"I'm everything that I am now because of you."
This is what it came to. The decision of a lifetime. It shouldn't even be a decision, or a choice. If I were smart, I'd deny this. I would deny him this opportunity. I would stay loyal to my People.
"I solely cannot be the cause of your change. One person isn't capable of something like that."
"Think back. When we first met, it wasn't very… mutual. I would go so far as to say it was fate. But ever since that point, my character has improved for the better. If you remove yourself from the time line, what happens?"
He was right. He usually is. Even thought I'm just one person, I hold the most influence over him. Of course it was my doing, but I'd wish he'd realize that it was his own willpower that accepted my influence.
I remained silent.
"As we saw in the past, I was a monster."
"It turns out that if we hadn't gone back, I wouldn't have even met you. That's the evident conclusion."
He noticed the hesitation on my face.
"A penny for your thoughts?"
"I shouldn't be here, Artemis."
We were sitting in his room, on armchairs that were placed in a corner. Ever since our return from time traveling the second time, I took more chances to visit. To check up on him. For the past six months, it was obvious that he didn't mind. He was always expecting me. We've gotten closer overtime.
"And why is that, Holly?"
"Because this isn't right. We're absolutely two different people." My grip tightened on the chair. "And you're practically… confessing your… your love for me."
He chuckled. "I'm not quite there yet, Holly. If you give me a little more time---"
"No, Artemis. We're friends, the best kind. We've been through so much…"
I received a calm stare.
"Are you sure that you're arguing your point? You are definitely providing my defense with support."
This was exactly why I loved to hate him. No one could be right what talking to him.
"So, what if you're right?"
He was taken aback. Most people would not give in so easily to his arguments.
"What if you are right? Maybe the teenage criminal mastermind knows more about life and love than the ninety year old major does. Maybe all my training couldn't have possibly prepared me for this. Maybe my life couldn't have either."
He was silent. For someone so intelligible, so sarcastic, I had shut him up. I found myself beginning to believe him.
"Well, Holly, we may just be friends, but even as you have said, we've been through so much."
He was struggling to get his mind in check. He merely restated what I already said. I think I may be the only one who is capable of doing this to him.
He looked down towards his hands. "The great philosopher Augustine believed that being friends with someone is making that friend a part of your soul."
So he finally came up with a response. Philosophy? I gave him an amused smile, but he missed it. I wiped it off my face because I didn't want to seem rude. But does he realize that I could care less about philosophy?
Artemis picked up on my lack of interest. "Of course, you could care less. But my point is that we are already part of one another."
I diverted my gaze down to the floor.
"Holly, look me in the eyes."
His point was made even before I looked up. I knew exactly what I was going to see.
I looked up. My own hazel eye was staring back at me. And he saw his own icy blue eye staring back at him. Before the trip through Limbo to Hybras, I had only ever seen my eyes in a mirror. And maybe I was looking into a mirror in his eyes, just a reverse one. Looking at him, gazing into those mismatched eyes, I saw a part of my own soul.
'…being friends with someone is making that friend a part of your soul…'
His point was clearly made.
"We are more alike than we realize, Holly."
"We're practically polar opposites."
"It's true that visibly, we are dynamically different, but looking beyond superficial features, we are very similar."
I held his gaze. "How so?"
"Well, we both have determination. A certain kind that would make others... cringe."
I half-smiled. He was correct, again. I didn't get as far as I did in my LEP and Section 8 career by relying on others.
"We are often both by ourselves."
I raised an eyebrow. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
"As everyone knows, I am not a social creature by nature. And you may have your LEP colleagues, but how many of your fellow officers have spent time with you outside of the office?"
He knew that would piss me off, but he chose to say it anyway. I may have been angry, but it was true. Apart from a couple dates with certain officers, I was usually on my own.
He looked down at his hand again. "I may have my parents, and Butler, but you're the only one that I really have, Holly." He looked back up at me. "And I only have Butler because of you."
I reluctantly nodded my head. I had saved Butler twice in the last six years, and I didn't want to think about it.
"And quite honestly Holly, you keep me grounded. A genius does not need someone who is equally as intelligent as him in close quarters."
I shot him a dour glare.
"I don't mean that y-you, you're not, intelligent, I simply meant… eh, you know."
Hearing him stutter gave me satisfaction.
"That's why a relationship with Miss Paradizo didn't show any promise."
I reddened at the mention of Minerva's name. Was I… jealous that he had mentioned her?
"Every intelligent man needs a moral, strong, and well rounded woman to ground him. If not, that man may become a monster."
He slipped in his trademark vampire smile. No matter how close we were, that smile would always send shivers down my spine.
"Do you have any thoughts? Or are you going to sit there and let me confess---"
"Wait. I'll have you know that I do have thoughts, Arty."
I raised my head up and leaned back. I wanted to seem relaxed and confident.
"I have one question."
He gave me a confused look.
"Why has this happened? Why are we here?"
"For someone who doesn't care about wisdom, Holly, that's a very philosophical question."
"Answer it, Artemis."
"I'm afraid it's too vague, Holly."
I leaned forward. "Why am I here, sitting in your room? Why are we like this now, so close? You kidnapped me, held me for ransom, ruined my career, stole my magic, lied to me, and scammed me. I've almost died how many times in your company. And I actually did once… but you saved me."
He didn't respond. He didn't want to interrupt me.
"I've traveled through time with you, swapped eyeballs, held hands, escaped trolls, saw you in your underwear, fought off goblins and demons, jumped onto radioactive trains, was put on trial in front of blood thirsty Extinctionists… but you saved me… kissed you how many times, visited you, illegally called you, and that one day in the gorilla cage at Rathdown Park… I may tell myself this is wrong, but it doesn't stop you from staying on my mind constantly, and it sure as hell didn't stop you from changing my life, either."
We sat in silence for a couple minutes. I awkwardly looked around, trying to realize what I had just said. I couldn't comprehend any of it.
He spoke first, looking up into my eyes.
"It seems you have answered your own question."
I sat there, still stunned. I had been planning on staying relaxed and confident, but I had thoroughly blown that cover. I had virtually done what I warned him not to do: confessed my love for him.
Artemis was ready to defend everything I had said.
"Holly, if I had attempted to answer that question, I don't think I could have possibly responded that well."
He wasn't being sarcastic.
"Did you mean what you said?"
I turned my head to the side. As surprised as I was to feel a tear streaming down my cheek, I was more surprised to find that I felt relieved.
"I did mean it. Everything I said is true."
Artemis stood up and walked over to his desk. I could only see his shadow coming from a small desk lamp.
"It has to be noted that we are both feeling the same thing."
I rested my head on my hand. Feeling an extra amount of hair had been weird, since I had been letting it grow out. In fact, I'd changed quite a bit in the last six months. Six months ago, Artemis and I traveled back into the past, when my hair had been shorter, my features were less worn, and I was smaller. Since then, my body has become a bit more womanly, but it was still toned. Artemis himself had become somewhat more muscular recently.
He turned around and smiled at me.
"You didn't want me to confess my love for you because you wanted to do it to me."
I laughed. When had Artemis become funny? It was as though he was still changing, as if my influence over him continued to better him.
"Actually, Artemis, that wasn't the plan. I didn't even have one, nor did I think I'd be needing one. I just came above ground when you had called, because I thought my friend needed something."
He crossed the room to his chair, leaning on the back.
"When does a friend become something more?"
I gave him a puzzled look. I wasn't in the mood for another philosophy lesson.
"Why does a pair of close friends become something more than just that? I feel like our friendship is on pause, wanting to progress to something more. Why can't we let ourselves cross into this realm of desire? For something more?"
I chewed my lip.
"Anything I say will surely be shot down."
"Exactly, Holly. It needs to happen this way. I may not have experience in these kinds of situations, but I do believe that you very well may be…"
I tensed. Artemis was the kind of person who kept you waiting in suspense. He could throw any sort of noun in there that he pleased, just to get a certain reaction out of me.
"…my soul mate."
The ball dropped. Somewhere, somehow, somebody dropped a piano, an anvil, or shot a cannonball. This sent my head spinning. I couldn't even begin to grasp the inclinations that came along with that word, soul mate. I knew my face was reading devastation, and I sure hoped that wasn't the reaction he was looking for from me.
"Believe me, Holly, I've tried to figure this out too. My intellect can't come up with anything plausible for the cause of this."
I glanced downward, feeling a smile spread on my lips. Was this exactly what I wanted to hear?
"Quite frankly, I couldn't do without you."
I suddenly looked up. Artemis was a few inches from my own face. Hearing my own words come from his mouth sealed the deal for me. I knew it was all too true to deny it much longer.
Before I could say anything, his lips met mine. It may not have been long and passionate, but it served its purpose. Perhaps it was his way of paying me back for the incident in the gorilla cage six months ago. Is this how two people crossed the barrier of "just friends" into something more?
We both pulled away at the same time. We held each other's gaze.
I was staring into my own soul. My soul mate.
I took a chance. I left all my fears behind at that moment.
"So how will we do this?"
He continued to look me in the eyes.
"Wewill make it work. I'm a genius, remember?"