Thanks as always for the comments, big hugs as always to you both. I'm posting this very quickly before I go to bed, but I'll respond properly to your comments next time )

Chapter Three.

The plan was simple. So simple, in fact, that Charon should have known right from the start that it would never work. All they needed to do was retrieve the original photos and then cast a spell on them that would destroy not merely the originals but all copies as well, and poof! No more blackmail material.

Simple or not, Pain was suitably impressed, although that could have been more because there was destruction – and sanctioned destruction at that – involved. Pain even liked the idea of breaking into the reporter's apartment and stealing the photographs from right under his nose, although when he discovered that Charon would be doing the breaking while Pain was left to the much more subdued entering, there had been some very vocal disappointment. But it was simple, really. Someone would need to distract the reporter (they didn't have the time to sit around idly and wait for him to leave, Charon did have a world to run practically on his own, after all), and if nothing else, Pain made for an adequate enough distraction.

Most non-faeries did not know how difficult transportation truly was. Of course, most non-faeries did not actually know that faeries actually existed, which may have skewered the statistics somewhat. Your normal faerie could transport into wide, grassy areas if they were of middling magic, while those who were more specifically qualified in the discipline could transport anywhere they liked – as long as they could visualize their destination perfectly. It meant that even a qualified fairy could really only ever transport to somewhere they'd previously been - or at least studied in great detail, and most preferred much safer routes of travel that weren't as likely to result in ending up somewhere completely unexpected.

Naturally, none of this applied at all to Charon, who had never been 'most faeries' and neither had he ever been ordinary. It didn't mean that the quiet spell he whispered under his breath was exactly easy, but when he opened his eyes and found himself inside what appeared to be a small, rather battered office, there was only a very slight sense of vertigo. For a moment he stilled, calmly waiting for confirmation not simply that the spell itself had worked but that Pain had managed to not screw his part up. It wasn't long before Pain's voice floated through the thin walls, light and airy and drawing in the reporter without even saying anything of any substance. Charon snorted quietly as Pain asked if the reporter had anything to drink (alcoholic, naturally), before turning to what appeared to be the main desk. The papers on the top were a jumbled mess, but a quick flick through revealed that while there were a lot of dirty secrets there, none of them were his in particular. With a slight growl Charon pulled at one the drawers, only to find it locked. Now, there were generally very few spells that Charon couldn't counter in his sleep, but as he wearily glared at the small, inconspicuous drawer, he knew that when it came to spells such as this, reporters were truly sneaky bastards.

"So, I take it you came to talk about the little present I gave Charon." As the words filtered through the walls Charon's eyes narrowed, wanting to reprimand the little twerp for addressing him in such a familiar manner. Few people got away with calling Charon simply by his first name, and half of them (read: Pain) did so even under threat of a horrible, slow death. The other half (read: Medea) he allowed to address him without his title solely because there were simply not enough hours in the day to explain to Medea why formality was something that needed to he adhered to even by family. Especially by family.

"He wasn't all that happy about the pictures, admittedly." Pain sounded too relaxed, and Charon got the distinct feeling that the other man was slothed out across a couch, a glass of beer already in hand. "They portray a side of him that he doesn't like to acknowledge that much." And Pain was lucky that Charon had more important things to be doing right now than cast a hundred different (all very painful and humiliating) spells on him. The reporter snorted.

"What, you mean his fairie side?"

Charon blinked at the response, losing focus of the drawer before him for the slightest of seconds before he chased the feeling away with a scowl, deliberately blocking out the conversation as he tried another spell on the drawer.

"Or the like." Neither attempt worked all that well. It would have helped if Pain wasn't talk quite so loud. "He certainly wasn't quite so frigid back then as he is now, but you know how power can change a man." Oh, Charon knew. And right now he was thinking just how much his powers could change a certain man in the other room. When Charon had told Pain to serve as a distraction, he'd specifically said what KIND of distraction he was after. Charon had even written the other man a bloody script, although right now he'd be more surprised if Pain actually adhered to it in any manner at all. "But I'm hardly here to talk about a romp between two school boys, it's a topic I'd much rather stayed very much in the past. I'm sure you can understand why." And Charon had actually scripted that bit, but that it flowed so easily from Pain's lips (and when nothing else Charon had written had shown up in any shape or form) made him bristle all the same, and his next counter-spell came out slightly stronger than he meant it to, rattling the table and sending some of the folders on top spilling soundlessly to the floor.

"Understandable. Charon didn't tell you my demands?" Nosy. People called reporters inquisitive, but in Charon's mind they were nosy little trolls who got paid to gossip like old fisherman's wives, and they already HAD enough fisherman's wives in the faerie world for Charon's liking.

"He basically threw the pictures at me, growled your name, and then stomped out." Charon could hear Pain's smile in his words. His next spell was inefficient at bypassing the curse, as well. "I realized that if I was going to find out information regarding them, I'd have to go to the source." Said with a depicting laugh, if Charon didn't know better he would have thought that Pain was actually getting along with the reporter.

Wait. He did know better. Pain was getting along with the reporter. Bastard.

It was almost a surprise when the next spell did work, and the small drawer tumbled open. As he quickly searched the contents he lost track of the conversation happening in the next room, keen eyes focusing on finding anything that might be related to the pictures at all. There were photographs, although none related to him, and while there was a folder that caused Charon to pause, the names on the front were Pain and Fanta's, instead of Pain and Charon's. Without looking at the contents of the file, he placed it slowly on top of the desk, pausing for the briefest of moments to look at the innocent enough cover before shaking his head and moving onto the bookcase. The chance of the photographs being hidden anywhere else was fairly slim, and after pulling apart the office – and putting it back together perfectly, he didn't need a suspicious reporter as well as a blackmailing one – he was willing to concede that the photographs were located elsewhere.

Well, willing to concede with a cold narrowing of his eyes. He generally preferred it when his plans actually went to plan.

With everything perfectly back in place, he reached for the one thing that wasn't, the far too thick file that had Pain's name scribbled neatly along the top. Charon wasn't so stupid as to not have some idea of what the contents covered, knowing that there was something incomplete about Pain and his sister's past that never quite made enough sense. Tied somehow to their mother, there was a mystery there that Charon may or may not have puzzled over occasionally himself.

"You have to understand, though, Charon wasn't as uptight back then as he is now," Pain tried to justify, good humor coloring his voice. "He was rather sweet as a teenager."

Sweet? Charon snorted quietly in disbelief, glancing once more at the file before uttering a quite spell under his breath that instantly set it alight. The fire burnt itself out just as it reached Charon's fingers, leaving behind nothing more than a fine trail of ash sprinkled across his fingertips. It was a pity that the file was the only thing he could get away with destroying, but even by doing that he was putting this little mission at risk of suspicion.

"Sweet?" The journalist snorted, just the tiniest bit tipsy. "I can't imagine what he would be like without that stick up his arse, although I suppose he just traded one stick for another, eh?"

On the other hand …

If anything, Pain was almost too amused by it all; standing silently at Charon side as the blaze was slowly put out, leaving behind a shell of framework and the occasional blackened piece of wood that still clung optimistically to the skeletal remains.

"Funny that, how the fire only managed to destroy the reporter's house." Pain spoke conversationally, his eyes never leaving the blaze before them.

"It was contained just in time, it appears," came Charon's non-committal answer. "For a reporter, he's not all that careful. Only a fool would have so much alcohol close to his office. Things are sure to go wrong."

"Agreed," Pain replied with a grin. "Although next time, when things just 'happen' to go wrong? Perhaps a little forewarning might help." Pain's grin turned wry as he gently patted the frazzled ends of his hair. "Not that you didn't do a good job." His last few words were spoken darkly, a hidden threat there that few would be able to recognize.

And, under the cover of darkness, Charon smiled.