Artemis Fowl was not pleased. At first, having siblings had been a novelty. All too soon, however, they became nothing more than an annoyance. Unfortunately, they were not the type of annoyance that he could ask Butler to take care of.
“Why, exactly, is this necessary?” Artemis asked in frustration.
“Your parents want you to get to know your brothers. They don’t want you withdrawing the way you used to,” his bodyguard, Butler, answered promptly.
Artemis was sitting on the floor, and was supposed to be helping his two-and-a-half-year-old siblings do simple jigsaw puzzles. To someone with his intellectual capabilities, it was almost unbearable to watch them try and stuff the wrong pieces in repeatedly. Calliope was determined to solve her puzzle alone, which suited Artemis. Jonathan, however, asked for confirmation of every piece.
Artemis continued to converse with Butler, all but ignoring the twins. “Most parents are distracted from their firstborn when they have new children.”
“The rules change, Artemis, when you vanish for three years.”
“I’m aware of that,” replied Artemis sullenly. “But now I’ve been back for six months, and there are limits to my patience. I-“
“Dis one?” asked Jonathan hopefully, looking up at Artemis, a diamond-shaped piece in his raised hand.
“No,” answered Artemis shortly. Jonathan’s smile wilted. Artemis’s conscience twinged. Now he was annoyed at himself. Why did he have to go out and acquire morality? It was nothing but a nuisance, honestly. Artemis leaned over and attempted to show his brother the right way to do the puzzle. Jonathan’s grin returned, and he continued to work enthusiastically.
“I require a certain amount of freedom,” said Artemis, resuming his conversation. “And I simply cannot stand my parents hovering over me like this. It is getting ridiculous.”
The sound of a door opening could be heard. “Speaking of your parents…” Butler gestured toward the adjacent room.
“Arty!” called a cheerful woman’s voice. “Jon! Callie! Come welcome your parents home.”
The twins needed no invitation, and ran through the hall towards their mother’s voice. Artemis lingered, slowly standing up and dusting himself off meticulously (despite the fact that the carpet was perfectly clean).
“Artemis!” called Artemis Fowl Senior.
“I’m coming, Father.” Artemis took a breath as if to brace himself, then turned and walked through the doorway. Smiling slightly, his bodyguard followed.
He walked into the room to see his father holding the twins and spinning them around. “How was your evening?” asked Artemis. His parents had gone “on a date” to the theater.
“Wonderful,” replied Angeline, her eyes bright. She swept forward and embraced her eldest son. ” But, come now, Artemis, how are you?”
“Not very different from how I was last time you saw me, a mere three hours ago.” Artemis couldn’t hold back the sharp retort. His mother did her best to ignore his tone and laughed.
Artemis Senior joined his wife in laughing, and he tickled the twins so that they giggled too. “With you, Arty, one never knows,” he said.
That used to be true, Artemis thought bitterly. Not anymore. Now I’m being a perfect little boy. No criminal enterprises, no fairy hacking, not even any disobedience to my parents… Artemis smiled hollowly, watching his family laugh.
“Anyway,” Angeline said breathlessly, once she stopped laughing, “I think we’ve postponed dinner long enough.”
She led them to the kitchen, where Juliet, Butler’s sister, already had a hot meal prepared. She was staying with the Fowls while on a break from her wrestling tour. During Artemis’s disappearance, she had often acted as bodyguard/babysitter when the Fowls were out. Now, she still did a bit of the bodyguarding, but Artemis was the babysitter.
Together, they all sat down for dinner. Artemis listened politely as his parents discussed their date, as Juliet told an entertaining story about wrestling, as the twins exclaimed over whatever it was they found interesting. He didn’t join in. What was there to say?
“About school next year-” Angeline said hesitantly. Artemis came to attention. His parents had decided that he’d skip the remainder of the last academic year (“after all, you know everything already”) to spend more time with the family now that he was back. But summer would soon end, and he needed a school to go to.
“There’s a lovely day school near here, I was thinking we could go for a visit, see what you think.”
“That would be fine, mother. When shall we go?” his voice was flat, and he found that he didn’t really care about it.
Artemis’s father frowned at his son’s apathetic behavior. “Artemis, are you all right?”
“Yes, of course.” No he wasn’t actually. He was clearly afflicted with depression, and was exhibiting all of the obvious symptoms. But what could he do about it- see a psychologist? That was laughable- he practically was one. Medication, of course, was out of the question. Obviously some sort of self-reflection was necessary, to find the source of the problem, but he hadn’t been meditating lately.
“Artemis,” said his mother gently. “You know you can tell us anything.”
No he couldn’t. He couldn’t tell them about the People- in fact, he had been required to make them forget. He had needed to confuse their sense of time, so that they didn’t realize that he should be seventeen. And he had to swallow his frustration for them. “I know, Mother.”
Artemis’s father glanced around at the assembled company. “If you want to talk privately-“
“No thank you, Father, I’m fine.”
“Artemis,” said Angeline with concern. “If something’s bothering you, you really should-“
“I’M FINE!” Artemis himself was startled by his own vehemence.
His parents looked shocked- Artemis had never shouted in their presence before. Juliet stared, and Calliope started to cry. Butler, however, looked unsurprised.
Artemis looked down at his plate; he hadn’t eaten much, but he definitely didn’t want any more. “May I be excused?” he asked quietly.
His parents gazed at him helplessly. “All right, Artemis, you may go.”
Artemis was sitting cross-legged on his bed, meditating, when there was a knock on his door. He had been expecting it, but still he said nothing. There was another knock.
His parents entered, looking sad. They sat on either side of him, and his mother grasped his hand. “We’re sorry if we did anything to upset you, Artemis.”
Artemis’s thoughts were dull; clearly he was still depressed. “You didn’t,” he lied.
“If we didn’t, who did?” his father asked shrewdly. “The twins?”
It suddenly became clear- they thought that he was upset because he had siblings. They thought he was being a classic eldest child, jealous of the attention his new siblings were getting. They thought that he was depressed because he was no longer an only child. How out of touch could you get?
“Artemis,” his mother said slowly, “Maybe the three of us could go somewhere, just for a break before the end of the summer. We-“
Artemis felt the unexpected anger rise up in him again. “Or maybe we shouldn’t,” he said sarcastically. “Maybe, you two could leave me alone for five minutes, instead of hanging around me every second. Perhaps, just perhaps, I could have some autonomy, without you making every decision for me!” He suddenly realized that he was yelling. When the flare of anger subsided, he fell back onto the bed again, not tired, exactly, but completely uninterested in anything. He turned to face the wall in silence.
His parents watched him uncertainly for a minute, then left without a word.
The next morning, Artemis walked downstairs slowly. Juliet had called him for breakfast, speaking quickly and then ducking out of the room as if she were afraid he would throw something at her. He hadn’t slept, and there were bags under his eyes. His parents were waiting for him at the table, watching him anxiously.
“I apologize for shouting at you,” Artemis said abruptly, sitting down. “I believe it was largely caused by hormones, and I-“
“No, Artemis,” said his father, shaking his head. “You were right. We’ve been hovering over you too much, and we apologize. Perhaps it was hormones that triggered it, but what you said was true.”
“So we’ve decided,” said Angeline quickly, cutting across Artemis, who had opened his mouth to speak, “That your father and I will go somewhere for the week, to give you some time to yourself. Juliet will take care of the twins, you won’t have to spend any more time with them than you want to.”
“You really don’t-” Artemis was speechless; his parents had managed to surprise him.
“Our decision is made, Artemis,” said his mother, smiling.
“Thank you,” Artemis said. He walked around the table and hugged them tightly, something that he knew would make them happy.
“I love you, Artemis,” each said into his ear.
“I know,” said Artemis. Then he swallowed and said, “I love you too.”
Artemis had analyzed his emotions, and realized overnight why he was depressed. It was, as he had shouted, due to lack of privacy, and a perceived lack of freedom. It was not, however, caused by his parents; that was just classic anger displacement. His parents were not the only ones watching him; and his lack of freedom was not from their constant supervision. It was the People, partially. They were always, and would always be, monitoring his every twitch. Mostly, though, it was himself. Why, Artemis asked himself mentally again, had he acquired a conscience? Life had been easier as a criminal mastermind. Much easier.