Title: Quartet
Author: Kelandris the Mad
Fandom: View Askewniverse, Dogma (post)
Pairing: Jay/Silent Bob/Mercy
Rating: NC-17. Language, sex and gore.
Status: posted 2001
You must send an email to me and let me know where you intend to archive. Private archiving allowed as long as you don't intend to publish. Behave.
Email address for feedback: Kelandris
Series/Sequel: I guess this is part IV of the trilogy--this happens after Feather.
Disclaimers: All characters belong to Kevin Smith and the View Askewniverse. If I really get into this, I probably will too. Or at least go into hock when I walk into a video store, go into rut, and buy all the DVDs at once.
Notes: Oh, what havoc an innocent little angel feather has wrought. Jay and Bob get kidnapped, Mercy has a Bartleby moment, Metatron gets lost. And if anyone can come up with a better title...
Summary: Bob and Jay are kidnapped, and Metatron must find help to set them free.
Warnings: Tons, instability abounds. Graphic sexual situations, including m/m sex and HET sex; graphic descriptions of death and violence; adult themes (suicide, child abuse, kidnapping). Enter if you dare--here there be tygers.

by Kelandris the Mad

"Now, boys, it's nothing against you personally," the man said, gesturing them inside with the gun. "I'm just going to have to hold you for a brief while. You do understand, don't you?"

Smiling, he closed the door, leaving them in the dark. They heard the click of the lock, and the man's steps walking slowly away. He had the nerve to whistle.

"Shit, Bob, what do we do now?" The blond's voice held only fear, all attitude stripped by the blackness.

"We wait," said Bob grimly. He pulled Jay close, leaning his head against his shoulder. "We wait..."

Some patterns start small, unfurling themselves in tiny spaces just beyond vision. Even the simplest pattern becomes complex, though, given the right amount of time. This pattern started unfolding the day Jay found the feather. Or maybe before; maybe they'd been marked ever since Bethany found them, and told them they were prophets. Maybe before that, from the very moment they were born, the very second they were conceived. It made Bob's mind reel, but he had nothing better to do than try to figure out where, exactly, things went so horribly wrong. From these small things oaks arise, furling great branches to the sky. From these small collections of dust, planets form.

Bob thought he started seeing the pattern growing large about a week after he'd first met Mercy...


"Hey, dude, who's that guy?" Jay asked, nudging him out of the comic book. He looked up, scanning the mall. He picked out the man Jay was referring to instantly--tall, jet-haired, a vague Oriental cast to the eyes, black collarless suit. He was staring at him just as intently. Bob cocked his head, shrugging, narrowing his eyes, and the man across the mall from the comic shop burst out laughing, turning away to walk towards the escalator.

"Okay, that was fuckin' weird," Jay said in an undertone. The proprietor of the shop drifted over, staring at them. Bob saw him, nodded, and walked to the counter, buying the comics they held, and they walked out of the store, still reading. He had nearly managed to forget the guy staring at them when he saw him again, looking down from the upper levels. This time, as soon as Bob looked up, he walked away. But it nagged at Bob.

Over the course of the next week, Bob caught him several times. Sometimes Jay saw him first, sometimes Bob was the only one, but always, he never got close enough to talk to the man. They started taking alternate routes home, staying at friends' cribs, leaving the area--and he always tracked them down. Never speaking, outside of that first initial laugh; just there. Perpetually, naggingly, *presently* there.

Then one day, an entire day went by without seeing him once. They were both still twitchy over it, but as much as they looked, they didn't spot him. That night they were supposed to stay with Trish, but being creatures of habit, got on the bus for home, realizing it as soon as they got off the bus. As the bus pulled away, Bob shrugged at Jay, then froze. Over his shoulder was the man in the black suit. And eight of his friends.

He had to hand it to his blond boy--Jay fought like three guys twice his size. Four of the men went down, but four were left, four who didn't seem to care how much they hurt either of them, or for that matter, *were* hurt themselves. They were more than enough, in the end, to conk them both cold. And when they woke up, they were alone with the man in black, who now held a gun trained unerringly on them.

"It's like this, dear boys. We've taken some of your blood, and..." He kept talking, but Bob tuned out in shock. He looked down, and saw a small slash across his index finger. He grabbed Jay's hands, turning them over. Same slash, right across the pad.

"What the hell?" Jay asked weakly.

"Let me restate," the man said. "Your blood was necessary. We're...cloning you, let's say. I won't bother to detail the mechanics of it, you wouldn't understand them anyway."

Both Bob and Jay looked up, insulted.

"Meanwhile," the man said, "we have to make sure they...turn out properly." He pointed behind them with the gun. "Be good boys and open that door."

They turned, looking around them for the first time. It was small, this room, and the door they'd been told to open was smaller. Solid metal, going slightly to rust, stenciled across the top with two words that had faded to unintelligible streaks of olive.

Jay turned. "You think I'm gonna open that fucking door, you got another--"

Still smiling, the man fired at his feet, the shot chipping through the floor.

"I can just shoot you now."

Bob opened the door, barely breathing. It swung open with a creaking groan.

"Now, boys, it's nothing against you personally," the man said, gesturing them inside with the gun. "I'm just going to have to hold you for a brief while. You do understand, don't you?"


Bob did, now, or as much as he understood any of this. He even saw how it would go from here. For whatever reason, they were being cloned, and then the man would come back and kill them, and that would be it. Bang, bang. End of Bob. End of Jay.

Jay whimpered, and Bob held him closer, letting his lips rest on the top of Jay's head.

"Rest now," he whispered. "You're safe for a while."

"Yeah," Jay said. "At least until that fuck comes back with the gun."

To that, Bob could say nothing, and just leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes.


**I've lost track of the days again...**

Mercy Wallis sat up on the window seat in the library, then, before she could talk herself out of it, stood and took several steps back. She took a deep breath, suddenly realizing that she'd begun depriving herself of oxygen as well. She took another, enjoying the feeling of full lungs; starving tissues suddenly getting their fill...then closed her eyes in exasperation.

**Good idea, you dismissing the staff, you idiot. How long has it been since you've eaten?**

Frustrated with herself, she stalked out of the library to the back of the house, where she walked into the still, silent kitchen. She'd dismissed everyone for two weeks, and look at what happened...she hadn't entered this place once, save for drinks of water. Just water. Grimacing, she jerked the chrome fridge open and peered inside.

**Of course. No staff, no shopping. No big surprise there, Mercy-my-girl.**

The woman stood for a moment, captured by a rare shaft of English sunlight glancing through the window. She caught her reflection staring puzzled back at her and gave a short laugh. She looked at a wraith-thin woman with long black hair, cascading in tangles, pouring down her back, standing in a black top that had seen better days, dust-covered jeans and bare feet. She had that wan and useless look about her now, as if she'd spent too many days with too many cigarettes waiting for her turn on the runway.

It wasn't that she was beautiful; she was spare and angular from forehead to feet, and at her best, her long face could be called handsome. But she thought she possessed a certain grace of feature, a certain charm of line and plane, which combined to give the whole a sense of elegance. From her arching black brows to her deep violet eyes to her long-fingered hands, she caught and held the eye, at least for a few moments.

Save for now. Now, she thought, she just looked haggard. Shaking it off, she went to the cupboards. She pulled down a tightly sealed black canister from the top shelf, marked with arcane gold printing. Cracking the seal, she dug for a spoon in a side drawer, then looked around for a glass. She grabbed one off the counter, filled it with tap water, and stirred several spoonfuls of rusty-dark powder into the glass. The water took on a brownish, opaque tinge, and the smell of the dehydrated blood hit her senses. All at once, both hands were around the glass and she was drinking in huge gulps, downing the glass in three swallows.

**Hmm. Somehow it tasted good this time. Maybe you should make another glass?**

Then the spasms hit. She dropped like a stone to the tiled floor, curled protectively around her center, gritting her teeth. It felt like some large spidery appendage had curled tightly around her stomach--she was alternately starving and nauseous, and wracked with pain. She fought back moans, staring out at the back of her English estate at eye-level--if she'd been a snake or a mouse, that was. She fought to keep her breathing even, and slowly, the feeling of being gripped and broken passed. Shaking, she rose from the floor. Hands trembling, she fixed another glass of the rusty blood powder. She drank it more slowly this time, and as a result only had to bend over, resting her head against the counter while she concentrated on keeping her breathing even.

It was in this position that Denny found her.

"Sweet God, girl, I leave you for a week and see what happens!"

She closed her eyes for a moment, then turned her head to the side. Of all the people who could have found her, face down in the kitchen, she was obscurely glad it was Denny and not, say, the cook or her chauffeur.

"Denny," she whispered. "Come by to check up on me?"

He scowled. "No, you silly git, I came by because I knew you'd pull something stupid like this." He walked up and threw something that sloshed nicely on the counter.

"Fresh stuff for you, my lass, since I know you won't have gone out recently." His voice dripped with irony, but she took it, took every word of it, because what was lying on the counter was...

"Blood," she said, knowing the truth of it. Wondering, she raised her eyes to his.

"Oh, don't look so shocked." He waved a hand in dismissal, then used it to brush back a fall of his dark blond hair. "You think I don't know where I can get you what you need? I've lived here five *years*, love--be sensible!"

"I try..."

Her hands curled reflexively over his gift, and she stroked the plastic, blinking.

He grimaced again, but followed it with a smile.

"Oh, by all means, do indulge. I'll just be in the library if you need me. Do call if you need help out of the kitchen." And he walked out the door, popping in only one more time to waggle a stern finger at her.

"I *mean* it, Merse---you call me if you're having trouble walking!"

Well, she'd have to be half-dead to have trouble walking, but she appreciated his gift nonetheless. The warmth of it filled starved tissues, and she turned to the sink, drinking glass after glass of water. Then she stood there, forearms braced on the counter, hanging her head.

**All right, let's analyze this. Charis is gone. She's not coming back. You threatened her life, so let's just say she's officially left you and let's move on, all right? People break up all the time and they live through it. You can too.**

Sighing, she plunged her hair under the tap, running warm water through the black strands until the whole silken mass was saturated.

**Next. Going to New Jersey half-starved was not your wisest move. And you could have killed that boy.**

She slid her hands through her wet hair, wringing it out. Moving faster than the human eye could follow, she bent at the waist and swung her hair out and back, drying it instantly. Then she clung to the counter.

**Oooh. Dizzy...**

Splashing more water on her face, she pressed a towel to her face, sighing into it. **Not that he wasn't more than agreeable about helping me. Dear gods, yes. Such a mouth on him, too...**

Carefully, feeling steadier now, she washed out the glasses, threw away the empty plasma bags, wiped down the counters.

**Last. I really need to go into town, get more blood. I need much more than I've been getting.**

Putting the towel down, she nodded. **Everyone agreed? Wonderful. I'm so happy.** She poured one last glass of water, turned to go, and there was a knock at the door.

Frowning, she walked past the library, seeing Denny rise from his chair.

"Don't bother, Den, I'll get it." She walked slowly down the short entry-hall, opened the door, and stared.

"What, you expected your dear departed love?" came the slightly slurred reply. A man stood there, black hair trailing over his high forehead, wearing a black sweatshirt top and jeans.

"Come on," he said, "we have to go."

She didn't move. She trusted her house protections--after all, she'd set them up--but what stood on her doorstep, ruffled hair and all, was not human. She cocked her head, smiling wryly.

"And you would be?"


The glass slipped from Mercy's suddenly nerveless fingers, shattering and spraying her feet with water and shards.

"What," she said slowly, distinctly, "does the Voice of the One True want with me?"

He scowled. "You might be the only one to save the prophets. We can't find 'em."

"And where do you usually keep prophets, then?"

He stepped closer to the door. "Not *prophets*, my dear. *The* prophets. I b'lieve you've met Bob."

If she could have dropped the glass again, she would have. Her fingers twitched as she turned away from the door.

"Denny, I have to go," she yelled, and turned back to face God's Voice. She leaned forward, curling one hand around the molding of the door frame.

"Just let me grab a--"

"There's no time," he said, and leaned forward, grabbing the hand outside her house protections. The universe dissolved around them. When it reformed, they were standing outside Bob's apartment.

She looked around, naming the place, then thought, her brow slightly furrowing.

"Can you get me inside?"

"Nothing simpler," he said, and they were standing on the rough carpet. She nodded, walking into the kitchen, getting a glass of water. She walked back to the living room, sprinkling water on the carpet in a circle just big enough to stand in. She stepped in, looking narrowly at the Voice.

"Don't expect anything...it's been a long time since I've done this." Mercy took a deep breath, and then began to chant. It started out as understandable Latin, then moved back into hierotic Egyptian while Metatron looked on, amazed. At the end of it there seemed to be more voices than just hers, intoning different words, and as she finished the last one, breathing out through the final syllable, she tossed the glass of water in front on her.

Instead of falling to the ground, it hung in the air, suspended by her magic. Colors rippled over the surface, dim and indistinct. Then it went black.

"Wherever they're being held," she said, her voice distant and monotone, "it's dark. They can't see anything."

"Well, I could have told you that," Metatron muttered.

The colors swirled again, moving together, blending. There were traces of yellow and orange, and a few swirls of bottle-green. They formed half-lit box shapes, piled haphazardly against what looked like a wall.

"They're underground...Old military bunker? There are boxes...numbers... everything's old, I can't read what they say."

The colors swirled again, and Metatron stared, waiting.

"Paramilitary," she said crisply. "Outside of town. Turn left, drive for twenty miles, turn at the mailbox painted black. It's under the garage." The water sheeted to the floor, and she stepped back. "Let's go," she said, heading for the door.

"No, no, old girl, this way," he said, grabbing her hands, and the universe dissolved again. When it reformed the second time, she was standing behind a stack of olive and matte-black crates, the Metatron beside her. Chanting filled the air, and she closed her eyes, listening for a moment. Then she knelt, pulling him down as she went.

"That's the third section they're in," she said softly, knowing he'd hear her. "They're making host bodies. Where the hell did they get paut in this day and age?"

"That's not what should concern you," he said. "They're making them from the prophets."

"*Sekhmet*," she hissed. "I have to find those two--"

"Actually, I have to find those two. You have to stop the ceremony."

Her eyebrows rose, hovering around her hairline. "Have you gone *stark*? Have you *seen* how many people are out there? Not to mention the thugs ringing the hall. Or the people standing next to the--"

"Yes, I know. And I'm sorry. But it is the will of God that you--"

She silenced him with a look that could have burned through steel plate, but her voice, when it followed, was soft.

"I do nothing for the will of the One True. You forget, or you were never told, that I have seen what the followers of your God do, when they feel they are in the right. I do what I do out of my own desire, not God's."

"Oh, and your gods are that much better, are they?"

"I did not say that. But at least they never declared that they were gods of love and peace, and *then* annihilated the competition. And their priests never declared their desire to kill off the competition and consolidate their real estate holdings was the will of a higher power, who *loved us all*."

The scorn in her voice was a palpable thing. He stared at her for a long moment, seeming as if he wanted to say more. Finally he sighed.

"We can save the religious debate for later. Will you do it or not?"

"Was there any doubt? But please, tell me they fall into the realm of an evil cult."

Metatron thought for a moment, and nodded. "I'd say so. They certainly plan evil for the Last Scion."

"Then you make sure your prophets are out of the way. And I'll stop them from finishing the hosts." She slipped away into the shadows and was gone.


The door creaked open. Jay had managed to sleep for a while, with Bob holding him and stroking his hair, but both snapped awake at the sound of the complaining metal.

Metatron poked his head in. "Anyone want to leave?" They heard screaming in the background and stood.

"Fuckin' a, man, it sounds like Armageddon out there!"

Metatron's face fell into an expression somber even for him. "Trust me, it very nearly is. We need to get you out of here, somewhere safe, so Mercy--"

Bob was instantly alert, stepping out of the small dark room. His hand was holding Jay's so Jay came with, and once outside they still stood close together, hands clasped tightly.

"Mercy's here?"

"Who the fuck is Mercy?" Jay asked, staring from one sober face to the other.

"Friend of mine," Bob said softly. He turned his attention to Metatron. "I want to see her."

Metatron shuddered. "No, my boy, you most definitely do not."

From the direction of the screaming came low, throaty laughter, and the sounds of crunching bones. All three stood still for a moment, frozen by what they heard.


As soon as she was out of Metatron's view, she slipped into invisibility, tallying heads. There were a good thirty standing in the open floor, and ten more in the circle around the bins of paut. Which were now bubbling--she didn't have much in the way of time. She looked around, wishing for a sword, and realizing all she'd probably find in the crates were guns. Guns, grenades, missiles...and all of it old.

**Still**, she thought, her eyes slowly turning red, **they are the bad guys...** And she was so very hungry...She tilted her head back, her fangs running through the channels in the top of her palate, and locking into place. Ohhh, yes. **'Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave',** she thought, her fingers clenching. She took two steps forward, grabbing the man standing nearest to her position and sank her fangs into his neck. Before he could utter a sound, she'd drained him, stopping his heart and dropping him to the floor. She grabbed the next one, draining him before anyone noticed. The third had a long knife, nearly a short sword. **Mine,** she thought happily, and slashed open three more on her way to the dais in the front.

People started to stir, sensing something in their midst. Six more went down, three to the blade, three to her. She whirled, lunging in a snap kick to break someone's neck, and drained another one, and gutted a third, walking up the steps to the tubs of paut. She knocked one of the chanters over, stabbing him through the heart with the blade forcefully enough to embed the knife in the platform, then stood, lifting the tub nearest her with a scream, tipping it over to pour down the stairs.

Someone howled, staring at the wreckage of the paut. Only a partial leg and two fingers of the host body had managed to form. His hands were clenched fists, his eyes almond-shaped. Lovely, really. Pity she was going to have to ruin him. She stepped out of invisibility, smiling.

"You threatened one of mine," she purred. She glided towards him, staring into his eyes. "You won't again."

"Who are you?" the dark-haired man said. His eyes were nearly all whites, reminding her of a rope-shy horse.

"Something you're a pale shadow of," she whispered, and punched her hand through his chest. Tearing out his heart, she whispered a single Egyptian phrase under her breath, and tossed it in the second tub of paut. It caught on fire, and people began to run, screaming. She laughed, tossing her head back, intoxicated by the fear, the pain, and the blood running rich in her veins. She plucked the knife out of the corpse on the floor and ran into the room, swinging with precision and dark joy. Dozens fell, splashing her with crimson, and still she moved on, drinking them dry, bisecting them in pairs, snapping the necks she didn't tear out. It took hours and minutes, a forever and never span of time.

And then she was standing alone, in a room full of bodies, and the long knife dropped from fingers gone numb. Staggering, she stepped gingerly over the mass of the slain, walking towards the row of crates where she had first entered. She noticed a set of stairs to the far left, and as she rounded the corner of the crates, Metatron entered, with Bob and a fearful blond boy in tow.

"Bugger," Metatron whispered, and she privately agreed. She reached them, weaving on her feet, and then quietly folded up like a paper doll, and fell forward.


It took them a little time to wend their way upstairs. Metatron actually got lost, grumbling while Jay laughed. Finally, he located the stairs to the upper level, and they climbed the treads, running into Metatron when he abruptly stopped.

"Bugger," they heard him say, and Bob stepped forward, around the angel, to see Mercy. Or, at least, he thought it was Mercy--she was covered in blood, in streaks and patches, and one of her hands looked as if she'd dipped it in a puddle of the stuff. From mouth to breasts, she was solidly red, patches just now starting to dry on her skin. Her hair was a mass of tangles; her clothing was slashed nearly to ribbons; and, in at least one place, looked as if it had been set on fire, though the skin underneath looked unharmed.

Worse, she looked a good twenty years younger. Her face, blood-daubed and unlined, looked fifteen at best. Her eyes were wild and disconnected, and slowly her gaze wandered up to his face. He thought she was trying to smile, and caught bare glimmers of her pale fangs. Then all expression left her face and she fell forwards, so gradually it looked like slow motion. He stepped forward, catching her and swinging her up into his arms, and turned to Metatron.

"Take us home," he said softly.

Jay was shaking his head. "Fuck no, man, we leave her here! I don't care if you know her, she looks like she's been eating people!"

**Considering who she is, he's probably right.** But he didn't care. He stared at Jay until the blond realized that, and backed down, though he still looked upset and unhappy. Metatron sighed, and took Jay's hand.

"This is not your wisest idea," he said, looking down at Bob. Silent Bob just shrugged, holding the girl tighter.

"All right, all right." He reached out, taking Bob's hand. "That's it, I'm going back. God is not going to believe this, even from me." And in the middle of their dark living room, he disappeared.

Jay ran for the light switch as Bob walked back to the bathroom.

"What the fuck are you doing, bitch? You can't just--"

"She needs our help, Jay. Go find something she can wear."

"Something she can--now I know you're kidding, man."

Bob just looked at him, toeing the door open. Jay threw his hands up, frustrated.

"Fine, but it's gonna be your shit, man, I'm not letting some cannibal wear my duds!"

That would be interesting, seeing as how he was easily twice her size, if not bigger. Still, they'd deal with that when they needed to. Now, he started the water running, and carefully propped her up on the side of the tub. He had just pulled off her shredded top when Jay walked in, carrying some clothes under his arms. They dropped to the floor.

"Shit, man!" He turned away. Then he turned back, caught in spite of himself. "Y'know," he said softly, "she might be cute, if she wasn't all gunked up."

"Yeah," Bob said absently. His attention was focused on carefully digging out part of her sleeve from a cut in her arm. He looked over, wondering if Jay could handle doing this. Then he shrugged. Might as well ask.

"You want to help?"

"Help what?"

"Hold her up."

Jay reared back, looking offended, but whatever he was going to say leaked out of him with his next breath. "Yeah, dude, it means that much to you...sure." He walked over, curling his lip at the state of her. Finally, he stripped to the waist, lifting her up and holding her while Bob stripped her. Then Bob leaned over, starting the water. While it warmed, he took off his clothes, and held out his arms for Jay to hand him Mercy.

Jay looked at Mercy, then at Bob, and quirked an eyebrow. "Y'know, with the right girl, this could be really hot. Remember Fingercuffs?"

Bob gave him one of Those Looks, but couldn't help staring appreciatively when Jay shucked off his pants. To hide it, he leaned over slightly, flicking on the shower, and slowly got in, Jay helping him get Mercy in and positioned. Then Jay pulled the curtain closed, and for a moment, he just stood there, letting the water do most of the work of sluicing Mercy clean. After a few moments, he picked up a washcloth, and began the work of removing dried blood, soot, and cleaning out the wounds which were even now closing before his eyes.

"Fuck me," Jay breathed. "Am I seein' this shit?"

Bob just nodded, pushing her back against Jay for a moment as he knelt to get her legs clean. When he looked up, seeing where else he needed to work, he saw Jay's hands cupping her slight breasts, playing with the nipples. There was a curious, almost little-kid look in his eyes.

Bob hissed sharply, and Jay's hands dropped. Mercy's head rocked back, tilting onto the blond's shoulder.

"What? Like this is ever gonna fuckin' happen again, man! You know, we're missin' out on a huge-ass opportunity here--"

Mercy moaned. Both men froze. She blinked, a shudder passing through her, and then tilted her head. Looking down, she saw Bob kneeling at her feet, and one arched eyebrow arched higher.

"Did I miss something?" she asked dryly.

"Uh, we were, uh--" Jay stammered.

She swiveled her head, looking at Jay for the first time. It was a long, measuring look that made the other man squirm.

"I don't believe we've been introduced," she said softly. "My name is Mercy."

"Jay," he squeaked, then coughed. "I mean, my name's Jay. So, uh, you all done with the eating people bit?"

"Jay!" Bob cried out, standing up.

"What? It's a reasonable fucking question!"

"You can't just--"

"No, he's quite right," Mercy said. "I understand his apprehension. After all, it's not every day--"

Just like that, she dropped out of Jay's arms, clinging to the rim of the tub, shudders wracking through her gracile form. Bob shifted his weight, and one arm wrapped tightly around his leg, the hand gripping his upper thigh.

"Just...give me a minute, I'll be...fine..."

Her voice sounded thick, and shook terribly when she spoke. After a few moments, Bob glaring at Jay the whole time, she stood back up.

"I'm going to hate myself in the morning," she said brightly.

**You did what you had to,** Bob thought at her, hoping she heard it.

**Ah, no, I went below and around the call of duty. I had to stop them from taking your essence, and killing you in the transfer. I didn't have to kill them all.**

Suddenly she froze, her mouth falling open. Bob peered over her shoulder to find Jay dreamily running his hands through her hair, over and over. Bob gave him another of Those Looks.

"What?" he said defensively. "I have an appreciation for good hair, all right? And it's tangled." He reached a tough patch, not even noticing what it was matted *with* in his desire to unmat it, and she shuddered, her eyes closing.

"Jay," Bob said warningly. Jay didn't seem to notice. He ran his hands under her glossy black hair, lifting it over one shoulder while he worked on the side patch, and Mercy's hands shot out, grabbing Bob by the arms.

Her eyes opened, piercing twin violet suns, starting to swirl with orange in the center.

**If you don't want something happening for which your friend may be *decidedly* unready, you should tell him to stop caressing the back of my neck,** she thought frantically.

Bob nearly burst out laughing, thinking of the times he'd braided Jay's hair in the first years they were together, wanting so desperately to do more. Apparently, Mercy's neck was just as sensitive.

Then his eyes widened. Oh, *shit*. If that was true...His gaze flicked up to Jay, single-mindedly working at that tangle. The blond sighed in exasperation, bringing his mouth close to the strands, biting through several at once so the main mass would release. Mercy whimpered, and spun in his arms, pinning him to the back wall.

"What the--" he yelped, which was all he had time for before her mouth came down on his, kissing him in sheer desperation. Bob watched them, feeling an odd stirring of jealousy as Jay's arms came up around her, holding her close. He had to tell himself, she wasn't a threat, there wasn't a way in the world she'd take his Jay from him...but it was hard to watch. He bit his lip, picked up the washcloth, and began to wash her back, concentrating only on that.

She pulled away, breathing hard, and shook her head. "I don't want to be the lynchpin of an argument, children," she said. Jay looked as if she'd stunned him with a mallet. He was also getting hard, Bob noticed, and bit his lip again, turning his attention to Mercy's hair.

**Oh, don't *you* start,** she thought, with a mix of despair and affection.

**I have to do something,** he thought back frantically, and at least now Jay's work had paid off, because the tangle loosened in his hand, and he combed the strands back straight.

She looked at Jay, emerging from the daze. He reached for her again, and she danced back--into Bob. Without thinking, one arm rose to encircle her waist, and Jay smiled wickedly.

"Now, that's what I'm thinkin'," he said softly, and stepped forward, kissing her again. She undulated against Bob, one hand rising to caress the line of Bob's jaw, and he groaned into the dark silk of her hair.

"Oh, yeah," Jay said when he surfaced again. "Though I was thinking about your hand here," and he grabbed Bob's hand and placed it on his ready cock. Then he leaned forward, licking up Mercy's neck to her ear while she shuddered against him. His eyes opened, staring into Bob's wide ones, and he raised his hand to bring Bob's face close enough to kiss.

Mercy, trapped between the two men, looked at the ceiling. **Dear sweet gods, I could find my bliss just feeling you want each other...**

**Really?** Bob sounded a little hysterical.

**Poppet, you have no idea. What you feel is equally matched, if not quite surpassed, by your golden beauty here.**

"Umm," Jay said, moving his mouth back to her neck as Mercy sharply inhaled. His hand worked its way between her legs, fingers soon becoming slick with water and her juices. She arched, sighing. Jay lifted his head.

"Water's getting cold."

And it was. Disentangling themselves, they proceeded in an unsteady fashion out of the tub, and for a few merry moments, it was a free-for-all of towels and clothing and laughter. Then Mercy's eyes met with Bob's, and the laughter died in both of them.

Jay looked between the pair. "Wha'd I miss?" he asked.

Mercy looked down at the towel, stretching it around her slim frame. "You know," she said lightly, "while I do appreciate your hospitality, I'm sure it's late, and you're tired, and if you'd let me use your phone, I could arrange for transport from here--"

Jay's arms wrapped around her, bringing her close. "Hey, I thought we were doin' pretty good in there, makin' with the love. What happened?"

"I don't want to come between you."

Jay leaned in, laughing low in his throat. "I'd *love* if you came between us," he said. Then he looked over to Bob, all pretenses gone.

"*You*, I love. *Her*, I want. You understand that? If it still bothers you, then she's still sleeping on the couch, 'cause she's had a hard fuckin' day."

There were times, Bob thought, amazed, when Jay's unalloyed intelligence shone through all the bullshit. He smiled, brushing his hair back.

"Yeah," he said softly. "I get it."

"Okay, 'cause I don't want this to come back and bite me in the balls; I ain't leavin' you without a fight, tough stuff. Realize that shit *now*." Then he lifted Mercy into his arms, swinging her off her feet and yelling.

"Now, wench, to bed!" He strode out of the bathroom, making strange pirate noises, while she shrieked happily. Bob stood in the bathroom, laughing silently, until Jay poked his head back in.

"Come on, you fat fuck! You gonna stand in the bathroom all night, or you gonna come in so I can fuck that pretty ass?"

He thought at times, he should just staple that one eyebrow up, because he raised it enough. But he happily followed Jay back to his room, where they found Mercy, sitting stiff on the edge of the bed.

Once again, it hit Bob that it looked like a case of statutory rape in action.

**How old are you?** he asked, before he could censor the question. She shook her head, silent, running a finger over the lumps in the covers.

**No, I'm serious,** he thought. **You don't have to answer, but I want to know.**

She looked at him, her eyes large and dark in her still face.

**You've seen the Pyramids, yes? In Egypt?** Her mental voice sounded tentative.

He nodded, watching Jay get settled in behind her, rubbing her shoulders, kissing them.

**I watched them being built. When I was a small child.**

**Holy fuck...**

Jay's mouth moved to her neck, sucking lightly over the vein.

**Something...like that,** she said. Growling, she turned and threw Jay down, straddling him, her eyes wild and starting to shift.

"*Fuck*," Jay breathed. His hands paused on her hips. "You ain't, uh...I mean, I like my brain where it is, okay? And all my other meat."

"You're thinking of zombies, pet. I'm not one." She leaned down, licking Jay from sternum to neck, moving to his ears until he squealed. Bob stood by the bed uneasily, wondering where he should sit down, and Mercy turned, looking at him.

"Oh, St. Sebastian of the arrows, how you love your martyrdom...Come here, poppet, you look absolutely dismal." She pulled back from Jay, who made some noise of protest, then proceeded to pull him closer to her--not incidentally making more room for Bob in the process.

"Now," she said, raising his chin until his eyes met hers, "I am essentially the interloper here. So you should tell me what I should do. I don't want you feeling as if you should go grab a book from the next room, n'est ce pas?"

He laughed ruefully, looking down, and she grabbed his chin again.

"I mean this," she said. "Your lovely boy here has his fine points, but you are breathtaking, my dear, and it's time you realized it. I am not here strictly on the behest of your Jay." She dropped her hands into her lap, leaning back on her knees. "In point of fact, I'm being rather selfish at the moment, and I'm desperately hoping you don't mind."

He stared at her for a moment, filing away what she said for later obsessive recollection. Then he leaned forward, kissing her tentatively. She responded with similar reserve, and it was as if they were back on the couch--that electricity touched him again, making his nerve endings tingle, and suddenly Jay was giggling underneath him. He broke off the kiss, looking down at the blond, who was inching off the bed, looking at him.

"Hey, don't mind me, I'll be back in a minute," he said, vaulting off the bed and going through the connecting door. They looked at Jay's naked form bending down after something, then looked at each other.

"Nice to know he doesn't mind, hmm?" she said. Bob shrugged, nodding. They heard foil ripping, then Jay came back in, wearing a condom that gave off a strange green light. Mercy leaned back.

"I am...not entirely sure about that," she said slowly. Jay grinned hugely.

"Well, good thing it ain't for you, huh babe?" He knelt behind Bob, placing the other thing he'd brought in on the bed--a bottle of lubricant. He squirted some onto his fingers, and ran the other hand up Bob's back.

"Lean forward," he said huskily. Bob swallowed, but did as he was told, and Mercy folded like a reed underneath him.

"Well," she said, fighting back laughter. "This is not precisely what I'd intended."

"And what did you--" He gasped, breaking off; Jay had slowly pushed a finger inside him. Mercy ran a hand down one of the arms bracing her.

"Well, poppet, you are going to have to be very careful with me, or you'll split me in half. I do not think I exaggerate."

Jay snickered behind him, and he blushed slightly, then gasped again. Jay had worked in two fingers. The blond was humming behind him. One of Mercy's legs slowly rose up Bob's side, and she pulled his weight down on top of her, kissing him slowly and thoroughly while Jay poured a bit more lube into his palm, working three fingers in and out of Bob. The heavier man whimpered, and Mercy unfolded her other leg, snakelike, sending it up Bob's other side.

"Ah, love, I take it this will be your first time, so to speak?" Her eyes danced with light, purple and orange and red and wraithglow lilac, swirling together.

"Something like that," he gasped, his hips thrusting forward. Mercy bit her lip.

"A little above the radar there," she said shakily. "Unless you just wanted me here for moral support."

He looked down, slowly losing the ability to speak cohesive sentences.

**I thought you were scared of me?**

She laughed silently, kissing the base of his thumb, next to her shoulder. **Well, that one part of you, yes, does fill me with dread. But never underestimate the power of intrigue, poppet. Or the intrigue of a challenge.**

Bob felt Jay sit up a little, and then felt Jay slowly sliding inside. He and Jay moaned in the same instant, and his eyes fluttered closed, as he bucked back against Jay's slow thrusting.

"Uh, yeah, uh, fuck yeah," Jay was whispering. His hands came up to grab Bob's hips, pulling him back, hips pumping. "Oh, God, yeah, Bob..."

Bob took a shuddering breath, looked the challenge down at Mercy. Mercy pursed her lips, sending it right back. Biting his lip, he wrapped his hand around his erect cock, guiding it slowly into her. He slid the first inch in and they both gasped, Mercy twitching beneath him, Bob nearly frozen. He remembered the first time he'd slid into Jay, how tight he'd been, how overwhelming it had felt. Mercy was tighter.

**How...long...** he got out, feeling as if his brain was slipping gears. He moved forward another inch and whimpered, not sure whether it hurt or felt fantastic.

**Has it...been, do you mean?** She closed her eyes, panting. **Five... years, give or take a day here and there. And...fifteen, I think, before that...**

Bob tried to wrap his mind around the concept of twenty-five years without sex, and failed. He moved forward again just as Jay slid his entire length into Bob, burying him to the hilt in Mercy. All three screamed, and Mercy arched off the bed, for a few moments supporting the whole of Bob and Jay's weight combined. Tears sprang to her eyes, running down her cheeks in crimson trails, and Bob momentarily forgot to breathe.

"I...am I...hurting you?" he managed to gasp out, and she opened her eyes, bringing a hand up to her face.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. He thought if she'd been able to run from the room, she would have. He shook his head, looking around, and spied a t-shirt half-wedged under a pillow, leaning forward to dig it out. He handed it to her and she wiped her face clean, laughing breathlessly.

"'So proud to hint yet keep thy secrets'," she said, reaching up to touch his face tenderly.

It was hard to think. His world was spinning. Every inch of skin ached with desire. It took him a while, but he managed to shake his head.

"I don't--"

"Ah, you have all of mine, now, what will you do with them? Who *are* you, that I tell you, show you everything, like this? I've only trusted one other soul on the planet with all that you know--why is that?" Her eyes sparkling with dark tears, she pulled his head down, kissing him with all the passion within her. He began to tremble, thrusting into Mercy with abandon as she filled the air with sweet cries.

Jay was trembling behind him, thrusting as hard as he could, crying Bob's name over and over. Bob leaned down, putting his forehead on Mercy's shoulder, shuddering. Jay was gonna come soon, he could feel it, and he was...he was...Just at the moment when he would have filled the room with his ecstatic cry, Mercy planted her lips on his again, and he screamed into her mouth, thrusting in time with Jay twitching behind him. Both men collapsed for a long moment, until brains returned to bodies and breathing slowed.

Jay recovered first, pulling out slowly, making Bob gasp and twitch. Then Bob pulled out, and Mercy rolled over on her side, staring at him provocatively.

"If I cannot walk tomorrow, it will be entirely your doing," she said seriously, and he fought laughter back. She leaned towards him, reaching out and tweaking his chin, and that was all it took. He howled with laughter, Jay joining in, and Mercy's lips twitched with repressed hilarity, watching them.

"You two," she said affectionately. Then she sat up, looking surprisingly alert.

"So, is it the couch for me, or do I take the other bed?"

Bob looked around, looked down at the bed, looked up. He shrugged. She patted his cheek.

"And you have been very sweet, but I think if I am here you'll be compelled to do something other than rest, and I may be the reason why, as if I'm here *I* may be compelled to do things other than rest."

She rose from the bed, stretching languorously, and pulled on the t-shirt Bob had tossed to her earlier.

She leaned down, kissing Bob gently on the lips. Then, turning, she kissed Jay gently on the lips.

"Sleep," she whispered. "It will do you both good." And she walked out into the living room. Bob looked at Jay, shrugged, and held out his arms. The blond cuddled into them, and Bob reached up, turning off the light.

Several hours later, Bob walked out into the morning, fairly content with life. He saw Mercy in the kitchen, and walked in to say hello. All thought of greeting ran from his head when he saw her standing by the sink, a long cutting knife in one hand, her head hanging still.

**What the hell are you doing?**

Her head tilted. Hair fell back from her forehead, and one eye stared at him. He realized she was trembling, all over, little muscle jerks and spasms from head to foot. Her voice was hoarse when she spoke.

"I am contemplating the uselessness of suicide," she said. "It never matters what I do, I'll just heal. It has ever been thus, and so will ever be." The knife twitched in her grasp.

Silent Bob was shocked to his core. "Why?" he said, the words a plea.

"Last night. Not your part of last night, love; before you were rescued by the wingéd stranger. All those people..." She shuddered again, shoulders hunching, and brought the knife up. He stepped forward, his hand on her wrist. He noticed streaks and smears of dried blood on the inside of her arm, but the skin was whole.

"You had to," he said. **Why can't you see that?**

The knife clattered into the sink, and she turned, sinking to the floor, pressing her hands to her eyes. He knelt, watching her. And then she turned, grabbing his wrists, holding them tightly.

**I had to?** her mental voice said hysterically. **I had to stop them from killing you! That is *all*<>/i> I 'had to' do! The rest...** Her mouth trembled, and she shook her hair over her eyes again. **The rest, I did because I wanted to. Killing them...hurting them...drinking them...** She looked up. **Taking the two of you to bed...**

He looked at her, suddenly thinking of Bartleby, winging proudly overhead, centuries of repression coming out in one gluttonous festival of destruction and spattered flesh. She picked up the image from him and laughed, sounding on the edge of tears.

**Oh, yes, it was *so* much easier when I could just kill any slave I happened across...I used to have stables of people, did you know that? They fed at my tables, cleaned my houses, slept in long barracks...and the end of every day, one or more would disappear, and no one knew where. Before that I had a whole clan who would ride out and hunt down victims at my whim...**

He was afraid to know, but he was also afraid not to. "What changed?" he asked softly.

"I fell in love. Her name was Eugenie. She was a painter..." She trembled again, releasing his wrists and sitting back. "When I lost her, I wanted to die. I nearly managed it. But this too, too solid flesh prevented me." She sat for a moment silently, then brushed her hair back from her face.

"The last time I indulged in widespread destruction, it was the late seventies," she said crisply. "And I had been accidentally given something which led to hallucinations and cell damage. I killed 35 people that night," she said wonderingly. "But last night I killed more."

She looked over at him. "And now you wonder how you're going to get me out of the path of this particular oncoming bus, yes?"

He shrugged. **Crossed my mind, yeah.**

"Mine too. Maybe we should just keep her."

Both looked up, startled, to see Jay leaning over the breakfast bar. It still startled him when he did that--seemingly picked Bob's thoughts out of the ether. Meanwhile, Jay stepped into the kitchen, flopping to the floor bonelessly.

"I have this idea," he said seriously. "You don't stress over the people eating and I won't stress about how fucking much I knew about sex when I was six. Is it a deal?"

Mercy's mouth trembled as she looked at Jay. Bob's mouth went dry, thinking of it. Jay had never said anything to him...He impulsively swept him into a hug, and Jay's arms wrapped around him tightly.

**Fuck, I never knew,** he thought, over and over.

"Dude, it's okay, it's not like I said anything."

"And it's not as if you had to, either; that, I understand," Mercy said, standing. She brushed off her hands and deeply inhaled. Silent Bob and Jay stood, watching her. She smiled at them, tremulous and shaky, like the sky seen through rain, but a smile regardless.

"Do you know, I feel up for a bite?"

Jay backed up, laughing as he shook his hands and head.

"No, you young idiot, I mean breakfast. Did you want to join me?"

"Yeah, I could eat." Jay looked at Bob. Bob, as usual, shrugged. He slid out of his trench and handed it to her. Her smile looked less watery by the moment.

"Good, then." She wrapped Bob's leather trench closer about her and moved towards the door, the boys following closely. At the head of the stairs, as Bob was locking the door, she turned to look at them.

"How do you feel about Paris? I know this wonderful little sidewalk café..."

(The line "Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave" is from James Thomson, from the poem "The Seasons: Spring". The line "So proud to hint yet keep thy secrets" is from a William Wordsworth poem, "Guilt and Sorrow, or, Incidents Upon Salisbury Plain")
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