Mm hmm, yes, that's right, another non-drabble. I'm on a roll. Though, the writing is a little bit off the wall with this one, so sorry if it gets confusing (feel free to criticize loudly!!). Also, this first chapter is probably the strangest of the bunch, but please stick with it. And, of course, review! Enjoy, Lli
Chapter title belongs to William Morris.
A Family Tradition
Chapter One: Within the flicker of a white-thorn shade
'Kill him,' they said to her. Well, that's what they meant, at any rate.
'He's getting out of hand, he's getting too close, he's getting too smart. We don't want the competition,' they said to her. At least, that's what they were thinking when they spoke.
Actually, what they said was, 'He is a problem that needs to be contained. We trust you to make the right decision.' And they pressed the gun into her hands. Maybe it was their idea of a joke. Maybe, years later, it was their way of saying: we know what you did. Did you really think it would go unpunished?
Now she stands on his window sill, looking at him lying asleep. Haven't I been a good daughter to them? she thought. Haven't I done my duty? For years I have been good, the best. Isn't that worth something?
How many years since she's seen him? A decade? Sounds about right. She'd heard he'd regressed, that he'd lost some, most, of the few morals she'd managed to instil. But come on, that was no reason to... couldn't she just speak to him? Reason with him a bit? Yeah, right, because that always worked so well in the past.
And it has been so many years... She watches him, the veins in his eyelids snaking like rivers in skin so white. His face is a stranger's face. She leans her forehead on the glass.
Alright, fine, she'd gotten distracted, but she'd been busy, ok? Opal on the loose, Demons protesting this, Goblins striking for that. So she hadn't called him back that one time. It wasn't like he'd made an effort either.
She presses her hand to the pane, outlining his jaw on the glass. She knows she can't possibly kill him. A stranger, a danger, it doesn't matter, she would love him even as he pressed the gun to her head.
She weighs her options. Okay, so, don't kill him. Go back. Say... say what exactly?
It's kill him or say goodbye Haven.
She shakes her head. She killed him and they would tell the world. They'd have her up in front of a judge before she could say: framed! So not only would she have killed, arguably, the love her life and therefore hate herself, but she would spend the rest of her long, long life in maximum security with no one and nothing for company except herself. After all, the Book forbade corporal punishment.
It was a lose-lose situation.
So what, then? If he wasn't dead by morning they would know her heart and they would have her up in front of the tabloid cameras. She would be their witch to burn, their Babalon, Mother of Abomination. Finally she will have given them the rope to hang her with. And now there was no Julius to fly in and rescue her at the last minute.
Kill him. Maybe they won't tell.
She uses her omnitool to open the window. Slipping to the floor, she draws the heavy velvet curtains out, sinking the room into the dark like a ship going down into the deep, deep sea.
She feels her way forward, even her helmet's night vision is useless here. She smiles, because that means that whatever and where ever their surveillance is, it is useless too. And Artemis doesn't keep a camera in his own room any longer.
There were no witnesses here at all.
Except each other.
She takes off her helmet, she takes off her boots, her wings, her gear belt. She takes off everything and leaves it on the floor. There would be nothing of him on her things. If it all goes to hell, at least she won't have made it easy for them.
She climbs onto the bed, kneeling beside him, enjoying the feel of silk on her bare skin, marvelling at their closeness. When was the last time so much of her skin had been near so much of his? Not since that time in the Manor study when No.1 had told them... she smiles to remember their horrified embarrassment. And now look at her.
Putting her mouth to his temple, she kisses him.
Kill him? Not a chance.
She can feel his eyelashes on her skin as his eyes open.
'Who's there?' his voice is thin, dry, shocked. He sits up, lost in the dark. 'What on earth is-'
She grabs his arm as she hears it pass her, reaching for the light. Don't, with her index finger she writes on his bare chest. No light. They musn't see me.
She can neither hear nor see them, but she knows he has raised his eyebrows. See? she wants to tell him, the time doesn't matter, I still know you. We are still one and the same.
I really should have called him back, she thinks.
Apparently unfazed by her method of communication, he reaches forward. He isn't, however, unfazed by her bare skin. Fingers resting on her collar bone when they should be touching fabric. Disbelieving, they travel downwards, bisecting her torso, and then up again, to cradle her face.
Who musn't? And who are you? He writes along the soft skin of her inner arm, so as not to be presumptuous. Her exhaled breath stutters at the tickling. Why are you here?
To kill you.
And will you? He doesn't pause, doesn't flinch.
But she does. How do you tell someone that if they were to die, you'd be following quick on their heels, but sorry, still didn't manage to call?
She feels her way to his face, taking it between her hands. He doesn't move away. She wonders if he already knows the answer to his question or if he's just really good at inhabiting his 'inner place'.
She stands, leaning down to kiss him, his face turned upwards like a confessing sinner.
Who are you? I know you.
His arms come around and tangle with hers and their bodies slip downwards. In the dark Holly can't tell which way is up, only that he seems to be everywhere. But he pulls away, mouth against her ear.
'One is usually given supper, not sex, before being executed, I believe,' the sound of his voice makes her gasp.
I am not going to kill you, she writes, to answer his question, I am going to keep you safe.
She can feel his smile against her cheek. Smug little bastard.
Later, when he is sleeping, she fishes a syringe out of its case on her belt. This is a lot tougher than it sounds in pitch black. Holding the needle in her mouth she swears mentally over the goblin-proof lid on the vial. Success at last, she fills the syringe, flicking the needle with unnecessary aggression when done.
Crawling back into bed, she lets her hands wander, searching for an arm. That accomplished, she gently slides the syringe home, emptying it into him. It will keep him asleep until they arrive.
She dresses him and herself, wraps him in camfoil and attaches him to her belt like she used to, so long ago, forgetting her earlier qualms about getting him on her clothes. Invisible in any light now, they fly from the window and away towards the coming dawn.