Though, as I've said before, this is NOT MY BEST WORK, I'm very fond of this fic. It was a huge hit on the AF fan website, and I had a blast writing it. This was the last chapter I wrote before moving on to other fandoms, but because you guys seem to like it too, I'll try to finish it up.
I'll finish it faster if you review. Or tell your friends. Or both. And more. X3
The three of them piled into the waiting jet; Butler had 'borrowed' the small aircraft for the weekend from a friend. Holly was curled in the small backseat, feigning sleep. Usually Butler would've awoken her, but he too noticed her tense stance, and the way her eyelids flickered nervously.
They sat for hours, flying at a dangerously fast speed. Some LEP elves had equipped the engine with all sorts of semi legal gear; they were in the United States in practically no time at all.
Suddenly, a small hand gripped Artemis's shoulder; he inhaled sharply as he realized the hand was Holly's. He turned to face her; Holly's features were determinedly casual. Artemis stared at her blankly for a minute, silently panicking in pure dumb misunderstanding, before she rolled her eyes and gave him a small smile, shaking the hand clamped tightly on his shoulder.
Something rustled in her palm. Artemis realized she was clutching a piece of paper, and expected him to take it. His face flushed with color, and Holly gave a small laugh that she passed off as a cough.
Artemis took the paper quickly, and Holly withdrew her hand and acted as though nothing had happened. The note in his palm unfurled, and it read:
Yeah, we were both idiots (mainly you). But if I don't come back from this mission, know that it's all right. It was innocent. A mistake. I don't want to die mad at you. Sorry about this morning. I don't know what I was thinking (dreaming). Can we just forget about it?
Artemis took a few deep, calming breaths; it was the best he could've hoped for. Or was it?
Artemis scribbled a neat letter on the back of Holly's paper quite loudly; it was unnecessary for him to try to casually hand the note back to Holly as nonchalantly as she had. Holly sighed, slapped the back of his head gently, and took the note. Artemis grinned.
His note had said the following:
I appreciate the second chance. It's more than I deserve. But I do not want to forget about it. If there is a true chance one of us may not return from this mission, then I'm not going to spend my last few days in denial.
I dreamt of you last night, like I have many nights before. Suppressing feelings has become a specialty of mine, but in unconsciousness, I can't hide a thing. I wish with all my heart that you had never entered my room; we might have been conversing normally right now, instead of passing notes like schoolchildren. But you did enter my room, and now you know. I care about you. And, if I'm not mistaken (I rarely am), you care about me. Why make our relationship pointedly more awkward by forgetting these facts?
He heard Holly exhale softly, and worry churned in his stomach. Had he laid it on a bit thick? Would she be scared away? He had only told the truth… or had he? What if she hadn't been dreaming of him at all? What if Trouble Kelp or someone like him inhabited her thoughts, and when she awoke the night before with her mouth to his, it had truly been a nightmare come alive?
Holly's hand tapped his shoulder soon, a fresh sheet of paper clutched in her fist. Artemis took the note without comment. His heart pounded uncomfortably, and he smoothed the new paper somewhat shakily against his leg.
…Wow. What else can I say? Your response was not exactly what I expected to hear. I expected you to forget last night gratefully, suppress the memories until they might've been possibilities, daydreams… but you care. Actually care.
That scares me. You don't know how much.
Okay, Artemis. So we'll just forgive, and won't forget. So what are we now? A couple? A human and an elf? Oh, and I think our relationship will be awkward no matter what we are; sworn enemies, grudging partners, friends, or… more. But you have to understand, if we survive this mission, which is unlikely in itself, this can't last, and won't.
His heart soared into his throat, and he sat there for minutes, not saying a thing. They had time, however short, to be together in whatever sense they wished. Finally he remembered where he was and how short time was, and scribbled a response on the back of Holly's.
I'd say we're… what did Juliet call it…an item. We'll be everything at once; enemies at times, partners in the battlefield, friends whenever we can be, and more, if that is possible for us. It can't last, I understand that. But for the time being, it is, and that's what matters.
But as Artemis held back a hand to pass the paper to Holly, a larger, calloused hand snatched it away from him. Both human and elf looked up, horrified, to see Butler pinching the paper between forefinger and thumb. He was grinning, though his eyes were grim.
"You like her, she likes you, it can't last, but nothing can. The classic overdramatic love story. Just get it over with and stop all the note passing, will you?"
Holly rolled her eyes, and spoke for the first time in hours. "Sorry, Butler. You know us. Nothing can be simple."
Butler crumpled the note between his fingers, opened a window a crack, and flicked it into the roaring air; both partners roared in surprise and anger, but Butler smiled.
"Make it simple, Holly. It'll last a lot longer if you start now and stop all this stupid note stuff. Besides, I feel like I've been transported back to the sixth grade, and you're both annoying the hell out of me."
He gave Artemis a meaningful look, who, blushing, climbed into the backseat with Holly. She turned questioning eyes on him.
"So, what did that note say?" she demanded. "The one Butler chucked out the window?"
She said the last part extra loud so Butler could hear. The manservant just laughed, a deep, rumbling growl.
Artemis gathered up all his courage, and took Holly's hand in his. "It said something like this," he told her firmly, blocking out the screaming protests coming from the sensible part of his oversized brain, and kissed her without a second thought.
It was how their first kiss should have been; both participants awkward and shy yet willing, fumbling nervously, trying to express just how much they cared. Butler cleared his throat loudly, but Holly whacked him in the head with her foot; he barely felt it, but the meaning was clear: Shut up, Butler, don't you dare ruin this.
When they broke apart, Artemis stumbled backwards, a bit punch drunk. Holly sort of chased him, moving as he did, like magnets.
"Is that really what your note said?" she asked a sad smile on her face. Artemis frowned, not sure why she should be sad now; when he looked closer her mouth seemed to be pressed together tightly, as though to keep from crying. Her knuckles were white against her chestnut hands; her fingers were clenched tight together. But he never was very good with emotions, and her eyes were wide and happy, a thin sheen of liquid coating the mismatched irises, beaming at him.
"Yeah, something like that," Artemis murmured, grinning. "I think I said it all just now."
"You know, I had a response all planned out," Holly pouted, biting her lip, "but now you'll never read it!"
"Show me," Artemis suggested, realizing with an electric shock that he was flirting with Holly, and she was flirting right back.
So she did. And all thought that had nothing to with lips and hands and hearts was quickly banished to the outskirts of Artemis's mind, where it belonged.