"Steph?" Valkyrie's mum called up the stairs. "Come on Steph, hurry up. Alice is ready and waiting."
"Yeah I'm coming, hang on." Valkyrie called from her room. She looked at the man standing by her window.
"I'll meet you outside Haggard Inn in twenty minutes, okay?" Valkyrie pulled on her boots. "Thank you for agreeing to this."
Skulduggery crossed his arms, his facade frowning. "It's not like I had much of a choice. 'They'll be tigers, Skulduggery! And lions! Oh my God lions!'" He stopped mimicking her and grinned. "But you're welcome."
"Shut up. You're just as excited as I am." Valkyrie grabbed her wallet and phone. "See you later." She waved goodbye to Skulduggery's shaking head, shut to door and took the stairs two at a time.
"I'm ready Mum!"
Alice gurgled happily and ran over to Valkyrie, cooing her name. Valkyrie grinned and picked her up while Valkyrie's Mum was packing a bag.
"So in here, there are diapers, powder, a jar of baby food, wipes-".
"Mum," Valkyrie interrupted. "We'll be fine. We're just going to the zoo."
"I know, I know. Thank you for doing this Steph. You're Dad really needs my support today. This meeting could get him the deal of the year."
"It's fine Mum, really. It'll be great. I feel like I've barely seen Alice recently."
Alice curled her fingers around Valkyrie's hair and began chewing it.
"See? It'll be fine. I'll see you tonight, okay? Bye Mum, love you."
Valkyrie grabbed the bag of baby things and began the walk to the bus stop at Haggard Inn. It was a short walk through an avenue of trees and across the green but Alice kept stopping and picking up twigs and leaves. Twice Valkyrie had to stop her from eating dirt.
When they finally reached the Haggard Inn, the Bentley was already waiting. Valkyrie picked up her sister, "C'mon Alice, there's our ride."
. . .
Valkyrie could hardly sit still on the drive to Dublin Zoo. Alice picked up on her excitement and cooed, much to Skulduggery's amusement. Valkyrie tapped her foot impatiently as they waited in line. Alice was perched on her hip and kept reaching for Skulduggery. Valkyrie watched; amused as Alice's baby fingers reached closer and closer to Skulduggery's hat. Valkyrie inched forward and Alice grabbed, snatching it off his head. Skulduggery turned; a bemused expression on his face.
"Valkyrie I will be holding you responsible for whatever happens today. Even if it's Alice's fault." He placed his hat on Alice's head, making her giggle. Valkyrie just grinned.
After another five minutes of waiting, Skulduggery had bought their tickets and they looked at the map.
"We should start here," Skulduggery pointed a gloved finger at a picture of a panda, "and then make our way round in-"
"We want to see the tigers. Don't we Alice?"
Alice squawked and Valkyrie nodded.
"To the tigers."
Skulduggery sighed and folded the map away. They were going to be here for hours.
. . .
Alice was asleep on Valkyrie's shoulder as they made their way back from the bears. Under Valkyrie's other arm was a stuffed lion, and Skulduggery was carrying a small bag that Valkyrie was not allowed to look in.
They drove back to Valkyrie's house in comfortable silence. Skulduggery dropped her off a few houses down.
"Valkyrie..." Skulduggery started, before she shut the door. "I'm going to come around at 8, okay?"
"Okay." Valkyrie dragged out the word. "How come? I didn't know we had anything on."
"We don't. I'm just coming at 8." Skulduggery tapped his collarbone and Valkyrie could have sworn she'd caught a blush creeping up his neck.
"Alright. I'll be in my room, see you then."
She closed the door and watched the Bentley drive off. She shook her head and walked back to the house. What was he up to?
Her mum and dad were home and babbled excitedly about their day. She hugged her dad when he said he got the deal, and laughed when Alice wouldn't let go of the lion as her mum put her to bed. They asked Valkyrie questions about the zoo, which she answered but if she was honest, she wasn't really paying attention. Her mind kept wandering to Skulduggery. Why did he want to see her? Why was she so nervous?
Eventually Valkyrie excused herself from the dinner table, explaining she was tired from the zoo and not that hungry. Her parents smiled and were immediately lost in each other. Valkyrie smiled to herself. They hadn't had much time with each other since Alice was born. Valkyrie knew she would be left alone for the evening.
She shut the door to her room and let out a sigh.
"Anyone would think you're not excited to see me."
Valkyrie jumped and turned to see Skulduggery, no facade, sat on her bed. She shook her head at him and went over. She grabbed a pillow and hugged it to her chest as she sat down.
"I'm just tired I guess."
"You're as bad as Alice." Skulduggery teased.
Valkyrie smiled. "So what was in the bag?"
"The bag I wasn't allowed to look in. I want my present. That's why you're here now, isn't it?"
"You're so annoying."
"I learnt from the best. Plus I'm a detective."
Skulduggery sighed and pulled a small wrapped parcel from his pocket.
"It's nothing big," he said as he gave it to her, "just something to say thanks."
"To say thanks for what?" She asked as began to tear the brown paper. Valkyrie opened the small box. Inside was a beautiful tiger brooch, with emerald eyes and gold outline.
"For saving my life, for always being there for me and for being my partner."
Valkyrie looked at him, unsure of what to say.
Skulduggery laughed and took the brooch from her, gently pinning it to her t-shirt.
"I'll always be here." She said softly. He looked up; faces inches away from each other.
Skulduggery's hand made its way to his collarbone but Valkyrie stopped him. Their fingers entwined, Valkyrie closed her eyes and felt Skulduggery's cool teeth on her lips.
She wasn't sure what she loved more; kissing Skulduggery or the way his arm tightened around her waist and pulled her into him. He let go of her hand and activated his facade.
"I need to kiss you back." He said breathlessly. Soon enough, Valkyrie found herself looking into green eyes. They stared at each other for a few seconds longer before Skulduggery's lips reclaimed hers. He pulled her back on to the bed, so she was lying on top of him. Valkyrie couldn't even think. She just needed more Skulduggery. Suddenly she was lying underneath him and the kisses were growing more urgent. She knotted her hands in his hair and groaned when he pulled away.
"Valkyrie..." He all but gasped.
Valkyrie couldn't do anything but laugh breathlessly.
"Valkyrie, I need to leave." Skulduggery sat up.
"What? Why?" Valkyrie leant on her elbows, raising an eyebrow at Skulduggery.
He faltered. "I'm... I'm not sure. I thought maybe I'd crossed a line." He finished lamely.
Valkyrie rolled her eyes and dragged his face back to hers.
"You're welcome." She said into his lips.
I know I suck. I have millions of legit excuses as to why I haven't updated. Anyway, here it is, finally. :) The idea for this story came from Supreme epic nes. Thank you! It took me a long time to write this. I hope you enjoy!