Lame title because I accidentally published it under its working title and that won’t do so I have to think of somethin fast XD
“Butler! Don’t call me again unless there’s news.”
“Of course, Master Fowl.”
Butler shut the study door gently behind him, leaving Miles Fowl to lean back in the pristine leather office chair and sigh.
Beckett was dying, and Miles wanted nothing to do with it.
Miles was sick of it, in fact. There’d been an accident, of course, a tragic medical discovery. The shock, the sorrow, the sad dinners, seeing the world. There wasn’t much left for Beckett to see anyways. And then it was over. And then there was nothing to do but wait a day or two, down to the hours now, and Miles was done with it. His twin might have as well been dead.
He stared into his coffee. Not decaf. It was nearly 11:30 at night.
There was a knock on the door. Miles gripped his mug tighter– that’s it. That had to be the news. Beckett was dead, his twin, his lifelong friend, and Miles spent his last moments thinking about how he was done with it all.
Then the door was broken down from the outside.
“Butler is dead,” said a voice matter-of-factly.
Miles stared into the doorframe. It was empty– or, so it seemed to be. But Miles knew better. There was a slight quiver in the air, a shift, a small spot in the doorframe not unlike heat radiating from a vent. One of the People, most likely, a LEPrecon officer.
“Show yourself. Unsheild,” Miles commanded, picking up the coffee mug. To his surprise, the blur willingly dissolved into a small humanoid creature– an elf, a familiar elf, in fact.
Holly Short had aged in dog years (or, more accurately, in human years.) When Artemis the Second had passed, she had still been relatively young (young looking at least, could have passed for a 25 year old human if it weren’t for her physiology) but here, today, she was an old woman, an elderly sphinx cat, a shrunken head with a live body attached. It wasn’t her fault. It was the stress, maybe; maybe it was the “happy pills”, maybe it was the inherent implications of the death of her best friend becoming a media event. Nobody from the overworld had seen or heard from her in decades, but as the bond between the People and humans disintegrate, that didn’t mean much.
They stared at each other for a moment– Miles in disbelief, Holly in short-lived relief– before Holly began speaking again, fulfilling what she was here for in the first place.
“I’m sorry about Butler. Really. Really sorry.”
“Oh,” Miles said awkwardly.
“Also about Beckett. We need to talk about Beckett,” she said.
“No, we don’t.” Miles turned back toward the desk and placed both elbows on it in an un-Fowl like manner. “I have arrangements made for his passing. They will be carried out as planned and then I wash my hands of the matter.”
“You might, but the world doesn’t need one less Fowl, far from it. You know it.”
“It will be a quiet affair. Not everyone has managed the fortune like the Artemis duo did.”
“Maybe there’s a reason for that.”
“Was it necessary to kill Butler?” Miles asked suddenly.
Holly stared back at him, unprepared for the question. She opened her mouth several times, closed it, thought for a moment, then answered gently.
“I didn’t ever mean to kill Butler. I didn’t think I would.”
“He’s not the man you remember. He wasn’t a bodyguard anymore… Holly… he was a butler. Did you know, beside Juliet there were no more Butlers? He was the last in his line. Seventy-seven years old.”
“He was in the doorway. I was unsheilded.” Her voice was hardly a whisper. “I– didn’t want to be seen. But the gun was on the lowest setting– I never meant to kill him.”
Miles stared down his coffee again, as if he were about to drink it but never really bringing it to his lips. “That’s unfortunate.”
“What happened to Beckett was unfortunate.”
“It was. And I’ve moved on.”
“MILES!” Holly snapped at him. “Did you know Beckett was still in contact with the People?”
Miles spilled the cup of coffee into his lap. “I doubt that. I knew him well.” He looked around for a napkin.
“World leaders have said they knew their country well, and never suspected the People living under their noses! Beckett initiated contact after Artemis died, and sustained it until his recent hospitalization. He was the last link of communication between the People and the Mud– human race.”
“Still use the phase ‘Mud People’? I had hoped you’d outgrown that. But I find it hard to believe he was the only link. Your discovery was a big deal.”
She shook her head. “The world wasn’t ready for us. Still didn’t believe us. Couldn’t bring themselves to. So they didn’t.”
“But, they did, Holly, entire industries revolved around it.” Damn, was there a towel anywhere?
“So they could show the People off? Like circus freaks? Miles, listen to me! We need you!”
“To formally end the relationship between the People and humans, so that we may both carry on in peace.”
Miles stared at the puddle of coffee in his lap. He started to call Butler for a towel, then stopped.
“Why do you think I can trust you when you…” Miles trailed off. Great Gods he was tired. He started to rub his eyes, but his hands were covered in coffee.
“Get me a towel, then we’ll talk.”