A/N: Just in advance here, thanks to everyone who has reviewed and/or is going to review on this story from this point on. I really appreciate all your feedback and support. Thank you once again and see you next time!
Fowl Manor, Dublin, Ireland
"Door! Door!" cried three-year-old Beckett Fowl as the doorbell rang. "Mummy, door!"
"Mummy's in the kitchen, simple-toon", said his twin, Myles. "Don't disturb her." He plodded to the door, stretched up on tiptoe, and just managed to pull the handle. "Arty!"
"Arty?" repeated Beckett, coming around to peer at their guest. "Arty!"
"Hello, Myles, Beckett", Artemis greeted.
"I knew you'd come back!" exclaimed Beckett. "I told you so", he said triumphantly to Myles. "Mummy said you died. I didn't know what that was, so Mummy explained that you weren't coming back. We were sad about that, but I didn't really believe it. Myles did, though." He grinned smugly at his brother.
Myles stuck out his tongue. "Did not, simple-toon."
Artemis smiled. He had seen his brothers little more than a week ago, but he knew they had not seen him for far longer. "Well, I'm back now", he said. "Where's Mother?"
Beckett made a face. "Mummy's cooking."
"Cooking?" questioned Artemis. "Since when?"
"She made pudding the day you left", Myles informed him. "It tasted horrible. But she's getting better. Tonight she's making chicken."
"Myles said we mustn't disturb her", Beckett chimed in.
"Kids, who's at the door?" asked Angeline Fowl as she came into the room, spatula in hand. Her eyes grew wide as she saw her eldest son standing in the doorway. "Arty?" she gasped.
"Hello, Mother", said Artemis, cringing mentally at the woefully inadequate greeting.
"I told you he was coming back, Mummy", Beckett said jubilantly. "I told you."
"You said he might come back", Myles corrected. "You never said he would."
"Did not, simple-toon."
Angeline was not listening to their playful quarrel; she was staring incredulously at Artemis, who was shuffling his feet at the door. "Arty, is that really you?" she breathed.
"It's me, Mother", Artemis confirmed. "I'm sorry I was away so long."
The spatula dropped to the carpeted floor, forgotten, as Angeline raced forward to embrace her son. Artemis had only a split second of warning before he was enveloped in a crushing hug in his mother's arms.
"Arty, Arty, Arty", she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Arty."
"Um…" Artemis shifted awkwardly before he returned the hug. He still had no idea what to say. After a moment's more thought, he settled for apologising. "I'm sorry, Mother."
"Artemis Fowl Junior, don't you ever do that to me again", Angeline exclaimed. "I was so worried when you didn't come back – and then Butler said Holly told him you'd died…"
"I think you must have mixed up my name", said a new voice, deep and manly. Artemis looked up to see his father coming in. "What exactly did I do this…" He stopped short when he saw Artemis.
"Daddy, Daddy, Arty came back!" announced Beckett. "I told you he would."
"Did not", Myles insisted. Beckett was too excited to pay him any attention.
And then Artemis Senior was hugging his son too, all dignity abandoned.
Artemis spent the next few hours assuring his parents that he was fine, that he was really there, and explaining the lockdown-because-of-experiment-gone-wrong excuse Mulch had set up for him while the twins spent half their time listening with rapt attention and shining eyes and half the time arguing with each other. Midway through the explanation, Butler appeared, having just returned from the gym, and the manservant's eyes bugged from the shock and surprise at seeing his charge in the living room. Artemis mouthed, "Later", to his trusted bodyguard and Butler, with a bemused but wary expression, sat down to listen to the rest of the explanation until Artemis could speak to him privately later. And when Juliet came to investigate what the twins were yelling about ("I told you, Mummy, Daddy, I told you!" Beckett declared. "Did not, simple-toon", said Myles), Butler communicated Artemis's message to her with subtle sign language learned at Madam Ko's Academy, and she took her place on the couch, staring very hard at Artemis.
It was a hectic two-and-a-half hours and several retellings later that a weary Artemis was finally allowed to stop talking when Angeline (after many promises by Artemis that he would not disappear again) reluctantly rose to take Myles and Beckett to bed (her chicken remained in the oven, forgotten until the next morning when a maid would find it smoking). Artemis Senior smiled at Artemis and patted his shoulder before following his wife out of the room, herding the drowsy, but still arguing, twins. And then Artemis, Butler, and Juliet were finally alone.
Juliet was still staring at Artemis, as if she wasn't sure he was not a ghost or some sort of hallucination.
Correctly interpreting her piercing gaze, Artemis said, "I really am here, Juliet. Let's go to my study; I shall explain in detail there." He rose as one with Butler, and Juliet followed suit.
"Artemis", rumbled Butler, with an odd catch to his voice. He seemed to struggle with his words for a moment before placing a mute hand on his principal's shoulder. "I've missed you."
Artemis surprised Butler by hugging him tightly. "I wasn't gone long enough for me to miss you, Butler, but I'm sorry for all I've put you through. Truly I am."
"What exactly happened?" inquired Butler.
"Yes, please do enlighten us", said Juliet. "I'm so confused. Hey", she added when she saw a slight shimmer by Artemis's shoulder. "Is Holly here?"
Artemis smiled and Butler looked at him quizzically. This was a different smile, softer and gentler than the ones he had seen before. Butler shrewdly guessed that something more than friendship had developed between Artemis and Holly since the last time he'd seen them.
Holly winked and grinned as she vibrated into view. "Hello, Butler, Juliet. Sorry about the mis-informed message I gave you last time."
Artemis sighed and pushed the door to his study open. "Shall we?"
Butler's lips turned up in the hint of a smile as he entered with Juliet. Holly fluttered to Artemis's shoulder and gave him a winning smile that was still sweet and soft.
"Let the story begin", she whispered in his ear. Artemis smiled and closed the door.
A/N: The end.