A/N: hi, everyone, remember me? I hope some of you do. :)
Although I have long given up on writing fanfiction, The Time Paradox inspired me to a short one-shot. It was a most inspiring and delightful book. Hereby I officially forgive Eoin Colfer for the terrible mistake of creating Minerva Paradizo's character. In book six he made up for that. ;) Thank you for book six, Mr. Colfer! applauds
Disclaimer: the Artemis Fowl universe belongs to Eoin Colfer.
Thanks to Michael for the beta.
The Second Kiss
"We've got her," came Commander Trouble Kelp's voice through Holly's wrist microphone. "Both of her. No need to worry."
"Who's worried?" asked Holly a little wearily, but with a touch of sarcasm in her voice. Artemis beside her barely could contain his laughter.
"By the way, Captain," continued the Commander, "nice work. Both you and Fowl did an extraordinary job… once again. If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have succeeded. It's not everyday you catch the past and present Opal Koboi."
Holly rolled her eyes and shot Artemis a sideways glance. It most definitely wasn't everyday they caught two versions of the deranged pixie whose past self had helped her present self escape from prison…
"Oh, and Captain," came from the wrist microphone, "I think I really should consider your promotion to Major."
"And make me do paperwork behind a desk?" Holly groaned. "No thanks, Commander. I like to get my hands dirty once in a while."
"This dirty?" mouthed Artemis, pointing at her.
She grimaced at his comment, looking over herself. Not a single patch of clean skin or clothing. But at least they were alive. They had managed to climb out of a LEP aircraft just in time before it exploded. The aircraft had gone berserk in the chase after the two Kobois, and its charred remains now lay in the lush green Irish grass not far from the exhausted fairy and human.
"Well, perhaps not this much," she muttered back.
"We will talk about your promotion once you're back in Haven, Captain," said Commander Kelp firmly. "As you said you and Fowl were alive and kicking, and we happen to have some more urgent things to attend to, so the LEP will only get there to pick you up in about half an hour. Is that okay for you?"
"Great, thanks, Commander," replied Holly in a tired voice and ended the call.
"Some more urgent things…" Artemis rolled his eyes. "Like having all of the LEP escort the Kobois back to Howler's Peak. I bet they're scared that Opal and Opal would escape again if they weren't swarmed around by hundreds of armed fairies."
"Well… they have a point. The LEP doubled… no, tripled the defences around Present Opal's cell, and Past Opal still managed to free her…" Holly said matter-of-factly, then stretched out on the grass, her mismatched eyes lazily following the clouds above.
Artemis sat down next to her, watching her as she watched the sky. Both of them were covered in scratches and soot from head to toe, so to Artemis it seemed as though Holly's eyes shone almost blindingly out of a face of brown, grey and black. Her eyes – especially her own, hazel one - never ceased to mesmerise him, even when she wasn't trying to use any kind of magic on him. She had enchanted him long ago and unknowingly kept him under her spell.
He often caught himself closing his eyes, imagining and reimagining the kiss she'd spontaneously given him, and whenever he opened his eyes and realised that only his fantasy had been reliving that sweet moment, he felt empty.
Something truly missed from his life.
Over a year ago, when his mother had made him tell her the whole 'fairy tale', she'd listened without asking questions, just once, only once had she interrupted him. When he'd told her how much it pained him having had to lie to Holly.
"Do you love that girl, Arty?" she had asked.
Artemis hadn't known what to answer. He had been overly confused about his feelings, and it took him months to come to terms with them. And when he finally managed to arrange his feelings into some discernable pattern, he realised them for what they were. Love. And not just a friendship sort of a love.
Now, over half a year after his painful realisation of being in love with Holly Short, she still seemed as distant from him as ever since his latest deceit. And he couldn't even blame her. They had been friends, close friends at that, and he still hadn't trusted her. She would have deserved his trust, and yet he kept trusting only one person: himself. As he had always done.
Holly tore her glance from the fluffy clouds, and gave him a bemused look. "What are you looking at?"
"You," he shrugged.
She snorted. "I must be a sight to behold."
"You are always a sight to behold. The determined Holly bashing the bed-frame into the concrete in my cellar, the wild rookie piloting a shuttle between magma explosions… and the exuberant teenage girl kissing bristled, hairy Mud Men…"
The fairy's lips tucked into a sneer. "Don't even remind me. I hated being a teenager again."
"I loved you being a teenager," he replied, lying down on his stomach, propping his chin in his dirty hands. "The teenage Holly didn't have such… inhibitions."
"What do you mean, Fowl?" she sat up, frowning. "I don't have inhibitions."
He gave her a pout that made him look like a small child, not the eighteen-year-old young man that he was. "I think you do. The teenage you didn't mind giving in to her feelings. The adult you fears her feelings, thus buries them deep down."
She opened her mouth to protest, but no voice came out, her huge eyes, however, grew even wider, practically shining out of her soot-covered face. "Don't play psychologist on me, Fowl."
Artemis shook his head with a sad smile. "I'm not playing anything. And I'm not playing any games with you either… not anymore. Trust me."
She looked offended. "Trust you?"
Artemis bit into his lower lip and sat up again. "I've almost forgotten. Must you always remind me that I lost your trust?"
She folded her arms. "I must. To remind you of your imperfectness, Fowl."
Artemis almost smiled. Imperfect… Had someone eight years earlier told him he was imperfect, he would have been thoroughly offended and planned a nasty revenge on the person. But Holly was different. She could make him see his faults without him minding much. "Fowl?" he echoed her. "What happened to 'Arty', huh?"
She looked away, as if examining the remains of the LEP aircraft. "You're no longer Arty to me, Artemis. Arty is… was… a young boy. And look at you."
He knew what she meant – in the past year his body had decided to make up for the lost three years and accelerated its aging, so at the moment he looked exactly his real age: a handsome young adult.
"I'm looking at me," he said, "but you are not looking at me. Why is that, if I may ask?"
It was her turn to bite her lower lip. "Don't… don't confuse me, Artemis. It's hard enough as it is."
"What's hard, Holly?" he reached out, and gently turned her chin towards him. Gazing deeply into her eyes, he repeated. "What's hard, Holly?"
She swallowed, took his hand, and guided it away from her chin. "You know that," she muttered, again tearing her gaze from him and glaring at the grass instead. "Being… around you."
"It's hard for you being around me… and yet you still visited me on your holiday, hours before the recent Opal-incident broke out," he pointed out, somewhat amused. "Why, Holly?"
She shrugged, but still didn't meet his eyes. "Sometimes I just need to see you, I suppose. Not often, but… sometimes."
"Because you couldn't do without me, huh?" he chuckled, finally earning a dark glance from her.
"You're twisting my words," she said accusingly.
"I'm not. You said exactly that. In the gorilla cage. Remember? It was when you kiss—"
"Must you always remind me of that?" she snapped.
He shrugged with a cheeky grin. "Turnabout is fair play."
"Listen, Fo… Artemis. Let's make a deal. I will stop mentioning your lie, if you stop mentioning that kiss."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Does this mean that you are willing to forgive me for that lie?"
She sighed. "You know I have long forgiven… at least… in some way. But such things leave their mark deep in you… they leave a thorn in you that keeps pricking…"
"…until your body finally repels it," he finished the sentence. "Why can't you repel it, Holly? I couldn't be more sorry about deceiving you, believe me." He took her hands into his. "Try to repel that thorn… for both our sakes. And I will not mention the kiss again. I promise. Even if it takes a huge sacrifice."
The shadow of a smile graced her face. "A huge sacrifice? Not mentioning the ki… the thing? Why, Artemis? I thought it meant nothing to you. It was, after all, just a spur of the moment act… a hormone-driven teen being happy over another teen's survival."
"To you it probably meant only that," the young man made a wry face. "To me, it meant a lot more."
She arched a sooty eyebrow at him. "More? You didn't look it. I thought it was just… teasing on your part, that you kept mentioning it."
He shook his head. "I'm long past the 'let's tease Holly' phase, if you haven't noticed. I liked doing it… as a child. But you're right… I'm an adult now. Both physically and in mind. And what that ki… thing meant for me, is something that a child probably couldn't understand. I know I didn't look it, though. I didn't, because I suppressed it with all my willpower. I kept telling myself there was no use dwelling on it after you'd said that my elf-kissing days were over. Whoops," he grimaced. "I've uttered the 'k' word. Sorry."
For a moment she looked at him, her eyes sort of dreamy. "Don't. Don't be sorry. I think I understand now." Her hands were shaking as she reached out for him, cupping his cheeks in her palms. "All this time I've been blaming myself for not being able to forget the ki… kiss," she emphasized the word, "because I was sure it had meant nothing to you. You were right saying I was suppressing my emotions. I was afraid of them…" Her voice wavered. "Afraid that you wouldn't feel the same way… that you'd just break my heart."
He covered her hands with his considerably bigger ones and squeezed them gently. "I would never intentionally break your heart, Holly. Even if you don't trust me with anything, you have to trust me with this one thing. Do you trust me?"
After a second of hesitation, she nodded. "I do. And I want to trust you completely, Artemis. I want to repel that thorn, I so badly want to… don't ever lie to me again. Please."
"I won't," he replied in a deep, almost hoarse voice. At that moment he knew he would never break this promise.
A pair of teardrops ran down her cheeks, washing the soot in two thin streaks from her face. "Thank you."
"No, I thank you, Holly. For trusting me after… after all."
She ran her thumbs down the sides of his face, chuckling. "I feel stubble again. Like that day. Just the long hair is missing."
He echoed her chuckle. "I could grow it if you like… but if you like me better this way--"
She placed her index finger on his lips, stopping him from speaking. "I like you either way, Artemis Fowl."
He felt his lips tuck into a smile wider than he had ever worn, and saw the mirror of his smile on her face.
She squirmed a bit closer to him and lifted her face, but even at this posture – both of them kneeling on the grass – she was much smaller than him. Noticing her discomfort, he bent down, their noses almost touching.
"After the time travel… you said 'another time', and kissed me on the cheek," he whispered.
"This is another time," she whispered back, her eyes brimming with emotions – anticipation, anxiety, curiosity, desire… love.
I most definitely have the answer to your question, Mum, thought Artemis, as his lips descended on Holly's.
Their first kiss had been truly one of the spur of the moment, a surprise for both of them, and quick and chaste. This one was anticipated by both of them, anticipated for over a year, but it still managed to bring surprises. The surprise of the first one lay in its suddenness, while this one surprised them both with its fullness – it was everything they had ever dreamed of, and more. It was a silent confession of love, a sealing of several spoken and unspoken promises, and an irrevocable step from a fragile friendship into something much bigger and deeper.
As Artemis's arms encircled Holly's tiny waist, she moaned into his mouth, and buried her fingers in his messy ebony locks. Their bodies were flush against each other, practically melting together, and Artemis felt desire building in him until it was almost unbearable to take. Then he broke the kiss.
Both of them were panting, their eyes shining at each other from blackened faces. It was Artemis who first found his voice.
"I hate to put an end to this, but your LEP friends might be here any moment. We wouldn't want them to catch us doing something… inappropriate."
"No," she smirked. "We wouldn't. But perhaps… another time."
"I will be eagerly awaiting that time, milady," he whispered, and pulled her into a quick kiss. Their third one. He knew he would be counting them. His elf-kissing days were far from over, he established with a grin. They had only just begun.
A/N: grace me with a review, will you? :)