Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.
Author's Note: Written for brokengravity for the Yuletide 2010 Challenge.
He was, and he wasn't.
Owen Burnett was stoic—some would say cold; others merely unflappable. He was a tall man, with white blond hair he wore with a side part, and light blue eyes that were partially hidden behind glasses with very expensive frames.
He wore the best suits, but always in dark, sombre colours. He was partial to red silk ties; a splash of blood on an otherwise colourless, grey man. His skin was pale, and didn't freckle in the sunlight. His shirts were crisp and white and starched, and his shoes were always polished.
He never seemed to sleep, but was everywhere at once. Day to day operation of Xanatos Enterprises were overseen by him at every level, and he knew the names of every member of the staff, down to the young men in the mail room and the women in the canteen.
Owen Burnett had no apparent sense of humour. He never danced at parties, or wore jeans on casual Fridays. He spoke eleven languages fluently, and his normal speaking voice was a clipped and proper British accent that had been muted only slightly by twenty years in the United States at David Xanatos' side.
There were those who believed he was nothing but a clockwork man. A mask, a sham, a role played to the hilt. Even Xanatos truly believed that he was a paper-mâché major-domo, a marionette made from bone and sinew, built with skill and operated with cunning, but soulless and hollow inside.
He was, and he wasn't.
The Puck was a creature of pure emotion, with quicksilver blood and mercury moods and a generous-if capricious-nature. He had wild magic at his fingertips, and a smile that would slit your throat; a laugh that would leave you bleeding, and a heart that beat in time to music no human had ever heard.
He was ageless and immortal, the stuff of dreams and nightmares. His gifts were fairy tale curses. He was the fish that granted wishes you wished you'd never made, and his child-like slim body-sexless and festooned with brightly coloured silk-couldn't be bound to earth or service with anything less than cold, burning iron or a geas from a trueblood king.
The Puck spoke in riddles, lies and truths all told in rhyme. He always dared, sometimes won, and his victories and defeats both cost him nothing in the end because to him, it was all just a game.
He was a teacher, and a brother; a friend to no-one, but everyone's universal uncle. He could never be trusted, except to do exactly what he said he would—even when the steps he climbed were bodies, to a prize made of oak leaves and ashes, easily scattered by a northern wind.
The Puck wasn't safe.
Owen Burnett was safe as houses.
But he was... and he wasn't.
When Owen Burnett danced, it was in shadow, where no-one else could see. When he laughed, it was in his blue eyes, clear as glaciers, unmoving and ancient, behind the window glass he wore like a mask.
When Owen Burnett felt pain and sorrow, joy or desire, no-one saw it because it was his alone—and he guarded those meagre possessions carefully like a dragon with his hoard.
When the Puck burned with purpose, he hid it behind a coyote-smile. When he raged, it was with a cool head and heart, moving chess pieces across the board; always advancing toward the Queen.
When the Puck made promises, it was Owen Burnett who kept them, scrupulously honest to a fault.
The greatest trick the Puck had ever played was telling the world Owen Burnett didn't exist. His best-worn mask was a jester's and a clown's; the puppeteer who pulled the strings did it one-handed, cufflinks gleaming like stars in the coldest night's sky.
And he was.