Something that's been sitting around for a while. A little more un-love for Artemis Senior. I'm operating on the premise that Holly and Artemis explained the whole situation to the family sometime after Holly's coming out of the closet in the second of these drabbles.
Beta-ed by the lovely ilex-ferox.
The Facts of the Matter
He found her in the basement, in a room he had never seen before, in a hallway he hadn't even known existed. She had left the outer door slightly ajar and his curiosity had been piqued. Down the dim corridor, with its burned out fluorescent lights, he had followed her into a small, dark, cell of a room.
She sat on a lopsided metal cot, one leg of which was embedded deep into the concrete floor. Nearby a chair lay on its back, as though kicked over in a fight. There were cobwebs in the corners and the sheets she sat on were grey with age and dust. Miraculously, the bare bulb that hung, humming quietly in the middle of the ceiling, still worked. The light it cast made everything harsher than it was, until the contrast her vibrant, vital body made in the midst of this static, grey cube was almost unbearable.
She sat perched on the edge of the mattress, her legs stretched out before her. He could see why she held his son so in thrall. The lines of her body were beautiful to look at, spell-binding even, in their lithe, unconscious grace.
He knocked softly on the door frame to announce himself, feeling like an intruder in something intensely private. She looked up, eyes wide.
"Oh," she said, clearly surprised to see him. "I – hello," she finished lamely, unsure of what he wanted.
"May I come in?" he asked, though it seemed a little absurd. This was his house after all. But this room, whatever it was, was not his and he knew it. This room was entirely alien to him; its history was one he didn't know; its history was one that didn't need or want him; its history was utterly foreign him, despite the house in which it took place.
"Of course. This is your house," said Holly, shifting so that he could sit next to her, if he wanted.
He sat. He felt it would have been rude not to. "What is this place?" he asked.
Holly's mouth twitched. "This is – was – my cell."
"Your cell. Your – oh, from when Arty first – he kept you in here?" Artemis Fowl I was caught between horror and pride.
Holly nodded. "Don't worry, I escaped." Her lips twitched again. "Well, I escaped the cell, at least."
"But not the house as I recall."
"No, not the house. Nor your son."
He watched the stark light play across the angles of her face, whole sections of which disappeared into shadow when she moved.
"May I ask you something?"
"Of course," her tone was only slightly deprecating.
"It's just ... you don't seem like my son's..." the man fumbled for words, "well ... type," he tried at last.
Holly cocked an eyebrow at him. "No? And why would you say that?"
"Well, you're very pretty, for one thing. And seem to be much more ... active. You're from a very different world. Not to mention an entirely different ... milieu, and Artemis, he's very, well ...particular," he finished lamely.
"Particular," repeated Holly. "Huh." Had he known her better he would have been worried by how even her voice was. "So, just to clarify then, you think I'm a low-class gold-digger who's after the money of your patrician son who isn't handsome enough to date pretty women?"
Artemis Senior winced. "No, I mean ... I do think my son is handsome, he's just very ... different."
"Yes, he is that," she agreed. She let the discussion hang.
"Well, are you after his money?" He couldn't help himself. Besides, she seemed to appreciate frank discussion.
Holly laughed mirthlessly. "I'm not after his money. The only reason we met at all was because he was after my money. Besides, I'm ..." pain skittered across her face momentarily "I'm an heiress you know. A ... friend of mine died and he left me 38 bars of gold, as though that would make things better. I don't what that is in your human Euro, but it's quite a lot below ground. So, rest assured, I'm not after his money. As to my being a classless pleb – well, that's never bothered Artemis, why should it bother you?"
"I'm just trying to look out for my son's best interests," the man spoke softly, defending himself. "And I didn't say you were a – a 'pleb'. I'm sorry this sounds so accusatory but I'm just having trouble understanding ... the two of you."
"I know, it's really tough, isn't it? Accusations have such an annoying tendency to sound accusatory. Goodness, I wonder why." She met his eyes and didn't look away. "And why do you need to understand us anyway?"
"I would like to," he told her. "He's my son."
"Right." Her voice was as hard as the lines of the room, as unforgiving and as unchanged by the passage of time.
"You don't like me," he said, feeling the need to clarify the obvious.
"I think the feeling's pretty mutual. Only difference is my opinion's based on actual fact."
Artemis Senior snorted. "Go on, tell me how you really feel."
"That you're a hypocrite and snob." She took him at his word.
"I beg your pardon, young lady, but I am his father. It's my responsibility to look after my son," his voice grew hard, the only hint of a past spent terrifying mafia kingpins the world over.
"Then how come Butler and I have spent nearly half of Artemis' life doing your job for you? You don't get to pick and chose when to be a father. It's a full-time job." She let the "young lady" remark slide, having bigger fish to fry.
"Oh? You've been doing my job for me, have you? Of all the self-aggrandizing, ridiculous –"
"You left him a broken, heartless wretch. I know. I met him. He kept me in here, for Frond's sake! A living, breathing, sentient creature. In here." Holly sprang to her feet, gesturing to the bleak cube they sat in. "This room is what his heart looked like when I met him. That's what you did for him as a father."
"And you? What did you do? Please, Miss Short, I'm dying to know." His dark eyes bit into her, reminding her of other eyes in another face.
"I fought back. Until me, Artemis either gave orders or was given orders. I was something entirely new and he rose to the challenge. In return, I rose to his." She shrugged.
"It's not that hard, you know, making someone feel human: all you have to do is care a little bit and they'll do the rest. Everybody wants to feel wanted, after all; they'll do whatever it takes if they see even the faintest glimmer of interest in your eye. Honestly, I don't think he'd ever even made someone laugh until he met me." She looked down at the man before her and knew she had gained the advantage. She saw the pain in his face, the guilt he kept so deeply buried beginning to rise to the surface, bubbling up like poison gas to choke him in the night as he slept, him and his fragile new life. She knew that if she were Artemis this would be the moment she went in for the kill; the moment she told him how Artemis had thanked her for fixing a once broken boy and thanked her for saving him. But she wasn't Artemis. Not quite.
Holly thrust her hands deep into her cardigan's pockets. Crossing the room, she leaned against the opposite wall and looked the Fowl patriarch in the eyes.
"Look, I didn't come down here to give you parenting advice. You're not a bad person, and Artemis loves you and I know you're trying. So I'm going to explain Artemis and me to you. At least, I'll do my best. I know he wants us to get along." Her tone of voice suggested this was, in her opinion, asking a bit much. "How does that sound?"
"I would like that," he said, knowing she had chosen to spare him.
She brushed her fringe out of her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself, as though steeling her small body for a coming storm.
"Once, a long time ago now, when we were in the time tunnel - you remember the tunnel?" He nodded. "Well, Artemis didn't tell you the whole story. In order to make the spell work we all had to ... sort of ... mind-meld would be the best way to describe it. It sounds dumb, but it felt," she swallowed, "it felt like... Look, do you ever get that feeling of longing, of nostalgia, for something you can't quite put your finger on? As if you're homesick, even though you're sitting in your own living room? It felt like we had found that home. That we'd found the place that everyone spends their whole lives looking for. And that place was each other. We'll never be that close again, to each other or to anyone else.
"I mean, people talk about sex like it's the be-all and end-all of connections; as though we can't get any closer to each other than that. Well, they're wrong. We weren't just in each other, we were each other. That soul of his that spent six months hovering over the roses, that was my soul too, once."
She wiped at her eyes, trying not to remember. "But it happened too soon. It kind of ... screwed us up. It throws your perception way off experiencing something like that. We didn't know how to deal with it, or with what it meant, so we went in circles, getting closer to each other, then pushing each other away. In the end, I went on several pretty horrific dates and Artemis gave himself a mental illness. And no matter what Artemis says, I got the short end of that stick. Do you know what has to happen for someone to get kicked out of a Crunchball match? Seriously!"
"It does sound ... violent," Artemis Senior ventured.
"It was." She sighed, running a hand through her hair. "But that's why we're a little crazy around each other. I know we can get ... over-protective, sometimes. We can't help it."
"It doesn't sound like there's a lot of free will involved. You're with my son because of some time-tunnel misadventure? Just because you'll never be able to have a similar experience with someone else doesn't mean -"
"No. Frond, I'm not doing a very good job of explaining. Look, I'm neurotic about your son because of a time-tunnel. I'm in love with your son," the words slipped out without her even noticing, "because, at the end of the day, even without time-travelling and mind-melding, he and I, we're the same. I mean, we're sort of ... so different that we're the same. I'm really not making sense, am I?"
The man shook his head mutely.
"Okay, here, look, where I come from people all have their own explanations for me. Everyone does. I'm the 'crazy girly captain', I've got anger management issues, I've got serious PMS problems, I'm a bull-dyke or - or something. They've all got something to rationalize me with. And they don't even know me. I'm a novelty, a – a dancing bear, like they have in the streets of St. Petersburg. Dancing for pennies and making everyone laugh. But Artemis doesn't see me like that. With him, I'm just me. I'm a brilliant marksman, I'm the best pilot anyone's seen in years, I'm strong and I'm fast and, yes, I'm also not as smart, but that's the truth. That's what I am, and he's ... okay with that. He even seems to like it." She shrugged, "He knows how it feels to be a party trick, so he just lets me be. He was the first person to ever do that. He's the only person I need to do that."
"And him? My son never does something for nothing."
"He gets what he wants," she smiled, laughing at some private joke. "He gets me."
It might not have sounded like a fair trade to Artemis I, but the man watching this exchange from the security booth two floors above knew exactly what she meant. It wasn't a question of delicate limbs and a pretty face, it was how willing those limbs had always been to run, to catch, and to hold that mattered.