Hello. Well I feel sheepish. This wasn't exactly a super speedy update like I promised, but I won't bore you with excuses. You know what they are anyway.

Thanks to all you lovelies who reviewed the last chapter! It was you guys that finally persuaded me to get off my lazy backside and write this.

Chapter 20: A New Direction

Fowl Manor: Ireland

Holly found herself spending an inordinate amount of time in the gym over the next week or so, knowing full well of Artemis's aversion to the place. She didn't want to be disturbed, and she had lost a lot of muscle mass during her confinement. A liquid diet tended to have that effect on a person. To her dismay, she was tiring after only ten minutes on the treadmill. So much for being a LEP captain just entering her prime. Holly wouldn't even pass a basic physical fitness test these days. It was the most frustrating thing; not just because she knew she was capable of so much more, but also because every burning muscle, every gasp of breath, reminded her of why she was so unfit. And this always led her back to thinking about the topic she was desperately trying to avoid. Artemis.

She was angry with him. They hadn't exchanged more than two words since their last row in the kitchen. 'He abandoned you.' That was what her more stubborn side kept saying. 'He left you to die.'

But then, her more reasonable side would pipe up, 'would you really want him to go through what you did? He has magic too. If the humans ever found that out, he would have most probably been even worse off than you.'

'So what?' Her angry side retorted, 'why do you care?'

Because he's still Artemis. And you're not a selfish person. He tried to come back for you, he told you that himself.'

He lies.

Well then. Why would he have come back for you all these weeks later?

Holly's angry side stayed silent, finding no retort for this. Why would he come back for her?

She knew she had been harsh; he wasn't really like other humans. She had known that since a certain twelve-year old had decided to kidnap a fairy, and succeeded. How many humans could say they'd done that? The thing was, what made Holly the most angry was not the fact that Artemis had left her, it was that she knew, deep deep down in her heart, that she was going to lose this fight. No matter how long it took her, eventually she would have to concede that actually, Artemis was in the right. And this annoyed her because she really wasn't ready to make up with him yet.

Especially not with her hanging about. That infernal pixie. In all honesty, Holly couldn't see where Opal fit into the equation at all, but Artemis wasn't going to send her away, and Holly was feeling a bit left out. Whilst they were off having their little scientific brainstorms, Holly was reduced to pumping iron in the gym; a true recon jock. No, Holly wasn't quite ready to forgive Artemis yet, and he certainly wasn't doing anything to speed things along.

One thing was for certain; things were not going to get any better with that pixie in the house.

Artemis was also doing his best to stay away from Holly, who seemed to be permanently in the mood for throttling someone. At the present moment, he was stood in the kitchen, attempting to chop peppers for their dinner. Since there was no Butler around to cook for them, he had been pretty much forced to take on full kitchen responsibilities. Holly wasn't about to offer him her help, and Opal. Well. Try as he might, he somehow found it rather difficult to imagine the narcissistic pixie slaving away over a cooker. Ever.

Keeping true to form, Opal was currently sitting on top of the kitchen table with a laptop perched on her knees. She was working. Or at least, trying to work. In reality, she was staring vacantly at the screen whilst the teenaged mud boy whined at her from across the room.

"Honestly. I have done absolutely nothing wrong. I understand that what she went through was horrible, but she can't really blame me for that, can she?"

"No she can't," Opal monotoned for what seemed like the millionth time that evening. She didn't take her eyes from the screen, hoping that the human would get the picture. She didn't care.

"Exactly. She'll have to start speaking to me eventually so we can work together to get out of this mess. She needs to stop acting so childishly. I think-"

"You know what I think Fowl?" Opal cut in, finally looking up and brushing her hair angrily from her eyes as she spoke. "I think you need to grow up and go and talk to her yourself. Honestly, you're both as bad as each other. Though to be perfectly honest, I don't really see why you would want her to forgive you. A human and an elf?" she shuddered. "It's icky."

Artemis frowned slightly but shut his mouth, finally going back to his chopping. He was acting childishly, he knew that perfectly well. And he didn't really have any excuse to do so. He had reached the mental maturity of an average adult over a decade ago; it was just that he was so fed up with everything going wrong.

"What's cooking?" a new voice joined the room and Artemis jumped at the sound, slicing his index finger with the vegetable knife.

"Dammit!" he quickly put the finger in his mouth, sucking the blood off the wound before inspecting it closely. It didn't look too deep. As he watched, blue sparks jumped from his skin and sealed it shut.

Opal looked up from the table again and smirked. "That's why they shouldn't let little boys play with knives."

"Shut up Opal." He said as he picked up the knife, "I'm not little."

"You are compared to me, I'm old enough to be your grandmother." She grinned and placed the laptop down beside her on the wooden surface, flicking her dark hair over her shoulder haughtily. "Come to think of it, so is she." She jerked a thumb over her shoulder at Holly as she spoke.

The elf glanced up and scowled. "Like he said Koboi, shut it." Holly took a seat at the table, resolutely avoiding eye contact with the pixie who sat above her. She wiped a hand across her forehead and looked across at Artemis instead. "You'd better be washing those peppers mud boy. If you've gotten blood in the food I'm not touching it."

"All right," Artemis did as he was told, running the vegetables under the cold tap. That had been the longest conversation Holly had had with him in over five days. He wasn't about to ruin it now.

Halfway through the meal, Holly looked up from the messily prepared risotto and scowled at Artemis. "I need to speak to you," she glanced at the listening pixie, "alone."

Artemis nodded, feeling a nervous lump rising in his throat. This was ridiculous. Holly shouldn't scare him. He had to admit though, the thought of what an angry Holly could do to him wasn't something he particularly wanted to consider. She punched him as a sign of affection, and Artemis wasn't exactly the most physically capable person. Even with the height differences, he doubted he could defend himself against the tiny elf for long.

Propped up on a pile of cushions directly opposite Artemis, Opal waved her fork in the air. "When I am queen of the world, people won't have any secrets. They'll have to tell me everything."

"Yes, well. You're not queen of the world yet." Holly spat, before returning to her food.

Later on that evening, Holly met him in the library. He was poring over stacks of Qwan's spare notes that No1 had given him back when… things were different. Temporal physics. Not the easiest of topics to focus on when your mind is clearly somewhere else. When he noticed Holly standing in the shadows, he dropped the papers onto the desk gratefully.

"Hi Artemis."

He opened his mouth, not quite certain what he was actually about to say but intent on saying it anyway. "Holly-"

She stopped him with a wave of her hand. "My turn to speak," she murmured, moving into the light. Artemis nodded his acquiescence and Holly took a deep breath. She had to sort this out. "Artemis. I'm angry with you. You know that, but I do know that I am being unreasonable."

"But then-"

"Ssh. My turn, remember?" she stepped forwards slightly, looking up at the pale face she knows so well, eyes tracing the lips she once kissed- focus Holly! Bad idea. "Artemis," she repeated, shaking her head to clear her thoughts, "I believe you when you say you couldn't come back, really I do. And I think… I think I forgive you for that. You did come back for me after all."

Artemis nodded lightly, still wary of making a wrong move and blowing the fragile progress they were somehow making. Even if it was completely out of the blue.

Holly cleared her throat. "I forgive you for that. However, I'm not sure…" she paused for a moment, trying to gather the courage to say the words she really didn't want to say; but had to, for the sake of moving on. This is more difficult than I thought it would be. "Artemis, I don't think we can do this anymore." she gestured between them as she spoke, and Artemis's eyes widened, as he understood.

"You mean… you mean us, right? Being together?" he had to ask for clarification, just to be sure. When she nodded slowly, he closed his eyes and sighed. He'd seen this coming. Ever since they'd got back Holly had withdrawn further into herself, and not just because she was angry. He had known there would be some sort of psychological consequences to her confinement. "You still see me as one of them, don't you?" he whispered, staring her straight in the eyes.

She held his gaze, the mirror image of her own, and nodded once, quickly, as though that would get the pain over with quicker. Like pulling off a band-aid. It didn't really work. "Sorry. But I was in there for weeks. And look what they did to my species. I'm just too angry with the whole of humanity right now. And this, us, it's too complicated. And I'm tired of complicated."

Holly shook her head, trying to dispel the traitorous tears that were rapidly gathering at the sight of Artemis's face. With his overbearing intellect, sometimes it was easy to forget that he was just a teenage boy caught up in all the drama of his first love. Sitting before her now, she swore she'd never seen him look so young. Or so helplessly lost.

Eventually, he nodded and composed his features back into the carefully smooth blank mask she was accustomed to. "Very well. We shall agree to put this behind us for now."

Holly stared at the human with surprise. She hadn't expected him to agree quite so easily. "Artemis?"

"Yes, Holly?"

Her eyes narrowed. "What are you doing?"

"I'm sure I have no idea what you are talking about."

"We shall agree to put this behind us for now," she mimicked in a scarily accurate impersonation of his voice. "You're up to something. No way would you just agree to this."

He smirked a little, and the mask lifted from his face for a moment, betraying his emotions. "Holly, we are going to have to work together for now, and I feel that it would be a lot easier without all this tension, don't you?" he didn't wait for a reply before ploughing on, "I obviously still care about you, but I understand that your emotional state is somewhat compromised at the present time. I am simply stating that we should move on… for the sake of this mission."

"No. You're still up to something."

Artemis rolled his eyes at her. "Quite obviously. Just because you suddenly decide you don't want to be with me, that doesn't change my feelings for you. I still love you Holly"- her breath quickened slightly at that- "I am not about to let you get away that easily."


"-I won't act on it. I am perfectly content to play the waiting game if that's what you want."

"Artemis, I'm telling you, it's over. There is nothing left to wait for!" she was getting irritated now. "You're acting childishly again!"

"No Holly, I'm eighteen, a teenager. For once I'm actually acting my age."

Holly groaned in frustration. "Artemis…"

Outside, the sky was beginning to blacken as night stole its way across the countryside. A summer storm had been brewing all day, the turbulent clouds growing darker and darker. The wind was now picking up, and far off in the direction of Dublin, came the distant sound of thunder.

The first drops of rain fell, spattering onto the cracked driveway leading up to the manor. Within seconds, the volume of the erratic drops increased to a violent downpour. Water ran down the dusty windows of the manor and collected in muddy puddles on the overgrown lawn. A stream of rainwater slowly ran down the gentle slope of the drive, meandering all the way to the thick, wrought-iron gates at the bottom of the grounds, where two dark figures were squeezing through a recently excavated hole in the ground.

The first figure straightened up and looked about warily, pulling the hood tighter over his head. The other figure quickly kicked a few clods of sodden mud back down into the hole and glanced up at the manor. There were two electric lights on at ground level, shining out into the night like beacons, drawing the two weary travellers in. The second figure smiled at the sight, revealing a set of familiar tombstone teeth. "They're here."

You know, I have never once in all my life referred to a plaster as a band-aid. I don't know why I did in this. Is it an English or an American phrase?

I'm not entirely sure if ill have time to update next week, so I'm making no promises I might not be able to keep. I will try however.

Anyway, it's time for me to actually focus on passing the remainder of my exams after the fiasco yesterday that was English.

Oh, and I want to apologise for the incredibly confusing conversation that was Artemis and Holly's break-up… thing. I've been writing too many critical essays over the last week and I kinda forgot how to write emotions. Ah well.

You like? Didn't like? Thoughts on Artemis and Holly, if any? Thoughts on the newcomers? Feel like having a rant at me for my late updating?

Whatever the case, please leave a review! It's the encouragement that keeps me going, and the end is in sight now!