Rational Intercourse

Part 2

Artemis was confused. He abhorred it. Whereas most people encounter the sentiment countless times over the course of the day, Artemis could not remember the last time he had dealt with this most god awfully unpleasant emotion, and he wanted nothing more than to be rid of it. How could regular people stand it?

Sighing, he rubbed his temples methodically. Everything had gone according to plan. He was safe; Butler was safe; the fairy’s secret was safe. Why did he feel so miserable? Oh yes. He remembered now. He’d raped his ever-faithful manservant. Artemis’ head hit the desk before him with a thud. A distant part of his conscious suggested that such actions were likely not good for his inherently valuable brain cells, but for once in his life, he didn’t care.

“You were right, old friend,” Artemis admitted to no one in particular. “Love, romance,” a pause, “sexual attraction…these are subjects which baffle me.” Outside, a heavy rain supplied ill-omened background music to mirror his mood, the harsh droplets slashing through the tender soil like cotton candy. Artemis’ lips twitched with a cheerless smile. “Perhaps it is a curse upon me that I should never understand it…or perchance a blessing.” Shaking his head, he stood, turning his back on the rain. His eyes landed on an elaborate vanity at the far side of the room.

Some might have found it odd for a teenage boy to house such a historically feminine piece of furniture in his bedroom, but then again, few people would classify Artemis as “normal.” Early on, Artemis had caught on to various powers associated with physical appearance. Presented correctly, the right outfit could turn every head in the room, or make one disappear altogether. A twelve-year old decked cap-a-pie in formal wear on a busy street, for instance, turned heads. A rowdy teenager garbed in faded jeans, lightning embossed tennis shoes, and a Metallica T-shirt did not. Artemis was by no means unaccustomed to utilizing the powers of dress and presentation to his advantage. He was not, however, accustomed to examining his image for anything other than business reasons, as he was now.

A bit pale, he decided, giving his reflection a stern assessment. And thin. His nose was sharp, his chin pointed, and eyes a bit too large for the rest of him. The faded skin tone likely had something to do with that. And his hair. It had grown some, hung almost to his shoulders and framed his face like a dark, wavy blanket. Feminine, like his lashes. Artemis frowned at this assessment. He did not want to look “feminine.”

“Beautiful,” he said aloud, testing the sound of it. That was the word Butler had used. Not much better than feminine, and yet… He worried his lower lip, strung a hand of fingers through his hair, and let his lashes drop a quarter inch, keeping sight of his reflection. The effect startled him, and he stumbled back a step, quickly shoving both hands in his pockets and glowering accusingly at the mirror. Foolishness. What did it matter which adjective he chose to label himself with? Or Butler, for that matter? In the end, it meant nothing.

He turned his back on the mirror and stalked across the room, halting before two looming glass doors. On a sunny day, they led out onto a scenic porch and spectacular view of the countryside surrounding Fowl Manor. Today, they were the only things separating a rather perturbed Artemis from an angry lightning storm. Without a moment’s hesitation, he slung them open and stepped into squall.

Wind and water lashed at every bare inch of him, ice cold and sharp as needles. Within seconds, his clothes were drenched, black trousers hugging his legs all the way to his ankles and white silk button-down clinging like transparent glue to his chest. Mother would scold him for getting his expensive carpet wet. He sealed the doors behind him with an audible click. Butler would scold him for walking out into thunderstorm. His laugh was shallow and short-winded. His mother would worry about property, Butler about his health. How fitting. Suddenly, the rain was hot against his cheeks. It took him all of two seconds to realize he was crying. His tears, not the raindrops, were hot and salty.

Two stories down, Domovoi Butler’s Artemis-is-doing-something-stupid sense was tingling. In seconds, he shoved several hundred pounds of steel off his chest as easily as anyone else might toss aside a sack of bubble-wrap and moments later was taking the stairs to his charge’s room three at a time. Wisely, no one stood in his way.

When he reached the top, his heart stuttered to find the boy’s room empty, but, thankfully, the fear was short lived. Spotting his young master sagged against a cold rail in the middle of a thunderstorm, however, was not a terrific alternative. His first instinct dictated that he storm out, gather the frail teen in his arms and drag him inside whether his charge appreciated it or not. Yet, something about the boy’s posture made him hesitate.

Yes, he was trembling, but not because of the cold. Butler realized Artemis was crying faster than Artemis had himself. Something about that knowledge felt like a M16 assault rifle shot to the chest with nothing in between.

He crossed Artemis’ room in seven long strides and opened the wide glass doors without earning so much as a stir from his teen charge. Instead of snatching the boy and forcibly directing him back inside, however, Butler positioned himself to the west, putting himself in between Artemis and the blunt of the storm and acting as an effective human wind-breaker. When the rain stopped hitting him, Artemis glanced up. It was a sight Butler knew he’d never forget.

“Butler,” said Artemis. His cheeks were florid, streaked with rain, his dark hair plastered to his face and his eyes ever so slightly pink around the edges. “You’re…” He swallowed, steadied his voice, and took a breath, looking away as he ran a discreet hand across face, as if to hide himself. “What are you doing out here?”

“I could ask the same of you,” Butler pointed out. Artemis said nothing. “Come now, you’ll catch your death of cold out here.”

Artemis shivered. “I’m not cold.”

“Hmph. But I am,” said Butler, “and now that I’ve found you, I can’t dutifully leave until I’ve ascertained your safety.”

Artemis glanced up. “Big words for you, Butler,” he said. “You sound like me.”

“Should I be flattered?”

Artemis smiled grimly. “It’s debatable.” Then, after a moment he said, “If it comforts you, I promise to take a hot shower afterwards. There is no reason you should subject yourself to such weather for my sake. I will retreat before it endangers my health.”

Butler grunted, but remained all the same.

After a moment, Artemis sighed. “Butler-”

“I changed my mind,” said Butler. “I like it out here.” Artemis kept silent. Butler glanced to his charge. Was that a smile? Why, yes, yes it was…

“Butler…” Artemis’ objection faded off as the contagious smile spread, and he brought a hand to his mouth in a rather futile attempt to cover it. Eventually, he shook his head and sent his companion a half-hearted glare. “You are exceedingly stubborn. You realize this, do you not?”

Butler chuckled, and the sound carried more potently than the thunder. “A bit hypocritical, wouldn’t you say?”

“Hmm…” Artemis’ thumb traced his lower lip absently. “Possibly,” he conceded. “Well…yes. Yes, I suppose it is a bit hypocritical.” He grinned and hefted himself off the rail, tugging distractedly at his soaked silk shirt as he did so. The instant he let go, the fabric clapped back to his skin like a suction cup, and Butler swallowed awkwardly. Artemis would be the one to run out into a raging thunderstorm in white silk. Thin white silk at that—and highly expensive.

“Something the matter, Butler?”

Butler snapped his head up, mentally cursing himself for staring. “No, Master Artemis. Nothing,” he lied smoothly. “I was merely concerned about your state of dress. That shirt looks freezing.” Among other things.

“Oh,” said Artemis, taking a moment to re-examine his transparent top. “Yes, well, I must admit I wasn’t thinking much of it when I ran out here.”

For all Artemis’ inestimable intelligence, Butler could not count the times he was eternally grateful the boy had chosen this specific subject to be oblivious of. He tried hard not to think of the day when Artemis finally got everything figured out. (For he had no doubt that day would come, it was only a matter of time.)

“Of course,” was all he said out loud.

Artemis smiled, lifting his hands over his head with a nimble stretch and unwittingly revealing a thin ribbon of creamy white skin in the process. Butler shut his eyes, vaguely considering suggesting to his charge that he wear large, formless black shirts and muddy brown cargo pants from that day on.

“Very well,” Artemis said finally. “For your sake, I will retire to the safety of the indoors.” He glanced up. “It appears you’ve taken to absorbing the large blunt of the storm for me anyway.”

Butler rolled his shoulders with a gruff snort, appearing for all the world like a great jungle cat, shrugging off the tension of a hunt. “The rain’s almost stopped now,” he said, staring out into the grey sky, as he didn’t yet trust himself to look at his charge. And it had. The remaining sprinkle was barely more than a fine mist. “You have nothing to thank me for.”

“Mm.” Artemis’ kept on smiling. “On the contrary, my friend…I believe I have more to thank you for than I’ll ever know, and that’s not a statement I make lightly.” He rolled his weight onto the balls of his feet idly, then turned in a single swift motion and crossed to the balcony doors. Once there, however, he hung back, noting that Butler had yet to follow him. “Do you intend to linger here long?”

Butler glanced up, mildly startled. “Oh,” he said, “no. No, I was…thinking.” He frowned. Thinking was not something he made a habit of—too distracting. He traced his charge’s footsteps to the door, watching the boy’s back as he stepped inside. Only as he shut the doors behind them did he realize Artemis was laughing—soft and light and breezy, like wind chimes.

“Thinking, dear friend?” he said. “You look as if you’ve swallowed a bug. Is the idea truly so repulsive?”

Butler smiled grimly. “In the past, I’ve found it’s a job best left to you.”

“True enough,” Artemis relented. “Though I might not always be there.”

Butler’s stomach gave a chilling lurch, and he grit his teeth. Don’t say that, he thought, biting his tongue so as not to blurt it out loud. Please. Don’t say that. He managed to keep his mouth shut, earning himself an analytical glance from his charge. In that one look, he felt Artemis read his thoughts from top to bottom as effortlessly as he did print on a page. To Butler’s immense relief, he let it all pass.

“It seems I’ve drenched mother’s carpeting,” Artemis commented with little remorse, briskly changing the subject. When he shifted his weight from side to side, the carpet squelched wetly beneath his feet. “A thousand Euros says she’ll be furious.”

Butler snorted, rather distracted by the fact that Artemis’ toes were bare, and white, and wiggling in the damp carpet. “It would take some fool to bet with you, Artemis,” he said. “Some fool…or some man very desperate to lighten his pocketbook…preferably by several tons.”

Artemis grinned almost cruelly, “baring his fangs” as Butler liked to call it. “Why, Butler, you make me sound so callous.”

Butler raised his eyebrows, trying exceedingly hard to ignore the fact that Artemis was caressing the top button of his shirt with his thumb. “You, callous?” The button slipped from its hole, baring a pale triangle of throat. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Artemis chuckled and glanced down. “Yes, well…” He curled his toes in the wet flooring, dropping his hands from his shirt and folding his arms with a repressed shiver as cold water pooled around his feet. “You give me more credit than most.”

“No more than you deserve,” Butler muttered, drawing an underhanded glance from his young charge.

He frowned. Artemis’ lips were purple. And quivering. Stomping out the frighteningly powerful urge to swoop down and warm them up personally, Butler relented instead to a slightly less pedophilic course of action and tucked a damp raven lock of hair behind his employer’s ear. Apparently, it was still out of character enough to earn him a full-fledged stare. Unsettled by the look, he diverted his gaze.

“Didn’t you promise me a hot shower?” he grumbled.

“Oh,” Artemis sobered quickly and glanced away, laughing breathlessly. Was that relief in his eyes? “Yes. Yes, I did.” He smiled awkwardly, then gave Butler’s wet, bedraggled form a thorough look-over and pursed his lips. “You should take one as well,” he stated decisively. “You look…” He paused long enough to obviously change his mind about what he was going to say, and blushed. “You look very wet,” he finished blandly, eyes glued to the floor.

Butler observed the odd behavior with puzzlement, but wisely opted not to comment. “Wetness can be cured with a simple change of clothes,” he said. “And I’m no more than damp at the worst.” That was mostly a lie, since he was still soaked to the bone, but he didn’t want to bother with showering at the moment. He had more important things to do…like get out of Artemis’ room before he did something irrevocably stupid. “It would be a waste of water, in any case.”

Artemis’ eyed him inquisitively, like a young child examining a rubix cube for the first time. Butler could almost see the gears turning in his head. “A waste of water? I never knew you to be an environmentalist…” Butler held his breath. This was a test. Artemis was testing him. “You’ve never expressed an interest in it before but…if water conservation is all that concerns you, there’s ample room in the shower. You’re welcome to join me.”

Artemis, naked and panting under hot water as steam coiled its around his arms and neck, condensed on his lips and lashes and… Fuck. Butler shook his head. Madame Ko in a leopard-skin bikini. Madame Ko in a leopard-skin bikini. It wasn’t working fast enough. That, and every time Artemis so much as wiggled a finger, he lost his concentration.

“Don’t worry about it,” he growled tightly. “I’ll shower in my room.” Not trusting himself to linger another moment, he made immediately to leave the room. Behind him, Artemis sighed.

“Shame,” the young genius lamented. “And here I was so looking forward to company.”

Butler faltered, but when he glanced back, Artemis had already disappeared. Moments later, a showerhead sputtered to life, and Butler swore, turned on his heel, and left. One of these days, Artemis was going say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and he was going to get himself fired for forcibly ravishing his principal. Madame Ko would have a stroke.



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