This is a sad story. I don't want to toot my own horn here, but I advise some sort of Kleenex/napkin/sweater/duvet/significant other be kept on hand.
Also, this was written without my having read TLG, something I still haven't done! I know, I know, I seriously need to sort out my priorities. If only my professors accepted essays on the clearly epic and symbolic love story that is the lives and times of Artemis Fowl and Holly Short!
Also, may I just say, that I know there's some sort of accent in Vinyaya's name but for the life of me I can never remember where it goes or which it is. Sorry, guys.
Thanks, as always, to tireless beta ilex-ferox (sorry, I added more after you'd gone over it and decided to just wing it).
A note on the title:
The New College Latin & English dictionary has this to say about parentare, "parento -are -avi -atum intr to hold a memorial service in honour of dead parents or relatives (I'm using that loosely); (w. dat) 1 to offer sacrifice to (the dead); 2 to avenge (dead person with the death of another person); 3 to appease, satisfy". You learn something new everyday!
PS. Dear FFnet, honour (colour/neighbour) spelled with a "u" is not wrong, dammit!
She only had herself to blame for standing here, really. She had been the one to ask him to reconsider cremation. And of course he had; at that point he'd have done whatever she asked. So now, of course, here she stood, holding a wreath like a lifeline, looking at his name. Standing here, she regretted quite a few things, but asking for a grave to visit was not among them. Because though at times she hated it - it meant he was gone, it meant it was real, it meant it was over - it was far better than the alternative.
When she took an open-ended vacation nobody asked any questions. It was unlike her to use her vacation time and she had years stockpiled from her decades on the force. Everyone knew why she was taking it now, everyone knew where she was going to spend it; but whether it was the creeping sadness of the situation or Trouble Kelp's swift and unnecessarily harsh response to anyone who mentioned it, no one made a single joke, no one gave her a wink and a nudge to the ribs. Truth be told, it wasn't really that funny anymore.
She left one night in June and no one saw her underground again until he had died.
"You know, you don't have to play nursemaid. I could have the best of the best attending to my every medical and non-medical need."
"Well, then, why don't you give the best of the best a call and kick me out?" She smoothed a wrinkle in his duvet.
He laid his hand over hers. "Because I prefer you, but that's no reason to steal you away from your life. I could be alive for another decade, goodness only knows. Is this how you want to spend your time? Taking care of a doddering old man? You're in the prime of your life, Holly, don't waste it on me."
"And don't you tell me how to spend my life," she shot back. "I'm not wasting it. This is where I want to be. And if you live for another decade, all the better. I have heaps of vacation time."
"If you say so," he said, but he smiled.
Of course there was no one left now but him. Well, strictly speaking, his brothers were about, Beckett in the States somewhere and Myles in London, but no one who knew about her. Juliet had vanished, heartbroken, when Butler died - amazingly enough - of old age. Angeline, of course, was long dead.
Sometimes Holly wondered about Juliet: where she was, was she alright. Foaly told her she was living in South America again and not to worry, she was quite content. After all, she had a nice house with an ocean-view and several lovers. This idyll didn't convince Holly that Juliet was content, but at least she was fed and safe and if she wanted to get in touch, she would. Holly had other things on her mind.
His life shifted to her schedule. He had never been an early riser, except out of necessity, and so happily became nocturnal. Sometimes, when he was feeling nostalgic, he would watch the sunrise, the soft light crosshatching shadows onto the overgrown grass of his family estate. He said it reminded him of their situation, a new beginning amongst the weeds of another life. She said this was the end, not the beginning, and to stop talking like a poem. He said he was old and should be allowed to wallow in sentimentality from time to time. Besides, the line between the end and the beginning was very grey and, at his age, getting more and more muddled every day.
She always slept next to him. He woke before her, generally, and would watch her ribcage rise and fall, her hands tucked under her cheek. She looked so small in the vast expanse of his bed that it seemed a miracle she had ever reached him at all.
The night she arrived she made up a bed in a nearby room, but they sat up against his headboard and talked so long that there they fell asleep, waking with sore necks in the evening. The next night she made a joke about wanting to be near him in case he needed her help getting to the toilet.
He had glared but said nothing. The truth had lain over her face like a double exposure: the two images, the two worlds, were visible to the observer but went unacknowledged between themselves. And it wasn't as though he minded, anyway.
"I've made Foaly the executor of my will," Artemis said over breakfast one night.
Holly nearly choked on her fruit juice. "Foaly? What? Really? How did you manage that?"
"He has had a registered law firm above ground for several decades, actually. After that it's quite simple actually."
"The paperwork, maybe, but what, he's going to go through the furniture with your brothers? Decide what's whose?"
"Not at all, the estate will be divided evenly between the two of them. I'll leave them to fight over mother's photo albums in private. No, he'll be dealing mostly with money transfers, etc."
"Why Foaly? Haven't you got human lawyers?" Holly slurped at the dregs of her juice through her straw.
Artemis made a face. "Please stop that awful noise. And yes, there are human lawyers, but none that I would rely upon to do things properly as I would Foaly."
Holly gave one last, rebellious slurp before setting down her glass. "Well then, I just hope he doesn't explode from glee once he gets his hands on your diaries. Because you know he will."
He looked at her with an easy smile. "I know, but by that point it will be too late. I've made my peace with being made infamous amongst the People in a sensationalist biography published insultingly soon after my death."
"Well, I'll know the truth. And that's what matters. Don't worry, I'll defend your honour, Artemis." She grinned at him and karate-chopped the air.
"Oh good. What a relief. My honour feels oh so safe in your capable hands, Holly." He rolled his eyes.
She cocked her head at him. "Doesn't it matter to you that we remember you as you are?"
Artemis smiled. "It matters to me that you remember me as I am. Though you have my permission to forget some of my less ... savoury actions, if you wish. The rest of them, the People, humans, no, Holly, I really don't care."
"I'll remember you, Artemis, don't worry. And besides, memory makes things golden, right?"
"How fortunate for me."
She put the wreath down, leaning it against the headstone. "I figured I should visit, since I asked for this," she said. Her voice was quiet, weighed down by the vast silence of the dark graveyard. She brushed imaginary dirt from the stone, and it was cold and smooth beneath her fingers. Her hands clenched. "Fronddammit, Artemis, couldn't you have wriggled your way out of this one, too? What, you just gave up and let time take you, did you? You didn't even try to escape. You just let it swallow you whole. You call yourself a Fowl!" Her strength was back and she shouted at the impassive marble of his grave marker. "I guess the only good part about this is you can't come back with a witty response now, can you? D'Arvit, you're even more annoying to argue with dead than you were alive."
She brought her fists down on the marble. "D'Arvit, Artemis!" Her fingers tightened around the top and she sagged, her cheek against the cool stone. "D'Arvit..."
But there was no warmth in the stone, no sympathy or compassion, no life. There was nothing of him, not here, not anywhere, and she simply could not believe it. Could not, would not. He must be here, somewhere, surely?
He ran his fingers along the line of her throat as she lay next to him, slowly waking. The night reached into the room with its long, delicate fingers, bringing life to their sleepy bones.
She opened her eyes and smiled, her lips breaking the shadows, curling like smoke into the dark. "Hullo," she murmured.
His old eyes were as sharp as they had ever been and they saw the delicate lines of her body, of her bones, in the slow-falling light of the stars. To think he would leave this behind. Only idiots believed in heaven, he thought. Only blind men and fools. And so he kissed her, there in the slow-falling light of the stars. He remembered how it had felt, the first time, the only time, all those years ago.
She didn't resist. His eyes closed, but still he could see the outline of her body, branded onto his eyelids, as though it would burn him up, burn him away. He was willing to go, if it would be like that.
He broke away slowly, knowing he should, but unwilling. She watched him, her eyes mirroring his.
"I'm sorry," he said, a knee-jerk reaction.
"Why?" This time, her face was impossible to read.
"It - I - " He collected himself, let the lingering light fade from under his eyelids. "I am an old man, Holly. Even if, once, we might have... it's too late now. You're young and I am old."
"You're younger than I am, and much too young to be saying things like that. Kiss me, Artemis."
"No, Holly, really, don't you mind? That I'm - I look like -"
"You look like yourself. Kiss me."
So he did. And, slowly, the lines of her body, of her bones, burnt themselves into his skin, into his blood, into his bones, and he felt himself turn to ash and dust and then, somehow, miraculously come together again. If that is what dying feels like, he thought to himself, his forehead resting on hers, I won't mind so much.
"I don't want you to go," she said softly. He had awoken to find her watching him. It was almost sunset, she never woke this early.
"I'm not going anywhere," he replied irritably. "I can barely make it to the bathroom."
She didn't smile. "Don't be like that, not now."
"Not like what?"
"Just be yourself, please, Artemis."
"Myself? I'm a grumpy old man, I am being myself."
"Artemis!" Her voice broke on his name.
He knew what was happening, he knew how she could feel life ebbing and flowing like a tide in his veins. But not now, surely they had more time? Surely not as soon as this.
"Today?" he asked, swallowing.
"I don't want to." His voice came out in a whisper, though he hadn't meant it to.
She began to cry.
"Will you stay with me? Until I -"
"Of course. Of course I will." She looked like she wanted to insult him but couldn't bring herself to, not now. It broke his heart.
"I'm sorry to be causing you pain, even now. A pity we didn't stay enemies, then at least this would have been a happy occasion."
"Oh Frond, Artemis, don't say things like that. That's not even – no." She shook her head, "No, I'd rather it this way. I will always rather it this way."
"I'm glad," he said. He was afraid, to be truthful. He knew, rationally, that there was nothing to fear. His heart would stop and he would simply feel nothing at all. Simply be nothing at all.
He looked at her face and wondered if it was possibly to miss something even after death. Even when you were nothing at all but ashes and dust, but blood and bones, was it still possible to yearn for someone until all those ashes and that dust, all that blood and those bones, were swept up in the rush and pull of longing until even they tore apart, until even the pieces of him were made of nothing but wanting. Years from now, would his atoms still be searching for her in the dark of nothingness, the outline of her body branded onto them, burning them up?
"I'd stay if I could," he said. "I'm sorry. Holly, you do know I'm sorry that... that things never went as they might have."
She took his hand in hers. "I am too," she said.
"But it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?" He tried for cheery, but his smile was weak and he could feel his strength failing.
She said nothing but moved closer to him, her face next his.
"Yes, it was. Boy, did you know how to show a girl a good time," she spoke at last, her voice quiet and ragged around the edges.
"I did my best," he said, rearranging himself so as to be able to look at her.
The sun had set and the moon had crept up to the window sill, peering over the edge, watching them. They paid it no mind.
"Promise me," he said, breathlessly, for he was having trouble suddenly with his lungs, "promise me you won't forget me. That you'll think of me. Sometimes. Please..."
"You bastard," she lost her self control at last and began to cry, "do you think there'll ever be a day when I don't look in the mirror and remember... Frond, you bastard," she repeated. Then she swallowed, her face hardening. "No," she told him firmly, "no, don't you bloody dare leave me, don't you d'Arvitting dare. I'll kill you. I swear to Frond, I'll kill you."
"Sorry," he smiled, one last time. "Then again, I never was very obliging, was I? I wish I could have been."
"I'll miss you so Fronddamn much," she said.
"Not too much," he told her. "You'll have to be happy again one day, you know." Because now was the time - if there had ever been one - for the truth. And the truth was that he knew she would carry this pain for far too long.
"No, I don't. And don't tell me what to do!"
"I'm not going to waste my last breath arguing with you, Holly."
"It's not your last. Not yet, it-"
"Shh, please, let's not." He leaned forward ever so slightly so that their foreheads touched and she was quiet, looking up at him with her eyes - their eyes, those eyes - wide in the dark, wet and glittering in the cold light of a merciless moon. For it was ever rising, ever marking the passing time. If only it could be still for a moment, just one moment more. There was so much he wanted to say: I'm so grateful, I'm so in love, I'll miss you so much, I'm so sorry... But there was no time for that now. "Thank you," he said, and his breath rattled as he spoke. That was the most important.
"No," she said. "No, no, no. Artemis, don't you dare, don't you d'Arvitting..." but then her tears came and swept away her words, swept away her thoughts, swept away the world.
His brothers had come to the funeral. They looked nothing like him. Standing, invisible, under a nearby willow, Holly wasn't sure if that made it easier or harder. The priest said a few words in Latin. Artemis had said that if there were to be any of "that sort of thing", the least the priest could do was make it sound grand. Holly smiled to herself.
Juliet came too. She stood apart from the boys, a black scarf pulled over her hair, now white with age. She was thin and frail, and her eyes, lined by running mascara, were peering into the evening light, looking, Holly was sure, for her.
When the priest and the twins had gone, Juliet came forward and laid a bundle of bright wildflowers on the fresh, dark soil.
"He'd hate these flowers, I bet." She spoke aloud, wiping away tears and makeup with the back of her hand. "Well, it won't kill him to have a bit of colour now and then, will it?" She laughed sadly at her words.
"I'm glad you came," said Holly, materializing next to the gravestone.
"I came to see you," Juliet admitted. "I never said goodbye last time, and I don't have much time left myself. I'd regret it if I never saw you again. You look great, by the way. Really aged well." Again she chuckled at her own joke.
Holly reached out and took the other woman's hand. "Sometimes, I wish I hadn't."
Juliet shook her head. "Don't think like that, Holly, it won't do anybody any good. You just keep on doing what you were doing before all this. Keep on kicking ass and breaking barriers and stuff. You know: the usual."
Holly laughed. "The problem is, Juliet, I don't remember what I was doing 'before all this'. What did I do before him? I don't remember. I – I don't want to remember."
Juliet eyed her friend for a moment. "Did you two ever get things sorted out between you? You know, admit that you were madly in love, etc., etc.?"
Holly nodded. "More or less. Not until it was too late, though."
"That's not your fault, that's just human nature. We're all cowards at heart."
"But I'm not human."
"But you're not so different from us, either." Juliet squeezed Holly's hand. "The more I think about it, the more it seems to me we're all in the same boat, and just calling it by another name. In the end, we're all going down together."
"Except he went down first, and left me here."
"And you should be goddamn grateful you're still here. The world was a beautiful place before Artemis Fowl and it'll be beautiful long after none of us are here to remember him. You're one of the lucky ones, Holly. Hold onto him, but don't let him get you down. He deserves better than that."
Holly nodded, silent. It began to rain lightly, and the lumpy earth of his grave ran with water. "But it's so hard," she said at last.
"I know, honey. I know it is."
They stood there a moment longer before Juliet stirred. "I've got to get going, I've got a cab waiting by the gates. You'll be okay on your own?"
"Yeah. Yeah, of course. Will you?"
As their hands came untangled, Holly looked up, one last time. "Will I see you again?"
"I don't think so," Juliet replied, shaking her head. She watched her friend a moment longer then said, "It's been a treat, Holly." She laughed suddenly, happily, "And tell Mulch Diggums I said hello, would you? I miss that stink bomb, sometimes, I really do."
"I will," Holly promised. "Thank you for coming here. I – just, thanks."
"No problem, honey. You take care of yourself, right? You promise?"
"I promise. You too."
"Always do, Holly, always do." They looked at each other for a moment longer. "Well, goodbye, Holly."
Holly watched her go until the rain took her, the last living piece of a world the rain was slowly, but relentlessly, washing away.
"He left you money, you know." Foaly watched his friend out of the corner of his eye. They were sitting in the Ops Booth; she had gone straight there after stepping off the shuttle. On the short ride between the station and LEP headquarters, Holly had only a brief impression of claustrophobia before being enveloped in the endless, air-conditioned halls of her old home. Already she missed the sharp, clear air of the Fowl estate.
"Did he?" She didn't even look up, her head in her hands, elbows resting on her knees.
"Quite a bit," Trouble said. Somehow he and Vinyáya had arrived just at the right moment. Holly didn't bother to question it.
"How much?" she asked wearily, so that they would get it out of their systems.
"One metric tonne of gold," Foaly told her.
Holly raised her head. "One metric tonne," she repeated.
"Yep, and I have a few suggestions on how you could spend it," Foaly waggled his eyebrows.
"That's the ransom demand," Holly said, clearly not listening.
"Your... oh. I guess it is." Foaly was surprised he hadn't twigged to that earlier.
Holly laughed, then sobbed, then put a hand over her mouth to quiet herself. "My d'Arvitting ransom. Frond, Artemis."
"There was also a box of personal effects," Vinyáya added, knowing this might mean more to the elf.
Holly perked up, coming out of her reverie. "Really? Is it here? Who put it together?"
"Artemis put it together; he kept it in a Swiss safety deposit box and arranged for its delivery after his... well, at the opportune moment." Foaly looked thoughtful, "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised but, for a man of his age, he was impressively organised."
"It's Artemis, what do you expect?" Holly said. "Can I see the box? Where is it?"
Foaly brought out a packing box from under his desk, the safest place under the world he could think of.
Holly crouched next to it, pulling up the lid.
"I think it may be his diaries," Foaly told her, unable to hide his enthusiasm. "I've been trying to decode them for years."
Vinyáya cleared her throat in a 'is this really the time?' sort of way.
Foaly subsided into silence.
It was his diaries. USB sticks full of his thoughts, each one labelled with the year. Underneath those, however, there was more. Letters, on paper, in paper envelopes ("Paper!" said Foaly, slightly shocked), all addressed to her. There were a few photos, framed, that she had never seen. One of her, laughing; of Butler, gesturing while cooking; of Juliet in the ring, decked out in sparkling spandex; of her and him together, when they were so very young, taken by Butler presumably. She had never seen it before. They looked happy, amazingly enough. Under the photos there was something bulky, wrapped in dark blue velvet, and something small, in a slip of red silk. The first made her laugh, swaying on its chain, catching the light, such a particular shade of blue. The second made her cry, because scuffed and worn though it was, someone had buffed the gold before wrapping it, as though they had been trying to keep that spark glowing, just a little longer.
Holly looked up as she tied the leather cord around her neck. "I suppose you'll be wanting to see the diaries, Foaly?" She wiped the tears from her cheeks and smiled.
"Ye- " Foaly caught Vinyáya's eye, "No. No, no, I can wait."
"I'm sick of waiting," said Holly and handed him the stick labelled "On my death". Trust Artemis to leave her instructions from beyond the grave.
The image that appeared on screen was Artemis, mid- thirties, Holly guessed, sitting at his desk, in his study. Sunlight came in through the window behind him. It looked like spring. She and he had gone to Norway the winter he was thirty six. He had used the pretext of she couldn't remember what impending disaster but, once they got there, they had spent two weeks in perpetual night, drinking tea and watching the aurora overhead. She remembered his face in the greenish light, looking back at her and smiling. Smiling, he had always been smiling then.
Now that same smiling face was looking at her from Foaly's screen.
"Hello," it said. "Foaly, I'll take the liberty of presuming you will never succeed in deciphering my diaries and, therefore, assume you're dying of curiosity. However, this message is for Holly alone."
Foaly looked at the elf next to him. She shook her head, "It's okay, you guys can stay."
Artemis began again. "Holly, I'm not very honest, nor very courageous, so I thought I might say this to you now, before I lose my nerve. Though it is a long way off yet, I don't believe I'll have the courage to do so again before I die.
"Before I begin, however, to distract myself, perhaps, a note about the letters. I realised one day, not long ago, that if you were to die I should like to have as much as possible of you and your thoughts and your life to hold on to. Perhaps not the healthiest way to deal with bereavement, but that's neither here nor there. My point is that, as I will presumably exit this earthly stage before you do, I thought I might leave you as much of me as I could. As this is an attempt at honesty – stop laughing - let me be honest and say that you will miss me and I should like to leave you what comfort I can. If you will only be pained by these memories then, by all means, burn them, bury them, do what you like with them. I'm hoping to cause you as little pain as possible in the forthcoming years. Better late than never. Or so they say at least.
"Now that that's out of the way, what I would like to say to you today is something I doubt I'll ever have the fortitude to say to you in person, which, I can admit, is a great disgrace. Though, seen in a certain light, it may be better that way in the long run. Who can say? I shudder to think, however, that the only time you have ever heard this from me was through Orion. That idiotic episode simply demeaned the entire situation. I'm very sorry for it.
"But I digress. What I wish to say," his smile grew, with a slightly impish twitch in the left corner, "is that I can't do without you, Holly Short. I love you. I doubt I will ever love anyone else. That fact that I love anyone at all in this manner is possibly a minor psychological miracle. So, if I never tell you, please know that I love you. Or, I suppose, that I loved you. That I loved you until I died. And that I'm impossibly grateful for you, though I rarely show it.
"I sincerely hope that this doesn't bring you even more grief. I'm recording it, somewhat selfishly, as always, because I want to be sure that these words, that these sentiments, exist somewhere outside my mind; that they are in the world, if not while I live, than at least when I am dead. Sometimes I feel I should like the whole world to know. So this is my compromise with myself and my cowardice and my pragmatism. I hope, for once, that I have done the right thing.
"There's not much more to say, I suppose, except that I hope I was well behaved when I died, and didn't cause any strife. I hope that you will be happy and live a very long life and that you won't hold it against me: this message or my death. I love you. Goodbye, Holly."
The image went black on his smiling face, lit by the warmth of a distant sun.
There was silence in the Ops Booth. Three turned to the fourth to see her crying and smiling, her hand clutching the coin at her throat. Crying and smiling and, for the first time, not caring who knew or who saw that she was alight, that she burned, burned down to her very atoms. He was burned into her skin, into her soul, and now everyone could know it.
Of course, by that point, it was too late. But then it usually is with us.
The marble sat patiently until she had finished crying. She wondered if, over the years, her tears would carve through the stone like valleys.
"Juliet died last week, Artemis. Just thought you should know. Then again, maybe you already do." She rubbed the salt water from her cheeks and leaned a hand on the stone. "If you're out there somewhere, I'd like you to know that I'm trying. I'm really trying. Like you wanted. I go out with friends. I don't work myself ragged. I sleep with guys sometimes. Maybe one day, I'll even love one of them. I'll try.
"Time helps, like they always say it will. It makes things softer, farther away, easier. But, Frond, that's the worst of it sometimes. I feel like I'm losing my grip on you, on us. As if, someday soon, it'll be like we never even happened. Like it was all a dream I had once. And gods, I can't bear it. I don't want it to be easier if it means forgetting." She laughed then, but it wasn't happy. "I guess it's a bit of a paradox, eh?"
Holly ran a hand through her hair to calm herself. "I still miss you. I still love you. Guess I should have said that before it was too late. But you knew, didn't you? You always seemed to know what I was thinking, I hope you knew that too. I told myself you did. It made it easier." She leaned into the stone, letting take her weight. "Thanks for the letters, by the way. They help. When things are really bad, they help."
The sun was making rustling sounds on the horizon, the blue of the sky paling where it touched the far off hills. Holly let her hand rest on the stone one more time. "I'll be back again when I can." She chuckled then, fondly this time, "I never could do without you, could I, Artemis Fowl?"