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The Game of Cat and Mouse

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When Rhys woke up, he found himself in bed. How did he get there? The pain had resumed in his body, which had made it difficult for him to get out of bed. To resolve the situation he decided to stay down. Maybe, by some miracle, Vaughn would come to his rescue. That got him thinking.

Oh, god. Vaughn.

His memory was fuzzy, but he could vividly remember the distressed look on his best friend's face as he got closer to him. With that thought, part of him was against using his friend for aide. It didn't take too long for Rhys to give into his neediness. He yelled out a fragile "Vaughn!" It took a minute, but Vaughn scrambled into the room with a small smile. "Hey..." Rhys gulped, looking down at his feet.

"Hey. How're you feeling?" Vaughn sounded like a broken record at this point, but Rhys didn't mind. It was nice knowing that someone was by his side no matter how stupid he was. His friend scooted forward and sat on the bed opposite of Rhys.

"I hurt a lot." Rhys admitted with a wince, "But, I'll get over it."

Vaughn looked over Rhys' shoulder to try and examine his new artificial one. "I need to check underneath the wrapping and check for infection."

"Bro, it's only been a few hours since my surgery. I'm fine."

Vaughn bit his bottom lip. It was Vaughn's signature 'there's something I need to tell you' face. "Bro...You've been out cold for three days."

Rhys frowned. Not the usual overdramatic expression Rhys would usually give. He figured that something would have to go wrong considering the fact he just got black market cybernetics. What hit Rhys was guilt. This man was taking unpaid leave to take of Rhys, and for what? To take care of his man-child best friend? All those thoughts took a pause when Rhys felt the warmth of Vaughn's hand pile on his remaining flesh one. Rhys looked up and was greeted by a kind and caring expression. "Can I please see."

Rhys gave a nod. He winced again out of instinct when Vaughn checked under the eyepatch. "Everything on your eye looks good. That's a pretty color blue."

"Blue? They didn't say anything about a color change..."

"If it accounts for anything, I think it's a very good color on you. Matches your work uniform." Vaughn kept a straight face, but there was a tinge of pink hugging his cheeks. He lifted the eyepatch back down carefully and ventured to Rhys' arm. He lifted the bandage and his expression went pale. Rhys couldn't see, but he sensed the tension in Vaughn's grip.

"Is everything okay?"

"You've got a monster infection... The doctor said I can remove the arm if that happens. I guess you can pop this sucker off when you need to? He gave me a pamphlet, be right back." Vaughn was off.

Rhys put a hand to his eyepatch, touching it lightly. His cheeks turned color when he thought about Vaughn's compliment. Was it just for comfort?

Vaughn came back into the room with the pamphlet, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and some fresh bandaging. "Alright... This looks complicated." He sat on Rhys' right side so that he could get a better look at the arm. After he sat everything onto the bed with grace, he reached a hand to feel Rhys' forehead. "You're a little warm. That's not good, but it's also not bad. It means your infection's just started. If I would've waited, your fever would be higher." Vaughn began to remove the ace bandaging from the arm sling.

Rhys took a look at his arm. It wasn't the first time the metal replacement taunted him, but it was an attention seeker every time he looked to it. It felt weird being a technical cyborg. It wasn't like he could say much. It was his fault for him getting into this situation. Life lesson: Don't trust some freak in Quarantine just because you needed money for next month's rent.

Vaughn began fiddling with metal clasps Rhys couldn't see. He paralyzed himself, afraid that one wrong move could instantly damage his cybernetics. Though, he was genuinely appreciative of Vaughn's carefulness. Vaughn must have gotten the right clasp because Rhys heard a sharp click, several others followed. His arm was off with a hard tug from Vaughn. It didn't hurt as much as he anticipated, but it still hurt.

Rhys' new arm laid beside Vaughn, who was reaching for the first aid materials. "This is going to hurt... so, just stay still. Okay?" Rhys nodded, which ensued Vaughn to tilt the bottle of peroxide into a rag. Once it was nice and soaked, Vaughn began to gently dab the peroxide onto Rhys' stump. Bubbles instantly began to form as Rhys whined. Vaughn wasn't kidding when he said it was a monster.

Vaughn looked up at Rhys. Bad timing, but he was going to talk. "Bro... how do you view our relationship?"

Rhys suddenly felt time stop. His body grew numb as his eyes trailed away from Vaughn. "I-I... we're bros, bro. Why?"

There was a hint of disappointment in Vaughn's face. "Oh." He said flatly, "Just curious is all... don't wanna lose my bro..."

Rhys was washed with yet another rush of guilt. "What about you?" Way to go, Rhys.

Vaughn shrugged. "I dunno. As you said, we're just bros."

"Then why did you ask?"

Vaughn remained silent for a moment. The look on his face insinuated that there was something holding him back. "You're cleaned up."

"Vaughn." Rhys furrowed his brow, "You're avoiding my question."

"I'll rewrap your bandage."

"Vaughn!" Rhys said irritably, his temper shortening. Vaughn drew back a little as if intimidated by the sudden burst of volume. Rhys gave a short sigh, "Why are you avoiding the question?"

Vaughn straightened up. "Because, Rhys. It was a dumb thing to ask. N-Not your question... mine." Vaughn sank back down again, "Nevermind."

Rhys scooted close to Vaughn. "Vaughn. Why did you ask?"

Vaughn bit his lip again, feeling trapped. Rhys decided to move his hand closer to Vaughn's. "Vaughn..."

"You leaned in to kiss me, Rhys."

"Is that why you looked scared...?"

Vaughn was quiet, but he gave a nod. He fiddled with his fingers and looked into his lap. "It's complicated, Rhys."

"I'm sorry I scared you." Rhys replied, "I-I guess I didn't have a filter when I was drugged up."

"You didn't have a filter? What's that supposed to mean?"

Great. Now he could avoid the question or he could be truthful. The last time he decided to dodge the bullet, he ended up with his limb chopped off. "I'm gonna tell you something, but you gotta promise you won't freak out or whatever. Okay?" When Vaughn responded with a nod and locked eye contact, Rhys added "I like you more than a bro... Just being around you makes me happy, and you've been the best friend anyone could ask for. I didn't want to say anything, because I didn't want to make our friendship awkward. I've been rejected more times than I can count, so I didn't want to risk it with you. But, I've had feelings for you for... jeez, a decade almost?"

Warmth emerged onto Rhys' hand again. His heart raced, but he refused to break their eye contact. "You're more than a bro to me too, Rhys." Vaughn's face was bright pink, but he gave a very sincere smile. Rhys couldn't stop staring. He just looked so... cute.

"Really?" Rhys asked, "I-I mean. Really?" His tone of voice didn't change. He was in a stage of disbelief.

Vaughn decided to scoot closer to Rhys. "Yeah, really. I have for years."

"Years? And I never noticed?" Vaughn squeezed Rhys' hand to get his attention, "That was kind of of the point, genius. I didn't want to ruin what we have either. You've been my best friend since we were in Junior High!"

Rhys looked at Vaughn and leaned in a bit."Why did you get scared when I leaned in earlier- give or take a few days ago."

"Because you were drugged up. I didn't want to take advantage of that."

"That's sweet, Vaughn." Rhys gave a smile before leaning back. He thought that maybe lip-locking would make Vaughn nervous. He sat back into the mattress and looked up at Vaughn. "Did Yvette tell you?"

Vaughn chuckled and laid next to him. "Yeah. I thought she was getting my hopes up, though. You know Yvette."

Rhys flipped onto his right side, making sure his cybernetic side had room to breathe. "So. What does that make us?"

"I... I don't know. Friends?" Vaughn scooted a little closer, looking into Rhys' visible eye.

"Best friends?" Rhys scooted closer to Vaughn, returning eye contact.

"More than friends?" Vaughn and Rhys' noses were touching, their mouths only centimeters apart. They stared at each other for a while before Rhys laid his only hand on Vaughn's cheek. He could feel Vaughn's blush in the palm of his hand. It made him smile, which made Vaughn smile. Rhys felt his body take the wheel and lean in close, disintegrating the space between their lips.

Vaughn pressed his body against Rhys'. Rhys wrapped his arm around Vaughn's waist in response, letting their lips lock and slide against each other. Both of their chests felt light, and they felt like they were dreaming. The thoughts of security, the disappearance of all their worries. Both of the men could live like this forever, to just hold each other until tomorrow's end.

Rhys pulled back and looked at Vaughn. He noticed his friend's eyes gave a radiant light. His smile was wide and you couldn't see a trace of Vaughn's natural pale skin in his face or ears. "That was nice." Vaughn giggled, placing his head into the crook of Rhys' neck. Rhys rested his chin on top of Vaughn's head. "You're a better kisser than I thought you were."

Rhys laughed lightly. "I feel the same way...- a-about you!" Ah, the nervous man smiles anxiously in his habitat, awaiting his partner's response.

"Are we more than friends?" Vaughn looked up, raising a brow, "I-I know kissing doesn't mean that you're automatically, like, lovers. But..."

"I-If you want to be." Rhys ran his hand through Vaughn's hair. "We can be, like... boyfriends."

Vaughn's face lit up yet again and he looked up happily. "Really?" He giggled to himself, "Rhys is my boyfriend." He whispered to himself, putting his hands up to his mouth as he gasped. He was like a high school girl.

Rhys leaned over and kissed Vaughn's forehead. "I'm the one that's lucky."

"That's cheesy." Vaughn teased, holding Rhys close.

Rhys looked up at the clock and closed his eyes. "I'm hungry..."

Vaughn scurried up. "I-I can make you something!" he offered, "Maybe some pudding? O-Or yogurt?"

"Don't those take months to make though?" Rhys replied. Bad dad joke.

"Rhys. I hate you." Vaughn got up out of the bed and exited into the kitchen.

Rhys sat back and looked up at the ceiling. Maybe things were finally going to fall into plan. Low and behold, his ECHO beeped. Begrudgingly, Rhys picked up his communications device and checked what the ruckus was all about.

Beep! Message: Yvette.

Shit! Rhys looked at the message. "Have you seen Vaughn? He's been ignoring my texts."

"He's with me. He's taking care of me. Just got out of surgery." Rhys sent a smiley face to try and lighten the mood. Yvette's mood, however, was not brightened.

"Surgery?" She replied, "What surgery? What happened?"

Rhys bit his lip and sighed. "Gtg. TTYL!"

Yvette kept popping back with messages, but Rhys muted her notifications. He didn't need to hear her thoughts on the situation. He was in a good mood, save the bitch and lecture for later.

Vaughn returned with a small vanilla pudding cup with whipped topping and a glass of apple juice. He looked proud to say the least, walking up to Rhys and offering his newly claimed boyfriend the food. "I know it's not much, but I want you to eat."

Rhys smiled. He didn't mind the small portions. Sure, he was hungry, but he didn't know how much he could stomach. The surgery was taking a bigger toll on him than he thought it would. His whole body was resisting this new change, even his stomach. "Thank you, Vaughn. It's way more than enough for me." The first thing Rhys did was chug that apple juice. He was extremely dehydrated. Apple juice wasn't going to help that, but water was against Rhys' religion.

Vaughn sat beside Rhys once again as he ate. He began subtly fidgeting with his fingers and looked over at Rhys' bandaged stump. "How is it feeling, bro?"

Rhys looked up at Vaughn with his apple juice mustache and moved his eyes to his arm. "I can't feel it. Maybe that peroxide worked. The rest of my body hurts. Is this ever going to be over?"

Vaughn was now visibly nervous. "Rhys? Can I ask you something? You have to be one hundred percent honest with me. No lying- again."

Rhys nodded, digging into the vanilla goodness.

"Since we're like, like a thing... you're not gonna lie to me anymore, right? No matter what?"

Rhys looked down and stopped eating his pudding. "Vaughn. I-I don't know. I lied to protect you-"

"No. You lied to protect yourself on multiple occasions. Giving me googley eyes is one thing- but you lied about your job! You literally got cybernetics all because you lost it and instead of coming to me, you decided to chop off an arm. How'd that work out for you, Rhys?"

"Why are you so angry all of a sudden? Just five minutes ago you were okay with making out with me, and now you wanna argue?"

"I want clarification, Rhys."

"Clarification? Fine." Rhys' voice raised a little, "I didn't get the cybernetics because I lost my job, I got them because I was trying to dodge a bullet about how I felt about you. I didn't want to like you. I didn't want to ruin anything. Losing my job was just what set off the decision to actually go through with it. You think I wanted my arm and my eye removed for some Hyperion science fiction game?"

Vaughn's eyes furrowed and he looked at his hand, which were fidgeting terribly. "Rhys. I..." He didn't know what to say. He felt like he did so much wrong already. "Sorry... I'm insecure."

Rhys sighed and toned it down. "I'm sorry I lied to you. If I lie to you, I'll end up being honest. I always am."

Vaughn refused to reply. Rhys felt his guilt come to the rescue again. He slid close to Vaughn and leaned against him. Vaughn didn't move, but he felt tense. "Bro. I promise it's okay."

"I'm new at this relationship thing. I just thought maybe we'd clear a few things up." Rhys kissed Vaughn's temple and rested his chin on Vaughn's head once more.

"Well, maybe choose better timing." Rhys grabbed Vaughns's hand and held it to his lips, kissing it gently. Vaughn blushed and drew his hand back with a giggle. "This isn't my first rodeo, but it's the first one I've wanted to attend."

"Now who's being cheesy?"

Rhys rolled his eyes and laid back down, Vaughn following him. "I'm tired."

"Sleep. You need it." Both of them did. Vaughn rested his head on Rhys' chest and closed his eyes. Both of the men were out within minutes, holding each other as much as they could.