Summary: When a past relationship threatens to make headlines, Charon is prepared to do almost anything to keep the past exactly where it belongs – IN the past. But keeping the sordid story secret may not be the only bit of wishful thinking. Pain x Charon.

Author's notes: I really do love this pairing, as nutty as they would be together. This is going to be a fairly short series, and should only be about four or five chapters.

The Art of Blackmail: prologue.

Charon had never been fond of blackmail, at least not when it was used against him. He thought it was a sound enough device when he was the one inflicting it on others - it was after all often the only way he could get Medea to actually do anything (bribing was the rare other alternative), and Pain often worked best when there was a hint of panic in his movements. But only a fool would try and blackmail Charon in turn, in part because Charon was known to be as close to unblackmailable as a politician could be. He had no vices, was above anything even remotely unlawful, and had so few weaknesses that even if someone managed to identify them they'd probably be overlooked by accident.

A faerie who was clever enough to blackmail him over something he'd actually done was the type of person that Charon had always assumed he'd have at least a smidgen of respect for. He might even, he had thought once when one idiot had threatened to reveal his secret love child to the world (the third one of the month, he certainly managed to get around a lot without ever seeming to leave his office), give in to the demands of the would be blackmailer simply because of the sheer skill that must have been involved in finding something – anything – to use against him.

It was a stupid mindset to have and Charon found he had no use for it now, a nosy reporter standing triumphantly before him, photographs spread across his desk as though it was a dinning room table and they were a selection of the finest cuisine he had to offer. The reporter's demands were simply really: money, lots of it. Otherwise, the twins to the photographs on his desk would somehow find their way into the top newspapers around their land, and Charon would never be able to show his face anywhere ever again.

"Well, perhaps at a brothel," the reporter amended, his slimy smile taking on a far nastier shade. "You certainly appear to have the form for it beneath all those layers of robes."

Charon wanted to blast him into a thousand little particles of dust right then, but unless the reporter was bluffing (a distinct possibility), then the photographs would be automatically released if the reporter was to suddenly disappear off the face of the planet. It was a nice trick except for the fact that it annoyed the hell out of Charon, and it meant he would have to take his suddenly homicidal tendencies out on someone else. That might have been more of a problem if he didn't already have a candidate lined up.

"I will need time to get the amount you requested together." His cold words warmed the reporter, whose hazel eyes took on a greener tint. "I am sure you are aware that these things take time."

"Four days should be enough. Perhaps you would like to consult Mr Pain and hunt down the money together?"

"Oh, I will be talking to Pain about this, mark my words." Charon replied dangerously, a dark scowl settling. It was enough to draw out a slightly strangled and nervous laugh from the reporter, who quickly excused himself. Few were so stupid to deliberately step in the way when Charon was on the war path, although it did generally make things more enjoyable for Charon.

"Pain. Now." Charon rarely used the magic he did then, in part because the spell was one that was incredibly difficult to perform, but more so as it often resulted in pulling the summoned person out of … unseemly … situations. There was also the slight fact that the spell was very much illegal, but as Charon had written the law himself he saw no reason why he should not also be allowed to break it on occasions. When Pain arrived a mere second later he looked surprised and disheveled but at least he had all his clothes on, although the slight smidgen of blood that marred his fists (not his own, obviously) suggested that there was a fighter somewhere who had suddenly found himself without someone to fight.

"The castle isn't burning down, there's no screams of panic filling the air or enemies breeching the gates." Pain sounded amused as he glanced around the room before allowing his gaze to fall on Charon. "What great disaster have you called me in for, today?"

"Look at the photos, Pain." Charon was not in the mood for playing, although based on the deliberately disinterested look that Pain spared the photographs, the other man obviously – perilously – was.

"You're looking at porn, I'm impressed Charon."

"Look again, Pain." His slow, dangerous words seemed to at least make Pain realize that something was vaguely wrong, and as he Pain did exactly as he was instructed for once, his eyes widened slightly in surprise.

"Porn of us. If I'd known you had these I would have asked for a copy." Pain tilted his head to the side as he studied the photographs. "We were cute kids, weren't we? Where did you get them from?"

"A reporter."

"Ah," Pain said knowingly. "So you called me here to dispose of the body." But even though the other man joked inappropriately, Pain looked slightly disturbed.

"He has the originals still. Obviously. He plans on making the photos public if we don't give him a good enough moneterial reason not to." Instead of looking annoyed, frustrated, pissed off or all of the above, Pain instead looked far too fascinated by the whole thing.

"How much?"

"A year's wages." Pain leaned slightly against Charon's desk, contemplating the ransom.

"Well, I suppose that isn't all that bad, it could have certainly have been-"

"- for the entire palace."

Pain blinked a couple of times.

"Now that's just greedy." There was a hint of reproval in Pain's voice. "You should just tell him to go screw himself, see if he has the guts to release the pictures with the knowledge that he won't be around long enough to enjoy the aftermath."

"That's not an option and you very well know it. These pictures must stay out of the press at any cost." Plus, murder was one of those many things he wasn't allowed to commit as the King's right hand man. A hint of frustration must have slipped into his voice, as Pain suddenly got that look. Charon wasn't entirely sure what that look ever actually meant, although it was often followed by a brief break in insanity where Pain would actually attempt to contribute something meaningful.

"I know you don't want the pictures to become public, Charon, although heaven knows why – you're certainly attractive enough in them." Charon snatched back the photo that Pain had idly been glancing at. "But if you are worried about the public's perception of you, then you need to realize that they will feel more betrayed if they found out you've covered this up by paying off a reporter. You'll find they'll forgive a fling a couple of sixteen years old had almost a decade ago far easier than something as malicious as bribery."

A fling. For some reason it hurt to hear Pain describe it as that, even though it was certainly an adequate enough definition. Perhaps it was because they'd never really talked about it at all since they'd been sixteen, and this misguided feeling of hurt was instead something more violent searching for an outlet.

"I do not plan on letting those pictures get leaked to the public," Charon replied calmly, swiping the phantom copies away into his desk drawer without looking at them. "But I do not believe I ever mentioned paying the ransom, either." A slow smirk spread across Pain's lips, and something that was almost akin to excitement sparkled briefly in his eyes.

"You plan to get the original pictures back."


And that's the prologue! The next chapter delves into the past of our two heroes, as we learn more about the backstory to those pesky photographs! All reviews and thoughts are very welcome.