Disclaimer: If I owned the series, TLG would have had a plot. And coming from me, that's saying something.
A fic along the lines of Bivouac - because I never seem to take his endings lying down, do I? As said in the summary, this picks up directly after TLG ends and continues from there, blissfully unconcerned with this thing Colfer seems to consider an 'ending'. Hopefully, this ficlet will continue as a collection of related shorts, but my muse - what/whoever it may be - is a fickle creature of late.
More than the usual amount of hurrahs! go to ilex-ferox for whipping me back into syntactical, punctuational and stylistic shape, which I seem to have once more thrown out the window.
After the End
"We should get going," Foaly said, as the sun began to show on the horizon. "People will be getting up soon," he added as they arrived at the Manor's kitchen door.
"Perfect timing," agreed Butler, helping Artemis down from Foaly's back.
Holly paused in her narrative and bit her lip.
"Do you really need to go?" asked Artemis, trying to stand in a way that hid the fact that Butler was supporting most of his weight. "Butler and I have just tricked a Vietnamese sprite and, well ..." the teen's brow creased, "I want to hear what happens," he admitted sheepishly.
Foaly didn't need to look at it to know that Holly's face had a particularly wide-eyed and pitiful expression on it at the moment. "Curiosity killed the dwarf," he admonished Artemis. "But I'm sure Holly won't mind sticking around for a while longer. I mean, it's not every day Artemis Fowl comes back from the dead." In a rare show of tenderness, he squeezed the teen's shoulder gently. "I'll tell them you heard about a rogue troll," he said out the side of his mouth to Holly.
"Is she not supposed to stay?" Artemis asked, clearly following the Gnommish.
"You still understand Gnommish?" Holly asked.
"Yes, whatever Gnommish is. I seem to speak several other languages as well." He paused then looked up at his companions, honest curiosity written on his face. "I'm quite brilliant, aren't I?"
Holly choked back a laugh and Butler sighed, smothering the instinct to crush Artemis to him in a bear hug.
"And as humble as ever, too," said Foaly. "It really is you in there, isn't it, Mud Boy?"
Artemis gave him a lopsided grin. "It does appear so."
The sun rose higher and sounds of life reached them from inside the Manor.
"Well, this has all been extremely touching," said Foaly, actually meaning it for once, "but I've got to hit the road. Lemme know if you need anything." This last remark he directed at Holly, who nodded.
Before leaving the way he had come, through the glowing door, Foaly paused. Once more, he laid his hand on Artemis' shoulder, just for a moment. And then he was gone.
"Oh my God!"
There came the sound of breaking china and Butler and Artemis turned - Artemis admittedly with some difficulty - to see Angeline Fowl on the kitchen steps, her morning tea cup having fallen from her hands and shattered on the flagstones.
"Oh my God, Artemis!" She gaped at her son, her hands trembling as she brought them to her face. "Artemis," she said again.
"Hello, Mother," he smiled. Only Butler caught the slight question mark dangling at the end of the word. Artemis didn't remember Angeline either.
"Oh God," she said again, and swept her new-born son into her arms. After a moment she held him at arms' length and stared at him. "Your eyes," she said at last.
"I ... " began Artemis, but found he had no idea what she meant.
"He's a clone," said Butler. Then realised this was not a good start, as Angeline looked up at him in horror. "Not the way we think of clones. The body's a clone; but it's him, it's his spirit, his soul. When he died ... the spell ... it let his spirit linger and he'd made a plan -" here Angeline made a choked-sounding sort of laugh, " – to have his body cloned in the hopes that his spirit would be able to have a home again."
"I really am brilliant!" muttered Artemis under his breath.
"Oh Artemis," Angeline sobbed, hugging him to her once again, trying not to think of how close she had come to losing him a second time without even knowing it.
Then she was calling for his father, for the twins, for Juliet, taking Butler and Artemis inside, never once letting go of her son. Artemis' family came running and, suddenly, everyone was talking and hugging him and there were tears, he didn't know whose, and he felt his heart swell with love as these familiar strangers held him in their arms. He knew he loved them; he was willing to wait for the details.
At last when they pulled back, his father still with one hand on his shoulder, he realised someone was missing.
"Where's Holly?" he asked, her name rolling off his tongue without his realising. "Where did she go?"
Artemis saw his father's bewilderment and his mother's anxiety and rapidly put two and two together.
His father's smile widened. "Don't tell me you met a girl while you were gone? Just like a Fowl!"
Artemis shook his head, catching his mother's eye. "No, no, I didn't meet a girl while I was ... gone. I – she – I'm sorry Father, I'm still a bit hazy, I've been unconscious, Butler tells me. I must have been dreaming."
His father looked disappointed for a moment, but Angeline changed the subject. And then there was breakfast and more tears and more talking until Artemis found he could hardly keep his eyes open. Being corporeal was more exhausting than it looked.
His mother noticed first and told him to get to bed, he must be exhausted. Artemis agreed with alacrity.
Butler helped him up the stairs, which seemed to Artemis to go on forever.
When they were out of earshot, Butler said, "You remembered her name."
"I beg your pardon?" Artemis looked up at his bodyguard, puzzled.
"Holly; you remembered her name."
"Holly," Artemis repeated, as though trying it out to see how it fit. "Yes, I did. I ... she left," he said as though this were all the explanation needed. The fact that she was no longer with him worried him, though he couldn't put his finger on why.
Butler smiled. "I'm sure she's around somewhere, waiting. Your father and your brothers, they don't know about her. About the fairies. No one does, not really. Just you, me, your Mother and Juliet."
"Oh," he said. "That's a pity."
"It's safer that way."
Artemis nodded. "Yes, I've heard enough of Holly's story to see why secrecy might be needed."
"It's your story too, Artemis."
"I know," he said. "Or, at least, I will know." He put his hand on the doorknob, but paused, looking up, looking Butler in the eye. "I don't remember you, Butler, but I know that I care for you a – a great deal. I would like you to know that, in case..."
"I already know that, Artemis. You've nothing to worry about."
"Thank you, old friend." With a smile, Artemis went into his bedroom and left Butler in the hall. Artemis had no idea that Butler stood there for another minute at least, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall at his familiar last words. Old friend.
Artemis closed the door quietly, sighing as the cool, dark silence of the room drew him in. Though he was overjoyed at seeing his family again, even if he had only just learned their names, the emotional stimulus had been too much and he was exhausted. Not to mention his body was only just beginning to get the hang of itself.
As his eyes adjusted to the dark he realised someone was sitting on his bed. Someone small.
"Holly," he said.
"Butler told you my name," replied the figure as it leaned forward, turning on his bedside lamp and revealing itself. Holly smiled at him in the sudden light.
"No," he said. "You weren't there suddenly and I ... it worried me. Your name simply ... came out." He frowned at his unimpressive finish.
Holly's smile grew. "You're beginning to remember."
"Hopefully." He began to make his way across the still-shadowy room, keeping his eyes on her. As he approached the bed, he asked suddenly, "Are we lovers?"
"I – wha – lo – no," said Holly with unnecessary vigour.
"Oh," said Artemis, sounding at once confused and disappointed.
"What makes you think we're ... that we're ... uh... lovers?"
"You're sitting on my bed even though there are plenty of chairs." He reached the bed and sat next to her. "And when I see you I feel ... content. Satisfied. Whole, maybe. Happy, certainly." He looked down at her. "Are you sure we're not lovers? I feel sure that we ... that something happened, that -"
"I'm sure!" she blurted out. When he looked at her, however, she squirmed under his gaze.
"But nothing." She squirmed a bit more. "But ... well ... maybe there was this one thing, once, and ... well, it was a long time ago. Look, I've only just got to the bit about the sprite in Ho Chi Minh City, one thing at a time here. I'll get to that other thing ... eventually."
"Alright," he said. He watched her avoid his eyes for a moment."You're very beautiful," he told her at last, slightly bemused, looking at her as though she were a particularly vexing puzzle. This did nothing to calm her.
"I – thanks, Artemis," she said quietly. It was disturbing to hear him speak what he felt; usually he kept his emotions under such tight control. Usually, he respected their unspoken code: they didn't mention that time. Or any other time, for that matter, that could be misconstrued so as to seem, well, more, than it was.
"We are friends though, aren't we?" He sounded worried.
She looked up and saw that his blue eyes were wide, as if to take in more of her at once. "Yes, Artemis, we're friends. Best friends. Bonded by trauma. I couldn't do -" but she stopped there. Not because that would be breaking the code but because, worse than that, he wouldn't get the joke. And then she began to cry.
Artemis' eyes got, if possible, even wider. Slowly, he reached his arm around her. "Please, don't. I didn't mean to upset you, I'm – I'm sorry." Even in this state of near innocence his dignity still stumbled over apologies.
And it only made her sob harder anyway. Biting his lip, he held her to him, not knowing what else to do. One of her hands fisted in the material of his hospital gown and he could feel her tears through the thin sim-cotton.
"I missed you," she said at length, her fingers uncurling from his clothes. "I missed you so much, Artemis. Frond, I was terrified it wouldn't work. But it did, and now you're here, and it's amazing, it's a miracle, only..."
"Only I'm not me. Not yet."
She nodded, looking ashamed, trying to wipe away her tears with the backs of her hands.
"What were you going to say to me, before? That you 'couldn't do' ... what? You seem a very capable person."
Holly hiccupped a half-laugh, half-sob. "I was going to say that I couldn't do without you. It – it was a joke. Sort of. I said that to you once when you nearly died and I saved you. Right before ... right before I kissed you."
"You kissed me?" he asked, his expression unreadable.
Holly made another unidentifiable noise in the back of her throat. "Yes," she said. "But it was under extreme circumstances! I had been temporarily transformed into a hormonal teenager, and no teenager other than you has ever made good decisions."
"But you did kiss me?" He was unwilling to be sidetracked.
"That must have been nice," he said, somewhat absently, as though his mind had suddenly drifted.
"It – it was, actually." She looked at her feet. "I'm ... well, not to blow my own horn or anything, but I'm pretty good at it, even though I don't get much practice."
"And modest too," he said.
She laughed and bumped her shoulder against his. Truth be told, she thought, it was nice to finally talk about it. It was a relief.
"Why don't you get much practice? Are all other fairies blind?" He was only being slightly sarcastic, his curiosity was genuine.
Holly chuckled. "You're awfully sweet for a zombie, Artemis. And no, they're not blind." She bumped her shoulder against his again. "I don't get much practice because I'm a bit ... prickly. Foaly says I push people away. I'm ... well, I'm not everybody's cup of tea. I'm hard to get close to and I'm not easy to like, sometimes."
"I like you," said Artemis.
"Yeah, well, you're not everybody."
"Thank goodness," he replied, making her laugh again.
Shaking her head, she took his hand in hers, playing with his fingers. "Your hand's back to normal again. You'd switched these two fingers on your old body," she tapped his middle and index fingers with her own. "And I branded you with a protection rune too, just here," she ran her thumb along the web of skin between his thumb and his palm. Artemis licked his lips and swallowed, watching her watch their past play out on the now clean slate of his skin.
"This must be strange for you," he said at last, hoping his voice wouldn't startle her into putting his hand down.
She gave him a half-smile. "No stranger than it is for you, I imagine. But you'll get your memories back soon. You remembered my name, after all. Soon, now," she said, more to herself than to him.
"In the meantime," he spoke softly, letting his fingers curl around hers, "will you finish telling me the story?"
She looked at their intertwined fingers for a moment, before raising her face to his. "Of course I will. Now?"
He smiled at her, his fingers tightening on hers. "If you don't mind. Though, might I lie down first? Reanimation is really quite taxing I've discovered."
"What a surprise," said Holly, shifting so that he could get under the covers. "You're still in your hospital gown," she said, suddenly.
He eyed the flimsy cloth with disapproval, only just noticing it. "So it seems. What with all the excitement, I must have forgotten."
"Even you can't be perfectly turned out all the time," she teased, smoothing the eiderdown before settling down next to him.
"Alas," he said and shrugged in a 'what's a man to do?' sort of way.
"I won't tell, I promise."
"Very noble of you, to be sure." He let his head rest next to hers as she snaked her arm under his neck and around his shoulders.
"Well, us fairies, we're generous by nature. And at it least it's not of those gowns that open in the back."
Artemis shuddered delicately.
Smiling, Holly leaned down and kissed his hair, as she had often done, when he had lain in Argon's clinic, recovering from his Atlantis Complex. Not that he would remember even if he had his memories: she'd always waited until he'd fallen asleep.
"I know I can't remember anything in great," Artemis said after a moment, "but I do know some things. I feel things very clearly, very keenly, in this state; possibly because I have nothing else with which to occupy my mind; or possibly because I have no accumulated inhibitions. At any rate, I would like to say, in case I didn't before I died – I do hope I did – that I don't believe I could do without you either, Holly. I feel such immense gratitude when I see you, though I have no idea why. I – well, thank you. For whatever it is you did for me or to me. I think you may have saved my life. I hope I thanked you for it before I died."
"You did," Holly whispered. "You did, Artemis." She remembered his mismatched eyes staring into hers as the drug took her; and a tear ran down her cheek and soaked into the pillow, unnoticed by Artemis.
"Good," Artemis managed around a yawn. "At least I got that right before managing to kill myself off, like a complete dunce."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, you got more than that right, don't worry. But you're distracting me!" Holly collected herself, surreptitiously wiping her cheek. "I'm supposed to be telling you a story."
"Yes, sorry. My fault entirely," Artemis murmured sleepily. "Please, do go on; from what I recall, it was just getting exciting."
"That's because I'm about to show up," Holly told him, smiling as he fought in vain to keep his eyes open.
"Oh good, I can't wait..." He gave up and let his eyes drift shut as she began to comb her fingers through his hair.
As he drifted off, she began to talk, softly, knowing she'd have to repeat it all tomorrow. She didn't mind.