Artemis blinked and lifted his plush head from the couch cushion after a noise woke him from a sound sleep. He had dozed off while keeping an eye on Minako as she leaned against the metal rail of her terrace, staring quietly upwards.
His charge had hardly said a word since returning from a brief visit to Greece after several months of working in England. Artemis didn't have the nerve to ask her why she was so silent, though he thought he might know.
He'd surreptitiously snapped a photo of Minako gazing at a statue of the Grecian war god during their holiday, thinking only to take a candid shot of her lovely profile, and had inadvertently captured much more.
They had returned to Athens after adventuring around the islands for a few days, as well as a short stay in a roomy villa on the coast. Minako had taken it upon herself to print off some of the photos they'd shot, and disappeared to a local printer while Artemis clambered onto the room's air conditioner to cool down. The country, while beautiful, was terribly hot for someone who lived in a fur coat.
He had been half-asleep when Minako returned later and sat mutely on the foot of the hotel bed, staring at what looked like a photograph. She had the strangest look on her face—almost sad. The idol sighed to herself and reclined back against the mattress. When her eyes slipped shut and her breathing evened out, Artemis crept down from where he perched and hopped carefully onto the bed, not wanting to disturb the young woman from her rest. Slowly, he tugged the photo from her grasp, wondering what had so captured her attention.
Immediately, he had recognized the image he had taken of Minako and Ares, and noticed a few details he had missed before. There was a deep fondness in her expression, one laced with longing and perhaps even a hint of desire. He had frowned momentarily, thinking it odd that a statue should elicit such a response from Minako, but then he realized that perhaps she hadn't really been seeing the statue itself, but who it represented.
"Mars," he murmured, and smiled at the slumbering idol. For all Minako tried to hide it, Artemis was well-aware of her feelings toward the former senshi of fire. He tucked the photo back beneath Minako's fingers and curled up beside her, resuming his nap. Perhaps he might ask her about it in the morning. But, like so many thoughts that pop into the mind when on the edge of sleep, Artemis completely forgot the incident until they returned home and the photo fell out of Minako's suitcase as she unpacked.
Ignoring Artemis' questioning look as she stared at the image, Minako had walked wordlessly from her bedroom, leaving the photo behind, and stepped outside, where she had remained until Artemis awoke to find her gone from sight.
He wondered momentarily if she had returned to her bedroom. Perhaps it had been her door closing that he had heard.
"Minako?" Artemis climbed off of the couch and headed down the hallway. He was surprised to find that the door was open. His fuzzy forehead creased with worry when he realized she simply wasn't in the apartment. He debated calling her, but then he remembered spotting her cell phone on the coffee table only seconds ago. He chewed worriedly on his paw for a moment, and hopped up onto Minako's bed, thinking he would wait there for her to come back, just in case she had any funny ideas about sneaking in unnoticed.
Artemis was used to the idol's constant disappearing acts, but it was far past the middle of the night, and while she was a grown woman, she no longer had access to her powers—anything could still happen! To take off at such an hour without a word to him—he gave an aggravated sigh as he curled up on a pillow, keeping an ear open for the sounds of the idol's return.
It was after sunrise when Artemis heard the telltale click and jingling of keys being turned in a lock, and promptly bolted awake—not that he'd been able to sleep very well. He leapt from the bed and dashed out towards the door, intent on giving Minako a piece of his mind for making him worry so much.
"So there you are! Where have you been, Minako?" he demanded as she pushed open the door. She was wearing an enormous smile and seemed oblivious to Artemis' ire, which only incensed him further as she kicked off her shoes and walked towards her bedroom.
"You disappear in the middle of the night without a word—you could have been anywhere! For all I knew, you were hurt someplace! Minako! Answer me! Where were you?" He fumed, not caring that he was yelling at the young singer as though she was still a teenager. "Just because you're an adult now, it doesn't make you any less vulnerable, you know! What was so important that you couldn't wake me?"
Minako flopped backwards onto her bed, still grinning broadly as she continued to ignore her guardian.
Infuriated, Artemis jumped up beside her, preparing to tell her off further when she finally spoke.
"I was at Hikawa. With Reiko." Her smile grew quite dreamy as she raised her fingers and ran them lightly across her lips. "We were stargazing."
Artemis felt his jaw drop open, completely forgetting what he had been about to say. He noticed for the first time that the photograph had gone, and understood. Her smile alone should have clued him in, but his judgement had been clouded by worry. Sighing with relief, he prodded her shoulder playfully.
"Stargazing, hm? That's—that's all you were doing, was it?" He couldn't resist letting a teasing note creep into his voice.
Minako's cheeks flushed pink and she scooped Artemis into her arms, nearly suffocating him with a hug.
"Ack! Minako! Air!—" Artemis wheezed, thinking if he posessed a ribcage, it would surely have been crushed.
"Sorry, Artemis—I'm just—she—she actually kissed me!" Minako giggled delightedly and released him. "God, it was even more amazing than I thought it would be."
Artemis made a face at the mental image. "I don't need the details, thanks."
"Well, I'd be more than a bit concerned if you wanted to know whether or not Rei's a good kisser." Minako smirked. "She's absolutely fantastic at it, by the way."
"Minako!" Artemis blushed to the tips of his whiskers as Minako burst out laughing.
"I can still hardly believe she—oh!" Abruptly she sat up, nearly giving Artemis a heart attack in the process, and pulled her laptop out from under the pile of dirty clothes. She made an impatient noise as it booted up, drumming her fingers lightly across the keys. "Finally," she murmured, and clicked on an icon marked "Schedule". She frowned with disappointment as she scanned the file. "Dammit. It's going to be ages before we can go." She tapped a few more keys. "Maybe—"
"Minako? Go where?" Artemis' curiosity was piqued. "Are you planning another vacation already?"
"Yeah. Greece." Her eyes narrowed at the screen and her smile slowly returned. "This looks likely. Need to talk to Shacho first though so he doesn't double-book me."
Artemis shook his head in confusion. "Wait. Didn't—didn't we just get back from there?"
The idol nodded distractedly and opened her email.
"So why the big rush to go back? There're other places we could go—"
"True enough, but I didn't invite Reiko to any of them. Yet." She glanced at her guardian and grinned. That explained why she was in such a hurry. "Maybe I can show her that lagoon I found. We could stay at that villa on the coast again—you liked it there, right?"
"I did. But, Minako—" Artemis felt a pang of sadness at what he was about to suggest. "I think—I think the two of you should go without me."
Her hands froze above the keyboard as she turned and gave Artemis her full attention. He swallowed at the unreadable look in her eyes.
"You won't exactly need my services as a guardian if you've got Mars with you," Artemis said kindly. "She's always been very good at looking after you. In multiple lifetimes."
Minako's cheeks reddened again as she nodded. "But, Artemis—"
He shook his head and laid a paw on her arm. "Honestly, Minako—it was too damn hot there for me. I will burn to a crisp if I go back so soon. Venus itself wasn't nearly so hot." He gave her a reassuring smile, which she slowly returned. "I'm really happy for you, Minako."
She reached over to scratch him behind the ears. "Thank you, Artemis."
"Sure took you two long enough though. Ow!" He skittered out of Minako's reach and gave her a stern glare. "The tail is off-limits!"
"Sorry, Sensei." She closed down her computer and stifled a yawn. "I suppose I should try and get some sleep."
"That would be wise. Good thing you don't have to be anywhere today," Artemis said. He snickered as Minako simply pushed the remains of her laundry to the floor and pulled back her blankets.
"Good thing I lied to Shacho about when I was getting back, you mean." She opened her dresser to take out a nightshirt.
"Right, that's what I said." At a look from Minako, Artemis covered his eyes so she could change her clothes.
She chuckled at his remark and soon crawled between the sheets with a contented sigh. Artemis opened his eyes when she gave his head a gentle pat.
"I'm sorry I made you worry."
"Y-you're actually apologizing for something? My God, Rei must be a phenomenal kisser. Hey!"
Minako tweaked his ear with a grin. "I thought you said you didn't want details."
"I certainly don't," he grumbled, putting his head down on his paws and letting his eyelids slide shut.
"You're sure about that? 'Cause she does this incredible thing with her—"
She shook with laughter and pressed a light kiss to his forehead, making him blush.
"Sleep well, Artemis. I'll see you in—the afternoon, I guess. ...Artemis?"
He was already fast asleep.
Minako smiled at her old friend. "'Night, Artemis."
Author notes: Everyone loves Artemis so much that I decided he should get a story. Thanks for reading and reviewing!