Disclaimer: Butler, Juliet and Artemis belong to the great Eoin Colfer. I never said they were mine – well, only while asleep or really undrunk.
Author's Note: This fic does not personally appeal to me that much as a favourite but I finished it because I wanted to have a Butler-centered fic. This is from Butler's POV and I wrote it with the idea of writing from his 1st person rather than having an idea and seeing what style would best fit it. And if anyone thinks up a better name tell me about it - I don't like the name either. Usually I wouldn't post anything that I'm not completely satisfied with but… Tell me what you think.
* * * * *
I can feel the hard impact my feet on the concrete floor with every step that lands. It jolts up through my feet… up my calves… ringing pressure at my kneecaps… bringing a fierce tightening of my thighs. But each jolt feels slower and more drawn out than the one before; the agony of not moving fast enough hitting home every time a foot slowly lands.
With my mind I can register that another millisecond, second, minute will not matter since I have already taken so long to get to this agonizing point of existence where I am finally running forward. 57 hours. 32 minutes. Seconds. It is so much easier, so much simpler, to run fast now than all that time agonizing while being unable to do anything. I knew nothing and could do nothing. But now, I can run.
I remember a time when my father had just come home to us. He had been missing for over 2 years – MIA. Artemis never knew about that section of my life – there are many things, which he doesn't know about, but would change his view of me - of life - if he did. If he had known that, then maybe he would have known that I understood what he was going through while Mister Fowl was missing. Maybe he could have acted like a boy and I could have given him comfort.
Every moment of those years without my father home was torturous for me, and for Juliet who was only a little girl, and our Mother. It was worst for our mother because she didn't believe that Father would be coming back – I did though - and Juliet didn't understand enough so that she thought that Mother's brave face and false optimism was real. Mother began going to church every Sunday, because she had to believe in something other than the Butler motto of always coming home, if only to say goodbye. She made me drop my assignment and come home because she was so scared on my behalf. At the time she thought – I thought – that the pain of our questionable loss was the worst thing possible to feel. When Father came home I think it was the first time Mother had fully let her breath out in years.
A few days later Juliet (who was probably only 4 or 5) asked Father why he had hurt Mother so much by going away for so long. And he said, while looking straight at me, that we have to remember that it's not only those left behind that suffer. That we have to remember that, to some, the pain of knowing that your absence is causing your loved ones to despair is far worse than any physical torture. That we have to remember that the worst feeling on earth is being left behind, alone. We felt like that when he was not there but at least we had each other. The loneliness and abandonment was only the tip of the iceberg; imagine if you didn't have each other or God or our home. He said that he hoped that neither of us would ever have to feel the pain of being completely alone; knowing that your have to get out in order to keep your mind… And knowing that you have no power over anything.
I've never been the one all alone and friendless. I've never been the one to feel that pain without a name. But I wish now that I was the one alone and someone else was running to save me.
Then I wouldn't be the one responsible for the rescue. The burden is hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles and the pressure of being exactly on time and absolutely right is the thread of horsehair that holds it above my head, ready to fall. And if I was the one alone and someone was running towards me it would mean that it would not be my sister in the literal torture chamber. I would gladly be in her place.
I know that she can take the pain as well as any Butler. I know that she has been through the same training as myself. But I wish there was some way that it didn't have to be her.
There's just so much more that torturers can – would – do to a pretty young woman than they would do to an aging, beefed-up man. And Artemis thinks that they took her to get to him, thinking she was in a relationship with him. That doesn't bode well with how well they might treat her as their prisoner. I hope she gives a few of them painful injuries specified to the male anatomy. Hope is all I can do… apart from run.
I feel like I'm moving slower than ever before. But it all seems so unreal that Juliet could be in danger. I'm not even registering the impact of my feet on concrete, although I know it must be happening, because locked doors that were in front of me are now behind. It's as if I've run through the pain and am in a blissfully unaware calm now where my muscles and back no longer know how to hurt properly. But it's not right to be numb and free of pain when I know that my sister is in pain. My mind sends messages to my body to feel and finally my knee that was shot almost a decade ago begins to scream its abuse and my lungs are burning with the concentrated effort to bring more oxygen to my starved muscles. Pain gives the mind focus and it… creates purpose. The faster and harder I run then the sooner I will reach Juliet and then… be able to stop. And then – only then – will the physical pain stop.
I can hear human noises on the edge of my senses – braying laughs, voices in mockery… inhumanly human shrieks. I was on such a monotonous, continuous movement that I almost couldn't stop my legs from carrying me onwards. Stopped, I gain my breath and study the door before me, closing my mind and ears to the sounds coming from within. The door is wooden. And old. Very old. Some cracks run along the grains vertically and… there. The weakness. The place were slats join and there is a junction of crisscrossed fissures.
Two steps backwards. Run. Shoulder leveraged against that point. Half-step back. Ram again.
And the door crumbles around me.
And Juliet is lying on a cold concrete slab, her wrists and ankles handcuffed to metal rings sunk into the floor. Her blue blouse is torn and her skirt has been half-ripped off. Blood has dried on her face and neck – dark brown in colour, looking out of place on her pale face.
One of the men in the room is standing with his handgun pointed at me. The safety is off. It is cocked. It is pointing at me. I don't care.
I spin with a false careless ease out of the way of his shots, somehow ending up behind the man. He is a small man and my kick that lands at the junction of shoulder and neck sends him tumbling to the floor. Another comes from behind me. An elbow in the face, impacting and breaking the nose, and he crumbles – possibly dead but I don't care. I turn on the last two but they are already running. Cowards. You torture and take a girl in restraints but you won't stand and fight.
I am halfway out the door after them when I look back and see my sister still chained to the concrete…
The men are almost around the corner and into the next hallway…
Tears without sound have stained her face and are still leaking from underneath her lashes – some of which have pulled out, as if she were a doll...
The closest man stumbles and looks over his shoulder, meeting my eyes...
Her eyes are staring in horrified fascination at the bloodied face of the man I elbowed…
The man in front doesn't even look back at his fallen fellow…
Her face is reliving horrors as she sees the lifeless eyes of the torturer...
They are out of my sight, around the corner…
Love is more important than revenge.
I turn back to the room with it's bloodstained, stinking walls. I take off my shirt and cover Juliet's ripped clothing with it. I move to cradle her head, stroking the brown, mousy hair as she closes her eyes at my gentle touch.
And I wait … but not alone.