This is the obvious conclusion to Artemis' birthday present. I was going to post it separately but, rather than cut this all up into pieces, I'm posting it here. But please



and however else you would like to say 'they have sex'.

It's not particularly graphic, but if you're not comfortable with it please click the back button now!

Thanks to ilex-ferox for the masterful beta-ing as per usual.

The After Party

Although he would never have admitted it, Artemis harboured several fantasies about losing his virginity. Like most people, he had always imagined it would be flawless, despite his situation presenting more difficulties than was usual. But he had gone against his nature for once and pushed aside all of the many doubts his practical mind raised. After all, he was only human, and the idea of his lover's body - the dream of it - was something he guarded fiercely; most fiercely of all from himself, lest he should apply logic to it and thus cause it to waver and dissolve.

This was not the way he had intended to do it. He was a romantic, if in nothing other than his sensibilities, and had always envisioned somewhere slightly more atmospheric than his childhood bedroom. But he wasn't about to complain.

Her body was impossibly close to his; as though at any moment she might sink through his skin and dissolve into his blood; as though at any moment that soft but incessant yearning they had felt ever since the time-tunnel, a quiet humming in the base of their skulls, would finally be sated.

His hands found her skin again, pressing her closer still. She smiled up at him, her teeth bright in the half-light. She reached up to undo his tie and bit her lip.

"Crap," she whispered, unable to undo the baffling knot. She gave the bit of silk a look that would have felled many a doughtier opponent, but it remained unmoved.

He tried not to laugh but couldn't help himself. His head fell forward into the crook of her neck as his shoulders shook. She fought back a smile.

"Stop it, Artemis, I'm trying to do this properly." She smacked him lightly and he straightened both his spine and his face.

"My apologies," he said, but the corners of his mouth betrayed him. "Would you like me to do it?"

"Yes, please."

He made quick work of it and, if he were honest, he enjoyed the way her eyes followed his fingers, heavy-lidded and hungry like a cat's. He had always been the hunter, never the hunted. He found he liked the reversal.

"This isn't going quite as I planned it," Holly admitted, taking hold of both ends of the tie. Absently, she let the fabric run through her fingers.

"I keep telling you that planning is much harder than it looks," sniffed Artemis. "Perhaps next time you will believe me."

"We're playing for slightly smaller stakes here, Artemis," Holly pointed out, still fiddling with the tie.

"That's entirely a matter of perception," he replied haughtily.

She looked up at him through her lashes, contemplating his face. His breath caught and he wondered why he was still talking. She heard the catch and smiled, using the tie as leverage to pull them closer together.

"Would you shut up, please, Artemis?" she asked as their noses brushed. "Just this once?"

"Yes," he said. "Though, I did always think you loved me more for my mind than for my body. Apparently I was wrong."

She rolled her eyes and kissed him.

His own eyes closed and he was once more at her mercy.

The bed was beneath them then and, sooner rather than later, his clothes were dispensed with - even the tie. Her hair tickled the hollow of his throat when she bent to kiss his chest. He watched his hands move along her skin: her arms, her back, her stomach, her breasts. Now that her body, which he had kept so fiercely protected from his mind, was there before him, tangible, indisputable, he had trouble believing it. Slowly, doubtfully, he lowered his mouth to her skin, his tongue tracing an areola. She made a noise he had never heard before and he knew this was real. He wished he could loop that sound and listen to it again and again: a moan that arched and broke like a sob at the end. It rose like a torrent against a cracked dam, rising until it broke through, flooding the dry riverbed with relief.

After that, it was easier. This was Holly, he realised. Holly, who would never leave him. Later, he was sure, she would make fun of him for clumsiness, for over-eagerness, but she would do it gently, and too softly for anyone else to hear. This was nothing more than another punch line in their never-ending string of private jokes. This would be something they referred back to, whether verbally or physically, in the years to come; something that made them both laugh and smile at each other in that irritatingly exclusive way they knew they had. This would be yet another thing that they alone shared, holding it close to their chests, so that the rest of the world could only ever look on and wonder.

He kissed her then, happily, ecstatically. He had never been so happy to kiss her. She smiled into his lips, then into his skin when he moved away, his mouth on her throat.

"I love you," he said into her collarbone, into the slick space between her breasts, into the planes of her stomach where they sloped down and inward. "I love you."

He kissed the smooth skin of her inner thigh, his thumbs hooked onto her hip bones, anchoring him in place. He kissed the angles where her legs met her body, and then the space between them, with its myriad of names; none of which meant anything to him in that moment. He kissed her and kissed her.

He could hear her, her voice low and breathless and incoherent, and it nearly drove him mad. The humming at the base of his skull grew louder, and he wanted nothing more than to let his mind fall into hers and let their atoms course through each other's veins. He bit her skin, his hands on her breasts, on her hips, buried in her hair, trying to hold as much of her as he could. Her fingers slid up his back, her nails leaving marks, as she drew him into her, so that together they could try, as best as they were able, to silence the longing.

She kissed him as he came and whose breath or tongue or mouth was whose neither was sure. He shuddered and gasped as his orgasm passed through him, clinging to her like a child.

It was over too quickly. It had hardly ended and already he missed it.

Holly nudged his cheek with the tip of her nose. "Artemis?"

He lifted his head to look at her. "Yes?"

"Happy birthday," she said, smiling.

"Thank you," he replied, slowly moving off her. His body grew cold as they parted and he shivered.

She caught his arm, going with him as he rolled onto his side, tucking herself against his chest, warming him again. He smiled, kissed her red hair, and pulled the eiderdown over them with his free hand, feeling manly for the first time in his life.

"I'm sorry it didn't quite go to plan," said Holly, her voice soft and sleepy. "I'll have to look into this whole tie issue for next time."

Behind her head, Artemis smirked. Next time.

"I can hear you smirking," she told him. "Stop it."

"How on earth –"

"I just can. Part of Section 8 training."

"You're such a liar."

"Also part of Section 8 training."

He bent his head and kissed her neck and shoulders. She sighed, a lazy smile creeping onto her face. Wrapping his arms tighter around her, she shimmied backwards, trying to close all the gaps between them.

"Just for the record," she murmured, sleep finally overtaking her, "I love you too."

Artemis smirked.

Holly woke up to find Artemis watching her. The sun had been up for a while, she guessed, judging by the light coming through the windows. Sometime earlier, the bass beat had stopped and now the house lay silent.

"Hullo," she said, pushing hair out of her eyes.

"Good morning," he replied. His eyes were wide and followed her every move, as though she might suddenly disappear from his bed.

"I'm not going anywhere," she told him, her fingers brushing his cheek. Gently rolling him onto his back, she rested her chin and arms on his chest and looked down at him.

"I know that," he said, a little defensively. One hand came up hesitatingly to play with her hair. "It just seems that this could so easily be a figment of my imagination."

"I thought you didn't imagine things? You brought them into being."

"I'm an eighteen year old boy, Holly. Short of paying for it, there are some things even I have to imagine." A blush rose in his cheeks, but he didn't look away.

She pulled herself up, kissing his cheek. "And I feature heavily in those things, do I?"

"Well, not usually. I'm more of a Lili Frond person myself, but I'll make do somehow." His voice was nonchalant but his poker face cracked when he saw her expression. "I'm joking, Holly."

"You'd better be," she growled at him. But she was smiling.

As she curled up around him, her nose brushing his neck, something curdled in Artemis' stomach.

"Holly," he began, "we didn't use ... there wasn't any sort of ..."

She raised her head to look at him, one eyebrow cocked. "Really? This is what I get? All because of one measly tie? My reputation as a tactical mastermind ruined already?"

He frowned at her, not understanding.

"Do you really think I didn't think this plan through to its logical conclusion?" she asked again.

"You're on medication," he said, comprehension dawning.

She nodded. "So don't worry, there'll be no little Artemis III running around this place re-inventing the wheel anytime soon."

He sighed with relief. Though, now that he thought about it...

"And stop that train of thought right now, Artemis. It'll be years, so don't even think about it." Holly had seen his expression grow thoughtful and made an educated guess.

He turned to look at her. "But it's a possibility, then?"

"I – what?"

"In years, I mean. It's a possibility."

"I – well – I ... yes," she stuttered. "I suppose so."

"Just curious," he said, and kissed her confused face. "We should be getting up. It's nearly ten, I'm sure my parents will be back soon."

"Yeah, your parents, right." But now, of course, the idea was in her head, and the more she thought about it...

Artemis saw her expression grow thoughtful and he smiled. Their future had always been a truncated, stunted thing. A few months together while he recovered from Atlantis Complex; a few hours to have tea before she needed to be somewhere; a few seconds to say goodbye before his brothers burst in. They had never planned more than a few minutes in advance: there had always been something to interrupt them. But this wasn't just a few days in advance, this was years. Years and years. Something in him contracted, freezing up, as though unable to process this sort of joy. Unmanaged, it spilled over, pouring through him; he let it come, though he was such a fragile container for it.

"You know, Artemis," said Holly, her fingers tracing unintelligible words on his forearm, "none of the other guests will be up yet and I'm pretty sure your parents said they wouldn't be back until noon."

"Really?" Artemis frowned, trying to remember. But the night before was hazy with whiskey.

"Mmmm," she murmured as she kissed the skin below his ear. "And you know what they say..."

Artemis rolled his eyes. "Practice makes perfect?" he ventured.

"You really are a genius, aren't you?" Holly laughed, the corners of her eyes crinkling. The sun coming through the windows made her skin glow bronze, and he smiled to look at her. "And just think, Butler will be so happy that you got some exercise."

Artemis laughed at that, and it was nearly a giggle. When she leaned over and kissed his mouth, he smiled into her lips and let her have her way.

Butler was alone in the kitchen when Holly came downstairs.

"You're the first one up," he said when she appeared in the doorway. He rose, going to put some bread in the toaster for her. "Tea?"

"Yes, please. Thank you." She slid onto one of the high stools that circled the marble-topped island.

Butler put water on to boil, then slid onto a stool opposite her, looking at her until she met his eye. When at last she did, he raised his eyebrows at her, his question clear.

Though the blood rose in her cheeks, she smiled at him. Quickly, the smile spread out of control and she put a hand up to cover it, ducking her head. She bit her lip, grinning like a fool at her reflection in the counter-top.

"I take it things went well for all parties concerned, then?" Butler asked, standing to fetch the toast.

"Yes," she said quietly. Accepting her breakfast with a nod of thanks, she asked, "Did you think they wouldn't?"

"No," Butler replied slowly, collecting his thoughts, "but the... first time... doing... something, anything, is never the best time."

Holly chuckled, nodding. "Maybe not, but he's a very quick study," she said, before biting into her toast.

"A-and that's all I need to know," Butler shook his head. "Moving on."

Holly duly changed the subject. "When are his parents getting back? I know he wanted to be up to meet them."

"An hour or so, I think. He's still asleep?"

"Well, he went back to sleep," Holly smiled around her teacup.

"Right. I walked into that one, didn't I?"

Holly nodded.

Butler came and sat next to her with a mug of tea of his own. "I'm very glad," he said, after a moment spent contemplating the fruit bowl, "that you two ... that this ... that you're happy."

"Me too," said Holly quietly. Sated, she leaned on Butler's arm and let the morning sun warm her skin.