Caught between

Great. The first real world he spoke. Great, meaning all, meaning everything. Representing the family greed, the avarice, the lust for gold and power. Speaking of a challenge to tradition through his differences, his capabilities, and the shining, fierce intelligence in his one-year-old eyes. His father was pleased. His mother was not.

"All children's first words are supposed to be 'Da-da,'" she had said, throwing her hands up in the air as he listened from behind the doorway, silent as he always was, observing and sorting memories into their various slots, his brain begging to be filled and nourished. "I don't want him raised as a criminal, do you understand?"

"Yes," he had replied smoothly, his voice deep and reassuring.

But she was not to be fooled. "Do you? Do you, Timmy? This is my little boy, my baby, my darling child. I don't want him spoiled by a loss of innocence in his childhood, growing up with a criminal for a role model."

"Yet you will spoil him with motherly instincts," he replied, his voice a bit bitter. "You forget that he is my son as well."

"You remember your father. You remember how you grew up. You've told me. You remember how cold and heartless it was, and how alienated you felt. Do you want him to grow and learn how to be in that environment?"

"I do believe I grew up in that environment and turned out an honorable man."

"Because I came along and taught you how to be one."

There was a long silence, and the child crouching behind the doorframe had cocked his head, wondering briefly what the rustling of material and the soft sigh was, but knowing it wouldn't bode well to look and give away that he was eavesdropping.

"He will grow up to be respectful," his father said after a moment, not resolving the issue but storing it away for another time, and feeling that he had pushed his luck far enough, the little boy crept from his listening place and up the service staircase to the book-filled nursery.

Love. The first concept he really struggled with. Love, meaning all, meaning everything. Representing the family heritage, the reasons, the feelings for spouses and children. Speaking of a challenge to tradition through his differences, his capabilities, and the shining, fierce intelligence in his four-year-old eyes. His mother was pleased. His father was not.

"A boy as bright as you can look up the answer to that question in the library," his father had replied coldly, glaring up from his century-old copy of the Iliad. "I'm quite surprised you don't know the answer to that question already."

The boy standing silently before his parents did not miss the reproachful look his mother gave her husband before smiling at him. "Come here, darling, come sit with me." She gestured to her lap, and he started towards it, but changed his destination to the empty couch facing them when he caught the icy stare his father was giving him. His mother's face fell a bit, but she continued. "You were made by love." He cocked his head, but, well taught, did not interrupt. "You see, darling," his mother continued, "There are certain things a man and a woman do when they love each other, because trust is a very powerful thing."

"I know the mechanics of sex, Mum," he said as she paused, and felt a twinge of satisfaction when she looked surprised. His father nodded, not at all startled, but just as the boy thought he had gained his approval, the man gave him the look once again.

"Mother," he said in a soft, burning. The young boy blinked, and then nodded.

"Mother," he repeated. "As I said, I know how. But I do not understand why."

His mother breathed out slowly through the O formed by her lips. "It is something you can never really understand until you are older, darling," she said, her voice sweet and soft, so unlike his father's. "When you love someone very, very much in a romantic way, all you want is to be as close to them as possible. This is not purely physical, you have to understand, because there is so much trust and loved involved in making it truly intimate and beautiful, and in no way are you to take advantage of these things you know." He nodded. "If you know what sex is, then I'm guessing you also know the meaning of rape and sexual assault?" He nodded again, his eyes flicking to his father, who was intent on reading his book and not caring that his son was silently asking for his approval. "It's based on love, Arty," she said, and he looked back to her. "When you're older, you will understand."

He opened his mouth, closed it, and then opened it again before his father cut him off. "Go on now, it has been explained as you asked. Lingering shows disrespect." And so he rose from the empty couch, bowing slightly before leaving his parents alone, more confused than when he had gone into the room.

There was one concept he felt he would never grasp, and it was why opposites attracted. Not when it came to magnetism and polarization of course — that was very simple science — but when it came to people. Namely, his mother and his father. His mother, loving and wonderful, and his father, cold and uncaring. Two opposites, and one in the middle, trying to learn how to grow up in a world where no one took him for who he wanted to be.

No matter what he did, one of them was always pleased, and the other one was not.

First drabble. Ever. Oddly liberating.

There is a poll on my profile for the next full Artemis Fowl fic I will do once Half the Perfect World is finished. Titles only. Please vote.