Disclaimer: I do not own Artemis Fowl, Domovoi Butler, or anyone/thing else from Eoin Colfer's work, nor do I make any profit writing stories about them. I just like playing in his sandbox. 'Nuff said.
A/N: This idea came to me late at night. That's not an excuse, just a semi-pointless fun fact. I actually kina like how it turned out. Rated T for, ummm…sexual themes and a bit of language I guess. I consider this really tame, personally. No spoilers this chapter, but there will be in the next one.
The French Kiss
Second Floor of L'espadon Noir, Southern France
"Oui, comme ça!"
In the second floor pantry of a little-known restaurant somewhere on the southern coast of France, a kitchen maid panted across a bag of flour.
Each pant sent a fresh puff of the cloudy white cooking ingredient fleeing wildly into the air as she pushed back, groaning, against her several-years-senior manager.
"Oui, oui…plus vite!"
Directly above her, crammed into an already too-tight air duct, Holly Short scowled darkly, wondering, not for the first time, how she always managed to let Artemis get her into these sorts of things. Then, her communicator bleeped: green for go. Immediately, she pushed everything else from her mind—and scuttled forward.
Two feet. Five feet. Ten.
At twenty-three and seven inches, she came to a split and took a left, building schematics ghosting along the screen in front of her. Six more. Three, two, one, and—there—she stopped, held her breath, and listened.
"—in the old washroom," grunted a low, rasping voice some ways away, but approaching steadily. "Boss said they'd both be out cold fer a good 'nother hour or so, but my guess is the biggun 'll be comin' around sooner. I'd keep an eye on 'im if I was you."
Scooting another half inch forward, Holly was rewarded with a significantly clearer view of the room directly below.
Dimly lit and musky, it smelled faintly of some odd juxtapose of cat hair and old cabbage, even from her position. A single dusty and dying bulb flicked yellow light over the two characters in its center. Two, by the looks of things, very conscious characters, despite the expectations of the approaching men, and even in the lousy light, there was no mistaking them—Butler and Artemis.
Holly took a brief moment to think that whoever left those two alone, together, and expected to keep them constrained for long obviously hadn't done their history homework. And then: Well, they're about to learn the hard way.
Except—they weren't supposed to be moving yet.
Holly frowned, watching anxiously as Artemis squirmed, nudging his guard, getting his attention. Couldn't he hear the men approaching? They were supposed to think they were both out. It wasn't like Artemis to go against the plan like this. There were still too many steps to carry out.
Butler swayed at the nudge, still looking slightly sluggish. Holly couldn't blame him—not after all the knock-outs he'd taken. One would have thought they were trying to tranq an elephant. Close enough to the truth, but still.
When he managed to turn his head, tilting it over his shoulder, he mumbled something, but Holly missed it.
They were back to back down there, slouched on the wooden floorboards. Nothing but a few good sailor's knots in some heavy, old fashioned, three-strand twisted, natural fiber rope secured their wrists behind their backs—another sign that their captors had no idea who they were dealing with—but then, getting captured was part of the plan. Unlike, Holly mentally noted again, whatever Artemis was doing.
The men were almost there. She heard the clink of keys rattling together. But no, Artemis was still hissing something to Butler, insistent, leaning up. She grit her teeth, hands moving instinctively to her holster, because if those two didn't start playing dead again soon, they were all going to—
Her thoughts flat lined right about there.
Artemis was kissing Butler.
Artemis was—Holly clapped her dropping jaw shut, trying to forcibly reign in her heart rate—he was kissing his bodyguard. When the hell had that developed, she thought desperately. Wasn't he just barely fifteen?
Then: Why do I care so much?
Blinking harshly, she shook herself. No time to lose sight of things now. Concentrate. Ask questions later. Down below, both 'prisoners' had pulled apart, and by the time the door opened, they looked convincingly unconscious once more.
A small, confused, and—hurt?—part of Holly, wished momentarily to join them in unconscious bliss. She crushed the thought quickly.
Two hours earlier…
The piercing car horn needled its way through the muggy haze of Artemis's conscious.
Immediately, his body protested the fight for consciousness. Pins and needles, jackhammers and chainsaws, and maybe a couple rounds fired off from one of Butler's automatic rifles—all in a confined little personal explosion behind his eyes and between his temples. He barely remembered to stifle his moan in time.
He wasn't supposed to be awake yet. At least, not as far as his captor's were concerned.
Squinting his eyes tighter shut and swallowing dryly, he wondered if this was what a hangover was like.
Unable to force open his eyes, Artemis worked to fill in as many blanks as possible through sound and feel. It was pitch black behind his closed lids, not even traces of orange or yellow, so night had fallen. Obviously, he was in a car. Gravel rumbled under the tires signaling they'd left the main roads, but the horn moments ago suggested they had yet to enter deserted streets. The cushioning beneath him felt soft, and he twitched his fingers. Pseudo-leather, squishy—he was in the back seat, not the trunk. And then he noticed: his hands weren't bound. That might come in handy.
Voices told him he shared the vehicle with two men: the driver—currently spouting curses to some unidentified target out the window—and one other, in the passenger seat, grunting at the driver as he busily fiddled with the radio. Neither were paying Artemis the least bit of attention. Flunkies. Convinced of at least temporary safety, he let his eyes droop shut again, heavy. Just five more minutes, his body reasoned. Five more minutes…or hours…
He woke the second time to a sharp jolt, as if they had gone too fast over a speed bump or hit a pot hole. Then, a jutting brake almost rolled him off the seat. There already? But no, men made no move to reach for or relocate him, and seconds later two car doors clicked open and then thumped shut, footsteps walking off. It took Artemis a moment to conclude—they were taking a cigarette break. He might have rolled his eyes if it hadn't felt like too much effort. Instead, he put them to a simpler, more productive task—opening.
This time, his efforts bore fruit. Slowly.
Ceiling. He blinked, over and over, letting his eyes gradually adjust. Seat. Bit by bit, like tuning a temperamental lens, he brought the objects in his range of vision into focus. He couldn't make out how far the men had gone from this angle, but their voices had faded out, completely out of range, so he reasoned it was some distance, and allowed himself time for a more meticulous inspection. It didn't take him long to locate his goal, and his heart stuttered at the ridiculous luck.
Clearly, the entire operation had been a cheap, under-informed hoax of some sort. Possibly even nothing more than a petty revenge act to scare the Paradizos out of their new line of research. Not only had they left the chip in the hands of goonies, but the goonies had left it behind, in the open, right there between the two front seats—next to paper clips and gum wrappers, no less. Their most valuable capture: utterly unguarded. Now, this wasn't to say that Beau wasn't valuable. He was the youngest son of one of the wealthiest, most brilliant men in Europe. However, at best, his ransom could only amount to one Paradizo fortune. That chip, in the right hands, was worth several Paradizo fortunes—perhaps with a Fowl fortune or two added on top.
Artemis weighed his options.
If he heisted it now—assuming he could convince his limbs to cooperate—that would save them the trouble of tracking it down later. It was tiny, about the size of a small button, and already half hidden under the rest of the junk it sat by. Evidently not high on their priority list, they probably wouldn't miss it for a while. Simply holding it was out of the question though, and stuffing it into his clothes was almost as dangerous. They were also bound to search him for it later. Still, it was too great of an opportunity to pass up on the fly. So, after a moment's consideration, he confirmed his privacy, expended no insignificant amount of effort in sliding himself just close enough to reach, and snatched it up. Then, uttering one silent prayer that it had not yet graced anywhere too foul, he blew it off, brushed it with the corner of his shirt tail, and tucked it under his tongue, sticking a similar, completely blank look alike in its place amidst the gum wrappers.
By the time his captors returned, Artemis had long since reverted back to his prone position, and the car started again with a hearty rumble, neither man any the wiser. They never spared a glance between the seats.
Thirty-eight hours earlier, Tourettes sur Loup, Southern France
"Bonjour, Goldilocks…" purred a deep voice from behind, and Beau jerked his head up, blue, saucer eyes leaping off of the window of fancifully colored sweets and onto a too-bright smile on an unfamiliar face. "Where's your mama bear? You're not lost are you?"
Beau shook his head indignantly, blonde curls bobbing. "Pas perdu," he said. "Qui es tu?"
"Me? Why…I'm your new best friend…" the newcomer said, unsettling smile broadening, and Beau looked doubtful. Sensing this, the newcomer changed topics, indicating the candy shop window. "Would you like some of those?"
Like magic, all doubt in the new man vanished, and Beau's eyes brightened. "Oh, oui!" he professed immediately,"certainement!"
"There's a good kid…here," the man held out a solid chocolate bar, thinly wrapped in gold foil, which Beau greedily accepted, "this oughta hold ya over till we find something you want…"
It would be fifteen minutes before Minerva finally took pity on her little brother, wagering he had probably learned his lesson by then and punished himself enough with his own tears after realizing he was lost to deserve a rescue. It would be another thirty minutes before she realized what he'd made off with—though she wouldn't know until much later that he'd stolen it purely out of spite for her refusing him extra bonbons that morning—and another ninety-three before she truly panicked.
Present, Old Washroom of L'espadon Noir
About the time Holly Short was brooding in the air ducts above the restaurant pantry, trying her best to ignore the seedy activities of the kitchen maid and restaurant manager below, Domovoi Butler was working hard to drag himself free of the effects of enough tranquilizers to down an elephant. Artemis, wriggling insistently against him, was enough to speed up this process significantly. Clearly, Artemis wanted his attention now, and Butler fought the drugs hard to give it to him.
His skull pounded, and his wrists were bound—but weakly enough that, given some minutes to regain his strength, the binds wouldn't be much of a setback should he find the need to be rid of them. He'd prepared and administered an antidote to dull the effects of likely sedatives as soon as Artemis had announced his 'plan,' but even now, in full swing, he didn't particularly like it—too many loose ends, too much time away from his charge's side. At least so far, it seemed to be working out.
"Butler…" Artemis's voice worked its way in through the throbbing. "Butler, are you conscious?"
Butler, scrunching his eyes shut, grunted noncommittally. "Unless I'm dreaming," he answered and rolled his jaw, working feeling back into stiffened muscles and joints one by one. At his back, Artemis let out a soft sigh.
"You're not dreaming," he assured, sounding serious and relieved. "In any case, I don't imagine a dream would be this uncomfortable."
Butler almost asked what sorts of dreams Artemis had, but then thought better of it and curbed his tongue. "Aren't we supposed to be knocked out anyway?"
"In less than a minute when they walk back in here, yes," responded Artemis, a hint of anxiety creeping into his voice. "They're almost certain to drag me back out as soon as they arrive, but first I need to…give you something."
Butler blinked, much of his concentration still focused on, well, focusing. "Something…?" he repeated vaguely, squinting as the shelves in front of him slowly started forming into more meaningful, defined shapes.
Come to think of it, there was another odd quality to Artemis's words, other than anxiety, almost as if he—had something on his tongue? Voices approached down the hall, pulling Butler from that line of thought, and Artemis hissed something unintelligible, vaguely reminiscent of a curse.
"Turn," commanded Artemis, "and give me your…mouth."
"My…" Butler blinked, "…what?" he asked, totally thrown even as he obeyed, working to lean and twist, turning his head over his shoulder.
Trust me, were the last words Artemis's lips read before his fingers caught in the binds on Butler's wrists, tugging him just a fraction closer and providing just enough leverage for Artemis to lean up and—
Later, Butler would have time to reflect and consider that, in retrospect, it might have been slightly more helpful/practical to mouth something more along the lines of Hold still, Don't pull back, or even I'm going to feed you an extremely important data-chip with my tongue, so open wide. As it was, his first cognitive thought upon having Artemis's mouth close over his was: Is this really the time?
Then, something hard and metallic—in combination with a tiny flick of something conversely very soft and wet—pressed against his lips. Realizing for the first time the actual purpose behind the exchange, Butler quickly cleared from his daze and opened his mouth more cooperatively, taking the offered piece and slipping it under his own tongue—not a moment too soon.
A/N: At first I couldn't decide if Butler and Artemis were together already in this or not. Part of me said yes, definitely; another said no, not yet, let them squirm. In the end, I left it purposefully vague. I think I have my mind made up on which it is now, but guesses? Preferences? Inferences? Oh yeah, and in case anyone's interested:
L'espadon Noir - The Black Swordfish
Oui, comme ça! - Yes, like that!
Plus vite! - Faster!
Pas perdu. - Not lost.
Qui es tu? - Who are you?
Questions/comments/complaints—I'm pretty open minded, but some sort of feedback would be graciously appreciated. Thanks for your time! :)
P.S. Sorry if it was weird that a computer chip spent so much time, erm, in and out of people's mouths, but, I figure, technology in the Artemis Fowl genre has undergone worse things before and survived, right? So why not? What I really needed, if it wasn't obvious, was a good excuse to get Butler and Artemis "kissing," and yet not, for a captive audience. ;)