A huge thanks to Mariah for beta'ing this. This wouldn't have been the thing that it is now if not for her.
Also, hi! I had too many feels after reading The Last Guardian that I had to write this. It's been a year since I posted or even read anything on FFnet, and the new look feels weird.
Madness Shared By Two
If there was one thing the locals living beyond the Estate could agree to about the mystery that is—was—Artemis Fowl, it was this: just the simple memory of the pale little boy stoically and silently trudging alongside his vibrant mother around the small village was enough to give anyone shivers.
Despite the silly expectations, however, the boy hadn't turned out to be a vampire as he grew older. Or at least, not one of the Bram Stoker ilk. No one was quite sure if he had nightly blood-sucking activities or not, but if he did? At least he'd be a nice, eco-friendly vampire. Though he had frightened the children (and even more so the adults) of the town, everyone had admired him from afar, especially because the townspeople had heard he'd inherited some of his mother's virtues.
The boy died during the Great Techno-Crash like many others. According to the furtive gossip of the manor employees the family was distraught. Clearly the boy was beloved. A favourite even to his brothers, who had both been visibly upset as the casket was lowered to the ground. The brunette child had been more obviously upset than his twin brother, as he had to be physically restrained by his blonde caretaker, but his brother—a twee child so like his older brother in nature—had tried and failed to suppress his broken sobs.
The folks didn't seem to think of the eldest as an affectionate one, but what did they know about the goings-on inside the manor? Although, they were quite aware of his talents and potential for greatness, and the commonality of his death, along with many others, almost seemed to be a terrible joke upon him. For all his brains and cleverness, even he couldn't escape death.
But despite the condolences to his family, the murmured "may he rest in peace" from a cacophony of locals, it seemed that the universe was determined to do anything but allow the legacy of Artemis Fowl the Second to rest.
There were rumours. Hushed talks among the people living beyond the Estate. Some felt fear, others confusion.
No, no, it was a cousin, my mistress said, a man told the patrons in the pub. I saw the boy buried with my own eyes, when I was cleaning up them rooms as usual, and this one's a wee bit older.
When did he arrive? There's something funny in this thing, one replied, taking a swig from his beer.
I was on holiday, y'see, but when I came back he was there. Has a slightly different disposition, more friendly, I'd say. Seems disoriented from the flight all the way from—where was it?—somewhere in the east, methinks, I dunno the place. Bit strange. Has an extra toe. Uses the dead Master's bedroom. And lemme tell you, that room gives me chills. Strange bloke, the cousin.
Well, they were always a strange bunch, weren't they? And the boy—
Shh! The pub owner placed a finger on her lips. I know what you're going to say. Let the dead rest, you crazy nitwit.
But come on. Disappearing for three years, not a hair greyer. He's only eighteen, but you know what I mean. Anyway the boy was strange, but this cousin not even less.
Maybe one of them fairies got involved, the pub owner joked.
Oh, now I know yer pulling our leg. Them fairy goss are barmy.
The new resident had been the talk of the town. The locals said it was the deceased boy who had come from the dead because of his genius thingamabob, but eventually, the majority dismissed it as too farfetched. Let the family some peace, they said.
One night, some drunken teenagers decided to unearth the casket to see the actual body, only to be attacked by sharp stings from the dark. They woke up the next day on a bed of decaying material in a fertiliser centre a kilometre away from home. When they told this story, even the most curious reprimanded them. The family had given them plots for planting after all. The least they could do was not unearth the dead boy's stiff because of some village gossip.
But even if the teenagers had succeeded in their goal, they would still find Artemis Fowl's remains in the casket.
Despite the illegality of Artemis Fowl's rebirth, as it were, it was undeniable that he was considered a hero to the People. Sacrificing himself and then somehow beating death despite the odds stacked against him—though he did have a knack for defying the impossible, or at least the highly improbable—was greatly appreciated. After all, any rational fairy would not want Opal Koboi to be their empress.
This was one of the reasons Holly was allowed monthly visits to check up on the Mud Boy and his family, who welcomed her with open arms and wished she'd come more often.
It was already dark when she set off to the manor. Night was her preferred time of the day, since there was little chance of any of the farmers catching sight of her at a later hour, even if she shielded. Now that humans were more suspicious of their existence than before, it was better to be cautious.
During this particular visit, Artemis was waiting for her in the library, according to Angeline, the person at the manor who received her. He had been spending more time in it than usual, to refill his mind with knowledge. He was still as curious as before.
After greeting Timmy, the Butlers, and the twins (which involved disentangling herself from Beckett's excited grip quickly lest she get smothered with the slime always inexplicably coating his fingers) she proceeded to the room at the end of the hall.
She could tell, with a quick glace at his reclined posture in the chair, that Artemis was relaxed. He read from an old, thick book with a concentration that reminded Holly of his former self. This Artemis, however, clearly wasn't as attuned to her as the previous one had been—because as she closed the door silently behind her, he didn't seem to take note of her presence in the room. Foaly said he was older, but he didn't look any different. To Holly, he looked even younger with this new body that had not suffered with her physically and emotionally.
He eventually noticed her and looked up, marking his page with a piece of paper.
"How are you?" asked Holly with a small smile.
He did not respond. With his face impassive, he stood up and crossed the distance between them in a few strides, and Holly was caught off guard when he scooped her up and enveloped her in an embrace.
He inhaled and sighed. "I remember you," he whispered. She barely had a chance react before he let go, straightening up. "Hello, Holly, I'm great. And you? How was your flight?" he said as he went back to the desk he had previously occupied, leaving the elf momentarily stunned. He pushed another chair beside his and gestured for Holly to sit as he did.
She recovered. "It was fine," she said, clambering onto the chair. She let herself bounce on the cushion once. "Some trouble at the port again, but what else is new? So, what are you reading?"
"Just history. A short break from particle physics this afternoon. I've been progressing." Artemis glowed with pride as he said this, and Holly's heart almost burst with happiness for her best friend.
"Thank you. Shall we resume the story? Although, have you eaten? I can have someone bring—"
"Nah, don't bother. Let's get on with the story. Where did we stop?"
Artemis drummed his fingers on his chair's support, recalling last month's conversation. "Ah. We start now on my recovery from the Atlantis Complex."
And Holly began.
If Artemis was going to be honest, he had a hard time adapting to a world that seemed so new and old to him at the same time. Unlike the academic knowledge he tried to gain the past months—doing research here and there, reading his own published works under various pseudonyms—not every piece of the life he had before fell into place, not everything was understandable. (However, judging from his puns, he found that his sense of humour back then was as flimsy as he was told.)
Even his own body felt foreign. There were times he'd look at the mirror and simply know something was missing, a part of his physical being. Only when Holly had told the story of their being trapped in Limbo did he understand that he lost his brown eye, previously Holly's.
He felt affection especially for his brothers, then his parents, Butler, and Juliet, but he was lost how that affection came to be. He lost himself.
What puzzled him the most was how easily he believed Holly's existence. Holly, who was an elf as small as one metre, from the Lower Elements and working as a recon officer. Empirical evidence, of course, but empirical evidence didn't count for his lack of belief in the other stories.
But something in him remembered her.
"And then that was it. You returned the words I first spoke to you," said Holly. "'Stay back. You don't know what you're dealing with.' You know the rest." She'd been aching to figure that out for a while now, so as she leaned back on the velvet-covered backrest, she peered up at him and asked, "Why did you say that?"
Artemis closed his eyes in thought. He looked like he was sleeping, thought Holly.
"I don't know," he said at last. A line appeared on his brow, and he rubbed his temple. He looked frustrated, so Holly reached a hand to his cheek, and he opened his lids to gaze down at her.
"Hey, Arty, don't force yourself to remember."
"It's not that. I'm confused."
Artemis pulled away from her touch, and Holly felt hurt as she tucked her hand back into her side. He most likely found the story difficult to believe, so she decided to shrug it off.
"About what?" she asked. "I may not be a genius, but if it's about your memories, I can probably clear it up."
He turned back to her, eyes narrowed. "How can I trust you? You were lying."
"You're lying. Or leaving out some bits and pieces in the story intentionally."
Holly was silent, mouth slightly open, and unsure of what to say.
"Because even though I may not have all the memories, I have the faculties to figure things out," he continued, gritting his teeth uncharacteristically. "Because I remember you, Holly. I remember you. I remember some things that were not in your stories. Because I feel."
She averted her eyes. She curled her fingers and felt her knuckles shake.
"This story of my life being recited back to me feels like a silly child's tale, except during some parts. Parts like your existence, our friendship; I genuinely remember you. However I remember others too that are not a part of it. All these stories of my crimes, my lies, were they actually true then?" he demanded. "Or were you the one lying like right now?"
Holly felt scandalised hearing these accusations. "No!"
"I finished studying everything about psychology last week, Holly. I know why Orion appeared, and my thought about it is coherent with my other thoughts. And then, just now, you said you had tried to tranquilise me to stop me from sacrificing myself… by touching my shoulder and then my neck, and I didn't even think anything strange about it? Because I do find it strange, how we touch. And talk. And yet you presented our relationship as such?"
Holly pursed her lips and swallowed.
"Why, Holly? Why are you trying to hide the extent of our friendship—our relationship—to me?"
"… we didn't have any."
Artemis was hurt. "Stop lying."
She looked him straight in the eyes, her mismatched eyes to his blue ones. "I'm not."
And Artemis could see, with slight embarrassment on his part, that she was not lying. On this particular question, at least. "But you've been leaving out some things, correct?" he insisted.
She sank to her chair, sighing. She'd never lie to him. "Yes."
"Because!" she exclaimed, emotions boiling over. "Because you're a silly Mud Boy who wouldn't listen, because you're a great genius who knows what's best for everyone. Because."
Artemis bowed his head.
She fumed. She knew she shouldn't get angry at Artemis right now, but she couldn't help it. "You wouldn't listen before, but you know what? I will say something now and you will listen," she said, her index finger pointed in his direction. "Ever since that jaunt in the past for Jayjay, I've been confused, and clearly, you've been a bit shaken by it too as proven by Orion's appearance." Subconsciously, her fingers touched her lips and then moved to massage her nape. "W-we kissed in the gorilla cage back then," she said, her voice strained, "because of some burst of magic or something—I don't know…" Her eyes settled on the desk lamp in front of her, and she ran a hand over her crew cut. She bit her lip. "But we never talked about it again. And I made it a point for us to finally talk about it, because of the way it has been affecting you and me. But you refused, or rather, you evaded the topic every time I tried to hint at it."
Holly had always been aware of how well he had manoeuvred the conversation away from that moment whenever she had tried to start a conversation regarding the kiss. And perhaps, she thought, it was partially my own fault for not resisting strongly enough when he did.
"You were cured from the Atlantis Complex, while I was still here mulling over things, not knowing how to successfully bring this topic back up with you. But I knew I was going to, as soon as you got out of therapy.
"Except as soon as you did get out of therapy, I promptly lost you." And here, she was unable to keep the emotion from her voice. "But unlike before," she continued, "I didn't get the chance to save you. I always had the chance to do so. I felt guilty and betrayed. But now you're back, and I'm happy, except you can't remember anything. So as the story's gone on, it's become difficult to tell you about it. It's too overwhelming. Because, you idiot weasel! In your will, you said to think fondly of you, '… when you think of me.'" She punched him a little harder than her version of an affectionate hug. "For a genius you are so stupid, aren't you? As if I could ever not think of you. Of course I will think of you. Always."
Her eyes stung, threatening for moisture to well up, and she had to tilt up her head and blink repeatedly to halt the process.
"Folie à deux," Artemis muttered.
She sniffed. "Huh?"
"An Irish writer, William Trevor, wrote a short story called Folie à deux. 'A madness shared by two.' The title references the psychosis, but in the story it was about a shared childhood crime, letting an old dog float away into the sea and drown, and it had different end effects on the two characters. One was seemingly fine because it was an innocent bout of curiosity, one was seemingly mad with guilt. It turns out that the seemingly fine one was not fine at all because of his feelings of repressed guilt, and the seemingly mad one was fine because he had been able to confront the reality of the crime within himself with it, in spite of the world viewing of him as mad. In many ways, we're both Wilby and Anthony, the characters. They had a cave, we had a past. They had a shared crime, we had a…" A memory flickered in his mind, and it made him grimace. "A shared moment.
"What they didn't have was confrontation," he said. "After they had done it, they only had silence, no blames and accusations, no denial. They went on their separate lives without talking about it ever again, even during a chance encounter they had in Paris after many years had gone by."
Holly understood. "It's what we have that they didn't. Maybe slowly, we can talk about it. We will talk about it. I'm sorry, Artemis."
He nodded, understanding as well
They were silent for a moment, both absorbed by their respective thoughts and feelings.
"You said that the story feels like a child's tale to you," said Holly, "but you remember me. How?"
"Grass and citrus," he answered almost immediately.
"It's your scent. I remember your scent."
"I believe for humans, each elf has a distinct odour. The LEP officers that were here three months ago, they had different ones. Yours is grass and citrus."
"Well, yours is book and something vaguely similar to Foaly's Ops Booth. Have you been dabbling with fairy tech again, Mud Boy?" Holly narrowed her eyes jokingly.
Artemis smiled. "He's the one sending me ARClights as a test of some sort. Since that decision was made independent of me, I am not to blame."
"I'll have to knock some sense into that centaur."
They grinned at each other. Then:
Artemis sighed. He needed to give voice to his fear. "Even if I can never feel that this is my life, despite the empirical evidence laying before me, even if I never feel as if I've lived everything with you and Butler and my family, broken as I am, will you give up on me?" His voice shattered at the last words.
Holly felt a twinge on her chest. She knelt on her chair, the memory of his words coming back to her through a thick veil, and cradled Artemis's face. I was a broken boy.
"Never," she murmured and kissed his forehead.
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