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it looked alright in the pictures

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it’s a new art form showing people how little we care...

 

   Artemis Fowl was gifted in many things. 

 

   He had always seemed to have the masterful ability to take on certain tasks without difficulty- coding was simple in his mind, and mathematical equations fell to pieces before him with ease. Curious and quick-witted, sleight of hand became a fun pastime for a small boy with no friends to play with. Pickpocketing was… less encouraged, but there was a certain thrill to it that kept him constantly practicing on the Manor’s unaware inhabitants.

 

   But where Artemis’s true talents and passion could always be found was in the arts

 

   Violin was his preferred form of self-expression, for a time- though he always enjoyed a quick performance on the piano. He had a pleasant singing voice, though this was a skill he successfully kept hidden until Angeline caught him warbling and enrolled him in a local choir. Wholeheartedly disinterested, Artemis removed himself from that program within days of arriving. His singing was not brought up much after that.

 

   He was fond of sketching- many of his own illustrations lined his journals. He recorded the Manor’s wildlife in thick spiral-bound notebooks, filled with messy scribbles of the various birds and small mammals that could be found on the estate’s grounds. He wrote pages upon pages of poems- his popular romance novels were a (mostly) well-kept secret. In these artistic exploits, he was certainly no master, but he enjoyed them greatly. 

 

   Above all, Artemis loved to paint . It filled him with a strange sort of calm, his frantic and cluttered mind gradually able to unwork itself into something manageable, as he mixed colors and brought to life whatever was in his mind’s eye. Watercolor, oils, it did not matter- it was soothing and it helped him feel at ease. 

 

   He started out simple- being quite new to the medium, he painted birds and flowers and other such things. As he grew older, his abilities grew with him: landscapes, skylines, portraits (only of family, of course)- he worked tirelessly to master each one. Painting didn’t come as naturally to him as the others did, and it some ways, that made it better. It took effort- to see it pay off in the quality of his work filled him with pride.

 

   Currently, he had seated himself by the window in one of the Manor’s (aptly named) drawing rooms. It was a sunny day out, and the room was filled with warm, golden light. For a moment, he paused, tilting his head back to savor it. Ever since he had been resurrected, it seemed that he had an unusually strong connection to sunlight- he suspected it had something to do with those strange orange roses, but he wasn’t sure. Either way, the warmth was a pleasant feeling. 

 

   Today, it was watercolors, the same as it had been every day since he had begun trying to regain his skills. They were easier than oils, and a bit less messy. While being revived into the body of a clone of oneself had certainly had all of the typical negative effects one would expect, he hadn’t anticipated losing the vital muscle memory that allowed him to so effortlessly paint before. His hands shook so often now, turning each attempt into something that looked… amateur, in his eyes.

 

   But that was okay , he would reassure himself every time. He was going to get it back. It was just going to take a little time, that was all.

 

   From somewhere further out in the Manor, he could hear the soft notes of some country song playing on record- he suspected it was Dolly. He let the familiar notes run through his head as he sketched out shapes and started working. He did typically line his watercolors, but that would wait until after he laid down paint- to do otherwise risked bleeding lines.

 

   Slowly, something came into form on the paper. Long, blue-black feathers, an even longer bill, bright golden eyes- a grey heron. One of his favorite birds, and one that could currently be found nesting by the pond. They were amusing creatures, gangly and yet nevertheless graceful (a trait he sorely envied)- when he and Butler went birdwatching, he was always delighted to see them. This would be their first year actually roosting on Manor grounds, and he was very excited to see what the little chicks would look like-

 

   Loud, measured steps suddenly broke through his haze of thought, startling him- he was lucky his brush hadn’t been touching paper, though his shirt was splattered with blue flecks all the same. The gait was heavy and distinct, and instinctively Artemis found himself clutching the paper tighter, almost against his chest. With sudden and unwelcome nervousness, he surveyed the doorway, brow furrowed.

 

   Fowl Senior strode in, unbidden, a frustrated gleam in his eye- without so much as a word to Artemis, he sat down at the opposite end of the room, stretching his legs out before him. There was a curl to his lip that suggested that he was about to vent his irritation in some form or another- regardless of whether Artemis wanted to be present or not. 

 

   Artemis decided to just get it over with. “Is something the matter, Father?”, he asked with a tilt of his head, slowly placing the watercolor pad on the couch beside him. He kept the brush in his hand, unable to keep himself from fiddling with it. 

 

   Fowl Senior glanced up, and started, as if he hadn’t even realized Artemis was there. His ice-white eyes took in his son, casually dressed and curled up on the couch, no suit or dress shoes in sight- his brow furrowed, no doubt confused at the strange sight.

 

   Artemis was getting used to those kinds of looks, these days. 

 

   “Your brothers have made off with my running blade again,” his father muttered, aggravatedly drumming his fingers against the arm of his chair. “It’s a nice day out, and I’d like to go for a run, but they have yet again gone through my things- now it’s gone.” He waved his hand. “I told them not to mess with it- I just don’t know why they choose to misbehave so often.”

 

   Artemis blinked.

 

   “Father, Myles and Beckett are in school right now. They haven’t been home all day.”

 

   Fowl Senior paused his irritated fidgeting, processing. His eyes widened as he realized his mistake. “Oh.”

 

   Artemis watched him, wary for reasons he couldn’t quite recall. Spinning the brush in his hands, he tried to offer a reassuring smile and shrug. “Perhaps Mother moved it?”, he suggested. It certainly wouldn’t have been unlike her, and they both knew it. 

 

   Fowl Senior let out a sigh, visibly forcing himself to relax- shaking his head, he stood. “That should have been the first place I checked. Well, I’ll leave you to- “ He paused, and Artemis saw him take note of the watercolors strewn across the side table, the brush in his hands. His expression lit up. 

 

   “Oh! What are you working on?”

 

   Artemis blinked, startled. “Just some watercolors.” he mumbled, expression darkening as a hazy sense of unease overcame himself, as if from nowhere. Heart beat quickening, he picked up the paper, clutching it to his chest, some long-buried instinct begging him to hide it away- nothing was sacred in Fowl Manor. Everything was at risk if it wasn’t out of sight and out of mind, for fear of it being ripped away.

 

   Fowl Senior, in Artemis’s younger years, had been a very angry man- and in that anger, he destroyed whatever he could get his hands on. So many things- blueprints, books, class projects… and paintings. He had always targeted the paintings. 

 

   Artemis felt a strange, distant sense of horror coil in his gut, memories of ruined canvas and overwhelming fear- the things he worked so hard on tossed in the bin like torn-up rubbish, his father angrily shouting, scolding him for being so foolish as to waste his time on such childish things -

 

   “Artemis?”

 

   Just like that, the haze was broken, and Artemis returned to himself. He realized he was trembling, ever so slightly- his hands shaking the worst of all. He had been staring off into space- he had been doing that a lot lately, as smaller, quieter memories returned to him in bits and broken pieces. Though his family was rapidly growing used to it, it was still surprising- Fowl Senior blinked back at him, looking somewhat alarmed. 

 

   Embarrassed, Artemis shook his head, burying those memories to be re-examined later (or, more likely, never). His father was a different man now- not angry or upset, merely curious about what his beloved son was working on. There was no harm in showing him.

 

   Nevertheless, his heart pounded desperately as he handed it over, careful to avoid smearing the paint. 

 

   Please don’t ruin it please don’t ruin it please don’t I worked so hard- 

 

   Fowl Senior stared at the illustration with his head tilted slightly, eyes narrowing slightly. In all fairness, it was hard to make out just yet, unlined as it was- the sketch was faint under the broad swaths of greys and purplish-blue.

 

   “It’s going to be a heron,” Artemis said, hating himself for how strained his voice suddenly sounded. There was nothing wrong, why did he always have to panic at the slightest thing? “We’ve got some nesting down by the pond. I thought it would be-“

 

   “Don’t you think it’s a little bit… simple ?”

 

   His father’s statement cut through Artemis’s racing thoughts like a jackknife, and the next word died in his throat as he struggled to process it.

 

   Fowl Senior glanced behind him, at the paintings on the walls- one or two were Artemis’s own, old landscapes he had finished shortly before his father’s disappearance. Meticulously detailed works, he remembered how long it took Artemis to finish them, Butler having to shepherd the boy away from the canvas in the evening so he could get some sleep. Then he looked back to the half-finished illustration in his hands, messy and scribbled. 

 

   It was like night and day. Artemis felt something within him wither. 

 

   “I…”, his words trailed off, and he winced. Somehow, this was worse than any destruction, the palpable sense of ‘not the same’ and ‘not enough’ swirled together into a tight knot in his stomach. Not only had he lost his original body, what remained of his childhood- he couldn’t even keep what little skill he had managed to gain in his previous lifetime. The fact that it was noticeable to others, and not merely a factor of his own self-doubt, put a sour taste in his mouth. It made the disappointment real . “I guess. I was just… I don’t know.” He twined his hands together, desperate to stop the accursed shaking. 

 

   Fowl Senior paled, confused at Artemis’s crushed expression- that dim yet excited spark in his eyes gone once more. “Well, as long as you’re enjoying it, I suppose.” he eventually mumbled, eyeing the door as the awkward tension in the room grew. He didn’t wait for Artemis’s answer before he turned to leave. “I’m going to go find your mother- have fun.”

 

   He left, footsteps retreating down the hallway, the same heavy and unnerving drumbeat as before. 

   

   Artemis waited until they were gone before he moved again, breath coming out as a long sigh, face contorted in something resembling grief. Staring down at the painting still clutched in his hands, he was surprised to find his vision blurring. 

 

   It looked… sloppy. Messy. Half-finished, but what good would continuing to work on it do? It would only look the same as his previous attempts, currently crumpled up and buried at the bottom of his room’s wastebin. His lines would turn out wobbly, and he would feel the same crushing disappointment he felt now, at wasted effort and at the skills now lost to him. At memories of a better Artemis. It would be best to cut his losses and find a different activity for the afternoon.

 

   He was about to crumple it up, the same as his previous failures, but something stopped him. A sense of…injustice. His mind flashed back to before- a young Artemis, staring down, distraught, at the art he had worked so hard on, torn into little pieces to be ground underfoot by a man who simply wanted someone else to be as angry as he was. Utterly crushed, heartbroken that something that he had put his work into, something important to him , was treated as only so much paper and ink, a waste of time for foolish children. 

 

  His heart ached for that little boy. Dimly, Artemis was aware that those showings of violence, of intimidation weren’t okay- they had never been okay. That was an issue to be addressed later, when he was in a better state of mind- if at all. Things were different now.

 

   Swallowing back a sigh, Artemis bit back the urge to crush his hands together- with still-trembling fingers, he neatly slid the page back between the covers. For now, he would deem it a failure… but he wouldn’t do himself the disservice of destroying it. He would look back on it later, when his hands no longer shook, when things were brighter. He would smile, pleased at what he was starting back from, and proud of where he would be. Color and light and form would be his to shape again- just not today. Maybe not even within the next month, or the next year.

 

   It would come back. It would just take a little time.