Caught In A Web, Part 1
by Jenn & Kea


I have always been a friend to the Darkness. What others fear and call the Twisted Kingdom in hushed whispers, I roam freely, stalking its borders like a predator on the hunt. Many of my Sisters have wandered blindly within, their inner webs shattered by the thrust of a man, but not me. Having walked that winnowing path much of my life, I believe that the Twisted Kingdom isn't true madness, as most fools will tell you it is; instead, it is merely a different view of things. A means to open one's eyes in ways almost any other sane Black Widow would soil herself to even consider. But not me. Dabbling in that grey area that exists between sanity and instability is my hobby. My livelihood. My very identity.

I am the Weaver of the most tangled of webs.

I am the Chaos-Herald.

I am Dorothy.

Eight hundred years ago, I spun a vision in a tangled web so frightening even my chaos-loving soul quailed in fear. This pattern would ensnare all. There was no escaping the secrets it foretold. Few would believe, many would disbelieve. Many...many...would die.

A traditional Blood triangle consists of three sides, with the fourth side, the Self, in the center, ruling all three. This vision held three Blood triangles, stacked on top of one another. Three sets of three, nine synchronous points in all. Two triangles of immense power, one triangle of the Realms. And in the center, ruling all three...

It took three hundred more years before I could truly discern that wonderful, horrifying presence rising out of the oceans of blood in the center. Three hundred years to accept the impossible portents as they came to me again and again.

A dark power loomed on the horizon. The kind of power that could remake the world. A Queen that was not a Queen, a healer, a destroyer. The wild, dark power would come, and the Realms would tremble. Fear and desire warred in me. Serve or die? Those were the choices written out in the web.

In the end, my lust for chaos won out. I called my lover to me and took him into my arms.

Let Chaos rule.... so that I, his most loyal handmaiden, may sit at his feet and laugh with the mirth of the damned.

******

"Isn't he beautiful?" With a slow smile, Relena lifted the chin of her prize, gazing down into his cobalt blue eyes with hungry satisfaction. Her companion tittered nervously into the silence, then quietly agreed that, yes, he was very beautiful. She cast a sly glance at the woman, took pleasure in noting the covetous look in her wide brown eyes. Good. The greater another’s desire for your possessions, the greater their worth. That was, after all, what this little party was all about. The display of her possessions. The true game of houses had not yet begun, left for the masquerade ball later that evening. This smaller, more intimate gathering was reserved only for those held in greatest favor, an opportunity to enjoy the Queen’s hospitality...and there were very few things that Relena's 'hospitality' did not include.

"He's so powerful," the younger Queen shivered, eyes widening, a ring of white betraying her fear. "How do you control him?"

"A Queen has her ways," Relena purred secretively, stroking her pet’s dark hair. "Patience, my dear, watch and learn." The Warlord Prince stiffened beneath her touch, a fine tremor going through him as her fingertips touched his skin. Lowering her eyes to his face, she divined the root of his distress. Relax, pet, she said to him across a strand of Red craft, the future of Tereille is safe enough in my hands. He made no effort to reply, the look in his eyes said enough.

Smiling, she brushed her thumb across his lips and released him, turning her attention to her young protege. It was only by chance that she caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye. Heero had turned his head, frigid blue eyes arrowing to a point across the room. Her lips tightened into a thin line as she saw the change that took place in the space of a heartbeat.

What had been cold became hot, burning with a fervor that charged the very air around him. It wasn't lust that worked the change in him. Damn him to Hell, it could never be that simple. Needing no further cues, her eyes moved unerringly to the Eyrien Prince who entertained another of her guests, caught the answering flare of emotion in his vivid amethyst eyes.

Gritting her teeth, she stepped between them, rewarded as Heero's jaw tightened, a flash of pure hatred flickering in his eyes before the ice returned. "Come now, pet. Do be more cheerful. I have a present for you." With a malevolent smile, she sank into the chair beside him, pleased that his seat on the floor placed his head at her knee.

With a flick of craft, she called in a velvet-lined box. Within it lay a golden choker, fat rubies and onyx captured in a delicate gold setting. Her smile softened with pleasure as she caressed the gems, enjoying the way they gleamed in the light. They weren't true Jewels, only their more mundane cousins. A true Jewel belonged only to its bearer, to take one without consent was among the most heinous of crimes. And yet… the symbolism was absolutely delicious, her Red twined with Heero's Black. Laughing softly to herself, she pulled the bauble free from its box, unfastening the clasp with elegantly manicured fingers.

Leaning forward, she draped the choker around Heero's neck and pulled it tight, the feel of his pulse beneath her fingertips causing other things to tighten low in her belly. "It looks stunning on you," she cooed softly in his ear. "Proof of who you truly belong to."

By accident, her hand brushed the silver chain that hung around his neck. She snatched her fingers away as though burned, barely quelling the desire to snarl openly. The Black-locked shield around the chain and its pendant denied her the ability to do anything more than touch it, even as her fingers itched to rip it loose and vanish the accursed thing to Hell. "Don't you like your necklace?" she demanded after a moment, unable to keep the edge from her voice.

It was fortunate for them both that she couldn't see the slight smile that tempered the icy rage in his eyes. "This?" He touched the pendant set with a small round chip of Ebon-Gray Jewel. With him on the floor, he knew she couldn't see the movement. It hung, not from the choker, but the carefully guarded silver chain. "I love it."

***

He had been covertly watching the Queen and her favorite Prince for some time now, weighing and measuring their words spoken and unspoken. Her attention grazed him but once; the hardened, iced-sapphires of her eyes unspeaking a great many things to him, as well. A malicious, angelic smile, sharing a special secret with him alone, lifted the corners of her mouth just enough to realign his spine.

Whatever she wants, it's not worth it. It's not! The spear-thread of Ebon-Gray stabbed straight to Heero, male-to-male, the harsh tone at bitter odds with the outward picture of enjoyment Duo presented. Laughing, he nuzzled his cheek against the Queen's knee like a cat, sensuality oozing from even the minutest gestures. Relena's first choice for him this evening was a girl scarcely past making the Offering to the Darkness and setting up her Court. She couldn't have been more than twenty, and the round-eyed glances she kept casting his way all but spelled out her expectations for what was to come. She wasn't strong--Duo put her at best at a Tiger Eye--which had to mean her territory was well placed and advantageous to Relena's overall goals.

Apparently, attaining her overall goals involved promising the child a night with the Prince known as 'the best fuck in Tereille.' Not that such promises were out of the ordinary; mild-tempered, especially for a half-Eyrien Warlord Prince, visiting Queens aggressively sought Duo as a pleasure slave, a lover for a night, a plaything. And play he did, wrapping them so tightly in the coils of their own heated pleasure they never noticed the death in his amaryllis eyes. Those flowers bloomed solely for one cobalt-gazed sun.

What would you have me do? Rage emanated from Heero’s still figure like a dark cloud on the horizon. His mental voice, when it came, was surprisingly soft, weary even. My hands are tied. At Relena’s touch he turned, cobalt eyes losing their lock on amaryllis as he obediently returned the kiss she hungrily bestowed upon his mouth. To anyone else, it was like watching a great cat in repose, content for the time being to allow a child to toy with its fur, but watching with narrowed eyes, biding its time to strike.

What he didn't say, what they both knew, was that the power required to shatter the Ring of Obedience would drain even the abundant reserves of his Black. If the backlash didn't kill him, it would leave him all but helpless. If I break the Ring, they would have time to kill you. I'm not ready to risk that just yet. There would be no freedom for him without claiming Duo's as well. It was a vow he had made long ago. When the time comes, we'll know it.

I don't know. Duo answered honestly across the thread, tinged with the kind of mild hysteria that occasionally managed to bubble up to the surface of a tear-flooded soul kept violently in check. In truth, there wasn't much a Ringed male could do, no matter how strong the desire. There are times I would love to be a Queen, to be able to ask you to lay waste to this nightmare and end it once and for all. The young Queen reached down and daringly trailed a finger across the lub of one of his night-dark wings, the mark of long-lived Eyrien blood. A slight, involuntary tremor passed through their link; girl or no, Relena had been thorough in telling her the quickest ways to stir his loins. And to have you do it with no fear for yourself or any other of reprisal. The wistful thought caressed against Heero's mind like a million physical and emotional touches before: gentle, protective and needy all at once.

You are not a Queen, the barest hint of humor drifted in Black-Jeweled prince’s psychic scent. For all your creativity, you haven't the cruelty for it. In the end, a male would kill his enemies. Torture was a mild distraction at best, not the art form that the Queens had made of it. He bore the scars of it on his back, barely hidden by the revealing vest that Relena had chosen for him. While it might suit her to allow him to cover his lower body, encased in black leather, she wanted the scars visible for all to see. Torture, after all, didn't have to be physical.

I could do it, he said quietly. If you ask it of me, I will try.

No! I don't want to chance that breaking the Ring would mean your life. The reply was vehement, brooking no argument. Unless they kill us both. In truth, Duo feared very little, but chief among those few fears was permanent separation from Heero. Perhaps it was the dependency several hundred years of partnership created, perhaps it was a deep-seated aversion to being alone, or perhaps it was something else entirely. He had no wish to walk the path of the demon-dead, but if it was walked with Heero, there was nowhere he wouldn't go. *When the time comes,* Duo acknowledged at last.

The child-Queen had been tracing lines around his mouth in an undisguised but petulant hint, at times practically forcing the tips of her fingers inside; sighing in gentle exasperation, he caught her hand and raised his eyes to hers, pouring the full power and seduction of his gaze straight into her mind. She gasped, nearly swooned, and something in Duo smiled almost ironically. It was far too easy, sex with the Queens, little more than a mildly enjoyable game, a diversion for a short time. Nothing of passion, certainly nothing of love. Just...yet another Prince's chore. An obligation he often enjoyed, but which rarely brought true pleasure.

Dark male power stroked at her insides as he folded all her fingers down but the index and took it into the warm, wet shelter of his mouth, suckling it as a hungry babe would her breast. Her mind flashed unerringly on the image of his mouth conquering her, and he forced himself to drop a meaningful chuckle and a promise of later into that vapid space just under her inner barriers. Sealing the seduction, a psychic hand fleetingly, teasingly stroked up her bare inner thigh, a master craftsman lovingly taking the measure of his instrument. She bit her lip, drawing blood, as he slid her closer and closer to the edge, never quite allowing her to crest that mountain.

When the time comes, he repeated almost cheerfully on the Ebon-Gray, a wicked smile in his mental voice. Until then I'll just imagine shredding her mind every time she touches you. Gently, utterly at odds with the violent images in his head, he tugged the young Queen's hand away from his mouth and with one last, searing kiss on her knuckle, rested his head back on her knee, ignoring both her mournful, breathy whimpers at being denied release and her sudden, clumsy attempts to touch his tightly-shielded hair. More Relena-instructions on how to get him hot and between her legs in a hurry, no doubt.

His eyes turned back to the red-clad, Red-jeweled whore in Queen's clothing, thinking small thought-daggers at the back of her head. Even with talcum powder, the leather pants she insisted he wear were so tight nothing short of Craft could get him in or out. What's more, he irritably thought, shifting a bit, they chafed, as donning anything beneath them but skin was impossible. Getting hard in them only made it worse.

You know she would not allow us the kindness of a lovers’ death, he reminded Duo quietly, ignoring the feel of her hands on his body that very instant. To leave one alive, one dead? She would relish it. Heero reached out, curling his essence around the other man, soothing the rough edges of the Eyrien's temper, touching those hidden depths to which only he was allowed access. In it was a promise, a need. Later, much later, they would banish the taint of this night in the only way they could. Together.

For now there was only the cruel reality of the present. He closed his eyes, setting his jaw as Relena began tugging insistently at the lacing of his vest. He knew from the moment she touched him that she had every intention of fucking him right there on the floor. He could sense it in the psychic scent that rose from her like a sulfurous cloud, in the way she possessively ran her hands over his bared skin. Not the touch of a lover, but more akin to a rider trying the paces of a favored mount.

Don't watch, he whispered across the Ebon-Gray, turning startlingly blank eyes to Relena's face as she pushed him down, eager hands moving to his trousers. It was all he could do to control his revulsion, to quell the desire to lunge at her, tearing at that corrupt mind with the full force of his Black. In one searing moment, he would show her what true violence meant. Someday, he promised silently. Someday he would take that long, thin neck in his hands and feel the satisfying crunch as it snapped. Someday, but not today.

Leave, Duo. Now.

As though pulled up by some phantom puppeteer, Duo elegantly rose to his feet on tendrils of Craft, the flooding lace at his cuffs waterfalling over the Queen's hand as he took it in both of his. Indigo-violet eyes smoldered as he drew it up to his lips and planted a hot, dry kiss there that she felt all the way to her toes. "My lady," he purred silkily, tracing the blue veins beneath her milk-pale skin with the tip of one finger and smiling that fantasy-fulfilling smile, "if you will excuse me, I have other guests to welcome and entertain."

Her pretty mouth pulled into a moue of disappointment, and the hand he cradled slid from his hold, caressing slowly down his stomach, over the waistband to the crotch of his pants, and daringly, possessively squeezed his semi-alertness. This one was young, almost too young, Duo thought, to realize that the tiger's tail she reached out to grasp had an Ebon-Gray's worth of teeth in the other end.

Then again, even at that age many Tereille Queens liked it rough. He removed her burr-like hand and turned to navigate the sea of people between himself and freedom. Well, freedom in the form of the balcony and gardens, a momentary illusion of freedom even if it was not permitted in truth. I'll be waiting, he promised Heero, not only for Relena to finish her business.

As if thinking her name could invoke her presence, one particular psychic scent in the room turned sour, cloying... sickly-sweet, like rotting flesh. Duo fought the need to gag; for some reason, her aura sickened him when it was Heero she screwed. Suddenly, escape became urgency. He felt the champagne he'd downed threatening to reverse direction. He had to get outside, and fast, Duo thought, shouldering past a Warlord wearing a small Sapphire earring. Relena never took kindly to her pets puking on the carpet, be they two- or four-legged.

Two steps past him, Duo froze, all intermingled thoughts of nausea and Heero and Relena vanishing like a burst soap bubble. Time seemed to slow to an absurd crawl, each beat of his heart lasting a millennium and pounding with a deep, resonant sound. Gradually, he turned wide, stunned eyes towards the Warlord.

No, not Warlord, he corrected, cold lancing up his spine.

Warlord Prince.

Shock, horror and a sort of twisted admiration warred for dominance; even with the added power of the Black, Heero couldn't shield nearly that well, not to hide his true rank, and Duo doubted he would have ever seen through it if he hadn't been distracted enough for instinct to override reason.

Wings twitching, his nostrils flared like a wolf scenting the wind; an appropriate comparison, for while Princes didn't have to *like* the Queens who held their contracts, the violent need to serve often manifested as extreme possessiveness when the smell of another alpha male was in the air. Using his Birthright Sapphire, Duo carefully probed at the other Prince's mind, once more marveling at how intricately the shields were crafted and woven. They fully seemed a part of him, without beginning or end. The Eyrien fancied himself a creative touch with Craft, but this cunning and inventive manipulation far surpassed his own abilities. Whoever this Prince was, he was very, very dangerous.

As if aware of Duo's eyes on him, the Prince turned around. He was dressed entirely in black, his minimalist clothing only broken up by small silver buttons. He was taller than Duo--taller than Heero, even--and lanky almost to the point of painfully thin. A shock of nut-brown hair jaggedly fell into his face, held in a style that could only be augmented with Craft, and obscured one eye. The other, visible one was as bright and brilliant as a Green jewel. Arms folded across his spare chest, he quirked one silent eyebrow at Duo.

The Eyrien hadn't lived and loved with Heero Yuy for over six hundred years, though, and failed to become marginally fluent in silence. Alpha male to alpha male, it was a blatant challenge, even as the other's strength now rolled up against his mind like a curious kitten demanding entrance. If not for the deadly seriousness in his eye, Duo would have named it a dare.

And he never backed down from a dare. He descended from the Sapphire to his Jewel of rank, the Ebon-Gray, and pushed back against his strength and shields with a fierce, firm, brutal shove. One should never make a dare without the balls to back it up. The shields all evaporated under his onslaught, giving Duo preliminary access to the other man's mind. While he was rarely one to engage in something quite as immature as a pissing contest, Relena's imminent conquest of his lover already had Duo's temper throbbing towards the killing edge. The last thing he wanted was to be fucked with by a smug, arrogant Warlord Prince who knew a few parlor tricks about hiding his rank. A beautiful, terrible smile curving his lips, Duo knifed his way under the other Prince's inner barriers--not to hurt or damage, merely to remind this Sapphire boyo who was dominant.

And froze again. Or, rather, the landscape around him froze into an immovable wall of chill Ebon-Gray anger to match his own strength. A small ring of frost leaped into being around their feet, physical evidence of their psychic conflict. The green-eyed Prince's impassive face betrayed nothing of the covert mental battle, and faint amusement--amusement!--flickered across a spear-thread to him alone.

A draw? He chuckled mentally, and it was a frightening sound. No, I rather think it's checkmate. His own beautiful, terrible smile turned Duo's insides to water, that one eye as hard as the ice coating their psychic chessboard. Don't get in my way, Prince... With a slight, mocking bow of his head, he took the arm of the Light-jeweled Queen at his side and steered her towards Relena's festivities.

Outwardly, the Eyrien warrior was calm and composed, but his inner landscape shook violently, whipped by fierce winds of doubt. How could someone of his same rank possibly hide his strength that well? What was he hiding from? The Queen he was with was maybe a Summer-Sky, nowhere near powerful enough to keep a stealthy, manipulative Ebon-Gray Warlord Prince completely in check, even with a Ring. Who really ruled in her territory? Mentally weakened by the confrontation and his jumbled thoughts, all Duo wanted was to curl up in Heero's dark psychic embrace and lose himself in that deep, addictive power until the worst of the trembling stopped.

A feminine moan shattered the air like a physical thing, sending Duo whirling back into the cacophony of the party, into music, voices, and a high, keening wail he knew all too well. Everything inside him twisted sharply, and he staggered the rest of the way out to the deserted balcony and leaned over the marble railing, fighting the urge to be miserably sick.

Two battles lost in as many minutes.

Forehead pressed to the railing, drinking in its rich coolness against his damp skin, Duo squeezed his eyes shut until the spinning sensation abated. His throat burned and his stomach threatened another painful rise, but with nothing further to reject it chose to ball up in a tight knot under his rib cage. He called in a glass of water he had vanished earlier in the day; it was tepid, with the flat tastelessness of room temperature, but a welcome alternative to the sour sickness off his tongue. He swished the water around in his mouth, face moving through the full spectrum of grimaces before spitting it over the railing.

Scrubbing a frustrated hand across his lips, the Eyrien began to pace...slowly at first, but increasingly restless as his stomach settled. He wanted Heero. He needed Heero, but Relena had her hooks buried in his lover. Unable to witness the debacle inside, unable to banish memories of the same scene from his mind, and unable to shake the coldness in that lone green eye...Duo paced faster. The killing edge remained out of sight for him, but his temper grew itchier with every step.

***

Relena straddled his hips, pulling her elaborate skirts up around her waist, leaving little doubt as to who was to be in control of this little encounter. He was hard and ready for her, not because he desired her, but because it was simply a mechanical reaction, one he could demand of his body at will. To be otherwise was to prolong the farce.

Much as he'd known she would, she made a show of it, breathing heavily and groaning like a sow in heat. In truth, she had all the finesse of a child riding a stick horse. Even had he been inclined to enjoy what she offered, the way she ground their hips together, catching flesh against bone, would have been enough to snap his fraying temper. Instead he laid still beneath her, watching her with a cool, slightly bored expression. Every so often her eyes would flick down towards his face, and her ecstatic grimace would become a look of irritation. His lack of reaction kept her from slipping into her little fantasy world where he wore her Consort's ring and doted upon her like a loyal dog. That small dig was the sole pleasure he received.

"Heero," she growled through clenched teeth. "You are enjoying this, aren't you?" A jolt of searing pain cut through him, centering on the Ring of Obedience that surrounded the base of his shaft. He arched his back, his body bucking in protest, but didn't give her the pleasure of hearing him cry out. "I knew you were," she purred with satisfaction, raking her fingernails down his chest in a bloody trail. Her hand started to wrap around his pendant, until his grip closed like a vise on her wrist.

"Don't." Despite the pain she still inflicted upon him using the Ring, his eyes burned with that same, cold rage. "Not unless you truly want to test whether my Black can best the Ring."

She wasn't stupid, and her eyes flashed briefly with fear. She moved her hand away, he released her...and she took her revenge upon his body.

To be continued....

Part 2
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(The Black Jewels trilogy and all associated concepts are (c) Anne Bishop.)