"I don't like him," Artemis said emphatically, his tail jerking back and forth at what Venus later told him was an alarming rate.
She sighed her little courtesan's sigh, putting on a show for him to practice for the show she would be putting on before kings and queens and members of the court later that evening. She looked at him in the reflection of her looking glass, her gold and blue eyes twinkling with cleverness she had not yet perfectly concealed. It was why she practiced with him even though it made his hair stand on end. "You don't like any man who so much as glances in my direction. Why, I'm surprised you haven't taken up a crusade against the entire gender at this point."
If he hadn't known she was play-acting, he would have said something about how difficult it was to hate his own gender. "That, my dear, would be a grandiose waste of time. I find that it is better to focus on the object of your desire for however short a time it lasts."
The emphasis did not go above her head and she didn't pretend that it did. Her hand stopped as she was applying her power. She raised an eyebrow, arching it perfectly. "Say what you want to say, Artemis. I hate it when you try to be subtle."
His left ear twitched. "I have never seen you pursue a man for this length of time before."
She shrugged her pale shoulders and went back about her business, as if to say, Oh, is that all? "I have never seen a man with such talent for resistance before."
"Perhaps he does not--" Artemis began, though he knew better than to think she would ever let him finish that sentence.
She whirled, her cheeks turning redder than had she applied rouge. Her eyes flashed, golden streaks briefly glowing in her anger. "Don't be stupid!"
Artemis looked at her, marveling at the strength of her reaction. He was beginning to understand, and he liked it even less. He frowned as much as his feline muscles would allow. "Why do you care so much if he does or does not?"
Venus stared and then cleared her throat, ashamed of herself for falling apart so quickly. She hastily began to rebuild her walls, flashing a stiff smile that made her look crazed. "Because no man has ever said no to me before. I... enjoy the challenge."
"Endymion would resist you," Artemis said wearily, knowing all to well the looks he and Serenity had exchanged. “Not even your glamours could surpass that infatuation.”
Venus scoffed, flipping her hair. "I have no interest in Endymion."
"He has other men," Artemis muttered distastefully. He hated having these conversations with her, but he had long since realized that he had little choice in the matter. She would force it on him, or he would go about it willingly. It was less painful this way. "If you want a Terran that much--"
"It is not his ethnicity that interests me," Venus insisting, sounding a bit affronted.
“Then what?” Artemis asked, exasperated.
She became quiet, which was a sure sign of terrible things to come. He stood up, preparing to leap out of the way should she choose to throw something or to shift into a man if she should burst into sudden tears. She did neither, however. All she did was let her lips curl into a sad, soft smile, and for a moment, she took her own walls down.
“He understands,” she whispered so softly that he could hear her heart begin to break.
It was then that his suspicions were confirmed. Artemis began to feel sick, looking at her as she practically wilted in front of the mirror. He knew what it was like to sacrifice, to be the leader, to have responsibility, and to be alone because of it. He understood her in a way that Artemis would never be able to do. He was everything she needed and unfortunately, everything she wanted.
Artemis hated him then all the more for that.
“We didn’t have this conversation,” he said softly, jumping off her bed and down to the floor.
She looked at him for a moment, and then nodded. Her shoulders began to straighten, but he knew it wasn’t because she was getting better.
“I’m going to forget this happened,” he told her. “You should too.”
She said nothing.
He knew then that it was too late for that.