The truth was, though Jack appeared to have only three expressions--dispassion, disdain, and repressed rage--nuances lurked beneath the surface of his face and his moods were often not that hard to read. When they entered the warren of rooms at the back, Vaughn could sense Jack tense in distaste like a finicky cat in a bathhouse. Jack disliked things--thousands of things, probably--and you could usually tell when he did. Brothels of this type were high on Vaughn's list too. The lounges were dense with jailbait, kids who didn't look legal to drink, drinking like fish. Some had the vacant air of the heavily drugged; others were alert but jaded in attitude. Men in costly suits sat with their arms around slight girls or boys, talking to one another about their business deals and vacations and yacht purchases.
"We need to take this guy down," Vaughn whispered in disgust as they drifted from one room to the next.
Their tour brought them around in a loop to the other side of the club, where casino tables catered to a more spendthrift crowd. There were still as many kids here as in the lounges, hanging onto the men's arms, watching the slap of cards and exchange of chips with bored or avid expressions.
"Some of these kids don't look sixteen," he said, maintaining his undertone.
"I have eyes, Michael."
*Michael?* Vaughn glanced at him, momentarily distracted and bemused. He was suddenly more aware of the heavy arm slung around his shoulders. His own cuffed wrists were irritating the hell out of him. Vaughn spotted one of Mislov's bodyguards making a circuit of the room, inspecting the business of the gaming tables and keeping tabs on the players.
"Why don't you take these cuffs off me," he said in a louder voice than he'd been using. "I'll be good." He gave Jack a winning smile and got a sardonic look in return.
"I'm disappointed that you think me that stupid, Adam." They were crossing paths with the bodyguard at that point, and Jack gave the man a nod in passing. Reaching a blackjack table, he took a seat that was just being vacated and took out his wallet. For the thickness of bills he passed over--all hundreds, from what Vaughn could see--he got a glossy pile of high-value chips.
The whole James Bond act would have been pretty entertaining if Vaughn had been following it over AV, but idling next to Jack in his collar and jeans made him feel like an ass. Especially when Jack cupped and rubbed his ass, apparently for luck.
Sooner or later he'd have to take a swing at Jack just on principle, Vaughn thought, seething with violent impulses. He cursed the handcuffs again and stood there in an impotent fume while Jack drank Scotch and sodas and won ten thousand dollars. It was already a long day and it was only--Vaughn glanced at Jack's wristwatch--God damn it, just shy of noon. Vice had no timetable, but he was getting sick of this. Also he was hungry.
"I'll blow you for a burger," he said in a loud voice. The other players at the table froze briefly before resuming their hypnotized vigilance of the cards, while Jack set his jaw.
Not looking up at Vaughn, he waved when the dealer offered a card, and pushed his chips across the table when the hand ended. "Credit the house," he said, standing and cutting aside a thousand-dollar chip for the dealer, who nodded with respect and a professional lack of surprise. Then Jack grabbed Vaughn's arm and all but hustled him away.
Vaughn laughed as they crossed the room. He might as well try to get some fun out of this himself, and it was occurring to him that bugging the hell out of Jack was the best way to do that.
"The tables are monitored," Jack said quietly, still looking straight ahead and keeping a steady pace across the club.
"So?" Vaughn couldn't stop chuckling to himself. He was twelve again, but it was worth it.
"So now I have to discipline you."
"You're joking," he said, sobering up immediately and landing somewhere between disbelief and horror.
Jack said nothing.
"Jack." His voice was a warning. "No fucking way."
"Shut up." They'd returned to one of the corridors lined with small rooms where clients could take snappy diversions between drinks or games. He shoved Vaughn in and backhanded him hard enough to bring blood to his mouth. Vaughn had only enough time to see that there were toys conveniently at hand and then Jack had him bent over a chair and was bringing a whip down across his back before the reality of the situation had even sunk in.
He could barely draw a breath while it went on, and the blows were hand enough to bring tears to his eyes. Why was he in this line of work? This was sick. He could have been a teacher. Following in his father's footsteps seemed like a misguided idea at this moment. He'd been young, out for justice, driven by memories. But his dad had never been in this position, he was sure of that. Only a fucked-up lunatic like Bristow could bring this on a man.
"You...son of a...bitch," he got out weakly when the lashing stopped. Was there even a fucking camera in the room? Holy fuck.
"I'd make you service me, but I'll save that for someplace more comfortable." Jack's voice was cold.
Jack yanked him upright and Vaughn had to force himself to look the other man in the eye. He imagined he could see a hint of regret under the emotionlessness mask, behind the horribly steady gaze, but maybe he was fooling himself. He wasn't feeling at all forgiving, anyway.
And then Jack kissed him again, and it was gentle. If it hadn't been he would have fought, but it was such a relief in contrast to the pain that he gave in. He was kissing a nut case, but what the hell. He'd never gotten to kiss Sydney. Maybe this was fate's way of making a joke with a really twisted punchline. It wouldn't be the first time.