Harlequin: "Covet" Pt. II

covet ('kʌvɪt): v. To yearn, have or indulge inordinate desire, notably for another's possession.

"And the cloud that took the form

When the rest of Heaven was blue

Of a demon in my view—"

—Edgar Allan Poe, "Alone"

Richard patiently waited for his date with Kori to end in disaster.

So far, everything had gone perfectly according to plan. You know, except for that one part where he had left the plan up to Victor who had made their reservations for the exact time that the last person on earth Richard wanted to see began his part-time shift in the dining hall. Didn't Victor know that every time Roy passed their table, he would want to bury an exploding Wing-Ding in his neck? Did Victor want the hall go down in flames and poisoned arrows?

As if called, the bane of his existence materialized at their table, wearing the same expression that had been driving Richard insane all evening. As Roy wordlessly refilled their glasses of sparkling cider, they locked gazes, and Richard was startled to find his own hostility mirrored right back at him. The air sizzled between them but before either could speak, a heavily mustached man in a crisp tuxedo shouldered Roy aside.

"I will be attending Monsieur Grayson tonight, Harper," he said, shooing Roy away with a practiced sneer and dismissive flick of his hands before turning back to them. "Executive Chef Dupont sends his regards, and would like to know how monsieur and the lovely princess are enjoying dinner so far?"

Richard frowned, both angry and relieved that they had been interrupted. His eyes flicked to the snide gold embroidery on the man's breast pocket that read Jean Pierre, Paladin Maître d'hôtel and briefly he imagined what would happen if Jean Pierre's pearly whites and pasty face became well acquainted with his right hook. His neatly combed pompadour would probably wobble in dismay while his perfect teeth would fall out of his mouth and rain onto the table and into their drinks. The vivid imagery took a bit of the tension out of Richard's spine and his fingers relaxed where they had been clenched atop the starched white tablecloth.

"It's delicious, Jean Pierre. Please tell Chef Dupont that he's outdone himself. My father will be so pleased to hear of this," Richard said diplomatically, his face impassive. No, Jean Pierre, I'm not enjoying my dinner so far. I could have been eating rocks and sticks for all I can tell and my stomach feels like it's filled with lead. Also, one of your waiters has been giving me dirty looks all evening.

If the maître d' heard the insincerity in Richard's voice, he didn't show it, nodding with an airy tilt of his head before giving a shallow bow and flouncing away. Kori's eyes sparkled joyfully at him from the other side of the candles but shame, undeniable and unmitigated kept Richard's eyes dutifully trained on his meal.

He was ashamed because every time he looked at her he remembered the day he had gotten put in his place for the very first time.

He was ashamed because even though Wren himself had been less than insignificant to Richard at the time, his words, biting with certainty and conviction, had shaken him to the bone and it had been such an awful, sickening surprise to be judged by this peculiar boy, this frail-looking, violet-haired stranger and found lacking that Richard had, from that moment on, been trying to show Wren that he'd been wrong about him.

He was ashamed because he could still feel disgust that frosting those few short words that had made him feel so small, so…hypocritical—as if all his goals, all of his years of training to become who he wanted to be was all posturing.

Ashamed because he was still that hypocrite, sitting in the dining hall's VIP lounge trying to salvage a pretend relationship with a girl he was too afraid to be honest with, acting like the man he swore to leave behind.

Richard was ashamed because he was on a date with the kindest, sincerest, sexiest alien he had ever met and all he could think about—all he could think about—was Wren.

Every flame in the fireplace that whispered as it kissed a log made him miss Wren's rasp. Every time a particularly small-boned person passed by, he missed Wren's deceptively slight, lithe figure. Every porcelain dish made him miss Wren's delicate, almost translucent skin and Richard was slowly LOSING HIS MIND because the very point of this date was supposed to make him do the COMPLETE OPPOSITE.

He closed his eyes in a moment of weakness and Kori's fingertips were immediately resting on his arm. "Richard, are you all right? You are…worrying me."

"I'm sorry," he lied, and blinked, fingers releasing from their death grip on his salad knife, "My side is still a little sore from training."

It was a half-assed excuse, but Kori began fussing immediately, scolding him for always pushing himself too hard, and something in her tone struck the wrong chord in Richard. He jerked his arm out of her grasp and stood abruptly, mumbling something about the restroom, fiercely needing to be anywhere that Kori wasn't—and somewhere that Wren was.

Because Richard was certain that just the sight of him would calm the lead turned sea of rolling lava in his gut. That just listening to Wren's voice would dissolve the guilt that squeezed Richard's lungs every time Kori touched him. That the twin oceans of violet that shone mirror-like in Wren's gaze would absolve him of his sins—would exonerate him from his arrogance and illicit desire.

That being near Wren would still his turbid emotions—even though Richard could not think of Wren without also remembering the intimate way he had been pressed up against Roy, their legs tangling as the taller boy pushed him into the kitchen counter. He could not think about Wren without also remembering how he had seemed to arch receptively into Roy as he leaned down, and how Roy had crushed their hips together.

Richard had almost made it to the hallway near the restrooms when Roy stepped around the corner and a wave of some unnameable emotion crashed over him and blurred his vision. Faintly he registered the clatter of broken glass on the marble floor before his fists were suddenly full of Roy's collar as he shoved him into the wall. Brief irritation at the cider trickling into his fitted dress shirt, plastering the expensive fabric to his skin, was eclipsed by fury as Richard noticed the lack of surprise on Roy's face—as if he'd been patiently waiting all evening for him to lose his shit.

"She's in love with you," Roy said without preamble. His eyes were like flint but he stared emotionlessly at Richard, not even bothering to remove the hands from his throat. "And all you're going to do is break her heart—"

Richard scoffed in disbelief. He knew that he was treading on thin ice with Kori—but Roy? How dare he try to kettle-call? "Really? Why don't you tell me about how you're dicking around with the person who found out they might destroy the world and tried to commit suicide?"

Roy's eyes narrowed. "Get the fuck off me." Finally, a reaction.

"With pleasure." Richard smirked and slammed Roy against the wall again for good measure before backing away marginally. His hands were itching to decorate Roy's face, and he curled them into tight fists at his sides.

"What's going on between me and Wren," Roy began, languidly adjusting his clothing. "…is none of your business—"

"Are you—are you serious? It is my fucking business if my best friend decides he wants to fuck with my roommate's head just to get his rocks off—"

Something in Roy snapped then, and abruptly their positions were reversed. Richard's head cracked sharply against the wall as Roy withdrew his fist. "Why don't you just shut your goddamn mouth and open your fucking eyes for once—"

"What kind of perverted asshole preys on someone like Wren of all people?" Richard sneered around his busted lip, blood trickling down the side of his chin. "How long were you planning on stringing him along before you dumped him like yesterday's trash? I sure hope you have a contingency plan for the apocalypse—"

"I said shut your fucking mouth!" Roy snarled. He drew his arm back as if to hit him again but stopped, shock crossing his face. Richard quickly tried to school his features but it was too late—Roy had seen the pleading look on his face. He'd seen it and realized that Richard was asking to be hit—asking to be punished.

"What? Why'd you stop?" Richard demanded, but the fury in Roy's eyes had already been replaced by something far worse. Pity.

"You're so…ignorant, Dick. Acting like you're so much better than everyone else—expecting the rest of the world to just wait around until you dig your head out of your ass and realize that all this time you were just as flawed as everyone else."

Richard chuckled humorlessly. Tell me something I don't know.

"Garfield told me all about the gang's little plan to get you laid tonight." The look of disgust on Roy's face made Richard's already sick stomach churn. "Why is what you're doing to Kori any different than what you're accusing me of doing to Wren? Hypocrite."

"It's different. I could love Kori, eventually," Richard said. He sounded unconvincing, even to himself. "You'll never love Wren. You'll trick him into thinking you do, maybe, and then once he does, the game is over for you, isn't it?"

Roy let out a sharp, biting bark of a laugh. "See, Dick, that's where you're wrong, actually—this has never been a game for me. I have never been so serious about something in my life."

It was Richard's turn to laugh. "You really expect me to believe that, Roy? That you're serious about Wren?"

"More than you are about Kori," Roy challenged, daring Richard to back down on his bluff. They glared at each other for a full minute, neither willing to concede defeat, but both knowing that Roy was right.

"So there's nothing for us to be arguing about then, is there?" Richard asked coolly, adding as Roy turned to walk off, "Well?"

Roy paused and regarded him with that same infuriating look from earlier. The look that said that he had all of the missing pieces and was dangling it over Richard's head, just out of reach. "If I told you Wren was lying to you, would you still feel the same?"

Richard felt as if he had been shot in the gut. His mouth worked, trying to form words, but his throat had dried up.

Roy smirked. "I wonder, if you knew, would you still defend him so strongly? Because that's the reason why you attacked me, right? To defend Wren's honor?"

Richard couldn't tell Roy that it was because the thought of his best friend's hands on Wren had turned his vision red and all intelligent thought had subsequently left his mind.

Richard couldn't tell Roy that it was because he was trying to protect Wren's virtue when he was planning on taking Kori's that same night.

In the end, he didn't have to say anything. Roy didn't wait for an answer and simply walked away. They both knew that he had won that round—there was nothing left to say.

Kori was more than encouraging as Richard maneuvered them roughly to and onto his bed, squealing as he nipped and tasted the sensitive areas on her neck and jaw, but her enthusiasm fell on deaf ears—Richard was moving on autopilot. He fumbled impatiently with the clasp on her silver breastplate. She giggled as he struggled with it, but he ignored her, anxious to feel someone's warmth sliding and pressing against his own so fiercely that it blocked out the part of his brain that wanted Wren to be the one writhing under him instead. Kori must have sensed his urgency, because she stilled his hand and undid it herself with the ease of someone who had done so a thousand times before.

The armor fell to the floor with a clang, and like cold water had been poured down his back, Richard froze, but then Kori's arms were around him, pulling him down to her and he drowned in her golden skin.

Kori tried to guide his mouth to hers but he pulled away to remove his shirt. When she wrapped her arms around his neck and angled her head to his, he let his lips slide along her jaw instead. When she buried her hands in his hair and drew him in, he buried his face in her neck and ground his hips into hers until she gasped.

Her fingers were starting to hook into his waistband when he felt her go still under him. He felt her fingertips brush his clenched eyelids and, as she asked in a small voice, "Richard, why do you close your eyes", the moment was broken.

Richard had been fervently trying to make himself believe that maybe if he didn't look at her, the yearning wouldn't be so bad. He had thought that maybe, if he didn't kiss her, he could pretend, but as he opened his eyes and saw the hurt slowly leak into Kori's expression, Richard decided to stop deluding himself. Victor had been wrong—he couldn't sleep with Kori, not even with his eyes closed. Not while Wren was seared into the backs of his eyelids.

He eased off of her gently and averted his gaze so that he didn't have to watch her face crumple as she sat up to search his. "I do not understand, friend Richard," she asked quietly, fighting tears as as he fought to get his racing heart back under control. "Is there something wrong with me? Am I not satisfactory enough?"

"Oh, Kori, of course you're satis…" Richard began but faltered at the tears glistening on her cheeks. He sighed before trying again, "There is absolutely nothing wrong with you—there's something wrong with me."

Kori sucked in a breath and he raised a hand to stop the barrage of concerned questions that were about to come tumbling out of her mouth, but whatever he was about to say was drowned out by two things: first, the swoosh of the door being opened and second, the ear-splitting blare of the school-wide alarm.

Raven knew that Kori was in their suite before she reached the first floor of the dorm. By the third floor she could tell that both Kori and Richard were highly aroused and by the time she reached the penthouse floor, her knees were week with the degree of yearning and desire that flooded the hall.

In retrospect, she probably should have turned back at the third floor, but there was this…this pain that dwarfed the other emotions coming from the room she shared with Richard, and even though she was confused and angry, she felt like she needed to help.

Although Raven had been bracing for far worse when she opened the door, her brain still short-circuited when she saw them. Somewhere in the back of her mind, her common sense was telling her to back away and put as much distance between herself and the scene in front of her as possible, but she was frozen in place. She was only vaguely aware of a very naked Starfire's rising indignation, as the most peculiar emotion radiated through the vice grip Richard's eyes had on hers. It almost felt like…relief? Tenderness?

She probably would have eventually figured it out if they hadn't been interrupted by that goddamn alarm. The television flickered on without warning, making them all jump.

"This is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill. All students, faculty, and guests are to return to their assigned quarters immediately." The headmaster's face filled the screen, and the panic lining his features was unnerving. "We have received knowledge that a student has been found dead in the south wing of the library, and have reason to believe that there is an intruder on the premises."

The door opened behind Raven to admit an official who didn't bat an eye at Starfire's state of undress, and stated that she was there to collect her and escort her back to her rooms. There was something discomfortingly familiar about the woman's waterfall of blonde hair, and with a jolt, Raven recognized her as the woman who had been in Roy's bed. Speechlessly, she watched her help Starfire into her things and as swiftly as she appeared, they were gone.

Headmaster Connors was still talking. "Until the person responsible is found, all students are under mandatory house arrest until further notice. Anyone found out of their rooms will be held under suspicion of murder."

The screen flickered once, and suddenly, Batman was glaring at them. "Robin, come in."

Richard shot to his feet, alarm evident in every line of his body as he activated the communication interface built into their television. "I'm here, Bruce," he said, not even bothering to correct him. "What's going on?"

Some of the tightness went out of Batman's face as the feed patched through and he noticed Raven standing a few paces behind Richard. "Oh, good, you're safe. I was afraid I wouldn't get to you in time."

Raven's eyes widened. Batman was relieved to see she was safe? "I'm sorry, sir?"

"Preliminary investigation revealed that the murderer seems to be targeting a sorcerer that fits your…description, Wren Lee. I'm sure I don't need to explain to you what that means." He fixed her with a meaningful look that only bewildered her more before turning to his ward. "Robin, I'm assigning you as Wren's shadow. You are not to leave his side for a minute—"

"What are you talking—Bruce I need to be on this case!" Richard sputtered angrily. "I'm the only qualified detective on this island!"

"This is an an order, Robin—guard Wren with your life. Further instructions will be delivered to you by morning."

"It's Nightwing," Richard muttered, but the screen had already gone dark. His fists clenched and Raven watched his shoulders rise and fall as frustration practically seeped out of his pores.

He was in pain again. The whole situation was entirely too much for Raven to handle, but apparently Richard wasn't through bombarding her with his emotions yet. He spun around and froze, as if just realizing she was there, and then, without warning, crossed the distance between them and crushed her to his chest. She felt him shudder when their bodies touched and the intensity of his reaction made her shiver.

"We…need to talk."

Confused yet?

This would have been updated last week only I saw The Amazing Spider Man II last Thursday and was emotionally incapacitated.

Please leave me your thoughts!~ If you're interested in beta reading for me, please, please, please, please say so.