Note: So, the good news is, I added another chapter! The possibly bad news, depending on how you look at things…will be announced at the bottom. :)
"Mother wants me to marry," shocks Butler more than he's inclined to admit, but he recovers—he thinks—with impressive speed.
"I see," he responds, more stiffly than he planned. Then he asks, because he feels he should, "Did you have anyone…in mind?" and Artemis stills, multi-hued eyes tossing him an unreadable look over the rim of his coffee.
Finally, he responds, "Miss Paradizo, I'd assume," with the toneless resignation of a man past bemoaning his fate, and Butler supposes he should feel sorry for the woman – but it isn't something so noble as pity that ruins his appetite.
"You don't sound pleased," Butler observes, and Artemis's scowl hardens.
"Oh, no, dear Butler, I'm ecstatic," his charge snaps. "Why on Earth would I be displeased?"
"I'm not sure," Butler answers honestly, vacillating between thinly veiled amusement and ripe curiosity, "but I have a feeling you'll tell me."
"I'm in love, Butler," his charge admits, suddenly serious, "I'm having some of the best sex of my life, and I'm engaged to be married! What's wrong with this?"
"Three different people," Artemis growls, "that's what." After a prolonged pause, he sighs. "At least tell me I'm a terrible person?"
"Beau," Artemis answers curtly. "Bisque, blonde, or cheesecake-yellow?" he asks the next second, lifting three identical-looking laced doilies.
"That wasn't an option…but yes." Artemis sets all three down and appears to examine them meticulously. "In my defense, he's rather attractive now…you know, once one gets past the blonde warzone of curls he calls hair." When he looks up, Butler has his arms folded, and a smile fights for space on lips that so rarely do anything of the sort. "What's this, Butler…jealous?"
"Raving," Butler grunts, and the budding smile blooms like the dawn.
"I could call it off," Artemis offers with premeditated carelessness, eyes turned heavenward and silver moonlight spilling over red, wine-stained lips like a stage light over red silk curtains, "…flee France forever and live out the rest of my life with you on some deserted island…"
Absently, Butler wonders which would taste better—the wine on Artemis's lips or the moonbeams on his throat. He shuts his eyes. "As tempting as that sounds…I don't-"
"Are you really rejecting me, or simply making my life agonizingly and pointlessly more difficult than it already is?"
"Think about that for me."
"You know…" Minerva's voice drifts in from the open door, and Butler lifts his head, lowering his gun and watching her approach, "I used to convince myself it wasn't me…that he was simply heartless and there was nothing to be done about it one way or the other…" Though her arrival was sudden and unannounced, the subject of her musings needs no introduction, and Butler clicks the safety back into place.
"And then?" he prompts, because it feels like it needs saying, and Minerva gives a tiny, distant smile.
"And then I saw the way he looks at you."
A/N: Oh, right, so, see…remember that part where I said I'd add another five bits to finish this up? Well…it didn't quite finish itself in time, so…I'm moving it off of "complete" and just admitting to myself that this will, eventually, need one more final chapter to tie up all the frayed little ends. Thank you for your patience! And I hope you've enjoyed yourself so far. :)
P.S. I can't decide whether I like it or not, but it was the pattern of the last chapter, so I decided to follow it. (I.e., the first four drabbles are supposed to flow, almost like a single conversation, except clipped out over different splotches of time, sort of like those videos that say things but use a bunch of different clips from various people/TV-shows to do it, or where they make one person say something they haven't ever said by catching the right words at the right time. Then, the last one is semi-out-of-place-ish, but ((hopefully)) leaves the reader with a final thought before they go.) Feel free to tell me where you think I succeeded/failed, etc., and…see you again eventually? :D
P.P.S. Sorry for making Artemis cheat on Minerva. In my head their relationship is…strained and complicated but a mix of "it makes sense for us to get married" on Artemis's part and "I know he doesn't love me but I love him and I don't want anyone else" from Minerva's side? I'm not sure. I don't know if it would be in-character, either, but it was too ridiculously tempting to make it even more complicated. Beau, I hope everyone knows, is Minerva's little brother, seven or so years younger than Artemis? Maybe only five? I forget. In any case, if he's willing to go up some thirty something years, I'm sure he's willing to go down a few as well. Obviously I picture them both grown up, though I don't have a specific number in mind off the top of my head.
Sorry for the hideously long A/N. I'm done now. Promise.