HHFC#13: Tonight is the night; when pumpkins stare; through sheaves and leaves; everywhere,; when ghouls and ghost; and goblin host; dance round their queen.; It's Halloween. ~ Halloween by Harry Behn

Rendered Speechless

Something was up with Spinelli, and Jason didn't like any of the options. One, the kid was drunk, and, seeing as how he so rarely was allowed out of the penthouse for fear of the computer hacker getting himself into dire trouble – again, there was a very good chance that he had lost control and imbibed on too much expensive, bubbly champagne.

The second option wasn't any better either, because, seeing his roommate so dazed made Jason recall what the younger man had been like months before when he had been sick with the flu for almost an entire week. Aloof and miserable, practically delirious in his dehydration, and an even bigger pain in the ass than he was when perfectly healthy, the hacker had driven him up the wall, and the mob enforcer really didn't want to see a repeat performance of that episode.

Finally, and perhaps the most alarming of all three options, there was the chance that there was a good reason for the computer genius to be staring at the series of paintings before them so intently. The kid looked almost transfixed, his eyes darting back and forth between the various pieces of art and then to Jason's face. His gaze never deviated from the pattern, and his already round, eager eyes seemed to widen with every turn of pass his visual circuit took. Plus, his mouth fell open just a degree wider as well, leaving Jason in fear as to what the nerd was seeing.

But he knew better than to rush the hacker, to demand an answer before his roommate was ready to share. Spinelli was… a delicate creature, in his own way, and, when pressed, he became flustered and disheveled, even more so than usual, frustrating the mob hitman and ensuring that no work was accomplished for quite some time. So, instead of demanding answers like he wanted to, Jason refrained, standing back with his own untouched glass of champagne as he warily watched the internet mastermind.

Time seemed to drag by.

After ten minutes of such behavior, he started fidgeting, yanking at the restricting collar and tie around his neck. It felt as if his air supply had been cut off, and it didn't help matters that the entire room was too warm and stifling. However, Spinelli seemed to be faring even worse. The kid was sweating profusely, beads of perspiration running down his drenched face, and, approximately, every thirty seconds, the hacker would remove the rainbow beanie hat he was wearing from his head and use it to mop up the moisture on his face, wringing the ratty cap out in his shaking hands before putting it back atop his uncombed head of long, messy hair.

At the twenty-five minute mark, he couldn't stand it any longer, and he chugged the disgusting, sweet liquor in his hand, grimacing at the taste of the champagne as it glided down his throat. What he wouldn't do in that moment for an ice cold beer, but, unfortunately, as Sonny had explained to him earlier, it simply wasn't fashionable or acceptable for ale to be served as such an event. However, at least he wasn't, at that point, as bad off as his roommate who was wheezing profusely. In fact, if Spinelli's breathing didn't improve and soon, Jason was seriously considering either asking one of the wait staff to bring him a brown paper bag or just leaving the gallery show to take the younger man to the hospital. After all, maybe he was having an allergic reaction to something. There were plenty of options to choose from: the tiny, little, flavorless appetizers, the overabundance of various perfumes being worn about the room, or even the pretentious air that seemed to permeate the very building they were in.

Finally, after twenty minutes more of the same nonsense, the enforcer had had enough, but, just as he went to grab his young charge by the arm to drag his senselessly rambling form out of the gallery, Spinelli turned to him, pointing at his face and looking pale enough to have seen a ghost. Although Jason knew that Halloween was just a night away, he also knew that there were no such things as spirits and ghouls, so something else had to have upset the hacker.

"Stone Cold?"

Letting go of the nerd, he lifted the same hand he had used to latch onto the younger man to his nose, pinching the bridge of it as a means of easing some of the rapidly developing tension he could feel taking over his already edgy form.

Apparently, Spinelli took the movement as permission to continue, for he asked, "have you ever…" The young computer genius audibly gulped before pressing on, "known the artist?"

"What do you mean by known? Once you know someone, you know them," the hitman refuted, sounding just as exasperated as he felt. "No past tense."

"I meant in the um… the…"

"Spinelli," Jason ordered his roommate. "Just spit it out."

The younger man leaned in, causing his boss to lean backwards to avoid making physical contact with him, and whispered, "have you ever known Miss Webber, the artist, in the biblical sense?"

He screwed up his face. What the hell was the cyber hacker going on about now?

Judging by the sigh of vexation emitted by the nerd, the blonde realized his quasi-friend had picked up on his confusion. "Stone Cold," Spinelli tried again. "Have you ever… had relations with the woman in question?"

"Relations?"

"… of an intimate nature," his roommate clarified, though the added piece of information did little to erase Jason's bewilderment.

"I still don't understand what you're trying to ask me, Spinelli."

"Have the two of you ever done the beast with two backs, danced the bed sheets mambo, saw stars together, bumped uglies?" All he could simply do in response was stare bemused, causing the younger man to get even more agitated. Throwing up his arms, the hacker exclaimed loudly, loud enough for most of the room to hear, "have the two of you ever had sex, Stone Cold?"

"What," he hissed, moving to pull the computer hacker into a more private corner, but the nerd dug his feet in, refusing to leave the spot they were currently occupying. "Why would you… First of all," he ordered his employer, "lower your goddamned voice, and, secondly, why the hell would you ask me that?"

"Well, isn't it obvious," Spinelli inquired, gesturing towards the wall of paintings before them. "That's you. After much deliberation and what could only be described as a most valiant ever to convince myself of my own mistaken observation, your humble grasshopper has come to realize that one simply cannot argue with fact. This collection entitled 'Domination,' it's about you, Stone Cold."

Squinting, despite the fact that he knew he would never be able to see what the younger man did, Jason stared at the wall of artwork, determined to decipher what the hacker was going on and on about. Luckily, though, his roommate seemed to take pity upon him, for he stepped forward, intent upon explaining his conclusion.

"In this first painting, Miss Webber shows you ensnarled in her web, and, though you're physically still free, by the colors and lines that she used, it's obvious to the common observer that you're anything but."

"Yeah," he consented, albeit reluctantly, "but how do you know that this guy is me?"

"Well, as you view the progression of pieces as the control develops into a more tangible display of oppression and restraint, she highlights one of your features in each painting. Viewed separately, it would be impossible to tell that Stone Cold was her subject of choice," Spinelli explained, "but, when put together, anyone can see that the various physical attributes add up together to, well, to make you."

He was stunned into silence, and Spinelli seemed to sense that it would be best if he was left alone, for the younger man slipped off, hightailing it somewhere he probably deemed safe from 'his master's' wrath.

It had been months, almost an entire year since he had last seen Elizabeth Webber. After their confrontation in the park the last November, a new adversary had arrived in town, and he had been forced to direct his attentions elsewhere. Despite the fact that he had been wary of what the little minx would do next, the truth was she really couldn't do him or the organization any real harm, at least, not of the same caliber as a rival mob boss. So, Francis had been called off his assignment, Spinelli had been told to forget about hacking into the young artist's life, and he had gone back to life as he had known it before pretty brunette had come waltzing into his world, their little battle of wills slipping entirely from his mind.

That was, until he had received an invitation to her gallery showing two weeks before. Honestly, he had been surprised that Elizabeth would even consider requesting his presence at what was probably the most important day of her career, thus far, especially considering the fact that art was simply something he could not and would never understand. But he had gone anyway, insisting that Spinelli and Sonny accompany him as well. After all, Sonny had seemed interested in her work a year before when they had met, and the computer genius' social awkwardness would make the enforcer feel as if he actually belonged at the gallery in comparison.

But, now, he didn't need to question the young woman's insistence that he attend her showing, for her reasoning was quite clear. She had invited him as a way to continue their former game, as a way to get back at him once again. Apparently, the brunette seductress simply refused to let bygones be bygones, and, really, who was he to argue with such reasoning? Their territory was safe once again, he had been feeling rather bored, so, if Elizabeth Webber wanted to attempt to publically embarrass him through her displayed artwork, he could – and would – return the favor, and, to do so, all he had to do was turn the tables around on her.

If she wanted the world to think that she had power and control over him, well, she had another thing coming. While the argument might have been true during a single night a year before, it was no longer valid, and Jason was determined to prove that in the most public, most uncomfortable way he possibly could. However, first, he needed to find the petite sexpot, corner her, and, if he had his way, make her practically beg for his revenge.

Suddenly, the night was looking up.

~)(~

Everything was going perfectly, and Elizabeth felt as if she was on cloud nine, the belle of the ball, a queen amongst her lowly subjects. The gallery opening was an immediate and immense success with several of her pieces being sold that very night. The crowd was buzzing with excitement, words of praise and encouragement for her artwork whispering forth from their painted and alcohol drenched lips, and she felt confident in the fact that there would be plenty of other shows to follow her first. It was everything she could have hoped for, a dream come true, and the best part was that several people, including one Mr. Sonny Corinthos, had commented upon her 'Domination' series.

She felt as if she were floating, and nothing, not anything or anyone, she was determined, was going to manage to bring her back down.

"There you are," a voice murmured from behind her, its waves of sound gently washing over his exposed neck and causing goosebumps to break out along her creamy, porcelain skin. "I've been looking everywhere for you."

Sadly, she had celebrated her invincibility too soon.

Refusing to give the man behind her even a moment of satisfaction, she squared her shoulders, tilted up her chin, and prepared to walk away when his iron clad fist reached out and grabbed her by the upper arm, yanking her back against him. "Not so fast, Elizabeth."

Irritated and fearful that he would be able to feel the spike in her heart rate, the blue eyed brunette demanded, "what do you want?"

"Just a moment of your time, Miss Webber," Jason answered smoothly. Too smoothly. "Considering everything I've done for you," and they both knew exactly what he was referring to you, "I think it's the least you could offer me."

Steeling herself against him, she whirled around. "Your sixty seconds start now."

"Trust me," he practically gloated, grinning wickedly. "It won't take nearly that long."

And, without further warning, he leaned in and kissed her.

It wasn't a gentle, congratulatory peck on the lips either; it was an all consuming, demanding, greedy, curl your toes embrace that made her return his kiss. Almost immediately, her own mouth flowered open underneath his, their tongues touching tentatively at first only to mate together in a dangerously sensual manner just a second later, her arms wound around his strong, masculine shoulders only to curl up so her fingers could twine themselves wantonly in his hair, and the rest of her body melted into his as she forgot about their surroundings and everything that had led them to that very place together.

Breathless, Jason pulled away from her, a self-satisfied smirk illuminating his face while his eyes fairly danced with smugness and conceit. And that's when she realized what had just transpired between them.

He hadn't just kissed her to kiss her, though it was obvious, in more ways than one, that he had enjoyed their embrace; rather, he had kissed her to prove a point, to get back at her. While she might have painted him in a series of pieces depicting his loss of control at her hands, he had put on a live show for the whole world to see, and she had played right into his game by reacting to his touch. With just that one kiss, he had stripped her of all her defenses, proving that he could dominate and possess her just as easily if not more so than she could him. And the worst part was that, even after such a revelation, she wouldn't change a damn thing.

While Jason might have won their little battle of wills, the sexual war between them was just beginning, and, if she had anything to say about it, and she most certainly did, it was going to make history.

Starting later that night.