No Good Deed

BY : Lursa_and_BeTor
Category: 1 through F > Andromeda
Dragon prints: 7224
Disclaimer: I do not own Andromeda, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Author's Note:

"Bridesmaids Always Get the Ugly Outfits!"

Howdy loyal readers. We're back after a long sabbatical. Be'Tor has been gleefully snapping her whip and I've been blissfully ignoring her. But when the bitch took away my Godiva I had to do something. So here's our newest. Be'Tor and I always did have a thing for the Jaguar Archduke so we decided to play with him a bit. This is only a two-parter. Be'Tor is kicking around a few new ideas...we'll have to see what becomes of them.

A firm word of warning to all Dylan lovers. You guys should know us by now. We don't always play nice with Dyllie...hey, let's be honest...we NEVER play nice with Dyllie!! So put down the mouse and back away from the computer if you are a big fan of the stuffy captain.

For our fans and like-minded newcomers...kick back and enjoy!


Part One

"Oh, no way! No frickin' way! This has to be Beka's idea of a joke." Harper stands in front of a mirror, holding the chainmail vest out at arm's length. He squints dubiously at the way it glitters silver-blue in the lighting. They expect him to wear this? The damned black leather pants are bad enough. Why can't he just wear his cargo pants? He has a black pair of those. Harper flings back the heavy yellow curtain shielding his dressing room and stalks out into the aisle, stomping across the thick white carpet to the group ensconced in the waiting area. "Tell me that this is a joke."

"What is it now, Harper?" Tyr crosses his arms over his chest and sighs loudly as he turns his head to look at the human. His long hair brushes softly against the pale yellow wallpaper. A dark maroon vest hugs his chest and black leather pants mold his lower body.

"Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about." Harper snarls.

"I don't." Tyr raises his eyebrow as he pushes away from the wall. He circles Harper, slowly looking the human up and down. Well, well, well, the human had been concealing a lot under those baggy pants. All that and a nice ass too. The human might well garner a certain amount of attention and invitations. "What is the problem?"

Harper turns his head to watch suspiciously as the Neitzschean moves around him. He can't quite define the look on Tyr's face. "Are you smirking at me?"

"Why do you have to be so obstructive?" Tyr sighs dramatically. He gestures toward Dylan and Beka. "The rest of us are already finished getting fitted with proper attire for attending a Nietzschean wedding and ready to go."

"This? You expect me to wear this?" Harper holds the vest up against his white tee shirt and glowers at them over the garment. It's a sad day when his pants are even tighter than Tyr's. "In what universe does a shiny mesh vest qualify as formal wear? What ever happened to tuxes?"

"I happen to wear a similar garment." Tyr narrows his eyes. "It is a perfectly functional and attractive covering."

"I think you look lovely, Harper. It really brings out your eyes." Beka sniggers as she lounges back in her yellow chair, sipping the complementary wine. Yellow and white striped boxes nudge her black boots. "You might want to wear something flesh colored under it -- unless, of course, you just want everyone to be staring at your nipples."

"Ewww! Leave my nipples out of this." Harper draws himself up to his full height and clutches the vest protectively to his chest. Now he's not gonna be able to get the idea out of his head. Not only is he gonna have waddle around the party in pants that are twelve sizes too small, but he's gonna be wondering if anyone is staring at his nipples too.

"Chain mail's gonna pinch a bit too." Beka remarks.

Harper turns his glares on Tyr. Pinching? No one had mentioned pinching. "Pinch? It's gonna pinch me! And you wear this?"

"I find it stimulating." Tyr shrugs. A faint smile touches his full lips.

"I'm not touching that one." Harper shudders. He eyes Beka's slashed black shirt and snug black pants. He'd bet anything that while he was being fobbed off with a damn near see through vest that Beka had gotten something in a dark shade. "Boss, tell me you're wearing something pink and frilly."

Beka grins at him. "Not even in your twisted little dreams, pal."

"I knew it. I knew it." Harper clenches his hand around the delicate links of the vest as he levels an accusing stare at her. "Black. You're wearing black, aren't you?"

She takes another slow sip over her wine, studying him over the rim. "Wrong again, Sparky. I'm wearing a dress and it's navy."

"Boss," Harper looks in appeal at Dylan who is sitting in the chair next to Beka, "Tell me that you are wearing something like this and I wonít say another word."

"I doubt that." Dylan raises his eyebrows. "I'm wearing my High Guard dress uniform, Harper. Military uniforms are perfectly correct for any Nietzschean ceremony."

"Then what are you doing here?" Harper asks plaintively as he fingers the vest's tiny links.

Dylan drinks the last of his wine. "I just came down here to have a few minor adjustments made to it."

"If it makes you feel better, Harper, those black leather pants go great with the vest." Beka's crystal blue eyes sparkle with mischief. "Very striking."

Harper yanks the hem of his tee shirt lower and grouses, "These pants are all but painted on."

"Nietzscheans dress to display their assets, Little Man." Tyr chuckles softly. A human in an outfit designed for display. How outraged Harper would be if the human knew. Or if Harper had any idea of exactly how many mixed messages he is signaling by Nietzschean standards. Or how many of the shop's customers are even now discreetly admiring the view on display. Harper's attempts to conceal his surprisingly impressive assets are only drawing more attention to exactly the same areas that the human is attempting to hide. Yes. It's going to be most amusing to watch the reactions that Harper will provoke at the ceremony. Not to mention the fact that the human will have nothing to hide behind.

"Well, these are so tight I can barely breathe." Harper huffs. His tee shirt just isn't providing enough coverage. He dangles the vest in front of his groin as he catches Tyr's eyes lingering on him. "What are you looking at?"

"Nothing. Just admiring the view." Tyr's lips quirk into a smile.

"View?" Harper huffs. "Sheesh. They leave nothing to the imagination."

"Indeed." Tyr looks Harper up and down with a speculative gaze.

"Only the Divine knows what would happen if I attempted to do anything radical, like sitting." Harper turns sharply as the tailor walks up behind him.

"I assure you, young sir. The pants and vest fit perfectly." The man tilts his head as he looks at Harper. "You won't find better at such short notice. With the Archduke's wedding preparations and all the last minute alterations, there won't be a tailor on the planet who has time to create an appropriate outfit. You are so -- compact there will be few ready-made outfits in your size. It's only your good fortune that the man who ordered this for his son had to leave unexpectedly."

"His son!" Harper eyes widen. He stares in shock at the tailor. "Someone would put a kid in these things?"

Tyr shrugs. "Of course."

"Unbelievable." Harper shakes his head. Nietzscheans. If he didn't have plans for this wedding, the idea of parading around in this stuff would be more that enough to motivate him to develop a sudden illness that prevented him from attending. Harper sighs and looks down at the vest. "Oh all right. But I wanna go on record as being completely opposed to the whole chain mail thing."He turns and trudges off to the dressing room with a resigned air.

Dylan sets his empty wine glass on the sidetable as he glances at Tyr. "Tyr?"

Tyr watches with mild interest as Harper stalks back toward the dressing rooms. The human really did have a very nice ass. A quick glance around the store tells him that he isn't the only one tracking the human's path. "Captain, you have a question?"

"Aren't black and silver the Jaguar colors?"


"Won't wearing them at a Jaguar wedding have certain implications?" Dylan frowns. Hadn't Andromeda mentioned something about it not being proper etiquette to wear Pride colors to a wedding? That only the bride and groom wore those colors?

Tyr shoves his long braids back over his shoulder as he looks at Dylan. "What's your point?"

"Well, Harper will be wearing that outfit." Dylan stands up. His frown deepens. After all the trouble of persuading Elsbett to truly marry the Archduke instead of killing Charlemagne and the cream of the Jaguar court, he doesn't want anything to upset the smooth running of this ceremony.

Tyr raises his eyebrow. "And?"

"And I don't want to risk an incident."

"I don't think there will be a problem, Dylan. There might be some hint of challenge if a Nietzschean appeared at the ceremony in those colors. For a human?" Tyr smirks. As if anyone will mistake a human for a challenger. Anyway, it takes more that just wearing Pride colors at a wedding to qualify as a challenger. Harper is hardly likely to attack the bride or save Charlemagne from some threat to life and limb. The human will have to achieve one or the other to be taken for a challenger. What are the chances? "Highly unlikely."

"Well, if you're sure." Dylan shrugs. He turns and gathers up the garment bag holding his uniform.


"That's quite the romantic story that your promised bride is spinning." Cassandra paces slowly up and down. Her sandles tap softly on the deep blue tiles lining the floor. She pauses to admire the mural depicting the depths of the sea. It wraps around the walls of the room containing the Archduke's private swimming pool, leaving her feeling as if she is walking on the bottom of the ocean. "Let me see, how does it go? Fighting her way to your side across the universe. Defeating the Drago-Kazov's attempt to foil your union. All just to claim her appointed mate. Touching."

"Oh? You believe her then?" Charlemagne pauses at the end of his lap, griping the tile at the edge of his pool. He blinks water from his lashes as he looks at the Jaguar Matriarch. Her slim shoulders are stiff beneath her white leathers. A cap of dark curls cropped short reveal the elegant shape of her skull.

Cassandra turns to face him. Large gold earrings glint in her ears. "Do you?"


"There are rumors." Cassandra walks over to the side of pool and looks down at her Archduke as he drifts lanquidly in the water. His expression reveals only mild interest in her words.

Charlemagne sighs. "There are always rumors. So tiresome. What is it this time?"

"It is being said that she seems most fond of that kludge Captain who escorted her here. That they even went off alone together on an excursion."

"That is part of her tale, yes. It troubles me that she is willing to attempt undercut my standing at her own expense and after I've made every effort to grant her ample opportunties to further disgrace herself with the Captain as well. I was quite looking forward to bursting in on them and playing outraged groom. How tedious of her to deny me the opportunity." Charlemagne meet his Matriarch's gaze. "You did check her -- status, did you not?"

Cassandra nods. "She is not pregnant."

"Too bad. It would have been an excellent excuse for sending her packing and demanding compensation for the insult." Charlemagne levers himself out of the water and sits on the edge of the pool. He slicks his wet hair back. "I suppose I will have to accept her. We must keep the Sabra thinking that we are weak until the crucial moment. And our little treaty has the added value of getting the Drago-Kazov annoyed with the Sabra. My dear bride's antics have certainly enhanced that aspect of inter-Pride relations. It will all be to our benefit in the end."

"I hate to think of you having to waste your time on her. Perhaps there might be an unfortunate accident?"

"Tempting." Charlemage smiles up at Cassandra. "But it's much too soon for an accident, but later, ah, yes -- later after everyone has had a chance to settle down. If she lasts that long, considering how hard she is working to completely alienate my other wives."

"Alienating Circe and the others will only make her time here difficult." Cassandra muses. "Should I speak with them?"

Charlemagne laughs. "Goodness no! Circe and I had a long talk this morning. She quite understands the situation. Leave her be."

"As you wish."

Charlemagne purses his lips. "Have you noticed that the Sabra guests who are arriving are inferior even for the Sabra?"

"Yes. I had noticed that." Cassandra toys with one of her earrings. "More insults."

"Perhaps. I just can't quite put my finger on what it is." Charlemage shrugs. "Being Beta is only a distant dream for them. And one can't help but observe that the First Alpha of Sabra will not be attending."


"I just got official word this morning. It seems that the Sabra First has some myserious pressing business that will prevent him and his family from attending." Charlemage leans forward, trailing a pale hand in the warm water.

"A sign of dissent among the Sabra? Perhaps a change in Alphas is in the works?" Cassandra frowns thoughtfully.

Charlemagnes laughs softly. "Aren't you the optomist? I would love to think it was something so delicious, but my spies have no evidence indicating that the First's hold on the Sabra is any less strong."

"One must wonder if your Bride intends something...special for your wedding." Cassandra taps her foot thoughtfully.

"I do not like the implications of Elsbett's continuing flirtation with the kludge and her hints of having cuckholded me with the good Captain -- if I thought that he had any interest in eloping with her but, no, all of Hunt's passion is reserved for his Commonwealth." Then there are the minor matters of the Sabra wedding guests," Charlemagne snorts. "It leaves me wondering about the Sabra's intentions and what Elsbett really intends to do at my court. Aside from the usual -- spying, sabotage, and a few discreet murders. And speaking of sabotage, did you secure the proper herbs?"

"Yes." Cassandra nods. "I'll add them to your chalice before the Coupling ceremony."

"How long will the effect last? I want more children, just not with Elsbett."

"The herbs are effective for twenty four hours. After that, there is an increasing risk of getting her pregnant," Cassandra cautions.

"Excellent." Charlemagne slips back into the pool. "I have no intention of touching her after the coupling."


"Hey!" Harper yelps as someone pats his ass. He turns sharply, but none of the Ubers seem to be paying any attention to him. Beka, however, is grinning widely and unrepentantly.

"Sorry, Harper -- it's just so perky."

He glowers at her. "Yeah, well, you can just keep your hands to yourself, okay? I got enough on my mind already."

Her grin vanishes and her blue eyes turn sharp and watchful. "Is something wrong?"

Should he tell her? No. This is his score. He's the one who figured out what was going on. If he's right -- the rewards will be impressive. Won't Dylan be amazed. This will teach the Captain to take him for granted. And Tyr won't be calling him 'boy' any more after this. Even Beka who should know better tends to treat him like a -- well, actually he kinda likes the way she treats him like a pesky younger brother. He wants to do this himself. Once he gets his reward, he'll throw a little something her way. Besides he might be wrong and if he is, Beka will never let him hear the end of it. "You can look at me and ask that? These pants are so tight that I might as well be parading around in my birthday suit."

"You have no need to be embarrassed, Little Professor." Tyr's lips quirk into a smile. "Many males would be only too happy to be able to display such -- amplitude."

Harper scowls as a blush heats his cheeks at the gleam of sensual speculation in the Uber's amber eyes. "My 'amplitude' is for private veiwing, not public display. Don't you two have something better to do?"

Beka assumes a thoughtful air as if considering the question, then she grins at him. "No. Besides we don't have any more coverage than you do,"

Harper tilts his head and looks her over. Her sweeping dress is made of some deep navy fabric with glittering beads sewn on to it. A halter top swoops over her chest providing only minium coverage of her breasts, but the flowing folds of the skirt only hint at her slim hips and long legs. He looks at Tyr who is wearing the usual skin tight leather pants -- navy this time -- and a red vest with navy buttons. "Tyr always dresses for exposure rather than coverage. And you're just as bad. Admit it, Beka, you dress just like one of them."

"Why, Little Professor, I had no idea that you'd noticed," Tyr murmurs throatily.

"Now cut that out." Harper glowers at him. Great. Just what he needs -- an Uber tease following him around while he has serious business to take care of. "And go away."

"But, Harper, we just got here," Beka protests with mock innocence.

"What are you up to, boy?" Tyr sweeps his long braids over his shoulder. He frowns at Harper. "This is no place for human mischief."

"I'm not up to anything," Harper lies. "I'm just here outta curiosity. I've never seen an Neitzschean wedding before."

Beka giggles. "Well, I have and before the ceremony's done, you'll certianly see a whole lot."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Harper glowers as Beka only continues giggling and Tyr's smirk gets bigger. He does not have time for this nonsense. He needs to be watching Elsbett. He's gotta time this just right. Too early and everyone will think he's a crazy kludge. Too late and he's a dead kludge. "Fine. Be that way."

Harper turns and stomps off into the crowd.


Charlemagne glances out over the crowd. A nice turnout of his own Pride, but the Sabras -- nothing, but inferiors. He can see his own Alphas and Betas discreetly watching the Sabra. He's not the only one who knows that something is wrong. His eyes widen as he catches a glimpse of silver-blue and black easing through the crowd. He grins. Ah, a wedding challenge. Splendid idea -- Elsbett will be dead and the Sabra First Alpha cannot take offense since wedding challenges are an accepted custom in all Prides. But who is it? Charlemagne tilts his head. Not one of his people. He eyes the tip of a bare shoulder and glittering edge of the silver-blue vest just showing from behind a cluster of Jaguars. The Challenger is quite short. Ah, well, shortness could be over looked in one who had brains enough to see the opportunity offered by his wedding and the boldness to make the attempt. Fascinating.

"It will do you no good."

Charlemagne turns and looks down into the cold dark eyes of his bride. A faint smile curves his lips as his gaze sweeps over her. His Matriarch must have chosen the gown. The shade of silver had been chosen with an unerring eye to make Elsbett look ashy instead of darkly radient. The cut of the dress was also subtly wrong -- the slightly too snug bodice and slightly too long hem left his bride looking top-heavy and stumpy. Her black hair is pulled sharply back and pinned with thick silver combs. "No?"

"No. I will kill your Challenger." Her full lips flatten into a hard line. "I will not be defeated."

Charlemagne nods agreeably. "Well, that is the whole point of a wedding challenge. The most worthy mate proves his or her worthiness by winning. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to have a word with my Matriarch."

He strolls off, leaving his bride glaring at his back. Charlemagne eases toward the cluster of Jaguars where he'd seen the mysterious Challenger last. No sign of the Challenger now, but Hunt is there. Charlemagne exchanges greeting and smiles with his Jaguar Alphas, then he looks at Hunt. Really that white uniform does not suit the human. "Hunt. Elsbett and I are glad that you and your crew were able to attend my wedding. My dear bride quite has her heart set on your presence. She would have been most disappointed if the Andromeda crew had not come."

Dylan raises his glass of wine in a silent toast and smiles uneasily. "I'm pleased to see the Jaguar and the Sabra resolving their differences in so peaceful and delightful a fashion."

"The treaty will bring more benefits to both Prides than the late war did." Charlemagne glances around. He spots Beka Valentine looking vibrant in navy, but not a glimpse of black and silver. Beka is delicately sipping a red wine and flirting with one of his pilots. "Beka looks lovely in that dress. She seems to be enjoying herself."

Dylan frowns at he looks at Beka laughing with a tall Jaguar. There's a wistful note in his voice. "She's a beautiful woman."

"Indeed. Beautiful and intelligent. Do excuse me, Captain. I have a bit of Pride business I must attend to."

Charlemagne strolls through the crowd, pausing here and there to greet and chat. He finally makes his way to Cassandra's side. "Do I have you to thank for the wedding challenge? It's a splendid idea. Wish I'd thought of it myself. Such a tidy way of trimming away loose ends."

Cassandra blinks and looks at him. Her dark eyes are wide. "I thought it was your idea."

"No." Charlemagne cranes his neck as he catches a flash of silver-blue slinking closer to Elsbett under the cover of a group of Sabras. "I wonder who it is, then? It takes a lot of nerve and confidence to challenge at an Archduke's wedding."

"I have no idea." Cassandra fingers the folds of her white satin skirt thoughtfully. "I am prepared, of course, for accommodating a successful challenger even though I wasn't expecting one. I have a helix, if Esbett wins, and an armlet if the challenger should win."

"An armlet?" Charlemagne looks at her. "The Challenger is male then? I never could see enough to tell. I just kept catching glimpses of silver and black through the crowd."

"Oh, yes. He's most definately male." Cassandra smirks. "I sent one of my novices off right away to place a fresh bottle of lubricant under the pillows of the coupling bed. If he succeeds, you'll be taking your first consort."

Charlemagne narrows his eyes suspiciously. His Matrarch seems more highly entertained than the idea of his taking a consort than it merits. It's not as if he wouldn't know what to do with a consort, or fail to find pleasure in one. So there's something else. What is she holding back from him? "I have no objection to acquiring a consort. I'd rather attempt to bed a Than than my Sabran bride."

"I'll remind you of that statement later." Cassandra chuckles softly. "It's almost time. You better go back to your bride."

Charlemagne strides across the room to stand in front of Elsbett. At the edge of his vision, he can see the guests forming a semi-circle around them, leaving a path across the polished wood of the floor to the alcove framing the closed black velvet curtains that lead to the Coupling Chamber. Two of the Matriarch's novices are standing ready to draw back the curtians. "It's time."

"I know." She smiles up at him, almost glowing with triumph. She takes a small step back and reaches up to the silver combs in her hair. She slowly removes first one, then the other and shakes her curly hair back.

The Sabran's cheers and whistles suddenly fall silent while a rising murmur of comment comes from his court. Charlemagne turns his head to see the Challenger standing in the front row. His eyebrows slowly rise. It's -- it's -- a kludge? He will be the laughingstock of nine galaxies if he accepts a kludge as his First Consort. No wonder Cassandra had been so amused when he'd said that he's rather have a Than than Elsbett. On the other hand -- this isn't just any kludge. This one is reputed to be a rare genius. Yes, he'll be the one having the last laugh if only half of the kludge's reputation proves true. Then there will be the added delight of leaving the Sabra First with no room to comment. After all, if the First Daughter is defeated at a wedding challenge by a kludge -- now that is almost too good. And he will be depriving the Captain, who'd dared to fuck his bride on her wedding journey, of a considerable asset by taking Hunt's best and most innovative engineer.

Charlemagne's gaze moves slowly and appreciatively over the small -- well, he will have to start using the term 'human' and make sure that his court does also. Can't have his new consort being disrepected. And truely, bedding the human will be no hardship. None at all. The silver-blue draws attention to the fair skin and rich blueness of the human's eyes. The vest's drape emphasizes the wide sweep of the human's shoulders and the virginal bareness of his biceps. The almost sheer glitter of the vest intrigues with the hint of tight peach nipples showing through and -- ummm -- the black leather pants admirably display the enticing curve of flanks and cup the heavy promise of the human's shaft and balls. Oh, yes. He will be accepting this consort. He must make certain that the human wins.


Now. Now. Harper charges forward as he sees Elsbett sliding the silver combs together, her thumbs lowering toward the raised silver buttons on the linked combs. "No! Look out! She's got a bomb!"

Elsbett turns sharply, staring at him in disbelief. "Kludge, how dare --."

Harper slams into her, knocking her to the floor and rolls away with silver combs in his hand. He pulls the combs apart and hands them to the Archduke who is staring at him with an odd bemused expression. Doesn't Charlemagne understand what's going on? "It's a bomb. She was gonna blow up your entire --."

He hits the floor with a thud as Elsbett kicks his feet out from under him. Harper rolls away as she lunges toward him. Damn it, she's strong. He scrambles to his feet. Why is everyone just standing around watching them? Why isn't someone grabbing Elsbett? Didn't they believe him? All they have to do is just examine the combs. "Look at the damn combs!"

Charlemagne beckons a tall blond and holds a whispered conference over the two combs. A dark woman in white stands next to them, holding a polished wooden box. She seems to also be putting in her two cents worth. How long is it gonna take 'em to make a frigging decision? Harper ducks under the roundhouse kick that Elsbett aims at his head. He catches a glimpse of Tyr at the edge of the crowd, amber eyes round with astonishment, as the Neitzschean firmly grips Beka's arms and whispers urgently in her ear.

Elsbett sneers as she launches a second kick at his stomach. "You will die, you insufferable little kludge."

"It's not gonna be me, bitch." Harper snarls. He grabs for her leg as he sidesteps but ends up with fistfuls of scratchy fabric. He yanks hard and Elsbett shrieks over the sound of ripping fabric as she falls.

"You think not?" She staggers clumsily to her feet. Her skirt droops on one side, baring the dark curves of her flank and thigh beneath the bodice. Elsbett grabs the seam and yanks, ripping away the skirt completely. She steps out of the circle of fabric, clothed only in the remains of the bodice and a black thong. "I always knew kludges were stupid."

"Oh, yeah? If I'm so stupid, how come I know about all about your plan to bomb the Jaguars? My granny could have come up with a better plan." Harper dances back as Elsbett lunges at him. Behind her, he can see that Dylan has now joined the conference going on around and with the Archduke. Finally. Maybe someone will get this poisonous bitch off him now. It's about frigging time.

Elsbett hisses and flares her bone blades menacingly as she stalks toward him. "You will pay for this."

Harper frowns as he circles with her. She seems to getting ready to charge him, but she's looking sidelong at the Archduke. Oh, hell no. He's worked too hard for this reward to see the man who's gonna give it to him go down. Not gonna happen while the Harper is on the job. Hmmm. This will make it twice that he's saved the Archduke on the same day. Will he get twice the reward? Oh, man. The things he can do with that much thron. His eyes narrow on Elsbett. What's she gonna -- she slips her fingers under the center of her bodice and pulls out a slender knife. "Look out!"

Charlemagne drops into a graceful, controlled fall as the human slams into him. His hands slide up, gripping the human's thighs, anchoring the small man in place on top of him. He looks up at the human leaning over him. His bone blades stir as he stares into the blue-gray eyes. The shade precisely matches that of his favorite ocean. He has a private compound there. Perhaps his new consort will enjoy it. Charlemagne breathes in, savoring the human's scent. Ummmm. Nice. His bone blades flare out even more as his gaze focuses on the bareness of those pale, muscular arms. Soon his armlet will circle the human's arm. The thought is increasingly exciting. He turns his head to see Elsbett struggling and swearing in the grasp of two of his body guards. He glances through the sea of feet surrounding him to see the Jaguar Alphas cornering and containing the excited and confused Sabras. He looks back up into the wary and beautiful blue eyes. Charlemagne smiles seductively. "Well, it seems that you've won, human."

"Won what?" Harper stares wide-eyed at the Uber. He sits, perched on the Archduke's stomach, his thighs framing the Neitszchaen's chest. The Archduke's black leather duster is flared out over the polished wood floor. He can feel the heat of the Uber's body through the pale silver silk of Charlemagne's shirt. It's oddly disturbing. Harper shifts his weight uneasily, suddenly aware of the heat and strength of those elegant hands on his thighs. Surely it's just his imagination that those long fingers are subtly caressing him. Is the Archduke looking at his nipples? No. That's just flat crazy. Damn Beka for putting the ridiculous thought into his head. She was right about the vest pinching him. How did Tyr stand the constant sly slide and pinch of all those metal links? He's only had it on for a couple of hours and his nipples feel tender already. But it'll be well worth the embarrassment of appearing in public like this when he gets his reward. He'll be set for life with just what will seem like pocket thron to the Archduke. "What do I get?"

Charlemagne grins and leans up on his elbows to huskily whisper, "Me."

"What?" Harper's voice rises in shock. Oh, shit. It's not his imagination, those strong hands are definitely caressing his thighs now. He feels...odd. Harper stirs restlessly, momentarily forgetting the crowd and his shipmates as he stares into the Archduke's intense blue eyes. When had the Nietzschean gotten so close? His gaze drops to the knowing smile curving Charlemagne's lips and Harper involuntarily leans a little closer. Where had the suicidal impulse to lean a little closer come from? And why is he suddenly so aware of the supple strength of the Nietzschean's body curling beneath his? Wine. That's it. He must've drunk a little too much of the wine while waiting for time to make his move.

"Harper, what do you think you are doing?" Dylan grabs the back of Harper's vest and yanks the engineer up.

Charlemagne rolls lithely to his feet and growls, low and menacing. "Release him, Hunt."

"What?" Dylan takes a startled step back. His eyes widen as Tyr pulls him sharply back from Harper, murmuring in his ear. Dylan stares from Harper to Charlemagne. He glances over his shoulder at Tyr. "What? Harper''re kidding."

Tyr shakes his head. "No, Captain. You would be wise to treat Harper with considerable circumspection now."

"Harper." Beka walks up. She reaches out to touch his shoulder. "Are you alright?"

Tyr grabs her wrist before she touches Harper. "You mustn't touch him right now. Not before the ceremony. Only his mentor is permitted to touch him before."

Harper looks around uneasily. What's going on? Why is everyone looking at him with such odd expressions. Dylan is red-faced with some strong emotion. Beka's eyes hold a worried look and Tyr is still staring at him with open amazement. Harper glances over his shoulder to discover Charlemagne standing close behind him, the Archduke's cool stare flickering from Dylan to Elsbett. Harper lifts his chin and smirks as Elsbett growls at him and twists in the guard's hands, trying to get at him. Harper scowls at the roomful of Ubers staring from him to Elsbett to Charlemagne with such avid curiosity. "Okay. I've had enough of this. What's going on?"

"Don't you dare." Elsbett hisses furiously as she glares at Charlemagne. "Don't you dare."

Charlemagne smiles with cold malice at her, holding her dark gaze as his hands close firmly over his new consort's wide shoulders. He ignores the human's startled look up at him. Soon enough his new consort will be well accustomed to his touch. Ummm. His thumbs idly stroke over the bare skin showing around the edge of the silver-blue vest. Will his new consort feel so silken, so pleasantly cool everywhere? He pitches his voice to carry to every corner of the room. "I repudiate the First Daughter of Sabra as unworthy. I do not accept her as my wife. She has been challenged and failed the contest."

"What!" Elsbett shrieks. "No kludge can beat me in single combat. He never even hit me once. Everyone saw and witnessed that."

"What every member of my Pride saw and witnessed was an attempt to murder them. An attempt that was discovered and successfully foiled by a human. This human." Charlemage bends his head to whisper,"What is your full name, human?"

Harper shivers as the Archduke's lips graze his ear. The feel of Charlemagne's breath against his cheek and the slow glide of the Nietzschean's fingers over his shoulder are strangely distracting. "Seamus Zelazny Harper."

Charlemagne straightens, sternly resisting the urge to lick his new consort and see if Harper tastes as good as the human feels and smells. Later, he will have ample time to investigate every inch of his new prize. "This human -- Seamus Zelazny Harper -- made challenge at my wedding and won. I name him my First Consort."

Elsbett writhes wildly in the guard's grip, glaring at Charlemagne. "You -- you -- pervert! You degenerate! You prefer a kludge to me -- to the First Daughter of Sabra! You'll pay for this insult."

"Calm yourself and attempt to show a modicum of decorum." Cassandra smirks as she tauntingly strokes the polished wooden box containing both armlet and helix. "The klu -- human is making a better display than you are."

Charlemagne lifts an eyebrows as he studies Elsbett with open disdain. The more he sees of her, the less he thinks of the Sabra genes. Not that he ever had a high opinion of the Sabra to begin with. They were much too easy to manipulate to be amusing. He releases his new consort and walks toward Elsbett. "You attempt to murder me. You attempt to murder my people and you still expect me to accept you?"

"Everyone wants me." Elsbett tosses her hair. "I am beautiful, and Alpha, and a First Daughter!"

"But one of obviously inferior genes. It rather limits your market value. And you will find yourself in even less demand after this story gets around." Charlemagne slowly circles her. "Perhaps the Orca might agree to have you. I hear they are quite desperate for new blood."

"What!" Elsbett attempts to kick him.

Charlemagne sidesteps. Really she is quite a stupid creature even for a Sabra. What will her father offer to get her back? And wouldn't it be a shame if someone let it slip to the Dragans when she would be making the return trip home? He nods to the guards. "Take her away and lock her up."

"What about the others?" Cassandra asks softly as she walks over to take up her usual place at his shoulder.

"I think they're just bright enough to have realized that their First Alpha and his daughter have betrayed them. Have them escorted to their ships and let them leave. Their tale should only increase dissatisfaction with the First Alpha's leadership," Charlemagne murmurs as he studies the clusters of worried Sabras. "For the rest of us -- we have a wedding to complete. That should be distaction and entertainment enough. I don't want to allow my new Consort too much time to think. If he is as brilliant as he is reputed to be, it will be best to keep him off balance."

"As you will." Cassandra turns to face the court. Her Archduke has always been a trendsetter. What will the other Prides think of his taking a klu-human as First Consort? She glances at the new Consort. His blue gaze is filled with intelligence and determination. Good. He will need both qualities to prosper in a Jaguar court. She notes the willful set of the human's mouth. Yes. This one will suit her Archduke well. Does the human realize that the more intelligence and guile that he displays, the more attracted Charlemagne will be to him? Does the human know enough about Pride politics to have any idea of the status and power that he has just acquired? "Seamus Zelazny Harper, choose your mentor."

"My what?" Harper asks. He sweeps a quick glance over the interested faces turned toward him.

"Every consort or wife gets to select someone to advise and assist them before, during and after the ceremony. Who will you choose?"

Harper looks slowly around. Okay. Now's his chance to escape if he gets to go off alone with his 'mentor' before the big ceremony. Who would help him? He glances at Dylan. No. No help there. Dylan's already unhappy about the disruption of the ceremony and treaty. Still, the Captain might have thought of that before he went and fucked the bride. Harper snorts, remembering the gossip that he'd heard while he was skulking around. None of Jaguars had been happy about the insult to their leader. Dylan couldn't piss 'em off any more than the Captain already had, but fat chance of Dylan realizing that. Beka? Harper looks at his boss' concerned face. He'd back Beka to get him out of anything, but she can't be packing much firepower under that dress. She'd try, but if she failed...No, Beka had enough problems without adding a Pride of Jaguars to her list of enemies. His gaze focuses on Tyr's dark face. Tyr would know Uber customs. Maybe there is some loophole that he can slide through and get out of this without adding the Jaguars to his own overflowing enemy list. "I choose Tyr Anasazi."

Cassandra turns to face Tyr. "What say you, Kodiak?"

Pleased surprise flickers in the amber eyes. Tyr nods. "I accept the position of mentor to Seamus Zelazny Harper, First Consort."

"Tyr Anasazi, take your charge to the retiring room. Prepare and advise him well." Cassandra tilts her head toward the alcove leading to the Coupling Chamber.


Harper hurries into the alcove and pauses looking from the black velvet curtians hanging in front of him to the two adjoining rooms. Which one is he supposed to go into? His eyes widen as he catches a glimpse of a large and lavish bed through a narrow gap in the black curtains. A bed? Oh, this is not good. Not good at all.

"This one," Tyr steps past him and holds back a white velvet curtain.

"Tyr." Harper rushes into the room. Oh, shit. Oh, shit. He can't get his mind off the bed that he'd glimpsed behind the black curtians. Is he gonna be, he's not gonna think about that. He's gotta get out of here and Tyr can help him. Tyr will help him. Harper paces rapidly back and forth across the floor. How had his beautiful plan for scoring mega loot gone so wrong? All he's got to do is calm down and he and Tyr will come up with a plan to save his hide. "Tyr. You gotta help me. Oh, man. I am so screwed."

"Not yet." Tyr murmurs as he walks over to an armoire of glossy black wood and opens it, revealing shelves holding an array of dildos, vibrators, and lubes. He studies the shelf of dildos thoughtfully. Which should he use to prepare the human? He picks up a shiny red one and looks at it over. Is it too small? He puts it back and picks up a large black one.

"What do you mean 'not yet'?" Harper throws himself on a small white chaise. He presses his palms over his eyes. It had been a perfectly good plan, hadn't it? Of course, it was a good plan; he is a fricking genius after all. Where had he gone wrong? Forgot he was dealing with Uber weirdness. That's how. Harper groans. Only Ubers could possibly consider marrying one of them to be a reward of astonishing magnitude. Maybe there's some way he can tell the Archduke that he's rather have thron.

"Just that. The night has not yet begun." Tyr spares a calculating glance at Harper, then frowns at the black dildo. Too big, most likely. He puts it down and after a few minutes of careful delibration picks up a blue one that is slightly smaller. Ah, yes. That looks about right. Now which lube?

"Oh, I'm so screwed." Harper moans. How could everything have gotten so turned around? It had looked like the perfect setup. Such a sweetheart deal. He was going to ride in like the calvary to save the day and then rake in the throns tossed his way by a grateful Archduke. And now...he's going to be expected to do riding of another kind. A vague curiosity stirs in him as he remembers the feel of Charlemagne's hands on his thighs and the supple heat of the Archduke's body. What would it be like to...Nope, not gonna think about that. Not a bit.

"Do you prefer citrus or sandalwood?" Tyr asks as he examines the bottles of lube.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Harper rolls over, glaring at Tyr. Why is Tyr asking him such ridiculous questions instead of helping him come up with an escape plan? He sits up abruptly, staring at the Neitzschean. Why is Tyr holding a dildo? His eyes widen as he peers past Tyr to see a whole selection of dildos peeking over Tyr's shoulder. "What is that in your hand?"

Tyr looks down at the blue dildo and then back up at the human. They don't have much time. Harper needs to stop trying to be evasive and accept the situation. "Exactly what you think it is. Now answer the question."

Why is Tyr fondling that...thing with such relish? What does the Uber plan on doing with it? Harper gulps and clutches the edge of the chaise as he notices the mulitude of bottles that Tyr is considering. What are those? Does he really want to know? "What was the question?"

"Citrus or Sandalwood?"

Harper frowns. Are they talking about? Aftershave? Shower gel? Shampoo? ""

"Excellent." Tyr picks up a bottle. He walks over to Harper, holding the blue dildo in one hand and the lube bottle in his other hand. "Take your pants off and roll over."

Harper clings tighter to the edge of the chaise as he stares up at Tyr with an appalled expression. This is Tyr's idea of helping him? "You are out of your Nietzschean mind, if you think I'm letting you anywhere near me with that. And you're supposed to be helping me escape, not trying to fuck me."

"Believe me, when I say that I am not trying to fuck you. I am trying to help you, boy." Tyr waggles the dildo disapprovingly at Harper. What had the human been thinking? At least things had turned out amazingly well for the Little Professor. And the human had been smart enough to know who would make the best mentor. Harper had given him an accepted place at the Jaguar court with that choice and that is no small thing to a man without a Pride at his back. And if Harper, pleases the Archduke well, who knew what other benefits would come of their relationship. "Had I known you intended to challenge Elsbett for Charlemagne I would have tried to talk you out of it."

"That's not what I was doing. I was trying to save his fricking life. I was so not trying to end up as his butt monkey."

"Congratulations, Harper. Battle is the first part of the challenge." Tyr arches an eyebrow. He grins as he remembers the Sabra First Daughter standing in a ripped and ragged dress in front of the Jaguar court while being publically rejected by the Archduke in favor of a human. That memory he will treasure to his last day after the way she refused him as inferior and then turned around and bedded Hunt. "Which I must say you passed with flying colors."

"What's the second part?" Harper asks warily. "Do I even want to know?"

Tyr holds up the lube bottle and the dildo. His grin widens at the rush of red up Harper's face.

Harper eyes the dildo with apprehension. It looks awfully big even in Tyr's hand. Definitely not like anything he wants stuck in his ass. Maybe if he claims ignorance everyone can just go home. He gives the Nietzschean a blank stare. "I don't understand. What am I supposed to do. I've got to get away from this insanity."

Tyr looks in the vivid blue eyes, seeing real fear and alarm behind the mask of faux ignorance. The Jaguars will not take it well if the Harper, after winning the challenge, goes to their Archduke's bed smelling of fear instead of desire. And the human will have enough to cope with today without the added complication of what instincts a fear scent might trigger in an Alpha whose inhibitions are already lowered by the coupling potion. Should he tell Harper about the potion and the effect that it will The human is quite capable of refusing it, if Harper knows that it will not only lower his inhibitions, but act as a potent aphrodisiac as well. If the Little Professor is to survive the night, the human needs to be calmer. Not to mention compliant and cooperative. Unfortunately none of those are natural states for Harper. He wants Harper to not only survive, but to prosper with the Jaguar since the human's success will enhance his own new standing in the Pride. And right now, that translates into making Charlemagne one very happy Jaguar. Tyr sighs and gentles his tone, "Boy..."

Harper scowls. "I'm not a boy."

"That is correct. You are not. Since you are an adult, I will explain how deeply you have immersed yourself in Jaguar politics."


Tyr sits on the chaise and places the dildo and bottle beside him. "Harper, you have challenged and won the right to mate with...marry...the Jaguar Archduke, Charlemagne. You can't simply cry foul and run back to the safety of Andromeda."

Harper scoots to the end of the chaise, still warily eyeing the dildo. It sounds like a plan to him. He's already got the Dragans pissed at him. Why not the Jaguars too? Of course, the Jaguars were a much more dangerous class of enemy, being notoriously sneaky and brainy. "Why not?"

"It would be an insult to Charlemagne and to the Jaguar."


"Because he accepted your challenge and agreed to the mating." Tyr shakes his head. Does the boy have any notion of how exceptionally fortunate the human is that Charlemagne choose to accept what some would have considered an insult? The Archduke had a reputation for doing the unexpected and seizing opportunties that others had overlooked, but who would have thought that that would translate into Charlemagne's taking Harper not just as Consort, but as First Consort? "Although I can't imagine why."

"Gee, thanks!" Harper glances sidelong at Tyr. Would the Nietzscheans consider ignorance an excuse? Can't hurt to try. "Oh, wait, did you say mating? As in mating as in sex?"

"Indeed." Tyr nods as he watches Harper with sardonic eyes.

"Damn! Damn, damn, damn!!" Harper draws his legs up and wraps his arms around his knees. Clearly Tyr is not buying ignorance today. Okay, he'll try another trial balloon. "He is so not my type!"

"That is irrelevant. He is your spouse and you owe him the duties of a spouse."

"That's just wrong in so many twisted ways." Harper sighs and rests his head on his knees.

Tyr frowns. The human is not significantly calmer, despite their discussion. He had assumed that Harper had a varied sexual experience. Now he's beginning to wonder if...surely not at Harper's age, but when he considers the human's background, the idea is not improbable. It might well be that all of the human's energy had gone into simple survival rather than other activities. "Harper, have you ever engaged in an intimate sexual relationship with a male?"

Harper looks up, eyes wide and startled. "What do you mean?"

"I'm being quite clear. Have you ever..."

"NO!" Harper looks sharply away.

Hmmm. Tyr studies the stiff angles of the human's body. It looks as if his surmise might well be correct. In that case, things might well get a little awkward during the ceremony. Still the potion will help. He will have to insure that Harper consumes a goodly amount of it. It also seems likely that the Archduke is a man of sufficent experience to notice and compensate for the human's lack of the same. "Have you had intimate sexual relationships of any sort?"

"Well, at least not that I remember." Harper glowers at Tyr. "Unless you count my left hand."

"You're a virgin." Tyr chuckles.

"Well, you don't have to say it like it's a bad thing!" Harper scowls balefully. So what? He'd like to see Tyr find the time for sex while dodging and fighting the Dragans, and the Magog, and whatever else showed up. Once he'd gotten off Earth, earning the thron to pay for his dataport had been his most important goal after survival. Then he'd signed on with Beka and there had been no privacy even if he had a girl...and, well, he dared even Tyr to get a girl to agree to fuck him with a Magog wandering around and popping out unexpectedly out at her.

"I see." Tyr sighs. This is going to be more education than he'd expected to have to attempt. Still he is Harper's mentor and how well Harper does in the Coupling Chamber will be a reflection on his ablities as mentor. "There's no easy way to say this, Harper. It's going to be a painful experience unless you relax."

"Relax?" Harper scrunches up on his end of the chaise. His arms tighten protectively around his legs. "How the hell am I supposed to relax with Charlemagne all eager to get up close and personal with my ass?"

"I can help you with that." Tyr smirks as he waves the dildo at Harper. Ah, the look on the Little Professor's face. He shouldn't tease the boy, but Harper really should allow him to...ease the way. And the sooner, the better. They are fast running out of time. If the Archduke drinks deep of the potion, Charlemagne might not have enough control to prepare the human. The potion will help Harper also at the time, but later, well, Harper will be extremely sore.

"Oh, no. I'm not letting you touch me."

"Harper, you are not going to be able to walk, if you don't allow someone to prepare you to receive the Archduke."

Harper drops his head back on his knees. "Oh. I am so screwed!"


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