Summary: Butler moves from one place to another as he searches for somewhere to tie him down. Juliet grows up with change in her blood, but Domovoi waits patiently for change to find him.
Genre: General, Drama
Prompt:#63 - Summer on fanfic100; #05 – Repercussions and Reverberations on the Criminality Amnesty.
Disclaimer: AF characters are not mine, nopes, not at all. The lyrics are taken from Situations, by Jack Johnson, they aren't mine either.
Notes: Thanks to my betas, Chuthulupenguin, The Toaster, and Lady Game. Cheers.
The darkness cleared.
The sky was cloudless. The sun two hours from the horizon. It warmed his body, and heated the dry, red-brown dirt. California. Two hours from dawn. Maybe zero-eight-hundred. Zero-eight-hundred, on a sunny day, in California.
The sky was blue. Cloudless. He could only see the blue, cloudless sky. The blue, cloudless sky, and a slither of dark, red-brown dirt, because he was lying on the red-brown dirt. The blue, cloudless sky, and the dirt, and dark hair that merges with the dark dirt between him. Shards of glass and drops of red, sprinkled through hair, lying on the red-brown dirt beside him, under the cloudless blue sky.
He rolled to one side. His right leg didn't follow his body properly, but twisted beneath him, pain shooting through his entire side. He breathed out once, left hand crossing his body to pull the Sig Sauer free while propping upright on the other. The Jeep had rolled onto its roof. One and a half turns, judging by the damage.
He rotated, his right arm straining to hold his weight as he made a complete 360. The road stretched behind them. There was no cover to either side. The offending roll of industrial wire from the load not properly tied down had warped under their wheels. The truckie had pulled over one hundred-forty metres down the road, and now blinked on the business end of the Sig Sauer. He was an inoffensive man, with greying hair beneath a Yankees cap - a long way from home. Not dangerous.
Butler had never been in an accident before.
He ignored the man and sheathed the gun, then pulled himself across the debris to where Honey lay. He avoided the windscreen shards and metal shrapnel as best he could; palm injuries can be permanently debilitating. His leg ached, but it was not broken and he had ignored worse for days.
Her pulse beneath his finger tips was fast, but steady. The lines of her throat were smooth, with golden skin contrasting with his tanned, calloused hand. The visible injuries on her face and arms were superficial. Light glinted against the gold cross and medallion resting between her collarbones; it brought out the gold hints in her brown eyes. Her left arm was snapped twice at the humerus. It had been resting on the window, her hair flapping outside in the wind; a bottle of diet coke in her other hand, about to sip. Her blouse was stained with brown cola and darkening blood; he unbuttoned it with care to check her. Bruises were forming beneath the skin. Possible internal bleeding.
"There's a blanket in the back of the car. Get it for me." The truckie, who had been making nervous steps towards them jogged to the upturned 4WD.
The blanket landed beside him, and he brushed the glass away from her body before tucking her under its warmth. The sun was hot on the back of his neck.
"Where's the nearest phone?"
"About three klicks back." The man waved his hand at the road, just as two cars passed them in quick succession, not slowing except to oggle.
"I am not willing to move my girlfriend without paramedic help. Phone 112--," he shook his head, refocusing, "--no, California, right, 911. Tell them there's a nineteen year old female in shock. Possible internal bleeding. Possible spinal injury." The man nodded twice, mouthing the instructions before jogging back to his truck, starting the engine and swinging it round. Butler noticed the wobbling slack in the load restraints as he passed.
"Butler?" Her eyelids fluttered, her throat swallowing beneath the hand that still counted her heartbeats.
"Shhh. I've got you, Honey." He brushed his lips against hers to keep her quiet, while his hands kept her still. Thick fingers ran slowly through her long, matted hair, gently feeling for head injuries.
Situation number one,
It's the one that's just begun,
But evidently it's too late.
"Russia, son." The Colonel said.
Butler nodded absently, staring through the half closed Venetians. "Madame Ko wants me for this?"
"Me? Or does she want any Butler?"
The Colonel grunted, limping closer, his leg swinging out and back to the rhythm of the cane. Butler didn't glance over, his eyes not quite focusing on the little, part-Chinese girl asleep in the hospital bed. Her head had been shaved for the cerebrospinal shunt they put in, and she had joked about matching him.
"She wants a Butler. But that's because she wants the best. And, my son, you're the best of the Butlers."
"What about Honey?"
"Be reasonable, Butler. Be responsible. She's nineteen. She's hardly going to sit around pining for you. She doesn't want the anguish and unreliability of a far-away lover, tied up in violence. Don't expect that of her." He nodded. He had heard this from when he was three feet high. He learnt it when crawling into the emptiness of his mother's lap, a four year old wiping away his mother's tears. He knew all about being responsible.
"Russia," he whispered, his breath frosting the glass like a prelude of Moscow winters.
"Do it for your mother, Domovoi." The Colonel said, but Butler has always done things for his mother.
"Will you make sure Honey is looked after? I don't--"
"Brilliant. I knew you'd see reason."
"Yes. Yes, of course. I know. It's right."
It had seemed simpler from outside, looking in through the vertical slants. He shifted his head so his bulk blocked the view from the door. His father was watching.
He should never have asked. That had not been his intention on entering the bland room, but he didn't stop himself when the question welled up inside. The lights on the monitors were blink, blink, blinking at him, accusing him of looking at them, not her. He should never have asked.
"Will you wait for me?"
She looked at him, considering perhaps, or maybe just remembering the strobe lit raves he snuck her into. Laughing at her from the door of a dingy bathroom as she dyed a stripe of purple into her hair, but pointing out when she'd missed some of the roots. Handing her the purple hair, neatly folded in a plastic bag. Remembering everyone else pressing against her from all sides, being lifted above the crowded mosh so that she could see; then Butler pressed against her back and the warm shivers which slid down her spine.
He didn't remember that, not as intensely as he remembered riding and laughing with her from San Jose to Las Vegas, staying in seedy motels which were a security nightmare, if he had been responsible, if he had been thinking about security.
"I won't be gone long." He brushed his knuckles down the side of her face. His other hand was resting against her stomach, and she clutched it with her plastered left arm. Her eyes were hard, though, narrowed against him. But her hand was still tiny in his, still soft and inviting and warm.
"While I'm stuck in this hospital bed for months, you'll be running around getting shot at by Russians for being an American spy! Forgive me for being skeptical." Her voice twanged, tinted with false colour like her hair had been.
"I'm Russian, so I'm a Russian spy if I'm any spy at all."
She didn't smile, dropping his fingers to the bed, then twisting her own in the bed covers a moment later. "No. No, I will not wait for you."
Her eyes were still tracking the lines of his face, and he knew it was for memory: the memory of this day, in a green hospital room with a bloated, pregnant woman snoring in the other bed. Nothing more.
His lips brushed across her forehead, chaste, platonic.
"My name is Domovoi," he whispered in her ear before he left, because it no longer mattered.
"Back to Ireland, then?" Asked the customs official, as she flipped to the right page. Her long mousy hair was tied in a slick, punishing grip.
"Just a stop over. I'm going on to the USSR."
"Wow. Do they let you do that? I thought no one got in there."
"I can get in. My mother is Russian."
"Um, good luck, Mr Butler." She stamped his passport, still looking at him curiously.
Butler took it absently, nodding his thanks.
And then he left America behind.
Situation number two,
It's the only chance for you,
It's controlled by denizens of hate.
Domovoi was greeted by his mother and a whirling tornado of blonde and pink, who tugged at his pants even as he knelt before her. "Hello," he said, his voice loud and deep even in the clamour of the airport. "You must be Juliet."
"I'm not Juliet. I'm Kimberly. I'm the pink Power Ranger, see."
He reached out one large hand; he could cup the side of her head in a single palm. He gulped, his pistol calluses brushing across her silky cheek.
"Ah, yes, how silly of me. I should have realised."
"And, and Honey drew a Blue Diamond on the back, see. And so I can be the pink Power Ranger and a Butler." She twirled, pulling away from his hand to show off the blue biro diamond etched on a shoulder of the loose dress-up.
"Honey?" he looked to his mother.
"This is the West Coast, Domovoi, everyone is named Honey."
"--And Mommy says that Daddy says that I'm gonna start karate in Fall. And, and, and then I'm gonna kill all the baddies and chop off their heads with a real sword, like the real sword Uncle Major who lives on an island has. See."
"Are you going to do all that? I bet you'll be very good at it."
"I'm gonna be the bestest Butler ever."
"I'm sure you will be."
"And I'm gonna get my Blue Diamond when I'm eighteen too. Like you. See. And, and then I'll be the bestest."
She looked up at him. He was foot taller than her, even when on his knees. "And I'm gonna be even better than you."
"And when I'm eighteen I'm gonna be even taller than Daddy and you put together."
"Really?" He said again, and this time she squealed as he scooped her up in one arm, cradling her close to his chest. His suitcase danged from the other hand.
His mother laughed, leading the way to the car as tiny fists rained upon his arm and a tiny voice vowed violent revenge, when she got to be eighteen.
"A Fowl, son," the Colonel said.
Butler stared through the open window, the breeze flickering across his shaven scalp. "She's beautiful," he said in response.
Juliet's long blonde hair was plastered to her shoulders in wet dreadlocks, the sprinkler whirling around and around, the click click click swish a counterpoint to her squealing giggles. She had pink and purple paints still caked on her fingers, but it was melting in the sprays of water to stain colour down her arms.
The Colonel grunted. "She's a mess."
"Yes. That too." Pink was trapped beneath his short fingernails.
"This is your only opportunity."
Toys were strewn on the grass: Barbie dolls, samurai swords, Polly Pockets, plastic handcuffs, and a G.I. Jane backpack, all soaking in the spray and sparkling in the sun. More toys than he had ever been given as a child; Rusalka Butler hadn't been allowed to spoil her son.
"Artemis Fowl is young. He'll have other children. I can stay here for a while. Help look after Juliet. I'll go to Ireland for the next Fowl."
"The wife's pregnancy has been problematic, your Uncle tells me. Three miscarriages before this one. The doctors say it's a miracle she's been able to carry this one for so long, and even then, it will likely be premature. They won't have other children."
"Are you listening, Butler?" The Colonel reached past him, shutting out the click click click swish and the girl's screams of glee. "There is only you and Alfred's boy. Everyone else is too old, or have… attachments. And you're the best we've got. You've got a responsibility, son, to our Family, and to the Fowls."
"Well, the baby's not due until mid September; it's still July. We - I - don't have to decide this now."
"I can book a flight for next week. If you go. You have to be there when the baby comes, not on the other side of the Atlantic."
Butler stared down at the Colonel, half a head shorter, lopsided with his shot-out knee. "It will be my decision, Father."
"Of course, son."
"I will talk to Mama. Perhaps she will move back to the Lodge. I don't want to be cut off from family again."
The Colonel was still, measuring his son against the past. "It won't be like Russia."
"Yes, I know."
"Consider carefully. Our Family has been protecting – raising - the Fowls for generations; I would not like to see you miss your opportunity, not for the sake of a few years as a Hollywood bodyguard." His leg brace creaked as he stepped closer, his cane against a chair and his weight supported with one muscular arm braced against the bench top. "I'm your Father, Domovoi, I just want you to make the most of your life. Achieve things I never could."
"I know, Father."
"Mama, I don't want to go." He said over Captain Planet's theme song, the TV half-visible between the leaves of an indoor plant.
Rusalka sat down opposite him, a tea set between them. "You don't have to."
"But there is a Fowl heir on the way, and tradition – our Family – places me in Ireland."
"Don't listen to your Father; you do too much of that."
He shook his head, slowly, ponderously. "It will be quiet, after Russia." He ran distracted fingers around the rim of the cup. "Calm, really. How much trouble can one kid, even a Fowl, get into? I'll like it."
Rusalka sighed. "You're a good Butler, Domovoi."
The Planeteers saved a section of Amazon rainforest from destruction, and Butler nodded, unsmiling, as they both drank their tea.
She poured another cup for both of them. Milk, no sugar, trails of brown stained below the rim.
Juliet jumped up, bouncing on the couch as the theme song played again. "Dom! Dom! I'm gonna be Linka too. I'm gonna be a Power Ranger and a ninja and a Planeteer, and Linka has hair like me. And, and, Wheeler's got the fire power, but he's a boy, and Linka's better."
"Linka's from the same country as Mama, too. The U.S.S.R, where I've been living."
"You're silly, Dom. I'm 'Merican."
Domovoi laughed, as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started up; his mother smiled. "This is the last show before bath time, Juliet."
Juliet balanced on the couch, following Michelangelo's moves with closed fists and three seconds lag. "She's beautiful," he said again.
"Do you like being a big brother?"
He nodded, watching her through the fronds of the indoor fern. "Yes, I do. I'm not as scared now, not like I was when you told me and there was only that little photo. More scared, that... Something will happen. And I could have done something."
"You're a protector; the best our Family has. You'll protect her, even when she's half trained and doesn't need it, or when she's just a teenage girl who likes the boy down the road. And you won't make mistakes; you'll protect her even from yourself. I trust you." She laughed, lines crinkling beside her eyes, crows feet stretching like spider webs. "All is not lost, my boy. She's still a little girl. And she's worshiped you from afar."
"I... Just, wow. She's so small. What if I mess something up?"
She kissed the top of his head as she stood to clear away the tea set. "We can't all be giants, my little Domovoi."
The customs official smiled at him, her black curls bouncing around her face. "Back to Ireland, then?"
"A job's opening up."
"A hope the pay's good. You wouldn't see me flying to another country for a job if the pay wasn't good and the holidays a month long."
"Yeah, it's worthwhile. It was one of those opportunities I couldn't refuse."
"Oh, I know those," she laughed. "Have a good flight, ya hear." She smiled again, handing over his passport and boarding pass.
Butler left America for the second time.
Situation number three,
It's the one that no one sees,
It's all too often dismissed as fate.
Juliet's legs were striped with a rainbow: pink, blue, purple, orange, green, pink. Contrasting colours whirled on her skirt: magenta, azure, torquoise. Her ponytail slapping her back, and the whirls slapping against the rainbows trapped on her legs as she ran ahead of him. The colours swirled into a blur, ending in Doc Martens. It made him smile, and she smiled too when she reached the corner, looking back.
She was vibrating on the spot, it seemed, her eyes skittering around as she took in the run down chemist, the street of gently swinging shopsigns, the two blonde toddlers tugging at their mother's handbag. Everything was cast in the dull grey light of Ireland, with layers of pale cloud above their heads sucking up the sun. The window lights in the chemist were brightly artificial; the signs all shaded with dusky blues and greens; the boys' faces lost in the shadows from their raised hoods.
She held out her hand expectantly as he reached the corner, and he shuffled her tiny jacket (bright crimson, with royal blue trimming on the pockets) in order to take her hand.
"Ireland is smaller than America," she announced, taking three huge steps for his every ponderous one. A single car waited for them to pass.
"It is a lot smaller."
"I saw it on a map. Miss Edwina showed it to me at school before we left California. She showed the whole class, but I was standing up the front to say byebye to everyone." He released his grip on her hand, Doc Martens firmly placed on footpath, but her fingers were curled around his and she didn't let go. His breath caught and he closed his hand once more; his hand engulfed hers, his touch light and soft.
"I'm sorry we couldn't stay in America. But my job is here, and I have to stay with Master Artemis."
"I don't mind." She smiled again, looking up at him, her eyes trailing to the grey sky behind his head. "Is it summer over here? Because Miss Edwina said that when America is in summer, Austria is in winter."
"I think she must have meant Australia, because America, Austria and Ireland all have summer at the same time."
"Then is it always cloudy here?"
"Sometimes in Ireland it's always raining." Her nose wrinkled, and he laughed. "It's not so bad. Most of the time you don't even notice it. And it makes the grass very green. Do you want me to take you to the beach?"
"Is it a real beach?"
"Not like the ones you're used to. But there'll be kids there. They'll all want to talk to you because you've got an American accent."
"They've got funny accents. Even Mister and Missus Fowl."
"Well then, they'll all want to talk to you because you're wearing the best rainbow tights in the world." She looked down, letting go of his hand to swirl around and let the skirt bellow away like a tutu. His face felt strange as he smiled on insuppressible instinct.
"Mommy gave them to me last Christmas." She didn't look sad, just proud, and they walked for two silent minutes before she stopped, planting immovable boots into the ground. Then she was pressing tears and a soft cheek against his stomach. She grasped at his back, hands striving to meet behind him. He stroked her hair for a moment, then easily raised her from the ground, cradling her against him. Her hands curled together, locked around his neck. She wasn't sobbing. The tears made no sound as they trickled down her face, to form a dark patch on his jacket. She never sobbed.
He didn't make a sound either, just holding her, feeling her heart close to his as she felt his warm breath across her cheek. The rain didn't fall. The cars slowed to let him cross, curious eyes watching the giant with the little blonde girl pass them buy. Then the sea was beyond them. Dark blue-grey, pulsating back and forth before them. Unforgiving, like the voices whispering at the back of his mind as he sat on a low wall.
She was still now, dried tears as shiny silver trails, catching reflected light. Her head lifted, turning towards the noise of the water. Children were playing in the shallows, their faces bright, their shoes abandoned on the pebbles.
"If they don't like me I can just tell them that my big brother will beat them up." She snuggled in closer, her ear against his heartbeat. She let her breath staccato for a few moments until she was matching time against his. He pretended he didn't notice, but breathed shallowly so as to not break the rhythm.
"What about your judo lessons, Juliet?"
"Oh, they won't believe that I could take them down. But they'd be too scared of you to try."
She looked down once again at the dark ripples lapping across pebbles, while across the Atlantic and across a country, waves were breaking in white crashes against yellow sand.
"Will you protect me?" She said to his lapels, her voice muffled. "Not just Arty."
"Of course I will. Always. You don't need to ask that."
"I hope you love me more than him."
"Definitely. You're my family, Jules."
She nodded, confident, like it was only a question to confirm, nothing anything else. "Do I have to call you Butler?"
He hesitated, and her lower lips shook against her teeth. Her eyes were still ringed in swollen red circles.
"You can't call me Domovoi in front of the Fowls. But I never want to hear you call me Butler when we're alone, you hear me."
"But Dom, I don't want to call you Butler."
"You're special, princess. Only you, Daddy, and Madame Ko know my real name. You can't let anyone else find out, because otherwise everyone would know."
"And I'm the only one who can call you brother."
He smiled, and she beamed back, wiping one rough fist against her cheek. He leant forward, like he had a secret to whisper in her ear. "Call me brother in front of the Fowls."
"Oweah! I bet Arty will be jealous of me!"
Then he was alone on a rock wall over looking Wicklow harbour, crumbled rainbows and a pair of minute Doc Martens beside him. Shouts and laughs rose from the beach, and Juliet was the only one who could call him Dom, and the only one who could call him brother, and she said it so loudly he could hear from where he sat.
Situation number four,
It's the one that left you wanting more,
It tantalized you with its bait.
The sun was shining.
In Hollywood rain always falls on funeral mourners; the sky is a deep grey-blue, and heavy drops slide across black umbrellas before plodding to ripple brown puddles. In Ireland rain always falls, light and constant, like mist succumbing to gravity it shimmers silver.
But the sun was shining, the clouds tucked away in Limerick for the moment, and they wouldn't arrive until the wake.
Artemis stood before the Major's marker, with an Uncle watching over him. There was a blank space of grass beside them, where Artemis's father was not yet remembered. But the headstone would be there, memorializing empty earth; Butler was giving Artemis time, waiting for the drone of CNN to finally drown that hope.
The graveyard rests within the Manor grounds: a few hundred Butlers and their Fowls, decaying beneath green grass and marble headstones. It had never seemed morbid when he was a child. But then he was only a little boy, face scrubbed red, trainers poking from beneath his black trousers.
But this day his black shoes were shining in the sun, leather and elegant and inoffensive, like the rest of him. Juliet was the one causing a stir. She wore white, and looked vibrant in the sunlight. White standing beside his black, incongruent, like an innocent Principle, not a half-trained protection arsenal. Her eyelids glittered with gold-edged makeup.
The Family whispered about that.
They knew the Colonel well. Comrades-in-arms, their teacher, the guardian of the Family. They didn't like him, either. Even those who loved him.
Juliet shone white against their mutterings.
Perhaps they didn't like her either, even though they loved her.
Speeches were said, priests and Generals, Principles and Butlers. Most things are left unsaid; Juliet and Domovoi didn't say anything, standing silent as the Colonel's overlarge coffin was lowered into an overlarge grave.
His eyes prickled, his mind racing in well-traced circles with a thousand thoughts he has plodded through before. Tears trickled past his fluttering eyelashes, pushing through tightly squeezed lids against his will.
Dirt slumped across the coffin; it was still damp from yesterday's drizzle and made his hand clammy. Juliet reached for his clammy hand with her own. Dirt rubbed between their palms.
"You didn't cry when Mom died," Juliet murmured. She was gripping his hand tighter, leaning against his warmth. The Family forgave the lapse because she was young; she didn't notice them because they didn't matter. He squeezed back.
"I did. But you needed me to be strong. More than you needed to see me cry." He looked down. She met his eyes through the dark glasses, and something was thrumming even behind the tears. He blinked it back. She could read something, a glint in the glasses, and he knew she would wait for him to tell her what it was. Silent, they waited together for the Colonel to be buried and gone; tears slid down her cheeks to drip, salt on silk.
After the clouds had come, the Family exchanged war stories before the Lodge's huge fire as guests and mourners took slick cars home. Domovoi and Juliet walked back to the Manor together, rain sliding down wet faces. White lace straps were clinging to her shoulders, and the edge of damp eased through his jacket.
"He was a lousy father," she said. Dusk was two hours long, and the sky was still painted with mauve clouds. Juliet's toenails were painted the same, visible through her white sandals.
"We don't need to lie, brother. Not now."
Butler nodded, his footsteps slowing. He stared at the sky, the purple-grey clouds curling behind the Manor and above the forest. "He didn't have to be."
She stopped him with a palm against his chest, turning to him with a grimace on her face. "You're standing up for him? Still?"
"No," he said. Dusk let the word sit before them, suspended in unmoving purple. "No," he said again.
She laughed, broken and stilted, like their unvoiced sobs. The laugh hung beside Domovoi's 'No', until it was a laughing negation. "So he could have been good, if he'd bothered. But he didn't care about anything except being a disgraced Butler, so it doesn't matter."
"You deserved better than that. Than him. I shouldn't have-- He didn't have to be."
"What do you mean?"
He gulped, staring at the sparks of purple sunset that gleamed against her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Juliet. I-- I didn't mean to tell you. Not now. Not like this."
"Tell me what?" Her grip tightened on his shirt; she tried to pull his gaze down to met her eyes.
He looked down. "I didn't know you existed until you were two months old. I was in deep cover, and I... Mama wanted me to come back. I chose to stay. I'm sorry. I was young. Stupid. Scared."
"Dom, I know this. What do you mean?"
Domovoi stilled. His chest rose and fell beneath the pressure of her hand as he sucked in three meditative breaths, in and out, deep and slow as he pulled himself together.
"The Colonel isn't – wasn't - your father; I am. I'm sorry."
Her eyes widened, gold eyelids a rim to blue eyes. She gripped at his hand, at his shirt, with buttons popping between curling, twisting fingers. She jolted to the ground, grass stems breaking beneath her knees; he was pulled down to his knees beside her.
He looked down at the gold streaked lines of her beautiful face. Her mouth slackened, she stared at him. "I'm your father. You're my beautiful, wonderful, daughter. I'm sorry."
The purple clouds darkened further, night creeping over their backs.
"Oh," she said again.
"I'm sorry, I didn't--"
"Stop saying sorry!" She pulled off his dark glasses, dropping them on the wet grass. He did nothing to stop her. She pulled at his chin, and he did nothing to resist her. "Am I that much of an accident that you have to pretend to be my brother for my entire life, and now you keep saying sorry?"
"No, no. Juliet, of course not." He finally looked up, met her eyes. "That's not what I meant."
"Well, that's what it sounded like."
"I just meant that—That I shouldn't—have told you. Like this."
"You should never have lied in the first place."
"Yes. I know."
"I hate—hated—the Colonel. At least I know why he didn't like me, now."
"It wasn't because of you, it was because of me. He tried to convince Honey to—to abort you. He didn't want me to give up my career for you."
"We Butlers, we're so very good at playing dysfunctional families, hating each other."
"Don't hate me. I thought I hated the Colonel as well, sometimes."
"Well, I can hate you because I've been lied to my entire life."
"I was stupid. We thought it'd be the best thing for you. That it was right, but I was wrong. I love you. Forgive me." He bent, looking into her eyes. Wide, dark blue eyes. Grandma Anya's eyes. His eyes. "Please."
"I'm never gonna to call you 'Dad'," she said. She had that glint in her dark blue eyes he'd seen before from across the Dojo, when she wanted to prove she could hurt him.
He didn't look away.
"Why'd you pretend?"
"We - the Colonel, Mama, Honey - thought it would be best. For you. Honey - your mother - was a nineteen-year-old party girl. I was twenty-one. I was—I wasn't ready to give up adventure. Give up what I had. Thought I had." He reached out with one hand, tentative and slow. Her cheek was warm in his palm; small and beautiful and smooth, like always.
"That's stupid. You're stupid."
"I said it was. I'm being honest with you, Juliet."
"Doesn't make it less stupid," she muttered. She shook the hand off, standing up, standing over him. "I'm gonna go back to the Lodge. I'll share with Dasha and Skyfe."
"You're not going to argue?"
"Of course not." He stood up, his glasses dripping in one hand.
"Sweet dreams." He kissed her forehead, like he had every night since she was eight. She said nothing but walked away. He watched her walk back to the Manor, hoping she'd turn around and see he hadn't moved yet.
He had been waiting for three days before she knocked at his door. She never used to knock. She stood on tip-toes, and he bent slightly so she could kiss his cheek, lightly, fleetingly.
"I can't call you 'Dad'," she said, as she sat down on end of his bed. Her toes were curling and uncurling with nervous, excess energy. "People can't know."
He sat in a lone armchair, far enough away to not violate the space rules created since the Colonel's funeral. "Any reason why not?"
"Because Arty'll be jealous. Because Mister Fowl's dead, and when I found out that the Colonel died, well, I still had you. But Arty's only got Madam Fowl and she's bonkers."
"And us," he said, tentatively, slowly.
"Yeah. Which is why he can't know."
He nodded, long and unhurried. "I'm proud of you, Juliet. You're a good sister to him."
"We're Butlers. We're good at that. Bushido or dysfunctional loyalty or something." She watched him, watched his face. He moved to sit beside her, moving slowly and her eyes moved with him. "You're still my brother, Dom."
"I know." She breathed out. "But you're the only one who calls me Dom. And millions of people call people 'Dad', so Dom is a lot more special."
He smiled. She wrapped her arms around him as far as they would go, and felt his heartbeat beneath her cheek.
"I wanted to ask you…"
She spoke into his chest. "Did you love Honey - my mother - her?"
He spoke to the ceiling, his words whispering past her hair. "For my part, yes. In the manner of... Yes."
"Okay. That's good, I guess." She pulled him closer; there was a slight tremor in her hands. "If Arty and me were both in danger, and you could only save one of us, would it be me?"
"Yes." He felt her body relax.
"Do I have a twin named Luke tucked away in a desert somewhere?"
"As a related question, are you doubling as an evil overlord's archminion?"
He laughed, and she giggled, then stiffened her face to hide it. "I don't think Artemis wants to take over the world for another few years - too much paperwork."
"Can I dye my hair?"
"You've been leading up to that, haven't you?" She smiled, innocently. "What colour?"
"Pink. Or magenta."
"Hmm... We can get some dye at the chemist. You'll be colour-coordinated to match your eye shadow."
"Oh, thank you!"
"I can help you dye it, if you want."
"That'd be good. It'd be a mess if I tried by myself." She grinned at him, running fingers through her long hair, as if imaging what it would feel like pink.
"You were a miracle," he blurted, watching her.
"Don't be melodramatic, I was an accident."
"A miracle. Mama never told you what happened? The Colonel?"
"Considering I've got sixteen years of lies to slog through, nopes."
"There was an accident." Juliet scowled at him. "A car accident. I was driving, and Honey was beside me. I was distracted."
"You're a Butler."
"I was twenty-one and in love. That distracts anyone. We were talking, laughing. I wasn't paying much attention…"
Situation number one,
It's the one that's just begun…
"Thank God for the morning after pill." Honey said, as she found a row of pills in her handbag, and threw the bag to the backseat.
Butler smiled, absently watching the black road disappear beneath their tires and stretch out before them. "Your Catholic God pulls through, once again. Against the teachings of your pope, I believe."
"The pope's misinformed. He never had to practice abstinence with you around."
Butler sped up, sliding into the oncoming lane to overtake a crowded hatchback. "Are you attempting to shift blame, Miss Johnson?"
She lifted the coke bottle to her lips, he glanced over. "Just a little blame, Mr Butler. Surely you can handle that."
"Depends on the quality of the compensation. Good benefits plan?" He sped up behind an open-cargo truck; restraint straps flapped in the rushing wind.
She wound down her window, one arm resting on the sill, playing with her hair in case he looked over again. Dark hair and a purple streak was sucked out, long strands flattened by the speed. "One of the best, sir."
She rested the coke between her knees as she popped a pill from the foil casing with one hand. "Confidence is an admira—"
There was wire on the road, straps on the truck flapping too close. Breaks. Swerve. Prepare to drive into the skid. One arm out to protect Honey.
The wire under the wheel, lifting them up. Momentum driving them forward, hijacked to flip them over over over: blue sky, black road, blue sky, red-brown dirt. The windscreen smashing beneath his weight, blue, dirt, blue. Honey slipping from his grip, sliding across the dirt and the glass, red blood dripping down her face.
The sun glinted against her gold cross; it shared its chain with the Madonna.
He blacked out.
The world changed. Not with a whimper, but with a bang.