The Miracle of Life
Part the First
Making the decision to have a child-it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.
On an otherwise unremarkable day in late September, Artemis Fowl foiled the attempts of three gnomes who had kidnapped a demon warlock with the intent of reversing the events of the battle of Tallite and wiping humanity from existence, and Holly Short discovered she was pregnant. The medic who made the announcement following what had been a routine check-up seemed uncertain of how to proceed. Rumours about Holly Short and Artemis Fowl were passed around like a ragged gossip mag (had fairy gossip actually been printed anytime in the last four centuries) but the closest thing to an 'official' source was Grub Kelp. The Corporal had once gotten drunk in Tyr na Grog and confessed to walking into Foaly's office just as the centaur was reviewing the footage of Captain Short's most recent topside mission, after which, it seemed, she had paid Fowl a visit and neglected to remove her Iris Cam.
"I am demanding compensation," the Corporal had slurred over his second cup of sim wine, "For psychological trauma." His elder brother, who had arrived to carry him home twenty minutes later, had declined to comment.
"You should come back for a full scan next week," said the medic on that otherwise unremarkable day, as her patient blinked in shock. She hesitated, but soldiered bravely on, "If the…ah…father wishes to accompany you…"
Holly's glazed look sharpened a little and a wry smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, "He's been banned from Haven," she said candidly, "Three times now, I think. And it would be so inconvenient if the Council mindwiped him again. It tends to set him back morally, you see, and I would like him to be able to set some sort of good example for our child."
Self-satisfying frivolities aside, Holly was unsure how to go about telling Artemis The News. She half hoped, in a rare moment of appreciation for his analytical prowess, that he would have worked it out for himself. But he had nothing to work with, really-it was too early for her figure to be showing any changes, elves did not suffer from morning sickness and she hadn't seen him often enough lately for him to have noticed the telltale absence of monthly events. She requested an aboveground visa from Trouble, who said that she needn't bother taking an Iris Cam, somewhat to her confusion, and told Artemis that she was coming for the weekend.
I cannot claim to have forgotten your face, his reply read, But you cannot refresh my memory too often. Coming from Artemis, who was awkward about expressions of emotion and even more so when the words remained as typed or written evidence, this was bordering on erotica. Thinking wistfully of a weekend with him in such a mood, Holly sighed. Then again, she mused, things with Artemis were rarely uncomplicated. If it wasn't this, there would probably be an arch-villain or two to deal with.
He met her in the grounds, where he once again contrived to be expecting her despite her suit's supposed invulnerability to human surveillance. Even unshielded as she was, she should have been able to sneak into the mud people's most high security venues undetected. But not Fowl Manor. Artemis was already scanning the sky when she caught sight of him, and when she flicked the switch that disabled the cam-foil function of her suit she caught sight of Butler waving from the upstairs window. I'm so glad they're on our side, she thought, the most recent of many, many times, and alighted on the grass in front of Artemis. He moved towards her, still pale and thin, taller than when she first knew him now, the features altered subtly but still familiar and beloved. Watching them light up, the furrows on his brow worn smooth by welcome and delight, Holly abandoned her plans to tell him at once. She'd do it over dinner. He reached her at last and she wrapped her arms around him, feeling the warmth of him and the beat of his human heart. He kissed her cheeks and her closed eyelids before moving to her mouth.
"Mother and Butler are here," he said after several long moments, voice soft and deep in a way that made her shiver, "Juliet has taken the twins into Dublin and father is…golfing," he said the word with mild distaste, "Mother wants to dine with us. Is that alright?"
"Of course," Holly told him, and smiled. So much for over dinner, then.
So much for dinner indeed. The meal, though enjoyable, took up the majority of the evening and gave Holly no opportunity to pull Artemis aside and drop her bombshell, even if she had trusted his ability to return to the dinner table and make casual conversation with him mother over the cheeseboard. After dinner came drinks and as Holly could not take liquor with humans under any circumstances there was no way to plant the idea in his mind then either. At last Angeline yawned and suggested that it was time they retired, informing Holly with the grace of a true hostess that her usual room above the library was all ready for her. At this point Holly agreed that it was late, and if Butler found it strange that a nocturnal woman should be claiming sleepiness at 11.30 in the evening, or that his young master, who habitually worked until the small hours, should express the same fatigue, he said nothing about it.
Fifteen minutes later, as Holly alighted on Artemis's windowsill and was immediately drawn inside in a tumble of limbs and questing lips, she decided that her announcement could once again wait until later.
Perhaps the delays counted against her in the end, for there really was no opportune moment to tell him and the sweetness of their meeting only sharpened what came later. The following morning they were lying in each other's arms while he stroked her hair and discoursed at length about some scientific theory about which Holly cared very little, when she discovered that she simply could not keep the information from him any longer. So without so much as waiting for a pause in his lecture, she blurted out, "Artemis, I'm pregnant," and waited.
His hand on her hair froze. After a full minute of silence, Holly twisted around to look at his face. His features were curiously blank, his eyes unfocussed. He's meditating, Holly thought. Then, No, he's actually in shock. She raised herself to her knees and shook him by the shoulders.
He blinked and resurfaced, though the expression on his face remained unreadable. Holly watched anxiously as he licked his lips and cleared his throat twice before the words came, in a voice that cracked like it hadn't done since he was much younger.
"I…you never said anything. I assumed cross-fertilisation wasn't possible between the species, that it would have been forward of me to enquire…"
"I didn't know it could happen," Holly admitted, "Stupid of me, I know." She realised that she was trembling. Her training kicked in; slowing her heartbeat, schooling her breath, but not before he felt the vibrations through her fingers and moved to still her hands in his.
"And you?" his eyes travelled over her face, hungry like they were on Hybras, or on the night they first made love, "Are you well? Have there been previous cases that you were unaware of, or have there been no hybrids before now? Do your doctors anticipate complications?"
So much for joy over our unborn child, Holly thought sourly. Just like Artemis to reduce everything to science. At least he'd placed her wellbeing first, which was something.
"I'm fine," she told him firmly, "A little tired, but that's normal. There have been unions between fairies and humans, but not for millennia. They say Merlin was one. And complications…" she paused, but she had always been a terrible liar and hypocrisy was no way to deal with him just when she was making progress, "The baby is…larger than normal. I won't be able to deliver her-or him-the traditional way."
"How far advanced is the pregnancy?"
"Almost four months," he raised his eyebrows and she squirmed, "I've been busy, alright? And worried, with you playing hide and seek with those gnomes."
"But you said the foetus was larger…" he put a hand to her stomach, his brows knitting.
"Elvish pregnancies last a year," she explained, covering his fingers with her own, "We don't show until the seventh or eighth month, normally. I'm going to have horrible stretch marks and with no magic to wish them away I bet I get stuck with them forever…"
"Wait," his voice cut through her babbling like a dwarf's incisors through clay, "What do you mean, no magic?"
"One thing the medics managed to dredge up from before Tallite is that the magical status of the child is variable. If our baby doesn't have magic it can be harmful to have all that power bouncing about in the body carrying it. I've siphoned off the rest of my magic and I'm not to perform the ritual until after the birth."
Artemis pulled back now and Holly's waist felt cold where his hands had been. The lines of his face had a rigid cast now, as if he were keeping them very tightly under control, and his voice hummed with suppressed emotion.
"Let me determine whether I have heard you correctly, Holly. You intend to have a child the like of which has not been borne in thousands of years, which is already placing abnormal demands on your body, and you intend to do it without a single spark of magic to rely on should things go wrong? Are you certain you wish to do this?"
"As opposed to what?" Holly grabbed the sheet and wrapped it around her, feeling naked and exposed before him for the first time that morning, "Artemis as opposed to what?"
He said nothing. Holly felt dizzy and a little sick. Maybe this was how it felt to be a pregnant mud woman. She hadn't expected jubilation-the idea of her and Artemis as parents was at best laughable. Frond knew how they would bring up a child when she had to fight for every topside visa and his father and brothers still considered elves the stuff of fairytales and Tolkien. But she had never imagined, not for a second, that he'd want her to…
There was a knock on the door. While Holly was certain that nothing that went on in Fowl Manor quite escaped Butler's notice, he nevertheless gave every sign of believing that Artemis and Holly bid each other goodnight every evening and met again at the breakfast table. It was a daily ritual for the enormous manservant to inspect his charge's room first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but after that embarrassing incident when Artemis was twenty he always made sure to knock. Holly knew she had a couple of minutes before Butler entered with coffee and a bomb detector, so she busied herself with her suit and the wings that would carry her back to her room.
"Holly…" Artemis started from the bed. He was as thin as ever and since he would insist on a four poster the vast expanse of sheets tended to dwarf him, making him look like a child taking a turn in his parents' bed. The sight usually made Holly smile, but now she wondered whether Artemis thought he was too young, at twenty four, to have a child. Too young for her.
"We'll talk later," she said, shortly, and left him in the bed.
"I'm sorry," he said later, when she came to him. They were on the front steps, which the manor cast into shadow in the hours before noon. She would have preferred a warmer spot, to be honest, and with her power gone there were not even the diluting effects of the sun to consider. She thought about mentioning this to Artemis, but his reaction before when she had mentioned her lack of magic still hung in the air between them. Besides, if she asked and he acquiesced, he might think he had gone some way towards mending things between them, and she was not ready to forgive him yet. She meant to, of course-but not until he admitted that he hadn't meant the thing he'd suggested earlier. For of course he would admit it. She refused to entertain the notion that he would not.
He reached for her when she sat beside him but she drew back. This in itself was not unusual; Mulch had once said that Holly and Artemis spent half their time together screaming themselves hoarse-and the other half fighting. On any other occasion he would have been charming and contrite and, as she began to thaw, assured her only half in jest that he 'couldn't do without her'. She would have laughed. They would have made up, or made love.
"I didn't know you wanted children," he said at last. Holly's earlier verdict, that he hadn't meant his words that morning, dipped and turned hazy. If he didn't want this child, she wondered, what did that mean for them?
"You don't?" she asked and squared her shoulders, waiting for the blow.
"I've never thought about it," when Holly, who had long ago decided that there was nothing on earth to which Artemis had not given far too much thought, raised an eyebrow, he hastened to clarify, "When I was young it was never an issue. By the time I was old enough to consider the matter, there was you. I didn't think it was an option for us. And if it wasn't, then it wasn't on my agenda. I'm very…single-minded about the things I want."
And didn't she know it. Softening a little despite herself, understanding how the mind could reel and throw down shutters when presented with something long thought unattainable, Holly confessed, "I didn't think it was possible either. And I've never exactly seen myself as the mothering type. But…"
"You would be an…amazing mother," Artemis shook his head a little sadly, "How could you not be? You're so good. But this is not your only chance. You have hundreds of years left to you, after me. But I…" he paused, but though the words brought colour to his cheeks and his mismatched eyes slid away from hers, there was no lie in them, "I will never love anyone but you. I will never want anything else. And I will not risk losing you for the sake of a child I never would have risked fathering had I but known it was possible."
Anger and relief bloomed simultaneously in Holly's chest. So that's his problem. Stupid mud man. It's not that he doesn't want the baby, he just wants me more. And at the same time, with equal strength, So he's decided he can't outlive me, has he? And what about me? I can keep him as safe as I like, he's still going to leave me.
"Don't I get a say in this?" her eyes filmed before she impatiently blinked them dry, "You think I don't know you're going to die? I don't want to spend my life in mourning. I don't want to wake up every morning and remember and I don't want anyone else either. But our child…" she fumbled for the phrases that escaped her, to put into words the pictures in her mind. Artemis's blue eyes watching her long after he was dead and gone. The echo of his voice as a smart-mouthed grandchild turned a phrase, "Our child and their children, that's proof. It's something that lasts beyond your life and mine and says look, they loved each other. And yes, Artemis, I will risk dying for that."
He looked her full in the face for a long moment. Holly tried, the latest of many times, to remember exactly when he had become so dear to her. It was such a helpless feeling, loving him like this. For a second she thought he was searching her face for something, then he sighed and dropped his gaze, looking suddenly and endearingly young. "I'm sorry, Holly," he said again.
She watched him, biting her lower lip. He loved her. She had never doubted that, even before she knew her own heart. If it were his life in danger, how would she react? He needed time; that was all. Reaching out, she took his hand in her own, interlocking their fingers. "Oh, Arty," she said, "I'm going to be fine."
He turned to her with something like desperation and she let him hold her, burying his face in her neck and tracing gnomish spirals beneath her shoulder blades. Yes, my love, you are, she thought she felt him write. And then once again, although she could have been mistaken, I'm sorry.
A/N: Part the second up soon.