Artemis glanced down at the communicator ring on his hand. The beeping must be coming from it, which meant that the owner of the counterpart ring, Captain Holly Short, must be calling him.
“Holly,” he greeted.
“Hello, Mud Boy,” she said, sounding happy for once. “I’ve got a surface visa for the whole weekend. Mind if I spend it with you?”
“Of course not, Captain,” he agreed readily. “I’ll get your room ready. When should I expect you?”
In answer a soft knock sounded from across the room. He stood and crossed to the window, throwing it open as the form of Captain Short shimmered into view.
“Right about now,” she said. “Hello again. Whatchya up to, Arty?”
Artemis winced at her language, but his reply was as steady as it usually was. “Same as always.” He paused. “I suppose I didn’t exactly have time to set up your room, as you were so close.” He raised an eyebrow. “What, you just assumed I would say yes?”
“Can you blame me, Arty?” She laughed and punched him playfully on the arm. “You wouldn’t say no to me. I am, after all, your best friend.”
“Perhaps,” he agreed. He leaned forward. “Maybe even more.”
Holly shifted nervously. “Artemis… we talked about this.”
“I’m aware, and I understand your concerns. It’s never been attempted before, it would be practically impossible, etc, etc. But look who we’re talking about, Holly. You and I have done the practically impossible on numerous occasions. What makes you think we couldn’t do it if we tried?”
“Look, Artemis, I don’t want to do this right now, okay? Just…” she trailed off. “Forget it. I’m going to my room.”
She walked out, down the hall, to the stairs that would lead up to her room.
Once there, she sat on the bed for awhile, chewing over what Artemis had said. It was true, and he was right, but was it really worth it? She sighed and shook her head. There was no since in dwelling on it right yet, not until it was absolutely necessary. Why should she have to make a decision now? She still had a little time to think it over.
She sighed again and stood up, grabbing some fairy sized clothes from a nearby drawer and heading towards the adjoining bathroom.
She went in and got a shower before coming back out and laying down on the bed. Maybe I’ll find the answer in sleep, she thought. Then she rolled over and went to sleep.
If only she had known what was coming when she woke up…
After awhile, Artemis decided to go check on Holly. It was late now, and it was possible she was asleep, but that didn’t mean anything except that they wouldn’t start arguing again as soon as she saw him.
But when he looked in her room for her, she wasn’t there.
He walked over and knocked on the bathroom door. “Holly?” Nothing. No answer.
He walked all over the house, looking everywhere, calling for his elfin friend in vain. As he neared the lower floors of the manor, he couldn’t help but wonder if she would actually be down this far. Holly usually wouldn’t come this far down, but if she had wanted to be alone…
The thought was quickly dismissed when he heard Holly’s voice from a little further down the steps.
“I am not an intruder, Myles. I’m a friend of Artemis’s. Now can you please just let me go?”
With a frustrated sigh, Artemis descended one of the last few stairs, now heading straight for the basement.
“Look, Myles, she’s waking up.”
Holly groaned and opened her eyes. “W-what?” she croaked, blinking tiredly again before realizing that it wasn’t doing her any good. She couldn’t see anything. Blindfolded, she conceded, her heart skipping a beat before speeding up.
Suddenly somebody was leaning over her. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” a voice demanded. It sounded so much like Artemis’s had when they first met that it sent a shiver down her spine just listening to it. She knew who it belonged to immediately.
I should scream, she thought. Maybe somebody would hear me, though if we’re clear down in the basement it’s not likely, but I could try…
As if he heard her thoughts, Myles clasped his hands behind his back and shook his head. “If I were you, I think I’d know better than to scream,” he warned. A devious smirk played with the corners of his mouth. “Now, intruder, I’ll ask again. Who are you and what business do you have here?”
Holly groaned internally, shifting uncomfortably on the cot. She has already tried her hands, and they were trapped together behind her back with something that felt like duct tape. With a sigh, she responded, “I am not an intruder, Myles. I’m a friend of Artemis’s. Now can you please just let me go?”
“No. And how do you know my name?” he demanded.
“Because, Myles,” said a steely voice from over to the side, “as I believe she has already told you, she is my friend. And she has more right to be here than probably any other person alive.” There was the sound of footsteps and suddenly the blindfold was removed from her eyes.
Holly blinked hard at the sight of Artemis’s concerned face just inches from her own. “Are you okay, Holly? Did they hurt you?”
“No. I-I’m fine,” she murmured. “Can you untie me now?”
“Oh, of course.” He grabbed her hands gently and began pulling the duck tape off. He spared a glance at the twins to raise an eyebrow. “Duct tape? Really?” He had an angry edge to his voice that surprised her.
Myles just shrugged, hands now in his pockets. He was studying Holly closely, though trying to be subtle about it. “Ask Beckett. I sent him to get something for that job. He was too weak to lug her down the steps.”
Artemis narrowed his eyes, standing again and releasing her arms. “Well, you shouldn’t have been lugging her anywhere.”
Myles nodded. “Well, this is what you get when you bring guests into the manor without telling anybody.”
Holly winced at the thought if being “brought” anywhere by Artemis. It sounded way to much like the first time. “Artemis… maybe I should just go.”
He jumped. “No. You’re not going anywhere.” Then he realized how that sounded. “You have a right to be here, as much right as any of the family. You don’t have to leave just because the twins made a stupid mistake,” he said, in a gentler tone before turning back to them. “Look, I understand why you did what you did, but next time you think you’ve found an intruder in the manor, come to me or Butler. Please do not take it upon yourself to take action.” He laid a hand on Holly’s shoulder and nodded towards the door. “Come on, let’s go.”
She followed him out with no hesitation. She hated the basement; why wouldn’t she? “Thanks, Artemis.”
He nodded. “I don’t see why you’re thanking me, after all, it’s the truth. And I sincerely apologize for the twins behavior. They can be a little… haywire sometimes. Are you sure they didn’t hurt you?” He stopped now, turning and examine her, running his hands down her arms as if feeling for any kind of marks that weren’t supposed to be there.
“No, Artemis. Really, I’m fine!”
He smiled slightly. “Alright, Captain. If you’re sure…”
“I’m sure! Geez, Mud Boy, if I didn’t know better I’d think you just wanted an excuse to touch me.”
His smile faded a little, and when he looked at her, his tone was completely serious. “Maybe I do.”
She stared at him, and he met her eyes. It was easy to tell the were both recalling their previous conversation. In that split second, looking into his eyes, gave her all the rest of the information she needed to know. “Artemis… I think I’ve made a decision.”
He looked perplexed. “What decision?”
“About y-us.” He still looked confused. “Ugh, you stupid Mud Boy, do you have to make everything difficult?” She reached up, grabbing a fistful of his hair, and yanked his head down to crush his lips to hers. When they finally broke apart, she gasped, “does that answer your question?”
In response he just smiled and pulled her in again, this time pressing his lips to her jaw and drawing them up and down her as she panted against his chest. “Yes,” he sighed. “That answers my question.”
“It won’t be easy,” she warned. “And-”
He laid a hand over her mouth. “I know. But when have we ever been able to take the easy way out? And how many times have we still made it through anyways? You and I, Holly, we can do anything, as long as we’re together.”
She had her doubts about that, but she choose not to voice them right now and ruin the moment. Instead she just said, “okay, Arty,” and rested her head back on his chest.
Maybe he was right. They could do it, the two of them. They always did. And this time wouldn’t be any different.