It was an unusually chilly day in the depths of a cave in Afghanistan. In it were two people that would rather be anywhere than where they were- one because they had grown to hate the sharp burning taste of metal and water in their tongue, and the other because of… well, you could take two guesses, and all of them would be accurate.
The former was Tony Stark. The latter was Yinsen.
'You know,' Tony said, his voice contemplative. 'When I said I had no-one to return to, I was lying.'
Yinsen raised an eyebrow, his only reaction to this piece of news.
'Yeah… his name is Artemis,' Tony's voice had gone impossibly fond, and Yinsen couldn't help but be surprised. 'He's my best friend. We've gone through some shit together and honestly? I wouldn't trade it for the world. He's always on one of his adventures and shit and I used to joke that he'll know exactly what to do when I went and disappeared on him because he did that to me so many times…' he rambled on seemingly to himself, mechanically working on his suit, looking far more relaxed than he had in awhile.
Best friend. Of course.
Which was when their base exploded, Tony cursing as he bore the brunt of the explosion.
Yinsen shielded his eyes from the sudden bright light, staring at the pale youth with blue eyes who had mysteriously appeared to their rescue.
That explained it.
One second, he was standing in front of the cave, the next, he was striding towards Tony and drawing him into a bone crushing hug.
'Never do that to me again,' Artemis said, his voice fierce, too much emotion packed into six words. It was plea, a request, a promise that would inevitably be broken.
'Wasn't planning on it,' Tony shot back, not looking as if he was going to let go of Artemis anytime soon. 'I knew you would come… just in case… was building a suit,' his words muffled.
'You're still going to build it, aren't you?' Artemis said, with a resigned and long suffering sigh, though it still couldn't hide the same impossible fondness that he had heard when Tony was talking about Artemis.
Best friends, indeed.
'I'm not taking him back to America,' Artemis said, his voice firm brokering no argument.
'Pepper,' Artemis's voice softened, taking off the edge of what was to follow. 'With all due respect, I don't think it's either safe or good for his mental health to go through thousands of press conferences, most of them who'll probably ask about Stane and his company.'
Pepper sighed through the phone, but he could hear her acknowledging his point. 'I can call a press conference. Tell them Tony's recovering.'
'How much time can you buy us?'
'9… 10 days?'
' Thank you,' Artemis said, his voice deep and edged with gratitude.
'On one condition,' Pepper hesitated, 'I get visitation rights?'
'I'm sure Tony wouldn't mind. He's still coming to terms with the fact that he has friends,' his voice was soft, taking the sting out of his own words.
'Will that be all, Mr. Fowl?' He could hear the gratitude in her words.
'That will be all, Miss Potts.'
'You're so gone for him, it's not even funny,' Foaly said, who had been conversing with Holly quietly in the background.
'I have no idea what you're talking about,' he replied, voice icy.
'Of course you don't,' Foaly retorted before thankfully dropping the subject. It appeared that he did have something that resembled tact after all. 'We were talking about Holly performing a scan on his body.'
It was in that moment that Tony appeared by their side, looking tired and haggard, yet somehow relaxed and well rested.
'You guys talking about me?' He joked, though it lacked his usual warmth.
'Tony…' Holly said, her look of someone approaching a wild animal. 'You know we have to scan you.'
'But I'm fine!' He retorted. 'I built a goddamn arc reactor out of a few scraps and I'm still intact! That counts for something.'
'You have a fucking hole in your chest, Tony,' Artemis snapped.
'Thank you so much for rubbing it in,' Tony snapped back. 'Maybe if you were here a few days earlier, this would never have happened, huh?'
Artemis jerked back as if he was slapped. Tony's look of mutiny was replaced with guilt, the others watching this With various degrees of concern.
'You would think,' Artemis said, his voice taking on the cold edge that he usually adopted when trying to conceal the hurt he was feeling. 'That my best friend would be more understanding of the position I was in -'
Tony couldn't seem to keep his mouth shut, as usual: 'Why does that have to do with anything-'
'Do you know how worried I was for you?' Artemis said, fuming. 'That my best friend was kidnapped and was going to be presumed dead any moment?'
Holly was genuinely afraid that his mouth would come unhinged at the way it clenched around the words, 'best friend.'
'Of course I know!' Tony shouted back. 'You were literally dead for six months, so don't you dare try to lecture me on that, Artemis motherfucking Fowl-'
'What's going on here?' Came Angeline Fowl's voice from the door. She took in the scene around: Holly on the sofa, Foaly on the hologram, all watching the tense argument between Artemis and Tony, shouting at each other, looking as if they as if they were a step away from either punching or fucking each other.
Angeline didn't seem impressed either, if her thunderous expression was anything to go by. Artemis and Tony's faces had lost most of their rage, replaced with a look of shame that left them unable to look at each other or Angeline. Holly couldn't blame them.
Angeline Fowl was capable of making anyone cover in rage, mid 20s in age or no.
'M-mother,' Artemis stammered. 'We can explain…'
Angeline's face softened. 'I don't think there's any explaining to be done, Artemis. I'm pretty sure the entire manor could hear you and Tony's argument, at this point.'
Angeline intervened almost as soon as Tony opened his mouth. 'Tony,' she said, placing a hand on his shoulder magnanimously. 'Why don't we go outside and talk for a bit?' She glared at Artemis, who had the sense to clear before nodding, indicating he won't interfere.
The door shut behind them with a resounding click at the same time as Artemis sank down into his chair.
'Not a word, Holly.' He said tiredly. Holly knew better. She always knew better.
Foaly, however, had no such misgivings.
'Boy, could I cut the sexual tension during that argument with a knife,' he said, gleefully. 'With a well-sharpened one, at that.'
If looks could kill, Holly was afraid Foaly would be dead by now.
Scratch that. Foaly would have been slowly tortured and then left to die, by now. He must have seen the same expression on Artemis's face since he took one look at him, gulped, and disconnected; the one sensible thing he had done all day.
Holly sighed. She had truly - foolishly - thought she'd have left behind all Artemis Fowl the Second drama once he was done being a teenager.
God damn her for getting invested.