So, we've arrived at the end. I hope you all enjoyed the ride, I most certainly did. Thank you all for your wonderful, heart-warming reviews. I'm happy to have given you an A/H fic in which even the anti A/H shippers found the ship believable :)
I'm working on the sequel, but it will take several months to complete, and as some of you already know from my HP fics, I never start uploading a fic before its first draft is ready or almost ready. So I can't promise to come out with the sequel sooner than September. If you don't want to miss it, register with ffnet and put me on your author alert list (if you haven't done so already).
Author's note in April, 2005: there were some lyrics from Shrek in this chapter that I deleted and reuploaded the whole thing. You can still read the full version in my yahoo group.
Disclaimer: the same as in chapter one, plus the lyrics in this chapter come from the Shrek movie (I don't know whether Dreamworks Pictures borrowed that song from somewhere or not...)
Keiko: I'm glad I could make you cry ;)
harriettapotter: Sirius's death didn't make me cry, because JKR wrote it to be totally unmoving. Had Siri died in Harry's arms, then I would have cried, but this way I wasn't touched a bit.
TinkerBell394587: who knows/enigmatic look/
trohS-ylloH: I don't know why you thought I was tired of your reviews. I most definitely wasn't.
Demosthenes and Locke: I've already been asked by someone else to be a staff member of his C2 community, and I turned it down, because I have no idea how these C2 things work at all. I'm not competent :( Get well soon!
shadow of the black abyss: I'm not sure Arty will take up archery as a hobby, but I think he'll have a chance to shoot arrows in the sequel too.
Ashu: please read the A/N above.
Lily Jane: I seriously don't deserve that crown you bestowed upon me, but thank you. Jo and Eoin's secret love child? LOL :D Please read the A/N at the top.
IhateBeetroot: marriage? Hmm... weeeeellllll... ;)
BluAyu: I'm glad I could inspire people to write :D
WackedOutPet13: perhaps it was a bit syrupy, but hey, the secondary genre is romance! In romance mushy moments are allowed ;)
Hikari Flame: Arty's sacrificed a lot already, we can't expect him to give up his humanity as well. So no, he can't turn into a fairy again.
C-chan1: no, I really don't know who Tidus and Jecht are. Yes, Chix is the idiot whose wings got shot.
Lady Emerald Black: I'm glad I managed to make you (and many others) cry with the last chapter :)) Butler scene in this one (and not because you suggested it, after all, it was written months ago, but funny that you asked for it without knowing that there would really be one :)
refloc: why is your father anti-fowl?
AJ: if you need R-rated stuff (or something a little more than R-rated), then read the smutfic ;) Please read my A/N above.
lyrabelaqua: my next fic after this one will be the sequel to this one (no title yet).
The OddBird: Arty is a 'beginner' kisser, so isn't that good yet. But in the smutfic he'll have a chance to 'develop' ;)
Cyberspace: thanks for pointing out 'genial'. Funny that my beta didn't spot it.
apple-pie: nice to see you again! The flags were my mum's fav task too.
LittleGreenPerson: I heard that the title of the next AF book is The Opal incident, so I assumed that Opal would be the villain again... but I'm not sure when it's coming out. May? June? What do you know about it?
angelmisaki: Mulch and Opal's kid? Dunno... my mother told me I should make Opal pregnant in the sequel, but somehow... I just can't. That would be too bizarre ;) In the sequel Patrick will be definitely taller, but only a few months older.
kirby freak: yes, I have considered writing professionally, but I would need to make up a whole new universe for that... dunno if I'll ever be capable of that. Also, it's much more difficult to get published in Hungary than in the UK or the USA... I'd need not only talent but a lot of luck and connections (that I don't have) to become a published author here...:((
Ronin Ke: I envy you for your intelligence, then.
Chibi Binasu-chan: glad you like the fic so much. About the sequel - I have promised one about four chapters ago... see the A/N above.
Indigo Ziona: glad you liked the Arty/Pat moments :)
Also thanks to: manveri mirkiel, utena, VampirePeaches, Holly Rox, septempopuli, Dorinda, Sasha, Hyperkitti, Teya Yashitoda, Ph6, HollyShortgirl, Spooks-A-Lot, missy.witch, PeanutButterOreoCookieGirl, DarkLegacies, gorbash33, Aelfwyn, Fleury, amber, Chaos, Mistri, Tonks' Admirer, Kelaal, p. nogard, animezebra, neutralgal, cutemara, Draco's Secret Lover, Fowl girl, VampyGenieWitch, Aurum Potestas Est, Loreleisealgirl, Cassy, BeatlesLover, bxs, APERFECTATTITUDE, Klayandria, pink-helga, Kateli, furiousflame190113, becca, Epsilon2Delta, almostinsane, WaterTrainer, Iced Artemis, Cherri J.M. Ookami, blondevil, Meiko, Makenai, ChaosDestria
Artemis was silent all the way up the chute, staring out the window, indifferently examining the sea of magma beneath the shuttle. He didn't look back at the small dots that were Holly, Patrick and the others. He felt he could not look back. And anyway, there was no point in looking back. What would it change? Nothing.
"Are you all right?" Juliet asked worriedly.
"All right? No, I'm not all right," he replied flatly.
"Are you sure you don't have malaria?" she tried to joke at his comment 'I'm not all right'.
"I am," he grunted, folding his arms, leaning back into the seat. He no longer felt like staring out the window. There was nothing interesting about the magma. His glance fell upon something in Juliet's hands. "What's that?"
"Oh, this." The Butler girl grinned. "Just a videodisk of wrestling gnomes. Holly's present."
"Just make sure you don't watch it on maximum volume," Artemis said coldly. "I don't want to fall out of my bed in the middle of the night just because two testosterone-filled gnomes clashed. And try not to cheer too loudly."
"Under normal circumstances I'd say you're being a jerk, Arty," Juliet replied seriously. "But I'm trying to remind myself what you've gone through, and I'm holding back."
"Wonderful. Should I thank you for that?"
She sighed. "It seems that Holly's presence brought out the best in you… but losing her brought out the worst in you."
Artemis's eyes flashed at his bodyguard, but he decided not to comment. Perhaps the young woman was right.
"You know…" Juliet's voice trailed off for a moment then she pulled herself together and continued, "I think Holly would be very disappointed if she knew you were behaving like this… hurting people and stuff. Only a few minutes ago you told her that she'd made you a better person. Prove it. Be that better person, Arty. In her memory."
"You're talking as though she were dead," he whispered with an accusing edge in his voice.
"I did not mean to-"
"Never mind." He waved irritably. "She is dead, after all. To me, at least."
Even though he tried to sound annoyed instead of heart-broken, she clearly heard the sadness in his voice. There was something about his moves too - they were tired moves. Tired - but not because of physical exertion, since he had had three days to rest and regain his strength in Haven. His tiredness had psychological roots. Had Juliet not known Artemis any better, she would have thought he had suddenly sunk into depression.
Giving him a compassionate look, Juliet did something that she had never done to her principal before: she reached out and squeezed his hand. She did not know what to tell him; how to console him… she feared there was no way of consoling him at all. Only time could heal such wounds. And perhaps Butler, she thought. If anyone, then her brother could help his young master through this 'crisis'.
The shuttle took off and slowly ascended into the chute. Holly kept watching and watching until it got reduced to a pinpoint in the distance. Her heart clenched for the umpteenth time that day, and even harder than ever before. He had not looked back before climbing into the shuttle. He had not even glanced down at her from the window… he hadn't cared to give her a final wave…
For a second it even occurred to her that perhaps he had not loved her back, because if he had loved her, then he would have looked back. Then she banished the thought, feeling completely stupid. Of course he had loved her!
But then… why did he say 'I know' instead of 'I love you too'? Was that just because he was a Fowl? A Fowl who couldn't really show his feelings, even if he wanted to? Could he be afraid to utter that short sentence?
Staring down at the magma beneath, she took deep breaths. Perhaps it was better this way. Artemis had not said he'd loved her, thus he had not declared any sort of commitment towards her. It might help her forget him…
She almost let out a sarcastic laugh. She was trying to deceive herself, and in a rather pathetic way at that.
The shuttle finally disappeared above and Holly turned on her heels, walking quickly and deliberately towards the centre of Haven.
The other fairies watched as she walked past them, not even giving them a second-glance.
Patrick moved to catch up with her, but Root caught his arm, holding him back.
"Don't," the elderly elf told the boy. "Let her grieve alone. She needs some solitude."
Patrick nodded. "You're right, Uncle Julius. Can I stay at your place overnight?"
"Certainly you can." Root patted the boy's shoulder and they set off towards his flat.
"What, not even saying good-bye to your old buddies?" Mulch called after the one-time commander.
"Why should I say good-bye to you two?" Root glanced at the dwarf and the pixie over his shoulder. "I won't be lucky enough not to hear from you any time soon. You can't keep out of trouble, Diggums. Neither can you, Koboi."
"Shall we bet, Root?" The pixie gave the old elf a challenging look, fluttering her elongated, deep lilac eyelashes at him.
"No. It would not be fair, I'd win either way," Julius replied, steering Patrick away from the one-time convicts.
"He's right, you know," Foaly remarked. "You two are too big of trouble-makers to keep your noses clean…"
"No one asked you, donkey-boy," Opal said haughtily. "Well, honey, shall we?"
"Of course, sweetheart." After readjusting his hat, Mulch held out his arm and Opal gladly took it.
"Bye-bye, my little pony." Miss Koboi waved at the centaur; then sleeking her shiny blonde hair, she marched off at the dwarf's side.
Foaly stared after them, thinking. The only movie quote he found good enough for describing Diggums's and Koboi's relationship was 'I have a bad feeling about this'.
Artemis and Juliet arrived back at Fowl Manor around noon, after a few hours of walk from Tara. Artemis immediately locked himself in his room and told Juliet not to disturb him.
Butler was beside himself with happiness and relief to have his young master and his sister back, both of them healthy. He wanted to talk to Artemis at once, but his sister told him that the young man did not want visitors. Butler found this slightly surprising. As he wanted to know everything, he quickly made a sandwich for Juliet in the kitchen and asked her to recount every little detail of her latest 'fairy adventure'. Juliet was more than willing to share the story with her brother, who seemed to drink in all her words, only occasionally making remarks like 'I should have been there; I would have known how to do this and that'. Although Juliet did not like to be compared to her brother, she had to give it to him - in most cases he would have acted more professionally than she had.
Early in the afternoon Butler had to drive the Bentley to the Dublin airport to pick up the older Fowl couple, who had just arrived back from Canada. The manservant made up a tale about Artemis working on a very difficult experiment, in order to dissuade Angeline and Artemis the First from paying their son a visit. Silently he sent a thank-you prayer to all the saints he believed in, for keeping the Fowl couple away from home just as long as Artemis the Second and Juliet were away. He knew that otherwise there would have been some rather unpleasant questions and he would have had to make up all sorts of lies to cover for his young master. This way he only needed to tell a small lie. Even though Angeline was disappointed not to have a chance to give her little 'Arty' a kiss, she acquiesced herself to it. No one was supposed to disturb the genius during a dangerous experiment.
After having had lunch, the Fowl couple withdrew into their rooms to rest after the long and tiring journey, and Butler had an opportunity to continue questioning his sister about the last two weeks.
It was already six in the evening when Juliet finished recounting the events. Butler was in a state of shock after she mentioned that Artemis had given up his exceptional intelligence to save the world. It was so not like young Fowl…
"Is that why Artemis locked himself in his room?" he asked her, putting the last porcelain plate into the cupboard. He had just finished doing the washing-up. "If it is, then I understand his behaviour. That's a huge sacrifice he's made, and it will take him quite a bit of time to get used to this new situation."
"Yes, Dom, but that's not the only thing that changed about him," Juliet replied, stirring her coffee and suppressing a yawn. The exhaustion after their jungle trip had taken its toll on her too, despite her extreme bodyguard training.
"What else changed?" Butler raised an eyebrow at his sister, flopping down on a kitchen stool.
"Well… for example he proved he could behave like a normal person, regardless of his mental abilities. He proved he can have feelings and the sort… but now he seems to be back to his old nasty self… or perhaps even worse."
"Even worse? What do you mean by that? What happened to him? I mean, besides giving up his intellect?"
"Oh, have I forgotten to mention that?" Juliet slurped a bit of coffee. "Yeah, I think I must have."
"What have you forgotten to mention?"
"Why, the emotional aspect of the story, of course!"
"What emotional aspect?" Butler frowned. The mere thought of 'Artemis' and 'emotions' in the same context gave him a headache.
Juliet chuckled then straightened her face. "Ehm. Sorry. It's not funny, after all… only if you look at it from a certain point of view…"
"Look at what from which point of view?" The manservant was definitely losing it.
"What? Love, of course!" Juliet said matter-of-factly.
"Love? Artemis and love? As in Artemis in love?"
"Do I have to beseech you for every single word?" he snapped. He wasn't the type to shout at anyone, lest his sister, but the tension was unbearable.
"Okay, Dom, okay. No need to get all irritated. It's not good for your health…" Seeing her usually calm brother's expression (one could have scrambled eggs on his face now), she held up a placating hand. "All right. It's like this: Arty fell for Holly, and Holly fell for Arty, but she had to stay in Haven and he had to come back to Ireland and now they are both heart-broken. That's the big story."
For a moment Domovoi just stared at the kitchen table, his brain processing the information. "Artemis and Holly…" he muttered after a while. "I should have known."
Juliet nodded agreeably. "I knew it from the beginning. I mean, from the first day Arty moved into Holly's flat. There was something between them… the very air seemed to vibrate when they were near each other… Too bad they never had a chance to become a normal couple…"
Butler rose to his feet. "I'm going to talk to him. Don't even try to hold me back."
Juliet shrugged with a mischievous smile. "I won't hold you back, as long as you tell him that I tried to hold you back. I hope you can talk some sense into him. Persuade him to come out of his cocoon and greet his parents at least…"
"I'll try my best, sis," the manservant replied, heading upstairs.
Holly was lying on her bed, staring into the darkness of her room. She hadn't even cared to turn on the lights when she returned home. The darkness of the room perfectly fit her dark mood.
She felt mad at herself for wallowing in self-pity, but she also felt that she had every right to wallow a little. Perhaps a LEP commander should have behaved differently, but she was not only a commander, she was an elf and a woman too. And elves were emotional creatures. Darn that centaur for always being right!
With a sudden thought she rolled onto her stomach and reached for the remote control, switching on the TV. Perhaps it would help take her mind off a certain Mr Fowl…
The only underground movie channel was showing some Mud Man movie, as usual. The last film Holly had watched on it had been the seventh part of Harry Potter. She had watched it together with her son, who was still fond of the young wizard's adventures. She had to smile at the memory of Patrick's eyes focused on the screen. He hadn't even blinked or taken breath when Harry did away with the evil Lord Voldemort. Holly sighed. Her little son… genius or not, he was still a child.
This movie seemed to be an older one… she had seen it once before, many, many years ago… What was the title again? Shack? Shriek? Something like that.
Resting her chin on arms, she watched the film, but instead of feeling any better, it only worsened her already bad mood.
That funny green monster in the movie seemed sad… he was sitting alone in his cottage, staring into the flames, as though he were missing someone…
The green monster disappeared, and a pretty, redheaded woman was examining herself in a mirror, clad in a snow white wedding dress. Her eyes mirrored all the sadness in the world. One did not need to be a genius to see that she was missing the green character… Clearly they were in love. A human girl and an ogre. Two different species… yet they loved each other.
Holly rolled onto her back, away from the screen. She did not need to watch others' misery - her own was just enough for her.
She spent the next fifteen minutes staring at the ceiling, not in the least paying attention to the movie. For a while she tolerated the excited squeals and crashes coming from the TV, but as soon as the characters began singing 'I'm a believer', Holly punched the OFF button on the remote control. No one was entitled to sing cheerful songs while she felt this horrible!
She buried her face into her pillow.
No one was entitled to be happy as long as she was suffering!
Heavens, what an egoistic monster am I? She thought bitterly. She did not have a right to wallow in self-pity! There were thousands, millions of people less lucky than she was! She did have a reason to feel happy! She had her son back, she had saved the People, the Council had given her and Root the Heroes of Haven Award… Everything was back to normal, just like she had hoped it would when she'd last gone to Fowl Manor…
Everything was back to normal, save one thing… she'd fallen in love with the Mud Boy. That was something she had most definitely not planned when deciding to visit him and plead for his help…
She was supposed to be happy and satisfied, but she felt more miserable than ever before.
Love between two different species? Nah. The only place it could have a positive outcome was a fairy tale. Like that girl turning into an ogre and going off to live with the male ogre… How ridiculous.
There was a creak and a bang that sounded like the front door opening and closing. "Is that you, Patrick?" Holly asked, sitting up on her bed.
The door of her bedroom opened and two figures walked in.
"Yes, it's me, Mum. And Uncle Julius."
"Yeah. See, Holly, your son and me… we've discussed things and we came to the conclusion…"
"Discussed what sort of things?" Holly asked tiredly.
"You. And Dad," the boy replied, switching on the lights.
Holly raised her left arm before her eyes, blinking. The sudden light dazzled her. "What… what do you mean by that?"
"You know what I mean." Patrick sat down on the bed next to his mother. Root pulled up a chair, facing the bed's occupants.
"No, I don't." The commander shook her head. She had made her decision. She had let Artemis go. What else did these two want from her? She'd done the right thing and there was no point in discussing it anymore!
"Yes, you do," Root said in a gentle, yet determined voice. "You love that Mud Man, Holly."
"I know. And?" She scowled at her one-time superior.
"And? You want to be with him," Root said as simply as though he were explaining that two and two equalled four.
"No, I don't. I can't. I… you know I can't," she protested. What was Julius here playing at? Julius? The Mud Man-hater Julius Root? He must have gone mad for sure…
"You decided to stay here because you feel you have responsibilities here," the older fairy said.
"And I do have responsibilities!" Holly snapped. "I'm the commander, Julius! I'm responsible for dozens of LEP officers and privates! I'm responsible for the peace and safety of Haven!"
"Yes, it's true. And so far you have done your job as a commander brilliantly." Root nodded. "However, you have got so immersed in responsibility that you completely forgot to live."
She shook her head. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, yes you do. You're young, Holly. Possibly too young to shoulder such responsibility…"
"Then why did you name me commander?" she burst out, jumping off the bed. "Don't come with the 'mistake of an old fairy' shit, because I won't take it! You knew you could have appointed Trouble or any other captain, but you named me, the youngest… the only female! And don't tell me it was to show your anti-male-chauvinist attitude, because I won't take that either!"
Root stood up, stepping to her with a serene expression. "The only reason I chose you was that you were the best. I had been selfish, because I wanted Haven to have the very best commander, and I forgot that that commander also had a life… I forgot how young you were; I ignored the fact that I was taking your youth away from you when I put you in charge. I only had the best interests of Haven at heart, and not your best interests, Holly."
"If you could choose again, would you choose someone else?" She frowned at him.
"No." He smiled. "If I could choose again, I wouldn't choose anyone."
"I don't get it…"
"If I had a chance to decide, I wouldn't retire. So simple."
Holly's eyes widened as it dawned on her. "So… so that was it! That's why you were so depressed all the time, wasn't it? Whenever I asked you what your problem was, you just said 'nothing'… but in reality you… you missed your old job."
Root heaved a sigh. "Yes, Holly. I know that this discussion sounds pretty much like I was trying to get your rank, but that is not the point. The point is that I want you to see that Haven wouldn't be lost if you decided to… take a bit of a holiday. Say… fifty, sixty years of it."
"Fifty? Sixty?" Holly looked at him with a confused expression.
"You're a fairy, Mum," Patrick spoke up. "You have a life expectancy of one thousand and five hundred years. At least. Dad is a Mud Man. He will live for another fifty-sixty years. If you miss the chance to be happy with him now, you will miss it forever. And don't worry about Haven; the Council will gladly reinstate Uncle Julius as your… substitute."
"But… but what would the People say if they found out that I went off to live… above ground with a Mud Man?" Holly asked in a tone that suggested she found the whole thing ludicrous.
"They wouldn't need to know." Patrick gave her a sly smile. "Trust your genius son to come up with a good enough story about your long absence. Say, your poor Aunt Iphigenia got a terrible disease in Atlantis, and you, the only relative, decided to stay with her and take care of her for the remaining few decades of her life… No one will look into the case to find out whether you indeed have an Aunt in Atlantis. Everyone trusts the wonderful Holly Short, saviour of the fairy People. No one will question your right to take a sixty-year-long holiday. And anyway, a few decades are nothing for the fairies. Most of them won't even notice you've gone missing," he added with a wink.
Holly sank onto the bed, her mind reeling. She could barely believe what these two were suggesting her! Leave Haven? Live with Artemis in Ireland?
A shiver ran down her spine at the thought of living in the upper world; but it was not a cold, unpleasant shiver, but a warm and pleasant one.
She glanced at her son then at Root. Patrick gave her an impish grin, while Root's smile was gentle and genuine. He did not look a thing like someone who wanted to get rid of her just to get her job. He had only mentioned that to reassure her: if she decided to leave, there would still be someone to tell off the officers… She did not need worry about responsibilities.
"I… I don't know what to say," she muttered. "Holy Frond, do you realise you're trying to lead me into temptation?"
"We are well aware of that, Mum," the boy replied. "Why, don't you want to be tempted?"
"But Patrick…" she began a scolding that she never finished, seeing her son's eyes radiating something that she had barely ever seen in them. Love. His eyes held love for his mother, and a gentle encouragement. 'Go and be happy,' his eyes said in their silent, yet easy to understand way.
"How… how could I?" she breathed. "I couldn't leave you alone here, Patrick!"
"I wouldn't be left alone, Mum. Uncle Julius and Foaly will be around me."
"But… but… you're just a… little boy…" Holly muttered. She knew her son hated being called 'little', but she couldn't help it. She just couldn't leave him… her little son…
For once the boy didn't seem a bit offended by being called a little boy. He stepped to his mother and gathered her gently into his arms. "I'll be fine, Mum. Also, I could sometimes visit you and Dad… no one of the fairies would find out."
Holly was overwhelmed by Patrick's gesture. It was the first time her son had willingly hugged her… and he was hugging her good-bye. Good-bye?
She withdrew from his embrace, shaking her head. "I can't do this! I'm a fairy! I'm small, and pointy-eared, and UV-sensitive…" But she knew she was only trying to find excuses. Very pathetic excuses.
The gentle expression disappeared from her son's eyes, and a trademark Fowl-vampire-smile spread on his face as he pulled a tiny bottle full of red liquid out of his pocket. He pushed it into Holly's right. "No more excuses, Mum."
Holly stared at the ruby-red solution then squinted up at Root.
The old elf nodded with a calm expression. Holly had never seen 'Beetroot' this calm and carefree before. For a second he looked like a benign father.
She again glanced down at the bottle in her hand, but her eyes saw past the red liquid - they saw a princess turning into an ogre to stay with her beloved. It was a fairy tale. And for the time being she felt she was in a fairy tale too. In both senses of the word…
Artemis was sitting on the windowsill, staring out into the gathering darkness. He had watched as Butler had driven his parents home early in the afternoon, but the last thing he felt like doing was going down to greet them.
Seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours, but the young man did not budge from the windowsill. Time seemed to drift past him without him noticing.
Shadows elongated in the garden, the setting sun painted the horizon orange, but Artemis did not register any of them.
He was mad at himself. Mad, because he was no longer the Artemis Fowl he was supposed to be. He was no longer the cold-hearted, calculating person who had always been ready with a snappy comeback and willing to rid unworthy people of their possessions. He wasn't even Artemis the hunter who hunted the evil and rejoiced over their fall, emphasising his own brilliance… This one was a new Artemis - an Artemis who didn't like himself. It was an Artemis with feelings. With pain. With longing. An Artemis full of characteristics he had despised in others and now despised in himself. He was reduced to a 'mere mortal' whose emotions were his weakness and his weakness his undoing. What most bothered him was the fact that the source of his sadness wasn't his lost genius. He knew he'd miss it, but he also knew he would be able to learn to live without it. He was still clever, just not exceptionally so. He could still carry on with his experiments; he would just need more time and attention for each of them. He had recorded all his knowledge on disks, nothing was lost. He could relearn to be a scientist and inventor; he just needed patience and strength of will.
But there was a much greater problem that he couldn't solve with a strong will.
Had someone only two weeks earlier told him that in two weeks he would be an emotional wreck because of a tiny elf, he would have advised that person to take a nice long holiday in a padded cell.
He, Artemis Fowl the Second was supposed to be cold-headed and indifferent! Such things as love were supposed to be beneath him! He had thought such things were beneath him… But he had been wrong.
He was a rich and good-looking scientist and businessman, having the connections to manipulate others, to play with people like a puppeteer with his marionettes… He was mighty… but not almighty. Despite his influence, despite his wealth, despite his fame as a genius, he was nothing but a man.
A man who loved a woman.
The sun had just dived behind the horizon when the door to Artemis's room opened.
"I said leave - me - alone," he enunciated, not even turning around to see who had arrived.
"I know. Juliet told me," Butler replied, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him. "She even tried to hold me back, but I was relentless. Forgive me for disobeying an order, but sometimes, in the principal's own interest, a bodyguard needs to disobey the principal's order."
"You're not my bodyguard anymore." Artemis said coldly. "And I'm not your principal. I'm your master, and you're my servant, nothing else."
Butler's heart clenched. He had served this boy so long, he had risked his life to save his so many times, and this was what he deserved? To be called a 'servant'? Well, from a certain point of view, he was a servant… but he had always considered himself more of a friend, and he had thought that Artemis too considered him that.
Butler straightened his back and willed his features to remain indifferent, not to show how much the young man's words had hurt him. Only the pain is making him say those things, he persuaded himself and stepped closer to Artemis.
The young man glanced up at him. "Sorry."
"No need to." Butler shook his head and took a place on the windowsill next to his one-time principal. "You can call me whatever you want if that makes you feel better." He added with a wink. "What about elephant-man? Or Darth Vader? The other day someone called me Darth Vader in Limerick, because I was huffing and puffing like that after climbing a few stairs…"
Artemis gave his old friend a sad smile. "And you're panting again… because of me."
The manservant was indeed breathing a bit heavier than usual - he had climbed two floors to Artemis's room, after all. "It doesn't matter." He waved. "I got used to it."
"That's not what I meant," Artemis replied. "I meant that it was all my fault. Your injury… the whole Aztec incident… everything."
"But Artemis, how could that Aztec incident be your fault?" Domovoi frowned.
"Well, it's not directly my fault… but it was I who started it all," the young man said seriously.
"I don't get it."
"But it's as clear as crystal," sighed Artemis, looking out the window. "It was my stupid idea to kidnap a fairy all those years ago. Had I not done that then the fairies wouldn't have known me. Then there would be no Patrick… no one who could have made a substance for the fairies to look like humans, and Quench wouldn't have had a chance to endanger both the fairy People and us, humans. Had he succeeded, I would have been at fault, at least partly."
"But I hope it doesn't mean you regret having that boy as your son?"
Artemis shook his head. "No, I do not… but I can't help thinking how easier everything would be if he didn't exist. How easier everything would be if I had never met the fairies…"
"You mean if you had never met one Holly Short." Butler rectified him gently.
Artemis muttered something like 'Juliet and her big mouth' then frowned upon his old friend, giving the impression of a lost child. There had not been many occasions when Artemis looked younger than his age, but now he definitely did. "See what I'm doing, Butler? Hiding all my problems behind Patrick and Quench, when those problems… they're all related to Holly. I fear I'm cracking up."
"You're not." The manservant put a hand on the young man's shoulder. "You're just in love. And that's a beautiful thing, Artemis, you should not feel ashamed of it, nor fear it. Yes, it will surely cause you pain, but no one has died of it before, and no one has gone crazy because of it."
"No one?" Young Fowl arched an eyebrow at Butler.
"Well… at least not many." The older man shrugged. "And I know you enough, Artemis. I know you more than anyone else in the world, and I know for sure that you won't crack up. You're too strong for that."
"Strong? Me? You're mistaken." Artemis waved. "I wish I were strong… as strong as she is. I bet she isn't wallowing in self-pity… I bet she's going about her LEP business as usual…"
"…at least you hope she is, but at the same time you feel betrayed to think that she forgot about you so easily," Butler said knowingly.
"A bit of a controversial figure, aren't I?" Artemis smiled bitterly, not even surprised that the old man had so accurately described his feelings. Half of him wished that Holly would easily forget him and be happy, even if he couldn't be. The other half, however, wished that she would be just as miserable as he was. The 'foul Fowl' and the 'enamoured Artemis' were again fighting inside him. It seemed a never-ending battle…
"You're not a bit more controversial than anyone else in your place," Butler replied calmly. "Believe it or not, ninety-nine percent of the 'lesser people' would feel the same way. It's only human nature. Just because you're a genius… er… used to be a genius, you're not different from the rest in every respect. That's something you still have to learn."
Artemis bit into his lower lip. The good old Domovoi was right, as always. He, Artemis, could have once been exceptionally bright and could still be a bit cleverer than the average, but he lacked something that the manservant had acquired through the years: wisdom.
Only three days earlier he had been one of the three cleverest people on Earth, and yet he still had much to learn. And not about metaphysics, geopolitics or history of arts. He had to learn about people and their feelings… his own feelings. And not from the psychologist-point-of-view…
"I think I did start to learn things…" he spoke up after a while. "Holly taught me. She taught me humanity… but now that she's out of my life, I fear I will forget everything I learned…"
"Believe me when I say you won't," Butler said softly. "If you don't try to suppress your feelings for her, if you don't try to forget her with all your will-power… if you allow a part of her to reside in your heart as long as you live, then you won't lose what you learned from her. On the contrary - it will give you strength to learn even more."
Artemis heaved a sigh. "I know… but… it's so damn hard to just think of her… it hurts."
"It's supposed to hurt." Butler patted the young man on the shoulder. "But as time passes, the pain will fade, and finally only the good memories remain. Trust me, I know what you're going through." Seeing Artemis's confused expression, Butler let out a small laugh. "Did you think I was never hit by Cupid's arrow? Believe it or not, I was in love at least four times… no, five… And it always hurt when it ended… but time healed the wounds. The first was the worst, of course… She had waist-length strawberry blonde hair…" Butler absent-mindedly ran his hand across his shaved dome, his eyes distant. Artemis almost found it amusing - the huge Eurasian reminiscing about love…
"Well, the point is," Butler said when he came out of his reverie, "that you mustn't try to forget her, because the harder you try, the less you will succeed. Those whom we love, we never really forget… it would be against the rules of nature if we did."
Artemis nodded, feeling slightly lighter than he had been before his friend's visit. Apparently, Butler knew him more than he had thought Butler did. He decided to take the manservant's advice, and instead of trying to wipe Holly's lovely face out of his mind or keep repeating how much he missed her, he would try to remember the times when they were happy together.
A smile appeared on his face as he pictured the fairy wading out of the lake, the jungle trees' shadows painting intricate patterns on her coffee-coloured skin… He could almost see her through half-closed eyelids… she looked taller than normal, the ash trees casting shadows on her cream-coloured skin and her scanty clothing. She seemed almost real…
Artemis rubbed his eyes and blinked. His mind must be playing tricks on him…!
But no. She was still there, walking down the paved path that led to the front door.
"B…Butler? Do you see what I see?" Artemis stammered, grabbing the window-frame and pushing his nose to the windowpane. The glass steamed up due to his ragged breathing.
"Well, I don't know what you see, but to me it seems pretty much like a fairy we know… just a bit differently."
That was all Artemis needed to cross the room in three quick jumps, tear the door open and begin racing down the stairs.
Butler remained in the doorframe for a few minutes, smiling to himself. Deciding that he had superfluously come here to give Artemis 'moral support', he walked out of the young man's room, going down the back stairs. He had a feeling that Artemis would not return to his room alone and he assumed that the last thing his young master would want was his presence.
Artemis practically ripped the front door open and jumped down the marble stairs, running towards the lithe figure in the garden.
"H…Holly," he breathed, stopping two metres from her, panting. For a moment he didn't know what to say, what to ask… She was so breathtakingly beautiful… Her hazel eyes sparkled in her pale face, her auburn hair was arranged in a way to reveal a pair of completely human-looking ears, and she seemed to be only a few inches shorter than him. A perfect 'Mud-Womanised' Holly Short.
She was wearing a very revealing top and a tight-fitting, slightly short pair of trousers. Apparently she couldn't find a big enough fairy dress.
He was just ogling her for what seemed minutes, unable to take his eyes off her.
"Y…you've grown," he said finally, feeling sillier than he had all those years back saying 'I don't like lollipops'.
"Yeah, I have… even without doing exercises on a home gym," she said with a wink.
"I assume… you drank that substance that Patrick invented…"
"Amazing how well it works… I mean… you look like any of us…" He knew well that he was rambling - of course the substance worked perfectly, he had seen Quench and Quench's guards as humans and he too had used it to regain his usual looks… But for the time being he couldn't do anything but ramble. Very uncharacteristic for Artemis Fowl!
"Well, the boy is a genius, after all…" She shrugged. "It's natural that his substance works perfectly… just like your antidote."
"Uh-huh. Good. Er…" He felt like slapping himself on the forehead. Heavens! 'Er' wasn't even a word!
Seeing his inability to utter a decent sentence, she decided to help him out and continued their conversation. "If you were wondering when I was going to take that antidote, then my answer is: in fifty-sixty years."
Artemis blinked, his mouth falling open. He knew that this was the least attractive face he could have made, but he didn't care.
"You mean…" he began, running his hand through his black locks in an embarrassed-confused way. Holly couldn't help but feel amused by the thought that she was having such an effect on the aloof, ever so self-confident Mr Fowl. "You mean…?"
"Of course I'm staying with you, silly," she said gently.
Artemis completely ignored the fact that he was supposed to take offence at being called 'silly'. "But… but the Council made me promise never to contact a fairy again…"
Holly's lips tucked into a grin. "Yeah, you promised never to contact a fairy again. But I never promised anyone not to contact you again."
"You devious little witch…" he said admiringly.
"Devious, huh? Well, I had a good teacher in deviousness." She winked at him.
"And who's going to be the commander, then?" Artemis enquired. He still couldn't believe this could work. He still couldn't believe he and Holly could stay together.
"Julius, of course," she replied matter-of-factly. "He was bored out of his mind as a pensioner…"
"And what about Patrick?" Artemis frowned. He couldn't see Holly leaving her son just like that. Not after all she'd done to get him back…
"Well, I'm going to miss him like hell," she replied, "but I don't need to worry about him now. He's in good hands living with Julius, and… I'll have him back, after all…"
I'll have him back, after all… Artemis knew well what that meant. It meant that Holly had come here aware that she could spend a couple of decades with him, not any more. He would be an old man when she would still be young…
"Is it really what you want?" he asked seriously, suddenly feeling his old self again. This was a question to be considered with a cool head. "You know I don't have a long life, compared to you. Is it what you want? To see me grow grey and wrinkly and perhaps even die in your arms?"
"This is my only chance to be happy with you, and I will make the most of it, if you let me," Holly replied serenely. "I don't mind if your hair turns grey… some of it has turned grey already." She pointed at his temple.
"That was your fault, you know," he said, his eyes twinkling. "You went and almost got yourself killed by that jaguar… that one stole years from my life…"
"Years, really?" She playfully raised an eyebrow at him. "I seriously hope you can still… er… perform, despite being such an ooooold man…"
"I expect I can… but there's only one way to find out…" he said, shrugging. Just a few minutes ago he was trying to convince himself that it wouldn't have worked between him and Holly, and now he was to convince himself of the opposite. No doubt, it would not be hard to persuade himself… He was sure he'd have problems with his aging and Holly's lack of aging later, but the fairy had been right. If he missed his only chance to be happy with her, then he was the greatest idiot on the face of Earth.
Holly stared at him for a while, almost seeing the cogwheels whirring in his head. She knew he was weighing all pros and cons - she had done the same before she'd drunk the 'MMM'. When finally a small smile appeared on his face, she knew he'd made his decision, and he'd chosen her.
"Say," she said with her arms akimbo, "how long do I have to wait for a kiss?"
Artemis's lips tucked into the biggest grin ever, and he crossed the space between them in one single jump, closing her tightly into his arms, his lips immediately finding hers. She hungrily returned the kiss, making him feel as though he were melting. The kiss the Aztec princess had given him had been nice, the one Holly had given him before his sacrifice had been electrifying, the one they had shared at the Haven shuttle port had been beautiful, but none of them came close to this one. The former kisses had been resigned farewell-forever-kisses, this, however, was a 'welcome to heaven' kiss.
"I love you," he muttered as soon as he got a chance to breath again.
"I know," she replied, bending her head on his shoulder. It was simply perfect there, in his arms. There was no place in the world she would rather have been at the moment.
As he held her with his right arm, his left hand slowly wandered down her back to her waist that wasn't covered with her too short shirt. "Hmm, you know, I like this outfit… the latest Atlantean fashion?"
"No. My mother's maternity dress," she chuckled. "That was the only shirt big enough…"
"Honestly, you completely ruined that for me… how will I ever think of you wearing this and not thinking of a heavily pregnant woman?"
"Why, you think pregnant women can't be sexy?" She pouted.
"I don't know… never seen one up close. Would you too have worn this if you had carried Patrick?"
"Perhaps. Though I think he would have died of fright if I had shown him photos of myself expecting him in this dress…" Holly made a grimace. "Speaking of children… don't you think it's funny that we have a child and have not yet slept together?"
"Yeah, funny… Something that definitely has to be changed…" Artemis replied with a kinky smile.
"Exactly." She slipped her hand into his and they began walking up the stairs. "If we have another child, then we will have it the traditional way…" Artemis nodded his agreement. "…and-"
"Yes-?" he asked.
"…we aren't going to name it Artemis!"
A/N: in case you're interested, there's an illustration for this chapter: Arty and Holly kissing in the garden (link in my bio).
Also, if you're at least 17, then you can read the story of Artemis and Holly's first time, titled Welcome in heaven, on adultffnet (see link in my bio). If you don't want to review on adultffnet you can come back and review for that fic here, as it can be considered as 'part' of this one. Well, sort of.
And now, as a little teaser: I'm giving you a few lines from the sequel (I haven't written much of it yet, but...)
"What could Artemis want to tell us?" Fowl Senior wondered as his wife readied herself for the 'big talk' in front of her vanity table.
"I don't know, Timmy." Angeline shook her head, fishing a pearl necklace out of her jewel box. "But Butler sounded pretty serious…" She turned around to face her husband. "Perhaps Arty's broken up with Holly?"
"Am I imagining things or is there really a hopeful expression on your face, dear?" Artemis the First asked sardonically.
"Why?" Angeline dropped the necklace into her lap. "Aren't I allowed to hope? Miracles happen once in a while."
"It all began with your disappearance, Father," Artemis said.
"My disappearance?" Fowl Senior asked back.
"Exactly, Father." Artemis nodded. "After you went missing, I spent most of the family's fortune on searching missions, and our bank accounts were depleted to such an extent that I knew I had to find a new source of income. That was when I decided to kidnap a fairy for ransom."
"Kidnap a… what?" his father coughed.
Well, bye, and (hopefully) see you in September:D