Well, this was originally a drabble destined for In The Closet, then became two shorts, and then it was a stand alone and now it's back in ITC. Anyway, it's an idea I've been playing around with for a while, inspired, I think probably, by The Broken aspect of of Kit Heart's The Dead, The Broken and The Living. Was written to "The Trapeze Swinger" by Iron and Wine, who had more influence than I wanted it to have, but it fit nicely. So try reading it with the song? Dunno, maybe that'll enhance the experience (Lli: now in suround sound!). Sorry it's a bit ... verbose. But, I figure if this is the closing drabble of this collection I can go big.
So long ITC, it's been fun!
She had been around long enough to be able to read between the lines when his fingers came to rest on her shoulder more often than before; when he leaned close for no reason, so close she could feel the warmth of his skin next to hers, only to suddenly pull away again; when he held her ever so infinitesimally tighter as they said goodbye.
She also knew that he was smart enough to understand what she meant when she brushed against him unnecessarily; when she laid her hand on his arm as she spoke; when her lips lingered on his cheek before she flew away.
For a long time they didn't talk about it. They pushed it away until the silence it left behind was so loud they began to go deaf.
'I know you want things to be different,' Holly spoke facing away from him.
'How observant of you.'
'Well, I'm not the leading Fowl expert for nothing.' Still facing away, her words were hard, her sentences abrupt. 'It can't happen.'
'Yes, I believe you already told me that. You were quite clear on how very "over" it was.'
'It's so over it never even began, Fowl.'
'Did it never?' his eyebrow quirked and he smiled at her, his eyes dark. 'I suppose that's another argument, however. Then again, perhaps I should be glad: if it never began it can never end and, therefore, will always be with us.'
'Always?' she did turn to him then, one word lingering in her mouth, softer and more eloquent than anything would ever be again. It reminded him of another question; of another time when she had asked him, with the same strange mixture of hope and fear, to reassure her. Instead, he had told her the truth.
He would tell the truth again, he decided. And, though this time it would be even worse, somehow it would be so much better. 'Always.'
The fact remained, however, that it was still there, this thing that was never supposed exist. This what? This love? Need? Bizarre symbiotic evolution? Whatever it was, it stretched between them, reverberating like a plucked string pulled taut between her body and his. And the note it made never seemed to fade, but trailed behind her wherever she went.
It was dangerous. It would only hurt her, in the end. And yet ... .
Holly shook her head. 'It's no good, Artemis. You need to move on. You're so young; you need to find someone else and forget about this whole thing.'
'Forget about what? There's nothing to forget.'
'And what about you? What should you do?'
'I should make you stop playing word games with me, for starters.' She sighed, fondness hovering in the corners of her mouth. 'Let's not talk about it. It's not happening.'
'What's not happening?'
She swatted him, turning away to hide her face, caught somewhere between a smile and a sob.
He caught her hand as it hit him and held it for a moment. Nothing inappropriate, nothing suspicious. Just a moment.
She didn't like to think about what would happen when he died; when the string would be cut and the harmony fell into dissonance and then faded away entirely. When she would be left floating in silence without an anchor, without anything to call her home.
'How will you remember me?'
'How will you remember me, when I'm gone? Centuries from now.'
'Artemis-' The name growled, a warning.
'That is, if I don't do anything to atrocious between now and the time I die.'
'Artemis-' The name catching in her throat, breaking.
'How?' he pressed.
'How do you think?' she asked.
She marvelled at the uncertainty in his voice. 'Fondly?' she repeated, incredulous. 'Fondly – fondly doesn't even begin – no. Don't make me say this, Artemis. Please.'
He nodded and, for a while, was silent. Then, 'You will think of me, though? Sometimes, at least?'
'Of course,' she said, because the idea of not doing so was incomprehensible to her. 'Artemis, of course.'
He nodded again. Another moment passed. One of too few.
'Remember me happily,' he said at last. 'Think of me to make yourself happy, that is. Don't – I don't want to be a regret. Remember this. Remember ... remember that this will never end, even though it never began. When you are older and scarred and still beautiful and fighting off a thousand smitten new recruits, or, I don't know, when you've had a dozen children and are the trophy wife of some rich commander, please – please, remember me.' He chuckled, pretending to make a joke of it.
Obligingly, she laughed as well and, under the cover of comedy, reached forward, taking his face in her hands. It was such a simple gesture, nothing extravagant, and their laughter hid how something so simple was enough to break a heart.
'Always,' she said, meaning so much more.
If she was truthful, she knew there would never be silence. That note would never fade, but echo in her until she too fell to dust and could, finally, answer him.
In the meantime, however, what they had was sufficient. The fact that it existed at all was enough. Because, sometimes, just to know that you are loved is all that is needed.
'Always,' he repeated, rolling the word around in his mouth, taking her hands again, 'I suppose it's enough to live on.'
'Yes,' she nodded, swallowing, her hands tightening – briefly - around his, 'it's enough to live on.'