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It's a love story for the new age

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This is how the story goes:

“Marry me,” he says.  

“Are you serious?” she replies. 

*

Fox meets David on a yacht in the Hamptons. It’s a charity function—she hardly remembers what for. The dress she wears is pale yellow, with white lace trim. Very proper, very virginal. She enjoys wearing sheep’s clothing, just for fun. Her parents are fighting but putting on a good face for society. Owen is sticking close—he generally does, under instructions from her father to keep her away from the open bar and anyone too inappropriate. She doesn’t honestly mind. It just makes flirting with Daddy’s competitors more interesting.  

“May I remind you that you’re seventeen?” Owen says when he finds her with her back against the railing, a cherry vodka sour in each hand.

She smiles at him, brightly. “And you’re what—twenty-five? Twenty-six?”

“Three thousand and twenty-four,” he says, in a rare display of deadpan humor. “Well over the drinking age, unlike certain others I could name.”

“How lucky that I brought two,” she says, and offers him one. He accepts it with a sigh.

“You know this is illegal, Miss Renard,” he reminds her as she clinks their glasses together.

“Very,” she agrees.

He smiles faintly. “And you understand that as far as your father is concerned, these are Shirley Temples.”

She rolls her eyes and takes a sip—and then almost spits it out. “Oh my god, Owen, did you bribe the bartender?” She could have sworn she’d smelled the vodka a second ago, but the drink in her hand is definitely soda.

“Certainly not,” Owen says primly, but he looks a little smug.

“I don’t care how you did it, you owe me a new one,” she says. She holds the drink out at arms length—and someone in a white linen jacket takes a step backward, making her spill cherry liquid all down his back.

“Shit,” she says, and the owner of the jacket turns around.

Tall, tanned, handsome, knowing eyes and bright white teeth. David Xanatos under a summer sky, everything from his annoyed expression to the long brown sweep of his hair warning her off: new money, new business, new blood, danger, Janine Renard, danger.

“God, I’m so sorry,” she says at once. “You’d better get that jacket off.”

“If you insist,” he says, expression settling into a smile, automatic and quicksilver. He strips it off immediately. “I always listen to beautiful women.”

“Perfect,” she replies, heart beating a little faster. “Then you won’t mind getting me another.”

It is years before Fox realizes that fate is real and tangible, that it is a secret shared between three timeless women. Years before she realizes that the strange pulse she feels under her breastbone is the echo of her mother’s blood making itself known. David Xanatos is smiling at her for the first time, and she gets a sudden flash of surety: yes, this is right.

*

Her father would have already hated David for being foreign and new money and twenty-four and dating his seventeen year old. The part where he’s also her father’s direct competitor is the icing on the cake.

Fox loves it. 

She also loves David’s kisses, surprisingly sweet for all the dark promise in his eyes, the wicked curve of his smile, his hands huge and possessive around her waist.

She loves David’s artful carelessness, his long sleek hair, his ocean of money.

She realizes within a week that he is planning to use her to discredit her father and destroy his company. Within another week, she and Owen manage to successfully foil his plan, and incidentally cost Xanatos Enterprises about ten thousand dollars in legal fees.

“Well played,” David tells her with an infuriating smile. “For a kid. You almost had me beat.”

She gives him a childlike kiss on the cheek. It leaves a red stain. "That was a pretty good try," she tells him. "For a cradle-robber."

He gives her a look, and she rolls her eyes.

“The next time you try to take something from my family,” she murmurs, her half-lidded eyes a threat and a promise, “check with me first."

"It's a bargain," he says.

*

David and Owen inexplicably hit it off, which amuses Fox. She wasn't really sure Owen could hit it off with someone, before David. But there's a definite glint of banked amusement in Owen's eyes when David tries to cajole him into commiting various acts of corporate espionage.

"He's the most interesting person I've ever met," David tells her. "People think he's an automaton?"

"The most interesting person you've ever met?" She isn't impressed.

David gives her an amused look. "You're a close second. Owen really only has the edge because he's managed to somehow fool the entire world--including you, most of the time--that he's made of wood. But I genuinely believe that man has the wickedest brain I've ever had the fortune of encountering."

Owen has never had Fox fooled, not since she first met him and he never once called her Janine, despite her father's instructions. She doesn't blame David for not noticing, though. She's not usually this subtle. "I hope I've got the edge on Owen in other ways," is all she says.

She isn’t surprised at all when Owen tells her he’ll be leaving Cyberbiotics to work for her boyfriend.

“Well,” she says, “I can’t deny it’ll be more fun.”

“A fact I had considered,” Owen returns smoothly. “Although I must confess I’ll miss your company, Miss Renard.”

“Oh, don’t fret,” she tells him. “I’ll promise to come visit.”

“Do,” he tells her, indecipherable as ever. Then he gives her a rare smile. “I would hate for things to get dull.”

*

On her eighteenth birthday, she books herself a one-way ticket to Australia, and leaves without telling anyone.

She spends a huge chunk of her inheritance on a private martial arts instructor—she’s had them her whole life, of course, ever since she won the gymnastics tournament in first grade and begged for more—but this is different. This is professional.

She studies for six months, working her body brutally hard, learning tricks and schemes that have nothing to do with fair play, and at the end of it she’s barely recognizable as the socialite daughter of Halcyon and Anastasia Renard. She feels strong. It feels good.

She rewards herself with a trip to a tattoo parlor, eyes closed and head tilted up to the light. The needles trail delicately over her eyelid, marking her forever as herself. She loves that.

It hurts.

She loves that, too.

*

She builds up a name for herself very quickly. She isn’t fazed by anything at all until her fifth job.

 It’s a complicated operation, with an ancient figurine as the prize, resting in some rich person’s obsessively guarded mansion.

She gets past the laser sensors, the armed guards, the vault door (the explosion got ash all over her catsuit), and approaches the figurine. It’s small, about the size of a water bottle. It’s made of stone—a stylized statue of a woman. It has pointed ears, long straight hair, slanted eyes, a strange almost-crown, outstretched hands like claws. Fox is strangely reluctant to touch it.

She puts her gloves back on, and picks it up very carefully, before wrapping it into her bag and making her way to the roof. A helicopter is waiting, just as agreed. She slips on the headphone/speaker set that she’s offered, straps herself in, and stares at the man seated opposite her.

“I believe that belongs to me,” David says warmly, gesturing at her bag.

He looks weirdly more like himself in this setting: all in black, soundproof headphones in, the night-time glow of Berlin opening up below them, grinning his familiar grin.

“I believe you owe me something, first,” she says, smiling, and lets him see that her other hand is already on her gun, pointed straight at him.

“So suspicious,” he says. “I like it.” He opens up a silver briefcase, and rifles through the neat array of bills one-handed. “I think you’ll find everything’s in order.”

“Pleasure doing business with you,” she says, and trades him for the bag.

“Aren’t you going to put your gun away?” he asks, amused. 

“Well,” she tells him lightly, “I’d like to, but it’s a personal policy that I don’t until we land.”

“Why Fox,” he says, putting a hand over his heart in mock horror, “You don’t think I’d try to kill you, do you?”

She pretends to think about it, keeping her finger steady on the trigger. “I think you’d try anything once,” she tells him, and he smiles.

“You always were perceptive,” he says admiringly, and unstraps himself. “That’s one of the things I love about you.”

He kneels in front of her, too big in the small space, and she bends down, and then his hands are sliding into her hair, cupping the back of her skull and stroking down to the curve of her throat, his lips on hers. She kisses him back fiercely, and he leans into the barrel of her gun, still aimed at his heart.

“Don’t stay away so long next time,” he tells her eventually, gasping for breath.

“What makes you think there’s going to be a next time?” she teases.

“Call it intuition,” he says, and she has to kiss him again. 

She takes lots of jobs for Xanatos Enterprises, after that.

*

“You know, most people beginning their criminal career would avoid identifying marks like this,” David tells her once, tracing the line of her tattoo over her eyelid.

“I didn’t burn off my fingerprints, either,” she says. “Good thing I’m not most people.” She doesn’t quite know how to explain that the tattoo felt right in the way that very little things do, that she knew the tattoo would work as a talisman, that the world knowing her for Fox would always help rather than hurt.

“I like it,” he says.

*

It’s nice to see Owen again, who ends up working with her at least sixty percent of the time. Watching him and David together is surreal, like something out of a incisive and dangerous dream. David lets orders slip loose like passing whims, and Owen looks at him like he hung the moon. Well, she supposes Owen looks completely expressionless, really, but she’s known him almost her entire life, and she’s never seen him look this way before—this is what genuine devotion looks like.

“Are you in love with him?” she asks Owen, curious.

He raises one blond eyebrow. “Aren’t you?” he replies, polite as ever.

*

She finds out about magic when she’s almost killed on a job. She is after a book—an ancient Scottish grimoire. It’s almost painfully easy to break into the museum—but she isn’t the only one in pursuit.

A monster with wild red hair and glowing red eyes bursts through a window and demands that Fox surrender the book.

“What are you?” Fox asks on instinct, even though she feels a weird lack of surprise.

“Your death, if you don’t give me the Grimorum,” the monster says impatiently.

“I don’t think so,” Fox says. “You’d better take it up with David Xanatos.”

The monster cocks her head, clearly thrown, and Fox takes advantage of her confusion to hurl herself out of the broken window.

“David,” she snaps into her radio after hurling her grappling hook into the night, “You have some serious explaining to do.”

“You’ve seen her?” David asks through a staticky connection, more excited than she's ever heard him. “You’ve seen Demona?”

“She’s about thirty seconds away from eviscerating me and taking the book,” Fox says grimly, aware of red eyes and weird lizard wings on the air behind her. “Fix this.”

“Perfect,” David says, and he sounds genuinely happy. “Lead her back to the office, I want to talk to her.”

*

In the end, David puts the monster on payroll.

“I was expecting more shock,” he remarks to Fox later, looking almost disappointed. “You don’t find out the supernatural is real every day.”

Fox shrugs, and ignores the bone-deep instinct that says she's somehow known all along.

*

“Do you love me?” David asks once, tangled together in bed. 

She laughs at him.

After a minute, he laughs too.

*

Years pass this way.

*

She does terrible things with David. Innocent people die. Workers lose their jobs. Many people lose valuable pieces of property. It’s an insane rush of power.

“Are you having fun yet?” she shouts at Owen from inside her own personalized flying robot, the night spread out beneath her like a lover.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Owen says in a bored tone. He’s standing on the ramparts of David’s stolen castle, monitoring their progress while they take the new prototypes for a spin.

“He loves us really,” David shouts back at her, wind whipping his hair into disarray.

They grin at each other, and Fox powers her suit up, rocketing up to the stars.

The night is theirs, after all.

*

"Marry me,” he says one night over dinner.

"Are you serious?" she replies.

"We're genetically compatible, highly intelligent, and have the same goals. Makes perfect sense to get married."

"True. But what about love?" It’s a sore spot with him, occasionally. She’d like to know right away if it’s going to be a problem.

"I think we love each other,” he says off-handedly. She narrows her eyes at him, and he continues, unreadable: "As much as two people such as ourselves are capable of that emotion."

He offers her a necklace, old and valuable to her trained eye.

"For me?"

"To seal the bargain,” he says, and she wants to laugh. David is never serious about his bargains.

"It's beautiful,” she says anyway. His eyes light up. “Proposal accepted."

*

She wakes up the morning after her engagement gift apparently cursed her into madness with an IV and a brutal headache.

David’s nowhere to be found, but Owen is there, reliable as the sunrise.

“Good morning, Miss Renard.” He brings her a tray, tall glass of orange juice and several pills in a dish. 

“You know you aren’t actually his valet,” she reminds him, as she periodically does. She sits up and fingers the needle in her arm. “Can I take this out?”

“I wouldn’t,” he says. “You almost died.

“Hm. Must be Tuesday.” She takes a sip of the orange juice. “Where’s David?”

“Self-castigating,” Owen says drily. “You gave him quite a fright.”

“That’ll teach him to do his research first,” she says, amused.

“Indeed,” Owen says, but he pauses at the door. “Fox.”

She turns to him, surprised. He’s never so informal.

He looks perfectly wooden. “I wouldn’t risk your life again any time soon.”

“Why, Mr. Burnett,” she says, trying to turn it into a joke. “I didn’t know you cared.”

“It’s not me you should be worried about,” Owen tells her seriously, and leaves.

*

They don’t talk about it, even if sometimes she curiously looks for what Owen assures her is there.

She works with nanotechnology, dreaming of remaking the world in her image. David works with genetics and robotics and magic and anything he can, dreaming of living forever. Owen works silently and steadily by their sides.

It seems like business as usual. 

*

“Shall I book a venue for the ceremony?” David asks her, a few months into their engagement. They’re on the practice mat, maybe ten minutes into a spar.

“What did you have in mind?” she asks, dodging a blow.

“Oh, I don’t know.” He lunges at her, and she follows his movement smoothly, falling backwards without losing her stance. He falls without touching her, and rescues the movement with a forward somersault. “The Russian Tea Room might be nice.”


He’s teasing her. She rolls her eyes, and kicks him. 

The fight ends with him on his back, her thighs wrapped threateningly tight around his throat. 

“What would you prefer?” he asks, hoarsely.

She unfolds herself, letting him breathe, but pushes him back down when he tries to sit up.

“I’ll settle for nothing less than absolutely amazing,” she tells him, loving the way his mouth parts, even though his eyes are as unreadable as always.  She bends down so that she can feel his breath on her lips. “Surprise me,” she says.

“I do try,” he says in a low voice.

She kisses him to chase the edge of discomfort away.

*

They get married in the ancient stone hall of David’s home. It’s a quiet affair---just the two of them, David’s father, and Owen, who is as much her family as his. Two monsters hold their rings for them, glaring at each other with inhumanly bright eyes. 

He takes her back in time, for a single night. The monsters disappear, concerned with business of their own. Owen stays behind, which is a shame. Fox feels a giddy rush of power, on David’s arm in an ancient gown, the familiar walls of the castle suddenly newer, brighter, dirtier around them.

“I hope you don’t object to my using our wedding to prove a point,” David says off-handedly as they walk through familiar stone passageways, hand fitted perfectly to the small of their back.

“Not at all,” she tells him. And she really doesn’t: David wears his flaws on his sleeves, like expensive cufflinks. She knew from the word go that he was vindictive, self-absorbed bastard, that his dreams were too big and too selfish and too bright for him to ever really put her first. “But I hope you know you’ll be making it up to me.”

He smirks. “I’m looking forward to it.”

They walk in silence up to the ramparts of their castle, his father not far behind, waiting for their monsters to descend out of the night.

On a whim, she turns to him and asks: “Do you love me, Mr. Xanatos?”

He makes a face and puts his arms around her waist. “Do you love me, Mrs. Xanatos?”

“I asked you first,” she says, trying not to smile as he tugs her closer. “No fair.”

“We don’t play fair,” he reminds her, and she laughs breathlessly.

She kisses him beneath a younger moon.