The timely disappearance of Eoghan Andrew Fowl was stressful and inconvenient for Artemis’ plans, but there were advantages. It forced a slight reshuffling of his priorities - keep the fortune safe from predatory relatives and government agents, evade legal investigations into his father’s work, etc - but allowed the implementation of Artemis’ greatest plan ahead of schedule by nearly eight years. Doors opened when you were orphaned, apparently, and Artemis was well-known in select circles for never failing to take advantage of an opportunity.
Butler, bless his heart, only raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure about this?”
“I trust your skills as much as any accredited barber. Besides, Monsieur Mouras always fails to take into account my sensitive scalp,” Artemis said blithely, purposefully misunderstanding the intent of the question. He offered Butler the comb and settled back into the chair, lifting his arms and the tablet as Butler buckled the haircutter’s tarp over his shoulder with a professional flourish. It was a bit of a pain to navigate the tablet, but scheduling the rescue missions into the Arctic was a logistical nightmare and needed his full supervision. “Do try to make it quick. We have an appointment with the tailor’s at twelve.”
“As you say, sir.” Butler sighed, flicking the buzzer on, and Artemis couldn’t help but fight the rush of excitement that coursed through his body. “Signor Romano is always happy to have your patronage. I merely worry that your mother won’t recognize you.”
“She doesn’t recognize me anyway,” Artemis said flippantly. He hoped. Butler began running a comb through his horrible, useless long hair, reaching all the way down his back. Elegant ladies grow their hair out, Artemis. Ugh. “She mistook me for my grandmother at breakfast this morning. She’s psychotic, Butler.”
“It’s true,” Artemis insisted, hating how calm he must have sounded. “Depression with psychosis. I researched it extensively. I’m a layman, of course, but you hardly need to be accredited to recognize the key symptoms. This is the ideal time to start the plan. Mother is hardly going to complain when she doesn’t remember I exist.” He huffed, blowing a stray lock of far too long hair out of his eyes. “The Family and the Dublin elite will interpret this as me acting out due to grief. I’ll fake some supportive emails from Mother asking everyone to respect the new pronouns, and no one will be the wiser. By the time Father comes home to his new son, the paperwork will already be through and there will be nothing he can do about it. You have to admit it’s a foolproof plan, Butler.”
Soft mechanical snips began to echo unsettlingly close to Artemis’ ears, and his toes curled as he carefully kept his back straight. Butler’s touch was heavy, so large in comparison with Artemis’ dainty ten year old hands, and Artemis wondered if he would ever be that muscular. Probably not. Muscles were gross. “No such thing as a foolproof plan, Artemis.” He hesitated half a moment, almost imperceptibly. “And you’re sure about keeping your name?”
“Why not?” Artemis asked, returning his attention to his tablet. No time to waste. If everything went according to plan - and it would, nevermind Butler’s naysaying - then he would have Father home in time by Christmas. He would ask for an Italian tie. Artemis always got what he wanted for Christmas. “I’m a boy. It’s my name. That makes it a boy’s name. Besides, my mother would have even more hysterics.”
“As you say, sir.”
“Now, on to the important thing. The Arctic expedition is important, but I’m making some headway in translating the Gnommish, and I’d appreciate your insight into a roadblock I’ve reached…”
The plan, in its infancy, had been to leave seminal articles on queer theory and how gender was a patriarchal, capitalist construct around the house and wait for his parents to pick them up and get the memo, as the saying went.
Unfortunately, Artemis was smarter than his parents, something he had understood for a very long time, and the articles were left unread. He had adapted his tactics by shoving them between the pages in gossip magazines and finally, in desperation, consulting PFLAG lists of cute little self-help guides for mothers under duress and leaving those on her bed stand. His father was a quicker study than his mother, but the one time Artemis had hesitantly approached the matter at the dinner table he had been firmly shot down.
“American rubbish,” his father had said, wiping his mouth with a napkin and throwing it on the page. “Honestly, Artie, don’t tell me you’re getting into that stuff. What happened those Economics and maths books you liked?”
“It’s Artemis,” Artemis had said, instead of anything else. “And I just thought some diversity of perspective might be useful.”
“I think I saw a lovely couple on Ireland AM who were like that,” his mother said thoughtfully. Of course she did, Butler had taped it for her. “The world really does have all kinds, doesn’t it?”
“The world’s a little barmy, more like,” Artemis’ father had groused. Artemis sat a little straighter. “You won’t learn how to conduct business from the liberal arts. And Artemis, stop rotting your brain with that daytime telly drivel.”
By Artemis he meant, of course, Artemis Fowl the first. Artemis’ mother was never any pet names, or any of the syrupy ‘honies’ or ‘dears’ he heard on the television, but always her full name. Because he respected his wife. Artemis Fowl the first just sniffed, wiping her lips with a cloth napkin, mindful of her lipstick. “Teaching your eight year old daughter to conduct business is so boring, Andy. We could spend the time taking her to mass instead.”
“For the last time, Artemis, the bishop still owes me money -”
“You’ll damn our daughter’s soul to hell over a few thousand euros? The nerve!”
“I think I’ll take the rest of supper in my study,” Artemis had said, and that was the last he broached the topic for a while.
Upon retrospect, Artemis should have known. His father was a career minded businessman, and although draft number fifty eight of the ‘How To Break It To Him’ speech revolved around Artemis’ increased business capital in living life as a male over a female he was a Catholic at heart who viewed progressivism as a distraction from what was really important, e.g. money.
Artemis understood. He loved money. There was nothing more satisfying then watching the numbers in your bank account go up. But, almost as much as Artemis loved money, Artemis loved knowledge. He loved knowing, he loved learning, and he loved doing. Dresses, long hair, and his prestigious all girls school was a lie.
Artemis loved lying - it got him more money. But he didn’t lie to himself.
“You don’t have to be so practical about this,” Butler had said, after Artemis had retired to his study. “It’s okay if it upsets you.”
“Please,” said Artemis, booting up some programs on his laptop that his father definitely did not know about. “as if their opinions have anything to do with me.”
“They’re your parents. Until you turn eighteen, they do have power over you.”
“Nonsense,” Artemis had said, embezzling his father’s funds. “I feel great about this.”
That was, of course, before there was no father to disparage Artemis’ interests, before there was no mother to maybe come around someday. Before Artemis had much bigger problems than the dresses in his closet or threats to drag him to mass. Money stopped being a game and became a means to an end, and soon Artemis no longer had the free time to practice forging paintings or earning online doctorates. Every minute was either embezzling, stealing, or scavenging money to fund rescue expeditions, or planning the expeditions themselves.
The plan had, of course, been envisioned years ago. Artemis had been quietly building his own personal funds since his father had opened Artemis his own Swiss bank account when he was seven. When he was eighteen he would break free from his parents, hop onto his private jet with Butler and fly into the far horizon into the impossible places, like Bali, or Japan, or America. He would build his own empire, under the name of Mr. Artemis Fowl, and after a few years his parents would beg his forgiveness with tears in their eyes. I just want to be a family again, his father would say. Look at all of these beautiful suits I ordered for you, his mother would say. They’re Italian, his mother would say. Butler would check to see if the suits were, indeed, Italian. Then they would all shake hands, if the suits were Italian, and the Fowls would be invited to Artemis’ lush Christmas balls again. They would see each other five times a year. Artemis and his father would be business partners.
But Artemis was ten, and not ready. In the leaving the reconciliation was always implied. But now his father had disappeared, and his mother recognized him even less than she used to, and Artemis was left with the troublesome business of saving his father’s life and his mother’s sanity.
One month after the damn lemur incident Artemis had Butler cut his hair, threw out his dresses, filled his closet with suits, and sat at the breakfast table with his laptop and a small platter of biscuits in front of him as he continued his work on the expedition. Butler was nearby, in the laundry room, ironing his new suits. He waited for his mother to descend the stairs into the kitchen. It was, in the parlance of the detective novels Artemis was so fond of, the moment of truth.
His mother floated down the stairs at eleven am, a Shakespearian wraith in delicate silks. She halted at the door, hair frizzy and unkempt, eyes bloodshot and bagged. She stared at Artemis, as if he was the ghost and not her.
“Daddy?” Artemis Fowl the first breathed.
“It’s Artemis, Mother,” Artemis said calmly, as if his pulse was not thumping in his chest. “Your son, remember? Butler made you a fry up, it’s in the oven.”
“My son.” Artemis’ mother blinked owlishly, looking him up and down. With the very male, gelled haircut, the well fitted suit, the loafers, and Artemis’ bored stare, he really did look the very image of the son. Artemis refused to feel bad about gaslighting his mentally ill mother. “Of...of course. A fry up? Do we have bangers?”
“Vegan ones, yes. We’re trying to mind our cholesterol.” Artemis didn’t look up from his laptop, typing away with intent fervor. “By the way, I need you to sign some forms. For the funeral. Butler will deliver them to you.”
But his mother was distracted with food, and by the time that Butler slipped his mother the forms to withdraw Artemis from his ghastly all girl’s Catholic school his mother had already checked out. She scribbled her name, barely cognizant of hers or his, and at Butler’s inquiring eyebrow Artemis gave him only a firm thumbs-up.
As a back-up plan went it was somewhat haphazard, but far more effective than enlightening literature.
Maybe that was when Artemis learned his lesson, not his first one but the most important one of his life so far: that you can have whatever you want, even if it was impossible, if you gave everything else up first.
Butler diplomatically referred to Plan B as a ‘silver lining’. It would become his frequent tactic to distract Artemis from thoughts of fairies and Gnommish with a nice male watch, or with juicy legislation to officially change his gender. If Artemis faked a debilitating injury on his mother’s part, then he could use her hacked email to correspond with the judge electronically, bypassing the need for technical parental approval -
Years passed like this. Artemis grew more desperate. More willing to turn his eye to ‘the liberal arts’ - the bizarre, the unknown, the unrespected. Artemis had always paid attention to what the others dismissed or derided. It was an advantage of youth, the willingness to believe in fairy tales. Artemis had not become a chess grandmaster through ignoring possible winning avenues, as unconventional as they may seem.
Juliet tried to take him to the Dublin pride parade. Artemis was personally disgusted by the concept, and was far too busy anyway. But he watched the parade on RTÉ anyway, and felt something in his chest that was hard to describe, and that he did not enjoy.
His unfortunately extensive but largely distant family and entirely too nosy extended family was held at bay with broomsticks. Artemis stopped going outside as much, when it wasn’t for research or footwork in tracking down more pages of The Book. Butler sighed. Juliet shrugged. His mother stopped leaving her room. Pity turned into gossip, which moldered into scorn.
Artemis got cunning. He got meaner. He got desperate. These are all the same thing.
The Great Gender Heist was successful. Artemis’ next fantastic con was setting his sights higher, his goals loftier if a little less noble. In the common parlance, Artemis was going to jack Ireland.
Maybe jack the human race. He’d decide when he got there.
Maybe he was a changeling.
As Yeats once wrote, in his seminal poem ‘The Stolen Child’: come away, O human child! To the woods and waters wild. With a fairy hand in hand, for the world’s full of more weeping than you can understand.
As a modern man, Artemis understood the origin of the myth of the changeling. It was commonly theorized that autistic children, who would frequently become strange and fey seemingly overnight, were the original changelings to frightened and confused mothers. Children who, perhaps, just a little different. Children like Artemis, who could never be the daughter his parents wanted.
Of course, he had become better. Parents were such shortsighted creatures.
But what if the myth was more? What if there was a new world, ripe for the taking, vulnerable for the exploitation? Artemis could call first dibs. He’d be rich, or richer. And to think they say that space is the final frontier - had they ever tried looking underground?
Artemis understood that he was not literally a changeling. The Book was very clear in its description of the faerie race, and even at his delicately pre-pubescent stage he was taller than the average fairy. But he couldn’t help but feel a connection to the mythologized idea, to the concept of a child who was wrong, who was both less and more.
It was irrational, and Artemis was nothing if not rational. After that disastrous lemur debacle, he needed his wits about him. But there was something in his gut, something that had stuck there ever since his run in with the Conservationists. Something that screamed - yes!
Artemis was used to accommodating this feeling. It was the same feeling that told him that a suit was right and that a dress was wrong. Butler always said that instincts could save your life in a fight - and Artemis was certain that this was a fight. Life was struggle. Anybody who told you otherwise was selling something - and that someone was probably Artemis.
Really, at the end of the day, the most difficult part was finding mirrored sunglasses that suitably masculinized his face. Butler said no facial masculinization surgery until he was eighteen. More’s the pity.
It would have to do. The plan would go off without a hitch. All his plans did.
“Fowl”, Captain Holly Short said with feeling, “you have no idea what you've done. Bringing the worlds together like this could mean disaster for us all.”
Like he hadn’t heard that one before. Artemis shrugged. “I am not concerned with us all, just myself. And believe me, I shall be perfectly fine. Now, sit, please.”
The plan did not go off without a hitch. There was a troll.
No one had told him there would be a troll. It wasn’t fair. He had worked hard for that money. Artemis deserved it. He deserved his father -
But that wasn’t the point, wasn’t it? The money was a means to an end. The point was to reunify his family. And maybe there was something more valuable than gold, something that only the fairies could give him. .
“What would I have to do to buy a wish?”
Holly glanced at the trolley. 'Well, that depends. What do you have to bargain with?'
Artemis took one final look at the gold. He took a deep breath. It was a means to an end. It was beautiful, and lustrous, and the most gorgeous thing he had ever seen, but what was gold next to his mother’s sanity?
Still, admitting he possessed something so plebian as a family to Captain Short rankled. “You may have wondered why I kidnapped you in the first place,” Artemis said grudgingly.
“I really don’t care,” Captain Short said bluntly. “I assumed it was because you’re a sad, sadistic little man.”
Artemis had been mildly surprised the first time Captain Short called him ‘Mud Boy’. It was nice not to be misgendered by his enemies. It made the insults sound almost endearing. “I’ll assume you are not interested in the details, then.” Artemis grit his teeth as subtly as he could. “My mother is...very ill. In the head. I do not know if there is a fairy equivalent of the affliction, but she is plagued by periods of psychosis. Hallucinations, depression, and so on.” Inspiration struck. “She confuses me for a daughter frequently. I was hoping I could buy a better cure for her with the gold. I hope you can imagine how stressful it is. ”
It worked even better than Artemis had hoped. Captain Short’s expression softened, and for the first time she looked at Artemis with something other than unadulterated hate. “I do, actually.”
“By any chance, Captain Short, do your fairy magics extend towards...healing?”
Captain Short thought about it, and Butler was mercifully silent. Finally, she slowly said, “There’d be a cost.”
“An eighth of the gold would be yours,” Artemis said quickly.
“Nice try, Mud Boy. All of it.”
“One half,” Artemis said, feeling exquisite pain, “and you must promise to handle her delusions over my gender.”
“Artemis,” Butler groaned.
“Deal,” Captain Short said, sticking out her hand. “And you’re lucky I’m the nicest officer on the force, Mud Boy. I don’t do charity work for spoiled brats every day.”
Artemis grit his teeth, not bothering to hide it this time. Captain Short smirked. Butler’s expression firmly read, ‘you deserved that one’. He shook her hand, his frustratingly dainty and pale hand for once fitting equally in her calloused and nut-brown one. “Consider this a business partnership.”
Business partnership. Please. They separated hands quickly, and they both made a show of wiping their hands on their trousers.
Well, Artemis thought as Butler quietly directed Captain Short upstairs and he began the laborious, horrible, painful task of separating his gold in half, at least he’d never see her again.
Many months later, Artemis and Captain Holly Short sat across from each other in a rickety, freezing train bound for Murmansk. Butler was sitting next to Artemis, eyes closed and snoring gently, partaking in the ancient technique taught by Madame Ko of micro-napping while at complete alertness. At the slightest hint of trouble his Sig Sauer would be in his hand faster than Artemis could blink, but for the moment it gave him and Captain Short the illusion of privacy.
Artemis was stressed, and none of his usual calming techniques were working. It had occurred to him for the first time several hours ago that he may have made a lifetime enemy out of Ms.Opal Koboi. That wasn’t something he particularly wanted to deal with.
He was deep in the middle of formulating a plan for springing his father from Russian captivity when Captain Short interrupted his musings. She had been watching him the entire time with narrowed eyes, but Artemis was rapidly growing accustomed to the way she eyed him like he was a confusingly rabid wild animal. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“The predicaments my father gets himself into is, in an ideal world, none of your business, Captain,” Artemis said, faintly annoyed.
But Captain Short just shook her head. “Foaly and Root looked up the history of your family after we met, but I looked up you . Why didn’t you tell me you were a girl?”
“Because I’m not,” Artemis said shortly, “and my body is none of your business.” He closed his eyes, settling back against the icy metal wall as the train jerked and shuddered beneath them. “Don’t bother me with tedious questions, I’m trying to think of a plan.”
“I wasn’t trying to be rude, you know,” Captain Short said, a little miffed. “Our people haven’t interacted in thousands of years. For all I know, it’s traditional for baby geniuses to wear suits. I don’t know what’s normal for humans or not.”
Yes, Artemis thought, that was rather the nice thing about you. You hated me for me. “Tell me, Captain Short,” Artemis said, folding his hands over his chest as if he was a corpse, “do the People have a concept of homosexuality? Men engaging in intimate partnerships with other men, women with other women?”
“You can call me Holly,” Captain Short - Holly - said, as if it was simply more convenient that way. She scowled a little. “And of course we do. Try being the first female LEPrecon officer and go more than two days without someone upstart man accusing you of being a butch lesbian. The haircut is regulation, dicks.”
Interesting. “So you live in a society with homophobia,” Artemis mused aloud, “and with sexism, with prejudice and othering. Humans are the same way. Don’t you find that strange, Holly? That two societies, one of which is technologically advanced beyond the common human’s wildest dream, possessed of beautiful magic, are so similar in such a pedestrian way? What’s the purpose behind that? You can hardly call it human nature.”
Holly was silent, fiddling with the settings on her Neutrino. Artemis considered telling her that human society seemed to be even a little more socially progressive than the People’s - after all, it had been common to have women in law enforcement since the 1970s - but he didn’t have the energy for another fight right now. Besides, they were...what was this called? Bonding?
“I won’t say anything to Foaly and Root,” Holly said finally. She smiled weakly. “Though it would be funny to tell old turnip face that he was outwitted by a human girl.”
Artemis made a mental note that Holly deeply yearned for female companionship. Useful weakness, if it came to it. Manipulating people was so easy. He didn’t know why more people didn’t do it.
“I hardly think my birth sex could make the good Commander respect me any less,” Artemis said finally. “I do not care what he or Foaly think of me. Regardless, I would...appreciate it if you kept it under your hat.”
Holly mimed zipping her mouth shut, smiling weakly, and Artemis found himself smiling back. “You got it, Mud Boy.”
A question rose unbidden in Artemis’ throat, a simple urge to ask Holly if she knew any queer faries. Were there subcommunities, a secret culture? Would Artemis ever have the opportunity to sneak into fairy gay bars? Would Holly take him? Were there others like him, as strange as he was, weirdos among the three feet tall?
But he kept his mouth shut, and swallowed the urge. Once he rescued his father - and he would, it was a matter of only hours - everything would change. Eoghan Fowl would remind his newly supportive mother that Artemis was unseemly in suits, they would re-enroll him in St. Mary’s, and it would be the end of what little freedom Artemis had squeezed out for himself.
To get what you wanted, you had to give up everything first.
The train shuddered on, towards Murmansk, and Artemis plotted out his future.
Getting his father back wasn’t as bad as Artemis had feared.
It was a thousand times worse.
The months between Holly healing his mother and receiving the hostage video from the Russians weren’t perfect, but they were easier. Even fairy magic couldn’t cure grief, but his mother had stopped hallucinating and had a complete attitude change regarding his transition. Suddenly he was her ‘handsome son’, ‘beautiful waen’, and ‘brave little fighter’. She made him watch Paris is Burning with her. She made Facebook posts about the struggles, turmoils, and joy of being the parent of a trans teen. Tedious, tedious, tedious, but altogether preferable to having to impersonate his grandfather for the tenth time.
Besides, Artemis loved his mother, and his mother had been persistently affectionate towards him. He wasn’t a monster.
But with his blessedly mindwiped, newly de-legged, and repetent father home, it was as if they were the perfect family again. Eoghan Andrew Fowl had found a new lease on life. Eoghan Andrew Fowl had, no joke, forgiven the bishop his gambling debts. They were going to mass.
Finding Jesus again was not Artemis’ problem. Fowl Industries going legit and aboveboard was annoying, but manageable. Having both parents around to fret over Artemis self-administering his puberty blockers was indescribably obnoxious.
“For the last time,” Artemis said, folding his hands on the table and leaning forward. Both his parents were sitting across from him, serious expressions stapled onto regal features. They had called a family meeting. In person. When Artemis was a child his father communicated with him primarily through business emails. “It’s perfectly safe. All the implant does is delay puberty until I’m old enough to go on testosterone. I’ve been on it since I was eleven.”
“And I only just now noticed?” Artemis Fowl Senior cried, wringing her hands. “I’m such a bad mother! I can’t believe I let you go through your transition experience alone, Artemis!”
“You can’t buy medication on the black market anymore, Artemis,” his father said firmly. “We’re going to do this above board from now on. That means finding a real psychiatrist for you.”
Artemis groaned, fighting the urge to massage his forehead. “Those doctors are quacks and needing a psychiatrist for a drug cis people recieve from their general practicioner is transphobic. I refuse, Father.”
“We’ll go with you,” his mother said eagerly. “I was talking with my girl friend Molly O’Hare - you remember her, Art, from the Christmas party? - and she says that her son Aiden always sees the best doctor in Dublin for his shots. Have you met Aiden? Oh, he’s lovely. He has pink hair, you know. Wouldn’t you like pink hair?”
“You can have pink hair if you want, Art,” his father said, awkwardly.
Butler, from where he was sitting in the back of the room working on his crocheting, snorted under his breath. Artemis grit his teeth.
“I will see a general practitioner over the hormone blockers,” Artemis conceded, hoping that would get them off his back. “But I put my foot down on the psychiatrist. We will revisit that when I go on testerone. Is that acceptable?”
“The same testosterone which, of course, you haven’t bought illegally, or anything,” his father said wryly. “With the full intention of administering it to yourself without telling anyone. You would never do that.”
“Of course not,” Artemis said, “Butler would do it for me.”
“Don’t involve me in this,” Butler said, contentedly sewing away. He was making a rabbit pattern. It was lovely.
“Father, I found some discrepancies in this quarter’s expense report for Fowl Incorporated,” Artemis said, somewhat desperately. Appealing to his father as a business associate usually worked to change the subject. “Would you be amenable to reviewing them with me?”
“Oh, that’s so dull,” Artemis Fowl Senior tutted. “Why don’t we finally use those season passes I bought for the football league this weekend instead? I think Notre Dame and Navy are having a match! Wouldn’t that be nice, dears?”
Incredibly, unbelievably, Eoghan Fowl brightened. “I haven’t been to a football game in years. Forget those expense reports. You up for a game of footy in the backyard, Art? I can teach you!”
He would rather sniff Mulch’s business end. “Tempting, but reviewing expense reports by myself is much too time consuming. I must pass.” Artemis rose from the table, nodding at Butler, who serenely stashed his sewing in his pocket and rose to follow him out. “This has been very pleasant and affirming, you are both good parents, goodbye.”
The minute he left the room, making a mental note to review the surveillance footage on the no-doubt clandestine meeting his parents were now holding between themselves over their troublesome child later, he whirled on his heel and jabbed a special code into his cellphone. Butler, close behind him, nodded.
“Family meeting,” Artemis barked into the cell phone, “my study, right now.”
That is to say, an actual family meeting, not the cheap facsimile of one. Artemis had been holding tete-a-tetes between himself, Butler, and Juliet in his personal study since he was six. Ever since he had begun drafting his Grand and Master Plan To Extort Mythical Creatures, holding a bored Juliet and a patient Butler hostage in his study with a whiteboard and a deranged look in his eye was commonplace.
His parents didn’t have the keycode lock to his study. Butler, of course, did. Juliet had never been strictly given it, but she had guessed it when he was nine and out of respect for the feat Artemis had never changed it.
Sure enough, when Artemis pressed in the code and swung open the door he found Juliet already sitting on the plush couch pushed up against the far wall, chewing at the end of her ponytail and giggling over her phone. Butler sighed and moved to sit down next to her, pretending to snatch the phone out of her hands and inciting a miniature scuffle before Artemis wheeled out the large whiteboard and erased his previous work. When Butler and Juliet’s scuffle evolved into a miniature game of ‘who could disable the enemy’s right arm the fastest’ Artemis cleared his throat and clapped his hands, prompting the two to separate and cuing Artemis to point at the large title he had written across the top of the blackboard in flowing script: OPERATION 311: WHAT TO DO RE: PARENTS
“This better be quick,” Juliet complained, crossing her arms. “I have a date in three hours and I need to go get ready.”
“It never takes you longer than twenty minutes to put on your dress and do your make up, and La Madeline is a ten minute drive away,” Artemis said, bored. “Safiya is always thirty minutes late to your dates and you’ve forgotten to make the reservation. You’ll be fine.”
“I told you to stop going through my phone!”
“I don’t care about your ‘Snapchats’ or ‘Instagram’s,” Artemis said, making air quotes. “It’s Butler who always goes through your phone, not me. Whine to him.”
“It’s a matter of security,” Butler said, stone faced.
“Please,” Juliet scoffed, “what am I, Artemis? I can go more than twenty minutes unsupervised without commiting domestic terrorism.”
“Technically, it was international terrorism, considering how the People are a different society than ours -”
“What about that time when you were seven?”
Artemis fought a blush. He had been such an embarrassing seven year old. “That doesn’t have anything to do with this!”
But Juliet just grinned smugly, leaning back in her seat. “ And I remember that time with Mr. Fowl’s Jeep.”
“I know every hiding spot you have for your marijuana -”
“You sound like a cishet when you call it marijuana -”
“Artemis,” Butler said, cutting through the squabble like a hot knife through butter. “Can you explain the purpose behind this meeting? So Juliet can get to her date on time.” He eyed her purposefully. “And return on time.”
Satisfied that Juliet received the final tell-off, not him, Artemis gesticulated grandly at the board. “My creative genius is being stifled by the return of my parents. It is good that they are back, I love them the appropriate amount for a teenage boy, I am developmentally normal despite my heightened intelligence and I relate to them both in a healthy way, but I need both of them to go away for a very long time and possibly not return. My first idea is implanting the idea of a second honeymoon.” Artemis wrote in very large letters ‘BALI’. “Using advanced advertising techniques we shall subliminally suggest the idea of an extended vacation to Bali in both their minds, relieving me of their burden for at least a month.”
“What about after they come back?” Butler said. Artemis approved his propensity for thinking of the bigger picture.
“Is there such a thing as adult boarding school?” Artemis asked seriously. Butler buried his head in his hands. Juliet sniggered. “Ah. I suppose not.”
“We could send you off to boarding school instead,” Juliet suggested. “Like every other posh kid does when they’re sick of their parents.”
But Artemis just shook his head. “That would triple the level of supervision. Besides, it would interfere with my campaign for ‘homeschooling’.
“Turn them into babies,” Juliet said, with a completely straight face. “Then give them to daycare.”
“No, I doubt Holly would agree to help me with that.”
“Steal fairy technology, then mind wipe them so they forget you exist,” Butler said, bored.
“I would have to find a new house, and I’m very attached to this one. Next.”
“Tell them you’ve found a fairy wife and you have to go live with her underground,” Juliet suggested.
“I do not know any suitable fairy women.” Besides, last time Artemis tried downloading Fairy Tinder (for research’s sake) it had fried his phone. Fairy Grindr was best left unsaid. “Or any suitable fairy men.”
“Ugh, you should just go gay,” Juliet said. Butler plugged his ears theatrically. “It’s so much better. No dealing with annoying hets.”
“I haven’t hit puberty yet, Juliet,” Artemis replied waspishly. “I am uncertain of my sexuality, but I’m attempting to keep an open mind. If I had any choice over the matter, I would aim for asexuality. It is the most convenient, dignified, and useful sexuality. Can we stay on topic, please?”
Actually, Artemis was currently hard at work trying to develop a way to choose his own sexuality, but he wasn’t about to mention that. He couldn’t stay on puberty blockers forever, and he would quite frankly rather die than want to have sex with someone. The future was grim when you were a thirteen year old boy. The inevitable loomed.
“I have an idea,” Butler said, pushing up his sunglasses. “But it’s radical. Some might say insane.”
“You have my full attention, Butler.”
“How about,” Butler said slowly, “you talk to your parents. Tell them that they’re stifling you. Express your own dissatisfaction with how they raised you. Family therapy.”
“I’m not dissatisfied with how they raised me,” Artemis protested, hurt. “They were perfectly acceptable parents.”
Juliet unwrapped a piece of gum, popping it in her mouth as she propped her chin on her mouth, seemingly bored. “You used to cry because your dad treated you more like a business partner than a son. Your mom only paid attention to you to show off to all her housewife friends what a good mom she was.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Artemis asked.
Juliet and Butler looked at each other, carrying an intimate sibling conversation through wiggling eyebrows. Artemis, for all of his genius, had never quite managed to decipher them. Finally, Butler seemed to lose whatever argument they were having, because he sighed and stood up. “Look, Artemis,” he said awkwardly. Butler wasn’t good with feelings, especially Artemis’. Artemis really hated inconveniencing Butler or his parents, so he tried to have as few feelings as possible. “You are more dedicated to your family than anyone else I’ve ever met. You spent years of your life and millions of euros trying to rescue your father, and you sacrificed half of your fairy gold to restore your mother’s sanity. You are, at heart, a loving, caring person.”
“Ew,” Artemis said.
“But you don’t like your parents,” Butler continued, “and, frankly, they don’t deserve it. I’m just worried about you, Artemis. I’m worried that you’re going to spend the rest of your life searching for a relationship that they don’t know how to give.”
It was the kind of thing he and Butler never dared talk about before the recent disasters with the fairies. A late night conversation with Juliet, perhaps, him braiding Juliet’s long blonde hair as he indulged her childhood need for sleepovers, but never with Butler himself. Maybe all those near death experiences had changed their relationship.
He thought, irrationally, of Holly, and of the communicator sitting underneath a false bottom drawer in his desk in the same study that they sat in now. She always had something wise to say, and she was the only person in his life who wasn’t afraid to tell it to him straight. Sometimes a bit too straight. What would she say about this? Why did he want to know?
What did he want from his parents, really? A few months ago he would have said that he wanted them both to acknowledge his gender, to be home and present. He had those three things. But it wasn’t enough, and Artemis was left wondering what exactly about their relationship was unsatisfying.
Was it the fact that they didn’t see him? Him, for who he was? He felt more like a cardboard cut-out of a ‘trans son’ than he did of ‘Artemis’. Like all they had done was read WikiHow on how to raise him, instead of asking him. Like a prop, or an accessory, or a stand-in, which was all he had ever been to them.
Why had Artemis wanted them back? He had wanted parents who hugged him at night - but they never did that - parents who stopped annoying relatives and social workers from knocking on his door. That, they did well enough. Maybe Artemis had only wanted the cardboard cut-outs of parents too. He had never missed Eoghan and Artemis I, not really. He had missed who they had become in his mind, and he had missed what they could do for him.
In that respect, Artemis supposed that they were all very well-suited for each other.
“Dude,” Juliet stage-whispered, “you broke him.”
Artemis shook himself, and realized that he had been lost in thought for longer than was socially acceptable. Butler looked mildly worried, while Juliet chewed her gum. Artemis flashed a weak smile at Butler. “I am perfectly fine. And perhaps you are right, Butler. In any case, I do not regret that I saved the lives of two people who are very important to me. Holly - you know, Holly saved my life even when I had done nothing for her. She didn’t even like me.” Maybe she still didn’t like him. It was hard to tell with her. “I do not think I saved my parents under the condition that they act like how I wanted. I just saved them so they would be saved. Besides, I’m thirteen. Isn’t that too old for parents, anyway?” Artemis brightened. “Maybe I should reconsider our relationship, now that I am too old for attachment. More like - affectionate roommates.”
“Uh-oh,” Juliet said.
“Please don’t make me tell your parents that you’re demoting them,” Butler said, pained.
“Don’t think of it as demoting,” Artemis said eagerly, warming to his own idea. “Just as...orienting our expectations so nobody is disappointed.” He nodded professionally at Butler. “We will spend the next three hours devising plans on how to best avoid interacting with both of my parents on an indefinite basis, at least until I turn eighteen.”
“Back to square 1, then,” Butler said, pained. “I’ll start hinting at Bali.”
Juliet groaned. “I’m never going to make it to my date on time.”
I understand you gave me this communicator with the intention of video communiques, but with a little bit of tinkering I discovered the text function it also had. Please inform Foaly not to ‘child-lock’ his gadgets next time. I will surpass any child-locks. Please do not underestimate me.
It’s midnight over here, so that’s why I’m typing instead of talking. My bedtime is usually a very strict ten pm, so please do not tell Butler I am staying up too late or he will ground me. What time is it over there?
Are you well? Does your finger work okay?
I am keeping my head down and not doing anything any more illegal than usual. I am working on a new invention, but it is quite boring and harmless, so you shouldn’t worry about it.
Are there any queer agents in LEPrecon?
Artemis Angeline Fowl II
ARTEMIS FOWL -
- Will do, but that won’t stop him. I don’t think he'll stop under-estimating you until your voice finally drops, so if you have any mud man technology to make that happen you better hurry up. I’m much smarter than Foaly, so when he and Root finally figure out your secret I’m going to make a TON of money in the pool. Thanks for that! :)
- Juliet taught me how to make emoticons. :) Aren’t they cute?
- Again, my lips are sealed, but that is INCREDIBLY funny.
- I am doing fine. Work sucks, but if you ever get a real job you’ll see what I’m talking about. My finger is perfect, thanks to you. Still the best shot in the LEP.
- I’m still the best shot in the LEP, so if this machine of yours ever becomes my problem I’m shooting a hole through your laptop. >:(
- I don’t know, but I can ask. If I find out anything I’ll let you know.
- Your middle name’s ANGELINE?
- Can’t talk any more, gotta go to work.
CPT. HOLLY SHORT, LEP
If you agree to a small cut of your winnings (perhaps in the form of fairy technology?) I will aid in your deception by editing and locking my Wikipedia page. For a slightly larger cut, I can supply some strategic childhood photographs. Please consider it.
It is good that you are fine. I do not know why, but I think of you frequently. I am pleased to have my parents back, but I find myself nostalgic regarding our last adventure (Not the one before that). It occurs to me that I know a great deal about fairy technology, but not very much about fairy life. Maybe one day I could visit Haven? It is just a thought.
Still attempting to convince my parents to homeschool me. It appears I’ve been blacklisted by the nearby Catholic schools (for reasons too complicated to explain here), and Father has recently become a born again Christian (again, too complicated to explain) who disapproves of me receiving a secular education, so I may yet be successful. Mother frets that I won’t make any friends this way, but I have no desire for friends.
Did you have lots of friends as a child?
Artemis (Yes, Angeline - I’m trying to think of a new one) Fowl II
ARTEMIS FOWL -
- I’m glad your parents are doing well. You’re too young to be living by yourself - and servants who let you eat all the ice cream you want don’t count! I think of you frequently too. My life is never boring with you around. And work has been pretty boring lately! As a cop that’s supposed to be a good thing, but I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie…
- That is NOT permission to do anything that becomes my problem.
- Maybe when you’re 105, kid. Until then I don’t think Haven could survive you.
- Yeah, I don’t know what Catholic is, but good luck with avoiding all the other ankle biters. I don’t blame you. I didn’t have a lot of friends as a kid - I was always really intense. But I have Foaly now (yay?) and there’s still some uni roommates I keep up with. Ugh. That sounds pretty sad. Maybe I need a boyfriend? :/
- There are queer LEPrecon offiers! Officer Baloosh and Officer Spritz have been living together for ten years. They were surprised to hear me ask, but invited me to the local gay bar all the off-duty gay cops always frequent this weekend. I think they thought I was gay too, but they started telling me about their last vacation in Rome and it was incredibly cute. Maybe this is a good opportunity to make new friends! Thanks for the mission, Artemis. They seem to be a close knit community - maybe if your Mam is worried about you making friends, you can find other queer teens? Just a thought.
CPT. HOLLY SHORT, LEP
Would it ever be possible to move to Haven? I am sick of Ireland. I know it’s not any better than here, but at least it’s different. You’re the only person I’ve ever actually connected with and I’m not sure if you’re aware that it is unlikely I will live to 105 -
I have everything I ever wanted, why am I not happy -
I will stay on my best behavior. If you are lucky, you shall not see me again until I’m 105.
(That is, of course, unless Haven requires my help. I am always willing to lend my aid towards the good People - for a nominal fee, of course.)
Still trying to think of the perfect middle name. Juliet keeps on suggesting Butler’s first name, but I don’t know it, so that would be difficult. Then she keeps on suggesting her name, which would ruin the point. Jules? Julius? The latter may be preferable simply for the look on Root’s face.
I will consider meeting other queer teens. Statistically, I will likely want to marry someone eventually. As you say, :/. They’re all weird, anyway.
Do the People have a pill that will guarantee asexuality? Just a thought,
Artemis Angeline Fowl II
PLEASE COME TO DUBLIN IMMEDIATELY THIS IS AN EMERGENCY I AM SENDING YOU THE COORDINATES BUTLER’S LIFE DEPENDS ON IT PICK UP YOUR PHONE.
Artemis Angeline Fowl II
“You have taken everything from me, little girl,”' Jon Spiro shouted. “Everything.”
Artemis was strangely calm - through the misgendering, which Spiro had partaken in since the first second they had met, up until now. “'You don't understand, Jon. It's like I told you. I am not here.” He paused for breath. “And one more thing. I am a male, Mr. Spiro. About my name – Artemis - you were right. In London, it is generally a female name, after the Greek goddess of archery. But every now and then a male comes along with such a talent for hunting that he earns the right to use the name. I am that male. Artemis the hunter. I hunted you.”
And just like that, he disappeared.
Not for the first time, fairy electronics crowded Fowl Manor. Artemis itched to get his hands on them, to strip them down to their hard drive and see what made them tick. From beside him Butler, newly aged, newly young, chewed his lip thoughtfully. Juliet, always mimicking her brother, chewed the end of her ponytail. It looked more dangerous when she did it.
He watched as they dumped the capsule’s contents on the Tunisian rug. Hard drives and thumb drives containing Artemis’ diary fanned across the carpet.
Foaly examined a disk. “Something else you forgot to mention?”
Artemis faked a wince. “It slipped my mind.”
“That’s it, I suppose. There’s nothing else.” Foaly made a show of stroking his chin, forcing Artemis to repress the instinct to roll his eyes. It might disturb the contacts. “Unless there’s something else you’d like to tell us?”
“I was born biologically a woman, and I’ve been collaborating with Holly Short in order to hide this from you so she might win the betting pool on when my voice would drop.”
Foaly brayed in amusement, slapping his own hindquarters, and Holly buried her head in her hands. “Good one, Artemis! Everyone knows girls biologically aren’t capable of being as nasty as you. Pull the other hoof.”
“You’re going to get a surprise going through those memories,” Holly muttered. Was it Artemis’ imagination, or did she look unhappy to be mind wiping him? Was it just wishful thinking?
“Enough chitchat!” Root boomed, and everyone winced. “If you don’t mind, we’d like to ask you a few questions while you’re under the mesmer, and this time you won’t be wearing sunglasses.”
Artemis set his jaw in a teenage surly expression. “This is an infringement on my human rights, you know. I should sue.”
Everyone ignored him, as they probably should. Holly removed her helmet, massaging the tips of her ears - perhaps for increased circulation? - and grimaced at Artemis. “I'm going to mesmerize you and ask a few questions. It's not the first time you've been under, so you know that the procedure is not painful. I advise you to relax; if you try to resist, it could cause memory loss or even brain damage.”
Artemis held up his palm. “Wait a moment. Am I right in thinking that when I wake up again this will all be over?”
Holly smiled indulgently, like a parent, and something in Artemis’ gut twisted. “Yes, Artemis. This is goodbye, for the last time.”
So even she left him. “Well then, I have a few things to say.” Everyone except Butler and Juliet groaned, undoubtedly expecting some overly long speech. He wasn’t that bad, was he? “Two things. Then I’ll never darken your doorsteps again.” Artemis’ lips quirked into a smile. “You’ll go down in history, Commander. The first officer to successfully get rid of Artemis Fowl II.”
“You aren’t that important, kid,” Root said, but he looked uncertain. Artemis smirked wider.
“I want you all to think back to the first time you met me. Remember that night?” On cue, everyone shuddered again. “If you take away the memories and influences of the People, I might become that person again. Is that really what you want?”
Holly turned to the screen. “Is it possible? Artemis has come a long way. Do we have the right to destroy all that progress?''
“He's right,” added Foaly. “I never thought I would say this, but I kinda like the new model.”
Root opened another computer window on the screen. “The Psych Brotherhood did this probability report for us. They say the chances of a reversion are slim. Fowl will still have strong positive influences from his family and the Butlers.''
Artemis grimaced. More psychologists. He ignored the way Juliet snorted and Butler rolled his eyes, and the way even Holly looked skeptical. Perhaps none of them trusted the healing influence of parental love. Go fig.
“The Psych Brotherhood?” objected Holly. “Argon and his cronies? And when exactly did we start trusting those witch doctors? There’s never been a doctor alive who understood Fowl.”
Root opened his mouth to yell, but thought better of it. Not something that happened every day. “Holly,” he said, almost gently. “The future of our culture is at stake here. The bottom line is that Artemis's future is not our problem.”
Holly's mouth was a grim slash. “If that's true, then we're as bad as the Mud People.”
The concern was surprising to Artemis. Had she really been a friend to him? Why was she so invested in his happiness, in his good nature and in the way he would live the rest of his life? It wasn’t her problem, especially not now. Holly Short wasn’t obligated or paid to care. So why did she?
The commander decided to revert to his usual mode of communication. “Listen to me, Captain,” he roared. “Being in command means making tough decisions. Not being in command means shutting up and doing what you're told. Now mesmerize those humans before we lose the link.”
“Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir.” Holly stood directly in front of Artemis, careful to make eye contact. “Just try to relax, Artemis. This won’t hurt. Ugh, I can’t believe I’m doing this to a little kid…”
“I never got to say my second thing,” Artemis said weakly.
“For Pete’s sake, Fowl!” Root bellowed.
“I wanted to say, Captain Short,” Artemis said a little louder, “that I never decided on a middle name. What do you think of Donovan?”
“Dark princeling? Dramatic.” It also sounded a wee bit like Domovoi - something that did not pass by Butler, who abruptly seemed to become choked up - but Holly smiled at him, something in her eyes sparkling, and all of Artemis’ worries fell away. He let his eyelids droop. Her voice was layered with bass and alto, the hypnotic layers of the mesmer. “That was some job we did on Spiro, eh?”
Artemis affected a sleepy smile. “Yes. The last adventure. No more hurting people.”
“You don’t really like hurting people,” Holly said, “do you, Artemis?”
“No,” Artemis confessed, “when I was younger I thought it might make me feel good. But it just made me feel bad. I like being a good guy. Like you, Holly.”
He was laying it on a little thick, but he was rewarded when all the fairies in the room abruptly seemed very uncomfortable. “I understand. We had good times. I bet you would do anything to hang onto your fairy memories?”
She interrogated him, and Artemis gave her what she asked for. It was simple - he really did feel half mesmered - and he gave up his failsafes. The art of deflection. Show them what they want, and everyone’ll go home happy…
Holly didn’t buy it 100%, because she wasn’t an idiot, but intelligence never stood up against impatient bureaucrats. They finished interrogating him far too soon - he would have stretched it on for ten more minutes, at least - and slid the masks over Butler and Juliet’s faces. She did him last, her touch careful, and Artemis was not scared, his plan would work, he was not scared, he trusted that the fairies were idiots and that he would win just like he always did -
Artemis lost consciousness rapidly, and he felt himself slump into his chair, and he surprised himself with a dream.
He dreamed of a memory, himself aged ten years old, with glossy black hair down to his waist and a disgustingly ruffly purple dress. He was talking to a grown man with ragged black hair who somewhat resembled Hozier, and a far more familiar fairy with baby fat clinging to her cheeks. The fairy was carrying a lemur, for whatever reason.
“I don’t believe you,” Artemis demanded. “You don’t look anything like me. Give me back my lemur, I need that for my father!”
“You’re a smart kid, Artemis,” the man said, annoyed. He was constantly running his hand along the length of his stubble, as if he wasn’t used to it. “Look, I’m you, plus or minus about ten years of testosterone. Also time travel. I know you don’t actually care about your father, so just give me the lemur.”
“Are you crazy?” Artemis said, disgusted. “I’m not a boy. If you’re going to lie to me you have to do a better job of it than that.”
“Ugh,” the fairy said, “we don’t have time for this -”
But Artemis was lying, because Artemis was a boy, and this man standing before him was everything he had ever wanted in his life. He was every hope and dream he had ever had, every self-portrait he had ever painted, every forbidden secret he had ever wished. He was the first future Artemis had ever seen that he wanted.
It was his shaggy hair, his swagger and his bearing, and the just right clothes he was wearing. The pecs and the muscles and they were alike in such a certain way, despite not being alike at all. He was handsome, and Artemis knew him.
The Hozier looking man, Artemis, crouched down and stared intently into his eyes. “I really hate to be your gay awakening, Artemis, because you’re just a shitty little kid right now. But you can change, okay? There will be people in your life that can help you change. Your shitty - they’re awful, Artemis, just trust me on that - your shitty parents aren’t going to do it, but your friends will. Find Holly. Everything will be fine.”
Did this happen? Did this really happen? Or did Artemis just want it to happen?
“Hey," the fairy says, as the lemur tries to eat her hair, "maybe we should be more empathetic towards the children we once were and recognize ourselves as products of our environments as abuse victims?"
“You’re a lot naggier as a teenager,” the man said.
The dream slipped through Artemis’ fingers, and when he awoke all he remembered was the man, one eye identical to Artemis’, boring into him, illuminating his sins.
Artemis awoke, neatly tucked into bed, which was strange. Nobody tucked him into bed anymore. He reached over to his bedside journal, ready to scribble some of his midnight inspiration, only to find it missing. His nightstand was clean, actually. It was almost never clean.
He found a loose ballpoint pen and post it note anyway, made his note - Testosterone? - and promptly fell back asleep. The next plot could wait for the morning.
“And - done!”
Artemis leaned back in his ergonomic chair, crossing his hands behind his hand and smirking. Butler, from where he was doing push-ups from behind Artemis, didn’t look up.
“Do you hear that, Butler?” Artemis asked, just to be obnoxious.
Butler grunted. He had been struggling more with his work-out routine lately. He claimed that he had been experiencing shortness of breath. “Do I hear - ugh - what?”
“The sweet sound of hundreds of thousands of euros being wired to my bank account this instant,” Artemis bragged. “Another successful con! A sucker is born every minute, Butler. You’d do well to remember that.”
“Of course, sir.” Butler stood up, huffing for breath, and grabbed a rag off the table to wipe his sweating face. “Your parents are expecting you for dinner soon, so it might be best to take a break and wash your hands before dinner.”
“Can’t,” Artemis said breezily. “Much too busy studying for this online test.”
“They won’t believe that, sir.”
“I’m chatting up a girl online,” Artemis quickly amended. “Amelia Flanagan. She has blue hair, but is a natural redhead. Satisfied?”
“They aren’t stupid, Artemis.”
“God, whatever.” Artemis swiveled in his chair back to his computer, typing away furiously as he switched tabs back to a pet project: creating a video game mod that crashed the Minecraft servers of all who downloaded it. He had started it up after his Mother kept insisting that he should play video games ‘like a normal boy!’. “Tell them I’m busy playing video games. Or tell them I don’t give a twit, that should work!”
Butler’s expression never twitched from his poker face, but he nodded stiffly and left the study. Artemis had no doubt that Butler would edit his words for parental approval, but he didn’t really care. He would probably use the T excuse again.
Which was unfair. Sure, after four months on testosterone Artemis had found his temper incredibly short, had found himself growing irrationally angry at little inconveniences, and was uncomfortably smelly, but Artemis was stronger than hormones and could overpower them easily. Besides, he was getting facial hair. Artemis’ body had never been more ideal.
God, he needed out of the house. He hadn’t done anything interesting in…years, actually. Two years sitting on his thumbs waiting for his father to get back, two more years working on endless fruitless schemes. There was the great heist that got him half a ton of gold, and the other one that scored him 500 million dollars, but those little adventures were so uninteresting Artemis barely remembered them.
At least, now that he was paying some internet loser to take his online classes for him, he had time to work on his painting. It was therapeutic, and helped alleviate the random fits of passion the T would send him into.
The last hurdle was convincing his parents that he and Butler simply absolutely necessitated a three day trip to Munich. Perhaps he should tell the truth, but tell it slant, and say that it was the only way he could visit the Munich art museums as extra credit for class.
Then they’d want to go with him. Well, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. Getting out of the house, bonding over the beauty of art, his parents listening attentively as he described in laborious detail the history of each art work and the painting techniques...that might not be so bad.
Hm. There he was, idealizing his parents again. A better working relationship wouldn’t go amiss, and he did love them, but he didn’t like them. But, then again, there wasn’t anyone Artemis did like (Butler and Juliet hardly counted). He had never really had any friends.
Artemis, almost absentmindedly, skimmed some more money off the top of the bank accounts he had hacked into. Good thing he didn’t want any. Besides, he was pretty sure he was incapable of such a thing. No use wanting what you couldn’t have. Artemis was practical.
To make himself feel better, he took off his shirt and snapped his daily progress picture, adding it to the slideshow. He had tried working out at first, but quickly found that he hated it more than quite possibly any other activity he could possibly do, so nowadays he suited for obsessing over the size of his pecs (not breasts!) and testing out his voice to see if it had dropped yet. He had a bet to -
Anyway, voice still not dropped, but he was working on it. Artemis pulled up a triple-encrypted word document where he liked to plot out of all of heists, deleting the newly completed one and beginning work on the next one. It was a bit of work to make sure that he was typing everything out in his personal code, made using only Wingdings, but it was worth it for the extra security.
So he had been a bit of a workaholic lately. So what? Juliet wasn’t here to bug him into going shopping with her anymore, his parents were always running off on their newest romantic getaway, and Butler had seemingly turned into an old man overnight. What else was there to do except work?
Artemis, before he could even think through the action, pounded the desk with his fist. He cursed under his breath, wringing out his aching hand, abruptly embarrassed. Why had he done that? Stupid T. God, he needed more money, that would make him feel better -
“Artemis?” Butler knocked once and opened the door, tray balanced on one hand. “What was that thump? Did you drop something?”
“Only my dignity,” Artemis muttered, shaking out his hand. “I am growing weary of these mood swings, Butler. When does puberty end?”
“I ask myself that every day,” Butler said, straight faced. He put the covered tray of food on one of Artemis’ desks. “Perhaps a few rounds in the gym will make you feel better?” Artemis resisted the urge to make a face, but Butler read his intentions anyway. “Very well. Feel free to work out your aggression by stealing more money, then.”
“I was not,” Artemis said primly, switching word documents with a quick keyboard shortcut. He snuck a glance at his screen to check what he had supposedly been working on. “I was, uh, thinking of new middle names. What’s your opinion on Julius?”
“Terrible,” Butler replied instantly.
“Yes, I rather think so too.” Artemis scrolled down the list, brow furrowing. He barely remembered writing half of these. He hadn’t opened up this document in months. “Morgan? Domovoi? Donovan? Perhaps Eoghan, please my father -”
But Butler had frozen stock still, eyes wide. “What was that middle one?”
“Donovan? I know dark princeling is a little dramatic, but -”
“No, Artemis, the one before it.” Butler crossed the study in almost two strides, hand fisting on the back of Artemis’ ergonomic gaming chair and leaning over to see the computer screen. “Where did you hear that name?”
“Domovoi. Slavic, with a rich history. Deified progenitors, or rather fountainhead ancestors of the kin.” Artemis shrugged. “Keeps up with the godhood theme. I’m quite fond of it.” He hesitated. “Although, if you dislike it, I can delete it from the list…”
“I didn’t ask what it meant,” Butler said, almost harshly. “I asked where you had heard it from.”
Despite himself, Artemis shrank back in his seat a little. He had never seen Butler quite so alarmed. Was alarmed the right word? “I don’t know,” Artemis said, almost afraid. “A dream, maybe? My dream journal went missing, so I can’t say for sure, but - why are you so upset? Butler?”
A long second passed, then two, and then Butler just shook his head. He massaged his chest, which he had taken up the habit of doing, and dug in his voluminous pocket for his cell phone. “I have to call Juliet. I’ll be...right back.”
He escaped the room as if hellhounds were on his tail, already dialing a number on his phone, and Artemis watched him go in shock. What about a single name could have bothered Butler so badly? The man didn’t flinch when staring down tro -
Anyway, unless Butler specifically asked Artemis to delete it, he would not do so. He was fond of the name. It felt powerful and masculine. Artemis shrugged, dismissing the thought from his mind, and went back to his Minecraft modding task.
But even as he worked on crashing thousands of servers for no other reason than the fact that he found Minecraft annoying, questions plagued him. His dream journal wasn’t the only thing that had gone missing. There had been the mirrored contacts, which his friend in Limerick had insisted been special order from Artemis himself.
Artemis didn’t forget things. At least, he never used to. Now he, Butler, and Juliet all had scars they didn’t remember getting, upturned ground in Fowl manor that they never remembered disturbing, and a four year span where, apparently, Artemis had just not gotten up to much.
Which was ludicrous, if you knew Artemis. There was never five minutes before a new scheme.
His - ugh - neurologist said that it was likely that he had repressed memories during his father’s traumatic disappearance. Fair enough, but that didn’t account for between the ages of twelve and fourteen, during which nothing had happened. His parents were overjoyed that he finally seemed to be settling down. Artemis was disturbed, because he did not wish to.
Sometimes, he caught himself addressing thoughts in his head to someone, before he became conscious of the thought and it fizzled out. It was strange.
Dear someone, Artemis would think, I miss you.
But who did he miss? Juliet? She video called him almost every day, asking for more money to spend on Mexican girlfriends (which Artemis almost always gave - he wasn’t a cockblock). His parents were, blessedly, right in the dining room, annoying him to death.
Dear someone, Artemis would think, I am sick of Ireland. I would like to move to where you are. I know it isn’t better, but at least it’s different. Do you think there’s room for me there? Before I’m 105? Ha, ha.
Sometimes he looked over his shoulder, expecting to find someone, only to find empty space. Sometimes he wished someone would protect him, or make him feel better, only to find nobody but Butler there. Sometimes he felt a stabbing knife of guilt and regret in his heart over absolutely nothing. These feelings often got misplaced into refraining from interfering in American elections.
Maybe he was lone - hah, no way. Maybe he was bored. More likely.
Artemis opened a new word document, titling it simply ‘diary’. It was really quite strange, how he had never kept one before this. He ran it through the standard encryptions, setting the font to Wingdings and hovering his finger over the keys.
Dear X , Artemis wrote, it happened again - something strange...
In the end: probably a good idea his parents hadn’t gone with him to Munich. Artemis doubted that Butler could thrown his dainty mother and one-legged father through a third story window on a mattress.
At least, Artemis thought fuzzily before he lost consciousness, red blooming on his favorite shirt, his life wasn’t boring anymore.
In the corner, a familiar girl was sitting on a folding chair, breath hitching with sobs. It was fairly shocking: people rarely cried in front of Artemis. They didn’t like to see him win.
“You shouldn’t cry in front of men, you know,” Artemis said, letting her know he was awake. He felt like an idiot lying on such a scratchy and cheap mattress, but beggars can’t be choosers. “They tend to see it as a weakness.”
The girl - woman? Her proportions were off - smiled weakly at him. “We both know that you’re a lot more than that, Artemis.”
Artemis did a double-take. Her ears were pointed. Logically, a bizarre prosthesis. Maybe she was a Trekkie. But what kind of Trekkie with a developmental disorder kidnapped rich young people from their sky mattresses and dumped them in motels?
He had been raised to fear being locked in motel rooms with strange people, but when Artemis gently kneaded the front of his shirt he found that there was no wound. He had memory problems, but he distinctly remembered blinding pain and broken bones. Now it was healed, without so much as a bandage. Overenthusiastic cosplayers couldn’t do that.
“Am I being kidnapped?” Artemis demanded, childhood lessons of everything unscrupulous people would love to do to rich young girls swimming through his head. “I have a bodyguard, you know. He’ll find you!”
The woman - she was very pretty, Artemis’ hormones noted - blinked at him in shock, so surprised she forgot to cry, before she barked a laugh. Then she kept laughing, almost doubling over, and Artemis found himself growing more and more peeved off. He hated not understanding the joke. Artemis was a genius, but he didn’t understand jokes frequently. He was very sensitive about it. And no, Mother, he was not autistic! Not that there was anything wrong with that!
“Sorry,” the woman gasped, and there really was no better feeling than pretty older women laughing at you, really, Artemis loved it. “I don’t mean to - hah! Sorry. D’arvit, I can’t believe I’m laughing at a time like this.” She hiccuped again, only this time it was closer to a sob than a laugh. “Tell me, Artemis. Are you happy? Because...because if you’re happy, I’ll drop you off back home, and you’ll never hear from me again. You can go back to your life, and your loving parents, and your bodyguards. You’ll never have to worry about fairies or get into ridiculous near-death situations ever again. If you...say the word, Artemis, you can go back to your life.”
She was being obtuse, and incomprehensible, and Artemis wanted answers. But he found himself seriously thinking about what she said, as if he genuinely respected her, as if she respected him enough to give him the choice.
Artemis wasn’t in the habit of trusting people with his feelings. Or, really, admitting he had them in the first place. He was in the habit of making the best of bad situations, and he had an uncanny ability to make the best life for himself possible. Artemis Fowl wasn’t a victim, or a child. And he didn’t have any friends.
“And if I say no?” Artemis asked, instead of the million and one things he wanted to know. “What happens then?”
The woman’s mouth set in a firm line. “Then I could really, really use your help.”
“I don’t do math homework,” Artemis said, almost automatically.
But that just made the woman laugh again. “This is a bit bigger than math homework, I’m afraid. Listen, Artemis. My name’s Captain Holly Short, of LEPrecon. That is, Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance Unit.” Ew, a cop. “Yes, I’ve seen that face from you before. I’m what you might call a fairy.”
...he knew it.
Well, he hadn’t. But he didn’t need to tell her that (Her? She looked like a woman, but it was unlikely fairies understood gender as humans did). Artemis crossed his arms. “I assume you incompetently wiped my memory after the last time we met.”
Captain Short blanched. “How did you know?”
“Incompetently,” Artemis stressed. “You can’t erase four years - so that’s where all that money came from - without leaving some trace behind, you know. I’ve noticed many inconsistencies in my life. Butler’s aging - a curse, I suspect - Mother’s health, Father’s rescue, my unexpected financial windfalls…” Artemis ticked them off on his hand, as Captain Short looked less and less amused by him. “Let me guess: I stole money from you, you didn’t like it, and you mind wiped me. I must have bought your services in saving my parents somehow.”
“You really have no faith in yourself,” Captain Short said, “do you?”
“On the contrary.” Artemis hopped off the bed, breathing experimentally. Good as new. Fairy magic. It was hard not to feel giddy. Magic was real! Oh, he knew it! He had always known! “I am the one person I trust completely. It is not you informing me of the fantastical, it is me putting together the pieces for myself that convince me so thoroughly. Sure, this could be the greatest ruse of all time, but unless the People are as intelligent as I am I doubt it.”
“We are as intelligent as you.”
“Then why do you need my help?” Artemis asked promptly, folding his arms behind his back. Captain Short groaned, and Artemis knew that he had scored a point. “I’d be happy to help you, Captain Short. For a small fee.”
“Wow,” Captain Short said, unamused. At least she was distracted from the crying. “You were telling the truth the last time we met. You really haven’t changed from when you were twelve. I almost feel bad about it. Almost.”
Okay, so apparently they hadn’t been bosom buddies. Unsurprising, considering how many times he had probably ripped her - her? - off. “Excuse me,” Artemis said, “before we go any further - what are your pronouns? Do you use human ones? I can accommodate.”
Captain Short blinked at him. Had he never asked this before? “Uh, I’m a woman. She/hers, in your language, I guess?” Another question - how was she speaking English? With an Irish accent, no less? Undoubtedly magic. Oh, Artemis would give up an eye to be able to speak any language. How exciting. Could magic be stolen? “Sorry, it’s not normal in the LEP to ask that…”
Fairies had a gender. Fascinating. If Artemis hadn’t liked money so much, he would have been a sociologist in another life. Maybe he still could be: the first fairy sociologist! “Then it seems like we still have a lot to learn about each other,” Artemis said politely. He was seeing the beginning of a beautiful working relationship between him and Captain Short. She hadn’t tried to kill him yet, and had in fact actively prevented him from dying, which made this quite possibly the most pleasant first meeting Artemis had ever had with someone who he wasn’t paying. “My fee would be a very small matter for a woman of your talents, Captain Short. I will have to interrogate you on the inner workings of magic at length later -”
“Under no circumstances.”
“Much later,” Artemis amended. “I was merely curious if your magic could heal me. I was born with an - usual affliction. If you had some sort of fairy spell to change my body to my exact specifications, I think we could work very well together. Of course, if that’s impossible, there is always gold -”
Artemis had once read a story. He rarely read fiction, but this one had caught his eye. It had been a fairy tale, one so old it was almost new again, where a young man born a woman had sold his unnecessary organs to a witch in exchange for the life of the woman he loved. It had captured Artemis’ imagination: the idea that with a wave of your hand, you would be whole again. Nothing missing. Everything there.
But Captain Short looked apologetic again, and Artemis felt his hopes sink. “What you’re thinking of is some incredibly heavy bio-modding, Artemis. We’d probably be capable of it with technology, but magic just doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry.” She half-smiled at him, somewhat crooked, somewhat pained. “If it makes you feel any better, Foaly lost his horseshit once he went through your memories.”
Incredibly, strangely, Artemis found himself smiling back. “Did you win your bet?”
“Oh,” Captain Short said, “I made bank.”
“Then you wouldn’t object -”
“That money is my reward for dealing with you for two years.” Captain Short scrubbed at her eyes, taking a deep breath, but when she looked at him again her gaze was resolute, and calm, and it occurred to Artemis for the first time that Captain Short was a better person than he was. Not that it was hard, but - most of the time, he didn’t care. “I better tell you everything, then. From the beginning. Save your questions for the end.”
And she told him. Everything.
A secret life, a life that Artemis had known nothing about. Childhood idiocy. A dream half-remembered, a fairy holding a lemur. Julius. Desperate hope, Butler and Juliet thinking he was crazy for years, lies on lies on lies, Opal Koboi -
It was like the plot of a children’s cartoon he had watched when he was two years old, barely recalled, yet familiar. But Artemis remembered none of it - could not imagine himself saving Captain Short’s finger, could not picture himself as Artemis the Hunter. It had happened to someone else. Someone who was cooler, maybe, or someone who was nicer (Amnesty International? Seriously?). For the first time, Artemis found himself jealous of himself, of a life never lived. Of a life that could have been real, exciting, instead of ordinary and dull and monotone.
It was a common joke in his age group that everyone was just a little disappointed when they turned eleven and didn’t receive their Hogwarts letter. Artemis had only read Harry Potter to see what all the fuss was about, but he had never felt that. Maybe this is what the other children his age had experienced when their eleventh birthday rolled around and there was no letter promising the life that you knew, deep in your heart, you deserved: disappointment, and a feeling like someone had stolen something from you.
The fairies had stolen his life, and he would never forgive them.
“Of course I don’t remember,” Artemis said, when he saw how disappointed Captain Short (“You really just called me Holly, Artemis”) was when nothing jogged in his memory. “That’s not how the subconscious works. I know my own mind, Holly. The only way I would ever get my memories back is if someone I trust presented me with irrefutable evidence.”
Holly crossed her arms. “And who is this one person you trust?”
Well, Butler. But, all other things considered…”Why, myself, of course.”
Downside: Artemis had a nemesis.
“Here we are,” Opal Koboi drawled, “the Temple of Artemis.” Artemis, who had made it his life goal never to be handcuffed yet prepared for every eventuality, was busy working away on the handcuffs as Holly looked strongly as if she was just barely restraining herself from throttling Opal Koboi. It was hot. “Now, why do you suppose someone would name a male child after a female goddess?”
Upside: she was an idiot.
Artemis shrugged, faux-casually. “It’s my mother’s name, and she said that naming a child Eoghan after my father would be downright cruel. It can be unisex, and Artemis is viewed somewhat as the patron god of the queer community. I think it’s very fitting.”
“I don’t know what that means and I don’t care,” said Opal Koboi, the wannabe human, fairy to the last. “You’ll die here, so better pray to your patron god while you still can.”
Strong words from someone Artemis was 80% sure wanted to hate-fuck Holly Short. Artemis just shrugged again. “ ‘There is no place for grief in a house which serves the muse’ “, Artemis quoted. Both women gave him bizarre looks, which he brushed off. “No appreciation for the classics, I see. More’s the pity.”
Dammit. He was missing his T shot. He was going to feel like shit tomorrow morning - if he survived, of course.
It wasn’t until they started the ‘running for their lives’ part of the adventure that the fear caught up with Artemis. He had been holding it at bay with sarcasm, but the adrenaline flooding through his system made his hands shake and palms sweat. But he was always sweaty anyway, so maybe that was nothing new.
He was going to die. He was going to die without ever having legally changed his gender, or gotten bottom surgery. He was going to die, and the last thing he had ever said to his parents was a petty, hormone induced fight . He was going to die next to the fairy he barely knew, having only just found out that there was so much more to this boring world, and he was going to die without ever having been happy.
“I’m going to die a virgin,” Artemis moaned, as the rank breath of troll enveloped his senses. Claws as thick as his forearm swiped at him, and Holly quickly tugged him back. “I’ve never even kissed someone!”
“Who would ever want to kiss you?” Holly hit a troll on the head with a spare piece of debris, and hit Artemis on the head with her cruel words. “I mean, uh, no offense.”
“Juliet’s going to have fun with all of the money I left her in my will.” The light from the watch beamed harshly down on the pile, and the trolls retreated. It would buy them only minutes. “I hope Butler retires somewhere nice. My parents will undoubtedly replace me with new children, so they’ll be fine.”
“You’re being pretty calm about this, considering.”
“Opal Koboi is watching this and laughing, so I have no desire to go into hysterics.” Artemis sighed, falling down on his bum, and Holly gingerly sat down next to him. Her expression was grim, as if she had been expected to be killed by Artemis long ago and was surprised that they had lasted this long. Artemis recognized the look, as Butler wore it frequently. “Holly, you...have been a true friend to me, ever since I first met you all those years ago. I remember everything. I regret kidnapping you so much. I am...truly lucky to have known you.”
“Save it, Artemis,” Holly said, tired. “You don’t remember.”
“How did you know?” Artemis asked, surprised. Normally he was a perfect liar.
“You’d die before you ever admit that you regret kidnapping me.”
That isn’t quite true, Artemis thought, just before they were rescued.
He gets his memories back. Finally, some intelligent conversation.
Oh, disgusting, had he really thought Holly was attractive? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Yes, if you didn’t know her at all, but she was five times his age, good lord. Artemis wanted to pour bleach into his ear.
But more than that, Holly was his friend. He...had friends. More than one. Several. He had fucked with them, and screwed them over, and lied to them, but...they stuck around.
He stepped back into the cockpit of the shuttle, where everyone was having a serious conversation that stopped abruptly when he walked in. He was reminded, forcibly and nostalgically, of how they still somewhat treated him like a child. Not like his parents did, where they made decisions for him and talked over him, but as if they forgave him when he was weak because they knew that he couldn’t help it. That they knew he still had much to learn, and trusted him to do so. It was...gratifying.
Anyway, he was going to fuck with them. He shook his head regretfully, watching the way everyone’s faces fell. “No such luck. I’m afraid my memories are gone forever.”
Mulch abruptly seemed very concerned, and Holly looked distraught. Butler, who knew that Artemis never gave up on anything, rolled his eyes. Holly smiled weakly at him, for him. “It’s okay, Artemis. We’ll just make new memories. The important thing is that we take care of Opal Koboi, right? You can do that without your memories.”
Artemis stuck his hands in his pockets, shrugging theatrically. “See, about that. I’ve been thinking - I do that - and something occurred to me. How do I know that you haven’t been lying to me about our past? If I were you, and I wanted something from me, I would come up with the same scheme. Make me seem like the bad guy to make me feel guilty, spin a tale of redemption and friendship, and sell it to me on a silver platter. For all I know, you could be as bad as Koboi. What if I just want to go home with my bodyguard, and mind my own business? It’s your fault I was almost killed tonight, you know.”
“Are you serious?” Holly exploded, jumping upright from her seat. “After everything we’ve been through, you think I’m lying to you? You no good, sleazy little - !”
He made a show of inspecting his fingernails. “When we met earlier tonight you said that I could choose to engage with all of this. Well, I choose. To mind my own business.”
But Holly froze, an emotion Artemis couldn’t decipher flashing across her face, and she groaned. She dragged a hand across her face - too tired, as always, to put up with him. “If you wanted an apology you could have just said so.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Artemis said, the picture of innocence. “I’m suffering from memory loss.”
“You are more than free to terrorize Foaly next time you see him,” Holly bit out, “when I’m not wanted for murder. It wasn’t my decision, and the man who made the call is dead. Are you happy, Artemis? Is that revenge enough for you?”
He wasn’t happy, but he so rarely was. Artemis abruptly felt somewhat ashamed, and dropped the act. He stepped forward, reaching out, as if to pat Holly on the shoulder, but he withdrew his hand. He didn’t really do touch. “I’m not in the business of revenge,” Artemis said, “against anyone but Opal Koboi. Holly, I am...truly sorry about Root. I know how much he meant to you. He and I often butted heads, but I never truly considered us enemies. I know that he was a man of principles, and…” Artemis trailed off unexpectedly. “I missed him too.”
Holly sniffed, wiping her eyes again, but when she smiled at him Artemis knew that he could never really hold a grudge against her. Maybe the opposite was true too. “It’s good to have you back, Artemis. I just wish you could have seen the way he blew his top when Foaly showed him what he found in your memories.”
“A gross invasion of privacy that I do not find funny,” Artemis said pointedly, and Holly shrugged. But Artemis smiled back at her, and Butler slung an arm across Artemis’ shoulders that he pretended not to melt into. “But if you have the video, I would very much like to see it.”
Root had been a father figure to Holly, but in a weird way he was one to Artemis too. Artemis, long ago, had fantasized about it: admitting his past to Root, only for Root to chomp on his cigar and shake his fist at Artemis, bellowing, “I don’t care about your dumb mud man body, you’re a hell of a man whom I respect! Now get out of my sight!”
Even in his fantasies Root was kind of mean. But, in those fantasies, maybe Artemis worked with the LEP as a friend. A consultant, maybe. They gave him all the technology he wanted if he promised that he wouldn’t try to profit off it, and in those fantasies money wasn’t everything, because Artemis had something else…
Ugh. Artemis shivered. Fairy tales had turned him sentimental. He clapped his hands instead, beaming at the motley crew. They only had five hours to save the world, as the song went. “Now! Are we finally ready to save the day? For free?”
“Wow,” Holly said, “I think saying that physically pained you.”
“Revenge is its own reward,” Artemis promised.
And besides, there had to be something he could steal on this ship…
They won. It didn’t bring Root back, but it did make Artemis feel better. Artemis went home, embraced his parents, and emailed a certain video to Juliet.
Time passed. He went to the courthouse with both his parents and changed his name to Artemis Julius Fowl, and his gender to male. It made a stir in the media papers, but by that time many had simply been shocked that it had been necessary at all. Artemis changed his Wikipedia page himself.
He and his parents got frozen yogurt afterwards, Artemis’ a plain vanilla, and he thought that it might be the happiest day of his life.
Holly did well. She had already known Vinyaya from her weekends hanging out at the gay bar, and she overcame her grief for the sake of her job. She apparently started a PI business. She and Artemis chatted - not frequently, but often enough.
He continued fighting with his parents, but sometimes after a fight Artemis would let his mother hug him. It was a great step forward, and she was ecstatic. And every time Artemis had the incredible urge to steal something, he called Holly instead. It worked well.
Juliet returned, with yet another girl she swore up and down was her soulmate, and bothered Artemis until he admitted that he was likely bisexual. She still couldn’t get him to go to any queer youth groups, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Then, as was seemingly annual, Artemis found out demons existed and had a religious-induced breakdown where he considered for the first time that his father may be right. Then, five minutes later, he realized that there were such a thing as imperfect translations and that there was no way God was real. Thank goodness. Artemis would have been in hot water if he was forced to be Catholic.
Minerva Paradizo was fun, and hot, but she got weird when Artemis dropped that he was bisexual, and he dismissed her as a romantic possibility. He was beginning to understand the way Juliet would say ‘cishets’ with such scorn.
Maybe he ought to try a boy? He didn’t really know any boys his age. Maybe he really would go on that date with Aiden O’Hare one of these days. His options were limited.
Seeing Holly again was nice. Pity they never met through better circumstances.
Stealing - no, lifting - borrowing - her magic was also nice. What? It had been the one thing he could never buy. He had never thought he would get his hands on it, honestly. Everything was turning up Artemis.
For a little while.
“Oh no,” Holly said, shaking her head, face paler than usual. “No, no, no…”
“I’m sorry,” Artemis said politely, although he could see Butler’s beard, the way he was hunched over, his growth of hair. Time had passed, that was undeniable, but three years ! “What the fuck?”
Butler bent down in front of him, completely ignoring Holly, and peered into Artemis’ eyes. “It really is you,” he murmured. “Your other eye…”
He glanced at Holly for the first time, who was matching-mismatched, and she winced. Artemis hissed. “Yes, it’s a loan. Butler, did you think I was dead - ”
Before Artemis could finish his sentence Butler crushed him in a hug, almost cracking his ribs, and Artemis wheezed as he felt wet spots trail down his back. Artemis patted him on the back, dazed. “There, there. I’m here now.”
“Artemis…” Butler separated from him, and if he had cried then you could not tell now. Before any of them could react he quickly hugged Holly too, who was even more enveloped by his giant body. “Holly. I am so glad you’re alive.”
“I’m sorry, I have to go. Now.” With no further ado Holly turned on her heel and sprinted out of the cabin, activating the wings on her back and her camouflage, and she disappeared into the air. Artemis and Butler watched her silently, both understanding. Holly didn’t have any living family, but she did have friends and her own business, and her own life outside of Artemis.
Still, he didn’t want her to go. They had, apparently, spent three long years together with only each other for company.
“Is the year really…?” Artemis asked. Butler nodded grimly, and told him the exact date. “Who’s the Taoiseachh?” Butler told him. “Yikes.” Artemis sighed, rubbing his chin. “Well, it’s not unmanageable. I must be legally...hm, seventeen by now. Almost there, but not quite. I suppose you can hide me in your cabin until I create a false identity, sell myself as some underdeveloped eighteen year old. America’s pretty good this time of year. I’d have to get used to the advanced technology, of course, but that should be a fun side project - Butler, what are you doing with that phone?”
“Calling your parents.” Butler was holding a futuristic smartphone - actually, wait, it was just an iphone, did they ever stop making those things? - and quickly dialling a number. “You’re crazy if you think I’m not telling them, Artemis. They deserve to know.”
“How are we going to explain - !”
“They already know about the fairies,” Butler said shortly, rocking Artemis’ world. “They never quite believed me, but this should convince them well enough. Thinking I’m crazy for the last three years, we’ll see who has the last laugh…”
Okay. Well. Artemis was thrown, but he could handle this. He had magic now, which was already proving to be incredibly useful. “You know, I’ve always wanted to fake my own death, and when you think about it this is the perfect opportunity -”
“Nope,” Butler said, completely shutting Artemis down. Which he was unused to. “The twins deserve their brother.” The phone rang, and rang, and was picked up on the other end. “Mrs. Fowl? There’s someone I think you should talk to. I’ll put you on Facetime.”
“Oh, if it’s for the twins,” Artemis said. Then he realized what he said. “Twins?!”
A story, which Artemis never heard about until much later:
Beckett and Myles were partaking in their favorite activity of ‘exploring’. Actually, to be accurate, it was more like their fifth favorite activity. Beckett’s favorite activity was to play in mud, his second favorite activity was to play in sand. His third favorite was horseback riding, and his fourth favorite was cricket. Myles, meanwhile, liked ‘Science!’ best, cricket second, playing ‘Watson and Crick vs Franklin’ with his stuffed animals third, and building sand castles fourth. Not being identical in priorities caused conflict between the two brothers, but it was always quickly resolved. They were very affable, well-socialized children.
In fact, some might say that they were raised almost ideally. With a stay at home mother for the first few years of their lives, once they hit three years old signing them up for activities became a free-for-all. They were in pre-school, innumerable sports teams, many science camps, participated in Mother-Son yoga sessions every Saturday morning, and partook in Father-son footy games every Sunday morning after they returned from church, where they worshipped the Lord with toddler evangelism.
They had many friends, an exasperated but devoted bodyguard, two loving parents, and a great deal of money. It was publically known that Myles was a bit of a genius (“Though not as smart as -”) and much more privately known that Beckett was just as smart, in his own way. But Sunday afternoons, when their parents had date night and Juliet was busy cooking dinner for the three of them, they liked to partake in exploring.
The house was very old, and held a great deal of secrets. There were some rooms that Beckett and Myles already understood that they weren’t allowed in (Daddy’s office, Mammy and Daddy’s room, Artemis’ office and bedroom) but anything beyond that, it seemed, was fair game. The attic was technically prohibited, because curious little minds could get themselves hurt, but Myles knew how not to get caught and Beckett knew how to bat his big eyelashes and get them both out of trouble. They were a dream team.
Beckett sneezed loudly, spraying snot all over the ancient boxes. Myles hissed, holding a finger up to his pursed mouth. “Be quiet! Ew, don’t sneeze all over!”
Beckett smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, Myles. My nose needed to scream real loud.”
“Ugh. Dumbo.” Myles reached up on his tip toes, rummaging through the biggest box he had found. They had ventured deeper into the depths of the attic today, searching for previously undiscovered treasures. This newest box had been taped firmly shut, but Myles was three years old and well versed in the art of the penknife. He stuck a hand in, closing a little fist around something scratchy and oddly fluffy, and pulled it out. He shook it out, frowning. “Beck, c’mere. Is this Mammy’s?”
Beckett sprinted over, which was his default speed of movement. He helped Myles shake out the piece of fabric, and they saw that it was a dress. Purple, very fluffy, Beckett loved it even though Myles wrinkled his nose. He snatched it out of Myles’ hands, ignoring his squeak of protest, and draped it against himself. It was much too big for him, but not adult-big. “Too small for Mammy,” Beckett said thoughtfully, for Beckett. “Juliet’s dress?”
“Juliet burns last year’s wardrobe every January,” Myles pointed out. “This dress woulda go fwoosh long time ago.”
True. They both nodded sagely, trying to work out the mystery, before Myles threw it aside and dove back inside the box. Beckett, helpful as always, hoisted Myles up so he could physically climb inside the box and start throwing things out the side for Beckett to catch.
Toys, toys and toys and toys. It was a goldmine for the boys, or at least it should have been. Instead, Myles found to his frustration that it was all girly toys. Toys for babies, and Barbie dolls, and arts and crafts. Lots and lots of old clothing, that looked barely worn. No good for anything besides dress up - Beckett’s dress up, who liked wearing all sorts of things that their parents actively and exhaustively encouraged. Polly Pocket, Ever After High, Disney Princess...barely played with!
“I’m bored,” Beckett whined. “Let’s go play Fortnite.”
“Shush,” Myles said, making Beckett slap his hands over his mouth with wide eyes. “Beck, is there marker on the box?”
Beckett hadn’t quite gotten the hang of reading yet, but he was making a valiant attempt. Myles’ favorite form of practice for reading for the both of them was reading out loud their picture books, making the spaceship noises and the blow-up sounds as Beckett ran around their shared room jumping on the bed and pretending he was an airplane. They could stop reading airplane books any day now. Beckett furrowed his brow as he walked around the box, wading through the toys and clothes they had dumped out of it.
He found the writing on the flap, neatly marked with writing that had to be Uncle Dom’s. Beckett’s eyes widened. “Uh,” he said.
“Just tell me what the letters look like,” Myles said, impatient.
But there were five words Beckett knew without a doubt: Myles, Mammy, Daddy, Juliet, and Artemis. This word - one of these words - definitely fell into the category. “Myles, get outta there, now,” he said, frantic. “Myles!”
“I’m getting, I’m getting!” Myles scowled, trying to hoist himself over the side so he could see the flap too. “What’s the big - oh.”
He got out of the box, slowly and carefully. They both stared wide-eyed at the writing on the flap, which clearly read, ‘ARTEMIS’ TOYS’. They both knew, in the irrevocable way toddlers do, that they had done something very wrong.
“Beck,” Myles whispered, who knew his brother very well, “do not cry or I will hit you.”
Beckett then promptly burst into tears, so of course in very short order the top of Juliet’s head appeared from the stairwell, closely followed by Mammy. She was still dressed in their date night clothes, sparkling jewels adorning her ears, and everyone gaped when they saw Beckett and Myles, stranded in the middle of their crimes.
Then their gaze, as one, landed on the box, and both of their faces did two very different things. Juliet looked very, very mad but Mammy looked very, very sad.
“I’m sorry,” Beckett sniffed, “we didn’t mean to?”
“Why did Artemis have so many Barbies?” Myles asked, which he felt was the more intelligent question.
“Welp,” Juliet said, turning right back around and descending the stairs. “You deal with this. Not dealing with this.”
“Oh, Juliet,” Mammy began, “please -”
“Not dealing with this!” Juliet said loudly, her voice wavering just a little, and she disappeared. Myles and Beckett knew that they would be expected to apologize to her soon, which they would gladly do. Juliet got really sad whenever anyone mentioned - well -
Mammy swung herself up onto the attic, mindful of her sparkly dress, and smiled at her sons. Myles and Beckett rushed forward and hugged her tightly, and she hugged them back just as tight. She carefully stood up, and began refolding the dresses with a wistful look in her eye and replacing them in the box. Beckett and Myles quickly began putting the toys back, abashed.
“You two didn’t do anything wrong,” Mammy said lowly. From beneath, they could hear Juliet talking with Daddy, who couldn’t climb the stairs because his leg was plastic. He was good at footy, though. “I didn’t even know we still had this box, honestly. I thought Artemis must have - well. He never did like throwing anything away.”
“Can you ask Artemis if I can keep his Polly Pocket?” Beckett asked, holding up a carrying case filled with the toys. “Please?”
Mammy smiled fondly down at him. “Ask him yourself during prayer tonight. But I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. I think you would get more mileage out of them then he ever did.”
“Mammy, you didn’t answer my question,” Myles said insistently.
She winced. “Baby, we, uh...thought he would like them more, is all. Back when…” she paused for a long time, chewing over something, before slowly saying, “Do you remember when I read I am Jazz to you when you were little? And Jack, Not Jackie ?”
“Artemis is like that. So you’re like the big sibling in Jack, Not Jackie .”
Myles digested this. “Okay,” he said finally. “That’s not me though. Maybe Beckett.”
“I want Artemis’ dress!”
“It can be Beckett if he wants,” Mammy said, and hugged him tight again. “Why don’t we go downstairs, love? It’s almost tea time. You don’t want to stay up here with all of these dusty boxes.”
“Can’t you tell me more about Artemis?” Myles begged. “Like where he kept his other toys?”
“Storytime!” Beckett crowed, waving a pink stuffed animal. “Storytime, Mammy!”
“Well,” Mammy said slowly, carefully folding her legs under her so her dress didn’t catch on any splinters. “I suppose there was that one time I can tell you about, when Artemis was six and made his school headmaster resign from his post from shame…but only if you promise not to get any ideas.”
“We promise!” Becket and Myles, who loved Artemis, chorused.
They did love him. They both thought of themselves as having an older brother, if one who was never really around, and who nobody liked talking about too much. Sentences tended to be cut off just before they said his name, and study doors stayed locked, but Uncle Dom always wanted to talk about him. Although there was so much of Artemis that seemed to be for public consumption - the way Mammy and Daddy’s friends at all the parties would ask them ‘how they were holding up’ with sympathetic eyes, the way Juliet still cried sometimes and never told anyone why - there was a very real part of their brother that was only for Beckett and Myles.
They would argue about what he would be like. Everyone said that Myles took after him a lot, which made him very smug and made Beckett pout, but Uncle Dom would say that Beckett had a big heart just like him too. Artemis would have loved to teach Myles all about science, they decided together, and he would have played all of Beckett’s video games with him. They couldn’t decide if Artemis ate all of his vegetables, but all of the art in the manor seemed to be his, which obviously meant that Artemis had liked cartoons just as much as they did.
Their parents had, somewhat superfluously, put them in children’s therapy about it, and as a result they were very well adjusted over the matter. It didn’t bother them. They were, after all, very happy children, with very idyllic lives.
“At least they’re nothing like him,” they had heard Daddy say late one night, holding a glass of something amber to his forehead. “I don’t think we could have survived him three times over.”
The night they found Artemis’ old things in the attic, Beckett brought his new-old Polly Pockets with him to bed and knelt by the side of his bed with one clutched in a pudgy fist, with Myles kneeling right next to him scowling over his own clasped hands. They rushed through the Lord’s prayer, but tonight they were customizing it.
“Dear Artemis,” Beckett whispered, loud enough that Myles could catch every word clearly. “We love you very much and hope you are happy in Heaven. Anyway, tell me if I can keep all of the toys you didn’t want, thank you.”
They knelt in silence for a second. Beckett was nodded thoughtfully, as if he was holding an entire conversation, while Myles squirmed uncomfortably. He didn’t want to admit he didn’t hear anything.
“Thank you, big brother,” Beckett said out loud again. “You’re the best big brother ever. Myles and I love you. Goodnight!”
“Wait,” Myles protested, “he didn’t say anything to me! Don’t say goodbye without saying something to me!”
“He likes me better, so that’s why he only talked to me,” Beckett explained, crawling into bed and pulling the covers around his chin. “He says you’re smelly.”
“Artemis does not think I’m smelly! Beck, I’ll hit you!”
“Smelly, smelly, smelly!” Beckett chanted, sing-song, and Myles tackled him, and they rolled around in bed, tangling each other up in the sheets, laughing and yelling, until Juliet knocked on the door and yelled at them to go to sleep.
They fell asleep like that, tangled in their blankets, Beckett’s unruly head of blonde curls brushing Myles’ smooth black hair, fists clasped together.
Anyway, Butler was not long for retirement.
Juliet had hit him when she found out, a lot. Butler had let her get good three swings in before he stopped her, which was a new record since she was ten, but apparently Artemis had not been suitably apologetic enough for distressing all of them. She had then ran off crying, and then ran back loudly yelling about how she hadn’t actually been that upset, and if he said anything about it she’d smack him.
“Try not to worry your sister like that again,” Butler said, and although Artemis couldn’t promise he agreed anyway.
His parents were delighted to see him, they cried, etc, yes yes yes. Artemis, who had seen them barely a week ago, could only nod dumbly and hand his mother a hanky. They looked older. More than three years older.
Speaking of three years…
“Oh, they’ve been listening in the entire time,” Artemis Fowl I said. She wiped at her eyes again delicately, mindful of her makeup to the end, and elbowed her husband as he downed another glass of whiskey. They were all sitting in the formal sitting room, the kind reserved for guests. Both his parents were sitting on the loveseat as Artemis sat in his favorite winged chair. Butler had pulled up a larger chair and set it close to Artemis’, practically hiding behind his bushy beard. Last week - or three years ago - he would have been standing behind Artemis, but maybe he really had gotten old. Artemis’ mother pitched her voice up, calling outside the room. “Darlings, please come in.”
The large door creaked open, and two miniature heads peaked through. They were clearly fraternal, one with angelic curly blonde hair and one with slicked back black hair that highly resembled Artemis’. Their giant eyes widened when they saw Artemis, and they quickly filed inside. The blonde run ran to Artemis’ mother - his mother - and hugged her knees, while the black haired one scowled at Artemis and folded his arms.
“Your eyes are weird!”
“Honey,” Artemis’ mother gasped, “that’s not polite!”
“It’s called heterochromia,” Artemis said affably. “About one percent of the population has it. It’s nice to meet you.”
The blonde boy separated from his mother’s legs and ran over to his twin, grasping his hand and bowing theatrically at Artemis. “I’m Beckett Fowl and this is my twin brother Myles Fowl! Mammy never said your eyes were weird!”
“It’s a recent development,” Artemis agreed. He eyed both boys, before raising an eyebrow at his parents. “Three year olds? You two sure work fast.”
“Artemis,” his father groaned.
“I was already pregnant when you left,” his mother said apologetically, and something rang in Artemis’ heart. “We were going to tell you when you got back, but...you never did.”
She was already pregnant when he disappeared. She was already pregnant!
“I see,” Artemis said, fairly light headed. “So it was never a matter of - replacement.”
“Oh, Art,” his mother said, “of course not. There’s nobody like you.”
Artemis buried his head in his hands, and for the first time felt a cold grip on his heart lift.
He had understood, when Butler had told him. They needed an heir. An heir who could provide biological children (Technically, Artemis was capable, but he was getting those parts scooped out with a spoon as soon as possible). Artemis was gone, and he had always been a sorry excuse for a child, and now that he was gone they could replace him with children they actually loved, who they actually wanted, who probably hugged their mother voluntarily because they weren’t freaks -
A sticky little hand landed on his knee, and Artemis looked up to find Beckett hugging it resolutely. He waved a pudgy little arm. “Lap please.”
“He wants a hug,” Myles said primly, who was still scowling at him.
Oh. Artemis carefully and awkward grasped the toddler around his miniature torso and lifted him up, putting him on his lap, and Beckett eagerly grabbed Artemis tight around the neck and squeezed. Artemis wheezed, profoundly uncomfortable, but feeling like he was holding a delicate and fragile thing. He hugged back, only moving just enough to lift Myles on his lap when he ran up for a hug too. Their little bodies were very hot, and very squishy, and Artemis could almost feel their hummingbird hearts beating. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his parents holding hands, looking misty, but Artemis’ field of vision was very much occupied by frantically hugging toddlers.
“Are you back from Heaven?” Beckett asked, voice muffled in Artemis’ neck.
“Haven, actually, but close enough,” Artemis said carefully. What liar had told a toddler that he was going to Heaven? Religion was child cruelty. “Speaking of which…”
It was the perfect timing. They were all there, lined up like ducks in a row. Use the mesmer on the babies - child’s play, literally - and tell them that he had been off the grid in Nigeria doing volunteer work. Then use it on his parents, and save them three years of suffering. No more awkward questions. No stifling. Just Artemis, back from abroad, calmer and happier after his time away. Then Artemis could go back to lying, and -
And what? Lie again, next time fairies disrupted his life, use the mesmer again? Steal his parents’ memories like the People stole his? Lie his ass off until he died? Artemis loved lying to people. It got him money. But he didn’t lie to himself.
To get what you want, you had to give everything up first. But maybe Artemis was tired of sacrifice.
And maybe Artemis had changed. He didn’t like lying anymore.
Still, there was nothing to be done for it. His parents would forgive him, and life was full of hard choices like this. It would be convenient for him in the long run, anyway -
“If Artemis is back, does he want his Polly Pockets again?” Beckett mumbled. “Mammy said that you were like in the picture books and you don’t like them, but I like them and I can share if you want. I share with Myles a lot so I’m real good at it. I can share them with you too.”
“I share Mammy and Daddy with Beckett,” Myles piped up. “I can share them with you too.”
“Sharing is good,” Artemis whispered, and let the magic fade away from his eye. He hugged his brothers. His brothers. “I like sharing.”
“Liar,” Butler said.
Brothers were annoying, but had a benefit: they kept...ugh...Mam and Dad absolutely occupied. With new children in the house, Artemis was promoted to ‘semi-adult’, and was expected to take on a childcare role instead of existing as an only child to be doted over and protected. If it wasn’t for the fact that Artemis now had to change the locks on his study door once a week instead of once every few years, he would be ecstatic.
Juliet, as it turned out, was as dedicated to her role of protector as any Butler, but had never fancied herself a nanny. When the twins were home from their endless clubs, lessons, and activities, and she was sick of them, she would dump them in Artemis’ lap and hop out the door to go snog her girlfriend. She never really changed, even if she was now seven years older than Artemis instead of four. Mother was beginning to make noises about Juliet finding a nice girl and settling down for good, which made Juliet fake retching into her oatmeal to the amusement of the twins.
When Juliet dumped them on him, Artemis learned what toddlers do for fun: that is, watch cartoons, play in sandboxes, and blow things up. Artemis considered it his brotherly duty to teach them how to blow things up responsibly, and passed on the sacred art of lab safety. Butler had sewed them both twee little lab coats and goggles, which made some strangely feminine part of Artemis melt from the cuteness. Myles was a quick study, but Beckett was a distractible one. It was fun.
Artemis had less time to himself, but that was alright. His family felt whole. It was nice.
Aiden O’Hare and Minerva Pallazo, of course, were seventeen years old, and although Aiden had laughed about Artemis “living the trans dude life of perpetually looking like a fifteen year old boy”, for the first time Artemis had become acutely aware of the kind of baggage that he came with. He had Aiden teach him how to play Fortnite so he could beat Beckett, and that was enough. Minerva stayed in touch with Butler, and through him they got together to play chess sometimes. That was also nice, although she seemed to want a lot of fashion advice out of him that he didn’t know how to give.
Artemis turned fourteen (?), rather suddenly. It had been more like three and a half years, really, and sitting down to figure out exactly how old he was took time away from playing Watson and Crick vs Franklin with Myles. Holly called on his birthday, and they caught up with each other. They still talked occasionally, and she seemed deeply surprised when Artemis confessed that he could have mesmerized his parents, but didn’t.
“Maybe you have changed, Mud Boy,” Holly praised. She didn’t look as tired as Artemis did. Three years was a long time, but not that long in the lifespan of the fairy. “Keep an eye out for your birthday present, and make sure to keep your brothers away from it!”
His birthday present, as it turned out, was a joint gift from Foaly and Holly. It was a pill, big enough to choke a centaur, and the instructions attached promised that it would be all the T he needed for the next half-century.
Artemis almost threw it up, but he swallowed it so quickly he had alarmed Butler. Finally! He was worried he would have to take those shots for the rest of his life. Every time Beckett, who had apparently had his own traumatic experiences with vaccines, saw them he started crying.
It was then, of course, that Juliet realized that Artemis was legally eighteen and could, in fact, legally drink.
That was how Artemis found himself sitting at a bar stool, dubiously nursing a beer, with his aggressively hot and muscled sister sitting next to him downing a Guiness like the British were about to colonize and steal all their stores.
She dropped it on the counter, to the cheers of everyone around them, and Artemis’ cheeks burned bright red as Juliet burped, thumping her sternum and flashing a peace sign. She was a Dublin gay bar celeberty. Because of course she was.
“Eighteenth birthday, Artemis!” She patted him on the back, making him choke. She had wrangled him into...ugh...a tank top and jeans, and she herself was wearing a sports bra, flannel, and high waisted shorts. Her signature jade ring was affixed firmly to the end of her ponytail, swinging around and threatening to cut the throats of any straight men who looked at her funny. “Eat, drink, and be merry! I’ve been waiting for this day ever since you came out!”
“I don’t drink,” Artemis hissed, pushing the Guinness aside with one finger. “It’s too loud in here. Why couldn’t we have gone to a nice pub instead?”
“This is the quietest gay bar in Dublin,” said Juliet. She may even have been right: the front of the bar was full of amicable chatting between old friends, and the backroom pulsed in a dance scene, but besides that it was relatively tame. Maybe she had been trying to accommodate for him after all. “Drink your beer and go snog a twink, you twink.”
“I’m still physiologically underage,” Artemis hissed.
“Oh no,” Juliet mocked, “are you afraid of doing something illegal? ”
He glared at her. She beamed mockingly at him, raising her own almost empty glass in a toast. “May God grant you many years to live,” she said, drawling out the traditional Irish birthday toast, “for sure he must be knowing, the earth has angels all too few and heaven is overflowing! Drink, my twink brother!”
She knocked back the rest of her beer, and Artemis was many things but not a coward, and he glugged the whole thing in one go without taking a breath.
It took all of his efforts not to throw up, but Juliet clapped for him, and so did the other men sitting at the bar, who were apparently all fucking friends of hers for some fucking reason.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured him, “I booked us a hotel room just down the street -”
“ - with my card,” Artemis gagged.
“Yeah, get over it, with your card,” Juliet said, “so drink as much as you want! Go hog wild! If you actually had friends this would be a great big party instead of just you and me, but I guess they’re still all in the underground scene -”
Artemis raised a hand. “Another drink, please,” he said, “Tullamore DEW.” Something occurred to him. “Oh, yes, and one round for the house, I suppose.”
The bar cheered. Oh, yes. This was why Juliet had so many friends here.
After that, the night got a little hazy. There was definitely more peer pressuring him to drink, both from Juliet and his new friends, but after awhile some boys his actual age drifted by to talk to him and flustered him so badly that he got drunker. Juliet dragged over some other trans friends of hers, and Artemis held a very loud conversation with a nice older man about the benefits of puberty blockers and how he had never needed a binder.
“No tits,” Artemis yelled, knocking back more whiskey and hiking his shirt up to flash his bare chest. “See?”
The small swarm of gay men that surrounded him cooed over how cute he was and pinched his cheeks, which was not the ideal reaction from a gay bar, but they had all seemed to pick up that Artemis wasn’t strictly physiologically eighteen years old and that Juliet, despite her teasing, was glaring off anyone who got too close.
“That your girlfriend, love?” one of them yelled in his ear. It had gotten loud as the night gone on, and Artemis’ hearing seemed to be swimming as much as his vision.
“Sister. Adopted! Kinda?” Artemis hiccuped, frowning. “Julie, I think I’m drunk!” He tugged on her flannel, distracting her from where she was comparing how much she could bench press with the bartender. “Jules, why am I drunk?”
“Cuz you went straight for the whiskey, dipshit.” She pried the glass away from his hand, ignoring the way he pouted. “I’m cutting you off for the night, aye?”
“You’re mean!” Artemis swayed dramatically, resting his forehead on Juliet’s shoulder. “Why are you so mean…Holly isn’t mean...”
“Holly is a thousand times meaner than I am. Scram, dude.” The dude beat feet, but Artemis could hardly tell. He didn’t feel so great. “Art, if you throw up on me you owe me one thousand euros.”
“Where’s Holly?” Artemis slurred. “I’m gonna call her…”
“Oh, no. No, no, no. I love you, so I’m not letting you do that.” She carefully stood up, and slung her arm around Artemis’ shoulders so she was propping him up. She was so much bigger than him. When had Juliet gotten so big ? “Up we get, love, c’mon. Time for the hotel now. You can regret this in the morning.”
“I regret your face …”
He didn’t remember getting back to the hotel room, barely remembered throwing up, but did remember Juliet smoothing the hair back from his head. It was getting a little shaggy. He should cut it, before he looked like...Hozier…
“Why do Mam and Dad love them so much more than they love me?” Artemis muttered, and Juliet froze. “Why are they trying with them, when they never tried with me? And I’m supposed to be the perfect brother now?”
“Artemis,” Juliet said, pained. She was fading in and out, Artemis drunk as a skunk. “You know it’s more complicated than that.”
“I’m sick of complicated,” Artemis said, maybe. “I just want simple, for once…”
“What? I can’t hear you, Art, speak up.”
But he fell asleep, underneath uncomfortable comforters, knowing his sister was sitting at the desk next to him reading by the light of the lamp.
Then, of course, his mother had gotten sick, again, and it was Artemis’ fault, again, and he got desperate, again, and he called Holly, again, and he manipulated her into helping him, again and again and again -
And maybe that really was time, that cyclical thing, that didn’t so much repeat as rhyme. Maybe Artemis was just doomed to repeat his mistakes, over and over and over, except because his life was hell it was in the literal sense and Artemis was forced to literally go back in time to prevent himself from being a dipshit.
“I now pronounce you,” No1 announced, gesticulating in front of the mortified Artemis and the nonchalant Holly, “man and fairy.”
“Shut up!” Artemis screeched, and he had never been in his underwear in front of anybody but his family, this was terrible, this was so terrible, “and do the damn spell already!”
The time stream was unpleasant, as usual, and Artemis couldn’t believe that he lived the kind of life where he could say that.
The forces of the universe coughed Artemis and Holly onto the plush and overly familiar carpeting of Artemis’ study. Artemis bit back a groan, cradling his head, and snuck a glance to his side. It was Holly, clearly recognizable as herself, very much without any clothing on, but she was...younger?
Artemis scrambled upwards, throwing out the door of the wardrobe as Holly groaned and opened her eyes. What he saw thrilled him like nothing else ever had in his life.
He was old! With long, shaggy hair and an unkept beard, he looked a little like Hozier, if Hozier was homeless! He had pecs, and no hips, and when Artemis snuck a quick glance in his boxers, he had that too! In fact, he clearly visually resembled someone who had been on T for years!
Knowing Holly was watching and laughing at him yet unable to care, Artemis flexed his bicep and gasped as the slight natural muscle. The passing was perfect. He was completely stealth.
“This,” Artemis said, and found to his delight that his voice was deep and melodic with a very attractive brogue, “is fucking awesome.”
“If you’re done admiring yourself in the mirror,” Holly said, somewhat peeved and unusually high pitched, “could you toss me some clothes?” She paused, her eyes widening. “Why is my voice so high? I feel…”
“Younger?” Artemis asked, already rummaging through the wardrobe and forcing himself to get back on topic. He could take all the progress pics he wanted later. God, he would be the envy of all of the transition forum boards. This was peak. Dysphoria, gone . “Ordinary time stream mishap. Merely a cosmetic change. Perfectly reversible. Although, if you knew a way to make it irreversible, I’d be interested in hearing that.”
“You look like a boy band member,” Holly said, somewhat waspishly as Artemis rummaged through his wardrobe, lips pursed. “Just grab me one of your suits or something, I’ll make do.”
Artemis stepped back, flourishing with his arm the contents of the wardrobe - which was, of course, all dresses. “You’re a bit out of luck there. I buy my first suit several weeks from now. Looks like you’re stuck in Artemis Angeline Fowl Senior’s carefully cultivated collection of ruffles, baubles, and frills.”
“Gag me with a spoon,” Holly said, sticking out her tongue. It was oddly adorable. “Give me a dress and we’ll never talk about this again.”
Meanwhile, Artemis was finding an old track suit of his father’s, and what a joy it was to fit into his father’s clothing. He left the jacket unzipped, all the better to show off his awesome pecs, and stuffed his feet in his shoes. God bless Foaly and his perma-T pill. He could kiss the centaur.
Actually - wait, ew, never mind.
The rest of the jaunt back in time went steadily downhill from there, but that was hardly a surprise.
Maybe the only one who had truly been surprised was Butler, when he caught Artemis and Holly red-handed stealing little Artie’s cast-offs. The day was a sour memory in Artemis’ mind, imprinted there by years of rumination and anger never quite healed, and he would have expected for everything to go exactly how he remembered it. Memories, after all, never quite changed.
It occurred to Artemis, when Holly dropped from a tranq gun in her thigh, that there was no possible way he could convince Butler that he was secretly Artemis Angeline Fowl Junior from the future. He, a grown man (!), had just been caught sneaking into a little girl’s room, in a house populated entirely by one ten year old girl, one fourteen year old girl, one mentally ill woman, and their very overprotective bodyguard. He was fucked.
When he stepped into the light Butler’s eyes widened, and his gun relaxed just a fraction. “Mr. Fowl?”
“This is too inexplicable, old friend,” Artemis said, and he knew from the flash of light in his eyes that Butler had noticed his heterochromia. A trait most unlike the late, great Mr. Fowl. “so you might as well tranq me now.”
“If you insist,” Butler said, and fired.
Then there was a gorilla (very unfortunate!), and Artemis may have been duped by a ten year old who still wrote frilly purple dresses and tended to garner unfavorable comparisons to Wednesday Addams.
He must have gotten mauled by wild animals again, because everything was starting to look a little woozy, and Holly must have been very hormonal, because she was crying on him as she healed him.
“Holly,” Artemis said, smiling up at her. “You saved me again.”
“Idiot,” Holly said, “I’ll always save you.”
She hugged him. It was oddly affectionate, for her - but hormones did crazy things to the otherwise rational brain. Artemis was fully aware of that.
Then they were on power lines, of course, fighting over a lemur, of course, as Artemis engaged in a solo staredown with his past self, because that was the direction he had chosen for his life to go in. Backwards. The backwards direction.
He was balanced on taut hanging power cables, and Butler had a gun pointed at his head, and Artemis was gloating, gloating, gloating, smug smirk stretched across his pretty little face. He looked like one of those creepy twins from the Shining. God, no wonder everyone had hated him. No wonder his parents never loved him. Who could love that stupid, feminine little face?
Artemis had not intended to speak, as interaction with his younger self could have serious repercussions for the future, but the words were out before he could stop them.
“Stay back. You don’t know what you’re dealing with.”
Oh, the irony.
But the younger Artemis just crossed his arms, dress whipping in the wind. “Ah, he speaks,” he said, “how fortunate we can understand each other. I love listening to the words of a creepy old man who breaks into my bedroom and raids my closet.”
“It was your study,” Artemis gritted out. The lemur chattered, bulbous eyes wide as its claws skittered in Artemis' hair, with no idea what was happening or what miniature drama was unfolding. How could Artemis have done this? It was innocent, just a dumb animal. Like Beckett or Myles, it had never done anything with true ill-intent. Unlike Artemis. The lemur deserved to live more than he did. “You must not do this, Artemis. There’s too much at stake.”
“Oh, please.” Artemis snorted, a high pitched and ugly sound. “You act like I’m killing Archduke Ferdinand. It’s a dumb lemur. If you don’t send it over in the next ten seconds my servant’s shooting it off your head.”
Bitch, Artemis thought uncharitably, and refused to be embarrassed that he was cursing at a ten year old. He knew what he had done. He gently lifted the lemur off the top of his head, setting it on the ropes in front of him.
“You have to go back,” he said softly. “Go back for the nice treat. And if I were you, I’d stick close to the big human. The little one isn’t very nice.” He stroked its little head, just once. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
“Ugh,” Artemis said loudly, “is that Catholicism? Butler, shoot it anyway.”
But the lemur went chittering back across the wires, and instead of shooting it Butler unceremoniously scooped it into a duffel bag. Artemis stayed still, absolutely still, as his younger self gloated some more, said some very smarmy things, and then disappeared with Butler to go kill an innocent animal.
Remember the pain, Artemis had said. Oh, Artemis remembered the pain, alright. He remembered every inch of pain, every second of it, that his younger self and his traitor body had ever given him. Artemis had categorized the pain, labelled it for easy recollection later, and he had never let go. Artemis remembered every second of those horrible two years, and he had never forgotten. Maybe he had never forgiven.
Yes, Artemis hated. Hated, and hated, and hated, the feeling choking in his throat and tasting like copper between his teeth. He hated his father for disappearing, his mother for abandoning him, but he hated Artemis most of all, more than anyone had ever hated before, hated his dresses and silky long hair and cruel little smirk and Artemis hated, and hated, and hated - !
Artemis hated himself, and by the end of it, so did Holly. But at least that was nothing new.
Then they re-enacted Phoenix Wright , and don’t ask why Artemis even knew what that video game was, which was fine! Everything was fine.
Then Opal Koboi was there.
Artemis wanted to go to bed and sleep for a week. He wondered if this truly was the early twenties experience. He was too old for this.
They met, at last, back where it began. In the study. With the Candlestick. By Butler.
Hah! He really was developing a sense of humor. Maybe he was going insane. The thought was abjectly terrifying, so Artemis dismissed it, but when he opened the study door to find little Artie and Butler waiting for them with crossed arms he couldn’t help but wince.
“Ah,” Artemis said. “We are, as Beckett would say, busted.”
“Who are you?” Artie demanded, barely short of stamping his foot. “What is your obsession with my house? Where did you and the fairy come from? You have broken into my house again; the least you can do is explain that time stream comment. Not to mention the fact that you are alive.”
Artemis sighed, and knew that no amount of strategic haircuts would reveal his true identity to Artie. “Have you ever wanted something, Artemis?” He said instead. “So badly it burned? Although nobody ever told you that it was okay, although you always thought it was wrong, have you ever wanted something so much you couldn’t bear it?”
Artie was silent. Butler was staring worredly at him, and from behind him Holly was biting her lip.
There was nothing for it. Artemis crouched down and stared directly into Artemis’ eyes, hazel and blue matching with pure blue. “I really hate to be your gay awakening, Artemis, because you’re just a shitty little kid right now. But you can change, okay? There will be people in your life that can help you change. Your shitty - they’re awful, Artemis, just trust me on that - your shitty parents aren’t going to do it, but your friends will. Find Holly. Everything will be fine.”
“Hey," Holly said from behind him, "maybe we should be more empathetic towards the children we once were and recognize ourselves as products of our environments as abuse victims?"
“You’re a lot naggier as a teenager,” Artemis said, standing up. He propped his hands on his hips, glaring down at Artie, who appeared flummoxed, before giving Butler a professional nod. Butler, who would have been gaping if he was anyone other than Butler. “Butler. Thank you for your service. You’ve been very patient with the crap of the last three days.”
“Artemis,” Butler said slowly, nodding back. Man-to-man. “If you...still go by that?”
Artemis, because he was theatrical at heart, bowed a little. “Artemis Julius Fowl, to be precise. But yes: Artemis the Hunter, at your service.”
“He’s named after his grandpa,” Holly drawled, folding her arms. “And that Artemis the Hunter joke stopped being funny four years ago. Can we go now?”
“Do not even joke.”
“You aren’t honestly buying into this, are you?” Artie demanded, his voice shrill. “Butler? Tell me you don’t believe this!”
Hm. He remembered this meeting a little differently then it happened. Probably a side effect of the spell, the memories of the three days mixing into each other.
Maybe memory wasn’t so permanent. If even the past could be changed, couldn’t a viewpoint?
“Gotta go,” Artemis said. He felt the time stream tugging at his gut. He smiled, and saluted at the two figures from the past. “See you on the flip side, Artemis. Butler.”
“Wait,” Artie cried, stretching out his hand as if he could capture and keep Artemis there, “you have to tell me - !”
But they were already gone, and the memory fading with it.
My bedtime is no longer as strict as it once was, but the twins have crawled into my bed due to a ‘nightmare’ and I’m afraid I can’t get up or speak without waking them. I hope you do not mind this text instead of our customary call.
Is it customary? We have not talked since we last went through time. I have been ruminating on the matter, and on the events that happened to us in the past. The entire scope of my thoughts would be best left to an in-person conversation, but I have been wondering if I have adequately expressed the depths of my regret that I was forced -
Okay, that’s a bad apology. Myles has been helping me draft an apology to you, so thank him. He says I should say that I’m very, very sorry, and that it was wrong of me to lie to you, that my behavior was my responsibility and no one else’s, and that next time I will do better. I think he’s a lot smarter than I am.
So, Holly, I’m sorry. It was wrong of me, and I made the decision to be awful, and that I never want to do that to you again.
I hope you aren’t mad at me. It would be okay if you are. I know you hold grudges. I’m similar, so it would be hypocritical of me to view it as a character flaw. I only hope that you are happy, that you are doing well being back with the LEP, and that you forgive me.
Otherwise, I am well. I’m teaching Myles chemistry, and Beckett is teaching me Fortnite. I did not know that there was so much left to learn before I met them. I thought I knew it all, but in reality I had known nothing. I am lucky to have them, and the rest of my family, and my friends at the LEP.
Artemis Julius Fowl
If I stopped talking to you every time you did something shitty I would have never seen you reach the age of 13, and we would probably all be dead. You’re fine. Keep the guilt coming, though. I use your sad tears to moisturize. Makes me look younger.
Things are good here. I like having my old job back - absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the English expression goes - and Vinyaya is a great commander. I think I finally have friends in the squadron. It took awhile to win them over, and I had to save the world like three times, but I think I’m finally just one of the boys. You know how it is.
I actually have a date soon? With Trouble Kelp. I know, save your shock, Captain Short has a romantic life, Haven is crumbling, I’ve heard it all before. But Troub’s a good guy, and he’s okay with being a step-father! He says he’s not going to your ballet recitals, though.
That was a joke, don’t make the face I know you’re making.
I’m glad you’re spending your time entertaining toddlers instead of stealing gold. It’s a much better use of your energy. Sometimes I wish that we had time to explain to your past self just how crazy your life is now. He wouldn’t have believed a word! Also, speaking as a woman, it was painfully obvious he thought you were cute and evil. I could tell it was causing Butler physical pain, but I don’t think you noticed.
Gotta go get ready for my date. Oh, and I think I’ve finally mastered human letter writing. How is this? Foaly said that writing all my communications in numbered lists made me seem like a cop. Which, fair.
I am sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I have been having a lot of problems. I think there is something in the walls of my house. It’s very strange and I don’t like it and its looking at me and I dont like how its looking at me and it keeps on moving around and I dont know why and its staring and I don’t like it because I don’t know why it’s very strange Butler keeps saying it’s not there but I don’t entirely believe him but you’re usually right but don’t tell you I said that so can you tell me if there’s anything in my house thanks?
The twins have inspired me to return to my first love: engineering. Climate change will be irreversible in a few years, and I’d like to contribute to stopping that any way I can. Butler says I’m not allowed to interfere in American elections (especially since I’ve been ‘strange’ lately - what does that mean?) so I’ve been settling for working with NASA in a climate change study. It’s very rewarding, and a fun hobby.
I have started attending the Mother-Son yoga sessions with my mother. They are very fun. I feel more flexible.
Wait, dial that back. WHAT is in your walls?
Don’t worry about it!
I am writing this at five am. I haven’t been sleeping a lot! This project is so exciting I just don’t have the time. I actually have five other projects I’m working on, which are all going extremely well. I can’t wait to show you next time you drop by. You should get a pass to come above ground, I would love for you to properly meet the twins and I can introduce you to my parents. They’ve always wanted to meet you, and they keep teasing me about you, which isn’t nice, but I’m afraid to let you meet in case you slip how we met, so if you could keep that one close to your chest I would appreciate it, as my parents still think I’m a good person.
I love five am. It sparkles more than the other times. The thing in the walls is back but we’re friends now, and it doesn’t bother me as much anymore, so don’t kill it. I’ve been reading a lot about the moon landing lately, and I’m not sure I believe in it? I need more information, so that’s becoming a side project.
Love you lots,
Troub read your message over my shoulder, and remarked that he had no idea you were so crazy, so thanks for that. Are you okay? Butler called me and said that you’ve been acting weird - that you haven’t been sleeping and that you’ve been having mood swings. He says your parents are blaming the hormones but he isn’t so sure. I think you’re worrying him, so cut it out. He has enough gray hairs as it is.
Answer my calls?
Here are ALL my thoughts on the Moon Landing attached in pdf form. Please read it and tell me what you think.
What the fuck.
I can’t pick up my phone, sorry :(((. I would normally always make time to see your sweet face, but my work is too busy and cannot be interrupted. There’s toddlers running around my house and I don’t know where they came from, and I’m trying to avoid them. They’re cute! I love babies!! But, like, whose are they?
I have very important and exciting news! I’m changing my name again. A---- just isn’t me, you know? I need to get in touch with my inner self, like, my true self? My third eye’s opened *:). The * represents my third eye, it’s really cute, I’m sorry I can’t send actual emojis over this transmitter. Do you have a Snapchat? You should get one! I like the puppy filter. :) Guess im a thot lmao.
I’m kinda sick of my wardrobe, so I’m tossing it. I want cuter clothing. Why do I dress so boring all the time Holly :((( No wonder none of the guys like me. I’ve been watching a lot of RuPaul and honestly, like, fashion goals? I have a fashion inspo board on my Tumblr that I think you would like, you should check it out sometime. I’m learning about all of the hot new memes. Gotta go storm Area 51 ;) Gamers rise up ;)
I think you’d be very proud of the changes I’m making in my life. I’m finally becoming a good person. A NORMAL person.
Please disregard that last message, I don’t remember sending it. I’m turning my communicator off in case that asshole gets his hands on it again.
Artemis Julius Fowl
Another story, which Artemis never heard about until much later:
The minute Holly got Artemis’ follow-up message she applied for a pass above ground, citing a family emergency. Vinyaya, who knew full well that if Artemis Fowl was having an emergency then the situation would turn apocalyptic within a week if Captain Holly Short didn’t do anything about it, gave it to her with no questions asked.
Holly didn’t know it, but Artemis had given her fantastic job security. It was one of the many things he had given her, along with a headache.
Artemis didn’t know it, or maybe just didn’t care, but Holly kept in regular contact with Butler. He was an elucidating conversation partner, a deft hand at fairy chess, and a far more interesting person when Artemis wasn’t around. They had a book club, alternating between fairy and human books each month. He was also an excellent Artemis-interpreter, and over the past few months he had been calling more and more to complain about how strange Artemis’ behavior had been.
Staying up all night was nothing new for the boy, but he had started going more than two or three days straight without sleep and without slowing down. He had developed a repertoire of nervous tics, and would alternate between incredible high-energy bouncing around and the pits of depression. He also wasn’t leaving his room, for anybody. Butler would have been tearing his hair out, if he still had any hair.
Holly touched down in front of Fowl Manor in broad daylight, and uncloaked herself. For the first time in her long experience knowing Artemis, she knocked on his front door, texted Butler that she had arrived, and waited patiently for him to open it.
But it wasn’t only a weary Butler who opened the door. Artemis’ parents, Eoghan and Artemis Angeline Fowl I (who Holly quickly mentally started referring to as just Angeline, because otherwise it was too strange), were gawking at her from safely behind Butler.
All Mud People looked alike to Holly, but Artemis’ resemblance to both his parents was unmistakable. Still, there was something off in the expression - open, where Artemis was closed off, and tired, where Artemis never showed his exhaustion. Holly nodded stiffly at the both of them, uncomfortably aware that Artemis had elected to keep his parents in the loop. Lucky, now. “Hullo. May I come in?”
It was just for politeness’ sakes - she had been welcomed into Fowl Manor years ago - but Butler nodded and stepped aside anyway. Holly carefully wiped her feet on the cheery welcome mat, and found herself shaking Eoghan Fowl’s hand. He was much healthier than the last time she saw him, but his hair had more gray than was standard for males of his species at his age.
“Thank you for coming, Captain Short,” Eoghan said. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you - again, I suppose.”
“It’s nice to see you again too,” Holly said politely. “You have a lovely home.”
“The twins are out for the day with Juliet,” Angeline said, also looking much healthier. Her features were just as regal and aristocratic as her husband and son’s, making it difficult for her to look kind. “So they shouldn’t be under our feet while we work on this. Please, come into the breakfast room so we can talk. Dom tells me that you’re partial to Custard Creams and tea?”
Holly brightened. The Haven biscuit scene was sorely lacking, and Artemis had been smuggling her contraband Mud Man junk food for years. She ran a successful black market on Cadbury eggs at the station, which Artemis very generously only took 30% of. “Yes, please.”
That was how, in a surreal ten minutes later, Holly found herself seated at a cozy breakfast nook with Artemis’ parents, whose lives she had personally saved three times over, with a grave Butler, nibbling on Custard Creams. She was a little disappointed the twins weren’t around - she really did want to meet them, and she hadn’t seen Juliet in months - but perhaps it was for the best. She didn’t really know how to handle any children other than Artemis. Troub had teased her about what a terrible mother she’d make before she kicked him in the nuts over it.
The Fowls were nice people, kind of. They had been thoroughly shitty parents, but were nice people. And they were trying to do better. Holly was friends with Artemis, maybe even best friends - she understood the value of ‘trying to do better’.
“This is my fault,” Angeline sighed, clasping Eoghan’s hand. “He gets it from my side of the family. I’ve struggled with bipolar and depression ever since I was a teenager. My grandfather was severely schizophrenic, I think. I should have talked to him about it - the warning signs, things like that - when he was younger, but I grew up so ashamed of it I couldn’t bear to mention it. Mental illness was just something you never talked about when I was growing up.”
“Do you have any family history of OCD?” Butler asked intently. “Or DID?” Angeline shook her head, confused. “I don’t know, Mrs. Fowl. I’m no professional, but what’s happening with him is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a little bit of everything.”
“Sorry,” Holly said, “you’re throwing around a lot of acronyms. What’s bipolar, OCD, and DID?” They all explained shortly, and Holly quickly caught the gist. “Oh, so it’s like Atlantis Complex.”
Everyone blinked at her.
Holly sipped her tea, thinking hard. Most of her understanding of Atlantis Complex came from sensationalized TV dramas and sitcoms, but she had taken a course of mental illness in incarcerated populations during the academy and had done fairly well in it. AC wasn’t overly represented in the prison population, but it did make people behave erratically and strangely. “If he’s having dissociative episodes, severe anxiety, a thing about numbers, and paranoia...man, he sent me this strangest thing rambling about some kind of Moon Landing...I don’t know. If he was a fairy I’d say that it was a pretty textbook case of AC. But there’s no way that a human could get fairy mental illnesses. You’d have to have magic for...that…”
She trailed off, eyes widening, and Butler blanched.
“Wait,” Eoghan Fowl said, “do you not know about the moon landing?”
“Artemis seems convinced that humans landed on the moon with the aid of fairy technology,” Holly said shortly, wincing. She really didn’t want to embarrass the kid in front of his parents. “I know, it’s strange, but if something like AC really is going on then it’s best to know what sort of delusions he’s having.”
“Holly,” Butler said, “the moon landing actually happened.”
“Humans went into outer space in 1969,” Angeline said.
“Don’t be silly,” Holly said blankly, “humans can’t go into outer space. How would you breathe up there?”
That derailed the conversation for thirty deeply confusing minutes, at which point the humans in the room brought out their phones and showed footage from the moon , of all things. It was insane, and deeply distressing, but Holly had seen a lot of crazy things through her friendship with Artemis Fowl and she was able to eventually drag the conversation back on topic.
It seemed that Artemis had neglected to mention to his parents that he was still magical - secretive as ever. Angeline was shocked, Eoghan was excited, but when Holly archly reminded them that him having these abilities was the cause of the issues in the first place, they quickly quieted.
“Okay,” Holly said finally, hopping off her chair. “I’ve heard enough. I’m not going to learn any more by gossiping with his family. I’ll knock some sense into his head and he’ll be fine.”
“Holly,” Butler said, “this problem is different from the kind we usually face. I’m not sure if - well, your usual problem solving tactics are going to work here.”
“Please.” Holly nodded professionally at the Fowls, then smiled at Butler. “I’ve been handling Artemis since he was a tween, I can deal with some weird brain disease. Trust me, Butler. He’ll have his signature Fowl dramatics, then he’ll get over it. It’s what he always does.”
“What are we going to say to the psychiatrist?” Angeline asked, wringing her hands. “We can’t tell her our son has a fairy disease! If this was just bipolar, or depression, we - we know how to handle that. We buy him the best treatment, and get the best doctors. None of the parenting guides ever explained what to do if your child gets a magical disease!”
“Yeah,” Holly said, “it’s almost as if he’s a unique person or something.”
She nodded at the three humans - and if Artemis was going to grow up to be as tall as his father she’d never forgive him - and left the breakfast room, clumsily jumping up the carpeted steps and trying her best not to ogle at the luxury. It was slightly more comfortable than the last she had seen it, with careful baby-proofing and children’s toys scattered around, but the hallway full of paintings of scary old pale Mud Men glaring down at her gave her the creeps. The worst thing was, they all looked like Artemis - he was the spitting image of his great-grandmother, down to the crystal blue eyes. She couldn’t help but note the plaque at the end of the hall with no attached picture, dated early in Artemis’ childhood.
An unbidden image struck her: Artemis, ten or eleven, instructing with an imperial little finger to take down the large painting of two parents long gone and a little girl with a serious expression in a dress. They must have seemed like aliens staring down at him, unblinking and unflinching, painful reminders of a past both reviled and treasured.
Ugh. She hated being one of the experts in Artemis psychology. She didn’t do niceness, consideration, or empathy. Holly privately considered herself a kind, thoughtful person, but that wasn’t the kind of image she could afford to maintain while being the only woman in the LEP. Every time there was a crying baby, let’s get Holly to comfort it. Crying civilian? Holly can talk them down! Need someone skilled in negotiation? Women were good at negotiating, right? It made her barf.
Maybe that was why she had thought that she understood Artemis, at first. Holly hated being treated like a woman too. She wanted to be a cop first, woman second. Cutting your hair and wearing a suit seemed to just be an extension of that, and for a confusing few months Holly thought that maybe Artemis was just a kindred spirit. Mud Man sexism had to be a million times worse than fairy sexism, after all. She couldn’t imagine what he had to go through, being a little girl surviving in a cutthroat business world.
It wasn’t until she talked with him about it that she realized that Artemis was genuinely saw himself as wrong, not society. He knew who he was, and he wanted others to view him as he did himself. She still didn’t entirely get it, but she knew Artemis, and that was enough. There had been nothing weirder than seeing him running around in a dress eight years ago.
Of course, before travelling back in time, Holly had never seen hate in Artemis’ expression. Contempt, frequently, coldness or cruelness or snideness, yes, but never hate. But when Artemis saw himself, dressed like a porcelain doll and barking commands like a tiny general, Holly saw a depth of hate she didn’t even know he was capable of. It was frightening.
It was probably mostly his younger self’s bratty half-pint attitude, although Holly was somewhat inclined by long experience of time to find it a little adorable. But maybe it was the dress too.
Her feet sunk in the plush carpeting, but the carpet in front of the door to Artemis’ study was well-worn. There was a secure keypad on the door, which Holly had more than enough tools to easily break into, but she was a fairy and respected privacy within the home. She knocked instead, despite Butler’s warning that he hadn’t opened up the door for anybody in a week, never once expecting that he would close it to her.
“Artemis,” Holly called, “it’s Holly! Open up, we need to talk!”
She banged it on again, scowling at the way her very regular sized fist barely made a sound on the unreasonably gigantic door. “I got a special permit from my very scary boss to drop everything I was doing to run all the way up here and see if you were dead. If you don’t open the door in ten seconds I’m going to assume you are actually dead, and then climb in through the air vents and loot your corpse. Don’t test me, Fowl! I’ve wanted your watch for years!”
The door was very well fortified and completely soundproof, so she couldn’t hear the sounds of anyone behind the door. She crossed her arms and tapped her toes, counting very loudly under her breath. Maybe he had headphones in? He usually did.
The door was not so much pushed open as forcibly ripped. A teenage boy stood in the doorway, looking thoroughly excited, and for a solid twenty seconds Holly didn’t know who he was.
Fairies have a very acute sense of smell. It’s a side-effect of living underground for so long. Artemis’ scent, very reliably up until he hit puberty, was a rich cologne concoction of sandalwood and wealth. After he went off the blockers and started taking T he started absolutely dumping the cologne all over himself, to the point where it physically pricked at her nose and she had to ask him to tone it down a little, much to his embarrassment and Butler and Juliet’s amusement. Butler had joked that at least it wasn’t axe. Holly had agreed that yes, it was best not to give Artemis any weapons, as he would probably only hurt himself. This had made Butler laugh, but Holly hadn’t understood why.
But Artemis had been wearing the same cologne since he was twelve, and the boy who opened the door smelled like flowers. Not bad - maybe even nicer than Artemis - but undeniably flowery. His hair curled at the ends, not gelled flat to his head but grown out a little shaggier with faint curls that called to mind the pictures Holly had seen of his younger brother Beckett. He was wearing a crop top and cut-off shorts and had, incredibly, indescribably, the faintest hints of makeup around his eyes. He was wearing nail polish. It was purple.
But it was Artemis. She would recognize that piercing heterochromatic gaze anywhere. But there was something off about it - disjointed, unfocused, with makeup clearly covering eyebags.
“Holy fuck,” Holly said, making liberal use of the English curses she had picked up from Juliet. “ Artemis? ”
Artemis crossed his arms and jutted out his lips, as if he was - pouting. “I told you it was Orion! Didn’t you read my email?”
“That was you ?” She had rather thought it was Artemis going insane - but, maybe it was.
Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe this happened with kids like Artemis? They could hardly call him crazy for wanting to explore his gender identity beyond the very rigid rules he had set for himself when he was ten. Trans teens changed their names all the time, apparently. Maybe this was - normal -?
“Duh! I missed you so much, Hol!” Then he bent down and hugged her.
Okay. Not Artemis. What now?
“Missed you too,” Holly said weakly, gently extricating herself from the hug as quickly as possible. “Why are you dressed like - that?”
Orion - because it wasn’t Artemis - nodded seriously, almost adorably, before he grabbed her hand and tugged her inside the study. More touching in twenty seconds than Artemis had done in years. He shut the door to the study firmly, without re-locking it, and grinned brightly at her. His teeth were pearly white, almost strangely perfect, and there was something behind his eyes that Holly didn’t recognize.
There was music blasting loudly from the speakers, music that sounded a little like fairy bubblegum pop. When Holly craned her head and snuck a glance at his computer screen she saw that it was - Carly Rae Jepsen? Whoever that was.
“Oh, do you like it?” Orion asked excitedly. He twirled a little, flexing proudly. Were those - biceps? “I’ve been working out too. Don’t tell Butler, ha ha. I had to do all the shopping online, but I think the new clothing is so flattering! Much better than those stinky suits.” He stuck out his tongue. “Sorry I didn’t open up the door immediately, I was playing Minecraft. Do you want to see my Minecraft house? I made an exact recreation of Fowl Manor!”
“What’s Minecraft?” Holly asked blankly.
That was how, for the next thirty minutes, Orion showed Holly a complex breakdown of everything going on in his ‘Minecraft’ ‘server’. She had to admit that the re-creation of his house was almost exact, but also - what? She texted Butler five minutes in ( He’s fine but acting weird, ttyl) as Orion nattered on about how he had to find a new VPN because he had been ‘permabanned’ from Minecraft after almost single-handedly destroying the game when he was thirteen. Or, as he put it, “When Artemis was thirteen”.
“That idiot’s always ruining good things,” Orion said casually, mashing his keyboard and nodding his head to the loud music he had never turned off. Holly sat on the desk next to him, legs crossed, so far out of her depth it wasn’t funny. “I set up a Neopets account a month ago, and the next thing I knew he had deleted it. Like, no need to be such a pill!”
“Never heard anyone call him an idiot before,” Holly said, squinting at the screen. The things you could do with digital blocks were pretty amazing. Mud Man technology had progressed further than she had thought. “A month ago, huh? Have you been around that long?”
He had sent her that text only yesterday. Which meant that this Orion thing had been happening, reliably, and he hadn’t even mentioned it to her. Or Butler, or anyone. If it wasn’t for the fact that Orion had sent her that text, they might have gone a lot longer without knowing anything was happening.
“Little bit longer then that,” Orion said vaguely. He flipped out of the video game tab, pressing a few keys and doing something mysterious to some other websites. Fairies didn’t have internet, and as far as Holly knew Artemis had never developed a taste for anything beyond news sites and the dark web. “Long enough to set up an aesthetic Tumblr - you should give me a follow, Hol - and long enough to make a few other changes around here that Art doesn’t know about.” He winked at her, strangely roguish, casually handsome in a way that Artemis had never managed. “Can’t tell you too much about that, though. Art and I have somewhat of a rivalry. Lancasters and Yorks, Martin Luther and the Catholic Church, that sort of deal. I know whose side you’re on, anyway.”
“Orion, would you mind if we let Butler into the study?” Holly asked, somewhat desperately. “I know he’d really want to meet you.”
“I’ve never met Butler,” Orion said, easily and coldly, without blinking. “And I don’t need him. Not like Artemis does. Oh, don’t give me that face, Hol - I love him! And Juliet. I just like my independence, is all. Artemis feels the same way, he just won’t admit it. ”
“What about your parents?” Holly asked. “And your brothers? Don’t you want to see them?”
Orion shrugged, turning his attention back to the video game. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. You mean those toddlers that keep running around? I can’t stand children. So sticky.”
Holly narrowed her eyes. “You’re playing dumb.”
But Orion just smiled at her again, pleasant and kind, twisting Artemis’ young face into a mask of happiness. “Oh, I’m much dumber than Artemis. But I would say that I’m prettier, too, so it all evens out.” He went back to his game, tongue poking out between his teeth as he did something mysterious to the assembly of blocks and cubes. “Don’t worry so much, Hol. Artemis was the one who tased himself to see if I would come out or not.”
Then, for the first time, Holly noticed the small handheld Mud Man style taser half-sticking out of an open drawer. Orion grinned roguishly as Holly’s jaw dropped.
“You what? Orion!”
“We were experimenting,” Orion said casually, as if he and Artemis had been making out instead of electrocuting himself. “Silly Billy thought that if he figured out what made me jump out, then he could control it. Have you noticed he’s a bit of a control freak? I’m not like that. I believe in being excellent to each other and partying on, dudes!”
So it had been a problem, a persistent enough one that Artemis was trying to solve it. And he hadn’t called her, hadn’t even decided to tell her. Unless those texts were a call for help. Unless this is what Orion was doing now, sharing this information so they could all work on controlling Artemis.
This was a useless train of thought. Holly had never once successfully out-thought Artemis Fowl in her life, and she wouldn’t start now. But she did know him, one of the few who did. He wasn’t her responsibility, but he was her friend, and to Holly those may as well be the same thing.
“Orion,” Holly said slowly, forcing herself to acclimate to the name. It was easier than she had thought it would be. The boy in front of her didn’t look like Artemis at all. “I think it’s important that we talk to Butler about this. We don’t have to talk to your parents -”
“ Artemis’ parents.”
“ - to Artemis’ parents about this if you don’t want to. But this is a little out of my area of expertise. You need…” Holly struggled for a word. Help? Since when had Artemis ever accepted help? If he had just asked her to help him cure his mother she would have. He hadn’t even known that. How could she trust that Artemis and Orion would know that she only wanted him to be happy? “We need to work together on this.”
Orion stared at her, with wide childish eyes and an almost animalistic tilt of his head. He didn’t say anything, but Holly knew what Artemis drafting a plan looked like. Almost abruptly, he said, “Sure! I always have a moment for my fans. You have to do something for me, though. Favor for favor.”
If that wasn’t just Artemis all over. Holly fought the urge to roll her eyes. “Fine.”
“Tell me everything you hate about Artemis,” Orion said, swinging his chair so he could prop his legs up on the expensive wood. He pressed his fingers together, almost singing the words. “Everything you hate about him, right now, go!”
Holly opened her mouth, then closed it, dumbfounded. “What?”
“I just want to get a better idea of your relationship,” Orion said, somehow perfectly innocently despite wearing Artemis’ face. The thick black curls framed his big mismatched eyes like a halo, creating an almost angelic impression that could give Beckett a run for his money. “I want to know the background for this story.”
“It’s not a story,” Holly said, mouth dry. “It’s our lives.”
“All the world’s a stage, my dear, and we are but players.” His pearly white teeth practically glistened at her. “Well? I’m waiting.”
“Uh…” Well, it probably couldn’t hurt. It wasn’t anything Orion didn’t already know, right? He was probably information gathering. That was something Artemis would do.
Besides, it was an easy deal, for a Fowl. Holly came out far ahead. Orion’s cooperation in solving this problem was priceless. So why did it feel as if she was being duped?
The slight, maybe even imagined, similarity between the two boys bolstered Holly, and she held up three fingers to tick them off. “He..has never gone grocery shopping in his life. That’s one. Second thing, he still thinks capitalism is a functioning system, which is just idiotic. Third thing...he never asks for help when he needs it.” Holly clenched her hand. “There. Three things. Let Butler in.”
There - there it was. Something glittered in Orion’s eyes, some odd scraping of intelligence and cunning. No - more than that. For a second, in the flash of the computer light, Orion looked almost mad. But then it was gone, a shadow on water, and he was all bright smiles and soulful eyes again. “Anything for Holly Short, the protagonist of my life, the yin to my yang! Let me grab his pager.” Without breaking eye contact with her, their perfectly mirrored eyes fixating on each other’s, he leaned over and rummaged one handedly through his desk drawer. He withdrew something small in a clenched fist, so small that Holly could barely see it.
“I’ll see you on the flip side, darling!” Orion cried, holding up the small device, and Holly saw that it was not a pager at all. “Be back soon! Tah-tah!”
Then Orion, with casual ruthlessness, pressed the taser into his neck, and screamed. He convulsed, crop top shaking off his shoulder, tattered cut-off shorts grinding into the hardwood floor as he fell, and Holly leapt forward too late to avoid his head colliding with the floor. The door banged open, and as if he had been called there by a sixth sense Butler was there, looking as alert as he ever got without crossing into panic.
“He’s fine,” Holly said quickly, pressing two fingers to his throat. Shit, no heartbeat. Wait. Human heartbeats were there. It was steady and strong. “Just slightly electrocuted.”
“You electrocuted -”
“He did it to himself,” Holly said quietly, and Butler abruptly quieted. Artemis was still on the floor, the only movement the residual shaking of his limbs and the steady rise and fall of his chest, and Butler quickly took over in basic first aid. Holly let him - the only human she had ever treated for injuries was Artemis, and he had been younger then. Lying on the floor, Holly saw now that he was likely almost to his adult height. He was tall. Holly barely came to his hips. She didn’t know how she felt about that. Artemis had always been - special, in his own way. Different Maybe she assumed that this difference extended to height too, that he would end his life as tall as a fairy. Artemis Fowl wasn’t the kind to be constrained by paltry things like biology.
Did those weird chemical things he took make him tall like a human biological male, too? Holly didn’t know. There was so much she didn’t know about that whole thing. As Butler’s eyes lingered on Orion - Artemis’ - painted nails and slight hints of makeup, Holly considered that maybe there were lots of things nobody knew about the whole thing.
“It’s an advanced stage,” Holly said desolately. “You need to get him help. If it gets much worse it’ll be that much harder for Artemis to recover.”
Butler’s expression was implacable, as always, but the tension in his frame was at stark contrast to the delicate way he picked up Artemis and deposited his limp body back in his cushy office chair. “Artemis hasn’t always been the best about accepting help.”
As if to prove his point, Artemis’ eyes fluttered open.
Taser controlled who came out, or so Orion had implied. But, despite everything, Holly couldn’t tell who was behind Artemis’ eyes now. Shouldn’t she know? Of all people?
“Artemis, give me a sitrep,” Butler said brusquely. “Oriented times four.”
“Artemis Fowl,” Artemis said, fuzzy but distinct, and Holly exhaled. He looked around, a motion that Butler clearly caught. “Study in Fowl Manor.” He looked at his wrist watch, scowling when it was a bit...well, pinker, than his usual fare. “Five hours later. That idiot. Joyriding a Ferrari like it’s a Subaru.” He looked around, eyes skimming over Butler like he was furniture, double taking slightly when he saw Holly. His eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here?”
Great. Typical Artemis. She hauled ass all the way to the surface in a panic, and he squabbles at her for interrupting his afternoon tea. Holly rolled her eyes. “Apparently, nothing. I hauled ass all the way to the surface for fun.”
“Liar,” Artemis said, surprisingly viciously, and Butler raised a hand before slowly lowering it. “You’re here on police business, aren’t you? You can’t prove anything. I haven’t been doing anything illegal against the People in weeks. I’ve been far too busy.”
Holly stepped back, confused, almost hurt. “I came here because I was worried about you! This has nothing to do with work.”
“Don’t. Don’t indulge that pathetic phantom’s crocodile tears.” Artemis, in a shockingly daring move, pushed Butler’s hand away and stood up. His face was twisted in an ugly scowl, and he looked down at his outfit with pure disgust. “ What did he do to my poor wardrobe? Effeminate shit.” Butler truly recoiled this time, eyes wide behind his glasses. “Out, all of you. I’m perfectly well, as you can see. Go home now and report that to your superiors.”
“That’s not what I’m seeing at all,” Holly said weakly.
“I said out!” Artemis screamed, the first time since he was a child Holly had ever heard him scream, and before she knew it the door to Artemis’ study was locking behind her. Most surprisingly of all, Butler was next to her, looking as if his world had shifted five inches to the right and he was left tripping over stairs.
They looked at each other, both oddly lost, shaken loose from the most reliable figure they had in their lives.
“I’ll inform the masters Fowl,” Butler said finally, taking refuge in professionalism as always. “We...can probably arrange for the twins to stay with Juliet in the Dublin flat for a while. And if you can send any information you have on Atlantis Complex, I would appreciate it. We would appreciate it.”
“Butler, he needs help,” Holly said, uselessly. It was her least favorite feeling. Holly was not useless in a single aspect or area of her life. She refused to be useless in Artemis’. Artemis was useless enough by himself, he couldn’t afford to have her slacking off. “More help than you and his parents and human technology can give him.”
“It’s best if you head home, Captain Short,” Butler said firmly. “We’re Artemis’ family. We can handle whatever he throws at us. It’s best if we keep this in the family for now.”
“I’ll see you to the door.”
That was the last she saw of Artemis for a while.
He didn’t respond to her phone calls, or her text messages. Foaly’s surveillance, as thorough and well-maintained as ever when it came to spying on their favorite freaky Mud Boy, was only marginally more helpful. Their cameras inside Fowl Manor weren’t very good, much less their viewpoints into his lairs of his study and bedroom, and whatever Artemis was doing he wasn’t leaving his rooms to do it.
Holly sat in Foaly’s living room, playing with his children, gossiping with his wife, as Trouble and Foaly talked shop in the kitchen as they put together Solstice Dinner. She tidied her own flat, bought new curtains, contacted realtors about buying a house in the suburbs. She and Trouble went on dates and held hands, and began to talk just a little more about their future. She went to the local gay bars with Vinyaya, and tossed back shots as they laughed uproariously. Life went on, in every banal normality that was so common for everyone.
But that everyone had never included Artemis. And as Holly showered and vacuumed and cleaned her guns, she couldn’t help but think about every inch of him that she never understood. A clean face, a dirty trick, a slanted fox’s grin. He had always seemed so simple, so elegant in his complexity. Holly had thought that she understood everything about him. Or, at the very least, that the things she didn’t understand weren’t important.
Atlantis Complex didn’t happen out of nowhere. Had he been unhappy the entire time? How long had he been unhappy? Why hadn’t he said anything? Holly would have - well, she couldn’t have sympathized, or tried to make him feel better, or been there for him emotionally...but she would have cared. Did he think that nobody cared?
“You’ve turned into an empty nester,” Trouble laughed at her, as she playfully slapped him with a dish towel. “Your kid’s flying the coop, Hols. He’s what, fifteen now? That’s like...two hundred in human years? You don’t need to keep worrying about him.”
“His family said to keep it in the family,” Foaly said, without looking up from his computer. “They don’t want a fairy solution to a fairy problem. Who cares! Fowl’s problems not ending the world is a vacation in my book. Kids gotta kid. I remember when my nephew was his age, he had a huge punk phase. Got his tail pierced. Talk about yuck. Let Fowl make his own mistakes. His family’ll clean up after him.”
But I am his family, Holly didn’t say. But the humans he lived with wouldn’t clean up after him, because they bought every lie Artemis sold. Everybody did. And Holly had finally thought Artemis had learned to be kind, but there was something sociopathic and cruel behind Orion’s eyes, like he was a child watching a beetle struggle on a pin. If someone like that was living in Artemis’ head, what could it do to him?
But maybe it really wasn’t Holly’s problem. She could shoot everything that tried to hurt him, back him up on all of his insane quests, but she couldn’t fix this problem for him. Maybe it was for the best. She couldn’t keep cleaning up after him forever. Butler could handle it. He had already promised that he would.
And she was right. It wasn’t her problem, until she got her first communication from him in almost two months. An invitation to a presentation. Her, Foaly, Vinyaya, and Kelp.
She wasn’t stupid. She knew that this would end up in some kind of uniquely terrible disaster that was just frankly improbable in any other person. The chances of, hypothetically, going out for coffee and ending the afternoon by taking over a small country was incredibly low in any other person but Artemis Fowl. With him, it was almost guaranteed. If she didn’t end up fighting a troll in Iceland she’d eat her hat.
But it relieved her. Because this? This, she could handle.
Holly could punch this problem better. And Artemis would be back to normal. And she wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore, because the idea of thinking of Artemis Fowl as a normal fairy with normal fairy feelings was so impossibly strange that it was almost uncomfortable. Except a human, but Holly had learned years ago that humans felt mostly the same spectrum of emotion that fairies did. They weren’t so different.
Maybe Artemis wouldn’t be so different.
Artemis was very different.
In fact, maybe he wasn’t even Artemis anymore. Maybe he was a new, third personality. He needed more constellations. Artemis the God, Orion the Hunter (I hunted you!), he needed some sort of third thing. Maybe he was Actaeon, who was turned into a stag for being enraptured by Artemis’ nude form and was promptly ripped apart by her hounds.
An odd sort of vanity, but a fitting one. Artemis did have the habit of becoming overly enraptured by his body. Always prodding, testing, poking. Lips too feminine. Jawline too small. Skull shape wrong. He had never wasted much time on dysphoria, but there was a certain perverse satisfaction in the thrill of labelling and pinning down every imperfection in Artemis’ crude body that was almost addictive. He needed more surgeries. He needed better suits. He needed maleness and rightness and the perfection of form, which was unattainable.
It was all Orion’s fault, the prick. He kept on changing Artemis’ body without his permission. There was nothing Artemis hated more than waking up to find sparkly lavender fingernail polish on his well trimmed nails, or seeing every decent suit ripped out of his closet and replaced with - gag - graphic tees and brightly colored jackets. It was like he was being haunted by a gay ghost. Queer Eye for the Dead Guy.
Oh, he got his revenge. Orion hadn’t appreciated it when Artemis had wiped out his entire Animal Crossing town with a cruel press of a button. Poor idiot had practically cried. Artemis had paid for that one, though - he woke up the next time to find his favorite Rolex smashed in. After that one, they had reached an anxious truce - they didn’t try to destroy each other’s lives, and in return their more dangerous activities flew underneath Butler’s radar.
Maybe that how one lost the battle with their own mind - when they were reduced to coping mechanisms, to arranging their life so it was pretty as a picture on the outside even as the inside decomposed. Artemis was now spending far more of his time and energy on covering up whatever flights of fancy Orion indulged himself in than he was actually attempting to rid himself of Orion. Perhaps that was why he did it.
But Artemis was the captain of his own destiny. He was too good for dissociative disorders. He wasn’t a loser, pathetic idiot who slurred their words and drooled on public transportation. He wasn’t his mother, weak and desperate. Artemis would never be weak like she was. He was better than that.
This giant spaceship crash landing on top of Artemis’ head was not real . And Artemis could prove it.
He raged and screamed, only distantly aware of how far he was shaking apart from the platonic ideal of Artemis Fowl that he had spent so many years carefully constructing. Artemis Fowl acted a certain way. He did certain things. These were not things Artemis was doing now. Did that make him not Artemis?
His mind reached a crescendo, buzzing and frantic, and Artemis distantly recognized the characteristic jitteriness and lack of focus that was prodromal to a switch. No! Not now! Artemis was better than this, he was more than his wiring, he was superior to the demon that took his body for joyrides.
Who was he, if he wasn’t Artemis? If he was weak?
Artemis would have noticed Holly aiming her gun at him, the way the whirring of the Neutrino cut through the frigid Arctic air. Artemis would have been thinking of solutions, clever traps, plots and plans, not the way his father used to cut him down with a cold glare and tell him to just stop crying . Were all children like this, Artemis? Butler, why don’t you entertain him -
A concussive force. A push, as if from a physical person, high into the air and rolling across tightly packed snow. A splitting pain, the smell of burnt hair. Artemis’ mind slid over a cliff, diving into freefall, unimpaired and unhampered. Then nothing.
Slush. Not snow, but far more plastic and electric tasting. A figure bent over him, with delicate yet sharp features and an auburn crew cut. She was improperly dressed for the weather, with just a thick jumpsuit and a puffy black jacket, but the material was likely toasty as a campfire. Familiar, tickled the recognition bells - oh right , his unreasonably attractive pseudo aunt figure. Next to her stood a...centaur. Not attractive. Very anxious looking. Right, the nerdy guy.
Orion felt the desire to play a prank, and what Orion wanted to do, he did. He fought the urge to smile beatifically at the total MILF, and sat up. He was far more appropriately dressed for the weather, with a thick fur hood protecting his hair from the ice along with thermal heating elements that were likely also present in Holly’s outfit, but also he must look like a complete grey blob. Artemis had no sense of style. Clothes make the man, Artemis!
For a given value of man.
“Artemis?” The centaur - Filly or Fucker or something - stamped a hoof. “Your fantastic inventions screwed the pooch. Again! What do you have to say for yourself, young man?” He glanced sideways at Holly. “Did I do that right? Am I hitting the right tone here?”
“His inventions?” Holly demanded. “Isn’t it your space probe that’s trying to kill us?”
“I challenge you to redefine the word ‘mine’,” Foaly retorted. “Did I design them? Yes. Did I engineer every aspect of them? Also yes. Are they my patent? Definitely yes. Did I manufacture the prototypes with my own two hands and four hooves? You bet. Are they as to me as my own children? Naturally. Do I take any responsibility for this? Debatable!”
“Children, children, please,” Orion said, easily jumping to his feet and raising his hands for order. He mimicked straightening a tie. “The fantastic and illustrious Artemis Fowl has this well in order. I have a plan that will fix everything, then make everything worse, then I’ll fix it again. Never fear.”
“Oh, well, if you’re going to be so self-aware about it, go ahead.” Foaly crossed his front arms, putting on an air of being all unimpressed, but the way his back hoof anxiously kicked the hard packed snow betrayed his anxiety. “Regale us all with how smart you are, Artemis.”
“If you so insist, my good man.” Orion made a show of inspecting his nails, even as Holly’s eyes narrowed. He bit down hard on the side of his lip, fighting a giggle. “The first step in this plan is to act out my repressed anger regarding early childhood trauma against the innocent masses. Who wants to volunteer to get kidnapped again?” Orion smiled beatifically down at Holly, who was fully scowling now. “Captain Short? Do you want to serve as an emotional stand-in for the mother who never loved me?”
“Orion,” Holly ground out, and Foaly yelped. Her cheeks were ruddy - windburn, or had she been crying? “Not funny. This is a serious situation.”
Orion couldn’t help it - he laughed. Fully, hysterically, throwing caution to the wind that carried their scent towards those goopy little whatever things. They were actually kinda cute. Maybe he could take one home as a pet? “The newest adventure begins!” Orion crowed, throwing his hands up as if he was proselytizing to an adoring crowd. “How will Artemis take out his inadequacies on the rest of the world today? How will he manipulate his friends? But never fear, lads and lasses, Orion is here.” He winked theatrically at Foaly, who looked almost queasy. “I’ll keep you safe from that mean little faggot. I believe the first step is to construct a bivouac -”
“Are you going to help or are you going to be useless?” Holly asked bluntly, as the probes chittered closer and closer. Foaly mouthed the word ‘faggot’ to himself, as if he was trying to puzzle out what it meant. “Tell me now so we don’t waste any time.”
“My darling fairy, I’m far more useful than Artemis. I can recite the entire plotline of all mainline Pokemon games -”
“Useless, great.” Then Holly dismissed him entirely, which - stung, perhaps more than it should have. Why did it sting? He didn’t know her. He didn’t care about her, and she hated him. She was Artemis’ friend. So why did Orion crave acknowledgement?
Oh, right, mommy issues. Obviously. He stuffed a fist in his mouth to stifle a giggle as Holly and Foaly shouted about something complicated that he didn’t bother trying to understand. Fun, fun, fun. The most important thing in life was to lie back and have a good time. Think of England if you had to, but Orion was far more invested in his Minecraft house than whatever was going on here. He should download Minecraft into his watch, so he can play it on the go.
Speaking of which, all those guys he was catfishing on Grindr deserved a response. Maybe he could send some an actual ab pic, just this once - Orion had needs, after all! It wasn’t his fault Artemis was a sexless freak. Ken doll motherfucker. What a riot.
Orion was funner. Orion was nicer. He was going to improve Artemis’ life. Whether Artemis wanted him to or not. Then it could be Orion’s life, and Artemis could be the shadow on the other side of mountain, the ghost in the shell -
“We keep moving,” Holly said roughly, and turned sharply on her heel to walk in a direction that seemed almost arbitrary. “We’ll search for an escape pod in the wreckage of the ship. Everybody single file, come on. We’ll get through this.”
Foaly looked away, mouth a tight line. “Holly, I know you and Vinayaya were close -”
“I’m going to tell you all about the plotlines of the Pokemon games anyway,” Orion said enthusiastically. “So, in the first game, you begin your Pokemon journey at ten years old -”
This was going to be fun! Orion had always wanted an adventure. Artemis bragged for so long, and was so psychologically dependent on his feelings of usefulness and worthiness, about all his cool little hijinks with his fairy friends. Orion wanted that. He wanted what Artemis had.
And he would get it. One way, or another.
Hah! That was one of his favorite songs!
Orion Fowl skipped happily across the Arctic wastes behind his new fairy friends, whistling a happy tune, enthusiastic about this new adventure.
Artemis woke up upside-down, with his mother calling him.
He groaned, inordinately exhausted with a fuzzy mind. The switch always tired him. He was going to be irritable for the next two days, at least. Why was he upside down, anyway?
Oh, right. Artemis groaned again, this time out of exasperation. Foaly and Holly were next to him, both out cold but securely strapped in. Last thing he remembered...an extended, almost cartoonish Three Stooges sequence of them all annoying each other...basic trickery...Vinyaya was dead…
Vinyaya was dead. Orion, the awful little sociopath, had barely paid any attention, but Artemis felt heavy grief press down on his heart. She had been a good cop. And a good person, which was far more important. Poor Holly. She hadn’t really been the same after Root. But his phone was still ringing, and Artemis fumbled the inside pocket open and accepted the call, turning off the camera.
“Mother, I’m a little tied up at the moment.”
“Iceland, Art? Really?” Hm. She wasn’t amused. Mildly inconvenient. “You don’t leave your room for months and now you’re in Iceland? Put me on the phone with Butler, I have more than a few questions for him about why he allowed this.”
Ah, right. He had snuck out, hadn’t he. It was hardly his fault. His parents had been suffocating lately. Spend one day on a hunger strike because you were worried about poison, and suddenly you need a ‘psychiatrist’ or an ‘inpatient program’. Please. Artemis had been banned from every mental hospital in Ireland since he was seven.
“I’m afraid Butler found himself engaged with some pressing business in Mexico,” Artemis said dully, neglecting to mention that the pressing business was somewhat fictional. At least he was safe. And out of Artemis's hair. Butler freaked out whenever Orion showed up, to the point where Orion had cultivated an almost immaculate Artemis impression just so he would stop being annoying and fake concerned. The tribulations of having a family whom you were obligated to hide everything from. Nobody had told him that half the work of mental illness was dealing with your family hand wringing about it. It was all performative, anyway. Nobody cared about him. “If you called me to scold me, then you can do that just as effectively in person.”
“I didn’t call you to scold you, dear,” Mother said reproachfully. “It’s about your fifteenth birthday. It’s an auspicious date, you know. We should do something special. Forget about all this nonsense for a little while.”
Hanging upside down wasn’t fun, but Artemis didn’t have the energy to rectify the situation. Or, really, any situation. He wanted a nap. “It’s my nineteenth birthday, Mother. And I’d prefer a quiet one at home, if you don’t mind.”
“Nonsense, we must have a party. We’ll have to pretend that you’re turning nineteen, of course, but you are rather mature looking for your age. It’s those crow’s feet, honey. Remind me to give you some anti-aging cream when you get home.” Artemis began tuning her out, watching drool fall upwards from Holly’s mouth. Rather ignoble. He snapped a picture. “I just got you the nicest birthday present, too. You have to promise to wear it. Guess what I got you!”
“If it’s a crop top I’m self-immolating.”
“Not funny, Art. I bought some divine designer jeans and t-shirts. Perfect for a teenage boy.” She sighed happily, and Artemis had a sudden ugly vision of another world where his mother lived her ideal life buying thousand dollar designer dresses every week for her daughter. Living vicariously, living frivolously. “It’s the perfect birthday gift. Promise you’ll wear them for your party.”
“You know, Mother,” Artemis said, tired and stressed and tipping so far over his breaking point he was held together with string, “It’s funny how every birthday gift you buy for me is really just something you buy for you.”
“Art, that’s not fair!”
“I thoroughly apologize for my inadequacies in being your perfect daughter,” Artemis said viciously, far more vicious than he had expressed in almost his entire life. “I’ll make up for it by importing you a Harold’s mannequin. Good day .”
He jabbed his phone, disconnecting the call, and put it back in his pocket. He felt wretched. He felt very free. He mostly felt as if he was hanging upside down in a crashed space shuttle with two mythical creatures, feeling guilty over yelling at his mother.
“Not the stripy ones, they’re just babies.” Foaly flopped over onto his back, before blearily opening his eyes. Artemis smacked the release button on his own harness and dropped down, offering a hand to the prone centaur. He looked a bit frazzled. It was rare to actually see Foaly in a life or death situation. Must be nice. “Not you. I’ve had enough of you and your video game obsession.”
Christ. He couldn’t win. Artemis scowled. “I apologize for my illness being inconvenient to you. I will endeavour to have a mental breakdown somewhere more discreet next time.”
“Oh thank goodness, you’re back. The other you was more annoying than a toddler hyped up on sugar cubes.” Foaly took Artemis’ hand, and stumbled to his hooves. “Listen, Artemis, Vinyaya -”
“I’m perfectly aware,” Artemis said, clipping his words short. “I’m working on a plan to get us out of here. I won’t be useless again.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” a new voice said, and Holly dropped down to the ceiling/floor next to him. She looked tired, and stressed, and she carried herself with the particular soldier’s brand of calm that they carried into war zones like a shield. Until they got out of this, Holly Short, his friend, was not in session. Captain Holly Short of the LEP was taking the reigns now, and she would get them all out of here safe. It was...reassuring. When Artemis saw that glint in his friend’s eyes, everything usually turned out fine. Maybe he wasn’t the only one with a split personality. “Are you good, Artemis?”
He knew what she meant - are you functional? Artemis’ eyebrow ticked. “I’m not at one hundred percent, Captain. My compulsions and obsessions are impairing my thought process. I’m also experiencing some brain fog, irritability, and lethargy. However, with some mild adrenaline I can overcome this easily. The obsessions have receded for now.” He wasn’t even counting his words. Progress. “I am at your disposal.”
“Great.” Holly walked to the console, and attempted a systems check. It didn’t even light up. “Well. How do we get out of here?”
“Oh, that one’s easy.” Artemis sat down on the floor, making a show of reclining against the wall. The flair for the dramatics was essential to the Artemis Fowl effect. He had to sell it. “Wait for my butler to show up.”
Butler wasn’t happy. But Artemis didn’t blame him.
Juliet was, but she didn’t take as much personal offense at being manipulated into fighting zombies as Butler did. Mulch was too, but he was mostly just glad not to be in prison. Besides, Artemis rather had the sense that he was the highlight of Mulch’s life. He had been reliably told that things didn’t get much more exciting than hanging out with Artemis Fowl. Maybe if the whole criminal mastermind thing didn’t work out, he had a career as a circus clown.
After fifteen (good number) minutes being yelled at by his angry employee, twenty seconds (good number) being punched by a jubilant Juliet, and one (one more than he would like) encounter with a giant squid, Artemis was strapped into a passenger chair more tightly than a baby in a papoose, and Butler was holding on behind him. Juliet was trying to press buttons, Foaly was frantically trying to stop her, Mulch was eating, and Holly was saving their lives by following the trail of bubbles in the Mercenary’s gyro.
“We need to talk,” Butler said.
“That’s four words,” Artemis said, inspecting his own hand. Was the thumb a finger? Investigate later. “Consider rephrasing that, please, Butler?”
Five words. But Butler didn’t look happy. “You said that you had this under control. That I was overreacting, and that your parents were suffocating you. I gave you the space you wanted. I didn’t take you to any doctors, because you had it under control. This is not under control.”
“Don’t feel embarrassed, old friend. We put forth a great deal of effort in hiding it from you.” Thumb, ring, pointer, index, pinky. Five. The base ten system was because humans have ten fingers and ten toes. To think, that something as abstract and far reaching and cosmic as mathematics could be influenced by petty human limbs. “The last thing I need are doctors, anyway. They’re all quacks. They’d pump me full of medication and make me stupid. It’s just unnecessary. All Mother and Father need is a functional child. Anything beyond that is extraneous.”
“You didn’t take him to a doctor?” Holly asked without taking her eyes off the trail, furious. “Seriously?”
“Fowls don’t see doctors,” Butler said, stiffly and almost sarcastically. He was quoting Father. Artemis fought the urge to crack a smile. How like him.
“Stupid mud man -”
“Why don’t I get to meet Orion?” Juliet complained, leaning against Artemis’ chair and holding a scrap of meat high above Mulch’s head, making him jump for it. “Foaly makes him sound like a riot.”
“Juliet,” Butler said sharply, the full meaning behind the word known only to the two of them.
“He’s an idiot, you don’t want to meet him,” Artemis said, fighting the urge to blush. He hated the publicity of this. He hated how he couldn’t hide it. Why was he inconveniencing everyone? “He’s naive and ignorant and - and he plays girly and childish video games. He’s positively flamboyant,” Artemis dripped the word with as much disgust as he could. “It’s disgusting. He doesn’t need to flaunt it.”
The fairies looked at each other, confused, while Juliet frowned down at him. “That’s not a cool thing to say about someone. So Orion doesn’t worship gender roles like you do, what’s the big deal?”
“That’s an asinine question,” Artemis snapped, and he felt his nerves vibrate and his breath pick up. He bent in on himself a little, wrapping his arms around himself for comfort, barely cognizant of the way everyone in the shuttle was now staring at him. “Mother and Father will never respect him. Society will never respect him. If he doesn’t pass, he’s - he’s nobody. No professionals will take him seriously, the social circle of elite Irish will reject him, he’ll be a laughingstock on the internet. We don’t live in an ideal world where he can act however he wants. Gender is a social construct, obviously, but it’s one with meaning. If he rejects it, he’s destroying the entire system. It’s not sustainable. It’s pathetic. He does it to mock me. To mock me. He’s taunting me. He’s telling me that I’m not real, that who I am isn’t real, because he’s jealous that he’s not real either -”
“Artemis. Breathe. Come on, in and out. One, two. Come on.”
Two hands were on his shoulders, and Juliet was in front of him. When had she gotten there? She was older, now seven years older instead of just four. She was an adult and he was a child. When did that happen? She was tanned, and strong. The years had only made Artemis weaker.
“You don’t need the respect of strangers,” Juliet said, calmly and firmly. “You’ll always have the love and respect of your family and your friends. It’s not worth it setting yourself on fire to keep society happy. Respectability politics isn’t a game we can ever win, and you know that. Deep breaths, kid, come on. Everything will be okay. You can just be yourself.”
“I don’t know who I am,” Artemis whispered miserably. “Five, ten, fifteen. Whoever Artemis Fowl is, I hate him more than I’ve ever hated anyone.”
Before Juliet could say anything in response to that, if there was anything to say, the shuttle shuddered and Holly pulled hard at the controls. “We’re landing,” Holly barked sharply, as if she hadn’t been listening at all. Professional to the end. “Everyone hold onto your asses.”
Very soon after that they all got kidnapped, and it didn’t matter anyway.
As the brutish pixie tazed Artemis - was it problematic that his conniving plans always ended up involving harm to his person? - he wondered if this is how Holly had felt, so long ago.
Maybe it was that thought that influenced the dream he slipped into. Or maybe it wasn’t a dream - maybe it was real, as real as the outside world, as real as Artemis himself had ever been.
It certainly felt real. Artemis sat on a hard cot in a strikingly familiar brick cell that now served as a storage room for his bit mining servers. He was chained to one of the legs of the bed, which was bolted very securely to the floor. Dressed only in his slacks and his undershirt, Artemis found himself almost hyperventilating. He was trapped. He couldn’t move. How could he get out of this? The far wall held a one way mirror, somebody was looking at him through it, somebody was cracking him open and peering inside his viscera and judging him for his sins.
Then the thick steel door on that wall opened, and Artemis’ worst enemy stood in the doorway.
As if his mouth was moving by itself, as if Artemis had no control over his speech, he found himself speaking to the demonic figure in mirrored sunglasses that stood in front of him.
“Stay back, human,” Artemis said, “you don’t know who you’re dealing with.”
Orion walked inside, and lifted the sunglasses to rest on top of his head. He was dressed in his favorite outfit, the tight crop top and cut-off jeans with sparkly nail polish and glitter converse. He grinned broadly at Artemis, but there was nothing kind in the expression. “Great callback. Sets up narrative parallels between the ending and beginning of this story. Inspired choice to cast me as the villain, too! You’ve really outdone yourself this tone, Arty.”
“You’re not real,” Artemis snarled, pulling at his bonds. If he was just wearing his suit jacket then he could wriggle out the lockpick he kept there, but all his weapons had been taken from him. Even his mind. “You’re a figment of my imagination. A weak dream. All I have to do is wake up and I’ll be free.”
“I’m just as real as you are,” Orion said. He tilted his head at Artemis, as inhuman and strange as ever. It was like he had learned body language from a textbook. Maybe he had. “Artemis Fowl. Prince with a thousand enemies. But the one enemy you’ve never been able to win against is yourself, is it?”
“Are you charging for this therapy session?” Artemis asked sourly.
“Putting yourself in Holly’s shoes, setting yourself up as the victim and me as the victimizer. It’s all very blatant. I think I have a whip in the other room, if you want to literally self-flagellate.” Orion didn’t blink, staring fixedly at Artemis, and Artemis set his jaw and met his crystal heterochromatic gaze. “Do you think that your self-hatred will erase the things you’ve done? That your guilt makes it all okay? So long as you say your prayers and pay your penances and donate money to the church, then your sins are wiped away? That’s not how it works. You don’t get out of this one just because you feel bad.”
“I have done more than enough to make up for my sins,” Artemis snapped. “I’ve saved the world half a dozen times over, is that not good enough for you?”
“Why would it be good enough for me when it’s not good enough for you?” Orion asked, in a reasonable tone of voice, as if anything he was saying would be reasonable. “Your logical fallacies are impenetrable. Giving Holly Short a bad day and a semi-traumatic experience outweighs you saving her life a dozen times over?”
Artemis’ mouth was dry. “Nothing I did is forgivable.”
“Then why has everyone forgiven you?” Orion asked. “Everyone’s forgiven you but yourself. What makes you so special that you’re unworthy of love?”
Artemis was silent. He didn’t have anything to say, for once in his life.
Why was Orion doing this? If it really was Orion, and not an imaginative figment of his imagination. They hated each other. He was shallow, idiotic, and ditzy. What was the point of saying these things to Artemis? Why had he constructed this ridiculous charade?
“But nothing matters,” Orion said quietly, “so long as your parents don’t love you.”
“Shut up!” Artemis screamed, shocking himself. Nobody talked about his parents. Nobody got to even touch - “They have nothing to do with this!”
“Oh, did I hit a nerve, Arty?” Orion asked, delighted. His face split into a broad grin, a smile larger than Artemis had ever made. “Still sad that you were a child made for appearances? Do you still feel like a burden on their happy marriage? You knew that they didn’t want a weird kid. Deviant and strange like you. They just wanted a normal little girl, and all they got was you. And you never forgave yourself, for the way they didn’t notice you existed until you saved their lives.” He angled his head again, zeroing in on the way Artemis flinched. “So that’s it. You have to overperform to even be allowed to exist. You aren’t worth anything unless you can give the world. Saving the lives of your friends, making their careers, giving great contributions to science, saving the world - that’s what you owe them, huh? But you’re an imperfect friend, and an imperfect person. You can never make up for your crimes - for the kidnapping, the thieving, the lying, the being born. But you’ll keep trying. Because you need them. People can’t live unloved.”
“Shut up,” Artemis whispered, feeling as if he was being torn apart. Wounds that he thought were long healed were being ripped open, oozing sticky blood. It hurt. Words shouldn’t hurt like this. “Shut up.”
“The only two people in this world who’ve never wanted anything from you are Beckett and Myles, and you hate them. The golden children, right?” Orion giggled lightly. “So you’re just like your parents, then. Hating innocent children for the crime of being born and being loved. What’s so special about them that Mam and Dad love them so much more than you? Is it because they aren’t awful little sociopaths? That’ll do it!”
“At least there’s people out there who want me alive,” Artemis snapped, desperately trying to find the cruelest thing to say that he could, aching for his hard shell. “You’re an attention whore who knows he’s not real and can’t cope with it. You’re going to spend the rest of your short life desperately crying for attention and love that nobody’s ever going to give you. My friends hate having you around. Hedonism ill-suits us, Orion. You’ll be killed by an antidepressant, and you won’t even leave a body behind.”
That did it. Orion’s eyes narrowed, and Artemis unconsciously leaned forward, ready for the challenge. “At least I’ll have lived authentically while I was alive. Face it, Artemis Julius - you wish you were me. You wish that you had the confidence to express yourself however you want.”
“I do not,” Artemis said icily.
“You like Animal Crossing,” Orion said triumphantly. “I know you do.”
“You like collecting the fossils!”
“I do not!”
“I’m you, Artemis!” Orion cried, and Artemis stopped short. “I’m everything about you that you don’t like! Face it, dude - being the villain is easy. It’s safe. It makes you feel powerful and good, and you never have to ask the hard questions. But being a good guy is hard. You always have to do the right thing, day after day, and you can’t help but fail. It’s a choice you have to make again and again. But it’s what you want . It’s what you’ve always wanted. Ever since you saw that man holding the lemur, who looked a little like your dad but nothing like him, you always wanted to be brave and kind and good. I know it. You don’t. You made me the villain in this story because that’s easier, because it’s easier to think of me as the villain than it is to think of myself as you. And I’ve let you. I played along, I pushed you, I annoyed you and your friends, because I like it too. But I - we can’t keep hating ourselves. There’s nothing inherently bad about you. There’s nothing inherently bad about me. Please. We can’t live like this.”
What could Artemis say to that? What was there to say?
So, for once in his life, Artemis stayed quiet. He looked at Orion, forced himself to stare in that mirror. He thought about all of the parts about Orion that he hated - the feminine lips, the hair just a little too long, the shape of his skull and the angles of his features. But that was Artemis, wasn’t it? It was just Artemis. What was the point in hating his own body? It was his. It was all he had. He had made it, with his own two hands and gratuitous application of hormones. Artemis had always been proud of his inventions, the reflections of his own genius. Why couldn’t he be proud of it?
Why couldn’t he be proud of his accomplishments? He had saved the world, gone on numerous adventures, helped fairy and man alike. He had saved lives, he had saved souls. Why, on some level, did all of those accomplishments just feel like the tax he paid for existing? They didn’t seem to matter. Nobody ever - well, nobody ever said good job. Holly wasn’t the type, save on a few memorable occasions. Foaly and Mulch both preferred making fun of him to supporting him. Butler and Juliet had the veneer of professionalism and the veneer of apathy. His parents were upset that he was involving himself with the fairies at all. The People never said thank you, because they usually blamed him. Humanity didn’t even know.
He had thought that, maybe, once he saved the planet from Global Warming...but that entire speech, his friends had done nothing but make fun of him. He hadn’t acknowledged that it felt kind of bad.
A viper. Had Foaly been right? Why couldn’t Artemis admit that he couldn’t grow into a better person without his friends?
How weak. How needy, to need love. To need affection and support. It was disgusting. Artemis wanted to scrape that out of himself, to be replaced by a robot. To really be the evil mastermind that others saw. It would be easier.
He could, if he wanted. He could be that emotionless, soulless man. He could build his fortune, his reputation. He could be the most notorious criminal in Ireland, maybe even Europe. Butler wouldn’t care - sometimes Artemis felt as if people forgot that Butler’s entire family had served a crime family since the 1700s, and that Butler had been raised with absolutely no moral qualms against illegal activity. Artemis could have that, if he wanted.
Maybe, if he had never met Holly, he would have. But when he thought about that life now, all he could think of was Holly shooting that coin in the air.
“Deep beneath the layers of deviousness, you have a spark of decency. Perhaps you could blow on that spark occasionally."
Artemis made a fist, and when he opened his hand a coin sat in his palm, with a hole burned through the center. He stared at it, and when he looked up he saw that Orion was staring at it too, with naked envy on his face. Someone, once upon a time, had believed in Artemis, and nobody had ever believed in Orion.
Decency. Goodness. Friendship. Why? What was the point? What about these ideals were inherently valuable?
Why did Orion want them so much?
“I want to be a brother Beckett and Myles can be proud of,” Artemis whispered - and this, at least, was true. “I want to be someone Holly brags about to her friends. I want the People to hire me as the first Human-Fairy Consultant. I want Butler and Juliet to enjoy their jobs every day. I don’t care about - about beauty and goodness and hope. I just want to be happy.”
Maybe Artemis would never be a kind and empathetic person. He’ll never be that childhood ideal of the perfect heroic man. But maybe he’d rather be himself. After all - wasn’t there only one Artemis Fowl?
“Then wake up , Artemis Fowl,” Orion whispered, mismatched eyes a perfect mirror to Artemis’ own. “And fight for your life.”
It was no question at all.
The dream disappeared into nothing, leaving Artemis wondering if it had ever truly been real at all, and the last thing he saw was Orion’s face melting into darkness, leaving nothing behind but the glimmer of a green eye.
Holly’s eye. Some part of Artemis’ accursed body would always be part Holly. And that - that, Artemis could love, uncomplicated and without reservation.
When Orion woke, for the first time in his short life, he felt at peace. That conversation with Artemis had finally, finally, finally gotten through to him. Maybe they hadn’t had to be enemies, all those months. Maybe they could have been friends instead. He almost regretted wasting so much time on hatred.
“That’s more like it,” Turnball said, speaking of hatred. “I may keep you, Artemis,”
“That’s nice,” Orion said. “I’ll tell him when I see him.”
Then he jabbed Turnball in the gut, because Orion had been listening during all of Butler’s early and well intentioned self-defense courses for women, and he dropped like a particularly stupid rock. “All men only want one thing from nice young guys like me,” Orion complained, as Turnball wheezed on the floor, looking up at him with betrayed eyes. “Like, not until the third date, you know?”
Turnball looked a little like he had just died and gone to a hell where Artemis Fowl had regular sex. Joke’s on him, Orion was saving himself for marriage!
“For love and justice!” Orion cried, twisting the gun out of Turnball’s grip, “I am the pretty sailor-suited soldier, Orion Fowl! In the name of the moon goddess, I will punish you!”
Then he kicked Turnball again in the nuts, for good measure, and realized too late that Holly was evil too and was attacking him. Well, time to save the day again. Just another day in the life of Orion Fowl, known hero of all.
It felt good. Orion liked being a hero, actually. Maybe Artemis would feel the same, when he admitted to himself how much of a hero he really was.
And that was how Orion Fowl saved the day once again, winning back the heart and mind of his best friend and professional damsel in distress Holly Short, meeting his fantastic new friend No1, and saluting as the villain heroically walked himself to his doom.
When Orion watched Turnball gingerly help his elderly and really ugly wife into the pod, he found himself thinking that maybe chivalry wasn’t dead, after all. Maybe Orion should start getting into romance and chivalry instead of video games. Wait, no, that was based off antiquated masculine ideals founded on the oppression of women and the lower class. That was no good. Orion preferred to think of himself as more of a Lara Croft character here. Had she been tomb raiding legally ? Who cares!
No wonder Artemis did this whole saving the day thing so much. It was pretty addictive. In fact, it was pretty universally awesome, until they all escaped safe and sound from the explosion and Butler clasped his hand on Orion’s shoulder.
“Orion,” Butler said awkwardly, tripping over the name in a way that he had never tripped over ‘sir’ or the suits or the pronouns. “When is - is Artemis -”
Orion turned around and, before he could second guess himself, dived in and gave Butler the tightest hug he could. Orion had never hugged anyone before. Sometimes it felt as if Artemis hadn’t either. Butler stiffened, fully in shock, as Orion buried his head into Butler’s shirt and let the hot tears run down his cheeks.
“I love you,” Orion said, “and Artemis loves you. He’ll never say it, so I will.”
Slowly, cautiously, Butler hugged him back.
It had been a good life. While he had it.
Artemis, Orion thought, mourning himself, you have a good life. Don’t waste it.
Someone knocked on Artemis’ disturbingly miniature door to his miniature prison cell.
He didn’t look up from his annoyingly miniature desk, where he was forced to sit cross-legged instead of in a respectable office chair. He was bent over his laptop, which did not access fairy Wifi because he was in prison.
Or “Haven Inpatient Mental Hospital”. It was effectually the same thing. Artemis had to darkly chuckle when he thought about it: The entire Haven police department dreamed of putting him behind a locked door in a dim cell for years, and the person who finally managed it was Artemis himself. He really was his own worst enemy. At least there was someone out there who could claim the title of being the first one to pull one over the infamous Artemis Fowl.
“Enter!” Artemis called, and Captain Holly Short stepped through the door that was the perfect height for her. She was holding a duffel bag slightly apart from her body, as if it was a bomb.
This did elicit Artemis’ attention. He looked away from the desk, and couldn’t fight a smile when he saw Holly. She blanched at his smile - right, too wide, of course - and he dimmed it down obligingly even as he reached impatiently for the bag.
“Oh, no. You are not touching this until you tell me what it is.” Holly held it behind her back, as Artemis scowled at her. “It passed the metal detectors, but if Foaly has me smuggling contraband to you against doctor’s orders I’ll never hear the end of it from Butler.”
“You wound me, Holly Short,” Artemis sniffed, faux-wounded. “I am the model patient in this institution. Why, last week I even won Best Actor in the facility production of Gnomeo and Juliet.”
“Didn’t Orion win that?” Holly asked, amused.
Artemis just shrugged. “Same thing. You know, I never considered my talent for thespianism before now. I am currently working on slipping a stage adaptation of Violet Tsirblou’s best selling novel into consideration for the next play. I think I shall make an excellent Vicar of Derry, don’t you?”
“Whatever you say, Mud Boy.” Holly tossed him the duffel bag, and Artemis fumbled catching it. But his reward was zipping it open to see a beautiful assortment of motherboards, circuits, and tech. “Uh oh. Do I need to be worried about this?”
“Always assuming the worst,” Artemis said primly, internally congratulating himself for saying a sentence with four words and barely even feeling awful about it. “I’ll have you know that you are looking at the newest unofficial technological consultant for Foaly’s research firm.”
Holly crossed her arms. “How unofficial.”
Artemis coughed. “Foaly is aware of it.”
“You know what? None of my business.” Holly sighed and walked across the room, glancing at his laptop screen. It was just a word document, no programming or images on it. “What’s this, the newest plot?”
“Again assuming so ill of me,” Artemis said, forcing his voice into lightness. “I’m afraid it’s simply homework from Dr. Argon. He wants me to…” Artemis twisted his mouth, before taking one of the deep breaths he learned in the mindfulness class they offered patients. “He wants me to list things I like about myself that have nothing to do with my intelligence.”
Holly stared at him, eyes wide, as if he had just done backflip. Artemis knew what she was thinking - Artemis Fowl, egomaniac, has therapy homework to say nice things about himself? Then she looked at the screen. It was thoroughly blank.
“He says my self-esteem needs work,” Artemis said, far more brittle than he wanted.
He had said a lot of things. Artemis didn’t like him very much as a person, but even he could admit that he was a good therapist. He was the first therapist who Artemis felt like actually got through to him. It helped that Mother had slammed him with HIPAA and that Dr. Argon would never be speaking a word of their sessions to anyone, or even acknowledging to the press where Artemis was being treated. It was private, it was secure, and it was as supportive an environment as fairies could possibly build for the Jesse James of their community.
It had been his idea to do family therapy.
“Need any help?” Holly asked finally, clearly terrified to be verging into ‘feelings territory’, willing to do it anyway. She sat down on the bed adjacent to the desk, eyes fixed securely on him. “I can probably think of a few things.”
“Yes, I’m obviously a master criminal,” Artemis said dryly. “But I’m looking for things I like about myself, that are good things.”
“I wasn’t going to say that,” Holly said patiently. “You just said you’re a good actor, aren’t you?”
“I suppose,” Artemis admitted. “It’s come in handy during more than a few capers.”
“Okay, so something unrelated to crime…” Holly looked up at the ceiling, thinking hard. “You’re a good brother. You’re dedicated. You’re kind. You’re generous. You care a lot about the planet. And you have a good sense of style. That help?”
Artemis, who was flushing and staring fixedly at his computer, nodded abruptly. “I wasn’t aware that you appreciated my wardrobe. It is rather refined, isn’t it?”
“Hey, now that you live in Haven, I can finally take you shopping,” Holly teased. “You can hold all my bags and complain the whole time when I ask you if my butt looks big in these jeans.”
But Artemis just looked back at her, and he found a small smile for her. “I’d love to go shopping. I find it a very entertaining diversion from work. I’ve been buying my own clothing since I was ten, you know.”
It wasn’t something he would have admitted a few months ago. It was something he had been ashamed of, a few months ago. Even just saying it felt like facing down a troll. But Holly smiled back, and Artemis felt a warm glow in his chest. It was worth it. Who knew?
“You have visitation days, right?” Holly asked, in an exaggeratedly loud whisper. Artemis’ family was staying in a hotel nearby, and both his parents visited very frequently, but a few times a month Artemis was allowed to leave the facility under strict supervision. “If I sneak you out, would you like to see my flat? It’s not much, but I have a killer indoor garden.”
“I would like nothing more,” Artemis promised solemnly, before finding himself looking back at his screen again. He clenched his fists tight to prevent himself from messing with his fingers. Shows of anxiety were shows of weakness, Arty. Or so Father had always said. “Holly, would I be remiss in - in presuming that there is some degree of - affection? Between us?”
Holly stared at him, as if he was speaking Pig Latin instead of Gnomish. “Are you asking if we’re friends?”
How obvious. How droll - that the inflated ego and pretentious nature of Artemis Fowl was so easily deflated, that he would grow up and find new wells of insecurity. How awful, to need something from someone. But Artemis was actually putting effort in therapy this time, and he wanted to get better, and he wanted to live his life in something at least resembling happiness, so he set his jaw and made himself commit. “Yes. I have not always been kind to you, and I worry that -”
“I forgive you,” Holly said bluntly, and Artemis shut up. She looked uncomfortable, likely because they were still talking about feelings, but also very determined. “I forgave you for the thing with your Mam. I forgave you for tricking me all those times. I forgave you for the kidnapping thing years ago, Art. Of course we’re friends. We’ll be friends until you die a wrinkly old man. You’re like the awful nephew who gives me gray hairs I never had. Of course we’re friends.”
“Why?” Artemis burst out, clenching his fists so tight his knuckles turned white. “I could have killed you -”
“You were eleven! You were a baby, Art!” Holly cried, almost as if she was surprised by his vehemence. Maybe she was. “You had no public love in your house. You were alone, and bearing an incredible burden. You were scared and desperate. I know. You’re not that person anymore. D’arvit, how could I hold a grudge against a child?” Her expression crumpled. “People become better people when they have support and love. How I hold it against you that you never had that?” She paused, looking away politely, and Artemis realized too late that his eyes were hot and burning. He scrubbed fiercely at them, glad that she hadn’t mentioned it. “You’re a good person now. That’s all I care about. I’m sorry that I didn’t say that enough. You know I hate talking about goopy shit, but if you need me to I will.”
“Let’s never talk about this again,” Artemis said quickly, still fastidiously making sure his eyes were dry.
“Deal,” Holly said, relieved.
Maybe none of them had been perfect. Maybe it was alright to be imperfect. Artemis wasn’t used to it, being perfect in so many areas of his life. Maybe not even Artemis was perfect at being perfect.
It was a bitter pill to swallow. But, somehow, it was a relief too. Relieved from the burden of being exceptional...Artemis hadn’t even known that it was heavy.
It was something to talk about in family therapy - how Artemis had never been hugged, how he had been more of a business partner than a child. How his parent’s persistent regret over the way they raised him had made him feel resentful that he could not help but be the person they had made.
But they were trying. Family therapy was going well, and Artemis’ parents wanted to be better. So did Artemis. Maybe that was all they needed.
“So when did you know?”
“Focus, Orion,” Butler grunted, jabbing a high uppercut, and Orion easily dodged. He swept out his right foot, with Butler lazily jumped over, and he retorted with a jackknifing motion that captured Orion’s elbow. Orion expertly executed the counterstrike to release his grip, but Butler pressed in on a pressure point on his elbow that made Orion crumple.
Then Orion bit the hand, making Butler yelp, and Orion was able to press the advantage with a swift left jab. It didn’t land - nothing ever did, not on Domovoi Butler - but it whistled satisfyingly past his ear.
“Time out,” Butler called, and Orion took a step back. Juliet, from where she was waiting on the sidelines, tossed a water bottle at his head, which he easily caught and dumped over his curls. He laughed as he felt the water trickling down over his ears, and caught with his other hand the towel Juliet threw at him too. He sopped up the mess, silently mourning how damp his ‘Suns Out, Guns Out!’ muscle shirt became. He did the frat bro look so well. His shorts had ‘PUBLIC MENACE’ stenciled on the back, which had been a gag gift from Juliet a few years ago that he now wore with pride.
“So when did you know?” Orion insisted, chewing absentmindedly on the water bottle. Mulch was sitting next to Juliet too, for all appearances asleep until it was time for him and Juliet to take the gym area. Butler plucked the towel that Juliet threw at him out of the air, delicately dabbing at the complete lack of sweat that he had worked up. Jerk.
“When did I know what?”
“That I was trans!”
“When you told me.” Butler walked forward, tossing the now damp rag in a bucket and arching an eyebrow at Orion until he did the same. ‘I’m your Butler, Artemis, not your maid’. That was something they had heard a thousand times.
New therapy technique: speaking about both him and Artemis as ‘we’. It was weird, but not as weird as he thought it would be.
“You didn’t like, always know?” Orion complained, shooting Butler his best puppy dog eyes when the man raised an eyebrow at him. Butler looked suitably terrified of Artemis’ face pulling a puppy dog expression, but he didn’t budge. “I know that I had my trans awakening after I met my post-T self from the future, which, like, weirdest trans awakening ever, but there has to be a story there.”
“You started leaving queer literature around the house when you were eight,” Juliet called, bravely rousing Mulch by poking him in the shoulder. “Get up, lazy farts, I want to kick your butt.”
Mulch opened his eyes groggily, making it obvious that he hadn’t been sleeping at all. “What the fuck are you weirdos on about now. What’s trans mean?”
Juliet explained in short order, using their patented How To Explain To Fairies Artemis and Orion speech. They had it down to an exact science. Orion was a proud, card carrying SJW and he kinda cringed at Juliet’s super simplified explanation, but you know what they always said: don’t bother explaining gender theory to a dwarf, halfway through they’ll just start thinking about food.
“Huh,” Mulch said, after Juliet’s valiant attempt. “I knew a guy like that once. Showed up to work and started calling himself Cheryl. So long as Cheryl could still crack a safe in 20 seconds flat, we didn’t care what the fuck she called herself. Good lass.”
“Mulch Diggums,” Orion said, after a stunned beat of silence. “The only fairy ally?”
“Yeah, whatever. Juliet, let’s rumba.”
Orion and Butler got off the mat, sitting down on the bleachers - in Butler’s case, next to them, since the bills for the furniture he kept ruining was racking up - and watching them go. It was always fun, watching two people with very unconventional and improvisation based fight styles go at it. Juliet could turn anything into a weapon, and so could Mulch, if you have him a few hours.
After a few minutes watching their brawl, long enough that Orion’s attention had drifted into thinking about his rigorously scheduled day tomorrow, Butler hesitantly spoke up again. “You started...wanting to be a boy isn’t the right word, but neither is knowing you were a boy, when you were about eight. You kept on wanting to talk to your parents about it. You got frustrated, when they didn’t. Sorry, Artemis did.”
“It’s fine,” Orion said loyally. “We’re working on merging. Dr. Argon says we’re doing a great job.”
“Sure.” Butler scratched at his stubble, eyes suddenly somewhat distant. “I figured - well, your father was a hypermasculine type, I wasn’t surprised. I know I’m also somewhat hypermasculine, as you know me. It was clear that your mother always dressing you up in those little photoshoot outfits was suffocating. You were already developmentally so ahead, we figured it was...teenage rebellion, but for pre-teens, I guess. Your parents didn’t really notice. Truth be told, I didn’t think much of it.” He scratched at a scab, the idle motions Butler’s usual signifier of deep thought. Orion knew him. At least, he thought he did. “It was Juliet, I think. She came up to me after one of those little sleepovers she used to insist on. Do you remember that? She would braid your hair and paint your fingernails and show you all the boys in the magazines. She was lonely, I think. You were really the only other kid she saw on a regular basis.” He shook himself roughly, and Orion knew better than to say anything. “I asked her if she had a good time painting nails, and she just said so matter of fact, ‘Artie won’t let me paint her nails anymore. She says it’s for girls’. Then you started printing out that literature, and asking me to tape those shows...and I figured, well, they don’t teach this in bodyguard school. I took a few classes in early childhood education, but everyone always acted as if that was just a side effect to my actual job of preventing a baby from getting pumped full of bullets” He huffed slightly. “Those early days were hard. I didn’t train in combat for fifteen years to be a nanny.”
He had never mentioned that. Orion wondered if he would say all of this to Artemis. Maybe not. “Artemis never noticed.”
“Well, nobody really knew what to do with him. Nobody understood him. There was nobody like him, I guess.” Butler half-smiled, lost in nostalgia. “I guess Mister and Missus Fowl saw a kid who acted like a tiny adult, and just figured it would be easiest to treat him like an adult. He was always so special. In Pre-K, instead of making me macaroni art, he would make me functional weaponry out of macaroni.”
“As kids do,” Orion said seriously, nodding.
Butler’s eyes flicked to him, as if he had forgotten that he was there. Maybe he had. “Right. Anyway, you just always made an effort to come across as if you wished you were a boy, or you wanted to model yourself after men. Then the lemur thing...and the week afterwards you walked up to me and said that the dresses were going, and to make an appointment with your tailor. And...that was it. We never talked about it. I called you ma’am after that, you looked like I had force fed you a lemon, I called you sir, you almost smiled. That was it. I just knew. My Uncle used to say that good Butler always knows.”
“We knew you liked girls, though!” Juliet yelled, right after locking her thighs around Mulch’s neck and wrestling him onto the mat. “Tell him how you knew, Dom!”
“ Please tell me,” Orion begged.
Butler sighed. “You had a crush on Ada Lovelace when you were six. It was obvious. You had a poster of her next to your bed that you used to talk to.”
“Funniest shit ever!” Juliet yelled again.
“You’re one to talk,” Butler said crossly. “You took one look at the poster and said that Ada was cool, but that you’re going to marry Mary Kate and Ashley. I had to have that conversation with Mam and Dad about how they’re not getting grandchildren.”
“So I was right,” Orion said triumphantly. “You did just know.”
“Yeah,” Butler said, half-smiling again. He put a hand on Orion’s shoulder, and Orion grinned broadly at him. “I guess I did.”
Days at the hospital were rigorously structured, and they left Orion and Artemis with very little time for independent work. But he did have two free days a week, when his parents visited and ooh’d and aah’d over fairy society, when Butler and Juliet helped train him into the ground, when Holly sat on his bed and told him everything about her life that they used to only tell over phone. Orion took up painting. Artemis took up Animal Crossing, in the utmost secrecy. So what if he enjoyed collecting things.It wasn’t a crime.
One night, Holly knocked on his window, and Artemis blew the security system as he cracked it open and wriggled in an extremely undignified way out over the windowsill. She caught him, fluttering on hummingbird wings, and when he tried to ask where they were going she just held a finger to her lips and smiled.
Then she took him to a fairy gay bar. Her fairy gay bar.
Artemis had to stoop just to get in. When he entered the bar the entire room went dead silent, just staring at him. The bartender stopped in the middle of wiping his glass, the rag hanging in midair.
It was embarrassing, but Holly just grinned broadly and brandished her arms. “Drink’s on Haven’s most notorious criminal tonight, boys!”
Making friends in bars was very easy, as it turned out, whether above ground or below. Everyone kept asking him, increasingly drunkenly, if it was true that he had murdered the fairy Taoiseach, or caused 9-11, but Artemis simply loyally replied that a magician never reveals his secrets. They thought that was hilarious. Which was nice, since fairies tended not to appreciate his sense of humor.
But Holly smiled at him, and bragged about his inventions to her friends loudly, and Artemis found himself smiling too. In Haven, he could never quite fit in, but he could belong.
He was underage - on a technicality in human terms but by about 200 years in fairy terms - and Holly fastidiously kept him from drinking, but by the end of the night she was pleasantly buzzed and had dragged him back to her flat to show him her vintage record collection. Artemis left with about five numbers scribbled on napkins, which was - disturbing?
Holly’s flat was small, and just as utilitarian as Holly, but there was a beautiful character to it too. It was full of plants, of little tchotchkes and knick-knacks from the human world, useless human memorabilia placed in a spot of honor on the mantel. It was the opposite of Artemis’ home in every way - small where his was big, humble where his was opulent, personal where his was austere - but it was so thoroughly Holly that even just stepping inside made him feel safe.
“Put your shoes anywhere,” Holly hiccuped, pouring herself a glass of water and glugging it. “D’arvit, I want pizza. Do you want pizza? I have frozen pizza in the refrigerator.”
“I would rather eat dirt, but you’re welcome to have some,” Artemis said delicately. He paused, realizing that he was being rude. “I mean, no thank you.” He rubbed a finger against the couch, checking it for dust, before realizing that he was being rude again and forcing himself to just sit down on it, tapping his fingers on his knees. One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four . “Have fairies invented hangover cures yet?”
“You know, Art...we’ve invented flying...we’ve invented holographic technology...we’re fuckin’ magical…” Holly collapsed on the cushion next to him, kicking her heels up on the arm of the couch and brandishing a hand to make the television turn on. “...and we absolutely have not. What a stupid race we are.”
“I don’t know,” Artemis said, awkwardly attempting to settle back onto the couch, trying to remember the last time he had watched a television programme in a circumstance without Beckett or Myles forcing him to engage. He must have been...eleven? “I must say, I am fond of Haven. It is a place of rich culture, and of friendly people.”
“It’s a fuckin’ disaster,” Holly agreed sleepily, once again indulging in her favorite human curse word. Predictably, she had learned it from Juliet. “But it’s home. You’d like it here, Art.”
“I know,” Artemis said, trying his best to focus on the television and avoid another emotional conversation. On the television, a lady was crying, and a man was...shooting things. Was this a trailer? God, who could tell. From the way Holly complained, all fairy television was trashy. Nothing but reality TV shows and soaps. “I fully intend on becoming the first human to gain a visa.”
Holly barked a laugh, as expected, but after a second she just looked thoughtful. “You know what, Art? I think you could do it. It can be your...what do the humans call it, study abroad. But you have to promise me something, if you do.”
Then she gave him a devious smile, and Artemis couldn’t help but smile back. “You have to promise to flatshare with me. I’d love to have you. You can pay my rent, and I can show you all the best hot spots in Haven.”
“I don’t believe you’d have room for Butler,” Artemis said, head dizzy and spinning. It sounded - well, it sounded like a pipe dream. Too good to be true.
“We’ll put him in the washing machine.”
“He can fit in one of those. I’ve seen him do it. Never underestimate him.”
Whatever Holly would have said to that, it went forgotten, because it was at that moment that the door to the flat swung open and Trouble Kelp strode inside, carrying a bouquet of flowers, a six pack, and a rakish grin.
“Oh, my darling flower!” Trouble called, as Artemis’ jaw dropped and Holly turned beet red. “I come on this night, craving roman - Artemis Fowl?!”
He stopped in his tracks. Trouble’s jaw dropped, the hand holding the flowers going limp, and never before in his life had Artemis wished for a camera so desperately. His hand drifted unconsciously to his hip, where he kept his gun - rude - but Artemis made a show of holding his hands in the air as Holly froze.
“Fowl, aren’t you supposed to be in crazy people jail?” Trouble yelled.
“I busted him out?” Holly said, grinning sheepishly.
“You did what ?”
“Sir, I haven’t done anything illegal since I got here,” Artemis said loyally. “Check the security cameras if you don’t believe me.”
“The security cameras that I’m betting show you snug in your bed right now?” Trouble asked archly, dumping his ruined date night dreams on the coffee table and crossing his arms. “Holly, what is the meaning of this?”
“He hasn’t done anything wrong,” Holly said innocently, or as innocently as Holly ever did anything. “A teenage boy can’t stay cooped up in a room forever. I just took him out for some fun.”
“Have you been killed and replaced by a clone made by Opal Koboi, darling?”
“No, I check for that weekly. She’s clean,” Artemis said.
“You what ?”
“I’m not getting date night,” Trouble said mournfully. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Artemis shot him his most innocent, winning grin, which made him look very cute and innocent. Not. “Okay. Fine. If you aren’t doing anything illegal, Haven isn’t being blown up, and you aren’t in the process of extorting the treasury out of its money right now...fine. But I’m watching you, Fowl.”
“You and the security cameras in the mental hospital.”
“Family game night?” Holly volunteered. “Get to know your stepson?”
“If I must,” Trouble sighed, as Artemis made a deep sputtering sound that was very undignified. “Still not coming to your ballet recitals, kid.”
“I haven’t done ballet since I was six!”
“Ballet recitals...tech expos…” Holly shrugged. “Same thing. Troub, grab The Game of Life!”
“Do fairies have Cluedo?” Artemis wondered.
“Yes, but we’re not playing it with you.”
That was how Artemis Fowl, known supercriminal, his slightly tipsy policewoman ex-kidnapee, and the chief of police ended up sitting around a coffee table playing fairy board games, which were somehow identical to human board games.
At a certain point, Trouble tried to talk to him about sports. He tried to man bond with him. It was both thrilling, a depressing reminder of what he had never gotten to have with Root, and mortifying. It was perfect. Also terrible. But mostly perfect.
Maybe even someone like Artemis had a happy future. Living in Haven, seeing Holly every day, working as a police consultant helping the good guys solve cases and put away the bad guys. Going back topside once a month to see his family and take his brothers out to the zoo. That was a future worth getting better for. Worth fighting for.
Not for the first time, Artemis thought - I should go straight. Not literally, obviously, ew. But figuratively. Move away from crime. But for the first time, Artemis had a reason to want to. If he blew on that spark of decency and turned it into a warm campfire, he could have the life he always wanted.
You can have everything you ever wanted, Artemis thought, as Holly and Trouble got into a rousing fight over how many children their plastic tokens would have, if you give up everything else first. Maybe what Artemis had to sacrifice was the past. Sacrifice the guilt, the burden, the attachment to his childhood self. Build someone new - a teenager, not a child. Someone who wasn’t quite Artemis, but who wasn’t quite Orion.
Sorry for taking over halfway through the day! Didn’t mean to! But I had a great time in painting class, and therapy with Dr. Argon went great. Notes and observations are on the ← page. He gave some good advice, so do your best to follow it! I also took a ledger of the betting pool during dinner - the pixie guy with the bald head whose head I can’t bother to remember won the pot, so he gets 10 gold pieces and we get 40. Nice haul! Super illegal, though.
I have something to tell you. Mam called, during lunch, and I had a short conversation with her. I know you don’t like me talking with her! I feel weird about it too! Remember the week I spent refusing to say anything to them? But it was a good conversation. It was really good.
And, Art, I felt something wash over me. Just this strange sense of peace. She put Butler on the phone, and we talked there too - me and Butler are really good friends!!! - and Juliet asked if I’d met anyone cute at the mental hospital (sad sentence). Even the babies told me to steal them some pixie dust from fairyland. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel upset or frantic or manic or hyper. I just felt okay. Like if I disappeared now, you’d be okay without me.
Dr. Argon’s been evasive on if Atlantis Complex is curable. I think he’s afraid of what I’ll say if I find out that I can go away forever, or what you’ll say if you realize that you’re stuck with me forever! (Although I think we’re friends now - our diary conversations have been good! Finally, some intelligent conversation, right?) I don’t know if it’s possible for me to go away forever. Recovery isn’t a straight line, like everyoneeeeee keeps saying. Maybe I’ll be around for a long time.
But, Art, I think this diary entry is the last you’ll hear from me in a while. I don’t think you need me to make things okay anymore. I’ll come back if you need me, but honestly - I’d prefer it if you didn’t. You should stand on your own two feet, with your family holding you up. And I’ll be much happier being a part of you, then being fully here and having everyone be sad about it.
Be safe, Artemis Julius Fowl. Be kind. Be proud. Keep my Animal Crossing village weeded or else you DIE! And take over the world for me, will you?
All my love, always,
P.S. If you burn my wardrobe I’ll show up again just to burn all your suits and then you’d have NO CLOTHING. So don’t test me. You don’t know what you’re dealing with.
Artemis Fowl died like this:
It was dramatic.The most important thing. He wouldn’t want to die in a pedestrian way. That was just unacceptable.
It was a finishing move against his mortal enemy, Opal Koboi. Also appropriate. He did not like the word and preferred not to use it, but that woman was a bitch.
It was in an apocalyptic scenario. The world had been vanquished of all technology, humanity was thrown back into the paper age. Artemis would rather die than live without Wifi for more than a week. So he did.
Most importantly, it was done to save the lives of his family. And it was his choice.
To get something, Artemis thought, piloting the rocket towards the destiny Artemis had spent his entire life hurtling towards at high speeds, you must give everything up first. That was a truth he had always known. Maybe his entire life had been leading up to this.
Then it had been a good life, Artemis decided. Hadn’t it?
“No. It has to be me, Holly. If the second lock is opened, then I will die, but if my plan succeeds, then all fairy souls inside the magical corona will be drawn to the afterlife. Fairy souls. My soul is human, Holly, don’t you see? I don’t intend to die, and there is a chance that I may survive. A small chance, granted. But a chance nonetheless.” Artemis rubbed his eye with a knuckle. “As a plan, it is far from perfect, but there is no alternative.”
Holly was crying. The last thing he had ever wanted was to make her cry. “I grew up alone, Holly Short. Nobody ever believed in me. Nobody ever believed that I could do good, until you did. I can see the path that would have paved the way in front of me if it wasn’t for you, and it’s full of desolate loneliness. It would have been a half-life. With you and my family, it was the best life a boy like me could have ever lived. I cannot thank you enough.”
Artemis made Holly comfortable with cushions. “I want you to know, my dear friend, that without you, I would not be the person I am today.” He leaned in close and whispered, “I was a broken boy, and you fixed me. Thank you.”
A minute later, after a few more words, he let himself kiss her on the forehead. “And give him that from me. All my love, Holly Short. Forever.”
A stubborn rose bush grew in the loamy Irish soil. Two toddlers played in it, wrestling and smearing mud on their faces. A young woman with braided blonde hair read nearby it, lying on a picnic blanket in the grass. A man, who moved like a man older than he was, watered and trimmed them carefully. A small woman took a single small plant from it, repotting it in her home, under the light, fulfilling an old promise. Ireland spinned on, heedless of those underneath it, both buried and living.
Artemis Fowl took root.
And, eventually, opened his eyes.
He saw roses. Petals falling around his eyes, stems waving in the breeze, sunlight beating down gently overhead. They were beautiful. They were the first beautiful thing he had ever seen. The first thing he had ever seen, period. It was a nice awakening.
Then a face encroached into his vision. Two faces, actually - one with mismatched eyes, filling with water, one long and horsey that seemed both smug and shocked. Both looked as if they were seeing something beautiful happening, like roses blooming.
His mouth was full of cotton, thick and dry. He coughed, and the woman looked panicked. It scared him. He weakly, feebly pushed out an arm, trying to find some personal space.
“Stay back,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re dealing with.”
Holly took his hand, the same one he had held out to try to push her away. “We do know you, Artemis. And you know us. Try to remember.”
Artemis. Artemis? Wasn’t that a girl’s name? Artemis looked down at himself. He shifted a little. The horsey looking...half man, half horse, stamped a hoof anxiously.
“I wasn’t really sure what to do about that whole situation. In my defense, Artemis, you never really leave any instructions! I tried my best and just started injecting the testosterone when your body was about ten years old. I did it right, right? I wanted to just biohack you to make you XY from the get-go, but Holly said that you liked to do these things yourself, although why you’d want invasive surgery is beyond me -”
Some of the clouds lifted, the well meaning yet clumsy rant familiar, and Artemis felt a strong sense of love and affection in his heart.
“Y…you,” he said hesitantly. “You are my friends?” The woman started crying, deeply but silently, and Artemis squeezed her hand. “Don’t...cry. I hate to see you cry.”
“We still match,” the woman whispered. “I asked Foaly not to do any biomodding, but - but I did ask him to make sure that we still match. A little bit of me, always with you, Artemis.” She shook her head, wiping her tears away, and helped him to his feet. “ Now we need to get you inside, before the locals arrive and see the recently deceased heir being escorted by fairies.”
A man, previously silent, stepped forward into view, and Artemis craned his head back when he saw how large he was. He hugged Artemis tightly, for just a few seconds, and Artemis melted into the strangely familiar embrace before feeling it peeled away. He helped Artemis to his feet better than the very short woman should, propping him up.
“Oh, go on, then,” said the centaur, offering his broad back. “Just this once.”
It was very exciting, yet so dizzy. Artemis had never been on a horse before. The huge man lifted Artemis onto the centaur’s back and steadied him with a huge hand. The motion was so familiar. Childhood horseback riding, perhaps? Or something far deeper, the feeling of being safe so long as this man was with him?
“I didn’t believe you were gone for a second,” the man said. “Fool me once...wait until your parents see you.”
As they walked across the fields, Holly pointed out areas of shared experience, hoping to jog Artemis’ memory. It was his home. It was beautiful.
“Tell me,” Artemis said, his voice still weak. “How do I know you?”
And so the woman with eyes that matched his so precisely began her story: “It all started in Ho Chi Minh City one summer. It was sweltering by anyone’s standards. Needless to say, Artemis Fowl would not have been willing to put up with such discomfort if something extremely important had not been at stake. Important to the plan.…”
The timely disappearance of Eoghan Andrew Fowl was stressful and inconvenient for Artemis’ plans, but there were advantages. For one thing, Artemis could linger by the punch bowl instead of interacting with people at his own party.
He got away with it by pretending that he was watching the twins and preventing them from getting into mischief. It was a half truth - Artemis was certainly watching them climb the ice sculpture, but he sure wasn’t doing anything about it.
The party was held in Fowl Manor Ballroom #1,celebrating two things. One of them was the success of the newest human-fairy venture into clean air. More specifically, the success of Fowl Incorporated’s newest partnership. Artemis was proud of his father for exploiting the apocalypse for a business opportunity. He was also very proud of him for working to install clean energy and advanced technology into every home in Europe, charging based on a sliding scale of what people could afford. The Fowls were now a legitimate business partner of the People, and Artemis hadn’t even had anything to do with it. Would wonders never cease.
The other rationale behind the party - and, his Mother argued, the main one, considering the decorations - was that it was Artemis’ 17th birthday. Or his 20th. Or his first. Or somewhere in between. Age was just a number. Everyone kept congratulating him on coming back to life and on hitting his twenties, as if the two things were of equal difficulty.
Holly was making spirited conversation with his mother, both of them laughing evilly. He did not like the sound of that. Butler was loitering somewhere just out of sight, as usual, but this time he was sharing a plate of tempeh with Mulch Diggums, who had somehow secured himself an invitation to the elite Fowl parties. Juliet was twinkling on the arm of her newest girlfriend, who was some kind of movie star or something and who looked just as dazzled to be associated with the Juliet Butler, hero of the People. The two five year olds were about to brain themselves on the tile floor.
“That patch of ice is about to melt.”
“All part of the plan,” Myles muttered, scaling the ice waterfowl with a determined expression. Beckett was already perched on its head, loudly championing his superiority over all lesser athletes. “All part of the - ow!”
Artemis swiftly lent a hand to help prevent Myles from slipping, giving him a tiny boost up by placing a steady hand on his back. “Allow me. Careful of the distribution of weight.”
“I don’t need your help!”
“You don’t,” Artemis agreed easily, “but isn’t it nice to have it?”
It was. After a few more seconds steadying him Artemis stepped away, because children should learn to fall when there’s still brothers around to catch them, and after a few hair raising more seconds Myles finally made it to the top of the goose.
“Will you explain the purpose behind this venture now?” Artemis asked, amused.
Myles clung stubbornly onto Beckett, who was experiencing toddler euphoria. “Beck likes to feel tall.”
“I see. A laudable goal.” Artemis sipped at his flute of champagne. “Tell me if you see our father. I need to confer with him on a certain matter.”
“He said he’s getting your birthday present ready!” Beckett informed him. “I hope it’s not a car. You suck at driving, Artemis.”
Ah, the joys of children - they will make fun of you, and they will do it accurately. “Hopefully I have Butler for that. Besides, public transportation is far more environmentally friendly than driving.”
“Will you stop saying that? I’m trying to get my Mam to let me buy a motorbike.”
Artemis stopped short, turning around at the familiar voice. Aiden O’Hare stood behind him, in all his blue haired and unfairly tall glory, looking a little sheepish for butting in, but a little amused too. He was holding a very fine quality IPA, and was looking over Artemis’ shoulder at the new game his brothers developed in the last ten seconds, e.g. ‘who can push each other off this bird the fastest’.
“Aiden,” Artemis said, and found himself giving the other man a genuine small smile. “It’s good to see you again. I believe it’s been a while.”
“Yeah, since you faked your death, right?” Aiden sipped at his beer, eyeing the kids cautiously. “Or were you actually dead?”
“I’m afraid that time I was mostly deceased,” Artemis said apologetically. “The body I’m inhabiting now is cloned.”
Aiden raised an eyebrow, and put on an affected British accent. “Oh, so long as you were only mostly dead.”
Oh, Artemis knew this one! “Of course. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Now, mostly dead is slightly alive. Now, all dead, well, with all dead, there's usually only one thing that you can do -”
“ - look through his pockets for loose change!” Aiden finished, and they both exchanged smiles as Beckett fell off the ice goose with a little scream. Artemis, without looking behind him, moved a chair he had strategically placed behind the goose at the beginning of the night for this exact reason, and used it to cushion Beckett’s fall. It never hurts to be prepared. “Remember all those parties our Mams used to force us into? Those two were always forcing us to interact, weren’t they?”
Mrs. O’Hare, at the moment, was batting her eyes at a meter tall CEO of a technology conglomerate. He looked unamused by the attention, but Artemis found it entertaining enough. “I would have not spoken to you so frequently if I had not wanted to,” Artemis said honestly, and Aiden smiled back at him.
“I’ve been getting really involved in some organizations for homeless queer youth lately. If you’re interested, you should come join and help me volunteer. I know the kids would love to see someone like you.”
“That sounds...nice,” Artemis said, almost surprised at himself. “When do they -”
“Artemis! There you are!”
“I’ve been here the whole time,” Artemis said, sighing, as his father pushed through the crowd. He was holding a manilla folder, waving it triumphantly in the air, limping slightly on his plastic leg. He looked wind swept, somewhat harried, and very proud of himself. “Father. You ruined my plans. I was going to use you to distract Mother as I leapt out the window.”
“If you break your new body, I won’t get you another one,” Father joked, and Artemis was startled into a short, sharp laugh. Father noticed Aiden for the first time, grinning broadly at him before giving him a handshake and a manly back pat. “Aiden, good lad. How’s your Mam?”
“Finding her fifth husband,” Aiden said.
“Good for her!” He clearly noticed the twins for the first time, who were now both welding blowtorches and enacting their revenge against ice sculptures. “Boys, what are you doing?”
“What we must,” Myles intoned ominously.
“You’re menaces,” Father said fondly, and Artemis’ breath caught. He had called Artemis that as a child frequently, but never with as much fondness. “Almost as bad as your older brother.”
“Nobody’s as bad as Artemis,” Beckett said loyally, snapping on a welding mask.
“Yes, there’s no one quite like him,” Father said, smiling at Artemis. Artemis hesitantly smiled back, which was when Mother saw them, so she swam her way through the crowd, Holly on her tail, Foaly getting caught up in their wake, so by the time that Father was able to excitedly present the manilla folder to Artemis his entire family was staring at him with bated breath, waiting for him to open it.
“Oh, go ahead, Art, open it! We worked hard on it!” Mother cheered, filming him with her phone camera. Artemis flushed, fiddling with the metal prongs.
“I helped,” Holly said, leaning against Foaly with a roguish grin. “Don’t say I never did anything for you.”
“I think resurrecting you is enough birthday present from me for your next five hundred years,” Foaly complained.
“Foaly helped too.”
“I helped a lot, and don’t you forget it.”
“Open it, Artemis,” Butler said, who had been standing just behind Artemis the whole time. He had a twin tucked under each arm. “I think it’s good news.”
“Alright, alright!” Artemis poked the prongs in, flipped open the flap, and withdrew a...single piece of paper. “Paper? Not very environmentally friendly, you all.”
Everyone groaned, even Aiden, who was standing to the side watching with good cheer.
“Stop complaining and just enjoy your gift,” Holly said.
But I already have my gift, Artemis didn’t say. But having you all around me, being surrounded by you, alive and well, is gift enough.
“It’s what’s on the paper that’s the gift, you doofus,” Juliet said, who had melted out of the crowd from nowhere, raising her wine glass. “Go ahead and read it out.”
Artemis saw the logo at the top of the page. Haven University. Slowly, carefully, he read out the words written on the letter.
“Dear Artemis Julius Fowl,” Artemis read out slowly, “Haven University is excited and pleased to announce that you have been accepted to our Criminal Justice doctorate program. As its first International student, you are breaking ground and serving as an example for future generations. It is an honor to have a hero of the fairy People at our institution -”
Then Artemis had to stop, because he had started crying, and he was in public. Juliet lung an arm around his shoulders, laughing, and Butler patted him on the back. Holly was smiling, soft but happy, and his parents were holding hands. The twins were cheering, although they really didn’t know what was going on, and Aiden was clapping with a big smile on his face.
“Trouble says you can live with us,” Holly told him, “it’ll just be like my favorite sitcoms. Two and a half fairies.”
“I wrote the best recommendation letter you’ve seen in your life,” Foaly said mournfully. “I had to say good things about you. It’s going to be worth it, though. Once you graduate from that program, you can take my dumb job, and I can finally retire and become a stay at home father. I’m counting on you, Fowl.”
“Hopefully you can get by a few years without me,” Butler said. “But you have to promise to keep up your martial arts training while you’re there.”
“Excuse me,” Artemis said, wiping frantically at his eyes. “I need to - go to the bathroom.”
He escaped, as politely as he could, but instead of heading to the bathroom he went to the balcony. It oversaw the entire grounds, the rolling green hills of Ireland, and as Artemis pushed open the double doors and stepped onto the balcony he breathed a deep, cleansing breath. The air was sweet and pure, and you could see every star in the sky.
As Artemis leaned against the railing, mismatched eyes straining to see the beauty of the fields in the darkness lit only by stars, he wondered what he had sacrificed for this. To have something so good without giving anything up - it didn’t seem natural.
He was going to university. He was going to university in Haven!
Then he started crying again, and because he was alone he let himself, and Artemis lost himself in the Milky Way for a little while until the glass doors opened again and Aiden stepped out. He was holding another flute of champagne and a sheepish expression.
Aiden pressed the champagne flute into his hand as Artemis wiped his face and forced a smile. “Sorry, do you want me to go? I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Your folks are worried they did something wrong.”
“No, they did everything right. I’m simply not much one for public displays of emotion.” Artemis wiped his eyes again. “It’s this damnable body. It’s all...new. It feels too much.”
“The human form, the eternal traitor,” Aiden said wryly, and they both exchanged a look of deep understanding. He leaned against the balcony with Artemis, wind tousling his bright hair, staring over the fields. “I did a painting on that topic. I based it a little off Saturn Eating His Children, really drawing from the raw viscera of it, but it showed a man ripping out parts of his own organs. I wanted to show him holding his uterus in his hands, but I figured it was a bit too morbid, so I just made it his heart. My professor hated it!” Aiden barked a laugh. “College is fun, Artemis. It really just blows your mind wide open.”
“I have five degrees,” Artemis said defensively.
“But they were all online, weren’t they? Go to discussion classes, take bookbinding classes, take seminars. It’s about the people and the experience, not the book knowledge.” Aiden angled a glance at him. “Learn about fairy culture. God, that sounds just so exciting. I’m mad jealous, Artemis. Send me tons of selfies of Haven.”
“Where do you go to uni?” Artemis asked.
“Trinity College. I study art and lots of social justice topics.” Aiden laughed self-consciously. “I’m not as smart as you, so it’s not that interesting…”
“It’s interesting to me,” Artemis said, more heated than he meant to say. “Tell me all about it. Do you have any other pictures of your paintings?”
“Uh, yeah, I have an Instagram.” Aiden drew out his phone and pulled up his account. “I like nature themes, and abstract work...it’s about self-expression, you know?”
They were good paintings. Not like Artemis’ skill, where it was technical perfection in every line, but there was real emotion and heart in them. It was art. Artemis jabbed a finger at one he particularly liked. “Tell me about that one.”
Aiden perked up. “Oh, that represents the apocalypse…”
And they talked for hours, Artemis saying almost nothing, listening in interest as Aiden talked about everything and nothing at all. The Milky Way glittered overhead, and Artemis’ future roared on below, and the world was open for the taking. For the experiencing. Maybe even for living.
Far beneath their feet, in the soil near Fowl Manor, roses bloomed in nighttime.