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[FIRST DRAFT]The Living Complex: Onset

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Artemis awoke with a start and a moment of confusion and anxiety prevented him from reveling in the feel of Holly pressed against his chest or her arms coiled around his torso. His head snapped up from the pillows and his eyes opened wide, but there was no threat. He heard nothing but the plumbing in the walls of his sizable home and the faint ticking of the grandfather clock he'd brought down from the Fowl Manor.

So why was he so worried? He laid his head back down on the pillows, pressed his face into the mass of hair that was the top of Holly's head, and let the feel of her auburn locks tickling his chin ease away the unexplained tension.

The fourth bong of the Grandfather Clock was forgotten in a dreamy haze, the same place he'd heard it.

~~~

Several days after the incident, he returned home from a difficult but short day at work while Holly fluttered about above ground in what was, on the surface, a few hours before dawn. He loosened his tie and ran a hand through his hair, hoping he looked disheveled enough to appeal to Holly's adrenaline-addled fascination with him looking unkempt, but he paused in front of his family's heirloom grandfather clock. His eyebrows tilted in consternation as he stared up at the towering piece of furniture, the five foot structure far taller than his tiny elven body.

Regardless of the height difference, he could still see the face of the clock clearly, and his worried expression stared back at him from the polished, mirror-like face.

“Four o'clock...” He muttered, head jerking and his fingers twitching in time with the ticking second-hand. The hand swept up to the twelve, the minute hand resting flush beneath it, and the hour hand stopped primly at the four, as it should. The muted bonging of the clock followed, but it made Artemis cringe. Even with the modifications he had made to decrease the volume of its chiming, the clock seemed abnormally loud today, and the four crashes of hammer on bell seemed to rise in volume and pitch until the fourth one felt like a spike thrust between his eyes.

Then it was done and the clock returned to its normal ticking, but he was leaning away with a hand to his chest and sweating heavily. The pain remained, muted as the bongs of the clock were supposed to be, for exactly five seconds when it vanished without a trace. Five seconds...five was fine.

He straightened at that, his anxiousness and furiously-beating heart buried under incredulity. Of course five was fine. All numbers were fine. All numbers, even...

He gulped, his throat coated in something thick and hot, but that passed in five seconds as well, and he turned from the clock with a huff to find himself something soothing to drink.

Chapter Text

Artemis and Holly rested back on their couch, lounging lazily on one of the rare occasions that both of them had a day off at the same time. Holly was curled up against the former's chest, half-asleep, while Artemis watched his fingers trailing through her short, auburn hair, and a film was playing in the background. The only sounds came from said movie, the breathing of the two elves, and the occasional beeping from the various appliances and electronics scattered about the house. At least until Holly suddenly spoke.

“You ever wonder what would have happened if Koboi hadn't come to the future?”

This line of thought was an odd one from the normally grounded Holly, and Artemis's expression made that quite clear. This was a deep and highly theoretical concept, and when Holly didn't make any sudden moves or acknowledge the question for several moments, he wondered if it had been some sleep-inspired dream-question.

But then she tilted her head back and looked up at him, and her mismatched eyes shone with a curiosity and wonder that she only showed when A) Artemis had a new gadget for her to play with or B) she wanted Artemis to wax-scientific in order to lull her to sleep. Despite the obvious manipulation and lack of appreciation for his genius that this meant, Artemis was unable to deny Holly anything she desired. He smiled and leaned down to kiss her forehead, drawing a pleased coo from the woman, and he spoke. His voice was low and even, the Fowl sharpness buried under an elf's naturally musical tones.

“Well... in my studies of how time magic works it is impossible to even contemplate such a possibility. The only way to imagine such an event is to look at it from a historical perspective. If we look at the events as they happened, we arrived in the past before Koboi even thought about coming to the future.

“So the appropriate question should have been 'What would have happened if we had not gone back in time?' Looking at it that way, Koboi would never have gone into the future and she'd have gotten JJ. She would have had the last component necessary to complete her biological cocktail of magic boosters, and would have become the most powerful warlock in existence at the time.

“This would have likely resulted in catastrophic war for the Fairies, as a super genius with immense magical power and a plan for world domination is a recipe for disaster. We stopped that by traveling through time.”

The entire time he spoke, he ran his fingers through Holly's hair, tilted his body a little so she could lean more comfortably against the narrow plank that was his chest, and used his other arm to trace up and down her side and shoulders. These were not lewd touches meant to excite, but simple touches meant to soothe and comfort, and Holly responded to them with exactly what Artemis wanted: another pleased sigh of delight and a slowing of her breathing as she eased closer into sleep.

“We saved JJ too.” She let out another little sigh and Artemis realized that if she fell asleep here, she'd never wake up and he'd be trapped, so he did the only thing he could think to do. He swept her into his arms and carried her to bed. This was done with, Artemis was proud to know, only a tiny bit of grunting and straining and he managed to get her into bed and under the covers without dropping her. He kissed her goodnight, and she swiped at him, trying to pull him down with her, but he stepped out of range and watched her fall asleep almost immediately, a slight pout on her features that slowly eased into a relaxed expression.

When she was safely in slumber-land, he headed for his office, where he booted up his computer with a wave of his hand and got to work.

~~~

It took several hours to construct an appropriate model, and after those hours and his calculations began to work, he felt a growing sense of horror and shame. He'd never been more wrong in his life.

Opal wouldn't have been able to take over the world with JJ. She would have had enough of his brain fluid for a few bouts of time travel, but there was no way she could have gotten more and it would not have boosted her powers for more than a few days. She would have caused some damage, it was true, but an elite team of snipers and maybe a dozen casualties and Opal would have been assassinated or knocked unconscious, sapped of magic, and thrown in prison several months after her “ascension” to magical powerhouse.

She never would have been part of the Bwa'Kell Rebellion. She never would have gone into a coma and come out after his mind wipe. She never would have escaped.

Artemis tricked N1 and Holly into helping him travel through time, and in doing so Artemis had created the timeline that led to that version of Opal existing. That sequence of events, the events that had led to Opal attempting to drive the fairy world and the human world together.

The events that led to Opal killing Julius.

Because of his decisions, Artemis was just as at fault for Julius’ death as Opal was.

To save a lemur, Artemis had killed one of the People's best and brightest defenders, Holly's mentor and father-figure.

Artemis lowered his head to his desk, body overcome with exhaustion, and felt a surge of pain that seemed to start from his toes and sweep up to the tips of his ears, until his entire body was wracked with a debilitating ache. It reminded him of how he'd felt when his father was returned to him alive. That was one of the few times he'd allowed himself to be completely overcome with emotion, satisfaction and joy and hope all mixing together into one euphoric ball of pure bliss.

This was similar, but opposite. He felt only anger and sadness and grief, every other emotion pushed away. Instead of a mountainous weight lifting from his shoulders, he felt like Atlas in those first few moments, where the weight of the sky rested across his back. Every muscle burned and every synapse of his mind fired at once, trying to find a solution to this burden, but only two words came back to him.

Your fault.

~~~

Several hours later in the dead of night, Holly found him resting on his desk, and she smiled slightly at her lover in a position he so regularly ended up in. She stepped inside, padding silently over the faux-wood floors, and reached out for him, ready to shake him awake and get him to bed for some proper sleep. Her hand neared him, but before she could touch him he sat up so rapidly she was sure he would catapult out of his chair and slam into the ceiling.

But no, he simply sat ramrod straight, staring into the computer screen that had long since went to sleep, and Holly was taken aback at his appearance. His face was blotchy and red, and his eyes were bloodshot. There was a bruise on his forehead that wasn't healing, and there was a manic gleam in his eyes that, for the first time in over a decade of dating him, caused her to step back into a fighting stance.

But the gleam faded and Artemis blinked, yawned, and got unsteadily to his feet. When he almost bumped into the frozen Holly, he looked at her with complete surprise, her presence unnoticed until then, but then he smiled and reached out to her for an embrace.

“Good morning, love. Sleep well?”

When she did not step into his grip, he tilted his head to the side, his expression growing tense, and he opened his mouth to speak. He and Holly said the same thing at precisely the same moment.

“Are you alright?”

There was another brief pause, and Artemis blinked several times during it. He found it interesting that Holly seemed to adamantly refuse to do so, but as Butler always said: dry eyeballs did no one any good except your opponent. Not that Holly was his opponent, and Butler didn't actually always say that, but the adage seemed to hold true for most situations.

Artemis felt a pang of strange worry as he noted the errant thoughts he was having, and pulled himself back into the strange encounter with his lover, and to his horror found that he had 'tuned in' in at the end of Holly's sentence.

“-crying?” Her face was twisted into an expression of confusion and worry, and he got his hug when she stepped up and cupped his face, forcing him to look into her eyes. The words, the tender touches, the searching expression, it was clear Holly thought something was wrong, and Artemis opened his mouth once more to speak.

This time, though, he hesitated. A little dark coil of thought, squatting on his brain like some monstrous little rodent, all beady eyes and diseased teeth, whispered into his mind.

“She’s just as much to blame as you” the rodent muttered, and the young elf felt a moment of panic that was most unlike himself. His eyes bored into Holly’s and he wondered if she was indeed just as at fault for all the wrong that he’d done in his life, and the darkness cackled. He felt the urge to push her away, and his hands came around and gripped her hips, ready to shove her off of him.

But her stare and the delicate touches Holly was giving him soothed him and brushed his panic away. Of course Holly was not at fault. She was responsible for everything good he’d ever done, and had, almost single-handedly, prevented him from becoming a villainous mastermind akin to older generations of Fowl. With a mental snarl, Artemis silenced the strange manifestation, regaining control of his psyche, and the knot of black emotion slid away from his conscious mind.

Artemis returned to her then, and his arms slid tight around the small of her back. He pulled her into a delicate kiss, and then broke it to deliver a gift of honesty and trust, a gift that Holly treasured so dearly because of its rarity.

“I was thinking about Julius, all those hurt by Koboi, and all the demons I couldn’t save. A bit of melancholy struck me after our conversation last night, and I had a...bad night.”

Holly moved her arms, coiling them around his neck, and her face remained concerned despite his admittance of weakness. Even after almost twenty years knowing Artemis and a little over ten knowing him intimately, he was so rarely upfront and direct like this. But knowing his troubles did not mean she couldn’t feel bad that he hadn’t come to her with his need, and she started to speak.

He silenced her with another kiss, this one a little more intense, and when he pulled back he had that special kind of sinister light in his eyes that warmed a portion of her anatomy somewhere between her knees and belly-button.

“I needed time, Holly. I needed to address my thoughts and figure out what I needed next. And do you know what I need?”

This was a perfectly Artemis-like response and Holly felt her tension easing. She giggled and, doing her best to duplicate Artemis’s masterful smirk, said “Me?”

Artemis looked stunned, though Holly knew it was an act.

“You read my mind. I need to get one of Foaly’s hats.”

~~~

Their love-making started in the office and finished in the bedroom, and it was tender and lovely and full of giggles and delicate touches.

Chapter Text

Diary Entry 001,

I have started a new diary. This one is being kept on paper since an audio diary can be overheard and a text file can be located externally, and my privacy has become a commodity I value almost as much as gold.

Since my bout of depression, I've found myself unable to think of much else. Normally I am capable of multiple trains of thought at once, so this, pardon the pun, rail-roading of my thoughts is most disconcerting. It is proving more and more difficult to socialize, and even more difficult to remain civil in the situations that I am forced to leave the Operation's Booth or my office at home.

I have always been able to marshal my thoughts by organizing them, be it with a virtual or physical media, into a tangible form. If I have some record of my behavior, I can look over said record for errors and make the appropriate fixes. It has never failed me before, and it cannot fail me now.

My shortness of late has not gone unnoticed, and I worry that Holly will confront me about it soon. With this diary, I hope to locate and analyze whatever is the cause of my behavioral changes and remedy them before such an argument can start.

~~~

Artemis snarled in anger and shot to his feet, barely noticing the additional weight of the chair glued to his rear. With a harsh grunt and a rather clumsy, overhead toss, his thermos of hot soup shot out, smashed against the guffawing centaur's plas-screen, and dumped its contents all over his keyboard and the front of his clothes.

Foaly yelped at the steaming attack and leaped from his own chair. Luckily the soup was hot but not boiling, and while painful was not particularly dangerous. The violence of the act was what had truly startled him, and he turned to stare at his partner.

Artemis' face was a brilliant red and his breathing was ragged. His lips were pulled back in a feral expression that had Foaly clopping backwards a step and raising his palms up to ward off an attack. He'd never seen that expression before, even after some of his far more embarrassing pranks.

Artemis suddenly sank back into the chair he'd parked himself in only moments ago. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, and then wriggled quickly out of his pants. He had on a pair of tight, black compression shorts that were perfectly serviceable as exercise attire and undergarments, and he showed no embarrassment at disrobing in front of Foaly.

Once free of the stuck pants, he practically punched the door controls open and stormed from the booth. Foaly had never known that analogy to be anything but metaphorical, but as Artemis passed the doorway a few bursts of lightning arced from his fingers and the tips of his ears. The bolts were a very dark blue, only a few shades away from black, and they struck the door-frame with a faint buzz that was more like a swarm of angry wasps than the usual crackling of current seeking a ground. When the door slid shut behind Artemis, it did so rather sluggishly.

Foaly stared at the spot his work partner had been for almost thirty seconds, trying to process what had just happened before he turned to his computer and searched for Artemis. He was still in the building, but was now in the gym and jogging on a treadmill. That was extremely surprising, though not as surprising as Artemis' unprovoked attack.

Well, maybe not unprovoked, but definitely unexpected. It was Prank Day, after all. The tradition went back seven years, and was a rather effective way of keeping the two genii from tearing each other down a notch at every opportunity. Maybe this was Artemis' prank?

Foaly let out a whinny of confusion, unsure. Artemis had never gotten physical when it was Prank Day, except for the one time he had put together a robot meant to keep Foaly away from the coffee machine for the day. Foaly had almost trampled him for that one, but even then Artemis had not been the one to do the physical parts of the prank.

Foaly mulled the conundrum over for almost ten minutes before his console began to beep urgently at him, pulling his attention back to his work.

'Artemis must be in a mood today,' Foaly thought, diving into the latest LEProblem (He'd been holding that witticism in for almost a century before delivering it unto the world. It had earned him seven groans, one face-palm, and three heads-to-desk). That had to be it. Artemis was just being grumpy. Foaly would apologize to his partner, if he remembered to.

He wouldn't.

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Diary Entry 013,

I had a blackout today. I was sitting at my desk, working on the new cam-foil plastic I have been experimenting with lately. I blinked and it was as if time had jumped forward, or as if I had been the victim of a bad jump-cut in a low-budget film. I was now resting in the living room, my muscles aching as if I'd gone jogging with Holly and my hair slightly wet. The water seemed to be from the bathing pond, otherwise I would have thought it was sweat.

I have no memory of bathing that day, working out, or what happened in the four hours of lost time that I experienced. If I had cameras installed in my own home, I would have checked the security footage, but I did notice one new thing when I returned to my computer.

There was a two hundred page document typed in the brief shorthand I use whenever I am trying to get an idea down quickly and can't be bothered with usual language conventions. As I read it, I was overcome with two emotions: curiosity about what was written, and confusion about how I could have written this during a blackout and then disagree with a number of the points detailed in the outline.

I imagine that the ideas in this document should have clicked into place in my own mind, similar to how my memories did after I was mind-wiped. But no. I thoroughly disagreed and almost changed some of them, but decided against it. Perhaps this was some symptom of a greater problem, or there is something in the document that is my subconscious trying to reach out to me.

I closed the file, titled “Radiation and Magic: Differences and Similarities,” and let it alone. I would be installing cameras in the house soon, to track any other blackouts I may have, but I don't think it will work. I'll just disable them when I have a blackout, and making them impossible to disable or storing the data anywhere but a localized hard-disk is out of the question.

Perhaps I should talk to Holly. Blackouts are a sign of something far more dangerous than a case of depression or anxiety. There could be something truly wrong with my mind, and handling it on my own may not be the best idea. I'll give it a few more weeks, though. If I have another blackout, I'll talk to Holly. She'll have to swear on the book to keep it a secret, but she's the only one I really trust not to abuse this information.

~~~

Holly blinked in surprise before turning her attention to the punching mitt that was there more to protect Artemis's knuckles than her own palms. There was a slight sign of impact there, and her arm was still tingling from the impact. Her green gaze drifted slowly from said mitt to Artemis's left hand, which was now curled into a loose fist at the corner of his jaw, ready for the next strike.

The silence went on for several seconds before Artemis stopped his slight bouncing, and his fists lowered a fraction. His confusion mirrored Holly's but his confusion turned to panic when the punching mitt came in for a hard swipe to the side of his face. Immediately his arm came up, hand almost cupping the back of his head, and he tilted his face into the inside of his shoulder. The impact from the swipe smacked against the outside of his bicep, but the force was dissipated by the flesh of his arm and the far larger impact area.

“What was that for!” Artemis shouted, stepping out of range.

Holly stared for a moment longer, then broke into a large grin.

“Artemis...I felt the punch!”

“I would imagine so, I've been doing this for ten years!”

“I know, but I've never felt the punch! I felt impact, but never the punch. That would have actually hurt someone if you hit them in the right spot. And then you blocked me!” She started to bounce around the LEP training gym, cackling and spinning in circles, and Artemis began to blush furiously. The half-dozen fairies scattered around the area had turned to watch. Most of them turned quickly away, aware that Artemis Fowl was not someone to tease unless you were of a higher rank, but one or two kept watching with amusement.

Artemis squeezed the bridge of his nose, trying to calm himself while he waited for the novelty of his increased proficiency in hand-to-hand combat to wear off. When Holly's frivolity finally ended and she came back, her face was set into a deadly serious one, and Artemis almost wished she'd go back to teasing him.

He'd just set the bar a bit higher, and there was no lowering it again.

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I was not liking the way that the third and fourth chapters turned out and the direction this story was moving. I'm scrapping it and, while I'm not starting from scratch, I'll be reposting the story and trying to stick to a more appropriate and effective schedule