AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is with a heavy heart and a lump in my throat that I bid goodbye to Arty and Holly. Their story has reached an end I can be proud of. I hope you agree, but even if you don't I won't change it. This is how I wanted it to be. This is how it is. Sometimes you're lucky in your writing and happen upon that exact way to tie everything up neatly, and you jot it down, and then you sit back and gasp and say, "THERE it is - the real ending. And my feeble brain managed to write it." This is one of those instances.
Perhaps it's a benchmark that would (and should) have gone unnoticed, but... Aphrodite Curse has somehow accumulated the most reviews out of any of my fanfiction I've ever written. Even the Potterfic novella I wrote six years ago, which got quite a lot of attention, still doesn't have as many reviews as this one I started last month. Let us conclude that this means the Fowl fandom has more attentive reviewers, at the absolute least. Go Havenites! Let's all get together and take in some crunchball over a long weekend come next season, eh?
I know, I know, you want to get on with the story, but I always put my final Author's Note at the top of the fic so you're left with nothing but story at the end. This will be the last time I respond to reviews. For those of you who review the epilogue and thereby the entire fiction as a completed whole, I'm going to say in advance that I love you all, and if you enjoyed my meandering bit of fluff that I'm grateful that you walked this path with me. As for the "Decampment" reviews:
GenHerb: I decided to shy away from the pregnancy thing. Not that it wouldn't be a possibility, but I specifically didn't want to travel that route within this fic. I'm sure plenty of you out there have ideas on the topic...
Ducky: That's what I wanted; that it's sad, but they had been expecting it for so long that by the time the accursed hour arrived there were few tears left to shed.
Headless: Hopefully the :ahem: risque nature of this epilogue will wake you up a bit - and I also hope you don't find the dialogue to be so lackluster this time!
ElfinEragon: You know, I've been meaning to reread those Eragon books... And I don't believe one can curse a fic by reviewing it, unless you callously flame the author and tell them they're talentless to the point of driving them to tears. Some of us are sensitive, haha. But you're safe, anyway; this is the end!
Fenrir: Oh, I wouldn't do that to you. Don't you know me by now?
Jace: As am I. :sigh: But all good things, et cetera.
Ru: Yes! As long as I'm provoking thought, I'm doing my job! Believe me, I despise myself for being appallingly... realistic about their relationship. I'd like to think that it's because I took that "no rose-coloured glasses" approach to Arty/Holly that the fic turned out so well, but it also has that depressing side-effect that I couldn't conceive of a feasible way for them to stay together. Not at present, anyway. But I have a feeling you'll still find this ending to be at least somewhat satisfying... because I see your heart, and it is a large one. I'll miss your Ru-views and wish you well :)
Zane: It's been working dependably also, once they got the problem sorted. Though the speed isn't nearly up to the level of my old ISP, but it's also about half the cost so that's a tolerable sacrifice in my opinion. And I'd email you a handkerchief if I thought the attachment would upload! Maybe I should just start handing them out. Complimentary Kleenex with my tearjerker fiction!
Hanzo: Well, now you know ;)
Chtulhu: So long as you don't do any driving there's no harm in it! Also, don't operate any heavy machinery. Or light machinery, or can openers... thanks for reading.
Childofthedawn: You may as well uncross them :apologetic smile: But I'm glad I didn't louse this one up.
Volcanilly: Author, author! :bows: Yes, I loved writing Angeline more or less stating openly "Yes, I want you to shag my son, and here's a key to a seedy motel suite so you can do it!" I see her ingesting many antacids during full moons in the future.
ShadowJ: Sorry, old sport - but I am incredibly flattered. Which won't help you much, I'm sure!
Astrid-Elizabeth-Dare: Amazing, you say? I'm not sure I agree, but thanks all the same! By the way, is "Astrid" a nod to the author of the Pippi books, or from something else entirely? Goodness, how I loved Pippi as a child...
Eidorian999: I'd address your concerns, but chances are if you've read onward enough to reach the Epilogue then your questions have been answered by others who think I was unkind to Trubs. So in the interest of not repeating myself, I'll stay mum.
Michael: No? Okay, then I'll hold off on posting this chapter for another week. :laughs: Sorry, couldn't resist. It's really the only way I could draw it out any longer, because I don't believe in filler chapters (or more accurately, I don't believe in writing them on purpose). When it's time, it's time.
And it IS time. Thank you for reading this thing I belched up; I earnestly do try my damndest with every paragraph to write something truly unique and enjoyable. If I succeed now and then... chalk it up to the law of averages.
Until we meet again,
IRELAND; THREE MONTHS LATER
The nocturnal wind swept at his hair as Artemis studied his fingernails. They were immaculate, of course, but he kept worrying that one of them was out of place. Which one? None of them presented themselves as being jagged or overlong. Probably just his nerves seeking a ready outlet, something to focus on while he waited.
What was keeping her?
"It's nearly three," he said aloud. "Soon I'll need see to this on my own and take my leave of this abominable place."
"Patience, Artemis," Butler told him as he paged through a hefty volume he was reading by the substantial natural lighting. "I have nowhere else to be, and neither do you, I'm sure."
"I should call. Why shouldn't I call? I have every right to call... yet I haven't. Why is that?"
"Because you know how utterly annoying it would be for you to do so. Might start things off in a poor mood, mightn't it?"
Artemis nodded tersely, pacing back and forth now. "It's an hour past the time of rendezvous. For her sake, there had better be an-"
Without warning, Artemis found himself in Butler's arms, and saw a gun protruding from under his shoulder. After a moment's confusion he heard the towering man utter, "Oh, for heaven's sake..."
"Got you good," Holly chortled as she unshielded, hands on her knees. "Thought the big guy was going to have a conniption fit!"
"Indeed," Artemis replied as he was lowered to the ground. "You're late."
She pulled a face. "Sorry, couldn't get away from work. I finally had to tell the bossman that I was running dry so he'd let me go."
"And are you?"
Holly cracked her neck, sending blue sparks flashing in her eyes. "I've got maybe sixty per cent left. Realistically, I could leave it for another month, but why put off for tomorrow what you can do today?"
"Yes, it's only practical to ensure a full arsenal," Artemis nodded. "Never know when you might be... caught unawares."
"Riiight," Butler drawled, not bothering to hide his sarcasm. "That's why you're here, I'm sure; practicality. If you two comedians won't be needing anything further, you can find me in the Rolls when you're through."
As they watched the man's back recede into the night, Holly snickered. "I really did have him going."
"You did. Ready, my dear?"
The ritual itself took trifling minutes. Afterward, when the earth had bestowed upon them the gift of magic, they retreated into a thicket and began enjoying the nearness so often denied them. Holly was only half-clothed when she held up a warning hand.
"Wait, wait," she said breathlessly. "You're... you're taking this farther than you usually do out here. Aren't we going back to the mansion?"
"The ride is devilishly long," he told her frantically as his tie landed atop his jacket on the grass. "By the time we reach the drive I'll be a frothing madman."
"Maybe I like it when you're that worked up," she told him in lewd tones, her nose crinkling. At this, he pounced. "Ack! Wait, hold on a sec- we can't do this in the great outdoors!"
"Here and now, Holly. I must have you."
"Gosh, you sure don't beat around the bush," she gasped out, holding him at bay. "Why the upswing in primal urges? Did something happen?"
Artemis drew back, surprised. "No, nothing. Why? Do I seem different?"
"Only in that your body seems to be way ahead of your brain, for once. This isn't like you at all."
Now sure they weren't about to make love first and ask questions later, he sat back, wiping his brow. "I... I do apologize. It's just that... well, I can only state that I have missed you. And that you were late, which made things..."
"Ahh," she sighed, a knowing smile replacing her bemused frown. "So you've been waiting to get me alone, and I made you wait even longer. Which is why you're panting like a dog on the prowl."
"Thank you for equating me with such mindless urgency. No, I am fully aware of what I want; there's no part of me in doubt, no aspect of my intellect being cut off by basest desire. You drive me wild, and I go willingly."
Holly scowled at him playfully. "A girl has to be romanced, you know. Since when is 'get in the bushes and tear off your clothes' romantic?"
"Just now, it sounds like Dumas. Please, Holly..."
"But we're in the bushes," she said, cheeks pinkening even more than they already were. "Out in the open – what if someone sees-"
"We can both shield," he contradicted. "You may recall that I've mastered it over the past weeks. Aside from that, Butler will be upon them ages before they come within striking distance."
"I thought he was turning a blind eye in the car," she said in scandalized tones. "He's not out there... watching this, is he?"
Artemis scared up a vampiric grin. "Would you enjoy it if he were?"
"At ease, soldier," he cackled as she landed a bruising punch on his bicep. "He's keeping just enough eye on us to see if we're being advanced upon and no more than that, I promise. You know what a professional he is."
"We're still... we might get caught," she said shakily.
"I know. Doesn't that ignite the passion with the most scarlet of flames?"
Holly hooked her fingers around his waistband. "Well, then, Mr. Exhibitionist... you first."
To her astonishment, he did not fight her, and she was so completely astonished that she didn't fight him, either. Only then, sky-clad, with his lips inches from her own, did she once again strain against him and whisper, "Artemis, wait – how can we?"
"How can't we?" His smile was so sweet and genuine that she felt her heart flutter on an entirely different wavelength than it did from her arousal. "You and I are one, now and always. Let the stars know it. Let the soil feel it."
Now she knew they were reaching something primal – a deep magic obscured by the ages, the most naked of feelings. That they unite with nothing around but love and the gods and the elements. When she met his mismatched eyes with hers, she knew it was creeping into his mind, too, more even than when he'd spoken. How sacred this event was becoming. Pure and consecrated from deep within the soul.
"We have to now," she breathed, heart flaring like a million suns, like the white-hot magma core miles below them. "This... it's all that matters."
"It is, Holly. You and I, and the magic."
The moon bore witness to love made tangible that night – love between a human and an elf. No one spoke against it nor condemned the lovers. All was beauty and wonder, and passion and peace. And magic.
o o o ~FIN~ o o o