He was half-asleep during the meeting. While Ms. Piper efficiently and briskly went from subject to subject, gracefully making sound decisions and resolving arguments with a swift ease, he was leaning back on his chair, sometimes his head nodding off, his eyes closed, his posture proclaiming detachment from the meeting… That was when she felt obliged to poke his arm hard, to make sure his eyes fluttered open and that the rest of the Interim Council did not see him blissfully ignoring everything they were saying.
Not that they would reprimand him. As if they would dare scold the one who had saved their arses two days ago.
Still, it was amusing to watch the ever-so-famous John Mandrake being so aloof… so oblivious… to such an important conference. Before everything had changed, she would always imagine him in a crisp dark suit, always alert and focused with his pale face eager to gain power through any lowly means. She would have expected him to do anything to conduct this meeting himself, to be the strongest voice heard. That was before, of course. Before he became something entirely different, before he risked everything…
Before she saw him practically drooling on the table, his head now in his arms.
Another vicious poke. A small groan escaped his lips as he shook his head and glared at her. She stared defiantly back, mouthing her own chastisement, which he promptly ignored.
How… rude of him. Especially since they were on opposite sides of the table, forcing her to stretch her hand (all the while trying hard to remain unnoticed) every time she had to wake him up.
Throughout most of the meeting, they were acting like children. She poked him -and sometimes even kicked him under the table- when he was on the verge of drifting off to sleep. He smiled condescendingly at her and shook his head mockingly whenever she didn't properly understand what was going on in the meeting.
They were infuriating each other. But it was rather fun, so they didn't stop.
Besides, after everything that had happened… they deserved to let it go.
"Anyway," the mild but firm voice of Ms. Piper suddenly cut through her thoughts, "the commoners, according to their representatives," she nodded to a burly, white-haired man and a short freckled woman, "earnestly wish that we magicians stop using demons altogether after seeing the chaos ensuring a few days ago. To put it simply, they want us to stop being magicians. They want to destroy the line separating us from them."
Immediately, furious protest was heard. She could see magicians shaking their heads, glaring at the commoners' representatives, muttering curses under their breath…
She could see him dangerously tilting his head on his shoulder, eyes dazed and already half-closed. Even the raucous shouts around him could not help him resist the sweet calling of sleep.
And she would have gladly kicked him hard if Ms. Piper didn't turn to her then, appraising her with stern eyes.
"Ms. Jones, what do you think?"
"Um…" her attention was still on the boy in front of her, whom she desperately longed to wake in the most annoying fashion. "I believe… I think that you should stop summoning demons." Once her statement was out, she felt strength in it, realizing how much she supported it. Avidly, she continued: "Not only does it take away so much power away from us commoners, it also corrupts magicians and makes them think that they can do whatever they want! Besides, it hurts the d-… the spirits, too. It hurts… everyone."
Immediately, a stony silence descended upon the room. She could feel the cold atmosphere, how nobody was warmed by what she had said. Around her, every magician gave her a hard, hostile stare, and even the commoners' representatives didn't give her any silent encouragement. Perhaps the part about the demons was a little too much for them. So much for finally having a say after saving London from the clutches of Nouda.
Yet there was an exception to everything, and after scanning the room once more, she found the eye of the young magician who had almost fallen into slumber a few moments ago. Surprising, then, how awake he was now, his back straight as he gazed serenely at her. What more… he was raising a tauntingeyebrow and smiling at her in patronizing amusement!
Exasperation would have been an understatement here.
"What are you smiling at?" she asked coldly, gritting her teeth.
"Oh, am I smiling?" he blinked, feigning innocence, although his grin grew wider. "Nothing at all, Kitty."
"You lie," she whispered dangerously, narrowing her eyes. "Why are you smiling?"
Nobody was in the room with her anymore; there was only that smirking jerk who just wouldn't stop.
"Well…" he at last started slowly. "If you really want to know, I just find it so endearing."
"Your ideas that is," he continued, a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. "Ever-so-endearing, so naïve-…"
Of course, she wouldn't let him finish, and her fist connected with his cheek before she could properly think about her actions. Oh, well. It was worth it, just to see that smile slip off his face, to see him stumble back in shock. A smug grin adorning her own visage now, she briefly thought how strange it was, how so many times their conversations ended with some kind of violence. Usually delivered from her. Oh, yeah. Hadn't they been enemies then?
It was also so much fun abusing him, she admitted. Almost guiltily. But not quite.
Everyone came back just then. Gasps of astonishment –rage, even?- and multiple surprised cries could be heard as all eyes turned on her and the victimized boy. Slowly, he lifted his head and met her eyes, his expression unreadable while a bright blue bruise spread quickly on his face. He looked…
Tilting his head, he looked at her, almost quizzically, and another smile appeared all of a sudden.
"Well, then," he began nonchalantly, "I love you, too."
Sarcasm. It was obvious that sarcasm interlaced those simple words, yet meeting his dark eyes, she could see something deep in them… some truth… something so serious, so solid… that it made abruptly ache. Realization quickly came with this bizarre hollow pain, happy, horrible, bittersweet. She saw that irritating, endearing smile, even as she turned to him for the last time, crying:
"Nathaniel, you idiot!"
Tears. That was the first thing she felt when her eyes flew open. They were all over her face and still rapidly flowing, dripping quietly onto her sheets, sliding to her neck. The first thing she did was wiping them all away, her lips letting out a small, tired groan. It was so dark around her –the day was still far away- yet shining through her naked window, the silver light of the full moon splattered onto her bed, making her see sparkles everywhere her eyes turned. Stunning, beautiful, nostalgic, just like a dream…
She felt the pang, then, and she closed her eyes.
As clear as if it had actually happened, his haunting smile appeared in her mind's eye, making her feel so many things at once while her head vibrated with a thousand thoughts. Clutching her head, she looked down, trying to organize everything… in vain of course. The only way, she knew, to put it all in one thought was that… he was dead.
Blunt. Simple. True. Another wave of pain rippled savagely inside her.
How they departed, she now couldn't help thinking, was pathetic. No meaningful words, no meaningful gestures. It left so much to be desired, it left such an aura of mystery around his death. Around what could have been.
And she only learned this now, after experiencing the melancholy dream that seemed all too real.
I love you, too.
Did she take everything for granted, through life and death? She didn't know, she would never know. There were answers she wanted, that she could have gotten before, but it was too late now, wasn't it? What was worse, he had those answers, these little things that she knew shouldn't bother her but just did. Yet he had to go get himself killed, didn't he? Even after making that promise just to make her ache?
… Just to make her feel alone in this angry, foreboding world filled with shadows and spite and shattered dreams.
Clenching her fist, she heavily fell back onto her bed. It was over, nothing she could do anymore. Still, just to voice her frustration as she always wanted to do, she gazed at the window and whispered to the celestial heavens, where he could maybe hear…
"Nathaniel… you idiot."
Finally, I made my own Bartimaeus Trilogy fanfiction, even though it is merely a one-shot. It's something done, right? Forgive me if some places were awkward and maybe this piece gave youa little to think about. Probably not. I was inspired to write this one-shot after reading Gratitude by Contrarian. I adopted the main idea about the dream after reading the adorable bit about Kitty wanting to hit Nathaniel yet grin at him every time he would raise a mocking eyebrow at her... and hopefully I didn't do anything wrong by doing so. Oh, well; if the aforementioned author is truly angered, I can fix it. I think...
Well, enjoy. And if you have heart, review.