A late night distraction from my painfully-slowly-continuing-but-still-in-the-works mystery story. Wanted to write something more in the style of A Family Tradition. Whatever hapened to my branching out of A/H? One day... one day...
Sappiness ensues. This may be the first time I ever have made characters say I love you. I think, at any rate. I could be wrong.
All in Pieces on His Bedroom Floor
He took all sorts of girls home. Or, more precisely, he went home with all sorts of girls. They never stayed with him.
It wasn't like she couldn't understand the attraction. No, of all people, she understood it better than anyone, she who had been the first. And he was older now, charming when he wanted to be, not simply predatory. For someone so sleek and civilised, there was nothing so feral as him, nothing and no one who enjoyed the hunt as much as he did. Because with him it wasn't the hunt – wasn't the rush of adrenalin, of fear, of anticipation – that mattered. It was the kill. It was the moment of capture. It was then that he would smile, truly in his element, those sharp incisors grinning at you as you lay trapped in the half-light.
It all sounded like some erotic fantasy. It wasn't. At least, it hadn't started that way, and she highly doubted it would end as such. In the interim, while he waited for bigger, more promising prey, he played with these girls, seeing just how many he could ensnare. He was bored. She knew it, and she was sure he knew it too.
The girls were all different. Height, weight, race, hair colour, eye colour. But she flattered herself that there was something about them - about every single one of them - that was reminiscent of her; she who had been the first. The line of a jaw, the curve of a shoulder, the red of one's hair, the slight hook of another's nose. She didn't want to be but she was touched. Touched that he still remembered. That, even after all these years, he was still hunting her.
She had, of course, been his first big prize. Not in the same way as these girls, of course. Not then; then it had been the farthest thing from his mind. She had been nothing but a means to an end, a traveller's cheque waiting to be cashed. And it wasn't until she had been traded in that he realised what it was that he had really wanted.
He should have kept her when he had the chance.
It would have been easier if he had, she came to realise over the years. If he had, she could have hated him without a second thought, for all their long lives. Instead, he had set her free, and therein lay all their current problems. Because now, of course, she loved him for letting her go. And had done so for far, far too long. She wondered if he hated her for leaving him. And if he had done so for far, far too long.
'Holly,' he said, watching her hop down from the window sill. 'I've missed you.'
She should have realised then that something was different, that something was coming. Artemis Fowl did not admit to having "missed you".
'Sorry it's been so long,' she smiled at him, shedding her helmet and gloves on the floor. 'I'm in paperwork up to my eyebrows, it's ridiculous.'
'My condolences,' he smiled down at the woman before him. 'Holly, I would like to discuss something with you.'
Alarm bells should have been blaring in her head. She should have known. She should have realised. 'Sure, Artemis,' she said.
Should have realised what? That she was about to ruin everything?
When was the last time they had spoken? Years ago. She missed him. She missed his outrageous vocabulary, the smug lilt in his voice when he knew something that you didn't. She missed his cruelty and she missed his vulnerability. She wondered who was allowed to see his rare moments of weakness now. Probably no one, as it had been before. Even if there had been nothing else to regret, she would have been sorry for that. He was so much better than he led himself to believe.
He had not regressed in all the years they'd been apart. Oh, to be sure, he stole and he lied and he cheated. But he stole from people she thought fully deserved to be robbed. And he gave to things she thought fully deserved to be supported. He would have rolled his eyes at the comparison to Robin Hood but it lingered in her mind none the less. Robin exiled in Sherwood Forest. But where were his merry men? Where was Maid Marian? Gone. And the Sherriff was nothing more than his own reflection to be fought off, bitter and cruel and disappointed.
Occasionally, she felt ashamed of herself for thinking that he would let his morals slide after she left. He was too good for that. She knew he was, even if she was the only one who did. It would have been petty of him. A spiteful, childish backlash to show her that he didn't care. And even if his ethics were lax, he had too much pride to act like a sulking child. Besides, if she didn't keep faith, who would? She had let him down in everything else, the least she could do was believe him to be better than that.
The girl tonight was even more similar than usual. Red hair, wide brown eyes, small and slender.
Letting her head fall back onto the brick behind her, she watched them climb the entrance stairs. Sometimes she wondered why she watched him troll through girls, biding his time. He didn't do it out of spite, or cruelty. Out of a desire to hurt them or her, only because he was bored. Because he was lonely, he was confused and he missed her. Because hunting was all that he knew how to do.
Artemis pursed his lips, clearly deliberating with himself. 'I have been trying for some time to "get over", as it were, what happened in the past. I can't.'
He looked her in the eye. 'I want –' he paused, 'I want what I don't think you will give me.'
She stared at him like the proverbial deer in the headlights. The deer that is about to be annihilated. The deer that suddenly realises.
The window was open. She could hear the girl laughing. His responses were lower and less distinct. She felt like crying. Wrapping her arms around her knees she listened to them make love.
Make love, she mocked herself. Such a delicate euphemism. He did not "make love". Love no longer had anything to do with it. She listened to him fuck some ignorant girl.
She smirked then. It's true what they say, after all: ignorance is bliss.
The girl made a lot of noise. She rolled her eyes. Though they had never discussed the subject, she knew he didn't appreciate her over-enthusiasm. It wasn't elegant or endearing, and it certainly wasn't how she would be, if she were in the girl's place.
She wondered, not for the first time, what he would say if she came in one night, through his bedroom window like she used to. Where she was the only one allowed. She who had been the first.
Would he be surprised? Would he be furious? Would he hit her?
The thought of violence almost excited her. Any outlet for the all that had been repressed over the years excited her. She nearly wished he would hit her so that the pain and betrayal between them could be seen by the world. So that the world could see what they did to each other. So that she would no longer have to feel guilty. In some twisted way, she wished he would stop taking the high road and hunt her again. Hunt her for revenge. If only to alleviate her guilt.
Or would he be distant and polite? As though they were strangers meeting for the first time. Would she state her case like a lawyer, lay out the facts for him to examine. Exhibits X, Y and Z. A kiss. A lie. A mistake.
A mistake? If only. There were so many mistakes. His, hers, who could keep track? They were one long tangled trail of mistakes.
'Artemis. Be serious. It was one kiss. I – you –species – you lied-'
He raised an eyebrow.
'I can't, Artemis. I just can't.'
'That's it? Nothing more?' He steepled his fingers and held her gaze. 'I love you. You are my best friend and, of your own volition, are lost without me. You can't get out of this with a simple "I can't".'
'Well, I am.'
'Be serious, Holly,' he threw her words back at her. 'Or are you scared? The brave Captain Short, scared of a defenceless Mud Man?'
'You're hardly defenceless, Artemis.'
'Especially not to you,' he smiled, leaning in, watching her shoulders stiffen, her body tense. Watching her back away.
Because that was the truth. And it terrified her.
It had begun to rain. And, sometime in the smothering, silent aftermath of the girl's cries, the rain had turned to hail. It clinked as it hit her helmet, sparklingly in the hazy light of the moon. It made her thinking of diamonds. Diamonds coming to save her. Oh, where was her saviour now?
Broken and hiding because his hero had left him.
She caught a piece in her gloved hand, letting it roll, watching it glint. What had they done to each other? So different and so similar. Too proud to turn around. Too blind to see the obvious. Too stupid to just reach out and-
Her palm closed, crushing the ice. He was standing on the stairs, glancing up the street. Tugging his collar up, he checked his watch. She watched him shiver until his taxi came, rounding the corner, its lights cutting through the hail and the dark.
Without a second thought, she followed. She always had. She wondered if she always would. It was ironic, really, the prey following the hunter. Or was she the hunter? Or were they both hunting, following each other in every tightening circles? With them it was hard to tell. They had so many pieces of each other lodged in themselves, who knew what was whose? Especially now that they were nothing but pieces, scattered on the floor.
'It was one kiss. It was a mistake. I was young. I'm sorry. I don't love you.' She stared at the floor. She heard him swallow.
'Look me in the eye and say that,' he said.
'No.' She looked to the left, 'this isn't some psychological game, Artemis.'
'At least say my name when you tell me. Say it, Holly. Say: "I don't love you, Artemis". Go on, say it.'
'Artemis, don't!' She looked to the right. 'Stop. Don't be like that.'
'Be like what, Holly? For once I'm the one telling the truth. Aren't you ashamed to lie, Holly Short?'
'Yes!' She shouted, looking up. 'Yes.' Quieter, a whisper.
But it was too late. She had left. She had run away. She had broken them to pieces, scattered on his bedroom floor.
His light was still on. Dawn would be here soon. Slowly, she flew closer. The window was open. She wondered if he knew. He couldn't. It was impossible. But they were all in pieces now, mixed up, the one with the other, who knew what they knew of the other.
She landed without a sound. He was sitting at his desk, chin in palm, head turned to stare out at the night. She stepped onto the floor, shedding her fear along with her invisibility and her wings.
'Holly,' he said, apparently unfazed.
To their surprise, he proved to be the braver of the two. 'I missed you.'
Her usual apology was already in her open mouth before she realised what was happening. 'Artemis,' she said. He closed his eyes. He had done what he could. It was her turn now.
'She was very pretty,' she spoke as she approached, her footsteps placed lightly, heel to toe, heel to toe.
'No more so than usual,' he shrugged.
'No, I suppose not.' She stopped in front of him.
He opened his eyes, looking down at her. Into the face he had been hunting for so long. 'Is that all? No angry tirade on my treatment of women? My objectifying of the female body?'
'No,' she shook her head. 'I don't think I have the right to anymore.'
For a moment he looked as though that were the saddest thing he had ever heard. 'No,' he answered afterwards, 'I don't suppose you do.'
She opened her mouth to respond. He raised an eyebrow. She licked her lips. 'I missed you too, Artemis.'
'And I'm sorry.'
He nodded again.
Too quickly for him to follow, she pulled herself onto his chair, body leaning into his chest. Her forehead was pressed to his, her hands cradling his face. He could feel her eyelashes on his cheeks. His mouth opened slightly and his breathe quickened.
'I missed you,' she choked out. 'Artemis-'
But he was no longer a child and she was no longer young. This time there could be no excuses. He could feel her heart skitter against his shirt. Her nose brushed against his.
Slowly, she kissed him. There were no sparks this time, but there was also no backpedalling, no excuses, and no clumsy confusion. She kissed him and he wanted to trap her, hold her, and never let her free again. She knew it and he knew she did.
'They say,' she spoke softly, her words skimming his lips before tumbling into his mouth, 'that if you let something go and it comes back to you, it's yours to keep.' Her fingers spread through his hair.
She nodded, lips ghosting over his.
'I love you.'
'I know,' he told her, 'I always knew that.'
'Did you really?' She smiled at him, for him, and kissed him again.
'I know you,' he said simply.
'You didn't know that I would break it. That I would ruin everything.'
He shook his head, looking away, the contact of their skin broken. 'No. I didn't know that.'
She took hold of his face again. 'What do you want?' she asked. In order to make it right. In return. In revenge.
'To be whole again,' he said.
He raised an eyebrow. 'Would you like me to hunt you down, Holly Short, and demand retribution?'
'The thought had crossed my mind.'
She could feel his chuckle against her stomach. 'I suppose we could spend the rest of our lives hunting each other down, exacting payment, me for my crimes, you for yours. It would certainly keep us busy until the end.'
'Let's not.' She hesitated, 'But ... don't you want an explanation? Shouldn't we fight? Why is this so simple?'
'Don't you think the past decade has been explanation enough? Hasn't it been difficult enough?'
'Yes.' She held him tighter. 'A decade? Really?'
Tighter still, until the imprint of her arms was on his skin forever.
His hands lay on her neck, on her hip, fingers curling around her. 'What will we do instead, then?' he asked.
She smiled, letting him go, thinking of insteads. 'That girl, tonight, she made the most awful, screeching noises.'
'She was rather loud.' He looked raised his eyes from the curve of her neck, 'Tell me, do you stay to watch out of pleasure, or out of penance?'
'What do you think?'
'Perhaps, then, we should do something for pleasure instead.'
'You took the words right out of my mouth, Artemis.' Her hands rested where others had before, but where she had been the first.
She sat on the bed, hands sliding beneath his collar as he pulled off her boots. 'I love you,' she told the nape of his neck.
'You said that already,' he smiled as his fingers travelled up from her calves.
'It bears repeating,' she said, bringing him with her as she fell back.
In the end it had been so easy, when it could have been so hard. All the pieces came together again and, though the picture was different, it was still whole.