CONTENT: violence, language
Epilogue: The Perfect World
The interior of the pod was washed with a clear blue as it sped hundreds of miles into the earth. Periodically the lights and screens would flicker, the continual hum of the vehicle jerking a bit as it shot through the underground tunnels, the craft groaning in protest as the speed limit was pushed, the paint melting away and smoking as it was flung into darkness.
But Holly wasn't paying attention to her driving.
Her face was bleached by the blue light filling the cabin, expressionless but somehow deadly at the same time. She could faintly see her reflection in one of the screens. Juliet had done her job well.
Where there may have been a spider-like wrinkle or a freckle or a small blemish, there was now smooth, cream-like skin. Her eyes, heterochromatic in their natural state, were intense even without the smoky makeup; the dark silvery colors tinged an entrancing green that was horribly washed out by the light. Holly's hair had been dyed back to its original fiery red, and though Juliet had offered to cut it for her, she had taken the first pair of scissors she could get her hands on and hacked away until it was back to something that half-resembled her crew cut, mixed with an almost feline, feminine style that swept along her jaw.
She had the pod going as fast as it could without exploding, watching apathetically as the sides glowed with the heat of her speed, turning a dull red, and then orange. The temperature regulators fought for control in the cabin, but it was slowly heating up nonetheless.
The pod flew along undetected.
It was raining in Ireland.
The two siblings stood side-by-side at the gates, staring mournfully through the splendid wrought-iron toward the faraway manor. Behind those ivy-coated walls, the Fowl family was grieving.
"Are you ready?" Juliet asked her brother softly, peering up past her hood, through the drizzle, high up toward Butler's stone-fixed face. He did not reply, and reached for the keypad by the gate.
Once inside the grounds, they began the long walk in, their feet crunching on the gravel of the drive and the pitter patter of the rain on their shoulders the only sounds in the vast emptiness of the Fowl estate. The house loomed over them too soon.
They stopped in front of the huge oak doors, staring up at the ancient water-soaked wood in respectful, fearful silence, their shoulders squared. This was business. This was responsibility. This was the determination that had carried the Butler legacy for centuries beside the Fowl family.
Juliet raised a shaking hand to knock.
"I've blocked all LEP weapons and communications," Foaly had said. "That's all I'll do for you, Holly. I don't support what you're about to do."
"No," she replied, staring straight ahead as Juliet carefully painted her new face. Her newly cut and dyed hair was pulled back, tucked behind her ears. "I need diversion once I get into the building."
"Holly, please, consider what you're –"
"Don't push me, Foaly."
He hesitated, and then typed something audibly. "When you enter the building I'll trigger LEP defense smoke bombs. That's all, you hear me? Nothing else."
"Holly…" Foaly's voice was quiet, sad in a sort of aching way that was wasted on his friend. "They'll kill you for this, you know. You've escaped once. They won't want to take that chance again."
Holly's stare cooled, her eyes icing over. "I know."
"I'll miss you."
He sighed into his microphone. "I just… I'm sorry. That this all happened. I wish… that things could have been better."
"Holly." Juliet was speaking softly, so that Foaly couldn't hear. "May I ask you something?"
"Artemis... was like my baby brother. And it hurt to watch him grow up and change, but he was happy." She swallowed, drawing lines in even strokes over Holly's eyelids. "And now he's gone, and... I just..."
"Are you sure you're just doing this to avenge him?"
"I know I'm not," Holly said cooly. "I'm doing this for the both of us. Don't protest, Juliet."
"I'm not, Holly. Believe me."
Juliet put down her make-up brush, staring at Holly sadly. "You ready?"
Holly blinked rapidly a few times, allowing herself to get used to the mascara coating her lashes.
"Ready as I'll ever be."
The man reading Latin over the hole in the ground meant nothing.
His brow pulsed with fake emotion, as if Artemis's cold body in the coffin behind him actually meant something. It was Fowl tradition to bury their dead, but Butler knew that his charge would never have wanted to be stuffed in a box until he decayed.
Beside him, the Fowl family stood stoic. Fowls did not cry at funerals. They kept up appearances; any time a member of the family was killed by any given Mafia, or found dead in a ditch, or assassinated or ended by some disease, they stood statue-like at the top of the hill crowning the most prestigious Irish cemetery. There was time for crying later, once they were alone and no one could see them.
On his other side was Juliet. She refused to watch the proceedings, staring off into the distance instead. Her fingers tapped her knees steadily as she looked out over the Irish countryside, thinking her own thoughts. She was young. Eventually, this would all fade a bit and she could go back to living a normal life.
But Butler would never forget.
The cold, bitter December wind whipped the top of the hillside, carrying the pastor's voice over the crowd gathered for a man they had never really known. "Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat in pace. Amen."
There were seven bullets in the magazine packed into Butler's gun. She had painstakingly dyed each one a separate color and shoved them into the gun at random, except for the last one. The current shooting order of the magazine was green, orange, red, indigo, yellow, purple, and lastly blue. Green for Sloane, her wisdom with the trees dampened by age, orange for Hans, his pride in his family and his legacy shining like fire, red for Lili, her aura bright and radiant, welcome wherever it was found, indigo for Hiro, his strength passed from generation to generation, yellow for the sweet child Micah, who, with her naturally diplomatic ways, was such a great expectation for government, and purple for Sage, pregnant with her second child, who strived so hard for peace and prosperity for the greater population.
The last bullet was blue for Artemis.
Haven was getting close.
Holly's eyes were locked, narrow and dangerous, on the readouts.
Max Green was going to die today.
"I'm here to arrest you."
Trouble Kelp's voice rang through the Ops booth. Foaly stopped his typing, resting his fingers on the keyboard. "How long will I be in for?"
Trouble put his hands in his pockets, looking up at Foaly with tired eyes. Those eyes had once been sparkling and youthful. Now they were flat and carried deep bags underneath. "Depends. If you get convicted of assisting murder, you could be in for 400 years."
Foaly closed his eyes. "I see."
"I'll testify for you," he offered. "I know the whole story."
"I've got men outside. But I don't think you're going to resist arrest. Am I right?"
"Do you mind if I call my wife first?"
"You can call her from your prison cell."
"I'd like to try and tell her not to set my place for dinner." Foaly's attempt at humor fell flat.
"Let's go, Foaly."
He rose from his chair, casting one last sad look around the office. "Hope you find someone who you can trust."
Foaly held out his hands, allowing Trouble to cuff him, and then looked him right in the eye. "I hope you know that she was a great woman. Max was the bastard who ruined everything."
"I know, Foaly. I know."
Trouble clapped him half-heartedly on the shoulder and led him out of the Ops Booth for the last time.
Holly stepped out of the shuttle, looking, almost bored, out over the station. They were frozen in shock, staring at her with wide eyes. She had long since begun to shut down her senses, losing feeling and sound. She was recognized.
Foaly hadn't bothered to mention whether or not her name had been cleared to the public, but she supposed it didn't matter, because either way they were pointing useless guns at her. She knew she looked absolutely insane to them, and maybe she was. Maybe… maybe her time was up.
A particularly brave young officer stepped in front of her, her face held stoic, but her hands shaking just enough for Holly to notice. She stopped right in front of this elf, meeting her hazel eyes.
You're just like I was, aren't you?
"I suggest you move," Holly said, her voice silky smooth, persuading even without her mesmer.
The elf squared her chin. "No."
"If you don't, I'll shoot you," Holly murmured, flipping another gun out of her belt. This one wasn't loaded, but the officer didn't need to know that. "And what use would you be to Haven once I just stepped right over your dead body?"
The elf's resolve wavered, and Holly could see the bitter wish for a working Neutrino.
"You're no better than Opal Koboi," the officer said. "You're out for revenge, just like she was. Did you think of that, Short?"
Frond, did everyone know her story? Holly was distracted by this as the officer made a leap for her, her head knocking the breath out of Holly's body. It took a moment, but Holly was able to get the other elf in a headlock, the loaded gun held in the restraining hand and the unloaded gun pressed to her temple. The officer stiffened.
"You're strong," Holly said, knowing that all the eyes in the shuttle port were on her. "You're like I was." She threw the elf to the ground, tucking the unloaded gun back into her belt and resuming her methodic walking toward the LEP building. "Don't throw it away, kid."
She felt the astonished gazes on her back, watching her leave but not daring to stop her. To them, she was just like a murder, just like Max, but to Holly, it was different.
Holly didn't kill innocents.
As a baby, Trouble Kelp had rarely cried.
His office was dim. There was a squat glass filled with amber in front of him, resting peacefully on the faux-wood of his desk. He wasn't supposed to have alcohol on duty, but no one had dared to complain.
The Commander sighed through his nose, slowly swirling the ice in his cup around and around and around the rim of the glass. The funeral had been today. The LEP was responsible for funding the services of its veterans, even if their veterans had died in an act of crime.
The march through the city had been slow and solemn, two traditional recycling coffins carried on the shoulders of the LEP generals. One coffin had been revered and cried for. The other had been spat at and disdained upon.
He ground the bridge of his nose between his fingertips. If only they had known the real story.
When he had heard she was in the building, he had run as fast as he could toward the scene, thinking that maybe he could talk some sense into her. But the moment he had seen those eyes, he knew she was too far gone to care.
If only he had given into that reasonable doubt in his mind way back at the beginning. Maybe it would have all been okay.
"You don't even deserve death, but it's the best we've got to dish out at you."
But he had lied, hadn't he? He had fucking lied, and now she had gotten that punishment that she hadn't deserved.
For the first time since infancy, Trouble Kelp put his head in his hands and cried like a child.
The old man looked up from the vegetables he had been chopping to notice the twenty-year-old Fowl heir standing uncomfortably in the doorway. Myles had grown more into his brother than Butler would have preferred.
"May I ask you something?"
"Of course," Butler rumbled, placing his knife wearily on the cutting board.
Myles brought himself to stand next to his companion, his brow creased in worry. "Was my elder brother… sane, do you know?" He glanced up and caught the expression working its way over Butler's face and hastily tried to explain. "It's just… not that I'm asking if he were stark raving mad. Just a little… eccentric."
"Who isn't, these days?" Butler sighed, attempting to return to his chopping.
"I found his diary."
Butler felt his old joints stiffen against his will, clueing Myles in that he knew exactly what he was talking about.
"Butler, in it… he regularly talked…" Myles made a small sound of disbelief. "He talked about fairies. And not like the normal, fairy-tale kind. It sounded like he took the time to create this whole little world, where these beings were amazingly technologically advanced, and they lived hundreds of miles under the surface of the earth."
Butler didn't answer.
"I've never been told how Artemis died, Butler," Myles began once he realized Butler was not going to comment. "And I know it's an extremely difficult subject for you – I mean, my god, the two of you were practically bonded to each other – but I am his brother. Don't you think I have the right to know?"
"No," Butler replied. "I don't." He turned, taking in Myles surprised expression, and frowned, deep lines webbing across his forehead. "I think you should forget about him, and forget all you read in his diary. After all, it's just the eccentricities of Artemis Fowl, right?"
Myles blinked. "All right, if you think so."
"I will, then." He turned and walked slowly out of the kitchen, and then paused in the doorway. "I'm sorry, Butler."
Her stilettos were clicking on the pavement.
Haven had its share of weirdos, and that included prostitutes. Surely she looked like one right now. It was what she had been going for when she had commanded Juliet to dress her up. Some people paid her no mind. Others looked her up and down, deciding whether to approach or not. Only a select few noticed the Magnum held comfortably at her side.
Her previous workplace loomed in front of her. They couldn't stop her. They would never even know she was coming.
Every step brought her closer. Every little step pulled Max Green a little bit closer to death.
The crime scene was buzzing.
It was messy, of course; six dead bodies slashed all over the house, blood dripping from the walls, spreading grotesquely all over the floor. Vinyáya, the hardened officer that she was, had been asked to head the investigation, and currently had all of her available subordinates scouring the scene.
She half-sat on the dining room table as the officers rushed around her, busy with reports and information and search. A lit fungus cigar dangled between her fingers, a habit picked up from her previous superior officer. Vinyáya was by no means old, but her forehead was riddled with lines.
She looked around; a young techie had disturbed her harried contemplation.
"What is it?"
"We've found a plethora of DNA evidence, sir. Investigation is running through the machine as we speak, but they already suspect it to be an elf."
Vinyáya stubbed her cigar out on an unfortunate nearby helmet. "Why's that, corporal?"
"The hair we found, sir. It's red."
"How much did you find, corporal?"
"Hair, fingerprints, a slice of fingernail. We've got a unit testing blood for further identification."
Vinyáya tapped her lips, frowning. "No one smart enough to murder the Frond family would leave that much evidence." Her eyes narrowed. "That's... odd."
She started a bit. "I wasn't talking to you, corporal. You're dismissed." The young pixie nodded, saluted, and turned on his heel to walk away.
It took a moment for anyone inside the LEP building to even notice her as she strolled easily through the doors. With their communications down, they were concentrating on their wiring problems, and not even noticing Holly as she strode past the registration desks and the majestic statue of a strong, stereotypical male elf in the center of the atrium. But one sprite saw Holly after nearly twenty seconds, and then saw the gun. Her scream rattled Holly's skull.
Bang, she thought cooly.
In a normal circumstance like this, the smoke bombs would go off and the LEP personnel would undergo standard, rehearsed evacuation procedures. However, these were not normal circumstances, and no one was even remotely prepared for the explosions as the smoke bombs detonated, sending a few officers flying, shielding Holly in a cloud of ashy destruction. She it took her only seconds to clear the atrium and get into an elevator.
Foaly would have to get working on a new system right away. This was way too easy.
"I want him to want me before I kill him."
Juliet raised an eyebrow, but did not question. It had only taken her an hour to retrieve what remained of her Full Monty from storage and get it back to Butler's apartment. Now the contents of the trunks were spread over the living room; cosmetics, wigs, outfits of every kind, just waiting to be taken.
Juliet dug through her extensive collection of compressed powder, frown lines creasing around her tired eyes and mouth. "How badly to you want him to want you?"
Holly raised an eyebrow, staring straight ahead. "Well, let me ask you. Is it possible to get a guy to cream his pants when he knows you're going to kill him?"
Juliet had a trace of a rueful smile on her face as she scrounged through the trunk behind her. After a moment she pulled out a burgundy leather corset, eyeing it thoughtfully.
"Let me see what I can do."
When she burst into Max's office, she got just the reaction she wanted. He jumped, completely taken unawares, and his eyes roved up and down her body before he noticed the gun and paled.
"Oh, gods," he breathed. "Oh, gods, Holly, please."
"You don't even deserve this, you son of a bitch," she whispered, and pulled the trigger for the first time.
And the first of the seven bullets spun out, straight toward Max's waiting chest.
The small boy knelt in front of the headstone, tilting his head as he struggled to read the engraved words.
"Mama!" he called. His mother, farther down the hill, looked up, squinting in the glare.
"What is it, darling?"
She traipsed up through the long grasses, kneeling next to her son, and read the words. "Oh. My grandpa used to tell me about him," she mused softly.
"Who?" the boy asked.
"That's your great-great-uncle Artemis," she said, looking at the engraving thoughtfully. "He was your great-granddaddy's brother."
"Yes, dear." She stroked his hair. "He died when he was pretty young... I don't know too much about him, other than he was very smart."
She smiled, letting him believe it. "Yes." She reached out and traced the dips in the stone that made up his name. "It's such a shame... I would have loved to meet him. He seemed like a good man." She looked up. "Charlie?"
But her little boy had already lost interest, rolling down the hill and giggling. She dutifully followed him, shaking her head with a smile and forgetting the headstone.
Artemis Fowl II was well and truly erased from human history.
It hadn't felt nearly as good as Holly had thought it would, but it was a good feeling nonetheless. Adrenaline pumped through her veins, lit on fire by the unexpected rush of lustful revenge that had consumed her. Though Max lay long dead on the floor, Holly raised the gun once more to lodge the final bullet into his skull.
The last, pure blue bullet.
This one was for Artemis.
"I want to forget," Juliet told Trouble, her eyes glued to the screen of the computer that once belonged to Artemis. "I want to forget all of this."
Trouble sighed, rubbing the bags under his eyes. "You can't be the only one. The rest of the family would have to as well. Butler could keep his, but if the family made any reference to Artemis at all, you would probably have a triggered reaction."
Juliet stared him down. "So you're saying no?" Her face was forceful, but her voice was fragile.
Juliet dropped her head into her hands. "But... God, I don't want to remember him dying, elf. I just want that image out of my head, because it won't go away." She peeked between her fingers, her eyes the perfect picture of anguish. "I just can't forget the look in his eyes."
"I know," Trouble replied. "I know."
The door was forced open before Holly could pull the trigger for the last time. A knee jammed into her back, sending her straight to the floor, and she watched in distress as the gun flew from her hand, bouncing off the carpet and landing an inch from the tips of her fingers.
"Hold her down!"
"Oh Gods, she's killed him."
"Get the Commander in here!"
The knee in her back jammed in deeper. "We're going to kill you slowly, Short," an unfamiliar, rancid voice hissed in her ear. "All we have to do is say it was an accident. Look what you've done to him."
"He deserved it," she snarled, and thrust her head back. She felt the officer's nose crunch on impact, and he let go with a grunt. Holly lunged forward, grabbing wildly for the gun. All she had to do was get one more shot into Max. Artemis's bullet was all that was left. Artemis had to get his revenge, and then they could do as they pleased.
In her attempt, her fingers hit the stock and the gun did nothing but spin in a slow circle until she was looking straight down the barrel. Holly cursed viciously, and even though hands were holding her down she tried once more to reach it.
"No!" came a voice; Trouble, her mind dimly recognized. Almost on instinct, her face turned up to his as her fingers closed around the gun. Their eyes met, and he saw the ferocious animal that had been released in Holly's body.
His hand closed over hers.
But Holly's finger was close enough to the trigger that when Trouble's firm grasp caused her grip to contract, there was a light click.
And then the loudest roar she had ever heard.
The last thing Holly saw was a flash of blue speeding toward her.
The bed was warm; she was home, the sounds of someone making breakfast gently pulsing through the door. Sunlight turned her eyelids a peachy color, but she didn't feel like opening her eyes yet. She felt too good. The sheets were smooth against her bare body, the pillow soft underneath her head, the fingers stroking her spine so gentle...
Holly felt her eyes snap open to a creamy, seamless white chest, and jerked backward a bit. The fingers on her back held her close.
"Shh," came a soothing voice. Holly felt her stomach jerk. Artemis? Was this what happened before you died? Was this what replaced the light at the end of the tunnel? You got one moment of joy from your life?
"Relax, love," he whispered. "Stay here with me."
She let herself sink back into the sheets and peeked past Artemis's chest into the surrounding room, feeling a slight jolt of confusion. This wasn't how she remembered their bedroom in the apartment. This place was gauzy and beautiful, all cream and sweet earthy browns and greens, chiffon-like material floating in the soft breeze, not old with blue cracked paint on the walls. She looked back to the man she was cuddled against. When had Artemis's chest ever been so velvety white?
She felt his nose nuzzle her hair, and she tilted her chin back to look at him; Artemis grinned lazily at her, his face as smooth as though he were a newborn baby, beautiful and perfect.
He let her look for a moment and then pulled her back into a close embrace, their bodies twining together, every nook and cranny filled as he whispered:
"Welcome to your perfect world, Holly."
Well, kids, it's been fun. This was my first fanfic worth publishing, and it garnered a huge response, so thank you to everyone who review, and I give a standing ovation to those who reviewed with thought.
My next fic will not be published for several months, because I want it to be done before I begin publishing. It will come in two parts, one called Enigma, and the other called Legacy. Since school is finally out as of today, I should be able to get through this fic fairly quickly.
Between now and then, I have a small ficlet on stock that will probably be put up in a month or so. It's Artler, and will be under the M section — and NO, it's not a smut story... at least, not totally, anyway.
But for now, I bid you a goodbye, and a huuuuuuge thank you! This story has really been an incredible journey and an outlet for emotions when life took turns that kind of sucked. Thank you all who bared with me when I would go for months without updating. And if you're going to review this chapter, I would absolutely love it if you gave your opinion on the overall fic as well.
Cheers! Hopefully I will be writing to you all again soon.