author's note: not exactly fantastic, since it was originally going to be part of a longer story but then it wrote itself out. But everyone needs some Holly/Root in their day.
"Come on, Holly. You said that you would."
"I was drunk!"
"That doesn't mean you can unsay anything! Even if you were unexpectedly turned into a purple polka-dotted leper dancing a 12th Century gig while suffering from gingivitis you wouldn't be excused from this one!"
"If I lost a leg?"
"Not a chance." Foaly smirked at Holly.
"If I fell in love with Artemis Fowl and went to live with the Mud People?" She was pleading, pathetically. She would say that she was trying to get out of it because of a combination of embarrassment and fear of the Beetroot, but some part of her – a small, unheard part - was twanging with the remains of morals and conscience. It wasn't nice. Even if it was Root.
And something whispered: especially because it's Root.
"You can't possibly get out of this dare, Holly. Not only because you gave your word—"
"My drunken word!"
"Not only did you give your word," Foaly continued, "but I've already sold tickets to as many people as will fit in my Ops Center, and there are advances on the cafeteria telescreen which I'm going to rig to show his office as well. And," he paused for dramatic effect, "if you don't do it I've got your agreement to do it on tape and I'll let that disc find its way into Beetroot's cold and ruthless hands."
"Blackmail, Foaly? I never—"
"E37 is nice this time of year, right? Or maybe E93, that was charming – quietly radioactive, and all. Chix Verbil is simply dying for you to be back on stake-out with him, he wants to thank you for saving his life, I think. A very personal thanks, I'm sure."
Holly shuddered at the idea of another month – or, godforbid, decades, centuries – in a chute with Verbil for company. She might be forced to take up one of his many offers out of sheer boredom and monotony.
"I'll do it, Foaly." She paused for a moment, smirking. "But I want 70% of the profits, because it is all my work."
"Bah humbug! 10%. I've got to organize the venues, technology, marketing… Let alone it being my idea in the first place."
"50%, because you couldn't do it without me."
"20%, because I could replace you with Frond and get nearly the same turnover."
"But far more screaming and not the same look on his face. 40%, or I won't do it, and then I'll tell Root all about this idea of yours."
"25%, which is more than reasonable for walking into someone's office and giving them a peck."
"More than reasonable? What about paying for the years of therapy afterwards? And it's not you who has to kiss him. 35%."
"Good." They shook hands, grinning at each other.
"Pleasure doing business with you, Foaly. Schedule for next Monday evening? Think you can get any of your gadgets working by then?"
"Of course I can, fly-girl."
Holly nodded, and then Newt came running, asking Foaly to get someone to fix the telecom system on and from the 4th floor. Holly didn't say that it would have been easier for Newt to simply have gone to the 3rd and intercommed from there, but she was in the aftermath of their deal, and her stomach was turning over and over.
No, it really wasn't nice. But what could she do now?
Root had been pleasantly surprised when he peered out his door at quarter to nine on Monday evening and found the productive bustle of an almost-full work place. Perhaps they were finally starting to learn about work ethic? You never know, perhaps the Almighty could bring miracles. He peered into the mirror behind his desk before sitting down again. He glared, and it did look slightly more imposing than it had perhaps a month ago. It really was paying off, that glare, snarl and simmering anger routine he was occasionally practicing in front of the mirror. But that wasn't why he had the mirror behind his desk; no, that was so people could see their own faces as he interviewed them and get scared about what he was seeing them admit with their eyes.
Of course, that only worked on the more intelligent of them. The idiots didn't have a clue what he was doing. Most unsatisfying. He'd have to make sure to never have an interview with Verbil ever again. Let alone that younger Kelp, the urine smell had taken ages to get out of the carpet.
He sat down and swung the chair from side to side, just once. Most satisfying.
There was a pile of paperwork on one corner of his mahogany desk, deposited there a moment before he arrived by Newt or Wilson or some chit named Peach Somethingorother. He pulled it towards him and scrunched the first page up, throwing it towards the bin, as soon as he read the title.
He read the next one, and a blood vessel in his temple started pulsating in time with his migraine and his disbelief, his bottom eyelid twitching like quivering jelly. That damn centaur…
"Newt! Get Foaly up here from his little box of paranoia – RIGHT – NOW!"
A noise came though his door that might possibly have been a harassed elf that had three sessions of intensive professional therapy per week and a mother who often told him he really should have become an accountant instead, leaping to his feet and scrambling down the corridor.
He pulled up the surveillance system on his overly large plasma screen which he didn't really need, watching Newt dash down the hall like the devil was breathing down his neck, brushing past Holly Short in a way that meant he only just managed to stay upright. Mrs. Newt had to admit though, of course, that her son really was keeping fit, if rather nervous.
He turned off the screen once Newt had failed to save himself from falling when he stumbled into Grub Kelp; watching the both of them scramble around the floor was uninteresting. His hand, of its own accord, trailed to the bottom drawer of his desk, flipped open his case of fungus cigars and lodged one between fat, chapped lips. The hand went once again to the drawer possibly to close it, as he savoured the expectation of his first cigar for the day. The hand came back holding a ratty, dog-eared photograph.
Holly Short, her face flustered with heat and responsibility and the rush that is Police Plaza; flustered as he imagined she would look with her boyfriend perhaps… Eyes bright, the determination overlaid with a false, naive innocence that she didn't really possess. A cute nose, sensual lips, hair short enough so it couldn't possibly hide the beauty of her cheekbones. But her eyes, the quirky depth and ferocious determination that he had never been, and never would be able to imitate in his own eyes.
Captain Holly Short…
"Newt!" he called, before remembering that Newt was scurrying down to Foaly's Ops Center, forgetting about the intercom system, or perhaps dismissing it since it so rarely worked.
He pursed his lips, muttered something to himself about age and youth and the difference between.
There was a knock at his door – that'd be Foaly – and he called the annoying, resource-guzzling donkey-boy in, setting his best glare on his features.
His first thought: She looks nervous, what's wrong? The next pertained to it being Short at his door, not Foaly, and where was that four-legged bastard thinking he'd get to?
She really was nervous; it was like she was Newt or Kelp's younger brother. It wasn't Short. Short wasn't nervous in the face of anything, certainly not her commander – she was far to righteously right, to strong-willed, for that.
"What is it, Short?" He asked, careful to be cold and slightly irritated in his tone; not true, not working, he thinks.
"I…" Her voice dropped to barely above a whisper, if it could be said to be above at all. She was pressed against the visitor's side of his desk, her hands leaving sweat prints on the varnish, and he leant forward so that he could hear her words. "'msorrycommander," she murmured, and he wondered, before she lent over the desk and kissed him full on the lips, gentle and apologetic and almost as if she was crying tears with her lips.
He opened his eyes when the sad kiss ceased, and she was looking into his eyes, and she was… "'M so sorry, Commander. Julius. I… I'm so, so sorry."
"Sorry?" He asked. "Why sorry?" Then he blushed, because it was wrong, as was the photo overturned and lying in his lap, and her hand stroked the side of his face.
She closed her eyes, giving him a quick hug from across the table that felt right, even though it was wrong. "Aiféalach, paenitet me, bekümmert..."
For her, to apologize in every language that had ever been would not be enough. "Holly?" He asked.
"Julius," she said, and it wasn't a question, or even an answer.
She moved out of the embrace, her eyes flickered to the corner where the camera was placed, something he didn't notice, too busy watching her hands wringing themselves.
Sorry… So sorry...her eyes said, as she left the office without saying anything more because she couldn't find the words, and shut the door quietly behind her.
The photo found its place inside its drawer once again, turned against the light, the openness of his office (but that didn't matter, since his office wasn't an open place anyway). The cigar had fallen to his desk, still unlit, end unchewed.
The end was snipped, lit, he puffed upon it until the smoke curled around his head and danced in his tar-stricken lungs.
He blew a smoke ring, as he always did with the first smoke of the day.
He finished the cigar, opened the drawer, pushed Holly's image to the side, fetched out another one. He almost lit it, but the smoke around his head was stinging his eyes already, and everyone out in the Plaza was remarkably quiet. And Foaly hadn't come to see him yet about that request for funds.
He needed coffee. Even if it was the shite he put in the cafeteria, since he'd run out of his own special brand and hadn't found the time to get Newt to buy him some more.
Down the hall there was a lack of fast moving sprites and pixies and pimpled messenger elves. Near the cafeteria there was a crowd, like the time when Verbil had organized a few mud wrestling girls to come in. He pushed open the door, intent on coffee making less of a mess of his mind, and his face was on a projection screen, dumbstruck expression before a head of auburn hair obscured his features. Foaly was working the science to one side of the screen, grinning as Trouble congratulated him. Sprites and pixies and pimpled messenger elves were giggling and guffawing, patting each other on the back as if it had been their idea.
And Holly was in the corner, and she looked like her stomach had turned to lead and had dropped from her abdomen, like her guts were liquefying and trickling down the inside of her legs. She was the only person who had noticed he was there, but the rest were glancing up and the noise was stopping. The last sound that could be heard was Verbil's telling of some tale that trailed off before it reached its punch line.
His face wasn't red, wasn't purple, they noticed as they did nothing. White, almost a shade of grey – who had ever thought that one day the famous Beetroot wouldn't be red?
Holly saw the gleam of fluorescent lighting on a tear track as he turned around and left without a word. Without his coffee.
But what could she have done?
LEXICON: (all words meaning 'sorry'/[I'm] sorry'
Aiféalach [Irish Gaelic],
Paenitet me [Latin],