A/N

Yesss! Challengefic time! This one's for XxBlackChaosxX who sent me the following message:

"I accept your challenge! I challenge you, thereof, to write a Kitty/Ptolemy pairing WITHOUT copying my style. Think you can do it?"

Here's my reply. Thanks for taking the time to send me one; it does mean a lot to me, so naturally this is dedicated to you.

Disclaimer: You can't prove anything… try and I'll set Barty on you.

Barty: WILL YOU STOP CALLING ME BARTY?!

heh. Sorry, guys. You get the point.

Distance

Kitty

Kitty felt disgusting.

The thin tendrils of smoke cloyed against the boundaries of the pentacle, searching for something she was relatively sure it would never find… no, she was sure. This was not time for indecision. Any indecision now could result in her sudden and rather painful death.

Would Bartimaeus do that to her?

She was still uncertain, and maybe that's why she stood in one pentacle, him in another; as she watched the wispy essence began to form into a familiar shape. Her heartbeat increased.

Bartimaeus had been right. Then again, he was probably infinitely smarter and more experienced than her, so she had no reason to doubt him. Despite everything she had done, the only way she could contact him was to immediately enforce her authority over him. Merely seeing him would cause him incredible pain; there was no alternative.

She felt slightly sad that she had to cause him pain to speak to him. She pitied him, though if he ever found this out she'd never be forgiven. She had learnt to respect him, perhaps even love him; he was a friend, after all. She hadn't spoken the word out loud, and neither had he, but when they looked at each other they knew.

The writhing figure was reduced to a whirl of sand, turning nauseatingly in the centre of his pentacle. Her heartbeat increased again as her anticipation rose; she had waited a long time for this moment.

Despite the fact she had told herself she would not do this again.

It wasn't fair on any of them; he was caused pain, both physical and emotional; his memory was befouled; her heart was broken again as the demon dematerialised.

Lust is a terrible thing.

Kitty knew it wasn't lust. Kitty knew she was feeling something more than lust, but hadn't dared admit it to herself. She knew she should go and live with Jacob; London was the burnt husk of its previous empire, and besides she had no one left here any more. Not even that brat Mandrake – Nathaniel, Kitty mentally reminded herself – was present for her to focus her attention on.

She hadn't moved because she couldn't. Not physically, or financially; international travel was relatively easy now the plans the magicians had constructed for a 'metal bird' had been uncovered. People were leaving their homes, and even their countries, to catch a glimpse of the once-mighty British Empire. Kitty herself had just recently enjoyed a trip to Prague, but that had been more business than pleasure; she desperately searched to find anything she could about him.

"What do you want, accursed magician?" Bartimaeus' voice boomed out of the pentacle, and Kitty smiled softly to herself. The sand whirled threateningly in the centre, too fast for the eye to follow but somehow intoxicatingly inviting…

Kitty ignored it. "Is that any way to treat an old comrade?" she said.

"You what?" The wall of sand stopped its queasy rotation, seeming to give an aura of confusion, before it collapsed into a pile at the centre – Kitty noticed with interest how not one single grain came within three centimetres of the edge – and with a movement quicker than she could follow the all-too familiar boy was sitting in front of her again.

---

Bartimaeus

There was something familiar about the aura in the room; in the centre of my whirl of dirt I created two small eyes, peeking out between the grains to see what they could reveal. No luck; I kept getting sand in my eyes (1) and blurring my vision.

I recognised her voice the instant she spoke though, a smile on my face as I adjusted my form to the typical one again. Her eyes seemed almost to devour me; she scorched every inch of my skin, as if committing me to memory (2). It made me feel slightly uneasy. I decided to make my own inspection.

"You're looking well," I said cryptically as I watched her breathing, her face, her posture. The truth was, she really was looking well. Though she was a bit wheezy and slightly saggy around the midsection (3) her eyes were still burning and her voice was still steady; evidently she had not lost her mind, as I had feared. "Go out jogging everyday? Drink plenty of water and juice?" She gave me an evil look (4).

"Stop poking fun at me," she snapped. I gave her the customary grin.

"As I explained to Natty boy, the banter is part of the package." Her name gave an involuntary grimace at the mention of his name (5), something I filed under 'interesting'.

"Don't make me!" she warned theatrically (6). I rolled my eyes.

"Come on, we both know we're past that stage now. And you couldn't hurt me if you tried; I know your birthname." Her arms flopped down beside her, and she sighed.

"Fine, but stop with the lip." I grinned at her. "Stop it, and tell me more about Ptolemy."

---

Kitty

His posture shifted immediately; he became nonchalant, defensive. He inspected his nails, an edge to his voice. "What about him?"

"I want to know what kind of person he was, and believe it or not finding someone to teach you Ancient Greek some 2000 years later is a little difficult." He glowered at her, before sighing. She sat down cross-legged in the pentacle, eyes still devouring the form.

"Well… he was clever. For a human, anyway," he added. "Don't get the wrong impression. He didn't believe in instructions or pentacles or punishment."

"Was he noble?" It slipped out before she had the chance to stop it. She added a small blush.

"He was brave and compassionate." The djinni looked suspiciously at her; her heartbeat raged but she kept her face stoic. "He was just a one-off human who wanted to study."

"One-off?" she repeated quietly, and the young boy nodded.

Have I not done everything I could to be like him? she asked herself. Is there something else he did that Bartimaeus hasn't told me? Maybe he can't?

Bartimaeus predicted her thoughts. "Don't worry. No one can stand up to him. You're no contest." She felt her heart sink and her throat clench. Despite everything she had done she would never be as good as him.

She could never be good enough to love him.

Her childish self told her she still loved him; her elder self told her love is something to be earned, like respect. Thus the endless researching; thus the endless summoning. The only time she could see his face was as the echo of himself, painted onto the essence of a trickster, a conman – condjinni – and he would never know her love.

She had to keep working. She had to keep improving herself, if only to result in her collapsing in a sorry heap.

He was the only reason she was still alive.

Footnotes

(1) What? You know that's painful.

(2) Which in itself was a little ridiculous; I mean, this wasn't really me, it was just a form I was shaped for a moment. Me as myself was just a whirl in the centre of the mass, a heart in the centre of the one… look, I'm sure I've explained this all before.

(3) Come on, this is me being nice. I could have been a lot crueller.

(4) Which I didn't think was entirely fair; after all, I was being remarkably civil.

(5) To be fair, he didn't exactly give me the most comfort either.

(6) I mean, her posture changed and everything; lots of handwaving. It was enough to make a djinni feel queasy, I tell you.

A/N

Hmm… personally I don't really like this pairing, but it was a challengefic, so I just do as I'm told.

Must run off and do coursework now. –love-