Butler’s mind registered that before anything else, mentally cataloging it as a disparity from the norm, then dismissing it. Unthreatened, he let himself wake slowly.

Slippery silk sheets came up to his waist, a plump feather mattress below—all normal enough—and soft light from an open window teased his shut eyes. Unwilling to wake fully quite yet, he frowned and turned his head in, nestling it behind the soft curtain of thick, dark curls before him and—an invisible switch flipped.

Suddenly, Butler was awake, bodyguard instincts taking in everything at once.

The gentle rustle of heat on his fingers was not a morning breeze but slow, peaceful breathing, the initial warmth in his bed not sunlight but a live, sleeping body curled up neatly against his, and Artemis was—naked. His hair smelled of chamomile and spice—probably his shampoo—and it looked like spilt ink against the white of his shoulders.

Butler shut his eyes, took a slow, deep breath, and made himself relax.



Salty and warm, and surprisingly dry—for a sea breeze. Nightfall had dulled the sharp, stinging summer heat of mid-day, but only slightly, and the ground still radiated with it, throwing off the lingering remnants like too many thick blankets. A soft sigh meshed into the distant crash of the ocean on sand, and Butler turned. Sometimes, class barriers hit like a headlong run into a pane glass door—hard, sudden, and always, always unexpected. Despite increasing frequency as of late, it never failed to catch him off-guard.

Beside him, real and artificial light competed for space and shadows on the all-too-familiar angles of Artemis’s face, silver and yellow and black in sharp lines like abstract art, and the light wind danced with his hair like a scene from a movie. His white chemise and loose tie completed the picture, the thin fabric hugging his lean figure on the side that faced the breeze. Twenty-four years had done their job almost too well.


The use of his first name surprised him, as his charge rarely used it, even now. It usually preceded something delicate—personal.

“What is it?” asked Butler, concerned, and for the longest time it looked as if Artemis planned on answering.

His mouth opened, hovered on the verge of an explanation. Then, rather abruptly, he shut it again and shook his head. Instead, he stepped forward.

Piece by piece, like frames in a slideshow, Artemis shortened the distance between them, and Butler watched, as if from afar, as he approached, given every chance to retreat but unable to budge until body heat permeated the clothing barrier, their chests all but touching. He opened his mouth, but the question died in its outset, effectively silenced by smooth, cautious fingers reaching up, brushing the nape of his neck and catching. When Artemis leaned up and tugged down Butler’s mind blanked. Surely Artemis wasn’t going to—but he was. And Butler was going to let him.

The first kiss tasted like Artemis and red wine. Sweet, tangy, and rich—and it never occurred to him to withdraw. Some very distant voice that might have passed as a conscience—or common sense—mumbled something about duty and consequences, eighteen years of age difference and the surely magnanimous effect such actions would almost certainly have on what was previously a comfortably rock solid platonic relationship, but the whispered words, “Sleep with me,” were real—an order, an offer, and a request all rolled into one—and Butler supposed it should have taken more than one kiss, three words, and a gentle tug towards the bedroom—but it didn’t.



In his arms, Artemis stirred, a warm, contented sigh tickling Butler’s fingers and soft, naked skin sliding up against his legs, chest, stomach, and—other—parts of his anatomy. Butler buried a quiet grunt in dark tresses of his master’s hair.

This might prove to be a long morning.

Reining in control, Butler shut his eyes once more, breathed in the truer scent of skin and sweat under the mask of other, artificial odors, and mentally tagged it as Artemis. He opened one eye to trace the long, smooth stretch of Artemis’s bodyline before it disappeared under the covers, wondered how long he had before the younger man woke, wondered what he would say when he did, and debated whether or not to give in to the rising urge to lean forward, brush his lips against the bare corner of flesh between neck and shoulder, and taste, if only for a moment.

He ran his thumb along the curve Artemis’s hand, already curled into his own, and felt something embarrassingly similar to butterflies when the fingers instinctively tightened their clutch. He wondered what exactly Artemis wanted out of this relationship.



There are some things one never forgets.

A soft, hitched breath made its way into the now never-ending kiss that twined them together as they backed slowly, blindly, towards the bed. Long, agile fingers made quick, easy work of his shirt as they went, pushing it up and back, urging it over his shoulders and down, and after the first smooth pearl button, all the others on Artemis’s too, quickly followed suit. Butler was eternally thankful that mutual undressing fell under the same category as riding a bicycle in that respect.

As shirt buttons clittered quietly against the hardwood floor, Butler felt Artemis’s smirk against his lips, and his chuckle was soft and breathy. “One day,” he murmured, “you’ll have to do that the other way…” and Butler raised his eyebrows questioningly, pulse responding immediately to the spark of mischief in those dark eyes as Artemis’s smirk curved into a grin.

“What other way?” Butler asked, genuinely curious, and a swish of the head on Artemis’s part sent all those loose black locks tumbling behind his shoulders, hands clasping neatly behind Butler’s neck as he leaned back, matching the raised eyebrows with his own.

“Why…the one that ignores the buttons, of course,” he answered smugly. “The one that sacrifices finesse for efficiency and results in a preferably unsalvageable shirt by the end…”

An image of trapping Artemis to a wall, taking the fine cloth of one those expensive designer button-downs in two fists and shredding it porn-film style with one good, sharp tug filled his mind’s eye, and Butler groaned, because this ‘other way’ meant two things. First—he caught the nape of Artemis’s neck, dragging him back close and relishing in the smaller man’s shiver against him as their bare chests made full contact for the first time—it meant that there would be an ‘other’ time, silencing his worst, unspoken fear of a one-night stand, and second, well—he nipped the bare collar of Artemis’s throat, drawing a short, startled moan from his charge, and Artemis’s fingers tightened their grip at his neck—it meant that he had permission—nay—orders, to rip Artemis’s shirt off and leave it in tatters on the floor.

Butler grinned, flicking his tongue teasingly across the new, warm pink bite marks on his employer’s otherwise perfect throat, and Artemis made a soft, keening noise.

“Domovoi…” Impatient hands shoved at his chest. “Bed,” Artemis ordered hoarsely.

Butler’s grin broadened.

Yes, sir.



Artemis’s first utterance was some indistinct mixture of a grunt and a whine, muffled against the covers, and Butler held his breath, waiting. One, two… There—the smaller body tensed in his arms. Awake, aware—it wasn’t much, but with Butler’s trained hypersensitivity, it was impossible to miss. Seconds ticked by.


Show time.

Butler forced the breath out. Long. Slow. “Hn?” he murmured, hardly daring to move a muscle.

Like knocking over a bucket, the tension spilled from his charge. The whisper of “Finally,” was so soft Butler almost wasn’t sure he heard it, and then, quick as an exhale, Artemis broke the spoon, rolled to face him and buried his face against his chest, ordering sleepily, “Turn off the sun…”

Butler blinked, stared, and then, slowly—relaxing—he smiled. “Good morning to you too,” he said.

~~~~~~~~ Back to Artemis Fowl ~~~~~~~~


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