By the time Holly finished, Artemis can tell that she’s about half in tears, so he draws her into her arms and holds her close again. “I’m so sorry,” he whispers, honest for once. “I had no idea…”
“I know,” she whispers sadly, burrowing her face a little deeper into his chest. “Artemis… I-I…”
“What is it, Holly?” he asks, his hand gently stroking her hair again.
She hesitates, then asks, “am I a bad person?”
“What?” he exclaims, staring at her with a strange expression. She doesn’t quite recognize it, and it scares her. She begins to tremble again. “No, Holly, no! You are not a bad person. Why would you even ask that?”
“If I’m not a bad person, then why did I deserve all that?” she asks, tears welling up in her eyes again. “Why did I deserve to be tortured, and ravished and beaten?” She looks up at him.
“You didn’t,” he answers immediately. He rubs her back in a soothing gesture. “No matter what the circumstances, does anyone, ever, deserve to be treated like that. And I wish you hadn’t had to be subjected to it either. Especially not you,” he murmurs as her head falls back onto his chest.
“Then why do I feel like I do?” she asks him, her voice a whisper.
“I don’t know,” he admits, “though I do know I will do everything in my power to change it.”
“Thank you. B-but Artemis?” He catches her eyes to show he’s listening. “You would never do anything like that to me, would you?”
“No,” he promises. “Never, Holly. Not if the fate of the world depended on it.”
She sighs with relief. “Good. Thank you.”
He smiles, then leans down and catches her lips, gently pressing hers against his own for just a second. Then he grabs her shoulders and pushes her back down on the bed, and pulls the blankets back up to her chin. “Rest, Holly. You’re still sick, and you need it. I’ll come back in in a bit.”
He picks the bag up that he had laid on the nightstand- the reason he originally came in here- and hooks it up to the IV machine. Holly shivers once when the cold liquid starts to go into her body, as she’s able to feel it through the tube. He frowns. “Perhaps I’ll bring some medication in with me, as your fever seems to be spiking again.” He touches her forehead briefly, then nods to himself, as if confirming something. “Yes, I will.” He turns, beginning to leave, before he throws one last glance over his shoulder at the elf to give one last repeated order. “Go to sleep, Holly.” Then he disappears out the door.
Holly sighs, frowning. She doesn’t want him to leave, nor does she want to go back to sleep and deal with the nightmares she will inevitably have. But, unbidden and against her wishes, her eyelids begin to droop. After a few minutes, realizing that it was useless, she finally gives up the fight, succumbing to the darkness already creeping up around the edges of her vision.