Disclaimer: Holly Short, Artemis Fowl, Julius ('my dhaarrrrrrling!') Root, Foaly and Grub belong to Eoin Colfer. If I was responsible for these characters they wouldn't let me do this to them and would mutiny. As it is I'm only just fending them off.
Author's Note: I know that it is quite unreasonable to think that Holly would refer to Heaven and Hell as I had her do in this fanfic but I didn't want to create another religion or use the one which I created for Birds of a Feather since that would link this one-shot to that. Also bear in mind that she had already lived on top of the Earth with humans for quite a while and so things like belief and expressions would probably have rubbed off on her.
The hybrid behind the counter gives me a few hurried - almost frightened - looks over his shoulder when he thinks that I won't notice. But things have gone so far that I feel the eyes on the back of my neck, the murmurs and whispered accusations even in my dreams. Julius has said aloud once or twice that they would get over it soon enough, new topics and conspiracies and gossips would be created and the name and face of Holly Short would be forgotten and I would be able to have a normal life once again. He was wrong. The memories of the fairies are long like their life span and such a ... betrayal ... from their own cannot be brushed off lightly.
The hybrid glances over at me again as though he is worried that I will steal something when he isn't looking. Or maybe it's just morbid curiosity about the abomination that the Underground knows I am. He doesn't quite have the look of someone who takes in everything about someone who infamous to brag about it later, taking in everything about The Betrayer who visited his shop - but I've misjudged people before now. I misjudged Julius and now I regret every moment of the life when I did since he's almost the only one who doesn't judge me now.
'It's a shame how bigoted the fairies can be,' Julius had once said, 'we pride ourselves on being ahead of the Mud Men in technology and morals but we are really so far behind. We compare ourselves to the Mud Men and proclaim them savages because of their wars and social injustices but we are worse. We should know better – we all live longer than them and so live through more. War is part of their nature and it's as helpful as it is harmful - we have lost something in our forced idea of peace. Only because of war are some developments made – medical breakthroughs, inventions, power, engines, new structures for society. And what about the lives that are lost you say? Who can know what would have happened without it? Famines, overpopulation, disease, plague... But in our 'peace' we are too well organised. We don't allow for new ideas incase they ruin the delicate balance that we have created. We don't allow for our society to change enough, so we can't change. Homosexuals are looked down upon, Women aren't given proper jobs or respected, inter-race marriages are not allowed. How can we change this? We can't really. What change happens is too slow and too little and this is because our lives are too long. The Mud Men manage to change their society completely in only twenty years whereas we are all so old that we can't accept change and we can't let it happen fast. And it'll only be once we find something worse to criticise that we can accept those who are currently outcasts. We need someone to look down upon or we are not sure of ourselves, who we are better than defines who we are. But, when it gets down to it... we will always have the Mud Men to look down upon.'
Of course, that was before all of this happened - I was probably still calling him Root or Commander. Society has changed recently, moved with the times. There is something new which defines the outcasts. Or the outcast. The sole outcast who doesn't even have the companionship of others the same to fall back on.
The love of someone can make you worse than a leper or a poisonous fungus. You are something which never should have happened and will never happen again because society will not let it. Think of the irony. Created by love, brought down by love, outcast by love, living a half-life in honour of love... yet the only thing that keeps me going is the simple memory of that love.
I don't even have anything tangible to remember him by. Nothing which doesn't have other memories attached to it. I have the coin I gave him so very long ago but that has other meanings now. I have photos and memories of events and times but nothing really stands up for what it was. What love was like when I had it.
I remember some books we read together over the years where even in his world we could not be seen together - Lord of the Rings by Tolkien was one of them. Putting ourselves over Arwen and Aragorn always brought a smile at the mockery of our own lives. But Tolkien couldn't get it right when he had a mortal and an elf fall in love. I know that it's not right, not accurate, and I'm one of the only two who can know. He couldn't get the fact that there was no choice for Arwen to make between Aragorn or the Elves - the heart makes those decisions for us and the mind can't change it however much it might try or wish to. He couldn't really understand the pain of watching your love grow old and die when you have not changed yourself. You feel unworthy to be alive when he should be there with you and you know that he'll never be again while you'll live on for many more years. Many, many more years – more than you can stand to live.
But of course, the real world is different to Middle Earth. In his world elves were already known... in Artemis' world they are not. I couldn't live properly for fear of suspicion and prosecution in his world. In Tolkien's world, the elves respected each other's decisions... but in the real world no one is that accepting. They hate me now, even a hundred years past when they first heard about it. "That crazy LEP captain has decided to live with the Mud Men; she has become one of them through her love. She isn't one of us anymore."
They were wrong. I never became one of 'them' because I couldn't stop being 'one of us', I was too fairy in physicality and mind to be a human. And I can never again be a fairy because I'm too much one of the humans with the soft strokes of the lines across my face and the changes my mind has undergone as belief in The People was replaced by love and contentment in a human.
Love is something that fairies are supposed to know about, respect. No fairy is afraid of saying that they love someone and nobody should have to be. I am. I would shout from a tower that I love Artemis Fowl, even though he died long ago ... if only I wasn't so scared of my own people. They know that you don't choose your love - can't choose it - but still they are ashamed that anyone of them could ever stoop to the level of loving a non-fairy. In some minds it's worse than bestiality... or it is bestiality because humans - Mud Men - aren't people. They can't possibly be people.
At least something good came from my misfortune of falling in love. Gays are accepted, People of different races can marry, Hybrids are acknowledged ... but women haven't gotten more rights. I'm the proof that women aren't stable enough to be in high positions and for that alone I'm sorry for who I loved. See, I am still loyal to my own, but those who I call my own have simply changed - it's not as if I can say that I'm accepted by the masses anymore.
Definitely not global acceptance. Even so long after when Artemis was alive it's such a big thing and horrific thing for me to have fallen in love with one of the Mud People. Parents teach their children about love and then give the example of me. And they use this to tell their kids to love their family and race with a love not as fleeting as the love between two people can be. I'm the wrongdoer, the pagan, and the betrayer. I should have put my own people before my love for a human. Everyone says that they would have done the same. But once upon a time I would have said that as well. I would have said that I could be able to do that – give up love because it was 'wrong' - but when the time came I didn't think about it, I didn't have to think about it. It was instinctive to choose Artemis over my people and the Underground.
Whether that was right or wrong many people have tried to tell me... but even I can't answer that. But it's what I did and there is no way to change the past. Though some people think that you can change the past by not letting it affect the future.
The first time was unexpected, shocking, frightening, but now... I know that it is something that I'll either have to live with or die by. When Artemis died I had to come back here, I couldn't stay there, where only a few knew me and less knew what I am. I had to return even though it was painful. And I thought that I could be a normal fairy once again. I was wrong. I'm watched wherever I go, haunted with looks and words, hunted and cornered and judged ... and deemed fit only to die. The first physical attack was so shocking that I couldn't comprehend that it was happening, let alone why it was happening, let alone contemplate how I could defend myself. And it was only luck that Julius had been trying to find me and only more luck that he managed to find me before I was beaten to death. My magic had a hard time helping me to recover from that simply because I didn't really want to recover - I was convinced that even if I didn't deserve the beating, which I did, I would be better off in heaven than this underground hell.
But again Julius saved me - that time from myself. He reminded me about what Artemis had wanted when he was still alive. He hadn't wanted me to follow him into death before my time. He was even convinced that I would somehow fall in love again, with another who could give me a proper family and the life that I missed when I bound myself to him and his world above. I couldn't tell him that that could never happen - that even though my life was half-lived then, it wouldn't be worth even half after he left me. And even though I didn't belief in Artemis' hope for my future, I am too cowardly to give up. Not too courageous to give in the fight for a life, too cowardly to die. I am ashamed of dying and then facing him in heaven to tell him of my deed. He would be more disappointed in me than the whole of Haven is. ...And his opinion means so much more than a city of fairies who are now strangers to me even if they were once my friends.
Once my friends. I don't have friends anymore. Julius is the man who keeps we going, trudging on, trying to give me a life through him. Foaly visits sometimes but doesn't stay long - he isn't ashamed but he just... he doesn't know what to say around me - he feels he can't act the same way as he used to and maybe he can't. Grub Kelp visited me a few times but he knew that I could still see his crush on me and how painful it was for me to be there with him. So he didn't come back after that. I was allowed to visit my mother once before she died. I didn't stay long since she only had a few things to say... that I shamed the memory of my father and didn't even bring her a grandchild for it. I almost wanted to tell her about how we tried to conceive and weren't able to; about my one failed pregnancy which didn't work because our biochemistry was too dissimilar; about the baby which, in all probably, would have killed me if I'd been able to bring it to term. But I didn't. And no one else knows about it now. I've even seen some old friends from the LEP on occasion but most don't even acknowledge that I exist.
But at least that's better than strangers accosting me and talking as if I should be ashamed - as if they're ashamed - that I ever existed.
I'm living in both worlds, but not living at all.
That's me. Dead walking. Never living in the first place is what they whisper, for how could someone who is all there in their mind, alive with a beating heart, fall in love with the worst of the Mud Monsters? I don't know and I tell them that but they still accuse me of sins worse that murder. And maybe it is. Treason, betrayal for love is still that betrayal, that treason.
I really don't know how much longer I can go on like this. It's fear of something worse, not courage to stay amid the lies and murmurs that keeps me here. I'm scared that in death I won't find Artemis and at least here I'm sure that I'll always have my memories of him. I'm scared that in death I will find my love... and that he won't accept me. The courageous act for me to do would be to die and then I would be facing up to my fears ... but in that I am a coward, not only because I won't end up doing that, but because the only reason I am afraid of dying is because I'm afraid of living as well.
And I don't know what I can do now, or for the rest of the time that I'll spend in exile amongst my own.
I can still feel the hybrid's eyes on my neck as he watches me move without purpose through the small and dark shop of pointless artifacts and nick-knacks. He's suspicious, fearful, maybe a little curious... just like almost everyone else in this world underground. And the exceptions are the ones who are also vengeful, and they are much worse. I make my way towards the door, pretending to be still looking at the ornaments as I go – as if I'd been registering anything I've been seeing over the last however long I've stood here in numbness. And as I'm about to exit the hybrid moves to block my way.
"What do you want with my shop? You were up to something, you stood there for hours so don't tell me you weren't. Empty your pockets."
I feel like arguing, debating it like I once would have done and I open my mouth with this intention and then a meek, "I'm not a robber," was all that came out.
"And you think I'm going to trust you, Mud Man lover? HA!"
"I'm not. I apologise for being interested in your merchandise. I promise I'll never come in here again."
"Likely. You're just going to—"
"Do your parents love each other?"
"What are you trying to do? I don't know—"
"Do, or did, your parents love each other? Do, or did, they love you?"
"Yes. Of course they do." The hybrid is flustered now, he doesn't quite know what's happening and my calm on the painful and accepting side of fury confuses him.
"But you are in your 400's. It would have been illegal for your parents – an elf and a dwarf - to love each other at the time when you were conceived and also for most of your childhood."
"Maybe…" he isn't going to give me anything more, especially since he doesn't know what I am doing.
"Like it is illegal to love a Mud Man? Like it is illegal for me to cherish the memories of a dead man who I love and who loved me? If we all paid attention to the 'rules' you wouldn't be alive. Why do you hate me for loving someone who you never knew and never will know – even if you wanted to? You can't judge me for that in the same way as I can't judge you for any choices or events in your life either."
And, with silent tears streaming down my face, I push past him into the narrow street. And I run. Run until I fall down on the side of the road and my tears fall onto the pavement.
I don't know how long I lie there without moving, but however long it is I know that many people have seen me here on the ground in submission to life and pain … and walked on by. But now there are footsteps that are not moving away but slowly and cautiously coming closer. There might have been some attempts from others to hold the approaching footsteps back but whoever it is squirms out of the hands and keeps coming. It's almost a ritual and I can imagine the faces of the people frozen on the street to watch The Betrayer – the Mud Man lover - and the walker – disgust, fear, maybe egging them on, maybe wishing they would hold back.
And a tiny hand slides under my shoulder and lifts me from the ground. It's wizened with age but soft as if it has never had much toil or strife. And I meet the eyes of an old female elf just before she pulls me into a soft hug. I close my eyes once more and I know that my silent tears are soaking into her dress and her skin. I open my eyes once and over her comforting shoulder I see faces – young, old and of any race. But all the expressions are different for once. Not all are condescending as though I am a small child who didn't know I was making mistakes. Not all are old enough to understand and so a little girl just looks up at me in confusion. Not all are angry with me for strange reasons or not so strange reasons. Not all are angry with the woman for helping me. Not all have tears in their own eyes but it comforts me that even those small few do.
The woman pulls back when my tears have dried and my sobs have ceased, not quite looking me in the eyes. She gives a small smile, not enough to say anything other than 'you're not alone' and then turns and leaves, holding out her hand to a younger woman who takes it and lets the woman lean on her until they're out of sight. The crowd has left as well and only I am left on the side of the street looking across at homes with families and lives and kids playing games inside.
And I still don't know what I'm supposed to do.
But maybe the story of the woman who didn't care what I was will spread and change things. I won't count on it but maybe… It's unlikely that anything will be different; I'm still the Betrayer of the fairies. But I can hope that things might change. And even that small hope is better than what I had before.
Or maybe I can't hope for anything. I can't. But at least I know that a stranger can care about me. Someone doesn't judge me for my love.
And I remember her eyes, palest of milky blues, a soft sheen of something hiding her emotions behind them so they looked almost glassy. They were not quite focused on my own eyes when she let go but they … She was blind! The only reason she helped me up and lent me her shoulder to cry on was because she didn't know who I was. If she had, I would have been left there until someone declared me a nuisance and Julius was called in to pick me up. The Commander's duty to the officer he failed by letting her fall in love.
I collapse onto the street in wracking sobs and dry tears. And this time no one comes to help me up.