Author: xybolic PM
Two-shot. Based on Keat's La Belle Dame sans Merci. Holly hasn't had any contact with the Mud Boy since their last adventure together. One night, she paid him a visit—the first time in a whole year. However, that was also the night that she left him.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Drama - Artemis F. & Holly S. - Words: 3,665 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 5 - Published: 05-15-10 - id: 5972688
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Thanks to Brittney (TexasDreamer01) and Ethan (SchmEthan) for beta'ing.
And to my mum, Pea-chan. Dearie, thanks for the wonderful advice.:x
Also edited, by suggestions of Kit and Kelsey.;)
'Butler, has Arty told you of any problems he may be having? This isn't just because he still couldn't find the right equation for prime numbers, is it?'
Angeline, worry etched on her face, glanced up at the lofty figure setting down a cup of coffee in front of her. She rested her chin on the back of one hand and sighed, remembering the time when at age nine, Artemis moped around for days upon failing to solve a college-level equation in less than half an hour... but Artemis had not moped for years.
'He seems troubled…' More than usual, she added in her thought, while dropping two cubes of sugar in her drink and stirring it. 'I'm sure if he has a problem he couldn't solve, and if he would want to tell anyone, you'll be the first to know.'
The bodyguard straightened up before answering. 'I'm sorry, Madam. Master Artemis has not disclosed anything to me that might possibly be bothering him.'
It was true. Artemis has not spoken to him for days, or anyone else, for that matter, unless giving him orders. However, Butler had a theory. The full moon before Angeline and Artemis Senior had returned from their anniversary holiday in the Caribbean, Holly had dropped by for a visit....
'And even if he did,' he continued, 'you know I am forbidden to tell you anything unless it directly affects his health and safety. Surely you understand.'
'Yes. Yes, Butler, I do. I'm just really worried, you know. He's more than upset… he looks a wee bit… woebegone. If I didn't know better I'd think he's actually suffering from some teenage heartbreak.'
Artemis stood in the meadow, his eyes closed. He shivered slightly, feeling the cool night breeze gently whip his face, making him press his blazer closer to his body. It was full moon tonight. Even though he consumed his stolen magic when he had tried to heal his mother from Opal Koboi's simulated Spelltrophy, he was well aware that there was still a part his makeup that would remain magical. That part, in some degree, was what made Artemis exit from the backdoor tonight, follow the cobblestone path across the rear courtyard to this meadow, and let himself bathe in the moonlight; the magic was attracted to the moon. Another part, his calculating mind, wanted to experiment.
Usually, he would be found in the library every full moon, listening to Liszt or Bartok on maximum volume to drown the insensible whispers of the People's race memory that flooded his mind. They had been like a congregation of people reciting endless novenas inside his head, all the while drilling holes against his skull. But not anymore. Lately, the migraines became more and more bearable every month, and the voices almost faded in the background—adapting but still there. And tonight, he decided to actually listen, feel, and know these memories. They intrigued him. The past of the People laid bare for him to study, to understand. He focused his mind, waiting for the voices and visions of memories to settle while he squinted mentally....
His eyes suddenly flew open. There was a low clatter succeeded by a tinny creak, and he knew they had come from the meadow's rusty wrought-iron gate that stood ajar. Artemis spun around, brow furrowed in annoyance upon being disturbed, expecting to see Butler who must have followed to keep a closer eye on him. There was no one in sight. He grinned inwardly.
'Holly?' he hazarded a guess.
As an answer, a diminutive female figure in black jumpsuit appeared seemingly out of thin air. She sat on the gate's topmost iron strip, balancing herself by gripping it with both hands on her either side. Her nut-brown face, framed by her helmet, showed a wide smile and sparkling blue and hazel eyes.
'What?' she said in a surprised voice, though her smirk told the Mud Boy otherwise. 'The Artemis Fowl is unsure?'
'No, I knew it would be you,' said Artemis, smiling back. 'When I heard you land on the gate, I expected Butler. But he was not there. The sound could have been simply caused by the night wind but a high-frequency tremolo that was caused by the vibration of your shield still resonated; therefore, I concluded that one of the People may have graciously paid me a visit. Anyone is possible, but you are the only one who has the mindset to voluntarily sojourn.'
Rolling her eyes, Holly flew halfway across the Fowls' meadow to where Artemis stood and caught him in a strong embrace, which mildly surprised the boy, but he wrapped his arms around her nonetheless.
'I missed you and your arrogant deduction, Mud Boy.'
'Likewise, Captain Short.'
Seconds had passed but Holly did not let go of Artemis. If anything, she only tightened her hold, which made it awkward for him; he was unaccustomed to blatant and lengthy displays of emotions. Though in truth, he had no objections to this whatsoever, but the lack of knowledge as to what to do made him feel a bit flustered. He knew—there was no point denying it from his vast intellect—that he felt something greater than like, if not love, for this elf, who had gone to great lengths to help him with his needs. It was almost inevitable; together, they had been through a lot—abduction, radioactive Arctic Circle, goblin rebellions, dwarf flatulence, retrieval of stolen Fairy technology, mind-wipes, Koboi schemes, hormonal trolls, fiery chutes, ricocheting shuttles, genius face-offs, time-travel, hordes of bloody-minded demons, eye-switch, near-death experiences, betrayal, lies, apologies, lemur chase, elf-kissing days—as enemies, partners, friends, best friends, and, lately, possibly even more.
And thinking of these adventures, Artemis subconsciously squeezed Holly before both of them simultaneously let go. It may have been because it was too dark—and the only source of light in the meadow aside from the moon was the few strip lights located outside the nearby garage workshop—but Artemis thought he had seen Holly's eyes glistening. Sharp as his vision was, he was not too certain.
'It's been—what?—almost a year?' said Holly as she slowly descended on the ground with about a metre distance from Artemis as to not crane her neck too much. She grinned. 'You've grown since we kicked Koboi's arse. Hardly a Mud Boy anymore.'
'Perhaps you would consider calling me a Mud Man.'
'You are continuously changing,' she remarked. 'Artemis Fowl, the notorious Mud Man—' at which point, said man smirked. '—does not seem to be the type to go for a moonlight walk.'
'I'm not. This is simply for an experiment.'
'Experiment…' Holly repeated slowly, tilting her head on one side by a degree and casting her eyes around as though expecting a laboratory to suddenly sprout from a patch in the alfalfa field. 'For what?'
'Yes, an experiment. Now, Holly, to what do I owe the pleasure for you to bestow your presence upon me? Foaly keeps track of my activities and he knows I have abstained from my criminal deeds as of late. And answer my question while we get back to the manor. It is getting rather cold tonight, and I'm sure Butler would appreciate it if I don't get sick. You can stay, since my parents are away for a holiday and the twins are asleep. I will just resume my experiment next time.' Next month.
'I'm not bothering you too much, am I, Artemis? Not that I care,' joked Holly. She switched her wings on to fly beside him instead of walk; it looked more dignified than trying to catch up with him on foot. 'As you well know, it's full moon tonight. I've just completed the Ritual, and thought that maybe I'd see you befo—' She paused. 'And of course, Butler too.'
'Is that all?' Artemis raised an eyebrow. 'And Holly, you know you are always welcome to drop by, but please, do give an advance notice. I always have the communicator with me. Just send a message, or better yet, call.' There was a subtle hint of bitterness in his voice, almost unnoticeable. All year, he had never parted with his fairy communicator ring in hope, though he'd never openly admit it, that she'd return his calls or reply to his messages. She never had, but only after a few curt words stating that she had become too busy after their last adventure. 'It makes me a poor host,' he continued, 'to make you fetch me first before I welcome you to my home.'
Holly did not reply and Artemis patiently waited. He did not intend to talk much while striding along the tract with an expanse more than a hundred-metre long; he was almost out of breath. He never was much for physical labour, much less doing it while talking. They proceeded to the manor in silence.
'I'm sorry,' she said quietly when they had reached the courtyard behind the Fowl estate's imposing edifice.
'It's fine. Just next time, do—'
'No, Arty,' Holly cut him off, settling herself on one of the stone benches located by the cobblestone path. Standing, she was almost eye to eye with him. 'I'm sorry… for not calling you. For a whole year. It's not something a good friend would do. Foaly often berated me about it. I don't have an excuse nor would I make any. It was selfish of me. I only thought of my feelings—'
'Why? Why didn't you? What were you feeling?' His voice conveyed curiosity, and the slight furrow in his brow showed it. It was like he was inquiring a patient. All the same, he wanted—needed—to know. He knew that ever since their time-travel back to the past, their relationship had changed, and he had felt it during their last saving-the-world mission to bring back the past Koboi in her own time. Every little contact between them had sent loud signals and neon signs to his brain, made more ostentatious by his constantly vigilant mind. Every look they shared felt strange to him….
Holly reached out for his hands. The contact surprised him and made them twitch, but he did not take them away. Biting her lip, unsure, she stared up at him, as though trying to tell him telepathically what her mouth could not. Artemis felt as though he was being hypnotised, as always when their eyes meet even for the most fleeting moment. But he knew by her intense gaze what it was, what she was afraid of telling him, what she had been denying herself—her apprehensions and uncertainty. She was cognisant of the turmoil in her but the unusual intimacy and friendship that had been brewing up between them for years and had lead to this frightened her. Everything about them was improbable, nigh impossible. It couldn't happen, and nothing could come out of it.
After a minute, Holly broke their contact—eyes and hands—turning away, sighing. She clenched her fists to her sides.
'Holly…' began Artemis. His mind was trying to come up with something to say that would not make him look less intelligent than he really was.
'Oh, you have horses?' she said with a voice an octave high. She had heard neighs coming from the smaller building beside the manor. 'Can I see them? Foaly speaks very highly of horses among all the animals here aboveground and how you Mud Men are always too cruel to them.'
Artemis took the interruption graciously and then smiled. 'You can report to Foaly that we employ only the best people to take care of his kin. As witness, allow me to take you to see them.'
They approached the stable. Holly removed her helmet as Artemis entered the code on the keypad beside the door. Once inside, she marvelled at the beautiful architecture built only for a horse stable. The interior did not look like it was simply an equestrian space; it looked more like a cross between a stable and a castle. The beams and columns had ornate carvings and the combination of wood and stone had a very nice effect. And the place was obviously maintained daily; the smell was not as bad as Holly had expected.
'We have two ponies for the twins and five horses. This is the mine. His name's Adare.' He indicated the stall where a baronial black horse stood. 'The Irish Sport Horse, also known as the Irish Hunter. We are rather a compatible pair in riding.'
'You… ride?' said Holly sceptically. 'He's a beautiful horse, yes, and he goes with your personality rather well, but I really can't imagine you riding him.'
'Even someone like me, who has a very capable bodyguard to handle everything, still needs some physical activities. And my choice is a sport that is riding.'
The elf snorted, shaking her head. 'You Mud Men call riding a sport? You don't even do the work! Well, probably half, but still, the horse does most of the work! I bet that's the reason why you chose it. Honestly. For the sake of saying you have one....'
Even so, she gaped at the horses, lips parted in awe. They were certainly well taken care of, radiating with grandeur. Only the best, as always, for the Fowls. Holly had never ridden a horse before, but she had always thought it'd be fun, judging by what she'd seen from Mud Men movies shown in Haven cinemas and theatres.
Artemis noticed the look on her face and asked, 'Would you like a ride? Not Adare; he doesn't like strangers riding him. Maybe Eily.' He motioned his hand towards the stall beside Adare's. In it was chestnut skewbald horse with a very long, silky mane. 'The Irish Cob, or the Gypsy Cob. Eily is very friendly and Ma's favourite.'
'I'd really appreciate that, but aren't you cold? Didn't you want to get inside and be comfy and everything?'
'I do not mind accompanying you, Holly.'
Holly eyed him shrewdly. 'I'll say it again, Fowl: You are continuously changing.'
'I hope you know you are to blame,' muttered Artemis as he reached for a saddle nearby and fumbled with the clasp of Eily's stable door. He didn't know whether Holly had heard him or not.
'D'you need help with that?' she asked while removing her wings to hang them on a low hook on the wall. Underneath them, on the flagstone floor, she placed her helmet as close to the wall as possible to not have it on the way.
'Do you know how to tack a horse?'
'Well... no, but—'
'Then no. You can check the other horses while you wait.'
As he geared up the horse, Holly decided to follow his suggestion, but only after huffing irritably. Two ponies and five horses, he said. She couldn't tell much difference, so she assumed that the smaller ones were the ponies.
'Why do you have five horses?' she asked, walking around.
'For Butler and Juliet as well. Though Juliet only visits every half-a-year, so the caretaker takes her horse for extra exercise.'
Holly amused herself for a moment and imagined Butler's huge bulk weakening his horse's joints. A small chuckle escaped her lips. Her imagination was interrupted by Artemis.
'Are you ready, Holly?'
Turning around, she saw him guiding the Cob out of the stall and mouthed a silent 'wow.' She approached Eily and stroked the feather around the lower legs.
'Even the hair near the hooves is in very good condition,' she remarked, straightening up.
'Of course. Come here, Holly. Let me help you up.'
Holly stood beside the horse, near Artemis, and looked up. The horse was too tall for her and she felt a bit intimidated.
'Just put your hands here and your foot here,' he instructed her, placing his hand on the spots he had indicated, 'and pull yourself up.'
Holly did just as he was told, feeling a bit awkward. She flushed but tried to look nonchalant when she felt Artemis's firm grip on her waist, pushing her onto the horse. After she had comfortably settled herself, he began to guide her and the horse outside, all the while giving her instructions to control Eily. She remembered it all and managed to make the horse follow her without trouble; in addition to his instructions, Holly had utilised her Gift of Tongues to guide her actions. She told Eily, using body language, to dart around the courtyard instead of the area beside the stable reserved for horse-riding.
It felt like flying, she thought and giggled loudly. Exhilarating. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Artemis had given up early on running after her and simply sat down on a stone bench to wait, watching her with an amused expression. She laughed even harder, and subsequently told Eily to slow down and to moderately trot toward Artemis. Seeing them approach his direction, he stood up and strode over to meet them.
'You are such a nancy boy,' said Holly, grinning. 'You didn't even try to catch up.'
'Holly, I don't fight losing battles.'
'You should train yourself. Honestly, what are you going to do when we need to save the world again? Saunter away from death?'
'Maybe I should consider bringing Adare to our next escapade.' Artemis took hold of Eily's reins and lead her to a more leisurely pace.
There was silence, broken occasionally by a crunch of gravel or twig. Now that Artemis was controlling the horse, Holly closed her eyes. Memories of her childhood flashed her mind, back in the time when her mother and father had taken her aboveground on a family holiday to the Stonehenge. It made her feel both happy and sad. She remembered the song Coral Short had sung to her. She swayed slightly on the saddle along with the tune in her head; in Gnommish, she sang:
Dear Deirdre, my faery child,
Li'l elf of the Hill,
On your pretty face I see,
Your anguish—I will heal.
I hear your tiny billows
Wearied down, aching,
The eighth moon draws closer,
Rest here in my swing.
Artemis raptly listened to Holly. Fairies, according to folklores, loved music—revelled in its presence. They were often depicted in Mud Man lore to be dancing around. And apparently, they had a certain gift for music too. The song, the tune, her voice captivated him, invoking a desire for him to compose a piano piece in his head. F major, perhaps.
Her pleasant melody sounded familiar to his ears, very much like the lullaby Angeline had sung to him in his cradle. It started fairly low and easy, increasing in pitch, but maintaining the average tempo. In the middle of the second verse, both pitch and tempo climbed a scale, but returned to moderation before the last line. A very phenomenal tune even by his standards. For Artemis Fowl to be impressed by such a simple lullaby was not something that happened every day; he was a musical prodigy with the perfect pitch. Still, he was charmed.
Sleep, my babe, in my arms,
I remember her in you,
Even in magic or in mud,
I love you, I do.
At the song's last line, Holly opened her eyes, sighing, and was surprised to find her cheeks tearstained. She wiped them with the back of her hand.
'It's a beautiful song,' said Artemis, leading Eily back to the stable. 'What is it called?'
'It's known as "Faery Lullaby" but it's really called "Deirdre's Cradle." My mum used to sing it to me when I was very young.'
'My faery child… Little Elf of little Hill… Even in magic or in mud…. Who is this Deirde? Of course, our mythology and yours differ by a long shot so I highly doubt the Deirdre in the song is the same Deirdre whose story was a part of the Ulster Cycle.'
'She's an elf,' replied Holly, looking up at the moon. 'Just a young elf. It's only a short and simple lullaby. Most lullabies don't make sense anyway, so don't try figuring that out. It was composed by Deirdre's father five hundred years ago. And rumours said that her father was an idiot because he was always stringing nonsense just for the sake of completing the musical beat. It's nonsense, but still a lovely song.'
Artemis nodded, but said nothing else. The lyrics still reverberated in his head; his ever-present mind was automatically analysing every word. He remained silent. Holly, however, while not speaking, was breathing deeply rather audibly.
'I don't think the composer was an idiot,' Artemis whispered eventually.
A/N: Deirdre's Cradle sounds a tad like Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra (An Irish Lullaby). Check it out. It has a lovely tune. I altered the melody very slightly and I wish I could let you hear it, but I'm not that good at playing the piano yet. You have to make do with An Irish Lullaby; there's not much difference anyway.;)
Please review. Constructive criticisms are welcome. This is my first romance fic (written a week before A Nib's Babble) so I'd love to read your feedback.