Artemis Fowl found himself to be in a bit of a quandary. He'd been in plenty of quandaries before, sometimes with lives on the line, sometimes his own. And somehow he'd always found a way to think of a solution. That was one of the perks of having one of the highest IQs on the planet, human or otherwise.

The trouble was that, at eighteen, Artemis was in love. Or rather, he found himself still in love, after more than four years of trying to suppress the feeling. The reason for all the emotional turmoil was because Artemis Fowl was almost certain that the woman in question did not, in fact, return his romantic interest. Her name was Captain Holly Short, of Section 8, a member of the underground fairy defense system, and she was an elf.

There were quite a few reasons Artemis believed that she didn't love him back. First and foremost, she'd told him so, several years ago when he was suffering from a psychological disorder known as the Atlantis Complex. Secondly, because Holly was the sort of women who looked at the world with a very practical eye, something Artemis wholeheartedly approved of, and she was of the opinion that interspecies romances were rather hopeless at best. Being an elf, Holly had hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years left to her life, barring accident or illness to cut it short. They existed in different worlds, she underground, he above, and though they were often in each other's company, in the current situation it would be next to impossible to build a life together. She was also much shorter than him, not quite waist high. No matter how you looked at it, the discrepancies in their size would make things, like kissing, rather awkward at best.

Except that kissing was exactly what Artemis Fowl was thinking of doing just at this very moment. He'd been kissed before, once, by this same elf that he was currently obsessing over, when they'd travelled back in time – he'd gotten older, she'd gotten younger, and in a fit of hormonal pique and emotional excess, she'd kissed him out of sheer relief that he'd been alive.

Right this second he was propped against the wall of a cave and his shirt was half-off, and Holly was leaning over him to take a look at the long scratches across his chest. If the truth were told, Artemis was rather proud of his chest. After coming back to life (long story there) he had decided to actually use the exercise equipment Butler had given him. Mainly because Butler had insisted and actually stood over him to make sure it was done, and also because his little brother, only five at the time, had soundly beaten him in an arm-wrestling contest, and Holly had found the entire scene hilarious. The humiliation had been the last straw.

Exercise had done him good. While he was still a slight figure, he now had long, lean muscles and a newfound endurance that had saved his life since, more than once. His skin would always be pale, but there were healthy tinges of pink to his cheeks and lips. And he'd actually found that while he was on the treadmill the increased blood flow to his brain allowed him to think more clearly than usual, an unexpected bonus that delighted him to no end.

Artemis watched Holly frown thoughtfully at the goblin-induced injuries on his pectoral muscles and drag a black glove from her petite, slender hand. "I can fix that," she told him, and reached toward the wounds. A tiny blue spark kindled to life on her index finger, but before she could send it to him, Artemis reached up and gently caught her wrist. They were so close, and he could smell the faint lemon-and-sweet-grass scent of her. "What's wrong?" she asked him.

But Artemis didn't answer right away. He just looked at her. Her short-cropped auburn hair was messy, not quite covering her delicately pointed ears. He met her eyes, one hazel and the other a dark blue that exactly matched his own for the simple fact that it was his, from his original body, before he'd died and his soul had been resurrected into a soulless clone. One of the things he missed the most about his old body was having her eye, a part of her all to himself. Holly tilted her head slightly and frowned a little when he didn't answer. He held her gaze for a moment longer and then looked down at her mouth.

Holly never wore makeup. She didn't really need to, in his opinion. Her nut-brown skin was smooth and perfect and soft, her big eyes were luminous and the mismatched irises made them intriguing, and her cupid-bow lips were soft and lush, a deep reddish pink that had lately been driving him quite mad. He pulled up the memory of that single kiss they'd shared, of the warmth and electric tingles, the sweet, slight press of her against him, the shock that had run through him and the urge to do… something. Slowly, Artemis inhaled, and licked his lips, and then raised his eyes to hers again.

Clearly, she understood at that moment what was going through his head. A flush had risen in her cheeks, mostly from embarrassment. She pulled her wrist out of his grasp. "It will only take a moment," she told him. Then she touched her fingers to the wound and that blue healing spark jumped to him. "Heal," she breathed, and he did.

Then she stood up and put her glove back on. "Come on," she said to him. "I could use the help getting him back to the station."

"Alright, Holly," Artemis said, and his voice surprised even him, somehow deeper than usual, and roughened by something that he finally decided to stop fighting. He watched her shiver, and smiled.

He had a plan, and though he couldn't be sure it would work, he'd try everything he could to ensure that it did.