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   “Mother? Father? Can you two come here for a minute?”

   Artemis hated shouting- it was unruly and loud, two things he disliked in the extreme. But when you lived on grounds as large as those of Fowl Manor, sometimes you had to compromise in order to achieve results.

   In this case, he needed Mother and Father, who, as usual, were nowhere to be found.

   Biting back a groan of frustration as he received no answer, Artemis returned his focus to the task at hand. He fought to keep his voice level and calm.

   “Myles, please stop wriggling, I’m trying to clean it as fast as I can, but the more you move, the more it’s going to bleed.”

   The twin in question ignored his words, seemingly incapable of remaining still. The cut across his palm wasn’t deep, but it was painful and quite long, and bleeding fairly heavily. Every time Artemis attempted to dab it with antiseptic, Myles snatched his hand away, the stinging too much for him to bear. It was frustrating, but Artemis felt nothing but the buzz of adrenaline that came after a moment of panic and concern for his brother.

   “This is why we don’t run around the stairwell’s banister, okay? That was very dangerous- you’re lucky you only crashed into it. If you had fallen down the stairwell it could have been much worse.”

   Myles nodded, sniffling slightly. He was less accustomed to injury than Artemis or Beckett- the former’s numerous adventures having given him many, and the latter no stranger to small scrapes and bruises as a result of his more reckless nature.

   The second twin was currently seated by Myles’ side, chattering non-stop in an attempt to comfort his brother. It seemed to be helping slightly, but Artemis needed someone to watch him nonetheless as he went to fetch a proper bandage.

   Neither Mother nor Father had appeared (where were they?), so Artemis called for someone different.

   “Butler!”

   In seconds, the bodyguard had arrived, crouching down by his charge’s side to survey the damage. Artemis passed the bottle of antiseptic to him, standing and turning towards the door.

   “Myles?”, he called back behind him. “Butler’s going to help you with that while I go get bandages, okay? Butler, try to clean it if you can- Did you see Mother and Father, by chance?”

   As Artemis strode from the room, he caught sight of the massive bodyguard shaking his head in reply, and for a second, Artemis let his frustration come to the surface, clenching his hands into fists as he rounded the corner into the kitchen.

   The sound of Myles hitting the banister had been loud, and distressing- Artemis had been able to hear it all the way in the upper wing of the house. And if that hadn’t been alarming enough, Myles’ immediate shrieks had been even louder than the crash. Where was Mother and where was Father, if the two hadn’t heard it? Artemis and Butler had been listening out for the twins- why hadn’t the Fowl parents? They should have been first on the scene.

   Finding the bandages took mere minutes (the medicine cabinet was always well-stocked), and Artemis was quickly back on his way towards his brother, gauze and tape in hand. When he returned, he was surprised to find a slightly calmer Myles holding his hand out to let the blood drip onto the floor, Butler sitting beside him. The bodyguard nodded as Artemis approached.

   “The wound’s been cleaned, and it seems the bleeding has slowed a bit.”

   “Good.”, Artemis nodded in return, absentmindedly tossing him the bandaging materials. “Do you think you have this handled? I need to go find Mother and Father- their absence is worrying.”

   Butler turned to Myles and gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder. “I think we can manage.”

   Artemis exited the room, now comfortable in the fact that Myles had someone watching over him for the time being. Someone needs to inform Mother and Father, he thought, not without some frustration, checking each room as he passed. Odds are they were simply out of hearing range, perhaps in the sunroom.

   It turned out that his assumption was incorrect.

   In fact, Fowl Sr. and Angeline were in their master suite- only two doors down from the drawing room where Artemis himself had been reading when the injury occurred. Perfectly within earshot.

   For once, he didn’t bother knocking.

   “Mother? Father? Are you two in here?”

   The two looked up when he entered, seemingly startled. Fowl Sr. had a book in his lap, and it appeared that Angeline had been organizing some of her documents. Fowl Sr. brightened as his son strode in.

   “Ah, Artemis! Hello, son.”

   Artemis nodded at the friendly greeting, though it did nothing to dissolve the feeling of pressure that seemed to be building in his chest- he was unfamiliar with the feeling, but he suspected it was not a pleasant one. Choosing not to directly respond to his father’s words, he instead jumped right into the issue at hand.

   “Did either of you hear that crash, a couple of minutes ago?”

   His voice came out more frustrated than he meant to, and both of his parents looked slightly taken aback at his unusual tone. “Yes.”, Angeline eventually admitted.

   Artemis’s eyes narrowed. The unfamiliar feeling grew.

   “And I suppose you also heard me shouting for you?”

   His mother shared a look with Fowl Sr., both now looking concerned and decidedly uncomfortable. “Well, yes, but after a minute, you stopped and yelled for Butler instead. We assumed whatever was the issue had been resolved. Did something happen?”

   Artemis crossed his arms in front of his chest, his tone uncharacteristically icy. It felt decidedly rude to take that sort of tone with his parents, but Artemis found he could not suppress it, no matter how much he tried to.

   “Myles hit the banister and fell. He sustained some injury to his hand, though it doesn’t appear to be serious. I thought you both should know.”

   His father blanched slightly, sensing his son’s cold demeanor. Angeline seemed to notice it as well, though she quickly clapped her hands together, as if to dispel the negative energy building in the room.

   “Well, it seems like you have everything handled!” Her voice was as bright as ever. “Is there anything else, Artemis?”

   Artemis blinked in surprise. Just like that- they had resolved the issue in their minds. No concern, nothing. They seemed more disturbed by his own unusual behavior than the fact that their son had just been hurt. Artemis was beginning to wonder if they would have even checked on the twins at all, if Butler and Artemis hadn’t been around. The thought of Myles’ injury going unchecked and unnoticed flashed through his mind, and Artemis felt his lip curl into a snarl.

   “Are you actually being serious right now?”

   Both parents froze, blinking owlishly. His father’s brow furrowed. “I beg your pardon?”, he asked, though not impolitely.

   Artemis’s arms dropped to his sides, his hands curling into fists. He could feel his nails digging into his palms, the sting only serving to stoke the rage that was suddenly surging through him. The feeling was completely unfamiliar- Artemis realized for the first time that this was what fury felt like.

   Raw, unbridled, righteous fury.

   “That’s it?”, he spat. “I tell you that your son, one of the twins, no less, has been injured- and you ask me if there’s ‘anything else’?

   Angeline straightened, her expression immediately becoming stern. “Artemis, don’t take that sort of tone with us- we thought you and Butler had it handled, and-“

   “I AM NOT THE PARENT HERE!”

   Artemis’s voice broke as his snappish reply rose into a shout. Surprised by the strength in his own voice, Artemis let his anger carry him forward, the words now spilling out of him too fast to stop.

   “I am not their parent- I am not their father, nor am I their mother, and yet somehow Iam the one responsible for their care. If it is not me, it is Juliet, or Butler, or whatever unfortunate individual you have decided to dump your responsibilities on at the moment! Is that why you welcomed me back into the Manor- to be yourbabysitter?

   The words were vitriolic, bitter on his tongue. And yet, he found he could not restrain them- it felt like something had finally broken inside of him, a well of feeling that seemingly had no end. To some extent, Artemis felt guilty: here he was, snarling at his parents over a minor incident- and yet, he had never been angrier. This not about me, he realized. I am angry for my brothers.

   “It makes sense, I suppose.”, he hissed. “You failed so miserably with the first son- why not try again? Why not repeat your failures and condemn more children to your own negligence? Did you lose your minds when Holly healed you?”

   His parents’ eyes widened as the outburst continued. Artemis felt his fury spike into something approaching hysteria, and a sardonic laugh escaped him. How could he have been so foolish as to believe that his parents, the great Angeline and Artemis Senior, were actually attentive? Responsible? Oh, they were loving, they loved the twins more than anything. But all their love certainly hadn’t helped him all those years ago, when he was the one forgotten, brushed off in favor of more important matters.

   “I… I can’t believe I thought you had actually changed. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice- shame on me-“

   “Artemis- what are you talking about?”

   Fowl Sr.’s voice startled him out of his rambling, and Artemis took the opportunity to force his anger down, burying it under layers of cold calculation, the way he always had with the more aggressive, uncomfortable emotions. At least his furious rant had gotten their full attention- they stared at him with eyes stretched wide, completely bewildered by the outburst.

   Artemis took a deep breath in through his nose and let out a long, stressed sigh. He was still so bitterly angry, as if now that he had rediscovered the emotion, he could not cease it. But rage would not help him here, and he was not done.

   “Tell me, Mother, Father-“. His voice was calmer now, which was a blessing. It still sounded derisive, but at least it was more reminisce of an annoyed professor than an indignant child. “If I hadn’t been around, or Butler- would either of you had gone to check to see what was the matter? Would you have noticed at all?”

   Both parents paused, then, each looking to the other. Artemis took that as answer enough. Sighing again in an effort to vent off some of his frustration, he once more crossed his arms over his chest, rubbing the space between his eyes. He was developing quite the headache.

   “I’ll take that as a no. Now let me propose to you something different- imagine Myles had fallen down the stairs, and me and Butler were not home. That would no doubt result in extremely serious injury, at the least.”

   Their eyes widened as his point finally hit home. He grit his teeth and continued.

   “Now you see the problem. I called for you both several times, urgently, and yet I received no answer. What if it had been Beckett calling you? Would you have answered then? Would you have not noticed until he came running directly to you, thereby abandoning his brother because you couldn’t pay attention?”

   His father opened his mouth to respond, and Artemis chose to cut him off. This was not something that could be excused- and if nobody else could make them see that, then the burden fell on him, for better or for worse.

  “You are being negligent. Very, very negligent, and there is no excuse for it. You are putting the twins in danger.”

   His voice broke slightly, as his fury ebbed into something not far from disappointment. He felt hollower- an unpleasant emotion.

   “It… It was one thing when it was me. I was always independent- I was hardly the type to go running around stairwells or balconies. I was a morose, boring child. But the twins… It makes no sense. They are wonderful children, and they deserve someone to look out for them properly.”

   And then, for a second, that anger returned as his next thought came into mind. Artemis was sure his next words must have been threatening- which wasn’t entirely far from his intention.

   “I love you both- I do, I promise. But if you two put my brothers in danger- if you continue to neglect them, I will take them from you, and I will take care of them instead. You will not raise them the way you raised me.”

   He didn’t wait for an answer.

   Turning sharply on his heel, he strode out of their room without even a glance behind him. He knew he had made his point, even if it was through less-than-exceptional means, and he hoped it would be enough. The thought of disrespecting his parents the way he just had left a bitter taste in his mouth. He could only hope it had been the right thing to do, even with the guilt weighing on him.

   The sudden influx of emotion left him drained- he felt empty, devoid of anything but a lingering feeling of strain. As he reentered the room where Butler had the twins, he forced his shoulders and expression to relax. No point in worrying Myles or the emotionally-perceptive Beckett. Both siblings brightened when they saw him, Myles’ hand neatly wrapped in gauze. “Butler fixed it!”, Beckett crowed.

   “That’s a relief.”, Artemis sighed as he sat himself down beside them, Beckett immediately falling onto him and worming his way under his arm. “I was very worried. Good job keeping your cool, Myles- Butler and I appreciate it.”

   The studious child smirked, practically preening at the praise. Artemis noticed Butler trying to catch his eye, his brow quirked slightly. The bodyguard gave a small nod back towards the doorway.

   Artemis shook his head slightly. He would tell Butler about the confrontation later. Now was not the time- he was perfectly content to spend the rest of the day with his brothers after that particular ordeal. They certainly seemed happy enough to have him there.

   I will protect you, he promised as he watched the two laugh and smile. His brow furrowed slightly.

   Someone has to.