friend for once.

"I don't know what you're talking about, assbutt." Rhys said flippantly, waving his hand in regal negligence over his shoulder as he sauntered towards the patio doors and peered out into the packed garden curiously. I was absolutely not staring because it was so like Jack's blue eye. That's way too gay; even for me. Next thing you know, I’ll be gazing mournfully at the bloody grass. He thought as he shook his head idly, unable to quite bite back the twitch of amusement which curled his lips upward. Gotta admit though, it's kinda weird even being able to think of a guy so often. This whole 'more' thing is actually, surprisingly… cool. He cleared his throat, pointedly avoiding Vaughn's overly smug expression as he pretended to watch Axton and Salvador set up two teams and banter playfully about how they were going to beat each other at a game of football. “This is so lame…” Rhys drawled, rolling his eyes and sighing as he turned away from the large glass doors. “I’m gonna go see if there’s anybody else here actually worth talking to.” He decided, half glancing back at Vaughn with a knowing grin, when his best friend remained beside the door; humming in distracted agreement as he blushed faintly and stared at Axton, as the sniper star peeled off his shirt. “Try not to have too much fun without me, hey dude?” He snickered, though he doubted Vaughn even heard him, his interest so avidly locked onto Axton’s perfectly chiselled pectorals.

Rhys rolled his eyes and shook his head, strolling away from his best friend and the rising testosterone as he sipped at his drink and ambled his way through August’s formidably sized home. This place just needs some turrets or something, give it that final ‘I have enough money that I could own you if I wished’ vibe. He thought, snorting at himself for being ridiculous and eyeing his glass warily, certain he hadn’t made his and Vaughn’s drinks that strong. “Urgh,” he sighed, trotting up the grand staircase and weaving his way between the various other students from his school; avoiding their mocking gazes as they leered, whistled and made lewd catcalls at him as he passed. “This party is lame .” He complained, sniffing with disdain and shoving at a guys chest when he tried to sidle up beside him. “No, I don’t think so somehow.” He scoffed, shaking his head as he made his way through the upper hall, heading for the one place he knew he would find some refuge for the evening. I hope Jack’s having a better time than me. He thought, sighing as he slipped into August’s stepfather’s office and shut the door behind him with a grunt. “Stupid Kincaid.” He scoffed, dragging his fingers over the intricate woodwork of a large desk at the centre back wall of the room. “Ya know… I bet August has never even been allowed in here…” he mused thoughtfully, setting his drink down on the desk as he flopped regally across a large leather chair and fished his phone from his pocket, his face brightening with a grin when he saw a reply from Jack.

Shit, that’s a whole lotta fine ass drinkin' I could be doin' with that little stash there... Jack's message read, as Rhys snickered and leaned back in Kincaid's plush chair, lifting his feet to the edge of the desk and crossing his ankles. Make sure ya don’t go gettin’ caught snaggin’ my Whiskey though; can’t imagine Daddy Weirdbucks goin’ easy on anyone if Junior tattles. He added, as Rhys snorted and reached for his drink, smirking smugly as he typed out a reply.

Oh, don't worry. I am a seasoned pro when it comes to filching Kincaid's booze supplies. He text, snickering as he reclined in the Principal's chair. I can hide just about anything anywhere! He laughed quietly as he added a winking emoji to his message, leaning back with a sigh and gazing about the room dismissively, wondering if there were any new secrets waiting to be discovered since last year, before deciding he ultimately didn't care enough to snoop.

Ain't right that I'm weirdly turned on by that. Jack replied, as Rhys bit his lip and hummed contently, kicking his legs from the desk and swinging Kincaid's chair around as he grinned smugly. Don't s'pose ya can hide me in ya coat next time… think that was a damn bottle of McLellyn's Whiskey in the back. Bloody rare. Typical that an asshole like Kincaid has some just lyin' around. He sent in another message, as Rhys smiled and tucked the information away for further pondering later. He bit his lip as he swung himself gently back and forth, relishing the warmth which blossomed in his chest and radiated through his stomach, at the easy banter which now flowed between them.

Hmm, not sure my coat is quite big enough that I can smuggle you anywhere, Handsome… even if it does sound like it could be extremely good fun, trying to hide you somewhere in my person… oops, I mean on of course. He replied, snickering at the thought of attempting to hide any part of Jack with his coat, before promptly blushing and biting his lip when his thoughts inevitably turned decidedly less innocent after his flirtatious message. I'll do my best to grab that Whiskey for you though, before I scurry on home and go to bed before midnight. Ya know, like a proper good little Cupcake. He added, grinning smugly as he took another languid sip of his drink and awaited his lovers response.

Thinkin' I oughta change ya damn nickname to Fuckin' Tease. Jack's reply was suffused with so many emoji's that Rhys laughed loudly, his cheeks warming and his heart lightening at the reassurances which Jack seemed intent on sending him, clearly not wanting him to panic that he'd pushed the older man too far. Somethin' tells me ya ain't gonna be back at yours or in bed before the early hours of tomorrow. Hell, I know I wouldn't be with that much booze to marinate in. Jack sent in another message, as Rhys laughed quietly and cocked his head, his tongue poking between his teeth as he typed out a new reply.

Well, I would happily leave all this booze in a heartbeat if a certain someone made me a better offer for how to spend my weekend… he sent, running his tongue along his teeth as he allowed Jack a moment to read his message before quickly typing and sending another. But seeing as you're so busy and all, I'll just have to take this one for the team and… party 'til I'm sober. Rhys chuckled with amusement as he sipped at his drink, almost spitting some of the blue liquid over his screen when he saw Jack's reply.

Ya gonna be the death of me, Rhys… ya makin' me seriously consider abandonin' this bullshit parade and takin' ya sassy ass home. Jack grumbled, his frustration clear as Rhys bit his thumbnail and grinned broadly, his face flaming at the other mans seemingly unconscious reference of his 'home' now including Rhys.

Are we really at that point ? Rhys wondered, worrying his nail as he frowned briefly and reconsidered his earlier dismissal of Vaughn’s teasing over his relationship status. No… he probably just meant he’d drive me home. Make sure I was back safe and not walking home drunk as a skunk, or something equally stupid. He thought, nodding his head in confirmation of his own assumption and pretending he didn’t notice the disappointment which drifted across his heart like a shadow. He took a large gulp of his drink and set it down on the desk, shifting slightly as he swallowed and then cleared his throat, smirking as he began to type out a fresh message. How is it going down in Teacher Central, anyway? He asked, subtly shifting the conversation away from himself and back to Jack, curious and admittedly concerned how he was coping in what must have been such an overwhelming environment. Don’t you have better things to be doing than texting me? He asked, shaking his head fondly as he waited for the other man to reply, chewing his lip thoughtfully as he slowly lowered his feet to the floor and leaned his elbows onto Kincaid’s desk.

Not really, shits boring as hell and I ain’t ever found anythin’ about ya borin’, so seems like it’s an easy choice to make as to whether I wanna pay attention to these assholes or talk to you . Rhys laughed quietly at Jack’s reply, biting his lip as he imagined the other man’s snort of disdain and his unimpressed drawl. What the fuck Zane see’s in bein’ a teacher, I just don’t get, Cupcake… personally, I can’t wait to get the hell outta here. The other man sent a moment later, as Rhys chuckled and scratched at his cheek idly. Currently sat at the back with a book in my lap to hide me phone… sound at all familiar? Jack asked, as Rhys snorted and laughed for a moment before shaking his head and drawing in a deep breath, eyeing his messages fondly, before leaning forward on his elbows to type his reply.

Have you been given a detention yet? He asked, grinning lopsidedly as he remembered his increasingly determined efforts to land himself a detention, before Jack had finally conceded to listen to him. Or are you likely to get your phone confiscated any second? Just curious; so I know if you suddenly disappear on me. He added quickly, smirking when Jack’s first reaction was to send a bunch of sneaky looking emoji's. He shook his head in amusement, imagining Jack having similar conversations with Zane as they bickered about his behaviour while in Zane's stead.

I ain't so easy to catch out as you , Cupcake. Jack replied smugly, as Rhys snorted and leaned closer to his phone, shaking his head at the other man's strangely endearing ego. Got me military training on how to appear one thing, even when ya another. He added, throwing in a winking emoji that made Rhys laugh as he reached around to scratch at the back of his neck.

Is that why you looked like a cat that just got shaved when you first saw me in class? He asked, knowing he was treading a fine line but unable to contain his curiosity or his playfulness, now that the other man was so much more open with him. Who would have thought one little past detail could make such a difference. He mused idly, grinning goofily when Jack sent him a gif of a shaven cat from a film he knew well. Yeah... but just imagine what ‘other’ details he could learn, and the distance they'd soon create. The thought caused his smile to fade slowly, his heart sinking as he contemplated how long he could really keep Jack from learning about his past. He wants it to come from me… but in this town, hell; it's amazing he hasn't heard something already. Though, given how much of a recluse he is, I guess it's believable. He thought, snorting despite his melancholy as he considered Jack's contempt for most people he'd met in town since his arrival.

Hey, I'll have ya know I was a goddamn master of control when ya pretty head popped up from that desk. Jack groused, as Rhys’ heart lifted somewhat at the other man's seemingly unconscious flattery, his smile slowly returning as his cheeks warmed. Just 'cause ya cute and distractin', don't mean I'm gonna get all flustered every time ya bat ya eyelashes at me. He declared, as Rhys’ lips curled and his eyes sparkled deviously, taking a sip of his drink before leaning back in Kincaid's chair and humming smugly.

Really now? You wanna make a little wager on that? Say, you taking me out of town to buy me dinner next weekend? Rhys asked, smirking as he curled into the back of Kincaid's chair and dangled his leg over the arm. What if I started sending you some pictures right now? He asked, hesitating briefly before deciding to push his luck a little for once. I know I'm not allowed to send full on ' not suitable for work' content… but I'm sure a few innocent pictures won't hurt, seeing as you're such an infallible rock and all. He added, licking his lips as he listened to his heart slowly begin to beat more noisily against his ribs.

Jack remained quiet for such a pause that Rhys was just beginning to reprimand himself for having pushed too far; almost about to message again, apologising for his overconfidence and disregard for Jack's previous warning on the subject. Ain't ever a time I don't wanna see ya… but I ain't so easy to crack, Cupcake. Jack's reply made Rhys choke with giddy relief, his thoughts briefly scattering as his heart leaped into his throat and a strange surge of emotion crashed into him. Do ya worst. Jack added with a smug emoji, as Rhys laughed and sniffed, wiping at his eyes with bemusement when he noticed they were damp.

"What the..?" He wondered aloud, before looking back at his phone and re-reading Jack's message, shaking his head in disbelief as warmth gathered in his chest. "Well, well…" he murmured in fond remembrance of his lover, drawing in a deep breath as he glanced around the room thoughtfully. "Hmm," he hummed, rising from Kincaid's chair with a faint squeak and sauntering over to a nearby bookcase, leaning against the wooden frame as he opened his camera and arranged his expression into a semi innocent grin, his eyes averted just enough to make the viewer curious as to what he might be doing in the rest of the picture. He scrutinised the image carefully for a moment, before attaching it to a new message. Maybe not my worst or my best… he typed into his message, his grin slowly growing as warmth flared through him, a spark of mischief and adrenaline igniting in his gut. But definitely not bad for a first attempt. Wouldn't want to overwhelm you all at once. He said, snickering to himself as he hit send and eagerly awaited his lovers reply.

Rhys bit his lip as his phone buzzed in his hand, fidgeting against the bookcase as he quickly read Jack's reply. Not bad… Jack agreed, waiting just long enough that Rhys had begun to pout, before sending a cluster of devilish emoji's. But that ain't good enough for me to be buyin' ya nothin' next weekend. He said, as Rhys snorted and sucked on his lip thoughtfully.

Well, I didn't say it was gonna be my only attempt. He sent, before setting his phone down on the bookcase and reaching to open the top three buttons of his shirt. He picked up his phone with a smirk, the fingers if his free hand lingering at the base of his throat as he peeked at the camera from beneath his lashes, sucking his lip between his teeth and snapping the photo quickly. How's your concrete control fare against this? Still think I'm your ever so innocent, Cupcake? He asked curiously, rolling his head across the bookshelves as he grinned and tried to quell the flames of amusement and arousal which began to lick through his gut, his pulse rising as he imagined his lover growing flustered and uncomfortable in his back row seat; a mirror of his own usual position in Jack's classes.

Jack's reply was slightly delayed, building Rhys’ anticipation and anxiety both as he worried a nail and waited for the other man's reaction. Well, that is… mighty temptin', Cupcake. Jack sent, his words emphasised by a drooling emoji which made Rhys blush furiously for reasons he couldn't understand. But I dunno… I think I’m still able to hang strong here. Guess ya gonna have to try a little harder than that to beat me, Cupcake. The teacher declared smugly, attaching an emoji in sunglasses as Rhys found himself giggling quietly. “This is so ridiculous.” He mumbled, glancing around Kincaid’s office again as he bit his lip and tried to calm the erratic thud of his heart in his chest. “God, what is this?” He snorted, clearing his throat as he pushed away from the bookcase and perched himself on the edge of Kincaid’s desk, swinging one leg up and dangling the other over the side as he laid back. “What the hell am I doing..?” Rhys murmured to himself, aware of the blush burning at his cheeks but still determinedly playing Jack’s ludicrous game. He lowered his phone, undoing another two buttons and leaving only the last done up before re-lifting the device and using it to check his appearance. When his shirt was satisfactorily draped open to expose his left nipple and the majority of his chest, Rhys smiled shyly, his heart racing as he peeked up at his camera and snapped the shot. He exhaled heavily as he examined the picture, noting his dark eyes were tinged with something he couldn’t name, while the pink touch in his cheeks was in fact oddly endearing. Oh god, am I behaving like Vaughn? He wondered with a vague sense of horror, though it remained mostly smothered by the strange swell of amusement and arousal which burnt pleasantly in his gut. He sat up on Kincaid's desk, his finger hovering over the screen briefly before sending the photo and immediately reaching for his drink, taking several large gulps and quickly draining the glass. Still think you're gonna win, Handsome? He asked, giggling nervously as he rose from the desk and paced in agitation. With a soft growl, Rhys moved towards an old fashioned globe, painted with intricate details of sea monsters and explorers of the old world. Without hesitation he lifted the top half of the sphere, revealing a secret stash of various heavy duty spirits. "Oh god, don't make me wait like this, you bastard…" he muttered, reaching for a bottle at random and humming with approval when he read the label and discovered it was a rare and unopened cognac from nineteen oh eight. "Wow… fancy." He murmured thoughtfully, before twisting open the lid and taking a large sip straight from the bottle. "Oh!" He coughed, spluttering at the rush of heat which coated his tongue and travelled down his throat. "Oh, wow ..!" He snickered, taking another more cautious sip and yelping when his phone buzzed and surprised him.

Well, that… Jack began, as a slow grin spread across Rhys’ lips. That might be more'n a little distractin'. The teacher admitted, attaching  a nervous and sweaty emoji which made Rhys’ heart skip a beat, his goofy grin extending as he leaned against the bookcase again and took another small victory sip of his stolen cognac. There uh, there a reason for that little flush there, Cupcake? Jack asked in another message, as Rhys choked on a startled laugh. Looks a little like ya been doin' somethin' a bit uh, less than innocent. He added, as Rhys leaned against the bookcase and snickered at the man's unsubtle insinuations.

What’s the matter, Handsome? Rhys sent back, smirking as he waved his eyebrows suggestively at his phone and snorted with amusement at himself. You worried I’ve been jerking off in Kincaid’s office? He asked, licking his lip slowly as he looked around the room and grinned mischievously. Should I send evidence, to  prove I haven’t been a bad boy? He added in another message, drawing in a deep breath as he pushed his shoulder from the bookcase and sauntered over to a comfortable looking corner, turning as he knelt to brace himself snugly between the wall and bookcase and half examining a strange scepter on the wall. Or are you just jealous, thinking I might be doing something naughty… when you’re not here to watch? Rhys typed the message without thinking, his eyes widening as he realised the extent of his flirting too late to stop his thumb from mashing the send button. He gawped at his phone in disbelief, beginning to giggle as he took another drink from the bottle of cognac.

Jack remained silent for a short time, as Rhys peered up at the strange scepter and bit his lip, half curious about it and half panicking beneath the comforting blanket of the strong alcohol; wondering if he had gone too far past his and Jack’s unclear boundaries. Finally his phone vibrated in his hand, and Rhys looked down and blinked in reluctant curiosity. Ain’t sure I could resist touchin’ ya if I was there to watch, Cupcake; which would uh, well it would probably feel pretty damn awesome, tell ya truth… but would be really, really bad… The pilot replied, as Rhys beamed down at his phone joyfully. Much as it pains me to say it, I suddenly got this feelin’ like I’m gonna lose this dumb bet and have to buy ya dinner next weekend after all. He added a moment later, as Rhys laughed and rolled his head along the wall.

Rhys continued to chuckle as he eyed his messages from Jack fondly, uncertain why his lover  admitting defeat was giving him such a rush. Maybe because he seems so unreachable sometimes… like, he’s so amazing; but he just lost to some little nobody, loser like me. He mused, snorting at himself and drawing in a deep breath as he rolled his head back against the wall thoughtfully. “Hmm…” he hummed, sucking his lower lip as he grinned and set his liberated bottle of cognac beside his hip, reopening his camera as he shifted his position slightly. He lowered his eyes to watch as his fingers dipped beneath his trousers, barely making it to the first knuckle before he peeked up from beneath his lashes at the camera and raised a brow, a lewd grin twisting his lips as he snapped the picture and hit send without looking at it. He immediately began to laugh, knowing he’d pushed at every unspoken boundary he and Jack had between them. He sighed as he waited for Jack’s reply, reaching for his stolen beverage and taking a short sequence of sips until his phone vibrated in his hand.

Shit, Rhys… ya the fuckin’ devil come to kill me himself. Jack complained, his message alternately littered with emoji’s all hiding their eyes or blushing as if embarrassed. Rhys couldn’t help but grin at the message, a sense of smug victory settling in his gut as he sighed with blissful contentment. I can’t decide if I wanna throttle ya for that picture or kiss your stupid ass for it. The pilot continued, as Rhys snickered and snorted to himself, a blush dusting his cheeks as he considered which of Jack’s threatened ‘punishments’ he would prefer. Uh, I’m guessin’ I have ya little boozy pal there to thank for that little wake up? He asked, as Rhys looked down at the bottle he’d swiped from Kincaid’s collection and snorted. 

With an extended sigh, Rhys pushed himself half from the wall, removing the bottle from beside his hip; taking a large sip with a hum of approval before holding it up beside him and turning the bottle until the label faced his phone. He grinned widely and gave a lewd wink as he snapped the shot, snickering to himself as he sank back into his comfortable corner. My new best friend; who doesn’t talk back! He typed before attaching the photo, sending it to Jack with a fond huff before closing his eyes and drawing in a deep breath; marvelling at the strange sense of peace which seemed to reside in his chest, despite being somewhere he so despised.

Heh, startin' to make sense why ya bein' such a fuckin' ballsy little tease. Jack replied moments later, as Rhys blinked at his phone and cocked his head curiously. Take it easy with that stuff, it's stonger'n hell. Dunno how much ya had already, but I'm guessin' it's enough to leave ya with a pretty nasty hangover tomorrow. He warned, as Rhys whined and pouted accusingly at the bottle, sighing and taking another large sip, before reluctantly replacing the lid.

Mister party pooper… just because I won and made you all flustered. He groused at Jack, sulking as he pushed to his feet and wobbled unsteadily. "Okay; wow... " he huffed, blinking dazedly as his legs refused to cooperate with his demands for a brief moment. " Ooh… Jack might be right about you. Not that I'll admit that to him…" he muttered, pouting as he narrowed his eyes at the bottle and found the percentage label at the bottom. "Ha! This stuff would knock Vaughn straight on his ass… but then he doesn't have the experience I do with drinking I guess. Could be funny though…" he mused, wobbling back to the storage globe and reluctantly returning the bottle with a promise to return and collect it again before he and Vaughn headed home.

Nah, kinda proud of ya managin' to beat me to be honest… should probably be ashamed of admittin' that but uh, ya got this weird effect on me Cupcake. Rhys flushed pleasantly as Jack's newest message appeared in his inbox, his heart melting as he continued to read. Just, ya know... worried about ya bein' knocked out by that shit and needin' to beat the shit outta some lowlife creep when I get back for tryin' to take advantage of ya. Jack said flippantly, as Rhys bit his lip; sensing the genuine promise beneath the playfulness of Jack's threat.

Funny how he thinks I need to be intoxicated and taken advantage of, as opposed to just offering it up to whoever made the best offer anyway. He thought, humming distantly as he closed the globe lid and leaned against its side. But I guess that comes back to the whole, stranger in town scenario… he hummed dismissively, clearing his throat as he shook his head and sauntered away from the globe unsteadily, slowly making his way back to the desk and Kincaid’s large chair. Don’t worry, Handsome… I promise not to let anyone impune my honour while you’re away and make you have to duel them for my sake when you get back. He typed as he flopped back into Kincaid’s chair, snickering as he hit send and awaited the pilot’s response. He licked his lips, glancing back at the globe longingly, before pouting and huffing a petulant sigh. Stupid Jack, looking out for me. He thought sulkily, though his heart warmed and his stomach made a strange fluttering at the idea of the pilot’s gentle concern for him. He was just lifting his phone to type another message, when it startled him by beginning to ring, his favoured ringtone blaring loudly in the room. Rhys frowned, staring at the screen for another half a second before sighing and reluctantly accepting the call. "What do you want, mister cockblock extraordinaire..?" He demanded with a snicker that belied his harsh words.

"Dude, I… wait, what?" Vaughn's excited voice abruptly changed tone, a startled yelp escaping him as Rhys snorted and laughed. "Oh god, dude ! What the hell are you doing?! No! Wait! Don't tell me!" His best friend said, his distress clear as Rhys laughed louder. "God, I thought you were all, ya know… in a relationship now. Why would you- oh! Did Axt-"

"How many times am I gonna have to tell you, assbutt?" Rhys sighed, his previous good mood souring as his best friend once more seemed intent on thrusting the sports star upon him. "Axton Turret, is never going to be able to claim this fine ass as one of his trophies." He said, smirking as Vaughn made a disgusted noise on the other end of the line. "What did you want anyway? You interrupted a very fun and interesting little drinking game I had going on…" he said, drawing in a deep breath as he leaned back in Kincaid's chair and closed his eyes.

"Please tell me you're not playing that godawful Russian Roulette thing you invented-" Vaughn began as Rhys sighed and opened his eyes just so he could roll them, planting his feet firmly on the floor as he scowled across the room petulantly.

"Uh, excuse me, mister no fun at all, but that was a one time thing and I was drunk as fuck." He interrupted, pulling his phone away from his ear and sticking his tongue out at it briefly, before returning the device to his ear. "So, it doesn't count. Now I repeat, what do you want ?" He demanded, groaning in frustration as his phone buzzed with a new message which he was momentarily unable to read.

"I just… I wanted to talk to you about something." Vaughn said slowly, pausing so long that Rhys was about to check if their call was still connected. "Where are you?" Vaughn asked at last, as Rhys rolled his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head slowly.

"Nowhere you would dare go." He replied waspishly, sighing and pushing reluctantly to his feet. "Where are you ? I'll come meet you." He said, pouting at the thought of giving up his not quite sexting with Jack. "Just as forewarning, if this is some dumb way of trying to set me up with Axton Turret, I am gonna take back your key and lock you out of my flat for the rest of the damn month ." He added petulantly, testing his balance and deeming himself moderately safe to walk.

"Dude, you have a boyf-… guy ," Vaughn scoffed, pausing briefly to reconsider his wording, before continuing with a snort. "One who treats you like an actual human being and not some glorified, sexual play toy… why would I try to interfere with that, aasbutt?" He asked curiously, as Rhys laid his hand over his heart dramatically.

"Vaughn…" he breathed, sniffing and lifting his hand from his chest to his mouth as he sucked in a trembling breath. "That was so beautiful, Vaughn… when I come find you, will you hold me? Maybe pet my hair softly..?" He asked with a feigned sniffle, biting his lip to keep his composure as he walked slowly to the door.

"Why the hell are we even friends?" Vaughn sighed irritably as Rhys snickered, about to open the door when he remembered his glass and instead turned around with an accusatory pout towards Kincaid's desk. "You're such an assbutt sometimes, you know that? God, I hate you..." he groused, as Rhys strolled back to the desk.

"You love me." He countered dismissively, sighing as he grabbed his empty glass and twirled on the spot, grabbing the edge of the desk and hesitating briefly as he snorted with amusement and wobbled. "Now, where are you ?" He repeated, sidling slowly back to the door and leaning heavily against the wall.

"Uh… I'm, in the upstairs bathroom?" Vaughn said uncertainly, as Rhys rolled his eyes and thumped his head back against the wall. "It was the only place quiet I could think of!" He defended at Rhys' poignant silence. "I uh, I think its the third door on the right..? I'm not entirely sure, I was kinda distracted coming up here…" he admitted, as Rhys rolled his eyes and sighed wearily.

"Whatever, I'll find you assbutt." He said, hanging up before Vaughn could answer him and delving back into his messages, reluctant to end his flirty exchange with his pilot but knowing the man would agree that he should help his friend if he were in trouble.

Never mind duelin', I'd kick the ass of anyone who set hands on ya… excludin' ya short friend, that is. Jack had replied, drawing a smile from Rhys as his heart melted at the man's not quite teasing remark. Just, promise ya'll call if ya hit trouble? And uh, lemme know ya get home alright after havin' that brain cell killer. He added, his awkwardness clear as Rhys snickered softly with fond adoration.

He hesitated, biting his lip as he typed out the slowest message he's written so far. I promise. He sent the message as he sucked in a deep breath, glancing around the room as he licked his lips and tried to quell the strangely rapid beat of his heart. I uh, I would love to continue this… but I have an idiot friend to go find. The one that does talk back. He sent, attaching a crying emoji as he bounced gently against the wall. Thanks for making this party a whole lot more fun… but hey, you can start thinking of somewhere nice to take me next weekend now. He added as he sucked his lip between his teeth, though his smug smirk soon grew too large to contain.

Good luck and uh, lemme know ya find him alright… Jack's reply was laced with a litany emoji's, which revealed a mass of emotions which Rhys knew he wouldn't have voiced in person, his grin growing as he hummed contently and held his phone to his chest as he opened the door and slipped through with a small giggle.

Whoa. .!” He laughed as he narrowly dodged a semi-cute blond guy jogging backward down the hall, catching a lobbed football mid-turn and laughing as they tossed it ahead to someone else. Rhys snorted, leaning against the wall so he could examine the now full hallway with amusement. “Wow, this party really picked up after all… this is much better. But, just how long was I in there?” He wondered aloud, still chuckling as he began to make his way down the hall, careful to avoid bumping into anyone where people had clustered to talk or make out. "I better find Vaughn before his delicate, innocent eyes see any of this without warning." He snorted fondly, humming as he made his way past the various spectacles and found an empty section of hallway, pausing to lean against the wall as he laughed quietly.

Jack will get such a kick out of all this. He thought, snickering as he shook his head and sighed, rolling his body sinuously against the wall for a moment, before pushing off and reaching for the door handle beside him. "Okay, assbutt, just what-" he began to ask, falling silent as he pushed the door open and blinked in mute surprise. " Wow -" he breathed, staring at the strangely erotic vision of a barely dressed August knelt on a large bed, his lips moving feverishly against Fiona's as she pawed at his trouser fastenings, while holding Sasha close to his other side, allowing her to kiss his cheek and throat eagerly. Rhys peeked down the hall, glad he had nobody close by to have accidentally revealed the lurid scene to. Wow… who would have thought August would have such glorious abs. He thought dazedly, eyeing the pale boys torso with interest, before another thought quickly chased after the previous one and made his lips twitch with amusement. Not as glorious as Jack's though. He thought smugly, swallowing thickly as he carefully pulled the door closed again.

As soon as the barrier was safely between them, Rhys was overwhelmed by a furious tide of giggles, slapping his hand over his mouth quickly to smother the sound; not wishing to disturb the occupants of the room, or reveal his unintentional preview of their main event. "Oh my gosh…" he gasped lowly, humming to contain his next outburst of giggles as he examined the room doorway. He snorted as he kicked off his trainer, pulling off his sock and hanging it over the door handle, before sliding his foot back into his shoe and hiccupping with mirth as he saluted the door and finally moved on down the hall.

" Pfft , maybe that'll finally get that stick outta his ass." He snickered as he walked, bumping against the wall briefly before shaking his head and rolling his shoulder to face another door. He frowned, leaning back to peer down the hall and count the doors he'd passed; certain he'd found the right door on his second attempt at finding his best friend. "I never thought I would say this but… please be a bathroom." He murmured as he took hold of the door handle and winced, bracing himself as he quietly opened the door.

Rhys blamed the shock for his hesitation in closing the door again, his eyes popping wide as he barely contained a squawk of surprise. The noise in the hall dimmed around him, his breath halting mid gasp as he blinked slowly; breaking the spell of his shock and allowing him to gently pull the door closed. With the soft click of the door, the noise of the hallway returned in a great cacophony, air hissing between his teeth as he sucked in a sudden, urgent breath. "Holy…" he choked, turning around and blinking dazedly, leaning against the doorframe as he raised his eyebrows and tried to both understand and erase the sight from his memory. "Alcohol. More alcohol will make this go away." He muttered determinedly, nodding to himself with a grimace and turning to walk away, before glancing back at the door with an uncertain frown. Anyone else looking in there right now is likely to be a lot less discreet than me… he thought distractedly, running a hand through his hair and sighing as he reluctantly pulled off his second trainer and removed his remaining sock. He sneered as he hung his sock over the door handle, wriggling his foot until it slipped back into his shoe and shaking his head as he shuffled away.

"I hate you, Vaughn." He murmured as he walked up the hall, considerably sobered by the shocking sight despite his attempts to forget about it. "This is all your fault… mentally scarring me." He grumbled petulantly, ignoring the small voice which whispered in the back of his mind, that this was karma for scarring his best friend by over sharing so often.

" Dude! " Rhys' head turned at the familiar voice, blinking dazedly as Vaughn frowned and dodged around a cluster of other students, weaving his way over to his friend. "I thought you were coming to meet me, I was starting to think you went home or something." He said, his eyes running over his best friend in obvious concern.

"I am, was- whatever." Rhys said, waving his hand dismissively before turning to frown back down the hallway, swallowing the thick lump in his throat and exhaling a heavy breath. "I uh, I just got… distracted." He said hesitantly, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose as he tried again to push the things he'd seen away from his thoughts. Finally Rhys looked back at Vaughn, his expression twisting into an exasperated scowl. "So, what exactly was so urgent, anyway?" He asked, jabbing his finger playfully into Vaughn's shoulder.

Vaughn's cheeks darkened, his eyes darting around the hallway before his hand snagged Rhys' in a tight grip and dragged him toward the quieter balcony at the end of the hall, where a grand piano stood. "I uh, I just wanted to talk to you for a second…" Vaughn murmured quietly, glancing around suspiciously as Rhys rolled his eyes.

"Dude, you watch too many movies." He sighed, tugging his hand free of Vaughn's with a flat expression of exasperation. "What's with all the cloak and dagger right now? Is someone about to leap out and drag me away? Maybe spank me for being a bad boy?" He asked with a snort, his cheeks dusting with a blush as he thought of Jack and foolishly glanced around semi hopefully.

"Why are you..?" Vaughn began, glancing around uncertainly before blanching in realisation. "Dude, you're just… I can't-" he babbled, shaking his head and gesturing vaguely toward Rhys as he grinned and waited with a raised brow for his best friends inevitably terrible insult. "You're shameless ." He finally hissed, scowling petulantly at Rhys as he finally laughed. " Why must you sully every conversation we have with… you - ness ?! Urgh, I hate you." He huffed, folding his arms over his chest irritably.

"You love me." Rhys countered fondly, bumping his shoulder playfully to Vaughn's as he walked a slow circle around him. "Now," he whispered, leaning his chin over Vaughn's shoulder as he came around his other side. "Why are we being all secretive right now?" He asked, lifting a brow curiously as Vaughn shuffled his feet guiltily.

"Well, I uh, I overheard something and I thought it sounded weird. I just... wanted to talk to you about it." He explained, avoiding Rhys' gaze as he fiddled with a button on his purple shirt.

Rhys' amused expression slowly soured, twisting into a frown as he eyed his best friend with sudden distrust. "Why do I feel like I'm gonna wish I never left Rourke's office and my 'not quite' sexting I had going on..?" He sighed, rolling his eyes and running a hand through his hair.

"La la la, can't hear you!" Vaughn hummed loudly as Rhys complained to himself, blocking out the brunets words as he squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head vehemently. "So help me, Rhys; you bring that crap up again and I… well, I-" he fumed, his cheeks bulging with indignation as he rolled his eyes with exasperation. "Well, I don't know what I'll do yet… but it'll be bad ." He finally sneered, turning away and pouting as Rhys tried and failed to hold back his laughter.

"Alright, alright!" Rhys snorted, raising his palms in placation as he took a step back and leaned his elbows against the piano. "I promise to not tell you about the stuff that wasn't technically even happening. So, whatever this is?" He huffed, gesturing between them both vaguely. "Just get on with it please."

Vaughn's lips twisted into a grimace, his brows scrunching into an uncertain frown as he looked down at the floor briefly. "I was uh, you know just hanging out… watching the guys play out the back and all." He said awkwardly, as Rhys snorted at the lame description of Vaughn's perving. "Anyway, I was there... awhile , when some of the guys were joking around with Axton  and well, your name came up." He said awkwardly.

"Gee, I wonder if it's because the golden boy made a show of taking me to the dance." Rhys scoffed as he rolled his eyes. "I mean, he was getting pretty handsy for awhile there, dude… I've kinda been hoping my reputation scared him off." He admitted, shrugging a shoulder as he glanced behind himself and tapped a finger to one of the high piano notes disinterestedly.

"No, it wasn't…" Vaughn said, shaking his head as his warm eyes clouded with frustration. "That wasn't what it was, it didn't sound like just-" he said, sighing as he ran his hand through his hair irritably, hesitating to collect his thoughts for a moment before raising his eyes to look over at Rhys. "It didn't sound good , dude." He finally settled on, his fingers wringing loosely at the hem of his shirt.

"Dude, nothing sounds good when other people talk about me." Rhys snorted dismissively, frowning down at the piano thoughtfully, before looking over at Vaughn with a carefully laid back grin. "Hey… think you can get a tune out of this old antique?" He asked, patting the edge of the piano playfully.

"Dude, did you not just hear a word-" Vaughn began, his expression crumpling with concern as he frowned at Rhys.

"Blah, blah, Axton  Turret; Rhys bad, yada yada, I got it." Rhys sighed, rolling his eyes as he pushed off of the piano. "Dude, there's nothing good or bad to have even been told to anyone; stop worrying." He said, walking around his friend and clapping a hand to his shoulder. "Now… do you think, you can get a tune out of this magnificent beast?" He asked again, leading Vaughn to the small stool in front of the piano.

Vaughn frowned at Rhys a moment longer, before blowing a deep breathe up into his hair, turning to examine the piano curiously. "Are you sure we're allowed..? I don't want August to-"

"Trust me when I say; August does not care about this piano right now." Rhys said, barely containing the laughter in his voice as he nudged his friend closer to the piano. "Come on! I haven't heard you play in forever -"

"It's been all of three days." Vaughn countered flatly, rolling his eyes as a small smile tugged at his lips, his fingers trailing over the keys curiously. "Your sense of time is horrendous." He snorted fondly, shaking his head as Rhys flapped his arms dramatically.

" Details !" He exclaimed, nudging Vaughn toward the piano again. "Just one little tune… pretty please? For me?" He asked, blinking innocently as Vaughn met his gaze with a flat look of disinterest. Rhys' pleading, angelic expression soured abruptly, his eyes rolling to the ceiling as he sighed heavily. "Fine! I'll give you my damn Disarono cookies! Just play already, assbutt." He complained, as Vaughn took a seat on the stool.

"That's more like it." He said, smirking smugly as he waved his fingers over the piano keys playfully. He lowered his hands slowly, playing a few quiet notes slowly, before peeking up at Rhys slyly. "Hey… if I'm doing this, you wanna make it really fun?" He asked, waving his eyebrows suggestively as Rhys heaved an exaggerated sigh. 

"Do I have a choice?" He asked knowingly, rolling his eyes at Vaughn's devious grin; rolling his eyes as his best friend began to play a loud and lively jingle which he immediately recognised. "I hate you, assbutt." He sighed, shaking his head as he rolled his neck across his shoulders.

"You love me." Vaughn snickered, looking down at the keys as he began to play the jaunty tune in earnest, the loud notes ringing melodically through the hall.

Rhys huffed and flicked Vaughn's shoulder playfully, shaking his head as he stepped away and bounced on the balls of his feet. " Naughty boys in nasty schools, headmasters breaking all the rules!" He sang quickly, winking when some of the other students in the hall looked over curiously. " Having fun and playing fools, smashing up the woodwork tools!" He chanted, pointing to where a small group of boys had been indiscreetly carving their initials into the bannister. " All the teachers in the pub, passing 'round the ready-rub," he said, waving his eyebrows at a cluster of girls who'd approached and slyly snagging one of their drinks from them. " Trying not to think of when the lunch-time bell will ring again…"

 

"Oh what fun we had! But, did it really turn out bad?" Rhys chorused, holding out his arms and twirling with a grin. " All I learnt at school; was how to bend not break the rules!" He sang, pointing both index fingers at Vaughn playfully as he snorted and continued to play the light jingle.

 

"Oh what fun we had! But, at the time it seemed so bad! " Rhys repeated, shuffling his feet awkwardly as he raised his stolen drink as if in a toast. " Trying different ways; to make a difference to…" he trailed off with a wink, downing his appropriated drink quickly and carelessly tossing the glass into a plant pot.

 

"The headmaster's had enough to-day, all the kids have gone away!" He chanted, spreading his arms and swinging his hips. " Gone to fight with next-door's school; every term, that is the rule!" He said, wagging his finger scoldingly as he winked at the growing crowd around himself and Vaughn. " Sits alone and bends his cane… same old backsides again!" He said, turning and smacking his hand to his ass playfully, laughing at the various whistles and hoots he received in response. " All the small ones tell tall tales, walking home and squashing snails."

 

"Oh what fun we had! But, did it really turn out bad?" Rhys cheered, throwing his hand out flat to his growing audience and accepting a few high fives with a grin. "All I learnt at school, was how to bend not break the rules…" he said, snickering as he grinned around the crowd.

 

"Oh what fun we had! But, at the time it seemed so bad!" He chanted, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he walked over to Vaughn and leaned over his shoulder. "Trying different ways, to make a difference to the days..." he sang, grabbing Vaughn's hand and pulling him away from the grand piano, leading him in a playful shuffle down the hall; their cheering audience a short ways behind them.

 

Rhys led his crowd down the hall in a smug shuffle, kicking his toes out as he and Vaughn sauntered back to the stairs and bounced down the steps in time to the tune they were still playing in their heads. Rhys gromned as he snagged a flat cap from a boy passing in the opposite direction, snickering as he tugged it on his head and shuffled back to the main living room, grabbing himself a drink while Vaughn quickly lifted the lid to a much smaller piano in the corner.

 

" Lots of girls and lots of boys!" Rhys cried as Vaughn picked up the tune with ease, tossing a smug grin at his best friend over his shoulder. " Lots of smells and lots of noise!" He cheered, waving his arms and encouraging a great roar from his audience. " Playing football in the park; kicking push bikes after dark!" He called, pointing through the back patio doors. " Baggy trousers, dirty shirt!" He cheered, tugging at his shirt collar with a smug grin. " Pulling hair and eating dirt…" he sang, tugging at Vaughn's hair gently as he sauntered past. " Teacher comes to break it up… back of the 'ead with a plastic cup!" He cried, ducking with a laugh as someone threw a vase at the wall nearby, dirt spattering the area when it shattered into pieces.

 

"Oh what fun we had! But, did it really turn out bad?" Rhys cheered, spreading his arms as he twirled and bounced on his heels, throwing a cocky wink to his crowd. "All I learnt at school, was how to bend not break the rules!" He said cheerfully, bending back and waving his arms dramatically before straightening again quickly.

 

"Oh what fun we had! But at the time it seemed so bad!" He repeated, raising his arms and wagging his fingers at their assembled audience to encourage them to cheer. "Trying different ways; to make a difference to the days." He drawled, lowering his hands to his hips as he sashayed in jerky motions to the melody which Vaughn continued to play. He bit his lip as he shuffled and wiggled his way toward his friend with jagged movements, grinning as he stood just beside the piano and kicked his feet to his sides.

 

"Baggy trousers... baggy trousers... baggy trousers!" He chanted, pointing around the crowd as they laughed, winking

when some caught on and began to chant with him. "Baggy trousers... baggy trousers… baggy

trousers!" He continued, nodding his head as he made a slow bowlegged circle around the space before the crowd, sauntering back to Vaughn as he played the final notes and laughing as he took a dramatic bow.

Rhys laughed as he waved off those calling for an encore, bumping his fist to Vaughn’s as he rose from the piano and shook his head fondly. “You’re such a show off, assbutt.” He huffed, as he and Rhys nudged their shoulders together in a brief, one armed hug.

“Yeah, we’ve all heard just what a show off Rhys is.” A sour voice cut through the crowd, Rhys and Vaughn turning as one as their wide grins faded into similarly confused frowns. “We’ve all heard, just how much flair and enthusiasm he puts into everything he does.” Rhys' expression turned carefully blank as the crowd parted to reveal Maya, a glass in her hand and her eyes almost as red as her cheeks, as she scowled at Rhys with more hate than he’d ever seen the girl throw toward anyone before.

“Maya?” Vaughn stated uncertainly, darting a look at Rhys when his friends hand fell limply to his side, as the brunet ignored him and glanced around the now murmuring crowd, rapidly concealing his suspicions behind a wall of expressionlessness. “What’s uh, what’s going on..?” Vaughn pressed, taking half a step in front of Rhys as if to block him from the accusatory hate with which the girl glared at him.

“Ha, like you don’t know all about it.” Maya scoffed, wiping her eyes with the heel of her hand as she cocked her jaw and sucked in a deep breath, forcing herself to stand straighter as she took a large gulp of beer; Rhys' eyes narrowing at the action, knowing the girl despised the drink over any other. “You’re like his little pet, right? You know everything the town bicycle gets up to, don’t you?” She sneered, her eyes flicking over Vaughn dismissively as Rhys flinched at the harshly spat comment, stepping forward and using his arm to gently sweep Vaughn aside; drawing the girl’s attention back to himself. “I bet you had a real good laugh about it…” she murmured brokenly, holding her breath as she looked up at the ceiling.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Maya.” Rhys said slowly, shaking his head as his eyes darted across the crowd gathered around them again. “I have no reason to laugh about anything that would cause you to be this upset.” He continued, taking a half a step closer and extending his hand towards the girl, only to hesitate when she scoffed and rolled her eyes at him. 

“Ha, you don’t know me half so well as you pretend to, if you thought screwing Axton  wouldn’t upset me. Or perhaps, I guess it doesn’t matter who gets hurt, to someone like you …” Maya sneered scathingly, taking another large gulp of beer as Rhys blinked in surprise and dropped his hand, recoiling slightly as he tried to process the accusation.

“Rhys hasn’t been anywhere near Axton !” Vaughn protested, moving over to Rhys' side and angling himself towards his best friend defensively, scowling at Maya as she glowered back. “I’ve had eyes on Axton  nearly all night; Rhys' been nowhere near him since we got here!” He said firmly, folding his arms over his chest as Rhys felt a dull ache begin to pulse in his chest.

“I’m not talking about tonight, you little peabrain!” Maya spat viciously, barely catching a tear as it rolled over her cheek with the heel of her palm, her eyes blazing as she scowled at Vaughn for a heartbeat longer, before returning her pained and hateful gaze to Rhys. “I’m talking about the night of the dance… the night mister freebie here; ‘blew Axton ’s mind,’ in the boys upstairs bathrooms.” She sneered vindictively, as Rhys' throat tightened and his hand curled into a ball at his side, his fingernails biting into the flesh harshly.

“That’s not true!” Vaughn yelled, his hand moving to Rhys' elbow in support, as he glared at Maya irritably. “I don’t know where you heard that, but it’s bullshit! ” He snarled, ignorant of the storm which raged in Rhys' heart; torn between fury and resignation at the accusation. “Rhys went home before the dance was even finished! How the hell is he supposed to have-?!”

“Apparently they went for a little walk together,” Maya sniffed, swallowing heavily as she met Rhys' blank gaze haughtily. “And Rhys got frisky, which let’s face it; is hardly unlikely. We’re all aware of how he is.” She said quietly, as Rhys' heart sank, his indignation at being so unfairly accused clearing as realisation dawned slowly. “How could anyone turn him down, when he makes such open invitations?”

“So,” Rhys croaked, pausing to clear his throat as he blinked and tried to push aside the dull sense of betrayal he felt brewing in his chest. “You heard all this from Axton , I’m guessing?” He asked, clucking his tongue against the roof of his mouth to keep his voice from cracking under the strain of his aching throat.

“He and his team mates were all laughing…” Maya whispered, her lip trembling as she sucked in a deep breath and lifted the hand holding her beer to her chest. “Bragging; about you blowing his mind.”

Rhys nodded, locking his jaw as he averted his eyes to the ceiling briefly. It certainly would have been mind blowing, if I would ever have considered giving Axton  bloody Turret any of my time. He thought, swallowing down his pointless denials, knowing he’d never be believed over the revered sniper. I can’t blame her for buying into it… Axton ’s the only idiot who can’t see she adores him. He cleared his throat again and sucked in a deep breath, plastering a false and cocky grin to his face and spreading his arms wide as he turned around the crowd slowly.

“There you go, you see?” He called over the hushed crowd, ignoring the stunned faces as he tried to mask his own pain the only way he knew how. “The amazing Rhys, mind blowing satisfaction, guaranteed!” He yelled, winking at a group of girls as his gaze drifted over them. “Beware your boyfriends, or even ex boyfriends; for no male is safe from my dastardly, wicked ways!” He leered, ignoring Vaughn’s elbow as he thrust it into his ribs.

“You-” Maya choked, shaking her head as her eyes clouded with tears, her expression crumbling as she pressed the back of her free hand to her mouth.

Rhys' eyes shifted over the girls shoulder, locking onto Axton’s stunned expression as the sniper star glanced between himself and Maya. “I’m shameless.” Rhys murmured, dropping his arms to his sides with a faint clap. “Didn’t you know? I’m a moral less, carefree asshole, who only wants one thing; and I don’t stop at anything ‘til I have it, right?”

Rhys! ” Vaughn hissed, trying to grab Rhys' shoulder and make him stop, only for Rhys to shrug himself free. “Dude, what the hell are you doing?” He demanded, scowling at his best friend as Rhys half turned towards him. “Shut up, you’re making it worse-”

“How exactly, can it get any worse?” Rhys hissed back quietly, his dark eyes meeting Vaughn’s warm but concerned gaze briefly, before he pulled himself free of his best friends hold and walked slowly towards Maya. “I’m sorr-” Rhys' apology to the girl was cut short by her open palm colliding with his cheek, a resounding smack ringing through the room and drawing a gasp from the crowd.

“Don’t you dare.” Maya whispered hoarsely, her eyes smeared with mascara as she stared at Rhys brokenly.

Rhys flexed his jaw, ignoring Vaughn’s hand on his arm as he shrugged himself free and met Maya’s accusatory glare evenly. “... my mistake.” He said, their eyes remaining locked a heartbeat longer, before he pushed past Maya and headed for the front door. Rhys ignored the eruption of noise behind him, his ears still ringing with Maya’s words and his cheek still smarting from her hard slap.

“Rhys,” He grimaced at the sound of Axton ’s voice, marching towards the exit and almost making it before he felt the sniper’s hand catch his elbow. “Wait, Rhys… let me explai-”

“I don’t need you to explain, Axton!” Rhys hissed, whirling as he yanked his arm free of Axton ’s hold. “It doesn’t exactly take a genius to work out that you lied to your little team mates about something that never fucking happened to get back at Maya.” He sneered, shaking his head as he scowled at Axton . “Did you see her, huh? Was it worth it?” He asked lowly, ignoring his classmate’s guilty wince. “Are you happy now; knowing you broke her so utterly? Is your revenge complete, huh?”

“Of course not!” Axton  denied hotly, gritting his teeth and glaring back at Rhys. “Look, I never said anything to the guys!” He said, spreading his palms innocently. “Salvador and the others, man… they just, they assumed and-”

“And you didn’t think to set them straight.” Rhys finished knowingly, snorting with disgust as he turned around and continued on his way to the door. “Ya know, it goes to show; you really don’t know some people as well as you think you do.” He scoffed, shaking his head as he reached the main door and extended his hand toward the door handle.

“Well, it’s not as if it really matters, right?” Axton  called after him, drawing him to a halt as he tensed before the door. “I mean, why do you even care? With all the stuff that goes around already… about your-”

“It matters.” Vaughn said quietly, as Rhys turned towards Axton  with an incredulous gaze of disbelief. “Because you should know letting bullshit rumours spread about someone, is a pretty shitty thing to do. Especially when you’re supposed to be that person’s friend.” He said, walking over to join Rhys by the door, examining him worriedly, before turning towards Axton  with an expression of cool disdain. “Honestly? I’ve never been more disappointed to be able to say I know Axton Turret.” He added, meeting the sniper’s stunned gaze a moment longer, before turning his back and ignoring him. “Let’s get outta here, Rhys.”

“No.” Rhys said, shaking his head as he swallowed thickly, his hands trembling where he held them out of sight. “No, you stay here.” He said slowly, raising his palm towards his friend when Vaughn began to protest. “Vaughn, you’ve been looking forward to this party… I’m not about to be the reason you walk out on your first real attempt to learn how to have fun.” He said flippantly, hiding his heartache behind a falsely cheerful grin. “I’m just gonna go by my favourite store, get some shit together and then go home to make those cookies I now owe you, okay?” He said, pressing his lips into a tight, thin lipped smile to keep them from trembling.

Vaughn frowned, glancing back down the hall uncertainly. “I dunno dude, I kinda think this party is over…” he said, looking back at Rhys and pointing at him roughly. “And don’t think I buy that smile. That is not an ‘I’m okay’ smile.” He added, his eyes concerned as he ran them over his best friend.

“Vaughn,” Rhys sighed, hesitating as he tried to contain his true feelings and reassure his friend. “You will be able to fuss over me all you want tomorrow, provided your hangover isn’t so bad that you can’t make it over. You have a key, you have your phone so you can check I’m at home and tucked into bed later.” He snickered weakly, nudging his friends shoulder briefly. “Now go. I refuse to let you blame me later, for missing out on this party.” He declared firmly, turning Vaughn around by the shoulders and shoving him back toward the living room.

“Rhys,” Vaughn called back, half turning towards him and examining him carefully for a long pause, before sighing and reluctantly taking another step back to the slowly reawakening party. “Call me when you get home? Or at least text me?” He asked, worrying his lip between his teeth as he ran his hand through his hair.

Rhys nodded mutely, his throat tight as he tried to keep the grief from his eyes and smiled at his best friend. “You know it, buddy.” He said thickly, throwing him one of Jack’s mocking two finger salutes, before turning on his heel and reaching for the door; ignoring Axton  calling his name again as he stalked through and slammed the door behind him. Once outside, Rhys' expression crumbled, his pain breaking free of his tight control and clouding his dark blue gaze with grief. “This fucking town…” he mumbled, leaning his head back against the door and staring up at the dark sky for a moment of contemplative silence.

With a sigh, Rhys pushed himself to begin trudging home, digging his phone from his pocket and opening his messages with his heart residing somewhere in his hollow stomach. He looked through his messages to Jack, so playful and carefree; snorting at his ridiculous thoughts that the man could have been so amused by such an unworthy and tainted schoolboy as himself. Hey. Heading home. Promised to let you know. He typed into a quick message, swallowing thickly as he reread some of Jack’s replies, missing the warmth in his sunken heart which the other man had filled him with.

Rhys had barely taken a dozen steps when his phone buzzed his Jack’s reply, his brow furrowing in confusion at the man’s obvious concern. How come? Figured ya’d be partyin’ ‘til early hours of the mornin’ at least… ya friend with ya at least? The pilot asked, as Rhys lifted his eyes from his phone to the stars, exhaling a deep and trembling breath slowly.

Nah, told him to stay. Rhys replied at last, his fingers hovering over his keypad as he turned out of August’s driveway and headed back into town. Just, lost interest. Was lame anyway. He said dismissively, his feet coming to an abrupt halt as he turned back to the house with a gasp, his shoulders slumping dejectedly. I forgot your whiskey. Sorry… He admitted, attaching a sad emoji as he turned back to the path and shook his head, irritation combining with his grief and making him feel even more rotten than he had previously.

I don’t give a fuck about the stupid whiskey, Rhys… Jack replied, his exasperation clear despite his lack of emoji embellishment. What the hell happened? Don’t try tellin’ me nothin’ did, ya shit at hidin’ it. The pilot added, as Rhys huffed and almost smiled.

If only you knew half of what I hide from you on a daily basis, Handsome. He thought dryly, effectively killing the soft amusement which had almost built at the show of the pilot’s concern. Nothing happened. Just bored. He sent back, pausing at a traffic light and closing his eyes as he waited, knowing he would crack if Jack kept pushing for him to talk. He opened his eyes to see his favourite diner, deciding to get himself a coffee before hitting the shops for the ingredients to begin a jumbo batch of Vaughn’s cookies. Am gonna get myself a coffee and something to eat at Mama Dia’s… I’ll let you know when I’m home. He texted quickly, hesitating for a moment as he considered, before turning his phone off and stuffing it deep into his pocket. 

God, if he ever knew the kind of trash he’s got himself involved with. He thought with a sigh, burying his hands in his trouser pockets as he crossed the road, hopping onto the opposite pavement and shaking his head as he made his way towards the diner. I guess he'll soon find out though, especially as this will be all around school on Monday. He groaned, his head in his hands as he stumbled up to the door, sighing as he reached forward and pushed the door open. He tipped his chin at the woman behind the counter, glancing around briefly before and noting the place was quiet at least, before moving to the far window and throwing himself into a chair at a two seater table. 

"Fuck." He bit out, shaking his head as he drew in a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, leaning forward to rub his eyes with his palms. "What a fucking mess." He sighed, scratching his scalp idly as he stared straight through the table. Here I thought shit like this was just… he thought, trailing off with disbelief as he shook his head slowly. He glanced up as the waitress appeared beside him, setting down a large cup of coffee before him. "Thanks." He murmured, fingering the handle with disinterest as the waitress returned to her station behind the counter. I almost wish I'd done it… least then I would have this sickness clawing at my gut. He thought, knowing he wasn't being entirely honest, but knowing he would prefer it to the entirely false rumours already spreading like wildfire.

"Typical." Rhys murmured, his fingers grazing the hot coffee cups smooth side, as he turned his head to gaze out into the darkness. "I just start to think maybe there's a chance I could have this…" he said bitterly, his throat tightening as he stared into the night unseeingly. "God, I'm an idiot." He sighed, shaking his head minutely as his thoughts twisted venomously in his head. You let your guard down; now you're gonna pay for it. You knew better, but you did it anyway. He flinched at the vicious jab at himself, blinking as he slowly looked back at his coffee, the liquid almost as dark and unfathomable as the night sky outside the diner. Just what do you think he's gonna do when this is buzzing around the school on Monday. It'll be goodbye Jack, hello misery and loneliness again; because there's no chance in hell that anyone in this town will ever give you the chance to be more than this like he did.

Rhys swallowed heavily, his jaw locking and his lip trembling at the thought of losing the tentative relationship he'd managed to construct with Jack. Kiss it all goodbye, Rhys . The quiet thought lingered, hovering on the edge of his consciousness as the rest of Rhys' mind turned blank; instead recalling the few precious memories he'd gathered of his time with Jack and trying to burn them into his heart forever. 

Maybe I should skip school Monday… he mused, trailing his finger slowly over the coffee cup handle. Everything will be all… out there. Hell, he'll probably hear about all the stuff he wants me to tell him too, then if I come back Tuesday- his thought paused, his lips parting as he sucked in a deep and unsteady breath. "Game over, man." He murmured, licking his lips and blinking rapidly to keep his eyes from tearing; leaning forward to raise his coffee to his lips and take a small and unenthusiastic sip.

"Did I leave anything at his..?" He wondered aloud, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he sniffed and lowered his cup back to the table. "No. Just... memories." He sighed, leaning back in his seat and turning to gaze out the window again, his thoughts returning to the one night of passion they'd shared at Jack's apartment, his heart clenching in his chest; crushed beneath the grief of never being able to relive the memory in the future. Rhys closed his eyes, ignoring the moisture he felt on one of his cheeks and allowing himself to remember; his body warming as he recalled various moments from their intimacy. He drew in a deep breath, his breath escaping him in a soft sigh as he vividly remembered the feel of Jack's strong, warm hands on his thighs; the intensity of his piercing eyes as he watched Rhys, seemingly determined not to waste a second of their time together.

It was some time before Rhys pulled himself free of his memories, startled by the sound of a chair scraping against the floor and a cup being set on the table. He opened his eyes and blinked in surprise, his eyebrows rising as he stared at the face he'd just been determinedly burning into his memory. "Surprised to see me, huh?" Jack murmured, running his eyes over Rhys as he sat opposite him and took a large mouthful of his coffee, his tense shoulders relaxing slightly as Rhys' eyes drifted to the signs of exhaustion buried in Jack's mismatched eyes. "Guess ya shouldn't turn ya phone off in future." The pilot said, clearing his throat and licking his lips as Rhys continued to stare in dumb awe. Jack frowned as he examined Rhys, who quickly shook himself from his stupor and wiped his hands over his cheeks, sucking in a deep breath and shaking his head to try and clear it of the lingering shock.

"W-what are you doing here?" He asked awkwardly, about to curl his hands around his coffee when he flinched away instead, discovering it was stone cold. "I thought you were off at the teacher con..?" He said, shaking his head and frowning at Jack in confusion.

"Yeah, well; emergency came up and I just had to bail." Jack said, spreading his palms with a lopsided grin, unintentionally both melting and breaking Rhys' heart. He lowered his eyes to his cold coffee, leaning on his elbows to hide the fact that he was wrapping his arms around himself; attempting to keep himself from falling apart.

"You shouldn't have." He said quietly, shaking his head as he desperately tried to force enough air into his lungs without drawing attention to the fact he was so emotional. "You need to keep things together for Zane, keep up appearances…" he said, blinking dazedly as he glanced around discreetly, shrinking in on himself as he realised Jack was directly putting himself; and by association, Zane, in a very compromising situation. "I should leave. You shouldn't be seen with m-" he began, his voice wavering as he pushed to his feet and reached into his pocket for some change.

"Rhys, sit ya goddamn ass down and tell me what the hell is goin' on, now ." Jack said quietly, his eyes hard as he looked across the table at Rhys, who remained standing and stared down at the table silently. "To anyone lookin' right now, I'm just a teacher who spotted a student lookin' worse for wear and decided to check on 'em." He continued, shrugging his shoulder dismissively and gesturing discreetly to the almost empty diner, resting his wrist on the back of the empty chair beside him as he watched Rhys look around slowly. "Sit down. " Jack ordered, narrowing his eyes as Rhys looked at him and hesitated, before slowly lowering himself back into his chair.

"Why the hell did you come back?" Rhys asked, shaking his head slowly as Jack snorted and rolled his eyes. "No, I mean it… you can't have come all this way back here, risked Zane's job and reputation; just to see me." He said, scratching behind his ear in frustration.

"Rhys, I know ya got issues alright, hell; ya know I got enough of my own… but I'm gonna say this once and ya gonna believe me, alright?" Jack said slowly, leaning forward and bracing himself on his elbows, his haunting eyes locking intently into Rhys' gaze. "I came back, one hundred percent; for you . Ya weren't okay, that was obvious… Ya wouldn't reply to texts and I couldn't get through calin' ya, so my only option was to hightail it back and hope like hell ya were still here." He said, gesturing around the diner again. "Otherwise, I was gonna be knockin' on ya damn door, until ya let me the hell in… and that would've been a hell of a lot more revealin' than, happenin' across ya in some crappy ass diner."

Rhys stared in disbelief, his heart clanging loudly in his chest as his eyes remained locked into Jack's, lost in their depths of sincerity and determination. He swallowed thickly, blinking and finally tearing his gaze from Jack's as he looked around helplessly, trying to hold himself together even as he felt himself stripped bare by Jack's gentle but firm admonishment. "I don't…" he said, shaking his head vehemently beneath Jack's gaze. "I don't understand." He bit out, his hands curling tightly around his coffee cup despite its coldness, his eyes lockong on the unappealing liquid within.

Jack regarded him a moment longer, pursing his lips briefly before clicking his tongue in his cheek. "I know, whatever happened has hurt ya, Cupcake…" he said, hesitating, before extending one hand behind their cups to rest over Rhys' fingers gently. "But I'm tellin' ya now, whatever this is; whatever it is scares ya about ya past or about tonight… it ain't gonna scare me." He promised, his brow furrowong as Rhys hiccupped and covered his mouth with his hand, averting his eyes out the window. "Rhys, I know trust comes hard to ya.. but I trusted you , with stuff I ain't ever gonna be tellin' anyone else. Trust me now, just a little… 'kay?"

Rhys exhaled a deep breath slowly, his chaotic thoughts quieting as Jack's fingers rubbed soothingly at his own, the strangely gently and subtle reassurance calming him as he hesitantly turned towards him again. "It-it's dumb. I just… I-" he said, swallowing the thick lump in his throat, all the words he couldn't yet force free.

Jack sighed, removing hus fingers from Rhys as ge sat back and ran his hand through his hair, looking around the diner as he tried not to show his obvious disappointment; further melting Rhys' heart as he realised the extent of the man's genuine concern. "How 'bout this, then?" Jack said abruptly, as Rhys peeked over at him from beneath his lashes. "Ya lemme give ya a ride home; and ya tell me about it in the car. Just you and me ." He offered, spreading his palms toward Rhys hopefully.

Rhys bit his lip and lowered his eyes, his heart crashing in his chest as he debated briefly, before casting the pilot a sly glance. "... where's 'home,' exactly?" He asked, his lip twitching with amusement as Jack's shoulders sagged with relief, his eyes brightening as he chuckled and winked. 

"Ya'll have to gimme directions." He said cockily, raising a brow challengingly as he smirked at Rhys. "Think ya can find ya way from here in the dark?" He asked, leaning forward conspiratorially. "Wouldn't want ya to get lost or anythin' and end up at the wrong place now, would we?" He asked playfully, grinning as Rhys finally cracked a fragile smile.

Rhys nodded, drawing in a deep breath as he looked out the window a final time, the ache in his heart finally easing slightly as he looked back at Jack with a shy smile and a familiar warmth blossoming in his chest. "I think I can manage that." He murmured with a sniff, biting his lip as he and Jack rose from their chairs and made their way to the exit, leaving enough cash to cover their drinks and a generous tip; before walking out into the night air together.