Title: The Night of the Coercion
Fandom: Wild Wild West
Pairing: Jim/m, Artie/m, Jim/Artie implied
Feedback: justblackchaps at yahoo dot com
Summary: A lack of communication leads to problems.
Disclaimer: All this belongs to CBS.
"James, my dearest boy, I have a question for you."
Jim flinched from the misuse of his name. He raised his eyes from the newspaper he was desperately reading, or staring at, and nodded at the Prince. "Go ahead, Your Highness."
"Are you aware that Artemus wants to suck your cock?" The Prince laughed gaily. "Don't look so shocked now. I've seen the smoldering gazes, and the way he stares at your ass when he thinks you're not looking. Come, come, there's nothing to worry about."
Jim told himself for the thousandth time that this trip was nearly over. One more day at the most and he'd be free from the Prince and his endless parade of witty remarks. "I have no idea what you're talking about--which you knew."
The Prince leaned forward and smirked, idly playing with his largest pearl ring. "I know nothing of the sort. I've had plenty of time to watch the two of you prance around this train. He's panting for you, and so am I."
Jim shut his paper, folded it, and stood up. "Excuse me. I'm turning in for the evening."
The Prince shrugged. "I've come to a decision. You'll love it! You suck my cock, and I'll sign the treaty."
Jim sighed and shook his head. "I can't be blackmailed. You'll sign the treaty."
"Oh, well, you're right." The Prince smiled and sipped his brandy. "It was worth a try. I'm going to tell Artemus you did it anyway, just for fun." He grinned.
Jim rubbed the back of his neck. He was being manipulated, any fool could see that, but what did the Prince really want from him? "He'll probably pull a gun and shoot you."
"Now that would be a real diplomatic incident." The Prince laughed again. It grated. "I haven't been in Artemus' good graces since my buffalo hunt. This is just the thing to fix that! Once he learns how good you are at sucking cock, he'll thank me."
"Your Highness," Jim ground out, "what do you want?"
"You, on your knees, sucking my cock. Once is enough. This trip has been dreadfully long. Your choice--either you do it and I keep quiet, or you don't and I tell him." The Prince examined his necklace. "Where is your Artemus?"
"He went to get supplies. He'll be back shortly." Jim shook his head. "You're bluffing."
The Prince stood up and adjusted his trousers. "Why would I bother? Either way, I'm going to have a spot of fun. Good sport, don't you think?" He went through the connecting door. "I'll be in my room, for a minute."
Jim didn't watch the Prince saunter away. There was no choice. The Prince would do it--wreck this partnership over nothing. Jim would do whatever it took to prevent that. It wasn't any big deal, but he was wrong.
"James, I knew you'd accommodate me."
Jim tore his eyes away from the Prince's cock. "Your father must be proud."
"He is." The Prince stroked his cock up and down. "Get busy or else."
"I have your word on your ancestor's graves?" Jim hoped that was binding enough.
"Of course. I want your mouth. It's pretty." The Prince pointed his cock at Jim. "I'm losing patience."
Jim went to his knees and ignored the sounds above him. He thought of other things. This was nothing but work.
Artemus went around the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. He was going to draw his gun, but the rifle leveled at him forced him to change his mind. "Count Manzeppi, how nice to see you."
"I thought you'd say that." The count smirked.
"Can I go now?" Artemus was relieved there was no monkey, but the gunsel with a rifle looked too serious for comfort. He took a step back, but they followed. "I guess not."
"We have business." Manzeppi made a broad gesture and a door popped open. "Inside."
Artemus didn't think that was a good idea at all. "No thanks."
The gunsel cocked the rifle. Manzeppi made no move. "Your choice, but make it quick. I'm a busy man."
"I still think this is a bad idea." He went inside, but never turned his back. "Let's get this over with. Jim is expecting me."
Manzeppi shook his head. "I sent your sweet Jim a note. He won't look for you until later." He chuckled and lit the lamps with his fingers. Artemus thought it was completely overdone. The room was four bare walls, one chair, and carpet. "Give him your guns--all of them."
Artemus sighed and handed them over. "What's this all about?"
"I'm a man who likes to complete a project." Manzeppi sat down in the chair with the grace of a big man. "You and Jim West are a team. It's annoying that."
Artemus kept his eyes on the rifle. He was through talking. Manzeppi would put on a show, and then get down to business. Sure enough, there were a few puffs of smoke. Artemus rolled his eyes. He really didn't want to do this.
"Are you aware that your partner sucks cock better than any six-dollar whore?"
Artemus went for his gun. "You've crossed the line!"
"And what are you going to do about it?" Manzeppi pointed to the floor. "I will give you exactly ten seconds to kneel before me."
"Or your partner dies." Manzeppi eased his finger over to the window. "Pull the shades up, Manuel."
Artemus watched. He immediately saw Jim. The glass was tinted to a strange color, but the image was clear enough. Jim was tied to a chair with a gun pointed at his head. Artemus' knees hit the floor. "Let him go."
"When I'm finished with you." Manzeppi chuckled again. "Your partner faced this same situation not all that long ago, and he made his choice. I'm so very curious as to your decision."
Artemus didn't believe it, and yet, they would do anything for each other. He sneered, "You're a sick man, and I'm not playing this game."
"Yes, you are," Manzeppi drawled. "No, no, no, don't get upset. I'm giving you the same opportunity I gave your partner. It's only fair." He unbuttoned his trousers, and Artemus winced away, but his eyes fell on the gun held at Jim's head.
"First, turn him loose. When he's gone, I'll do it." Artemus paused. "You have my word."
Manzeppi made a broad gesture. The ropes around Jim were cut, and he dashed out the door. Artemus lowered his head. He'd do this, and he'd forget it. It didn't matter one damn bit.
Jim glanced up when Artemus came through the door. Artemus went straight to the whiskey and started draining the bottle. He didn't bother with a glass. Jim watched in amazement. "I had a strange day too."
"Let's not talk." Artemus took the bottle and disappeared up front. Jim suddenly had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wiped his mouth and took a deep breath.
Artemus sat down across the table from Jim and tried desperately of something to say--anything. Jim took a bite of food and looked up. He chewed. Artemus couldn't manage to put it in his mouth.
"Do you ever worry that our great affection for each other will be used against us?" Artemus plowed on ahead. "I mean, some of these criminals know us. They could play us off against each other."
Jim put his fork down. "Why would they bother? Neither of us is stupid enough to be blackmailed."
Artemus stood up and went to stare out a window. Jim hadn't understood the question or didn't want to answer it--most likely, the latter. Well, it didn't matter. Artemus wasn't leaving, not for good.
Jim sipped his whiskey and didn't bother to turn up the lamps. It was growing dark, but it suited his mood. Artemus was gone--again. He was here less and less. Jim was coming to the conclusion that somewhere along the line, he'd made a mistake.
Artemus closed the book on the assignment and sighed. He had to get back to the Wanderer and Jim. How many people had blackmailed Jim over the years? Artemus had tried desperately not to wonder, but more and more, it was all he thought about in the moments that he wasn't working. Jim should have never, but it was understandable. They were too close, and people took advantage. Artemus swigged his whiskey. He could still taste Manzeppi's spunk, and it had been a year.
"President Grant!" Artemus jumped to his feet. "You shouldn't have come down here to see me. I'd have walked!"
"We're in the same building." President Grant took a chair. "Sit down. We have a reception tonight for ambassadors from all over the world, and I'd like you to attend."
"Be honored." Artemus smiled. "Shall I go as me, or someone else?"
"You'll do fine. Your wayward partner should be there too. I sent him a telegram a week ago." President Grant smiled. "Afterwards, you two can head to your next assignment."
"No opera singers, right?" Artemus didn't want a repeat of that fiasco.
"No." President Grant stood up. "Colonel Richmond will brief you both after the party. You've been here in Washington a lot this last year. Time for you to get out in the field again."
Artemus nodded. "If Jim will have me, I'll go."
"Party is at nine. Don't be late." President Grant went out with a small wave of his cigar. Artemus groaned and sat back down. Those parties were always damn dull.
Jim dressed in his best tuxedo. He couldn't help but wonder if Artemus would be at the party. The telegram hadn't said, but it was likely. After the diva debacle, Artemus had returned to Washington for another emergency. It had been a surprise. Jim had thought--well--he'd thought everything was good again. Tonight, he was getting some answers. He needed a real partner. Not one that couldn't be bothered with him.
Artemus worked the room like the professional that he was. He only lost his calm when he stumbled across the Prince. It had been years, but not long enough. "What are you doing here?"
"Haven't you heard, dear Artemus?" The Prince gave his trademark grin. "I'm the ambassador, until dear Father goes to his reward. I like to travel."
Artemus groaned. "Saints preserve us."
"Where is your partner? I've missed Jim--especially his mouth." The Prince grinned, grabbed a glass of champagne, and wandered away. Artemus unclenched his fists and stepped behind a potted plant to recover his aplomb. The Prince was a liar.
"Hey Jim." Artemus blinked. "Jim!" They hugged each other quickly. "I've been looking for you. President Grant said you'd be here."
"He never tells me anything." Jim smiled. "How have you been?"
"Good." Artemus glanced back to make sure the prince of hell was gone. "We're heading out after this. I'm looking forward to it."
Jim looked down and then back up. "Really?"
Artemus almost lied and then thought better of it. He respected Jim too much. "I've missed you."
"But no, huh?" Jim turned away. "I see someone I know. Excuse me."
Artemus rubbed his face. That had blown up badly. What could he say? He just didn't know. A waiter handed him a message, and he opened it. Meet me in the library. No signature. He sighed and started walking. No telling what mischief was going on tonight, but he'd be in the thick of it--as usual.
"Artie, I knew you'd come running."
Artemus glared at the Prince. They were in private, and there was no reason to be polite. "What do you want?"
"I was thinking as I watched you drape your arms around your partner. He was willing to do a great deal to protect you. How far are you willing to go?"
Artemus felt his heart sink through the floor. How many years would they be doing this nonsense? Well, it was ending, right here. "Not very damn far. What do you want?"
"I'd love to know if you suck as well as your partner does." The Prince laughed. "Please?"
"Go to hell."
"Either way, you lose. I'll tell him you did." The prince smirked. "It'll be fun."
"Good. Tell him. I don't care." Artemus slammed the door on his way out. This was how all the trouble had started. He was sure of it. Blackmail was never pretty. Jim had done anything to save this partnership, and so had Artemus, and it had done nothing but destroy it. He stalked off to mouth inanities at some other ambassador from nowhere.
The note said to go to the library, so Jim did. Maybe Artemus wanted to talk. He went in cautiously though. The Prince grinned. "Hello, James."
Jim straightened his back. "Hi. See ya."
"No. No. I insist we catch up on old times." The Prince laughed. "Artemus was just here. We had the best time."
Jim narrowed his eyes. "And?"
"And he knows you sucked my cock. I told him while he was sucking me off." The Prince gave Jim a cocky smile. "I know I said I wouldn't, but it was so much fun!"
Jim didn't listen to any more words. He slammed the door on his way out. It all made sense now, but Artemus had known before tonight. He'd known, and he'd found reasons to leave. Jim strode down the hallway into the ballroom and found a woman to dance with. He'd get a new partner later.
Artemus watched Jim dance. He'd come from the direction of the library. Had he been on his knees--again? It was a damn shame that it had come to this. When the dance was over, Artemus caught Jim's eye and flicked his eyes to the door. Jim nodded. They moved as one to the balcony, and Artemus was careful to shut the doors behind them.
Artemus could see Jim's anger. "Are you angry because you did it, or because I did it?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Count Manzeppi, and a few others." Artemus stared out into the darkness. He wasn't proud of it. "Did you think they'd only come after you?"
"Well, yes." Jim put his hands on his hips. "I did it for us!"
"Bullshit. You did it because you were frightened. If you'd have spoken to me one time, this all could have been avoided." Artemus gripped the marble tightly. "They played us off each other. I had to leave. To stop it."
"It didn't work." Jim touched Artemus on the arm. "We're too close."
"Yes." Artemus laughed without any joy in it. "Funny thing is--years ago--I almost asked you to share my bed, but I was scared of losing everything."
"Me too." Jim squeezed and dropped his hand. "What can we do?"
"I don't know." Artemus lowered his head. He didn't have a clue. "I'd do it again, if someone had a gun to your head."
"I would too." Jim groaned softly. "Well, we can face this together or move to Europe. Those are our choices."
Artemus turned, checked for watchers, and put one finger on Jim's lips. "I wanted you first."
"You always knew I'd whore for the job."
"Don't ever say that! I won't listen to it. We both did what we had to, for the job, and each other, but we're going to make some new rules." Artemus took a deep breath. "I've missed you too much to go without you any longer."
"That's good to hear." Jim took a step. "Partners?"
"Partners." Artemus brushed his finger down Jim's jaw. "Let's get it right this time."