Author's Note : hello everyone ! it's highly probable no one who's going to read this will remember me, but this is actually a big comeback for an old-established AF psycho ! That's me, actually :)
It's been such a long time since I've been here, you know, postgraduate school, "grown up life" yadda yadda… but a few weeks ago I came back on the site, started reading and rereading my favourite fanfics, discovering new ones… and I had missed AF fanfiction so much !
I actually wanna thank Kioshima, who I never met but I discovered A Winter of Decay three days ago and I literally couldn't stop reading until I was finished, it was absolutely brilliant and very powerful, and it really inspired me to grab my keyboard and my LibreOffice again ! So, yeah, thanks a lot :D I'll try to go and review the fanfic as soon as I can (and read the sequel ^^).
So I'm baaack with this little oneshot that I literally wrote in two days, I was pretty inspired. I hope you'll like it, and even if you don't, feel very free to review ! I guess there's not as much activity on the fandom that there used to be, since the series is over, but the movie is going out soon (oh boy. i'm so simultaneously excited and terrified) so well… hope someone is going to come across this little story !
Final warning and that's it : I'm French, and I wrote directly in English without using my mother tongue. So maybe there'll be a few mistakes here and there, hopefully I've corrected them. Voilà ! Bisous Fowlesques et bonne lecture ;)
Disclaimer : the characters (apart from the Sullivans) are the intellectual property of Eoin Colfer. And I am not Eoin Colfer. … I think so, at least.
Our Family Values
The Sullivan dynasty can be dated back to the eleventh century.
They used to be among the finest aristocratic families in Ireland, their fortune and reputation built over their taste or talent in the fields of art and law. Some of the Sullivans even made it into History : Isadora Sullivan, for instance, was a friend of French composer Claude Debussy, who dedicated one of his piano works to her ; and Isadora's granddaughter became famous for being the first female judge entering the Supreme Court of Ireland, in 1943. But today, the last tangible remain of the Sullivan fortune was a small, yet noble mansion not far from Arklow, in County Wicklow.
Originally, the mansion was only a secondary house, but the decline of the Sullivan dynasty in the late seventies forced them to sell the main castle and their other domains in the county. The mansion was about only half an hour away from Arklow, but it felt very isolated. It was the only domain in miles, completely surrounded by meadows, accessible by only one road that hardly anyone bothered to take since the by-pass on R750 had been finished, in 1982. On foggy days, it would seem as if the rest of the world had been erased, and the mansion was the last and only human structure standing.
If the – very – rare passerbys had to describe it, the Sullivan mansion would probably be qualified as out of time. The medieval structure of the building burnt in a fire back in 1822, and the mansion had been completely rebuilt to fit the nineteenth century's architectural style. The stained-glass windows covered in ivy, the sharp silhouette of the gothic-style towers, the weeping willow in the front yard, the massive red wooden door : the Sullivan mansion, with its features underlined by a few touches of grey fog, had an aura of vibrant majesty and mystery, the exact image you would have in mind if trying to picture the last vestiges of a fallen nobility.
The Fowl's Bentley was parked ten meters away from the Sullivan mansion, engine and lights off. On this cold and rainy November morning, the mansion, protected from inquisitive eyes by a tall and elegant black gate, really seemed to be in another dimension. Artemis' breath suddenly fogged his view, and the young Fowl nervously brushed the window of the Bentley. He stared at the antediluvian weeping willow, its leaves caressing the gravel of the frontyard alley ; a small ball of apprehension fell upon his stomach.
… so this is where she used to live…
Butler's voice pulled Artemis from his thoughts.
"Do you want me to go with you ?", the bodyguard asked.
Artemis had already figured this out. Going with Butler would help him seem more confident, respected and important ; but it could also be misinterpreted. Artemis didn't want to risk being seen as threatening or ostentatious. This was too important.
"No, thank you, Butler. I must go alone." he replied. "Wait for me here. I'll text you if anything goes wrong."
The young Fowl didn't let his bodyguard answer, and stepped out of the car. The cold air hit him violently, and his eyes watered for a second. As he walked toward the gate, his hands buried in his bluecoat's pockets, Artemis allowed his thoughts to wander a bit.
At age ten, he was quite small for his years, but it wasn't really a problem for him ; having grown in the Fowl Manor, he was used to overproportioned architecture. And other people's mockeries never bothered him either ; to anyone who would dare misjudge him, he would take a mischievious pleasure in making them regret their disrespect. Yet, here, facing the gate of the Sullivan mansion, Artemis Fowl the second actually felt small. Like the child he actually was. For a moment, he regretted not having Butler by his sides.
Artemis stopped. No doubt, they were going to take advantage of his defenselessness to ridicule him, and mock his family name – and he wouldn't be able to reply.
He was not, under any circumstances, to reply. This was more important than his pride.
And that, for anyone who knows a little about Artemis Fowl, surely meant something.
Artemis hit the button of the intercom system, smartly hidden in the stone column on the left of the main gate. Going without Butler wasn't an excellent option, but neither was the other one. There were no good options. This was not a situation Artemis Fowl the second was accustomed to. Usually, he would make sure that any variable was in his control. But he had carefully prepared this… expedition, so hopefully, nothing had to go wrong.
The intercom buzzed.
"Yes, who is it ?" hissed a female voice through the device.
"Good morning," Artemis replied. "My name is Artemis Fowl…"
The voice yelled so loudly Artemis jumped.
"Get out of here, you miserable thieving piece of shit ! How dare you come here after what you've done !"
Artemis had to yell as well to cover the voice, which continued to utter insanities. The voice was so filled with anger Artemis could almost feel it spitting in his face – or maybe it was just the rain.
"Please, this is a misunderstanding ! I am Angeline's son !"
The voice silenced as suddenly as it had started shouting. Artemis knew he was still in a delicate position ; if he didn't find the right words in a matter of seconds, he would be dismissed without any ceremony.
"… Please. She is very ill. I… she needs your help."
He waited. At a certain point, when he couldn't even hear the statics of the intercom anymore, he thought the voice had hung up on him. But a yellow light atop the main gate started flashing, and, with a slow, reluctant grinding, the gate opened.
Artemis ventured in the main alley leading to the big wooden door. By sheer reflex, he composed his face : cold, ruthless and presomptious, as he had learned from watching his father. But he immediately corrected himself ; as seen from the reaction of the voice at Artemis Fowl's name, there were actually some reasons why he had never met his mother's family before. Artemis opted for a quiet, unreadable look, but made an effort to keep his eyes open, so he wouldn't seem too withdrawn.
By the time he reached the weeping willow – and noticed the tea table and the old child's swing, sodden with rainwater, underneath the tree –, the wooden door had opened. A tall woman, wearing a purple velvet dress concealing her round belly – Artemis assumed she was in her sixth month of pregnancy –, was waiting for him.
For a split second, Artemis thought his mother was here, standing in front of him, sane and welcoming him home. But the woman had more severe, slightly less delicate features than Angeline. She seemed a little bit younger, and though her eyes were paler in color, they were staring at Artemis with a harsh, penetrating look. But the young Fowl didn't let himself be discomfited. As he reached the door, after climbing a few stairs, he extended his hand.
"Good morning, madam", he said in his most polite tone. "Despite the circumstances, I am pleased to meet you. Please forgive me for asking, but wouldn't you be my mother's sister ? "
The woman was a little taken aback by Artemis' way of speaking – much more similar to a grown up's than to a puny ten-years-old's –, but she softened a bit. She took Artemis' hand and shook it.
"Yes, Angeline's the oldest. We have another sibling, Maura, but she moved to America a few years ago. …Well, excuse me for my language earlier. I mistook you for… somebody else. I am Eleonore."
Eleonore Sullivan stepped aside, letting Artemis in the mansion.
"No murderous mercenary for bodyguard ?", she asked in a bitter tone. "Or is he hidden somewhere in the trees, ready to shoot me ?"
Artemis knew he would have to go through this a moment or another.
"I came here alone." he simply answered, and stepped in the Sullivan mansion. Luckily enough, Eleonore did not insist.
Artemis brushed his wet hair before entering. He hated being soaked by rain, but the gesture of not taking an umbrella was totally deliberate and calculated. It would seem like he had run here on the spur of the moment ; as if there was not much time and he really, really needed their help.
Which he did need. Desperately.
Artemis silently urged his heart to stop pounding, and focused on his surroundings to keep his thoughts from wandering. There was no time for fooling around. He was on a complicated diplomatic mission here.
He followed his aunt into a well-proportioned hall, with a marble floor and wooden walls, scanning the place for any piece of valuable information. But the curtains were all drawn, and the hall was too dark for Artemis to notice anything interesting. Plus, Eleonore walked straight towards a door facing the main entrance, and Artemis had to rush to follow her pace.
The corridor was quite long, and there was much more information for Artemis to absorbe and store in the back of his brain for further use. The rug was browned and even frayed in some areas. Not all lamps were turned on. The air smelled of incense and dust. Much alike Fowl Manor, the Sullivan mansion was decorated with portraits of the ancestors, looking down at visitors. Artemis noticed that the paintings generally conveyed a feeling of dignity and indulgence ; whereas Fowl ancestors' were more smug and fierce. As Artemis and Eleonore approached the door, he recognized Isadora Sullivan's painting : he had seen it in his researches when trying to find traces of his mother's family, both in Angeline's private boudoir and on the Internet.
"Isadora Sullivan was a fascinating woman", he said softly. "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair is a great composition of Debussys."
His aunt stopped, hand on the doorknob.
"She committed suicide", she eventually answered. "Before my grandmother was born."
Artemis' eyes narrowed, too slightly for Eleonore to notice. This was nowhere to be found on Isadora's Internet biography, or the journals his mother had kept from her youth. From the lack of information on Isadora's death, Artemis had assumed she simply died of old age. This, including the fact that the truth about her death was kept secret, was huge, and he should have known it before carelessly bringing up the subject. His father would have been very disappointed by this ridiculous mistake.
Yet, Eleonore didn't seem too concerned about this episode, as she opened the door and kept going. But Artemis hesitated. What if…
Pull yourself together, Fowl. This might be a simple coincidence. It is way too early to make assumptions.
After the corridor, Artemis and Eleonore ended up in a drawing room. Here as well, the curtains were drawn. Artemis started to feel uncomfortable about this. This way of shutting everything down and living in the dark reminded him far too well of a certain someone. Plus, once again, the air smelled of old dust, and it was obvious the furniture in the room hadn't been used in a while, confirming Artemis' guess that the Sullivan mansion hadn't seen any servants or guests for quite some period of time.
The Sullivans were poorer than what Artemis had expected. From his research, he had found out that the family, as a part of the protestant minority, had found itself more and more isolated, like many of the Irish aristocratic families that originated from Brittain. Only individuals like Isadora Sullivan, or Artemis' own mother, when she was a renowned pianist, kept the Sullivan name away from total disgrace. They only survived by clunging onto their values of art and justice. Artemis had estimated that the family was still rich enough to maintain a "decent" lifestyle (from his standards, of course) ; but it appeared that – option one, they weren't and he miscalculated, or, option two, they had no interest in keeping up appearances.
Both these options were worrying, to say the least. But it actually gave Artemis a boost of determination.
There is no way I'm letting such a debacle happen in my house.
After the abandoned drawing room, Eleonore Sullivan took Artemis through a dining room – nothing noticeable there –, and eventually they arrived to another sitting room. This one was smaller, but the curtains weren't drawn, a fire was lit in the fireplace, and, above all, there was an old lady sitting in an armchair next to it.
She had white hair, arranged in a sophisticated high bun. She wore emerald earrings and a dark green dress, and she stood surprisingly upright for her age. Her hands, crossed on her lap, were leathery but seemed strong. The fire was dancing in her eyes. They were chestnut, much like Angeline's, but clouded. She was wearing glasses with a gold half-moon frame, and stared at the boy standing before her with an inquisitive and disapprobating look. Artemis had no trouble recognizing Katherine Sullivan, his grand-grandmother. Despite her age, she hadn't changed that much since the picture of her in her thirties, wearing the judge robe, that had been taken when she took her functions in the Supreme Court back in 1943.
It had never happened a lot in his short life ; but facing Katherine Sullivan, Artemis felt respectful, regarding all she had accomplished. Even meeting his grandfather Arcand Fowl for the first time didn't impress him in the same way – probably because Arcand Fowl, much like his son Artemis the first, didn't inspire deference as much as fear, while Katherine seemed like she didn't need fear to inspire admiration.
Artemis respectfully looked down, waiting from Katherine to introduce herself in the way she would see fit. In the process, he noticed one last thing : above the chimney, there was a large shield wearing the crest of the Sullivans, including the family motto : viribus in lex oportet manere.
"Force must remain at the law. No wonder they didn't get along with my family…" Artemis thought to himself.
Eleonore Sullivan closed the door behind the three of them, and went to the young Fowl.
"Do you want something to drink ?" she asked.
"A cup of tea, if you don't mind. Earl Grey ?"
Eleonore nodded, and sent a quick text on her phone. Artemis turned to Katherine. She was still inspecting him carefully, silent. Not taken aback, he decided to look back, blinking slowly like you would with an animal you don't want to brusque.
They stayed silent like this, the eighty-three-year-old facing the child, for a good thirty seconds. Then, Katherine said :
"You look just like your father."
Artemis knew this wasn't meant as a compliment ; but Katherine wasn't really hostile either.
"… but your hands are just like your mother's." she eventually added.
Artemis felt a smile coming through his lips, and for once he didn't try to hold it back. Juliet would sometimes mock him for his "girl-like" hands ; but Angeline was so happy to share at least this physical trait with her son, who was otherwise the spitting image of Artemis Senior. They both had elegant, gracile hands, with long fingers ideal for piano work or turning pages of poetry books. When he was younger, Angeline would take his hands into hers as if they were made of porcelain, and run her finger on his palm, making him chuckle a bit. They would press finger against finger, or she would slip her hand under her son's, and teach him melodies by slowly playing the piano, exaggerating each of her fingers' moves so he would somehow imprint them.
Artemis felt like a sting in his heart. He was genuinely glad Katherine had noticed this, but the memories she conjured made him sad. The young Fowl had learned years ago to conceal his emotions – or weaknesses, as his father would say –, so neither of the two Sullivans saw how Katherine's remark hurt their guest.
He didn't have a chance to reply : a man, wearing a simple yet elegant grey costume, entered the salon with a silver tray, a porcelain tea set on it. As the man put the platter on the small table that stood between Artemis and Katherine, the young Fowl wondered if this man was actually a butler ; but he understood his mistake when the man hugged Eleonore and she softly smiled back. For a split second, he thought of his parents ; chastizing himself, he asked his grand-grandmother :
"May I sit, please ?"
Katherine raised her hand, pointing a smaller armchair facing hers, near the fireplace. Artemis sat, and took the cup of tea Eleonore's boyfriend – not husband, Artemis noticed, as neither of them had a ring – gave him. Said boyfriend walked away after he had served everyone, closing the door gently behind him. Artemis was truly surprised ; he had to admit this was not the pattern he was used to. The Fowl Empire wasn't really a matriarchy, with very few Fowl females making history – the only notable counter-example being Artemis' great great great grandmother, Elvire Fowl. She was known as "The Viper Widow", and was executed in 1862 after the murder by poison of six wealthy husbands.
For a moment, Artemis, Eleonore and Katherine just sat together, drinking tea. Artemis knew it was preferable to wait for the Sullivans to keep the upper hand in the discussion. So far, he had managed to make a rather good impression, and it was important to keep it that way.
The silence was heavy, though. They were in the same room, but it was as if there was an invisible wall separating the young Fowl from the two Sullivans. Katherine and Eleonore were visibly uncomfortable with Artemis' presence, even if he had done nothing to prove them right in their discomfort. Eleonore, having a hard time looking at Artemis directly in the eyes, was the first to break the silence when it became too unbereable.
"So, how old are you exactly ?"
Artemis resisted the urge to twist his features in a contemptuous grimace. He hated platitudes such as these ; he was sure Eleonore knew the answer to her question perfectly, and boring mondanities had never been Artemis' best. But for now there was no other choice. He hoped Katherine wouldn't beat around the bush like her granddaughter.
"I turned ten two months ago."
Again, Artemis resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
Well, that was exciting.
Eleonore shrugged, and put down her cup of tea.
"Sorry about that. It's just that you sound much older than just ten."
"I guess I'm not just any ten-years-old. I have the highest-tested IQ in Europe."
From the way Eleonore and Katherine froze, Artemis realized he shouldn't have said that. But he actually couldn't figure out why. This was a simple fact, wasn't it ? Where was the problem in saying it ?
"That's interesting", Katherine said with an Arctic-cold voice. "I assume you must account for a lot of noble and… legal achievements at your account then, if you are such a gifted boy."
Artemis could, actually. But he knew there was no good answer to Katherine's assertion, as he eventually guessed they found his statement to be presomptuous. If he told her about his countless prices and scholarships in the fields of painting, music or psychiatry essays, he would only worsen his case. He allowed himself three seconds of focusing on his tea, so he could figure out what approach to make.
Katherine was an intelligent woman. She and Eleonore still cared about Angeline even though they didn't carry the Fowls in their hearts. And, according to every evidence he had, they both shared the Sullivan values : justice and honesty.
Artemis took a deep breath. Honesty, then.
I can be honest, and still find a way to manipulate them. Not necessarily a lot, but enough so they warm up a little to me.
Artemis raised his eyes from his cup.
"Would you… would you mind if we put on some music ?"
As he expected, the request surprised the Sullivans enough for their defenses to shatter a bit. Eleonore looked at her grandmother, who, after a split second, approved silently. Eleonore rose from her seat, a hand on her belly, and went to the other corner of the room to a large wooden chest of drawers. Inside one of the drawers, she picked a record, and put it on the vinyl turntable, atop the chest. The music arose and filled the room : notes of piano flowing like raindrops, soon rejoined by a slow-paced bass. Artemis smiled internally. He knew this piece very well.
"Turiya and Ramakhrisna", he said.
Katherine and Eleonore were impressed indeed.
"Alice Coltrane is usually so underestimated", said Katherine.
"She was… is mother's favorite", he replied. "She is very fond of jazz piano, and I owe her a lot in terms of musical culture."
Eleonore nodded with a smile.
"I do remember her performing this piece", she said. "At the Conservatory. Actually, this is a recording of her. She's the one playing."
Artemis was astonished. He had often heard Angeline practise – he would sit next to the piano and draw sketches while she played. But this was the first time he heard a record of her when she was a professional. Suddenly, he felt overwhelmed. He saw his mother at the piano, playing, smiling. And he missed her. Very much.
"Are you okay, child ?"
In a panic, Artemis brushed his eyes furiously. The sting in his heart grew bigger. He had been weak, and made a fool of himself. It was way too dangerous to allow his emotions out. Katherine and Eleonore may be his grand grandmother and aunt, but he couldn't trust them. He couldn't trust anyone. He looked up at Katherine, waiting for a look of contempt on her face.
But surprisingly, she only seemed concerned. Artemis was disoriented, but regained his composure quickly.
"I am fine, Mrs Sullivan. It's just…"
Once again, he hesitated.
Honesty, Artemis. Honesty. You know it's the only way.
"…I didn't mean to sound pretentious earlier", he said. "It has been difficult for me to come here, as I've never met you since I was born and didn't know how you would react to me showing up. Mother… never told me much about her origins. I don't even know the exact reasons why my parents and your family cut off the ties."
Katherine seemed to think for a second, then nodded silently. Eleonore just listened, standing next to her grandmother.
"I realize how complicated it can be for you to see me here", Artemid continued, "and how delicate my request is. But Mother is really sick. My father has been missing and…"
He stopped. Even after eight months, it was difficult for him to say the words.
"We know what happened", Eleonore said softly. "We saw it in the news."
Artemis fiddled with his cufflink. Such display of nervosity was very unusual to him ; but he had decided that the best option was to let his guard down, so he had to go for it. Suddenly, he realized he hadn't take his wet coat off, nor been invited to do so.
"Since my father is missing and presumed dead", he continued, his head down. "Mother has fallen into a state of severe depression. The more time passes the more the symptoms worsen."
Katherine sighed. Startled, Artemis raised his head. The old Sullivan didn't seem concerned anymore. Actually, in her eyes, there was a hint of… boredom ?
"Yes, I see…" she said. "And what do you want us to do about this?"
Artemis was shocked. He didn't know what to answer. He looked at Eleonore, but she turned her head away.
"My… my mother is showing symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder", Artemis eventually said in a white voice. "She has fits of anger when she destroys everything that's on her way, and then she lays down on her bed and cries for three days in a row. Sometimes, she doesn't even remember that she had an episode. Sometimes, she doesn't remember…"
Me. She doesn't remember me.
Katherine sighed, once more. She seemed more bothered by Artemis' despair than the situation of her granddaughter.
"Look, child. I know how painful it can be to see a loved one in such a state. Trust me, I know it. But you didn't answer my question : what exactly do you think we can do ? I'm not a therapist, and you probably already visited the ones we might recommand you. We don't have the money to help financially."
It was one of those rare, very rare occasions where Artemis found himself at a loss for words.
"I… I don't understand…" he said in a broken voice that made him want to slap himself. "… don't… what else would you have me do ?"
Katherine's expression was soft but final.
"If you can't handle it yourself, then put her in an institute."
This is too much.
Artemis rose from his seat, furious. It took him all of his will to not throw the silver platter in Katherine's face.
"How can you say that ? How can you ?"
"Child, calm down. I know this is hard to admit, but…"
"How would you know how I feel ?" Artemis cut, with venom in his voice. "Do you even care ?"
Katherine clenched her fists. Artemis had gone too far, but he didn't really care anymore.
"I would advise you to keep your voice down, Artemis Fowl", she spat in a menacing tone.
Artemis bit his tongue and kept his anger inside, but he stayed up, facing Katherine.
"I know very well how you feel, young man. Haven't you wondered where your grandmother was ?" the old woman said.
Artemis remained silent, but slightly untensed. Of course he wondered.
"Just so you know", Katherine continued, "my daughter Lisbeth committed suicide. She hanged herself in the living room… but she had already tried to cut her wrists after she gave birth to Maura. When she died, your mother was fifteen."
All of Artemis' anger had vanished. He stood still, unsure what to do. He had no idea his mother had to live through this. The only thing he knew about Lisbeth Sullivan was that she was a renowned cellist.
But Katherine Sullivan wasn't finished.
"Lisbeth isn't the first in the family to commit suicide. Isadora Sullivan did too. Andrea Sullivan ended up in Bedlam. Maura has been taking Prozac for the past five years. These kind of… mental disorders are common in our family. We learned to live with it, and to hide it to keep our name clean. The truth is, the Sullivan lineage is dying, because we don't have men to produce heirs bearing our name. We almost never have. Nearly all Sullivans are women. And half of us are insane. Angeline has always been a difficult child. Cheerful and happy for weeks, and suddenly withdrawn for months. So mark my word, child. If you want to help your mother, have her put in a mental institution. There is nothing else to do."
Artemis let himself drop back on his chair, appalled. What he had suspected when he learned about Isadora's death was actually true.
But he couldn't accept it. He pointed the Sullivan shield, bearing the family motto.
"How can you reclaim yourself of these family values", he said, "if you are letting go of your own granddaughter like this ? Where is justice here ? Do you really think you are better than my family ?"
Another line crossed. This time, it was Eleonore who stood up, as Katherine was too breathless to answer.
"Little brat ! She gave up on her piano career and her law studies to marry the heir of the most villainous family of Ireland !" she yelled, furious. "She gave everything up, she gave us up ! For a family of criminals and murderers! Aren't you ashamed of yourself ?!"
"You are the ones who should be ashamed !" Artemis snapped, blood pumping through his veins. "Maybe our family values aren't good enough for your high standards. I don't know what my father did to you and I honestly don't care. He loved my mother, he truly did. I went through all her stuff, this past month, looking for clues to find you. She has emailed or written you every Christmas, on each one of your birthdays, and you never replied once. Not once. She doesn't even know I'm going to have a cousin ! " he added pointing Eleonore's belly.
Eleonore and Katherine were dead silent. Artemis noticed that the record of Angeline playing Alice Coltrane was over. The turntable was looping on empty noise, but not one of them went to shut down the turntable. Artemis sneered, shaking his head.
"I'm sorry I wasted your time. You were the last door I had to turn to. I thought you'd care about her, but I'm starting to wonder if you ever did."
Katherine had tears jerking off her eyes.
"You little monster…"
"Monster ? You have no idea."
Artemis felt as if he was about to cry as well. But it wasn't sadness. It was hatred. Pure hatred. Yet, when he spoke, it was almost in a murmur.
"When I come to her and she doesn't see me, she doesn't recognize me, do you know what I want to do ? Do you know ? I want to tear her face apart. I want to rip her flesh away. I would do anything to make her stop."
Eleonore was shaking. Katherine had closed her eyes, as if it would make the young Fowl shut up or disappear. Once again, it was not the first time Artemis had seen such a behaviour.
Except Katherine didn't remain silent, as if he didn't even exist. She opened her eyes, and her gaze was so cold and murderous she would have made Arcand Fowl himself shiver.
"Would you care to explain why exactly it is you are so reluctant at the idea of signing up your mother into a mental institution ? Would you explain that to us ?"
Artemis chuckled. He didn't care one bit about being insolent anymore.
"I guess this is a rhetorical question, isn't it ?"
Katherine's upper lip twisted in disgust.
"I bet you haven't even seen any therapists for her. And I bet I know why."
Eleonore was looking alternatively at her grandmother and her nephew, her eyes filled with incomprehension, her hand grabbing her belly, in the manner of a parent covering his child's eyes.
"You cannot show her to a therapist. You cannot sign her in a mental institution. If you do so, there won't be any legal guardian left for you. You'll become pupil of the State. And I assume it is a lot harder to plot mischievious schemes, like your miserable father must've taught you, when you are not free of your moves. Am I wrong ?"
Artemis breathed, slowly, trying to regain what was left of his composure. Of course Katherine was right. He couldn't risk social services to come knocking at his door. This would be the end of everything. But not only to his so-called mischievous schemes. If he was to be taken by social services, he wouldn't be able to look for his father. He couldn't figure out a way to cure his mother. He would lose them both. He would be alone.
But he wasn't going to tell Katherine Sullivan. He understood that she couldn't be trusted, and that he should never have trusted her in the first place. He should have kept by the book of his father's business lessons.
Never trust anyone.
Artemis had calmed down. He would have to figure something out to make sure the Sullivans weren't going to call social services on him as soon as he left this awful mansion ; but that wouldn't be complicated. Blackmailing was child's play to him.
But Artemis did answer Katherine Sullivan.
"You may think the Fowls are despicable people. Maybe we are. But my mother was dying here, in this place, in this mortuary of a house, and my family took her in. You are the ones who rejected her. I am proud to be a Fowl. At least, I'm not lying to myself about my so-called morality. My family isn't the one who is dying and crippled with mental illness. By the way, you should know that bipolar disorder might be genetic, but it's not hereditary. You all inflicted this curse onto yourselves."
"I am proud of my family. I am proud of my values, and my father. Think whatever you like about him, but he would never have let my mother down."
Katherine's gaze was frantic, her hands shaking.
"… Oh, really ?" she finally said. "If he wouldn't ever let her down, then why did he leave ? Why did he leave her, and you, behind ?"
There was nothing left to be said.
Silently, quietly, Artemis turned around, and left, never to come to the Sullivan mansion again.
The first hour of the trip back to Fowl Manor was dead silent. When he saw the face of his young charge as he came back from the mansion, Butler hadn't dare ask him how things went. The manservant was focusing on the road, thinking he might talk this out with his principle later when the child would have have recovered, but suddenly, after an hour and a half of silence, Artemis talked. Butler nearly didn't hear him.
"I ruined everything."
Butler turned to face his charge, and was stunned to see him cry. The bodyguard hadn't seen Artemis cry since he was a toddler.
For a split second, he hesitated over what he should do. He stopped the car, turned to his charge, and took his hand, gently. He knew Artemis wouldn't tolerate a more advanced contact. Butler couldn't even remember a time when Artemis' father had actually hugged him. The only one who could touch Artemis was his mother.
All the while he was thinking about this, and being struck, once again, by how lonely his charge was, Butler didn't know that, right at this moment, Artemis Fowl the second was swearing to himself that he would never, ever, let his guard down again. Ever.
By the time they arrived at Fowl Manor, it was almost as if Artemis hadn't even cried at all. His eyes were merely swollen. He stepped out of the Bentley, and disappeared in the depths of the Manor, to his office, probably. As for Butler, he went to the kitchen and started preparing lunch. Artemis had given him instructions to "deal with the Sullivan situation", that the bodyguard would apply after the meal. He had no idea what had exactly happened in the Sullivan mansion, but from the orders Artemis gave him, Butler suspected that meeting his charge's mother's side of the family wasn't going to be on the agenda in a long while.
The bodyguard just hoped his principle would figure something out for Angeline.
She was the one who used to keep things together in this house, and with her mother fading away a little more every day, Butler worried that Artemis would lose the last bits of kindness and sensibility he had left.
Artemis, actually, didn't head to his office. He was heading towards the attic. He knew there was fifty-percent chance that his mother would hurt him again, but it didn't really matter anymore. He was shielded, and he needed to see her.
But, to his surprise, she wasn't in the attic. Neither was she in the master bedroom. Artemis was starting to worry, when he heard something.
Artemis stood on the treshold of the music room, unable to come inside. In a way, he feared that if he moved forward, Angeline might hear him, and the magic spell would break.
She was there, at the piano, her hands wandering over the keys like birds. Her hair was a mess, and she was in her dressing gown, but she was here, playing. Artemis recognized Debussy's Arabesques.
Suddenly, she turned around and saw him. Artemis freezed unconsciously. Fifty-percent chance. But Angeline smiled, warmly, and turned to face her piano. The sting in Artemis' heart ceased to widen, for a moment. It stopped hurting.
He entered the music room, but didn't go to the other concert piano, facing Angeline's. He went for the harp. He gently put his fingers on the cords, and joined his mother. They played together, their hands perfectly synchronized, the notes flowing in a beautiful ensemble.
Artemis couldn't tell how long they played together, his mother and him, their identically long and delicate fingers running on their instruments. In the end, it wasn't even Debussy anymore. It was just the sound of their hearts beating together, mother and son.
At one point, Angeline stopped. She seemed confused. She looked down at her piano, then up to Artemis who had stopped playing too. She hesitated, her gaze unfocusing. Eventually, she just rose up and left, and Artemis didn't try to hold her back. He didn't need to.
Alone, in the music room, he allowed himself to smile. A little.
For his mother was still here, somewhere, sometimes, which meant he had something to fight for.
It took a while for Katherine and Eleonore to recover from their argument with Angeline's son. Eleonore sheltered in Gabriel's arms, and Katherine just stood in her armchair, by the fire, until she had shed all her tears.
When Eleonore finished telling him all that happened, Gabriel was furious. He pressed his loved one to call social services at once.
But Katherine refused.
When Eleonore and Gabriel, astonished, asked her why, she replied :
"This child is undoubtedly a Fowl. He is already corrupted by selfishness and immorality, we will never allow him on our domain again and he will probably make sure we can never do anything against him and his family as well. But, somewhere underneath, he does have a sense of justice and empathy. He is a Sullivan, too."
"And maybe, with both our families values, he will figure something out to save her. To save himself."
Well, that's it folks ! Thank you for reading ! :D
Personally I really enjoyed writing this. I always wondered a lot about Angeline's origins when I read the book, and this what I imagine would the most sociologically realistic option. I hope Artemis isn't too much OOC ; I really imagine him as a very hypersensitive person who is more of an expert at concealing his feelings (in order to protect himself) than an actual sociopath ^^'
Anyhow, did you notice the little box right here ? Feel free to feed it ! Feed the box, yo ! :)
See you around !