Disclaimer: All characters and situations recognisable from the Artemis Fowl books belong to Eoin Colfer and his publishers, no infringement was intended and no profits are being made.
Author's Notes: This is a sort-of sequel to My Queer Young Mind (). You don't really need to read that except in order to know that Artemis started a relationship with a boy at St. Bartleby's called Dana MacCaugry and started to question his own sexuality. Oh, yeah, btw this is slash, detailing more than one male/male homosexual relationship. The main one is Butler/Artemis, but both of these characters have other relationships within this story with original characters.
Thanks to Ophelia (www.fanfiction.net/~opheliawhoisinsane) for the beta and to Biz () for the ceaseless, unrelenting 'encouragement'.
Author's Note 2: The title 'Forty-Two' is a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, where 42 was discovered to be the answer to the Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. But they didn't know what the question actually was.

Chapter One - Blue Diamond

12th of October, 1981. Over the Siberian plains, U.S.S.R.
"Madame Ko," said Domovoi Butler to his sensei, "this is an impossible situation."

"You believe that you cannot achieve the objective? If you feel that you are unable, not ready to do this I understand. Although, I had thought you had promise."

"I shall do it. It is just that I would never have let this situation arise."

And with that, an uncharacteristically dramatic note (and rather cocky, Madame Ko sighed), he jumped from the plane.

He held his arms across his chest as he fell, and tried to think without thinking. To think using his muscles and the memory of training they held, rather than his mind, which played tricks on even the most disciplined disciple of the Madame.

He was counting, judging when to open his parachute at the best moment, taking into account the target area and his own weight. But more of his consciousness was occupied with planning the task, which the Madame had only explained to him a moment before.

He wasn't scared; not of the ground coming closer, not of the task, not of the guards, soldiers and army personnel down on the ground. The last fear he had been burdened with was the fear of the Madame when he was younger, much younger. He had had anxieties, but that was only teenage hormones, something which not even a Butler was immune to. Now, he feared only fear itself.

He pulled the cord and straightened completely so there was no chance of the parachute strings becoming tangled around his body. 1500 feet… 1000… 500…

He landed and dropped to the ground immediately, pulling the still air-filled white parachute silks towards him.

The cold swirling in the air was intense, but he didn't notice. He was wearing white, white upon white, the instant camouflage for this area. He didn't hesitate before moving towards the target, barely visible on the horizon.

He moved quickly along the ground, the only sound the scrape of dry snowflakes against one another. Closer to the compound he stopped, pulled out his sniper rifle that was loaded with tranquilizer darts rather than real bullets, some of those taking part in this testing being students and teachers of the discipline, each trying to achieve their own mission. For most of those involved it was practice, something that the Madame didn't usually believe in. But, for Domovoi, it was important.

It was not truly important to anyone else. He knew that, and that was what caused the momentary consideration of a pause.

He kept moving though, ever moving so as to not allow anyone time to focus on his shadow through the wind-blown snow. He did that a lot, wherever he was, whatever situation. He moved so that viewers were ever confused, it made things easier, transactions quicker. Even when he was standing still the potential energy he presented was enough for people to turn away, scared of what he was able to do. What they registered on the most primitive levels of their minds that he would be able to do to them, their bodies withered and diseased beside his own.

He didn't like it that way, because to like was to feel pleasure, and he didn't find pleasure in his job, only ever the professional satisfaction of a job well done.

He incapacitated a team of four who were moving through the snow, their outfits camouflaged so that they had thought they were unnoticeable, but not moving as stealthily as they were able to, they were arrogant in their own abilities. The Madame was going to have words with them in two days once they woke up. Only one – a tall African American – had seen Domovoi before forcibly seeing the back of his eyelids.

He was almost at the complex by now, and although he had always been focused on the task, was always focused, this seemed to solidify into something tangible. Anyone would have been able to see it, if they had been able to see him.

He entered it, and no one knew for more than 43 milliseconds. That is, they registered his presence and then, 43 milliseconds later, they were in no state to do anything about this. There was a call over the radio in Russian slang, directed to the gate guards, and Butler responded with an all clear.

He moved on.

The complex was of the same layout as all the military bases of the area, the best laid ground-plan for both offensives and defensives in the region. The cells were in the back right corner, backing onto the septic tank so the smell would discourage the prisoners. But his charge wasn't in the cells. His charge was in the other room. The one without light to glint of the machinery, which, if on the set of a Hollywood movie, would have glinted in a very ominous manner. Some things hadn't changed in a long time.

Butler knew where the room was. He knew how to get there. He knew what, theoretically, was to be done.

He also knew the standard paths that were taken on the randomly changing beats the soldiers were walking. He ducked as one passed on the outer perimeter.

He took out eight personnel silently before getting to the door - including the tea-lady, who he knew had a double-revolver tucked between her volumous breasts – a rather dangerous position, worse than a man with a pistol down his trousers.

He opened the door by force, since the keypad lock would take too long to manually break down. His charge was only a kid, probably about 12, unconscious, although that was better than the alternative. Kids never listened to orders when it came to matters of security - they were all too snotty-nosed, brought up on silver spoons. He had learnt that the hard way.

The room was freezing cold, and things were glinting, but only with ice condensed upon their blades. The kid had been stripped so he was just wearing a singlet and a pair of thin pants, but he wasn't wounded. Butler felt a moment of despise for the Madame, she took some things too seriously; she shouldn't have endangered a kid in the Siberian weather for the sake of a test – he was probably the latest student, his facial structure reminding Butler of another of the body-guarding families.

Butler pulled off his own jacket and wrapped it around the boy, and it was enough to completely engulf him, who seemed slight even for his age - or perhaps Butler had simply grown used to people of his own gigantic size. He was wasting time, but the protection of the principal was most important. He scooped the child up into his arms, arranging the form of the principal in such as way so the boy could not shot fatally -a bullet would have to pass through his own body first.

And he moved out, back into the open areas of the compound, where the white of his snow outfit blended into the background seamlessly, so that the sentries he approached never realized anything. His feet made no sound on the icy ground, his breath didn't even seem to mist the air in the way that the boy's shallow - almost-hypothermic, he noted - gasps were, the way the breaths of the 'enemies' were.

And soon - too soon, there was something wrong, he thought – they were out of the complex, Butler taking long strides through the snowdrifts towards the pickup point. And close, too close, there was a movement – white upon white, but still existing. He felt it in his pores, as a tickling on the back of his neck. It was more than a game for someone.

He dropped to the snow-covered hollow, rolling his unconscious charge from his arms, making sure his flesh wasn't directly exposed to the frozen ground. The voice of the Madame echoed in his mind 'The principal cannot be shot if you are standing in front of him.' He could not leave the boy, but he would need his hands free for whoever it was out there, waiting for him.

And over to Butler's right there was the movement, barely perceptible. Butler followed the man with his eyes – the man glanced over his own shoulder, slightly to his own right. There was more than one, probably three, judging from the numbers that would be needed to make a successful ambush in this particular area. The dart gun could only shoot one tranquilizer at a time, and they would notice in a moment if one of their fellows went down. He found the third man, and they knew – almost – where he was.

Butler rose from the hollow, an abominable snowman, shaking millennia-old snow from its shoulders. He let the dart fly at the man furthest from him. The next was close enough that with one step he was able to grasp one tough shoulder, pulling the man closer as a make-shift human shield. The remaining man had drawn his weapon, and was shooting it regardless of his colleague in the way. Mercenary, thought Butler. Or possessing an aim that is more important than stalemates and banter.

Butler had pulled the weapon from his captive's hands - it was real, it was loaded with more than blanks. A bullet from the other's weapon skimmed his upper arm as he aimed in a fraction of a second and dispatched the last. His face was twisted in an 'oh' as he crumpled at the knees into the snow.

The limp body – unconscious, likely to stay that way for a few hours at least, one 'friendly' bullet lodged in his shoulder – of Butler's human shield fell to the ground as well.

The boy wasn't injured, and that was the most important thing. Butler moved on, the boy once more cradled in his arms. A thin trickle of Butler's blood made it's way down the sleeve of his shirt. The tranquilizer gun was reloaded, but he kept the other man's gun as well, resting lightly in his left palm. Something wasn't right, it shouldn't be this real – no one should be in danger.

The pick-up point wasn't safe; there was another party of men with real guns lining the clearing, hidden behind the trees and snow-covered roots. He moved slowly around the clearing, dashing from hiding place to hiding place, taking out whatever soldiers he met with small movements and pinches involving nerve centers and pressure points. No one saw him, but after they were all dispatched Butler moved further away, up a hill so that he could keep an eye on the clearing where the Madame had said a helicopter would be coming to meet him.

He tended to his wound, then treated the boy as best he could – but still he did not regain consciousness. Butler waited. He was good at waiting.

The sun had set a few hours past when the Madame appeared in a snowmobile a little way away, no lights shining. She knew that he could see her, because he would not have stopped in a place where he did not have full view of the surrounding area.

There would be others with her, ones he was meant to dispatch but didn't yet know who they were. And there may be a few more of the real bullets type waiting in the coniferous forest, having planned to stay out of the way until he had let down his guard.

He walked down the hill anyway, not feeling any of the tell-tale signs of eyes focusing on his form. The boy stirred for the first time since Butler had freed him from the compound. Then he seemingly fell back to sleep. Butler walked through the snow without sound, blending into the background in such a way that it was unlikely that a rather annoyed, probably cold observer would be paying enough attention to be able to see him.

Then he approached the Madame, who was just outside the tree line, on the edge of a large, snow-covered plane. A circle of acolytes, students and graduates surrounded him. The Madame's face was expressionless, which was enough to cause Butler to turn. He scanned the circle, then shot one of the Madame's people in the torso with the tranquilizer gun.

He turned back to the Madame. "I would like some shoes and proper clothes for the boy, as well as some blankets." The Madame nodded to one in the circle and the young man removed himself from the circle to obtain the items from a mobile on the snow a while away.

"And how do you suppose Sir Parks was a threat, Acolyte?" Asked Madame Ko of Butler, nodding to the man he'd just shot.

"He was the one who planned to have this boy taken out for real, Madame."

"True."

"Who is he?" Butler gestured with his head at the boy still held in his arms – he would not give up his charge to any of these people here, he trusted no one. Including the Madame.

"A student by name of Neil Tolstovoy. A member of a family who has been involved in Russian Mafiya. Which is the main reason the test was to take place here, even though it was your native country."

"And why would you endanger the life of a 12-year-old boy for the sake of a test, Madame." Butler was angry, yet hid most of it in the way that he had been so well trained to do, for she had known about the men with real bullets and still had done nothing. All for a test. Some things should not be put at risk for the sake of an 18-year-old getting a tattoo.

"Because all tests should have an unexpected element. And how was I to know how you faired in real combat, when this can't be tested in any conventional manner. I needed to see if I was right about you, Butler." And this was the moment. Butler waited, as he always did.

"And were you?"

"Yes." She gave him a slip of paper with some basic information printed on it in her neat hand. He almost smiled.

"Thank you."

She nodded, stiff-backed as always. Thank you, Domovoi.

24th of June, 2006; Saint Bartleby's School for Young Gentlemen, Co. Wicklow, IRELAND
At 6"2' with a slim figure, Artemis Fowl looked like he should be lanky. His proportions were just not constructive to moving with grace and poise. But that was the thing about Fowl – he moved like particularly sophisticated liquid anyway, it was part of his nature. And that was the second most annoying thing about Artemis, in Dana MacCaugry's mind anyway.

The first was his general disability to consider anything important enough to warrant his focused attention.

Artemis' intelligence also annoyed Dana, but he thought it was rather discriminatory to hold that against him really.

"Are you going to say anything, MacCaugry? Or just stand there for a few hours looking like a Neanderthal?"

"What do you want me to say?" Dana replied, but Artemis completed the length of the pool before he decided to answer.

"Whatever it is that you feel you must."

"Why do I bother? You know it all anyway."

Artemis smirked, as he was liable to do on occasion. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"Do you have to be so damn smug about it all? Please!"

"It would be dishonest to pretend that I'm not knowledgeable."

"You have no people skills, Artemis. None."

Artemis grinned, then did another tumble turn and started down the length of the pool once more. "Who's really going to hold that against me? I'm the genius-boy, I'm meant to have social problems. It's in textbooks that I should. I know, I wrote some of them."

"Just a question, a question for you who knows all. Do you have a conscience?"

"If it would make you feel better, then yes, I do. I'm not a sociopath at any rate. Although if that state is even in part created by environment then it's amazing that I'm not."

"Do you even care when you tread upon everyone, treating them like particularly useless slaves that need to be replaced soon?"

"No one smart ever treated their slaves like dirt, because then the slaves might rise up against their master, or, at least, be so malnourished that they couldn't complete their work. Who would want that?"

"Well, some other metaphor about having a superiority complex. Something with nasty meanings."

"Now, now, you don't want to make me uneasy, Dana. Genii have such a high rate of suicide."

"Shut up, Artemis! And you'd know of your own mental issues years before they actually appeared."

"You just want me all to yourself, which is entirely unreasonable."

Dana opened and closed his mouth a few times, wondering what, if anything, would give him an advantage over his peer. He came to the conclusion of nothing. It wasn't really a comforting thought.

"Why? In normal relationships there is such a thing as faithfulness. And, hey, even honesty would be nice."

"Nothing is 'normal', Dana. Faithfulness and honesty are actually characteristics of a minority of relationships. However, our experimentation is rather normal in that it does not require faithfulness or commitment. Don't look for a husband in me. Dean Smyth on the other hand seems like just your type. Why do you have such an issue concerning possession?"

"I don't need to answer that; you've probably written a psych report for the school on me."

"Such a lack of faith yourself. Hypocrites are one group of people who irritate me far more than the average soul."

"I'm not a hypocrite. I just believe that you are a very skilled actor. I know you are."

"Naturally. The question you really should want the answer to is: when am I acting, and, in reverse, when am I not? Life is an act, Dana; nothing is real. No one is ever real, and you can only know what he or she lets you see. You don't want to see what I'm not letting you see. Keep that in mind."

That was Artemis' dismissal, but Dana stayed. Artemis turned around yet again and moved down the pool, wondering vaguely about how long it would take Dana to leave.

"Maybe I do."

There was no reply.

"Will you at least pretend to care, Artemis?"

Silence, broken by splashes.

"I'm going to go now. We won the Rugby against Dunbar Park and we're into the Grand Finals; I'm going to the celebration with the rest of the school. Come if you want to."

Artemis did another tumble-turn.

25th of October, 2006; Fowl Manor, Co. Dublin, IRELAND
"Leave, Butler."

In the darkness Artemis knew that Butler's brow was creasing; Artemis had not ordered him away in almost a month, and only then for a good reason. But Butler didn't question it.

"As you wish, sir."

He moved from the bed, and the mattress bounced back to its rest position.

"Good night, Artemis."

"Good night, Domovoi."

The door opened, distilling a small amount of light through the room. It closed again, Butler having been as silent as he always was.

The dream had been disturbing, and too real. Too possible. So possible that fate (or Hollywood) must interfere, because an event that clichéd doesn't ever take place outside the cinema.

Artemis closed his eyes once more, and, in an uncharacteristic gesture, wished for dreamless sleep. In his mind he heard lobster claws clicking on tiles… as the world stopped, was silent, was so still that everything was moving at light speed.

15th of June, 2006; St. Bartleby's.
According to a few of Artemis's less sober classmates, the craic at the celebration was terrific. Artemis didn't really think much of their idea of a good time, but Colm Merrigan had 'shifted' him under a table – modern dialects of the young were so crude - and although it was horrible, it was better than nothing.

He settled upon his bed, cross-legged in the meditation pose that Butler had insisted was the best for keeping personal focus. It was almost one am, and he had left the party early. He had passed the English Master on the way back to his room, who had been heading to break up the noise, but perhaps to sample the alcohol, being the youngest member of the staff and rather excited about the Rugby results himself.

After a moment of reflection he pulled his laptop towards him and opened the screen up. He was glad the summer holidays would soon be upon them, because he was getting next to no work done at school. His mother had been willing to allow him to not return to school last year, but Artemis Senior had insisted upon it, mainly because he was worried about Artemis's personal illegal plans interfering with his own, those which were still a heavily guarded secret from his wife.

Artemis had plans so that he would never have to come back here after the summer holidays – holidays that were fast approaching. If he was honest with himself, if he was a less intelligent person – if he was, frankly, less egocentric with such evidence as to why he should be so – he would say he was behind in his plans, but he didn't. Even if he had not finalized some aspects of the plan, even if he had not managed to gather some of the more obscure resources needed by the holidays he would still achieve the objective. His father would have to face up to the fact that he wasn't the best, that his 'empire' had more holes in it than Swiss cheese, that his legitimate businesses relied to heavily on small things, things which could be brought to fail so easily.

There was five days before the end of term, when all the chronically stupid aristocratic heirs to failing families would go back to their manors and halls. A lot more can be done in five days than is usually expected, and it was not a vitally time-dependant plan, it did not need to be in place for a month yet. Everything would go perfectly.

He was Artemis Fowl the Second; there was no other way it could go.

12th of October, 1981; Siberia region, 3 hours North-East of Omsk, U.S.S.R.
The air shimmering above the frozen desert planes was below zero, as it usually was. The sun had set, but it was approaching winter so it was not late, not by their clocks. The sunlight that had reflected off the dry ice that afternoon had gone; disappearing into the ether like the dream it seemed to be. The moon had risen an hour or so ago - huge, immense, looming, illuminating the ice, dry-packed snow with pale, silver-tinged light.

Butler arrived. He was alone, wearing not much more than heavy trousers and a thick jacket. He had partially grown up in this region - before his Grandmother had moved to St. Petersburg - and if not here, then close enough to make little difference. Madame Ko did not have that luxury, and was quite cold, but she had enough self-discipline to not make this noticeable.

The Madame surveyed him, considering everything he was bringing to the ranks of her successful pupils. She saw promise, but not actuality. She saw strength, but not as much confidence – which was good, for confidence was cockiness at this age. She saw a lot of things that could go one way or another, a lot of fear buried so deep that almost no one even knew of its existence.

She didn't bother with greetings; the simple, formalized platitudes that sometimes were the only thing responsible for keeping Butler sane.

"You haven't phoned your father, have you, Domovoi?"

Butler didn't even consider lying; no one lied to Madame Ko, and if even the thought was to pass through someone's inebriated mind, she would know. He nodded in affirmation.

"Would you like me to notify him of your success through a letter?"

"Please. Thank you, Madame."

"If you wish, you may call me Hyacinth." She pulled him to his feet, looking up at him, 2 feet of height differentiating between them. "I'm proud of you, Domovoi. Very proud. The youngest before you to graduate from my academy, or the academies of any of my family, was 22."

She grinned, and it looked completely out of place to Butler on his sensei's passive face. "But you knew that already, didn't you. You wanted to beat that record. You wanted to prove yourself the best, the best that has ever been. But you still have much to learn, Domovoi, simply nothing more that I can teach you." She crinkled her lips up, a characteristic of hers when she was considering how to say something prominent with the least wastage of words. "I know you'll succeed though, if you do not become consumed with pride, with judgements of others. It does not do well to think of yourself as distinctly different from all those around you, because then you may be surprised. It does not do well to think of others as being wrong, they are simply different."

Domovoi nodded once more, standing on ceremony as he always had with the Madame.

"Not everyone will hate you. Not everyone will be unable to understand. Remember that. The thoughts of one are not the thoughts of them all."

"I understand, Madame."

"Hyacinth." She reprimanded him, as she'd done for 7 years now.

"Yes, Hyacinth."

"Sit down, Domovoi. Here, on this stool. Take off your shirt."

"Yes, Hyacinth."

The Madame prepared the tools, the bright blue dye that would stain Butler's skin with the diamond. One of his proudest marks, sitting amongst scars and triumphs, one of those that proved his strength – emotionally, physically, mentally – far more than his rippling muscles. She swabbed his left shoulder with a disinfectant.

She leaned forward, pulling a pair of well-worn glasses from a pocket and popping them upon her nose. She rested the tip of the needle against his slightly-tanned skin.

"Work is not a substitute for life, Domovoi."

"I know, Madame."

"Hyacinth. No, you do not. Work is not a method to achieve cowardly actions. You must do what is best, for the most pure reasons you can find within yourself. I can see it in you. You work rather than face difficult situations where the variables can't be measured in quantifiable terms. Separation from reality, but giving yourself an excuse of why you should do this. There is no good reason though."

"Are you accusing me?"

"My dearest Domovoi, you are running. Not accusation, information. You are not a coward, not in matters of physical strength, mental challenge. Emotionally, you are weaker. You hide from emotion, for such things are impossible to measure, impossible to judge without subjection."

"I do not. And if I do, it is as I have been taught." There was a light rebuke in Butler's tone, instigating her hypocrisy - something which no other acolyte would dare to do with their sensei, no one would dare think even the thoughts in such a sarcastic manner.

"A bodyguard's job is not only one of separation, it is also one of connection. You must be separated from your principal to be able to complete your mission, yet one of the paths towards such completion is connection with said principal. Your life will be one of contradictions, Domovoi – in morals, in ideals, in your employers and within yourself. You cannot hope to succeed if you cannot see this. Your personal thoughts have to constantly be floating free within the shades of grey, because you will not be able to argue, will not have the freedom of choice to say yes or no, not truly. Politically you can't be left or right, mentally, you cannot be for nor against. You must agree with your principal without giving any input, you must not argue nor have an opinion."

"I can hide my thoughts. I always have."

"Not suppression from the outside world, true neutrality. There is a great level of difference between these two, Domovoi."

"Yes, Hyacinth."

"Don't you 'Yes, Hyacinth' me, Domovoi! You must listen!"

"I am. I shall work upon this. I shall not be so strict within my own thoughts."

"Good." The poke and injection of bright blue dye went on, silence reigned. It was a comfortable silence though, one that spoke of appreciation and respect.

After a time, the outline of the multifaceted diamond almost completed, Madame Ko spoke once more.

"Domovoi, I know your father well. He only needs time. Once he has examined things more completely he shall come around, he shall accept you."

"He has, almost. Emily is the one who can't accept who I am."

"Ah, but do you need to busy yourself with the opinions of your step-mother? If you realize that her thoughts are not your own, nor even those of your father, it shall be alright."

"I know. But I…" he pulled himself up, forsaking emotion as he had been taught. "It doesn't matter, rejection does not matter to me. Isolation only betters my performance."

And the Madame - Hyacinth at this moment in time - wondered if she had succeeded too well with this pupil. She taught her pupils to not take everything at face value, to create their own priorities, their own ideas and thoughts on society, on individuals. Most of them ended up analyzing her own teachings in the same light. She hoped that he would not take everything she said at face value, because she had said them because that was what he had wanted – and expected – to hear. Not everything was truth, much was psychological bullshit, carefully designed to create the perfect mindset needed for the protection profession.

He was highly qualified, yet so susceptible to ideas – if only because he was so young, trying to find a place to exist. He would grow, all he needed were the right prods in the right directions. He needed the opportunity to find his own ideas, his own place.

"When did you tell your father?"

"Eleven and a half months ago, Hyacinth."

---
I stand before my father, straight-backed, slightly taller, slightly broader, less wise. I loved him so much when I was young, he would visit me with stories and gifts. And fresh raw scars, the flesh tinged pink – which were always much more important to me than the sweets and toy soldiers. I had a real soldier, and I didn't need to dream, I knew what I would become.

"Papa?"

My father smiles at me, and I smile as well. People think we Butlers are without feelings, but it's just we hide it. We love and hate as fiercely and passionately as anyone else, perhaps more so, because we spend so long learning to suppress it – so we understand emotion and it's importance at a much younger age, and we are able to appreciate feelings so much more.

"You have something to tell us, Domovoi?" Papa wrapped an arm around his young wife, a woman almost 24 years his junior. He could be her father as well as mine; she should be my elder sister rather than my mother figure.

"Two things, Papa. One less important than the other."

I take a breath, waiting for the moment - thinking that somehow gongs will clang, the sky will darken. That something would mark this as important, because it is. No gongs, no mysterious clouds gathering in the Miami sky. I almost feel inclined to laugh at my own stupidity. "Papa, I…" And I should be laughing at myself, for I shouldn't be tongue-tided. I know exactly what I want to say. I slip into speaking in Russian, our native language; I had spoken in English for the sake of Emily. Perhaps the words will come easier then.

"Papa, I'm gay." And in that moment, when the realization that I had spoken the words with something more than mere breath behind them, with someone there to here... I'm so amazed that I managed to say it, and nothing can be taken back anymore. I want to explain everything; I want to explain so many things that I've hidden for so long. And I'm about to, the lightness that came with admission making me smile; smile so wide.

And his face tightens, his body stiffens; I can see the wheels turning, blocking as random thoughts of betrayal and abnormality lodge themselves in his mind and make the wheels grind to a holt as things get caught in the spokes of progress. And suddenly, the smile of relief gone, I'm pleading, pleading with my eyes in a way that I hadn't known I needed to. I had thought he loved me as much as I still loved him, when he was my very own toy soldier.

"What did he say, Alexander?" Asks Emily, trying to catch Papa's attention. He's looking at me, willing me to take it all back. "What did you say, Butler?"

And it's real, as I'd once known – years ago I had known it would happen like this, but my fantasies of perfection had made it so I barely remembered the reality as I had once known it. Again, I've let myself down. But the words are still easy, because they no longer seem to matter at all. "I told him that I'm homosexual. He doesn't seem to be happy to hear it though." And she was expecting me to be joking, not remembering that Butlers never lie.

"Get out, Domovoi."

"As you wish, Papa." And I know I'm only holding back tears because I'm as disbelieving as Emily – not disbelief, simply the persistence of a fantasy, non-existent world where things were different. And I'm a Butler. Butlers never cry.

I turn around. I've never lived in this house of theirs, never in America – the land of the free - even, and I was only stopping here to visit before making my way back to Switzerland to complete another phase of my training with Madame Ko.. That was the other news. The Madame had said that I would probably be able to earn my blue diamond before my 21st birthday.

Papa would have taken that news better, even if it did mean that I had beat his personal record.
---

"You need no one other than yourself and your principal to succeed, Domovoi."

"Yes, Hyacinth."

The tattooing went on, the oppressive Siberian cold – this barren world within a world had been used as a prison, an exile in years past - biting at Butler's exposed skin. Butler could survive the cold; he could survive the prick of the needle, penetrating his skin again and again like the vaccine for smallpox had. He was a Butler. Survival was his business.