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The Utter Disappointment

Chapter Text

“Funeral? All the way up there?” The young woman sat down a coffee mug she’d been previously holding, phone squashed between her ear and shoulder. She leaned back in her computer chair, listening to her mother’s reply.

“Yes, dear. I know you didn’t know your grandfather very well, and, well… I didn’t either. But it would make your father happy a great deal.” She informed. When there was no response, her mother prompted a ‘hello?’

“Yeah, yeah, I’m here. Just thinking.” She responded with a grumble, opening up her laptop, and checked her schedule.

“Okay, well, your ticket will all be payed for, and we have some gifts for you to take back with you.” The woman continued, her daughter half-heartedly listening as she scrolled through the calendar up on her screen. “Your grandfather has a thing or two in his will for you as well, and I don’t know if it’s shippable or not-- I surely don’t want to keep it from you.”

“How long will it be for?”

“You can stay as long as you want with us if you want. However, I’d like you to stay at least three days, if you could, dear.”

“Mmmrr…” She rubbed a hand on her face, stifling a sigh to not offend her mother. She could probably take work off for three days…

“Sure.” She finally agreed.

“Great! I’ll send you what I need to. I have to get going, much to prepare. I love you, sweetheart, and I can’t wait to see you!”

“You too. Love you, mum.”

The call ended, and she knew she had a long trip up to Michigan.

--

Michigan was bitter cold, per usual. That’s why she liked Los Angeles much better-- The winters weren’t quite as cold, and you never saw snow, unless it was a freak thing.

Her mother was glad to see her, her brothers less so, and her father was grim most of the time. She reunited with family she hadn’t seen for ages, and though she enjoyed it, she didn’t much appreciate all of the attention.

What was strange, however, is that her grandfather had really not left her anything. Save, he left her some cash, about 2 grand, and an old, rustic pocket watch. It wasn’t much, and she almost thought it was a waste of time to take off work to come down here.

At the memorial service, however, it was almost made up for. Plenty of food. Cookies, cakes, orderves, sandwiches-- What was this, a wedding? She’d helped herself to a plateful of food, and sat down at a table, eating quietly as she checked her accounts on her phone.

“Sweetheart,” She looked up, swallowing a bite of sandwich as her mother hurried over. In her hand was a box slightly bigger than her own hand, and on the top was her name scrawled in rushed writing. “Your grandfather left you this, too.” Curiously, she plucked the box from her mother’s fingers, and moved to open the lid. “Ah, ah.” Her mother put a finger on the box, then lifted the note on the top slightly with her fingernail.

‘Open Alone’, it read, in the same rushed handwriting. “Does it matter?” She grumbled, eyes flicking irritably up to her mother, whom gave her a stern stare in return.

“It’s your grandfather’s last wish; Can’t you respect that?” She chided, her daughter casting her eyes downwards.

“I guess.” She shrugged, taking the box and tucking it carefully into her bag. The day went on until it turned to night, and eventually, everyone had gone their separate ways. Phone in hand, she made her way down the hall to her own room, having already of bid her family goodnight, and last condolences to her father. Despite sitting most of the day and doing nothing, it was surprisingly tiring.

As soon as she got into her room, she’d stripped out of her formal wear, and into some night clothes. “Freedom.” She breathed, flopping down onto her bed, and grabbed her pillow, holding it to her body as she curled up. She wanted to sleep, honestly, she did. But something was nagging at her… What, she did not know.

Blinking her eyes back open, she sat up, looking over at her bag. Curiosity finally getting the best of her, she stood, moving to her desk, and dug through it, finally withdrawing the box. She was about to rip it open, until she remembered the whole ‘open alone’. Holy shit, She suddenly thought, what could be in here? She was almost scared to find out. Maybe it was just something personal of his he didn’t want prying eyes to see. Maybe a secret heirloom to pass down to her family?

Maybe it was something illegal. Something worth a lot of money, but illegal. “I knew that old coot was a gangster.” She muttered, lips quirking a bit as she finally pulled the box open. At first, she almost couldn’t look, but she finally did, and what she saw…

Was disgustingly disappointing.
She’d expected something much more. Something that would pop out, that she would have to keep a secret from her family. No, though, it wasn’t anything of the sort.

It was a watch.

A fucking watch.

It looked techy, but was definitely not something she’d wear. She scrunched up her nose, feeling more than irked and disappointed. She nearly threw the thing, but opted to instead take it out, looking over it. It… Seemed normal enough. It honestly did. The time was incorrect, but it didn’t surprise her; She’d have to change it to LA time anyways.

“Gotta be fuckin’ kidding me, gramps.” She muttered, but decided to humor the man and put the watch on anyways. It wasn’t really uncomfortable, but it was a little loose. She started to adjust the time on it, stopping as something caught her eye. There was a small tab of paper under a layer of padding where the watch lay on top of, and so, she took off the padding. Underneath was another small note, and a smaller micro-chip.

‘Place chip in watch. Be careful.’ The writing looked… Not as messy, but still not as thought out. “Hmm. Be careful?” She mused, taking the chip out carefully. She looked at the watch clasped onto her wrist, searching for some sort of opening. When she finally pinpointed it, she pushed the chip in, and it gave a small ‘click’.

Nothing happened.

“What does he--”

A startled gasp left her lips. Suddenly, it felt as if two needles had just shot into the top of her wrist, and the band had coiled around her wrist tighter. No, she was sure that happened. She panicked, reaching over and trying to claw the watch off, only for a strong bolt of electricity to be shot up her arm, and through her body. She staggered back, the world a mere flicker of light, before swamping black. She could feel herself collapse, her breathing ragged and rushed.

She twitched, eyes barely sliding open, and in a blur, she could just make out the outline of something. Bluish, pale… Glitchy.

“You’re in for a ride, kiddo.” It spoke, voice stagnant and almost zippy. She promptly blacked out, however, and that was the end.

Chapter Text

“Can I interest you in one of our new breakfast sandwiches? Only 2--”

“No, thank you.”

“Alright, sir. Your total is 2.89. Have a good day.”

The man merely answered her with a half a grunt, if you could even call it that, before pocketing his change and turning away. Stifling an irritated noise, she turned to her next customer, plastering another smile onto her features.

“Hello, what can I get--”

She stopped, hearing her name called, and looked over her shoulder.

“I’ll send someone to take your place! Help out with drinks.” One of her employers called over, and the young woman gave a disgruntled noise in the back of her throat, looking back at the customer. Another smile was soon on her face.

“Someone will be with you shortly.” She announced, then headed to the side to prepare drinks. Whilst piling liquid into a blender, she accidentally knocked her wrist into the side of said contraption. She heard and felt the watch on her wrist make contact with the plastic, and sucked in a breath, stilling for a moment.

No voice. He wasn’t here.

A soft, shaky sigh of relief left her breast, and she quickly flipped on the blender. However, in her stupor and haste, she had forgotten to actually place the lid on the blender, which resulted in a backsplash on her face and clothing.

“Way to go, kitten.”

Oh, he was here. Fantastic. She growled under her breath, glancing at the hologram out of the corner of her eye. A smug look was plastered on his stupid digital face, and he only snickered as she poured more into the blender, placed the lid back on, and blended it again. She moved past everyone into the back room to clean herself up.

“You know, I’ve told you I don’t know how many times it bothers me when you just flat out ignore me. It’s almost like you don’t want me here!”

“I don’t.” She responded flatly once she reached her locker. She took off her apron, hung it on a hook in her locker once it was opened, and she grabbed a few paper towels. “You know I can’t talk to you anyways, dude. I’ll look like I’m insane. If that happens, I’ll get fired from my job. I get fired from my job? I can’t buy food. Then I’ll starve to death, or need my stomach pumped from the food they have at the school. If that happens--”

“Yeah, yeah, I get the point. I don’t see what the big deal is. As long as you do your slave work, who cares if you look like you’re batshit crazy?” Jack snorted in response, walking so he stood beside her as she cleaned herself off, tossing the dirtied towels aside.

“Would you let someone that talks to themself work for you?” She deadpanned, sending him a look. The taller holographic male hummed in response at this, and she snorted, turning back to her task. “Thaaat’s what I thought.” She flinched, gasping out in pain as a sharp electrical current was shot through her arm. “Hey!”

“Don’t get snarky with me.” He growled out in response, the two briefly locking gazes. Finally, the younger woman tore her gaze away, finishing up with her shirt and now cleaned her apron. “If I’m stuck with you, you better damn well respect me.”

“Sure.” She muttered, not bothering to argue, because she knew she had the upperhand. She could go get this stupid watch removed if she so well wished, and without her blood and the watch attached to something, Jack would be gone. Once finished, she quickly shut her locker, tying her apron back when she slipped it on. “Okay, enough chitchat. They probably have security cameras and they think I’m going insane now.” She sighed.

“Then what’s there to worry about? If you’re gonna get fired anyways, might as well talk to me--”

“No.” She cut him off, and his nostrils flared slightly in either anger, or irritation, probably both, but she didn’t care enough, hurrying out of the room.

“Hey, kitten, I wasn’t finished speak--”

“You are now.” She snapped back, banging her watch against one of the lockers, and in a flicker of static, the hologram was gone.

She made her way back towards the blender. Someone had served the drink, however, and while people were busy making drinks, a young man stood at the counter, peering over it. Seeing nobody taking his order, she gave a roll of her eyes, making her way over, and put another smile back on.

“Hello, what can I start for you?” She asked, and he pulled back, giving a nervous smile, his brown eyes ducking away for a moment in embarrassment.

“U-uh, just a regular coffee. Please.” He announced, already reaching with gloved hands to pull the money out of his wallet.

“That all, sir?”

“Yeah, that’s it. Name’s Rhys.” A ghost of a smirk crossed over his features as he handed her the money, and she stared back in mild confusion. Was he flirting with her, or something? Rhys apparently caught the confusion on her face and apprehension in her gaze, for his face instantly fell into an uncomfortable look. “Um, you, well, need my name, right? Because, y’know, my drink…” Realization dawned upon her, and she rolled her eyes slightly, letting the smile float back onto her features.

“Ahh, I see. Here I was, thinking that was some attempt at a pick-up line.” She admitted with a partial laugh, giving a shake of her head. “No, Rhys. I’ll bring your coffee to you right now, just give me a moment.” She informed, and the man stuttered out, before ultimately giving a quiet ‘okay, thanks’.

She grabbed a cup, filling it with coffee as an uncomfortable silence filled her head. Usually by now, Jack would’ve said something to the effect of ‘like anyone would hit on you’, or, ‘that kid’s a fucking idiot’, or whatever. But he was silent. Was saying nothing. She looked back down at the coffee, cursing quietly as she saw she’d filled it too much, and poured a little out. She walked back over to Rhys, plastering another smile onto her face.

“Lids and cream are over there.” She pointed, moving to hand him his coffee. A sudden shock ripped through her arm at such a harsh velocity that she couldn’t help the choked cry that left her lips, and in turn, she clenched down on the cup. It not only spilled broiling hot coffee all over her bare arm, but also on Rhys’s hand and arm, though most of it happened to spill on the front of his shirt and neck.

Rhys let out something akin to a shriek, somewhere between pained and surprised as he jumped back, clutching onto his jacket and shirt that was drenched in the hot caffeine. She had let out another balk of pain as well, wrenching her hand back and cradled it close to her chest. A laughing sound echoed somewhere in the back of her head, and she seethed silently for she now knew who the cause was.

Holy shit, did you hear his scream? That was priceless! Sooo worth it, ahaha! Jack’s voice resonated, and she grit her teeth in anger.

“You dick.” She snarled quietly, but apparently it wasn’t quiet enough.

I’m the dick? You spilled coffee all over me!” Rhys cried out, his face contorted in some emotion between anger and pain. Probably also something incredulous.

“No! Not you! I was…” She faltered, turning back to him, slowly placing her hands over her mouth just as what actually happened seemed to hit her like a hammer. She also realized that the few customers in here were watching, as were the two coworkers working to the side on drinks. “I’m… I-I’m so terribly sorry, I didn’t mean… It wasn’t me, but it was... I s-swear, I’ll pay for a dry-cleaning bill, or, or…”

Smooth move, kitten.

Honestly, she was on the verge of tears. She could feel them, and Jack wasn’t making this any better, nor were the stares she was receiving. Rhys seemed to notice this too, and he also caught a glimpse of her facial expression, looking like she was about to have a mental, and probably emotional, break down. A low huff left him, followed by a faint groan as he took a napkin, cleaning himself off.

“No, it’s… It’s fine.” He grumbled eventually, grimacing at his coffee-soaked shirt and jacket. “I’ll just, go clean up. I mean… I really don’t think you meant to do it. Accidents happen, right?” He offered her a partial smile as some form of comfort, but it didn’t help her any. She just looked as if she wanted to break even more so now. “Ahem. Right. Just… Keep the money.” He coughed, turning to go grab more napkins.

“I-I can get you a new one, sir! Just one moment!” She finally pulled together, turning despite his protest. She grabbed another cup hurriedly, about the push the button to dispense the liquid, only for a hand to cover the machine. She looked over in surprise, her boss standing next to her now, and the look on his face wasn’t pleased, but wasn’t angry either. More exasperated.

“I think you should go home for today. You’ve been scattered all day; I think the rest of the day off will help you sort out everything.” He suggested, and her heart instantly sank at this comment.

“But, sir, I--” She cut off with the look he gave her, and a stern use of her name. She swallowed, suppressing a whine, and simply agreed. She turned, heading back into the locker room, a haunting laugh settling in the back of her head.

Fucking pathetic, kitten. If you were working for me, you’d probably be fired day two. Maybe even dead. Depends on the mood I’m in.

Chapter Text

Moving out of the dorm was a large feat in itself. She was sure that she would miss her dorm mate, but they had each others numbers, and could always keep in contact. It had just felt so empty at first when she'd moved into the apartment. She was considering taking a roommate, but dashed the thoughts as she decided distractions weren't something she could afford.

However, come to find out, she couldn't even afford the apartment on her own; She could now say, for sure, that she did need a roommate. She'd put up an ad for one, and not even a full week later, she had a taker.

"Yknow, what if this guy is like, some creep, or somethin'? Like, he moves in with a box full of guns, you'd kinda be fucked over kitten, you couldn't protect yourself." She idly listened to the hologram as she prepared for the arrival of her possible new roommate, and rolled her eyes at his proposition.

"I'll be able to tell. If I don't think he's cool, then I'll say no. Not that hard." She countered, huffing slightly as she attempted to shift a box filled with various cooking utensils she hadn't yet unpacked. Topped off with pots and pans, it wasn't anywhere near light, and she was having some struggle with it.

"And what if he comes back and shoots your brains out, huh? Gets all butthurt about you denying him?" Jack then suggested, waltzing over slowly, arms crossed.

"It's... Just an interview, not a date." She puffed out, groaning and putting the box back down as she realized her attempts were futile. "How about you stop coming up with edgy scenarios and help me lift this damn thing? If you can hurt me, I'm sure you can boost my muscle stimulus through neuro charges, or... Something." She tried, picking the box up again.

"Don't think that's gonna work, sweetheart." He clicked his tongue, moving to stand in front of her. He tilted his head slightly to get a view at the watch strapped onto her wrist, and looked deeper into it to observe the connections. "Besides, even if I could, I wouldn't." He announced with a grin, stepping literally into her space as she moved forward with the box. Another shock traveled up her arm alarmingly fast.

"Euagh!" She gasped, promptly dropping the box, which clattered loudly as a few pots spilled out. She was sure she also heard something shatter. "Dude!" She half whined, half snapped, glaring towards Jack as he pointed at her and laughed.

"Wh... What the hell was that? Did I... Did I shock you? I must have, that's funny... Aha, I wasn't expecting that, I'll be honest." The man finally relaxed, shaking his head as the young woman huffed in irritation, bending down to scrape everything together. She seized in her doings, however, as a knock resounded. "Oh, look, your playmate is here."

"Goddammit," She growled out, quickly picking up the rest, and slid the box aside with a foot. She was about to slam her watch against the wall, only for Jack to speak up.

"Uhhh, I wouldn't do that." She gave him an irritable, albeit questionable, look. "What if something does go wrong? You'll be screwed without help."

"And you can help?"

"You betcha."

"You couldn't even--"

"I figured out something, mkay? I'll be quiet, don't worry, I won't distract you." It was a silent tension for a moment. Another knock was heard.

"Be right there!" She called over, turning her attention back to Jack. "You better not do shit, okay? I swear I'll rip this stupid watch out with my own bare hands if I have to." She threatened, turning and stalking over to the door.

The digi-man had muttered something in response that she didn't quite catch, but she ignored it, yanking the door open. A shorter statured man stood there, nicely combed hair, glasses, and a goatee. He was a little startled the door was answered so quick, but composed himself nonetheless.

"Hi! You're, um..." He looked through a paper he had in his hands, and hearing his voice, she knew it was him.

"Yes, I am." She said before he had found her name. "Vaughn, right?" She then asked, and he cleared his throat, tucking the paper away.

"Yeah, that's right. Nice to meet you." He smiled, and they shook hands, and he was invited inside.

"Nice place, I already like it." Vaughn commented, eyes lighting up slightly, and a smile parted on her face.

"Pfft, this guy's no trouble." Jack offhandedly scoffed as he watched Vaughn make his way over to the couch. She ignored his comment, knowing she had no choice but to anyways, and sat down on the sofa, inviting Vaughn to do so likewise.

"Thanks. It's not much, but it's a cozy little place." She agreed, shifting as she got comfortable. "Alright, now, are you just looking for a place to stay for awhile, or for a short time?"

"Well, actually, I'm attending the university down the street. I didn't want to deal with dorms and all that jazz, so I decided an apartment was a better way to go." He explained, and she blinked.

"You're going to the university, huh? Me too. What year?"

"This will be my freshman year, actually." She squinted a little at this, somewhat skeptical. He was going to be a freshman?

"What, seriously? No way." Jack seemed to echo her thoughts. She was sure Vaughn was older than her, and she was in her senior year currently.

"Your freshman year... You're entering a little late. Usually it's better for freshman to come in at the start." She finally said, and the shorter man fixed his glasses.

"Yeah, I know. My job has prevented me from going in when I should have. I'm 27, not 18. So, yeah, I'm getting quiiite a late start." He admitted with a chuckle, and an airy laugh left her as well. That seemed to explain it.

"IIIII'm not buying it." The hologram snorted from behind her.

"Alright, then. I'm assuming you still have the job, and it must be well paying for you to go in this late into the university."

"Yeah, it is. I've been promoted, though, so it's all worth it in the end. I'm also really close to another huge promotion." He beamed, and she smiled at this. Payments wouldn't be a problem(they better not be).

"That's good to hear! What's your line of work?"

"O-oh, uh... I'm a... Carpenter. Yeah, carpenter, sorry, it blanked out on me for a moment." He laughed almost brokenly, and her lips twitched.

"He's lying." Jack huffed, and she did her best to ignore what he said, but she has a feeling that he was right in some way.

"I see... A good job, I bet. I've personally never looked into anything like that, but I assume it pays well. Alright, on with the other questions."

"Not a good idea, kitten, you should just kick him out." The protest from Jack was mildly surprising, but a fraction of her lips tweaked upward. Was Jack actually worried for her well being? She found the thought almost alien, but it made her like him a tad bit more. Just a tad.

"Okay, shoot." Vaughn grinned, and so she did. From here, it was just basic questions on more about him and so forth.

"I'm gonna go for a walk." Jack had suddenly prompted, and she'd thought nothing of it, until she realized that maybe he could actually tinker with things. Her wrist lifted slightly, looking for a place to knock her wrist watch against whilst Vaughn spoke to her and Jack sauntered elsewhere.

"Hey, cool watch! What brand is that?" She quickly turned her head, looking back at the young man as he peered at the device on her wrist.

"O-oh, this thing? Ahh... I'm not even sure, to be honest." She chuckled, letting him get a better look at it. “It was passed down to me when my grandfather died a month or so back.”

“Oh, jeeze, I’m sorry to hear… But at the same time, look at this thing; I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m kinda into this shit.” He admitted, his fingers ghosting over the face and the clasp. “Could I try it on? I wanna see the weight, get a feel for it.” She stiffened at this, and slowly drew her hand away.

“Sorry, but no. It’s a pain to take on and off, and it’s already adjusted to my fit.” She dismissed, sounding faintly guarded, and Vaughn blinked, lowering his hands.

“Oh, uh, yeah, I understand. Totally cool.” He gave a somewhat awkward smile, and for a moment, there was a lapsed silence.

“Well, uh… Y’know, you seem pretty cool, Vaughn. I don’t think it’d be a problem for you to stay here.” She finally spoke up, looking over the things she had written down on a spiral pad, and the older male’s eyes lit up.

“Wow, really? Awesome! I can start moving in by tomorrow, if you don’t mind. My friends will probably pitch in a hand, if that’s cool, too.” He grinned, and she returned the gesture, the two standing.

“No problem! Less for me to have to help with.” She joked, and he chortled in agreement. More information was soon exchanged, and he had already filled out the papers(he must have really been banking on getting this room), so all she had to do was run them over to the complex manager, and it was all set.

Once they were down the single flight of steps, she bid her farewell to Vaughn, and headed a separate way from him. In a flicker of light beside her, Jack was walking in stride with her steps, even looking to outdo her. “Well, that could’ve gone better.” He commented disdainfully, and she frowned, glancing at him.

“What do you mean? I thought that went quite well.” She protested, and he snorted.

“Seriously? Kid’s probably a fuckin’ psychopath or something. He’s probably bringing his ‘friends’ to raid your shithole and dump your body. Or, probably have fun with it first, then dump it somewhere.” She grimaced at the hologram’s words, shooting him a look.

“Dude, no! He’s fine, okay? A little… Off, maybe, but he seems clear. No records or anything, either.” She stated matter-o-factly. “Besides… What care would you have? You said you could help me out. Does this mean you’re worried about me?” She smoozed, grinning up at him, and a smirk toyed onto his features as he looked at her. He even offered a partial laugh.

“Oh, kitten… I can’t say I blame you for thinking like that.” He purred, and her smile faltered at this. “Look, kiddo: You know as well as I do that if you go, I go. I can’t have that. Once I figure out how to get out of that watch, I’m getting back on track.” He stated simply, and her face washed blank. She was… Expecting something like that. At least, she should've been.

“...Right.” Was all she said, gazing back ahead in silence. She knew now that the kindle she had once felt earlier had now all but been extinguished, and would doubtfully relight.

At least, that’s what she tried to tell herself.

Chapter Text

The next day had come with her being woken up quite rudely. A shock being passed through her body, she’d woken with a jolt, sitting straight upright.

“Mornin’, sunshine, some asshole is banging on your door.” Jack’s voice floated through, and in response, she muttered something under her breath, rubbing her eyes as she listened. Sure enough, banging on her door could be heard, and she grumbled, dragging herself out of bed.

“Coming, coming.” She called, lack-luster, to the person behind her door. When she flung it open, she was surprised to see Vaughn, there, a box in his hands. Behind him stood a woman, a box in her hands as well that she held up partially with a knee. “Uuh…” Was all she could utter out, the two looking a little confused as well. “You’re, uh, pretty early riser, man.” She muttered, wiping off a bit of drool that was on the corner of her lips, trying to tame her hair with fingers.

“Um… I guess? It’s like, 11, though.” The shorter man countered, and she made a noise in response, looking down at the watch on her wrist.

“Huh. So it is. Sorry.” She apologized, moving aside to let him it. She directed him to where his room would be, and his general side of the apartment. Once he came back with the woman, he finally introduced her.

“Oh, this is Yvette. She’s a good friend of mine, but won’t be here for long.” Vaughn announced.

“Nice to meet you. I hope this guy won’t give you any trouble.” The dark-skinned woman chuckled, shaking the apartment owner’s hand.

“Nah, I’m sure I can handle him.” She responded with a wave of her hand.

“Feel free to give him a couple pushes to keep him in line.”

“Yvette!” The two girls chuckled at Vaughn’s outcry. He simply huffed, pushing his glasses up as he slipped his phone away. “Ugh, whatever. Well, we planned on going out to lunch after everything was dropped off. My friend can’t make it, so he’s gonna meet us at lunch, then come back and help me unpack. Wanna join us?”

“We’ll give you like, fifteen minutes to get ready. Think you can do that?” Yvette then prompted with a cross of her arms, and Vaughn looked expectantly at the young woman in question.

“Sure, I’ll join you guys. I’ll be quick.” She finally responded with a smile, quickly heading back into her room to change and get ready.

“Maaan, I might actually laugh when they find your dead body on the street. This is how it ends, y’know.” His voice was back, and his image was soon beside her, just as she was changing her bra.

“Hey!” She nearly shrieked, just remembering to keep her voice down. She turned away from him, an embarrassed blush spreading across her cheeks as she quickly pulled her undergarment on, then a shirt. “No, they’re not going to kill me. We’re just going out for lunch, okay? And you can’t be there for it. I don’t need them all thinking I’m insane, knowing you. If something bad happens, I’ll let you know.” She said, combing down her hair quickly.

She didn’t give Jack a chance to answer, either. “For now, though, I’m fine, and I can’t talk.” She abruptly knocked her watch against the wall, and he flickered, then disappeared. She quickly changed her pants, pulled on some shoes, and was out within about ten minutes.

“Nice deal. Let’s get going.” Vaughn announced, and they were off. He had a car(thank the lord, she either had to walk or take the bus everywhere), so they got there within a reasonable amount of time. Well, reasonable for LA standards. It was a small café, and they had found a parking spot soon enough, and were inside.

They had found a table, had ordered drinks, and now sipped on them while making idle conversation. She had checked her phone quickly, having of received a text from one of her employees, saying that she had to come in later today. She stifled a groan, sipping on her coffee as Vaughn called somebody over.

“Sorry, got caught in traffic on the other side of town.” She looked up, nearly choking on her drink as she saw whom had arrived.

“R-Rhys?” She finally croaked out once she had swallowed, and said man blinked, looking at her. He seemed to draw a blank, but his eyes widened a fraction as it dawned on him.

“O-oh my god, you’re from-- The other day-- With the coffee?” He stuttered. Vaughn and Yvette looked between the two in confusion.

"Wait, Rhys, you know her?" Vaughn asked, completely surprised.

"Yes! Well, no... I mean, like, she was the one that spilled coffee all over me." He explained, and Vaughn let out an audible 'ooh'.

"Waitwaitwait; You had coffee spilled on you, and you didn't tell me?" Yvette asked, almost offended, and Rhys grumbled, taking a seat.

"You weren't here at the time." He sighed, running a hand back through his hair, grimacing as he pulled his hand back, the glove he wore somewhat crusted with gel.

"Excuses, excuses, you coulda given me a call. But it's fine; Maybe she can tell her side of the story." She smirked, turning her attention to said young woman as Vaughn waved down a waiter.

"O-oh, uh... Funny story about that." She gave a sheepish grin, rubbing the back of her neck slightly. "This watch, here," She started, showing them all said watch.

"Is quite a nice one." Rhys uttered, a hint of a smile and his lips, and she returned it somewhat as he eyed the technology.

"Yeah, it is-- But it's kinda glitchy." She admitted, "And it--" A yelp left her as a small shock reverberated throughout mostly her wrist, but somewhat her arm too. Everyone jumped at the unsuspecting outburst as well.

You tell them and I'll fry your brain, kitten. Jack's bitter purr broke through her thoughts. She swallowed back an angry retort; Did he seriously think she was going to tell them about this? About him?

He must have think I've lost my marbles, honestly. Her brow furrowed, and Vaughn's voice broke into the silence between the four.

"Uh, hey, you alright?" He asked, and she drew back to Earth, blinking owlishly for a moment.

"W-wh... Oh, yeah, I'm sorry, haha." She gave a nervous laugh, clearing her throat as they gave her looks somewhere between worried and apprehensive. "Ahem, anyways, as you can see, sometimes this... Stupid watch shocks me." She rolled her eyes, hitting it slightly with her hand. This resulted in a hologram flickering and appearing beside her, and she stifled a groan, opting instead to sigh through her nose whilst pinching the bridge.

"Those shocks must be quite... Violent, considering you practically crushed the whole cup." Rhys observed with a small twitch of his lips, and her response was a hum of agreement.

"How can it affect you so bad? Wouldn't it just like, dart across your skin or something?" Vaughn prompted, and she shrugged in response.

"I'unno. Maybe. Lemme tell you, it sure as hell doesn't though." She muttered, slyly watching Jack as he circled the table, observing everybody that sat there.

"You should get that checked out-- Sounds like quite a pesky glitch. Why not take it off?" He then asked, and her response was a hum in thought, taking another sip of her drink.

"Guess 'cause my grandfather gave it to me. Wouldn't want to disappoint him or something." She admitted, not able to come up with any other excuse. Vaughn seemed to leave it at that, and while they talked, she grew more comfortable. Well, mostly around Rhys, at least; She was already fine with Vaughn and Yvette.

"Hey, Rhys, why don't you take those damned gloves off? I'm sure your coffee can warm you up." Yvette's sudden question pulled her back into the conversation; She'd been zoning out as the three friends talked, Jack having of stood behind her, eerily silent the whole time.

"Maybe I want to keep them on? I don't see why it matters, Yvette." Rhys almost pressed, voice somewhat tight as he gave his friend a look. The younger woman watched the two glances between them, eyes narrowing slightly.

"You should leaaave..." Jack's sing-song like voice spoke from behind her, watching Yvette's face fall, before she seemed to realize something.

"Oh, okay, okay... Roll back that attitude next time." She clicked her tongue, looking down. She pulled out her phone as it went off, sighing as she briefly stood. "Welp, someone doesn't want me out this long. Gotta hit the road. Thanks for the lunch, boys." She grinned, bidding farewell to the men as well as the other woman herself, taking her leave.

"Job, or something?" She then asked, and Rhys confirmed with a noise as he sipped his coffee.

"Hey, you know why he doesn't take off his gloves?" Jack suddenly asked, and she watched him move from around her to across where Rhys sat. She stiffened, watching Jack's hand phase through Rhys' right shoulder. In response, the young man flinched, groaning slightly and rolled the shoulder, giving it a small look. Vaughn frowned, but didn't ask of it. She was confused herself, albeit stiff and worried. She gave Jack a questioning look. "His arm is robotic. Like, nothing like that prosthetic shit-- actually robotic. Something I'd see back on Pandora..." He moved to Rhys’ other side.

"And you know what this bandage is here for?" He then prompted, motioning to the white gauze covered in a band of medical tape. The breath caught in her throat, and her eyes flickered back to Rhys as he spoke.

"So, you don't mind me coming over to help Vaughn out, right?" He started off, and she just caught Jack jabbing his finger through the bandage. "I wouldn't just wanna-- Euagh!" His head jerked back violently, and he slapped his hands up to the side of his head where the bandage was. She nearly choked at the sight, Jack sniggered beside him, and Vaughn let out a noise of surprise.

"Shit, bro, you okay?" He asked, leaning over slightly as Rhys groaned quietly, bending over the table briefly as he hunched his shoulders.

"U-ugh... Yeah... Sorry, I just got, like, a sudden pain... It hurt bad." He admitted, slowly rolling back up with a crick of his neck. He rubbed his temple with two fingers on each for a moment, before giving a brief shake of his head. "It's okay, I'm good, I'm good." He grunted, taking a few long swigs of his coffee, wincing from the heat.

"Are you sure? Don't need to lay down or anything?" Vaughn stressed. The young woman didn't say anything, giving Jack a look that read she was anything but pleased.

"Didn't know it was gonna be that bad. Okay, maybe I did. He has a friggin' port in the side of his head. Shit you not. These guys are bad news, kiddo." He warned in a low voice, though all the same seemed intrigued at the prospect of it. She was honestly speechless, no words could form, and slowly, she sat back in her seat. She lightly knocked her watch against the table, Jack's eyes widening a fraction before he was out of sight.

The two males looked at her as she did this, and she offered a sheepish smile. "Sorry." She apologized, standing soon afterwards. "Um, yeah, no worries, Rhys. You can crash on the couch for the night, too, if it takes too long to unpack, and there's a surplus of traffic. I won't be back until later-- I have to cover a shift." She informed them, pulling on her coat until it fit snug on her body.

"Oh, okay. Do you need a ride there?" Vaughn offered, and after she peered outside, she answered with a shake of her head.

"Nah, it's cool. Only a couple blocks-- I'll walk it. See you guys later." She offered a smile, and they returned her farewell as she left out the door. Rhys watched her walk down the street, a hint of a smile still lingering on his features as his expression was something similar to blissfully bashful.

"Dude, no." He blinked, looking over at Vaughn’s almost deadpan expression.

"What?" He muttered, shifting and slouching in his seat as he took another drink.

"You can't seriously already be into her. You, like, barely know her. She spilled coffee on you your first meeting, even!” His best friend protested, resulting in Rhys stifling a sigh and giving a roll of his eyes.

“It wasn’t like it was on purpose. You heard what she said,” He argued, “There’s just… Something about her, though, and I just… Urgh, never mind, you’re right. I should give it awhile.”

“Or give it /no/ time! Rhys, you know why we’re here; You can’t just--”

“Just stop talking about it, alright? Ugh. I know I shouldn’t, just, let me be. It’ll pass, I’m sure.” He grumbled, effectively ending the conversation as he cradled his now empty cup in his hands, looking down blankly at it.

At least, he’d hope it’d pass.

Chapter Text

Tests were something she thought she'd escaped from after she graduated high school. She didn't expect to have them as often as she did now-- Her senior year of college, nonetheless. This class wasn't even something of her interest, but she needed the credits in order to earn her degree in majoring and the like. Thanks, Obama.

Her mind was on other things, anyways. Her work, other classes, the new roommate... It had only been a few days since Vaughn had settled in. He had morning classes, while her own were afternoon, so she usually never saw him during the day. When she got home, Vaughn was either doing stuff on his laptop, or Rhys was over and they were discussing work (they had the same job). She had no idea where Rhys lived, or why Vaughn wasn't living with him (they were best friends, after all), so that was the biggest mystery.

What Jack had been saying about them being 'bad news' was starting to get to her. She was starting to believe him-- Not exactly being bad news, but them not being who they say they are. She had yet to see Rhys' robotic arm, considering he always had either a jacket or long sleeved shirt on, plus gloves. She couldn't just waltz up to him either and accuse him of the port in the side of his head, or his arm, either, so she was kinda at a standstill.

Her professor's voice broke through the silence of the room and static in her head, announcing that time was almost up. She looked down at her paper. She was barely halfway through! "Oh my god." She muttered, squaring her shoulders as she desperately jotted down answers. Jack was oddly silent, but at the same time, it was nice; Gave her time to concentrate. Once she and the whole class was done and over with, she grabbed her book and binder, making her way out of the room with a mild groan. At least her day was over.

"Wow, being with you during the day sure is boooooring." Jack complained as he flickered into view beside her, hands behind his head as he strolled along side her.

"Then why don't you take a walk? Quite literally just walk out of my life." She muttered out a response, clutching her bearings to her chest.

"Don't you think I would if I could, kitten? I'd rather be strapped to a drug dealer than you. You're such an average duck it's boring." He huffed, now striding backwards as he spoke face to face with her. "A pretty face doesn't buy it. Now, if you were to play up a little, maybe we'd have something going, huh?" He gave a cheeky grin, and she scoffed in response, a light red brushing her cheeks.

"Guess you're gonna be bored, then." She scoffed, looking down and proceeded to fish for her phone as it rang out a notification. She unlocked it, reading then the message.

You're going to the store, right? Could you pick up some chips? I'll get you back

The message was from Vaughn, and she was a little surprised to see so. She rolled her eyes, deciding not to respond. They had barely lived in the same complex for a week and he was asking her to run an errand. Convenient, yes, but nonetheless.

He is busy though... But at least he feels comfortable around me, I guess. She shrugged, looking over as she heard a whistle.

"Hey, I was talkin' to ya! Don't ignore me, kiddo." Jack scolded, waving a finger her way as he now marched side by side with her.

"Sorry. Was thinking. What were you saying?"

"Never mind, now, I don't like repeating myself."

"You're such a child, dear lord."

"Hey, don't use my title so freely like that." She giggled a little in response to that, letting it wipe off her face though as his smirk only grew wider.

"Right." She rolled her eyes, quickly running up to catch a bus that was about to leave, being sure to knock her watch against something along the way.

___

She later returned, groceries and scholar items in hands. It was a struggle to get the door open, but she managed, shutting it with her foot after. She puffed slightly, looking over, mouth slightly agape. Vaughn and Rhys were here, but neither were doing work-- Instead, it seems Vaughn had hooked up a game system to the TV, and the duo was playing on it. A scoff left her, followed by a quiet 'unbelievable', and she walked passed them, to the kitchen.

"Welcome home!" Came a call from the living room, and she grumbled to herself, setting down the bags on the counter. She put away what she needed to, put her books and binders where she usually did, and then grabbed the bag of chips. She made her way back over to the two males playing their game with surprising concentration, and rolled her eyes. She dropped the bag on Vaughn, who jumped in surprise, blinking up at her.

"Oh, hey, thanks! I'll get you back." He grinned, looking back at the screen as he popped open the bag with a hand. Rhys looked over, taking a handful of chips, but stopped his movements partially, looking up at her. He offered a small, almost nervous, smile.

"Hey. Uh, wanna join us?" He offered, glancing at the screen before back at her.

"I got some stuff to check. Maybe later." She responded, somewhat flat, and he seemed to deflate slightly at this, but covered it up.

"That's cool. I need to, um, talk to you later, though." He informed her, and her head tilted slightly in surprise.

"Do you now? Okay, I'll get you when I'm done, then." She announced, and he smiled slightly at that, agreeing, and soon turned back to the game whilst stuffing the chips in his mouth.

She grabbed her phone, trying to unlock it as she sauntered towards her room, only to find it dead. "Ugh, c'mon..." She grumbled, rubbing her face in response. She had to get online, and her laptop was in the shop.

I'll just use Vaughn’s. She decided, looking for his laptop. When she spotted one, she grabbed it, calling over, "Vaughn, I'm using your laptop!"

His response was "Okay, have fun!" as she walked into her room. She sat at her desk, putting the computer down and unfolded it, the screen coming to life. She was mildly surprised to see a different background then Vaughn's normal car one, but shrugged it off, opening up an internet browser. A page popped up, filled with various rows of numbers and the like.

"I... Thought he was a carpenter?" She uttered in confusion, switching to another tab. The website was labeled with the company, 'Hyperion', and it didn't look anything close to some architectural website. She frowned, looking around onto the back face of the laptop, seeing a couple stickers.

Vaughn definitely did not have any on the back of his laptop. She soon came to the conclusion that this was not his. Must be Rhys'. She concluded, swallowing as she scrolled through the website. She clicked on the other tab, seeing some sort of log. Notes, it looked like. Her brows furrowed slightly, briefly reading over what was typed down.

Personal log and Information:
My name is Rhys Rhyvvis. I am 25, blood type AB. I'm currently employed by Hyperion. I was previously a sales manager, but I have changed positions to

She sharply sucked in a breath as footsteps came jogging towards the door. She switched the tab to the previous one, looking over as Rhys swung the door open, his eyes round.

"What are you-- Is that mine? My laptop?" He asked quickly, and she squirmed somewhat in her seat. She was about to say it was hers because she really wanted to read his reports to see just what job Vaughn and him shared (it sure as hell wasn't architecture), but Rhys seemed to what was on the screen. His eyes widened a fraction more, and he quickly strode over, slamming the face of it down, and picked it up, clutching it to his chest.

She abruptly stood, grabbing his arm in case he tried to move away. She flinched back, however, feeling indeed metal under his shirt, and his breath caught in his throat. They exchanged looks, and honestly, she was so close she could hear his heart beat through his chest. He swallowed stiffly, shifting on his feet. "Um..." He started, “Why were you on my computer…?” She didn’t answer, for a brief moment, and this only made Rhys feel more uncomfortable. Cue more shifting.

“I thought it was Vaughn’s, at first.” She admitted finally, crossing her arms slowly. “I needed to check a few things, and since I’m currently without any devices to do so, I was gonna use his. But, I accidentally grabbed yours and… Yeah.” She shrugged. Rhys didn’t seem any more at ease, and he almost asked about what she saw, but he decided that would only make him appear more suspicious. “What did you want to talk to me about?” She suddenly brought up, and the young man wracked his mind in an attempt to remember.

“Uhh… Right! Well, I’m sorta sick of the dorms at the university, so I was wondering if I could move in too, maybe?...” He asked, somewhat meekly. He’d meant to sound a lot more… Chill about it, but after the encounter that had just happened, his nerves were frayed. She studied him carefully, lips pursed and eyebrows knit somewhat as she made her final judgement call. She looked cute doing it, Rhys thought, but he was really worried, because he really did not want to be in those dorms any longer. He wanted it to be the three of them-- He thought it’d be fun, even if for possibly only a short time. It’d be like him, Vaughn, and Yvette. Except he thought of Yvette as more of a ‘bro’, and while the young woman in front of him, well…

“I’ll think about it.” She finally decided, breaking Rhys out of his train of thought.

“O-Oh, really?” He finally allowed a smile onto his lips, a small one.

“Yeah. You’d have to get a mattress though and whatever. That room is kinda small, too.”

“Can’t be any worse than the dorm.” He chuckled, moving his laptop so it fit snugly under his mechanical arm.

“We’ll see about that.” She teased, a mischievous sparkle in her eye that rendered Rhys briefly unable to speak, so he opted to swallow.

“Haha, yeah… Uh, hey! Did you still need to do some work?” He suddenly asked, moving his laptop so it rested on the palm of his hand. “I can just clear out the tabs so you can--”

“Nah, it’s good. My phone probably has some juice in it now, so I’ll just use that.” She waved him off, turning to grab her phone. “So, go play your video games. Your chances of getting to stay here will be better if you cook tonight.” She bribed, looking back at him with a smile toying on her face. The young man’s grew in response as his tension eased, and the laptop was back under his arm.

“Oh really? Prepare to let me in, then,” He smirked, brushing some of his misplaced hair back. “I will blow you away with my homemade ‘Rhysioli’.” She gave him a long, hard stare at this word, and he laughed a little, before it dwindled away. “Ahem, it’s, um, ravioli with some good sauce, and…” She didn’t seem very amused. “My mom taught me. I’ll go pick up ingredients.” He finally mumbled, turning and walking out of the room. Once he was gone, she let a smile bloom back onto her face, and a giggle parted from her lips. She had to say, she was starting to take a liking to the goofy, young man.

Something she should probably only keep to herself.

Chapter Text

Apparently Jack hadn’t seen what she read on Rhys’ computer. He said he was asleep, or something like that. She hadn’t mentioned it again only for the fact of she was almost scared to.

For one, she was almost sure Jack had mentioned the name ‘Hyperion’ one time or another, along with Pandora in some sort of coordination. She didn’t pay much attention to it, though, considering Jack had a bad habit to talk her ear off(and probably his own). If she mentions to Jack that Rhys(and possibly Vaughn) was working for Hyperion, he might do something to the employee. Not only could Jack now phase in and out whenever he wanted, sometimes her knocking her watch against something didn’t work.

If she was going to be honest, it scared her. He could really fuck things up, purposefully or not. He also seemed to have more of a connection with her now, and in that sense, his hologram was just a little more visible. A little less see-through. It was chilling, nonetheless.

She wasn’t sure how far this could go. What if he could actually touch her, later on? She knew it was impossible-- At least, she hoped so. As far as she knew, only she could see him for obvious reasons. If others could see him, she had a feeling she’d have a lot less friends. And probably less of a chance staying in her job. Or getting a new one.

She wanted this watch off, honestly. But Jack mentioned something about if she took it off, it would ‘disrupt the neurons of her mind’, and could ‘possibly paralyze or kill her’, something like that. She wasn’t sure if he was just bullshitting her so he could stay around, or if he was actually serious. Maybe she should go to a doctor. “Hey, I wanna take this watch off, but the hologram attached to it that only I can see says it will kill me. Any input?”

Yeah, that wasn’t going to fly.

She had to keep her thoughts more careful, as well. He could apparently sometimes hear her thoughts, and even at times scour her dreams. He was literally attached to her fucking wrist, how could any neurotransmitting be involved in this!?

She’d been doing a lot of deep thinking recently. It really was starting to make her head hurt. Jack’s literal nonstop talking didn’t help either-- especially when they were all eating dinner, and Jack would be saying the most ridiculous shit that either she would make a face at or, unwillingly, laugh at. Rhys and Vaughn must think she was losing her mind.

She really felt like she was. It was affecting her. Just a little. Only to the point of where her sleep would become deterred. It only really took a toll on her when she was having a very long day.

Like today. She had to ask Vaughn to come pick her up after her classes ended. On the way home, he was talking about his job. Well, not really; Mostly telling her about coworkers that he worked with. Their ups, their downs, and the like. That was another thing that was really eating at her. Who were these people actually? What was Hyperion? What were they working towards? Why were they at the university? Did they know Jack…? A million questions ran through her head, and it made her physically ill. She seriously could be living with psychopaths, for all she knew(if Jack was really previously employed at Hyperion, it really wouldn’t surprise her).

“And so, he gets all butthurt because his party sucked, not like I knew or cared, I didn’t go, and-- Hey, you feeling alright there?” Vaughn suddenly interrupted her flow of thoughts. She blinked, blank and owlish, looking at him. He was looking at her, and she was a little worried that he was, before realizing they were at a stoplight.

“U-Um, yeah, sorry. I’m listening, go on.” She insisted, looking back at the street in front of them.

“Are you sure? You look… Kinda pale. Sunken in. You sick?” He asked, turning his attention back to the road as the light turned.

“Nah, just, have been tossing and turning lately. Nothing much.” She admitted, leaning back against the car with a stretch of her arms.

“I heard tea helps to calm your brain before you sleep, or something like that.” He suggested, and she snorted in response.

I wish it would calm annoying holograms.

“Hey, I heard that.” Jack snapped, and she just managed to stifle a groan, slamming her head back against the headrest as she closed her eyes.

“You know, uh, we’re kinda hitting some traffic. I’ll just stay quiet, so see if you can get some sleep on the way.” Vaughn suddenly suggested, turning down the music to a minimal volume, and she murmured her appreciation. Even with traffic, it would only take about twenty minutes to get back, so she doubted sleep would be an option.

“Sleep? Why’d you need sleep? It’s the middle of the day, kitten. If I caught you slacking off on the job, you’d be out.” The hologram protested, and she could literally feel his static behind her. Must be where he was sitting. “Don’t ignore me… Oh, right, the mathlete is here. That sucks. I’m kinda gettin’ bored. Maybe I should let you drift off into dream land, so I can go have fun there. It’d be entertaining, at least.”

She grunted slightly in response, almost as if to say ‘sure’, but he either didn’t hear, or flat out ignored her. “Actually, you should just wake up. Start talking about shit on the street. Or at least ask this kid over here to tell you another story. The last thing I wanna hear is about his shitty coworkers, but it beats sitting in this car listening to… Whatever the fuck we’re listening to.” Could he not stay quiet? “Okay, okay, I’ll tell you a story, I’ve always liked this one, eheh. Here it goes: So, I throw this one party, because we had some kind of accomplishment with our shit-for-brain workers, right, so--”

And on he went. She could honestly careless. She could just feel the faint kiss of sleep, but she knew it would never come because of Jack running his fucking mouth. Her brows furrowed in irritation, and she drew her fingers into fists so hard she would probably leave marks.

“--And this guy is WASTED, right? Like, with a capital ‘W’, he probably couldn’t even spell his own name! So-- Okay, you know, the nerd’s right, really fucking annoying when you don’t listen, kitten. It’s a great story, and my patience is running thin, and--”

“Would you shut UP?” She suddenly snarled, turning to give him a dirty look. He had just moved his head back in time to avoid contact(even though there wouldn’t really be any), and he seemed briefly surprised. However, his eyes narrowed, and a hint of a snarl grew onto his face as his form flickered.

“I-- I didn’t say any… thing?” Vaughn spoke cautiously, meekly as he looked at her out of the corner of his eye. She didn’t respond, however, for Jack was reaching forward, and she was leaning away, but he grabbed her wrist. Well, sorta. His hand phased through it, but she felt that shock, and holy shit, did it hurt.

She screamed. Actually screamed. She jerked back, clutching her arm to her chest as Vaughn let out a yelp of surprise, the car swerving. She nearly collapsed from the pain, gritting her teeth as she rested her head on the dashboard, hunching over and letting out another choked gag of pain.

“That was the WRONG thing to say, kiddo. I don’t think you realize who’s in control here.” She heard Jack snarl, his voice as glitchy as her watch. The pain was reverberating throughout her body now, though it was more of a dull pain with sharp jolts here and there. “I am the master of the stupid show, and you’re just my goddamn puppet. I pull the strings. You do what I say. I’m the hero.”

She knew he was gone. The pain left her in an instant, leaving her boneless, weak, and achy. She coughed weakly, stifling a sob wanting to rip out of her.

“H-Holy shit… Are… Are you alright?” Vaughn finally breathed out, sounding terrified and looking even more so. Even he was pale from that. She sucked in a breath, slowly letting it out as she willed sore arms to push up an even more sore body. She pushed back, trembling at first, before sitting against the seat again, head back against the rest the seat had to offer.

“I-I… T-think s-so…” She couldn’t stop herself from stuttering. The pain, the anger, it was all so real. Well, it literally was fucking real. She didn’t just imagine that… Right? “I’m sorry… It w-was my watch, or some… thing. Let’s just get back… Yeah?” She finally uttered out, now realizing they were parked against a curb. Vaughn looked like he had seen a ghost-- scratch that, he looked like she was the ghost.

“S-sure… I mean, are you sure you’re okay? We can stop at a doctor, o-or--”

“No.” She rasped firmly, giving a brief shake of her head. “Just, let’s go back. Maybe I really just need some sleep.” She muttered, peering back out the window. There were several seconds of hesitation, before Vaughn restarted the car, and they drove off.

____

She dragged herself through the door, Vaughn in tow of her. She blandly dropped her books and the like on the table, sitting in one of the seats, and held her head in her hands.

“Hey, that took awhile. What--” Rhys frowned, stopping in sentence in tracks. Vaughn looked somewhat uncomfortable, albeit worried, and she just seemed… Defeated. Beaten up. However, she dragged her gaze over. It was almost comical, and she probably would have laughed, if she wasn’t so tired and achy. Rhys almost looked like a stereotypical white dad; Apron on, cooking utensil in hand, which happened to be a ladle. He had pretty much deemed the cook of the household after he made his ravioli, which was actually really fucking good.

Rhys seemed to realize the situation was not a very good one. He set the ladle aside, and took off his apron, tossing it on the counter as he slowly walked over. “So, what… Happened?” He asked slowly. Neither answered. However, she soon made a hand motion that said she wanted both males to sit. They did, one on either side of her.

Slowly, she drew herself up more, brushing some hair out of her face, and interlocked her fingers. She rested her elbows on the table, then her chin atop the fingers. Looks were shared between the two. She then said it, simply.

“We need to talk.”

Chapter Text

Another day at the Old Grind. Literally, that's the coffee shop she worked at: The Old Grind. She kind of thought 'Ye Olde Grind' would work better, but her opinion hardly mattered. She sighed through her nose, lazily punching numbers in the cash register as she waited for her chance to close up. She was the only one here, and it was what, 10 pm now? Why couldn't they close at 10 instead of 10:15?

"Maybe I'll just close up early... Nobody would know." She mused with a hum, twirling a strand of hair around her finger. She actually wanted Jack to come speak to her for once, but he seemed to be nowhere. She'd tried knocking on her watch, talking out loud to him, anything; Didn't work, though. He was probably doing it on purpose.

Her brow raised as the small 'ding! of the door was heard, and she straightened, clearing anything on the register as she gave the customer a smile. "Hello, how can I help you?" The man, well dressed with a dark head of hair and a beard to follow, said nothing at first. He suddenly swung up a briefcase, pressing the pad of his thumb to something that looked like a scanner at the front, and clipped the case open. Inside lay rows of cash, much more than she had ever seen before her in her entire life. Her eyes widened a fraction, her mouth opening somewhat as she shifted half a step back.

“You can’t help me… However,” He smirked, looking at her as she stared at the money in probably what was considered apprehensive awe. “Ican help you.”

After she actually did help him(he asked for an Americano, two pumps caramel with low-fat sweetener), they had sat down. He’d introduced himself as ‘Hugo Vasquez’, with a deal she should accept. Apparently it was her that he was looking for, much to previous confusion, and when she’d asked on how he found her, he simply stated his employees had gathered information.

“So, what do you want from me, exactly?” She finally said, sitting back as he took a long drink of his Americano. She had to be honest, when she drank espresso, it when down a lot slower. Finally, he put his cup down with a sigh, clasping his hands before him as fixed her with a stare.

“You see, we’ve come to investigate high levels of energy here in the United States. These pieces of energy either reside on people, or in other top-notch facilities that we’re working to worm our way into. People with these energy outputs are believed to have a piece of something invaluable that was once ours, long ago.” He fished into his coat pocket, pulling out a circular disk, and placed it on the table. Two taps, and a map of the United States was pulled open, along with little lights flickering on it.

She was surprised, nonetheless, to see this apparatus pull up something like this. These guys have wicked advanced technology... She thought, suspicion starting to bubble softly within her. “As you can see, there are no dots over there on the east region, nor is there in the middle. Most of the dots have been accumulated in southern California. And you, my dear,” The map closed, and she looked back at him as he peered at her. “--are one of them.”

“What company do you work for? Where are you located?” She suddenly asked.

“I am the Senior Vice President of our Securities Propaganda at Hyperion Corporation. Our main company is located in Sweden, though we have set up a base here to further investigate this outputs.” So he /was/ Hyperion. She had actually assumed so from the start, mostly. Well, as soon as he had shown her that abundance of cash.

She suddenly thought back to when Vaughn and Rhys had actually explained to her who they were actually working for.

”So, who are you guys?”

They seemed startled by the initial question.

“It’s… It’s just. Vaughn, and Rhys.” Vaughn spoke slowly. “Did you actually, like, get hurt? Your brain? We’re--”

“I know who you are. But I want to know /who/ you are.” She rephrased, though that didn’t seem to help.

“I’m sorry--”

“Who do you work for? Who’s Hyperion? How do YOU have a robotic arm and some implant in your head?” She finally hissed out, reaching over to knock on Rhys’ arm. He flinched, seemingly startled that she knew.

“You… Knew?” He asked quietly, and she gave him a deadpan expression in return.

“I’m not as thick as you guys think.” She snapped tiredly, rubbing her temple briefly. “Anyways, just… Tell me. I read some of your little report, Rhys Rhyvvis, 25 years old, blood type AB, Sales Manager at Hyperion. I don’t believe you two are carpenters, and I doubt you’ve even ever handled tools for that trade. So, I want the truth now, or I’m kicking you both out. I’d call the cops, but I don’t really have ground for that, besides suspicion.” She stated firmly, crossing her arms and sitting back in her chair. The two men were stunned into silence, exchanging uncertain glances with each other.

Vaughn was the first to speak. “Okay, okay, we lied, got us.” He finally sighed out in defeat, holding his hands up slightly. “We’re private investigators. Well, I mean, we are now. I was an accountant at Hyperion, but they’ve put Rhys and I on this… Job, to track down some stuff. And some people.” He admitted, and she raised a brow in return.

“And I happen to be one of those people?” She asked, mildly concerned.

“No. Well, not sure, actually.” Rhys answered this one. “You could be. We haven’t checked. Vaughn just happened to find this apartment, and we both decided it was better than living at the dorms at the universities.”

“Why are you guys even enrolled in the college?”

“Brings less suspicion to us, I guess.” Vaughn shrugged. “Also, there’s a lot of activity in this area, around there too, so it was decided that it may be a good idea to stick around there to find out. We enrolled so we wouldn’t look like creeps or something, I guess.”

“Uh-huh…” She mumbled out, thinking over what they had said. “What are you guys looking for.”

“Confidential.” Rhys huffed, taking off his coat and gloves. He hated wearing them indoors-- Too hot. “Sorry. If we told you, we’d probably get spaaaaa…” He seemed like saying what he was going to wasn’t a good idea, so he cleared his throat. “Get fired. I kinda need this job, heh, big deal.”

“What’s Hyperion?”

“Our employer--”

“No, no, what do you guys do?”

“It’s basically just a big corporation working on robots.” Vaughn enlightened, seeming to choose his words almost carefully.

“Okay… I’m not, like, in any danger, right?” She then asked slowly, her eyes trained on Rhys’ arm now. He wore a t-shirt under his coat, but the arm was… Incredibly advanced. It was something she had never seen the likes of before. “That must have cost a fortune.” She suddenly breathed, not giving either a chance to answer her question. Rhys blinked, looking at his robotic appendage, shrugging minimally in response.

“It was more company issued. Pretty much free. The only cost was the pain for the rehabilitation for this.” He admitted, chuckling almost fondly at the memory, before he grimaced. “And this.” He took the tape off the side of his head, showing her that there was indeed a port there. Unbelieveable. “And this as well.” She watched him open his eye wider, placing his flesh finger on it, and actually pulled off a contact lense. His eye was now a vibrant blue that glowed briefly, before it seemed to contract.

“Holy shit.” She couldn’t stop herself, moving up in his personal space. He leaned back awkwardly, allowing himself to scan her as she peered at and examined his ECHO-Eye implant. She was 24, live right here in Los Angeles, though was originally from somewhere else, and her other main attributes. He also noted that there was something she had that was… Tampering with her body. In some way, shape or form.

And he was almost sure that it was Hyperion made.

“You’re not really in any immediate danger.” Vaughn suddenly said, and she blinked, looking over at him from where she was practically straddling Rhys to get a better look.

“Oh. Okay, then, um…” She moved away from Rhys, whose eye flickered to a duller blue, quite a nice comparison to the red now dusting his cheeks and nose. Sitting back in her seat, she allowed herself to soak in all the information. She finally spoke again.

”Alright, sounds like a plan.”

That’s nearly what she wanted to say to Vasquez. Seeing the technology Rhys was decked out with, and the money this man in front of her had just waltzed in with, it was nearly a set deal. However, she knew this was too good to be true.

“What do I have to do?” She finally inquired with a squint of her eyes as she observed Vasquez, whom was currently pocketing the disk device.

“You? Barely anything, actually. You come in once in awhile, and just run some tests. Simple, easy tests. You tell us anything that’s happened that could lead us to what we need. Think of it as going to a therapist; Just, y’know, you actually get paid. And it’s not a waste of time.” He smiled, smugly, trying to look convincing. It was too good to be true. She didn’t suspect that, she /knew/ that. As tempting as it was, she didn’t know what she was getting into.

Maybe the guys told him about me. Maybe it is safe. She thought, looking at her hands. But then again, if they had told Vasquez, they would’ve let me know, right? “The… Deal, job, whatever it is, sounds appealing,” She started slowly, tearing her gaze to look back at him, “but for now, I think I’ll have to decline. I’m still not too sure what I’m getting into, and I have a lot of my studies going on, along with this job I have now. Um…” He didn’t seem particularly pleased with this answer, but all the same, took another swig of his drink, as if to brush it off.

“I completely understand your concerns. I can guarantee your safety, believe me. When you change your mind, I encourage you to go ahead and give me a call.” He briefed, rising up, and she didn’t like that fact of him saying ‘when’, and not ‘if’. He was surely confident in this. She stood as well, taking a business card that he handed over to her. She looked it over.

HYPERION CORPORATION
Hugo P. Vasquez
Senior Vice President of Securities Propaganda
Well, he wasn’t lying, at least. Unless he just made one of these to specifically scam her and other people. Probably wouldn’t be the first. He had a number on it too, though. “That call is charge free.” He informed quietly, lightly tapping the number.

“Right… I’ll give you a call if I change my mind.” She announced, holding out her hand for him to shake.

“Okay, then, I’ll keep my lines open for you, pumpkin.” She grimaced slightly at the name, almost regretting offering him the handshake, which he returned. After that he was gone, and it was time for her to close up. Once shop was closed up and secured, she headed on her way home, music droning in her ears as she walked. She took out the card he had given her, briefly looking over it again.

“We’ll see, Mr. Vasquez.” She muttered, stuffing the card away, and hurriedly strode on towards home.

She didn’t hear anything from Jack for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Evvvverywhereeeee you gooooo!~” She sang, scouring through the mall store in search of presents for her family. Christmas was still a week away, but everyone knows how early shops set up shit.

“Do you really have to sing? You’re kiiind of off-key.” Jack spoke up from beside her, giving her a look, and she scoffed, placing a hand on her chest with a look that read ‘wow, rude’.

“I can sing as much as I want.” She stuck her tongue out, turning back around to feel and sift through the scarves she had spotted. Her mother would probably like one.

“Can’t sing if I cut out that pretty little tongue of yours.” He threatened in response. She suppressed a shiver at the tone in his voice, but she knew to take his threats with a grain of salt. He couldn’t do anything, and she doubted he actually would.

“You’d miss me talking.” She smiled in response, picking out a scarf that she thought would suit her mother.

“I dunno, I mean, I could always get someone else to run their pretty little mouth for me, kitten. I’m kinda a big deal, bein’ a hero and all.” He shrugged at this, looking at the scarf skeptically.

“Absolutely, Jack.” She agreed, looking at him.

“I don’t think that scarf would fit her. I mean, just judging from what she wears, yada yada, I think something else would be better. Maybe this one.” He suggested, and she watched as he ran his hand through one. She couldn’t find words. Did he just give her fashion advice…? For her mother? However, looking at the scarf, she thought his judgement may actually be… Correct.

“O-oh. Yeah, I see what you mean. We can go with this one, that’s… Fine.” She finally spoke, grabbing said suggested one, and then placed the other one back.

“Yup. You’ll thank me later, kiddo.” He winked, and she rolled her eyes, but smiled nonetheless, and their shopping continued. Eventually, she had gathered and bought all that she needed, and was well on her merry way.

“Do you think we should go out and look for a tree? I know a place not too far from here.” She suddenly asked Jack. They were on the street walking, and there was so many people bustling about it didn’t really look all that suspicious, her talking to herself. Weird, maybe, but she knew she wouldn’t see half these people again.

“A tree? Why’d we look for a tree?” He snorted in response, grinning as he walked through someone, and resulted in them shivering.

“Y’know, a Christmas tree! Have you never celebrated?” She inquired, not bothering to spare him a glance because that would look suspicious.

“I’ve never used a tree, nope. Usually just threw some parties, had some booze, the usual stuff.” He answered, seeming fairly, all the same intrigued, at such a tradition.

“Well then, it’s settled! We’ll get a tree. I’ll call the guys, have them meet me over there to help.” She smiled, taking out her cellphone and dialed the number.

“Oh, joy, tree shopping. I never thought I’d see the day.” Jack hummed out, though the grin was ever present on his face as it was on hers.

__

“Sorry, man, you know I can’t go. Unlike you, I was actually called up for something.” Vaughn sighed, sifting through the fridge for a drink. Rhys stifled a groan, leaning dramatically against the counter.

“C’mon, man, I wanna see a movie here! I don’t wanna go on my own.” He almost whined, then added, “Besides, I’m sure you wanna see it too. What’s gonna happen if you don’t go? What, you get a slap on the wrist? A demerit or something?”

“Rhys, you know what’ll happen.” The shorter man hissed, turning to the taller as he grabbed a can of Coca Cola, shutting the door with a foot. “Trust me. It’s not like I want to, just if I don’t, I might get fired. We’re already coming up empty handed for patrons for this stupid job; Skipping out on this would be suicide.” He popped open the soda, taking a long swig as Rhys grudgingly agreed. “Besides,” Vaughn sighed out after he’d swallowed, continuing. “I’m not the only one you know. Why don’t you ask somebody here that actually knows their way around a little better.”

“I don’t know--” Rhys stopped, blinking at the suggestion. “ But, you said I shouldn’t--”

“I know, I know I did. I didn’t say to get all… Fancy with her. Just, go to the movies as friends. It’s easy.”

“Easy for you…”

“Bro!”

“Joking, joking, calm down, haha.” Vaughn gave Rhys a stern look, and in turn, he sighed, shoulders slumping. “Look, it’s just… It’s hard because, well… She’s her! And you know how I feel, man.”

“Then just don’t feel, or something, bro.” Vaughn prompted, pushing his glasses up as he walked over to the table from where his phone rang. “Pretty sure you can trust your own judgement. You’re 25.” He ended that there, answering his cell phone. “Hey, what’s up?” Rhys grumbled to himself as Vaughn talked, suddenly not feeling so up to going to the movies anymore. He ignored the conversation his best friend was having, sauntering over to the couch and sat himself down, flipping on the television.

He channel surfed, until Vaughn came up behind him, saying his name and putting forth the woman whom they conversed about earlier. “She wants us to go down by the store to help her get a tree.”

“A tree? What?”

“Yeah. For Christmas or something she mentioned.”

“Uhh…” He looked around. They did have room… Barely. “O...kay?” He flicked off the TV, standing up. Vaughn was already grabbing his keys and coat, and Rhys looked at him, a little surprised.

“I thought you had something to do.” He frowned, a little irritable it seemed, and Vaughn rolled his eyes.

“I do. I have time right now. This shouldn’t take long.” He explained. Rhys wasn’t buying it, but he didn’t argue, grabbing his own coat and gloves, and the two were off soon.

__

“So, uh, which tree did you want?”

“One of the biggest! Whichever it is.”

Vaughn had to stand on his toes to get a look around, and Rhys decided it wouldn’t hurt, so did so as well. He discreetly took the brown contact out of his echo eye, then proceeded to scan the trees quickly.

“Found it.” He finally pinpointed, slipping the contact back in as he quickly lead the way over to where it sat.

“Nice eye. Quite literally.” She puffed, skidding to a halt beside him, Vaughn following suit.

“Eyup. It comes in handy.” Rhys huffed, crossing his arms as he examined the tree. It was actually really fucking big. Like, he wasn’t sure it would even fit inside the apartment. He was about to voice his concerns, but she was already jogging off.

“You two get it loaded onto the car! I’m gonna grab some garland for it!” She announced, going over to a booth that was filled with ornaments. Also where you would most likely pay.

“How do we get this thing to the car?” Vaughn fretted, looking back at the ridiculously large tree, and Rhys was thinking the exact same thing.

__

Eventually, they had hoisted the tree onto the car, and drove home without any ill will. Somehow, someway, the tree through the apartment door, and fit in the apartment too. Well, almost. It was bent down at the top against the ceiling, and she didn’t mind much. They got the biggest tree, and that was all that mattered.

“Cool! Thanks, guys! I’ll decorate, don’t worry.” She promised, looking at the two sitting on the couch, panting slightly from the effort of actually hauling in the tree and fitting into the room. She turned, grabbing the garland, trying to reach up to place it and throw it around the tree.

“Well.” Vaughn finally swallowed, pushing himself up with a reluctant grunt. “I gotta get going. If you really wanna see that movie, I suggest asking her soon.” He added in a low voice to Rhys as he strode past him, and said male groaned slightly, leaning his head back against the couch.

“Bye, Vaughn!” She called, and he returned the gesture, soon out the door and to his car. Rhys just couldn’t ask for some reason. He really did still want to see this movie, but… Would he be able to handle it just being him and her?

Vaughn’s right. I’m 25. I can do this. He finally decided, eyes narrowing slightly as he pushed himself up.

It’ll be super awkward if she says no.

Chapter Text

“Aww, man, are you serious!?”

Rhys’ whine is what caused her to look up from her phone. Said man walked back over, looking exasperated. “What? They sold out?” She joked, smile curling onto her lips.

“Yes!” The smile was gone.

“For real?”

“I wouldn’t lie about it!” He groaned, kicking the ground slightly with a foot, and she let out a long breath in response.

“That sucks, man. Sorry. Maybe ‘nother time.” She suggested.

“Don’t think I’ll get another time.” He groaned once again, the two starting to walk off. Not towards the apartment. She wasn’t sure where, really.

“I bet you will! We can also wait for it to come out on Netflix or something. I’ll order it.” She prompted, clasping her hands behind her back as she looked up at him, and he mumbled out a response.

“But that’s gonna take forever.”

“Patience is a virtue, my dear Rhys.”

“It’s something I can’t afford!”

“Sucks to suck!” She stuck her tongue out slightly, and he gave her a half hearted glare, proceeding to jokingly push her. She laughed, only to trip over the curb, nearly into traffic. Rhys instantly grabbed her arm, pulling her back. She let out a breath, the two standing still for a moment, before it was her turn to shoot him a look.

“S-sorry. Didn’t know that’d happen.” He mumbled apologetically, face lightly tinted red in embarrassment.

“Suuure.” She scoffed, though smiled in response, eyes darting over to a window. “Oh oh oh, look!” She grinned, suddenly grabbing Rhys’ hand, and pulled the startled young man over to the window. Through the window, there were kittens in a pen, either playing or sleeping. “Look at that one!” She prompted, pointing to one through the window, and Rhys looked a little closer.

The kitten was a grey and white tabby, completed with bright orange eyes. It bounced around, stumbling due to paws that were way too big for it, but was cheerful nonetheless. “I’ve been wanting that one for, like, ever. The cats here are so damn expensive though, I wouldn’t have the money to buy the cat then supplies too.” She sighed, resting her forehead against the window as she stared longingly at what could be hers.

“He’s cute. Pet shops charge a fortune because they have to take care of them, and make their money somehow.” Rhys commented, looking at her instead of the cats. She didn’t answer, too transfixed on the felines, and only when Rhys looked down did they remember they were still holding hands. Well, she was still holding his. The man’s response was to swallow, and squeeze her hand a little tighter. In response, she blinked, looking down at their hands.

“Oh, sorry.” She apologized, pulling her hand away, and instantly, he felt a chill grace his palm and fingers, even with the gloves he wore.

“I-It’s cool.” He stuttered, looking back through the window, and silence lapsed the two.

“Hey, have you ever been ice skating?” She suddenly brought up, and he willed himself to look back at her.

“I… Can’t say that I have.”

“Well, aren’t you in for a treat!”

This time, she linked arms, and the two were off.

__

“How the hell do you lace these things?” Rhys grumbled, struggling with the laces of the ice skates he wore. She looked over at this, chortling quietly to herself. Quickly finishing with her own laces, she moved on the bench across from Rhys, where the male had his foot set.

“Here, you big baby.” She crooned, shifting his foot onto her lap, and he could only watch as she tied his laces for him.

Real smooth, Rhys. His face was slightly flushed again, and she quickly finished with that shoe, and moved onto the other.

“There.” She puffed, pushing his foot off her lap, and stood. He stood as well, wobbling briefly as he attempted to balance on the two thin blades. He could barely stand here; How the hell would he actually skate?

“I-I-I--”

“Here.” She offered, walking beside him, Rhys himself placing his hands on her shoulders to balance himself. She steadied him with a hand on the small of his back, and they took baby steps. “See? Not so hard. Now you try.” She finally said after he had taken all but ten steps.

“W-wait--” Too late. She’d drawn away, and he feared he would fall. Surprisingly enough, though, he was still standing, and as he moved forward, he found it a lot easier to walk than at first. “Oh. Thanks. Or maybe I’m just a natural.” He chuckled, and she gave him a thumbs up in response.

“Maybe so. C’mon!” She turned, almost fucking jogging over there. How she did it, he didn’t know. He followed, albeit at a much slower pace. By the time he’d reached the entrance, she was already in the rink. At first, she wasn’t looking at him, looking somewhere else completely, but she soon turned her attention back over. “Okay. This is the hardest part.” She commented, and he swallowed dryly, looking at the ice. Scores and scuffs were grooved into it from the many blades that had crossed by here, and he flinched back as someone sailed past them.

“R-right…” He mumbled, grabbing onto the rail, soon pulling himself inside. He let out a slow breath as his legs shook in an attempt to keep him from falling. She flanked his other side, holding onto his arm as he inched further and further.

“Yeah, yeah, like that… Here, follow my movements.” She tried, and slowly, they were beginning to make their way further. After a couple laps around the rink, not to mention the couple times Rhys fell on his ass, said man was beginning to get the hang of it. He actually wasn’t too bad, despite this being his first time. Skating side by side, the two laughed, and talked, and oh lord, Rhys felt himself falling.

He was falling hard and fast. Not only for the beautiful young woman he had the pleasure of getting to live and spend time with, but he was legitimately falling. Spiking the front of his toe too hard into the ice, he felt flat forward, the breath being knocked out of him. She laughed lightly from somewhere above him, and he couldn’t bring himself to get mad. Embarrassed, sure, but he wasn’t paying attention in the first place. Well, he was, just not to his skating. Being helped up finally, he groaned quietly, ice being brushed off of him from the woman that had helped him.

“You okay?” She offered him a smile along with the question, and he breathed out, giving a nod in response. Her hands were on his arms, and his hand was on her shoulder, the other on the rail. However, he found it slipping down to his side, slowly moving to her own.

“Yeah…” He answered verbally despite of just have given a nonverbal response, his voice somewhat tight as he looked down at her.

“I’m… Glad to hear that.” She smiled softly, her voice matching. And for a moment, the two just stared at each other, Rhys gliding forward only a few inches more as someone brushed past him. Wow, she was so close, and she smelled of ice and some kind of fruit and her cheeks and nose were brushed a very nice looking red from the cold. Her hair framed her face, slightly tousled from skating, and she was peering into his own gaze with her glittering one, and then her lips… Curved up slightly, and then he was leaning forward more, and she may be leaning up, he wasn’t sure, but he was so close. His heart was erratic, his breath quickening as he felt her breath wash over his lips and nose, and…

She jerked back, choking slightly as she staggered, eventually slipping and falling. Rhys was so close that her legs tangled in his and soon he was down too, sucking in a breath as his head made contact with the ice. He heard something, looking over slightly, only to flinch and look back away as he was showered slightly in ice.

“You guys alright?” A staff member asked, one of them already helping her up.

“Yeah… Ugh.” Rhys uttered out, letting himself partially be helped up.

“Glad to hear. You guys gotta clear off of the ice now, though; Zamboni is comin’ out.” He was informed, and he looked at said machine, starting to come out of its’ facility.

“Right, thanks.” He muttered, looking at the young woman. She looked somewhat dazed, and not too happy either. She then looked at Rhys, letting out a small breath.

“Let’s get back. It’s pretty late.” She said, and he agreed, the two sliding across the ice without further discussion.
__

"My legs are sooore. Why are they so sore? I literally went around, like, 5 times." Rhys complained once they got back, sitting on the couch with a groan as he threw off his shoes, rubbing his feet.

"It's your first time. You're not adjusted to it." She snorted in response, hanging up her coat, kicking off her own shoes. She sauntered over, sitting beside him, watching as he massaged his feet. "Nice socks." She complimented, and he gave her a look in return.

"Urgh. Is Vaughn home?" He asked suddenly, leaning against the back of the sofa as he peered towards the rooms.

"Vaughn?" She called out. No answer. Her brows furrowed, Jack soon flickering into view beside her.

"You still with this guy? I know you too live together, but seriously; Find someone else. This is gonna lead to nothin' but trouble." The hologram scoffed, walking in front of her. She ignored him, swallowing as she glanced at Rhys. She wasn't even going for him... Was she?

"Yes, you are. Why do you think I stopped your little tongue battle back at the rink? It'll make you think twice." Jack snarled slightly, and her face grew a faint red. He'd read her thoughts. Fun. She hadn't even realized that Rhys had gotten up to go look for his friend.

"He doesn't even like me. Don't worry about it." She muttered under her breath, resting her arms on her legs and looked down.

"Oh, uh-huh, okay, suuure. Yup, definitely doesn't wanna get in your pants. My mistake, I guess I can't read people." The digi-man responded bitterly, and her eyes flickered up to him. What would he care? "You goddamn know what I care. Once I'm me again, you can do whatever the fuck you want. For now, though, you listen to me." He was grinning, but it was a malicious grin. One that said 'I dare you to talk back'. Her look never wavered, and slowly, she stood. She attempted to hold his stare, but he just looked down at her with a smug look on her face.

"Vaughn isn't here-- What are you looking at?" She didn't look over at Rhys' voice. She knew it looked like she was staring at something, and, well, she was. Just not that he could see. "Uhh..."

"Nothing. Just... I thought that spot over there was a spider." She mumbled, posture sloping back slightly as Jack gave a triumphant smirk. "Just a measly, irritating, squashable spider." She uttered out afterwards, Jack's eyes narrowing in response. She stiffly turned, heading towards her door. "I'm going to sleep. I'm sure Vaughn will be back tomorrow." She informed, and before another word could be heard, she shut her door firmly, causing the young male in the short hall to cringe in response.

Chapter Text

The next morning rendered her surprisingly sore. Her legs, at least. Her tailbone too, a little bit. Probably from the spill she took last night. A low groan emitted from her throat, and sitting up was another hard feat to do. With a wide, completed yawn that actually seemed to regenerate her in some way, she pushed the covers off of her, standing up. She briefly stretched, but the smell of coffee was penetrating through her door, and boy did she need it bad.

She shuffled over, slowly, quietly opening the door. At first, she didn’t register the voices, but finally, she realized Rhys and Vaughn(seems he had come back) were speaking in hushed tones. At first, she had spaced out, but as she heard a mention of her name, she began to tune in.

“--is getting impatient! We gotta do something, Rhys! Both of our asses are on the line here, and if we get fired, you know we’re literally going to get fired.”

“Vaughn, it’s fine! Relax, buddy, we’ll come up with something soon. I promise. I think I may already be onto something, actually.” Her brows furrowed slightly at Rhys’ words.

“Seriously? Why didn’t you say so, man! I’m a fuckin’ nervous wreck over here and you seem to know a bunch of shit I don’t.”

“I didn’t wanna tell you yet, okay? I’m still not even for sure, just… Give me time. And can we not talk about this right now? One, I’m, like, half awake, if that. Two, if she hears us, there’s probably gonna be some trouble.”

“Right, okay, okay, we’ll talk later. Just, make sure she doesn’t know about--”

“About what?” She interveined, striding to stand in the doorway of the kitchen. Both males jumped, looking over at her. In response, Rhys’ elbow had involuntarily jerked back, causing him to knock the coffee pot off the edge of the counter. It shattered on the floor, hot liquid and shards of glass spilling everywhere. Rhys and Vaughn alike let out yelps of pain, dancing on the floor as they tried to get away. She shifted out of the way as the boys stumbled past her, out of the kitchen, and fell onto the ground, trying to rub and blow their feet off.

“Oh my god…” She muttered, walking over to the two. She hit both on the side of the head, Rhys on the port.

“Ow-w-w, what the hell?” The taller of the two scowled, glaring up at her, and Vaughn gave her an almost desperate, guilty look.

“First, you’re keeping secrets, and then you broke my coffee pot.” She growled out in response, tugging on one of his ears, and he hissed, almost whining at this point.

“We’re not keeping secrets!” He complained, letting out another string of pained whines as she tugged harder. “Owww! Vauuughhnn!”

“Okay, we are keeping secrets! Kinda…” The glasses of the group spoke, and she released Rhys’ now red ear, leaving the male to rub it and utter curses under his breath. She crossed her arms, looking at Vaughn expectantly. “It’s just… My job isn’t going so well. I’m on the verge of possibly losing it, and I didn’t wanna tell you because I don’t wanna get kicked out. Mostly because if I go, Rhys probably will too. The job, that is.” He explained, and she peered down the two, studying them. Honestly, Vaughn looked like a kicked puppy. Rhys looked more like a… Beaten one, but nonetheless. Both also bore identical, bloody feet.

She couldn’t find a lie in it. She knew there had to be more to the reason, but she wasn’t going to pry that much. Probably more confidential stuff.

“Okay. I get you. It's fine, I wouldn't kick you out." She gave him a small, stressed smile, and Vaughn seemed to somewhat relax at this.

"Really? Cool, wow, what a relief." He sighed out, laying back on the ground, flinching as she had reached down to pluck a piece of glass out of his foot.

"Mhmm. You guys sit tight; I'm gonna grab some towels." She informed, turning and striding to a cabinet. She opened it, glancing over as Jack flickered in beside her, stretching.

"That was a looong nap. Wow, I would just go as far to call it sleeping." He yawned, pulling his arms across his chest now.

"Then go ahead." She muttered, shutting the cabinet, and he followed her into the bathroom.

"Alright then, I will. How'd you sleep? Didn't feel like poking around last night." He brought up as made the rags damp.

"Eh. Slept okay. I had a dream that I didn't have this stupid watch attached to me, and I lived a more normal life. Just my boyfriend and I." She stated, slightly irritable.

"Pfft, whaa? You have a boyfriend? Since when?"

"No, I don't have one. In my dream I did." No way she was saying who.

"Someone's lonely. Alright, tell me who it was. Tellmetellmetellme--"

"You know, you like to gossip more than my friends." She suddenly scoffed, smiling as she faced him. "Female friends at that."

"What can I say? A good piece of gossip is somethin' nobody can resist. Even though this is shit gossip, there's nothing better." He shrugged, arms crossed as a somewhat sly grin crept onto his face. "I get bored, too. I wanna pop in to see the wet dreams you're having, also." Her face turned a shade of red at th

"J-Jack!" She scoffed, moving to slap him on the shoulder, only for her hand to go through and Jack to laugh. "I don't like you meddling with my dreams, either. Sometimes they get really bad."

"Mm, yeah, I know. Doesn't mean I'm gonna stop." He responded. She rolled her eyes at the hologram in response, stalking out of the bathroom and back to the kitchen. Both males still remained on the ground, picking glass shards out of their feet. She dropped the rags onto their laps, Jack whistling as he came in.

"Geeze, what the hell happened here? Probably that idiot with the port." He scoffed, looking at the shards and spilled coffee as the two other men thanked her alike, starting to wipe off her feet.

"Don't get blood on the carpet, or your clothes, either. It's a bitch to get out." She ordered to the two, both look at her in mild shock as she bent down mop up the kitchen floor with a towel.

"You're telling me." Jack agreed, sitting up on the counter despite him not being able to touch anything.

"O-okay." Rhys finally responded, the two gently dabbing their feet with quiet hisses of pain and annoyance. She quickly mopped up the floor, and was moving onto picking up the glass pieces by the time both males were standing.

"Do either of you have work today?" She asked over her shoulder.

"Yeah. Well, we probably should go out. The both of us." Vaughn commented, bending down beside her to help with the pieces while Rhys grabbed the dirty cloth items. She grumbled under her breath in response, standing up soon after with a hand full of glass.

"Guess we'll have no coffee tomorrow morning." She sighed, dumping the contents in her hand into a trash can with minimal injury. "I got work today. I can't do it."

"Shit... Sorry, when you came in, I was startled, and accidentally knocked it over." Rhys apologized once he came back into the kitchen, leaning against the counter, rubbing a hand over his face.

"I know you didn't mean it. I would appreciate it though, if you could stop being such a klutz." She chided, looking over to gently bop him on the nose with a finger, then turned to the fridge, digging for food.

"I think it's a disease you're born with." Jack commented, and nearly at the same time Rhys had rolled his eyes and claimed he 'wasn't a klutz'.

"Sure, whatever you say." She responded, mostly to both men as she pulled out some eggs. Vaughn had already dumped his glass by this time, and was out of the room, going to get ready. Rhys was silent as she got out a pan and some butter, but she heard him finally speak.

"Uh... you know, I could make you something, if you wanted... To make up for this." He suddenly suggested, and she turned towards him. He was still leaning against the counter, looking expectantly at her.

"Mm... Huevos rancheros, and chu got yourself a deal." She grinned, and he returned the smile, straightening and moving over to her, gripping the spatula she had in her own grasp.

"Consider it done." He murmured, close enough to her ear so she could feel his breath. She was suddenly at a loss of words, the spatula easily plucked from her hands as Rhys brushed past her.

"Oooh, it was this guy the dream was about? Man, I shoulda fuckin' guessed, right?" Jack's tone started out light, but it has switched to a snarl as soon as the curse left his digital lips. She swallowed, slowly looking at the digital copy. The look he was giving back at her read anything but pleased. "You know how I feel about that, kitten." Her nostrils flared slightly at this, a sneer parting her lips.

You--" She started, quickly cutting off as she remembered Rhys was here.

"What?" Rhys asked, looking over at her quizzically as he poured the eggs into the pan.

"You... Uh... Take it easy on the salsa." She said dumbly, leaving the room quickly, Jack's infuriating laugh echoing from behind her.

Chapter Text

She said this year that she wouldn't go visit her parents for Christmas. Didn't have the money, had to stay because her own job was on the line, and so forth. However, she ended up going anyways, with Vaughn and Rhys. She wasn't sure why they came with her, considering their job was stationed solely in LA, but they had anyhow.

She didn't remember the plane ride. It was honestly just a blur. She'd probably slept the whole time, fatigued from the stupid night terrors Jack had been plaguing her with that kept waking her up. Sometimes she couldn't go back to sleep. Sometimes she was afraid to go back to sleep. Sometimes she just didn’t want sleep.

When they arrived at her parents’ house, she was instantly welcomed by the smell of baked goods, along with her mother’s enthusiastic greetings. She and her roommates were ushered inside, away from the bitter Michigan air. Introductions were made, presents were placed under trees, and she was greeted by her brother’s children. Young, probably only about seven or so. She was also greeted by the sight of puppies-- All English Setter. Her dad and mom probably wanted to sell them, so she assumed they were purebred. All 6 of them.

More relatives had arrived, and it appeared to be almost as crowded as the funeral. Almost. Definitely not as many people, but the number was still up there. “So, how has life been treating you? I know you mother would like to talk with you, but she’s very busy with food right now, and her own family.” Her father suddenly spoke, drawing her out of her quiet stupor. She had been watching Rhys and Vaughn play with the puppies, the children alike.

“Oh. It’s been… Fine. I’m not really stressing over rent, or school, either. Work hasn’t been going so well, though.” She informed, a sigh drawing out of her lips as she looked at the older man.

“Really? Why not?”

“My boss is being… Kinda a prick. He’s not being very nice to anyone anymore, and he keeps threatening to let people go for one reason or another. I don’t even know, ugh. I… Did get a job offer somewhere else, though.” She hadn’t even thought about that offer up until now, again. Why? Who knew. How weird. Her father seemed to perk up at this.

“Did you, now? Well, why don’t you take it?”

“It’s something… Kinda off the charts. I mean, unordinary. I can’t really describe it, I… Don’t honestly know too much about it myself. I just--”

“Take it.”

“What?” She blinked, looking at her father in surprise.

“Take the job. No matter what it yields, especially if it’s something exclusive, it will get you to a better place than where you stand now.” He informed her gently. Out of habit, she didn’t immediately respond. She expected Jack to come out of nowhere and make some snarky remark on the advice her father was giving her. But he didn’t. He wasn’t.

“U-um… You think so?” She finally stuttered out, and he gave a nod.

“Yes, I do. Be cautious, but don’t be stupid.” Her father left her without another word. She blinked owlishly. He was never that… Brief. Or he usually never gave advice such as that. It was all… Weird. She sat on the sofa for the rest of the time, and for the most part, nobody really approached her.

The fire was roaring in its place, the tree was lit up right beside it. They had all finally went and eaten dinner. It was a large, delicious feast that she was sure she’d remember for awhile to come. Especially with her two unexpected guests, whom both seemed to immensely be enjoying themselves.

Finally, it was time for gifts. Mostly just a random exchange, and the kids were the ones who ultimately enjoyed it. They all stood and sat around by the tree and fireplace, the atmosphere filled with calm voices and amazing smells. She sat on the couch beside Rhys, Vaughn on the other side of said man, and two puppies that seemed to be Vaughn’s honest lifeline. For animals, that was.

Her stomach was full, she was warm and comfortable, and everything was perfect. She let out a small, blissful sigh, leaning back against the couch. Rhys shifted beside her slightly, before draping an arm across her shoulders. She was mildly surprised by this, about to look over at him, before she noticed a flicker of blue in the corner of her eye. Jack now sat on the armrest of the couch, watching the children unwrap gifts as the puppies played around them. That is what ultimately surprised her. Her and Rhys seeming to be as close as they were, and Jack not protesting?

Maybe he didn’t notice. So, to test the limit, she snuggled up against Rhys a little more. Jack still didn’t seem to notice, or even care. She felt the young man’s arm tighten more firmly around her, and she looked up at him. In return, he looked down at her, offering her a raised eyebrow, replaced by a warm smile that made her smile the exact same way. He nuzzled her hair briefly, leaving a gentle kiss on her head before he rested his own atop of hers. She couldn’t remember the specific details of her and Rhys growing so close either, but by god, she wasn’t regretting it. She never realized how much she wanted this contact until now, and now that she had it, she couldn’t feel anymore content.

A scene like this was something she had longed for her entire life it seemed.

She smiled softly to herself, gently rubbing Rhys’ leg as she watched the kids as well. It was a serene scene and moment in time where she felt her body relax. Felt all of the tension leave her. For once, actually felt like she belonged somewhere in life.

“Hey, wanna see something cool?” Her eyes, plus head, shifted slightly as Jack looked at her, a grin plastered on his face. Normally she would motion to him, or just do something in a form of notation that meant ‘buzz off’, considering she was around people. However, the way she felt now, she didn’t seem to mind what Jack had in store. She was a little afraid of what his definition of ‘cool’ was, nonetheless, but the worst he could do was short out the house. Annoying, but not that bad.

She mumbled out an almost inaudible, “Sure”, hoping he’d caught it. He seemed to, for soon, something seemed to digitalize in his hand. Soon enough, after it had taken its form, she realized it was a handgun. A pistol. A strange looking one, but looked fancy, nonetheless, even all digitalized. A small noise of surprise left her, but she gave a barely felt nod, smile curling up just a tinge more.

“Pretty damn cool, right? Now… Wanna see something interesting?” He then offered, and she gave her consent as well. She watched him aim the gun at one of her little nephews, and felt slightly apprehensive on what he was doing. She soon realized, though, that he wouldn’t be able to hit the kid, first off. Another thing was, as malicious and twisted as Jack was, she knew he wouldn’t kill a kid. Seriously. She assumed he was just playing around, and was showing that the gun did work. Just… It didn’t seriously work.

So she watched passively as he pulled the trigger. However, her response was not so passive as little Drew’s head suddenly exploded, blood, brains, and everything being sent flying. She instantly sat up, eyes widening in horror as everyone else voiced their own. Jack simply cackled at this, shooting another child, and then another. She looked in horror over at him, only to stumble as something swept past her.

She didn’t know what it was. It was too quick for the human eye to catch on its own. However, whatever it was made quick due of slaughtering the others. There were multiple of them, and she watched in silent terror as her mother screeched, dragged down. Her head was soon dismembered, as were most of her limbs. Her father, pinned, a sudden gash striking across his throat, followed by a ripped open stomach. The pups lay around her feet, whimpering, crying out in pain as they bleed. Some twitch, yelping softly, before laying still, blood seeping out of their nostrils and mouths.

She heard the gun go off again, and her head quickly snapped over just in time to see Vaughn’s eyes roll to the back of his head. He dropped to his knees, before his body dropped to the ground with a noise that almost wanted to make her retch. Her name was called out, scared and rapid, and she looked over. She now realized she was nowhere near the couch anymore, and Rhys was still by it, holding out a hand towards her. She quickly moved to take it, only to be stopped by someone yanking harshly on the back of her sweater. She choked, hearing Jack’s telltale snicker, and soon felt a hand on her throat, a body pressed against her from behind.

“Aww, you were so close. I really don’t think you knew how close you were.” Jack crooned, keeping her in place, and how the fuck was he doing that? How was he holding her, touching her? She started to struggle, only to stop as the hologram’s fingers pressed more roughly into her throat. “Uh-uh-uh. I don’t think so, kitten. I thought I made it crystal-clear. I think your friend needs to be taught a lesson.” His voice drew out, causing her eyes to widen only more. Rhys lunged forward, only to stumble back. A new cut appeared on the side of his cheek. He jerked again, and again, the forms moving too fast to be countered, even with his ECHO Eye.

“Rhys!” She screeched out as he got a particularly nasty gash in the junction of his throat and collarbone. He choked, stumbling back even more so, attempting to stifle the bleeding with his hands. Suddenly, his robotic arm was gone, shattered against the ground in pieces as something hit it. He cried out in pain, followed by another ungodly screech as his ECHO implant suddenly burst in the side of his head, and he fell. “Rhys!” She cried out again, and at this point, the tears were streaming, and she was struggling once more, though she wasn’t going anywhere.

“Damn kid is still alive.” Jack clicked his tongue, and she felt the muzzle of the gun placed on her shoulder. She stiffened, mouth dropping open as she felt and heard it fire, followed by a single jerk of Rhys’ body, before he lay still. She was at a loss for for words, tears welling and falling, mouth opening and closing. She was soon spun around by Jack, however. Following this movement, she let out a soft shriek as part of her arm was no longer on her body, but on the ground.

The watch glowed dimly from where it lay on the ground with the severed arm, and she was pushed back. Her knees hit the couch, and she, in turn, sat back on it. She looked up at Jack, eyes wide and red and wet and pleading and he only looked down at her. “Ah, dammit, kitten, don’t give me that look.” Jack pleaded himself, frowning in her direction as he watched her, shaking and scared. He finally pointed the gun at her, and she sucked in a breath, terror freezing her entire being as it took ahold.

“I just wanna say thanks.” He finally spoke, voice quiet, somewhat somber, for once. That’s when the trigger was pulled.

That’s when she woke up.

She started with a gasp, following by a tingling, almost sparky feeling, and she quickly sat up. Her breathing was quick, erratic, and she could feel her cheeks were wet. Her eyes were too. She wasn’t going to lie; She felt utterly terrified. She realized now that she was on the couch, the TV on in a low drone, and this only made her feel more uneasy. The dream… She’d never experienced something like it before. It was so real, so life like… That’s probably what drove her to tears again.

She clutched her legs to her chest, her breathing becoming short and ragged as she attempted to stifle her tears. An image flickered before her, and sure enough, Jack was there. He was quiet, though, brow furrowed as he took in her current state. She was the first to speak. “W-why would-d-d… You d-do th-that?” She finally managed out, voice quiet, tight, filled with obvious distress.

“Are you talking about the dream? Shit, kiddo, do you really think I’d do something like that?” He frowned, speaking in a soft tone she’d never heard come from him before. “You know, I may be me, but you should know me better than that. Even I’m not that fucked up, c’mon.” He tried, reaching forward in some way to console her. The way she flinched back, though, really hit him hard. He nearly flinched himself, drawing back.

He was Handsome Jack. He was used to people flinching away, pissing themselves, begging, and whatever else as he approached them, or even touched them in a friendly gesture. He was used to that shit, but this… This was different. Somehow, someway. “Look… I know I’ve been causing you trouble lately with your stupid dreams, but… I swear I didn’t do this one. I wouldn’t think of doing shit like that, that was your own mind.” The terror still gripped at her like a cold, icy claw.

She couldn’t bring herself to speak. Like any other dream he’d made her have, she’d just brush it off. But this one… Was so much more violent. So different. So realistic. A small hiccup left her, and she looked away, burying her head into the side of the couch. “Just go… P-please.” She croaked miserably, and Jack’s lips tightened.

“Look, I’m just-- I know I’m not-- I don’t want you too-- Ugh, dammit!” He finally gave up, and was gone in a flicker of pixels. She let out her first real sob when he was gone, followed by several more. She didn’t know how long this happened for, but she seemed to seize slightly as a door was cracked open.

“Whad-- Whadahell you watching? It’sso loud.” Rhys mumbled tiredly, rubbing an eye as he sauntered into the living room, peering at the TV. However, he now realized how low its volume was, and instead looked down at her. She was looking up at him, teary eyed, terrified, but she had this look of some sort of immense relief. Before he could even speak, she was already up, kneeling on the couch as she reached over. She wrapped her arms around Rhys, pulling him flush to her as she buried her head in his shoulder, sobbing and clutching tightly onto him.

He was far more awake by now, eyes wide as he took in what was happening. Quickly, though, he returned the embrace firmly, gently rubbing up and down her back, murmuring soft, soothing nothings into her ear. It must have been a dream, and whatever it was, it must have spooked her bad. He’d never seen her like this, or anywhere remotely close to this state. She was trembling against him, her nails digging into his back and shirt, and he really wanted to ask what happened.

Actually, he had a feeling it was a dream. He was almost sure it was. He wanted to know what happened in the dream, more specifically, but he knew now was not an appropriate time to ask. Or maybe never. He slowly shifted, and she drew away briefly, as if hurt or offended, but he then sat on the couch beside her. He didn’t feel the most comfortable in consoling her, wearing only his boxers and a t-shirt, but she didn’t seem to mind. Once he was sitting, her arms were wrapped around his neck again, her head in the crook of it as she tried to calm herself.

Her sobs were stifled now, her trembling not seizing, and her hands began to wander. She felt his neck, then his jaw, then his beyond bed-tousled hair. Rhys allowed her to do so, brows slightly furrowed as her hands slid downwards, one feeling his shoulder blades, the other stopping on his chest. His heart lulled through, and she could feel it on her finger tips, strong and there. Another soft sob shook her, and she wrapped her arms back around him.

Rhys returned the gesture once more, careful to place his robotic appendage on her side instead of her arm to avoid the chill of contact. He placed his other arm around the back of her, drawing her in closer, and rested his head against hers once more. Time went by like this, and as she seized in her trembling and sobbing, having of fallen asleep, Rhys felt himself dozing off as well.

The two stayed like that for the rest of the night, the quiet television droning on in the background as comfortable white noise.

Chapter Text

The day of Christmas didn’t feel at all eventful. That’s how she knew she really had grown up. Well, grew up more so, that is. She had the day off(unfortunately; She had nothing better to do and actually wanted to work), so all she had really done that day was sit on the couch watching Christmas specials while eating those sugar cookies with the images on them.

Rhys and Vaughn also had decided to take the day off. Vaughn had gotten a bottle of not too shitty bubbly champagne, and that had been shared between the three of them. No gifts were exchanged for the fact that she didn’t have the money to get them two each gifts after buying for her own family, and she didn’t know the ins and outs of them yet.

All she really knew was Vaughn liked cars, collecting watches and old phones, but that was about it. Rhys liked to cook, liked computers, trains for some reason, and was a movie hunter. She didn’t want to just get them something half-assed either. She felt bad for not getting them anything, but they seemed to understand. It was more of a mutual agreement.

They didn’t get her anything either. Well, Vaughn got her a bag of chocolates he knows she likes, but that was it. It was enough. Rhys hadn’t gotten her anything, and she didn’t mind(well that’s what she just kept telling herself).

The day after Christmas was more eventful than the actual holiday itself. Nothing else, really, except she had gotten an invite to a Christmas party. Her friend had texted her about it, and she was going to decline, but allowed herself to think on it. Why not go? She really had nothing better to do tomorrow. Didn’t have work the day after, either, so staying up late wouldn’t be a problem.

She was wondering if she should invite the other two occupants of this apartment. The party really was open invite, so she didn’t see why it would be a problem. Actually, she knew Rhys, nor Vaughn, would be an issue. She really knew who the REAL issue was here at hand…

“Heeey, not nice, kitten, I’d behave.” Jack just knew who the hell she was talking about. She grumbled to herself in response, sitting up from where she lay on the couch with a mild groan, looking at the digital form whom sat on the coffee table.

“Sure you would. I completely believe you.” She deadpanned, and he sneered in response, both looking over as the doorbell was buzzed. She threw her head back, letting out another groan, before hauling herself up off the couch.

“You’ve been laying down for like, two days in a row, why the hell you complaining? The exercise will do you good.” The hologram snorted, rising up to follow after her. She shrugged in response, too close to the door to answer him. She unlocked it, yanking it open. She was surprised to see Rhys, holding a good sized box in his hands, completed with a bow and all. She blinked, shifting on her feet as Rhys offered her a somewhat nervous smile.

“Uh… Hey. Um… Merry Christmas. Sorry it’s late.” He offered, and she carefully took the box. She backed up, letting Rhys in, and he shut the door behind him, shedding his coat. She walked over to the coffee table, both males following behind her. She sat down on the sofa, undoing the ribbon, and pulled the top open. She gasped, the grey and white kitten she wanted popping its head over, paws on the edge of the box. He let out a little mewl, and she squealed in response, instantly reaching forward to grab him. He even had a little bow tied around his neck, her favorite color at that.

“Oh, you gotta be kidding.” Jack scoffed, and she ignored him, hugging the kitten to her chest gleefully. He mewled again, and she looked down at him, kissing his head and turning her attention to Rhys.

“Did you… You really actually got him? For me?” She asked, and Rhys chuckled softly at this, giving a nod to follow up.

“Yeah, of course. I knew how much you wanted him, and I had the money. I wasn’t gonna not get you anything.” He prompted, slipping his hands in his pockets as he watched her look back down at the tom, petting his fur while he mewled.

“Man… I feel like shit, now. Not getting you anything. I just, I wasn’t too sure about what I should get, and I don’t really have the money, either…” She sighed, standing up to face him. She felt genuinely sorry, and he could even see that.

“Nah, you did a good thing. Maybe now he won’t like you.” Jack insisted, and she involuntarily flinched at this. Rhys seemed to notice, and he frowned a little, taking his hands out of his pockets as he walked towards her.

“No reason to feel bad. I understand. I mean…” He stopped in front of her, the two only having only a foot or so between them. His words halted, and he looked at the ground, scuffing a foot for a moment as she watched him in confusion. He looked back at her, a playful look crossing his features. “If you really wanted to get my something, I have a gift in mind.” She brightened at her chance of redemption.

“Lemme hear it.” She smiled, and his smile curled a little more. He shifted his hand slightly, starting to bring it up towards her.

“All I really want, or even need, is yo--” He stopped as her phone began to ring, and she looked down, cursing quietly as she tried to fish for it in her pocket.

“Can you hold him? Sorry.” She apologized before stuffing the kitten into Rhys’ arms, who just managed to cradle him.

“Saved by the bell, huh, kitten?” Jack sneered, and she shot him a sly look, finding her phone soon and answering.

“Hello?”

“Hiya! So, are you gonna come, or what? Kinda need to know soon, I wanna gauge a number.” Her friend spoke from the other line, and she stifled a noise of annoyance.

“Can I bring a couple people?”

“Yeah, sure!”

“Okay. Then yes, I’ll come.”

“Awesome! Seeya then!”

“Ciao.” She deftly hung up, taking the cat back with a small sigh. “Right, sorry… Um, before you go on, you and Vaughn wanna come to a Christmas party tomorrow? I mean, I’d like you guys to come. I don’t exactly know everyone that’s going, and it’s a chance for you guys to meet more people or something, I guess.” She put forth, and Rhys thought on this, looking away for a brief moment. Some sort of lightbulb seemed to go off in his head, and his smile grew just a tad brighter.

“Yeah, sure! Sounds like fun. I’m sure Vaughn will be stoked about it, too.” He answered, and she let out a small sigh of relief, still smiling.

“Awesome. Um, so what were you saying you wanted? I really wanna give you something.” She then asked, and he hummed, seeming to think of it for a moment.

“Uh… I don’t remember, actually. I’ll let you know if it comes up.” He grinned, and she was slightly suspicious of his claim, but didn’t press into it.

“So, uh… Does this kitten come with supplies, or is that up to me?” She then decided to ask, and Rhys blinked, blank for a moment.

“Oh, shit, right! It’s in my car, I’ll be right back!” He quickly turned, grabbing his coat again and was out the door, shutting it quite forcefully behind him. She cringed slightly, but smiled nonetheless after, looking back down at the kitten in her arms, whom had actually fallen asleep. He must have been really tuckered out.

“What should I name him?” She suddenly asked, turning to Jack, who only seemed to glare at the kitten.

“I don’t know. Name him Fluffy.” He scoffed finally, and she frowned.

“What? Seriously? Fluffy?” She deadpanned, and he gave an affirmative noise.

“Look, I’m not the one to be askin’ for names. You seem a lot more creative.”

“Do I really?”

“I had a pony made of diamonds once. Named it Buttstallion.”

“...Point proven.” She sighed, looking back down at the sleeping ball of fluff. “I would name him Jack, but I don’t want to think of him as a nuisance.”

“Haha, funny. Why don’t you name him Kitten? I won’t feel any less disgust and irritation when I look at him.” He suggested, and she scowled at this, sticking her tongue out at him, in which he copied.

“He’s not gonna be a kitten forever. What about Monochrome?”

“Too long. Nobodys’ gonna wanna say it.”

“Mm… Chrome?”

“Sure, whatever.”

“Chrome it is, then.” She grinned brightly, scratching the peacefully sleeping kitten behind the ears. Jack grumbled in response, flickering out of sight. She cast a side glance his way, before looking back down at her precious new baby. Despite all that was happening with work, and other trials that would surely come her way, she knew that things were definitely looking up.

Chapter Text

Deciding that wearing something Christmas-y would be appropriate for a Christmas party, she wore a sweater with Christmas lights. Wow, that was a lot of Christmas in once sentence. Christmas doesn’t even sound like a word, now, does it?

Anyways, Rhys nor Vaughn dressed up. They just wore some average clothes, which she really didn’t mind, but it would’ve been better if they’d had matching clothes with her or… Something. Jack said he would’ve dressed up. She didn’t really believe him, but at the same time, this was Jack. Really, she wouldn't put it past him.

They arrived at the party fashionably late. It was in another apartment complex, but one whole side of the complex all seemed to be in on this, so the party wasn't anywhere near small.

"Heeeyy, gurl, you lookin' good." Her friend greeted, bright grins plastered on both young womens' faces.

"Thanks, girly, I could say the same." She returned, her grin never ceasing as the two briefly caught up. She soon caught on to how awkward Vaughn and Rhys seemed to be feeling, though, and bid her friend farewell for the time being. She walked over to the two, holding her arms out slightly. “Guys. It’s a party. Enjoy yourselves! Eat, chat, dance, get shit-faced, do whatever! Hope you boys don’t have work tomorrow, because this is probably gonna go most of the night.” She informed.

“Yeah, I sorta expected that. I’ve cleared my schedule for tomorrow.” Vaughn commented, and Rhys agreed on this statement.

“Good! Then I expect you to enjoy yourselves. Drinks’n’food are over yonder.” She waved a hand in a general direction, looking over as her name was called. “Have fun!” She bid the two, jogging over to where she heard the call. Rhys watched with a somewhat disgruntled look on his face.

“Okay, look, just… Try not to get shit-faced. We can’t afford to act stupid or spill any information.” Vaughn said, looking up at Rhys, who looked down at him in return.

“Yeah, yeah, I know…” He grumbled in response, heading towards where she’d motioned to where the drinks were held, Vaughn following in his waking.

As the night went on, the worse things got. Well, worse as in more entertaining, that was. The more alcohol was brought, the more people drank, it was just… A mess. She drank herself, as well, though only had a couple. She was pretty tolerant to alcohol for the most part; Only the stronger drinks really got to her.

She was previously playing beer pong, though had decided to take a break. She walked out of the apartment, onto the fire exit ledge. A couple that was previously there shifted past her, going inside, while she went inside. An exhale of breath left her, and she leaned on the rail, overlooking the ridiculously noisy and bright city she lived in. She wasn’t exactly crazy for big cities, but at the same time, she didn’t mind them. Almost felt as if she needed to be near or in one.

She moved her drink slightly, accidentally knocking it against the rail, some splashing over the edge and far down below. “Whoops.” She mumbled, quickly downing the rest, and tossed the cup aside. Someone would get it tomorrow.

“I’ll be honest, this is a pretty fun looking party.” Jack drawled, walking up beside her, leaning on the rail alike(somehow).

“Were you walking around?” She asked, looking over at him curiously.

“Yeah. Reminded me of my younger years-- Going to parties, dicking around with people, drinking until I could barely walk… Ah, lotta fun, I gotta say.” He chortled, looking off into the distance as nostalgia seemed to strike him. She’d never seen him like this before, and it was honestly a sight.

“Before you were… A big-shot, or whatever, right?” She concluded, and Jack hummed out his agreement. “I see… So even you lived as a normal person.”

“Course I did, kitten. Even though I was pretty damn important most of the time. I had a friggin’ doppleganger when I was at the bottom of the food chain.” He informed, and she was very confused on this.

“A.... Doppleganger.”

“Yeah. Body double.”

“...How--” They both looked over as a crash resounded from inside the apartment. She stifled a sigh, straightening up. Sauntering inside, she looked around for the commotion. She soon pinpointed it, coming from the living room where Vaughn happened to be singing karaoke, standing atop the couch while he belted his lungs out. He was completely off key, but everyone else in the room was howling and giving catcalls and it was a mess. She didn’t even see where or what was broken.

“Wo-ow-ow, this is some beautiful blackmail material.” Jack laughed, shaking his head slightly as he watched the short man sing his heart out. “C’mon, you should be recording this, kitten, for real.” As tempting as it was, what ill-will did she hold against Vaughn? Nothing, honestly. Besides, the guy was drunk off his horse; He probably won’t remember this, and probably won’t want to.

“Nah, it’s cool. This probably shouldn’t ever be seen again.” She chuckled, looking over as her name was called. Rhys jogged over to her, his face a nice soft flush as well. So, they’d both been drinking a good amount. No surprise.

“H-hey, uh… This is kinda random, but I remember what I want for Christmas.” He grinned, tilting a little far to one side accidentally, and quickly straightened himself. She, in response, chuckled at this. Did he actually remember what he wanted? Probably not. She’d humor him, nonetheless.

“Okay… What do you want?” She crooned, peering up at him. He had shifted, starting to wander. She got the feeling he wanted her to follow, and follow she did.

“Well… It’s not a lot… Well it is a lot! It’s just… Inexpensive… I hope… Probably won’t be… I’m not s-saying that though! I…” God, did this man even know what he was saying? She giggled slightly in response, and Jack let out a groan, and she knew he was rolling his eyes. She heard the crowd behind her cheer as Vaughn finished his single, and eventually, the two stopped walking under a doorway.

“Look… Okay…” Rhys finally huffed, brushing some of his hair back, glancing up, then looked back down at her. “This is totally appropriate because, um…” His eyes trailed upwards again, and hers did as well. Oh, boy, conveniently placed mistletoe. Totally unplanned. He looked back down at her, and her at him. In some sudden burst of courage, he wrapped an arm around her waist, yanking her closer.

“Don’t you let it happen, kitten…” Jack warned in a low snarl, and she was barely paying any attention. Her breath hitched in her throat as his hand came up to cup her jaw, and he peered down at her.

“All I want for Christmas is… Well, you.” He scoffed a little, the line unbearably cheesy, but it left him smiling nonetheless. The next thing she knew his lips were on hers, and there was so much passion put behind it, it literally rendered her motionless. He tasted strongly of that rum-punch someone had made, so she wasn’t sure if his motive was actually him finally making a move, or it was the rum speaking.

At the time, though, she didn’t know how much she had wanted this. She didn’t care how pissed Jack would be, or that there was others around, or anything else, for that matter. She responded, finally, wrapping her arms around his neck, tilting her head to deepen the kiss. Rhys seemed surprised she’d actually responded, but wasted no time, moving his hand down to wrap both of his arms more successfully around her, ultimately drawing her in closer. Their lips parted briefly to catch a wind of something called oxygen, before they were back together again, just as passionate as before.

She barely heard the roar of the party around her, or anything else for that matter. This was what she wanted, and needed, and by god she wasn't gonna let it slip away. Rhys couldn't seem to handle the oxygen deprivation, so he finally pulled away, puffing out a breath as he rested his forehead against hers. He was panting slightly, and though her breath was quickened, she wasn't near his state. He gingerly brought up a hand to caress her face, and she couldn't help but lean into it slightly.

"Yyeeaahh! Get some, Rhysh!" She sucked in a breath, looking over as she noticed Vaughn cheering for his friend, similar to a bunch of other random people. This is what caught her attention, what pulled her away from the previous state she was in. Maybe Rhys really just was too drunk to know what he was doing. Was desperate for a lay, which could easily describe the passion behind that kiss. What if he just wanted a one night stand, and it was something she'd regret afterwards?

Jack stood to the side, a smirk plastered on his face. She knew he was feeling cocky about how she was having second thoughts, and by god she wanted to prove him wrong, but... She couldn't. He may be right. Maybe all Rhys wanted to do was to get in her pants. She couldn't be mistaken about the ice skating though, right? That one split moment they'd shared?

She didn't know what to think. She didn't want to get hurt at the end of the night. Wasn't the first time it's happened. Normally she'd just brush it off, but she felt differently about Rhys. She needed time to think, and to talk to him, but right now it wasn't the time.

She placed a hand on Rhys' shoulder, slowly pushing herself away from him. His face fell at this gesture, and she looked away from him. "We'll talk later." She mumbled for only his ears to hear, and backed up, brushing past him, leaving him to watch her head off on her own.

"You did the right thing, kitten." Jack's praise broke through her clouded mind. She shut him out, though, brushing past people to seclude herself and allow time to think.

As Rhys watched her go, he felt his body slacken, and he leaned against the wall.

Did I just royally fuck up?

Chapter Text

The next morning, Rhys was greeted with a splitting headache, a sore neck, and churning stomach. He knew he was on the couch at their apartment, but how he got there was another mystery, and probably a whole other story in itself. He reached up with a shaky hand, gripping the back of the sofa, and inch by inch, pulled himself up. He almost regretted sitting up. All the blood seemed to flow upright-- or maybe downright?-- and it felt awful. His head throbbed at the sensation, and he opened his mouth, only to cover it seconds later. He was going to be sick.

He glanced over, scanning the items on the coffee table beside him, for his brain wasn’t in a state to render them. A cup of water and some aspirin, he found out. He has been blessed, though the blessed are often also cursed. He knew if he took the aspirin right now, he'd just throw it back up. Speaking of throwing up…

He felt his stomach churn uncomfortably, and briefly shoved his face into the back of the couch, groaning loudly. He finally pulled himself up, stumbling over to the bathroom, and pushed the door open. Vaughn was already in there, leaning against the bathtub, head back with a damp rag on his forehead. If Rhys cared for any shred of dignity at the moment, he would've asked Vaughn to leave. However, his stomach was a torrent and he could feel it rising in his throat, and--

He dropped down to his knees, crouching by the toilet, and proceeded to bring up what he practically inhaled last night after his little stunt. "Ugh... Dude, c'mon, you're gonna make me sick again." Vaughn grimaced, nose scrunched as he pointedly looked away, draping an arm over his eyes.

"Then leave." Rhys finally sputtered out after spitting and finishing his episode. Vaughn made to reply, only to look away again as another surge of vomit came from his stomach.

When he was finally finished, he grabbed a piece of toilet paper and wiped his mouth. He threw it in the toilet, flushing and rested his head against the rim with a whimper.

“Bro…” Vaughn finally rasped. His best friend only responded with a disgruntled noise. “We fucked up… I-I think. I don’t know what happened, really… I don’t remember…”

“Don’t even talk about it.” Rhys grumbled, wrapping his arms around the porcelain bowl as he moved to rest his cheek on it, peering over at his friend. Vaughn’s head rolled over, and the two locked eyes briefly, too wiped to even speak anymore.

“Worshipping the porcelain throne, boys?” They both looked over, and there she stood, arms crossed. She seemed amused, yet all the same, exasperated.

“S-Sorry… We didn’t mean to get this… Well, y’know…” Vaughn apologized meekly, using every last ounce of his strength to push himself up from the tub, leaning forward with a huff.

“Eh, it’s fine. I just wouldn’t go so all out at the New Years party we’re gonna go to. You wouldn’t want to live this over again, I bet.” She chortled, brushing some of her mussed hair out of her face. “I’ll go make some breakfast, ‘kay?” She offered, and Rhys couldn’t help but give a smile at the prospect.

“You’re a saint.” He crooned, looking almost delirious as he saw her lips twitch up again.

“I do what I can. Get up, though, you two. And Rhys, take your aspirin; I don’t want you complaining all morning.” She was gone after leaving him with that. He watched her go, mildly grinning even bigger. However, the events of last night(before he had drunk himself into an unknown state) replayed in his mind, and he frowned. Groaning, he placed his hands on the seat, slowly pushing himself up, and Vaughn followed.

“I’m gonna grab my glasses.” The shorter man muttered, brushing past Rhys to his room. Rhys watched him, rubbing his head briefly, and soon strode out of the room. He meandered towards the kitchen, the smell of eggs, toast and bacon greeting him. Damn, was she even making coffee? Lord, Rhys wouldn’t mind waking up to this everyday. He watched her work at the stove, slowly walking up to her from behind, arms slightly extended. He froze, however, remembering once again that nothing official happened between them. Actually, he was pretty sure she rejected him.

He flinched slightly, drawing back, and turned towards the coffee machine. He flinched once more, putting a hand to his head as the machine in front of him went off, signaling the coffee was finished. “Shut up.” He mumbled, firmly pressing the button as he grabbed a mug.

“Did you take the aspirin yet?” She asked, pointedly looking over at him.

“No… Why does it matter?” He muttered, not exactly bitter, but he wasn’t a morning person. Especially today.

“I told you; I don’t want you bitching about it.” She responded, going back to what she was doing, and he rolled his eyes, grumbling. Of course. She didn’t care of his well being. Silly of him to think so.

“Whatever.” He mumbled, but turned nonetheless, sauntering into the living room. After popping the pills and finally grabbing a cup of coffee, he settled himself onto a barstool at the counter, head in his hands. Vaughn was there soon enough, as well as his food. A plate was slid in front of him, piled with all the food he smelled before. Despite feeling so sick before, his mouth salivated at the sight, and he was instantly shoveling food into his mouth, no doubt messy.

“What time is it?” Vaughn asked after he swallowed a bite of his food, and she hummed, glancing at the clock on the microwave.

“‘round 11. You guys got up early.” She commented, putting the supplies she had previously used away, cleaning up while she was at it.

“Early?”

“Yeah. For you guys, at least. You were out.” She stopped, tilting her head to the side slightly. “Actually, Vaughn, you were… Somewhat conscious. Enough to help me get Rhys up the stairs. I should’ve left your ass, man.” She looked pointedly at the partially-cybernetic male, who looked up from his food, swallowing. He snorted, taking a sip of his coffee and didn’t reply, going back to his food. He flinched, feeling an electric jolt shoot through his head suddenly as her hand lightly made contact with the side of his port.

“Ow! What the hell?” He growled, giving her a dirty look, in which she partially reciprocated.

“Be grateful.” She huffed, turning to grab her work apron, and only now did Rhys realize that she was already dressed, and had pulled her hair up.

“Do you have work? Did you eat?” Vaughn asked, a look of guilt crossing his face as he realized that they may have eaten all the food, and there was none left for her.

“I got called in. I’m not hungry.” She responded briefly, pulling on some boots and a coat, and was soon out of house with a firm shut of the door. The two males watched her, Rhys groaning and nearly slamming his head against the bar as Chrome jumped onto the counter and stepped into his eggs, meowing without a care in the world.

When she was outside, she let out a puff of air against the chill, briskly scaling the stairs and proceeded to make her way down the street.

“You should’ve eaten, kitten.” Jack commented, striding beside her leisurely, hands behind his head.

“I’m fine. Wouldn’t of had time anyways.” She shrugged, stumbling slightly as she brushed a little too hard into someone. She continued on nonetheless, face set firmly.

“Alright, alright. Just don’t do it again; Not good for the body.” The hologram informed, arms falling to his sides as he shrugged his shoulders slightly.

“What was that dream last night?” She asked, barely after he had gotten his statement out. He was a little taken aback, but a small smirk toyed onto his face.

“What dream?” He practically whistled, and she spared him an annoyed look.

“You know! The one with you-- and me-- and... “

“I got no idea. I didn’t have anything to do with that. Why you pointin’ fingers?” His smirk only widened. “That must’ve been on your own mind, sweetheart.” She scowled at this.

“No way! I wouldn’t dream something like that. With you, at least.”

“Your heart rate said otherwise. As did your body. Especially--”

“Stop! No!”

“Aw, c’mon, you enjoyed it. You can’t lie.~” He nearly sung, easily stepping in front of her, causing her to stop. The man that was about to walk past her stopped also, blinking in surprise, and she quickly averted her eyes. She walked past him, shivering slightly as she had to walk through Jack.

“Okay, so what? I haven’t had one of those… Dreams in a while. I’m a 24 year old sexually, and financially, frustrated woman. It’s only natural.” She sighed out, holding her head closer to her ear to make it look like she was talking on the phone as she got some strange glances from passing strangers.

“Yeah, it’s totally natural. It’s just, y’know, it was with me.” Jack continued on, and she groaned, briefly shutting her eyes, opening them back up again. “But, y’know, kitten… If you get me out of this stupid watch, get me back to someone who knows what to do to fix this, I’ll make it worth your while.” He practically purred, and right in her ear to. She could feel the static, and it actually startled her. She yelped, jumping, and she was so close to a building beside her, her wall banged against it.

Surprisingly enough, Jack was gone in a flicker of pixels. She let out a small breath, rubbing her face tiredly, and hurried along to the coffee shop. As she went along, Jack’s voice floated into her head.

Just remember what I said the next time that cupcake tries something against you. Remember who I am. I can give you waaay more than he ever could.

Chapter Text

Helios held a much colder temperature than most of Pandora ever would. It wasn’t just because it was, well, in space; There was also air conditioning blasting through the facility. It was like they were laughing in Pandora’s face-- That wasn’t even a ‘like’ statement. It was a for sure one.

The man was hurrying down the hall, clad in a suit and tie, a gun held in his hands. He brushed past people, some looking alarmed to see someone running down the halls with a gun, and others, it seemed to be an everyday occurrence. It really was, though. Said man finally found the room, bursting through the door, panting slightly at his lengthy run as he surveyed the scene. Everything seemed to be under control: There were other men in the room, all with guns; The siren was knelt on the ground, head bowed, collar on, hands clasped behind her back; Even Vasquez was already here.

“You’re a… Little late, Mendinez.” Vasquez noted with a raised brow as he partially turned towards the man. Mendinez apologized, explaining himself as he took his place in the ranks.

“I-I’m sorry, sir. I was o-on the other wing when I got the call, I--”

“Save your breath; I don’t want to hear it. Don’t need to... You’re here now, so sit tight, stay quiet and do your job.” The head honcho cut him off, giving him a pointed look, now turning to the siren at his feet. She didn’t say anything, and didn’t even bother to look up as she heard Vasquez turn to her. “Now… I can’t believe the day has come where we’ve finally caught our troublesome little bounty hunter. I mean, I personally was expecting to; I bet you weren’t, though, Veristra.” He bent down in front of her. “I’m going to have to ask you to cooperate with us, or things are gonna go from bad, to worse.”

A snarl parted on Veristra’s lips, and she slowly tilted her head to look up at him, her one visible and useful sharp violet smoldering with hate and frustration. “Over my dead body.” She spat, attempting to wrench her hands free from the restraint, but wasn’t able to any avail.

“Now, now, you know we wouldn’t kill you… You’re far too valuable.” Vasquez clicked his tongue, giving a small shake of his head as he stood again. “However… Employees, bandits, they’re all much more extendable.” He continued, and instantly she looked up at him. Her gaze flickered at his words, and a smirk toyed onto his lips as he hit a spot. “Now… I know your daughter is a much harder target to find. She’s hidden well, I’ll give her that. However, I’m sure you know about your son. That he’s employed under us.” He looked back down at her. “The thing is, though, he’s not actually here. He’s somewhere far, far away, and you know what? We’ll keep him there. We’ll banish him from Helios, and he won’t be anywhere near Pandora. And you know what’s gonna happen if we do that?”

She still said nothing, her eye watching his every movements as he bent down in front of her again. “If we do that, your son is going to die. His very existence is going to seize, and you’ll never get to see him again. Not like you ever get to, anyways, considering you’re down there and he’s up here… But, well, you’ll be alive, knowing that he’s dead. And you could’ve stopped it if you listened. If you complied with us. And if that isn’t motive enough...” Vasquez stood once more before continuing, “Then mark my words, I will deploy a team to go down onto Pandora and search every shit-hole in that shit-hole until I find your daughter. Then I will bring her here and you can watch me strangle her to death with your very own eyes while I use my very own hands.” He smiled at the end, peering down at her as she glared up at him in return. “Have I made myself clear, Ms. Rhyvvis?”

Veristra did not answer. She knew she did not have the upperhand here, and she would fight back if, well, she could, for one. Also if this dickbag wasn’t threatening her children(even if both weren’t blood related to her). She prioritized them over anyone else, including herself, so finally, she let out a long sigh. She faced away, shoulders falling, head also somewhat. She didn’t answer, but it was clear enough. Vasquez sneered triumphantly, and he turned. “Take her to the core.” He ordered with a wave of his hand, and strode out of the room without sparing another glance behind him as the siren was dragged out.

__

She preferred parties in actual houses as compared to apartments. There wasn't as many rooms(usually), and nobody had a real chance of falling off ledges or stairs. The chance wasn't zero, however.

Despite it being a New Years party, so far, it was a lot more relaxed. Lot of people, lot of drinks, conversations, food, entertainment. She watched passively from the porch outback, rubbing her arms from the cold of the night. She'd dressed a little more nicely, for some odd reason, and was really regretting it. It was too much activity to go inside right now; It was almost midnight, so everyone was waiting for the ball-drop. She preferred to actually hear her own thoughts out here.

Jack had left her side to go watch everyone make a fool of themselves who were doing so. She didn't mind, really. Getting peace and quiet once in awhile was actually gratifying, believe it or not. She took another sip of her drink, scrolling through her phone as she listened to the crowd inside.

"Hey." She looked over, and Rhys was walking towards her, then leaned on the porch rail beside her.

"Hi." She responded, slipping her phone away as she leaned beside him.

"You enjoying the party?" He asked, looking over at her, and she just looked at the still pool before her eyes.

"I am, actually. Just wanted to take a break while the ball dropped. I know once it does, it'll get insane." She chuckled, tucking a few strands of hair out of her face.

"Yeeaahh, I get you. Kinda why I came out here too." He agreed, smiling her way, although her eyes were focused on the yard. She didn't answer, and Rhys swallowed, straightening himself up. "Look, I... I wanna talk about the party."

"What? You're not enjoying it? We can leave if you want after midnight." She suggested, now looking at him, and he stifled a groan.

"No, not this one... The... Last one. When I, uh..."

"Yeah, you don't have to explain your actions." She commented shortly, leaning back against the rail now. She could hear the countdown from 60 starting. "You were drunk, and it seems you're a flirty drunk. Or cheesy. Maybe horny, I don't know."

"No, no! Like, what I said-- What I did-- I meant it." He countered, and she looked at him, almost perplexed.

"You... Did?"

"Yes! I meant that, I did. I was hiding it for awhile... I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to risk it being awkward, but I couldn't take it any longer! I probably shouldn't have gone about it that way, I know, but it was just... Spur of the moment." He finally ended, looking almost miserable. She only stared at him, and he whined. "Look, it's really hard just... Seeing you every day, living with you, and not being able to like... Hold you or anything. It hurts, honestly, and I feel like I have some stupid school crush, but I don't. I know this is a lot more, and..." Her silence was unnerving. She was too much in a shock to speak. Well, she had her hints, and was pretty sure over all, but all the same. To hear him say it.

"Rhys." She said quietly, and he looked back at her, surprised to see her taking one of his hands in her own. She took off his glove, running her fingers across his warm skin, enveloping his in her own two. "I wasn't sure if you were for real about it. I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask that night, and I was too… Cautious again to bring it up.” She ventured in the same small voice. “But I have to say, I’m honestly glad you did it. And meant it, too. It only confirmed my… Mild suspicions.” She gave a soft, rare smile, and Rhys’ breath caught in his throat.

“Does… That mean…?”

“Yes, Rhys, it does mean that. And… If you wanted to, I’d be willing to try things out between us. But, slow, y’know. I still have a lot on my plate.” She put forward, droning out the background noise as the countdown from 10 had begun.

“I-I… I’d really like that, actually.” He finally responded, giving a somewhat meek smile as he brought his other hand up, cupping her face again with much better coordination and feeling. “Um… Sorry, I just… Do you mind?” He asked finally, leaning towards her, and she chuckled in response. She brought her hands up to her his arms, leaning up herself.

“Mm… No. Go ahead.” She smiled, and he scoffed quietly, but had returned the gesture. No sooner he had leaned down, capturing her lips. Fireworks had went off as soon as they met, quite literally. People were shooting fireworks off in the distance, and the ball had dropped, the inside of the house cheering. The kiss was only short lived, though, and when they had pulled away, Rhys let out a breath. He was baring one of the most genuine smiles she had ever seen on his face, and gave a small shake of his head, suddenly enveloping her in an embrace.

She breathed out, slowly sliding her hands under his unzipped jacket, and wrapped her arms around him. She took in his scent, his warmth, and buried her face in his chest, gripping onto the back of his shirt just a little tighter. She almost felt like them being… ‘official’ was a better idea. Not exactly a better idea, but something she’d prefer. Taking it slow for now would probably be better for her because of all of the schooling, work, and Jack as well.

Oh, she’d almost forgotten about him. Shit.

Speaking of the devil, she could hear him flicker in beside her, running his mouth about what was happening inside. "Man, people go crazy about this New Years stuff... Doesn't happen where I'm from. Usually-- Oh, whoa whoa whoa, hey, what's goin' on in this neck of the woods, huh?" His sneer broke through her ‘golden moment’, and she could practically feel him breathing down her neck. “Uh, this is cute and all, but what have I told you over and over again, kitten?” He snarled, and she dared to shift her head, peeking over at him. He did not look happy.

“We’re taking things slow.” She said softly, and Jack’s eyes widened a fraction at this, his form flickering.

“Come again?” Rhys asked, slowly detaching himself from her.

“...Nothing. I was just rephrasing. Thinking out loud.” She admitted. Rhys seemed to accept this answer, and Jack’s eyes only narrowed, his form flickering as he spoke.

“You shouldn’t be taking things anywhere, kiddo.” He hissed, voice somewhat glitchy as he spoke(usually happened when he was mad). “You need to smooth the waters with this guy. Tell him you don’t want anything to do with him.”

But I do. She said silently to herself, looking at Rhys as he let out a content sigh, leaning back against the rail briefly and stretched, before straightening himself up.

“I’m gonna go grab a drink. You want something?” He offered, and she accepted his offer, watching his form retreat into the house.

“I really don’t think you do. I think you’re just a confused little kitten who needs some guidance.” Jack suddenly smoothed out, slicking his hair back as he began to circle her. “You only think you wanna be with him because he’s the only guy that’s been giving you attention. The only one that’s seemed to show interest in you, huh? Like you mentioned, the other day; You’re sexually, and, probably romantically, frustrated. So therefore, that makes you desperate for something, someone, anyone.” He concluded, and she scoffed, turning on him.

“Do you seriously think that’s the only reason why? I mean… That’s probably part of the fact, but I genuinely like him, Jack.” She retorted angrily. How dare he? She had every intention to knock his teeth out if she could, and she damn well would if she ever had the chance to.

“Yeah, okay, sure. Say you actually… do like him.” The hologram theoreticized, moving his hands in gestures as he spoke. “Well, one day, something happens at his job. Who knows, he’s an idiot, probably would fuck up somewhere, and you know what happens then? It’ll come back on him, of course. And that will come back on you.”

“How would it--”

“He works for Hyperion, dumdum! He’s one of those ambitious nimrods that aspires to become like me, mmkay? He’s probably just having some fling with you while he’s here, doing whatever he’s doing, and once he’s done, he’ll leave you in the dust.” He bit out the last word. “I went a little off topic there, sorry; If something comes back on him, Hyperion won’t stop at just him. If they can’t get it through his thick-skull, then they’ll start pulling other people into the equation. And one of those people would be you. No doubt about it.”

“But… He’s Hyperion, as you mentioned…” She started, “Why would it bad to get on his side? I could probably go in there pretty soon, hand them over this watch, and you may be able to be revived. Or whatever.”

“You think I haven’t thought of that? Just because I’m digital doesn’t mean I’m more stupid.” He snorted. “Look, if you do that--”

“Hey, sorry I took so long. Lotta people there, heh.” Rhys apologized as he came back, handing her the drink.

“Oh, no problem.” She smiled, a little distant as she took a sip of whatever he had gotten her. The sting down her throat and tongue distracted her, and she looked almost absolutely perplexed for a few moments. She didn’t really hear anything else around her, and for a moment, she let her mind clear.

Then, she spoke, completely interrupting Rhys in the conversation he was trying to have with her. “Look, I’m gonna go. I’m kinda tired.” He blinked, surprised as she put her cup aside on the rail.

“Oh, okay. I’ll go grab Vaughn, and--”

“No. You two stay.” She urged, looking at him, and he was even more surprised.

“W-what? We’re not gonna just stay here while--”

“Rhys.” She pressed, placing a hand on his arm. He stopped in his words, frowning in response. She knew that he knew argument was futile, and he seemed to realize this.

“Alright, fine. You’ll be okay?”

“I’ll take an Uber, don’t worry. You guys have fun.” She dismissed, offering him another distracted smile as she turned and pulled out her phone, quickly looking for a number for the cab. Jack had disappeared, and there didn’t seem to be any sign of him coming back soon. She wasn’t complaining.

Soon enough, she’d gotten into the cab, driven home, payed the man, and went into her room. No sooner did she strip into some pajama pants and a t-shirt, and sat at the desk with a soft huff of her breath, looking down at her computer for a moment.

The silence was lengthening. It was ticking by. And that’s when she did it.

She grabbed her phone, searching for a card and when found it, dialed the number. She knew calling at this hour, she wouldn’t get an answer. Even on New Years. As expected, the droning sound of the message system rang out, and she slowly swiveled in her chair, facing the window, the several lights flickering outside. Her eyes narrowed slightly, and she spoke when she could.

“I’d like to talk about that deal. Call me back when you get the chance.”

Chapter Text

Jack would not stop bothering her. Over the past month or so, ever since things started between her and Rhys, her hologram had been an honest pest. Not only had he been bugging her about getting together with Rhys, but also about her getting the watch off.

She'd went in to see Vasquez. It was just simple procedures of name, age, weight, and so forth; Almost like going to a doctor's. He said the watch did interest him, and he’d like to run tests on her. Most would be mental, but he said there would be some physical ones that would render her unable to do much for the next few days. She had her classes(she’d paid good money for that. Like hell she was missing out), and work as well, so that wasn’t an option. She decided some other time would probably be better, preferably near the summer. Hugo hadn’t looked too happy about it, but he also seemed to understand.

She hadn’t went back yet. Hadn’t called back. As much as she wanted to get this dreaded watch off of her, she wanted to be able to work more. Boy, she couldn’t wait for the summer.

Actually, she couldn’t wait for this day to be over. It was that time of the month, and cramps were getting to her bad. She had this Saturday off, so at least she got to sit at home. Nobody else was home, though, unfortunately; Both Vaughn and Rhys were at work. She had nothing to do, and was craving an insane amount of some sort of cocoa substance right now to keep her cramps at ease(not that it would do much). She’d called Rhys about 3 times, texted him probably more than 6, and he still hadn’t answered. She’d even called Vaughn. That’s how desperate she was becoming.

“Oooh my loooorrrd.” She whined pathetically as she lay on the couch, clutching a hand to her stomach while she half-watched some Spanish soap opera on TV. “Why won’t they answer my calls?” She whined, glaring half-heartedly at her phone.

“Uh, maybe because they’re working?” Jack suggested, sitting beside her on the couch. Well, he actually sat on her legs, but it wasn’t like she could feel it anyway.

“Who cares. They should have their phones on them.” She whimpered, shifting her head to look at the hologram.

“If I caught somebody on their phone, I’d throw it out of an airlock. Maybe the person, too, depending on the mood I’m in.” He scoffed, resting his arms behind his head as he watched the show with half-drooped eyelids.

“You’re mean.”

“I’ve been called worse, kitten.”

“Whatever.” She grumbled finally, curling her legs up to her chest as she rolled onto her side, groaning dramatically as another cramp basically constricted her uterus. Cue another groan and some more shifting.

“Is this how annoying I am? Are you trying to prove a point? Well, point proven. I’ll roll back just a little. Just enough.” He spoke, somewhat irritable, and she moaned again.

“Dude, I’m not trying! This fuckin’... Fuckin’ hurts…” She hissed through her teeth, letting out a long breath as the pain mildly seized. “You know what it feels like? It feels like someone is taking your insides. Your stomach, intestines, liver, everything and is squeezing it with all their fucking might. That’s what it feels like.”

“Really? Whenever I did that to someone, usually they’d be screaming and writhing on the ground.” He raised a brow, looking towards her, and she gave him the most unbelievable look. “What?”

“I’m sick of your stupid bullshit stories.” She responded bitterly, and he pursed his lips at this.

“You think I’d lie about ripping a man’s intestines out? You’d think I’d lie about shooting someone at point blank, then walk into a meeting with their blood on my face and shirt?” He stood, towering over her as he slowly walked in front of her. “Do you honestly think I wouldn’t parade around my office with someone’s brain on my shoes that cost more than this apartment?” Her eyes were significantly rounder as he peered down at her, and she only responded with a thick shiver and wince as another cramp convulsed through her. Jack sighed through his nose, brushing back his hair. “Here, stretch out for me, princess.”

“What? No!” She instantly responded, curling up even more so. Did he really think she was that stupid?

“I’m not gonna hurt you, silly. I’m gonna make your cramps go away. How’s that sound?” He crooned after he’d given a roll of his eyes, almost like talking to a child. She looked at him apprehensively, clearly weary on the subject. However, as another wave of pain passed through her, she gasped out, slowly uncurling herself and laid flat on her back. Stretching her stomach out like this felt extremely uncomfortable, and she just wanted to curl back up again. “I suggest lifting up your shirt for the best results.” The hologram suggested, kneeling beside her, and she gave him a look. “You serious, kiddo? What the hell could I even do?” He had a point… “The most this would be is eye-candy. Not like there’s a lot, anyways.”

“H-Hey!” She pouted, but finally agreed, lifting up her shirt and let it rest just under her breasts.

“Alright. Now… I’m just gonna tweak some of your nerves. Have them contract, then expand, and eventually settle down. Easy peasy.” He grinned, and he moved his hand towards her stomach. She nearly freaked for a moment; She had swore she felt his fingers actually touch her. However, as his hand moved more inside her stomach, she came to realize that it was just the static. It was an uncomfortable feeling: Some pressure here and there, an almost tingly feeling. She imagined this was what getting a cesarean section felt like, but more pressurized. She wriggled, feeling a little awkward as Jack dug his hand through her stomach, concentrating slightly.

Much to her surprise and enjoyment, her cramping actually was beginning to seize. “Holy shit.” She muttered, shifting a little up, causing his hand to drop down further. She sucked in a breath, shivering faintly as a jolt was sent through her body. It was somewhere between feeling ticklish and pleasureable, and her face reddened slightly from the contact.

“O-hoh, what was that?” Jack grinned, and she shot him a look as their eyes met.

“You hit something. I dunno what. Whatever you were doing before was really working, though, and I-- aaahhhh…” He hit whatever it was again as his hand phased through her, and she gave a short snort of laughter, drawing her legs together uncomfortably as another small jolt passed through her.

“How fun is this? Looks like I can actually do something.” The male snickered, proceeding to move his hand slightly lower as he waved it around more. She emitted a high whine in response, an almost broken giggle parting from her lips as an uncomfortable throb began around her crotch, and she rubbed her legs together somewhat as she attempted to scramble away from him. “What’s the matter, kitten? You seem to be enjoying it.” Jack practically purred, only sliding his hand up more so, causing her to let out an involuntary shudder and whine as mild cramp came through her.

Her legs spreading slightly was also involuntary as she felt static between her calves as Jack practically nudged between them with no shame. She bit her lip, stifling any noises as the hand through her stomach moved up, then back down suddenly. She couldn’t hold in the almost choked gasp that came from her, and in a breath she asked him to stop. “Stop? Why’d I do that? I’m helping your cramps, remember, pumpkin?” He whistled innocently, smiling. However, the grin on his face was soon wiped off as he saw, as well as heard, the door handle jiggle. She held her breath, turning instantly onto her stomach to look at the door.

It was soon pushed open by Rhys, a paper bag in his hand and keys in other. He pushed the door closed behind him, and she instantly groaned. “Rhyyyyyssss.” She whined, upper body draping over the couch, looking over at him. He shrugged off his coat, putting it on the rack and threw his key ring on the table, looking over at her.

“Did you have to text me so many times? I only needed one.” He commented, walking over to her as he took out a chocolate bar from the paper bag.

“I wasn’t sure if you got it! I was really bored, too. And in pain.” She complained, eyes lighting up, and she instantly snatched the bar from his hand as soon as he was close enough.

“What about Chrome? I didn’t buy you a cat so you can complain to me about being bored.” He nearly whined, Jack sneering and getting up as Rhys moved around the front of the couch.

“He’s sleeping. Didn’t wanna get up to get him.” She pouted, curling her legs close to her to make room for her now boyfriend, who did take the offered seat.

“What kind of excuse is that?” He huffed when he sat back, offering an arm to her, in which she accepted. She curled up beside him, resting her head on his shoulder as she opened up the bar and nibbled on it.

“My kind of excuse.” She muttered in response, eyes trained on the television. It was another show now, but was still in Spanish.

“How are you feeling?” He suddenly asked, rubbing her arm slightly, eyes trained on her as she stared at the box before her.

“Better, actually. Cramping has almost stopped." She informed, eyes flickering over to Jack as he scoffed.

"What, not gonna give any credit? Gonna take it all for yourself? Your own damn body?” He snorted, and she ignored him(didn’t really have a choice), looking back towards the television.

“That’s good to hear. I’m just hoping this chocolate wasn’t a waste.” Rhys hummed, leaning over to nip off a piece. She moved the bar away from him, sending him a look, and he pouted. “Oh, come on, I bought this for you.” He whined, and she rolled her eyes, finally allowing him a bite. He took the offer, snapping off a piece between his teeth far too big for her liking.

“Hey! Not so big!” She complained, and it was his turn to give her a look, before he smirked.

“Want it ‘ack?” He mumbled through the chocolate on his tongue, leaning forward slightly, and she just scrunched her nose, putting her hand on his face and pushed him back.

“Not in the mood. That’s nasty, anyways.” She responded, hearing Rhys mutter something before swallowing his piece. He removed his arm from around her, standing up and stretched his arms. She looked up at him quizzically in response, and he peeked open his eyes to look down at her.

“Gonna change.” He announced finally, arms dropping. She let out an audible ‘ah’, but before he could even go anywhere, Jack was suddenly beside him. She swore she heard the hologram snarl something similar to ‘this guys pisses me off’, but she wasn’t sure. Nonetheless, Jack straight forward stuck his finger straight through Rhys’ port, his own form flickering from the high energy charge. Rhys let out a small shriek, arms and body seizing up, before his eyes rolled back, and he dropped to his knees, and his upper body slumped forward onto the coffee table.

“What the fuck?” She spat suddenly, turning and rounding harshly on Jack, who only gave her this smug look, crossing his arms.

“I said this guy irritated me. I didn’t want to hear another second of his stupid voice. So I put him out.”

“Put him out? He could be dead!” She nearly shrieked, suddenly bending down beside him to check. He was breathing, but she could swear his port was smoking… “You could’ve done some serious damage to his brain! Like, he could be a fucking vegetable for all I know.” She glared up at Jack, and he only gave her a deadpan look in response.

“You don’t seem to think he is. Looks like you think he’ll be just fine.” He noted, and she gave a frustrated noise, looking back at her boyfriend.

“Well… He seems fine… I mean, if he was worse off… He’d probably be different, right? I dunno how, just…” She was at a loss of words. She was starting to cramp again, and was on the verge of a very irritable headache. She was starting to feel sick, too. “Dude, he was about to go do something anyways. If you don’t like listening to him, then you could’ve left.” She finally spoke again, voice tight and irrate as she gave Jack a dirty look.

“It wouldn’t have really mattered. I could still hear your guys’ stupid conversations and passive flirty comments. It’s honestly gross.” He sneered, stalking around Rhys’ body, and she sniffed.

“I’m sure you could go into some deep, dark crevice of my brain and hide away there. Make yourself useful by not saying or doing anything.” She retorted, standing up to face him, and he stopped his circling, slowly turning to her.

“Well, look who grew a pair, here! You’ve said some bad stuff to me before, but I thought I taught you better than to talk to me like that.” His voice started out all light and cheerful, but had eventually grown into a dark whisper as he stared her down. She met his gaze, unwavering.

“I don’t think it really matters how I talk to you. You can’t do a single fucking thing, even if you think you can. You’re just some AI hologram that my brain can see because of this piece of shit watch. Just because you can tamper with my dreams and give me a few shocks here and there does not mean that you reign control over me. You are not my master. I am not a puppet. And you are sure as hell nobody’s damned hero.” Her voice had dropped to a minimal as she advanced on him. He had backed up in turn, until they stood nearly nose to nose(though she was looking up at him, and he down at her).

At first, he said nothing. Something seemed to be brewing, though, for his form had flickered, and an unpleasant grin grew onto his face. “I don’t think you understand just how much control I have over you, kitten.” The word was said with such dripping sarcasm and malice that she actually did shift a half-step back. “If I wanted to right now, I could literally pick through your miserable memories and tear them out, and you’d never know. I could literally make your heart seize it’s little job, or just make your brain completely shut down. I could absolutely destroy your immune system, rendering you susceptible to every disease known to man on this miserable planet. I could kill you in your sleep and you couldn’t do a damned thing.” He had advanced on her to the point where she needed to back up.

She finally stopped, though, as he did to, image flickering and eyes narrowed. “Do you understand what I’m saying here, sweetheart?” His voice was light again, though his entire demeanor stated otherwise. She couldn’t tell if he was bluffing, but goddamn it looked like he meant every word of what he’d said. She couldn’t even answer him, too speechless to utter a sound. She didn’t even offer help to Rhys as he groaned, stirring and slowly picking his head up, and soon, his body along with him.

“Ug-gh… God, what the hell happened?” He muttered, rubbing the side of his head as he turned to look at her, only to seize up again, eyes widening, jaw dropping. She looked at him, frowning at his state, and she wasn’t sure if he was paler from just waking back up, or if he had seen a ghost.

“Uh… He alright? Maybe I did fry his brain.” Jack prompted, squinting as he looked at Rhys, who only seemed even more startled. “What’s he lookin’ at?” She looked between the two, trying to look past Jack, only for a cold feeling to drop straight through her. Rhys’ mouth slowly closed, and she spoke.

“I… I think he’s looking at you, Jack."

Chapter Text

"I... I think he's looking at you, Jack."

"Pfft-- Me? How?" The hologram nearly sneered in response, looking Rhys up and down, who still stood slack-jawed.

“When you stuck your finger into his port… I think it rewired something in his brain, maybe his eye, and now he is able to see you too.” She suggested quietly, watching Jack move to one side, and Rhys’ eyes followed. Cue moving to the other side, and his eyes still following.

“Thiiiis is kinda weird.” The man in blue admitted, cocking a brow as Rhys finally seemed to try and cohere a sentence.

“Whhaaa… You… H… H-Handsome Jack?” He finally managed out, looking quite ill as the words left his mouth.

“Handsome Jack?” She raised a brow, arms slowly crossing as Jack let out a slow whistle, leaning back somewhat.

“Wwwwooow. Haven’t heard that in a long time, heh, gotta say.” The hologram sniffed, brushing a finger over his nose. “Yup. It’s me, cupcake, in the living flesh. Well… Not exactly, but you get the point.”

“You’re… Blue… And… Supposed to be… Dead.” Rhys choked out afterwards. Jack laughed slightly at this while she inhaled slowly, looking somewhat uncomfortable. Finally, though, seeing how pale was Rhys(almost as if he was looking at a ghost), the grin slowly faltered, replaced with his own eyes stretching, and a frown. It was a look she’d never seen on Jack.

“D-dead? Hhah, no way, kiddo. I’m just… A hologram right now, sure, but there’s no way I’m dead. I’m the hero, remember? Heroes can’t die.” He informed, turning on his heel the other way, arms crossing as he looked down at his shoes, thinking this through.

“Wait, so… You guys know each other? Or am I missing something here?” She broke in, still mildly irritated from what previously happened. Rhys suddenly seemed to remember that she was there, and looked her way, eyes widening even more.

“Y-you can see him too?” He stuttered out, and she gave a tight-lipped nod. “What the fuck is going on?” He nearly whined afterwards.

“Jack stuck a finger through your port. That’s probably why you can see him.” She mused, motioning to said hole in the side of his head. He subconsciously put a hand over it, brows furrowing as he frowned pathetically.

“Seriously? What the hell?” He murmured, flinching as Jack suddenly turned back to him.

“So. They didn’t stick my conscious into some card in some watch attached to some useless woman… I really did die. And somehow… This happened.” He confirmed, and both parties looked at him. Rhys looked very cautious and unsure about this whole situation, while she just looked irritated and mildly confused all the same. “This is unbelievable. Seriously.”

“I’m-- I’m so confused. Can somebody please explain what the hell is going on?” She snapped.

“How long have you been able to see him?” Rhys asked out of nowhere, giving his attention to her now.

“Longer than I’ve known you.” She admitted, and he let out a breath, slowly sitting on the couch with another hand on his head.

“For real?” His voice cracked as he asked this, and she didn’t get to answer him back as Jack spoke.

“Stay down, kiddo. It’s a lot to take in, I know. See,” He turned to her now, “You know how I mentioned I used to own this huge company?” She gave a mute nod. “Well, I wasn’t joking. I owned this huge company. I’m talking about like, being top top dog. Like, TOP. I basically wiped out the competition. I took over a huge friggin’ station, and practically owned this planet.”

“Heeee… He was a dictator.” Rhys added slowly, dragging up ghostly looking eyes to her, and she frowned.

Not a dictator. A hero. THE hero.” He snapped, glaring at Rhys briefly. “I was the one saving those miserable bastards. Wiping out those shitty bandit scum, I was cleaning the planet. I was going to make it a better, safer place to live. I just needed the help of the Vault to finish off the job-- But some people didn’t agree with my actions. Those were the problem people-- Damn vault hunting bandits wanted all that cheddar to themselves. Selfish sons-of-bitches that couldn’t give in for the common good.” He spat, turning back away with the cross of his arms.

“So… You owned a huge company… And were trying to kill dozens of people on a planet to make it a safer place?...” She clarified slowly, and Jack turned back to her, giving her a not too pleasant look.

“I don’t like the way you say it, kitten. You make it sound like I was the bad guy. But I wasn’t; I was helping all those vulnerable people out there, trying to make it a better place. Just, some people got in the way. Bandits turned everything around, made it look like I was the big bad wolf. Don’t get me wrong, I WAS the big bad wolf, just-- Y’know, not bad.” He exemplified, stepping into her personal space, causing her to step back.

“Mm… Right… And Hitler wiped out millions of Jews to create a pure race.” She sneered.

“Would it make the world a better place?”

“Well… No, I don’t think so.”

“So he had no justification, then.”

“No, but I’m saying-- Do you even know who he is?”

“Nope.”

“...Right.” The conversation ended abruptly awkward. “How were you killed?” She asked then.

“Hell if I know. I didn’t even know I was truly dead, I just thought I was in some chamber and was being projected here for some reason.” He shrugged.

“He-- You-- Were killed by a Vault Hunter.” Rhys answered, standing back up finally. He flinched as a look of malice crossed Jack’s face, and his lips drew back into a grimace.

“Are you joking? A fucking Vault Hunter killed me?” He snarled, advancing now on Rhys, who squeaked, shifting back behind her, peeking over her shoulder at a pissed off hologram.

“Hey man, don’t kill the messenger.” She snapped, waving her hand in Jack’s chest, and he finally stopped, slowly releasing a breath through his nostrils(even if he was a hologram. Who knows, who cares). He took a step back, and Rhys basically blanched, looking between the two.

“You just… Talked to him… Like that…” Rhys slowly spoke, coming from behind to stand beside her now.

“I know. She’s sassy. I should really cut her tongue out.” Jack spoke with mock sweetness, and all she did was sneer at this.

“You couldn’t, so that sucks. Okay, what I’m confused on: How come I haven’t ever heard of any of this shit happening? Like, nothing on the news, no books, no ANYTHING. I looked up Hyperion, and all there is on it is some book, which is completely different from what you told me, and a moon that orbits Jupiter or something.” She prompted, and Jack hummed in thought at her statement.

“Good question. Care to answer that, cupcake?” He turned towards Rhys, whom flinched as he was addressed.

“U-uh, I’m not too sure myself… Honestly! I swear!” He covered up as Jack’s face darkened.

“What DO you know then?” She asked in a more gentle manner, putting a hand on his shoulder and rubbed it slightly, glad to see his tension eased up somewhat.

“All… All I know is that to get here, we had to go into some chamber. We got strapped into this pod like thing, and then… We were… Blindfolded, I think.” His brows furrowed in some attempt to recall all of the events, and she encouraged him with a quiet “go on”. “Then… I think we were spinning. I think I remember that feeling. I didn’t know what was going on, but then all of a sudden, I was out of the chamber, out of the pod, I could see again, and I was in the Hyperion facility we have here.” He then finished, and in this response, she scrunched her nose, trying to decipher what he had said.

“Huh… It was probably some intergalactic travel. I don’t think you guys spun.” Jack concluded, seeming pleased with himself at the conclusion.

“Why are you here? Like… Did Hyperion lose power or something? And you guys fled here or something?” She then inquired.

“Well, I’ve already explained that part. We’re looking for something important believed to be here.” He answered. She let out a breath, running a hand through her hair.

What exactly?”

“I don’t quite know… My boss refused to tell me. He just mentioned it was some sort of energy like source that contained critically important information.”

“And you guys lost it?” The hologram snorted, seeming less than pleased at that factor.

“It was more… Misplaced. There was confusion on it. We were placed with you because you appear to have a high energy source that could possibly it.” Rhys concluded, turning to her, and she seemed surprised. “But we still haven’t found anything and…” He trailed off, eyes widening a fraction as some sort of realization seemed to hit him like a ton of bricks.

He looked at her wrist, then at Jack, and suddenly grabbed her arm. He hit the watch slightly against her protests, and Jack’s form flickered faintly, but he didn’t disappear. “Oh-- Oh my god, you-- It’s you! You have it!” Rhys broke into a face splitting grin, and suddenly he had lifted her into the air out of a pure surge of joy. He then crashed his lips onto hers, wrapping his arms around her body, and out of surprise(and to brace herself), her hands found their way to his shoulders, then around his neck.

“Either you’re really excited to get out of this place, or your job really must’ve been banking on this.” Jack commented blandly, and they broke apart, peering over at him.

“Job, to be honest…” He muttered, looking now rather meek as Jack gave him an unpleasant look. She pulled away from him, slowly sliding a hand up her arm to her watch.

“If… We turn in this… ‘Intelligence’ to your boss and the whole corporation, what are they gonna do with it?” She asked finally, looking back up at Rhys.

“Probably try to debug and decrypt it. Maybe even bring him back, if at all possible.” He suggested, nose scrunching mild distaste at the idea(facing away from Jack), but all the same, he seemed equally as excited by it.

Jack seemed to be quite excited too.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa-- Bring me back? Is that even possible?” The hologram asked, walking over to stand between the two. She shifted a half-step back, and Rhys answered with a mildly irritated look at Jack’s personal space issues.

“I just said I don’t know. I think they just want your AI.” He answered, but this didn’t seem to hurt said AI’s demeanor any more.

“Wow, like, okay, let’s do this.” He grinned, turning to her. “C’mon, kitten, you can finally get rid of me! Let’s just go with Rhysie over here to get all of this sorted out!” She gave him a cautious look, eyes and fingers flickering back down to the watch on her wrist.

“I… I dunno… Am I gonna get like… Hurt or anything during this? Like, will it damage my body like you said it would?” She asked both of them mainly, Rhys’ mouth ghosting into a frown at this.

“I doubt it, it’ll be fine-- Even if it does hurt you, I’m sure nothing’s permanent. I think. Shouldn’t be.” He waved his hand, seeming to brush it off. She still looked uncomfortable, nonetheless, taking a step back.

“I don’t think so. Not yet I won’t go in.” She concluded, and Jack’s form flickered, his grin twitching just slightly.

“What was that, sweetheart? Didn’t quite catch it.” He crooned, underlying anger in his voice.

“I said I won’t go in yet. What you did, slaughtering hundreds of people to try and shape your ‘perfect world’. Being a dictator to people who sounded like they needed help more than anything-- Do you honestly think I would let that happen again?” She said sternly, and this only seemed to anger him more, his form flickering again. He advanced towards her, only to stop as Rhys stepped in front of her, one arm out slightly, giving Jack a look with a slow shake of his head.

“Aw, how cute. Step outta the way, cupcake.” Jack snarled, reaching forward to grab Rhys by the throat, and instinct caused him to flinch back, inhaling sharply as a Jack’s hand instead waved through the side of his port and eye. He put a hand over it, backing up more, and she did as well. “You don’t know how fucking frustrating this is not being able to tear your throat out, OR to tear that damn watch off your wrist.” He snarled, turning on heel. Her eyes hardened, and she was about to speak again, only for him to turn back once more.

“Don’t think this discussion is over. One way or another, you’re handing that watch over-- Dead OR alive.” He snapped, and was gone in a flicker of pixels.

Chapter Text

“Dude… I got fired.”

The conversation from Vaughn had come up quite abruptly. This seemed like a huge surprise to Rhys, who basically choked on his food, coughing and hitting his chest a couple times. Vaughn looked completely distraught, to say the least, and when Rhys finally caught his breath, he uttered out a, “What?”

“I got fired! Well… Sorta. They gave me a choice.” The man with the glasses elaborated, taking a bite of his food and chewed it slowly before he spoke again. “They said either I can stay here, but I can’t go back to Hyperion and I don’t get to keep this current job, or I go back to Hyperion, back to my old job.” He informed, and Rhys took up a napkin, wiping his mouth from his episode.

“What’s the issue with that?” She asked, looking at Vaughn.

“The issue is that I need Vaughn here, and if he goes back up to Hyperion, I don’t know when I’ll see him again.” Rhys ground out, now looking as distraught as his friend. “Bro… I don’t know what you should do… If you get fired here, and you’re stuck here… Then… But if I get to go back to Hyperion…”

“I know, man, that’s the hold up. I don’t wanna leave you bro, but at the same time, if I’m stuck here, I have no idea what I’ll do.” He prompted, pushing his food around on his plate with a fork. She looked between the two, who lapsed into silence of thought of most likely peril.

You could probably turn in the watch and save his job here… Jack suggested from inside her head, and she nearly agreed. Until she remembered why she wasn’t turning in the watch in the first place. She grumbled, standing and grabbing her plate, walking over to the sink to dispose of it.

“You, uh, alright?” Rhys asked, glancing over, and she shrugged, watching Chrome try to get into the cabinets again, only to draw back with a sharp meow as his electrical collar shocked him. That’s how out of hand(or paw) the cat got. They had to get him a fucking shock collar to keep him out of the cabinets.

“I’m fine. Just tired. Just so you know, Vaughn, I won’t hold anything against you any path you take. If you choose to stay and are jobless, I’ll try and hook you up somewhere.” She spoke, looking at him, and Vaughn gave a small smile in return, looking back at his food. She grabbed Chrome, holding him against her chest as she walked into her bedroom, shutting the door with a foot. Sauntering over to her bed, she dropped the cat on it, falling onto it beside him. Chrome crouched down with wide orange eyes, looking at her as she wrapped an arm around the feline, pulling him in and nuzzling her face into his neck.

She breathed softly out of her nostrils, eyes closed as she willed some sleep to come on, despite her still being in her clothing. Chrome mewled, trying to squirm, but she only groaned, holding him closer to her being. Eventually, he managed to wriggle his way out, and she cracked open an eye in time to see him shake out his fur, blink at her, then turn and jump off the bed. She sighed loudly as he meowed at the door, scratching at it all the while.

Rolling off of the bed, she slid her feet across the floor, and opened the door a crack for him to slid out(not before rubbing his head and body against her leg), then clicked the door shut quietly. With a huff, she undid her jeans, pushing them off and grabbed a pair of pajama pants, pulling those on before throwing her shirt off. She dug around for a night shirt, turning around to reach through another drawer. “Hey, why don’t you leave the shirt off?” She jumped, straightening as she saw Jack sprawled across the bed, holding his head up with a hand. She rolled her eyes at this, finally looking through the drawer and grabbing a shirt.

“I don’t think so.” She responded, pulling the shirt over her head, and dropped down on the bed beside the hologram.

“Not like it’s anything I haven’t seen before.” He scoffed, a smirk tugging onto his features as she coughed, giving him a dirty look.

“That just makes it sound bad, dude.” She grumbled, turning away from him, before shifting to move under the covers.

“Why don’t we play a little game.” He suddenly suggested, sitting up and stopping her with a hand. Well, she stopped because he put his hand out, and looked at him in confusion.

“Game?”

“Yes, game. To… Ease your tension, I guess. I can feel it oozing off of you, kitten.” He commented, motioning for her to sit up. Hesitantly, she did sit back up, leaning forward somewhat as he moved behind her. “Okay… Let’s start up here.” He started, and she was able to feel movement in her shoulders. Some kind of movement, like the muscles were constricting in some way, moving in some way, on their own. It felt incredibly weird, but at the same time, very relaxing and nice.

“O-ohh… Umm… Okay… Nice game…” She mumbled, rolling them slightly as she leaned forward, feeling her back now follow the same movements.

“Right? I quite enjoy this one myself-- Though, usually, I have someone else doing it to me. And with actual fingers. I think this would be better, though.” He commented, sounding uncharacteristically relaxing and open. It was putting her off a little, but she was in a state too serene to question any motives. She felt much more relaxed, in muscle and mind, allowing her to roll her shoulders forward, and to let her her head drop somewhat. A soft hum left her lips, but a nagging thought was gnawing at the back of her mind.

“Would you… Would you really hurt me?” It came out softer, more slurred than she had intended, but the question was asked nonetheless. Her muscle relaxation seemed to cease, and she knew Jack had stopped in his work. Maybe she needed to elaborated. “I mean… You always threaten me… Say you’re gonna hurt me, or kill me, but… Would you actually do it?” The hologram was silent, but the faint static she felt on her back confirmed that he was still there.

“That… All depends on how bad you’d piss me off, kiddo. I doubt I’d actually do anything really bad.” The tone he answered in was so quiet she almost thought that she’d imagined him saying it. But she confirmed that it was indeed him as he went on. “You’ve actually put up with me, when, really, you could just get me removed. I could seriously stay dead, but you actually let me live again. Sorta. I-- I appreciate that, I hope you know.” He sounded so… Sincere. It drew a warm smile onto her face, which was soon wiped off as she remembered that this guy was apparently some mass-murderer. From what he said, at least, that’s what he sounded like. That’s why she refused to take the watch in, refused to let him walk among people once again as a person himself.

“Did… Did you really hurt a lot of people? To shape the planet your own way?” She then asked, glancing back at him, and he hummed, pushing his hand through her back. She felt it travel up her spine, and she shivered slightly, her head already in some fog from what he had just done. As he traveled down, he stuck his hand straight through her again in the pelvic area, and she couldn’t suppress a groan, now tilting her head back somewhat as she felt a dull throb in her crotch.

“I think that’s enough questions, kitten. You’re stressing too much.” He hushed, and she could feel static on her ear and shoulder, announcing where his head probably was. She didn’t bother to look, tilting her head back, eyes closed, as he continued to rub through that spot in her over and over. She rubbed her legs together, relishing in the friction, but it wasn’t enough. She slid her hand up her leg, moving to knead her area, only to gasp in surprise as a shock jolted through her hand. She drew back sharply, hearing Jack click his tongue.

“Ah ah, no touching. Let me help you for tonight.” He practically purred, and the static was gone. However, another shock ran through her arm, and she found it moving on its own now. It was very unnerving and strange, for she could still feel everything on the arm and hand for the most part, but it was moving on its own accord. Well, she knew it was Jack, but that he had somehow… ‘Rewired’ her nerves was extremely unsettling. He really could fuck her up if he wanted to.

Her hand made its way to her crotch, rubbing slowly up and down the material of her pants, and she let out a soft huff of breath, finally falling back on the bed. She faintly thrust her hips upward to gain more friction, but Jack’s voice came into her head again, scolding her for such actions. I know you’re eager… But you gotta wait it out. Where’s the fun when it’s all over in seconds? She whined faintly at this, watching her hand move away to tug loosely at her pants, and she couldn’t have compiled with this sooner. She used her other hand to tug on the other side of her pants, and they were soon pulled down just past her knees.

She was now exposed to, well… Nothing, honestly(who wore underwear when they slept? It was starting to get too hot for it anyways), but she never felt more exposed to someone else. It was alien, almost, as the hand being controlled agonizingly made its way back up her leg. Another whine left her, and she moved her other hand towards the needy area, only for a shock to resound through that one. It didn’t even have the watch!

What did I tell you, kitten? Go ahead and touch aaannyyywhere else except where you feel like touching. Comprendo? His voice warned with the stop of her hand, and she breathed out an agreement. Good. Now we can start. He hummed, bringing the hand up and using a finger to circle the bottom of her slit, drawing out a frustrated whimper from her. She shuddered lightly as he drew the finger all the way up, and then toyed with the bundle of nerves, before drawing circles around it with a thumb.

She gasped, pressing her head back against the pillow as he ran the thumb over the nerve again, her hips involuntarily jerking forward, and once again as he repeated this. Kitten… He warned, and she hissed out, swallowing back another whine.

“S-sorry.” She muttered, forcing her hips to lie flat as he took three fingers, rubbing it up and down the length of her folds. She moaned, biting her lip, and rocked with him slightly. He didn’t seem to mind this, even going as far as to push a finger inside of her, and she let out a startled noise. She protested lightly, and he drew the finger out with a small laugh.

Sorry. Forgot the river was running red. He apologized, and though she wanted that finger back in there, she knew she’d regret it later. He continued his rhythm, then, and she her own, mouth shaping in a million different ways as he used different maneuvers with his fingers on different and in different ways. He pinched her nerves suddenly, causing her to gasp loudly, her body to squirm along with her legs.

“O-ohhh god.” She whispered, lifting her hips again slightly as she felt a coil in her stomach. She was close, and Jack knew, for he halted his actions. A low, needy whine left her, and she uttered an irritable ‘seriously?’.

I said I’d help you out, but that didn’t mean it would just be a free ride. You gotta beg for it, kitten. His voice resounded, and she whimpered as fingers ever so slightly jostled.

“B-beg? But… S-someone might… H-hear.” She hissed out, rolling her hips up again in desperation. To her displeasure, he drew the fingers away.

I’m being nice, remember? I didn’t say loudly. I’ll make you scream another night, but for now, I do expect some kind of plead. He came again, slowly pressing the fingers back against her. She whined, rolling her hips again as he slowly began to move, repeating his request.

“U-uhhhnn… Pleeease… Faster… More…” She pleaded, pleased that he listened and did what she said, friction and speed increasing. She panted softly, feeling the coil and urge bubble back up, only for it to slow again as Jack slowed.

I’m sorry, what do you want me to do? My name seemed to slip my mind, too… He intervened, and she groaned out in frustration, her other hand grabbing onto her hip desperately.

“Pl-please, Jack, lemme cum. Lemme cum.” She panted out, and she heard Jack’s approving hum, fingers picking speed back up. “A-ahn, yes, Jack, yes, please… Nnn… Jack, mm, Jack-- A-ah!” The pace had picked up, and soon enough, she felt the coil burst, and she arched her back with a soft cry as she came. Jack let her ride out her orgasm, helping her out all the way, and when she finally came down from her high, panting softly, he retracted his control from her hand.

That was fun, wasn’t it? I can already tell that tension is good as gone. He spoke, and she only groaned, opening bleary eyes to look at her nightstand. She reached over, grabbing a tissue from a box on her stand, wiping up what she needed and tossing the tissue in the trash bin. She slowly pulled her pants back up, tiredly wriggling her way under the covers.

“Y… Yeah, it is… Thanks, I guess.” She muttered out, turning onto her side and allowing her eyes to close again. Just before she fell into a comfortable, dreamless slumber, she heard Jack speak.

Yeah, don’t mention it, kitten.

Chapter Text

“Hey, let’s go to an amusement park.” The two males looked over at her, both raising an eyebrow at the sudden proposition.

“Just like that?” Rhys asked, leaning back against the counter while Vaughn seemed somewhat distraught on the idea.

“Yeah. I have some extra money, classes were cancelled today because of a strike, and you both have the day off. Let’s do it!” She grinned, clapping her hands together.

“Where would we even go?” Rhys prompted, and Vaughn had uttered out something about not liking rollercoasters at the same time.

“Six Flags isn’t too far. And I’ll help you overcome your fear today!” She announced in Vaughn’s direction, and he cringed at this, grimacing and turning to grab a cup of coffee.

“Sorry, I’ll pass. You already know my ass is on the line for this job, here. They gave me a week to make this choice, so I’m going in every chance I get to try and save myself.” He informed, putting the coffee pot back away after he’d poured a cup. “Besides, I don’t wanna third wheel. It’d be awkward.” He scrunched his nose up, taking a sip as he waved off her protests, walking to his bedroom. She rubbed the back of her neck, looking expectantly at Rhys.

“Uh… Sure? I mean, well, are these coasters really big? I just wanna gauge it, you know, like--”

 

“I think you’re just scared.” Jack had intervened, causing Rhys to jump in surprise, putting a hand on his chest as he inched away from Jack. She watched the hologram move beside her, scrutinizing and picking Rhys apart as the man regained his lost dignity from the scare.

“I am not scared. I just… Get sick sometimes, is all. Depends on the ride.” He more mumbled the last part out with a shrug, shifting on his feet as Jack snorted, before laughing.

“You hear this guy? It’s-- It’s pathetic, really. Defending yourself over something like this.” Rhys’ face reddened at this, and he shot Jack a glare.

“Of course I’m gonna! I’m not gonna just stand here and take it!” He huffed out, Jack’s only response being a snicker.

“You should, cupcake, it’d be better for you.”

“Would you two knock it off? Geeze, I thought just having Jack was bad enough, but I can’t deal with the both of you.” She groaned, rubbing her face before turning away to go look through the fridge.

“Sorry, kitten. You know how I feel about this idiot.” Jack apologized, and she didn’t miss Rhys’ scoff.

“I can return those feelings…” Rhys muttered, sauntering over, and Jack turned to him with a hum, raising a brow.

“Huh? Sorry, didn’t catch that.” He crooned, a grin crawling onto his holographic face that made Rhys feel anything but safe. He grumbled, averting his eyes downward.

“Nothing.”

“Mhm. Thought my ears were playing tricks on me.”

“Ugh.” She scrunched her nose towards the two, eating some leftover pizza quickly, swallowing it in bigger bites than she should have. Cold pizza was the best pizza. “Okay, well, I’m going with or without you, Rhys. I was just putting an offer out there.” She informed after she had finished off a slice, taking a swig of water. “Now that Vaughn’s for sure not going, I thought this could be like, a date or something. Or are you not down?” She raised a brow, and Rhys looked over, face reddening slightly.

“N-no! Of course I’m down, seriously, I just…” He sighed out, glancing towards where Vaughn’s room was. “I feel kinda bad leaving Vaughn to straggle on his own with this.”

“Nah, you don’t. You’re just scared.” Jack commented, earning a glare from Rhys and a hush from the watch owner herself. The young man rubbed his temple with two fingers, and she set down the other slice she was going to eat, slowly walking over to her boyfriend.

“I understand if you wanna help him. I just need an answer.” She insisted, wrapping her arms around his neck as he leaned back against the counter. He mulled over his, looking at the ground whilst wrapping his arms around her lower back, drawing her closer.

“Ahh… Yeah, but I’d probably just get in the way. What the hell, let’s have a good time. Consider it a date.” He smiled, looking back to her, drawing her into a warm kiss.

“Ugh, please, give me a break.” It was Jack’s turn to scoff in distaste, resulting in Rhys pulling away slightly to give him a dirty look, and she only rolled her eyes, ignoring the hologram and tugging on the collar of Rhys’ t-shirt.

“Hey. Since it’s a date, does that mean you’re paying?” She smoozed, reaching up to peck the corner of his lips, trailing her own down towards his jaw.

“Uhm… I guess so, yeah.” He answered in a breath, and she grinned at this, bringing herself back up to peck him on the lips and dance back to her other slice of pizza.

“Cool! I was really hoping you’d say that. I didn’t actually get a bonus, so I needed you to buy my ticket.” She grinned, taking a bite of her cold pizza as she saw the astonished look on Rhys’ face. She swallowed. “So, yeah, thanks babe. I’m gonna get ready now.” She strode out of the kitchen with a sway of her hips and to her bedroom, the young male’s eyes following her the whole way.

“Damn, did she play you good.” Jack whistled, watching the other male letting his arms fall to his sides limply.

“You’re not wrong there.” He groaned, rubbing the back of his neck as he pushed himself up, walking to his own room to get ready.

__

 

“We’re heeeere!” She announced, arms wide as they finally reached the inside of the amusement park. Rhys was already worried, given that the roller coasters he had seen from the outside looked quite… Intimidating. She, on the other hand, seemed ready to take on anything and everything. She grabbed a map, looking it over, muttering to herself about things. This left Rhys to meander in his own way, taking in the front of the park. Not a whole lot, really.

He took a quick scan of the place with his ECHO Eye, and as he suspected, retained knowledge about nothing here, save for some more details about people he really didn’t need and didn’t want. He sighed through his nose, switching off the device as his vision landed on a giant… Well, it was a costume, with someone inside. A large yellow hat, and that was really the most prominent thing.

“Okay, here! We’ll start out easy! Revolution is pretty simple.” She finally said, turning to Rhys and tugging slightly on his jacket sleeve.

“What-- What’s that?” He asked, turning to glance at her, before pointing over at the costume.

“What? Oh! It’s Speedy Gonzales! Want a pic with him?” She grinned, teetering over beside him, frowning soon after. “Oh, never mind-- Gee, look at the size of that line.”

“Speedy Gon-who? What is it? Who is that?” He was absolutely baffled at implications of people wanting to take pictures with a… Yellow hat. He couldn’t make out what the rest was-- Maybe a rodent, of some type.

“He’s a mouse! A cartoon character! Geeze, man, get with the program.” She scoffed, grabbing Rhys’ arm to drag him away despite his protests. “Now! First ride; Don’t be scared, it’s a boat load of fun. Really easy too.” She assured as they got in line. The line lead deeper down, so he couldn’t see any coaster and wondered if it was one at all.

“U-um… Okay. I mean-- Don’t worry, I’m not scared or anything.” He finally brushed her off, removing himself from her grip to walk beside her. He was more assuring himself than her, but was only growing more antsy as they grew closer to their destination. He could finally see the white coaster come into her view, and soon enough, it was their turn to go up. He subconsciously scanned the vehicle with his eye, checking and making sure that it was completely functional, but was broke out of it as she jerked him into the seat beside her.

He realized, as he pulled the lap bar over his head, that this ride wouldn’t just be upright. He really hoped there wasn’t any crazy twists and corkscrews and loops, but she had assured him that it was more mild. He trusted her word, holding on as they were soon off. It went fast, but it was a good pace. He was actually enjoying it, much unlike the coasters he’d experienced when he was younger. They slowed down at one point, and Rhys was mildly confused, but looked up as he saw a sign, leaning forward slightly.

“‘Keep head back’? Why’re they telling--” He didn’t have time to speak as they suddenly went into a steep dip. He voiced his pain as his head hit the back of the seat, and they were shot into a loop, and sped much faster with deep, chipping turns. The ride ended soon, and they both exited, one laughing and the other rubbing his head.

“That was fun!” She grinned, clapping her hands together as she looked at Rhys with a giggle. The male was still grumbling to himself about what happened. “I heard that. Sorry, shoulda warned you to ‘keep your head back’ when the ride said to.” She teased, and he just rolled his eyes, watching as she took the map back out. “How about we go on one with a little more speed and ‘anxiety’, now? C’mon!” She dragged him off once more, and they came upon a ride that was absolutely towering tall, with at least three loops and corkscrews theresome.

“I, uh… I don’t think…” He started to protest, but she ignored this, dragging him through. They were soon on, and as they ascended up a huge, red hill, Rhys could feel himself trembling slightly.

“Remember to keep your head back on this one!” She laughed, screaming in delight with her arms up as they plunged down and towards their first loop, while Rhys just cried out in horror, gripping onto the handles for dear life. The young man exited that ride with wobbly legs and a pale face, slowly following after his girlfriend as she chirped about the fun of the ride. She was already dragging him off to another ride, and he dared to ask what one this was. “X2!” She replied cheerily as they got in line, and he glanced at the coaster. It was tall, it was large, and it was fucking intimidating. He could barely handle the last one-- Viper, was it?-- and now she wanted to go on this one. Your feet dangled!

“W-what is this?” He groaned out, being ignored and pulled forward. The line was long, which didn’t help his anxious attitude at all, and when they got to the front, he refused to look at the ride depart. Finally, they got into their seats, and holy shit your feet really did dangle(all the more terrifying for him because of his giraffe legs).

“So, u-uh… Does this ride go… Fast?” He asked her slowly as they were being checked, and nearly pissed himself as their seats were literally lowering backwards. Backwards, for Christ sake.

“Umm… I’m not sure. I’ve never been on it.” She admitted, and he paled at her answer. He almost lost his lunch as they started to actually move backwards, now, laying basically flat down. “Ooh, are we going backwards, or are they just giving us a head start?” She mused, kicking her feet without a care in the world, and he didn’t know how she could be so carefree about a deathtrap like this. He didn’t answer; He was afraid he was going to get sick if he did. Instead, he reached over for some sort of purchase to hold onto besides the handlebars, and found her hand.

She blinked, looking at him, and smiled, taking his hand in her own, giving it a mild squeeze. “Hey, it’s fine.” She soothed as they proceeded to crawl up and up and up backwards. “Nothing’s gonna happen, okay? Well, I mean, something will, but nothing bad.” He looked at her desperately, and she gave him an assuring smile. He couldn’t muster one up. Then, suddenly, they were tipping backwards, and holy shit the whole ride was them going backwards. He couldn’t help but scream as they were launched, then they were upside down, and the whole thing was a blur. He swear he passed out during part of it, but he wasn’t sure, but now he knew they were back at the loading dock.

“Was… Was that fire?” He asked weakly as they walked out of the exit path, and she confirmed this, helping to steady the taller male as he wobbled on his feet.

“How about we sit down?” She suggested, tugging(more lugging) him over to a bench. She sat him down, soon following suit beside him, and he only groaned, leaning over and resting his head on her shoulder. He soon buried it in the crook of her neck, winding his arms around her and she rolled her eyes, but rubbed her arm up and down his back in an attempt to comfort. “That one was a little much, wasn’t it? Sorry, I wasn’t expecting it to be like that.” She admitted with a mild chortle, and his only response was a low moan and shift of his head.

“Geeze, what’s his deal? It’s a little early to be drinking.” Jack flickered in beside her, brow raised as he looked down at Rhys and her.

“Roller coasters. Were a little too much for him.” She answered, sparing a glance at the hologram, before turning her attention to Rhys as he detached himself, sitting back against the bench while rubbing his face.

“Ahh. I expected as much would happen. Should’ve gone easy on him, kitten.” The former CEO crooned, looking up at the coaster they had previously been on. He let out a low whistle, arms crossing as he scrutinized it. “Damn, that thing looks like a beast. Is-- Is it going backwards? Shit, remind me to install something like that back on Helios. I’ll find room somewhere.”

“You’re saying that like you’re gonna have control.” She said suspiciously, giving Jack a very narrow eyed look, and he scoffed, turning to the woman he was attached to.

“Oh, it’s inevitable, kiddo. I’m comin’ back, one way or another.” He assured, quite confident in his statement, and she only frowned at this.

“You know you look… Look like you’re friggin’ insane… Right?” Rhys mumbled finally, and she looked at him.

“What? Why?”

“You’re talking to… Literally nothing in front of you… Well, somebody else nobody can see, except for me…” He deadpanned, and the way he said it, well… He was right. Normally she was more carefully about conversations in public, but with what Jack said, it just… Sorta tipped her off.

“...Right.” She breathed out, slowly standing up. She glanced at Jack. “I’m not having this talk right now.” She mumbled, looking back at Rhys, offering him a hand. He accepted, grunting as she helped to haul himself up. “All that ice cream is going straight to… Damn, I dunno where. You’re so thin.” She joked, and he rolled his eyes, but agreed with a smile.

“I think you mean scrawny.” Jack suggested the word. Que Rhys glaring at him again, and herself giggling, waving Jack off.

“Maybe. I don’t care. C’mon, let’s do another ride! We’ll do something more mild this time, ‘kay? I promise.” She hastily added the mild part as Rhys looked like he was about to get sick. She looked at the map, spotting a ride she was sure would be fine with him. “Here! Look, we can go on Roaring Rapids. It’s a water ride, and it’s a lotta fun! No loops or nothing, I promise.” She insisted, and he didn’t really argue. He wasn’t too up for going on another ride, but that sounded better than another roller coaster. He agreed, and they were off, Jack following beside him.

__

The ride had went well(even if they both got soaked), and they also braved Ninja(easy ride), then decided to grab a bite to eat. It was after lunch, so there wasn’t a huge line, and they got their food easy peasy, finding a seat and began to eat.

“So, how you likin’ it so far?” She asked when they were about halfway through their lunch. Rhys swallowed a bite of his burger, looking at it thoughtfully.

“Not bad. A little too charred, though.” He answered, and she snorted, smiling as she stole one of his fries.

“Not the burger, silly. The park. The rides. The… General of it.” She specified, and he hummed after swallowing another bite.

“Mm… The park itself is kinda bleak. The rides, well…” He looked almost sick just mentioning them, and she laughed slightly at this, eating some more herself. “I liked the water ride, though. That was really fun.” He put in, suddenly realizing that he may be disappointing her. She didn’t seem to mind his dislike, though, and with her, the coasters weren’t all that bad. They were a little more bearable. Only a little.

“I had a feeling you’d like that one. Next time, we’ll go to Disneyland. Those rides are really fun, but are mild, too. Just your speed, I bet. Save up, though-- Tickets are wicked expensive.” She scoffed, and he went forth as to ask how much. “Like, 90 for one. 150 or something for a parkhopper.” He coughed slightly, swallowing down his food roughly.

“For a day?” He blanched, and she nodded.

“Yeah. Disney don’t lie.” She chortled, soon finishing up, and Rhys agreed with this statement, finishing up as well. They were soon off, coming to an area that had boardwalk like games. “Oh, oh, look! Look at that cat plush!” She suddenly pointed out, yanking on Rhys’ arm to show him wear.

“It’s huge!” He blinked, almost sounding like he was complaining.

“Right? I want it!” She declared, proceeding to drag him over. The man at the stand grinned at them, holding his arms out towards the tub of bottles in water.

“3 rings for 5 dollars! Make one, get a small prize. Make two, get a medium. All three, get one of the large ones!” He tapped a cane up towards the cat for example.

“Yup!” She agreed, quickly fishing out five dollars. She received the rings, slinging them all towards the bottles, only to miss, well, all of her shots. “Dammit.” She huffed, crossing her arms, and Rhys looked at her, before the man.

“I’ll try.” He offered, handing over five dollars, and was given the rings. He wasn’t sure how she missed, really-- It looked easy.

Easier said than done, really, as he aimed and missed all three times. His mouth gaped open slightly, and his brows furrowed. “It’s rigged.” He muttered, looking down at her, and she only pouted, eyes flicking up towards the cat before back at him. “Urrgh. Okay, one more try.” He sighed, not really minding as much as he looked, handing five more dollars. He received three rings, scrutinizing the bottles.

“Wait!” She said, and he looked over, surprised as she pulled him in for a quick kiss. “Good luck kiss! Something my parents always did. Never failed.” She explained after pulling away, causing Rhys to give her an owlish blink and stare.

“Oh, right. Thanks.” He smiled, looking back at the bottles. That’s when he remembered-- Duh, his ECHO Eye. AND his robotic arm. He smirked, eye whirring to life as he calculated the exact distance he would need to throw, and made sure his arm would do as such. And one, two, three, all rings had found their bottles. The ringmaster seemed surprised at this, but a win was a win, and he hauled down the giant stuffed cat for her.

She grinned like a kid on Christmas, taking it in her arms, and thanked the man at the stand, walking off with Rhys. “Not gonna lie. That was impressive, how quick you did that.” She admitted, looking up at him.

“The eye, honestly.” He smirked, tapping lightly beside his port, and she ‘ah’ed in response.

“Thanks, though. I don’t know what I would do without this thing.”

“Move on with your life since you have an actual cat?”

“...Now I have a stuffed one too. It was a necessity, Rhys, not a ‘want’.” He chuckled at her answer, wrapping an arm around her waist and drawing her closer to himself. They wandered, not going on any rides, but simply enjoying the atmosphere and each others’ company. They came upon a ride, though, that caused them both to stop and look up at.

“That… Is a really big ferris wheel.” Rhys commented, and she agreed quietly. “Wanna do it? This is easy.” He suggested, though she seemed more uneasy about it.

“As… Weird as this may sound… I don’t really like ferris wheels.” She admitted, and he raised a brow.

“So… You’ll go on all those… Crazy coasters, but you won’t go on a ferris wheel?” He scoffed, and she shook her head with a meek smile.

“I told you it’s weird. Just being suspended in air, is… Unnerving to me.” She admitted. A ‘pfft’ resounded from him, and he rolled his eyes, steering her into line with an arm around her shoulders.

“I went on your wild coasters, now you’re gonna go on my easy ride, ‘kay? Nothing’s gonna go wrong, and I’ll be right here.” He promised, gently pushing her forward despite her quiet protests. They eventually got up, were let into the gondola, and started to go up. It would stop periodically, and she was so worried she didn’t talk to Rhys, didn’t look out the wheel. She just hugged her stuffie, looking at the wall ahead of her.

Finally, when they reached the top, Rhys urged her to look out the window. And finally, she did. Her head lifted, her eyes widened, and her lips parted slightly at the view. In the growing evening, the expanse before her… The park being mildly lit, all the rides zooming around, the vast landscape being of buildings and hills. It was beautiful.

“Wow... “ She mumbled, shifting the cat so it sat between her legs, and she moved a little closer to the window.

“Wow is right.” Rhys agreed, looking outside alike, before allowing his eyes to flicker to her. He realized(more remembered) that they were at the top, and he knew it was going to be a short time, so he put a hand on her shoulder, slightly turning her towards him. “Uh…” He started, leaning in a little. “Tradition.”

“Tradition? What-- Oh, right.” She smiled, pushing some hair back. She brought a hand to the side of his face, and he smiled a little more, before drawing her in. Their lips met in a soft, subtle kiss at first, but more passion was put behind it soon enough. She moved her legs, allowing herself to more or less slid partially into his lap, tilting her head and allowing the kiss to deepen. He tasted of, well, purely Rhys, and even some of the cotton candy they shared earlier, she decided as she allowed his tongue to slide over her own.

It became more of a needy kiss-- At least, on Rhys’ part. His arms slid more tightly around her, and she had to admit that her own tightened around his neck, fingers idly moving through his hair. She cut him off, pressing a closed lip kiss to his own lips, followed by another one, then to the corner of his mouth. He seemed frustrated at first, but felt his smile, and she felt him cup the sides of her cheeks. He peppered her face with light, little kisses, leaving her giggling and moving her arms back around his neck. He finally rested his forehead against her own, noses gently brushing as he stroked her cheek softly with a thumb.

“God, how-- How did I get-- So lucky?” He breathed this out between chaste kisses, and she felt her lips pull up more at the corners as she considered the same.

“What, lucky as in me not of burning your circuits in your stupid head yet? Good question.” Both parties jumped, peeling away somewhat from each other. Jack was seated on the other side of the gondola, not seeming to give a single fuck, hands behind his head and one leg crossed over the other.

“Asshole.” She scoffed, composing herself, and Rhys wanted to agree but he honestly didn’t have the balls to.

“H-how long have you been there?” The young man stuttered out, fixing his hair.

“Long enough. But, not too long. I wouldn’t want to watch. Thaaat’s weird.” He sniffed, crinckling his nose.

“It’s weird that you showed up and didn’t just leave.” She growled out, grabbing her cat as she saw they were almost at the unloading dock.

“I guess. But I mean, would you rather me stumble upon your session, or one of those unloading guys? I was just giving you a warning.” He hummed, waving his hand as the door was soon opened, and they were ushered out. She pouted, holding her stuffie to her body as they exited. Rhys trailed beside her, looking somewhat deflated as well, but all the same held another air about him that said enjoyable.

“I don’t care, just fuck off next time.” She muttered, rubbing her face with a hand, then looked up at Rhys. “Wanna grab an ice cream before we hit the road? I mean, if you’re ready to leave.” She asked, and he looked at her.

“Oh, yeah, sure. It’s getting late, probably should head back.” He agreed, steering her over to a nearby ice cream stand. She couldn’t hold anything because of her cat, really, so they ended up splitting a cone. She thought it was kinda gross, sharing a cone, both of them licking on the same ice cream, but her favorite flavor was just too much to pass up. Jack voiced his disgust as well, and she responded by sticking her tongue out at him(he reciprocated, yes).

Rhys offered to drive home, and she couldn’t be more glad to let him(they’d borrowed Vaughn’s car for the day). On the way home, she curled up, cuddling her cat immensely, and was able to feel herself drowsing off. “Rhys…” She mumbled, and he hummed in response. She reached her hand out slightly, and he looked over now, then at her hand. He took it in his own, running his thumb over the back of it softly. “Thanks for coming with me today.” She whispered, smiling softly, letting her eyes slide close. “I had a great time.”

“Yeah, me too. I’m just… Glad I could spend it with you.” His lips turned up towards slightly, looking out the window. He swallowed slightly, tongue suddenly feeling thick as something registered. Something that probably shouldn’t have, and was probably way too soon for, but… He almost felt as if it was there. He had a feeling he was going to regret saying it.

“Hey, I… I think I l-lo--” He looked over, hearing a gentle snore, and saw she was fast asleep. He huffed, rolling his eyes, but the smile was ever present as he looked back ahead, and continued on the road.

Chapter Text

The heat spring(probably more of summer) was starting to come in full throttle. It was awful.

The walk to work was devastating, and the walk back was even worse, considering it took place later in the day. When she got home, she tried to take a nap, but it was even too hot for that. It was miserably warm, and that made her all sticky, and she wanted to swim.

However, there were no pools in the area. The one they had here was currently closed for maintenance, and no way in hell was she paying to get into another public pool. She was home alone for the time being, Vaughn trying to work his ass off and Rhys was just, well… Working. She wasn’t sure why they kept him as well, but it wasn’t her place to ask.

She checked the time. Almost 5. He’d be off soon. She slid her phone open, shooting him a text, and then closed it, dropping it on the table. She rose, wiping beads of sweat off her brow as she moved to turn on the AC. She smiled as she heard it whirr to life, before giving out. Frowning, she tried again, but nothing even happened this time. “Aaaahhh, piece of shit!” She snarled, banging her fist promptly against it, turning and collapsing back on the couch.

She draped an arm over her forehead, and apparently she’d fallen asleep, for only minutes later, she woke up to hear the door shut. She felt still incredibly sticky and hot, and it didn’t help either that Chrome had decided to curl up right on her stomach. She groaned out Rhys’ name, pushing the kitten off of her, who protested with a tired meow. She instead picked up Chrome, setting him at the foot of the couch, and stood, sauntering over to the kitchen.

“It’s so hot.” Rhys mumbled when she came in, and he was already stripping himself of tie and dress shirt, leaving him now shirtless.

“You don’t wear an undershirt?” She wrinkled her nose slightly, and he grumbled something about forgetting this morning.

“Too hot anyways.” He sighed, opening up the bag he’d brought in, and gave her the Chinese food she requested. She almost regretted it, feeling the heat from the box, but was too hungry to care. She made her way back over to the sofa, plopping down, opening her food and poured a packet of soy over it.

“Fuckin… Yum.” She sighed out, starting to eat. She felt the couch compress beside her, signalling Rhys’ arrival, and heard him eat too. The TV was droning on in front of them, something on the news, but nothing interesting enough. The two ate in silence, too hungry and hot to even form some sort of speech. Eventually, they both finished, boxes of food on the coffee table in front of them, both pairs of feet perched on it. Chrome was curled once again in her lap, and she was too hot to protest, head back against the couch. Rhys seemed in the same position, mouth slightly ajar as he dozed off and on. She was dozing off slightly as well, but she refused to sleep, her mind bouncing too much in an attempt to think of a solution to their heat issue.

Then, an idea popped into her mind. It wasn’t exactly brilliant, and she wasn’t even sure it would work, but it was worth a shot.

“Hey.” She suddenly mumbled, slapping her arm against Rhys’ chest. The young man startled away, snorting slightly as he lifted his head, looking dazed.

“Whaa…?”

“Wanna take a bath?”

“A bath? You… You can’t be serious.” He mumbled, swallowing and sitting up with a stretch of his arms. “It’s hot as balls out.”

“No no, like, a cold bath. It’s like swimming, but… Minus the pool. We even use our swim suits and everything.” She explained, and he looked confused, head dropping back against the couch as he turned it to look at her. He knit his brows, trying to decide an answer, but she was already standing. “C’mon, it’ll cool you off.” She assured, slapping his arm this time, before turning and walking to her bedroom.

She looked through her drawers, trying to decide between her one-piece and two-piece. She decided it would be easier to cool off with the two-piece, and went with that. She quickly jogged to the bathroom, turning on the water and put the plug in, then went back to her own room. She quickly dressed, and going back into bathroom revealed that the tub was nearly full. She smiled, grabbing two towels and placed them on the counter, looking over as Rhys came in. He still looked somewhat disgruntled, but had his swim trunks on nonetheless.

“Just in time. Bath is pretty much drawn.” She announced, turning the water off when she felt it was fine. Rhys had settled on the toilet by now, watching the cool water with longing eyes. She was the first to go in, dipping her foot into the cold water with a sigh of relief. She eased herself in, cringing momentarily at the cold, but finally, found herself used to the water, and relaxed. Another sigh parted her lips, and she drew her legs close to her as Rhys came in, sitting adjacent. He moved more towards the corner of the tub, so the faucet wouldn’t dig into his back. He hummed in approval at the cool kiss of water, bringing his legs up to his chest as well. Despite both of them squashing their appendages against their own body, they were still practically knee to knee, shin to shin. She had a feeling it would go something like this.

“Um.” Was the only utter she received from Rhys, who shifted again, looking almost uncomfortable.

“I know.” She sighed, knowing exactly what his thoughts were. “This is supposed to be like a pool though, right?” She smiled a little, splashing him with a hand full of water. He coughed slightly, the attack coming out of nowhere, and narrowed his eyes in response as a small smirk played onto his face. He reciprocated, herself squealing as the cold water hit her face and down, and soon, it had turned into an all out splash war. She even went as far as to throw a loofa his way.

As much as she enjoyed the cold water, some was landing outside the bathtub, so eventually, they were sitting in half the water they had been when they first started. “Okay, okay, stop.” She laughed as Rhys kept splashing at her, and he stopped, only to throw a bar of soap at her breasts. “Hey, mister!” She snapped, trying to look irritable, but with that goofy look on his face, she couldn’t stay angry. She broke into a grin, and rolled her eyes, uttering a, “Come here, stupid.” She rose to her knees, wobbling towards him, and he shifted awkwardly, now on his knees as well. She reached past him, turning on the water with a hand, and he let out a surprised yelp as fresh, cold water sprayed all over his calves and feet.

She ushered him over to the other side of the tub, and once the water was done, she joined him. “Be mindful this time; We’re in a drought.” She teased, sitting on his lap and leaned back against him.

“O-okay.” He laughed slightly, somewhat jittery almost as her head rested against his shoulder. She let her eyes slide closed, and turned her head somewhat, just enough so her lips grazed the side of his neck. Rhys swallowed, trying not to make it too apparent to where she could feel it, and settled for turning his head and resting it gently against the top of hers. His eyes closed partially, a breath leaving his lips as he brought his hands to rest against her sides, moving them up and down the length of her torso in a soothing manner. She mumbled something, but he took it as approving when she pressed a kiss to the vein on his throat.

He wrapped his arms around her body, squeezing her gently, and she squirmed uncomfortably for a moment. He looked down, seeing he had accidentally caught some of her skin between the elbow of his robotic arm, and apologized quietly, moving it and resting it atop her stomach. Admittedly, it was hard for Rhys to just sit here like this, encasing a beautiful young woman, that he had the pleasure to call his girlfriend, in his arms, and just… Hold her. He wanted to show her how much he cared for her, how much he… Loved her?

Maybe he’d been alone for too long to remember what love was. Maybe he just didn’t care enough to ponder and figure out what it was. Maybe he actually did love her. He wasn’t sure. He wanted to be sure, though.

You can’t have her forever. When you’re back on Helios, that’s the end of the story. He didn’t know how much time he had left. With Vaughn’s job on the line, he was sure he would come next. Maybe he could stay here with her. He didn’t think he’d be able to survive here; With his mechanics, his already extensive knowledge, he’d have to start completely anew.

Would he do it for her?

He… Wasn’t sure on that, either.

He sighed through his nose, kissing her head and trying to dash the thoughts away. While he was with her, he should make it last. Show her how much she means to him. He couldn’t really think of any other way, right now, given their predicament, so he took a step forward. His flesh hand moved down slightly, and he rubbed long, slow lines just above her bikini-bottoms, applying gentle pressure. She didn’t protest, even if she did shift slightly, and Rhys took it as… Some kind of half-assed permission.

He continued his mild assault, thumb slowly beginning to toy with the edge of her bottoms, dipping in and brushing just above everything. She stiffened faintly, legs shifting against his own, and the beginnings of a smile curled onto the edge of his lips. He dipped his hand down further, thumb running up the length of her, followed by a surprised mumble from her, but the subconscious spread of her legs signalled she didn’t seem to mind very much. Her breath was hot against the skin of his throat as he continued, rubbing circles around her nerve bundle, and eventually moving to use two fingers.

She seemed startled, in the least, at his bold move. She moved her head up, probably to look at him, but he held it firm with his own atop her. Applying pressure, he moved along her slowly, and at first she just squirmed. He swallowed, suddenly feeling like, well, shit, he fucked up, and this was just awkward, and--

She groaned, no, moaned, raising her hips slightly and arching her back. Rhys felt not only a bout of relief, but also arousal. He swallowed, adding more friction and moving faster, and her pants and squirms also became more frequent. She searched for purchase somewhere, finding his hip and the shower curtain, her mouth tracing and pressing sloppy, needy kisses to his throat.

The pressure, it was building up inside of her, and-- Oh god, why did he stop? She wheezed out, hot and needy against his neck, only to hiss in some form of approval as his robotic hand moved under her leg, and had pushed a digit inside of her. She whined as it drew in circles at first, before pumping in and out, having her rocking with it. Her mewls increased as another cold digit was probed inside, stretching and pumping. She was close, the heat and pressure were back, and she whined, biting onto his neck softly and she was almost there...

...Until he stopped. She groaned out, panting and was finally able to turn her head up to look at him. He was slightly flushed, but as he noticed her gaze, he looked down at her, something between a smirk and grin crawling onto his face. "Mother-- Mother fucker." She hissed out, slamming her lips onto his soon after. He was startled, but responded back hungrily, nonetheless. As he drew his hands away, and she shifted more to sit on his lap, it was clear she wasn't the only one aroused here.

His lips were hot and needy on her own, both pairs of tongues and hands having no boundaries as they roamed and groped wherever they felt. She felt one of Rhys' hands come up to grip her breast, giving a firm squeeze on it, before slipping under her bikini top. Cold, metallic fingers grazed her nipple, and with a gasp she arched into the touch, choking out a pained noise as he pinched too hard.

"Sorry." He gasped out, momentarily breaking the kiss to work better on it, and the moan she let out seemed to assure him that it was better this time. She groaned, tilting her head back slightly as Rhys brought his lips to her neck, kissing his way down to tug slightly on her bikini top strap with his teeth. She used a hand to tug on the top strap, pulling back for a moment to yank it over her head, and allowed the cups to fall forward and reveal her breasts. Rhys kissed just above one, pulling back moment to peer at the two.

Despite the heated state she was in, she couldn't help but feel a little self conscious from his stare. She started to move an arm up, but he stopped her, assuring that yes, she looked gorgeous, and it was admiration, his stare. He pulled her in for another kiss as both his hands came up to massage and fondle her breasts, while her own hand was busy running through his hair, and the other was rubbing her hand along the tent in his pants. Rhys gasped at this, and she could feel him twitch under her fingertips, and only applied more pressure.

It was all happening so fast, but she didn't seem to mind it as kisses became less well aimed and sloppy, and both her hands now moved to pull him out from under his trunks.

"What's goin' on, kitten? Your heart rate is elevated."

Rhys and her let out similar gasps and cries alike, her upper body slumping against Rhys' and her head in the crook of his neck, while Rhys' head found her own shoulder. She coughed slightly, slowly looking over at Jack as he let out a low whistle.

"Wellll, this is awkward. Sure caught you guys at a bad time, huh?" He merely grinned at their state like a fucking cat who'd found the cream, and laughed as he was told to 'fuck off' by the young woman. "I could, right here, if you guys continued." He snickered, leaning back slightly from where he sat on the toilet.

"Jack!" She cried out, and Rhys groaned, head burying further into her shoulder. The man only cackled again, though there was an underlying tone to it. Anger, maybe? Displeasure. Suddenly, though, he stopped. She glared at him, confused and disoriented and extremely frustrated. He looked... thoughtful, almost. A sneer grew onto his face though, curling into a grin as he stood and looked at the two.

"Alright... I'll let you kiddos have your fun." He finally said, giving a half assed, two fingered salute. "Ciao." And with that, he was gone. She was very confused on the whole ordeal, having of expected him to actually stick around and not let this go down.

"Oh... Oh my god..." Rhys groaned, hands moving down to her thighs as he slowly lifted his head. His face had the flush of a recently run marathon, and she was sure hers was the same. "He... I can't believe..."

"I know." She groaned, plopping her head back onto his shoulder. At first, neither of them moved. She almost thought of just getting up to dry off, but it seemed Rhys had other plans.

His head was back on her shoulder, lips tracing up the side of her neck. "Y'know," he breathed out, a shiver running down her spine at the husk in his voice and heat on her throat, "It would've been kinda hot if he watched." Whoa, where the fuck did that come from? His name left her lips in a nearly breathless utter as he gently bit down in the junction of her neck and collarbone, hands rubbing back up her sides to tweak with her nipples.

She squirmed again, hands pressing down briefly on his hips, and she subconsciously ground against him as he did so. He was stiff against her leg, near her own arousal, and that only brought herself back to where she was before. Groaning out again, she made deft work of pulling him out of his trunks. Her head was against his own neck, so she couldn't see him, but she felt. Her fingers ghosted over his length, and Rhys shuddered in response, jaw mildly going slack against her throat as she did so. She gripped him more firmly now, gently pumping with a hand a few times, and his hips jerked in response. Now tilting her head a little more, she was able to see what was in her hand.

He was fully erect, the tip of him somewhat inflamed as a small dribble of pre met where her hand was. He was more lean like himself, but looked to be around average. Huffing, she felt herself squirm, and eventually lifted her hips up. At this point, she knew that trying to scramble around for a condom was out of the question, and yes this was happening, and as long as they were careful it would be fine. She slid herself down onto him, both of their moans filling the bathroom they resided in. It only took moments to adjust, and soon, she was bringing her hips up and back down, a groan leaving herself and a choked gasp from Rhys came out.

Her hands found his shoulders as she pushed her head up slightly, moving and riding him out for all she was worth. His own hands moved along her body, lifting himself up slightly to help more push his own trunks down. He toyed with the side of her bikini bottom, which still remained on, but the bottom had been moved to the side for the current activity. Water sloshed around them, wetting the walls, their bodies, the floor, curtains and all. Her lips met Rhys' in another sloppy kiss, and squeaked as he suddenly pushed up, and pushed her back.

Her shoulders hit the corner of the tub, by the faucet, but not on it. He adjusted, before pounding into her in a similar way she did on him, leaving her to groan and pant as he did too. His head was once again in the crook of her neck, peppering it and her shoulder with kisses and bites, some that would surely bruise. She wrapped her legs partially around him, lifting her hips and crying out as he nudged the spot inside of her.

"A-Ah! Yes, there, harder, please!" She cried out, running her hands desperately down and up his back, faintly dragging her nails. He groaned out something, followed by a breathless moan of her name as he obliged, picking up his pace. She cried out again, gripping onto him more frantically. "Hh-- hh-- Rhys... Oh god, yesss." She moaned out, his response being something akin to a growl as he nipped at her neck again, moving up to repeat his actions with her earlobe. His thrusts became more erratic, less rythmized, and she knew he was getting close. She herself was as well, but afraid that he'd beat her to it, she moved one of her hands down to rub at her clit.

However, Rhys seemed to catch onto this, and whilst bracing himself with his robotic arm, he used his flesh one to rub for her. She let out a squeak that she didn't know she was able to, her mewls growing more frequent, and the man's name was falling off her lips like she was chanting a hymn in church. And finally, she felt herself burst. She dug her nails into his back, calling out his name with a vigorous cry as her orgasm washed over, Rhys' thumb pressing more onto her. He soon came after himself, his first jerk having of been inside of her, but he had just slid his hips back to spill his seed along her stomach and his own.

He collapsed, the two panting, basking in the afterglow and regaining their breath. As she felt her heart rate slowly retain normal again, she ignored the bruising in her neck. She ignored the ache she was sure to have later on in her back and shoulders. Only one thing could cross her mind:

"It's really fucking hot."

Chapter Text

“You’re… You’re laying me off?”

Her stomach dropped, voice following suit until it was a harsh whisper at the end. Her boss took in a breath, clasping his hands before him with a nod of his balding head.

“We are in a tough economy right now, you must understand. Unfortunately, we can’t keep all of our staff, and I’m sure school is a priority for you right now.” He tried, and this only set her off more.

“B-but, please, Mr. Westin! I need this job to pay for school! I’m already low on funds as it is, too, a-and if I don’t have this job, I won’t be able to--”

“I don’t want to hear anymore.” He cut off, voice stern, but sounded more of a chide than order. He didn’t seem very comfortable with the whole situation, but at the same time, wasn’t very remorseful, either. “Your compensation will be delivered in the mail soon. Goodbye, and good luck.”

The scene replayed in her mind over and over again as dragged herself back home. Tears stung in her eyes as she thought of what she could’ve done to save her ass, but she’d did virtually nothing. Useless, useless… Was I really that bad of an employee? If her Adam’s Apple was a prominent thing, it would be bobbing up and down slowly at how thickly she swallowed to keep back from crying out.

“Bad news?” Jack guessed as he floated in beside her, for once walking at her pace. She turned her head away from him slightly, rubbing one of her arms with a small shrug. “Is that lingo for you ‘don’t wanna talk about it’?”

“I got laid off. The economy isn’t good enough for them to keep me.” She responded bitterly, eyes sliding back forward as she brushed into someone. “I don’t know what to do now. There’s no jobs in the areas that I can walk to, and taking bus will only result in more money lost, but I need something, and--”

“I bet you Hyperion would pay a pretty price for that.” The hologram mused, walking backwards now as pointed to the watch secured on her wrist. She looked blankly down at it, subconsciously brushing her fingers over the digital face as she allowed herself to muse on his words. He was right, really; She remembered… Hugo, was it? Hugo Vasquez? Yes, he had come in with that briefcase, full of money. She hadn’t even been able to guess the sum in there.

Jack was right. But he wasn’t going to get what he wanted. At this point, she felt as if she was just not turning in purely just because she didn’t want to go do it. She doubted that Hyperion would be stupid enough to bring some psychotic dictator like ‘Handsome Jack’ back to life, so at this point, she wasn’t sure what to do with him. On the off chance he was brought back, maybe living in everyday shoes would make him rethink what it was like for others. Even if this wasn’t Pandora, or whatever the place was.

“I bet you’re right.” She uttered out in agreeance, stalking through him and onward, ignoring the chill and mild shock she received from doing so.

When she’d gotten back to the apartment, things didn’t seem much better. There was a grim aura in the air, she noted as she shut the door softly behind her. Vaughn was hunched over at the table, scrolling through his laptop. A week or so ago he had decided to stay here, and not travel back to Hyperion. He was still looking for a new job, and so far, hadn’t found any luck.

Rhys’ job was also on the table, too. They’d given him more or less the same offer as Vaughn, but with more… Precarious details that he’d refused to share. He was alike seated at the table, his head in a hand as he blankly stirred a cup of liquid with a spoon. When both males had heard the scarcely audible click of the door, they both looked up. Vaughn’s typing had ceased, as well as Rhys’ stirring.

She looked at the two, melancholy and on the verge of tears again as Rhys stood up, slowly walking over to her. He dug into his pocket, fishing out her cell phone. Her eyes widened a fraction-- She had left it here, then. She was about to thank Rhys after taking her phone back, but he’d moved his hand to her shoulder. He was quiet at first, gaze aimed at the ground as he seemed to grope for his words.

“What?” She asked quietly, brows faintly furrowed as she looked up at him. He closed his mouth, then, finally, spoke.

“Some number kept calling you earlier today. It wasn’t registered on your phone, and I let it ring the first two times. But it was persistant, and I finally answered, and it was your mom.” He started, and confusion started to etch onto her face.

“But… Why was she on an unknown line…?” She asked, more to herself than anyone else, but Rhys answered nonetheless.

“It was from the hospital… Your dad, he… There was an accident, while he was driving and he… Didn’t make it. I’m-- I’m sorry.” He finished softly, and at first, she didn’t know how to react. She hadn’t been on great terms with her father, recently, and had been working on clearing the air with them. However, he still helped to pay for her schooling, and had always been there when she had questions about how to do something, or what she needed to do, even to this day.

One specific memory suddenly came to mind. She remembered when she was younger, a sunny day at the park had turned into a rainy one. She’d fell and cut her knee, and her father had rushed back to the car to grab some bandages, but she’d been so scared, so terrified that he’d leave that she called out to him, stumbling towards him. He’d stopped, turning and running back to her, enveloping her in his arms. ‘I’ll never leave you’, he had whispered, ‘I’d never abandon you. I’ll always be here’.

That’s when she broke. A mere twitch of her nose, then it scrunched up, and she felt the tears welling up. A sob parted her lips, and she reached forward, clinging onto Rhys. The young man responded immediately, wrapping her in his arms to soothe her.

He used an arm to steer her over to the sofa, sitting her down and himself beside her. Vaughn had walked over by this point, standing behind the couch and patting her shoulder when she had moved her arms away from Rhys to cover her own face. Rhys put an arm around her, however, rubbing up and down her arm. He said nothing, however, figuring that it may be the best possible outcome.

Her crying had finally seemed to dwindle down, and she now sat back against the couch, sniffing and rubbing each eye in return with the foot of her palm. Her breathing started to even out, and very briefly, she let her eyes slide closed. It was deathly quiet, she finally decided. Jack hadn’t said a single thing, and both Rhys and Vaughn were staying mute as well. Finally, she heard shifting, and then, the tell tale sound of typing. Vaughn had gone back to work.

“Do you want me to get you anything?” Rhys asked, tone low and somewhere near soothing. She didn’t answer, only letting out a breath, and then sniffed.

“Tissue?” She offered out, voice somewhat raspy, and when she slid open her eyes Rhys was leaning over towards the coffee table, and grabbed the paper, offering it to her. “Oh. Thanks.” She muttered, taking it and briefly blowing her nose. She looked over, tossing it towards the wastebin near the kitchen, and missed by a foot. “Ugh.” She groaned, but ignored it, rubbing her eyes again. She startled as Chrome suddenly leaped onto her lap, tail waving as he kneaded her thigh.

“Chrome’s acting friendly.” Rhys chuckled, knowing how independent the cat was for the most part. “Maybe he’s here to comfort you.”

“Maybe.” She replied softly afterwards, watching as his needing moved from her thigh to her stomach, and then, up to her breasts. She let out a small, airy chuckle, brushing her hand over his head to scratch behind his ears as the grey tabby purred out in approval. Chrome rested his head between her breasts, letting out a low meow as his back arched into her touch as she stroked down him. “You’re all lovey-dovey today, huh?” A ghost of a smile parted her features as she moved her hand back up, lifting his chin up to scratch under it.

His eyes parted slightly, and she caught a glint of his pleased looking yellow eyes, and she smiled at this, petting his cheek. Her hand moved down towards his collar, and that’s when she stopped-- Chrome has orange eyes. She frowned, her hand brushing against the front of his collar. “Why is-- Why’s your collar so hot, buddy?” She asked softly, her brows furrowing as she moved her hands around to undo the collar. She took it off, and Chrome continued his assault, before stopping. His purring ceased, and he blinked, and yes, his eyes were orange. Maybe the light had reflected strangely enough.

“Uh, can you see if anything is wrong with this?” She asked Rhys, whom took the collar from her, looking over it. She looked back at Chrome, whom had blinked again in his owlish like stupor, before peering up at her. He meowed out, dropping back on all fours onto her lap, looking around the room before hopping onto the coffee table, and then, the ground. He sauntered off, and Rhys spoke.

“Well, it’s cooling way down… I’m not sure what was wrong with it. Maybe he used it so much earlier it over heated?” He tried, handing it back to her. She moved it around in her hands, noting it was nearly chill.

“But… That doesn’t make sense…” She frowned, looking over as Jack finally appeared, watching the cat before now looking at the two.

“Who knew cats could actually not be assholes? Huh. How weird.” The hologram sniffed, and she eyed him up, squinting slightly.

“He was acting weird, huh?” She agreed softly. “Where were you?”

“Well, I wasn’t out on a stroll. Was napping is all.” He assured, and she hummed at this, slowly looking back down at the collar.

“Wait a minute…” Rhys uttered out, taking back the collar to look it over. He ran his fingers over the prongs for a moment, before glancing at Jack. The hologram was stony faced at first, before a grin slowly started to crawl up on his features. Rhys’ eyes widened, jaw sliding open somewhat, and Jack started to snigger. She looked between the two in confusion, before at the device clenched in Rhys’ hand. She looked slowly at Jack, realization dawning on her in a way that sent chills down her body.

“Oh my god.” She whispered, and Jack had started to full on cackle. He probably thought this was hilarious, but she thought it was terrifying. He literally controlled her cat, and it wasn’t the technical groping he did that mortified her, it was the thought of what other feats he would be able to perform. What else he could control or do, and he was getting way too fucking powerful.

He probably really could injure her bad, not to mention Rhys with his robotic parts. “The look on your face is priceless, kitten! Haha, no more fucking around with me is what you’re thinking, right?” He sneered, a malicious glimmer in his eyes as he advanced on her. Her eyes, round as saucers, were the only thing that sat still on Jack as she scooted back towards Rhys, who held onto her arms cautiously from behind. “It’ll get real fun now, sweetheart.” He continued, his leery grin ever present as he reached towards her.

She was trembling, she realized, as she abruptly stood up. She scrambled back, only to trip over Rhys’ legs. “Watch where you’re going, dipsh--” He didn’t get to finish his statement. Her watch had knocked against the ground so roughly that Jack had flickered and, ultimately, disappeared. Not only Rhys, but Vaughn as well stood up, inquiring what happened. Tears were pricking her eyes again, and her hand scrabbled at the watch, clawing the skin around at is as she attempted to rip it out. It hurt bad, which only brought a sob up to her lips.

“I-- I can’t… I can’t have t-this watch a-anymor-re… I’m s-sorry…” She sobbed, her attempts at clawing coming to a halt as Rhys crouched down by her, pulling her hand away. She still struggled, a broken noise of frustration coming from her. “I n-need this off… Soon, now, please...” She voiced desperately, trembling in fear and anger and the stress of trying to wrench free of Rhys’ grip. Eventually, she gave up, falling limp as she hung her head, squeezing her eyes shut as tears dripped onto her lap.

“What’s happening? What’s wrong?” Vaughn was over beside her, sounding(and looking) very confused and warrior. Rhys didn’t say anything. He just swallowed, glancing up at his friend, before back at his girlfriend.

“We’ll go get the watch off soon, I promise. I’ll make sure they don’t anything rash with it.” Rhys assured softly, rubbing her back as she cried softly.

He knew he didn’t have the power to promise such a thing, but he would take whatever it needed to live up to this. He was certain he had supporters, had people who would be up his claims.

He was praying, though, that Hyperion didn’t want to bring back their dictator.

Chapter Text

It was all scarcely familiar to her, the doors that opened up in front of their eyes. The wide, white and yellow decorated room filled with people bustling to and fro. The receptionist typing away at the desk didn’t even spare a glance at them as they approached. “Um…” Rhys tried, but the lady didn’t look up.

“Excuse me.” His girlfriend finally spoke, blunt and tired sounding. It had only been two days of her… Worrying discovery of Jack interfering with other technology, as well as her father’s passing. Nights had been sleepless, days had been full of bitter spoken words, and she was at her breaking point. Jack wasn’t any help.

The receptionist seized her typing, eyes grey eyes flicking up behind her glasses, before back down. She finished out a paragraph, then pushed back in the chair, turning her attention to the two. “Do you have business with someone?” She cut straight to the point.

“We would, uhm, like to speak with Hugo Vasquez.” Rhys was the one to answer this, and the woman looked at him.

“Don’t you work here?” She squinted, and Rhys mumbled out a quiet ‘yes’ as he averted his eyes.

“Hey, we’re here to ask the questions.” The other young woman interrupted, slamming her hand down on the desk. The secretary turned to her, eyes briefly landing on her watch, before turning to her desktop. She pressed a button, glancing at Rhys.

“What’s your name?”

“Rhys Rhyvvis from the Department 9 case.” He sighed out, and she hummed, looking at the woman beside him, but never got to say anything.

“What is it, Sharon?” Rhys grimaced as he recognized Hugo’s voice.

“Rhys Rhyvvis from Department 9 and a young woman request to see you.” Sharon the receptionist answered. There was nothing for a moment, then a quite satisfied sounding Vasquez answered.

“Oh, m’kay. I’ll be right there.” The click was him hanging up, and Sharon looked at them.

“You can both take a seat until he arrives.” She motioned to four fold-out chairs beside the desk. Rhys gave a slow nod, turning to sit himself in one, his girlfriend beside him.

“Why do you guys have a receptionist for a private investigation?” She muttered to Rhys, absentmindedly poking her watch with a nail.

“If people wander in here she sends them out, basically.” He responded, sounding a little unsure of himself.

“Why didn’t you just go up to your boss for this?”

“Um…” He seemed a little uncomfortable as he tried to find an answer. “He’s, well… I don’t really…”

“It’s because your boyfriend is a fuckin’ pansy, that’s why.” Jack hissed, flickering in front of the two. Both looked up at him, the female looking quite unamused and the male embarrassed.

“No, it’s not! I just… Can’t say here… Shouldn’t say here…” Rhys muttered out, pouting and crossing his arms as he sat back in his seat.

“Scared it’s gonna come back to bite you in the ass?” The hologram sneered. “You’re probably not wrong there with all the cameras around here, but damn, grow some balls, kiddo.” Rhys grit his teeth at the comment, glancing at the woman beside him as she stood up.

“Knock it off, Jack, this isn’t the time.” She ordered bluntly. Jack turned to her, raising a brow.

“Oh? And if I don’t stop? Whaddya gonna do, pumpkin? Keep the watch?” He was unblinking as he crossed his arms and she narrowed her eyes.

“You’re goddamn right.” She threatened, and he snorted.

“Cute.” He smiled dashingly, looking over with her as her name was called. Vasquez strode over, a grin plastered on his face.

“It’s great to see ya again! You’re lookin’ quite well, may I add, how’ve you been?” He clapped his hands together, eyes drawing to Rhys as the tall male stood, standing beside her.

“Fine.” She answered a little too flatly. “I’m assuming our deal still stands? Money included?” Hugo’s smile stretched, but Rhys interrupted.

“Wait wait-- You two know each other?” He looked completely surprised, and if she was honest, even a little more pale than usual. Her eyes narrowed slightly when she spoke.

“I thought you knew?”

“No, I had no idea! How did you both meet?”

“Let’s save the details for later, hmm?” Vasquez interrupted this time, raising a brow at the both, but his words mostly seemed directed at Rhys. “We have more important matters to attend to, now, don’t we?” The employee was silent, holding his tongue, and gave a tight-lipped nod. “As for the deal…” Vasquez turned to her. “I believe everything is still in order. Nothing has changed.”

“Good. Let’s go, then.” She responded coldly. Jack raised a brow as he listened to the whole conversation, trailing after as Vasquez lead them down the room and through a door. They walked down a hallway, Hugo explaining pre-procedures that they would need to take to remove the watch, and other things of the like. She wasn’t really expecting anything else, considering he’d already gone over the brunt with her. She was starting to feel a little more excited about this whole ordeal-- She’d finally be free of the menace that plagued her dreams and life.

She could finally get rid of this Handsome asshole. What a joyful ideal!

But then, she started to have second thoughts. Rhys had asked Vasquez a question, and Jack walked beside the young man, listening and making faces. Jack had at times been an utter asshole to her, and pissed her off so much that she’d wanted nothing to do with him. He seemed to only want to annoy her, which she partially didn’t blame him, what else do you do as a hologram? He didn’t seem to care for her, either, despite him voicing his appreciations before.

Their eyes met. Jack’s goofy facial expressions fell, and his face was a blank canvas. Then, a smile tugged onto his lips, and curled up even more. A true, genuine smile. Something that couldn’t be simply faked. Was it a smile that said ‘thank you’? Or was it more of a ‘I’m gonna miss you’? Maybe it was neither. Maybe, he genuinely did care. He’d been a big part of her life for quite awhile now, and soon enough, he was going to be gone from her everyday activities.

Maybe she was going to be the one missing him.

She didn’t want to think she would be, but the more she weighed these options, the more likely it was going to be. Suddenly, she wasn’t so keen on getting this watch off. Quite quickly, she wished she had kept her mouth shut.

Her attention focused back on her boyfriend and his boss as Jack looked at them once more, brows furrowing faintly. Rhys was speaking, and looked quite upset. “You’re-- You’re still firing me? But-- But I… I had time, and I--”

“I know you did what you were supposed to, but you just went… A little too long over. The board had already decided to terminate your stay in Hyperion headquarters, and you will stay here on Earth.” Vasquez hummed, stopping in front of a large set of doors. He put his hand on a scanner, and spoke while he was entering a code. “I’m really doing you a favor, Rhys. They wanted to throw you out on Pandora, wanted to have you fend for yourself. But I spoke up. I insisted that they keep you here, a place with plenty of opportunities and plenty less skags.” She was shocked to hear the conversation, and Rhys was growing redder by the second.

“You’ve gotta be joking! I did exactly what I was supposed to! You can’t just do this, you cheap asshole! You just want me out of the way!” Rhys all but snarled, and Vasquez snorted through his nose.

“I’m the boss. My word goes.” Hugo simply replied, the doors sliding open in front of them. It was a somewhat spacious room with not much but dim lights and wires. In the middle was only one woman, tied and chained. Rhys blinked in confusion, and his girlfriend reciprocated. “I brought you here to say goodbye. This will be your last chance to see your mother.” Rhys’ eyes grew wide at his boss’ words, head snapping back over to the hunched over woman. At the sound of voices, her head raised, only a single deep violet eye showing. It was glazed over, the other half of her face covered by a mop of wavy, dark hair with patchy violet showing through. The young woman in the doorway could barely make out the scarring of the other woman’s face behind her hair, for it looked that side of her face had been burned.

“R… Rhys.” The woman’s voice was cracked, filled with surprise and anguish, and Rhys made a noise in his throat that mirrored his mother’s. He moved forward to run to her, but was stopped by a pair of guards that him and his partner had failed to notice before.

“I said you could say goodbye. I didn’t say to get up close and personal.” Hugo spoke quietly, eyes flickering as he lifted his head, watching the guards shove Rhys back.

“Cold.” Jack muttered, watching the watch’s owner turn to Vasquez.

“You can’t do this! You have to let him speak to his mother, especially if he won’t get another chance to see her!” She fretted, and Vasquez raised a brow, looking down at her.

“I am letting them--”

“You know what I mean! This isn’t ‘saying goodbye’, no, this is just a cruel taunt!” She spat out, looking over as she watched Rhys try to push his way through the guards to get to his mother.

“Let me through, assholes! You’re gonna regret it!” Rhys snarled, trying to claw through, and even swung his fist a couple times. One of the guards roughly pushed him back, while another brought their gun up, and swiftly slammed the butt of it against his robotic shoulder. There was a small sound, and Rhys cried out in pain, arm jerking for a few moments. The guard pushed him back again, and aimed the gun at him.

“Rhys!” She cried out, and she could hear his mother telling him to run. She tried to lunge towards him to help, but Vasquez grabbed her arm, swinging her back his way.

“We have other preoccupations, remember?” He mumbled, and her eyes widened slightly. She couldn’t go through with this for sure, now, seeing as what was happening! She struggled, trying to rip herself free of his grasp, but he held on, pulling her flush to his body. An arm wrapped around her chest and throat, and he dug into his pocket, pulling out a capsule full of something. “I thought this may happen.” He grunted out, taking the cap over the needle between his teeth and ripped it off. She tried to push against him, but it was too late.

He jammed the needle into her thigh, and she croaked out in pain, stumbling forward as he released her. She heard more commotion between Rhys and the guards, but her sole focus was on Vasquez. She lunged towards him, a hand raised to strike, but found herself only stumbling again, falling forward. Her legs felt like jello, and her whole body was beginning to grow heavy, like she was being weighed down in water.

Hugo caught her with an arm, her body slumped over it. She could just barely hear her name being called, and the commotion in the background. Only one voice broke through the black noise.

“Hey, kitten, keep alert. Don’t fall victim to it.”

She wished she was able to adhere to his words.

Chapter Text

She awoke to the monotonous sound of a heart rate monitor. At first, it was only a blurry, soft sound that in some way was comforting. It was like she was sleeping beside one, listening to the lull of their heartbeat as it helped her taper off into sleep.

She felt herself start to lose her conscious again-- The need to rest was just too overwhelming. Her arms moved a little, slowly, as if to grow more comfortable. That’s when she felt the weight, though-- Or, lack of, to be exact. What was missing? She felt her head turn to the side against the rough pillow, and looked down at her arm. IVs stuck out of her, winding up to a machine of liquids beside her bed, but that’s not really what got her attention. Her wrist was so… Pale. Turning her arm slightly, the top of her rest was reddened, little pricks visible. Moving her arms once more, she saw smaller red pricks dotting. Something was amiss…

The watch. It was gone. They’d removed it.

It was still such a surprise that she had to practically undergo surgery to remove something with only a few simple pricks. It must have really gone a lot deeper than that-- Quite literally. She tried to wrap her head around the voices she heard outside of the room, but she felt herself start to waver again. Was that footsteps? Possibly… Boots, maybe.

Her name was spoken. To her, it sounded slow, thick on the tongue. When it was said again, though, it seemed to clear up. That voice was… So familiar. His name was on the tip of her tongue…

“Jack.” She finally croaked out, eyes opening again and coming into focus. There was a blurry image standing above her, and the chuckle he gave was a little more clear.

“They really have you drugged, don’t they, kitten?” He commented, voice crisp, but all the same smooth and rich, per usual. So, they took the watch off, but Jack was still here. Maybe he was permanently imprinted into her mind or something. That wouldn’t be half bad, really-- She would miss him if he went away permanently. She was confused when she felt a hand on her arm. Maybe there was someone else with them.

She squinted again, looking around the room faintly. The door was closed, and there were no other people. When she looked back at Jack, her vision had cleared significantly more, and she drew in a sharp breath. He was… Not holographic…

He was here, in the living flesh. He was heterochromatic, like he said he was, and had a head full of luscious brown hair. She noticed that indeed his mask was more pale than his face, which around the edges seemed tan, and his clothes were similar to the ones he had when he was a hologram, albeit changes here and there.

How the fuck was he here? What was going on? “You look surprised to see me.” He chuckled quietly, taking his warm hand away from her chilly arm to pull over a chair and sit beside her bedside. “I know, it’s probably a little overwhelming, you just waking up and all…” He started, head tilting slightly to the side as he spoke. “I’ll admit, it’s still weird to be able to actually… Touch things. And not through your body, either.”

“How is this possible?” She croaked, weakly pushing herself up to a sitting position. Jack reached forward to help rearrange her pillows so she sat back against them, upright, and looked at him owlishly.

“Hyperion technology goes a long way, pumpkin. This body isn’t exactly perfect, but hey-- It’ll do. Little more toning, wear and tear, and it’ll be just like good old times.” He grinned, crossing his arms behind his head as he leaned back in his chair. “Not gonna lie, I’m lookin’ forward to getting back up on Helios and making everything right. You just can’t trust people nowadays. You want something done-- or lead-- right, you gotta do it yourself.” He seemed serious as he said this, but a grin still lingered on his masked features.

She felt in still shock as he spoke to her. The heavy-headedness she felt only moments prior had vanished, leaving her feeling more numb with surprise, but mostly fear. He really was here. He could hurt her even more, whether it be through strangling or even point blank shooting. He wouldn’t do that, though, would he? He was still the same guy, so she suspected he wouldn’t go as far as to do that, but if he suddenly decided to… “You’re as pale as a sheet. Need me to get a doc in here?” She heard his voice, but didn’t respond, to frozen with her own thoughts. “Hell-oo?” He waved a hand in her face, and she thought his patience must be growing thin.

“S-Sorry, I… Spaced. It’s still… Hard to believe that... “ Her wording sounded confusing to her, mixed and distant. Jack didn’t seem to mind, though. He snorted, placing his hands on his knees briefly as he scrutinized her with a squinted gaze. Finally, he stood up.

“Well, I’ll let you recover a little more. It’s pretty damn early, I gotta say. Later I’d like to grab a bite to eat. We got a lot to talk about.” He grinned again, bidding her farewell as he strode out of the room. He said he wanted to grab a bite to eat, but followed up with saying that they had a lot to talk about.

Does that mean she have lunch with Jack? Normally there’d be no difference-- He was with her practically everyday when she ate.

The only difference now was that he was here, in the flesh, and it wasn’t just a lunch date with any ol’ Jack:

She would be going on a lunch date with Handsome Jack.

She knew that this truly was a big difference.

She couldn’t outright deny him, so she had no choice but to accept. The doctors gave her medications to reverse her drowsy effects and to keep her going throughout the day. By noon she had changed into another pair of clothes that had been provided, and looked quite expensive, but casual. After doing her hair and whatever else she felt appropriate, she was lead down the hall and back into the main room of the facility she had first walked into.

The doctor lead her over to where Jack stood. The man was speaking with a couple employees, but when his eye caught her own, he dismissed them, waving his hand. He’d changed into something a little more casual by standards here, jeans and a t-shirt, which she was glad to see. Even though her own clothing looked a little more high-end, she’d feel uncomfortable with him all geared up like he was before.

“Those clothes look good on you, kitten, I knew I chose right.” Jack grinned, waving off the other staff that had walked her over as soon as they stood in front of him. The doctor had lingered a moment more, but after that, had headed off.

“T-thanks for them. I like it.” She mumbled quietly, avoiding his gaze as he clapped his hands together, moving to stand next to her.

“Yeah, don’t mention it. Now, I heard about this new little place down the street, so I thought, why not check it out? Sounds good, right? Course it does.” He grinned, and she felt uneasy actually being able to feel warmth, and not static, radiate from his body. She even jumped a little as he placed his large hand on the small of her back, urging her forward and out the doors. “Even if you’re not hungry, I’m sure a coffee would hit the spot. Heard their special blend is pretty kick-ass.”

She couldn’t find the will to respond. Her tongue was tied, mouth dry, and she felt as if she wasn’t even moving her legs on her own. Maybe it was the medication. Maybe it was just the fact of Jack actually being beside her, and touching her. The fact that he now had the ability to carry out all of those threats that had once been empty-nothings.

Jack took everything in stride as he spoke and walked, not seeming to miss a beat. He seemed rather lively, despite having of just literally been resurrected from the dead. He really was enjoying what he had, now. He didn't seem to mind as she unintentionally shied towards him as they walked through crowds. He even took it as far as to place his arm completely around her waist, and it didn't help her feel any more comfortable, honestly, but no way in hell was she going to speak up.

They reached the corner café and bakery, taking a seat at one of the tables Jack managed to snatch. A waitress had been passing by, but Jack managed to flag her down, and ordered two cups of coffee, grinning as she walked off to fill the order. That just left her and him, alone, at the table. The subtle, calm atmosphere of people talking was the only thing that filled the silence stretching between them. Jack seemed content at first, merely people watching, while she shifted awkwardly in her seat, clearing her throat. Jack raised a brow, looking her way, and straightened up.

“S-So… Why did you wanna take me out?” She asked finally, prompting him to answer with not too demanding look.

“I just wanted to catch up. Anything wrong with that?”

“Well… No, but considering I’ve been… ‘Separated’ from you for… Not that long, I’m a little confused on what catching up you wanna do.” She elaborated, growing mildly irritated at his dodgy attitude.

“Not that long? Oh, kitten, it’s been… Pfft, what, three months?” She choked slightly at this answer, eyes nearly bulging out of her head. “What?”

“T-Three months!?” She coughed, starting to sweat anxiously. What happened in the past three months!? Did everyone else know!? She grew even more uncomfortable as Jack began to chuckle, a sound that admittedly she missed.

“Haaa, I sure got you.” He chortled, waving a hand nonchalantly. “Nah, I’m just messin’ with you. It’s only been like, five days. Nothing major.” A breath left her, and she slumped back in her chair, heart pounding in her chest. “There were some complications, no surprise. I wanted to make sure you would wake up alive and well, so that’s why you spent the last five days out like a light.” He assured with another wave of his hand, giving the waitress a million dollar smile as she set the coffee cups down for them.

“You can’t do that, Jack.” She chided, hand still gripping her chest as she willed herself to calm down. Only five days… Not bad… The days before that, though, were a little blurry. Before she had been taken in. She had trouble remembering what happened… She recalled earlier this morning, however, Jack saying he wanted to talk about something when they got lunch.

“Sorry, kitten. Don’t remember you being that fragile.” He chortled, grabbing his cup. He blew on top of the lidless beverage, before taking a swig. “Ahh… Hits the spot. Haven’t had coffee in who knows how long.” He hummed, and she looked down at her own cup in front of her. The steam swirled up, and when she absentmindedly, lightly blew on it, it dissipated. Grabbing her own drink, she was about to take a sip, before stopping.

She’d met Rhys through coffee… At her job. Spilled it all over him, thanks to Jack. Ah, but she didn’t have that job anymore… She got laid off… Right… And Rhys was…

Her gasp piqued Jack’s attention. “Rhys. What happened to him? Is he okay? Where is he?” She demanded, setting her cup down as she began to stand.

“Easy, easy kitten. Relax, take a seat, Rhysie is fine.” Jack held a hand up to calm her, and she stiffened, eyeing him suspiciously. “Dunno if you remember, but Vasquez wanted to dump Rhys here because the ‘board’ decided to ‘terminate his Hyperion contract’ or some bullshit, I dunno. I took care of it, though, don’t worry.” He assured once again. The metaphorical bristling on her shoulders began to relax, and slowly, she sat back down. “He, and Vaughn, are back on Helios, safe’n’sound.”

“Oh. Okay.” She replied, scrunching her nose slightly. She was glad to hear, and Jack seemed legit enough about it. She couldn’t quite remember else what happened before that, whether or not she had said goodbye… Oh, shit. She wouldn’t get to see him, would she? “Wait a minute--”

“That’s what I’m here to talk to you about.” Jack sighed after taking a long drag of his coffee, setting the cup a little forcefully on the table. “Come back to Helios with me, kitten. I wanna repay the favor. You could be beside me, beside the king, the hero. I’m gonna put Hyperion back on the top, and help everything else out there as well, and you’ll be right at my hip to experience this change.” He grinned, leaning forward slightly, hands clasping on the table in front of him.

At first, she said nothing. She looked a little owlish at the proposition. He could’ve gone back already, but… He actually stayed. Wanted to repay her by basically giving her a new life. A clean slate. Away from everything she knew. She narrowed her eyes faintly. “Does… This change… Involve mass murdering--”

“I’m gonna try a different route this time. A more… Pacifist one. Maybe those bandi-- people, have changed. For the better. And I’m gonna move them even more.” He interrupted, a little quickly, brushing his hair back as his body followed suit, leaning back in the chair. She swallowed thickly. She… Would technically get a job… And get to see Rhys… Right?

“I’ll get to see Rhys, yeah? And Vaughn?” She asked, cocking a brow.

“Yeah, yeah. Well, sometimes. They’re in a department much lower than you’ll ever need to go down to.” He dismissed, sniffing faintly, his smile falling.

“Yeah, but… Rhys is my boyfriend. I kinda wanna get to see him if I go up there.” She retorted, mildly cross. They were gonna be on the same planet-- base-- company-- whatever, what was the issue?

“Look. If you come up there, that’s not gonna happen. You have things more high priority than dicking around with some salary boy.” He stated, firmly. She opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off. “Babe, you’re gonna be my right hand. People are gonna worship the friggin’ ground you walk on because you’re gonna be just as powerful as me. I’m gonna mold you into a figurehead, a big bad wolf, like me. Nobody is gonna shit-talk you, dare to try and hurt you. I’ll give you more than you’d ever have on this miserable rock, and more than Rhys could supply.” He finished off. She was stunned into silence at his words, lips shut tight, Jack’s own similarly.

He sighed through his nose, glancing away as he sat back in his seat again. “Look, I know it’s not all about power, yadayada, but who’ve you been with for longer? Who knows you better? Knows what they’re doing to keep you happy, alive? I’m looking out for the future, not just through tunnel vision.” He seemed to soften. She herself couldn’t help but soften to, staring down at her hands. Tentatively, she wrapped her fingers around the cup in front of her, rubbing slowly up and down with a thumb.

If she left, she’d be leaving all of her family behind. Mother, siblings, friends, her cat… She’d likely never seen them again. Never see this planet again. She would have no familiarity, no contact with them, nothing. However, she’d get a new life. If she played her cards right, she’d probably be set for the rest of her life, with or without Jack. With or without Rhys. With or without anyone. She’d done it here, figured it out on her own(for the most part), why couldn’t she do it elsewhere?

That’s insane. Why would you even consider it? She scolded herself internally, slowly bringing the coffee cup up to her lips to take a sip. It tasted bitter on her tongue, sour as the emotions that swam through her body. She couldn’t go, no. She… Liked Jack, really liked Rhys, and Vaughn, but… She couldn’t give everything here up just for people who accidentally came into her life. She couldn’t allow it.

“I… I don’t think so, Jack. I appreciate the offer, but… I’d be leaving everything here behind. I wouldn’t even get to see the two people I really want to see if I went up there.” She responded, finally, setting her cup down.

“I didn’t say you wouldn’t, I just said--”

“I get it. I don’t think it’s the answer.” She cut in, firmly. Jack closed his lips, firmly, eyes narrowing faintly. “I’m sorry. I’m… I’ll miss you, but I have everyone, everything, I’ve ever known here. I can’t just go to a different… Planet, or whatever, and start anew like that.”

“Sure you could! People do it all the time.” He scoffed in response, giving her a mildly distasteful look. “Besides, it’s not like you’re gonna be on your own. You got me, and you’re gonna have everyone else that’s gonna treat you like you’ve been there your whole life, sweetheart. You’ll flow right in.”

“I… I don’t know.” She looked back at her hands, thumbs twiddling briefly. She… Could consider it, but… “No, Jack. I’m sorry, I can’t. I don’t want to hear anymore, and if I truly mean something to you, you’ll respect that answer.” She confirmed, standing up abruptly. Her eyes bore into his own, standing firm on her answer. She couldn’t read his expression. it masked so perfectly. He seemed to almost challenge her, however, heterochromatic gaze never wavering and causing her to tear her eyes away first.

“Alright.” He responded, standing up himself. He dumped a twenty on the table, tucking his wallet back into his pocket as he turned for the door. She followed after him, watching as he held it open for her, and she took the offer. They walked back down the street, silent, a tense atmosphere holding place. She knew he was not happy, but it didn’t mean she would go back on her answer. It just didn’t work like that.

“You’ll be able to go back tomorrow. Doctors are gonna wanna make sure everything is working a-okay, and you should be good to go.” Jack sighed once they stepped back into the Hyperion building. She was a little distraught to hear that, but didn’t argue as a nurse made her way over, likely to take her back to her room. She startled, as Jack put a hand on her shoulder, peering up at him. He patted it, before wrapping an arm around both of her shoulders, drawing her to his side.

“This whole place, and more, coulda been yours, kitten. I respect your choice, though,” He sighed out, sounding… Not as remorseful as she expected. She swallowed, watching as he pulled away, the nurse taking her arm. “Welp, good luck out there.” He gave her a grin, followed by a two fingered salute and turned, sauntering off with hands in pockets and a tune falling from his lips.

Was that it? Was that the last time she was going to see him? She resisted a little as the nurse pulled her along, but finally followed, gaze downcast. She knew Jack better. She knew that there was no way he would take something that well, especially knowing how he was in the past. Something was amiss… Or was she just reading too much into it?

Maybe she misinterpreted him. Maybe he really did respect her decision, and that was that. She’d never see him again. What a brief, empty farewell that was… At least, that’s how she felt.

She took a seat on the edge of the bed like the nurse asked. Her sleeve was rolled up, needle under the skin, injected with something, and cotton was taped. Maybe she was imagining it, but she began to feel a little drowsy. Sitting might do that to you. She stood, swaying dangerously, and lead back up against the bed, breathing heavy. She could barely move, barely had the energy to crawl back onto the bed. She coughed, wheezing as dark spots clouded her vision, and eventually, they weren’t there.

Neither was her vision, nor her conscious.

Chapter Text

A white haze.

A soft, distant tune.

Nostalgia, full throttle.

A sweet scent.

A familiar song.

Something… Something…

A blank face.

Another one.

Soft, between her fingers.

A malicious smile.

A softer one.

The taste, so sweet, so pure… So…

Familiar.

”This world out here,

Is lonely and cold

(Lonely and cold)

This world out here,

Is so lonely and cold

(Lonely and cold)

This world out here,

Is lonely and cold

(Lonely and cold)

Oh, I guess, I’ll go….

Back home”

By the time the song had reached its moments of true musical aspiration, she’d opened her eyes. It wasn’t the best song to wake up to, considering how soft it was in the beginning, only to speed up as it went on. She’d have to choose a different radio station.

Sitting up, she stretched her arms, parting her lips in a yawn, and proceeded to crack her knuckles as she looked tiredly around the room. She made a mental note to clean it, seeing stuff lying about here and there.

Oh, wait! She was back at her apartment. Back from… From…

Where did she come from, again?

Maybe she’d stayed the night somewhere. At a friend’s, or something, and just didn’t remember coming back home. Man, she must have really hit the bottle to not be able to remember shit. Snorting, she wiped a hand across her nose, and reached over to turn off the radio. She stretched again as she stood, and made her way out into the kitchen. Opening up a cabinet, she grabbed a box of cereal, and some milk out of the fridge too.

After she poured a bowl, she settled down at the table, eating silently as she scrolled through her phone. It felt… Empty, for some reason. Like something was off. Like there was always more activity. There must have been, or she knew she wouldn’t have this… This feeling. She scratched her head, screwing her eyebrows together as she wrought to try and pull something out from her head. A meow made her look down, and she saw Chrome sitting, staring up at her with round eyes.

“Hungry, huh?” She mumbled, scratching him behind the ears as he mewled again. She got up, grabbing his food and pouring some into his dish as he began to instantly eat. Chrome… Cat… How’d she get him again. Her nose scrunched up as she also tried to recall that, but couldn’t. Maybe she had pictures, or something.

Going to her phone, she opened up her gallery, looking through it. She found a picture of her and her mom, her mother with Chrome in her arms, and herself hugging the woman. So… Chrome was a gift when she and her father visited? She closed her eyes, attempting to recall the visit… Faintly, she did remember. Her telling them how’d she’d always wanted that cat in the window, then they had gone ice skating… And the next day, her dad had come back with the kitten.

Right. Christmas. That made sense. Looking at the clock, her eyes widened, and she rechecked the time on her phone. “Ahh, fuck, I set the alarm late!” She fretted, scrambling over and dumping the rest of the cereal in her mouth, then the bowl in the sink. She darted to her room, throwing on some clothes and doing her daily needs. When she finished, she grabbed her phone again, threw on some shoes and ran out the door.

She was lucky to catch a bus, and soon enough, had made it into her class. She didn’t usually mind being late, but with the semester coming to an end, she needed all the knowledge she could have for finals. Taking a seat once she reached the room, she set everything down and took out what she needed, listening as the lecture began.

It was brief and short, as was her other class, and soon enough she was heading home. Her mind had kept trailing back to other things, thinking about what felt like it was… Missing. Some of the class she’d be looking through her phone for pictures or unidentified contacts, but she’d recognized them all, even if she didn’t remember taking some. It was a strange, nagging feeling, like she really was missing something-- someone-- and she just couldn’t get past it!

Her phone buzzing snapped her out of her stupor, and she answered. “Hello?”

“Hey! Can you fill in for me right now? I just had an emergency come up, and I really need someone here.” A male, presumably one of her co-workers, asked. Strangely enough, she could’ve sworn that she didn’t work there anymore… Well, it looks like she was wrong. Why’d she think that?

“Um… Sure! My stuff is in my locker, right?” She didn’t remember seeing it at home.

“It should be. Thanks a lot!” The phone was hung up, and she stuffed it back into her pocket. Quickly making her way to the coffee shop, she came in, just seeing her coworker leaving. “Thanks again for coming on short notice.” He grinned, before he was jogging out the door. She waved, walking into the back, and opened up her locker. Sure enough, her apron and a shirt were in there. She put her books and phone in, throwing the shirt over the current one she wore, as well as the apron.

She walked out, passing by her boss, Westin, going through some papers. He looked up, and the two stared at each other for a moment. He gave a simple nod, though, and she did back as well before she headed out into the front.

I can’t believe I thought I had gotten fired… She was even more confused, slowly wiping down the counters with a cloth, before taking an order as someone walked in. As the day grew, the lines didn’t. Less and less people came, and now she was the only one now in the shop around closing. Still another hour or so to go. The bell at the door dinged, and she looked up from taking inventory. A woman stood there, panting slightly, looking around. Half of her head was shaved, mostly, and curled black and… purple hair fell over one side of her face.

She seemed a little frenzied, and to the younger woman’s surprise, a little familiar. As the strange lady made eye contact with her, the former’s eyes widened, and she hurried over, her name falling from pierced lips. She flinched back, surprised that this woman knew who she was, but she continued. “It’s me, Veristra. I need your help.”

“I-I’m sorry-- Who are you?” She stuttered out, and Veristra’s face fell slightly.

“You… You don’t remember? Dammit, did they wipe your memory?” Veristra snarled after, slamming her fist on the counter, a cup full of plugs trembling slightly from the impact.

“I-I don’t… I’m not sure…” She started, still unsure, and a little apprehensive.

“I’m Rhys’ mother. The siren. The one that was trapped? In the facility?” Veristra tried, and the other woman only looked at her blankly. “Oh, come on, they can’t completely wipe everything from you, can they?” She stressed. Her question was met with silence. She cursed under her breath again, glancing away, before looking back. She brought her hand towards the young woman, who had began to flinch back, and did so as a small ball began to form. It was dark, laced with purple ripples and swirls of the like. Veristra brought her other hand up to it, expanding so suddenly that part of the younger woman’s head was caught in it.

She cried out, but it was cut short as her head faintly pulsed with pain. A dull, mildly throbbing pain. Her eyes widened scarcely, and Rhys suddenly became familiar. So did Vaughn, Yvette, Vasquez, Veristra… Jack.

She’d gotten Chrome from Rhys. She had a watch, with Jack in it. Vaughn and Rhys had moved in with her. She’d started dating Rhys. Jack came back to life after the watch was taken off. And now… She was here. It’d all come back.

Letting out a slow breath, and training her eyes back on Veristra, that came back as well. Strapped down in a room… Chained up, not being able to say goodbye to Rhys. “Oh my god.” She finally breathed out, slowly leaning forward against the counter. Veristra sighed gently, drawing her hands back and slumping somewhat against the counter as well.

“Please,” She started again, a plead the young woman had a feeling she wouldn’t hear often from the ‘siren’, “You need to come with me. Rhys is in grave danger. I cannot help him, but I have a feeling you can. You have to talk Jack down from whatever he has planned.” She flinches. Jack has done something with Rhys-- Why would she be surprised?

“That… That…” She wanted to say asshole, but she couldn’t let herself say that. He’d respected what she wanted-- He’d let her go, but at the same time, ripped everything away. He did say, though, that Rhys was going to be back on Hyperion, so he wasn’t lying… But she didn’t think he’d be in trouble because she’d refused to go back. Why couldn’t Veristra help him, though? She was right here, and if she’d managed to escape, then…

“We’re losing time.” The siren suddenly snapped, slamming her hand down on the counter, causing the younger woman to jump slightly, startled.

“O-Okay, okay, let’s go.” She decided, throwing her apron off and hurrying around the counter. Veristra was out the door, leaving her to flip the open sign to closed, and lock up, before bolting down the street. They came closer and closer to the Hyperion building, the memories continuing to stack back up, resulting in a small headache. She winced, rubbing her forehead as they approached outside the doors.

Veristra threw the doors open, running down through the lobby, and turning sharply into a hallway. The other woman was behind her, panting and coughing as they continued on, and nearly crashed into her as the siren slid to a stop. In a dark, spacious room lay ten pods, all in a circle. It was dark in the pods, but as the older woman ran forward and pressed a series of buttons on a panel, one of them started up.

“Quickly.” Veristra ushered the young woman forward, a platform leading to the pod expanding from the ground in front of it. When it clicked in place, the siren proceeded to push the other woman forward, urging her to climb in the pod.

“W-What is this? What’s gonna happen?” She stuttered out, hesitating.

“This will take you to Helios. To Jack, and Rhys.” The siren answered grimly, causing the other to flinch in response. She… Saw this coming, but now that it was actually going to happen… “There’s no time to sit around!” She insisted, pushing her in again. Before the young woman had a chance to change her mind, the pod’s face shut again, locking her inside. “Stand against the bed.” Veristra instructed from outside. “I’m going to lower the restraints onto you.” The siren was back off towards the panel before the other had time to put in a word. Swallowing, all she could hear now was her own intimidated breathing, and the gentle whir of the pod’s… Engine.

Finally, she laid back against the bed, which was propped up so she was standing. Her feet fell naturally into slots, and she flinched as locks clamped around them. Her breathing became a bit more erratic as shoulder bars were lowered over her shoulders, and as blue glowed on the sides of the bed, she placed her arms there. They were locked into place as well, and she flinched as the action was done. Looking up, she saw a helmet being lowered, and soon, it was placed on her head. It was clear some sort of shades were supposed to obscure her vision, but nothing was there.

There was a knock on the glass. Focusing ahead of her, Veristra stood there, her previously hard focused eyes now soft. “I’ll see you on the other side.” She mumbled, backing up, and was gone in a blur of purple and black. The young woman swallowed, flinching as shades suddenly came down, cupping over her eyes. She couldn’t see anything at all, and then that’s when the whirring began. Louder and louder, almost overbearing, she seized up in her seat, stifling a cry wanting to rip from her mouth.

The pod was shaking slightly, jarring her in the process, and she swore a bright light flashed around her. A small, electrical shock passed through her, causing her to involuntarily gasp, and for a moment she swore she blacked out. When she came too(if she had even passed out), the whirring had slowed back down to the previous gentle hum. The shades lifted, along with the helmet. Her feet and hands were unclasped, and the shoulder bars came up. She pushed herself off of her seat slowly, letting out a breath of air.

She flinched as the pod face popped open again, air being released at the same time. The facility in front of her looked the same, and for a moment, she almost thought that nothing had really happened. That she was in the same place. Slowly, she crept out, looking hesitantly around. Well, the lights were on now… But the pods were in the same formation. There was a large, gaping window, however.

Walking over, the breath nearly left her bosom. Her knees buckled faintly, and she leaned against the window itself to hold her up.

Outside was nothing. Nothing but a vast expanse of space, stars, and a huge planet miles and miles away that looked close enough to touch. She wasn’t on Earth-- She wasn’t even near Earth.

That meant that she was, indeed, on Helios.

Chapter Text

HEY GUYS

Wow so I've been on a dry streak for... Awhile now, admittedly. For stories, a few months. For this story... Oh, gosh, I think it's been around a year qwq

I'm so sorry guys. There's only one chapter left and like... I'm suddenly seeing how many followers and comments this has, and I feel just so bad. I really wanna finish, but I'm struggling to find muse for Borderlands at the moment. I had a whole ending planned out but now I uh... I'm not too sure.

I mean, I know what's going to happen generally speaking, but as for who reader is gonna get with, well... That's another story. (one I don't exactly have the answer to).

So, I mean, um... I'm gonna leave this open to the comments. Who should the reader be with, at least(neither is a viable answer, as is both). If you guys wanna see something else in the last chapter too(and there's a large agreement on one event) then I'll write that out as well(if it doesn't fit in with the timeline or events then I'll write a separate chapter for it).

Anyways, um, yeah. The more comments, the more it'll spur my muse and will I suppose. So, again, sorry, life took ahold of me, and muse had died for awhile.

I love you all, thanks for sticking with me even through a huge hiatus <3

Chapter Text

The surrounding area was silent, save for the gentle hum of machinery and her footsteps. Once she had regained her composure, she moved onward, towards the only exit the large room had to offer.

It was a rather wide hallway, and although the lights were on, there was no activity to be found. No people, no personnel… Nothing. Where was Veristra? Wasn’t she supposed to meet her here? She had even recalled the siren saying ‘see you on the other side’, or something to that effect. Isn’t that what the phrase meant? That she’d meet her up here on Helios?

I don’t even know where I’m supposed to go. She thought worriedly, flinching as a large set of doors slid open in front of her. The hallway they connected to was… A lot busier. People were moving about, either chatting, looking at a phone, or just walking on with some purpose. She had to ask somebody here, but… Who was the right person? Would she get carded? ID’d? She didn’t know how strict things were up here.

Rhys was in trouble apparently, too. She had to hurry, or things could go to shit. She looked around, finding a woman who was walking without any sort of device in hand. She hurried over, stopping the woman with a hand. “Do you know where I can find Handsome Jack?” She asked. The woman looked at her as if she had sprouted another head.

“Uh… At his grave?” The woman responded, scrunching her nose slightly.

“N-No, he’s--”

“Dead. Buzz off, I don’t have time to deal with stupid questions.” She scoffed, brushing off her hand as she strode on. She stood there, dejected, confused. Did nobody know about his revival? Had they yet to say anything? She had to find somebody, anybody! She ran down the corridors. Nobody really seemed to pay her any mind, maybe except for an occasional angry remark of her running into them. Up ahead, she saw a guy in a suit with a couple of guards behind him, holding guns. He looked important. Maybe he knew.

She ran up, calling out to him. He was talking on the phone, giving her an irate look as she ran over. The guards stepped in front, holding the guns towards her. She slowed instantly, holding her hands up slightly. “You’d better slow down, there.” One of them warned.

“I’m sorry, but I need to talk to him! It’s really important.” She pleaded.

“What business do you got with him?” The other one asked.

“It’s about Handsome Jack! I need to talk to him.” She said desperately, and the two lowered their guns slightly, glancing at each other.

“Uh… I mean, I’m pretty sure his body is like… In some volcano, or somethin’, so…” One of them started.

“Yeah. It’s probably burned up by now.” The other agreed, the two nodding at each other. She groaned out. They didn’t know either!

“Wow, how’d this one escape! Haha, what a loon, she was locked up!” A voice stated, and no sooner did a hand grab her arm. She looked over, about to protest, but her eyes lit up as she saw Vaughn. He gave her a look, almost as if to go along with what he was putting out.

“Hey, don’t you work in accounting? Why’d you know about a prisoner?” One of the guards asked.

“She was in accounting, also! Went bonkers after working with all the numbers, though. She seems to think now that Jack is alive, hah. Silly, right?” Vaughn rolled his eyes, pulling her back slightly. She said nothing. It was probably best not to at the moment.

“Well, uh… I ain’t never seen her before, and I’m pretty sure we would’ve heard bought that…” The other guard started, raising his gun again slightly.

“It was kept well guarded!” Vaughn hastily put in. “Accountants only knew. She was new, Hyperion didn’t want word to spread of all this goin’ on, so they locked her up, didn’t tell anybody else. Well, y’know, except for whoever is keeping check of the prison.” There was a brief, awkward silence between them all.

“Uh…” One of the guards started, both lowering their guns.

“I should really get her back down there now! Thanks for stopping her, bye!” Vaughn quickly pulled her away, and down the hallway. She walked beside him now after he released her, and she sighed out in relief. Actually, she just stopped, and pulled him into a hug.

“Thank god you showed up, holy shit. I thought I was gonna get shot.” She uttered out. He laughed a little, patting her back.

“Good to see you too.” She pulled away from him.

“I heard Rhys is in a lotta danger. Where’s he at? How can I get to him?” She then quickly put forward.

“He’s not really in danger, honestly.” He shrugged, pushing up his glasses. “They have him down in the holding cells for now. I think Jack is still trying to figure out what to do with him.” He informed. She felt… Slightly more comfortable with that answer.

“Why, though? Why wouldn’t he just give him his old job back?” She then stopped, blinking at Vaughn. She drew back from him, suddenly, and he frowned.

“What is it? Do I smell? Have something on my face?” He asked, sniffing himself before running his hands along his face.

“No, it’s… How do you know about Jack? It seems like nobody here knows yet.” She asked suspiciously. If Rhys was imprisoned, then clearly he couldn’t talk with Vaughn…

“Before Jack got all up in arms with Rhys about some stuff, I talked with him. He explained everything to me.” He responded. “It… Kinda sucks that neither of you told me what was up. I mean, when you had that whole freak out, I suspected something was up, so I don’t know why you just didn’t divulge the details to me then. Especially Rhys.” He seemed a little peeved the more he talked about it.

“The less you knew, the better. I think.” She tried, feeling slightly bad. She really should have told him… “Like, if you knew, it might’ve been bad news. We weren’t for sure. Rhys was already taking a big risk knowing about it, and we didn’t want to have to put you through the same risk.” She admitted. He seemed to calm from that, and let out a sigh, giving a nod.

“Well, thanks, I guess. I can keep secrets though, you know.” He frowned.

“What about that one time with Jessica and--”

“Okay, don’t even, that hardly counted. I didn’t like her anyways. I like you two. And my life.”

“Fair point.” She shrugged, and the two smiled at each other.

“Anyways, though… You going down to Rhys is gonna do nothing. You’ll really have to talk to Jack if you wanna get something set up. I know he’s gonna be up in his office, making big plans and whatever, so we’re somehow gonna have you get you up there.” He continued on. She swallowed, her hands gripping into fists.

“I’m gonna guess that’s not gonna be easy.” She frowned, following after him as he started walking.

“Nope. Place has guards, now. I mean, they’re super subtle, so nobody knows what’s going on, but I could tell.” He informed her as they got into an elevator. He pushed a button, and they started to descend. “The hallway to his office was turned into some stupid VIP tour, but even now that’s shut down. You’ll have to have super high clearance in order to get into there.”

“Can’t we somehow bring Jack down?” She asked as they exited the elevator, coming into a large area. Looking over, she saw it was labeled the ‘Hub of Heroism’. It had a couple big pictures of people, and she guessed they were important at sometime. “I mean, if he saw me, I’m sure he’d let me in.”

“Yeah, no doubt about it. At least, from what I heard of how fond he was of you.” Vaughn replied, slowing down as he watched everyone pass by. “That’s the issue, though. We can’t just go tell someone ‘oh, Jack is needed asap, get him down here!’ He’d probably shoot them if someone demanded that. This is gonna be tough.”

“Clearly. Especially since people here apparently know you’re an accountant.” She swallowed, glancing at him.

“Yup. Well, some do. I don’t look like some bigshot that calls out anything either, though, so…” He rubbed his chin briefly. “I might be able to get Yvette to help, but she’s requisitions, so… I’m not sure…”

“We have to do something, Vaughn! You say Rhys isn’t in trouble, but who knows about now?” She fretted.

“I know, I know! Hey, hold on--” He looked at her. “How’d you even get here in the first place? Know how to get here, at least?”

“I’ll explain that later! Please, we’re running out of time.” She groaned.

“Okay, okay! Hold on, just lemme make a call. Stay here-- Actually no, go sit at one of those tables.” He motioned over towards the middle of the room. “Act casual.”

“Okay.” She muttered, walking over to them, and Vaughn went his separate way. She had known Vaughn for awhile, and didn’t think that he could pull anything, but… She really hoped that he wouldn’t. She wished she had like, a coffee, or plate of food, or something to make her look inconspicuous. Or more so, at least. Everyone around her was either eating, drinking, or talking on the phone or with someone else. She was just kinda here. Alone.

She swallowed, clasping her hands together, and set them on the table. Her foot tapped on the ground. Oh, man, Chrome was home all alone. There wasn’t anyone to take care of him! “Shit.” She muttered to herself, reaching into her pocket. Thank god, she still had her cellphone. She opened it, but… Didn’t exactly have reception. The place seemed foreign to her phone. She couldn’t go online, but it did look like she may be able to send and receive messages.

She sent a text to her friend, saying how she suddenly had to go out of town, and needed her to stop by and take care of Chrome. She also explained where she kept a spare key(not smart for an apartment complex, but hey, shit happens sometimes). She sent it, and hoped that it would go through. She looked up at Vaughn approached, coffees in his hands.

He sat down across from her, handing her one. “Okay, I think Yvette can pull something off. We’re gonna wait here for her.” He informed. She sighed out in relief, thanking him. Once the coffee was cooled off, she drank some of it. The two were silent, each to their own thoughts. What would she even say to Jack? ‘Hey, I came back because the siren somehow escaped and told me to, and I don’t want you to hurt my boyfriend?’ That didn’t seem like the best approach, really…

Maybe she should just say that she came back to see him. She felt bad lying, though. Well, if she was gonna be honest, it wasn’t… Completely a lie. She kind of missed him already. Even though he had threatened her, and practically tortured her, and hurt her at times, he… Really seemed to care. To be fair, Rhys cared as well, and he’d never hurt her.

Then again: Rhys wasn’t Jack. There just… Wasn’t that same bond there. She felt guilty for even thinking about it, but… Jack had been with her through so much. Offering advice, providing support even when she needed it. He’d helped her through the worst(even if the worst was him), and also gave her some of the best and much needed laughs. She smiled a little, somewhat bashful, as she remembered the two getting coffee together. How warm he seemed-- and how warm he actually was, as well. Despite all of the stuff he had done in the past… Maybe he had learned from it. He was trying to do a good thing, it sounded like, and it was just very much misinterpreted. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Maybe Rhys just didn’t like Jack, and made it sound much worse than it actually was. She had no idea.

Maybe… Just maybe, she had misjudged Jack. Sure, he was violent, and that was no excuse for anything of course, but… It was who he was. He knew he wouldn’t actually hurt her. Even all those times he had, those were just some little sharp pokes. Nothing major. Hurt at the time, of course, but no long term damage. She doubted he would ever lay a hand on her now that he was alive again.

Maybe… She wanted to try again with him. Maybe that’s why she actually came to Helios. She cared about Rhys-- Cared about him so, so much-- But Jack… There was that unbreakable bond they’d forever share.

It was irreplaceable.

“Hey. Yvette is coming.” She was drawn out of her stupor as the man in front of her spoke. Looking over, she saw the woman stride over. She placed an ID card down on the table, pushing it towards the young woman sitting.

“It was kind of a hassle getting that, and soon enough, someone is gonna notice.” Yvette said, but had a smile anyways. “Just buy me lunch sometime, and we’ll call it even.” She added in before the young woman could get a work of thanks in.

“Sure.” She chuckled, taking the card and standing up.

“As I mentioned, you gotta be quick.” Yvette prompted, and the young woman gave a nod.

“Nobody will stop me if I try to get through?” She asked nervously, glancing between the two.

“If that card opens the door, nobody is gonna try to stop you.” Vaughn assured, giving her a smile and thumbs up. She smiled back, looking at the two.

“I’ll hurry.” She promised, thanking them again.

“Elevator to his office is over there. Just walk straight down the hall until you reach those double metal doors. That card will open them.” She was instructed by Vaughn. She gave a nod, slowly, casually walking over. She tapped the card against a panel, and she heard something behind the doors. Soon, they opened, and she stepped into an elevator. The doors closed, and she let out a sigh of relief as she ascended.

The doors opened again, and she was greeted with a long, decorative hallway. As she made her way down it, she looked side to side. One side had a couple large paintings of Jack doing… Various things. Fighting some stuff, it looked like. Huh… The other side had a big, shining pony made of diamonds, reared up with a pile of guns near it. Jack mentioned he had a horse, once. Made of diamonds. Buttstallion, was it? Was this it?

What a stupid name. She smiled, shaking her head as she turned and continued on. The smile fell as she came upon the door. Slowly, her footsteps seized, and she stood right in front of it. She drew in a long breath, and let it out. This was it. There was no turning back now. She looked over, finding the keypad, and drew the card over to it. Her hand shook slightly as she hesitated over it.

Finally, though, she touched the keycard gently to the pad. She retracted it, and the doors slid open in front of her.

Chapter Text

The doors slide open. They’re almost silent.

Almost.

There’s only five people in the enormous room, but it’s five too many. The woman stays put, and everyone continues on talking, bent over something that’s on a desk, she assumed.

Finally, someone looks over. He blinks, and seems to do a double take, before timidly looking back at his group. She’s too far to hear what he’s saying, but soon enough, all eyes are turned to her.

And those eyes include a pair of unreadable, heterochromatic ones.

Jack says something quietly to the men with him. They gather up some supplies from his desk, and hurry towards her. She freezes, frightened about what will happen. Was he going to send her out? Where they going to drag her along with him? She swallows tightly as they quickly approach, and…

They walk. Right passed her. A small breath leaves her. The one she had been holding in. “Well, don’t just stand there, kitten. Come on in.” She could see the CEO smile from across the room. He’s leaning against his desk, and beckons her with a finger. Slowly, she takes a step in. And then another. The doors shut behind her. She swallows, and her eyes take in the room.

It was… Far bigger than her apartment. Honestly, it was probably far bigger than several apartments. It was… Was insane. Was an office this big really that necessary? Oh, but, wow… She had just noticed the view behind him.

Incredible. She could see it clearly. The same planet she had first laid eyes on when she had wobbled her way out of the pod. “Don’t be shy, kitten, it’s just me. Your good ol’ pal.” His voice came again, snapping her out of her brief stupor. She let out another breath, and walked towards him. Her approach was quiet, no more words being exchanged within the moments of her walking. She finally was close enough to where she could hear his breathing, and that was only because of how silent it was in the room.

“So. You made it up here.” Jack started. He was still leaning against his desk, although both of his hands were now placed against it. He looked far from surprised, but he didn’t look necessarily happy either. He appeared more… Smug. If it wasn’t for the fact of well, she was in his territory, and he was actually alive, she would probably be pretty irate. She was still in shock as well, even though the more she looked at the man in front of her, as well as the surrounding area, the numbness slowly began to leave her body.

“Y… Yeah…” Were the only words to leave her lips. Her gaze avoided his, and instead took to peering around the room. “Um… Big office.” She spoke again. Did she really just compliment him? So many other choice words she wanted to say, and yet… All she could do was was say ‘big office’? As if he didn't already know that.

“E-yup. Probably-- Definitely-- The biggest office around in this whole station. Want a tour? Don't worry, it'll be free.” He chuckled, pushing himself off of his desk.

“I'm… I’m fine. Jack, I came all the way here for a reason.” She finally said, her voice growing more firm as she dared to peer back at him.

“I'm sure you did. Now, tell me just what you came here to talk about.” He brushed his coat back faintly to adjust something-- Oh good Lord, it was a gun. But as soon as he had done it, he'd crossed his arms again.

“I came up here because of…” Her words had started strong, but quickly dwindled away. Jack raised a brow, leaning forward slightly.

“Because of?” He pried.

“Because… Of…” She tried again, her words sticking to her throat. Because of Rhys… Right? He's in danger.

“Because of that code monkey, amirite?” The man sniffed, straightening up. “You're too much, kitten. Came all the way to another planet because of some cute little fling. That's adorable." He sneered faintly, reaching an arm out.

She flinched, unable to react in time as he put an arm around her shoulders, steering her elsewhere. “Look, Rhysie is fine. He was throwing a little tantrum, so I locked him up for now. Once he cools his jets, he'll be back plucking away at those strings of numbers again in a heartbeat.” He assured, leading her over to the large window. The view was still… As breathtaking as ever. “I'll even show him to you if you want.”

“You will?” She asked, eyes narrowing faintly.

“Yup! Later, though. We should talk first.” He insisted. He looked not at her, but at the vast planet before them. “Look… That offer I made you back on Earth--"

“Jack, I already said--"

“I know, I know. Just lemme speak, mmkay?” The two shared a glance. Unease was in her gaze, whereas his was unreadable. Commanding, yet unreadable.

“...Go on.” She mumbled, looking back out the window.

“Look, kitten, I'll be honest. I'm not one to go out asking people for tips and the such. Everyone has gotta look up to me. That's who I am-- I'm Handsome friggin’ Jack. As soon as news spread in the upper ranks that I was back, my position was instantly granted back to me. Because people know I'm strong. They know I can lead us to greater, better things.” He stopped briefly. A small frown marred his features, and confusion was evident on her own.

“However… Things need to change. You're right. Being with you, I got to live as some everyday bozo walking the streets. I'll be honest, it sucked balls, but that's the thing. I want to make it suck less balls for the people living down on that shithole. I want to make it, well, not a shithole anymore. I want to make it a gloryhole. A big ol’ one.” Her nose scrunched faintly, and he chuckled, patting her shoulder, before moving his hand down to her mid back.

She swallowed, glancing over at him as he spoke up again. “And to do that, I need someone who understands what it feels like to live an everyday life. Someone who can ‘speak for the people’, I should say. Someone who has had that experience, and who I know personally. Basically, here's what I'm saying.”

She felt Jack turn her with his hands. She was facing him down, his hands plopping down on her shoulders as she looked straight at him. “I want you to be my Lorax, or whatever the fuck that little tree dude was called. I want you with me. At my hip, my side, whatever. I… Want your help on this. And trust me, Handsome Jack doesn't ask for help. Ever.

His hands slid down from her shoulders to her arms, caressing them… With a gentle firmness. His eyes met hers, and she could feel the breath hitch in her throat. “I won't lie, it will be hard at first. Adjusting to a whole new place, helping me manage one of the biggest companies in this entire system, learning about a bunch of shit-- But imagine how rewarding it will be.” His eyes seemed to… Light up. “You'll be helping millions of people, kitten. You'll be making the lives of so many people better-- And you'll be making your own life better. On Earth, you weren't anybody.”

She flinched at that statement, moving to draw away from him. He only held firm onto her, though. “Your boss let you go without even hearing you out. Whoever was running that crap of a college gave no shits when you applied for financial help. Your friends hardly spoke to you. Hell, your family hardly did. You probably don't remember it, but when Vasquez tried to throw Rhys out onto Earth, Rhys was incredibly upset. He had the chance to stay there with you, but he begged and begged to go back to Helios.

“On Earth, you hardly meant anything to anyone. Everyone but me.” His grip tightened even more, and the breath hitched in her throat once again. “And I'm not just saying that ‘cause well, you know, you were the only thing keeping me ‘alive’. But really. You may not have noticed, but I looked out for you. Legit. I cared for your well being-- And I still do. Which is why I'm offering this to you.”

Finally, he released her. She could feel her body relax, but only faintly. Everything he had just said, it was… Her head was spinning. “Up here, people do actually help you. Not only that, but they'll look up to you. You'll be an icon-- The two of us, together. We will be a new era. I tried to be that new era years ago, but I… Had a setback. I was too harsh with my doings. And you… You won't be like that. You'll help to show everyone how different things can be. Help to show me. Besides…”

She drew in a breath as he reached forward, caressing her cheek, and then her chin. “You've already helped to show me a lot. Thanks, kitten.” He gave a smile. Just… A smile. It was genuine. It was kind. It… Made her feel like… It was right where she belonged. She swallowed tightly, gently taking Jack's hand away from her face and holding it in her own.

“I... “ She stopped. Her gaze at left his. “I need to see Rhys.”

___

The doors before her slid open. It was a dark, narrow hallway, with various cells on either side. There were two guards escorting her, and one sitting in a chair. The guard looked up, and merely just waved them on through. She walked as they did, keeping silent the entire time. “You got a visitor.” One of the guards spoke up. Despite the low light, she was able to see Rhys slouched against the wall. He looked over, and she could see some bruising on his head, as well as dried blood there and on his lips. His eyes widened, however, and he gasped out her name as he scrambled over, standing.

“H-how are you here? Are you okay?” He asked, looking worried as he reached between the bars, putting a hand on her arm.

“Got here same way you did. And yes, I'm fine.” She chuckled faintly, taking his hand in her own as he slid it down her arm.

“That's a relief.” He sighed out, his head resting against the bars as he peered at her, a small smile crawling onto his face. She allowed one to grace hers as well, especially as his thumb rubbed over the back of her hand. However, her face fell. His did as well. She turned, looking over towards the guards.

“Could you guys gimme a moment?” She asked. They nodded without question, heading off to another section. Once they were gone, silence hung heavy. “Did you really not want to stay on Earth?” She suddenly asked. He blinked at her, confused, and sat up more. He frowned as she drew her hand away.

“What-- What do you mean?”

“When… Vasquez was firing you. Said you needed to stay on Earth. You got mad. You didn't want to. You wanted to go back to Pandora.” She said, leaving out the part about, well, Jack telling her that. He only swallowed at first.

“It… Was a spur of the moment thing, I guess.” He uttered out finally, straightening up as his hands clasped on the bars. “I dunno, just suddenly being threatened with everything I know being suddenly stripped away from me, it-- It upset me. Why are you asking me this?” He then inquired. She shifted. What he said had understanding to it, but…

“I… Know things wouldn't be good for you if you had come back here, anyways. Would you really have rather taken a chance like that up here, rather than have of stayed back with me? Where we could have figured things out together?” She asked, voice slightly strained. He stuttered faintly, his face growing a soft shade of red.

“I-- I said it was a spur of the moment! I--"

“Rhys, answer my question!” She snapped, suddenly feeling tired. Tired, and strained, and…

“...No.” He finally responded. She blinked, but looked away.

“No, what?”

“I wouldn't have rather stayed with you. Even if I was thrown out on Pandora, I know what's there. I know… Mostly to expect. I wouldn't have to learn a whole lot. I had connections there. On Earth, I just had… Vaughn. And you.” She bit her lip faintly, able to feel small tears prick in her eyes.

“Just me.” She reiterated, flatly.

“Not just you, no! You're great. You're great, and amazing, and… Things maybe would have worked out, but I didn't know, and… I didn't want to take that risk. I couldn't, and… I still wouldn't. But…” He broke off. He spoke her name in a soft voice, and she spared a glance at him. Their eyes locked through the bars.

“I… I really did care about you. I still do care about you. I… I lov--"

“Stop.” She cut him off, turning away. She swallowed tightly. Her hands gripped into fists. She knew it. She really did. He was… Confused, lonely, and… She was there to fill his gap for awhile. But not anymore. Not again. She slipped a keycard out of her pocket, and turned once more, tapping it against the cell’s panel.

The door slid open, and Rhys blinked in surprise. Slowly, though, he stepped out. He reached out to her, but she drew away, placing the card back in her pocket. She looked up at him, her eyes sad, gaze tired, but mind made up. He seemed to gather all of the emotions processing on her face, and he sighed out, closing his eyes briefly.

“I'm sorry.” He muttered, looking at her once more. She only could shake her head at first, her hand coming up. She gently pressed her palm against his chest, before drawing away, taking a step back.

“We will be walking two very different paths now, Rhys. Just… Go back to what you were good at doing. Don't cause anymore mishaps.” She said quietly. He swallowed, quite audibly.

“Um… So is… This it, then?” He asked, peering down at her with a frown.

“Yeah. I guess. Thank you, though. You've taught me a lot.” She looked back at him. He offered a small smile, but she was unable to, even if she did want to return one back.

“As… Have you.” He returned. She held out a hand, and slowly, he drew his out also. The two shook, never tearing their gazes away from each other. Once she pulled apart, she turned. It was clear the guards had watched the interaction, but quickly turned away as she headed over. She walked back to the elevator, climbed inside with the two, and ascended.

___

“What do you think about this, ma’am? Bright and colorful, just like you wanted it to be.”

“Mm… Less yellow. There's already way too much of it going on.”

“Good eye! Of course I'll fix that up for you.”

“Oh, ma'am, can you sign off on these, please? It's closure for the new housing we're going to be partnering with.”

“Send it over to me. I'll read over it later.”

“Ma'am! Fish with rice pilaf, or a pesto pasta?”

“Hmm… Fish. More protein, the better.”

“Ma'am, there's a--"

The woman stopped in her tracks as she reach the elevator, holding a hand up, a small smile on her face. “Any requests you have send up to my office. I'll look over them soon.” She promised, tapping her keycard to the elevator as she spoke. Her ride had soon come for her, and she ducked back inside. The doors slid shut, and she let out a breath as she slumped back against the elevator.

“Man, what a barrage.” She uttered as she ascended. She quickly composed herself as she came to the top. The doors open, and she walked down the long hallway with a purpose. People were busy fixing new paintings and the like that lead the way to big office.

“Oh, ma'am! Does this look good?” Someone called out to her. She looked at a painting of herself, squinting slightly.

“Mm… Little more to the right.” She answered, then continued on her way. She finally came to the office door, sliding it open with a tap of her card, and walked inside with a sigh. As soon as the doors shut behind her, she removed the blazer she wore with a groan, stretching her arms. Jack sat at their desk, talking with someone on a com as he idley sifted through papers.

“Mhm… Yeah, okay, sure thing. We'll check up on that later.” He ended the conversation, setting the papers down as he did so. “Phew. Lotta shit going on, huh?” He grinned as she walked over, and she agreed. She threw her blazer on her chair haphazardly, able to feel Jack's hand run against her thighs as she drew near. He ran it back against her butt as well, giving a little noise of appreciation.

“Damn, your ass looks good in this skirt.” He grinned, smacking said area. You squeaked, giving him half hearted glare. He only grinned smugly back up at her as he leaned back in his chair. “What? You like it.” The grin was a little more cheeky now.

“Ugh… Yeah, a little.” She giggled finally, leaning down to give him a firm kiss on the lips. He hummed, running his hand up and down her back, then to her side and hips.

“Most definitely.” He responded when they pulled away, and she settled on his lap.

“What's this? The new advertising shit?” She asked as she looked through the papers he had been going through before.

“Yyyup. Looks alright, I guess.” He shrugged, placing his hands on her body as she settled on him.

“I think it's good. A bright, promising future.” She smiled, looking back at him. He raised a brow, glancing at the papers once more.

“Yeah, I guess. That's the whole point of this, right?”

“But of course.” She smiled again, and he reciprocated, the two meeting in the middle for yet another kiss.

“Sir, your meeting is starting in two minutes now.” A voice came through the com. Jack groaned, pulling away as he glared at the com. He held the button down, responding.

“Okay, I'm on my way!” He forced a cheerful tone, but as soon as he drew his hand away from the button, he groaned. “She's been on my ass all day about that. Well, I guess I better get going. You got that other meeting in thirty still, yeah?”

“Yup.” She confirmed, standing to let him up. He fixed his clothes, grumbling to himself, before turning to her.

“Get cozy. I'll have Mitzie send you up a nice latte.” He clicked his tongue, drawing her in for another kiss-- Far deeper this time. She squeezed her hand into his shoulder, and she could feel him hold her tight against his body, before moving down and squeezing her butt.

“Mmkay, bye princess, I'll see you later.” He winked.

“Later, tiger.” She chuckled as she sat down in his chair. He headed off, and soon enough, she was left alone. A sigh left her breast, and she turned, peering out the large, ever present window behind her. She leaned back in the chair, putting her arms behind her head as she took in the view. Still breathtaking.

And so, she smiled. Things were getting done. Life was getting done. She was working to make a better world for herself, but most importantly, others.

And for once, nothing-- not even herself-- felt like an utter disappointment.