A/N: In case you missed it in the summary, this story has SPOILERS for The Atlantis Complex. Read at your own risk.
Also, as promised in my last fic... he's heavily medicated. ;P
Penny for Your Thoughts
Patient is responding well to drug treatment. The prescribed medications suppress paranoia completely as well as most obsessive symptoms, including fixation on numbers, though certain tics remain. Traditional on-the-couch progress is slower as patient continues to be resistant to open discussion. Insulin shock therapy has been successful for submerging the secondary personality, but so far reintegration appears not to be forthcoming. Progress further hampered by refusal of the patient and his guardian to sign consent forms for psychosurgery.
Dr. J. Argon Case File: Artemis Fowl. Report 152-2-6.27
Argon held up another card for his patient to view.
He held up another.
"Ah yes, wait! I believe that one is... yes, definitely... an inkblot." One eyebrow raised, chin titled upward, arms crossed over his chest, Artemis directed a scathing glance at the card in question.
Argon set down the pile of cards and shook his head. Normally he would have sat slightly behind the patient who would have gone through the cards one by one on his own, but in this case it was imperative that he be able to observe the patient's facial features. And vice versa. Argon arranged his features into his stern look – the one that could make pixies quail and sprites shudder up to the tips of their wings – as he said, "You're only hurting yourself, Artemis. I'm trying to help you. That's why you're here at the clinic, isn't it? Because you need help."
"Admittedly my case does require professional intervention," Artemis said. "But that does not make an inkblot anything more than dried pigment on a sheet of paper."
"If you're going to make any progress, Artemis, you're going to have to release this fantasy about being in charge of your case. You're not the psychiatrist here."
Argon noted how Artemis's right fist clenched, as if gripping something tightly. And then he smiled in such a way that one of his incisors was made visible. "Perhaps, then," Artemis began, leaning back against the couch's cushions, and crossing his legs, settling himself into a more casual pose, "I should give answers more suited to my age? Let's see... from the perspective of a typical adolescent human male, card number one would likely resemble a generous pair of mammary organs; number two would be an erect male appendage; three would be a couple in the midst of energetic copulation..."
Argon scowled. A smirk appeared on Artemis's face.
"Or perhaps I should answer as a potentially violent criminal? Card number one would obviously be a blood spatter; two could be seen as dismembered corpse; three as a violent assault. Or again perhaps I could frame my answers in the context of an emotionally damaged child. The first image could be seen as my mother's hair in disarray during her extended depression; the second, a male figure, seen from afar, representing the distance between myself and my father during my childhood and his disappearance; the third would be an embrace meant to indicate my desire for parental affection. Four–"
"So which one is it, Artemis? What comes to mind first?"
Artemis shrugged. "You don't seem to understand, Doctor. For an intellect such as mine there is no first. All interpretations arise immediately and simultaneously. I could offer a dozen interpretation for every card with none arriving any sooner than the other and thus none being of greater significance than any other."
"Is that so, Artemis?"
"Yes. It's so." Something flitted between his fingers, glinting in the soft lamplight that bathed the room in a golden glow certain to soothe any fairy. After all what could be more soothing than gold?
"What's that in your hand, Artemis?"
"Hmm? Nothing." He squared his shoulders. "We have a similar technique in human psychiatry known after its inventor as the Rorschach test. The subject's answers are meant to reveal thought processes and emotional functioning. However its usefulness and validity have been seriously questioned in recent times. There's little empirical data to connect the subjects' responses with particular disorders."
"That's all very fascinating, Artemis," Argon, said, as he jotted down a few notes on his e-pad. "You know I did this test yesterday after the insulin shock therapy." Something flitted over the young man's face. Argon went on. "Your counterpart, Orion, was much more engaged in the imagery."
"Imagery is his chief source of information," Artemis said, his voice even. But as Argon checked the room's sensors he could see the momentary spike in Artemis's vitals. "All he knows is fantasy and memories. It's no wonder he would be more engaged."
"Let's take a moment with the results." Artemis's lips thinned to a line but he neither assented nor protested.
Argon tapped the controls on the computer held in his palm and called up the audio file from yesterday's session with the alter ego, Orion.
"Ah what a lovely card, Doctor. Truly it's a wonder to behold!"
"And what do you see, Orion?"
"Why I see a helmet, of course. Like the ones worn by my dear friends at the LEPRecon. See the curves here? It's certainly a helmet – one of the older models maybe."
Through all this, Artemis's features remained impassive, but Argon noticed once again the spike in his vital signs.
"And what about this one?" continued Argon's recorded voice.
"A fairy without a doubt, leaping into the night sky to soar freely among the stars, invisible to the human eye. What a glorious sight! Truly these cards are a masterwork, Doctor. Could I have a copy of them for later? I would be delighted to decorate my room in the ward. I'm afraid the place is quite barren at present. Artemis, in his typical boorishness, insists on keeping the room quite Spartan. It's terrible when our devoted mother comes in or when the princess deigns to grace that humble room with her most vibrant presence."
At this Artemis groaned and put a hand to his temples, rubbing them as if they were beginning to ache. Argon checked the clinic's server just to confirm that Artemis's meds had been administered on schedule.
The recording continued. "Princess?" Argon repeated. "Who's this princess?"
"Why Miss Short of course. The generous maiden visits Artemis every day after her shift of dragon slaying and adventuring. I'm saddened to say that I rarely see her, however. She only stays long when it's Artemis who's at the forefront while I am relegated to the cramped recesses of his mind." And there Orion heaved a most piteous sigh.
"All right then, what about this card?"
"Oh? Oh! I do blush to speak of it, Doctor."
"Go on, Orion. You're free to say anything here."
"If you insist, Doctor, then I must admit that the image appears to depict a couple enjoying the bounteous fruits of their union."
Another groan from Artemis. He was fingering the object in his hand. A gold coin with a hole in the centre. Argon had seen it before in the recordings from Artemis's Vdiary and worn as a pendant around his neck.
"All right, Orion, what about number four?"
Argon had used the number intentionally. Orion of course was unaffected by the number compulsions and Argon was pleased to see no change in Artemis's vitals either; the medication was having the desired effect.
"That is a courageous fairy wielding a blaster and taking aim at a daunting foe."
Argon played the recording through. The remainder of the cards represented similar themes to Orion: a bound-up fairy, an elf's pointed ears, a pair of eyes performing the mesmer, a fairy shuttle, a centaur with a dwarf on its back, and finally a giant squid perched on the Atlantis dome. Each image was, of course, described in great detail by Orion with his characteristic exuberance. Orion's interpretation of the third card was the only aberrant one, but given that he was indeed an adolescent male it would have been more aberrant had he not seen something of that nature in at least one of the cards.
Argon stopped the playback. "Interesting, wouldn't you say, Artemis?"
Artemis cocked an eyebrow. "That would not be my first word of choice." He rubbed the gold coin between his thumb and his index and middle fingers, turned it over once, and continued to touch its smooth surface.
"What have you got there?"
"Just a coin." And as he said it the object in question disappeared once again into his palm.
Argon nodded. "You know the vending machines here are finicky. They won't accept defaced currency." He reached into a pocket and produced a gold coin identical save for the lack of a hole at its centre. "I can trade you a regular one."
"No thank you," Artemis replied, eyes fixed on Argon.
"It's just a coin, isn't it, Artemis?"
"It has sentimental value," he replied.
"Suit yourself. In that case, we were discussing Orion."
"No, I believe you were discussing Orion while I was merely enduring it."
Argon leaned back into his chair, making a point of appearing casual and relaxed as he broached this delicate topic. "You're making very scathing comments about a construct of your own mind."
Artemis's mismatched eyes fixed on Argon's face. "I do, in fact, realize that, Doctor. I'm perfectly aware of how the illness functions."
"Orion seems bent on playing the role of hero. That's not such a terrible thing, is it?"
Artemis sneered. "Yes, a veritable Don Quixote, tilting at windmills and believing himself to be slaying dragons and protecting fair damsels. I'm horrified that my alter ego is nothing but a collection of idealistic cliches."
Argon had to make a quick check of his Mud Man reference guide to fully understand the 'Don Quixote' comment and its implications, but he was quite satisfied when he did. "You've played the role of hero a few times yourself, haven't you?"
Artemis's lips thinned to a line and he waited several moments before speaking. "I don't believe such a loaded term is appropriate. I have, on a few occasions, taken part in events which were to the good of many. But oftentimes I've done so with questionable motives and proceeded in a manner that my counterpart would not approve of."
"So it's a case of mutual disapproval," Argon noted. "Orion styles himself as the hero. Which would leave you as what, Artemis? The villain?"
Artemis sniffed. "Is such melodrama necessary? The villain? Really, Doctor, we both know I've made many poor choices in my time."
"Such as when you kidnapped Captain Short?"
Argon noted the readings; Artemis's vitals had flickered. "Yes. Very poor."
"But you were younger then?" Argon prodded.
"Yes, younger. And I knew little of fairies. I thought they would be... lesser creatures. Little more than animals, really. Not..." He was fingering the coin again, his gaze distant.
"And you don't have a good track record with animals either, do you?"
Artemis's eyes snapped back to Argon's face. "No. I don't. You're of course referencing the selling of JayJay to the Extinctionists when I was ten."
Argon nodded. "I read Captain Short's report." Artemis's vitals shot up again. "And of course your younger self also abducted Captain Short for a second time and sold her to the Extinctionists.
"I thought this was meant to be a therapy session," Artemis said, scowling, his right hand balled around the coin. "Not a litany of my many moral failures. I am fully aware of my crimes and I feel great remorse for them. If that weren't the case I would not be here. I would be free of this illness rather than being trapped with a fool sharing my mind and causing further suffering to my family and friends."
"Artemis," Argon said, looking down at his e-pad and making a show of taking notes, "what's that in your hand?"
"A coin. As I said before."
"Where did you get it?"
"A gift. From a friend."
Argon nodded and tapped his e-pad idly. It was essential to always give the appearance of calm. "Orion seemed to put great emphasis on his experience with the People."
"I'm not surprised," Artemis said with a shrug. "My misadventures with the People have been the central component of his consciousness."
"And what about you? What have your experiences with the People been?"
Artemis's lips curved. "They have made me what I am today," he said, holding his arms open.
Argon made a note on his e-pad: Subject uses humour as an avoidance mechanism.
"Well then," Argon continued, "what about your latest escapade? What are your thoughts on that?"
For several moments Artemis did not speak and only rolled the gold coin between his fingers. "It was wasteful and tragic. Turnball was willing to murder dozens all to be with his wife... who would have disapproved of his actions had she known of them."
Argon glanced again at the room's censors and noted that Artemis's vitals flickered again even as his fist clenched around the coin. The fact of its being a fairy coin that Artemis had latched on to puzzled Argon to no end. Why not a memento from his childhood? Or something related to his family in some way?
"Does that unsettle you, Artemis? That a man could be a criminal and also love his wife?" Artemis licked his lips and shifted in his chair. His discomfort was so obvious and so little in keeping with his demeanour of past years that Argon would have believed it a bit of play-acting had he not seen Artemis's Vdiary and watched the progressive onset of his symptoms. "What about your own family? Wasn't your father a criminal himself?"
Heart rate increased quite a bit at that comment, Argon noted, and Artemis scowled. "Whatever you may think of my family, Doctor Argon, my father is not a killer."
The stress indicators in his voice increased dramatically as he went on. "He has been ruthless in his business dealings but there were strict limits to what he would do, even in his worst years. And my mother loved him of her own free will. There were no runes involved."
Argon made a show of noting all this down on his e-pad, nodding and shaping his features in a look of professional sympathy and understanding. The Psych Brotherhood's training program included an entire course on facial expressions and their impact on patients, and Argon prided himself on having been the top student in it.
Artemis paused for a moment and then spoke more softly. "It's a pity he insisted on keeping her in thrall. Perhaps if he'd let her go she might have made him a better man."
Argon raised his eyebrows and inquired politely, "Did you let someone go, Artemis?"
"Yes. Once." His hand was clutching the coin in a white-knuckled grip.
"Did it make you a better man?"
The pause that followed went on so long that Argon thought Artemis would not reply. He was about to make some inane comment with the notion of reopening the dialogue when Artemis whispered, "I don't know."
Argon's e-pad trilled to let him know that the session was coming to an end. He stood. "All right, Artemis, that's enough for today. Give some more thought to the role of your counterpart, Orion, and we'll talk about this more in your next session."
Artemis scowled. "Yes, I'm sure we will." And with that Artemis Fowl stalked out of the room and into the custody of the guard who would escort him to his quarters.
Once the door slid shut, Argon jotted some notes to be added to the regular case report... and the eventual book.
When Artemis left Argon's consulting room, he was surprised to be greeted by a smiling, familiar face rather than the scowl of his guard. "Holly. What happened to my escort?"
"I scared him off," she replied with a wink. "It was Grub Kelp and I'm sure he was itching to put those restraints on you again."
"I've no doubt," Artemis said, grimacing. "You're early."
She shrugged. "I'm working a split shift today so I figured I'd better drop by now since I can't later."
"I see." And then, after a pause. "It's good of you to come."
Her lips twitched ever so slightly. "Gratitude. After all these year, who'd have thought?"
Artemis sniffed. "Humour at the expense of a mental patient? Really, Holly, that's beneath you."
She crossed her arms and peered up at him, one eyebrow raised. "No sympathy from this quarter. Not when I have to put up with Orion every other day." Artemis winced but said nothing. "So," she began as they made their way towards his room. "How are things going with Doctor Argon?"
"Splendidly. I feel better each time he subjects me to a archaic medical treatment or attempts to show sympathy for my plight while surreptitiously making notes for his future writings. After all, I'm certain that once Doctor Argon is finished 'curing' me he'll proceed to publish a book on the subject and my humiliation will be complete."
She punched him in the arm. "Think of it as your penance, Arty."
As he reached over to rub his sore arm, the coin slipped from his fingers. It plinked on the floor tiles and began to spin in place, a whirl of shining gold.
Eyes widening at the sight of gold, Holly snatched up the coin. She smiled when she recognised it. "You still have it."
He smiled in return.
Deep beneath the layers of deviousness, you have a spark of decency. Perhaps you could blow on that spark occasionally.
"Of course I do."
She looked delighted as she handed it back to him, her fingers brushing over his palm. "I'm glad."
Those tiny fingers squeezed his and for a moment he felt that perhaps that spark of decency had been fanned into a crackling flame after all, that perhaps, even after everything, he still had hope of being... better.
Patient continues to polarize the aspects of his personality. Notions of heroism, idealism, and moral goodness are difficult to tolerate in the face of guilt and recrimination. As a result they are relegated to a secondary personality which is mocked and dismissed by the original personality. The result of the disassociation is numerous tics and compulsions that, at present, are successfully controlled by medication but which may worsen if patient does not achieve a breakthrough.
Personal note: Interview friends and acquaintances to try to determine significance of the gold coin. My preliminary suspicion is that it's tied to the Fowl motto of: Aurum Est Potestas. Perhaps the hole is meant to signify the emptiness of gold in his current predicament. Investigate further.
J. Argon, Artemis Fowl case notes.