The Black Dahlia (Die Another Day one-shot) Part I
by X-x_Deus Ex_x-X

“I have a proposition for you.”

Jyzal certainly hadn’t expected the crown prince of Halsting himself to be the one to come down with his sentence. The very man who he had tried to kill wouldn’t have good news, Jyzal was sure. And the news had come quickly; he’d only been sitting in this dungeon for a few hours now, stewing in the rotten stench of mold and mildew. He’d been thinking of all the possibilities for this outcome, and none of them were good. If he stayed here and didn’t attempt escape, he would be protected from the wrath of The Agency, but he would be completely at Dahlia’s mercy. He didn’t trust Dahlia as far as he could throw them, especially given that his latest mission had been to assassinate their captain. But then if he escaped (and he did have a high chance of success) he would be forced to go back to Regime and his displeasure. He didn’t stand a good chance there, either.

“If I may, your highness, I’d prefer to die by firing squad.”

Shawn simply folded his arms across his chest and raised a single eyebrow at him, green eyes piercing Jyzal’s gray. Jyzal instantly bristled at the look on the prince’s face. It struck him as condescending, like Shawn was looking down on him. Why on earth was the prince standing there glaring down at him with such a nasty look? What right did he have to judge Jyzal so? Just because the assassin had been caught didn’t mean he was done with his mission. He would never surrender; he didn’t even plan on dying at the hands of this brat prince’s men. If it truly came down to it, he would either escape or kill himself. Allowing Shawn to have the last laugh was simply unacceptable.

“I’m not here to condemn you to death. I am here to offer you a position in my ranks.”

If Jyzal had been drinking anything he would have either choked on it or spit it out. As it was, his eyebrows shot up towards his hairline, his lips parted, and his jaw fell slightly slack. His hands fell straight to the floor, jangling the chains they’d been locked into; Jyzal’s annoyance only flashed briefly across his face before disappearing to allow the shock to return. He’d been sitting with his knees tucked to his chest and his forehead pressed to his thighs with his arms wrapped around his legs in an attempt to get some sleep, but that was long gone. “Pardon?” he finally sputtered after staring at Shawn like he had six heads for a solid few seconds.

“There are conditions, of course,” Shawn continued flatly, without batting an eye. “I will give you a mission to complete within a week. If you succeed, you will be accepted into my ranks as my right hand without any question whatsoever. But if you fail, whether from lack of skill or lack of desire, you will be executed as I see fit.”

That was…unique. But severely flawed. “And when you free me to complete this mission, what’s to say I won’t just take off?” Jyzal sneered. “You’re dumber than you look, your infernal f*cking majesty.”

“I have tracking devices at my disposal. And I wouldn’t test your boundaries, if I were you.”

“Ever occur to you that we have tracking devices, too? Meaning I know how to get around them?”

“Yes, it has. Which is why this is a distance restriction plus a tracker.”

“And so how am I supposed to accomplish this if my target, say, I don’t know, walks out of the f*cking range? I don’t feel like being electrocuted to death by an ankle bracelet.”

“He won’t be going far. You’ll have plenty of range to accomplish this.”

“And how am I ensured that you’ll keep your word?”

“How am I ensured you’ll keep yours?”

At last, Jyzal seemed to have run out of arguments. He certainly hadn’t; this was Jyzal, after all, and the blonde was never truly speechless. But he’d covered all the main points that had immediately sprung to mind…he couldn’t think of anything else right now. His expression moved from shocked to cautious to contemplative in a matter of seconds, and now he was staring down at a particularly fascinating brick on the floor while he thought. Shawn was gracious enough to grant him a few minutes, standing there unmoving while he stared down at his would-be killer. When he didn’t get an answer from Jyzal for several minutes, however, the illusion of patience grew tired, and Shawn was finally driven to prompt,

“Your answer.”

It wasn’t a question, it was a demand, and it made Jyzal’s feathers ruffle all over again. This guy didn’t have the right to speak to him with such authority! Later, Jyzal told himself. Later. He’d show this upstart punk exactly who he was talking to. “Grant me one hour,” he replied after another brief pause. “Then you will have your answer.”

He had returned with another demand, not a request for permission. This irritated the prince, but he curtly nodded once and left the cell, slamming the door behind him. The stone room shook and the iron door quaked with the force of the closure, but all Jyzal did was shake his head. Yet another one who thought they were all that. And it would seem that this one had a temper-although, he already knew that.

He’d been perfect. He hadn’t made a single error. Silent, he’d dropped down from the ceiling, knives already drawn and well-laced with poison. Over his face, a black cloth mask that only revealed his eyes; the rest of his body, garbed in the same. No traces would be left behind. He’d slunk over to the bed, briefly silhouetted against the window, but the room was completely empty save for the slumbering prince. Strength and resolve had flowed through him; the pulse of victory had saturated his blood prematurely, but as he raised the knife, he considered himself victorious. The prince hadn’t woken.

But Nicaise…Nicaise, the little brat. The sound of the door opening and the sudden light flooding the room from the hallway had woken Shawn as easily as a gunshot, and then the look on the boy’s face coupled with his tiny squeak and gasp of fear had prompted the prince to turn over, wide-eyed and startled. But no sooner had Jyzal looked between the two of them than Shawn had moved, leaping out of bed as if he slept in a toaster and tackling Jyzal to the floor. “Well, don’t just stand there, call the guard!” Shawn had snarled, but Nicaise hadn’t moved. The other blonde had been completely frozen in place, staring at Jyzal like he’d seen a ghost.

“I-I know him…”

It was Nicaise’s confession that Jyzal had saved him from a life of human trafficking years ago that had spared Jyzal’s life initially, because Shawn had been prepared to slice him open with his own blade at that moment. Then, Shawn decided he would spare Jyzal, but didn’t take any chances. Locked in a dungeon, Jyzal stood no chance of escaping, and his only chance was Shawn’s mysterious offer. Now, he was faced with a choice: take it, or no?

The benefits of accepting the offer were obvious, as were the drawbacks. He could really only please one person here, and he just needed to choose who it was. He wouldn’t lie, he held no loyalty towards Regime, nor did he have any love in his heart for the man. But at the end of the day, Regime had taken him in, trained him, made him a warrior. His motives were likely less than pure, though. Chances were he’d snatched Jyzal off the street as a child and warped and twisted him to suit his own needs. That was still time spent and a risk taken on Jyzal, though…

If he refused Prince Shawn’s offer, he faced near certain death. The Agency might attempt a rescue mission if they caught wind of it in time, but Jyzal knew he couldn’t rely on them at all. If he accepted the offer, he had something of a veil of protection over him from Shawn and Dahlia, although he wasn’t terribly inclined to trust that, either. If he held no loyalty to Regime, how much loyalty would Shawn truly have to him if he ended up in a rough spot with The Agency? Not only had he failed a mission, he’d been captured and therefore become a security hazard. Hell, even if he managed to escape and get back to them, they still might execute him themselves!

That was it, then, he realized with a soft sigh of resignation. Neither of his choices were good, but the one he needed to take was apparent, at least to him. It was one of the most difficult decisions Jyzal had had to make in his lifetime, and it was a huge risk. Taking it was his only option, though. Sighing again, a cleansing exhale that only halfway succeeded in calming his racing mind a bit, Jyzal took in another deep breath and leaned his head back against the wall. If he could sleep, he would. He’d need every sliver of advantage he could get.

Talon had been stricken from the very moment he saw The Ace of Spades.

Pinned underneath Shawn, looking chagrined and sheepish but no less volatile for it, the pretty blonde’s expression leaned more towards angry at getting caught than afraid for his life. There was no fear in those gray-blue eyes, something Talon could applaud. This agent ought to know he was facing certain death in very swift time, and he likely had no hope. But even when things looked their bleakest, he still stood strong. Talon could feel the sheer power resonating through his body, small and lithe as he was, as he put his hands on him, binding his wrists with metal cuffs and shackling his ankles with the same. Just enough room for him to take short, slipped strides, and not enough to run. Strangely enough, Jyzal seemed to take no offense to the restraints; if anything, his limbs relaxed their tension when put into the chains. He seemed to eagerly lean into Talon’s hands, searching for the intense power could adequately restrain him. How odd…most people fought with all their might to break free. If Talon didn’t know any better, he’d think this agent actually wanted to be restrained. He’d have to keep his guard up.

Once the smaller man was adequately restrained, Talon immediately began to search him, something most people took high offense to. Talon prepared for any potential backlash by resting a knee right between the blonde’s shoulder blades and putting just enough pressure there to threaten, but not break. This time, the agent definitely let out a shuddering breath as a shiver of pleasure ripped through him. He enjoyed this, Talon noted. Moving cautiously but efficiently, Talon stripped the agent of his weapons and means of contacting anyone. Knives, poisons, needles, two cell phones, a few daggers, and a dart gun were all tossed to the side, hitting the floor with metallic clangs and the occasional rustle of plastic. Every now and then, the agent would press against Talon’s knee, and the older man would harshly shove him down again, even going so far as to take a handful of his shining blonde hair and dig his face into the rich carpet. This got a very definitive shiver of appreciation as well as impatient fidgeting (largely concentrated around the hip area,) and Talon couldn’t help but marvel at just how strong this desire to be overpowered was. Had this man perhaps even arranged to be captured in order to feel this? Were they being set up? He was rumored to be The Agency’s notorious Ace of Spades. He was good. Did they have to worry about being set up to look like fools?

Once the Ace of Spades had been stripped of all his weapons, contact means, poisons, and even his belt to prevent any sort of self-harm, Talon hauled him to his feet, surprised at how small and light he was, and shoved at him once as he barked, “Move, filth.” Once again a surprise, the agent simply laughed, and moved right along. Talon was even more suspicious now. This was too easy. He was too cooperative.

Talon had been right to be on his guard. The agent had waited until they were halfway down the steps and completely alone before he suddenly sprang into action, sending an elbow right into Talon’s face. Grunting once at the pain, holding a hand over his nose and mouth and feeling the warm slick of blood trickling from his nose, Talon hooked the agent by an arm as he made to run and slammed him once, twice, three times into the nearest wall. After this, he was fairly well-behaved until Talon threw him into a cell and locked him there, coldly instructing him to wait for Shawn’s verdict. And then he went to tend to his bleeding nose.

A doctor informed him that it was broken, and promptly set it right for him. Thanking her profusely, Talon then returned to Shawn’s bedroom where the prince was sitting with Nicaise. The petite blonde was fussing over his master as Shawn tried to reassure him that he was fine. Softly clearing his throat, gently rapping twice on the open door, Talon waited until Shawn had acknowledged him to step into the room, bow to his prince, and deliver a brief report. Shawn only snickered once at the mention (and appearance) of the broken nose, and told Talon that he would accompany him to any future encounters with their new prisoner. Talon agreed with a bit more readiness than a man who had just gotten his nose smashed in should tastefully display, but both of them chalked it up to Talon’s unwavering loyalty and they each took a few minutes to themselves before heading back down.

To his disappointment, Talon found himself waiting just outside as Shawn spoke with the captive agent for the first time. He could hear every word that was said, though, and caught himself actually enjoying the smooth tone of the blonde agent’s voice. It was a pleasing sound, one that dripped confidence and poise and elegance. Talon was torn between wanting to slap the brat for daring to speak to Shawn with such condescension and disregard and wanting to hear more words from his mouth.

Tasked with standing guard, Talon remained outside the prisoner’s cell as Shawn retreated for the hour he had allotted their prisoner to make his decision. He would confess his heart was pounding with anticipation; it would be a waste to see such a fearsome and skilled warrior perish, not to mention a creature of such great beauty. For his was attractive, even Talon could see that. The way he moved with such serpentine grace suggested an incredible amount of body control that lent itself spectacularly to the agent’s smaller frame. This combination was utterly deadly, but so alluring all the same.

Shawn returned an hour later, as promised. And while inside he was practically bursting with curiosity to hear the agent’s response, Talon only bowed to his prince, greeted, “My Lord,” and opened the cell door for him. Shawn swept into the cell in a flurry of regal grace, and Talon remained in the doorway. Here he would stand until he was called for.

“Your answer?” he heard Shawn say immediately. Cut right to the chase.

“I’ll be in hell before you can start breakfast. If you have a message for the devil, give it to me quick-I’m about to meet him.”

Talon couldn’t help the wave of disappointment that went through him. Well, that was fairly definitive. And such a letdown! He would almost hate to see someone such as The Ace of Spades executed, despite what he had done. It was for the best, though, he told himself. This man was a traitor to the crown who had made an attempt on the life of his prince. He needed to suffer the punishments for such actions, and naturally, the only suitable punishment for such a crime was death. As much of a shame as it would be to lose such a skilled warrior with no hope of turning him for their own, it needed to be done. And Talon would carry out the order himself if Shawn commanded it. Whatever his master’s wish was would be done.

Shawn emerged from the cell sighing and shaking his head. “Walk with me,” he murmured, motioning briefly to Talon. The Temperance Card nodded once to his prince, securely locking the cell before following Shawn as he absently ambled back up through the hallways and stairwells, slowly weaving his way back towards his room.

“I hate to lose him,” Shawn started. Fighting the urge to look at Shawn with eyebrows raised and surprise on his face, Talon instead only asked, “Oh?” trying to hide the surge of hope he felt. Why did he feel such a strong pull towards the Ace of Spades? And more importantly, why was it interfering with what should be unquestioning, unwavering loyalty to the prince?

“We could use him, and use him well. He is quite the soldier, in case you missed it. Not only that, he is directly at Regime’s right hand…he is certainly privy to a lot of information we would gladly kill for. He’s in a wonderful position for us.”

“But he won’t do anything for us,” Talon pointed out carefully. “If anything, he’d turn right back around on us the moment he returned to his master.”

“That’s the thing, though, I’m not sure he would,” Shawn countered. “See, he doesn’t really have anything on us as far as information goes. I’m sure the assassination attempts won’t stop, but will they ever? Anyway, he’s far more use to us alive than dead, and I’d like to at least make an attempt to salvage him. How do you feel about taking on the project?”

It was too good to be true, and yet Talon didn’t question it. “Certainly, my lord,” he said quickly. “The opportunity is a unique one that I truly appreciate. Consider it done.”

It always came as a double-edged sword, though. “I’m assigning this to you because I know you won’t screw it up,” Shawn continued sternly, pausing in his step to turn and fully face Talon. Talon turned as well without hesitation, standing and facing Shawn with utmost respect in his eyes and resonating throughout his entire posture. Whenever Shawn spoke, there was no question that he listened and obeyed.

“It will be done, my lord.”

“And if you determine at any point that you cannot be successful, you are obliged to tell me immediately. We cannot afford to waste time or resources on hopeless causes.”

“I understand, my lord.”

“Good. You have your orders; I trust your judgment. Whatever means necessary, consider approved. Your discretion is advised and encouraged. Use it wisely.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are dismissed. I suggest you start your project.”

Talon swept into a low bow before Shawn as the prince turned on his heel and walked away. The moment Talon had fully straightened again he was moving back towards the dungeons, outwardly displaying nothing but inwardly downright giddy over his luck. He couldn’t believe it had all worked out so perfectly! He had a chance here! But could he persuade the snarky blonde to see things his way? Well…he had time. Without hesitation, Talon unlocked the cell containing their unruly guest and stepped inside, eager to behold the creature that had captured his attention as surely as they had captured his body.

He was every bit as proud and regal as Shawn, and he held himself with that same “holier than thou” attitude. But good Lord was he stunning! Now that Talon actually took a moment to look at him, he was beautiful. He looked at Talon as he entered with a haughty, judgmental gaze that was clearly sizing him up. Upon recognizing him as the man whose nose he had broken before, though, the blonde’s cold aloofness disintegrated into an impish sneer.

“Shame, I thought I messed that pretty face up very nicely.”

“We’ve got good doctors,” Talon replied evenly. “You’ll have to try harder next time.”

“Mm. Pity there likely won’t be a ‘next time.’ Between the chains and the few minutes I have left to live, I assume I won’t be getting near your face again anytime soon.”

“Well, you could try asking nicely. See where that gets you.”

“And if I asked very sweetly for you to let me live?”

“Afraid I’m not the man to talk to. That would be the man you just tried to kill.”

“That’s unfortunate. Well, looks like I’m stuck with you, then. Don’t suppose you’ve got any good whiskey for a man’s last drink?”

“See, that’s the funny thing, it may not be your last drink.”

That got his attention. Sitting up a little straighter, ears pricked and eyes slightly wider and fixed on Talon, the Ace of Spades shifted a little to scoot back and press his back flush against the wall and cross his legs at the knee. “That’s interesting,” he whispered, nodding once. “Do tell.”

Talon felt the tiniest of smiles play at his lips. He had this pretty thing on the hook; he’d gone for the bait and bitten. Now to reel him in. “See, Shawn isn’t much of a person for wasting. And he’s loathing to waste talent such as yours. He sees a lot of potential in you and a lot of opportunity for you. But obviously you’d need to change sides for that to happen.”

This certainly had caught the agent’s ear. He was clearly contemplating, expressions shifting as he thought in what could have been a telling display if Talon knew him better. Weighing the pros and cons. Talon let him ponder, folding his arms across his chest and leaning back against the wall. But even in this relaxed posture, he was still ready for anything with his shoulders thrown back, feet square, and eyes sharp and focused. For Talon, this was relaxed. And relax he might as well, seeing as he had a lot of time whereas the blonde in front of him did not.

He was tempted, Talon realized, watching the conflict dance across the blonde’s face. The offer was tantalizing, teasing, taunting him every moment, begging him to accept. But pride and paranoia would get the better of him on this one, and this was something Talon was quite sure of. Talon truly hadn’t expected any sort of agreement so soon. It was good to see the seeds being sown in his heart anyway.

“And tell me why I should risk my hide for your high-and-mighty false majesty, huh?”

Ah, in the end, that bitterness won out! And the scathing words directed more at Shawn than at Talon had the knight fuming instantly. Crossing the room in a flash, Talon’s hand closed around the blonde’s throat and slammed him back into the wall. He wasn’t quite snarling yet, but his brow had creased with anger and his lips had severely turned down. “Don’t you ever speak of His Highness that way again, or you may bid any chance you have at escaping your fate good-bye!” Talon snapped. “He has been gracious enough to grant you a second chance even after you spurned his first. I would not be such an ungrateful little whelp if I were you!”

To his surprise, the blonde just laughed. “Tell me what else I am,” he breathed. At first, Talon was confused; then, he felt the pressure at his hand from the blonde leaning into it and remembered his observations from earlier. Oh, punishing this one was going to be difficult! Very slowly releasing his grip, glowering down at the blonde like he was the devil himself, Talon eyed the Ace of Spades with something unreadable in his gaze.

“What’s your name?” he finally asked as the blonde pouted at the loss of contact.

“Yours first,” the agent countered, a hint of an impish grin on his face and a purr in his voice.

“You may call me Talon.”

“Talon…mm, lovely name. Is it mine to scream in moments of torture?”

“It can be if you give me yours.”

“I go by Jyzal. But I also answer to ‘slut’ just fine if you’re looking for a nickname.”

How telling. Not just pain, but degradation as well. And it didn’t matter who it came from. The eager shine in his eyes and sultry tone completely gave it away. Shameless. One this good at what he did wouldn’t dare give away such information if he didn’t want it to leave him. Nodding slowly, Talon folded his arms across his chest and let that sink in for a second before he finally spoke again, telling Jyzal, “Well, then…I’ll keep that in mind.”

He didn’t mention just how badly he wanted to test that little nickname…and his new information.

As suspected, torture had gotten him nowhere. Every infliction of pain earned either a withering glare and a, “You can do better!” or a joyous, wordless cry of elation and glee that marked success. Within minutes of Talon’s experimentation beginning, Jyzal was sporting a raging erection, one he made no effort to hide. Every now and then, Talon would just stop and step back and sigh, wondering how on earth a creature could get so f*cked up as to enjoy this. He’d switched the chains around Jyzal so that the blonde was forced to stand against the wall with his hands above his head and his feet just barely touching the floor. The strain on his shoulders was evident in the way the muscles shivered every now and then, but Jyzal only fought against them when he didn’t feel it enough. He was intentionally aggravating the pain he already felt, because clearly it wasn’t cutting it. And the blood snaking down his torso wasn’t enough, either. Talon had been meticulous in his injuries, preferring more finely-controlled things like knives in just the right spots to inflict maximum effect with minimum damage. Jyzal had clearly appreciated it, Talon noted as the blonde squirmed. But the fact remained that it had been two hours and nothing had come of his efforts.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Talon confessed to Shawn as he stood guard over the prince as he enjoyed a quiet lunch in relative solitude. Shawn had asked how the first day had gone, and while Talon had hesitated to confess his failure he knew that the prince would understand. Why else would Shawn have entrusted the Ace of Spades to him if he didn’t trust his judgment? Shawn understood that these things took time and didn’t happen overnight, and he also understood that there was a high chance of failure. That didn’t make either of the two men happy to admit to or hear about it respectively.

“Did any sort of pain seem to affect him differently?” Shawn asked absently, as if musing over the upcoming weather.

“Only in varying degrees of pleasure,” Talon sighed. “He didn’t even bat an eye at standard bladework, but he very much enjoyed the more refined knife cuts. That pleasure was…ahem, quite evident. He’s quite the little masochist. He absolutely loves to be hit. Burning seems to tread the line for him, but it didn’t seem to deter his arousal at all.”

Shawn simply snorted at this and took another bite of the steak in front of him. “Doesn’t surprise me that my brother would warp a human to such extent to make him more resistant to torture. Then he’s got no fear even if the agent is captured.” Pausing briefly, Shawn nodded slowly and waved a hand once at Talon to let him know that he wasn’t done. Talon waited patiently, biding his time; he knew Shawn wasn’t finished long before the prince ever made his gestures. Chewing and swallowing, Shawn finally continued, “how does he respond to forced submission?”

“With even more enthusiasm. He’s one that will rage against you solely to earn the pleasure of being forced back down.”

“So should I ask how humiliation and degradation will go over, or do I already know the answer?”

“You know the answer.”

“Hmph.” Returning to his food, Shawn fell silent, and Talon did in turn. Shawn was thinking now, which was always dangerous, but more so if he was interrupted.

“So reverse your intentions.”

Talon raised an eyebrow at Shawn at the less-than-clear statement. Smiling a little in some sort of sick bemusement, Shawn elaborated, “The pain becomes the reward rather than the punishment. If we cannot force him to come to us…we will addict him to us.”

Shawn’s strategy was nothing short of genius. The next day Talon went back with this plan in mind, and it only took an hour for him to have Jyzal eating out of his hand. Jyzal seemed either completely oblivious to Talon’s objections, or so addicted to the sensations that he couldn’t possibly resist. Without shame, he divulged information, piece after piece, caught in a haze of agony that he gladly swam in. When Talon left him for the day, he was curled quite content naked and bleeding, but very happy nonetheless. It sent a shiver down Talon’s spine to recall just how eager Jyzal was for the pain, but it had gotten the job done.

Shawn was quite pleased to see Talon’s results, and told him to keep it up until Jyzal had gotten completely hooked. Talon greeted this assignment with a mixture of dread and excitement. On the one hand, it was stunning to see Jyzal’s body arch in pleasure, the look on his face euphoric as he bathed in the excruciating pains Talon wrought upon him. But knowing that it was such gruesome pain that brought that ecstasy to his face…it made Talon squirm.

A week and a half later, and Shawn was starting to be intrigued. Hearing Talon’s reports of his sessions with Jyzal had apparently piqued his interest, and it was no secret why. Shawn very rarely took a lover, and it was for everyone’s own good. He liked to leave his partners broken and bleeding, all the worse for ever daring to slip into bed with the prince. But if Shawn could somehow find someone who enjoyed this pain, it could work out a whole lot better for everyone. Everyone except Talon, of course. The last couple times Shawn had sat in on one of their sessions, hidden from Jyzal’s view, Talon had caught the lustful glances Shawn threw the pale body up against the wall. He wished he could somehow control the surges of jealousy that would send their spikes through his heart-hadn’t Shawn given him this beauty for his own? Hadn’t he said that Jyzal was Talon’s project, and he would be left to his own devices with him? Talon had been working on Jyzal for over two weeks now, and it was clear that the two of them had a working rapport. Dare Talon hazard it, but he was hoping that this one might actually stay his, even after his assignment was completed.

The very next day, Shawn showed up just as Talon was unlocking the cell door. “You don’t need to do anything with him today,” Shawn said dismissively, gliding right into the cell without even a backward glance at Talon. Surprised, the brunette simply stood in the open doorway for a moment, keys in his hand, before a soft sigh escaped him and he softly closed the door. He would steadfastly adhere to his duty, and he would remain outside and wait for his prince. But he didn’t think he could take hearing someone else lay claim to the body he’d, admittedly, taken quite a shine to.

A few hours later, Talon’s head was ready to explode. Shawn finally emerged from the cell after much noise from the interior, looking spent and almost giddy as he finished riding the high that the sex had given him. To Shawn, it should appear that Talon had never moved, standing off to the side of the door with his feet at shoulder’s width and his hands clasped in front of him, patiently waiting for his overlord to give him his next orders. Beneath that stoic exterior, though, was a splitting headache and a throbbing heart. Talon hadn’t realized how much he’d been enjoying-and looking forward to-finally being able to reap the rewards of his efforts. He ought to be thrilled that Shawn was so pleased, he scolded himself. If the prince was happy with the fruits of his labor, was not his purpose fulfilled? Somehow, the thought didn’t make Talon feel any better as he greeted Shawn with a shallow bow, more for formality than anything else.

“He has agreed to join us. You’ve done well, Temperance.”

Talon could only bear to give Shawn a small smile and nod once. “Thank you, my lord. It is my pleasure, as always.”

Smiling to Talon again, still too high on the fun he’d just had, Shawn told him, “This concludes your assignment. Your duty here is done. Take a day or two to rest, and come see me within the next three days for your next assignment.”

“Yes, sir.”

Shawn left the dungeon then, his step relaxed and his demeanor perfectly satisfied. It took Talon much longer to compose an acceptable front and leave the dungeon as well. His mind was swirling too much to allow him to look happy with the outcome of the day, but he at least managed to look neutral. Thankfully, he encountered no one on his way back up to his room. He retired for the evening, unable to banish thoughts of that graceful, lithe body and cries of pleasure from his mind.

Throughout the next few months, Talon got to know Jyzal as the blonde flitted about the palace. Most of the time, he accompanied Shawn like a well-trained puppy, constantly begging at his heels for a treat of some sort. Shawn rewarded him well, spoiling him with painstaking attention to him dealt in the form of crippling blows, snarled insults, and sex so rough it was likely a crime. And Talon watched. He kept an eye on Jyzal, making sure he was comfortable at all times and protected from any with ill will towards him. The rumors flew, of course, but at least Jyzal was safe from their wicked poison.

It was difficult to manage, but finally, Talon managed to move on from Jyzal. Yet another one that had fallen into the prince’s lap and earned the privilege of his favor; this was something that Talon ought to be used to. But for some unknown reason, this actually bothered Talon. Normally, he would be quite pleased to see Shawn so happy. The prince’s happiness was his own, after all. Jyzal, though…Jyzal was haunting him.

One quiet morning, Talon was sitting in the castle’s armory, picking out a sword to use to train for the day. He had no idea where his sparring partner was, but he was certain the other Dahlia agent would show up soon enough. The Wheel of Fortune Card tended to be late anyway, but when he finally showed up sh*t usually hit the fan.

Talon was experimentally spinning a sword in his hand when the door opened and closed behind him. Without bothering to look, he knew who it was: the footfalls were a dead giveaway. “Weren’t you supposed to be at that meeting with His Highness?”

“I was.” Jyzal nonchalantly strolled over and picking up a sword of his own, twirling it once before bringing it to bear, considering it for a moment, and then nodding. “Aren’t you supposed to be training?”

“My partner isn’t here yet. What’s your excuse?”

“I got bored.”

Snorting softly with laughter, Talon spun the sword one more time before deciding it would do. Well…they were both here. Perhaps a round or two to take some tension off, and by then Talon’s sparring partner should have arrived and someone would be looking for Jyzal. “Once around, then?” Talon offered, nodding his head at the wide-open sparring ground. A grin immediately split Jyzal’s face.

“Ah, I thought you’d never ask!”

They eagerly sprung into the swordplay with wild abandon, each movement precise and calculated. The swords were dulled, but would still leave a nice welt and an ugly bruise if they happened to come smashing into you. Each warrior moved differently, but efficiently and with their own personal style. Talon preferred a more direct, more powerful style of fighting, whereas Jyzal liked something a bit more dance-like in elegance and movement. Jyzal clearly enjoyed the fight, often grinning or even laughing as they moved back and forth across the padded floor. More than once, Talon found himself marveling at just how perfect a warrior Jyzal truly was. He’d been right in fighting for his life, he mused, sweeping his sword up from underneath himself and knocking Jyzal’s blade to the side. An opening popped up then: a very narrow one, one that Jyzal had left only because this wasn’t a real it fight and he was just here to have fun, but an opening nonetheless. Talon took it without hesitation, straight-out punching Jyzal across the face and announcing, “Dead!”

But to his surprise, Jyzal didn’t bemoan his defeat. Instead, as the blonde stumbled back, the first thing he blurted out was, “Oh, God almighty, hit me again!”

Talon’s control shattered.

One thing led to another, and before he knew it he was dragging Jyzal closer to himself by the throat, crushing his lips against the blonde’s. Jyzal tasted like sweet berries and cream, a taste wholly unexpected but wonderful nonetheless. And then the blonde was tossing aside his weapon with a metallic clatter, winding his arms around Talon’s neck, pressing into his body and grinding against him and moaning softly as he raked his fingers through Talon’s short-cropped auburn hair and Talon was returning all the favors-

With a huge effort that appeared to take immense physical exertion, Talon yanked away from Jyzal, panting like he’d just run a mile. “I apologize,” he said immediately, tentatively raising a hand to his lips and trying to brush away the tingle that lingered there. “I shouldn’t have done that-you are with Shawn, it was highly inappropriate of me-”

Looking away as he was, he didn’t see Jyzal move. But the next thing he knew he had lips against his again and the heat of that body close to his own. Jyzal was being very clear in his intentions and desires with a hand sneaking up under his shirt and another hand making some very forward and very shameless grabs, each leaving their own trail of heat and electricity in their wake. Talon’s first instinct was to shove Jyzal back and pin him against the wall despite how good it felt, snatching up both of his wrists and slamming them against the padding right next to Jyzal’s head. Shame the walls were cushioned for the safety of those sparring, otherwise Jyzal would be moaning and bucking already with the sharp sting of the pain…

“I want you so bad.”

The breathy moan that came between them when they broke apart was all it took to convince Talon. Without care for who might see them or what they might think, Talon seized Jyzal’s wrist and immediately began leading him upstairs to his bedroom. Most of the important people were still in that very meeting that Jyzal had fled from anyway, and the rest of the people who were left wouldn’t dare open their mouths. Talon stuck to lesser-used staircases and back hallways, though, just to be safe. And the moment he slammed the door to his bedroom and locked it, Jyzal was pressed to the heavy wood, pinned at the hips and the shoulders by Talon’s body itself as the larger man immediately dove into the pretty blonde who had been stolen from him all those months ago.

It wasn’t fair, Talon thought to himself as he tasted sin and fire. It wasn’t fair that some people could have it all while others did nothing but sacrifice. Shawn may be the prince, but how much did Talon truly believe in one person’s right to something over another just because of the hand life had dealt them? Thoughts muddied by lust and passion, Talon tried to ignore the less-than-kind musings that threatened him with their poison. He didn’t really mean any of it. It all came from just spur-of-the-moment sort of thinking. He wasn’t quite in his right state of mind. Jyzal had simply put a spell over him.

They came undone at the seams with each other. Jyzal’s loud cries could have wakened the dead, but Talon didn’t care. The way Jyzal’s body fit so perfectly in his hands, one would think they were made for this. Looking at the bruises that littered Jyzal’s body only served to make Talon’s mind grow sick and weary again, and so he didn’t. He kept his eyes closed as he deeply kissed Jyzal, aware of the assassin’s dislike for affection but not caring. He just kept kissing Jyzal, claiming his mouth and keeping his placated with touches and caresses meant for no other purpose than to bring ripples of pleasure. Jyzal responded enthusiastically to these, whining and squirming and moaning as Talon worked his body. It was something that the older agent was very good at, Jyzal would give him that: the man certainly knew his way around another man’s body. When Talon finally came to know him as Shawn had so many countless times, Jyzal found himself kneading at the bedsheets, still whining and squirming and impatient but in love all at the same time. His eyes were clouded with lust and his motions were desperate, driven only by the pleasure and the sensations being lavished upon him. Talon didn’t think he’d ever seen anything more beautiful.

It was over far too quickly. It always was. And that was Talon’s only regret. If he could have made it last forever, he gladly could. God knew he could sit and watch Jyzal all day, hopelessly caught in the throes of pleasure that constantly threatened to consume him. The way the blonde moved, the sounds he made, just the very presence he had was nothing short of intoxicating. Talon was hooked already. Even though no matter how many times Jyzal begged, Talon wouldn’t abuse him like Shawn did, he still liked to feel Jyzal grasping at him and hear his breathy whispers that were pleas for more. And then Talon would kiss him to stop the negativity and trail his hands over Jyzal’s perfectly-sculpted body and all would be right with the world again. Even now, as Talon fell to the bed with a contented sigh, Jyzal, in the manner of a neglected kitten, turned over and began to physically beg for his lover’s attention with kisses and touches meant at first to coax but then as the game wore on meant to infuriate, annoy, and provoke. Growling, Talon settled for wrapping an arm squarely around Jyzal’s middle, pinning his arms to his sides and then pressing the blonde close to his body. Talon had had his fill; Jyzal would just have to accept that.

The cuddling lasted for no longer than a minute, much to Talon’s dismay. After that time had expired, Jyzal had managed to worm his way out of Talon’s embrace and crawl out of the bed, leaving his lover frowning and wanting in the expanse of lovely satin sheets. “Really?” Talon said dryly as Jyzal began to gather his clothes, wincing a little as he bent over.

“Really,” Jyzal answered easily, finally locating everything and beginning to dress. “I just don’t like cuddling. What can I say?”

“Something to ease my offense and heartache,” Talon returned dryly, propping himself up on an elbow as he shamelessly indulged in staring at Jyzal’s wonderful body. The bruises, as always, sent a spike of anger through him. But, if Jyzal asked for it by name and was happy with the treatment, Talon supposed he couldn’t really say anything, no matter what objections he raised. Jyzal had adored their own peaceful, gentle, sweet love-making just fine. Why, then, did Shawn have to abuse Jyzal, and why did Jyzal enjoy it so much that he kept going back? The thoughts would continue to plague Talon over the next few months. “Come now, have you no mercy for my fragile heart?”

“None,” Jyzal chuckled, now trying to pick up all the belongings that had spilled out of his pockets when his pants had been torn off and tossed to the floor. Phone, keys, wallet, miscellaneous items such as a pack of playing cards, a few throwing knives, and a couple vials of poison, the usual…

Sighing, shaking his head, Talon smiled nevertheless. He’d gotten to experience the thrill of bedding Jyzal. He couldn’t really be too upset about being deprived of some post-orgasm cuddling. And besides, there was always next time. “I’ll have to have you make it up to me,” Talon added with a smile that could be heard in his voice. Jyzal laughed at this, and Talon suddenly thought to himself, I’ve done it now, haven’t I? This is either going to be amazing or it’ll kill me.


The next time they saw each other was awkward, naturally. Talon had been trying to come to terms with the likely possibility that his and Jyzal’s secret tryst had been a one-time thing. They’d gotten lucky. They hadn’t been seen or heard, and that was quite a feat in these parts. This castle was the sort of castle in which the walls had ears and everybody talked. There was no such thing as a secret. They’d gotten away with murder.

Jyzal, on the other hand, had been immensely turned on by the danger presented by the situation. Not just the taboo of the prince’s most valued assassin sleeping with someone else, but the fact that they could potentially face lethal consequences if they were found out. The moment Jyzal saw Talon he lunged at him, dragging both of them into an alcove hidden behind a tapestry on the wall. Talon’s first instinct was to reach out and grab Jyzal and pull him close and kiss him and put his hands all over him, but he forced the reaction away. He had to be the one to think here, because it was unlikely that Jyzal was going to. The blonde tended to be so devil-may-care when it came to things like this; it was all the fun and the danger and the thrill. Talon was actually surprised by this, given how good an assassin Jyzal was. Normally, the Death Card was much more calculating and much less emotion-driven.

“We can’t do this,” Talon gasped as Jyzal nipped at his throat. He received a soft whine in return, more desperate grabs, and more kisses. Huffing slightly in annoyance, miffed that he wanted to give in so badly and yet he knew he couldn’t, Talon pushed Jyzal away with a bit more force and hissed, “Do you want to get us killed?! If Shawn finds out, you know it’ll be the end of both of us!” Sighing then, seeing the look on Jyzal’s face move from lustful glee to disappointed hurt, Talon shook his head and reached back out to take Jyzal’s hands. “Look, Jyzal…I love being with you. I’m so happy when we’re together. But the consequences would be dire if we were to be found out, and I could never bring that upon you. Perhaps I also act out of selfishness: I could never bear to see you taken away from me. Please, know that I only act out of the compassion I have for you.”

“What if I don’t care?” Jyzal whispered back, bold as ever. “Shawn would never kill either of us, even if he did find out. He might be cruel about it, yes, but he’d never separate us so finally. Trust me. I know the man after sleeping with him for months.” Leaning up, Jyzal placed a kiss against Talon’s lips, one that was gladly accepted. Talon could feel himself melting; God, he wanted to give in so badly! His heart screamed for Jyzal, he wanted nothing more than to have him in his arms for forever-how could he do this to both of them? They’d be in torment every moment they spent apart. They couldn’t be together, but they also couldn’t stay away.

His resolve waned with every point Jyzal made. Talon wanted to trust that Shawn would never do anything so rash and emotional and thoughtless as to kill either of them. He also wanted to trust that Jyzal spoke the truth and knew what he was doing. Somewhere deep down he knew it was nothing but weakness, but he wanted so badly to believe those words and taste happiness once again. He’d spoken the truth to Jyzal before: he was happier than he’d ever been when he held Jyzal close against his body, felt his heat, and knew him intimately. It was taking every ounce of strength within his body to deny Jyzal, and the blonde was only chipping away at it.

“I don’t want to see you hurt,” Talon finally protested after a long pause, but the words were half-hearted at best. Jyzal only snorted and kissed Talon’s neck, clearly intending to muddy his lover’s mind even more. Talon’s eyes fluttered shut and his head fell back, granting Jyzal more access. That mouth was nothing short of sinful.

“Love, I’m indestructible!” Jyzal laughed, allowing his teeth to scrape the sensitive skin over Talon’s jugular vein. The brunette released a short, quiet moan of appreciation, and tangled his fingers in Jyzal’s hair.

“If you say so,” Talon whispered. Jyzal took this as permission; with a grin and a little squeak of joy, he took Talon by the hand and led him up to his bedroom.

It was so easy to forget that they were only human.