Disclaimer: Nothing is mine (duh).

A/N: oh boy. Aftermath of TAC. Some spoilers for TAC, some speculation for Book 8.

Rating, Pairing(s): T, Artemis/Holly

For Holly, anyway, things mostly go back to normal.

She walks out of Foaly's lab her first Monday back, though, and bumps into Trouble. There's no one around, and yeah, he's Commander and everything, but he winks at her anyway, all friendly-with-an-undertone-of-flirty. She should wink back, or smile or something, and doesn't really know why she turns her face away.

It's not like Trouble doesn't get it, it's just that he doesn't understand it.

She can feel him watching her walk away, down the hall, ceiling lights illuminating. She thinks of Artemis, and Orion, and moments of passion and doesn't really give a damn.

She visits him on days she has off that don't conflict with when Angeline Fowl is there (it's not that she doesn't know Angeline knows it's just that she doesn't think she can answer any of the questions that'll be asked). Opal's old room is small but comfortable. Argon's office has a big chair, and a big couch, and tries to look more like an office than anything else. Artemis tries not to count and fails.

Some days are good days. He notices that things aren't right, like blinds not fully drawn or pens askew, but he doesn't correct them. He smiles, and sounds like the genius he is, and doesn't say things like how do I love thee?

Some days are bad days. Every sentence has five or multiples of five words, four of anything scares him, and he accuses her of conspiring against him with the doctor.

One day she comes to visit, and he greets her with a genuinely excited smile and she thinks, breakthrough, but then he's spouting lines of verse to compete with Shakespeare, and calling her Princess, and she thinks, please, no. Doctor Argon says, "Don't shock him. We're going to try to work through this, this time."

Orion says, "My lady love, the Turnball to my Leonor."

Holly wants to smack him, wants to shake him, wants him to come out of wherever he's locked inside his own mind. She wants to cry, or scream, or do something, because all she feels is helpless and hopeless. Instead, she sits on the edge of the bed, and lets him wax poetic.

She can tell Butler is at loose ends. Juliet is back in Mexico because life goes on, crisis mostly averted, why not wrestle? So he stays by Artemis's side day by day. They talk when she's there, about the weather, and Juliet, and any and every topic that isn't Artemis, and Holly thinks, we're just avoiding the gorilla in the room, and then she thinks of gorillas and cages and lemurs, and her heart breaks just a little.

"I know we said we should stay friends but I was wondering if maybe you'd like to get dinner or something tonight because honestly Holly I can't stop thinking about you."

She has been dreading this, and now Trouble is standing by her desk looking hopeful and eager and kind of embarrassed. She can't say no; he's a friend, and her boss, and she genuinely likes him, but she can't say yes either, right?

But the more she thinks about it, the more she realizes that there's no logical reason why. She's not a hopeless romantic; she won't cling to false ideas of forbidden love. She should say yes. She will say yes. She has to say yes.

She says no.

Eight months after his first session with Doctor Argon, Artemis goes home. Holly's there that day, and when Angeline walks in to pick him up, she kind of cringes. The middle-aged woman greets her with a kindly smile however, and bends down to shake her hand.

"You must be Miss Short. My son speaks very highly of you."

Holly blushes, just a little, and shakes her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Fowl."

Artemis wanders out of the room and says, "Moth-Mum, are you ready to go?"

Angeline nods, and Holly accompanies them out. There's this feeling of family, with Mulch following behind, and Butler at Artemis's side, Holly and Angeline leading the way. They come from two different worlds, but never has Holly ever felt so much like she belongs.

They fall into this routine of bi-monthly video calls, Holly and him.

Trouble is bitter.

He talks to her, but in clipped, formal tones. He rarely smiles genuinely, and he hasn't winked at her in months. Holly feels badly, but then again, it's his own fault. Nonetheless-

She knocks on his office door.

"Come in."

"Listen, Trouble," she starts, "I don't want to lose our friendship. I-"

"You love him, don't you."

It's not a question, but Holly doesn't know how to answer. "I don't know what you're talking about."

But thing is, she does. She knows exactly what he's talking about, and that scares her more than anything ever before. Lying in bed that night, tucked in soft thin sheets, she wonders how Turnball must have felt, realizing that his love was growing old and that there was nothing he could do to stop the inevitable. She wonders how Leonor would have felt had her mind not been forever in a haze of commands. She wonders how it would feel to have a family.

Looking in the mirror sometimes, mismatched eyes staring back at her, she feels incomplete.

Holly reads, and laughs with Foaly, and for the first time in a long time all is calm.

Artemis calls her one night, and says simply, "Come see me."

She does.

Hovering by his bedroom window, she wonders what he could possibly be calling her there for. She's holding her breath and she doesn't know why, and before she can knock, he opens the window. He raises a finger to his lips- "The twins are sleeping."

They sit together on the edge of his bed. He leaves the lights off, the light from the moon bright enough as it is. It's a comfortable silence they're not always good at. He takes her hand, folding their fingers together, and she looks down at the joined digits. His hand is ghostly pale, hers tinted olive, the colors dulled and shadowed in the night. The feel of his hand in hers is soft, and she bumps her shoulder against his.

They say nothing, and soon after she leaves. It's all the closure she needs.

Opal breaks herself out of jail. When news reaches Haven, Holly feels her heart speed up. How does this happen, again and again?

There is blood, and smoke, and something is on fire, and Holly is coughing and coughing and she can't see. She hears his voice, or maybe she's hallucinating, maybe there's a hand on her arm.

"D'Arvit," she coughs, and then passes out.

Her dreams are unlike any she's had before. Opal is laughing, and then she's dead, and Holly is at her funeral. But then everyone is dead, and there's an explosion, and she's in a closet for some reason, and the door is on fire.

In other dreams, there are just swirls of color, and then Orion is counting in fives, which doesn't make much sense because only Artemis ever did that.

In few, she murmurs I love you to no one in particular.

Holly wakes up eventually. Artemis is holding her hand.

She sits bolt upright, trying to remember how to breathe, and he hands her a glass of water. She drinks it, and then starts to cry. It's something she rarely does, especially in front of other people, but they've lost so much, and her head is swimming, and she can barely think straight. Artemis looks scared, and she is aware of his limited interaction with women, let alone crying ones, and that thought strikes her as kind of funny, but nonetheless she's still crying. Unsure of what to do, worry creasing his forehead, white lights casting a cold color over everything, he reaches out and pets her hair.

"It's okay, Holly. Everything's going to be alright."

He's not good at comforting, but he is good at lying and really, they're synonymous anyway.

But she can't breathe, can't think, and now she's starting to hyperventilate. Then he panics and just kisses her just to do something, hands cupping her cheeks, lips tugging at hers. Every coherent thought is wiped from her head, and all she can do is kiss him back, thinking, this is so wrong, but really not wanting to be right, then. Oh jeeze, what is it that he does to her? He deepens the kiss, hands moving into her short hair, and then someone loudly clears their throat. They jump apart, Holly gasping for air, Artemis's face twenty shades redder than usual. No 1 looks humiliated.

"Oops, sorry to interrupt, just came to see if you were feeling better Holly. But you uhh, appear to be doing just fine. I'll come back later."

The awkward silence that descends is deafening as No 1 scurries off.

Holly starts to laugh then, semi-hysterically, and then Artemis laughs too because what kind of life does he live?

They're lying together on their backs, looking up at the sky.

Their hands are folded together. Artemis has his eyes closed, enjoying the feel of the sun on his skin. Holly has her eyes open, watching the clouds go by. It's a nice feeling of tranquility, of happiness, of something akin to love.

"You and I will never work, you know that right?" she says softly.

He opens his eyes to peer over at her. "Why's that?"

"You know the reasons."

"Do I?"

She turns her head to meet his eyes, and shakes her head, surrendering. He smiles, leans over to kiss her cheek. "We will."

"How do you know?" she asks.

He silences her with a deep kiss, and pulls back long enough to murmur, "That's how I know."

For Holly, anyway, things mostly go back to normal.

She bumps into Trouble one day in the hall, and this time his smile reaches his eyes.

Holly makes regular visits to the Fowl Manor, when the twins are on play dates, or at preschool, or out with their mother. Foaly blackmails, and Mulch teases, and No 1 gushes, and mostly nothing changes.

Holly thinks back to over a year ago, when fours and fives ruled him, and restrictions ruled her, and her heart feels full.