Disclaimer: I don't own Artemis Fowl and paraphernalia.
Warnings: slash, sexual situations, AU, not-quite OOC (though it might seem so for a while)
A/N: I've been
suffering quite a hideous, stress- and depression-induced writer's
block. This story was spawned as a desperate attempt to break it, so
that I could go back and finish my WIPs. It's a three-shot, and
it's already complete. I'll be posting it at intervals.
The creation was interesting: at times a joy, at times I suffered over it (I've done oodles of research while writing this creature), but in the end I'm not unhappy.
This story is AU; kind of willing to comply with canon, but not trying very hard. I wanted to focus on the characters, and on the metamorphosis of a kid genius (someone special and noteworthy) into an adult genius (someone misunderstood and troubled). Of course they are OOC, but I actually could see Artemis doing this. He probably would not, but he tends to be unpredictable… besides, I don't see him developing romantic feelings at all.
Besides, to my long-lasting shame, I haven't finished all the books yet.
Domovoi knew something was wrong the moment he entered his principal's room.
He had been aware of a growing uneasiness surrounding Artemis Fowl the Second for days; he was, after all, paid to observe these kind of things as well, not to mention that he and his principal had years ago crossed any and all professional boundaries. It was unavoidable. Not even extensive training could have made Domovoi Butler into a machine, and he would have to be made of metal if he wasn't to succumb to the typhoon that was young Artemis.
"Come in and close the door," Artemis said. His voice was several decibels weaker than it was supposed to be, and then there was the conspicuous lack of address that hit Domovoi's tympanums like a drumstick.
He walked around a canopied four-poster bed Artemis had strategically situated in front of the entrance to block the sight of the rest of the room. Upon Artemis Senior's return to the manor, the boy had been forced to relinquish his headquarters, so he removed what technology he refused to part with and commandeered the largest livable bedchamber in the manor to double as the new centre of operation.
It was a credit to his perseverance that his parents were still unaware of all this.
The sight of Artemis made Domovoi fear that he had underestimated the severity of the situation.
The boy was sitting in front of the main screen, eyes glued to rows upon rows of tiny symbols, with such consternation written in his face that for a moment it occurred to Domovoi that his principal had been replaced with a changeling and they had another Lower Elements crisis on their hands. Artemis had heavy circles under his eyes, like he had not slept for three or four nights; they had not been there a couple of hours ago at lunch, but Domovoi reminded himself that Artemis possessed that bag of make-up that, he liked to think, was reserved for situations when showing his true appearance would raise uncomfortable questions from his parents – like where had he gotten that black-eye?
"You require something, sir?" he asked carefully, fervently hoping for a positive answer. Artemis was not supposed to look like this.
The boy sighed, hunched and rested his chin on his forearms, staring somewhere through the empty expanse of oak between his keyboard and the adapted fairy thingamajig with red and green lights. It was all wrong. Normally Artemis sighed on rare occasions, but he didn't put his elbows on the table, and he most certainly didn't hunch.
"Sometimes I wish you hadn't had that prudence so ingrained into you." Artemis' fingernails scraped across the desk as he lifted himself enough to blearily glare at Domovoi. "I need to hear something else than the pre-programmed computerised 'you rang, sir?'-"
Domovoi took a deep breath to stall for a moment and tried to remain calm and rational. This was not something he had encountered before. Most children required reassurance on regular basis, and Butlers were somewhat prepared for that, too; however, Artemis had not needed anything resembling verbal emotional support for so long, that Domovoi had entirely forgotten how to go about it.
He wondered if this was inevitable, if Artemis' childish confidence had been bound to run out and he had to, in hindsight, spot all the holes in his plans he had once naively thought perfect and begin to doubt himself… The boy had been about five when he had realised that he was smarter than his parents – smarter, indeed, than almost everyone – and took such enormous pride in his intelligence, that it would have been comical, had it not been warranted. From there Artemis made a conjecture and considered himself invincible. Domovoi was, frankly, scared to contemplate how fortunate they both were to have survived this long, but he had had years to come to terms with it and become accustomed to the idea of dying for his principal's whim in that one instance when his trust would turn out undeserved.
If the same thing was hitting Artemis now, all at once…
"Do you need assistance?" Domovoi asked, disconcerted. "I could summon a doctor-"
"I could summon a doctor myself, if I required one," the boy bit off, and Domovoi was spared another glare because Artemis was looking off in a different direction. "I am quite the independent being, Butler." The 'Butler' was, impressively, hissed, despite the absence of sibilants.
Domovoi held his peace and waited for the other shoe to drop. With Artemis, there was always another shoe to drop.
The young man kicked himself away from the table – the wheels of his chair rolled for good three feet before they were stopped by the edge of the carpet – and leant back into the backrest, staring at the ceiling (or perhaps through it). He looked contemplative, insofar as Domovoi could interpret that particular pattern of wrinkles.
Leather creaked and squeaked. Artemis' face contorted into an as of yet unseen expression: self-deprecation.
"I don't deserve you," he said. "Sometimes I wonder how it is that you don't hate me."
Dovomoi was quite proud of himself for not flinching. He tried to put the words 'hate Artemis' (otherwise quite the frequently used expression) into conjunction with himself, and was coming up blank. He had sworn to himself, and so far, he liked to think, was quite successful, to lock up the troublesome emotional aspect of his work. He had had two decades of training to entirely remove principals from the category of 'another human being' and therefore also from the category of 'possible to feel emotion towards', but even that kind of training was smashed to bits when an unstoppable force of nature like Artemis Fowl the Second ripped the familiar ground from under a man's feet. In a world of supernatural, fairies, magic and bestiary even a Butler was unmatched against, he had to rely on Artemis to give him a solid point in the universe. Once anchored thus, it was only a matter of time.
These days he felt like he had Artemis ingrained as deep as into his very personality. Deeper even than his training.
"I can truthfully say that I have never considered my hating you possible, sir," he said, and felt like it was a failure, because Artemis snorted, lifted himself out of the chair with the support of his arms. His shirt was wrinkled, and most atypically had the uppermost buttons undone, showing a patch of skin so pale that it looked green in the artificial light.
At times like these Domovoi wondered if Artemis didn't have some fairy blood, himself.
"You should," the boy said in a dead tone, which Domovoi recognised as the one occasionally used on a sporadic captured enemy or in negotiations, but which he never had had aimed at himself. He could see now why it would be disconcerting. "It startles me that it was possible for a single child to inflict as much damage as I did. So much destruction… so much pain."
At this Artemis looked up and, through mussed-up bangs (usually kept tidily slicked back), peered at Domovoi. His expression was on the surface one of remorse and apology, but he just was not able to alter the indifference underneath. It was like his emotions failed to permeate his core; like they were just a part of a mask put on for the purpose of social interaction.
Domovoi asked himself, for the umpteenth time, if he could trust this monster.
For the umpteenth time, the answer was the same.
"None of it unrewarded," he reminded.
Artemis closed his eyes, lifted his hand to his throat as though he had trouble breathing, and took a subconscious step backwards. Domovoi imagined he looked like someone caught in a tornado: still able to move, but that motion carried him nowhere – he was at the mercy of the element.
Just what was the element in this instance? What could have affected this near-unflappable-
"Oh yes," Artemis hissed, and his sarcastic tone did not prevent the tingling in the tips of Domovoi's fingers. Despite the boy's mocking sneer, the temperature of the room seemed to rise. "It has made me quite the well-situated gentleman, has it not? I lack nothing in my glamorous existence, do I?"
Domovoi had no answer. Even if Artemis wanted to hear something, of which he wasn't certain, he could not think of think of anything past the confines of the room. The computer screen blacked out – Artemis Fowl the Second wasn't the type to have a fancy screen-saver – and the whole room seemed to have gotten darker. The early afternoon was overcast, and the dim light coming in through the curtains was just strong enough to make all the dark colours seem deeper.
"Tell me, my friend," Artemis said mockingly, toeing off his shoes and lying down on his bed, perpendicular, with his feet on the floor and hair splayed on the duvet, "what is there that could make me happy? Is happiness not what people strive for? My father used to tell me to covet money, yet his current teachings go not only against his philosophy, but against that of the entire Fowl line."
Domovoi, having nothing to say, remained silent.
Artemis sat up and patted the mattress next to him. "Come sit down. And take your shoes off."
Startled by the sudden change of mood, Domovoi automatically obeyed. He could smell cosmetics; his principal must have showered in the half-hour since lunch.
While he mused on the absurdity of human smells and the measures some people took to suppress them, Domovoi's hand crept up to his collar and loosened the uppermost button. Since when was it so sweltering in here? His principal liked the cool… yes, Artemis was sweating, too, even though his shirt was hanging open now, exposing a set of prominent ribs. His breastbone cast shadows.
Domovoi's outstretched hand wiped a quivering droplet from the tip of Artemis' nose. No droplet had any business quivering on the tip of Domovoi's principal's nose.
And, damn it, was that notion not absurd? Domovoi's perception was affected by something; quite suddenly he felt incredibly present, as alive as he sometimes became in the heat of fight, high on adrenaline, with tunnel vision focused on a single objective – be it survival or-
He realised that he was drugged but he couldn't, for the life of him, find the fault in his logical reasoning.
"Domovoi…" Artemis said weakly, reaching out, wordlessly asking for help. This has happened before; once in a very long time there was something that this boy was not able to deal with, that he couldn't outthink and then he had to ask for Domovoi's help rather than take it for granted. It was like a tiny surrender and it was heady.
It had never occurred to Domovoi to refuse.
For once it was not at all difficult to follow the lead. Domovoi had followed Artemis' lead for a decade, ever since the boy had come back from school one day, transferred a stash of pure heroin from his book-bag into a lockable drawer, looked at Domovoi with those unnaturally cold eyes, and said: "Teach me to handle a gun." It got easier and easier with time, until he did it naturally, barely paying attention to the ethical ramifications of their actions.
Perhaps that was why the awareness that he was doing something wrong did not give him a pause when Artemis' hands – sweaty but cold – touched (they might have been gripping, but he wouldn't have been able to tell) his upper arms. Wasn't the boy a bit too young? And when – how – did Domovoi become a part of this equation?
"Something's wrong," Domovoi said, staring at nothing over Artemis' head. The drapes held no answer.
"If by wrong you mean 'just like always'…" the boy replied, pulling himself up with the support of Domovoi's shoulders, so that he could whisper straight into the man's ear: "That's one thing we have in common, my friend: both of us are failures."
Yearning to comfort the man-child, Domovoi put an arm around his waist in a sort of a loose embrace that somehow, out of his control, grew tighter and tighter, until Artemis was all too comfortably pressed against him. Despite all that effort, like so many antagonists over the course of the years past, he failed to shut Artemis up.
"You broke all the rules you set yourself," Artemis breathed, and Domovoi, so focused on the words, barely registered the hands moving down his back to where they palpated his belt, and then began pulling his shirt out of his trousers. "You told me your name. You care, Domovoi…"
It must have been true. He could think of no other reason why he would have allowed his principal to meticulously undo his buttons, one by one, push the fabric off and trace his pectorals with inquisitive, chilly fingers. There also could not have been a more rational explanation for why he didn't mind that his concentration on the torrent of words ("…can't hold it against you, because if my parents weren't smart enough to control me, you could hardly have been expected to… so what if I wanted too much and ruined myself…? and ruined you…") made him miss when Artemis shed most of his clothing.
"…don't know what I am, don't know what I want to be, don't know…" Artemis was mumbling and Domovoi stared upwards, where the canopy seemed to come alive while he was being pulled into an unexpectedly warm body.
Domovoi figured that he could finally trust his reflexes with his breathing and let his mind veer off to the second most pressing problem. He started by straightening the facts. He was lying in bed, specifically in the bed of Artemis Fowl the younger, his principal. Artemis himself was lying next to – or, rather, across – him, on the verge of consciousness. Their current predicament was, in entirety, caused by post-coital languidness.
Artemis might have seemed emotionless most of the time, but now, shaken by the intensity of the experience, he had tears sliding down his face, tracking dark violet and grey eye-shadows as the rings under his eyes (an artful rendition, indeed) smeared. Domovoi suspected he had just blown that unfathomable genius mind.
He was not any better.
He had been seduced – expertly seduced by a sixteen-year-old virgin, whom he knew-
-whom he should have known better than himself. Damn it… If it had been anyone else, anyone but Artemis Fowl, they would not have stood a chance. It was times like these, the times when Artemis won against insurmountable odds, that Domovoi remembered why his trust in this over-ambitious child, in this semi-evil little bundle of paradoxes, never wavered.
He had died before, or as good as, so he knew the extent of his own fallibility well… or so he had assumed. Out of breath, high on endorphins, and utterly baffled by the person he had known practically from their mother's womb, Domovoi had to reconsider.
He would have to resign.
He had broken every rule in the book now. It didn't matter that he had been manipulated into it by the one person on earth who did not fail in obtaining anything they wanted. He should have been stronger, should have been smarter. It was his job to see through his principal's faulty decisions and compensate.
He had failed.
Domovoi could imagine what would follow. If he wasn't slapped with a lawsuit by the Fowls (he did not think Artemis would go about revenge that way, once he had an idea of the fallout of his latest plan, but with Artemis one never knew), he would have to go far away from here, far enough to be out of Artemis' reach, though with the implementation of fairy technology, such a place might not exist on this planet. There was only one way left, and it might not be so bad… not so bad at all, compared to a life void of… everything that made it interesting.
"You drugged me," he said in the end, glad to find that his voice worked. It almost surprised him how matter-of-fact he sounded, in this indescribably absurd situation. At least that much – him being drugged – made sense. Also, Artemis had been too well prepared for this eventuality, so it stood to reason that he had engineered it.
There was some shifting and a soft, tender touch that shocked Domovoi into looking.
Artemis had his chin rested on his interlaced fingers on top of Domovoi's chest, and was peering through his disheveled hair at the man's face. Once certain of having full attention, he shrugged and said: "Not as such. I lowered your inhibitions."
Domovoi wondered if he had expected some kind of explanation, or even an apology.
"And, to be accurate, I drugged us all. I could not think of a way to target you specifically, so I contaminated the meal before it was brought to the dining hall."
"You drugged my sister?" Domovoi growled, afraid that his principal had finally done something he would not be able to come to terms with. Not that it mattered much: he was leaving anyway, and this just decided that he was taking Juliet with him. It was enough that his own professional life was ruined by this family of deranged criminals; he would at least protect her.
Artemis had the gall to shrug again. "It's more-or-less just an aphrodisiac, and she is an attractive young lady. I don't think she should have any trouble with the effects."
Domovoi cut himself off. There were plenty of things to say, like 'that's my sister you're talking about!' or 'that's pushing the level of depravity I thought you capable of sinking to', or even 'that's almost enough to make me consider hating you'. Still, Artemis was fully aware of all those, and therefore Domovoi would be but wasting his breath in voicing them.
Instead, he redirected his attention from the results to the cause. What on earth could have driven someone like Artemis Fowl the Second to dose his entire family and part of the staff with aphrodisiacs? Did he find the number of his siblings insufficient? Had he thought Juliet would, in her uninhibited state, turn to him?
He was not, by nature, prone to cynicism – that was Artemis' forte, even as a little child – but Butlers had ever found sarcasm a way of coping. So Domovoi, vulnerable and so defenseless that he was on the verge of panic, resorted to that. "What, pray tell, was the point of this experiment?"
"This," Artemis replied brazenly, though he lifted his eyebrows a little, as if surprised that it was not obvious enough. He shifted again then, kneeling up astride of Domovoi's right leg, unabashed about his state of undress (which was, at the moment, the lesser of the calamities). "I came to the conclusion that I wished for the experience, and by a process of elimination decided that you would be the optimal partner. The problem was to get past the pesky obstructions of ethics and professionalism."
Domovoi sat up and gripped Artemis' jaw in his hand, coming closer to using violence on the boy than he ever had. It took enormous self-control to stop himself.
He was so, so immensely hurt by this that he could not begin to put it in words. It felt like a knife in his back, a blade sliding into his flesh just under his heart, wedged between ribs, tearing into him and stealing his vitality. He had since stopped thinking of himself as separate from his principal; to find that he had been betrayed by who he considered as good as a part of himself was too painful.
Did Artemis want to get rid of him? Or was it yet another case of the resident genius not being smart enough to consider all repercussions? Was there already a replacement waiting, or would Artemis be shocked to find out about Domovoi's resignation?
"Firstly," the boy said empathically, "I didn't use any kind of mind-control on you; it only exemplified your desires. Secondly, I didn't need to go to any kind of extreme lengths. So don't try to feed me some kind of bullshit like you didn't want me, Domovoi."
Artemis was shocked into silence when he was shoved backwards, landing on his behind on the carpet. It might have hurt, even, but he didn't let out a sound, only stared upwards with wide eyes. Domovoi made a quick work of putting on his clothes and distancing himself emotionally as far as it was still possible for him.
"You cannot be serious," he said, checking that he had gotten back all his weapons. A wakizashi was missing, but he found it quickly, stored under the bed.
The boy didn't bother moving away from the spot where Domovoi had so unceremoniously deposited him. He merely pulled his knees to his chest and glared, and only the devil knew if he had displayed the array of bruises Domovoi had unintentionally inflicted on purpose.
"We both know just how poor my sense of humour is, Domovoi," Artemis reminded him. "Have you expected something else? A benign plot to feed the children in Africa? A dastardly scheme to reverse the Greenhouse Effect? Have you truly that much faith in me that you would think I have invested myself in an altruistic scheme?"
Domovoi certainly didn't. Once in a while he let himself imagine that one day, in the far off future, Artemis would become tired of just how interesting his life was, and would settle for an occupation less likely to get him – and the people around him – killed. He didn't hold his breath, though.
"No," he said shortly. He would have liked to take his leave, but no matter how self-assured a pose he would assume while walking out of that door, it would have been running away. A Butler only ever ran away if that was the more expedient choice. In this instance, it might have cost him the last opportunity to speak with his principal in private, no matter how much he did not feel like talking to Artemis.
The boy finally lifted himself with the help of a bed-post, haphazardly pulled on his shirt (leaving it open) and gave Domovoi a look that could only be described as 'demure'.
It had to be yet another manipulation, because Artemis Fowl didn't do demure, and then there was the hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth when he voiced his sad excuse of a parting shot: "And that there's the reason it had to be you."
Artemis had grown into a good enough actor that, when Domovoi followed him into the dining room, they projected the very same air of practiced companionship and near-thought-reading that they always did.
Domovoi rather had it easy, since he mostly kept himself expressionless, and it was difficult to see the minor differences of a face that was out of sight (normal people tended to look at his chin when speaking to him). He transferred food from the plate into his mouth with simple, effective motions, chewed and swallowed. It was mechanic and he could have cared less what he was eating, so long as it didn't stuck in his esophagus.
On the other hand, Artemis was required to participate in conversation. Paradoxically, it was neither his expression, nor his tone, nor his words that gave him out. Two minutes into the second course, when Artemis reached for the carafe of wine and poured himself half a glass, his mother took notice of the well-disguised tension.
"You're looking a bit peaky, Arty," she remarked, cutting off a piece of salmon and pausing to add: "Are you not feeling well?"
It was touching to see her concern, or at least Domovoi thought it was, unused to others feeling concern for him, but Artemis clearly did not appreciate it. He hid that reaction well, lifting the glass in a nonverbal toast.
"I'm fine, mum," the boy replied. "There's just the matter of the elephant, but I think Butler and I ought to tackle that on our own." He gave his parents a smile that made glaciers warm by comparison – they probably loved him too much to notice – set the wineglass down without drinking, excused himself from the table and disappeared through the door to the hallway.
"Elephant?" Angeline Fowl asked her husband, befuddled. It was lucky that the Fowls were not prone to figurativeness and the too dangerously obvious connotation had not immediately sprung to their mind-
No, Domovoi corrected himself. Luck had nothing to do with it this time. Artemis had known perfectly well that his parents would not understand. He was toying with them, making them dance to his tune, because he could, somewhat like he sometimes played tetris with his left hand while writing with his right. Domovoi believed that Artemis cared about his parents, but that he somewhat shuffled them off to the side and at times did not take them seriously.
Artemis the First shrugged and lifted a forkful of eggs to his mouth. "Must be school-stuff."
Domovoi rose and ghosted out of the room, noticed only by Juliet, who was smart enough to remain silent and let him escape. The corridor was empty and the only sounds came from the dining Fowl family and from the yard where the gardener was trimming the hedge.
Disconcerted, he walked up the stairs, past a maid that was doing some last-minute dusting, and noted that the door to his principal's bedroom was ajar.
That door was never ajar. Discounting the very improbable case of Mulch Diggums having infiltrated the Manor again, that sight was a blatant invitation. Domovoi surprised himself by actually having a feeling about that rather than simply accepting the fact and obeying without giving it a second thought.
In the end, he entered.
A split second later, there was a hand on his shoulder – a hand that just as well could have held a knife and pressed it into his neck.
"You taught me well," Artemis said and stepped down from the bedside table.
Domovoi had to concede the fact.
"Don't go," Artemis' voice begged, even as the words formed an order, like there was, for the second time in a day, something that this boy could not outthink and had to ask for Domovoi's help. It was a surrender, an admission that in this situation Domovoi was the one to take the lead, Domovoi was the one to make the decision. Domovoi was the one in control, the one in whose hands the power rested.
It was not heady at all.
"Don't tell," Artemis whispered, clutching the jacket-sleeve.
Domovoi cursed himself, but nodded.