Artemis stood still, too numb to even speak. He stared down at the sight in front of him, a lump in his throat, a sudden chill overtaking him. He finally managed to turn around to stare up at Butler, a desperation in his eyes that asked the question for him, even though he himself was still unable to.
"It happened two years ago. She was the first. When he found her, he followed… it was on your birthday, Artemis."
Artemis turned so Butler wouldn't see the horror in his eyes, gazing down at the terrible display in front of him. It took him several seconds to work up the strength to speak, and he raised a shaking hand and pointed back through the field. "Wait at the car."
No footsteps answered his command. A few moments passed in silence before Butler hesitantly spoke. "Artemis, it's not your fault-"
"I said wait at the car." His voice was shaking but he still managed to instill in it a steely tone that convinced Butler to do as he asked. Artemis still held it together until he heard the distant sound of the car door opening and closing.
And that was when everything fell apart.
Artemis collapsed against the slab of marble, his strength deserting him as he pounded a fist against the ground, letting out a broken sob. "No, no, no," he cried, hitting the ground again and hunching over in the dirt, his eyes filling with tears. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
However, there is no such thing as an apology that can bring back the dead.
Because in front of him was a grave, the rock emblazoned with the most awful words he had ever seen.
Here lie Angeline Fowl and Artemis Fowl the First.
His parents. Dead.
Artemis had known something was wrong. He'd known it from the moment he'd asked Foaly to take him home. There had been something in the centaur's eyes, a darkness there that shouldn't have been. It should have warned him, but Artemis hadn't listened. He been ignorance's victim, living in blissful unawareness. Even Butler hadn't told him.
Not right away.
He had waited until they arrived back on the mainland. Then he had turned to Artemis, saying there was something he should know.
His parents. Gone. Dead. Committed suicide.
On his birthday.
A tear fell onto the rock and Artemis shuddered, the unbearable agony clawing at him from the inside out. He had never felt this much pain before. He sobbed again, falling back on his knees and letting out a low, pained moan. This shouldn't be happening. This couldn't be happening. Not now. Before the demons, everything was finally getting back to normal. He had his memory and his family back- he couldn't have asked for a better life. For the first time in his life, he had truly been happy.
Only to find out it was all taken away in the blink of an eye.
"Why didn't you believe me?" Artemis whispered, closing his eyes. "I said I'd come back. Why didn't you just believe me?"
Only silence answered him, and Artemis reached up to grasp the grave with a trembling hand. "Why didn't you just believe me?"
His voice broke, and Artemis hung his head, tears falling unabashedly down his cheeks. They were dead. No matter how many times he thought it it didn't get any easier to accept. They were dead.
Overhead, there was a roll of thunder, and a raindrop fell on his hand. A moment later, a tear dropped down next to it, twin circles of water on his pale skin. Artemis closed his eyes as the storm brewed up in the clouds above him, beginning to tremble.
This was because of him. They died because he had failed to land them back in the right time. He had failed in his sole responsibility on the trip home, failed so completely and utterly to do all that was asked of him that the universe saw fit to bestow this as a punishment.
"It's not fair. It's not... not fair." The embarrassing statement slipped out like rocks spilling from his throat, and if he weren't so distraught, he wouldn't be caught dead saying it, but it was all true. He had worked so hard to get his family to be whole again, and just when that was finally achieved- it fell apart. And not because of the Russian mafia. Not because of Opal. Not because of anything or anyone but himself.
As the rain started to fall, Artemis sobbed again, allowing tears to stream down his cheeks. The raw, internal agony clawed at his insides until it hurt to breathe, and he gasped, pounding against the ground again. This wasn't fair!
Suddenly, his pain twisted into fury- fury directed at his parents. With strength he didn't even realize he possessed, Artemis slammed his fist into the stone with a raw scream of anger. "Why didn't you just believe me?! I said I was coming back! Why didn't you just wait for me?!"
He punched the stone again and pain shot up his arm, and Artemis leaned back, breathing hard, his eyes still glistening. He panted for breath as another tear slipped down his cheek and glanced down at his hand. His thumb was very clearly broken and his knuckles were already bleeding. Blue sparks hovered on the surface of his skin, unsure of where to go or how to heal. Artemis casually forced his magic to calm and retreat back under his skin, leaving the injuries be. After practically killing his parents himself, he deserved this and more.
Artemis tipped his head back and closed his eyes, allowing the rain to fall onto his face. It soaked his hair and erased all evidence of his tears, turning the dirt around him to mud and irritating his injured hand. Artemis simply raised it to the rain, offering it up and asking it to hurt more. Anything to escape to unbearable agony making his limbs shake and his heart pound.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his words inaudible in the now pouring rain. He shouldn't have failed. How could he have been so weak-minded? How could he have not managed to land them in the right time? Three years was unacceptable, no matter what Qwan had said. Three years off was simply pathetic.
Cold and soaked, Artemis idly sat up straighter, making a point to lean on his hurt hand. The pain whiplashed up his arm again and he smiled grimly. After what he had put his parents through, this was something he deserved.
Artemis remained motionless, his tears falling silently, trembling. The salty liquid mingled with the rain and he lowered his head, closing his eyes once again. "I… I'm so sorry," he whispered. "Please, forgive me. I never meant… Mother, Father, please. I never meant for this to happen. I tried to get back home, I swear. Please… please come back."
He didn't know how long he sat there, crying like a young child who'd just had his ice cream stolen. And, for once, he didn't even care. He didn't care that he was crying and complaining that life was unfair and asking for his parents back. It hurt so much he could hardly breathe and, for once, Artemis Fowl felt as if the situation permitted him to act like a child.
It must have been several hours, as the sun had set, before he heard footsteps. They stopped right behind him, and Artemis didn't even turn. It was quiet for a long moment before Butler spoke.
"Artemis, it's cold and raining. We need to get you home."
Artemis shook his head. He coughed, swallowing the lump in his throat before speaking up, his voice hoarse and weak. "No. You leave. I will find my own way home later."
Butler sighed. "Arte-"
"I told you to leave. Do it."
Butler gazed sadly down at the distraught boy at his feet. He was shivering and clearly soaked, and Butler had to resist the urge to simply pick him up and take him back to the car. Three years had been a long time, and it was hard for Butler to see if from Artemis's point of view. From his charge's eyes, he had left only yesterday, then returned to find out his parents had killed themselves two years ago. It had to be so awful… Butler couldn't imagine what Artemis was going through.
Forcing himself to nod, Butler turned to leave. "Fine. I'll be waiting for you when you're ready."
Artemis made no reply and Butler walked back to the car through the rain. Maybe he couldn't help the broken boy, but there was someone who could.
Holly let herself be led deeper into the underground, numb step after numb step against the echoing clamor, still too utterly shellshocked to speak.
It was Trouble who fought his way to her first, threaded through the rush of other officers all pushing past her to catch a shuttle to the surface. Turned out the return of the entire Eighth Family required a bit more manpower than Foaly's skeleton crew. But Trouble through the crowd and reached her himself, holding out his hand for her to shake, and it felt like the first bit of solidity she'd touched since crash-landing back into her home's dimension. "Welcome back, Captain."
"It really feels as if I never left, sir."
The commander grinned wearily, offering her hand a somewhat uncharacteristic squeeze. Three years. Years. "Well, you won't be saying that for long. Come on, you two, with me." Gesturing to Foaly with his chin, Trouble led them both along, ducking away from the crowds towards a private, official shuttle already pulled off and waiting. "Council wants to speak to you both, and they're not taking no for an answer."
"I'm sure," Foaly snuffled, but in time with another clap to Holly's back and a weak grin that left her reeling. Three hours for her, three years for them. They'd been gone so long they'd been missed. "Should stick their busybody noses back where they belong..."
She rolled her eyes back, not bothering to voice her agreement as she allowed Trouble to prod her forwards, entering the private shuttle first. She was surprised to see a female centaur already inside, waiting for them, but as soon as Holly moved aside, the centaur's whole focus was on Foaly. "Welcome home!" she cried, flinging her arms around his neck.
Holly stared in shock as Foaly reciprocated, hugging her back and saying, "For good this time." He met Holly's confused eyes and winced. He held the woman for a moment longer before stepping back to stand at her side. "Well, I suppose it's time you two officially met. Caballine, I'd like you to meet Holly. Holly, this is Caballine… my wife."
She actually choked as both centaurs smiled at her. "You're… you're what?" she gasped. "You're married?"
"Yes." Foaly smiled broadly and interlaced his hand with his wife's. "Two years."
Somehow, she found the strength to take Caballine's hand and shake it, too shocked to speak. Foaly was married. Married. She didn't think the absence of three years had really hit her until now- but the world had went on without her, spinning three years worth while she floated in Limbo, and her friends had all lived on in her absence. "Gods. Three years," she whispered, sinking down into the seat as the car began moving along the magnetic track. "Gods. This is… wow. Congratulations to the both of you."
Caballine grinned. "Foaly's told me a lot about you. From what I hear, you've gotten into a scuffle or two. That's good; I need a partner at the gym. I would take my husband, but… well, I'm sure you know that he can't throw a punch to save his life."
Holly nodded weakly, lacking the strength to do much more than that. This was all too much to handle.
The awkward silence was broken by Foaly's communicator ring beginning to vibrate. He glanced down at it, then his face broke out into a smile and he raised it to his ear. "Well?" he said a lieu of greeting. "What did I tell you?" There was a short pause, and his expression darkened, his smile fading away to replaced by a sympathetic frown. "Oh, no. How did he take it?" Foaly listened to whoever was on the line for several long moments before he sighed a slid the ring off his finger, handing it to Holly. "It's for you."
Confused, Holly raised it up to her ear. "Hello?"
"Holly, it's Butler."
"Butler!" His voice brightened her mood considerably, and she grinned. "It's great to hear from you!"
The voice that replied back was sad and forlorn. "I'm very glad you're back Holly. It's been a long three years… too long, for some."
She frowned. She could tell Butler wasn't calling just to say hello; there was something urgent in his voice. "What do you mean?"
Butler gave a heavy sigh. "I… I have bad news," he confessed. "While you were… away… Artemis's parents, they… they killed themselves, Holly."
Holly remained still for a moment, her eyes widening in shock, unable to process anything more than that. Finally, she gasped and her heart clenched, falling back against the seat and closing her eyes. "Oh. Oh, gods, Butler. I'm so sorry. They didn't… it's not because of us… is it?"
"It was two years ago. On his birthday."
"Gods." Holly shook her head, her eyes still closed, and swallowed the lump in her throat. "I'm so sorry. Does Artemis know?"
"Yes… he's not taking it well." Butler's voice actually cracked and the bodyguard sighed again. "He's refusing to speak with me and actually ordered me to go home. He's still at their grave and I don't think I'm getting through to him. Holly… I know it's a lot to ask… but do you think you could come up here and talk to him? It's just… I've never seen him like this before, Holly. Not even his father disappeared. I don't know what to do."
Holly hesitated. She had a huge number of responsibilities underground to take care of and the Council wouldn't be kept waiting for anyone, not even Artemis Fowl. But she could only imagine the state Artemis was in right now and he deserved to have a friend with him. She desperately wanted to remain underground and get back on her feet after three entire years had passed… but she couldn't help it. She was worried about Artemis.
"Of course I'll come. The Council wants to speak with me and I'm sorry, I can't get out of that, but I'll promise I'll leave as soon as I can. It'll be at least an hour and a half, but I'm coming. I promise. I'll call when you I get to the surface."
Butler sighed, relieved. "Thank you. I know that I'm asking a lot."
"No… no, you're not. If it weren't for Artemis, we never would have gotten home. You're not asking for a lot at all… I'll see you soon, Butler." Holy hung up and handed the ring back to Foaly, letting her head fall and closing her eyes.
Foaly watched her sympathetically. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, Holly. I thought it would be best for Artemis to hear about what happened from Butler and you seemed like you had enough to deal with. …Let me guess, you're going to the surface?"
He nodded once, but it was weary and tired, three years in one sound that was swallowed and suffocated in the tiny space of the car. chuckled. "Give him my condolences when you see him, Holly. What happened was... truly awful."
"What actually happened, Foaly?" she asked, her eyes flashing open as she raised her head to look at him. "Butler told me they killed themselves, but…"
Foaly sighed and shook his head unhappily. "Butler called me and told me a few days after. Apparently, his mother hung herself, and when his father came in and found her dead, he shot himself. Butler was the one to find them dead when he called them on Artemis's birthday and received no answer. He got worried and came back to the mainland and…" Foaly trailed off and shrugged self-explanatorily. "Butler blamed himself entirely. It was terrible."
Butler sighed, turning to stare out the tinted car window at Artemis. He was still slumped over in the rain, a dark blotch in the night, exhausted and miserable. Over fifteen years, Butler had seen his young charge go through a lot- but he had never seen the boy so forlorn and desolate. And he had seen Artemis suffer through a lot.
"Artemis, what are you doing?"
Ten year old Artemis didn't even turn away from his laptop to look at him. "Hacking," he replied tersely, rubbing his tired, red eyes for a moment before returning his attention to the screen.
Butler narrowed his eyes. It didn't look like Artemis had slept at all last night. Last Butler had spoken to him, it was two in the morning and he was promising to get some rest, 'in several minutes'. Now, six hours later, Artemis was still sitting where Butler had left him. Grimacing, he walked up to stand behind his young charge to see him steadily working on a screen full of computer code- exactly what he had been working on last night. "And what, pray tell, are you hacking?"
"The Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti."
He frowned. The FSB, the replacement for the KGB in Russia, had already answered Artemis's inquiry- under the false identity as an agent of the An Garda Síochána, the police force of Ireland- and claimed to have no knowledge of the Russian Mafia that had kidnapped his father. It seemed that wasn't stopping him from trying to discover the information on his own.
"Artemis, the FSB is not someone you want as an enemy. Anything related to the Russian government is not someone you want to anger."
Still without even looking at him, Artemis shook his head. "I am covering my tracks well. If they even realize they were hacked, this will be angry at Special Agent Alexander Brooks of the FBI- who is currently under investigation for selling illegal drugs to pay his rent- not me. Of course, if they somehow do manage to track it back to this location, who will suspect a ten year old?"
"Artemis," Butler begged, leaning up against the desk, "come on. You've been working at this for two days straight. Leave this to the professionals, or at least take a break. If-"
Artemis actually stopped typing, turning to fix Butler with a scathing glare. "Leave this to the professionals? It's been eight days, Butler! The professionals only say they can't search in Russian waters because it's not in their jurisdiction! Russia claimed after five hours they had concluded their search! I've already financed the rescue mission and I am not going to leave this to professionals when they've already stopped looking. Mother refuses to do anything and that leaves it to me. I will find him, Butler."
Without even giving him the chance to respond, Artemis turned back to his computer, his hands blurring across it once again. Butler paused, then tentatively rested a hand on his shoulder. "I thought you should know… that agent called again. Your father is now officially presumed dead."
Artemis shook, his hands hesitating for a fraction of a second before he resumed his work, his jaw set, his cold gaze solid and determined. His hands were now moving so fast they were actually a blur. "Thank you for informing me of this. I would prefer it if you tried to keep this quiet. I do not need to deal with the press as of this moment. Finding him is my only priority."
"…Understood." Butler turned to the door, then hesitated, glancing over his shoulder at his young charge. The boy was entirely focused on his work, a fiercely determined look in his eyes that Butler had never seen in someone so young before. "Artemis, are you okay?"
"Yes. I am simply tired. Please leave me be. I need quiet for this."
Butler gave him one last sympathetic look before obeying.
"Artemis! Artemis, it's you!"
Artemis glanced at Butler in surprise, his eyes uncertain. His mother hadn't appeared so energized in months- not, in fact, since her husband had disappeared. But now, she was sitting upright in bed, her long hair brushed and tied back, her eyes clear, her smile broad. Artemis stepped hesitantly forward, the pills in his hand. "Mother?"
She frowned. "Oh, Timmy, I'm not old enough to be your mother! I know I have not been well lately, but that was uncalled for. I hope you raise our son to be nicer to his girlfriends than you are to me."
Artemis and Butler froze. Butler stared at her in shock before turning to Artemis, who was still staring, transfixed, at her, his mouth slightly open in horror. Once Butler had recovered, he instantly moved to Artemis's side and reached out to take the pills. The genius closed his fist around the medication before he could do so and tentatively took a step forward. his slim form trembling slightly. "Mo- Angeline?"
"Yes, Artemis?" she asked sweetly, then reached out and tugged on his hand. "Come on, get over here. I want to take you out tonight. To where we had our first date. Remember, Artemis?
Butler stared at the unfolding nightmare as Artemis stood, rooted to the spot, his eyes wide. He struggled to speak for several seconds before finally asking desperately, "Mother, don't you remember me? It's your son, Artemis. Don't you recognize me, Mother?"
Angeline frowned and laughed airily. "Timmy, you may look young for your age, but you're not that young. Come on, Arty. Don't try and fool me."
Artemis just stared at her for several seconds with this wild, desperate look in his eyes before his shoulders slumped and he hung his head. "Yes… Angeline," he whispered before his soft voice broke. It was one of the saddest things Butler had ever seen. "Forgive me. Just take these for me and then you may take me out on your romantic evening." He held out the pills and Angeline took them, smiling at him.
"Of course, Timmy." She gladly swallowed the medication and Artemis remained rooted to the spot, staring at his feet, for once, actually looking his age. "I love you, Artemis."
Artemis closed his eyes and trembled again, but manage to keep his voice from shaking as he whispered, "I… love you too… Angeline." He turned weakly before briskly walking to the door, his head still lowered. He violently shoved the door open and stormed into the hallway, and Butler hurried after him. He easily kept up with the young boy's stride as Artemis hurried down the stairs, still shaking.
"Artemis… Artemis, I'm sorry."
The boy didn't even turn. "It is of no matter. Simply a progression of her disease. I will put aside some time to synthesize the new medication she will need later; we can't afford to purchase any when I have another rescue mission to finance."
Butler sighed. There was absolutely nothing he could do for Artemis now, unless Madame Ko had begun teaching her students how to combat mental disease. Ever since his father's disappearance, Artemis had been nothing but this cold-hearted boy dealing with too much who focused only on finding his father. The transformation from a rather unhappy heir to a cruel, vengeful criminal had been sudden and abrupt, and Butler was helpless to do anything but stand on the sidelines and watch as Artemis's life steadily fell apart.
As the broken child began to return to his study, Butler called out to him again. "Artemis. …Happy eleventh birthday."
The eleven year old turned to face him, his pale face expressionless. He watched Butler for several moments, his face unreadable, before he simply nodded coldly and turned his back once again.
Back in the present day, Butler sighed, looking out at Artemis again. It was horrible that after how hard he had strived to get his family back, it had all been taken away just when he finally been able to come home.
Artemis didn't know how long he had been kneeling in front of the grave when he heard footsteps behind him again. They were too light to belong to Butler, but he still didn't turn. If the person was a serial killer looking to sever the heads of time traveling child geniuses who destroyed their own families, Artemis honestly wouldn't mind. He simply couldn't care, at this point.
He blinked at the familiar voice, raising his head and looking over his shoulder in surprise. Behind him, her head and body shielded form the rain by an oversized hoodie, was Holly. Artemis hurriedly dragged his sleeve across his tear-streaked cheeks and stood on shaky legs, struggling to find his voice. "What are you… how did you know to…"
"Butler called me. It sounded like you could use a friend." She smiled at him and walked forward to stand by his side. Artemis lowered his head and remained silent, staring down at the grave. Holly let him wallow for a few minutes before reaching out to touch his shoulder. "It's not your fault, you know."
He shook his head bitterly. "I promised I was coming back. If they had just believed me, this wouldn't have happened… " He trailed off, then gave a broken laugh and shook his head once more. "Then again, if I had managed to land us anywhere near the right time, this wouldn't have happened either."
"Artemis, no. You can't think like that. You got us far closer than I would have. Three years? With billions of years to land in from the time stream, only three years is pretty damn good."
"This tragedy, it is because of me, Holly. Three years off was- is- unacceptable. If I had been strong enough to land us within a year… they would still be here."
Holly tightened her grip on his arm and that was when she realized how much he was trembling. "Artemis, you're shaking. Gods, Arty, look at me." When he made no attempt to move, she raised her hand to turn his face to look at her, but she stopped when she felt how frigid his ashen skin was. It was as cold as a block of ice and Holly tugged on his hand, coaxing him to turn to her. "Artemis, come on… You can't stay out here much longer. You'll get sick."
"Oh, dear. Heaven forbid that. I truly don't think I would survive a few days of sneezing and coughing. A trip through time, watching you die, a demon waving a sword at me like a maniac, I can handle, but a cold? I'm simply terrified at the thought. I may have to sleep with light on tonight." Artemis fell silent for a moment and shook his head again, crossing his arms. "I put my parents through far worse, anyway."
Suddenly, it all made sense. The cold, the rain, Artemis's stubborn refusal to go inside- he wanted to make himself suffer. He saw himself as responsible for his parent's suffering and subsequent suicide and wanted to punish himself. Holly sadly watched him shiver for several long moments before she reached out and took his hand, intending to try and guide him back to the car. He winced the moment her fingers wrapped around his, though, and when she raised his hand up and wiped away the mud, she could easily tell it was broken.
"Artemis, what the hell did you do?"
He pulled his hand out of her grip and let if fall limply to his side, still staring down at the grave. "Don't waste magic. It is a minor injury. Let it heal on its own."
Holly paused, resisting the urge to ignore his request and use magic on the injury anyway, and finally simply rested her hand on his shoulder and gently turned him around, trying to lead him to the car. She was relieved when he didn't resist, the fight seeming to have completely gone out of him. "Come on," she murmured, hoping she was being at least of some help. "Let's get you inside."
Soaking wet and chilled to the bone, Artemis finally allowed her to lead him away from the grave, her hand resting lightly on his back. He stumbled once or twice, unsteady on his feet, and Holly simply wrapped her arm more securely around him. She would figure out where to go from here later. Right now, her priority was simply getting him out this rain and cold.
Later turned into four hours later, long after they had arrived back at Fowl Manor. Artemis had spoken very little, simply allowed Butler and Holly to talk him into changing out of his wet clothes and then gone to his parent's room, asking to be left alone. They hadn't heard anything from him since and the evening had passed mostly in a quiet, shared depression, Holly still reeling from the fact that she had missed three years and Butler dealing with the conflicted emotions caused by Artemis finally returning and the state he was in now.
Finally, Holly couldn't take it anymore. "I'm going to check on him."
Butler nodded and made no move to follow her. "Thank you for doing this, Holly. …You have no idea how much you're helping him."
She smiled without real happiness and shook her head. "You don't need to thank me." An image of the look on Artemis's face when he had seen her collapse from the blow of Abbott's sword flashed through her mind. It had been a terrifying mix of devastation and horror in the fraction of a second before he had composed himself and turned back to the clock. She owed him her life, but that wasn't why she was doing this. She wanted to help him because he was her friend, not because, if it wasn't for him, she would have died and never gotten the chance to come home, even if three years late.
Holly entered Artemis's parents bedroom slowly, hesitantly, not sure if she would like what she was about to see. In the room was Artemis, sitting on the edge of the bed, a dark blanket still hanging off his shoulders, his black hair long since dried from the rain, his back turned. She heard his breath hitch and Holly cleared her throat, uncertain if she should intrude. "Artemis?"
He turned to look at her, and the look on his face shocked her. His eyes- one hers, one his- stared up at her, lost and horrorstruck, and his cheeks, hardly a shade above paper, were wet. "They're gone," he choked out. His voice came out sounding nothing like his own and he shook his head, beginning to pant for breath. "No matter how times I say it it's still true. They're still dead. They killed themselves because of me, because I couldn't get us closer than three years. I'm so sorry, Holly. I sorry for making you miss three years, I'm sorry that I can't apologize to them, I'm sorry that you had to die, I'm sorry for not being able to think of any plan but the one that led us to Hybras, I… I'm just so, so sorry!"
Holly shook her head fiercely, hurrying forward and falling beside him. "No. This isn't your fault, Artemis. Don't you dare think that it is." She grabbed his uninjured hand and held it tightly. "You don't get to take responsibility for everything."
"They're still dead, Holly! Even if it wasn't my fault- they're still dead!" He shook his head bitterly and turned away, though allowed his hand to remain in hers.
"Do you know what my mother got me for my fourteenth birthday?" he asked when he was considerably calmer, if still shaking. "A promise. She promised that nothing like Father's disappearance would ever happen again. That she had forced him to go entirely legal precisely because she never wanted to put us both through that again. She promised that we would always, in her words, be together. And what do I do?" Artemis shook his head furiously and pounded his fist against the bed. "I go off and ruin it! All they ever wanted was a son and what do they get? This pathetic kid who vanishes out of this world and abandons them for three years! What kind of a son does that, Holly?!"
Holly said nothing; she couldn't. The sight of him this miserable and desperate was just too much for her to take. Holly simply pulled the distraught boy closer to her and wrapped her arms around him, and Artemis collapsed against her, his strength deserting him. He hid his head in her shoulder and gasped for breath, Holly merely holding him tighter.
All his parents had wanted was a son- and all he had wanted was his family back. Throughout everything, Artemis was still just a fifteen year old boy who wanted his parents to be proud of him and love him. It was beyond cruel to have them taken away, just when he had finally gotten what he'd been working so hard for for so many years.
"I'm sorry, Artemis," she murmured in his ear, her hand finding it's way up to his head and gently stroking his hair. "I'm so sorry."