A/N: Just read my brand new copy of Atlantis Complex (FINALLY bought it! After borrowing Fiona's copy for like, six months.) and it occurred to me that I haven't written ANYTHING AF since it came out. I intend to put that right. This is not a straight romance-adventure like I usually write, this fic is a bit more psychological, it's more about Artemis getting his mind straight. I promise I'll bring out some fluff soon, but in the mean time... I dunno, I just wanted to write something smart to distract myself.
IMPORTANT: I imagine you've heard on the news by now about the horrific devastation wreaked on my country on the 22nd of February in the form of an earthquake. Christchurch is devastated, and we need all the help we can get to try and rebuild one of the largest and oldest cities in the country. Redcross dot org dot nz forwardslash donate is the official website for donations, please give all the help you can, New Zealand is desperate for any aid we can get. Personally, my partner and I were on the way to Amanda Palmer's Christchurch concert when it happened... a few hours later and we almost certainly would have died, or at least been injured. This is serious, we are a country torn apart. Please, please, please, give generously if you can.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or settings you recognise. I intend to break no laws. Please don't sue me, I have no money.
"Ah, Holly. How nice of you to come see me."
"Still counting your words, then?" Holly asked with a sad smile, stepping into Artemis' room at Dr. Argon's mental health clinic.
"Yes. Sadly, I am... still." Artemis said clumsily, frowning at himself, disappointed even now in his own behaviour. The medication he was being brought every two hours like clockwork was making everything a confusing mess; one minute, he was disgusted in himself for being afraid of a simple number, the next he found himself hating and fearing his dearest friends for bringing him here, trapping him, drugging him to make him think he was crazy, taking away his brilliance. It was a disorientating nightmare.
"Poor guy." Holly said, sympathetically. "Is Doctor Argon still destroying your mind on my orders?" She asked, referring to an unpleasant showdown on her previous visit.
"Ye-no. No. I am here to get better, of my own free will, truly." Artemis smiled wearily, and Holly smiled back, appreciating just how hard her friend was fighting against his own mind.
"Good. I definitely prefer word-counting Artemis to paranoia Artemis."
"I prefer normal Artemis, myself." He sighed, eyes downcast.
"So do I. So does everyone. We'll get him back though, I promise." Holly said encouragingly, reaching out and gently taking Artemis' hand, lacing her tiny fingers through his long ones. "See, five fingers plus five fingers is makes ten fingers, and with ten fingers we just can't lose."
Artemis smiled, and was alarmed to find himself moved what felt like close to tears. As was his way, he resorted to logic to cover up his emotions. "Technically, the thumb is separate."
"Technically, my trigger finger is separate, remember?" Holly smiled, wiggling said finger. "Or, it would be, if it weren't for you."
"That's true." Artemis smiled back, hurriedly finishing off his emotionally blurted sentence to correct the number of words. "We've had a lot of close calls like that one over the years."
Holly continued to ignore the unnatural clumsiness of Artemis' speech. "I haven't forgotten." She grinned, and winked at him with the ice blue eye of his that she had exchanged for one of her own not so long ago.
"No, how could any of us? We've been through so much together in the past." Artemis smiled, giving Holly's hand a gentle squeeze. Her presence was bolstering his spirits, and he felt the cloud of buzzing fours loosening it's hold over him, deciding to challenge it while he still felt strong enough. "It's hard to believe."
"That's the spirit." Holly grinned, returning her friend's squeeze. "Frond, your hands are getting big."
Artemis nodded. "My feet are hanging off the bed. They still haven't found one big enough for me. I'll never be tall but I'm certainly getting taller."
Holly hadn't noticed the feet, but a quick lean confirmed Artemis' statement; his black socks looked slightly ridiculous hanging off the end of the bed.
"I must care about you, because it's very hard not to laugh right now." Holly smiled.
"Go ahead. Juliet giggles constantly every time she comes to see me. She seems to be better at the laugh-so-you-don't-cry technique than anyone else, my mother still weeps whenever she 's here." Artemis sighed, finding it hard to keep his mind from wandering to melancholy places today.
"You'll beat this, Artemis." Holly promised. "We'll all help you, as much as you need, for as long as it takes. You're not alone."
"I know." Artemis smiled timidly, as though his facial muscles were just learning how. "It just seems so hopeless sometimes. At least that imbecilic alter-ego of mine hasn't put in an appearance since they changed my pills."
"Small victories win wars." Holly smiled. There had been a week when one of Dr. Argon's medications brought Orion out in strength, and Artemis had been tossed violently from one persona to the other, interspersing conversations about family business or scientific developments with nauseating romantic sonnets (most, embarrassingly, with extremely flowery and wittering dedications to Holly herself) and demands for things like lace cravats and a cutlass with which to slay his foes. It had been a stressful time for all of them, and Holly wound up avoiding the clinic altogether until Orion was gone, just to make things easier, and less embarrassing on both of their accounts. The whole Orion incident, once the drama of everything that happened with Turnbull was over, had made things between Holly and Artemis even more awkward, the most uncomfortable they had been since their kiss in the past, though in some small way it gave Holly a bit of peace of mind, for while the kiss was undeniably her fault, the entire Orion travesty was down to Artemis' subconscious so now, in some small way, things were even again, though Artemis certainly didn't see it that way.
"So... they still feeding you alright?" Holly changed the subject, trying to distract Artemis from his terrifying helplessness.
Artemis nodded, though he found the small talk paltry, especially from someone who knew him as well as Holly did. "I had some kind of fungus broth for lunch. Apparently a traditional dwarf dish. Sometimes it just hits me how different our two cultures are."
"They're not that different." Holly protested. "Think of it as like having Indian food. Just another provincial dish."
"I suppose that makes sense." Artemis conceded, and fell silent, unwilling to ruin such a perfect five word sentence. Holly, seeing just what he had done, sighed.
"I know you, Artemis, and I know you're strong enough to beat this thing. You're too strong, and too stubborn to let this thing destroy your personality. Whatever you've done in the past, you're a good person, Arty, and you can beat this thing." She held his hand tightly and looked firmly into his mismatched eyes with her own.
"And I'm the crazy one." Artemis chuckled. "You have the worst case of Stockholm Syndrome in history."
Holly could not suppress a surprised laugh. "I guess I do. If anyone deserves it though, it's you. Frond knows I never thought I'd be holding your hand in a mental ward."
"It feels strange when we're not off on some adventure. For once, you have nothing to rib me about constantly." Artemis said teasingly.
"And you have nothing to look down on me for not understanding." Holly laughed back. "What do we talk about when we're not abusing each other?"
"For starters, we seem to reminisce about past abuse." Artemis joked. "Remember that time you had to ask me for help getting rid of a few goblins?"
"I remember rescuing your sorry arse from hoards of trolls." Holly grinned teasingly.
"Remember the time I worked to break you out of a heavily guarded French mansion?"Artemis retorted.
"Remember the time I saved Butler because you got him shot?" Holly was quick to respond, a grin playing around her lips and teeth.
"Remember when you kissed me?" Artemis raised an eyebrow in an almost professorial fashion, and despite her embarrassment Holly found it nearly impossible not to burst into laughter merely from the look on his face.
"Remember the time you proposed to me on bended knee?" Holly retorted, referring to the Week of Orion.
"Hey! That wasn't me. That was an alternate personality, generated by my illness. Don't take advantage of my mental anguish."
"Hey, don't forget I was much younger than I was supposed to be at the time. We both acted out of our normal mental states." Holly couldn't avoid her cheeks and the tips of her pointed ears reddening with embarrassment.
"Ah, but deep down you were still you. I was someone else altogether, fair maiden." Artemis smirked, and Holly eyed him suspiciously.
"Did you just call me fair maiden?"
"Aye, that I did, my sweetness." Artemis teased, in a slightly stronger Irish accent than usual. "For your beauty moves my poet's heart to tears of joy." Artemis wasn't sure why he was in such a playful mood; usually he would never tease Holly in such an uncouth way; he could only assume it was the result of the cocktail of medication working it's way through his system.
"Stop it, Artemis." Holly shoved him playfully with her elbow, catching on to the uncharacteristic jibe, and finding herself liking this previously unseen funny side of her friend. "Orion doesn't talk like that, nor does he smirk like a dwarf who's just unearthed a king's ransom."
"Drat. I take it my acting career is dead before it so much as begins." Artemis joked, a dry smile on his aristocratic face.
"Dead, cremated, and flushed out to sea." Holly confirmed, patting Artemis' shoulder consolingly with her free hand. She had almost forgotten that they were still holding hands, but the contact was comforting, and Holly felt no need to sever it any time soon. "And you definitely don't have the legs of a dancer. I don't know about your singing, but I'd say just keep off Broadway altogether."
"Duly noted." Artemis said, still wearing that dry smirk. "Modelling it is."
"Good luck with that." Holly smiled, suddenly looking at Artemis with new eyes. He was young yet, but his face seemed to be shaping up to be quite exceptionally handsome by human standards, with elegantly defined features, and deep, knowledgable eyes (one of which had once belonged to her, but she had to admit, if only to herself, that she definitely preferred it on him.) that seemed to draw attention all by themselves. Before long he would surely have eligible, wealthy women throwing themselves at his feet. Holly could not see Artemis being interested though; despite any future girlfriends having to cope with Artemis' fairy friends and wild adventures, Holly simply didn't see Artemis ever finding a human girl bright or challenging enough for him.
'Human girl? What?' Holly quickly dragged her thoughts from the unsafe path they had been wandering down, and returned to the teasing conversation of before. "Let me know when your first centerfold comes out."
"Oh, it'll be right after the article about your first place in the bake off." Artemis teased in fives.
"Really, Artemis?" Holly raised an eyebrow. "It's hardly a woman's duty to do all the baking and housework anymore. This is the twenty first century, I have more important things to do. Besides, when's the last time you cooked, Artemis?"
"Made Mulch a sandwich once." Artemis retorted sheepishly, referring to a mere pile of assorted food that would make Gordon Ramsey weep, were he not an unnaturally tall gnome working undercover for the LEP to distract humans from any thoughts of faeries with mindlessly addictive cooking programmes.
"A sandwich, or a war zone?" Holly snorted derisively, and was unable to suppress a grin at the embarrassed look on Artemis' face.
"I'd like to see you do better. Kitchens are hard." He blushed, clearly embarrassed at his utter lack of domesticity.
"Not all of us have manservants to tend to our every need." Holly smirked. "I can't remember the last meal I had that I didn't cook."
"Didn't we have takeaway curry last time you were here?" Artemis replied, sharp mind not betraying him for once.
"Yes, well... shut up." Holly said lamely, and held up four fingers of her free hand menacingly, to accentuate her point.
"Honestly, Captain Short, I would have expected more from you." Artemis smirked, his trademark 'better-than-you' expression back with a vengeance.
"Ah, there's the old Artemis Fowl we all know, and... well, know."Holly cocked an eyebrow challengingly, and Artemis, being himself (for once) accepted the challenge.
"Stooping to petty insults, Holly? This is so beneath you." Artemis said calmly, and of course Holly played the trump card she would hold for the rest of her long life.
"Counting your words, Arty? This is beneath you."
"You can't poison me with your wicked fours, Captain Short!" Artemis cried, clapping his free hand over his ear. Artemis, like Holly, had entirely forgotten that their hands were clasped, and decided that he was thankful for the contact; something real binding him to the world he knew was his. He drew in a deep breath, pushing the fours from his mind, and uncovered his ear, opening scrunched up eyes. "Sorry." he said sheepishly. "Sudden four attack there."
"Sorry, Arty." Holly said, ashamed. "That was my fault. It's not a joke. Sorry."
He shook his head. "It's not your fault. I know I'm better than this, I just can't help it. I feel like it's going to kill me if I don't give in to it."
"I know." Holly said, stroking the smooth back of Artemis' no doubt manicured hand with her thumb. "It's okay. Nobody expects you to make an instant recovery. You just do what you have to, and we'll all be waiting. And I'll try to stop making fun of you."
"I expect to make an instant recovery though." Artemis sighed. "I just want to be normal again."
"I know, Arty. You'll get there." Holly smiled encouragingly. "Imagine that. Artemis Fowl, wanting to be normal. Never thought I'd see the day." If she were entirely honest, Holly would admit to being somewhat worried. In all the years they had known each other she had seen Artemis exhausted, terrified, overwhelmed, and in shock, but never had he looked... defeated. That was, until now.
"Guess who's the most shocked?" Artemis smiled sadly. "I'm so unlike myself, it's absolutely terrifying. Five five five." He added, to complete the sentence, and accentuate his point."
It hit Holly all over again just how vulnerable Artemis was right now. Sure, they had joked and laughed before, but since when did Artemis Fowl joke and laugh like that? There was clearly something wrong, and she felt bad for not realising it sooner. "Doctor Argon will fix you. He's the best psychiatrist we have."
"Could you say four more words to complete the sentence?" Artemis asked, and Holly's heart broke a little at the genuine concern in his measured speech.
"You will be fine." Holly smiled encouragingly. "And that's a promise from me to you, Artemis Fowl." She counted the sentence off on her spare fingers, and Artemis smiled gratefully.
"Thank you." He rested back, closing his eyes sleepily. "I'm so tired. I'm always so tired now."
"Do you want me to go so you can rest?" Holly asked caringly, resting her free hand on his warm cheek.
Artemis shook his head, clearly having been struck by one of the sudden drowsy spells the medication caused. "Don't want you to go."
"I'll stay right here, then." Holly smiled, brushing his fringe out of his eyes automatically. Holly didn't even realise what she was doing until Artemis opened his hazel eye, the warmer of the two, and looked at her in confusion.
"You're touching my face. Why?" He asked, tones still muddled by tiredness.
"I... I don't really know." Holly blushed, withdrawing her hand.
"Don't." Artemis said, reaching up with his free hand to take hers. "It felt nice. Thanks."
"You get some rest, Arty." Holly smiled, resuming her gentle caresses. "I'll be right here when you wake up. I promise."
"Thank you." Artemis said again. "Five five five." His tone was very drowsy, and the final five was nothing more than a whisper. Artemis' hand quickly grew slack in Holly's, and his breathing changed, deepening as all his muscles relaxed. Holly could not suppress a sad smile as Artemis was finally able to escape his troubles, if only for a while, and she continued to gently brush at his hair, not sure what else to do with herself.