Mislov shook his head. "I'd have to say he's turned, Laszlo, not broken."
"Semantics. Stockholm Syndrome is defined as a conditioned psychological break in the captive."
"Hey!" Vaughn said protestingly. "I don't have--" He lowered his head at Jack's look. "I'm sorry, sir."
"I would still like some more...*persuasive* proof." Mislov smiled and swirled wine around in his glass. His eyes glittered and he gave Vaughn a degree of attention that was increasingly unnerving.
"I've made clear my feelings about that."
"Yes, but he needs no partner, does he? Force him to pleasure himself here, now, in front of us. If he is not broken already, that will surely do it. A dignified agent of the U.S. government, brought to degradation."
Jack's poker face remained intact. Nearly. It was a moment before he spoke. "I think I prefer not to win the bet on those terms."
Mislov raised his brows. "You surprise me. I thought you a more ruthless man."
Jack mirrored the other man's equable expression and half-smiled. "My family--and my pets--fall within the sphere of my protection."
"Ah. That's too bad." Vaughn almost shuddered at the oily regret in Mislov's voice. "But a profitable business deal still awaits us." He toasted to the deal with his wine glass and Jack followed suit.
Back at the hotel three long hours later, they wound up standing around Sydney's suite in attentive positions while she stormed. "That was a complete waste of time--an entire week when we could have been making concrete progress and what did we do? We went to brothels and took a cruise, and Vaughn had to degrade himself--"
"Excuse me," Vaughn cut in. "I did not degrade myself. I had a job to do and I did it."
"Yeah, just stick to that story," Weiss said cynically. As Vaughn took an unthinking, angry step toward him with a fist half-raised, he raised his voice. "Whoa! This is me being your friend--I'm on your side!"
"My side of *what*?"
The way Weiss's gaze cut over to Jack was pointed.
"Jack made an operational decision," Vaughn said sharply, hand cutting the air like a knife. "You have *no* call to second-guess him."
Weiss looked stunned, as if he were weighing Vaughn in judgment, trying to decide if that had been a personal or professional betrayal. Vaughn squashed a twinge of guilt and didn't drop his gaze.
"I'm not unwilling to analyze the impact of a decision on mission status," Jack said. "*If* it's profitable. This is not."
Somehow you always knew when an argument was at an end on Jack's terms. It was a particular tone of voice, a period, full stop, the end of a chapter, a closed book that you reopened at your peril. Sydney didn't say anything more on the topic, and Weiss followed her lead. There was a brief but tense interval as everyone remained fixed in place around the room, unsure which direction to take next.
"I'm going to bed," Vaughn said, breaking the silence first.
"A good idea," Jack said. His eyes flickered to Sydney, and his lips were drawn tight as if he wanted to say more but wouldn't. "Everyone should get a good night's rest."
The next day they were to fly the first leg of a trip to Syanogorsk to tour Mislov's weapons plant. Vaughn wasn't entirely sure yet how things would change, now that the bet was over. Their team discussion hadn't gotten that far, but it was the first thing he needed to talk to Jack about. They walked next door without speaking. As he passed through the door, Vaughn began to say, "We should probably--"
Jack turned him and took his mouth, cutting off the flow of words. It felt like a new kind of kiss, one Vaughn couldn't label yet. He could feel Jack talking to him with the fullness of his mouth and his thoughts blurred and he forgot what he'd meant to say. The kiss went on and on, their tongues incessant and hungry, their bodies welding in closeness, until Vaughn was hiking his hips frantically against Jack's and rocking the two of them off-balance, wordlessly begging. Jack cupped Vaughn's head and held him in place for a minute more, using his mouth silkily. The friction of their hips and mouths became too much. Vaughn arched and came in ecstasy and embarrassment and tore his mouth away to gasp.
"I'm sorry," he said, face hot.
"Don't be." Jack's face was rigid with hunger and his hands became almost rough on Vaughn's body, undoing the buttons on his shirt with sharp jerks, shoving it off him. At the bed, he pushed Vaughn across it in a sprawl and yanked his loose trousers off, leaving him naked and sticky and still incredibly turned on, then undressed himself in impatient movements.
As Jack disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, Vaughn lay back and closed his eyes and touched himself with both hands, dragging tingling strokes against his thighs and the easing heaviness of his dick. He knew when Jack was back because Jack shoved a knee between his legs and forced him up the bed, then bent his head down and licked the spill off him.
"Oh my god," Vaughn said. He couldn't quite believe it. Jack hadn't put his mouth there before, and just the thought that he might made him crazy. "Are you--"
Jack looked up along the length of his body. "Anything," he said simply, and lowered his head again.
Minutes later, Vaughn thought he might actually lose so much blood from his brain that he'd fall unconscious. Every nerve in his body felt as if it were running a direct electrical line to his dick. He couldn't stop the raw sounds he was making or the way he kept thrusting into Jack's mouth. He was riding against the mattress, twisting and digging his heels in and grabbing anything at hand--sheets, shoulders--while trying not to do anything that would make Jack stop.
As he came a second time, he cried Jack's name in shattering repetition, losing track of the noises rising from his throat.
Jack brought him off twice more, with his hand and then his mouth again, before fucking him up against the headboard, nailing him with fierce stabs until the room or Vaughn's head whited out with an overload of pleasure.
He didn't wake up until morning, and then he was so sore he wasn't sure he wanted to move right away. He turned his head and saw breakfast laid out on a table, silver-lidded to keep the food inside warm. He smiled. Jack wasn't around, so he took his time getting up and showering and eating.
Midway through the meal with a piece of bacon lifted to his mouth he stared across the room, noticing that Jack's suitcase was gone.
"Son of a bitch," he whispered, and when the knock came on the door he knew exactly who it was.