Disclaimer: Yadda, yadda, yadda. Arty ain't mine. Margaret is though! *Snuggles Maggie and doesn't let anyone else near.*
Author's Note: This isn't so much a response to Big Friendly Walrus' Challenge as inspired by it. He really had me thinking of a way that you could bring in a normal teenage girl into an AF fic and not have a Mary Sue. I couldn't find one. But it didn't specify teenage it only assumed it and here you have. I did try to stick to the challenge descriptions but I had to change her last name for obvious reasons and Barbara is my Great Aunt's name and makes it a bit... creepy. But I managed to include the maths problems, the glasses, the other youths and the family financial problems. (Ha! Have you ever heard a multi-millionaire complaining about "the graph" and not being able to buy a building which is a mere 30 mill which he really liked. Okay, neither have I ... it was only a 22 million dollar building but it was in a really good position and it was absolutely perfect.) The acne was another problem but I'm sure you wouldn't miss it all that much.
The rain was falling through the thick boughs of Jacaranda trees; the branches not offering cover so much as condensing the droplets so that when it landed on a head, hat or umbrella it caused more damage. The rain was making the blossoms fall to the ground and those that fell became brown within minutes because of the slowly shifting feet and the water still landing on them. It was... suitable for a funeral.
Most of the crowd were in suits of one sort or another. Not just the suits that those of the high aristocracy wore but also the suits as worn by the secret service, MIB and the bodyguards that walk about with a twirled ear piece telling them Godknowswhat. It was strange then for an outside observer - like the hearse driver and the funeral attendants - to see the lone young girl in the front row. Her back was perfectly straight and her eyes were drier than quite a few of the various suits who were hiding tears behind gruff looks and dutiful faces. It was also strange with this detachment in mind to see her in the position of chief mourner next to a tall, young man with black hair and bright blue eyes which themselves had a sheen of unshed tears across them.
It was a closed coffin service for very obvious reasons. The body of the 6 foot, 4 inch man was mutilated with electric burns covering his right side and both legs. It was one of those things that you didn't ask about and would refuse to listen to if someone wanted to tell you the story.
More Jacaranda blossoms fell onto the casket which was being laid with the Irish flag as a symbol of respect. If someone had been watching the face of the young girl in the first row they would have seen a lone tear behind round-rimmed glasses and possibly brushed it off as just another raindrop.
* * * * *
In the back of the vintage Bentley the two chief mourners were watching each other warily. The girl, who was most likely only 6, sat with the same stiff-back and troubled expression that she'd been wearing at the funeral. The young man (who looked 22, but you would assume him to be older if you were to look at a list of his achievements) was sitting by the window staring out at the tracks the water was making as it journeyed down the glass. He seemed used to the experience of being in a chauffeured car and seemed to have either forgotten about the presence of the girl or be very skilled at ignoring those things that are perceived as unimportant... or hard to deal with.
The girl was the one to break the suffocating silence that filled the car with added sorrow. "Mister Fowl?" The man nodded without turning his head. "Why am I staying with you and not with Aunt Juliet or Great Uncle Peter?"
"Because I offered to take you in for just a little while. Your aunt is having trouble with the twins and Peter can barely look after himself since his accident." His head had turned to look her in the eye and now turned back to its raindrop vigil.
"But you don't want me to be here with you, do you?"
Mister Fowl was careful with his answer. "Nobody else was able to take you, Margaret. It's better if you stay with me rather than be in an orphanage or foster care. It'll only be for a while until Juliet can cope with another child around the house."
The girl - Margaret - was quite mature for one so young. Her Papa had taught her to listen very carefully and she could tell when a question wasn't being answered. She almost copied the man beside her in looking out at the rain, but thought better of it and looked down at her hands in the woolen gloves that her Papa had brought to her from when he had been to another country where it was always very cold.
Artemis saw a tear on the girl's face in a reflection on the window. And for one of the first times in his life he didn't know what he was going to do.
* * * * *
Margaret sat in the huge bathtub watching the patterns that the water made over her legs as it moved. Sometimes if she stayed still for a long time the water would stop moving at all and then she'd make a huge splash and it would jump everywhere all at once. There was a clock over near the vanity and it was way past her bedtime. Maybe Mister Fowl didn't know when her proper bedtime was and she'd be able to stay up all night. Or maybe he was testing her to see if she was going to be honest with him. She decided that it would be better to get out now and to stay up later tomorrow night or something.
She got out and wrapped herself in one of the huge blue towels that sat on the rack. It was very big and comfortable but she preferred her one at home which had Peter Pan and Wendy on it. Then she went into the room which Mister Fowl had said was hers and pulled out her nightie and undies to get dressed. Her Papa used to help her get dressed but she could do it herself and she didn't want to ask Mister Fowl for help because he probably wouldn't like her very much if she did.
* * * * *
Artemis Fowl was seated in a large and comfortable leather swivel chair in front of business plans and multiple graphs. Some of the graphs were turning decisively downwards and, after making a few calculations in his head, Artemis pushed the floor plans of a Dublin building to one side and sat back with deep frown on his face.
He was jolted out of his thoughts when he heard a loud shriek coming from the upstairs bedroom which he'd given to Butler's orphaned daughter. A half-smile that spoke more of pain then mirth crossed his face as he ran quickly along the hallway and up the main staircase. Butler would find a way to come back to life just in order to kill him if he let anything happen to his little Margaret.
He burst into the room breathing hard and saw the strangest sight involving a whimpering girl who was struggling and hopping around trying to get untangled from her long nightie. He almost laughed but then he heard the small voice coming out from beneath the layers of material.
"I'm here Margaret."
"Could you help me get my nightie on? Papa usually helps me and I tried to do it myself but I wasn't able too." She was almost crying; her voice was small and scared.
"Um, I don't know what..."
"It's all knotted about my head."
"Okay." He walked to where she was standing in the middle of the room and, closing his eyes tight, helped to untangle the material and pull it down over her head.
She spun around, her hair whipping his torso. "Why do you have your eyes closed, Mister Fowl?"
He opened them and blushed slightly. "Um.. well I... It doesn't matter. Are you going to go to bed now? I'm not really sure what to do."
"Well, I always get icecream before I go to bed and I'm allowed to watch all the TV I want to and I never have to set the table or help wash the dishes."
Artemis shook his head. "Why don't I believe you? Can you just get into bed?"
The girl stuck her tongue out at him and ran to her bed bouncing on it, then wriggling enthusiastically between the covers until both tucks on the sides had come loose and the donna had slipped off one edge. Artemis made his way to the door and was turning off the lights as the Margaret's voice came from the depths of the bed covers.
"Aren't you going to read me a story to help me go to sleep, Mister Fowl?" She looked towards him with a 'look' on her face.
"Could you get to sleep without one? I've got a lot of work I have to do before tomorrow. It's important."
"Papa used to say that all Mister Fowl's work was important and that's why Papa had to go away so often." She paused. "Could you pretty, pretty please read me a story?"
Artemis felt incredibly guilty as he saw the look on her face when she mentioned her father. "Sure."
She was already half-way out of her bed and scrambling towards her unpacked bag. She pulled out a tattered book of fairytales and, hugging it close, ran back to the bed next to which Artemis was standing very awkwardly.
She made sure it choose the very longest one she could find and opened the book on Rumplestiltskin which at least had the longest name.
Artemis cleared his throat and began. "Once upon a time there was an old miller--"
"Aren't you going to sit down, Mister Fowl? I can't see the pictures if you read it while you're standing up. And your legs'll get tired, silly."
Artemis looked down at the girl who was shaking her head in the way which only young girls can manage. He sat down and continued.
"--And then Rumplestiltskin stamped his foot so hard that he fell through the ground and was never seen again. The End."
Artemis made to get up and leave, his duty as parental figure fulfilled but Margaret asked, "Does that mean that Rumplestiltskin was dead?"
Artemis took a deep, controlled breath and said. "No it doesn't. Just nobody ever saw him again. He ran away."
"But nobody ever sees someone who dies ever again either... Why couldn't I have said goodbye to Papa before he died? I got to say bye to Grandma."
Artemis tried to think up a good answer but his mind had abandoned him to the soundless tears that were streaking down his face. "Do you believe in God, Margaret?" she nodded, "Well, God wanted your Papa up in heaven really quickly and so there wasn't time to say goodbye to him." And Butler wouldn't have wanted you to see him like that in case you stopped believing in God because of the evidence, he mentally added.
* * * END OF CHAPTER * * *
Re-edited with the um… help of Skye Firebane.