Written for the Criminality fanfiction challenge, July-August.

Yes, I am adamantly against non-platonic A/H. Yes, I am a hypocrite. Now that we have that out of our way…

Holly had nothing to do. That itself was a wonder, considering how much Mud Men liked to create more work for her.

However, it went without saying that Holly, suddenly having this free evening, decided to relax at home for once. The ferns were watered, the mud-tub filled. The lights were played down to a relaxing green, and the air was thick with humidity. Everything was set for a good, long soak.

She clicked her stubby nails rhythmically on the polished mahogany tub rim, turning off the faucet that brought the custom-mixed mud from Above to Below. It had been on sale at Acacia's Indoor Adventures nearly thirty years ago, and it had only been used a few times. The first was after she had landed a job in Recon. This would be the second, after Artemis Fowl lost his memories.

Holly pulled off her copy of the Book from around her neck, setting it carefully on the floor where it wouldn't get splashed. Foaly had confirmed that, after a week of strict surveillance, that Artemis had indeed lost his memories. She would know that first-hand. She had been one of the three chosen to do the supervision.

She squeezed her eyes shut, stripping off the first layer of the green LEP jumpsuit. Holly Short, Ash Vein and Blue Wormwood, all planting the minute cameras. Holly, Ash and Blue, spying on the People's most feared enemy. Holly, Ash and Blue, all pitying Artemis' emotional turmoil.

There had been a close call, only one, when the Fowls were eating dinner. Blue had found a small nick in the ceiling, just big enough for a button-camera. He hadn't been counting on the loose paint layer at the top, weak from a century of humidity. It had come raining down on him and the Fowls, disrupting their near-silent meal. Artemis had looked up then, eyes connecting directly with the haze, before continuing with the pea soup. Angeline had mentioned getting the ceiling re-painted, but other then that, the dinner continued in that eerie silence that hallmarked Artemis' change.

Her jumpsuit fell to the floor, and she started with the white insulation layer. There had been a flicker in Artemis' eyes, one that went between his mother and father at the head of the small table. There had been recognition, a kind of shock as he realized what would cause that dust-speckled haze…

"No," Holly whispered, letting the last of her clothes fall to the floor. The mud-tub bubbled invitingly, and she slipped into it, letting the sulfur-laced semi-liquid ooze into her pores. She had set this up to let her body absorb minerals the archaic way; and, more importantly, to forget everything. Not to think about what she should have done.

Her thoughts continued anyways, spinning with the EQ of an infant. She should have said something, no, done something to stop the Council. They wanted the mind wipe, and they got it. She should have argued for him, helped him escape…

He had been good. He had changed. Everyone one that had seen him knew it. But the Council didn't gamble; Vinyáya had several bad experiences with that. And since the nearly disastrous incident with B'wa Kell, they took no chances at all. They went by hard-core evidence, and only used wishy-washy material Argon came up with when it went their way. Artemis was a variable, and they didn't like anything unpredictable confusing everything.

Damn scientists, Holly thought angrily, realizing full well that that category included Foaly. Hedidn't protest the wipe either. They only trust their precious research. Artemis wouldn't be good yet, no-o. Why would he have changed over one year? Why would he care for something besides his own damn self?

She sunk further into the slime-bubbles, shame enveloping her like the thick mud. Fumes from the mire made her eyes water, giving her excuse to let the tears run down. He was different. He had something—something else. Artemis may still like his gold a tad too much, but at least he was willing to put himself in danger if it meant saving the People.

Holly sat up suddenly, mud sliding off of her like a lethargic glacier. Why in Frond's sake was she worrying about a Mud Boy? He could take care of himself. He had never even gone hungry in his life. Now he didn't have to worry about whether his schemes messed with People-troubles. He just had to look out for his own damn self.

He would do that now. His personality had changed drastically, becoming, if possible, worse then that monstrosity that had held her captive in the basement cell.

She slowly slid back into the mud, letting it caress her wearied limbs. Once she would have enjoyed the bath, taking a secret delight in the fact that she could not get suddenly called back into action again.

Once, she would have liked to prove herself again and again by responding quickly and readily to such calls, but that was a different once-upon-a-time. That was the green recruit who wore her uniform to bed and took her vitamins every morning. The other once was the Holly worn down by a few dozen years of hard, non-stop service that battered her physically and emotionally.

Holly now suddenly decided that she wanted to listen to the radio, and perhaps drown out her rebellious thoughts.

Radio in the Underground was one of the more complex systems around. Mud People might be listening in on traditional radio channels, making it potentially deadly to do as such. In reality the People had created radio first, using it when humans were still hopping around wondering what would happen if they fell of the edge of the world. However, due to the slowly increasing intelligence of the species, in recent years radio usage has been restricted to those stations that could afford to knock out Mud-Men stations that interfered with their own. Even this was being rapidly stopped as Mud-Men realized that not all the interference was caused by distance and solid objects.

As soon as the sweeping violin-like sound started, Holly groaned. Her least favorite DJ, Spruce-Joe was on. Not only did he like Mud-Men music, but his own selection of music usually contained badly-made mimics of them. Nothing quite like that 'Avril Lasagna' to ruin one's day.

The radio turned off as swiftly as it had turned on, and the erratic sound of bubbles popping replaced it. D'Arvit, but everything was becoming more and more like Men with each passing year. Even pixies, whom Holly had at least a bare respect for, had begun mimicking Mud Maid cosmetics. Before she knew it, they would probably begin to play The Sims or some other Mud game.

She nearly laughed. The People called humans Mud-Men, but the People bathed in mud almost as much as they did, if not more.

I just didn't think about Artemis for a minute, she thought suddenly, and sunk further into the mud. D'Arvit

Slowly, she crept back out of the mud when she saw a shadow move.

It was probably her imagination. A dwarf creeping through the house, playing the pervert…

No, it was her imagination. It was just the shadow of a fern-frond, trembling in the faint breeze coming from the humidifier.

"This is not going to work…" she moaned, picking herself out from the indented tub. Her pores cried out to crawl back into the muck, thoroughly enjoying the sulfur soak, but she snatched a convenient towel and scrubbed the mud off until her skin burned with the friction. Silky pajamas—some damn Indian priest stole that idea from the People too—went on, caressing her skin in yet another soothing embrace.

Why, why, why, did she have to think about ArtemisAll she wanted was to not think about anything for one damn hour…

She deftly pushed the button that would drain and rinse the mud-tub, and scooped up the various pieces to her LEP uniform. Of all the things in the world, she had to think about Artemis.

She stopped when she reached her somewhat immaculate living room—immaculate because she hadn't been doing much living in it. She had to think her thoughts through.

The clothes dropped on the floor, and she pushed aside her LEP helmet to sit down in a comfortable teal chair. Why was she thinking about Artemis? Because he was the biggest thing in her life since joining Recon. It had to be.

D'Arvit, that's not it either, she thought, curling up into a tight ball between the armrests. The blue-green nylon made no comment.

Her eyes went to the ceiling, where the certain lack of paint revealed the soundproof lining. She had had it installed for a reason. She was an elf, and elves were, well, emotional. And being in Recon would be an emotional job. She had taken advantage of it more then once.

A look of horror suddenly crossed her face, her eyes widening to the size of a swear-toad's derrière. She suddenly knew why she was thinking about Artemis.

"D'Arvit," Holly breathed, shaking her head. It wasn't physical; far from it. Mud Men were about as repulsive to her as a goblin. Emotionally, he was the equivalent of Attilia the Hun. Neither of the two standard forms of attraction, then.

She looked back up at the ceiling, and then sat up on the couch, taking a deep breath.

"Love can be so damn inconvenient!"

The Old: Artemis/Holly

The New: Mud-Tub

The Borrowed: 'Love can be so damn inconvenient' – ­Inconvenient, rythmteck, 'The Pirates of the Caribbean'

The Blue: Blue Wormwood, new LEP recruit (OC)


Nallasariel the Weeper