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Author's note: Written for the Afterglow challenge. Ripped off shamelessly from Hans Beimler, Jesse Stern and Javier Grillo-Marxuach, with apologies.

Cause and Effect
by Tara O'Shea

Her vision was going grey around the edges as the aftershocks subsided and he loosened his grip on her throat. She drew in a breath which rattled in her throat, but resisted the urge to massage her neck where she knew she would find purpling bruises in the shape of his fingers.

"I told you—no marks," she snarls as she smoothes her skirt down over her knees.

He shrugs. "So you wear turtlenecks for a while."

He reaches up to lightly run his finger over her throat, pausing in the hollow where her pulse beats before continuing down until the top of the valley between her breasts. She slaps his hand away.

"You can't tell me you won't enjoy knowing what's under there," he says, his blue eyes cold above his slightly mocking smile as he watches her try and put herself to rights. "What no one else can see. I know I'll enjoy it—thinking about that dweeb and his bosses looking right at you and not seeing what I can see right now."

As DuMont zips up the orange coverall, Warner backhands him, sending him sprawling to the floor. She stands over him, looking down at him like he's something she's stepped in and wants to scrape from the bottom of one Manolo Blahnik pump.

"Are you going to punish me?" he asks, with no trace of mockery as he kneels at her feet.

A thin trickle of blood wells like a tear from his cheek where her ring has caught him. His hands remain loose at his sides, and he makes no move to wipe away the marks of her temper.

He never does. It's part of why she indulges in striking him.

"Not today."

"Tease." His voice is flat, like his eyes.

She grabs him by the hair, and smiles at the hiss of his in-drawn breath as she jerks his eyes up to meet hers. "Do you want to know why I won't punish you?"

"Because I like it too much?" he asks, eyes guileless.

She releases her hold on him, and his chin drops to his chest, the picture of submission. She knows it's a picture he presents because it's what she wants. She knows it's mere surface, because he's not stupid, and neither is she.

They had danced around each other for weeks, until they had settled into something resembling a pattern. She appears, always with no warning, and he is taken from his cell no matter what hour of the day or night. One guard accompanies him to the private room, where they are left alone.

The idea that he might try and kill her in this room with no security cameras, and only one guard beyond the soundproof walls never occurred to her. It occurred to him, but only fleetingly. He needs her, and she needs him. It would simply be a waste of resources, and they are both too clever and too pragmatic to do that. Passion has its place, but they have a common enemy to destroy. That reality supersedes any thought of petty mischief on his part, or careless waste on hers.

At first, it was a game. To see who would bleed first. Who would bend. He tested her resolve, tested her patience, tested her limits. She let him. He was overt, and accepted the blows when he went to far.

The first time he kissed her, he waited for the pain, expecting it. He came to relish it. If only because he understands cause and effect. They both know he's nothing but a caged pet. But as he's so fond of pointing out, at least he can see the bars on his cell.

She sits perched on the edge of the single chair in the interrogation room where none of the questions she asks him have anything to do with National Security. Smoothes her skirt again, crossing and uncrossing her legs. The whisper of silk against silk fills the small space.

"Do you know why I'm letting you fuck me?" she finally asks, a finger beneath his chin forcing him to meet her gaze.

"Because the tall jar of mayonnaise would probably puke if he saw us together?"

"No." She picks up a hairpin which fell to the tabletop during their rough play, and uses it to secure a wayward blond curl. "That's why you're fucking me."

"Ah. Well... because you can," he replies with a shrug. He crawls forward and lays his head in her lap.

She absently strokes his hair. "You think you're in charge, don't you? You think that because you can make me come, you're actually in charge."

"Of course not." His cheek is pressed up against the light-weight wool of her skirt, eyes closed as he breaths in the smell of sex and sweat.

Her hands tighten in his hair for an instant. "Bullshit."

"Maybe." His hands brush her ankles, long pale fingers creeping up to caress her calves beneath the sheer stockings.

"That's better." Her nails graze his scalp behind his ear. She pets him the way one would a cat—mindful of its claws. "Do you know why?"

"Because I'm a sociopath?"

"No. Because you're a man and you're a sociopath."

He makes no answer, because no answer is necessary.

In a few minutes, she will push him away and call for the guard. She will walk out of this room, and then he will be taken back to his 10 foot by 10 foot cell. And he will smile, because every time she leaves him, she leaves a little larger part of herself with him. And every time she comes back to him, he takes just a little more, because he understands cause and effect. And pain. And her. Better than she does.

"Will you stay with me?" he asks, and she doesn't answer. Just continues to stare at the blank grey wall, her hands raking through his hair with something that could be mistaken for tenderness.