Disclaimer: All characters and events from the Artemis Fowl books belong to Eoin Colfer and his publishers. And if you didn't know that… Well…
Author's Note: Credit must be give to Fayra Lee on the Arty Fowl Yahoogroup who asked about any fics with the first meeting of Artemis and Artemis Senior after The Arctic Incidence.
And does anyone know how you could correctly make 'Artemis' plural? My school kicked Latin as a subject last year and so I'm half guessing. ::sigh:: I love Latin…
The sun was casting light over the city of Helsinki but the idea of that light being transformed into warmth was almost laughable. It is the sun which shines on snow slopes and through the bars of a prison cell. Artemis wrapped his coat closer and shook off Butler's worried look with a half-pained smile. His mother would be meeting them in the hospital with Juliet and then he would see his father. Or at least that was what they planned to do.
And Artemis just hoped that even if his father wasn't awake, that at least he would look better than he had looked just before Holly had dropped him here for treatment.
The last time he had seen his father - the one time he had opened his eyes since they had rescued him - had been just before the mind-wipe had been performed. He was still mostly asleep, but the look of terror in his eyes when he saw the hulking shape of Butler… Ostentatiously the reason for a mind-wipe was for Artemis' protection and the safety of the People… but the real reason is that it would be beyond cruelty to leave someone with memories like that if you had the power to remove them from the conscious mind. And hopefully he would think the dreams only nightmares.
By the time the boy and his manservant had entered the depressingly grey and lifeless grounds, Artemis' guts seemed to be trying to break for freedom before the guillotine fell. Artemis had the vague realisation that this was what normal children felt with the approach of a speech or a Maths test and he momentarily thankful that he wasn't usually so burdened. But then the feeling and premonition overtook the rest of his thoughts as he saw an old man being wheeled around the campus by a nurse. He gulped, almost frozen to the spot.
He didn't want to go any further, wanted to just stand here like a particularly wheezy-looking statue for the rest of his life. But if he did… Artemis isn't renowned for his courage but at least his cowardice of something worse could keep him going.
Butler put his hand on his shoulder and gave a light squeeze as the entered the main building and made their way to the upper-floor where Artemis' father was. They were in the corridor with Artemis Senior's room at the very end when Artemis' legs did what they had been threatening to do for almost 20 minutes, and refused to move another step.
He looked with dread at the door at the very end and swallowed. Butler's hand landed on his shoulder again and this time stayed there in reassurance. He was about to squirm out of Butler's grip and run back the way he had come, Italian Loafers be damned, when the door opened, silhouetting a one-legged man, obviously weak, being pushed in a wheel-chair.
"Father." Artemis' voice was soft, almost unbelieving.
The man looked up and smiled as huge as he could manage. "Artemis… I wondered when you'd come out of your nuclear physics class and inventor conventions to visit your sick old dad."
"Well… I'm here now, aren't I?"
"That you are." Then he turned to the nurse pushing him and waved her off. "I'm sure Butler can push me down to the grounds."
Butler grasped the handles and pushed him towards the lift, taking it slowly, Artemis walking alongside. The silence didn't really become noticeable for almost a minute. And then the realisation made it even more awkward.
They reached the ground floor and moved through the foyer to the stale grey gardens. They found a little courtyard where they could be alone, with one straggly bush which might have once had flowers and a single stone bench.
Butler manoeuvred the wheelchair so that it was facing out and then backed off. When he had almost left the courtyard he turned back around with a smile. "It's good to have you back Mister Fowl, sir." Artemis' father gave a small nod with a tiny hint of emotion and Butler left.
The silence became louder than a rioting football crowd.
Artemis sank onto the seat and slouched down, not caring that his immaculate posture was in jeopardy.
Artemis Fowl the First stared out at the dying plant. "I didn't believe those people telling me that 2 years had passed until I saw you just now. I had thought they were just mistaken, tricking me, but … you must have grown 4 inches since I last saw you. But I can't remember anything else since. For me I saw you a week ago and then I woke up a day later. And I've really missed 2 years of your childhood."
Artemis didn't quite know what to say and so said nothing, staring at the plant as well.
"But you were never really a child, were you son?"
Artemis answered the rhetorical question. "Probably not. Although if that's a good thing or a bad thing…" Artemis shrugged and stared outwards.
"What have you done in the past years? Broken the world record for greatest number of patents yet?"
"Unfortunately, no; I'm very close though. I designed the new Dublin Opera House last year and I got a government grant for some of my research - a hopeless and completely pathetic one but at least it's recognition. I've even got some theoretical plans for a water-powered car engine … but I don't feel like taking on the global powers just yet."
"Think of the panic that would cause." Artemis Senior said with a mocking laugh. "Don't make those plans a reality anytime soon, okay? I don't think I could cope with my son becoming the world's most wanted overnight."
"It would prove to everyone once and for all that their governments don't care about them or the environment... just money."
"You would have complete control over almost all the world economies. Forget the American president being the most powerful man in the world, it would all be you." Artemis Senior said to his son with a massive, all-consuming, completely ridiculous and indulgent grin.
"I would. Wouldn't it be fun?" And Artemis gave a cheeky smile back.
"My son… fun… I can't really see the connection. Isn't your idea of fun trying to find those quarks, subparticles, dark matter… whatever it is?"
"Most people wouldn't consider planning impossibly complicated business ventures fun either."
"Only unappreciative people who don't understand the wonders of working the mind."
"I completely agree, Father."
There was another minute of silence but this time it was warm and contented, almost managing to cheer up the gloomy grey atmosphere around them.
"How did you cope while I was … wherever I was?"
"All right, I guess."
"Did you make sure your mother was alright? When I was talking to her, she seemed like she was hiding something."
"I would have given half a tonne of gold to keep her safe. I still would."
"If you had half a tonne of gold, of course."
"Of course, Father."
Artemis Senior seemed to know that there was something else his son wasn't telling him but he couldn't quite figure out what it might be, or even what might have been omitted. It was really only a suspicion, and even his father should be slightly suspicious of Artemis Fowl the Second.
"You haven't bankrupted me have you?" He said very quickly, obviously scared of the answer.
"How low do you think my IQ is, Father?"
"Sorry, Artemis. I was just… Sorry."
"That's quite alright. I would be worrying about your IQ, or at least your memory, if you didn't think me possible of doing something like that." He said with a carefree, but slightly haunted look.
"I learnt not to underestimate you a long time ago, son. Probably when you were 4 and … what was it that you did? It was… You walked up to a politician that we had as a guest at a dinner party - you were meant to be in bed, of course - and started arguing about state policy with him. And he tried to brush it off since it was coming from a little boy less than 3 feet high, but then you quoted him when he contradicted himself or lied. In five minutes you had everyone watching you in amazement. And you only stopped talking when Michael physically removed you from the room. As I understand it our dear Major gave Butler quite an ear bashing (and, knowing the Butler family, probably something more) afterwards for letting you out of his sight on such an important occasion. And I don't think that politician came back after that, especially after the entire story got out to the press - he might even have retired from the humiliation of it all, I can't quite remember."
"I remember that. Although I didn't understand the implications of what I was doing just then - I was just pointing out that he seemed to have forgotten some of the things he had said before."
"No one could talk about anything else for the entire evening. I was very proud of you just for that. Your mother and I had the statistics for how special you were - are - but that just proved it in a night. And it also proved that it was fatal to underestimate you or to have a loose tongue when you were around."
"Pity no one else learnt. I just let them dig their own graves and sit back to watch."
"I don't believe that you're completely guiltless on that account. What about the saying 'so sharp you'll cut yourself'?"
"Ah, but my dear Father, I am so sharp I can keep my eye on the blade."
"That is too true on occasion. Much too true. Sometimes I've wished that I just had a normal boy for a son."
"Only sometimes. And I regret even the thought whenever you do something so startlingly brilliant that no one knows how to act."
"Sometimes I wish I was 'normal' as well."
"But you wouldn't be my Arty then."
"I know. And I know that it's just the crush on the idea. It is only because it's a dream of something that will never be true that I find it appealing but…" He suddenly sounded assertive, and slightly mocking. "I want to be able to accurately understand the appeal of acting childishly. Or maybe not, but…"
Artemis Senior shifted his chair around slightly and grasped Artemis' hands. "Yes, son." And he raised the hands to his mouth and laid a small kiss on the fingers.
They just sat there in silence looking at each other for a moment or two before the hands were lowered and gazes broke, shifting back to the neutral elements of the courtyard.
"Artemis. You've always known more about things than you should do." Artemis nodded and looked back up at the now scared face of his father. "Can you tell me what you know about whatever happened to me?"
Artemis wouldn't deny the fact that he knew things - his father understood him too well to believe that lie - but that didn't mean he would have to tell what they were. "No, I can't. It wouldn't do you any good to hear it. Is being told a memory better than not having experienced it in the first place? Or being told that you were there but can't remember what had happened?"
"Maybe. It's better than knowing nothing. I've got 2 years of blankness which nobody else can fill in. You're 13 now and I can only remember you as 11. The doctors say that I was obviously conscious and moving for at least 4 months before I came here because of the re-build up of muscle and the health of my body but they can't give me whatever it was that I was seeing in those 4 or more months. I don't even know what happened before that either. I don't even know how I came to be lost, or whatever happened. My last memory is of leaving the docks on the Fowl Star and then… nothing until a week ago when I woke up here. Can't you tell me anything? I don't even know where Michael - the Major - is. Or what has happened to him. Did something happen to him?"
"I… I'll tell you that. Um, where to begin and what to say… When you were approaching Russia with that ship-load of Cola, the ship was sunk. I'm sorry Father, but Michael died; they found his body. Everyone except you were accounted for - all dead. We didn't know where you were for 2 years. You were declared legally dead last year and now you're back."
Artemis Senior's face had turned pale at the news that his aging, life-long friend was now dead. And that he hadn't even known about it for 2 years.
"Maybe I should take you back inside, Father."
Artemis Senior waved off his son. "No, I'm quite alright. You said 'was sunk' not just 'sunk'. That was on purpose. Do I want to know why?"
"The Mafiya. They hit the Fowl Star with a stolen missile. They didn't like the idea of you taking their business."
"I… I had known that they would do something but I didn't think… I'm sorry, Artemis. I'm so sorry. I knew and I still went and did something which killed Michael, the ship crew… Left you alone without a father or anybody to defend you and your brain to your mother." He tried a small smile but it didn't make his eyes shine like it should have done.
"Promise me that you'll never do something like that. A risk is alright, so long as it is not a risk which involves endangering others. Risking other people isn't your right. Risking yourself when you have a duty or responsibility to others is not your right. Promise me that you'll never do something like that; that you'll never do something so stupidly selfish."
Artemis looked away, thinking with pain of Butler and Juliet drinking filled glasses of champagne. But he nodded slightly to appease his father.
"You're a good person, Artemis." Said his father lightly stroking his face with one frail hand. "I couldn't possibly say 'boy', but a good person. Better than me at any rate. I wish we had given you another name." Artemis looked up, slightly shocked and almost… afraid of what that simple sentence could mean. "You shouldn't have a 'Junior' or 'the Second' tacked onto your name. You should be your own; no name that taints what you can be. No supposed shadow to overcome or outshine. I'm not worthy to give you my name, son."
Artemis felt guilty tears in his eyes and tried to get rid of them with sheer willpower. He failed and chose to bury his face in his father's shoulder, curling up in his lap as if he was a normal boy of only 7.
After too long sobbing he muttered into the now damp jumper: "I wish I could say that it was childish naivety that lead some of my actions but it wasn't. It wasn't. I'm not worthy to be named after you; I know I'm not. You are … noble and I… But I'm glad, so, so glad, that you think I'm more - could be more - than I know I am."
The father ran his hands up and down the back of his son, soothing the sobs before kissing the crown of the head rested against him.
"You can always be better than you think yourself to be."