"So, do you remember now?"
"I remember...most of it. Bits and pieces don't quite seem to fit, but the vast majority has come back to me."
"I'm sure the missing parts will come back soon enough. I'm surprised you remember as much as you do; six months of being a ghost should have taken a lot more out of you." They grinned at each other, and he chuckled softly.
"Well, I am the great Artemis Fowl: juvenile genius and saviour of the world far too many times over."
He lay on top of his comforter, hands idly fidgeting with the material beneath him. Holly had talked for hours, recounting their adventures together and filling in the holes in his memory. When she had finished, Butler went downstairs and gathered the rest of the Fowl family together, gently informing them that their eldest son had returned from the dead. Angeline, of course, had immediately rushed to Artemis's side, cradling him in her arms and crying tears of joy, telling him she loved him and would never let anything happen to him ever again. His father and brothers had quickly joined them, piling into a group hug (which Artemis tolerated) and having a long, emotional talk before Artemis requested some privacy so he could sleep.
For the duration of the family visit, Holly had hovered, invisible, in a corner of the room, unwilling to upset Angeline with the knowledge that she had been the first one to talk to Artemis when he'd come back. Knowing that as the mother, Angeline would have wanted to be that person. So Holly waited for them to leave, then reappeared on the edge of the bed, smiling down at her human friend.
"Isn't it strange that the only living piece of my original body doesn't belong to me?" He asked, gently stroking the cheek beneath Holly's left eye - the blue eye she'd swapped with him on the trip to Hybras. "I suppose, though, if it still belonged to me, I wouldn't have died in the first place." He let the hand fall back onto the mattress.
"Technically, we've both died now," she replied, raising her own hand to her cheek without thinking. He smirked at her.
"I was dead longer. I got to fully appreciate what it feels like to be dead." She smacked his arm playfully, laughing.
"Shut up. We're not having a deadness contest. Though now that you bring it up, I have to ask: what is it like to be a ghost for so long?" He thought about it for several seconds, scratching his nose and gazing at the ceiling.
"At first it was interesting - all those ghost films have some merit to them. I wasn't a transparent version of myself, and I certainly didn't jump out at people and yell "boo", but I was more a...floating consciousness, not tied to any physical body. I could fly, to a certain extent, and travel through solid objects. If I concentrated hard enough on a specific place, I would just...be there."
"So you could go anywhere you wanted?"
"Well, no. I was tied to the grounds, and if I tried to get too far away I could feel myself weakening."
"I guess being dead can actually be kind of fun," Holly pondered.
"For a short time, I suppose," he said. "It gave me lots of time to think, but after a few days it became very lonely. It's not like there were plenty of ghosts around for me to socialize with." Holly's expression turned sympathetic.
"Six months with no-one to talk to. That had to suck."
"Interaction with sentient beings was just one of the things I missed," he blurted. Holly looked at him, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh yeah? And what else did you find yourself wanting, your lab? Caviar? Come on, tell me."
He chuckled again. "Nothing so trivial. Senses other than sight and hearing. You can't feel, taste, or smell anything when you don't have a body to take in the stimuli. I must say, waking up underneath the roses was a terrific way to come back into the world."
"Just coming back wasn't enough?"
"Who says it's a crime to enjoy life's little bonuses?" She smiled and patted his hand.
"Nobody says that. You probably should be sleeping now, you know, like you told your family you were going to. It'll do your new body some good to rest for a while."
Artemis reluctantly agreed. "I guess you're right," he sighed, clambering underneath the blanket and settling into a comfortable position. He let his eyelids droop a little.
"That's right, I'm right." After a few seconds of hesitation, she lifted a hand and brushed a strand of black hair from his forehead. "I'm glad you came back. I don't know what I would have done if you didn't."
He yawned and flashed her his trademark vampiric smile. "You probably would have died of a broken heart." She laughed.
"Haven't lost your cockiness, I see." She reached over and turned off the lamp on the bedside table. "Good night, Artemis." Just as she pushed herself up off the edge of the bed, getting ready to leave, Artemis's pale hand shot out and caught her wrist.
"Don't go. Please."
"What?" The note of panic in his voice concerned her greatly.
"I've spent too much time alone. Just stay until I fall alseep, okay?"
"...All right. No problem." She sat back down beside him. He surprised her by not letting go of her wrist, but instead letting his fingers slide down to grasp hers, as if physically trying to keep her from leaving. She surprised herself with the realization that while, once, she would have shaken off the grip, she now welcomed it. She squeezed his hand and he seemed to relax, his breathing slowly changing to a regular pace, his eyelids beginning to flutter as he drifted off to sleep. She waited for a while, watching his face. The features that could be so cocky, or cold, or patronizing, now the gentle and unlined versions of themselves that came with sleep.
Holly sighed, thinking back over the years she'd known Artemis. Everything they'd been through together: conspiracy, murder, time travel, escaping the various groups bent on killing them...it dawned on her, not for the first time, that the only friends the People had among the humans had been introduced when they'd kidnapped her. Back then, at the very beginning of their adventures, she would never have thought that she would be so upset if Artemis didn't make it to the end of the day. But when it had finally happened...she had felt herself breaking.
"You probably would have died of a broken heart."
Maybe there was a ring of truth to that.
She suddenly remembered what Artemis had said to her, shortly before going off to sacrifice himself for the rest of the world: "I was a broken boy, and you fixed me. Thank you." She had fixed him. But while she had been changing the criminal mastermind who cared not for the well being of others into the young man who willingly gave up his own life to stop Opal, he had been helping her overcome the hatred she'd felt for all humankind, ever since her mother's death. Little by little, they'd fixed each other. This knowledge brought a smile to her lips.
Holly gazed down at her sleeping friend, watching the gentle rise and fall of his chest. He looked so serene, so unlike himself. It was almost like when she had first met Orion, and marvelled at how one boy's features could look so different when controlled by a separate personality.
Holly's smile froze. A conversation with Dr. Argon drifted up through her personal reflections, grabbing her full attention like it was flashing mental neon lights.
"...It's rather curious, actually. While those with multiple personality disorder seem to have more than one person inside their body, each with a separate set of memories and emotions, those with Atlantis Complex have multiple personalities that seem to share a brain. All of their personalities have the same memories, and for the most part they feel the same way towards those around them. The only difference is how they express their emotions."
Holly choked on the sim coffee she'd been politely sipping while the doctor talked.
"Th-they feel the same...the same way towards..." she spluttered. Argon threw her a knowing look.
"Ah, yes, Orion's confessions of love. In all likelihood, young Artemis has some deep rooted feelings for you that he either has yet to realize, or yet to admit. I would let him down gently if I were you, he's still rather fragile."
"Let...let him down gently. Got it."
She snapped back to the present, suddenly very aware of Artemis's hand in hers. That conversation had taken place at the start of his treatment, and she'd been meaning to ask him about it as soon as he was declared mentally stable. But then the whole thing with Opal and saving the world had happened, and she hadn't had the chance. Let him down gently. She found herself wondering if...if I even want to.
The last thing she remembered thinking when Artemis died was you can't take him from me. Who "you" was, she wasn't exactly sure - the spell, Opal, fate, whoever. But they couldn't take Artemis from her. No thought to Butler, or his family, or Foaly or Mulch or anyone else, but her alone. She'd later realized how incredibly selfish the thought had been, but at the time she didn't care. Why didn't I care?
Orion only felt what Artemis felt.
Orion loved me.
Holly felt her heartbeat pounding in the base of her skull, and she unwittingly tightened her grip on Artemis's fingers.
Artemis loves me.
She felt her cheeks burning, and her breathing came in strangled bursts. She rolled her eyes to the heavens, then shut them tight. Gods help me.
She opened them and took a deep breath.
"I love you too."
She leaned over Artemis's sleeping body and, barely hesitating before doing so, planted a kiss on his mouth. She sat back and thought about what she'd just done.
Do I regret that? She wondered.
No. No, definitely not.
She looked at his face again, and noticed his lips twitching with the ghost of a smile. She scowled.
"You'd better be asleep, Artemis," she mumbled. The smile disappeared. She rolled her eyes for the second time, eased her hand out of his and stood up, fizzling out of the visible spectrum. A few seconds later, the bedroom door swung open, then closed again, all on its own.
Artemis opened his eyes and grinned at the ceiling.
"No. Not asleep."